Unaccompanied Children at Border are Climate Refugees

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 25, 2021 by author and journalist Noreen Wise

For all of us climate warriors who are giving our 120 percent to educate the public on how to reduce our carbon footprints in our homes as well as our communities, which will result in lowering our atmospheric carbon level and curbing global warming, it seems as though we might know the ideal strategy that will help overcome the chronic border crossing challenge. After all, we’ve been posting and protesting about this for years. 

Why is the media blaming Joe anyway? Has any president in the history of our country, (including George Washington and Abe Lincoln, who both had to transform our disunion of states following two divisive and destructive wars fought on our home soil), done more, in such a short period of time, all while in the midst of a global pandemic? Blaming Joe only makes the media look blind and disconnected.

The heart of the matterTwo-thirds of the unaccompanied children who’ve been streaming across the border since President Biden was inaugurated, are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These three countries clumped together just below the Mexican border, have extensive shorelines on both sides of the land bridge that connects North America to South America. Viewing the area on a map, it becomes crystal clear that the beautiful Caribbean Sea along the eastern Central American coast and the Pacific Ocean hugging the western coastline, are susceptible to rising ocean waters, particularly problematic in light of the flat coastal regions with all the farmland, are low-lying, making the area much more vulnerable to climate events, as well as flooding from heavy rains, which results in extensive soil erosion.

Seventy-eight percent of the land used for agriculture in Honduras though, is in the hills, with steep angles and eroded soil. Soil degradation, and high temperatures with little rain, makes the land useless for sustaining the country’s food supply. Soil instability has a cascading impact on jobs, food supply, and homes, potentially causing devastating mudslides when the skies eventually do open. Additionally, this fragile strip is affected much more extensively by the negative force of 28 trillion tons of ice melting into the sea in total since the 1990’s, 1.2 trillion tons per year, (this is a 60 percent increase since the 1990’s which saw an annual ice melt of only 760 billion tons per year). Rising sea levels, which have eroded millions of acres of farmland in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have resulted in extensive job loss, with no way to replace the disappearing employment opportunities anytime soon. Additionally, thousands of homes have been destroyed by the rising water levels.

Thus, the border crisis is essentially a degraded soil crisis which is rooted in the climate crisis. Please note, that any time the soil becomes so degraded it can’t be used to farm, it takes years to regenerate. 

What’s the solution? Most of the unaccompanied climate refugees are crossing the US border into Texas. Texas is where America’s largest carbon emitters are headquartered. It’s clear that the most effective and fair solutions are twofold. One, the corporate aggresors must step up and fund additional housing at the border for the climate refugees. And two, most importantly, the oil industry must fund soil regeneration back in the home countries. Soil health experts, Rattan Lal and Gabe Brown, have done extensive research and testing on how to regenerate denigrated soil like that found in Central America, brought about by the destructive heat and extended droughts caused by climate change. We simply must apply their techniques to the soil in the home countries. Vice President Kamala Harris is on her way to Central America to help stem the mass exodus, hopefully she can pull this off.

The border crisis is ultimately a financial crisis though, for both the US (in managing the massive influx of minors pouring in from those Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) as well as the refugees who have lost their financial stability, homes, and occupations due to irresponsible corporate greed that has driven atmospheric carbon levels to staggering highs, hitting third world nations the hardest.

Please note, ExxonMobil had a net profit of $14.34 billion in 2019 and $20.84 billion in 2018. Let that sink in

There are approximately 9,000 independent oil and gas companies located in the United States. Their profit across the decades is staggering. They have the funds necessary to cover the costs required to expand the facilities at the border, while simultaneously covering the expense of regenerating the denigrated soil that’s causing the mass exodus back home. Corporate indifference and callous decision making by fossil fuel giants, dates back several decades. It’s time to require them to take stock and pay up. If anyone can convince these corporate offenders to do the right, and equitable, thing, it’s surely our new Vice President Kamala Harris. Good Luck, Kamala!


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Paper Towel Alternative! | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 5, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff (Canadian)

When was the last time you reached for a paper towel to clean up a mess?  Has COVID got you using more? How much do you pay for paper towels each week?  Each month?  Each year?  Or in a lifetime?  Do the personal finance math and then the ecological math and you may find yourself questioning whether paper towels really add quality to your life!  Did you know that Americans use more paper towels per capita daily than either of their neighbours?!

