4 Reasons Water Advocates Should Join the People's Climate March Sept. 21
I inhabit the river-activist wing of the climate movement, and if you’re a river activist like me, please come to the People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21. The future of the rivers of America is directly tied to our ability to control climate change.
For several decades scientists have known and studied historic “megadroughts” in the Southwest U.S. and Colorado River basin, but not until last week did a scientific paper directly connect potential future megadroughts to climate change. The scientific paper, published in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, puts the chance of a climate-change caused megadrought between 20 percent and 50 percent over the next century.
Toby Ault, who is a Cornell University assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper, directly ties this risk to human-caused climate change when he says: “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this—we are weighting the dice for megadrought conditions.”
This risk of a megadrought is now added on top of the prolonged drought that is currently gripping the Colorado River basin. Over the last 15 years, the amount of water flowing in the Colorado River—which comes from snowpack in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado—has decreased by about 15 percent (see page 10), and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has publicly stated that she thinks this recent drought is the “new normal.”
As another example how river health interacts with climate change, we also now know that dams themselves cause climate change. Reservoir operations cause methane emissions, and in some cases the methane-related greenhouse gas emissions from hydroelectric dams can be as bad or worse than from a coal-fired powerplant. Scientists in Brazil have gone so far as to say: “Dams are the largest single anthropogenic source of methane, being responsible for 23 percent of all methane emissions due to human activities.”
At the other end of the spectrum, scientists are predicting significantly more climate variability as global warming increases, which can lead to droughts in some places but massive rains and flooding in others. Here along the Front Range of Colorado where I live, in the last five years we’ve seen near record flooding, drought, heat waves, forest fires and snowpack, all of which have dramatically impacted our regional rivers. The Cache la Poudre River basin has been especially hard hit with forest fires, flooding and drought in recent years.
If all of that is not bad enough, the future of the rivers of the Southwest U.S. and all across America is also directly tied to fracking and other dirty energy extraction that leads to climate change. Here in Colorado, fracking has resulted in oil spills in rivers, benzene leaking into streams, and massive risks and impacts when flooding has occurred in oil and gas fields. All across the Southwest U.S.—but especially in Utah—dirty energy extraction including fracking, oil shale, coal and tar sands is impacting and further threatening the health of local and regional rivers. Much has been said about the tar sands in Canada, but Utah has its own tar sands mining threat that is moving forward right now.
Climate change touches us all, and touches the rivers we work to protect. Please join me in New York!
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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