Every year on this day, Frederick Douglass’s fiery, uncompromising 1852 speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” gets a new hearing, and takes on added resonance in the context of contemporary politics. It has never ceased to speak directly to those for whom the celebrations can seem like a hollow mockery of freedom and independence. The American holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence—next to the Constitution, the U.S.A.’s most cherished founding document, and a text, for all its rhetorical elegance, which cannot escape the irony that it was written by a slaveholder for an emerging slave nation.
Slavery had always been a contentious subject among the colonists. And yet the American Revolution was a war waged for the full freedom and enfranchisement of only a very few white men of property. Not only were black people excluded from the nation’s freedoms, but so too were conquered Native American nations, and in great part, poor white men and women who could not vote—though they were not chained in perpetual servitude as human chattel, with little hope of liberty for themselves or their descendants.
Douglass gave the speech in Rochester, NY, seventy-six years after the first July 4th and at a time when the country was riven with irreconcilable tensions between abolitionists, free-soilers, and the slaveholding South. The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act—at least, in hindsight—made the impending Civil War all but inevitable. The speech reveals the celebration as a sham for those who were or had been enslaved, and who could not consider themselves American citizens regardless of their status (as Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney would affirm five years later.)
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.
Douglass’s speech condemned the “scorching irony” of American independence even after the Civil War, as racist terrorism and Jim Crow destroyed the promise of Reconstruction. In our present time, writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor Isabel Wilkerson, amidst the rash of high profile police killings and an ensuing lack of justice, events “have forced us to confront our place in a country where we were enslaved for far longer than we have been free. Forced us to face the dispiriting erosion that we have witnessed in recent years—from the birther assaults on a sitting black president to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that we had believed was carved in granite.” We might add to this list the resumption of the failed “War on Drugs” and the federal government’s announcements that it would do little to safeguard civil rights nor to investigate and prosecute the surge of white supremacist violence.
And yet the “self evident” mythology of American freedom and equality—and of American innocence—remains potent and seductive to many people in the country. As the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute put it a few days ago, “The birth of the United States was unique because it was a nation founded not on blood or ethnicity, but on ideas.” To this ahistorical fiction, which manages to erase the founders’ own statements on race, the colonization of indigenous lands, and even the bloody Revolutionary War in its strangely desperate zeal to sweep the past away, Douglass would reply: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”
How billionaires’ short-term greed could upend America and destroy their own wealth
By Thom Hartmann, Independent Media Institute April 17, 2020
The coronovirus crisis is highlighting how dysfunctional states run by Republicans are. This is a feature of GOP rule, not a bug.
For the past 40-plus years, a group of “conservative” billionaires have been working as hard as they can to reshape our federal government from one that provides education, health care, housing, food and other necessities into one that does nothing more than run the military and fight wars.
It’s time to give them what they’ve worked so hard to get.
In the process, “blue states” can continue to flower and prosper, while “red states” go back to their pre-Civil War poverty and local oligarchies. All it’ll take is a small tweak to our federal system, something that the billionaires have been pushing for since the 1970’s.
First, end the federal income tax, as David Koch called for when he ran for vice president in 1980. Most billionaires don’t pay much (if anything) into it anyway; as economists have documented and the New York Times (among others) reported, in 2019 billionaires paid a lower federal tax rate than anybody—including the working poor, the bottom 50 percent of American households.The federal income tax has become a massive annual transfer of wealth from blue states to red states. Just let it go, so the states can raise their own taxes to take care of their citizens without having to subsidize other states.
“Taker” Mississippi, for example, gets about 40 percent of its total budget in federal funds taken from “maker” blue states, with fully 24 percent of its residents being fed via the federal food stamp program (compared to 10 percent of Californians). If they’re so gung-ho about “states’ rights” when it comes to denying citizens the right to vote or to get a safe abortion, or putting limits on carrying assault weapons, why not give them the “right” to pay for their own social programs?
Education, housing, food stamps, health care, and pretty much every other program funded by the income tax (Social Security has its own separate tax and fund) can be picked up by the states. Ending the federal income tax (and leaving the federal government with tariffs and fees to pay for the military, as we did from the founding of the republic up until World War I) would give the states lots of elbow room.
Take away the 30 percent or 40 percent (for the top income brackets; or, before Reagan, even 91 percent to 70 percent on a progressive sliding scale) federal tax rate, and the states can then raise their state income taxes to those levels. Blue states, no longer having to subsidize red states via the federal government, can easily pick up all the social safety net costs and have enough money left over to build a multi-state world-class coronavirus-resistant nonprofit hospital system.
