College of Natural Resources
A seven-year project tracking young coho salmon in the Russian River watershed found that some habitats support the young fish even in the midst of extended drought. Photo courtesy of the California Sea Grant.
For young coho salmon, summer is not all fun in the sun: Extended heat and drought can sometimes dry up the small freshwater streams where the endangered fish spend the first year of their lives, leaving them trapped in small pools with limited food and oxygen.
As climate change threatens to bring hotter and drier summers to California, a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the California Sea Grant provides conservationists and resource managers with valuable insights on how to continue to protect and restore California’s dwindling coho salmon population.
The research team tracked nearly 20,000 tagged fish in the Russian River watershed over a seven-year period from 2011 to 2017, spanning a time of major drought in California. This watershed is home to a highly endangered population of coho salmon, which nearly collapsed in the early 2000’s, but has been recovering since then through a conservation hatchery program and other efforts.
“We were able to measure survival during this historic drought, which will help us understand how future droughts will impact this population of salmon,” says University of Wisconsin-La Crosse assistant professor Ross Vander Vorste, who conducted the analysis for the study as a UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher in collaboration with California Sea Grant’s Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program.
The researchers discovered that the salmon survival depends in part on how long isolated pools spend disconnected from flowing water: the longer the dry period, the fewer salmon were able to hang on until the wetter months of fall and winter. And though fewer salmon overall survived the drought years, the researchers did find reason for hope. In certain streams and pools, which the researchers call drought “refuges,” salmon survival was similar in both drought and non-drought years.
“A subset of the streams and pools were remarkably resilient to drought,” said Theodore Grantham, a cooperative extension specialist and adjunct professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley. “In other words, in a handful of pools we saw very similar levels of survival in drought and not non-drought years. We weren’t able to pin down why certain pools and certain streams served as drought refuges, but it points to a compelling area of future research.”
The research suggests that maintaining stream connectivity during the summer months –– by limiting water withdrawal for human use, for instance –– could go a long way toward protecting this vulnerable species.
“The work highlights the importance of these intermittent streams generally in supporting this sensitive species population,” Grantham said. “These types of streams are often poorly protected by regulations because they don’t flow for the whole year, but our work shows the importance of managing these streams as valuable ecological resources.”Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 11:30 Byline: Kara Manke Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 11:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes
Congratulations to plant and microbial biology faculty emeritus Zinmay Renee Sung on being awarded a 2019-20 Scheiber Emeriti Faculty Research Grant. Awarded by the Academic Senate Committee on Research (COR) and established this year, the first-time award goes to faculty emeriti from across campus to pursue projects honoring the 150th Anniversary of Women at UC Berkeley, which marks the decision to admit women to the university in 1872.
Sung’s research project centers on the history of Asian American women, from students to faculty and staff, in regards to their experiences and representation on campus. Through historical record searches and journalistic interviews, the project will assess the evolving social, cultural, and familial environments of such women throughout the history of the University. Sung hopes the project will uplift Asian American women across campus in achieving their goals and contributing positively to society.
During her time as a faculty member on campus, Sung’s research focused on flowering and seed development within plants at the chromatin level. Her research included an examination of the mechanisms behind plant embryo development and an analysis of the role of epigenetics in plant biology.
The research fund honors Harry and Jane Scheiber. Harry Scheiber is a Chancellor’s Emeritus Professor of Law, served on Academic Senate committees for forty-five consecutive years, and was Chair of the Committee on Research in 1991-92 and Berkeley Division Chair in 1994-95.
