Tag Archives: black

Cities are shutting down bikeshares during curfews, stranding their own residents

Over the past several days, hundreds of thousands of Americans have hit the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was asphyxiated by a police officer on May 25 in Minneapolis. The protests started in the city where Floyd was killed and spread rapidly to all 50 U.S. states and at least three U.S territories.

In response, mayors and governors have instituted rare nighttime curfews in an effort to deter clashes between police and protestors — which videos show are often instigated by police — and waves of looting and property damage. But the curfews aren’t keeping protesters off the streets: People in major cities have been out long past nightfall protesting the national crisis of police brutality. And essential workers are largely exempt from the curfews, leading to confusion among people who work night shifts.

No matter the reason they’re out during curfew, people trying to get home are finding that their options are limited. Some cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, have shut down public transportation systems in response to the protests, stranding people who are out after curfew. In some areas, like parts of Manhattan, even driving has been prohibited. And bikeshare programs, which have been a key source of safe transportation for essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, have been directed to hit the pause button by city officials during the curfews.

That means protesters and other people just trying to get around in the middle of an ongoing pandemic are being forced to get places by foot. In New York City, the city’s privately-owned bikeshare program, CitiBike, was directed by the mayor to shut down during the curfew on Monday and Tuesday. “We disagree with this decision,” the company said in a tweet thread.

On Wednesday, CitiBike will be required to end service at 6 p.m. — two hours before the curfew begins.

Similar programs in D.C., Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and L.A. shut down during curfews too. Some of those programs, like Houston’s BCycle and Minneapolis’ Nice Ride, are owned by nonprofits. Others, like Chicago’s Divvy and D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, are housed within each city’s Department of Transportation. Philadelphia’s city-run bikeshare program, Indego, bucked the trend by staying open during curfew.

Alan Mitchell, former chief of staff at Motivate, the company that owned and operated CitiBike before Lyft bought the program in 2018, thinks shutting down bikeshare programs amid protests is a bad idea. “I think it prevents essential workers from getting to their jobs, I think it makes people less safe, and I think it’s a disgrace for the mayor to have ordered that,” he told Grist, referring specifically to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

As it is, bikeshare programs, which have been touted as a greener, healthier, and better way for city-dwellers to get around, have an equity problem. A huge majority of bikeshare users are white and wealthy, in large part because bikeshare docks tend to get built in majority-white neighborhoods while leaving majority-nonwhite neighborhoods behind. In D.C., a city that is 50 percent black, only 4 percent of bikeshare members were African American in 2016. Just 2 percent of Chicago’s bikeshare program users were black, according to 2017 data.

And when people of color do use bikeshare programs, or just cycle in general, they’re more likely to face police harassment for it. A study on sidewalk biking bans in NYC between 2008 and 2011 found that bans were disproportionately enforced on Black and Latino bikers. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 86 percent of police citations for biking violations were issued to African Americansin the years between 2010 and 2013.

On Wednesday, World Bicycle Day, Bublr Bikes, Milwaukee’s nonprofit bikeshare program, which stayed open during its city’s curfew, said it will commit to building a more just bikeshare program.

One way city officials and bikeshare programs could start doing just that? Make bikeshares available around the clock, whether or not there’s a curfew.

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Cities are shutting down bikeshares during curfews, stranding their own residents

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Paris Fashion Week meets the Paris Agreement on the Balenciaga runway

Balenciaga launched its fall 2020 collection on a flooded runway with images of fiery blazes and rushing waves projected across the ceiling. The first few rows of seats were empty because they were almost entirely underwater, and models strutted through the swampy raised stage in drapey oversized raincoats, Matrix-like full-length black leather jackets, and bodysuits that look straight out of the Black Panther wardrobe trailer, complete with knee and shoulder pads. One model was styled as a walking mace, his jacket flanked with sharp spikes.

Yes, the brand best-known for sock shoes, an ugly-cool take on the dad sneaker, and platform Crocs put climate change front and center in its Paris Fashion Week show on Sunday.

Estrop / Getty Images

Estrop / Getty Images

Clearly, the fire and brimstone vibe was intended as a warning about the catastrophe to come if we do not stem the rising tide of carbon emissions. Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director, hasn’t given any interviews about the show, but the outfits seem to imagine a world where rising seas, bursts of flames, and other environmental assaults are commonplace concerns and where protection from the elements is literally built into the fabric of our lives.

