Obama Plan Helps Communities Prepare for Extreme Weather Brought on by Climate Change
New Yorkers remember all too well the alarm we felt as Superstorm Sandy pounded our city. Apartment buildings and hospitals were swamped, and entire neighborhoods went without power for days. People who lost their homes or businesses spent months trying to pick up the pieces. And city officials and residents wondered: will we be ready next time?
For in the age of climate change, there will be a next time. There will be more intense storms in my hometown of New York, and more extreme flooding, heat waves and drought in communities around the nation. There will also be many ways to make our towns and cities more resilient in the face of these changes.
On Wednesday, the Obama Administration made it easier to embrace those solutions.
The President announced a series of initiatives that will help communities maintain power supplies during intense storms and heat waves, prepare for flooding and sea level rise, safeguard rural drinking water supplies affected by the West Coast drought and fund natural disaster response.
The measures arose out of the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The group includes governors, mayors and tribal chairmen who have seen firsthand how climate change undermines public safety and local economies. They also know what solutions work on the ground.
The resulting measures reflect several important insights.
Extreme weather doesn’t just threaten our infrastructure. It also endangers our health. Intense heat, for instance, makes air pollution worse and contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Powerful storms can foul drinking water and raise the risk of drowning. The Obama Administration’s preparedness initiative includes a new tool from the Centers for Disease Control that helps communities identify climate-related health risks and determine if their hospitals, early warning systems and public outreach efforts are ready to respond to shifting hazards.
The Obama Administration’s plan also recognizes the role the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can play in helping communities assess climate threats. Every five years, states and local governments submit plans to FEMA for reducing vulnerability to storms, heat waves, wildfires and droughts. Yet the agency hasn’t asked them to factor in climate change when assessing the risk of future hazards. Now as part of the administration’s new measures, FEMA will require states to incorporate climate change into these plans—a move Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has urged. This will help states invest their money more wisely and protect more people, homes and businesses from extreme weather.
Wednesday’s announcement also calls for expanding one of the most effective solutions for reducing flood risk: green infrastructure. Towns and cities across the East and Midwest will experience more intense rainfalls, causing local flooding, overwhelming stormwater systems, and often sending raw sewage into waterways.
Green infrastructure—things like pocket parks, sidewalk plantings and permeable pavement—has been proven to capture rain where it falls and cut down on flooding. It also costs less than most traditional approaches to stormwater and raises property values. The administration’s plan offers incentives to spread these benefits to more cities and towns. NRDC is also encouraging states to expand support for green infrastructure as well.
In the end, the most important thing we can do to shield our communities from climate change is to reduce the pollution that causes it in the first place. The Obama Administration has released a Clean Power Plan that will help America slash dangerous carbon pollution. But even as our nation shifts to cleaner energy, we must help communities brace for the climate impacts that are already unfolding. The administration’s preparedness measures will make us stronger and more resilient.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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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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