Learn more about the research grant in the Berkeley Emeriti Times.Image: Date: Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 11:00 Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 11:00 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?: yes
The Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS) recognizes five Rausser College undergraduates this year for their work bringing about environmental change on Berkeley’s campus. For the past 17 years, CACS has honored students at its annual Earth Day summit, though the committee’s celebration for the fourth-year students is postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During their time at Berkeley, the students found unique ways to promote sustainability and to improve the environmental literacy of the Berkeley community. The soon-to-be graduates have spearheaded projects related to environmental communications, policy, and education, with positive sustainability outcomes on campus operations such as Cal Dining and Landscape Services. Honorees are recognized for efforts to help tackle the world’s most pressing environmental issues and bring the community closer to a more sustainable future.Sylvia Targ Conservation and Resource Studies
Targ began her advocacy work when she worked with the university to incorporate the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide, which offers guidelines for sustainable fish consumption, into all dining hall food purchases. Since then, she has worked as the sustainability education coordinator for Cal Dining and as an undergraduate student instructor for Oceans C82. During her senior year, Targ served as the elected environmental community senator for the Associated Students for the University of California. Targ plans to continue pushing for environmental change by organizing and consensus building after she graduates.
Lenier teaching the Zero Waste DeCal. Photo by Irene Yi.Sage Lenier Conservation and Resource Studies
Sage Lenier’s interdisciplinary research helped her develop the DeCal course titled “Zero Waste: Solutions for a Sustainable Future.” The course, growing from 25 to 300 students within two years, discusses global environmental problems and various ways that students can engage with solutions. Lenier’s DeCal won a best practice award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, and its clear, urgent message was featured in The New York Times last January. She plans to introduce the course to other campuses in the future.
Lenier will also be featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Breakthroughs.Dante Gonzales Conservation and Resource Studies; Society and Environment
With a focus on community building and campus engagement, Dante Gonzales expanded his role as a Carbon Neutrality Initiative engagement fellow to encourage sustainability in various ways at Berkeley. Carbon Crew, the team formed and led by Gonzales within the Student Environmental Resource Center, has encouraged students to adopt sustainable behavior during the Cool Campus Challenge, implemented more vegetarian and vegan options on Cal Dining menus, and helped introduce environmental curricula to Bay Area schools. After graduating, Gonzales wants to continue working in climate resilience and organizing.
After learning about how chemical treatments were used on the plants near Clark Kerr Campus’ volleyball courts, student athlete Bridget Gustafson founded Herbicide Free Cal. The campaign organized weeding days, where students would manually weed as opposed to spraying chemicals. As a result of Gustafson’s efforts, a herbicide ban has been adopted at various UC schools, as well as at university campuses in Iowa, Texas, and Hawaii.
Ella Griffith at a food waste event on campus. Since her freshman year, Griffith has been involved with Housing and Dining Sustainability Advocates (HADSA), where she helped develop an internship program and created campaign materials to raise awareness about food waste, among other activities. Photo from the HADSA Archives.Ella Griffith Conservation and Resource Studies
Ella Griffith’s environmental work focuses on food waste activism. During her time at Berkeley, Griffith pushed for waste reduction in campus dining services and created the Housing and DIning Sustainability Team’s first internship program. She has also worked to unite Greek life, student cooperative housing, and campus residence halls to educate students about how to sustainably dispose of their end-of-the-year waste.Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 11:30 Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 11:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Student Stories Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?: yes
This blog originally appeared in the BMJ Opinion on April 30th:
Photo by Gustavo Fring via Pexels.
As more countries and US states move to lift lockdown orders and re-open businesses and other public spaces, many people around the world—including health professionals and other essential workers—are still being quarantined, hospitalized, and buried.
Public health experts have warned that lifting “shelter in place” and physical distancing measures too early could lead to a second, potentially greater, surge in infections and deaths in the summer or fall. However, some politicians have revealed how their immediate priorities rest on the health of the economy rather than human life. As a physician and social anthropologist, I think it is clear that while we must take “physical distancing” very seriously, we need the opposite of “social distancing” to survive this pandemic. We must develop social solidarity to survive the summer and beyond.
In the social sciences, we understand solidarity to be the feeling and practice of interdependence between individuals and groups, which can change the ways in which societies are structured, as well as how each individual views themself and acts in relation to other people. Solidarity can occur across categories of social difference in the form of coalition building, which recognizes the connections between different forms of inequity and highlights the need to stand together for the good of all. Yet, this collective aspect of wellbeing is difficult to achieve in societies where individualistic understandings of health and freedom prevail.
