Hawk Haiku

Hawk soars in the sky

As we watch branches whiten

She alights for now.



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5 Ways to Throw a Green Dinner Party

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5 Ways to Throw a Green Dinner Party

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Fossils, Finches and Fuegians – Richard Keynes


Fossils, Finches and Fuegians

Charles Darwin’s Adventures and Discoveries on the Beagle (Text Only)

Richard Keynes

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 23, 2017

Publisher: HarperCollins


A narrative account of Darwin’s historic 4-year voyage on the Beagle to South America, Australia and the Pacific in the 1830s that combines the adventure and excitement of Alan Moorehead’s famous (and now out of print) account with an expert assessment of the scientific discoveries of that journey. The author is Charles Darwin’s great-grandson. • In his autobiography, Charles Darwin wrote: ‘The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 30 miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done, and on such a trifle as the shape of my nose. I have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind. I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved, though they were already fairly developed. The investigation of the geology of all the places visited was far more important, as reasoning here comes into play.’ No biography of Darwin has yet done justice to what the scientific research actually was that occupied Darwin during the voyage. Keynes shows exactly how Darwin’s geological researches and his observations on natural history sowed the seeds of his revolutionary theory of evolution, and led to the writing of his great works on The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. About the author Professor Richard Keynes is the great-grandson of Charles Darwin. A Fellow of the Royal Society since 1959 and a former Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University, Richard Keynes has edited a number of Darwin publications – including The Beagle Record and Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary. He lives in Cambridge.


Fossils, Finches and Fuegians – Richard Keynes

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The Female Brain – Louann Brizendine, M.D.


The Female Brain

Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: August 1, 2006

Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

Since Dr. Brizendine wrote  The Female Brain  ten years ago, the response has been overwhelming. This New York Times bestseller has been translated into more than thirty languages, has sold nearly a million copies between editions, and has most recently inspired a romantic comedy starring Whitney Cummings and Sofia Vergara. And its profound scientific understanding of the nature and experience of the female brain continues to guide women as they pass through life stages, to help men better understand the girls and women in their lives, and to illuminate the delicate emotional machinery of a love relationship. Why are women more verbal than men? Why do women remember details of fights that men can’t remember at all? Why do women tend to form deeper bonds with their female friends than men do with their male counterparts? These and other questions have stumped both sexes throughout the ages. Now, pioneering neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D., brings together the latest findings to show how the unique structure of the female brain determines how women think, what they value, how they communicate, and who they love. While doing research as a medical student at Yale and then as a resident and faculty member at Harvard, Louann Brizendine discovered that almost all of the clinical data in existence on neurology, psychology, and neurobiology focused exclusively on males. In response to the overwhelming need for information on the female mind, Brizendine established the first clinic in the country to study and treat women’s brain function. In The Female Brain , Dr. Brizendine distills all her findings and the latest information from the scientific community in a highly accessible book that educates women about their unique brain/body/behavior. The result: women will come away from this book knowing that they have a lean, mean, communicating machine. Men will develop a serious case of brain envy.

Taken from: 

The Female Brain – Louann Brizendine, M.D.

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What the environmental justice movement owes Martin Luther King Jr

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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is mostly remembered for his role in the civil rights movement and nonviolent protests, but environmental justice groups also see their cause reflected in his work.

The day before he died, for example, King helped rally striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to suffering from low and inequitable pay, black workers did the most dangerous and dirty work compared to their white peers, and suffered from dismal working conditions while bearing the burden of the associated health and safety risks.

“You don’t get more environmental justice than that,” Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, told Grist. “All the environment really is is where you live, work, play, or pray.”

Dr. King’s actions not only led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; his work paved the way for environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. He recognized that many of the struggles of his time — including racial inequity, poverty, politics, health, and human rights — were inexorably linked. According to Bautista, in the early days of the environmental justice movement, some advocates described their work as a synthesis of the environmental movement and the civil rights movement.

King’s work continues to influence young environmental activists today. Just before she took office, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called fighting climate change “the civil rights movement of our generation.” And modern-day environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement are using the kind of nonviolent direct action techniques espoused by Dr. King as tools to push lawmakers on policies such as the Green New Deal.