Estrop / Getty Images

Estrop / Getty Images

While I think it’s pretty cool any time the rich and famous are shaken out of their distorted version of reality and confronted with the signs of our times, the implications of Balenciaga’s show are complicated. First of all, it’s debatable whether shoving the apocalypse narrative in people’s faces is really all that helpful if you’re trying to make a case for climate action. Second, and far less debatable, the fashion industry is a disaster for the planet.

Data on the fashion industry’s footprint is not perfect, since brands have only recently begun measuring it, but here’s what we know: The industry uses exorbitant amounts of water, potentially as much as 2 percent of all freshwater use globally, in addition to being a major source of water pollution. It creates an extraordinary amount of waste, both in making the clothes and in creating a culture where people throw millions of tons of clothing into the trash every year. It contributes to deforestation, because common materials like rayon and viscose are made with wood pulp. And finally, the industry is believed to be responsible for a whopping 10 percent of global carbon emissions.

Anyhoo. If Balenciaga wants to warn people about climate catastrophe, I would hope the company is doing more than designing our future fire- and flood-proof uniforms. So is it?

Turns out, yes. Balenciaga’s parent company, Kering, is one of the more forward-thinking in the biz. In 2016, Kering set a goal of reducing its emissions intensity across most of its business by 50 percent by 2025, a goal which it’s currently on track to achieve, according to documents filed with the Carbon Disclosure Project. (Intensity, in this case, means the amount emitted per dollar of profit, so as the company grows, it will become more carbon efficient.) Kering was also the first ~luxury~ company to have its emissions targets approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, a program that helps companies align their business with the Paris Agreement.

The company’s operations are powered by 100 percent renewable energy in seven out of the more than 20 countries where it does business. It is in the process of eliminating hazardous chemicals in its supply chains and works with other major international brands to do the same. Kering also forbids the use of leather linked to deforestation in the Amazon.

While its approach isn’t perfect — the company offsets some of its emissions through reforestation projects under the United Nations’ REDD program, which ProPublica exposed to be deeply flawed — I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed by the depth and breadth of what Kering has done so far. It takes a lot of time and money for an international fashion superpower to look up and down all of its supply chains and figure out what, exactly, its impact on the planet is every year.

So while I don’t think the end times are nigh, as was implied on the runway, golf claps for Balenciaga for talking about climate change, and for putting its money where its mouth is.

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Paris Fashion Week meets the Paris Agreement on the Balenciaga runway

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Einstein’s Shadow – Seth Fletcher


Einstein’s Shadow

A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable

Seth Fletcher

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: October 9, 2018

Publisher: Ecco


A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR'S CHOICE Einstein’s Shadow follows a team of elite scientists on their historic mission to take the first picture of a black hole, putting Einstein’s theory of relativity to its ultimate test and helping to answer our deepest questions about space, time, the origins of the universe, and the nature of reality Photographing a black hole sounds impossible, a contradiction in terms. But Shep Doeleman and a global coalition of scientists are on the cusp of doing just that.  With exclusive access to the team, journalist Seth Fletcher spent five years following Shep and an extraordinary cast of characters as they assembled the Event Horizon Telescope, a virtual radio observatory the size of the Earth. He witnessed their struggles, setbacks, and breakthroughs, and along the way, he explored the latest thinking on the most profound questions about black holes. Do they represent a limit to our ability to understand reality? Or will they reveal the clues that lead to the long-sought Theory of Everything? Fletcher transforms astrophysics into something exciting, accessible, and immediate, taking us on an incredible adventure to better understand the complexity of our galaxy, the boundaries of human perception and knowledge, and how the messy human endeavor of science really works. Weaving a compelling narrative account of human ingenuity with excursions into cutting-edge science, Einstein’s Shadow is a tale of great minds on a mission to change the way we understand our universe—and our place in it.  

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Einstein’s Shadow – Seth Fletcher

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The Prophet and the Astronomer: Apocalyptic Science and the End of the World – Marcelo Gleiser


The Prophet and the Astronomer: Apocalyptic Science and the End of the World

Marcelo Gleiser

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: July 17, 2003

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"An intellectual accomplishment that illuminates the magic and the wisdom of the heavens above."—Kirkus Reviews "Tracing our contemplation of the cosmos from the big bang to the big crunch" (The New Yorker), Marcelo Gleiser explores the shared quest of ancient prophets and today's astronomers to explain the strange phenomena of our skies—from the apocalypse foretold in Revelations to modern science's ongoing identification of multiple cataclysmic threats, including the impact of comets and asteroids on earthly life, the likelihood of future collisions, the meaning of solar eclipses and the death of stars, the implications of black holes for time travel, and the ultimate fate of the universe and time. Presenting insights to cosmological science and apocalyptic philosophy in an "easily accessible" (Library Journal) style, Gleiser is "a rare astrophysicist as comfortable quoting Scripture as explaining formulas" (Booklist). K. C. Cole praises his ability to "[work] the entwined threads of science and religion into a vision of 'the end' that is strangely comforting and inspiring."

