What Pundit Ezra Klein Doesn’t Get About Parenting in a Looming Climate Crisis

One and done? Having smaller families is one of the most impactful ways to reduce anthropogenic emissions. (Photo credit: Edward Zulawski/Flickr)

It’s a matter of math: Bigger families mean more carbon emissions.

By Carter Dillard, Independent Media Institute

6 min read

Having the opportunity to write in the New York Times about having kids during the current climate crisis is a major opportunity to do good, by highlighting reforms that can promote smaller families as one of the most impactful long-run ways to reduce emissions and enhance equitable investments in each child (through things like baby bonds) to help prepare them to deal with the consequences of climate change in the future.

New York Times columnist Ezra Klein recently had that opportunity, but that’s not the opinion piece he ended up writing (“You’re Kids Are Not Doomed,” June 5, 2022), and many are disappointed.

Instead, Klein did what Elon Musk, Mitt Romney, many growth-minded economists and dozens of other relatively wealthy white men have done. He pushed people (women, actually) to have kids. Instead of offering a nuanced response to the problems, Klein framed the issue as a simple idea about having kids, and then urged people to go forward and have them.

Who benefits from that advice, which many studies show is the worst way to exacerbate the climate crisis? The investor class, according to Nobel laureate Steven Chu. A class that, according to another economist, ignores the need to stabilize the human population at a much lower level than what exists today.

Klein gave it away when he said: “This is a vision of more, not less.” Does he mean more consumers, workers, and taxpayers who heighten the pyramid scheme that benefits the wealthy class? His recipe for the future is simply to ensure more of the same system that created the crisis, where a few influence the fate of many, and risk the worst of outcomes for generations to come.

Forget what the climate crisis will do to future generations and just consider more immediate issues that most men who push women to have children miss. In the United States alone in 2019, state agencies identified an estimated 1,840 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect—an average of five children a day. Internationally the number of children “exposed to violence” could be as high as 1 billion. To ensure a better future for the children, we need to create a conducive environment to help protect them. We need to collectively plan, not push.

Urging people to just have kids is especially surprising for Klein, who routinely champions veganism and animal rights. Given that a small percentage of people will change what they consume to protect animals, he is undoing with one hand what he claims to be doing with the other. Few animals will benefit from the arrival of more humans on the planet. Human activity has already “shrunk wildlife populations by 60 percent.”

Instead of an anthropocentric view of the world, which mostly benefits the few, we need to look at a reformative ecocentric view that benefits everyone. The most thoughtful and caring people are not having kids because of the harm they will suffer today, because of a crisis fundamentally created by others having kids without considering the long-term effects of their choices. Simply urging people to have kids exacerbates this situation: Human population growth is a fundamental driver of the Anthropocene. It also continues a centuries-long process of growth in which humans have slowly traded consensual political relations for exploitative commercial ones, based on the fallacy that having kids is a more personal choice that parents have the right to make rather than an interpersonal choice involving society.

Why not promote a climate-responsive change in culture that urges parents to show readiness to delay having kids and have smaller families, as well as promote redistribution of wealth to offset childhood inequity? Why not urge greenhouse gas emitting people in the United States to have fewer kids, and to invest instead in protecting children abroad—through adoption and otherwise—who are at imminent risk of starvation because of our climatological impacts?

This could also help eliminate the massive and growing gap between Black and white kids in the United States via wealth transfers, and ensure birth conditions that are at least consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? Certainly now would be a good time to question the fundamental power structure, and nothing is more fundamental than how we see our species relative to others, or our position in the political hierarchy relative to other persons, whether we are born poor or rich, for example. Why see those relations as commercial ones, rather than as a chance to reverse birth destiny and create true equality of opportunity?

The climate crisis was created by a universal family planning model devoid of the need to protect nonhuman animals and nature, to ensure birth equity or a fair start in life, and to have children for functional democracies. Political scientists, like Leah Stokes, whom Klein cited, missed this point. Urging people to have more kids because one might become a Greta Thunberg, and thus solve the problem created by the act of having so many kids, is an exemplary idea of that thought process. The costs of Stokes’ and other people’s mistakes are astronomical and climbing. The crisis means we should change that model. Klein recommends nothing of the sort. Instead, we get cliches: “To bring a child into this world has always been an act of hope.” And hyperbole: “I don’t just prefer a world of net-zero emissions to a world of net-zero children.” And naivete: “If the commitments world governments have made since the Paris climate accord hold, we’re on track for a rise of 2 degrees or even less.” He should know that non-legally binding commitments are toothless, and ultimately, meaningless.

Still, Klein, his children, and many of the people he interviews benefitted and continue to benefit from an unsustainable system of growth that places its costs and suffering on others, thoughtful people whose right to have children has been impacted by others, and future generations who will suffer the loss of the natural environment that allowed past generations to flourish. There is a strong baseline argument that recovering those costs from the wealthy and using those resources to institute post-climate change family reforms described herein—incentivizing eco-socially restorative families—is the most effective long-run way to do good today. There is an increasingly accepted argument that such reparations existentially precede and thereby override property rights (the majority of rights holders are future generations), enabling people to seize the wealth as recompense.

And while Klein’s advice will go to benefit the pyramids of power described by the Nobel laureate Steven Chu above that created by people like former U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, reparations that limit and decentralize their power—per one recent peer-reviewed article—may be our best long-term hope for true democracy. That decentralization must address the wealth gap and include a shift to an equitable socioeconomic system that represents and empowers women and children.

That is the fundamental power shift that our species, from people who are animal advocates to the conservative National Review (which sides with Klein), is evading, perhaps because it is truly fundamental. That’s all the more reason to do it.

One question remains: How will Ezra Klein, Elon Musk and Mitt Romney pay for those costs?


Carter Dillard is the policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement. He served as an Honors Program attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and served with a national security law agency before developing a comprehensive account of reforming family planning for the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. See his recent EFL pieces on NationofChange, EcoWatch and iEyeNews.

Take action…

Charred life: Coal is loaded onto a train’s coal tender in the town of Traralgon, in Victoria, Australia. (Photo credit: Michael Greenhill/Flickr)

Children petition Australian government to honor Paris Agreement, give up coal

“The UN Environment Programme reports the targets offered up by countries, including Australia, are too low to keep global warming under 1.5° Celsius. The reason why children are organizing this petition is that we can’t vote and climate change is going to have a bigger impact on our generation. We want to have our voices heard—the voices of the future. We, the children of Australia, therefore call on the Commonwealth Government of Australia to commit to renewable energy and a climate policy that contributes to stopping climate change and honors the nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and the Green Climate Fund. More coal is not going to help. We hope that you consider us and our future in your policy-making.” —Ella-Mei Graham, Change.org

Sign Ella-Mei’s petition urging Australia to honor its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Letter to the editor…

Damn dam: A dam in Hordaland, Norway. Dams threaten the life cycles of fish by blocking their movements along their natural migrations between feeding and spawning locations, disrupting their reproductive ability. (Photo credit: Astrid Westvang/Flickr)

Dear Earth | Food | Life,

Though big dams are generally more destructive than beneficial (10 Reasons Why Hydropower Dams Are a False Climate Solution,” Josh Klemm and Eugene Simonov, EFL/CounterPunch, April 8, 2022), so-called “microhydro power” can be both sustainable and useful. Microhydro is small-scale and suitable for local use, but not utility-scale. The installations often do not require any dam at all, or at most a low dam across which fish and other animals can easily pass. The idea is to collect some of the stream flow at a higher elevation and divert it through a pipe to a generator at a lower elevation, from where the water is returned to the river. Obviously, only a portion of the stream is diverted so the stream continues flowing free, just with somewhat less water. Droughts would make microhydro useless, but floods would have no impact on a well-designed system.

We need to use as many alternatives for clean energy as possible, and not eliminate any alternative that seems viable. In addition to microhydro, we should also consider tidal, wave, and ocean current systems, though these also have issues. Tidal power in particular often requires damming a bay or estuary, which is as destructive as a freshwater dam or even more so. Wave and current systems may be preferred, but these also have their own set of environmental impacts. These are all currently small-scale systems, but then again, so is rooftop solar. Every little bit helps.

Fusion is the holy grail of clean energy, and it looks now like fusion is coming, maybe in time, to help us as quickly as any other development. Fusion is the best utility-scale form of clean energy because the footprint is so much smaller than solar or wind. Finally, though it is unpopular with many environmentalists, burning non-fossil methane for energy actually makes sense if the methane is going to enter the atmosphere anyway. This does not include fracking or drilling of course but does include methane from decomposition and possibly methane bubbling up from methane sea ice. Burning the methane converts it into carbon dioxide more quickly than natural processes would, and methane is more potent as a greenhouse gas, so this is a benefit. Also, we get the energy that would otherwise have to come from other sources. This kind of methane use should not impact the environment or the Indigenous people.

Rejecting viable energy sources is foolish; it will only make fossil fuels more necessary if we insist on only using perfect energy systems—of which there are none, in fact. Both wind and solar require vast amounts of materials, the production of which causes plenty of environmental damage. Solar and wind projects are big—displacing the natural inhabitants of the area. Thermal solar projects require water and are often built in the desert: a bad combination. Wind turbines kill birds. Geothermal projects can cause earthquakes, limiting safe locations to unpopulated areas. Of course, drilling for fossil fuels also causes earthquakes, but let’s not advocate for more fossil fuels. The point is that every form of energy has adverse environmental impacts. Using less energy is therefore always a good thing. But human civilization requires energy, so we are going to have to make compromises.

—Larry Lawton, Aberdeen, Washington, April 12, 2022

Parting thought…

Newbie: A sprout breaks through. (Photo credit: Andrew Gustar/Flickr)

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” —Henry David Thoreau

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.

How I Found Myself Befriending a Wild Fox

Unforgettable: A wild fox started showing up on the author’s property every day at 4:15 pm, and sat next to a lone forget-me-not. (Photo credit: Catherine Raven)

A scientist went against the grain on her industry’s rule against anthropomorphizing nonhuman animals—here’s what she discovered.

By Catherine Raven, Independent Media Institute

8 min read

This excerpt is from Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven. Copyright © 2021 by the author and reprinted with permission of Spiegel & Grau, LLC. It was adapted for the web by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Editor’s note: At 15, Catherine Raven left home and headed west to work as a national park ranger. She later earned a PhD in biology and built an off-the-grid house on an isolated plot of land in Montana, making a living by remote teaching and leading field classes in Yellowstone National Park. One day, she noticed that the wild fox who had been showing up on her property was now appearing every day at 4:15 p.m. One day she brought a camping chair outside and sat just feet away from him. And then she began to read to him from The Little Prince. Her memoir about the relationship that developed between them, Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship, is the winner of the 2022 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

For 12 consecutive days, the fox had appeared at my cottage. At no more than one minute after the sun capped the western hill, he lay down in a spot of dirt among the powdery blue bunchgrasses. Tucking the tip of his tail under his chin and squinting his eyes, he pretended to sleep. I sat on a camp chair with stiff spikes of bunchgrass poking into the canvas. Opening a book, I pretended to read. Nothing but 2 meters and one spindly forget-me-not lay between us. Someone may have been watching us—a dusky shrew, a field mouse, a rubber boa—but it felt like we were alone with the world to ourselves.

On the thirteenth day, at around 3:30 and no later than 4 p.m., I bundled up in more clothing than necessary to stay comfortably warm and went outside. Pressing my hands together as if praying, I pushed them between my knees while I sat with my feet tapping the ground. I was waiting for the fox and hoping he wouldn’t show.

Two miles up a gravel road in an isolated mountain valley and 60 miles from the nearest city, the cottage was not an appropriate arrangement for a girl on her own. My street was unnamed, so I didn’t have an address. Living in this remote spot left me without access to reasonable employment. I was many miles beyond reach of cell phone towers, and if a rattlesnake bit me, or if I slipped climbing the rocky cliff behind the cottage, no one would hear me cry for help. Of course, this saved me the trouble of crying in the first place.

I had purchased this land three years earlier. Until then I had been living up valley, renting a cabin that the owner had “winterized,” in the sense that if I wore a down parka and mukluks to bed, I wouldn’t succumb to frostbite overnight. That was what I could afford with the money I’d earned guiding backcountry hikers and teaching field classes part-time. When a university offered me a one-year research position, you might think I would have jumped at the chance to leave. Not just because I was dodging icicles when entering the shower, but because riding the postdoc train was the next logical step for a biologist. But I didn’t jump. I made the university wait until after I had bought this land. Then I accepted and rented a speck of a dormitory room at the university, 130 miles away. Every weekend, through snowstorms and over icy roads, I drove back here to camp. Perching on a small boulder, listening to my propane stove hissing and the pinging sound of grasshoppers flying headfirst into my tent’s taut surface, I felt like I was part of my land. I had never felt part of anything before. When the university position ended, I camped full-time while arranging for contractors to develop the land and build the cottage.

Outside the cottage, from where I sat waiting for the fox, the view was beautiful. Few structures marred my valley; full rainbows were common. The ends of the rainbows touched down in the rolling fields below me, no place green enough to hide a leprechaun but a fair swap for living with rattlers. Still, I was torn. Even a full double rainbow couldn’t give me what a city could: a chance to interact with people, immerse myself in culture, and find a real job to keep me so busy doing responsible work that I wouldn’t have time for chasing a fox down a hole. I had sacrificed plenty to earn my PhD in biology: I had slept in abandoned buildings and mopped floors at the university. In exchange for which I had learned that the scientific method is the foundation for knowledge and that wild foxes do not have personalities.

When Fox padded toward me, a flute was playing a faint, hypnotic melody like the Pied Piper’s song in my favorite fairy tale. You remember: a colorfully dressed stranger appears in town, enticing children with his music to a land of alpine lakes and snowy peaks. When the fox curled up beside me and squinted, I opened my book. The music was still playing. No, it wasn’t the Pied Piper at all. It was just a bird—a faraway thrush.

The next day, while waiting for Fox’s 4:15 appearance, I thought about our upcoming milestone: 15 consecutive days spent reading together—six months in fox time. Many foxes had visited before him; some had been born a minute’s walk from my back door. All of them remained furtive. Against all odds, and over several months, Fox and I had created a relationship by carefully navigating a series of sundry and haphazard events. We had achieved something worth celebrating. But how to celebrate?

