By Paolo Mutia
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, it has exposed and exacerbated how the corporate, industrialized food system is harming people and our planet.
Family farmers across the country, many already on the brink, have lost markets and are struggling to survive. Simultaneously, food workers, from farmworkers to slaughterhouse workers and grocery workers are on the frontlines of this crisis, facing huge risks to their health with little to no protection. And as unemployment skyrockets, more Americans than ever lack access to nutritious food.
It's clear that supporting a healthy, sustainable and just food system is crucial to overcoming this crisis and building a better future for all of us.
That's why the next stimulus bill must support the farmers who need it most: small family farmers, organic farmers and producers of color who usually supply restaurants, foodservice companies and other buyers whose demand has dropped off dramatically during the pandemic. It must also protect and support food workers who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and help ensure that the growing numbers of people reliant on food assistance, and all of us, have access to healthy, fresh food.
The last coronavirus aid package included $23 billion for agriculture, which predominantly is going to the largest industrial farms, and it could happen again. Friends of the Earth is fighting to ensure the next stimulus bill doesn't bail out Big Ag, but instead supports and protects family farmers, frontline food workers and others who need it the most.
Here are three ways you can help support a resilient and regenerative local food system that can strengthen our communities' health, our local economies and our environment:
1. Sign Up For a CSA Membership.
Purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is a great way to access fresh, healthy, often organic, foods while supporting local small farmers that the Trump administration is leaving behind. Many farmers are adapting to the current crisis with more direct distribution models, from classic CSAs to custom-built boxes, no-contact drive-thru pickups, deliveries, and more.
2. Shop at a Local Farmers' Market.
Farmers markets serve as a direct channel to sustainable, healthy, locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables and other food staples within your community. Many farmers markets remain open as an essential service during the crisis, thanks to the efforts of local farmers and their allies.
Many farmers markets are instituting strict rules to keep customers safe. Coupled with a shorter supply chain than most supermarkets, farmers markets are a safe choice for meeting your family's food needs during this crisis. Double-Up Food Bucks and other programs under GusNIP, which doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP) benefits, are also still being accepted for purchasing fresh produce at participating farmers markets, CSAs, and grocery stores. Here are some tips to help you plan your trip to any farmers' market and safely shop!
3. Tell Congress to Support Family Farmers, Food Workers and Healthy, Sustainable Food for All.
Amid the terrible impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, it's clearer than ever that we need to move towards a regenerative, resilient and just food system. Building strong and equitable local food economies make our food system more resilient to shocks and crises.
For those of us with the ability, we can make daily choices about where we shop. But what is truly needed is a shift in the public policies to make it easier to grow and access healthy, sustainable and local foods. For too long, our policies have led to increased corporate consolidation that has devastated farmer livelihoods and harmed food workers and rural communities. In the US, farm bankruptcies were up 12% last year, and farm debt is at an all-time high.
As farmers face the new crisis of the pandemic, we must come together to demand that federal stimulus funding and future farm policies support small and mid-scale farmers across the country who are supporting resilient and regenerative local and regional food systems.
Congress must ensure that fruit and vegetable farmers have the support they need to keep producing healthy food instead of subsidizing unhealthy factory-farmed meat and processed foods. At a time when our healthcare system is in crisis, it is more important than ever that Americans have access to healthy food. People with diet-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes are at greater risk of COVID-19 complications.
The next stimulus package must also do better for food workers and families in need. Farmworkers and other food chain workers, already some of the lowest paid and least protected workers, are also on the frontlines of this pandemic — and are incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19. Congress and the administration must ensure safe working conditions and a family-supporting livable wage. And families across the country need assistance to ensure they can continue accessing and purchasing healthy foods.
With your help, we can support and protect some of the most essential heroes of this crisis — farmers and food workers — while ensuring a resilient, regenerative, healthy and equitable food system for all of us.
Reposted with permission from Friends of the Earth.
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By Hallie Templeton
The map brands these areas as "ocean neighborhoods." Though that sounds pretty cozy, it is nothing close to reality. What's in store for these "neighborhoods?" Massive rigs and other infrastructure, increased vessel traffic and noise, the inherent risk of dirty oil spills and blowouts and unavoidable toxic discharge.
Although the map touts "a fountain of data for use by industry," it ignores several components of the ocean ecosystem and certain coastal communities that are already struggling and need increased protections — not increased development. Users can view the migratory pathways of sharks and fish — but not other migratory species like seabirds and turtles. You can see critical habitats designated pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, but not the habitats for every threatened or endangered species (not all species receive critical habitat protection). Finally, feeding areas for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are shown, but what about breeding areas for these struggling species? And, where are the other species protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act: sirenians (manatees and dugongs) and marine carnivores (like seals, otters, walrus and polar bears)? Trump's new industry-focused map does not include this vital information.
While we're at it, what about coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico that are already bearing the brunt of extensive offshore drilling? Thanks to offshore drilling, they are struggling with basic needs like drinkable water and breathable air. But, the map doesn't pay them any credence. Trump must not see them as a priority in determining where to develop next.
Since taking office, Trump has prioritized rolling back decades of progress in ocean protection policy. Both former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama took steps toward establishing a strong foundation for healthy oceans with protections for marine mammals, the creation of sanctuaries and monuments, improving U.S. fisheries and crafting policies to shield massive swaths of our waterways from dirty drilling activities. Trump has attempted to abolish much of that progress. This map is just one more Trump handout to Big Oil and others in the booming business of ocean industrialization.
Thankfully, we have checks and balances in our federal government to help prevent Trump's bad policies. In January 2019, members of Congress joined together to introduce a series of bills that would protect the majority of our coastlines from offshore drilling activities. And in March 2019, a federal judge nixed Trump's attempt to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and North Atlantic coasts and upheld protections placed by former President Obama.
States can also attempt to resist Trump through stronger local policies. For example, an inspiring number of governors — including Republicans and Democrats — from coastal states opposed Trump's plan for expanded offshore drilling. Unfortunately, Trump responded by proposing to take away states' rights to object to coastal development off their coasts.
Thanks to major pushback from organizations like Friends of the Earth, Trump has temporarily postponed the next phase of his plan for offshore drilling expansion. But the recent issuance of his ocean industrialization map reinforces that Trump will continue providing corporate handouts and pushing to industrialize our remaining wild places. Click here to tell the Trump administration to permanently pull the plug on its five-year plan to expand offshore drilling. Remember: our oceans are home to important and endangered marine species, and shouldn't be treated as mere uncharted areas for mega-corporations to industrialize.
9 States Sue 'Flat-Out Wrong' Trump Administration Over Seismic Blasting in Atlantic https://t.co/L1t0GESjWG— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) December 24, 2018
Hallie Templeton is senior oceans campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
Embracing solar power means reducing both your reliance on traditional utility companies and your environmental footprint, but the high upfront cost of solar panels can be a big deterrent for some homeowners.
If you're considering solar, you may have questions like: How much does it cost to install a solar energy system? What are some of the factors that can impact pricing? What else should home- and business owners know about going solar? In this article, we'll touch on each of these important topics, with the goal of helping you make a fully informed, financially responsible decision about solar energy.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost to Install?
