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Plastic Ocean – Charles Moore


Plastic Ocean

How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans

Charles Moore

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 27, 2011

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group


The researcher who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—and remains one of today's key advocates for plastic pollution awareness—inspires a fundamental rethinking of the modern Plastic Age.  In 1997, environmentalist Charles Moore discovered the world's largest collection of floating trash—the Great Pacific Garbage Patch ("GPGP")—while sailing from Hawaii to California. Moore was shocked by the level of pollution that he saw. And in the last 20 years, it's only gotten worse—a 2018 study has found that the vast dump of plastic waste swirling in the Pacific Ocean is now bigger than France, Germany, and Spain combined—far larger than previously feared. In  Plastic Ocean , Moore recounts his ominous findings and unveils the secret life of plastics. From milk jugs and abandoned fishing gear to polymer molecules small enough to penetrate human skin and be unknowingly inhaled, plastic is now suspected of contributing to a host of ailments, including infertility, autism, thyroid dysfunction, and certain cancers. An urgent call to action,  Plastic Ocean's  sobering revalations have been embraced by activists, concerned parents, and anyone alarmed by the deadly impact and implications of this man-made environmental catastrophe. 

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Plastic Ocean – Charles Moore

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Seattle’s ‘autonomous zone’ belongs to a grand tradition of utopian experiments

The year 2020 seems to be drawn straight from the plot of some discarded dystopian novel — a book that never got published because it sounded too far-fetched. Not only is there a pandemic to contend with, unemployment nearing levels last seen in the Great Depression, and nationwide protests against police brutality, but it’s all happening in the same year Americans are supposed to elect a president.

Amid the chaos and tear gas, some people see a chance to scrap everything and start over, a first step toward turning their visions for a better world into reality. In Seattle, protesters in one six-block stretch of Capitol Hill, a neighborhood near downtown, have created a community-run, police-free zone, recently renamed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, CHOP. It’s a scene of masked crowds, vibrant signs and street art, a “no cop co-op” giving away food and supplies, and newly planted community gardens. In Minneapolis, volunteers turned a former Sheraton hotel into a “sanctuary” offering free food and hotel rooms — until they got evicted.

“We’re seeing a new resurgence of utopianism,” said Heather Alberro, an associate lecturer of politics at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom who studies radical environmentalists and utopian thought.

Problems like climate change, the widening gap between the rich and everybody else, and racial inequality gives many the sense that they’re living through one giant unprecedented crisis. And these combined disasters create “the exact conditions that give rise to all sorts of expressions” of utopian thinking, Alberro said. From broad ideas like the Green New Deal — the climate-jobs-justice package popularized by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — to Seattle’s “autonomous zone,” people are offering up new plans for how the world could operate. Whether they came from literature or real-life experiments, these idealistic efforts can spur wider cultural and political change, even if they falter.

A community garden in CHOP’s Cal Anderson Park. Grist / Kate Yoder

Based on President Donald Trump’s tweets about Seattle’s CHOP (or Fox News websites’ photoshopped coverage of the protest) you’d picture pure chaos, with buildings afire and protesters running amok. The reality was more like people sitting around in a park, screening movies like 13th, and making art. It’s a serious protest too, with crowds gathered for talks about racism and police brutality in front of an abandoned police precinct. The protesters’ demands include abolishing the Seattle Police Department, removing cops from schools, abolishing juvenile detention, and giving reparations to victims of police violence.

“The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone #CHAZ is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection — it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted last week.

The protest zone goes by many names: Originally called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, it was later rebranded as CHOP. The barricaded area, which spans from Cal Anderson Park into nearby streets, is part campground, part block party. Tourists wander through, snapping photos of the street art.

A week earlier, protests in Cal Anderson Park, sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, were met by police officers spraying rubber bullets, mace, and tear gas. Then, last week, the police abandoned the area, and the protesters declared it their own, turning the “Seattle Police Department” into the “Seattle People Department” with a bit of spraypaint.

The CHAZ follows a long history of anti-capitalist experiments that reimagined the way the world was run. In 1871, the people of Paris, sick of oppression, rose up to take control of their city for a two-month stint. The Paris Commune canceled debt, suspended rent, and abolished the police, filling the streets with festivals. The French government soon quashed their experiment, massacring tens of thousands of Parisians in “The Bloody Week.” Even though it was short-lived, the Paris Commune inspired revolutionary movements for the next 150 years.

