34 Movies and Series to Inspire During COVID-19
By Danielle Nierenberg and Katie Howell
While COVID-19 is exposing fundamental flaws in the global food and agriculture system, it is creating the opportunity to reimagine honoring farmers and food workers and producing healthy, nutritious food. The virus is forcing people to press pause on their daily lives, so Food Tank has compiled a list of 34 movies and series to watch from home that remind us of the power of food.
This list may serve as a guide to help you learn about large- and small-scale agriculture, the relationship between diet and health, and the social and cultural implications of the food system. But these movies and series also offer hope. They show how individual choices can foster connections between people, and they may even inspire you to advocate for a more equitable food system during and after the pandemic.
1. 10 Billion – What’s on Your Plate? (2015)
By 2050, the global population is expected to hit 10 billion. This documentary from German film director Valentin Thurn looks at how we could feed that world. The film explores food production and distribution, analyzing potential solutions to meet the enormous demand on the global agriculture system. The most-viewed film in German cinemas in 2015, "10 Billion — What's on Your Plate?" provides a broad look into the issues in current food production and offers a glimpse of hope through innovation.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube
2. Always Be My Maybe (2019)
"Always Be My Maybe" is a romantic comedy that follows a successful chef named Sasha as she reunites with her childhood best friend as an adult. During her stay in San Francisco to open a new restaurant, Sasha, played by Ali Wong, and her old friend rediscover their connection though eating, and she remembers the influence her friend's family had on her love of cooking. "Always Be My Maybe" shows Sasha's journey as she falls in love and reconnects to her Asian American culture.
Where to watch it: Netflix
3. A Tale of Two Kitchens (2019)
"A Tale of Two Kitchens" is about two restaurants — Cala in San Francisco and Contramar in Mexico City — owned and operated by acclaimed Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara. The film tells the stories of the restaurants' staff, alternating between personal accounts and shots of employees interacting with customers and preparing meals. "A Tale of Two Kitchens" offers an inspiring look into how people find personal and professional growth in the restaurant industry and how restaurants can become second homes for those that work in them.
Where to watch it: Netflix
4. Barbecue (2017)
Embarking on a journey across 12 countries, "Barbecue" tells a story of the culture behind grilling meat and how it brings people together. The film offers a portrait of those who stoke the flames, showing that barbecue is not just about the meat, but about the rituals, stories, and traditions that surround the process. "Barbecue" won the James Beard Award for Best Documentary in 2018.
Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play
5. Before the Plate (2018)
Filmmaker Sagi Kahane-Rapport documents John Horne, Canadian chef and owner of the prestigious Toronto restaurant Canoe, as he follows each ingredient from one dish back to the farm they came from. "Before the Plate" offers a look into what it takes to grow and distribute food and the issues farmers face in today's food system.
Where to watch it: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Video
6. Caffeinated (2015)
Working with coffee connoisseur Geoff Watts, this film explores the life cycle of a coffee seed, following the process from bean to mug. The film focuses on the social and cultural landscape around coffee and how it shapes the lives of thousands of individuals worldwide. "Caffeinated" filmmakers interview coffee farmers, roasters, and baristas to provide a comprehensive idea of all that goes into a cup of coffee.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play
7. Cesar Chavez (2014)
"Cesar Chavez" is a biographical film that reconstructs the emergence of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s. The film focuses on Chavez, co-founder of the UFW, whose commitment to secure a living wage for farm workers ignited social justice movements across America. The film inspired a "Follow Your Food" series by Participant Media and the Equitable Food Initiative as well as won an ALMA Award for Special Achievement in Film.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play
8. Chef Flynn (2018)
"Chef Flynn" tells the story of Flynn McGarry, who became famous after running a fully functional kitchen in his bedroom at age 10. The film chronicles McGarry as he outgrows his bedroom kitchen and sets out to join New York City's innovative culinary scene. With a focus on the relationship McGarry has with his mother, "Chef Flynn" shows how far McGarry was able to go with the support and dedication of his family.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Hulu, Google Play, YouTube
9. Chef’s Table (2015- )
From David Gelb, the filmmaker that created "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," comes "Chef's Table," a series that profiles professional chefs around the world. Each episode of "Chef's Table" spotlights a different chef as they share the personal stories that have inspired their culinary ventures. The series has won a variety of awards, including a James Beard Foundation Award and an International Documentary Association Award.
