PLENTY AU G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 5
IT’S A SMALL WORLD SMALL HOUSES FOR BIG PEOPLE: THE END OF MCMANSIONS
ROWING IN VENICE ■ EATING IN FIJI ■ LANDSCAPING IN LEBANON ■ DO-GOODING IN DOMINICA ■
IT ’S EASY BEING GREEN
CAN REPUBLICANS GO GREEN?
THE BEST PARTIES... AND HOW TO GET INVITED $4.95US $5.95CAN
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PLENTY IT’S EASY BEING GREEN
CONTENTS AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2005
as the world turns
8 . . . . FROM THE EDITOR 12 . . . . LETTERS 14 . . . . NEWS AND NOTES
Fraudulent fish; eco-terror; tapping the dump for electricity; the Alaska bake-off; and towing away AAA. 16 . . . . RETREADS Arts and crafts goes dungeons and dragons. By Christy Harrison 20 . . . . ON TECHNOLOGY Electronic paper makes it to market. By Jim Quinn 24 . . . . WHEELS Around the world in less than 65 days on biodiesel? A Kiwi is going for it. By Christy Harrison 26 . . . . MUSIC Musicians are shedding their labels—and feeling flusher for it. By Jesse Kornbluth 28 . . . . BOOKS A travelogue of trash and a quest for Nobel Prize sperm donors. By Ann Landi 31 . . . . GREEN GEAR Free your inner child: kits to make your own organic gummies and build a miniature solar car; plus, portable solar chargers, fish art, and recycled beach totes.
GRAY MATTER AS THE WORLD TURNS... 38 . . . . PRESERVATION VACATION The rugged island of Dominica is among the least developed in the world. Can ecotourism keep it that way? By Kate Siber 48 . . . . DESPERATELY SEEKING CEDARS The cedar tree of Lebanon has come to symbolize democracy, but good luck finding one. By Andrew Lee Butters 50 . . . . BRING YOUR PADDLE TO THE PROTEST Venice is being pounded by motor waves; the Vogalonga is an annual regatta to calm the waters. By Jeff Booth 54 . . . . TURN, TURN, TURN Our picks of small-world images from around the globe. Curated by Nancy Schwartzman
UPPER LEFT: PHOTO COURTESY JUNGLE BAY RESORT; UPPER RIGHT: PHOTO BY YOAV HORESH
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62 . . . . DEBT’S THREAT TO THE PLANET
MATTERS OF FACT AND FANCY 82 . . . . FASHION
Vintage silk, nonpolluting dyes, artisanal designs. We bring you the world. 88 . . . . RESALE REJECTION Shopping resale is great for the planet, but can your ego handle it? By Jennifer Block 90 . . . . FOOD How did roti get to Fiji? Recipes and explanation by Sarah Rose. 92 . . . . INDULGENCES In search of the perfect pint, we scream for organic ice cream! 94 . . . . HEALTH Which massage technique is best for your ouches and aches? We happily test them out. By Ann Landi 98 . . . . PRICELESS From water fights to the weirdest food, a sampling of the world’s best fests. By Kate Siber
Your iPod wants a pod
100 . .
OFF THE GRID Angel’s Nest is a home with its own green hydrogen fueling station—and an eco-Hummer to go with it. By Karen Kleiner 102 . . HOW WE LIVE Special report from Hipsterville: your iPod isn’t fully dressed without a... cozy. By Jami Attenberg 104 . . THE BACK PAGE Green Haiku. By Joel Derfner ON THE COVER: Model is Anka from Major Model Management, wearing a 100 percent organic cotton T-shirt and jean skirt by Loomstate (www.loomstate.org). Styling by Ise White/Code Artists; makeup by Corrine Vegter/Code Artists using MAC cosmetics; hair by Sarah Silvia/Code Artists. Photograph by Francis Murphy.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL WITTE; PHOTO COURTESY WWW.ROSSCHAPIN.COM
Developing-world debt is bad for the economy, bad for homeland security, and bad for the environment. By Noreena Hertz 66 . . . . PUTTING THE GREEN BACK IN GOP The Republican Party wasn’t always so tight with industry. Teddy Roosevelt was a founding conservationist; Richard Nixon created the EPA. But since G. W. Bush came to town, green GOPers are losing their color. Can they get it back? By Richard Bradley 72 . . . . THE LIFE OF A BOTTLE Ever wonder what becomes of your recyclables? We follow a water bottle on its path to reincarnation, from curb to carpet. Plus, backpacks, blankets, and socks made from recycled plastic. By Nicole Davis 76 . . . . WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSES When Americans started moving into McMansions, they said hello to space but good-bye to the old neighborhood. The small-house movement is bringing it back with “cottage communities,” where human interaction is the prime real estate. By Lisa Selin Davis
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FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
LENTY’s mission is to bring green to the mainstream. The million-dollar question is, when are we going to hit the “tipping point,” as Malcolm Gladwell would put it? Social change often comes quickly, with ideas or trends spreading like viruses. So when are all things green going to reach critical mass, becoming as inescapable as iPods or reality shows? On a certain level, we are already there. When GE launches a multimillion-dollar ad campaign called “Ecomagination,” you know something is going on. GE has pledged to increase its level of investment in clean technologies in the years to come, to $1.5 billion in 2010 from $700 million in 2004. While this is an ambitious goal on the part of GE, it is still only a fraction of the total investment necessary to reinvent the global economy into one that’s sustainable.
PLENTY AU G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 5
IT ’S EASY BEING GREEN
CAN REPUBLICANS GO GREEN?
IT’S A SMALL WORLD
SMALL HOUSES FOR BIG PEOPLE: THE END OF MCMANSIONS
THE BEST PARTIES... AND HOW TO GET INVITED
ROWING IN VENICE EATING IN FIJI LANDSCAPING IN LEBANON DO-GOODING IN DOMINICA
Even if everyone decided tomorrow to minimize his or her impact on the planet, it would take a while for businesses to change their manufacturing processes to coincide with the change in lifestyle. For example, demand for organic milk sometimes outstrips supply. Many grocery stores can’t keep enough of the product on the shelf. Dairy farmers would love to make more, but time and money are needed for new producers to become certified organic. And if existing organic dairies want to add more cows to their herds, they can’t just buy any old cows; they have to buy organic ones, or buy calves and raise them organically. Still, we can all take small steps in our own lives that will make a difference. None of our choices will change the world overnight, but they will bring us a little closer to that magical tipping point. Creating PLENTY was itself an attempt to take us farther down the green path. To help us get there, we offer you tips on how to live more sustainably. We also try to take our own advice to heart. PLENTY is printed on 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper, whereas most magazines that say they use recycled content use only the minimum amount (10 percent). With this issue, we changed our tag line to It’s Easy Being Green. That’s not to disparage Kermit: we face some major challenges as we try to wean the global economy off fossil fuels. But there are still many easy green choices we can make. If converting your car to biodiesel is too complicated, there are growing numbers of hybrid vehicles on the market. Or if something new isn’t for you, check out what’s hot in the latest Retreads column. The next time you’re at the grocery store, buy a few more organic products—the organic milk shortage won’t last forever. Mark Spellun
8 | PLENTY
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PLENTY Publisher & Editor in Chief Mark Spellun Creative Director Catherine Cole Managing Editor Sarah Rose Senior Editors Jennifer Block, Christy Harrison Political Editor Richard Bradley Science Editor Michael W. Robbins Technology Editor Jim Quinn Music Editor Jesse Kornbluth Staff Writer Kate Siber Associate Editor Sandra Ban
PLENTY NEEDS YOU Are you an aspiring Shakespeare? Picasso? Can you sell clothes to a nudist colony? If so, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for people who believe in our mission, so if you drive a Prius or just wish you did, tell us about yourself.
PLENTY is out to change the world one organic cotton/soy t-shirt at a time. Send us an email or drop us a note. We can’t do it without you. Come join the revolution!
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Contributing Editors Justin Tyler Clark, Ann Landi, Cristina Merrill, Katherine Millett Staff Photographer Francis Murphy Contributing Designer Paul Tutrone PLENTY Advertising, 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1915, New York, NY 10107 Deborah Gardiner, National Sales Director (Tel: 1-212-757-3794) Midwest and Detroit: 31555 West Fourteen Mile Road, Suite 313, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 Susan L. Carey, Regional Director; Sue Maniloff, Regional Director (Tel: 1-248-539-3055) West Coast: 1972 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 Susan M. Werner, Regional Director (Tel: 1-415-441-2762) Published by Environ Press, Inc. Chairman Arnold Spellun
PLENTY 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1915 New York, NY 10107 Tel: 1-212-757-3447 Fax: 1-212-757-3799 www.plentymag.com Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, and other materials must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. PLENTY will not be responsible for unsolicited submissions. Send letters to the editor to email@example.com or to PLENTY, 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1915, New York, NY 10107. Copyright ©2005 by Environ Press, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. PLENTY (ISSN 1553-2321) is published bimonthly, six times a year, for $12 per year by Environ Press, Inc., 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1915, New York, NY 10107. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Plenty, P.O. Box 437, Mt. Morris, IL 61054-0437 or call 1-800-316-9006. PLENTY is printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper and manufactured with elemental chlorine-free pulp. Please recycle.
/UR BLENDS CONTAIN ORGANIC SUSTAINABLY HARVESTED AÂ¥AÃ“ AH SIGH EE FRUIT AND HAVE MORE ANTIOXIDANTS ESSENTIAL OMEGAS AND NATURAL ENERGY THAN ANYTHING ELSE ON THE MARKET AND THEY TASTE AMAZING 3USTAINABLE HARVESTING OF AÂ¥AÃ“ AND OTHER RAINFOREST FRUITS WILL HELP TO SAVE PARTS OF THE !MAZON ECOSYSTEM
!VAILABLE AT SAMBAZONCOM HEALTH FOOD STORES AND JUICE BARS ALL OVER
ENERGIZE YOUR SOUL
“You make it easy being green (sorry Kermit!).”
LETTERS I WAS PRETTY IMPRESSED WITH THE MAGAZINE... found it at the gym. It
LISA HAINLINE BOULDER, COLORADO
AFTERNOON! Just got back to the UK after a holiday in New York. Picked up your mag at the airport, and it made a brilliant read for the flight home. Loved the article on biodiesel, but I have to pick you up on the article on raincoats (April/May 2005). You say that these are all PVC-free garments, then you go on to mention the clear vinyl raincoat worn by the girl on the cover? I think you’ll find that vinyl is just an abbreviated version of the name polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Anyway, a small blip in an otherwise perfect mag. Thanks, TOM MUDD LONDON, ENGLAND
The coat in question is vintage vinyl; it had already been manufactured in the 1970s. No new —THE EDITORS PVC was created to make it.
I JUST DISCOVERED PLENTY. Your magazine is a modern, intelligent, stylish read that I’m hoping will really begin to enlighten a whole new demographic. It proves that we have to sacrifice neither our sense of humor nor our “cool” to keep our 12 | P L E N T Y
planet (and every other species on it) cool— a real key, I believe, to getting the masses aboard the environmental responsibility [space]ship. You make it seem easy being green (sorry Kermit!). Best regards and may the force be with you,
er models? Let me go even further: how about “average” looking models? How about male models? It seems to me, if we want to preserve nature’s diversity, we should also cherish our own human diversity and difference. Regards,
MY PARTNER GOT THE MAGAZINE AT AN ENVIRONMENTALIST FAIR and
RECENTLY PLUCKED A COPY OF PLENTY off the shelves of our local news-
brought it home. I didn’t even let him read it, I became so immersed. I was intrigued by the magazine’s colorful cover and editorial, which resonated with my tormented activisttheorist soul. I liked the article about electric cars and the prospects of organic marijuana, and I was mesmerized by the beautiful pictures of Galápagos. I could even enjoy the section on envirogadgets (despite the slight annoyance generated by the price of some of them). However, my unbridled excitement turned into sad (and angry) bewilderment when I got to pages 70-75 (June/July 2005). I was disappointed to see the uniformly skinny female models. Was I too idealistic to expect an aspiring environmentally progressive magazine to break, or at least question, traditional gender norms? How about round-
stand and am quite pleased with the witty go-green content of your pages. Glad to see a little cerebral thinking along with a good joke. And great raw-food article; however, where can you get these green superfoods? Yours sincerely, LISA MARIE HUGHES Yoga Instructor, Raw Foodist, Bicycle Peddling, Canvas Bag Using, Push Mower Owner, Organic Gardner, and all around self-titled Green Gal BOZEMAN, MONTANTA
Send your letters, comments, kudos, and critiques to firstname.lastname@example.org August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
RAINCOAT AVAILABLE AT RESURRECTION, NYC; PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCIS MURPHY
was nice to read eco-friendly articles that were upbeat and proactive about what people can do to make better choices for themselves and the environment—very refreshing. I did also want to add to the article about death-to-diamonds (April/May 2005). My entire family is planning to be cremated; my mother already has been. There’s another choice for ash remains: they can be turned into “coral” to create artificial reefs. Thought that would be right up your alley. We are thinking about combining some/all of our ashes from our family, as we are avid scuba divers. For more information go to www.eternalreefs.com.
4HE TEACHER SAYS YOGA IS SOMETHING POSITIVE ) DO FOR MYSELF TO CLEANSE THE MIND OF NEGATIVE THOUGHT SO ) CAN´T LET MYSELF FALL VICTIM TO THE ±MONKEY MIND ² ) HAVE TO BE AT ONE WITH MY BREATH OH 'OD ) HOPE MY BREATH ISN´T BAD ) REALLY SHOULD FLOSS MORE PEOPLE WHO FLOSS MORE ACTUALLY LIVE LONGER AND ) ALWAYS FORGET
WHICH IS SO STUPID AND THAT IS A VERY NEGATIVE THOUGHT¨/+ THEN LET NEGATIVE THOUGHTS GO 9OGA WILL MAKE ME THIN AND BEAUTIFUL ALL THE SUPERMODELS DO IT ALTHOUGH THEY ACTUALLY START OUT THIN AND BEAUTIFUL BUT STILL¨ !LSO ) READ THAT YOGA CLEANSES THE BODY OF TOXINS WHICH THE MAGAZINES ALL SAY CAUSES CELLULITE WHICH IS A TOTAL LIE #ELLULITE ISN´T CAUSED IT ISN´T EVEN A CONDITION IT´S A WORD THAT WAS INVENTED IN IN SOME MAGAZINE
AND IT IS JUST THE NATURAL FORMATION OF FEMALE FLESH EXCEPT WHY DOESN´T THAT GIRL IN THE PURPLE TANK TOP IN THE FRONT WHO CAN THROW HER LEGS BEHIND HER HEAD HAVE ANY 7HAT IS SHE DOING THAT )´M NOT DOING ) WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET RID OF CELLULITE )F ) FOUND OUT THAT PURPLE TANK TOP GIRL IS KILLING PUPPIES TO GET RID OF CELLULITE ) WOULD TOTALLY¨WELL /+ NO ) ACTUALLY WOULDN´T DO THAT¨BUT STILL 3UPPOSEDLY IF YOU DRINK EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER A DAY YOU´LL LOOK LIKE A SUPERMODEL BUT ) AM SICK OF WATER IT´S SO BORING AND OH ) DON´T KNOW WATERY AND BESIDES )´LL NEVER BE A SUPERMODEL ) MEAN LOOK AT THE ODDS 4HERE ARE WHAT THREE BILLION WOMEN ON PLANET EARTH AND TEN OF THEM ARE SUPERMODELS 4HAT MAKES SUPERMODELS THE RAREST OF GENETIC FREAKS ) MIGHT AS WELL FEEL BAD ABOUT MYSELF FOR NOT BEING A HERMAPHRODITE THERE MUST BE LIKE HERMAPHRODITES ON EARTH AT LEAST ) HAD A SHOT AT THAT ONE /+ THAT´S PRETTY NEGATIVE THAT WAS ALL VERY MONKEY MINDISH OF ME (EY WHAT ARE THOSE MONKEYS WITH THE BIG ORANGE BUTTS /RANGUTANS ) WONDER IF ORANGUTANS WANDER AROUND THE JUNGLE ASKING THEIR MATES IF THEIR BUTT ISN´T ORANGE ENOUGH AND THE GUYS ARE ALL ±5H ) THINK YOUR BUTT IS THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF ORANGE ² AND THEN THE GIRL ORANGUTAN IS ALL ±'OD CAN´T G AND YOU KNOW DYE YOU JUST GIVE ME AN HONEST ANSWER BECAUSE SERIOUSLY IF IT´S NOT ORANGE ENOUGH )´LL JUST GO IT WITH SOME KIND OF LEAF OR BERRY WE´VE GOT LYING AROUND THE JUNGLE BECAUSE ) JUST WANT TO HAVE THE MOST PERFECTLY ORANGE BUTT FOR YOU² /W 4HIS HURTS HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO HOLD THIS STUPID POSE ) NEED CHOCOLATE 7HICH IS NOT REALLY THAT BAD FOR YOU BECAUSE ) READ THAT IT ACTUALLY CONTAINS A COMPOUND WHICH HELPS FIGHT TOOTH DECAY SO EATING CHOCOLATE IS PRACTICALLY THE SAME AS BRUSHING YOUR TEETH WHICH ) AM GOING TO DO A BETTER JOB OF NOW THAT )´M A POSITIVE PERSON IN YOGA GETTING IN TOUCH WITH MY BREATH WHETHER IT´S BAD OR NOT )´M NOT JUDGING EXCEPT ) AM JUDGING -ISS 0URPLE 4OP "ENDY 'IRL BECAUSE ) THINK SHE MAY HAVE SOLD HER SOUL TO BE THAT CELLULITE FREE WHICH IS A HIGH PRICE TO PAY BUT ON THE OTHER HAND NO CELLULITE¨ #ATHRYN -ICHON COMIC AND AUTHOR OF ±4HE 'RRL 'ENIUS 'UIDE TO 3EX 7ITH /THER 0EOPLE ²
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NEWS & NOTES FBI Makes Eco-Terror Top Priority n May, the Senate held “eco-terrorism” hearings. “One of today’s most serious domestic terrorism threats comes from special-interest extremist movements,” said John Lewis, the FBI deputy assistant director of counterterrorism, “...who target individuals or companies believed to be abusing or exploiting animals or the environment.” The hearings focused on the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), extremist groups that have claimed responsibility for more than 1,200 acts of vandalism and arson since 1990, according to Lewis. ALF has also been accused of bombing two biomedical research labs in California. The FBI has been monitoring the vandals for years, but some senators questioned the bureau’s motivations for prioritizing ELF and ALF as top “domestic terrorism” threats. “ELF and ALF may threaten dozens of people each year,” said James Jeffords, the Independent senator from Vermont, at the hearing, “but an incident at a chemical, nuclear or wastewater facility would threaten tens of thousands.” And it’s worth asking if some were trying to use ELF and ALF’s record to smear nonviolent environmental groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and even the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). At the hearings, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) accused PETA (famous for their provocative ad campaigns) of giving money to both ALF and ELF. And David Martosko, research director at the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a conservative, D.C.-based nonprofit, accused the Humane Society of funding ALF activities. Both PETA and the Humane Society have denied the allegations; the Humane Society is considering a defamation suit
14 | P L E N T Y
Action on Alaska Drilling he funeral hasn’t happened yet. But in April the U.S. House of Representatives rang a death knell for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) when it passed an energy bill that would allow unfettered drilling in the protected region. ANWR’s fate, however, is far from sealed: after the Senate irons out its version of the energy bill, both chambers must agree on a “reconciliation” bill in September. Many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Alaska Wilderness League, plan to spend the rest of the summer pestering legislators until they agree not to include a drilling provision in the final energy plan. The ongoing series of pro-Arctic protests had a showy start: about 100 demonstrators deposited a 900-pound baked Alaska outside the Capitol this past Earth Day, April 22, chanting the slogan “Don’t bake Alaska!” Crafted by Ben & Jerry’s as part of the ice-cream company’s “Lick Global Warming” campaign, the mammoth confection consisted of around 75 gallons of “Fossil Fuel” ice cream sandwiched between layers of cake and covered in gooey marshmallow.
against Martosko. “The suggestion that the HSUS supports any illegal action, or that it has ties to groups like ALF and ELF that it has repeatedly denounced, is patently false and outrageous,” wrote Humane Society
president Wayne Pacelle in a letter to Inhofe. “We believe harrassment, violence, and other illegal tactics are wholly unacceptable and inconsistent with a core ethic of promoting compassion and respect.” August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
AP PHOTO/KEVIN WOLF
Trash and Grease Add Up to Cleaner Air he state that brought us barbecue brisket and ten-gallon hats has produced another novelty: renewable biodiesel. In March the city of Denton, Texas, opened the first biodiesel plant in the United States that runs on alternative power—specifically, on methane gas extracted from a neighboring landfill. The plant will produce up to 3 million gallons of biodiesel, its owners say—a full tenth of the total amount produced in the United States in 2004. The key ingredient in the low-emitting, renewable fuel is grease; the Denton plant will use either “virgin” vegetable oil produced by local farmers or spent fryer oil from local restaurants. Biodiesel can be used in most standard diesel engines (see “Around the World on Veggie Oil,” page 24). But the production of biodiesel, like most alternative fuels, requires energy. And until that energy comes from a clean source such as the wind or the sun (instead of from coal or petroleum,
which provide most of our energy now), biodiesel’s lower tailpipe emissions will be canceled out by pollution at the generating plant. So how exactly is the new Texas plant, which runs on landfill gas, cleaner than your average coal-powered biodiesel factory? Dumps produce more of the greenhouse gas methane than any other human-related source, including coal mining, natural-gas production, and cattle farming. But landfills also represent a potentially huge direct source of energy: the methane and carbon dioxide that they inevitably spew into the atmosphere can be substituted wherever fossil fuels are now used. And when landfill gases are used as fuel, fewer of them escape into the atmosphere. There are nearly 400 landfill gas electricity plants in the country so far, according to EPA data. The agency has identified 600 additional landfills that would make suitable hosts for these plants.
