OnEarth Fall 2012

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ca n a di a n democr acy: de ath by pipeline

A Survival Guide for the Planet • published by the natural resources defense council

the new urban foodscape

New York farmers could revolutionize how millions of city dwellers eat

fall 2012 w w



CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE HEARTLAND: Common Sense in Kansas Preaching Science in Texas conservation riddle: Who Lives, Who Dies?

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Onearth magazine

volume 34 number 3 fall 2012


37 True Believer by Jeff Turrentine

d e pa r tm ents cover story


Scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe has learned how to reconcile two belief systems that are often at odds in the bitter debate over climate change.

A city meant for new technology (but not for people) is rising up in the desert. Plus, a nonagenarian activist hasn’t lost her voice.

Q&A Ted Genoways interviews environmental justice pioneer Robert Bullard, who exposes the toxic inequities facing poor and minority communities.

42 Insert Pipeline Here

24 the synthesist

by Andrew Nikiforuk

Canada’s blind rush to become a fossil fuel superpower menaces not only wild lands and native peoples but the very fabric of the country’s democracy.

by Alan Burdick There are countless things we must still learn about the millions of creatures on earth—including where the heck they all live.

26 think again

49 Common Sense

In Kansas

by Kim Tingley In an era of mass extinction, are conservationists fighting to protect the wrong species?

by Kim Larsen

Sometimes an argument at the family dinner table can have a surprising outcome. In this case it was a visionary plan for bringing renewable energy to the Great Plains.

Most of our urban food supply is trucked or flown in from thousands of miles away. Family farmers like Ingimundur Kjarval, who raises livestock in upstate New York, would love to provide an alternative.

poe tr y

14 Connecticut by Chard deNiord

by Elizabeth Royte

by Sidney Wade

how much it costs—are largely dictated by monolithic,


rob howard

Fresh Food for All

58 Killdeer Bathing onearth online Read the digital edition of the magazine on your computer, e-reader, or tablet device, and access complete back issues at

8 From the Editor 14 Letters 17 FRONTLINES

Our eating choices—what we buy, where we buy it, heavily subsidized agribusiness concerns. Producers

56 reviews

Billionaire investors, in a global land grab, are turning vast tracts of forest and grassland into plantations for export crops.

64 open space

by Bruce Stutz Everyone loves wild, natural places. But wait—how many of them are truly wild and natural?

insi de n r dc

10 view from nrdc

of local food, meanwhile, have struggled to connect to

by Frances Beinecke

a mass market. Now, in New York City, the rudiments

12 the deans list

of a new and healthier food system may be emerging.

by Bob Deans

60 dispatches Cover: Photograph for OnEarth by Tia Magallon

Healthier, antibiotic-free food; exposing a Shell game; and more.

fall 2012

onearth 1

Visit Costa Rica, a bird-rich neotropical region. Home to 893 bird species. Here is the astonishing Chestnutmandibled Toucan.

A publication of the

n a t u r a l r e s o u r ce s d e f en s e c o u nc i l Editor-in-Chief Executive Editor

George Black


Douglas S. Barasch Managing Editor

Janet Gold

Jeff Turrentine

editor, ONEARTH.ORG Scott Dodd Associate editor, Melissa Mahony Art Director gail Ghezzi Photo Editor Meghan Hurley Editorial Assistant Copy Editors Research Interns editor-at-large

Jon Mark Ponder David Gunderson, Elise Marton Elizabeth Bland, Mar y Beth Griggs Benjamin Goldfarb, Katherine Rowland Ted Genoways

Contributing Editors Bruce Barcott, Rick Bass, Michael Behar, Alan Burdick,

Craig Canine, Bob Deans, Barr y Estabrook, Tim Folger, David Gessner, Edward Hoagland, Sharon Levy, Bill McKibben, Mar y Oliver, Elizabeth Royte, Sharman Apt Russell, Alex Shoumatoff, Bruce Stutz, Laura Wright Treadway

Online correspondents Adam Aston, Ben Jervey, Dave Levitan, Paige

Smith Orloff, Kim Tingley

Online Production Auden Shim Poetry Editor creative consultant Advertising Director publisher Deputy Publisher Editorial Board

Ex Officio Founder

Brian Swann J.-C. Suarès Larr y Guerra Phil Gutis Francesca Koe Wendy Gordon, Chair; Robert Bourque, Chris Calwell, Thomas Cmar, Amanda Eaken, Dan Fagin, Henr y Henderson, Tar yn Kiekow, Kim Knowlton, Sara Levinson, Josephine A. Merck, Cullen Murphy, Patricia F. Sullivan, Alisa Valderrama, John Walke, Wesley Warren Frances Beinecke, Peter Lehner, Jack Murray John H. Adams

Generous support for Onearth is provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund The Josephine Patterson Albright Fund for Feature Reporting The Vervane Foundation The Larsen Fund The Sunflower Foundation The Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Fund for Environmental Journalism

advertising : 212-727-4577 or Editorial: 212-727-4412 or Editorial Pur pose

onearth is a quarterly magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. It is open to diverse points of view; the opinions expressed by contributors and the editors are their own and not necessarily those of NRDC. NRDC does not endorse the products or services that are advertised in the pages of OnEarth

A bout N RD C NRDC is a national nonprofit organization with 1.3 million members and online activists, and a staff of lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists. NRDC’s mission is to safeguard the earth: its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. NRDC Office s 40 West 20th St. New York, NY 10011 212-727-2700

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volume 34

number 3

fall 2012

Find links to everything on this page at

4conne c t w ith us Get our newsletter On Facebook On Twitter On Tumblr

4meet the wri ter 4W E B


A Perfect Firestorm

Hot, dry, and deadly: this was the summer when the consequences of global warming proved impossible to ignore. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the western fire lines, where after a decade of battling bigger (and badder) blazes, firefighters have come to realize they’re at war with climate change.

4mo st pop ul ar

The Heartland Dries Out

The fires were fueled in part by a drought that parched farmland across the nation, driving up food prices and forcing ranchers to sell off cattle because there was nothing to feed them. Our correspondents report on the damage.

ABOVE left: Airman Magazine; above right: Jessica Riehl ; RIGHT: Jeremy Brooks

What’s Happening on Earth?

You’ll never have to ask if you receive our TODAY ONEARTH roundup of top environmental news—delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up now:

4F E A T U R E D


Growing Pains: Scenes From an Oil Boom Slaves to the Screen A Survivor’s Story: Did Modern Life Give Me Breast Cancer? You’ll Otterly Adore and Want to Adopt This Supercute Arctic Orphan North Carolina Buries Its Head in the (Disappearing) Sand

More online-only stories:

It’s scary to hear that your neighborhood could soon be evacuated because of wildfires, but for MICHAEL KODAS, the call came as no surprise. The former woodland firefighter and best-selling author is currently working on a new book, Megafire, to be published in 2014, about the rise in massive fires worldwide. “Just find the cat,” he told his wife, then returned to his eyewitness reporting on the catastrophic blazes that consumed Colorado this summer. Read his stories:



After the hottest 12 months in U.S. history, it’s clear that we can’t just “get over” climate change, no matter what the columnist says.

Want to help your vegetables thrive in the late-summer sun? PAIGE SMITH ORLOFF offers 10 tips for droughtproofing your garden.

PLASTIC-FREE LIVING Can someone addicted to bottled water and take-out containers eliminate plastic from her life? One game author gives it a try.

fall 2012

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contributors brent humprheys (“True Believer,” p. 37) is a photographer based in Austin, Texas, whose clients include Audubon, Field & Stream, the New York Times, and Wired. When he’s not traveling and shooting, Brent works with Project LOOP, a nonprofit organization he founded that partners young people with mentors in creative fields.

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jeff turrentine (“True Believer,” p. 37) is OnEarth’s articles editor. He has been a reporter for the Washington Post and a senior editor at Architectural Digest; his essays, features, and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Slate.

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ethan hill (“Common Sense in Kansas,” p. 49) is a portrait photographer based in Brooklyn. Over the past 14 years his work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Business Week, Food & Wine, and the New York Times. This is the third story Hill has photographed for OnEarth.


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Kim Tingley (“Live, or Let Die?,” p. 26) writes the Species Watch column for onearth. org and will receive a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award later this year. Her profile of soundscape ecologist Davyd Betchkal and her story about New York City’s subway extension appeared recently in the New York Times Magazine.






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editor’s letter


people you can believe in

n the midst of this epically scorching summer—record heat waves,

Douglas S. barasch

8 onearth

fall 2012

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

historic drought, catastrophic wildfires—I have been sorely tempted to collar anyone still in denial about climate change and shout, “See? Do you believe us now?” For me, belief in climate change is founded on my grasp of scientific facts—based, in turn, on my faith in the work of thousands of scientists. So I find myself intolerant of those who profess a contrary belief based on ideological chauvinism or a reflexive anti-science bias. I consider them not only wrong, but wrongheaded. Yet these are precisely the people who need to be persuaded. If we turn away from them, we’ll ultimately head—together!—into an uninhabitable world. But how to bridge these deep ideological, cultural, and religious divides? There may be no person more qualified to answer this question than Katharine Hayhoe, a reA few years ago, climate scientist nowned Texas Tech University climate Katharine Hayhoe had to persuade her scientist who also happens to be a deeply religious Christian. A few years ago, Hayown husband—an evangelical hoe, who lives in Lubbock, Texas, found minister—that climate change was real herself having to persuade her own husband—an evangelical minister—that climate change was real. The encounter helped launch her into a sort of “scientific ministry.” She’s found that many of the skeptics she meets are open to persuasion; it only requires a combination of clear facts, deep patience—and genuine respect. What Hayhoe has observed, reports OnEarth articles editor jeff turrentine, who profiles her in these pages, is that “people aren’t bothering to develop relationships before they talk about these issues. But if you relate to the other person as a human being, they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt.” Nancy Jackson, who founded the Climate and Energy Project in Lawrence, Kansas, came to a similar conclusion. Her group successfully encourages folks of all political and ideological stripes to promote wind power (because it generates jobs and income) and energy efficiency (because using less electricity means spending less money). In other words, Jackson preaches common sense, thrift, and enlightened self-interest. Though she knows these initiatives will help curtail climate change, that’s not the language she uses. Like Hayhoe, Jackson (profiled in this issue by our reporter kim larsen) understands the value of “genuinely listening to [an] audience and then engaging on their terms. It’s not about ‘framing.’ It’s about honoring a different way of knowing.” A Texas Tech political scientist (and a colleague of Hayhoe’s) notes that the United States and Canada are the only nations in the world where ideology and politics, more than anything else, explain someone’s position on climate change. If we’re ever to bridge this seemingly vast chasm, we won’t do so by vilifying or demonizing those who disagree with us. As Nancy Jackson puts it, “You have to have everyone on board, or nearly so—not just the true believers. And for that to happen, we all have to be willing to find respect for those who don’t share our point of view.” Amen to that.

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view from NRDC A burning-hot summer reminds us what’s at stake


hen I started talking to people about climate change 10 years ago,

francEs beinecke, President

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fall 2012

Matt Greenslade/

I spoke about forecasts and predictions. This summer, I just pointed out the window. A record-breaking heat wave seared communities from Texas to New York at the beginning of July. A freak storm powered by the heat left 23 people dead and 1.4 million without power from Illinois to Virginia. Another potent storm dumped up to 10 inches of rain in Minnesota and in Wisconsin, flooding homes and prompting a polar bear to escape from a swamped Lake Superior Zoo. As I write this, more than 80 percent of the contiguous United States is ab“This is what global warming looks normally dry or in a drought—the most like at the personal level,” explained widespread drought ever recorded by the official U.S. Drought Monitor—and atmospheric scientist Jonathan Overpeck autumn is still weeks away. Fires are in the midst of the July heat and fires roaring from Montana to New Mexico, having burned 2.4 million acres of land so far. Blazes near Colorado Springs and Fort Collins destroyed 600 homes and forced 32,000 residents to evacuate ahead of the fast-moving flames. Intense storms and drought have many causes, but scientists—including those from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—confirm that climate change is contributing to the frequency and power of 2012’s extreme weather events. “This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” explained University of Arizona atmospheric scientist Jonathan Overpeck in the midst of the July heat and fires. These impacts cost us dearly in damaged property and multimillion-dollar cleanup bills. They also take a toll on our health. At least 50 million Americans were under some form of heat advisory during this alarmingly hot July. Medical experts say high temperatures are hardest on senior citizens, young children, and people with heart and lung illnesses. Hotter temperatures also mean more ozone pollution—especially hazardous for the 25 million Americans living with asthma. The summer of 2012 has delivered a stark message about global warming. Will it persuade our leaders to finally tackle this crisis? Too many have remained silent about the connection between extreme weather and climate change and stood idle while coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and other dirty industries continued to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This has got to change. We must elect leaders who will guide America to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. This fall, I urge you to find out where candidates stand on climate change and what they will do to protect our communities from its ravages. Even after we contain the fires and recover from the deadly summer heat, the pattern will continue: we will see more extreme events in the months and years ahead if we do not reduce carbon pollution now.

Create Your Own Lasting Legacy You can create a lasting environmental legacy by including NRDC in your estate plans. A gift through your will, trust, retirement plan or life insurance plan will help preserve our magnificent natural heritage for generations to come.

For information on how to include NRDC in your estate plans or to let us know you’ve already done so, please contact Michelle Quinones, Lead Specialist, Gift Planning, at 212-727-4552 or email her at

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See the back cover to learn about the Legacy Challenge!

the deans list

by bob deans

let the wind carry us forward power produced for the first 10 years of a facility’s life. first Europeans to settle on this Hardly a novel idea, this credit has been around, off and continent arrived in wooden ships, on, since 1992. It got a three-year renewal as part of the guided by the stars and driven American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called by the wind. They were resilient stimulus package, of 2009. A bill sponsored by Representative David Reichert, people who put their fears behind them and their faith in the future. Republican of Washington, would extend the credit Across the country, there are through 2016. A Senate version, sponsored by Chuck Americans who are doing much Grassley, Republican of Iowa, would carry it through 2014. the same today. And, like our fore- Neither chamber has yet voted on the measure, though, and the fossil fuel industry is spending heavily to lobby bears long ago, many are staking their fate on the wind. Wind turbines have made up more than one-third of against support for renewable power. The fact is, energy is a strategic economic resource. Every this country’s new electricity-generating capacity over the past five years. We now get enough electricity from government in the world—ours included—has policies in the wind to power 13 million homes. By the year 2030, place to address its energy needs. The wind turbine industry we could get 20 percent of our electricity from the wind, is creating jobs, increasing our domestic energy supply, and helping to clean the Energy Departup the air we breathe. ment projects. That’s We get enough electricity from the Those are tangible naabout as much as we wind to power 10 million homes. tional benefits worth now get from nuclear every penny of the power plants, withBy 2030, we could get 20 percent from estimated $1.4 billion out the catastrophic the wind—about as much as we now get annual tab for the prorisk. Nearly 90,000 from nuclear power plants. duction tax credit. Americans make Wind won’t need their living building, the help forever. “Wind turbine prices dropped 33 perinstalling, and maintaining wind turbines. The progress of wind power is in jeopardy, though, be- cent between 2008 and 2010,” says Ellen Carey of the cause Congress has yet to renew an important incentive set American Wind Energy Association, the industry trade to expire at the end of this year. It’s called the production group. Wind power is already competitive in price with tax credit, or PTC. Without it, orders for new wind turbines the energy produced by new coal plants, without the are likely to stall, impeding our transition away from dirty mercury, soot, and industrial carbon pollution they emit. and harmful generating fuels like coal and throwing as To compete with the current low prices of natural gas, many as 37,000 Americans out of work. though, wind turbines still need help, industry sources visit It’s hard to imagine that anyone wants say, and will for perhaps another five years. to read Bob Deans’s weekly guide to environmental politics in Washington. It’s a fair price to pay for the manifest benefits wind power this to happen. Congress needs to act. Rooted in the vision of President is providing our nation and the even greater promise it George H. W. Bush two decades ago, the production tax holds out for our future. In the meantime, we should do as credit is a simple way to implement sensible policy. Anyone our ancestors did long ago: put our faith in the country’s who operates a wind turbine—or, for that matter, a solar, future and harness the renewable power of wind. biomass, or other type of renewable power plant—that kicks out a significant level of electricity to the commer- Bob Deans, NRDC’s associate director of communications, is a cial grid receives a federal tax credit of 2.2 cents for every veteran newspaper reporter and a former president of the White kilowatt-hour of power it produces. In other words, taxpay- House Correspondents’ Association. His most recent book is Reckless: ers kick in 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour of renewable The Political Assault on the American Environment.

1 2 onearth

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illustration by bruce morser

Four centuries ago, the

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Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? This billion-dollar Royal Caribbean ship boasts a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant and 21,000 square feet of solar panels. It also burns up to 7,200 gallons per hour of the world’s dirtiest fuel.





blowing smoke I greatly appreciated your Summer 2012 cover story (“Dreamboat,” by Michael Behar), which helps make the dangers of cruise ship pollution better known and understood. The number of cruise ship visits to our historic community has tripled in recent years, and the Carnival Cruise Line ship Fantasy now calls Charleston its home port. Behar did an excellent job of pinpointing the serious public health threat from cruise ship smokestacks. South Carolina physicians, including the Charleston County Medical Association, have asked for the implementation of shoreside power technology in order to mitigate this pollution, but to date both Carnival and the South Carolina Ports Authority have ignored the request. —DANA BEACH Executive Director South Carolina Coastal Conservation League I learned a lot from “Dreamboat” about the interior of these megaships and their environmental innovations. I think an opportunity was missed, though, to really emphasize the damage cruise ship ports do to the local environ-

1 4 onearth

ment in places like Jamaica. The article does not mention that there were many breaches of the permits granted to the Falmouth port developers. Permit requirements to replant seagrass beds and mangroves have been either not complied with or complied with only in part. —DIANA Mccaulay Chief Executive Officer Jamaica Environment Trust

fall 2 0 1 2

From the Viking ships to the

Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, oceangoing vessels have been sleek and graceful, a subject for painters and photographers. Today’s cruise ships are, let’s face it, ugly. “Dreamboat” shows this most graphically in the photo of a megalithic “floating city,” with a fishing boat barely visible by contrast. —elizabeth levy by e-mail to

in praise of pond scum I’d be happy to use algaederived biofuel in my vehicles, as described by Jeff Turrentine in“Into the Wild Green Yonder” (Summer 2012). Doesn’t use fossil fuels, doesn’t use space needed for food production, and develops a new industry. What’s not to like? —simon owen posted online at

not too shabby Re “This Brand Is Your Brand,” by Rob Walker (Summer 2012): All of my friends recognize my “brand,” even though it doesn’t have a logo, as one of personal nonconsumption. When I carry my distressed backpack, repaired over and over, or wear shoes that nearly have holes in the soles, those who don’t know me simply see old

40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011

things begging replacement. But the beauty of Mr. Cart is that it confers status on what is old. If people know the brand, they will understand that it’s not that nonconsumers lack money to replace their belongings, but rather that they have principles they hold dear. —LAURA’S LAST DITCH posted online at As a professional graphics and Web designer who has spent too many years in the marketing industry, I’m finally seeing the light that Walker has identified so aptly and making amends. If ever there was an addiction, it is consumerism, and it merits a Consumers Anonymous group, which I’m now planning to start in my community. —sandiah posted online at

the way of seeing and enjoying the bird in front of me. I especially love dragonflies, and now I’m going to watch them so much more closely. —anonymous user posted online at

wrong caterpillar “Show Us Your Nature” (Summer 2012) is an excellent photo, but unfortunately it is not of Malacosoma californicum. The photo actually shows M. constrictum, the Pacific tent caterpillar. It was also probably not feeding on thistle, although the photographer is right that it was most likely looking for a place to spin its cocoon. —Fred Stehr Professor Emeritus Department of Entomology Michigan State University

no more life lists I loved “Throwing Away the Book,” by Le Anne Schreiber (Summer 2012). I am a birdwatcher, and all the fuss about “life lists” and identifying species seems to get in

got an opinion?

Send in your thoughts by pen or by keyboard. Visit us on the Web at Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

Connecticut I walked beside the Great River watching it flow in the darkness like a syllable that needs a grievous heart to be heard. I stopped to listen and heard it utter every name as it slipped in silence past the fields in which a herd of Holsteins grazed. I saw it for the divide it was, both here and not here, impossibly there in both New Hampshire and Vermont, although New Hampshire staked its claim to it with a maple stick that’s long since floated away. —B y C h a r d

de N ior d

illustration by blair thornley


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s c i e n c e b u s i n e s s n a t u r e t e c h n o l o g y c u l t u r e p o l i t i c s

Welcome to researchville, pop. 0 illustration by michael byers; STATISTICS: u.s department of energy (1), u.s. green building council (2,3)


by katherine rowland

What good is a city filled with buildings, infrastructure, even robots—but no people? If you’re testing cutting-edge green technologies, there’s no better place to be.