To make things easier, the blue states need to enter into a compact like several New England and Mid-Atlantic states did to control greenhouse gases, a move emulated by California, Oregon and Washington.
For a project this large, though (particularly if it includes a single-payer health care system), it’ll take all of the blue states: an interstate compact including the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, the West Coast states, and the few remaining blue states in the Midwest like Illinois and Minnesota. And with their “pact” to decide when and how to open their states after the coronavirus crisis ends, numerous blue states have already laid the foundation for exactly this.
America’s wealthiest billionaires, including Walmart’s Walton family, the Kochs, and Jeff Bezos, have famously worked to gut the right of workers to form unions; fine, let them have their federal “right to work for less” law. But don’t forbid the blue states from enforcing union rights; they’re the key to the prosperous middle class America had between the 1940’s and Reagan’s election in 1980, and blue states are all about prosperity.
When the red states start to collapse or see a mass exodus of their people to blue states, let them join the compact but, as with the European Union, only if they agree to the terms of the Blue State Compact: higher taxes and fully funded health, education and welfare programs, as well as high-functioning infrastructure to support modern business activity.
Pick your metric: Livability, family-friendliness, quality of health care, quality and availability of education, “personal freedom,” economic strength, job growth, business climate, worker rights… in nearly every case, blue states outrank red states, and often by a huge margin.
While the variation in GDP growth between the world’s top 20 economies averages around 1.75 percent, America’s blue states have grown 3.5 percent more than red states since the Great Recession. Blue states can definitely take care of themselves.
As part of their interstate compact, blue states could even define their own regulatory programs to keep their air and water clean and their food and drugs safe, as California has done for years with auto emissions. Without their taxes being sucked away to red states, the Compact can afford to create its own versions of the FDA, EPA, USDA and OSHA.
Ending the federal income tax (or dialing it back to functional meaninglessness) and creating an interstate compact like this would require a few steps, but they’ve been followed numerous times in American history.
The federal income tax, authorized in 1913 by the 16th Amendment, has been raised and lowered repeatedly in the more than 100 years since its inception. It’s been as low as a single-digit percent and as high as 91 percent. Given that the GOP has been begging for years to cut it as much as possible, if the Democrats in Congress were to offer to cut it to 1 percent or whatever minimum would, along with tariffs and fees, provide for the core functions of government (Army, Congress, SCOTUS, White House, etc.), it’s hard to imagine that the Republicans could say no.
Similarly, although Section 10 of Article I of the Constitution says, “No state shall, without the consent of Congress, … enter into any agreement or compact with another state,” that consent hasn’t been routinely withheld when interstate compacts were formed to do everything from controlling pollution to disposing of nuclear waste. This should be a viable idea.
Speaking to a group of 450 billionaires and multimillionaires, Charles Koch, in 2015, compared their struggle to that, according to the Washington Post, of “Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” Not to mention George Washington.
“Look at the American revolution,” Koch said, “the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement. All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”
A staple argument among America’s conservative uber-rich, going all the way back to their reaction to Brown v. Board of Education in the 1950s, has been that the federal government needs to stop interfering with states, and that federal regulations and subsidies are distorting markets and holding back “the magic of the free market.”
They tried their experiments with Chile and Russia, “libertarianizing” those nations’ economies, and the results were less than spectacular. Perhaps they can do better with the states they already control (via Charles Koch’s ALEC, for example) once those states are unencumbered by federal taxes, regulations or the “stifling” effect of federal welfare and subsidy programs.
The right-wing billionaire definition of “freedom” includes the right to poverty, the right to die without health care, the right to be uneducated and illiterate, and the right to be hungry and homeless. Red states seem to like this, since they repeatedly vote for it; we should let them have it.
Growing a Vegetable Garden Might Be Just What You Need During the Coronavirus Crisis
Stefanie Wal April 3, 2020
It’s been a few weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic halted the world, forcing us to retreat into our homes and forgo physical social contact—and it doesn’t look like we’ll be freed any time soon. Though grocery stores are open for business, authorities from governors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have asked that we minimize our outings into the public world, which got us thinking: what better time to plant your own vegetable garden? Not only could this help you skip the trip to the store once the produce comes in, but it also could provide some much-needed stress relief. We asked some gardening experts for tips and tricks to design a garden and grow produce in your backyard or patio.
