By Jason Farley
COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives, and it is poised to completely disrupt the holiday season. As people make holiday plans and think about ways to reduce the risks to their loved ones, a strategy is essential.
Are masks really necessary at family gatherings?<p>If you're gathering with friends and family who don't live in your home, yes. Just because you're with people you know doesn't mean you're safe from the coronavirus. Infection rates are <a href="https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/new-cases-50-states" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">higher now than they have ever been</a> in the U.S., and <a href="https://youtu.be/ehdgceGzQxs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">small gatherings have been a source</a> of viral spread. All it takes is one infected person who doesn't know they have the coronavirus to infect others.</p><p>Remember, people can be <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/07/how-long-symptom-onset-person-contagious" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">contagious two to three days</a> before symptoms show – that's one thing that makes this virus so hard to stop. And it's why, even if you feel fine, you should wear a mask.</p><p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that when both people are wearing masks, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">likelihood of infection is low</a>.</p>
Who am I protecting when I wear a mask?<p>In a word: everyone. The coronavirus <a href="https://theconversation.com/aerosols-are-a-bigger-coronavirus-threat-than-who-guidelines-suggest-heres-what-you-need-to-know-142233" target="_blank">spreads through respiratory droplets</a> that you send out into the air when you talk, sing or even just breathe. The tiniest of these droplets can float on air currents for long periods.</p><p>Face masks stop many of those droplets, reducing the amount of virus in the air. That lowers your chances of getting infected, and it also lowers the chances that you'll infect someone else.</p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">Studies of people who had prolonged exposure</a> to others with COVID-19 have demonstrated how masks can reduce the chance of the virus spreading. In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well-fitted cloth masks</a> made up of multiple layers can stop most large droplets and at least half of the tiny ones. Plastic <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.05.20207241" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">face shields</a> alone are far less effective. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/08/13/cdc-mask-guidance-masks-valves/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Face masks with valves or vents</a> might be good for construction work, but they don't stop the wearer from breathing out virus into the air.</p>
Can I reuse a mask and when should I replace it?<p>Reusable masks should be kept clean and dry. We're moving into cold and flu season, and noses get drippy. A rule of thumb: Anytime a mask is wet to the point that you can discern the wetness, it's time for a new one if it's disposable, or it's time to clean your reusable mask.</p><p>Wetness allows viruses to more easily move through paper or fabric because it allows the threads to move and may reduce the electrostatic charge in the masks that add extra protection with some fabrics.</p><p>In general, you can use a mask that stays clean and dry for about a week before you need to wash or discard it.</p>
How should I clean a cloth mask?<p>Washing your mask is like washing your clothes. You know when it is time.</p><p>In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">cleaning your mask weekly</a> should be sufficient. If odors develop before then, it's a good idea to wash it sooner. Odor generally means bacterial buildup.</p><p>Cleaning your mask by hand with soap and water is your best option. Using a general detergent on a gentle cycle in the washing machine is also fine, but that may increase the risk of damage, depending on the quality of the material. COVID-19 is not a hardy virus. Any soap or detergent should work fine. There's no need for special chemicals, bleach or harsh soaps.</p><p>Be careful to remove any inserts before washing. Inserted filters are generally not washable.</p><p>Air drying masks works best. Remember, masks should be completely dry before use. So be sure to have a replacement mask handy while the one you just washed dries.</p><p>Sunlight is always a great source of heat to dry your mask. Also, sunlight has ultraviolet radiation, which has been shown to <a href="http://doi.org/10.1111/php.13293" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eliminate coronavirus</a> and is also known to have antibacterial properties.</p>
Can I wear the mask below my nose?<p>Wearing your mask below your nose is, frankly, ridiculous.</p><p>Think about it. If you are breathing through your nose and only covering your mouth, you are effectively eliminating the point of the mask. Properly wearing a mask requires covering both your nose and mouth at all times.</p><p>Studies show that wearing a proper cloth mask or surgical mask while exercising <a href="http://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.202008-990CME" target="_blank">doesn't affect the flow of oxygen</a> or carbon dioxide in any detectable way. So, unless you have serious heart and lung problems, that isn't an excuse.</p>
How do I safely remove my mask if I’m going to eat or drink?<p>When you <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">take your mask off</a>, remove it carefully by the straps without touching anything else and put it somewhere safe, like wrapped in paper in a purse, bag or pocket. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. When you put it back on, wash your hands again.</p>
So, how can I have a safe holiday gathering?<p>The safest way to celebrate this year is to do so with members only within your household. The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CDC is now stressing that point</a>, as well. If you do celebrate with friends and relatives from outside your household, you need an action plan to reduce the risk of exposure.</p><p>Here are five recommendations:</p><ul><li>Limit the number of people – fewer people means fewer opportunities for exposure, and you'll have more room to spread out.</li><li>Require masks when not eating or drinking.</li><li>Use physical distancing when eating. Try to seat people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3223" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 6 feet apart</a>. Eat outside if you can.</li><li>Consider being tested for COVID-19 before traveling or gathering. It's not a guarantee, but it can help flag illnesses. Remember to self-isolate between the test and the event.</li><li>Be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days after traveling or participating in any event that involves people from outside your home.</li></ul><p>[<em>Research into coronavirus and other news from science</em> <a href="https://theconversation.com/us/newsletters/science-editors-picks-71/?utm_source=TCUS&utm_medium=inline-link&utm_campaign=newsletter-text&utm_content=science-corona-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Subscribe to The Conversation's new science newsletter</a>.]</p><p><em>The map has been updated with New Hampshire announcing a mask mandate effective Nov. 20.</em></p><p><em>Jason Farley is a professor, infectious disease-trained epidemiologist and nurse practitioner at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.<br></em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, ANP-BC, FAAN receives funding from the National Institutes of Health on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for COVID-19 and Becton Dickinson for studies on SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-face-masks-belong-at-your-thanksgiving-gathering-7-things-you-need-to-know-about-wearing-them-150130" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Pamela M. Aaltonen
As Americans prepare for the first Thanksgiving in the time of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a stark warning a week before the big day: Don't travel.
No over the river and through the woods to grandmother's condo. No flying to a beach gathering with the family you choose.
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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Louise Chawla
As an environmental psychologist who works to improve young people's access to nature, I recently completed a review that brings two bodies of research together: one on connecting children and adolescents with nature, and the second on supporting healthy coping when they realize they are part of a planet in peril.
Secondhand Clothing Sales Are Booming – and May Help Solve the Sustainability Crisis in the Fashion Industry
By Hyejune Park and Cosette Marie Joyner Armstrong
A massive force is reshaping the fashion industry: secondhand clothing. According to a new report, the U.S. secondhand clothing market is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years – from US$28 billion in 2019 to US$80 billion in 2029 – in a U.S. market currently worth $379 billion. In 2019, secondhand clothing expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel retail did.
The Next Big Thing<p>The secondhand clothing market is composed of two major categories, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1684831" target="_blank">thrift stores and resale platforms</a>. But it's the latter that has largely fueled the recent boom. Secondhand clothing has long been perceived as worn out and tainted, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/0959396032000101372" target="_blank">mainly sought by bargain or treasure hunters</a>. However, this perception has changed, and now many consumers consider secondhand clothing to be of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1576060" target="_blank">identical or even superior quality</a> to unworn clothing. A <a href="https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/a31085526/how-to-sell-clothes/" target="_blank">trend of "fashion flipping"</a> – or buying secondhand clothes and reselling them – has also emerged, particularly among young consumers.</p><p>Thanks to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17543266.2017.1346714" target="_blank">growing consumer demand and new digital platforms</a> like Tradesy and Poshmark that facilitate peer-to-peer exchange of everyday clothing, the digital resale market is quickly becoming the next big thing in the fashion industry.</p><p>The market for secondhand luxury goods is also substantial. Retailers like The RealReal or the Vestiaire Collective provide a digital marketplace for authenticated luxury consignment, where people buy and sell designer labels such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès. The market value of this sector <a href="https://www.retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2020/3/the-rise-of-pre-owned-luxury-fashion-marks-shift-amid-sustainability-movement" target="_blank">reached $2 billion in 2019</a>.</p><p>The secondhand clothing trend also appears to be driven by affordability, <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank">especially now, during the COVID-19 economic crisis</a>. Consumers have not only <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/spotlight/economics-insights-analysis.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduced their consumption of nonessential items like clothing</a>, but are buying <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Retail/Our%20Insights/The%20State%20of%20Fashion%202019%20A%20year%20of%20awakening/The-State-of-Fashion-2019-final.ashx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more quality garments</a> over cheap, disposable attire.</p><p>For clothing resellers, the ongoing economic contraction combined with the increased interest in sustainability has proven to be <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a winning combination</a>.</p>
More Mindful Consumers?<p>The fashion industry has long been associated with <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">social and environmental problems</a>, ranging from poor treatment of garment workers to pollution and waste generated by clothing production.</p><p>Less than 1% of materials used to make clothing are currently recycled to make new clothing, a <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank">$500 billion annual loss for the fashion industry</a>. The textile industry produces <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">more carbon emissions than the airline and maritime industries combined</a>. And approximately <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">20% of water pollution across the globe</a> is the result of wastewater from the production and finishing of textiles.</p><p><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/#efe999c69547" target="_blank">Consumers have become more aware</a> of the ecological impact of apparel production and are more frequently demanding apparel businesses <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2020/05/10/coronavirus-will-force-fashion-to-a-sustainable-future/#6973567f5292" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">expand their commitment to sustainability</a>. Buying secondhand clothing could provide consumers a way to push back against the fast-fashion system.</p><p>Buying secondhand clothing increases the number of owners an item will have, extending its life – something that has been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dramatically shortened in the age of fast fashion</a>. (Worldwide, in the past 15 years, <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the average number of times a garment is worn before it's trashed</a> has decreased by 36%.)</p>
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By Erin Seekamp
With global travel curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are finding comfort in planning future trips. But imagine that you finally arrive in Venice and the "floating city" is flooded. Would you stay anyway, walking through St. Mark's Square on makeshift catwalks or elevated wooden passages – even if you couldn't enter the Basilica or the Doge's Palace? Or would you leave and hope to visit sometime in the future?
In 1999 the National Park Service moved the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse 2,900 feet inland (new site at lower right in photo) to protect it from shoreline erosion. Mike Booher / NPS
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Thomas H. Goebel
The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places.
Chart: The Conversation / CC-BY-ND Source: Thomas Goebel / University of Memphis; Oklahoma Geological Survey Get the data
Chart: The Conversation / CC-BY-ND. Source: Thomas Goebel / University of Memphis; U.S. Geological Survey Get the data
Satellite data shows the ground rising as much as 1.5 centimeters per year in parts of the San Ardo oil field. The line-of-sight velocity (LOS-VEL), as viewed from the satellite, shows how rapidly the ground surface is rising. Thomas Goebel / University of Memphis
The stresses from injecting water can trigger earthquakes several miles from the well itself. The blue triangles scale with each well's injection rate. Thomas Goebel/University of Memphis / CC BY-ND
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By Melissa Hawkins
Like many people in this unusual year, I am adjusting my family's holiday plans so that we can all be safe during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Before You Gather<p>First, it is important that everyone who will be attending any holiday celebration is on the same page about how to take precautions before getting together. The idea is to lower infection risk in the weeks leading up to the holidays and then test to confirm.</p><p>In general, everyone should plan to be vigilant in their public health practices beforehand, especially since grandparents are at higher risk. In my family, we have <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-covid-19-testing-and-quarantining-to-safely-travel-for-the-holidays-147154" target="_blank">agreed to limit contact with other people</a> as much as possible the week before Thanksgiving. We have also agreed that everyone <a href="https://theconversation.com/quarantine-bubbles-when-done-right-limit-coronavirus-risk-and-help-fight-loneliness-140134" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">needs to be extra cautious around the few close people we see regularly</a>.</p><p>In conjunction with quarantining, <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-covid-19-testing-and-quarantining-to-safely-travel-for-the-holidays-147154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">testing</a> is the second strategy.</p><p>Research has consistently shown that people are most contagious a day or two before they show symptoms, so everyone <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-covid-19-testing-and-quarantining-to-safely-travel-for-the-holidays-147154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">plans to get tested with an RT-PCR test</a> within 72 hours of Thanksgiving, while still being able to get results in hand before we gather.</p><p>If the demand for <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-tests-are-pretty-accurate-but-far-from-perfect-136671" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tests</a> is high and wait times are long, we will get rapid tests. But these are a second choice, as they are <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-covid-19-testing-and-quarantining-to-safely-travel-for-the-holidays-147154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">less reliable and can be expensive</a>.</p>
Where and How to Eat and Socialize<p>No matter how careful you and your family are, there is some risk that someone will be infected. With that in mind, the goal is to reduce the conditions that lead to <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/09/29/science.abd7672" target="_blank">viral spread</a>. The biggest risks are indoor spaces with <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732" target="_blank">poor ventilation</a>, large groups and close contact. So we are planning the opposite: a short outdoor Thanksgiving with a small group and plenty of space between everyone.</p><p>To reduce the risk of infection from flying and to keep the gathering small, the only people coming to Thanksgiving at my family's home in D.C. are my mother, my aunt and my uncle – all of whom live within driving distance. This is in addition to myself, my husband and our kids. When deciding how many people will come to the holidays, keep it small and consider the amount of space you have to maintain social distancing.</p><p>If the weather cooperates, we plan to be outside for trivia games and the turkey meal. Rather than eat around one table, we will have individual tables and place settings spaced far apart and space heaters around. I've got a mini care package planned for each guest so that everyone will have their own blanket, hand sanitizer, utensils and a festive mask. My mother won't be helping out in the kitchen this year and, unfortunately, that goes for cleanup too. We won't take a group picture but I will be sure to capture some of the special moments.</p><p>If the weather doesn't cooperate, Plan B is to be inside in the large family room with as many windows open as possible and with everyone spaced as far apart as possible. Being outside is safer, but if you must be indoors, <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732" target="_blank">improve ventilation</a> by opening doors and windows. Consider turning on exhaust fans and <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">using an air purifier</a>.</p><p>Everyone who lives in the household will be in one section while my mom will have her own individual area, as will my aunt and uncle. Even though we won't hold hands before sharing the meal, we will still recite that we are "thankful for family, friends and food."</p><p>Whether outside or inside, everyone will wear masks when they aren't eating, maintain 6 feet of distance and use the hand sanitizer that I will place throughout the house.</p><p>It is also important to be mindful of alcohol consumption, as a pandemic is not the time for lowered inhibitions and bad judgment.</p>
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By Scott Rush and Mark Woodrey
When storms like Huricane Zeta menace the Gulf Coast, residents know the drill: Board up windows, clear storm drains, gas up the car and stock up on water, batteries and canned goods.
But how does wildlife ride out a hurricane? Animals that live along coastlines have evolved to deal with a world where conditions can change radically. This year, however, the places they inhabit have borne the brunt of 10 named storms, some just a few weeks apart.
A least bittern, one of the smallest species of heron. Michael Gray / CC BY-ND
Summary map of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, updated Oct. 27. Master0Garfield / Wikipedia
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By Matthew R Sanderson, Burke Griggs and Jacob A. Miller
A slow-moving crisis threatens the U.S. Central Plains, which grow a quarter of the nation's crops. Underground, the region's lifeblood – water – is disappearing, placing one of the world's major food-producing regions at risk.
Changes in Ogallala water levels from before the aquifer was tapped in the early 20th century to 2015. Gray indicates no significant change. Water levels have risen in some areas, especially Nebraska, but are mostly in decline. NCA 2018
A Production Treadmill<p>At first glance, farmers on the Plains appear to be doing well in 2020. Crop production increased this year. Corn, the largest crop in the U.S., had <a href="https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2020/08-12-2020.php" target="_blank">a near-record year</a>, and farm incomes increased by <a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/farm-sector-income-forecast" target="_blank">5.7% over 2019</a>.</p><p>But those figures hide massive government payments to farmers. Federal subsidies increased by <a href="https://www.agweb.com/article/usda-says-farm-income-increasing-gov-payments-are-record" target="_blank">a remarkable 65%</a> this year, totaling $37.2 billion. This sum includes money for <a href="https://theconversation.com/most-us-farmers-remain-loyal-to-trump-despite-pain-from-trade-wars-and-covid-19-146535" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lost exports from escalating trade wars, as well as COVID-19-related relief payments.</a> Corn prices were too low to cover the cost of growing it this year, with federal subsidies making up the difference.</p><p>Our research finds that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spy011" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subsidies put farmers on a treadmill</a>, working harder to produce more while draining the resource that supports their livelihood. Government payments create a vicious cycle of overproduction that intensifies water use. Subsidies encourage farmers to expand and buy expensive equipment to irrigate larger areas.</p>
Irrigation pump in Haskell County, Kansas. Matthew Sanderson/Kansas State University, CC BY-ND<p>With <a href="https://www.agweb.com/markets/futures" target="_blank">low market prices for many crops</a>, production does not cover expenses on most farms. To stay afloat, many farmers buy or lease more acres. Growing larger amounts floods the market, further reducing crop prices and farm incomes. Subsidies support this cycle.</p><p>Few benefit, especially small and midsized operations. In a 2019 study of the region's 234 counties from 1980 to 2010, we found that larger irrigated acreage <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00390-9" target="_blank">failed to increase incomes or improve education or health outcomes</a> for residents.</p>
Focus on Policy, Not Farmers<p>Four decades of federal, state and local conservation efforts have mainly targeted individual farmers, providing ways for them to voluntarily <a href="https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/wca" target="_blank">reduce water use</a> or <a href="https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/" target="_blank">adopt more water-efficient technologies</a>.</p><p>While these initiatives are important, they haven't stemmed the aquifer's decline. In our view, what the Ogallala Aquifer region really needs is policy change.</p><p>A lot can be done at the federal level, but the first principle should be "do no harm." Whenever federal agencies have <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1230/all-info" target="_blank">tried to regulate groundwater</a>, the backlash has been swift and intense, with farm states' congressional representatives <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2015-06-19/pdf/2015-15151.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repudiating federal jurisdiction over groundwater</a>.</p><p>Nor should Congress propose to eliminate agricultural subsidies, as some <a href="https://www.ewg.org/agmag/subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">environmental organizations</a> and <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/five-reasons-repeal-farm-subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">free-market advocates</a> have proposed. Given the thin margins of farming and longstanding political realities, federal support is simply part of modern production agriculture.</p><p>With these cautions in mind, three initiatives could help ease pressure on farmers to keep expanding production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Conservation Reserve Program</a> pays farmers to allow environmentally sensitive farmland to lie fallow for at least 10 years. With new provisions, the program could reduce water use by prohibiting expansion of irrigated acreage, permanently retiring marginal lands and linking subsidies to production of less water-intensive crops.</p><p>These initiatives could be implemented through the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/farmbill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">federal farm bill</a>, which also sets funding levels for nonfarm subsidies such as the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, or SNAP. SNAP payments, which increase needy families' food budgets, are an important tool for addressing poverty. Increasing these payments and adding financial assistance to local communities could offset lower tax revenues that result from from farming less acreage.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a68a352afef927017e5c51944388e7b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHJsdtLZGoY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Amending <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/" target="_blank">federal farm credit rates</a> could also slow the treadmill. Generous terms promote borrowing for irrigation equipment; to pay that debt, borrowers farm more land. Offering lower rates for equipment that reduces water use and withholding loans for standard, wasteful equipment could nudge farmers toward conservation.</p><p>The most powerful tool is the tax code. Currently, farmers receive <a href="https://www.irs.gov/publications/p225#en_US_2020_publink1000218297" target="_blank">deductions for declining groundwater levels</a> and can write off depreciation on irrigation equipment. Replacing these perks with a tax credit for stabilizing groundwater and substituting a depreciation schedule favoring more efficient irrigation equipment could provide strong incentives to conserve water.</p>
Rewriting State Water Laws<p>Water rights are mostly determined by state law, so reforming state water policies is crucial. Case law demonstrates that simply owning water rights <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/224/107/" target="_blank">does not grant the legal right to waste water</a>. For more than a century courts have upheld state restrictions on waste, with <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/supreme-court/2d/3/489.html" target="_blank">rulings that allow for adaptation</a> by modifying the definitions of "beneficial use" and "waste" over time.</p><p>Using these precedents, state water agencies could designate thirsty crops, such as rice, cotton or corn, as wasteful in certain regions. Regulations preventing unreasonable water use <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2020/c085762.html" target="_blank">are not unconstitutional</a>.</p><p>Allowing farmers some flexibility will maximize profits, as long as they stabilize overall water use. If they irrigate less – or not at all – in years with low market prices, rules could allow more irrigation in better years. Ultimately, many farmers – and their bankers – are willing to exchange lower annual yields for a longer water supply.</p><p>As our research has shown, the vast majority of farmers in the region <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/gwat.12940" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">want to save groundwater</a>. They will need help from policymakers to do it. Forty years is long enough to learn that the Ogallala Aquifer's decline is not driven by weather or by individual farmers' preferences. Depletion is a structural problem embedded in agricultural policies. Groundwater depletion is a policy choice made by federal, state and local officials.</p>
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T. C. Knight / Getty Images
By Chaoqun Lu
Stream gauge measurements show that the amount of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) moving from Mississippi River Basin states to the Gulf of Mexico fluctuates dramatically from year to year. Heavy rainfalls can produce higher nitrogen levels. Modified from Lu et al., 2020, CC BY-ND
Percentage increases in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events) from 1958 to 2012. Globalchange.gov
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By Bill Sullivan
Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.
The Root of the Problem<p>The unfortunate man who recently succumbed to excessive black licorice consumption is not alone. There are a smattering of similar case reports in medical journals, in which patients experience <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26380428/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hypertension crisis</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.5414/cn107011" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">muscle breakdown</a> or even death. Adverse reactions are most frequently seen in people over the age of 40 who are eating far more black licorice than the average person. In addition, they are usually consuming the product for prolonged periods of time. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMcpc2002420" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In the most recent case</a>, the Massachusetts man had been eating a bag and a half of black licorice every day for three weeks.</p><p>Licorice is a flowering plant native to parts of Europe and Asia. Its scientific name, <em>Glycyrrhiza</em>, is derived from the Greek words "glykos" (sweet) and "rhiza" (root). The aromatic and sweet extract from its root has long been used as an herbal remedy for a wide variety of health maladies, from heartburn and stomach issues to sore throats and cough. However, there is <a href="https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/black-licorice-trick-or-treat" target="_blank">insufficient evidence to support that licorice is effective in treating any medical condition</a>.</p><p>Glycyrrhizin (also called glycyrrhizic acid) is the chemical in black licorice that gives the candy its signature flavor, but it also leads to its toxic effects.</p><p>Glycyrrhizin mimics the hormone <a href="https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/aldosterone/" target="_blank">aldosterone</a>, which is made by the adrenal glands when the body needs to retain sodium and excrete potassium. Sodium and potassium work together as a kind of cellular battery that drives communication between nerves and the contraction of muscles. Too much glycyrrhizin upsets the balance of these electrolytes, which can raise blood pressure and disturb the heart's rhythm. Other symptoms of excessive licorice intake include swelling, muscle pain, numbness and headache. Examination of the man who died from consuming too much licorice revealed that he had <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMcpc2002420" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dangerously low levels of potassium, consistent with glycyrrhizin toxicity.</a></p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMcpc2002420" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>It should be noted that a number of licorice-based foods do not contain real licorice, but use a flavoring substitute called anise oil, which does not pose the dangers discussed here. In addition, despite its name, <a href="https://www.livestrong.com/article/537724-black-licorice-vs-red-licorice/" target="_blank">red licorice rarely contains licorice extract</a>. Instead, red licorice is infused with chemicals that impart its cherry or strawberry flavor.</p><p>Products that contain real licorice are usually labeled as such, and list licorice extract or glycyrrhizic acid among the ingredients. Be advised that some products, such as black jelly beans or Good & Plenty, are mixtures of different candies that contain both anise oil and licorice extract.</p>
Hidden Dangers That Increase Risk<p>Glycyrrhizin has the distinct licorice flavor and is <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=Licorice" target="_blank">50 times sweeter than sugar</a> and has been used in other types of candy, soft drinks, tea, Belgian beers, throat lozenges and tobacco. This can make it challenging to keep track of how much glycyrrhizin has been consumed, and a combination of these products could trigger adverse effects.</p><p>Some people take dietary or health supplements that already contain licorice, which increases the risk of toxic effects from eating black licorice candy. Certain medications such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.5414/cn107011" target="_blank">hydrochlorothiazide</a> are diuretics that cause increased urination, which can lower potassium levels in the body. Glycyrrhizin also lowers potassium levels, further disrupting the balance of electrolytes, which can produce muscle cramps and irregular heart rhythms.</p><p>People with certain preexisting conditions are more susceptible to black licorice overdose.</p><p>For example, patients who already have low potassium levels (hypokalemia), high blood pressure or heart arrhythmia are likely to have greater sensitivity to the effects of excessive licorice. Those with liver or kidney deficiencies will also retain glycyrrhizin in their bloodstream for longer times, increasing their risk of experiencing its adverse effects.</p>
What to Do?<p>If you're a fan of black licorice, there is no need to ban it from your pantry. Eaten in small quantities from time to time, licorice poses no significant threat to otherwise healthy adults and children. But it is advisable to monitor your intake.</p><p>With Halloween approaching, be sure to remind your kids that candy is a "<a href="https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@global/documents/downloadable/ucm_305557.pdf" target="_blank">sometimes food</a>," especially the black licorice. The <a href="https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/black-licorice-trick-or-treat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FDA has issued warnings</a> about the rare but serious effects of too much black licorice, advising that people avoid eating more than two ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks or longer. The agency states that if you have been eating a lot of black licorice and experience an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your health care provider.</p><p>Some scientists have further cautioned against the routine use of licorice in the form of a dietary supplement or tea for its alleged health benefits. A <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2042018812454322" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">review article from 2012</a> warned that "the daily consumption of licorice is never justified because its benefits are minor compared to the adverse outcomes of chronic consumption."</p>
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