The Joy Trip Project | Reporting on the Business, Art & Culture of the Sustainable Active Lifestyle
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Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection / 01.08.2010

About the size of a human child Hector’s Dolphins are among the smallest dolphin species in the world. Found only in the coastal waters of New Zealand, where there is a very active fishing industry, they are also among the most endangered.

“At the moment there are about 27 percent of the numbers there were in the 1970s,” said Liz Slooten a marine biologist at the University of Otago. “Many Dolphins you’d expect there to be tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of individuals. But Hector’s Dolphins? There’re just over 7,000 individuals.” Hector’s Dolphins and a subspecies called Maui’s Dolphins are frequently killed when they are inadvertently trapped in the fine mesh of gill nets. Despite resistance from the fishing industry researches working with the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere aim to create protection zones to prevent the extinction of this threatened species.
Travel, Yoga / 31.07.2010

Everyone asks me why I’d rather drive than fly. The journey from Madison to Salt City is a three-day Joy Trip of almost 1,500 miles along flat featureless highway. At 6:00 AM in Lincoln, Nebraska the sunrise on this foggy second day of travel is infinitely less interesting than the Day Inns marquee. The breakfast promise of DYI waffles and bad Maxwell House with a side order spotty wireless service reflects the pale morning light as dawn cracks over the prairie. It’s another glorious day.

Assignment Earth, Environmental Journalism, Environmental Protection, Interview / 27.07.2010

Field producers for Assignment Earth arguably have the coolest job in the world. Reporter Rebecca Huntington blends exploring wild places, her favorite pastime, with storytelling to educate the general public on events and issues at the forefront of environmental conservation. Born in Billings Montana, Rebecca, 38, now lives in Jackson, Wyoming. With a degree in Spanish and Journalism from the University of Montana and as a Ted Scripps fellow of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder she, brings a wealth of knowledge and training to her production work. Reporting for Assignment Earth since 2007 Rebecca connects with researchers and activists to offer viewers an on-the-ground perspective of efforts to protect and preserve the natural world. What follows is a Q&A interview conducted for Assignment Earth
Charitable Giving, philanthropy / 22.07.2010

Shane Phillips, 31, and his girlfriend Kassandra Fleury, 20, gave birth to an infant with special needs. Though covered by health insurance the young couple suddenly found themselves overwhelmed by astronomical medical bills they couldn’t pay. “Our son Ryder was born with gastroschisis,” Phillips said. “That’s a condition where his small intestine is sticking out of the side of his body.” With good prenatal care a routine ultrasound discovered a small tear in Ryder’s umbilical cord five months into gestation. A biophysical profile revealed his distended intestine protruding through the opening. Insured through Group Health Cooperative under her mother’s policy Kassandra was hospitalized two weeks in advance of her due date. Despite his serious condition Ryder was getting the care he needed for a successful delivery. “But when he was born we went to all three hospitals in Madison within 48 hours,” Phillips said. “And with all that going on I got the first bill for something like $180,000.” To put it mildly, access to quality health care is complicated. The intricate details of insurance coverage can often pose an impenetrable barrier between patients and the medical treatments they need to survive. Even those who currently have insurance can find it nearly impossible to effectively navigate their way through the convoluted system of benefits to which they are entitled. Some in our community forgo seeking timely medical care out fear of their inability to pay. While others incur expenses out of pocket that would otherwise have been covered by insurance. But in Madison a non-profit public interest law firm called ABC For Health works to simplify the claims process. With services available to ailing state residents at all levels of income, the group provides free benefits counseling, a kind of check up, that eases navigation through the system, facilitates the delivery of care and speeds healing. [caption id="attachment_3524" align="alignleft" width="419" caption="ABC for Health attorney Bobby Peterson"][/caption]

Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection / 20.07.2010

The Sage Grouse is a candidate for designation as a threatened or endangered species. As the Interior Department considers the bird’s fate, several research projects are underway across the west to study its behavior, movements and nesting patterns. Wildlife biologist Bryan Bedrosian locates the birds at night. Sage Grouse sleep out in the open so they can see predators coming. But this also blows their cover. “The way we see them is by a really powerful spotlight we bring out," Bedrosian said. "And through binoculars we can pick up the shine, the reflection of their eye." Using this common technique researchers can spot a group of sleeping grouse for 800 meters. To capture them Bedrosian deploys rock music and what looks like an over-sized butterfly net. “We go up to them playing loud music so it distracts them, covers up our foot steps, disorients them a little bit to what’s happening,” he said. With almost 44 percent of Sage Grouse habitat lost to agriculture, urban development, road construction, energy production and other causes, scientists like Bedrosian are providing vital information that may help this chicken-sized desert bird from going extinct.  What researchers discover could restrict future land usage, especially in Wyoming where sagebrush, the birds’ primary environment, covers more than half the state.
Charitable Giving / 13.07.2010

People constantly ask me: "Do you ever run out of story ideas?" Actually I don't. There's always something to write about. The hard part is keeping it fresh and interesting. Typically I write about people I meet who do good in the world, selfless individuals who work tirelessly to improve the lives of those around them. Over the last few weeks in fact I've been inundated with dozens of amazing stories about people doing great things on behalf of the environment or for the benefit of others. The hard part as journalist is to pick the stories that are most engaging and compelling. Unfortunately what happens is that when so many people are doing so much good the cynic in me becomes a bit jaded and I'm left to wonder which stories are truly worth exploring further, to write about and share with a broader audience. Even Everest climbers and ultra-distance runners raising money to cure cancer or end hunger are becoming cliché. We’ve been there, done that, another tired phrase. Suddenly I understand why the nightly news is always full of murder and mayhem. These are exciting isolated events that draw a person's interest because they're unusual. Deeds of common good are, well...boring.