Reimagining the Rural West Initiative Special Report delivers ideas to re-energize communities — @WestGov

Here’s the release from the Western Governor’s Association:

As the population of the West concentrates in metropolitan areas, rural communities face increasing challenges to provide the services, infrastructure and opportunities needed to thrive. At the same time, opportunity abounds for rural areas to respond to global economic trends and technological innovation.

How do we re-energize rural communities and help them tap into an increasingly technological world? That was the question WGA Chair and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum sought to answer when he launched the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative in July 2019. The Initiative has since examined challenges and highlighted opportunities in rural economic development, infrastructure and quality of life organized around three major pillars:

Opportunity: Creating an environment in which everyone has the chance to prosper, whether as a first-time entrepreneur, seasoned business owner, recent graduate starting a career or a midcareer worker looking to learn new skills.

Connectivity: Ensuring that rural communities are connected by high-speed internet and safe efficient transportation networks, so that people in the rural West can plug into the global economy and take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Community: Supporting community-led efforts to solve local challenges and building smart, healthy, vibrant communities.

The Initiative sought answers through several avenues, including regional workshops that attracted leading experts on rural development. WGA also developed a series of webinars to further explore ideas that arose from the workshops. And when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, WGA launched a dedicated webinar series to explore what it meant for the communities at the heart of the Initiative’s work.

The Special Report on the Initiative shares more than a dozen policy recommendations to support vibrant rural communities in the West. Highlights include:

  • Change the way we do economic development to focus on attracting workforce and building community assets that improve quality of life.
  • Develop policy and financial solutions that can bring broadband access to all rural communities, enabling them to take advantage of remote work opportunities, distance learning and telehealth, among other things.
  • Strengthen local leadership with the capacity to develop a shared vision for the future along with their community, and then leverage local resources to achieve it.
  • The report also includes additional details about the workshops, webinars, participants, and podcast series dedicated to the Initiative.

    Read, download Special Report

    Read, download the Appendix of the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative

    The job loss epidemic — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus

    From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson) [July 23, 2020]:

    By February, the spread of COVID-19 was already eroding the global economy. First, global travel restrictions depressed the oil market. Then, as the virus reached pandemic proportions, it began hurting even the healthiest industries, throwing the global economy into the deepest rut since the Great Depression.

    The recession has been hard on clean energy, which was thriving at the end of last year despite unhelpful, even hostile, policies from the Trump administration. Between 2009 and 2019, solar and wind generation on the U.S. electrical grid shot up by 400%, even as overall electricity consumption remained fairly flat. Renewable facility construction outpaced all other electricity sources, but the disease’s effects have since rippled through the sector, wiping out much of its previous growth.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Global supply chains for everything from solar panels to electric car components were the earliest victims, as governments shut down factories, first in China, then worldwide, to prevent transmission of the disease. Restrictions on construction further delayed utility-scalesolar and wind installations and hampered rooftop solar installations and energy efficiency projects. The setbacks are especially hard on the wind industry, because new wind farms must be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of federal tax credits. Meanwhile, the general economic slowdown is diminishing financing for new renewable energy projects.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    Clean energy, which has shed more than 600,000 jobs since the pandemic’s onset, is only one of the many economic sectors that are hurting. In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008. The impacts have reverberated throughout the Western U.S., from coal mines to tourist towns, and from casinos to dairy farms. Some industries, including clean energy, bounced back slightly in June, as stay-at-home orders were dropped and businesses, factories and supply chains opened back up. But a full recovery — if it happens — will largely depend on government stimulus programs and could take years.

    Graphic credit: The High Country News

    In just three months, COVID-19 wiped out more than twice as many jobs as were lost during the entire Great Recession of 2008.