Designing a Garden
Before you dive in with your trowel and seeds, you’ll want to spend some time designing your garden’s layout. Start by observing how much sunlight is in your yard or patio. “Consider where the vegetable garden is going. It should go in the sunniest spot, as most vegetables require lots of direct sun,” says landscape designer Kathryn Herman. But don’t fret if you have a little bit of shade. “Some vegetables, like salad greens, can take a small amount of shade,” says landscape designer Deborah Nevins.
When it comes to designing a layout, keep in mind that gardens take work. You’ll need to be out there watering, weeding, and harvesting, so you’ll want to leave areas between your beds where you can tread safely. “We like making the garden beds easy to access, so a three-foot-wide by eight-foot-long bed with space on either side allows circulation to get to both sides,” says Herman. “The space on either side of the bed can be lawn, or it can be gravel, or it can be a paved surface.”
And if you don’t have a full yard, don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to make do with a small space like a patio, a window box, or even a section of your driveway. “Plant in containers or a small raised bed,” says Tara Nolan, author of Gardening Your Front Yard and co-owner of Savvy Gardening. “You just need to make sure the space gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. There are many compact plant varieties that are perfect for small spaces. Look for words like mini, dwarf, or patio on seed packets.”
Close up of basket of fresh vegetables on garden soil. Cool weather crops include carrots and other root veggies. Photo: Getty Images/Aleksander Rubtsov
Choosing What to Plant
There’s quite a variety of produce to choose from for your vegetable garden, and the good news for beginners is that it’s relatively easy to grow the vast majority of them. “Plants are really simple, especially vegetable plants,” says Shelby DeVore, founder of homesteading website Farminence. “There are two main types of vegetable plants that are suitable for first-time gardeners: fruit crops like tomatoes and cucumbers, and vegetative crops that are grown for their leaves, like spinach and lettuce.”
To help you narrow down your selection, consider the size of your garden—and the colors you want to see. “There is a large variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and lettuces that come in many forms and colors, which can add another level of interest to the garden,” says Herman. “These vegetables are suitable for a smaller bed, while vegetables like squash, cucumbers, and melons require more space to spread out.”
Something else to think about: Some plants grow better during different times of year. “Cool-weather crops like peas; root veggies like beets and carrots; and members of the Brassica genus, like cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts, can be sown in early spring, while the heat-lovers like tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers are planted after all threat of frost has passed,” says Nolan. “Google your region and the area’s frost-free date, which will help you know when to plant.”
And, of course, grow what you want to eat! “Red Russian kale is one of my personal favorites,” says designer Christopher Spitzmiller. “It’s easy to grow and has nearly flat leaves that are easy to roll up and cut into small coleslaw-like pieces that make a great salad all summer and into the early winter.”
Plants Growing At Vegetable Garden. Make sure to research your region to know when to plant certain seeds. Photo: Getty Images/Ivana Drozdov
Follow these tips from our experts and you’ll be on your way to self-grown fresh produce in no time!
1. Consider starting your garden indoors if it’s still cold out
Although it’s just about the right time of year to get outdoors, you can start your garden inside if you’re in a colder climate. “We have lots of seeds started under grow lights in our garage,” says Spitzmiller. “We’ve started all sorts of lettuces, cabbages, and arugula.”
2. Make sure you’re using good soil
When it comes to gardening, it’s crucial to have healthy soil for robust growth. “You have to determine the quality of your soil regarding nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and you need to see if the soil drains well,” says Nevins. And don’t forget fertilizer! “Composted manure can be worked in to help add organic matter into the soil,” says Herman.
3. Check on them daily
Pay attention to your plants, as their physical appearance can alert you to any issues they might have. “Plants that aren’t getting enough water will be droopy, but most people know that,” says DeVore. “They’ll also let you know if they have a disease or nutritional issue. Check the leaves for yellow or brown spots. Wilted, yellow, purple, or curled leaves can be a sign that something is wrong.”
4. Don’t get discouraged
“First-timers should know that even the most experienced gardeners can have issues, and not to be discouraged,” says Nolan. “Sometimes issues like pests, or even excessive rain, can affect crops. The key is to figure out what went wrong and how you can mitigate those circumstances next time.”
