The IMI Journal—April 2020 Edition: The New Global Fault Lines

“The coronavirus pandemic has upended the global economic system, and just as importantly, cast out 40 years of neoliberal orthodoxy that dominated the industrialized world. Forget about the ‘new world order.’ Offshoring and global supply chains are out; regional and local production is in. Market fundamentalism is passé; regulation is the norm. Public health is now more valuable than just-in-time supply systems.” So begins my and co-author Marshall Auerback’s latest essay covering the economic shifts and new fault lines of the global economy after the pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, the Independent Media Institute’s many writers have gone the extra mile to cover the problems we face that the corporate media simply will not discuss. Sonali Kolhatkar’s latest article for Economy for All argues that “democratic governments have already used the virus to crack down on freedoms, while those regimes that were authoritarian to begin with have used the pandemic to grab even more power. Meanwhile in countries like the United States, the notion of freedom is being used to undermine public health.” It’s times like these that we need independent media more than ever to challenge the official narrative—or, in some cases, to challenge the absurdity of our political system. Author Bill Blum’s latest piece explains how the Supreme Court is poised to expand gun rights, right at the moment of a national health crisis.

And there are many, many ways to help those affected by this crisis, such as America’s hard-hit organic farmers, who don’t have easy outlets to sell their produce beyond restaurants, and farmers markets, which need to find ways to get to customers. April Short writing for Local Peace Economy explains the challenge, and how we all can participate.

And we want to do so much more to educate the public and decision-makers. If you understand how important and powerful independent media can be, please take the step to support our work. We can’t do this alone!

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the Team at the Independent Media Institute

Coronavirus Shows Humanity That It’s Entirely Possible to Avert Climate Disaster

Tiny terror: Coronavirus CG illustration (Image credit: Yuri Samoilo/Flickr)

The global lockdown has given Mother Nature a breath of fresh air.

By Reynard Loki, Independent Media Institute

Amidst all the terrible news about the spreading coronavirus epidemic, a scintillating fact has emerged that can energize the environmental movement: The global slowdown in human activity has given Mother Nature some time to take a much-needed breath of fresh air. Between travel restrictions, reductions in public transport and overall economic activity that generates emissions—such as coal burning, refining oil and producing steel—the climate is getting the kind of rest from destructive human activity it hasn’t gotten since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

The lockdown in China (the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases), for example, has cut the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 100 million metric tons in just two weeks, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a UK-based climate policy watchdog. That’s down a quarter from the same two-week period in 2019. Observations made by NASA and European Space Agency pollution monitoring satellites appear to confirm the analysis. They show a sudden and steep decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—an air pollutant emitted by power plants, factories and vehicles—over China during mid-February when the nation entered a quarantine.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Back to nature: The maps above show nitrogen dioxide values across China from January 1-20, 2020 (before the quarantine), and February 10-25 (during the quarantine). (Image credit: European Space Agency via NASA)

While these are significant and sudden reductions and were achieved over a remarkably brief period of time, they are temporary. The long-term effects on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and other atmospheric pollutants are unclear. On one hand, Chinese authorities may try to boost production after the pandemic is over in an attempt to make up for the lost time. On the other hand, the economic impact of the pandemic may suppress the global demand for Chinese goods for months or even years to come.

“Any sustained impact on fossil-fuel use would come from reduced demand, which initial indicators suggest could have a major impact. For example, February car sales are forecast to fall by 30 percent below last year’s already depressed levels,” writes Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “If consumer demand is reduced—for example, due to unpaid wages during the crisis cascading through the rest of the economy—then industrial output and fossil-fuel use might not recover, even though capacity is available to do so.”

Still, the findings offer climate activists a tantalizing fact: It is technically feasible to achieve big reductions in pollutants that are fueling the climate crisis. All that’s required is a break in economic production and human activity. But while a global pandemic can instigate a break in human activity, the climate crisis hasn’t been able to make a dent in it. Why is that?

For one thing, the coronavirus pandemic has a clear killer: a microorganism. And the global death toll is rising by the hour as the virus jumps from person to person. The climate crisis, on the other hand, doesn’t have a distinct killer. There have been countless deaths tied to all the human activity that is the cause of the climate crisis: heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, and yes, even diseases, like Lyme disease, the normal range of which has spread due to warming climates. And, course, there is the invisible killer that’s not a microorganism: air pollution, which is caused by a number of toxic chemicals, some of which are greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet. But the fatalities associated with climate impacts are many steps removed from the actual causes, which are simply a matter of degree: too many cars and trucks on the roads, too many planes in the sky, too many bulldozers clearing rainforests, too many factories, air conditioners, large-screen televisions, mansions. Ultimately, too many people consuming too many things.

