The Monsanto Years: Neil Young Plays Jones Beach, Rev. Billy Opens the Show
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will open for Neil Young tonight at the NYC-venue Jones Beach. Accompanying Young is the band “Promise of the Real,” with Lukas and Micah Nelson, sons of Willie Nelson.
The concert is featuring Young's new album, “The Monsanto Years,” which includes songs directed against Monsanto, Walmart, Chevron and Starbucks, which Young urged his fans to boycott last year for its part in trying to stop Vermont’s GMO labeling law. Starbucks officials say they are not part of that effort. However, Young insists that the company is involved through the Grocery Manufacturers Association trade group.
— GMWatch (@GMWatch) May 30, 2015
I had the chance to interview Reverend Billy on the eve of the big show. Here's what he had to say:
Spear: Wow, very exciting to be opening for Neil Young. Can you share with me how this gig came about?
Rev. Bill: Neil Young is breaking an American taboo, which is that famous celebrities do not name corporations who are criminal. Neil Young with his companion Daryl Hannah is naming Monsanto, Starbucks and Walmart and their Earth-killing behavior, as we in the Church of Stop Shopping have for many years. We are gratified that they have invited us onto their stage. Earthalujah!
Spear: I know you've been working on a campaign against Monsanto for years. How did that start?
Rev. Bill: The Stop Shopping Choir are singing activists who began their life doing things like singing against the hordes of consumers at Macy's front door on Black Friday, the doorbuster ritual. We see the religions of consumerism as, obviously, an ethical problem. But it is also a spirit-sucking zombie system. Monsanto's Roundup is everywhere, and it causes cancer, birth defects and is a persistent toxin in our soil. Its toxin, glyphosate, is in our body tissue and blood. I think that anyone opposing the predations of retail companies based in the USA would eventually find their way to this criminal enterprise.
Spear: What do you think about Bill Nye's change of heart on GMOs?
Rev. Bill: Nye says he's in love with Monsanto. Well, he also made his name working for Disney. So as a pastor I have to say "be careful of the Devil." Bill Nye the Science Guy needs to go back to science and spend less time with show biz. The wildness of the biosphere is more complex and sexy than NPR. Go back to wildness, Bill. Go back to that wildness that Monsanto calls "weeds" and "pests." There is spiritual deliverance in that non-cash crop. Go back to where the science starts, Science Guy.
Spear: Do you think Americans are becoming more conscious of the food they eat and support the labeling GMOs?
Rev. Bill: We have continued to demand truth in labeling. That seems to be a locked-in intuitive position. Nothing Monsanto or Starbucks argues in court against the state of Vermont or any other truth-in-labelling entity will stop this commons sense. We should know what we eat and we think of it as a part of our First Amendment rights.
Spear: Anything else you'd like to tell EcoWatch readers?
Rev. Bill: There is a feeling in the air with this tour "The Monsanto Years." It's different when you have that engagement in the world, risky, high energy politics. From the road, Young put up $100,000 to oppose Monsanto and Starbucks in the battle of truth-in-labelling in Vermont. And he's hilariously debating Donald Trump, of course. Daryl Hannah invited radical Earth groups to greet ticket buyers at the lobby of the arenas—they call it an Eco-Village. She engaged Charris Ford to invite the First Nations activists at Idle No More, young farmers at the Greenhorns, Institute for Responsible Technology, Earth Island Institute, Move to Amend and many more. Rock matters again! Music can create the feeling of change like nothing else.
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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