I decided to ditch him.

I poured coffee grounds from a red can into a pot of boiling water, waited to decant cowboy coffee, and thought about how to lose the fox. Maybe he wouldn’t come by anymore. I opened the door of the fridge. “Have I mistaken a coincidence for a commitment?”

The refrigerator had no answer and very little food. But it gave me an idea. I drew up a list of grocery items and enough chores to keep me busy until long after 4:15 p.m. and headed out. The supermarket was in a small town thirty miles down valley, and I had to drive with my blue southern sky behind me. Ahead, black-bottomed clouds with white faces chased each other into the eastern mountains. Below, in the revolving shade, Angus cattle, lambing ewes, and rough horses conspired to render each passing mile indistinguishable from the one before. Usually, I tracked my location counting bends in the snaky river, my time watching the clouds shift, and my fortune spotting golden eagles. (Seven was my record; four earned a journal entry.) Not today.

Now that I was free to be anywhere I wanted at 4:15 p.m., I returned to my mercurial habits and drove too fast to tally eagles. Imagine a straight open road with no potholes and not another rig in sight. Shifting into fifth gear, I straddled the centerline to correct the bevel toward the borrow pit and accelerated into triple digits. Never mind the adjective, I was mercury: quicksilver, Hg, hydrargyrum, ore of cinnabar, resistant to herding, incapable of assuming a fixed form. The steering wheel vibrated in agreement.

The privilege of consorting with a fox cost more than I had already paid. The previous week, while I was in town collecting my groceries, I got a wild hair to stop at the gym. The only person lifting weights was Bill, a scientist whom I had worked with in the park service. I mentioned that a fox “might” be visiting me. “As long as you’re not anthropomorphizing,” he responded. Six words and a wink left me mortified, and I slunk away. Anthropomorphism describes the unacceptable act of humanizing animals, imagining that they have qualities only people should have, and admitting foxes into your social circle. Anyone could get away with humanizing animals they owned—horses, hawks, or even leashed skunks. But for someone like me, teaching natural history, anthropomorphizing wild animals was corny and very uncool.

You don’t need much imagination to see that society has bulldozed a gorge between humans and wild, unboxed animals, and it’s far too wide and deep for anyone who isn’t foolhardy to risk the crossing. As for making yourself unpopular, you might as well show up to a university lecture wearing Christopher Robin shorts and white bobby socks as be accused of anthropomorphism. Only Winnie-the-Pooh would associate with you.

Why suffer such humiliation? Better to stay on your own side of the gorge. As for me, I was bushed from climbing in, crossing over, and climbing out so many times. Sometimes, I wasn’t climbing in and out so much as falling. Was I imagining Fox’s personality? My notion of anthropomorphism kept changing as I spent time with him. At this point, at the beginning of our relationship, I was mostly overcome with curiosity.

Catherine Raven is a former national park ranger at Glacier, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Voyageurs, and Yellowstone national parks. She earned a PhD in biology from Montana State University, holds degrees in zoology and botany from the University of Montana, and is a member of American Mensa and Sigma Xi. Her natural history essays have appeared in American Scientist, Mensa Journal, and Montana Magazine.

Take action…

Retire the hounds: Fox hunting was banned in England and Wales when the Hunting Act was passed in 2004. (Photo credit: Sarah Altendorf/Flickr)

Protect wild foxes in the United Kingdom from illegal hunting

Keep the Ban: “At least 84 percent of the U.K. population are in favor of fox hunting being illegal and yet there were attempts to weaken the act. The Hunting Act of 2004, which banned fox hunting, needs strengthening to ensure people are discouraged from participating in illegal hunting, and for those caught hunting, the penalty and arrest need to be more severe. We would like to see section 6 of the Act to be amended to add a provision for a prison sentence of up to six months for illegal hunting. Additionally, there should be a ‘reckless’ clause that will make it an offense for anyone to ‘cause or permit’ one or more dogs to seek out, chase, injure or kill a wild mammal. The widespread flouting of the ban continues to this day and these measures along with several other reforms could ensure wildlife is adequately protected.”

Urge U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to strengthen the 2004 Hunting Act to protect wild foxes.

Cause for concern…

Sea change: The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, part of the Earth’s oceanic “conveyor belt” that helps to regulate the world’s climate, has been slowing down in part due to human-caused climate change. (Image credit: NASA)

The collapse of a major Atlantic current would cause worldwide disasters

“A shutdown of a major current in the Atlantic Ocean would rapidly transform wind, temperature, and precipitation patterns across the whole globe, according to new research,” reports Lauren Leffer for Gizmodo. “The current is already slowing, likely at least in part because of human-caused climate change. Now, scientists have found that, if the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) collapses completely, there would be never-before-predicted impacts, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

“The northern Pacific Ocean would cool. Patches of the Northern Hemisphere would get drier, while patches of the South become wetter,” writes Leffer. “Atmospheric pressure would shift to be much higher over Eurasia and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Trade winds from the north would move farther south and get stronger. Other winds elsewhere would also intensify. Antarctic ice could melt even faster. In short: all the basics about the planet we know and love get thrown way out of whack. No corner of Earth is forecast to be unaffected by an AMOC collapse in the new research.”

Letter to the editor…

Market share: Indigenous women sell food at a municipal market in Tucuru, Guatemala. Food sovereignty holds that food producers, distributors and consumers are also the ones who define and control the policies and operations of the overall food and agricultural systems. (Photo credit: UN Women)

Dear Earth | Food | Life,

Last week, thanks to the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts and the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, I was able to join the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience. There, I had the honor of speaking with Congressmember Salud Carbajal, truly one of the food and labor warriors in Congress who’s working across party lines to help farmers, workers, and eaters alike.

Whether or not the politicians we voted for are the ones who end up representing us, he said that the communication between citizens and our elected officials is vital. Rep. Carbajal told me that the stories he hears from his constituents really matter, and he takes them seriously. A lot of folks might think it’s old-fashioned to write, email, or call your representatives, senators, and governors, but it really makes a difference. Do it right now—here’s a link to contact your elected officials.

And like many of us in the food system, Rep. Carbajal has also been devoting energy and thought to the Farm Bill. Yes, it’s a messy and complicated piece of legislation. It also holds massive potential to really help farmers, eaters, and businesses in the food and agriculture sectors to do things differently. One place to start is by incorporating food security and food sovereignty more strongly into the Farm Bill. I’m invigorated by an idea I’ve heard from Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, chef Andrew Zimmern, and others: A coordinated national food policy, or even a Secretary of Food or a Food and Farm Bill to unify our national and international approaches to food.

Dani Nierenberg
Food Tank
May 26, 2022


Friends, not food: Lina Lind Christensen, who runs the Danish sanctuary Frie Vinger (“Free Wings”), with a rescued hen. Frie Vinger rescues and re-homes battery hens saved from the egg industry. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/#unboundproject/We Animals Media)

Thinking about chickens differently

Though chickens are polygamous, mating with more than one member of the opposite sex, individual birds are attracted to each other. They not only “breed”; but they also form bonds, clucking endearments to one another throughout the day. A rooster does a courtly dance for his special hens in which he “skitters sideways and opens his wing feathers downward like Japanese fans,” according to Rick and Gail Luttmann’s book “Chickens in Your Backyard.” A man once told me, “When I was a young man I worked on a chicken farm, and one of the most amazing things about those chickens was that they would actually choose each other and refuse to mate with anyone else.”

Sadly, the eggs of these parent flocks are snatched away and sent to mechanical incubators, so the parents never see their chicks. “Breeder” roosters and hens are routinely culled for low fertility, and also because “if a particular male becomes unable to mate, his matching females will not accept another male until he is removed,” explains the book “Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production.”

Little more than a year later, the parents who have survived their miserable life are sent to slaughter just like the chicks they never got to see, raise or protect, as they would otherwise have chosen to do if they were free.

—EFL contributor Karen Davis, “On International Respect for Chickens Day, Try Thinking About Them Differently” (Countercurrents, April 26, 2022)

Parting thought…

Kisses: Susie Coston, the national shelter director of Farm Sanctuary, spends some quality time with one of the residents of the pig barn at the sanctuary’s Watkins Glen, New York, location. One of the largest farm animal sanctuaries in the U.S., Farm Sanctuary has provided a safe haven for thousands of rescued farm animals. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media)

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?” —Jonathan Safran Foer, “Eating Animals

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.

Let’s Get to the Heart of the Matter With Biolabs and Cows

Vicious cycle: The government subsidies that the cattle industry receives prove to be dangerous for our health while profiting the corporate subsidy recipients. (Photo credit: Rusty Clark/Flickr)

How can we justify slaughtering cows to repair our hearts, when the consumption of cows is what weakens our hearts?

By Maureen Medina, Independent Media Institute

6 min read

The demand for bovine heart valves to treat cardiovascular disease—the top global killer—is rising, and there is a cruel irony—with which I have firsthand experience—in how the cattle industry has become both the problem and the solution. We rely on medical treatments procured from cows to treat cardiovascular disease in humans, which is largely caused by our consumption of cows and other animals (red meat).

Brilliant marketing campaigns by the cattle industry have shielded us from the ugly truth all along: the cattle industry is only interested in making profits at the cost of our health and well-being and the lives of other animals.

The cattle industry profits from government-funded exploitation of cows under the guise of nutrition and medicine. Corporate giants in the food industry, such as Cargill and Tyson Foods, and medical technology giants, such as Edwards Lifesciences, all profit from the cattle they slaughter for their meat, dairy and tissue.

The government subsidies that the cattle industry receives prove to be dangerous for our health while profiting the corporate subsidy recipients. “‘[C]urrent federal agricultural subsidies focus on financing production of food commodities, a large portion of which are converted into high-fat meat and dairy products’ and other items that increase the risk for cardiometabolic risks in American adults,” stated the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, while quoting from a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University.

Yet “the U.S. government spends $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries, but only… $17 million… each year to subsidize fruits and vegetables,” according to a 2015 University of California, Berkeley paper.

It’s a vicious cycle that harms people and animals, and benefits profit-driven corporations. On one side, big agribusiness is slaughtering cows for meat and dairy—foods that researchers have linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other side, medical corporations are profiting from producing bovine heart valves.

Cargill, which is one of the largest beef processors in North America and earned $134.4 billion in 2021, has been dubbed “the worst company in the world” by environmental organization Mighty Earth for its unethical and unsustainable business practices and the environmental damage it has caused. In addition to perpetuating antibiotic resistance, Cargill has repeatedly been the source of multiple outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli, over the years, and is responsible for distributing millions of pounds of contaminated poultry and beef.

Tyson Foods is the world’s second-largest meat processor and one of four companies that control more than 80 percent of beef processing in the United States. In 2020, it earned about $43.2 billion, which is mostly attributed to its sale of beef. In 2015, Tyson Foods recalled approximately 16,000 pounds of ground beef products that may have been contaminated with E. coli and had to recall 8,955,296 pounds of chicken products due to potential contamination of listeria in 2021.

Edwards Lifesciences, with reported revenue of $4.4 billion in 2020, receives pig hearts and cow tissue daily and has federal approval to sell cow-based valves in the United States. It typically takes the pericardium from three cows to create one heart valve. The company has imported more than 100,000 batches of bovine tissue from Australia since 2020. Edwards Lifesciences predicts that “the global surgical structural heart market opportunity will reach $2 billion by 2028.”

In 2012, I received a 23 mm bovine valve from Edwards Lifesciences to replace my pulmonary valve.

At only 23 years of age, I had my second open-heart surgery. My sternum was cut and spread open, my heart muscle was exposed, my heart was stopped while a machine operated in its place, and my pulmonary valve was replaced with bovine tissue. This was the most extreme experience I have ever endured, yet, according to one estimate, the prevalence of heart valve surgery will increase from 290,000 to 890,000 between 2003 and 2050.

I was given the option of a mechanical heart valve but was told that, if I did, I would require anticoagulants for the rest of my life to prevent blood clotting; the other option was getting a biological valve, which was encouraged. Though the risks of clotting in biological valves are downplayed, especially in comparison to the risks associated with mechanical valves, my cardiologists from New York-Presbyterian/Cornell Medical Center have urged me—and others who have undergone similar procedures—to take blood thinners daily for the rest of our lives. With biological valves, which are associated with easy intraoperative handling and minimal suture line bleeding, there is a risk of degradation after 15-20 years due to calcification or inflammation; the course of action if that happens is to replace the valve once it expires.

I put my fate entirely in the doctors’ hands—as most people do—and, desperate to alleviate my symptoms rather than add to them, I chose to get a biological valve made from bovine tissue.

It took almost a year to be operated on, yet no preventative measures were taken or recommended to alleviate my pain. I begged for surgery because I thought it was the only way. But was it?

While many conditions (like mine) are congenital, we can still argue about nature versus nurture.

Research presented by the European Society of Cardiology found that eating greater amounts of red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death. According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, which involved more than 1.4 million people whose health was tracked for 30 years, for every 1.76 ounces of unprocessed red meat consumed per day, the risk of coronary heart disease increased by 9 percent. Heart disease claims approximately 17.9 million lives worldwide annually.

On condition of anonymity, one nurse shared with me, “Healthy people don’t make money.”

“More than 70 percent of chronic illnesses [including heart failure] can be prevented or reversed with a whole-food, plant-based dietary lifestyle,” according to the Plantrician Project. Yet, “the market for replacement heart valves is growing at a rate of about 13 percent every year globally and demand outstrips supply,” according to Stuff, a New Zealand-based news website.

There are about 10.4 million beef and dairy cattle in New Zealand, and the United States constitutes the biggest market for the pericardia extracted from these animals. One source reportedly refused to divulge to Stuff the number of cow pericardia extracted and sold per year, citing “commercial reasons.”

According to new research on the bovine pericardial market, “the market is expected to reach… $4,134.4 million by 2027 from… $1,959.7 million in 2019; it is estimated to grow at a… [compound annual growth rate (CAGR)] of 9.9 percent from 2020 to 2027.”

“[One] hurdle we cannot ignore is that there is no profit in health, while there are immense profits derived from disease; hence, the U.S. has created a ‘disease and disability’ care system, rather than a true ‘health’ care system built on the foundational pillar of prevention,” pointed out the Plantrician Project.

