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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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  • Small countries are going green

    While the western media focuses primarily on what the developed world is doing to solve the climate crisis, there's some great coverage on how Third World countries are greening too. SciDev's "Science in the Himalayas," a series of editorials and features, gives credence to the notion that local, community efforts can be just as effective as large-scale centralized ones. And low-tech solutions are often just as good as their high-tech counterparts.

    Nepal's successes in scientific application in recent decades aren't about grandiose hydropower dams or major infrastructure projects.

    The new technologies that have worked have been indigenously designed, based on traditional skills and knowledge, and are cheap and easy to use and maintain. In fact, to visit Nepal these days is to see the "small is beautiful" concept of development economist E. F. Schumacher in action.

    From Nakarmi's Peltric Sets to multi-purpose power units based on traditional water mills, from biogas plants to green road construction techniques in the mountains, Nepalis have shown that small is not just beautiful but also desirable and possible.

  • A little skin for ice shrinking thin

    Saturday in Switzerland, hundreds posed naked for a photo shoot on the shrinking Aletsch glacier.

    Greenpeace said it hoped to "establish a symbolic relationship between the vulnerability of the melting glacier and the human body."

  • a man with a microbe on mission

    At 29, David Berry MD, a PhD, and now, title as Young Innovator of the Year in MIT's Tech Review magazine.

    So what makes Berry so hot? He's the brains behind LS9, the California-based company working on "renewable petroleum."

    Berry's goal was nothing less than "to develop a novel and far-reaching solution to the energy problem." In col­laboration with genomics researcher George Church of Harvard Medi­cal School and plant biologist Chris Somerville of Stanford University, Berry and his Flagship colleagues set out to do something that had never been attempted commercially: using the tools of synthetic biology to make microörganisms that produce something like petroleum. Berry assumed responsibility for proving that the infant company, dubbed LS9, could produce a biofuel that was renewable, better than corn-derived ethanol, and cost-­competitive with ­fossil-based fuels.

    I understand that Chris Somerville -- a leading figure in the plant biology field -- is also at work on plants that are genetically engineered to produce biodegradable plastics. Now if they could just integrate that idea with these petroleum-producing microbes, we'd really have something to celebrate.

  • High CO2 crops could be low on nutrition

    One of the silver linings of climate change, some have argued, is that high carbon dioxide levels will mean increased crop yields, which will, in turn, be good for combating global hunger (the logic, I suppose, being that if we're frying fifty years from now, at least we won't be hot and hungry). But some underpublicized studies, reported this month in Nature, cast a long shadow on this sunny assertion. (Sorry! It looks like the the article is subscription only, so I'll be as descriptive as possible.)

    In the 1980s, Bruce Kimball, a soil physicist with the USDA in Arizona, began conducting scientific experiments simulating a high-CO2 environment (using a system called "free air carbon dioxide enrichment," or FACE). He found that crop yields were elevated -- plants imbibing large quantities of CO2 had more starch and more sugar in their leaves than those on a normal carbon diet. But because they also took up less nitrogen from the soil, they made less protein.