By Elizabeth Preza
In a stunning tweet on Thursday, Donald Trump refuted reports that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria in 2017.
"[Three thousand] people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Trump wrote. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…"
"....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico," Trump claimed. "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit… https://t.co/6gATFkCMeH— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1536842247.0
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Bil… https://t.co/sd4kS7qtcY— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1536842952.0
In October 2017, Trump touted the low death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, which at the time consisted of only 16 certified deaths. In August 2018, following a study from George Washington University, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló revised the official death toll to 2,975.
The internet on Thursday slammed Trump for caring more about his ego than the facts.
A Hurricane Denier. https://t.co/zTa5qr1IN3— Dana Milbank (@Dana Milbank)1536842470.0
Trump is now disputing the death figures in Puerto Rico...by the thousands. This man has to get out of office ASAP.— deray (@deray)1536842826.0
The president is going to do the Monty Python parrot sketch with Puerto Rico. This isn’t likely to end well. https://t.co/br8HEzXl4z— Dave Levinthal (@Dave Levinthal)1536842410.0
Is there a word for the 10 minutes after the jaw-dropping tweet that has an ellipsis at the end of it, while you're… https://t.co/k9MnJvff99— Steven Shepard (@Steven Shepard)1536842538.0
Somewhere, White House aides are screaming into pillows https://t.co/5EmocBdnoO— Maggie Haberman (@Maggie Haberman)1536842344.0
Also: He appears to be floating a conspiracy that the death toll is being artificially inflated https://t.co/qHX27XWfvm— Chris Cillizza (@Chris Cillizza)1536842335.0
This should be a comfort to the people who lost family members. Now they know they can blame Thanos or the rapture… https://t.co/gwL2W79TBU— A Jason Tabrys (@A Jason Tabrys)1536842707.0
“Truth isn’t truth,” Puerto Rico hurricane edition https://t.co/JbIHKIqu9E— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@Edward-Isaac Dovere)1536842310.0
wow https://t.co/5MhVpcokon— Jordan Fabian (@Jordan Fabian)1536842420.0
President takes issue with Puerto Rico death count https://t.co/jUItdFgMoc— Philip Rucker (@Philip Rucker)1536842461.0
#TheBuckStopsThere => https://t.co/2F5wxidZpT— David M. Drucker (@David M. Drucker)1536842377.0
@realDonaldTrump It's too early for this shit, Donnie.— Alisha Grauso (@Alisha Grauso)1536842677.0
This is an extraordinary tweet and accusation https://t.co/ELqlfiGDMa— Jonathan Lemire (@Jonathan Lemire)1536843120.0
- Puerto Rico Officials Claim Power Is Completely Restored to All ... ›
- Official Hurricane Maria Death Toll Raised to Nearly 3,000 ›
Chris Darwin Would Really Love It If You'd Eat Less Meat: An Exclusive Interview With Charles Darwin's Great-Great-Grandson
By Matthew Ponsford
Conservationist Chris Darwin says we're living in a car crash moment of natural catastrophes—with climate disasters meeting mass extinctions and human hunger on an unimaginable scale.
But Darwin—the great-great-grandson of naturalist Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution changed human history—brims with optimism that humanity "can turn our society around on a dime."
"We need a Nelson Mandela. We need a Gandhi," said Chris Darwin, in his home near Sydney, Australia. "Somebody who is going to go, 'Right, okay, we have a got a serious problem in the next 30 years. Let's turn the ship round.'"
Despite his concerted conservation efforts, Darwin, a warm and charming 57-year-old, is too humble to believe it will be him at the wheel.
Darwin has spent his life building nature reserves and fighting the extinction of species, since making a 180-degree turn-around from a previous life as an advertising executive, after attempting suicide after his 30th birthday. Today, he runs the Darwin Challenge app, which allows people to count their meat-free days and visualizes the effect on the environment and their bodies.
He's hoping to inspire the leaders in the next generation, who could ride to the rescue and do his part to save animals from extinction until then.
Matthew Ponsford: You say we are, right now, living through a massive moment in human history.
Chris Darwin: What's happening at the moment in the natural world, on planet Earth, is that we've had five mass extinction periods in the last four billion years of life on Earth. The most famous one is the one 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs died out—which is ironic because all the indications are is that we're in the middle of the sixth great mass extinction period on planet Earth, now. It's a big event. And you speak to the average person in the street, and they have no idea this is going on.
MP: What is causing this?
CD: The biggest driver is the destruction of the world's habitat. On land, about 74 percent of all habitat destruction on the planet is either caused directly for livestock or to grow feed for livestock.
And in the oceans, it's overfishing. Overfishing is caused by the fishing industry, which is providing food for humans but also for other fish because we feed a lot of fish to fish in aquaculture.
When you put both of those two things together, the greatest cause of the decline of the natural world is the meat industry, providing meat to humans.
MP: Can we change the situation while still eating meat? Or is vegetarianism, or veganism, the only answer?
CD: No, I don't think we all need to become vegans or vegetarians to solve this problem. What we need to develop is a diet for the 21st century, because there's a whole lot of train wrecks simultaneously happening: whether you look at climate change, whether you look at the destruction of the world's ecosystems, whether you look at the number of people with chronic malnutrition, whether you look at topsoil loss, whether you look at another two billion people about to arrive on our little, tiny, moist lump of rock spinning through the desert of space.
But in answer to your question, do we all need to become vegetarians and vegans? No, I think if we all had four meat-free days a week and three meat days, with reasonable portions, that would certainly stop habitat destruction.
That would also, probably, solve feeding the eight hundred million people with chronic malnutrition.
MP: What's the most startling, striking fact that you've learned about meat production?
CD: Initially, we did some research into this and discovered that no one really cares about the mass extinction of species, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. They don't care about climate change. They don't care about water. What they care about is themselves. They really care about being healthy. They really care about being slim. And actually, the other thing which they really care about is animal welfare.
MP: Is animal welfare connected to this extinction surge?
CD: When I started on this, I just did not know what was happening behind closed doors in these factory farms. It's a complete irony that there is one set of rules for what you can do for a pig, and there's an entirely different set of rules of what you can do to a dog or a cat. I mean you're not allowed to string a line of dogs up by their feet and slit their throats and let them bleed out. And you couldn't do that to a cat, you couldn't do it to a hamster, but you're allowed to do it to a chicken.
The other thing is the livestock industry basically sucks the world's grain away from the hungry. Basically, chickens are in direct competition with the world's starving children. The irony is that chickens are winning. I'm sure if you put a picture up on a wall of who is more important, the chicken of some beautiful little baby, most people would say, "Well, the baby surely is more important than the chicken."
But actually, the market is doing the reverse: the chicken's actually got buying power. The beautiful starving child does not have buying power in Africa or many parts of Asia. I'm sure future generations will look back on us, and just shake their heads. Just like we look back on people overlooking slavery, and say, "What were they thinking?" They'll look back on us and just go, "Eight hundred million people?" Millions of children die every year of starvation. (3.1 million children according to the World Food Programme.)
So, you asked a question, what is the most shocking thing? I think that the most shocking is how human psychology has the ability not to see things it doesn't want to see.
MP: In your work, you try to show the positives and what can be achieved. Should we be approaching this question of extinction with optimism about what can be done?
CD: Absolutely, we could stop this tomorrow. All we need is a great leader. I've studied four great paradigm shifts in history - the abolition of the slave trade, the emancipation of women, the Copernicus, Galileo one where people realized that the planet wasn't flat and it was round, and the final one was Charles Darwin one. All four of those great paradigm shifts did not occur due to the government, they did not occur due to companies. They occurred because visionary people came out and inspired people, inspired the masses actually. Generally, it goes the visionary, the masses, corporations, government.
Governments are always last. Should we be expecting more from the government? No, you shouldn't expect anything from a democratic government. Have a look what they've achieved in the last 30 years on climate change—it's just completely pathetic.
MP: Some environmentalists say the big elephant in the room is overpopulation.
CD: You're absolutely right, it is the biggest game in town really. Every single issue, whether you go for the starving, whether you look at climate change, topsoil loss, whether you look at whatever, it's overpopulation.
