WATCH: Investigative reporter talks about Bayer/Monsanto’s efforts to discredit her work

“I really was just doing my job as a journalist.”

Investigative reporter Carey Gillam sat down with nonprofit newsroom The Real News Network to discuss recent reporting on how Bayer/Monsanto attempted to discredit her reporting on the weedkiller glyphosate— the active ingredient in Roundup.

The interview comes on the heels of Gillam’s piece in The Guardian last week, I’m a journalist. Monsanto built a step-by-step strategy to destroy my reputation, that outlined how Monsanto had an action plan specifically to discredit her reporting and her award-winning book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.

“This campaign by Monsanto against me has been going on for a long time … well more than a decade certainly,” Gillam says in the Real News Network interview.

“And I really was just doing my job as a journalist. I was reporting on the new scientific evidence that was coming out about different risks—cancer risks and other health risks—associated with Monsanto’s herbicides.” SOURCE

RELATED:

We must change food production to save the world, says leaked report

Cutting carbon from transport and energy ‘not enough’ IPCC finds


 Hereford beef cattle. The IPCC report says meat consumption should be cut to reduce methane emissions. Photograph: Australian Scenics/Getty Images

Attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure, scientists will warn this week.

A leaked draft of a report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

Humans now exploit 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support Earth’s growing population, the report warns. At the same time, agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, about half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields, while deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions. The impact of intensive agriculture – which has helped the world’s population soar from 1.9 billion a century ago to 7.7 billion – has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.

In future these problems are likely to get worse. “Climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action,” the report states.

It is a bleak analysis of the dangers ahead and comes when rising greenhouse gas emissions have made news after triggering a range of severe meteorological events. These include news that:

    • Arctic sea-ice coverage reached near record lows for July;
    • The heatwaves that hit Europe last month were between 1.5C and 3C higher because of climate change;
    • Global temperatures for July were 1.2C above pre-industrial levels for the month.

This last figure is particularly alarming, as the IPCC has warned that rises greater than 1.5C risk triggering climatic destabilisation while those higher than 2C make such events even more likely. “We are now getting very close to some dangerous tipping points in the behaviour of the climate – but as this latest leaked report of the IPCC’s work reveals, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the cuts we need to make to prevent that happening,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. MORE

Innovation rush aims to help farmers, rich and poor, beat climate change

Image result for farming with drones

LONDON, July 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In decades to come, African farmers may pool their money to buy small robot vehicles to weed their fields or drones that can hover to squirt a few drops of pesticide only where needed.

Smartphones already allow farmers in remote areas to snap photos of sick plants, upload them and get a quick diagnosis, plus advice on treatment.

Researchers also are trying to train crops like maize and wheat to produce their own nitrogen fertilizer from the air – a trick soybeans and other legumes use – and exploring how to make wheat and rice better at photosynthesis in very hot conditions.

Image result for photosynthesis wheatA gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.

As warmer, wilder weather linked to climate change brings growing challenges for farmers across the globe – and as they try to curb their own heat-trapping emissions – a rush of innovation aimed at helping both rich and poor farmers is now converging in ways that could benefit them all, scientists say.

In a hotter world, farmers share “the same problems, the same issues,” said Svend Christensen, head of plant and environmental sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

Agricultural researchers, who have teamed up to boost harvests and fight the major blight of wheat rust are now forming an international consortium in a bid to make wheat stand up to worsening heat and drought.

“There was a real shift in terms of the intensity of what we do together when we became aware of climate change,” said Hans-Joachim Braun, who heads the global wheat program for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico.

For each 1 degree Celsius global temperatures rise above pre-industrial times, wheat harvests drop 5-8%, he said.

That means the world will likely see a 10% drop in harvests even if governments hold global warming to “well below” 2C, as they have agreed, he said – and that drop would come even as the world’s population grows and demand for food rises.

Finding ways to breed wheat that can cope better with heat could help farmers from Australia to India and China, as well as the people who depend on their grain, he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you use this trait – it will have an impact,” Braun said.

DARE TO DREAM

One idea scientists are working on is to fundamentally reshape how crops such as wheat and rice carry out photosynthesis, to make them better able to continue producing in hot weather, especially if less water is available.