As we approach another month of the covid-19 pandemic, we need social solidarity to protect our mental health. Some people are sheltering in place alone, and some people will be feeling depressed or isolated. Other people are avoiding their homes to protect loved ones at high risk. Some people are far from their families due to travel restrictions and border closures. Other people are continuing to carry out essential work despite their intense fears. In this time of isolation, we need the healing properties of social cohesion—from a distance. Perhaps that means engaging with social media—or avoiding it. Perhaps that includes sending letters, setting up virtual hangouts, or talking by phone. For many, this includes sharing a kind word or smile with neighbors, strangers, and essential workers—from a distance.
During this pandemic, we also need social solidarity to avoid the harm of anti-social practices, such as stigmatization. At a time when politicians make free use of racist language, other people are committing hate crimes against anyone perceived to be related to the entire, diverse continent of Asia. President Trump and other politicians have stoked ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, violating UN conventions, global compacts, and the basic human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. As we approach the summer, we must resist division, come together, and learn to see ourselves and our health in relation to one another. We must confront politicians and corporate executives attempting to benefit from the crisis.
As we debate how we should live in the coming months, we need solidarity to build systems that benefit the health of all. What scares many frontline physicians and nurses in this pandemic is not so much the highly infectious virus itself, nor even the severe respiratory condition it causes, but rather the lack of essential equipment necessary to curb the pandemic and care for patients safely. There have also been reports of the US government previously disbanding roles that are critical to epidemic responsiveness. If we want to survive the summer, we must understand how critical our public systems are for all of our health. As global health expert Paul Farmer explains, an effective epidemic response requires “staff, stuff, space, and systems”—including protection for frontline key workers, accessible testing, and contact tracing. We must build robust health systems to avoid thousands more avoidable infections and deaths in this and future pandemics.
While in the US, it’s been primarily white Americans with support from conservative groups who have been protesting shelter in place orders, systematically more people from black and minoritized ethnic populations have died. Well into the second month since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization, we need social solidarity to protect the health of all—including the people most marginalized by society. Many hourly workers, including those who plant and harvest produce, have been left out of protections. While we are ordered to physically distance, others have been separated from their families and locked in overcrowded detention facilities and prisons that are ripe for viral spread. And while we are told to “stay home,” an unprecedented number of people lack any kind of safe housing, with nowhere to “shelter.” For all of us to survive the summer, we need to acknowledge and work to improve the social determinants of health for all in our societies.
While covid-19 is more dangerous for certain groups, for any of us to be healthy in a pandemic, we must make sure that all of us are healthy. If we learn anything right now, we must learn that we are all in this together. We must stay connected. To survive the summer and beyond, we must fund public health and social care systems. We must confront racism, xenophobia, and division. Instead of allowing politicians and corporations to benefit from this crisis, we must provide people with safe places to live and healthcare for those who need it most. Stop raiding, detaining, and deporting immigrant communities. Avoid causing chaos for those on whom our system relies—including those who provide us all with food.
This pandemic reminds us that each of us is dependent on the health of everyone else. As we enter the summer, we must have what physician scholar Frantz Fanon referred to as a “solidarity of fact, a solidarity of action, a solidarity concrete in men, in equipment, in money.”
Seth M Holmes is a physician and social anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco. He is also the author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.Image: Date: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 10:15 Byline: Seth Holmes Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 10:15 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes Keyword tag(s): COVID-19
On May 4, 2020, this article appeared in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Green Blog.
The Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and other wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years have convinced wildfire experts that Californians need to take more than one approach to coexist with fire.
To better protect new houses against wildfire, California has building codes, but where residential communities are built on the landscape and how they are designed are also very important to limit wildfire-related losses, according to University of California Cooperative Extension specialists Max Moritz and Van Butsic.
“Defensible space and vegetation management is important, but in the long term, where and how we build new developments will be equally important for keeping Californians safe,” said Butsic, who studies land use.
