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Farm to School Program Saves Big Bucks, Slashes Carbon Footprint at 100 Oakland Schools

By Melissa Hellmann

When her eldest son was in elementary school in the Oakland Unified School District, Ruth Woodruff became alarmed by the meals he was being served at school. A lot of it was frozen, processed foods, packed with preservatives. At home, she was feeding her children locally sourced, organic foods.

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This Student-Built Website Is Keeping Government Climate Data Safe

By Terri Hansen

It wasn't long after President Trump took office that chaos took hold at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Throughout his campaign, Trump had promised to get rid of the agency, leaving just "little tidbits left." He wasted little time.

Out of the gate, Trump's transition team was set to remove former President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan and other climate data, reported InsideEPA on Jan. 17. Trump officials told EPA staff on Jan. 24 to remove the agency's climate change page from its website, according to Science. The next day, EPA staffers were told to hold off. Then, two days later, the words "climate change" were erased from the EPA site altogether. Then they were back.

Many scientists didn't wait to find out what was up, what was down or what was going which way. At risk was years of data on greenhouse gas emissions, temperature trends, sea level rise and shrinking sea ice—data essential to our understanding of the enormous environmental shifts our planet is undergoing. Worldwide, they scrambled to capture the information from the websites of the EPA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey. Hackathons were organized to download the data to university servers and sites like DataRefuge and the Internet Archive for the fear that Scott Pruitt would be confirmed as head of the EPA; he was confirmed by the Senate on Feb 17.

Even outside of scientific circles, concerned citizens recognized a need to act. When John Rozsa, a graduate student in technology studies at Eastern Michigan University, heard about these efforts, he thought the more copies, the better. So, between classes and his full-time job, he began to download the pre-Trump version of the EPA website—28,000 files and counting.

"I used a variety of Windows and Linux-based high-tech tools that look at every corner of the website and grab every single file," he said. "I repeated the process four times and then compared the data sets. Once I confirmed my data sets were reliable, I backed them up and then sorted the files."

Now he's uploading the files to a website he calls EPA Data Dump. It's very simplistic, he said, "due to the fact that less than one week ago the website was just a small project of mine." The website is not quite ready for prime time—it's still under construction—but already it's getting a lot of attention.

EPA Data Dump has seen more than 200,000 users to date, so much traffic that its server nearly crashed. Rozsa had to start a modest online fundraiser to pay for a dedicated server, more bandwidth and increased security. The site will soon include a search engine, he said, but first the files must be organized by librarians and other volunteers.

Already many people, including an aerospace data manager, have offered their skills to further the project. And Rozsa has received messages from students and individuals in academia who said the data on his website have helped them significantly.

Rozsa has degrees in computer science and technology management. He is now studying for his master's degree in technology studies and he calls himself an activist. One audience that appreciates his type of activism is journalists who cover science and the environment.

"Journalists and the public rely on the EPA's website for accurate public information about climate change, EPA regulatory actions, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution data," said Bobby Magill, senior science writer at Climate Central and president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. "It's among the first places members of the public may go to find information about climate change and how human carbon dioxide and methane pollution contribute to it."

Ensuring that accurate information remains available to the public is critical to understanding government efforts to keep our air and water clean and to address climate change. "The EPA greenhouse gas emissions database is valuable because it helps journalists and the public identify emissions sources and trends," Magill said. "There is an inherent public good in maintaining those databases online so that accurate environmental information is available to the public."

When Rozsa created EPA Data Dump, he did so believing that the public should have access to information about climate change, regardless of who the president was. For many scientists, whose individual decades of study are built on generations of accumulated research, open access to information is essential.

"Any climate data that has been collected and published by government scientists or as a result of government-funded or government-sponsored research, belongs in the public domain," said Michael Mann, professor and director of the Pennsylvania State University Earth System Science Center and lead-author of the now-famous "hockey stick graph" of rising global average temperatures.