    Contracted workers clean mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Project in Nipton, California. In 2017, the facility employed over 65 workers and created 2,600 jobs during it’s three year construction period. Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory via The High Country News

    Infographic design by Luna Anna Archey; Graphics by Minus Plus; Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, BW Research Partnership, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at

    Yes, kids can get COVID-19 – 3 pediatricians explain what’s known about #coronavirus and children — The Conversation #COVID19

    Children are at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and need to practice social distancing and mask wearing too.
    AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

    Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, West Virginia University

    We are three pediatric infectious disease specialists who live and work in West Virginia. The West Virginia University health system serves 400,000 children and according to our internal data, to date, 2,520 children up to 17 years of age have been tested for the coronavirus. Sixty-seven of them tested positive and one became sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

    We are asked almost daily about children and COVID-19: Do they get COVID-19? Should they attend day care or school, play sports, see friends and attend summer camps? What are the risks to themselves and to others?

    Based on current research and our own experiences, it would seem that kids 17 years old and younger face little risk from the coronavirus. Nearly all children have asymptomatic, very mild or mild disease, but a small percentage of children do get very sick. Additionally, there is evidence that children can spread the virus to others, and with huge outbreaks occurring all across the U.S, these realities raise serious concerns about school reopenings and how children should navigate the pandemic world.

    A doctor in personal protective gear treating a young child inside of an ambulance.
    Though somewhat rare, children can get severely ill from the coronavirus and a few have died.
    John Moore/Getty Images News via Getty Images

    Children at risk

    When considering the role of children in this pandemic, the first question to ask is whether they can get infected, and if so, how often.

    Of the 149,082 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of late April, only 2,572 – 1.7% – were children, despite children making up 22% of the U.S population.

    But current research shows that children are physiologically just as likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as adults. This discrepancy between case numbers and biological susceptibility may be due to the fact that children generally generally have minimal to mild symptoms when infected with the coronavirus and are therefore less likely to get tested. It also may be that children in general have had less exposure to the virus compared to adults. Kids aren’t going to work, they are probably going out to stores less than adults, and in the states that had relaxed quarantine measures, they aren’t going out to bars or gyms.

    Even though children are less likely to get sick from the coronavirus, they are definitely not immune. Data shows that children less than one year old and those with underlying conditions are the most likely to be hospitalized. These kids usually experience the respiratory distress commonly associated of COVID-19 and often need oxygen and intensive care support. As of July 11, 36 kids 14 or younger had died from the virus.

    In addition to the typical COVID-19 cases, recently there have been some frightening reports of children’s immune systems going haywire after they are exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

    Notable are reports of Kawasaki disease. Normally, Kawasaki disease affects toddlers and preschool children, causing prolonged high fever, rash, eye redness, mouth swelling and swelling of arteries in the heart. The vast majority of children that get Kawasaki disease survive when given treatments that bring down the swelling, but sadly, a few children have died from it, after exposure to the coronavirus led to the disease. Physicians don’t know what causes Kawasaki disease normally or why a coronavirus infection could trigger it.

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    In the past few months, there have also been reports of some children, after becoming infected with the coronavirus, experiencing fever and rash along with a life-threatening blood pressure drop and sudden severe heart failure. The children and teenagers with this COVID-19-related shock syndrome – now named multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C – are older than those doctors usually see with Kawasaki disease. Experts think these two illness are not the same, despite having similar features and similar treatments.

    A group of kids without masks gather around a teacher wearing a mask outside.
    Research shows that kids are able to spread the coronavirus – older children more easily than younger children.
    AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    Children as spreaders

    So if kids can catch the coronavirus, the next important question is: How easily can they spread it? Since children have milder symptoms, some experts think that children are probably not the drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, recent research has shown that most kids who catch the coronavirus get it from their parents, not other children.

    Small children may have weaker coughs and therefore would release fewer infectious virus particles into their environment. A recent study from South Korea found that while young children seem less able to spread the disease compared to adults, children 10 to 19 years old spread the virus at least as well as the adults do. The lack of evidence that children are major sources of transmission may simply be because the pathway of infection was interrupted due to the nationwide school closures in the spring. As children resume more of their normal daily activities – like school, sports and day care – we just might find the answer to how easily children spread this dangerous virus.

    Two boys in a classroom wearing masks, with one raising his hand.
    Should schools reopen if children can get sick from and spread the coronavirus?
    AP Photo/LM Otero, File

    So what now?

    The evidence clearly shows that all people, regardless of age, can get infected by SARS-CoV-2. While research shows that kids are more resistant to severe illness from the coronavirus, they are still at risk and can spread the virus even if they themselves are not sick.

