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Teenage Wonder
A Georgia high-school student questions whether things really do go better with Coke

Photo of Illai Kenney"Poverty is the most important environmental issue, but the answer to all problems is love." That's quite a statement, and perhaps one that could come only from the unjaded mind of an 18-year-old.

Illai Kenney is a senior at Jonesboro High School, on the outskirts of Greater Atlanta. At 12 she co-founded the Georgia chapter of Kids Against Pollution (KAP), gathering her recruits from an afterschool activity center. She had to weather a lot of early skepticism, she says. "Some kids asked me if I was trying to be white." But she persisted, figuring that no one had ever taken the time to talk to them about learning to love the natural world. When Kenney was 13 her work was honored with the Brower Award for young activists, named after David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth.

In 2004 a Boston-based group called Corporate Accountability International (CAI) put out a call for young people in the Atlanta area to join a campaign against the Coca-Cola Company, whose headquarters are in the city. The issue was Coke's behavior in the Indian state of Kerala, where it stood accused of depriving poor farmers of water by sinking deep wells to supply its local bottling plant. The state government had recently ordered Coca-Cola to suspend operations, and CAI hoped to make the ban permanent.

Having bought shares in Coca-Cola, CAI was entitled to attend shareholder meetings, and Kenney joined a 10-person youth delegation to the 2005 annual meeting. She was given two minutes at the microphone. Her question: "How are you gonna handle the loss of funds from young people not buying Coke when they realize what Coke is doing to poor farmers?"

The Kerala ban is now under review by India's supreme court, and Kenney is thinking about college. Her long-term goal? To study law so that she can continue to fight environmental abuses by big corporations.
-- Matthew Cardinale

New Buzz -- Just In

Image of a bee Our Summer 2006 cover story, "The Vanishing Bee," by contributing editor Sharon Levy, described the mounting threat to American honeybees from pesticides and habitat loss, particularly in California's Central Valley. The consequences for agriculture and food production, Levy discovered, could be dire.

Now there's more to report. The good news first: Concern about the emerging pollinator crisis is mounting. In October the National Academies issued a report warning that declining pollinator populations might "alter the shape and structure of terrestrial ecosystems." Public awareness of the problem may increase this summer with the issue of a new series of 39-cent stamps featuring vital pollinators -- bees, bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Now the bad news: A group of powerful citrus growers is trying to push a bill through the California legislature eliminating large areas of land that has been used for generations as bee pasture and increasing the volume of pesticides that can be used during the period of citrus bloom.

Mysteries of the Deep
La Vie en Vert
Mastering the Molecule
The Opposite of Collateral Damage
Teenage Wonder
New Buzz -- This Just In
Naked Planet
Skiing Without Snow
The Landscape of Our Dreams


Naked Planet
How one trendsetting rock band put its ecoTunes on iTunes

Ours is a Barenaked Planet, or so the quirky rock band Barenaked Ladies would have us believe. In the years since breaking with their music label and going indie, they've overhauled their practices "from stage to studio" to make their music more planet-friendly. At each stop on their recent U.S. tour, they erected an "eco-village," bought carbon offsets, fueled their fleet of buses with biofuel, and distributed their albums on USB flash drives -- portable hard drives the size of your thumb -- instead of waste-heavy CDs. The vision is the product of a collaboration with Reverb, a nonprofit that works with other green-minded artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Alanis Morissette "We’re just activists in rock-star clothing," says Morissette. Rock on.
-- Ben Carmichael

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Photo: Chester Williams

OnEarth. Spring 2007
Copyright 2007 by the Natural Resources Defense Council