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Daniel Grossman has been a print journalist and radio and web producer for 20 years. He has produced radio stories and documentaries on science and the environment for National Public Radio’s show Weekend Edition; Public Radio International’s show on the environment, Living on Earth, and news magazine, The World. He has written for the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Discover, Audubon and Scientific American.

Breathtaking Destruction

Earlier this year, aerial photographer Alex MacLean invited me to survey the tar sands of northeast Alberta from the air with him. He’d reserved a plane, complete with pilot, at the diminutive airport of Fort McMurray, the de facto tar sands capital of Alberta. Alberta contains about 170 billion barrels of reasonably accessible oil, the…

We’re Seeing the End of Our Livelihood

Violet Clarke’s home sits virtually in the center of the vast Athabasca tar sands, a colossal deposit of extremely heavy crude oil in the western Canadian province of Alberta. She vaguely recalls seeing the gooey black stuff, which seeped naturally from the banks of the Athabasca River, during her childhood. Her father, a Cree Indian,…

Health Concerns Downstream of Alberta’s Tar Sands

I first met Doctor John O’Connor at the Wood Buffalo Brewing Company, one of the only places to eat or drink at in the tar sands capital Fort McMurray that’s not a chain. O’conner had also invited Laurie McDaniel, a candidate from the New Democratic Party for the Candadian parliament, and her assistant Shannon. (McDaniel…

Rains that Don’t Wet

Hatgal, Mongolia If you visit a Mongolian ger, be prepared for a few things. First, you’ll be served a thin-walled bowl of weak tea. Sometimes it tastes salty. Sometimes the surface glistens with a few spots of fat that’ll coat your lips. It’s always served with milk—yak, cow or camel—and never with sugar. A ger,…

Holding Back the Gobi

Dalanzadgad, Mongolia Few places in the world are feeling the effects of global warming as powerfully as Mongolia, the almond shaped country located between northern China and Siberia. Mongolia’s average temperature has gone up by 2.1 degrees Celsius in the last 70 years, about three times the global average. The added warmth is drying the…

Global Warming Makes a Splash

I’m traveling the world in search of the human face of the impacts of climate change. I encountered a sobering example yesterday, in Carhuaz, Peru. There, I met Juana, a middle-aged woman dressed in a white embroidered shirt, orange skirt and a grey felt hat. One Sunday morning in April 2010 Juana puttered around the…

An Optimist

I’ve never before met anyone as thoroughly optimistic as Peruvian glaciologist Benjamin Morales. I asked him today if his rosy take on life began when he narrowly missed death in 1970. On May 31st 41 years ago Morales lunched near his home in the town of Yunguay. Despite protestations of friends who had joined him…

Waiting for Water

Steep conical hills of brown sand and stone ring the city of Lima. Massive cement water tanks cap many of the summits, some bearing a slogan of the city’s powerful water utility, Sedepal: Agua Para Todo: water for all. To an inhabitant of the eastern United States, where water is generally plentiful, and where few…

Glacier Close Up

Nearly all the world’s tropical glaciers cap mountains of the Andes. If you wonder why, look at where the highest peaks in the tropics are located and you’ll have your answer. About three quarters of these glaciers top Peruvian peaks providing the South American country with a natural resource of immense value and justifiable pride.…

Lima’s Brown Coast

Lima and its contiguous suburbs and shantytowns sprawl between a sand-brown desert of undulating hills on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Today, accompanied by my translator, Dado, and driver, Juan Carlos, I sped down an avenue that hugs the shoreline.  A cliff of crumbly soil impregnated with small stones towered above…

How Will Lima Slake its Growing Thirst?

Lima is one of the cities of the world most immediately threatened by global warming. The capital of Peru was built on the edge of a desert, one of the driest in the world. And its primary source of water is a small river, the Rimac. The Rimac’s water trickles off glaciers high in the Andes which, unfortunately for Limeños, are rapidly melting. Peru has lost about 30 percent of its glacial ice in the last 40 years.