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Weird Science

The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biology

In 1971, a microbiologist named Ananda Chakrabarty patented a bacteria genetically engineered to degrade and destroy crude oil. The next year scientists created the first synthesized gene, a bit of yeast RNA ushered into existence virtually from scratch. These discoveries, among others, raised the curtain on the science of biotechnology. Forty years later, in 2010, biologist Craig Venter, already known as a key figure behind the mapping of the human genome, announced…
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by: Jeff Conant – Autumn 2012

Indigenous Peoples Left Out in the Cold at Rio+20

The Declaration of Kari-Oca is by Far the Strongest, Clearest, and Most Purposeful Statement Made at the UN Conference

When Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Cree organizer from Canada, sat on a panel at Rio+20 to announce a campaign to prevent Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic, he was accompanied by billionaire biofuels baron Sir Richard Branson, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International,…
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by: Jeff Conant – June 26, 2012

Who Was the “We” at Rio+20?

Businesses Took Center Stage While Civil Society Became a Sideshow

Flying into the Rio Earth Summit last week, I sat next to a Brazilian man who makes a weekly commute from Washington, DC to Rio de Janeiro to oversee his multi-million dollar construction company. When I asked him the obvious question —…
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by: Jeff Conant – June 25, 2012

Stuck Inside of Rio with the Climate Blues Again

Summit Tests the Idea of Whether Green Capitalism Can Save the Environment

Among veteran environmental advocates, the word “Rio” calls to mind the promise of global cooperation and the peril of broken promises. The historic 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, brought together the nations, corporations, and peoples…
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by: Jeff Conant – June 20, 2012

African Soil in the Blood and Dust of COP17

Last hours of Durban Climate Negotiations Indicate Kyoto Protocol is Set to Lose Its Heart

The rallying cry of the South African hosts of COP17, repeated throughout these two weeks, has been “The Kyoto Protocol will not die on African soil.” Photo by Ron Mader The theatrics of these UN events revolves around a kind of ritual…
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by: Jeff Conant – December 10, 2011

“We’re Not Very Excited About Kyoto,” the US Says

Neither Are People’s Movements in the South – But for Different Reasons

The big question here in Durban during the UN climate negotiations (COP17) is: Will the Kyoto Protocol live or die? The halls are filled with young people waving posters that declare “Save Kyoto,” delegates wearing t-shirts saying “I heart Kyoto,” and rallies…
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by: Jeff Conant – December 6, 2011

What Will Save Our Forests?

Critical Insights from Indigenous Peoples in and around UNCOP17

In this article I wrote for Earth Island Journal earlier this year detailing the fatal flaws of the climate mitigation scheme known as REDD (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), I quoted World Bank President Robert Zoellick as calling REDD,…
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by: Jeff Conant – December 2, 2011

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