A federal judge rejected a Trump administration lawsuit to put a stop to California's carbon cap and trade program, which regulates the state's transportation sector, as The Hill reported. The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018.
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What does the climate crisis look like? As wildfires continue to rage up and down the U.S. West Coast, we have some terrifying answers: orange skies; burnt-out buildings; a horse, seemingly abandoned, running past a stall as the hill above erupts in flames. These images help to ground an unfathomable reality.
Orange Skies<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3Mjc5MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTM5OTc2NH0.loFijHZV5bLC6hKOJ_T0avHsIGIwkO86UcuqQ6yySZU/img.jpg?width=980" id="01daa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8c43082a48f1c103935ac648e6dfa31b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A boat motors by as the Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear Fire in Oroville, California on Sept. 9, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images<p>People in Northern California looked out their windows Wednesday to a scene out of a <a href="https://twitter.com/Bunny_Godfather/status/1303909838376722432?ref_src=twsrc%255Etfw%257Ctwcamp%255Etweetembed%257Ctwterm%255E1303909838376722432%257Ctwgr%255Eshare_3&ref_url=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.newsweek.com%252Fbay-area-orange-skies-blade-runner-2049-1530961" target="_blank">science-fiction movie</a> as the sky glowed orange. Clouds of smoke covering the state filtered the sun's light and energy, tinting skies and lowering temperatures, <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/pictures-dull-orange-sky-wildfires-rage-western-200910140117147.html" target="_blank">Al Jazeera reported</a>. In San Francisco, the unusual color was a combination of ash from the Bear Fire mixed with the marine layer that provides the city's famous fog, <a href="https://abc7news.com/smoke-in-the-air-today-why-is-sky-orange-quality-index-oakland-bay-area/6414147/" target="_blank">ABC 7 News explained</a>. The effect was so remarkable that Hillary Clinton shared the image above, taken in Oroville, on her <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CE9XN59p0L7/" target="_blank">Instagram</a>. "None of this is normal, and confronting climate change is on the ballot this year. Vote, as early as you can, for a habitable planet," she wrote.</p>
Creek Fire Destruction<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3NDQ1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDI0MzIyM30.wL48hRI2OB72D0P_-4HoVfNYK01iIMcxOuDn6ELNIrw/img.jpg?width=980" id="ff2e3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33d8df94a86c9c1037d1075358ff1b6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A community of forest homes lies in ruins along Auberry Road in the Meadow Lakes area after the Creek Fire swept through on Sept. 8, 2020 near Shaver Lake, California. David McNew / Getty Images<p>The Creek Fire started on Friday, Sept. 4, just as large swaths of California were facing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/california-heat-wave-wildfires-2647443443.html" target="_self">record-breaking heat for Labor Day weekend</a>. The fire spread quickly through the western edge of the Sierra National Forest. Hundreds of people were airlifted away from the fast-spreading fire earlier in the week, according to <a href="https://abc7.com/creek-fire-214-people-airlifted-from-mammoth-pool-reservoir-in-daring-rescue/6411589/" target="_blank">KABC</a> in Los Angeles. So far, the fire has burned through 175,893 acres and was only 6 percent contained Thursday, according to the <a href="https://www.fresnobee.com/news/california/fires/article245647305.html" target="_blank">Fresno Bee</a>. <a href="https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/9/4/creek-fire/" target="_blank">Cal Fire's statistics</a> say the fire, which has ripped through the remote mountain town of Big Creek, has destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings. "My family has been part of this community since 1929 and knowing it's probably never going to be the same is just gut-wrenching," said Toby Walt, the superintendent of Big Creek School District, to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/10/us/california-family-wildfire-home-escape/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a>.</p>
