Articles by Maywa Montenegro
Maywa Montenegro is an editor and writer at Seed magazine, focusing mainly on ecology, bidiversity, agriculture, and sustainable development.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act -- better known as the Superfund -- was born in 1980, largely in response to the Love Canal disaster. At the time, experts thought the allocated $1.6 billion would more than cover the costs of cleaning up the sites. But today, the fund is exhausted (it officially went broke in 2003), and as of September 2007, there are 1,315 final and proposed sites with thousands more awaiting approval. So it is taxpayers, instead of the polluting companies, that are footing the bill. Still, few people -- except, perhaps, those who live near a Superfund site -- know about this toxic legacy.
Artist Brooke Singer has decided to make it relevant again. Last year, she and her team began visiting one toxic site per day, starting at a chemical plant in New Jersey, then jumping over to some zinc piles in Pennsylvania, then some landfills in Connecticut. They have cataloged all the toxics data, plus photos and histories, all on a cool visualization application called Superfund365. Visitors to the website are encouraged to contribute their own stories and images as well.
The tour will wrap up next year at the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex in Hawaii. Hopefully by that time, thanks to Singer and co., Americans will be more aware of the problem ... and of the people who live with it daily.
What Grist readers might have predicted over a year ago, when David interviewed Van Jones, is quickly becoming reality. In October, Thomas Friedman, in a gushing editorial, called Jones a "rare bird" who "exudes enough energy to light a few buildings on his own." Now he's appeared on the Colbert Report where, despite the always-awkward position of Stephen's interviewees, he managed to land "green jobs" in the mental dictionary of millions of young viewers.
I had the privilege of speaking to Jones last month as he cabbed it from Capitol Hill back to the airport. The profile appears in this month's issue of GOOD magazine, and is now online here. Despite seeming a bit exhausted, he was patient, articulate, and just plain kind. Something I wasn't able to include in the piece, but which he took great joy in telling, was how his grandfather, a bishop in the Methodist Church, was a huge inspiration to him, as were the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. When asked if celebrity, and schmoozing with the big dogs in Washington, might divert his attention from grassroots activity, he responded, "On any given day, I might be in a public high school or in a prison, in D.C. or at a funeral. My life has a lot of sunshine and a lot of shit." On the other hand, he added, "That's what it takes to make a strong plant -- a lot of sunshine and a lot of fertilizer."
Some are calling it a project that will transform global agriculture as we know it. Others are calling it a utopian dream. One thing is for sure, however: When the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAAST) releases the final draft of its report on April 15, sparks will still be flying.
Instigated in 2005 by the United Nations and the World Bank, among others, the IAAST was supposed to be an IPCC for agriculture. (Indeed, the project's leader, Robert Watson, was former chair of the IPCC.) Its goals were impressive:
How can we reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development through the generation, access to, and use of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology?
With such lofty aims, the participants necessarily included not only farmers and policy makers, but also academics, industry scientists, social justice NGOs, environmental advocacy groups (Greenpeace, to name one), and agribusiness representatives. As you might imagine, this motley crew had plenty to fight about, and in October, Syngenta and Monsanto walked out of the talks.
Admittedly, this is more of a link dump than a true blog post, but sometimes the green goodness is too good to pass up ... As Sarah and David have mentioned, the May edition of Vanity Fair is their third annual green issue. Featuring, ironically, the material girl on the cover, it's crammed with features that will enlighten, illuminate, and ... disturb.