Scheduled to open for business in 2015, the facility, built from scratch, will include schools, a town hall, parks, and an airport, as well urban developer. While his peers scramble to as housing for 35,000 people—except that its only human “residents” invest in the next boomtown, he’s funding—to the will be scientists operating out of a network of underground labs. tune of nearly $1 billion—a metropolis made up Designed in consultation with Perkins and Will, an international of empty buildings and (mostly) carless streets. firm specializing in sustainable design, CITE will Brumley’s technology firm, visit Pegasus Global Holdings, will to read the Human Landscape, a new give university, government, and private-sector blog about the built environment. researchers a life-size arena for experimenting with soon break ground on a city emerging environmental technologies, such as solar tended not for people but for comenergy storage, green construction, grasses that can thrive in desert puters, sensor panels, and even robots. Over the next three years, the conditions, and water recapture. The space will also serve as a provCenter for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation—or CITE—will rise in the ing ground for riskier notions, such as the unmanned vehicles that New Mexico desert. Once completed, it will occupy roughly 20 square will hurtle down CITE’s five-mile-long freeway. miles, taking the idea of an “urban laboratory” to a whole new level.


obert Brumley is a most unusual

% of energy in the U.S. consumed by residential and commercial buildings


% of U.S. Co2 emissions attributable to buildings AND THEIR CONSTRUCTION


% of energy consumed by leed gold–certified buildings, compared with conventional ones

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good finds

It’s not going to be a smart city. It’s a dumb city, but it’s for testing smart ideas.

CLEAN GETAWAY Hydrogen energy proponents from 9 to 90 will love the Hydrocar, a zippy little toy that uses a built-in water osmosis system to separate oxygen from hydrogen, and runs on the latter. Fill ‘er up with H2O, then send her into the hotly debated future of hydrogenfueled cars. $90 at

CITE’s centerpiece, the City Lab, is practically a survey of twentieth-century architectural styles, complete with 1920s-style bungalows, 1950s-style ranch houses, 1980s-style McMansions, and modern downtown office towers. “It’s not going to be a smart city,” says Brumley. “It’s your average American town, full of infrastructure that doesn’t work. It’s a dumb city, but it’s for testing smart ideas.” The array of materials and structures will let researchers compare how various technologies perform in different contexts. “A lot of environmental products are meant to reduce resource consumption, and in the isolation of the lab they’ll test well,” says Green. “But in the big unknown of the real world, they don’t work out that way. Now we can put technologies into hundreds of different homes and see how they function.” Unlike CITE, our next cities won’t suddenly emerge from the ground up; they’ll just be our old cities, made better. “We need to upgrade what we’ve got,” Brumley says. “And to do that, we need to test ideas in conditions of similar complexity. Nobody’s leaving New York. Nobody’s leaving Boston. We need to figure out how to fix them.” KathErine rowland has written on science and the environment for Nature, the Financial Times, the Independent, and other publications.

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MAKE SOME NOISE Head to Milwaukee on September 15 for Rock the Green, an all-day concert melding indie rock (Third Eye Blind, Metric) with a commitment to near-zero waste, sustainable energy, and rewards for bikers and carpoolers.

PEN & INK apocalypse


aster than a receding glacier! More

powerful than a binding climate pact! Able to leap strip-mined mountains in a single— Okay, maybe there’s a reason there aren’t a lot of comic books about environmentalists. But try telling that to Brian Wood, whose new series, The Massive, is about a renegade green group hoping to save the planet from ecological ruin. Our heroes are members of Ninth Wave, a Greenpeace-meets-Avengers band of ocean activists adrift in the postapocalyptic seas off Siberia. Their leader, Israel Callum, is a mercenary turned activist; his crewmates are as likely to wield machine guns as they are to hug whales. Instead of a supervillain, the chief threat to civilization in The Massive is a mysterious set of linked environmental calamities known collectively as “the Crash.” Oil platforms erupt in flames; bluefin tuna go belly-up; Hong Kong is entombed beneath six feet of water. “I’m drawn to characters who have deeply ingrained personal codes that come under attack,” explains Wood, who says he thinks environmentalists actually make for great action heroes. Could The Massive spawn a new genre? Look! Over there! It’s Spider-Man … off to lobby Congress for a tenable —BENjamin GOLDFARB cap-and-trade program!



hen they first came out,

programmable thermostats seemed great. But most of them aren’t programmed properly; people simply adjust them manually and don’t take advantage of their vaunted energy-saving capacities. Enter the Nest, which learns your heating and cooling habits, senses when you’re away, and sets itself to achieve optimal efficiency. If it weren’t so helpful, it’d be creepy. $250 at —B.G.

top: the massive ©2012 brian wood; left, middle: shutterstock

“The idea was really born of frustration,” says Brumley, CITE’s lead developer and the managing director of Pegasus. The process of turning concepts into commercial goods and services can be costly and time-consuming, he explains. By the time a product is proved safe and effective, its relevance may well have been lost to the rush of advancing technology. Brumley conceived of the model metropolis as a way to overcome these obstacles in bringing new ideas to market. As a privately funded venture available for public use, CITE will let researchers bypass the often prohibitive costs of development and test big ideas. “There’s been an explosion of technology research over the past 20 years,” says David Green, a Perkins and Will architect working on the project. “But it hasn’t been followed by implementation. CITE will let smaller firms and nonprofits test transformative products without the usual financial constraints.”


on behalf of Northwood Manor, a largely African American community in Houston protesting the siting of a landfill in its midst. The lawsuit, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc., was a legal landmark. When your wife approached you about doing research for her lawsuit, you were a young sociologist—a recent Ph.D.—with little experience and even fewer resources.

She said, “Bob, I need someone who can work with census data

schools let out, you could see the big trucks rolling up and down the streets and the kids walking. To me, that was why this landfill should not have been located where it was located. It was an assault. It was an insult. We lost the lawsuit, but the community brought a tremendous amount of pressure to bear on the city council to pass an ordinance that limited the location of solid-waste facilities in relationship to public facilities like schools. I think the case served

There’s no black air, no Hispanic air, no white air. It’s just air. So if we’re talking about air quality, we should be on the same page. Robert Bullard analyzes the nexus of race, class, and the environment.

truth to power If it isn’t going in your backyard, whose backyard does it go in? A titan of environmental justice won’t stop asking. I met Bob Bullard in his ice-

box of a corner office at Texas Southern University, where he is the dean of the School of Public Affairs. Outside of his building, in Houston’s predominantly African American Third Ward, kitchen workers on lunch breaks clustered Ted Genoways under trees in search of relief from the talks to red-hot sun. Bullard’s window overrobert bullard looked a bank of solar panels that kept the building’s air conditioners churn-ing; just beyond, a formidable security fence ringed the campus. Such incongruities are not lost on Bullard: they’re his stock-in-trade. In recent years, Newsweek named him one of 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century and Grist dubbed him the “father of environmental justice”—the movement that seeks to make sure environmental laws and regulations are being enforced free of any racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic discrimination. Yet Bullard always insists that he was “drafted” into the environmental movement. In 1978 his wife, the attorney Linda McKeever Bullard, asked him to do some research for a lawsuit she was filing 2 0 onearth

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and find out where the solid-waste facilities are located.” I had 10 graduate students in my research master’s class here at TSU. There was no methodology or design for doing this kind of work back then—no computerized databases, no GIS mapping. We had base maps, and census tract maps, and block maps in books that were eight inches thick. We had colored Magic Markers and map pins that we’d stick in the wall. We found that from the 1930s all the way up to 1978, the city of Houston had placed nearly 100 percent of landfills, and six out of eight of the city-owned incinerators, in black communities. We could lay out the streets and then overlay and color-code who lived where by income and race. Northwood Manor was a residential area; 85 percent of the people owned their homes. There was no reason to put a garbage dump there, except that it was a black community. There were several schools within a two-mile radius of that landfill, one within 1,400 feet. On the major street, Little York, there was no sidewalk. When the

notice within Houston that landfills were no longer “compatible land use” with African American communities. And it provided the impetus to start looking at other places as well.

What we were doing here locally got me to wondering what was going on in other parts of the South. I had gotten calls from folks in West Dallas who were fighting to get a lead smelter closed. A public housing project, a Boys Club, and an elementary school were all nearby. That immediately became one of my case studies. Then I expanded to look at Louisiana’s Cancer Alley [the name sometimes given to the 80mile industrial stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans] and the Union Carbide chemical plant in Institute, West Virginia. And then Emelle, Alabama, home to the largest hazardous-waste facility in the country. That research became the basis for your 1990 book Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality—and was instrumental in building the environmental justice movement.

left: photograph for onearth by tarick foteh; right: illustration by harry campbell


But you’ve said that you had trouble getting the book published.

When I wrote it, I was trying to get a feel for what connected these communities. What made them prime targets for dumping? How did residents perceive these facilities’ coming into their communities uninvited? They saw it as their rights being violated— their property rights, their civil rights. They saw themselves and their communities under siege. But publishers didn’t understand the concept. They said the environment was race-neutral, that you couldn’t use environment and justice in the same sentence. A lot of environmental groups still see the environmental justice movement as dealing with social issues. To which we say, yes, we do deal with social issues. We’re dealing with civil rights. We’re dealing with human rights. So we may have different priorities—but where do our concerns intersect? We’re concerned about clean water, about clean air. There’s no black air, no Hispanic air, no white air. It’s just air. So if we’re talking about air quality, we should be on the same page.

down public housing, if there’s no charity hospital, if there’s no public transit, then there’s nothing for them to come back to. In December 2005, I wrote an article called “Katrina and the Second Disaster: A Twenty-Point Plan to Destroy Black New Orleans.” There were things that were not being said, and I wanted to say them. It had been left unsaid, for example, that there were black areas some people didn’t want to come back as residential. They wanted to have this come back as “green space.” They wanted that to “revert to swampland.” All without even asking the residents who had lived in these areas, some of whom were now displaced as far as 2,000 miles away. My goal was to say: if we don’t want these 20 points to come into effect, we need to address them head-on—as opposed to whispering about it because people are too embarrassed to talk about the fact that race was driving a lot of this.

Once you’ve raised awareness, how do you translate that—especially in the current political climate—into action? There’s a lot of rhetoric out there about how visit Over the past 20 environmental for our continuing coverage of the environmental justice movement. years, the enviconcerns run ronmental justice trary to the needs movement has expanded its scope of the poor. A recent spate of adverbeyond the South and the African tisements, for example, talk about American community. You yourself the “job-killing” EPA. have addressed global issues, as People are desperate for jobs— well as topics like disaster response. it’s like how a drowning man will reach out and grab a thorny bush Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, bringing all your research full circle. to save himself. But the data are

After Katrina, even the Housing and Urban Development secretary said that New Orleans would probably have a smaller black footprint and that he was going to agree to tear down public housing. Now, a “smaller footprint” for the black community means that, by design, all those people who were bused out of the Superdome—in many cases low-income African Americans—would probably not have the choice to return. If you tear

MUST EAT... GRAINS! Could an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels lead to an invasion of evil, opportunistic “zombie rice”?


arbon-fueled Climate change is responsible

for so many terrifying things already. Now we may have to add one more to the list: bodysnatchers. Well, not bodysnatchers, exactly; more like plantsnatchers. But there’s still something horrific about what happened to some normal-seeming rice plants in one recent study. Scientists from the U. S. Department of Agriculture grew a feral, “weedy” form of rice alongside a cultivated form in controlled environments that reflected carbon dioxide levels of a century ago, the present, and (based on projections) the coming decades. In each setting, as CO2 levels went up, the weedy rice was better able to synchronize its flowering period to that of the cultivated rice, leading to cross-pollination—and resulting in a zombie-like hybrid that had some alarming characteristics. From its feral parent, the hybrid inherited a diminished nutritional content and a weaker hull. But here’s the scariest part: from its cultivated parent—cue the screech-screech-screech horror-movie music—it inherited a genetic resistance to weed killers. In an era of increased carbon emissions, such “zombification” could mean a challenge for rice farmers, who must already contend with the inferior weedy rice that commonly pops up alongside their crops, but which has always been managed with herbicides. The long-term implications of the experiment are still being studied. In the meantime, don’t open the front door for any rice cakes you don’t know personally. —JON MARK PONDER

clear: more jobs are created by having strong enforcement of environmental laws and health protections. You save jobs and you increase productivity when you move to a green and clean-energy economy and away from dirty, coal-fired power plants. We can’t match their advertising dollar for dollar. But environmental justice groups have to do a better job of educating the public about what’s real and what’s propaganda.

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The singer/writer/agitator bonded with like-minded author Abbey in the 1960s.

she’s NEVER GIVING UP For 92-year-old activist Katie Lee, the Colorado River is more than just a cause—it’s a muse.


By shelley smithson

here’s a time each evening when 92-year-

old Katie Lee stares out her window in Jerome, Arizona, and is transported into the past. It’s 1954, and the 35-year-old Lee is on one of her early trips down the Colorado River, in the heart of southern Utah’s scenic Glen Canyon. Her reverie takes her back to the amber light that filtered through the trees in the main canyon and dozens of smaller side canyons. She recalls the majestic red rocks: rocks that are now completely submerged beneath the cold, glassy surface of Lake Powell, the reservoir that resulted from the damming of the river at Glen Canyon in the mid-1960s. Strangely, Lee says, she never dreams of the river. “And I finally figured out why: it’s on my mind all day anyway.” She’s sitting in her home office, nearly 200 miles south of the dam whose destruction was piously prayed for by a character in Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. Near the window there’s a photo of Lee—holding a monkey wrench in one hand, dynamite in the other—with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. That gleam can still be detected all these many years later, as she describes a life encompassing an early acting

career in Hollywood; traveling the coffeehouse circuit as a folk singer; inclusion in a coterie of activists at the environmental movement’s nascence; and her current role as the (unquestionably) senior-most advisory board member of the Glen Canyon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of a free-flowing Colorado. In the 1940s and ’50s, Lee had bit parts in movies and larger recurring roles on radio shows (The Great Gildersleeve, Gordon MacRae’s The Railroad Hour) before deciding that singing, rather than acting, was what she wanted to do most. Her friend Burl Ives persuaded her to pick up a guitar and take up the life of a folksinger, a decade-long career that brought her into contact with a band of activists who were protesting the Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to build the Glen Canyon Dam. That group included not only Abbey but also Friends of the Earth founder David Brower, who fought bitterly with the bureau in the years leading up to the dam’s completion. By then, Lee had already left Hollywood and returned to her native Arizona. She took the bureau’s actions personally. Once the Colorado began backing up, its warm waters eventually turned so cold that native fish became endangered downstream in the Grand Canyon; the glori-

Lee is unforgiving of the government agencies that dammed her river and dismissive of their newest plan for it

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What it’s called:


says who?

“Climate change, like gravity, doesn’t give a damn whether you ‘believe’ in it or not. It’s happening regardless. While we sit around and debate its existence, it’s taking full advantage of the situation and using the time we’re giving it to make life miserable.” —Diane keaton

RIDE AN UPWARD TREND q1 2010 Q1 2011 Q1 2012

combined Rail


How much it costs:



t’s not always so easy to reconcile a green outlook with the inflexible demands of our modern car culture. Going electric or hybrid is certainly one way, but now the Coloradobased Green Garage—a sleek auto repair shop offering an array of products and services to help any car be more environmentally friendly—may be coming to your town to make the task a little less difficult. Founder Ryan Ferrero has armed his Carhuggers (his term, not ours) with things like lead-free wheel weights and an oil-change package that uses a re-refined version of the stuff to reduce oil consumption by up to 70 percent. Simply by filling your tires with slow-leaking nitrogen instead of air, the Carhuggers can improve your gas mileage, they say. Several shops are planned for the San Francisco Bay area in early 2013, to be followed by —J.M.P. openings in other markets.


you how, where, and when to recycle more than 300 different materials, from batteries to hazmats. Click an icon to get nearby recycling center locations, hours, policies, etc.



What it does: Tells


Apple, Android


Compatible with:


OPPOSITE: photograph for Onearth by tom brownold; right: illustration by zacH trenholm; top right: illustration by steve munday; graph statistics: american public transportation association

ous red rock formations disappeared. In addition to making the rounds of public hearings, Lee channeled her anger into songs like “Rapids Ahead” and “When the Colorado Rises,” both of which appeared on her 1964 album Folk Songs of the Colorado River. Richard Ingebretsen, who founded the Glen Canyon Institute with Brower in 1996, calls Lee the heart of the organization. “You couldn’t have a Glen Canyon movement without Katie Lee,” he says. “Her passion has been unabated throughout the years.” When Lee speaks at the institute’s board meetings and events, “she makes us toe the line,” says founding board member Ed Dobson. “She’s always in our ears, telling us what’s right and wrong.” Even into her tenth decade of life, Lee hasn’t stopped writing, singing, or speaking out: in her albums and performances; in books, like her memoir Glen Canyon Betrayed (2006); in the many documentaries she’s participated in (including the 1997 PBS mini-series Cadillac Desert, based on the best-selling book about western water struggles); and in her advisory role with the Glen Canyon Institute. She’s unforgiving of the government agencies that dammed her river and dismissive of their newest plan for it, which would attempt to aid Grand Canyon fish populations and restore eroded beaches by releasing water and sediment from Lake Powell in a managed flood. The only surefire way to save beaches and native fish habitat, Lee says, would be to remove the dam— an option that even many sympathizers say is impractical and unlikely. But if the government won’t do it, says Lee, then the ever-rising wall of sediment that’s piling up against the dam itself might do it instead. “I think Mother Nature will take it,” she says. “They can’t stop it. The river is eating around the dam already.” Lee knows that her dream probably won’t be coming true anytime soon. Still, she adds, “I’d like to be around to see it happen,” The gleam in her eyes grows ever so slightly. “I’d like to give it a little help.”


as cities and states debate just how much to invest in public

transit, it’s worth noting that ridership—now at its second-highest level since the 1950s—continues to rise. After dipping in 2009 (when many daily commuters lost their jobs), numbers are going up again, as evidenced by this chart comparing U.S. rail and bus trips taken on public transit systems during the first quarters of the past three years.

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the synthesist

by alan burdick

every species in the world. It culls distribution data from a wide field of sources, including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the World Wildlife Fund, and various national park surveys. At the moment, in demo form, the Map of Life offers range data on 25,000 terrestrial vertebrates and North American fish; the ultimate aim is to describe “the when and where” of millions of species, Jetz says. “It will give us a window on the actors and their interactions,” Guralnick adds, “and strong assessments of their continued likelihood of existence.” This is not your grandmother’s blob map. The distribution data are nearly infinitely searchable and can be made almost instantly visible. A user can ask a basic question like “Where in the world is the yellow wattlebird?” and get an answer in unprecedented detail. One can map the whereabouts of dozens of species simultaneously, or pick a spot large or small, in Borneo, or British Columbia, or Chicago, and ask: “What are all the species that are found nearby?” Employed in this manner, the Map of Life could come to serve as a powerful tool for revealing—and conserving—biodiversity. One could pinpoint a proposed dam site, say, in order to analyze which local species might be threatened or endangered—and assess just how species-rich that particular area is compared with others nearby. Or one could determine where in a given state or country the highest concentrations of threatened species lie, with an eye toward identifying the most promising location for a nature preserve. In Jetz’s words, “We can have a quantitative basis for conservation prioritization.” The map—which is adding taxa and functionalities all the time—is viewable at its own URL (, but may soon also be availhe key to biodiversity is geography. able on sites like the Encyclopedia of Life. As the map develops, it will Charles Darwin understood as much in 1857 as he was puzzling over the flora and fauna of the integrate new information about temperature, rainfall, and other factors Galápagos Islands on his way to writing On the to generate ecological impact studies of a sort—again, not simply for Origin of Species. “One of the subjects on which one species, but for dozens at once, at any location. That, says Guralnick, is where it has the potential to be the most I have been experimentising & which cost me much trouble, is the means of distribution of all or- powerful. Instead of studying the interactions of species as if observing ganic beings found on oceanic islands,” he wrote them from outer space, ecologists will be able to zoom in and study all kinds of interactions “at a scale that matters to the organisms themto a colleague. Why, he wondered, are certain animals and plants selves.” As the database fills in, it will reveal how the distributions of where they are? What makes a place biologically unique? species are changing over time; biologists might then get a clearer view Ecology has come a long way since then. Through online databases like the Encyclopedia of Life, scientists worldwide can share and parse of how, say, the range of a certain bird species is altered by changes data about the traits and habits of millions of species. Yet they still in forest coverage, or by rising temperatures. Jetz says it will allow scientists “to be objective in our understanding of know surprisingly little about where, exactly, things visit biodiversity distribution and the mechanics behind can be found. Look up your favorite species in a field for more coverage of science, technology, it, as well as our projection of potential threats.” guide; you’ll see a Rorschach-style blot indicating its and their impact on the environment. All told, the map will paint a portrait—interactive range. These “blob maps,” as Robert Guralnick, an and constantly updated—of biodiversity in motion, evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, calls them, are accurate to within maybe 60 miles. But for better and for worse. “It gives you a sense of dynamism,” Guralnick says. “Species have ranges; they shift and collapse or grow as the world that’s no longer good enough to meet the environment’s challenges. “They’re lovely—they inform our knowledge of where things are,” itself changes. New communities assemble or disassemble as the rate of change ramps up. It’s a rapidly changing environment out there.” Guralnick says of these maps. “However, they’re not so good if you Indeed it is, ever more so. For ecologists, as much as for the species want to throw a dart and ask, ‘Am I going to find such-and-such a bird they study, it’s a struggle just to keep up. at this spot in Borneo?’ The resolution is too coarse.” Now Guralnick and Walter Jetz, an ecologist at Yale, have joined forces to give us something better. The online database they’ve cre- Alan Burdick, a senior editor at the New Yorker and a regular OnEarth conated, the Map of Life, aspires to be the most precise range map for tributor, is the author of Out of Eden (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

gps for critters

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illustration by jesse lefkowitz



to BUILd a NEw SoCIEty C

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possible impact on the environment, in a manner that models this vision. our authors provide the tools to help you not just cope, but thrive through changing times. Join us in cultivating resilience — let’s make sure we’re ready for the new normal.

