Debate Moderators Have Time to Ask About Bipartisan Friendship, but Not Climate Change
On Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered for what The Guardian said was the largest primary debate in U.S. history, and they weren't asked a single question about the climate crisis.
This comes despite the fact that a September CBS poll found that 72 percent of Democrats rated climate change as a "very important" issue, below only health care. It also comes despite a push from climate activists and some candidates this summer for a debate entirely focused on the climate crisis, a push the Democratic National Committee ultimately refused.
It is also a surprising omission given that the debate was moderated by CNN and The New York Times, Grist pointed out. CNN held a climate-focused town hall in September for the candidates, and The New York Times has a news team specifically assigned to the issue.
Climate activists and concerned citizens took to Twitter to express their outrage.
"Just a livable future for our generation at stake," the Sunrise Movement tweeted. "Guess there's no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it."
2 hours and 20 minutes into tonight’s #DemDebate and still not a single question on the climate crisis from @CNN @nytimes @DNC.— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) October 16, 2019
Just a livable future for our generation at stake. Guess there’s no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it. 🤷♀️
Viewers were especially outraged when, in the last 15 minutes of the debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper referenced the recent revelation that liberal entertainer Ellen DeGeneres and former Republican President George W. Bush are friends.
"In that spirit, we'd like you to tell us about a friendship that you've had that would surprise us and what impact it's had on you and your beliefs," Cooper asked.
The contrast between the gossipy nature of the question and the seriousness of the issue that was not raised drew ire.
"LAST QUESTION IS ABOUT BIPARTISAN FRIENDSHIP AND NOT CLIMATE CHANGE," University of California, Santa Barbara professor and climate politics researcher Leah Stokes tweeted.
Even some of the candidates called out the moderators for their priorities.
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro pointed out that there had been no questions about climate, housing or immigration.
"Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border," he tweeted. "But you know, Ellen."
Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 16, 2019
Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border.
But you know, Ellen.#DemocraticDebate
One candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, used the closing friendship question to address environmental issues.
"So I'm friends with a woman from Denmark, South Carolina, named Deanna Berry, who's fighting for clean water and environmental justice in her community," he said, according to a Washington Post debate transcript. "She's a different gender. She's a different race. She's from a different part of the country. But she reminds me of my parents in terms of her courage and her optimism and her honor."
Steyer also called attention to the lack of a climate question after the debate.
"I'll tell you what broke my heart is that no one asked a question about climate," Steyer told reporters in a video posted by NBC New York. "I've spent more than 10 years working on climate, I've said it's the number one priority of my administration, and that I'd declare a state of emergency on day one."
Despite the moderators' silence, most of the other candidates did mention the climate crisis during the debate itself, Grist pointed out.
Steyer also raised it during the foreign policy discussion, according to the Washington Post transcript.
"Let's go to the most important international problem that we're facing, which no one has brought up, which is climate," Steyer said. "We can't solve the climate crisis in the United States by ourselves. It's an international crisis."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) brought it up during a question about his federal jobs guarantee.
"Furthermore — and I hope we will discuss it at length tonight — this planet faces the greatest threat in its history from climate change. And the Green New Deal that I have advocated will create up to 20 million jobs as we move away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy," he said, according to The Washington Post.
We need a Green New Deal to save this planet. pic.twitter.com/mGDuwtTfLw— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 16, 2019
Finally, both Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg cited the climate crisis as one of the major issues the country still has to deal with as the impeachment process against President Donald Trump continues.
Buttigieg asked the audience to look forward to the moment when the Trump presidency is over, one way or another.
"But really think about where we'll be: vulnerable, even more torn apart by politics than we are right now. And these big issues from the economy to climate change have not taken a vacation during the impeachment process," Buttigieg said, as The Washington Post reported. "I'm running to be the president who can turn the page and unify a dangerously polarized country while tackling those issues that are going to be just as urgent then as they are now."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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