To begin with, let's take a look at the basic price range for solar panel installation. According to the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report, in the first quarter of 2021, the national average price of a residential solar system was $2.94 per watt, which would mean a 5 kWh system would cost $14,700 and a 10 kWh system would cost $29,400.
The exact price you'll pay for solar panels will depend on a number of factors, including your geographic location, the size of your home and more.
Now, you might rightly wonder: What exactly are you paying for? The solar panels themselves usually make up just about a quarter of the total cost. Remaining expenses include labor, maintenance and additional parts and components (such as inverters).
What Factors Determine Solar Pricing?
As mentioned, there are a few key things that can lead to variation in solar system installation costs. Analyzing these can help you determine whether solar panels are worth it for your home. Let's take a look at them in greater detail.
Your Electrical Needs
The solar panels themselves will be rated for a particular wattage, which reflects the amount of energy they can absorb for storage and ultimately for power generation. You will actually pay according to wattage, which means that the greater your household energy needs, the more you'll have to spend to get the correct number of solar panels.
So, how do you determine how much energy you need for your home? The best way to figure this out is through a consultation with a solar installer. (We recommend shopping smart by requesting free consultations with two or three top solar companies in your area.)
Your installer will evaluate your home energy needs based on total square footage, the number of people who live in your home, the number of appliances and power-draining devices that you have connected and more. It can then recommend the ideal solar panel system size to accommodate your energy usage.
Type of Panels and Other Components
Variation in manufacturing can also affect the cost of solar panels. There are three basic types of solar panels, two of which are commonly used residentially: monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Of these two, monocrystalline options tend to be more energy-efficient and thus may provide you with greater savings in the long run. They are also a bit pricier on the front end. With that said, homeowners with a smaller roof surface area may benefit from getting the most efficient solar panels, even if the initial cost is a bit steeper.
Other components you'll need to purchase include inverters, wiring, charge controllers, mounts and more. The quality of these materials can affect your total solar system cost. For example, if you spring for the best solar batteries, they may add a few thousand dollars to your investment.
Another factor that can have a big impact on solar pricing? Your geographic area. Solar installation tends to be most cost-effective in parts of the country that get a lot of sun exposure, and thus a lot of photovoltaic light. This basically means that solar panels can operate more efficiently, and in many cases means that fewer total panels are needed. Those who live in states like California, Florida and Arizona — or really any areas of the Sun Belt or Southwest — will likely get the most out of their home solar power systems.
Both state and federal governments have established incentive programs to encourage homeowners to buy solar panels. There is currently a 26% federal solar tax credit, called an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), available for homeowners who install residential solar panels between 2020 and 2022. It is scheduled to reduce to 22% in 2023 and may not be extended thereafter.
Local incentives vary by state, but most of the best solar panel installers will help you identify and apply for these programs so you don't miss out on savings.
There are plenty of other factors that can impact solar panel installation costs. Different vendors are going to offer different levels of customization, expertise and consumer protections (including guarantees and warranties). The bottom line? It is wise to shop around a bit, determine the average cost of solar panels in your area and evaluate the value of services offered by a few solar installation companies.
Solar Panel Price Vs. Return on Investment
Clearly, your upfront solar panel installation cost may be a little steep. Now, let's look at the flipside: How much money will you actually save? And will your energy savings be enough to offset the initial cost of your solar energy system?
It is not unreasonable to think that you can cut your monthly utility bills by as much as 75% or more by switching to solar energy. Of course, the specific dollar amount will depend on where you live, the size of your home and the number of people in your household.
One way to look at it: The average household energy bill is somewhere between $100 and $200 monthly. It would probably take about 15 years for your energy savings to cancel out the cost of solar panel installation. In other words, within a decade and a half or so, your solar system might pay for itself. Factor in savings from tax rebates and other incentives, and most solar systems pay for themselves in closer to seven or eight years.
Note that most solar energy companies offer free solar calculators, which help you arrive at a ballpark for monthly energy savings. While these calculators are imprecise, they can certainly give you a general sense of the financial benefits you will experience when you convert to solar energy.
Free Quote: See How Much You Can Save on Solar Panels
Fill out this 30-second form to get a quote from one of the best solar energy companies in your area. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive tax rebates.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Solar Panels
As you continue to weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it's natural to have a few questions. The best way to resolve these is really to set up a solar consultation with a local expert, but in the meantime, here are a few general answers to some of the most common solar inquiries.
How much will it cost to maintain my solar energy system?
In general, solar systems are designed to run smoothly for decades without requiring any maintenance or upkeep. As such, you should not really need to factor maintenance into the equation for the first 20 years or so after you install your system. (And most solar companies will offer you warranties and guarantees to give peace of mind on this front.)
How will solar energy impact my property values?
Many homeowners want to know how going solar will impact the value of their homes. Going solar increases property values. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has reported buyers are willing to pay an average premium of about $15,000 for a home with a solar panel system. With that said, you are only going to see your property values go up if you own your solar system outright, as opposed to leasing it.
How can I finance the cost of solar panels?
Different solar installers may offer different financing plans, allowing consumers some flexibility. With that said, there are three basic options for paying for your solar energy system:
- Purchase your solar energy system outright (that is, pay in cash).
- Take out a solar loan to purchase the system, then pay it back with interest.
- Lease your system; you will pay less month-to-month but won't actually own the system yourself.
Which is better, buying or leasing my solar system?
It all depends on your motivation for going solar. If you want to maximize long-term savings and increase the value of your home, then purchasing your solar system is usually best. However, if you just want a low-maintenance way to reduce monthly energy costs and practice environmental stewardship, then leasing might be a better option. Also note that leasing can be a good option for those who do not plan on being in their home for exceptionally long.
How can I be sure my roof will accommodate a solar system?
If your roof faces south, has ample space and has little to no shade cover, it should work just fine. Even roofs that are not optimal can still be utilized with a few tweaks and adjustments. Your solar energy consultant will advise you on whether your home is a good fit for solar energy.
How long will my solar energy system last?
Solar systems are designed to be exceptionally durable. With just the most basic upkeep, most solar energy systems should continue to work and produce power for anywhere from 25 to 35 years.
Make the Best Choice About Solar Energy
Solar energy is not right for every homeowner, nor for every home. With that said, many homeowners will find that the initial cost of solar panels is more than offset by the long-term, recurring energy savings. Make sure you factor in cost, energy needs, tax incentives, home value and more as you seek to make a fully informed decision about whether to embrace solar power.
By Verner Wilson II
2018 was a breakthrough year for Arctic conservation work at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). I wrote partly about it in my previous blog. Aside from obtaining internationally recognized routing measures and shipping areas to be avoided (ATBA) in the Bering Sea, IMO also moved forward with regulations to ban the use of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) in the Arctic.