And then there’s the fact that the environment is simply one more lens through which racial inequity manifests. Bautista emphasizes it’s crucial for communities of color to be part of climate solutions. After all, “if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu,” he said.

And if King and other civil rights movement leaders who have passed on were alive today, what might their reactions to climate change be?

“Climate change is an existential threat that a lot of these folks [in the civil rights movement back then] weren’t as aware of.” Bautista said. “But, if they were around today, these would be some of the same fights they would be fighting.”

Originally posted here: 

What the environmental justice movement owes Martin Luther King Jr

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Proust and the Squid – Maryanne Wolf


Proust and the Squid

The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Maryanne Wolf

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Harper Perennial


"Human beings were never born to read," writes Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert Maryanne Wolf. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. In this ambitious, provocative book, Wolf chronicles the remarkable journey of the reading brain not only over the past five thousand years, since writing began, but also over the course of a single child's life, showing in the process why children with dyslexia have reading difficulties and singular gifts. Lively, erudite, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid asserts that the brain that examined the tiny clay tablets of the Sumerians was a very different brain from the one that is immersed in today's technology-driven literacy. The potential transformations in this changed reading brain, Wolf argues, have profound implications for every child and for the intellectual development of our species.

Source – 

Proust and the Squid – Maryanne Wolf

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The dirty truth about oat milk

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This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Move over, almond and soy milk: An oat milk boom, as I argued in a piece last year, could help the Midwest solve some of its most dire agricultural issues. And now there’s new research out this month to help support the case for covering the region with oats.

In states like Iowa, fertilizer runoff from corn and soybean farms pollutes drinking water and feeds algae blooms, fouling water from local lakes and rivers down to the Gulf of Mexico. These farms also lose soil to erosion at an alarming rate, compromising the region’s future as a crucial hub of the U.S. food system.

Back in 2013, I reported on “one weird trick” that could go a long way toward solving these problems: biodiversity. When farmers add more crops to their dominant corn-soybean rotation, it disrupts weed and pest patterns and means they can use fewer pesticides. It also frees up space for planting legumes, which capture nitrogen from the air and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizer. One great contender for this third crop is oats.

Earlier this month, researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota came out with a paper that adds more weight to the case for diversification. The paper reports on results from trial plots established in 2002 by Iowa State at a farm outside Ames. In one swath, the ground was planted in a two-year rotation of corn and soybeans, the standard recipe in the Midwest. In another, a three-year rotation held sway: corn, soybeans, and oats inter-planted with red clover, a legume. In the final one, the rotation was extended to four years, adding a round of alfalfa, another legume, and a forage crop for cattle.

The paper found that the longer rotations — the ones with the added crops — bring the following benefits:

Water pollution drops dramatically

Nitrogen fertilizer is a key crop nutrient, and when it’s washed away into the Midwest’s rivers and streams, it also supercharges algae growth, especially in salt water. That’s bad news for the Gulf of Mexico, where these waterways ultimately drain. Since Midwestern agriculture intensified in the 1970s, annual dead zones have been appearing in the Gulf, sucking oxygen out of the water and turning huge swaths of it into fetid dead zones. The annual Gulf dead zone fluctuates in size based on weather patterns. Last year’s turned out to be below average in area covered — but it was still the size of Delaware. In 2017, the dead zone set an all-time record, clocking in at a size four times larger than the federal target for a healthy Gulf ecosystem.

In the Iowa State farm study, the plots managed with three- and four-year rotations lost 39 percent less nitrogen to runoff than the corn-soybean control plots, partially because the presence of more nitrogen-fixing legumes in the mix reduces the need to apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

And on these plots, 30 percent less phosphorus leaked away as runoff. Phosphorus is another key crop nutrient applied to farm fields, and it’s the main driver for blue-green algae blooms in freshwater bodies like lakes. These blooms produce toxins called microcystins, which, when ingested, cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, fever, and liver damage. Lakes downstream from farms throughout the Midwest have been increasingly saddled with these “harmful algae blooms” in recent years. Toledo struggles annually to keep microcystins out of its city water, which is drawn from algae-plagued Lake Erie. Freshwater blooms also generate massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with 30 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.