How can we justify slaughtering cows to repair our hearts, when the consumption of cows is what weakens our hearts? While discerning between farming corporations and medical corporations within the cattle industry, one must ask: Is there a difference?

For the good of human health, as well as the health of the planet and its nonhuman inhabitants (especially cows), it is important for each person to listen to their own body, and that they (in tandem with physicians) stay informed and explore preventative measures.


Maureen Medina is the founder of Leave in Peace and a campaign strategist and organizer for Slaughter Free NYC. In alignment with the idea that none of us are free unless all of us are free, Maureen hopes to inspire the pursuit of collective liberation through her writing. Find Maureen’s work on Linktree.

Take action…

Checkered: A 2019 satellite image of palm oil plantations in East Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island Borneo, reveals a scarred landscape that has threatened ecosystems, biodiversity and local populations. (Photo credit: European Space Agency/Flickr)

​​​​The worst company in the world: Cargill

“Numerous corporations are guilty of trashing nature. Major chocolate manufacturers, countless palm oil producers and global fast-food chains are all driving the decline of the world’s forests, savannas and other ecosystems. Yet when it comes to environmental destruction, Cargill dwarfs all the rest: If other corporations are piranhas, Cargill is a great white shark,” says Rainforest Rescue, a nonprofit environmental group based in Hamburg, Germany. “The U.S.-based multinational has a long and sordid history of duplicity, deception and destruction that earned it the title “worst company in the world” in a report by the NGO Mighty Earth. The report describes in detail how Cargill profits from the destruction of the environment and the exploitation of people and how it blocks urgently needed changes.

“In Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, Cargill is involved in the wholesale destruction of the Amazon, Grand Chaco and Cerrado ecosystems for the production of soy and beef,” the group states. “In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, Cargill buys cocoa that has been illegally grown in protected areas and national parks. The company also does not seem to have a problem with buying cocoa that was produced using child labor. In Indonesia and Malaysia, Cargill buys palm oil from companies that illegally clear rainforests and are involved in child and forced labor. Cargill ignores those issues: profits come before ethics.”

Tell McDonald’s, Burger King, Walmart and Unilever to drop Cargill from their supply chains.

Cause for concern…

Ship of fools: As global trade expands, the worldwide shipping industry’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions could rise from 3 percent today to 17 percent or more by 2050. (Photo credit: Andres Alvarado/Flickr)

Ship pollution is rising as the U.S. waits for world leaders to act

“As sales of electric cars increase and renewable energy proliferates, only a few shippers have begun to try zero-emission fuels and wind-propulsion technology,” reports Anna Phillips for the Washington Post. “Efforts to cut carbon emissions through international regulations have met resistance from shipbuilders, oil companies and countries aligned with the handful of major shippers dominating the industry.”

“On [June 6], the International Maritime Organization, the UN agency that regulates international shipping, brought together officials from more than 100 countries for a virtual meeting to discuss whether to raise their collective climate ambition. But the shipping and fossil fuel industries wield considerable influence in these negotiations: Financing for the IMO’s green ships initiative, for example, comes from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter.”

Round of applause…

Resistance: Thousands of activists gathered at San Francisco Civic Center on November 15, 2016, to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota and the gathering of water protectors standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo credit: Peg Hunter/Flickr)

Reversing Trump, EPA will restore Tribes’ and states’ power to oppose pipelines

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule restoring power to Tribes and states seeking to oppose pipeline projects on the grounds that such projects threaten waterways and wetlands, reversing a contentious Trump-era policy that imposed strict deadlines and limited reviews.

“For 50 years, the Clean Water Act has protected water resources that are essential to thriving communities, vibrant ecosystems, and sustainable economic growth,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s proposed rule builds on this foundation by empowering states, territories, and Tribes to use Congressionally granted authority to protect precious water resources while supporting much-needed infrastructure projects that create jobs and bolster our economy.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “The Clean Water Act quite clearly gives states, territories, and Tribes the ability to protect their water quality when projects are permitted or licensed.”

Letter to the editor…

Home sweet home: Moon bears rescued by Animals Asia enjoy their new lives at a sanctuary in Vietnam. (Photo credit: Animals Asia)

The end of bear bile farming in Vietnam

Dear Earth | Food | Life,

I am writing to you about great news in the animal welfare and biodiversity area: Animals Asia is ending bear bile farming in Vietnam. We are presenting the last bear sanctuary in the country to save the last remaining 310 bears from farms.

After we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese Government in 1997, bear bile farming was declared illegal in the country; and since then, we have been rescuing the remaining bears on bile farms. But our current bear rescue center in Tam Dao is now approaching its full capacity; therefore, we are about to break ground for a new sanctuary in Bach Ma. 

This 12-hectare sanctuary will be home to all rescued bears. Once the last bear is saved, this cruelty will be history for Vietnam and set a precedent for other countries in the region to follow. This is a monumental step in biodiversity since this cruel practice has been pushing moon and sun bears towards extinction in the country and is listed as “vulnerable to extinction” by International Union for Conservation of Nature. 


Nezahat E. Sevim
Global Head of Media Relations and PR
Animals Asia
May 24, 2022

Parting thought…

Smarter than you think: An arc-eyed hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus) keeping watch from a branching coral at Cod Hole in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit: Richard Ling/Flickr)

“Fish don’t have a three-second memory … in fact, they can be taught how to evade a trap and remember it a year later. Fish can learn from each other, recognize other fish they’ve spent time with previously, know their place within fish social hierarchies, and remember complex spatial maps of their surroundings. There’s even some evidence … that they use tools.” —Joseph Stromberg, “Are fish far more intelligent than we realize?” (Vox)

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.

Monkeys Infected With Transmissible Diseases Are Trucked Across U.S.

Targeted: A long-tailed macaque netted by the “Team Monkey,” the author’s research crew in Cambodia. He was sedated and blood, feces and saliva samples were collected by the team as part of a project to look at how infectious diseases move between humans and monkeys. He was then allowed to wake up and was released back into the forest to rejoin his troop. If he had been trapped for use in biomedical research he would never again see the forest, family or friends. (Photo credit: Lynn Johnson)

Experimenting on monkeys is cruel—and keeping them is a threat to public health.

By Lisa Jones-Engel, Independent Media Institute

7 min read

“Ramadewa looked at the numerous troops of monkeys. They were at ease and happy and showed their liveliness. All their movements, their noisy voices, their way of sleeping on branches made him happy just to look at them.”—Verse 151:V1, Kakawin Ramayana

I saw macaques for the first time along the river’s edge on the island of Borneo. It was 1983 and I was in a boat with scientist and conservationist Dr. Biruté Galdikas on our way to the orangutan rehabilitation and research site that she had established on the island. I was 17, I had never traveled outside the U.S., and I knew nothing about primates. Dr. Galdikas, who celebrated her 50th anniversary of orangutan fieldwork and conservation in 2021, took a chance on me.

I spent my first few weeks learning how to move around in Borneo’s tropical rainforest trying to keep up with the orangutans, who are big, brilliant and brightly colored apes. They are truly breathtaking, and it’s hard to take your eyes off them. Nevertheless, my attention often wandered to another of the reserve’s primates—the troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). These slender monkeys with variegated green fur and striking facial hair were bounding on all fours through the trees with their long, slim tails acting as a counterbalance.

Macaques are seed dispersers, making them a keystone species in the environment; remove them from the forest and you risk a cascade of ecological consequences. I could reliably find them within a half-mile of the river’s edge, where they spent their days foraging, grooming, swimming and sleeping. They also routinely wandered into our camp, easily navigating the “edges” that we had opened in the forest. The adults were fiercely protective of the infants and juveniles. Each evening before dark, the troop gathered at a large sleeping tree by the edge of the river. When everyone was accounted for in this troop of 30 highly social and intelligent macaques, the members would huddle together for warmth, safety and companionship. The months I spent in Borneo collecting observational data on the macaques would eventually lead me into an academic and research career during which I focused on the ways infectious diseases move between human and macaque populations and the consequences that this has for primate conservation and public health.

Members of the genus Macacawith their unsurpassed ability to inhabit the edges that humans create when we alter the environment, are the most geographically diverse and successful nonhuman primate group in the world. Multiple species of macaques are naturally distributed throughout Asia; in addition, northern Africa is home to a single species known as Barbary macaques, and macaques have also managed to successfully colonize Mauritius and Florida.

However, there are three species of macaques—long-tailed, rhesus and pigtailed—that have been relentlessly targeted by the primate biomedical research community. It is ironic that macaques’ extraordinary ecological and behavioral flexibility has made them more visible and cost them their lives, with countries like the U.S. increasingly using them for experiments in the name of making advances in biomedical research. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) database, more than 1.5 million long-tailed, rhesus and pigtailed macaques have been exported from Asia and Mauritius to laboratories around the world since 1975.

These monkeys have been relentlessly trapped in urban and semi-urban areas. They’ve been grabbed as their sleeping trees were cut down and netted as they tried to swim away. Entire troops have been captured after being isolated in the one tree that remained in a crop field. Untold numbers of adult macaques have been beaten to death as they tried desperately to hold onto their infants or protect their friends while they were being captured to be used for experimentation. More deaths followed as they were stuffed into rice sacks, wire bags or wooden boxes after they were captured.

The 1.5 million macaques exported were the “survivors” of this ordeal. The actual number of macaques extracted from Asia and Mauritius is much larger; captive-born and wild-born macaques form the “breeding stock” on the “monkey farms” of Asia and Mauritius. The stress of capture, the horrific conditions in which the macaques are kept in after their capture, and the exposure to pathogens while in captivity have led to many of them dying from disease. These monkeys are then “replaced” with more wild-caught macaques.

The recent images from the accident in Danville, Pennsylvania, of the cramped, airless, wooden crates containing macaques who had traveled nearly 10,000 miles from Mauritius have blown the lid off this cruel, secretive, greedy and dangerous industry. The crash was so violent that some crates burst open and three monkeys escaped into the surrounding area. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did a risk assessment and decided that the three escaped macaques be shot on sight.

News coverage of the situation spread around the world. People wanted to know where the monkeys had come from, where they were going, if they carried diseases, and if there was anything to fear. The lack of transparency from the CDC about the status of the surviving monkeys or even the location of the CDC-approved quarantine facility to which they were headed is disturbing. The agency reported that between October 2019 and January 2021, more than 70,000 macaques were imported into the United States. These monkeys arrived by plane in more than 300 shipments. From the port of entry, they would have been loaded into trucks and sent to the approved quarantine sites to begin a mandatory 31 days of isolation, testing and observation.

The CDC quarantine is designed to protect public health by detecting monkeys who arrive with viral hemorrhagic fevers, tuberculosis, pathogens that can cause deadly diarrheal diseases, fatal diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and herpes B, a zoonotic macaque virus. Not all the monkeys make it out of quarantine alive, and these dangerous pathogens that the CDC is screening for are often missed and show up months or years later threatening public health and further undermining the utility of these monkeys as biomedical models. Post-quarantine, the surviving monkeys are dispersed to commercial facilities and laboratories around the country.

Certificates of veterinary inspection (CVIs) obtained through the Freedom of Information Act requests that PETA submitted to agriculture departments in numerous states give a further glimpse into the extent of monkey transport across the United States. CVIs are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when monkeys are transported across state lines. PETA has pieced together a monkey transport map with the help of data that my organization [the author is a senior science adviser on primate experimentation with PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department] has gleaned. Each line drawn on the map represents the journey of the monkeys from the lab, breeder or importer that sold these monkeys to the facility that purchased them. There are many more routes that we have yet to uncover, and many of them have been used multiple times, sometimes dozens, since 2018.

Pause for a moment and consider the magnitude and cost of this monkey madness: In January, the disaster involving the truck transporting monkeys took place in Danville, next month, it could be in your community. No one is safe—the monkeys are on the move the moment they arrive in the United States. Packed into small wooden crates, separated from their family and friends, they’re terrified, cold and hungry. In this vulnerable and stressed condition, they are likely immunocompromised, which increases the risk that they will shed pathogens that can cause diseases in humans. Even the experimenters themselves have acknowledged that the large colonies of monkeys at their facilities—in places such as Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and California—are a threat to public health.

Macaques, with all their pathogens, are being rounded up from forests and urban areas and shipped thousands of miles around the globe, ostensibly to provide us with lifesaving treatments and vaccines. But it doesn’t work that way—macaques aren’t furry little humans with long tails. Their immune systems and biology are very different from ours. Despite decades of promises and hundreds of thousands of dead monkeys, experiments using monkeys have not resulted in effective vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria or other dreaded human diseases. COVID-19 experiments have shown the scientific community how irrelevant and often misleading monkey studies are.

Between 2008 and 2019, more than 700,000 “specimens” (i.e., blood, tissue, and body parts) from an unknown number of long-tailed macaques were exported from Asia—this is in addition to the 450,000 live long-tailed macaques who were shipped out for use in biomedical experiments. A study published in February 2022 concluded that the extraction of macaques from Asia for use in biomedical research is a multibillion-dollar industry. Macaques are extraordinarily resilient animals, but we’re pushing them over the edge.


Lisa Jones-Engel, PhD, is a primate scientist and a Fulbright scholar. She has been studying primates for almost four decades, and her scientific career has spanned the field, the research laboratory and the undergraduate classroom. Jones-Engel serves as the senior science adviser on primate experimentation with PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department.

Take action…

Unethical: Every year, tens of thousands of monkeys are taken from their families and transported to the United States only to be used in cruel, worthless experiments. (Photo credit: PETA)

Monkeys are not cargo

PETA: “[N]early every major airline in the world has stopped transporting monkeys to laboratories. Now, it’s time for us to use our collective voices again to let EGYPTAIR know that it has made a very bad business decision by getting involved in the cruel trade in primates for experimentation. We recently received information that 720 long-tailed macaques who’d been torn away from their families in Cambodia were transported to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York on April 30, 2022.

“Every year, tens of thousands of monkeys are transported to the U.S. to be imprisoned in laboratories and tormented in experiments that consistently fail to lead to meaningful scientific advances. These highly social and sensitive individuals are either captured in nature or bred in captivity on squalid factory farms, where many die from injury and disease even before they’re crammed into small wooden crates and confined to dark, terrifying cargo holds of planes for shipment around the globe.”

