Want to Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet? Here's How
By Alexandra Rowles
Consuming too much added sugar is one of the worst things you can do to your body. It can have many negative effects on your health.
While sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables, this type has little effect on your blood sugar, since fiber and other components slow its absorption.
Fruits and vegetables also contain lots of healthy vitamins and minerals.
The danger is from added sugars in processed foods.
The average American currently consumes around 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of added sugar per day (6).
This is way more than the upper daily limit that experts recommend, which is 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (37 grams) for men (7).
This article lists 14 simple ways to stop eating so much sugar.
1. Cut Back on Sugar-Filled Drinks
Some popular drinks contain a heap of added sugar.
So-called "healthy" drinks, such as smoothies and fruit juices, can still contain eye-watering amounts of it.
For example, 15.2 ounces (450 ml) of 100 percent apple juice contains more than 12 teaspoons (49 grams) (9).
Your body does not recognize calories from drinks in the same way it does from food. Drinks don't make you feel as full, so people who consume lots of calories from drinks do not eat less to compensate (10).
Here are some better, lower-sugar drink options:
• Water: It's free and has zero calories.
• Sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime: Homemade soda.
• Water with mint and cucumber: Amazingly refreshing in warm weather.
• Herbal or fruit teas: Drink them hot or cold with ice.
• Tea and coffee: Stick to unsweetened tea or black or flat white coffee.
Cutting back on sugary drinks can massively reduce your sugar intake and help you lose weight.
Summary: Avoiding sugary drinks, such as sodas, energy drinks and some fruit drinks, will drastically reduce your sugar intake and could help you lose weight.
2. Avoid Sugar-Loaded Desserts
Most desserts don't provide much in the way of nutritional value, except maybe some calcium.
They are loaded with sugar, which causes blood sugar spikes and can leave you feeling tired, hungry and craving more sugar.
Grain and dairy-based desserts, such as cakes, pies, doughnuts and ice cream, account for more than 18 percent of the intake of added sugar in the American diet (14).
If you really feel the need for something sweet, try these alternatives:
• Fresh fruit: Naturally sweet and full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
• Greek yogurt with cinnamon or fruit: Rich in calcium, protein and vitamin B12.
• Baked fruit with cream: Try pears, apple or plums.
• Dark chocolate: In general, the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar.
• A handful of dates: They're naturally sweet and extremely nutritious.
Swapping sugar-heavy desserts for fresh or baked fruit can not only reduce your sugar intake, but it can also increase the fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your diet.
Summary: Desserts such as ice cream, cakes and cookies are loaded with sugar and provide little nutrition. Switch to fresh or baked fruit to reduce your sugar intake and increase your fiber, vitamin and mineral intake.
3. Avoid Sauces With Lots of Sugar
Sauces such as ketchup, barbecue sauce and sweet chili sauce are commonplace in most kitchens. However, most people aren't aware of their shocking sugar content.
A single tablespoon (15-gram) serving of ketchup may contain 1 teaspoon (4 grams) (15).
Although, some varieties have no added sugar. Always read the label to be sure you are choosing the lowest-sugar option.
Here are some other options to flavor your food:
• Fresh or dried herbs and spices: Contain no sugar or calories and can have added health benefits.
• Fresh chili: Give your food a sugar-free kick.
• Yellow mustard: Tasty and contains virtually no sugar or calories.
• Vinegar: Sugar and calorie-free, with a zing similar to that of ketchup. Some balsamic vinegars and creams may contain sugar.
• Harissa paste: Can be bought or made and is a good replacement for sweet chili sauce.
• Pesto: Fresh and nutty, great on sandwiches or eggs.
• Mayonnaise: Although it's sugar-free, it's high in fat, so be cautious if you're trying to lose weight.
As a healthy alternative to store-bought ketchup, try making your own with this easy recipe.
Summary: Common table sauces can contain a shocking amount of sugar. Always read the label to make sure you choose sugar-free options or use herbs and spices to flavor your food.
4. Eat Full-Fat Foods
Low-fat options of your favorite foods—peanut butter, yogurt, salad dressing—are everywhere.
