Georgia's mid-June primary was the latest example of pandemic-induced voter suppression. Long lines at polling stations stretched for blocks and blocks as socially distanced voters waited for several hours to vote in person. In Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and is the state's most populated county, some voters waited past midnight to cast their ballot.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
High up in the southern sierra of Mexico's state of Oaxaca, an innovative nonprofit business inspired by Mohandas Gandhi is helping Indigenous Zapotec families to weather the economic storm that COVID-19 has brought to the Mexican countryside.
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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun does not use email or text. In the Coastal Salish communities from which he hails, he has been known as a painter and a dancer since the 1980s. Yet, he has been exploring the "virtual reality renaissance"—the technology that allows you to figuratively step into a computer-generated 3D world—since it made its soft debut in the '90s.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f44fc9a12d287e773a01dc2e4cfa635a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cNxnSaVO3VU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> Virtual reality, Yuxweluptun says, is another medium for someone like him to express his ideas in more ways than just on a one-dimensional canvas. "Not everybody can do it, because you have to be able to think in a certain way," he says. "It's a different way, other than painting or making a sculpture."</p><p>Here are the stories of four other groups of Indigenous artists using technology and art to tell their communities' stories.</p>
The Condor and the Eagle<p>Bryan Parras has been working in radio in the Houston market since the early 2000s and, as time passed, saw how social media made storytelling more accessible to everyone—including those in marginalized communities.</p><p>In 2014, Parras met a European couple, Sophie and Clément Guerra, who had come to the United States to support the climate movement and who quickly became entangled in the Indigenous movement as well. Eventually, they began work on <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7757874/" target="_blank">The Condor and The Eagle,</a> an independent documentary about four Indigenous leaders on a transcontinental adventure. Journeying from the Canadian plains, through the U.S and deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle, they battled Big Energy while working to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of "Climate Justice."</p><p>Parras, himself of mixed Indigenous descent, is no stranger to filmmakers and reporters who come into Indigenous communities to observe, but without getting their actual input. "It's another form of extraction, right? Cultural extraction," he says.</p><p>It's why Parras, was the documentary's campaign producer, acted as a bridge between the filmmakers and his community, so that Indigenous communities portrayed in the film would be included in the editing process as well. "What may not be written in the history books are now archived in this story," he said.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7e42f930bcbabcc50e96fe72da091581"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YSMutzSW7gQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Since its premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2019, The Condor and the Eagle has been selected by more than <a href="https://thecondorandtheeagle.com/" target="_blank">50 film festivals and won 12 awards</a>. The most notable one is Best Environmental Documentary at the 2019 Red Nation International Film Festival in Beverly Hills, California.</p>
Wenazìi K’egoke; See Visions<p>Casey Koyczan is Tlicho Dene from the Northwest Territories of Canada. When he collaborates on virtual reality exhibits, he brings what he calls a "Northern aesthetic"—visuals of the remote landscape of the Northwest Territories of Canada. His latest project is <u><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_-rHnn-YZ8" target="_blank">Wenazìi K'egoke; See Visions</a></u>, a three-chapter virtual reality experience that takes you into a dreamlike interpretation of encounters with animal spirits of the North.</p><p>See Visions uses stark colors to evoke the feeling of walking through the snow under an aurora borealis. Koyczan considers the animals depicted in this atmosphere-heavy video to be its most important features. "It's all about being involved in the North," he says. "It reinforces the subtle notion that we are on their territory."</p><p>See Visions debuted in a prototype version in 2019 at the annual ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, a global hub for Indigenous-made media art. Koyczan and his partner on the project, Travis Mercredi, are now developing it for length and interactivity.</p>
Three Sisters<p>In 2019, the Dundas West Art Museum in Toronto hosted an art exchange that allowed one Canadian artist to travel to Chile to paint a mural, while Chilean artist, Paula Tikay, went to paint in Canada.</p><p>"At the end of [painting] a mural, one leaves and leaves [their] work for the people who transit those places," says Tikay, who is Mapuche, the largest Indigenous group in Chile. "They are like small messages that can identify and rescue stories from places. They are like gifts that appear for the inhabitants of that space."</p><p>Dundas West Art Museum is Toronto's <a href="https://www.kickstartbia.ca/innovation-stories/dundaswest" target="_blank">first open-air street art museum</a>. The neighborhood of Dundas West has long been connected with Chile since Chileans began moving there as refugees of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in the 1970s.</p><p>Tikay's contribution to the museum is a Three Sisters mural, depicting three Indigenous women who represent the three main agricultural crops of Indigenous groups in the Americas.</p><p>Three Sisters is the name given to climbing beans, maize, and squash that are/were grown together in an agricultural strategy called companion planting. It's a historical reminder that European settlers learned to plant crops on American soil from its Indigenous people.</p><p>Tikay calls it an honor to use her art to remind people of that, especially because it was also practiced in her ancestral southern Chile. </p>
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My Louisiana Love<p>The Houma Nation sits on the Mississippi Delta; the wetlands there were struck by both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill five years later. These disasters, both natural and manmade, slowly chip away at the way of life of the Houma people, making them less able to hunt, trap, and fish.</p><p>In 2015, Monique Verdin co-produced the documentary, <u><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2290531/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm" target="_blank">My Louisiana Love,</a></u> which traces her journey back to her home in the Houma nation and focuses on her community's struggle with decades of environmental degradation.</p><p>It has recently been made available on PBS again.</p><p>Verdin herself expressed surprise at its rerelease. "I didn't think it would be relevant at the time," she says, "but it's even more relevant now."</p>
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.
