Red state rural America is acting on climate change – without calling it #climatechange

One primary concern in rural areas: higher temperatures put strain on water and energy sources. AP Photo/Robert Ray
One primary concern in rural areas: higher temperatures put strain on water and energy sources. AP Photo/Robert Ray

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, University of North Dakota

President Donald Trump has the environmental community understandably concerned. He and members of his Cabinet have questioned the established science of climate change, and his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA many times and regularly sided with the fossil fuel industry.

Even if the Trump administration withdraws from all international climate negotiations and reduces the EPA to bare bones, the effects of climate change are happening and will continue to build.

In response to real threats and public demand, cities across the United States and around the world are taking action to address climate change. We might think this is happening only in large, coastal cities that are threatened by sea-level rise or hurricanes, like Amsterdam or New York.

Research shows, however, that even in the fly-over red states of the U.S. Great Plains, local leaders in small- to medium-size communities are already grappling with the issue. Although their actions are not always couched in terms of addressing climate change, their strategies can provide insights into how to make progress on climate policy under a Trump administration.

‘Deliberate framing’

My colleagues and I did a survey of over 200 local governments in 11 states of the Great Plains region to learn about steps they’re taking to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to them. We found local officials in red states responsible for public health, soil conservation, parks and natural resources management, as well as county commissioners and mayors, are concerned about climate change, and many feel a responsibility to take action in the absence of national policy.

In terms of framing, using wind energy is a way to improve local air quality and save money on energy, while also reducing emissions from fossil fuels.
paytonc/flickr, CC BY-SA

But because it is such a complex and polarizing topic, they often face public uncertainty or outrage toward the issue. So while these local officials have been addressing climate change in their communities over the past decade, many of these policy activities are specifically not framed that way. As one respondent to our survey said:

“It is my personal and professional opinion that the conservation community is on track with addressing the issue of climate change but is way off track in assigning a cause. The public understands the value of clean water and clean air. If the need to improve our water quality and air quality was emphasized, most would agree. Who is going to say dirty water and dirty air is not a problem? By making the argument ‘climate change and humans are the cause’ significant energy is wasted trying to prove this. It is also something the public has a hard time sinking their teeth into.”

In order to address the vulnerabilities facing their communities, many local officials are reframing climate change to fit within existing priorities and budget items. In a survey of mayors, we asked: “In your city’s policy and planning activities (for energy, conservation, natural resources management, land use, or emergency planning, etc.) how is climate change framed?” The following quotes give a sense of their strategies.

“In terms of economic benefit & resource protection. This framing was deliberate to garner support from residents who did not agree with climate change.”

“We frame the initiative as: energy savings (=$ savings), as smart growth/good planning, and as common sense natural resource management. Climate change is only explicitly referenced in our Climate Protection Plan adopted in 2009. Most initiatives fall under the “sustainability” umbrella term.“

“We mask it with sustainability, we call it P3 (People, Planet, Prosperity)”

“The initial interest in climate change came about as a result of concern about the potential for poor air quality affecting economic development in the City. Air quality and climate change were framed as being extremely related issues.”

“Climate change is framed as one of several benefits of conservation measures. Other benefits of conservation, recycling, walking, etc. include it’s ‘good for the earth’ (regardless of climate change), healthful, economical, etc.”

The results show that energy, economic benefits, common sense and sustainability are frames that are providing opportunities for local leaders to address climate change without getting stuck in the political quagmire. This strategy is being used across the Great Plains states, which include some of the most climate-skeptical areas of the country.

Local needs and values

Every region of the U.S. will need to address practical questions of how states and local communities can reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. Under the Trump administration, it is likely any progress on U.S. climate policy will continue at these subnational levels. That’s why a variety of experts argue that we should encourage the types of pragmatic strategies now being employed by local leaders in red states.

In the Great Plains in particular, local officials are facing severe impacts from higher temperatures, which will place greater demands on water and energy.

Capturing methane gases from landfill can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be a local source of fuel for power.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, CC BY-NC

In our research we found local leaders focus on regional and local issues such as drought, energy and flooding. These are problems that are tied to climate change, but are already a priority on the local level. And the sought-for improvements, such as energy savings, health benefit and flood management, fit well with local needs and values.

For example, Fargo, North Dakota mitigates some of its greenhouse gas emissions and created a new source of city revenue by capturing the methane from its landfill facility and selling that gas to the electricity company. The city trash is now providing renewable energy for local residents and an industrial facility.