"The public has a right to know that it is safe and that it will be preserved for posterity, despite the fluctuations in the prevailing political winds," he said. "The fact that scientists are fearful that climate data inconvenient to the vested interests that have funded President Trump and congressional republicans will be scrubbed from government websites is a testament to the truly chilling nature of the fossil fuel industry-funded assault on climate science."

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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Jenni Monet reports on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on Oct. 27.

First Amendment Under Siege as Another Journalist Arrested at Standing Rock

By Mark Trahant

Jenni Monet, a Native American journalist, was arrested last week while covering Standing Rock. You'd think that would trigger a lot of support from the national and regional news media.

There is an idea in law enforcement called the "thin blue line." It basically means that police work together. A call goes out from Morton County and, right or wrong, law enforcement from around the country provides back up.

Jenni Monet was arrested while covering the Standing Rock movement last week. But most of the press has been silent about the charges she faces—and the implications for the First Amendment.Aboriginal People's Television Network

You would think journalism would be like that, too.

When one journalist is threatened, we all are threatened. We cannot do our jobs when we worry about being injured or worse. And when a journalist is arrested? Well, everyone who claims the First Amendment as a framework should object loudly.

Last Wednesday, Monet was arrested near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. She was interviewing water protectors who were setting up a new camp near the Dakota Access Pipeline route on treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation. Law enforcement from Morton County surrounded the camp and captured everyone within the circle. A press release from the sheriff's Department puts it this way: "Approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protestors were arrested." Most were charged with criminal trespassing and inciting a riot.

As was Monet. She now faces serious charges and the judicial process will go forward. The truth must come out.

But this story is about the failure of journalism institutions.

The Native press and the institutions that carry her work had Monet's back. That includes Indian Country Media Network, YES! Magazine and the Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal. In Canada the Aboriginal People's Television Network reported on the story during its evening news. And, the Los Angeles Times has now weighed as well in with its own story written by Sandy Tolan who's done some great reporting from Standing Rock.

The Native American Journalists Association released a statement immediately:

"Yesterday's unlawful arrest of Native journalist Jenni Monet by Morton County officers is patently illegal and a blatant betrayal of our closely held American values of free speech and a free press," NAJA President Bryan Pollard said, "Jenni is an accomplished journalist and consummate professional who was covering a story on behalf of Indian Country Today. Unfortunately, this arrest is not unprecedented, and Morton County officials must review their officer training and department policies to ensure that officers are able and empowered to distinguish between protesters and journalists who are in pursuit of truthful reporting."

Yet in North Dakota you would not know this arrest happened. The press is silent.

I have heard from many, many individual journalists. That's fantastic. But what about the institutions of journalism? There should news stories in print, digital and broadcast. There should be editorials calling out North Dakota for this egregious act. If the institutions let this moment pass, every journalist covering a protest across the country will be at risk of arrest.

After her release from jail, Monet wrote for Indian Country Media Network:

"When Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman was charged with the same allegations I now face—criminal trespassing and rioting—her message to the world embraced the First Amendment. 'There's a reason why journalism is explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution,' she said before a crowd gathered in front of the Morton County courthouse. "Because we're supposed to be the check and balance on power."

The funny thing is that journalism institutions were not quick to embrace Goodman either. I have talked to many journalists who see her as an "other" because she practices a different kind of journalism than they do.

Monet's brand of journalism is rooted in facts and good reporting. She talks to everyone on all sides of the story, including the Morton County Sheriff and North Dakota's new governor. She also has street cred … and knows how to tell a story. Just listen to her podcast and you will know that to be true.

So if we ever need journalism institutions to rally, it's now. It's not Jenni Monet who will be on trial. It's the First Amendment. Journalism is not a crime.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. He writes a regular column at YES!, where he is a contributing editor. Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

Here's How You Can Help Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Jake Tracy

It's been a tumultuous few days for anyone following the ongoing battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Within the course of just over a week, the project's backers tried to get a judge to cancel environmental review of the project, environmental review officially began and, on Jan. 24, President Trump issued a memorandum calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to ditch the Environmental Impact Statement process and approve the pipeline.