My daughters, 29 and 26 years old, never had their gorgeous baby faces wiped with paper towels, their spilled milk mopped up with paper towels, or their bedroom windows cleaned with paper towels.  In 2021, they never think to buy paper towels for their own homes.  Oh, the power of motherhood to plant sustainable living habits into future generations!  Muahahahahahaaa!!!

I think I am a bit weird, but I find the commercials for paper towels as morbidly fascinating as zombie shows.  Just as I wonder how zombies can keep walking when they have no blood circulating to keep the muscles working, I wonder how come people reach for paper towels when they can use a kitchen cloth to wipe up a mess?

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The heart of the matter. In order to wipe dirty faces, mop up messes, and sop up bacon grease, Americans use 8.5 million trees per year plus 144.5 million gallons of water per year, to manufacture the paper towels they consume, according to The University of Minnesota, the EPA, and Statista. Add this loss of natural resources to the consumption of fossil fuels used to make paper towels, wrap them in plastic, and transport them to the local store might give some folks pause for thought.  Is this use of resources worth it when there are easy, cheaper alternatives?

Back in the 1980’s, paper was already an environmental issue, so my husband and I decided to kick some paper habits out of our lives.  The easiest was paper towels.  Heck, we could save money and the environment!  A win-win, as far as we were concerned!

We had a stack of rags and made more from old towels and shirts.   

Peter, the fastidious window cleaner, felt that paper towels were still the best for not leaving streaks on windows and mirrors.  That was then. I used to clean the windows with rags and then polish them with newspapers as the ink really made the glass shine!  Ok, so who am I kidding… I probably only did this once as Peter was passionate about clean windows so this chore rarely fell to me. Now, microfiber cloths work as well as paper towels. And now that Peter and I are friends, not husband and wife, I have to clean my own darned windows!

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Sometimes, I wistfully dream of paper towels when cooking bacon, but less so now that my daughter’s boyfriend introduced me to baking bacon and letting the fat drip away!  I have a special cotton tea towel that I have been using as my bacon degreaser for years, but washing it was annoying… so baked bacon it is!  (And yes, not cooking bacon at all would be the better decision… one transition I have yet to make.)

Window cleaning and bacon degreasing used to be the only two tasks when paper towels seemed better than rags;  today,  microfibre cloths and baking are better than paper towels. 

You might wonder what to do with the paper towel alternatives.  Under my bathroom sink, I have a bowl for dirty rags, hankies, and dinner napkins which makes about a quarter laundry load each week.  They get washed, usually with towels on a hot wash.  By washing rags, I have one less kitchen bag of trash going to the curb each week.  

My rags take up less space than a two-roll pack of paper towels. 
My garbage bins are lighter. 
My purse is heavier.
My house is just as clean!

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Next Steps

  1.  Buy only paper towels made from recycled paper as at least you will save trees.  
  2. Bamboo paper towels are reusable and cost effective but they are transformed into rayon through a toxic process and are not compostable once they become rayon.  So although they are an alternative, be aware of this eco-trap.  
  3. Reduce the number of paper towels you buy. 
  4. Notice when you use paper towels.  What else is nearby that you can grab to wipe up that mess?  Becoming aware of our habits is the most important step in any transition. 
  5. Start stockpiling rags made from old clothes. 
  6. Purchase some good quality microfibre cloths and learn to take care of them. 
  7. Feel good about reducing your paper towel consumption and share that feeling with your friends and neighbours!  It is in the discussions that seeds of change are planted. 
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Sources

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper/storyhttps://gallant-gold-media.myshopify.com/products/bow-bag-cork-vegan-leather

The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/275731/us-households-amount-of-paper-towels-used-within-30-days/#:~:text=The%20data%20has%20been%20calculated,of%20paper%20towels%20in%202020.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/

EPA

http://www.mntap.umn.edu/industries/facility/paper/water/  17,000 gallons of water to make a ton of paper

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A Sustainability Journey | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff; introduction and closing by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Spending the past nine months in Canada during Covid, all in on sustainability immersion, taught me a lot. In fact, I’ve completely reinvented myself in such a short period of time. The most startling aspect of my metamorphosis was understanding how easy it is to live sustainably when everyone in a given community is doing so. Stronger together. My bud, Canadian sustainability guru Pamela Scaiff, is the master of sustainability and has been my supreme guide for the past four months. I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her wisdom with all of us.