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The Prophet and the Astronomer: Apocalyptic Science and the End of the World – Marcelo Gleiser

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Dear white people: We need to talk about your diet’s carbon footprint

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When it comes to emissions, our food choices carry some serious weight. And according to a new study, white individuals’ eating habits contribute more on average to climate change-related emissions than other demographic groups.

The study, published Monday in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, examined the “food pipeline” — the production, distribution, and waste associated with the products we eat — to assess the environmental impacts of three different demographic groups, “Blacks, Latinx, and Whites.” Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that the typical diet of a white American includes more foods that require more land and water — and emit more greenhouse gases — than the typical diets of black and Latinx communities.

In the study, white Americans’ eating patterns had the highest per capita greenhouse gas and water impacts of any demographic group due to their consumption of “environmentally intense food items” such as potatoes, beef, apples, and milk. Black Americans’ diets had the highest per capita land impact “due to their consumption of land‐intense food items in the fruit and ‘protein foods’ food groups,” but had the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of the three groups examined.

“If we are to draft policies related to food, they can’t be one-size-fits-all policies because different populations have different eating patterns which have their own unique impacts on the environment,” Joe Bozeman, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago and first author on the paper, said in a statement.

Of course, how you eat depends on more than just your race. Individuals’ food habits vary depending on geographic location, socioeconomic status, age, gender, culture, religion, and personal preference, to say the least. But the study is just the latest piece of evidence that, on a population level, disparities exist between which demographic groups contribute to — and bear the burdens of — climate change.

According to research published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people of color are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than what would be expected based on their own rates of consumption (a contributor to emissions). The PNAS study found that non-white Hispanics breathe in 63 percent more air pollution than caused by their own consumption, while black people are exposed to about 56 percent more than they cause. As for white Americans, the study found they breathe in 17 percent less air pollution than they cause.

“The approach we establish in this study could be extended to other pollutants, locations, and groupings of people,” said study co-author Julian Marshall in an interview with USA Today. “When it comes to determining who causes air pollution — and who breathes that pollution — this research is just the beginning.”

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Dear white people: We need to talk about your diet’s carbon footprint

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Trump doesn’t ‘believe’ his own administration’s climate report

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President Trump has read “some” of the Fourth National Climate Assessment — a comprehensive report released by his own administration that looks at the effects of climate change on the U.S. — and he says he doesn’t “believe it.” As in he can’t believe how bad the impacts are going to be? No, he simply doesn’t believe it.

Putting our differences aside for a second, this is actually kind of a baller move. Not only did Trump move up the date of the report’s release from December to the day after Thanksgiving (climate change vs. Black Friday mall sale stupor, anyone?) he made zero apologies about choosing to live in his own version of reality. Life’s a beach when you choose not to believe in inconvenient things! Check it out: You tell me I have to go into work the Monday after Thanksgiving? I don’t believe it. They did surgery on a grape? I don’t believe it.

The Commander in Chief didn’t give us many more details (like, you know, why), but the gist of the situation is that he thinks the climate assessment is a bunch of baloney. (Let the record again show that the report was composed by his own administration.) And it wasn’t even the only climate report his administration released on November 23. Another report, this one from the U.S. Geological Survey, found that nearly a quarter of the country’s carbon emissions come from fossil fuels produced on federal lands.

Here’s what Trump did say:

Did he … did he literally shrug? Regardless of how blasé Trump was about a report that basically portends widespread chaos, destruction, and economic distress for the country, his reaction is pretty damn believable. The man has spent a good portion of his tenure as president dismantling what’s left of United States climate policy:

He wants to replace Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan with a “Dirty Power Plan” that seeks to prop up the dying coal industry.
His administration announced plans in August to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the next eight years, despite findings that those regulations would have reduced emissions and saved lives.
He rolled back an Obama-era rule that curtailed methane leaks on public lands, calling it “unnecessarily burdensome on the private sector.” Methane, by the way, is in the short term many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Those are just three examples of the Trump administration’s climate policies! There are many more. And as much as I would hope that this climate report or this one or this one might change his mind, at this point, it looks unlikely.