PLENTY TIP OF THE MONTH:
AAA Not as Helpful as You Think AAA Motor Club, the national roadside assistance giant, is an environmentalist’s nightmare. So say advocacy groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. They allege that unbeknownst to most of AAA’s 48 million members, the group has lobbied hard against auto-emissions standards, public transportation, and legislation that would cool global warming. AAA spokesman Mantill Williams denies the accusation. “We have lobbied for transit funding all across the country, including funding for subways and buses,” he says. But the company has racked up a list of legislative indiscretions. For example, AAA’s California branch opposed the state’s anti–global warming auto-emissions bill when it came to a vote in the Senate. The national headquarters of AAA also opposed the Clean Air Act in 1990. So what’s a socially responsible car owner to do? AAA may collide head-on with the environment, but having no roadside assistance program could leave you stranded in the middle of a very dark night. Try the Better World Club (BWC). Founded in 2002 by progressive businessmen Mitch Rofsky and Todd Silberman, this upstart offers competitively priced national roadside assistance and travel services that are comparable with AAA’s. The Oregonbased company also offers an ecotravel service and a one-of-a-kind roadside assistance program for bikes(!), along with discounts on hybrid and biodiesel car rentals. That’s good news for green types, like Tom and Ray Magliozzi of the National Public Radio show Car Talk, who are stuck with the sometimes necessary evil of owning a car. “It’s great to have the option of supporting a roadside assistance program that doesn’t lobby the government to pave over every last single blade of grass on the planet,” says Tom. —Liz Galst www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
Seafood Labeling Stops Short ome fish now have to go through stricter background checks than gun buyers. In April the USDA began enforcing a three-year-old law requiring grocers to label the country of origin and production method (farm raised or wild caught) of every scaly, slimy, and shelly sea critter they sell. Recent studies have shown that farmed fish contain up to eleven times more toxic chemicals than their wild-caught kin, so shoppers are increasingly curious about the provenance of their perch and the history of their lobster. And these days many top chefs argue that wild fish taste far better than farmed, inspiring amateur gourmets, too, to buy wild. So the USDA’s new requirement— called the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program—is just what the doctor ordered, right? Well, only if your seafood supplier is a supermarket or big-box store. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t apply to fishmongers that sell only seafood or to any fish purveyor making less than $230,000 in sales a year. And it so happens that between 95 and 98 percent of all seafood vendors in the country are small fries, according to USDA statistics. The USDA does have a logic here. These little markets could lose big if they had to comply with COOL rules: the department estimates that the law costs each retailer between $50,000 and $400,000 total. And some shop owners worry that American buyers will question the freshness of fish with labels from faraway countries such as Iceland and Japan. Despite the cost, the small guys clearly need as much policing as the supermarkets. A New York Times survey conducted in March showed that a disturbing number of COOLexempt New York City fish retailers were mislabeling their products. The Times sent samples of supposedly wild salmon from eight upscale NYC fish markets to be analyzed by food scientists; six of the samples turned out to be farm raised. Of course, mislabeling food is a federal offense under existing FDA law, which is separate from COOL. But FDA officials spend very little time investigating mislabeled seafood—they’re more interested in bioterror and food safety these days. So buy wild, but be aware that you might not be getting what you paid for. —Christy Harrison
P L E N T Y | 15
CRAFTING A BETTER WORLD How Grandma’s favorite pastime will save your great-grandkids IT’S
THE UNLIKELIEST OF CAGE MATCHES.
“I gushes one of the contestants, a self-described amateur sculptor dressed in shades of fuchsia. Her slightly more menacing opponent is a bespectacled late-twentysomething with a dyed black bob and an affinity for handmade flowers. Above the chanting of the crowd (“Craft! Craft! Craft!”), a loudmouthed announcer lays down the rules of the game: each contestant will have ten minutes to make a work of art from the pile of junk that has been dumped on the stage. The best crafter—whose work is judged by criteria of beauty, utility, and creativity—will go on to compete to the death against the Craft Lady of Steel, a former stylist on Martha Stewart Living. Craft Corner Deathmatch, a 30-minute game show that airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern time) on cable’s Style Network, is the latest in a growing lineup of media that speak to hipster do-it-yourselfers (DIY-ers). This is a new generation of homemakers who handcraft artsy housewares and often use recycled materials. The March premiere of Deathmatch included projects such as making trivets out of trash and women’s lingerie out of men’s tightywhities; other episodes have featured wind chimes made from defunct kitchen gadgets and hats made from old, mismatched socks. The show—the first on TV to approach crafting in this way—is delivered with a healthy dose of irony. Deathmatch “is a Martha Stewart craft segment turned inside out,” says Jessica Vitkus, the show’s supervising craft producer. “Martha approaches crafts in a soothing way,” says the 39-year-old Vitkus, who has also worked in the crafts departments of Stewart’s TV show and magazine. But the Deathmatch team takes a different approach—one that Vitkus describes as “screaming about embroidery”—to appeal to a younger audience and make people look at old materials in new ways. Other big names in hipster crafting include ReadyMade magazine and the online communities at craftster.org and getcrafty.com (all
THE GRATE BEYOND: Old household junk gets a new life
16 | P L E N T Y
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO COURTESY THRIFTDELUXE
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based in the United States), and the Web site ing music or finding friends, you share dissays that some Craftsters are clearly out to ThriftDeluxe (based in London). These media tinctly hip craft ideas,” she explains. Reuse make an environmental statement, but hiphave gained major ground over the would-be projects are popular on Craftster; the site ster homemakers also reuse for economic Marthas in the last decade. gives suggestions on how to turn old textand even egotistical reasons: “Finding a way Perhaps this is because the new craft goes books into bags, computer innards into cufto remake existing things can be a big money deeper than needlepoint: it has political motiflinks, and 8-track tapes into safes. Kramer saver, rather than having to buy new materivation. Jean Railla, an old-school als,” she says. “And it also gets you member of the movement, who lots of extra kudos for ingenuity.” founded getcrafty.com in 1997, Reuse has serious cachet in these says she came to craftiness from a crafty communities. feminist perspective. “I wanted to Though DIY is trendy these build a community of women to days, crafters say the movement is share ideas and process how to be more than a mere fad because it is domestic and remain strong, intelbased on deep social needs. ligent women,” she says. Crafting is an effort to carve out Craftmeisters’ politics also include identity amid a commercial culthe desire to avoid sweatshop-proture. The last two generations duced clothing and use resources “have grown up with mass conresponsibly. Thrift shopping, maksumerism, and it strips you of your ing art projects out of recycled individuality,” explains Berger; materials, swapping clothing, and making your own things is a lastfinding furniture on the street are ing way to combat that sameness. ways in which Railla says we can Vitkus likens handcrafted gear to a “tread softly on the earth.” costume that the wearer can use to But far from recalling the hide from a mass-market world. back-to-the-land granolaism of She also says most people underthe past, today’s DIY movement is stand that crafts, which are often part of the growing trend toward given as gifts, are to be treasured sustainable style. Shoshana for the love and effort put into Berger, editor-in-chief of them, not to be thrown out like ReadyMade, says that DIY obsolete technologies. Berger is “makes environmental consciousquick to add that ReadyMade ness less stigmatized.” Young doesn’t see “big-bucks retail” as ecophiles are ready to move inherently bad. “In a recent issue beyond the austere stereotypes we tell you how to customize and political ineffectiveness (think IKEA stuff,” she says, pointing scruffy kids in sandals petitioning out that hipster DIY is practical to save the whales) that have led enough to allow for compromise. some in the green movement to Part aesthetics, part politics, declare the “death of environmenpart irony, the new craft movement talism.” Berger already refers to it is both theatrical and earnest. in the past tense: “The environWhile some folks make treasures mental movement was seen as out of trash because they oppose crunchy and doctrinaire, and it sweatshops and want to save the reminded us too much of our parplanet, crafting is also campy and ents with their ’70s hippie tiedorky, like karaoke. And like dye,” she says. merry (if sometimes cacophoThe new DIY movement is nous) karaokeans, crafters also very much a product of applaud one another. DIY is about today’s technological culture. using the resources one has availLeah Kramer, the brains behind able to create something unique Craftster, says she was inspired to for a generally receptive, supportlaunch the site in 2003 by her love ive audience. That democratic of crafting, her “geeky” computerspirit may not immediately be eviscience background, and the dent in the cutthroat competitions online communities Napster and of Deathmatch, but Vitkus lets us YOU KIND OF WANT TO PUNCH HIM, but that’s the point. Jason Jones, the Friendster. “I thought it would be in on the show’s larger goal: “We host of Craft Corner Deathmatch, gets saucy with contestants (top, middle) and pits a mild-mannered scrapbooker against the Craft Lady of Steel (bottom). fun to try to create a community hope our viewers will start smashlike those, where instead of sharing up their own stuff, too.” ■ 18 | P L E N T Y
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOS COURTESY CRAFT CORNER DEATHMATCH
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O N T E C H N O LO GY
The inventors of electronic paper hoped to give us the “last book,” but we might have to settle for “another gadget.” JIM QUINN INVENTIONS
USUALLY ANNOUNCE THEMSELVES
EASY READ E-paper finally grows up from train schedule to consumer gadget, such as the LIBRIé (above).
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but not MIT physicist Joe Jacobson’s. His just sits on a shelf in his office—a small slip of paper, no bigger than an index card. It looks and feels like the kind of thick, coated paper used to make the covers of magazines like the one you’re reading now. There are geometric shapes printed on it. The paper looks deceptively normal. But a closer look reveals that this is not ordinary ink. The black shapes vanish and then reappear in different spots in an endlessly repeating pattern. The invention is electronic paper. Jacobson hopes it will save the world. At least he hopes it will save the world from paper (the regular kind, with ink that can’t move). Magazines, baseball cards, menus, toilet tissue, theater tickets, birth certificates, gift wrapping, maps, pizza boxes, photographs—paper is such a versatile, inexpensive material that the world makes 300 million tons a year, and we throw away 40 percent of it. As that percentage grows, so do deforestation and landfills. Jacobson is one of a handful of inventors and investors who have been competing to create a new kind of material that looks and reads like paper—notice how much easier it is to read this magazine than the text on your cell-phone or computer screen—but is endlessly reusable. The race began in 1975 when Nicholas Sheridon, a physicist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, got tired of eyestrain from squinting at computer screens (now relics, the cathode-ray tube monitors displayed bright green text against a dark green background). He began designing a computer screen that looked good in any kind of light, just like paper, but Xerox held off on developing his idea. In 2000 Xerox launched Gyricon Media with Sheridon as its research director. Today, Gyricon sells retail products called SynchroSigns, which use Sheridon’s SmartPaper technology. A central computer controls the text on hundreds of signs, allowing store managers to change them as fast and as often as they want. “The reason stores have three-day sales is because it takes so August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
IMAGES COURTESY OF E INK
TO THE WORLD,
You may get to retire to the sun and fun, but your old cell phones don’t. Rather than retire them to the trash bin or an old sock drawer, recycle. You’ll help our environment and help your neighbors in the process. Take your old cell phones to one of our thousands of national collection centers. We’ll recycle them or refurbish them, and donate a portion of the proceeds to select charities. Visit www.call2recycle.org or call toll-free 877-2-RECYCLE for the recycling center nearest you.
©2004 Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. Founded in 1994, RBRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to recycling rechargeable batteries and cellular phones. For more information: www.rbrc.org or 1-800-8-BATTERY
O N T E C H N O LO GY IMAGINE A GADGET THAT DOES FOR TEXT WHAT AN IPOD DOES FOR MUSIC. long to change all the signs,” says Jim Welch, director of marketing for Gyricon. “With us, you can have three-hour sales.” Jacobson started on his technology later than Sheridon but moved faster. He invented electronic ink in 1997, and a year later MIT licensed the technology to E Ink, a start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Jacobson sits on the board of directors. E Ink’s first products were signs for retail stores and transit authorities. Sheridon’s and Jacobson’s inventions are similar: a sheet of plastic covered with microscopic, fluid-filled cells. In Sheridon’s version each cell contains a tiny ball that is white on one side and black on the other. Jacobson’s cells contain tiny white and black particles. The balls and the particles are magnetic, with opposite charges for black and white. Depending on the signal, the black or white side of a ball turns to the front of a cell or a particle rises to the surface. While Jacobson’s technology was first used on large signs, his motivation was originally what he calls the “last book”: a bound volume of electronic paper, using a trickle of electricity from a little battery or solar cell to display an endless number of texts— everything from algebra lessons to tomorrow’s weather forecast—that users could download via a modem. It would be a green, affordable way to provide reading material to the developing world. In China alone, says Jacobson, 200 million rural children don’t have nearly enough textbooks. “Imagine how many trees you’d need to cut down,” he says. His dream has almost come true. In 2004 the LIBRIé hit the market in Japan. A joint venture of E Ink, Royal Phillips Electronics, and the Sony Corporation, the paperback-size LIBRIé (LEE bree aa) uses Jacobson’s technology and is currently sold in Japan for $375. Think of it as a gadget that does for text what an iPod does for music. The LIBRIé features a sheet of electronic paper 5 inches high and 3.5 inches wide. The plastic case contains the battery, circuitry, controls, and ports needed to upload books, magazines, or newspapers. The device looks something like a PDA on steroids and has enough memory to hold 500 books.
“You can read it on the subway, outside in bright sunlight—anywhere you could read a book,” says Darren Bischoff of E Ink. With a resolution of 125 dots per inch, the LIBRIé has a print quality approaching that of a newspaper. The device only needs power to change the text. Turn off the power, and the text remains visible for as long as needed. Welch says that Gyricon hopes to produce its own e-book someday. Its prototype works similarly to a window shade that rolls up into a cylinder. Pull on the shade, and out rolls a sheet of flexible, readable electronic paper. The idea isn’t practical yet because the company can’t achieve the resolution necessary to make small text characters legible. Jacobson’s resolution is high enough, but, Bischoff says, the biggest problem with electronic paper isn’t technological: “Think of the iPod. Part of what made it a success was inventing a system for selling music in a form the music companies could accept.” Print publishers have the same concerns as music companies about copyrights and file sharing, so someone has to develop a business model that publishers will embrace. So far, e-publishing ventures by several interests—including Barnes & Noble as well as novelist Stephen King—have been commercial disappointments. If and when the publishing industry finds the right approach, the LIBRIé will be great for those of us who can spend hundreds on a gizmo. But will it accomplish Jacobson’s goal of minimizing deforestation and waste? Not unless it gets cheaper. “The whole point of electronic paper is to get a display that is closer in price to paper than to electronic displays we use now,” Jacobson says, claiming that it’s only a few years away. The device will be, he says, the cheapest, cleanest, most effective way to provide books to developing nations (provided they have accessible modems). John L. West, vice president of research at Kent State University, agrees. “That won’t be the factor that gets electronic paper into the market,” he says. “But it will be a long-range outcome.” On May 25 Phillips announced that it will sell the LIBRIé display technology to Prime View International, a large Taiwanese manufacturer that will mass-produce electronic paper for Sony. Bischoff is expecting the product to be released in the United States within the next year. “I can’t wait,” says West. “I want to be able to read the newspaper without having to go pick it up. I’d like to be able to take as many books as I want on vacation.” ■ August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
A WORLD OF
PLENTY IT ’S EASY BEING GREEN
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AROUND THE WORLD ON VEGGIE OIL THE EARTHRACE SETS OUT TO BUOY BIODIESEL CHRISTY HARRISON RACE ROUTE: BARBADOSPANAMA ACAPULCOSAN DIEGO HAWAIIMAJURO KORORSINGAPORE MALDIVESADEN PORT SAIDMÁLAGA CANARY ISLANDSBARBADOS TO VOLUNTEER or for more information, visit www.earthrace.net
PETE BETHUNE HOPES TO HIT SOME ROUGH MARCH AND APRIL. The 40-yearold New Zealander is planning to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat, and his vessel of choice is the Earthrace, a Batmobile-esque, 65-footlong “wave piercer.” The boat’s trimaran design—with three slim hulls that hold the craft up high while slicing through the water—allows it to go much faster than other boats when the seas are choppy. What is unique about Bethune’s craft, though, is that it will run on biodiesel. “A major reason for attempting this record is to place a global spotlight on biodiesel as a serious alternative to fossil fuels,” Bethune says. “Of course, we also want to win the record.” An engineer who used to work in the petroleum industry, Bethune had always known that fossil-fuel reserves were limited; two years ago, while doing research for his M.B.A. thesis, he became a strong supporter of alternative energy. When it comes to environmental impact, biodiesel, a type of fuel made from new or used cooking grease, blows regular diesel out of the water. Biodiesel produces fewer
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greenhouse gases than conventional petroleum diesel and half the overall level of emissions. Nontoxic and smelling vaguely of french fries, biodiesel breaks down within 30 days—meaning any spills pose a minuscule threat to waters. Biodiesel runs in any diesel engine. The Earthrace is outfitted with two Cummins Mercruisers, popular powerboat engines that are sold around the world to boating and fishing enthusiasts. In testing a prototype of the boat, Bethune and his crew of three went at full throttle into six-foot-high waves. Despite being completely submerged at times, the Earthrace passed right through the high surf, barely slowing down. While mind-blowing, the design of the craft is not particularly new. Wave piercers have been used as passenger ferries since their development by an Australian company in the mid-1980s, and three wave piercers have already held records for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. military, along with navies around the world, has recently begun to use them in battle. The Earthrace will be used for more diplomatic purposes. Before the race begins
EARTHRACE SCHEDULE: 2005: OCTOBER: New Zealand port tour DECEMBER: North America port tour (part 1) 2006: MARCH-APRIL: circumnavigation record attempt MAY: North America port tour (part 2) SEPTEMBER: European port tour 2007: JANUARY: Asia/Middle East port tour JUNE: Australia port tour JULY: Boat returns to New Zealand
and after it ends, Bethune and his three crewmates will tour the world educating people about renewable fuels and their environmental benefits. The crew also plans to give public tours of the boat, and teams of volunteers will be on hand to talk up the Earthrace and its sponsors. If all goes well, the trimaran could smash the current powerboat circumnavigation record, which is held by the British-based Cable and Wireless Adventurer. That boat circled the globe in just under 75 days in 1998, according to the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM), the oldest international association to keep records on motorboat racing. Bethune and his crew aim to do it in less than 65 days. Interestingly, sailboats have already bested Bethune’s hoped-for time: the sailing crew that currently holds the world record went around the world in 50 days. (A powerboat takes longer because it has to stop to refuel, August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO TIM COSTAR
THE PROTOTYPE VERSION of the Earthrace on its test run in waters off New Zealand (above). The bigger, badder final version (shown at left in an artist’s rendering) will soon be greasing its way to a port near you.
and it also presents a host of mechanical challenges to its crew.) So for the Earthrace, finishing in 65 days won’t be easy. Around-the-world sea travelers encounter many perils—icebergs, galeforce winds, mountain-size waves, and nearcollisions with whales, among others. In addition, Bethune has chosen a southerly route that, while potentially quicker than others he could take, has longer distances between ports—nearly 2,700 nautical miles (roughly 3,100 land miles) at one point. The boat must travel that stretch only on the fuel it can carry: UIM race rules do not allow refueling at sea. But biodiesel is hard to come by at ports in Yemen, Egypt, and the remote islands outside Guam. While Europe leads the world in biodiesel production, even the United States has only 35 active producers and fewer than 300 fueling stations across the country. So to gain access to the veggie fuel in far-flung www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
locations, Bethune says, he must arrange deliveries from big distributors worldwide. Bethune also worries about the cultural issues at some of these ports, many of which are political hot spots. He is particularly concerned about Aden, the Yemeni port that was the site of the 2001 USS Cole bombing. To counter any potential problems, he plans to have an Arabic speaker in the ground crew there; and, he says, he expects that with the proper organization, the stop in Aden “will go with only a few hitches.” Bethune’s crusade will, of course, require big bucks, and he has had some trouble securing the necessary funds— between $3 million and $4 million, he says. “We started meeting with Coke and Burger King and got nowhere,” he says. “We almost abandoned the project.” Then, he began approaching “some of the hardware people”—companies in the marine industry that make the parts and gadgets used to
assemble the boat—and, he says, they have been very responsive. Now the team needs only to raise an additional $300,000 to get the boat in the water. Surprisingly, the biggest Earthrace supporters aren’t industry people; they’re regular young folk. “The key demographics of supporters are 15- to 35-year-olds—almost equal male and female—and only a small proportion are what you would think of as marine people,” Bethune wrote in a recent “captain’s blog.” He believes that young people are more willing than the older generations to volunteer both time and money. “A 30-year-old is much more likely to donate $50 to the cause than a 65-year-old,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Young people really connect with Earthrace.” It remains to be seen whether the Earthrace team will break the record. But the trip will certainly break new ground as the first world-girding race on biodiesel. ■ P L E N T Y | 25
MY WAY The Next Direction in Music
NO IDEA WHAT HE WANTED TO DO WHEN HE GREW UP.
But on a camping trip in the California mountains, he sang a few of his songs. A week later, a fellow camper told Murdoch that he had a future in music and offered to manage him. Murdoch agreed, gigged around, then recorded four songs for a CD that he marketed himself. A year later, one of those songs, “Orange Sky,” has been featured on the Garden State soundtrack and in a Honda commercial—and the CD has sold 20,000 copies on the Internet. So who needs a record company? Fewer musicians than ever. And it’s not because the suits at the handful of big labels don’t get their music. Rather, musicians are interested in becoming CEOs of their own labels because mainstream record companies aren’t paying fair wages. Courtney Love did the explanatory math in a speech to the Digital Hollywood conference five years ago. Say a band gets a $1 million advance. After the usual suspects take their cuts, the band gets $180,000. A year later, the band’s CD is released. It sells a whopping 1 million copies. But after promotional costs, the band owes the record company $2 million. The label, however, has grossed $11 million from that CD—and about $6.6 million of that is profit. And this is only the start of the label’s score: that CD is classified as a “work for hire,” meaning the artists don’t own their songs. Love’s conclusion? It almost doesn’t matter how many CDs a group sells if its music is controlled by a mega-label. “The band may as well be working at a 7-Eleven,” she says. Ani DiFranco, the singer-songwriter who is the poster child for artistic independence, figured out that game 16 CDs ago. Her company, Righteous Babe, releases her music (and the CDs of more than a dozen other artists) and stands as a successful example of what DiFranco describes as a “people-friendly, subcorporate, woman-informed, queer-
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happy small business.” How successful? With perhaps 15 people on staff in her Buffalo, New York, headquarters, DiFranco pockets about $4.25 per CD. A group with a bigger name on a bigger label might get $1.25 per CD. (Of course, a bigger group sells many, many times more CDs than Ms. DiFranco.) But sales and profits are not her goal. “I mourn the commodification and homogenization of music by the music industry,” she says. “Last thing I want to do is feed the machine.” While DiFranco may speak the language of an indie revolutionary, mainstream bands, too, are getting fed up with big labels. Take Linkin Park. The hugely popular band has already sold 17.9 million CDs for Warner Music Group, a subsidiary of Time Warner that launched in 2004. Warner executives invited Linkin Park to play at the New York Stock Exchange for the new company’s initial public offering in May of this year. Linkin Park not only refused the invitation but also announced, “We want off the Warner Music Group.” The band’s explanation: the company was more interested in rewarding investors than supporting the creativity of its artists. Can artists succeed without a corporate patron? Thanks to the Internet, yes. Indeed, on the Web, “fringe” artists often sell more music than the so-called stars. This is especially good news for jazz, which has the misfortune of accounting for less than 3 percent of the CDs sold annually in America; of 11 genres measured by Nielsen SoundScan, jazz was the biggest audience loser of 2004. When Maria Schneider—a Grammy Award winner who was accustomed to selling 20,000 copies of each CD—saw that jazz was leaving traditional stores for Web sites, she went into business for herself. At www.mariaschneider.com, you can not only buy her new orchestral jazz CD, but you can also get so close to her music you’re almost attending her rehearsals: she offers rough mixes, early takes, and other tidbits that mainstream labels would cast aside. Most music lovers won’t care. But 4,000 of her fans have bought the new CD from the site, making it her most profitable yet.
