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Musician Neil Young, who lost his Malibu home to the devastating Woolsey fire, is urging the world to come together to fight climate change—especially since the president of the U.S. seems "unfit" to take care of the problem, as the icon said.
On Sunday, the legendary rocker posted a letter on his website, the Neil Young Archives, blasting Donald Trump's infamous denial of climate science and his Saturday tweet that blamed California's wildfires on "gross mismanagement of the forests" even though most of the fires are burning on federal land.
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2018 is set to rank as the fourth warmest year on record—and the fourth year in a row reflecting a full degree Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) temperature rise from the late 1800s, climate scientists say.
This was the year that introduced us to fire tornadoes, bomb cyclones and in Death Valley, a five-day streak of 125°F temperatures, part of the hottest month ever documented at a U.S. weather station.
"We made a record we wanted to share with you," Canadian rocker Neil Young said in a Facebook post. "We played with a bunch of people ... total strangers in the same room on a full moon, 65 of us. It was very great. We had a great time. Enjoy."
Young is referring to his new Neil Young + Promise of the Real music video, "Children of Destiny," which urges listeners to "stand up for what you believe, resist the powers that be."
It was a good weekend for justice in America, which isn't something we get to say very often these days. That's because Friday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court kicked it off with a hopeful decision: The Trump administration can't stop the historic youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States from going to trial.
Neil Young and Daryl Hannah are standing with the water protectors at Standing Rock and urging President Barack Obama to step in and end the violence over the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Environmental activist and rocker Neil Young asks President Obama to stop the violence at Dakota pipeline protest.Flickr
"The camp grows as winter comes," Young and Hannah wrote in a lengthy open letter posted onto their respective Facebook pages. "Standing in protection of our most vital life support systems, but also for the rightful preservation of Native American cultural ways and their sovereignty."
The couple explain how the DAPL demonstrators are "standing strong in the face of outrageous, unnecessary and violent aggression, on the part of militarized local and state law enforcement agencies and National Guard, who are seemingly acting to protect the interests of the Dakota Access Pipeline profiteers, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars, above all other expressed concerns."
Watch footage of Young playing guitar at the DAPL protest site:
The protest, ongoing since April, has been marked by the presence of heavily militarized law enforcement who have used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons to blast away pipeline protestors in freezing temperatures. Last week, the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council reported 300 injuries and more than 20 people sent to the hospital, with many patients needing treatment for hypothermia.
One water protector, 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, might lose her arm following the police standoff.
The environmentally conscious musician and actress are urging President Obama to immediately take action in light of the recent eviction notice issued by the Army Corps as well as the presidential election of Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
"The surprise president elect was not the winner of the popular vote [and] does not have a mandate for the change of ideals envisioned. Keep in mind, close to over two million more people voted for another candidate," Young and Hannah wrote. "Nor is the surprise president the leader of the free world. Two hundred of the world's nations believe in science, above the profits of the oil, gas and coal industries, and are committed to working together to protect the future from an unchecked climate crisis."
"The surprise president claims he does not believe in climate science nor the threats it presents and his actions and words reflect that claim in tangible and dangerous ways," the letter states. "Do not be intimidated by the surprise presidents' cabinet appointees as they descend the golden escalator. Those who behave in racist ways are not your leaders. The golden tower is not yours. The White House is your house."
Young and Hannah promise in their letter, "We will be going back to support the water protectors again."
The two traveled to the protest site earlier this month to celebrate Young's 71st birthday on Nov. 12.
"Got my birthday wish today, my girl took me to #StandWithStandingRock #WaterIsLife," Young wrote on social media. "Those who damage Mother Earth, damage us all, forgive them, they don't yet see."
Young, a passionate environmentalist who has spoken against fossil fuels and pipelines before, released a protest song and video in September called "Indian Givers" which features footage of the DAPL protests.
"There's a battle raging on the sacred land / Our brothers and sisters have to take a stand," Young sings. "Against us now for what we all been doing / On the sacred land there's a battle brewing."
Young and Hannah call on on President Obama to protect his environmental legacy as well as future generations.
"Your growing activism in support of freedom over repression, addressing climate change, swiftly replacing a destructive old industries with safe, regenerative energy, encouraging wholistic thinking in balance with the future of our planet; that activism will strengthen and shed continued light on us all. These worthy goals must be met for the all the world's children and theirs after them," they stated. "This is our moment for truth."
"Unintimidated, stand, speak up and show up. Be counted. Be like our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. Be there if you can. The progress we have made over two hundred and forty years as a nation, has always come first from the people," they concluded.