I'm feeling pretty bad because I've got three kids. David Attenborough's very big on this and said, "How many children have you got?" I said, "Three," and he said, "Oh, you can't campaign on that one then can you." He's been campaigning for years on this and he's very eloquent on it. Remember, that he rightfully says a lot of it is about women's education because, generally, if you educate women to have a life beyond raising children, they will have fewer children, so that's very big. But even so, you look at America, a very fast rate of rising population in America, quite surprising for the western world.
MP: Is that because people worry about discussing it?
CD: Well, I think it's because humans are a swirling mass of hot emotion covered by a thin veneer of logic.
We've only just come out of a cave really. We were never programmed to run a planet. We were never programmed to think about even our entire global population. We're not designed for the role that we find ourselves in, and so it's not surprising we're not really doing it very well. A little intelligence is dangerous, and we've got just enough intelligence to get ourselves into trouble but not enough to get ourselves out so far.
MP: What's your greatest fear about humanity's future on Earth?
CD: As if there might some I haven't mentioned! Oh, dear. What is my greatest fear? Well, because I've got three kids ... have you got kids?
MP: No, not yet.
CD: Look, I mean when you have kids it really changes the way you view everything. I suppose it's one of the wonderful things about life is how you feel about your children. Even when you read the books it's such a powerful feeling, a sense of love and concern and everything else.
Charles Darwin was so incredibly useful to have as an ancestor because he gives you a way of thinking: forget emotion, forget chitchat, just find the verifiable evidence and then put the verifiable evidence together.
When you do that—which is what I've done—the line is pretty terrifying. If we went in a straight line from where we are today, my kids would have a hard time and their grandchildren would just be a mess.
Should we be looking for another planet? Well, even if we knew of another habitable planet, we do not have a transport system for transporting billions of humans around, so it would be irrelevant really. We're actually stuck here. This is it, for the next bit.
MP: You've spoken publicly about the difficult time in your life before you attempted suicide.
CD: I think suicide is one of the extraordinary aspects of the modern world. I just think it's important to talk about because it's a bit of a taboo topic. What changed? Everything changed. I view this stage of my life as a bonus that I shouldn't really have. I really should have died, I was so close to dying, so it was a series of very fortunate things.
You're never the same after a situation like that, a crucible like that.
Beforehand, I took the view that the way to enjoy life is by accumulating lots of possessions and accumulating lots of experiences, and I thought that was what life was about. Now, I think life is about purpose, wonderful people, and my family I suppose.
MP: You said in the past that being Charles Darwin's descendant could be a little tricky, a little tiresome.
CD: I think there was a time when we all sort of yawned, turning up to another film set with another guy wearing a beard saying he was Charles Darwin, and another documentary.
But it was so fantastic that my mother did take us to all those things because a lot sunk in. My sister has become a conservation person and she does some great work, and I'm doing the best I can. Charles Darwin, of course, totally, totally inspired me because he said, "I feel no remorse for having committed any great sin, but I have often, and often regretted that I haven't done more direct good for our fellow creatures." So, you could say I'm in the family business and I'm enjoying it very much.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
As consumers become more aware of issues like ocean plastics and overflowing landfills, many are looking for ways to cut down on their environmental footprints. An easy way to make your home more sustainable is to switch from heavy-duty plastic trash can liners to biodegradable garbage bags. While they aren't a perfect solution, they have a few key advantages over their traditional counterparts.
Whether you're looking for tall kitchen trash bags or a smaller option to line your countertop compost bin, in this article, we'll review five of the best biodegradable garbage bags on the market today.
Our Picks for the Top Biodegradable Garbage Bags
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Overall: UNNI ASTM D6400 100% Compostable Trash Bags
- Best Bulk Buy: Reli. BioGrade 13 Gallon Trash Bags
- Best Small Bags: BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags
- Best Biodegradable Kitchen Bags: Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags
- Best for Fast Decomposition: STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags
Why Switch to Biodegradable Garbage Bags?
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, a plastic bag takes 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. And when bags do decompose, they can leach toxins and microplastics into the environment. It's difficult to completely abandon plastic, but we can take simple steps toward reducing our environmental footprints by switching to products such as biodegradable garbage bags.
Although compostable and biodegradable plastics take longer to break down in a landfill than they would in an open environment, they can still be more eco-friendly than using traditional plastic bags. Below are some reasons you may consider replacing your plastic trash bags with more eco-friendly alternatives:
- Biodegradable bags produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime because the plants they're made from (often corn or sugarcane) absorb carbon while growing. This offsets the carbon they produce when breaking down. One study even found that switching to corn-based bioplastics could cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%.
- Biodegradable and compostable trash bags break down up to 1,000 times faster than regular garbage bags in the right environments. Biodegradable bags start their decomposition process when exposed to moisture or organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Compostable bags break down at a faster rate than conventional bags as well, but they usually require high heat to break down, so they should be disposed of at commercial composting facilities.
- Compostable bags will break down fully and will not turn into microplastics like traditional plastics and the bioplastics in some biodegradable plastic bags will.
There are also some downsides to bioplastics. For example, they require more land, water and pesticides to grow the crops that are turned into the bioplastics. They can also be much more expensive and can release methane if not exposed to enough oxygen during the decomposition process. However, most modern landfills in the U.S. are air-locked to prevent these and other harmful gasses from entering the atmosphere.
Considering both sides of the coin, is it worth switching to biodegradable garbage bags? According to Kartik Chandran, a professor in the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department at Columbia University, compared to traditional plastics, "bioplastics are a significant improvement." But the choice is ultimately up to you.
Of course, the most sustainable option would be to produce less waste in the first place, tossing your garbage in a bin without a liner and washing the bin after you dump your loose trash. Composting food scraps is another way to reduce your landfill contribution whether you're in a house or an apartment.
5 Best Biodegradable Trash Bags
If you decide to purchase biodegradable trash bags, it's important to note that not all biodegradable trash bags actually break down within a reasonable amount of time. Depending on its material, the claim that a bag is biodegradable can be little more than greenwashing.
In order to provide you with sustainable recommendations, when choosing the top biodegradable garbage bags, we looked at factors including:
- Composition: What materials go into the bags themselves? Are they plant-based? Do they have Environmental Products, Inc. (EPI) chemical additives to accelerate plastic degradation?
- Certifications: Are the bags certified to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for composting and biodegrading?
- Decomposition rate: How long does each company's bags take to decompose? (This can range from six months to over a year, depending on the brand.)
- Durability: Do the bags have the same strength as traditional trash bags? Or do they tear or leak easily?
- Packaging: Do the products have compact and recyclable packaging?
- Customer satisfaction: Are customers satisfied with the products? (We look at verified reviews as well as have conducted our own independent reviews on select products).
Best Overall: UNNI ASTM D6400 100% Compostable Trash Bags
UNNI garbage bags are our best overall choice because they are 100% biodegradable and compostable. The eco-friendly bags are also certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and OK Compost Home and are BPA-free. They are made entirely from corn starch and other plant starches and contain no polyethylene. Within 180 days, the bags will degrade into organic compounds such as CO2 and O2. The brand also makes drawstring waste bags and small trash bags for home composting and pet waste.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 4,400 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These compostable trash bags come in plenty of sizes and styles, so whether you need to dispose of dog poop or food scraps, you can find an eco-friendly bag from UNNI.
Best Bulk Buy: Reli. BioGrade 13 Gallon Trash Bags
Trusted for over 30 years, the bright green Reli. biodegradable garbage bags are designed for ease of use and durability. They have a star-sealed bottom to prevent breakage and are made with a high-density blend of plant-based materials and EPI chemical additives. The company sells compostable bags as well for those who have access to a composting facility, and the 13-gallon bags come in a compact cardboard box that can be recycled.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 250 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These biodegradable trash bags are eco-certified to ASTM D6954 standards and include EPI additives to ensure a faster degradation process. You can also lower your carbon footprint even more by buying in bulk and purchasing an 800-count package for $50.
Best Small Bags: BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags
BioBag Compostable Countertop Food Scrap Bags are made up of a bioplastic resin blend called Mater-Bi®, which uses non-genetically modified plant-based substances like corn starch and a variety of biodegradable/compostable polymers. BioBags has made a commitment to use as many renewable resources in its products, and its bags are manufactured in the U.S. with resin sourced from Italy. They are stored in a small cardboard package that can be recycled after use.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 3,200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These small bags are extremely versatile and can be used for small waste needs all around the home. BioBag's products are certified compostable and biodegradable according to European standard EN 13432, U.S. standards ASTM D6400 and OK Compost Home, and Australian standard AS 4736.
