June 18, 2018
The correlation between lack of resilience and the susceptibility to infections and immune system challenges associated with a fixation on cleanliness is a metaphor of many dimensions. Our civilization is killing itself by the very means we use to bring sustenance, healing, comfort and convenience – a misapprehension about resilience, and about stewardship of resources and the environment. We examine some of those dimensions.This is a huge issue, and this edition of The Banner is itself stretching to grasp it. Please do read at your own pace. And it will be available for future reference in our online Archive at Of Resilience and Stewardship.
But first the news.

But first, about The Banner…

We are looking for a few good volunteer staff. The work will take up an hour or two of your time three-four times a week, as a ‘guestimate.’ Here’s the talent we need:

  • An experienced copy editor. This is a job for a night-owl! Your services will be needed to make sure the editor hasn’t messed up.
  • Proofreaders. We need two but can do with one. Must know how to use MS Word’s change tracking tools, as well as a talent for spotting spotty text.
  • Two or three news junkies. Your job will be totally dependent on your instinct for finding vital news in unexpected places, which you will format excerpts from for [proofreader’s nightmare there!] insertion into The Banner
  • Anyone game? I’ll pay you double my own salary, mwahahaha!

And now is a good time to remind our readers to contribute a little to the independent journalists we all so deeply depend on. Notice at the attribution line at the end of each of our stories. It looks like this: —author, “title,” publication, date. If the publication is in blue, that means it is a link to a not-for-profit independent news org’s donation page, such as InsideClimate News, Pro Publica, Reader Supported News, Truthout, The Guardian, etc. These journalists work hard to bring us news unfettered by the business concerns and corporate slant of major news media. They depend on readers’ willingness to each pay a little to support them. Please do so. If all our subscribers gave $5/month to one of those organizations, it would receive $120,000 a year!

See how your bit adds up?! Thanks for any consideration for these journalists whom The Banner absolutely depends on! Oh! and about that volunteer thingy, please respond to editor@thebanner.news. Put the word “Volunteer” and any wisecrack you care to include in the subject line, to speed it to my immediate attention.—Dwain The Editor

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Action Alert! Build the sustainable and renewable world
we know is possible

  • Connect Communities Across New York State
  • Ensure that no new fracking infrastructure projects are built, as well as any other fossil fuel projects
  • Ensure that no new fracking infrastructure projects are

    built, as well as any other fossil fuel projects

  • Build an inclusive movement that includes and supports all residents including poor people and people of color
  • Build follow up events that keep people connected and continuously educated for action/advocacy work.

Join People for a Healthy Environment, Sane Energy Project, FracTracker Alliance and 350.org for Sit-Stand-Sing, a movement building event. 

Tuesday, June 25 5-9 PM
The Park Church
208 W. Gray St.
Elmira, NY 14901
Dinner provided

Open to all, including those relatively new to activism or interested in exploring or becoming involved
Forward and share widely.

Please RSVP here: Sit, Stand, Sing Tour: Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, NY
Or RSVP by email: Doug Couchon: dcouchon@gmail.com

Further info: You Are Here Tour Website
Face Book Event Page: Elmira: Sit, Stand, Sing State-wide Tour

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Bethlehem board votes ‘no’ on National Grid pipeline

Bethlehem board votes ‘no’ on National Grid pipeline

Members of the groups Mothers Out Front, Renewable Heat Now Campaign and Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition take part in a rally outside the Capital Center on Monday, May 13, 2019, in Albany, N.Y.

The Bethlehem Town Board voted Wednesday night to oppose a $70 million natural gas pipeline that National Grid wants to build from Glenmont and under the Hudson River into Rensselaer County.

The town joins East Greenbush in opposition to the project, which needs approval from the state Public Service Commission.

Bethlehem town board member Dan Coffey introduced a resolution opposing the 7-mile pipeline, arguing that the environmental and public health risks outweigh the business need National Grid has asserted in a filing with the state.

“There is a downside risk that there could be a puncture of the line,” Coffey said before the vote was taken. “I don’t see any benefits to the residents of our town.”

Board members Joyce Becker and Maureen Cunningham and town supervisor David VanLuven joined Coffey in support of the resolution. Board member Jim Foster voted against it.

The project, known as the E37 pipeline, has become part of a larger political debate over energy policy in the state and region.…—Larry Rulison, “Bethlehem board votes ‘no’ on National Grid pipeline,” Times Union, 6/13/19

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Revised List (More!) of Upcoming Drawdown Events
Central Upstate New York

Click to download full revised schedule

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Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode

Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode

Imagine there is a fire in your house.
What do you do?
What do you think about?

You do whatever you can to try to put out the fire or exit the house. You make a plan of action.
Your senses are heightened, you are focused like a laser, and you put your entire self into your actions. You enter emergency mode.

The climate crisis is an unprecedented emergency. It is the United States’ top national security threat, public health threat, and moral emergency. Humanity is careening towards the deaths of billions of people, millions of species, and the collapse of organized civilization. States under severe climate stress, such as Syria, are already starting to fail, bringing chaos, violence, and misery to the region. The world order itself is crumbling, in significant part due to climatic and resource pressures. The climate crisis acts as a “threat multiplier” making not only severe storms, but also war, nuclear exchange, and epidemics more likely. Britain is leaving the European Union, and America’s political system, undermined for decades by corruption and bad faith, is in dire peril.

How we react to the climate crisis will shape centuries and millennia to come. Given the stakes, and the extremely short timetable, it is imperative that we strive to maximize the efficacy of our actions — from ourselves as individuals, from our nation, from the global community of nations, and from the organizations that are trying to avert this catastrophe.