Things look bleak, but it's unclear whether Trump's order will actually have any effect.

The exact wording of his statement is that the Army Corps of Engineers should "consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted" whether this environmental review should be canceled. Federal courts have previously ruled that agency decisions cannot be reversed simply because a new president is in power, so this order could just be a bunch of hot air.

Because the situation is so uncertain, however, anti-DAPL activists should prepare for both scenarios: one in which the pipeline plows forward in the coming weeks and months and one in which the full environmental review proceeds. If you're willing to take a stand in the streets and in the cold of North Dakota, why not take a few moments to put your concerns into writing?

If Trump's order is not legally actionable, now through Feb. 20 is the only chance we will have to push for a full review of the pipeline's climate impacts. Consider that Trump's picks (and lack thereof) have not yet been appointed to the Army Corps. This means there may still be decision-makers on the inside who are committed to fully analyzing the project.

How the EIS Process Involves the Public

As I explained in detail in a previous article, the environmental review process that has now begun is known as an environmental impact statement or EIS. This is a highly regimented form of review that is part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). An EIS is required any time a federal action (including federal permit approval) will have significant environmental impacts. It requires a full, detailed analysis of those impacts, as well as an evaluation of how alternatives to the project as-proposed would lessen or heighten those impacts. Although the Army Corps originally issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" for the DAPL, its Dec. 4 announcement reversed that decision, citing that additional review was needed.

A standard pipeline EIS proceeds as follows:

  • Notice of Intent (official announcement of the EIS) is issued.
  • Scoping Period (public input on which impacts and project alternatives should be studied).
  • Army Corps drafts EIS document.
  • Draft EIS is published, and the public is invited to comment (on whether the report is complete or which alternative is best).
  • EIS is modified based on public comment.
  • Final EIS is published (possibly with another comment period).
  • Army Corps decides whether or not to approve a permit for the pipeline crossing.

Though the EIS process itself cannot deny the pipeline, the environmental information gathered through the process can be used by the Army Corps to deny a permit if the project is "injurious to the public interest"—in other words, if the project's impacts outweigh its benefits.

One problem with that is past EISs have only looked at environmental impacts to the immediate project site and surrounding area (in this case, the sliver of land that the Army Corps owns and Lake Oahe). On the other hand, the Army Corps will be weighing those spatially-limited impacts against the overall benefits of the project, such as jobs and tax revenue.

If this seems like an unequal comparison to you, now is your chance to speak up and say so.

The EIS Notice of Intent was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18. During the 32-day scoping period that began simultaneously, the Army Corps is reaching out to the public for input on which environmental impacts should be studied within the EIS, and what the alternatives to Dakota Access' "preferred route" should be. Unlike the second comment period, this first comment period is solely to decide what the scope of analysis should be.

What Kind of Impacts to Comment On

One of the most important impacts of the pipeline is the potential for oil spills into Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. However, spills are certain to be studied in the EIS and there will be ample opportunity to comment extensively on those impacts during the second comment period, once the draft EIS is published. That doesn't mean that the public shouldn't include spills in their scoping comments and the Standing Rock Sioux and their lawyers will certainly need to provide information on their water intakes, fishing rights, etc., but there are other important issues to tackle in this comment period as well.

It is virtually certain that without an overwhelming public push during the scoping notice, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts will not be studied in the EIS.

In order to have the strongest argument possible when it comes to deciding if this project is "injurious to the public interest," activists should, at this point, focus on expanding the scope of the EIS to cover the effect of the global greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the oil that will run through the pipeline.

If completed, up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil would flow through the DAPL every day. According to one estimate, utilizing data specific to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, the transportation, processing and burning of that oil would result in 101.4 million metric tons of CO2 every year. To put this in perspective, that's the same amount of annual emissions that would result from operating 21.4 million passenger vehicles or 29.5 coal plants.

