Friday, April 27, 2012

North American Agricultural Journalists Award

In March I learned that my story "How Safe Is Your Soil?" placed second in the features category in the North American Agricultural Journalists' annual awards. This was a national contest, and entries came in from magazines and newspapers of all sizes from across the country (even Canada). Judges called it "A textbook example of extraordinarily deep reporting and clear explanatory writing wrapped with a finely crafted human element. This story examines not only the problem but possible solutions as well."

Sierra magazine stories

Just realized I forgot to post these last year! Both ran in Sierra magazine in November 2011.

"A Matter of Survival" picks up some of themes first developed by my East Bay Express feature "Oakland Invades the Desert," which one first place for Feature Story of a Serious Nature (came with a nifty plaque!) at the 2011 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards. This 2,500-word feature was teased on the cover.

"The Christmas Tree Curse" takes a look at a killer pathogen related to Sudden Oak Death that infects and kills a few varieties of common farmed Christmas trees (in addition to hundreds of other species around the world). It's pretty scary, and readers certainly responded. While the pathogen is essentially incurable, there are ways to stop or at least impede its spread. This was a shorter front-of-the-book item.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Exclusive Report: New Altamont Wind Turbines May Be More Harmful to Bats

Dug this one up after speaking with local stakeholders and national experts, and doing a fair amount of online research. Turns out the massive new wind turbines going in at Altamont Pass in order to reduce raptor kills, the result of a lawsuit brought by environmentalist groups, could actually be more harmful to bats than the older ones. With millions of bats dying throughout North America to white nose syndrome, the fact that we know very little about turbine impacts on bats, and that new technologies are being developed without them in mind, is a big deal. Read more: "New Altamont Wind Turbines Are a Boon for Birds, But Not for Bats."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Berkeley Takes First Steps Toward Recycling Mixed Plastics

I've been covering plastics a lot these days, including here and here. Last week, I reported on how Berkeley -- which previously decried the practice -- has taken its first tentative steps toward recycling mixed plastics. A lot is still up in the air, but for folks who follow this sort of stuff, it's an interesting development. Berkeley has consistently resisted plastics recycling in favor of attacking from the other end; while other cities have jumped headlong into mixed-plastics recycling, Berkeley has fought for extended-produce responsibility, bans on specific plastics, reduced consumption, and the like. So it'll be interesting to see where this leads: "Can Berkeley Tackle Its Plastics Problem?"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rebirth of Breuner Marsh

I've written about Breuner Marsh before, so for the backstory I'll point you there. It's one of the East Bay's most embattled stretches of shoreline, and after purchasing it a couple years ago the East Bay Regional Park District is now embarking on an $8 million restoration process (that's $36,700 per acre, many of which are underwater) designed to help the marsh withstand up to five feet of sea-level rise. In this sense it's a pioneering project in the Bay Area, and shows what we can do, given the right conditions (namely, ample uplands to expand to), to maintain our biologically rich tidal wetlands in the face of sea-level rise over the next century. My story appeared in the April-June 2012 issue of Bay Nature. Read it here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Living Plastic-Free

Oakland resident Beth Terry is one of the nation's leading experts on living plastic-free. What she's done over the past five years is pretty damn impressive, and now she's written a book to share her story and tips. She's a local leader and a nationally recognized "activist blogger," and I think we should all take a minute to listen to what she has to say. Granted, my Express profile only scratches the surface; if you're interested in reducing your plastic use, pick up a copy of her book. It's great. And the best thing about this story? Her plastic suit that we convinced her to wear for our cover.

Counts of Desert Tortoise on Large-Scale Solar Sites Are Often Wrong

I don't think anyone else has reported this, and I'm surprised it didn't make more of a splash. In fact I'd hoped to turn this into a longer feature, but it wasn't to be. Still, I'm glad I was able to write this little piece as a sidebar to a larger sidebar in Earth Island Journal. The take-away: Biologists are consistently underestimating the number of desert tortoise likely to be impacted by large-scale solar developments in the desert, in part due to faulty methodologies endorsed by state and federal agencies. The result: projects get permitted that shouldn't, and our understanding of our impacts on endangered desert tortoise through development are inaccurate. Fortunately, there's more than one way out.