If you've been told that fat is bad, it may feel natural to reach for these alternatives, rather than the full-fat versions, when you're trying to lose weight.
However, the unsettling truth is that they usually contain more sugar and sometimes more calories than their full-fat counterparts.
A 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of low-fat vanilla yogurt contains 4 teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar and 96 calories.
Another example is an 8-ounce (237-ml) coffee made with whole milk and no added sugar, which contains half a teaspoon (2 grams) of naturally occurring milk sugar and 18 calories (18).
In contrast, the same amount of a low-fat mocha drink contains 6.5 teaspoons (26 grams) of added sugar and 160 calories (19).
When you're trying to cut your sugar intake, it's often better to choose the full-fat version instead.
Summary: Low-fat foods often contain more sugar and calories than full-fat versions. It is often better to choose full-fat versions when you're trying to reduce your sugar intake.
5. Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods have not been processed or refined. They are also free of additives and other artificial substances.
At the other end are ultra-processed foods. These are prepared foods that contain salt, sugar and fats, but also substances not usually used in home cooking.
These substances can be artificial flavors, colors, emulsifiers or other additives. Examples of ultra-processed foods are soft drinks, desserts, cereals, pizzas and pies.
Ultra-processed foods differ from standard processed foods, which usually only have minimal ingredients added, all of which you might find in a standard kitchen.
Examples of standard processed foods are simple bread and cheese (22).
Ninety percent of the added sugars in the average American's diet come from ultra-processed foods, whereas only 8.7 percent come from foods prepared from scratch at home using whole foods (22).
And it isn't just junk food that contains high amounts of it.
Seemingly healthy options like canned pasta sauce can also contain alarming amounts. One serving (128 grams) can contain nearly 3 teaspoons (11 grams) (23).
Try to cook from scratch when possible so you can avoid added sugars. You don't have to cook elaborate meals. Simple tricks like marinating meat and fish in herbs, spices and olive oil will give you delicious results.
Summary: Whole foods are free of added sugar and other additives commonly found in processed foods. Eating more whole foods and cooking from scratch will reduce your sugar intake.
6. Check for Sugar in Canned Foods
Canned foods can be a useful and cheap addition to your diet, but they can also contain a lot of added sugar.
Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring sugars. However, they're not an issue since they do not affect your blood sugar in the same way that added sugar does.
Avoid canned foods that are packed in syrup or have sugar in the ingredients list. Fruit is sweet enough, so go for versions that are labeled with "in own juice" or "no added sugar."
If you buy canned fruits or vegetables that do have added sugar, you can remove some of it by rinsing them in water before you eat them.
Summary: Canned foods, including canned fruits and vegetables, may contain added sugar. Always read labels to ensure you choose versions without it.
7. Be Careful With So-Called "Healthy" Processed Snack Foods
Most people know that candy and cookies contain a lot of sugar, so they may look for "healthy" snack alternatives.
Surprisingly, snacks like granola bars, protein bars and dried fruit can contain as much, if not more, sugar than their unhealthy rivals, such as chocolate bars.
Some granola bars can contain as much as 8 teaspoons (32 grams) (24).
Dried fruit is full of fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. However, it is also full of natural sugar, so it should be eaten in moderation.
Some dried fruit also contains high quantities of added sugar. To avoid this, look for ingredients labels that say "100 percent fruit."
Or try these healthy snack ideas instead:
• A handful of nuts: Packed with good calories, protein and healthy fats.
• Trail mix: Make sure it's just nuts and dried fruit, without added sugar.
• Homemade granola bars without added sugar: Try this recipe.
• No-added-sugar jerky: Full of protein and low in calories.
• Hard-boiled egg: This superfood is high in protein, vitamins and minerals.
• Fresh fruit: Contains natural sugar to satisfy those sugar cravings.
Don't be fooled by the "healthy" marketing messages on some snacks. Be prepared and take low-sugar snacks with you when you're on the go.
Summary: So-called healthy snacks, such as granola and protein bars, can contain lots of added sugar. Be prepared and take low-sugar snacks like nuts and fresh fruit with you when you're out and about.
8. Avoid Sugar-Filled Breakfast Foods
One cereal in the report contained more than 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per serving, which made it 88 percent sugar by weight.