The original Environmental Assessment (think: preliminary, mini-EIS) for the DAPL did not address climate issues at all, with merely a one sentence mention ("The contribution of the Proposed Action to greenhouse gas emissions during construction would be considered a minor indirect impact to climate change"). This ignoring of the project's larger impact is inconsistent the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality's guidance for evaluating climate change under NEPA. This guidance, released in 2016, states that agencies should evaluate "direct and indirect," "long- and short-term" and "broad-scale" effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Though the Army Corps has not yet updated their standards to match these, overwhelming public pressure might convince them to provide a full analysis of climate impacts from the pipeline.

Suggest the True "No-Action" Alternative

While inclusion of climate impacts in the EIS would set major precedent for pipeline projects going forward, in order for them to help the argument that the project is "injurious to the public interest," an additional change to the EIS' scope must be made.

Every EIS includes evaluation of alternatives to the proposed project. In addition to alternate routes for the pipeline, the project is also required to evaluate a "no-action" alternative, in which the pipeline is not built. Exactly how this no-action alternative is structured will play a critical role in how the proposed route under Lake Oahe is viewed, both in terms of local water quality impacts and global greenhouse gas impacts.

In the initial Environmental Assessment for the DAPL, the no-action alternative assumed that, if the pipeline was not built, the oil would be carried by rail and truck instead. As these methods of transportation are more dangerous and energy-intensive than pipeline transportation, the no-action alternative was written off as being worse than building the pipeline. The only problem with this is that earlier in that same report, it was noted that truck transportation of the oil was "not ... a realistic alternative" and that transportation by rail would first require construction of a facility more than 150 percent of the size of the largest existing oil-by-rail facility in the U.S.

Creating a no-action alternative in which the oil is still transported by truck and rail, therefore, is unrealistic. The proposed project should be evaluated against a scenario where the oil is left in the ground due to the multiple financial, technological and logistical constraints that exist. This would mean that the proposed project's local and global impacts would be evaluated against a true no-action alternative, rather than one that looks worse than the proposal but is unrealistic in practice.

Won't Trump Just approve the Pipeline?

I won't lie to you. Even if the full environmental review of the pipeline takes place, by the time the review is complete, the secretary of the Army and assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, who oversee the Corps, will be Trump appointees. It's hard to imagine that anyone he appoints would be willing to rule on the side of the environment, regardless of the impacts. His Jan. 24 decree that future pipelines and other infrastructure projects should receive "expedited" environmental review doesn't bode well either.

So it's true. Denial of the pipeline is a long-shot. But if the water protectors at Standing Rock have taught us anything, it's that with enough public pressure, even a long-shot is possible. So if you're against the pipeline, this is the time to step up, not back down. As long as the public process is still in play, we should do everything we can to push back. We owe it to those who worked so hard to get us to where we are today.

Send your public comments by Feb. 20 to:

Mr. Gib Owen
gib.a.owen.civ@mail.mil

Subject Line: "NOI Comments, Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing"

Sample Comment:

Mr. Owen,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Dakota Access pipeline crossing. I have grave concerns that the scope ignores key impacts that the Army Corps' approval would cause, and that the "no-action" alternative, as proposed in the environmental assessment, does not constitute a realistic alternative.

The EA's no-action alternative assumes that, if the pipeline is not built, the oil will be transported by truck or rail instead. This argument is flawed, however. The EA itself points out on page 5 that truck transportation is not realistic, and goes on to state that rail transportation would require massive infrastructure investments, far larger than any currently existing in the United States. For these reasons, the no-action alternative should assume that the oil is not extracted, as there will be no realistic way to transport it to the intended markets.

