Michael Specter’s story in The New Yorker about Dr. Vandana Shiva’s work to protect public health from the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) skewed the facts and fell short of the magazine’s usually high standards for fairness. In the piece published in the Aug. 20 issue (and in a subsequent podcast on The New Yorker’s website), Specter makes it clear that he does not approach the topic simply as a journalist, but also as a strong believer in GMOs. He makes no secret of the fact that he considers opposition to GMOs to be unfounded.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
But Specter makes his case by ignoring a great deal of evidence that directly contradicts his opinions. By ignoring important facts and questions—scientific, economic and legal—he allows his personal biases to undermine journalistic balance. The end product is a story that mirrors the false myths perpetuated by Monsanto Company on its website and does a true disservice to New Yorker readers.
Instead of allowing readers to weigh both sides of the argument and decide for themselves, Specter decides for them. He erases one side of the debate in order to tip the scales in favor of GMOs. Readers of his piece, “Seeds of Doubt,” could easily come away with a false impression that the debate over the utility and safety of GMOs is settled. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The dangers posed by GMOs are a mainstream concern, and the debate over their safety and value to society is far from over. Specter’s failure to acknowledge this undermines his argument in support of GMOs and harms The New Yorker’s reputation for quality journalism.
Specter roots his critique of Dr. Shiva in easily disproven myths that are commonly repeated by the biotech industry, Monsanto Company and other GMO producers (Monsanto et al.), and their supporters. Below, we illuminate his major errors and omissions, providing links to supporting research and articles that refute them. We encourage those who took the time to read Specter’s article to give equal time to the facts and voices he chose to ignore completely.
Error #1: Distorting the Relationship Between GMOs and Famine
Specter roots his attack on Dr. Shiva’s activism in a commonly repeated industry myth about the relationship between GMOs and famine. Just as Monsanto once claimed that a world without the carcinogenic pesticide DDT would be a world overrun by death and bugs, the GMO industry now claims that opposition to GMOs could lead to famines. In repeating this line, Specter specifically invokes India’s Bengal Famine of 1943.
However, as any student of famines knows, the Bengal Famine did not result from a shortage of food. As the work of Nobel Prize-winning Harvard economist Amartya Sen and others have clarified, the famine in Bengal—like many other famines—took place at a time when the country had adequate food production.
“Famines often take place in situations of moderate to good food availability, without any decline of food supply per head,” Dr. Sen wrote in Ingredients of Famine Analysis: Availability and Entitlements.
“Undernourishment, starvation and famine are influenced by the working of the entire economy and society—not just food production and other agricultural activities,” Dr. Sen observed in Famines and Other Crises.“People suffer hunger when they cannot establish their entitlement over an adequate amount of food.”
In Churchill’s Secret War, Madhusree Mukerjee documents how Winston Churchill’s well-documented disdain for the Indian people resulted in callous indifference toward the famine in Bengal. Mukerjee, a former editor atScientific American and a recipient of the Guggenheim fellowship, takes Sen’s analysis a step further, arguing that Churchill allowed the famine to happen as part of a strategy to maintain the British Raj’s control over India.
There is no question that Churchill, who considered Indians to be “a beastly people and a beastly religion” and who referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a“malignant subversive fanatic,” repeatedly ignored pleas to address the famine. Instead, the British exported grain from India while millions of Indians starved to death.
Churchill’s unconscionable behavior drew a rebuke from Lord Wavell, the British Viceroy of India, who called it “negligent, hostile and contemptuous.” The Bengal Famine of 1943, it should be noted, was not the first famine to unfold while India was under British control. As Mike Davis documented in Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of The Third World, Britain had long employed the practice of exporting food while millions of Indians starved. Writes Davis:
“Between 1875-1900—a period that included the worst famines in Indian history—annual grain exports increased from 3 to 10 million tons.”
By completely ignoring the causes of the Bengal Famine, Specter misleads readers with this reference. In many cases, including the case he cites, famine occurred despite abundant food production. The problem was that a callous dominant force controlled the food supply and failed to act in the best interests of people.
Just as the British exported rice and imposed exorbitant taxes while the people of Bengal suffered, Monsanto et al. today impose on poor farmers exceedingly high royalties fees for its seeds. This forces them deeper into poverty and makes it harder for them to feed their families.
If Monsanto wanted to reduce hunger, it would not be doing so much to impose deeper poverty on farmers through its overpriced monopolistic seed scheme that perpetuates unsustainable dependency. Specter’s assertion that profit-hungry corporations are the antidotes to famine makes zero sense to anyone who has studied famine.
Further, Specter’s assertion appears to be based on the debunked myth that genetically engineered seeds increase crop yields. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists —Failure to Yield—found that such claims are overstated. Instead, according to the report, which is based on an analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature, “Most of the gains are due to traditional breeding or improvement of other agricultural practices.” Even in the U.S., non-GMO crops have shown better yield improvements than GM crops, according to research conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and the University of Wisconsin.
This report and others show that when genetically engineered products are stacked up against other agricultural methods and technologies, they are only a minor contributor to productivity. Other methods are more important.