Farm Aid's annual concert, an all-day music and food festival, will take place on Sept. 16 in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania.
Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Jack Johnson and Sheryl Crow will be headlining, among many other prominent musicians. Proceeds from the concert will benefit small family farms by providing farmers with resources and support.
A thousand-year-old Lakota prophecy tells of a Black Snake that would one day rise from the deep and move across the land bringing destruction and great sorrow. The Sioux believe that the Black Snake has arrived in the form of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the most powerful economic and political force in the world—the fossil fuel industry.
Not long after our group of travelers arrived at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota for a weeklong stay at the native-owned casino hotel, we began to meet Water Protectors, who were suffering from a police attack a few days before our arrival.
From home I had watched the horrifying scene on live stream. Blocked from escape, hundreds of unarmed Water Protectors on the bridge across the Cannonball River were blasted with water cannons for six hours in sub-freezing temperatures. I could see clouds of tear gas and hear people screaming and calling for a medic as the cameraman expressed disbelief that this was happening to unarmed civilians. Later we got the full report that exploding percussion grenades had severely damaged a native woman's eye and blown off most of the arm of a 21-year-old woman from New York. Several hundred were hospitalized for hyperthermia and injuries. In earlier confrontations, non-violent Water Protectors defending sacred sites from bulldozers were beaten with batons, bitten by vicious dogs, arrested, stripped searched and locked up for days in jail cells or held in dehumanizing dog kennels.
Now we were meeting victims first hand. The native-led Water Protectors, as they call themselves, rather than protestors, are living in nearby encampments to defend the land, water and sacred sites of the Sioux. There is no running water in the camps, so as other hotel guests were doing, we offered our rooms for hot showers. A young native man still covered with tear gas residue sprayed on him three days earlier, was suffering from a deep cough. Another had a broken hand. A native woman who worked on camp security fell asleep from exhaustion on one of our beds. Before taking his shower, a non-native ally who served as a medic showed us a blue colored rubber bullet about the size of a golf ball, one of many that had lacerated heads, broken bones and knocked people unconscious, including an elder. The medic had been thrown backward when he was hit squarely in the chest. He thought that surely, the large red cross he wore on the front of his jacket had been used as a target.
When I first caught sight of the law enforcement officers a few days later, I felt a chill. Dozens of helmeted policeman stood in a row along the high ridge of Turtle Island, a place of ancient burial sites sacred to the Sioux. Dark figures silhouetted against the sky loomed menacingly above the peaceful protestors gathered at the base of the hill holding a large banner reading Indigenous Sovereignty Protects Water. Behind them along the banks of the Cannonball River sprawled an encampment of teepees, tents, yurts, trailers, horse corrals and old school buses. Guarding the bridge where the recent attack had taken place, another row of police officers in riot gear wearing black helmets with face guards held bully sticks across their bullet proof vests as they stood behind shining coils of razor wire and concrete barriers flanked by armored vehicles.
These armed forces were protecting what lay out of view behind them—the construction of the oil pipeline headed toward the nearby Missouri River. The original route of the pipeline had run to the north near the city of Bismarck, a largely white community that had insisted the pipeline be rerouted down stream to cross the river next to the Sioux reservation. If successful the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) would bore under the river, threatening the source of drinking water for the reservation and millions downstream in its mission to carry 20 million gallons a day of crude oil fracked from the Bakken oil fields. With the frequency of oil spills increasing, including two major recent spills in North Dakota, the danger is real. If the pipeline does succeed in bringing the oil to market, it will produce the carbons equivalent to 30 coal power plants every year for 20 years or more.
Mni Wiconi—Water is Life— is the call from Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), the largest of several camps at Standing Rock, named for the seven tribes of the Sioux nation, which include the Lakota. Located next to the reservation and preserved for indigenous use under the 1851 Treaty of Laramie, this land was never ceded by the Sioux. Oceti Sakowin and the first camp called Sacred Stone were started in the spring of 2016, and joined by several other encampments, all run by volunteers. Non-violent and spiritually centered, the Standing Rock movement honors the sacredness of the natural world. Throughout the camps Defend the Sacred is printed on banners and on t-shirts proudly worn by native teenagers. All seven tribes of the great Sioux Nation, some former enemies, have joined together at Oceti Sakowin for the first time since Little Big Horn. Along the camp's main road wave the colorful flags of some 300 tribes who have journeyed across the Americas, from Argentina to Alaska, bringing traditional dress, ceremonial pipes and drums to join the Sioux in the largest gathering of Native Americans in recorded history.