Additionally, the Council on Environmental Quality has directed federal agencies to evaluate projects' direct and indirect, long- and short-term, and broad-scale greenhouse gas and climate change impacts through the EIS process. Approving this crossing would complete the project, allowing a flow of oil that, when all is accounted for, would have the same annual CO2 emissions as 29 coal-fired power plants. These emissions would have a significant impact on air quality, water quality, human health, and wildlife, and would not occur if this pipeline crossing was denied. Please evaluate these impacts as part of your review, in accordance with the guidance provided by CEQ.

Finally, I support your decision to include a thorough analysis of the effects of an oil spill on Lake Oahe and the people of Standing Rock. Even the strictest precautions today will wear with age, as we have seen with other projects where poor maintenance led to disastrous results. The impacts of a spill on the local population and environment cannot be discounteda spill 30 years from now would be just as impactful as a spill on day one, and should be treated as a near-certainty in the requestor's preferred alternative.

Thank you again, and I look forward to your inclusion of the project's full impacts, as well as a no-action alternative that takes into account the infeasibility of other forms of oil transportation.

Jake Tracy is an urban planner and environmentalist from Seattle. Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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20 Photos From My Seven Months of Living at Standing Rock

By Desiree Kane

I arrived at Standing Rock in the very last days of May, alongside some comrades, at the request of Wiyaka Eagleman, the first firekeeper at Camp of the Sacred Stones and a founding member of the Keystone XL campaign. He had put out a call to folks in Indian Country for support and I answered. Over the months, I have worked on the security and media teams and always had my camera.

These images show some of the defining moments of the past seven months—some that made it to mainstream media coverage and others unseen until now. Among the ever-growing lessons this place has taught me is what it means to simultaneously build and tear down. The life we have built here has taught many how to live a large-scale sustainable, decolonized, anti-capitalist lifestyle that until now academics, sociologists, theoreticians and greenies alike have only been able to hypothesize. I live full time in a yurt at Oceti Sakowin Camp.

At its peak, Oceti Sakowin Camp has supported as many as 11,000 people, all focused on standing in solidarity with the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people who lay claim to land through the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Both the pipeline and the camps are on these lands.

Lake Oahe with Bobbi Jean Three Legs

We Are Water

Happi American Horse Locks Down

Prayer Walks to Sacred Grounds Camp

All Nations—All Relations—All Water—#NoDAPL

The Role of Children

Tribal Solidarity

International Indigenous Solidarity

Bridge 134

Historic Resistance

Turtle Island

Angry Bird

West Side Drill Pad From 3,600 Feet

Allies of Color

White Allies

Veterans Arrive

Forgiveness Ceremony

Sacred Stone Medic Tent

First Snow

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

What Does Our Nation's Standing Rock Moment Look Like?

By Mark Trahant

It's easy for me to dismiss 2016 as a horrible year.

There have been eight years of relative progress on issues I care about, from the climate to equality. The election reversed that. Big Oil is now in charge of the environment, a senator with a history of hate is now in charge of the Justice Department, and the new government seems to be of the billionaires, for the billionaires, and by the billionaires.

Annus horribilis.

The Latin phrase for horrible year rings hollow when you think about the events of this year and the Lakota phrase mni wiconi. Water is life. Make no mistake: Year 2016 is an inspirational and historic moment. Standing Rock is no longer just a geographic location but words that call each of us to do more. Standing Rock is a reminder that people standing together can do amazing things when facing injustice.

Mni wiconi.

Think about the ways we have been seduced by our own progress. In September, for example, President Barack Obama praised the Paris agreement on climate change and called it "the single best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet in a way that makes it very difficult for us to deal with all the other challenges that we may face." Lofty words. Yet the actual government actions to implement those words have been, at best, limited. Baby steps. Imagine a framework that starts with the promise of Paris and then builds decisions based on that. In that scenario there would have been no debate about the Dakota Access Pipeline because we wouldn't need it.

But at least for the next four years, the government will be the adversary. The entire apparatus of state will look more like the Morton County Sheriff's office than our ally. We will all face water cannons rather than comforting language. But we can be clear about the challenges ahead knowing that the government is absolutely wrong about the very nature of the problem.