If anything, GMOs and monocultures may actually increase the risk of famine and ecocide because they disrupt our natural food system in unprecedented ways, in violation of the Precautionary Principle. From a recent report published by the Extreme Risk Initiative at the New York University (NYU) School of Engineering:
“Invoking the risk of famine as an alternative to GMOs is a deceitful strategy, no different from urging people to play Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty. The evocation of famine also prevents clear thinking about not just GMOs but also global hunger. The idea that GMOs will help avert famine ignores evidence that the problem of global hunger is due to poor economic and agricultural policies. Those who care about the supply of food should advocate for an immediate impact on the problem by reducing the amount of corn used for ethanol in the U.S., which burns food for fuel consuming over 40 percent of the U.S. crop that could provide enough food to feed two-thirds of a billion people.”
Notably, Monsanto is a top producer of GMO corn designed to streamline the conversion of a food staple into ethanol (rather than alleviate world hunger).
Conclusion: Specter’s embrace of the GMO industry’s famine canard ignores a Nobel Prize-winning economist’s research into the root causes of the Bengal Famine, as well as other famines. In addition, the assertion that GMOs increase crop yields (and thus food supply) is exaggerated. In particular, it ignores the availability of other methods, such as conventional crop breeding, that are more successful at increasing productivity. Finally, as the NYU paper indicates, contributing to monocultures of a few crops that are not primarily used for food, much less food that helps malnourished people, likely increases—rather than decreases—food insecurity. This very well-reasoned argument is completely ignored. Additionally, it should be noted that the European public has widely rejected GMO food products—while creating societies with less food insecurity than the U.S.
“We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us. We think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.”—Statement at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations by the Representative of every African nation, except South Africa, in 1998
Error #2: Obscuring Vast Difference Between GMO and Natural
Specter also repeats the false claim that what GMO companies like Monsanto are doing to our food and plants is not fundamentally different than what has been done for centuries. He writes: “Nearly all of the plants we cultivate—corn, wheat, rice, roses, Christmas trees—have been genetically-modified [sic] through breeding to last longer, look better, taste sweeter, or grow more vigorously in arid soil.”
But the vast differences between breeding methods that use processes that commonly occur in nature and those used in GMO corporation laboratories is substantial. For one thing, GMO foods often introduce proteins not previously in the food supply into our foods. The proteins come from organisms such as bacteria that normally cannot place their genes into our food crops, yet they enter our bodies when we consume these GMO foods. We do not fully understand their effects on human health. This is especially true because the regulatory systems do not thoroughly test their safety. In the U.S., the very companies that want to commercialize these products conduct most of these tests.
“There is no comparison between tinkering with the selective breeding of genetic components of organisms that have previously undergone extensive histories of selection and the top-down engineering of taking a gene from a fish and putting it into a tomato,” say the authors of the NYU Extreme Risk Initiative paper. “Saying that such a product is natural misses the process of natural selection by which things become ‘natural.’”
Dr. George Wald, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1967, raised the alarm on these concerns long before consumers became aware of them:
“Recombinant DNA technology [genetic engineering] faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth…Up to now living organisms have evolved very slowly, and new forms have had plenty of time to settle in. Now whole proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. It is all too big and is happening too fast. So this, the central problem, remains almost unconsidered. It presents probably the largest ethical problem that science has ever had to face.”
These unanswered questions and ethical problems have resulted in widespread public concern over GMOs. Over 90 percent of Americans believe GMO products should be labeled, and a majority says they would avoid buying them if they were. As a result, Monsanto et al. have spent millions of dollars to kill proposals for GMO labeling.
Monsanto et al. have not been as successful in Europe. Notwithstanding that millions of tons of animal feed are sold to Europe every year, labeling laws coupled with scientific review based on the Precautionary Principle, in tandem with widespread public skepticism of GMO products, have made it nearly impossible for GMO products to be sold there.
The refusal of European citizens to serve as guinea pigs for Monsanto has hampered the company’s efforts to expand there. Clearly, it is not only activists who have expressed legitimate concern about GMOs. Governments and scientists also clearly perceive the difference between natural products and GMOs, and taken steps to guard against potential dangers.
Yet Specter completely glosses over this issue, making an oversimplified comparison to essentially equate GMOs with natural products and wipe out a key concern of GMO opponents with one clever sentence. But according to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.”
In a podcast accompanying Specter’s piece on the New Yorker website, Specter goes so far as to deny that organic foods are healthier than GMO foods, a claim that is challenged by many peer-reviewed studies.
Conclusion: Specter’s comparison between modern biotechnological engineering and other types of crossbreeding or hybridization is completely misleading. Many experts, including a Nobel Prize winner, have articulated why GMOs are not typically found in nature and represent uncharted scientific territory. Specter’s oversimplification of the differences between natural and GMO products misinforms readers.
Error #3: Denying the Debate Over GMO Health Dangers
Specter’s piece accepts as fact the false argument that GMOs pose no threat to public health and safety. He ignores credible research and serious questions about the health risks posed by GMOs.
For example, in 2013, a group of nearly 300 scientists from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSEER) signed a public statement calling on GMO companies, commentators and journalists to stop repeating the false claim that a “scientific consensus” considers GMOs safe.
“We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist,” they wrote. “The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigor and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”
The Center for Food Safety has done an excellent job of highlighting the potential risks of GMOs on human health, including toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immuno-suppression, cancer and loss of nutrition. Monsanto et al. and their supporters typically deny any link between GMOs and negative health effects, saying there is no scientific evidence to prove it.