To develop their recommendations for reducing wildfire risk for future community development, Moritz, who specializes in wildfire, and Butsic reviewed fire studies and consulted firefighters and community planners.
Their new publication, “Building to Coexist with Fire: Risk Reduction Measures for New Development,” is designed for city planners, fire districts and communities to incorporate community-scale risk reduction measures when building or rebuilding in fire-prone areas.
“There is currently little codified guidance for where and how to build our communities in California, aside from building codes for individual structures and a few requirements for road access and water supplies,” said Moritz, who is based at UC Santa Barbara.
Wildfire consultant and architect David Shew, who retired as a CAL FIRE chief after 31 years, said, “I can state without hesitation that the land use planning principles and design recommendations identified in this study are necessary steps to help increase wildfire resiliency to existing and future communities. Being a first-hand witness to the increasingly destructive nature of wildfires, I can attest to the value and necessity for these improvements to be integrated into our built environment. This should become a much-used reference for every planning and fire official who face wildfire impacts.”[image caption]
The diffuse spacing of homes shown requires larger "zones of defense" and more clearing of native vegetation. The development pattern also requires more firefighting resources and makes fire suppression more complex. Source: Fire Mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface.[image caption]
Clustering homes is safer because the agricultural land (shown as striped rows) provides a protective buffer. This pattern of development also is easier to defend from fire and requires fewer fire supression resources. Source: Fire Mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface.
To reduce fire vulnerability of communities, Moritz and coauthor Butsic, who is based at UC Berkeley, recommend including fire professionals and biological resource experts early in the community planning process. They also recommend considering the placement of communities on the landscape, such as near bodies of water and agricultural land, and how they are laid out to minimize exposure to wildfire. Key considerations include defensibility, risk of ignition and ease of evacuating residents.
“This report provides both a robust justification for integrating resilience practices into land use planning and community design, and a toolbox for doing so,” Sarah G.Newkirk, director of disaster resilience with The Nature Conservancy in California. “The risk reduction measures described can be put to use immediately – ideally in combination with each other – both in ongoing wildfire recovery planning, and in local hazard mitigation planning. Furthermore, the report should be a wake-up call to FEMA to think broadly about how best to support wildfire mitigation in California.”
To more efficiently reduce fuel in new communities, Moritz and Butsic write, “The design, maintenance and use of defensible space for fire protection is easier when neighborhoods are developed more densely and are built to stringent fire-resistant building codes.”[image caption]
Development near slopes should be set back far enough from the slope's edge to provide safety from flames moving up the slope or lapping over the edge. The safety area depends on the height of buildings and potential flame lengths of burning vegetation on the slope.
In the 31-page publication, they present risk reduction measures for four design contexts:
- landscape setting – engage in strategic planning much earlier, use hazard maps and use major landscape features
- separation from wildfire source—use nonflammable amenities in design, employ safe setbacks on slopes and concentrate on inner side of roadways
- density management – cluster with other homes
- protective infrastructure – harden public facilities and refuges, locate power lines underground and augment water requirements.
They provide examples for each risk reduction measure, along with some discussion of challenges associated with each measure.
“Our hope is that this guidance will be helpful for agency personnel involved in evaluating and approving future development in California,” Moritz said. “Because there is a pressing need for additional housing in California, communities must be built with design principles that make them safer to inhabit and less vulnerable to inevitable wildfires.”
The publication “Building to Coexist with Fire: Risk Reduction Measures for New Development” can be downloaded for free at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources catalog.Research News
Photo by Mark Plötz via Pexels.
Water scarcity, a socio-environmental threat to anthropogenic activities and ecosystems alike, affects large regions of the globe. However, it is often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations that suffer the severest consequences, highlighting the role of economic and institutional factors in water scarcity. In this way, researchers generally consider not only the physical constraints but socio-economic determinants as well.
Agriculture, which accounts for 90 percent of global water use, is the largest driver of water scarcity worldwide. In a recent study published in Science Advances, environmental science, policy, and management professor Paolo D’Odorico and PhD candidate Lorenzo Rosa investigate water scarcity over global agricultural lands, assessing various geographical factors and presenting the data in high resolution maps.