The heart of the matter. The Guardian reported back in 2015, that adopting to the circular economy lifestyle of refuse-reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle-rot (a few more buzz words will be added soon, I’m sure) will reduce carbon emissions by 71 percent by the year 2030. This seems absolutely mind-blowing after a year of intense, sustained wildfires, horrific freeze-outs in warm weather states, and endless flooding up and down the East Coast. Seeing 71 percent cut in carbon emissions in black and white a few years ago, published on a highly regarded news site, stopped me in my tracks and inspired me to jump into this new world. 

How do we all transition to a sustainable life? Pamela Scaiff shares her notes so we can follow along the same simple and easy trail of transformation.

PAMELA SCAIFF: Somewhere along the way, I transitioned from Eco Warrior to just me getting on with life and loving it. I have spent the last 35 years transitioning to sustainable living… a fancy phrase that means that my family and I have been developing habits that have reduced our contribution to pollution.  

Cleaning windows with paper towels to using rags and newspapers.

Blowing my nose with paper tissues to using handkerchiefs.

Drying my clothes in the dryer to hanging them up to dry.

Cleaning with a variety of chemicals to cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and murphy’s oil.

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Buying food to growing some of it.

Not noticing packaging to reducing the packaging I buy.

Buying plastic bags to using reusable bags.

Buying plastic reusable bags to buying natural fibre reusable bags.

Pulling weeds to cultivating them.

Putting out a full bin of recycling garbage to celebrating when there was nothing to put out!

Using disposable menstrual products to discovering the joy of the Diva cup… and then hitting menopause!

Buying strawberries all year long to enjoying them seasonally. 

Housing a food morgue, otherwise known as my freezer, to managing the contents so they got used.

Combing through malls to abandoning them for the consignment and second hand shops so I could get better clothes!

Buying stuff to sharing stuff.

Buying stuff to trading stuff.

Buying food wrapped in plastic to making the bread, yogourt, and cottage cheese from scratch just to avoid the garbage. 

Wrapping gifts in gift paper to presenting them in pretty scarves. 

Buying gifts of stuff to giving experiences. 

Using my dollars for products that were designed for the dump to participating in the closed loop economy.

Drinking coffee in a disposable cup to bringing my own cup to the coffee shop.

Loving a huge mug of tea to savouring a small cup of a fine brew.

Buying Easter chocolate rabbits to making them — to reduce the impact on the environment. 

Thinking about buying disposable diapers to choosing cloth instead.

Tripping over too many plastic bottles in the shower to eliminating plastic in the shower.

Hating garbage day to celebrating it.

Dealing with kids who were anxious about the future to watching kids embrace transition to sustainable living.

Composting in my garden to vermicomposting in the house.

Buying all my plants at a garden centre to sourcing them from a variety of people… and seeds.

Looking at my black thumb to wondering how it became green. 

But the biggest transition was realizing that each little thing I changed along this journey of 35 years, eventually faded into the background and just became a habit that I no longer think about. Each little habit took effort and mindfulness and commitment at first.  Then, without me noticing, there was no excitement or discipline to continue.  I just do things differently because I have been doing them for years, now. Not every transition has been sustained or successful.  However, most have!  My most important take-away is that perfection is not the goal.  Everyone transitions differently. 

My family embraced transition, but one day I was told:  Mum, if you dare transition away from toilet paper, you will have gone too far.  (Secretly this is a plan for the future, but for now, don’t tell them.)

Remember learning to ride a bike?  Do you remember how much you wanted to do it but you fell off and got lots of bruises? And how about the adrenalin of pedalling like a maniac and not falling off for the first time?  Oh, and hopping on the bike to go to school or go see friends because it was easier than walking?  At some point, riding a bike just became something you did naturally.  

Transitioning to sustainable living is like learning to ride a bike — it takes work and boy is the adrenalin rush fun!  Eventually, each little habit will feel as natural as riding a bike. 

Thank you, Pamela! That was excellent. We look forward to learning more of your secrets so we can Build Back Better and reach the targeted 71 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. 

Next Steps

  • Pick one or two easy daily habits to begin with to build your confidence in how easy sustainable living is.
  • Refusing paper towels is one of the suer quick transitions. You can save a lot of money. One roll of bamboo lasts a year.
  • Saving kitchen scraps in compost bins is also a simple way to become an overachiever and feel great about sustainable life.
  • Gifts wrapped in scarfs is another basic that saves so much money, you feel incentivized to transition quickly.
  • Be sure to pass along Pamela’s tips to your neighborhood friends. When you’re surrounded by others doing the same thing, it creates positive, forceful energy that gets you from point A to B that much faster.

Be sure to check back each Thursday for more on how to Build Back Better with sustainable living.

