By Amanda Fong
Food Tank is highlighting 26 books that help show young people that food can be a universal language. These stories illuminate the ways that food is used to show love, bring together communities, pass on traditions, and teach lessons. And their authors show that no matter a person's background and culture, nutritious food shared with loved ones can help bring anyone together.
These 26 children's books celebrate food, diversity, the love of cooking, and community from seed to fork:
1. A Day with Yayah by Nicola Campbell, illustrated by Julie Flett
Set in the Nicola Valley in British Columbia, this book follows Yayah, a First Nations grandmother, passing down her knowledge of plant life to her grandchildren. As Nikki, Jamesie, and Lenny forage for wild potatoes, rhubarb, celery, and lightning mushrooms, Yayah teaches them words in Nlaka'pamux, the endangered language of the Indigenous people of the Nicola Valley. Readers can learn alongside the characters with a pronunciation guide and glossary.
2. AGRIman AGventures by WHYFARM and Alpha Sennon
AGRIman is the world's first food security and nutrition superhero. In this educational comic, AGRIman is joined by PhotosyntheSista to inspire future feeders and build capacity and knowledge in agriculture. The superhero was developed by Alpha Sennon, the founder of We Help You-th FARM (WHYFARM), a non-profit from Trinidad and Tobago fighting food insecurity. Readers can access the comic the United States as an ebook or watch it as a motion comic.
3. Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang illustrated by Charlene Chua
Little, fearless Amy Wu is learning to make traditional Chinese bao with her family. Making bao takes skill to fill the dough and pinch it together, but Amy's bao keep coming out all wrong! Follow Amy as she learns to use creativity to problem solve while cooking. Kat Zhang even includes Amy's perfect bao recipe at the end!
4. Berry Magic by Betty Huffmon, illustrated by Teri Sloat
Yup'ik Eskimo elder, Betty Huffmon, brings this folktale about the origin of berries – traditionally told aloud to Yup'ik children – to life with author and illustrator, Teri Sloat. Berry Magic follows Anana as she uses magic songs to grow juicy blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries, and raspberries for the Fall Festival and to make agutak (Eskimo cream). The book features illustrations depicting Indigenous culture, like dance fans made of reindeer hair and snowy owl feathers, and an agutak recipe at the end.
5. Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
In this award-winning book, six-year-old Bilal wants to share his favorite dish, daal, with his friends. They have never tried daal before, and Bilal helps his dad cook while worrying if they will like it. Author Aisha Saeed showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing in this picture book featuring the South Asian, slow-cooked lentil dish.
6. Cora Cooks Pancit by By Dorina Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant
In Cora Cooks Pancit, Dorina Lazo Gilmore celebrates the classic, Filipino noodle dish, pancit. Cora's favorite dish is pancit and gets her chance to be Mama's sous chef for the first time. Readers can follow along as Cora helps shred the chicken, soak the noodles, and stir the pot while sneaking some nibbles to taste test. This book highlights the love for a traditional family dish and the warmth between a mother and daughter cooking it.
7. Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems by Carol-Ann Hoyte
Carol-Ann Hoyte brings together an anthology of poems by thirty-four different authors from seven different countries, telling the stories of food through haikus, free verse, and more. The fifty-one poem collection introduces children to a fresh view of where their food comes from on all parts of the "field to fork" journey.
8. Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
In this book, Dim Sum for Everyone! celebrates the cultural custom of eating dim sum, which translates to "little hearts" in English. The story follows a young girl and her family as they visit a bustling dim sum restaurant. As they pick their favorite little dishes from the steaming trolleys filled with dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts, the family makes sure to share each dish so everyone gets a little bite of everything in classic dim sum tradition.
9. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
Seven-year-old Marisa, an Asian American girl, learns to make dumplings for her family's New Year's celebration with her grandmother. Jama Kim Rattigan based this book on her experiences growing up celebrating New Year's Day in Hawai'i, which she realized was much different from celebrations on the mainland. In Hawai'i, Rattigan shows that New Year's is a family-oriented holiday, a time for enjoying large quantities of food and basking in cultural tradition.