Mass Evacuations in Washington<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3MzE0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzkzNTQ2N30.00ruy9U0-r1ZGhxKoolxUnjANilP5HBuyHnQ6F9CU-E/img.jpg?width=980" id="0395e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6bc6a225c344d37cc052d492ebdf6571" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Tinted orange by wildfire smoke from Oregon and southern Washington, the sun sets behind a hill on Sept. 9, 2020 in Kalama, Washington. David Ryder / Getty Images<p>As of Wednesday, wildfires had scorched 587,000 acres of Washington state, nearly half the area of land that burned during the entire record-setting fire season of 2015, <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/wildfire-updates-september-10-what-to-know-today-about-the-destructive-fires-in-washington-state-and-on-the-west-coast/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Seattle Times reported</a>. The fires prompted Washington Governor Jay Inslee to sign an emergency declaration Wednesday, and to promise cash assistance for people who have lost their homes to the flames. Hundreds of families have had to evacuate, including residents of Tacoma suburb Bonney Lake. One of them was Christian Deoliveira, who fled his home with his fiancé and five-year-old son early Tuesday morning. "I woke up at about 3 a.m. to a neighbor knocking on the door, saying the whole hillside's on fire," Deoliveira told <a href="https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article245572380.html" target="_blank">The News Tribune</a>.</p>
Animals Affected by Wildfires<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3MzU5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTUxMTgwOX0.8NceC4kmCJuDzYdE6sbCKFa2vAcLQvQNdDJfDUl8FAk/img.jpg?width=980" id="adfad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e2452f6e5e5ed4a0c4bf276335c7fd3e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A horse runs by a stall as flames from the Hennessey fire approach a property in the Spanish Flat area of Napa, California on Aug. 18, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images<p>Wild animals in the West are accustomed to wildfires as a natural part of the ecosystem. Some even need the burnt-out areas for their breeding grounds, while other predators will lie in wait for prey fleeing the fire. But the size and intensity of the current fires is beyond what most animals have adapted to. While scientists do not have a count of how many animals die in wildfires, they do know that smoke, fire and heat are extremely dangerous for animals that can't escape fast enough, particularly young and small animals, according to <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/09/150914-animals-wildlife-wildfires-nation-california-science/#close" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>. It's not just wild animals that suffer. Domestic pets are also left behind to fend for themselves as fire approaches and pet owners need to evacuate. Animal rescue crews are scrambling to find cats and dogs that were left behind. After finding one dog, Farshad Azad of the North Valley Animal Disaster Group told the <a href="https://www.timesheraldonline.com/2020/09/10/california-wildfires-conditions-improve-for-firefighters-but-siege-continues/" target="_blank">Vallejo Times-Herald</a>, "Everything around him was incinerated." He added, "People are really afraid. And people are hurting because their animals are missing."</p>
The Human Toll<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3MzczMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjU0NDAyNn0.zlna_AJwNcN5lABL8rtMthgcT12n4_4nv_SwZ56AwRk/img.jpg?width=980" id="82961" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8bb1df61a935c816093b6efb2110d306" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Resident Austin Giannuzzi cries while embracing family members at the burnt remains of their home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, California on Aug. 23, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images<p>The fires have claimed at least 23 lives and destroyed hundreds of homes in all three states. One of the hardest hit areas has been California's Butte County, which was also the site of 2018's Camp Fire, the fire that scorched the town of Paradise and was the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/camp-fire-california-wildfire-deaths-2620067114.html" target="_self">deadliest and most destructive in the state's history</a>. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Thursday at least 10 people in his county had died in the North Complex fires, while dozens were missing and hundreds of homes were feared lost, according to USA Today. The blaze even menaced Paradise again, though <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/09/11/9-a-m-update-fire-crews-continue-bear-fire-battle/" target="_blank">The Mercury News</a> reported evacuation orders for part of the town had been lifted. But Paradise's experience was repeated in the Butte County community of Berry Creek, which was obliterated by a part of the North Complex Fire Tuesday night. "The school is gone, the fire department's gone, the bar's gone, the laundromat's gone, the general store's gone," 50-year-resident John Sykes, who watched the blaze from a mile away, told <a href="https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article245611590.html" target="_blank">The Sacramento Bee</a>. "I'll never go back. I don't want to see it. That's why I'm leaving. I never want to see California again."</p>