A musician acting like a grown-up, caring about business, looking into the future beyond the teenage girl in the front row— this is still very much an underground phenomenon. It’s certainly not the image of a musician that the big labels want you to have. Much better that you think of Kid Rock, lurching around in a limo with a beer, or Name-a-Rapper, resplendent in bling. (While many mainstream rappers have started their own labels, they often turn around and sell those companies to major labels or arrange distribution deals with the big guys, so they’re not truly free of the “machine.”) Those hard-living role models may die broke, but they’re sure using their 15 minutes to the utmost. Righteous, dudes! They may look cool, but they’re missing the boat. The money in music today comes from live performance; there the artist tends to get half or more of ticket sales. The CD? It’s just promotion for the tour. The tail is now wagging the dog. And it will become the dog as more and more bands come to believe they won’t get a fair shake, artistically and financially, from the big labels. What will it take for the musician-asCEO to make the cover of Newsweek? A major star going out on his or her own. Natalie Merchant, apparently, is not big enough, although she left Elektra this year to make an acoustic album on Myth America, her own label, and—without promotion or a tour—sold 100,000 copies of it. And Branford Marsalis, a longtime veteran at Columbia, made no headlines when he left that venerable label to launch Marsalis Music. Maybe his explanation was just too threatening: “My brother Ellis III once pointed out the difference between those who want to provide a service to the community and make a profit, and those who just want to make a profit at the expense of the community. We want to provide a service to the music community first.” Yes, community matters. But so does the bottom line. Somewhere out there, a boldfaced name is looking at a balance sheet and wondering why success has failed to generate prosperity—or artistic satisfaction. When that penny drops, a change is gonna come—and it may mean a better living for musicians and better music for us. Could it even mean lower prices for CDs? Hey, we can dream. ■ August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
American ingenuity is everywhere.
Just not in AmericaÕs energy policy.
TodayÕs energy policies disregard American know-how and compromise our national security. America is a nation of innovators, but youÕd never know that from the plans that Washington is cooking up. They rely on yesterdayÕs polluting technologies and do almost nothing to free us from Middle East oil or create jobs at home. ItÕs time for a real solution. American technologies exist that could save millions of barrels of oil and billions of dollars every month. Go to www.nrdc.org and learn about an energy policy that strengthens our economy, protects the environment, and actually makes us more secure. Natural Resources Defense Council
OF JUNK AND GENIUSES Inside New York City’s trash heaps and the Nobel Prize sperm bank GARBAGE LAND BY ELIZABETH ROYTE (LITTLE, BROWN, $24.95)
Sometimes an epic quest starts with an obsession. Elizabeth Royte first ventured on the trail of trash after repeatedly weighing and sorting through her own household detritus—everything from coffee grounds to banana peels to package wrappers—and keeping a diary of her refuse. She came to the conclusion that she should be doing a much better job of shrinking her “garbage footprint” (a hunk of moldy cheese could have been trimmed, scraps of paper reused for notes). That mundane and messy activity led her to investigate exactly what happens to all the stuff we throw away, and through a series of road trips, she analyzes the uneasy relationship Americans have with their garbage. Royte’s first foray is with her local sanitation men, “New York’s Strongest,” who lift five to six tons a day and suffer a higher mortality rate (46 deaths per 100,000 workers) than any other city laborers. From there Royte visits transfer stations and landfills; paper, plastic, and metal recyclers; and the company that “pelletizes” New York’s biosolids—that is, human excrement. Her travels introduce her to a compelling cast of characters: an anthropology professor who offers a graduate-level course in “Garbage and Gotham;” a hip and elegant former social worker who runs New York City’s largest scrap business; and a passel of committed environmentalists who have much to say about our sloppy ways with waste. It’s a dirty tour, all in all, and some of the information uncovered is ugly and dismaying. A lot of our most toxic waste winds up in China, Pakistan, and India, for example, where workers wearing no protective gear extract precious metals from discarded electronics. About half of these discards are contaminated, often landing in sites where they leach nasty chemicals into the soil. Royte concludes that both at home and abroad we’re not doing a very good job of taking care of our trash. In the end, though, “[w]e don’t need better ways to get rid of things,” she writes. “We need to not get rid of things, either by keeping them cycling through the system or not designing and 28 | P L E N T Y
desiring them in the first place.” Sometimes Royte’s findings—not to mention the subject itself—are a bit overwhelming, but this book is an important contribution to any ecologically aware library. Like it or not, the goods we cast off will always be with us, and the afterlife of garbage, if we don’t get smarter about the ways it’s processed and recycled, presents a very bleak future indeed.
THE GENIUS FACTORY:
THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF THE NOBEL PRIZE SPERM BANK BY DAVID PLOTZ (RANDOM HOUSE, $24.95)
In 1980 an eccentric millionaire named Robert Graham, who made his fortune inventing shatterproof eyeglasses, embarked on a bizarre experiment to help reverse what he perceived as the steady genetic decline of the American populace. His Repository for Germinal Choice in San Diego, California, was established to collect sperm from the “choicest” male donors, including Nobel Prize winners, with the aim of matching that seed with prime female
candidates and producing a generation of superbabies. Journalist David Plotz stumbled across mention of the sperm bank while researching a biography of William Shockley, a brilliant scientist who became notorious for a well-publicized campaign to discourage racial minorities and poor people from having offspring. (It was Shockley who gave Graham his first Nobel sperm.) Using the Internet, Plotz managed to track down about 30 offspring, donors, and mothers from this strange episode in eugenics, becoming involved in ways he could hardly have imagined when he took on the role of “sperm detective.” (For the sake of a thoroughgoing investigation, Plotz felt compelled to make his own donation to a “cryobank,” and he records the experience in unblushing detail.) The writer eventually makes contact with a handful of the intrepid moms and their offspring, matching them to the original donors with decidedly mixed results. Some of the stories are heartening, such as that of 12-yearold Joy, who finds an indulgent “grandpa” in her biological father—and in turn he, then in his 70s, finds a new lease on life in nurturing his daughter from a distance. Other outcomes are not so cheery: 18-year-old Tom’s “real” father turns out to be a charming loser who lives in squalor on property owned by drug dealers. The most famous sperm-bank baby of them all, Doron Blake, whose mother lost no opportunity to push him into the limelight from infancy on—appearing with him on TV news shows ranging from 48 Hours to 60 Minutes—ends up a rather embittered college student. “It was a screwed-up idea, making genius people,” he tells Plotz. “I have not done anything special.” The narrative is laced with intriguing detours into the history of sperm banks and the twisted ambitions of eugenicists, but the reader is left with some misgivings: it seems a bit creepy for a journalist to become so actively involved with the fates of his subjects, arranging reunions that would never have taken place without him and tagging along to witness the results. But perhaps in an age of widespread biological meddling— whether it’s cloning or in vitro fertilization—Plotz’s interference is only an echo of larger forces on the frontiers of a brave new — ANN LANDI world. August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
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Simple. Visit www.earthshare.org and learn how the worldâ€™s leading environmental groups are working together under one name. And how easy it is for you to help protect the prairies and the penguins and the planet.
One environment. One simple way to care for it.
Sustainability meets style
From alternative energy in your palm to creative reuse of car seats, these products put you in an environmental groove.
ET L T U O E TH F O T U O
POCKET SOCKET $20 (medistechnologies.com) If fuel cells don’t have to power submarines or spaceships, they don’t have to be the size of your sofa either. This power pack by Medis Technologies will juice up your iPod, cell phone, digital camera, or PDA in a matter of seconds. Available in ’06.
$119 (solio.com) This sleek, pocketsize solar charger from Solio will help you take your music off the grid. It powers an iPod in five to seven hours.
SO SO SOLAR $335 (sierrasolar.com) It’s summer and the sun is blazing, so take your laptop to the source and work outside all day. The Notepower Solar Laptop Charger also comes with a ten-foot cord, letting you stay in the shade while it laps up the sunshine.
www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
P L E N T Y | 31
YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
YUMMY WORMS $11.50 (3rliving.com) Make colorful, all-natural gummies right in your own kitchen. The secret ingredient is seaweed.
32 | P L E N T Y
UP T I G AY I N
$8 (radiustoothbrush.com) It’s cute, it’s sturdy, and it’s made from recyclable plastic. Radius’s travel organizer will separate your rings from your things and won’t clog up a landfill.
FORWARD THINKING $150 (ThamesandKosmos.com) Let the kid in you dream of the future: build a car that runs on the power of the sun and water. The Fuel Cell Car Kit is from Thames and Kosmos and comes with instructions for up to 30 experiments.
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
i*IBWFUXPHJSMTBOE*XBOUUPLOPXXIBUTJOUIFXBUFS XFESJOLFWFSZEBZ*WFIFBSEBCPVUDIMPSJOFBOEnVPSJEF "SFUIFZHPPEGPSNZHJSMT 5IFFOWJSPONFOU 8IBUT JONZDJUZTUBQXBUFSBOEXIZ wÂ‰0SFHPO1BSFOU 5IFSFTBEJTDVTTJPOIBQQFOJOHBU4VTUBJO-BOFJUTBQMBDFGPSQFPQMF MJLFZPVBOENFXIPXBOUNPSFPVUPGMJGFFWFSZEBZ7JTJUPVS HSPXJOHDPNNVOJUZLOPXMFEHFCBTFBOEmOEUIFBOTXFSTUPZPVS RVFTUJPOTDPODFSOJOHIFBMUI GBNJMZ GPPE USBOTQPSUBUJPO IPNF BOENPOFZXXXTVTUBJOMBOFDPNXBUFS 4PNFPGPVSDPOUSJCVUPSTBSFMFBEFSTJOTVTUBJOBCJMJUZZFU XFSFBMMKVTUQFPQMF XPSLJOHUPHFUIFSUPJNQMF NFOUSFBMXPSMETPMVUJPOTGPSBNPSFMJWBCMFGVUVSF/PCPEZIBTBMMUIFBOTXFST CVUCZNBLJOHBQMBDF XIFSFJEFBTBSFFYDIBOHFEXJUIMFBEJOHFEHFQFSTQFDUJWFTXFSFDSFBUJOHTPNFUIJOHFOUJSFMZOFX $PNFCZBOEKPJOUIFEJTDVTTJPO
the art of nature
PRETTY A S A PICT URE
34 | P L E N T Y
$60 and up (gyotaku.com) Donâ€™t mount and stuff your prize sport fish; eat it. In the Japanese art of gyotaku, images are printed off freshly caught seafood. Hawaiian artist Naoki Hayashi is a diver and fisherman who has rendered sea critters onto aloha shirts, shoji screens, and surfboards.
(firstname.lastname@example.org) Artist Elizabeth Austin paints the night sky and puts it in a box. Painted in the reverse on clear acrylic, with holographic media, her miniatures seem to glow from the inside. Each work is numbered and framed in a handcrafted Florentine wood box.
LET FREEDOM HONK $2,500 (uncommongoods.com) Artist Aaron Foster doesnâ€™t let the hard work of inmates go to waste. He uses vintage U.S. license plates to show off his patriotism.
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
DRIVE ME CRAZY $65-$220 (kimwhitehandbags.com) Designer Kim White buys up antique car upholstery and fashions it into groovy handbags.
I T A LO NG
C A R RY
JUICY COUTURE $25 (bazura.biz) Divine beach bags are made of juice boxes sewn together by a womenâ€™s cooperative in the Philippines. You get wearable art that empties landfills.
bagging it 36 | P L E N T Y
RECYCLED CAPACITY $80 (hipandzen.com) Your old newspapers find new life in this nifty woven tote. Lest you worry about newsprint on your haberdashery, these bags are laminated and smearproof.
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
ÂŠ2003 Sea Turtle Restoration Project
To find out how you can help save the Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle from extinction, visit savetheleatherback.com.
Preservation Ecotourism may be what the untouched
PHOTOGRAPHS BOTH PAGES COURTESY JUNGLE BAY RESORT
isle of Dominica needs to preserve its natural and cultural wealth. By Kate Siber
38 | P L E N T Y
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
The 100-foot Victoria Falls, on the eastern side of the island
hen Christopher Columbus discovered the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica in 1493, he found a shoreline so rocky and perilous he refused to land. Years later, European settlers were repelled by the fierce native Caribs, dense rainforests, and impossibly rugged topography. Dominica was one of the last islands in the region to be colonized; nowadays, it would probably be the only island Columbus would recognize.
Blossoms at Papillote Wilderness Retreat
On a planet where few natural places remain untouched, this 29mile-long isle, sandwiched between Martinique and Guadeloupe, is a little-known haven for all things natural. No other country has as much protected land per capita: more than 20 percent of the island is legally set aside as a national park or forest, and nearly two-thirds of it is jungle. Dominica has a mind-boggling number of ecosystems, with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain and eight live volcanoes— one of the greatest concentrations in the world. A traveler can go from low tropical rainforest to high elfin woodland and see more than 170 species of birds, including the endangered endemic Sisserou and Jacko parrots. But this infant country, which was peacefully granted independence from the British in 1978, is at a crossroads. Dominica’s banana trade, virtually its only industry, collapsed in 2001 after the European Union, under pressure from the United States, stopped subsidizing banana farmers. The number of growers dwindled to fewer than 1,000, from 7,000, and now many Dominicans are looking to the tourist industry to buoy the flailing economy. Some want to turn the island into the next St. Thomas or St. Croix, which were successfully transformed into international vacation destinations in the 1960s. But with no palm-ensconced white-sand beaches—in fact, scarcely any beaches at all—or luxury hotels, Dominica’s path is less obvious. Others advocate an entirely different tourism product, one particularly suited to Dominica’s rugged rainforest setting: ecotourism. Dominica has hit a critical moment: with a 25 percent unemployment rate and a startling number of emigrants—as many Dominicans live on the island as abroad—the country needs a viable solution fast.
THE TOURISM COMPROMISE For some time, Dominica has generated tourism dollars by catering to day visitors from Caribbean cruise ships. While the number of annual overnight visitors to the island, fewer than 70,000, has stayed relatively constant for the past decade, cruise ship arrivals have doubled, to 300,000, in the past eight years. Some Dominicans, including key political figures, would like to attract more cruise-ship day-trippers, and developments catering to them have started to multiply. In 2003 a private company opened the Rain Forest Aerial Tram, a 90-minute gondola ride that takes passengers two and a half miles 40 | P L E N T Y
Roadside attractions: Dominica’s wild eastern coastline
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
No other country on the planet has as much protected land per capita
PHOTOS CLOCKWISE FROM LOWER LEFT: CHRISTOPHER BAUMGARNER, KATE SIBER, CHRISTOPHER BAUMGARTNER, KATE SIBER
Dominica as Columbus saw it: the rugged Atlantic shore
into the rain forest to see canopy wildlife. Though the tram is well liked by visitors, many Dominicans opposed its construction. The tram’s 19 poles and 22 eight-passenger cars required clearing 41 acres of rain forest. Plans to extend the tram to Boiling Lake were foiled when Morne Trois Pitons National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, limiting future development. In the past two years, the government completed another project designed for cruise-ship tourists: the construction of a new road to Freshwater Lake, a tourist attraction in the high, cool midsection of the island. The road was controversial because it paved over a swath of rain forest and part of the lake to allow for a visitor’s center and large tour buses. Environmentalists and ecotourism proponents see the road as a turnoff to potential eco-conscious visitors. Many of the local villagers, however, believe the road will attract tourists—and tourist dollars. The government’s next contentious plan involves constructing a quarter-mile-long berth on Roseau’s waterfront to accommodate larger cruise ships.
THE ECO-TOURISM ALTERNATIVE The capitol city of Roseau assumes a different character on cruiseship days. Vendors peddle trinkets, freelance guides offer whirlwind tours, and normally languid café owners jump to accommodate the American and European tourists. Some see this bustle as a sign of prosperity. For others, these days shatter the harmony of the island. “The cruise ship is not sustainable,” says Jeane Finucane, owner of Hummingbird Inn, a small eco-lodge near Roseau. “It’s not for an island like Dominica. Everything on that cruise ship is luxury, and we can’t do that.” Finucane is part of a growing group of conservationists 42 | P L E N T Y
THE NEW COLONIALISM? Ecotourism is a new movement and a hard sell—many Dominicans see it as an import from the white North and remain skeptical that it could have any advantages. “The argument is that environmentalism is a bunch of white people who want us to remain underdeveloped so they can keep these places as parks to vacation in,” says Henry Shillingford, a New York–raised Dominican environmental attorney and former program director of the Dominica Conservation Association. Shillingford recently secured more than $300,000 from the European Union to initiate cultural and natural heritage preservation programs. His projects help bring tourists into the island’s native Carib community—the largest remaining enclave of these aboriginal inhabitants in the Caribbean—to learn about traditional building techniques, dances, and cuisine; hold sustainable agriculture seminars; and preserve Roseau’s historic downtown buildings and gardens. “My argument is that the environment is our heritage. We’re not importing anything from the north. We don’t have to create Disneylands here. We just have to remind Dominica of what it is,” Shillingford says. Shillingford’s projects are oriented around tourism, but he is aiming to preserve Dominica for Dominicans. “The basic justification for anything in the Caribbean is tourism. You have to spin everything you do around it,” says Shillingford. “But on another level you want to do things that are wider than just for tourists.”
GRASSROOTS GO-GETTER For ecotourism operators, supporting and preserving local communities—in addition to providing ecologically sound accommodations August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO THIS PAGE COURTESY DOMINICA TOURIST OFFICE, NYC.; RIGHT PAGE: CHRISTOPHER BAUMGARTNER
TURBULENT: the steamy waters at Boiling Lake
who are trying to promote ecotourism—a form of tourism built on sustainable development that emphasizes the natural beauty of a place—as an alternative to mainstream tourism development. Proponents argue that green tourism could be Dominica’s best bet for economic salvation. Though the island has more than four times as many cruise-ship visitors as overnight visitors, the latter are actually far more lucrative, bringing in three times more cash than the day-trippers. Overnight tourists tend to have higher levels of education and income, according to the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, and they are more interested in seeing Dominica’s natural attractions, such as its pristine reefs and rain forests. Dominica has unbeatable options for adventure tourism. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean, has a 31,000-square-foot boiling lake—the world’s second largest simmering sulfur pot—5 volcanoes, 50 fumaroles (vents from which volcanic gases escape), 3 freshwater lakes, and numerous hot springs. On the island’s 100 miles of trails, hikers discover cinnamon trees, fresh grapefruit, papaya, bananas, lemongrass, ginger, almonds, and habanero chilis. Divers schlep from across the world to see the Soufriere/Scott’s Head Marine Reserve, where a 6,000-foot volcanic crater, sheer 1,500-foot walls, and subaquatic hot springs host parrot fish, frogfish, and sea horses. “People don’t come here for beaches, business, or fancy restaurants,” says Jeffery Charles, a guide from the village of Wotton Waven and an avid proponent of Dominica’s ecotourism industry. “They come here because it’s the last real island in the Caribbean.”
Dominica has a
mind-boggling number of ecosystems
A SECLUDED FIND: One of Dominicaâ€™s rare sand beaches
Jungle Bay’s tropicalhardwood cabins will be off the grid in five years
PHOTOS THIS PAGE COURTESY JUNGLE BAY RESORT, RIGHT PAGE CHRISTOPHER BAUMGARTNER
Jungle Bay’s sumptuous interiors
“If we want to build our tourism industry on a
unique nature experience, we have to preserve our product.”
and guest services—is an essential part of sustainability. Jem Winston, a British expatriate and resort owner on Dominica, opened 3 Rivers Eco Lodge in 2002 and now employs nine people from the local village of Grand Fond to run his facility. He organizes activities for guests, such as visits to vegetable farms to learn about the country’s edible tubers (including dasheen and arrowroot) or to organic herb farms to taste bush teas and concoct medicinal remedies. All proceeds from the excursions go directly to the farmers, whom Winston figures will in turn support his efforts at 3 Rivers. Winston fell in love with Dominica while backpacking there in the 1990s. For seven years he drove a taxi around London to save enough money to buy his 22-acre property, a former banana plantation, which was abandoned after the market crash. Now, three years later, he has developed an ecotourist’s utopia. 3 Rivers operates entirely off the grid, on a small squadron of solar panels, and all of its water is warmed by individual solar heaters that Winston built himself. He grows much of his organic food on the premises or buys it locally, and runs his truck on vegetable oil. But Winston insists that he is simply doing his part to maintain his business and preserve the place he loves. His real eco-project? The Sustainable Living Initiative Center (SLIC). With funding from the United Nations Development Programme and the British High Commission in Barbados, this wiry 36-year-old has started to hold how-to classes on vegetable-oil fuel, homemade hot-water heaters, and hydroelectricity, which both locals and American college students have attended. By 2007 Winston will have built a 50bed, four-classroom facility on his property for SLIC’s visiting students. Courses will include everything from organic pest control to construction of composting toilets. Winston’s most groundbreaking idea, however, is the revolving loan fund. After educating a few people from every village on how green technology can save money (and help preserve the land), Winston dispatches them back to their village as teachers. In turn, the revolving fund lends villagers interest-free money to buy goods to build their own green technology—say, a solar water heater. As the villagers save money on energy bills, they return it www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
to the fund to be lent to others. “We’re not just showing them what’s possible,” says Winston. “We’re showing them how to do it on the cheap. And the whole idea is they’ve got to do it themselves. We’re not doing it for them.” Six eco-lodges on the island, including Winston’s, have been recognized for their environmental efforts by Green Globe 21, an industry association based in Australia that gives environmental accreditation to tourism companies worldwide. Dominica itself has also been recognized, and it is the first country to receive such a distinction.