Where to watch it: Netflix
10. Cooked (2016- )
"Cooked" is a series based on Michael Pollan's book by the same name. In each episode, Pollan focuses on a different natural element — fire, water, air, and earth — and its relationship to cooking methods throughout history. "Cooked" brings together different aspects of cooking to show its ability to connect us all as human beings.
Where to watch it: Netflix
11. Dolores (2017)
"Dolores" documents the life of Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the first farm workers union, United Farm Workers (UFW). Filmmaker Peter Bratt chronicles Huerta's life from her childhood in Stockton, California, to her work with UFW and becoming a leading figure in the feminist movement. Huerta has often not been credited for her equal role in establishing UFW; "Dolores" argues this is because Huerta is a woman, and the film strives to spotlight her heroic efforts in the fight for social justice.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube
12. Eating Animals (2017)
Based on the 2009 book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, filmmaker Christopher Quinn examines factory farming and its associated negative environmental and public health effects. "Eating Animals" spotlights farmers, activists, and innovators who are raising awareness about where our meat comes from and standing up to big companies to tell their stories.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, Hulu
13. Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table (2017)
In the 1940's, New Orleans' food and drink business generated less than US$1 million a year; today it is a billion-dollar industry that attracts tourists from around the world to the city. Many credit the transformation to the Brennan family, guided by Ella Brennan. "Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table" tells the story of Ella Brennan and how she revolutionized creole cuisine and helped push it into American mainstream dining culture.
Where to watch it: Apple TV, Commanderspalace.com
14. El Susto! (2020)
"El Susto!" tells the story of a sugar tax in Mexico, implemented in an attempt to curb the prevalence of diabetes. The film documents the battle between public health activists and the corporate wealth of the "Big Soda" industry, offering a look into the reality of challenging powerful industries. The film premiers this May as part of the virtual Vermont International Film Festival.
Where to watch it: VIFF virtual cinema
15. Farmsteaders (2018)
"Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his family as they try to resurrect his grandfather's dairy farm in Ohio. Once a thriving agriculture economy, Nolan's rural community has given way to the pressures of agribusiness and corporate farming — left with unused fertile farmland, abandoned buildings, and skyrocketing health issues. "Farmsteaders" gives a voice to a new generation of family farmers, showing the hardships those who grow our food are having to endure.
Where to watch it: POV – link through movie website
16. Fed Up (2014)
Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and journalist Katie Couric investigate the role of the American food industry in rising obesity rates and diet-related diseases. "Fed Up" uncovers the sugar industry's influence on American dietary guidelines and argues that hidden sugar in processed foods is the root of the problem. With the tagline "Congress says pizza is a vegetable," the film shows how interactions between industry and government can directly affect the health of the nation.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Tubi, Google Play
17. Food Chains (2014)
Supermarkets' buying power and farm contracts often set the substandard wages and conditions farm workers face. To improve their livelihood, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers demanded a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked. But Publix, Florida's largest grocery chain, refused. "Food Chains" follows farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, as they prepare for and launch the resulting hunger strike at Publix headquarters. The documentary aims to expose the exploitation of farm laborers and the complicity of corporations in the creation of conditions the filmmakers liken to modern-day slavery.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Tubi, YouTube
18. For Grace (2015)
"For Grace" tells the story of renowned chef Curtis Duffy as he builds his dream restaurant, Grace, at a difficult time in his personal life. Filmmakers Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski offer a look into each step in opening the luxury dining spot, Duffy's troubled past, and how he came to seek refuge in the kitchen. "For Grace" gives a bittersweet look into the restaurant industry and the sacrifice it requires.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Apple TV
19. From Scratch (2020)
"From Scratch" follows chef, actor, and producer David Moscow as he travels worldwide making meals from scratch. Each episode begins with a chef presenting a dish that Moscow then has to hunt, gather, forage, and grow each ingredient to recreate. "From Scratch" reveals the overwhelming amount of work that brings each part of a meal into the kitchen.
Where to watch it: FYI
20. In Our Hands (2017)
This one-hour documentary takes viewers on a journey across the fields and farms of Britain. "In Our Hands" discusses diversity of the land, the importance of generational knowledge, and the need for innovation to create a more sustainable food system. A project by Black Bark Films and the Landworkers Alliance, the film advocates for sustainable methods and the rights of small producers through a feminist lens.
