Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

Kiera answers your green questions every week in her Econundrums column. She was a hypochondriac even before she started researching germ warfare.

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Kiera has written about the environment, arts and culture, and more for Columbia Journalism Review, Orion, Audubon, OnEarth, Plenty, and the Utne Reader. She lives in Berkeley and recently planted 30 onions in her backyard.

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In Congo Conflict, Endangered Gorillas Are Pawns

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 5:00 PM EST

gorilla150.jpg This is a truly heartbreaking story. The New York Times reports on yet another facet of the bloodshed in the Congo: Endangered mountain gorillas are among the rebels' targets:

Congo's gorillas happen to live in one of the most contested, blood-soaked pieces of turf in one of the most contested, blood-soaked corners of Africa. Their home, Virunga National Park, is high ground — with mist-shrouded mountains and pointy volcanoes — along the porous Congo-Rwanda border, where rebels are suspected of smuggling in weapons from Rwanda. Last year in Virunga, 10 gorillas were killed, some shot in the back of the head, execution style, park officials said.

According to this AP story, the rebels often eat the slaughtered gorillas. But it's unlikely that the militias are killing them solely for their meat. The reason? Read on after the jump.

Prop 8: Mormons For Gay Marriage

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 6:34 PM EST

prop8little.jpgIt's been widely reported that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) helped tip the balance in favor of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. But not all Mormons voted yes. On the site Seeking Forgiveness, LDS Church members apologize on behalf of their church to the gay community—and express their regret that Prop 8 passed.

The apologies are worth a read. After the jump, I'll quote a few that moved me:

What Do You Do With Your Newspaper Sleeves?

| Fri Nov. 14, 2008 4:50 PM EST

newspaper150.jpgEarly next year, the NY Times plans to ditch its old plastic newspaper sleeves in favor of this one, a "biodegradable polybag." Here's the scoop:

With this new technology an additive is mixed with the plastic that causes the finished product to degrade over time, as it is exposed to oxygen in the open environment or in a landfill. In addition to being "oxo-biodegradable" the bag can be recycled along with any other plastic bags. The Times will be the first national newspaper to commit to using this environmentally friendly bag. While this new bag is more expensive, we believe it is an important change to make.

If the paper on your doorstep isn't the Gray Lady, though, your plastic sleeves are most likely still bound for landfill purgatory. Blogger Kate Galbraith recommends reusing them for storing food in the fridge—if you're ambitious, knock yourself out with bag crafts like these.

But after the jump, here's another idea, inspired by a post from Danny Seo. (He's kind of the green Martha Stewart):

New Music: The Sea and Cake

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 6:53 PM EST

seaandcake150.jpgI must admit that when I first heard that Chicago rockers The Sea and Cake had another new album out—just a year after their last one—I was suspicious. That kind of prolificacy is rare to say the least. I mean, who are these guys, Stephen King? I suspected they would have lost some stamina along the way.

But I need not have worried, since this album, Car Alarm, is every bit as energetic and enthralling as the band's 2007 effort. A bit of background: At the height of Chicago's mid-'90s scene, members of legendary groups Tortoise, Shrimp Boat, and Coctails came together to form the Sea and Cake, which, since then, has evolved into a jazzed-up post-rock band. The quartet's eighth album finds the boys up to their old tricks, buzzing effortlessly from buoyant pop songs ("Aerial," "Window Sills") to dreamy steel-drum jams ("The Staircase"). This time, though, the buzz is subtle—think Sunday morning coffee, not nightclub. "Well I want inspiration/I keep it locked up, I want more," singer Sam Prekop whispers in "Down in the City." It's that sense of holding back—the energy just beneath Prekop's imperturbable cool—that gives this album its delicious tension. Contrary to its name, Car Alarm is anything but monotonous.

Read Stereogum's interview with the Sea and Cake guys here.

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