Urge EGYPTAIR to follow Kenya Airways’ lead and stop sending monkeys to laboratories.

Cause for concern…

Setback: Climate activists march in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. The war in Ukraine is delaying international payments that the U.S. has committed to combat climate change. (Photo credit: Speak Your Mind/Julian Koschorke via theverb.org/Flickr)

Ukraine war delays action on climate

The slow shift towards a low-carbon, more sustainable future is going to get even slower due to the war in Ukraine. The spike in energy prices has driven more than 30 nations to discharge oil from strategic reserves.

The war is also delaying billions of dollars in climate payments that the United States has committed to developing countries. While Congress has rushed billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, it has allocated less than one-third of the climate funding it has pledged to the international community.

“Effectively, the U.S. owes the rest a climate debt that needs to be paid,” said Mohamed Adow, the founder and director of PowerShift Africa, a climate action advocacy group based in Nairobi, Kenya. “Our continent is effectively on the front line, and we are paying for the harms [of] these climate pollutants.”

“If it’s a long period of time, obviously that makes [staying within 1.5C] very complicated,” U.S. presidential envoy John Kerry told the Guardian. “It depends on what happens with the war, where the war goes and how long it lasts.”​​​​​

Round of applause…

(Screenshot: Worldof7billion.org)

Coming up: So many more mouths to feed

Over 3,000 students—in grades 6 through 12, from 48 countries and 45 U.S. states and territories—participated in the 11th annual “World of 7 Billion” video contest. The videos explored population growth as it relates to one of three global challenges: Agriculture and Food, Ocean Health, and Urbanization.

Eighteen winners earned top spots, while Olivia Zheng, an 11th grader at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, won honorable mention for her video “Animal Agriculture in a Growing World.” Zheng, a member of Stuyvesant’s Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, deftly explored the environmental impacts of animal agriculture in an animated video that is just 60 seconds long.

“Communicating a persuasive message in just one minute about one of the many challenges for our crowded world takes real skill,” said John Seager, president of Population Connection, the contest sponsor, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that has been highlighting the challenges of human population growth since its founding in 1968—when the human population was less than half (3.53 billion) of what it is today (7.9 billion).

“Olivia Zheng is improving the future we all share, seeing animals as creatures we should love more than eat—for their sake and ours,“ said Carter Dillard, policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement, whose most recent Earth | Food | Life opinion piece, published by Telegraf Asia, examined population growth through the lenses of family planning and environmental health.


Climate denier: Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, talks with Fortune editor Alan Murray at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2016 event in Aspen, Colorado, on July 11, 2016. (Photo credit: Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm TECH/Flickr)

“Koch-controlled foundations donated more than $145 million to a network of 90 think tanks and advocacy groups from 1997 through 2018 to disparage climate science and block efforts to address climate change. Since the death of Charles Koch’s brother David in 2019, the Charles Koch Foundation has continued to finance this disinformation campaign, giving more than $17 million to 23 groups in 2019 and 2020, pushing the Koch grand total north of $162 million. By contrast, the second-largest funder of climate disinformation, ExxonMobil, spent $39.2 million on some 70 denier groups from 1998 through 2020.”

—Elliott Negin, “It’s Time for Charles Koch to Testify About His Climate Disinformation Campaign” (CounterPunch, April 1, 2022)

Parting thought…

(Photo credit: Tom Lee/Flickr)

Listen says fox it is music to run
over the hills to lick
dew from the leaves to nose along
the edges of the ponds to smell the fat
ducks in their bright feathers but
far out, safe in their rafts of

—excerpt from “Straight Talk from Fox” by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird: Poems (Beacon Press, 2008).

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 Art of Building a Human-Hawk Relationship

Killer instinct: Sy Montgomery and her hawk friend. (Photo credit: Tianne Strombeck)

Sy Montgomery built a relationship with a hawk and learned about nature, life and love.

By Sy Montgomery, Independent Media Institute

6 min read

This excerpt is from The Hawk’s Way by Sy Montgomery. An earlier version of this material appeared as a chapter in Sy Montgomery’s book Birdology (2010). “Birds Are Fierce” from Birdology copyright © 2010 by Sy Montgomery. Reprinted by permission of Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. This excerpt was produced for the web by Earth | Food | Life (a project of the Independent Media Institute) and Atria Books.

One of the defining characteristics of birds is the crucial role and astonishing acuity of their vision. Flight, after all, demands excellent eyesight. For birds that hunt on the wing, the eyes are developed to an extraordinary degree: an eagle riding a thermal at 1,000 feet can spot its prey across a distance of nearly 3 square miles. In this regard, raptors are remarkable birds. They have developed the avian sense of sight to perfection. The vision of some raptor birds, like eagles and hawks, is the sharpest of all living creatures.

All birds’ eyes are huge in proportion to their bodies. A human being’s eyes take up only 2 percent of the face; a European starling’s account for 15. A great horned owl’s eyes are so enormous relative to its head that if human eyes were comparable, they would be the size of oranges. Birds’ eyes are so important to them that, like various reptiles, sharks, and amphibians, they have a transparent or translucent third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, to protect and moisten the eyes while retaining visibility. Vision literally sculpts birds’ every movement: one reason birds seem to move in such a jerky manner, as cassowary expert Andy Mack explained to me, is that the bird is actually keeping its head remarkably still, thanks to an extremely supple neck, while the rest of its body is in motion, in order to allow it to focus on what it sees in exceptional detail.

In birds of prey, the eyes weigh more than the brain. The two eyes are twice as large as the brain itself. They need to be huge. They are packed with receptors, some types of which humans don’t have at all. Raptors have not merely two (as we do) but six types of photoreceptors in each eye. Because of this, birds are thought to be able to experience colors that humans cannot even describe. Their retinas, unlike ours, contain few blood vessels. Instead, a thin, folded tissue called pecten, unique to birds, brings blood and nutrients to the eye without casting shadows or scattering light in the eye as blood vessels do.

Most birds, like most mammals, have a single area within the eye of perfect vision, called the fovea, where cone cells, which detect sharp contrast and detail, are most concentrated. A raptor’s eye has two foveae. One is for lateral vision, the other for forward vision. A human eye has 200,000 cones per square millimeter in the fovea. Sparrows have twice that. Raptors have about a million.

Raptors see in such fine detail that humans need microscopes to begin to imagine it. They also have a wider field of vision than we do, thanks to the second fovea, as well as better distance perception than other birds. Most birds’ eyes lie at the sides of the head so that when they look at something, they use one eye at a time. With forward-facing eyes, raptors have binocular vision like ours, but better. Fields of view of the left and right eye overlap, allowing the brain to compare the slightly different images from each eye and instantly calculate distance.

And there is something else about a raptor’s vision, something more difficult to describe. “These birds don’t think the way we think,” master falconer Nancy Cowan tells us. “They don’t learn the same way we do.” Because of our differing brain circuitry, birds capture at a glance what it might take a human many seconds to apprehend. For all birds, but especially these, seeing is not merely believing; seeing is knowing. Seeing is being. That is what I see in the monstrous, devouring eyes of Jazz, a four-year-old female Harris hawk: the windows to a mind completely different from my own.

“It’s instinctive,” says Cowan, who runs the New Hampshire School of Falconry. “It’s not spiritual. A falcon is at once the stupidest thing you’ll ever deal with—and the most instinctively developed thing you’ll ever deal with.”

Instinct gets short shrift among most humans. We value thinking instead and dismiss instinct as the machinery of an automaton. But instinct is what lets us love life’s juicy essence: instinct is why we enjoy food and drink and sex.

Thinking can get in the way of living. Too often we see through our brains, not through our eyes. This is such a common human failing that we joke about the absentminded professor or the artist so focused on an imagined canvas that they walk into a tree.

But Jazz won’t smack into a tree. We are out in the field across the street now, and Cowan unclips the jesses that keep Jazz tethered to my glove. “Let her fly,” says Cowan. I give Jazz a brief toss from my glove, and she sails into a pine. She looks down at us. Now I am worthy of Jazz’s interest. She knows something is about to happen. For the first time, I am bathed in her sight. It’s a baptism, and feels momentous, transforming. “Now call her in,” says Cowan. She takes a piece of cut-up partridge out of a baggie in her pocket and places it between the thumb and forefinger of my glove. “Jazz!” she calls. I extend my left arm and look up. A huge, powerful bird flies toward me.

Not everyone would like this, I realize. An exceptionally brave biologist with whom I have worked in Southeast Asia, hiking in search of bears among forests littered with unexploded ordnance, confesses he would be scared. It’s a genetically programmed human reaction. Birds like this once hunted and killed our ancestors. A famous fossil hominid, the so-called Taung child, discovered in South Africa in 1924 and described by Raymond Dart, bears the marks of this predation. When I was in college, we were taught that this long-dead australopithecine child must have been killed by an ancient leopard. Now, from careful reexamination of the skull, we know that the death blow dealt to the brain came from the talons of an ancient relative of the crowned hawk eagle—a raptor that still hunts large monkeys in the same manner today. Our kind has rightly viewed birds like Jazz with caution for more than 2 million years. No wonder so many people flinch in their presence.

But as Jazz’s talons reach for my glove, my heart sings.

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, documentary scriptwriter and author of 31 books of nonfiction for adults and children, including Hummingbirds’ Gift, the National Book Award finalist The Soul of an Octopus, and the New York Times bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig. She is the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the Humane Society and the New England Booksellers Association.

Take action…

Last dance? A female (left) and male greater sage-grouse near Walden, Colorado. The charismatic bird is considered an ‘umbrella species’ because efforts to protect it will also help a wide array of other wildlife. (Photo credit: Doug Greenberg/Flickr)

“Oil and gas development is a major threat to birds, and in particular to greater sage-grouse populations, which continue to decline,” said Steve Holmer, vice president of policy at American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit, in response to the April 15 announcement by the Biden administration that the federal government will resume selling oil and gas leases on public lands.

“Past impacts from drilling in priority sagebrush habitats have yet to be addressed, and given recent climate studies outlining dire consequences for inaction, we are opposed to more fossil fuel development on public lands,” Holmer writes. “It is time to prioritize renewables including rooftop solar and wind power—so long as wind energy facilities avoid high-risk areas for birds and are properly designed to minimize impacts.”

Act now to restore protections for birds by urging your representative and senators to co-sponsor the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act (S.2491/H.R.4348) and to oppose any legislation or federal rule that would weaken ESA protections or target individual species for exemption.

Cause for concern…

Flight risk: A bald eagle gets blood drawn during a medical exam. (Photo credit: Carrie Cizauskas/Flickr)

“Bird flu is killing an alarming number of bald eagles and other wild birds, with many sick birds arriving at rehabilitation centers unsteady on their talons and unable to fly.

“‘It’s quite a sight to see an eagle with a six-foot wingspan having uncontrollable seizures because of highly pathogenic avian influenza,’ said Victoria Hall, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. ‘At that point, they’re so far into the disease [there are] no treatment options left.’

“The latest outbreak of the highly contagious virus has led to the culling of about 37 million chickens and turkeys in U.S. farms since February, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed 956 cases of bird flu in wild birds, including at least 54 bald eagles. But the actual number is likely significantly higher because not every wild bird that dies is tested and the federal tally doesn’t include cases recorded by wildlife rehabilitation centers.”

—Josh Funk, “Bird flu takes unheard-of toll on bald eagles, other birds” (AP News, May 5, 2022)

What our friends are saying…

[Editor’s note: Carter Dillard is the policy director of the Fair Start Movement, author of “Justice as a Fair Start in Life: Understanding the Right to Have Children,” and contributor to Earth | Food | Life (see “Better family planning can improve public health, inequality and the environment” and “Kamala vs. Mitt: Differing Family Planning Viewpoints Prefigure Different Futures for Planetary Health”). Carter recently published an opinion piece on MSN that investigates the failure of the Paris Agreement—and his prescription for fixing it. An excerpt is below.]

“According to the anthropocentric view of our environmental responsibilities, we owe a livable planet to other people, especially to our children. We imagine a “leave no trace” ethic can preserve the category we hold in our minds of a pristine natural habitat to bequeath to posterity. Yet our posterity is part of the problem. The more our population grows, the more we’re imposing destructive human impacts on the natural world, and the more disrupted the climate and environment will get.

“There is staunch resistance to accepting this self-evident fact. But it’s beyond dispute that choosing to have fewer children, and/or to delay starting a family, is key to lowering human climate impacts. It’s also key to rewilding and making room for nature. Family planning policies, for good or ill, will condition the ecological and climate future. Yet we behave as if having as many children as we can is a right and law unto itself. …

“Human reproductive choices and policies will determine not only how much carbon we emit and what climate impacts we’ll have, but how most people will experience those impacts — the resources they will or won’t have access to, how resilient in the face of climate change their communities will or won’t be, whether or not their societies will be democratic and respect rights and the rule of law.” ​​​​​

—Carter Dillard, “The Paris Agreement is failing; we need a new approach” (MSN, April 23, 2022)

Round of applause…

Fast plants: Burger King’s Impossible Whopper is a customer favorite. (Photo credit: Tony Webster/Flickr)

“[T]he fast-food brand that has seemingly had the most success going plant-based is Burger King. The chain was one of the earlier adopters of vegan meat. It launched the Impossible Whopper in 2019 and saw same-store sales jump 6 percent in the quarter that followed. This veggie success inspired ‘The King’ to launch Impossible nuggets last fall, but only in select U.S. cities without plans for a nationwide rollout.

“[T]he chain saw ‘​​​​​​stunning success with their most daring foray into veganism to date—a month-long 100 percent vegan menu at one of their high-traffic storefronts in London. The success has spurned Burger King to set a new goal for itself: a 50 percent meat-free menu by 2030.”