What's more, the report found that granola, which is usually marketed as "healthy," has more sugar than any other type of cereal, on average.
Popular breakfast foods, such as pancakes, waffles, muffins and jams, are also loaded with added sugar.
Switch to these low-sugar breakfast options instead:
• Hot oatmeal: Add some chopped fruit if you like it sweet.
• Greek yogurt: Add fruit and nuts for extra good calories.
• Eggs: Boiled, poached, scrambled or as an omelet.
• Avocado: Packed full of nutrition and healthy fats for energy.
Choosing a low-sugar option with high protein and fiber at breakfast will help you feel full until lunchtime, preventing unnecessary snacking.
Summary: Breakfast cereals are among the worst culprits for added sugar, along with pancakes, waffles and jams. Switch to low-sugar options such as eggs, oatmeal or plain yogurt.
9. Read Labels
Unfortunately, eating less sugar isn't as easy as just avoiding sweet foods. You've already seen that it can hide in unlikely foods, including some breakfast cereals, granola bars and dried fruit.
However, some savory foods, such as bread, can also contain a lot of added sugar. Two slices can contain 1.5 teaspoons (6 grams) (25).
Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to identify added sugars on a food label. Current food labels don't differentiate between natural sugars, such as those in milk or fruits and added sugars.
To see if a food has sugars added, you will need to check the ingredients list. It is also important to note the order in which sugar appears on the list, since ingredients are listed in order of the highest percentage first.
Food companies also use more than 50 other names for added sugar, which makes it more difficult to spot. Here are some of the most common:
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Cane sugar or juice
• Invert sugar
• Rice syrup
Thankfully, identifying sugar in packaged food in the U.S. just got much easier.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has changed their rules so that companies have to show the amount of added sugar in their products on the ingredients label in grams, along with a percentage of the daily value (26).
Companies have until 2018 to change their labels to comply.
Summary: Always read food labels to check for sugar by its many names. The closer to the beginning it is on the ingredients list, the greater percentage of sugar the product contains.
10. Eat More Protein and Fat
A high sugar intake is linked to increased appetite and weight gain.
Conversely, a diet low in added sugar but high in protein and fat has the opposite effect, reducing hunger and food intake.
Added sugar in the diet, particularly fructose, increases appetite. The signals that usually let your brain know that you are full do not work properly, which can lead to overeating and weight gain (27, 28).
On the other hand, protein has been proven to reduce appetite and hunger. If you feel full, then you are less likely to crave the quick hunger fix that sugar provides (29).
Protein has also been shown to directly reduce food cravings. One study showed that increasing protein in the diet by 25 percent reduced cravings by 60 percent (30).
Fat is very high in energy. It contains 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram in protein or carbs.
A high fat intake is also associated with reduced appetite. According to the fat content of a food, fat receptors in the mouth and gut alter the way it's digested. This causes a reduction in appetite and subsequently, calorie intake (31).
To curb sugar cravings, stock up on protein and fat-rich whole foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairy products, avocados and nuts.
Summary: A high sugar intake is linked to increased appetite and weight gain. Eating more protein and fat has been shown to have the opposite effect, reducing appetite and cravings.
11. Consider Natural Sweeteners
Addiction to sugar produces cravings and a "tolerance" level, meaning more and more of it must be consumed to satisfy those cravings (34).
It is also possible to suffer from sugar withdrawal.
This shows that giving up sugar can be very difficult for some people. If you are struggling, there are a few naturally sweet alternatives that are actually good for you.
• Stevia: Extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, it has virtually no calories and has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar in people with diabetes (37, 38).
• Erythritol: Found naturally in fruit, it only contains 6 percent of the calories of sugar, but it's much sweeter, so only a little is needed. It also doesn't cause blood sugar spikes (39).
• Xylitol: A sweetener found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, it doesn't contain fructose, so it won't cause blood sugar spikes (40).
Once you cut your sugar intake, you'll adjust to enjoying foods that are less sweet.
Summary: Sugar can be addictive for some people. If you find giving up sugar to be particularly difficult, natural sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol and xylitol can help.
