Anishinaabe Tribes in the Northern U.S. Are Adapting to Climate Change
By Samantha Harrington
If the forests of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan keep secrets, it's only because people fail to listen. For about 500 years, since they moved to the region from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, Anishinaabe tribes have built relationships and history with all beings in the region – from tall trees and moose to grains of sand and manidoonsag, which means "little spirits" in Ojibwe. Elders and tribal members who have taken the time to observe the landscape have witnessed their community members, both human and otherwise, adapt to harsh winters, wildfires, storms, pest outbreaks, and the arrival of Europeans.
Now they are recognizing the impacts of climate change on their communities. They can taste it in the way that the flavor of beaver worsens sooner as springs warm up earlier in the calendar year. They have heard it in the way the wind blows through declining beds of manoomin, or wild rice. There have been more obvious changes, too. Intense storms have washed out bridges and eroded the shores of small lakes and Lake Superior.
Despite limited financial resources, tribes in the region have prioritized a holistic kind of climate adaptation that is rooted in traditional values of relationship-building and observation. By taking their time, tribes have been proactive while striving to adapt in a way that aligns with their values and that is conscious of a scope and timescale much larger than one human life. As tribes do this work, they come up against the limitations of operating within a cultural system in the U.S. that is often diametrically opposed to the Anishinaabe worldview.
Leading on Climate Change
In 2007, Wayne Dupuis, the environmental program manager of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, approached the tribal council about adding the goals of the Kyoto Protocol into the tribe's resource management planning. They agreed. A year later, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, in far northeastern Minnesota, was the second tribe in the U.S. to begin an adaptation plan. The majority of tribes in the region have since created or begun climate change monitoring and adaptation work.
Those timelines outpace many non-tribal communities in the Upper Midwest. The politically progressive county that houses Wisconsin's state capital did not create its Office of Energy and Climate Change until 2017.
Fifteen years ago in Grand Portage, the tribe began to notice and study the decline of brook trout in Trout Lake, a 61-acre lake on the reservation. Eventually the lake warmed so much that temperature-sensitive trout could no longer survive. The tribe restocked the lake with walleye and yellow perch, which thrive in warmer water. But Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources has not taken similar measures in other lakes in the northern part of the state.
"I think we're going to see a massive loss of trout species in northeastern Minnesota, and I think that the Minnesota DNR is going to have to really consider: Is it acceptable to have a whole bunch of lakes with no fish, or do we start trying to change to fish communities that are a bit more resilient?" asked Seth Moore, the director of biology and environment at the Grand Portage Band. "That's a no-brainer in my opinion. It almost feels like they're a decade late."
A Close Relationship With the Land
The guiding force behind much of this early work is the Anishinaabe emphasis on the connectedness of all beings and actions.
"We are here because of our relationship with the land," Dupuis said. "In many of our stories, it's our relationship with the Earth and the animals, the swimmers, the flyers that needs to be in harmony, and if we skew that balance, bad things happen. So our relationship with the Earth is primary – to be aware of what we're doing and considerate in what we do."
Katy Bresette, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and an Ojibwe educator, said that it's important not to romanticize this practice as something mystical and far removed from a process that everyone is capable of. Looking at adaptation from the perspective of all members of the ecosystem and the connections between them helps create solutions that look beyond an individual human life.
"You have to understand that it's not necessarily about understanding whether changes are coming sooner," Bresette said. "It's just understanding that the changes exist and what they look like."
Ojibwe lands are particularly vulnerable to warming temperatures. The Northwoods lie in a transition zone between southern forests and the boreal forests of the north. Many of the region's cold-loving species, like paper birch and moose, are living in the southernmost reaches of their range. Warmer winters have already prompted the decline of some cold-weather species and the northerly migration of new species that were once killed off by the cold.
In addition to their inherent value as beings, many vulnerable species are culturally significant for their direct roles in tribal ceremonies and subsistence. Ash trees, threatened as warmer temperatures allow emerald ash borer to gain a stronger foothold in the forests, have long been used to make baskets, fishing tools, pipe stems, and lacrosse sticks.
Alex Mehne, forest manager of the Fond du Lac Band, said that black ash trees – which are the dominant tree species in the area – are critical in maintaining water levels in wetlands. Black ash trees grow in large groups in forested wetlands, where they absorb water from the ground.