10 Perennials That’ll Add Tons of Color to Your Garden
Plant these sun lovers for long-lasting color that returns every year
By Arricca Sansone March 31, 2020
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Got sun? Perennials that thrive in full sun, considered 6 or more hours per day, provide long-lasting color to gardens or containers on your deck, patio or balcony. Best of all, they come back every year so you’ll get more bang for your buck! For starters, read the plant tag or description to learn if a plant will survive in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). Dig a hole about twice the size of the pot, then set it in the ground or pot at the same level it was in the container. Water thoroughly, and keep an eye on it during dry spells. Even drought-tolerant plants need TLC the first season, so don’t ignore them and let them dry out. Then be patient! Perennials may not look like they’re doing much for the first season or two. In fact, there’s a saying that perennials crawl the first year, walk the second, and take off running the third season in the ground.
Here are a few of our favorite hardy perennials for full sun:
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Catmint has fuzzy foliage and purple-blue flower spikes that last for several weeks in mid-summer. It has a pleasantly spicy, minty scent when you brush against it. Newer types keep a nice, mounded shape.
Varieties to try: Cat’s Meow, Walker’s Low
2 Bee Balm
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This pollinator favorite comes in shades of pinks, purples, and reds. The fringed, spikey flowers are heat and cold-tolerant and look best planted in huge swaths. New types are more disease-resistant.
Varieties to try: Pardon My Lavender, Leading Lady Plum
3 Black-eyed Susan
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They’re sturdy, have a long bloom time, and look like happy, smiling faces. What other reasons do you need to plant this cheery plant? They bloom from mid-summer to fall. Read the tag because some are perennial, while others only last two years (biennial) so they’re treated as annuals and replanted every year.
Varieties to try: American Gold Rush, Indian Summer
4 False Indigo
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False indigo, also known as baptisia, has beautiful spires of indigo blue, pink, yellow or white flowers, followed by bushy seedpods in the fall. Pollinators of all types love it, too!
Varieties to try: Decadence Cherries Jubilee, Twilight Prairieblues
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Daylilies don’t need coddled, so they’re a good choice if you’re a hands-off kind of gardener. They bloom for just one day (as the name suggests) but in great numbers. In a few years, you’ll have enough to divide them and plant elsewhere in your garden.
Varieties to try: Rainbow Rhythm Nosferatu, Romantic Returns
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With hundreds of varieties in many different forms, sedum has fleshy leaves to help it survive dry spells. Sedum comes in low-growing or creeping types as well as more upright forms, so you’ll find one for every garden setting.
Varieties to try: Lemon Coral, Firecracker
7 Balloon Flower
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This adorable perennial has plump, round buds that burst into star-shaped blue flowers. It blooms mid-summer for several weeks.
Varieties to try: Fuji, Astra Pink
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Penstemon, also called beardtongue, has stately upright spikes of deep pink or purple flowers with dark green or burgundy leaves. The pretty foliage is bright and colorful all season long after the tubular-shaped flowers fade.
Varieties to try: Midnight Masquerade, Blackbeard
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With vibrant colors in every shade of the rainbow, coneflowers are reliable performers. They range in height from about 12 to 36 inches tall. Read the plant tag to see how tall each variety gets so you’ll know if it’s best in the back, middle or front of the border.
While it’s still unclear how all farmers will be economically impacted by the coronavirus, the situation is already affecting small-scale producers who sell into local markets.
“It’s unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Kurdieh said, estimating that about 60 percent of his business depends on restaurants, and at this time of year, that number is closer to 75 percent. “We are figuring everything out day by day.”
The fate of farmers’ markets is still uncertain in many places, but COVID-19’s catastrophic effect on restaurants that buy from local growers is now assured. President Trump issued new guidelines on Monday that advised Americans to avoid groups of 10 or more people and called for governors in affected states to close restaurants and bars. Before that, governors in many states across the country had already ordered restaurants closed except for takeout and delivery.
Mayors in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. all issued similar but varying directives. And in places where government officials haven’t stepped in, many restaurants are closing anyway, either out of necessity due to lack of customers or in service of the public interest to slow the spread of the virus.
“We really rely on restaurants,” Joe Schirmer, owner of Dirty Girl Produce, a 40-acre organic farm in Santa Cruz, California told Civil Eats on Monday. “[Those sales are] at zero. It’s totally done. There are no restaurants buying.”
The shuttering of institutions—especially schools—is also affecting small farms. As of March 16, 35 states had closed public schools.
