Global lockdowns might reduce CO2 emissions but won’t halt climate crisis, scientists say

There’s a difference between CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations of CO2

The normally jammed Don Valley Parkway in Toronto is seen during the evening rush on April 2, 2020. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

The normally traffic-clogged streets of big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are empty. Shopping malls are shuttered. Restaurants sit in the dark.

This isn’t just the case across Canada, but across the globe.

Worldwide shutdowns over COVID-19 are having a deep economic impact, but they’re also having an unintended positive outcome: a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This may seem like a silver lining in a time of such crisis and uncertainty. Global temperatures have continued to rise, resulting in the current climate crisis, and any reduction of CO2 emissions would seem to be good news. But this decline in emissions won’t mean much when it comes to the big climate change picture.

Lockdowns in countries and cities have resulted in fewer cars on the road and a decrease in overall emissions, but it’s unlikely to have lasting effects on climate change, scientists say. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)


A decline in CO2 emissions has been observed in China — an estimated 25 per cent — and similar drops are expected in northern Europe, where countries like Italy have been under lockdown for more than a month. But it’s a drop in the bucket, scientists say.

That’s due to two main factors: one, there’s a difference in CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations of CO2; and two, any declines are expected to be short-lived.

Playing catch-up

Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, is responsible for climate-monitoring analysis. He and his team release NOAA’s annual State of the Climate, a look back at global climate trends. And what he’s seen is a steady rise in global temperatures.

“The warming we see is still trying to catch up to the increased levels of greenhouse gases that are now in the atmosphere. And they will be catching up for many years,” Arndt said. “Short-term variances or short-term departures from the trend, even in the downward sense … don’t reverse what we’ve seen and what we will continue to see for years to come.”

WATCH | Time-lapse of increased CO2 concentrations up to 2019


Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian climate scientist at Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, stressed that the amount that CO2 emissions decline in this current period will barely be noticeable in the longer term. That’s because of existing CO2 concentrations.

“Atmospheric CO2 is the cumulative effect of all of our emissions over decades to centuries,” she said. “Imagine if you were putting a block on a pile, and you’d been doing that every single month for 300 years, and then you don’t put a block on the pile, and you say, ‘Oh, there’s a big difference in the pile.’ But the naked eye can’t even see that difference. So that’s the difference between concentrations versus emissions.”

Drop likely to be short-lived

Another factor to consider is that the reduction in CO2 emissions is likely to be short-lived — once cities or countries lift their lockdowns, they’re once again open for business, with the potential for industries to ramp up production in an effort to overcome their financial losses.

Indeed, that effect has already been observed in China.

As well, though other parts of the world — including Canada — might see a drop in emissions during lockdowns, it may not be quite as dramatic as what was observed in China.

“I certainly expect global CO2 emissions to go down in 2020. My sense is that emissions will go down a few per cent, but I would add a very large uncertainty around that,” said Glen Peters, research director at Norway’s Center for International Climate Research, in an email.

“The biggest challenge is that we are only one-quarter of the way into the year, and we have to make big assumptions about what happens for the next nine months of the year.”

He added that even if emissions were to go down a whopping 50 per cent, if they go back up to pre-COVID-19 levels, it would have “virtually no effect on climate.”

Impacts on renewable energy

Hayhoe said she’s also concerned about the impacts the global shutdowns will have on renewable energy.

“The industrial slowdown affected the production of renewable energy technology like batteries and electric cars and solar panels,” Hayhoe said. “Many of the stimulus or bailout packages might focus on industries that currently produce a lot of carbon emissions, and not have any requirement for them to change or alter the fact that they do so.”

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says she’s concerned about what the economic slowdown could mean when it comes to renewable energy production. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)


Some scientists hope that this lockdown might result in businesses changing the way they work, perhaps allowing more people to work from home, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions. But others have concerns.

“The problem is that this has been forced upon people, and potentially in a bad way,” Peters said. “People are forced to work, home-school, not go out, etc., and this may give them a bad experience of working remotely.”

Hayhoe said there are big questions in our future when it comes to changing our way of life and work.

“The question is, will we use this as an excuse to continue to cling to the past? Or will we use this as an opportunity to rethink our future?” she said. “That there is the multi-trillion-dollar question.” SOURCE

Great Barrier Reef suffers its most widespread mass bleaching event on record

Breadth of damage is more expansive than 2016-17 event

Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. (ARC Center for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

Earlier this year, scientists warned that the Great Barrier Reef could be on the brink of its most widespread bleaching event ever recorded. That fear has been realized.