    Given all this information, a question naturally arises: Should schools reopen in the coming weeks? In places where transmission rates are low, reopening schools could be a viable option. But at the present time, in the U.S., new case numbers are surging in most states. This requires a more nuanced approach than a full-scale reopening of schools.

    Since young children face low risk of getting seriously ill, are less likely to spread the disease and benefit greatly from in-person interactions, we believe in-school learning should be considered. Opening schools for elementary school children, and coming up with increasingly online options for the older grades, could be one way to approach this thorny problem.The Conversation

    Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, Professor of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease, West Virginia University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    How local governments can attract companies that will help keep their economies afloat during COVID19 — The Conversation #coronavirus

    Protestors voice their displeasure during a New York City Council hearing on Amazon’s plan to locate a headquarters in the city.
    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Bruce D. McDonald III, North Carolina State University

    As companies labor to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses that feel hemmed in by local or statewide workplace safety mandates have threatened to relocate to more accommodating locations.

    Before the pandemic, governments offered packages of tax breaks, grants and loans to entice businesses to relocate and encourage businesses to employ more people. Tax deductions allow companies to invest earnings in production and output. Economic theory suggests that the increased employment and consumption that results will spur higher rates of economic growth than what the government could have achieved with the tax revenue.

    Johnston County, North Carolina, saw just that when it lured Novo Nordisk to the area. The multinational pharmaceutical company revitalized the local economy by creating jobs and injecting new spending into the community. And in 2018, Alabama and its local governments offered more than US$800 million in incentives for the construction of a Toyota-Mazda plant outside of Huntsville. The plant is expected to bring $1.5 billion in new construction and 4,000 jobs to the region.

    As a public finance professor, I recently joined my colleagues to analyze the impact of five types of financial incentives on local economies. Though previous studies have shown that financial incentives can spark economies, we found that not all incentives improve local conditions.

    Investment tax credits, which allow businesses to deduct a percentage of their investments, research and development tax credits, offered to businesses in exchange for their engagement within the community, and property tax abatements all failed to help struggling local economies.

    It’s only when incentives are strictly tied to job creation or job training that we found positive economic impacts. That means that locales that want to attract businesses with financial incentives would do well to focus on two things: job creation tax credits and job training grants.

    Amazon, a prime example

    Local governments that decide to help finance private businesses shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on their own fiscal health.

    As Amazon searched for its HQ2 headquarters, local governments in Maryland put together incentive packages valued in the billions but with no clear plan to capture economic growth. The governments planned to receive income taxes on high employee wages, which would help defray the costs of the incentives. But the economic benefits from income taxes could take 15 to 20 years to materialize.

    People opposed to Amazon’s plan to locate a headquarters in New York City protest outside an Amazon book store.
    Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    Amazon’s planned expansion into New York City fell flat after local opposition, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, questioned the return in value to the community that the $3 billion tax incentives would have brought. Among the concerns were fears that HQ2 would drive up housing prices, increase traffic on public transportation and require increases in local taxes to cover the cost of the incentive.

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    Both Maryland and New York could have learned from our study that found incentives focused on job creation tax credits and job training grants work better than other types of incentives. These job-related incentives center on employing residents, either by helping businesses defray the cost of salaries or by funding on-the-job training programs for new employees. Both types of incentives transitioned people into better paying jobs and spurred growth.

    These findings could prove essential as states respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We’re watching North Carolina, which has provided $6 million in training grants to help hire displaced workers by allowing businesses to recover the cost of training new employees during the pandemic. It will take at least a year before the impact of this program can be measured but our research suggests that their approach is on target.

    Since the start of the outbreak, many state and municipal governments have expanded their incentive packages by adding new grants and loans for businesses to help cover operating expenses. In San Francisco, small businesses can apply for a 0% interest hardship loan of up to $50,000. Connecticut is offering loans of up to $75,000, or three months of operating expenses, to businesses impacted by the pandemic.

    For many small businesses, these grants and loans may mean the difference between reopening and failure. At least half of U.S. small businesses could fail due to pandemic if they do not receive help, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. As of June 15, more than 140,000 small businesses in the United States have already closed their doors.

