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What Neil Young and Pope Francis Have in Common

Food
What Neil Young and Pope Francis Have in Common

I imagine top executives at Monsanto are not huge fans right now of Neil Young or Pope Francis. The two might seem to lead very disparate lives. One is a life-long Canadian rocker and the other leads a flock of 1.2 billion Catholics. But lately the two have drawn the ire of corporate giants, particularly Monsanto, all over the world.

The two might seem very different, but they have both taken very public stances against GMOs, pesticides and corporate abuse.

Neil Young's album, The Monsanto Years, was released June 29 and it's already causing quite a stir. Ahead of the album's release, Monsanto issued a statement criticizing Neil Young for perpetuating myths about the company.

According to Pitchfork, the album "fixes its crosshairs on the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth that has a stranglehold on the world's seed (and, by extension, food) supply, forcing farmers to comply their strict terms or be litigated into destitution." To be fair, Young doesn't just single out Monsanto. He takes on Wal-Mart, Chevron, Citizens United and Starbucks, just to name a few.

Last fall, Young made a very public boycott of Starbucks over its (and Monsanto's) alleged support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association's lawsuit to prevent Vermont from accurately labeling food. In April, a judge upheld Vermont's GMO-labeling law while the case continues.

And unless you've been living in an off-grid community in the middle of nowhere (if so, that's awesome), then you are probably aware that Pope Francis released an encyclical earlier this month. In that encyclical, the religious leader did not mince words when it came to the dire need for immediate action on climate change.

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But while his words on climate change might have gotten the most attention, the Pope also is a strong critic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. The week before he released his encyclical, Pope Francis hosted the 39th UN Food and and Agriculture Organization conference at the Vatican. During the conference, the Pontiff took the opportunity to condemn multinational corporations like Monsanto for choosing profits over people.

And in the Pope's encyclical, he denounced pesticides and GMO crops, declaring “the spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and the future of regional economies.”

At the heart of all of these issues is how the poor and marginalized are adversely affected by problems like climate change, unjust food policies, exposure to toxic pesticides, and the concentration of wealth and land in the hands of a few. Pope Francis and Neil Young are both tirelessly dedicated to putting the needs of the poor and marginalized first and preserving the environment for future generations.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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