The process – like efforts to help wheat and maize start making their own fertilizer – is hugely complex and will likely require decades of work, scientists say.

“It would be a mega-breakthrough. Many people think it’s dreaming a little bit because it’s so difficult,” said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

But early tests to improve photosynthesis in tobacco have shown a 40% boost in production – and the technique is now being tested with crops from cassava to maize, said Kathy Kahn, a crop research expert with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nick Austin, who directs agricultural development for the foundation, said such changes “are going to benefit the poor and rich worlds together” – and could play a key role in keeping food prices affordable.

“These technologies… are going to be globally relevant,” he predicted. MORE

We’re leaving so much food on farms to just rot in the fields

Most of the reports you hear about food waste don’t even include the amount that’s left behind on farms, but new research shows it’s a lot.


[Photo: Liubov Yashkir/iStock]

You might be familiar with the fact that in the U.S., an estimated 40% of food goes uneaten. That’s an alarming statistic on its own. This amount of wasted food correlates with waste in other areas: Around 21% of all water used in the U.S. and 18% of cropland is dedicated to food that will never get eaten, exercising a significant strain on already stressed resources.

But most of the traditional research into food waste looks only at what goes uneaten at the distribution, retail, and consumer levels. These measurements capture how much inventory grocery stores toss, for instance, or how much consumers let go rotten in their fridge without eating. When a team of researchers at the University of Santa Clara set out to figure out how much produce is wasted before it even leaves the fields, they found a much more dire picture.

According to the research team, around 33% of food that’s grown is either unharvested or left behind in the fields because the growers suspect it might not meet the specifications of their buyers. Growers often estimate the amount of produce they leave in the fields, but the Santa Clara team found, after conducting thorough analyses of 123 farms in northern and central California, that in-field food waste exceeds growers’ estimates of losses by around 157%. Some produce categories are more prone to waste than others: The Santa Clara team found that around 55.6% of cabbage was left behind, compared to just 4.7% of perennial artichokes. These variations are often due to how uniformly a crop grows (generally, growers are looking for a consistent product to offer buyers) and how frequently they’re harvested, on top of factors like crops’ resistance to variable weather.

The contrast between traditional harvesting (left) and harvesting to minimize waste (right). [Photo: courtesy Full Harvest]

But the findings from the study, while limited to a specific region in California, should wake growers up to the magnitude of loss likely happening in their fields. “The first step in addressing this problem is measuring it,” says Gregory Baker, executive director of the Center for Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

This developing understanding of in-field food loss could also, Baker adds, give rise to solutions to address it.  MORE

10 technologies that could combat climate change as food demand soars

A new study from the World Bank and UN finds we’ll need ways to boost yields faster than ever before to prevent agricultural emissions from soaring.

A rice field in Indonesia.

With the global population projected to increase by nearly 3 billion people by midcentury, demand for food—as well as the land and energy required to produce it—is to set to soar.

If the world doesn’t figure out ways to cultivate far more food on less land, we’ll need to covert nearly two Indias’ worth of forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems to agricultural fields, according to a new study led by World Resources Institute researchers. That, in turn, would increase annual emissions by 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases—far exceeding the 4 billion tons permissible under models that hold global warming below 2 ˚C.

The report, issued by the World Bank and United Nations, found that global food needs will expand 50% overall by 2050, while demand for animal-based products like meat, milk, and eggs will swell by nearly 70%. Producing those 7,400 trillion additional calories without achieving yield gains at a faster rate than we’ve pulled off in the past would require converting nearly 600 million hectares (almost 1.5 billion acres) of additional land to agricultural use.

The researchers highlighted a list of 22 objectives and 10 specific technologies that could help boost food production while keeping the lid on climate pollution.

Some of the broad goals include reducing food loss and waste; planting more frequently on existing cropland; conserving peatlands, which release huge amounts of carbon dioxide when converted to farmland; reducing methane emissions from livestock, which occur mainly in the form of cow burps; and decreasing climate pollution from fertilizers, which account for nearly 20% of agricultural emissions.

