The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists
By Erika Spanger-Siegfried
We're stepping into a new year in the climate fight. The turning of the year is a milestone both for stoking our resolve, and for noting how deep we now are into climate overtime. In 2018 there was a lot of talk of diminishing odds and despair, and not without reason. So if, like me, you're heading into 2019 discouraged or even despairing, I have three things to say: you're not wrong; the fight from here on out is not the one you signed up for; but there's more to hope, even your own, than meets the eye.
A climate scientist and dear friend told me back in 2008 that she had moved into a "post-hope" stage of her life. She wasn't despondent, more matter-of-fact, as she left her job here at UCS for a 6-month "breather" in Antarctica. I didn't understand her at the time; what comes after hope? A few months later, though, through my work analyzing climate impacts and following climate science, I had my first paralyzing run-in with climate grief and since then have gone a few times round the grief cycle. And today, we have the latest science and most recent abdications of leadership underscoring how dire things are. I understand better now.
But I think she misunderstood hope.
I don't have some hopeful gospel to preach to you; I'm not even going to encourage you to be hopeful. But since my teens, through my work and personal passions, I've been wandering a path from climate awareness to climate anxiety to climate anguish and I couldn't help but learn something about the true nature of hope after all these years of running it over with a bus. That knowledge—not optimism or determination, or any virtue on my part—has become my superpower over climate despair. In recent years, in fact, I've realized that I'm just immune to it; it lands but can't stick. You may be the same, though you might describe it differently or not even know it yet.
You're Not Wrong
You're not wrong: it's bad. There's this great, intricate weaving—the one we're all walking around on—and someone's been snipping intermittent threads that attach it to the loom. Things are starting to unravel in obvious, abrupt patches, sending us scrambling. Other changes are coming through gradual but widespread loosening of strands. We race about hastily tying threads back together, but we're not as good as the weaver. The patterns are starting to become disorderly. How many more strands can be cut before they're unrecognizable? And why haven't we taken away the scissors?
But who needs metaphors when we have science. As 2018 wound down, science walloped us. The IPCC 1.5 degree report, the U.S. National Climate Assessment and other scientific works were released with stark assertions about the things that are all but lost, the things we can fight for if we bring our strongest ambitions to bear, and the waning gap between such ambitions and where we are headed. We saw the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) come and go in Poland with progress made, but vastly insufficient to the long-term goals.
If you're a realist, and you're absorbing these things and where it's all pointing us, you're apt to feel some despair. Aldo Leopold wrote that if you study ecology, the price you pay is to walk through a world of wounds. But wounds are for healing. Today, if you follow the changing climate, you walk through a world of ghosts—creatures and places and, today, even people whose claim and foothold in the future is now fatally undermined. Coral reefs are fading before our eyes, an Arctic food web is fading with the summer sea ice, and delta and island homes are fading into the sea.
At some point in our climate awareness many of us begin to grieve. (And maybe to rage or panic; more than once, I've had this momentary visceral urge: how do I get off this ride?) And the grief we feel cycles between the poles of acute anguish and resignation, but it never really lifts. Many of us, understandably, have felt our hope grow thin. At some point, we lose a climate fight we really needed to win and we feel hope tear. And at another point, we reach for its comfort and we don't feel it at all. It's gone, sublimated like vapor from ancient Antarctic ice. We might think the despair we feel has taken its place.
But here's the thing: it's not that easy to lose hope.
The True and Gritty Nature of Hope
When people think of hope, personified, it's usually a butterfly, or a dove or a sapling sprouting from the ground. Yes, and. That's not the hope we're talking about. Bring it along, but it's not the kind of hope we'll be using so much where we're going.
In Finland, there's a word, "sisu," which gets crudely translated as determination, grit and courage. The Finnish side of my family liked to celebrate it. But it's meant to be more; something like extraordinary resoluteness and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. The Finns also have an epic poem, The Kalevala, handed down in the oral tradition for over a thousand years, and finally captured on paper in the 1800s. Like most myths, it is pretty nutty, but myths endure for a reason and I found one in the story of Lemminkäinen's mother, a nameless woman who, for me, defines sisu and redefines hope. Let me tell you the short version:
The brazen young hero, Lemminkäinen, is murdered for his womanizing, and his body is utterly destroyed, blasted into tiny pieces and cast into the black river Tuona that courses through the underworld. All his mother knows is that her beloved boy is missing so she searches the world over to find him, every difficult mile in vain. Finally, she asks the sun and it gives her the terrible, heart-shattering news. Okay, she says. I'm going to need a rake. Make me one, she tells her friend the blacksmith, and she descends into the darkness and begins to seek her boy anew. She rakes the river Tuona for untold days, in her wet shift in the cold rushing blackness, all the way to the ocean. Nothing. So, she turns and begins raking her way back upstream. And somewhere in the blending black days and weeks she finds … a piece of his shirt. So, on she rakes. And she finds a bone, eventually a rib, finally a hip. On she rakes, maybe not even thinking enough to despair. Just striving to save her boy. Because if she thinks she possibly can, then how can she possibly stop?