Yet, as the Center for Food Safety points out, “the [FDA] also does not require any pre-market safety testing of [genetically engineered] GE foods. The agency’s failure to require testing or labeling of GE foods has made millions of consumers into guinea pigs, unknowingly testing the safety of dozens of gene-altered food products.”
Specter raises the common claim that no one has been harmed by consuming genetically engineered foods despite many years of widespread use in the US. But as with other possible food health risks, long-term harm to public health can only be determined by doing epidemiological studies, as have been done for numerous other possible health risks. Yet these studies have never been done for genetically engineered foods.
The paper on GMOs issued by the Extreme Risk Initiative at the NYU School of Engineering pokes more holes in the idea that, because we don’t fully understand GMO risks, they must not exist: “A lack of observations of explicit harm does not show an absence of hidden risk … To expose an entire system to something whose potential harm is not understood because extant models do not predict a negative outcome is not justifiable; the relevant variables may not have been adequately identified.”
In addition to the possible dangers posed by the GMOs due to superseding natural genetics, there is an added risk from pesticides. As the New York Times, Reuters, Forbes and many others have confirmed, GMO crops have resulted in the increased use of pesticides and herbicides.
From Reuters: “Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.”
This increased use of dangerous toxins on crops poses known risks to human health. Highly credible studies have linked exposure to pesticides to a host of major human illnesses, including many cancers, endocrine disruption, reproductive harm and autism.
Recent research from the University of California at Davis found that “mothers who lived within roughly one mile of where pesticides were applied were found to have a 60 percent higher risk of having children with any of the spectrum of autism disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
“The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers’ exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Kim Harley, associate director of University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health.
The UC Davis study was the most recent study to establish a possible link between pesticide exposure and autism. Clearly, serious questions have been raised and there is more research to be done. Yet Specter fails to mention any of this.
Conclusion: Once again, Specter omits or ignores important research that raises questions about the health and safety of GMOs. By doing this, he obscures the fact that the concerns Dr. Shiva and others express about the dangers of GMOs are rooted in credible research and legitimate scientific inquiry. Specter’s reliance on the classic “straw man” fallacy is what one expects from polemicists writing at Fox News or Breitbart, but is troubling for a journalist who writes for a reputable publication.
Error #4: Erasing the Link Between Monsanto Seeds and Cotton Farmer Suicides in India
Specter denies any link between Monsanto and the epidemic of farmer suicides in India, attributing their deaths mainly to the financial stresses of farming. His explanation mirrors the explanation Monsanto has posted on the section of its website dedicated to denying any link to the farmer suicides. And just like Monsanto, Specter ignores a key fact: Monsanto’s role in creating the debt and financial stresses that drive many farmers to suicide.
“Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt (GMO) cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-2012 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”—Memo from the Indian Ministry, quoted in the Hindustan Times
The marketing of GMO seeds in India has resulted in farmers widely planting them without adequate information about their use and value. Specter greatly exaggerates the GMO seeds’ effect on crop yields when authorities there have attributed most yield gains to other technologies, such as increased irrigation.
These seeds are extremely expensive compared to normal seeds, but they come with the promise of unrealistic results. When these promises prove false, an alarming number of these farmers—drowning in debt significantly worsened by Monsanto’s pricing scheme—end their lives by drinking pesticides.
As the brother of one suicide victim in Maharashtra, the heart of India’s cotton-growing country, told award-winning reporter Andrew Malone in 2008:
“He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.”
Monsanto entraps Indian farmers in an expensive seed monopoly scheme, driving up their levels of indebtedness. Specter and others have tried to shift the blame for these suicides on “debt,” but given Monsanto’s role in helping to create that debt, this does not absolve the company of responsibility.
In attacking Dr. Shiva’s advocacy for these farmers, Specter cherry-picks the data in order to deny the suicide epidemic altogether. Most flagrantly, he uses the national average of farmer suicides in India to dispute the notion that the number of suicides has increased. Yet, as Dr. Shiva points out in her rebuttal to Specter, the suicide epidemic is focused in the cotton-growing regions of Vidarbha in Maharashtra state—where Monsanto’s expensive Bt Cotton (a GMO strain) has taken root.
From a July 2014 story in The Hindu newspaper:
“With the highest number of farmer suicides recorded in the year 2013, Maharashtra continues to paint a dismal picture on the agrarian front with over 3,000 farmers taking their lives. According to a recent report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 3,146 farmers killed themselves in the state in 2013. Maharashtra repeated this performance despite the state registering 640 less farm suicides than 2012.”
From a paper published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2008:
“[The] majority of suicide cases are from cotton growing areas. The cotton farmers in India paying more prices for inputs like seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, electricity, water, and labor whereas the price of cotton has gone down along with decreased productivity.“
Specter’s failure to acknowledge the fact that the farmer suicide epidemic is centered in the cotton-growing region, where Monsanto’s significantly more expensive Bt GMO cotton seeds now dominate, is a telling omission. Prices have increased exponentially since the introduction of Monsanto’s GMO Bt cotton seeds.