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From Raging Wildfires to Habitat Restoration | Soil Health

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 14, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto M. Ed.

Wildfires are unpredictable, destructive, and, in recent times, more common. Among their many victims is the soil. Soil forms the foundation of our food chain, and so is of primary importance. Cristina Santin and Stefan H. Doerr conjure up a graphic image for us: Soil is the “living, breathing skin of the Earth.” It’s an image to keep in mind when considering how the land recovers from a fire.

What’s the heart of the matter? According to Santin and Doerr, fires affect soil in different ways, depending primarily on the temperature of the fire. At lower temperatures, fire reduces the microbial biomass that releases carbon dioxide and plant nutrients into the soil. It destroys seed banks and fine roots. At higher temperatures, the chemicals in the soil, like the pH, change. This impacts the stability of the soil and its ability to absorb water. All of these lead to the increased likelihood of soil erosion.

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota so we can improve the land, and rebuild the habitat that supports wildlife all while storing more carbon. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

As often happens, a storm comes on the heels of a fire, dramatically increasing the danger of mudslides and debris flows. Even months after the fire, burn-scarred areas are threatened. Big Sur, experienced this recently as a portion of scenic Highway 1 near a burn-scar was washed out after a torrential rainstorm. While there are some benefits to natural soil erosion (adding essential nutrients to streams and rivers) with the advent of climate change and its extreme weather events, soil erosion has become a problem. Crops suffer as the nutrient-rich topsoil gets washed away, leaving exposed bare mineral soil that water cannot penetrate. This means less carbon for plants and less carbon stored. Fires also create the opportunity for aggressive invasive species to take root, harming native plants and causing soil damage.

How does this impact you? This issue affects our farmers more than any other population, and thus our food supply. The fields that grow our food are essential to our survival. Additionally, millions of tons of stored soil carbon are released during a wildfire. We simultaneously lose billions of trees that store carbon, creating a devastating long term effect. The path to restoring both the soil and the trees begins with soil health recovery. We need to take immediate action to prevent excessive soil erosion resulting from raging wildfires and devastating storms. Many universities and governmental agencies have joined in the effort, conducting research, reestablishing habitats, and keeping the public informed. But restoring the soil takes time, maybe even years. Throughout history, maintaining our food supply has been paramount. In modern times, we must also work to protect our resources. Restoring natural habitats strengthens the soil, allowing it to absorb and store carbon, a critical step toward meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

What can you do to help? If you’ve been affected by fires and soil erosion, there are a multitude of resources available to help you recover and restore your environment, a few are listed below. Fortunately, revegetation may occur naturally after the fire. However, it is important to protect the soil as quickly as possible after a wildfire. The Forest Service has a few tips:

  • Mulch to establish ground cover to reduce the risk of soil erosion.
  • Build back the soil structure by reseeding native grasses to hold the soil in place and add nutrients and carbon back into the soil. 
  • Create barriers with straw wattles, sandbags, silt fences, or straw bale check dams to prevent further erosion.
  • Introduce red wigglers, our eco-system engineers, to help expedite the timeline for soil recovery.
  • Avoid introducing non-native species which damage the soil and harm native plants.

Continued vigilance is required to prevent aggressive invasive species from taking over after a fire. According to the National Forest Foundation, they will continue to be a threat until native plants, trees, and shrubs are established.


Next Steps

  • Take preventative steps to protect your soil from eroding.
  • Add groundcover to secure and improve the soil.
  • Plant diverse native species of plants, trees, and shrubs.
  • Work with local organizations to add native trees, plants and shrubs to public spaces.
  • Pay attention to changes being made in your area, and make your voice heard.
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Big Sur Slide Signals Need for Immediate Action on Climate | Soil

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 11, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto M. Ed.

Big Sur just lost a section of its famous coast-hugging highway, and it’s not the first time. The super-scenic roadway boasts magnificent views of giant Redwoods to the east and bluest of blue Pacific Ocean to the west. Drivers struggle to keep eyes on the road as the jaw-dropping views captivate their passengers. Being perilously close to the edge of the continent, though, has its dangers. Two recent catastrophic breaks in the road resulted in sections of the highway plunging into the Pacific, hundreds of yards below. Scientists and residents are finding connections between climate change and the damage done to their beloved two-lane road.

