The practice of deliberately making goods not meant to last, or be repaired—a concept called “planned obsolescence”—was invented in America, perfected in America, and can now claim victory in leaving the U.S. with the world’s largest waste stream. Why are we so addicted to buying stuff that will soon be worthless? And what can we do to get off this destructive treadmill?
Written by JULIA SCHEERES
New England’s fabled (and much valued) lobstering industry is struggling with all kinds of challenges: an aging workforce, lobster catches that swing from record highs to depressing lows, new regulations, and warming waters caused by climate disruption. So why would a bright young man in Eastport, Maine, commit to a life fishing the seas?
By BEN SPEGGEN
Every few years, discussions about using straw bales as a building material come up again. As our environmental challenges mount—from wildfires to hurricanes—straw bales seem to offer a sustainable answer. And as we in the American West seem to find ourselves in “fire season” earlier with each passing year, it’s time to ask: Has the humble straw bale’s moment finally come?
By MEA MCNEIL
On a frigid, eight-acre farm just outside downtown Sebastopol, Paul Kaiser has devised a hyper-intensive form of organic agriculture that is grossing more than $100,000 an acre. And, he believes, saving the planet at the same time. Yet a number of farming experts see trouble on his horizon.
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
More than two decades ago, a Cuban farming revolution that had nothing to do with ideology bore a bounty of fruit. What could the U.S. learn about sustainable agriculture from its much smaller neighbor?
By CHRISTOPHER D. COOK
While the fashion industry continues to produce more and more clothing made from synthetics, with all their harmful effects, we’ve ignored the wonders of wool. The material is natural, durable, and endlessly renewable; more important, its creators (the sheep) can help regenerate the soil, along with the world’s drying, fire-prone landscapes. Fortunately, a wool revival seems to be underway.
By JUDITH D. SCHWARTZ
Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.
By KRISTIN OHLSON
Photography by MARK STURGES and KRISTIN OHLSON
The town of John Day sits in the middle of Oregon’s High Desert country, threaded by an abused river, surrounded by a dying timber industry, and getting hotter and drier every year. Enter Nick Green, a new city manager, with grand, out-of-the-box ideas about rural sustainability. Can his vision survive?
by JULIET GRABLE
For generations, the Isbell family of Arkansas has been tinkering with innovations in rice farming. They were the first American farmers to grow elite varieties of rice for sushi and sake, and have pioneered rice cultivation methods that can conserve water and slow climate change.
Story by DAVID RAMSEY
Photography by KAT WILSON