Surveys conducted by scientists at Australia’s James Cook University and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority show that a summer of extreme heat has caused the reef, which is a World Heritage Site, to suffer a mass bleaching of unprecedented scale. Corals from the far north to the southern tip of the 1,400 mile-long ecosystem are experiencing severe impacts.

It was also one of the reef’s worst mass bleaching episodes in terms of intensity, second only to 2016, which killed half of all shallow-water corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Unlike the summer of 2016, when an intense marine heat wave coincided with one of the strongest El Niño events on record, this past summer brought a bleaching event without any assistance from the Pacific climate oscillation.

El Niño events can elevate ocean temperatures in that part of the world, making bleaching events more likely. To scientists, this is another clear sign that human-caused climate change is the primary driver behind these devastating events.

Results from a coral bleaching survey in April 2020. (ARC Center for Coral Reef Studies/Terry Hughes)

Mark Eakin, coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch program, described the rate of recurrence of these events as “truly disturbing.” Bleaching from the 2016 event was followed by a recurrence in 2017, when there was also an absence of an El Niño.

“In 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef had their first back-to-back bleaching events. Now we have the third bleaching event in five years,” Eakin wrote in an email.

“That is unprecedented on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Heat stress can be deadly to corals

Bleaching is a response to heat stress that occurs when corals spend too much time in water that’s too hot for them to handle. Exposure to prolonged heat causes the reef-building animals to temporarily evict their zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae which the corals shelter in exchange for food.

Aerial view of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. (ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

Because these algae also give corals their vibrant colors, mild bleaching causes corals to grow pale. Severely bleached corals turn bone white, and if their algal partners stay away for too long, they can starve to death.

As heat built across the reef in February, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority began reporting pockets of bleaching in the far north toward the end of the month. By early March, vast swaths of the ecosystem had accumulated eight or more “degree heating weeks,” a metric scientists use to describe recent cumulative heat exposure.

At this threshold, reef scientists expect to see widespread bleaching and mortality from thermal stress, according to NOAA.

Researchers decided to conduct aerial and waterborne surveys to assess the extent of the damage. The surveys, which took place during the last two weeks of March, quickly confirmed the reef has undergone its third mass bleaching event in the past five years.

Now, more details about the extent and severity of the event are emerging. A new map produced by Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, confirms what scientists with NOAA and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology predicted: This year’s bleaching was more widespread compared with 2016, which hammered the reef’s northern third, and 2017, which struck the reef’s midsection hardest.

This year, some 35 percent of the 1,036 reefs the scientists surveyed experienced moderate bleaching, while a quarter were severely bleached. Scientists saw severe bleaching on coastal reefs from Torres Strait in the far north to the southern border of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, at levels only eclipsed during 2016.

“For the first time, the south was hot as well as the middle and the north,” Hughes said. “After 2016-17, when the north and middle went, I said to somebody our worst nightmare is if the next region to bleach is the south.”

That’s because the south, having escaped the previous two events, is relatively unaccustomed to bleaching and contains large numbers of heat-sensitive Acropora corals, including branching and table-shaped species that give the reef its three-dimensional structure and provide habitat for fish.7XAPTRZ2CJE67EMR2KHIPHVFHY.jpg (1484×902)
Degree heating week, a measure of heat stress on coral reefs, seen in late February 2020. The box shows a rough outline of the Great Barrier Reef. (NOAA/The Washington Post)

In the northern and central Great Barrier Reef, these corals were largely annihilated by bleaching in 2016-17, transforming vast swaths of the reef into a “highly altered, degraded system,” according to a 2018 paper in the journal Nature.

Now the south seems poised to slide into a similar ecological disrepair. Hughes cautioned that bleaching doesn’t necessarily lead to mortality and said he would be conducting repeat surveys in about eight months to see which corals survived and which ones didn’t.

“I have to admit, I’m devastated to learn that the southern reefs are taking such a hit right now, as they were a rare bright spot during the 2016 mass bleaching event,” said Kim Cobb, a coral reef and climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was not involved in the new survey.

Hughes is expecting less mortality in the north this year, because many of the heat-sensitive corals have already been killed. But reefs that bleached this year in addition to three or four years ago are likely to be set back in terms of recovery, he said.

“Underwater and even from the plane, we could see very many small corals that have recruited to the reef since the previous bleaching … so that recovery, which was in its early phases, has been interrupted by this new bleaching event,” Hughes said.

Getting closer to yearly bleaching events

Mass bleaching events have often been associated with El Niño, a recurring climate pattern characterized by above-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, which leads to shifts in ocean heat distribution, atmospheric circulation, and weather patterns around the world.

Across the Great Barrier Reef, changes in local weather patterns related to El Niño, including higher than average air and ocean temperatures, clear skies and lots of sunshine, can help fuel bleaching.

But while the first recorded mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and the most intense mass bleaching event on record coincided with El Niño, mass bleachings in 2002, 2017 and now 2020, did not.

This, along with the fact that the gap between severe bleaching events is shrinking, suggests that as summers grow warmer due to climate change, the reef will suffer heat stress more regularly regardless of whether the tropical Pacific is in a favorable state. It is telling, Hughes said, that February 2020 brought the highest monthly sea surface temperatures ever recorded across the Great Barrier Reef, with no El Niño to assist.

“It’s now clear that we can have major bleaching events caused by global climate change alone with no tropical forcing,” Eakin said, adding that we may be seeing “early signs” of a world where the reef bleaches on a near-yearly basis.

Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Australia’s Macquarie University, agreed that the prospect of annual bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, something climate models predicted could occur in the 2030s, is getting “closer and closer.”  SOURCE

Canada’s food supply at risk as pandemic tightens borders to farm workers

Farmer Philip Keddy of Charles Keddy Farms throws a pitchfork into his truck after assessing a field of strawberry plant seedlings ready to be harvested and packed for customers on the farm in the Annapolis Valley, N.S. on April 1, 2020. DARREN CALABRESE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The coronavirus pandemic is making it difficult for farmers to bring in temporary workers to plant crops on time, a problem that threatens Canada’s food supply.

Time is of the essence. Spring is here – seeds need to be planted, orchard trees pruned and thinned, fields prepped for the season, equipment fixed and irrigation systems set up. Each year, tens of thousands of workers do the jobs many Canadians have traditionally avoided. Though legally allowed to enter Canada, the majority have not yet arrived. Without labour soon, yields could fall, affecting Canada’s food supply.My job has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. What do I do now?

The Globe and Mail spoke with farmers in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, who grow everything from strawberry and asparagus to apples, barley, potatoes, watermelons, broccoli and squash.

“There is only one window of opportunity for producers to get their crops in the ground,” said Katie Keddy of Nova Scotia’s Charles Keddy Farms Ltd., which grows strawberry plants and is the largest producer of sweet potatoes east of Ontario.

Abrupt shortage of seasonal farm workers threatens to create food shortages in Europe

“Spring isn’t waiting for us to figure out labour issues, it’s coming either way. This has the potential to impact the amount of food being harvested this fall, and ultimately impacting our own food security as Canadians.”

Canada admits about 60,000 seasonal agricultural and other temporary workers each year to work on fruit, vegetable and other farms – a program farmers say is critical to reliable food production. The federal government last month allowed their entry, stipulating that they must self-isolate for 14 days – a two-week period during a busy season when they’re not allowed to work. And the logistics of getting them here have been extremely difficult. Visa offices in Mexico have been closed, bureaucracy has slowed and flights are scarce.

In some cases, planes will be chartered – a flight with workers from Jamaica arrived this week in Ontario, with more charters pending, said Ken Forth, a broccoli grower and president of the private-sector organization FARMS. The province is about 3,000 workers behind where it normally should be, he said – and there’s an urgent need to catch up.

Russell Alder grades and prepares asparagus root stock for packaging at Charles Keddy Farms in the Annapolis Valley, N.S. on April 1, 2020. In a normal year, farmer Philip Keddy said there would be 10 other workers sorting asparagus and strawberry plants for shipment. DARREN CALABRESE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Ms. Keddy is concerned that if farms can’t get the labour they need, quickly, “producers may be forced to make some tough decisions, such as scaling back on acreage or the crops they are planning to plant.”

Normally starting this month, the Keddy farm would have 22 experienced workers from Jamaica. The first group was due to arrive last month, which didn’t happen.

“Spring is getting really close – we’re hoping to be digging in the next week,” she says. “It’s been stressful, there’s no other word to describe it.”

Farmers with early crops – such as asparagus – are under extra time pressure. Ken Wall is the chief executive officer of Sandy Shore Farms in Norfolk County, Ont. – a 1,500-acre farm that produces bell peppers, zucchini and onions. It is also a large grower of asparagus.His operation typically employs 350 people, about half of whom are seasonal offshore workers. The asparagus harvest normally begins May 1, he said. “It’s the first crop of the spring, and asparagus without question is one of the most labour-intensive crops that is grown in Canada. And we are terribly concerned with a lack of access to workers.”
Migrant worker advocates, meantime, are raising health concerns over often crowded housing conditions.

“There are occupational health and safety concerns over the bunkhouses, because of the close proximity,” said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, who wants more oversight to ensure their safety. Conditions vary, he said, from trailers to bunkhouses where, in some cases, dozens of people sleep in bunk beds, with shared bathrooms.