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live, or let die?


by kim tingley

n June 24, the last GalÁpagos

Pinta Island tortoise of the subspecies Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni

collapsed during a trip to his watering hole and died. Lonesome George was only 100 years old— which is actually middle-aged for a tortoise—and his death (from a heart attack, it was later concluded) shocked and saddened his many fans around the world. Over the years, millions of tourists had flocked

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to the Charles Darwin Research Station where George lived to catch a glimpse of this reptile, who had refused to reproduce despite 40 years of matchmaking efforts by his caretakers—making him literally the last of his kind. George’s longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, described him to the New York Times as a friendly soul who greeted workers each morning by moseying toward them, stretching out his neck, and opening his mouth. “To me,” Llerena said, “he was everything.” To news outlets from New Zealand to India to Scotland, he was irresistibly symbolic. He had been “a poster boy for conservation and endangered species,” Scientific American noted; his death, as the Times put it, gave “extinction a face.” Calls rang out for humanity to learn a lesson from his death. “We must all take action,” an impassioned editorial in the Huffington Post declared, “so that this situation doesn’t happen again.” But can the story of Lonesome George really help us solve the global crisis of extinction? Or is it possible that giving extinction an individual “face” actually prevents us from asking the kinds of uncomfortable questions that might significantly improve our larger conservation efforts? Staggeringly, of the nearly 64,000 species currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s latest Red List of Threatened Species, nearly 20,000 are considered to be hurtling toward extinction: 41 percent of the amphibians, 30 percent of the conifers, 25 percent of the mammals, and 13 percent of the birds. Our epoch, the Holocene, is hosting what many scientists believe to be the world’s sixth mass extinction. Scientists recently predicted that were we to lose all of these threatened species in the next 100 years—as a result of habitat loss, climate change, invasive species takeovers, and hunting—we would be on track to lose 75 percent of all known species within a few hundred more. As the party responsible for setting in motion this grand-scale extermination, we humans now face the terrifying question of what to do about it. How do we decide which species should be first in line to receive our limited conservation funds and time? At the moment, we tend to regard as especially “valuable” those animals that, like George, are sizable and easy to anthropomorphize. We gave George a gentleman’s name and personality and felt empathetic toward him: he was unlucky in love, amiable, affectionate toward his keepers, noble in his solitude. He looked great on a poster or T-shirt. But when we donate money to save charismatic species like tortoises—whether that means putting them behind glass in zoos or roping them off in preserves—do we risk ignoring entire classes of protection-worthy organisms with lower public profiles? Recent studies suggest, for example, that ocean warming and acidification are threatening some of the nearly invisible phytoplankton that float on the lowest rung of the marine food chain. If you paid to see one, you’d need a microscope to get your money’s worth. It would be difficult, to say the least, to conjure sympathetic thoughts or feelings from the plankton’s appearance or behavior. But if phytoplankton were to disappear, we’d lose the zooplankton that eats it, the fish that eat the zooplankton—and every sea creature that relies on fish. Of course, conservation organizations don’t take up the cause of a creature like George just because he’s adorable. One of the most powerful pieces of environmental legislation in the United States, the

illustration by leo espinosa

think again

Endangered Species Act of 1973, prioritizes plants Wouldn’t our limited time and money be better spent visit to read Kim Tingley’s regular column and animals that scientists and policy makers have trying to figure out which species—regardless of their about interesting and endangered determined, through systematic surveys, to be nearnumerical status—are most critical to their respective creatures. est to vanishing; globally, similar criteria underlie habitats to begin with? the Red List. But these lists presume that the value of a species lies in Recent forays into ranking the importance of species within ecosysdirect proportion to its scarcity. Indeed, it was George’s rarity as the sole tems have yielded striking projections. In a 2011 study published in remaining member of his line that helped make him a cause célèbre. Nature, researchers set up grassland ecosystems with different numEvery species is precious. George represented millions of years of bers of plant species in each, observed them at length, and concluded evolutionary honing that’s now gone, along with his power to enrich that 84 percent of the species contributed in some indispensible way to the beauty of nature and any medical secrets his DNA might have the overall effectiveness of the ecosystem—suggesting that 16 percent unlocked. But in purely practical terms, does fighting hardest for of them might be expendable. A review in Science revealed that certain those species that are almost gone do the greatest good for the great- top predators and large herbivores may have disproportionately heavy est number? When honeybees began mysteriously dying off in 2006, impacts on the health of their ecosystems compared with other species many were surprised to learn that honeybee pollination is responsible down the food chain. Thus has the overfishing of sharks along the for nearly a third of the food that Americans eat. But pollinators and Atlantic coast, for instance, led to a boom in rays and smaller fish and other insects are difficult to count in the wild—a major reason they’re a corresponding decline in scallop and oyster populations. Similarly, rarely considered for endangeredin East Africa, the overhunting of species listing. We knew about buffalo and wildebeest has let vegthe honeybees’ plight, and were etation grow unchecked, fueling Is it possible that giving extinction an able to search for ways to help more and larger wildfires. individual “face” actually prevents us them, because we keep domesBut understanding how our ecofrom asking the kinds of questions that tic colonies and could observe systems work is more complicated might improve our conservation efforts? their decline. But are there other than simply knowing who is eatthreatened populations of insects, ing whom, or what. Animals and fungi, or scavengers out there that plants communicate via sounds, similarly don’t present us with a clear head count, and consequently smells, and chemicals to relay complex messages we haven’t yet don’t meet our requirements for an endangered-species listing, but decoded. In addition to that, only about 1.2 million species of flora, are nevertheless so vital to their ecosystems that they merit action? fauna, and fungi—approximately one out of every seven species that recent estimates suggest exist on our planet—have been counted so far. If we want to tag species with an ecological “value,” we’ll need to S H O RT T A KE understand better the roles each plays in a given environment (see “GPS for Critters,” page 24). Which means we’ll need to be ready—and willing—to recognize that many of our most beloved endangered species may no longer be fit, in Endangered but photogenic species such the Darwinian sense of the word, to inhabit the places they once did. as chimps, pandas, and seals don’t require the services of Currently we’re fighting valiantly to save the endangered polar bear, whose Arctic habitat is in imminent danger of disappearing. We hope image consultants. But what about the purple frog (whose to win. But what if the unthinkable were to happen, and we lost? What name might as well include “slimy” and “bloated”) or if the Arctic’s summer ice is gone within the next 25 years, as is often the wartyback mussel, whose no-nonsense moniker projected? Are we spending enough time thinking about which species pretty much sums up the whole situation, appearancewill be best equipped to step into the polar bear’s niche in what will by then have become a new Arctic ecosystem? wise? Two websites bring the love to these and others In the Galápagos, Lonesome George is being stuffed for display in in the deserving-but-homely category. One of them, a tortoise museum—where he’ll perform an only slightly reduced role ARKive (, marshals the power of fantastic in sustaining his environs than he did during his life. If we can stand to photography to depict species—including obscure acknowledge that fact, and if acknowledging it buys us the freedom to improve the overall health of the earth’s ecosystems, George’s death and/or hideous ones—in the best possible light. will truly have taught us some valuable lessons. First, that the definiAnd at Endangered Ugly Things (endangered-ugly. tion of a vibrant, sustainable ecosystem simply can’t be what it was 50 you can celebrate biodiversity in all of years ago. Second, that we will have to make do with less. And third, its majestic, and occasionally repulsive, glory. that deciding which species we can afford to lose will be complicated, painful—and necessary.



Beauty and the Beasts

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where onearth


Vermont’s pastoral landscape dazzles year-round, but in fall it’s transfigured.


Vermont still reigns supreme in its fall-foliage brilliance By Ben jervey

here’s no time of year when the bucolic spirit of Vermont

is more purely distilled than in the fall. Farm stands, pumpkin patches, and restaurant menus are all bursting. Locals anticipate how long they’ll have to wait before experiencing a sacred rite of passage: biting into a fresh cider doughnut as a crisp breeze sends winter’s early RSVP. Yes, I’ll be there. But first comes the changing of the leaves, an event unparalleled in our nation’s cycle of natural pageantry. While plenty of states can boast of riotous reds, fiery oranges, and glowing yellows on select swaths of wooded acreage, in Vermont the dazzling colors are everywhere—at least for now. Climate change could soon diminish their duration and intensity. Because the fall foliage can be found all over, there’s no need to flock to the predictable meccas of Stowe or Woodstock, already filled with bused-in throngs of leaf-peepers. There are plenty of sublime experiences to be had in less obvious locales: think Townshend or Quechee, Dorset or Arlington, or any of the charming towns in between. You’ll recognize them from Norman Rockwell paintings: the steepled white churches, the covered bridges, and the old-fashioned general stores that have somehow held their ground against national chains. Wherever you wind up, find a path in the woods and take a walk. Any innkeeper or waiter or general-store cashier will tell you where to go. Under the burning mosaic of the canopy above you, as your boots tread the gorgeous carpet of what’s already fallen, reflect on the meaning of a line from a poem by Robert Frost, New England’s timeless poet laureate: nothing gold can stay.


Before the Fall The timing of Vermont’s Leaf-viewing

season depends on a specific temperature pattern: cold nights followed by warm days. Chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color, breaks down during nighttime chills and allows underlying yellows, oranges, and reds to show through. But there are signs that the season, typically the last week of September and the first few weeks of October, is starting later each year because of warmer-than-average temperatures. What’s worse, since the hues of the state’s maples are dependent on early cold snaps, the colors themselves are at risk of being dulled. The same dynamic may be behind a recent decrease in the trees’ sugar content: bad news for the state’s syrup industry. The University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center is studying the threat to maples and exploring solutions.

Stay at the Windham Hill Inn in West Townshend. There are foliage-filled views from all 21 rooms and 160 acres to explore. Visit Hildene, the Lincoln family estate in Manchester. Tour the Georgian Revival mansion and walk the 412-acre property. Hike to the fire tower in Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. Though no fire has been spotted in years, it will look as if the entire mountain is ablaze. 2 2 onearth

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ellen rooney/getty images

american idyll











FOR ALL Local farmers could revolutionize how millions of New Yorkers eat

photograph for onearth by tia magallon


ike any farmer patrolling the back 2,000, Dave

Weiss steers his pickup with two fingers, seat belt unfastened, eyes on his fence posts. “Why don’t you love me like you used to do?” he croons. “How come you treat me like a worn-out shoe?” Weiss grins, revealing the absence of several teeth, the handiwork of a bull no longer bellowing. Loose tools and pens skitter across his dashboard, which is coated in dust so thick it looks like red velour. Built like an ox, wearing a blue plaid shirt with homemade short sleeves and a camo cap, Weiss is a man of seemingly irrepressible good humor. “How was that?” he asks eagerly. “I can also do Cash.” He points across a wooded intervale to a herd of black-and-whites knee-deep on a grassy hillside. “Those are mine,” he says, for the umpteenth time. We drive on, he growls “I Walk the Line,” and for more than an hour claims ownership of fields, forests, and cow flesh. Born on his farm to city-bred parents who learned farming by through mail-order courses, Weiss is the largest landholder in Sullivan County, New York—the heart of the Catskills, a hundred Elizabeth miles northwest of Manhattan. He milks 260 cows a day and sells Royte to a major dairy cooperative. But like any farmer, he says he’s getting killed. Milk prices are low, feed prices have tripled (thanks to the corn ethanol boom), labor is expensive, and fuel costs are through the roof. Sixty years ago, the county had 400 dairy farms. Today, there are just 22. Standing downwind of his 1.4-million-gallon manure tank and no longer singing, Weiss asks, “How can we compete with the giant farms with their monster machinery, their good genetics and high plant yields and immigrant labor?” It’s a familiar refrain. But Weiss is actually lucky to be farming in a unique place at a unique time in urban and agricultural history. With interest in eating high-quality local food (broadly defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as food raised or produced within 400 miles of the consumer) higher than at any time since local food was the default, the Catskills are perched on the threshold of perhaps the greatest food-marketing opportunity in North America. Less than three hours away are 22 million stomachs and many thousands of foodies happy to pay $8.59 a pound for Bourbon Red turkey raised within commuting distance. Perhaps even more important for the region are p h o t o g r a p h s

b y

R o b

H o w a r d fall 2012

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the thousands of city institutions—schools, hospitals, prisons, senior centers, and shelters—looking to feed their constituents food that’s fresher and more sustainably grown than what’s currently on offer. Never have so many individuals, nonprofits, and local politicians been so intent on connecting the bounty of small and medium-size farms with urban consumers. Among these forward thinkers, the message has been internalized: eating more food that’s grown regionally and sustainably will improve public health, protect the environment, and provide economic sustenance to farming communities. (For every dollar spent on a New York State agricultural product, roughly two dollars are returned to the local economy, and for every new job created in food manufacturing, an additional three jobs are supported in food service, food sales, and other related industries.) But the impediments to this triple-bottom-line harmonic convergence are not, alas, trifling. Upstate, farmers are calling for more food-processing, aggregation, and distribution capacity. From government, they want policies that favor local procurement; and on the ground, they require bricks-and-mortar outlets where they can sell their products wholesale. In other words, what’s needed is a sweeping reinvention of the hub-and-spoke model that comprised regional food systems before agricultural businesses consolidated, forming vertically and horizontally integrated behemoths that put smaller processors, packers, and distributors out of business. The Catskills’ capacity to produce a great deal of food

is undisputed. The region has gentle slopes, reasonable weather, lush grasslands, and abundant pure water (water so pure that New York City drinks it, after a 125-mile journey through aqueducts and pipes, unfiltered—one of only five large U.S. cities permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency to do so). And while the soils may not be ideal for growing specialty crops (that fuzz on Weiss’s dashboard is evidence of what lies beneath: red sandstone), the land is ideal for livestock, dairy, and poultry operations, hay, and some grains, such as rye and 3 2 onearth

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barley. Statewide, there are three million acres country life of unused pastureland. That’s enough, accord- Ingimundur Kjarval, ing to Ken Jaffe, who raises Black Angus and above, farms 400 other grass-fed breeds about an hour and a half acres in Delaware north of Weiss’s farm, to produce all the beef con- County, New York. sumed in New York City—on a grass-fed diet. Dave Weiss, right, is “The Catskills are known as the city’s water- one of a dwindling shed, but we want to brand it as the city’s food- number of dairy farmshed too,” says Jennifer Grossman, a former vice ers in the Catskills. president for land acquisition at the Open Space Institute and a consultant to the Catskills Food Initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). By protecting its watershed from new vacation homes, casinos, ski resorts, and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (much of the region overlays the Marcellus Shale), the city avoids the prospect of building an enormously expensive filtration plant to purify the 1.2 billion gallons of water it uses every day. A largely intact landscape, which includes 700,000 acres in the biologically diverse Catskills Park, is, so far, doing that work for New Yorkers. And by helping out farmers like Weiss, who continues to buy up property and convert it to pasture or woodlot, the city would win again, with meat and dairy products produced closer to its grocery shelves. “There are a lot of new farmers here because land is cheaper than other farming areas,” Grossman continues. “It’s perfect for livestock and perennial crops, and there’s a great opportunity for fiber from goats and alpaca. In the 1950s, Sullivan County was the largest egg producer in the world. In the late nineteenth century, there were a hundred breweries in the five boroughs [of New York City]—we can grow hops up here too.” Weiss is down with hops—and with anything else that might help his bottom line. He acknowledges his operation is old school, a large herd producing strictly for the dairy commodity market, which pays farmers for quantity, not quality. But he’s eager to embrace the new paradigm. “I already bought a no-till drill,” he says, “and I’m thinking

about growing some grains” for the new breweries that are popping up. “I’m selling a little hay and some topsoil”—he waves his hand over the vat of semi-hardened manure, which he works into his fields. “And I’ve got a little sawmill and some stands of red pine.” Weiss is also considering reducing the size of his dairy herd and transitioning to grass-fed Black Angus, a potentially lucrative product if he can get his meat processed and distributed cost-effectively. “But what we really need,” he says as his Holsteins slam their metal feed barriers open to pursue silage, “is a local creamery. We could make cheese and other products, and we’d employ 30 to 40 people year-round. There’s a lot of people to sell to between here and New York City.” Indeed there are. By Weiss’s lights, the only things that stand in his way are a lack of capital and masses of red tape. “There have been lots of feasibility studies of a creamery,” he says, “but they’re all just sitting on a shelf! If we were in China, we’d have a creamery built in two months.” Other farmers in the region have other asks. (How do we know this? Feasibility studies!) More slaughterhouse capacity, so farmers can process all those (theoretical) pasture-raised animals without having to book a slot one year in advance. A cold-storage facility. Grants to help build hoop houses that will extend the growing season. (And how about some grant writers too? It’s the rare farmer who has time to fill out applications and leap logistical hurdles. “They want your whole life story!” Weiss fumes.) “Farmers are extremely open to understanding new opportunities,”

from nrdc down on the farm

Peter Lehner NRDC’s executive director since 2007, after eight years as head of the New York State Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau You’ve managed a farm yourself. How has that experience influenced your views about food production? My experience helping to run a coffee farm in Central America has taught me that farming is a very tough job. There are lots of unknowns. You can do everything right, and bad weather can still hurt the crop. One part of the farm can do well, while another doesn’t. The experience has also helped me understand how farmers’ obligations to their workers can affect their willingness to make changes. If your farm goes under, it doesn’t just affect you; everyone who works for you loses his or her job. So there’s a commitment to keep the farm running that’s about more than money. That may explain some of the conservatism in farming. If you have 10 or 100 or 1,000 people working for you, you are naturally cautious.

illustration by bruce morser

This article talks about the virtues of small farms. But when you were in charge of enforcing environmental law in New York State, you also saw the darker side of farming. Agriculture can be an extremely polluting industry. There are a lot of farmers who are doing a good job of protecting natural systems. But there are others who are not. Animal waste and excess fertilizer often run straight into waterways and contaminate the drinking water downstream. The food produced on some farms may have harmful pesticide residues. We have to protect farming because it produces our food and can preserve open land, but we also need to protect those who live downstream or downwind or eat the food that’s produced.

Todd Erling, executive director of the nonprofit Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation, says. “But it has to be economical. It’s a double-edged sword: farmers have to pay attention to market opportunities, but they also have to run their day-to-day operations.” The list of potential fixes goes on: a packinghouse, perhaps with an instant-quick-freeze machine that stretches summer and autumnal bounty into year-round income. Some marketing expertise, so potential customers will link the word Catskills with grass-fed beef instead of borscht, free-range duck instead of Dirty Dancing. Refrigerated trucks, to move those products to market. Others desire a fairly priced distributor who can help smaller operations aggregate their product and avoid the schlep into the city. “Supermarkets and institutions need a large, steady supply of produce at a good price, so that’s where aggregation and processing come in,” Grossman says. Many medium-size regional farmers covet a permanent wholesale

What do you think we can do to bring about changes in the way we produce food? Consumers can play a very prominent role in pressuring the food industry to adopt new, greener standards. Eating better is not just a question of how a food is grown, but what

is grown, and in what quantity. Substituting organic strawberries for regular ones is good: it’s a greener version of the same product. But switching from one product to another can have an even more significant effect. The production of red meat, for example, has a huge environmental impact. If you decide to eat more fruits, grains, vegetables, and other meats, that decision has a greater effect than just eating less damaging beef. Food choice is about taking ownership in larger processes. What we eat affects climate and water and air quality as well as our personal health.

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market, with refrigerated storage, so they can sell to supermarkets and restaurants keen on buying local food. Unfortunately, no single fix will set the entire system to rights. “It’s a chicken-and-egg situation,” Grossman says. For example, distributors would enter the fray “if they were confident there’s enough Catskills produce to fill their trucks. But the farmers don’t have the confidence to grow more stuff until they know they’ll be able to sell it.” An hour and a half northwest of Weiss, temma bell and

Ingimundur Kjarval’s Spring Lake Farm rolls over 400 acres. A native of Iceland, Kjarval has been raising livestock in New York State since 1985. But after losing his shirt on sheep, he’s branched out into grassfed beef and pastured pork, in addition to lamb—all of it antibiotic- and hormone-free. “We used to sell our animals at auction,” he says, striding through knee-deep grasses punctuated with pink and yellow wildflowers. A brace of tiny pigs race around their mom, and cliques of adolescents tussle and snort in the extravagantly lush fields. “You’d fill your trailer with animals you’d raised for years—you’d be very proud of what you’d done—but you weren’t supposed to touch marketing with a 10-foot pole.” Over the past several years, however, Kjarval realized that he could make more money selling meat directly to consumers than by selling animals to livestock buyers. But this also means he must act as a marketer. When his animals are ready, he delivers them to a slaughterhouse that custom cuts, ages, and Cryovacs his meat (vacuum seals it in plastic, that is). When his cuts are ready, he returns to hand load them into bags. “It’s a primitive, nerve-wracking process,” he says, “because there can be mix-ups.” Compounding his woes, the nearest processor has often been booked six months in advance. He can either wait for a slot or haul his livestock much longer distances. That’s bad for his animals and bad for his wallet. For the past two years, Spring Lake has sold all its frozen pork and lamb, and some of its beef, directly to consumers through buying clubs in New York City. When enough meat orders are aggregated, through a website designed by his tech-savvy daughters, Kjarval loads a cooler into his van and heads south to the city. While he’d surely get a better price selling at a farmers’ market, he doesn’t relish “standing around all day, smiling at people I don’t know.” “My dad is good with animals, not people,” Ulla Kjarval says, with the greatest respect. “We could ramp up production and still be sustainable,” she continues. “We’ve got production down pat, we’ve got unused pastures, and there’s a new slaughterhouse opening, so we’re optimistic about that. Right now, our only obstacle to growth is marketing”—informing more people about Spring Lake’s product and signing up willing buyers. “I could raise 60 pigs,” Ulla says. “But it’s a big decision to breed and to invest in them” if there’s no guarantee of a buyer. “Someone ordered 100 pounds of rib eye from us, but they had no use for the rest of the animal. So that’s a catch-22. We used to have butcher shops that handled all the other parts, but now we’re reinventing the wheel.” It’s left to Ulla to build demand for those other parts. What about marketing to institutional buyers? Isn’t that supposed to help small farmers stay in business? “I’ve always dreamed of getting bigger,” Ingimundur says, fingering the short white 3 4 onearth

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beard that defines his square jaw. “That’s what farmers do.” “But our experience is that institutional buyers really want to get cheap prices,” Ulla interrupts. “The direct market relationship is very rewarding, and you don’t get the cost pressure that can happen from some chefs and buyers.” Buyers, she hardly needs to add, who are enjoying the trickle down of federal subsidies to large industrial farms. Ulla pauses, considering a magic bullet for the small family farm. “We need everyone to know that this is the cost of real food. We need an educated community of food lovers.” Ulla can keep on building that community one conference

speech, tweet, or blog post (with recipe) at a time. It’s working for her family, in a limited way. But far more efficient, in terms of moving Catskills product to urban mouths, would be persuading institutional buyers to source their food regionally. The Hunts Point Produce Market sits on the industrial southern fringe of the Bronx, sandwiched between one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts and the East River. The largest food distribution center in the world, Hunts Point supplies 60 percent of the city’s produce and feeds 22 million people in the metropolitan area. It’s a noisy, grimly bustling place. Scores of trucks idle in potholed lots between four metal sheds, each a third of a mile long. Inside those sheds are pyramids of produce from 55 countries and 49 states: apples from Chile, potatoes from Idaho, cukes from Georgia, mangoes from Haiti, blueberries from California, melons from the Dominican Republic.