THE WAY FORWARD Dominica will soon find out whether or not ecotourism can work on a larger scale. This year saw the opening of an $8 million luxury ecoresort on the pristine southeastern end of the island: Jungle Bay. This secluded, all-inclusive resort has a 3,200-square-foot yoga studio with hardwood floors, a spa with five ocean-facing treatment rooms, two open-air restaurants serving gourmet organic and local cuisine, a saltwater pool, and a beachside bar. Unlike many upscale resorts, Jungle Bay was built with sustainability in mind. Lumber cleared for construction was recycled into furniture; structures have been built around plants; and lights are outfitted with low-watt bulbs, even though the resort aims to be off the grid within five years. Jungle Bay recruits locally, paying employees well above the average Dominican wage, and runs an organic-food growing program in which local farmers are commissioned to grow and sell organic produce to the resort at fair prices. A luxury hotel like Jungle Bay, which opened in March, could be the way to attract the tourists—affluent, educated, wellness-oriented, socially conscious tourists—that Dominica desperately needs to both preserve its environment and survive economically. Jungle Bay owner and developer Sam Raphael would like the resort to act as a model for future sustainable development on the island. “We do have our challenges,” says Raphael. “I wouldn’t want to suggest that everything is perfect here. But the people of Dominica emotionally have an attachment to the environment, and I think there is a consensus in the tourism industry that ecotourism is the direction we need to go.” ■ P L E N T Y | 45
The coastline next to Roseau, Dominica’s small capital city, is dotted with cottages and sailboats
THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR DOMINICA? GO THERE AND ENJOY IT.
46 | P L E N T Y
Fae, a former nutritionist, crafts fine art that she calls breakfast—fresh fruit from her small organic farm and local eggs—Athie runs the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association and the Dominica Conservation Association. WHERE TO STAY: At the Springfield Plantation Guest House (767-449-1401, www.cwdom.dm/~springfield2/), get a room for two with private bath starting at $70. Additional dormitory facilities sleep 8 to 30 people for $55 per person, including meals. The Hummingbird Inn (767-449-1042, www.find-us.net/hummingbird) offers double rooms starting at $65. Ask about their activity packages, which include either a dive or a trip to local hot springs, champagne, and lunch. Cottages for two at Exotica (767-448-8839, www.exotica-cottages.com) start at $109. Meal plans, including breakfast and dinner, start at $35 and are worth every penny. Winston’s 3 Rivers Eco Lodge (767-4461886, www.3riversdominica.com) has an array of cottages to choose from. A traditional Carib Indian grass hut in the rain forest costs $40; a bamboo treehouse is $50; and a cottage, including a porch-strung hammock, is $70. Winston also rents tent sites for $15. Meals, including breakfast and dinner, are $25 per person per day. Cottages for two at Jungle Bay Resort & Spa (767-446-1789, www.junglebaydominica.com) start at $438, but visit their Web site for details about current packages, including meals, drinks, daily spa treatments, activities, and local transportation. GETTING THERE: There are no direct
flights to Dominica from the United States, but American Airlines (800-433-7300, www.aa.com) offers direct flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago and Dallas–Fort Worth, and from San Juan to Dominica’s Melville Hall Airport. Flights between Puerto Rico and Dominica start at $200, and round-trip fares from New York or Miami start at about $500. TO DO : The Anchorage Hotel and Dive Centre (767-448-2638, www.anchoragehotel.dm), just south of Roseau, offers four-hour whale watches, with a 95 percent success rate, for $50 per person. Nature Island Dive, in Soufrière, charges $88 per person, including equipment rental and a $2 marine-reserve entry fee, for a two-tank dive. Jeffery Charles is an extraordinarily knowledgeable guide who can take you anywhere you would like to go, from dozens of waterfalls to Boiling Lake. Contact him at Cocoa Cottages, a small, pretty guest house in the rain forest above Roseau (767-448-0412, www.cocoacottages.com), for rates and tours. TRANSPORTATION: If you don’t mind driving on the left side of the road, rent a car. Public transportation is not very convenient, and taxi fares can add up. Budget’s rates (767449-2080, www.avirtualdominica.com/budget/) start at $37 per day. INFORMATION: Dominica’s official tourism Web site (www.dominica.dm) offers information on travel, activities, and accommodations.
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY KATE SIBER
ominica’s ecotourism movement is characterized by grassroots go-getters. Mona George, a 62-year-old Dominican runs the Springfield Centre for Environmental Protection, Research and Education (SCEPTRE) and the Springfield Plantation Guest House. George, who looks more like a churchgoing grandmother than a tireless, firecracker environmentalist, helps run an organic farm and wildlife sanctuary on the guest-house property. Through SCEPTRE, she arranges hard-hitting seminars for local and foreign students on the benefits of biodiesel, low-impact hydroelectric projects, and solar power. George traveled to France to personally deliver Morne Trois Pitons’s WHS application. Down the road from the Springfield center, Jeane Finucane, a 60-year-old Dominican, has her own passion. She too runs a modest guest house with solar water heaters. She maintains a small organic garden and cooks with local and organic ingredients. But in her free time, she is an iguana conservation crusader. In 1996 she helped pass a somewhat wacky law that mandates a $1,500 fine or six months in jail for killing or eating an iguana. As a result of the law, the lizards, which populate the white cedars beside Finucane’s Hummingbird Inn, are no longer considered an endangered species; they are now listed as “threatened”—an important step toward full species recovery. On a hillside above Roseau, Fae and Athie Martin, the owners of another lodge, Exotica, have also adopted earth-friendly ways. Their seven cottages have been outfitted with energy-saving lightbulbs, low-flow fixtures, and solar hot-water heaters; the soaps and cleaning products are natural and biodegradable. While
DESPERATELY SEEKING C E DA R S
The cedars of Lebanon are symbols of biblical proportions, but civil unrest in the modern nation means one is hard pressed to actually find the mighty tree. By Andrew Lee Butters
P rotestors wave the cedar tree flag during a demonstration against Syria in Beirut, Lebanon.
48 | P L E N T Y
PHOTO LEFT: ©LAURA SIVELL; PAILIO/CORBIS; THIS PAGE: AP PHOTO/STRINGER
BEIRUT, THE LEBANESE FLAG IS BACK IN STYLE. The redand-white-striped banner with a green cedar tree in the center became de rigueur for protesters in what the U.S. State Department called the “Cedar Revolution”—the demonstrations that toppled Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government. Not to be outdone, Hezbollah, the anti-Israeli militia and Shia political party, rallied in support of the Syrian occupation, also carrying only the flag. It has become a positive symbol of national unity for a country that has a history of religious sectarianism. But while the cedar-tree flag seems to be displayed everywhere, actually finding a living cedar in Lebanon is much more difficult. To get to the Cedars of God, the most famous of Lebanon’s 12 cedar stands, one travels up into the snowy heights north of Beirut, into the rugged country where Maronite Christian monks preserved their faith during hundreds of years of Muslim dominance. The ancient trees in this area around Becharre came to represent Christian perseverance in the Middle East. In thin air thick with spiritual portent, one expects a forest of, well, biblical proportions. But the grove at the Cedars of God consists of merely a few hundred trees on a single plot about half the size of a football field, tucked into an armpit under the shoulders of the Black Cornet, Lebanon’s highest mountain. You can drive right past Cedars of God in the time it takes to say a single Hail Mary. Inside the park, a few of the old Methuselahs remain. There are four trees that have each seen some 1,500 years on this earth, but most of the others are nowhere near that age. The once-imposing cedar field is, however, abundant with chip wrappers and soda cans. Beyond the park’s borders, the snowfields are largely barren of trees (though not of garbage). Clearly, there has been a lot of logging since King Solomon used Lebanese cedars to timber his temple. But that alone doesn’t explain why there are so few cedars actually growing in Lebanon. Before the start of the civil war in 1975, there were nearly 5,000 acres of cedar groves in Lebanon; when the war ended in 1990, only about 2,500 acres remained. The war wreaked havoc on the nation’s environment. When warlords were not busy blowing up one another, they privatized public lands and exploited Lebanon’s natural resources. Several militias ran a lucrative racket in toxic-waste imports. This land of milk and honey became the world’s dumping ground.
www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
Many Lebanese environmental groups are sitting on the sidelines of the so-called Cedar Revolution. The absence of environmental management is a failure not only of recent pro-Syrian governments but also of leaders in the anti-Syrian opposition, environmentalists say. “Whether the Syrians stay or go, the Lebanese are the ones who are destroying Lebanon,” says Yusef Tawk, a doctor in Becharre, who heads a local group devoted to replanting cedar trees. “If I went to any street in the country and shouted a religious slogan, I could find someone ready to die for me. But if I shouted an environmental slogan, they would just laugh in my face.” Today Lebanon is exploited in the name of tourism, development, and reconstruction, environmentalists say. “The warlords and their relatives and their parasites are still in power, and they’ve used their power to abuse the environment for their own gain,” says Ali Darwish, president of Greenline, an organization of environmental scientists in Beirut. The country’s coastline is almost entirely in private hands, and suburbs have sprawled deep into the mountains. Plans for a huge ski resort will threaten one of the country’s largest sources of water, and some of its last undeveloped forest habitat, Darwish says. But there is a larger reason why there are so few Lebanese cedars: they are very difficult to grow. Cederis liabni lives only in cold climates and at high altitudes, from about 3,300 feet to about 5,900 feet above sea level. Cedars grow so slowly that young trees are vulnerable to destruction by snowmobiles, hikers, hunters, and especially goats. As a result, there’s almost no natural reproduction of cedars in Lebanon. The trees have to be raised in nurseries and protected for the first 15 years of their life. After growing in coffee cans for two years, the trees are no more than sprigs a few hands long. After about 15 years, they grow to shoulder height. Around 40, they reach sexual maturity, and after pollination, they take two years to produce seed cones, which appear once every three to five years. And if that isn’t finicky enough, Lebanese cedars need a special type of fungus found in the soil around cedar forests. Thus, new trees are highly unlikely to grow in soil where cedar trees have never grown before. “There’s a saying in Lebanon: ‘Plant a cedar tree and you’ll never live to sit in its shade,’” says Tawk. One can only hope that real democracy in Lebanon will take root faster than its cedar trees. ■ P L E N T Y | 49
BRING YOUR PADDLE TO THE PROTEST The Vogalonga of Venice is a rowing revolution to take back the waters of the lagoon. And another excuse to drink wine. By Jeff Booth 50 | P L E N T Y
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
OMEWHERE BETWEEN THE
BURANO AND MURANO, I WAS STRUGGLING. TWELVE MILES INTO THE VOGALONGA—a 1,000-boat, 30 kilometer [18.6 mile], all-paddle-power regatta around the Venetian lagoon and into the heart of the city—I was awkwardly keeping my rowing rhythm while inching my foot forward to drag the wine bottle rolling along the boat’s wooden planks closer to me. It’s not an easy thing to do when you’ve been rowing a 45-foot gondola for two hours and the old Venetian guy in front of you wants to keep that last gulp of sun-warmed vino rosso for himself. This is what I had been training for: rowing and wine. The Vogalonga, literally the “long row,” began in 1974 as a mid-May ritual protest to reclaim the Venetian waters (and culture) from pollution and industry—and motorboats. Venice’s future, more so than that of most cities, is defined by its ecosystem, most famously the lagoon’s rising waters. But the city’s biggest problem isn’t the aqua alta. Before Venice ever “sinks,” its foundations will crumble from the constant battering of motorboat waves. And then will any real Venetians still be around to mourn when the palazzi slide into the Grand Canal? The Vogalonga is an homage to the lagoon’s placid, rich waters—or rather, what those waters once were and could be again if they weren’t plied by hundreds of motor taxis, lumbering vaporetti (water buses), and private motorboats. I, of course, am not a real Venetian, even though I’ve rowed in the Vogalonga twice. But I get to play one on the water, at least when I’m in the stern of my traditional wooden sandolo, standing like a gondolier and rowing silently past the tourists snapping photos. The uniform of my local rowing club, the Bucintoro—the oldest in Venice— completes the image: a red tank and red sweatpants with a yellow racing stripe along the side. I look like a Ferrari fire hydrant. It’s great for color photos of the “old Venice,” though when the tourists are back home flipping through their photo albums, they’ll never know that an American was the one helping keep the lagoon’s rowing culture alive, one paddle stroke at a time.
PHOTOGRAPH GIORGIO MAZZEGA /INTERPRESS PHOTO
LAGOON ISLANDS OF
RUSH HOUR Supergondolas, kayaks, and canoes pour into the Cannaregio canal, the Vogalonga’s homestretch.
WHEN I MOVED FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA I needed a fix for my outdoor-lifestyle jones. I used to mountain bike to work, front door to office
TO VENICE A FEW YEARS AGO,
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door. Every weekend was spent either surfing the breaks near Malibu or kayaking Class IV rivers in the Sierra Nevada. Despite all the stunning architecture, Venice is not an outdoorsy town. Gucci, not REI. The 416 pedestrian bridges with their thousands of steps are not kind to cyclists, besides being illegal to pedal across. And kayaking the canals? Dipping my hands in that water? No thank you. Therein lies the problem with Venice, and its solution. The lagoon is polluted, the canals are silted up, old ladies still dump trash from their sixth-floor windows (a momentary fluttering in the air and a sickening splash), and oily waves from motorboats bash the wide sidewalks, the fondamente. The solution is learning, as I did, to row a boat the Venetian way, voga alla veneta: standing, elegantly swaying forward with the oar on the right, the hull gliding along. And the rower’s skin safe from contact with the water. Unless, of course, a motorboat wave were to flip him or her into the canal. Which hasn’t happened to me—yet. The problem, of course, is larger than capsizing in a canal. The destruction from moto ondoso, or motor waves, is well known and emphasized by angry gondoliers who scrawl their frustration on huge banners at the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. There is nothing quite as shattering to the picturesque scene of the Grand Canal as a Venetian teenager in his thugged-out motorboat, stereo blaring, sending his wake slamming into the palazzi, the gondoliers cursing in dialect and shaking their fists as they try to regain balance. The kids aren’t so different from most teen drivers, but they are emblematic of a population trying to balance the fragile ecosystem of a saltwater lagoon, 1,000-yearold architecture, and chronic flooding with being a living city, not a museum. Venice’s bridges and canals unite the city, but there’s a disconnect between modernity, the economy, and the environment. Finding work outside the tourism industry is a serious challenge. The lagoon’s fishing industry, long a mainstay of the economy and what keeps the Rialto fish market so lively, is slowly crumbling because of overfishing. Toxic petrochemical factories have sprung up on the mainland with the support of a population in need of jobs. Not only do they pollute the waters, but to bring tankers in from sea, massive canals have been dredged (which also guide P L E N T Y | 51
BRING YOUR PADDLE TO THE PROTEST
cruise ships to Venice’s quays). The way these canals have changed tidal currents and levels and contributed to the increase of flooding is arguably more detrimental to Venice than any global sea-level rise caused by climate change. MOSE, the engineering megaproject of building mobile dams to stop the high water, “may take care of the fever,” says Paolo Cacciari, head of the city’s environmental department, “but it won’t do anything to cure the disease.” The Vogalonga was started as a cure. Lele Rosa Salva (from one of the most influential Venetian families, not only because they own the best pastry shop in the city) is one of its founders. “It was, and still is, a protest against the pollution of the lagoon,” he says. “The young Venetians had forgotten how to row voga alla veneta. They only wanted to use motorboats, whose waves are destroying the city.” Thirty-one years after the first Vogalonga, traditional rowing and a respect for the lagoon’s unique environment have reemerged, though the battle is far from over. When the Vogalonga started, voga alla veneta wasn’t a sport—it was the way your grandfather went to work and how vegetables were brought in from outlying islands. With the onslaught of modern motorboats, rowing was revived as a sport with a cultural tie to history. The Vogalonga helped inspire clubs like Querini, Sette Mari (Seven Seas), Giudecca, and dozens of others to offer rowing lessons to a generation forgetting their water roots. In addition to the Vogalonga’s revelry and protest, there is now an entire regatta season of competitive gondola races that harkens back to pre-motorboat festivals. Are rowing races followed by wine and fried-calamari parties really a solution to an island battered by waves, tides, and modernity? Not completely. But a change in the mentality of Venetians will hopefully lead to beneficial policy and lifestyle changes. For instance, speed-limit laws have been passed for motorboats; now the challenge is getting them enforced. Like the monthly car-free days in central Rome and Milan, proposals for motor-free days in Venice have been floated, so to speak. Shop owners and tourist businesses argue that the economic impact of 52 | P L E N T Y
Before Venice ever “sinks,” its foundations will crumble from the constant battering of motorboat waves. Thirty-one years after the first Vogalonga, traditional rowing and a respect for
the lagoons’ unique environment
have reemerged, though the battle is far from over.
such bans would cripple them, but maybe support will slowly rise, like the next incoming tide. AT FIRST, I JUST WANTED TO BOAT. I needed a break from Gothic arches and Renaissance columns and Byzantine mosaics, so I headed for the wide-open spaces of the still-wild southern lagoon and its abandoned, overgrown islands. I joined the Bucintoro, the granddaddy of rowing clubs, to take lessons from Sergio, my maestro. Sergio’s just short enough to row under most bridges without having to bend over too far, except when it’s high tide. He has a weathered, round face, a mischievous smile, and meaty hands, like most who have handled oars all their life. His nickname is the Big Cheese because he hawked mozzarella and parmesan for many years, though I like to call him Rowing Yoda. At least once a week we’d cross the choppy Giudecca canal or row to the fish market at Rialto. His deep voice repeated calmly in thick dialect to me, “Be one with the water. Be one with the boat. Gently with the oar. Let the lagoon guide you.” Sometimes I felt as though I was in one of my L.A. yoga classes, except that halfway through each row we’d stop for snacks and a glass of wine at a canal-side bar. And after a few drinks, maybe the advice was less spiritual, but it was just as honest: “Rowing is like life—you’ve got to find a rhythm, but always go forward,” and “Don’t fall in, dumb-ass,” and “To row in Venice is to know Venice.” And at least once per lesson, he’d shout at a speedboat blazing by, “Vaffanculo motorboats!” You can guess what that means. Sergio taught me about the clams from the lagoon—not only how the pollution of industrial plants had ruined fishermen’s livelihood but also which bars served fresh clams that were safe to eat. He taught me how to pay attention to the natural variations of the lagoon, the Sirocco winds that blow in from Africa, and the way the tides try to cleanse the city’s canals. He showed me his passion for his city, his boats, his culture, and his waters. Sergio also taught me about pinot grigio, refosco, merlot, and tocai, and that the house rosso is the perfect rowing fuel. And he trained me for the Vogalonga, the ultimate Venetian paean to the August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPH GIORGIO MAZZEGA /INTERPRESS PHOTO
STILL SOBER The race begins in front of the basin of San Marco (above); The author with his crew, third row, left (opposite page).