Perhaps the question facing us is: Should we reframe climate change and other environmental problems to fit the Trump administration’s priorities with a strong focus on practical solution ideas? For example, Trump has stated that infrastructure projects will be a high priority. That could easily translate into fixing the drinking water crisis experienced by Flint, Michigan and many other cities where it is likely to happen; Trump has also highlighted mass transit, which could help reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

With an administration eager to expand fossil fuel development and consumption, the outlook for federal action on reducing climate-altering greenhouse gases is dire. Given that, reframing climate change to address cobenefit issues seems a logical strategy, and we can look for local government leaders in red states to show the way.

The Conversation

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, Professor of Environmental Science & Policy, University of North Dakota

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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How will Native Tribes Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline in Court?

After the Army Corps of Engineers approved an easement for the North Dakota Pipeline, two tribes requested – unsuccessfully – to halt construction while their lawsuit over the project is resolved. AP Photo/Susan Walsh
After the Army Corps of Engineers approved an easement for the North Dakota Pipeline, two tribes requested – unsuccessfully – to halt construction while their lawsuit over the project is resolved. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Monte Mills, The University of Montana

On Feb. 8 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reversed course and issued an easement allowing the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. That decision followed a presidential memorandum indicating that construction and operation of the pipeline would be in the “national interest,” and set the stage for a final showdown over the pipeline’s fate.

In response, two Indian tribes, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux, filed new motions to halt the pipeline’s construction and operation. After an initial hearing on those motions, the federal judge on the case allowed construction to proceed but will be considering the Tribes’ claims before oil will pass through the pipeline under Lake Oahe. That means, unlike the voices of thousands who joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in protest against the pipeline, the next chapter of this fight will be argued by a few lawyers in the pin drop silence of a federal courtroom.

Although the details of those arguments will be complex, as a legal scholar focused on Native American law I see the case addressing an essential question at the heart of our legal system: namely, how does federal law and judicial process protect the fundamental values and structure of the Constitution?

The central issues in the case are now whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the pipeline and easement illegally interferes with the tribes’ religious beliefs and whether the corps adequately considered the tribes’ water and other treaty rights before issuing that approval.

Religious Freedom and Restoration Act

According to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, oil running through the pipeline would represent the fulfillment of a generations-old prophesy, passed down through the oral traditions of tribal members, that warned of a Black Snake coming to defile the sacred waters necessary to maintain the tribes’ ceremonies. Beyond the environmental concerns often at the center of the pipeline protests, the tribe’s motion for an injunction squarely defines final authorization of the pipeline by the Corps as an existential threat: destruction of the tribes’ religion and way of life.

One of the key legal questions in the North Dakota Access Pipeline case whether federal interests can supersede religious freedoms of native groups.
vpickering/flickr, CC BY-ND

The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the exercise of religion free from governmental interference. But the Supreme Court, in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, in 1988 upheld the Forest Service’s approval of a road across an area on federal land sacred to local tribes even while recognizing the road could have devastating effects on their religion.

Then in 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), which requires that the government demonstrate a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means to achieve that interest if its actions will substantially burden religious practice.

In other words, even if approving the Dakota Access Pipeline served a compelling governmental interest, RFRA may require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to show that the pipeline easement under Lake Oahe would have the least impact on tribal religion. That approach would be consistent with the Supreme Court’s broad application of RFRA in a 2014 case not involving tribal interests or federal lands and may pose a significant challenge to the corps, which considered but rejected a different route that did not pose the same threat to the tribes.

Both the Corps and company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline argue that the risk of spill from the pipeline is minimal and that the tribes failed to raise these religious concerns in a timely manner. In addition, the Corps contends that, consistent with the Lyng case, governmental action on federal land should not be restricted because of religious concerns raised by local tribes.

Thus, resolution of the case will turn upon whether the court recognizes the legitimacy of the tribal religious concerns and broadly applies RFRA or, instead, chooses to prioritize federal authority over federal land to the detriment of those concerns. The parties will argue whether the religious freedom issues support an injunction on February 27.

Arbitrary or capricious decisions?

In addition to their religious concerns, the Sioux Tribes challenge the Corps’ decisions based on the rights they reserved in treaties made with the federal government in 1851 and 1868.

The Constitution recognizes treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and, according to a 2016 analysis done by the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, both the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux retain treaty-reserved water, hunting, and fishing rights in Lake Oahe.

The pipeline company has argued that the risks to the water supply are minimal and that the tribes didn’t raise religious concerns earlier in the approval process.
diversey/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Before reversing course in February, the Corps refused to issue the easement last year in order to further understand and analyze those treaty rights.

