Exploring the intersection of nature, labor and energy.

A Sense of Wonder: On Rachel Carson and Shooting Stars December 7, 2017 by Elizabeth McGowan - WASHINGTON, D.C.—On a late-night walk home from the train, I looked up at just the right time. Like a bug on fire, a shooting star darted across Orion, winking out near the three bold twinkles marking the hunter constellation’s belt. "Oh wow!" I thought, tickled to witness such a light show in an urban setting with less-than-dark night skies. "Rachel Carson would have relished that." It was early November, and Carson was on my mind because I had toured the author’s childhood home in Springdale, Pa., a month earlier while attending a conference for environmental journalists in nearby Pittsburgh. Carson will forever be linked to Read more >
Rising from the Coal Ashes: An unlikely alliance fashions a future for working-class Buffalo suburb after power plant shutdown July 19, 2017 by Elizabeth McGowan - TOWN OF TONAWANDA, UPSTATE NEW YORK—To an outsider, the brawny red behemoth framed by jutting smokestacks looms at the edge of Niagara River like a ghost of the nation’s energy past. The coal-fired Huntley Generating Station, silenced after a century of service, hasn’t produced electricity for 16 months. However, Upstate New York natives such as savvy grass-roots organizer Rebecca Newberry view the 760-megawatt eyesore through a more nuanced lens. Yes, it was long Erie County’s most prolific air and water polluter. But it was also the town of Tonawanda’s biggest taxpayer. Newberry knew that if Huntley tanked, so would this working-class Buffalo suburb 13 miles Read more >
For the Birds: Flock of D.C. volunteers proves ‘Lights Out’ in buildings saves lives of winged migrants June 13, 2017 by Elizabeth McGowan - WASHINGTON—Jack O. Lantern, the 17-pound pumpkin-orange rescue cat I adopted on Halloween, stood frozen in place on the side porch. I traced the arc of his unblinking amber eyes to a beaked ball of fluffy feathers trying to camouflage in a bed of sedum a few feet away. Seconds later, an adult robin landed on my neighbor’s trash bin and chirped a series of alerts to her fledgling charge. If I could speak birdese, I would have urged that vigilant mother to relax. Jack is strictly an indoor cat. Our screened-in porch is his window on a natural world that he can observe—not touch. But Read more >