What’s the heart of the matter? The beginning of this story is the summer of 2020, when the Dolan Fire burned over 125,000 acres just east of Big Sur. Burn scars near the area can still be seen. Stripping the area of  forests, shrubs and ground cover, the fire left the area vulnerable to soil erosion. Add into the mix a fierce rainstorm which dropped 16 inches of rain in the area. The catastrophic destruction of a 150-foot section of  Highway 1, near Big Sur on January 28, 2021 was anticipated by officials. Acting out of caution and no doubt previous experience, Cal-Trans spokesperson Jim Shivers noted that 40 miles of the highway had already been closed in anticipation of mudslides near the burn scar.

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota so we can store more carbon. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

How does this impact you? We have cause for concern. A “slip-out,” the Los Angeles Times noted, happens when the soil surrounding the road is so full of water that the force of gravity wins and the road falls down the cliff. The “atmospheric river” that triggered this most recent slip-out was basically a moving column of water vapor that brought extraordinary amounts of rain to the coast. According to the Guardian, the amount of rain that dumped on the central coast last week was double the amount the area had, on average, all month. 

Place the massive rain event in a burn scarred area, as this one was, and the road had no chance. In burn areas, heavy rainfall causes debris flows that rip up vegetation, choke pipes, and chase people from their homes. There are long-term consequences, as well. Post-fire landslides are a danger for years after the fire. And according to the U.S. Geological Survey, debris flows that happen over a longer period of time result in root decay and loss of soil strength. The soil has little chance of recovery between weather emergencies. 

This recent Big Sur slip-out demonstrates the tragic but logical chain of events that resulted in the highway crashing into the sea:

  • massive wildfire 
  • dry landscape
  • ferocious rainstorm

In recent years Californians have seen more evidence of climate change. As high winds and dry vegetation become more common, firefighters can expect to be called into action in any season of the year. Aggravating the situation, some sources, such as Jay Lund writing in the “California WaterBlog,” predict a multi-year drought for the state in the near future. Any one of these events, by itself, poses serious threats. Taken together, they point to the need to act now.

What can you do to help? Climate change affects all of us. You’ve no doubt experienced surprisingly destructive wind, rain, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Snow storms in May. Rising water levels. We know the signs. With science back in fashion, one thing you can do is advocate for change. Stay informed about legislation you can support at the local, state and national levels. Communicate your support for climate change policies. And, as always, remain committed to making a difference by living and modeling a sustainable lifestyle.


Next Steps

  • If you live in a fire-prone area, remove dry brush that fuels fire 
  • Foster lush native trees, plants, and undercover to anchor the soil 
  • Connect with neighbors and friends about ways to slow climate change
  • Volunteer with a local organization working for change
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No-Till Farming Will Help Save the Planet

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 10, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto M. Ed.

What can be done about climate change? A lot! Many of us are busy making significant changes in our everyday habits to become more sustainable and lower our carbon footprints. However, there are a few tricks that have yet to be applied on a grand scale, and now’s the time. If you compost, you are part of a growing wave of people concerned about soil health. Because soil stores a significant amount of carbon, keeping it there is vital in the fight against climate change. This is especially significant in agriculture, with its vast acreage. Soil, not to be confused with dirt, is an ecosystem in itself, with millions of microbes and insects which are responsible for plant growth. Maintaining a natural, undisturbed  balance in the soil’s ecosystem leads to a higher level of carbon storage as well as strong, healthy crops. “No-till” farms help make this happen. They are an arrow in our quiver of weapons to fight climate change.

What’s the heart of the matter? Tilling the soil began thousands of years ago, with the invention of the plow. While many iterations of the basic plow emerged over the centuries, the technique’s harmful consequences have only recently become common knowledge. Tilling the soil disrupts its natural covering, leaving it more susceptible to erosion by wind and water. It releases carbon into the air and kills the really important microbes and insects in the soil’s ecosystem. The good news is that no-till farming avoids these damaging outcomes. It’s a technique being used by conservationist farmers doing their part to cultivate healthy, carbon-rich soil.

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota so we can be part of the solution for storing that much more carbon to help meet the US Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Great civilizations such as Greece and China suffered the consequences of soil erosion due to poor soil cultivation. In ancient Greece, it has been found that soil erosion increased dangerously only after the introduction of the plow. In ancient China, it was deforestation that led to the flooding of vast swaths of land and tragic consequences for towns and villages. Time and again, despite attempts to curb soil erosion by terracing and contour plowing, societies’ destructive practices slowed or stopped crop production. Societies were weakened and left vulnerable to invasions. Growing populations were forced to migrate to new lands. Civilizations collapsed, directly or indirectly, from poor soil management

The human impact on soil has a long, destructive history, and not much has changed. In recent history, an entire industry developed around artificially improving depleted soil. Using a variety of chemicals on soil across the agricultural fields of the U.S. and beyond “led to an unprecedented increase in food production, but also contributed to global warming and the pollution of aquifers, rivers, lakes, and coastal ecosystems.” And so, the rise of the no-till movement.