Eventually, she finds all of him. And she begins to sew him back together. Every bit of sinew attached to every bone, every patch of flesh rejoined, every eyelash made right in her inconceivable toil. Finally, he is complete. And with a drop of honey to his lips, Lemminkäinen stirs and comes to life. His mother has fought long and hard and far, far beyond all limits of what we think of as hope. Her hope is no butterfly. It's more like the monarch's miraculous migration and the green-fuse force of life that drives it.
Painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, depicting a scene from Kalevala, the Finnish epic poem. Here, Lemminkäinen's mother has retrieved and restored his body.
In English we say, "Hope springs eternal." In Russian it's, "Hope dies last." In The Kalevala, it's what sends the woman back into the black river. They're different vantage points on the same human impulse: if you love something, you hope. You move. You keep. You rake. You don't even get to decide.
However poorly we tend it, however fragile we think it, this hope thing will not—really, cannot—quit. We might feel anguish, but despair just won't stick because it's not over. Maybe it's an evolutionary impulse to save our own skin and our loved ones'; to quote a friend, "Hope is a discipline for survival." But I'll call it love. I'm not sure they're different. And therein lies hope's unstoppable power: if you love—anything—you hope.
And sisu, that untranslatable term—to me it's how that unstoppable power shows itself. It's both a question for dark times: what wouldn't you do for what you love? And its own answer: nothing.
The Fight We Didn't Sign Up for
It's no longer the same fight we signed up for however many years ago. But you knew that. And we're not bearing the same hope we started with. For many of us, our hope had to relinquish and shapeshift and detach from the objects of its desire. And instead hew only, but closely, to its driving spark. Our hope had to mutate and evolve. We don't necessarily hope for this, or for that. Our hope doesn't even say I'm going to have to hope for the best. Now it just says I'm going to have to fight like hell.
I struggle to neither over- nor understate the fight. History is pocked with the terrible things humans have survived in body and spirit, and we are the most fortunate generations ever to live. Lots of bodies are in the way of climate harm, but rarely ours, and today the fight itself isn't one we fight with our bodies. Today, the only thing we need to ask of ourselves—whether it's defeating the fossil fuel industry, winning pro-climate elections, defending climate science, or getting out in the streets in demonstration—is that we're still in. I think we've got that.
Aurora borealis over FinlandPixabay
At the same time, no generations have ever had to question and concede the future quite like this. (That kids and young people just starting their lives are now tuning in to all of this and being told, "It's up to you to fix it" is the thing that very nearly breaks me. Like hell it is. Many of us would stay in the black river forever if it kept them on the banks.) And we've never had to fight quite like this, against an enemy that both opposes us and is us, over and over, and without clear hope of winning. There's no simple "winning" when so much is lost. Not gone, but condemned.
But look: it's still beautiful, isn't it. I'll fight for that.
You, My Weary Friend
Lemminkäinen's mother doesn't even have a name in her story and I like to think that's because she and her actions are elemental to all of us: each of us working to add our small piece to the whole, many of us weary of all this but cloaked in our miraculous hope, where despair can touch us but it can't hold us for long, because we love and therefore we hope. And because this fight is far from over. It starts new each day.
The fight we signed up for is now the fight for what's left and the people who get left with it. That's all, really. But it's also everything. And you, my weary friend, will never stop.
UCS banner in a U.S. airport
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.
Preparing for the Future<p>Coal-producing regions in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg will have access to €40 billion ($45 billion) to help absorb the impact. Those funds are also expected to go towards restructuring regional economies, re-skilling workers and expanding local infrastructure.</p><p>Financial compensation is also be available to coal plant operators who face losses as a result of the early phaseout. However, compensation is contingent on operators announcing plans by 2026 to shutter plants and cease other emissions-intensive activity.</p><p>Michael Vassiliadis, who heads the IG BCE trade union, called the measures a "historic landmark." He said the package has provided a safety net for workers affected by the phase out and would provide them with the necessary support to transition to future sectors.</p>
'Historic Error'<p>However, not everyone agrees that the measures are enough to mitigate climate change.</p><p>Environmentalist activists say the legislation falls short of its ultimate aim, with Greenpeace managing director Martin Kaiser describing it as a "historic error."</p><p>German Green party chief Annalena Baerbock said the legislation was "oblivious to the future" and instead called on the government to complete Germany's coal phase out by 2030 the latest.</p><p>Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germans-most-worried-about-refugees-climate-change/a-51947417" target="_blank">a DeutschlandTrend survey</a> found that 27 percent of Germans believe climate change is the most pressing issue facing the country, just slightly behind refugees and immigration policy.</p><p>Germany is seeking to establish a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The European Commission has also pushed forward with similar plans for the EU.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
Would you like to take a crack at solving climate change? Or at least creating a road map of how we could do it?