Kate Harwell. (Photo courtesy of Sky Island Farm)
Kate Harwell grows vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers at Sky Island Farm in Grays Harbor, Washington, a couple of hours outside of Seattle. She had been structuring her whole season around starting a contract to sell produce to Seattle public schools starting in mid-April.
“We were basically going to be wholesaling a large percentage of what we’re growing to them. That was going to be a big chunk of money,” she said. Seattle schools are now officially closed through April 24, and Harwell hasn’t heard back from her district contact. “I’m sure she’s dealing with a lot right now,” she said.
Given the uncertainty around when schools will reopen, Harwell is now working with the assumption that she has lost that sales channel. Her goal is to make up the income by shifting gears and expanding her community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which she had previously kept small.
After she reopened it and began posting about it on Instagram, including a new offer for home delivery, her membership grew faster than it ever had before. “I got 10 sign-ups just yesterday,” she said.
And she’s not alone. Many farmers are pivoting from restaurant and institutional sales to sell directly to customers who are holed up at home. In New York, Kurdieh is ramping up online sales of his produce through the platform OurHarvest. In the Bay Area, which instituted a “shelter in place” order as of March 17, Schirmer is working on quickly putting together a “box” program with both pick-up and delivery options. (Essential activities including food shopping and medical visits are not restricted by the order.)
One of his oldest restaurant customers, Zuni Café, is helping put together a produce pick-up that will aggregate local food from Dirty Girl Produce and other farms they work with. In an Instagram post on Monday, the restaurant hinted at the initiative. “In the coming days we will be starting a new project that we are hopeful will keep our farmers connected to everyone,” they wrote.
Schirmer said there has been an outpouring of support from the local food community, and that keeping the business afloat will require his team to be extraordinarily nimble. “We’ve got food, we’ve got a crew, we’ve got trucks and infrastructure,” he said. “We’re just changing our business model on the fly.”
Emma Jagoz. (Photo courtesy of Moon Valley Farm)
Like many East Coast farms, Moon Valley Farm, a favorite supplier for restaurants in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., would typically be gearing up to start its CSAseason in the coming weeks. But farmer Emma Jagoz announced on Saturday that the farm would begin “veggie home delivery,” offering a la carte CSA shares (rather than requiring a seasonal commitment) delivered to customers, starting this week.
“Of course [the closures] are going to affect our bottom line,” Gurley said, but the cooperative is in a better position than it would be otherwise, because it already has the capacity to take online orders and offer home delivery. “We’re hoping the word gets out. In order to recoup the lost restaurant business, we hope that we can get these direct sales moving, and people realize we’re out there and how safe and available local food is.”
Gurley has also set up a pick-up point for produce orders in conjunction with a restaurant partner, Well Crafted Kitchen, that is continuing to operate a takeout business.
So far, farmers say the pandemic is not affecting them as much as it would during summer or fall, when most of their revenue generally comes in. But if it continues into peak harvest time, things are going to get much more difficult. “If this was peak season, this would be a disaster,” Kurdieh said. “We don’t know how this is going to turn out, but we’re planning [for summer] just as if it was a normal year, because I don’t know how else to do it.”
Depending on the length of the crisis, without restaurants and institutions, they may have to sell all their food directly to consumers.
“[We’re asking]: ‘How do we feed our communities?’ I think that’s the goal of every small farmer at this point,” Kate Harwell said. “If [global] commerce stops, we have to get our food from somewhere. I think people should absolutely start thinking about their local farmers, and I hope this puts them in a position to support them.”
Thousands Of People Are Growing ‘Climate Victory Gardens’ To Save The Planet
Kyla Mandel February 6, 2020
Right across from Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland, sits a garden roughly a third of an acre with rows of vegetable beds and a newly added pond to encourage wildlife. The garden, located along the road so it’s the first thing people see when they drive past, is being managed mostly by students who planted their first perennial seeds to support pollinators last fall and are now eagerly waiting to see what springs up.
It is part of a 6.4-acre plot of farmland bought last June by the Community Ecology Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to reunite people with nature, from a retiring organic farmer who had managed it since the 1980’s and didn’t want it to be lost to development. Fifty years ago, the entire area was agricultural land. Today, this plot is the only farm left. And one of the first things the Community Ecology Institute did when it took over the farm was to plant this “climate victory garden.”
The nonprofit is one of over 2,000 organizations and individuals across the country growing food in climate victory gardens ― be it on a balcony or in a backyard, a community garden or larger urban farm project ― in a bid to mitigate the climate crisis.
