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Opinion | The Coronavirus and a World Without Meat – By Jonathan Safran Foer – The New York Times

By 

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of “Eating Animals” and “We Are the Weather.”

Credit…Jun Cen

“Is any panic more primitive than the one prompted by the thought of empty grocery store shelves? Is any relief more primitive than the one provided by comfort food?

Most everyone has been doing more cooking these days, more documenting of the cooking, and more thinking about food in general. The combination of meat shortages and President Trump’s decision to order slaughterhouses open despite the protestations of endangered workers has inspired many Americans to consider just how essential meat is.

Is it more essential than the lives of the working poor who labor to produce it? It seems so. An astonishing six out of 10 counties that the White House itself identified as coronavirus hot spots are home to the very slaughterhouses the president ordered open.

In Sioux Falls, S.D., the Smithfield pork plant, which produces some 5 percent of the country’s pork, is one of the largest hot spots in the nation. A Tyson plant in Perry, Iowa, had 730 cases of the coronavirus — nearly 60 percent of its employees. At another Tyson plant, in Waterloo, Iowa, there were 1,031 reported cases among about 2,800 workers.

Sick workers mean plant shutdowns, which has led to a backlog of animals. Some farmers are injecting pregnant sows to cause abortions. Others are forced to euthanize their animals, often by gassing or shooting them. It’s gotten bad enough that Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has asked the Trump administration to provide mental health resources to hog farmers.

Despite this grisly reality — and the widely reported effects of the factory-farm industry on America’s lands, communities, animals and human health long before this pandemic hit — only around half of Americans say they are trying to reduce their meat consumption. Meat is embedded in our culture and personal histories in ways that matter too much, from the Thanksgiving turkey to the ballpark hot dog. Meat comes with uniquely wonderful smells and tastes, with satisfactions that can almost feel like home itself. And what, if not the feeling of home, is essential?

And yet, an increasing number of people sense the inevitability of impending change.

Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming.  . . . “

Opinion | The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are – By Ferris Jabr – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Jabr is a science writer.

Credit…JooHee Yoon

“Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

The Amazon’s rain ritual is just one of the many astonishing ways in which living creatures transform their environments and the planet as a whole. Much of this ecology has only recently been discovered or understood. We now have compelling evidence that microbes are involved in numerous geological processes; some scientists think they played a role in forming the continents.”

David Lindsay: Amen. Go read the entire piece by Ferris Jabr.  Here are a few of the NYT comments I admired:

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

Human ignorance and conceit are the enemies of the Earth, and those who stoke it and aid and abet such ignorance and conceit are effectively planetary assisted-suiciders. The solutions to preserving our environment are contraception, education, solar-wind-tidal-hydro-geothermal-alternative energies and human consciousness. One of the most prominent destructive mentalities today is Christian dominionism in which the God of Genesis grants humanity “dominion” over the Earth. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” More destructive words have never been written. We owe it to our fellow man, woman and child to wipe destructive religious, authoritarian, and environmental ignorance off the face of the political map and to do our human best to respect, cherish and honor Mother Earth. Anything less is conceding defeat to the plague of human Know-Nothingism and an authoritarian black hole of ignorance and destruction.

157 Recommended

 
Steves Weave – Green Classifieds commented April 21, 2019

Steves Weave – Green Classifieds

Right now, Gaia is talking. You don’t have to listen hard. And she is saying: Vote Democrat!

149 Recommended

 
joyce commented April 20, 2019

joyce

The earth is alive and it is our only home. Humans have evolved from the earth and the earth has formed us right down to the metabolic level. Most of the wildlife on the earth is still in balance with the earth, their lives are dependent upon finding everything they need on the earth using the gifts they have in their bodies. Their lives are tenuous, but they are not harming the earth in any large degree. Humans have learned to stabilize their lives by using their evolved technology as a protection. This has enabled them to grow out of balance with the earth and also enabled them to cause great harm in the process. Humans know the processes that cause global warming and understand what has to happen to reverse it,but politics and money and status quo interfere. We have gone so far away from the basic processes of the earth that we have a hard time thinking that we can go back. But we know what to do, we need to stop using fossil fuels. The oil industry needs to embrace renewable energy and the jobs that come with it. We all need to think about renewable energy, reusable technology, and a society that does not build things for the sole purpose of more money. As the climate becomes more unstable this earth is beginning to wipe us off the planet. We are not going to escape the natural law that everything that survives on earth remains in balance with the earth. The window is closing for us to help rebalance the earth we have vandalized. It is now or never.

132 Recommended

If People Grasped the Full Cost of Cars, They Might Make Greener Choices

“If more consumers understood the total costs of car ownership it could promote a shift to cleaner, lower-emission alternatives, according to a new paper co-authored by an economist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).

