Neal Kinsey has been called a "consultant's consultant." Through his in-depth courses, he has trained thousands of consultants and sophisticated growers in the methodology of soil element balancing using cation exchange capacity. Kinsey specializes in building and maintaining soil for quality crop production and travels the world consulting in and teaching the Albrecht methods of soil fertility balancing. His understanding of macro- and micronutrient balance in the soil is hard to match. In addition to consulting on crops such as corn, cotton, soybeans, rice, wheat and other small grains, he also works with significant acreages of citrus, vegetables, grapes, alfalfa, pastures, oats, melons, almonds, avocados, coffee, bananas, turf grass, and most other crops grown around the world.
Charles Walters is the founder and executive editor of Acres U.S.A. He has penned thousands of articles on the technologies of organic and sustainable agriculture and is author or co-author of many books on the subject, including: Eco-Farm; Weeds - Control Without Poisons; Fertility from the Ocean Deep; A Farmer's Guide to the Bottom Line; Grass, the Forgiveness of Nature; Minerals for the Genetic Code; and others.
After the Storm - Envionmental Protection Agency 2006 - EPA 841-C-06-001 - After the Storm: Co-Produced by the U.S. EPA and The Weather Channel. The show highlights three case studies—Santa Monica Bay, the Mississippi River Basin/Gulf of Mexico, and New York City—where polluted runoff threatens watersheds highly valued for recreation, commercial fisheries and navigation, and drinking water. Key scientists and water quality experts, and citizens involved in local and national watershed protection efforts provide insight into the problems as well as solutions to today's water quality challenges. After the Storm also explains simple things people can do to protect their local watershed-such as picking up after one's dog, recycling household hazardous wastes, and conserving water. The program is intended for educational and communication purposes in classrooms, conferences, etc.
The first full-length documentary film ever made about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Green Fire highlights Leopold's extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation is working with US Forest Service filmmakers Steve Dunsky, Ann Dunsky and Dave Steinke to produce the hour-long Green Fire: The Life and Legacy of Aldo Leopold. Leopold biographer and conservation biologist Dr. Curt Meine will serve as the film's on-screen guide. Green Fire describes the formation of Leopold's idea, exploring how it changed one man and later permeated through all arenas of conservation. The film draws on Leopold's life and experiences to provide context and validity, then explores the deep impact of his thinking on conservation projects around the world today. The high-definition film will utilize photographs, correspondence, manuscripts and other archival documents from the voluminous Aldo Leopold Archives as well as historical film and contemporary full-color footage on location, including landscapes that influenced Leopold and that he in turn influenced.
A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation
Published in 1949, shortly after the author's death, A Sand County Almanac is a classic of nature writing, widely cited as one of the most influential nature books ever published. Writing from the vantage of his summer shack along the banks of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixes essay, polemic, and memoir in his book's pages. In one famous episode, he writes of killing a female wolf early in his career as a forest ranger, coming upon his victim just as she was dying, "in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.... I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view." Leopold's road-to-Damascus change of view would find its fruit some years later in his so-called land ethic, in which he held that nothing that disturbs the balance of nature is right. Much of Almanac elaborates on this basic premise, as well as on Leopold's view that it is something of a human duty to preserve as much wild land as possible, as a kind of bank for the biological future of all species. Beautifully written, quiet, and elegant, Leopold's book deserves continued study and discussion today. --Gregory McNamee
Reading Aldo Leopold and about Aldo Leopold is an experience that everyone should take advantage of... Looking forward to reading books and viewing Green Fire DVD! Monte and Eileen http://www.aldoleopold.org/greenfire/ Green Fire wins an EMMY® Award!
Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time has been honored with an Emmy award for Best Historical Documentary at the 54th annual Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in a ceremony that took place Sunday, November 18, 2012. Read more!
The first full-length documentary film ever made about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.
Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt
Programme: Real to Reel
Director: Margaret Brown
Time: 99 minutes
Film Types: Colour/HDCAM Production Company: Rake Films
Executive Producer: Chris Mattsson, Paul Stekler, Louis Black
Producer: Margaret Brown, Sam Brumbaugh
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
Editor: Michael Taylor, Karen Skloss, Don Howard
Sound: Bob Kellough, Tom Hammond
Music: Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett
Principal Cast: Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Guy Clarke, and Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth - www.townesthemovie.com -
-- As a musician, Townes Van Zandt was legendary – perhaps one of the greatest who ever lived, inspiring artists from Bob Dylan to Norah Jones to Steve Earle. As a man, a husband, and a father his life was as tragic and as beautiful as the songs he wrote. Townes was an enigma to his family, pinned between a deep longing for home and the nomadic lifestyle that was necessary for his livelihood. Director Margaret Brown’s Be Here To Love Me is an artful, expertly directed portrait of both of these sides of Van Zandt and ultimately serves as an insightful look at the sacrifices, challenges, and consequences faced in pursuit of a dream. Haunting and lyrical, Be Here To Love Me combines emotional interviews with friends and family with never seen footage of Townes Van Zandt.
Heartworn Highways is documentary film by James Szalapski whose vision captured some of the founders of the Outlaw Country movement in Texas and Tennessee in the last weeks of 1975 and the first weeks of 1976. The film was not released theatrically until 1981.
The documentary covers singer-songwriters whose songs are more traditional to early folk and country music instead of following in the tradition of the previous generation. Some of film's featured performers are Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, and The Charlie Daniels Band. The movie features the first known recordings of Grammy award winners Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell who were quite young at the time and appear to be students of mentor Guy Clark. Steve Earle was also a big fan of Van Zandt at the time.
The beginning of the movie shows Larry Jon Wilson in a recording studio shortly after he had been woken up for the movie after having been partying all night after a gig into the morning. The film maker goes to Austin and visits Townes Van Zandt at his trailer (At what is now 14th and Charlotte in the Clarksville neighborhood of downtown Austin) and his girlfriend Cindy, his dog Geraldine, Rex "Wrecks" Bell, and Uncle Seymour Washington (born 1896; died 1977) at his place, who is also called "The Walking Blacksmith", and who gives his great worldly advice to the viewers and represents a very important aspect of the atmosphere that these songwriters living in the South are surrounded by and involved in.
The movie shows Charlie Daniels completely fill a big high school gymnasium. Then the camera man, sound recorder and director join David Allan Coe and film him playing a gig at the Tennessee State Prison where he admits to being a former inmate and tells a story of being there and seems to bring out friends of his onto the stage who still are inmates there and they perform a gospel number "Thank You Jesus" that they used to sing in the yard. The end of the movie shows a drinking party that starts Christmas Eve and ends sometime Christmas Day at Guy Clark's house in Nashville with Guy, Susanna Clark, Steve Young, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Jim McGuire (playing the dobro), along with several other guests. Steve Young leads the group in a rendition of Hank Williams' song "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Rodney Crowell leads everyone in "Silent Night".
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.
Great Book! Just finished reading...Loved the history about our area... Mound builders extent... Large populations (millions) of agriculture Indians... Also loved the discussion in Charles C. Mann, MARCH 2002 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE article: "Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to William I. Woods, a soil geographer at Southern Illinois University, ecologists' claims about terrible Amazonian land were based on very little data. In the late 1990s Woods and others began careful measurements in the lower Amazon. They indeed found lots of inhospitable terrain. But they also discovered swaths of terra preta—rich, fertile "black earth" that anthropologists increasingly believe was created by human beings.
Terra preta, Woods guesses, covers at least 10 percent of Amazonia, an area the size of France. It has amazing properties, he says. Tropical rain doesn't leach nutrients from terra preta fields; instead the soil, so to speak, fights back. Not far from Painted Rock Cave is a 300-acre area with a two-foot layer of terra preta quarried by locals for potting soil. The bottom third of the layer is never removed, workers there explain, because over time it will re-create the original soil layer in its initial thickness. The reason, scientists suspect, is that terra preta is generated by a special suite of microorganisms that resists depletion. "Apparently," Woods and the Wisconsin geographer Joseph M. McCann argued in a presentation last summer, "at some threshold level ... dark earth attains the capacity to perpetuate—even regenerate itself—thus behaving more like a living 'super'-organism than an inert material."
In as yet unpublished research the archaeologists Eduardo Neves, of the University of São Paulo; Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida; and their colleagues examined terra preta in the upper Xingu, a huge southern tributary of the Amazon. Not all Xingu cultures left behind this living earth, they discovered. But the ones that did generated it rapidly—suggesting to Woods thatterra preta was created deliberately. In a process reminiscent of dropping microorganism-rich starter into plain dough to create sourdough bread, Amazonian peoples, he believes, inoculated bad soil with a transforming bacterial charge. Not every group of Indians there did this, but quite a few did, and over an extended period of time.
