Book, Features, Greenspace, film November 15, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

<em>The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History</em>/Chronicle Books/Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX

The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History/Chronicle Books. Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX.

dustbowlheader The Dust Bowl
The southern portion of the Great Plains was especially hard-hit during the Great Depression. Along with financial hardship, an environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions hung like a black cloud over the region. Severe drought in areas where the farmland had been overextended led in many cases to the drying up of an entire way of life and every conceivable thing around it. The Dust Bowl now gets the Ken Burns treatment with a new PBS documentary and an accompanying book. Burns and his collaborator, the producer and writer Dayton Duncan, consider this seminal event to be “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.” At a time when numerous other events are giving the Dust Bowl a run for its money in that distinction, Mr. Duncan spoke to PLANET about the lessons worth learning from this chapter in our past.
Can you describe your working relationship with Ken Burns and how you arrive upon chapters in American history that you decide to explore?

We’re both drawn to topics that are uniquely or quintessentially American. I have the best job in the world, because the films that I write and produce are about topics that I’ve suggested, from The West and Lewis and Clark to The National Parks and The Dust Bowl. I have a great interest in the connection between our land and our people, and how that interplay has affected our nation’s history.

Features, Greenspace June 12, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

Van Jones at Power Shift 2011 in Washington D.C./Kasey Baker

Van Jones at Power Shift 2011 in Washington D.C./Kasey Baker

sayletitle1 Green = Green
When world leaders meet in Rio de Janeiro next week for a conference on sustainable development, they will do so in an economic climate that continues to be marked in red, with high unemployment numbers, sovereign debt crises, and the threat of the Euro Zone’s disintegration. But according to a new report by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a promising economic strategy from here forward may come in shades of green. The study concludes that a net gain of as many as 60 million green jobs is waiting to be seized upon worldwide with broad implications for reducing poverty.

Just how opportunities to usher in a new green economy were squandered here in the United States over the past four years is by now a well-worn subject. According to Van Jones, President Obama’s former Special Advisor on Green Jobs, meaningful progress in this country would have required the Senate to follow the House in passing legislation that set a price on carbon. He tells PLANET that the $80 billion dollars in public investments devoted to green industries and projects under Obama was only the first step. While 2.4 million green jobs were added, as estimated by the Brookings Institute, Jones sees that as a small fraction of what might have been possible with the cooperation of Congress.

“Cap and trade would have given the private sector an incentive to play,” Jones said in an interview, suggesting that the business community

Jerry Bauer

Jerry Bauer

header11 Edward O. Wilson
Now that he’s approaching 83, Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has decided the time is at hand to publish a culminating work that wraps up many of the things he’s spent his distinguished career studying and to once again put himself at the center of heated scientific debates. In truth, he’s probably energetic enough to continue well on into his nineties. We’d expect nothing less from the man who can credibly call himself the Darwin of the present day. The book, titled The Social Conquest of Earth, presents some of the important discoveries that Dr. Wilson has made in the subject of advanced social behavior, many of which have had their origins in the study of ant colonies.

It turns out that we have much in common with ants and a small number of additional insect species. Mainly, there’s our shared inclination to be altruistic toward others of our kind, a phenomenon known as eusociality. It’s that behavior that forms the basis for so much of our success, but its origins haven’t always been understood. Especially puzzling is its rareness. E.O. Wilson spoke to Planet about the themes explored in his new book, including the notion that exploiting our eusocial instincts may turn out to be the key to saving our planet.

Features, Greenspace February 24, 2012 By Jordan Sayle
Tara Oceans/Tara Expeditions

Tara Oceans/Tara Expeditions

title 23 Voyage on the Oceans
So often it’s the night sky that captures the attention of people contemplating undiscovered forms of life. Yet stargazers might not always appreciate that however unlikely it is for any of us to learn of alien creatures from far off galaxies in our lifetimes, there is a much better chance for us to find never before seen living things in the oceans here on the planet Earth. So-called intelligent life probably isn’t lurking anywhere in the deep blue sea, except maybe in a ghost story or two, but it’s an accepted estimate within science that microbial diversity in the world’s oceans accounts for what are thought to be millions of unknown species of phytoplankton, including protists, small metazoans, viruses, and bacteria. If anyone intends to study these unknown microbes, though, they better do so before the organisms vanish along with eroding coral reefs and become characters in a ghost story of their own.
     Warmer and acidified waters linked to human activities are disrupting subsurface ecosystems and turning the mission to study oceanic microorganisms into a race against time. A 2010 report in the journal Nature found that planktonic populations have declined by 40 percent since 1950. Appraising their health and numbers has significance beyond mere curiosity. As a food source, pelagic plankton constitute the foundation of the maritime food web. And as emitters of oxygen and as carbon sinks, they play a vital role in regulating the content and temperature of our atmosphere.