So what does our nation's Standing Rock moment look like?

In some ways it's already unfolding. The BP Statistical Review, an energy industry outlook, reports that carbon emissions in 2015 already showed "the lowest growth in emissions in nearly a quarter of a century, other than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis." Similar data show we are driving fewer miles and there is steady growth in renewable energy sources. And there's this tell: The amount of capital that's being invested in clean energy development, $328 billion, is the most ever.

Federal processes will delay the Dakota Access Pipeline beyond its promised January 2017 operational target date, and litigation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe could delay the project for many more months. And every day, every week, and every month of delay makes the Dakota Access Pipeline less compelling from a financial point of view.

Oil production in the Bakken region was down in 2016 by some 13,000 barrels a day. The oil industry hopes that the new Trump administration will change that and flip the switch that brings back consumption. In fact, oil companies, as well as the state of North Dakota, cling to the idea that oil production will magically double to around 2 million barrels a day. And that idea is bolstered by upticks in oil prices, new well production, and more drilling.

But the opposite is possible. We can continue to shrink our oil appetites. We can set Standing Rock as the framework for consumption. This is one way to challenge the oil uber alles mentality of the Trump administration. We walk. We adjust the temperature in our houses. We measure our own carbon consumption with the goal of reducing it by 20 percent or more.

Standing Rock captured our imagination. And while it was only one battle, the tribe and its allies showed the world how to defeat powerful forces. Now the larger test is making further oil production irrelevant.

Mni wiconi. And in 2017, that means we pick up the fight in new ways.

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist and a journalism professor at the University of North Dakota. He's a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. His most recent project is TrahantReports.com. He is a contributing editor at YES! Follow him on Twitter at @TrahantReports. Reposted with permission from your media associate Yes! Magazine.

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Wesley Clark Jr. during forgiveness ceremony. Photo credit:
Joe Zummo

Veteran Wesley Clark Jr: Why I Knelt Before Standing Rock Elders and Asked for Forgiveness

By Sarah van Gelder

Everything seemed to be converging on Standing Rock on Dec. 4. Thousands of veterans were scheduled to arrive the next day at this remote, frozen outpost—along with a blizzard. The Army Corps of Engineers had recently ordered the eviction of Oceti Sakowin, the largest of the water protectors' camps, saying the thousands camped there would have to vacate by Dec. 5. The governor ordered an emergency evacuation, and the county sheriff threatened to issue $1,000 fines to anyone caught delivering food, firewood and other support needed to keep the camp alive.

And it was on the afternoon of Dec. 4 that word arrived: The Obama administration had refused the final permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers said it would first consider other routes, require an environmental impact statement and consult with the Sioux tribes. So, at least for the moment, there was celebration: dancing, singing, fireworks.

Reasons for the timing of that announcement are not clear. It might have been because tensions were too high. Perhaps 4,000 veterans joining thousands of Native water protectors and their allies was just too much.

The next day, some veterans participated in a formal "forgiveness ceremony," which began with an emotional plea to the tribe for forgiveness by former Army Lt. Wesley Clark Jr., son of Gen. Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO:

"Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land and then we took your children and … we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn't respect you, we polluted your Earth, we've hurt you in so many ways but we've come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness."

Clark made these remarks head bowed, kneeling before the elders. Chief Leonard Crow Dog put his hand on Clark's head. A moment of forgiveness followed by tears and embraces.

Chief Leonard Crow Dog puts his hand on the head of Lt. Wesley Clark Jr.

Clark, along with Michael A. Wood Jr., a former Baltimore police officer and Marine Corps veteran, had organized the deployment that formed Veterans Stand for Standing Rock.

YES! Editor at Large Sarah van Gelder interviewed Clark this week about why he called on veterans to come to Standing Rock and what moved him to apologize.

Sarah van Gelder: What made you decide to call on veterans to join with you?

Wesley Clark Jr.: I reached out to lawyers, I reached out to politicians, I reached out to members of the press. I got the Young Turks to send Jordan [Chariton] out there in October. I did everything I could to try to help this tribe. Nothing would happen. And so I was like, fuck it man, I have to go out there.

I called Michael Wood Jr., he was like, "Hell yeah, I'm down for it." We put out an operations order, a call [to veterans] on Twitter and on Facebook. I don't have any experience in any kind of activism or fundraising or anything. By around the middle of November I think we'd only raised $3,000 and had 50 people going. I thought maybe if we were lucky we might be able to get 500.

The concept that I had in my head was that we'd simply outmaneuver the police, get across the river and then surround the pipeline. That was always the concept of the operation in my head. But at the same time I always wanted to start it with what the tribe calls a "Wiping the Tears Ceremony." First of all, I have PTSD and most of the guys out there with me do. So I thought it was very important to kind of spiritually cleanse us and prepare us for what I expected to be harsh tactics and beatings and jailing from the security forces.

Veterans in the blizzard. Michael Running Wolf

van Gelder: You had made a very clear statement that this would be a nonviolent action. What made you decide to make that so clear?

Clark: If you want to effect change in the world, it has to come through nonviolence and forgiveness. It's the only way.

You can look at history for examples. If somebody starts a violent revolution, they have less than a 5 percent chance of succeeding. And at the end of it, all they've inherited is a broken country full of death and bitterness and distrust. But through nonviolent action—the kind we saw in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and in the Philippines long ago—you actually have a greater than 50 percent chance of success. So it's not just a moral imperative but a strategic one as well, that's backed up by history.

This Hospital Prescribes Fresh Food From Its Own Organic Farm

By Liza Bayless

Five years ago, when Lankenau Medical Center was confronted with evidence that it was serving the unhealthiest county in Pennsylvania, the hospital decided to embrace the findings with an unconventional approach: building a half-acre organic farm on its campus to provide fresh produce to patients.

The Deaver Wellness Farm at Lankenau Medical Center. Lankenau Medical Center

The teaching and research hospital just outside Philadelphia was in the midst of its own patient health needs assessment in 2011 when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released findings about health outcomes in Pennsylvania counties. Lankenau is officially located within Montgomery County, one of the state's healthiest, taking into account factors including obesity rates and access to reliable sources of food. But the campus is adjacent to and receives many patients from Philadelphia County, ranked the least healthy of all 67 counties.

"That was really telling because it showed that we were serving a really diverse patient population," said Chinwe Onyekere, associate administrator at Lankenau, of the study's revelations. The findings showed that the hospital's patients had widely varying access to healthy food and nutritional knowledge.

With more than 1.5 million people, Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the country and consistently named one of the unhealthiest. In 2010, 32 percent of its adults and about 25 percent of its children were obese. The same year, 13 percent of the city's adults had diabetes, and Philadelphia County ranked highest among the country's largest counties for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Across the nation, about half of Americans are estimated to have some kind of chronic disease stemming from health risks including lack of exercise, obesity, smoking and unhealthy eating. Treatment for these illnesses, which include asthma, heart disease or diabetes, has accounted for more than 75 percent of hospital admissions and physician visits in recent years.

This has caused some hospitals to look for ways to address health needs before a patient's condition has deteriorated so much that a hospital visit is necessary. At Lankenau, that meant providing its patients with a source of healthy food.

Students learn about fresh produce at the Deaver Wellness Farm. Lankenau Medical Center

Because the doctors, nurses and other staff were not farming experts, the hospital paired with Greener Partners, a nonprofit advocate for local food systems in Pennsylvania, to build and maintain what would become the Deaver Wellness Farm. Onyekere, who heads community needs programs for the hospital, oversees the project.