That process helps protect critical manoomin beds downstream, particularly as rainstorms get more intense. Manoomin is sensitive to water changes, especially in June and July. "If the water level goes too high the plant will drown, and if it goes too low it'll be destroyed," said Eric Andrews, climate change coordinator of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
After an intense storm in 2012, the Fond du Lac manoomin crop failed.
As they noticed these vulnerabilities, Anishinaabe people began work to ease the coming changes. The Fond du Lac Band is experimenting with planting alternative wetland tree species to see if they could play a similar role in the ecosystem to the ash trees. So far, swamp white oak and silver maple seem to be succeeding.
Documenting Tribal Adaptation Strategies
Tribal adaptation in the Northwoods depends upon collaborative relationships between tribes and other regional resource managers. Those relationships were essential in the creation of the 2019 Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu (TAM), a document that includes 14 different adaptation strategies that can be used to help guide climate planning. It was born from an inclusive, community-centered process that contrasts with Western-style approaches in the region.
The menu came into being after some tribal members were involved in a watershed adaptation workshop put on by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. The institute, which is a partnership of federal agencies, universities and conservation organizations, has developed a variety of "menus" that present climate change adaptation strategy options for forest managers. At the watershed menu workshop, tribal members realized that while the process was useful, it was missing important context for tribal planning, such as shared values and community engagement.
"Eventually it came out that we needed a whole separate menu," said Nisogaabo Ikwe Melonee Montano, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and the traditional ecological knowledge outreach specialist at the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
An essential part of creating this menu was establishing deep relationships and trust among the 19 creators of the document, who included both tribal and non-tribal members.
"Early on we kind of started joking with each other that it was actually the TAM fam," Bresette said. "There has been reciprocity here, and there has been love for each other."
All decisions about what to include in the menu were made by consensus. The menu's stated values are specific to the Great Lakes Anishinaabe perspective, but it is intended to be a living document that helps other tribes and non-tribal communities create plans for managing the impacts of climate change.
Nikki Cooley, of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, manages the Tribal Climate Change Program at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University. She said that there has been a lot of interest in expanding the menu to include values and languages from other tribes.
"In all my time, whether it's been in Glennallen, Alaska, which is a super small town four hours from Anchorage, or on the shores of La Jolla beach in San Diego, the commonality is that tribes are always very concerned about how climate change is going to affect their culture," Cooley said.
Members of the TAM team emphasized that people should spend time observing the environment before implementing any of the strategies so that they can make decisions informed by elders and non-human members of the community.
"They're giving us the things that we need to know and understand," Bresette said. "We're the only ones who aren't in the classroom. We're the ones who aren't spending time on our lessons. We're the ones not doing our homework."
Caught Between Conflicting Cultural Values
The TAM process centered native voices, but that is not always the case, even in tribal projects. Additionally, choices made by neighboring landowners can complicate work that tribes are doing.
Climate program leaders and resource managers at Red Cliff, Bad River, and Fond du Lac noted how much time they spend trying to prevent resource extraction companies from damaging their environment.
Andrews at Bad River is particularly concerned about the Line 5 natural gas and oil pipeline, operated by Enbridge, a Canadian energy company. The Bad River is eroding where it crosses the pipeline, particularly as heavy rainstorms become more frequent. The erosion is expected to expose the pipeline and put it at increased risk of breaking – worrisome as downstream of the intersection of the river and pipeline are the Kakagon Sloughs, a protected wetland and wild rice bed. It is a critical resource for the tribe.
Gidigaa-bizhiw (Jerry Jondreau), a member of the TAM team from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community who founded his tribe's forestry department, said that the practice of prioritizing the use of natural resources for financial gain over the health of the whole ecological community is incredibly frustrating. "We're fighting with a system that is essentially backwards," Gidigaa-bizhiw (Jondreau) said. "It's designed from that Western viewpoint."
Gidigaa-bizhiw (Jondreau), said that he often found himself the only indigenous voice in the room in forestry conversations. He said that traditional knowledge was often brushed off and that native voices need to be, at minimum, equally represented in order to be heard. Native communities, he said, have been doing the work of caring for the environment for millennia and that people with resources need to recognize that expertise and support it.
"Relinquish authority," Gidigaa-bizhiw (Jondreau) said. "If you have money, and you want it to go to a good place, then give it to the people that are doing this work and don't make them jump through 10,000 hoops to try to get this stuff, because then you spend all your time working on the damn grants and not doing the work."
The Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science demonstrated support for elevating the expertise of native communities in the Upper Midwest in their commitment to developing the TAM. And some in Wisconsin's state government express interest in doing the same. "We owe it to the first stewards of this land to listen to them, partner with them, and follow their lead in making Wisconsin a more sustainable and equitable place for everyone," Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said via email.
Reginald DeFoe, the director of resource management for the Fond du Lac Band in Minnesota, remains deeply worried about the lack of leadership on climate action in the U.S. and the world.
"I think the only way out of this kind of mess is we can't look backwards and blame everyone for what happened. The only way is to look forward," DeFoe said. "But right now the leadership is on a different track; they want to exploit more resources – mining, oil – and it just goes on and on."
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.
The industry has essentially recovered none of the pipelines laid in the Gulf in the last six decades; the abandoned infrastructure accounts for more than 97% of all of the decommissioned pipelines in the Gulf.
The pipelines pose a threat to the habitat around them, as maritime commerce and hurricanes and erosion can move sections of pipeline.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not conduct undersea inspections even though surface monitoring is "not always reliable for detecting ruptures," according to the GAO.
For a deeper dive:
The survey compared six environmental concerns: drinking water pollution; pollution in rivers, lakes and reservoirs; tropical rainforest loss; climate change; air pollution; and plant and animal species extinction. While most Americans showed concern for all of these threats, the majority were most worried about polluted drinking water (56 percent), followed by polluted rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53 percent), Gallup reported.
"When it comes to environmental problems, Americans remain most concerned about two that have immediate and personal potential effects," Gallup noted. "For the past 20 years, worries about water pollution – both drinking water and bodies of water — have ranked at the top of the list. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, laid bare the dangers of contaminated drinking water and no doubt sticks in the public's minds."
According to a new study, 61.4 million people in the U.S. did not drink their tap water as of 2018, Asher Rosinger, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health, anthropology and demography at Penn State, wrote in The Conversation.
"It's important not to blame people for distrusting what comes out of their tap, because those fears are rooted in history," Rosinger explained.
Meanwhile, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency surveys found that almost 50 percent of rivers and streams and more than one-third of lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported. Without action, concerns over water quality will become increasingly relevant as the demand for fresh water is expected to be one-third greater by 2050 than it is today.
Gallup researchers have tracked environmental concerns among Americans since 2000, and water quality worries have consistently ranked high, Gallup noted.
The survey also revealed an environmental partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. For example, 68 percent of Democrats were highly concerned about global warming compared to 14 percent of Republicans.
Another recent Gallup survey found that 82 percent of Democrats believed that global warming effects had already started compared to 29 percent of Republicans. "That's a gap of 53 points; for comparison, in 2001, the gap was a mere 13 points," Grist reported.
Similarly, a 2020 Pew Research Center report revealed the widest partisan gap to date concerning whether or not climate change should be a top policy priority. Protecting air and water quality ranked as the second most divisive issue among Republicans and Democrats, The New York Times reported.
"Intense partisan polarization over these two issues in particular" has been growing for decades, Riley Dunlap, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, told The New York Times last February. "Voters take cues on their policy preferences and overall positions," he added. "President Trump has, in the past, called climate change a hoax and all that. You get a similar message from many members of Congress on the Republican side. And most importantly, it's the message you get from the conservative media."
Gallup's latest figures also showed that concern about environmental threats either increased or remained the same between 2019 and 2020.
"The fluctuations in worry levels since 2019 are largely driven by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, who became more worried, on average, about the six environmental problems in 2020 during the presidential campaign and are now less worried with Joe Biden as president," Gallup reported.
While surveys like these are "not a full-blown diagnostic rundown of the nation's psyche," they are informative tools for understanding how and what Americans are feeling and thinking, Grist reported.
Climate Change Threatens Coffee – But We’ve Found a Wild Species That Could Help Save Your Morning Brew
By Aaron P Davis
The world loves coffee. More precisely, it loves arabica coffee. From the smell of its freshly ground beans through to the very last sip, arabica is a sensory delight.
Robusta, the other mainstream coffee crop species, is almost as widely traded as arabica, but it falls short on flavor. Robusta is mainly used for instant coffee and blends, while arabica is the preserve of discerning baristas and expensive espressos.
Consumers may be happy, but climate change is making coffee farmers bitter. Diseases and pests are becoming more common and severe as temperatures rise. The fungal infection known as coffee leaf rust has devastated plantations in Central and South America. And while robusta crops tend to be more resistant, they need plenty of rain – a tall order as droughts proliferate.