In support of this native-led movement tens of thousands of non-native allies have joined the camps swelling them at one point to as many as 10,000. Many more have visited to bring supplies and resources to support Standing Rock. Our group of 35 traveled to North Dakota to cook and serve 2,000 dinners on Thanksgiving to express our gratitude to Native Americans for protecting Mother Earth, as they have throughout history. The Wopila (thank you) Brigade, as we called ourselves, spent two days at the Standing Rock Community High School kitchen, preparing the dinner, which we served in the school gymnasium, as well as distributed in the camps. Our brigade worked hand-in-hand with the school staff, who brushed away tears when they thanked us for coming, explaining that for so long the native community had felt unseen and forgotten.
Our dinner began with a prayer by elder Jesse Taken Alive who had given a Lakota name to the event that translates Because We Believe Them, We Are Feeding Them. In continuous loops from the camps, the Water Protectors arrived in school buses and were offered hot showers in the locker rooms before heading to the buffet. Jane Fonda appeared and asked me how she could help. "How about dishing out the mashed potatoes," I suggested, which she happily did. With their plates heaping with turkey, potatoes and gravy, and an array of vegetable dishes, our guests made their way to the gymnasium to take seats at long banquet tables we had covered in the Sioux colors of the four directions - red, yellow, black and white. Displayed on the tables and along one wall were colorful thank you cards made by Philadelphia area school children drawn in crayon with messages such as, "thank you First Nation People for helping the air and water and earth. Ethan, third grader."
By Alanna Wittet
Star status can bring the opportunity for celebrities to wear many hats and draw attention to environmental and health issues. Whether they are producing or performing music for fair trade campaigns, designing ethically sourced products or growing food for the hungry, these 10 stars are using their fame and dollars to advocate for a more sustainable food future for all:
Jessica Alba: After becoming a mother and struggling to find chemical-free personal care and baby products with transparent disclosures, Jessica Alba co-founded The Honest Company alongside environmental scientist Christopher Gavigan. The company creates a variety of personal care, cleaning and baby care and nutrition products that are sustainable, transparent, ethically sourced.
Jason Brown: After leaving his NFL football career in 2012, Brown took up farming to help feed North Carolina's hungry. His 1,000-acre farm, First Fruits Farm, donates its first fruits of the harvest to local food pantries. A self-taught farmer, Brown donated more than 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers to food pantries in 2014.
50 Cent: In addition to being a member of Feeding America's Entertainment Council, 50 Cent also aids in the fight against hunger through his Street King initiative. With every bottle of his Street King energy shot sold, he funds one meal for a child in need through the World Hunger Programme. Having funded 3.5 million meals so far, he aims to provide 1 billion meals. To combat hunger in America, 50 Cent has also partnered his SMS Audio brand with Feeding America to additionally fund 250 meals with every headphone set purchased in the U.S.
Coldplay: As a global ambassador for Oxfam International, Coldplay has vocally supported and furthered the reach of the organization's mission to end global poverty, injustice and hunger. Promoting Oxfam's GROW and Make Fair Trade campaigns while on tour, Coldplay helped disseminate the message to more than 100 million people. Lead singer Chris Martin has also traveled to Ghana and Haiti to observe the effects of unfair trade on farmers.
Michael Kors: Michael Kors is a Global Ambassador Against Hunger for the U.N. World Food Programme. Since 2013, Kors' Watch Hunger Stop Campaign has helped to provide more than 10 million meals to children through the WFP's School Meals Programme, while also engaging other celebrities on the issue of world hunger through their involvement in the campaign.
Kate Hudson: Joining Michael Kors and his campaign to alleviate hunger worldwide, Katie Hudson serves an ambassador and spokesperson to Watch Hunger Stop. In helping to launch his latest watch style for the campaign, every watch sold will provide 100 children a nutritious meal.
Jamie Oliver: In addition to being a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver further works towards building a stronger and healthier food system through his foundation, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. By providing food education programs and global campaigns to influence international food policy, the Foundation works to transform people's lives by both improving access to good, fresh and real foods and equipping people with cooking skills. He is also active in lobbying the U.K. government to establish a multi-sectorial Child Obesity Strategy to improve children's nutrition and reduce obesity. In 2016, Oliver's Foundation has been present at key global events including the World Health Assembly, The Nutrition Growth Summit and the U.N. General Assembly, championing policy to combat childhood obesity.
Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson: In 1985, Young, Mellencamp, and Nelson hosted the first Farm Aid concert to draw attention to the loss of family farms and to raise money to keep farming families on their land. To date, Farm Aid has raised more than US$50 million to support family farms in America by promoting food produced by family farms, supporting fair farm policies and providing resources that help farmers thrive.