When Woods told me this, I was so amazed that I almost dropped the phone. I ceased to be articulate for a moment and said things like "wow" and "gosh." Woods chuckled at my reaction, probably because he understood what was passing through my mind. Faced with an ecological problem, I was thinking, the Indians fixed it. They were in the process of terraforming the Amazon when Columbus showed up and ruined everything.
Scientists should study the microorganisms in terra preta, Woods told me, to find out how they work. If that could be learned, maybe some version of Amazonian dark earth could be used to improve the vast expanses of bad soil that cripple agriculture in Africa—a final gift from the people who brought us tomatoes, corn, and the immense grasslands of the Great Plains."
Each year, the process of farming begins with preparing the soil to be seeded. But for years, farmers had plowed the soil too fine, and they contributed to the creation of the Dust Bowl.
"In general, the seed bed should be roomy, thoroughly pulverized and compact," according to John Deere's 1935 book, The Operation, Care and Repair of Farm Machinery. The goal, according to the book, was to "break up clods and crusted top soil, leaving a fine surface mulch for planting or for plant growth."
The main tool for this job was the plow, an ancient implement that had evolved by the 1930s into several different varieties designed for different soil types. Each design lifted the soil up, broke it up and turned it over. The process pulverized hard dirt into small clods.
In the early 30s, many farmers would come back into a plowed field with a set of disc harrows that would break the clods into fine soil particles. A harrow mounted a series of concave sharpened steel discs close together. These discs were pulled through the field at a slight angle so the soil was cut and then turned over by each disc. This produced what was thought to be the "ideal seed bed... Large air spaces, bunches of field trash and hard lump or clods are undesirable."
The problem with this method is that it leaves fields vulnerable to wind erosion and dust storms. In the 1920s and early 30s, most farmers on the plains plowed their fields right after the previous harvest, leaving the soil open for months until it was time to plant again. And economic pressures in the late 1920s pushed farmers on the Great Plains to plow under more and more native grassland. Farmers had to have more acres of corn and wheat to make ends meet.
During wet years, this didn't cause problems. But when the drought hit, fields that had been covered for centuries by grass had been plowed and disced into fine particles. The soil dried out and began to blow. Dry and light grains of soil were picked up by the incessant winds on the plains. Those particles would hit others, bouncing
them into the air, until the entire field was blowing away. The result was the Dust Bowl.
The New Deal and Congress recognized the effects of over plowing marginal lands. In 1936, the agency that became the Farm Security Administration (FSA) hired filmmaker Pare Lorenz to produce one of the first documentary films on the problem. It was called "The Plow that Broke the Plains" and drew widespread critical acclaim and audiences in movie theatres across the country.
Around the same time, Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act that called for changes in plowing techniques, strip cropping and shelter belts to cut down on wind erosion.
The Plow That Broke the Plains, ca. 1937
The film presents the social and economic history of the Great Plains -- from the time of the settlement of the prairies, through the World War I boom, to the years of depression and drought. The first part of the film shows cattle as they grazed on grasslands, and homesteaders who hurried onto the plains and grew large wheat crops. The second part depicts the postwar decline of the wheat market, which resulted in overproduction. Footage shows farm equipment used, then abandoned. The third part shows a dust storm as it rendered a farm useless. Subsequent scenes show farmers as they left their homes and headed west. Department of Agriculture. Farm Security Administration. Information Division. (ca. 1937 - ca. 1942). Note that this is the version without the epilogue.
Compact, yet wide-ranging account of Native American history and life illustrated with 122 maps. Waldman competently summarizes Indian prehistory, cultural patterns, contacts with Europeans, military events, and contemporary life; Braun's two-color maps successfully place all these data in geographical context. Useful appendixes include a historical chronology and lists of Native American place-names and of all tribes on the continent.
Paperback: 450 pages
Publisher: 3rd edition (February 1, 2009)
Planet Money host Adam Davidson took a look at fracking in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine (12/16/12)–and he loved what he saw.
The piece is about the supposed economic boom times that are right around the corner, thanks to drilling for natural gas. As Davidson points out near the beginning, "The American steel industry recently received the economic equivalent of a gift from the heavens: natural gas extracted by means of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking." And fracking will, as Davidson sees it, be of particular benefit to domestic industries: Ed Morse, an influential energy analyst at Citigroup, argues that the natural-gas industry will bring around 3 million new jobs to the United States by the end of this decade. He also expects that fracking will add up to 3 percent to our GDP and trillions in additional tax revenue. Along the way, it will turn around perennial stragglers, like steel and manufacturing. For millions of workers, there could not be any better news.