As the Indian Ministry of Agriculture put it: “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt (GMO) cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-2012 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”
In addition to driving up farmer debt by making the cost of seed significantly higher, Monsanto’s GMO cotton seeds increase pressure on farmers because these GMO crops need more irrigation in order to grow. In dry regions where water is scarce, this mix of increased seed prices and increased reliance on irrigation can devastate farmers. As the Times of India reported in September, Indian agriculture experts are urging farmers to abandon the GMO seeds and return to natural cotton, which is more affordable and less dependent on irrigation.
Unlike Specter, the Indian government and other reputable press organizations have taken the Monsanto link to the farmer suicide epidemic seriously. Shifting the blame to “indebtedness” does not absolve Monsanto in the least. Instead, it repeats Specter’s use of a specific tactic—oversimplification—to dismiss concerns that contradict his opinion.
Micha Peled’s award-winning documentary on the subject, Bitter Seeds, is mentioned by Specter in passing. We encourage people to watch the film in order to hear from Indian farmers in their own words and understand their perspective on the suicide epidemic and its root causes.
Conclusion: Yet again, Specter ignores facts and evidence that contradict his opinion in order to mock the serious concerns expressed by credible observers, including the Indian government, and makes evident his lack of journalistic balance and objectivity.
In Conclusion: Monsanto vs. Dr. Shiva
Michael Specter’s New Yorker piece seems clearly intended to impugn the motives and character of Dr. Shiva. As we have shown in the preceding pages, he systematically excises important facts, studies and journalistic reports giving the false impression that concerns over Monsanto’s monopolistic business practices and GMO products are unfounded. The opposite is true.
Specter goes so far as to express sympathy for Monsanto, writing that “the gulf between the truth about GMOs and what people say about them keeps growing wider” and that Monsanto “is simply not that powerful.” What he fails to mention is that Monsanto has spent tens of millions of dollars to kill laws that would require GMO foods to be labeled in U.S. grocery stores. The company’s power to defeat common-sense laws that most Americans support in principle—and thus keep people in the dark about whether they are ingesting GMOs—undermines Specter’s portrayal of Monsanto as misunderstood and ineffectual.
In addition to downplaying unsavory facts about Monsanto and GMOs, Specter also did his best to undermine Dr. Shiva’s academic credentials. In fact, New Yorker editor David Remnick apologized to Dr. Shiva after Specter erroneously wrote that Dr. Shiva only had a bachelor’s degree in physics. In fact, she has a master’s degree in physics and a PhD in the philosophy of science. As such, she takes into account the scientific facts against GMOs and—unlike Monsanto—also weighs the moral questions.
Malicious stories about people who the GMO industry considers threats are nothing new or unexpected. Monsanto has a long history of attacking its critics. In 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring—a landmark book about the destructive effects of pesticides often credited with launching the environmental movement—Monsanto went on the offensive. The company published a parody of Carson’s work titled “The Desolate Year.” It mocked Carson, portraying Earth as “a hungry world overrun by bugs” without DDT (a scenario that failed to unfold after the government banned DDT in 1972). Yet even today, decades after her death, Monsanto defenders like Rush Limbaugh continue to attack Carson for raising awareness of DDT’s dangers.
Specter is not the first journalist to come after Dr. Shiva nor will he be the last. Our goal in putting together this response is to highlight the manner in which GMO companies and their supporters demean their critics by ignoring facts, setting up “straw man” arguments and engaging in perfidious attacks. They pretend to have the weight of truth and science on their side but, as we have shown, they ignore many important facts and questions.
As Specter himself acknowledges, Dr. Shiva articulates serious concerns that are shared by many people around the world. This is why attacks on her will not succeed. In the end, Dr. Shiva is simply one voice among tens of millions of other voices speaking out in defense of nature, health and justice.
“Much of what she says resonates with the many people who feel that profit-seeking corporations hold too much power over the food they eat. Theirs is an argument worth making,” wrote Specter.
Rest assured Dr. Shiva’s work will continue. Attempts to ridicule or silence her will not have the intended effect. Instead, they will only increase her visibility and thus her ability to speak forcefully on behalf of those struggling to survive the capitalistic monopolies of Monsanto et al.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Isabella Garcia
On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.