Let’s say COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, ends up killing seven million people this year. That figure would probably shock most people. But that is the same number of people who die from air pollution—every single year. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, writes, “Black carbon, methane, and nitrogen oxides are powerful drivers of global warming, and, along with other air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and ozone, they are responsible for over seven million deaths each year, about one in eight worldwide.”

And that’s just air pollution. Heat exposure, coastal flooding and diseases like malaria and dengue—all increased by climate change—could cause approximately 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050, according to the World Health Organization. A study led by Oxford University forecast that by 2050, climate-related reductions in food availability (primarily fruits and vegetables) will cause an additional 529,000 adult deaths worldwide.

Sadly, no one knows these statistics, because—tragically for all the people who might be saved, and for the planet—the mainstream news media barely covers the climate. The figures are shocking. Major network news programs devoted barely four hours to the climate crisis over the entirety of 2019, according to a recent study by Media Matters. That amounts to a paltry 0.7 percent of overall evening broadcasts and the Sunday morning news shows.

Clearly, we cannot rely on the media. And we can’t rely on world leaders, either. According to a recent report by a panel of world-class scientists, “The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges,” the majority of the carbon emission reduction pledges for 2030 that 184 countries made under the international accord aren’t nearly enough to prevent global warming from exceeding 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The authors further note that some nations won’t even meet their pledges, and some of the biggest polluters will even increase their emissions.

It’s up to you and me, and every single individual who wants a healthy planet for ourselves, our children and future generations. And environmental activists should use this moment in history to help people understand that we can, we should and we must make changes to our behavior, our lifestyles, and our consumption habits.

Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has changed daily human life in ways small (like the length of time we wash our hands) and big (like how we work and play). It also demonstrates one salient fact: Our everyday activities impact so many things—not just our own personal health, but the health of our local communities and even the entire planet. Coronavirus is a killer, but it can also be a teacher. Let’s learn all of its lessons.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Reynard Loki is a senior writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s “Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016.” His work has been published by Truthout, Salon,, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

Earth | Food | Life (EFL) explores the critical and often interconnected issues facing the climate/environment, food/agriculture and nature/animal rights, and champions action; specifically, how responsible citizens, voters and consumers can help put society on an ethical path of sustainability that respects the rights of all species who call this planet home. EFL emphasizes the idea that everything is connected, so every decision matters.

Click here to support the work of EFL and the Independent Media Institute.

Questions, comments, suggestions, submissions? Contact EFL editor Reynard Loki at [email protected]. Follow EFL on Twitter @EarthFoodLife.

The IMI Journal—March 2020 Edition: Independent Media Is a Medicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

No matter where you look, the global COVID-19 pandemic shows how independent media plays a vital role in a crisis. The public is looking for trustworthy sources, and a check on the corporate media. The propaganda and disinformation rage on—the crisis was largely minimized for weeks, and the right-wing media continue to spread doubt and xenophobia about it. Corporate media has done little to ask questions about the private wealth being generated by for-profit health care companies, or the many shortcomings of our public health systems. IMI’s writing fellows and dozens of partner publications have already done essential reporting. And we’ve only just begun to roll up our sleeves.

This is a public health crisis that quickly has taken over so many important elements in our society, from voting and democracy, to health care, to economic questions. IMI’s reporting educates the public and helps people with authority and responsibility to make better decisions in the public interest.

With the impact of coronavirus forecast to last beyond November and into the next presidential term, we face a series of unprecedented questions during both the nomination process and the national presidential election itself. Steven Rosenfeld has led the way in his coverage for IMI’s Voting Booth project on why the U.S. isn’t ready to switch to a national vote-by-mail system any time soon, and that critical parts of the ongoing Democratic nomination process—delegate selection—are already facing major logistical challenges.

Nancy Altman of IMI’s Economy for All project zeroed in on Donald Trump’s cynical attack on Social Security, right as the coronavirus started to take over the nation. Efforts by the right wing and corporate media to undermine our social safety net in a time of crisis must be thwarted.

Reynard Loki of Earth | Food | Life writes that the international market for critically endangered and trafficked pangolins was a likely intermediary in the initial spread of coronavirus, something that could be prevented if humanity could lessen its appetite for collecting wild animals for their appearance or perceived medical value.

Essays by Marshall Auerback and Vijay Prashad look at the international stage of affairs. Auerback pointed to the cracks in the neoliberal order revealed by the coronavirus, as global supply chains and finance become stretched and stressed. Prashad argued that U.S. sanctions on countries like Venezuela and Iran are likely to vastly increase mortality rates and suffering on their populations.

