This high school is contaminated with lead. It blames the recycling plant next door

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Generations of students at Jordan high in Los Angeles lived with extreme pollution nearby. Now, could things finally change?

Upper Peninsula tribes work to restore wild rice in areas contaminated by mining

Read the full story from the Detroit News.

Dangerous metals such as arsenic and mercury have been found in wild rice beds located on the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community reservation and surrounding areas, according to research from Michigan Technological University scientists and their associates.

The contamination is a toxic legacy of copper mining in the western Upper Peninsula.

How a Nebraska ethanol plant turned seeds into toxic waste

Read the full story at Grist.

State regulators shuttered the AltEn plant in 2021 after years of environmental violations. Residents are just beginning to grapple with its toxic legacy.

‘Too many people, not enough food’ isn’t the cause of hunger and food insecurity

A wheat warehouse in western Ukraine. Food insecurity is expected to worsen with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

by Gisèle Yasmeen, University of British Columbia

Nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to enough food in 2020. That’s an increase of almost 320 million people in one year and it’s expected to get worse with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia.

Climate change related floods, fires and extreme weather, combined with armed conflict and a worldwide pandemic have magnified this crisis by affecting the right to food.

Many assume world hunger is due to “too many people, not enough food.” This trope has persisted since the 18th century when economist Thomas Malthus postulated that the human population would eventually exceed the planet’s carrying capacity. This belief moves us away from addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

In fact, inequity and armed conflict play a larger role. The world’s hungry are disproportionately located in Africa and Asia, in conflict-ridden zones.

As a researcher who has been working on food systems since 1991, I believe that addressing root causes is the only way to tackle hunger and malnutrition. For this, we need more equitable distribution of land, water and income, as well as investments in sustainable diets and peace-building.

But how will we feed the world?

The world produces enough food to provide every man, woman and child with more than 2,300 kilocalories per day, which is more than sufficient. However, poverty and inequality — structured by class, gender, race and the impact of colonialism — have resulted in an unequal access to the Earth’s bounty.

A map of the world with the level of access to food emphasized with different shades of blue
Despite adequate food production globally, poverty and inequality restrict many people’s access to healthy food. (FAO, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020), CC BY

Half of global crop production consists of sugar cane, maize, wheat and rice — a great deal of which is used for sweeteners and other high-calorie, low-nutrient products, as feed for industrially produced meat, biofuels and vegetable oil.

The global food system is controlled by a handful of transnational corporations that produce highly processed foods, containing sugar, salt, fat and artificial colours or preservatives. Overconsumption of these foods is killing people around the world and taxing healthcare costs.

Nutrition experts say that we should limit sugars, saturated and trans fats, oils and simple carbohydrates and eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables with only a quarter of our plates consisting of protein and dairy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also recommends a move toward sustainable healthy diets.

A recent study showed that overconsumption of highly processed foods — soft drinks, snacks, breakfast cereals, packaged soups and confectionery items — can lead to negative environmental and health impacts, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

Steering the world away from highly processed foods will also lessen their negative impacts on land, water and reduce energy consumption.

A stretch of land on a green mountainous terrain with a handful of wooden homes.
Land reform initiatives in Madagascar have helped further plans to redistribute land and reduce food insecurity. (Shutterstock)

We live in a world of plenty

Since the 1960s, global agricultural production has outpaced population growth. Yet the Malthusian theory continues to focus on the risk of population increases outstripping the Earth’s carrying capacity, even though global population is peaking.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s study of the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 challenged Malthus by demonstrating that millions died of hunger because they didn’t have the money to buy food, not due to food shortages.

In 1970, Danish economist Ester Boserup also questioned Malthus’s assumptions. She argued that rising incomes, women’s equality and urbanization would ultimately stem the tide of population growth, with the birthrate, even in poor countries, dropping to at or below replacement levels.

Food — like water — is an entitlement, and public policy should stem from this. Unfortunately, land and income remain highly unevenly distributed, resulting in food insecurity, even in wealthy countries. While land redistribution is notoriously difficult, some land reform initiatives — like the one in Madagascar — have been successful.

The role of war in hunger

Hunger is aggravated by armed conflict. The countries with the highest rates of food insecurity have been ravaged by war, such as Somalia. More than half of the people who are undernourished and almost 80 percent of children with stunted growth live in countries struggling with some form of conflict, violence or fragility.

Women stand in a queue with empty food containers.
Women queue up to receive food distributed by local volunteers at a camp in Somalia on May 18, 2019. Conflicts hinder the effective delivery of humanitarian aid during food security crisis. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned that the war in Ukraine puts 45 African and least developed countries at risk of a “hurricane of hunger,” as they import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia. According to the New York Times, the World Food Program has been forced to cut rations to nearly four million people due to higher food prices.

What works, ultimately, are adequate social protection floors (basic social security guarantees) and rights based “food sovereignty” approaches that put communities in control of their own local food systems. For example, the Deccan Development Society in India assists rural women by providing access to nutritious food and other community supports.

To address food insecurity, we must invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities to avoid and curtail armed conflicts. Poverty reduction is part of peace building as rampant inequalities serve as tinderboxes for aggression.

Protecting our ability to produce food

Climate change and poor environmental management have put collective food production assets including soil, water and pollinators in peril.

Several studies over the past 30 years have warned that soil and water contamination from high concentrations of toxins such as pesticides, dwindling biodiversity and disappearing pollinators could further affect the quality and quantity of food production.

Livestock, crop production, agricultural expansion and food processing account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, one-third of all food produced is lost or goes to waste, so tackling this travesty is also paramount.

Reducing food loss and waste will help reduce environmental impacts of the food system, as will transitioning to healthier, sustainably produced diets.

