January 27, 2023

South Africa Locks Onto Coal Despite Water Risks, Grim Market Trends

VRYHEID, South Africa — The chilly highland valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal province, where coal mining and agriculture have coexisted since the late 19th century, have never been a geography of unfolding uncertainty, mystery, and menace like they are today. South Africa’s allegiance to coal mining and coal-fired power generation in an era of rising concern about water supply and quality, and weakening national and global demand, is causing a furor in the country’s mining sector, …

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South Africa’s Impending Crop Failure

PONGOLA, South Africa — On the last Friday of January, payday on the sugar cane farms of northern KwaZulu-Natal province, a hot sun beat down on the red clay of Cobus Horn’s equipment yard. Nduku Msimanga, taut and muscled as a welterweight boxer, waited there with three other tractor drivers to receive unusually meager pay stubs. Msimanga, who is 33 years old, supports two teenage boys, a seven-year-old girl, and his wife on the wages …

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Earth Day 2015 Marks Convergence of Inspiring Trends

Earth Day, first celebrated 45 years ago in the United States, is now a grown-up international convergence that joins a reckoning with ecological deterioration to the panorama of human activity devoted to improving the planet’s condition. What’s inspiring about Earth Day is that the same principles of responsibility, collective action, pollution prevention, and natural resource conservation that informed the first Earth Day in 1970 have proven to be the durable foundation of 1) ecological repairs …

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Stanley Heckadon-Moreno is Panama’s Great Conservationist and Patriot

COLON, Panama – Across the expanse of a half-century-long career as an ecologist, reformer, and skilled raconteur, Stanley Heckadon-Moreno saw his native Panama engulfed by one spasm of political transition after another. A weak democracy and resentment of American ownership of the Panama Canal in the 1960s begat the corrupt military dictatorship of the 1980s. A damaging American invasion in 1989 gave rise to a decade of hardship and confusion in the 1990s. Even the …

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Panama’s Water-Rich Eden Confronts Snake’s Temptation

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Quebrada Ancha, a community that settled in Panama’s thick forest 50 years ago, lies at the northern end of Lago Alajuela, a freshwater lake built by the United States at the end of the Great Depression to control floods in the Panama Canal Zone. It takes 20 minutes in a fast 40-foot dugout boat to get there. In early morning’s luminous light and cooling breeze the trip is a passage across …

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Algae Blooms, A New Visitor, Ruin Sleeping Bear Dunes Shoreline

EMPIRE, Michigan — It’s winter in Northwest Michigan, the coldest and deepest season of ice and snow in years. It’s possible that the severe winter will produce the conditions necessary to curb the newest noxious and unsightly threat to the region’s waters: the algae blooms overtaking northern Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The blooms not only illustrate the presence of rising levels of nutrients in the water. They also are evidence of …

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As We Build More, Use More, The Earth Is Pushing Back Hard

PRAGUE — City Square erupted at the start of the 2014 New Year with a deafening and blazing midnight fusilade of rockets and cannon blasts. The air filled with spent gunpowder and smoke so dense the brilliance of the firebursts was obscured. The Czech crowds, so slim and young and dressed in chic leather and spiked heels, cheered with the joy and lusty charm that comes with political security and social success. This 1,000-year-old river …

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Torrent of Water and Big Questions Pour From Matchless Peaks of India’s Himalayan Region

OKUND, UTTARAKHAND, INDIA – We made the crossing at night from Chamoli, reaching this Himalayan foothill town after dark. The innkeeper, anxious for guests in a travel economy that came to a standstill in mid-June, cooked dal and nan bread for dinner and then showed us to a room that was unlit and unheated. It didn’t matter. Thick blankets kept us warm. And at dawn we awoke to strong black coffee and the sun lighting the …

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BEIGIN 2013: A Conference That Thrilled Students, Stirred Lifelong Friendship

NEW YORK — Five years ago Linda Ragsdale, an artist and mother from Nashville, survived a terrrorist attack in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people. In a keynote speech at the BEIGIN H2O conference in Beijing, Linda described the orderly persistence of the attack on the hotel where she stayed. Not a soul stirred in the auditorium at the International School of Beijing as she recounted the sound, the smell, the sight of the gun …

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Just As It’s Always Been, Earth Day Marks Big Problems, Big Choices

CHATHAM, Mass. — The tides here lay down a walkway of shells — horseshoe crabs, scallops, palm-size crabs — where the water meets dry sand. On Earth Day 2013 a nearly full moon is perched, like a round plate on a pedestal, amid an expanse of cloudless blue sky. Gulls soar and dive in a stout breeze, and in the nearby mudflats men and women with long-handled metal rakes in hand and collars turned up …

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