Building Food Communities<p>Family farms in California and across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on their markets. But in the health-conscious Bay Area, where celery was already one of the first groceries to disappear from the produce rack, demand for fresh local produce has shot up. The challenge is in redirecting food from farms to new customers.</p><p>Sonoma County has historically been an agricultural region. When the organic food movement sprang up in the 1970s, this area was one of its early proponents. The first farmers markets and CSAs appeared in the 1980s and flourished, but the burgeoning network was later eclipsed by an inflated wine industry, much of it owned by distant corporations.</p><p>According to a 2018 crop report, 60,000 acres have gone to grapes, with only 500 acres in food crops. Land prices have skyrocketed, the cost of labor has gone up, and increased regulations have all made it harder to run a viable business here. Many farmers had turned to "boutique" specialty crops for restaurants.</p><p>"Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers," says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "I often hear them say, 'I'm working my butt off and hoping for the best.'" That's even more true now, as the pandemic strangles economies the world over.</p>
Scaling Up Support<p>F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a food hub that aggregates produce from dozens of local farms, was another quick responder. When the pandemic hit, it went from serving Bay Area restaurants to building a cooperative of farmers, filling food boxes for distribution at F.E.E.D.'s Petaluma warehouse and other drop spots in the county.</p><p>"Our local food system is extremely diverse," says co-founder Tim Page, who has the energy of a visionary combined with the skills of a businessman. "We have a ton of small farms but we don't have the infrastructure to support them. That is what F.E.E.D. is trying to establish." Since converting the restaurant supply business to a CSA, it has gone from 90 boxes to 450. Ultimately, the goal is 1,800 or more.</p><p>"I grew up in L.A.," Page says. "Every single farm is gone. The same thing will happen here if the general public does not understand the importance of it.</p><p>"That understanding was on display at the Sonoma Farmers Market, which now operates with strict restrictions and safety precautions because of the virus. "We think F.E.E.D. is going to save us," said Candy Wirtz, co-director of Paul's Produce, a well-established farm in Sonoma, as she weighed out my purchases. The CSA model could be transformative for Paul's and other farms across the country.</p><p>Subscribing to a CSA is a lifestyle change for consumers, to be sure. It means eating what's in season and learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables. But it's a change that many people are making now because of the stay-at-home orders. "People just have to learn to cook again instead of eating out," says Judith Redmond, part-owner of Full Belly Farm near Sacramento.</p><p>In light of this newfound commitment to CSAs, Perrotti, of Coyote Family Farm, says: "My hope is that this solidifies instead of going back to the way things were. I hope the importance of local farming stays at the forefront."</p>
Farms With Futures<p>To help small farmers stay in business during the crisis, Community Alliance is also advocating for stimulus dollars. "Most often subsidies go to a small number of the largest farms, or to buy food that goes to food banks from far away, while local farmers can't sell their food," Wiig says. "We want food banks to buy from local farms."</p><p>This seems like a win-win. Millions of tons of food is being plowed under as 60 million people are now going hungry, 17 million of them since the pandemic began, according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks.</p><p>But it's complicated. David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank puts it plainly: Local food is too expensive. "We distribute nine and a half million pounds of produce annually," he says. "It costs about 9 cents a pound, 3 cents to transport. With 82,000 people to feed, it would be a luxury to think of tending to local needs by buying locally."</p><p>That reticence is partly because the food bank system is tangled in bureaucracy. The USDA decides what to purchase and from where. Because of the distances between sites, the federal agency has tended to favor foods with long shelf lives, such as canned and processed foods, and long-lasting produce like apples and potatoes. "If local food is what we need, there has to be a plan," Goodman says.</p><p>Such a plan might be where short-term disaster relief meets long-term resilience. Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transforming California's food system. To get serious about preparing the food system for future disasters, Dimock says, the government needs to be involved. Roots of Change is now advocating for a tax on sugary beverages to help foot the bill.</p><p>Dimock says the state needs a paradigm shift for farms to remain viable in the face of multiplying disasters to come—not only pandemics, but fires, floods, and other symptoms of climate change. "How bold will people get in the months ahead to demand real change? My hope is they will get more radical."</p><p>Food is fundamental. While farmers have yet to face the full economic impact of this pandemic, their collaborative efforts, along with local grassroots networks, could mark the beginning of a new economy laboring to be born.</p>
By Stephanie Woodard
Many Americans are now experiencing an erratic food supply for the first time. Among COVID-19's disruptions are bare supermarket shelves and items available yesterday but nowhere to be found today. As you seek ways to replace them, you can look to Native gardens for ideas and inspiration.
