Congress Should Listen to Stephen Hawking, Not Ted Cruz, on Climate Change
According to the Pew Research Center, just 14 percent of Republicans view global warming as a top priority. In addition, only 24 percent of Republicans view human activity as the cause for global warming. As for the views of certain GOP leaders, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made the following quip during a freezing winter: “It’s cold. Al Gore told me this wouldn’t happen.”
Echoing Cruz, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) wondered why Senate Democrats spent all night discussing climate change “during the cold spell that hasn’t been much fun in Oklahoma.” Inhofe also added that, “Maybe if you keep saying it’s real, people will believe it.” The statements of these GOP weathermen, as well as the views of most other Republicans, lead to the following question:
Should the U.S. create environmental laws based on the remarks of Sen. Cruz or scientists like Stephen Hawking?
Unlike Cruz and Inhofe, world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has likened the dangers of climate change to nuclear war. In a 2007 speech in London to the Royal Society, Hawking made it very clear that scientists must warn lawmakers of climate change:
As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to share that knowledge. We have a duty, as well, to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.
When one of the most brilliant minds in the history of science makes the claim that “if governments and societies do not take action now” pertaining to nuclear weapons and climate change, it’s only logical that people like Cruz and Inhofe should take notice.
In addition, other world renowned scientists have made similar claims about the importance of legislative action. World-renowned theoretical physicist and a climate change expert, Professor Michio Kaku, when discussing Hurricane Sandy, made the following call for both parties to take climate change seriously, "Whether you're for Romney or Obama, I think it should be on the national agenda."
Professor Kaku, of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York, also goes on to explain that although he had his initial doubts, the scientific trends behind climate change are overwhelming:
I used to be a skeptic. I used to say, 'Come on. The Earth is so big. We are so small.' But then you look at the indicators. The fact that all the glaciers are receding. We have wacky weather. We have 100-year storms that are now the new-norm. We have to realize the trends are all in one direction. There's not trend in the other direction. All trends are in the direction of the heating of the Earth, the energizing of the atmosphere, which provides the energy of the hurricanes.
When asked about skeptics in the scientific community, Kaku stated that it’s "near unanimous” and that “you have to hunt very carefully for any kind of skeptic … most of the skeptics, just like myself, have changed their opinion and now realize it's a real, tangible effect.”
Like Kaku and Hawking, 255 members from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2010 wrote an open letter calling for action on climate change:
We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular… For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet… There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.
Bolstering the views of Kaku and Hawking, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have added their names to the long list of scientists calling for laws based on science and not politics.
However, what about other scientists? Can Americans really risk the financial costs of overreacting to something that could be a hoax? According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, a study found that 97 percent of climate scientists agreed that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human beings.
What is most alarming about the Yale Project’s findings is the peculiar discrepancy between the vast scientific consensus and the views of the average American: “Despite nearly unanimous agreement among climate scientists that the Earth’s climate is warming due to fossil fuel burning and other human causes, only 42 percent of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is happening.” Also, one-third of Americans believe that “There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening. ”
Finally, legislation that curbs the effects of climate change shouldn’t be based on the views of politicians who turn on the weather channel. The fate of the environment should not rest upon the musings of Sen. Cruz and his scrutiny of Al Gore’s documentary. Rather, the greatest scientists of our generation, from Hawking to Michio Kaku, should influence Congress with their analysis and viewpoints. Future generations, years from now, will wonder what we were thinking if we let politicians overshadow the overwhelming consensus of scientists on the issue of climate change.
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By Jeanette Cwienk
This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.
"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?