The United Nations shipping agency also moved to regulate climate-change causing greenhouse gas emissions in the international shipping industry, which is one of the largest emitters of carbon and other atmosphere pollutants. I look forward to continuing that type of work into 2019. And there will be plenty of opportunity for that, as there are a number of IMO subcommittee meetings that will consider pollution reduction and prevention measures. The people who I believe made some of the most significant differences in this work in 2018 were able to come to IMO with me last fall.
It's not every day that elder Alaska Natives are heard and respected by leaders from around the world. Historically Alaska Natives were discriminated against. But not last October, when my respected Alaska Native elders George Edwardson from Utqiagvik and Delbert Pungowiyi from Savoonga traveled to London, England to tell the world about their decades of life in the Arctic.
Eager ears from every corner of the earth listened to their words of wisdom that week, when they attended the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting as part of the delegation of my organization, Friends of the Earth. Representing the Native Village of Savoonga and Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (or ICAS, a consortium of eight Native villages on Alaska's Arctic Slope), they told the international delegates from over 173 nations about why it is important to protect the fragile Arctic environment. They told them their stories of growing up hunting and fishing on the Arctic ice. They spoke of their people who have depended on the bountiful marine wildlife that has sustained them for thousands of years. Whales, walrus, polar bears, seals and other Arctic wildlife can't speak to international leaders, but my two respected elders who have been sustained by these creatures could—and they sure did! They spoke for the wildlife and fragile environment our indigenous people depend on amidst increased shipping in the region.
Heavy fuel oil — the dirtiest fuel that can possibly be burned for shipping — is very persistent in the Arctic, ha… https://t.co/IZlQverQEb— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1540051260.0
Every time they eloquently spoke during that busy week, I heard not just them—but also myself. I heard my ancestors, and future generations of Alaska Native conservation leaders. I believe that our Native values and desire to protect our home allow us to speak collectively as one. Thus, our Arctic Indigenous voices rise as one. I heard our collective voices as my elders Delbert and George spoke at the many events we participated in that week. I was surprised that even for their older ages (Delbert is in his late 50s and George is in his 70s), they had such dedication to tell their story. And the stamina to carry them through from dusk until dawn each day after traveling more than 24 hours to get there. And it was an assiduous week for us. Together, we spoke to dozens of international leaders at two events: at the IMO plenary itself, and at an evening reception at United Kingdom's Parliament building. We woke up at 5 a.m. one day to take a two-hour train ride to Southampton, UK where we spoke to Carnival Cruise Line's top executives at their UK headquarters as we urged them to take responsibility in the Arctic by not using HFO. We also spoke to more than a hundred students at Imperial College during an evening event, and reporters throughout the week. My elders George and Delbert were eager and ecstatic to talk to everyone they could to help protect the people and places where they are from.
If there is one thing I learned from that week, it was that I could count on my elders and people to continue their strong and passionate advocacy for our home. In 2018, Arctic indigenous voices stood up and began engaging in IMO deliberations. The Alaska Federation of Natives, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (or NTI, a Native organization in Nunavut, Canada) and the government of Greenland all passed statements urging IMO to ban the use of HFO. In 2019 other issues will be discussed, including the regulation of other pollutants like greywater, initiatives for ships to avoid marine mammals, and more. As we move into 2019, I look forward to continuing this work at the IMO's Pollution, Prevention and Response (PPR) subcommittee meeting in February 2019, as well as the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in May. Despite the long trip to London and busy weeklong meetings, I know it will be worth it. My elders George and Delbert reminded me of why our work is worth it.
Landmark Agreement: Shipping Industry to Cut Emissions https://t.co/KyX9EuwB4I @NRDC @UCSUSA @SierraClub @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523904829.0
Verner Wilson II is a senior oceans campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
By Kendra Klein
A groundbreaking new study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that you can cut your cancer risk by eating an organic diet. The findings are dramatic. In a study that followed nearly 70,000 people, those who ate the most organic food lowered their overall risk of developing cancer by 25 percent. The relationship was strongest for two types of cancer: participants who frequently ate organic had 76 percent fewer lymphomas and 34 percent fewer breast cancers that developed after menopause.
This research confirms what is intuitive and supports what the President's Cancer Panel told us nearly a decade ago: reducing exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, including pesticides, reduces your risk of cancer.
Here's why this is intuitive. First, we know that eating organic foods reduces our exposure to pesticides. Research has shown that the level of pesticides we can measure in people's bodies drops significantly within days of switching from a non-organic to an organic diet.
And second, we know that many of the pesticides commonly used on U.S. farms and found as residues on our food are associated with cancers and a host of other health problems, from ADHD and autism to infertility and Alzheimer's.
More than 90 percent of Americans have detectable pesticides in our bodies. The food we eat is the most significant way we're exposed for those of us who don't work with pesticides at our jobs. Farmers, farmworkers and groundskeepers are most at risk of exposure, like Dewayne Johnson, who just won a lawsuit against Monsanto linking his occupational glyphosate exposure to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Some of us are more vulnerable than others. Infants are born pre-polluted with pesticides in the U.S., and nearly all children are exposed to pesticides through the foods they eat. Infants and children have unique susceptibilities to the harms of pesticides because their brains and bodies are developing so rapidly. Early life exposure can impact children for life. It can permanently decrease a child's IQ, increase the risk of autism or lead to cancers later in life. Another new study calls for a ban on all organophosphate pesticides, like chlorpyrifos, because of their link to brain damage in children.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics says that "children's exposure to pesticides should be limited as much as possible."
Other studies have shown that decreasing the amount of pesticides we're exposed to by eating organic can improve our health. Like this recent study, which found that women who ate more organic food had a higher likelihood of getting and staying pregnant. And the Million Women Study in the UK, which found that women who ate more organic food had a 21 percent lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
What these studies tell us is that small exposures matter—in other words, the amount of pesticides we consume as food residues matters. To understand why, consider the fact that scientists measure pesticides in our bodies at similar levels as drugs prescribed by doctors, like Ritalin. These small amounts of pesticides can act like drugs in our bodies, altering our brain development, hormones, immune systems and more.
And we're not exposed to just one pesticide at a time. When we eat non-organic food, we're exposed to a "cocktail" of different pesticides. Consider strawberries: the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly one-third of non-organic strawberries had residues from 10 or more different pesticides.
Government regulations are inadequate to protect our health. Legal limits for the amount of pesticide residues on food are set as if we're exposed to just one pesticide at a time, but that is never the case. As this study shows, approximately 40 percent of U.S. children are exposed to a cumulative amount of organophosphate pesticides from the food they eat and water they drink at levels that exceed benchmarks for neurological harm. What's more, emerging data show that certain combinations of pesticides can have synergistic impacts greater than the effect of each individual chemical.
We are paying for this overuse of toxic pesticides with our well-being and our lives. The estimated environmental and health care costs of pesticide use in the U.S.—at levels that are legal according to government regulations—is estimated to be upwards of $12 billion every year. Meanwhile, the pesticide industry reaps over $150 billion in profit each year from pesticides and other agricultural technologies and spends tens of millions lobbying legislators and misleading the public about pesticides. What this amounts to is a chronic poisoning of the population for the financial gain of a few.