Communities Threatened and Destroyed in Oregon<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3Mzg4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDk0ODc2OH0.hech4k958pQJXxCUupOLssjn9IzJcLkgbMzlH7rlCGA/img.jpg?width=980" id="90499" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1e39326a344d708fda44864f6a4d17a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A sprinkler wets the exterior of a home as wildfires approach nearby in Clackamas County on Sept. 9, 2020 in Oregon City, Oregon. David Ryder / Getty Images<p>High winds have fueled the rapid spread of the wildfires in Oregon, which are threatening the Western part of the state at an unprecedented rate. More than a half-million people have fled from the fires, which makes up more than 10 percent of the state's population of 4.2 million, according to the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54113416" target="_blank">BBC</a>. As of Thursday, there were 37 different blazes in the state, affecting people along the Interstate 5 corridor from Ashland in the south to Portland in the north. That includes Salem and Eugene. The blazes, which are only 1 percent contained, have decimated the towns of Phoenix and Talent, destroying hundreds of homes. "We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state," said Governor Kate Brown, as the BBC reported. "This will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is the bellwether of the future. We're feeling the acute impacts of climate change."</p>
Wildfires During a Pandemic<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk3NDA0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjI0MzA0OH0.kAZxX16X3_YVrcpdl5T-dSYUEaPovpK2l-R2-EmhtT8/img.jpg?width=980" id="53edf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5a47def2d11a34a4f305408fcd0f6f00" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A sign warning people about COVID-19 is surrounded by flames during the Hennessey Fire near Lake Berryessa in Napa, California on Aug. 18, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images<p>The intense fires in the midst of a pandemic that requires social distancing is complicating evacuation strategies. Usually, people fleeing fires will huddle together in school gymnasiums. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that a no-no. The same restrictions apply to firefighters who would usually bunk together in small spaces, according to <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-happens-wildfire-coronavirus-pandemic_n_5f3d6b90c5b609f4f673c34c?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubW90aGVyam9uZXMuY29tL2Vudmlyb25tZW50LzIwMjAvMDgvd2hhdC1oYXBwZW5zLXdoZW4tYS13aWxkZmlyZS1tZWV0cy1hLXBhbmRlbWljLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAANojonNDvEAcRnmhHQ_z_PTE54ALNvD_SBsIQgQff-H-nYonNfU6J5v8YXtuuVJKfuKxVIJauaGs0cc8lkSGIRnvDag0ya1gRxxKjmtfTicljJ3rOyvhs2RfGfK6RUTubneJ6wfnUQfyQdtH5YzY_qoEWYRvvrntI3C9DGrqPIfX" target="_blank">HuffPost.</a> Complicating matters further is that the poor air quality from the smoke may affect recovery from COVID-19. "We know that wildfire exposure to communities increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infection," such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia, said Dr. John Balmes, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, as HuffPost reported. "So there's concern in the context of the pandemic that wildfire smoke exposure would increase the risk of moving from mild to more severe COVID-19."</p>
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On a Labor Day weekend when the temperature hit 121 degrees in Los Angeles County, fire crews around California struggled to contain ongoing and growing blazes that have so far consumed more than 2 million acres this summer. That's equal to the entire state of Delaware going up in flames, according to the BBC.
The record heat coupled with dry and windy conditions is making the 22 fires in the state difficult for crews to contain. In a preventive measure, the state's power authority shut off electricity to 172,000 homes and businesses in 22 counties in Northern California. The power will not be fully restored until Wednesday evening, according to CNN.
The small mountain town of Big Creek in the Sierra Nevada mountain range saw trapped campers airlifted to safety while the fire burned through the town, destroying roughly two dozen homes, according to NBC News.
While a hydroelectric plant owned by Southern California Edison was destroyed, three propane tanks with 11,000 gallons of the flammable gas exploded and an elementary school caught fire.
The school's superintendent, Toby Wait, evacuated with his family, but his home was destroyed after they fled.
"Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community," he said to The Fresno Bee, as NBC News reported.
The fire started on Friday and grew to burn nearly 80,000 acres Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It is zero percent contained.
"This one's in a class by itself," said U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Dean Gould during a Monday night press briefing, as CNN reported.
Farther south, Los Angeles and Ventura county are under a red flag warning as the cooling temperatures after the weekend's record heat are expected to usher in high winds, which may fan the flames of ongoing fires.
The state's fire authorities are currently battling 24 fires across the state, according to the BBC.