We have much more high-quality journalism in the pipeline that we look forward to sharing with the millions of readers and key decision-makers in many areas of life who rely on media and reporting like the kind we are producing to make the best of the situation and prevent the worst from happening.

And we can’t do this alone—please consider supporting our work today.

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the team at the Independent Media Institute

The IMI Journal—February 2020 Edition: Are You Up To Speed?

The Democratic primary process started with a thud, exactly along the lines that Steven Rosenfeld, chief correspondent of our Voting Booth project, had been reporting on and warning about for the past year: untested technology and poor training in Iowa fostered greater distrust in our voting systems.

It could have been even worse—Rosenfeld’s reporting earlier last year helped prevent the Democratic Party from adopting a disastrous online and telephone system for the caucus filled with security holes.

Rosenfeld’s reporting is read and trusted by the voting community—and helps them make better decisions in the future. There are certainly many more key decisions to come before November.

Voting Booth has been reporting from Nevada to cover the rollout of yet another poorly tested app that will be deployed to more untrained caucus volunteers and party officials. The more we cover these stories in detail, the less likely we’ll see the same problems in the rest of the caucuses and primaries this year.

Are you up to speed?

Of course the election is pressing and an area of focus for us. And we also have many other projects going on that cover the troubling issues of our times.

Are you familiar with how we operate and what we’re doing? Corporate media simply is failing at its job, digital media has splintered audiences and shrunk attention spans—and there is still important media work to be done.

I’m asking you to consider how important it is to support media in times like these, read about our model below, and please join us. Can you help us with a generous annual gift, or if you prefer, to be a regular contributor? We can’t do it alone.

Our model is to get the maximum audience and impact on the big issues of our times. In a nutshell, we:

  • Syndicate our stories to publishing partners to get our writers’ work published simultaneously in a collective audience that reaches millions, in the U.S. and, increasingly, internationally. Many of the issues we work on are global, and there is a big appetite across the world for good reporting on the environment, and the struggles for independence and democracy.
  • We “publish” our articles in full via our big email lists and partners, reaching hundreds of thousands—did you know that many people prefer reading quality journalism via email instead of through the internet? Seventy percent of the people who open our stories read them to the end.
  • We get our journalists in touch with media outlets to get them booked on radio and TV to talk about the work we produced with them.

Yes, there’s lots to worry about, but it’s more productive to DO SOMETHING about it!

Check out some of the other big stories we’ve been working on recently:

Earth | Food | Life editor Reynard Loki and the journalists he works with go after the big targets: climate change and habitat loss, fossil fuel companies and other big polluters. And they also know that the job of environmentalism is to tell stories that shift our consciousness about the way we live. Read Leslie Crawford’s essay that challenges us to consider how different we are from an octopus.

We worked for weeks to produce a major and totally unreported story with Our SchoolsJeff Bryant on Amazon and other large corporations’ efforts to insert themselves into the public schools, focusing on Virginia. It’s yet another front in the war to defend public education, a pillar of our democracy.

Economy for All’s chief contributor is Nancy Altman, who for decades has been a national leader in defending Social Security from the many attempts in Washington to slash it. Read her response to Donald Trump’s claims in the State of the Union that he has nothing but good intentions toward Social Security.

By supporting IMI, you are on the frontlines of exposing and addressing the systemic threats to our democracy, environment, and most cherished values. Please support us now.

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team!

Earth | Food | Life: Covering the Climate Crisis and Our Broken Food System

Earth | Food | Life (EFL), a project of the Independent Media Institute (IMI), produces and publishes reports on climate change threats, provocative animal rights essays, and insights on the frontlines of the food revolution that is sweeping America—increasingly organic, increasingly sustainable, increasingly humane. In the past six months alone, EFL has worked with more than 30 authors—including IMI writing fellows, freelance reporters, consumer advocates, frontline activists and experts across several fields—to bring dozens of exclusive articles to readers across the globe.

In recent months, EFL has held both the Trump administration and the corporate sector accountable for malfeasance, unethical decision-making and promoting profit over public health, the environment and the rights and welfare of animals. EFL editor Reynard Loki recently talked to Emmy Award-winning director of “Gasland” Josh Fox about his new performance project, “The Truth Has Changed,” which reveals how big data and big oil are fueling climate denial and the right-wing misinformation campaign to get Trump reelected in 2020. Trump’s White House was also in the crosshairs of Elliott Negin, who denounced the administration’s sustained and repeated attacks on science, while Adam Kolton condemned Trump’s reckless push to drill in the Arctic.

