Shrinking FIFA’s Footprint

The allegations of bribery surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup triggered an investigation that exposed much of the corruption at FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. In a piece for National Geographic’s “Voices” blog, I argue that the environmental impact of Qatar’s bid is even more egregious. Can FIFA call for a do-over?

http://on.natgeo.com/1SqREf0

The Politics of Climate Change and Hope

When celebrated novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote a long essay on the hopelessness of fighting global climate change and the need to focus on local conservation issues, he kicked off a firestorm of protests. In a piece for National Geographic’s “Voices” blog, I argue that there has never been more hope for those advocating on environmental issues, whether local or global.

http://on.natgeo.com/1IQHMqu

Hidden Stories for 2015

2014 brought us a much-needed surge in climate change reporting.  Resistance to climate science is finally fading from the political landscape.  But with the focus on weather, what flew under the radar?

In my latest post for National Geographic’s “Voices” blog, I take a look at five stories that deserve a closer examination in 2015.

http://on.natgeo.com/14mCp3i

What Do Giant Armadillos and Bulldozers Have in Common?

The giant armadillo and the bulldozer both frequent the Gran Chaco in South America. Although both are armored, one only destroys termite mounds. The other destroys the forest itself–and the lives of those who live there.

The Gran Chaco is the starting point for a piece I produced and placed in Al Jazeera’s online Opinion portal that discusses the importance of forests in the context of the latest round of climate change negotiations.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/12/keep-forests-standing-people-p-2014121063013845949.html

The UN Climate Change Summit: Questions and Answers

(Illustration credit: Jack Hornady)

(Illustration credit: Jack Hornady)

In a pair of pieces I wrote for National Geographic’s “Voices” blog (formerly titled “NewsWatch”), the question of climate change politics takes center stage.

Will the growing acceptance of climate science push international solutions forward? And can the increasing consensus save the world’s forests, which are critical for both climate change adaptation and mitigation?

Answers can be found at http://on.natgeo.com/1BwhS6E and http://on.natgeo.com/13QFzLs

Opinion Pieces on Land and Resource Rights

This is a catch-up post, cataloging a number of successful efforts to produce and place opinion pieces on securing the land and resource rights in the developing world.

Bloomberg View, September 19, 2013:
One Word May Save Indonesia’s Forests

Reuters AlertNet, September 16, 2013:
The land should feed the people first

Al Jazeera, September 19, 2013:
Is natural resource development a blessing, a ‘quick-fix,’ or a curse?

CNN’s Global Public Square, February 6, 2014:
Time to put people before land profits

Worst Weather Ever: Has It Become a Cliché Yet?

Satellite image of Poyang Lake on November 15, the day after the lake’s water level fell below eight meters. NASA image courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Satellite image of Poyang Lake on November 15, the day after the lake’s water level fell below eight meters. NASA image courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

The troubles of Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, are getting drowned out by the clamor generated by the superstorms Typhoon Haiyan and Cyclone Phailin. A crisis is still a crisis, however, even if it is not punctuated by 150mph winds and catastrophic flooding.

The problem is, Poyang’s waters are receding earlier in the season now.  The local government reported that the lake now enters its dry season more than seven weeks earlier than it did in the second half of the 20th century. The region receives 60 percent less precipitation, and the lake’s water level is reaching a historic low. More than a million people have suffered drinking water shortages as a result this autumn, and the lake’s fishing industry has literally been grounded.

Poyang Lake is the focus of my latest post for National Geographic; to read more please visit: http://on.natgeo.com/19IZ8RG.

 

Migration By Any Means Necessary

A Siberian Crane at the International Crane Foundation’s facility in Baraboo, WI (Credit: Dan Klotz).

A Siberian Crane at the International Crane Foundation’s facility in Baraboo, WI (Credit: Dan Klotz).

The airplane passenger of the month for October was an unusual breed of traveler, one who gratefully received first-class airfare even though the ticket sent him more than 2,000 km out of his way. He was trying to head south for the winter, got lost along the way, and has ended up with winter accommodations near Moscow—not quite the ideal warm-weather destination.

But this is no ordinary traveler. He and five of his pals tried this trip last year as well, and received an escort from the President of Russia, who was flying an ultralight plane of all things!

The passenger’s name is Raven, even though he is a Siberian Crane. His species is the focus of my latest post for National Geographic; to read more please visit: http://on.natgeo.com/1foj1Tm

Old Growth Rainforest—What Still Stands is More Valuable Than Ever

British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. Credit: Dan Klotz.

British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. Credit: Dan Klotz.

No matter where I have traveled in the world, I have found that the many of the larger stretches of primeval forests can only be reached by logging roads. Consider the old growth stands of Sitka spruce and red cedar in the Carmanah Valley, on a remote part of southeast Vancouver Island.  Canada’s tallest tree, 313 feet high, grows in this valley, yet you won’t find throngs of tourists having their picture taken next to it.

In fact, you won’t find any tourists next to it. British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is only reachable by a rough three hour drive on a gravel road that is the domain of logging trucks, not tour buses and rental cars. To find out why you need to see it (and view a few more photos), read my latest post at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog at http://on.natgeo.com/15aWbIu.

Explosive Agriculture and That Larger April Fireball

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

In mid-April, a humongous explosion rocked the Texas town of West when a fire broke out at an agriculture retail facility storing ammonium nitrate. The blast killed 14 people, injured more than 200, and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. If this and other forms of ammonia are so explosive before being used as fertilizer, what happens when it is used in agriculture? More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/10oCQjh.