Neil Young and TIDAL have partnered to give New York City subway riders a unique experience.
From July 15 - 31, the "S" shuttle train will have an eco-centric installation called the Earth Train. The train is wrapped in various Earth images—trees, water, clouds, etc.—and filled with facts that Young wants to share with riders.
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Earth Train was inspired by Young's album, Earth, which features songs about living on the planet together. The 98-minute uninterrupted album features 11 songs from his 2015 tour with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real mixed with sounds of the Earth, Rolling Stone reported.
"Our animal kingdom is well represented in the audience," Young said. "And the animals, insects, birds and mammals actually take over the performances of the songs at times."
Songs include After the Goldrush, Love & Only Love, Vampire Blues, Hippie Dream, Mother Earth and Western Hero, Rolling Stone said. Four tracks from Young's 2015 LP The Monsanto Years are included as well as I Won't Quit, a track he debuted on his last tour.
Between Noon and 3 p.m. Friday, TIDAL members that stop by the "S" train platform at Grand Central can pick up a complementary round-trip MetroCard. All attendees will also receive a 3-month membership voucher courtesy of TIDAL and Young.
Check out these incredible images of the Earth Train:
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Photo credit: TIDAL X Earth
Young—whose tour is promoting his anti-corporate album The Monsanto Years—along with other celebrities and organizations signed the Letter from America, an open letter to the citizens, politicians and regulators in the UK and EU. Based on American experience, the signees testify the potential harmful effects of the UK and EU adopting genetically modified crops.
The letter reads:
We are writing as concerned American citizens to share with you our experience of genetically modified (GM) crops and the resulting damage to our agricultural system and adulteration of our food supply.
In our country, GM crops account for about half of harvested cropland. Around 94% of the soy, 93% of corn (maize) and 96% of cotton grown is GM.
The UK and the rest of the EU have yet to adopt GM crops in the way that we have, but you are currently under tremendous pressure from governments, biotech lobbyists, and large corporations to adopt what we now regard as a failing agricultural technology.
Polls consistently show that 72% of Americans do not want to eat GM foods and over 90% of Americans believe GM foods should be labeled. In spite of this massive public mandate, efforts to get our federal and state governments to better regulate, or simply label, GMOs are being undermined by large biotech and food corporations with unlimited budgets and undue influence.
As you consider your options, we'd like to share with you what nearly two decades of GM crops in the United States has brought us. We believe our experience serves as a warning for what will happen in your countries should you follow us down this road.
"I support the Letter from America because it speaks truth to power, showing the harm GMOs have caused American farms and farmers, our environment, our health and even science and democracy," Young said. "Please take this seriously on behalf of all living things."
The letter is a product of Beyond GM, which aims "to raise the level of the debate on genetically modified organisms in the UK and elsewhere," according to the organization's website.
Glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—and the continuation of its use in the EU is a hotly debated subject. The European Commission approved an 18-month extension the day before its license was scheduled to end.
Extension was approved even without majority approval from the EU's member states, as reported by EcoWatch.
"This decision by the commission to extend the approval of glyphosate in spite of last week's vote shows a disdain for the opposition by the public and EU governments to this controversial toxic herbicide," Green Party MEP Bart Staes said.
Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis noted that the 18-month extension will allow the European Chemicals Agency to further assess the product's safety.
"As the reckless decision by the EU Commission to overrule all objections and relicense the hazardous chemical glyphosate shows, they and the UK government put corporate profits before the health of citizens and the environment," Lawrence Woodward, Beyond GM's co-director, said. "Only citizens taking action will redress this balance and we are proud to have Neil Young standing with on this."
Glyphosate is the "most widely applied pesticide worldwide," according to a February 2016 report published in Environmental Science Europe. To date, 18.9 billion pounds of glyphosate have been used globally, according to the report. The chemical's use has risen almost 15-fold since "Roundup Ready" genetically engineered crops were introduced in 1996.
Because of its wide use, glyphosate has been a subject of many studies into whether it causes cancer or not. Two major studies, in March 2015 and May 2016, have found contradictory results.
The first study, conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO)'s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded that glyphosate "probably" causes cancer in humans. But the second study, conducted by WHO's Meeting on Pesticide Residues and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, concluded the chemical was "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet."
Greenpeace EU has questioned whether the second report was influenced by industry ties. The organization alleges that Alan Boobis and Angelo Moretto, experts involved in the second study, have ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) in Europe, which receiving a majority of its funding from private companies, including Monsanto.
