<![CDATA[The Earth & I]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/libraryRSS for NodeTue, 29 Nov 2022 13:38:27 GMT<![CDATA[People Have the Capacity to Love and Heal the Earth]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/people-have-the-capacity-to-love-and-heal-the-earth63504534f18e5c6a0be68de1Sat, 22 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTChris Laszlo*AUTHOR BIO

Nature is fundamentally One.   ©Wikimedia/flickr

Common sense—and solid scientific evidence—recognizes the benefits of spending time in nature.

John Muir, the well-known American naturalist, called readers into nature with his captivating 1894 book, The Mountains of California. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” he wrote. “Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

How much time in nature is actually needed to notice a difference in oneself? According to one study, just five hours per month is sufficient to improve mood, vitality, and feelings of relaxation (Williams 2017). Moreover, time in nature can be spent in a city park as easily as in a forest, beach, mountain, desert, or grassy plain.

Why is this so important? Because modern populations are often cooped inside buildings or homes. A 2016 survey by The National Trust in the United Kingdom found that almost 50% of preschoolers lacked regular outdoor play sessions while older children, aged ten to sixteen, spent only thirteen minutes a day on vigorous outdoor activity.

The modern world’s sedentary lifestyle stands in contrast to those seen throughout human history, where people lived and worked outdoors in nature.

Life has moved indoors.   ©dronepicr/Gamescom Playstation VR Playseat/Wikimedia

Nature, the Ultimate Restorative

It shouldn’t be a surprise that spending a beautiful day outside, among trees, birds, flowers, and perhaps gently flowing water, can increase happiness and a sense of well-being.

Harvard naturalist E. O. Wilson is one of many scientists who has hypothesized that nature has a restorative power over people (Wilson 2009). He noted that we have a natural affiliation with nature that is ingrained in our biological heritage. Phrased more poetically, the pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote (Carson 1962):

Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ... There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

‘Forest Bathing’ and Other ‘Connectedness’ Activities

In the Seiwa Prefectural Forests of Japan, city residents practice shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” which means taking in the forest air on long walks. Forest bathing became popular in Japan in the 1980s and today is a recognized preventive health-care practice. One research study measuring the physiological effects of forest bathing on 280 young adults concluded: “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”

Such immersions in nature have also been proven to bring a host of psychological benefits, as people engage in fewer negative emotions and less self-referential thinking.

A great way to reduce stress.   ©mojpe/Pixabay

In addition to nature immersion, there are ways to practice “connectedness.”

We can set aside time for mindfulness meditation, journaling, or doing a body-scan or emotional scan. There are relationship-type practices of connectedness, such as loving-kindness meditation, gratitude practice, and appreciative inquiry. Also, there are practices that connect us to God or the transcendent, which include prayer and spiritual reflection.

On a personal note, I consider this a distinct category in my research and teaching—a way to be more connected and whole as a human being. This connectedness and wholeness can take either the form of observing—in a focused way—flora or fauna in nature, or a more immersive experience, where you go into nature and just allows yourself to be present in it.

A hypothesis of my research—together with colleagues for six to seven years now—is that people who experience a greater sense of connection to nature are more likely to care for others and future generations.

It also changes people's behavior, as will be explained shortly.

There are many studies that show the benefits of nature connectedness. One study, a meta-analysis, examined “nature connectedness” and “happiness” across a great number of different studies and found a statistically significant correlation. While a relationship or correlation does not imply causation, in this case, the findings show that, generally speaking, more time in nature is associated with a greater sense of happiness and well-being.

More time in nature = more happiness.   ©HiroArts/Pixabay

Highly recommended books on the subject are Richard Louv’s The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and, more recently, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams.

Physics Reveals Connection, Not Absence

Physics is in some ways the most fundamental of the sciences in describing the behavior of the world. Physics, for much of the last 300 years, has been based on the concepts of particles and forces. Actually, the idea of atoms seen as separate particles in empty space goes all the way back to Greek philosophers like Democritus, who first came up with the term atomos in Greek.

The figure below shows an illustration of two atoms, with their protons and neutrons in the nucleus, and electrons spinning around them at great distances from them, and the atoms are somehow separated in empty space. In such models, the only forces acting on them are gravity, electromagnetic fields, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.

Space is full, not empty.   ©Chris Laszlo

That was the paradigm of the science that many people grew up with. However, quantum physics in particular is giving rise to a new idea that, in fact, at the most infinitesimal level of the universe, there is a connected and coherent unified field, a field of energy and information that connects everything (above right). Rather than thinking about space as being a vacuum, space, in fact, is a plenum (full). It is now known that the universe contains dark matter, dark energy, and gravitational waves. Along with these fields of energy, vibrational fields of energy connect everything, not just metaphorically—but actually.

Quantum physicists speak about objects or living systems as excitations of the quantum field, which is now a proven domain. Experiments such as the double-slit experiment, as well as Bell's theorem experiment (see below), show this interdependence and describe fundamental reality.

Bell’s theorem experiment.   ©APS/Alan Stonebraker

Bell's theorem experiment was a way to examine the behavior of paired particles. The figure above shows a Source that generates particles V1 and V2, which are paired in the sense of having the same wave phase. Once they are paired, they are shot off in opposite directions to crystal A and crystal B, each of which has a mirror in it. Each mirror has a 50% chance of shooting the particle up and 50% chance of shooting the particle down.

This experiment has shown that paired particles that are shot out remain paired even across great distances. Thus, if V1 and V2 are paired, and if V1 hits crystal A and goes up (+1), then V2 (shot out at the same time) will hit crystal B and also go up (+1). This can be repeated tens of thousands of times, as this is what the coincidences detector shows, and you will never once find the case in which paired particles emerging from the crystals go in opposite directions. This includes cases in which V1 goes up and V2 goes down (-1) or the reverse, with V2 going up and V1 going down. This is what quantum physicists call entanglement, not nonlocality, and it can happen across very great distances.

Considering a person’s relationship with nature at this most fundamental level, it is a relationship of oneness.

That degree of instant correlation, holding over very great distances, suggests that it happens faster than the speed of light. Thus, Erwin Schrödinger, one of the early great quantum physicists, concluded that quantum physics reveals a basic oneness of the universe. This is important because, considering a person’s relationship with nature at this most fundamental level, it is a relationship of oneness.

There are other sciences, such as epigenetics, that show that it is not only genes that determine things such as life expectancy and disease, but also a person’s relationship with nature. What that relationship is, whether exposed to pollution or to healthy nature, affects the proteins that wrap the genes and lead to gene expression, either good or bad.

Finally, from the nineteenth century onward, the rise of Darwinism and then Neo-Darwinism, as well as the economics of William Stanley Jevons and John Stuart Mill, led us to believe that human beings were essentially selfish, competitive, and separate—what the existentialist called the “bounded human being.”

However, we are more recently starting to see that there are, in fact, lessons from nature by which we can better understand human nature as relational, cooperative, and connected.

Nature enhances connectedness.   ©Pixabay

Consciousness also is undergoing an interesting controversy, with physicalist theory versus universal field theory. Physicalist theory maintains that we generate consciousness just inside our brain, like a supercomputer, while universal field theory suggests that consciousness is actually a property of the universe that we can tap into.

Thus, our brains are almost instruments that tap or tune into a universal consciousness through microtubular lattices (see the figure below), and there is good scientific research emerging on this.

Brain structure suggests pathways to universal consciousness.   ©Chris Laszlo

All of the science now tends to converge with spiritual traditions. For example, in the teachings of the Vedanta from the Hindu tradition, or Vedic tradition, starting with the Rig Vedas and then the Upanishads, there has always been this idea of “Brahma,” the background field from which the manifest universe comes.

Native American traditions consider human beings as relatives of animals and plants. “All My Relatives” refers to how a Native American would see a rabbit or fox or even a tree.

In Africa, you have Ubuntu, the idea that “I am who I am because of who we all are.” In China, Japan, and elsewhere, we have Taoism (Daoism), the notion that there is the “Way” (Dao) and that in practice we can become one with the Way. In Buddhism as well, he who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings and all beings in his own Self. Then, you have Ein Sof, which is an ancient symbol from the Kabbalah, an early thread in Judaism, that also has this notion of an ineffable background to the reality you experience.

Consciousness and Connectedness

In conclusion, many people see the world as made up of separate objects, like separate vortices in a river. The image below shows a river in which vortex A and vortex B seem stable and separate, as if they have their own structure in time and space.

But perhaps a better way to see them is how they are merging dynamically in the river. David Bohm, the quantum physicist, called it “undivided wholeness in flowing movement.”

Two vortices (A and B), one river.   ©Shutterstock

The benefits of connecting to nature are shown by contemporary research. These include overall health improvement; stress relief; reduced negative emotions, such as decreased fear and anger; enhanced positive effects; improvements in mood and increased subjective well-being; feelings of joy and happiness; a sense of reconnection with self; kinship ties in teams; a heightened sense of community, kinship, egalitarianism, and belongingness, along with increased empathy (Florence 2017); a stronger sense of place; and improved cognitive abilities, including creativity, cognitive flow, and mental performance in problem solving.

Connecting to nature also increases personal well-being.

It can raise awareness of how our actions impact others, and it can transform people and leaders, in particular, by increasing their emotional, social, and spiritual intelligence. It can increase entrepreneurial creativity and collaboration, and perhaps, very importantly at this time in human history, can strengthen pro-social and pro-environmental behaviors.

In the business courses I teach on flourishing enterprise, it is becoming clear that flourishing in business requires both a strong financial business case and behavioral change, and that the consciousness of connectedness—including a consciousness and connectedness to nature—are central to lasting behavioral change.

Acknowledgments

The content above draws on selected works of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, John Archibald Wheeler, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli, David Bohm, Richard Feynman, Werner Heisenberg, and Max Planck. It benefits greatly from pioneers who sought to integrate quantum physics and philosophy: David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980), Ken Wilber’s Quantum Questions (1984); Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Sciences (1994); Ervin Laszlo’s The Interconnected Universe (1995) and The Self-Actualizing Cosmos (2014); among others. I owe a further debt to Paul Levy’s Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (2018), Lothar Schäfer’s Infinite Potential: What Quantum Physics Reveals About How We Should Live (2013), and Allan Combs’ Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness (2009).

Revisiting these works were part of a broader research program on Quantum Leadership at Case Western Reserve University, starting in 2014 and funded by the businessman and philanthropist Fred Chavalit Tsao. Extensive field research led to our book, Quantum Leadership: New Consciousness in Business, published by Stanford University Press in 2019.


*Chris Laszlo is Professor of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, USA. He researches and teaches flourishing enterprise and is the co-founder of Sustainable Value Partners, USA.

Editorial Note:

This article was adapted from a presentation by Prof. Laszlo at the Third International Conference on Science and God, a virtual meeting held in April 2022.

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<![CDATA[War’s Devastation, by the Numbers]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/war-devastation-in-ukraine63514654f64094a7440cf584Fri, 21 Oct 2022 20:23:08 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamOn February 24, 2022, the Russian military invaded Ukraine, causing “the most rapid forced population movement within Europe since World War 2.” Researchers addressed the humanitarian and environmental impacts of the war in a new study in The Lancet.

war destruction   ©The Earth & I
  1. As of Aug. 10, 2022, 12,867 civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine, including 5,401 deaths. 
  2. According to the UN, 972 of those deaths were children. 
  3. Over 6 million people became registered refugees in Europe alone. 
  4. Some 6 million people have been internally displaced, and this number could be closer to 8 million. 
  5. War has devastated Ukraine's infrastructure, causing disruption to vital services such as waste management and agriculture. It has caused environmental contamination that includes toxic chemical releases from damaged industrial facilities. 
  6. Ukraine’s fifteen reactors at four operational nuclear power plants raises grave concerns, as do radioactive sources at other sites. 