What's not to love, then? "Fracking, of course, is not universally embraced," Davidson admits. There are questions about the chemicals used to extract the gas, he writes–but then quickly pivots to a discussion of how regulators have stepped up to take a harder look at the practice. Davidson admits: "Regulations are determined, in large part, by politics. And the politics of fracking are changing and are very likely to change drastically in coming years." By that he means the "resource curse," which involves regulations shaped more by the needs of a particular industry than, say, the public.
He writes: Many believe this already describes the oil economies of Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma and, increasingly, North Dakota, where the fracking industry is entrenched. Politically and economically, it’s hard to argue with an industry that has helped keep the state's unemployment rate at about 3 percent.
And once again: "There will be trillions of dollars of new wealth. Will environmental and health concerns have any chance against that juggernaut?"
That's a good question, broadly speaking. More narrowly: How much did such questions factor into his report on fracking? Very little, from what appears on the page. There is no serious discussion of environmental costs borne by the public, and there is not one word about climate change–a pretty shocking oversight when one considers the potential ramifications of a massive new investment in a fossil fuel industry.
While many environmentalists work to stop fracking, Davidson has a different idea–he writes that the "best thing that any U.S. environmentalist can do is to start thinking like an economist." He goes on to explain that Norway used its own oil/gas profits to create a pension fund, which then became a massive sovereign wealth fund. That's one way to think like an economist, I guess–the consequences of fracking might be awful for the planet, but we'll have quite a nest egg!
A different sort of economist might look at it differently–and might wonder, for instance, if fracking's supposed jobs "boom" is for real. Economist Helene Jorgensen looked at this issue for Food & Water Watch; as she wrote (Beat the Press, 1/8/12):
Supposedly fracking can bring the economy out of its current stagnation by creating uncountable new jobs, without running up government deficits, and even save us from global warming in the process.
So how come local residents and environmentalists oppose fracking? The short answer is that fracking does not create local jobs, it lowers property values, and pollutes the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Un•earthed: Setting the track record straight
A video exposing a flawed claim often abused in the sales pitch for promoting shale gas development across the world: "With a history of 60 years, after nearly a million wells drilled, there are no documented cases that hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') has lead to the contamination of groundwater."
Unearthed: The Fracking Facade
For years now, the United States has tried to lower its dependence on foreign oil for its energy needs. With stability in the Middle East in question, drilling at home has never been more attractive, but it often comes at a cost. Natural gas extraction - fracking - is being touted as the answer. The way fracking is taking place, there are questions being asked about the process and its implications.
16x9 : Untested Science: Fracking natural gas controversy
A new frontier of natural gas production is making controversial headlines. Hydraulic Fracturing or "fracking" is becoming more common in Canada. But experts say "fracking" can cause contaminated ground water, earthquakes and pollute our land with toxic chemicals.
DESCRIPTION: In the final episode, Roberts describes theories about how humans traversed from Asia to the Americas, asking how they achieved it during the Ice Age, when the route to North America was blocked by ice walls. She describes the traditional theory that the first Americans were the Clovis culture, who arrived through an ice-free corridor during the end of the Ice Age 13,000 years ago. However, she then visits archaeological sites in Texas, Brazil, the Californian Channel Islands and Monte Verde in southern Chile which show 14,000 year old human remains, proving that humans must have arrived earlier via a different route. She shows the skull of the Luzia Woman, found in Brazil, which displays Australasian features rather than the East Asian features of modern day Native Americans; an archaeologist explains that these first Americans may have been Asians who migrated before Asians developed their distinctive facial features. Roberts shows that the earliest Americans may have migrated down the relatively ice-free western coastlines of North and South America. She concludes by noting that when Europeans arrived in 1492, they did not recognize Native Americans as fully human, but modern genetics and archaeology proves that we all ultimately descend from Africans.
A RIVER OF WASTE exposes a huge health and environmental scandal in our modern industrial system of meat and poultry production. Some scientists have gone so far as to call the condemned current factory farm practices as "mini Chernobyls." In the U.S. and elsewhere, the meat and poultry industry is dominated by dangerous uses of arsenic, antibiotics, growth hormones and by the dumping of massive amounts of sewage in fragile waterways and environments. The film documents the vast catastrophic impact on the environment and public health as well as focuses on the individual lives damaged and destroyed.