    During the pandemic, the capacity of governments to afford financial incentives has emerged as a major concern. The recession has slashed state and local government coffers by reducing sales and income taxes they receive. Consequently, many governments have become fiscally unstable when demand for public services is at its highest.

    Still, the U.S. Senate has refused to bail out state and local governments, further shrinking their abilities to kick-start their economies. Absent federal action, local governments would do well to focus economic development on incentives geared towards employment and training, which provide benefits to businesses and their communities.The Conversation

    Bruce D. McDonald III, Associate Professor of Public Budgeting and Finance, North Carolina State University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    @ColoradoStateU partners with state of #Colorado on #wastewater surveillance project to track spread of #COVID19 #coronavirus

    Samples will be taken at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Collins and 19 other sites. Credit: City of Fort Collins

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jayme DeLoss):

    As COVID-19 cases start to climb again in Colorado, public health officials are seeking a scientific gauge to determine public policies and safety measures. Colorado State University researchers Susan De Long and Carol Wilusz will provide the indicator they need through a $520,000 project funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The CSU team will study a readily available source that will give them valuable insights into the infection rate of specific communities: human feces.

    Sampling wastewater is a cost-effective way to test entire communities. By studying the wastewater of communities including Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Colorado Springs, the scientists and engineers can track trends in infection rates over time.

    The proof is in the poop

    Those infected with coronavirus often don’t exhibit symptoms for 10 to 14 days, and some remain asymptomatic. Regardless of their symptoms, or lack of symptoms, within two days, they start shedding the virus in their feces. Detecting the amount of virus in a community’s waste stream can warn of an impending outbreak four days to two weeks in advance.

    “We believe this could be a promising supplemental tool for helping predict an outbreak in a community, possibly a couple of days before, so we can shift additional resources to that area,” said Nicole Rowan, clean water program manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    So far, 16 wastewater districts have signed on to the project, constituting up to 65 percent of the state’s population. The districts will take samples twice a week and send them to CSU. All of the testing will be done at CSU’s Molecular Quantification Core facility, with the ambitious goal of delivering data to the state in three days or less.

    “It’s going to be a really important dataset for our community that will help make decisions regarding public health recommendations for distancing status and shutdown status,” said De Long, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

    Wilusz, a professor and RNA biologist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, pointed out how cost-effective this method will be, with tests costing only a few cents per person.

    “We can test everyone in Fort Collins and it will cost pennies for each person,” she said.

    In the lab at CSU, a technician will filter the samples to remove solids, concentrate the viral particles that are dilute in wastewater, and extract nucleic acids from the viral particles. COVID-19 is an RNA virus, so researchers will extract the RNA and use enzymes to make DNA copies of the target specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Susan De Long works in the lab on a past project. Credit: Karen Rossmassler via Colorado State University

    “Isolating RNA from sewage is something I never thought I’d be doing,” Wilusz said. “I’ve learned a lot more about sewage than I probably ever needed to know.”

    CSU had the specialized technology in place to perform this testing, thanks to purchase of a digital PCR machine in 2015 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and other CSU units, including the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

    “The technology we are using – digital droplet PCR – is ideal for this particular application because it is resistant to the types of inhibitors found in wastewater,” Wilusz said.

    Public health agencies across the state will provide current case data for the project. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will interpret all the data and convey what they’ve found to public health professionals working on the ongoing response.

    The collaborative aims to make this information accessible with the help of Professor Mazdak Arabi, director of the One Water Solutions Institute at CSU. Arabi will create a GIS-based, interactive online map for displaying the data, incorporating socioeconomic insights to give deeper context to the results.

    A grassroots effort

    Wastewater epidemiology is not a novel concept. This method has been used to monitor polio and illegal drug use. In Colorado earlier this spring, some wastewater districts sent samples to an East Coast-based company for coronavirus testing, but it took several weeks to get results, negating any benefit from the data.

    Jason Graham, Fort Collins director of plant operations, water reclamation and biosolids, instead contacted CSU to see if the testing and analysis could be done here. “My interest in bringing CSU in was to have a local partner, reduced costs and quicker turnaround time,” he said. “I always try to partner with CSU if possible.”