Our taxpayer dollars are being used to prop up this devastating system. Congress subsidizes chemical-intensive industrial agriculture to the tune of billions of dollars a year, while organic programs and research are woefully underfunded. As one example, less than one percent of federal agricultural research dollars goes toward organic farming methods or other sustainable farming approaches.
It is high time we flip this system on its head and make organic food the standard for all people.
A recent United Nations report debunks the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed a growing world population and argues that each of us has the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides. And people living in farm communities should have the right to be free of exposure to toxic pesticides, starting with the children who live and go to school near farm fields where pesticides are sprayed and farmers and farmworkers who are exposed daily.
Those of us who can buy organic need to continue driving the growth of organic food in the marketplace. And, together, we need to fight for public policies that make organic a solution for all. This means overhauling the Farm Bill, which will be up for renegotiation in 2019. In the meantime, some food retailers are taking steps in the right direction by increasing organic offerings and decreasing use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains.
The experiment in chemical-intensive agriculture that has metastasized across the world in the past 80 years must become a thing of the past. An organic food future is not only possible—it is essential.
Can Organic Farming Feed the World? https://t.co/Ojr5lw6vW1 @naturallysavvy @TheOrganicView— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467494109.0
Kendra Klein, Ph.D. is a senior staff scientist for Friends of the Earth.
By Doug Norlen
This month the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a startling report, which finds that severe impacts of climate change are happening much sooner than previously expected, and that countries must take far more aggressive actions to avoid the most catastrophic impacts. The report finds that the burning of fossil fuels must be curbed sharply.
The harmful role Wall Street banks play in propping up fossil projects around the world is increasingly known. Yet there is much less awareness of the role major cities play when they place billions of dollars of their public funds into these same Wall Street banks. According to L.A. city records, as of July 2018, Los Angeles had banking and/or investment relationships with several Wall Street banks, many of which are notorious for their financing of fossil fuel and human rights debacles around the world, including JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
According to Banking on Climate Change, a fossil fuel finance report card, between 2015 and 2017 these Wall Street banks collectively provided over $50 billion in financing for tar sands, ultra-deep water drilling, coal mining, coal power and liquid natural gas projects around the world. These projects contribute vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and many of them have severe local environmental, social and human rights impacts as well.
But in 2018, cities have more ethical options. Rather than investing the public's money in environmental and human destruction, cities can establish public banks. When properly structured and operated, public banks can prohibit the use of their funds for fossil fuel and other harmful projects. Instead, they can fund renewable energy and other green enterprises, affordable housing, education and low-cost loans to job-creating entrepreneurs—all while avoiding paying hundreds of millions of dollars in exorbitant fees to Wall Street banks.
The movement to establish public banks is growing nationwide. California is at the forefront, with efforts to pass state-wide legislation allowing establishment of municipal banks as well as campaigns to establish public banks in San Francisco, Oakland and other East Bay cities, Los Angeles and other municipalities.
When Los Angeles voters go to the polls next week, they will decide whether to approve Charter Amendment B, which amends the city's charter to enable it to take affirmative steps to establish a public bank. And Los Angeles is a great case study on the need for public banks. According to Public Bank L.A., the city maintains bank accounts with between $4 billion and $12 billion in cash, and manages up to $45 billion in investments through large commercial banks.
The enormous sum of public funds that L.A. entrusts to fossil fuel banks undercuts the climate leadership of city officials. For example, this past August L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti joined a coalition of hundreds of mayors across the country to condemn Donald Trump's plans to weaken vehicle efficiency standards and rescind California's waiver right to set stronger greenhouse gas regulations. In December 2016, Garcetti joined other mayors to denounce Trump's decision to walk away from the Paris agreement. The city council has shown progressive streaks on banking issues as well. In December 2017, the Council unanimously voted to enforce both federal and state Community Reinvestment Act ratings disqualifying Wells Fargo from submitting a Request for Proposal for the city's commercial banking services. And yet, the city still banks with Wells Fargo.
Activist calling for Wells Fargo to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline. Joe Piette / Flickr / Creative Commons
If L.A. voters approve Charter Amendment B, the city will be one step closer to creating a municipal bank and redirecting its billions of dollars of public funds to environmentally sound, fiscally smart, sustainable community needs. In doing so, L.A. will serve as a beacon of progress to inspire the larger national movement to establish public banks.
For a sense of why Los Angeles so badly needs to approve Charter Amendment B, we've included descriptions of just a handful of the harmful projects Los Angeles is currently supporting by keeping its money in fossil fuel banks (based on publicly available information). Here is a sample of some of the projects that LA's banks support:
Dakota Access Pipeline (United States):
- Citi — $235 million in project finance
- MUFG — $235 million in project finance
- Wells Fargo — $120 million in project finance
The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, extends over 1,000 miles across several U.S. states, damaging Native American ancestral lands and water. Passing within just a half-mile of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the pipeline has destroyed sacred sites and threatens the tribe's drinking water with potential oil spills. Beginning in 2016, Native American water protectors, including Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders and members, led opposition to DAPL. Supported by thousands of allies, this grew into one of the largest and most iconic movements in the world to halt fossil fuel pipelines. In response to peaceful, prayerful resistance, police from several states and agencies, members of the U.S. National Guard and armed private security forces used military equipment and tactics, including attack dogs, to intimidate, assault, arrest and otherwise commit grievous human rights abuses against water protectors and their allies. Opposition to the pipeline expanded far beyond the project site and supercharged the growing global movement against financial institutions that support fossil fuel projects.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline (United States):
- Bank of America — $673.5 million in corporate loans (13)
- Citi — $673.5 million in corporate loans (14)
- JP Morgan Chase — $648 million in corporate loans (15)
- MUFG — $1.182 billion in corporate loans (16)
- Wells Fargo — $673.5 million in corporate loans (17)
The proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, running from West Virginia through North Carolina, is the third longest gas pipeline in production or in some phase of development over the past 20 years in the U.S. Trees have been cleared along the pipeline route and infrastructure development has begun. Although two lawsuits against the pipeline are now pending in federal and North Carolina courts, federal law allows pipelines to be constructed prior to the resolution of all litigation. The ACP was the only oil or gas pipeline to be on Donald Trump's list of 50 Priority National Security Projects prior to his election.
According to published reports, the central purpose of the ACP is to enter South Carolina and eventually reach Elba Island, Georgia where gas will be exported from a liquid natural gas facility now under construction. This recognition raises serious concerns regarding the use of eminent domain to take privately owned property for private gain instead of public use.
Pax Ahimsa Gethen / Flickr
The ACP threatens the livelihood of more than 30,000 indigenous peoples that live along the pipeline route. In May 2018, an alliance of community, statewide and national groups filed a complaint to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Civil Rights Compliance Office, alleging that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality discriminated on the basis of race and color in issuing permits and certifications to the ACP as part of the permitting process. In September 2018, environmental groups filed legal challenges in an appeals court against federal permitting agencies.