Only after the last tree has been cut down Only after the last river has been poisoned Only after the last fish has been caught Only then will you find you cannot eat money -- Cree Indian prophecy
Climate: Arctic Thermostat Blows Up
The Arctic thermostat for the world is broken, with record heat & emissions in 2012. Four speakers from Arctic Methane Emergency group film: Peter Wadhams, James Hansen, Natalia Shakhova, and David Wasdell. Plus interview with AMEG member Paul Beckwith from University of Ottawa. How polar ice-melt derails climate of Northern Hemisphere, heading for uncontrollable heating. Radio Ecoshock 121219. http://www.ecoshock.info/2012/12/climate-arctic-thermostat-blows-up.html
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This video, produced in 1990, captures the construction of Fort Peck Dam, the northernmost of the six main stem dams on the Missouri River. Of particular interest is some of the old reel footage that captured the actual work behind this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District project. The video is shown regularly at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center.
It is constructed of a non-metal, self sealing material that absorbs hundreds of rounds from even the largest caliber rifles and handguns and still keeps its shape. Weighing 80% less than metal targets, these auto-resetting targets let bullets pass through with minimal damage–prolonging the life of the target.
Ultra-bright orange target
Approximately 7-inches by 2.5-inches
DuraSeal self-sealing material for the ultimate in target longevity Handles .17 cal. through most large caliber .50 cal handguns / rifles
Target wobbles and spins upon to impact to show positive hits
Rugged metal legs firmly hold target in varying terrain
41900 Duraseal Double Spinner
The releases will help provide the depth necessary for river commerce to pass in Thebes, Ill., where rock formations pose a hazard at -5 feet and below, the Corps says. Carlyle Lake is one of few Corps reservoirs able to significantly capture water above its seasonal pool level to support navigation during the current drought.
Lighter loads have taken to the Mississippi River in light of low water levelsReleases gradually increased to 4,000 cubic feet per second between Saturday and late Monday. The full extent of the releases is expected to reach Thebes by Dec. 24. The Corps say this will provide an additional six inches of depth in this critical reach of the river.
Releases will continue if needed until the river level increases through precipitation, or until Carlyle Lake reaches its winter pool elevation. With the additional release schedule, Carlyle Lake is expected to reach its winter pool level in approximately three weeks. The Corps says additional releases from other reservoirs will be considered if the need arises.
Maj. Gen John Peabody, Mississippi Valley Division commander, authorized all the lakes on the Upper Mississippi River system to hold an additional 10% above seasonal pool levels in October in anticipation of historic low levels on the Middle Mississippi.
"With the Mississippi River watershed receiving less rain than forecasted, we are working to provide the water depth needed at a time when inches make a difference," Peabody said. "We'll continue to work closely with the navigation industry and our partners in the U.S. Coast Guard to keep the vital artery for commerce open."
On Tuesday, Corps officials met with state and local representatives to discuss the release and river navigation. The meeting was organized by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and also attended by Capt. Byron Black of the U.S. Coast Guard, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., and Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.
Maj. Gen. Peabody also attended the meeting, noting that removal of limestone began this week, which he expects will ensure that barge restrictions will not be needed at this time.
"We remain cautiously optimistic that if we do have any interruptions, it will be short in duration as we continue to maintain a safe and reliable navigation channel," Peabody said.
Along with work on rock removal, the Corps plans to continue to dredge.
"The Dredge Potter has dredged more than 6 million cubic yards of material on the Upper and Lower Mississippi since it began operations in June," said Army Corps St. Louis District Commander Col. Chris Hall. "We will continue dredging problem areas, conducting channel patrols and surveys to keep commerce safely moving on the Middle Mississippi."
The miracle of the Green Revolution was made possible by cheap fossil fuels to supply crops with artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Estimates of the net energy balance of agriculture in the United States show that ten calories of hydrocarbon energy are required to produce one calorie of food. Such an imbalance cannot continue in a world of diminishing hydrocarbon resources.
Eating Fossil Fuels examines the interlinked crises of energy and agriculture and highlights some startling findings:
• The worldwide expansion of agriculture has appropriated fully 40 percent of the photosynthetic capability of this planet. • The Green Revolution provided abundant food sources for many, resulting in a population explosion well in excess of the planet’s carrying capacity. • Studies suggest that without fossil fuel-based agriculture, the United States could only sustain about two-thirds of its present population. For the planet as a whole, the sustainable number is estimated to be about two billion.