10. From Asparagus to Zucchini Cookbook by Madison Area and the Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
This guide is a nationally renowned resource for families who want to cook farm-fresh, seasonal produce. Filled with 420 recipes and information on more than 50 vegetables and herbs, this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) designed resource promotes the consumption of fresh, local and sustainable foods.
11. Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages by Tanya Steel
In Food Fight, Tanya Steel uses food to explore history in a fun and engaging way. Readers can learn the origin story of M&Ms, the delicacies found at feasts in the Middle Ages, and much more. The book also includes 30 recipes tested and approved by young eaters.
12. Harvesting Friends / Cosechando Amigos by Kathleen Contreras
This bilingual book shows how a community garden can bring a community together and grow more than just fruits and vegetables. After making a deal, Lupe and Antonio tend a garden together, and bond over tomatoes, watermelon, squash, beans and corn. Over time, more and more neighbors become interested in gardening too. The book also includes easy recipes for young readers to try.
13. How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
In Chris Butterworth's book, children can learn about the journey of different lunchbox items as they go from farm to fork. From planting wheat to mixing dough, climbing trees to machine-squeezing fruit, picking cocoa pods to stirring a vat of melted bliss, this book provides an accessible look into food production. It also includes health tips and a peek at basic food groups.
14. How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller, illustrated by Hatem Aly
In this funny twist, the tables are turned and the parents are the picky eaters in this bi-racial family. Adventurous Matilda Macaroni loves trying new foods, like her grandma's jambalaya and friend's sushi. But her parents will only eat pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, and takeout noodles. Matilda sets out to secretly learn to cook with new flavors and open her parents' minds to trying new foods.
15. In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, illustrated by Nicole Tadsgell
Susan Grigsby shares Dr. George Washington Carver's story by following a young school girl who meets and learns from him. Set in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, Sally and her community are struggling to grow food in soil depleted by cotton production. Dr. Carver, an African American agricultural scientist, arrives to teach them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He also prepares a delicious lunch made of plants to celebrate the food they can grow..
16. It's Disgusting and We Ate It by James Solheim, illustrated by Eric Brace
This book is a funny collection of true facts of food dishes from around the world and throughout history. Solheim shares historical culinary creations, like roasted spiders and Garbage Stew, that were once eaten around the world or continue to be eaten today in a light-hearted and fascinating way. What is gross to one person may be a delicious treat to another, and this book teaches children to keep an open mind about different communities' dishes in this world food tour.
17. Let's Cook with Fruits & Vegetables / Vamos a Cocinar con Frutas y Verduras by Gayle Schachne and Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program
This cookbook was created with families using the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) ingredients in mind. Many recipes are designed to encompass WIC ingredients, and all of the recipes are meant to be affordable, simple, and delicious. The first half of the book is in English, and the second half is in Spanish. Recipes were also written and tested by WIC participants and WIC dietitians.
18. Maddi's Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel
In this award-winning story, Lois Brandt shines a light on childhood hunger and food insecurity in an inspiring, child-friendly approach. Maddi and Sofia live in the same neighborhood and are best friends. But Sofia discovers that while her fridge is full of milk and vegetables, Maddi's only has one, small container of milk. Maddi explains that her fridge is always like this, and even though Sofia promises not to tell, she sets out to figure out a way to help her friend. This is a great resource to introduce younger readers to a serious issue, and also show children that they can do something about it.
19. Red Beans & Rice by Jeanette Weiland, illustrated by Roberta Van Zandt Loflin
Red Beans & Rice follows Magnolia Rose and her friends as they visit Grandma Bee and Grandpa Pepper's farm in rural Louisiana. Here, the children discover their outdoor playgrounds are the source of the flavorful ingredients used to make their favorite Louisiana dishes: Red Beans & Rice, Strawberry Shortcake, Seafood Po-Boys, Pecan Pralines, and more. Weiland weaves in New Orleans's food culture in this farm to table story.
20. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
In this critically acclaimed novella, Paul Fleischman uses thirteen narrators to tell the story of the founding and first year of a community garden in an immigrant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. The characters come from a variety of ethnic groups and ages. From their point of view, each narrator shows how the empty lot becomes a vibrant community garden and shares the transformations they are each going through in life. Seedfolks has inspired countless school and community gardens and can also be performed as a play using Fleischman's school-friendly adaption.
21. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Oge Mora was inspired by the strong women role models in her life for her story about a grandmother's love and community. Omu, the Igbo word for queen, has made a stew that smells so good the entire neighborhood comes knocking on her door to try some. She gives all of it away by dinnertime, but the community shows their gratitude in this story of using food as a means of sharing, diversity, and inclusion.
22. The Bagel King by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Sandy Nichols
In this book, Andrew Larsen features a special bond between a grandfather and his grandson, and their weekly tradition of eating bagels on Sunday. When his grandfather cannot bring bagels one weekend, Eli sets out to find a way to still share their favorite treat. The Bagel King highlights how a young child can take responsibility and, with a little initiative, help someone in need.
23. The Lunch Thief by Anne C. Bromley, illustrated by Robert Casilla
When a new classmate steals Rafael's lunch, he initially feels angry. But inspired by his mother's advice, he decides to try to understand why it happened. Later, Rafael sees his classmate carrying a bundle of laundry into a motel room, and his mom explains that his family might be one of the families who lost their homes in the recent wildfires. The next day, Rafael invites his classmate to share his lunch in this lesson of empathy and understanding.
24. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
In this book, Kate Messner vividly paints two different worlds in the garden. Up in the garden, there is an abundance of green in leaves, sprouts, vegetables, and fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world filled with all the animals that make a garden their home. This story will teach children about the different parts of an ecosystem, even the ones they might not be able to see.
25. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
Inspired by Standing Rock and all Indigenous Peoples fighting for clean water, Carole Lindstrom, who is Ojibwe, issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth's water from harm and corruption. In this book, a young girl stands to defend Earth's most precious resource from a black snake. Water connects everyone, and her courage teaches children that anyone can be a water protector.
26. Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Rosemary Wells shares a heartwarming story of open-mindedness when trying new foods from different cultures. Yoko the kitten is teased by her classmates when her mom packs her sushi for lunch. They think the fish and seaweed are "yucky." But Yoko's teacher has an idea. On "International Food Day" at school, Yoko brings sushi again and makes a friend who is willing to try it.In this funny twist, the tables are turned and the parents are the picky eaters in this bi-racial family. Adventurous Matilda Macaroni loves trying new foods, like her grandma's jambalaya and friend's sushi. But her parents will only eat pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, and takeout noodles. Matilda sets out to secretly learn to cook with new flavors and open her parents' minds to trying new foods.
Amanda is passionate about helping organizations drive social impact and health equity on local and international levels. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Willamette University, she taught English in Thailand at a primary school and saw up close how food moved from farms to local markets to plates. With a background working in multicultural settings in the U.S. and abroad, Amanda hopes to bring a global lens to her writing. She plans to pursue a Master's in Public Health with an emphasis in global health and sustainability to bring change directly to communities.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.
Here are three new films to watch this Earth Week that will transport you from pole to pole and introduce you to the scientists and activists working to save our shared home.
Where to Watch: Apple TV+
When to Watch: From April 16
The coronavirus pandemic has brought home the stakes of humanity's impact on the environment. But the lockdowns also proved how quickly nature can recover when humans give it the space. Birds sang in empty cities, whales surfaced in Glacier Bay and capybara roamed the South American suburbs.
The Year Earth Changed captures this unique year with footage from more than 30 lockdowned cities between May 2020 to January 2021. Narrated by renowned wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough, the film explores what positive lessons we can take from the experience of a quieter, less trafficked world.
"What the film shows is that the natural world can bounce back remarkably quickly when we take a step back and reduce our impact as we did during lockdown," executive producer Alice Keens-Soper of BBC Studios Natural History Unit told EcoWatch. "If we are willing to make even small changes to our habits, the natural world can flourish. We need to learn how to co-exist with nature and understand that we are not separate from it- for example if we closed some of our beaches at for a few weeks during the turtle breeding we see that it can make a huge difference to their success. There are many ways that we can adapt our behavior to allow the natural world to thrive as it did in lockdown."
Where to Watch: San Francisco International Film Festival
In 1989, Will Steger led an international team of six scientists and explorers to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dogsled. Steger and his team weren't just in it for the adventure. They also wanted to draw attention to the ways in which the climate crisis was already transforming the icy continent and to rally support for the renewal of the Antarctic Treaty, which would keep the continent safe from extractive industries.
In After Antarctica, award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt follows Steger 30 years later as he travels the Arctic this time, reflecting on his original journey and once again bringing awareness to changes in a polar landscape. The film intersperses this contemporary journey with footage from the original expedition, some of which has never been seen before.
"Will's life journey as an explorer and climate activist has led him not only to see more of the polar world than anyone else alive today, but to being an eyewitness to the changes occurring across both poles," Van Zandt told EcoWatch. "But now, these changes are happening in all of our own backyards and we have all become eyewitnesses. Through my journey with Will, I have learned that although we cannot always control change, we can change our response. I feel strongly that this is a message that resonates when we look at the current state of the world, as we each have power and control over how we choose to respond to hardships, and we all have the power to unite with others through collective action around a common goal."
After Antarctica is available to stream once you purchase a ticket to the San Francisco International Film Festival. If you miss it this weekend, it will screen again at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival from May 13 to May 23.
Tasha Van Zandt
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinema
While many films about the climate crisis seek to raise awareness about the extent of the problem, The Race to Save the World focuses on the people who are trying to stop it. The film tells the story of climate activists ranging from 15-year-old Aji to 72-year-old Miriam who are working to create a sustainable future. It follows them from the streets to the courtroom to their homes, and explores the impact of their advocacy on their personal lives and relationships.
Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Gantz told EcoWatch that he wanted to make a film about climate change, but did not want to depress viewers with overwhelming statistics. Instead, he chose to inspire them by sharing the stories of people trying to make a difference.
"Unless millions of people take to the streets and make their voices heard for a livable future, the politicians are not going to get on board to help make the changes needed for a sustainable future," Gantz told Ecowatch. "I think that The Race To Save The World will energize and inspire people to take action so that future generations, as well as the plants, animals and ecosystems, can survive and thrive on this planet."
Check back with EcoWatch on the morning of Earth Day for a special preview of this inspiring film!
By Michael Svoboda
For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.
The earliest Earth Days raised awareness, led to passage of new laws, and spurred conservation. But the original problems are still with us. And now they intersect with climate change, making it impossible to address one problem without affecting the others.
The 12 books listed below remind us about these defining interconnections.
The first three focus on biodiversity and on humanity's fractured relationships with the animals we live with on land.
The second trio explores the oceans and, at the same time, considers social and cultural factors that determine what we know – and don't know – about the 75% of our planet that is covered by water, perhaps the least well understood part of the climate system.
Agriculture and food security are examined by the third tranche of titles. This set includes a biography that may challenge what you think was/is possible, culturally and politically, in the American system.
Finally, there is the problem of waste, the problem of single-use plastics in particular. These three titles offer practical advice and qualified hope. Reducing litter might also reduce emissions – and vice versa.
As always, the descriptions of the works listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. When two dates of publication are included, the latter is for the paperback edition.
A Life on Our Planet My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future, by David Attenborough (Grand Central Publishing 2020, 272 pages, $26.00)
See the world. Then make it better. I am 93. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day – the loss of our planet's wild places, its bio-diversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so.
Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, by Michelle Nijhuis (W.W. Norton 2021, 352 pages, $27.95)
In the late 19th century, as humans came to realize that our industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement's history. She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson; she reveals the origins of organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism. As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species – including our own.
How to Be an Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human, by Melanie Challenger (Penguin Random House 2021, 272 pages, $17.00 paperback)
How to Be an Animal tells a remarkable story of what it means to be human and argues that at the heart of our existence is a profound struggle with being animal. We possess a psychology that seeks separation between humanity and the rest of nature, and we have invented grand ideologies to magnify this. In her book, nature historian Melanie Challenger explores the ways this mindset affects our lives, from our politics to our environments. She examines how technology influences our relationship with our own animal nature and with the other species with whom we share this fragile planet. Blending nature writing, history, and philosophy, How to Be an Animal both reappraises what it means to be human and robustly defends what it means to be an animal.
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret, by Jess Keating, Illustrated by Katie Hickey (Tundra Books 2020, 34 pages, $17.99)
From a young age, Marie Tharp loved watching the world. She loved solving problems. And she loved pushing the limits of what girls and women were expected to do and be. In the mid-twentieth century, women were not welcome in the sciences, but Marie was tenacious. She got a job at a laboratory in New York. But then she faced another barrier: women were not allowed on the research ships (they were considered bad luck on boats). So Marie stayed back and dove deep into the data her colleagues recorded. At first the scientific community refused to believe her, but her evidence was irrefutable. The mid-ocean ridge that Marie discovered is the single largest geographic feature on the planet, and she mapped it all from her small, cramped office.
Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don't Know about the Ocean, by Naomi Oreskes (University of Chicago Press 2021, 744 pages, $40.00)
What difference does it make who pays for science? After World War II, the US military turned to a new, uncharted theater of warfare: the deep sea. The earth sciences – particularly physical oceanography and marine geophysics – became essential to the US Navy, which poured unprecedented money and logistical support into their study. In Science on a Mission, historian Naomi Oreskes delves into the role of patronage in science, what emerges is a vivid portrait of how naval oversight transformed what we know about the sea. It is a detailed, sweeping history that illuminates the ways funding shapes the subject, scope, and tenor of research, and it raises profound questions about American science. What difference does it make who pays? A lot.
Dark Side of the Ocean: The Destruction of Our Seas, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It, by Albert Bates (Groundswell Books 2020, 158 pages, $12.95 paperback)
Our oceans face levels of devastation previously unknown in human history due to pollution, overfishing, and damage to delicate aquatic ecosystems affected by global warming. Climate author Albert Bates explains how ocean life maintains adequate oxygen levels, prevents erosion from storms, and sustains a vital food source that factory-fishing operations cannot match. Bates also profiles organizations dedicated to changing the human impact on marine reserves, improving ocean permaculture, and putting the brakes on heat waves that destroy sea life and imperil human habitation at the ocean's edge. The Dark Side of the Ocean conveys a deep appreciation for the fragile nature of the ocean's majesty and compels us to act now to preserve it.
The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution, by Stephen Heyman (W.W. Norton 2020, 352 pages, $26.95)
Louis Bromfield was a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris expat, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist as famous in the 1920s as Hemingway. But he cashed in his literary success to finance a wild agrarian dream in his native Ohio. There, in 1938, Bromfield transformed 600 badly eroded acres into a thriving cooperative farm, which became a mecca for agricultural pioneers and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. This sweeping biography unearths a lost icon of American culture. While Bromfield's name has faded into obscurity, his mission seems more critical today than ever before. The ideas he planted at his utopian experimental farm, Malabar, would inspire America's first generation of organic farmers and popularize the tenets of environmentalism years before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates, edited by Charles C. Ludington and Matthew Morse Booker (University of North Carolina Press 2019, 304 pages, $32.95 paperback)
What we eat, where it is from, and how it is produced are vital questions in today's America. We think seriously about food because it is freighted with the hopes, fears, and anxieties of modern life. Yet critiques of food and food systems all too often sprawl into jeremiads against modernity itself, while supporters of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the problems with today's methods of food production and distribution. Food Fights sheds new light on these crucial debates, using a historical lens. Its essays take strong positions, even arguing with one another, as they explore the many themes and tensions that define how we understand our food – from the promises and failures of agricultural technology to the politics of taste.
Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need, by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman (Comstock Publishing Associates 2021, 264 pages, $21.95 paperback)
Our Changing Menu unpacks the increasingly complex relationships between food and climate change. In it, Michael Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle Eiseman offer an eye-opening journey through a complete menu of before-dinner drinks and salads; main courses and sides; and coffee and dessert. Along the way, they examine the escalating changes occurring to the flavors of spices and teas, the yields of wheat, the vitamins in rice, and the price of vanilla. Their story ends with a primer on the global food system, the causes and impacts of climate change, and what we can do. Our Changing Menu is a celebration of food and a call to all – from the common ground of food – to help tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters, by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherhold Finn (Columbia University Press 2020, 272 pages, $28.00)
In July 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz challenged herself and some friends to go plastic free for the whole month. Since then, the Plastic Free July movement has grown from a small group of people in the city of Perth into a 250-million strong community across 177 countries. Plastic Free tells the story of this world-leading environmental campaign. From narrating marine-debris research expeditions to tracking what actually happens to our waste to sharing insights from behavioral research, Plastic Free speaks to the massive scale of the plastic waste problem and how we can tackle it together. Interweaving interviews from participants, activists, and experts, it tells the inspiring story of how ordinary people have created change in their homes, communities, workplaces, schools, businesses, and beyond. Plastic Fee offers hope for the future.
Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single Use Plastics, by Jennie Romer (Penguin Books 2021, 272 pages, $22.00)
Since the dawn of the recycling system, men and women the world over have stood by their bins, holding an everyday object, wondering, "Can I recycle this?" This simple question links our concerns for the environment with how we interact with our local governments. Recycling rules seem to differ in every municipality, leaving average Americans scratching their heads at the simple act of throwing something away. Taking readers on an informative tour of how recycling actually works (setting aside the propaganda we were all taught as kids), Can I Recycle This gives straightforward answers to whether dozens of common household objects can be recycled. And it provides the information you need to make that decision for anything else you encounter.
Zero Waste Living: The 80/20 Way: The Busy Person's Guide to a Lighter Footprint, by Stephanie J. Miller (Changemaker Books 2020, 112 pages, $10.95 paperback)
Many of us feel powerless to solve the looming climate and waste crises. We have too much on our plates, and so may think these problems are better solved by governments and businesses. This book unlocks the potential in each "too busy" individual to be a crucial part of the solution. Stephanie Miller combines her climate-focused career with her own research and personal experience to show how relatively easy lifestyle changes can create significant positive impacts. Using the simplicity of the 80/20 rule, she shows us those things (the 20%) that we can do to make the biggest (80%) difference in reversing the climate and waste crises. Her book empowers busy individuals to do the easy things that have a real impact on the climate and waste crises.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.
The report, from the People's Collective for Environmental Justice (PCEJ) and students from the University of Redlands, shared with The Guardian, is meant to serve as an "advocacy tool to help raise awareness related to the warehouse industry's impacts on Southern California's air pollution issues," Earthjustice noted.
California's Inland Empire, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has emerged as one of the largest "warehousing hubs" in the world in just the past few decades, according to Grist. Since establishing its first warehouse in the region in 2012, Amazon has become the largest private employer in the region, where 40,000 people now work in Amazon warehouses, picking, packing, sorting and unloading, as well as driving trucks and operating aircrafts, The New York Times Magazine reported.
"The company is so enmeshed in the community that it can simultaneously be a TV channel, grocery store, home security system, boss, personal data collector, high school career track, internet cloud provider and personal assistant," The New York Times Magazine added.
In just the last year, Amazon has tripled its delivery hubs in the region due to the demand for online shopping during the COVID-19 crisis. But despite the economic boom, heavy air pollution mainly from trucks going in and out of the warehouses infects nearby communities, the new research showed, according to The Guardian.
The research found, for example, that the populations living within a half-mile of the warehouses are 85 percent people of color, while California's overall population is 64 percent people of color, The Guardian reported. The research also found that communities with the most Amazon warehouses nearby have the lowest rates of Amazon sales per household.
"Amazon has boomed in 2020 and tripled the amount of money it's making, and it is happening at a cost to the folks who live in these communities," Ivette Torres, a PCEJ environmental science researcher and analyst, who helped put the research together, told The Guardian.
The research also demonstrated that the top 10 communities with the most warehouses in the region also experience pollution from other facilities, like gas plants and oil refineries, Earthjustice wrote in a statement.
"The Inland Empire, probably more than any region in the United States, has disproportionately [borne] the brunt of the environmental and economic impact of goods movement, and Amazon is driving that now in the Inland Empire," Jake Wilson, a California State University, Long Beach, professor of sociology, told Grist.
Last year, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority ratified a decision to allow an air cargo facility development at the airport, allowing Amazon to operate more flights out of the region, Grist reported.
Among the local residents to oppose the decision was Jorge Osvaldo Heredia, a resident of San Bernadino in Southern California since 2005. "This whole region has been taken over by warehouses," Heredia told Grist, and commented on the "horrible" air quality in the city on most days. "It's really reaching that apex point where you can't avoid the warehouses, you can't avoid the trucks," he added.
Advocates who published the research are pushing on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a local air pollution regulatory agency, to move forward with the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule, which would require new and existing warehouses to take action to reduce emissions locally each year, The Guardian reported. Some solutions include moving towards zero-emissions trucks and mitigation fees.
"Last year, we saw some of the worst air quality, with wildfires adding to it, and the trucks were still in and out of our communities. So this is a huge change that we need right now, and that we actually needed yesterday," Torres concluded, according to The Guardian.
Scientists at the University of Purdue have developed the whitest and coolest paint on record.
Painting buildings white to help cool down cities has long been touted as a climate solution. However, the white paints currently on the market reflect only 80 to 90 percent of sunlight and cannot actually cool a roof to below air temperature, The Guardian reported. However, this new paint can.
"Our paint can help fight against global warming by helping to cool the Earth – that's the cool point," University of Purdue Professor Xiulin Ruan told The Guardian. "Producing the whitest white means the paint can reflect the maximum amount of sunlight back to space."
The new paint, introduced in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces on Thursday, can reflect up to 98.1 percent of sunlight and cool surfaces by 4.5 degrees Celsius. This means it could be an effective replacement for air conditioning.
"If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. That's more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses," Ruan said in a University of Purdue press release.
The new paint improves upon a previous paint by the same research team that reflected 95.5 percent of sunlight. Researchers say it is likely the closest counterpart to the blackest black, "Vantablack," which can absorb as much as 99.9 percent of visible light. The new paint is so white for two main reasons: It uses a high concentration of a reflective chemical compound called barium sulfate, and the barium sulfate particles are all different sizes, meaning they scatter different parts of the light spectrum.
White paint is already being used to combat the climate crisis. New York has painted more than 10 million square feet of rooftops white, BBC News reported. Project Drawdown calculated that white or plant-covered roofs could sequester between 0.6 and 1.1 gigatons of carbon between 2020 and 2050. The researchers hope their paint will enhance these efforts.
"We did a very rough calculation," Ruan told BBC News. "And we estimate we would only need to paint one percent of the Earth's surface with this paint — perhaps an area where no people live that is covered in rocks — and that could help fight the climate change trend."
The research team has filed a patent for the paint and hope it will be on the market within two years, according to The Guardian. However, Andrew Parnell, who develops sustainable coatings at the University of Sheffield, said it would be important to calculate the emissions produced from mining barium sulphate and compare those with the emissions saved from using the paint instead of air conditioning.
"The principle is very exciting and the science [in the new study] is good. But I think there might be logistical problems that are not trivial," Parnell told The Guardian. "How many million tons [of barium sulphate] would you need?"
Parnell thought green roofs, or roofs on which plants grow, might prove to be a more ecologically friendly alternative.
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Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.
Under the umbrella of the newly-formed group Carbon Mapper, two satellites are on track to launch in 2023. The satellites will target, among other pollution, methane emissions from oil and gas and agriculture operations that account for a disproportionate amount of pollution.
Between 2016 and 2018, using airplane-based instruments, scientists found 600 "super-emitters" (accounting for less than 0.5% of California's infrastructure) were to blame for more than one-third of the state's methane pollution. Now, the satellite-based systems will be able to perform similar monitoring, continuously and globally, and be able to attribute pollution to its source with previously impossible precision.
"These sort of methane emissions are kind of like invisible wildfires across the landscape," Carbon Mapper CEO and University of Arizona research scientist Riley Duren said. "No one can see them or smell them, and yet they're incredibly damaging, not just to the local environment, but more importantly, globally."
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