If President Trump believed some of his other rhetoric, then he might see that making America great requires protecting the regions now facing imminent and catastrophic climate change. But alas, the America Trump wants isn’t “America the Beautiful,” it’s America with the most beautiful, “clean” coal. Those spacious skies and amber waves of grain might not look so pretty after 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

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Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and the credibility of a woman scientist

Christine Blasey Ford is a woman. She is a prolifically published expert in psychological statistics. She is a conventionally attractive natural blonde. She is the product of an elite private school education. She is a mother of two. She is a scientist.

All of these traits together contributed to the public’s impression of Dr. Ford as she testified to Congress that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Much has already been said about the Ford’s testimony as a survivor. But rereading her words, what struck me anew was the way she described the assault in clinical terms — the vulnerable state of the adolescent brain and the well-documented impact of childhood trauma — without evading an ounce of her own humanity. It’s a remarkable feat in a time when science itself is undergoing aggressive interrogation.

“I think that it was extra courageous for her to put in the effort to recognize that the science was important and her way of explaining it would be important,” says Kelly Ramirez, co-founder of the group 500 Women Scientists.

Neurological science tells us that a sexual assault at a young age will impact most victims for the rest of his or her life. Millions know the lasting impact of an assault from experience, but are not able to identify why they feel this way.

Throughout her testimony, Ford simply and carefully explained the different biological processes that contribute to the sharp memory of certain details and the blurriness of others; the surge in hormones that enabled her to escape; the varied and complicated pathology of sexual assault survivors. It was a relief to hear this in such relatively straightforward terms: You feel this way because this is what your body is doing. It is not a failure of your own will.

It is difficult to imagine a more impressive testimony on sexual assault — even as acknowledged by her detractors. Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor hired to interrogate Ford in Congress, acknowledged at the conclusion of her questioning that she had been “really impressed” by Ford’s expertise.

But it was not simply the statement of those anatomical facts that made Ford’s testimony powerful. The humanity in Ford’s testimony was where she exposed the lasting scars of (depressingly) shared experiences, which so many observers were able to recognize.

We also like to see scientists as humans, Ramirez says, and we trust them more when we see them show emotion. Isn’t that ironic! We understand climate science better, for example, when we can empathize with its personal impact on the scientist explaining the theory. Renowned climate scientist James Hansen has made his fight about the uncertain lives his grandchildren face.

The public’s reaction to Ford’s testimony was largely positive. Before the hearings, a poll found that 26 percent of respondents believed Kavanaugh and 32 believed Ford. After they testified, those who believe Kavanaugh bumped slightly to 33 while a remarkable 45 percent believed Ford.

Many comparisons have been drawn between the impassioned testimony of Ford and the cooler one of Anita Hill, the black civil rights attorney who accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his own confirmation hearings. “African-American women have routinely been challenged in their efforts to tell a story about sexual abuse,” one of Hill’s attorneys said about the race and gender dynamics of the two hearings. (Hill, who graduated from Yale, was infamously depicted as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” by a Republican operative.)

“I really hope that it’s not because of Ford’s position as a scientist that people find her credible,” says Maryam Zaringhalam, another senior leader of 500 Women Scientists. “I hope it’s because people are starting to understand that this is something that happens to all women, from all backgrounds, of all ethnicities, with all educational experiences.”

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Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and the credibility of a woman scientist

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Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking


Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Stephen Hawking

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $10.99

Expected Publish Date: October 16, 2018

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

The world-famous cosmologist and #1 bestselling author of A Brief History of Time leaves us with his final thoughts on the biggest questions facing humankind. Stephen Hawking was the most renowned scientist since Einstein, known both for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and for his mischievous sense of humor. He educated millions of readers about the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes, and inspired millions more by defying a terrifying early prognosis of ALS, which originally gave him only two years to live. In later life he could communicate only by using a few facial muscles, but he continued to advance his field and serve as a revered voice on social and humanitarian issues. Hawking not only unraveled some of the universe’s greatest mysteries but also believed science could be used to fix problems here on Earth. Now, as we face immense challenges on our planet—from climate change to the development of artificial intelligence—he turns his attention to the most urgent issues facing us. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? ​​These are just a few of the questions Hawking addresses in this wide-ranging, passionately argued final book from one of the greatest minds in history. Featuring a foreword by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar playing Stephen Hawking, an introduction by Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, and an afterword from Hawking’s daughter, Lucy,  Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a brilliant last message to the world.