Concluding that the effect of energy depletion will be disastrous without a transition to a sustainable, re-localized agriculture, the book draws on the experiences of North Korea and Cuba to demonstrate stories of failure and success in the transition to non-hydrocarbon-based agriculture. It urges strong grassroots activism for sustainable, localized agriculture and a natural shrinking of the world’s population.
Bad federal policy and intensifying storms are washing away the rich dark soils in the Midwest that made this country an agricultural powerhouse and that remain the essential foundation of a healthy and sustainable food system in the future. The Environmental Working Group produced this short film with Atlas Films that provides stark images illustrating how federal farm subsidies and ethanol mandates, piled on top of skyrocketing crop prices are supporting an intensive monoculture that kneecaps any hope for a more resilient and diverse food and farm system. Go to www.ewg.org/losingground/ for more information.
Above: Grass waterways, filter strips, and vegetative
buffers help hold soil in place and protect
northwest Iowa’s Ocheyedan River.
Above: Iowa State University soil scientist Rick
Cruse says current levels of soil erosion are unsustainable.
“We are losing ground,” he says.
A closer look. “We are losing
ground,” says Iowa State soil scientist
Rick Cruse. “Soil is eroding faster
than new soil is forming. We have
data to show that we are continuing
to degrade the soil resource. The only
way that we can maintain high productivity
is to keep soil in place.”
Cruse teamed up with John Laflen,
a retired USDA Agricultural Research
Service agricultural engineer, to create
IDEP, hoping to bring increased
attention to the problem of excessive
soil erosion. This daily simulation of
the erosion process on nearly 20,000
hillslopes across the state was implemented
with the help of a long list of
“It’s not average rainfall that drives
soil erosion rates,” Cruse explains. “It
is the intense storms. We combine a
number of technologies to allow us
to project erosion based on local data
and soil conditions, not averages.”
He also has concerns about whether
T levels, defined as the maximum rate
of annual soil loss that will permit
crop productivity to be sustained economically
and indefinitely on a given
soil, truly are sustainable.
T time. On Clarion-Nicollet-Webster
soils that are typical for much of
the state, the T rate is considered to be
around 5 tons per acre per year. But Cruse says recent studies show “solid evidence” that soil formation is considerably less, perhaps only about 0.25 tons annually. “There is an increasing
amount of evidence that even the ‘acceptable’
rate is higher than the rate
that soil is forming,” he says. “And
Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz paid tribute to Jack Pinto, a fan and victim of the Sandy Hook massacre.(Credit: @teamvic)
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the NFL and its players made an effort on Sunday to recognize the collective grief shaking the country. There was a moment of silence at all 14 NFL games in remembrance of the 26 people, including 20 children, mercilessly gunned down. Players on the New York Giants wore decals with the school's initials on their helmets. Their star wide receiver Victor Cruz paid tribute to one of fallen children, writing "R.I.P. Jack Pinto," and "Jack Pinto, my hero" on his shoes and "This one is 4 u!" on the backs of his gloves. Cruz was Pinto's favorite player and six-year-old Jack will be buried in his Victor Cruz jersey. The New England Patriots also made a statement, wearing a helmet sticker with the Newtown city seal and a black ribbon. They in addition pledged to donate $25,000 to help the each family affected by the tragedy. But it's what the Patriots didn't do that speaks volumes and perhaps says more than they intended. Normally after the team scores at home, their "end zone militia", dressed as revolutionary war soldiers, shoots 20 muskets in the air. There were no guns fired, thankfully, on Sunday night.
But, as we try to understand the numbing regularity of these mass shootings, there is also a question that goes beyond just gun control and mental health. Should our culture, and in particular the violence of the sports we consume, shoulder some of the blame? It’s an increasingly recognized fact that our most popular sport, football, is also our most violent. Every new study reveals that on Sundays we are watching people become mentally and physically crippled for our entertainment. In addition to the violence between the lines, this is a league that drapes itself in the trappings of war, from military flyovers before games to the constant slickly produced recruitment ads for the US armed forces.