Our broken food system also remains a central focus of Earth | Food | Life. David Coman-Hidy, Tia Schwab, Priya Sawhney and Taylor Ford each unveiled different aspects of the animal cruelty inherent in factory farms, while also spotlighting deceptive corporate practices that keep consumers in the dark, and Elizabeth Henderson uncovered the financial plight of small family farms facing the powerful forces of food sector consolidation, including unfair food pricing. Laurel Sutherlin, Michael Green and Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner explored various ubiquitous—and legal—substances in our food system, some of which, like PFAS, are toxic to humans, and others, like palm oil, which threaten biodiversity and endangered wildlife through rampant—and sometimes illegal—deforestation.

In 2020, EFL will continue to produce hard-hitting reports, exposés and op-eds to reveal how both the public and private sectors have been working to undermine advancements and protections in animal rights, food safety, and the environment. In addition, EFL will continue to produce weekly “Take Action Tuesday” newsletters, which give readers easy ways to have their voices heard through petitions, consumer pledges and letters to state and federal legislators.

About Earth | Food | Life:

Edited by Reynard Loki, Earth | Food | Life explores the critical and often interconnected issues facing the climate/environment, food/agriculture and animal/nature rights, and champions action; specifically, how responsible citizens, voters, and consumers can help put society on an ethical path of sustainability that respects the rights of all species who call this planet home. Earth | Food | Life emphasizes the idea that everything is connected, so every decision matters.

To learn more, visit Earth | Food | Life on the web, on Twitter, or email EFL editor Reynard Loki at [email protected].

Jeff Bryant’s Commentary on Charter School Funds Waste Published in Chicago Tribune

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on the Chicago Tribune on December 17, 2019.

Click to read the full article online.

Commentary: Millions wasted on charter schools


Between 2006 and 2014, the federal government gave the state of Iowa millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants to open 11 new charter schools. Ten of them promptly failed, after burning through more than $3.66 million of taxpayers’ money.

During the same period, Kansas received $8.9 million in federal grants to finance 29 new charter schools. Twenty-two of those schools 76% closed or never opened for even a day, wasting almost $6.4 million.

Georgia received 140 federal grants for charter schools, with more than half the schools closing, at a cost of $23 million. Delaware’s federally funded charter schools had a nearly equal attrition rate eight out of 14, a loss of $3.6 million.

These are just a few of the jaw-dropping findings in a new report from the Network for Public Education, an advocacy group started by Diane Ravitch and other educators to support public schools and oppose efforts to privatize education.


The above is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on the Chicago Tribune on December 17, 2019.

Click to read the full article online.

MIR Director Kali Holloway Interviewed in H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online

The following is an excerpt of an interview that was originally published on H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. Click to read the full interview online.

Confederate Symbols in Monument and Memory is an H-Slavery discussion series on monuments and memorials commemorating the Confederacy and historical memory. It follows ongoing contests over the placement of monuments to the Confederacy and other forms of commemoration on public grounds and examines debates over their purpose and implications.

This post features an interview conducted by H-Slavery editor Alex Tabor (Carnegie Mellon University) with Kali Holloway, Senior Director of the Make It Right Project—an Independent Media Institute initiative to “do more than just ‘raise awareness’ or ‘start a national conversation’” about Confederate monuments and statues that instead “aims to genuinely move the needle, creating measurable, visible change.” Ms. Holloway is currently a Senior Writer at the Independent Media Institute and the co-curator of the Theater of the Resist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; she has contributed to several HBO and PBS documentary films and her writing has appeared in the Guardian, TIME, and The Huffington Post, among several other outlets.

H-Net’s interview with Kali Holloway can be accessed here. Visit here to learn more about Kali Holloway and the work of the Independent Media Institute or Make It Right Project.

How does the Make It Right Project relate to other initiatives hosted by the Independent Media Institute (IMI)?

Great question. At the time of the Independent Media Institute’s founding in 1987, there was a clear and pressing need for greater public access to, and elevation of, progressive journalism that covered news often overlooked by mainstream outlets, and which engaged perspectives ignored by the corporate press. In the decades since, that need has grown exponentially. We’re at a point of staggering hyper-partisanship and disinformation in conservative media, and ever-increasing corporatism within mainstream media overall, both factors that have had devastating consequences on the political, social and cultural shape of this country. IMI’s approach to addressing those issues is essentially holistic. We serve as a platform—a clearinghouse of sorts—for independent journalism dedicated to addressing systemic issues across the board via projects/verticals dedicated to topics from voting rights, to education, to the economy, to climate/environment. The Make It Right Project’s journalistic output is part of IMI’s larger effort to produce crucial media that then appears in over a dozen major progressive and independent outlets in the U.S. IMI’s collective journalistic output shows how none of these issues are siloed—and IMI’s coverage of those topics illuminates their interrelatedness. We think of IMI’s work, which touches on so many areas, as offering a broad vision look at the critical issues we’re facing on every front and where they intersect, with incisive ideas on how to address them and create substantive social change. 