From midnight till 6:00 a.m., workers trudge along with handcarts and electric jacks, moving this vast cornucopia in, and then out. The scent of cilantro vies with the reek of cigarettes; girlie posters, union notices, and admonishments against marijuana possession adorn the booths of harried cashiers. The ambience, suffice it to say, is leagues away from a farmers’ market. Only 4 percent of the $2.4 billion worth of food sold annually at Hunts Point is actually grown in New York State. This makes it difficult for city institutions to buy local food at wholesale prices. The status quo suits the market’s current 47 vendors, who peddle the produce of hundreds of powerful growers worldwide, just fine. Who wants more competition, especially from regional farmers who don’t pay union wages (Hunts Point is a union shop) but do have a heart-warming story about their family operations and their proximity to market?

Jack Hoeffner, in this view, can be seen as a dirt-under-the-nails barbarian at the Hunts Point gate. A fourth-generation farmer from Packers in Kingston, Montgomery, New York, Hoeffner sits in a New York, Jim Hyland, mostly empty South Bronx parking lot at four far left, and his staff in the morning, half a mile from Hunts Point, pickle beets. Above, surrounded by just-picked produce and bedflowers arrive at the ding plants. This is the city’s only wholesale Wholesale Greengreenmarket, for which Hoeffner and his fellow market in the Bronx. regional farmers (all six of them) pay rent to GrowNYC, the nonprofit that runs the city’s 54 retail greenmarkets. “We can’t get near the gate of Hunts Point,” Hoeffner says, slouching in a lawn chair under the sodium-vapor glow of a street lamp. “They’ve squeezed us out of the market. We’re in attrition mode here.” Fifty years ago, he explains, there were 200 local and regional farmers selling at wholesale markets in the city. But when Hunts Point opened in the late 1960s, no space was allotted to medium-size farmers. When the city shut those markets, Hoeffner and his ilk were left to fend for themselves. Hoeffner is selling many of the same types of vegetables as wholesalers inside the Hunts Point produce market. But buyers come to him for two important reasons: his prices are slightly lower than those inside the gate—he doesn’t have to pay the 20 percent to 25 percent commission to the Hunts Point cooperative—and his vegetables were still attached to their stems less than 24 hours ago. “The people who shop at the Wholesale Greenmarket want healthy, tasty, local food,” Bob Lewis, of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, says. “This is food that was grown to be eaten, not shipped.” Still, for many buyers, it’s wildly inconvenient to shop both at the wholesale greenmarket and inside Hunts Point, a half mile away. “Buyers market value

At Farm to Table Co-

want one-stop shopping” for all their fruits and vegetables, exotic and otherwise, Hoeffner says. And sometimes they need whole pallets of one vegetable, which a medium-size farm can’t always provide. That’s why local sustainable food advocates—including NRDC, GrowNYC, and various local and state politicians—have long been pushing Hunts Point to create permanent, affordable, refrigerated space for regional farmers, who would presumably scale up to meet this new demand. “The time to do this is now,” Mark Izeman, director of NRDC’s New York Urban Program, says. “The city owns that land, and it’s currently renegotiating its lease with the cooperative.” Not only would the regional food be fresher, but it would also provide greater traceability. “The farmer’s name would be on the product,” Grossman says. “Chefs want to tell their customers their greens are from Lucky Dog Farm in the Upper Delaware watershed.” Let’s say Hoeffner and other regional farmers get their

wholesale spot inside Hunts Point, just as farmers have in Philadelphia, at the Common Market, and in Burlington, Vermont, at the Intervale Food Hub. What next? Procurement policies that favor local foods, advocates say. As a small but significant first step, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation in 2011 that requires city agencies to track where their food comes from. And New York City’s Office of SchoolFood determined that 10 percent of its food (excluding fluid milk, which already comes mostly from the state) could be produced in the region. But that doesn’t mean that farmers or their middlemen will want to sell to city schools. “I’d love to start supplying to schools on a regular basis,” says Jim Hyland, who cans local fruits and vegetables and quick freezes corn, green beans, and squash at his recently opened fall 2012

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Farm to Table Co-Packers in Kingston, New York. “But there are squashes with small nicks discovered they could have the vegetables price constraints. We’re competing against some very cheap foods.” peeled, then cut and bagged for sale to St. Paul schools. Food, he means, that’s coming from overseas, from large agribusiOnce schools are hooked on the taste of local foods and the comnesses out West, and from the free commodity program of the U.S. munity buys into the proposition (public relations plays a big part), Department of Agriculture. they figure out how to shift the financial picture, says Dorothy Farm to Table occupies the industrial-size kitchen of a decommissioned Brayley, executive director of the Rhode Island–based advocacy IBM campus, and its 30,000 square feet gleam with walk-in ovens, giant group Kids First. They may, for example, use USDA Fresh Fruit kettles, and steel-barreled machines that husk corn and snip the ends and Vegetable grants (available to schools in which more than off green beans. The company deals mostly with growers in the fertile 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunches) or combine mid-Hudson River Valley, a four-county area just east of the Catskills but funds from state ag departments and private donors, like foundations or galaxies away in terms of branding: with its pockets of haute cuisine and parents, to buy local produce. School purchasers can also work with farmhigh-end boutiques, the region has been called the Hamptons of the north. ers to develop new products and help them to formulate competitive bids. Farm to Table buys the kind of fruits and specialty vegetables that Looking into the trash can is another option. A federal study of the aren’t produced in quantity in the Catskills, splashing the names National School Lunch Program revealed that $600 million in edible of regional farmers on its finished products, which Hyland sells to food was wasted each year. Looking at school-lunch waste, Manhatsmall stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and some private schools tan Borough President Scott Stringer says, “can help us trim not only and colleges in the area. In response to this new marketing opportu- wasted food, but also wasteful expenditures. Savings can be used to nity, farmers have planted more strawberries (which Farm to Table purchase higher quality, more nutritious local food that is more likely purees), more tomatoes (to be converted into sauce and juice), and to be eaten and less likely to be tossed in the garbage.” more organic soybeans (for frozen edamame). Farmers operate on Policy changes can help as well. Right now, the high cost of liability small margins, Hyland says. “If we can help them make another $500 insurance, required to qualify as a vendor to New York City, keeps a year, that’s a big deal.” And so his plant stands as a potential model many small and medium-size farms from entering the school-food for other farming regions nationwide. fray. Lowering this cost, or rewriting city contracts to allow them to But New York City schools, which annually spend around $125 mil- replace the insurance with third-party Good Agricultural Practices lion to feed 860,000 children a day (only the U.S. military serves more certification—which costs between $300 and $500 a farm—would give meals), remain for most farmers an elusive target. According to Christina regional farmers a leg up. As New York farmers increase production, Grace, who created the Urban Food Systems Program and as processing and distribution capacity ramp visit for the New York State Department of Agriculture up, cost per unit will drop. “This might not happen for more coverage of local food and other issues important to your and Markets, the two top challenges to getting more immediately,” Stringer says, “but I believe it will haphealth, see regional food into city schools (which already buy pen and I believe it’s an investment worth making.” some New York State apples, cabbages, and onions) are “the limited federal funds for school meals and lack of processing infrastructure in In fits and starts, New York City is inching closer to the New York State, especially for frozen.” The city’s Office of SchoolFood dream of local food, protecting both its watershed and its foodshed spends roughly a dollar per meal (not counting milk). That makes into the future. Dave Weiss plans to be a part of that. it very difficult for smaller-scale growers to compete, on price alone, “Look at this place,” he says to me, showing off his latest acquisition, against large operators. And while the city and the state have repeatedly a 200-acre dairy farm about a mile from his own. “This could be a model endorsed the idea of getting more local food into schools, neither has farm,” he says excitedly—a place for farmers to learn, to run experiactually provided the money to buy it. ments, to practice their skills. “I’m talking with some folks about that.” “When price and quality are perceived as equal, distributors are likely I ask him about the land men prowling the county soliciting gas to choose existing suppliers, no matter where the product is from,” Grace leases. Both pro- and anti-fracking signs dot farmhouse yards everytestified before the City Council last year. Inertia isn’t the only problem. where we drive. “I don’t want it if it ruins the water,” Weiss says. “If I New York State produce is seasonal, so a broker committed to chasing could make money on milk, I wouldn’t say yes to gas.” Reason enough it on behalf of buyers needs to find work in the off-season. Moreover, to support Weiss’s model farm, one supposes. Or a local creamery. some industrial growers, who produce year-round on fields from Mexico “Or I could run this place as an auction house,” Weiss says, now to Colorado, pressure buyers for year-round loyalty. driving overland through a pasture and pausing at the crest of a hill to admire the view. “My auction would be closer to these hobby guys Working out these supply-chain kinks can be difficult who’ve started raising Black Angus around here. I could aggregate and time-consuming, but it’s not impossible. Dozens of hospitals their animals or sell my own.” He’d also be helping to resurrect yet in several states have modified their purchasing practices to buy another piece of local agriculture infrastructure. Weiss bursts into song once again, but this time it’s an auctioneer’s local food (of course, hospitals can pass higher prices on to their patients). School districts have done it as well, without necessarily polysyllabic patter: “I’m at 500 ‘n’ I wan’ 550, 550, bid on 550, I’m at incurring additional costs. In Rhode Island, for example, farmers 500, would you go 550?” “You see?” he asks, grinning. “I’ve been practicing.” had no market for their small, white potatoes until school districts decided to oven-roast them. The local spuds replaced frozen French fries, and they cost less. Ditto with small apples that wouldn’t sell Contributing editor Elizabeth Royte is the author of three books: Bottlemania, Garat farm stands. In Minnesota, farmers who couldn’t sell butternut bage Land, and The Tapir’s Morning Bath. She blogs at 3 6 onearth

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True Believer Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe insists that her faith in data doesn’t conflict with her faith in God. And she’s not just preaching to the choir. by jeff Turrentine

photograph by brent humphreys


s you drive along Broadway in

downtown Lubbock—away from the derelict avenue named for Buddy Holly, this West Texas city’s most famous son, and toward the campus of Texas Tech University, its most famous institution—you begin to realize, after only a few blocks, that you’re on Church Row. There they are, all lined up: the Baptists, the Methodists, the Catholics, the Church of Christ, the Christian Scientists, the Disciples of Christ, and several others. The street offers an ecumenical smorgasbord for the spiritually hungry, with a menu heavy on the mainline Protestantism that shaped so much of American religious and civic life from the nation’s inception until the end of the last century. Keep driving in a southwesterly direction and eventually you’ll hit Lubbock’s exurban border. Here, in those last acres before the city quite suddenly stops at the edge of the newest housing developments, the density of churches is no less staggering than it is downtown— although there’s one key difference. Many if not most of these houses of worship have shed their denominational designations, just as they’ve shed the architectural trappings that have historically identified the church building as the grandest, most important structure in any community. Gone are the pointed arches, Gothic spires, and stained-glass windows of a fixture like Broadway’s First United Methodist. These churches have been erected hastily; some are little more than warehouses made out of metal siding, resting on cinder-block foundations; others have been improvisationally crafted by retrofitting bingo parlors or roller rinks. In place of denominational markers, their names (Turning Point, Experience Life) proudly advertise their status outside the doctrinal confines of mainline Protestantism and denote an idiomatic, and even rebellious, approach to the saving of souls. On a Sunday morning at one of these far-flung houses of worship, a church called Ecclesia, Katharine Hayhoe settles into her seat. Wall-mounted speakers blast Contemporary Christian songs—lyrically rooted in the ancient and sacred, musically rooted in melodic, radio-friendly rock—as her fellow worshippers make their way into the sanctuary, where they find spots among rows of comfortable upholstered armchairs. Their gaze is fixed not on an altar or pulpit, but on a stage furnished with microphone stands, keyboards, guitars, amplifiers, and a drum set. A rear projection screen runs the width of a wall. After the house band has brought the crowd to its feet with a short set of its own material, Ecclesia’s pastor walks onto the stage. The Reverend Andrew Farley is basing his sermon this morning on the 46th chapter of the book of Psalms. As he explicates the text, lines from King David’s apocalyptic poem flash upon the screen (“Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea”): surely we’re witnessing the holiest application imaginable of Microsoft PowerPoint. The 39-year-old Farley is dressed in an untucked, short-sleeve shirt and gray pants; he’s funny without being unctuous, scholarly without ever coming across as pedantic. He’s absolutely nothing like the stomping, preening evangelical preacher that is still the media’s preferred (if increasingly inaccurate) caricature. He looks and sounds more like a philosophyminded clerk at an independent bookstore. Indeed, when Farley isn’t preaching the gospel or writing books for the Christian market with titles like The Naked Gospel or Heaven Is Now, he’s a professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech. 3 8 onearth

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Farley can also claim to be something else, something that likely puts him—by his own admission—in the minority of conservative Christians. He is a firm believer that man-made climate change is happening, that it constitutes a threat to the planet, and that people must take urgent action on a global scale to mitigate its impact. He was comfortable enough in this belief in 2009 to have co-authored a book, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, that tries to bridge the gap between scientific consensus and evangelicals, some of whom have been among climate change’s most vociferous deniers. His co-author was Katharine Hayhoe, his parishioner, who also happens to be a climate scientist at Texas Tech—and his wife. In the preface of their book, they outlined a shared goal: to address the concerns of “Christians all over the country who are asking whether or not climate change is real. They want to know if it’s a genuine crisis that requires our attention or if the whole thing is just a lot of smoke and mirrors. They also want to know what the Bible says, if anything, about a Christian response.” Farley didn’t always accept the science on climate change. But Hayhoe, armed with little more than hard data and an uncanny talent for explaining it, converted her husband on the issue. And she is uniquely positioned to convert many more people who currently, and willfully, live outside the fold.

From A Climate for Change

“[W]e are free in Christ to reach out in love. Given His radical grace toward us, will we choose to serve one another, or will we live in a bubble of ignorance about the outside world?”


s meat okay? We eat a lot of meat down here

in Lubbock.” After the Sunday morning service at Ecclesia, Katharine Hayhoe has suggested a favorite barbecue spot for lunch. We order our beef (which, being authentic Texas barbecue, is served sauceless on waxed paper and accompanied by slices of plain white bread) and Hayhoe begins to tell me—in her rapid-fire speaking style, softened just barely by the cozy cadences of Canadian English—the story of her life. Its trajectory has taken her from an idyllic Ontario childhood to the dusty flatlands of Lubbock, and from working as a climate scientist out of her home office to being an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earned the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Along the way she was vilified on the air by Rush Limbaugh and politically courted—and then, just as politically, abandoned—by climate-change-believer-turned-doubter Newt Gingrich. All this before she turned 40.

illustration by bruce morser

Hayhoe was born in Toronto in 1972 to parents whose religious convictions coexisted peacefully with their belief in the value of learning. She was raised a member of the Plymouth Brethren, a theologically conservative movement that emerged in nineteenth-century Ireland as a protest against the rigid formalism of the Anglican church. Both of her parents are educators who found in missionary work the perfect balance between ministering to the minds and ministering to the souls of those in need. When she was 9 years old, Hayhoe’s family moved to Colombia, where she would live on and off through middle school and high school before finally returning to Toronto after her senior year. Her passion for science, she says, comes from her father. One of her earliest memories involves an exciting late-night escape from the house with him. “He took me up to the park at night, way past my bedtime, and showed me how to find the galaxy Andromeda with binoculars,” she says. “He made science so fun, so easy, that I never really realized it was supposed to be hard until I got to university.” When she did arrive at the University of Toronto, she found that the majors she had chosen—physics and astronomy—were indeed as hard as they were supposed to be. To satisfy a breadth requirement, she enrolled in a course in the geography department focused on a concept that was just beginning to gain currency among scientists: climate change. “I loved it,” she says, “because it was a very practical application of what I was learning. I had wanted to see a real impact—something you could picture and imagine and feel and touch and think about.” Hayhoe met her future husband one night in the mid-1990s at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship event at the University of Illinois. She had gone there to obtain her master’s degree; he was getting his doctorate in linguistics. Four years later they were married. After Farley received his Ph.D., the couple moved to South Bend, Indiana, where he began teaching at Notre Dame. Hayhoe, for her part, launched a home-based consulting business that provided clients—including the Province of Ontario and the Union of Concerned Scientists—with climate-change projections and impact assessments for targeted areas, which could then be incorporated into official reports and studies. When Farley, who was pursuing a ministerial calling simultaneous with his academic one, was asked to take over the 25-member Lubbock Bible Church in 2005, he accepted. (Since he became pastor of the church—which he rechristened Ecclesia—the congregation has grown more than tenfold.) Both husband and wife found jobs at Texas Tech, he as a teaching professor, she as a researcher. By the time Hayhoe earned a Ph.D. of her own in atmospheric sciences, her chosen field had become rancorously politicized. This fact was underscored for her when she was asked to direct Texas Tech’s brand-new Climate Science Center, an interdisciplinary project designed to translate the latest climate research into information that could help shape public policy. The center, she learned, would function under the aegis of the university’s political science department. When asked why, the department’s chairman, Dennis Patterson, offers a simple explanation. “The United States and Canada are the only nations in the world that I’ve studied—out of the 47 developing or advanced nations for which I have data—where what explains someone’s position on climate change, more than anything else, is their ideology and politics,” he says. If that statement suggests science’s inefficacy in the face of dogma, it should also be noted that Patterson couldn’t have selected an individual more perfectly equipped to carry out his center’s mis-

from nrdc balancing beliefs

heather Taylor-MIESLE San Francisco–based director of the NRDC Action Fund, which is dedicated to shaping public policy by working to pass priority environmental legislation What was the legacy of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the 2006 statement endorsing a plan of action on global climate change and signed by 86 evangelical ministers? Did it ultimately have the cultural and political impact that its signers had hoped it would? The Evangelical Climate Initiative served a very important purpose: as a boldly worded statement, it stood up to those leaders who were out there preaching a slash-and-burn theology, and in the process it helped start a larger and much-needed conversation about our responsibility to the earth and its people. By any measure, it was a substantial first step for many Christians on their journey toward internal reflection on the issue of climate change. All the churches I’ve been active in have had sustainability policies; I know that the ECI had a lot to do with that. So it helped move us in the right direction—although we still have a long way to go. Given that nothing about the data on climate change inherently challenges anyone’s religious faith, why would some Christians choose not to take action? Christians have faith that Jesus has a plan, and that we are going to eventually get to a better place. For some of them—but by no means all of them!—this faith in a better future can lead to the sense that we don’t have to worry so much about what we have right here, right now. To these people, inactivity may not be linked to denial so much as it is to their spiritual priorities. They may simply not see this ephemeral world as having equal importance in the context of their everyday lives. Do you, as someone who is both a devout Christian and a dedicated environmentalist, ever encounter difficulty communicating your positions to other members of either group? If so, how do you overcome it? I encounter it every day. Some Christians feel like environmentalists have painted them as being manipulated and misguided by the equivalent of bedtime stories. Some environmentalists feel like Christians have turned their backs on facts and are closed off to sensible discourse. The arguments just divide us. I am an environmentalist because I am a Christian: I treasure the earth because I know it was a gift from God. That being said, I also value science and the mysteries it helps unlock. For me, my support for the environment and my faith are linked, and I try to articulate that to both groups.

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he year 2006 marked a point at which the

momentum almost went in the direction of consensus on climate change. Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, was released. In the U.S. Senate, the third iteration of a bipartisan climate-change bill co-sponsored by a Republican, John McCain, and a Democrat, Joe Lieberman, was gearing up for a vote. It was also the year in which 86 Christian leaders issued a joint statement known as the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), which acknowledged the existence of climate change and called upon members of the evangelical community to take action. Even so, the pushback was aggressive. While noted Christian figures like Rick Warren were rallying the faithful to curtail the burning of fossil fuels, pursue renewable energy sources, and enact market-based solutions like cap-and-trade, other prominent conservatives, such as Senator James Inhofe, were publicly declaring global warming a monstrous hoax—and likening the environmental movement to the Third Reich. Battle lines were drawn. The bipartisan climate-change bill died in the Senate the following year. Gore’s film became a kind of litmus test of right-wing authenticity: if you believed it, you couldn’t possibly be a good pro-business conservative. As for the ECI, it never really died, but it never really took off, either. One reason may have been that many conservative lawmakers gambled (correctly) that the Republican Party could safely ignore the ministers on this one issue so long as it ramped up its attention to social issues like abortion and homosexuality. But another reason may have had to do with the way the evangelical argument for climate action was being framed. In support of their call to action, “climate care” evangelicals tended to cite passages in the Bible that describe God’s pleasure with his creation—the earth—and suggest that one of humankind’s most critical tasks while living upon it is the responsible stewardship thereof. (“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”) The problem with this approach, according to Hayhoe and Farley, is that it actually runs counter to another theme in the Bible whose importance to evangelicals has risen to the level of tenet: that of humankind’s primacy in the order of creation. The tension between these two themes, stewardship and dominion, mirrors the tension many evangelicals experience when they feel they must “choose” between the earth and its human inhabitants—who were, after all, created in God’s image. Hayhoe and Farley wondered if there might be a better way to frame the argument. Their book presented an entirely different moral predicate for the kind of action they envision. One idea in the Bible, 4 0 onearth

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they noted, is beyond debate. Some version of the imperative to “love thy neighbor as thyself” appears enough times in scripture that it’s often mistaken for one of the Ten Commandments (which it isn’t) and is frequently cited as a basis for the pan-cultural granddaddy of all ethical maxims, the Golden Rule (which it is). The co-authors thus shifted the premise of the argument for action from one that is theologically controversial to one that no biblical scholar would ever dispute. “Look at the harm that’s coming to people as a result of climate change,” says Farley. “People are getting killed, getting sick, losing their homes.” The rhetorical shift, he believes, frees up the hesitant evangelical to say: “Let’s not do this ‘for the trees,’ or as a form of elevating creation above the Creator. Let’s do this because the Creator says to look beyond ourselves to other people, and to care about them.” From this point of view, acting to stem climate change can be seen as a way to please God by complying with one of his most fervent wishes for humankind.

That people like Hayhoe and Farley self-identify as evangelical Christians fills a certain type of doctrinaire conservative with absolute rage


ut before you can sell people a moral

argument for taking action, you have to sell them on the underlying facts. The story of how Hayhoe converted her husband provides a valuable lesson in how to clear the hurdle of culturally rooted suspicion that stands between climatechange believers and a specific, but common, type of denier. Farley, who was raised in a highly conservative family, says he had always equated environmentalism with “the hippie, liberal-left agenda.” Now, just a few years into his marriage, he was facing the fact that his wife was “connected with a movement I’d grown up learning to resent and oppose.” Understandably, he resisted. “I was her biggest skeptic,” he says. “I’d run to the [radio] talk-show hosts and the contrarian websites, trying to gather all the ammunition I could. I was strong-minded. I thought I knew better.” Given that they were happily married—and liked the idea of staying that way—fighting about the issue for the rest of their lives wasn’t an option. But given Hayhoe’s devotion to the data, neither was simply agreeing to disagree. One day, recalls Farley, “she just sat me down in front of the computer and took me to the NASA website on climate change.” As she guided him through the information on global average temperature, “I realized that I had to conclude either that the

Geoffrey McAllister

sion. Hayhoe’s academic specialty is the downscaling of global climate models into accessible regional information, which means that she (aided by her team of graduate students) studies the myriad ways in which a worldwide atmospheric phenomenon—rising temperatures brought on by increased carbon emissions—plays out in various local settings: coastlines, savannas, deserts, forests, cities, and swamps. She is, by training, an expert at understanding and explaining what climate change will mean for ordinary people in their own backyards. Connecting with these ordinary people is what Katharine Hayhoe genuinely likes to do; it’s why she spends so much time talking about climate change in churches, Christian college auditoriums, business schools, senior centers, and other places where she’s more likely to engage with doubters or outright deniers than she is with like-minded believers. And it’s in these places where her impact might very well be the greatest.

entire NASA organization had been duped, or that— power of the science and the disarming power of her visit to hear a public radio interview with maybe—the problem was with me.” She encouraged faith—going through the facts with them. climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. him to do his own fact-checking. He did, and came This approach yields changed minds and new away persuaded that the science was sound. verts. There’s the person who came up after one of This teachable moment turned out to be highly instructive for the her talks and told her: “You know, if I’m going to keep on not believing teacher as well. Hayhoe couldn’t ignore or demean her husband; she in climate change, I’m going to have to come up with new reasons, had no choice but to engage with him, patiently and respectfully. It was, because you’ve managed to answer all the objections I have.” in a word, a revelation. “People aren’t bothering to develop relationships Or there’s the young man at a Christian college who continued before they talk about these issues,” she says. “But if you relate to the to challenge her after she’d finished speaking. “He said, ‘All right, other person as a human being, then they’re going to give you the benefit I buy it, it’s real. But honestly, why should I care?’ And so I asked of the doubt. They may say, ‘You know what? I don’t necessarily agree him, ‘Do you enjoy hunting or fishing? Did you have to pay your with you. But I like you. Let me try to figure out what your reasons are.’” own electricity bill last summer? Was it expensive? Do you have It’s within this tiny but crucial social space that Hayhoe operates, any family members around here who are farmers or ranchers and sharing her graphs and charts, trying to explain the implications of were affected by the drought?’ Within five minutes we had landed global temperature rise to those who may have been conditioned to on more than a couple of things that did matter to him, and were reject anything that sounds like environmentalist orthodoxy. To a one, connected to climate change. And he said, ‘Okay. I see it now.’ ” Hayhoe’s academic colleagues and others with whom she has worked say the same thing: this one-two punch of scientific rigor and cheerful ix years after the signing of the Evangelical unflappability is what makes her one of a kind. Climate Initiative, and three years after the publication of “She just seems to have this optimism, in spite of everything she’s Hayhoe and Farley’s book, there’s no clear indication that finding out,” says Kenneth Baake, an associate professor of English at large numbers of evangelicals will do what Farley has done Texas Tech who studies environmental and technical writing. Baake and give themselves permission to regard climate change differently from collaborated with Hayhoe on a report commissioned by the U.S. Depart- other issues that often separate conservatives from liberals. “Thermomment of Agriculture that looked at the effects of long-term climate change eters aren’t Christian or atheist,” he says. “They’re not red or blue.” The on the highly stressed Ogallala Aquifer. “In rhetorical theory, we often former doubter now admits that his doubt was the residue of associative talk about ethos, the character of the person who’s doing the speaking, bias: he was convinced, as many conservative Christians still are, that by and how it affects the message,” he explains. “Then there’s logos: the accepting the science on climate change he would somehow be ratifying data, or the facts. They work together in Katharine in a remarkable way.” other scientific assertions that may, in fact, contradict his religious faith. Earlier this year, the editors of Sojourners, a magazine that more For her part, Hayhoe continues to frame the choice we all face in a than any other has come to be identified with American Christianity’s context that should be familiar to any Christian who has given some commitment to social justice, received more than 4,000 responses thought to the question of sin and its wages. “God has given us free when they asked readers to support Hayhoe after she was singled out will,” she says. “And the Bible is actually very clear that there are for opprobrium by Rush Limbaugh on his daily radio show. Limbaugh consequences for making bad choices. Sow the seeds, bear the fruit. had just learned that Hayhoe—whose academic credentials he tried Climate change is the consequence of making some bad choices. We to diminish by referring to her repeatedly as a “babe”—had con- made them, and we’re now bearing the results.” tributed a chapter on climate change to an environmentally themed For five years, the Old Testament tells us, the prophet Ezekiel warned book that was to be edited by Newt Gingrich, who at the time was his fellow Israelites that God had revealed to him that Jerusalem and its still running for the 2012 GOP nomination. After Limbaugh’s on-air temple were in danger of being destroyed. Though his message was rant, Gingrich announced that Hayhoe’s chapter had been dropped. often met with resistance, he never let up—right up to the point at which She found out about this sudden editorial change of plans from a Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, laid siege to Jerusalem and did reporter who called her for comment. precisely what had been foretold. Ezekiel had never asked for the job The episode doesn’t seem to have rattled Hayhoe. (The nasty, graphic, of prophet. He’d seen a compelling vision—a fiery chariot, driven by and occasionally frightening e-mails she receives from hate-filled climate- God himself—and felt obliged to spread the word, dire though it was. change deniers rattle her much more.) But the double-teaming by People generally don’t like hearing bad news, and Katharine Limbaugh and Gingrich does illustrate why she is capable of elicit- Hayhoe knows it. But, she says, “if a doctor gave you a full-body scan ing such venom. The knowledge that people like Hayhoe and Farley and found some potential issues or abnormalities, and didn’t tell you, self-identify as evangelical Christians fills a certain type of doctrinaire can you imagine how angry you’d be? It’s the doctor’s moral responsiconservative with absolute rage, insofar as it suggests that there might bility to tell you. Climate scientists do full-body scans of the planet. It’s be room within this ever-reliable voting bloc for dissent on the issue. our moral responsibility to tell people what we’re finding.” Hayhoe wisely steers clear of American politics; as a Canadian And it’s in people’s best interests, she suggests, to listen. “We have citizen, she can’t vote in American elections anyway. But even if she a narrow window of time in which to address the problem,” she says. could, her style and temperament suggest someone with little patience “If we think that we have to agree on every single point of division befor the self-aggrandizing theatrics and polarizing tactics that mark our tween science and faith before we can take action on it, we’re doomed. political discourse. She has discovered that there’s simply no substitute So to the extent that we can separate the issue of climate change from for sitting down with people, listening to them respectfully, letting other issues—we have to do that. We can’t afford to wait until we reach them voice their doubts, and then—availing herself of the decisive perfect agreement on everything else.”


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waters at risk The Northern Gateway pipeline would cross hundreds of rivers like this one, prime habitat for bears and salmon.


ou should know a few things about the

Gitga’at people. They live in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, just south of Alaska, and speak the Tsimshian language. They dance and sing like spirited Maori warriors. The women speak softly to living cedar trees when they harvest a single strip of bark for basket or hat making. Every summer the Gitga’at greet returning schools of pink and chum salmon with smiles and shouts of “Ayoo, ayoo.” Each member of the Gitga’at nation possesses a traditional name—Gu thlaag, for example, means “the very instant that lightning hits a tree and the tree

splits apart.” For the past 10,000 years the Gitga’at have set their dinner tables with bounty from the sea, including salmon, cockles, crab, and halibut. In recent years they have struggled as commercial fisheries have declined in the region, yet the Pacific Ocean still defines them. About one-quarter of the 750 or so Gitga’at people live in Hartley Bay, a picturesque village that lies in a mist-shrouded forest just west of the mighty Quaal River, near the mouth of a fjord called the Douglas Channel. The community is 120 miles south of Alaska and a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride from the port of Kitimat. But Hartley Bay may soon lose its remoteness as well as its ocean bounty. Enbridge,

photographs by bryce duffy

insert pipeline here by Andrew nikiforuk

Shipping dirty oil could rip apart Canada’s wilderness—and its democracy

the giant Canadian pipeline company that spilled more than 20,000 barrels of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, now wants to build two pipelines from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat. The import line would take 193,000 barrels of foreign condensate (a gasoline-like substance) brought in by supertankers and pump it more than 700 miles to the tar sands to dilute the heavy crude, which has the consistency of molasses. The export line would then carry 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen back to the coast—every day. The twin pipeline proposal, known as Northern Gateway and funded largely by Chinese state-owned oil companies, would bring about 220

tankers to Hartley Bay’s doorstep every year. But for the past six years the Gitga’at community and its coastal neighbors have politely but steadfastly informed Enbridge executives that they have no intention of putting their food supply at risk from tanker spills, just so that tar-sands developers can put more cars on the road in smoggy Shanghai. Nor are they willing to exchange their views of rising humpback whales for supertankers eight times larger than the Exxon Valdez. The Gitga’at belong to Coastal First Nations (CFN), an alliance of 10 nations and 20,000 people whose territory occupies about two-thirds of the British Columbia coastline. Under the Canadian constitution, fall 2012

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the federal government (as well as private corporations) has a duty to consult with First Nations on projects like Northern Gateway, especially with those nations that have not relinquished by treaty their title or right to their homelands and waters. Officials from Enbridge originally promised to respect the wishes of these coastal dwellers. But in September 2011 Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel admitted to First Nations leaders that his company had done a poor job of consultation. “We don’t want to build this project with strong opposition...we want to listen and understand,” he added. Yet the CFN sees only a trail of broken promises. “They want a battle with First Nations and we are up for the challenge,” says Art Sterritt, the alliance’s 64-year-old executive director and a member of the Gitga’at. “We fight best when we have a common enemy.” Eighty-six-year-old Helen Clifton is the matriarch of the Killer Whale clan of the Gitga’at nation. Her Gitga’at name, Gwula Nax Nox, means “always seeing.” In the quiet of her living room, she calls the megaproject a threat to her people’s food, which, she says, has been blessed by the Creator. “There has got to be a time when you say no and a time to step back,” she says. “You can’t challenge Mother Nature.”


he Gitga’at are not alone in what is shaping up as

an epic battle for the future of Canadian democracy. The ruling Conservative Party, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has based its economic strategy on an aggressive push for hydrocarbon development, hoping to turn Canada into an “emerging energy superpower” akin to Saudi Arabia. Over the past decade, many of the world’s richest corporations, including ExxonMobil, Shell, and China’s state-owned refining giant Sinopec, have poured tens of billions of dollars into the controversial tar sands project, responding in part to Canada’s low taxes and royalties. A chunk of forest and muskeg the size of the state of Delaware will be excavated in the process. Bitumen, a dirty fuel that requires a huge amount of energy for conversion into synthetic crude, is now Canada’s most profitable export to the United States, dominating refining markets in the Midwest. Currently the tar sands produce about 1.6 million barrels a day, but Northern Gateway and its Asian tankers would increase that almost threefold by 2035. However, there’s a problem. Unfettered development of the tar sands has already produced a bitumen glut in North American markets at the same time that demand for oil on the continent has peaked and is now steadily declining. As a consequence, Canada can’t become a global petro-power without getting its bitumen to tidewater ports. To get a million barrels of bitumen a day to the Gulf of Mexico at Port Arthur, Texas, the Harper government strenuously lobbied politicians in Washington on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline. When that project became bogged down in public protests and regulatory delays, Harper abandoned a 2008 policy that restricted bitumen shipments to China and became an outspoken cheerleader for Enbridge and Northern Gateway. Putting bitumen on supertankers bound for Asia “will require some significant infrastructure projects to go forward,” Harper said recently in Bangkok. “And we’re obviously…looking at taking steps necessary to ensure we can get timely regulatory decisions.” There is nothing subtle about Harper or the “necessary steps” he has taken. His government has been characterized by the Economist as “intolerant of criticism and dissent,” with a penchant for rule-breaking. Early in 2012 it branded First Nations and environmental groups opposed to Northern Gateway, including the Canadian office of the 4 4 onearth

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U.S.-based nonprofit ForestEthics and the David Suzuki Foundation, as foreign-funded “radicals” opposed to economic prosperity. Environmental groups with charitable status that have challenged bitumen mining have been subjected to federal investigation. And to make sure that Enbridge’s pipeline experiences none of the delays that have beset Keystone XL, the Harper government launched a concerted attack in March and April on most of Canada’s main environmental laws. “The debate is no longer about a pipeline,” says Robyn Allan, an economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. “It’s about an energy strategy designed in the boardrooms of Big Oil that’s being forced on the Canadian public.”


nbridge already moves more than two million

barrels of oil a day through some of the world’s longest pipelines. Like the Harper government, it portrays Northern Gateway as Canada’s “path to the future.” Janet Holder, the company’s executive vice president for western access, told a crowd of Toronto business leaders last May that the pipeline may be Canada’s single most important infrastructure project, given that oil has become the nation’s most lucrative export, worth $67 billion in 2011. Yes, Holder admitted, the project might be controversial, but only because it was being proposed “in a region where oil pipelines have not existed for decades, which naturally gives rise to concerns among local residents about the local environment.” That, to put it mildly, is an understatement. Enbridge’s pipeline is a technically challenging piece of engineering that would cross more than 700 salmon-bearing waterways fed by snowcapped mountains in Canada’s most spectacular geography: the Great Bear Rainforest. The forest supports surprising gatherings of white spirit bears, black bears, and grizzlies, which assemble at the mouths of clear-running rivers in the fall, together with countless eagles, to feed on some of the world’s greatest salmon runs. These ancient river oases, located at the base of some of the deepest fjords on the planet, are a reminder of what the earth once was: a wild place. The rainforest, covering a protected area twice the size of Yellowstone, is home to about 30,000 people and 28 distinct First Nations. Their flamboyant aboriginal culture created such a wealth of remarkable wood-based art in the form of totem poles and facial masks that it helped inspire the European Surrealist movement. The rainfor-

est also represents a novel economic vision. In 2006, after a decade-long conservation battle, First Nations, the ocean’s bounty logging industry, and environmental Yelloweye rockfish groups, including ForestEthics and are a prized catch for the Natural Resources Defense CounGitga’at fishermen like cil, forged an unprecedented agreeWallace Bolton. ment to protect both the forest and its island-studded coastline. More than $100 million, some of which came from U.S. foundations, was raised to manage the rainforest under a plan that called for (and still does call for) ecotourism, renewable energy, sustainable forest products, shellfish aquaculture, and the restoration of First Nations’ access to fisheries. It is about making a living—as opposed to a killing—and not being dependent on one industry, says Sterritt, who logged and fished in the region as a young man. The Harper government initially signed on to the ambitious plan. Together with Tides Canada, an environmental and social justice organization, it proposed to fund a large protected area, known as the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area, off the coast of the Great Bear, stretching from Alaska to Vancouver Island. But then Enbridge officials came calling with their $5.5 billion plan for pipelines and tankers. They even showed up in Hartley Bay and offered the Gitga’at the chance to run an oil-spill cleaning company, recalls Marven Robinson, a 43-year-old local First Nation official and ecotour guide. Robinson told the officials that the Gitga’at weren’t interested. (Later the company came back with another offer: he could own and operate the tugboats needed to guide supertankers through the Douglas Channel. The answer was the same: no thanks. “It’s just crazy what they think money can buy,” says Robinson, whose Gitga’at name, Maan Giis Heitk, means “one step higher.”)

illustration by bruce morser


hen Enbridge officials approached the

Coastal First Nations with their pipeline proposal, Sterritt asked if they genuinely intended to respect aboriginal sovereignty. Enbridge said yes, and even gave the CFN $100,000 to do its own research on pipelines and tankers. The group spent much of the money gathering information in Alaska, finding out what it could about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and the Exxon Valdez disaster. In many respects the 800-mile-long pipeline, which zigzags from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez, Alaska, and at its peak pumped two million barrels of oil a day (today it moves only a quarter of that amount), mirrors the complexity and scope of the Northern Gateway project. The Alaska pipeline crosses tundra and more than 800 rivers and streams, while Northern Gateway would have to traverse the Rocky Mountains as well as those 700 fish-bearing waterways. In Valdez, native people and commercial fishermen told their visitors that the consortium managing the Alaska pipeline, including ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, had promised a spill-proof system. But according to federal records, the project suffered an average of 480 spills a year between 1977 and 1999. In 1991 the Government Accountability Office

from nrdc a dirty business

Danielle Droitsch Director of NRDC’s Canada program, based in Washington, D.C., and a former resident of Alberta, where she saw the development of the tar sands firsthand There seems to be a growing concern in the United States about importing oil from the Canadian tar sands. Why do you think that is happening? Americans are slowly learning more about the tar sands, especially as opposition has grown to pipelines such as Keystone XL, which would bring dirty oil from Alberta through the American heartland to Texas. There are also new pipeline proposals that would increase the volume of tar sands oil flowing through the Midwest and perhaps also through the Northeast. The pipelines needed to transport this particular oil are more complicated than others from a technical point of view. Tar sands oil is more toxic and corrosive and has a greater potential to cause spills. So these pipelines pose a threat to water and farmland, which is why communities in places like Nebraska have fought back against Keystone XL. In the end, the risks far outweigh any rewards. What is the link between the tar sands and climate change? Extracting oil from the tar sands is extremely energyintensive, and its production causes three or four times more greenhouse gas pollution than the production of conventional oil. This, plus the threatened buildout of pipelines such as Keystone XL and now Northern Gateway, is taking us further and further away from the goal of halting climate change and moving toward a clean energy future. Many First Nations are opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline. But what influence can they have on the outcome? The First Nations have strong constitutional rights, and they are far from powerless when it comes to decisions about what happens on their traditional territories. Our view is that these peoples have lived in this region for thousands of years and will be there for thousands more to come, so they are the best possible caretakers of its land and water. Over the years, we have had many fruitful partnerships with First Nations in British Columbia. In the 1990s, we worked with them in Clayoquot Sound to protect coastal rainforests from unsustainable logging. After that we worked to ensure that First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest were fully involved in the decisions about how to strike the right balance between conservation and economic activity. Now we’re partnering again with the many First Nations who are saying no to tar sands pipelines and tankers.