When you build a tool like En-ROADS, who are you hoping uses it?<p>The tools that we build are used by quite a range of people, which is one of the exciting things about them.</p><p>Before En-ROADS we had a tool called C-ROADS, which was used in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. During the negotiations in Copenhagen it allowed people to add up what each country was offering to do in terms of emissions cuts and calculate what that would mean for the global temperature at the end of the century. That was of interest to the U.S. State Department under President Obama and negotiating parties from other countries.</p><p>As a young bunch of scientists, it was fairly thrilling to hand our results to a colleague who took them to [science advisor] John Holdren, who took them to the president.</p><p>Today we find En-ROADS having quite a lot of traction in the upper levels of companies and governments, but one thing we've learned over the years is that those high-level leaders really can't move further or faster than the civil society is ready to.</p><p>So we invest quite a lot in supporting teachers — university and high school — and advocates. We're in the middle of a second round of webinars training around 1,000 people to use En-ROADS so they can teach others.</p><p>These are people all around the world. One is interested in going to her members of Congress with her laptop and using the simulation to advocate for a better future for her kids.</p>
What does En-ROADS do differently from other computer simulations?<p>One thing we talk about is the democratization of this information. En-ROADS isn't breaking new scientific ground that other computer simulations of climate change don't do. In fact, often we're relying on that cutting-edge research of other groups.</p><p>But we have paid attention to making it run fast and making it freely available online, where most of these other tools aren't designed for those purposes. They're doing scientific research for other scientists. Top leaders can often get the input of those academics if they have a question or a scenario, but it's unlikely that a politically active mom who's trying to influence her member of Congress would have access to those kinds of tools. Whereas if she puts in the time to learn, she can use En-ROADS.</p><p>I think more and more, and especially in the last few years, we come across people who have the impression that [the climate crisis is] pretty much hopeless. "It's too late. We've left it too long." And En-ROADS, for those people, is motivating because it shows that the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to keep temperature increase well below 2 degrees [Celsius] is still physically possible. There's a huge amount of social and political will needed to do it, but it's within reach.</p>
Your organization is guided by a practice you call “multisolving.” What is that?<p>In the early years of working with models like C-ROADS and En-ROADS, we were really focused on tons of greenhouse gases and how to limit those. And clearly that's the core of the problem. But what we found in Copenhagen was that, despite our group and a few others who were doing this analysis actually being heard, and being on the front page of top newspapers, it didn't lead to more ambitious pledges from countries.</p><p>There was a soul-searching moment for me and for Climate Interactive in realizing that just being good scientists within this narrow bound of counting tons of carbon isn't getting us onto the path we need to be on.</p><p>That got me interested in this question of what else would be different in a world that has gotten off of fossil fuels. This was around 2009-2010. I hired the best researcher I knew, and she went away and came back and handed me this report.</p><p>It said that the benefits of being off fossil fuels, when monetized — when you took all the lives saved, all the healthcare costs saved, all the jobs created — the savings were of the same order of magnitude as the cost.</p><p>I thought she had made a mistake. Because I had worked my whole career trying to convince people that it's going to be <em>hard</em>, it's going to be <em>expensive</em>, but we <em>need</em> to get off fossil fuels. And she was saying that if you just widened your scope and looked not just on the carbon side, but you looked at the lives and health and community well-being, we were going to reap all these benefits.</p><p>I felt like I had been spending my life on a problem that was framed in a way where we would never be able to solve it. But by expanding our view, the things we were missing — basically political will, political power and budgetary power — seemed like maybe they could be aligned.</p><p>After that, for a long time we talked about the "co-benefits," and that that was kind of the word at the time. And many people still use it. We ended up dissatisfied with that word because it sounds like climate change is the main benefit, and then there are these other nice co-benefits.</p><p>That's still putting CO2 at the center of the world.</p><p>To a parent who's been in the emergency room all night with a child with asthma, is protecting the climate 100 years from now the main benefit of closing the neighborhood coal-fired power plant? Or is ending asthma the main benefit and climate is a nice co-benefit?</p><p>So we made up the word "<a href="https://www.climateinteractive.org/programs/multisolving/" target="_blank">multisolving</a>" to talk about how all these problems matter.</p>