Aubrey Skye, Standing Rock Sioux tribal member, tills gardens for himself and other tribal members. He does some by hand, and others with this tractor. Photo by Stephanie Woodard.
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When the shelter-in-place orders came down in California, the first thing I thought of was my cousin's wedding—the one I was supposed to officiate. I'd been working on creating a special ceremony since the fall. But once the pandemic kicked in, everything was canceled.
Why We Have Shared Rituals<p>Shared rituals play an important role in our psyches, according to social psychologist Shira Gabriel. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28263640" target="_blank">Her research</a> suggests that rituals—choreographed events that produce an emotionally laden experience—create a feeling of unity and sacredness that bonds us together with others.</p><p>"Rituals give us a feeling of going beyond the ordinary—of having a moment that transcends that, turning events into something special and meaningful," Gabriel says.</p><p>Why transcendent? Because when we participate in ritual, we experience a sort of emotion contagion that sociologist Émile Durkheim called "collective effervescence." That uplift and energy increase our sense of commonality (even with strangers) and make us feel we are part of a larger community. It's why we can feel so bonded to fellow Golden State Warriors fans at a game or so unified during a protest march.</p><p>Gabriel says that we often create shared rituals when we go through important life transitions, too, because they mark the passage of time as sacred. Weddings, funerals, and graduations, for example, all give us a sense of meaning, which makes forgoing them so hard.</p>
Creating More Collective Effervescence Now<p>It's good to know that losing shared rituals isn't dire. That doesn't mean giving them up is easy.</p><p>Therapist <a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_should_you_go_to_therapy" target="_blank">Lori Gottlieb</a>, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, worries that people might discount their losses as trivial by comparing themselves to others who may be suffering more serious losses, such as losing a job or loved one. But, she adds, not being able to fulfill life dreams or expectations can be painful, too, and may require grieving.</p><p>"People need to be able to talk about what they're experiencing, because these are real losses," she says. "We're not here to rank each other's losses in terms of which one is more valid or which one is more significant."</p><p>She points to her own losses from the coronavirus outbreak—her teen son will miss his last semester of eighth grade, and she can't hold a funeral after her father's death or sit shiva for him (a Jewish tradition that helps the bereaved honor the passing of their loved ones). Dismissing those losses or not accepting our feelings of loss is not the answer.</p><p>"As parents, partners, family members, and friends, we need to allow people to talk about the things that they're missing," she says.</p><p>That doesn't preclude reframing a loss in more positive terms or looking for potential <a href="https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/finding_silver_linings" target="_blank">silver linings</a> in our current experience, she adds. Being at home with less to do and more free time may give people new opportunities for intimacy, such as calling up old friends or spending time with children who are usually away at school.</p><p>"Instead of focusing on the things that you don't have, you can look at all of the new things that you do have right now," she says. "There's a lot to be gained in the midst of loss, in the form of community and connection."</p>
How to Make New Rituals<p>Sheltering in place could also inspire people to create alternative events to mark special occasions, she says, such as a Zoom dance party to celebrate a graduation, which might even end up being more memorable than what was originally planned.</p><p>Jan Stanley, who works as a celebrant—someone who designs rituals for weddings and funerals—says that it's not hard to create rituals online, if you keep certain things in mind. She suggests that you:</p><p>• Ask people to bring to their online gathering something symbolic to share, such as a candle to light, a memory or story, a picture, or a poem. Getting people to contribute in that way can help create a sense of oneness.</p><p>• Mark the moment by having someone provide an opening statement that designates the beginning of any ritual and explains the purpose of being there. That sets the tone and makes people realize that this is a special moment in time and not just another online meeting.</p><p>• Create emotional highs, perhaps using music, dancing, poetry, moments of silence, or something else with high emotional resonance to augment the experience.</p><p>• Always have a distinct ending that includes an emotional peak, because people <a href="https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-peak-end-theory/" target="_blank">tend to remember</a> an event better that way.</p><p>Though an online ritual may lack some of the power of an in-person ritual, says Stanley, it still has value. Even doing rituals alone can be useful, she adds, if it's meaningful. Research suggests that creating rituals just for ourselves can help <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23398180" target="_blank">alleviate grief</a> after loss and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29771567" target="_blank">make us feel less out of control</a>, which could help now, when the world seems so uncertain.</p><p>"If you can design a ritual to be meaningful—so that it actually touches your heart or brings someone to mind or gives you a sense of your own purpose—all the better," she says.</p><p>Gabriel, the social psychologist, encourages people to also look beyond formalized rituals to everyday opportunities to share positive emotion and a sense of solidarity from a distance.</p>
By Liz Carlisle
This opinion piece was originally published by Yes! Magazine on March 30, 2020.