How does the Make It Right Project differ from other initiatives that seek to draw attention to Confederate monuments and inform different audiences about their history and meaning?

We frequently work in collaboration and coalition with other groups around the country that are either singularly dedicated to removing Confederate markers—and we also partner with organizations whose mission stretches beyond, but also includes, the removal of Confederate memorials. The latter includes local chapters of groups like Black Lives Matter, NAACP, DSA, the Women’s March and SURJ; the former describes partners such as local divisions of Take Em Down, Chapel Hill’s Move Silent Sam, and De-Confederate Austin. One slight difference between us and some of our collaborators is that, while we endorse every good-faith effort to take down tributes to the Confederacy—in whatever form those tributes take, including roads, schools, building and city names—Make It Right is focused specifically on the removal of monuments and statues. We also place an emphasis on journalism and media as a means of public outreach and engagement, a focus informed both by the fact that I come to this work as a journalist and IMI’s background is in independent media. That said, we are always more than happy to bolster the work of like-minded groups with differing targets. 


The above is an excerpt of an interview that was originally published on H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. Click to read the full interview online.

IMI Fellow’s Reporting Points to Progressive Priorities for 2018 & 2020 Voting Issues

Fellow Steven Rosenfeld issued three recent reports on the upcoming elections and why it’s crucial to America’s future for voters to maintain faith in the democratic system—and dangerous to spread information to the contrary, without evidence.

GOP Attempts To Purge Voter Rolls Failing Before Midterm

As a key deadline approaches next week on updating statewide voter rolls before the November election, it appears a controversial data-mining operation mostly used by red states to purge legitimate voters is withering, or at least dormant, in 2018.

Read More

A Letter to the Author of a Very Misguided Article About the Hacking of American Elections

Dear Michael Harriot: Your latest article in The Root—arguing that Russia hijacked the 2016 presidential vote count and the “updated” essay attempting to clean up those errors but not backing down—isn’t merely another edgy musing with dots that don’t that connect, or substituting your gut feeling for proof.

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Putin’s Propaganda War Is Key to His Meddling in U.S. Politics—And We’re Not Prepared for It

A curious dichotomy has appeared in the American political world when it comes to preventing a repeat in 2018’s elections. While there’s been much ado and action from officials to prevent hacking the computer systems that comprise the voting process—one of Russia’s 2016 tactics, there’s also a corresponding absence of federal action when it comes to proactive efforts to stop online propaganda, which was Russia’s other major focus.

Read More

Rosenfeld’s reporting underscores how a rising tide of alarmist reporting about voter trends isn’t reflecting what’s new in 2018 nor will encourage Americans to believe their vote matters, will be counted, and that they can have confidence in the process. As the 2018 midterms approach, Americans of every political persuasion need to know what’s being done to safeguard voting from cyber threats, which is a lot, compared to the federal government’s hands-off approach allowing freewheeling online propaganda to continue largely unabated from 2016.

Make It Right’s 10 Most Unwanted Statues

This is the Make It Right Project‘s infographic for 10 Most Unwanted Confederate statues.

Photo credits:

All photographs have been cropped and modified from their originals.

  1. “Civil War Monument Dallas” by Jdaily57, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia.
  2. “Silent” by Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0, Flickr.
  3. “Lee Park, Charlottesville, VA,” by Cville dog, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia.
  4. “Body Language* and a Heritage of Hate, Sam Houston Park, Houston, Texas 0422101209BW” by Patrick Feller, CC BY 2.0, Flickr.
  5. “John C. Calhoun — Marion Square Park Charleston (SC) 2012” by Ron Cogswell, CC BY 2.0, Flickr.
  6. “Seattle – Lake View Cemetery – Confederate Veterans Memorial” by Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia.
  7. “P1030305” © 2009 James Popp, Flickr, all rights reserved.
  8. “9684 Heyward Shepherd Monument – Harpers Ferry, WV” by lcm1863, CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr.
  9. “Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy” by Mathew105601, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia.
  10. “Our Confederate Soldiers – Downtown Sculpture – Denton – Texas – USA” by Adam Jones, CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr.