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

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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.”

Opinion | The Republican Attack on California – By Tim Wu – NYT

A challenge to the state’s net neutrality laws shows that the G.O.P. no longer believes in federalism (if it ever did).
By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is a law professor at Columbia.
Oct. 3, 2018

“For the past 60 years or so, the Republican Party has declared itself the true party of decentralized government, the founding vision of federalism and what are sometimes called states’ rights. Whether its pious declarations were ever actually about more than securing Southern votes or limiting the rights of women and minorities has always been questionable, but at least in theory the party took federalism seriously.

But now, with the party under new management and in control of every branch of the federal government, a profound transformation is underway. States’ rights still get lip service, at least when it comes to matters like limiting transgender rights. But the new reality is that we face a rising nationalist party, uninterested in local variation, aggressively devoted to molding the nation in the image of the party and its leader, Donald Trump, into one white-hot mass.

California (surely the state now most tempted to leave the union) is the flash point. This week, it passed its own net neutrality laws, to ban blocking and throttling of the internet, as a stand-in for the federal net neutrality rules abandoned by the Trump administration in June. California has obvious reasons to want to protect an open internet: It is the land of the internet’s origin, and a place where tech entrepreneurship has thrived.

If the Republican Party actually believed in economic decentralization, it might well accept the premise of state rules where the federal government explicitly disclaims any authority to act. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a self-declared states’ rights champion, declared within hours of the law’s passage that the Department of Justice will sue California for infringing corporate prerogatives — that is, interfering with the right of cable and phone companies to block or slow internet content.”