As the coronavirus crisis has laid bare, the U.S. urgently needs a strategic plan for farmland. The very lands we need to ensure community food security and resilience in the face of crises like this pandemic and climate change are currently being paved over, planted to chemically raised feed grains for factory farm animals, and acquired by institutional investors and speculators. For far too long, the fate of farmlands has flown under the radar of public dialogue—but a powerful new proposal from think tank Data for Progress lays out how a national strategic plan for farmland could help boost economic recovery while putting the U.S. on a path to carbon neutrality.
Lincoln’s Unfinished Business<p>Farmland ownership has not followed the path that President Lincoln envisioned, explains the memo's co-lead author Meleiza Figueroa, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at University of California, Berkeley and faculty-owner of the Birmingham-based Cooperative New School for Urban Studies and Environmental Justice. When Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in 1862, he promised small tracts of land to family farmers. Following emancipation, the Lincoln administration also promised "40 acres and a mule" to formerly enslaved Africans.</p><p>However, land speculators cheated from the beginning of the homestead era, gobbling up multiple claims under different names. And "40 acres and a mule" were never provided to emancipated slaves, as President Andrew Johnson <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/" target="_blank">rescinded the promise</a> after Lincoln's assassination. Homestead claims <a href="https://www.nps.gov/home/learn/historyculture/abouthomesteadactlaw.htm" target="_blank">trickled to a close</a> in the early 1900s, and the federal government backed out of land policy, letting the market take its course. "When you look at the history of injustice in this country," Figueroa says, "it's all about land."</p><p>In the century-long absence of a coherent U.S. policy framework for farmland, Figueroa and her coauthors point out, several worrying trends have developed. For one, prime farmland has been paved over. According to the American Farmland Trust, 25.1 million acres of U.S. agricultural land—nearly the size of the state of Ohio—was converted to developed uses between 1982 and 2015.</p><p>Such land use change has significant climate implications. A <a href="https://ww2.energy.ca.gov/2012publications/CEC-500-2012-032/CEC-500-2012-032.pdf" target="_blank">2012 University of California, Davis study</a> that compared an acre of urban land to an acre of irrigated cropland found that the urban land generated 70 times as many greenhouse gas emissions. There's also an opportunity cost: Land-based carbon sequestration strategies like <a href="https://civileats.com/2018/10/11/fire-and-agroforestry-are-reviving-traditional-native-foods-and-communities/" target="_blank">agroforestry</a> and <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/02/11/two-states-are-leading-a-cover-crop-revival/" target="_blank">cover cropping</a> can't be adopted if the land is under concrete.</p><p>Second, the memo points out, what farmland remains has become ever more concentrated in the hands of large farms and institutional investors. A mere <a href="https://www.elementascience.org/article/10.1525/elementa.356/" target="_blank">3.2% of U.S. farms account for 51% of the total value</a> of the nation's agricultural production. Forty percent of U.S. farmland is rented, discouraging sustainable agricultural practices that require long-term management and secure land tenure. And farmers make up just <a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/ag-and-food-sectors-and-the-economy.aspx" target="_blank">1.3%</a> of the U.S. workforce.</p><p>"There's an assumption out there that this is just the forward march of progress," Figueroa says. " 'Who wants to be a farmer anymore?' Actually, a lot of people want to be farmers now—especially young people who are aware of the effects of climate change and also not satisfied by alienating office labor. Why not offer the opportunity for meaningful and gainful work that is beneficial to everybody, to people and planet?"</p>
Racial Injustice Plays Out on the Land<p>The absence of a coherent U.S. land policy can be blamed for some of the current problems with farmland concentration, say the authors of the Data for Progress memo. But co-lead author Leah Penniman, founding co-director of Soul Fire Farm in Upstate New York, argues that the U.S. government has had a very influential de facto land policy over the past century, even if it wasn't articulated as such. "The very basis of U.S. land policy is rooted in the theft of land and the exclusion of people of color from land," Penniman explains. "This, of course, started with the genocidal stealing of almost the entire continent from the stewardship of Indigenous people … [and] throughout much of our history, there have been various state-level property ownership requirements that excluded people of color from being able to own property."</p><p> When people of color did amass property, Penniman says, they were targeted with violence.</p><p>"The Ku Klux Klan, the White Caps, and the White Citizens Council were responsible for lynching almost 4,500 people, many of whom were landowners, who they saw as having the audacity to get off the plantation and to want to stop sharecropping." The federal government also discriminated against black farmers through USDA programs, Penniman explains, resulting in a rapid decline of black farmers from 14% of the nation's farmers in 1910 to approximately 1% today.</p><p>Given that the average age of the American farmer is 57, and a significant share of the nation's farmland will soon change hands, Penniman and her co-authors argue, Americans have a short window of opportunity to rectify this unjust history while ensuring that farmland is conserved and that farmers have opportunities to combat climate change.</p>