While the red flag warning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties is expected to last through Wednesday, the state will also see wind gusts of up to 50 mph in Northern California. Those high winds are particularly dangerous as they pose the threat of spreading flames over the dry vegetation that is parched after the weekend's heat, according to PG&E senior meteorologist Scott Strenfel, as CNN reported.
"Unfortunately, this wind event is occurring on the heels of the current heat wave and will produce critical fire potential conditions," Strenfel said, as CNN reported.
"Windy conditions, like those being forecast, increase the potential for damage and hazards to the electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized. These conditions also increase the potential for rapid fire spread," PG&E said in a news release on Monday.
All campgrounds across the state have been canceled in a season that has seen a record number of campers. The U.S. Forest Service said the following in a press release: "Most of California remains under the threat of unprecedented and dangerous fire conditions with a combination of extreme heat, significant wind events, dry conditions, and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit."
According to the BBC, the Valley Fire in San Diego County has burned more than 10,000 acres near the small town of Alpine. In Angeles National Forest, the Bobcat fire has burned through nearly 5,000 acres and prompted the evacuation of the Mount Wilson Observatory.
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By Katell Ané
The European Commission launched a new Farm to Fork strategy in an effort to reduce the social and environmental impact of the European food system. It is the newest strategy under the European Green Deal, setting sustainability targets for farmers, consumers, and policymakers.
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The Great American Outdoors Act is now the law of the land.
<div id="e0008" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ffc07febbf5d2d585ad06d3f43e2be56"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290667833999929344" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Breaking News: The President has just signed the bipartisan #GreatAmericanOutdoorsAct. It will help: 🏗️ Restore… https://t.co/RPefKPMn7S</div> — Fix Our Parks (@Fix Our Parks)<a href="https://twitter.com/FixOurParksUS/statuses/1290667833999929344">1596554165.0</a></blockquote></div>
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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.
Size Matters<p>Climates are a bit like woven tapestries. The big picture is important, no question. But so are all the seemingly minor details found inside the larger whole.</p><p><a href="https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/tommaso-jucker" target="_blank">Tommaso Jucker</a> is an environmental scientist at the University of Bristol. In an email, Jucker says he'd define the term microclimate as "the suite of climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation) measured in localized areas, typically near the ground and at spatial scales that are directly relevant to ecological processes."</p><p>We'll talk about that last bit in a minute. But first, there's another criteria to discuss. According to some researchers, a microclimate — by definition — must differ from the larger area that surrounds it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/paleoecologylab/publications/Davis_et_al_2019_Ecography.pdf" target="_blank">Forests</a> provide us with some great examples. "The climate near the ground in a tropical rainforest is dramatically different from the climate in the canopy 50 meters [164 feet] above," says University of Montana ecologist <a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/personnel/details.php?ID=1110" target="_blank">Solomon Dobrowski</a> in an email. "This vertical gradient among other factors allows for the staggering biodiversity we see in the tropics."</p><p>Likewise, scientists observed that a 2015 partial <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/bees-stopped-buzzing-during-2017-solar-eclipse.htm" target="_blank">solar eclipse</a> caused the air temperature of an Eastern European meadow to <a href="https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2802" target="_blank">change more dramatically</a> than it did in a nearby forest. That's because trees provide not only shade, but their leaves also reflect solar radiation. At the same time, forests tend to reduce wind speeds.</p><p>All those factors add up. A 2019 review of 98 wooded places — spread out across five continents — found that forests are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) <a href="https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/47363-forests-protect-animals-and-plants-against-warming" target="_blank">cooler on average</a> than the areas outside them.</p><p>Now if you hate the cold, don't worry; there's a cozy exception to the rule. According to that same study, forests are usually 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the external environment during the wintertime. Pretty cool.</p>