lagoon’s waters and culture. At last year’s Vogalonga, when I rowed in the Bucintoro’s 12-person dodesona, practically a “supergondola,” I was among the more than 5,000 other rowers celebrating the natural way to see the lagoon. They showed up in traditional gondolas and lagoon-specific boats like sandolos and caorlinas, as well as small sailboats, sea kayaks, Chinese dragon boats, Canadian canoes, and Polynesian outriggers. Other than requiring a sign-up fee of ten euros, the regatta is open to anyone with strong arms and a love of the sea. As an American, I was one of the many nonVenetians splashing my paddle in protest. In fact, we foreigners were in the majority; about 75 percent of the rowers came from either the Italian terra firma or from abroad. “It seems foreigners care more about Venice than we Venetians do somewww.plentymag.com January 2005
times,” laments Salva. “We get lazy.” Our boat included my Moroccan friend Brahim, two young Venetians, and eight “senior” rowers, who happily let us sweat away while they hoarded the wine. There were three Sergios. Sergio #1, the Rowing Yoda, controlled the boat from the stern. Skinny Sergio #2 rowed behind me and pointed out the beaches and campaniles of different islands as we swung around into the north lagoon. Funny Sergio #3 mostly sat in the bow and shouted words of encouragement and promised more wine once we rowed back into the heart of Venice, down the Rio di Cannaregio, where thousands of Venetians and tourists waited to toast each boat as it completed the regatta’s loop. The crush of boats and oars as we passed under the Tre Archi Bridge and re-entered Venice from the lagoon was worse than the 110-5-101-10 highway interchange in down-
town Los Angeles, but at least we were all in zero-emissions vehicles—and slightly tipsy from the sun, salt water, wine, and cheers of those who love Venice. Granted, the Vogalonga is not even 20 miles, and it’s only one day, but the race’s impact goes far beyond sore shoulders and nostalgia for calm waters. The Vogalonga is a protest that resonates with the city and the world, and it’s a party that physically connects the culture of rowing—the slightly swaying, forward-leaning movement, the oar slipping under the silver-gray waters, the silence—to a respect for the lagoon. At next year’s Vogalonga, when the starting gun is fired, instead of shouting the traditional “Viva San Marco!,” I think I’ll yell, “Vaffanculo motorboats!” instead. ■ Jeff Booth, no longer a student, is editor in chief of Student Traveler Magazine. P L E N T Y | 53
AS INFORMATION AND COMMERCE MOVE FASTER AND FURTHER, THE WORLD GETS SMALLER. PHOTO ESSAY CURATED BY NANCY SCHWARTZMAN
STOP THE WORLD… It’s man against traffic in Siam Square, Bangkok. Photo by Yoav Horesh
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FIELD STUDY Inhabitants of Biosphere I (Earth) observe its miniature replica, Biosphere II, in southern Arizona. Photo by Yoav Horesh
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PEPSI OUTHOUSE The Mayan village of Santiago Atitlรกn, Guatemala, has plenty of cola, but no plumbing. Photo by Melanie Ross
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THE KING AND THE JEWS Elvis lives, even in a restaurant in Neve Ilan, Israel. Photo by Yoav Horesh
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HAVE SWOOSH, WILL TRAVEL A boy in Kabul, Afghanistan, sells posters of Mecca, though heâ€™s likely too poor to ever get there. Photo by Sharoz Makarech
KABUL BREAKFAST Red Bull and eggs: one way to start the day. Photo by Sharoz Makarech www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
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DESERT SODA What trek in the desert of Rajastan is complete without sticky sweet Mirinda orange soda? Photo by Miao Wang
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THIRSTY BABY “Trink” Coke on the train to Ayuthaya, Thailand. Photo by Yoav Horesh
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DEBT’S THREAT TO THE PLANET
THE BURDEN THAT DEBT PUTS UPON THE DEVELOPING WORLD ENDANGERS US ALL. IT THREATENS THE AIR WE BREATHE, THE FOOD WE EAT, THE SURVIVAL OF OUR SPECIES. IT POSES A THREAT TO OUR VERY PLANET. BY NOREENA HERTZ www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
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DEBT’S THREAT TO THE PLANET
he world’s fish stocks are facing collapse, great apes are facing extinction, toxic shrimps are being found in many waters. Sugar maple yields are falling, ocean levels are rising, coral reefs, rain forests and mangrove wetlands are disappearing. Insurance loss claims in America due to natural disasters are already spiraling out of control (claims between 1990 and 2000 were equal to those of the previous thirty years combined) and costs of global warming are expected to reach $300 billion a year in coming decades. All this and much more can be linked to debt. How so? First, in order to generate the requisite foreign exchange they need to service their debts, developing countries tend to exploit whatever natural resources they have. The more debts they have, the more they exploit. Clear links can be made, for example, between levels of debt and rates of deforestation. And deforestation is a key driver of global warming—25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to changes in land use, principally deforestation, most of which is taking place in the developing world—and global warming is a key driver of climate change. At the same time, the opening up of forests and woodlands to industrial logging companies, a move increasingly favored in order to meet the privatization requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), itself creates serious problems. Since industrial loggers have moved in, hordes of people have been drawn to the hitherto inaccessible forests of Central and West Africa in search of work. In order to survive, these people are killing off pigs, elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas at an unprecedented rate. If today’s rates of slaughter persist, not only will indigenous forest people no longer have a secure source of food, these species will be extinct within the next twenty years. Second, countries devastated by debt simply cannot afford to act in an environmentally responsible way. They can’t afford to replant their forests if they raze them; they can’t afford to put money into environmental preservation schemes when they are facing more immediate problems—health crises, unemployment, social unrest, etc. And so environmental degradation persists. There has been a 50 percent reduction in funds for environmental preservation in the Amazon, for example, since the 1980s, when structural adjustment programs were first put in place. And even if a country does have environmental protection legislation, it cannot afford to enforce it—the Democratic Republic of Congo has some of the most sophisticated environmental protections in the world but cannot find the money to pay the policemen to administer it. In the Philippines, where the government sold off all official vehicles in order to meet IMF-imposed budgetary constraints, you have the bizarre situation of forestry officials being forced to beg rides from the very loggers they are supposed to be controlling! The upshot? More exploitation, more environmental risk. Third, the pressure of servicing debt in poverty-stricken countries inspires short-termist behavior. The world’s poorest countries—Ghana, Gambia, Honduras, Nicaragua—are selling off their fishing rights, for example, to fleets from the world’s richest, in part to repay their debts. Never mind the fact that these rich countries have already overfished their own seas, and are clearly hell-bent on exporting their overfishing practices to new waters. Never mind that, as a consequence, the developing countries are seeing the
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livelihoods of their own local fishing communities being destroyed, unable to compete with big commercial fleets. And never mind the fact that if developing-world countries continue to sell off their fishing rights at the current rates, the world’s entire fish stock will collapse. And this isn’t scaremongering. In the past fifty years, the world’s mechanized fishing fleets have already managed to wipe out nine-tenths of the world’s biggest and most economically important species of fish, including swordfish, cod, halibut, and tuna. Just think what could happen if such fleets are able to trawl unregulated in developing-world waters. Fourth, loans are very often provided for clearly environmentally damaging projects. The PoloNoreste Project in Brazil, a 930-mile road built through the Amazon, was financed by the World Bank in order to create new rural settlements and ease urban congestion but resulted in widespread deforestation, the dislocation of indigenous peoples, and the loss of many endangered species. More recently, we have seen mangrove wetlands, the saltwater equivalents of the rain forests, being destroyed in Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, and elsewhere as World Bank–financed shrimp farms are built on these sites—shrimp farms are now the primary cause of mangrove and wetland destruction in the tropics. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being lent by the World Bank for projects which, on top of contributing to global warming, not only are proving incapable of generating the foreign exchange they were supposed to create (which should, of course, have been obvious: with so many countries being lent money to set up such farms all at the same time, there was an immediate global glut of shrimps, and their price plummeted), but are also threatening local food security: in Asia, for example, over half the shrimp farms that were set up are, because of the glut, now abandoned, which has led to a significant drop in the availability of food, as land formerly used for crop growing now lies fallow. Having been salinated for the shrimps to flourish, it is now unsuitable for other use. Furthermore, the products are all too often toxic, as shrimp growers pump their products with chemicals so as to maximize yields. Thai, Pakistani, Vietnamese, and Indonesian prawns have all been found to contain traces of the cancer-causing antibiotic nitrofuran, and in 2002 several of Britain’s leading food retailers were asked by the Food Standards Authority to withdraw various Asian prawns from their shelves, because they contained not only this illegal chemical but also pesticides deemed dangerous by the World Health Organization. Export credit agencies are also guilty in this environmentally unsound lending equation. They are responsible, as we have seen, for financing most dams and thermal power plants in developing countries and several have done serious damage. The Rihand mega–power plant in India, for example, financed by export credits provided by Western governments so that their big corporations could profit, had to be cooled with water from the Rihand Lake, thus raising the lake’s temperature and changing the ecology; the power plant was also fed with coal from the Singrauli strip mine, one of the last habitats for the Bengal tiger. U.S. export credit agencies OPIC and Ex-Im are currently in litigation, charged with having provided over $32 billion in loans and insurance over the past ten years for the building of oil fields and coal-fired power projects in developing countries. The cities of Boulder, Colorado, and Oakland, California—which in conjunction with Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have brought the case to bear—argue that these loans will lead directly to climate change, and August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
The security threat we face if we continue to ravage our environment at current rates is
as a result will diminish U.S. drinking water supplies, increase the risk of salt water contamination in groundwater aquifers, overwhelm sewage systems, and aggravate respiratory illnesses. In the case of Oakland, climate change already puts its airport at risk: given that it was built on a former wetland at about ten feet above sea level, it is now susceptible to flooding from the extreme tides that accompany global warming. And remember, the United States’ export credit agencies are more environmentally sound than almost all of their counterparts! Of course, blaming the developing world for the destruction of the developed world’s environment is in some ways pretty rich. If anything, the developed world owes an ecological debt to the developing world: carbon dioxide emissions from the rich world currently far exceed those from the poor. The commitment of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which developed countries were supposed to reduce emissions, remains largely unfulfilled. Both America [and Australia] have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. And frighteningly little change is expected on the emissions front, especially given that the United States alone accounts for 21 percent of total world emissions and that the Bush administration is hell-bent on downplaying the impact on global warming. But by lending money for projects it knows are environmentally unsound, and by making poor countries deprioritize the environment and sell off their natural resources in order to meet IMF conditions, the rich world once again shoots itself in the foot. Once again, this is a case not of developed-world myopia, but of developed world blindness. The security threat we face if we continue to ravage our environment at current rates is going to make even Osama bin Laden look pretty tame. In a recent report, the Pentagon announced that global warming is now a greater threat than terrorism. The latest scientific research predicts that water, dry land, and energy resources will become increasingly scarce and increasingly fought over within our lifetime. And that civil wars and regional conflicts will grow as tens of millions of people displaced by floods, droughts, cyclones, and rising sea levels will pour across borders and huddled refugee camps, leaving disease, misery, and anger in their wake. Millions are likely to starve as climate changes take hold; ill-configured World Bank–funded monoculture projects and the depletion of the oceans are likely to cause the collapse of food production in coun-
tries that already have severely undernourished populations. Those who survive will find sustenance in their rage. Disease could spread, as rising temperatures are anticipated to lead to increased incidences of insect-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever, illnesses against which our borders no longer provide barriers. Species after species are projected to become extinct—already 24 percent of mammals are threatened with extinction thanks to logging, forest clearing, and overfishing practices: an extraordinary rate of extinction even compared with the ice ages. With each death, the number of possible medical cures drops, and our fragile and complex ecosystem will be further irreversibly damaged. The Cree Indians warn that “after the last tree has been cut down; after the last river has been poisoned; after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” We are approaching that last tree, last river, last fish. The debt threat is real and it faces us now. Countries weighed down by unmanageable debt burdens are already sicker, poorer, more economically unstable, more politically volatile, more fractured than they would otherwise be. Their environments are more ravaged. Confidence in their leaders is already increasingly weakened as more and more people ask whether it is to them or their bankers that their loyalties lie. And in this ever globalizing world of ours what is “theirs” fast becomes “ours,” their sicknesses become our sicknesses, their despair our despair, their damage our damage; their dysfunctionality, the dysfunctionality of us all. We will never be able to build walls high enough to keep angry beggar armies out. No amount of “shock” or “awe” will be sufficient to dispel the ever growing hordes of the disgruntled and disenfranchised. Paper surgical masks will be unable to protect us from the spread of diseases that respect no borders. No number of herbicide-spraying sorties will stop poor, dispossessed farmers from growing drugs. Our environment will be irrevocably damaged by the environmentally damaging decisions taken by others many thousands of miles away. ■
going to make even Osama bin Laden look pretty tame. In a recent report, the Pentagon announced that global warming is now a greater threat than terrorism.
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From the book The Debt Threat by Noreena Hertz. Copyright © 2004 by Noreena Hertz. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers. Noreena Hertz is the Associate Director for the Centre for International Business at the University of Cambridge. P L E N T Y | 65
back in GOP
N MARCH 1995, MARTHA MARKS, A REPUBLICAN COUNTY COMMISSIONER FROM OUTSIDE CHICAGO, TRAVELED TO MARYLAND FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE ON ENDANGERED SPECIES. Marks was an
avowed environmentalist who had never seen any contradiction between her Republican Party affiliation and her love of the outdoors. “I like to say that if conservatives don’t conserve, who will?” she explains.
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ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL WITTE
Once upon a time, Republicans passed some of America’s landmark environmental laws. Does today’s GOP have a green side? By Richard Bradley
“I thought this was supposed to be a BIG tent.” www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
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Putting the GREEN back in G.O.P.
Not everyone shared Marks’s convictions. At that inevitable moment when conference participants were required to introduce themselves, Marks confessed that she was a Republican elected official—and a ripple of laughter coursed through the room. A Republican? At an environmental conference? Yes, and as it turned out, there were other women present who shared Marks’s political disposition, and after bonding in the ladies’ room, they decided to start a group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP). Members of REP would write letters to the editors of local newspapers, organize get-out-thevote drives, and raise money for eco-friendly Republicans. They would remind the world that the term “green Republican” wasn’t a punch line. Well, maybe it was. But it shouldn’t be. Theirs was a solitary crusade. Marks and her allies had trouble getting REP to be taken seriously; the typical reaction was that the words “Republicans” and “environmental” and “protection” didn’t belong in the same sentence. But over time, REP grew from a tiny group… to a small one. This year REP celebrates its tenth anniversary with a four-person staff, a nine-person board, and 2,000 dues-paying members nationwide. In terms of Republican Party clout, the group doesn’t exactly approach the Chamber of Commerce or the National Rifle Association. But it’s alive and well. “We are visible and respected,” Marks says. “We are on the radar screen of the Republican Party.” True, she continues, “that isn’t to say that they all like what we’re doing. The ones that do what we think is right like us a lot. The other ones—they wish we’d sit down and shut up.” Unfortunately for Marks, the other ones are presently running the show.
t isn’t easy being proenvironment in today’s GOP. The party’s most powerful figures—President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist—are united in their conviction that most proenvironment policies fetter the private sector’s ability to generate jobs and wealth. At every level of the administration and Congress, they’ve installed agency heads, staff members, and committee chairs who share that antienvironmental view. Many Republicans equate environmentalism with the far left, the 1960s, and Hollywood liberals. To tolerate it, much less encourage it, would be giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Instead, the administration gestures to the environmental middle by giving misleading, even cynical, names to damaging policies: Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative actually promotes logging, while the Clear Skies Initiative eases the timetable for decreasing industrial pollutants. Nonetheless, Republicans who fight for the environment are not extinct, and if you talk to environmental advocates both in Washington and around the country, they’ll reel off a short list— very short—of Republicans they consider allies. That roster includes members of the House of Representatives such as New
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To Roosevelt, the world’s natural wonders were a gift from God.
To abuse that gift—to leave the
wilderness in worse condition for your children than it was for you—was sacrilegious. York State’s Sherwood Boehlert and Connecticut’s Christopher Shays; Arizona senator John McCain; and governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and New York’s George Pataki. The green Republicans share certain political characteristics. They usually come from moderate states, such as Connecticut or Delaware, where voters favor pragmatic politicians and the GOP is less ideological than in the South or Midwest. Sometimes they hail from states that have specific and long-standing environmental concerns—nuclear waste in Washington, the Pacific coast in California, urban sprawl in New Jersey, Delaware’s Chesapeake Bay. On occasion, as with Pataki and Schwarzenegger, they simply love the outdoors. And they are almost always a part of that dwindling group of Republicans who feel isolated not only when it comes to the environment but also on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and stem-cell research—GOP moderates. But green Republicans are such a tenuous minority they’re scared to talk about their tilting-at-windmills status. “We don’t want to do anything to emphasize a difference of opinion with the [House] leadership,” one aide to a Republican congressman explained after insisting on anonymity. That’s a reference to the hard-line DeLay, a former exterminator who ran for office partly because he was furious about a federal ban on the pesticide DDT. Former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman discovered the intensity of her party’s opposition to environmentalism almost immediately after President Bush appointed her in January 2001. As she recounts in her recent memoir, “I remember a group of western Republican congressmen telling me early in my tenure at August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
the Environmental Protection Agency that if they ever read a favorable editorial in the New York Times about the Bush administration’s environmental policy, ‘we might as well still have a Democratic president.’” Whitman called her book It’s My Party Too, a reference to her conviction that the GOP is still a big tent that can happily contain proenvironment moderates such as herself. But there’s scant evidence she’s right; today’s Republican Party isn’t hers, not by any objective standard. Over the past quarter-century, the party has grown more ideological and, thanks to the massive influx of money in politics, is increasingly dominated by big business. The Bush administration reflects those trends. Vice President Cheney is, of course, the former CEO of oil services conglomerate Halliburton; Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, is a former lobbyist for General Motors. The consequences are predictable. As Whitman herself concedes, “On social issues, on race, and on the environment, extremists within the Republican Party are pushing views that are alienating many of those in the mainstream.” Maybe. Or maybe that alienation is wishful thinking. Because when it comes to the environment, the mainstream doesn’t seem to care—at least not enough to vote accordingly. Though polls consistently show that a majority of Americans, whatever their political affiliation, support proenvironmental policies, very few voters prioritize the environment in nationwide elections. Instead, they vote on bread-and-butter issues—the economy, education, taxes, and health care. Since 9/11, you can add war, terrorism, and national security to the list of issues voters consider more urgent than the environment. And with the public either distracted or simply unconcerned, the GOP’s most passionate antienvironmental ideologues are busy: ignoring global warming, pushing for Arctic drilling, opening public lands to mining, and clear-cutting. The Bush administration is limiting environmental protection in almost every way it can, such as revising federal regulations to allow more road building on public lands and increasing the number of snowmobiles permitted in Yellowstone National Park. Out of necessity, the green Republicans pick their battles, stalling the implementation of antienvironmental policies (such as the White House’s energy bill), holding up legislation when vote counts are tight, fighting to protect the environmentally sensitive areas within their own districts. But it’s a war they are losing. For the first four years of Bush’s presidency, for example, the moderates helped prevent Congress from opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. That battle is on the verge of being lost. The Republican moderates did what they could but were simply too few. The green Republicans “have respect,” says Chuck Porcari, press secretary at the League of Conservation Voters, which ranks all members of Congress on their environmental voting records. (The 2004 Democrats’ national average was 85 in the Senate, 86 in the House; the Republicans averaged 8 and 10.) There are enough green Republicans that they cannot be entirely ignored. But do they have power? Not really, Porcari admits. Still, Porcari tries to be optimistic. Moderate Republicans “can have an impact. The numbers aren’t there to [deliver] the votes the way you want, but they’re a ringing conscience in the back of your head.” “There are some doors that will never open for us,” admits Jim DiPeso, REP’s spokesperson. But in the long run, he continues, www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
“we feel that our message is going to resonate” with the GOP.
he Republican Party has a strong environmental past. Green Republicans frequently point out that their party practically gave birth to environmentalism. After all, the 20th century’s most famous politician-environmentalist was Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who helped found what was then known as the “conservation” movement. An avid outdoorsman, Roosevelt was famous for his love of hiking, hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. In the nation’s capital, he boated on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and hiked and climbed Rock Creek Park, often dragging along sweaty, fuming aides and supplicants. Modern Republicans such as Ronald Reagan and President Bush are sometimes photographed engaging in similar activities but with notable differences. When President Bush clears brush, he’s using the environment to make a point about his own virility. Roosevelt reveled in the environment as an end in itself and didn’t much care whether anyone else was watching. And Roosevelt’s activities took place on public lands. Similarly, when Bill Clinton wanted to make a political statement with his choice of vacation, he took his family camping in Yellowstone National Park. Reagan and President Bush, by contrast, chopped wood on their ranches—which is to say, on private land. It’s a telling piece of symbolism. To Roosevelt, the world’s natural wonders were a gift from God. To abuse that gift—to leave the wilderness in worse condition for your children than it was for you—was sacrilegious. That didn’t mean people couldn’t hunt for wild game, whether in Africa, Brazil, or the great forests and plains of the United States. On the contrary, Roosevelt believed that the desire to prove oneself physically in the natural world was an essential part of being. But in order to fulfill that mission of self-realization, there had to be a natural world. As president from 1901 to 1909, Roosevelt did everything he could to protect his beloved outdoors. In the final year of his term, he summoned 45 governors and territorial executives to the White House for a conference on the environment. Addressing his guests, Roosevelt declared, “You have come hither at my request, so that we may join together to consider the question of the conservation and use of the great fundamental sources of wealth of this Nation... It is the chief material question that confronts us, second only—and second always—to the great fundamental questions of morality.” Before leaving the White House, Roosevelt would, among other proenvironment acts, create a National Conservation Commission; fight mining companies to establish the Grand Canyon as a national monument; and create 16 federal bird refuges. Leaving the world a better place for your children—a greener place—Roosevelt insisted, was a conservative value. Today Republican hunters and fishermen throughout the country agree, and you can still hear echoes of Roosevelt in his great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, P L E N T Y | 69
Putting the GREEN back in G.O.P.
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Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. When it comes to the environment, the two Republican senators from Maine display the moderation and independent thinking typical of politics in that state. Opposing Arctic drilling and attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act, both women have consistently received scores of 50 or higher from the League of Conservation Voters, which ranks members of Congress between zero and 100 depending on their environmental voting records. By GOP standards, that’s high.
PHOTOS LEFT, TOP TO BOTTOM: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH; AP PHOTO/REUTERS/FALEH KHEIBER
THE GOOD GUYS
THE BAD GUYS
The entire Alaska delegation. Representative Don Young and Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski make up what is probably the most eco-hostile trio of elected officials in the country. It’s not only their support for logging in the Tongass National Forest or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (They say they’re advocating for the economy of their home state.) It’s their opposition to environmental measures relevant to every other state that really irks.
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PHOTOS LEFT, TOP TO BOTTOM: AP PHOTO/AL GRILLO; AP PHOTO/JOE MARQUETTE; AP PHOTO/ART SUTCH
an outspoken environmentalist who serves on the chairman’s council of the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the 1970s, the Republican tradition of environmental activism was picked up by an unlikely standard-bearer: Richard Nixon. One would be hard-pressed to find two figures more different than Roosevelt and Nixon, the latter of whom looked out of place when he tried to commune with nature. But the two presidents shared a sense of the environment’s value as a political issue. Nixon’s interest in the environment followed the first Earth Day protests, in 1970, which prompted millions of Americans to take to the streets. The embattled president, eager to discuss something other than Vietnam, realized that environmentalism could help him domestically. Of course, six decades after Roosevelt’s time, the issues had changed. Whereas Roosevelt had fought to preserve public spaces, Nixon understood that pollution knew no geographic boundaries; it could harm people in their homes and at their workplaces. So he established the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also signed the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and legislation that strengthened the 1967 Clean Air Act. Nixon didn’t give environmentalists everything they wanted; he insisted that new environmental regulations be measured against their cost to the economy. But his environmental record reflected open-mindedness, compromise, and moderation—qualities that seem to have vanished from the upper echelons of today’s GOP. In its place, Republicans have DeLay, who likes to refer to the EPA as the “Gestapo.” The prospects for green Republicans aren’t promising today, but there are some glimmers of sunlight through the smog. Thanks to his ethical problems, DeLay may need to reach out to every member of his party, even the moderates. And in the Senate, the emergence of an effective coalition of moderate Republicans and like-minded Democrats on retention of the filibuster rules could lead to similar combinations on environmental issues. It’s tough being green and Republican, admits the REP’s DiPeso. “We get it from both sides,” he says. “The more partisan Republicans say we’re just Democrats in disguise. And the more hard-core environmentalists will say there’s no such thing as a green Republican—come on over to our side.” But DiPeso doesn’t want to do that—he doesn’t want to give up on his party, even if it seems to have given up on him. He still has faith that the Republican Party can change. And so it might. George Bush’s present term is his last, and among possible GOP candidates to succeed him there are clear choices on environmental matters. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a possible GOP standard bearer, supports new road building in old growth forests and is not concerned about global warming or just about any other green issue. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a probable contender for the GOP nomination, has been a strong force for turning back pro-environmental legislation adopted during earlier Republican and Democratic administrations. In contrast, Arizona Senator John McCain, who is expected to enter the Republican presidential primaries again, has partnered with Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman on a bill to combat global warming. Rather than build new roads on public lands as Hagel would, he supports adequate funding for national parks. Green Republicans may soon have a chance to craft a party in their image. ■
THIS PAGE, LEFT TO RIGHT: AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON; AP PHOTO/REUTERS/FALEH KHEIBER; AP PHOTO/CHARLES TASNADI; AP PHOTO/DAMIAN DOVARGANES THIS PAGE, LEFT TO RIGHT: AP PHOTO/WILFREDO LEE; AP PHOTO/DENNIS COOK; AP PHOTO/LEE MARRINER; AP PHOTO/DAVID J. PHILLIP
Lincoln Chafee. The Rhode Island senator inherited his environmentalism from his politician father, Lincoln Chafee who was so proenvironment that there are annual awards given in his name: the Senator John H. Chafee Conservation Awards. As a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Lincoln Chafee has spoken out against global warming and favors the use of natural gas in Rhode Island buses.