Importantly, federal law generally allows courts to set aside arbitrary or capricious agency decisions. In a February 14th filing, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asks the court to review the Corps’ about-face under that standard and argues that the federal trust responsibility,recognized by the Supreme Court since the early 1800’s, demands more than just a cursory review of tribal treaty rights.

The parties will be briefing the treaty rights issues into March but the judge is keeping a close eye on Dakota Access’ progress in the meantime.

The ultimate fate of the pipeline will turn on how the courts recognize the rights asserted by the Sioux Tribes, rights rooted in the Constitution’s values and structure – precisely the type of rights our rule of law and federal courts are meant to protect.

The Conversation

Monte Mills, Assistant Professor of Law & Co-Director, Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic, The University of Montana

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Sure, pipelines are good for oil companies, but what about jobs related to preserving nature and culture?

A 2002 pipeline spill in Cohasset, Minnesota which released 6,000 barrels of crude oil. mpcaphotos/flickr, CC BY-NC
A 2002 pipeline spill in Cohasset, Minnesota which released 6,000 barrels of crude oil. mpcaphotos/flickr, CC BY-NC

Chip Colwell, University of Colorado Denver

On his fourth day as U.S. president, Donald Trump penned executive orders to advance construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. A week later, there were reports the new administration has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to grant an easement that will allow completion of the disputed Dakota Access Pipeline to proceed.

The White House press secretary said completion of the controversial pipelines would increase jobs and promote economic growth – an argument Trump’s supporters echo.

However, this viewpoint focuses on the profits that go to the oil and construction industries, while ignoring the price that will be paid by other sectors of America’s economy, including tourism and preservation of our cultural heritage – a point I’m quite aware of as an anthropologist focused on the American West. A more accurate reckoning of the economic benefits of pipelines needs to consider the negative impact of pipelines on other parts of our economy.

The business of preservation

The management of America’s heritage begins with a suite of important federal laws such as the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, which affirms that “the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage.” The NHPA’s starting point is that patriotism, preservation and profits are not contrary goals, declaring that “the preservation of this irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economic and energy benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans.”

Preserving America’s past for its future is a monumental task. A National Park Service report, for example, found that just in 2014 16.5 million acres were surveyed for cultural resources across the United States. More than 137,000 properties were evaluated for their historical significance and added to state inventories, while more than 1,000 new sites were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The industry that fulfills this trust responsibility is known as cultural resource management, which is made up of a small but highly skilled set of technicians in archaeology, architecture, engineering, geography, history and related fields. There are about 1,300 CRM firms nationwide – nearly all of them small businesses – which employ some 10,000 people. These businesses in turn feed more work, such as equipment suppliers, IT and HR professionals, accountants and administrative support.

Opponents to the Keystone XL pipeline have opposed it over worries over spills and its contribution to greenhouse gases, but the projected path would also run across public lands and cross 265 archaeological sites and 132 historic structures.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The 2014 NPS report also documented the role of historic preservation in the country’s economy. Between 1977 and 2014, under the Federal Historic Preservation Tax program, more than US$73 billion in private investment has been generated to rehabilitate commercial historic properties and nearly 140,000 low and moderate housing units were built in restored historic buildings. Since 1978, an estimated 2.4 million jobs have been created through these projects focused on the preservation of America’s heritage.

The places that are protected have economic tendrils that reach far across the country through tourism. In 2015, for instance, more than 305 million people visited national parks. These tourists spent nearly $16 billion on an array of local services – hotels, gas stations, restaurants – helping to sustain nearly 300,000 jobs. Tourists and travelers visit scores of other national, state and local parks, spending their money to enjoy nature and cultural sites.

Cost of spills

In announcing their support for expediting the pipelines, Trump’s allies also failed to acknowledge the negative impacts of environmental damage.

For example, the 2010 BP oil spill immediately impacted tourism. Even five years later, tourists were slow to return to some spots along the Gulf Coast, and economists argued that BP’s $10 billion in payments did not fully account for the spill’s secondary effects.

The Bureau of Land Management has leased land near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, one of 20 World Heritage sites in the U.S., for oil and gas drilling.
Chris M Morris/flickr, CC BY

These accidents can directly impact everyday Americans. As of last year, some 50,000 claims were still sitting with BP. Transporting oil via pipelines is generally safer than rail, truck or barge, yet pipeline spills do occur and cause financial problems. According to the federal agency the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, since 1995, accidents involving oil and petroleum pipelines have caused approximately $3 billion in property damage. The change to people’s sense of place and the trauma caused by oil spills are also a negative effect, though hard to enumerate.

