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Photograph by Tim Smith

Plankton Evangelist

The eccentric saga of Russ George.

By Charles Platt

Back in 2002, eco-maverick Russ George buttonholed veteran rock star Neil Young and asked an unusual favor. George was living part-time on a sailboat on a dock in the San Francisco Bay Area, and had learned that Young’s 90-year-old Baltic schooner was moored just four slips away. With the in-your-face enthusiasm that is his trademark, George brazenly asked to hitch a ride on Young’s boat so that he could perform an experiment to revitalize the ocean.

The idea was simple enough: scatter some finely powdered hematite, or red iron oxide, which phytoplankton ...

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