What does this look like in action?<p>We learned that by and large our systems are not set up to allow people to take advantage of these synergies. And just to give you one example, if a country is going to go on a low-carbon transportation plan, those are going to be costs that are felt by the ministry of transportation. But the savings are largely going to be felt by the ministry of health. There'll be less hospitalization, fewer premature deaths, less cardiovascular and respiratory illness, less premature birth. But the way current governments are set up, no transportation minister is going to get much political appreciation or an incentive by saving money for the health ministry.</p><p>So for the last few years we've been working more and more on how to bring people together, to build the relationships that are needed to take advantage of these synergies because — until people can shift their systems around in a way where they can act together across these different silos and boundaries and jurisdictions — this will all just stay theoretical.</p><p>One place we have been doing this is in Atlanta with a group called Partnership for Southern Equity. We're creating a community network, the <a href="https://sites.google.com/view/justgrowth/just-growth-circle?authuser=0" target="_blank">Just Growth Circle</a>, that can be mobilized to have influence, decision-by-decision, on the kind of pattern of growth and development that will eventually change a whole city.</p>
That kind of deep-relationship building isn’t something that can be done quickly. How do you balance that kind of work to establish these interconnections with the urgency of the climate crisis?<p>Wendell Berry said, "To be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial." But we're in the kind of emergency that calls for patience. Time is very short and yet to make the kind of changes we need to make requires trust and relationships that can't be rushed and can only be cultivated. All you can do is create the conditions for them.</p><p>If you have urgency — if you need to bring things to scale, if you're looking for transformation and not incremental change — then actually this very slow and patient work of building trust and relationships is the way that you get to a very fast and transformative change.</p>
Has anything shifted in your thinking in the last few months during this global pandemic?<p>There's been a lot of talk about opportunities for transformation within the pandemic, especially about the need for low-carbon solutions. The other side is the social safety net. A lot of what we need to do to help people through the pandemic is also what the smart people behind the Green New Deal have said from the beginning needs to be part of the plan.</p><p>When they talked about universal healthcare, childcare, gender equity programs and the job training side of it, lots of people responded that they were way outside their lane. "What does this have to do with carbon?" But the pandemic is showing us that if you want a society to be able to pivot rapidly, you need a social safety net to support people.</p><p>If you want to pivot to green infrastructure, if you want low carbon infrastructure, you're changing a whole workforce in a generation. The social safety net is the lubrication that allows that to happen with less friction.</p><p>The social safety net we need to build to get through the pandemic could be built to also carry us through the transition to a climate-safe economy. It's not the technical side of this transition, but it is the taking care of each other through the transition. That may sound selfless, but it's also highly practical because the transition isn't going to happen if we can't move a whole society very quickly.</p>
By Elana Sulakshana
Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.
Who’s insuring the pipeline? (2019-2020)<p>Here's the list of insurance companies that are providing coverage from August 2019 through August 2020:</p><ol><li>Zurich (Switzerland)</li><li>Lloyd's (UK) </li><li>Liberty Mutual (US)</li><li>Chubb (US)</li><li>AIG (US)</li><li>WR Berkley (US)</li><li>Starr (US)</li><li>Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting (Canada)</li><li>Energy Insurance Mutual (US) </li><li>Temple Insurance (Germany), a Canadian member of the Munich Re group</li><li>HDI (Germany), which is owned by Talanx / Hannover Re</li></ol>
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By Leah Campbell
After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.