In this paper, I will introduce the psychological concept of “emergency mode” which is how individuals and groups function optimally during an existential or moral crisis — often achieving great feats through intensely focused motivation. I will argue that the goal of the climate movement must be to lead the public out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode.…—Margaret Klein Salamon, “Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode,” Medium, 5/24/19

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As Ohio Senate nears vote on nuke subsidy bill,
PJM finds closing plants could save $1.6B

As Ohio Senate nears vote on nuke subsidy bill, PJM finds closing plants could save $1.6B

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Ohio Consumers’ Counsel requested the PJM report to illustrate the impacts of nuclear plant retirements on both market prices and emissions.

The focus was on giving the utilities and energy commission “unbiased data and facts” on the grid’s status, Asim Haque, executive director of PJM, said in his testimony.

But critics say the report gave an inaccurate picture, because it didn’t factor in a number of changes the bill would make, including eliminating Ohio’s green energy mandate, which drives utility procurement of renewables in the state, as well as the nuclear subsidies, which are expected to cost $190 million annually through 2026.

“PJM assumes the same level of wind, solar, and energy efficiency investments in all of its scenarios. However, they do not include the impacts of OH House Bill 6, which would rollback the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards,” Steve Clemmer, director of clean energy research at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who wrote a blog criticizing the Ohio bill, told Utility Dive in an email.

“[T]his could result in [an] increase in consumer energy bills because they would no longer benefit from the energy bill savings from energy efficiency programs or investing directly in rooftop solar. It could also result in a net increase [in] emissions and net loss in jobs in Ohio over time as they would likely build more natural gas generation instead of investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” he said.

As with the subsidies, PJM said it chose not to speculate about how eliminating Ohio’s mandate would impact the state’s renewable energy mix, which is why all three scenarios factor in the same amount of renewables: 3.2 GW of wind additions and 3.9 GW of solar.…—Catherine Morehouse, “As Ohio Senate nears vote on nuke subsidy bill, PJM finds closing plants could save $1.6B,” Utility Dive, 6/10/19

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Demand for Presidential Climate Debate Escalates after DNC Says No

Demand for Presidential Climate Debate Escalates after DNC Says No

15 presidential candidates, young activists and Miami’s Democratic Party are all now pressuring the DNC to devote an entire debate to climate change policy.

Like Miami, the low-lying coastal city where Democrats will hold their first presidential debates of the 2020 race, the Democratic National Committee is at risk of being inundated.

Fifteen of its presidential candidates, more than 50 of its member organizations in the states, and a slew of progressive organizations that make up its voting base, some armed with petitions bearing over 200,000 signatures, all are now calling for the DNC to hold a separate climate-focused debate. The executive committee of the Democratic party in Miami-Dade County—the U.S. metropolitan area considered most vulnerable to sea level rise and where the first debates will be held June 26 and 27—voted unanimously Monday to urge Democrats to devote one of the 12 Democratic presidential debates to the climate crisis.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez, who rejected a climate-focused debate last week, tried to explain the party’s opposition in a post on Medium on Tuesday, saying it would be impractical to hold a single issue forum “at the request of one candidate.”

The statement, which gamely ignored that the dispute had grown far bigger than Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the low-polling climate-focused candidate who touched off the climate debate debate, provoked a new wave of outrage from critics within the party’s crucial block of young, climate-focused voters.

“Our very survival as a species is at stake,” tweeted Evan Weber, political director of the youth-led climate activist group Sunrise Movement. “Let’s act like it.”…—Marianne Lavelle, “Demand for Presidential Climate Debate Escalates after DNC Says No,” InsideClimate News, 6/13/19

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Of Resilience and Stewardship
The Serengeti Rules
The Way Life Works and Why it Matters

The Serengeti Rules

How does life work? How does nature produce the right numbers of zebras and lions on the African savanna, or fish in the ocean? How do our bodies produce the right numbers of cells in our organs and bloodstream? In The Serengeti Rules, award-winning biologist and author Sean Carroll tells the stories of the pioneering scientists who sought the answers to such simple yet profoundly important questions, and shows how their discoveries matter for our health and the health of the planet we depend upon.

One of the most important revelations about the natural world is that everything is regulated—there are rules that regulate the amount of every molecule in our bodies and rules that govern the numbers of every animal and plant in the wild. And the most surprising revelation about the rules that regulate life at such different scales is that they are remarkably similar—there is a common underlying logic of life. Carroll recounts how our deep knowledge of the rules and logic of the human body has spurred the advent of revolutionary life-saving medicines, and makes the compelling case that it is now time to use the Serengeti Rules to heal our ailing planet.

A bold and inspiring synthesis by one of our most accomplished biologists and gifted storytellers, The Serengeti Rules is the first book to illuminate how life works at vastly different scales. Read it and you will never look at the world the same way again.

Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists headed out into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth—from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools—they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life.

Now in the twilight of their eminent careers, these five unsung heroes of modern ecology share the stories of their adventures, reveal how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head, and give us a chance to re imagine the world as it could and should be.

Nothing could have prepared me for our first shoot. It was early 2016 and we had contacted Bob Paine about a daylong interview in June. He was cheerful and enthusiastic—he clearly loved to talk about ecology. Then on the 6th of May, Bob emailed us with terrible news— he had leukemia and it was terminal. But he also wrote, “I’m in very good spirits and very much looking forward to participating…”

Weeks later, on the 22nd of May we got an email from Bob’s daughter, Anne. She said Bob was unlikely to survive the night. I remember feeling crushed. We cancelled the shoot and considered cancelling the film. Thankfully, Bob didn’t die that night. Two days later, Anne called us again. Amazingly, Bob insisted on doing the interview. Anne was worried how severely the disease was affecting his skin and eyes.

