Fizz Off! Youth Challenge Soda Industry's Sugar-Coated Thinking
By Wendy Lesko
Coca-Cola’s mission is “to refresh the world” and promote “open happiness.” The world’s number one beverage company boasts about its initiatives “to support active, healthy living” such as donating to youth fitness programs.
Here are a few examples of young people who are questioning this sugar-coated thinking:
- Truth Unfiltered, Flavored Lies is an award-winning rap documentary produced by three high school students in Columbia, MD with the verdict: “Soda is the new nicotine.”
- P.H.A.T [Powerful, Healthy, Active, Teens] video has a reporter interview Youth Radio interns in Oakland, CA to askt hem about the amount of sugar in a can of soda and whether they might switch to water.
- Saludable Omaha YouthPower leader Jessica in Nebraska believes people feel more “refreshed” without junk foods and “Change is gonna happen” because of the movement.
- Youth Empowered Solutions! 15-year-old Dylan Goodman is part of a multi-generational team that’s exploring with store owners in Asheville, NC a plan that includes positioning healthier foods near checkout registers instead of candy and sodas.
- Zane Middle School Health Club in Eureka, CA conducted a photovoice project and learned from their student survey that many dislike the fountains because “the water is dirty and tastes bad.” Their research led them to propose hydration stations that dispense water into refillable bottles using infrared sensors. The student plan won unanimous approval by school authorities and demand for water is up.
- Kick the Can essay contest winner Shannon Segall of Davis, CA writes “Since teens are the largest consumer demographic these companies are targeting, then it’s time to use that power—the power to make different buying and drinking decisions, while sending a message to beverage corporations that these aren’t the products we want.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Let’s hope more young people will question the All-American facade of Coca-Cola and the soda industry, considering the figures below, amongst other things:
- Latino teens were exposed to 99 percent more soda ads and 80 to 90 percent more for African American youth than their white counterparts in 2010 than two years earlier.
- Each year Coca-Cola provides $3 million for its College Scholars involving 250 high school seniors; compare that with Coke’s $16 million to LeBron James or $35 million to sponsor American Idol.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National 4-H, Girls Inc., NAACP, American Diabetes Association are among hundreds of organizations that receive Coca-Cola charitable donations.
- Philadelphia Children’s Hospital received a one-time $10 million donation from the American Beverage Association as part of its successful strategy to defeat a two-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks projected to reduce consumption and raise more than $18 million/per year in revenues for city health programs.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.