Given all of this, can the NFL as an institution be a credible voice of peace? The answer is simply no: not even when they silence their muskets. The NFL cannot be a force for non-violence because its popularity is the perfect reflection of what we've become as a country. We are a nation that has outsourced war overseas to remote control killer drones we overwhelmingly support, private security forces we don't control, and an armed forces we barely acknowledge. Meanwhile, a host of basic freedoms have been eroded over the last decade except the freedom to arm ourselves to the teeth. We can't assemble with our neighbors in protest but we can assemble military style weapons alone in our apartments.
As we become further atomized and further desensitized to the daily violence that surrounds us, we also further worship a sports league that acts as the perfect metaphor for this state of affairs. Safely hidden under helmets for our consumption, we don't have see the glassy eyes or faces contorted with pain on the field. We also don't have to see the broken bodies and lives off the field. We just get three and a half hours of incredibly entertaining, highly commodified violence in a safely consumable package. The true costs are hidden from us until they erupt into view, as in the case of Jovan Belcher or the suicide of the great Junior Seau. Similarly, the true costs of worshiping the way of the gun are only dragged into open view when it comes home to places like Newtown, Connecticut. We don't have to see the faces or learn the names of the children killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan. We aren't asked to care about the young black teenagers who die on the corners of Chicago. No NFL player writes their names on their shoes. But now we have to look in the mirror and either reckon with what we see or recoil and turn away.
If we want to follow the example of the NFL, the answer doesn't lie on the field. Follow the example of the seven NFL players who turned in their guns to team officials the week after the Belcher shootings out of fear of what might happen if they were in the wrong state of mind or if a family member somehow grabbed a hold of their weapons. But even that is not enough. We need to throw ourselves on the machines of violence in Washington DC otherwise we are just dooming ourselves to more of the same. And the same is simply intolerable.
By Suzanne Goldenberg
The Mississippi as seen from Ed Drager’s tug boat is a river in retreat: A giant beached barge is stranded where the water dropped, with sand bars springing into view. The floating barge office where the tug boat captain reports for duty is tilted like a funhouse. One side now rests on the exposed shore. “I’ve never seen the river this low,” Drager said. “It’s weird.”
The worst drought in half a century has brought water levels in the Mississippi close to historic lows and could shut down all shipping in a matter of weeks — unless Barack Obama takes extraordinary measures.
Without rain, water levels on the Mississippi are projected to reach historic lows this month, the National Weather Service said in its latest four-week forecast.
“All the ingredients for us getting to an all-time record low are certainly in place,” said Mark Fuchs, a hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in St. Louis. “I would be very surprised if we didn’t set a record this winter.”
The drought has already created a low-water choke point south of St. Louis, near the town of Thebes, where pinnacles of rock extend upwards from the river bottom, making passage treacherous.Tim McDonnell/Climate DeskClick to embiggen.
Shipping companies are hauling 15 barges at a time instead of a typical string of 25, because the bigger runs are too big for current operating conditions.
Barges are being sent off with lighter loads, making for more traffic, with more delays and back-ups. Stretches of the river are now reduced to one-way traffic. A long cold spell could make navigation even trickier: Shallow, slow-moving water is more likely to get clogged up with ice.
Current projections suggest water levels could drop too low to send barges through Thebes before the new year — unless there is heavy rainfall.
Local television in St. Louis is already dispensing doom-laden warnings about rusting metal and hazardous materials exposed by the receding waters.
Shipping companies say the economic consequences of a shut-down on the Mississippi would be devastating. About $7 billion in vital commodities typically moves on the river at this time of year — including grain, coal, heating oil, and cement.
Tim McDonnell/Climate Desk
Cutting off the transport route would be a disaster that would resonate across the Midwest and beyond.
“There are so many issues at stake here,” said George Foster, owner ofJB Marine Services. “There is so much that moves on the river, not just coal and grain products, but you’ve got cement, steel for construction, chemicals for manufacturing plants, petroleum plants, heating oil. All those things move on the waterways, so if it shuts down you’ve got a huge stop of commerce.”
Local companies which depend on the river to ship their goods are already talking about layoffs if the Mississippi closes to navigation. Those were just the first casualties, Foster said. “It is going to affect the people at the grocery store, at the gas pump, with home construction and so forth.”
And it’s going to fall especially hard on farmers, who took a heavy hit during the drought and who rely on the Mississippi to ship their grain to export markets.
Farmers in the area typically lost up to three-quarters of their corn and soy bean crops to this year’s drought. Old-timers say it was the worst year they can remember.