What is Family Burnout?<p>How do you know if you're experiencing family burnout resulting from COVID-19 togetherness?</p><p><a href="https://www.communitypsychiatry.com/providers/dr-pavan-madan-m-d/" target="_blank">Dr. Pavan Madan</a> is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist with <a href="https://www.communitypsychiatry.com/" target="_blank">Community Psychiatry</a>, the largest outpatient mental health organization in California. He explained there are three main symptoms to look out for. They are:</p><ul><li>feeling physically or emotionally exhausted</li><li>not being able to handle usual tasks</li><li>feeling annoyed easily</li></ul><p>These are symptoms a large number of people may be feeling right now, with exhaustion <a href="https://patient.info/news-and-features/why-lockdown-is-making-us-feel-exhausted" target="_blank">being reported across the internet</a>. Also, despite the fact that people are home and seemingly have all the time in the world on their hands, this inexplicable fatigue is becoming a common phenomenon.</p><p>In fact, Madan said, "Although no clear data is available, a <a href="http://bpinetwork.com/parental-burnout-crisis-in-corporate-america" target="_blank">2018 survey</a> found that half of all parents experience burnout — and this was prior to the pandemic."</p><p>Given the heightened rates of family togetherness now, it stands to reason those numbers are much higher, especially for single parents.</p>
The Additional Toll Faced by Single Parents<p>For single parents still working, now depleted of their normal childcare assistance, the pandemic may mean more to do and fewer opportunities for self-care than ever before.</p><p><a href="https://journeyswithprairie.com/prairie-conlon-licensed-therapist/" target="_blank">Prairie Conlon</a> is a licensed mental health professional and clinical director of the telehealth company <a href="https://www.certapet.com/" target="_blank">CertaPet</a>.</p><p>She explained, "In a two-parent household, division of tasks allows each parent to have some relief, but single-parent households typically take on all of these tasks themselves, which can absolutely lead to burnout quicker."</p><p>For single parents in a pandemic, there's no partner to help share responsibilities and there are few, if any, opportunities to get away and breathe by oneself. The result can easily lead to family burnout.</p><p>"One of the earliest signs of burnout is having less patience," Conlon said, "whether it's snapping at your kids or making a microwave dinner."</p><p>There are other factors that can contribute to family burnout in the time of COVID-19 as well.</p><p>"How demanding your job is or how the rest of your family is handling quarantine can further exacerbate burnout," Conlon said.</p>
Family Burnout Can Affect Romantic Relationships Too<p>Months together in quarantine can also be a strain on romantic relationships.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandrasternlicht/2020/04/23/couples-in-quarantine-only-18-are-satisfied-with-their-communication-during-coronavirus-pandemic/#178957045807" target="_blank">recent Forbes article</a> reported on a survey that found only 18 percent of respondents were happy with the communication within their relationships since the pandemic began. And in China, an <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200601-how-is-covid-19-is-affecting-relationships" target="_blank">unprecedented number of divorce requests</a> were filed as soon as marriage offices began reopening.</p><p>Will we see similar numbers as our states continue reopening here in the United States?</p><p>"When one person in a relationship is experiencing burnout, the other can typically pick up the slack, but when both are, it can be a struggle to connect and feel your best," Conlon said.</p><p>The impact on marriages and romantic relationships is considered part of the <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/202004/how-covid-19-affects-marriage-and-how-adapt" target="_blank">collateral damage</a> of COVID-19. In times of high stress, it may not always be the best thing to be locked at home together, incapable of getting the space and clear head that's often needed to work through marital discord.</p>
It’s Not Just Parents and Adults — Kids Can Experience Family Burnout As Well<p>It's important to remember that amidst all this, adults aren't the only ones experiencing burnout.</p><p>"Burnout in children often presents as anxiety, being irritable, poor academic performance, or staying isolated from peers and not expressing interest in playing," Madan said.</p><p>A recent <a href="https://time.com/5854243/coronavirus-lockdown-impact-children/" target="_blank">survey in Italy</a> found that children are experiencing psychological impacts as a result of lockdown. They're more irritable, having trouble sleeping, and many are regressing developmentally.</p><p>"Compared to younger children, teenagers may be more likely to experience burnout due to higher academic workload, greater need for peer interaction, and more frequent conflicts with parents," Madan said.</p>
How to Reduce the Impact of Burnout in Your Household<p>But just because so many are experiencing burnout doesn't mean it can't be helped.</p><p>"Burnout can be prevented by having a better balance between family time versus me time," Madan said.</p><p>When dealing with kids who may be acting out as a result of lockdown stress, he suggests parents try using encouragement and positive reinforcement over punishment techniques.</p><p>This gentler approach may be best for helping to redirect kids while also honoring the life struggles we're all facing right now.</p><p>"Having a routine for sleep, meals, and study time can help children feel prepared for the next activity and avoid some conflicts," Madan explained.</p><p>How can parents manage their own feelings of burnout?</p><p>"Parents must consider stress management techniques at work and aim towards a better work-life balance," Madan said.</p><p>Conlon agreed, adding that those in two-parent households can help each other by giving one another time off from household obligations and child-rearing duties every once in a while.</p><p>Conlon suggested telling your partner to go out for a walk, or ask for the chance to sit in the tub with a book uninterrupted for the next hour. He explained that mini-breaks such as these can do both parents a world of good.</p><p>"For the kids, try to switch up their activities — take them bike riding, to the pool, or to the park," she said.</p>
Knowing When to Ask for Help<p>It's important to recognize there's a difference between having a slightly shorter fuse and feeling like you're actually on the edge of combusting.</p><p>"When burnout symptoms are moderate to severe, consider getting professional consultation with family therapy, individual therapist, or psychiatrist depending on the situation," Madan said.</p><p>While it may seem as though COVID-19 has made seeking mental health help more difficult, that's simply not the case. In fact, it may currently be easier to get that help than ever before, as many insurance companies have <a href="https://www.ahip.org/health-insurance-providers-respond-to-coronavirus-covid-19/" target="_blank">removed deductibles and copays</a> for telehealth appointments.</p><p>"Parenting is not easy and burnout is fairly common," Madan explained. "I advise parents to take care of themselves not only for their own well-being, but also to model good behavior for their children to emulate now and for the years to come, even when we are back to 'normal.'"</p><p>Experts emphasize that it's OK to honor your own needs and recognize you may require additional help right now.</p><p>Most mental health practitioners are welcoming telehealth visits, and with antidepression and anti-anxiety prescriptions <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/depression-during-covid-19" target="_blank">both on the rise</a>, you're certainly not alone if you decide you need that additional assistance right now as well.</p><p>The most important thing is that you take care of yourself. After all, your family needs you to be healthy and whole.</p>
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By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz
With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.
1. Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil (forthcoming November 2020)<p>Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical contexts in this short read. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience. <em>Be My Guest </em>is at once an enjoyable read and a hopeful meditation on how food and hospitality can make a positive difference in our world.</p>
2. Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli, and Eliot Gee<p>In <em>Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition</em>, leading professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, featuring research from the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project </a>(BFN) of the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/alliance/" target="_blank">Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT</a>. Through this analysis, the authors propose that the localized activities in these countries are not only benefiting communities, but are transferable to other regions.</p>
3. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. by Ashanté M. Reese<p>In <em>Black Food Geographies, </em>Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight community agency in response to unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification, and urban food access. Through her analysis, she argues that racism impacts and exacerbates issues of unequal food distribution systems.</p>
4. Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (forthcoming October 2020)<p>Access, equity, justice, and privilege are the central themes in this forthcoming collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of Black communities and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food. Named for Black Lives Matter, <em>Black Food Matters </em>highlights the history and impact of Black communities and their food cultures in the food justice movement.</p>
5. Diners Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture by Emily J.H. Contois (forthcoming November 2020)<p>In <em>Diners, Dudes & Diets</em>, Emily Contois looks at media's influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. In doing so, Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic. She argues that this has influenced both the way consumers think about food and their own identities.</p>
6. Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net by Maggie Dickinson<p>The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is essential for individuals who face food insecurity on a daily basis. Still, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or undocumented. <em>Feeding the Crisis</em> provides a historical overview of SNAP's expansion and traces the lives of eight families who must navigate the changing landscape of welfare policy in the United States.</p>
7. Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries by Rebecca T. de Souza<p>In <em>Feeding the Other</em>, Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. Throughout the work, de Souza underscores the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries, and the charged idea of a handout. She argues that while food pantries currently stigmatize clients, there is an opportunity to make them agents of food justice.</p>
8. Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle<p>In <em>Feeding the People,</em> Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from a relatively unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle's work highlights the importance of the potato during famines, war, and explains the politics behind consumers' embrace of this food. Interspersed throughout are also potato recipes that any reader can try.</p>
9. Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal by Hanna Garth<p>In <em>Food in Cuba</em>, Dr. Hannah Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in the context of Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Throughout the work, Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. And through stories about families' sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become intimately linked.</p>
10. Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain<p>Scholar, speaker, and strategist Marcia Chatelain provides readers insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout Black communities. Dr. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with Black capitalists and the civil rights movement. This book highlights the dichotomy between fast food's negative impacts on Black communities and the potential economic and political opportunities that the businesses offered them.</p>
11. Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper by Andrew Coté<p>In <em>Honey and Venom,</em> Andrew Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own trajectory in the industry. A manager of over one hundred beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools, and more. Coté's<em> </em>passion for beekeeping comes through clearly as he narrates the challenges and rewards of his career.</p>
12. Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont by Teresa M. Mares<p>Agriculture, immigration, and Central American and Mexican farm workers may conjure ideas of the Mexico-U.S. border, but in <em>Life on the Other Border</em>, Teresa Mares gives a voice to those laboring much farther north. Mares introduces the readers to the Latinx immigrants who work in Vermont's dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers. This is an inspiring read that touches on the intersection of food justice, immigration, and labor policy.</p>
13. Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy by Michael Symons<p>In <em>Meals Matter</em>, Michael Symons argues that economics used to be, in its essence, about feeding the world but has since become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons introduces readers to gastronomic liberalism and applies the ideas of philosophers like Epicurus and John Locke to the food system. Through this approach, he seeks to understand how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics.</p>
14. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg<p>Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and has since been a global symbol of environmental activism. Her community organizing and impassioned speeches are uncompromising as she argues that climate change is an existential crisis that needs to be confronted immediately. <em>No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference </em>includes Thunberg's speeches and includes her 2019 address to the United Nations.</p>
15. Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It by Tom Philpott (forthcoming August 2020)<p>In <em>Perilous Bounty</em>, journalist Tom Philpott critically analyzes the centralized food system in the U.S. and argues that it is headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpot argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation's wellbeing and provides well-researched data to back up his claims. Providing readers insight into the experiences of activists, farmers, and scientists, this is a great read for those starting to learn about the state of the country's food system and for those who are already deeply involved.</p>
16. Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, And How Big Business Changed The Way The World Eats by Maryn McKenna<p>In this exposé on the chicken industry, acclaimed author Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. <em>Plucked </em>makes it clear that food choices matter and show how consumers' desire for meat, especially chicken, has impacted human health. McKenna also offers a way forward and outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again.</p>
17. Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice by Lana Dee Povitz<p>Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and established food co-ops. In <em>Stirrings</em>,<em> </em>Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts. She highlights the successes of grassroots movements and reminds readers of the many women leaders in the New York food justice movement.</p>
18. The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern<p>In <em>The New American Farmer</em>, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern offers a look at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. In this book, Minkoff-Zern details the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners themselves and outlines the many barriers that workers must overcome during this transition. Through interviews with farmers and organizers, Minkoff-Zern shows that these farmers bring sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit our food system.</p>
19. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren<p>Hope Jahren breaks down climate change for readers in an accessible and data-driven book. <em>The Story of More </em>explains<em> </em>how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. Although she argues that the planet is in danger, she also provides a variety of everyday actions, like decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference.</p>
20. Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry<p>Author, chef, and food justice activist Bryant Terry provides readers with over a hundred recipes to create approachable and flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. This book is a wonderfully practical recipe book that begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients, and even includes a music playlist. Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate Chef Terry's <em>Vegetable Kingdom</em>.</p><a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Make+this+summer+a+season+of+reflection+and+self-education+with+Food+Tank%27s+reading+list+%E2%80%94+new+and+important+books+from+%40AMReese07%2C+%40GretaThunberg%2C+%40EmilyContois%2C+%40BryantTerry%2C+%40DrMChatelain%2C+and+more&url=https%3A%2F%2Ffoodtank.com%2Fnews%2F2020%2F07%2Ffood-tanks-summer-2020-reading-list%2F&via=foodtank"><span></span></a>
By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.
Goodwill's Canton, Mich. site looks overwhelmed on June 16, with an oversupply of donations and little immediate chance for resale. Brian Love / CC BY-ND
Recyclers Under Pressure<p>Since March 2020, when most shelter-in-place orders began, sanitation workers have noted massive increases in municipal garbage and recyclables. For example, in cities like Chicago, workers have seen up to <a href="https://chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/4/7/21212543/coronavirus-chicago-garbage-pickup-streets-sanitation-masks" target="_blank">50% more waste</a>.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://swana.org/" target="_blank">Solid Waste Association of North America</a>, U.S. cities saw a <a href="https://swana.org/news/swana-news/article/2020/06/17/swana-submits-statement-on-recycling-challenges-for-u.s.-senate-hearing" target="_blank">20% average increase</a> in municipal solid waste and recycling collection from March into April 2020. Increased trash can be attributed partly to spring cleaning, but most of it is due to people spending greater time at home. Restaurants struggling to survive under COVID-19 restrictions are contributing to the rise in plastic and paper waste with <a href="https://theconversation.com/using-lots-of-plastic-packaging-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-youre-not-alone-135553" target="_blank">takeout packaging</a>.</p><p>Although higher volumes of recyclables are being set on the curb, budget deficits are squeezing recycling programs. Many municipalities are struggling with <a href="https://www.ketv.com/article/omaha-mayor-health-officials-to-provide-covid-19-update-friday-afternoon/32498068#" target="_blank">multimillion-dollar shortfalls</a>. Some communities, such as Rock Springs, Wyoming, and East Peoria, Illinois, <a href="https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2020/05/27/budget-shortfalls-threaten-local-recycling-programs/" target="_blank">have cut recycling programs</a>.</p><p>And these stresses are testing a business already faced uncertainty.</p>