A Diverse Coalition for Reform<p>The diverse coalition mobilizing around these shifts to farm policy is notable: Contributors to the Data for Progress memo range from staffers at predominantly white farm state groups like National Family Farm Coalition and Family Farm Defenders to racial justice leaders like Penniman and Figueroa to academics focused on economic policy.</p><p>What these diverse constituencies share, the memo's authors explain, is that they've all gotten the short end of the stick of land consolidation and are struggling to survive. Ironically, many family farmers have accumulated significant land over the past generation or two but are less economically secure, as they've taken on debt to keep up with the treadmill of overproduction stimulated by current agriculture policy.</p><p>"We need to give current family farmers, who are mostly white, a lot of credit," Penniman says. "Nobody wants to be complicit in racism and in that kind of harm and exclusion. I think it's in our best interest as a nation not to pretend that we're all the same or that we all need the same policies, but to really look truthfully at what needs to change. And we've found that having these honest conversations in our communities often leads to common ground."</p><p>As for how to turn this common ground into policy change, the memo's authors outline a couple different pathways. The 'low hanging fruit' option, explains contributor Adam Calo, a researcher at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, would be to expand three separate kinds of existing policies. For one, Calo believes, the U.S. should ramp up efforts to conserve farmland and protect it from development while limiting land investment by large corporations. Second, programs that incentivize farmers to use regenerative agricultural practices that combat climate change should be dramatically scaled up. The third and critical piece of this policy triad, Calo emphasizes, is equity: the U.S. must strengthen and enforce policies that ensure "Socially Disadvantaged Farmers" (the USDA's term for farmers subjected to racial discrimination) have equal access to all farm programs and particular set-asides to redress historic injustices.</p><p>More ambitious and transformative, the memo's authors suggest, would be to combine these objectives with a fully integrated land policy. Such a policy would include public land banks that could acquire land from retiring farmers and provide affordable access for farmers of color, new farmers, and farm cooperatives who pledged to use sustainable practices. It would also include a land commission, anchored by community-based institutions led by people of color, that would periodically assess that state of farmland access and make policy recommendations.</p>
Good Stewardship at Scale<p>Figueroa is excited about these more far-reaching approaches, which she sees as opportunities to mobilize the underutilized climate response potential in Black and brown communities. "How many Oaxacan farmers are in apartment buildings right now?," Figueroa asks. "If you gave them land, they know what to do with it. It's not like they forgot what to do with it once they crossed the border."</p><p>But getting farmers on land isn't enough, Figueroa and her coauthors emphasize. A successful Green New Deal for farmland must help ecological farmers stay on the land—and thrive. Penniman points to the success of payment for ecosystem services policies like those in Costa Rica, where farmers are compensated for providing environmental benefits on behalf of society—benefits like maintaining pollinator habitat, preventing soil erosion, and sequestering carbon. We already have such programs in the U.S., including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, but they are funded at much lower levels than other farm programs that predominantly support industrial agriculture.</p><p>Overhauling farm programs by shifting current subsidies to instead compensate farmers for climate-beneficial practices—and establishing public procurement and supply management—would allow current family farmers to earn more money on fewer acres. At the same time, it would enable farmers to produce more human food (rather than biofuels and feed grain for factory farms) and provide more public benefits (such as drawing down emissions and improving watershed health). Remaining and degraded acres no longer needed by these now much more viable farms could be transitioned into land banks like those envisioned by the Data for Progress team, offering a just transition for both existing family farmers and landless farmers looking to contribute to climate mitigation and community food security by stewarding land.</p><p>"It's a win-win," Figueroa says. "People who want to put their labor into agriculture and struggling farmers who want support can actually join together as a community."</p>
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By Coral Natalie Negrón Almodóvar
The Earth began to shake as Tamar Hernández drove to visit her mother in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 28, 2019. She did not feel that first tremor — she felt only the ensuing aftershocks — but she worried because her mother had an ankle injury and could not walk. Then Hernández thought, "What if something worse is coming our way?"