—Ashley Uzer, “This major fast-food burger chain is planning to go 50 percent meatless” (Eat This, Not That, May 5, 2022)


Friends, not food: Lina Lind Christensen, who runs the Danish sanctuary Frie Vinger (“Free Wings”), with a rescued hen. Frie Vinger rescues and re-homes battery hens saved from the egg industry. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/#unboundproject/We Animals Media)

“An annoyed hen will confront a pesky young rooster with her hackles raised and run him off. Although chickens will fight fiercely, and sometimes successfully, with foxes and other predators to protect their families, with humans, however, this kind of bravery usually does not win. A woman employed on a chicken ‘breeder’ farm in Maryland, berated the defenders of chickens for trying to make her lose her job, and threatening her ability to support herself and her daughter. For her, the ‘breeder’ hens were ‘mean’ birds who ‘peck your arm when you are trying to collect the eggs.’ In her defense for her life and her daughter’s life, she failed to see the similarity between her motherly protection of her child and the exploited hen’s courageous effort to protect her own offspring.”

—EFL contributor Karen Davis, “On International Respect for Chickens Day, Try Thinking About Them Differently” (Countercurrents, April 26, 2022)

Parting thought…

Bird brain: The owl is the symbol of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Several species of owl are threatened by habitat loss, human disturbance, climate change and invasive species. (Photo credit: Airwolfhound/Flickr)

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected.” —Chief Seattle

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.

Can We Abandon Pollutive Fossil Fuels and Avoid an Energy Crisis?

Rough waters: The Russian oil products tanker Varzuga, seen here in Pirsy, Arkhangelskaya, Russia, in July 2018. (Photo credit: Alexxx Malev/Flickr)

When it comes to maintaining energy flows, there is a closing window to avert both climate catastrophe and economic peril.

By Richard Heinberg, Independent Media Institute

10 min read

Similar to the two navigational hazards mythologized as sea monsters in ancient Greece—Scylla and Charybdis—which gave rise to sayings such as, “between the devil and the deep blue sea” and “between a rock and a hard place,” modern energy policy has its own Scylla and Charybdis. On the one hand is the requirement to maintain sufficient energy flows to avoid economic peril. On the other hand is the need to avert climate catastrophe resulting from such activities. Policymakers naturally want all the benefits of abundant energy with none of the attendant climate risks. But tough choices can no longer be put off.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s response of imposing sanctions on Russia are forcing a reckoning as far as global energy policy is concerned. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the ongoing war and the U.S. sanctions may together reduce Russian oil exports by at least 3 million barrels per day—more than 4 percent of global supplies, which is a huge chunk of the delicately balanced world energy market. Some energy analysts are forecasting that oil prices could spike up to $200 per barrel later this year, exacerbating inflation and triggering a global recession. We’re facing the biggest energy crisis in many decades, with supply chains seizing up and products made from or with oil and gas (notably fertilizers) suddenly becoming scarce and expensive. Scylla, therefore, calls out: “Drill more. Lift sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Beg Saudi Arabia to increase output.” But if we go that route, we only deepen our dependency on fossil fuels, aggravating the climate monster Charybdis.

The IEA was created in the aftermath of the 1970s oil shocks to inform policymakers in times of energy supply crisis. The agency recently issued a 10-point emergency plan to reduce oil demand and help nations deal with looming shortages owing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its advice includes lowering speed limits, instituting car-free Sundays, encouraging working from home, and making public transport cheaper and more widely available.

All of these are good suggestions—and are very similar to what my colleagues and I have been advocating for nearly 20 years (some were even part of U.S. energy policy 50 years ago). Fossil fuel supply problems shouldn’t come as a surprise: we treat these fuels as though they were an inexhaustible birthright; but they are, of course, finite and depleting substances. We have extracted and burned the best of them first, leaving lower-quality and more polluting fuels for later—hence the recent turn toward fracked oil and gas and growing reliance on heavy crude from Venezuela and “tar sands” bitumen from Canada. Meanwhile, rather belatedly, it has gradually dawned on economists that these “unconventional” fuels typically require higher rates of investment and deliver lower profits to the energy industry, unless fuel prices rise to economy-crushing levels.

Indeed, it’s as though our leaders have worked overtime making sure we’re unprepared for an inevitable energy dilemma. We’ve neglected public transportation, and many Americans who are not part of the white-collar workforce have been pushed out from expensive cities to suburbs and beyond, with no alternative other than driving everywhere. While automakers have turned their focus to manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs), these still account for a small fraction of the car market, and most of today’s gas-guzzling cars will still be on the road a decade or two from now. Crucially, there are as yet only exploratory efforts underway to transition trucking and shipping—the mainstays of global supply chains—and find more sustainable alternatives. That creates a unique vulnerability: the current worldwide diesel shortage could hammer the economy even if the government and the energy industry somehow come up with enough gasoline to keep motorists cruising to jobs and shopping malls.

Then there’s the issue of the way fossil fuels are financed. They’re not treated as a depleting public good, but as a source of profit—with investors either easily enticed to plunge into a passing mania or spooked to flee the market. Just in the past decade, investors have gone from underwriting a rapid expansion of fracking (thereby incurring massive financial losses), to insisting on fiscal responsibility, while companies are now milking profits from high prices and buying back stocks to increase their wealth. Long-term energy security be damned.

Meanwhile, the climate monster stirs fitfully. With every passing year, we have seen worsening floods, fires and droughts; glaciers that supply water to billions of people melting; and trickles of climate refugees threatening to turn into rivers. As we continue to postpone reducing the amounts of fossil fuels we burn, the cuts that would be required in order to avert irreversible climate doom become almost impossibly severe. Our “carbon budget”—the amount of carbon we can burn without risking catastrophic global warming—will be “exhausted” in about eight years at current emission rates, but only a few serious analysts believe that it would be possible to fully replace fossil fuels with energy alternatives that soon.

We need coherent, bold federal policy—which must somehow survive the political minefield that is Washington, D.C., these days. Available policies could be mapped on a coordinate plane, with the horizontal x-axis representing actions that would be most transformative and the vertical y-axis showing what actions would be most politically feasible.

High on the y-axis are actions like those that the Biden administration just took, to release 1 million barrels a day of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and to invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of minerals needed for the electric vehicle market. While politically feasible and likely popular, these efforts won’t be transformative.

An announcement by President Joe Biden of an ambitious energy-climate vision, with the goal of eliminating our dependence on foreign fuel sources and drastically reducing carbon emissions by the end of the decade, would probably fall somewhere in the middle, where the x- and y-axes meet. Such a vision would encompass a four-pronged effort being proposed by the government:

  • Incentivizing massive conservation efforts, including “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” and providing inducements for businesses to implement telework broadly.
  • Directing domestic production of fossil fuels increasingly toward energy transition purposes (for example, making fossil fuel subsidies contingent on how businesses are growing the percentage of these fuels being used to build low-carbon infrastructure).
  • Mandating massive investments in domestic production of renewables and other energy transition technologies (including incentives to recycle materials).
  • Providing an “Energy Transition Tax Credit” to households or checks to offset energy inflation, with most of the benefits going to low-income households.

Ultimately, some form of fuel rationing may be inevitable, and it is time to start discussing that and planning for it (Germany has just taken the first steps toward gas rationing)—even though this would be firmly in the x-axis territory. Rationing just means directing scarce resources toward what’s vital versus what’s discretionary. We need energy for food, critical supply chains and hospitals; not so much for vacation travel and product packaging. When people first hear the word “rationing,” many of them recoil; but, as author Stan Cox details in his history of the subject, Any Way You Slice It, rationing has been used successfully for centuries as a way to manage scarcity and alleviate poverty. The U.S. SNAP (food stamp) program is essentially a rationing system, and all sorts of materials, including gasoline, were successfully rationed during both world wars. More than two decades ago, the late British economist David Fleming proposed a system for rationing fossil fuel consumption at the national level called Tradable Energy Quotas, or TEQs, which has been discussed and researched by the British government. The system could be used to cap and reduce fossil fuel usage, distribute energy fairly and incentivize energy conservation during our transition to alternative sources.

Also, we need to transform the ways we use energy—for example, in the food system, where a reduction in fossil fuel inputs could actually lead to healthier food and soil. Over the past century or so, fossil fuels provided so much energy, and so cheaply, that humanity developed the habit of solving any problem that came along by simply utilizing more energy as a solution. Want to move people or goods faster? Just build more kerosene-burning jet planes, runways and airports. Need to defeat diseases? Just use fossil fuels to make and distribute disinfectants, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. In a multitude of ways, we used the blunt instrument of cheap energy to bludgeon nature into conforming with our wishes. The side effects were sometimes worrisome—air and water petrochemical pollution, antibiotic-resistant microbes and ruined farm soils. But we confronted these problems with the same mindset and toolbox, using cheap energy to clean up industrial wastes, developing new antibiotics and growing food without soil. As the fossil fuel era comes to an end, the rules of the game will change. We’ll need to learn how to solve problems with ecological intelligence, mimicking and partnering with nature rather than suppressing and subverting her. High tech may continue to provide useful ways of manipulating and storing data; but, when it comes to moving and transforming physical goods and products, intelligently engineered low tech may offer better answers in the long run.

Further along the x-axis would be the daring action of nationalizing the fossil fuel industry. But at the very farthest end of the x-axis is the possibility of deliberately reining in economic growth. Policymakers typically want more growth so we can have more jobs, profits, returns on investment and tax revenues. But growing the economy (at least, the way we’ve been doing it for the past few decades) also means increasing resource extraction, pollution, land use and carbon emissions. There’s a debate among economists and scientists as to whether or not economic growth could proceed in a more sustainable way, but the general public is largely in the dark about that discussion. Only in its most recent report has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) begun to probe the potential for “degrowth” policies to reduce carbon emissions. So far, the scorecard is easy to read: only in years of economic recession (such as in 2008 and in 2020) have carbon emissions declined. In years of economic expansion, emissions increased. Policymakers have held out the hope that if we build enough solar panels and wind turbines, these technologies will replace fossil fuels and we can have growth without emissions. Yet, in most years, the amount of increased energy usage due to economic growth has been greater than the amount of solar and wind power added to the overall energy mix, so these renewable sources ended up just supplementing, not displacing, fossil fuels. True, we could build turbines, panels and batteries faster; but, as long as overall energy usage is growing, we’re continually making the goal of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels harder to achieve.

Wouldn’t giving up growth mean steering perilously close to the Scylla of economic peril in order to avoid the Charybdis of climate doom? So far, we’ve been doing just the reverse, prizing growth while multiplying climate risks. Maybe it’s time to rethink those priorities. Post-growth economists have spent the last couple of decades enumerating the ways we could improve our quality of life while reducing our throughput of energy and materials. Policymakers must finally start to take these proposals seriously, or we will end up confronting the twin monsters—economy-crushing fossil fuel scarcity and devastating climate impacts—without prior planning and preparation.

It was always clear that we would eventually have to face the music with regard to our systemic economic dependency on depleting, polluting fossil fuels. We have delayed action, making both the economic challenge and the climate threat harder to manage. Our possible navigation channel between Scylla and Charybdis is now perilously narrow. If we wait much longer, this channel will vanish altogether.


Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival.

Take action…

Heat pumps for peace: If President Biden invokes the Defense Production Act, the U.S. can “start manufacturing the heat pumps that will electrify the 75 million homes in Europe and the U.K. dependent on Russian gas for their heat,” according to Ari Matusiak, the CEO of the non-profit Rewiring America. (Photo credit: Phyxter.ai via Flickr)

Joe Biden could damage Putin badly—without having to ask Joe Manchin

“New technology—affordable and workable—means Europeans can heat their homes with electricity instead of gas. And if we wanted to we could—before next winter comes—help enormously in this task,” writes Bill McKibben.

“President Biden should immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power. The most recent estimates from Europe I’ve seen is that the current electric grid could handle fifty million heat pumps. We’re not going to get that many over there in a year—but any large number hacks away at Putin’s power.”

Urge President Biden to invoke the Defense Protection Act now to immediately ramp up U.S. production of electric heat pumps.

Mark your calendars…

Friends, not food: Lina Lind Christensen, who runs the Danish sanctuary Frie Vinger (“Free Wings”), with a rescued hen. Frie Vinger rescues and re-homes battery hens saved from the egg industry. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/#unboundproject/We Animals Media)

“To afford [a] chance for chickens to live a cage-free life along with their chicks, we should show compassion to chickens in May in honor of International Respect for Chickens Day, which falls on May 4, 2022. Most of all, we need to respect the lives of chickens beyond this day by ensuring that chickens are treated humanely, and by making better food choices, which involves a shift away from a meat-based diet toward a plant-based diet.

—EFL contributor Karen Davis, “On International Respect for Chickens Day, Try Thinking About Them Differently” (CounterPunch, April 29, 2022)

Cause for concern…

Running out of time: A humpback whale lunge feeding in the waters of Estero Bay, California. (Photo credit: Gregory Smith/Flickr)

​​​​​Without climate action, humans on target to cause mass extinction event

“Earth’s oceans are warmer than they were a century ago, sea levels are rising, and ocean waters are more acidic than they used to be, all because of human-created climate change. Global temperatures are expected rise even further in the coming decades, leaving researchers to wonder how these alterations will affect life on Earth—and especially in the seas. But the oceans have been through major crises before—including at least five mass extinctions—and those events in the deep past can help outline what might happen in our near future.

“To better understand what trends to expect, Princeton University oceanographers Justin Penn and Curtis Deutsch applied a scientific model used to predict the extent of a past mass extinction to estimate the consequences of current global warming. Their research, published today in Science, warns that failing to reduce fossil fuel emissions will set Earth’s oceans on track for a mass extinction within the next 300 years.”

—Riley Black, “Without Action on Climate, Another Mass Extinction Event Will Likely Happen in the World’s Oceans” (Smithsonian Magazine, April 28, 2022)

Round of applause…

Celebrate life: Spending quality time with rescued pigs at Farm Sanctuary, one of the largest farm animal sanctuaries in the U.S., which has provided a safe haven for thousands of rescued farm animals. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals Media)

From our friends at All-Creatures:

What to Eat When You Don’t Eat Animals
Menus and ideas to inspire people who want to eat as if life is precious.