 Source: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(22)01739-1/fulltext

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<![CDATA[Raising Environmental Scholars of the Sea]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/raising-environmental-scholars-of-the-sea634f2425a70b6b4f4f7a93a3Fri, 21 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTYasmin Prabhudas*AUTHOR BIO

SSC Robert C Seamans, SEA’s state-of-the-art 134-foot brigantine.   ©Sea Education Association (SEA)

Students are embarking on incredible ocean voyages, thanks to the long-standing work of the Sea Education Association (SEA). Through the organization, they are building nautical skills and enhancing their knowledge of all things affecting the sea—making them true advocates for the ocean environment.

Founded in 1971 by renowned sailor Corwith Cramer Jr., and Edward MacArthur, the SEA aims to educate students through hands-on maritime experiences and rigorous academic programs. It is one of six scientific and oceanographic research institutions in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and represents disciplines cutting across oceanography, history, anthropology, public policy, and natural science.

The Ocean’s Critical Role in the Environment

Douglas Karlson, SEA director of communications, explains why sea education is so important: “The ocean is 70% of the planet, and it plays a critical role in the environment and the climate of the planet Earth. Our students are very much aware of that.”

Since the SEA’s beginnings, more than 10,000 alumni have explored the ocean on one of its three tall ship research vessels. The organization’s programs are for everyone—from high school pupils and young people on a gap year to undergraduates and adults. Upcoming courses offer students with a background in science, the environment, culture and history a variety of study options. They cover topics such as climate and society, shifting coastlines, food and water security, and environmental justice in the Caribbean.

Building Ocean Stewards

Karlson says: “We have one program called marine biodiversity and conservation, which is a pretty science-heavy program. And it's followed by a symposium on the Sargasso Sea, where we have experts from all over who are interested in conservation. The students report on their research projects, and they develop mentorships, and they meet people. Not all students are biology or environmental studies majors, some study a variety of other majors. Some programs are more geared toward maritime history.”

He adds: “Students learn about the carbon cycle and ocean warming, and they're very concerned about what's happening to coral reefs. They're interested in conserving fish populations. So, they get to delve into those topics.”

There is also a focus on personal growth, Karlson says. “It’s also about empowering students, teaching them leadership skills, and helping them to develop as ocean stewards.”

SAE students conducting research at sea.   ©SEA

Mareike Duffing Romero, an SEA alumnus, believes her experiences are invaluable: “In the little amount that we have been in the program, we have been sponges absorbing incredible amounts of knowledge. The challenges we face, the hard work, the different work hours, the classes, the research projects and the boat life during our SEA semester are all incredible life and educational lessons, which I believe will bring us far as ocean advocates and scientists.”

On Board a Tall Ship

Undergraduate students spend six weeks on campus learning nautical science or ocean science, depending on which program they opt for. They gain accreditation through Boston University.

They also prepare a research project that they'll complete while they're at sea, which can be for up to six weeks. The seafaring element typically takes them to islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.

Once on board the vessel, students carry out tasks like adjusting sails, helping in the galley, standing watch, and inspecting the ship. As the ocean passage progresses, “they actually end up taking charge of running the ship,” explains Karlson.

Contributing Research

But that’s not all. The ships have a lab on board so students can examine specimens taken from the sea or measure the salinity and temperature of the water. In addition to working on their research reports, they also “muster” on the quarterdeck to have discussions with SEA’s faculty of oceanographers, anthropologists, nautical scientists, and historians.

Spooning through plastics recovered from the ocean.   ©SEA

Students’ research contributes to a wealth of scientific information. For instance, when the world began to recognize plastics in the ocean as a serious problem, “it turned out that we had the best dataset of ocean plastics,” says Karlson, adding that SEA students “still sample for plastics, so we have these longitudinal studies.”

SEA also conducts special plastics cruises—on one such expedition, twenty-one college undergraduates went on a month-long blue water voyage from Honolulu, Hawaii, to San Diego, California, gathering data on marine plastics pollution. Their data was added to information gathered over decades and is now part of a plastics lab website dedicated to this critical problem.

When the world began to recognize plastics in the ocean as a serious problem, “it turned out that we had the best dataset of ocean plastics.”

Some alumni have contributed to SEA Writer, a journal that highlights different scientific topics. The latest issues cover coral reef and climate change, and plastics and oceanography.

Life at Sea

Adam Ziegler took part in an SEA undergraduate program. In his blog written while on the vessel, he describes life on board: “Each day, you are on watch for six hours. Depending on the schedule, the six hours you and your assigned group work will vary in the day. During those six hours, you will be plotting the boat course, conducting science deployments, adjusting sails, and steering the boat. After the six-hour shift, you have the rest of the day off.

“You can do assignments from your classes such as policy readings, data processing, work on your independent research, or just relax. Once a week, in addition to your daily work shift, you will have a policy class discussing readings on the upper deck and a brief lecture class on different scientific topics.”

“Whenever you are anchored next to an island, the schedule differs, but you are guaranteed a day to explore the island and snorkel on the coral reefs—which are the best days.”

He adds: “During the time at sea, all of the information you learned on land is applied in your independent research and policy discussions. Actually, being inside of a marine protected area and seeing its ecosystems while discussing how to better protect them provides more depth and gravity to the topic than just a lecture in a classroom.”

Kate Hyder, another former student, is equally enthusiastic. “My time at sea was the best educational experience I’ve had since entering college,” she says. “I collected water and the accompanying environmental data, which I would then use to analyze microbial genetic diversity.

“SEA is a truly unique experience for undergraduates to cross over major oceanographic features, understanding them in a way that many specialists in related fields do not,” she says.

Building Skills for the Future

Some 92% of SEA’s alumni have applied their skills in careers such as conservation, environmental policy, medicine, law, sustainable energy, and oceanographic research.

Karlson sums up: “We do produce a lot of people who go on to have careers in science, but they're not all scientists. Some of them are humanities majors who may be interested in communicating about the environment, or they may go on to become businessmen. But at least they're interested in the ocean environment. It's a good opportunity for people who want to explore a career in science or in policy.”


*Yasmin Prabhudas is a freelance journalist working mainly for nonprofit organizations, labor unions, the education sector, and government agencies.

Editorial Note:

To enroll in courses at the Sea Education Association contact the admission office at Contact Admissions - Sea Education Association

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<![CDATA[Everything Old is New Again: Thrifting Makes Recycling Easier]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/thrifting-makes-recycling-easier63502e2bdee67672d55c813bFri, 21 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTKate Pugnoli*AUTHOR BIO

As millions of people throughout the world become aware that the Earth’s resources are not unlimited, many are seeking ways, however modest, to do their part as conscientious consumers. There are many areas of environmental activism to join, but one that may be overlooked is also one of the simplest: thrifting.

Shoppers who have a good eye for a bargain will find many opportunities   to buy items at reduced cost from a thrift store.   ©Kate Pugnoli

Thrifting, or “buying used,” means consumers can find anything—from furniture and electronics to a “new” pair of jeans, a prom dress, or a brand name sweater—at reasonable prices. Reselling unwanted consumer goods also benefits the environment as it doesn’t contribute to a depletion of natural resources as well as minimizes energy consumption for shipping.

Although there will always be people seeking out brand-new goods for the latest fashion trend or hot technology, there are many reasons to consider buying used. The old axiom that beauty (or usefulness) is in the eye of the beholder applies to thrifting. Shoppers who have done a little research and have a good eye for a bargain will find many opportunities to bring home items at reduced cost simply because someone discarded an item they thought was outdated.

The Case for Buying Secondhand Clothing

Clothing shoppers can stay on budget and help the environment by buying second hand. For example, purchasing used clothing from thrift stores or online websites like Poshmark, ThredUp, or eBay is a good way to find gently used designer clothing at bargain prices. Famous brand names can be found with prices 50% to 85% below their original retail price.

Buying clothes second hand keeps them out of incinerators, reduces carbon and chemical pollution caused by clothing production, and lowers the water consumption needed to process both natural and synthetic fibers. Many thrift shops also support local communities, school or sport team fundraising drives, and other environmental causes.

The statistics may vary somewhat, but the fashion industry is responsible for between 8% and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Millions of tons of clothing and textile waste ends up in landfills.

Although natural fibers like cotton or wool often get a bad rap due to the amount of land and water needed to produce these fabrics, polyester blends—a staple of cheap, trendy clothing (fast fashion)—have a downside, too. Petroleum is used to create polyester textiles, and though they may wear well and keep the owner cool—or warm, depending on the fabric used—the fibers are not easily recyclable. Moreover, the plastic pellets involved in clothing production contribute to microplastic pollution, which is known to have a damaging impact on marine life.

Motto of thrift store: Reusing, repurposing, and upcycling,    helping save the planet while saving a few bucks.   ©Kate Pugnoli

According to an article recently published on Bloomberg.com, “modern textiles rely heavily on petrochemical products that come from many of the same oil and gas companies driving greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the fashion industry may account for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output—more than international flights and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.”

A big culprit in the clothing world is “fast fashion.” This is loosely defined as the clothing industry's business model of identifying hot trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them cheaply, and getting those outfits into retail stores quickly while there is a demand.

Fast fashion garments typically don’t have staying power. Although millions of consumers buy them, these items are likely to be discarded once they are deemed no longer in style.

Ways to Level Up One’s Wardrobe

Before making new clothing purchases, it is good to evaluate one’s current wardrobe. Prior to discarding an item, the owner can ask, “Can I alter that hem?” Maybe only a button is needed to give a favorite shirt another season of wear.

People can avoid becoming a victim of fast fashion by choosing clothing purchases more carefully and viewing them as long-term purchases. Keeping one’s wardrobe organized can make outfits easier to find and discourages impulse buying or needless duplication of items. (How many black tee-shirts does a person really need?) Closets can be organized by grouping like items, color coding, or putting outfits that work next to each other.

When preparing clothes to discard or donate, it’s good to consider whether this item was a good bang for the buck, e.g., how many times did this item get worn, and does it need to be replaced?

Reusable clothes can be donated to thrift stores, or owners can bring better quality ones to consignment stores for cash or trade credit.   ©iStock

Also, look at the quality of the clothing. Fast fashion tends to be poorly made and looks flimsy or cheap. The clothing tags will reveal what material was used in the garment; a lot of polyester clothing is made through wasteful textile production.

Reusable clothes can be donated to thrift stores or sometimes shelters. If the items are in excellent shape and are quality brands, owners can bring them to consignment stores for cash or trade credit. For those willing to take the time, items can also be re-sold on an online site.

Other ways to redistribute unwanted clothing include yard sales and clothing exchanges, in which friends gather and swap gently used clothes. In short, there are many ways to say goodbye to old clothes rather than send them to a landfill!

More Than Low-Priced Clothing

When people do a closet purge or decluttering project, they may be surprised at what has been hiding in the dark recesses of their storage spaces. Happily, resale stores are ready to receive an enormous variety of donations for their shelves.

Second-hand bookstores offer both old and newly published books often at rates cheaper than Amazon or eBay.   ©Julie Malian

For instance, thrift store shoppers can find both old and newly published books at rates possibly cheaper than Amazon or eBay. There are also CDs, DVDs, crafting supplies, wall art, furniture, sports equipment, refurbished electronics, and housewares. Most good thrift stores also have a section with formal wear, including prom and wedding dresses, that can save a shopper hundreds of dollars.