12. Don't Keep Sugar in the House
If you keep high-sugar foods in the house, you are more likely to eat them.
It takes a lot of willpower to stop yourself if you only have to go as far as the pantry or fridge to get a sugar hit.
Although cravings for snacks and sweet foods can occur at any time of the day or night, they may be worse in the evenings.
It is important to consider how you're going to distract yourself when you feel the need to eat something sweet.
Studies have shown that distraction, such as doing puzzles, can be very effective at reducing cravings (42).
If that doesn't work, then try to keep some healthy, low-sugar snacks in the house to munch on instead.
Summary: If you have sugar-filled snacks in the house, you are more likely to reach for them when cravings strike. Consider using distraction techniques if you feel cravings and keep low-sugar snack options handy.
13. Don't Shop When You're Hungry
If you've ever been shopping when you're hungry, you know what can happen.
Not only do you buy more food, but you also tend to put less healthy options in your shopping cart.
Shopping while hungry has been shown not only to increase the amount of food purchased, but also to affect the type of foods you buy (43).
In a controlled study, 68 participants fasted for five hours. Half the participants were then allowed to eat as many wheat crackers as they liked just before going shopping, while the other half went shopping on an empty stomach.
They found that the hungry group purchased more high-calorie products, compared to those who were less hungry (44).
In another study, 82 grocery shoppers were observed to see if the time of day they went shopping had any effect on their purchases.
The study found that those who shopped between 4–7 p.m., around dinnertime, when they were likely to be hungry, bought more high-calorie products than those who shopped between 1–4 p.m., shortly after lunch (44).
Summary: Research has shown that if grocery shoppers are hungry, they tend to buy more high-calorie foods. Try to eat a meal or healthy snack before you go shopping.
14. Get Enough Sleep
One study looked into this phenomenon in 23 healthy adults. Their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), first after a full night's sleep and then following a sleepless night.
The researchers found that function of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls decision making, was impaired after a sleepless night.
Furthermore, the area of the brain that responds to rewards and controls motivation and desire was stimulated.
These changes meant that participants favored high-calorie, sweet and salty foods when they were sleep deprived (50).
Another study found that people who went to bed late and did not get a full night's sleep consumed more calories, junk food and soda and fewer fruits and vegetables, compared to those who went to bed earlier and got a full night's sleep (51).
So going to bed early and sleeping well may help you reduce your sugar intake.
Summary: A lack of sleep causes people to favor high-calorie, sweet and salty foods over healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Get a good night's sleep to help you eat less sugar.
The Bottom Line
The average American consumes more than twice the recommended maximum amount of added sugar per day.
Excess sugar in the diet can be incredibly harmful and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
It is important to avoid obvious sources of sugar in your diet, such as desserts and sodas, but also to be aware of the hidden sugar in some common processed foods, including sauces, low-fat foods and so-called "healthy" snacks.
Choose a diet based on whole foods, rather than highly processed alternatives, to be fully in control of your sugar intake and not consume excess amount of it.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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By Deborah Moore, Michael Simon and Darryl Knudsen
There's some good news amidst the grim global pandemic: At long last, the world's largest dam removal is finally happening.