This guide is for you if…

  • You are an animal lover and therefore want to eat in a way that respects all animals
  • You want to eat delicious, nurturing, inexpensive, healthy meals that are easy to prepare
  • You’ve always wondered, “What do vegans eat?”
  • You are vegetarian or already cutting back on eating animal products, and you want to go vegan but you don’t know how
  • You think that you’ll have to give up cheese, ice cream, and burgers if you go vegan (You will be amazed at all of the scrumptious vegan versions of everything!)
  • You want to improve your health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of your friends, your family, other humans, and all animals
  • You want to do your part to end our climate catastrophe
  • You are already vegan and always overjoyed to find more vegan goodies
  • You want to make a consequential difference for our world with every bite
  • To be clear, a vegan is someone who chooses not to participate in any form of animal abuse, exploitation, or slaughter, which includes abstaining from using, wearing, and consuming all animal products, such as dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, wool, leather, silk, feathers, skin, and fur. Vegans avoid all forms of animal exploitation. Simply stated, veganism is not just about food: It is an ethical stance for total liberation of all creatures.

What to Eat When You Don’t Eat Animals (via All-Creatures)

Parting thought…

(Screenshot via @LynnChateau/Twitter)

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.

On International Respect for Chickens Day, Try Thinking About Them Differently

Friends, not food: Lina Lind Christensen, who runs the Danish sanctuary Frie Vinger (“Free Wings”), with a rescued hen. Frie Vinger rescues and re-homes battery hens saved from the egg industry. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/#unboundproject/We Animals Media)

Chickens deserve our respect.

By Karen Davis, Independent Media Institute

6 min read

“I hear the universal cock-crowing with surprise and pleasure, as if I never heard it before. What a tough fellow! How native to the earth!” —Henry David Thoreau

Chickens are indeed native to the earth. Despite centuries of domestication—from the tropical forest to the farmyard to the factory farm—the call of the wild has always been in the chicken’s heart. Far from being “chicken,” roosters and hens are legendary for their bravery. In classical times, the bearing of the rooster—the old British term for “cock,” a word that was considered too sexually charged for American usage—symbolized military valor: the rooster’s crest stood for the soldier’s helmet and his spurs stood for the sword. A chicken will stand up to an adult human being. Our tiny Bantam rooster, Bantu, would flash out of the bushes and repeatedly attack our legs, lest we should disturb his beloved hens. (Although we do not allow our chickens to hatch chicks, in 2018 a hen and a rooster rescued from a cockfighting operation produced a surprise family, the hen having camouflaged herself in a wooded area of our sanctuary.)

An annoyed hen will confront a pesky young rooster with her hackles raised and run him off. Although chickens will fight fiercely, and sometimes successfully, with foxes and other predators to protect their families, with humans, however, this kind of bravery usually does not win. A woman employed on a chicken “breeder” farm in Maryland, berated the defenders of chickens for trying to make her lose her job, and threatening her ability to support herself and her daughter. For her, the “breeder” hens were “mean” birds who “peck your arm when you are trying to collect the eggs.” In her defense for her life and her daughter’s life, she failed to see the similarity between her motherly protection of her child and the exploited hen’s courageous effort to protect her own offspring.

In an outdoor chicken flock, similar to the 12,000 square feet, predator-proof sanctuary my organization United Poultry Concerns has in rural Virginia, ritual and playful sparring and chasing normally suffice to maintain peace and resolve disputes among chickens without bloodshed. Even hens will occasionally have a spat, growling and jumping at each other with their hackles raised; but in more than 30 years of keeping chickens, I have never seen a hen fight turn seriously violent or last for more than a few minutes. Chickens have a natural instinct for social equilibrium and learn quickly from each other. An exasperated bird will either move away from the offender or aim a peck, or a pecking gesture, which sends the message: “Back off.”

Bloody battles, which usually take place when a new rooster is introduced into an established flock, are rare, short-lived and usually affect the comb—the crest on top of a chicken’s head—which, being packed with blood vessels, can make an injury look worse than it usually is. It is when chickens are crowded, confined, frustrated or forced to compete at a feeder that distempered behavior can erupt. By contrast, chickens allowed to grow up in successive generations, unconfined in buildings, do not evince a rigid “pecking order.” Parents oversee their young, and the young contend playfully, and indulge in many other activities. A flock of well-acquainted chickens is an amiable social group.

Sometimes chickens run away, however, fleeing from a bully or hereditary predator on legs designed for the purpose does not constitute cowardice. At the same time, I’ve learned from painful experience how a rooster who rushes in to defend his hens from a fox or a raccoon usually does not survive the encounter.

Though chickens are polygamous, mating with more than one member of the opposite sex, individual birds are attracted to each other. They not only “breed”; but they also form bonds, clucking endearments to one another throughout the day. A rooster does a courtly dance for his special hens in which he “skitters sideways and opens his wing feathers downward like Japanese fans,” according to Rick and Gail Luttmann’s book, Chickens in Your Backyard. A man once told me, “When I was a young man I worked on a chicken farm, and one of the most amazing things about those chickens was that they would actually choose each other and refuse to mate with anyone else.”

Sadly, the eggs of these parent flocks are snatched away and sent to mechanical incubators, so the parents never see their chicks. “Breeder” roosters and hens are routinely culled for low fertility, and also because “if a particular male becomes unable to mate, his matching females will not accept another male until he is removed,” explains the book Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production.

Little more than a year later, the parents who have survived their miserable life are sent to slaughter just like the chicks they never got to see, raise or protect, as they would otherwise have chosen to do if they were free.

To afford this chance for chickens to live a cage-free life along with their chicks, we should show compassion to chickens in May in honor of International Respect for Chickens Day, which falls on May 4, 2022. Most of all, we need to respect the lives of chickens beyond this day by ensuring that chickens are treated humanely, and by making better food choices, which involves a shift away from a meat-based diet toward a plant-based diet.


Karen Davis, PhD, is the president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. Davis is an award-winning animal rights activist and the author of numerous books, including a children’s book (A Home for Henny); a cookbook (Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey); Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned EggsMore Than a Meal; and her latest book, a series of essays called For the Birds.

Take action…

Unhappy meal: Chickens raised for meat are afforded virtually no legal protections. But pressure from investors, consumers and nonprofits is bringing new momentum to the fight for change. (Photo credit: The Humane League)

“Today, chickens are bred to grow four times faster and considerably larger than in the 1950s, when industrial chicken production was just beginning. In the span of just 48 days—a tiny fraction of their natural lifespan—baby chickens reach a gargantuan size. The issue is so severe that if humans grew at a rate similar to McDonald’s chickens, we would weigh 660 pounds at just two months old,” writes EFL contributor Taylor Ford of The Humane League in Truthout.

“This rapid growth makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for many chickens to walk. Additionally, these chickens are constrained to overcrowded, dark, unnatural and barren barns, causing painful conditions, including horrifying ammonia burns on their chest and legs from the waste and sickness permeating the space. These are the brutal conditions that make up the tens of millions of chickens’ lives in McDonald’s supply chain.”

Urge McDonald’s to stop using chickens who are bred to suffer.

Cause for concern…

Smog city: Los Angeles remains the country’s most polluted city for ozone pollution, a title that the city has held for all but one of the 23 years of the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report, which found that more Americans are living in areas with increased levels of air pollution. (Photo credit: Jared Eberhardt/Flickr)

Over 137 million Americans live in areas with poor air quality

“Despite decades of environmental efforts, over 40 percent of Americans—more than 137 million people—live in cities and states with poor air quality, a new report says,” writes Dustin Jones for NPR. “And, in addition to cars and factories, wildfires are increasingly contributing to unhealthy air.”

Round of applause…

Elders: Redwood trees at the University of Santa Cruz in California. (Photo credit: Jonathan Cohen/Flickr)

Biden order aims to protect old-growth forests from wildfire

“President Joe Biden is taking steps to restore national forests that have been devastated by wildfires, drought and blight, using an Earth Day visit to Seattle to sign an executive order protecting some of the nation’s largest and oldest trees,” report Matthew Daly and Josh Boak report for the Associated Press.


Hot stuff: This composite image of the sun is made from 151 individual images spanning a 10-year period, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. (Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO)

Geoengineering: Climate cure or climate concern?

“As scientists, policymakers and politicians keep one increasingly startled eye on climate change’s ticking clock and the other on the ongoing, upwardly mobile trend in greenhouse gas emissions, it’s no wonder possible solutions that have been long dismissed as fringe slices of science fiction are making their way into the mainstream. Enter center stage geoengineering, a hitherto black sheep of the fight against global warming.

“[T]echnologies under the rubric of solar radiation management (SRM) are expected to work on a much faster timescale, and as a consequence, generate arguably the greater buzz. Solar engineering is the idea that humankind artificially limits how much sunlight and heat are permitted in the atmosphere, and includes the thinning of high-level cirrus clouds to help infrared rays more easily escape upward, along with the brightening of low-level marine clouds to help reflect sunlight back into space.”

—EFL contributor Daniel Ross, “Should Humans Try to Modify the Amount of Sunlight the Earth Receives?” (NationofChange, November 10, 2021)

Parting thought…

When will it end? Plastic trash pollutes San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. “It’s estimated that more than 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into [the] oceans every year,” according to Plastic Oceans, a nonprofit based in Malibu, California. (Photo credit: Kevin Krejci/Flickr)

“[P]erhaps now more than ever, is time for us, as a collective, to decide what environmental consciousness means and looks like to us, for it’s clear we’ve become disconnected from the life force energy that binds us to our environment.” —Zaria Howell, “Nature as Healing” (Currently, April 24, 2022)

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.

Unclear Federal Law Allows Logging, Farming and Mining to Threaten America’s Biodiverse Ecosystems

Illogical: Though decades of research proves that logging negatively impacts water quality, there are no substantive rules relating to logging in the U.S. South. (Photo credit: jacki-dee/Flickr)

No version of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS), part of the Clean Water Act, adequately protects the nation’s natural areas.

By Sam Davis, Independent Media Institute

5 min read

The recent decision by the Supreme Court to look into “limiting the scope” of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS), which is an important part of the Clean Water Act of 1972, is likely to further threaten America’s biodiverse ecosystems. The Clean Water Act refers to WOTUS but does not clearly define it, leaving its definition up for interpretation by the government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the Supreme Court. The lack of clarity over this federal law has virtually stripped U.S. wetlands from any protection, which could have far-reaching environmental impacts as we try to mitigate the additional challenges posed by climate change.

This recent decision by the court has turned WOTUS into a battleground. The rule has been highly controversial since 2015 because the EPA under then-President Barack Obama decided to tweak the definition so it covered more types of bodies of water and afforded protection to them. The Trump administration, meanwhile, swung starkly in the other direction, attempting to remove protections for wetlands that had been historically included under rulemaking in the 1980s and 1990s.

Unfortunately, even though many people and environmental organizations—including my own, Dogwood Alliance—have taken action to protect wetlands, the WOTUS rule does little to protect our forests or forested wetlands. When the Clean Water Act was written, the authors carved out a big exemption for logging, road construction and agricultural activities—such as pesticide application, constructing ponds and planting or harvesting with heavy machinery.

This means that if there’s a wetland downstream of regular farming activities, the wetland may get zero protection under the law. Also, in an instance where there’s a wetland between a paved road and a forest, and the owner wants to trade trees for cash, there are few to no legal obstacles preventing the sale.

Unfortunately, defending or even updating WOTUS will not stop the proposed mining activities in the forested wetland in Georgia to cause massive destruction there, which will happen if Twin Pines Minerals is allowed to mine near the Okefenokee Trail Ridge. Nor will WOTUS automatically stop your local developer from draining a wetland—the rule will just make them jump through some hoops first before the permission is eventually granted.

WOTUS Doesn’t Prevent Wetland Loss

If you’re planning to change your land in a way that impacts the bodies of water nearby, you must get a permit. Permits allow a project to proceed, but often require some sort of mitigation. For example, pollution controls might be installed, or new wetlands might be built.

Some scientists have examined whether or not permitting eventually helps maintain wetlands, and have found troubling things. One study found that there was a net loss of wetlands despite permits mandating the creation of compensatory wetlands; they also found that the types of wetlands being created were not the same type as those that were being lost. Similar patterns have been found across the country.

Logging Has Significant Impacts on Water Quality

The authors of the Clean Water Act exempted two major types of activities that have substantial impacts on natural water quality: logging and agriculture. There are decades of peer-reviewed research about the impacts of logging on water quality. So while the government authorities and those drafting the act must have been aware of the negative impacts of these activities on water quality, they just didn’t seem to care.

Logging destroys soil: It’s exposed to full sunlight, it’s compressed and it’s more likely to break apart under pressure. Dry, compressed soil doesn’t clean or absorb water the way that it should. This soil can cause sedimentation in nearby waterways. Sedimentation can contaminate drinking water and provide opportunities for harmful algal blooms to flourish.

There Are No Substantive Rules on Logging

The logging industry’s solution to the impacts of forestry activities on water quality is called “best management practices.” These are voluntary, state-by-state guidelines on how to log without affecting water quality. These rules are nothing more than a piecemeal approach to ensuring that logging activities can be carried out uninterrupted.

There are no substantive rules relating to logging in the U.S. South. If you own land, you can clear-cut—no permit required. Even on state and federal lands, it is easy to clear-cut to produce revenue for the landholding organization, especially if it’s justified with tenuous arguments of wildfire prevention.

Our Forests Are a Free-for-All

The United States is the world’s largest consumer and producer of wood products. These wood products are extracted mostly from the U.S. South. Some, like building materials, can be considered necessary. Others, like single-use cups and dirty wood pellets being passed off as “green” energy, are not.

The South has been turned from beautiful native forests into rows upon rows of fast-growing pine plantations. In North Carolina alone, more than 200,000 acres of forests are logged every year, the equivalent of more than 400 football fields a day of forest destruction. Logging is the number one cause of carbon emissions from U.S. forestsfive times more than carbon emissions from fires, drought and insect damage combined.

WOTUS Is Important, but We Need to Do More

Logging has huge impacts on water quality, and the rate and scale of logging in the United States create a staggeringly wide scope of the problem; and yet very little has been done to address it. The fight for WOTUS, while important, seems like a drop in the bucket.

There is a need for commonsense rules for water quality in the United States. It affects rural communities across the South who rely on wells and septic systems for home water management. It affects all Americans’ ability to enjoy the natural areas around them.

Restoring basic WOTUS protections is a start. But to completely ignore the exemptions that the Clean Water Act provides to logging and agriculture—two of the largest polluting industries—is to do a disservice to future generations.