Children’s clothing is usually available at great bargains at resale stores. Since children can quickly outgrow their clothes, many of their donated items are or look new. Also, many toys donated to thrift stores are intact, operable, and in decent condition.

Thrift stores thrive on repeat customers, and many offer deals on their deals. For instance, the thrift store, Savers, has half-price Mondays, discounts days for regulars, a senior day, and color-coded discount tags weekly.

While some people may view thrift stores as venues for mostly low-income shoppers, budget-conscious consumers of all incomes and ages know deals are waiting inside. It is common to find millennials wandering thrift store aisles searching for unique outfits or furniture for an apartment. Well-dressed working women are also there, seeking stylish clothing on the cheap, while senior citizens, young families, and couples of all ages search for bargains.

One warning: Always be ready to seize the unusual or unexpected item that pops up on a shelf or rack. It is unlikely to still be there on the next visit.


*Kate Pugnoli is an Arizona based freelance journalist and former educator who works with nonprofit organizations. Her area of interest is in addressing environmental issues impacting marine biodiversity and conservation.

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<![CDATA[Will King Charles III Be an Environmentalist Monarch?]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/will-king-charles-iii-be-an-environmentalist-monarch634f11f3a70b6b4f4f7a763fFri, 21 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamVery Likely, Some Experts Say
Delivering Queen’s Speech, May 2022.   ©House of Lords 2022 / Photo by Annabel Moeller

During his tenure as Britain’s longest-serving Prince of Wales, Prince Charles consistently championed environmental causes that included devoting landscapes and architecture to carbon capture. Amid speculation about whether the newly crowned King Charles III will continue his environmental activism, a new media report suggests that he will.

In a September 15 report by ABC News, Prof. David Victor of the University of California, San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy, noted that King Charles “is taking the crown very late in age, and everybody knows what he stands for—and for a whole range of topics.”

Previously, King Charles “used his position to raise awareness, not just in the UK but around the world. He has, for a long, long time, probably earlier than many politicians, understood the importance of this issue,” said Bob Ward, a scholar at The London School of Economics and Political Science's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

"He was talking about this before it was cool,” Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, a London-based think tank on climate policy, told ABC News.

What King Charles has said about the environment wasn’t always popular, but these actions now bolster confidence that he will continue his advocacy. As recently as 2021, when the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) convened, the monarch said that young people feel “frustration” regarding the environment and that leaders should take note.

ABC News cited King Charles’ estate, Highgrove House, as evidence that he has already applied his passion for the environment to his personal life. Purchased in 1980, the estate’s grounds have organic gardens and a “wild garden” that serves as a wildlife habitat. The estate also features solar panels and a “natural sewage system.”

Following its September 15 report, ABC News stated in an October 2 report that the new king “has decided not to attend the international climate change summit in Egypt next month, fueling speculation that the new monarch will have to rein in his environmental activism now that he has ascended the throne.”

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<![CDATA[The Mighty Mushroom]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/the-mighty-mushroom-awesomeness63515fcf02b9a599e2424208Thu, 20 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTJulie Peterson*AUTHOR BIO

It’s Time to Fall in Love with Fungi

Autumn is a great time to forage for mushrooms.   ©Wolfy/Pixabay

Neither vegetable nor animal, fungi are in a class of their own, and their global popularity just won’t stop sprouting.

The world over, scientists, chefs, and foragers have found the fun in fungus and are seeking out wild varieties or learning to cultivate them for their benefits as food, supplements, and income. Foraging clubs, guides, and rules can get a novice started.

What exactly are mushrooms? The thousands of species in the fungal kingdom feed on other plants and start out as a network of fine filaments that cling together in a mass (mycelium). Eventually, under the right circumstances, it produces a fruiting body known as a mushroom. The mushroom produces spores that will drift away to germinate into new mycelia, thus starting the life cycle again.

History of Mushroom Consumption

Humanity has enjoyed the flavors, textures, and healing properties of mushrooms for millennia.

The first evidence of eating mushrooms was found in the excavation of an 18,700-year-old Paleolithic burial site in Northern Spain. The female remains had signs of mushroom consumption in her teeth.

In the Alps of Northern Italy, the frozen body of a hunter from 3300 BCE was found to have been carrying three types of fungi; one was likely used to start fires and another as a source of medicine. Many other sites, along with ancient figurines and drawings, have shown that edible mushrooms played a large role in ancient civilizations and ancient peoples in central America, Mexico, Siberia, Eurasia, and Algeria used hallucinogenic mushrooms in religious ceremonies. In fact, the Mayan culture described psychedelic fungi as “body and food of gods.”

Zoom forward to several hundred years ago. Little was known about mushrooms. The Eastern half of the world readily consumed them, while the West remained reluctant. The French introduced mushrooms into their haute cuisine in the 19th century, and the delicacies quickly spread over the world like melted butter. Soon after, Americans were cooking and feasting on mushrooms with fervid devotion. Groups dedicated to foraging, identifying, growing, and cooking fungi emerged and continue to this day.

Mushroom broth is packed with “umami.”   ©ConnieMWT/Pixabay

Locally foraged mushrooms are now prized fare that can add joy to meals or provide cash when sold. There are festivals around the world such as the Muscoda, Wisconsin, Morel Mushroom Festival in the US; the Annual National Mushroom Festival in Islamabad, Pakistan; the Porcini Festival in Oriolo Romano, Italy; and Family Fungus Day in Lancashire, UK. Attendees to such events can typically sample cooked mushrooms and other foods made with mushrooms and learn about foraging for or growing mushrooms.

Foraging

Correct identification of wild mushrooms cannot be learned overnight. It is recommended that novice mushroom foragers obtain at least one guidebook or app that includes detailed photos and descriptions to be certain a particular mushroom is edible. Better yet, join a local foraging club and head out with experts. There are thousands of species of fungi and many are quite similar. A good guide will classify them with details on properties that are unique to each species (shape, color, odor, habitat). Positive identification typically requires verification of multiple characteristics.

There is a Croatian proverb: “All mushrooms are edible; but some only once.” That is why one should never taste or eat raw or cooked mushrooms that cannot be 100% identified.

The consequences of making a wrong guess can be severe or even fatal. Several types of Amanita mushrooms are responsible for more than 90% of fatal wild-mushroom poisonings because they are similar to many edible mushrooms and grow in the same areas. They are common in the US and Eastern Europe.

Varieties of Amanita fungi are toxic. This one is aptly named “the death cap.”   ©Julie Peterson

Before foraging for mushrooms, be sure that local regulations allow it. Some areas are protected and removing too many (or any) mushrooms could result in a fine.

If mushrooms can be accurately identified and properly prepared (some are toxic when raw but edible when cooked), foraging and consuming can be a healthful family activity. Whether or not the hunt produces a bounty of mushrooms, the benefits of traipsing through the woods and exploring nature are well worth the effort.

Popular Mushrooms to Eat

Chanterelles

Chanterelles are highly regarded wild mushrooms and their bright yellow and orange colors and distinctive trumpet shape make them easy to recognize. Chanterelles grow in mature forests and are commonly found in moist areas around maple, beech, poplar, birch, pine, fir, and oak trees in large clusters. In the kitchen, they can be used in a multitude of ways or simply sauteed with shallots or garlic for a tasty side dish.

The exquisite chanterelle.   ©Andreas Kunze/Wikimedia

Morels

Morels grow in deciduous woods in the spring and are easy to identify. There is one species that could cause potential confusion, but once true morels are identified, the deadly false morel is easy to spot. Morels are poisonous when raw, but have a rich, earthy flavor when cooked. They are delicious sliced and sauteed in butter to appreciate the tender flesh and nutty flavor. Fresh morels sell for $40 per pound or more and usually come from the US, Europe, or Turkey. Dried morels can be purchased year-round for about $20 per ounce.

Morel hunting is a passion in parts of the US.   ©Drew Heath/Wikimedia

Puffball

Puffball mushrooms may be the easiest to identify, and they grow on the ground from spring to fall. The mushroom is almost round and may look like a white baseball or as big as a volleyball. The flesh is totally solid from one end to the other with no cap, stem, or hollow area. They can be used as most mushrooms, added to pizza or egg dishes, but, because of their size, they can be sliced and used like a pizza crust or sliced and fried like a steak. Some people bread and fry them like mozzarella sticks or chicken nuggets, and many compare them to tofu, as they take on the flavors of the food they are with.

Puffballs come in many sizes and colors.   ©Sasata/Wikimedia

Chicken of the woods

Chicken of the woods mushrooms are great for novice foragers as there really isn’t a look-alike. The bright yellow-orange clusters grow on freshly dead trees. As the name implies, they are a substitute for chicken in noodle soup or a stir fry and can be breaded and grilled like a chicken breast.

Chicken of the Woods.   ©Lee Collins/Wikimedia
     Cordyceps militaris.   ©Andreas Kunze/Wikimedia

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is not your typical mushroom; it is a parasitic fungus that grows on and consumes caterpillars. It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat ailments such as tuberculosis, jaundice, and erectile dysfunction. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.

The fungus is believed to enhance oxygen utilization and increase blood flow, which may improve athletic performance. In 2003, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, cordyceps was touted as a cure. Sales, and the price, exploded. Today, they can cost as much as $10,000 per pound.

Truffles

Truffles can exceed more than $2,000 per pound because they are rare and difficult to harvest. Varieties of truffles grow underground in Italy, France, and the US Pacific Northwest. They take a long time to grow, and hunters typically use trained dogs or pigs to sniff them out.

Matsutake

Matsutake has been eaten in Japan for more than 1,000 years. Because of declining habitat, the mushrooms are considered endangered, and they have proven impossible to cultivate. This rarity has driven the price to $1,000 per pound or more. Because of their unique flavor profile, the mushroom is usually cooked simply. They might be skewered with oil and salt and broiled, thinly sliced into hot soups or steamed rice, or even eaten raw.

The popular and pricey Matsutake.   ©Tomomarusan/Wikimedia

Conclusion

According to Medical News Today, all varieties of mushrooms contain about the same nutrients, and many mushroom varieties that are easy to cultivate are available at grocery stores and markets for reasonable prices. It’s simple to incorporate mushrooms into the diet by adding them to stir fries, omelets, and pizzas. Larger mushrooms, such as portobellos, can be grilled or stuffed and baked. Shiitake is another that has a meaty texture and is delicious simply sauteed in olive oil, butter, or broth and eaten as a side dish or blended in with other ingredients.

Finding mushrooms in the wild is a humbling experience as one begins to grasp the extraordinary diversity of the natural world.

Whether hunting for fungi to supplement the diet, to make a little money on the side, or just to get some great photos, wild mushrooms are some of the most fascinating and beautiful natural specimens to learn about. As scientists continue to study new varieties for which there is little information, they may discover many more nutritional and medicinal benefits from fascinating fungi.


*Julie Peterson is a freelance journalist based in the Midwest region of the US who has written hundreds of articles on natural approaches to health, environmental issues, and sustainable living.

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<![CDATA[Maybe It’s Time to Walk Out on Obesity]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/walking-and-obesity63517121d53c290a88c21f58Thu, 20 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTParamita Mandal, Rojina Yasmin, and Suvanjana Ghosh *AUTHOR BIO

Walk consciously and good things start to happen.   ©Yaroslav Astakhov

Just a few decades ago, as the dual specters of food insecurity and associated malnutrition continued to haunt war-torn global populations, it was unimaginable that much of the world would soon face an obesity epidemic.