While bottle deposit stations remain closed, recyclables pile up in basements and garages. David Rieland / CC BY-ND
Turmoil in Scrap Markets<p>The global recycling economy has suffered since 2018 as first China and then other Asian nations <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-more-developing-countries-reject-plastic-waste-exports-wealthy-nations-seek-solutions-at-home-117163" target="_blank">banned imports of low-quality scrap</a> — often meaning improperly cleaned food packaging and poorly sorted recyclable materials. As in any business, the value of raw recyclables is linked to supply and demand. Without demand from nations like China, which formerly took up to 700,000 tons of U.S. scrap annually, recyclers have scrambled to stay in business.</p><p>The pandemic has boosted prices for some materials. One industry leader told us that between February and May 2020, prices doubled for recycled paper and tripled for recycled cardboard. These shifts reflect higher demand for tissue products and shipping packaging under shelter-in-place orders.</p><p>However, he also reported that prices for the most-recycled categories of reclaimed plastics — PET (#1) and PE (#2 and #4) – were at 10-year lows. An influx of cheap oil has driven the raw material cost of oil-derived virgin plastics to their lowest levels in decades, <a href="https://millerrecycling.com/oil-prices-recycling#:%7E:text=Higher%20oil%20prices%20can%20also,robust%20market%20for%20recycled%20plastic." target="_blank">outcompeting recycled feedstocks</a>.</p>
Difficult Economics<p>Ideally, revenues from recycling offset municipalities' costs for collecting and disposing of solid wastes. However, given worker safety concerns, low market prices for scrap materials, a slowed economy and cheaper alternatives for disposal, many communities and businesses across the U.S. have <a href="https://www.wastedive.com/news/recycling-mrfs-prison-labor-suspensions-coronavirus-covid-19/574301/" target="_blank">temporarily suspended</a> collection of recyclables and bottle deposits.</p><p>Meanwhile, as the commercial sector slowed, the distribution of waste generation changed. As people have spent more time producing waste at home, waste collectors implemented <a href="https://www.wastedive.com/news/coronavirus-covid-waste-recycling-safety-collection-mrf/574359/" target="_blank">new procedures</a> to protect their employees from infection.</p><p>Recycling is a very hands-on process that requires workers to manually sort out items from the collection stream that are unsuitable for mechanical processing. Workers and waste collection companies have <a href="https://www.wastedive.com/news/coronavirus-covid-waste-recycling-safety-collection-mrf/574359/" target="_blank">raised many safety questions</a> about recycling during the pandemic.</p><p>Precautions like social distancing and use of personal protective equipment have become commonplace among waste collectors and sorters, though concerns remain. Sorters are increasingly relying on automation, but implementation can be costly and takes time.</p>
Collections on Pause<p>Based on monitoring since 2017 by the trade publication <a href="https://www.wastedive.com/news/curbside-recycling-cancellation-tracker/569250/" target="_blank">Waste Dive</a>, nearly 90 curbside recycling programs had experienced or continue to experience a prolonged suspension over the past several years. About 30 of these suspensions have occurred since January 2020.</p>
Like many bottle deposit programs, Kroger's Ann Arbor, Mich. drop-off center shut down on March 23. Michigan bottle deposits across the state resumed on June 15, 2020 with new safety protocols. Brian Love / CC BY-ND<p>On a broader scale, it's not clear how much more waste Americans are currently producing during shutdowns. Commercial and residential waste aren't directly comparable. For example, a granola bar wrapper thrown away at the office is tallied differently than if discarded at home.</p><p>It is also challenging to quantify the effects of the pandemic while it is still unfolding. Historically, waste output from the commercial and industrial sectors has far outweighed the municipal stream. With many offices and business closed or operating at low levels, total U.S. waste production could actually be at a record low during this time. However, data on commercial and industrial wastes are not readily available.</p><p>At the California-based <a href="https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2020/04/28/city-data-shows-covid-19-impacts-on-recycling-tonnages/" target="_blank">Peninsula Sanitary Service</a>, which serves the Stanford University community, total tonnage was down 60% in March. The company attributes this drop to reduced commercial waste, particularly from construction. Similarly, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, noted a <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/metro-vancouver-garbage-decrease-covdi-19-1.5544942" target="_blank">10% decrease</a> year over year of waste collection levels for April.</p>
Expected sectors of plastic waste increase due to COVID-19, based on 2018 plastic usage distribution data from PlasticsEurope and Klemes et al., 2020. Brian Love and Julie Rieland / CC BY-ND