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This past Thursday was Thanksgiving. A time when we remember a feast, the first Thanksgiving, on Plymouth plantation in the autumn of 1621. The tales of pilgrims from the Mayflower who celebrated the harvest, shared and broke bread with the first Americans, are still used as inspiration and shared with children, teaching them the beauty of gratitude.
Standing Rock.©Lori Panico
But it is now widely understood this Thanksgiving story is a fictional history. It was invented to whitewash the vicious genocide wrought upon the native inhabitants of this magnificent continent. Not only did the Europeans try to eradicate native populations, but they made every effort to eviscerate their culture, their language and eliminate them from these coveted lands.
From Plymouth Rock to Standing Rock, this lie has made our Thanksgiving Day a day of mourning for the First Nations, all the tribes big and small, those who came before us.
A few weeks ago we traveled to visit the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. We arrived at this unprecedented historical gathering of more than 500 tribes and thousands of others standing on the frontlines to protect water, to state the most basic human truth, to say water is life. Despite the painful history, today they fight peacefully for us all.
The camp grows as winter comes. Standing in protection of our most vital life support systems, but also for the rightful preservation of Native American cultural ways and their sovereignty. Everyone we talk with is committed to peaceful resistance. Weapons, alcohol and drugs are forbidden there.
Standing together in prayer to protect water displays a deeply rooted awareness of life's interconnected nature, and of the intrinsic value and import of traditional ways. This growing movement stems from love, it is the most human instinct to protect that which we love. An eager and engaged youth are at the core of this pipeline route resistance, learning from a population of elders who pass down unforgotten knowledge.
It is an awakening. All here together, with their non-native relatives, standing strong in the face of outrageous, unnecessary and violent aggression, on the part of militarized local and state law enforcement agencies and national guard, who are seemingly acting to protect the interests of the Dakota Access pipeline profiteers, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, above all other expressed concerns. They stand against corporate security forces, the county sheriff and the national guard. Standing while being hit with water cannons, mace, teargas, rubber bullets. Standing without weapons and praying, the water protectors endure human rights abuses in freezing temperatures. Supplies arrive from all over as the social media universe shares the heartbreaking news to the world, that an American corporate media is not free to report. Thus, it is the ugliness of corporate America, seen around the world.
But they stand, their hair frozen from water cannons. They stand for all that is good and they stay strong.
We are calling upon you, President Barack Obama, to step in and end the violence against the peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock immediately.
We will be going back to support the water protectors again.
Let us all stand with them in thanks, in appreciation for the ancient wisdom they carry, in thanks for this opportunity for true gratitude. For giving us a path forward. For trying to show us a road to survival.
We offer our support and our respect. We hear the call to protect the water protectors to listen, learn and get engaged. They are brave. We thank them. And we can give thanks for the bounty.
Like water on the garden of activism, America's surprise president brings a bounty of opportunity. The great issues of our time are now brightly illuminated and people are becoming more aware of them than ever, from sea to shining sea, from Standing Rock to Wall Street.
The surprise president-elect was not the winner of the popular vote, does not have a mandate for the change of ideals envisioned. Keep in mind, close to over two million more people voted for another candidate. Nor is the surprise president the leader of the free world. Two hundred of the world's nations believe in science, above the profits of the oil, gas and coal industries, and are committed to working together to protect the future from an unchecked climate crisis. The surprise president claims he does not believe in climate science nor the threats it presents and his actions and words reflect that claim in tangible and dangerous ways.
Do not be intimidated by the surprise president's cabinet appointees as they descend the golden escalator. Those who behave in racist ways are not your leaders. The golden tower is not yours. The White House is your house.Your growing activism in support of freedom over repression, addressing climate change, swiftly replacing a destructive old industries with safe, regenerative energy, encouraging holistic thinking in balance with the future of our planet; that activism will strengthen and shed continued light on us all. These worthy goals must be met for all the world's children and theirs after them.
This is our moment for truth.
Unintimidated, stand, speak up and show up. Be counted. Be like our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. Be there if you can. The progress we have made over 240 years as a nation, has always come first from the people.
Grammy Award-winning artist Neil Young has been a powerful presence in music for the past 50 years. In addition to his artistic career, Young has become a vocal advocate for social justice, working specifically to highlight issues that impact farmers and the food system. In 1985, Young joined Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp to launch Farm Aid to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds for family farmers. Today, Farm Aid contributes to the campaign for transparency around genetically modified foods.
In 2015, Young released his 36th studio album, The Monsanto Years, a concept-based criticism of multinational agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company. A collaboration with Willie Nelson's sons Lukas and Micah, the album also condemns other industrial agriculture giants like Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and Bayer—corporations that, like Monsanto, have garnered control of global seed production.
By creating patents for genetically engineered seed, these firms have taken away farmers’ right to save their own seeds.
“Monsanto wants to sell the farmers the seeds and they want to license the seeds,” Bob McFarland of the California State Grange said. “So the farmers can only use those seeds for one cycle, then they have to go back to Monsanto and buy the seeds again.”
The rise of GE crops has dramatically increased the use of pesticides and herbicides, which poison wildlife—most notably birds and key pollinating species like bees and butterflies—and impact public health. Herbicide-resistant (a.k.a. Roundup Ready) GE crops, according to a 2012 Washington State University study, have led to a 527-million-pound increase in herbicide use in the U.S. between 1996 and 2011. Critics of genetically engineering seeds warn that the next generation of GE crops will only increase the use of even more toxic pesticides and herbicides.
More than 90 percent of all GE crops cultivated in the U.S. have been engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most popular weedkiller. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.”
Unsurprisingly, Monsanto is not fond of Neil Young’s new album. "Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young,” the company told Billboard. “Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do—and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics."
The album’s concepts stretch beyond the lyrics, with Young using visual cues to underscore the harsh reality of industrial farming. At a July 2015 performance in Massachusetts a few weeks after the album’s release, a performative piece introduced the band’s first song, with stagehands dressed as farmers “planting seeds” on the stage, followed by another group wearing hazmat outfits who sprayed the seeds with pesticides.
One of the songs on the album, “Working Man,” is about farmers who have been prosecuted for saving their seeds. “That song is a microcosm of the larger problem that we’ve been talking about with farmers being stripped of their right to choose what they want to grow,” George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety senior attorney, said.
Center for Food Safety, an environmental nonprofit and Hollywood Food Guild—a Center for Food Safety-produced initiative that organizes Hollywood to advocate for food and farm system integrity—followed Young on tour in Red Rocks, Colorado, to join his mission to educate the public about the threats posed by Monsanto and other Big Ag corporations. At each tour location, Young created an “eco-village” where concertgoers could find information about family farmers, industrial farming, the inequities of the food system, organic foods and the impact of pesticides on animals and humans. Young's international tour begins this summer.
“Neil is a man after our own heart,” Kaiulani Kimbrell, director of Hollywood Food Guild and host of the guild’s original content series Food Voices, said. “He has used his voice and his music to protect our environment and increase transparency around … the tragedy that’s happened with our food system.”
For a behind-the-scenes look at Neil Young's tour, The Monsanto Years, watch this Hollywood Food Guild video:
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The Earth could use some climate-change-fighting superheroes right about now. And according to a new comic series by the nonprofit Amplifier, there are a few real-life ones in our midst.
Thirteen of them, actually.
[Editor's note: Read the latest here.]
Today, in a cloture vote, the Senate voted to do away with our right to know what's in our food, revoking a popular and clear state labeling law in effect inVermont and nullifying all future state labeling initiatives.
This is a slap in the face for all of the advocates that have worked hard to pass state-level measures because they believe strongly that labels should be transparent, and people should have the choice to decide whether or not they purchase and consume foods with genetically engineered ingredients. The majority of Americans support labeling for GMOs and will hold their elected officials accountable for stripping away this transparency.
If this bill becomes law, the industry wins what are essentially voluntary requirements under this GMO labeling "compromise," which does not mandate recalls, penalties or fines for noncompliance with the incredibly weak requirements of the bill that will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements. And the bill gives companies the option to use discriminatory QR codes that require a smartphone to access basic information about the food on store shelves.
Now, we call on the House not to pass the bill. We also call on President Obama to veto the bill if it comes to his desk. On the campaign trail many years ago, he promised reform on many food issues—from giving family farmers a fair shot in the marketplace to food labeling, saying we had the right to know whether or not food is genetically engineered. Before he leaves office, he has one more chance to get it right when it comes to food policy that protects people over corporations. He must veto this bill.
Watch as Senators John Tester (D-MT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) speak out today against the Senate GMO food labeling bill, with Senator Tester arguing that including the label as a QR code protects corporate food producers over consumers:
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By Stacy Malkan
Neil deGrasse Tyson has inspired millions of people to care about science and imagine themselves as participants in the scientific process. What a hopeful sign it is to see young girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Forget princess, I want to be an astrophysicist."