In a survey of more than 6,000 consumers in Germany, researchers found that people underestimate the total cost of vehicle ownership by €221 ($240) per month on average. Although they correctly estimated their spending on fuel on average, they “severely” underestimated all other major expenditures, including depreciation, repairs, taxes, and insurance. The misjudgment amounts to 52 percent of the actual costs.

We discuss a set of potential solutions. For example, rather than having a label on new cars only showing the future fuel costs, the label could include the full expected monthly costs of ownership.
— Kenneth Gillingham
If these consumers were aware of the true costs, the researchers then calculate, it could reduce the number of cars in Germany by as much as 17.6 million, or 37 percent.

“If people underestimate how much it costs to own a car, they are more likely to own cars, rather than use other, cleaner, modes of transportation,” says Kenneth Gillingham, an associate professor of environmental and energy economics at F&ES and corresponding author of the paper. “And because repair costs are higher for conventional gasoline-powered cars, the underestimation could affect the uptake of electric vehicles as well.”

The researchers suggest that these miscalculations can be used as leverage in creating new policies that promote cleaner transportation choices — for instance, car sharing, alternative-fuel vehicles, public transport, biking or walking.”

Source: If People Grasped the Full Cost of Cars, They Might Make Greener Choices

John Houghton, Who Sounded Alarm on Climate Change, Dies at 88 – The New York Times

“John Houghton, a climate scientist and influential figure in the United Nations panel that brought the threat of climate change to the world’s attention and received a Nobel Prize, died on April 15 in Dolgellau, Wales. He was 88.

The cause was complications of the novel coronavirus, according to his granddaughter Hannah Malcolm, who announced the death, at a hospital, on Twitter.

A key participant in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Houghton was the lead editor of the organization’s first three reports, issued in 1990, 1995 and 2001. With each report, the evidence underpinning global warming and the role humans play in causing it grew more ineluctableand the calls for international action became more pressing. The group received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Al Gore, the former vice president and climate campaigner.”

Climate Crash Course Part 1. How bad is climate change now? – The New York Times

A crash course on climate change, 50 years after the first Earth Day

The science is clear: The world is warming dangerously, humans are the cause of it, and a failure to act today will deeply affect the future of the Earth.

This is a seven-day New York Times crash course on climate change, in which reporters from the Times’s Climate desk address the big questions:

1.How bad is climate change now? 2.How do scientists know what they know? 3.Who is influencing key decisions? 4.How do we stop fossil fuel emissions? 5.Do environmental rules matter? 6.Can insurance protect us? 7.Is what I do important?

Opinion | Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming – By Rhiana Gunn-Wright  – The New York Times

“. . . If history is any indication, rebounding from an economic disruption this large requires an equally large spike in demand and production. Outside of war, climate change is the only issue large enough to provide such a spike. Now is the time to create policies that provide immediate relief to communities, such as federal assistance to transition homes and businesses to renewable energy; give “green” fiscal aid to states; and fuel economic recovery with the creation of federally funded green jobs. But none of this can happen so long as our leaders keep convincing themselves that the greatest country in the world cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.A climate-focused economic recovery — much less a coronavirus response that acknowledges the climate crisis — could require a new Congress and a new president, a tall order in an America this divided. But maybe it is time to stop acting as though politics is a force of nature when we are facing actual and deadly forces of nature. It’s past time to elect leaders who are fit to handle the crises we face, instead of hoping for problems small enough to fit the leaders we have.”

Opinion | With the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  Mother Nature was not impressed by Trump or his markets. Mother Nature, alas, doesn’t “open” her workday at 9:30 a.m. or close it at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and then take weekends off. So precisely when Trump was autographing his one-day stock chart to be touted by the knuckleheads at Fox, Mother Nature was silently, relentlessly, mercilessly and exponentially spreading the coronavirus among us.

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.” Do not mess with Mother Nature.

But that is exactly what Trump did initially with the coronavirus — and is trying to do still with climate change. Yes, we must absolutely focus on combating this virus now. And Trump seems to have finally become properly awed by the power of Mother Nature’s Covid-19, ordering federal distancing guidelines to stay in place until April 30. That is a good thing.

But as we win this battle with the coronavirus and begin to think about the next round of stimulus that we want to inject into the economy — and there will be a next round — it is vital that we keep in mind just how much more destructive climate change could be for all of us, and make sure that we invest in long-term resilience against that as well.

Because there is one huge difference between the coronavirus and climate change: Climate change doesn’t “peak” — and then flatten out and then maybe dissipate or be permanently prevented by vaccine — so normal life resumes.

No, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice melts, it’s gone, and we humans will have to contend with the implications of sea level rise, mass movements of populations and various kinds of extreme weather — wetter wets, hotter hots and drier dries — forever.