The innovations that could help achieve these aims include:

  1. Using genome editing tools like CRISPR to unlock traits that boost yields.
  2. Shifting to plant-based meat replacements like products from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
  3. Applying nontoxic spray-on films and other technologies that can extend the shelf life of foods, such as those created by Apeel Sciences. (See “Reinventing rice for a world transformed by climate change.”)
  4. Switching to types of rice that reduce the level of methane production in paddies.
  5. Using compounds that prevent fertilizer from converting soil microbes into highly potent nitrous oxide.
  6. Feeding supplements to livestock that can cut their methane emissions, such as a product developed by Dutch conglomerate DSM (see “Seaweed could make cows burp less methane and cut their carbon hoofprint”).
  7. Developing varieties of crops that absorb more nitrogen.
  8. Employing algae-based fish feeds that could ease pressure to use wild fish as feed for farmed fish.
  9. Using solar power to produce the hydrogen in nitrogen-based fertilizers.
  10. Relying more on high-yield varieties of oil palm trees, which produce a widely used oil that has helped drive deforestation.

MORE

 

What did we hear at The Pact for a Green New Deal Town Halls?

Historic floods and wildfires. The MMIWG final report linking resource extraction and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Growing economic inequality. Our government’s failure to live up to the demands of the Truth and Reconciliation committee or to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This moment of systemic crisis calls for systemic change. That’s why over 100 groups have come together in 2019 to launch The Pact for a Green New Deal.

The Pact for a Green New Deal is a coalition calling for a far-reaching plan to cut emissions in half in 11 years, in line with Indigenous knowledge and climate science; create more than one million good jobs; and build inclusive communities in the process. Its bold, justice-based vision is galvanizing thousands of people by recognizing, and working to respond to, the multiple crises we face.

Since The Pact launched on May 6, 2019, organizations in the coalition have set off with the goal of listening to people from coast to coast to coast in the ambitious project of defining what a Green New Deal looks like for their community.

In less than a month, volunteers organized an astounding 150+ town halls, taking place in every single province and territory, to build alignment towards a set of shared principles for a Green New Deal. 

Of these 150+ events, about half were held in large communities (over 100,000 people), and half in small communities (under 30,000 people). The organizers we heard from hosted town halls ranging in size from four people, in Iqaluit, to over 300 in Edmonton. All in all, more than 7,000 people joined Green New Deal town halls in their communities — representing environmental groups, labour unions, faith groups, political parties, city councils, community and neighbourhood associations, Indigenous organizations, women’s organizations, the Fight for $15 and Fairness, student unions, local media, and more.

We worked with analysts to pull themes from the town hall conversations that took place: people gathering in grief, in rage, and in hope to share what they think the Green New Deal must include, and what it must put an end to. What follows is a summary of some of those themes; it is not a complete analysis or completed report. There is much work still to be done to bring in those who did not attend town halls, to allow time to hear from other groups, and to make sure voices marginalized by the status quo are made central in the process.

Red Lines and Green Lines 

Methodology

The town hall process was not about coming to complete consensus on specific policies or finding the perfect wording, but rather creating an opportunity for thousands of people to contribute their ideas for what a Green New Deal should look like, to identify commonalities, and to start developing specific proposals.

Participants were asked to discuss their red lines and green lines: the things that absolutely should not be in a Green New Deal for Canada, and the things that people, groups, communities and institutions want — and in some cases, need — to see in a Green New Deal in order to be on board.

Participants shared an incredible 8900 red lines and green lines. There were almost three times as many green lines as red lines, suggesting that participants are eager to focus on a hopeful and positive vision of the future. Some clear themes emerged from the responses, as outlined in the following sections.

Here’s some of what we heard.

Green Lines

The town hall responses were sorted into the following twelve Green Line categories: Economy and Government, Green Infrastructure, Nature, Agriculture, Social Justice, Democracy, Plastics, Climate Science, Decent Work, Indigenous Reconciliation, Climate Debt, and Rights. Of these categories, the ones that occurred most frequently were Economy and Government, Green Infrastructure, Social Justice, and Indigenous Sovereignty. It is clear that systemic change and radical shifts are needed to transform the systems and institutions that perpetuate inequality, racism, xenophobia, and ongoing colonial violence.