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Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking

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How to Grow Your Own Dry Beans

Growing your own dry beans is a great way to have fresh and organic dry beans on hand year-round. Beans are an easy crop to grow and there are numerous varieties you can experiment with. Let?s take a look at how to get started.

Choosing a Variety

Beans come in hundreds of different heirloom and modern varieties, all with unique flavors, colors and shapes. One of the best ways to find good varieties is to visit your local farmers? market, seed swap or garden center and ask which types of seeds work well in your area. Seed catalogs and online suppliers should also have a selection of beans appropriate for drying. In addition, chat with other gardeners to find out what?s been working for them, and maybe ask if they could share a handful of their favorite beans you can plant.

1. Bush Beans

If you live in a colder climate, bush beans are often your best choice because they have a shorter time to maturity compared to pole beans. The plants typically only grow around two to three feet (60 to 90 centimeters) tall and can stand on their own without support.

Some fast-maturing varieties to watch out for include ?Jacob?s Cattle?, ?Vermont Cranberry? or ?Black Valentine?. In climates with a longer season, ?Calypso?, ?Anasazi? or Soldier beans are classic varieties that produce well.

2. Pole Beans

Pole beans typically have a longer growing season than bush beans. They will also continue to produce beans for a longer time, unlike bush beans that often mature all at once. Pole beans require some form of support, such as a trellis, a classic pole ?teepee? or a fence. Another option is to grow your pole beans on the stalks of neighboring corn or sunflowers.

The varieties ?Good Mother Stallard?, ?Czar? or Romano-type pole beans all make excellent dry crops.

Related: How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

Planting Your Seeds

If your growing season is fairly short, it?s best to plant your beans soon after the risk of frost has passed in spring. If you have a longer season, you can plant beans after your spring crops are harvested and the weather has warmed up. A sunny location is ideal.

It can be beneficial to cover your seeds with Rhizobium bacteria before planting them. You can buy Rhizobium at most garden centers, and the bacteria will help the developing bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil.

All beans prefer direct sowing in the soil. In colder climates, you can plant your seeds on raised beds to capture more heat. Plant seeds one inch (2.5 centimeters) deep in your soil with one to two inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) between the seeds, giving larger seeds more space. Then, space additional rows at least one foot (30 centimeters) apart.

If you?re growing pole beans on corn or sunflowers, plant the bean seeds directly at the base of the support plants when they?re about one foot (30 centimeters) tall.

Mulch the soil after sowing to retain moisture.

Care Tips

Beans do best in a moderately rich soil, but they can also grow in fairly degraded soils due to their ability to fix their own nitrogen. This also means they do not need extra fertilizer while growing.

Water the developing plants regularly, especially as they?re forming pods. Make sure the plants dry out in between waterings to prevent mold and bacteria problems. As the plants mature, they become more drought tolerant and you can cut back on water.

Remove weeds as the seedlings are growing, although the bean plants effectively shade out any weeds as they get bigger.

Related: How to Make Beans and Grains More Digestible


Your beans are ready to harvest when the pods look dry. You?ll also likely be able hear the beans rattling inside when you shake them.

Keep in mind that beans are very sensitive to frost, so make sure you harvest them well before a potential frost date. If your beans aren?t ready yet and frost is expected, you can cut the plants early, hang them in a protected area, and let the pods continue to mature.

If your pods have matured well on the plants, you should be able to simply pull up the plants and harvest the beans. When you only have a small patch of beans, the easiest way to get the beans out of the pods is by hand. You can squeeze open the pods as you?re harvesting the plants and collect the beans in a container, or you can pick the pods off the plants and set them aside to open later.

Another option is to hold the plant inside a barrel and bang it against the sides to get the beans out. If you grow a large area of beans, you may want to invest in professional threshing equipment.

To clean the beans, you can either run the beans over a screen or use a hair dryer to blow off any debris.


Check that your beans are completely dry before packing them for storage. When you bite a bean, it should feel hard. If the beans still have some softness, spread them out in a warm area and let them dry longer until they?ve hardened.

When the beans are ready, pack them into airtight containers and store them in a dark place. They?re best used within a year. You can keep them longer, but they may become too dry and difficult to cook.

Related: 7 Ways to Avoid Gas from Beans

Bean Recipes

Looking for ideas on how to enjoy your harvest? Check out some of these delicious recipes.

