Inside the Global Effort to Keep Perfectly Perfectly Good Food Out of the Dump – The New York Times

“In Seoul, garbage cans automatically weigh how much food gets tossed in the trash. In London, grocers have stopped putting date labels on fruits and vegetables to reduce confusion about what is still edible. California now requires supermarkets to give away — not throw away — food that is unsold but fine to eat.

Around the world, a broad array of efforts are being launched to tackle two pressing global problems: hunger and climate change.

Food waste, when it rots in a landfill, produces methane gas, which quickly heats up the planet. But it’s a surprisingly tough problem to solve.

Which is where Vue Vang, wrangler of excess, comes in. On a bright Monday morning recently, she pulled up behind a supermarket in Fresno, Calif., hopped off her truck and set out to rescue as much food as she could under the state’s new law — helping store managers comply with rules that many were still unaware of.”

Toxic Red Tide Kills ‘Uncountable’ Numbers of Fish in the Bay Area – The New York Times

“A harmful algal bloom known as a red tide is killing off “uncountable” numbers of fish in the San Francisco Bay Area, with residents reporting rust-colored waters, and piles of stinking fish corpses washing ashore.

The fish, first reported dead along the San Mateo County shoreline last Tuesday, are most likely being asphyxiated as a result of the algae, said Jon Rosenfield, a senior scientist with San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental group that is tracking the fish kill.

Government scientists have identified the dominant species causing the bloom as Heterosigma akashiwo, a microscopic swimming algae that can cause red tides. The bloom is affecting the water in the San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay and South Bay.

While such algal blooms are not uncommon, the scope and deadliness of the one in the Bay Area is concerning, Dr. Rosenfield said. Even the hardiest of fish, like the sturgeon, an ancient creature, are dying, he said. Bat rays, striped bass, yellowfin gobies and even sharks are washing ashore dead.

“What we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Rosenfield said, adding that many more fish were likely to have died at the bottom of the bay. It was over the weekend, he said, that the horrifying breadth of the situation became clear, when dead fish were appearing on nearly “every public shoreline” in the region.

He added, “We’re continuing to get reports of dead and dying fish.”

Though scientists can’t be certain what caused the algal bloom, experts say it is likely a combination of factors including warm water temperatures and a high concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen — the runoff from urban and agricultural sources as well as dozens of wastewater treatment plants that surround San Francisco Bay.”

California Approves a Wave of Aggressive New Climate Measures – The New York Times

“California took some of its most aggressive steps yet to fight global warming as lawmakers passed a flurry of new climate bills late Wednesday, including a record $54 billion in climate spending, a measure to prevent the state’s last nuclear power plant from closing, sharp new restrictions on oil and gas drilling and a mandate that California stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.”

How the Supply Chain Crunch is Hurting California Farmers. – The New York Times

Peter S. Goodman has covered the supply chain chaos for the past two years. He reported this story from Manteca and Fresno, in California’s Central Valley, as well as Washington, D.C., and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“During a normal spring, the sight of orchards bursting with clusters of almonds is a boon throughout California’s Central Valley. Here is money growing on trees.

Not this year.

As Scott Phippen looks out on his orchard on a recent afternoon, he feels a sense of foreboding tinged with rage. His warehouse is stuffed with the leftovers of last year’s harvest — 30 million pounds of almonds stored in wooden and plastic bins stacked to the rafters, and overflowing into his yard. Orders assembled for customers sit in giant white plastic bags and cardboard cartons arrayed across pallets, awaiting ships that can carry them across the water to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The almonds are here, the customers are over there, and the global shipping industry is failing to span the divide.”

California Solar Panel Mandate for New Buildings Advances – The New York Times

“LOS ANGELES — California regulators voted Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects. It is the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to hasten a transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The five-member California Energy Commission approved the proposal unanimously. It will now be taken up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.

The energy plan, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, also calls for new homes to be wired in ways that ease and even encourage conversion of natural-gas heating and appliances to electric sources.

“The future we’re trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” David Hochschild, the chair of the Energy Commission, said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role in building this future.” “

Farhad Manjoo | Can California Start Taking Droughts Seriously, Please? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Drought may be the sneakiest of natural disasters. Although human history teems with people engulfed by abrupt aridity — the Akkadians of four millenniums ago, the Maya in the ninth and 10th centuries A.D., the Great Plains farmers of the 1930s — even today drought is a poorly appreciated phenomenon. Unlike mighty storms or thundering eruptions, droughts slink into our lives invisibly, unannounced. It can be hard to know you’re in a drought until it’s too late to do much about it; then, when the rains come back, it can be just as difficult to believe the water will ever run out again, so why worry about the next dry spell? Donald Wilhite, a pioneering scholar of drought, calls it the Rodney Dangerfield of natural disasters. Drought has felled entire civilizations, but still it gets no respect.

The American West is once again facing drought, one of the worst on recordAcross a vast region encompassing nine states and home to nearly 60 million people, the earth is being wrung dry. About 98 percent of this region is currently weathering some level of drought, and more than half the land area is under extreme or exceptional drought, the most severe categories.