Best Biodegradable Kitchen Bags: Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags
Hippo Sak tall kitchen bags are made in the USA from at least 88% plant-based materials such as sugarcane rather than fossil fuels. These white trash bags are extremely durable with a slightly thicker layer on the bottom to prevent breakage. The kitchen bags also have large handles that make them easy to grip, pick up and replace without the fear of tearing. They are packaged in a small cardboard box with a large tab that makes it easy to pull individual bags out.
Customer Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 5,700 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: Hippo Sak garbage bags are USDA Certified Biobased Products, are completely recyclable and are BPA-free. They have an extremely high satisfaction rate and have been said by buyers to be extremely durable.
Best for Fast Decomposition: STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags
The STOUT by Envision EcoSafe Compostable Bags are specifically designed for collecting organic waste. Even though the average decomposition rate for biodegradable and compostable bags can range from six months to a year in an open environment, STOUT bags are said to decompose in 10 to 45 days and biodegrade in a maximum of six months in commercial composting facilities. Much like the other brands, these garbage bags come in compact cardboard packaging for easy recycling. A star seal on the bottom of the bag makes it possible to carry more weight without leaking or ripping.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: These fast-decomposing bags are made in the U.S. by blind or visually impaired citizens. They're also USCC and BPI certified and meet the requirements of ASTM D6400.
Frequently Asked Questions: Biodegradable Trash Bags
Which garbage bags are biodegradable?
Garbage bags made from bioplastics or other plant-based starches and materials are considered biodegradable. Bioplastics are a mixture of organic materials that mimic the properties of traditional petroleum-based plastics. Some bioplastics include additives to speed up the deterioration process. Some bioplastics are so complex that they aren't considered biodegradable anymore. This is why it is important to make sure your products are not only composed of plant material, but are also certified biodegradable.
Are biodegradable bags better than plastic?
Biodegradable garbage bags produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastic bags. However, it takes more land, water and pesticides to grow the plant materials the bags are made from. Overall, researchers have stated that biodegradable bags are better, but they don't break down significantly faster in landfills.
How long do biodegradable bags take to decompose?
The range for the decomposition of biodegradable bags is different for each brand. Some state that it only takes 180 days for decomposition, while for others it may be up to a year and a half. It also depends on the environment the bag is in — in a commercial composting facility or at home in an open environment, decomposition will be significantly faster than in an air-locked landfill. Generally, no matter the time it takes for biodegradable garbage bags to decompose, it takes traditional garbage bags longer.
By Joe Loria
A groundbreaking study by Tulane University and the University of Michigan published in Environmental Research Letters found that meat, dairy and egg consumption is responsible for nearly 84 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
Scientists analyzed the effects of more than 300 foods and the diets of 16,000 Americans. They found that only 20 percent of Americans, those who eat the most animal products, make up 46 percent of diet-related emissions overall on an average day.
Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, and nuts and seeds, make up a mere three percent of diet-related emissions. Legumes were found to be the least harmful to the planet, with pulses accounting for just 0.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Reducing the impact of our diets—by eating fewer calories and less animal-based foods—could achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," said Martin Heller, a researcher at the University of Michigan. "It's climate action that is accessible to everyone, because we all decide on a daily basis what we eat."
This is hardly the first time eating animal products has been deemed harmful to the planet. Last year, the Alliance of World Scientists, a group of 15,000 scientists from 184 countries, concluded that humans must change their behavior and switch to a plant-based diet to prevent environmental destruction.
Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, planes and other forms of transportation combined. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprits. In fact, even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565-gigaton CO2e limit by 2030.
Furthermore, simply by avoiding animal products, we can cut our carbon footprints in half. A pound of beef requires 13 percent more fossil fuel and 15 times more water to produce than a pound of soy.
There is no such thing as sustainable meat. Plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs take a mere fraction of the resources to produce than their animal-based counterparts. It's time for anyone who cares about the future of our planet to take action and ditch animal-based products altogether.
But a vegan diet isn't just good for the planet; it also spares countless animals a lifetime of misery at factory farms. Pigs, cows, chickens and other farmed animals suffer terribly from birth to death.
So what are you waiting for? Join the millions of people who are helping to protect farmed animals and the planet by switching to a vegan diet. Click here to get started. And check out Mercy for Animals' Pinterest page for thousands of recipe ideas.
Joe Loria is the communications and content manager at Mercy For Animals.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Valerie Vande Panne
The city of Boston made news in March for receiving four nor'easters in just three weeks. The storms led to piles of snow and coastal flooding. While hurricanes may famously (and fakely) bring sharks to flooded streets, Boston's floods really do bring swans.
That might be a sweet and peaceful picture. But the reality is that much of Boston was built on fill and subject to massive flooding. The city, known for its forward-thinking attitudes, takes the issue very seriously: Does it really want to surrender valuable real estate to mother nature?
Paul Kirshen, a professor of climate adaptation at UMass' School for the Environment, is studying the idea of using barrier walls to protect Boston, though he stresses he doesn't advocate for them. "We were asked to do it because people have had the idea for a couple decades," he said. "The city thought we needed to look at the issue to see if it made sense."
At this point, all options are on the table. The most glaring problem with the idea of barriers that would stretch from Swampscott to Cohasset, Winthrop to Hull, or from Logan Airport to the Seaport District, is that they would not prevent flooding from high tides. And Boston currently gets flooding at high tide regularly.
"As sea levels rise, that's a bigger problem," said Kirshen. Barriers are "only used in storm flooding, not tidal flooding."
In addition, "we aren't 100 percent sure of environmental impact," he added. "We're fairly certain it wouldn't have major impact on harbor environment."
There's another problem with that, and with all of Boston's future climate change plans: "I can't give the exact price, but it would cost billions."
Kirshen suggested "shore-based solutions on land, flood-proofing buildings," and learning to live with flooding are also viable options.
"Shore-based [solutions] have co-benefits," he explained. "They protect from flooding, bring neighborhoods together, create bikeways and walkways." East Boston, for example, "doesn't have much open space, but if you elevate the land, you get co-benefits." Like an elevated playground, for example, or a football field on elevated land.
According to Kirshen, Boston can expect three feet of sea level rise by 2070.
The city has a handy map where you can see just how likely it is that your home will flood. You can assess risk for low-income communities, the elderly, and for people with limited English skills, and once you add those layers, the entire city of Boston looks vulnerable very quickly.
Jay Wickersham, a lawyer and president of Boston Society of Architects, said that this season's nor'easters generated the first and third highest recorded tides in Boston history, creating an "extra sense of urgency."
The BSA, Wickersham, said, is "heartened by how much work and analysis has been done over the last several years. In terms of understanding the problem, Boston is a leader here. We take it very seriously."
The city already has a short-term plan in place to help mitigate water in Charlestown and East Boston that includes building a floodwall and raising a road. Carl Spector, the city's environmental commissioner, declined to return numerous calls for comment.
"Part of what good, sound engineering and design tells us is we need layers of protection around districts like East Boston, Charlestown and South Boston," said Wickersham. "And then sound design tells us, at all scales, we're really going to be building and rebuilding utilities, parklands, [and] buildings."
"Everything," he said, "will have to be rethought in a different way."
Sea level rise is expected to hit nine inches by 2030, Wickersham said. He pointed to Kirshen's report and said when it is released it will "heighten the discussion."
Twelve years passes in a flash when it comes to the municipal and bureaucratic work that needs to be done to protect a large U.S. coastal city from rapidly rising sea levels. Will Boston be prepared?
"The architectural and engineering community is starting to develop best practices," said Wickersham, "and that will need to be hard-wired into building code and state code. Right now, those are backward-looking systems. They need to incorporate best science looking forward."
Wickersham added, "We need systems that can provide evacuation in case of emergency, and when there isn't a storm, they are public open space, and not just a wall against the harbor. We've done a great job restoring the Boston harbor ecology, and we've done a great job making the waterfront accessible to the public. It's 40 miles long. We don't want to turn our backs on that. We need to find ways to deal with the storms."