A young activist for a free-flowing Salween River. A team of campaigners and lawyers from EarthRights International joined Indigenous Karen communities on the Salween in 2018 to celebrate the International Day of Actions for Rivers on March 14. This year, EarthRights joined communities living in the Eu-Wae-Tta internally displaced persons camp for a celebration in solidarity with those impacted by dam projects on the Salween River. EarthRights International<p>The dam removal project is a sign of the decline of the hydropower industry, whose fortunes have fallen as the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46098118" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">troubling</a> cost-benefit ratio of dams has become clear over the years. The rise of more cost-effective and sustainable energy sources (including wind and solar) has hastened this shift. This is exactly the type of progress envisioned by the <a href="https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/17023836/dams-and-development-a-new-framework-for-decision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">World Commission on Dams</a> (WCD), a global multi-stakeholder body that was established by the World Bank and International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998 to investigate the effectiveness and performance of large dams around the world. The WCD released a damning landmark <a href="https://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20001117.dam.pressconferencepm.doc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> in November 2000 on the enormous financial, environmental and human costs and the dismal performance of large dams. The commission spent <a href="https://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20001117.dam.pressconferencepm.doc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">two years</a> analyzing the outcome of the trillions of dollars invested in dams, reviewing dozens of case studies and testimonies from over a thousand communities and individuals, before producing the report.</p><p>But despite this progress, we cannot take hydropower's decline as inevitable. As governments around the world plan for a post-pandemic recovery, hydropower companies sense an opportunity. The industry is eager to recast itself as climate-friendly (<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/how-green-is-hydropower-1919539525.html" target="_self">it's not</a>) and <a href="https://www.hydropower.org/covid-19" target="_blank">secure</a> precious stimulus funds to revive its dying industry — at the expense of people, the environment and a truly just, green recovery.</p>
Hydropower’s Troubling Record<p>The world's largest hydropower dam removal project on the Klamath River is a significant win for tribal communities. But while the Yurok and Karuk tribes <a href="https://www.karuk.us/images/docs/press/bring_salmon_home.php" target="_blank">suffered</a> terribly from the decline of the Klamath's fisheries, they were by no means alone in that experience. The environmental catastrophe that occurred along the Klamath River has been replicated all over the world since the global boom in hydropower construction <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/hydropower" target="_blank">began</a> early in the 20th century.</p><p>The rush to dam rivers has had huge consequences. After decades of rampant construction, only <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/worlds-free-flowing-rivers-mapped-hydropower/" target="_blank">37 percent of the world's rivers remain free-flowing</a>, according to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1111-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one study</a>. River fragmentation has <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/4/330/5732594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decimated freshwater habitats and fish stocks</a>, threatening food security for millions of the world's most vulnerable people, and hastening the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffopperman/2020/10/13/freshwater-wildlife-continues-to-decline-but-new-energy-trendlines-suggest-we-can-bend-that-curve/?sh=f9d175a61ee4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decline of other myriad freshwater species</a>, including mammals, birds and reptiles.</p><p>The communities that experienced the most harm from dams — whether in Asia, Latin America or Africa — often lacked political power and access. But that didn't stop grassroots movements from organizing and growing to fight for their rights and livelihoods. The people affected by dams began raising their voices, sharing their experiences and forging alliances across borders. By the 1990s, the public <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y55lnlst" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">outcry</a> against large dams had grown so loud that it finally led to the establishment of the WCD.</p><p>What the WCD found was stunning. While large dam projects had brought some economic benefits, they had also <a href="https://www.irn.org/wcd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">forcibly displaced an estimated 40 to 80 million people in the 20th century alone</a>. To put that number into perspective, it is more than the current population of present-day <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=FR" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">France</a> or the <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=GB" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Kingdom</a>. These people lost their lands and homes to dams, and often with no compensation.</p><p>Subsequent research has compounded that finding. A paper published in <a href="https://tinyurl.com/c7uznz" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Water Alternatives</a> revealed that globally, more than <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yxw8x7ab" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">470 million people living downstream from large dams</a> have faced significant impacts to their lives and livelihoods — much of it due to disruptions in water supply, which in turn harm the complex web of life that depends on healthy, free-flowing rivers. The WCD's findings, released in 2000, <a href="https://www.irn.org/wcd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">identified</a> the importance of restoring rivers, compensating communities for their losses, and finding better energy alternatives to save rivers and ecosystems.</p>