Hearty 4-Bean Stew
Tuscan White Bean Soup
Simple and Delicious Black Bean Chili
Herbed Bean Salad
Beans and Greens with Herbed Polenta
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Jamaican Rice and Beans

Related on Care2

How to Grow Your Own Goji Berries
12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup
Do Marigolds Really Repel Garden Pests?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


How to Grow Your Own Dry Beans

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San Francisco residents were sure nearby industry was harming their health. They were right.

For decades, the residents of San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood have sounded the alarm that industry emissions and pollution in their backyard are making them sick.

Located right off the Bay in the southeastern corner of the city, the historically black neighborhood has played host to a number of pollution sources over the years. It is home to a sewage treatment facility and surrounded by freeways that carry vehicle fumes over residences. A former Navy nuclear research facility is now a Superfund site dogged by a sloppy cleanup that workers involved in the project say was faked.

“Bayview-Hunters Point is a picture postcard of environmental racism and injustice,” says Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction, a grassroots health and environmental group based in San Francisco.

Studies had found higher rates of some cancers in Bayview versus the city at large. And asthma has been a serious public health issue: A 2000 report found that one in six kids and one in ten overall residents reported having the respiratory illness.

But with so many polluters in this neighborhood, there has been little accountability, notes Michelle Pierce, a longtime resident and executive director of Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates. In response to the community’s health complaints, she says local government tended to stick to the same line: “We can’t place blame on any one factor.”

Now it can at least assign some responsibility to a now-closed industrial facility. Two recent studies have assessed the effects on reproductive outcomes caused by a single local polluter: a Pacific Gas & Electric power plant that had operated in the neighborhood from 1929 to 2006. More than a decade since the PG&E plant closed in Bayview-Hunters Point, the new research lends credence to residents’ long-espoused health concerns.

A study published in May in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that after eight coal or oil-fired power plants closed between 2001 and 2011 in California — including the PG&E facility in Bayview-Hunters Point — fewer babies were born preterm in surrounding communities.

Previous research has shown that air pollution may cause reactions in the body, causing pregnant women to give birth early, says Joan Casey, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral scholar at University of California, Berkeley. (Grist board member Rachel Morello-Frosch is also a study coauthor.) Babies born preterm — before 37 weeks of pregnancy — are at an increased risk of death, as well as conditions such as cerebral palsy or asthma.

The eight California coal and oil-fired power plants closed between 2001 and 2011 included in the study.Image courtesy of Joan Casey

The researchers analyzed birth data in areas near all eight power plants before and after each closed. Those numbers were compared with communities further away from the facilities — and presumably less affected by the site — to help isolate the impact of the power plants.

For those living within roughly three miles of the plants, the team concluded that closing the facilities dropped preterm birth rates from seven percent to 5.1 percent, effectively decreasing the number of preemies born by a quarter.

In a separate study published in Environmental Health in May, the same group of researchers found that retiring those eight power plants resulted in another health benefit: an uptick in fertility rates — the number of live births per 1,000 women.

Interestingly, the benefits of a power plant’s closure weren’t distributed equally across race. Black residents, for instance, experienced one of the greatest drops in preterm birth rates — and Casey points to several factors that help explain that finding.

Low-income groups and people of color are more likely to live close to a power plant. Black people, for example, are 75 percent more likely than the average American to live next to an industrial facility. And in the case of the eight sites studied, on average, black women tended to live within roughly a mile of the retired power plants, while white women, for instance, lived more than 2 miles away.

Black women are also at a 50 percent higher risk of delivering their babies early, in general, and thus had more to gain from the plant closure, Casey explains. This startling and mysterious statistic is relatively stable across education level, and some doctors suspect it’s due to higher levels of stress experienced by black women due to the racism they face in the U.S.

“This is a really concrete step that could be taken in terms of potentially reducing health disparities,” Casey says. “Some of this information could be used perhaps in decisions about which power plants to focus on retiring first to improve health equity.”

It was grassroots organizing from groups like Greenaction and Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates that finally helped close the PG&E plant in 2006 — in what Bradley Angel calls “an incredible example of community persistence.” The new research validates those groups’ work, though the results don’t surprise Michelle Pierce at all.

“We absolutely knew to expect those kinds of health outcomes,” she explains. “It’s not news to anybody with a little bit of technical knowledge or anybody with direct contact with the people out here.”

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San Francisco residents were sure nearby industry was harming their health. They were right.

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