That time has now arrived: The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 1.6 billion overweight and obese people in the world, with about 40% or 650 million people in the heavier category.

This is a global problem, WHO says, noting that more people are obese than underweight in every region except sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Happily, there is a powerful remedy to unwanted weight gain that is also simple, free, and available to most: the habit of walking.

The Rise of Obesity

Today, having too much to eat—especially highly processed foods with little nutritional value—is rapidly overtaking food scarcity as a major contributor to malnutrition and poor health.

This modern version of malnutrition comes with its own, unique health impacts. Eating too many nutritionally poor foods has given rise to unhealthy weight gains that can lead to obesity and other chronic health conditions. Obesity has even been identified as a risk factor for COVID-19 mortality.

Obesity is more than just being overweight. WHO defines obesity as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation in the human body that may pose a health risk for many chronic diseases and conditions.

How is obesity determined? Health professionals often use Body Mass Index (BMI) to screen for obesity. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. A person with a BMI of 30 or above is considered to be obese, while 25 to 30 is considered to be overweight.

BMI <25 (left), 25-29 (middle), >30 (right).   ©Bruce Blaus/Wikimedia

Recent Aggravating Factors

The 2020 COVID-19 protocols contributed to the issue, as well. The stay-home and social distancing policies were intended to protect people from disease transmission. But the outcomes—requiring people to work from home, closing schools, restricting exercise outdoors or in gyms—led to an uptick in sedentary lifestyles, a major risk factor for weight gain.

When behaviors such as watching TV, indulging in sweet or salty snacks, and consuming sugary beverages—especially when not hungry—were added in, it can’t be a surprise that many people saw their body weights creep up. This is especially true in urban settings, WHO says.

COVID-19 restrictions left gyms and playgrounds empty.   ©Corduroy/Pixabay

Health Impacts of Obesity

Carrying extra fat can lead to serious health consequences, mainly heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some types of cancers. Bone density and muscle mass may also deteriorate, causing osteosarcopenic obesity—marked by bone, muscle, and adipose tissue impairment—with higher risk of fractures and physical disability.

Obesity is also associated with serious health conditions like high blood pressure, higher levels of LDL (“the bad cholesterol”) and triglycerides, and lower levels of HDL (“the good cholesterol”).

An obese person is also prone to mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Eating may become a pathway to coping with stress but, if not controlled, can cause weight gain.

Although there is some cultural pushback on “fat-shaming,” obese people can suffer stigmatization by society. Such experiences lower self-esteem and may discourage participation in activities of a positive nature, such as exercise and involvement in club activities.

There is, however, something that many can do to help in the treatment of obesity.

It’s called walking.

Benefits of Walking

It may seem simplistic to suggest daily walking as a protocol to address obesity, but as people spend more of their time sitting—at home, studying, working, or driving—it may be helpful to go over the benefits of standing up and moving around.

To begin with, walking improves blood pressure and can help lower BMI, thus lowering the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and more.

Brisk walking is a popular moderate-intensity, low-impact version of walking for those who want to avoid injuries—such as straining joints—associated with high-impact workouts. With just thirty minutes of brisk walking daily, one can burn about 150 more calories per day.

Studies have also shown that walking assists with fat-burning and can reduce waist circumferences of obese women.

Walks not only improve the physical health of an individual, but they are also beneficial for mental health. Studies have found that walking was an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, and psychological stress. It has also been shown that walking has a positive effect on self-esteem, and psychological well-being. Walking has also helped in maintaining the social health of individuals.

Walking meditation.   ©Kanzeon Zen Center/Wikimedia

It's also best if walking is done outdoors—if possible and appropriate—especially in more natural settings, such as in a park or forest. Reconnecting with nature reduces stress, calms nerves and lowers blood pressure. It imparts a sense of peace and lifts one’s spirit.

Buddhist monks practice walking meditations, i.e., concentrating on the movement of the arms or legs while walking.

Walking in the Morning Impacts Health

There is something special about an early morning walk—for good reason. Walking in the morning, when the air is much cleaner and free from pollution, facilitates better metabolism and the burning of extra calories. Walking in the first hour of the sun’s rays also provides fresh vitamin D, which builds up bone strength, among other benefits. Starting the day with a morning walk enhances mood for rest of the day.

Getting Started

Starting a new walking regimen isn’t always easy, but expect some good things to happen. When one starts walking, the body begins to release hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone, that make a person feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. Thus, it can be said that a morning walk is the road to a better overall lifestyle.

It is wise for an obese person to start out with short walks with light intensity and gradually build up to longer walks or walks with more vigorous intensity. Extra weight demands extra strength for movement. Walkers should warm up for a few minutes before setting out; this is even true for those who are capable of walking briskly.

In addition, if individuals suffer from comorbidities, such as osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease, these conditions need to be factored in. So, before taking up walking, it is important to consult a physician about duration, length, and other factors, and remember to stop and seek help if dizziness, palpitations, or breathing problems occur.

See you out there.   ©graphicnoi

As part of a walking regimen, a person should learn to walk consciously, one step at a time. It’s good to set goals, both in exercise and diet. With the right support and professional guidance, stand up and start walking. It is one of the keys to a healthy life.

Finally, one way to help loved ones who seek to return to a normal weight is to take up morning walks with them. This will benefit both walkers and provide companionship, assistance, and motivation. Morning walks can help most everyone maintain a healthy lifestyle.


*Paramita Mandal is an Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, The University of Burdwan, West Bengal, India, who has worked in the field of biomedical genetics for the last twelve years. Her research interests are complex disease genetics and cancer genomics. She has conducted independent research projects on human genetics and published her research in peer- reviewed journals.

Rojina Yasmin is a researcher, Department of Zoology, The University of Burdwan, West Bengal, India. Her research interests are in the area of complex human disease pathogenesis, and she studies how lifestyle factors impact disease.

Suvanjana Ghosh is a researcher, Department of Zoology, The University of Burdwan, West Bengal, India. Her research interests are in the area of cancer biology. She is passionate about examining the impacts of environmental factors on the pathogenesis of complex disorders.

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<![CDATA[Buzz on: Consuming Coffee May Lengthen Life]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/consuming-coffee-may-lengthen-life634f137697728c224e60f8dfThu, 20 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamStudy Cites Beneficial Coffee Components
Espresso.   ©Moritz320/Pixabay

Coffee drinkers, rejoice. Moderate consumption—two or three cups of coffee a day—is associated with increased longevity and lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared with abstinence from coffee drinking. These are some of the findings of a recently published study by Kistler et al. in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The study’s findings apply to the most common types of coffee consumed today. “In this large, observational study, ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause," said study author Professor Peter Kistler of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia, according to a Science Daily news brief.

"The results suggest that mild to moderate intake of ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle," Kistler added.

Using data from UK Biobank, the researchers examined links between types of coffee and arrhythmias, cardiovascular disease, and death for people between 40 and 69 years of age. The median age of participants was 58 years and 55.3% were women. Cardiovascular disease consisted of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.

Coffee drinkers were compared to non-drinkers after adjusting for “age, sex, ethnicity, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, smoking status, and tea and alcohol consumption,” according to the Science Daily report.

Reduction in death from any cause was associated with all types of coffee consumed. Drinking between two and three cups per day showed the greatest reduction. Compared to non-drinking of coffee, it was linked to a “14%, 27% and 11% lower likelihood of death for decaffeinated, ground, and instant preparations, respectively,” said Science Daily.

When it comes to promoting health, coffee has a lot going for it, according to Prof. Kistler, as quoted in the Science Daily report. “Caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active components. It is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival. Our findings indicate that drinking modest amounts of coffee of all types should not be discouraged but can be enjoyed as a heart healthy behavior.”

Sources: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/09/220926200838.htm https://academic.oup.com/eurjpc/advance-article/doi/10.1093/eurjpc/zwac189/6704995

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<![CDATA[Billions of People Still Suffer from Lack of Household Water, Sanitation]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/people-suffer-from-lack-of-household-water-sanitation63514467e9c92b3e40eb2f84Thu, 20 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamGlobal data from WHO and UNICEF finds household access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene remains a challenge in parts of the world. 

Lack of Household Water and Sanitation   ©The Earth & I
  1. In 2020, 90% of the world’s population had access to at least “basic” drinking water services, such as pipes and wells. This was up from 88% in 2015.  
  2. However, 2 billion people lack access to “safely managed” domestic drinking water, or water that is clean, uncontaminated, and accessible at home. 
  3. About 80% of people who lack drinking water services live in rural areas. 
  4. Some 2.3 billion people lack soap and water at home, including 670 million people with no handwashing facilities. 
  5. Some 3.6 billion people, or almost half the world population, lack safe sanitation at home. Almost 500 million people still practice open defecation. 
  6. Millions suffer worldwide from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water-related or hygiene-related. 
  7. One such disease is Trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Forty-one million people are estimated to suffer from active trachoma, with about 10 million visually impaired or irreversibly blind as a result.  
  8. Global access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene could reduce the burden of global disease by 10%. 
  9. Improved sanitation between 2000 and 2016 contributed to a 10% decrease in diarrheal deaths globally, and a 15% decrease in diarrheal deaths in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html

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<![CDATA[Transporting Food Boosts CO2 Emissions]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/transporting-food-boosts-co2-emissions63514280e4c426175b2756d7Wed, 19 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamNew research finds that moving food from farms to consumers generates higher-than-expected CO2 carbon emissions. 

Transporting Food Boosts CO2 Emissions   ©The Earth & I
  1. Nature reported in July 2022 that about one-fifth of all carbon emissions linked to the food system came from transportation—“a much bigger slice of the emissions pie than previously thought.” 
  2. The study from the University of Sydney in Australia collected data from 74 countries and regions. It found that food transportation in 2017 added equivalent CO2 emissions of about 3.0 gigatons. That is 7.5 times previous estimates. 
  3. Developed nations, which have about 12% of the global population, generated nearly half of international food-transport emissions. 
  4. Low-income countries, which have about half of the global population, generated about 20% of international food-transport emissions. 
  5. Transporting fruit and vegetables generated double the amount of CO2 produced by growing them. 

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-022-00531-w

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<![CDATA[Why Silvopasturing Is a Win-Win for Brazil and the Climate]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/how-silvopasture-benefits-brazil-and-the-climate63505c85d14c6cea727a4677Wed, 19 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTRichard Kemeny*AUTHOR BIO

Silvopasture is growing in popularity.   ©Oksana Shayok

In many parts of the world, fields are filled with grazing animals—but few trees or crops. Now a different approach—silvopasture or the intentional practice of combining trees, livestock, and forage plants on the same land—is growing in popularity due to its many benefits for people, animals, plants, and the environment.

In Brazil, a country battling deforestation in its Amazon basin and other parts of its land, some farmers are exploring ways to increase silvopasturing.

Deforestation Imperils Land and Air

Forests around the world are under threat from rising deforestation and the local and global effects of climate change. Indeed, agricultural expansion is the cause of 80% of deforestation in the global tropics and sub-tropics.

In Brazil, cattle-ranching is one of the leading drivers of deforestation. Ranchers clear away forests, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. If they use unmanaged cattle ranching, in which animals roam free, their herds soon tarnish the land, leaving it less productive, damaging soils and eventually leaving little to no vegetation—meaning less carbon is absorbed by the land. Ranchers move on to new ground, and the cycle continues.

Cut and burned rainforest turned into a cattle ranch in the Brazilian Amazon, where cattle ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation.   ©Photo treat

Silvopasture could help to alleviate some of these problems.

It’s estimated that around 1.36 billion acres of land are currently under silvopasture worldwide, with successful large-scale projects in places spread as far as Japan and Portugal. While the amount of silvopasture land in Brazil has been rising, widespread adoption of this practice still faces several challenges.

Silvopasture and Healthy Landscapes

Silvopasture is created either by planting trees on existing pasture, or only removing certain areas of woodland when preparing land for grazing or agriculture. When a silvopasture site is brought into balance, there should be a healthy growth of grassland that feeds the animals and helps recycle nutrients into the land for crops.

One of the major benefits of the system is improved animal health. By including trees into the landscape, cattle have access to shelter and shade, and more space to graze. This reduces the stress of the animals, and allows them to spend less of their energy on temperature maintenance and more on growth—research suggests it can increase animal weight by up to 10%. This results in improved lifestyle for the animals, and healthier profits for the ranchers.

In the United States, many farmers are introducing silvopasturing systems on their land. On Early Boots Farm in Minnesota, farmer Tyler Carlson took up silvopasturing in 2012. He now sees many benefits to the system, notably the expanded grazing area for his livestock. Carlson thinned out several acres of dense forests, where previously no forage grew underneath. Now the silvopasture grasslands compete with open grasslands and are even more productive in times of extreme heat and drought.

The introduction of native tree species also adds a range of ecological benefits to an agricultural landscape, boosting local wildlife and biodiversity by offering new habitats and sources of food. Strengthening biodiversity improves a landscape’s resilience to adverse weather events, including those brought on by climate change. The plant life also helps the spread of fungi that are essential to healthy soil function.

Financial and Climatic Benefits

Silvopasture also brings a range of economic incentives for farmers aside from healthier animals. Economic analyses have shown that these systems can be more profitable than forestry or simple grazing.

In traditional silvopasture systems, the trees are productive: Their fruits or nuts can be exported to generate profit; other trees can be sustainably harvested for their timber.

Trees also mitigate flood damage by opening up soils with their roots and allowing water to seep in. In the face of increasing weather events over the next century, this could prevent huge losses from flooded agricultural land.

Estimates suggest a pasture with trees can sequester up to ten times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than treeless land.

Adding more trees into the landscape—or removing fewer—has clear positive effects on both local and global environments. Estimates suggest a pasture with trees can sequester up to ten times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than treeless land.

Through a process known as evapotranspiration, intact forests also soak up water from the ground and emit it as water vapor, which evaporates and cools the surrounding environment.

Conversely, removing trees breaks this cycle. One recent study found that deforestation can boost temperatures in local areas, on top of the rising temperatures due to global climate breakdown. On the flip side, another study found that adding trees into pasture could lower local temperatures (by up to 2.4°C = 4.32°F).

Researchers in Brazil and around the world are studying silvopasture to understand and quantify the benefits it can bring. In one study, carried out at the University of New Hampshire, scientists compared plots of silvopasture, regular pasture, and forest. They removed 50% to 60% of trees from silvopasture plots, then seeded foraging plants before introducing cows. Then, they set up meteorological stations to measure microclimatic variables in the air and soil. They found silvopasture plots emitted less carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere from the soil, while carbon storage stayed the same.

“Our results suggest that silvopasture may offer a biogeochemical ‘middle ground’ between intact secondary forests and managed open fields, retaining the climate benefits of forests while enabling expansion of the agricultural land base,” the researchers write.

Silvopasture in Brazil

In Brazil, agroforestry has been practiced by indigenous communities for thousands of years. In the Amazon, the combination of forestry and crop-growing has long been used to produce cacao, açai, coffee, and nuts. Silvopasture is growing in popularity in both the Cerrado, a tropical woodland savanna, and the Gran Chaco, a forest region over twice the size of California that spreads over Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.

ILPF (crop-livestock-forest integration) is a production strategy that has been growing in Brazil in recent years.   ©Fernando Branco

A ,recent study reviewed the scientific impacts of silvopasture in the Caatinga, a dryland ecosystem in Brazil’s northeast home to around twenty-five million people. As far back as the 1860s, residents realized the negative impact of livestock on the local biome and started growing trees in pasture to improve livestock productivity. There are now many books and reports describing best practices.

As far back as the 1860s, residents realized the negative impact of livestock on the local biome and started growing trees in pasture to improve livestock productivity.

Most of the Caatinga dryland is located in a climatic depression, which blocks rainfall from reaching the area. Rainfall varies hugely between years, and every few decades, the region faces a severe drought lasting as long as five years.

A team of scientists from the University of Florida found that maintaining 40% tree cover would produce a sustainable silvopastoral system in this region to help alleviate some of the climate issues. The results could benefit similar drylands, 90% of which exists in developing countries.

Gliricidia sepium, a medium-size leguminous tree is used for silvopasturing in Brazil.   ©Atamari, CC BY-SA 3.0

Another ,two-year study examined cattle growth in legume silvopasture plots compared to grass monoculture. The researchers investigated the impact of the introduction of two tree legumes—gliricidia and mimosa—into a landscape in the sub-tropical state of Pernambuco. They found that the introduction of gliricidia increased animal productivity more than the monoculture or mimosa, indicating that the type of legume introduced is key to success. Silvopasture systems including tree legumes could therefore provide numerous ecosystem services and reduce the carbon footprint in livestock systems in the tropics.

In Brazil, this new growth could help to regenerate deserted land, restoring nutrients to the soil.

Challenges

Of course, there are barriers to the adoption of silvopasturing in Brazil.

Ultimately, whether silvopasture or similar agroforestry projects can have any tangible impact depends on the political discourse within the country. The Amazon rainforest will remain under tremendous threat from deforestation and forest fires unless long-term environmental protections are implemented across all administrations.

Cost is also an issue. To establish effective silvopasture requires high up-front costs, and long-term maintenance fees. Each element of silvopasture comes with its own associated needs and costs.

Another potential hurdle is culture. Owning cattle ,offers a level of respect within certain parts of Brazilian society, meaning some ranchers could be averse to changing their ways. However, according to the research of Rachael Garrett at Boston University, this could also help to spread the idea.

Garret visited a Brazilian silvopasture farm in 2017. The cattle rancher had swapped his cattle from those raised for beef to dairy cows; he had planted rows of eucalyptus trees to shade the cows and provide an additional income source, and regularly rotates his crops to renew the soil.

The amount of integrated agroforestry land in the Brazil jumped more than seven-fold between 2010 and 2016, reaching 11.5 million hectares.

Her research suggests that if higher-status members of society successfully run silvopasture farms like this, others could follow. “Status counts. Somebody needs to prove that it works,” she said ,in a statement.

And it could be working: data from Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, suggests the amount of integrated agroforestry land in the country jumped more than seven-fold between 2010 and 2016, reaching ,11.5 million hectares (44,401 square miles).

Farmers across Brazil are showing increased interest in silvopasture. In Pará, for example, ,farmers are experimenting with planting commercially important trees such as eucalyptus and African mahogany.

If Brazilians can find the political and financial will to promote silvopasture across the country, it would be a win-win for Brazil and the global climate.


*Richard Kemeny writes about archaeology, marine biology, oceanography, ecology, technology, and the environment.

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<![CDATA[Global Electricity Use Soared Last Year]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/global-electricity-use-soared-last-year634f1473109ec360b263a5b8Wed, 19 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamSiemens turbogenerator.   ©Siemens/Wikimedia Commons

Global electricity use surged 6% in 2021, the largest increase in more than a decade, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says in a recent report.

Renewable power has been growing substantially, but 2021 electricity generation from coal and gas hit record levels, the IEA said in its Electricity Market Report—January 2022.

“As a result, the global electricity sector’s annual carbon dioxide emissions leaped to a new all-time high after having decreased for the previous two years,” the IEA said.

IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol.   ©IAEA Imagebank

The agency predicts that renewables will “meet the vast majority of the increase in global electricity demand,” resulting in a “plateauing of emissions from electricity generation.”

However, this will not assist with immediate goals, said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

"Emissions from electricity need to decline by 55% by 2030 to meet our Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario,” he said. Absent major policy action from governments, “emissions are set to remain around the same level for the next three years,” he added.

Sources: https://www.iea.org/news/the-clean-energy-economy-is-gaining-ground-but-greater-efforts-are-needed-now-to-get-on-track-for-net-zero-by-2050

https://www.iea.org/reports/electricity-market-report-january-2022

https://www.iea.org/news/surging-electricity-demand-is-putting-power-systems-under-strain-around-the-world

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<![CDATA[Troubled Waters]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/lead-in-water-and-health-problems63505adf27722ccb70820085Wed, 19 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTMark Smith*AUTHOR BIO

Lead in Drinking Water Linked to Adverse Health Outcomes in Unborn Children

The nation’s battle to remove lead from drinking water may have become more urgent: A new study has found that pregnant women who consume water with high levels of lead can pass it to their unborn children.

Lead in water impacts health of unborn babies.   ©Ken Hammond (USDA)

The research, published in July in the Journal of Health Economics, is ground-breaking. Many studies have found a correlation between lead exposure and health problems, but the study authors believe theirs is the first to find an actual link between drinking lead-contaminated water and adverse health effects in fetuses.

The Newark Water Crisis

In 2016, elevated levels of lead were found in the drinking water of some public schools in Newark, New Jersey—a city that still has century-old pipes. The next year, the city’s tests found that the public water in more than 10% of Newark homes had high levels of lead.

Despite corrective efforts, such as a corrosion control process to reduce lead levels in water, the city was eventually forced to offer water filters and bottled water to tens of thousands of Newark homes.

In 2021, Newark finished its program to replace lead pipes with copper pipes. But this calamity—coming on the heels of the 2014 lead-in-water crisis in Flint, Michigan—touched off water-pipe concerns nationwide.

Newark, New Jersey.   ©Bruce Emmerling/Pixabay

Tale of Two Water Treatment Plants

Newark’s water crisis also caught the interest of two economics professors, Muzhe Yang at Lehigh University and Dhaval Dave at Bentley University, who began researching the situation in 2019.

The professors saw there were two different treatment plants helping to supply Newark’s water. They used data on the home addresses of pregnant women living in Newark for their study, together with information on the boundary separating areas serviced by two different water treatment plants.

In their study, "Lead in drinking water and birth outcomes: A tale of two water treatment plants,” the professors said they found an external change in water pH levels that caused lead to leach into the drinking water of one plant's service area but not into the water of the other plant’s area.

Prof. Muzhe Yang.   ©Muzhe Yang

In an exclusive interview, Prof. Yang told The Earth & I: “Residents’ exposure to lead in drinking water can be viewed as almost randomly assigned, since people decide where to live probably not based upon a water treatment plant’s service area.”

“This kind of randomization that happens in the real world—a natural experiment—helps us researchers identify a causal effect of lead exposure. It’s an effect that is due to lead exposure alone, not due to other factors.”

Their research discovered a range of evidence for negative health impacts from the water, including a 19% increase in the risk of premature birth and an 18% increase in the risk of low birth weight.

Why is Lead Dangerous?

The health impact of lead happens over time. Lead accumulates in the body through repeated exposure and builds up in the bones alongside calcium. In unborn babies, exposure is a particular problem because lead in the mother’s bones can be released as a calcium substitute to aid bone formation in the fetus. Lead in a mother’s blood can also cross the placenta, exposing the fetus to lead poisoning. Prenatal lead exposure has been associated with impaired neural development, putting children at risk for cognitive impairment later in life.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.

