We Need a Super Storm of Caring Folks to Fight Against Systemic Injustice
By Dr. Jason von Meding and Heidi Harmon
It is unusual for disasters to garner as much sustained coverage in the media as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have. Authors have been able to explore complex aspects of disasters in more nuanced ways than fleeting public interest generally allows.
Whilst it is critical to discuss the issues around urban planning, emergency management funding, insurance, evacuations, pollutants, an impending housing crisis and, of course, the influence of climate change on hurricanes—these disasters, like every other, are ultimately about vulnerability in our society. They are about structural injustice. And they are very, very political.
Harvey impacted the poor, the undocumented, the elderly and the disabled disproportionately. While the impacts of Irma are still being assessed, a similar distribution is expected.
We must not only ask how the most vulnerable are impacted by a disaster, but why they are vulnerable in the first place.
Some have argued that now is not the time to discuss the political aspect of this disaster. They say that we should wait until a more appropriate future time. But will anyone be listening if we do not take this opportunity?
Naomi Klein, talking about climate change, argues that, "Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they're playing out in real time—isn't disrespectful to the people on the front lines. In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims."
Honest discourse is urgently required. However, a narrow focus on climate change may actually obscure a deeper political malaise that keeps the most marginalized in society perpetually at risk.
U.S. Democracy—A Political Disaster
In the U.S., an entrenched two party system has long embraced neoliberal policies as beyond reproach. These policies are demonstrably devastating for the most marginalized in society.
Whether regarding health care, immigration or the minimum wage, both parties have kept the downtrodden in servitude for decades. The Democratic Party claim incremental change—but at this stage, is less bad really good enough?
In 2016, Bernie Sanders threatened to turn the system on its head. The establishment colluded to make sure that this didn't happen. In recent weeks, he has been widely smeared for daring to run against Hillary Clinton in the primaries. This is how the establishment protects itself—Ralph Nader's character assassination is a prime example.
But we need people like Bernie in government as a matter of urgency. People that care about the most vulnerable and will work to protect and enhance their rights.
In the aftermath of Harvey, Ilan Kelman wrote, "Many voting records in Texas are for lower taxes, for less government intervention, against tackling systemic inequities and against helping marginalized people help themselves. This choice actively creates the vulnerabilities which cause disasters. It is an ideological choice to vote for creating disaster vulnerability and voters have the right to do so."
We need better politics. And we need them now.
The causes of the destruction seen during Harvey are deeply political—so let's not be afraid to politicize it. "Power" often profits from disaster. But it doesn't have to be this way.
From a Politics of Fear and Hate to One of Hope and Love
The American public has become trapped in a politics of fear. Afraid of Conservatives. Afraid of liberals. Afraid of the alt-right and antifa. Afraid of minorities and afraid of poor people—or perhaps of being poor.
Making decisions based on fear is not rational. That is why fear is such a useful political tool in the hands of tyrants.
In 2016 Bernie Sanders rode a wave of hope and love into the hearts of millions. In Britain, meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn's popularity surges on the most positive and compassionate Labour Party message in decades.
We need love to overcome fear.
Political change can undermine unjust and oppressive systems. We need leaders that care for the planet and for people. They sometimes seem to be so few and far between.
What Can You Do?
So we need to "storm" our city halls, our state capitals, and the White House. We need a super storm of caring capable folks to run-win-and lead on climate change. But we need them to be willing to fight against systemic injustice wherever they see it.
While gathering supplies for Texas or Florida, you can be gathering your team and forming strategy around the imminent threats facing our changing world. You can make sure that the focus of this strategy targets the root causes of vulnerability.
If bad politics are the source of systemic issues, we need progressive and courageous politicians willing to challenge entrenched power.
True leaders show up for the vulnerable who are affected most. Those who demonstrate care for others before they run for office also stand with the vulnerable and marginalized who are affected the most when they are in office.
The status quo is simply not protecting those most at risk in American society. The time for a radical departure is now.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.