Environmental organizations like mine, the Dogwood Alliance, have worked to spread public awareness and get people to submit public comments, join protests and call their representatives. Without the voices of the American people supporting this movement, the nation’s wetlands will be turned into parking lots.


Sam Davis is a conservation scientist with Dogwood Alliance who works at the intersection of forests, climate and justice.

Take action…

Birdland: A great egret wades through Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. (Photo credit: Alexander Lerch/Flickr)

Tell Georgia to reject mining proposal to protect critical wetland

“Stretching from the historic Chesapeake Bay, along the coastline of the Atlantic; across the Gulf into the mysterious bayou swamps of Louisiana; to eastern Texas and up the Mississippi, wetland forests are a valuable, yet vulnerable national treasure,” writes Dogwood Alliance. Up to 80 percent of wetland forests in the South have disappeared. 35 million acres of wetland forests (an area the size of New York) provide valuable ecosystem services for people living in the U.S. South [and] … are worth more than $500 billion. But wetland forests are under threat from logging and development.”

“You can help protect an important water-based ecosystem that is under threat from development,” writes Sam Davis, a conservation scientist at Dogwood Alliance. “Urge Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Richard Dunn to reject Twin Pines Minerals’ proposal to mine near the Okefenokee Trail Ridge in order to protect one of Earth’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems, which supports the biodiversity of this region.”

Cause for concern…

Start the pumps: A pump jack in Warren County, Mississippi. When President Biden was a presidential candidate, he promised “no more drilling on federal lands.” (Photo credit: NatalieMaynor/Flickr)

Biden breaks key campaign pledge, opening up public land to drilling

“The Biden administration announced on Friday that it would resume selling leases for new oil and gas drilling on public lands, but would also raise the federal royalties that companies must pay to drill, the first increase in those fees in more than a century.

“The Interior Department said in a statement that it planned next week to auction off leases to drill on 145,000 acres of public lands in nine states. They would be the first new fossil fuel leases to be offered on public lands since President Biden took office.

“The move comes as President Biden seeks to show voters that he is working to increase the domestic oil supply as prices surge in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it also violates a signature campaign pledge made by Mr. Biden as he sought to assure climate activists that he would prioritize reducing the use of fossil fuels.”

—Coral Davenport, “Biden Plans to Open More Public Land to Drilling” (New York Times, April 15, 2022)

Round of applause…

Tree life: Celebrate Earth Day 2022 by joining the global #HugATreeChallenge. (Photo credit: Axel Bührmann/Flickr)

Tree huggers seek Guinness world record to highlight forest health

Sempervirens Fund and tree lovers around the world are holding the #HugATreeChallenge, presented by REI Co-op, on Earth Day, April 22, 2022, to help establish a Guinness World Records title for the most photos of people hugging trees uploaded to Instagram in one hour. The challenge is also sponsored by AllTrails. For every record-setting entry, REI will donate $1, up to $10,000, for the reforestation of redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains.

With the Santa Cruz mountains experiencing the largest wildfire in its history in 2020, and weather experts predicting a bad wildfire season this year, this is a crucial moment to raise awareness about the need to protect redwoods and promote forest health and resiliency. California’s coast redwoods have survived for more than 250 million years but rapid and extreme changes to climate and weather, as well as the growing intensity of wildfires, make it less likely that they will be able to continue to adapt and thrive without a strong effort to reverse the effects of climate change. 

A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reiterates that reducing deforestation and improving the management of protected lands are among the most powerful tools available to mitigate the harm caused by the climate crisis. 

“This is a bittersweet moment as Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which was severely damaged during the biggest fire in Santa Cruz mountains history, plans to reopen but another potentially devastating wildfire season looms,” said Sempervirens Fund Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Matthew Shaffer. “We have seen an outpouring of support from around the globe in response to the wildfires in the area and this public challenge is a way for us to raise awareness and share in celebrating Earth Day while also ensuring the future of these trees.” 

Official rules and instructions for the record-setting attempt can be found here.


Frontline defender: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, president and executive director of Tebtebba, an Indigenous peoples’ advocacy group based in the Philippines, and former UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, speaks at COP26 in Glasgow, on November 2, 2021. (Photo credit: COP26/Flickr)

Indigenous voices key to achieving Paris climate goals

“As world leaders attempt to hammer out a path to achieve the Paris climate accord goals, they would do well to listen to the world’s Indigenous people, who have been successful caretakers of their ecosystems for many generations—including 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, though they represent just 5 percent of the global population—but who are suffering on the front lines of the climate fights, from deforestation to rising seas.

“Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon, co-founder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance, and an EFL contributor, wrote an open letter to world leaders in 2020 that is even more important today. ‘When you say that the oil companies have marvelous new technologies that can sip the oil from beneath our lands like hummingbirds sip nectar from a flower, we know that you are lying because we live downriver from the spills,’ writes Nenquimo, who was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.

‘When you say that the Amazon is not burning, we do not need satellite images to prove you wrong; we are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago. When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land.’”

—EFL editor Reynard Loki, “COP26: Will humanity’s ‘last and best chance’ to save Earth’s climate succeed?” (New Europe, November 3, 2021)

Parting thought…

(Screenshot: Big anubis/Twitter)

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.

Why Hydropower Dams Are a False Climate Solution

Not in my backyard: Cacique Raoni Metuktire (above left), chief of the Kayapo people of Brazil, denounced the violations of human rights suffered by the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, highlighting the social, ecological and environmental burden caused by the Belo Monte dam, during a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 12, 2012. (Photo credit: The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament/Flickr)

Not only does hydroelectric power fail to prevent catastrophic climate change, but it also renders countries more vulnerable to climate change while emitting significant amounts of methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases.

By Josh Klemm and Eugene Simonov, Independent Media Institute

9 min read

A river is a spectacular living corridor that feeds forests, fisheries, coastal ecosystems, and farmlands; transports life-sustaining organic matter and nutrients; provides drinking water; fosters cultural connection; and prevents carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. A river supports staggeringly rich biodiversity. One major way we negate rivers’ many benefits is by building dams.

Once considered a renewable way to harness the power of rivers, hydroelectric dams are now better known for their adverse impacts: They destroy a river’s biodiverse ecosystems, decimate the food security and livelihoods of local communities, and produce harmful methane that exacerbates climate change. Dams are costly to build, difficult to maintain, and aren’t climate-resilient or competitive against proven clean energy alternatives like solar and wind power.

In 2000, following publication of the seminal World Commission on Dams (WCD) report, many countries and financiers stopped proposing and funding dams, but a remaining few are now using climate change as a pretext to save the declining industry, and calling for scarce climate dollars to be used to keep the industry afloat. Projects are now being pushed in arguably the worst places to build a dam: on rivers flowing through biodiversity hotspots and protected areas in the tropics. With vested interests calling for the doubling of existing hydropower capacity in the coming decades, here are 10 key reasons why dams are a false solution to the climate crisis.

1. Climate Change Is Making Dams Unreliable and Risky

Large hydropower projects are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Droughts have crippled hydropower generation all over the world, leading to energy rationing and blackouts from the U.S. to China, and from Brazil to southern Africa. This trend is only expected to increase in the current changing climate scenario being witnessed globally. Meanwhile, increasingly common extreme weather events make large dams dangerous for people living downstream, as they become vulnerable to dam failures.

2. Dams Produce Significant Amounts of Methane

At least 25 percent of today’s global warming is caused by methane emissions, which have “more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere,” according to a press release from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2021 showed, cutting methane emissions is the most urgent step we must take to immediately slow the rate of global warming, an observation also made in Nature. Dams generate methane and carbon dioxide when vegetation and organic matter are flooded in the reservoirs and start to decay underwater, as well as when areas are deforested to make way for building the project. Dam reservoirs represent a significant source of methane globally, equivalent to the greenhouse gas footprint of Canada, and scientists have found in some cases that dam reservoirs can cause more warming than coal-fired power plants.

3. Hydropower Climate Calculation Doesn’t Add Up

The dam sector’s industry group, the International Hydropower Association (IHA), along with other vested interests are pushing to more than double the entire amount (850 gigawatts) of hydropower installed in the past 100 years in a bid to mitigate climate change. The IPCC report is a reminder to all of us that we have less than 10 years to drastically cut emissions if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Let’s look at the numbers: The average time it takes to build a dam is approximately 10 years, and dam construction itself causes serious emissions (for example, cement production). Even if a dam was built in less time, a new dam reservoir actually adds to the climate crisis by emitting most of its methane and CO2 emissions in the first decade after its commissioning. For example, in Brazil, researchers discovered that the Belo Monte Dam caused a threefold increase in greenhouse gas emissions after only two years of operation. Building a vast new fleet of dams as IHA calls for would spike methane emissions at precisely the time we need to reduce them.

4. Hydropower Dams Are Falsely Marketed as a ‘Sustainable’ Climate Solution

The IHA continues to propagate the falsehood of hydropower projects being a viable solution to mitigate the climate crisis, which fails to consider the facts or latest scientific evidence to the contrary. In September 2021, IHA made its pitch for scarce climate dollars to subsidize the hydropower industry, pledging that all new hydropower projects must meet its own “Hydropower Sustainability Standard.” This commitment to ensuring sustainability for hydropower dam projects, however, falls flat on its face when one considers the fact that all ‘sustainable’ hydropower projects pushed by the IHA members in 2020 did not even meet their definition of sustainability. A report called “Water Yearbook” for 2020 stated that “most of [the] hydropower development in the world is unsustainable and proceeds at the expense of key sustainable development objectives.”

5. Dam Projects Often Violate Human Rights

Large hydropower projects have serious impacts on local communities’ rights. According to the 2000 WCD report, dams had displaced at least 40-80 million people and have negatively affected an estimated 472 million people living downstream over the years. Hydropower companies often violate the rights of Indigenous peoples to their lands, territories, resources, governance, cultural integrity and right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Last year’s guilty verdict in the assassination of Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres by the former head of a dam company in Honduras highlights the danger faced by people opposing hydropower dams. The impact of dams on Indigenous populations continues unimpeded despite the key role that Indigenous peoples play in protecting 80 percent of global biodiversity and leading the world in preventing carbon emissions in their territories.

6. New Hydropower Is Expensive and Ill-Suited to Deliver Energy Access

Another considerable mark against large hydropower projects is their enormous expense. Due to planning errors, technical problems and corruption, dams experience average delays of 44 percent and cost overruns of 96 percent. Sooner or later, silt tends to build up in reservoirs over the years, and the cost of maintaining dams far outweighs their benefits. Meanwhile, the energy produced by large dams is generally inaccessible to local communities, either because it is too expensive, monopolized by the industry, or exported to distant cities or neighboring countries.

7. Free-Flowing Rivers Help Mitigate the Climate, Biodiversity and Water Crises—Dams Do Not

Rivers, when unfettered and healthy, help regulate an increasingly volatile global carbon cycle by drawing an estimated 200 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere each year. This is just one of the dozens of essential services provided by free-flowing freshwater ecosystems, which range from provision of food to flood mitigation and access to water supply. Dams do a poor job of storing water; “it’s estimated at least 7 percent of the total amount of fresh water needed for human activities evaporates from the world’s reservoirs every year,” according to an article in Deutsche Welle.

8. Alternatives Are More Affordable and Driving the Energy Revolution

Truly renewable, clean energy sources are readily available and financially competitive and have overtaken large hydropower projects as the preferred choice for energy generation and access. Utility-scale renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, and geothermal have the potential to provide environmentally and socially sustainable energy and are also increasingly cost-effective for consumers. Given the plunging costs of alternative energy sources and improved storage technologies—as well as significant advances in energy efficiency and grid management—it is now possible to expand energy generation while drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving our free-flowing rivers.

9. Expanding Hydropower Is Incompatible With Efforts to Address the Looming Biodiversity Crisis

While they account for less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface, freshwater ecosystems are home to more than 10 percent of all species. Hydropower dams are a key culprit in the rapid 84 percent decline in the populations of freshwater species experienced since 1970.

This year, the second phase of the 15th Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is expected to begin in August, and the participants of the convention will discuss and agree on the UN biodiversity framework, and with freshwater ecosystems being the “most degraded ecosystems in the world,” urgent global action is required to turn this around.

10. The Destruction of Nature Is at the Root Cause of Multiple Crises

We’re facing multiple challenges: climate change, massive biodiversity loss, and a global pandemic, among other challenges of human rights, equity, and poverty. We must tackle the root systems and drivers of our major global challenges. The future depends on us to make the right decisions at this critical moment.

Hydropower dams are a false climate solution and should not be prioritized in future energy or climate plans. A new paradigm in river stewardship and protections is critical, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, to safeguard the water sources that are indispensable to life and public health, help prevent countries from taking on calamitous new debt, ensure a just energy transition that centers people and human rights, and effectively confront our climate and water crises and biodiversity loss.

We have less than 10 years to halve our greenhouse gas emissions to stave off catastrophic climate change, and we must also address the interlinked water and biodiversity crises. As Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, said, “If we fail to act now, future generations will ask, why did we not act to save the Earth given all of the scientific evidence we have?” It is past time to put to rest these false notions of hydropower being a sustainable climate solution and instead invest in energy pathways that can both address climate change and deliver electricity to those who lack it.

Josh Klemm is the co-executive director of International Rivers, a nonprofit at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them. He joined International Rivers in 2014 as policy director to lead the work focused on the world’s major financiers and companies active in the dams sector. Josh previously led the Africa Program at the Bank Information Center. Find him on Twitter @JoshKlemm.

Eugene Simonov is the international coordinator of the Rivers without Boundaries Coalition (RwB), which unites local communities and activists to protect transboundary rivers of the Eurasian continent. His work also focuses on the protection of freshwater ecosystems under the World Heritage Convention and other international mechanisms and on assisting civil society organization (CSO)-led environmental assessments in major river basins. He is currently overseeing PhD research at UNSW Canberra on the CSO-led river conservation through the lens of new globalization processes and geopolitical competition.

