The Guna won their land from the Panamanian government after a revolution in 1925 and have been managing it communally ever since. Here Marcos Ramirez (center) directs members of the Yarsuisuit Collective as they weed a plot that they cultivate in the forest. Photo by Bear Guerra.

Like many of the world’s indigenous groups, Panama’s Guna people are facing formidable challenges: the impacts of climate change, encroaching outside influences, and a younger generation that’s drifting away from its roots.

Yet their situation is not nearly as dire as it might be. One reason is their communal system of forest management, which is emerging as a model of conservation and the sustainable use of resources.

Homelands’ Bear Guerra and Ruxandra Guidi spent time with the Guna this summer and teamed up on a photo essay and article for the environmental magazine Ensia.


Every day, you have a close personal encounter with methane, a key ingredient of something we don’t usually mention in polite company: farts…. Unfortunately, neither propriety nor intestinal discipline can suppress its unpleasantness lately, because now not just us, but the Earth itself is farting.

Newly discovered methane-spewing craters in Siberia are one more sign of a planet in trouble, writes Homelands’ Alan Weisman in an opinion piece on CNN.com.

Flooded village

Children walk through floodwaters in Ustupu Island village in the Kuna Yala region of Panama. With sea levels rising and storms in the islands getting stronger, indigenous Kuna leaders are planning to relocate entire villages to the mainland. Photo by Bear Guerra.

The environmental website Mongabay.org has selected Homelands producer-members Ruxandra Guidi and Bear Guerra for a Special Reporting Initiative award for their multimedia project on climate change and community forestry in Panama.

Climate Change in Kuna Yala

Ustupu Island chief Leodomiro Paredes (pictured with his wife, Imelda) says developed nations responsible for climate change should help pay for his people’s move. Photo by Bear Guerra.

Ruxandra and Bear have reported from the area before, for The Atlantic. With support from Mongabay, they’ll return to do more reporting this spring and summer. They plan to publish their work later this year under a Creative Commons license.

Other winners of Mongabay’s Special Reporting Initiative awards are Robert Eshelman for his look at deforestation in Indonesia and Dominic Bracco II and Erik Vance for an investigation of sustainable fisheries in China.

Radio and print journalist Ruxandra Guidi and photographer Bear Guerra joined Homelands as producers and board members in February. They co-founded the multimedia group Fonografia Collective.

We’re thrilled to announce the publication of Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, by Homelands senior producer and co-founder Alan Weisman. You should be able to find it in bookshops today, and if you pre-ordered it from an online seller, it should be on its way.

Manila street

Every four and a half days, the world population goes up by another million. Photo by Sam Eaton.

Published by Little, Brown and Co., Countdown is Alan’s sixth book and a fitting sequel to his international bestseller, The World Without Us. In the earlier book, he looked at how the natural world might heal if freed from human pressure. In Countdown, he asks how we can bend our population curve to avoid a collision with the planet’s resource base.

If The World Without Us was a grand thought experiment, Countdown is an urgent – and practical – call to action.

Check out the book’s trailer (yes, it has a trailer!) here. Read an excerpt in Salon here. And see what the reviewers are saying here. Then go out and get a copy!


Judges noted Eaton’s “crisp and clear writing and place-setting ambient sound.”

Sam Eaton, a freelance radio and video producer who contributed 10 of the features in the “Food for 9 Billion” project, has won the Society of Environmental Journalistsaward for Environmental Beat Reporting in a large market.

The stories cited by the SEJ deal with the Fukushima disaster and the global threats of climate change. All were broadcast on PRI’s The World and were edited by Peter Thomson. Peter also edited the “What’s for Lunch” series of “Food for 9 Billion.”

Kudos to both!


Mealworms are nutritionally similar to beef, but are much more efficient at converting feed into protein. Photo by Jon Miller/Homelands Productions.

In the final story in the “Food for 9 Billion” project, Jon Miller races around the Netherlands hunting for climate-friendly alternatives to meat. The piece airs today on PRI’s The World.

“Food for 9 Billion” was a collaboration among Homelands Productions, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), Marketplace from APM, The World and PBS NewsHour. We are deeply grateful for the chance to work with such fine partners.

Since the project launched in November 2011, we produced 14 radio stories for Marketplace, 14 radio stories for The World and 12 television stories for the NewsHour.

In addition to producing the television features, our friends at CIR created an animated video called “The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers,” which has been viewed more than 184,000 times. 

We also produced two interactive web features (a World Food Map and World Food Timeline); thanks to Darcy Branchini and Stefan Einarson at the International Programs section of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, as well as to Chris Barrett at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, also at Cornell, for their help on those.

And of course all the partners blogged and tweeted as we went.

The project isn’t actually 100 percent finished. We’re still working on educational materials for high school students, and CIR plans to produce a long-form television feature about the food relationship between the US and China. We’ll keep you posted on those. We’ll also keep the Twitter account alive, at least for a while.

Before we go, we want to recognize a wonderful team of freelance journalists who worked as reporters, producers and editors: Charlotte Buchen, Sam Eaton, Cassandra Herrman, Beth Hoffman, Jori Lewis, Joshua McNichols, Fred de Sam Lazaro, Sandy Tolan, Bianca Vazquez Toness, Cecilia Vaisman and Gretchen Wilson (in alphabetical order).

And thanks to editors Ben Adair and George Judson at Marketplace, Linda Winslow at PBS NewsHour and Peter Thomson at The World. Sharon Tiller was the executive producer at CIR. Homelands’ Jon Miller was the overall executive producer.

To all you loyal readers, listeners and viewers: Thank you! And please do keep in touch.


Sumant Kumar, a farmer in India’s Bihar State, recorded a world-record rice yield in 2012 using a method known as the System of Rice Intensification. He has applied the same techniques to his wheat crop. Photo by Sam Eaton.

The latest batch of “What’s for Lunch” stories on PRI’s The World highlight farming methods that don’t bust the global carbon budget.

On July 25, Sam Eaton reported from northeastern India on the System of Rice Intensification, which uses less water and fewer chemicals than conventional farming. The method has been spreading not just among rice growers, but also among producers of wheat and other crops. Still, some scientists are skeptical.

On July 15, Bianca Vazquez Toness met farmers in central India who are using human waste to fertilize their crops. Sewage contains high levels of valuable nitrogen and phosphorous, and putting it to use seems like a no-brainer: synthetic nitrogen is a major greenhouse gas polluter, phosphorous is increasingly scarce, and waste disposal is an enormous challenge in the developing world’s fast-growing cities. But human waste harbors dangerous microbes. The trick is to find ways to process and spread it without endangering consumers’ or farmworkers’ health.

On July 8, The World’s Mary Kay Magistad visited a Chinese inventor who has created what he believes may be the world’s most efficient irrigation system. China’s aquifers are in serious trouble; if farmers can radically reduce their water consumption, the country won’t need to import nearly as much of its food.

If these issues interest you, check out a post by guest blogger Shane Bryan about why can’t-miss technologies sometimes fail to catch on.

Keep an ear out for stories about urban foragers in Seattle and the search for meat alternatives in the Netherlands, both tentatively scheduled for this week. We’ll post links when we have them. [P.S. Just did!]