Grassroots Resistance<p>The plant that would threaten Laur's health and home was awaiting the approval of an air permit by the North Carolina Department of Air Quality which, if approved, would basically greenlight the project. "This made me get out and go door to door," Laur says. One by one, she alerted her neighbors to the prospect of the asphalt plant. "I got to meet some of my neighbors I never knew before," she says. "There's no secret that there has always been a pretty strong line between the White community and the Black community here." In the end, three neighbors joined her efforts—the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, Anita Foust, and Bill Compton. Together, they formed the Anderson Community Group to advocate for environmental justice in their community.</p><p>"We are all the four corners of the community," Laur says with a laugh. "You've got a sick old White lady, Rev. Shoffner is a disabled vet, you've got Anita, who is a Black woman, and you've got a White, old country farmer. We all come from different faiths, but we've all come together as one."</p><p>Suddenly thrust into activism, the group contacted the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, a coalition that provides resources and connections with other groups. "We advocate, we organize, and we assist communities with whatever actions they are thinking of trying to protect themselves," says Naeema Muhammad, the network's co-director. Muhammad met with the activists from Anderson and recognized their need for legal advice, so she connected them with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The legal resources were key when the group determined that the data from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality's environmental justice report wasn't adding up.</p><p>The report—a requirement for all DEQ permit requests—stated that the Anderson community was 33% minority. That seemed far too low to the residents, so the Anderson Community Group did a census of each house within a 1-mile radius of the proposed plant—the same radius considered in the DEQ's environmental justice report.</p><p>"Rev. Shoffner went out into the community and did his own survey and found out that it was more than 70% minority," Laur says. "That was huge, because that changed the situation to a Title VI matter." Title VI is a federal civil rights law that prevents people from being discriminated against on the grounds of race, color, or national origin. Title VI cases require a more rigorous and comprehensive environmental justice report, so recognizing the Anderson community as a Title VI matter increases the strength of their request for a more in-depth report.</p><p>The massive difference in race demographics comes down to census data, Laur says. The DEQ was using race data from the 2010 census, which was only <a href="https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/?latlng=35.77385,-78.73807&z=7&query=coordinates::36.44038,-79.36343&promotedfeaturetype=states&arp=arpRaceEthnicity&baselayerstate=4&rtrYear=sR2010&infotab=info-rtrselfresponse&filterQuery=false" target="_blank">completed by about 64% of the population of Caswell County</a>—the county where Anderson is located. Laur says the Anderson population response rate could be even lower because the community is considered <a href="https://www.nccensus.org/about-the-census#hard-to-count-communities" target="_blank">"hard-to-count" by the U.S. Census Bureau</a>.</p><p>"The people who don't fill it out are rural people who want to keep their land and don't want zoning and minorities," Laur says, which creates skewed race demographics. The Anderson Community Group said that when they brought up this issue with the director of North Carolina DEQ, he said he was aware of the problem.</p><p>"So that tells me that all the EJ reports in North Carolina that have been done may not even be valid, just like ours," Laur says. "We were told that we are the first [community members] who have ever doubted it and checked it out."</p>
Elevating Voices<p>Determined to have new data collected, the Anderson Community Group rallied in early 2020. After learning from the state Department of Air Quality, the department responsible for approving or rejecting the asphalt air permit, that 100 statements of concern from community members would be sufficient to trigger a public hearing, the Anderson group gathered letters of concern from their community. They submitted more than 108.</p><p>"Then we were told there wasn't enough concern to have a public hearing," Laur says. "So, we started inundating the [Department of Air Quality director with emails and phone calls from the community."</p><p>Finally, in February 2020, the DEQ declared a public comment period for the issue, effectively placing the air permit for the asphalt plant on hold until a public hearing August 3. The public hearing will be held online because of COVID-19, but Laur says most people in Anderson don't own computers, and won't be able to attend. When the community group filed a complaint regarding accessibility, the DEQ then allowed public comments to be submitted via voicemail.</p><p>"Well, we don't have a cell tower out here," Laur says. She has personally never been able to use her cellphone in her home, and even her landline phone drops calls frequently. Even being able to afford a landline is a luxury in Anderson, Laur says.</p>
By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt
The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.
1. Aboriginal Carbon Foundation (Oceania)<p>The Aboriginal Carbon Foundation is building a carbon farming industry in Australia by Aboriginals, for Aboriginals. The Foundation offers training and support for new Indigenous farmers so they can learn how to capture atmospheric carbon in the soil. The carbon farming projects generate certified <a href="http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/Infohub/Markets/buying-accus/australian-carbon-credit-unit-supply" target="_blank">Australian Carbon Credit Units</a> (ACCU), which major carbon-producing businesses must purchase to offset their carbon emissions. Income generated by ACCUs is reinvested in Aboriginal communities by the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation and its participating farmers.</p>
2. AgroEcology Fund (International)<p>The AgroEcology Fund (AEF) galvanizes global leaders and experts to fund <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/07/26-organizations-working-to-conserve-seed-biodiversity/" target="_blank">biodiverse</a> and regenerative agriculture projects worldwide. Projects funded by AEF have included Indigenous food sovereignty initiatives, agroecology training institutions, and women's market access networks on every continent. With the support of governments and financial institutions, AEF hopes that agroecology will become the standard model for food production worldwide within thirty years.</p>
3. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (Asia)<p>The Asia Indigenous People Pact is an alliance of Indigenous organizations across southern and eastern Asia. Collectively, the Pact promotes and protects Indigenous lands, food systems, and biodiversity. Their alliance is bolstered by regional youth and women's networks, as well as support from international institutions, including the United Nations and Oxfam.</p>
4. Association of Guardians of the Native Potato from Central Peru (South America)<p>The Association of Guardians of the Native Potato from Central Peru (AGUAPAN) is a collective of Indigenous farmers. Each farmer grows between 50 and 300 ancestral varieties of potato, which are <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/07/food-tanks-summer-2020-reading-list/" target="_blank">indigenous to the Andes Mountains</a> of modern-day Peru. AGUAPAN farmers preserve the crop's biodiversity in their native communities and band together to advocate for economic, gender, education, and healthcare equity.</p>