Facing a New Crisis<p>Twenty years after the WCD uncovered a crisis along the world's rivers and recommended a new development path — one that advances community-driven development and protects freshwater resources — we find ourselves in the midst of another crisis. The global pandemic has hit us hard, with surging loss of life, unemployment and instability.</p><p>But as governments work to rebuild economies and create job opportunities in the coming years, we have a choice: Double down on the failed, outdated technologies that have harmed so many, or change course and use this transformative moment to rebuild our natural systems and uplift communities.</p><p>There are many reasons to fight for a green recovery. The climate is changing even <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07586-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faster</a> than expected, and some dams — especially those with reservoirs in hot climates — <a href="https://tinyurl.com/w6w29t8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">have been found to emit more greenhouse gases than a fossil fuel power plant</a>. Other estimates have put global reservoirs' human-made greenhouse gas emissions each year on par with <a href="https://www.climatecentral.org/news/greenhouse-gases-reservoirs-fuel-climate-change-20745" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canada's</a> total emissions.</p><p>Meanwhile, we now understand that healthy rivers and freshwater ecosystems play a <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b55b1fe4-7d09-47af-96c4-6cbb5f106d4f/files/wetlands-role-carbon-cycle.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">critical role in regulating and storing carbon</a>. And at a time when <a href="https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodiversity loss is soaring</a>, anything we can do to <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/4/330/5732594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">restore habitat is key</a>. But with <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271996520_A_Global_Boom_in_Hydropower_dam_Construction" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than 3,700 major dams proposed or under construction</a> in the world (primarily in the Global South, with over <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/more-than-500-dams-planned-inside-protected-areas-study/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">500 of these in protected areas</a>), according to a 2014 report — and the hydropower industry <a href="https://www.hydropower.org/covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">jockeying</a> for scarce stimulus dollars — we must act urgently.</p>
Signs of Hope<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxMzUyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTcyNTc3OX0.EbqBVPs2kjhrY5AqnZXOb_GX-s6pw4qyJmmeISzKA6U/img.png?width=980" id="a81d0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87bc79d69f72e9334a78da8e0355e6ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1620" data-height="1068" />
Fish catch at the Siphandone on the Mekong River, prior to the completion of the Don Sahong Dam. Pai Deetes / International Rivers<p>So what would a strong, resilient and equitable recovery look like in the 21st century? Let's consider one example in Southeast Asia.</p><p>Running through six countries, the Mekong River is the world's 12th-longest river, which is home to one of the world's most biodiverse regions, and includes the world's <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/places/greater-mekong#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largest</a> inland fishery. Around <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y6jrarjo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">80 percent of the nearly 65 million people</a> who live in the Lower Mekong River Basin depend on the river for their livelihoods, according to the Mekong River Commission. In 1994, Thailand built the Pak Mun Dam on a Mekong tributary. <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y5ekfp4h" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Six years later</a>, the <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yxcvs6up" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">WCD studied the dam's performance</a> and submitted its conclusions and recommendations as part of its final report in 2000. According to the WCD report, the Pak Mun Dam did not deliver the peaking energy service it was designed for, and it <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y38p3jaw" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically blocked a critical migration route</a> for a range of fish species that migrated annually to breeding grounds upstream in the Mun River Basin. Cut off from their customary habitat, fish stocks plummeted, and so did the livelihoods of the local people.</p><p>Neighboring Laos, instead of learning from this debacle, followed in Thailand's footsteps, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y4eaxcq2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">constructing two dams on the river's mainstem</a>, Xayaburi Dam, commissioned in 2019, and Don Sahong Dam, commissioned in 2020. But then a sign of hope appeared. In early 2020, just as the pandemic began to spread across the world, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/cambodia-scraps-plans-for-mekong-hydropower-dams" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cambodian government reconsidered its plans to build more dams on the Mekong</a>. The science was indisputable: A government-commissioned report showed that further dams would <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/16/leaked-report-warns-cambodias-biggest-dam-could-literally-kill-mekong-river" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce the river's wild fisheries, threaten critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins</a> and <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2013WR014651" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">block nutrient-rich sediment from the delta's fertile agricultural lands</a>.