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says it is under no obligation to quantify the Pipeline? No thanks risk, boasting only that its safety standards Coastal First Nations will be “world class” and challenging the leader Art Sterritt is public to “judge us by what we’ve done—year ready to go all the way to in, year out—through our 60-year history.” Canada’s Supreme Court That’s a problematic invitation. Since 2000 to block the Northern Enbridge pipelines have spilled 132,715 bar- Gateway project. rels of crude, and in 2010 the company experienced a major disaster in Michigan, when Line 6B, which moves about 190,000 barrels of crude a day, ruptured and leaked 840,000 gallons of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands, contaminating 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest onshore spill in U.S. history, and the cleanup has so far cost more than $800 million. A damning report by the National Transportation Safety Board in July 2012 condemned Enbridge for its “culture of deviance,” comparing the company’s chaotic management of the Kalamazoo spill to the Keystone Kops. (Months after the incident, Enbridge executives all got sizable pay raises.)


y the beginning of

this year the Canadian government realized that its aspirations to become an energy superpower were in trouble. The Obama administration had delayed Keystone XL; the Kalamazoo spill had become a public relations disaster for Enbridge; and light oil production from the Bakken field in North Dakota had weakened U.S. demand for Canadian bitumen. And the First Nations had made their opposition to Northern Gateway clear. The Harper government went on the offensive. Already, in the fall of 2011, it had withdrawn abruptly from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area, explaining that it was no longer “practical” to manage 39,400 square miles of whale and salmon habitat and that it needed to “streamline” the process. (Just six months earlier Enbridge lobbyists had argued that the conservation plan could be used by the First Nations to limit tanker traffic off the coast and kill Northern Gateway.) Harper, speaking on national television, denigrated the very idea of a special conservation area in the Great Bear Rainforest. “Just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America,” he said, “I don’t think that’s part of what our review process [for Northern Gateway] is all about.” In January, one day before federal hearings on the environmental impacts of Northern Gateway were set to begin, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver accused critics of the project, such as the Gitga’at and environmental groups, of using funding from U.S. charitable foundations—which he characterized as “foreign special interest groups”—to “undermine Canada’s national economic interest” and block a historic

map by mike reagan

described regulatory oversight of the Alaska pipeline as inadequate, and recent ruptures and accidents suggest that little has changed. One independent study in 2009 by the petroleum consultant Richard Fineberg noted that problems of management, engineering, and lax government oversight continued to plague the system. The Alaskans also told their Canadian visitors about the Exxon Valdez. Although the ship’s owners blamed the 257,100-barrel spill on an alcoholic captain, the disaster, as noted by Steve Coll in his book Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, was “abetted by inadequate regulations and corporate safety systems.” The tanker didn’t have a large enough crew to navigate the hazards of Prince William Sound, and the Port of Valdez didn’t have enough equipment to respond to the spill. As a consequence, the oil contaminated 3,200 miles of shoreline and spread almost 1,200 miles from the accident scene. It caused the collapse of the herring industry, badly damaged the pink salmon fishery, and halved seafood harvests for aboriginal groups. It killed more than 100,000 seabirds and 3,500 sea otters. Communities sank into alcohol and despair. “The Alaskans told us that the industry will break every covenant and promise they make,” says Sterritt. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist and former commercial fisher who has written two books on the disaster, warned that a tanker accident off the Great Bear Rainforest could be worse than the Exxon Valdez calamity. For a start, the Douglas Channel and Hecate Strait offer more narrow passages and hairpin turns than Prince William Sound. In addition, diluted bitumen would behave much differently from crude oil in a tanker spill. While the gasoline-like condensate would rapidly evaporate, the heavy bitumen would sink into the ocean like a rock (something not mentioned in Enbridge’s application for Northern Gateway). “So how do you clean it up?” asks Ott. “It’s more toxic than conventional oil because it contains more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are really long-term bad actors on human health.” Ott’s basic message was simple: “As long as we drill it, we are going to spill it.” In 2009, after three years of debate, the CFN told Enbridge that no good could come from the pipeline or tankers. Ever since then, the company and the First Nations have been on a collision course. In January 2012, the alliance issued a report warning that, given the intended volume of tanker traffic, as many as three spills of at least 10,000 barrels were likely to occur during the 30-year lifespan of the project. Enbridge’s Pat Daniel has acknowledged that it’s impossible to guarantee that there will be no spills (although he notes that Enbridge wouldn’t in any case be liable—that would be the concern of companies such as China’s Sinopec). As for pipeline leaks, Enbridge

opportunity “to diversify our trade.” He vowed to stop them with new separate organizations, one of which will focus solely on advocacy work. regulations. When asked about the nearly $20 billion in foreign money “This smearing of environmental groups, this undermining of the role poured into the tar sands projects by state-owned Chinese companies, of environmental organizations in the environmental debate, is blatant he replied that this was different. “They’re helping us build infrastruc- and aggressive and gratuitous,” said Rick Smith, executive director of ture to help us diversify our market,” he said. “Other groups are trying Environmental Defence Canada, in a recent magazine interview. “This to impede…economic progress.” is not something we’ve ever seen before.” In March the Harper government attached to a routine budget bill, The bill also slashed funding for critical environmental research Bill C-38, dozens of legislative changes to the country’s environmental programs. Federal science teams working on air pollution and marine laws. The bill passed without a single amendment. Laws that might toxicology were disbanded. The world’s most famous freshwater research stand in the way of pipelines, tankers, or bitumen mining were rewritten station, the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, was closed down. That or amended. Science-based agencies were axed. Even Canada’s most scientific jewel, which studied the behavior of pollutants in whole lake conservative newspaper, the National Post, was shocked by Harper’s systems for 44 years, had produced research that drove global public actions, calling them in an editorial “unacceptable and inexplicable.” policy on pollution from phosphates, acid rain, and mercury. Scientists The short title of Bill C-38 was the Jobs, Growth, and Long-term from around the world expressed dismay at its closure. The distinguished Prosperity Act, but it may go down in history as the Enbridge En- marine ecologist Ragnar Elmgren of Stockholm University called it “an hancement Act. Enbridge had lobbied hard for changes to Canada’s act of wanton destruction...the kind of act one expects from the Taliban in Fisheries Act, one of the nation’s oldest and most powerful pieces of Afghanistan, not from the government of a civilized and educated nation.” environmental legislation, arguing that the provisions protecting fish habitat were “too onerous.” The new version of the act aims to prehile it has removed most legislative and vent “serious harm” only to those fish that are deemed commercially scientific obstacles to Northern Gateway, the Harper important. All protections for amphibians, reptiles, mussels, crayfish, government has failed to bolster waning public supand other aquatic creatures have disappeared. The Harper government port for the project. The scathing indictment by the U.S. National acknowledges that these changes may make it much easier for the Transportation Safety Board of Enbridge’s bungled response to the Northern Gateway pipeline to cross hundreds of waterways. Kalamazoo River spill created a political uproar in Canada. Nor has the This gutting of the Fisheries Act appalled not only environmental Harper government yet extinguished the constitutional land claims groups but several former federal fisheries ministers, including the and rights of the Gitga’at and other First Nations. Art Sterritt of the Conservative John Fraser, who told the Vancouver Sun, “I say this as Coastal First Nations warns that legal action is imminent and could a lifelong conservative. People who want to eliminate the appropriate drag on for years, perhaps going all the way to the Supreme Court. safeguards… . a ren’t conservatives at all, they’re ideological right- Harper’s own former environment minister, Jim Prentice, who left wingers with very, very limited understanding, intelligence, or wisdom.” the administration in 2010 to become a senior bank official, fears that The 425-page omnibus bill didn’t stop with fish. It also amended the the government’s open cheerleading for bitumen, combined with its Navigable Waters Protection Act so that pipelines are no longer subject failure to respect aboriginal ownership of lands along the pipeline to its provisions. Cabinet ministers can now grant exemptions from the route, could spell a greater political calamity for the tar sands. “The real Species at Risk Act, which covers 15 species along the pipeline route, risk is not regulatory rejection but regulatory approval, undermined putting at increased risk woodland caribou in bitumen mining areas by subsequent legal challenges and the absence of ‘social license’ to as well as threatened birds like the short-tailed albatross. operate,” Prentice wrote in June in the Vancouver Sun. As Oliver had promised, the government rewrote the country’s At Enbridge’s annual meeting in May, Pat Daniel, who has anEnvironmental Assessment Act, which controls federal review of nounced that he will step down as CEO this fall, vented his frustration projects such as Northern Gateway. The changes to the law reduce at the opposition to Northern Gateway. How can people say no to it, he the number of projects subject to review, limit public involvement, and asked, while saying yes “to lights, cooked food, school buses, warm narrow the definition of “environmental effects.” As a consequence, homes, and diesel-powered trains? It’s a glaring disconnect in society.” says the Toronto environmental law firm Willms Indeed it is. In February I traveled to Prince visit & Shier, “the list of eligible intervenors… will be Rupert, an old salmon cannery town of 12,500 people, for our in-depth coverage of the controversy over tar sands pipelines. slashed, the timeline will be compressed, and the 45 minutes north of Hartley Bay by air. Nearly 2,000 Cabinet will be given the authority to overrule the people, both white and aboriginal, had gathered for a Review Panel’s final recommendation if it sees fit.” peaceful march. At a rally, scores of chiefs and elders representing as In addition, the bill set aside $8 million for the Canada Revenue Agency many as 40 First Nations from across British Columbia voiced their to investigate the political activities of registered charities such as envi- fierce opposition to the Enbridge pipeline in a variety of aboriginal ronmental NGOs and Tides Canada. Without producing any evidence, languages. Dancers from Hartley Bay pounded their drums and sang Environment Minister Peter Kent accused such organizations of “money ancient songs about salmon, ravens, and whales. An 11-year-old girl from laundering” of U.S. funds. (None of the nation’s top 10 foreign-funded the Sliammon First Nation, Ta’Kaiya Blaney, silenced the crowd with charities are environmental groups, and Canadian law clearly permits a composition called “Shallow Waters.” “Come with me to the emerald charities and NGOs to receive foreign foundation funding and also to sea,” she sang,
“where black gold spills into my ocean dreams.” She conduct political advocacy, provided this does not exceed 10 percent of got a standing ovation. their charitable activities.) In response to this witch hunt, the environmentalist David Suzuki resigned from his own foundation to retain his Andrew Nikiforuk writes for the Tyee, a Canadian online newspaper. His most freedom to speak out on energy issues, and Forest Ethics split into two recent book is The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude.


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common sense in kansas fighting climate change doesn’t necessarily mean arguing about it. appealing to heartland values of patriotism, thrift, and local pride may do the job just fine. by kim larsen

photographs by ethan hill

finishing touches Workers at the Siemens factory in Hutchinson, Kansas, complete assembly of a wind turbine’s rotor hub.

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he Climate and Energy Project was born oN

a dare. Toward the end of 2006, Nancy Jackson and her father-in-law, Wes Jackson, the noted geneticist and founder of the Land Institute, squared off across the kitchen table. Their animated discussion (as Wes calls it—Nancy calls it an argument) concerned a proposed massive expansion of Holcomb Station, a coal-fired power plant in western Kansas, which they both opposed. That wasn’t the issue. Wes had just returned home from testifying at a public hearing in Topeka on the proposal, and he was despondent. The room had been packed with plant supporters bused in from Holcomb, six hours west of Topeka. Wes was convinced that these vocal fans of mercury-spewing, sulfur-soaked, carbon-intensive energy production were pawns of Sunflower Electric, the utility seeking the expansion permit. Nancy disagreed. “These people are not crazy, they’re not stupid, and they haven’t been duped,” she said. “They just don’t have many choices.” Sunflower’s plan was to build three new generators, altogether expected to supply 2,100 megawatts of electricity (enough to power more than 1.5 million homes) while releasing 11 million tons of carbon

time to start harvesting this—and the jobs it would bring—in earnest? Nancy was convinced that if the focus could be shifted, the ideological debate would lose much of its potency. This is where the dare came in. “Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?” Wes asked her. “To quit your job and make it happen?” “In a heartbeat,” she said. And thus began the Climate and Energy Project (CEP). Once the first major grant was in, she resigned her post as director of development at the University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art and College of Liberal Arts and threw herself into her new venture. To be clear, she did not sequester the climate discussion because she thought the topic was expendable. On the contrary. Only months before her fateful talk with her father-in-law she’d read the landmark cri de coeur on the subject, written by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies climatologist Jim Hansen and published in July 2006 in the New York Review of Books. She had a master’s degree in environmental history; she believed global warming was “the defining challenge of our generation.” But, she explains, “If I have to choose between purity of

the siemens facility has brought 400 jobs and a fervor for wind to a sleepy kansas town otherwise best known for its salt mine. “Jobs-wise it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to hutchinson in my lifetime,” says dorothy barnett, who has lived in or near the town since she was 10. dioxide into the atmosphere each year (nearly twice the amount of CO2 emitted annually by all the motor vehicles in Kansas). Almost all of this energy was slated to be exported to other states. The battle over the plant’s fate was escalating just as the specter of global warming was reaching critical mass nationally, which is to say two things: documented evidence of the effects of climate change had gone mainstream, and disputes over the legitimacy of that evidence were proliferating apace. Western Kansas, its population dwindling and its economy lagging far behind that of other parts of the state, desperately needed jobs. The expansion would provide them. Plant proponents resented meddlesome outsiders, including—and perhaps especially—interlopers from communities in eastern parts of the state such as Lawrence or Topeka or Kansas City. Confronted with the passion of plant supporters, Wes saw genuflection to entrenched corporate interests and craven disregard for the fate of the planet. Nancy saw opportunity. Here was a chance to end one conversation (some called it a harangue) and begin another. The topic did not have to be climate change. As Nancy saw it, the subject needed to be jobs and opportunities linked to non-extractive energy production. Kansas, in particular western Kansas, was teeming with wind potential. Wasn’t it 5 0 onearth

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heavy duty Completed nacelles, which house a wind turbine’s generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake assembly, are loaded onto railcars.

intent and constancy of action, I choose constancy of action hands-down.” Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What’s the Matter With Kansas? looks at how emotional appeals to a group’s fixed cultural or political predilections can persuade individuals to support policies that run counter to their rational self-interest. CEP would turn this notion on its head, showing that by appealing to rational self-interest citizens can be moved to engage in activities usually associated with views they reject. The idea is to erode that association. “It’s about genuinely listening to our audience and then engaging on their terms,” says Jackson. “It’s not about ‘framing.’ It’s about honoring a different way of knowing.” Out of the gate the project’s small staff conducted a series of focus groups in Wichita and Kansas City designed to bypass assumptions and dig deeper into Kansans’ thoughts about the future of energy. Some results were unsurprising. Positions on climate change pretty much lined up with political party affiliations, which in turn lined up with favored news sources. But further probing showed that even some climate-change skeptics were driving hybrids and switching to

CFL lightbulbs; that heartland conservatives worried about energy security and liked the idea of developing alternatives to imported oil; that climate beliefs notwithstanding, pride and patriotism produced in some a wish to lead the world in fuel-efficient homes and vehicles; that stewardship of the earth was a core Christian value for many; that thrift was an abiding principle shared by all. These results were golden. Jackson’s team jumped in with the clarity and ambition that could only have accompanied a belief that the findings were far more than theoretical talking points. Six years on, the range of CEP’s initiatives suggests the organization was on to something.

from nrdc midwestern values

rebecca stanfield Senior energy policy advocate in NRDC’s Midwest office, with 18 years of experience in advancing clean energy policies at the state and federal levels

illustration by bruce morser

Jackson has small bones, finely etched features, and green,

comprehending eyes. A compelling speaker, she nimbly latches big ideas to manageable, prescriptive tasks. In the summer of 2007 Jackson delivered one of her first talks as director of the project to an assembly of mayors brought together by the Reno County Growth Coalition, in south-central Kansas. Her topic was the economic potential of wind. The talk was persuasive enough to inspire the coalition’s director, Dorothy Barnett, to form the Reno County Wind Energy Task Force. Assimilating the advice of wind experts, economists, and legislators from around the state, the task force staged a series of high-profile forums to educate Reno County citizens, landowners, and business leaders on the untapped potential of wind production. For its efforts the team collected the 2008 Energy Education Recognition Award from the governor, and Barnett and Jackson fell into a robust collaboration. The ground was thus seeded when Siemens Energy went shopping in early 2008 for a heartland location for its proposed nacelle and hub factory. The nacelle is the piece of a wind turbine that houses the generator components; it mounts to the hub, which anchors the blades. The unit is about the size of a school bus, though if you peer up at one from the bottom of a 260-foot turbine shaft, it looks to be no larger than an egg. Hutchinson, Reno County’s largest city (population 42,000), courted Siemens with a measure of poise and tenacity that underscored its resolve: the town was primed to serve Siemens’ corporate and logistical needs. Plus, it sorely needed the jobs. Amid fierce competition from the likes of Sioux City, Iowa, Hutchinson convinced Siemens of statewide support for wind and likewise persuaded top Kansas energy executives to back the project. Barnett added crucial converts to the cause, among them the Reno County Chamber of Commerce president, who ultimately crafted the contract with Siemens. The company opened its spit-and-polish LEED Gold–certified plant in Hutchinson’s Salt City Business Park in December 2010, the only nacelle and hub factory in Kansas. The city diverted a spur of railway track to penetrate the factory wall so that completed nacelles could be transferred directly from the assembly line to the flatbed of a railcar. The facility has brought 400 jobs and a fervor for wind to a sleepy Kansas town otherwise best known for its salt mine. “Jobs-wise it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to Hutchinson in my lifetime,” says Barnett, who has lived in or near Hutch, as it’s known locally, since she was 10. In the fall of 2008, as the Siemens deal was in process, Jackson wooed Barnett to join CEP as director of energy and transmission. Two years later, Jackson stepped down as executive director to resume her affiliation with the University of Kansas, ceding the reins to Barnett (though Jackson retains her post as board chairwoman). Barnett is an organizational powerhouse to Jackson’s conceptual muse; both are passionate on the issues and bursting with ideas. The two keep in regular touch as

The Midwest has been devastated by drought this year. Do you think midwesterners are making the link between the blistering heat, climate change, and the energy issues NRDC is trying to tackle? Yes, I think so. National polls taken this summer found that 70 percent of Americans believe the climate is changing. More important, when you add together the people who support clean energy to curb climate change and those who do so for economic development, national security, or pocketbook reasons, there is an emerging consensus that we should move toward a clean energy economy. The midwestern drought cries out for leadership from the region’s governors on energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions, although it remains to be seen whether they will seize the moment to do more than just seek relief funding to help farmers in the short term. Over the past four or five years, a number of states in the region have required utilities to reduce electricity generation by adopting energy-efficiency measures. Why have these policies been successful? As the Climate and Energy Project has shown in Kansas, energy efficiency appeals to a core value of many midwesterners: an aversion to wastefulness. For every dollar we spend on efficiency, we save two or three that would have been spent on generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity. These programs lower electricity bills, and everybody likes that. We’ve also made significant strides in making energy efficiency a viable choice for utilities by changing the way their profits are regulated. Saving energy now benefits their bottom line as well as their customers’ pocketbooks. Finally, we’re building an energy-efficiency industry in the Midwest that has created thousands of good jobs that can’t be outsourced. While many midwestern states have enormous wind energy potential, they need new transmission lines to bring that wind power to the larger markets in the east of the region. That’s definitely a big part of the midwestern clean energy strategy. We will need both to maximize our own in-state resources and to import clean energy from other states to meet our climate objectives. NRDC and many other groups are working to develop a regional planning process that can respond to this need, but without overbuilding the grid in ways that are harmful to wildlife or overly expensive.

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1. Seeing it as a source of prosperity, landowner Mark Richardson avidly promotes wind power. 2. When completed, the hub of a wind turbine may weigh as much as 10 tons. 3. The Siemens plant in Hutchinson, Kansas, is a LEED Gold–certified building. 4. Nancy Jackson, founder of the Climate and Energy Project, takes time off at home in Eudora, Kansas, with her two daughters. 5. Dorothy Barnett became the project’s executive director in 2010.