Indigenous Sovereignty

A Green New Deal must include the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Participants highlighted the importance of Indigenous knowledge, and respecting Indigenous title and relationship to the land. Decolonization must go hand in hand with a Green New Deal.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Full recognition of Indigenous title and rights.
    • Fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
    • Fully implementing the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
    • Fully implementing the Calls for Justice in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Economy and Government

Time and time again, we heard that transforming the economy is at the heart of solutions to environmental degradation and climate change. Town hall participants are ready for governments to lay the groundwork for this change in a wide range of ways — from carbon taxes, to subsidies for green initiatives, to public investment in renewable energy and infrastructure and fundamentally changing the priorities of the economic system itself.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Setting a legally binding climate target for Canada in line with the science of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Creating millions of good, high-wage jobs through a green jobs plan, ensuring fossil fuel industry workers and directly affected community members are guaranteed good, dignified work with the training and support needed to succeed.
    • Increasing unionization and implementing workers’ rights, including at least a $15 minimum wage, pay equity, paid emergency leave, job security, protections for migrant workers, and the right to organize and unionize
    • Personal and public subsidies for greener technology, including affordable energy-efficient housing, and transportation.

Green Infrastructure

In talking about infrastructure for an equitable and sustainable society, participants named renewable energy and public housing as areas in need of urgent action.Specific recommendations included:

    • Making massive public investments in the infrastructure to build a 100% renewable energy economy – including power generation, energy efficiency, public transportation, public housing, food justice, ecological and localized agriculture, and clean manufacturing.
    • Ensuring sustainable, financially and physically accessible public transportation for everyone.
    • Prioritizing and incentivizing local renewable energy creation especially with public service buildings.

Social Justice

The climate crisis cannot be addressed in isolation. Participants made connections between environmental issues and struggles that have long been led by communities on the frontlines of racism and an extractive economy: migrants, Indigenous communities, rural towns and villages, poor and working-class people, and disabled people. Participants also noted the rising leadership of youth whose lives and futures are at stake; and who must be included at decision-making tables.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Promoting justice and equity by centering the communities marginalized by our current economy. This means addressing past and current harms to Indigenous peoples, Black communities, communities of colour, LGBTQ people, migrants, refugees, and undocumented people, rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and youth.
    • Ensuring free accessible post-secondary education for all.
    • Full access to quality public services including healthcare, education, income security, housing, childcare, pharmacare, dental care, pensions, and more — for all.
    • Status for all: Permanent resident status and family unity for all migrants and refugees here, and landed status on arrival for those that arrive in the future. No detentions, no deportations.
    • Ensuring that Canada pays its fair share of the climate debt to countries in the Global South that have been impacted by practices and decisions in Canada, and ensuring that corporations based in Canada are not damaging the climate and environment elsewhere, contributing to conditions that force people to migrate (including wars, unjust mining, pollution, etc).

Red Lines

Town hall participants talked about putting a stop to the industries, institutions and practices that endanger our future and accelerate environmental destruction. Some of the Red Lines that came up discussed the fossil fuel industry, extraction and pollution, plastics, and a failing democracy.

Fossil Fuels 

Town hall participants were heavily in support of not only preventing the future growth of the fossil industry — through actions like halting the construction and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, and ending government subsidies — but phasing it out on a timeline in line with the demands of Indigenous knowledge and science.

Specific recommendations:

    •  A plan to fully phase out the fossil fuel industry and move to 100% renewable energy by 2040 (at the latest) must be developed and implemented (including a plan to fully support workers throughout this process).
    • Freezing the construction and/or approval of all new fossil fuel extraction and transportation projects — we cannot solve the problem if we make it worse at the same time.
    • Fossil fuel subsidies from the federal or provincial government should be immediately eliminated and redirected to support the transition to a clean economy.