Where to watch it: Vimeo
21. Just Eat It (2014)
"Just Eat It" explores the enormous amount of food waste that exists in the supply chain – from farms and retail to an individual's home. The filmmakers pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food for six months. Featuring interviews with food waste experts and food writers, "Just Eat It" exposes the systematic obsession with perfect produce and confusing expiry dates that has ultimately cost billions of dollars in wasted food each year. The film has received multiple awards from film festivals across North America.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Tubi, Google Play
22. Maacher Jhol (2017)
A Bengali film directed by Pratim D. Gupta, "Maacher Jhol" tells the story of a Paris-based chef returning to his home in Kolkata after 13 years. Challenged to cook a bowl of fish curry, a quintessential Bengali dish, the film shows the master-chef return to his roots and reconnect with his family.
Where to watch it: Netflix
23. Polyfaces: A World of Many Choices (2015)
"Polyfaces" documents the Salatins, a fourth-generation farming family, who moved from Australia to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the United States to practice regenerative farming. The film follows the family for four years as they operate Polyface Farm without chemicals and provide food to 6,000 families within a three-hour radius. "Polyfaces" shows how working with nature, not against it, is a way to reconnect to the land and to the community.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video
24. Rotten (2018- )
Zero Point Zero and Netflix combined to produce "Rotten," a series that highlights the problems in the process of supplying food. With a human-centered narrative approach, each episode focuses on one food product, interviewing manufacturers, distributers, and others involved in the process. "Rotten" reveals the corruption, waste, and dangers involved with eating certain foods.
Where to watch it: Netflix
25. Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018)
"Salt Fat Acid Heat" follows chef and food writer Samin Nosrat as she travels the world to explore the core principles of cooking. Based on Nosrat's New York Times bestselling book of the same name, Nosrat uses each episode to travel to Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, where she began her culinary career. "Salt Fat Acid Heat" helps the audience learn about each element of cooking and how to incorporate them into their own recipes.
Where to watch it: Netflix
26. SEED: The Untold Story (2016)
A winner of 18 film festival awards, "SEED: The Unknown Story" follows the story of farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers in their fight to defend seeds from the control of biotech companies. The film highlights the importance of the seed in the future of our food and presents a heartening story about the efforts to reintegrate an appreciation of seeds into our culture. "SEED" features Vandana Shiva, Dr. Jane Goodall, Andrew Kimbrell, Winona Laduke, and Raj Patel.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play
27. Soul of a Banquet (2014)
"Soul of a Banquet" shows the journey of Cecilia Chiang and how she introduced America to authentic Chinese food. Chiang opened The Mandarin, her internationally renowned restaurant in San Francisco, in 1961 and has since greatly influenced the culinary scene in the United States. Through interviews with Chiang as well as Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl, the film documents Chiang's life in Beijing, her move to the United States, and how she became a restaurateur.
Where to watch it: Hulu, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Video
28. Sustainable (2016)
"Sustainable" investigates the economic and environmental instability of the current agriculture system and the actors in the food system who are working to change this. The film presents the leadership and knowledge of some prominent sustainable farmers around the United States, like Bill Niman, Klaas Martens and John Kempf, who are challenging the country to build a more ethical agriculture system. The film offers a story of hope, with a promise that our food system can be transformed into one that is sustainable for future generations.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube
29. That Sugar Film (2014)
"That Sugar Film" looks at the impact of high-sugar diets on an Aboriginal community in Australia and travels to the United States to interview the world's sugar experts. When director Damon Gameau decides to test the effects of sugar on his own health, he consumes foods commonly perceived as healthy, revealing the prevalence of sugar in each item. The film documents how sugar has become the most dominant food in the world, infiltrating both our diets and culture.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Documentary Mania
30. The Biggest Little Farm (2018)
"The Biggest Little Farm" follows John and Molly Chester for eight years as they transition from city living to a 200-acre farm. Directed by John Chester, the film shows the couple start Apricot Lane Farms and follows the farm's expansion to include multiple animals and fruit and vegetable varieties. Through their work, the Chesters find that the importance of biodiversity extends far beyond the farm.
Where to watch it: YouTube, Google Play
31. The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution (2018)
Director Maya Gallus profiles seven female chefs as they face obstacles in a profession dominated by men. "The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution" shows how the culture of restaurant kitchens has bred toxic working conditions and how women are working to change it. Through the women's stories, the film documents the greater challenges female chefs face as they attempt to rise to the top of the restaurant industry.