Barnett guides Jackson’s brainchild through its developmental paces. Dorothy Barnett has an oval face and wide-set brown eyes that almost crinkle shut when she smiles. She is playful about the Oz connotations of her name and her state and her preoccupation with wind, sometimes donning crimson ballet flats or pinning a tiny set of ruby-red slippers to her lapel. When she joined the project in 2008, it was developing the first iteration of its Take Charge Challenge, a scheme that marshals the same winning blend of logic, ingenuity, and pluck for which the storybook Dorothy is known. The Take Charge Challenge was conceived to engage Kansas citizens in the unglamorous task of saving energy, mostly by efficiency measures. The idea was to put meat on the bones of the focus group findings that showed regular Kansas folks really were interested in reducing energy consumption and cutting costs. Barnett and her colleagues knew it would be a nonstarter to come at the problem from the perspective of penance or sacrifice. Instead, they came up with the idea of a tournament in which residents would compete for bragging rights and prizes. In other words: fun. The first Take Charge Challenge ran from April 2009 to April 2010, pitting six communities against one another to vie for a prize of $20,000, to be put toward an energy upgrade of the winner’s choosing. Neighborhoods lit Christmas trees with LED lights; restaurants used candles as their sole illumination on Valentine’s Day; residents conducted energy audits and weatherized their homes. Schoolkids took turns pedaling bicycle generators and learned about energy vampires—electronic devices that suck power when plugged in but turned off—with attendant cartoon images. (Some parents objected to the vampire on religious grounds, so the mascot became an energy bandit, suitably secular and adorably masked.) In the end, two cities shared the prize—one for saving the most kilowatt-hours over the course of the year by lowering its residential energy usage by 5 percent; the other for locking in the greatest long-term cost reductions per capita by installing energy-saving lightbulbs and thermostats, among other measures. One city used the cash to mount a solar photovoltaic array on the roof of its main civic building; the other installed high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning units in a small municipal housing project. Relatively modest in scope, this first competition was an experiment, setting out to prove that Kansans could be motivated to make wise energy choices whatever their politics. The invigorating success in terms of achievement, civic engagement, and media attention prompted CEP to start planning a second round, this one far more ambitious. It ran from January to September 2011 and involved 16 communities divided into four groups. There would be one winner from each group, four winners altogether. Each would receive a prize of $100,000, again to be used for energy upgrades. The funds came from the Obama administration’s stimulus package, via the Kansas Corporation Commission. This time Barnett set up leadership teams and engaged mayors, business leaders, university heads, and utility representatives. They were careful to devise a monitoring system that did not favor savings in densely packed urban communities over those in more sparsely populated areas. Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, delivered a televised Take Charge Challenge kickoff speech from his official residence. Brownback, well known nationally for his deeply conservative stands on most issues, is vocal in his support of energy-efficiency measures and even pipes up on behalf of wind. This past June he addressed Windpower, the industry’s premier annual trade show, on the importance of wind fall 2012

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to the Kansas economy. However, the governor had introduced a sour note to an otherwise rousingly successful Take Charge Challenge. Without warning, in July 2011 he canceled millions of dollars in funding for energy audits and auditor training programs that were already up and running, leaving residents, utilities, and competing cities out on a limb. Citing concerns about the restrictive timetable for stimulus fund expenditures, Brownback reallocated the cash to an ethanol plant. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, the savings tallies in the second Challenge racked up like this: 110.2 billion BTUs of gas and electricity, worth $2.35 million; 22 million kilowatt-hours of electricity; 19,002 barrels of imported oil; and11,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Heads were turned, even beyond the prairie. The New York Times had already run a front-page article chronicling the first Challenge. Now the U.S. Department of Energy–backed Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at the University of California, Berkeley, included a lengthy profile of CEP and the Challenge in its Common Ground documentary, which featured best practices in energy conservation. PBS followed with a segment in its Earth: An Owner’s Manual series. Cable news channels from around the country picked up the story. Today Barnett and an expanded team are putting together a third Challenge, scaled up to the commercial arena. Contenders, which will compete head-to-head for a single prize, will include office buildings, major retailers, and grocery concerns from eight cities in four states: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Barnett and her colleagues plan to organize the competition around efficiency measures that can permanently reduce commercial-scale energy consumption. They are enlisting utilities and chambers of commerce to partner with the competitors to take advantage of energy-efficiency and demand-response programs that the utilities currently offer. Such programs are structured in various ways, but they all let customers limit their own electricity supply at certain times of the day, usually during peak hours or grid emergencies, to avoid brownouts or blackouts. Barnett wants to highlight these initiatives and to create an appetite for more. “If we can get, say, 50 businesses in eight cities to reduce their energy consumption at the levels we’ve seen in previous challenges, imagine what that will look like,” she says.

tions and tax code provisions enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry.) It’s an interesting stance for representatives of districts that many believe could be among the most profitable wind energy producers in the country. First enacted in 1992, the production tax credit currently gives wind farm developers a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced over the first 10 years of operation. This generally amounts to about a one-third reduction in the price of wind energy. For two decades the tax credit has been instrumental in the growth of the wind sector, enabling production to double in the past four years. In August, wind

prairie home companions Once fully operational, BP’s $800 million Flat

Recently in Kansas the hunger has intensified for this

Ridge 2 wind farm in Kansas will supply enough electricity for 125,000 homes.

kind of thing. The state placed 48th out of 50 on the 2012 scorecard put out by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Despite his mixed messages during the second Challenge, Governor Brownback is not pleased with this dismal ranking and wants it addressed. Barnett believes that the commercial Challenge can play to this need, potentially establishing a template for energy savings that can be accessed by any power consumer and, she hopes, be replicated anywhere in the country. Kansas is well positioned to be a model for wind industry development for other states too. Or it should be. Manufacturing is primed thanks to a comprehensive supply-chain survey (designed in part by a CEP initiative) that identified companies all over the state with the skills and capacity to manufacture wind components. But two of Kansas’s four members of Congress—both of them Republicans who sailed into office on the 2010 Tea Party tide—have opposed the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal incentive program for renewable energy. Mike Pompeo, who represents Kansas’s Fourth District, has introduced a bill—cosponsored by fellow-freshman Tim Huelskamp of the First District—that purports to eliminate tax breaks, including the PTC, across all energy sectors. (In fact, it would leave in place key deduc-

reached a landmark 50 gigawatts of generation capacity, enough to power 13 million homes. If the tax credit is not renewed it will expire on December 31 of this year. Industry observers say that wind could support 100,000 jobs nationwide in the next four years, and 500,000 by 2030. On the other hand, if the credit expires, wind stands to lose 37,000 jobs within a year. The industry is already seeing a major contraction. In July, for instance, when Spain’s largest turbine manufacturer announced 165 job furloughs at two of its plants in Pennsylvania, it cited concerns over the production tax credit as the chief cause. In the 20 years since the credit was enacted, it has lapsed or expired several times (with attendant dips in manufacturing), but each time it has been renewed with little fanfare. This time the deadline feels more foreboding because of the turbocharged politics surrounding tax policy in Congress. Nevertheless, in August, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the Senate Finance Committee voted to renew the wind credit as part of a tax extension package that will come before Congress when it returns from recess in September. Significantly, among those voting in favor of renewal was

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Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. Yet the fate of the wind credit remains murky, and for an industry with so much on the line the climate of uncertainty is corrosive. As Dorothy Barnett drives around Hutchinson’s orderly streets, she radiates a sense of unfussy pride in her hometown, pointing out the salt museum, where her husband works in the storage vaults, and then turning down another road to show me the longest single-headhouse grain elevator in the world. We pull into Allie’s Deli and Coffee Shoppe to meet her fellow wind-power enthusiast Mark Richardson for lunch. A six-foot, seven-inch MBA-toting retired train engineer, Richardson has always lived in or near Hutchinson. He is a lifelong Republican with an independent streak and a 1,000-acre farm that’s been in his family for four generations. You might call him an “all of the above” agnostic on energy issues. Parcels of his farm are leased for future oil and gas development. He sidesteps the climate question by asserting that for a lay person like himself, debating global warming is “a waste

“If you don’t get the middle of the country, you lose. Period,” says nancy jackson. “and there’s a little bit of kansas in every state: conservative, pragmatic, more faithful than not, hardworking, patriotic, and, let’s face it, skeptical.” of time and distracts from the economic and tax policy discussion,” at which he excels. He adds, “Dollars are a lot easier for people like me to understand than CO2 levels, and the conversation doesn’t have to involve the entire planet.” Richardson’s objective is heartland prosperity, and for that reason alone he is a zealous wind advocate. When he isn’t plowing through interminable tax and policy documents, preparing to challenge opponents of the production tax credit at a town hall meeting, or writing an op-ed promoting wind, Richardson is working to install a wind farm right outside Hutchinson. He and some associates went door-to-door to secure the consent of several dozen landowners, who have designated significant acreage for the project. They found a developer and erected a state-of-the-art meteorological tower that over the next year or more will gather crucial wind data. The team is requisitioning power-flow reports and environmental studies and looking into marketing. Richardson is thrilled about the potential for local manufacturing—provided the tax credit stays in place. Energy needs in the United States continue to grow, and the choices we make will have consequences (intended and otherwise) that play out for decades and longer. The average coal plant is more than 40 years old and the average nuclear plant is more than 30. It’s obvious to consumers and providers alike that the national grid is overburdened and fraying. The country will spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 20 years redesigning and bolstering the system. The prickly but vital question is what that new system will look like. To help shape the answer, CEP formed the Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission (HART). Led by Barnett, the alliance convened its first stakeholder meeting in January 2011. In addition to highlighting

energy efficiency, it works to engage rural energy consumers and their emissaries—small-town mayors, ranchers, farmer-union representatives, county commissioners, and so on—in the effort to increase transmission lines for renewable energy projects, especially wind. To that end the alliance has made itself known to the Southwest Power Pool, the regional entity that oversees power infrastructure, supply, and pricing in all of Kansas and Oklahoma and parts of six other contiguous states. The power pool and its members are responsible for determining the character of the energy grid as it evolves. Its meetings mull over such matters as generation capacity, distribution models, interconnection queues (not to mention profits). Delegates from HART make their presence felt at these meetings, representing a constituency that hasn’t traditionally been heard in this venue. “We need them to know that we’re present, that we’re engaged, and that we matter,” says Barnett. Kansas and four other states that fall within the power pool’s footprint have passed Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require utilities to produce a specified portion of electricity through renewable energy sources. Kansas called for 10 percent renewables by 2010, 15 percent by 2016, and 20 percent by 2020. These laws are an incentive to build relevant capacity, but each state has varying specifications, if it has any at all. Reconciling that diversity is an essential yet dizzying task, especially when there is limited consensus on priorities. Which is why the alliance’s role is so important. It will come as no surprise that in the heartland, government mandates are not held in high esteem. But when Joe Rancher wants to put wind turbines on his property to bring in extra cash, he’ll be looking for ways to ensure that the energy he generates can make it to market. Put enough such ranchers together and present concrete plans for a large-scale wind farm, and they’ll be heard by even the most hidebound utility executives. It’s hard not to rally to Barnett’s excitement over the reduced CO2 emissions she expects cities to achieve in the upcoming Take Charge Challenge. This is, after all, the goal. CEP doesn’t pretend otherwise. Its strategy of pocketing the climate conversation is just that: a strategy. “It’s all about outcomes,” says Nancy Jackson. “To buy an insurance policy on something as massive as climate change, you have to have everyone on board, or nearly so—not just the true believers. And for that to happen, we all have to be willing to gore a few sacred cows, to find respect for those who don’t share our point of view.” The task of the Climate and Energy Project is to address a problem that for now can only be discussed obliquely—a delimiting factor that has sharpened the organization’s edge and helped define its mission. “If you don’t get the middle of the country, you lose. Period,” says Jackson. “And there’s a little bit of Kansas in every state: conservative, pragmatic, more faithful than not, hardworking, patriotic, and, let’s face it, skeptical.” There was skepticism embedded in the dare that led to the project’s formation. Jackson says her father-in-law has in the past called her an incrementalist—a diminishing epithet from a man who has committed his life to pursuing revolutionary change in agricultural practices. But that’s not what he calls her now. “Nancy changed my mind,” Wes Jackson says. “I was too much of a purist in thinking that we had to state it like it is rather than find common ground. You find that common ground and, given the size of the leviathan, it will pull you along before you pull it.” Kim Larsen is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her last story for OnEarth(“A Rising Fever,” Fall 2009) looked at the shifting demographics of insect-borne disease. fall 2012

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the land grabbers The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth by Fred Pearce Beacon Press 301 pp., $27.95

a world for sale In the name of feeding humanity, billionaire investors are on a spending spree


by Mark Hertsgaard

uy land,” Mark Twain suggests in the quote that opens this book.

“They’re not making it any more.” Some of the world’s richest investors have been following Twain’s advice, especially since global food prices spiked in 2008. China’s forays into Africa have gotten the most attention, but Asia and South America are also prime targets, and the Chinese are hardly the only buyers. Saudi oil billionaires, London investors, and U.S. pension fund managers are all driving what the British journalist Fred Pearce calls a “global land grab” that is converting vast areas of the world to industrial farming. Wealthy conservationists are also involved, and while their motives may be different, they too are playing their part in this massive transfer of land ownership to private, foreign hands. In an increasingly crowded, climate-constrained world, buying land abroad may seem a smart, even high-minded move. John Beddington, the British government’s chief scientist, is but one of many Western experts who believe an expansion of large-scale agribusiness is essential to feeding humanity. But the primary goal of such purchases, Pearce reminds us in The Land Grabbers, is usually profit. And his reporting, which took him to more than two dozen countries, suggests that any increased production from these industrial farms is unlikely to aid the almost one billion people around the world who are hungry. Outside

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investors generally channel their farms’ production to the export market. Meanwhile, the farms’ original inhabitants are frequently evicted from their ancestral lands as local ecosystems are reduced to chemical-laden monocultures. Don’t be fooled: investors often assert that the lands they are buying are empty or unclaimed, but in this “they are as misguided as the colonial adventurers who came this way a century before,” writes Pearce. “To the locals, every inch of the land is owned,” even though they may lack legal title. The biggest prize, Pearce says, is the 1.5 million square miles of grassland that cover 25 countries in central Africa, stretching from Mali in the west through Sudan and Kenya in the east and southward to Zambia and Mozambique. Some 600 million people live in these countries, nearly one-tenth of humanity. Most are very poor and rely on the natural resources provided by the land for much of their food, water, shelter, and medicine. Investors come to exploit those same resources—or remove them if they stand in the way of the agriculture they want to practice—so conflict is inevitable. Often the host government, craving economic development or at least a chance to solicit bribes, sides with the investors against its own people. In western Ethiopia’s Gambella province, the government forced countless inhabitants off 25,000 acres it had sold to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi of Saudi Arabia, sometimes described as the world’s richest black man. Al Amoudi plans to grow a million tons of rice a year there and ship it to Saudi Arabia. The land’s inhabitants have been relocated to new

James P. Blair/National Geographic Stock



villages, where the government promised schools, clinics, wells, and replacement farmland. But these promises, they told Pearce, have not been kept. Besides the human injustice, this particular land grab threatens, in Pearce’s words, “an environmental tragedy.” The second-largest mammal migration in Africa, the annual trek of more than one million whiteeared kob antelope from southern Sudan, terminates in Gambella. But industrial agriculture, with its tree-clearing and fences, is incompatible with wildlife migrations. Care to guess which one the government is protecting? And so it goes in many of the regions highlighted in this book. Take Brazil, where the focus of environmental concern has long been the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The new target is the cerrado, the grasslands south of the Amazon that cover roughly a quarter of Brazil. This region “is turning into one of the most unremittingly commercialized monocultures on Earth,” Pearce writes. Over the past 30 years, an area of the cerrado the size of Britain, France, and Germany combined has been converted to farmland. Again, most of the production— soy, cotton, coffee—is for export, which deflates any notion of benefit for the world’s poor. As if to clinch the point, Pearce relates a moment of journalistic serendipity: waiting at a local airport for a flight back to the Brazilian capital (known as “the agribusiness express”), he sees a delegation of Chinese investors deplane. They have come, they say, to invest up to $2.4 billion in what will become the largest soybean processing plant in Brazil, much of its output no doubt bound for the booming Chinese market. Meanwhile, the world is losing another ecological treasure. The cerrado is—or was—home to one-third of all the biodiversity in Brazil, “including some 10,000 plant species, more than 4,000 of

them found nowhere else.” By law, developers are supposed to leave 20 percent of the land intact as “legal reserves.” But when a regional official requested documentation of this, the vast majority of large farmers did not bother to reply. Tougher enforcement could help, but only to a point, thanks to a legal instrument known as an international investment agreement. Pearce quotes a major funder of land grabs, South Africa’s Standard Bank, asserting that such agreements supersede national laws, including “the rights of states to regulate in the public interest.” Moreover, host countries must guarantee foreign investors that they will have whatever they need to operate, “even if it conflicts with…local communities’ [needs] for potable water, small-scale farming…or subsistence use.” Pearce does a commendable job of exposing this heartless, destructive enterprise. It’s unfortunate, then, that he does not quantify how extensive the phenomenon is: how many million square acres are we talking about here? Clearly, land grabbing is a bad thing, but the world is full of bad things. Are the land grabs described in this book a major or minor example of man’s inhumanity to man? Pearce lists reasons why it’s hard to provide a solid figure for land grabbing globally, but leaves it at that. In a newspaper or magazine article, that might suffice, but a book should attempt a credible reckoning of the scope of its central preoccupation. This failure makes it hard to know how seriously to take Pearce’s assertion that “land grabbing will matter more, to more of the planet’s people, even than climate change”—a very large claim he makes in the introduction and then never mentions again, much less tries to demonstrate. These weaknesses are, however, outdistanced by the book’s strengths, especially its wideranging reporting and fearless contradicting of the marketplace

f r o m

o u r

c o n t r i b u t o r s

My American Revolution By Robert Sullivan Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 “WHAT IF RIVERS COULD TALK?

What if ancient creeks, crossed hundreds of years ago by tired feet, could bubble up in verse? What would make the skies speak again of battles that had happened as they watched, centuries ago? And do the hills around us remember all that they have seen?”

orthodoxies of globalization. Land grabbing may not be worse than climate change, but it is plenty bad enough, and Pearce is right that attention must be paid. Mark Hertsgaard is the author of six books, including HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

full body burden Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats BY Kristen Iversen Crown, 416 pp., $25

In many ways, Kristen

Iversen had a dreamy 1960s and 1970s Colorado childhood: unfettered grasslands under the Rockies through which to ride horses bareback, sparkling reservoirs and irrigation ditches outside the family’s new subdivision to swim in, a boyfriend with a motorbike.

But there was a vague, sinister undercurrent. In keeping with the times, her mother would toss young Iversen and her three siblings outside to play somewhere, anywhere, until dinner. Inside the house, her mother chain-smoked and took mysterious pills. The secrets mounted: her father, an alcoholic, hid bottles of liquor behind the furniture. Outside, too, things were not quite what they seemed. A few miles away loomed the white tower of a Dow Chemical factor y—later taken over by Rockwell—that was believed by the neighbors to make soap. Known as Rocky Flats, it employed thousands of workers (who were sworn to secrecy) from nearby Denver and Boulder. What the factor y really made, of course, were the explosive plutonium detonators of nuclear bombs, more than 70,000 of them over four decades. It’s the culture of stealth and complicity, both domestic and defense-related, that Iversen examines in her powerful memoir, Full Body Burden. Woven with menace and suspense, Iversen’s book slowly unpacks how patriarchy, patriotism, the cold war’s military-industrial complex, and a flawed legal system kept her and others in the dark about two thousand pounds of missing, migrating plutonium. At the same

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time, her family life unravels as her father keeps drinking and no one says anything about it, even after a car accident flips the horse trailer and breaks Iversen’s neck. “My family never talks about feelings, and we certainly never talk about plutonium,” she writes. “It’s hard to take something seriously if you can’t see it, smell it, touch it, or feel it. Plutonium is a cosmic

Killdeer Bathing Distinctive black collar invisible, he wriggles, frisky, in the drink. He prinks and sprinkles dizzy droplets everywhere in the morning air. Restored, he resumes his chores— the brisk and worried survey of the shore, the skitter, feint, and twist of the natural catastrophist. —B y S i dn e y Wa de 5 8 onearth

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trick. The invisible enemy, the merry prankster. Can it hurt you or not? None of us know.” By the late 1970s, studies showed a doubling of childhood leukemia around Rocky Flats, a 33 percent increase in lung cancer, and unusually high rates of testicular, brain, and ovarian cancer. But, as Iversen vividly recounts, no one wanted to hear it. Local politicians feared a reduction in property values, Rocky Flats’ management denied culpability, and the EPA at first insisted the levels of contamination in soil and water were safe. Whistle-blowers and concerned public officials were fired, forced out, and discredited. Documents and human tissue samples went missing. A federal grand jury eventually voted to indict eight employees for criminal negligence, but a U.S. attorney refused to sign the indictments. The grand jury documents, filled with testimony and data, have remained under seal for 22 years. Some of Iversen’s neighbors ended up with brain tumors and leukemia. They drank well water. The Iversen family, though, was unable to dig a well in their backyard, so they drank relatively clean city water from nearby Arvada. The four Iversen siblings didn’t emerge unscathed, however. Plagued by vague immune system problems and chronic exhaustion, they count themselves lucky. Iversen’s tale joins the growing ranks of what might be termed “environmental memoir,” a genre popularized by a cadre of women directly indebted to Rachel Carson: Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge), Sandra Steingraber (Living Downstream), Nancy Nichols (Lake Effect), and Nancy Langston (Toxic Bodies). Silent Spring, published exactly 50 years ago, first called out the unspoken connections between industrial pollution and human health.

Like those others, Full Body Burden makes a case for why these links must be made visible and the bodies counted. As with the best in this stack, Iversen’s book avoids outright bitterness. Her writing mixes the lyrical and the logical. This is a real comingof-age-in-nuclear-America story. Iversen learns how the world works, and it’s not pretty. “Were we,” she asks, “—are we—living under the protection of the bomb, or under its shadow?” Maybe the bomb was insurance against devastation; maybe it just bred its own, more insidious harm. But as Iversen points out, a full discussion of the trade-offs was never had, and it should have been. —FLORENCE WILLIAMS

eat the city BY ROBIN SHULMAN Crown, 335 pp., $26

When it comes to ar ti-

sanal food, as any small-batchpickle lover will tell you, Brooklyn is where it’s at. A recent issue of New York magazine devoted several pages to the borough’s burgeoning preciousfoodie phenomenon, opening with a description of the prodigiously bearded siblings behind Mast Brothers chocolate, who handcraft their bars in a Williamsburg loft before wrapping them lovingly in thick Florentine paper and slapping them with nine-dollar price tags.