Protesters sleep in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan during Occupy Wall Street, 2011. Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street protestors took over New York City’s Zuccotti Park for two months to highlight the problems of income inequality. Their encampment offered free food, lectures, books, and wide-ranging discussions. The radical movement ended up changing the way Americans talked, giving them a new vocabulary — the “99 percent” and “1 percent” — and its concerns about income inequality went on to mold the priorities of the Democratic Party.

Alberro compared Seattle’s CHOP to a community of 300 environmental activists in western France who set up camp at a site earmarked for a controversial new airport starting in 2008. One of many ZADs (zones à défendre) that have sprung up in France, the community ended up being not just a place to protest the airport, but to take a stand against what protesters saw as the underlying problems — capitalism, inequality, and environmental destruction. (The government ended up shelving plans for the airport in 2018). “The point of these autonomous zones is not only to create these micro exemplars of better worlds,” Alberro said, “but also to physically halt present forces of destruction” — whether that’s an airport or, in the case of Capitol Hill, how police treat black people.

A bike rides past a farm in “la Zad,” a utopian community protesting an airport in Western France. LOIC VENANCE / AFP via Getty Images

Seattle has a lengthy history of occupations and political demonstrations tracing back to the Seattle General Strike in the early 1900s. The Civil Rights era brought sit-ins and marches. Indigenous protesters occupied an old military fort in 1970 and negotiated with the city to get 20 acres of Discovery Park. Two years later, activists occupied an abandoned elementary school in Beacon Hill, demanding that it be turned into a community center (now El Centro de la Raza).

And it might not be a coincidence that the new protest zone appeared on the West Coast, often portrayed in literature as an “ideal place” to set up utopian communities, Alberro said. For instance, the book Ecotopia, published in 1975 by Ernest Callenbach, depicted a green society — complete with high-speed magnetic-levitation trains! — formed when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the United States. The book went on to become a cult novel, influencing the environmental movement’s focus on local food, public transportation, and renewable energy.

Ecotopia isn’t exactly an ideal parallel for the current wave of protests, as its utopia was white. Callenbach envisioned a segregated society where black people opted to live in the less affluent “Soul City.” Still, it’s apparent that some of its other messages live on. Alberro has talked to many “radical” environmental protesters for her research, and most of them haven’t read any of the green utopian books she asks about. But they repeat some of the ideas and phrases from that literature nearly “word for word” when describing the changes they want to see in the world.

Though Seattle’s protest zone is focused on racial oppression, not environmental destruction, Alberro sees a similar impulse behind all these projects. “Many activists would argue that it’s all part of the same struggle,” she said, arguing that people can’t successfully take on environmental issues without addressing racism and other socioeconomic problems. “There seems to be a cultural atmosphere that molds these different movements, even though they often don’t come into contact with one another.”

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Seattle’s ‘autonomous zone’ belongs to a grand tradition of utopian experiments

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House Democrats set to introduce first-of-its-kind climate refugee bill

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

House Democrats are set to introduce the first major piece of legislation to establish protections for migrants displaced by climate change, ramping up a push for a long-overdue framework for how the United States should respond to a crisis already unfolding on its shores.

The bill, called the Climate Displaced Persons Act, would create a federal program separate from the existing refugee program to take in a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants starting next year.

The legislation, a copy of which HuffPost obtained, directs the White House to collect data on people displaced by extreme weather, drought and sea level rise and submit an annual report to Congress. It also requires the State Department to work with other federal agencies to create a Global Climate Resilience Strategy that puts global warming at the center of U.S. foreign policy.

The bill, set to be introduced by Representative Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, is a companion to legislation proposed by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey, one of the leading advocates for a Green New Deal. Its introduction in the House of Representatives marks an escalation as Democrats start to flesh out what a sweeping federal plan to eliminate emissions and prepare the country for more climate catastrophe would look like.

The 21-page proposal looks unlikely to become law while Donald Trump, who rejects climate science and slashed the country’s refugee cap to a historic low of 18,000 last month, remains president.

But the bill lays the groundwork for how a future administration could deal with what’s already forecast to be among the greatest upheavals global warming will cause.