There is no herd immunity to climate change. There are only endless impacts on the herd.”

The Original Long Islanders Fight to Save Their Land From a Rising Sea – By Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal – The New York Times

By Somini Sengupta and 

“SHINNECOCK NATION, Southampton, N.Y. — A maritime people who once spanned a large swath of the eastern Long Island shore, the Shinnecock Indians have been hemmed into a 1.5-square-mile patch of land on the edge of a brackish bay. Now, because of climate change, they’re battling to hold on to what they have left.

Rising seas are threatening to eat away at the Shinnecock lands. But the tribe is using everything at its disposal to calm the waves and restore a long, slim beach at the edge of Shinnecock Bay: dredged sand, sea grasses, beach grasses, boulders, oyster shells.

It’s a forever battle. Climate change is swelling and heating the world’s oceans at an accelerating pace. Inevitably, the Shinnecock will have to bring more sand to replenish what the rising tide keeps washing away. More grass will have to be planted. This spring, Shavonne Smith, director of the tribe’s environmental department, wants to expand the oyster reef designed to dissipate the energy of the waves.

“We have an inherent responsibility to protect the homeland,” Ms. Smith said on a recent Monday morning walk along the shore. “It’s not the type of thing where you can work against nature. You work with it.” “

David Lindsay:

Thank you Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal for a lovely article. The Shinnecock Indians are using nature to fight the rising sea in eastern Long Island, which is important. However, overpopulation and pollution caused by humans are root causes of global warming and the rising sea, according to about 99% of credentialed climatologists. Edward O Wilson of Harvard has written that some scientists think that the right population for the planet is perhaps 4 billion, or approximately half of the 7.6 billion we are at now.

I am currently reading “A Distant Mirror,” by Barbara Tuchman, about Europe in the 14th century, and how it dealt with the Bubonic Plagues that wiped out roughly half of Europe’s population. The doctors then said it was caused by the position of the planets. Most common people were sure it was God’s punishment for unpardonable sins—like Noah’s flood. No one suspected it was a tiny thing called a virus, carried by the rats and fleas which were part of every day life.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is a reminder that God, or nature, works in mysterious ways. It is a tragic irony, that such modern plagues might help mitigate the onset of global warming and the sixth great extinction of species. We have only decades, not centuries, to reduce our carbon dioxide and green house gas footprint to zero, or see the wrath of God again, as in 1348.

If you are a Franciscan Christian, or an environmentalist of any persuasion, that believes in the sanctity of all forms of life, and values non-human species, you have to be torn, when the plague comes knocking at your door. As you and some of your loved ones die a wretched death, you can temper your despair. The silver lining is that it might, possibly be for a greater good.

The Gates Foundation has developed a cleaner, safer nuclear power plant and reactor – by David Lindsay Jr – InconvenientNews.Net

Yesterday was a wonderful day full of good news for environmentalists. And I’m not thinking about Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobushar, but of Bill and Melinda Gates. Someone at a recent  CT League of Conservation Voters meeting recently suggested to Kathleen Schomaker that she watch the new Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Academy award for “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There are three episodes, each about an hour. Part One, while describing Bill Gate’s blessed childhood in Seattle, bounces up to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The short segments on the foundation, tell the story of it improving  sewage conditions in third world countries, especially by starting an international competition to invent a new toilet: a stand alone, recomposting toilet. The foundation also developed a new power plant that runs on fecal waste, creates electricity, and produces clean potable water. I have posted three reviews of the series at my blog, and one of them said that the reporting was full of technical “wonky” details on revolutionary toilet ideas!

Episode Two covered Bill’s high school years and getting to Microsoft, and how the Gates Foundation set about to eradicate polio from the planet. They were nearly successful in some of the worst places for polio in the world, like Nigeria, until the rise of Boko Haran. The terrorists started killing the vaccinators, and polio hasn’t been eradicated in Boko Haran territory.

But it is part three than got us wildly excited. The personal details of Bill and Melinda’s courtship and marriage, and the anti-trust cases against Microsoft were informative, but the big news was the third project of the Gates Foundation—developing a cleaner, safer nuclear power plant and reactor. A team of teams led by Bill came up with a new and radically different nuclear reactor design that they are quite confident will not be able to have a meltdown during even a missile strike. It will not run as hot, or need water for cooling, and it will run on nuclear waste–used and depleted uranium–so it will not create much more waste, and will give a use to all the nuclear waste dumps in the world today and use the waste up. If it works, it is a game changer. They decided the best place to build the first one was in China, since the Chinese were still actively building nuclear power plants, but when Trump came to office, he began tariffs and cancelled the carefully arranged partnership. The episode ended without more info. We just know that the Gates Foundation still has to build and test their first prototype somewhere, to see if the simulations in their labs and on their computers are accurate.