Robin Shulman’s Eat the City is populated with several such Brooklyn “hipstavores.” There’s David Selig, the dashing young restaurateur who tends beehives on the rooftop of the row house he shares with his girlfriend, “a fashion muse and editor of an avant-garde magazine.” There’s Tom Mylan, an art-school graduate with “steel-blue eyes, a square jaw, and Clark Kent glasses,” who, in his old-timey butchery, leads evening classes for tattooed 20-somethings on how to break down entire animals. And there are conceptual artist Josh Fields and “sculptor and fabricator” Jon Conner, who craft microbrews and give them names like Frank Lloyd Rye and Cream Master (after the Matthew Barney film series, of course). If these characters made up the whole of the book, I know of at least one jaded Brooklynite who’d have tossed it in the recycling bin before reaching the second chapter. But Shulman takes on something much bigger here. In telling the “tale of the fishers, trappers, hunters, foragers, slaughterers, butchers, farmers, poultry minders, sugar refiners, cane cutters, beekeepers, winemakers, and brewers who built New York,” the rural Ontario native reaches back across the centuries, intermittently setting aside her present-day hipstavores to focus on people from ages and industries long since forgotten. It makes for a fascinating, if not always entirely coherent, ride. “There are coal cities and steel cities and car cities and gold cities,” Shulman begins what is arguably the most compelling of her seven thematic chapters. “New York, in some ways, is a sugar city.” After Christopher Columbus introduced cane to the Americas in 1493, the crop spread throughout the Caribbean, where slaves were brought in to cultivate it, overseen by “a small-eyed, sharp-nosed bureaucrat named Peter Stuyvesant.” Transferred

illustration by blair thornley

to New Amsterdam, Stuyvesant imported slaves from “the sugar islands” who went on to build, among other things, the wall on Wall Street and the road to Harlem. Today, Jorge Torres, a Puer to Rican–born Bronx resident who was forced by his parents into the grueling work of cane cutting at the age of 9, cultivates a single piece of sugarcane in his community garden as a way to maintain a tie to his home. Toggling skillfully between past and present, Shulman uses each chapter to illuminate how the city’s eating and drinking habits are woven together with the threads of its ethnic fabric. During the late 1800s, when Germans accounted for a third of the city’s population, New York reigned as the brewing capital of America. “In a sense,” she writes, “beer marked the city’s shift from an English place, with English-style ale, to a city of immigrants.” By the turn of the twentieth century, the city was home to 290,000 Jews and 250,000 Italians. The history of American winemaking is in many ways a story of those two communities, from the Prohibitionera Lower East Side (dotted with “hundreds of shady wineries and wine stores … purporting to serve the religious community that had suddenly grown in size and enthusiasm”) to a Brooklyn dock circa 1980, mobbed with Italian grandfathers come to pick up the California grapes they’ll stomp in their basements, and on to an Upper East Side rooftop in 2011, where an Iraqi Jew named Latif Jiji is pressing his own wine, keeping alive a tradition learned from his father back in Basra. An exhaustive ferreter-out of historical detail, Shulman, who’s written for such outlets as the Washington Post and the New York Times, traipses out at all hours to the far reaches of the boroughs, persuading seemingly anyone to open his life to her notebook. The stories of Torres, Jiji, and many of the others she comes to know

s p o t l i g h t

THE HUMAN QUEST By Johan Rockström and Mattias Klum, Stockholm Text, eBook, $9.95

THE HUMAN QUEST IS MORE THAN YOUR EVERYDAY COFFEE-TABLE book. Only a limited edition was actually printed in book form, distributed free to delegates at the Rio+20 conference in June. Now the rest of us can buy it for our iPads and smart phones, with video features to complement a compelling array of charts and graphs, rousing calls for action on climate change and sustainable development by Bill Clinton and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and scores of stunning images by the veteran National Geographic photographer Mattias Klum. He is one of the most versatile photographers around, equally at home with portraits, landscapes, and vignettes of human society in all its wondrous complexity. But animals are his true forte, such as this golden snub-nosed monkey, photographed in China’s Foping Nature Reserve.

tell of connecting, through the stomach, to an often geographically distant past. People bring their hunger with them, Shulman seems to suggest—whether a hunger for a lost land or a lost way of life, or simply a yearning to create something out of nothing. It’s illuminating to realize how much of the Big Apple’s history is tied up with food production. (See “Fresh Food for All,” p.30.) Yet it does feel as if Shulman missed an opportunity by not putting her disparate chapters into a larger context. In looking back at the history

of food production in New York, what do we learn, and how might we apply those lessons moving forward? Are there parts of New York’s food production system that could serve as a model for other cities? Just how important is urban food production to a happy and well-functioning society? And if it is integral, what sorts of policies should be put in place to ensure that it continues and thrives? Shulman doesn’t answer those questions, but her parade of compelling characters and her ex-

haustive mining of history make this inquiry into the kitchens, gardens, and basements of New York City a rewarding read nonetheless. In tracing its transition from an agricultural town to an industrial center to the place it is today—one where do-it-yourselfers in abandoned nineteenth-century factories cook up small batches of granola while next door three generations are stomping grapes the Old World way—she delivers a vivid portrait of a city in flux, forever inventing itself anew. —jocelyn c. zuckerman

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Dispatches news and views from the natural resources defense council

Your Pork on drugs Cramped, unsanitary confines may soon become a relic of farming’s past.

taking the Pharm Out of the farm An unfolding legal case could help wean Big Ag off antibiotics and transform the way livestock is reared


he grim but standard features of

America’s livestock industry—cramped confines, foul conditions, artificial growth enhancers—depend in part on one widespread but dangerous practice: since the 1950s, farmers have been pumping livestock full of antibiotics, not for therapeutic purposes but in an effort to protect their health in the midst of squalor and spur them to grow apace with the nation’s appetite. Today, 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are given to animals that are not sick. When used at sub-therapeutic levels, antibiotics breed drug-resistant bacteria that make their way from livestock to human consumers. As a result, when people get sick, standard antibiotic treatments may not be effective. This human health crisis has occurred in plain sight, even as leading

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scientific and medical authorities have amassed an overwhelming body of evidence showing the hazards of antibiotic use in livestock. In spite of this accumulating research, federal agencies have failed to control the misuse of these critical drugs. For years, NRDC and other organizations have advocated for agricultural reform. Now change may be on its way. Two separate citizen petitions filed against the Food and Drug Administration in 1999 and 2005 urged the agency to review the safety of several antibiotics. But the FDA rejected them, saying that it would rely instead on voluntary steps by the industry to exercise appropriate caution. And it turns out that in 1977, the agency acknowledged that antibiotics used for non-therapeutic purposes posed risks to public health—yet had taken no steps to enforce more judicious use. The fact that the FDA had failed to do its mandated job provided NRDC litigation fellow Jen Sorenson and her colleagues the basis for

opposite: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via getty images; Right: ap images; Top: Jeffrey D. Nicholls/ap images

a winning legal strategy. “For 35 years, the FDA sat idly by while the livestock industry policed itself,” says Avinash Kar, NRDC’s attorney on the case. “The agency wasn’t doing what it’s required to do by law, which is to ensure that drugs approved for commercial use are safe.” Two landmark rulings could signal an end to these dangerous practices. Judge Theodore Katz, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled in March that the FDA had to take action on its own 1977 findings and withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of two of the most widely administered antibiotics unless industry can prove their safety. In June, NRDC scored another public health victory when Judge Katz charged that the agency had done “shockingly little” to address years of data showing health risks, and ruled that the FDA has to reconsider the citizen petitions. In response to FDA claims that reviewing the drugs’ safety would be too time-consuming, the court stated: “[H]ad the Agency addressed the Petitions in a timely fashion, withdrawal proceedings could have been commenced and completed by now.” Kar maintains these verdicts have the potential to transform livestock rearing. Instead of giving animals antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick in unsanitary environments, he says, “livestock owners will have to find better ways of avoiding infections. It won’t necessarily mean the end of industrial agriculture, but it will mean better conditions.” But just how soon—and whether— antibiotics will cease to be used for non-medical purposes depends on the agency’s pending reviews. “The FDA has caved in to industry before,” Kar says. “It’s possible they’ll try to delay. But we’ll do everything we can to make sure the review moves along. If need be, we’ll go back to court.”

L.A. Water Ways Compared with traffic, crime,

and celebrity felonies, dirty stormwater isn’t the first problem most people associate with Los Angeles County. Yet billions of gallons of polluted stormwater contaminate the county’s beaches every year, afflicting swimmers with infections and gastrointestinal illnesses. In 2008 NRDC sued the county for allowing this pollution to enter rivers and flow

time to clean up BP must do more to protect the public health.

the REAL COST OF tar sands


into coastal waters, and last year a federal court agreed that the county was violating the Clean Water Act. Now the case will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to county officials, who appealed the ruling, upstream factories, power plants, and other sources of pollution, not the county, should be responsible for preventing pollutants such as copper and lead from entering stormwater in the first place. NRDC lead attorney Aaron Colangelo disputes the county’s claim. “The federal Clean Water Act doesn’t care where the pollution originally comes from,” he says. “What matters is where it’s eventually discharged.” The county is responsible for the pollution it fails to capture and treat, Colangelo explains, even if that pollution was created upstream. Instead of litigating, says Colangelo, the county could clean the stormwater, and improve its residents’ quality of life, through green infrastructure solutions, such as planting trees and rain gardens and constructing green roofs. Whether this vision becomes reality rests with the Supreme Court. —Benjamin Goldfarb

xtracting oil from Canadian tar sands is a

destructive business: to get at the stuff, mining companies clear-cut forests and create lakes of toxic waste. But tar sands oil doesn’t stop fouling the planet when it leaves the ground. Refining the gunk into gasoline takes a toll on human health, as tar sands oil contains a far more harmful array of chemicals, such as sulfur and heavy metals, than other oil sources. A 2010 report by the Sierra Club linked air pollution from tar sands refineries to health problems, including asthma, emphysema, and birth defects. Now a groundbreaking agreement with the oil giant BP could save one community from some of tar sands’ noxious effects—and set an important precedent. In 2008 the state of Indiana issued BP air pollution permits for its refinery in Whiting (less than 20 miles southeast of Chicago), which was being modified to handle more Canadian crude. The problem? The state used BP’s own pollution projections to calculate the permits. “BP had total freedom to play fast and loose with the numbers,” says Ann Alexander, lead attorney on the lawsuit that NRDC filed to make BP accurately measure its pollution. In May NRDC and the Environmental Protection Agency helped negotiate a settlement that will force BP to include a host of emissions-cutting measures in the refinery’s expansion. The controls will cost BP $400 million to install and prevent 4,000 tons of pollutants—including sulfur dioxide, soot, and toxic substances such as benzene—from billowing out of the refinery each year. The settlement also compels BP to control emissions from its coker, a dirty piece of machinery that removes crude’s heaviest elements; reduce the facility’s greenhouse gas emissions; and inform the public about the results of pollution monitoring. In addition to benefiting Whiting and its neighbors, the settlement means that refineries around the country will face more rigorous standards when they attempt to modify their operations. “The Clean Air Act dictates that as facilities seek to expand, they have to apply best-available control technology,” Alexander says. “Now they’ll have no choice but to look at the technologies applied to the Whiting plant.” As companies are forced to pay for the impact of tar sands oil, burning this form of crude may cease to look so attractive. “Our larger goal is to make sure tar sands refineries account for their external costs, such as children being hospitalized with asthma,” Alexander says. When those costs are tallied up, “tar sands oil may not seem as —B. g. economical as it once did.”

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[Shell’s Oil Spill Respon se Plan] accounts for the remote drill site and Arctic environment in the event of an oil spill during drilling operation s… Familiar story! Shell was required to sub stantially rewrite previously approved Arctic spill response plans to ensure that it was clear how they could mobilize and sus tain a massive response… Among other changes and mor e stringent requirements, BSEE requir ed Shell to:

Prepare for a worst case discharge nearly five times that of their previous plan, and in adverse weather condition s; ay ! W el l, in th eo ry , an yw • Graph the trajectory of the pot ential worst case discharge over a 30day period; In addition… the ready ava ilability of a capping stack and an oil collection system are new commitments that app ly lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizo n tragedy. ted! But untes

* Shell is counting on

good weather, but if ice is in the water—a common situation in the Arctic—they won’t be able to clean up the oil with booms and skimmers. Also, the closest full-time Coast Guard station is more than 1,000 miles away, and the agency’s temporary base in Barrow, Alaska, is woefully underequipped, with only two cutters, two helicopters, and a few small ships.

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* A crucial piece of

equipment, a containment barge, was originally going to be designed to survive a 100-year storm. But because Shell couldn’t figure out how to properly outfit the barge for a 100-year storm, they’re now trying to prepare it to handle only a 10-year storm. In other words, there’s a significant chance that Shell’s most important spill-response vessel will encounter a storm it can’t handle.

* The capping stack,

the seal that would be placed atop a leaking well, has never been tested in Arctic conditions. Instead, Shell tried out its capping stack in Puget Sound—a body of water not exactly known, as the Arctic is, for 20-foot waves, hurricane-force winds, and massive ice floes.

*Shell’s projections

for the trajectory of a worst-case, 30-day spill assume that the spill will not come so late in the year, or be contained so slowly, that the oil gets under winter pack ice. If they’re wrong, and they could be, the oil could move hundreds of miles farther than they project.

Good News Story In 1998 Brenda Peterson

helped break a Seattle Times story about the military’s sonar blasting of a humpback whale sanctuary in Hawaii. So when she speaks of her commitment to the environment, she does so with some authority. “In my 2004 novel, Animal Heart, I wanted to tell the story about this lethal sonar that was underwater and out of sight,” Peterson says. “Stories can change the heart and our habitat.” Jane Goodall (who knows a thing or two about changing hearts) described Animal Heart as “a haunting love story in a fast-moving plot.” Peterson, a National Geographic writer, a memoirist, and a novelist, has written 17 volumes, including a children’s book, Leopard and Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups. (Peruse her work at Peterson donates royalties from all her books to NRDC and has also included a bequest to the organization in her will. “NRDC has fought side by side with me over the decades,” she says. “When people ask me, ‘What can I do?’ I tell them, ‘Pick one species. Pick one lake. Begin there. And support organizations like NRDC to protect our planet for generations to come.’” For information on how to leave your own lasting legacy, contact Michelle Mulia-Howell, director of gift planning, at or 212-727-4421.

Robin Lindsey

n February, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved Shell’s Oil Spill Response Plan for the Chukchi Sea, effectively authorizing the company to drill in the Arctic. OnEarth asked two NRDC experts—Chuck Clusen, director of national parks and Alaska projects, and senior attorney Niel Lawrence—to explain why the bureau, a branch of the Department of the Interior, may have been too quick to give Shell the green light.

who we are

what we do

no stone unturned

Mitch Bernard’s team of attorneys often outlawyers outsize adversaries.

making the case A pioneering litigator inspires his legal staff to battle big polluters and their powerful allies


by jeff turrentine

itch Bernard fells giants for a

living. As NRDC’s litigation director, he has taken on corporate titans and government behemoths, racking up victories that have had a major impact on environmental policy. He gives much credit to the dedicated attorneys with whom he works on cases involving water, air, toxins, and environmental justice. But he also knows that all of the expertise in the world can’t win a case unless it’s attached to a stirring narrative. “We tell stories,” says Bernard from behind his desk in NRDC’s New York office. “We include details that relate to the theme; we use imagery that reflects and deepens and clarifies the theme.” By never forgetting this rule, he and his team have managed to persuade judges to force companies like Texaco and Duke Energy to comply with regulations they have flouted, and regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce laws that are currently on the books. Bernard knows a thing or two about storytelling. He was an English major at Princeton, and, like a famous family member (his uncle Fred

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Ebb, of the Broadway composing duo Kander and Ebb), he has writ-ten lyrics for musicals. But the stories that have meant the most to him over the years are ones in which individuals must fight for their rights against powerful institutions. After Princeton he enrolled in New York University Law School, where he was awarded a Hays Civil Liberties Fellowship. “The subject and the process of law both interested me,” he says. “But the prospect of trying to represent underrepresented people was the animating factor.” In his 24-year career at NRDC, Bernard, 60, has shown how litigating on behalf of the environment is, in fact, litigating on behalf of people. He cites two of his team’s major victories to illustrate his point. In the more recent of them, a suit filed jointly by NRDC and other plaintiffs resulted in a ruling that will require the Food and Drug Administration to de-

termine whether the practice whereby farmers and ranchers force-feed non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to their livestock poses a threat to human health. A second, long-running case pits Bernard, NRDC senior attorney Nancy Marks, and a coplaintiff against a chemical plant that dumped mercury into Maine’s Penobscot River. But for citizen-inspired litigation, he says, the company would have continued to do so “with impunity. State and federal governments were prepared to leave the mercury, which had migrated downriver and contaminated wildlife, including fish that people consume.” That suit led to a ruling that forced the company to pay for a detailed impact study, to be completed in 2013. If remediation is feasible, the company will be compelled to pay for it. The case “returned NRDC to one of its first principles,” says Bernard. “Polluters—no matter how powerful, no matter how they’ve escaped government enforcement—have to comply with the law. They must clean up the mess they make.” To Marks, Bernard represents the ideal marriage of principle and idealism. “He believes our court system can be petitioned successfully to obtain justice for those without the resources to buy political influence,” she says. When he began his career, says Bernard, “the mainstream environmental movement was dominated by concerns for land and resources by themselves. Those original values persist, but they’ve now been joined by a broader sense of what the word environment means.” For him, the word is big enough to encompass not only our varied habitats but all of their inhabitants as well.

photograph for onearth by reed young


open space isn’t it romantic?

“Who would argue against new native woodlands?” Lund asks. England’s rain-soaked northwest would find some- “But what if they might result in the loss of an iconic landscape that how familiar its landscape of bare mountain crags our visitors know and enjoy?” In the English context, the Lake District is a wild place. But to an enveloped in low scudding mists, hillside heaths, browsing black-faced sheep, stone-wall-bordered American, wild means wild, and natural means natural. Or does it? Different as the Lake District and Yosemite National Park may seem, meadows, meandering streams, hammock valleys, and deep glacial lakes. For the Lake District, as it’s known, is the the words of the Yosemite Scenic Vista Management Plan being implemented this fall could apply as well to moody English landscape of film and both: first and foremost, “Yosemite NaTV, where Wordsworth and Coleridge tional Park is an icon of scenic granwalked, wrote, and imagined a new redeur…protected for public benefit and lationship between people and nature. appreciation of the scenic landscape.” The irony is that if left to nature, The Yosemite plan found that out of these iconic landscapes would disap181 special vistas, vegetation changes pear. Left to run freely, streams would had partially obscured over half and leave their channeled courses and form completely obscured another onebraided deltas. The tidy, manicured third. So the plan, for example, calls lakeshores prized by Lake District devfor removal of conifers that now obotees would turn into ragged wetlands. struct the iconic view of El Capitan as So is this a natural landscape or a photographed by Carleton Watkins living picture book? “The Lake District and commemorated in a 1934 1-cent has applied for listing as a World Heripostage stamp. Offending conifers tage site,” National Trust archeologist will also be excised from Yosemite Jamie Lund says, “not because it’s a meadowland vistas. These are not unbiosphere reserve but because of its natural acts, says Kevin McCardle, the value as a landscape that inspired writpark’s historical landscape architect. ers and artists who, in turn, inspired Yosemite was never the completely the ideals of the Romantic movement natural landscape early visitors imagand formed the roots of the environined. Its earliest native inhabitants had mental movement.” practiced fire management that once Concern for the environment would controlled conifer growth. seem to follow, and efforts to conserve In the English context, The plan will preserve historic views natural resources and wildlife have the Lake District is a wild place. But “with the least impact to the natural been ongoing (and, in the case of osto an American, wild means wild, and environment,” McCardle says. “We’re prey and peregrines, heroic). But not not trying to manage based on people’s without conflicts. Although the Lake natural means natural. Or does it? assumptions of what these places look District is a national park, 50,000 people live within its 866 square miles. Management of the park falls mainly like.” Yet the fact is that “we, as a species, connect to nature visually.” When Wordsworth was asked why he and Coleridge never comto England’s National Trust, which must concern itself not only with the iconolatry of the eight million tourists who visit each year, but also pleted their planned epic poem, “The Recluse, or Man, Nature, and Society,” an attempt to explain the relationship between humans and with agricultural and economic development. At Lake Windermere, England’s largest, the Trust works with other nature, he replied that the poet Thomas Gray had also attempted such groups to allow reed beds to spread, reduce fertilizer inputs, and man- a work but never finished it, “because he had undertaken something age boat pollution. In Ennerdale, as areas of the Sitka spruce forests beyond his powers to accomplish. And that is my case.” planted to increase timber reserves following World War I are clearcut, natural succession may reestablish the oak woodlands that dominated Bruce Stutz is a contributing editor to OnEarth. His most recent article was England’s northwest coast prior to fifteenth-century deforestation. “Mysterious and Imperiled Creature of the Deep” (Winter 2011/2012).

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ven those who have never visited

fall 2012

illustration by jonathan burton


BY bruce stutz

As astonishing as the photos in National Geographic And an exhilarating life adventure: A Lindblad-National Geographic Galรกpagos 360ยบ Expedition


The most complete experience you can have. Islands and undersea. Request the brochure/DVD to see. To book see your travel agent or contact us. | 1.800.397.3348

Announcing the NRDC Legacy Challenge

Photo: © Tim Fitzharris

Let us know you’re including NRDC in your estate plans and a member of our Board of Trustees will contribute up to $10,000 to help save wildlife and wildlands! You’ll be protecting our natural heritage right now and for generations to come. If NRDC already has a place in your plans, please let us know so that we can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

To take the Legacy Challenge or learn more about it, please contact: Michelle Mulia-Howell, Director of Gift Planning at 212-727-4421 or

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