Since 2008, catastrophic weather has displaced an average of 24 million people per year, according to data from the Swiss-based nonprofit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. That number could climb to anywhere from 140 million to 300 million to 1 billion by 2050. The World Bank estimated last year that climate change effects in just three regions ― sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America ― could force 143 million people to flee by the middle of the century.

Yet little to no legal infrastructure exists to classify and process climate refugees. Last December, leaders from 164 countries formally adopted the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, the first major international document to recognize the role of climate change in causing displacement. But it’s a nonbinding and voluntary accord, and the United States, Australia, and several European Union members refused to sign.

Meanwhile, the exodus is already underway. Within the United States, coastal communities in Louisiana, Florida, and Alaska are abandoning their low-lying homes in search of higher ground, albeit with limited federal support. The wave of foreign migrants seeking safety in the world’s largest economy has begun lapping on U.S. shores.

Thousands of Central American migrants making the treacherous journey to the U.S. border with Mexico are farmers escaping lands so parched by drought crops won’t grow. Last month, the Trump administration turned away at least 119 Bahamians heading to Florida to flee the destruction Hurricane Dorian, the kind of Category 5 storm scientists project to be more frequent in a hotter world, left in its wake.

“America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” Velázquez said in a statement. “This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

The nascent climate refugee crisis comes as the United Nations is already recording more than 65 million people displaced worldwide ― a figure that, depending on how it’s counted, amounts to the highest number of refugees ever. In Europe, the steady stream of refugees escaping war, poverty, and drought in North Africa and the Middle East has spurred a powerful new right-wing movement against immigrants, led by some of the most brazenly ethnonationalist elected officials since the 1930s.

Absent any liberal alternatives, this European right is starting to pitch its hardline immigration policies as a bulwark against climate disruption. Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Rally, criticized “nomadic” people who “do not care about the environment” as “they have no homeland,” harkening to Nazi-era “blood and soil” rhetoric. A spokesman for her party proposed a solution: “Borders are the environment’s greatest ally.”

Climate Displaced Persons Act by Alexander Kaufman on Scribd

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This GIF captures just how gigantic the U.S. carbon footprint is

President Trump likes to say that fighting climate change would give China and India an upper hand over the U.S. The three countries top the world’s biggest annual emitters list, sure, but that doesn’t take historical contributions into account. And now, we have a mindblowing visualization of nations’ cumulative carbon footprints.

Simon Evans, deputy editor at the U.K.-based Carbon Brief, put together a gif that ranks the countries with the greatest output of CO2 since 1750 — right before the Industrial Revolution began. Using code published by the Financial Times, the graph shows the startling and unyielding rate at which the U.S. has contributed to rising temperatures:

As you can see, in 1850, the U.S.’ mounting emissions made it the fourth largest emitter of CO2. In 1859, we outpaced Germany. A decade later, we surpassed France. And between 1877 and 1912 we managed to outflank the U.K. by emitting 18 billion tons of CO2. At present day, we are still ahead of China when you look at the big emissions picture. While China is currently the world’s largest annual emitter of pollution, it still ranks second cumulatively. And the U.S. still takes the cake on per capita emissions, too.

When it comes to setting a bad example for the rest of the world, America is No. 1. Go, team.

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This GIF captures just how gigantic the U.S. carbon footprint is

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European colonization of the Americas killed so many it cooled Earth’s climate

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

European colonization of the Americas resulted in the killing of so many native people that it transformed the environment and caused the Earth’s climate to cool down, new research has found.

Settlers killed off huge numbers of people in conflicts and also by spreading disease, which reduced the indigenous population by 90 percent in the century following Christopher Columbus’s initial journey to the Americas and Caribbean in 1492.

This “large-scale depopulation” resulted in vast tracts of agricultural land being left untended, researchers say, allowing the land to become overgrown with trees and other new vegetation.

The regrowth soaked up enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to actually cool the planet, with the average temperature dropping by 0.15 degrees C (0.27 degrees F) in the late 1500s and early 1600s, the study by scientists at University College London found.

“The great dying of the indigenous peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth system in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” wrote the UCL team of Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark Maslin, and Simon Lewis.

The drop in temperature during this period is known as the “Little Ice Age,” a time when the River Thames in London would regularly freeze over, snowstorms were common in Portugal, and disrupted agriculture caused famines in several European countries.

The UCL researchers found that the European colonization of the Americas indirectly contributed to this colder period by causing the deaths of about 56 million people by 1600. The study attributes the deaths to factors including introduced disease, such as smallpox and measles, as well as warfare and societal collapse.

