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Articles by Maywa Montenegro

Maywa Montenegro is an editor and writer at Seed magazine, focusing mainly on ecology, bidiversity, agriculture, and sustainable development.

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  • Malawi celebrates, but for how long?

    So while the U.S. Farm Bill is out to pasture until 2008, it looks like most commodity subsidies will remain untouched. Agricultural price supports may be the law of the land here, but it's certainly not what we've been advocating abroad. A bittersweet story on page one of today's NY Times documents how Malawians are pulling back from the brink, largely because -- going against the wishes of the World Bank -- they've begun to reinstitute government crop subsidies:

  • A global trend toward drought

    A few months ago, I reported on the decade-long drought that's bedeviling Australia. In it I predicted -- with the help of experts such as Tim Flannery -- that climate skeptic John Howard would lose his seat to the Labor Party leader, Kevin Rudd, in this October's national elections. Rudd is running on a platform that includes $50 million for geothermal energy, $50 million for an Australian Solar Institute, and a 60 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. And according to Flannery, the election will in large part be a referendum on climate change.

  • Is geoengineering worth a second look?

    Until recently, I was under the impression that scaling back carbon emissions 80% by 2050 might forestall the worst of effects of global warming. But with news like yesterday's,  with California up in flames, and with the Arctic ice cap shrunken to an all-time low, I'm beginning to wonder if we've already done so much damage that a technological fix might be necessary.

    In today's Times, Ken Caldeira, of the Global Ecology Department at Stanford makes his case:

    If we could pour a five-gallon bucket's worth of sulfate particles per second into the stratosphere, it might be enough to keep the earth from warming for 50 years. Tossing twice as much up there could protect us into the next century.

    Geoengineering has never received much love from environmentalists, and understandably so. Too often it just diverts attention from the core problem: that our fossil-fuel fed lifestyles are unsustainable. Surely, if we're going to consider these types of projects at all, they must be one weapon among many in our arsenal. And Caldeira agrees:

    This is not to say that we should give up trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ninety-nine percent of the $3 billion federal Climate Change Technology Program should still go toward developing climate-friendly energy systems. But 1 percent of that money could be put toward working out geoengineered climate fixes like sulfate particles in the atmosphere, and developing the understanding we need to ensure that they wouldn't just make matters worse.

    What do you think?

  • A new company offers relief from unwanted mail

    Perhaps the only great thing about having moved four times in the past year is that I get virtually no junk mail, at least yet. At my permanent residence in Tennessee, however, where my parents have lived for over twenty years; the catalogs, credit card offers, and sweepstakes offers cram the mailbox on a daily basis. Just yesterday my mother was telling me how bad it's gotten -- and how bad she feels trekking straight from the post box to the recycling bin with armfuls of glossy glut.

    Last year I posted about Greendimes, an agency that, for a dime a day, will do pesky work of unsubscribing you from mailing lists. It was, and still is, a great idea, but unfortunately $36 a year is just above what most people will dish out in order to avoid junk. So I was thrilled to read about a new unsubscribe service that is absolutely free. Called Catalog Choice, it's a site that was developed by three nonprofit environmental groups -- the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Ecology Center. According to the Times, since it was introduced last Wednesday, more than 20,000 people have registered.

    Since it targets catalogs only, it may not be as comprehensive as paid services like Greendimes, but who knows? Maybe the feeling of a junk-free mailbox will spawn more support for legislation to enact do-not-mail lists.