What remained of Bob’s life could be counted in minutes. That he was willing to spend it with a film crew was astonishing to me. But it was clear that he saw his work as connected to something bigger than himself. The obvious discomfort he suffered speaking to us from a hospital bed, for him, was trivial. What mattered was his story.

During the day, Bob had maybe an hour where he could accept visitors, the rest of the time he spent in a near coma. The waiting room at the hospital was filled with Bob’s extended family and a “who’s who” list of ecologists and scientists, all lining up to pay their respects to this great man. Bob gave us a lion’s share of his time—20 minutes per day, for two consecutive days.

Bob’s story wasn’t about “saving the planet,” and I don’t think he embraced many “campaigns.” He was a scientist. For him, science was about experimentation and deep thinking. And in the end, I think, science for him was about love. Among Bob’s last words were:

“What made this group so special is that each of us has a pretty private part of the world, some large, some small, which we understand and love. To know something intimately one recognizes change, and much of the secret of ecology today is to not only acknowledge change, but to begin to factor out causes. Why is the world we know so well changing?”

A few days later Bob was gone. But with his words ringing in my ears, I was then given the extraordinary privilege of meeting the others in his group. More than that—I was able to film them in the places they love: Tony Sinclair’s Serengeti, Mary Power’s Oklahoma streams, John Terborgh’s Amazonian rainforest, Jim Estes’ Aleutian Islands.

This film is about more than the ecology of place. Collectively, the fact that scientists have found nature working the same way all over the planet tells us that Bob (and the others) discovered something fundamental about life. Predators and keystone species may become our greatest allies in the coming fight to protect our biosphere.Nicholas Brown, “The Serengeti Rules|The Film,” TheSerengetiRules.com, May 10, 2019; Sean B. Carroll, “The Serengeti Rules The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters,” Princeton University Press, 2019

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Cleaning up the hygiene hypothesis

News Feature: Cleaning up the hygiene hypothesis

The rise of allergy and autoimmune diseases is due to much more than rampant cleanliness. Is it time to throw out the hygiene hypothesis?

Graph the data points, and the trend is unmistakable. Since the 1950s, rates of multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and asthma have soared by 300% or more (1). Similar graphs depict concurrent spikes in hay fever and food allergies (2).

Mirroring this alarming surge in autoimmune and allergic disorders are simultaneous sharp declines in the incidence of mumps, measles, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases in developed countries, thanks to the advent of vaccines and antibiotics, and to improved hygiene. In the 1990s, scientists began to suspect that two trends were connected: Perhaps the reduction in infections was causing human immune systems to malfunction in some way.

That “hygiene hypothesis,” first proposed in 1989 (3), has become enshrined in popular culture: We’re too clean for our own good. It’s a straightforward, compelling idea. And many scientists are eager to see it thrown out.

Further reading: Too Clean for Our Children’s Good? Perri Klass, M.D., The New York Times. 4/17/2017

“We know an awful lot now about why our immune system’s regulation is not in terribly good shape, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with hygiene,” says Graham Rook, an emeritus professor of medical microbiology at University College London. Today, epidemiological, experimental, and molecular evidence support a different hypothesis: Early exposure to a diverse range of “friendly” microbes—not infectious pathogens—is necessary to train the human immune system to react appropriately to stimuli.

If this new hypothesis is true, then cutting back on personal hygiene will not have an impact on rates of chronic inflammatory and allergic disorders; it will, however, increase infections. The hygiene hypothesis is a “dangerous misnomer which is misleading people away from finding the true causes of these rises in allergic disease,” says Sally Bloomfield, chair of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene and an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “I’ve even seen things in the media saying we shouldn’t wash our hands. What the hell are they talking about?”

Still, the catchy hygiene hypothesis continues to be widely embraced by the public, the media, and even scientists: Uses of the term in the scientific literature rose threefold over the past 10 years compared with the decade prior, according to a search on Thomson Reuters Web of Science. “In science, when something has been propagated for so long, it can be hard to change,” says Marsha Wills-Karp, chair of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even worse, because various changes in Western lifestyle are disrupting our exposure to microbes, it’s not easy to come up with an equally simple and appealing replacement theory. “The problem is, because it is so complicated, you can’t point to one particular thing and coin a phrase,” says Wills-Karp.

Nothing to Sneeze At

Prevalence of food allergy in preschool children is now as high as 10% in Western countries, but remains just 2% in areas like mainland China (4). The number of new cases of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in Finland per year is 62.3 per every 100,000 children, compared with just 6.2 in Mexico and 0.5 in Pakistan (5). Ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is twofold higher in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe—6.5 per 100,000 people versus 3.1 per 100,000 (6).

In each of these disorders, either the immune system is overreacting to a trigger, such as pollen, peanuts, or pollution, or it’s attacking tissues it shouldn’t, such as beta cells in the pancreas in the case of T1D and in the intestines in IBD.…—Megan Scudellari, “Cleaning up the hygiene hypothesis,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2/14/2017

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Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability

RESILIENCE: THE HISTORY OF A CONCEPT

Resilience was originally introduced by Holling (1973) as a concept to help understand the capacity of ecosystems with alternative attractors to persist in the original state subject to perturbations, as reviewed by e.g. Gunderson (2000), Folke (2006) and Scheffer (2009). In some fields the term resilience has been technically used in a narrow sense to refer to the return rate to equilibrium upon a perturbation (called engineering resilience by Holling in 1996). However, many complex systems have multiple attractors. This implies that a perturbation can bring the system over a threshold that marks the limit of the basin of attraction or stability domain of the original state, causing the system to be attracted to a contrasting state. This is qualitatively different from returning to the original state, and Holling’s (1996) definition of ecological or ecosystem resilience has been instrumental to emphasize this difference.