Art and Helen Tanderup are Nebraska farmers who had never intended to become environmentalists. Born and raised in America’s Heartland, the Tanderups have 160 acres in Custer Township, on which they grow corn and soybeans. Today, their farm also has a large solar array and the Tanderups drive a Chevy volt electric vehicle. But that wasn’t always the case.
A few years ago, a representative from TransCanada showed up at the Tanderup farm and asked them to sign paperwork that would allow the company to build a section of pipeline over their land. This was the beginning of a fight that made the Tanderup farm the spiritual home for the movement to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
The land had been in Helen’s family for over a century and the couple hoped to pass the farm on to their children and grandchildren. But when the TansCanada representative showed up, they feared that the pipeline would obliterate their family legacy.
The Tanderup land is also located directly on the Ponca Trail of Tears and the proposed route cut across this sacred site. Bold Nebraska, the Brave Heart Society, the Ponca and Sioux tribes and families from along the proposed route gathered together on the land to pray for their common purpose—to protect the land and water. The Tanderup farm became the rallying point for families, neighbors and fellow opponents of the pipeline.
Art and Helen realized that in order to stop pipelines like Keystone XL from being built, they would need to have solutions—and that meant encouraging the use of renewable energy like solar and wind, which don’t take resources from the Earth. They made a commitment to do everything possible to bring these solutions about.
In 2014, the Tanderups used their land to send the world's largest crop art message, spelling out “Heartland #NoKXL,” created in collaboration with artist John Quigley. The crop art generated widespread media attention and led to the “Harvest of Hope” concert to fund the ongoing fight against the Keystone XL pipeline and benefit organizations involved, as well as to support a number of small, community-based clean energy projects on farms and tribal land. Nearly 10,000 people came to see Willie Nelson and Neil Young perform.
The long and ultimately victorious fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline inspired the Tanderups to install their own large solar array on the farm and to get an electric vehicle that could be charged entirely by the sun.
“The Keystone XL fight will not be over until we have transitioned to 100 percent clean energy,” said Art Tanderup. “Dirty fuels are bad for our farms and our communities—and the farmers, cowboys, Indians, and others who stood up to TransCanada are now standing up for what’s right for the Midwest. We need to create clean, healthy, American-produced energy right here in the Heartland. Clean energy is no longer a thing of the future—it’s powering Heartland farms and families today.”
The crops that the Tanderups plant have their cycles, and so does the Tanderups’ story of resistance. In the very same 80 acre corn field where the couple shared with the world their message of resistance to Keystone XL, Art and Helen have partnered again with Quigley to create a new piece of crop art with a new and hopeful message: The Heartland of America is “100% Clean Energy Ready.”
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Neil Young and Monsanto are once again trading barbs over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This time, it's over Young's new documentary, "Seeding Fear," the story of Alabama farmers Michael White and his father who were sued by the agrochemical giant in 2003 for patent infringement of its GM soybeans.
Photo credit: Flickr
The lawsuit between the Whites and Monsanto was settled in 2006 out of court.
"Even after the lawsuit was over, I couldn't make him believe it was over. He would cry and keep saying, 'Oh, they're going to come back and sue me again,'" Michael says in the documentary. "It destroyed him. It destroyed his life. He went to his grave—this grave—still afraid of [Monsanto]."
Young, a co-executive producer of the film, wrote on Facebook, which has more than 3 million likes, "Monsanto is a corporation with great wealth, now controlling over 90 percent of soybean and corn growth in America. Family farms have been replaced by giant agri corp farms across this great vast country we call home. Farm aid and other organizations have been fighting the losing battle against this for 30 years now."
"The film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world," Young added. "It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see. It is a simple human one, telling the heartbreaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write 'The Monsanto Years,'" referring to the "Rockin' in the Free World" singer's latest album that attacks the corporation.
The documentary was also timed to bring attention to a House of Representatives bill dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act, to block states from requiring GMO labels on food. The bill passed on Thursday.
Following the release of the short, Rolling Stone reached out to Monsanto for a statement.
Monsanto has fired back at Neil Young over singer's new documentary, calling his subject "not transparent" http://t.co/McK9AVrHra
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 24, 2015
"Mr. White is not transparent in describing his actions or the situation," a representative told the publication. "He actually admitted to knowingly planting, producing, saving, cleaning and selling Roundup Ready soybeans illegally. All of this information is available in court documents."
"Protecting patents and copyrights can be difficult in any business—including the entertainment industry," the rep continued to Rolling Stone. "Mr. White's actions are equivalent to pirating an album, producing thousands of copies and selling bootleg copies—all while knowing what you're doing is illegal and that it will result in criminal charges if caught."