The future for coffee farming looks difficult, if not bleak. But one of the more promising solutions involves developing new, more resilient coffee crops. Not only will these new coffees have to tolerate higher temperatures and less predictable rainfall, they'll also have to continue satisfying consumer expectations for taste and smell.
Finding this perfect combination of traits in a new species seemed remote. But in newly published research, my colleagues and I have revealed a little-known wild coffee species that could be the best candidate yet.
Coffee Farming in a Warming World
Coffea stenophylla was first described as a new species from Sierra Leone in 1834. It was farmed across the wetter parts of upper west Africa until the early 20th century, when it was replaced by the newly discovered and more productive robusta, and largely forgotten by the coffee industry. It continued to grow wild in the humid forests of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, where it became threatened by deforestation.
At the end of 2018, we found stenophylla in Sierra Leone after searching for several years, but failed to find any trees in fruit until mid-2020, when a 10g sample was recovered for tasting.
Field botanists of the 19th century had long proclaimed the superior taste of stenophylla coffee, and also recorded its resistance to coffee leaf rust and drought. Those early tasters were often inexperienced though, and our expectations were low before the first tasting in the summer of 2020. That all changed once I'd sampled the first cup on a panel with five other coffee experts. Those first sips were revelatory: it was like expecting vinegar and getting champagne.
This initial tasting in London was followed by a thorough evaluation of the coffee's flavour in southern France, led by my research colleague Delpine Mieulet. Mieulet assembled 18 coffee connoisseurs for a blind taste test and they reported a complex profile for stenophylla coffee, with natural sweetness, medium-high acidity, fruitiness, and good body, as one would expect from high-quality arabica.
C. stenophylla growing in the wild, Ivory Coast. E. Couturon / IRD, Author provided
In fact, the coffee seemed very similar to arabica. At the London tasting, the Sierra Leone sample was compared to arabica from Rwanda. In the blind French tasting, most of the judges (81%) said stenophylla tasted like arabica, compared to 98% and 44% for the two arabica control samples, and 7% for a robusta sample.
The coffee tasting experts picked up on notes of peach, blackcurrant, mandarin, honey, light black tea, jasmine, chocolate, caramel and elderflower syrup. In essence, stenophylla coffee is delicious. And despite scoring highly for its similarity to arabica, the stenophylla coffee sample was identified as something entirely unique by 47% of the judges. That means there may be a new market niche for this rediscovered coffee to fill.
The taste testers approved of stenophylla's sweet and fruity flavour. CIRAD, Author provided
Breaking New Grounds
Until now, no other wild coffee species has come close to arabica for its superior taste. Scientifically, the results are compelling because we would simply not expect stenophylla to taste like arabica. These two species are not closely related, they originated on opposite sides of the African continent and the climates in which they grow are very different. They also look nothing alike: stenophylla has black fruit and more complex flowers while arabica cherries are red.
It was always assumed that high-quality coffee was the preserve of arabica – originally from the forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan – and particularly when grown at elevations above 1,500 metres, where the climate is cooler and the light is better.
Stenophylla coffee breaks these rules. Endemic to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, stenophylla grows in hot conditions at low elevations. Specifically it grows at a mean annual temperature of 24.9°C – 1.9°C higher than robusta, and up to 6.8°C higher than arabica. Stenophylla also appears more tolerant of droughts, potentially capable of growing with less rainfall than arabica.
Robusta coffee can grow in similar conditions to stenophylla, but the price paid to farmers is roughly half that of arabica. Stenophylla coffee makes it possible to grow a superior tasting coffee in much warmer climates. And while stenophylla trees tend to produce less fruit than arabica, they still yield enough to be commercially viable.
The stenophylla harvest on Reunion Island. IRD / CIRAD, Author provided
To breed the coffee crop plants of the future, we need species with great flavour and high heat tolerance. Crossbreeding stenophylla with arabica or robusta could make both more resilient to climate change, and even improve their taste, particularly in the latter.
With stenophylla's rediscovery, the future of coffee just got a little brighter.
Aaron P Davis: Senior Research Leader, Plant Resources, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Disclosure statement: Aaron P Davis receives funding from Darwin Initiative (UK).
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
On Thursday, April 22, the world will celebrate Earth Day, the largest non-religious holiday on the globe.
This Earth Day falls at a critical turning point. It is the second Earth Day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and follows a year of devastating climate disasters, such as the wildfires that scorched California and the hurricanes that battered Central America. But the day's organizers still have hope, and they have chosen a theme to match.