American parks innovator Frederick Law Olmsted knew Boston was flood-prone back in the 19th century, said Chris Reed, professor in practice of landscape architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and founder of Stoss Landscape Urbanism. Olmsted designed Boston's century-old Emerald Necklace park system from mud flats to create a floodway that stretches through town. Olmsted's idea of parks "were fully integrated systems, they were flood control that had public transport in them," Reed said. "In the 20th century, with the rise of specialties, everything he was working with was separated out. And parks were just parks, separate."
In the 1990s and 2000s, Reed said, there has been an effort to reintegrate these components. "Any work we do on a river has to take into account flooding and flood control, and it's integrated in a way you don't even know it's there."
Yet, the dark cloud that looms over future planning isn't found in the weather or climate change or the plans of the present or the past.
"How are we going to pay for this? That's the huge question," Wickersham said. "We need to be very imaginative. We're going to have to find public [sources], bond sources. But that's also going to have to have private contributions as well."
Wickersham said there needs to be "some kind of principles of fairness that goes to equity. Public support goes first to most vulnerable communities. We think at the BSA, the principles of keeping the city livable and just have to be cornerstones of how planning moves forward." Wickersham pointed to plans for the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston, and how new designs are taking flooding into consideration, allowing the water to come in and go out.
Contrary to Wickersham and the BSA's principles of just planning, people in the East Boston community of mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants believe those plans are exploitative and do nothing to protect them, leaving them to cope with rapid and often unchecked development and gentrification.
"Can we do this in a way that keeps the city livable and keeps the city just?" said Wickersham. The bigger question though, is "And what's the governance? And do we need a new governance system?"
"I think first of all, this is not going to be a public works," he said. "This will require public and private investment. It requires we think of how we plan and design the city."
When asked why not have Amazon kick in some of the cost of protecting Boston, everyone interviewed for this story laughed. Hard. Some laughed more sinisterly than others, but only one was able to mutter, "No comment." (Amazon is receiving $10 million in tax incentives from the city, in addition to the dowry offer for HQ2 that should make anyone with an honest heart for public service squirm.)
Bostonians, Paul Kirshen said, "have to learn to live with more frequent coastal storms than we have now. People need to decide if they want to keep the flooding at bay or move away. Wealthy people might have resources to stay. Poor people won't."
Until Boston figures out its new water-prone present and future, Kirshen recommends residents figure out their evacuation route. Make sure their basement is clean. Have food and water on hand. Be prepared for what might happen.
"We're going to have to learn to live with water," Jay Wickersham said. "We can't wall it out."
4 Key Questions About the Surprising Winter Storm Grayson https://t.co/Ie8x5lxoXb @CeresNews @UCSUSA @OccupySandy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515552309.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Zen Honeycutt
The past few years have revealed some disturbing news for the alcohol industry. In 2015, CBS news broke the announcement of a lawsuit against 31 brands of wines for high levels of inorganic arsenic. In 2016, beer testing in Germany also revealed residues of glyphosate in every single sample tested, even independent beers.
Moms Across America released test results of 12 California wines that were all found to be positive for glyphosate in 2016. We tested further and released new findings last week of glyphosate in all of the most popular brands of wines in the world, the majority of which are from the U.S. and in batch test results in American beer.
What do these events all have in common? Monsanto's Roundup.
French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini released shocking findings in January of 2018 that of all the Roundup products they tested, over a dozen had high levels of arsenic—over five times the allowable limit along with dangerous levels of heavy metals.
Roundup is commonly sprayed in vineyards to keep the rows looking tidy and free of so-called weeds and on grain crops (used in beer) as a drying agent just before harvest. Glyphosate herbicides do not dry, wash or cook off and they have been proven to be neurotoxic, carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors and a cause of liver disease at very low levels.
The wine brands tested included Gallo, Beringer, Mondavi, Barefoot and Sutter Home. Beer brands tested included Budweiser, Busch, Coors, Michelob, Miller Lite, Sam Adams, Samuel Smith, Peak Organic and Sierra Nevada.
Some of the test results were at first confusing. One would expect the organic wines and beers, and the carefully crafted independent beer brands to be free of glyphosate, as the herbicides are not allowed or used in organic farming. Instead, it appears that they are contaminated. Previous testing did show that some organic wines were contaminated, and in this round, one of the organic brands was as low as 0.38 ppb, but conventional wines had glyphosate residues 61 times higher, at 23.30 ppb. Studies have shown only 1 part per trillion to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells, so any amount is concerning.
Regarding beer, further testing would need to be done (we hope by the brands themselves), but it appears that the batch tests (equal amounts of multiple brands tested in one batch) of independent beer brands had higher levels: up to 13.60 ppb more than conventional beers. The organic batch tested at 2.57. Batch tests of large conventional brands such as Budweiser, Coors and Michelob showed 2.11 ppb collectively.
Inquiries into the big beer company manufacturing process revealed a possible explanation. Conventional beer producers tend to use cheaper ingredients which include rice, instead of barley, oats, rye and wheat, which are more expensive and tend to be used by independent and organic beer companies who prefer a richer flavor. Cheaper, hulled white rice is expected to have far lower levels of glyphosate residues than whole barley, oats and malt. If they are not organic, these are crops which are commonly sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent just before harvest.
But one thing that is clear is that the beer and wine industries must—and in many cases are—moving away from Monsanto's Roundup in order to avoid contamination by this harmful chemical herbicide.
Pam Strayer of Viewpoint-Wines & Vines pointed out that, "In 2016, organic wine grew 11 percent by volume; imported organic wines grew 14 percent, double that of American organic producers at 7 percent."
"I haven't used Roundup since 1977," said Phil Coturri, the Sonoma vineyard manager who was recognized by the Golden Gate Salmon Association earlier this year for his environmentally sound viticulture. "You can't constantly use a product and think that it's not going to have an effect. Glyphosate is something that's made to kill."
More than 1,000 plaintiffs, most of them farmers, have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, a leading manufacturer of glyphosate, for Roundup exposure leading to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Even big beer brands are seeing the benefit of organic. Anheuser-Busch announced last week that its brand Michelob has launched a new beer made with organic wheat called Ultra Pure Gold.
The Brewers Association, which certifies small independent and craft beers, gave this statement regarding the new MAA glyphosate test results:
"Brewers do not want glyphosate used on barley or any raw brewing material, and the barley grower organizations have also come out strongly against glyphosate. It is clear that the malting and brewing industries are aligned in their opposition to the use of glyphosate on malting barley."
So how does glyphosate contaminate organic wines and beers? Drift, polluted irrigation water, soil and through a new phenomena: pesticide rains. Glyphosate and other toxic chemical particles remain in evaporated water or dust clouds which form into rain and can contaminate vineyards and grain crops thousands of miles away.
In America, one out of two males and one out of three females are expected to get cancer, one out of five have mental illness, many struggle with infertility, sterility and infant death, and our healthcare costs are crippling. Just last week, a new study revealed that maternal exposure to glyphosate showed significantly higher rates of shortened gestation. Prematurely born babies are at significant risk of infant death.
According to a Save the Children 2013 report, the U.S. has 50 percent more infant deaths on day one of life than all other developed countries combined. Could this be due to the widespread use, drift and contamination of pesticides and herbicides like Roundup? These studies may suggest so. If American policymakers want to lower healthcare costs, eliminating the use of glyphosate herbicides could be one reasonable step to take.
Concerned consumers who don't want to drink wine and beer contaminated with harmful chemical pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate have a chance to be heard. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently accepting comments until April 30, 2018, on the re-registration or denial of the license for glyphosate. Leave a comment, cite a scientific study found in this article, and protect grape growers and grain farmers, too. Then, when glyphosate is no longer used in farming, we can truly collectively say, "Cheers, to good health!"
Full results, brand names, and lab report links can be found here.
Monsanto's Roundup Destroys Healthy Microbes in Humans and in Soils https://t.co/pGdokvAdIS @GMOFreeUSA @NonGMOProject— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516409705.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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By Kelle Louaillier
As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.
Once again, this administration has proven that just when you think things can't get any worse, Donald Trump and his cronies will find a way. Now, instead of having a former fossil fuel CEO at the helm of foreign policy, the United States will have an Islamophobic Koch brothers shill who built his own business using Koch money and owes his political career first and foremost to their deep pockets.
In Congress, Pompeo received more money from the Koch brothers than any other member, and more than twice the Kochs' next highest benefactor, Paul Ryan. And if that weren't bad enough, Pompeo has expressed extremist, bigoted and Islamophobic views and has defended torture programs and supported unconstitutional surveillance by the federal government. He is one of the most dangerous Trump appointees yet and will lead U.S. foreign policy down the same dark, bigoted path of Donald Trump's Twitter feed.
If Pompeo is confirmed, Charles and David Koch will now have a direct line to the State Department, including its already obstructionist positions at the UN Climate Treaty. At the next round of treaty negotiations, the U.S. delegation may as well be called the Koch delegation, as their agenda—dirty fossil fuels—will again be the centerpiece of U.S. climate policy.
Whether it's Exxon Mobil's golden child or the Koch brothers' puppet at the helm of State Department, no amount of dirty coal money and bought-off politicians can stop the movements of people resisting this administration. Nor can it stop the millions of people, institutions, cities and states standing up to the fossil fuel industry. Big polluters are running scared, and this administration is their Hail Mary pass.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Kyra Appleby
President Trump's commitment to pull out of the Paris agreement signaled what appeared to be the worst of times for a transition to a low-carbon future in the United States. But actions being taken by a significant number of cities could instead make it the best of times for renewable energy in America.
Cities both in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly setting low-carbon goals and implementing local policies that recognize sustainability investment as essential to new markets, jobs and creating attractive places to live, work and do business.
New research released last month by CDP, a U.K.-based charity that runs the global disclosure system for businesses and governments, showed more than 100 global cities that report that they are getting at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.
The world's renewable energy cities: more than 100 cities now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. CDP / Flourish
Click here to see CDP's infographic about cities around the globe that are using renewable energy.
In the U.S., 58 cities and towns have now committed to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, including big cities like Atlanta and San Diego. Earlier this year, U.S. municipalities Denton, Texas and St. Louis Park, Minnesota, became the latest communities to establish 100 percent renewable energy goals.
In June 2017 the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 250 U.S. mayors, resolved to support the procurement of 100 percent renewable energy for cities by 2035.
Burlington's Bold Breakaway
Burlington, Vermont is one of the first U.S. cities to report to CDP that it sources 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
Burlington began its transition to a net-zero economy back in 1978 when it replaced its coal plant with a 50-MW generating station powered on biomass. The next step was harnessing wind and solar power through the construction of a 10-MW wind farm and the installation of rooftop solar PVs on high schools, the airport and the electric department. In 2014, when citizens voted to approve a $12 million bond in 2014 for the city's energy department to purchase the 7.4-MW Winooski Hydroelectric Plant, Burlington's transformation to 100 percent renewable energy was complete.
The city's shift to green energy has also helped its residents, not raising electricity rates in eight years. And seizing the opportunity to turn Burlington into a center of innovation, the city has continued its progressive push by investing in charging stations for electric vehicles and developing plans to pipe steam from the biomass plant to heat downtown homes.
Solar San Francisco
Three thousand miles away on America's west coast, San Francisco is trailblazing the path in solar power—driven by economic reality. Last year, municipal leaders took the bold move to become the first American city to mandate solar roofs on most new construction. Under the legislation, all new buildings under 10 stories must have solar PV or solar thermal panels installed on at least 15 percent of their roof space. Consequently, the city now boasts more than 15-MW of solar PV.
With an electricity mix of 34 percent renewable energy, San Francisco still has a long way to go to reach its ambitious target of 100 percent by 2030. But the wheels are clearly in motion to scale-up solar power, with the city serving as a shining example of the power of solar.
Unsubsidized renewables were the cheapest source of electricity in 30 countries last year according to the World Economic Forum. With renewables predicted to be consistently more cost effective than fossil fuels globally by 2020, the rate at which cities around the world follow San Francisco's lead is likely to pick up pace.
Cities as the Battleground
Cities are vital to the transition to a low-carbon economy. Cities are home to half the world's population and are expanding rapidly. In the U.S. alone, over 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Meanwhile, cities around the globe are responsible for over 70 percent of energy-related carbon emissions.
As cities expand, they need to ensure that the new infrastructure they put in place is fit for a low-carbon economy. Public-private partnerships will be crucial to transitioning to green energy, particularly with the propensity for deficits in public finance.
The good news is that CDP's data shows that globally, cities are moving in the right direction in engaging with the private sector. In 2016, we collected data from 570 cities around the world and found that municipalities highlighted a total of 720 climate-related projects suitable for private sector investment, worth a combined $26 billion. One year later, that figure had ballooned to 1,045 projects and more than $52 billion.
Much of the drive behind city climate action and reporting comes from the 7,000+ mayors signed up to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy who have pledged to act on climate change.
Despite the prospect of the American withdrawal from the Paris agreement, cities in the U.S. and around the world are still putting ambitious plans in place to harness the power of clean electricity. Cities not only want to shift to renewable energy, but most importantly, they can. We urge all cities to disclose to us, work together to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and prioritize the development of ambitious renewable energy procurement strategies.
Kyra Appleby is Director of Cities at global environmental impact non-profit CDP.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Wenonah Hauter
The new Food & Water Watch report Take Back the Tap: The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water details the deceit and trickery of the bottled water industry. Here's one more angle to consider: The bottled water business is closely tied to fracking.
The report reveals that the majority of bottled water is municipal tap water, a common resource captured in plastic bottles and re-sold at an astonishing markup—as much as 2,000 times the price of tap, and even four times the price of gasoline. Besides being a rip-off, there is plenty more to loathe about the corporate water scam: The environmental impacts from pumping groundwater (especially in drought-prone areas), the plastic junk fouling up our waterways and oceans, and the air pollution created as petrochemical plants manufacture the materials necessary for making those plastic bottles filled with overpriced tap water.
There is a growing international awareness that plastic is a serious problem. In 2016, about 4 billion pounds of plastic were used in the bottled water business, and most of those bottles are not recycled—meaning they often end up in landfills or as litter. There's also the matter of whether we should be putting our drinking water in those bottles in the first place: The most common packaging (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) includes compounds like benzene, and the bottles can leach toxins like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
But perhaps the biggest problem is where we get all this plastic in the first place. Many of the raw materials used to create those plastic bottles come from fracking. In addition to air and water pollution, the fracking boom has delivered an abundant supply of the hydrocarbon ethane, which is used in petrochemical manufacturing to create ethylene, which is turned into plastic.
One of the global powerhouses in this industry is a company called Ineos, which needs to expand fracking in order to keep profiting from plastics. To do this, massive "dragon ships" carry ethane from the U.S. to its facilities in Europe. The company wants even more of this raw material, which is one of the big reasons that Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners is building the Mariner East 2, a dangerous pipeline that will travel across hundreds of miles of the state of Pennsylvania. Getting more ethane means Ineos can turn more of those hydrocarbons into plastic, with the accompanying industrial pollution and carbon emissions we have come to expect from a company that has amassed a horrendous environmental record.
The corporate water business is a costly scam that affects our air, water and climate. It robs communities of a resource that is a public good and must be treated as one, and it relies heavily on dirty fossil fuels to produce and transport a product that it sells at an extravagant markup. It rakes in billions of dollars while our public tap water infrastructure—that these companies benefit from—remains in desperate need of federal funding to provide all Americans with access to clean, affordable drinking water.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Valerie Vande Panne
Do you know where your clothes came from?
No, not the store, the label or the brand. Or China, India or Vietnam.
I mean, do you know who made your clothing? Do you know what your clothes are made from? Or where the fiber in your clothing came from? The cotton, the polyester or the acrylic?
Chances are, you don't. And that's a problem. It's difficult for people to have respect for an item or the people who created it when they don't know where the item came from or how it was created in the first place.
For instance, did you know your athletic gear is probably made from plastic? And that 94 percent of U.S. drinking water has plastic lint from our clothing in it? You're literally washing the plastic from your yoga pants into our water systems. Polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex—it's all plastic. Ninety-eight million tons of oil was used in the textile industry in 2015. By 2050, that number is expected to be 300 million.