Protecting Biodiversity and Nature

Participants emphasized the importance of ending water extraction, water pollution, and other activities that jeopardize the health and sustainability of the environment.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Enacting laws that grant personhood protections to our forests and bodies of water, and the creation of an environmental bill of rights.
    • Stopping the dumping of waste (civic or industrial) into bodies of water.
    • Ensuring greater protection for critical biodiversity and natural areas.
    • Collectively ensuring the right of all people to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and a safe environment built on connection and community.
    • Ensuring the protection of at least 30 percent of land and waters in Canada by 2030.

Plastics

Participants voiced support for stopping the production of single-use plastics, and advocated for the importance of ending our reliance on plastics as a society.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Developing alternatives to plastic bags, straws and other single-use plastic items to address the problem of plastic waste, while maintaining the necessary access that these items often provide.
    • Ending boil water advisories in Indigenous communities.
    • Legislating the curtailment of excessive packaging.

Democracy

Participants made systemic links between current environmental issues and the necessity of ending corporate lobbying and transforming the democratic systems and institutions that have helped to create the multiple crises we face. Participants noted they would like to see “no more first past the post elections.”

Specific recommendations included:

  • Honouring the promise of making Canada a Proportional Representation Democracy.

Next Steps:

The communities and organizations represented by people who attended town halls did reach beyond the “green bubble” that typically exists within mainstream environmental events and campaigns. That being said, there is much room for improvement in reaching out to the labour movement, social justice movements, Indigenous peoples, and those who are marginalized or who have been most impacted by the current and historical harms a Green New Deal must address.

Moving forward, consultation will continue and groups and organizations are encouraged to make submissions to this process. Many town halls have yet to be held, some groups are still preparing their own specific submissions; and so, the recommendations above should be taken as a living document that will continue to evolve and change as new voices enter the conversation.

Thank you for your words and participation. Let’s keep working to secure a Green New Deal for all.  SOURCE

Image result for green new deal for canada

Canada unveils new measures to nudge polluters toward clean tech


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on June 18, 2019, flanked by his staffers and bodyguards. File photo by Andrew Meade

Canada is proposing new market-based incentives to support clean-tech companies as part of a suite of new policies announced on Friday that include a crackdown on pollution from large industrial facilities.

The policies add some new meat on the bones of the Trudeau government’s strategy to tackle the global climate crisis. Canada’s new proposal also opens the door to allowing companies to get credit for reducing emissions by spending money on projects overseas.

Ottawa’s carbon pricing system is composed of two main parts: a federal charge on fossil fuels, which has received the lion’s share of attention, and a related system for large industrial polluters called the Output-Based Pricing System.

That system establishes a trading market to crack down on carbon emissions. It requires big facilities like factories that emit more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon pollution per year to record their emissions against a “performance standard” for the sector to which the facility belongs.

If they pollute less than the standard, they receive credits; if they pollute more, they have the option of either paying the federal government directly using its carbon tax rate, submitting “surplus credits” bought from others or saved up, or submitting “offset credits” earned from projects that reduce emissions.

The idea is that each offset credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide that won’t go into the atmosphere, heating the planet and worsening climate change, compared to what would have happened under business as usual.

Ottawa says this will create market opportunities for clean-tech businesses in agriculture, waste and forestry. On Friday, it proposed a series of guidelines for how this system might work.

Projects must be based in Canada, and the emissions they are eliminating must be covered in Canada’s national inventory report that is submitted to the United Nations.

They must also be “specific and identifiable” and result in a net reduction of carbon pollution “that can be demonstrated to have been implemented.”

The project type must be federally approved, the reductions must be “quantified in a transparent and repeatable manner” and reductions must go beyond what would normally occur from that business.

Credits can’t be double-counted and the project must be monitored and documented to allow a verification body full access.

Ottawa is soliciting public feedback on this offset system proposal through Aug. 30.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 18 as Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna look on. File photo by Andrew Meade

Canada is proposing new market-based incentives to support clean-tech companies as part of a suite of new policies announced on Friday that include a crackdown on pollution from large industrial facilities.

The policies add some new meat on the bones of the Trudeau government’s strategy to tackle the global climate crisis. Canada’s new proposal also opens the door to allowing companies to get credit for reducing emissions by spending money on projects overseas.