D’Odorico and Rosa draw distinctions between the physical and societal constraints to water access in the analysis. “While some scarcity is associated with insufficient freshwater availability in the physical environment, economic water scarcity has been defined as renewable water resources being physically available, but with a lack of economic and institutional capacity that limits the societal ability to use that water,” says Rosa.
Using data intensive computer models, the researchers were able to quantify the water currently provided to crops. They determine the optimal amount of water needed to grow these crops under normal conditions with ample water. Then using hydrological models, the authors compare water demand with availability to measure scarcity and determine the regions of the world where additional water could be made available through expanded irrigation.
The findings suggest that there is enough locally available water to expand irrigation over 140 million hectares of agricultural lands. However, for socio-economic reasons, irrigation infrastructure is not currently available for much of this cropland. The authors also note that sustainable irrigation expansion could have significant implications in a changing climate. “A sustainable expansion of irrigation over economically water-scarce lands could be an important adaptation strategy to climate change, contributing to more reliable and resilient crop production,” says D’Odorico.
The authors also find that two-thirds of land suitable for irrigation expansion is located in sub-Saharan Africa, East Europe, and Central Asia. In these regions, the expansion of sustainable irrigation could boost food production and feed an additional 800 million people.
The study was conducted in collaboration with a team of scientists from Politecnico di Milano and University of Amsterdam. Read the full study in Science Advances here.Image: Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 11:45 Legacy: section header item: Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 11:45 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes Keyword tag(s): climate change
A March 22, 2020 car caravan protest outside the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion. While physically distancing, protesters called for the release of all immigrant detainees from Minnesota jails. Photo by Brad Sigal.
In an article published in American Journal of Public Health today, Miriam Magaña Lopez, a research and policy analyst at the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and associate professor of environmental science, policy, and management Seth Holmes examine how immigrant raids, detention, and deportation negatively impact public health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The article outlines how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities go against public health recommendations and shelter-in-place orders in place to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak. It also notes that such actions engender immigrants’ distrust in public health institutions and worsen equipment shortages, among other impacts.
The authors argue that ICE raids, detention, and deportation should not be deemed essential during a pandemic. Moving individuals to overcrowded detention centers or deporting them, they write, unnecessarily spreads the virus, and the use of N95 masks by ICE agents in raids exacerbates shortages of protective equipment for frontline health care workers.
Past studies suggest a connection between immigration raids and higher levels of distrust in public institutions among immigrant communities. Such raids during a pandemic could lead community members to avoid medical treatment, the researchers write, even when an individual is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“These actions threaten to overwhelm our public health system and fan the flames of the pandemic,” write the authors. “As a country, we have a history opportunity to set our priorities straight. Literally to survive, we must provide necessary equipment to frontline health workers, follow public health recommendations and stop ICE raids, detentions and deportations.”
Read the paper in the American Journal of Public Health here.Image: Date: Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 12:45 Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 12:45 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes Keyword tag(s): COVID-19
Photo by John Lambeth via Pexels.
A recent study published in Nature Food, co-authored by environmental science, policy, and management professor Paolo D’Odorico, found that less than one-third of the world population could currently meet their demand with food produced on a local scale alone.
Over the past several decades, food production has become more efficient globally, resulting in the overall diversification of diets. Still, the majority of the world population live in countries that are dependent on, at least partially, imported food. As a result, food insecurity is intensified during global crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic, when global food supply chains are disrupted.
The study models the minimum distance between crop production and consumption necessary to meet food demand around the world. Conducted in collaboration with Aalto University, the University of Columbia, the Australian National University, and the University of Göttningen, the study factors in six key food crop groups: temperate cereals (wheat, barley, rye), rice, corn, tropical grains (millet, sorghum), tropical roots (cassava), and pulses. In their models, the researchers consider various production modes, also including scenarios where production chains become more efficient due to reduced food waste and improved farming methods.