Kusile Power Station (South Africa):
- Bank of America — financial advisor
- JP Morgan Chase — financial advisor
- MUFG — part of 705 million euro corporate loan to South Africa's state power company, Eskom, to purchase boilers from Hitachi Power Europe for the Kusile coal power plant
Once completed, the 4,800-megawatt Kusile coal plant in South Africa will be one of the largest coal plants in the world. The estimated annual greenhouse gas equivalent emissions of the plant—30 million tons—would increase South African energy sector emissions by 12.8 percent and the country's total contribution to climate change by 9.7 percent. South Africa already has the distinction of being among the top global greenhouse gas emitters per capita. The Kusile project area already exceeds permitted ambient levels of hazardous air pollutants that create soot and smog, which cause harm to respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems, leading to heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. If completed, Kusile will increase the cost of electricity for the poor and household consumers to compensate for Apartheid-era "special pricing agreements" that give large industrial users, which consume most of South Africa's electricity, guaranteed rates that are among the lowest in the world. The cost of Kusile, which in 2007 was estimated by Eskom to be 80 billion rand, had more than doubled to 172 billion rand by 2016. It is "expected to further strain Eskom's financial resources, and place upward pressure on Eskom's electricity price trajectory in the years ahead." In 2015 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Hitachi with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with contracts to build Kusile and Medupi (another enormous coal plant in South Africa), resulting in a $19 million settlement.
Long Phu-1 Coal Plant (Vietnam):
- MUFG and JP Morgan Chase — among the lead financial arrangers, with potential combined $650 million in finance
Long Phu-1 in Vietnam would emit an estimated 6.3 million tonnes of CO2 per year. As a "supercritical" coal power plant, Long Phu-1 is prohibited from being financed by most official government export credit agencies (ECA), including the U.S. Export-Import Bank. However, the former director of the EPA's Air Enforcement Division, Bruce Buckheit, revealed that the project consulting firm Environmental Resources Management doctored the coal plant's greenhouse gas emissions estimates to make Long Phu-1 appear to be a more efficient "ultra-supercritical" plant, which would be allowed under ECA coal financing restrictions. Analysis of Long Phu-1 by Friends of the Earth U.S. reveals that the project violates other international policies, including requirements to analyze alternatives, identify cumulative and associated risks and impacts, evaluate labor and working conditions, prevent pollution, protect community health, provide safety and security, and ensure biodiversity conservation. In February 2018, the New York Times reported that U.S. Export-Import Bank financing for Long Phu-1 had collapsed after it was revealed that project financiers included Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank that is on the U.S. government's sanctions list and is part of a federal investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign. It was also reported that a top Long Phu-1 project official had been sentenced to prison for corruption. MUFG and JP Morgan Chase, like the U.S. Export-Import Bank, must also comply with U.S. sanctions. However, it remains unclear whether these banks continue to be potential financiers of Long Phu-1.
WATCH: 3 communities who stood up to Big Oil and won https://t.co/58BKMR6zGK #FossilFree https://t.co/dqOuksByOh— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1526526910.0
Doug Norlen is the economic policy program director for Friends of the Earth.
By Chloë Waterman
As the Trump administration's dangerous deregulatory agenda leads us closer to climate catastrophe, cities, counties and businesses are stepping up to address the crisis. Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released their "Fulfilling America's Pledge" plan, laying out the top climate strategies for subnational governments and businesses, at the Global Climate Action Summit.
Unfortunately, their high-profile report omitted a major solution and a big component of the climate crisis: food consumption.
Agriculture produces an astounding one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy alone generate about half of those food-related emissions—more than the combined tailpipe discharges from every plane, train, car, bus and boat around the world. We simply cannot meet our emissions reduction goals if we do not address meat and dairy consumption, even if all 10 strategies in the America's Pledge plan are successful. High meat-consuming countries like the U.S. must lead the way.
Combined, the world's top five meat and dairy companies create more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. According to a July report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN, only two of the top 35 meat and dairy companies have made robust commitments to reduce their supply chain emissions. None of the nine U.S. companies on the list—Tyson Foods, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Perdue Farms and others—even report their supply chain emissions.
These nine companies produce most of their meat in Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia—states lacking progressive climate policies. However, the majority of their consumers live in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities. As centers of consumption, cities must confront their role in driving factory farming.
That's why a coalition of 45 public health and environmental organizations wrote an open letter to the 280 cities and counties that are members of We Are Still In Coalition, urging them to incorporate meat and dairy reduction into their climate strategies.
Project Drawdown—a climate change mitigation project initiated by Paul Hawken and worked on by a team of more than 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers and activists—names "plant-rich diet" as the fourth most impactful climate mitigation strategy, just after reducing food waste, a related strategy also omitted by America's Pledge.
The most direct way cities, counties, universities and school districts can shift diets is by leveraging their massive purchasing power to buy more plant-based foods, measurably reducing their carbon footprint and improving health. For example, public schools serve seven billion meals a year. If every single public school swapped out a beef burger for a protein-rich veggie burger on the school lunch menu just once a month, it would save 1,407,533,657 pounds of CO2-eq, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion fewer miles driven.
In addition to public institutions slashing meat from their menus, the food industry must step up to the climate action plate. A recent report from Mighty Earth found that 19 of the 23 top U.S. food companies have no commitments for mitigating the environmental impacts of their meat supply. Large restaurant chains, grocery retailers and foodservice management companies like Aramark, Sodexo and Compass Group should be tracking and reducing their supply chain carbon footprints and moving to plant-forward menus.
Climate-friendly diets are not only a high impact strategy—they are also cost-effective, making them an obvious place for cities, counties and businesses to focus their climate mitigation efforts. For example, a pilot analysis of Health Care Without Harm's "Balanced Menus: Less Meat Better Meat" program found that four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals collectively saved about $400,000 per year. A 2017 analysis from Friends of the Earth found that Oakland Unified School District saved $42,000 (and improved student meal satisfaction) by reducing the meat and dairy on their menus by 30 percent.
The Global Climate Action Summit took small steps toward realizing the value of shifting diets by announcing a new initiative to cut food sector emissions by 25 percent by 2030, including "Climate-friendly Diets" in its 30x30 Forests, Food, and Land Challenge and even serving plant-forward cuisine. Following the summit, California took a step of its own when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state to require plant-based options in health care facilities and state prisons.
At the international level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report released last week warned that the window for fending off the worst impacts of climate change is closing quickly and recommended "[limiting] demand for greenhouse-gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets." Yet, in contrast, America's Pledge missed a huge opportunity by omitting food consumption from the "Fulfilling America's Pledge" plan.
If we truly want to fulfill America's pledge and solve the climate crisis, we must move away from meat- and dairy-intensive diets. Cities, counties, states, businesses, universities, school districts and hospitals can lead the way by shifting toward plant-forward foods to change the main course of climate change and help rescue our ailing planet.
Going Vegan Is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet, New Study Proves https://t.co/M1vtznpcll @ForksOverKnives @TheVeganSociety— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523309420.0
Chloë Waterman serves as senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. where she implements policy and markets campaigns to advance a sustainable and just food system.
