Book Review: Detroit: 138 Square Miles

There are many haunting images in this gargantuan photography book by Julia Reyes Taubman, but the one that devastates my dad is a picture of two disintegrating steam Bob-Lo boats docked next to a US Steel plant in west Detroit. For nearly 100 years, the boats carried generations of Detroiters to Bob-Lo Island amusement park … Continue reading Book Review: Detroit: 138 Square Miles

Observations from Yesterday’s Tar Sands Action Event at the White House

When I arrived at Lafayette Park yesterday around 1:30, the place was already filled with people and sparkling with energy and sunshine. Small impromptu parades started up within the park – one from the Ohio contingent snaked toward the stage where the speakers started around 2. I found myself standing next to Margot Kidder who … Continue reading Observations from Yesterday’s Tar Sands Action Event at the White House

The Case for Undevelopment

Perhaps some of the energy exerted on developing poor countries would be better spent encouraging developed countries to de-grow. I've been stumbling across subtle advocates for such an idea lately, from a number of different, and somewhat unlikely, professions: a (famous) farmer, an MIT-educated inventor and architects, respectively:The nearly intolerable irony in our dissatisfaction is … Continue reading The Case for Undevelopment

Haiti’s Trees

The earthquake in Haiti has brought renewed attention to its most serious environmental, and perhaps economic, problem: the lack of trees. By the end of the 20th century, 98% of the trees in the country had been cut down, mostly to produce charcoal for cookstoves. This accelerated desertification, droughts and erosion, making it harder to … Continue reading Haiti’s Trees

Filling the Black Box

An interview with investigative journalist Liu Jianqiang provides insight into China's environmental journalism. He makes the case that fighting for environmental issues isn't (shouldn't be?) a political issue, yet journalists are routinely targeted by local governments and corporations for revealing the shady underbelly of the country's "progress". No surprise there. But interestingly, those in PRC's … Continue reading Filling the Black Box

Static Heritage

An interesting land use irony was highlighted in the 2009 UN Report State of the World's Indigenous Peoples. That is, what happens when protecting a particular culturally significant spot actually leads to its decay? In this case, the place is the Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Philippines, a striking, 2000-year-old water-harvesting system. The site was … Continue reading Static Heritage


This week I watched the 2007 film Up the Yangtze. The movie follows the trials of a poor family living along the shores of the river as the Three Gorges Dam nears completion and the water rises over their little home. The undercurrent running through the story is the way wealthier people skirt the obvious: … Continue reading Dam