Ottawa’s carbon pricing system is composed of two main parts: a federal charge on fossil fuels, which has received the lion’s share of attention, and a related system for large industrial polluters called the Output-Based Pricing System.

That system establishes a trading market to crack down on carbon emissions. It requires big facilities like factories that emit more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon pollution per year to record their emissions against a “performance standard” for the sector to which the facility belongs.

If they pollute less than the standard, they receive credits; if they pollute more, they have the option of either paying the federal government directly using its carbon tax rate, submitting “surplus credits” bought from others or saved up, or submitting “offset credits” earned from projects that reduce emissions.

The idea is that each offset credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide that won’t go into the atmosphere, heating the planet and worsening climate change, compared to what would have happened under business as usual.

Ottawa says this will create market opportunities for clean-tech businesses in agriculture, waste and forestry. On Friday, it proposeda series of guidelines for how this system might work.

Projects must be based in Canada, and the emissions they are eliminating must be covered in Canada’s national inventory report that is submitted to the United Nations.

They must also be “specific and identifiable” and result in a net reduction of carbon pollution “that can be demonstrated to have been implemented.”

The project type must be federally approved, the reductions must be “quantified in a transparent and repeatable manner” and reductions must go beyond what would normally occur from that business.

Credits can’t be double-counted and the project must be monitored and documented to allow a verification body full access.

Ottawa is soliciting public feedback on this offset system proposal through Aug. 30.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 18 as Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna look on. File photo by Andrew Meade

The Liberal government has said the revenues from carbon pricing will be reinvested in the province or territory that the money came from. For provinces and territories with their own carbon pricing plans, the federal government will give them direct proceeds.

In the regions without their own pricing plans, it gets more complicated. With the fossil fuel tax, the government is rebating households directly through income tax returns. For the large-polluter program, however, it still needs to figure out how this will work.

Estimating revenue from that program is much harder, federal officials said Friday, given that polluters could use credits to meet their obligations instead of paying the carbon tax directly.

As a result, Ottawa also wants to hear from the public on how it should return the direct proceeds it collects, and will also accept feedback on that through the end of August. MORE

Fields of Dreams

THE MICROSCOPE IN TANNIS AND DEREK AXTEN’S FARM OFFICE IN MINTON, SASK., IS A GOOD CLUE THESE THIRD-GENERATION GRAIN GROWERS ARE MANAGING THEIR LAND A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY THAN THEIR NEIGHBOURS.


Derek and Tannis Axten farm 5,000 acres of land in Minton, Sask. The family keeps their acreage green for more than 200 days of the year with cover crops that protect the earth from sun and wind and feed the soil with their roots.RANDY RISLING FOR THE TORONTO STAR

A more obvious sign is found while walking the rows of flax and lentils, mustard and forage peas, chickpeas and flax. In a province known for fields of gold thanks to a monoculture mentality that prizes growing a single crop in a given area, the Axtens are seeding 13 different combinations of grains and legumes.

While many of their neighbours stay true to a 100-day growing season, leaving the land almost bare after fall harvest, the Axtens work to keep their acreage green for more than 200 days of the year with cover crops such as sweet clover, chickling vetch and oats whose main jobs are to protect the earth from sun and wind and feed the soil with their live roots.

When the couple took over Derek’s family farm in 2006, part of which his grandfather worked more than a century ago, they inherited a rich history but also some incredibly fragile soil and no dependable source of water.

The 5,000 acres they’re farming is almost smack dab in the heart of North America’s “geographic centre,” which (according to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey) is Rugby, N.D., — 422 kilometres southeast of Minton following Highway 18.

You can’t get any farther from the ocean.

Climate variation between seasons on the prairies is among the most dramatic on Earth, characterized by repeated wet and dry cycles. With warming temperatures, future droughts are projected to be “more frequent and intense” across the southern Canadian Prairies, according to Canada’s Changing Climate Report, which was released in 2019 by the federal government.