Farhad Manjoo | In California, Berkeley Beat Back NIMBYs – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Andrew Burton for The New York Times

“A century ago, the civic leaders of Berkeley, Calif., pioneered what would become one of America’s most enduring systems of racial inequity — a soft apartheid of zoning.

In 1916, the city that is now a byword for progressivism became one of the first in the country to set aside large tracts of its land for single-family homes. Berkeley’s purpose was openly racist; as a real estate magazine of the era explained, excluding apartments and other densely populated residences was part of an effort to protect the wealthy white residents of Berkeley from an “invasion of Negroes and Asiatics.”

In the decades that followed, Berkeley’s restrictive zoning would be adopted by cities across California and the nation. Combined with other forms of discrimination in real estate — including “redlining,” which restricted access to loans for homes in nonwhite areas, another practice that shaped Berkeley’s growth — zoning limits cemented racism into America’s urban landscape.

Last week, Berkeley finally took a step in a new direction. The City Council adopted a measure that acknowledges the racist history of single-family zoning and begins a process to eliminate the restriction by 2022. It is a very baby step: Berkeley’s measure is mainly symbolic, putting off for the future the tough business of actually rezoning the city.” . . .

Heat, Smoke and Covid Are Battering the Workers Who Feed America – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

By 

Photographs by 

“STOCKTON, Calif — Work began in the dark. At 4 a.m., Briseida Flores could make out a fire burning in the distance. Floodlights illuminated the fields. And shoulder to shoulder with dozens of others, Ms. Flores pushed into the rows of corn. Swiftly, they plucked. One after the other. First under the lights, then by the first rays of daylight.

By 10:30 a.m., it was unbearably hot. Hundreds of wildfires were burning to the north, and so much smoke was settling into the San Joaquin Valley that the local air pollution agency issued a health alert. Ms. Flores, 19, who had joined her mother in the fields after her father lost his job in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, found it hard to breathe in between the tightly planted rows. Her jeans were soaked with sweat.

“It felt like a hundred degrees in there,” Ms. Flores said. “We said we don’t want to go in anymore.”

She went home, exhausted, and slept for an hour.

All this to harvest dried, ocher-colored ears of corn meant to decorate the autumn table.

Like the gossamer layer of ash and dust that is settling on the trees in Central California, climate change is adding on to the hazards already faced by some of the country’s poorest, most neglected laborers. So far this year, more than 7,000 fires have scorched 1.4 million acres, and there is no reprieve in sight, officials warned.”

“. . . .  The valley is abnormally dry in parts, and in drought in others. Dust swirls up from the fields like a genie. Many creek beds are parched. The rivers have been twisted and bent every which way to bring water from the north for the fields. Since mid-August, for over two weeks, daily high temperatures have ranged from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 108″

California’s Coronavirus Shutdowns Set the Tone. What’s Its Next Step? – The New York Times

“Mr. Garcetti, the Los Angeles mayor, has been guided by history, spending his nights and weekends studying how California cities responded to the 1918 flu pandemic. One of his key takeaways is that acting too soon to reopen could be disastrous, citing a second wave of infections in 1918 that proved more deadly than the first.

In 1918, “L.A. acted quickly and kept with it,” he said. In contrast, San Francisco, he said, “had also done really well but then came out of it too quick, and had a second spike in the short term, which killed a lot of people.”

Epidemiologists say transmission dynamics will differ by state, city and neighborhood.”

Opinion | How to Help Brazilian Farmers Save the Amazon – By Daniel Nepstad – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Nepstad is a forest ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

“When I moved to the Amazon “Wild West” town of Paragominas in northern Brazil in 1984 as a young scientist studying forest recovery on abandoned pastures, I expected a town filled with bandits and land grabbers. Instead, what I mostly found were courageous, hard-working families from across Brazil who had come to the rugged town of sawmills, cattle ranches and smallholder settlements to improve their lot in life.

But as the global outcry over recent Amazon fires and the rise in deforestation has demonstrated yet again, the stigma surrounding Amazon farmers as accomplices in this destruction remains, making enemies of would-be allies.

Indeed, outrage over the fires and President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions obscures a central question: Can responsible, law-abiding landholders and businesspeople in the Amazon — like those I met in Paragominas — compete with people who break the law, grab land and forest resources and drive much of the deforestation?

The simple answer is no. And until that changes, it will be difficult to stop the cutting and burning of these forests, which worldwide account for about a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. But two recent developments suggested things may be changing for the better.

One turn of events was the decision by the California Air Resources Board in September to endorse — after 10 years of design and debate — a Tropical Forest Standard that could protect the forests of the Amazon and beyond. The standard sets rules for state, provincial and national governments in the Amazon to limit deforestation so that they can qualify to sell credits to companies seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard is designed to make sure that the carbon offsets that companies are buying are actually going to real, verifiable deforestation efforts. What’s significant about the standard is its size — it focuses on recognizing and rewarding successful forest conservation across entire states, provinces or even nations in the Amazon. Moreover, and this is critical, it includes principles for guaranteeing that indigenous groups and other local communities have a voice in the policies and programs that are developed.”