"At the heart of Earth Day's 2021 theme, Restore Our Earth, is optimism, a critically needed sentiment in a world ravaged by both climate change and the pandemic," EarthDay.org president Kathleen Rogers told USA TODAY.
Last Earth Day marked the first time that the holiday was celebrated digitally to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This will largely be the case this year as well.
"Most of our Earth Day events will be virtual with the exception of individual and small group cleanups through our 'Great Global Cleanup' program," EarthDay.org's Olivia Altman told USA TODAY.
Tuesday, April 20: A Global Youth Summit begins at 2:30 p.m. ET featuring young climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor. This will be followed at 7 p.m. ET by "We Shall Breathe," a virtual summit organized by the Hip Hop Caucus to look at issues like the climate crisis, pollution and the pandemic through an environmental justice lens.
Wednesday, April 22: Beginning at 7 a.m. ET, Education International will lead the "Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit." Talks will be offered in multiple languages and across multiple time zones to emphasize the importance of education in fighting the climate crisis.
Thursday, April 22: On the day itself, EarthDay.org will host its second ever Earth Day Live digital event beginning at 12 p.m. ET. This event will feature discussions, performances and workshops focusing on the day's theme of restoring our Earth through natural solutions, technological innovations and new ideas.
"EARTHDAY.ORG looks forward to contributing to the success of this historic climate summit and making active progress to Restore Our Earth," Rogers said in a press release. "We must see every country rapidly raise their ambition across all climate issues — and that must include climate education which would lead to a green jobs-ready workforce, a green consumer movement, and an educated and civically engaged citizenry around the world."
EarthDay.org grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970, which drew 20 million U.S. residents to call for greater environmental protections. The movement has been credited with helping to establish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to pass landmark environmental legislation like the Clean Air and Water Acts. It has since gone on to be a banner day for environmental action, such as the signing of the Paris agreement in 2016. More than one billion people in more than 192 countries celebrate Earth Day each year.
This legacy continues. The organization called the scheduling of Biden's summit a "clear acknowledgement of the power of Earth Day."
"This is a critical stepping stone for the U.S. to rejoin the world in combating the climate crisis. In concert with several planned parallel EARTHDAY.ORG events worldwide, Earth Day 2021 will accelerate global action on climate change," EarthDay.org wrote.
Super-emitters are individual sources such as leaking pipelines, landfills or dairy farms that produce a disproportionate amount of planet-warming emissions, especially methane and carbon dioxide. Carbon Mapper, the non-profit leading the effort, hopes to provide a more targeted guide to reducing emissions by launching special satellites that hunt for sources of climate pollution.
"What we've learned is that decision support systems that focus just at the level of nation states, or countries, are necessary but not sufficient. We really need to get down to the scale of individual facilities, and even individual pieces of equipment, if we're going to have an impact across civil society," Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO and University of Arizona researcher, told BBC News. "Super-emitters are often intermittent but they are also disproportionately responsible for the total emissions. That suggests low-hanging fruit, because if you can identify and fix them you can get a big bang for your buck."
The new project, announced Thursday, is a partnership between multiple entities, including Carbon Mapper, the state of California, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Planet, a company that designs, builds and launches satellites, according to a press release. The project is being implemented in three stages.
The initial stage, which is already complete, involved the initial engineering development. NASA and Planet will work together in the second stage to build two satellites for a 2023 launch. The third phase will launch an entire constellation of satellites starting in 2025.
The satellites will include an imaging spectrometer built by NASA's JPL, NASA explained in a press release. This is a device that can break down visible light into hundreds of colors, providing a unique signature for chemicals such as methane and carbon dioxide. Most imaging spectrometers currently in orbit have larger pixel sizes, making it difficult to locate emission sources that are not always visible from the ground. However, Carbon Mapper spectrometers will have pixels of around 98 square feet, facilitating more detailed pin-pointing.
"This technology enables researchers to identify, study and quantify the strong gas emission sources," JPL Scientist Charles Miller said in the press release.
Once the data is collected, Carbon Mapper will make it available to industry and government actors via an open data portal to help repair leaks.
"These home-grown satellites are a game-changer," California Governor Gavin Newsom said of the project. "They provide California with a powerful, state-of-the-art tool to help us slash emissions of the super-pollutant methane — within our own borders and around the world. That's exactly the kind of dynamic, forward-thinking solution we need now to address the existential crisis of climate change."