Soil stays in place

According to Iowa State agronomist Richard Cruse, Iowa farms lose topsoil at an average rate of 5.7 tons per acre annually, versus the natural rate of regeneration of 0.5 acres per year. As soil washes away, farmland doesn’t sponge up or hold water as well, making it more vulnerable to droughts. Erosion is already reducing crop yields in Iowa, Cruse’s research has found — an effect that will accelerate if the trend continues. On the Iowa State plots planted with oats, clover, and alfalfa, erosion rates decreased by 60 percent.

Crop yields improve — and so could the bottom line

The diverse plots in the study delivered higher yields of corn and soybeans (in the years when those crops are grown), and also required drastically lower amounts of off-farm inputs like fertilizers and herbicides. (A 2012 paper on the same group of test plots found that the diverse fields require 88 percent less herbicides because the addition of another crop disrupts weed patterns.) As a result, the authors found that the more diverse plots were slightly more profitable than the control ones.

Natalie Hunt, a University of Minnesota researcher and a co-author on the study, told me that the economic analysis assumed that the oats and alfalfa generated by the biodiverse plots would find a profitable use by being fed to cattle and hogs “on-farm or on neighboring farms.” That setup works best for diversified operations that include crops as well as livestock. A farm that planted alfalfa during its fourth year of rotation, for example, could “harvest” it by simply turning cattle loose on it for munching; and the resulting beef provides an income stream.

But such farms are increasingly rare in states like Iowa, which are made up mainly of huge corn and soybean farms, and separately, an ever-growing number of massive confined hog farms, highly geared toward consuming that corn and soy.

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Another obstacle, Hunt says, are the “heavily taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance programs that keep farmers locked into a corn- and soybean-producing system year after year, even when market prices are poor,” as they have been for the past several years.

She adds, though, that if consumers demanded food from the Midwest that didn’t pollute water and damage soil, the “market would respond pretty quickly” — that is, if farmers could get a premium price for crops, meat, and milk “grown with biodiversity” or some such label, farmers would have incentive to add them to their rotations. And that was precisely the thesis of my oat milk piece. I calculated that turning grain into a beverage doesn’t require nearly enough product to create a demand surge sufficient to bring oats to millions of acres of Midwestern farmland; however, it could be a lever to raise consumer awareness of the ecological damage endemic in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, oat milk does appear to be taking off. When I was researching the topic a year ago, I was able to identify two major brands: Oatly and Pacific. Now, Oatly is constructing a new factory in New Jersey to satisfy surging thirst for its product; Pepsi’s Quaker Oats is peddling a “super smooth” oat beverage; and California’s almond milk titan Califia Farms has announced plans to come out with an oat product, as has soy milk giant Silk.

Originally posted here: 

The dirty truth about oat milk

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Inside Animal Hearts and Minds – Belinda Recio & Jonathan Balcombe


Inside Animal Hearts and Minds

Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion

Belinda Recio & Jonathan Balcombe

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Skyhorse


As Charles Darwin suggested more than a century ago, the differences between animals and humans are “of degree and not of kind.” Not long ago, ethologists denied that animals had emotions or true intelligence. Now, we know that rats laugh when tickled, magpies mourn as they cover the departed with greenery, female whales travel thousands of miles for annual reunions with their gal pals, seals navigate by the stars, bears hum when happy, and crows slide down snowy rooftops for fun. In engaging text, photographs, and infographics, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds showcases fascinating and heart-warming examples of animal emotion and cognition that will foster wonder and empathy. Learn about an orangutan who does “macramé,” monkeys that understand the concept of money, and rats that choose friendship over food. Even language, math, and logic are no longer exclusive to humans. Prairie dogs have their own complex vocabularies to describe human intruders, parrots name their chicks, sea lions appear capable of deductive thinking akin to a ten-year-old child’s, and bears, lemurs, parrots, and other animals demonstrate numerical cognition. In a world where a growing body of scientific research is closing the gap between the human and non-human, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds invites us to change the way we view animals, the world, and our place in it.