The results show that only 27 percent of the world population could access temperate cereal grains within a radius of fewer than 100 kilometers, or roughly 62 miles. The findings indicate that local food production is not sufficient in meeting global demand, especially given current agricultural practices and consumption habits. The authors recommend further research into increasing levels of domestic production, accounting for the mitigation of food waste and environmental problems associated with agriculture.
Image: Date: Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 01:45 Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 12:15 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes Keyword tag(s): COVID-19
Photo by Tom Swinnen via Pexels.
As the world is grappling with a policy response to the unfolding economic crisis, ideas on green stimulus are gaining traction. This represents a significant long-term shift in the history of ideas on climate and economic policy.
With the rise of climate policies in the 1990s, market-based solutions were once the dominant mode of climate policy proposals. New research from environmental science, policy, and management associate professor Jonas Meckling analyzes the broad shift in economic principles and schools of thought, in response to climate challenges. Co-authored with Bentley Allan, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, the study shows that major international organizations have broadened their climate policy advice beyond market-based solutions to include green innovation and industrial policy, including subsidies and regulation, and that climate policy has entered a post-paradigmatic period.
The study, published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, analyzes over 150 academic publications from prominent organizations that report on economic interventions in climate policies, including the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The research outlines how shifts in economic thought have guided new approaches to climate--in particular, how a shift from neoclassical economic principles to Green Keynesian and Schumpeterian principles has paralleled a greater emphasis on green growth.
The analysis can inform future climate policies and economic interventions by clarifying the role of regulatory intervention and government investment in climate policy. The authors suggest that the diversification of economic thought has prompted more robust climate policies. Meckling and co-author Allan write: “The emergence of a diversified global policy discourse is important because it helped change the frame of climate policy from a zero-sum to a win-win logic. In this view, climate action generates both private and collective benefits.”
Meckling’s research focuses on climate and energy policy; specifically, he studies the underlying political and economic forces that drive the low-carbon transition.
Read the full study in Nature Climate Change here.Image: Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 09:15 Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 09:15 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes
Join the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with Virtual Earth Week. Earth Week festivities were moved online this year, in accordance with social distancing measures for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual Earth Week involves online events such as Eco-Community Coffee Chats and the Earth Optimism 2020 Digital Summit, where participants can join Berkeley students and community members to learn more about environmental health, the future of climate policy, and a variety of other topics. Registration for the events can be found on SERC’s Virtual Earth Week Calendar.Image: Date: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 12:30 Legacy: section header item: Date: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 12:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left Expose in main "News river"?: yes
This article first appeared in the Guardian and later on the Berkeley News website. Seth Holmes is an associate professor and Vera L. Chang is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
Mike Pence called United States farm and other food workers “heroic Americans” last week for doing “vital” work amid the coronavirus pandemic and said the government would “work tirelessly” to ensure their workplace safety.
Earlier in the month, the Department of Homeland Security had classified workers pulling onions, collecting eggs, processing beef and others as “essential,” and part of the “critical infrastructure workforce” that has a “special responsibility to maintain [a] normal work schedule.”
Though their designation as essential workers is apt, relief measures recognizing their importance haven’t been offered. Congress’s $2 trillion pandemic stimulus package specifically excludes food workers, leaving them without basic safety equipment like masks and hand sanitizer, benefits like healthcare and childcare, protections like physical distancing, and hazard pay. Food workers have also been left out of state aid.
Food workers are being denied basic protections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protections are urgently needed. While Americans have been instructed to maintain 6 feet from others, food workers labor shoulder-to-shoulder in the country’s mega-processing plants. Farmworkers pack into buses to and from orange groves and other harvest sites. They share cramped rooms, even beds, with strangers, and lack ventilation or access to sanitation. “The company isn’t doing anything to give workers space. We’re close to each other all the time,” a Tyson poultry worker in Arkansas stated. She’s a member of Venceremos, a group of poultry workers petitioning companies to provide sick leave.