[M]any of the serious, recurring problems in natural resource use and management stem precisely from the lack of recognition that ecosystems and the social systems that use and depend on them are inextricably linked.

\The concept of alternative stable states with clear-cut basins of attraction is a highly simplified image of reality in ecosystems. Attractors may be stable points or more complicated cycles of various kinds. Intrinsic tendencies to produce cyclic or chaotic dynamics are blended in intricate ways with the effects of environmental stochasticity, and with trends that cause thresholds as well as the nature of attractors to change over time. Nonetheless, we observe sharp shifts in ecosystems that stand out of the blur of fluctuations around trends. Such shifts are called regime shifts and may have different causes (Scheffer et al. 2001, Carpenter 2003). When they correspond to a shift between different stability domains they are referred to as critical transitions (Scheffer 2009). All of these concepts have precise definitions in the mathematics of dynamical systems (Kuznetsov 1998, Scheffer 2009).

However, despite their elegance and rigor, they capture only part of reality. One of the main limitations of the dynamical systems theory that forms the broader underlying framework is that it does not easily account for the fact that the very nature of systems may change over time (Scheffer 2009). This implies that, in order to understand the dynamics of an intertwined social–ecological system (SES), other concepts are needed.

In many disciplines, human actions are often viewed as external drivers of ecosystem dynamics; examples include fishing, water harvesting, and polluting. Through such a lens the manager is an external intervener in ecosystem resilience. There are those who suggest constraining the use of the resilience concept to ecosystem resilience, for conceptual clarity, as the basis for practical application of resilience within ecological science and ecosystem management (e.g. Brand and Jax 2007). However, many of the serious, recurring problems in natural resource use and management stem precisely from the lack of recognition that ecosystems and the social systems that use and depend on them are inextricably linked. It is the feedback loops among them, as interdependent social–ecological systems, that determine their overall dynamics.…—Carl Folke, Stephen R. Carpenter, Brian Walker, Marten Scheffer, Terry Chapin. Johan Rockström, “Ecology and Society: Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability,” Ecology and Society, 2010

Ecology and Society: Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability

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Obesity, hunger, and agriculture: the damaging role of subsidies

Obesity, hunger, and agriculture: the damaging role of subsidies

Globally, we are producing more food than the population needs. Subsidising overproduction in Europe is affecting the health of people in both Africa and Europe

Introduction

Being overweight is becoming the norm rather than the exception in most developed countries, and obesity is a serious health problem worldwide.1 Many people see obesity as a lifestyle issue. However, behavioural interventions to prevent obesity in both adults and children have generally been ineffective,2 indicating strong influences beyond individual control. Considerable resources are currently invested in developing drugs to prevent and treat obesity. However, from a societal perspective, prevention of obesity through diet and physical activity should be given priority for both economic and ethical reasons.1,3 Chopra and DarntonHill recently suggested that we need a global strategy on food similar to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.4 Their suggested actions are mainly aimed at reducing demand for food. But we argue it is equally important to tackle the oversupply of food, driven by agricultural subsidies.

European common agricultural policy

The societal changes causing the worldwide increase in body mass index include mass production of heavily marketed, energy dense foods, globalisation of trade and taste, technological developments in the workplace, a sedentary lifestyle, and the reduction in active transport.5,6 Improvements in agricultural productivity over the past decades have facilitated a massive increase in dietary energy intake.

Actually, the main problem for the agricultural sector in many developed countries is overproduction.7 Several studies have suggested that overproduction of food followed by excessive consumption is the prime cause of the increase in body mass index in the United States and elsewhere.8,9 Continued subsidy to stimulate production of food through agricultural policy is therefore paradoxical. Obesity and associated noncommunicable diseases cause costs for health care and lost productivity, and overproduction in agriculture causes environmental degradation. But these negative effects are difficult to influence through behavioural intervention because consumers do not bear the full costs. The World Health Organization has noted this problem, and its global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health recommends that “Member states need to take healthy nutrition into account in their agricultural policies.”10

The dairy sector in the European Union is an example of how agriculture subsidies can lead to negative health effects in Europe as well as in developing countries. The European Union spends almost €2bn (£1.4bn, $2.4bn) a year to maintain production levels at 20% above the domestic demand and at prices twice as high as on the world market.11 Without subsidies, production would quickly adapt to the level of demand. However, for historical reasons, and because of strong lobbying, milk production in the European Union is highly protected.…—Liselotte Schäfer Elinder, “Obesity, hunger, and agriculture: the damaging role of subsidies,” PubMedCentral|National Institutes of Health, 12/1/05

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Avoiding meat and dairy is €˜single biggest way€™
to reduce your impact on Earth

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.


Give a Wolf (and the World) a Break Today: Go Veggie!” (click to download PDF) is a tri-fold that explains the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, such as mitigation of the climate crisis, better use of arable land, protection of habitat for wild animals, reduced air and water pollution and better human health.You can either download here and print (in 8-1/2 x 14 format). Or one or more copies of the printed brochure format can be requested from the Biodiversity/Vegetarian Outreach Committee of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club at
ldestefano3@twcny.rr.com
(315)488-2140 (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Find many other resources too on our Biodiversity web page, including recipes.