Lead Sources and Safety Thresholds

Aging pipes have long been implicated in high levels of lead in the water supply. The EPA estimates that drinking water may account for more than 20% of total lead exposure for adults and between 40% to 60% for children.

“Old houses are more likely to have lead plumbing materials. Corrosion of these lead plumbing materials can happen when the pH level of water drops below a certain threshold.”

According to an analysis of EPA data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 186 million people in the United States—56% of the population—drank from water systems with lead levels exceeding 1 part per billion (ppb). This is higher than the level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to protect children from lead in school water fountains.

Prof. Yang said: “I live in the Northeast of the US where there are a lot of old houses. Old houses are more likely to have lead plumbing materials. Corrosion of these lead plumbing materials can happen when the pH level of water drops below a certain threshold, that is, the water becomes more acidic than it should be. This is exactly what happened in Newark, New Jersey.”

Replacing Faulty Pipes

Typical lead service line in northeastern US.   ©ImagineArts / Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to lead in drinking water, the simplest and most straightforward way of dealing with the problem involves the replacement of aging infrastructure—and that’s something which has increasingly been on the agenda both at the local and federal levels in the US.

By August 2021, almost all of the lead water pipes in Newark had been replaced with copper ones, solving much of the city’s water crisis problem.

In 2019, President Biden signed the Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act, allowing the transfer of funds from a federal clean water fund to a state fund for lead-related projects.

More recently, in December 2021, the US Congress passed H.R.3684—otherwise known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act— that included $15 billion in funding for nationwide lead pipe replacement.

Prof. Yang welcomed these developments, and said he hopes his and others’ research will lead to more public awareness of the urgency of solving the lead pipe problem in the US water system.

“I am hopeful,” he said, “but the work needs to be done soon. High lead levels have been found in the tap water in many US cities besides Newark, such as Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.”

He warned that if something isn’t done—particularly replacing the pipes—the problems experienced in Newark could be replicated more widely.

“What happened in Newark may be the tip of an iceberg,” he said.

“There is an urgency of replacing all lead pipes in the US water system, and the work should be done as soon as possible.”


*Mark Smith is a journalist and author from the UK. He has written on subjects ranging from business and technology to world affairs, history, and popular culture for the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, and magazines in the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

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<![CDATA[Leave It to Beavers—How These Legendary Dam Builders Bolster Ecosystems]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/how-beavers-help-the-ecosystems63504c27cd066ebed3175170Tue, 18 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTMal Cole*AUTHOR BIO

Beavers are nature's ecosystem engineers

For thousands of years, a giant species of beaver, Castor californicus, was a feature of the North American landscape. These 200-pound beavers feasted on aquatic vegetation and wallowed in streams and ponds. But early beavers relied exclusively on wetlands for habitat, and, during the last ice age, a drying climate likely led to their extinction. Now North America knows only one species of beaver, the relatively diminutive Castor canadensis.

Beavers are a keystone species that holds together an ecosystem.   ©DoucetPh, Montréal, Canada

Beavers’ remarkable ability to transform their environments makes them a keystone species or an organism that holds together an ecosystem. They change habitats not just for themselves but for other wildlife, and those new habitats become essential for the survival of other species, especially bird life, including great blue herons.

Beaver populations benefit human beings, too, as their famous dam-building activities can help mitigate many of the negative effects of climate change.

Beaver dam structures filter water, and beaver ponds create surface water that can counter drought, flooding, and wildfires.

To build a dam, beavers begin by building a foundation with a layer of stones and then intricately weave in fallen trees, branches, and limbs that they have harvested themselves. They use their extremely sharp teeth to eat the green sugary layer of tree limbs that lies just below the bark. This behavior not only provides nourishment but also building materials. The dams are reinforced with pond plants and mud—and are astonishingly sturdy: In 2005, a group of scientists found what they believed to be the fossilized remains of a beaver dam that could be 125,000 years old.

When beavers build dams, they can transform an ecosystem.   ©iStock

When beavers move into an area, they can swiftly transform an ecosystem—their newly dammed areas generate open water, wetlands, and meadows. Beavers can even convert a desert creek into a lush oasis. For example, beaver activity in the Nevada desert helped revive the Susie Creek watershed after other restoration efforts attracted the furry rodents to the site. Their return also rejuvenated the creek’s riparian habitat—the new healthy vegetation on the banks provides shelter for wildlife and water for agriculture in the area.

Human Opposition

Despite such dramatic results, beavers still run up against opposition from their chief competitor for habitat, human beings. Humans, who also like to live in valleys near water sources, can react poorly if a beaver family moves in and turns a little stream into a big pond.

The Beaver Institute, based in Southampton, Massachusetts, provides education about how landowners can coexist with beavers.

“Beavers have been around for millions of years, and they’re second only to us in changing their environment to suit their own needs,” said Michael Callahan president and founder of the Beaver Institute.

“Beavers get a bad rap because the only times they get in the news are when they’re causing problems for people … but if we want a healthy landscape with streams, rivers, and clean water, we need beavers,” he said.

Callahan became interested in helping beavers in 1996 when Massachusetts legislators passed a law banning specific kinds of traps for hunting and property management. This prompted some residents to warn that the state will soon be overrun with beavers. This is a common concern, but because beavers have a territorial nature and because each beaver pair only has a few kits a year, there’s little chance of being overwhelmed.

The green marker indicates a flow device that lowers water levels if the beaver pond (right) should interfere with the adjacent road.   ©The Beaver Institute

Conversely, if beaver activity is flooding roads or interfering with agriculture, it can become necessary to curtail them. There are often simple solutions for handling animals who have become a nuisance: Trees can be fenced so that beavers won’t cut them down, or a drainage device can lower water levels if a beaver pond has caused flooding.

“Trapping is only a short-term answer,” said Callahan, “because if you remove the beavers, the habitat is still there, and young beavers will move in.”

Ultimately, learning to live alongside beavers will have benefits far beyond the welfare of the animals themselves, he explained. “By coexisting with beavers, we’re helping not just beavers, but the planet. With climate change, it seems like there’s so little that individuals can do. But it’s very empowering to know that if we keep beavers in the landscape, it will have a lot of benefits.”

Beavers Helping Conservationists

Some conservationists who see those benefits are trying to use these industrious mammals to reinvigorate landscapes and other natural resources.

One way to attract beavers is to place sturdy posts and other building materials that can be used as a base for a dam in key waterways.

Another way to attract beaver families is to make a false dam with similar materials. These structures, called beaver dam analogs (BDAs), are part of the current efforts to restore habitat in Oregon, also known as “The Beaver State.”

BDAS and beaver families are being used in the Upper Klamath Basin, where toxic algae have caused fish that were once a plentiful food source for the Klamath Tribes to become a rarity.

The positive effects on climate change that beavers provide inspired filmmaker Sarah Koenigsberg to create an award-winning 2018 documentary, “The Beaver Believers,” which follows several activists as they work to multiply beaver populations in the American West.

“I was looking for a story that could frame climate change as something tangible we could relate to, and I wanted to stay away from a doom-and-gloom apocalyptic narrative,” said Koenigsberg.

“Beavers can ameliorate nearly every negative climate impact that we feel here in the inland West from too much water to not enough, from habitat loss to crazy out-of-control wildfires,” she said.

Beavers build extensive dams.   ©Christian Kutschenreiter

Koenigsberg also believes that humans play an essential role in partnership with beavers, that “there are ways human cultures have participated productively and in peace with the natural world since time immemorial, and there are ways that we can try to do better.” She has furthered this goal of bringing people and beavers together as a founding member of a new nonprofit called The Beaver Coalition. The organization’s mission is “to empower humans to partner with beavers through education, science, advocacy and process-based restoration.”

For instance, when a landowner becomes alarmed by the appearance of a new beaver pond, education can help resolve the issue, Koenigsberg said. “You can just share with folks that this is actually a really good thing for biodiversity, for fish habitat, and all the things good thing beavers do. Sometimes it’s a very quick turnaround,” she said.

But sadly, in most states, there are few, if any, restrictions on trapping and killing beavers. Although they are not considered a threatened species, North American beaver populations have not recovered from the fur trade that reduced their numbers from as many as 200 million to less than 100,000. Today’s beaver population has recovered to only 15 million, and ecosystems are still suffering from their absence.

Koenigsberg and Callahan are working to spread information about the broad environmental value of beavers.

“Like a keystone in an arch, if you pull it out, the whole arch collapses. If you take beavers out of the landscape, then their whole ecosystem collapses, and all these other species suffer,” he said.

Koenigsberg put it this way: “The fact is that beavers are a key missing piece, they have to be allowed to come back because they engineered these [eco]systems, and these [eco]systems will forever be impoverished without them.”


*Mal Cole is a freelance science and nature writer based in Massachusetts.

Editorial Note:

Mal Cole interviewed Michael Callahan of Beaver Institute; and Sarah Koenigsberg of The Beaver Coalition.

Further Reading:

Ancient Beavers Leave Traces of Dam in Yukon | CBC News.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, November 19, 2005.

Beavers, Water, and Fire-a New Formula for Success • The National Wildlife Federation Blog.” The National Wildlife Federation Blog, October 30, 2018.

Feinstein, Kelly. “A Brief History of the Beaver Trade.” History Department UC Santa Cruz. Accessed September 29, 2022. l.

Osborne, Jari, and Paul Freer. “Nature/Leave It to Beavers.” Episode. Nature 32, no. 17. PBS, May 13, 2014.

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<![CDATA[North Korea’s Deforestation Woes]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/north-korea-deforestation-woes635148b4d53c290a88c1d12eTue, 18 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamDeforestation   ©The Earth & I
  1. North Korea, a mountainous nation of 25.7 million people with a land area of 120,410 sq/km, had 80% tree coverage in 1945.  
  2. By 2000, tree coverage dropped to 30% or 5.1 million ha (around 20,000 square miles). 
  3. Tree coverage loss continued for two decades, shrinking by 248,259 ha (958 square miles) by 2022. 
  4. Recorded tree cover loss was highest in 2019, with 27,492 ha or 106 square miles of loss. 
  5. Scientific American reported that the North Korean government “acknowledges that forest cover shrank sharply during a famine in the 1990s, going from 8.3 million hectares to 7.6 million hectares in just a few years.” 
  6. The same report cited a 2014 study showing that North Korean forests were “becoming more fragmented, with less contiguous tree cover.” 

Sources: https://www.jstor.org/stable/43908904, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/with-widespread-deforestation-north-korea-faces-an-environmental-crisis/

https://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/archive/North_Korea.htm

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<![CDATA[Typhoon Merbok Propelled by Warm Seas]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/typhoon-merbok-propelled-by-warm-seas635149a8d53c290a88c1d30dTue, 18 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamTyphoon Merbok struck the western shore of Alaska on Sept. 17, 2022. Due to unusually warm ocean temperatures, Merbok was born near Japan, where typhoons that strike Alaska rarely begin, and propelled eastward to become one of the worst storms on record to hit the state. 

Typhoon Merbok Propelled by Warm Seas   ©The Earth & I
  1. As Merbok moved eastward toward Alaska, its waves surpassed 50 feet in the nearby Bering Sea.
  2. Water levels near Nome, Alaska, were 10.52 feet above the low tide line. That height was only surpassed once before, by the worst storm on record in November 1974. However, Merbok was by far the strongest to strike in early autumn. 
  3. The storm impacted hundreds of miles of coastline from north of Bristol Bay to just beyond the Bering Strait.  
  4. CBS News reported that the storm was vast enough to cover the US mainland from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas, with effects felt as far away as California. 
  5. Alaska’s subsistence economy was especially impacted as evidenced by a lost protective berm in the village of Shaktoolik.
  6. Rebuilding from storms is especially challenging for remote regions of Alaska. 