By Lisa Archer
Friends of the Earth recently released a brief that raised important questions about laboratory-created animal replacement products (in vitro meat and genetically engineered proteins) that are in development or on the market ahead of robust health and environmental assessment, oversight and labeling.
Some of the coverage and responses to our report created confusion and obscured our support for safe and sustainably produced plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
In fact, Friends of the Earth is a prominent proponent of delicious, healthy, non-GMO and sustainably produced plant-based products that make it easy for people to get the protein they need without having to eat factory farmed animal products that make up more than 95 percent of the market.
The factory farming industry is an ecological and public health nightmare. Raising 9 billion animals to produce 100 billion pounds of meat every year uses a staggering amount of land, GMO seed and toxic pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, antibiotics and water. Factory farming is driving the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, polluting our air and dumping toxic waste into our waterways.
The top five meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than Exxon, Shell or BP; the world cannot meet its climate targets without drastically curbing meat consumption. That's not to mention the unthinkable toll factory farms have taken on the well-being of neighboring communities, the safety of workers and the welfare of animals.
The top five meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than Exxon, Shell or BP. IATP
The situation is indisputably dire. The question at hand is, how can we get on a pathway toward a truly equitable, resilient, sustainable and humane food system?
There are three primary approaches to curbing the most harmful impacts of factory farming:
- One: through stricter regulation that has so far evaded our country due to the enormous political clout of the highly consolidated meat, pharmaceutical and agrichemical corporations;
- Two: by greatly reducing consumption of animal products and moving toward plant-based diets;
- Three: by transitioning to more sustainably and humanely produced animal products, raised via organic and regenerative pasture-based methods.
At Friends of the Earth, we believe that all three strategies must be part of the solution.
For years, Friends of the Earth has been a leader within the environmental community advocating for a shift in diets toward more sustainably produced plant-based foods and less and better meat and dairy. We've worked with cities and counties, k-12 school districts and universities, urging the purchase of fewer and better animal products and more plant-based proteins. We helped lead the fight to incorporate a strong recommendation for less meat consumption and sustainability into the 2015 "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," and we recently exposed the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef's shameful greenwashing.
Fortunately, these strategies and great work from animal welfare, health and environmental organizations are working, and the market is starting to reflect consumers' growing demand for healthy, plant-based, climate-friendly food. According to Nielsen, plant-based foods grew 20 percent in the 52 week period ending in June 2018, compared to sales of all foods, which grew just 2%. U.S. retail sales of plant-based milk alternatives grew 9 percent and plant-based meat substitutes grew 24 percent. We whole-heartedly applaud this progress as great news for the environment, public health and animal welfare.
Why are we concerned about GMO animal replacement foods?
A small but growing number of animal replacement products contain genetically engineered proteins. Products, such as the Impossible Burger, are entering the marketplace ahead of adequate assessments and regulatory oversight and without GMO labels that allow consumers to make informed choices. In vitro meat products are still in development with goals to enter the market in the near future. Both in vitro meat and genetically engineered proteins, as well as all new food ingredients, should be shown to be safe for our health and environment, have proper oversight and be labeled for a consumer's right to know before they end up on our plates. Genetically engineered proteins present novel risks to our health and environment that require additional consideration.
The Impossible Burger.Impossible Foods
Given their recent track record, people rightly don't trust big food companies or the increasingly consolidated power of agribusiness corporations like Bayer, which just merged with Monsanto. If investors and the tech companies producing genetically engineered animal replacement products want to create a viable alternative to factory farming and gain any measure of consumer trust, they need to be radically transparent with robust oversight, in sharp contrast to the secretive and dangerously under-regulated factory farming and agrichemical industries.
If we rush these so-called "silver bullets" to market based on investor hype, without ensuring they are the healthiest, safest and most sustainable alternatives—that people will actually trust and want to eat—it may backfire. A growing number of people don't trust food with thousands of unassessed chemicals that end up in food via the flawed GRAS process that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics should be greatly strengthened or replaced because it is "insufficient to ensure the safety of food additives" and does not "contain sufficient protections against conflict of interest." Consumers are abandoning the center aisles of grocery stores in favor of less processed, less packaged, healthier, fresh food at the perimeter.
The growth in organic, non-GMO and "clean label" food is part of this trend—and the same consumers that are driving it are also the most likely to adopt a flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diet. According to Mintel, "consumers are more likely to seek plant-based protein products with no artificial ingredients (41%), that are high in protein (35%) and fiber (28%), and those that are non-GMO (28%). Non-GMO claims in particular are driving innovation in the category, as US launches of foods and beverages with plant-based proteins with a non-GMO claim grew from 3.8% in 2012 to 19.6% in 2017."
Clearly there are immense benefits to people, animals and the planet from eliminating the factory farming industry. These benefits—that include a massive reduction in the need for pesticide intensive GMO corn and soy—must be weighed against costs. Fortunately for our planet and people's health, there are few costs—and many benefits—generated by replacing factory farmed animal products with non-GMO or organic, sustainably produced plant-based proteins and a smaller amount of meat that comes from well-managed, regenerative, organic, pasture-based or higher welfare systems. We have good evidence that these foods are safer and healthier, that consumers want them and that the planet can sustain their production. That's why Friends of the Earth is working to accelerate these solutions.
On the other hand, genetically engineered animal replacements have not been adequately assessed for their impacts on human health and the environment. Because altering organisms at the genetic level can create unexpected changes in the compounds they produce, genetically engineered animal replacement ingredients produced by GMO yeast or algae could also pose novel health risks. In fact, documents by the FDA express concern about the potential of some of the new GMO proteins to be allergens.
Aside from feedstocks (like pesticide-intensive industrial GMO corn and sugarcane) and other direct environmental costs of producing these proteins at scale, there are other environmental risks not currently assessed. For example, due to their microscopic size and capacity to become airborne, engineered organisms like yeast or microalgae will inevitably escape from any industrial cultivation facility. Complete containment is not feasible. Because they reproduce and many can crossbreed with related organisms or even, in the case of microbes, "swap genes" with unrelated species via horizontal gene transfer, the escape of genetically engineered organisms could have pronounced negative ecological consequences. These include genetic contamination of wild species and disruption of natural ecosystems.
Which begs the question: why do we need genetically engineered proteins when many other safe, sustainable and healthy non-GMO or organic plant-based meat and dairy replacements, and other plant proteins, are available and growing in popularity? Until these genetic engineering methods are proven safe for our health and the planet through rigorous assessment and are subject to oversight and labeling, they will continue to take us on a path away from proven solutions.
Transforming our food system will take all of us, and for it to be successful, we can't afford missteps. Only more democracy, sustainability, equity and transparency will get us there—and of course, more plants!
"Shell is among the ten biggest climate polluters worldwide," said Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands. "It has known for over 30 years that it is causing dangerous climate change, but continues to extract oil and gas and invests billions in the search and development of new fossil fuels."
The case is supported by Friends of the Earth International, which campaigns for climate justice for people across the world impacted by dirty energy and climate change. Friends of the Earth International has 75 member groups globally, many of them working to stop Shell extracting fossil fuels in their country.