A view of a washed out road near Utuado, Puerto Rico, after a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew dropped relief supplies to residents Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. The locals were stranded after Hurricane Maria by washed out roads and mudslides. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Help did arrive, although it didn't come from the government initially. Instead, a hyperlocal response made up of disparate nonprofits and volunteers arrived and provided much needed aid, even during continuing aftershocks. Hernández said she was especially thankful for the response from one community organization, Tabernacle Followers of Jesus Christ.<br></p><p>Those volunteer initiatives sparked a feeling of trust in refugee camps, said Víctor Amauri, a social worker and one of the help coordinators with Solidarity Brigade of the West, which is made up of people from many organizations who provided direct response to help communities after Hurricane Maria.</p>
A group of students from Aspira's Inc. Alternative School in the municipality of Mayaguez ready to go to the town of Cabo Rojo and receive farming instruction. Francisco Acevedo.<p>Aspira's alternative school in the western town of Mayagüez allows teenagers, most of them school dropouts, to explore the significance of agriculture. The students are learning to cultivate tropical root and tuber crops that can germinate in unfavorable conditions. They are particularly resistant to damage by high wind hurricanes and typhoons, Aspira's agronomist Francisco Acevedo said.</p><p>José Esteban López Maldonado, a student at the elite Residential Center of Educational Opportunities in Mayagüez, runs a <a href="https://www.periodicolaperla.com/le-dan-la-escuela-jose-esteban/" target="_blank">similar project</a> in the small mountainside municipality of Adjuntas. In 2016, he managed to acquire one of the hundreds of schools closed by the local Department of Education and transformed it into a coworking space where people can learn about hydroponic cultivation, coffee planting, and greenhouses. USDA Rural Development, which offers loans and grants to economic development projects, has offered López help to improve the infrastructure of the school, but local authorities have not been able to provide him a proof of ownership so he can take advantage of the program, he said.</p>
José Esteban in Ponce, Puerto Rico, presenting his new initiative to distribute coffee Caturra, produced in his farm Lírica. Coral Negrón<p>The island also faces a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/04/finally-puerto-rico-has-way-out-its-debt-crisis/" target="_blank">bankruptcy crisis</a> and <a href="https://apnews.com/1211eb3e68b24c35a994c60973c8de65" target="_blank">austerity measures</a> imposed by the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board. José Caraballo-Cueto, an economist and assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico, said the bureaucracy around government processes exemplifies how the island is the perfect prey for disaster capitalism. "Restoration doesn't have the impact it deserves on the local economy because the biggest beneficiaries are not locals," Caraballo said. "A private law firm is even handling the cases of lack of proof of ownership post-Hurricane María."</p><p>In Puerto Rico, almost 92 percent of houses were damaged by the hurricane, according to a <a href="https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/vol--44--no-2--housing/the-lack-of-proof-of-ownership-in-puerto-rico-is-crippling-repai/" target="_blank">report</a> from the American Bar Association. More than 95 percent of those tenants, about <a href="https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/vol--44--no-2--housing/the-lack-of-proof-of-ownership-in-puerto-rico-is-crippling-repai/" target="_blank">1.1 million people</a>, applied for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individuals and Households Program in 2018, but a FEMA spokesman told NBC News that 335,748 <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/puerto-rico-crisis/no-deeds-no-aid-rebuild-homes-puerto-rico-s-reconstruction-n868396" target="_blank">claims were denied because they couldn't provide a deed</a> proving ownership of their homes.</p><p>Situations such as this one eroded Puerto Ricans' belief in local and federal institutions, which have promoted new governance models, said Arturo Massol Deyá, the executive director of 40-year-old environmental nonprofit Casa Pueblo.</p><p>In 150 locations across the island territory, Casa Pueblo ensured that, after Maria, those with the most urgent need for electricity received solar panels, including hospitals, small bodegas, and the homes of aging residents who required dialysis. In the recent earthquakes, the solar power systems proved to be more resilient than the <a href="https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/environment/puerto-rico-earthquake-power-outages-prepa-news" target="_blank">Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority's electricity grid, which failed again</a>.</p>
Arturo Massol, executive director of Casa Pueblo de Adjuntas. Omar Alfonso<p>All these grassroots actions are becoming the backbone of survival in Puerto Rico. For the time being, however, the lives of those residing in earthquake zones are stagnant, said Edward Santiago-Pacheco, a U.S. Army veteran and father of a newborn girl.</p><p>He lost his newly purchased house in Yauco in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake and has not heard back from the insurance company, the bank, or any local government agency.</p><p>"It is hard to overcome this when you just brought a new life into this world," Santiago-Pacheco said. "FEMA only provided money for two months of rent for temporary housing, but I still must pay my house mortgage. The worst part is that the local government is using our pain in favor of their political propaganda."</p><p>On Feb. 10, the Solidarity Brigade learned about Hernández's and Santiago-Pacheco's cases and reached out to them, Amauri said. However, thousands need similar help.</p><p>"Two of our members are sociologists (Roberto Vélez and Jacqueline Villegas), and they developed a census to identify all necessities and help people the best possible way. But we need the government to publish relevant information that can help us organize our strategy," he added.</p>
Casa Pueblo's installation of solar panels in a hardware store in Adjuntas. Arturo Massol
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By Tim Lydon
Climate-related disasters are on the rise, and carbon emissions are soaring. Parents today face the unprecedented challenge of raising children somehow prepared for a planetary emergency that may last their lifetimes. Few guidebooks are on the shelves for this one, yet, but experts do have advice. And in a bit of happy news, it includes strategies already widely recognized as good for kids.