International and Canadian researchers are predicting warmer winters for the region, potentially one of the few great news stories to come out of climate change research because it would bring a longer growing season, the promise of significantly higher yields for farmers and a big bump to the national economy. But a hotter climate without adequate moisture in the soil could also spell disaster. Moisture is a transformative element driving the physics, chemistry and biology of healthy soil. Water brings life. Without it, you’re looking at a pile of lifeless, and increasingly useless, dirt.

That’s why the Axtens are among a small but growing group of farmers across the province — some supported by commercial agricultural players known as “Big Ag” — who are working overtime on this challenge. A big part of their solution requires turning their soil into the world’s biggest sponges. MORE

RELATED:

SOIL HEALTH IS FINALLY STARTING TO GET THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES

Grassroots movement to address climate crisis


Organic farmer Brenda Hsueh introduces the Green New Deal to people in her barn at Black Sheep Farm outside of Scone. PAT CARSON

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres does not talk about climate change, he talks about a “climate crisis,” adding that “we face a direct existential threat.”

The Paris Agreement on climate was signed by 195 nations, including Canada, in 2017. On April 2, 2019 the Government of Canada announced in a news release that Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average. The report added that Canadians are experiencing the costs of climate-related extremes first hand, from devastating wildfires and flooding to heat waves and droughts.

In January of 2019, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) reported that climate change is linked to depression, anxiety and stress disorders in Canada.

There is a grassroots movement afoot to address the climate crisis in Canada and it’s called the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a political idea to tackle the climate crisis.

There have been more than 150 Green New Deal town hall gatherings across Canada this month alone, in cities like Toronto and Vancouver and smaller communities like Barrie and Wiarton. On May 25 there was one in a barn on a farm outside of Scone on Grey Road 3.

“In part it comes out of the LEAP manifesto and a lot of different progressive groups wanting to push society to make changes, not just on climate issues, but on social justice issues too,” explained Brenda Hsueh, an organic farmer who hosted the event at Black Sheep Farm.

Hsueh decided to take up the challenge of hosting a town hall because as an organic farmer most of her work is done in isolation and she wanted to see who else in her community was as angry and frustrated with society’s lack of action on this major issue.

Twenty-four people from different walks of life and different ages, including several local organic farmers, showed up as concerned as Hsueh about the climate crisis and the need for action now.

The Green New Deal calls on workers, students, union members, migrants, community organizations and people all across the country to gather and design a plan for a safe and prosperous future for all. It is a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity and meet the demands of the multiple crises.

In her opening remarks, Hsueh asked people to be “mindful that we are gathered today on the traditional land of the Three Fire Confederacy of the Ojibway, Potawatomi and Odawa people.”

Before beginning small group discussions she explained the concept of “green line” statements as a way to identify what people want to see and support in communities and the country. “Red line” statements identify what people do not want to see or support. The statements might be about labour, Indigenous peoples, food, disabilities, public transportation, health, agriculture, war, youth and faith to name just a few social justice topics. MORE

RELATED:

Kelowna town hall meeting attracts crowd pushing for action on ‘climate crisis’
Guelph: Community creates shared vision for Green New Deal

Biodiversity crisis is about to put humanity at risk, UN scientists to warn

Apart from human overconsumption, agriculture, transportation, and energy production are the clear drivers that are leading to mass extinction and threatening human well-being.

‘We are in trouble if we don’t act,’ say experts, with up to 1m species at risk of annihilation


Students protest in Adelaide. UN experts warned people alive today are at risk unless urgent action is taken. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/EPA

The world’s leading scientists will warn the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone for humanity when they release the results of the most comprehensive study of life on Earth ever undertaken.

Up to 1m species are at risk of annihilation, many within decades, according to a leaked draft of the global assessment report, which has been compiled over three years by the UN’s leading research body on nature.

The 1,800-page study will show people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for foodpollination, clean water and a stable climate.

“We need to appeal not just to environment ministers, but to those in charge of agriculture, transport and energy because they are the ones responsible for the drivers of biodiversity loss.”

“There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing both for current and future generations,” he said. “We are in trouble if we don’t act, but there are a range of actions that can be taken to protect nature and meet human goals for health and development.” MORE

RELATED:

Nature’s emergency: Where we are in five graphics
Canada On Pace to Meet Paris Emissions Target … In 200 Years