How does no-till farming help you? It’s clear that not plowing the soil has impressive advantages for the health of our planet. In addition, no-till farming practices benefit the farmer as well. No-till farms:

  • leave stored carbon in place, where it can do its job in the soil ecosystem.
  • take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere naturally, without harming land and water resources.
  • preserve the soil cover, allowing water to permeate the soil and reducing erosion. 
  • diminish the amount of pollution streaming into nearby rivers and lakes because of improved absorption.
  • create a healthy soil ecosystem that grows stronger over time to produce healthy crops and prevent disease.
  • decrease the need to irrigate because water evaporates more slowly from an untilled field.

What can you do to help keep carbon in the soil? In the past 300 years, we’ve degraded our soil by 50%. Something must be done to reverse the trend. While no-till farming practices will not solve all of our climate issues, they can make a difference. For farmers with lots of acres or just one, consider making the change to no-till farming. Check out the resources to learn more. (Some are listed below.)  You might not be a farmer, so what can you do? Educate yourself further about no-till farming practices. Be an expert who influences others; engaging in conversations is the beginning of change! Locate and support local farmers who practice no-till farming, and share the contact information with your neighbors. In the meantime, continue your day-to-day sustainability practices like composting, recycling, and upcycling. We are all in this together, and it will take all of us to make a positive change.

Next Steps

  • Learn more about no-till farming practices.
  • Support your local no-till farm.
  • Use no-till practices in your yard.
  • Reduce your carbon emissions by walking or biking.

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IKEA | A Leader in Sustainability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 5, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto M. Ed.

Saving a forest is big news these days, and just what we need to energize us. Each day, we practice sustainable living – reusing, reducing, recycling, upcycling. Every bit helps ward off climate change. So when IKEA buys a gigantic forest, saving it from development, and promises to manage it sustainably, we have reason to celebrate. We have a partner that values the science behind climate change and is willing to invest in the future. IKEA’s recent purchase of 10,680 acres of Georgia forest, and its commitment to maintain it responsibly, lend hope to all the eco-warriors out there fighting the good fight.

What it’s all about?

The Altahama River Basin, home to IKEA’s new forest, holds the largest free-flowing river on the East Coast, according to the Georgia River Network. IKEA’s purchase secures the future of a native longleaf pine forest and the threatened gopher tortoise. Once covering 90 million acres, the longleaf pine forest has been diminished to a mere 4% of its original size, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Development and agriculture are two of the reasons for the decline. The Ingka Group, IKEA’s parent company, bought the 10,680 acre forest from the Conservation Fund, which is famous for buying and protecting large swaths of working forests. (So far, the non-profit has saved more than eight million acres of land in the U.S.) The land purchased by IKEA is subject to the Conservation Fund guidelines that preserve and protect the land. According to the agreement, IKEA promised to 

  • keep the land intact (no selling off parcels for development).
  • restore and preserve native species (like the longleaf pine and the gopher tortoise).
  • grant public access to the land for hiking.
What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota so we can be part of the solution for storing that much more carbon to help meet the US Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Why is this significant?

Buying forests isn’t new for IKEA. It’s built into their Swedish DNA: more than half of Sweden is covered in forests. Ingka Group owns roughly 613,000 acres of forest in Europe and the U.S., including Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. It makes sense – right? . . . a furniture company investing in a resource vital to its economic success. What makes this different is that while IKEA plans to use sustainably-sourced wood from the forest, it has vowed to do so responsibly. The company is legally bound to manage the land according to strict, eco-friendly guidelines, but it’s also part of their long term business plan. Striving to be a sustainability leader in the world, IKEA set a goal to be “climate positive” by 2030. They are actively pursuing this goal by switching to electric delivery vehicles and building a circular economy in which used furniture is returned for repair and reuse. The values espoused by the Ingka Group (found on its website) support their mission:

  • Togetherness
  • Caring for people and planet
  • Cost consciousness
  • Simplicity
  • Renew and improve
  • Different with a meaning
  • Give and take responsibility
  • Lead by example

IKEA’s commitment to environmental leadership sets a standard for corporations worldwide. Its care for the forest and surrounding habitat, together with its savvy business plan, make IKEA a model for other companies. Working together with organizations such as the Conservancy Fund, companies large and small can follow the path IKEA has ventured out on.

