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.

Roundtable Review: Trouble the Water

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 6:47 PM EDT

ttw100.jpg
A few days before Hurricane Katrina struck land in New Orleans three years ago Friday, 24-year-old rapper Kimberly Rivers Roberts bought a camcorder for $20 on the street. With her husband Scott, she started filming her neighbors—most of whom didn't have the means to leave—and their preparations to ride out the storm. She kept filming until the levees failed, even as the water rose and her friends sought safety in their attics. Two weeks later, Kim and Scott returned to document the destruction, and join some 20 friends in the back of a truck to begin the long trip to dry land. Kim and Scott's footage, along with archival materials including recovered recordings of 911 calls and video of inmates trapped in the Orleans Parish Prison, makes for a film that is at once journalistic and deeply personal.

Four MoJo staffers watched Trouble the Water Tuesday night and discussed it via Gchat Wednesday morning. Read the conversation here.

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More Cell-Phone Wariness From Docs

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

cellphone150.jpgThe Baltimore Sun reports that another group of doctors has voiced its concerns about cell phones. They're the latest to do so; last year, a different group published the Bioinitiative Report, a roundup of some of the studies that suggest a link between cell-phone radiation and brain cancer.

This new group includes some bigwigs—most notably Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Herberman told the Sun, "Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later."

This, in a nutshell, is the precautionary principle, which is an important piece of this whole debate—but it's not really anything we haven't heard before. And we probably won't hear anything new until more science is in. Unfortunately, this could take quite a while. So the question remains: Should we follow Herberman's advice and use our mobiles sparingly till we know more?

Full disclosure: After researching "This is Your Brain on Cell Phones," I bought a headset. Just in case.

Yearning for Better Coverage of Polygamists

| Tue Jul. 22, 2008 3:30 PM EDT

yfz200.jpgToday the New York Times teased a Sunday magazine feature on the young women of the the Yearning for Zion Ranch—the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (FLDS) Texas compund that was raided in April.

Times photographer Stephanie Sinclair, the teaser says, "was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S." The result is an eye-catching essay of 16 photographs.

Contrast is really what makes these photos work so well artistically. The juxtaposition of the pastel prairie-style dresses against a run-of-the-mill suburban ranch house lends an appealingly surreal quality, reminiscent of the uncanniness of Diane Arbus' work and the magic realism of Gregory Crewdson's. But what are those strange-looking ladies really like?

Beijing Spectators Risk Heart Attacks

| Mon Jul. 21, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

beijing200.jpgResearchers at Northwestern University warn that pollution in Beijing is so extreme that it could trigger cardiac arrest and strokes in spectators and athletes.

Advice from the docs:

Stay indoors during traffic rush-hour periods. "Indoor air pollution levels are always much lower than outdoor, so staying inside will limit your exposure," Budinger said. He cautioned that Beijing's definition of mild pollution would be a pollution alert day in the U.S.

So that's all good advice for the millions who will be descending upon Beijing for a few weeks, but what about the people who actually live there?

Oh yeah, them: The 750,000 Chinese people that die prematurely from pollution every year—and that the Chinese government doesn't want you to know about. Are they just supposed to stay inside all day every day?

For a good overview of some of the emergency measures Beijing officials have taken to prepare for the Olympics, go here. Hope they keep it up after the party ends. For everyone's sake.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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