Can National Happiness Survive on an Organic Diet?

Stepped farming in Paro, Bhutan (Credit: Soham Banerjee)

Stepped farming in Paro, Bhutan (Credit: Soham Banerjee)

The small kingdom of Bhutan is known for establishing the “gross national happiness” tool, a “multidimensional measurement” that looks at its citizens’ quality of life and well-being. Lately, it has been making waves for its government’s ambition to become the first 100% organic country in the world. More on National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog.

Educating Girls Like Chrissie Can Save a Nation

In September 2012, I produced an opinion piece authored by President Joyce Banda of Malawi that ran on The piece, which was timed to coincide with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, discussed the importance of education and gender empowerment in setting international goals for economic development. To read the piece, click here.

Fresh Piracy Off West Africa Highlights Link to Overfishing

Modern-day piracy, it seems, happens at the intersection of global shipping lanes, overfished parts of the oceans, and nations whose governments are troubled or failing. If fishermen have no fish to catch and no rule of law to restrain them, piracy would appear pretty attractive. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog.

Lonesome Larry: An Unsung Hero

In early August, I wrote for on the nexus between Woody Guthrie and sockeye salmon. The occasion? The folk singer’s 100th birthday, and the 20th anniversary of Lonesome Larry, the only sockeye to make it to Redfish Lake in 1992 (in decades past, the sockeye in the lake numbered at least 30,000). More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog.

Reporting on Bioethics

During the summer, I reported on the August meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues with a series of blog posts. The Commission explored a several fascinating debates on medical data and experimentation, providing the grist for seven posts:

Can Banning Big Gulps have an Environmental Benefit?

Credit: Dan Klotz

At the end of May, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared a ban on “Big Gulps” in the Big Apple. Lost in this public health debate is whether or not cutting down on super-sized sodas will have an environmental benefit–and the answer, while not as obvious as the obesity epidemic, makes common sense. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog.

The Farm Bill Rollercoaster Gets Ready to Roll

Credit: National Archives no. 514376 44-PA-871

This week, the Senate began debating the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,”the latest name for the Farm Bill. This legislation comes up for renewal every five years, and the back-and-forth always been larger than life and somewhat crazy. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog.

Portfolio: Bangkok, Thailand

Exploring Bangkok in April, 2012.

Portfolio: Southern Utah

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in May, 2007.

New options for flood control could help during dry spells

Last year’s record flooding in the Chao Phraya River’s watershed caused $40 billion in damages and left one third of Thailand—including parts of Bangkok, the capital and largest city—underwater for weeks. The prolonged media coverage, however, completely drowned out most recollections of the record drought that the country experienced in 2010.

For Thailand, managing the agricultural challenges presented by climate change means planning to handle both too much water and too little. One solution, Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), sets aside land in upstream areas of major rivers to “capture” floodwater and direct it into natural underground aquifers. With fully “charged” aquifers, farmers could then maintain rice yields during dry spells.

Matthew McCartney, principal researcher for the International Water Management Institute, and Theerasak Tangsutthinon of Thailand’s Department of Groundwater Resources led a tour of a MAR project 50km north of Bangkok that showed both the potential of this solution as well as the challenges it brings.

This was the subject of a slide show featuring my photos that I created for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).  I also secured coverage of the tour with the Christian Science Monitor and National Geographic.