The planet is the ultimate beneficiary. The forest will continue to thrive as a natural habitat for the longleaf pine, the gopher tortoise, and the more than 350 plant and wildlife species that live there. Hikers and naturalists will breathe in the fresh scent of the pine trees and try to spot a gopher tortoise. In the long run, all of us benefit as the forest works its magic to mitigate climate change. 

What else can we do?

Having a big, impressive leader doesn’t let us off the hook. Every person can contribute to the fight against climate change. Knowing there are companies like IKEA working for change, we might be motivated to add our voices to the mix. Being knowledgeable about climate issues and active in the local community, each of us can make a difference. 

Next Steps

  • Support companies working toward sustainability
  • Up your game on reducing, reusing, recycling and upcycling
  • Stay informed about positive changes being made in your area
  • Join one of the many organizations that are planting trees and promoting sustainability
  • Share the news with friends and neighbors!

Resources:

DiFurio, Dom, “Why is IKEA buying up thousands of acres of forestland in East Texas?” The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2019/11/22/why-is-ikea-buying-up-thousands-of-acres-of-forestland-in-east-texas/, 11/22/19.

Elassar, Alaa, “Ikea bought 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia to protect it from development.” CNN,

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/31/us/ikea-forest-georgia-protect-trnd-scn/index.html

01/31/21

Ingka Group, https://www.ingka.com/

Georgia River Network, https://garivers.org/altamaha-river/, 2018.

Hirsch, Sophie, “IKEA Just Bought – and Will Protect – an 11,000 Acre Georgia Forest.” Greenmatters. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/ikea-georgia-forest. 1/27/21.

Peters, Adele, “Why IKEA just bought an 11,000 acre forest in Georgia.” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/90594218/why-ikea-just-bought-an-11000-acre-forest-in-georgia?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss?cid=search. 01/14/21.

Rosane, Olivia, “IKEA Parent Company Buys Georgia Forest With Pledges to Manage It Sustainably.” EcoWatch, https://www.ecowatch.com/ikea-georgia-forest-2650169769.html, 1/28/21.

Soderpalm, Helena. “IKEA Stores Owner Ingka Buys 10,840 Acres of U.S. Forest Land.” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ikea-georgia-forest/ikea-stores-owner-ingka-buys-10840-acres-of-u-s-forest-land-idUSKBN29J1NR, 01/14/2021.

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Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 3, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint

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Winter Activities for Kids | Climate Change

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 31, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

It’s cold out there! You might be wondering about how to keep the kids busy, active, and productive. While remaining tucked away in the warm, cozy house, you can occupy them as they get ready to be Climate Superheroes! The hope of spring can inspire everyone to dig in and prepare for the near future, a future made better because you are helping fight climate change.

What’s the heart of the matter?

Climate change demands our attention now, and the new administration is on board. Discussing his executive actions on climate change, President Biden confirmed his commitment. “It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that is now facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency.” Every person is needed in the fight, adults as well as children. Utilizing fun, creative activities, we can guide the younger generation to a great appreciation of trees, plants, and soil. 

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How does this impact you personally?

Engaging children in climate activities early on will help them internalize the message that they can make a difference in the world. Composting is one activity that allows children to get their hands dirty, literally. From placing food scraps in a jar to turning over compost in a barrel, each step draws youngsters into the process. If you are short on outdoor space, consider gathering food scraps for the community. Your town may have a drop off spot nearby. Composting is more than just a way to keep the kids busy during frosty winter days; it also educates them about the importance of cultivating soil so that it can store more carbon.

Some quick facts:

  • Adding compost to the lifeless dirt transforms it into microbe-filled soil, which stores a giant amount of carbon.
  • Not only does compost increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil, it boosts the nourishment of plants that feed off the soil, enabling the plants to store that much more carbon.
  • Now more than ever, the soil needs more microbes, especially if the US is to be the climate role model for the world, as Mr. Biden hopes. 
  • One of the main goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is soil health. Increasing carbon storage in the soil is the way to achieve this. As countries around the world strive to reach the target carbon neutrality goals set forth in the agreement, composting becomes even more important. The only way to hit our targets is if every household composts.
  • Remember: compost nourishes plants and prevents pests.
  • Compost can be donated to your community for fertilizing common areas.