Climate change is “a tremendous crisis, but it’s also a really amazing opportunity to shift the way that we’ve been doing things that no longer work,” said Chiara D’Amore, the Community Ecology Institute’s executive director. “We want to use the entire farm as a way to teach about climate action … and we see land-based climate action as one of the more tangible, gratifying ways to help people feel like there’s some hope, feel like there’s something they can do.”
The climate victory garden movement was launched by nonprofit Green America two years ago. It is inspired by the estimated 20 million victory gardens planted across the U.S. by the end of World War II, responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables consumed in the country at the time. The environmental nonprofit is calling on people to use whatever outdoor space they have to grow fruits and vegetables, using “regenerative” methods to help tackle agriculture’s carbon footprint.
About a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food production ― that includes emissions related to storing, transporting and selling food. However, the main climate contribution comes from growing crops and livestock and the effect of deforestation to create more cropland. In the U.S., the agriculture sector accounts for roughly 9% of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial agriculture can also contribute to water pollution from fertilizer runoff and a loss in biodiversity.
Individual gardening efforts alone aren’t enough to address these issues, but it’s a start. “Certainly the victory garden didn’t solve the problem, it didn’t win the war, but it was something people could be called on to do to feel like they were a part of the solution and doing something that was a benefit,” reflected D’Amore, who said the same goes for the climate crisis today.
Many of the goals of the victory garden in the 20th century are echoed in the modern environmental movement.
Herbert Hoover, head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, encouraged Americans to live simply, grow their own food and consume less. The Federal Bureau of Education also launched the U.S. School Garden Army, which enrolled 2.5 million children in 1919. Those school gardens are credited with helping produce food worth $48 million at the time. Thanks to efforts like these, the U.S. successfully avoided having to ration during that war.
During World War II, citizens were once again encouraged to grow everything from potatoes to peach trees, and many women, as part of the Women’s Land Army, stepped in to manage urban victory gardens and rural farms. In 1943, first lady Eleanore Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the front lawn of the White House in an effort to show that anyone could successfully grow food.
Soy was promoted as an alternative protein to meat ― although more because meat was being rationed to feed the military than over environmental concerns. Soybeans were marketed as “wonder” or “miracle” beans that were easier to grow and store than meat. Canning, drying and preserving were also encouraged to help foods last longer.
“For us, the inspiration grew from knowing how many people were involved [in these victory gardens], how many people wanted to make a difference, and how many people really wanted to be involved in this food culture,” said Jillian Semaan, food campaigns director for Green America. “Knowing those numbers and what victory gardens did at that time, we felt we had a great opportunity.”
The difference now, though, is that Green America hopes to harness this same spirit through the potential of what’s known as “regenerative agriculture” ― a way of farming that’s dedicated to enriching the soil while also producing healthful food, with the added benefit of storing carbon in the ground. As the government’s 2018 National Climate Assessment, along with many other scientists, acknowledges, “agriculture is one of the few sectors with the potential for significant increases in carbon sequestration to offset [greenhouse gas] emissions.”
The challenge, however, will be to scale it up. There’s a long way to go before reaching wartime levels, but Green America hopes to more than double the number of climate victory gardens this year to 5,000.
The term “regenerative agriculture” was coined in the 1980’s by Robert Rodale, son of the man who applied the term “organic” to food. The most important idea behind regenerative farming (or “carbon farming”) is soil health. This means relying far less on fertilizers and chemicals and focusing more on methods like planting cover crops, applying compost to build up nutrients in the soil and make it more fertile, and not tilling.
Tilling ― breaking up the soil’s surface ― is used to fight weeds and prepare soil for growing. But it reduces the soil’s structural integrity, meaning it won’t hold as much water and will erode more easily ― two qualities of increasing importance as climate change brings extreme weather, such as the devastating floods the Midwest experienced last year.
Tilling also releases carbon that has been locked into the earth throughout the plant’s life cycle. The more carbon-rich the soil becomes, the better plants grow.
Prioritizing soil health is what differentiates climate victory gardens from organic or wildlife gardens, D’Amore said. “Starting from that literally ground-up perspective, we need to make sure that the soil is really healthy to be mindful of what we’re growing,” she said, describing roots as a “whole underground infrastructure” that helps sequester carbon. In practice, this means finding some edible perennial plants with deep roots, such as currant bushes, which her farm will be growing along with other berries.
Meanwhile, cover crops ― like clover, turnips, barley and spinach ― help keep the soil in place and act as a protective blanket in winter.