“We have been through some dry times. In 1954 when my dad and grandfather farmed here they pretty much had nothing because it was so dry,” said Paul McCormick, who farms with his son, Jack, in Ellis Grove, Ill., south of St. Louis. “But I think this was a topper for me this year.”
Now, however, farmers are facing the prospect of not being able to sell their grain at all because they can’t get it to market. The farmers may also struggle to find other bulk items, such as fertilizer, that are typically shipped by barge.
“Most of the grain produced on our farm ends up bound for export,” said Jack McCormick, who raises beef cattle and grain with his father. “It ends up going down the river. That is a very good market for us, and if you can’t move it that means a lower price, or you have to figure out a different way to move it. It all ends up as a lower price for the farmers.”
The shipping industry in St. Louis wants the White House to order the release of more water from the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi, to keep waters high enough for the long barges that float down the river to New Orleans.
Foster said the extra water would be for 60 days or so — time for the Army Corps of Engineers to blast and clear the series of rock pinnacles down river, near the town of Thebes, that threaten barges during this time of low water.
But sending out more water from the Missouri would doom states upstream, such as Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota, which depend on water from the Missouri and are also caught in the drought.
“There are farmers and ranchers up there with livestock that don’t have water to stay alive. They don’t have enough fodder. They don’t have enough irrigation water,” said Robert Criss, a hydrologist at Washington University in St. Louis who has spent his career studying the Mississippi. “What a dumb way to use water during a drought.”
Elected officials from South Dakota and elsewhere have pushed back strenuously at the idea of sending their water downstream. Foster reckons there is at best a 50-50 chance Obama will agree to open the gates.
But such short-term measures ignore an even bigger problem. Climate scientists believe the Mississippi and other rivers are headed for an era of extremes, because of climate change.
This time last year, the Mississippi around St. Louis was 20 feet deeper because of heavy rain. In the spring of 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up two miles of levees to save the town of Cairo, Ill., and Missouri farmland, and deliberately flooded parts of rural Louisiana to make sure Baton Rouge and New Orleans stayed dry.
“It has kind of switched on us, and it switched pretty quick,” said Coast Guard Chief Ryan Christiansen. “It wasn’t that long ago that you had pretty high flooding, and now we are heading towards record lows.”
Others argue that the Mississippi is already over-engineered, after a century and a half of tampering with the river’s natural flow.
Over the decades, Congress funded a number of projects to deepen the shipping channel, doubling it in depth to nine feet, and building an elaborate system of locks and dams to keep the river in a confined space.
The Army Corps of Engineers is constantly dredging the river’s sandy bottom or building new levees to keep barges moving.
Those efforts to confine the river to a deep and narrow channel are believed to have made surrounding areas more vulnerable to extreme floods — like in 2011, when thousands were forced to flee their homes.
They may also not make sense in the long-term use of the river.
Criss argues the long barge trains floating on the Mississippi are just too big for the upper reaches of the river anyway, and that the industry is unfairly subsidized compared with other transport providers such as rail.
“The whole system around here has been entirely reconfigured to accommodate these monstrous barges,” he said.
“This is the whole problem. We want to run boats on the river with nine-foot drafts that are almost a quarter of a mile long. They are too big for the size of the river up here.”
Suzanne Goldenberg is the U.S. environment correspondent of theGuardian and is based in Washington D.C. She has won several awards for her work in the Middle East, and in 2003 covered the U.S. invasion of Iraq from Baghdad. She is author of Madam President, about Hillary Clinton's historic run for the White House.
I was raised on a small farm in Illinois. My wife, Eileen and I and family have worked together hand and hand on this farm (and adjoining land we bought) since 1966. I attended and graduated University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL. I received a Bachelor of Science Degree (Cum Laude)in Agricultural Engineering in 1970.
I worked as a registered Professional Engineer for the Rock Island District, US Army Corps of Engineers for 33 years, before retiring. I held several supervisory positions while at Corps: Chief, Regulatory Branch, Assistant Chief of Operations Division, Chief of the Lock and Dam Branch, and Mississippi River Project Manager. One highlight of my career was developing NIC (Google "NIC - Navigation Information Connection") during the early 90's, in a joint effort, with the District's Information Management personnel and Navigation Industry Representatives.
My wife and I have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. We have businesses associated with farming, "live edge" furniture making, vegetable produce, and graphics. We enjoy pursuing our hobby interests.