A Bug's Life<p>When does a microclimate stop being, well, micro? In other words, is there a maximum size we should be aware of when discussing them?</p><p>Depends on who you ask. "In terms of horizontal scale, some have defined 'microclimate' as anything that is less than 100 meters [328 feet] in range," Jucker says. "I'm personally less prescriptive about this."</p><p>Instead, he says the "scale at which we want to measure [a particular] microclimate" ought to be "dictated" by the questions we're trying to answer.</p><p>"If I want to know how temperature affects the photosynthesis of a leaf, I should be measuring temperature at centimeter scale," Jucker explains. "If I want to know if and how temperature affects the habitat preference of a large, mobile mammal, it's probably more relevant to capture temperature variation across [tens to hundreds] of meters."</p><p>For instance, solitary plants have the power to generate itty-bitty microclimates. Just ask <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/geography/peter-blanken-0" target="_blank">Peter Blanken</a>, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the co-author of the 2016 book, "<a href="https://amzn.to/2XN6FT8" target="_blank">Microclimate and Local Climate</a>."</p>
The urban heat island effect is a good example of how microclimates work. NOAA
Microclimates on a Grand Scale<p>It's no secret that our planet is going through some rough times at the macro level. The global temperature is <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">climbing</a>; nine out of the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa" target="_blank">10 hottest years on record</a> have occurred since 2005. And by one recent estimate, roughly 1 million species around the world are <a href="https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf" target="_blank">facing extinction</a> due to human activities.</p><p>"One of the big questions that ecologists and environmental scientists are trying to answer right now is how will individual species and whole ecosystems respond to rapid climate change and habitat loss," says Jucker. "...To me, [microclimates are] a key component of this research — if we don't measure and understand climate at the appropriate scale, then predicting how things will change in the future becomes a lot harder."</p><p>Developers have long understood the impact small-scale climates have on our daily lives. <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/urban-heat-island.htm#pt0" target="_blank">Urban heat islands</a> are cities that have higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas.</p><p>Plants release vapors that can moderate local climates. But in cities, natural greenery is often scarce. To make matters worse, plenty of our roads and buildings have a bad habit of absorbing or re-emitting heat from the sun. <a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Microclimate_and_Local_Climate/LHUZDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=urban%20heat%20island" target="_blank">Vehicle emissions</a> don't exactly help the situation.</p><p>Still, it's not like Boston or Beijing are thermal monoliths. Sometimes, the documented temperatures <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/can-we-turn-down-the-temperature-on-urban-heat-islands" target="_blank">within a single city</a> vary by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 to 11.1 degrees Celsius).</p><p>That's where metro parks and city trees come in. They have nice cooling effects on nearby neighborhoods. "Several cities around the world have developed programs to increase urban green spaces," says Blanken. "Tree planting programs and green roof programs, have been shown to lower surface temperatures, decrease air pollution and decrease surface water runoff (urban flash-flooding) in urban areas."</p>
By Breanna Draxler
Climate change is the undercurrent that drives and shapes our lives in countless ways. Journalist Judith D. Schwartz sees the term as shorthand. "It's almost as if people think climate is this phenomenon, determined solely by CO2, as if we could turn a dial up or down," she tells me over the phone. "We are missing so much."
Overcoming Cultural Myths<p>Schwartz comes to the topic of climate solutions with curiosity and a deep appreciation for science. You can hear it in the way she writes about processes like transpiration and decomposition: "The logic of nature is no secret; it is laid bare in every streambed, every handful of living soil, every spiderweb, if we bother to take a look. Its tale is told through accrual or retrenchment of biomass, biodiversity, and soil organic matter: the stuff of life."</p><p>She has a particular soft spot for soil health, sustainable grazing, and water retention—subjects on which she has written entire books. These pop up throughout The Reindeer Chronicles as she attends Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Spain and Cowgirl Camp in Eastern Washington. (Yes, it's a thing).</p><p>While I find the name off-putting, Schwartz uses her Cowgirl Camp experience as a springboard to discuss the critical role of women in agriculture. The word "farmer" often conjures an image of a man on a tractor, but she writes that a third of American farmers are women, and in the Midwest, it's closer to half. </p><p>"It's our cultural myths. It's our myth of the cowboy. It's our myth of what a farm is," Schwartz says. "There might be women involved, but you think about them as the supporting cast. We tend to look for heroes before we look for heroines."</p><p>By perpetuating the myth of the male farmer, Schwartz says, "We miss half of the imagination, insight, problem solving, intuition that's out there." And when it comes to climate change, we're going to need all we can get.</p>
