Margaret Renkl | For the Butterflies — and the Rest of Us – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — For Christmas last year, my husband ordered a sign for my butterfly garden from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit that works to protect insects and other invertebrates around the world. “Pollinator Habitat,” the sign reads. “This area has been planted with pollinator-friendly flowers and is protected from pesticides to provide valuable habitat for bees and other pollinators.” A note about where to find out more information includes a QR code that takes a smartphone straight to the Xerces Society’s “Bring Back the Pollinators” initiative.

National Pollinator Week begins on June 21, which is also the first full day of summer, a season we associate with bees and butterflies. What better time to launch an awareness campaign for the insects that are directly responsible for food and flowers? And what awareness campaign could be more necessary in an age when insect populations are crashing? Most of us know a butterfly when we see one, but their habits and habitat needs — and the perils they face — are another matter altogether.”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

Wonderful essay, thank you. I’ve joined No Mow May, and put up a Pollinator Way sign. To my pleasant surprise, the Republicans on both side of my yard also this spring did not mow their lawns till May was almost over. Bonding with Republicans over lawn care, who would have thought. There are still dozens of neighbors not yet onboard. The best solution would be a town or state ban on pesticides for home owners. We are enjoying fireflies in our back yard, but there are just a few, when there used to be hundreds.

By Margaret Renkl | Feeding the Hungry, One Wholesome Meal at a Time – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — When Tallu Schuyler Quinn started handing out sandwiches in Nashville’s homeless camps, she was responding to a need that seemed both obvious and intractable. People were hungry, and she fed them. In a few hours, they would be hungry again.

That was 2007, the year she established a Nashville branch of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit based in Austin, Texas. In 2009, Ms. Quinn planted an organic vegetable garden because hungry people need more than calories; they need nutritious calories. In 2010, when a devastating flood hit Middle Tennessee, she was ready — her team delivered 19,000 meals in just three weeks. Ms. Quinn was 30 years old.

As these efforts grew, the question of how to feed hungry people became Ms. Quinn’s life’s work. In 2011, she founded the Nashville Food Project, an organization whose mission is “Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.” ” . . .

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications – The New York Times

“All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.  . . . “

David Lindsay: Whoa, this is a really bad report. Population growth as a requirement is so 19th century. Luckily, I’m no longer the only commentor here at the Times tooting the overpopulation horn. Here are two of the top comments, I recommended:

DDavid O. HillMemphis, TennesseeMay 23

These scary stories about the world collapsing due to a decrease in births come from demographers who seem to know little about global ecology. The 7.4 billion people alive today have put unsustainable pressures on the atmosphere (climate change), the oceans (where fisheries are collapsing and coral reefs are dying), species extinctions everywhere, forests (just look at current lumber prices), garbage disposal (think of the masses of plastic in the oceans), etc., etc. The truth is that a greatly reduced human population is our last best hope for the survival of civilization as we know it.

41 Replies 2511 RecommendedShareFlag

Buster Dee commented May 23 BBuster DeeJamal, CaliforniaMay 23

I see an opportunity. A world of rising population is a world of increasing environmental challenges and devalued workers. Flat or declining populations gives technology a chance to better deal with our pollution and CO2 concerns. It gives the ocean’s a better chance to restock. It means that young workers will have less competition for work. The problem of course is the loss of the ever growing base of the pyramid upon which our economies are grown. It is not necessarily insurmountable. It does mean a reimagining beyond the capabilities of our current political parties. I say bring it on.

22 Replies 1786 Recommended

Mark Bittman | Black Farmers May Finally Get the Help They Deserve – The New York Times

Mr. Bittman, a former food columnist for The Times, is the author, most recently, of “Animal, Vegetable, Junk.”

“Many white people have become aware in the last year of the discrimination that Black Americans face in policing, voting, health care and more. Few, however, may recognize that systemic racism led to another grave injustice, one that underpins many other forms of exploitation: More than a century of land theft and the exclusion of Black people from government agricultural programs have denied many descendants of enslaved people livelihoods as independent, landowning farmers.

