Talk at Solutions Journalism Network’s Bay Area chapter

The good people at Solutions Journalism Network invited me to visit San Francisco for a day and give a presentation on my reporting to their Bay Area chapter. They recently awarded me a travel grant to report this feature for Next City, which considers historic preservation as a tactic to prevent displacement in San Antonio.

WeWork SOMA: Room 6A

156 2nd Street

Wednesday, November 15 @ 12:30 PM

Here’s a link to the event page. Hope to see some of you there.

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Indigenous farmers fight eucalyptus damage to water source in Ecuador

The southeastern wedge of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi province is filled with rich agricultural land. It sprawls in small divided plots of greens and ambers across the region’s hills, ravines, and mountainsides.

But the indigenous farmers that call this area home are facing perennial water shortages that are crippling crop diversity. The shortages spurred an investigation due to start this year by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries and the Secretariat of Water into possible causes.

A clear culprit is nearby tree plantations that cover hundreds of acres throughout the Nagsiche River water basin. Because they’re made up of exotic species like eucalyptus and pine, they wreak havoc on the soil, with each tree sucking about 5-10 gallons (20 to 40 liters) of water out of the ground every day.

This can thwart crop rotations for local farmers like Maria Beatriz Padilla.

“All this land used to give a great harvest,” Padilla said, listing her former crops. “Beans, peas, Andean lupin, lentils, garbanzos, quinoa.”

She’s spent her 50 years on this same small plot in the Cusubamba district of the Salcedo region, where she makes about $300 a month selling her produce. But now, across the plains surrounding her house are patches of eucalyptus trees reaching dozens of feet into the sky.

Read the rest over at Mongabay.

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Father and son butt heads in decades-long battle over bird tourism site

Five years ago, Sergio Basantes and his wife Doris made history when they decided to turn their lush finca just outside of Quito into a hotspot for bird watching. It’s the first bird tourism site of its kind in the Ecuadoran province called Pacto, which rests at the southernmost tip of 65,000 square miles (167,000 square kilometers) of the dense rainforest called the Chocó-Darién region.

It took decades for them to get this far.

Read the rest over at Mongabay.

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Can a Community Garden Outgrow Poverty in Southern Phoenix?

An example of the types of articles I’ve been publishing three times a week since August 2016, for my fellowship with Next City.

In South Phoenix, among suburban neighborhoods where liquor stores outnumber grocery stores, there’s a massive, untended plot of dirt as big as two and a half New York City blocks. Until recently, it was a void space between the housing tracts, collecting trash where it runs up against the streets. Residents really didn’t know what to make of it.

“Kids were mostly using it to dirt bike in,” says Quilian Riano, an architect with DSGN AGNC who’s been visiting the site on and off since August 2015. Nic de la Fuente, a Phoenix resident, says some knew it as the stomping grounds for local gangs.

But with nearly $600,000 from art project supporters the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and ArtSpace America, Riano is about to help turn the swath into a centerpiece of the neighborhood. And he’s hoping that the minority communities that make up the majority of South Phoenix will get an economic shot in the arm in the process.

Read the rest over at Next City.

 

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How Catastrophe Inspired Brilliant Home Design (Print)

The people of Constitución wanted a new city, something with a classic Chilean look and a skyline unburdened by high-rise buildings. Walking access to the river was paramount. But when it came to the housing itself, Elemental eschewed the idea of lumping together stacks of apartment-like buildings in the areas where favelas and shantytowns had been destroyed. That style of social housing has long been the go-to method for cities looking to quickly boost housing options for lower-income residents, and can be seen cutting into the skies in places like Chicago and Hong Kong.

Instead, Elemental wanted to give these victims real homes, designed for long-term comfort, stability, and safety in a traumatic time—even if the people living in them didn’t have a lot of cash to spare.

So Elemental built the people of Constitución half-houses. Really good half-houses, in a desirable part of the city, grouped around open space to encourage community get-togethers, and just big enough that a single family could live in one. Best of all? They were priced at only $20,000—the same amount that would buy a low-quality apartment on the fringe of the city.

Read this, and the rest of GOOD Magazine’s 10th anniversary edition, here.

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