When Bena Burda, founder of organic apparel company Maggie's Organics, learned about the harms of cotton, she was horrified. She was working in the organic food industry and thought, "This is ridiculous. How can we not know this?"
Enter regenerative fiber, a movement to return the entire system of clothing—from agriculture to product and back again—to within 250 miles of where you live. It is a solution to the large-scale, global exploitative textile system: It has components rooted in the local, community-based economy, with local farmers cultivating organic fibers—wool, cotton, alpaca, hemp—and developing the processing required to bring it from field to fabric, fabric to product.
You see, fashion—as you know it and as you're probably wearing it, right now—is exploitative and unsustainable, said Anna Canning, communications coordinator at Fair World Project, an organization that advocates for policy solutions like a living the wage.
"You have a lot of exploitation in factories around the globe," she said, pointing to low pay, long hours and forced labor, often of women. In addition, fashion contributes to climate change. She said the industry "is on track to consume a quarter of the global carbon supply by 2050." Fashion itself is also resource intensive and disposable.
Worse, our nation has seemingly lost the ability to produce its own ethical fiber. "There's only one non-GMO [cotton] gin in the country," said Rebecca Burgess, executive director of Fibershed, an organization focused on educating the public on the environmental, economic and social benefits of bringing the textile supply chain home. "We can't even wash our fibers in California." The U.S., she said, has "an inability to process fiber in an ethical way."
The 150-Mile Wardrobe: A Solution for One of the World’s Most Polluting Industries https://t.co/JtFdWNeLd3… https://t.co/8EZnxP4y4x— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1514198106.0
In the last century, due to neo-liberal policy and the frictionless moving of capital, our entire nation's ability to foster local fiber systems and cultivate local textiles has been exported to the point where even the memory of how to make textiles has been extinguished, said Burgess.
When the U.S. lost the textile industry, it lost the memory of how to build these systems, and even the ability to innovate within them. "The textile industry is a relic from the late 19th and early 20th century, so when we go back to re-envision bringing it home, we're working on American equipment built in the 1920s."
Much of Burgess's work is around building sensitivity and awareness about what it will take to return local textile industries to the United States. "We need to repair cultural and political divides," she said. "If we can … bring these fiber systems back into the communities, and re-envision what that looks like," that can lead to an enormous shift for rural and urban communities alike, especially when the goal is developing these systems with family farms and worker-owned co-operatives.
Doing that holistically then fosters diversity from the farm to your yoga mat. "In an adept system," said Burgess, "you could combine inter-species yarn that would replace our reliance on fossil-carbon fiber."
Burgess sees inter-species fiber blends as a solution: combining plants and animal blends such as wool-hemp blends, or wool-alpaca-cotton, all in one yarn. Plastic athletic wear can be replaced with such yarns and fabrics, which can then reduce the amount of plastic that sheds into our oceans and fresh water. She points to "pre-Columbian, Roman-Greek recipe blending. There's a long history of it. We just forgot about it."
"We call it the soil to soil framework," she explained. It's a cycle: What's coming out of the soil and how you're treating the soil. Creating the structures to harvest, clean and move material off-farm and into cooperatively owned mills. Moving textiles to locally-owned cooperative manufacturers. Distributing to consumers. Consumers who are able to care for and mend the product. And then, at the end of its life, the clothing can be recycled or composted and returned to the soil—without further polluting or damaging the land.
There are few of these regional fiber systems in existence today in the U.S., but Burgess and similar groups are working to change that. "We have farms and brands and manufacturers that have pieces of it. It's a fledgling system. It needs a lot of support from the consumer."
People, she said, need to seek out local fibers and locally made clothing the way they have sought out and found local farmer's markets.
Many Americans today, however, can't afford to shop at farmer's markets, let alone locally made clothing. If they do shop at a farmer's market, they often take advantage of "SNAP match" programs some markets offer, where you get a dollar to spend for every food stamp dollar you use at the market. These same folks might want to engage in local, regional fiber—but at $95 for a scarf, that might not seem feasible.
"If you don't have a lot of income, you can learn how to mend," said Burgess. It then becomes all about slowing down the fast fashion machine. Currently, 87 percent of the clothing we consume ends up in a landfill or incinerated.
"It's kind of like divesting from oil. Divest from fashion," said Burgess. "You've gotta hit it from a number of levels at once," said Burgess.
For Burda, she turned her shock into a new career in organic apparel. "My real job is to take the people who wear my clothes and connect them with the people who make my clothes. What better way than to take physical product that women are invested in and connect the dots to every single set of hands?"
Canning approaches the issue from a fair trade perspective. "The reality is, these movements are all working for a just economy for all people. It is an investment to purchase something that takes into account the full cost of production." Especially American-made production.
"Americans have a long way to go on their behavior to understand what it takes to make a garment and what those things will cost," said Burgess.
And once that's understood, perhaps we can bring the textile and garment industries home.
Ways you can divest from fast fashion:
1. Stop wearing plastic.
2. Wear your clothes a lot more. If you see a hole or lose a button, fix it, or find someone in your community who can fix it. Barter or trade to get the job done.
3. Instead of buying new clothing, have a clothing swap. Host a clothing swap potluck.
4. If you're gonna buy new, look for organic cotton. If it's not certified organic, it's GMO.
5. Purchase items that are 100 percent wool, flax, linen or hemp/cotton blends.
6. Start paying attention. Read the tag. What does it say?
7. Know who made your clothing. Know who sewed it.
8. Learn to make your own clothing. There are so many people who remember how to do this, and we would be wise to learn from them while they're still with us.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Annie B. Bond
Birthday cakes with all the colors of the rainbow were the touchpoint that would change our friendly and gentle daughter into a belligerent crank puss for a few hours after eating her slice. We always braced for the aftermath of the birthday parties. Given that we didn't serve meals with FD&C food dyes at home, it wasn't too hard to track down the cause of her dramatic behavior changes as they only happened under isolated circumstances.
Anecdotal evidence, yes. But I surely paid attention when I heard that in 2007 the EU required a label on foods containing synthetic food dyes that states the product "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." In 2011 in the U.S., however, the Food and Drug Administration held a Food Advisory Committee Meeting about certified color additives, and while they determined that more study is needed, labels alerting hyperactivity in children was unwarranted.
Where does the division of the EU and the U.S. recommendations leave parents? To make up our own minds, draw our own conclusions and make our own choices.
Chemical food dyes have a long, nefarious and toxic history. They were used to disguise rotting food and adulterate food's appearance in general. In the 1800s, people died or were sickened after being poisoned from dyes made of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
We have butter to thank for the practice of a more widespread use of food dyes. Until the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the color of butter naturally varied with the seasons. It was yellow in the spring and summer when cows ate foods rich in yellow carotenoids, and white in the fall and winter when they were fed corn that is low in such carotenoids. It was a breakthrough for dairies when they could make butter the same color year-round. These new and increasingly popular synthetic dyes were less costly and more stable than natural colors made from plants and minerals, but there was a downside: They were made with toxic coal tar.
Coal tar started to be widely used for consumer products including food dyes in the industrial revolution, though in 1775 coal tar was linked to "chimney sweep carcinoma," one of the first chemicals to be linked to cancer from occupational exposure. Coal tar is made by combining aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene, xylene, benzene, and petroleum distillates, and has high amounts of the ubiquitous environmental pollutants, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
In the U.S., the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 reduced the permitted list of synthetic coal tar colors from 700 down to seven. According to the FDA, those dyes for food use are chemically classified as azo, xanthene, triphenylmethane, and indigoid dyes. Although certifiable color additives have been called coal-tar colors because of their traditional origins, today they are synthesized mainly from raw materials obtained from petroleum.
The current nine artificial colorings permitted by the FDA in food are:
- FD&C Blue No. 1 (a triarylmethane dye)
- FD&C Blue No. 2 (an Indigo carmine dye)
- FD&C Green No. 3 (a triarylmethane dye)
- FD&C Red. 3 (organoiodine compound)
- FD&C Red No. 40 (an Azo dye)
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (an Azo dye)
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 (an Azo dye)
- Orange B (not used in many years due to safety concerns)
- Citrus Red No. 2 (used rarely on oranges amid safety concerns)
The two FD&C dyes called out for hyperactivity in children are Red #40 and Yellow #5. An NIH study recommends that since current dyes do not improve the safety or nutritional quality of foods, all of the currently used dyes should be removed. There is a general agreement that there is inadequate testing for FD&C dyes.
