Terra Sigillata

Sitting back today looking at news and webcams in my former home of Colorado had me also reflecting on the events that conspired to put me in North Carolina. This unexpected turn in my life also opened me up to a local community of remarkably creative people with national and international reputations in their respective fields.

One of these people whom I am fortunate to call a local hero is journalist Barry Yeoman. Barry was described in the Columbia Journalism Review as, “(One of) the best unsung investigative journalists working in print in the United States…. Yeoman specializes in becoming a part of his subjects’ lives; he works hard to dispel the image of the parachute journalist who drops in, grabs the story, and runs.”

Utne Jan-Feb 2010.jpg

Consistent with that description, Barry recently wrote an article for Audubon magazine on the real-life potential for economic and workforce revitalization by expansion of the green industry. “Green-Collar Work Plan” has now been picked up in excerpted form for the January-February 2010 issue of Utne Reader. Barry’s article is one of four focusing on the cover theme: how to benefit financially in the green economy.

The article describes the turnaround in Newton, Iowa, from loss of laundry appliance maker Maytag then expands to a cross-country assessment of reharnessing manufacturing and other blue-collar expertise for the renewable energy industry. For all the warm fuzzies many of us get about solar energy, windfarms, and biodiesel, folks with the big bucks are only going to invest in an industry that is economically viable. Yeoman tells an engaging story, with several cases where it is working, and weaves in facts of which I was previously unaware.

For example, I learned that the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive than fossil fuels:

“Green-job creation is not some kind of myth,” says Dan Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s not a small effect. We find that three to five times more jobs are generated per dollar invested in green technology than when you do additional fossil fuels. It’s a significant producer of new economic activity.”

It’s a great article and one you should read along with the other four lead articles in this issue of Utne Reader. I’ve long respected Utne, one of the original print aggregators of the best writing of the alternative and independent press. I was first turned on to it in 1999 by my first postdoc, PharmCanuck, and her husband – one of a long string of continuing education experiences that have endeared Canadians to me.

So, the selection of Barry Yeoman’s work for this issue speaks to the magazine’s continuing tradition of featuring some of the best writing in North America.

However, the complete, unedited article is the one that should be read. You can find that version here from the July-August 2009 issue of Audubon.