    De Long saw an opportunity to expand the scope of the project beyond Fort Collins. If they were going to test local wastewater, why not also do this for the state? She reached out to Jim McQuarrie, director of strategy and innovation at Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and Liz Werth, laboratory support supervisor with Metro Wastewater, who already had organized a group of wastewater districts involved in COVID-19 testing. The CSU team was the solution to the high cost and long turnaround time that came with sending their samples out of state for analysis.

    “This is the kind of thing we should be doing at CSU because we’re a land-grant university and we serve our community,” De Long said. Initially, she didn’t know whether she would be paid for the work or if she would be able to publish findings, but it didn’t matter.

    “There’s a need here that we have the capacity to fill, we’re just going to do it,” she and her colleagues decided.

    De Long and her colleagues put their summer plans on hold and got to work, thanks to $20,000 in seed funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research and donation of a $12,000 ultrafiltration device from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District.

    De Long and Wilusz developed the protocol for this project with GT Molecular, a Fort Collins biotechnology company. GT Molecular will offer this testing service on their own to entities outside Colorado that are not covered by the project, and they are available to back up the CSU team, should the need arise.

    Of the overall $520,000 contract, $490,000 will go to CSU. The rest will go to collaborator Metro State, which will support analyses and process some of the samples.

    The light at the end of the sewage

    Along with being a harbinger of rising COVID-19 cases, this detection method also will inform officials if there is a downward trend in infections.

    “Not only is this an early warning signal for when things are getting worse, it’s a nice signal for when things are getting better,” De Long said.

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Tracking the coronavirus pandemic could soon be a bit easier because of one simple fact: everyone poops.

    Around the world , wastewater plants have become unlikely sentinels in the fight against the virus, allowing scientists to track the disease’s spread at the community level. The practice of testing sewage samples is spreading across Western U.S. states as well, with programs currently running in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

    Seeing success in large-scale wastewater testing, Colorado public health officials are finalizing the details of a program that will cover upwards of 65% of the state’s population and include more than a dozen utilities, two research universities and private biotech companies…

    People infected with the virus shed it in their stool, often days before they start feeling sick, studies show . That is, if they develop symptoms at all…

    Graham is one of the original partners in a statewide wastewater monitoring program that includes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado State and Metro State Universities, and wastewater utilities in Fort Collins, Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Estes Park, among others…

    Because the Colorado program is still in the initial phases, it’s unclear how the collected data will be used. Officials in Utah and in Tempe, Arizona, have set up public dashboards where wastewater testing data is uploaded regularly. How it will inform decision-making at the state and local level is an open question…

    Once Colorado’s program is officially up and running, tests for all the participating wastewater utilities will take place twice a week over the next year.

    The road to electric vehicles with lower sticker prices than gas cars – battery costs explained — The Conversation #ActOnClimate

    Replacing carbon-emitting gas-powered cars with EVs requires whittling away EVs’ price premium, and that comes down to one thing: battery cost.
    Westend61 via Getty Images

    Venkat Viswanathan, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Carnegie Mellon University

    Electric vehicle sales have grown exponentially in recent years, accompanied by dropping prices. However, adoption of EVs remains limited by their higher sticker price relative to comparable gas vehicles, even though overall cost of ownership for EVs is lower.

    EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles are likely to reach sticker price parity sometime in the next decade. The timing hinges on one crucial factor: battery cost. An EV’s battery pack accounts for about a quarter of total vehicle cost, making it the most important factor in the sales price.

    Battery pack prices have been falling fast. A typical EV battery pack stores 10-100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. For example, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV has a battery capacity of 16 kWh and a range of 62 miles, and the Tesla model S has a battery capacity of 100 kWh and a range of 400 miles. In 2010, the price of an EV battery pack was over $1,000 per kWh. That fell to $150 per kWh in 2019. The challenge for the automotive industry is figuring out how to drive the cost down further.

    The Department of Energy goal for the industry is to reduce the price of battery packs to less than $100/kWh and ultimately to about $80/kWh. At these battery price points, the sticker price of an EV is likely to be lower than that of a comparable combustion engine vehicle.