Naturalizing the Economy<p>Schwartz's writing is lyrical in its descriptions of systems normally not given such linguistic fanfare. When talking about the economy, she writes, "Its theme music—the vicissitudes of the market, job numbers, profits and losses—sets both melody and tone for newscasts and public debate, the inadvertent soundscape of contemporary life." She calls the disconnect between limitless growth and a finite planet "a society-wide exercise in fooling ourselves."</p><p>But rather than try to force the complexity of nature into existing financial structures—by giving value to resources and ecosystem services, for example—she writes of naturalizing the economy instead. This requires rethinking basic concepts we take for granted, like productivity, jobs, and meaningful work.</p><p>"There is no natural law that says profit must supersede other types of reward," she writes. "The truth is, we are what we measure—or at least our actions are largely determined by how we gauge success. What if environmental healing, social engagement, and a commitment to the future governed our companies and institutions, and therefore our work lives?"</p><p>A lot of the solutions in the book talk about connecting with the land. In some communities that access is collective, but I press her on the fact that access to land is incredibly inequitable. In the U.S., a lot of that has to do with historic and systemic racism. What role does justice have to play here, and how can that be factored into the conversation about ecological restoration?</p><p>"It plays a huge role," Schwartz says. "The people who are most at risk of losing work in this time are people of color and young people." Rather than try to shoehorn everybody back into a service economy that refuses to provide a living wage and requires working two or three jobs, she tells me, we can start investing in restoration.</p><p>She describes the magnitude of the potential benefits with enthusiasm: not just a wage, but tools that are going to be needed throughout the world—the capacity to grow food, manage landscapes, design dwellings. Not to mention the impacts on mental and physical health of being in natural spaces and eating healthy food.</p><p>Schwartz describes these as short-term signposts that give positive feedback on the long road to restoring ecosystems. Biodiversity inevitably bounces back, she says, and soil health, too. While she doesn't tackle the issue of racism head-on, she makes clear that healthy communities include people and the land.</p><p>"What can be more healing than to heal land?" she asks me.</p>
A Local Land Ethic<p>The book is somewhat meandering in its quest for resilience. Schwartz's willingness to entertain a wide range of ideas and approaches is central to her message: "Once ideas on how to achieve what's assumed to be impossible are articulated, that goal is no longer impossible."</p><p>She describes different communal land management traditions—the Himma that long sustained shared grazing lands for Bedouin shepherds in Saudi Arabia, and ahupua'a, whereby each self-sustaining unit of shared land in Hawai'i included functional ecosystems that stretched from the mountains to the sea.</p><p>"I was very humbled by Indigenous knowledge, understanding myself as a newcomer on that land," she says. She admits she has a lot to learn but is excited about the prospect. I ask her how she views the relationship between Western science and traditional ecological knowledge.</p><p>"They can serve as reality checks for each other," she says. She goes on to explain how in Western culture, scientific inquiry is about breaking things apart to look at them in greater detail. But this reductive approach misses the way things fit into systems. In this way, she says science can disconnect people from the very nature they are trying to understand.</p><p>"Originally science was based on keen observation," she says. "That is part of getting us to knowledge." Ancient knowledge systems emphasize the connections between humans and nature—and see humans as part of larger whole. She says science today seems to be bearing that out more and more.</p><p>Still, that doesn't preclude the need for ancient knowledge as the climate rapidly changes. "Who better to be able to keenly observe those changes than people who have known what it has been?" she asks me. "To have a baseline and to know the various factors that will be changing?"</p>
Centering Community<p>Alongside the understanding of place, Schwartz emphasizes the equally important respect for community. Her writing recognizes that climate change is not so much an environmental problem as a human problem.</p><p>"Running in the back of my mind, like the hum of those hovering bees, was the dawning realization that all the knowledge and technology needed to shift to a regenerative future—one marked by agriculture that builds soil carbon, retains water, produces nutrient-dense food, and revives land and communities—is already available," she writes. "It's only people that get in the way."</p><p>To come at it from another angle, as one of her sources puts it, "There is nothing wrong with the Earth."</p><p>In reporting the book, Schwartz reckons with the notion of imperialism and comes to realize the limits of information. Knowing more doesn't necessarily change minds, but feeling heard can. Building trust can. Overcoming fear can. She witnesses the power of consensus when decades-old feuds among ranchers in New Mexico dissipate with the formation of a collective vision for their future.