The study, published in the journal Science, created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.…—Damian Carrington, “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth,” The Guardian. 5/31/2018

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A war reporter covers “The End Of Ice”
and it will change the way you think about climate catastrophe

A war reporter covers “The End Of Ice” — and it will change the way you think about climate catastrophe

FOCUSING ON BREATH and gratitude, Dahr Jamail’s latest book, “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption,” stitches together personal introspection and gut-wrenching interviews with leading climate experts. The rapidly receding glaciers of Denali National Park, home to the highest peak in North America, inspired the book’s title. “Seven years of climbing in Alaska had provided me with a front-row seat from where I could witness the dramatic impact of human-caused climate disruption,” Jamail writes.

With vividly descriptive storytelling, Jamail pushes further north into the Arctic Circle where warming is occurring at double speed. He surveys rapid changes in the Pribilof Islands, where Indigenous communities have had to contend with die-offs affecting seabirds, fur seals, fish, and more — a collapsing food web. The story continues in the fragile Great Barrier Reef, utterly ravaged by the warming ocean. South Florida is faring no better: Jamail finds that 2.46 million of the state’s acreage will be submerged within his lifetime. Experts are aghast everywhere Jamail visits. In the Amazon, rich in biodiversity, the consequences are especially enormous.

“The End of Ice” readers won’t find calls for technology-based solutions, politicians, mitigating emissions, or the Green New Deal to save us.

Describing the current state of the planet, Jamail likens it to someone in hospice care. The global mean temperature is already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Not half a decade ago, leading climate scientist James Hansen warned that that 1 degree would usher in a crisis of sea-level rise, melting Arctic ice, and extreme weather. He concluded that the goal of limiting global warming to only 2 degrees was “very dangerous.” Accelerated melting in the Arctic continues to surpass conservative predictions. Jamail reminds us that “as rapidly as global temperatures are increasing, so are temperature predictions. The conservative International Energy Agency has predicted a possible worst-case scenario of a 3.5°C increase by 2035.”

Further reading: Daily briefing: Trump moves to limit climate-change predictions —Nature, Journal of International Science

Little has worked to inspire action. There is perhaps no better example of climate science being disregarded than a climate change denier being elected president of the United States.…—Roger Straw, “A war reporter covers ‘The End Of Ice’ — and it will change the way you think about climate catastrophe,” The Benicia Independent, 5/4/19

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Researcher documents cascading effects of parasites
on underwater ecosystems

Researcher documents cascading effects of parasites on underwater ecosystems – Florida State University News

Research by an evolutionary biologist from Florida State University has shown parasites have important and far-reaching effects on predatory fish and the ecosystems they inhabit.

These findings, published this week in the journal Ecology, provide important evidence for the little-studied role of parasites in trophic cascades, which are powerful, indirect interactions that can affect entire ecosystems.

“Our results show that if we want to fully understand the complexity of communities and ecosystems, we should also include parasites in the picture,” Anaya-Rojas said. “They are not just annoying little beings that drain our energy and make us sick; they are a key part of ecosystems, and their impacts can go far beyond their host, perhaps even making habitats and ecosystems more stable.”

“A trophic cascade occurs when predators do something that affects everything below them in the food chain,” said lead author Jaime M. Anaya-Rojas, a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State. “Parasites, on the other hand, are everywhere and can be found at all trophic levels of an ecosystem. With this study, we show parasites are important players in the ecological theater and sometimes determine what predators can do. In so doing, they influence predators’ effects on their ecosystems.”

During the five-year study, researchers from the U.S., Switzerland, England and Portugal focused on a small, predatory species of fish known as the three-spined stickleback, which inhabits coastal waters and freshwater bodies throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The three-spined stickleback is a major research organism for evolutionary biologists seeking to understand genetic changes involved in environmental adaptation and the complexity of host-parasite interactions.…—Barry Ray, “Researcher documents cascading effects of parasites on underwater ecosystems,” Florida State University News, 6/11/19

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Friday D-Day for Adani civil resistance

Friday D-Day for Adani civil resistance – Echonetdaily

Thus far, a coal mine has never been stopped in Queensland on environmental grounds. A majority of Queenslanders want to stop Adani’s disastrous thermal coal mine. But politicians firmly in bed with billionaire mining magnates have failed to represent us.

On Thursday, Queensland Labor are expected to approve Adani’s dodgy and dangerous water plans. On Friday, our civil resistance starts.

Civil resistance is the final and necessary step for us to win, a powerful strategy that changes the status quo. It moves power from vested interests to the people – where it belongs.

People in Queensland willfully got arrested to save Fraser Island and the Daintree Rainforest. They are heroes, clearly on the right side of history. I visit Fraser Island with my family and am forever grateful to them.

People in Queensland have already been arrested in the current fight to protect the Galilee Basin, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Great Artesian Basin. I know most of you lying here are willing to join them, to get arrested on the streets of Brisbane. If the push to open up the Galilee basin continues, there will be thousands joining you.

If Queensland Labor approve Adani’s dodgy and dangerous water plans, grassroots groups in the Stop Adani movement will move beyond conventional political protest. Sustained nonviolent tactics like strikes, boycotts, street occupations and blockades will communicate our refusal to ever allow thermal coal mining in the Galilee Basin.…—Ben Pennings, “Friday D-Day for Adani civil resistance,” Echo Net Daily, 6/11/19

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Wet Bulb Temperature Soon to Become Leading Cause of Death

Wet Bulb Temperature Soon to Become Leading Cause of Death

As our Abrupt Climate Change Catastrophe becomes more extreme the leading cause of death on the planet will be humans hitting their  Wet Bulb Temperature.