John McCain. Environmental issues were not always high on the Arizona senator’s agenda. But during the 2000 election, he seemed to get the message; he has said that voters kept asking him about climate change, John McCain and he didn’t have a good response. Now, with Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, he’s pushing legislation to combat global warming and fund national parks. Senate Republicans have blocked McCain’s global-warming bill, but he is notoriously stubborn—just look at his work on campaign finance.
Sherwood Boehlert. Coming from upstate New York, whose lakes and Adirondack Mountains have Sherwood Boehlert long suffered from pollution generated by the Midwest, Sherwood Boehlert may be the bestknown green Republican in the House of Representatives. He has promoted legislation to reduce acid rain and increase the mileage standards for SUVs. Describing himself as a “conservationist in the Teddy Roosevelt style,” Boehlert aggressively courts support from fishermen and hunters in his district.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even though California may be the country’s most environmentally aware state, its Republicans haven’t been Arnold eco-friendly for Schwarzenegger years. Not so Schwarzenegger. He has promoted preservation of redwood forests, hydrogen fueling stations on state highways, and reductions in auto and cruise-ship emissions. Schwarzenegger hasn’t given enviros everything they want, but he’s way ahead of his party peers.
James Inhofe. The Oklahoma senator never met an oil industry exec he didn’t want to help. James Inhofe Inhofe, chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, gets a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Like Tom DeLay, he has compared the EPA with the Gestapo and called global warming a “hoax.” In 2003 Inhofe traveled to a European conference on global warming to spread that idea. “They didn’t want to listen,” he said when he returned. “They were zombies.”
Richard Pombo. This littleknown California congressman chairs the House Committee on Resources, which oversees forests and national parks. A former rancher who helped found a property-rights group, Pombo sees his job not as protecting and preserving the environment but as exploiting it. He’s an opponent of the Richard Pombo Endangered Species Act who wants to allow logging in national forests and drilling in ANWR, and to reinstate commercial whaling.
Chuck Hagel. Environmentalists should be particularly concerned about this Nebraska senator’s zero rating from Chuck Hagel the League of Conservation Voters; Hagel is a likely candidate for president in 2008. He’s a longtime global warming skeptic and a committed advocate of road building in public forests. “Global climate policy, or any environmental initiative, cannot be considered in isolation of economic and energy interests,” Hagel has said. Translation: Buh-bye, environment.
Tom DeLay. Where to start? The House majority leader, a former exterminator driven into politics by his frustration over a federal ban on Tom DeLay DDT, has since stuck it to nature in every way he can. He’s in favor of offshore oil drilling in California, drilling in ANWR, logging in the Tongass, snowmobiles in Yellowstone—and dozens of other eco-hostile legislative riders and amendments buried in Congressional paperwork. No surprise, therefore, that his League of Conservation Voters score is zero. What’s truly unfortunate is how he uses his leadership position to block every proenvironment piece of legislation put forward by the small group of greens in the GOP House caucus.
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The Life of a Bottle
Americans love their bottled water, but we toss most of the empties into landfills. Nicole Davis follows a bottle that got a second chance.
LEFT PAGE: AP PHOTO / RICH PEDRONCELLI; THIS PAGE: ILLUSTRATION BY LIAD BANIEL
Part I: RESCUE ME IT’S 7:20 ON A COLD, GRAY MONDAY MORNING IN NEW YORK, and Kenny Abel is about to become a savior. In his hands is a clear blue bag bulging with glass jars, tin cans, and one plastic water bottle. It’s a normal pickup for the lanky sanitation worker, though with all the bottled water we’re drinking, you’d think there would be far more plastic bottles to recover. Americans now drink 20 billion bottles of water a year, the majority of which wind up as litter or in landfills, where they face a slow, thousand-year death. Only one in ten are lucky enough to land in the back of a recycling collector’s truck. Six days a week, New York City dispatches 400 dump trucks from its garages to collect approximately 5,863 tons of recyclables—metal, paper, glass, and plastic that would rise 105,532 feet above the city if piled in one place, higher than three Mount Everests stacked summit to base. In reality, the biggest pile of recyclables most of us ever see is the one we set out for men like Abel. Once removed from the curb, it leaves our mind. That bottle, meanwhile, goes on to lead a pretty varied afterlife. Abel and his partner, a broad shouldered “san man” named Scott Rodgers, continue their slow crawl along the narrow, cobblestone streets of Brooklyn Heights, intermittently feeding their beast crusty cans of food and near empty liquor bottles left over from weekend parNine out of ten bottles don’t make it to recycling plants like the Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station, shown here. www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
ties. After a couple hours, whenever the leviathan lifts its tailgate for another bite, it reveals a row of jagged glass teeth, drooling with red wine. At 9 a.m., just when the truck seems so animate it will spring to life, the men put it in park and take their first 15-minute break. “It’s amazing that people do not know how to recycle,” says Abel, between bites of a poppy seed bagel. Standing among his fellow sanitation workers, he names our most egregious sins: mixing paper with plastic and trying to recycle Barbie dolls or, worse, lumber. “You always see wood,” he says, shaking his head. “It isn’t paper.” Still, in the course of collecting goods from hundreds of apartments, schools, and town houses, a number of unexpected items—a fridge, a toaster, a handicapped walker—pass muster. Abel and Rodgers’s truck can carry ten tons, but it is only half full by the time they finish their route. This inefficiency in collection has long played a role in making recycling costlier than garbage disposal. But the recent closure of the city’s only landfill means that New York City now exports its trash at great expense—making even half-empty loads of recyclables look good. “For many years, recycling was viewed as something that was good for the planet, but that also had start-up costs that made it more expensive than just dumping trash in the ground,” says Mark A. Izeman, a Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But as curbside programs have matured and landfill disposal costs have jumped, recycling is now seen by many cities as both an environmental and economic winner.” In New York, for instance, the cost per P L E N T Y | 73
The Life of a Bottle apart, sends the small shards of glass onto a conveyor belt below, while everything bigger—bottles, cans, jugs—continues on the same path until magnets pull the metals from the mix. The process is far from perfect—but then, our lone bottle hasn’t even reached the official processing stage yet. The only thing Hugo Neu’s sophisticated machinery effectively does right now is to separate these materials into piles as basic as “light” and “dark” loads of laundry. Beneath one chute lies a tiny pyramid of tin. To its left is a five-foot mound of crushed glass. Each material will follow its own path toward reincarnation. Our bottle’s fate for the moment is an empty barge, on which the container will sit and wait for two days until the boat is filled with other plastics. The barge will then be tugged across the New York harbor to Jersey City, where the baton will be passed to Sprint Recycling, a place known in the business as a “murf,” or material recovery facility. “SAN MAN” José Cruz transports five tons of recyclables each workday.
ton to process recyclables is just $48, while the cost of burying the city’s garbage, currently $110 per ton, keeps going up. At 3 p.m. Abel and Rodgers are done for the day, and José Cruz, another san man, clocks in. Before hoisting himself into the cab, he pulls a lever on its side to set the truck’s digestive tract in motion. As the contents inside crinkle, wheeze, and crunch, out pops the neck of a wine bottle, like a satisfying burp.
Part II: WATER BOTTLE PURGATORY If Dustin Hoffman starred in The Graduate today, he probably would be advised to head into recycling instead of plastics. The National Recycling Coalition estimates that for every collector there are 26 private-sector workers processing and manufacturing recyclable materials—a total of 1.1 million jobs. Shortly after 3 p.m., Cruz arrives at the gates of Hugo Neu Schnitzer East, a recovery plant across the East River from midtown Manhattan. An attendant waves him past a train of flatbed trucks that are loaded with pancaked cars. Directly ahead, a mountain of scrap metal rises from the industrial waterfront like blight on the Manhattan skyline. Ever since the founder of the company, Hugo Neu, began selling and trading scrap metal throughout Europe after World War I, it has specialized in collecting steel, aluminum, and tin junk, but the glittering field of recyclables points to the company’s future. Cruz heads straight for the dumping grounds, which resemble a toy-filled case at an arcade, only in place of plush prizes, there are piles of colorful cans, bottles, and bags. He backs up to a fresh mound, opens the tailgate, and tilts the truck’s stomach toward the sky until shards of glass, punctured blue bags, and metal lids rain down. Cruz gives the whale one more chance to purge itself of the day’s plankton, forcing the dump truck’s compressor back in quick succession—blam blam blam—and then the mouth closes, the belly sinks down, and the dirty business of sorting all these disparate materials begins. Hugo Neu operates 24 hours a day—“At night the whole yard lights up like a stadium,” says Tom Ferretti, the plant’s manager—and within the next 8 hours, a worker will steer a grappling crane to pick our bottle from the heap and then feed it into a series of machines and sorting rooms strung together by ribbons of conveyor belts. From the ground, the 20-foot-high contraption looks like a giant, complicated roller coaster. First, the loose and bagged recyclables enter the “liberator”—a device that shreds the bags but keeps their contents intact. Then, a series of whirring discs, spaced two inches 74 | P L E N T Y
Part III: BL AME CHINA At Sprint Recycling, workers station themselves alongside a river of moving plastic. Wearing gloves, safety vests, glasses, and hard hats, employees separate the containers made of thin polyethylene terephthalate (PET), like our water bottle, from those made of the thicker, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is used in items like laundry jugs. These two plastics—which bear a “1” and “2” stamp, respectively—are typically the only ones that cities recycle because their markets are more mature. The caps and labels on many of these bottles are made from different types of plastic, but the people at Sprint have no time to deal with such details. “If we removed caps, we’d be here for the rest of our lives,” says general manager Judy Goodstein, with a laugh. “Besides, I think they would shoot me if I asked them to.” Each day, her employees separate and bale 40,000 tons of plastic, which is then shipped off as feedstock to reclaimers—manufacturers who recycle plastic into new consumer goods. Plastic wood, car parts, strapping, packaging, new bottles—there’s no telling what our water bottle will become. It’s likely, though, that it will wind up as fiber. As it turns out, that tongue-twisting polyethylene terephthalate used to make bottles is more commonly known as polyester. Developed by English chemists, the synthetic was introduced in this country in 1953 as a miraculous, wrinkle-free clothing material you could wash and wear. DuPont started melting the leftover fabric ten years later to turn it into fill for pillows, comforters, and furniture. Then, in 1974, a DuPont chemist named Nathaniel Wyeth, brother of the famous American painter, turned the polymer into something even more durable: a shatterproof plastic bottle. The alchemy works only one way—from polymer to bottle to polyester—but a number of companies now depend on our water (soda, sport drink, and juice) habit to fashion their wares. Wellman, for instance, a large polyester manufacturer with plants scattered across Europe and the United States, was the first to use recycled PET (R-PET) for everything from fiberfill to fleece. Today its South Carolina plant is capable of recycling as much as 200 million pounds of plastic per year—roughly 5 percent of all PET bottles made in the United States. But Wellman can’t always run its plant at full capacity. While PET bottle production has more than doubled in the past decade, the recycling rate hasn’t budged a bit, leaving a small supply of R-PET to be divvied up between mammoth plants like Wellman and those in the People’s Republic of China. Yes, China. Each year, a third of our recycled PET bottles are snatched up by the country’s booming synthetics business, driving up the price of recyAugust/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
cled plastic to almost the same level as the virgin stuff, which goes for $.70 to $.90 per pound. Recycling more of those water bottles would help increase supply and drive down costs. “We would like to see every bottle recycled,” says Michael Schedler of NAPCOR, a trade association for the plastic container industry. “But this country has yet to embrace recycling as an ethic.” A financial incentive would help: in California, for instance, which offers money for empty water bottles, the recycling rate is 20 percent above the national average. (Only two other states, Hawaii and Maine, currently offer a refund for water bottles, though a number of state legislatures are considering doing the same.) Better curbside collection would also encourage more recycling. Toronto, Schedler points out, has recycling bins on each corner, a catchall for every bottle consumed away from home.
WHERE DOES YOUR RECYCLED BOTTLE GO? RE-SOCK-LING $11 (tekosocks.com) Teko’s hiking socks are made with PET fibers—yup, old soda bottles. The Ecopoly pair is ideal for running in wet conditions.
PHOTO OPPOSITE PAGE BY NICOLE DAVIS.
Part IV: REBIRTH—FOR NOW Seven days a week at Wellman, around the clock, trucks deliver loads of baled bottles that are broken down and fed onto a conveyor for sorters to pick out any odds and ends the murf missed. Even after all the stages of sorting and picking, oddities, shocking oddities, still end up at the plant’s door. “Tin cans, toys, dead cats—we’ve seen it all,” says Phil Ammons, Wellman’s director of raw materials. As bottles head down the conveyor belt, workers are on the lookout for what Ammons calls the real knockouts, the stuff that will ruin his machinery. The containers are ground into flakes and scrubbed clean in an enormous steel washing machine, which is about the size, he says, of a small house. This is the last stop for those pesky caps and labels: made from a different plastic, they will float to the top and be skimmed off with a paddle wheel. They’re then sold to manufacturers who use this detritus in everything from flowerpots to clothes hangers. After the flaked R-PET is washed, dried, and combined with other recycled “feedstocks,” such as film, it enters an extruder, a long tube surrounded by blazing, 500-degree Fahrenheit heat coils. Here the flake is melted and forced through a series of screens like a thin spaghetti machine, which filters out impurities and creates fine, hairlike strands of fiber that are cooled and cut according to their intended use. At Wellman the majority of these strands become fill for furniture and pillows, though they are used to make fleece as well. About a third less energy is used to manufacture products from recycled plastic than from new plastic. As Patagonia puts it, the petroleum saved in the creation of its Synchilla fleeces is enough to power a city the size of Atlanta for a year. But these hoodies aren’t singlehandedly solving our oil crisis. R-PET is too thick to create the fine microfibers currently in vogue, which is why Wellman got out of the fleece business a few years ago. Only the real “granola gang,” said one fleece manufacturer, still buys the eco-friendly kind. So if they’re not on our beds, on our bodies, or beneath our heads, where do the rest of our water bottles go? According to Phil Cavin, director of procurement at Mohawk Industries, about a third of the RPET in the United States arrives in the vicinity of Dalton, Georgia, where carpet is king. Mohawk Industries is, in fact, the largest carpeting manufacturer in the world, and an estimated 36 bottles are used in every square yard of its floor cover. Once a bottle starts its new life as carpet, there is little chance for another reincarnation. As with comforters, clothing, and pillows, people don’t hold on to the same carpeting forever—they hand it down to someone new, or throw it away altogether. Then again, there may be hope for a third coming. “We haven’t gotten to the recycling stage for carpeting yet,” says Cavin. “But we’re getting there...” ■ www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
BLANKETY BLANKET $35 (patagonia.com) Get cozy in Patagonia’s synchilla blanket. Each sale benefits the Great Pacific Child Development Center, the company’s on-site child-care center.
PACK IT IN $128 (vivavi.com) The Integrator, Earthpak’s top of the line backpack, comes with a separate laptop case and saves 14 soda bottles from the landfill. Your laptop has got it good.
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Welcome DOLLHOUSES to the
THE SMALL-HOUSE MOVEMENT GETS
JOSEPH LEVITT CARVED OUT THE PROTOTYPE AMERICA’S SUBURBS—thousands of cute little Cape Cods studded along 1,200 acres of former potato fields on New York’s Long Island—the houses were 800-square-foot prefabricated homes arranged close together along the sparkling, new streets of Levittown. They may have seemed enormous compared with the cramped urban dwellings the inhabitants were fleeing, but by today’s standards the Levittown houses are mere cottages. The modern American dream of home ownership favors “Bigger is better” over architect Mies van der Rohe’s famous dictum “Less is more.” The average size of new homes jumped to 2,330 square feet in 2003, from 1,660 square feet in 1970, with record sales and sizes in recent years; new homes increased an average of 34 square feet per year between 1980 and 1990. Suburbs built on the Levittown model now favor McMansions over modest homes. But for many, the reality of that old-fashioned American dream amounts to more of a nightmare: a giant, lonely house, crammed with unnecessary objects, on an empty street in a sort of anticommunity, where neighbors don’t know one another. Perhaps in response to this, there’s a new model popping up around the country. The cottage community is a group of modest homes (those less than 1,200 square feet, depending on the number of inhabitants) that resembles a small town rather than a suburb. Sometimes called pocket neighborhoods, cluster developments, conservation subdivisions, or ecovillages, these communities favor open spaces over private yards, foster cooperation over isolation, and offer small houses as alternatives to the McMansions that continue to grow in size and number. “Most builders are building for Ozzie and Harriet,” says Ross Chapin, referring to the iconic nuclear family of 1950s television. Chapin is a Washington-based architect who has designed a number HEN FOR
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BY LISA SELIN-DAVIS
of cottage communities. “That was from another generation,” he says. For Gen X, average house size has increased while average household size has decreased; more than half of all American households consist of only one or two people. We have a growing number of retiring baby–boomers, empty nesters, single parents, students, financially challenged, and environmentalists who want or need to downsize: they make up the tiny but powerful small-house movement. Chapin’s communities are like modern-day, year-round bungalow colonies. The Cottage Company’s Third Street Cottages on Whidbey Island in Washington, designed by Chapin, are a cluster of eight 650square-foot homes huddled around a shared courtyard. The entire development is designed to promote a sense of community. Cars are parked in pocket-size lots across the commons, and even the mailboxes require a short walk to a public area; people are forced to interact. “We believe strongly that if neighbors know one another, they care for one another, and that if they look after one another, they’re safer,” says Chapin. “We design a small neighborhood where people’s interactions lead to friendships. They lead to caring for one another and a deep sense of community.” Colleen and Brian Ducey downsized from a 2,400-square-foot home to a 986-square-foot cottage in Chapin’s Greenwood Avenue cottages in Shoreline, Washington. Talking about her new community, Colleen practically gushes. “It’s magical,” she says. “It kind of takes me back to the feeling we had growing up, when you knew all August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOS THIS PAGE COURTESY OF WWW.ROSSCHAPIN.COM
SCENES FROM A MALL In the Greenwood Avenue neighborhood, in Shoreline, Washington, homes are less than 1,000 square feet and surround a common green.
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Welcome to the DOLLHOUSES
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mall homes around communal areas are nothing new, of course. Under neoclassical architectural principles—which have influenced urban design in cities like Paris, Helsinki, and Washington, D.C.—individuals live in modest homes, and grandeur is reserved for public buildings; many European town centers have clustered housing, with retail shops and village greens within walking distance. Today people are choosing to live in these cottage communities for financial, ecological, and social reasons. There are “new urbanist” communities, in which land use is mixed (living and shopping are in the same area), as are the types of housing available (apartments, town houses, and freestanding homes). There’s also cohousing, which often means smaller, affordable homes and communal facilities where people share meals and activities—and “conservation subdivisions,” which are for people concerned more with preserving land than with strengthening community. Cottage communities aim to re-create small-town life: walkable developments with architectural guidelines that fight sprawl and encourage social interaction. They bring people closer together emotionally by bringing them closer together physically, but individuality is also important. In most of these communities, the houses are all slightly different and carefully crafted, veering from the cardboard cutout ranches and colonial revivals that characterize most subdivisions. And while these new cottage homes may be humble in size, most are breathtaking: because they require fewer materials, they are built with better materials. In some you’ll see real cedar siding, period details like crown molding, and double-paned windows. And there’s what Lester Walker, author of The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses (Overlook, 1998), calls the “puppy dog thing.” People tend to fall in love with them because “they’re just so cute.” Tolpin calls these new small houses “Fabergé eggs.” They signal a shift away from the prefab ranch house and a return to craftsmanship. If the idea of halving your square footage makes you nervous, small house experts say it’s not as hard as you think. People often use only select spaces in their house—congregating in the kitchen or using the living room as a makeshift office or bedroom—leaving much of it unnecessary. And they use their house more to hide away from the world than to create harmony. “People come home from work or from the grocery store, click the garage door, go inside secured gates, and unload directly into the kitchen,” says Chapin. Having everything you need in your house—a fitness room to replace the great outdoors, a pantry that precludes regular trips to the grocery store—effectively renders it a bunker. When you live in a smaller home, you’re forced out of the house and into the world, and into the realm of your neighbors. August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTO LEFT COURTESY ROSSCHAPIN.COM
your neighbors, you sat out on your porch at night and the grown-ups talked while the kids played, and you could leave your door open if you wanted to run an errand. It’s like an extended family. You have people that you know you can count on.” In their late 50s, the Duceys are like many pocket neighborhood families: empty nesters, their grown children are out of the house. Every Saturday night they join Greenwood residents for an informal potluck dinner. But privacy is still possible: the porches are arranged so that you can only see one or two other houses, and you have a private garden as well as the communal one. Empty nesters and retiring baby boomers seem to make up the largest market for pocket neighborhoods. “They don’t need big houses anymore, they don’t want to maintain them, and they feel burdened by possessions,” says Jim Tolpin, author of The New Cottage Home (Taunton, 1998) and a cottage designer and dweller. “As they get older, they want to cluster together. They don’t want to die alone in some apartment somewhere.” Most cottage communities embrace similar design elements, like those front porches that are fully functional, not tacked on as decor. In Houston, Benssons Homes creates cottage neighborhoods of Victorian and Craftsman revival houses, starting at 1,200 square feet, with porches that overlook narrow roads, embracing Jane Jacobs’s “eyes on the street” theory: neighbors focused on a common area—a street, in the case of urban life, or the village green, as in these new developments—will keep it safe, and it will encourage them to keep interacting. In Breckenridge, Colorado, the Wellington neighborhood is similar: a collection of small Victorian revivals with front porches hovering over a common green space.
LITTLE HOUSES ON THE PRAIRIE The Wellington neighborhood in Breckenridge, Colorado, where you can always find a snowball fight.
Itâ€™s magical. It kind of takes me back to the feeling we had growing up, when you knew all your neighbors, you sat out on your porch at night and the grown-ups talked while the kids played, and you could leave your door open if you wanted to run an errand. Itâ€™s like an extended family. You have people that you know you can count on. www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
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Welcome to the DOLLHOUSES
Living in a small space means that the
objects you keep have to be either useful or beautiful, and if they’re neither, you have to get rid of them. It’s not about stuff so much anymore. It’s about quality of life.