“If a farmer is practicing regenerative agriculture on his or her land, the soil is getting improved over time. It’s going to get healthier,” said Jeff Tkach, chief impact officer at the Rodale Institute, an educational nonprofit that researches and promotes regenerative organic farming. “If the soil is improving, well, then the food that the farmer is producing is going to become more nutrient-dense over time. And if those consuming that food are eating more nutrient-dense food, then they’re going to get healthier over time … and the community’s going to thrive.”
A healthy community is at the heart of BLISS Meadows, a climate victory garden that launched last March in Baltimore. The urban farm is run by Backyard Basecamp, an organization that seeks to connect communities of color with nature.
Its founder and executive director, Atiya Wells, is a pediatric nurse by trade, and her approach is to promote the health benefits of having a local green space and of growing your own food. The community garden is in the process of renovating a vacant home next door to the farm and plans to transform it into a community kitchen that will host cooking classes and tastings, Wells said, “to show people we can eat healthier and it can be delicious.”
But it’s also about community resilience. “When we all think about climate change and what’s going to happen, we know that people who have means can just pick up and go, and the rest of us are going to be here,” Wells said. The BLISS Meadows garden is in a predominantly black and brown neighborhood.
“So this is kind of us really starting things so that when that time comes, we already have a self-sustaining neighborhood where we’re growing food for our neighbors,” she explained, “[and] we’re able to continue to survive.”
Many who support the regenerative agriculture movement see it as a clear, easy climate win with enormous potential. Some, including Green America, go so far as to claim we can “reverse” climate change by simply changing how we farm.
According to a 40-year trial conducted by the Rodale Institute of growing conventional and regenerative crops side-by-side, adopting regenerative methods brought 40% higher crop yields during drought times, used 45% less energy and produced 40% fewer emissions compared to conventional farming.
However, as David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington and author of two books on dirt and soil, told Civil Eats last October, regenerative agriculture should be seen as a “good down-payment on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide” as opposed to a panacea. Claims that it can reverse climate change, he said, are a stretch.
The hope is that climate victory gardens will nudge us toward climate action. But how can something as seemingly small as one person growing tomatoes in their backyard help tackle a problem as immense as agriculture’s effect on climate?
“Everything starts with incremental change,” Semaan said. It begins with reconnecting people to their food and how it got to their plates.
Working with high school students in the Maryland area, the Community Ecology Institute plans to help set up a youth-led program to encourage others to start climate victory gardens throughout the community. “I think our youth get it in a way that many of our leaders and older generations, in general, don’t,” D’Amore said. “They see climate change as the crisis it is. It’s going to impact all our lives, and they want to feel like they can do something that matters.”
Every item grown at home also means one less thing purchased from the store, cutting down on transportation. Even if it’s just a patch of chives, Semaan said, each gardener knows the resources, from water to gas money, that are saved with those plants. “It’s all incremental change,” she said, “and the more people who do it, even if it’s just herbs on a windowsill, the better the planet is for it.”
Tkach agreed. He views the climate victory gardens as a way to “shift people’s consciousness by getting people to just take some kind of action in their own backyards.”
By growing your own food, you have a better understanding of what goes into it, he echoed. “I think as consumers become more attuned to that, it’s going to influence their own decisions,” so people might pay closer attention to food labels that tell you how and where something was grown. “When they go to the grocery store, they’re going to be more adept at [knowing] what to look for.”
Eventually, if enough people are doing this, they can help shift society toward a tipping point, where consumer demand for regenerative farming disrupts the conventional system, Tkach explained.
“I feel like it’s our moment in history. If we could just continue to change the way people eat, it changes everything.”
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It’s Our Choice: Medicare for All, or Endless War?
If we end wars, shut down wasteful and failing weapons programs, and close unnecessary foreign bases, we could come up with an extra $350 billion to spend on Medicare for All—without sacrificing security.
by Lindsay Koshgarian November 20, 2019
Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All. (Photo: Shutterstock)
If you’re following the presidential race, you’ve heard plenty of sniping about Medicare for All and whether we can afford it. But when it comes to endless war or endless profits for Pentagon contractors, we’re told we simply must afford it—no questions asked.
Where can we find it? In a giant pot of money that’s already rampant with waste and abuse: the Pentagon.
According to one study, even if universal health insurance didn’t bring health care prices down—an unlikely worst-case scenario—we’d need an extra $300 billion a year beyond our current spending to provide full insurance for everyone.