Robertscribbler has written about this phenomenon:

Never-before-seen high temperatures and high humidity are resulting in thousands of heat injuries and hundreds of heat deaths across India. In some places, wet bulb readings appear to be approaching 35 C — a level of latent heat never endured by humans before fossil fuel burning forced global temperatures to rapidly warm. A reading widely-recognized as the limit of human physical endurance and one whose more frequent excession would commit the human race to enduring an increasing number of episodes of killing heat. A boundary that scientists like Dr. James Hansen warned would be exceeded if a human-forced warming of the world was not halted.’…Roberscribbler, Wet Bulb Near 35 C — Heatwave Mass Casualties Strike India Amidst Never-Before-Seen High Temperatures.’

Further reading Heat and Humidity Are a Killer Combination
Short cut to calculating Wet Bulb Temperature
Indian villages lie empty as drought forces thousands to flee

“In a recent study with Matt Huber, we showed that it doesn’t take that many degrees of global warming to permit peak heat summertime heat stress to (occasionally) become unsurvivable, in many parts of the world that are currently highly populated.”

“We came to this conclusion by considering a meteorological quantity called the wet-bulb temperature. You measure this quantity with a normal thermometer that has a damp cloth covering the bulb. It is always lower than the usual or “dry-bulb” temperature; how much lower depends on the humidity. At 100% humidity (in a cloud or fog) they match. In Sydney and Melbourne, even during the hottest weather, the wet-bulb usually peaks in the low 20’s C. The highest values in the world are about 30-31C, during the worst heat/humidity events in India, the Amazon, and a few other very humid places.

340 Heat Deaths in Dehli

Across India, the story of heat casualties was much the same. Though no official national estimate of heat related injuries or deaths has yet been given, the current heatwave and related drought is far worse than that experienced during 2015 when 2500 people lost their lives in the excessive heat. But it’s reasonable to assume that heat injuries across India now number in the tens of thousands with tragic heat deaths likely now numbering in the hundreds to thousands.…—Kevin Hester, “Wet Bulb Temperature Soon to Become Leading Cause of Death,” Kevin Hester Live blog, 5/21/19

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Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action

Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action

Addressing energy leaders, pope warns of ‘catastrophic’ effects of global heating

Pope Francis has declared a global “climate emergency”, warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations”.

He also endorsed the 1.5C limit on temperature rises that some countries are now aiming for, referring to warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of “catastrophic” effects if we crossed such a threshold. He said a “radical energy transition” would be needed to stay within that limit, and urged young people and businesses to take a leading role.

“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility,” he said, in his strongest and most direct intervention yet on the climate crisis. “Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.”

The Pope’s impassioned plea came as he met the leaders of some of the world’s biggest multinational oil companies in the Vatican on Friday to impress upon them the urgency and scale of the challenge, and their central role in tackling the emissions crisis. It followed a similar meeting last year, but this time the Pope’s stance was tougher as he warned that time was running out and urged them to hear “the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor”.

The chief executives or chairs of BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ConocoPhilips, Chevron and several major investors including BlackRock and Hermes, responded by calling on governments to put in place carbon pricing to encourage low-carbon innovation, and called for greater financial transparency to aid investors.

However, they made no pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and set no timetable for action.…—Fiona Harvey, Jillian Ambrose, “Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action,” The Guardian, 6/14/19

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What To Do About Predictions of Imminent Food Collapse

What To Do About Predictions of Imminent Food Collapse

As a member of System Change Not Climate Change, this morning I received links to a couple of YouTube videos about stresses on 2019 crop production. Produced by climate scientist Paul Beckwith, the videos portray the world as teetering on the brink of a profound food shortage. Like so many articles and videos these days, Beckwith’s videos suggest that we’ll all be starving come September. Beckwith describes how the majority of US farm acres have not been planted this year, a reality that is reflected in what I see in Central and Southern Illinois. According to the University of Illinois Extension report, only 10% of Illinois acres have been planted as of May, 2019. Fields are bare or still under water in many areas. It’s a strange sight in a part of the country where usually the corn is about a foot high this time of year.

One big issue I have with Beckwith’s reporting though: he makes no distinction between commodity grain crops versus actual human food crops. For example, worldwide only 55% of crops are directly consumed by humans. The rest of the crops are devoted to production of animal feed, food additives and ethanol. (See “Redefining Agricultural Needs: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare.”)  Climate change profoundly threatens conventional agriculture, but cold season vegetable crops and fruit production in Illinois on very small farms (that can’t hope to meet all Illinois food needs, I recognize) are actually doing well this season. I want to speculate about the reason for that a little bit below.

In the Geology section of my Master Naturalist class I learned that all of Central Illinois was primarily low-lying marshland and wet prairie when European settlers arrived here. For example, when Abraham Lincoln’s family tried to settle in Central Illinois along the banks of the Sangamon River, the area was too low lying and marshy. The Lincoln family got malaria that first year, a reality that led them to abandon the Sangamon site for higher lying acreage near Springfield IL. Malaria was a big problem in this part of the country when Europeans first got here.