African-American labor built much of this country’s agriculture, a prime source of the nation’s early wealth. In the years since the end of slavery, Black Americans have been largely left out of federal land giveaways, loans and farm improvement programs. They have been driven off their farms through a combination of terror and mistreatment by the federal government, resulting in debt, foreclosures and impoverishment.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments:
Oops. And when I was young, I thought they must be just lazy or stupid. Thank you Mark Bittman. This was an education.

Opinion | Trump’s Diagnosis Is a Wake-Up Call for Americans – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“. . .  A second point is also straightforward: Let’s learn from the president’s infection. Let’s make this a wake-up call that leads to mask-wearing and social distancing, saving lives.

The United States has lost 208,000 people to the pandemic in part because we as a country didn’t take the virus seriously. We’re seeing a rise in new infections, which now exceed 40,000 a day, roughly twice the level of early June, and many epidemiologists warn that it will most likely get worse. One reason for the uptick in numbers is increased testing, but another is simply that people in the United States and all over the world are suffering pandemic fatigue.

We’re sick of isolation. We crave human contact. We want hugs. We are social animals, and the virus exploits that instinct.

I’m now in Oregon, and I sense that we are all becoming more lax, particularly in parts of the country where the virus never hit hard and people didn’t lose friends or see refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals. That laxity is lethal.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that 363,000 Americans will have died of Covid-19 by Jan. 1. That would amount to more Americans dying in nine months from the virus than the total number of combat deaths over four years in World War II.

Yet the institute’s model also suggests that if 95 percent of Americans just wore masks (the level in Singapore), then nearly 100,000 lives could be saved between now and the end of the year.

Think about that. As a country, we’re still seared by the nearly 3,000 deaths in the 9/11 attacks. But the institute’s model warns that by the end of December, we’ll be losing that many each day.

Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who early in his career helped eradicate smallpox, argues that we can crush this virus as well. We’ve seen the toolbox that other countries employed to do so: universal mask use, social distancing, testing, contact tracing and so on.”

Opinion | The Difficulties and Delights of a Pandemic Wedding – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Jes Martinez

“NASHVILLE — When our oldest son got engaged last year at sunset on a beach in Spain, my husband and I cheered from half a world away. I write these words without hyperbole: We were truly as happy about this pending marriage as two human beings could possibly be.

The parents of three sons, my husband and I would have a daughter at last, and we already loved this amazing young woman. We loved how happy she and our son make each other. We loved the way they support and challenge and admire each other, the way they are always laughing together. They are the kind of people who would rather save up for a grand backpacking adventure than a grand engagement ring, and we loved how a ring made from my great-grandmother’s tiny diamond made its way to Spain in a special wooden box that my son carried in his pocket, waiting for just the right moment to drop to one knee.

What was there not to love? There was nothing not to love.

The months that unspooled between the storybook engagement and the pandemic wedding, on the other hand, produced much that was not to love.

It was always going to be a small, do-it-yourself event: just family and their very dearest friends at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, in a historic lodge that seats only 75 people. A newly minted college graduate would be the photographer. A fellow nurse at the hospital where my daughter-in-law works would bake the cake. I would grow the wedding flowers, and the bride’s mother would make the tablecloths for the reception. But no matter how simple it looks or how homey it feels, a D.I.Y. wedding requires a lot of planning.”

Everything You Need to Know About Chocolate – By Melissa Clark – The New York Times

“You probably think you already know everything you need to know about chocolate.

For instance: The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the chocolate, right? The term “single origin” on the label indicates that the chocolate expresses a particular terroir. And wasn’t the whole bean-to-bar movement started by a couple of bearded guys in Brooklyn?

Wrong; not necessarily; and definitely not.

Americans spend $21 billion on chocolate every year, but just because we eat a lot of it doesn’t mean we know what we’re eating. And misunderstandings at the store can make it especially hard for chocolate lovers to figure out which of the myriad, jauntily wrapped bars crowding the shelves are the best to buy, in terms of both taste and ethics.”

“. . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . It’s a similar story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravishing forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Even when the industry does act, efforts from the top down can fail to take root. Both child labor and deforestation are part of the daily realities of the systemic poverty afflicting West Africa, said Kristy Leissle, a founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana and author of the 2018 book “Cocoa.”

To truly improve the lives of farmers and their families, Dr. Leissle said, the farmers need to be included in the conversation. “The current initiatives have been imposed on Africa from European and North American people who are not engaged in the daily labor of cocoa farming,” she said. “The solutions need to come from within the cocoa industry in Africa. That’s where the expertise is.”

Cacao, a shade-tolerant plant, can be grown under the forest canopy without drastic clearing. And when grown in a sustainable manner, it can have a low carbon footprint.”

Killer Slime, Dead Birds, an Expunged Map: The Dirty Secrets of European Farm Subsidies – The New York Times

“In the spring of 2017, a European Union working group of environmentalists, academics and lobbyists was having a technical discussion on green farming practices when a map appeared on an overhead screen. In an instant, the room froze.

A farm lobbyist objected. Officials murmured their disapproval.

The map juxtaposed pollution in northern Italy with the European Union subsidies paid to farmers in the region. The overlap was undeniable and invited a fundamental question: Is the European Union financing the very environmental problems it is trying to solve?

The map was expunged from the group’s final reports, those in attendance say. But using the European Union’s own economic models, The New York Times created an approximation that confirms what European officials did not want seen: The most heavily subsidized areas had the worst pollution.”

Overlapping E.U. subsidies with Italy’s nitrate pollution

E.U. farm subsidies                                                Nitrate pollution

More subsidies                                                     Higher pollution

 Pierre Philippe’s fight began when people and animals started dying on the beaches of northwestern France.

A man’s body was pulled from a pile of green slime. A rider was discovered unconscious beside his dead horse. A beach worker slipped into a coma, and a jogger fatally collapsed.

The reason seemed obvious to Dr. Philippe, an emergency room doctor. Every summer, algae coats the Brittany beaches with bright green slime. As it decomposes, it gives off hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can kill in seconds.

Dr. Philippe tried for years to persuade government health officials to acknowledge the threat, or even discuss it. They refused. “If they recognize the problem, they also indirectly admit responsibility,” he said. “And they know that.”

That’s because talking about the algae meant talking about farming.”

Opinion | Farmers Don’t Need to Read the Science. We Are Living It. – By Alan Sano – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sano is a farmer.

CreditCreditLucy Nicholson/Reuters

FIREBAUGH, Calif. — Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read the science — we’re living it.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing. The drought of recent years made it hard to ignore; we had limited surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater was so depleted that land sank right under our feet.

Temperatures in nearby Fresno rose to 100 degrees or above on 15 days last month, which was the hottest month worldwide on record, following the hottest June ever. (The previous July, temperatures reached at least 100 degrees on 26 consecutive days, surpassing the record of 22 days in 2005.) The heat is hard to ignore when you and your crew are trying to fix a broken tractor or harvest tomatoes under a blazing sun. As the world heats up, so do our soils, making it harder to get thirsty plants the water they need.

The valley’s characteristic winter tule fog is also disappearing, and winters are getting warmer. Yields of many stone fruits and nuts that feed the country are declining because the trees require cool winters and those fogs trap cool air in the valley. Warm winters also threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides 30 percent of California’s water. We had a good wet winter this year, but a few years ago the snowpack was at its lowest level in 500 years. We also worry that last year’s record California wildfires, which blanketed the valley with smoke for weeks, might become the new normal. I don’t get sick much, but that summer I had a hard time breathing because of the congestion in my lungs.

. . . . .After harvesting our fall crops, we now use cover crops that return carbon and nitrogen to the soil and nourish the microbes and fungi essential for a living soil ecology. The plants and soil organisms work together to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and draw it down into the root zone. We minimize disturbance of our land by decreasing tillage, which protects these microorganisms and keeps carbon in the soil, where it belongs. Rather than being a source of carbon emissions, farms could store carbon where it’s needed to grow food.

This has been good for our business, too. We spend less on water, energy and fertilizer and are getting good yields. “