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alaska-flooding-typhoon-merbok-today-2022-09-18/ 

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<![CDATA[Bluefin Tuna at Risk]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/bluefin-tuna-at-risk63516c6fcae0d8b253020c5bTue, 18 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTGordon Cairns*AUTHOR BIO

Sustainable Aquaculture May Have the Solution

Wild-captured Atlantic bluefin tuna raised in a cage in Spain.   ©TunaTech GmbH (Germany)

The Strait of Gibraltar—where the Atlantic Ocean pours into the Mediterranean Sea—is so narrow that on a clear day the African coast is visible from the small fishing community of Barbate, in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz.

For millennia, fishermen have hunted this water for Atlantic Bluefin tuna as the massive fish funnel through this thin gap between continents towards their spawning grounds each spring.

These powerful, swift, deep-diving fish were once so plentiful the waters teemed with them. But severe overfishing in the 20th century pushed their populations into danger zones by the 1970s.

Since that wake-up call, government bodies have worked in tandem with their foreign counterparts to save a species of fish that crosses countless international boundaries in its lifetime.

Today, decades of conservation efforts, such as fishing quotas and limits on fishing techniques, have helped the Atlantic Bluefin tuna rebound, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the Southern Bluefin tuna remains “endangered,” and the Pacific Bluefin tuna is “near threatened,” the IUCN says.

And now there are efforts to sustainably “ranch” and “breed” these fish, which normally reach weights of hundreds of pounds.

Ancient Tuna Fishing

Centuries ago, Phoenician fishermen were the first to set up the “Almadraba,” a netting system using boats that is still practiced today.

Victim of a trawling net.   ©Christi_j/Pixabay

The Almadraba-style corralling of thrashing bluefin, their giant bodies smashing against each other in a futile attempt to escape, turns the churning waters slowly to pink, then red. Such a sight might seem barbaric, but it is arguably more ecologically beneficial than the high-tech trawlers that track nearby shoals and drop huge nets that gather up everything in their wake. At least the ancient netting method allows juvenile fish to escape, grow, and propagate, ensuring the survival of the species.

The worldwide appetite for tuna sushi, sashimi, or simply steak wasn’t always there: Tuna was once viewed as a gamefish to be caught for sport.

But then tuna meat became popular fare in Japanese sushi restaurants, and now several species face unquenchable global demands for their delicious cuts of meat. Case in point: One tuna can fetch as much as $30,000 at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, the world’s largest seafood market.

Tuna sale at Tsukiji Fish Market.   ©Fisherman/Wikimedia Commons

Quotas and Other Fishing Controls

Still, if all three types of Bluefin—Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern—are to survive, they will need to be fished using modern, sustainable methods that allow their numbers to climb.

The introduction of international fishing quotas for all varieties of bluefin, radically reducing the catch of smaller bluefin, and limiting the number of adult tunas fished, has helped the numbers rebound.

In 2017, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission agreed to work together to replenish the Atlantic and Pacific Bluefin tuna populations to 20% of their historic levels by 2034, National Public Radio reported. Currently, the Pacific tuna stock is less than 3% of what it once was.

Kevin Piner, research fishery biologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center, led a recent Pacific bluefin assessment that shows promising results. “The new findings demonstrate the resilience of a species that can multiply quickly when given the chance,” he said. However, more sustainable methods will be needed to satisfy demand and keep fish stocks high.

'Ranching’ Tuna

In the middle of the Mediterranean, over 1,000 nautical miles from the nets of Barbate, the small island of Malta lies close to the spawning grounds of the Atlantic bluefin.

Unsurprisingly, this is the heart of commercial fishing in the region and where scientists are using a more sustainable approach to bluefin fishing called “ranching.”

This method, imported from Australia, involves capturing juvenile tuna in the wild and transporting them to large pens where they are grown to market size. Ranching accounts for one third of the Atlantic bluefin quota, up to an incredible 14,000 tons of fish per year.

Ranching, where juvenile fish are captured in the wild and grown to market size, makes up a third of the Atlantic bluefin quota, up to an incredible 14,000 tons of fish per year.

There are two concerns over the future of tuna ranching. First is the taking of young bluefin from the wild; the second is feeding them wild-caught bait fish.

Malta’s docks are now home to numerous refrigerated containers full of frozen bait fish. Every day, twenty-seven containers full of fish are thawed and supplied to the fish farms—each has up to thirty cages brimming with ravenous fish.

‘Breeding’ Bluefin Tuna

The ranching practice is considered unsustainable by many, so scientists in Malta have been working to replicate a technique discovered by their Japanese counterparts over a decade ago—breeding tuna from an egg.

The Japanese process has been successful—over 3,000 tonnes (2,952 tons) of Pacific Bluefin tuna have been grown through this type of aquaculture. But, so far, Japan is the only country to make it work commercially.

Three-day old bluefin hatchling from larvae, ready to live on live feed, raised by Tunatech in hatchery in Malta.   ©TunaTech GmbH (Germany)

In Malta, Professor Chris Bridges and fellow scientists from across the Mediterranean have recently perfected a technique to do the same with the Atlantic variety. All they need is financial backing to make the scheme commercially viable.

“Everybody has the same idea: We want to domesticate and breed the bluefin tuna. We know it is possible. Japan has shown us the way, in terms of what they have done, and now it is just a match of getting the right mix of investment together with technology, pushing this thing forward,” says Bridges.

Professor Bridges—part of the team for over a decade at the aquaculture life sciences company, TunaTech—explains how the new method will revolutionize tuna fishing in the Mediterranean: “Basically, we can short-circuit the whole system of ranching and replace it with seed, as in other aquacultures, making it totally sustainable, as you won’t need to fish the wild population.”

He adds: “We can produce as many eggs as we need for the full cycle. The fish that are caught in the spawning areas will still spawn in captivity with anything up to 300-400 spawning fish, meaning that we can collect 70 million eggs every day—a whole dustbin full of them!”

Prof. Jeff Bridges holds approximately 10 million freshly collected bluefin tuna eggs.   ©TunaTech GmbH (Germany)

The next step will be to create a hatchery. “With a hatchery, a brood stock would be used continually over the next three-to-four years, which would mean we would only have to take approximately 100 fish out of the wild population. Then, we produce fingerlings [juvenile fish] which could be grown out to any sized fish. You can grow a five-kilogram (eleven-pound) tuna roughly in less than one year.”

The other half of the sustainability equation is getting rid of those refrigerated containers on the Maltese docks. By current estimates, demand for the fish meal they contain will exceed what can be collected from the sea by 2050.

Emerging Solutions

A new plant-based type of feed known as “tuna sausages”—a mixture of soya and fish protein—has been fed to ranched fish as an experiment. After a few weeks, the ranched fish were successfully weaned off the bait fish.

Professor Bridges assures me that in Japanese trials of “green” tuna, the flavor of the fish was unaffected. The task now is to get the cost of land-based protein—which could come from any number of sources from insect protein to chicken feathers—down in price to match the cost of its fish meal competitors.

“The world population is growing, and there is no way we can continue to provide protein and food through fishing,” Professor Bridges says. “That’s the reason we favor aquaculture, as this is the only way to harness the oceans.”

“If we can go to Mars,” he adds, “we have the technology to work in the ocean.”

Aerial view of TunaTech brooding cage holding about 50 adult fish. In top left corner is an egg-collecting net—attached to cage exterior—through which the eggs are collected. In the center is a small feeding chamber.   ©TunaTech GmbH (Germany)

*Gordon Cairns is a freelance journalist and teacher of English and Forest Schools based in Scotland.

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<![CDATA[US Life Expectancy Dropped in 2021]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/us-life-expectancy-dropped63514aac9fb1dfbb8db0d1b9Tue, 18 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTThe Earth & I Editorial TeamLife expectancy has dropped for all racial groups, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics said in an August 2022 report. 

Life Expectancy Dropped   ©The Earth & I
  1. Overall at-birth life expectancy in the US fell by nine months from 2020 to 2021.  
  2. The decline of 77.0 years to 76.1 years brought US life expectancy to its lowest level since 1996.  
  3. The 2021 drop, combined with a 1.8 year drop in 2020, is “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy” since the early 1920s.  
  4. American Indian-Alaskan Native people (AIAN) saw the biggest drop in life expectancy—nearly two years—to 65.2 years in 2021. This was equal to the life expectancy of the total U.S. population in 1944. 
  5. Non-Hispanic Whites had the second-largest decline, from 77.4 years in 2020 to 76.4 years in 2021.  
  6. Non-Hispanic Blacks saw a seven-month drop from 71.5 years in 2020 to 70.8 in 2021.  
  7. Following a four-year drop in life expectancy from 2019 to 2020, Hispanics saw a slight two-month decline in 2021, to 77.7 years. 
  8. Life expectancy for Asians saw a one-month drop, to 83.5 years. 
  9. The life expectancy gap for men and women grew slightly, from 5.7 years in 2020 to 5.9 years in 2021. 
  10. COVID-19 deaths contributed to 74% of the decline from 2019 to 2020.   

Sources: Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2022/20220831.htm

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<![CDATA[Hope Persists for EV Growth Despite Obstacles]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/ev-growth-despite-obstacles635167ee941a69126730dcc4Mon, 17 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTNnamdi Anyadike*AUTHOR BIO

City with EV cars   ©Jae Young Ju

The push by governments and the automotive industry to promote electric vehicles (EVs) as a replacement for diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles is rapidly gaining traction. It is a move of historic proportions, as it will effectively end the internal combustion engine’s (ICE’s) 100-year hegemony that helped kick-start the age of the private vehicle in the 20th century.

According to a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimate, twenty-six million plug-in vehicles will be on the road globally by the end of this year, out of a total automotive market of around ninety-two million units. Almost one million EVs a month are being added to the global fleet. That compares with a total global EV fleet of just one million in 2016.

The BNEF estimate shows the world EV market is currently dominated by China with 46% of total sales. Europe with 34% of total EV sales is second, followed by the US with 15%. Total EV sales are forecast to reach 31.1 million by 2030. This is out of a forecast total automotive market size of 122.83 million units, according to AutoTechNews. According to a Deloitte report, in 2030, China, Europe, and the US will continue to account for the broadly similar EV market share that they do today, achieving 49%, 27%, and 14%, respectively.

Electric generic car technical cutaway with all main details of the EV system.   ©leonello

Policy Support Supports EV Market

Fresh policy support should get the US EV market moving. By 2030, analysts predict the US auto market will have fully recovered from the effects of the recent COVID-19 lockdown slump and returned to its pre-2020 highs of eighteen million units—with 45% of all cars to be EVs. All the major car manufacturers in the US have either developed EV models or are in the process of doing so. Tesla leads the way with a reported 69.95% of the US market share. Nissan is in second place with 8.51%. Other US manufacturers are expanding their products, including Ford and Volkswagen this year.

Japan is the second largest auto market in Asia, after China. However, EV adoption has been slow. There are hopes though that this could soon change. BNEF reports that car giants Nissan and Mitsubishi have plans to bring new EV models to market before the end of this year. These will be closely followed by Honda in 2024 and Daihatsu the following year. Meanwhile, in South Korea, EV take-up is strong, on the back of offerings from domestic car makers Hyundai and Kia, with end-2021 EV sales nearing 15%.