Food, health and environmental sustainability

Food is an entitlement and should be viewed as such, not framed as an issue of population growth or inadequate food production. Poverty and systemic inequalities are the root causes of food insecurity as is armed conflict. Keeping this idea central in discussions about feeding the world is essential.

We need policies that support healthy and sustainably produced, balanced diets to address chronic diet-related disease, environmental issues and climate change.

We need more initiatives that enable equitable distribution of land, water and income globally.

We need policies that address food insecurity through initiatives like rights-based food sovereignty systems.

In areas affected by conflict and war, we need policies that invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities.

These are the key pathways to recognize that “food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.”

Gisèle Yasmeen, Senior Fellow, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Chicago’s air pollution hotspots: New sensor network reveals neighborhood air quality disparities

Read the full story at MuckRock.

This investigation, “Chicago’s Air Pollution Hotspots,” is a collaboration between the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ, the Cicero Independiente and MuckRock, with support from Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Reporting by Smarth Gupta, Dillon Bergin, María Inés Zamudio, Charmaine Runes and Brett Chase. Derek Kravitz of MuckRock, Dave Newbart of the Sun-Times and Matt Kiefer of WBEZ edited.

When Irma Morales moved to Little Village nearly three decades ago, she vividly remembers the thin layer of dust blanketing the ground. The single mother of five lived about a mile from a coal plant.

“When I walked outside, my shoes would be covered with dust,” Morales said in Spanish.

Morales joined the 12-year community-led effort to close the Crawford Power Plant.

“We shut them down,” said Morales, adding she was diagnosed with a brain tumor during the campaign. “But for what? So they can bring more diesel trucks?”

The plant closed in 2012 and was replaced by a 1 million-square-foot Target warehouse bringing an estimated hundreds of trucks per day to the neighborhood. Morales and other protesters tried to stop the development.

Even the building process polluted the neighborhood. A botched implosion of a 378-foot smokestack from the old coal plant left her neighborhood blanketed in dust in April 2020.

“Why are you selling … [our health] to the highest bidder?” Morales asked of city officials, saying her neighborhood is basically a “sacrifice zone” for industry.

Indeed, in one of the most wide-scale surveys of air quality in Chicago, some stretches of this mostly Mexican community were found to have the highest pollution levels in the city, along with portions of Austin, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Irving Park and Avondale that see heavy traffic or are near industrial areas, an analysis of readings from newly-installed air sensors show.

The data is supplied by Microsoft, which consulted with the city and community groups before installing 115 of the sensors mostly on CTA bus shelters last summer, and has been collecting readings from them every five minutes over the past 10 months.

Even with more than 100 sensors, it’s not nearly enough to cover the entire city and that inhibits a complete analysis of pollution for large swaths of the Southeast and Far South sides — areas long known to have poor air quality. Still, the data provide some of the most extensive hyperlocal measurements of air quality in Chicago, specifically in the high-pollution months of July through October 2021.

This story is part of a months-long reporting collaboration, “Chicago’s Air Pollution Hotspots,” on Chicago’s air quality by the Chicago Sun-TimesWBEZ and MuckRock.

Equity Guide for Green Stormwater Infrastructure Practitioners

The Equity Guide for Green Stormwater Infrastructure Practitioners is a comprehensive guide to advancing and measuring equity within public sector stormwater management organizations’ green stormwater infrastructure policies, programs, and projects. It offers an action and evaluation roadmap that defines:

  1. the industry’s shared long-term equity goals,
  2. best practices that will move the needle, and
  3. sample metrics that help track progress toward those goals over time. It also offers a variety of tools to support practitioners in customizing community-informed Equity Work Plans and Evaluation Plans to local contexts.

Steps to Designing Justice-Focused Assessments in Science

Download the document.

This resource outlines a nine-step process to help teams develop Framework-aligned assessment tasks in science focused on justice-centered phenomena and scenarios. It builds on the thinking about 3D assessment design from STEM Teaching Tool #29 (from March 2020), but has been significantly revised.

Justice-focused assessments are assessments where students use science knowledge and engineering design practices to solve problems involving matters related to the unequal distribution of consequences (e.g., benefits, harms) to communities that result from human-nature interactions and/or unequal voice of communities in matters affecting their thriving and sustainability. Justice-centered assessments are pertinent when assessing performance expectations that require students to engage in engineering practices, because such practices involve developing and testing solutions that address human needs. In addition, justice-centered assessments engage students with the idea of science as a human endeavor, as called for in the Nature of Science connections of the NGSS.

Smithsonian Science Education Center launches new biodiversity guide for youth

Read the full story from the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership, announces the launch of Biodiversity! How can we balance the needs of people with the needs of other living things? This community research guide for youth ages 11–17 is the newest guide in the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals series. Based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to help young people understand the relationship between people and other living things in their community to ensure a more sustainable world.

The other guides in the series are:

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in residential tap water: Source-to-tap science for underserved communities

Read the full story from the USGS.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were detected at low levels in treated drinking water samples from residential taps in the Greater Chicago Area. This study is part of a larger approach to provide an understanding of contaminant mixtures in residential tap water across the Nation including underserved communities in rural, urban, and tribal areas.

As air pollution declined, tribal nations got left out

Read the full story from Bloomberg.

Although air pollution in the U.S. had been on a steady decline over the last two decades (until recently), the benefits have not been evenly distributed. A new analysis of data between 2000 and 2018 shows that trends for Native American communities on tribal land have not kept up with the decline in other communities, which means Native Americans now bear an increasing burden of dangerous air pollutants.

The research, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to ample past studies that have documented the disproportionately high exposure among people of color in urban areas, especially those in Black and brown neighborhoods that have historically faced racially restrictive redlining policies.