Researchers then calculated how much land indigenous people required and then subsequently fell into disuse, finding that around 55 million hectares, an area roughly equivalent to France, became vacant and was reclaimed by carbon dioxide-absorbing vegetation.

The study sketches out a past where humans were influencing the climate long before the industrial revolution, where the use of fossil fuels for the manufacturing of goods, generation of electricity, and transportation has allowed tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.

Widespread deforestation for agriculture and urban development has also spurred the release of greenhouse gases, causing the planet to warm by around 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) over the past century. Scientists have warned that the world has little over a decade to drastically reduce emissions or face increasingly severe storms, drought, heatwaves, coastal flooding, and food insecurity.

The revegetation of the Americas after European arrival aided declines of global carbon content in the air, dropping by around 7 to 10 parts of carbon dioxide for every million molecules of air in the atmosphere. This compares to the 3 ppm of carbon dioxide that humanity is currently adding to the atmosphere every year through the burning of fossil fuels.

“There is a lot of talk around ‘negative emissions’ approaching and using tree-planting to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to mitigate climate change,” study coauthor Chris Brierley told the BBC. “And what we see from this study is the scale of what’s required, because the great dying resulted in an area the size of France being reforested and that gave us only a few parts per million.”

“This is useful,” he continued, “it shows us what reforestation can do. But at the same, that kind of reduction is worth perhaps just two years of fossil fuel emissions at the present rate.”

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European colonization of the Americas killed so many it cooled Earth’s climate

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Climate change is coming for rich people’s favorite things. Should we care?

Climate change is about to start hitting us where it really hurts: our champagne. With temperatures heating up in France’s normally cool region of Champagne, Bloomberg reports that it might be hard for “the taste we love” to last.

This isn’t the first article or study to connect climate change with something that seems well, frivolous. In January, reports declared that chocolate could become extinct by 2050. Last year, skiing enthusiasts were stressed to find out that the ski season could vanish from the country’s lower altitude resorts by 2090. What’s next? Caviar?

“These are the worst kind of climate stories,” Alex Randall, director of the U.K.-based Climate Change and Migration Coalition, tweeted. “Every week there is a ‘will climate change ruin your coffee/wine/skiing’ etc etc. I guess the intention is to connect it with real things, but it just trivializes it.”

It’s hard to compare the destruction and death connected to climate change with the loss of what can only be described as luxury items. Pacific Islanders continue to lose their land and homes to rising seas, heat waves around the world this summer have killed over 100 people, and Caribbean leaders have called for climate action in the wake of deadly hurricanes. Against this backdrop, focusing on champagne appears misguided at best, elitist at worst.

But environmental psychologists warn that it’s not that simple. “We do know that for many people the issue of climate change is very amorphous and abstract,” says Susan Clayton, chair of the psychology department at the College of Wooster. “Making it very specific just makes it easier for people to think about.”

Much like connecting climate change to extreme weather, linking everyday activities to a warming planet could make climate change seem more immediate and thus psychologically relevant — even if the connections are to the loss of coffee or 1 percent problems like dried-out golf courses.

The thing is, according to Sander van der Linden, professor of psychology at Cambridge University, how these stories are received may depend on whether the reader already accepts the reality of climate change, and whether they feel able to take action to prevent further damage. Making climate immediate isn’t a silver bullet to compel action or acceptance.

Targeting one audience could also leave others feeling left out. News stories warning us of the end of say, lush polo fields, are obviously aimed at a particular echelon of society, one that advertisers happen to love. Maxwell Boykoff, professor of environmental policy and communication at the University of Colorado Boulder, says that champagne in particular “might tap into some elitist bourgeois-type discourse that could alienate everyday people for the most part.”

Certainly we need the 1 percent to care about climate change, but will the potential loss of champagne convince any billionaires to stop flying, or persuade them to donate millions to climate action groups? The transformations required to move to a low-carbon world — such as a push for more public transit and decarbonizing power generation — will require a lot more than simple lifestyle changes.

Not to say that these stories are a waste of time. But how journalists frame climate change — and who gets hurt the worst — does matter.

“Generally, I think [these stories] are positive,” says van der Linden. “On a psychological level, it does help people overcome this distance. But clearly there’s also the flip side to it — you don’t want to trivialize it too much, to the point where we’re talking about the impacts on champagne.”