</p><p>"Worst-case-scenario perseverating keeps everyone pumping stress hormones. This leaves us at once frozen and overwhelmed, unable to act or seek alternatives," she writes. "In short, we stuff our heads with worst possible outcomes and wonder why we get them."</p><p>In my favorite example from the book, from which the title is derived, Schwartz explores what some local Indigenous leaders have called "green colonialism" in northern Norway. She follows the efforts of an Indigenous reindeer herder to prevent the government from culling his animals. While Norway's government is considered among the most progressive in the world, it doesn't recognize the value of the grazing animals in climate change mitigation, instead investing in wind turbines on those very same lands. The herder's family considers reindeer herding a cultural bank for traditional language, handicraft, knowledge of the environment, and ecology. So the loss is far greater than the animals themselves. (<a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/09/02/norway-reindeer-herding-sami-culture/" target="_blank">Read an excerpt here.</a>)</p>
Homebound<p>"This was not an easy book to write," Schwartz admits, and the world looks very different today than when she was writing it. Schwartz says the pandemic has given her permission to fall in love with the place where she is. She describes her home in southern Vermont as beautiful, though somewhat dismissively, saying that she always viewed the action as taking place somewhere else. Home was just the place she returned to after each of her reporting trips to write without distractions.</p><p>Now, though, she says she's experiencing a newfound presence and grounding right where she is, and realizing there's far more to discover than she previously acknowledged. "What was in the background has become foreground." I would venture a guess that her shifted perspective is not unique in these uncertain times, and that's just what she thinks we need.</p><p>Even in the small town of Bennington, Vermont, where she lives, she's seeing the effects. A "grow your own food" webinar was offered in June. While a successful local event might usually attract five people, 100 people signed up. She says this is evidence that people are aware of the need for local resilience.</p><p>"We've all got places," she says. "Places have their own ecological logic. Let's do what we can where we are and learn from each other." That idea of connecting with place and community is central to her worldview. "The 'we' who can address climate change is everybody," she says.</p><p>"There is no one size fits all for climate action." Schwartz says we need to protest oil companies and make art and grow healthy food and feed one another and, in her case, write—all using our respective skills to imagine a more resilient world.</p><p>Her argument, reinforced by 2020's stay-at-home orders, is to focus on restoring the functions of whatever ecosystem you call home. Rhetorically, she writes, "How many microclimates does it take to make a new climate?"</p>
Tipping Points<p>In her concluding chapter, Schwartz asks what people would do if restoring ecosystems was achievable. She then lists possible answers, among them: keeping water in the ground, jettisoning the cynicism, and dancing.</p><p>I can't help but push back on this. After all, if our planet is at a tipping point, don't we need to do more and at larger scales to actually achieve meaningful ecological restoration?</p><p>Her answer is perfect in its simplicity: "Tipping points go both ways." We may be on the brink of disaster, if we choose to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. But maybe, just maybe, if we focus on the best possible outcomes, we can tip the scales to bring best-case scenarios into being.</p>
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By Jazmin Murphy
Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called "America," Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung," says Wanbli Wiyan Ka'win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. "We've had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table," she says.
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Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.
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By Andrea Germanos
A new report released Tuesday draws attention to the worldwide decline in insects and calls for global policies to boost the conservation of both agriculture and the six-footed creatures.
Insect Atlas. Bartz / Stockmar, CC BY 4.0
Insect Atlas. Bartz / Stockmar, CC BY 4.0
<div id="8fdf8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="375c252c346fe9796c1409d1a05fb0eb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1270286526702850050" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">What are the consequences for our food supply? "If we continue using pesticides so heavily, farmers will lose the… https://t.co/Kiz6VXe6Mc</div> — Friends of the Earth #BlackLivesMatter (@Friends of the Earth #BlackLivesMatter)<a href="https://twitter.com/foeeurope/statuses/1270286526702850050">1591694883.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Schimpf also drew renewed attention to the <a href="https://www.savebeesandfarmers.eu/eng" target="_blank">Save Bees and Farmers</a> European Citizens Initiative. It's centered on three key demands: a phase-out of the use of synthetic pesticides; measures to increase biodiversity; and support for farmers.</p><p>As of press time, the petition has over 355,000 signatures.</p>
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