"This case matters for people everywhere," said Karin Nansen, chair of Friends of the Earth International. "Shell is doing enormous damage worldwide—climate change and dirty energy have devastating impacts around the world, but especially in the global South. With this lawsuit we have a chance to hold Shell to account."
Friends of the Earth Netherlands' case is part of a growing global movement to hold companies to account for their contribution to dangerous climate change. In January, the city of New York went to court to claim compensation from the five largest oil companies, including Shell, for the consequences of climate change.
Empire State Building Shines Green After NYC's Decision to Take on Fossil Fuel Industry https://t.co/dIrFKQphDd… https://t.co/bSpAKYVNaz— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515805243.0
The cities of San Francisco and Oakland as well as several other counties in California are doing the same. A Peruvian farmer is suing the German energy company RWE for its contribution to glaciers melting above his village caused by climate change. The Friends of the Earth Netherlands case is unique because it is the first climate lawsuit demanding that a fossil fuel company acts on climate change, rather than seeking compensation.
This ground-breaking case, if successful, would significantly limit Shell's investments in oil and gas globally by requiring them to comply with climate-targets.
Nansen added, "If we win this case, it has major consequences for other fossil companies, and opens the door for further legal action against other climate polluters. Friends of the Earth International wants to see binding rules for corporations like Shell who so often regard themselves as being above the law, including when it comes to climate goals."
A new scorecard released Tuesday finds that 20 out of 25 top food retailers fail to protect bees and people from toxic pesticides. The report, Swarming the Aisles II, shows that while supermarkets have made some general commitments to sustainability and social responsibility, most have failed to take steps to reduce pesticide use in their supply chains.
The study also found that Whole Foods' commitment to reduce pesticide use, stock organics and implement a transparent policy leads all other food retailers; its parent company Amazon received an "F" in the same three categories.
"Food retailers need to phase out toxic pesticides and expand organic to distinguish themselves from the pack," said Lisa Archer, director of the Friends of the Earth Food and Agriculture team. "We urge major U.S. food retailers to work with their suppliers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and expand domestic organic offerings."
Forty percent of invertebrate pollinator species are on the brink of extinction, and a leading factor of their decline is rampant pesticide use in conventional agriculture. Organic agriculture reduces pesticide use and supports 50 percent more pollinator species than chemical-intensive industrial agriculture.
"Food retailers are failing to protect pollinators from pesticides, a leading driver of their decline," said Dr. Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. "One solution to the pollinator crisis is organic agriculture. Retailers must support more American famers' transition to organic, which is a triple win for our pollinators, farmers and all of us."
Organic food sales increased by 8.4 percent from 2016 to 2017, blowing past the stagnant 0.6 percent growth rate in the overall food market. But U.S. farmers are increasingly losing market share to imports. The U.S. accounts for 44 percent of the global organic sales, but just four percent of global farmland under organic production. Without a commitment to expand American grown organic and to reduce pesticide use in non-organic agriculture, our food system will continue to be soaked in toxic pesticides.
Many of the companies profiled in Friends of the Earth's report are competing to meet consumer demand for organic food, but only six have clearly stated their intent to expand organic offerings in the future: Albertsons, BJ's Wholesale Club, Costco, Target, Walgreens and Whole Foods.
Since the release of the first Swarming the Aisles report in October 2016, Friends of the Earth saw an increase in transparency and two new commitments to expand organic offerings from Walgreens and Trader Joe's.
The release of this scorecard comes amid mounting consumer pressure on food retailers to adopt more environmentally-friendly sourcing policies. Friends of the Earth, with the support of 50 farmers, beekeepers and environmental organizations, is calling on food retailers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides in their supply chains and increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic producers.
An overwhelming majority of surveyed farmers are concerned about the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger and believe it will have a negative impact on independent farmers and farming communities, a recent poll has found.
"We urge the Department of Justice to listen to farmers and the more than 1 million Americans calling on the department to block the Bayer-Monsanto merger. The only answer to this merger is NO," said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
According to the poll, of the farmers who responded:
- 93.7 percent are concerned about the proposed merger of Bayer and Monsanto (82.8 percent are very concerned/10.9 percent somewhat concerned).
- 93.7 percent of farmers are concerned that the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger will negatively impact independent farmers and farming communities (83.9 percent are very concerned/9.8 percent somewhat concerned).
The farmer's top three concerns of the merger are:
- 91.9 percent of farmers are concerned that the merged company will use its dominance in one product to push sales of other products (79.6 percent very concerned/12.3 percent somewhat concerned).
- 91.7 percent of farmers are concerned that Bayer/Monsanto will control data about farm practices (79.5 percent very concerned/12.2 percent somewhat concerned).
- 89.0 percent of farmers think the merger will result in increased pressure for chemically dependent farming (77.1 percent very concerned/11.9 percent somewhat concerned).
The poll also found a high level of concern amongst farmers surveyed that the merged company will control data about farm practices, will increase prices, diminish quality, choice and seed varieties including availability of regionally adaptive seed, which farmers identified as critical given increasing climate variability.
"This merger will further concentrate ownership of our seed supply, inevitably leading to fewer seed variety options in the marketplace, less genetic diversity in our fields, and higher seed prices for farmers," said Kiki Hubbard of Organic Seed Alliance. "Seed prices have nearly quadrupled in the past 20 years, even though yield and the prices farmers receive for their crops have not. History shows us that mergers of this magnitude also reduce rather than inspire innovation."
The new poll, fielded by a coalition of farm groups, comes as the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the merger between chemical giant Bayer (NYSE:BAYN) and agrochemical giant Monsanto (NYSE: MON). If the Bayer-Monsanto merger is approved, the new company would be the world's largest vegetable seed company, world's largest cottonseed company, world's largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides, and the world's largest owner of intellectual property/patents for herbicide tolerant traits.
"The chemical-intensive agriculture these corporations promote has given rise to superweeds and a reliance on even more potent, and potentially dangerous, chemicals," said Farm Aid communications director Jennifer Fahy. "The proposed merger of Monsanto and Bayer further strengthens their ability to threaten the development of a sustainable food system that supports independent family farmers and rural economies, meets the growing demand of concerned eaters, and protects our soil and water. If we care about our food and our planet, the time to enforce antitrust laws is now!"
A white paper, prepared by the Konkurrenz Group, examines why the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division should not accept Bayer's proposed divestiture and behavioral remedies. Relying on the survey findings and other evidence, the white paper examines why the likely complex behavioral and structural remedies will not likely restore competition in the seed, trait and pesticide industries.
"A merger between Bayer and Monsanto would be a massive threat to food supply and farmers around the world," said Anne Isakowitsch, campaign manager at SumOfUs. "Now that Monsanto and Bayer are closer than ever to this potentially disastrous takeover of our global agricultural system, we must all step up our efforts and speak out. The future of farming and food safety depend on it. This deal has the capability to usher in a new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides around the world; we simply cannot allow this to happen."
The unprecedented poll of farmer's opinions was conducted between Jan. 26 and Feb. 12, 2018 by a coalition of farm groups who collected 957 responses from farmers in 48 states. Cumulatively, the farmers who responded to the poll cultivate close to 2 million acres, and represent all sectors of farming.