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Climate change is coming for rich people’s favorite things. Should we care?

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The Dinosaur Hunters – Deborah Cadbury


The Dinosaur Hunters
A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World (Text Only Edition)
Deborah Cadbury

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 31, 2012

Publisher: Fourth Estate


The story of two nineteenth-century scientists who revealed one of the most significant and exciting events in the natural history of this planet: the existence of dinosaurs. In ‘The Dinosaur Hunters’ Deborah Cadbury brilliantly recreates the remarkable story of the bitter rivalry between two men: Gideon Mantell uncovered giant bones in a Sussex quarry, became obsessed with the lost world of the reptiles and was driven to despair. Richard Owen, a brilliant anatomist, gave the extinct creatures their name and secured for himself unrivalled international acclaim. Note that it has not been possible to include the same picture content that appeared in the original print version. Reviews ‘No other narrative I know illustrates the human element in scientific discovery quite so dramatically.’ Evening Standard ‘This is a tale of intrigue and deception, of burning ambition and failed dreams. The bitter clashes between the men who dominated 19th- century geology are exquisitely portrayed by Deborah Cadbury in this scholarly yet exhilarating book.’ Independent ‘This is a story we should all know, a defining part of contemporary western culture. I can’t think of a better introduction.’ Sunday Times ‘This is a wonderful book, evoking a time when science required remarkable people to conduct it.’ Observer About the author Deborah Cadbury is the award-winning TV science producer for the BBC, including Horizon for which she won an Emmy . She is also the highly-acclaimed author of ‘The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World’, ‘The Feminisation of Nature’, ‘The Dinosaur Hunters’, ‘The Lost King of France’ and ‘Space Race’.

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The Dinosaur Hunters – Deborah Cadbury

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The FDA is confused about the definition of ‘milk,’ so we talked to a dictionary expert

As a young kiddo, you probably looked up from the book you were reading to ask some version of the following question:  “Mommy, what does ‘obnoxious’ mean?”

More likely than not, a lazy adult advised you to look it up in the dictionary. That advice, while annoying, was instructive.

Perhaps the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should take a page from the dictionary, too. The agency has expressed some confusion over the word “milk,” and whether plant-based beverages like almond milk should be labeled as such.

“You know, an almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess,” FDA’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb said at a policy summit earlier this month.

The dairy industry has been begging the agency to address this topic of concern for nearly 20 years in the hopes of getting “milk” banished from the labels of non-dairy, climate-friendlier alternatives like soy, almond, coconut, and oat milk.

Big Lactose’s dreams might finally come true. The FDA released an official statement Thursday saying it was reviewing the question of what’s milk, and what’s not.

“All the lexicographers I know groaned and said, ‘Oh boy, here we go,” says Kory Stamper, lexicographer and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.

“The FDA can decide whatever they want, but in terms of common usage, that use of [plant] milk is not going anywhere,” Stamper tells me. “It’s 600 years old.”

That’s right — almond milk actually dates back to the 1400s, according to Stamper.

Milk generally refers to the “fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young,” as Merriam-Webster dictates, as well as milk from an animal “used as food by people.” The next definition, however, says that milk is also “a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow’s milk,” as well as “a liquid resembling milk in appearance.”

Earlier this year, France decided to ban vegan foods from borrowing terminology from animal products (that means no more soy milk or vegan bacon). The justification? That consumers might confuse soy milk with dairy milk, for instance. There doesn’t seem to be much real confusion about whether plant-based milks are really milk milk, Stamper tells me.

The FDA seems to be taking a different tack than the French. Echoing the dairy industry, the agency’s statement suggests that when people hear “almond milk,” they might somehow think that it’s nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk. The nutritional comparison is another question in itself.

And the same discussion may soon turn to “meat.” As the debate heats up over what to call cell-cultured meat and meat alternatives, know this: While meat has referred to animal flesh since the 1300s, it was used for the flesh of a fruit or a nut (like the meat of a walnut) just a century later, Stamper tells me.

“It gets tricky when you start dealing with these general vocabulary terms that are really foundational,” Stamper says. “We think they have one clear meaning, but if you look at the history, their meanings are just not that clear. Their use goes back way further than we think.”

Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, knows he’s up against a challenge. If the FDA decides to take the milk out of almond milk, it could end up embroiled in a legal battle over commercial free speech rights.