PoPositive Stress and Strong Support Networks<p>Wiese defines resilience as the ability to manage stress and adapt to change. Her words are backed by a 2017 American Psychological Association <a href="https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> on the mental health impacts of climate change, which also emphasizes strong caregiver support and the value of resilience. For parents, the report's authors recommend cultivating belief in a child's own resilience, fostering optimism, and teaching children to control emotional responses to change. These are common tenets of modern parenting the report said are made especially important by climate change.</p><p>Psychologists also describe the value of "<a href="https://center.uoregon.edu/StartingStrong/uploads/STARTINGSTRONG2016/HANDOUTS/KEY_49962/TypesofStress.pdf" target="_blank">positive stress,</a>" which may include public speaking, making new friends, and other experiences that can briefly increase heart rates but that help wire young minds to adapt to change. Parents who provide supportive coaching through these normal life experiences help kids develop resilience.</p><p>"Parents also need to model positive and appropriate responses to stress," Wiese said.</p><p>Like many things, what happens earliest in life matters most, but teens and even adults can still improve resilience. The APA offers an online <a href="https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience" target="_blank">guide</a> with age-appropriate strategies for parents.</p><p>In contrast, stress related to poverty, malnutrition, violence, or abuse can weaken a child's resilience, acting as "threat multipliers" of their own for children born into the climate change era. In such cases, climate can compound existing stress, potentially increasing odds for substance abuse, anxiety, or depression, according to the authors of the APA report.</p><p>Especially where caregiver support is lacking, coaches, teachers, and other mentors can help young people manage these negative stressors. It's a reminder that entire communities, not just parents, will have a hand in raising climate-resilient children.</p><p>That community focus is an important factor according to Susan Clayton, a psychologist at Wooster College in Ohio and co-editor of <em><a href="https://www.elsevier.com/books/psychology-and-climate-change/clayton/978-0-12-813130-5" target="_blank">Psychology and Climate Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses</a>,</em> which summarizes psychological research tied to climate change.</p><p><span></span>"Strong social support networks give children a better foundation in resilience," Clayton said. She lists teachers, clubs, and faith communities as good examples of social networks that become "sources of meaning" for kids.</p>
Connnection to the Outdoors<p>Connecting youths to the outdoors is also important when it comes to climate change. <a href="https://www.parentingscience.com/outdoor-learning.html" target="_blank">Research</a> shows time outdoors, especially at an early age, can reduce childhood stress and anxiety, while strengthening confidence, imagination, and physical health — all characteristics that will help tomorrow's adults adapt to a changing world.</p><p>"Nature-based education [and] therapy are real sources of strength and resilience for young people," Clayton said.</p><p>But not everyone grows up with access to the outdoors, and both climate change and population growth are driving greater <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/climate-migrants-report-world-bank-spd/" target="_blank">movement</a> to urban areas worldwide. It means more kids live in developed areas with limited time in nature.</p><p>Fortunately, concern over how much time kids spend hitched to phones and computers has already sparked a <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2019/12/13/nature-based-education/" target="_blank">revival</a> in nature-based education. Parents and teachers today can access a growing network of tested programs. Some, such as <a href="https://www.plt.org/about-us/" target="_blank">Project Learning Tree</a> and the <a href="https://www.neefusa.org/nature/water/benefits-environmental-education" target="_blank">National Environmental Education Foundation</a>, are active across the country, but an expanding galaxy of others function at the local level. At the movement's cutting edge is a growing number of outdoor-focused <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/04/early-childhood-outdoor-education/558959/" target="_blank">preschools</a> and <a href="https://www.rei.com/blog/news/are-outdoor-preschools-the-wave-of-the-future" target="_blank">kindergartens</a> that provide formative experiences in natural settings, including within urban areas.</p><p>Proponents say nature-based education is good for older kids, too, and can spark interest in science and other fields that will be crucial in the decades ahead, as people engineer solutions to climate-related challenges. Such programs may steer teens toward promising careers. But in the short term, learning about science and nature can instill optimism in the face of discouraging climate news.</p>