The following organizations administered the survey to their members or networks: Agricultural Justice Project; California Farmers Guild; Center for Rural Affairs; City Seed; Community Alliance with Family Farmers; Domestic Fair Trade Association; Farmworker Association of Florida; Family Farm Defenders; Farm Aid; Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; Farmworker Association of Florida; Florida Organic Growers; Friends of Family Farmers; Hawai'i Farmers Union United; Hawai'i Tropical Fruit Growers; Iowa Farmers Union; International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements; Kansas Rural Center; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Minnesota Farmers Union; Missouri Coalition for the Environment; National Family Farm Coalition; National Farmers Union; National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association; Natural Born Tillers; New Britain ROOTS; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts; Organic Farmers Association; Organic Farming Research Foundation; Organic Seed Alliance; Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organization for Competitive Markets; Our Family Farms; Pesticide Action Network North America; Practical Farmers of Iowa; Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund; United Stockgrowers of America; Rural Coalition; Rural Vermont; Sustainable Food Center; Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; The Cornucopia Institute; Vilicus Farms; Western Organization of Resource Councils; and the Women Food and Agriculture Network.
The full results and white paper, which demonstrates that the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division should reject Bayer's proposed divestitures and behavioral remedies and say NO to this merger, are available here.
EU Launches In-Depth Investigation Into Bayer-Monsanto $66 Billion Merger https://t.co/F3mwXW8ZNT @food_democracy @justlabelit— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1503529509.0
- Bayer-Monsanto Merger a '5-Alarm Threat to Our Food Supply' ›
- Seeds Must Be Publicly Owned, Food System Activists Urge - EcoWatch ›
By Kari Hamerschlag and Christopher D. Cook
Addressing a crowd of mayors gathered in his hometown last week, former President Obama called on the "new faces of American leadership" on climate change to take swift action to spare our children and grandchildren from a climate catastrophe. Twenty-five U.S. mayors signed the "Chicago Charter," affirming a commitment from their cities to meet the Paris agreement target for greenhouse gas reductions by 2025.
Many of these leaders made commitments to pursue aggressive strategies like purchasing 100 percent renewable energy and fuel-efficient vehicles. But the list of climate commitments that emerged from the Chicago Charter omitted a critical sector, accounting for about one fourth of global emissions: food
As a coalition of dozens of environmental and health groups point out in a recent letter to the signatories of the "We Are Still In" declaration, municipal climate mitigation efforts will be "ineffective in halting climate change if we do not also significantly slash emissions embedded in the food we eat." That's because, simply put, the world cannot meet climate targets without curbing consumption of animal products, which are responsible for far more emissions than plant-based foods.
Cities and counties can address the food sector's significant impact on climate change by buying less meat and dairy and offering more plant-forward items on menus in large food venues operating on municipal property, like hospitals and airports.
Eating less meat for health and environmental reasons is backed up by science. Since the U.S. consumes 2.6 times more meat than the global average and 66 percent more protein than we need, there is plenty of room for more fruits, veggies and healthy grains on our plates.
Compared to other climate mitigation strategies, shifting how institutions buy food can be a relatively simple, cost-effective way to downsize our carbon footprint while improving access to healthy food. A case study from the Oakland Unified School District in California shows how successful this can be, slashing the school's food service carbon footprint 14 percent by buying less meat and dairy and offering more plant-based proteins, fruits and vegetables. This not only saved the carbon emissions equivalent to driving 1.5 million fewer miles annually, it also trimmed food service costs and earned high marks from the kids.
Despite these "win-win," benefits, fewer than ﬁve percent of municipalities have even basic healthy food service guidelines or nutrition standards. This presents a major opportunity to boost public health and climate action. The Meat of the Matter, a new report by Friends of the Earth and the Responsible Purchasing Network, lays out a roadmap for cities and counties to achieve progress on climate goals and healthy food access by changing the kinds of food they buy and shifting menus in large food venues.
We have the research and tools to help city and county leaders go further in their climate ambitions, and at the same time, use tax dollars more wisely and promote public health. As the Chicago Charter declares, and increasingly frequent climate catastrophes confirm, there is no time to lose. Reducing meat consumption is a pivotal piece of the puzzle and local government leaders can make an important contribution by putting less meat on the menu of climate change solutions.
Kari Hamerschlag is deputy director for food and farming at Friends of the Earth and Christopher D. Cook is the author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis.
By Lukas Ross
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt headed to Congress for testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment. The topic of the hearing? "The Mission of the U.S. EPA."
Since Pruitt has been incredibly sparing in his appearances on Capitol Hill, this is a rare chance to ask hard questions of the most controversial administrator in the history of the EPA.
Here are three areas where Scott Pruitt badly needs some accountability.
Budgets and Buyouts
Since the EPA has spent decades as a partisan target, it comes as no real surprise that it is badly underfunded. Discounting a small bump following the 2009 stimulus bill, the agency's budget has declined or stayed stagnant since the mid-2000s. Even before the Trump administration proposed a draconian 31 percent cut, the agency was on a starvation diet courtesy of Congressional Republicans.
Under Pruitt, the unmistakable agenda is to cut the agency even further—and nowhere is this more obvious than staffing levels. In July, it was revealed that Pruitt was seeking to shrink the EPA through the early retirement of as many as 1,227 employees in fiscal year 2017 alone. Although only 372 workers opted for an early out, the EPA is on course to be its leanest since the late 1980s.
Since 1978, the EPA has looked to its Scientific Advisory Board for input on regulations and research priorities. It is meant to be a panel of neutral experts who are leaders in their respective fields. Or it was until Scott Pruitt got there.
In October, Pruitt issued a directive banning scientists who receive grant funding from the EPA from serving on its advisory board. Ostensibly designed to prevent conflicts of interest and encourage "fresh perspectives," it isn't hard to imagine what this means in practice: an EPA even more beholden to industry "science" and its priorities of profit and unlimited pollution. Pruitt's pick for a new Chairman of the Board, a Texas state official who thinks smog isn't that bad, seems to bear this theory out.
To weigh the costs of climate change, the Obama administration used something called the social cost of carbon—a per ton estimate pegged most recently at $36 designed to price the value of preventing carbon pollution. This was used to model the economic costs and benefits of numerous federal regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration released an Executive Order in March withdrawing the previous estimates. This in turn gave federal agencies like the EPA a free hand to skew the cost of carbon pollution and make their climate-killing deregulatory agenda seem like an implausibly good deal.
The good news is that this week seven Senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse requested the Government Accountability Office look into the alternative math coming from Trump administration. One example the Senators cite as particularly interesting is an estimated social cost of carbon of $1 used to calculate the benefits of repealing the Clean Power Plan. The estimate under the previous administration had been $45.
This isn't a "back to basics" agenda that Pruitt likes to innocently claim. The mission of the EPA is to protect our air and water, but it's clear that the mission of Scott Pruitt is to end the EPA as we know it. Congress must hold him accountable.