“If you open our Standards of Identity, it talks about a lactating animal,” Gottlieb said at the policy summit, “but you open up a dictionary, it talks about milk coming from a lactating animal or a nut.”

The dairy industry’s hope seems to be that if these increasingly popular plant-based milks can no longer be billed as milk, their sales might dip. Whatever ends up on the label, at least one person is likely to keep buying almond milk anyway.

“I’m lactose intolerant, so I can’t drink dairy,” Stamper says. “I mostly drink nut milks.”

And she’ll probably keep calling it almond milk, just like the rest of us: “Trying to change general usage once it’s well established is pretty impossible, so good luck with that.”

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The FDA is confused about the definition of ‘milk,’ so we talked to a dictionary expert

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America’s best friends ready to take on climate … without Trump

At the G7 summit in Canada this past weekend, nearly all the leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful countries were united behind a bold proclamation: There can be no global economic progress without climate action. Take it or leave it.

And then Trump left.

It now looks like that move could help usher the United States out of the world’s premier economic alliance. The remaining six countries, call them the “G6,” have put climate action ahead of maintaining normal relations with the United States — an unthinkable development not very long ago. That’s huge.

This is something greens have been demanding for years: climate change at the core of global geopolitics. Now it’s here.

While there are plenty of disagreements between Trump and the rest of the world  — some summaries of the meeting didn’t even get around to mentioning climate change — it’s impossible to view what happened over the weekend without considering other countries’ desire to reduce emissions.

Long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and the other countries simply boiled over. It all started when Donald Trump decided to bail on the Paris climate agreement this time last year — a shock to the global community still coming to terms with the prospect of a United States not playing by the rules as a matter of principle. In the run-up to this weekend’s meeting, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister and the meeting’s host set the agenda, with climate change scheduled for the last day. The timing of Trump’s departure — skipping out just ahead of time — seems curiously timed to avoid the issue.

Emerging from the the wreckage of the summit is a global community that appears surprisingly OK with moving on from an increasingly childish and untrustworthy leader of the United States. A quick survey of initial reactions from observers around the world are nearly unanimous in assessing how events played out over the weekend. In the U.K., the Guardian called it a “watershed moment.” In Germany, Deutsche Welle said: “It’s probably better this way.”

An instantly iconic image of Trump sitting with his arms folded and what looks like a pout on his face, while Germany’s Angela Merkel and leaders of other countries plead their case, seems a perfect encapsulation of where we are now. The adults in the room are fed up.

That a would-be authoritarian American leader has taken a “wrecking ball” approach to diplomacy has implications that will last for years. And when it comes to climate change, we simply don’t have that time to spare.

What the G6 decided to say on climate this weekend was relatively tame compared to what needs to happen. Yet Trump refused to sign on. Instead, the U.S. attempted to insert language into the meeting’s official summary document that encouraged the use of fossil fuels.

Appeasing the U.S. right wing on climate hasn’t worked out well for the world in the past. In the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, delegates decided to water down the draft proposal to try to woo the Republican-led U.S. Senate into signing on. The entire agreement ultimately collapsed as a result — paving the way for a relatively weaker agreement in Paris six years later.

Europe has continued efforts to fight climate change with the U.S. as an inconsistent ally. The European Union, which now makes up the bulk of the G6, is in the process of assembling a new long-term climate strategy that has the potential to usher in a new era of European climate action, aiming to ditch incremental action for transformational change. Before the summit, France’s President Emmanuel Macron had already hinted that an EU-U.S. trade war on climate grounds may be necessary should Trump remain obstinate.

Going forward, neither Trump’s “America First” vision of a G1 world, or the associated fears of a collapse of Western civilization as we know it — a G0 world — seem likely. What seems bound to happen is the elevation of marginally important groups, like the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a NATO-like security organization which now claims half of humanity as members after the high-profile addition of India over the weekend. No single country — the United States, for instance — is likely to dictate the terms of global climate politics.

In an era that demands urgent, radical action, it’s good to see world leaders making climate change a priority. It might sound like hyperbole, but what happened this weekend could signal a major turning point in world history — as well as a hopeful development for the climate.


America’s best friends ready to take on climate … without Trump

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Green Getaways for Eco-Conscious Travelers

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Green Getaways for Eco-Conscious Travelers

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