Challenges

The disadvantages that have hampered the growth of EVs over the years are well understood. They include poor performance, compared with ICE vehicles, and a lack of range, compounded by the low availability of charge points; the multiplicity of payment options; and incompatible charging technologies. There is also the problem of slow charge times. These can often be measured in hours, rather than the minutes typical for ICE vehicles at fuel stations. Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius told the Stuttgarter Zeitung, “As long as the charging structure and the markets have not yet reached the point of switching completely to electric cars, there will continue to be cars with combustion engines.”

The acceptance of EVs is hampered by the low availability of charge points, the multiplicity of payment options, and incompatible charging technologies.   ©ViktorCap

In recent years though, automotive companies have markedly improved EV performances. More charge points are being installed, and efforts are being made to homogenize their technologies. The “holy grail” of higher EV recharge speed that can compete with the ICE’s fuel pump speed is now close at hand. The fastest EV charge points now promise a vehicle battery recharge of around five minutes for 100 miles of charge.

In recent years, automotive companies have markedly improved EV performances.

An Israeli EV battery company, StoreDot, is developing Extreme Fast Charging (XFC) technology based on silicon-dominant lithium-ion chemistry, that promises to whittle this time down to as low as “two to three minutes” by 2030. Meanwhile, the China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL), one of the world’s leading makers of EV batteries, has announced that its next-generation battery has a range of 621 miles and will debut early next year. This range compares favorably with the Lucid Air battery, which has a range of 520 miles, and the Tesla Model S, with 405 miles.

Electricity Price Rise

But even as EVs look to making their long-awaited market breakthrough, two issues threaten to derail their progress. The first is the unforeseen rise in electricity prices this year caused in part by the ongoing war in Ukraine. EV market growth relies on an increase in the availability of ever more powerful batteries. This in turn requires rising electricity production and consumption.

The unforeseen rise in electricity prices this year threatens to derail EVs progress.

Last September, Tesla announced that it was increasing its Supercharger prices “significantly” across Europe. It blamed the skyrocketing costs of both gas and electricity that have risen over the last year. It used to cost between $5 and $10 for a full charge at a Tesla Supercharger. However, many Supercharger stations are now charging $0.50 per kWh. This is equivalent to a cost of $30 to charge 60 kWh. A Tesla email to owners in Europe warned of yet more price increases on the Supercharger network. In the UK, EV customers face higher energy costs following the UK’s planned October electricity price rise.

The Problem of Lithium Supply

The second issue has to do with the availability of lithium, a key component for EV batteries. According to McKinsey & Co., 98% of all global lithium is produced in China, Latin America, and Australia. Although some private firms in the US are keen to enter the lithium mining sector, they have faced fierce domestic opposition. The same story has unfolded in Serbia and Portugal, which has left the supply chain vulnerable to disruption.

EV minerals   ©Dimitrios Karamitros

compound the supply problem, by 2030 lithium supply is forecast to fall short of demand by 4% for the first time, according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). By 2035, the gap is set to expand to 24%. UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) warns that the likely shortages of lithium for electric battery production in the UK could endanger the move towards EVs and instead facilitate a transition to alternative hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The APC claims that as many as 75% of the largest and luxury cars, including vehicles such as the BMW 7 series, the Mercedes S class, and typical Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, could be forced to switch away from electric power supply. The sports utility vehicle (SUV)/four-wheel drive markets might face the same problem, all of which will have a major impact on EV demand.

Shortages of lithium for electric battery production could endanger the move towards EVs.

An additional factor is the upfront purchase or financing cost of an EV continues to remain stubbornly high compared to ICE vehicles. The cost of financing a Tesla Model 3 in 2022 is around $52,875 against that of a BMW 3 Series gasoline engine model, which costs from $39,986 to $41,676.

But while EV proponents admit that the purchase and financing costs of an EV are higher than for an ICE vehicle, they point out that the running cost of an EV over an average lifespan is much lower than for its conventional ICE-powered counterpart. So over ten years an EV vehicle could, in fact, prove to be the cheaper option. Plus, EV battery recharge costs are comparatively low at around 80% cheaper than the refuel cost of an ICE vehicle. “The typical family-sized EV now costs £28.51 [$31.09] using a rapid charger—£64.25 [$70.06] cheaper than filling the same size car with fuel,” Tom Rowlands, managing director, Global EV Solutions at Fleetcor, wrote in Automotive World in September.

Maintenance costs for an EV that typically only has around twenty moving parts are also lower compared with an ICE vehicle, which typically has more than 2,000 moving parts. So, in conclusion, while the current cost of purchasing an EV is high, it is now falling. Thereafter, cheaper running costs at least provide opportunities for savings.


*Nnamdi Anyadike is an industry journalist specializing in metals, oil, gas, and renewable energy for over thirty-five years.

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<![CDATA[Clean, Sparkling, Safe Water for All]]>https://www.theearthandi.org/post/clean-safe-water-for-all635155f6dc4d41d3148abdfbMon, 17 Oct 2022 04:00:00 GMTNatasha Spencer-Jolliffe*AUTHOR BIO

,Faith-based Charity Brings Water Purification Systems to Remote Areas

Clean water—a sacred obligation to our children.   ©Abdulmominyotabd/Pixabay

Clean, reliable drinking water for all populations remains a top international goal. As of 2020, about three-quarters of the world—5.8 billion people—had access to safe water, according to the World Health Organization. But around 500 million people are estimated to still use unpurified water taken from wells, springs, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

Many organizations today are working to address the global water crisis, but one—Christian non-profit Healing Waters International (HWI)—is focused on some of the neediest populations—those who live in poor, remote areas.

“We know that access to clean water is a critical need and human right; it affects nutrition, cognitive ability, productivity, educational and livelihood opportunities, and social well-being,” says Hana Lokey, HWI’s senior program manager.

Not everyone has access to safe water.   ©Pixabay

HWI is built on the belief that everyone deserves safe water, and that includes people living in remote coastal villages in Haiti or rural mountain towns in Central America, she said. “HWI is grateful to be a part of addressing this inequity.”

Founded by Two Churches

HWI was born in 2002, when two churches—one in Colorado in the United States and the other in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean—formed a non-profit partnership.

The founders’ goal was to provide sustainable water treatment technologies to serve marginalized communities at a low cost. This meant pursuing the best water purification systems for challenging locations—as well as finding ways for the program to be both financially self-sustaining and viable for the long haul.

HWI is also true to its missions of encouraging faith in God and educational programs wherever it goes.

In its two decades, HWI has brought clean water to hundreds of thousands of people in communities in the Caribbean and Central America—and soon it will stretch to East Africa.

HWI technician serves with a smile.   ©HWI

Developing Water Purification Technology

HWI started its first clean water initiatives by partnering with Dominican Republic churches serving people in urban areas and their surrounding neighborhoods. Before long, their work expanded into Mexico, Guatemala, and, most recently, Haiti, using the same collaborative, church-centered approach.

Then, a decade ago, HWI switched its focus to remote, rural communities that are outside traditional water infrastructures and in severe need of help with safe water.

All HWI purification systems are custom-configured to specific water source and consumption demands, but this switch to rural communities meant HWI had to build systems good enough to purify water that is brackish, tainted with arsenic or fluoride, or filled with toxins.

One of HWI’s strengths is its use of a “separation membrane” in its water systems. Separation membrane technologies, such as ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis, are core parts of systems that remove contaminants from water.

One of HWI’s custom water filtration systems.   ©HWI

HWI configures a full “treatment train” around this core, installing control boxes for its reverse osmosis systems that can adjust, control, and optimize system performance for a community.

For larger communities, HWI has expanded its engineering offerings to provide more robust, customizable, and larger-scale purification and pumping systems. Today, HWI has projects that are ten times larger than those the organization was working on just two years ago.

HWI is transitioning to larger filtration projects.   ©HWI

Challenges

One of HWI’s most notable global challenges is acceptance and buy-in from management at the local project level.

“In the past, we have had projects with great leaders who have championed a water project, but after a few years, they move away or are unable to continue as the project lead. It can be a challenge then to pass the project off to another leader in the community,” Lokey explains.

Changing the behavior of recipients is “always harder than the hardware element,” says Lokey. If people have always received their water directly from a natural spring or an untreated tap, it takes effort to convince them that they should drink purified water, especially if their usual water source is free, she adds.

In other words, providing access to safe water (at a low cost) does not guarantee that people will take advantage of it.

Another obstacle is introducing equipment that will produce safe water efficiently in communities with scant resources and few, if any, people with business or technical backgrounds to help operate it.

“HWI has continued to grow into more complex and larger-scale systems but has had to continue to find ways to make this equipment understandable for local project teams to operate and maintain,” Lokey says.

On the bright side, HWI finds that inviting community engagement, offering a proper business and distribution model for the local context, and providing hygiene and sanitation education that is tailored for the local recipients, can increase access, understanding and use of safe water in a community.

Queuing up at a newly opened HWI purification facility.   ©HWI

Adaptation Has Been Key to Success

HWI has learned to adapt in achieving its mission of ensuring safe water no matter where people live.

For instance, several years after the non-profit began to work in the Dominican Republic, HWI realized that small water stores, which provide safe water at affordable prices, had proliferated, and most of the island’s communities now had access to clean water.

HWI decided to shift its focus over the border, to the Dominican Republic’s island neighbor Haiti, and west into Central America, where Honduras had a severe need for safe water.

HWI’s partnership model required adaptation, as well. HWI now partners with local leaders who are trusted by the community and have the desire and capacity to resolve their community’s water needs, Lokey says.

HWI now partners with local leaders who are trusted by the community and have the desire and capacity to resolve their community’s water needs.

Adaptation has further involved creating unique business plans to ensure that projects can earn enough revenue to cover operating costs.

HWI’s charitable work is funded by several revenue streams, including individual donors, churches, family foundations, and partner organizations that subcontract HWI to implement WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) interventions.

Serving water to the community.   ©HWI

Its projects include some community contributions for its clean, pure water, which can be given via donations of materials or sweat equity, a form of unpaid work given by entrepreneurs or employees. In addition, the projects set aside monthly savings to cover replacement costs for equipment and materials.

“Ongoing support is critical to long-term success,” Lokey says. HWI commits to ongoing support visits at no cost to the local project, so recipients are incentivized to communicate openly about issues or needs.

Setting up Clean Water Systems for Future Generations

Looking ahead, HWI plans for its work to take two forms.

First, the organization will focus more on working at the regional level on larger-scale projects. “Larger scale in terms of implementation strategy and people served creates natural efficiencies for our team to maximize reach,” says Lokey.

Second, HWI will expand its work into Nicaragua and Kenya. In addition to Honduras, these two countries have been in the organization’s sights for a while, and projects have been inaugurated there in 2022.

HWI also designs and supplies systems for strategic partners, most notably its cross-Africa partner, Jibu.

To support both these goals, HWI is looking into designing solar-powered purification projects. These systems often include a solar pumping component that can draw water to the purification site from more than two miles away.

“With particular needs in water scarcity and exotic contaminants like arsenic or fluoride, we see a need that HWI is uniquely positioned to tackle, so we are working toward building the partnerships and local capacities in these countries,” Lokey says.


*Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe is a freelance journalist and editor. Over the past 10 years, Natasha has reported for a host of publications, exploring the wider world and industries from environmental, scientific, business, legal, and sociological perspectives. Natasha has also been interviewed as an insight provider for research institutes and conferences.

Sources:

Interview with Hana Lokey, Senior Program Manager, Healing Waters International.

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