What tests there are on how food dyes affect behavior seem to show that some children are genetically vulnerable to behavioral changes from dyes and that a smaller subset have very strong reactions.
"In Europe, that's enough to get it banned because a manufacturer has to show lack of toxic effects," said Bernard Weiss, professor emeritus of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "In this country, it's up to the government to find out whether or not there are harmful effects." Weiss supports banning artificial colors until companies have evidence that they cause no harm.
"The fundamental problem is that good research studies about food dyes are very hard to do. The default position of the regulatory industries seems to be that food dyes are safe until proven otherwise," notes Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann.
In 1965, Dr. Ben F. Feingold, a pediatrician and chief of allergy at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Northern California, was way ahead of his time in seeing a biochemical relationship to behavior. His hypothesis was that "hyperactivity can be triggered by synthetic additives—specifically synthetic colors, synthetic flavors and the preservatives BHA, BHT (and later TBHQ)—and also a group of foods containing a natural salicylate radical. This is an immunological—not an allergic—response."
Feingold went on to develop the famous Feingold Diet, removing food additives including artificial coloring. The Internet is overflowing with success stories written by grateful parents. The Feingold site has an impressive compellation of studies on the topic. The diet's benefits are still controversial, but the Feingold Association claims that more than 50 percent to more than 90 percent of children responded well to the diet.
Prevention and Solutions
Imagine the array of colors in heirloom foods and plants of all kinds that could be used for natural dyes, just as they had been for centuries by weavers. For example, a natural match for Red #40 can be made from beets, elderberry, and even purple sweet potatoes.
The FDA has a broad list of approved natural colors that are exempt from certification, including beets, caramel, B-Carotene, cochineal extract, carmine, grape color, turmeric, paprika and more.
Baked goods, candy, cereal, beverages, orange peels, ice cream, sausage, maraschinos, medications, over-the-counter treatments and more, can all contain FD&C dyes. If you weren't a label reader before, now is a good time to start.
Parents like me who decided to follow the evidence before our eyes, that Yellow #5 and Red #40 caused behavioral changes in our children, look far and wide for natural food substitutes for those with these synthetic additives. It was wonderful when a candy shaped like an M&M but dyed with natural colors came on the market.
Baking with blueberry and beet juice becomes a common way to bring festive colors to holiday baked goods in households like mine. A child standing on a chair to be tall enough to stir the bowl hardly knows the difference between that and the commercial FD&C food coloring kits.
Experimenting with natural dyes can be a fun family adventure. You can juice spinach for green, carrots for orange—the list is as endless as the beautiful colors found in nature. Natural dyes are less neon, more nuanced, and can be very beautiful.
Once you have the colors you want to use, here, below, is how you can use them in baking. This one example for making red baked goods can be used for any color.
DIY Folk Formula for Red (Valentine) Cookies and Cupcakes Frosting
Choose any red juice that stains clothing! Examples include beets, strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Canned beets work effectively. Just drain the juice to use. Alternatively, thaw some frozen berries in a bowl and you'll find that there will be plenty of juice.
Substitute in equal measure the amount of juice you are using from the recipe's liquid. If the recipe doesn't include liquid, add enough additional flour to help absorb the liquid.
Every Parent Concerned About Their Kids’ Health Should Read This Book https://t.co/Fxdkvbj8TX @nytimeshealth @Healthy_Child @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517885105.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Robin Scher
One of my resolutions this year is to eat less meat. As a lifelong carnivore, this task has already proven to be easier said than done. The major challenge comes down to changing my habits. After years of enjoying bacon with my eggs for breakfast, I now associate its comforting greasy taste with the feeling of fullness. So how do I—and others like me—overcome this obstacle? One big challenge is finding a way to stay motivated.
Enter the Meat Blitz-Calculator.
Major reasons for cutting down on meat have to do with the health, environmental and animal welfare impact of this dietary choice. It may be easy to understand the negative consequences meat-eating has for your heart, the climate or animals on factory farms, but it's another matter when it comes to relating these impacts directly to your own consumption habits. This is where the calculator comes in.
The first question the calculator asks is whether you eat meat. If you answer yes, the calculator displays three predetermined average values for the amount of poultry, pork and beef in ounces you consume in a week. These figures—based on information taken from a USDA database—represent the national average for Americans and can be adjusted accordingly. The calculator then asks you to fill in what percentage of meat you would be willing to replace with vegetarian food in your diet.
This is where things get interesting. Based on further USDA statistics, the calculator displays the direct impact your dietary decision could have over the course of a decade. This information comes in two parts. The first set of figures shows how much water, CO2 and antibiotics would be spared by committing to your change in diet. The calculator also displays an infographic that represents the number of pigs, cows and chickens you would save from the slaughtering block.
What difference can this make to your habits, you may wonder? It comes down to shifting perspectives. Using the averages of the calculator, I committed to a 60 percent reduction over the next decade. By crunching the numbers, the calculator revealed the full impact my dietary decision could have on both my own wellbeing as well as the environment and animals (the latter two often require an imaginative leap that our stomachs—and cognitive dissonance—help us overlook).
Now the next time I'm tempted to eat a burger or a steak, I will be able to picture the cumulative impact of my decision. It's easy enough to dismiss the choices we make on a daily basis, but it becomes a lot harder when you start to consider the difference your decisions alone can make over a long period of time.
In order to do something I don't want to do, I need a good incentive. Ignorance might be bliss, but knowledge is power. Now that I understand the full impact of what I decide to eat for every meal, it has become a lot easier to avoid temptation. This change in behavior may not seem significant at first, but as the calculator helped me to realize, every little bit counts.
Want to eat less meat? Check out four easy tips to reduce your intake.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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By George Kimbrell
One year down, three to go. Trump and his enablers are hell bent on destroying or selling to the highest bidder the federal agencies they are charged with running in the public interest. In the past year, they have been unrelenting in their attacks on food safety, environmental protections, climate change, government transparency and so many other values we hold dear. We are in the midst of the most significant environmental and public health challenges imaginable. We're no longer dreading the harm the Trump administration could do to our health and environment—we're living it.
If you watched the State of the Union address last week, you may have picked out a common thread: gutting regulations—many of them crucial to protecting our food and environment—for the sake of higher corporate profits. Trump's boast that "we have cut more regulations in our first year than any other administration in history," may be good if you're Monsanto or Exxon, but it's dangerous for you and me and our families.
Let's take a look back at Trump's first year in office. What is the State of the Food and Environment Union? Here are just a few (of the many) ways the administration is undermining the food system, public health and the environment.
1. Trump and GMOs
At the wishes of Big Ag and their deep pockets, the Trump administration is keen on approving new GMO plants, fish, insects and animals as fast as possible, with as little oversight as possible. These actions will result in new risks to our food system and environment, not to mention millions more pounds of cancer-causing pesticides poured onto our crops and sprayed near schools, the extinction of native salmon species, the disastrous collapse of pollinators, harm to children and much more.
In two current lawsuits, Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force it to rescind approvals allowing dangerous pesticides to be used in new ways, over-the-top of genetically engineered (GE) crops resistant to them. Monsanto's Round-Up Ready crops have become obsolete because of "superweeds" resistant to its main ingredient, glyphosate. In response, the chemical companies are peddling new GE crops that can tolerate older, even more toxic herbicides, namely dicamba (produced by Monsanto) and 2,4-D (a chemical compound in "Agent Orange"). The approval and release of these GE crop systems—pesticides and GE seeds resistant to them—will result in hundreds of millions of more pounds of toxic pesticides being sprayed on our food.
Meanwhile, Trump is delaying long-overdue disclosure of all GMO ingredients in foods, required by federal law starting July 2018. Last August, CFS sued and won a case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) when missed the first labeling deadline. (The administration immediately relented and complied with the law 12 days later.)
The Trump administration also has delayed new rules for the regulation of GMOs, withdrawing proposed updated regulations late last year, despite being long overdue and urgently needed. This was not an accident: Recently, in a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation, President Trump declared that he is "streamlining regulations that have blocked cutting-edge biotechnology—setting free our farmers to innovate, thrive, and grow. Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.'"