Where to watch it: Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Video
32. The Lunchbox (2013)
"The Lunchbox" tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a lonely housewife and a widower. The housewife, played by Nimrat Kaur, decides to prepare her husband creative, elaborate lunches, sending them along with a note through the famously complicated Mumbai lunch delivery system. The lunchbox ends up with the wrong man, played by the late Irrfan Khan. The housewife recognizes her mistake and sends Khan another note to apologize, starting a conversation between the two and sparking a relationship as they discuss life's joys and sorrows over the exchange of delicious meals.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play
33. Ugly Delicious (2018- )
"Ugly Delicious" combines travel, history, and cooking as award-winning chef David Chang takes the audience on a journal to culinary hot spots around the world. Each episode explores one dish or concept and tells the story of how it is made in different regions and how it has evolved over time. Chang brings guests, such as Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Kroll, and Peter Meehan, to join him as he celebrates different cultures through food.
Where to watch it: Netflix
34. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017)
Executive-produced by the late Anthony Bourdain, filmmakers Anna Chai and Nari Kye aim to change the way people buy, cook, recycle, and eat food. "Wasted!" not only explores the effects of systematic food waste on the environment, but also offers potential solutions. The film follows some of the world's most influential chefs who create dishes from typically discarded items and features success stories from around the world. These efforts try to show the audience that any action, no matter how small, can contribute to the fight against food waste.
Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vimeo
- 7 of the Best New Documentaries About Global Warming - EcoWatch ›
- How to Deal With Cabin Fever - EcoWatch ›
- 3 New Documentaries to Watch While Quarantined This Earth Day ... ›
- Food Tank’s Summer 2020 Reading List - EcoWatch ›
By Tara Lohan
A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.
Threats to Birds<p>One of the gravest threats facing birds is climate change, according to Audubon, which found that rising temperatures threaten <a href="https://www.audubon.org/2019climateissue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nearly two-thirds of North America's bird species</a>. That's why the impending development of offshore wind is a good thing, says Shilo Felton, a field manager in the organization's Clean Energy Initiative, but it also comes with dangers to birds that need to be better studied and mitigated.</p><p>The most obvious risk comes from birds colliding with spinning turbine blades. But offshore wind developments can also displace birds from foraging or roost sites, as well as migratory pathways.</p><p>Along the Atlantic Coast four imperiled species are of top concern to conservationists: the endangered piping plover, red knot, roseate tern and black-capped petrel, which is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.</p><p>"Those four species are of utmost importance to make sure that we understand the impacts," says Felton. "But beyond that there are many species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that could potentially see more impacts from offshore wind."</p><p>Northern gannets, for example, are at risk not just for collision but <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308703197_Possible_impacts_of_offshore_wind_farms_on_seabirds_a_pilot_study_in_Northern_Gannets_in_the_southern_North_Sea" target="_blank">habitat displacement</a>.</p>
A northern gannet flying along Cape May, N.J. Ann Marie Morrison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>"There's <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">some evidence</a> that they just won't use areas where turbines are, but that also excludes them from key foraging areas," says Felton. Researchers are still studying what this may mean for the birds. But a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141113620305304" target="_blank">study</a> published in December 2020 conducted at Bass Rock, Scotland — home to the world's largest northern gannet colony — found that wind developments could reduce their growth rate, though not enough to cause a population decline.</p><p>Other birds, such as great cormorants and European shags, are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">attracted to wind developments</a> and use the infrastructure to rest while opening up new foraging areas farther from shore.</p><p>"There's plenty of potential for a bird to use a wind farm and still to avoid the turbines themselves," says Felton.</p><p>Birds like pelicans, however, are less versatile in their movements and are at particular risk of collision because of their flight pattern, she says.</p><p>But how disruptive or dangerous offshore turbines will be along the East Coast isn't yet known.</p><p>Federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations, says Felton, have done good research to try to better understand those potential impacts. "But these are all theoretical, because we don't have a lot of offshore wind yet in the United States."</p>
