Monday, January 20, 2014

New story for High Country News: Building better homes in Indian Country

The subject of my latest for High Country News, green building in Indian Country, has become one of my favorite topics. It's not only innovative and off the beaten path a bit, but it also brings together a number of my interests: green building, sustainability, science (as it informs architecture and man-made systems), infrastructure, renewable energy, water efficiency, and more. Yet at its core is a human story, one related to the sustainability of cultures and communities. Here, green building is not an end in itself, as we often find it framed in the wealthy and eco-conscious Bay Area, but rather a means to achieve something bigger and more permanent.

My first story on the topic, for Environmental Health Perspectives in December 2012, focused on human health and indoor air quality. My second, for Indian Country Today in May 2013, illuminated the cultural context and also offered a broader view of the trend and its benefits to tribes. My third, out today in High Country News, goes in-depth on a major project at South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and concludes with a series of case studies on other green-building projects throughout Indian County. (You may need a subscription in order to read the entire story.)

And I'm not stopping here; more stories are likely to follow.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wind Turbines: A Different Breed of Noise?

File under: serendipity. It so happened that just as I began work on my latest feature for Environmental Health Perspectives, I was also preparing to fly to Massachusetts for the Woods Hole Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship. Throughout the weeklong program, us fellows (ten in all) would be staying in a town called Falmouth, located about ten miles from Woods Hole.

Oddly enough, Falmouth was on my mind for another reason, too: it kept coming up in web searches for stories on wind turbine noise. Once I looked into it and put the pieces together, I was floored. Weeks later when I was in Falmouth for the fellowship, I used some of my spare moments to do reporting for my EHP story, including making a couple trips from our hotel to the outskirts of town where the three controversial turbines were located. Some things are just meant to be.

The resulting story was published online today. It deals with not only the situation in Falmouth but also the bigger picture: what, if any, are the health effects of wind turbine noise, and how do they compare to those of traffic and aircraft noise? As supersize turbines become more commonplace, it's a question being asked virtually around the world, with a consensus still beyond our reach. Hopefully, this story (and the scientific research it addresses) will contribute something meaningful to this important conversation.