Sacred Africa

This article on the Ethiopian rock-cut churches in Lalibela ran in Budget Travel. It’s archived below.

November 2007
Sacred Africa
Nearly eight centuries ago, 11 churches were carved into the Ethiopian earth. You don’t have to be a believer to be intrigued by their mystery or awed by their majesty.

By Stephan Faris

The pageant overfills the dusty road. Under the hot African sun, a knot of clergy in maroon, peach, and royal blue robes raises parasols and brass crosses. When the parade pauses, a cleric wipes the foreheads of two high priests, wrapped in velvet and balancing replicas of the tablets of Moses on their heads. A loudspeaker pulses a tenor’s chant, and 20 men form two lines for a swaying dance to the jangle of handheld brass rattles.

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Green Peace

This short article, explaining why it was appropriate to award Nobel Peace Prize to people working on climate change, appeared in Slate. It’s archived below.

October 15, 2007
Green Peace
Did Al Gore deserve a Nobel Prize for his work on global warming?

By Stephan Faris

When Al Gore became a Nobel laureate on Friday, it was the second time in four years that the prize for peace had gone green. In 2004, its recipient was Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan politician responsible for planting millions of trees to combat soil erosion. The day after she was recognized, I asked Maathai what reforestation had to do with ending conflict. “What the Nobel committee is doing is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war,” she answered. “Sustainable management of our natural resources will promote peace.”

This year’s award, which Al Gore shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, took Maathai’s sentiment to a global scale. “Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness,” said Ole Danbolt Mjøs, the committee chairman. “There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”

But does global warming really cause war?

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Karl Ammann

I contributed this brief profile of bush-meat activist Karl Ammann for Time’s 100 Heroes of the Environment. It’s archived below.

October 10, 2007
Karl Ammann

By Stephan Faris

Karl Ammann’s photography books are too gruesome for your average coffee table. A hog-tied crocodile strains against its ropes. Charbroiled monkeys, stiff and stacked like cordwood, grimace at the camera. A gorilla’s severed head, propped against a bunch of green bananas, drains slowly into a saucepan.

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The Other Side of Carbon Trading

Fortune ran this piece of mine on carbon trading in Uganda.

You can find it here as well as archived below:

August 30, 2007
The Other Side of Carbon Trading
Planting trees in Uganda to offset greenhouse-gas emissions in Europe seemed like a good idea – until farmers were evicted from their land to make room for a forest.

By Stephan Faris

Planting trees in Mount Elgon National Park in eastern Uganda seemed like a project that would benefit everyone. The Face Foundation, a nonprofit group established by Dutch power companies, would receive carbon credits for reforesting the park’s perimeter. It would then sell the credits to airline passengers wanting to offset their emissions, reinvesting the revenues in further tree planting. The air would be cleaner, travelers would feel less guilty and Ugandans would get a larger park.

But to the farmers who once lived just inside the park, the project has been anything but a boon. They have been fighting to get their land back since being evicted in the early 1990s and have pressed their case with lawsuits.

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Fool’s Gold

Check out this article of mine that ran in Foreign Policy on the peril’s of oil development in Africa:

July 2007
Fool’s Gold
You may not have noticed it, but Africa is booming. Yet just when the world’s poorest continent is finally starting to see real economic growth, the resource curse threatens to snatch it all away.

By Stephan Faris

Things seem to be looking up for Africa these days, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa. For the third year in a row, the region’s economy has grown 5 to 6 percent. The recent commodity boom has improved its allure to potential investors, particularly China. And the world is relying increasingly on the continent’s petroleum; last year, Africa surpassed the Middle East to become the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, providing 22 percent of imports. Even everyday African citizens, their views usually lost amid gloomy economic statistics, are feeling better about their lot in life. A recent poll conducted by the New York Times and the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that most sub-Saharan Africans say they are better off than they were five years ago, and that life will continue to improve for the next generation. They’re right, at least for the near future. Economists predict that economic growth will inch up to 7 percent in 2007, mostly because of higher production in oil-rich countries.

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Behind the Turn Around at Fiat

This story on the turnaround of the Italian car company Fiat was the cover story in Fortune Magazine. It’s archived below.

May 8, 2007
Behind the turn around at Fiat
Yes, a car company can be fixed. Look at Fiat.

By Stephan Faris

Luca De Meo, head of the Fiat car brand, was given his job after just one interview. It was a hot Turin summer day in 2004, and Sergio Marchionne, the new CEO of the Fiat Group, was prowling the company’s holiday-drained halls. “In Italy the CEO of the Fiat Group is a kind of mythical personage, somewhere between Pope and Prime Minister,” says De Meo, 39. “He knocked on the door and said, ‘What do you do?'”

Fiat was a wreck – it would lose more than $1 billion that year – and Marchionne, just arrived from Switzerland’s SGS, the world’s largest goods-inspection company, was looking for a team to strip it clean and hammer it into shape. De Meo was in charge of the group’s Lancia brand at the time, and during the two hours they talked, he felt as if he were being X-rayed. “Marchionne has a real ability to read people’s psychology,” says De Meo. “Three months later he said, ‘You have to run Fiat.'”

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The Real Roots of Darfur

The Atlantic Monthly has published my piece on the links between global warming and Darfur.

April 2007
The Real Roots of Darfur
The violence in Darfur is usually attributed to ethnic hatred. But global warming may be primarily to blame.

By Stephan Faris

To truly understand the crisis in Darfur—and it has been profoundly misunderstood—you need to look back to the mid-1980s, before the violence between African and Arab began to simmer. Alex de Waal, now a program director at the Social Science Research Council, was there at that time, as a doctoral candidate doing anthropological fieldwork. Earlier this year, he told me a story that, he says, keeps coming back to him.

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