Take action…

Water protectors: KATRIBU, a national alliance of regional and provincial Indigenous peoples’ organizations representing various Indigenous communities in the Philippines, stages a protest against a Cambodian dam project in 2018. (Photo credit: International Rivers/Water Alternatives/Flickr)

Action Network: “The United Nations and member countries are still deciding: (1) whether to extend a program that approved more than 2,000 hydroelectric projects as carbon offsets; and (2) how dams should count toward emission reduction targets, measured by UN member countries as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs). The voices of river-dependent communities were strong during COP26 in Scotland in November. We’re making progress but we still have work to do.”

Tell the UN that dams must not qualify as offsets or NDCs.

Cause for concern…

Wake up, adults! On September 20, 2019, demonstrators in downtown New York joined the youth-lead global #ClimateStrike, during which millions of people demanded action on climate change in the days leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. (Photo credit: Amanda Voisard/UN Women/Flickr)

Running out of time: climate race

The world’s leading climate scientists have issued what is, in effect, their final warning to governments that the window for meeting emissions targets to avoid catastrophic, cascading and permanent alterations to the planetary climate is rapidly closing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their third and final section of the body’s comprehensive review of climate science, writes, “The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”

It is considered a final warning because the report, which analyzes the work of millions of scientists, takes seven years to produce. If drastic cuts in emissions don’t happen immediately, another warning in seven years would be too late. But society is going in the wrong direction. “Inflation is rising, and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket,” said UN secretary general António Guterres. “But increasing fossil fuel production will only make matters worse.”

Round of applause…

Safe passage: The mountain lions is just one of many species that will benefit from California’s new wildlife bridge. (Photo credit: Lil Rose/Flickr)

Animal crossing: world’s biggest wildlife bridge comes to California highway

“Imagine cruising down a 10-lane highway and knowing that, high above your head, a mountain lion is quietly going along its way. This remarkable image could soon be reality for drivers on one of California’s busiest roads, as the world’s largest wildlife overpass begins construction this month.

“The history-making project will comprise a green bridge built across the 101 highway near Los Angeles, creating a corridor between two parts of the Santa Monica mountains. Stretching 210ft long and 165ft wide, the overpass will allow safe passage for lizards, snakes, toads and mountain lions, with an acre of local plants on either side and vegetated sound walls to dampen light and noise for nocturnal animals as they slip across.

“The project, nearly a decade in the making, comes at a crucial time. Highways in this car-heavy landscape crisscross critical habitat for the protected mountain lions and other animals, forcing them to make what can be deadly crossings. At least 25 of the big cats have been killed on Los Angeles freeways since 2002. The latest death was just weeks ago, on 23 March, when a young lion was struck and killed on the Pacific Coast highway.”

—Katharine Gammon, “Animal crossing: world’s biggest wildlife bridge comes to California highway” (The Guardian, April 9, 2022)


Spoiled: For decades, the U.S. government has subsidized the dairy industry—an industry that popular opinion has already left behind. (Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/Animal Equality/We Animals Media)

In its illogical support of Big Dairy, the U.S. government is misleading the public and padding the pockets of one industry over another

[S]ome studies connect the consumption of dairy products with a higher risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer in men and endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. Further, countries that have the highest rates of milk consumption also have the ‘highest rates of osteoporosis.’ According to a study by Uppsala University in Sweden, the consumption of milk has even been associated with higher mortality in both men and women, according to a 2014 article in the Washington Post.

“But these facts haven’t stopped the USDA in its quest to drive the demand for dairy. According to the Environmental Working Group and USDA data, Americans have spent $6.4 billion between 1995 and 2020 in subsidizing the dairy industry. Included in these subsidies are marketing fees that promote the consumption of milk and several ‘[d]airy-related programs administered by [the] USDA, which are designed to ‘dairy farmers and dairy product consumers.’ The dairy industry, it turns out, is milking the paychecks of Americans and turning their hard-earned money into cartons of liquid white murkiness.”

—Jennifer Barckley, “The Dairy Industry Is Determined to Pour Itself Down Our Throats” (New Europe, January 14, 2022)

Parting thought…

Hope blooms: The sakura, or cherry blossom—Japan’s national flower—symbolizes the optimism and renewal of the spring season. (Photo credit: Martin Höst/Flickr)

“Are not flowers the stars of the Earth?” —Clara Lucas Balfour

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.

Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Weaken Our Immune System Response to COVID-19—When Will Congress Ban Them?

Bag of trouble: Great at repelling grease, PFAS are commonly used in food containers like microwave popcorn bags. But exposure to this class of chemicals poses health risks. (Photo credit: David Jackmanson/Flickr)

A new federal bill would advance public and environmental health by banning toxic chemicals from food packaging.

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, Independent Media Institute

6 min read

While so many Americans have taken all necessary precautions to keep themselves and those around them safe from COVID-19 and prevent severe illness if they do get sick with the virus, there are plenty of other factors in Americans’ daily lives that are beyond their control that may actually worsen the effects of the novel coronavirus and especially result in the vulnerable population being more susceptible to the virus despite their best efforts to get vaccinated and boosted and ensure they are masked up and are socially distanced from others.

Chemicals commonly found in consumer products have been proven to harm human health, yet they still remain legal stateside. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which negatively affect human hormones, can exacerbate COVID-19 in particularly vulnerable individuals, yet these EDCs can be hard to avoid for any American consumer. “Certain underlying chronic conditions associated with exposures to… [endocrine-disrupting] chemicals (EDCs) are exacerbating the effects of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations,” confirmed the Collaborative on Health and the Environment.

PFAS (short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are frequently found in food packaging and mass-manufactured goods, like cosmetics, are an EDC.

According to a June 2020 article in the Intercept, “Studies have shown that in both adults and children higher levels of certain PFAS chemicals were associated with weaker responses to vaccines. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the CDC, recognized this evidence in an announcement it recently posted to its website on the ‘potential intersection between PFAS exposure and COVID-19.’”

PFAS chemicals are a family of chemicals that are widely used in industrial and consumer product applications, and commonly used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings,” explains David Andrews, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit public health advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “PFAS chemicals are very stable and impervious to breakdown, giving them what is often considered to be a performance advantage in many products. This apparent advantage of chemical and physical stability is what has led to widespread global contamination [by PFAS] and [has provided them with] their ability to cause human health harm.”

These toxins are pervasive in everyday life, but a PFAS ban for food packaging, proposed in Congress in late 2021, can help limit everyday exposure to the toxins. The Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act is a bipartisan effort, introduced in the Senate by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and in the House of Representatives by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Representative Don Young (R-AK). If the bill passes, it is expected to be enacted by January 1, 2024.

A PFAS ban is “long overdue and [is] hopefully the first of many,” says Calloway Cook, president of Illuminate Labs, a dietary supplements company. “It’s unfortunate that many packaged food products in the U.S. contain compounds that are known to be harmful to human health but remain legal to use,” he adds. “The FDA and Congress should review the medical literature on more compounds like PFAS and err on the side of caution, [and look at] banning all compounds that have proven toxicity in animal studies at doses achievable through regular use… The cost to switch to more sustainable alternatives is not much, even with plastics, but most businesses are not focused on long-term environmental effects. It’s absolutely the role of Congress to better regulate the food industry, and I hope the bill banning PFAS is the first of many similar bills.”

Andrews agrees, saying in an EWG press release, “The Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act would quickly cut off a potential major and completely avoidable source of exposure to these forever chemicals.”

PFAS are widely used because they offer a solution to consumer packaging, but what could be used instead? “With hundreds to thousands of PFAS chemicals, it is likely that there will be a significant, if not similar, number of alternative chemicals or alternatives needed to fully replace PFAS,” explains Dr. Andrews, emphasizing that where safer alternatives exist, they should be used instead of PFAS as soon as possible. In other cases, alternatives may need to be developed, and should potentially be incentivized. For example, medical devices, which are essential to human health and safety, should absolutely not have toxins in them. But that is unfortunately not the case.

Still, replacing PFAS with non-detrimental alternatives isn’t that simple. “Many of the PFAS being used today are replacements for different PFAS chemicals such as PFOA [perfluorooctanoic acid] and PFOS [perfluorooctane sulfonic acid] that were used decades ago,” Andrews explains. “Many of the regulations phasing out the use of PFAS, such as the Washington state ban of PFAS in food packaging, require an alternative assessment to ensure that the replacements [provided] are safer [than the original options].” This certainly explains why it would be difficult to ban PFAS immediately, even after knowing the health risks involved in using them: they help support consumerism.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating more than 1,000 completely legal PFAS chemicals, which is worrisome for environmental and human health. Introducing regulations for various industries, such as food packaging, cosmetics and textiles, will help curb the use of PFAS and halt further contamination and sickness related to these chemicals. To check if you live in an area contaminated by PFAS and should take precautions, such as filtering your tap water, the EWG offers an online interactive map as well as expert-sourced tips on avoiding PFAS exposure.

And just as it is not always possible to avoid all sources of COVID-19, avoiding all potential sources of PFAS isn’t always as easy as it may sound. Research by Greenpeace in 2016 found PFAS contaminants in jackets made by environmentally focused brands like the North Face, which plans to phase out PFAS by 2025, and Patagonia, which aims to ensure that 85 percent of its garments are “PFAS-free by the end of 2022”; in 2014, Greenpeace found PFAS in more than 80 articles of clothing, including footwear, that were purchased in 2013. Finding a water-repellent, affordable and PFAS-free raincoat may not be easy, but cutting back on greasy food packed in PFAS-treated containers or wrappers (such as for fast food and microwave popcorn) and preparing food in non-PFAS treated nonstick cookware—a currently available alternative you could try is learning to cook with a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, for example—may help. Still, with the proliferation of PFAS use in so many aspects of Americans’ daily lives, the responsibility for substantial change lies most heavily with the government, which has the power to make legislative changes to curb companies’ reliance on PFAS. As it stands, Americans live in a nation where it is very difficult to avoid PFAS exposure and its harms.

“It is imperative that regulations move forward to limit future harm from PFAS chemicals based on what we know about the extreme toxicity and potent risk that these chemicals pose for human health,” says Andrews. “Regulations should be enacted quickly to stop any ongoing industrial discharges and [to] eliminate approval of new PFAS that may pose risks to health or the environment.”


Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in New York. She is a writing fellow at Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She’s written for the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Architectural Digest, Them and other publications. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Columbia University and is also at work on a novel. Follow her on Twitter: @melissabethk.

Take action…

Daily dose: You may be surprised to learn how often you are exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals. (Screenshot: Food Packaging TV via YouTube)

FDA has ‘no excuse’ for allowing toxic PFAS in food packaging

“There is no excuse for the FDA to continue allowing millions of Americans to be exposed to toxic PFAS in food packaging and foodware, especially when safer alternatives are available,” said Sue Chiang, pollution prevention director at the Center for Environmental Health. “The FDA needs to turn off the tap to toxic PFAS. We all deserve access to toxic free food that doesn’t harm people across the product lifecycle from workers, to consumers, to fenceline communities disproportionately impacted by irresponsible disposal practices.”

“While states like Maine, Washington, Vermont, and New York have already taken action to eliminate PFAS from food packaging, the FDA has done little to address the clear hazards PFAS poses,” said Patrick MacRoy, Deputy Director of Defend Our Health. “We hope this petition will provide the impetus for the new administration at FDA to finally provide the Federal leadership desperately called for.”

Urge Congress to enact a total ban on the production and use of PFAS.

Cause for concern…

Thirsty: Drought-stressed corn is one of the many effects of climate change. (Photo credit: CraneStation/Flickr)

Fail: Humanity isn’t doing ‘nearly enough’ to protect against climate change

“The dangers of climate change are mounting so rapidly that they could soon overwhelm the ability of both nature and humanity to adapt unless greenhouse gas emissions are quickly reduced, according to a major new scientific report released [in February].

“The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, is the most detailed look yet at the threats posed by global warming. It concludes that nations aren’t doing nearly enough to protect cities, farms and coastlines from the hazards that climate change has unleashed so far, such as record droughts and rising seas, let alone from the even greater disasters in store as the planet continues to warm.”

—Brad Plumer and Raymond Zhong, “Climate Change Is Harming the Planet Faster Than We Can Adapt, U.N. Warns” (New York Times, February 28, 2022)

Round of applause…

Safer travels: Critically endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks are among several imperiled migratory species that will benefit from a newly created marine corridor. (Photo credit: Clifton Beard/Flickr)

New Galápagos ‘ocean highway’ protects endangered species

“For the first time, during February 2021, scientists documented the real-time journey of a pregnant scalloped hammerhead shark. The shark, whom scientists named Cassiopeia, traveled from the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador to Coco Island, Costa Rica, a distance of 430 miles, which she covered in just under two weeks. From there, she would travel roughly the same distance again to reach the Gulf of Panama to give birth in the safety of mangrove bays before returning home.

“This migratory route connecting Ecuadorian and Costa Rican waters is crucial to the survival of this critically endangered shark among other imperiled migratory species like green sea turtles, whale sharks, and eagle rays. It’s also the very stretch of ocean that Ecuador aims to protect with its January 2022 designation of a new reserve—a first bold step in ongoing efforts within the region that could ultimately help save one of the most famous marine reserves on Earth.”​​​​​​​

—Jennifer Flowers, “New Galápagos ‘Ocean Highway’ Protects Endangered Species” (AFAR, February 2022)


Tastes funny: If you regularly drink water from plastic bottles, you’re likely ingesting even more plastic than the average consumer. (Photo credit: Ivan Radic/Flickr)

Tiny bits of plastic are entering our bodies, harming our lungs

“We are no better protected from plasticized air outdoors than we are indoors. Minuscule plastic fibers, fragments, foam, and films are shed from plastic stuff and are perpetually floating into and free-falling down on us from the atmosphere. Rain flushes micro- and nanoplastics out of the sky back to Earth. Plastic-filled snow is accumulating in urban areas like Bremen, Germany, and remote regions like the Arctic and Swiss Alps.

“Wind and storms carry particles shed from plastic items and debris through the air for dozens, even hundreds, of miles before depositing them back on Earth. Dongguan, China; Paris, France; London, England; and other metropolises teeming with people are enveloped in air perpetually permeated by tiny plastic particles small enough to lodge themselves in human lungs.”

—EFL contributor Erica Cirino, “How Nanoplastics Enter the Human Body” (Equal Times, February 22, 2022)

Parting thought…

(Screenshot: @JohnOberg via Twitter)

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.

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