Discuss and Model Solutions<p>But what about day-to-day actions in the home? Experts agree that discussing climate change and modeling behaviors that reflect climate solutions are important, too. Discussions need to be <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/04/raising-kids-climate-change/554969/" target="_blank">age-appropriate</a> to protect young children from unnecessary stress and anxiety. But exhibiting climate-positive behaviors such as energy conservation and avoiding single-use plastics carries value at all ages. According to Wiese, it shows kids that parents are engaged in trying to better the world, and it fosters resilience by channeling energy toward tangible action.</p><p>Mary DeMocker, author of <a href="https://www.marydemocker.com/" target="_blank"><em>The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution</em></a>, agrees. As the mother of two young adults, DeMocker spent more than two decades raising kids with climate change in mind, and she believes in empowering young people to create solutions.</p><p>"Anything that gives kids a sense of agency is important," she said. "Maybe they help put together the family's emergency plan or evacuation kit. For older kids, it might mean writing letters to Congress."</p><p>DeMocker's book contains 100 short, action-oriented chapters with ideas on greener lifestyles, getting kids outdoors, and promoting solutions to the climate crisis. She is attentive to the science of climate change and the <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/09/1046972" target="_blank">urgent need</a> for a swift transition to clean energy. That drives her belief that children growing up today must feel empowered to create change. In addition to strong support networks, time outdoors, and positive thinking habits, she said, empowerment comes from solid foundations in both civics and climate science.</p><p>"I encourage parents to push for climate literacy in schools," she said. "Climate change is the biggest thing that's going to affect their children's future. Kids need to know the science and causes but also the solutions. And it needs to be taught free from the constraints of political interests."</p><p>DeMocker said young people should not be told "what to think about climate, but how to think about it." She believes teaching kids to think critically about the issue, including in geopolitical terms, helps them avoid despair and instead empowers them to create change. A grounding in civics and democracy then informs kids how change can occur.</p>
Foster Compassion<p>Compassion is also a theme in DeMocker's work. She said it's an important emotional response for parents to exercise while listening to a child's fears about climate change, which may include concerns about wildlife, natural disasters, or the well-being of friends, family, and even pets.</p><p>In Alaska, Wiese also sees the importance of compassion. She said parents foster compassion when they provide a safe emotional place for kids to express their feelings and where feelings are respected. For younger children, she also sees value in <a href="https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/raising-includers-5-tips-to-help-your-kids-be-kind-and-compassionate?gclid=Cj0KCQiApaXxBRDNARIsAGFdaB9Dp67VmyJHY5kke0ptpDapbSc767cVtYMrs-05ZI0DtfKRAKVgRw8aArYCEALw_wcB#disqus_thread" target="_blank">compassion-based play</a>.</p><p>Exercising compassion models behaviors young people will need in the future, too, as they emerge as adults into a world undergoing significant physical and societal change. Global experts <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041261" target="_blank">predict</a> low- and middle-income people — and especially children — will continue feeling the brunt of weather extremes, food shortages, and other climate-related events. Tomorrow's adults will need to know the value of compassion to promote responses that alleviate suffering, foster social justice, and decarbonize the economy. That provides a check against intolerance, nationalism, and other negative reactions that can compound suffering and civil unrest. Practicing compassion also carries mental health <a href="https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/the-compassionate-mind" target="_blank">benefits</a> that can help tomorrow's adults weather the climate disruption they will experience.</p><p>Like climate change itself, the prospect of raising children on a warming planet is daunting. When it becomes overwhelming, Wiese said, parents should focus on what they can control: Practice self-care. Provide kids with safety and support. Teach resilience and compassion. And model planet-healthy choices that orient children away from anxiety and toward solutions.</p><p><em>Tim Lydon has worked on public lands issues for many years and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. His writing has appeared in Hakai Magazine, The Revelator, The Hill, Terrain.org, and elsewhere.</em></p>
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By Tyler Wells Lynch
For years, Toni Genberg assumed a healthy garden was a healthy habitat. That's how she approached the landscaping around her home in northern Virginia. On trips to the local gardening center, she would privilege aesthetics, buying whatever looked pretty, "which was typically ornamental or invasive plants," she said. Then, in 2014, Genberg attended a talk by Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware. "I learned I was actually starving our wildlife," she said.