Threats to Ocean Life<p>Birds aren't the only wildlife of concern. More development in ocean waters could affect a litany of marine species, some of which are already facing other pressures from overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.</p><p>Scientists have found that marine mammals like whales and dolphins could be disturbed by the jarring sounds of construction, especially if pile driving is used to hammer the steel turbine platform into the seafloor.</p><p>The noises, though short-lived, could impede communication between animals, divert them from migration routes or cause them to seek less suitable areas for feeding or breeding. Research from Europe found that harbor porpoises, seals and dolphins may avoid development areas during construction. In most, but <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/045101" target="_blank">not all cases</a>, the animals were believed to have returned to the area following construction.</p><p>The biggest concern for conservation groups in the United States is the critically endangered North American right whale. There are fewer than 400 remaining, and the species' habitat overlaps with a number of planned wind development areas along the East Coast.</p><p>"Offshore wind is in no way the cause of the challenges the whales face, but it's going to be another pressure point," says John Rogers, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.</p><p>Researchers aren't sure how right whales will respond to the noise from pile driving.</p><p>"But we are concerned, based on what we know about how whales react to other noise sources, that they may avoid [wind development] areas," says Kershaw.</p><p>And if that displacement causes them to miss out on important food resources, it could be dangerous for a species already on the brink.</p><p>There are a few other potential threats, too.</p><p>Ships associated with the development — more plentiful during construction — also pose a danger. In the past few years cargo ships, fishing boats and other vessels have caused half of all deaths of North Atlantic right whales.</p>
A juvenile right whale breaches against the backdrop of a ship near the St. Johns River entrance. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit #775-1600-10<p>And after construction, the noise from the spinning turbines will be present in the water at low decibels. "We don't quite know how the great whales will react to those sounds," says Jeremy Firestone, the director of the Center for Research in Wind at the University of Delaware.</p><p>Other marine mammals may also perceive the noise, but at low decibels it's unlikely to be an impediment, <a href="http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v309/p279-295/" target="_blank">research has found</a>.</p><p>And it's possible that wind development could help some ocean life. Turbine foundations can attract fish and invertebrates for whom hard substrates create habitat complexity — known as the "reef effect," according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island's <a href="https://dosits.org/animals/effects-of-sound/anthropogenic-sources/wind-turbine/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Discovery of Sound in the Sea</a> program. Exclusion of commercial fishing nearby may also help shelter fish and protect marine mammals from entanglements in fishing gear.</p>
Ensuring Safe Development<p>Despite the potential dangers, researchers have gathered a few best practices to help diminish and possibly eliminate some risks.</p><p>When it comes to ship strikes, the easiest thing is to slow boats down, mandating a speed of <a href="https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/vessel-speed-limits-sought-protect-endangered-north-atlantic-right-whales-2020-08-06/" target="_blank">10 knots</a> in wind development areas, and using visual and acoustic monitoring for whales.</p><p>Adjusting operations to reduce boat trips between the shore and the wind development will also help. A new series of service operating vessels can allow maintenance staff to spent multiple days onsite, says Kershaw, cutting down on boat traffic.</p><p>For construction noise concerns, developers can avoid pile driving during times of the year when whales are present. And, depending on the marine environment, developers could use "quiet foundations" that don't require pile driving. These include gravity-based or suction caisson platforms.</p><p>Floating turbines are also used in deep water, where they're effectively anchored in place — although that poses its own potential danger. "We have concerns that marine debris could potentially become entangled around the mooring cables of the floating arrays and pose a secondarily entanglement risk to some species," says Felton, who thinks more research should be conducted before those become operational in U.S. waters — a process that's already underway in Maine, where a <a href="https://composites.umaine.edu/2020/08/05/diamond-offshore-wind-rwe-renewables-join-the-university-of-maine-to-lead-development-of-maine-floating-offshore-wind-demonstration-project/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">demonstration project is being built</a>.</p><p>If loud noises are unavoidable during construction, noise-reducing technologies such as bubble curtains can help dampen the sound. And scheduling adjacent projects to conduct similar work at the same time could limit the duration of disturbances.</p>