2. Trump and Pesticides
In March, President Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reneged on a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that's known to harm kids' brain development, and chose instead to protect the profits of Dow Chemical, the maker of the pesticide. And in November, a hidden bill being pushed by the pesticide industry was obtained by CFS that would dismantle Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections against deadly pesticides.
Two of Trump's cabinet nominees—Michael Dourson and Sam Clovis—were so toxic that they were forced to withdraw their nominations instead of being rejected in Congress. At his committee hearing, Dourson's questionable track record and refusal to commit to recusing himself from working on chemicals he's been paid by industry to "study" in the past led Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to tell Dourson, "You're not just an outlier on this science, you're outrageous in how far from the mainstream of science you actually are. It's pretty clear you have never met a chemical you didn't like."
Sam Clovis withdrew from consideration for Chief Scientist at USDA after being roundly criticized by Congress and the public for being an admitted climate change "skeptic," saying that climate science is "junk science" and "not proven." To make matters worse, Clovis has a history of racism, sexism and homophobia.
3. Trump and Food Safety
In March, Trump announced billions in dollars of cuts to USDA and FDA, undermining their ability to keep our food safe. In November, the Trump administration proposed a delay in enforcement of urgently needed rules aimed at keeping produce free from fecal contamination. Contaminated irrigation water is a major cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. In 2006, a major outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to Dole baby spinach was eventually traced back to water contaminated with cattle and wild pig feces. Foodborne illness had become a full-blown epidemic, affecting 1 in 6 Americans.
In response to that and many other foodborne illness outbreaks connected to food such as peanuts, fruit and vegetables, Congress passed the landmark 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which includes requirements that the Food and Drug Administration develop rules governing produce safety, including the water quality used to grow, harvest and pack produce. From 2012-2014, CFS previously challenged FDA's unlawful delay in drafting and completion of all of FSMA's six major rule-makings, including the produce rule, succeeding in having all the rules completed by court-ordered deadlines.
The rule allowed growers to phase in water quality and testing requirements between 2018 and 2022, depending in part on the size of the farm. However, now under the new proposed Trump administration delay, growers would not have to test water for E. coli contamination until between 2022 and 2024—11 to 13 years after FSMA's passage, endangering food safety.
4. Trump and Factory Farms
Many of today's farms are actually large industrial facilities, not family farms with green pastures and red barns that most Americans imagine. The operation of these factory farms has little to no regard for the environment, animal welfare or food safety, and they often put the health of consumers and rural communities at risk for the sake of profit. Yet, the EPA, the agency charged with protecting our environment and public health, made a third attempt to further delay the hazardous substance release reporting requirements for industrial-scale livestock operations (concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs).
In November, CFS joined other groups to oppose this egregious action that would allow these facilities to keep operating in a way that sees health-harming pollution as status quo. We asked the court to make it clear that EPA's "preliminary guidance" is illegal because it represents the agency's third attempt to hide information from the public about CAFO releases of dangerous pollution, particularly ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.
Sonny Perdue, Trump's pick to head the USDA, is also no stranger to putting people's health and animal welfare at risk. Earlier this year, inspectors detected bird flu outbreaks in a Tennessee-based poultry breeding operation contracted by Tyson Foods, Inc., the largest chicken meat producer in the U.S. This event demonstrates that confining birds indoors for their entire lives in no way safeguards against disease. The pathogen responsible for bird flu becomes more lethal in large, over-crowded, confined, indoor farming operations like those contracted by food giant Tyson.
Preventing these deadly outbreaks requires reforming how chickens are raised. Strategies implemented by many organic chicken producers, for example—such as access to the outdoors, low densities, and adequate lighting—are necessary to raise chickens and other food animals in the most healthy, safe and sustainable manner.
USDA also is charged with overseeing the National Organic Standards, for labeling organically grown food. Yet rather than taking steps to prevent future outbreaks and ensure higher animal welfare standards for organic, USDA gave in to Big "Organic" Poultry and in December announced plans to withdraw previously finalized organic animal welfare rules that had been the culmination of almost 15 years. Rather than listen to the public who have concerns about public health and animal welfare, USDA sided with large-scale producers who fear the new rules will expose their less-than-organic practices.
5. Trump and Oceans
Livestock and poultry are not the only animals living in factory farm conditions. Our oceans are the new frontier. Commercial fishing and industrial aquaculture are polluting waterways as well as leading some species toward distinction. Despite a 97 percent decline in population, in August the Trump administration denied endangered species status of Pacific Bluefin tuna. It's not enough for people to stop eating Bluefin tuna; it needs a protected status to prevent it from being fished. The Trump administration would rather side with large-scale fisheries than protect our natural world.
The Gulf of Mexico sees its fair share of pollution resulting in growing annual dead zones from industrial agriculture runoff down the Mississippi River as well as oil spills. Yet, The Trump administration wants to pile on the pollution by allowing factory fish farms in the Gulf, which would be the first time ever for aquaculture in U.S. federal waters, anywhere. Industrial aquaculture will harm Gulf fishing communities and ocean ecosystems.
Last year, CFS filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration for violating our core fisheries and environmental laws in attempting to set up this unprecedented industrial activity in our ocean waters. This is not just happening in the Gulf, but also in the Pacific Northwest. CFS is also in court, in another case filed last year, to stop a commercial shellfish aquaculture permit approved in Washington State by Trump's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the same Army Corps that approved the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline). This irresponsible permit approval would allow a massive expansion of this already large industry, with no protections for wildlife, water quality, ecosystems or people.
Oh, and remember Trump's GMO "streamlining"? It's not just plants: the first ever GE animal for food, a genetically engineered salmon is currently under court review. However, that case provided a major win for those of us fighting for transparency and accountability within the Trump administration in late January. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the FDA's attempt to hide thousands of pages of key government documents revealing how the agency arrived at its controversial approval. The court order rejected the Trump administration's position that it can unilaterally decide which documents to provide and which to withhold from public and court review.
A broad coalition of commercial and recreational fisheries interests, environmentalists and tribes, led by CFS, challenged the GE salmon approval in 2016. Although FDA considered the application for the GE salmon for nearly two decades, the agency's record for court review was paltry, including mostly documents already publicly available on their website and only four agency emails. FDA refused to provide thousands of critical documents about how and why it approved the GE salmon.
6. Trump and Climate
One of Trump's first acts in office was to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. President Trump's decision to pull out from the 2015 Paris climate agreement was a major setback for the treaty, and for our ability to combat the climate crisis. The U.S. is the world's second-largest carbon polluter after China.
In March, President Trump signed an Executive Order that drastically rolls back progress made by the Obama administration to tackle the environmental, economic and public health impacts of global climate change. The order specifically set into motion the unravelling of the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants and create new jobs in the renewable energy sector. Trump's coal-focused energy program as outlined in the order will also make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to meet climate solution commitments set by the 2105 Paris agreement.
The Executive Order also revoked the requirement that federal agencies analyze climate change impacts in all their decision-making. If President's Trump exclamation in his State of the Union address, "we have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on fuel, clean coal" are only the latest signal that his administration's attacks on our climate and environmental laws are far from over.
Your Voice Has Power
If the first year of the Trump administration is any indication, we clearly have our work cut out for us. The public interest, which should be government's highest duty, is in exile. Government agencies are being unduly influenced by Big Ag's lobbying and money, if not simply controlled directly by those doing their bidding, the foxes in the henhouse. Now is when nonprofit organizations are needed more than ever. CFS will continue to watchdog the Trump administration and challenge the agencies that are supposed to oversee our food system. But you are the most important voice for Congress and the Trump administration to hear.
Here are a few important actions you can take right now:
Make sure the Trump administration issues GMO labeling regulations that requires the labeling of ALL GMOs, and does so on food packages, for all Americans, not only through discriminatory and secondary "QR code" smart phone disclosure.
The pesticide industry is pushing a bill that threatens the survival of endangered species. Tell Congress to oppose any legislative attempt to weaken ESA protections for species affected by pesticides!
While Trump's EPA put corporate profits over public health, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico (D) has introduced a bill that would outlaw chlorpyrifos. The bill is called the Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2017 (S. 1624). Tell your senators to protect our kids and ban this toxic pesticide once and for all.
George Kimbrell is the legal director at the Center for Food Safety.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.