In the end, we all are likely to pay as tax dollars are used in part for the Superfund program to clean up spills: for example, a Texaco oil pipeline in California that has contaminated the soil and groundwater.

In other places, it’s not only a question of accidents but accepting the negative effects of extraction over the positive effects of preservation. The recent decision to allow oil and gas drilling around the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico – considered one of the best-preserved centers of Pueblo culture in the American Southwest – will likely destroy irreplaceable archaeological sites and could dissuade some tourists from visiting the World Heritage Site – a place deemed as important as the Taj Mahal, Easter Island and Statue of Liberty.

A different economic development

The Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines in some measure threaten to undermine the possibilities of the heritage industry – particularly if the projects were to bypass standard environmental mitigation, as happened recently at Oak Flats in Arizona. According to a State Department report done under the Obama administration, the Keystone pipeline would disturb more than 15,000 acres, 10 percent of that public lands. The corridor would cross 265 archaeological sites and 132 historic structures – 44 of which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The pipeline would also be a risk to more than 2,500 water wells, soils, wildlife and vegetation.

The report also calculated the Keystone XL pipeline would generate about 42,000 jobs indirectly and about 3,900 construction jobs if the project were done in one year – far fewer than the 28,000 Trump touted when signing the order. Once the pipeline is operating, it would employ about 35 full-time and 15 temporary employees, according to the report.

In contrast, heritage provides a different kind of economic development. Not only does it protect places that honor our past and living cultures, but also increases property values, protects natural resources needed for communities to thrive and grow, supports small businesses and provides sustainable long-term jobs in tourism and associated commercial ventures.

Trump’s apparent preference for the oil industry shouldn’t be surprising – after all, only last month Trump sold off his stake in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline. But a president who professes to care so deeply about business should see the economic benefits of protecting heritage and preserving nature, too.

The Conversation

Chip Colwell, Lecturer on Anthropology, University of Colorado Denver

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Food Security: How Drought and Rising Prices Led to Conflict in Syria

EPA/Russian Defence Ministry Press Service
EPA/Russian Defence Ministry Press Service

 

Aled Jones, Anglia Ruskin University

In 2015 the Welsh singer and activist Charlotte Church was widely ridiculed in the right-wing press and on social media for saying on BBC Question Time that climate change had played an important part in causing the conflict in Syria.

From 2006 until 2011, [Syria] experienced one of the worst droughts in its history, which of course meant that there were water shortages and crops weren’t growing, so there was mass migration from rural areas of Syria into the urban centres, which put on more strain, and made resources scarce etc, which apparently contributed to the conflict there today.

Goaded on by the tabloids, Church reaped a whirlwind of public ridicule:

But what she said was correct – and there will be an increasing convergence of climate, food, economic and political crises in the coming years and decades. We need to better understand the interconnectivity of environmental, economic, geopolitical, societal and technological systems if we are to manage these crises and avoid their worst impacts.

In particular, tipping points exist in both physical and socio-economic systems, including governmental or financial systems. These systems interact in complex ways. Small shocks may have little impact but, a particular shock or set of shocks could tip the system into a new state. This new state could represent a collapse in agriculture or even the fall of a government.

In 2011, Syria became the latest country to experience disruption in a wave of political unrest crossing North Africa and the Middle East. Religious differences, a failure of the ruling regime to tackle unemployment and social injustice and the state of human rights all contributed to a backdrop of social unrest. However, these pressures had existed for years, if not decades.

So was there a trigger for the conflict in the region which worked in tandem with the ongoing social unrest?

Syria, and the surrounding region, has experienced significant depletion in water availability since 2003. In particular an intense drought between 2007 and 2010, alongside poor water management, saw agricultural production collapse and a mass migration from rural areas to city centres. Farmers, who had been relatively wealthy in their rural surroundings now found themselves as the urban poor reliant on food imports. Between 2007 and 2009 Syria increased its annual imports of wheat and meslin (rice flour) by about 1.5m tonnes. That equated to a more than ten-fold increase in importing one of the most basic foods.

Cereal imports by weight and value to Syria from 2006 to 2010. Source: UN Comtrade Database.

Complex system

There is a tendency these days to believe that global trade will protect the world from food production shocks. A small production shock in one region can be mitigated by increasing, temporarily, imports of food or by sourcing food from another region. However, certain shocks, or a set of shocks, could create an amplifying feedback that cascades into a globally significant event.