5. Cheyenne River Youth Project (North America)<p>The Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota has served Lakota youth for more than three decades. Its Native Food Sovereignty initiative offers public workshops on <a href="https://www.nativeseeds.org/blogs/blog-news/how-to-grow-a-three-sisters-garden" target="_blank">Three Sisters gardening</a> of corn, beans, and squash. They also offer classes on Indigenous plants, gardening, and cooking. Their Winyan Tokay Win (Leading Lady) Garden serves as an outdoor classroom to reacquaint Lakota children with the earth. Their other programs use food grown in the garden for meals and snacks. They also sell surplus crops at their weekly Leading Lady Farmer's Market.</p>
6. Dream of Wild Health (North America)<p>Dream of Wild Health runs a 10-acre farm just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their Indigenous Food Share CSA program and farmer's market booths sell produce and value-added products grown by Native Americans. During the summer, Dream of Wild Health offers a Garden Warriors program where children can learn about seed saving, foraging, farmers market management, and other aspects of food sovereignty. They also host the <a href="https://dreamofwildhealth.org/indigenous-food-network" target="_blank">Indigenous Food Network</a> (IFN), a collective of Indigenous partners who advocate for local and regional policy changes. The IFN also hosts community food tasting events featuring prominent Indigenous chefs.</p>
7. First Peoples Worldwide (International)<p>First Peoples Worldwide was <a href="http://www.firstpeoples.org/" target="_blank">founded</a> by Cherokee social entrepreneur <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQxwHVeH6zc" target="_blank">Rebecca Adamson</a> to help businesses to align with First Peoples' rights. Now a part of the University of Colorado's <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/business/CESR" target="_blank">Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility</a>, First Peoples Worldwide continues to ensure that Indigenous voices are at the forefront of decision-making processes affecting their own self-determination. The organization works with businesses and institutions to assess their investments and guide them in incorporating Indigenous Peoples' rights and interests into their business decisions.</p>
8. Indigikitchen (North America)<p>Mariah Gladstone's Indigikitchen uses Native foods as resistance. Her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO918GT8I3HX5f4Z1xKCV4A" target="_blank">cooking videos</a> offer healthy, creative ways to eat <a href="https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=PR005" target="_blank">pre-contact</a>, Indigenous foods. The recipes abstain from highly-processed grains, dairy, and sugar, ingredients that did not become standard in diets of the Americas until European colonization. Indigikitchen hopes that its recipes inspire Indigenous cooks to connect with Native foods.</p>
9. Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (North America)<p>The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas provides model policies for Tribal governments to help <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/05/colby-duren-talks-indigenous-food-and-agriculture-policy/" target="_blank">promote and protect food sovereignty</a>. They also co-organize the Native Farm Bill Coalition with the <a href="https://shakopeedakota.org/" target="_blank">Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community</a>, the <a href="https://www.indianag.org/" target="_blank">Intertribal Agriculture Council</a>, and the <a href="http://www.ncai.org/" target="_blank">National Congress of American Indians</a>. The Initiative hosts annual <a href="https://indigenousfoodandag.com/resources/native-youth-summit/" target="_blank">Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summits</a>, where American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian youth can learn about agricultural business, land stewardship, agricultural law, and more.</p>
10. Indigenous Food Systems Network (North America)<p>The Indigenous Food Systems Network (IFSN) is a convener of Indigenous food producers, researchers, and policymakers across the 98 Indigenous nations of Canada. IFSN supports research, policy reform, and direct action that builds food sovereignty in Indigenous communities. The organization's Indigenous Food Sovereignty <a href="http://www.bcfsn.org/mailman/listinfo/ifs_bcfsn.org" target="_blank">email listserv</a> offers its subscribers everything from stories and legends to recipes and policy reform tools.</p>
11. Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (International)<p>Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty is an international organization based in Rome, Italy connecting the world's Indigenous People to agricultural research and advocacy groups. With Indigenous communities from China to India and Thailand to Latin America, Indigenous Partnerships forges dialogues within Indigenous communities to ensure <a href="http://www.fao.org/indigenous-peoples/our-pillars/fpic/en/" target="_blank">free, prior, and informed consent</a> between research and advocacy partners. Indigenous Partnerships also seeks to incorporate global and local Indigenous knowledge into non-Indigenous knowledge systems.</p>
12. Indigenous Terra Madre (International)<p>Indigenous Terra Madre is a global network of Indigenous Peoples sponsored by <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/06/living-the-slow-food-life-during-lockdown/" target="_blank">Slow Food</a>, an international institution based in Rome, Italy. The network amplifies Indigenous voices and protects the biodiversity of the crops Indigenous communities cultivate. By providing a platform for Indigenous communities to pool power and resources, Indigenous Terra Madre fights to defend the land, culture, and opportunity of all Indigenous Peoples.</p>
13. Intertribal Agriculture Council (North America)<p>The American Indian Food Program by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) helps Native American and Alaskan Native agribusinesses and food entrepreneurs expand their market reach. The Made/Produced by American Indians Trademark promoted by the IAC identifies certified American Indian products and is used by over 500 businesses. IAC's other major American Indian Food Program, Native Food Connection, helps market Native American foods and food producers across the United States. IAC also offers technical and natural resource assistance to connect Native businesses with U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and conservation stewardship resources.</p>
14. Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska (North America)<p>Through its Alaskan Inuit Food Sovereignty Initiative, the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska is convening Inuit community leaders from across Alaska. The Initiative seeks to unify Inuit throughout the state to advocate for land and wildlife management sovereignty. The Initiative also strives for international cooperation to promote food sovereignty across <a href="https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/inuit-nunangat/" target="_blank">Inuit Nunaat</a>.</p>
15. Mantasa (Asia)<p>Mantasa is a research institution in Indonesia dedicated to expanding the number of indigenous plants consumed by the Javanese people. According to Mantasa, only 20 plant species comprise 90 percent of Javanese food needs. Their research is incorporating new wild foods from Indonesia's vast biodiversity into Javanese diets to improve food security and nutrition. Mantasa also helps promote these foods to consumers and local farmers to increase their popularity.</p>
16. Muonde Trust (Africa)<p>In Mazvhiwa, Zimbabwe, the Muonde Trust invests in Indigenous innovations in food, land, and water management. The Trust seeks out individuals with new ideas and provides peer-to-peer support to help bring those ideas to life. Muonde Trust currently supports innovations in indigenous seed saving and sharing, livestock and woodland management, irrigation systems, and constructing kitchen spaces.</p>