Inside Animal Hearts and Minds – Belinda Recio & Jonathan Balcombe

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The State Department could gut Obama’s last remaining executive action on climate change.

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An independent review of the federal government’s actions on climate change might have inadvertently endangered President Obama’s last remaining executive action on global warming.

In 2017, five Democratic senators — including Sheldon Whitehouse, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren — asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review of how federal agencies were addressing climate change as a “potential driver of global migration.” The nonpartisan “congressional watchdog,” studied executive and federal activities between 2014 and 2018.

The GAO report, which was released on Thursday, adds to the bleak picture of federal climate action under the current administration. It shows that while the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense began to look into the nexus of climate change and migration while Obama was in office, much of that work has been undone by President Trump and his appointees.

The fact that climate connections have languished in several federal agencies over the past two years is not that surprising– President Trump has systematically dismantled musth of Obama’s climate legacy. But the report itself is having some unexpected consequences in certain parts of the federal government.

As a result of its inquiry into federal actions on climate change and migration, the GAO issued a recommendation to the U.S. State Department: it should provide its missions with guidance on how to assess risks posed by climate change. That’s something the department started to do after Obama issued an executive order on Climate-Resilient International Development in 2014. In response, according to the GAO, the State Department agreed to that recommendation this year — but added that the agency will consider asking President Trump to scrap Obama’s order.

“This is unprecedented within my experience that the agency would on the one hand essentially acknowledge and agree to the recommendation, but on the other hand begin working to consider whether to rescind the underlying executive action,” David Gootnick, director of international affairs and trade at the GAO, told Grist.

When the State Department develops its strategy for U.S. priorities in each country without including guidance on how to conduct climate change risk assessments, it misses out on opportunities to identify and address the potential impact global warming may have on migration, the GAO wrote. The department did not immediately provide comment, citing limited capacity due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The GAO report highlighted research on the global fallout of a warming climate, which it said raises “both humanitarian and national security concerns for the U.S. government.” Scientists have increasingly been able to attribute the growing severity of disasters like hurricanes and floods to climate change. Extreme weather events can often displace entire communities, and push people to move in order to rebuild their lives. Slow changes over time, like prolonged droughts and sea-level rise driven by higher average global temperatures, can also destroy livelihoods and factor into people’s decisions to migrate.

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Although the study notes that it’s difficult to quantify how much of a role climate change plays directly or indirectly on global migration trends, it did point to instances when federal agencies had made that connection in the past. In 2014, the Department of State wrote in its adaptation plan that climate change was a potential driver for migration and could affect the department’s peace-keeping efforts. That year, the Department of Defense stated in its adaptation roadmap that climate change was a “threat multiplier” that could threaten national security through migration. Also in 2014, USAID, which spearheads the nation’s international development efforts, identified climate-related events like flooding as a driver of migration and a risk to its aid programming.

The Trump administration has already revoked two other Obama-era executive actions on climate change: a 2013 executive order “preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change” and a 2016 presidential memorandum on climate change and national security.

Those actions have crippled the federal agencies’ ability to communicate with each other on climate change. It disbanded the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience — both of which brought together expertise from the Departments of State, Defense, and USAID.

“Those kinds of working groups are important for the U.S. government to bring its collective resources to bear and be able to be a partner with other bilateral and multilateral fora,” said Gootnick.

The GAO report also noted how the Trump administration has slashed funding for climate initiatives. And on top of vowing to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Trump administration also said that it would pull out of negotiations on the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, which is shaping up to be one of the first intergovernmental agreements to tackle climate-driven migration.

In an email to Grist, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who commissioned the GAO report, wrote, “President Trump’s immigration obsession has a serious blind spot: the role of climate change in driving people to flee their homes.”

Continue reading here:  

The State Department could gut Obama’s last remaining executive action on climate change.

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The Pentagon’s new climate change report is missing some important details

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This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Less than two months after President Donald Trump said he did not believe a federal report outlining the existential threat of human-made climate change, the Defense Department has released its own report on how to manage the “effects of a changing climate.”