The food system today is increasingly complex and an impact in land, water, labour or infrastructure could create fragility. A large enough perturbation can lead to a price response in the global market that sends a signal to other producers to increase their output to make up for any shortfall. While increased prices can be beneficial to farmers and food producers, if the price increase is large enough it can have a significant impact on communities that are net food importers.

Additionally, food production is concentrated both in a relatively small handful of commodity crops such as wheat, rice and maize as well as from a relatively small number of regions, for example the US, China and Russia. This concentration means any disruption in those regions will have a large impact on global food supply. Reliance on global markets for sourcing food can therefore be a source of systemic risk.

Rising prices

In 2008 the global price of food increased dramatically. This increase was the result of a complex set of issues including historically low global food stocks, drought in Australia following production lows in several other areas over the previous few years, and speculation and an increase in biofuel production in North America.

This spike in global food price in 2008 was a factor in the initial unrest across North Africa and the Middle East, which became known as the Arab Spring. As prices peaked, violence broke out in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

In Syria a local drought which coincided with this global shock in food prices resulted in dramatic changes in the availability and cost of food. In response small groups of individuals protested. The government response, combined with a background of rising protests, existing social tensions and instability in the wider region, quickly escalated into the situation we are experiencing today.

The events in Syria, then, appear to stem from a far more complex set of pressures, beyond religious tension and government brutality, with its roots in the availability of a natural resource – water – and its impact on food production. This is worrying as decreasing water availability is far from a localised issue – it is a systemic risk across the Middle East and North Africa. Over the coming decades this water security challenge is likely to be further exacerbated by climate change.

To better manage these types of risks in the future, and to build societal resilience, the world needs to understand our society’s interdependence on natural resources and how this can lead to events such as those that unfolded in Syria. We need analytical, statistical, scenario or war game-type models to explore different possible futures and policy strategies for mitigating the risk. By understanding sources of political instability we hope to get a better handle on how these types of crisis arise.

The Conversation

Aled Jones, Director, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

 

 

Mind the gaps: Reducing hunger by improving yields on small farms

Soybean farmer in Malawi. IFPRI/Mitchell Maher via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Soybean farmer in Malawi. IFPRI/Mitchell Maher via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Paul West, University of Minnesota

One of the most urgent challenges we face in the next several decades is feeding a growing world population without irreparably damaging Earth’s land, air and water systems. Nearly 800 million people worldwide are undernourished today. The U.N.‘s Sustainable Development Goals call for ending hunger and achieving food security by 2030.

The world is making progress in reducing hunger, but we have further to go. The annual Global Hunger Index, produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, scores nations based on the proportion of their total population that is undernourished and several metrics that focus on children. Since 2000, the GHI has decreased across all regions of the world, but 50 countries – mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – still have alarming or severe hunger rates.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/K5CHo/1/

At the Global Landscapes Initiative in the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, our research focuses on increasing global food security while reducing harmful impacts from agriculture to Earth’s natural resources. We have found that one key strategy to combating food insecurity – lack of access to nutritious foods – is increasing food production on small farms.

There are tremendous opportunities to increase yields throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing yields through new farming practices could triple maize production in sub-Saharan Africa and increase wheat and rice production in South Asia by about 50 percent. Gains on this scale could dramatically reduce hunger and food insecurity in some of the most vulnerable nations in the world.

The importance of small farms

The U.N. estimates that more than 70 percent of the world’s food-insecure people live in rural areas of developing countries where farming is typically the dominant land use and source of income. My colleague Leah Samberg recently led a study that combined household census data with satellite-derived land-cover data of croplands and pastures to map the average farm size in regions of the world dominated by smallholder farmers. In many countries with alarming and severe GHI scores, the average farm size is less than five hectares, or about 12 acres.

Small farms dominate South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where the hunger index scores are highest. These farms currently produce 41 percent of global calories from croplands, and the majority of crops that are essential for food security in many regions, including rice, cassava, groundnuts and millet.

So why is hunger prevalent in these same areas? The problem is that yield trends for the world’s major staple grains – wheat, rice and maize – have stagnated throughout developing regions.

To address yield gaps – the difference between the amount of food that land is producing and the amount it is capable of producing – we need to quantify them. EarthStat, a joint project of the GLI and the University of British Columbia’s Ramankutty Lab, provides global maps of yield gaps for 16 major crops that account for about 85 percent of all calories produced on croplands. Other valuable resources include the Global Yield Gap Atlas and IFPRI’s CELL5M database.