In the 19th and into the early 20th centuries, the settlers drove out indigenous populations and then proceeded to do what Trump has not been able to do: drain the swamps–using massive amounts of drain tile to do so. Since 1818, Illinois has lost 90% of its wetlands. What scientists in the prairie states are starting to talk about is the possibility that these acres will return to wetlands as existing drain tile can no longer adequately move all the water from the huge storms into area creeks and rivers. For some organizations such as the Wetlands Initiative, convincing farmers to restore wetlands on some of their acreage will be one way to lessen farmland flooding. The strategy will also provide habitat for endangered plant and animal species.  For example, that yellow-flowering plant Beckwith talks about in one of the videos, a “new weed” the farmers haven’t seen before, has a name: yellow rocket. It’s a native plant in this part of the country that was used frequently by indigenous people as a food and medicine source. Industrial agriculture neither knows its name nor its worth. Instead, for many a year industrial ag has suppressed the seeds of this plant, as it has done for most native plants in this part of the country. Climate change is bringing back many native plants whose seeds have waited in the ground for just such events as these extreme storms to bring them to the soil surface. And sprout they will when industrial ag finally is forced to cease its operations for a season or two. But let me return to the subject of industrial field runoff.

The water from fields that does make it into ditches, creeks and rivers carries huge amounts of agricultural runoff, including soil (a precious resource that takes thousands of years to replace!) and agrochemicals washed off the fields. The runoff ends up in the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, further enlarging that body of water’s so-called “dead zone”–the result of too high nitrogen and agro-chemical pollution.

All of these current problems are exacerbated by industrial agriculture’s approach to crops: huge expanses of field, no wind or erosion breaks at the edge of fields or along waterways, and a tendency to site farms on the most flat (and often lowest) ground because that’s where the large farm machinery functions best–at least when mud doesn’t get in the way of the machines.

There are glimmers of hope in Central Illinois, though, thanks to the efforts of an organization that I’ve provided links to on SCNCC.net posts a couple of times recently. The Land Institute, based in Kansas, is researching and promoting the use of perennial crops such as a perennial wheat called Kernza, perennial sunflowers, perennial grasses (for animal feed and other agricultural uses) and perennial oats. Cascadian Farms is producing a breakfast cereal using Kernza, and other companies are using Kernza for flour, bread and beer. These efforts are miniscule in terms of plains and central Midwest agriculture, but farmers are starting to take notice. They can make good money with these crops that require far less in terms of cultivation and chemicals, and whose 12 ft. deep roots can weather the extreme weather events that prairies have known for thousands of years. Other projects the Land Institute promotes relate to land erosion. The perennial grasses they champion can be planted along ditches, streams and creeks to filter out agro-chemicals and prevent soil runoff.…—Sandra Lindberg, “What To Do About Predictions of Imminent Food Collapse,” System Change Not Climate Change, 6/5/19

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In the Shadows of the Extractive Industry

In the Shadows of the Extractive Industry

A Hard Road for Indigenous Women

A telltale detail gave away the changing way of life for the indigenous Machiguenga women living around Peru’s most important gas project in the Cuzco Amazons: they had stopped harvesting yuca. Why bother planting the traditional tuber that was the mainstay of their daily diet if they could simply buy it at one of the dozens of little shops that had sprung up around the Camisea gas project installations? Indeed, why bother with yuca when one could easily buy rice? “If yuca is needed, you just buy it,” Eulalia Andrés Incacuna, an indigenous woman from the Kirigueti community, told us in 2006, when we first went to the far-flung villages two years before the gas project actually began full operations.

This change in food habits reflected new forms of economic exchange accompanying the Peruvian gas project operated by the private company Pluspetrol. Nine years later, health clinics in the zone report a statistical increase in chronic cases of malnutrition and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV infection; alcohol consumption is also on the rise and often translates into domestic violence. In spite of the millions of dollars in royalties paid to the Peruvian state, the quality of life of the indigenous population—and especially that of women and children—has not improved.

Further reading: Protecting Indigenous Lands Protects the Environment. Trump and Bolsonaro Threaten Both.

Observing the effect of the extractive industries on indigenous women in the Amazons, Peru’s Vice Minister of Interculturality, Patricia Balbuena, asserts that “it is harder for women [than for men] to adjust to the changing forms of production that the extractive industry has brought to the Amazon regions, and this ultimately influences gender relations. The firms hire men who then acquire goods that displace women from their traditional routines,” observed the vice-minister, a lawyer with expertise in gender, development and demography.

Men no longer hunt nor fish nor dedicate themselves to agriculture. The economy of the family is greatly altered. It goes from being a money-free economy to a highly monetized one with all the social impacts that one can imagine. In her investigation,  “Ideas about Progress in Indigenous Wage Workers: The Case of the Machiguengas and the Camisea Gas Project,” sociologist Cynthia del Castillo warns that communal indigenous life has been completely altered by alcohol use. “Tensions surround the adoption of new practices and attitudes with the introduction of a monetized currency, as revealed in extensive interviews. We are referring to excessive beer consumption. The fact that not all the persons interviewed were willing to talk about the subject made the tension visible and, paradoxically, underlined the conscious secrecy surrounding this subject,” she observes.

Hydrocarbons, Women and Territory

What happens in the Cuzco jungles is repeated with different nuances throughout the Amazon regions of South America. In the last fifteen years, increasing international demand for hydrocarbons has stimulated new explorations and exploitation of gas and oil in territories inhabited by approximately two million indigenous people, about half of them women. In these regions of Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, there are at present 81 hydrocarbon fields under production and another potential 246 sites. Together, the area encompasses 0.41 million square miles or 15% of the entire Amazon region.…—Nelly Luna Amancio, “In the Shadows of the Extractive Industry,” ReVista|Harvard, Autumn 2015

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What’s Our Chance of Survival?