The foundation installation of the off shore wind farm Sandbank using a bubble curtain. Vattenfall / Ulrich Wirrwa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Once turbines become operational, reducing the amount of light on wind platforms or using flashing lights could help deter some seabirds, NRDC <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/harnessing-wind-advance-wind-power-offshore-ib.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers reported</a>. And scientists are exploring using ultrasonic noises and ultraviolet lighting to keep bats away. "Feathering," or shutting down the turbine blades during key migration times, could also help prevent fatalities.</p><p>"We need to make sure that offshore wind is the best steward it can be of the marine ecosystem, because we want and expect it to be a significant part of the clean energy picture in some parts of the country," says Rogers. "We also have to recognize that we're going to learn by doing, and that some of these things we're going to figure out best once we have more turbines in the water."</p><p>That's why environmental groups say it's important to establish baseline information on species before projects begin, and then require developers to conduct monitoring during construction and for years after projects are operational.</p><p>Employing an "adaptive management framework" will ensure that developers can adjust their management practices as they go when new information becomes available, and that those best practices are incorporated into the requirements for future projects.</p>
Putting Research Into Action<p>Advancing these conversations at the federal level during the Trump administration, though, has been slow going.</p><p>"We didn't really have any productive discussions with the administration in the last four years," says Kershaw.</p><p>And when it comes to birds, Felton says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's recently completed "draft cumulative environmental impact statement" covering offshore wind developments had a lot of good environmental research, but little focus on birds.</p><p>"Part of that comes from the current administration's interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," she says.</p><p>President Trump has been hostile to both wind energy <em>and</em> birds, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/climate/trump-migratory-bird-protections.html" target="_blank">and finished gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act</a> in his administration's the final days, removing penalties for companies whose operations kill migratory birds.</p><p>There's hope that the Biden administration will take a different approach. But where the federal government has been lacking lately, Kershaw says, they've seen states step up.</p><p>New York, for example, has established an <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Technical Working Group</a> composed of stakeholders to advise on environmentally responsible development of offshore wind.</p><p>The group is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but it isn't limited to the Empire State. It's regional in focus and includes representatives from wind developers with leases between Massachusetts and North Carolina; state agencies from Massachusetts to Virginia; federal agencies; and science-based environmental NGOs.</p><p>New York's latest solicitation for clean energy projects includes up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind and <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/announcements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requires developers</a> to contribute at least $10,000 per megawatt for regional monitoring of fisheries and other wildlife.</p><p>Environmental groups have also worked directly with developers, including an agreement with Vineyard Wind — an 800-megawatt project off the Massachusetts coast that could be the first utility-scale wind development in federal waters — to help protect North Atlantic right whales.</p><p>The agreement includes no pile driving from Jan. 1 to April 30, ceasing activities at other times when whales are visually or acoustically identified in the area, speed restrictions on vessels, and the use of noise reduction technology, such as a bubble curtain during pile driving.</p><p>"The developers signed the agreement with us, and then they incorporated, most, if not all of those measures into the federal permitting documents," says Kershaw. "The developers really did a lot of bottom up work to make sure that they were being very protective of right whales."</p><p>Environmental groups are in talks with other developers on agreements too, but Felton wants to see best practices being mandated at the federal level.</p><p>"It's the sort of a role that should be being played by the federal government, and without that it makes the permitting and regulation process less stable and less transparent," she says." And that in turn slows down the build out of projects, which is also bad for birds because it doesn't help us address and mitigate for climate change."</p><p>Kershaw agrees there's a lot more work to be done, especially at the federal level, but thinks we're moving in the right direction.</p><p>"I think the work that's been done so far in the United States has really laid the groundwork for advancing this in the right way and in a way that's protective of species and the environment," she says. "At the same time, it's important that offshore wind does advance quickly. We really need it to help us combat the worst effects of climate change."</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/offshore-wind-wildlife" target="_blank" style="">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
- U.S. Offshore Wind Power Blown on Course - EcoWatch ›
- How Renewable Energy Could Power Your State - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton
Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.