These global tools are useful for targeting policy and investments for broad strategies. But they need to be adapted for local issues, such as increasing access to seeds, fertilizer and markets.

Increasing yields and protecting the environment

Many institutions working with smallholder farmers have shown it is possible to increase yields and also make production more sustainable and profitable. For example, they have promoted direct seeding in rice fields rather than transplanting nursery-grown sprouts. This practice reduces labor costs and decreases the time required for plants to mature.

Another strategy, modified rice intensification, uses improved mechanization to transplant younger seedlings and use less water. A third strategy is to occasionally dry out rice fields, which reduces water use and increases availability of soil nutrients. These methods, which increase yields with less water use and labor, are becoming widely adopted in India and can be used in other rice-growing regions.

Creating change across millions of farms requires tremendous time investments to understand farmers’ needs and challenges and to gain their trust. There is currently no Silicon Valley-style approach to quickly “hack” food production on small farms.

But more gradual approaches can be very effective. The nonprofit One Acre Fund has helped over 400,000 farmers across six countries in Africa increase farm income by 55 percent by improving their access to credit for seeds and fertilizer and training them in farming techniques.

Key leverage points

We can achieve food security and also promote sustainable agriculture by focusing on a small set of leverage points in the global food system. The two highest-payoff strategies are halting deforestation and changing irrigation management in rice paddies.

Agriculture expansion is the leading global driver of tropical deforestation, which has tremendous impacts on biodiversity and accounts for about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every unit of tropical land cleared leads to nearly twice the carbon loss and produces half as much food as a comparable unit in temperate zones. The stark trade-off occurs because lush tropical forests store lots of carbon and the yields gaps are commonly high. This means that increasing yields on existing tropical farmlands is much better for the environment than clearing new land for agriculture.

Many agriculture and development experts believe Africa is overdue for a Green Revolution, similar to the focused research and investments that produced dramatic yield increases in Asia and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s. But agricultural expansion will likely be part of such an effort in Africa.

This will occur partly to produce more staple crops like cassava and sorghum. Currently, however, global markets for cash commodities like sugarcane are driving land grabs, reducing available farmland and using much more water than staple crops. Many institutions are working to improve seed varieties and soil management techniques to improve yields of staple crops, but these investments are small compared to the money going toward production of cash commodities.

Better irrigation management on rice farms is especially important in Asia, where rice is the main source of calories for many people. Growing it in flooded paddies produces large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Approaches such as the techniques mentioned above can maintain or improve yields and reduce water consumption, and even small changes can produce large reductions in overall GHG emissions without reducing rice production.

Farmers plant rice in a paddy field in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
IFPRI/IanMasias via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Beyond the farm

Sustainably increasing food production is an important piece of the puzzle, but it does not necessarily ensure that people will have constant access to food or will be well-nourished. As one example, studies have shown that farm households are more likely to have enough food to feed their families if they earn off-farm income in addition to raising crops.

An international group of food and nutrition scholars proposed a new research agenda in late 2016 that shifts the emphasis from calories – that is, feeding people – to nourishment. In their view, we need to organize an international effort as large as global campaigns against HIV/AIDs or smoking to remake global food systems so that healthy diets are available to everyone.

It would be overly optimistic to say that eliminating hunger is within reach, but we have the knowledge and tools to achieve this goal. The biggest breakthroughs likely will come through integrated strategies for producing and increasing access to nutritious food.

The Conversation

Paul West, Co-Director and Lead Scientist of the Global Landscapes Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

DIY Disaster Preparation Bucket

This emergency kit comes from AlfredoEinsteino on Reddit
This emergency kit comes from AlfredoEinsteino on Reddit

This emergency kit comes from AlfredoEinsteino on Reddit – who we will call AE – and is published with his permission. At the end of this post is a list of every single item you see here so you can make this exact emergency kit for yourself. emergency-kit-5-gallon-bucket Keep in mind that this kit is one person’s collection of items that work best for him. It’s the right kit for AE but may not yet be the perfect kit for you. You should always tailor your emergency kit around what’s likely in your area and your family’s needs.