What can you do about this? 

Start by talking about composting as you make a salad or chop vegetables for soup. Specific elements of compost are right at hand! Reading age-appropriate books about the life of plants, from seed to fruit, will grab the attention of some children. Helpful videos are also available, if your children aren’t maxed-out on screen time. 

Hands-on activities make time fly. Building a climate change project using long-forgotten resources in the attic or garage can lead to a meaningful learning experience for your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Primary age children could write and illustrate a book explaining composting. (Your compost jar provides a helpful visual aid.) 
  • Challenge your eight to twelve-year olds to create a game board about composting and its benefits for the climate. Game pieces can be made of card-board or even repurposed barrettes, action-figures, thimbles and who knows what? 
  • Young writers can compose a poem or song about composting. 
  • Budding scientists can keep a record of what goes into the compost bin, carefully observing the color, texture, and smell over time. 
  • Young teens might make a documentary explaining the importance of composting in the fight against climate change. 

These types of projects challenge young people to use 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and they might have fun along the way!

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Next steps

  • Start gathering your veggie, fruit and other food waste for composting
  • Investigate compost collection methods in your area
  • Find high-interest resources to engage your child (See below)
  • Plan an activity your child will find fun and engaging

Resources

Climate Change for Kids website:

Start Learning

NASA website for kids:

The Greenhouse Effect: Keeping the Balance

VideoWhy all life depends on plants (3:06):

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/videos/spectacular-science/#/1019900995730

Video about composting for young children (5:00):

Composting for Kids With Peppa Pig

SciShow Kids video for kids 8+ (5:00)

Make the Most of Compost!


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

A Nation That Destroys Its Soil Destroys Itself — FDR

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Soil and dirt are not the same thing, according to geologist and author David R. Montgomery. Dark brown soil is life, teaming with microbes that are the engineers of all the nature that flourishes above ground. Microbe rich soil contains major amounts of carbon and moisture. Soil is the very thing that sustains our existence on the planet. 

Much paler dirt on the other hand is lifeless, containing little or no microbes, carbon or moisture, making it very difficult for plants to grow on their own. There is nothing that holds the dirt together, which often results in the wind sweeping the dirt away, creating heaps along fence lines and structure walls. 

David Montgomery warns readers in his book, Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, that soil degradation is what destroys civilizations. The Great Dustbowl of the 1930’s was a result of a decade of soil degradation brought on by plowing during the 1920’s which removed the nutrient rich topsoil, released all the stored carbon into the air, and left behind nothing but dirt in its wake.

What’s the heart of the matter? Soil, rich in microbes, can store major amounts of carbon. Nearly 70 percent of the carbon sequestered in a forest is stashed in the soil. Plants push the carbon they absorb down to the roots where it is released into the soil and safely trapped, reducing the atmospheric carbon level. The higher our atmospheric carbon level, the more the globe heats up. 

How does this impact you personally? Global warming impacts all of us negatively. The warmer weather often results in droughts which impacts agriculture, decreasing our food supply. This is occurring at the same time the global population is rising, creating a greater demand for food. Global warming causes the climate around the globe to change. It has melted glaciers, which in turn has increased the water levels of our oceans, lakes and rivers. Property values along shorelines have plummeted in many areas. Additionally, coastal homeowners are now finding it very difficult to get insurance for their homes and property. The wildfires out West have destroyed millions of acres of forests and billions of mature trees which has exasperated the climate crisis creating catastrophic climate blowback. According to David R. Montgomery, the United States has already lost 50 percent of soil’s organic matter, leaving behind dirt in its place.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

How can you fix this? Every household in the United States must compost. Composting kitchen scraps is an imperative for restoring our soil. Compost is filled with the vital microbes that are essential for soil health. Local grocery stores now have biodegradable compost bags. These kitchen scrap compost bags can be safely stored in your refrigerator if you don’t have an outdoor compost bin with a snap clip lid that will keep wildlife out of your compost. The majority of developed countries in the world have mandatory composting with curbside pickup once a week, but not the U.S. unfortunately. Private compost pick-up companies are popping up in the majority of US cities. Additionally, many U.S. towns now have compost drop-off sites. 

The next steps:

  • place kitchen scraps into a small kitchen bag instead of the sink or garbage
  • store in refrigerator if you don’t have an outside bin with snap lid
  • drop off at town compost site once a week or call to have a private company pickup your compost
  • Voila! So easy. You’ve just helped save our existence on earth.

We can do this!

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