Going Green, or Just Greenwashing?<p>"Fashion brands are capitalizing on the fact that consumers are interested in buying fairly and ecologically produced items," said Katrin Wenz, an expert in agriculture at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). "Organic cotton is certainly a step in the right direction, because neither <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/patents-on-plants-is-the-sellout-of-genes-a-threat-to-farmers-and-global-food-security/a-49906072" target="_blank">genetic modification</a> nor synthetic pesticides can be used in its production. But these own-brand sustainability labels rarely tell us anything about what happens later on in the production chain."</p><p>Viola Wohlgemuth, a textiles expert at Greenpeace, says companies create their sustainability labels and criteria themselves. "Sustainability is not a protected or specific term, which leaves the door wide open for so-called greenwashing," she told DW.</p>
Independent Certifications Trustworthier<p>Both experts emphasize that independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Examples include the Global Organic Textile Standard label (GOTS) and the IVN Best certification, which is awarded by the International Association of Natural Textile Industry (IVN).</p><p>Heike Hess, head of IVN's Berlin branch, says using organic cotton alone "is not enough to make fashion really sustainable," and that producing clothes involves a more involved production chain. After being grown in the fields, cotton fibers have to be separated from their seeds, spun, dyed, printed and sewn to create finished items of clothing.</p><p>"Ecological and social standards are important at every stage of production," Hess said. "That includes minimizing the use of harmful chemicals, managing water usage and waste, limiting CO2 emissions and ensuring human rights, fair wages, protections for workers and much more. Only then can fashion really be called sustainable."</p><p>And that comes at a price. <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/heres-why-your-next-t-shirt-should-be-made-of-organic-cotton/a-39083921" target="_blank">Organic cotton</a> summer dresses certified with the GOTS label usually cost somewhere between €60-100 (about $67-113). </p>
Water Polluted and Wasted<p>Textile production often uses harmful chemicals, especially during the wet processing stage when threads are formed, dyed and woven, says Wohlgemuth. According to the UN Environment Program, around 20% of global wastewater is generated during textile dyeing and processing. Communities and ecosystems in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/bangladeshs-textile-industry-works-towards-becoming-more-eco-friendly/a-50983898" target="_blank">textile producing countries across Asia</a> are worst affected.</p><p>Since launching its <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/international/act/detox/" target="_blank">'Detox My Fashion'</a> campaign in 2011, Greenpeace has secured commitments from some 80 global companies in the fashion industry to eliminate hazardous chemicals by the end of this year.</p><p>But that alone doesn't imply sustainability. Growing cotton also requires a huge amount of water and vast areas of land, says Sabine Ferenschild from the Südwind Institute for Economics and Ecumenism in Bonn.</p><p>"Organic cotton is only sustainable when grown in rainy regions such as India, and planted in combination with food crops rather than in competition with them," she said. "But we have seen that cotton farming is increasingly being shifted to desert regions. That can never be sustainable."</p>
Eco Collections Remain a Market Niche<p>Ferenschild is critical of major fashion brands' attempts to go green with their own criteria and labeling for certain products, while the majority of what they're selling is still produced conventionally.</p><p>Germany is pursuing a new approach to green certification with its government-backed <a href="https://www.bmz.de/en/issues/textilwirtschaft/gruener_knopf/index.html" target="_blank">'Green Button' label</a>. A company can only use the label if all its products comply with high environmental and labor standards. These standards are not as strict as those demanded by organic certifiers, but experts say the 'Green Button' label is a step in the right direction, as it prevents producers offloading responsibility to subcontractors in the production chain.</p>
An 'Eco' Dress for €20 ($22.60): Too Good to Be True?<p>According to the Bremen Cotton Exchange, organic cotton costs between 10 and 50% more than conventional cotton. Premium fibers boost prices the most; the raw material is not necessarily the most important factor in terms of cost.</p><p>Global fashion brands like H&M are able to keep their prices down, even for the products in their "sustainable" ranges, due to the huge volume of items they produce, textiles expert Ferenschild told DW.</p><p>H&M uses its own "CONSCIOUS" label for products which contain "at least 50 percent sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester." It is not clear to consumers what percentage of organic cotton is used in the items labeled as such. In response to DW's request for clarification, H&M wrote: "Across our entire range, H&M uses 16 percent organic cotton according to our most recent figures."</p><p>According to the Bremen Cotton Exchange, just 0.7 percent of the global cotton harvest in the 2017/18 season was organic.</p><p><strong>The Real Problem Is One of Quantity</strong></p><p>Even if the big fashion brands wanted to move further towards truly sustainable production, current consumption habits would make that almost impossible. The real problem is that far too many clothes are being produced. According to a 2015 Greenpeace study, there are more than five billion items of clothing in German wardrobes alone. </p>
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Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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