Where can we find it? In a giant pot of money that’s already rampant with waste and abuse: the Pentagon.
Right now, only about one quarter of the $738 billion Pentagon budget goes to our troops. The rest is mainly three things: the cost of maintaining 800 military installations all over the world; lucrative Pentagon contracts, which account for nearly half of the entire Pentagon budget; and, of course, our never-ending wars in the Middle East.
According to my research, if we end those wars, shut down wasteful and failing weapons programs, and close unnecessary foreign bases, we could come up with an extra $350 billion to spend on Medicare for All—without sacrificing security.
As experts of various political stripes will tell you, the U.S. military is carrying out a costly 20th-century security vision in a 21st century world. For instance, the Pentagon still keeps tens of thousands of troops in Germany and Italy. Maybe 75 years after the end of World War II (and nearly 20 years into our ill-fated Iraq adventure) is a good time to finally bring those troops home?
Closing 60 percent of our foreign bases would save $90 billion a year. There’d be enough left over for more than one foreign military installation in each country on earth, if we insisted.
Right now, those bases enable our endless wars. Troops rotate from Germany into the Middle East and Africa, and tens of thousands are stationed in the conflict-ridden Middle East at any given time. Yet our wars have only further destabilized the region. It’s time we brought our troops home for good—and saved $66 billion each year in the bargain.
Then there are those highly paid contractors. For instance, the F-35 fighter jet is projected to cost more than the entire military budget of Iran. But even after many years and massive cost overruns, the lead Pentagon tester just reported that the F-35 is still “breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix.”
We should halt the F-35 boondoggle, cut back on 20th century war technology like the aircraft carrier, and freeze nuclear weapons spending, with the eventual goal of eliminating these weapons that could wipe us all out at a keystroke.
All told, we could cut $100 billion from outdated, ill-conceived, or outright dangerous programs like these. The contractors will howl, but they’ve run things long enough.
None of this is as radical as it sounds. Today, military spending higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War. Even with a $350 billion cut, it would simply return to levels from the late 1990’s.
Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All.
Which would make us safer: Medicare for All or endless wars? The choice is ours.
Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Finnish Prime Minister Marin calls for a 4-day-week and 6-hour-day for her country
by Komtrast.at December 19, 2019
Finland’s new head of state caused enthusiasm in the country: Sanna Marin (34) is the youngest female head of government worldwide. She leads a centre-left coalition in which all 5 government parties have women at the top. Her aim: To introduce the 4-day-week and the 6-hour-working day in Finland.
Sanna Marin is the new Prime Minister of Finland. The 34-year-old social democrat was celebrated internationally because of strong women-led government: It is a coalition of five parties – and in all of them, women are the leaders.
For Sanna Marin, the fact that she is young and female doesn’t play a big role:
“I have never thought about my age or gender. I think more about the motivations that brought me into politics.”
Marin wants “much shorter working hours”
More important for Marin is the question, how long the Finns should have to work. She demands much shorter working hours on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Turku. In her position as Minister of Transport and Communications, she said:
In Finland, 8-hour-days for five days a week are common in peoples’ work life. The left-wing alliance, with which Marin has formed a coalition recently, demanded a test run for the 6-hour-day.
Göteborg proves it: 6-hour-days keep you happy and healthy
The 6-hour-day already works in Finland’s neighbour country Sweden: In 2015, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, reduced working time to six hours a day in the old peoples’ homes and the municipal hospital – while still full paying their employees. The results two years later: The employees were happier, healthier and more productive. With the reduction in working hours, services were expanded and patients were more satisfied.
And the costs were stable: More employees were hired, which resulted in more tax revenue. In Addition to that, fewer sick days, fewer invalidity pensions and fewer people unemployed saved money.
Swedish Tech Industry as Pioneer
In the Swedish tech industry, the 6-hour-day has been default for many years. First and foremost, the automobile manufacturer Toyota proved how it works. As early as 2003, the Gothenburg plant switched to shorter working days with full pay.
Not only were Toyota’s employees more satisfied and motivated, they could also increase their productivity – and in the end: Toyota’s profits. The reasons for this are simple: First, unnecessarily long meetings were discarded or made more efficient. And second, there are much fewer idle times in the working day that are filled with social media or Internet surfing.
People go to work and do it more focused and concentrated. Then they go home and have enough time to spend the afternoon with their families, friends and hobbies.