Already, an outbreak of COVID-19 illness has occurred involving temporary foreign workers at a plant nursery in West Kelowna, B.C. The provincial health officer said this week she’s broadly concerned over housing conditions and the health and safety of these workers.

The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the country’s food system, including the agricultural sector’s dependence on seasonal temporary foreign workers and the free flow of people across borders, said Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph.

“The planting season is quickly upon us. We’re going to need people to prune our apple orchards and get our tomatoes in the ground. That will pose a real challenge to our produce sector.”

Unemployment has surged in Canada, and the sector is looking at hiring locally. This, too, brings challenges as inexperienced workers require training, many can’t operate heavy equipment and, in the past, attrition rates among Canadian workers have been high. Still, in B.C., “we are appealing to local unemployed people to check the Job Bank [the federal government’s job board], particularly during harvest,” said Glen Lucas, general manager at the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, which is also working with the restaurant and hospitality industry “to get the word out.”



‘People will make a sacrifice for the common good’: How the fight against COVID-19 could extend to climate action

Expert: At least one way in which monkeys have the edge on us humans

In recent years, there has been significant momentum in the private sector to confront climate change. But the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak presents a significant challenge. Andre Mayer spoke to Tom Rand, the Toronto-based author of the new book The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis, about environmental action at a time when the world is preoccupied with a more immediate threat.

Going into 2020, climate change was the biggest issue facing the world. COVID-19 has obviously changed the focus. What trends are you seeing in the way the business world is approaching climate action now?

It’s interesting to see telecommuting finally coming into its own. Not only are we avoiding getting on a plane for board meetings, but we’re getting more effective at working from home. There are limits – but it’s clearly possible to eliminate a large portion of business travel (a third to a half?) and work from home a couple of days a week. That would be a huge cut in carbon emissions and urban traffic.

Are any Canadian trends especially telling?

Canada has been hit doubly hard, and our heavy oil industry is under an existential threat. To my mind, COVID accelerated trends that were already inevitable over the long term: technology is the primary threat to heavy oil, not climate policy. Alberta’s heavy oil has long dominated our national dialogue, and sucks up an awful lot of political oxygen – far more than is warranted by its relatively small contribution to the national economy. It’s time to start talking about future economic trends – like e-vehicles, renewables and emerging telecommuting technologies. Perhaps this crisis will force us to look forward to economic opportunity, instead of being distracted by what’s in the rear-view mirror.

Do you think the coronavirus pandemic could have a lasting negative impact on climate action?

We’ve certainly emptied our public coffers. The cost of COVID far outstrips any climate effort I’ve ever seen, and it will be even harder to access public funds on the climate fight. But culture is just as important: perhaps our immediate fears over the pandemic, and the massive failure in the United States to prepare for it, will increase our respect for the experts ringing the climate alarm bells. What’s become clear over the past few weeks is the sense that we’re all in this together and must look to an empowered public sector to address systemic risks – like pandemics or climate. In the short term, we might continue with behaviours that reduce emissions, like avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home more.

Does the outbreak jeopardize investment in green projects?

I see little over the long term to affect the build-out of green projects. These things are getting built because they’re a better deal than fossil fuel counterparts, not because they’re goody-goody.

Your book argues that capitalism can have a significant role in creating a low-carbon world. How so?

Innovation, capital, jobs, technology – all of these are driven primarily by market forces. As we see with COVID, the public sector can (and must) provide a backstop to an economic crisis, but it can’t replace all that economic activity. At the same time, the business community must acknowledge that nibbling around the edges of our economy is not a sufficiently robust reaction to climate. Capitalism must be fundamentally rewired to address climate risk.

Are there any lessons to take from governmental responses to coronavirus that could be applied to climate?

When you can articulate a risk appropriately, people will make a sacrifice for the common good. Humans are fundamentally caring and decent. No one wants to unleash destabilizing forces that bring economic ruin. Only a sociopath would deny the need to address climate risk, just as only a sociopath wouldn’t endorse behaviours like physical isolation that reduce coronavirus risk.



COVID 19 and Our Food Supply

Teaser photo credit: by Julian Hanslmaier on Unsplash

Though food is still plentiful, with only temporary and localized shortages, the threat of the COVID 19 crisis to the food supply is considerable. There is no evidence thus far that the disease can be transmitted via food or packaging (though the virus apparently remains viable on plastic for 2 to 4 days). The real danger is that chains of supply will be undermined by both sickness and the pre-cautionary measure we take. Already we are seeing a contraction of food imports from abroad. But the danger extends to even our own local supply.

The safety of shoppers and workers at supermarkets is the first worry that public officials and the general public have expressed. But the food at market comes from somewhere; and that “somewhere” is peopled by a vast array of workers, starting with farmers and farm workers. Will we continue to have the workforce necessary to produce our food, and will they be able to do it in conditions of health and safety for themselves?

We don’t know, but there are troubling concerns. Take fresh produce, for example. Already pressed by acute labor shortages, farms large and small in places like the Central Coast of California have scrambled to provide job security to their workers. But they also depend during crucial harvest periods on temporary labor, and as the border tightened under the Trump administration the H2-A visa system has become important. Florida, Georgia, Washington, and California all depend upon a sizeable workforce from Mexico and the Caribbean under the system. But the virus has meant the closing of consulates in Mexico and elsewhere that process these visas. The labor crunch will come soon for producers of lettuce and strawberries on the Central Coast.

Worse is the specter of widespread infection among farm workers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the United Farm Workers Union doubts how “social distancing” could be carried out by many of these workers, who travel to and from the fields packed in buses or private automobiles. And the same worries apply to the conditions of work, especially in the packing houses and processing facilities, where workers in close quarters clean, sort, and package the fresh produce destined for our markets.

This is also true in the meat packing industry, where just a few huge packing houses process most of the meat that appears on American tables. Most of these institutions are in rural areas where the spread of the virus hasn’t been felt – yet. But packing house workers, like farm workers in the field, are low paid, often stressed financially, and not accustomed to staying home when they are sick, despite the food safety protocols that companies are supposed to impose. There is lots of guidance out there for how employers are supposed to see to worker safety and health turning this crisis, but not a lot of assurance that they can succeed in stopping the spread of the virus once it takes hold among their workers.

The federal government has defined food system businesses as “essential services,” including all the production and support jobs that plant and harvest crops, raise livestock, harvest fish; work in processing, manufacturing, and transport of food; provision of animal feed, fertilizers and pesticides; management of storage facilities; crop and food inspection; and so on. But that has not prevented a contraction in demand, as schools and universities close, restaurants reduce services or shutter their doors, and shoppers focus more and more on essentials.

And this affects local and regional food systems, too. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition projects that local and regional systems could face up to $1.3 billion in economic losses from March through May this year. “Social distancing measures such as the closure of universities, schools, restaurants, and local food markets (e.g., farmers markets, farm stands) will result in significant shifts in where food is sold or acquired, and subsequently, markets for farms and ranches.” Yes, even here in California, some counties and municipalities have closed farmers markets and farm stands, despite the Governor’s recent declaration that these were “essential services” just like grocery stores. The Coalition estimates that local food producers could lose 10 to 25% of their direct market sales in the next two months, and all of their sales to schools and restaurants.

Finally, some suppliers of equipment and inputs for farming are scaling back or shutting down temporarily to protect their workers.

Today, more than ever, we need local food

Locally produced food is becoming more and more important to our communities. The more direct the connection between farmer or rancher and market, the fewer hands and interactions that occur on the way to consumers, the safer we all are. And the fresher the food, the more nourishing and protective of our health.

Farmers markets are already doing a great deal to make shopping safe. A typical set of measures includes:

  • Spacing booths to increase social distancing among patrons in line.
  • Ensuring that social distancing of six feet per person for non-family members is maintained.
  • Limiting the number of customers at any given time to reduce outdoor/indoor crowding and lines to meet social distancing guidlines.
  • Encouraging vendors to pre-bag items and serve customers from bulk bins themselves.
  • Taking special care in handling money.
  • Suspending sampling activities.
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning of tables, payment devices, and other surfaces.

Some farmers are turning to CSAs or online ordering to meet demand. Others are relying more on their own farm stands, where social distancing may be much easier than at a market. Others still are wholesaling to local grocery stores.

None of these measures is proof against a loss of sales, but consumers can support their farmers by finding ways to purchase locally despite the obstacles presented by shut downs.

Unfortunately, we do not have the sort of vibrant local food systems that we really need to ensure an on-going supply of food. In most parts of the country, there are still few farmers focused on the local market. We have lots of gardeners, and we could have more, but all of us who grow food will have to expand what we are doing a great deal to begin to ensure food security.

The situation is even more difficult for high protein foods. Meat and dairy producers are hampered by restrictive laws, meant to ensure safety, that have focused production and distribution on huge operations, without guaranteeing food safety and at the expense of local resilience. Even here in Mendocino County, with ranching a major economic activity, most meat is processed and sold elsewhere; and most meat consumed here comes from outside the area.

Chickens and eggs are produced locally in many parts of the country with few legal restrictions; and more of us could be raising backyard flocks. But for other meat and dairy, consumers should seek out local producers – the dairy shares and herd shares and locally oriented meat producers. Dairy shares are legal in some states, illegal or barely tolerated in others. They make consumers part owners of the herd whose product, fresh, unprocessed milk, is thus theirs. Herd shares do the same for meat consumers but legal restrictions are tight and few operate openly. And in urban areas all these options are hard to find.

We have a long way to go before the resources we need for a truly resilient food system are widely available. But perhaps the difficulties of the day will make all of us more aware and appreciative of the importance of creating the bases for real food security.

Resources for farmers and consumers

Many parts of the country have local food guides to lead consumers to farms and ranches that serve their area. For Mendocino County, check out the Local Food Guide:

Here’s a list of regenerative farms and ranches in Northern California, some of whom market online:

Community Alliance for Family Farmers has multiple resources and links to guidelines for dealing with issues surrounding Farmers Markets, CSA’s, U-Pick operations, cleaning and handling, etc.:

Grants for direct market farmers are available from American Farmland Trust:

The just passed federal stimulus package for the first time makes the self-employed eligible for unemployment benefits. Let’s hope our farmers are not unemployed, but any who find themselves in this position should apply.

And the Small Business Administration is administering grants and loans for small businesses, including farms and ranches, that face losses or an inability to employee workers due to the crisis.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) also has a blog post up about agriculture provisions in the CARES ACT:


The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition paper on impact of the crisis and farmer and policy responses referred to above can be found at:

For the impact on grocery store workers:

The LA Times article on the impacts of the crisis on the food supply, with emphasis on farm workers is available at:


Several First Nations grapple with confirmed COVID-19 cases, press government for help

Fifty-three kilometres south of highway 11, a small checkpoint blocks a bridge that enters Lac La Croix First Nation to track community members who come and go to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 DAVID JACKSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

At least nine First Nations have confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising concerns about further transmission and prompting calls for greater responses from the federal and provincial governments.

Cases have been reported in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Both urban and remote communities have been affected, from Six Nations of the Grand River near Hamilton to the Cree Nation of Nemaska, more than 1,000 kilometres northwest of Montreal, to Onion Lake Cree Nation, about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

The developments have some communities taking steps to limit traffic in and out of their territories and declaring states of emergency. Some have said they do not have the health-care infrastructure and resources, including test swabs and personal protective equipment, to prevent an outbreak or respond to cases, if necessary.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has not minced words about her own level of concern about cases in Indigenous communities, noting even a single case is extremely serious and that First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities face a higher risk of severe outcomes owing to health inequities and the higher prevalence of underlying medical conditions, as well as the unique challenges of remote and fly-in communities.

‘We are not prepared’: Inuit brace for coronavirus to reach remote communities

The chief of a remote First Nation tries to fend off the coronavirus

The coronavirus must be seen as an existential threat to nearly one million First Nations people, said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, adding that many communities have modified or postponed ceremonies and gatherings that are vital to their cultures.

In an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, Mr. Bellegarde also said the federal government moved quickly to provide $305-million for an Indigenous community-support program and that this is an important start, but he said there is considerable ground to make up including in access to health services.

On Thursday, Indigenous Services Canada said there were 15 COVID-19 cases in First Nations but department officials said this did not capture those off-reserve, nor those in Inuit and Métis communities.

Indigenous Services has not provided an updated figure since releasing the Thursday figure. There are challenges for the federal department to get a full snapshot of the extent of the virus in First Nations across Canada. The department says tests for COVID-19 can be done in communities, but swabs are then sent to provincial labs to be analyzed.

Six Nations of the Grand River, a large community of about 13,000 on-reserve members near Hamilton, has confirmed eight cases.

“COVID-19 is here,” said Six Nations Chief Mark Hill in a statement on Thursday, as he called for a redoubling of efforts to slow the spread of the virus and to save lives.

At the end of March, the community had closed down entry to most non-residents with several exceptions, including those delivering goods to the community. Those wanting to buy gasoline and cigarettes are being turned away. Barriers have also been erected, with checkpoints run by community members.

Most of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 on reserve are in Ontario and Quebec.

A positive test was recorded in The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, northeast of Sarnia, Ont., at the end of March while another was documented in the community of Akwesasne, which straddles Ontario and New York State.

As the number of confirmed cases climbs, several First Nations leaders have also voiced concern about access to testing.

In an update in late March, Temagami First Nation, located on Bear Island northeast of Sudbury, said its community health centre had no test swabs, while a nearby off-reserve health unit had a limited number.

Last Monday, Neskantaga First Nation, a fly-in community about 270 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency owing to insufficient medical services, including test kits.

Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, a community in Northwestern Ontario, which has set up a check point to limit movement to members and those providing essential services, also does not have a single test kit, Chief Lorraine Cobiness said.

“We don’t have the capabilities here in the community to actually do any testing,” she said, adding the community is heavily relying on an assessment site that recently opened in Kenora.

For its part, Kettle and Stony Point First Nation also does not have any testing capacity at its own clinic and it is relying on the local county health department, Chief Jason Henry said.

Chief Henry said he recently asked the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, part of Indigenous Services Canada, to provide test kits directly to the community.

When asked how many test kits had been provided to on-reserve communities, Indigenous Services Canada said in March that provinces were responsible for providing test kits to public-health units and nursing stations.

When asked for clarification on communities that lack swabs, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller’s office said the federal government will work to ensure no community falls through the cracks when it comes to testing on reserve.

Department officials said Thursday that swab kits are typically provided through provincial labs to communities but the federal government has put in an order into the National Microbiology Lab to distribute kits to communities.

Indigenous Services is also working with nursing stations, public-health authorities and provinces and territories to make sure communities have the swabs required to test symptomatic community members and the ability to transfer tests to laboratories, said Mr. Miller’s press secretary, Vanessa Adams.

Dr. Tam has said testing capacity in communities is a gap that must be filled, noting some samples also have to be flown vast distances to referral laboratories.

The National Microbiology Lab is looking at testing mechanisms that can be done much closer to patients, she added.

NDP MP Niki Ashton said she has heard from First Nations leaders in northern Manitoba who have received some swabs but are concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment to conduct the tests.

Without that equipment, Ms. Ashton said that some patients on reserve have been directed to the provincial system for testing, adding they have then encountered a massive bottleneck in that stream.

“We need to make sure all First Nations have the testing swabs, have the equipment to do the testing, the PPE [personal protective equipment] and we need to make sure they are being tested in a way that avoids the provincial backlog,” she said.

As of the beginning of April, the federal government said it shipped 275 orders for personal protective equipment including hand sanitizer, N95 masks, isolation shields and gloves to Indigenous communities. It did not specify how many communities received the shipments.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday that the Canadian Rangers, who are a part of the Canadian Armed Forces reserves, will be deploying to Inuit communities of northern Quebec to assist with the public-health response to COVID-19. SOURCE

The Pipeline and the Pandemic: ‘The Biggest Risk We’ve Got Right Now’


Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls for Coastal GasLink to halt work to reduce COVID-19 threat.

ChiefDstaHylPipeline.jpgHereditary Chief Dsta’Hyl makes regular patrols through Wet’suwet’en territory to tell pipeline workers to go home. They aren’t listening, he says. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

Industry puts First Nations at risk

Work must stop on energy, mining projects

Industry puts First Nations at risk - Winnipeg Free Press

Niigaan Sinclair 

While the rest of the world is told to stay home, Canada’s oil and gas projects continue their march into Indigenous territories, pitting communities against one another and putting people at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

While with a reduced workforce, construction has continued virtually uninterrupted on the Trans Mountain pipeline, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the Site C hydro dam – all projects that deeply and primarily impact First Nations in Alberta and British Columbia.

Elsewhere – and closer to home – work is “scaled back” but continues on the Manitoba Hydro Keeyask Generating Station, the Ring of Fire mining development in northern Ontario, and multiple resource extraction projects in Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, among many other projects.

The reason this is happening is simple: under Canadian federal guidelines defining “essential services” during the COVID-19 pandemic – last updated April 2 – manufacturing in the oil, gas, mining and electricity industries are deemed “essential.” Provinces, which oversee and license these industries, have followed suit.

This makes sense for existing infrastructure but there is a grey area when it comes to “new” development – so, the work continues.

This has resulted in worker camps and countless daily interactions with nearby communities, traffic in and out of the region, and increased demands for social and health services in already-stretched remote areas.

Even with increased safety measures, the continuation of these projects place Indigenous communities – particularly First Nations but impoverished urban Indigenous communities, too – directly and primarily at risk.

Canada knows that the COVID-19 pandemic will spread faster on First Nations as housing is often over-crowded, fresh water is harder to come by, and immune systems are already compromised due to poverty and a lack of health care. It’s dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars for this fight, with millions more needed.

The continued construction of oil, gas, mining and electricity projects will undermine this support and put tens of thousands of people in harm’s way.

There is still time to stop this – but the clock is ticking.

On March 30, B.C. Hydro announced there were no positive cases at the Site C worker camp housing 819 employees but a dozen were in isolation due to showing signs of COVID-19: sore throats, muscle aches, headaches, cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.

The Site C worker camp is located in Treaty 8, six kilometres from the city of Fort St. John and nearby Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation, and West Moberly First Nation.

Canada is also playing with legal fire.

When it comes to resource projects involving First Nations territories, some communities support them and some are against them. Many arguments articulating each side’s reasons can be read elsewhere.

In every project, Indigenous peoples have used multiple means to articulate their treaty rights and rights to “free, prior, and informed consent” under Canada’s constitution – whether it be at the bargaining table, on the streets in protest, or legal battles all the way to the Supreme Court.

None of these has resulted in perfect solutions – or, frankly, any solutions for that matter – and really only serve as a reminder of the broken legal and legislative relationship Canada shares with Indigenous communities.

This means that a great deal of time, effort, and attention has to be spent focusing on the intricacies of development involving First Nations lands. Lawyers, leaders, and Indigenous communities must be involved for any sense of reconciliation to be found (and to avoid future conflict).

This simply cannot happen during a pandemic.

Laws will be ignored, broken, and when this is all over, whenever that is, legal challenges will emerge with millions of dollars to be paid out.

Lives will also be lost – the ultimate cost of all.

Canada’s oil, gas, mining, and electricity industries cannot continue to expand their projects while acting as if it’s business as usual.

Canada’s “business as usual” for over a century has always been to take First Nations land and, after lengthy Supreme Court battles, pay them later.


The Inner Shield Against Covid-19

Food isn’t just generic energy–it’s molecular information. In addition to fueling the mitochondrial powerhouses, food tells our cells what to do and serves as building blocks for hormones, brain chemicals, and cell membranes. –Cynthia Li

Cynthia Li, MD, is a physician and author whose decades-long personal healing journey through a disabling autoimmune illness required her to question her medical training. Through extensive experimentation with complementary approaches to Western medicine, she ultimately embraced the principles of integrative and functional medicine and wove together intuition and science toward a brave new medicine which allowed her to unlock her body’s innate potential to heal. In these unique times of pandemic, it has become clear that the primary difference between people who develop serious illness from COVID-19 and those who have mild to no symptoms is the strength of their immune system. Dr. Li’s experiences as both doctor and patient through an internal “dark night of the soul” and an external medical/bodily condition affecting her immune system point to tools for building personal immunity and resilience in the face of crises like the current one. She is the aiuthor of Brave New Medicine: A Doctor’s Unconventional Path to Healing Her Autoimmune Illnessas well as a new booklet titled How to Shield Yourself Against Covid-19: Science- Based, Integrative Strategies for a Once-in-a-Century Pandemic [AVAILABLE AS A GIFT DOWNLOAD AT THE END OF THIS PIECE]

The Two Shields

To combat the Covid-19 outbreak, the media has focused almost exclusively on the outer shield. That is, minimizing spread. This includes physical distancing. Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Wearing disposable masks and gloves. Sanitizing table tops and door knobs. Don’t forget to wipe down the groceries. This first line of defense is vital.

But there’s a second, equally important and often overlooked line of defense: the inner shield. That is, your immune system.

The immune system is the microscopic army that stands guard just under the surface of your mouth, nose, lungs, skin, and gut. In addition, there’s an intricate network of stations throughout the body where more troops are keeping the peace, and awaiting orders to mobilize against an invasion.

A strong inner shield translates to resilience—the capacity to bounce back, to restore balance and wellbeing whether you’re faced with an acute infection or not. You can always strengthen this shield, no matter your current health status. And when you do, you can treat an infection more effectively—if you already have one—and potentially prevent or reduce the chances of future ones. This is primarily done by giving your immune system what it needs to function optimally, as well as regulating the stress response.

This booklet offers some strategies for strengthening the inner shield. They may seem simple. But simple doesn’t always mean it’s easy. You will need to pause, take notice of your environment, and perhaps most challenging, care for yourself. Also included are a list of supplements. Taken together, these strategies can help restore a sense of agency. You can co-participate in your life, thereby reducing one of the greatest insults to any infection: fear.

Everybody Wins

When you employ both shields, you’re helping everyone – yourself, your family, community, nation and – in this period of a pandemic – the world. You’re freeing up scarce health care resources for those in need, and maintaining good health to serve those around you. Everybody wins.

So take note. Take heart. And please share widely.

In times like these, we need a brave new medicine.

Download a gift copy of  the book here or read below. MORE


THE INTERCEPT’S Mehdi Hasan speaks with Senior Correspondent Naomi Klein about coronavirus capitalism and the selective use of emergency measures to offload risks onto workers and families, while the people who are relatively more secure get no-strings-attached bailouts.

April 7 at 3 p.m. ET