"Although they have tended to get a lot of attention, lawsuits between us and farmers who plant seeds without paying for them are actually very rare," the rep concluded. "Every year, hundreds of thousands of farmers plant our seeds. Since 1997, when we started trying to protect the patents on our seeds, we have gone to trial with a fraction of one percent of those customers. In addition, all of the proceeds we receive from any settlement—including Mr. White's settlement—are donated to youth leadership initiatives and to support the local communities in which farmers live and work."
Monsanto's rep also pointed out a recent LinkedIn blog post from Monsanto's chief technology officer Robb Fraley that invited Young to "establish a dialogue" and to visit the company.
Fraley, a big fan of the Canadian singer/songwriter, also wrote: "If you listen to [Young's] new album, you’ll hear a rehash of many of the myths we’ve long heard about our company. Unfortunately, some of these myths are now so well-established in some circles that people don’t even question them. Young suggests, for example, that our company is making life more difficult for farmers, that we bully them with lawsuits, and that we're all about greed. None of this is accurate."
Monsanto also wrote a blog post, "Correcting 'The Monsanto Years,'" that addresses Young's album directly: "Unfortunately, the depiction of agriculture in his lyrics is inaccurate, and the album fails to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable."
Young declined to reply to Monsanto's latest statement to Rolling Stone.
“[In the] infamous cases, where when people claim they got canola growing that flew into their fields accidentally and started growing, there’s substantial evidence that those cultivars were carefully cultivated," Nye said. "That is to say, one guy claimed that these seeds flew into his field, but they really didn’t—he really planted them.”
Whose side are you on?
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By Amy Leibrock, Sustainable America
It's easy to like Jack Johnson's laid-back, acoustic-rock music. For the eco-minded, it's even easier to like the Hawaii-born musician for his environmental activism and green touring practices.
Recently, we got the opportunity to visit Johnson in Hawaii, where he and his wife Kim started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit that provides environmental education in Hawaii schools and communities. Johnson showed us his foundation's work in action at Lanikai Elementary Public Charter School where he was acting as a docent for a third grade composting lesson (worms, cool!). We also learned how the island of Oahu deals with its food waste and how Johnson is moving the needle to lessen the music industry's environmental impact.
It's all here in this mini-documentary we made with Johnson in partnership with Nationswell.
Shaping a New Generation
Lanikai Elementary participates in Kokua Hawaii Foundation's AINA In Schools program. The program, named for the Hawaiian word for “land," connects children to their local land, waters and food by providing lesson plans to schools about gardening, nutrition and waste reduction. Parents, grandparents, community members—even Jack and his wife Kim—volunteer to teach the lessons.
The goal of the program is to get more local food into the schools and teach the next generation the importance of sustainable food. This message is especially relevant in Oahu where more than 90 percent of food is imported and most food waste is burned rather than composted. Fortunately, things are starting to change. The Big Island will soon construct a composting facility for food waste and compostable packaging. Hopefully, with help from this video, Oahu will follow their lead!
Johnson also carries his environmental messages on tour. Early in his career he became concerned with the enormous impact concerts have on the environment. So he started making changes, like running tour vehicles on biodiesel and making refillable water bottle stations available to fans. He has compost bins on tour buses and requires the venues he plays to cooperate with an environmentally responsible rider. Sometimes the changes he requests become permanent policies at venues.
“A lot of this stuff I've learned from Neil Young and Willie Nelson, these guys who have been touring for a long time," Johnson said. “It's something we take real seriously and we're trying to improve on every time we tour."
Over the years, Johnson says he's seen improvements in sustainable practices in the music industry, especially in the food area. A decade ago, he had to bring his own caterer to source local food at each location to feed the crew. Now, he's able to find caterers in each city that specialize in local sourcing.
Johnson's team also donates any leftover food through local food rescue groups whenever possible and makes sure the rest gets composted, even if it means bringing it to the next town until they find a place that can take it. “We've even had times where we're crossing borders and getting in trouble because we have all this food waste," he said.
But even one of the music industry's greenest musicians can get discouraged that the environmental movement isn't moving fast enough. “You can't help but wondering if all the work you're trying to do, is it working at all?" he said.
That's why Johnson's work with children is so important. "All it takes is for me to meet a sustainability major or an environmental engineering major who says, 'I remember when you came to my school and a big part of why I chose this path is those lessons I used to do,'" Johnson said. “It's about planting these little seeds. And to see that snowball effect … that's what give me hope."
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