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HUMBLE PIE Shady Acres, one of Benssons Homes’ first subdivisions, is located in the historic Heights district of Houston, Texas.
mall houses whittle down living space to the bare necessities. In the process, small-house dwellers get a kind of ego makeover: they’re forced to give up the prestige that comes with a large house, with the image it promotes. “Everything about the [small] house is more human in scale,” says Tolpin. “It’s not about making a show of itself; it’s about providing shelter that people feel comfortable in.” “We’re trying to design around how people live rather than how they want to show how they live,” says Chapin. Still, you do have to change your habits. Living in a small space means being choosy about what to procure and what to keep. Here’s where the small-house movement aligns with smart growth principles and the voluntary simplicity movement. “The objects that you keep with you have to be either useful or beautiful, and if they’re neither, you have to get rid of them,” says Tolpin. “It’s not about stuff so much anymore. It’s about quality of life, and that’s the shift that ends up taking place.” “We made ten trips to the dump, the same amount to the charity places, and we gave away stuff to the kids,” says Ducey. “It was a totally freeing experience. You get to a certain point and you say, ‘I have this stuff, and I just don’t know what to do with it all.’” “I can walk in and out of Wal-Mart and not be tempted by anything,” says Patricia Foreman, developer of GreenWay, a conservation subdivision outside Lexington, Virginia, with homes starting at 1,300 square feet (which are considered small because they are aimed more at families than at couples). Foreman lives in a house with a footprint the size of a two-car garage; she can clean the entire place, she says, with her vacuum plugged into a single outlet. The enthusiasm of cottage dwellers notwithstanding, the smallhouse movement is, well, small; only 3 percent of new, detached, single-family homes built last year were less than 1,200 square feet— that’s 37,000 new homes in a market that built more than 207,000 new homes over 3,000 square feet, up from 143,000 in 1997. “We’re not talking about a large market segment,” says Tolpin. “But it’s a growing segment and a fairly passionate one.” Small-house designers, developers, and dwellers are fighting an
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uphill battle. There’s some trepidation on the supply side. For builders, small homes are risky business. Land prices are high, and it can cost nearly as much to develop small homes as large ones. The price per square foot to build is often higher for small homes because there are so many fixed costs—appliances, heating, plumbing—no matter the size. Some developers fear they’ll make less of a profit. And for buyers, smaller does not necessarily mean inexpensive. The Third Street Cottages in Washington, for instance, start at nearly $300,000, or around $450 per square foot. “The builder is certainly concerned: if I’m going to build this, what is the market for it?” says Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for research at the National Association of Home Builders. “Somehow the consumer in this country is convinced that bigger is better. The number of buyers is very limited.” There’s another barrier to developing small-house communities: zoning. There are often townwide restrictions, requiring houses to be built at a minimum size, which can be as large as 1,200 square feet. Even if developers see the light—that cottage communities can be as good for the wallet as they are for the world—they may have to convince planners to extend zoning variances. Still, these new crops of cottages are in high demand: all of Chapin’s projects have sold out, and many of these communities have waiting lists. Small-house dwellers have found that their property values increase at a slow and steady pace, and, while there are no concrete numbers on just how many cottage communities are under construction, one can easily search the Internet to locate them: they’re all over Portland, Oregon, and in Davis, California, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. And as baby boomers continue to retire, small-house designers are hoping more and more Americans will seek out community as well as a home of their own, and come to the conclusion that small is beautiful. ■ Lisa Selin Davis is the author of the novel BELLY (Little, Brown, 2005)
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ITâ€™S A SMALL WORLD
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WORLD FASHIONS ARE HOT THIS SEASON, BUT NOW THE GLOBAL FLAVOR IS MORE THAN A PASSING FAD. BUY FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC GOODS, SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES, AND STOCK UP ON GOOD KARMA!
HOLD IT CAREFULLY, PLEASE Anka, left, in a beaded silk chiffon top by Atil Kutoglu, a Turkish designer who settled in Vienna and who continues to employ Turkish artisans (www.atilkutoglu.com); 3/4 length corduroy skirt by the independent, two-woman clothing company Prudence (available at www.stevenalan.com); handmade gold earrings and necklace by Dean Burke (available at Saks Fifth Avenue and www.deanburke.com). Audrey, this page, sports a cowl neck long sleeve t-shirt by Park Vogel in eco-friendly cotton with non-polluting dye (available at www.stevenalan.com); necklace in Indian chalcedony and gold by Dean Burke, (available at Saks Fifth Avenue and www.deanburke.com); vintage Indian silk scarf.
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IT’S ALL RELATIVE Audrey, this page, in vintage silk and gold thread sari courtesy of artisanal designer Aditée, (www.aditee.com); necklace, earrings and bangles by Alexis Bittar; organic cotton jeans by Loomstate (www.loomstate.org). Opposite page: Flamenco-inspired tie-dye knit top and skirt by Mara Hoffman; silk wrap, silk cord, and shaped gold necklace handmade in India by Aditée.
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GET HIP TO HANDMADE THREADS AND TRAPPINGS.
www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
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WORLD POWER NOW Anka, this page, in an embroidered eco-friendly silk top with nonpolluting dye by Linda Loudermilk (www.luxuryeco.com); skirt by Native American artisan Janet Littlecrow (www.littlecrowtradingpost.com); necklace and earrings in sterling silver, coral, quills, turquoise, and bonefeather by Mitchell Boyiddle of the Kiowa tribe, Oklahoma (580 595-9537).
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KEEP IT CLOSE Audrey wears a dress in chiffon plisse by Chaunpaul; lotus flower fold necklace by Dean Burke (www.deanburke.com). Models are Anka with Major Model Management and Audrey Chihocky with New York Model Management. Styling by Ise White/Code Artists. Makeup by Corrine Vegter/Code Artists using MAC cosmetics. Hair by Sarah Silvia/Code Artists. Photographs by Francis Murphy.
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PICKY PICKY PRICKLY? Resale shops like Beacon’s Closet donate thousands of rejected items to charity each week.
SEE ME, JUDGE ME Wait time at the buyers’ counter can be more than one hour on a busy afternoon.
BREAK-UP BOON Sick of storing your ex’s t-shirts? No questions asked when you sell them to a resale shop.
RESALE REJECTION WHEN YOU SHOP RESALE, YOU PUT YOUR EGO ON THE LINE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JON WASSERMAN
t sounds like eco-fashion fiction: a boutique that buys your castaways and gives you store credit, monopoly money that you can in turn spend on stylish, new (well, slightly worn) wares. The fantasy exists and has a name: “resale fashion.” Unlike a consignment store, a resale shop buys your clothes outright, giving you approximately 50 percent of the selling price in credit or 30 percent in cash. Not only are you reusing and recycling, you’re renewing yourself; in theory, you could continually revamp your wardrobe without ever spending a dime. There’s just one catch: the store has to want your clothes. Approval seekers take note. Some folks learn this caveat the hard way. There’s the classic tale of the young, broke hopeful who, on discovering shopping nirvana, rushes to the buyers’ counter of her local resale shop with a closet’s worth of hand-me-downs and double that in unspoiled idealism. She watches the evaluation: each garment is held to the light, examined dispassionately—sometimes by more than one judge—and folded neatly. Two piles form on the counter, one very large, one very small. Yes! thinks the naive little flower. She even begins counting her chickens: $75 bucks, maybe? $100? The joke, of course, is that she assumes the large pile is what the store is buying, while it’s actually the pile of rejects. The letdown can be enough to send a girl to the mall. Legions of shoppers attest to suffering such bouts of Post-Resale Rejection Syndrome (PRRS or “Purse”—as in empty). “I took them some clothes—many of which were bought at boutiques and were not cheap,” says a New Yorker who asked to be known only as “Tricia,” referring to Beacon’s Closet, a resale shop in Brooklyn. “I was denied. I had paid over $100 for one skirt—it was blue, and, yes, it was kind of Survivor-esque, with deliberately torn edges and an asymmetrical cut— www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
BY JENNIFER BLOCK
and they didn’t want it. And they were buying for summer! I was indignant. I think it was purely the whim of the buyer, who was probably jealous of my excellent taste!” Part of what’s so distressing is the seemingly arbitrary nature of the appraisal. What gets bought is “kind of random,” admits Cindy Hemlick, an owner of Beacon’s Closet. “A lot of it is just personal influence from the style of the people who work there. I tell people to just bring in everything. Bag it all up. There’s just no way for you to know what we need.” When people look upset or ask for an explanation, she soothes with words such as, “‘These clothes were beautiful and sold off a rack at some point, but we just can’t sell them right now.’ I don’t like people to think that we’re passing a mean judgment on their stuff. It’s just not true.” But customers aren’t always handled with such care. Another seller, let’s call her “Jane,” inquired as to why a pair of designer pants didn’t make the cut and was told that there were “style issues.” “Style issues?” she recalls, the venom clearly still stinging. “I wanted to run back home to get the clothes I hadn’t wanted to give away to try to sell them and redeem my dignity!” Apparently, when somebody else rejects the very same clothes you are rejecting, it’s upsetting. “People do get offended,” says Kerstin Block (no relation), founder of Buffalo Exchange, a national chain of resale shops. “We get e-mails from disgruntled shoppers who feel they’ve been maligned in our store. And after 30 years, there are still people I’ll meet somewhere who tell me that I’ve never bought any of their clothes. So obviously it had an impact.” With all the hurt feelings, you’d think resale would be a hard sell. But the business model is based on customers rejecting their own clothes and then subjecting themselves to rejection, and it works like a charm. Buffalo Exchange began as a 450square-foot joint in Tuscon, Arizona, in
1974 and now has 26 stores, mostly west of the Mississippi, with an annual revenue of $34.5 million. Beacon’s Closet opened in 1997 in Brooklyn and recently expanded into a cavernous warehouse and spawned a satellite store. Other shops like Rejoice Exchange, Everyday People, and Arizona Trading Company have sprouted up in recent years. The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops estimates that the industry grows by 5 percent each year. For some, resale fashion is not only shopping, it’s also work. “Pickers,” as they are called, make their living going from thrift store to yard sale to swap meet, sifting through items to sell at resale shops. The return isn’t just monopoly money—it’s rent. But how do the pickers know what will sell? Most amateurs sell just 10 to 20 percent of what they bring in (customers have been known to scream and jump up and down when they unload an entire bag), but the professionals must score bigger if they are to make ends meet. How can they anticipate a buyer’s whim? Block insists the formula is actually not random at all. “It’s very easy,” she explains. Whatever is selling is what the store continues buying. If it has been on the rack for a month, it gets marked down, and buyers know the trend has passed. “All you have to do is look and see what’s marked down, what didn’t sell,” she says. “We won’t take anymore of those. It’s a self-correcting mechanism.” In other words, there’s a natural selection that takes place at resale shops, and it is determined not by the store but by us, the clientele. Thus, don’t blame the return of the ’80s on those picky hipster meanies behind the counter. We the consumers are the ones procuring the hideous acrylic sweaters with geometric designs and sparkles. “Oh, those are so unattractive,” says Block. “I’m having a really hard time with the ’80s revival.” Attention shoppers: if stirrup pants make a comeback, we have only ourselves to blame. ■ P L E N T Y | 89
A TALE OF TWO OCEANS OR CENTURIES, THE SPICE TRADE MADE
A TRIANGLE ACROSS THE INDIAN
OCEAN, from India to the Middle East and Africa. Monsoons blew sailboats out and back with the seasons, loaded with flavor and scent: cloves, pepper and nutmeg. The Indian Ocean brought us the most dynamic tastes on earth. And the Pacific, entirely off the spice route, brought us some of the blandest. Fiji, a languorous collection of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, is the very picture of paradise, with palmy hillsides and long stretches of white beaches fringed by extravagant coral reefs. But Fiji is not known for its food. Traditional Fijian cuisine consists largely of fish in coconut milk and taro, a starchy tuber frequently served in coconut milk. Most visitors to Fiji will experience a meke and lovo, a local party around a barbecue pit, where food wrapped in banana palm leaves is smoked, then served, alas, dripping in coconut milk. The Fijian islands look like heaven, but if it were up to the native Fijians, there would be little for gourmets to eat. Fortunately for food, Fiji is only about 50 percent native islander. Indentured laborers from India were shipped to Fiji by the British Empire to work the sugar-cane plantations. The British packed up and left in 1970, but the offspring of their indentured servants stayed and now represent nearly 45 percent of the roughly 800,000 people in Fiji. Though the racial mix has not always been peaceful—there was a coup as recently as 2000—the Indians and their grandchildren spiced up Fijian cuisine.
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Fijian food has evolved into a mongrel cultural product, a half-breed of different and oppositional cuisines. And it is a refreshing one: the Indian Ocean spices combine masterfully with the provisions of the tropical South Pacific. At busy roadsides in Fiji, burly women sit in modest dress, peddling small packages of Fijian lunch at less than a pittance. Traditional Indian roti (similar to tortillas) are filled with Fijian curries— fish, chicken, or lamb—and wrapped in newsprint. Where we pay a premium for locally grown produce and fresh fish, the poverty of most Fijians makes growing or catching their own dinner a necessity. The laborer’s “roti packet,” what Italians would call cucina povera, or peasant cooking, is among the most dazzling in the world. “Some people eat roti every day of their lives,” says chef George Reddy, of Turtle Island, a luxury eco-resort in the Yasawa island group of Fiji. At the request of guests, Reddy created a Fijian curry cooking class for the well-heeled denizens of the island’s private bungalows. It is a slightly odd sight: women with diamonds blazing in the equatorial sun learning to cook the food of the Fijian poor. But the guests are, literally, eating it up. Reddy is Indo-Fijian, and like many Pacific Islanders, he was schooled in Australia. There he discovered that he loved cooking and trained as a chef, incorporating the flavors of the Indian and Pacific oceans as well as the milky nursery foods of the Anglo-British colonies. Reddy’s multivalent background suits the menu at the resort, which runs the gamut from fancy French cuisine to the humble roti. Turtle Island is the brainchild of
American entrepreneur Richard Evanson, who bought the private South Pacific getaway after making his fortune in cable television in the 1960s. Since then, Evanson has reforested the island, erected 14 bungalows made of local materials, built a wind farm for renewable energy, and made numerous improvements, large and small, in the name of self-sufficiency and sustainability. Older now, battling cancer, Evanson’s ambitions are legacy acts: he has started a secondary school for children from villages on the surrounding islands and has funded two backpacker resorts on behalf of the villagers, who will repay Evanson’s interest-free loans over time. The “teach a man to fish” philosophy of eco-tourism runs all the way through Turtle Island, right on down to teaching a man how to make fish curry out of the day’s catch. “That looks more like a map of Australia than a roti,” Reddy says gently to a guest whose attempts at rolling out the thin dough have produced something most decidedly not round. And it is at that moment that the genius of South Pacific cuisine springs forward, simply. The Pacific Ocean, lacking, perhaps, the vibrant flavors of the Indian Ocean, has also brought the world “fusion” cooking. An Indian chef, born in Fiji, schooled in Australia, teaches a British and American audience how to make curry. While Fiji may have missed the trade winds and was strategically unimportant enough to sidestep the war in the Pacific, it is the perfect place for ferment, for the relaxed, luxurious process of creativity to unfold. ■ August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY TURTLE ISLAND
GETTING SPICY WITH THE FOOD OF PARADISE SARAH ROSE
FISH CURRY Serves 4-6 Curries of Indian origin are typically not made with beef or pork, as Hindus don’t eat beef and Muslims don’t eat pork. This recipe is the same if using other traditional Indian staples such as chicken or lamb, but the cooking time is 20-25 minutes, rather than 10-12. 1 1/2 pounds firm fleshed tropical fish, such as tuna or mahi mahi, in 2 inch chunks 1 onion, finely chopped 1 1/2 cups canned, whole peeled tomatoes 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon panchpuran (Indian five-spice mixture available at South Asian food stores—or make your own mixture of equal parts nigella, fennel, mustard seed, cumin, and fenugreek) 5-6 curry leaves (also available at South Asian food stores, or substitute with 5 bay leaves) 1 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 teaspoon lemongrass 1 tablespoon Thai chili paste (available in Asian food stores and natural foods stores) 2 teaspoons curry powder 1 teaspoon garam masala (a dark curry powder available at South Asian food stores) 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup chopped coriander
ROTI Makes 8-10 roti These roti flatbreads are both light and sturdy, somewhere between a tortilla and a crepe. It takes a couple of attempts to get the technique right, but they are well worth the effort. Tortillas, heated in a frying pan and brushed with ghee, make a less timeconsuming and entirely acceptable substitute. 3 cups flour 1 1/4 cups hot water 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter, available in most natural foods stores)
Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment on low, add a quarter-cup of water at a time until thoroughly blended. Knead for five minutes. Dough should be stiff, not sticky. www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
Let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth, for a half-hour. Taking a 2 ounce piece of the dough, about the size of a golf ball, roll it into a circle 9 inches in diameter. Dough should be very, very thin. Melt the ghee, set aside. Heat a cast-iron frying pan on medium. Place the dough onto the hot, dry frying pan. When the edges curl inward, flip the roti to the other side. The roti should start to puff up in pockets. Take a dry cloth and press down the puffing sections. Flip the roti again and repeat. Each roti should get about four flips, which create layers in the dough. Remove from heat. Using a pastry brush, lightly apply ghee to each side. Set the roti aside, covered.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is heated through, add the panchpuran. As the spices start to sizzle and jump, add the onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, curry leaves, and chili paste. Sauté until the onions are golden brown. Add the fish, curry powder, and garam masala. Stir once to sear the fish, coating it with the spiced oil, but be careful not to break it up. Heat 1-2 minutes to fry the spice powders. Add tomatoes, cook 2-3 minutes. Add water. Simmer 10-12 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in coriander. TO ASSEMBLE ROTI PACKETS: Take one roti, place a half-cup of curry in the middle. Fold in four sides. Place the packet seam side down. Wrap in plastic, foil, or, for authenticity, newspaper. In Fiji, these serve as a kind of picnic food and are eaten at room temperature. For a more formal dinner, serve the curry separately and warm, with rice. The roti, folded into quarters, can be passed around the table. P L E N T Y | 91
SCREAMING FOR ORGANICS PLENTY gives you the scoop on the best in organic and all-natural frozen desserts. Stonyfield Farm Organic Chocolate Ice Cream, $3.59 We love it. A damn good chocolate. In fact, the best organic chocolate ice cream tested. Stonyfield Farm Organic Coffee Frozen Yogurt, $3.59 It won’t replace your cup of joe, but if you want to sleep at night this is the midnight snack for you. Just know that you’ll dream of full-fat caffeinated ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Organic Strawberry Ice Cream, $4.29 The king of do-gooding ice cream finally went organic. For all of Ben & Jerry’s experimenting, classics still speak for themselves: strawberry fields forever. Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Gelato, $3.99 Tastes like wine and summer. Where sangria meets ice cream. It’s not organic, but it’s Italian. Reed’s Original Ginger Ice Cream (organic status pending), $4.29 For a blow-your-mind, out-of-control candied ginger blast. Natural Choice Organic Strawberry and Kiwi Sorbet, $4.19 The strawberry jumps, while the kiwi dances tartly in a ballet of frozen smoothie.
Whole Soy Organic Black Cherry, $3.49 You wouldn’t guess it’s soy. It tastes like the cherry vanilla swirl of childhood. Julie’s Organic Mocha Java Ice Cream, $3.99 Though it could use another shot of espresso, it has a smooth ice-cream texture and a syrupy chocolate spiral to compensate for its lack of oomph.
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Natural Choice Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, $4.99 The best organic vanilla by many miles.
H E A LT H SWEDISH THE BASICS: A Swedish massage practi-
tioner uses five basic strokes—including kneading, friction, and tapping motions—to relax muscles by applying pressure against the deeper muscles and bones and by rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. According to Ed Genece, a massage therapist who runs The Royal Treatment in New York City, the technique also “stimulates the flow of lymph fluids and cleanses the blood.” TARGET AUDIENCE: Anyone who’s a little stiff or stressed-out. Swedish massage purportedly shortens recovery time from muscular strain, stretches the ligaments and tendons to keep them supple and pliable, and stimulates the skin and nervous system. “There have been a couple of studies that have looked at alternative treatments for back pain—massage, acupressure, acupuncture,” says Russel Huang, an orthopedic surgeon with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “They seem to have some effectiveness, [and] I can tell you anecdotally, a lot of patients I have will swear by things like massage therapy.” FROM THE FRONT LINES: Some massage
THE RIGHT MASSAGE NOT ONLY MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, BUT MAY REDUCE SWELLING, RELIEVE PAIN, AND PRIME YOUR MUSCLES FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE ANN LANDI ONCE UPON A TIME massage was just as it is in the movies: a strapping hunk (male or female) worked over your seminaked chassis to the accompaniment of grunts and groans. Today the menu of massage therapies has expanded beyond the tried-and-true Swedish to include a smorgasbord of more subtle and therapeutic options, so the road to relaxation requires some research. There are deep-heat 94 | P L E N T Y
and deep-tissue techniques, along with sports, myofascial release, yogic-neuromuscular, and prenatal therapies. And then there are the therapies developed in Asian cultures: among them, shiatsu, reiki, amma, and reflexology. To help our readers get a handle on the options, PLENTY put together a guide to five favorite massage therapies. All you have to do now is lie back and enjoy.
SHIATSU THE BASICS: Unlike most Western styles
of massage, which rely on friction and kneading, here pressure and stretching are key; shiatsu practitioners use their palms, fingers, thumbs, knuckles, and, sometimes, the knees and feet to work along the body’s acupuncture points, also called channels or meridians. True believers say it’s an effective preventive medicine because it helps to balance a person’s energy and strengthen the vital organs. “Stagnated energy is the basis of all disease,” says shiatsu practitioner Julie Tersigni (www.shiatsuart.com). TARGET AUDIENCE: Tensed-up office
workers as well as people with injuries. Tersigni trained in the Japanese healing method after it was prescribed as part of her physical therapy for a broken ankle she got August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
THE LOWDOWN ON RUBDOWNS
therapists perform effleurage—long, gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs, and/or fingertips. Gregory Serdahl of Massage America (www.massageamerica.com) gave me a demo of this technique, using heated stones that felt like warm soothing liquid along my back. (The stones, placed at strategic points along the body, are a form of therapy borrowed from Native Americans and made popular in spas over the last decade.)
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H E A LT H
SWEDISH MASSAGE AND SHIATSU ARE POPULAR FOR TREATING JOCKS, FROM BALLERINAS TO LINEBACKERS. during an in-line skating accident. FROM THE FRONT LINES: For a full-
body shiatsu massage, Tersigni would normally make a diagnosis while gently probing around the abdomen, or hara, the center of the 14 meridians in the body. “This gives me an idea about any imbalance in the body’s energy,” she says, “and tells me which meridians we will work on.” Mine is an abbreviated session of a typical shiatsu massage: I sit in a chair with my arms relaxed as Tersigni works on my shoulders with her forearms and thumbs. Then she rests one hand on my back and uses the other to explore and apply pressure. The stable hand, she explains, is the “mother”: “this establishes a connection with the body while the other hand works the channels.” After about ten minutes, Tersigni gently pushes my arms in front of me, and then rotates my shoulders in their sockets. She does the same with my head. “Rotations are important,” she says. “Everyone should do them once a week to keep the energy flowing throughout the joints.”