17. Native American Agriculture Fund (North America)<p>The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is the largest philanthropic supporter of Native American agriculture. The Fund offers grants to Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions to support healthy lands, healthy people, and healthy economies. In 2020, NAAF is offering US$1 million in grant funds specifically for youth initiatives and young farmers and ranchers. NAAF is also centralizing COVID-19 relief information for Native farmers, ranchers, fishers, and Tribal governments.</p>
18. Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (North America)<p>The Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA) places Indigenous farmers, wild-crafters, fishers, hunters, ranchers, and eaters at the center of the fight to restore Indigenous food systems and self-determination. NAFSA's primary initiatives are the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network, the Food and Culinary Mentorship Program, and their Native Food Sovereignty Events. Each of these initiatives centers around the reclamation of Indigenous seeds and foods.</p>
19. Native Seed/SEARCH (North America)<p>Native Seed/SEARCH preserves and proliferates <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/07/a-call-for-community-based-seed-diversity-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/" target="_blank">indigenous seeds</a> through their Native Access programs. Their Native American Seed Request program offers free seed packets to Native Americans living in or originating from the Greater Southwestern Region. The Bulk Seed Exchange allows growers to pay it forward by returning 1.5 times the seeds they receive to be put towards future Native American Seed Request packs. While Native Seed/SEARCH sells an assortment of popular seeds to the general public, its collection of indigenous seeds are <a href="https://www.nativeseeds.org/pages/native-access" target="_blank">only available to Native farmers</a> and families. They hope these seeds will revitalize traditional foods and build food sovereignty.</p>
20. Navajo Ethno-Agriculture (North America)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Navajo Ethno-Agriculture is sustaining Navajo culture through lessons on traditional farming. The seasonal courses focus on land, water, and food as students cultivate, harvest, and prepare heritage crops. During COVID-19, Navajo Ethno-Agriculture suspended its courses and is focusing on supplying neighboring farms with heritage seeds and farm equipment. They are also offering food processing and packaging services to protect and rejuvenate soil.</span><br></p>
21. North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (North America)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Founded by the chefs of </span><a href="https://sioux-chef.com/" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">The Sioux Chef</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NāTIFS) is reimagining the North American food system as a generator of wealth and good health for Native communities. The organization seeks to reverse the effects of forced assimilation and colonization through food entrepreneurship and a reclamation of ancestral education. NāTIFS is establishing an </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/indigenousfoodlab/" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">Indigenous Food Lab</a><span style="background-color: initial;"> in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a training center and restaurant for Native chefs and food. NāTIFS plans to eventually spread this model across North America.</span><br></p>
22. Oyate Teca Project (North America)<p><br></p><p>In response to dire food access on the Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota, the Oyate Teca Project offers year-long classes in gardening, food entrepreneurship, and traditional food preservation techniques. Oyate Teca helps make local foods available to the community by selling produce grown in their half-acre garden at farmer's markets. The project also serves as an emergency food provider for families and children.</p>
23. Tebtebba (Asia)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Tebtebba is an international organization based in the Philippines committed to sharing global Indigenous wisdom. Its Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity project strengthens Indigenous organizations' research, policy advocacy, and education on biodiversity. The project also works directly with Indigenous communities to strengthen their governance structures, protect their land, and improve their food security.</span><br></p>
24. Sierra Seeds (North America)<p><br></p><p><a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/06/new-on-the-podcast-rowen-white-talks-indigenous-seed-sovereignty-and-viraj-puri-says-urban-greenhouses-can-transform-produce/" target="_blank">Rowan White</a> and her organization, Sierra Seeds, are dedicated to the next generation of farmers, gardeners, and food justice activists. Her flagship program, Seed Seva, offers a multi-layered education on seed stewardship and Indigenous permaculture. The program is offered online, allowing anybody to access White's wisdom. Additionally, Sierra Seeds offers a <a href="https://sierraseeds.org/seeding-change/" target="_blank">Seeding Change</a> leadership incubator, where emerging food justice leaders meet virtually to support one another while developing individual projects.</p>
25. Storying Kaitiakitanga (Oceania)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Storying Kaitiakitanga – A Kaupapa Māori Land and Water Food Story is a project of Dr. Jessica Hutchings and other Māori researchers and storytellers. The project was developed as part of the </span><a href="https://www.ourlandandwater.nz/" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">Our Land and Water National Science Challenge</a><span style="background-color: initial;"> to collect the stories of Māori food producers across the food system. Storying Kaitiakitanga is exploring how traditional Māori principles and practices can inspire more sustainable food systems for the next generation. Stories include beekeepers, yogurt producers, and business development service providers.</span><br></p>
26. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (North America)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a grassroots Lakota organization building food sovereignty on the Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota. Their reservation-wide Food Sovereignty Coalition is dedicated to reconstructing a healthy local food system. They have greatly increased food production on the reservation and train residents and students on Oglala food histories, current local foods, gardening, and food preservation.</span><br></p>
27. Wangi Tangni (Central America)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">In Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast, the women of Indigenous Miskita communities receive native plants from Wangi Tangni to grow for food, medicine, and reforestation. The organization provides communal and legal support for women, many of whom do not speak Spanish. The organization's overall mission is to promote political participation and gender equality through sustainable development projects such as indigenous plant rematriation.</span><br></p>
28. Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (North America)<p><span style="background-color: initial;">The public schools of the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico and Arizona partner with the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project to build gardening spaces and provide nutrition education. The partnership is intended to reintroduce traditional knowledge and practices into students' educations about food. The Project hopes that the community gardens will also inspire more Zuni to grow their own food and reduce rates of obesity and diabetes in their communities.</span><br></p>
- Indigikitchen Is Bringing Native Food Sovereignty Online - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Gardening Tips From Indigenous Food Growers - EcoWatch ›
By Olivia Sullivan
One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.