Yet for many food workers, absence from work due to illness risks termination. And these workers have high rates of hypertension and respiratory impairments – conditions linked to severe COVID-19 disease – because of their proximity to chemicals known to be lung irritants. Essential food workers are paid minimum wages while enduring perilous conditions. They face an agonizing choice: stay home without income for rent or go to work and risk infection.
“We’re in a country where people want our labor but don’t care about our lives. Our human rights have been denied, but our work is being deemed essential. The injustice of the system is laid bare,” explained Enrique Balcazar, an organizer with Migrant Justice, a dairy worker-led organization pressing the state of Vermont to include workers’ needs in its crisis response.
As much of the country shelters in place to slow the spread of the virus, we put our lowest-paid workers at the frontlines of battle with no support. But the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers, 148,000 processing workers and other food chain workers are imperative to our economy, collective health and basic survival. They support the national interest. Danger to food workers is a danger for us all. And some of them are starting to die while working to feed us.
“The worker community is afraid. Farmers are worried. No one is going to be able to replace us when workers get sick,” Pedro, a Vermont dairy worker and Migrant Justice member, told us this week. This raises an urgent question: When we don’t protect workers who pick, process, and pack our food, what will happen to our food supply and all of us?
Chuck Grassley, the Senate finance chairman, told Bloomberg Law: “I don’t think anybody’s going to back legislation that would say we’re going to start giving healthcare to undocumented workers.” Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is helpless even though Congress has obligated it to keep workers safe from “grave danger.” Workers have little recourse.
We can and must do better. And we’re at a pivotal juncture, with peak harvest about to begin. As a result of the pandemic, there have been mass H-2A visa suspensions, closed borders, severe worker layoffs. Our farm and food worker labor pool could shrink to the brink of collapse. If we don’t address this looming problem, an unprecedented national hunger crisis will be imminent.
“In order to ‘flatten the curve,’ the government needs to provide resources to those who don’t have the possibility of social distancing and sheltering in place. It’s immoral to expect that we carry the burden of this contradiction,” asserted Gerardo Reyes, a leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a tomato picker-led organization that’s calling on the state of Florida for emergency provisions for farmworkers. The Coalition is based in Immokalee, a town of 25,000 farmworkers with no hospitals, a situation that Reyes describes as “dry tinder in the path of the wildfire that is COVID-19.”
Essential workers in U.S. fields and processing plants are experts in what is needed to safeguard their own health and safety. They should be invited to play a central role in planning our food system’s workplace emergency responses. Worker participation in the design of their protections would create a more robust, resilient food system that could weather this and future pandemics.
We call on the public, businesses, states and Congress to support workers’ appeals. The pleas made by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Migrant Justice and Venceremos, and other farm and food worker organizations must be acted on. “This is no time to be in denial. There’s an emergency happening,” warned Magaly Licolli, a founding member of Venceremos.
We have a responsibility to act decisively. Time is running out.Image: Date: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 10:45 Byline: Seth Holmes and Vera L. Chang Legacy: section header item: Date: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 10:45 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Research News Expose in main "News river"?: yes Keyword tag(s): COVID-19
Photo courtesy of Carl Boettiger.
Congratulations to environmental science, policy, and management assistant professor Carl Boettiger on being named one of the Ecological Society of America’s 2020 Early Career Fellows. The fellowship recognizes Boettiger for his contributions to the community at large through his research, teaching, and communication, as well as his leadership within stochastic dynamics in open science and population ecology.
As an Early Career Fellow, he is honored for substantially advancing ecological research within eight years of his doctoral studies, as well as for his promise in further advanced research. Boettiger will serve as a fellow for five years, during which time he will continue developing cutting-edge research at the forefront of ecological systems and processes.
Boettiger’s research focuses on ecological forecasting to support conservation and natural resource management amidst global change. His work combines ecological principles with mathematics, as well as the use of complex data to support these environmental systems. Several of his projects have used data science to rebuild global fisheries, to assess population dynamics, and to construct robust ecological models.
To learn more about the award and Boettiger’s research, visit the Ecological Society of America website.Image: Date: Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 11:30 Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 11:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?: yes