Since the farm's launch in 2015, it has provided more than 4,000 pounds of organic food to hospital patients at no cost. The produce is used for educational demonstrations and served in the hospital cafeteria. From its community needs assessment, Lankenau's staff learned that many of its patients, especially from West Philadelphia, lacked access to and nutritional knowledge of fruits and vegetables. So Lankenau now facilitates pop-up markets in internal medicine and the OBGYN practice wards.

While patients wait for appointments, medical assistants bring in fresh kale, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, arugula and other produce for them to select. The hospital also provides recipes, and, during an appointment, physicians use the produce to show how a patient can make healthier lifestyle choices.

In the Lankenau waiting rooms, hospital employees lead nutrition courses and food demonstrations. An employee might bring in the materials for a carrot salad, discuss the nutritional significance of each of its ingredients and then chop and assemble the salad in front of patients. Afterward, patients are given the ingredients and a recipe to try at home.

For years before the farm, health educators employed by the hospital ran roughly 14 programs in a health education center with two classrooms in the middle of Lankenau's facilities. Seven thousand to 10,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade took courses each year in physical health, like nutrition, as well as social health issues, like bullying and harassment.

Now, part of the mission of the farm is to serve as what Onyekere calls a "learning laboratory" for classes about healthy eating, and to create a hands-on experience for students to learn about nutrition, gardening and building healthy behaviors.

Outside the hospital, Lankenau—in partnership with The Food Trust and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health—incentivizes healthy food buying by providing coupons called Philly Food Bucks. These coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables are valid at more than 30 farmers markets and are given to patients who express the desire for better access to healthy foods.

"From the moment the patient walks into the door to the moment they leave the office, that whole experience is focused on improving their health," Onyekere said.

Drew Harris, director of health policy and population health at Thomas Jefferson University's College of Population Health, said that only recently have health providers begun to take accountability for addressing food insecurity among their patients. A former practicing doctor with a specialty in diabetes, he remembers having a very different philosophy about chronic diseases and overall patient health.

"Like many doctors, I probably blamed the patients for not getting well," he said. "I didn't really ask the question: Did they have the ability to follow the diet they were supposed to follow as a diabetic?"

Harris eventually became interested in the wider issues that led to chronic illness. While some patients are never taught health literacy, he said, for others "challenges in life can intervene."

"Not having food security—not knowing where your next meal is going to come from or whether you can purchase everything you need to purchase when you need to—is a major challenge," he said.

What's more, the tools for patient treatment taught in the medical profession have been so focused on prescriptions and procedures, Harris said, that doctors do not always learn the importance of stressing to their patients things like how to create a balanced diet and where to access those foods—knowledge that could keep people out of the hospital in the first place.

Though food insecurity is not a new issue, he thinks medical education is just starting to take a more holistic approach.

"There's a much stronger incentive to worry about why patients are not getting better and what we can do to avoid them getting sick in the first place, and a lot of it has to do with their social environment, their access to healthy food," he said.

Still, Harris stresses the need to pressure health providers. "Holding the medical profession more accountable for results—the quality of the care they provide—is going to make a difference," he said.

Onyekere estimates that Lankenau has provided farm produce to about 400 patients so far, and the hospital is about to launch a survey of patients to better understand the program's impact. Although she said patients have expressed that the farm is making a difference and raising awareness of how to incorporate healthy choices into daily life, the research survey will be a valuable resource for other health providers considering similar initiatives.

Going forward, Lankenau plans to grow the farm with four additional raised beds. Though this year's yield far exceeded initial expectations, staff took that as a sign that it can further increase production. Onyekere said Lankenau is also looking to donate its food to additional community partners, like local food banks.

Lankenau is not the nation's only hospital-run farm. Others include St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, both in Michigan; and St. Luke's University Health Network in Pennsylvania. But Onyekere is aware of none that have so extensively incorporated their own organic food into hospital life.

If America is to confront its growing chronic health epidemic, that integration is key, and, as these hospitals show, is already happening. "We're beginning to move from the patient outward to look more at the neighborhood and the larger environment in which that patient lives," Harris said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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