As part of the defense spending bill for fiscal year 2018, the Pentagon was asked to create “a list of the ten most vulnerable military installations within each service” in addition to “combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.” The 22-page report begins with 11 words that contradict the commander in chief’s description of climate change as a “very expensive” hoax. It states: “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue.” Those lines comprise “the strongest part of the report,” retired naval officer David Titley, who once headed the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, tells Mother Jones in an email. But the rest, he says,“is disappointing, primarily because it does not answer the key questions Congress raised.”

For example, Marine Corps bases are not listed at all, even though Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the Marines’ largest base on the East Coast, was devastated in September by Hurricane Florence to the tune of roughly $3.6 billion in damage. Ninety-five percent of the buildings on Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were damaged by Hurricane Michael, yet in the appendix to the Pentagon’s report, Tyndall is not even mentioned as one of the Air Force’s most vulnerable bases.

Other aspects of the report just seem crudely out of date, even though it was submitted a month later than Congress had requested. In November, Naval Base Ventura County in California had to be evacuated due to approaching wildfires, yet in the report, the Navy does not list NBVC or, for that matter, identify a single installation where wildfires pose a “current” threat. Titley thinks the problem is the lack of an “apparent DOD standard for assessing the near- or mid-term climate future and impacts.” One reason for this might be because, according to the report, each military service was “free to select information sources they deemed relevant.”

Without a unifying standard, the report simply provides a “number of anecdotes to daily base and humanitarian operations, most of which are driven by routine weather events or tsunamis and earthquakes that have no connection to climate change,” he says. “Congress will likely not be amused by this report.”

They weren’t. House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (a Democrat from Washington state) blasted the report Friday morning as “half-baked” and “inadequate.”

“The Department of Defense presented no specifics on what is required to ensure operational viability and mission resiliency, and failed to estimate the future costs associated with ensuring these installations remain viable,” Smith said. “That information was required by law. The Department of Defense must develop concrete, executable plans to address the national security threats presented by climate change. As drafted, this report fails to do that.”

Representative Jim Langevin (a Democrat from Rhode Island), whose amendment to the 2018 spending bill mandated the creation of the report, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the report. “It is unacceptable that the Department has ignored the clear instructions provided by law, and it is unacceptable that our service members and readiness will suffer as a result.” Senator Jack Reed (also a Democrat from Rhode Island), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel, said: “The report reads like a introductory primer and carries about as much value as a phonebook.”

The Pentagon has long been in an ambiguous position when it comes to acknowledging and preparing for climate change. More than other federal agencies in the Trump administration, DOD has been less likely to skirt past the impact of global warming, given the persistent impacts of drought, wildfires, and flooding on military installations in the United States and abroad. But as an institution that treasures its reputation for transcending partisan politics, DOD has strayed away from emphasizing climate change in its internal documents.

One year ago, the Pentagon released another congressionally mandated report about climate change — that time, a survey of the ways climate change had affected thousands of global installations. Shortly after the release of the report, the Washington Post found out that staffers had removed nearly two dozen references to climate change from an earlier version. “Those and other edits suggest the Pentagon has adapted its approach to public discussion of climate change under President Trump,” the Post reported.

Even as Defense officials have become more careful with their rhetoric, they have actually increased their efforts to account for the effect of climate change in certain crucial ways. A warming Arctic has created new opportunities for conflict with Russia and China, something the Navy has become more conscious of in internal strategic guidance. In a recent piece about the Pentagon’s slow efforts to prepare for climate change, Jonathan White, who succeeded Titley as task force director, told Mother Jones: Tying things to climate change could invite a scrutiny that was undesired.”

If anything, the Pentagon’s reluctance to deal in specifics may lead to more work for the department down the line. Representative Langevin noted: “I expect the Department to reissue a report that meets its statutory mandate and rigorously confronts the realities of our warming planet.”

Read the full report here.

See more here – 

The Pentagon’s new climate change report is missing some important details

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The White House calls food stamp funds for Puerto Rico ‘excessive and unnecessary’

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The White House calls food stamp funds for Puerto Rico ‘excessive and unnecessary’

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