</p><p><a href="https://data.opendevelopmentmekong.net/dataset/4f1bb5fd-a564-4d37-878b-c288af460143/resource/5f6fe360-7a68-480d-9ba4-12d7b8b805c9/download/volume-3_solar-alternative-to-sambor-dam.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies</a> show that Cambodia didn't need to seek billions of dollars in loans to build more hydropower; instead, it could pursue more cost-effective solar and wind projects that would deliver needed electricity at a fraction of the cost — and <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-statement-on-cambodian-government-s-decision-to-suspend-hydropower-dam-development-on-the-mekong-river" target="_blank">without the ecological disasters to fisheries and the verdant Mekong delta</a>. And, in a stunning reversal, Cambodia listened to the science — and to the people — and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/cambodia-scraps-plans-for-mekong-hydropower-dams" target="_blank">announced</a> a 10-year moratorium on mainstream dams. Cambodia is now <a href="https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/cambodia-halts-hydropower-construction-mekong-river-until-2030" target="_blank">reconsidering</a> its energy mix, recognizing that mainstream hydropower dams are too costly and undermine the economic and cultural values of its flagship river.</p>
Toward a Green Recovery<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxMzUwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTMwMjk0M30.0LZCOEVzgtgjm2_7CwcbFfuZlrtUr80DiRYxqKGaKIg/img.jpg?width=980" id="87fe9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e6b9bfeb013516f6ad5033bb9e03c5ec" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2100" data-height="3086" />
Klamath River Rapids. Tupper Ansel Blake / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service<p>Increasingly, governments, civil servants and the public at large are rethinking how we produce energy and are seeking to preserve and restore precious freshwater resources. Dam removals are increasing exponentially across <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/DamsRemoved_1999-2019.pdf" target="_blank">North America</a> and <a href="https://damremoval.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/DRE-policy-Report-2018-digitaal-010319.pdf" target="_blank">Europe</a>, and movements advancing <a href="https://www.rightsofrivers.org/" target="_blank">permanent river protection are growing across Latin America, Asia and Africa</a>.</p><p>We must use the COVID-19 crisis to accelerate the trend. Rather than relying on old destructive technologies and industry claims of newfound "<a href="https://www.hydrosustainability.org/news/2020/11/12/consultation-on-a-groundbreaking-global-sustainability-standard-for-hydropower" target="_blank">sustainable hydropower</a>," the world requires a new paradigm for an economic recovery that is rooted both in climate and economic justice as well as river stewardship. Since December 2020, hundreds of groups and individuals from more than 80 countries have joined the <a href="https://www.rivers4recovery.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rivers4Recovery</a> call for a better way forward for rivers and natural places. This paradigm will protect our rivers as critical lifelines — supporting fisheries, biodiversity, water supply, food production, Indigenous peoples and diverse populations around the world — rather than damming and polluting them.</p><p>The promise of the Klamath dam removals is one of restoration — a move that finally recognizes the immense value of free-flowing rivers and the key role they play in <a href="https://f.hubspotusercontent20.net/hubfs/4783129/LPR/PDFs/Living_Planet_Report_Freshwater_Deepdive.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nourishing both the world's biodiversity and hundreds of millions of people</a>. Healthy rivers — connected to watershed forests, floodplains, wetlands and deltas — are key partners in building resilience in the face of an accelerating climate crisis. But if we allow the hydropower industry to succeed in its <a href="https://www.world-energy.org/article/12361.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cynical grab for stimulus funds</a>, we'll only perpetuate the 20th century's legacy of suffering and environmental degradation.</p><p>We must put our money where our values are. Twenty years ago, the WCD pointed the way forward to a model of development that takes humans, wildlife and the environment into account, and in 2020, we saw that vision flower along the Klamath River. It's time to bring that promise of healing and restoration to more of the world's rivers.</p><p><em>Deborah Moore is a former commissioner of the <a href="https://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol3/v3issue2/79-a3-2-2/file" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">World Commission on Dams</a>. Michael Simon was a member of the <a href="https://www.hydrosustainability.org/assessment-protocol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum</a>. Darryl Knudsen is the executive director of <a href="https://www.internationalrivers.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">International Rivers</a>.</em></p><p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://truthout.org/articles/damming-rivers-is-terrible-for-human-rights-ecosystems-and-food-security/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Truthout</a> and was produced in partnership with <a href="https://independentmediainstitute.org/earth-food-life/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Earth | Food | Life</a>, a project of the Independent Media Institute.</em></p>
1-Month Hunger Strike: Chicago Activists Fight Metal Scrapper Relocation Into Black and Latinx Neighborhood
Hunger strikers in Chicago are fighting the relocation of a metal shredding facility from a white North Side neighborhood to a predominantly Black and Latinx community on the Southeast Side already plagued by numerous polluting industries.
The World Health Organization has determined that red meat probably causes colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there other health risks of meat consumption?