Stuart Scott engages with Dr. Ira Leifer, atmospheric scientist and researcher, in this fascinating discussion of the desperate portends of our inability as a society to deal with the knowledge that we have destabilized the climate system. The bad news, according do Dr. Leifer, is that only a few thousand humans may survive at the poles. The ‘good news’ is that some of life is likely to survive (including cockroaches) since the Earth has proven so resilient over the eons of time since life evolved.—Stuart Scott, “Dr. Ira Leifer – ‘Whats Our Chance of Survival?UPFSI|YouTube, 6/13/19

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The way we eat is killing us –€“ and the planet

The way we eat is killing us – and the planet | Felicity Lawrence

The global food system is causing an ecological and health catastrophe – individual action won’t be enough

The distinguished medical journal The Lancet has issued not one but two apocalyptic warnings about our food in under a month. One of its special commissions reported earlier this month that civilisation itself was at risk from the effects of the current food system on both human health and the Earth’s ecosystems. This week comes the next installment from another special Lancet commission which finds that pandemics of obesity and malnutrition are interacting with climate change in a feedback loop and represent an existential threat to humans and the planet. The modern western diet has become a highly damaging thing that needs a complete overhaul if we are to avoid potential ecological catastrophe. It concluded that we need to halve global meat consumption, and more than double the volume of whole grains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables we eat.

Cue howls of indignation from big food and its cheerleaders, the libertarian right. Those nanny statists have gone nuts eating their own double dose of nuts! Cue cries of distress from champions of local, low-impact agriculture who include grass-fed animals, and their meat and manure, in their sustainable mix. These self-appointed experts don’t understand farming! Cue grim food wheels with only a quarter of a rasher of bacon or a fifth of an egg a day. Those miserabilist medics want us all to go vegan!

Further reading World’s food supply under ‘severe threat’ from loss of biodiversity
Eating less meat isn’t just good for you, it could save the planet

Yet the evidence that our diets are the largest cause of climate change and biodiversity loss is now overwhelming. The global food system is responsible for up to 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, the livestock sector on its own accounting for about half of that total or 14.5%. The modern western way of eating is also making very large numbers of people fat and sick as other parts of the world adopt it. Diet-related diseases now cause roughly 11 million deaths a year as preventable cancers, heart disease and strokes, obesity and diabetes have spread along with our way of eating. More than 800 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished, and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, yet at the same time 2 billion are overweight or obese. In poorer counties you can even find obesity and stunting within the same family as calorie-heavy but nutrient-light processed industrialised foods are adopted.…—Felicity Lawrence, “The way we eat is killing us – and the planet,” The Guardian

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There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms

We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie at Aix-Marseille University in France. “Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.”

In the early 20th Century alone, more than a million reindeer died from anthrax. It is not easy to dig deep graves, so most of these carcasses are buried close to the surface, scattered among 7,000 burial grounds in northern Russia.

However, the big fear is what else is lurking beneath the frozen soil.…

In a 2014 study, a team led by Claverie revived two viruses that had been trapped in Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years. Known as Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirus sibericum, they are both “giant viruses”, because unlike most viruses they are so big they can be seen under a regular microscope. They were discovered 100ft underground in coastal tundra.

Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious. Fortunately for us, these particular viruses only infect single-celled amoebas.

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.…

Claverie says viruses from the very first humans to populate the Arctic could emerge. We could even see viruses from long-extinct hominin species like Neanderthals and Denisovans, both of which settled in Siberia and were riddled with various viral diseases. Remains of Neanderthals from 30-40,000 years ago have been spotted in Russia. Human populations have lived there, sickened and died for thousands of years.

“The possibility that we could catch a virus from a long-extinct Neanderthal suggests that the idea that a virus could be ‘eradicated’ from the planet is wrong, and gives us a false sense of security,” says Claverie. “This is why stocks of vaccine should be kept, just in case.”

Since 2014, Claverie has been analysing the DNA content of permafrost layers, searching for the genetic signature of viruses and bacteria that could infect humans. He has found evidence of many bacteria that are probably dangerous to humans. The bacteria have DNA that encodes virulence factors: molecules that pathogenic bacteria and viruses produce, which increase their ability to infect a host.

Claverie’s team has also found a few DNA sequences that seem to come from viruses, including herpes. However, they have not as yet found any trace of smallpox. For obvious reasons, they have not attempted to revive any of the pathogens.…—Jasmin Fox-Skelly, “There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up,” BBC, 5/4/2017

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The Biggest Little Farm: The Pleasures of D.I.Y. Agriculture

‘The Biggest Little Farm’ Review: The Pleasures of D.I.Y. Agriculture

John Chester’s film documents how he and his wife, entertaining idealistic notions, left their lives in the big city to go work the land.

Directed and narrated by John Chester, a longtime documentary cinematographer, “The Biggest Little Farm” opens with the then-seemingly unstoppable California wildfires of 2018 threatening to wipe out the small farm Chester founded with his wife, Molly, nearly 10 years before.

The sight of Molly, who had been a chef and blogger before she and John got serious about their farm-to-table ideas, gathering clothes as billowing smoke is seen out the window behind her, is immediately tension-inducing.…

There are funny moments, too, as when York first shows up for his consulting gig, and John can’t get over the fact that the maestro is dressed in sandals and linen. If you’ve entertained “Green Acres”-inspired reveries on the joys of “farm living,” this documentary may rid you of them in short order. But it may also revive your wonder at the weird but ultimately awe-inspiring ways in which humans can help nature do its work.—Glenn Kenny, “‘The Biggest Little Farm’ Review: The Pleasures of D.I.Y. Agriculture,” The New York Times, 5/9/19

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.