CRANIO -SACRAL THE BASICS: While the client lies on her
back, the practitioner works in a circular motion around the base of the neck and upper spine, gently applying pressure. Among its purported benefits, cranio-sacral massage gets spinal fluid flowing, enhances the body’s natural healing capabilities, improves the functioning of the central nervous system, and strengthens the immune system. TARGET AUDIENCE: Therapists claim
cranio-sacral provides relief for women with menstrual complaints and people who suffer from skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Some also say the massage ensures the brain is nourished by clearing blockages to the cerebrospinal fluid—and thus the technique may be beneficial in treating learning disabilities. There are some in the medical community, however, who claim it’s all bunk: “I do not believe that cranio-sacral therapy has any therapeutic value,” writes Stephen Barrett, M.D., who operates a Web site called Quackwatch. “Its underlying theory is false because the bones of the skull fuse by the end of adolescence, and no research has ever demonstrated that manual manipulation can move the individual cranial bones.” 96 | P L E N T Y
FROM THE FRONT LINES: Genece feels around my shoulders and the back of my neck. “The fluid that flows in the spinal column from the cranium to the sacrum [a wedge-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine] has its own distinct rhythm, separate from your heartbeat or your pulse,” he maintains. “Yours is out of rhythm for a variety of reasons, but that’s the norm.” Then, for about five minutes, he gently holds my skull, cradling it in both hands, and afterward explains that what he found was a “very subtle, very distinct rhythm, a pumping from your nervous system. What I try to do is bring that to a still point and then release it, so that we get closer to a kind of symmetry. Through that process you help to release stiffness in the joints and bones.” Maybe, maybe not—but it sure feels good.
SPORTS MASSAGE THE BASICS: Sports massage uses a blend of techniques, customized for the athlete, since each sport makes different demands on its players. Swedish massage and shiatsu are especially popular for treating jocks, from ballerinas to linebackers. Preworkout massage sessions prepare the body for peak performance, help prevent injury, improve circulation, and stimulate the nervous system. TARGET AUDIENCE: Athletes, of course—
amateur as well as professional. “Generally when we’re using massage therapy, we’re using it for edema control, to reduce swelling,” says Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Stone Clinic in San Francisco, a facility dedicated primarily to treating sports injuries and arthritis. “We also use massage therapy pre-exercise. Skiers, for instance, find that massage helps to loosen up the muscles to perform better.” FROM THE FRONT LINES: Serdahl, who got his start working with athletes, eventually went on to develop a massage program in the early 1990s for the New York Giants. “If an athlete uses massage prior to an event, it can actually enhance his performance,” he explains. “You’re increasing the muscles’ abilities to utilize and convert blood into energy.” In the event of mishaps such as torn cartilage or sprains, massage can reduce the recovery time. In the wrong hands, it can also prove disastrous. Serdahl tells of a
sprinter who sued his massage therapist because of some careless deep-tissue work, which threw off his qualifying time by a second, enough to keep him out of the Olympics.
DEEP-TISSUE THE BASICS: These therapists use their
knuckles, fists, and elbows to relax the client’s entire body, then focus in on problem areas where the client has developed dysfunctional “holding patterns”—due to bad posture, for example, or to a more significant trauma, such as a serious accident. Some therapists even walk on clients’ backs, a technique borrowed from Thai massage (which is generally much more vigorous than your average deep-tissue session). According to Serdahl, “‘deep-tissue’ is just a classification for several types of massage that deal with the fascia, or connective tissue, which for the layman is most easily understood as ligaments and tendons; but for massage therapists, connective tissue is probably the primary structural tissue of the body.” Damage to the connective tissue is what usually causes chronic aches and pains. TARGET AUDIENCE: This technique is
especially beneficial for breaking up scar tissue. And, claims Genece, “it helps cleanse the muscles and prevent ischemia, a suppression of blood flow that contributes to pain and stiffness.” FROM THE FRONT LINES: In my ses-
sion with Serdahl, we begin on a bench that curves upward like a small bridge, over which I position myself fully clothed, face down, my knees on the floor, my feet resting on a bolster, and my arms extended above my head. It’s a rather absurd posture but one that seems to offer immediate relaxation (maybe this is what cats find in draping themselves over furniture). Serdahl works the muscles in my back and neck, using long strokes in a deep-tissue technique called yogic-neuromuscular therapy. After about 20 minutes, we push the bench aside, and he rolls out a mat to show me a therapy he calls “the walk.” Imagine scenes from some James Bond flick in which a scantily clad young Asian lovely ambles gingerly along 007’s back—that’s the idea. ■ August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
Be a part of the largest gathering of Sierra Club members in history!
Come to Sierra Summit 2005
The Sierra Club’s first-ever national environmental convention and exposition September 8-11, 2005 The Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA
Sierra Summit 2005 will feature three days of: • Top-flight keynote speakers • Entertainment provided by HBO’s Bill Maher • Networking with like-minded folks • Environmentally-oriented Expo And in the Expo Hall explore our Solutions Showcase, in addition to discovering something for everyone from the outdoor enthusiast to the environmentally-conscious consumer
For registration and up-to-date information, visit www.sierrasummit2005.org For information on exhibiting or sponsoring, contact Noreen Burke, Exhibit Manager, at 312-541-0567 or email email@example.com
THE YEAR IN PARTIES From backyard barbecues to citywide bashes, celebrations punctuate our lives. They’re a way for people to show their true colors, offering a far better picture of a community than any glossy brochure ever could. PLENTY picks the best offbeat parties on the planet, so you can celebrate like a local. KATE SIBER TIMKAT Throughout Ethiopia’s northern highlands, Orthodox Christians celebrate the postChristmas holiday Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Jesus. Experience the festivities in Lalibela, an old-world city renowned for eleven impressively austere 13th-century churches carved out of monolithic tufa rock and interconnected by underground tunnels. Crowds of white-clad revelers sing and dance to the beat of drums while priests in velvet and satin carry symbols of the Ark of the Covenant through the streets. After hours of prayer, there’s a communal baptism, in which the pious jump into a consecrated pool; then, the young people dance through the night. (ethiopiatourism.org) FEBRUARY: ITALY
CARNEVALE DI IVREA Every year in Ivrea, in Italy’s northwest region of Piedmont, the townspeople hold a festival to commemorate a 13th-century popular rebellion against a tyrant. The revolt was started by a young, brave bride named Violetta. For several days before Ash Wednesday, citizens dress in period regalia and gleefully reenact the battles, using oranges as ammunition. The town gets soaked in orange juice. Fireworks ensue, and thousands eat the free bean-andsausage dishes that represent the charity food doled out to the medieval poor. (carnevalediivrea.it) MARCH: NEW ZEALAND
WILDFOODS FESTIVAL Forget Fear Factor. Hokitika, New Zealand, 98 | P L E N T Y
has hosted a freaky-food festival for 16 years, and they have the act down pat. Taste some of the wildest foods you can imagine, from the dreadful (goat testicles) to the delicious (native pepper-tree leaves) to the irresistibly intriguing (gorse flower scones). And, while you munch on your fried earthworms, there’s free entertainment from local bands with names like Wizard of Christchurch. (wildfoods.co.nz) APRIL: THAILAND
SONGKRAN To begin to imagine how folks in this southeast Asian kingdom celebrate their New Year, take the water fights you had on the playground and add about 65 million people—the population of Thailand. Every April 14, in the thick of the hottest month of the year, the country gets supersoaked. Anything from a sprinkling to a dousing is considered a New Year’s blessing. And tourists are by no means exempt from the damp tidings—don’t be surprised if you’re already dripping by breakfast. (songkran.net) MAY: ENGLAND
MAY DAY If you’re in the area, a stop in Oxford on May Day is a must. Long before it became a day dedicated to laborers, the pagans celebrated it as the advent of summer. Ten thousand people gather around Magdalen Bridge to hear the Magdalen College chorus greet the season at dawn. Then, the Morris Men—local guys dressed in white robes adorned with bells and colorful ribbons—dance down High Street to the clatter of fiddles, tambourines, or accordions;
and the crowds gather in pubs, which open especially early for an entire day’s worth of carousing. (visitbritain.com) JUNE: DENMARK
ROSKILDE FESTIVAL Since 1971 the Roskilde Charity Society, in the city of Roskilde, near Copenhagen, has organized one of the largest music festivals in northern Europe, with as many as 150 bands on six stages. The party is an equalopportunity festival that hosts a range of diverse acts, from U2, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and Björk to Fu Manchu, Meredith Brooks, and Garbage. Camp for the week in open areas near Roskilde and enjoy the best scene since Woodstock: music, poetry slams, skate contests, and film screenings. All profits go to humanitarian and cultural causes. (roskilde-festival.dk) JULY: IRELAND
GALWAY ARTS FESTIVAL Ireland, no longer a destination for folks seeking merely green hills and Guinness, August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: AP PHOTO/DEBRA REID; AP PHOTO/BRIAN KARMARK; AP PHOTO/PATTAPON RAMBUTRI; AP PHOTO/KAREL PRINSLOO
PARTY HARDY (clockwise, left to right): Burning Man in Nevada; David Bowie at Roskilde in Denmark, Songkran in Thailand; Timkat in Ethiopia.
and head for the encampment in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. (burningman.com) OCTOBER: ICELAND
ICELAND AIRWAVES The organizers of the seven-year-old Iceland Airwaves have an eerily omniscient way of predicting and booking the best upand-coming bands. That’s why the festival has gained renown as one of the most cutting edge alternative music festivals in Europe. In the past, they’ve featured acts like The Shins, The Flaming Lips, and Thievery Corporation. This year, more than 100 bands will play in small, intimate venues throughout Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city. (icelandairwaves.com) NOVEMBER: WASHINGTON
OLYMPIA FILM FESTIVAL has become a hip spot for urban vacationers in the past decade. Every July, Ireland’s western cultural capital holds an arts extravaganza that celebrates both the country’s cultural heritage and its new international flavor. Theater, dance, literature, music, and visual arts are all heralded in the 13-day fest. But perhaps the best acts are the peculiar street performers. Last year there was Betty Big Shoes, a troupe of buskers dressed as human dominoes and giant insects; the Boom Family, a clan of 13-foot-tall walking puppets; and a life-size herd of paper cows wandering the streets. (galwayartsfestival.com) AUGUST: CANADA
INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FESTIVAL OF SAINT-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU Every year, hundreds of propane-powered, nonmotorized aircraft descend on the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal. Get in on the action and take a flight in one of these colorful, teardrop-shaped dirigiwww.plentymag.com August/September 2005
bles, run by enthusiasts or private ballooning companies from all over the world. Today, nearly a century after zeppelins were first used for passenger and military air travel, the quirky novelties draw several hundred thousand festivalgoers annually. The nine-day celebration also features great nightly music and animated films. (montgolfieres.com) SEPTEMBER: NEVADA
BURNING MAN Call it a grand experiment in communal living, a temporary desert city devoted to radical self-expression, or a magnificent festival of light, fire, and art that attracts as many as 35,000 people. However you look at it, Burning Man is an inspiring—and often substance-enhanced—experience that many people find intensely spiritual. In a cathartic ritual at the end of the weeklong festival, partygoers gather to burn a 50foot-tall wooden creation known as “the Man.” Build something of your own to burn, or just pack a bag of stuff to barter,
If Sundance is the straight-up Coca-Cola of film festivals, Olympia is the organic cherry-grape lemonade spritzer. For ten days in November, Washington’s coastal alternative hub hosts films of all genres, from old classics to experimental shorts. Though the festival attracts mostly locals, it has also been known to draw savvy film buffs from all over the world. Don’t miss “All Freakin’ Night,” an enormously popular and raucous night-long celebration of really bad films, ranging from old 3-D movies to howlingly cheesy lesbian vampire flicks. (olympiafilmfestival.org) DECEMBER: TUNISIA
SAHARA FESTIVAL OF DOUZ A small oasis town on the edge of the Sahara is transformed every December into a vibrant party city. The desert is bound to bring in some wild sights, and the city of Douz will not disappoint. For four days, live it up with Tunisian music and costumes, belly dancers, acrobatic shows, and whatever else the largest desert in the world can conjure. (tourismtunisia.com) P L E N T Y | 99
A HOME WITH A HALO POWERED ENTIRELY BY THE SUN, THE WIND, AND GREEN HYDROGEN, ANGEL’S NEST—AND ITS ECCENTRIC ECOPHILE OWNERS—COULD HELP INSPIRE A NEW WAVE OF GREEN DESIGN. KAREN KLEINER 100 | P L E N T Y
ROBERT PLARR’S VERSION OF HEAVEN rests atop an arid plateau near Taos, New Mexico. The ornate eco-mansion is adorned with crystal sculptures and stained-glass images of angels. It has its own off-the-grid hydrogen fueling station and its own “rain forest room,” in which fruits and vegetables are grown using reclaimed water. Plarr designed and built the home—which he dubbed Angel’s Nest—in 2004; his partner, Victoria Peters, did the interior decorating. The retreat where Plarr and Peters live (when they’re not in Los Angeles pursuing architecture and acting careers, respectively) is open to architects, reporters, engineers, and government officials interested in visiting a model green home. August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY ANGEL’S NEST
OFF THE GRID
TREADING LIGHTLY: The Angel’s Nest estate and “DNA wind generator” (left); “Angel” Victoria Peters fills her stretch Hummer with hydrogen (right). For more information on Angel’s Nest visit www.angels-nest.org and www.s-free-dom.com.
Plarr says the house, which sleeps from 15 to 20 guests, is a prototype for sustainable homes that he plans to develop around the world. He is currently pitching the designs used at Angel’s Nest to a group of developers in Santa Fe, and he says he has invited representatives from Ford Motor Company and ChevronTexaco to stay at the retreat, in the hopes of raising their awareness of sustainable design. Oddly enough, Plarr’s interest in sustainability was sparked by his experience in the military. “When I was in the Marines, I realized we didn’t observe nature, our greatest teacher,” Plarr says. And there is something militant in his approach to green development. “[Angel’s www.plentymag.com August/September 2005
Nest] is the ultimate in homeland security,” Plarr says, “because no matter what happens in the world, we’re not supporting foreign oil or nonpotable water.” While most people probably don’t lose sleep imagining that their tax dollars are propping up some vast dirty-water market, defense-minded folk may identify with Plarr’s desire for security. The structure of Angel’s Nest, he says, “can resist any natural or terrorist catastrophe.” To Plarr, however, the home is more than just a bunker; he also seems to have a mystical attachment to the place. Named after Victoria, whom he describes as an “angel in a nest,” the house has a life and spirit “like a symphony orchestra or a human being.” “To really understand [Angel’s Nest], you have to stay here overnight—you have to touch it and feel the resonance frequencies,” he says. He waxes poetic about spending time in the rain forest room, which houses 20-foot waterfalls and plants including mint, rosemary, sage, allspice, and blueberry bushes, as well as mango, cherry, and banana trees. “It’s a romantic dance with the plants,” he says. But for green designers, the real romance is the home’s energy system. Two vertical windmills on the roof—which Plarr calls “DNA wind generators” because of their helix shape—team with rooftop solar panels to provide nearly all of the electricity needed to power Angel’s Nest. The system runs an electrolyzer that produces hydrogen fuel (“free-range organic hydrogen,” in Plarr’s parlance). Since most forms of hydrogen production still require electricity from coal and petroleum, the hydrogen made at Angel’s Nest is truly green. And when the sun and wind are low, a veggie oil generator kicks in to ensure steady production. The hydrogen is stored until needed, in both a low-compression tank for cooking and cooling and heating the house, and a high-compression tank for fueling vehicles—including the couple’s stretch
Hummer. Earlier this year, they purchased a commercial-scale fueling station, with plans to eventually open it to any driver who wants to fill up on hydrogen. The pump is likely the only one in the country to dispense hydrogen made from renewable resources. “Angel’s Nest is the first and only station we know of that does not use any fossil fuels,” says Dan Rabun, a chemical engineer with Air Products, the Pennsylvania-based company that manufactured the station, along with roughly threefourths of the other hydrogen pumps now in use worldwide. The most costly part of the home, the station carried a price tag of about $200,000, Rabun says. It is the first privately owned hydrogen station in the world—all of the others, he says, belong to corporations, cities, or universities. According to the latest Department of Energy data, only 12 commercial hydrogen pumps exist in the United States so far. The Angel’s Nest electrolyzer was also a whopping investment at a cost of about $50,000, (though Rabun says it will likely come down to $2,000 in the next five years). So are Plarr and Peters loopy to have invested so much in this new technology, or is home hydrogen a viable option for people with less cash? “When you’re off the electric grid, you normally can’t store excess electricity,” explains Greg Kats, chair of the energy committee at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “But [Plarr and Peters’s] electrolyzer effectively does that. It’s a smart strategy for hydrogen production and storage of fuel, for both home and vehicles.” “The technologies Angel’s Nest works with are critical for the future,” says Vivian Loftness, chair of the Committee on the Environment at the American Institute of Architects. “The ‘clean energy’ aspect of Angel’s Nest is viable.” The decor, on the other hand, is a matter of taste. ■ P L E N T Y | 101
HOW WE LIVE
A POD FOR YOUR iPOD IT’S TIME TO DRESS YOUR GADGET UP JAMI ATTENBERG
Ducky, at www.catherinespita.com
Ms. Paisley, at www.foofpod.com
Bunny, at www.chucklescentral.com
102 | P L E N T Y
OK, you’ve finally got that iPod. (We recognize that buying a hybrid comes first, but what took you so long?) It’s loaded with all of the appropriate music: The Arcade Fire, The Killers, The Hold Steady, and whatever else you heard about on Fluxblog or Stereogum, or whatever other music blog you’ve been religiously cruising this week. (New Ted Leo cover of the latest American Idol pop tart release? Check.) Maybe there’s a podcast or two on there. Your iPod is primed, stoked, ready to go. If you could give it a pair of Chuck Taylors and suitably messy hair, it might actually be able to get itself laid. You’re just missing one final accessory: the iPod cozy. Meet Catherine Hopkinson, iPod stylist. Come on, somebody had to do it, right? In the kitchen of her apartment on the fashionable Lower East Side of Manhattan, Hopkinson spends hours on her sewing machine, plotting the latest look for your favorite music-geek status symbol. Using old clothes donated by her friends—“I’m cheap, but I’m also way into recycling,” she says—she lovingly stitches frayed denim cozies with names like Wanker, Tropical Robot 5.0, and Rock City U.S.A. (Hopkinson cautions against dressing your iPod in one of her cozies while wearing jeans yourself. “Beware the double denim,” she says. “That’s never fashion forward. Unless you, like, live on a farm.”) She began making the cozies as an extension of her experiments with reconstructing T-shirts, all of which are available at her Web site www.catherinespita.com (be sure to check our her popular rock blog, too). Launched in winter 2004, her online shop took off immediately. “I had a major, lifealtering influx of orders in the first two months, such that I was a veritable cozymaking machine,” she says. “The Christmas rush has since leveled off to where I can keep up with the flow, which is nice.” Hopkinson points to good press from blogs and the print world as the key to her growth. In fact, the popular New York blog Gothamist described Hopkinson’s work as “handmade, cheeky cozies for just about any alter ego you can conjure up for your iPod.” Because yes, your iPod needs its own identity if you’re going to keep up with the hipsters. There’s more than one way to find
it, though; in fact, the iPod cozy scene is a highly competitive market. If you’re seeking a more sophisticated persona (think high ceilings and big windows in a sun-filled loft that you’re renovating yourself), A. B. Sutton carries well-designed kidskin leather cases. Does your iPod seem kooky and whimsical, like a bunch of giggling art students who’ve had too much coffee? Try Chuckles Central, which makes hand-knit animal iPod cozies. Do you feel an intense fascination and love for your iPod that surpasses all other previous technological loves? (By the way, this can be judged by how many mixes you’ve made in the past week.) Go international with a foofpod from the efficient and slick Australian company foof, which also makes “sleeves” for iBook and PowerBooks. So why the sudden buzz over dressing up our technology? We didn’t have Walkman cozies, nor were we covering our Ataris in hand-knitted attire. It may have something to do with the rise in popularity of hipster crafting (see Retreads, p. 16) and various live-journal communities, as well as how the Internet makes marketing and distributing niche products a breeze. The convergence of technology and home-grown products seems quite natural these days. “People have gotten the memo that accessories are the key to fashion,” adds Hopkinson. “And they want something cute that no one else has. Plus, people love their iPods like it is their job. Or their baby. And they want to keep them safe and warm.” Yes, it’s the ultimate way to turn your obsessive-compulsive music disorder into more than a sum of memory cards and iTunes downloads. Your cozy can show where and how you live, and it can let people know with a gentle wink that you are willing to take your technology and fashion to the next level. It says, Here I am, world. Now let’s get it on. And Hopkinson means get it on. “I would never sleep with someone who didn’t have a cozy,” she says. Seriously? “Well, I do think it can spark a subway connection. I have seen people eyeing my cozy on the train. I like to flash it at people. Also, if you have the window cozies [which reveal the playlist], you can flash your musical taste.” Note to self—get the window cozy. ■ August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
T H E B A C K PA G E
GREEN HAIKU BY JOEL DERFNER
Toyota Prius: Low emissions, stylish car. Maybe there is hope.
The forest at dawn; Birds sing, ancient trees rustle. I can’t stop sneezing. I shun McDonald’s And feel much healthier. Still: I miss their cookies. I can’t meditate: The poses are fine, but the Silence drives me nuts. Condone slave labor Or wear really ugly shoes? Rock and a hard place.
Despite my mocking, Sometimes I see trees and think: They are glorious. My boyfriend wants to Live in a mud house. I say: Have a good time there. Greenpeace, friend of trees, Why do you keep sending me All of this junk mail? Acupuncturist: Scientist of chi pathways Or voodoo priestess? My hand stops mid-toss, Saves the cup for recycling. I smile and walk on.
You are hot, smart, and Rich, but you don’t recycle. It’s been fun. Now—bye. Joel Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku (Broadway, 2005). He also blogs for PLENTY as the Reluctant Environmentalist. You can read his musings at www.plentymag.com. 104 | P L E N T Y
August/September 2005 www.plentymag.com
GLOBAL WARMING WE CAN. The science is documented. The threat is real. But now there is a weapon you can use to help undo global warming: undoit.org. Sign the online petition supporting vital legislation, discover a few modest lifestyle changes, and more. To learn all about global warming, and how you can help undo it, go to undoit.org
Published on Mar 10, 2012
Published on Mar 10, 2012
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