Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Anthropecene and Six Beneficiaries of Man

My story in Earth Island Journal's fascinating new package about the Anthropocene, the age of man, covers six species whose range and population have been most heavily impacted by human activity: carp, cows, and rats, oh my! The title is "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planet Earth" (the hitchhikers are the critters) and it may make your skin crawl. Or it may just lead you to be impressed by the adaptability and ingenuity of the natural world -- humans included.

The issue also features work by fellow SEJers Jane Braxton Little and Winifred Bird, who report from the forests near Fukushima and Chernobyl, and Elizabeth Grossman, who explains how synthetic chemicals have altered the chemistry of the environment. And it includes essays by local journalist and author Nathanael Johnson, Mark Hertsgaard, Raj Patel, Alan Weisman, and others. Find the whole package here, for the time being.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

That Tree on the Corner May Be Worth More Than Your House

I like trees. I have one tattooed on my left forearm. I've planted three in our small Oakland lot. I love to hike and run among them. I love to gaze up at them and rest beneath them. I even write about them. Here's another entry in the tree file, this time for Next City, a blog and publication devoted to "connecting cities and informing the people working to improve them." It's about a free online program called i-Tree, developed by the US Forest Service in partnership with Davey Tree Company, which allows cities to calculate the environmental -- and financial -- benefits provided by street trees and their urban forest at large. The program has been a big hit in cities from Pittsburgh to New York, as well as outside the US, as I outline in this story, my first for Next City.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Burning issue: 'Waste-to-energy' plants take off in bid to cut garbage, fuel use

My first piece for The Daily Climate/Environmental Health News was published last week while I was in the hospital awaiting the birth of my son Leo, so it's taken me a week to post it here. Some things are worth waiting for. I've received a good response to the story so far, and since, to my knowledge, no one else has written a comprehensive piece on this massive new wave of incinerator proposals, I'd like to spread this far and wide. It's a complicated issue, and it takes a primer like this to begin to wrap your mind around the issue (and the technologies) and the implications for zero waste, waste management, recycling, human health, public subsidy of renewable energy, and more. So dive in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Santana, Lesh, Johnston, Schon, Grisman, & Wasserman: Sons and Daughters of Marin's Rock Elite Carve Their Own Path

Time to talk music, as I am wont to do on a daily basis. I don't write about it nearly as often as I once did (which is to say always), but I still like to keep it in the rotation. For this feature in February's Marin magazine, I had a great time chatting with some of the sons and daughters of Marin's "rock elite" who are pursuing (or who are already enjoying) a music career of their own. The main takeaway for me was that no matter how many advantages they may or may not have received, they're far from set. The music industry has changed so much since the '60s and '70s that those old-school connections and skillsets may not be worth much. Meanwhile, being the child of a famous musician and trying to chart your own path in the industry presents certain challenges and expectations that your typical up-and-comer doesn't have to handle. A number of them even told me that they tried to avoid the music biz altogether, or that their parents advised against it -- but somehow they found themselves sucked into it. I guess what I'm trying to say is this isn't an open-and-shut case; there's a huge grey area between doomed and made, and these six musicians seem to know it well. Read more here; I hope you enjoy it.