Kamikatsu, Japan. Yuki Shimazu / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>This reveals a worldwide truth: Even products made mostly from easily recyclable materials like paper, aluminum or cardboard can't be sorted and recycled if they contain plastic components that can't be separated.</p><p>The truth is, some materials simply aren't recyclable, and <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782" target="_blank">only 9%</a> of all the plastic ever created has <em>been </em>recycled. As Kamikatsu's residents have painstakingly proven, no matter how many categories consumers sort their waste into or how diligently they scrub down their plastic food containers, most plastics <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Greenpeace-Report-Circular-Claims-Fall-Flat.pdf" target="_blank">cannot be recycled</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile we keep hearing the <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504091-the-insanity-of-plastic-recycling" target="_blank">industry-driven narrative</a> that recycling can stop plastic from choking our marine life or littering our natural places. That's intentionally misleading.</p><p>Around the world, as in Kamikatsu, plastic is everywhere. With excessive amounts of plastic products and packaging stocked on store shelves, it's clear that zero-waste goals cannot be achieved by consumers alone. Plastic is not a "zero waste" material, so in order to achieve zero waste, companies must stop making so much plastic.</p>
Marine debris collected at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. NOAA<p>We can achieve that. The first steps include banning some of the worst and most polluting single-use plastics, placing a pause on the development of new plastics facilities, and protecting state and local governments' ability to enact more stringent regulations.</p><p>We must also shift the paradigm by holding producers responsible for the waste they create. By requiring new plastic products to contain recycled plastic and making producers fund the collection and recycling of plastic products, producers would be incentivized to design longer lasting products that can <em>actually</em> be reused and recycled.</p><p>These goals — outlined in numerous scientific studies and advocacy reports — have some forward motion. In the United States, a federal bill was recently introduced in both the House and the Senate, the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5845" target="_blank">Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act</a>. If passed this bill — or others like it on the local, state or national levels — could help move the world beyond single-use plastics and make that needed systemic change a reality.</p><p>The bill hasn't moved forward since it was introduced this past February, but the world is still on a deadline. A recent study published in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/07/22/science.aba9475" target="_blank"><em>Science</em></a> looked at rising levels of plastic production and said "coordinated global action is urgently needed to reduce plastic consumption, increase rates of reuse, waste collection and recycling, expand safe disposal systems and accelerate innovation in the plastic value chain."</p><p>Requiring producers to stop making nonrecyclable products designed to be thrown out is the first step toward achieving that goal. Only then will Kamikatsu and other towns, cities and countries around the world finally be able to eliminate plastic pollution and reach 100% zero waste.</p><p><em>The opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of </em>The Revelator<em>, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.</em></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/oliviasullivan/" target="_blank">Olivia Sullivan</a> <em><em>is a zero waste associate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) working on a campaign to move the United States beyond plastic.</em></em></p><p><em><em><span></span>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/cities-zero-waste/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>. </em></em></p>
The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.
- Coronavirus Lockdown Linked to Falling Air Pollution Levels in Italy ... ›
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set for Record Decline Due to ... ›
- Coronavirus Lockdowns Led to Record 17% Emissions Drop ... ›
- India's Air Pollution Plummets in COVID-19 Lockdown - EcoWatch ›
Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.
- New Blood Test Can Detect Cancer 4 Years Before Symptoms ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Antarctica Was a Rainforest During the Times of Dinosaurs, New ... ›
- Earth Is Hurtling Towards a Catastrophe Worse Than the Dinosaur ... ›
- Help Save the World's Last Dinosaur - EcoWatch ›
By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
- Growing Up Near Nature Is Good for Your Adult Mental Health, New ... ›
- Doctors Prescribe Spending Time In Parks - EcoWatch ›
- This Is the Best Type of Green Space for Your Mental Health ... ›
New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.