Organizing the 5 Gallon Emergency Kit

AE has divided his emergency kit into a few broad categories to keep his supplies organized and well rounded:

  • General Supplies
  • Hygiene Supplies
  • First Aid Kit

Every item is listed in detail in a printed contents document. On the back is a list of important phone numbers such as relatives, insurance companies, local law enforcement, fire department, etc.

emergency-kit-5-gallon-bucket-list
emergency-kit-5-gallon-bucket-list

 

Did you catch the line second from the top? It’s the most important detail on the loadout document – the date. This helps you remember when the bucket was put together so you can keep track of all your expiration dates. A good emergency kit can easily last 5 years or more, but not everything inside will be good for that long and may need to be replaced periodically. Again, the EpiPen example – they only last about 20 months from the day they are made. Replacing an expired EpiPen could be a life or death matter!

Shopping List: 5 Gallon Emergency Kit

The rest of this article will be a list of the contents of the bucket. You can download this list in an editable Word format by clicking here: 5 Gallon Bucket Emergency Kit It may be instructive to compare this list with the much higher calorie emergency kit from Mayday disaster preparation company. Humans usually need at least 2,000 calories every single day – which adds up really fast. Depending on your anticipated needs, you may want one or several food-geared buckets in addition to your emergency supply kit. I’ve linked some of the more unusual items that you might not find at your neighborhood hardware store.

General Supplies

general-emergency-kit-supplies
general-emergency-kit-supplies
  • glow sticks (12 hrs)
  • flashlight
  • liquid candle
  • matchbooks
  • mylar thermal blankets
  • hand warmers
  • AM/FM radio
  • whistle and lanyard
  • sewing kit
  • blank notebook
  • pencils
  • extra batteries (for flashlight and radio)
  • zip ties
  • P-38 can opener
  • trash bags
  • N95 dust masks
  • duct tape
  • small tarp
  • paracord
  • safety goggles
  • split leather gloves
  • Hygiene Supplies
Hygiene supplies suited to your needs
Hygiene supplies suited to your needs

Hygiene supplies are packaged inside their own separate bag. These basic supplies should look familiar – it’s similar to a toiletries bag you might take on vacation. hygiene-supply-kit

  • bar soap
  • kleenex
  • floss
  • baby shampoo
  • hand lotion
  • sunscreen
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • feminine hygiene pads
  • comb
  • toilet paper
  • washcloths

 

First Aid Kit

first-aid-kit-contents-1024x605
first-aid-kit-contents

The first aid box is packaged with a list of contents taped to the inside of the lid. Moist towelettes and antiseptic towelettes and latex gloves kept on top so you can clean your hands before digging through supplies.

  • basic first-aid guide
  • moist towelettes
  • antiseptic towelettes
  • latex gloves
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Advil)
  • aspirin
  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • loperamide (Imodium A-D)
  • burn cream
  • sting relief towelettes
  • hydrocortisone cream
  • triple antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  • cough drops
  • earplugs
  • instant ice pack
  • tweezers
  • nail clippers
  • scissors
  • digital thermometer
  • cotton balls
  • waterproof adhesive tape
  • gauze rolls
  • gauze pads
  • moleskin
  • band-aids
  • butterfly bandages
  • ace bandage
  • triangular bandage
  • hand sanitizer
  • Q-tips
  • petroleum jelly
  • RAD sticker (personal radiation dosimeter)
  • potassium iodide (radiation emergency thyroid blocker)

Additional Items Suggested by You

These pieces of kit weren’t included in the example bucket build above but are listed here by popular demand.

Lifestraw ultracompact Water Filter
24-inch Pocket Chainsaw
3600 calorie ration bars with 5 year shelf life
4-in-1 Emergency Gas & Water Shutoff Tool
12,000 Strike Firestarter and whistle
Hand-crank Flashlight
Everstryke Match (15000 uses)
Foldable Drybags
Foldable credit card knife

Source: Five Gallon Ideas  http://fivegallonideas.com/emergency-kit/

See also: more ideas for prepping with 5 gallon buckets.

Many Household Products Contain Antimicrobial Chemicals Banned from Soaps by the FDA

Any antimicrobial chemicals in there? Home image via www.shutterstock.com.
Any antimicrobial chemicals in there? Home image via http://www.shutterstock.com.

Erica Hartmann, Northwestern University

This year marks 20 years since Hasbro was fined for false advertising, claiming their Playskool toys laden with the antimicrobial chemical triclosan would keep kids healthier. It is also the year when soap manufacturers will finally have to remove the chemical from their products.

Triclosan is one example of a potentially hazardous chemical used in some antimicrobial products. The Food and Drug Administration recently banned it, along with 18 others chemicals, from hand soaps because of unacceptable risks to humans and the environment. Exposure to triclosan, in general, is linked with disruption of hormone function and the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The FDA asked manufacturers to demonstrate that these chemicals are safe for long-term use and more effective than regular soap. Neither has been proven.