Features, Greenspace November 22, 2011 By Jordan Sayle
Bob Lutz by John F. Martin/ Courtesy: Penguin Group USA and © GM Company/GM Media Archives

Bob Lutz by John F. Martin/ Courtesy: Penguin Group USA and © GM Company/GM Media Archives

bob title Bob Lutz
With the L.A. Auto Show taking place this week, PLANET spoke to a genuine auto visionary. He may not believe in man-made climate change, and he may rail against what he calls the media’s tendency to smother the makers of hybrid vehicles like Toyota in superlatives for their environmental correctness. But in the last decade, there is arguably no one else in Detroit who has done more to promote clean, efficient cars than Bob Lutz.
     After stints at other automakers, he rejoined his first employer, General Motors, as vice chairman in 2001 and oversaw the development of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in gas/electric hybrid. The car’s $40,000 price tag puts it out of reach for most drivers, and GM is unlikely to meet its target of 10,000 sales by year’s end, yet the Volt denotes an important if tentative step nevertheless. Now 79 and retired, Lutz talked openly about the events covered in his book, Car Guys VS. Bean Counters, including the past failures of the American auto industry and the road ahead to a future devoid of gasoline:

Features, Greenspace October 19, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

bs 1 Beneath the Surfacebs title Beneath the Surface
“The deeper you go, the more good things you learn.”  So says the Energy Tomorrow lady in the oil and gas advertisements that have blanketed the airwaves in recent years (except during the aftermath of the BP spill when she went into temporary hiding).  The ad campaign, created by an energy trade association called the American Petroleum Institute, is meant to promote the benefits of tapping into domestic resources, citing in particular the spread of jobs.  And at the very heart of the campaign lately is the case for natural gas.
     Listen to the president discuss the issue of gas drilling, and he’s just as optimistic: “The potential for natural gas is enormous,” he declared in an energy policy address in the spring at Georgetown University.  After abandoning his administration’s efforts to install a cap and trade pricing system, and following the Democrats’ loss of their majority in the House, natural gas was the common ground on which Obama was willing to stand alongside Republicans.  In the same speech, he called on Congress to pass a bill to “achieve the goal of extracting natural gas in a safe, environmentally sound way” and joked that his energy secretary was tinkering with extraction methods in the garage on weekends.
     That political common ground and the speed at which private companies are moving in to capitalize even in the absence of federal

Books, Features, Greenspace October 4, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

ds 11 Dava Sobelds title2 Dava Sobel
With the printing of On the Revolutions in 1543, Copernicus didn’t so much set the world on fire as he did set it spinning.  But there were those in his time, not quite ready to receive his pioneering theories about the cosmos, who, had he lived longer, may have wished to see the astronomer himself set ablaze (à la Giordano Bruno).  In her new book, A More Perfect Heaven, Dava Sobel tells of the universe-altering ideas that Copernicus put forth and the high stakes that nearly kept him from sharing his life’s work.
     Breakthroughs in science ask us to imagine the unimaginable.  And in 16th Century Europe, the notion of a heliocentric solar system wasn’t merely unimaginable, it was downright heretical.  The conflict at the center of Sobel’s book is the decision that Copernicus had to make of whether to publish his discoveries and risk whatever reaction they might provoke.  For the first time, Sobel, a science writer, also serves as playwright for a portion of the book and dramatizes the conversations that Copernicus had with Georg Joachim Rheticus, the Lutheran mathematician who ultimately convinced him to make his theories known.  PLANET spoke to the author about bringing characters in scientific history to life for real this time: 

Features, Music September 16, 2011 By Lily Moayeri

main 1 Theophilus London: This Years Modelfiller29 Theophilus London: This Years Modeltl cover Theophilus London: This Years Model
How many rappers are name-checking Morrissey as an influence and using Smiths song titles for their various outlets? Trinidad-born and Brooklyn-raised, Theophilus London is quite possibly the only one. The twenty-something London, whose debut full-length, Timez Are Weird These Days, dropped in July, is an exemplar for the modern musician. Establishing himself as a persona through social networking and his sense of style long before he released any music, London is creating a blueprint for current artists.
     London is not all about futuristic approaches. He preceded any original material with two, now-classic mixtapes: This Charming Mixtape (a twist on the the Smiths’ “This Charming Man”) and I Want You. And prior to the release of his EP, Love’s Holiday, he had firm ties to high-end fashion brands such as Cole Haan.
     Alongside all this, London is maniacally active on his Twitter feed, his Facebook page, his “This Charming Blog” posts, his numerous Tumblr account posts, and his Hypebeast — not repeating the same information on any of those outlets, keeping the material fresh for today’s media-hungry, short attention span audiences.
filler29 Theophilus London: This Years Model

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Art, Features July 25, 2011 By Editors

HM Ad3 Global Travel Photo Contest 2011 Honorable Mention

Features, film July 19, 2011 By Rachel A Maggart

Joyce Mckinney in TABLOID directed by Errol Morris. A Sundance Selects release.

Joyce Mckinney in TABLOID directed by Errol Morris. A Sundance Selects release.

t title4 Tabloidfiller29 Tabloid
With manacled Mormons, oddball accomplices, bondage modeling, and fantasies of celestial unions, Tabloid, the new film by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris, has been said to contain something for everyone.
     A reflection on love and self-delusion, it’s enigmatic and hyperbolic even for Morris’s standards, chronicling the misadventures of beauty queen cum sex vixen, 1970s British tabloid starlet, Joyce McKinney.
     “She’s a real cipher…” Morris muses, as if puzzling over a combinatory algorithm. “A mystery, but a truly romantic sort of mystery.”
     To discuss his new film and its storied femme fatale, I’ve met the director on a hot July afternoon. From his hotel suite in Soho we overlook 180 degrees of Midtown’s shimmering skyline.
     ”[Joyce]’s volatile, and crazy, and smart, and vindictive…I really don’t know what she is, but she’s a great subject for a movie.” He concedes, smiling.
     Joyce McKinney may be a handful. I suppose she’s not the existential conundrum of Abu Ghraib or Iwo Jima (two topics of his past Standard Operating Procedure (2008) and The Fog of War (2003)).
     Morris has always been an expert at locating the mad hatters and outliers in society (be it teenaged assassins, ex military commanders, or pet cemetery proprietors). It might be an inane headline that sets afloat his sail of inspiration.