The $100 million pond

A bold new idea for protecting nature: Put a price tag on it

Originally published on April 10, 2011 in The Boston Globe

The coral reefs of Hawaii are enchanting: a full spectrum of brilliant colors, teeming with spiky urchins, striped damselfish, sluggish sea cucumbers, and hundreds of other creatures. Many of these species are found nowhere else in the world, and the ecosystem’s uniqueness makes it a darling of oceanographers. Researchers, Hawaiian residents, and visiting snorkelers can all agree: The reefs are […]

Law lab

A radical new idea: what if we tested laws before passing them?

Originally published on December 12, 2010 in The Boston Globe

This past week, wrangling over the Bush-era tax cuts has riveted Washington. The spectacle is only the latest round in an endless debate, one that has launched innumerable op-eds, cacophonous talk-show segments, and dinner-table quarrels. As conservatives see it, higher tax rates hurt job creation as well as undercut the incentive for entrepreneurship and hard work. Many liberals cast these […]

Seeing Double-Green

Can biodiversity conservation reduce poverty?

Originally published on October 18, 2010 in Slate

Today, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) kicks off its 10th conference in Nagoya, Japan. Unveiled in 1992, the treaty claims nearly every nation as a party. (The United States, one of three holdouts, attends the conferences as an “observer.”) In 2002, the parties set a target, subsequently added to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals: “To achieve by 2010 […]

Voluntary Taxes

Yes, really. The surprising potential of an unlikely plan.

Originally published on June 27, 2010 in The Boston Globe

In tax year 2008, the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund received $216,544 in taxpayer money to protect threatened species, such as the bald eagle and the marbled salamander. The state’s Organ Transplant Fund received $117,654 to help patients who need new kidneys and hearts pay for medical care. And the Massachusetts AIDS Fund got $112,939 for research and […]

It’s Alive!

How closely can a building emulate nature?

Originally published on June 13, 2010 in The Boston Globe

Buildings, in many ways, represent the opposite of nature. From a modest suburban house to the most majestic skyscraper, a building signals the presence of people in a place, differentiating human spaces from their surroundings. The built environment consists of organized, inert structures that contrast with the wildness, vitality, and constant change of the natural world. Buildings clash with nature […]