Blackpoll warbler. PJTurgeon / Wikipedia<p>We used this information to determine how the number of migratory bird species varies based on each city's level of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/light-pollution" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">light pollution</a> – brightening of the night sky caused by artificial light sources, such as buildings and streetlights. We also explored how species numbers vary based on the quantity of tree canopy cover and impervious surface, such as concrete and asphalt, within each city. Our findings show that cities can help migrating birds by planting more trees and reducing light pollution, especially during spring and autumn migration.</p>
Declining Bird Populations<p>Urban areas contain numerous dangers for migratory birds. The biggest threat is the risk of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-13-090.1" target="_blank">colliding with buildings or communication towers</a>. Many migratory bird populations have <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw1313" target="_blank">declined over the past 50 years</a>, and it is possible that light pollution from cities is contributing to these losses.</p><p>Scientists widely agree that light pollution can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708574114" target="_blank">severely disorient migratory birds</a> and make it hard for them to navigate. Studies have shown that birds will cluster around brightly lit structures, much like insects flying around a porch light at night. Cities are the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2029" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">primary source of light pollution for migratory birds</a>, and these species tend to be more abundant within cities <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.13792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during migration</a>, especially in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103892" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city parks</a>.</p>
Composite image of the continental U.S. at night from satellite photos. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The Power of Citizen Science<p>It's not easy to observe and document bird migration, especially for species that migrate at night. The main challenge is that many of these species are very small, which limits scientists' ability to use electronic tracking devices.</p><p>With the growth of the internet and other information technologies, new data resources are becoming available that are making it possible to overcome some of these challenges. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07106-5" target="_blank">Citizen science initiatives</a> in which volunteers use online portals to enter their observations of the natural world have become an important resource for researchers.</p><p>One such initiative, <a href="https://ebird.org/home" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird</a>, allows bird-watchers around the globe to share their observations from any location and time. This has produced one of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.04632" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largest ecological citizen-science databases in the world</a>. To date, eBird contains over 922 million bird observations compiled by over 617,000 participants.</p>
Light Pollution Both Attracts and Repels Migratory Birds<p>Migratory bird species have evolved to use certain migration routes and types of habitat, such as forests, grasslands or marshes. While humans may enjoy seeing migratory birds appear in urban areas, it's generally not good for bird populations. In addition to the many hazards that exist in urban areas, cities typically lack the food resources and cover that birds need during migration or when raising their young. As scientists, we're concerned when we see evidence that migratory birds are being drawn away from their traditional migration routes and natural habitats.</p><p>Through our analysis of eBird data, we found that cities contained the greatest numbers of migratory bird species during spring and autumn migration. Higher levels of light pollution were associated with more species during migration – evidence that light pollution attracts migratory birds to cities across the U.S. This is cause for concern, as it shows that the influence of light pollution on migratory behavior is strong enough to increase the number of species that would normally be found in urban areas.</p><p>In contrast, we found that higher levels of light pollution were associated with fewer migratory bird species during the summer and winter. This is likely due to the scarcity of suitable habitat in cities, such as large forest patches, in combination with the adverse affects of light pollution on bird behavior and health. In addition, during these seasons, migratory birds are active only during the day and their populations are largely stationary, creating few opportunities for light pollution to attract them to urban areas.</p>
Trees and Pavement<p>We found that tree canopy cover was associated with more migratory bird species during spring migration and the summer. Trees provide important habitat for migratory birds during migration and the breeding season, so the presence of trees can have a strong effect on the number of migratory bird species that occur in cities.</p><p>Finally, we found that higher levels of impervious surface were associated with more migratory bird species during the winter. This result is somewhat surprising. It could be a product of the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/heatislands" target="_blank">urban heat island effect</a> – the fact that structures and paved surfaces in cities absorb and reemit more of the sun's heat than natural surfaces. Replacing vegetation with buildings, roads and parking lots can therefore make cities significantly warmer than surrounding lands. This effect could reduce cold stress on birds and increase food resources, such as insect populations, during the winter.</p><p>Our research adds to our understanding of how conditions in cities can both help and hurt migratory bird populations. We hope that our findings will inform urban planning initiatives and strategies to reduce the harmful effects of cities on migratory birds through such measures as <a href="https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/index.cfm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planting more trees</a> and initiating <a href="https://aeroecolab.com/uslights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lights-out programs</a>. Efforts to make it easier for migratory birds to complete their incredible journeys will help maintain their populations into the future.</p><p><em><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/frank-la-sorte-1191494" target="_blank">Frank La Sorte</a> is a r</span>esearch associate at the </em><em>Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University. <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kyle-horton-1191498" target="_blank">Kyle Horton</a> is an assistant professor of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the Colorado State University.</em></p><p><em></em><em>Disclosure statement: Frank La Sorte receives funding from The Wolf Creek Charitable Foundation and the National Science Foundation (DBI-1939187). K</em><em>yle Horton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/cities-can-help-migrating-birds-on-their-way-by-planting-more-trees-and-turning-lights-off-at-night-152573" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- Most Meat Will Be Plant-Based or Lab-Grown in 20 Years, Analysts ... ›
- Lab-Grown Meat Debate Overlooks Cows' Range of Use Worldwide ... ›
- Will Plant-Based Meat Become the New Fast Food? - EcoWatch ›
One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.
Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.