But these same chemicals are still used in many other products – including plush toys, pool wings, pacifier pockets, building blocks and even craft supplies like markers and scissors – without any label required. Some of these products are marketed as being antimicrobial, but many aren’t.

Because these products are not under the purview of the FDA, they aren’t subject to the ban, and companies aren’t required to reveal what makes them antimicrobial. This means it is hard for consumers to know what products contain these chemicals.

Triclosan and 18 other chemicals have been banned from soaps and washes.
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Why was triclosan banned in soaps?

Manufacturers failed to demonstrate that antimicrobial soaps were any more effective than regular soaps. Essentially, there are no reported benefits of antimicrobial soaps to outweigh the risks of using antimicrobial chemicals. So, are these chemicals any more effective in other products?

Overall, peer-reviewed research showing that household products and building materials containing antimicrobial chemicals, such as cutting boards and industrial flooring, harbor fewer bacteria is scant. Research further demonstrating that these products protect human health is essentially nonexistent. This indicates that, much like in soaps, triclosan in other products isn’t doing much good.

The FDA’s decision applies only to over-the-counter soaps sold to consumers, and not to soaps used in health care settings or any other consumer products or building materials not under the purview of the FDA.

But some health care providers are deciding to skip the antimicrobials. For example, Kaiser Permanente, a major health care system, stopped purchasing soaps containing triclosan several years ago. And in 2015 the system announced it would no longer use paint and interior building products containing antimicrobial chemicals, citing a lack of evidence that they actually prevent disease along with safety concerns.

Not only does research suggest that antimicrobial products are ineffective at reducing microbes on the product, but several studies also suggest they may be causing an increase in antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant infections, such as MRSA, cause an estimated 23,000 deaths every year in the United States.

Research that I conducted at the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center at the University of Oregon demonstrated a troubling link, finding higher concentrations of triclosan and antibiotic resistance genes in dust in an athletic and educational facility. We are currently investigating how these antibiotic resistance genes can get into bacteria.

At the moment, it’s unclear how much of the triclosan we find in dust comes from soaps or other products, but triclosan has been found in almost every dust sample assayed worldwide. This suggests that the more antimicrobial chemicals we use in our homes, classrooms and offices, the more antibiotic-resistant bacteria we see there.

‘What’s in your dust?’ from the BioBE Center.

Again, it is worth noting that we have no evidence that using any antimicrobial products other than toothpaste, whether they are soaps or other household goods, makes us any healthier. There is even some evidence to the contrary: Without adequate exposure to the right microbes, our children may be at a higher risk of developing conditions like allergies and asthma.

Why it’s hard to know what products contain these chemicals

Let’s say, then, that we want to avoid products that contain triclosan or any of the other 18 antimicrobials banned in soap by the FDA. Should be fairly easy, right? Not so: Manufacturers are not required to tell us what makes their products antimicrobial.

Soaps are personal care products, which means they fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction. The agency requires that active ingredients such as triclosan be listed. For instance, triclosan is also found in some toothpastes, in which it has been proven effective against plaque, and it is listed on the label.

If you want to avoid buying soaps containing these chemicals before the ban goes into effect on Sept. 6 you just need to read the label. But products that are not under the agency’s jurisdiction are subject to different requirements, and don’t have to list the chemicals they contain. It is incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to find out exactly which products contain which antimicrobial chemicals.

Products that are marketed as being antimicrobial, for instance, often contain these chemicals. But not all products that contain antimicrobial chemicals are advertised as such.

Concerned consumers can get recommendations from advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides. However, that information is focused largely on triclosan and not the additional 18 chemicals banned from soap. And as manufacturers reformulate products without making public announcements, information may be incomplete or out of date.

Consumers looking for a simple way to get comprehensive information about antimicrobial products are out of luck. But one consumer with an awful lot of resources is actually starting to collect this information: Google. The tech giant went to such great lengths to uncover the ingredients for products used in their facilities that it developed an online tool called Portico. Unfortunately for us, Portico isn’t yet available to the public.

It would help if regulators adopted consistent standards requiring common labeling practices, and if manufacturers were required to disclose hazardous ingredients. We need to know what chemicals are in the products, especially when those chemicals could have adverse effects on our health and our environment.

What can consumers do? We can apply pressure by calling on retailers to carry antimicrobial-free products and to require clear labels on products that contain chemicals banned by the FDA.

The Conversation

Erica Hartmann, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.