James West

James West

Climate Desk Producer

James West is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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Turning Your Teeth Green (In a Good Way)

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 5:00 PM EST

Dr. Nathan Swanson, Newmarket Dental, New Hampshire: James WestDr. Nathan Swanson, Newmarket Dental, New Hampshire: James West

Dr. Nathan Swanson had one of those "holy crap" moments one day when he  looked at the amount of waste his old dental practice produced.

"All the offices, in all the roads, in all the states, in all the countries, it's a phenomenal amount of waste!" he said during my recent trip to New Hampshire.

So when he opened his own dental practice five years ago, he began a long journey to claim the title as New Hampshire's greenest dentist, by seeking out corn-based spit cups, biodegradable toothbrushes and a new $30,000 digital x-ray.

"You know, I might not be able to change everybody's way of doing business or practicing dentistry," he told me. "But I'm certainly going to change mine."

Nathan is part of a growing movement, according to Ina Pockrass, the co-founder of the Eco-Dentistry Association, which provides industry-standard certification and helps market over 100 green dentistry products. Nathan is one of 700 members in 45 states, catering to a growing market of what Ina calls "eco-Moms" and "label readers." Since mid-2009, the association has witnessed a "torrent of interest", she says.

"Dentistry is getting beyond drill, fill and bill."

Nathan Swanson is  Climate Desk's first Trailblazer, a weekly story showcasing one person's way of tackling climate change. If you want to nominate a Climate Desk "Trailblazer" in your neck of the woods, follow @climatedesk on Twitter, or like our Facebook page and shoot us a message.

No Maple Syrup by 2100?

| Thu Jan. 5, 2012 1:43 PM EST

Martha Carlson, Sandwich N.H.: James WestMartha Carlson, Sandwich N.H. James West

A few years ago, Martha Carlson, a veteran maple farmer, began noticing subtle changes in her 60-acre "sugar bush" in Sandwich, New Hampshire: Maple sap was unusually dark, and leaves were falling too early, never having reached postcard New England color. Her sugar maples, some of them nearly 300 years old, were sick.

At 65, Martha now leads the crusade to save the New Hampshire sugar maples—and the multimillion dollar local syrup and tourism industries they provide—from disastrous climate change. And in the process she's mobilizing a crack team of researchers: a group of elementary school kids.

Take a peak at the Climate Desk's slideshow of production stills from New Hampshire on Facebook (and make sure to like our page). We're also on Google Plus. Front page image: Adam Rose/Flickr

Sinking Feeling: More Bad News for Pacific Island Nations

| Fri Dec. 9, 2011 3:55 PM EST

Kiribati: lidian/ShutterstockKiribati lidian/Shutterstock

In climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, the most urgent calls for action have come from the world's small island nations. For many of those nations, the negotiations aren't about some far-off, abstract problem. It's something they're already living with, as a new Australian research project on the dramatic climate shifts underway for 15 Pacific nations reaffirmed this week.

Basically, the report finds that the closer one lives to the equator, the warmer it's going to get. And even in the best-case scenario, oceans will rise up to 12 inches by 2100. It confirms what Pacific islanders have long feared: Home is getting windier, saltier, wetter, hotter and, well, submerged in water.

No wonder the Pacific islanders have banded together in the climate talks. Many negotiate together as the Alliance of Small Island States, or AOSIS. Representatives of those nations have demanded immediate action in Durban, rather than further delay, as some parties have suggested. The group also issued a joint statement with the European Union and the least-developed countries calling for a legally binding agreement. "We have all that it takes to begin the work right now," said Karl Hood, the chairman of AOSIS and minister for foreign affairs in Granada. "We believe that waiting is a disaster."

"Where we live, some say it's a paradise," Hood continued. "It's a paradise when you come to visit. But we live there. We don't leave after a week and go back home. This is our lives."

Taito Nakalevu, a climate change adaptation officer with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, has also been in Durban for the meeting and discussed this latest report. "The soil, the water, is slowly being affected," he said. "This is our livelihood." He noted a single flood in his homeland of Fiji in 2009 that did $162 million in damage in just one town, a burden for the country. "The funds that need to be used for development are being used for adaptation," he said. "We cannot cope with that."

The Climate Desk's James West also spoke with one member of the Australian research team via Skype in Sydney—'scuse the poor connection, it's a long way!—to take the temperature on the report.

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