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    Forecasting when that price crossover will occur requires models that account for the cost variables: design, materials, labor, manufacturing capacity and demand. These models also show where researchers and manufacturers are focusing their efforts to reduce battery costs. Our group at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a model of battery costs that accounts for all aspects of EV battery manufacturing.

    From the bottom up

    Models used for analyzing battery costs are classified either as “top down” or “bottom up.” Top-down models predict cost based primarily on demand and time. One popular top-down model that can forecast battery cost is Wright’s law, which predicts that costs go down as more units are produced. Economies of scale and the experience an industry acquires over time drive down costs.

    Wright’s law is generic. It works across all technologies, which makes it possible to predict battery cost declines based on solar panel cost declines. However, Wright’s law – like other top-down models – doesn’t allow for the analysis of the sources of the cost declines. For that, a bottom-up model is required.

    The battery pack, the large gray block filling the chassis in this diagram of an electric car, contributes the most of any component to the price of an EV.
    Sven Loeffler/iStock via Getty Images

    To build a bottom-up cost model, it’s important to understand what goes into making a battery. Lithium-ion batteries consist of a positive electrode, the cathode, a negative electrode, the anode and an electrolyte, as well as auxiliary components such as terminals and casing.

    Each component has a cost associated with its materials, manufacturing, assembly, expenses related to factory maintenance, and overhead costs. For EVs, batteries also need to be integrated into small groups of cells, or modules, which are then combined into packs.

    Our open source, bottom-up battery cost model follows the same structure as the battery manufacturing process itself. The model uses inputs to the battery manufacturing process as inputs to the model, including battery design specifications, commodity and labor prices, capital investment requirements like manufacturing plants and equipment, overhead rates and manufacturing volume to account for economies of scale. It uses these inputs to calculate manufacturing costs, material costs and overhead costs, and those costs are summed to arrive at the final cost.

    Cost-cutting opportunities

    Using our bottom-up cost model, we can break down the contributions of each part of the battery to the total battery cost and use those insights to analyze the impact of battery innovations on EV cost. Materials make up the largest portion of the total battery cost, around 50%. The cathode accounts for around 43% of the materials cost, and other cell materials account for around 36%.

    Improvements in cathode materials are the most important innovations, because the cathode is the largest component of battery cost. This drives strong interest in commodity prices.

    The most common cathode materials for electric vehicles are nickel cobalt aluminum oxide used in Tesla vehicles, nickel manganese cobalt oxide used in most other electric vehicles, and lithium iron phosphate used in most electric buses.

    Nickel cobalt aluminum oxide has the lowest cost-per-energy-content and highest energy-per-unit-mass, or specific energy, of these three materials. A low cost per unit of energy results from a high specific energy because fewer cells are needed to build a battery pack. This results in a lower cost for other cell materials. Cobalt is the most expensive material within the cathode, so formulations of these materials with less cobalt typically lead to cheaper batteries.

    Inactive cell materials such as tabs and containers account for roughly 36% of the total cell materials cost. These other cell materials do not add energy content to the battery. Therefore, reducing inactive materials reduces the weight and size of battery cells without reducing energy content. This drives interest in improving cell design with innovations such as tabless batteries like those being teased by Tesla.

    The battery pack cost also decreases significantly with an increase in the number of cells manufacturers produce annually. As more EV battery factories come on-line, economies of scale and further improvement in battery manufacturing and design should lead to further cost declines.

    Road to price-parity

    Predicting a timeline for price parity with ICE vehicles requires forecasting a future trajectory of battery costs. We estimate that reduction in raw material costs, improvements in performance and learning by manufacturing together are likely to lead to batteries with pack costs below $80/kWh by 2025.

    Assuming batteries represent a quarter of the EV cost, a 100 kWh battery pack at $75 per kilowatt hour yields a cost of about $30,000. This should result in EV sticker prices that are lower than the sticker prices for comparable models of gas-powered cars.

    Abhinav Misalkar contributed to this article while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University.The Conversation

    Venkat Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Patriot militia groups mobilize during a deadly pandemic and massive protests — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus #BlackLivesMatter

    Washington Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, speaks at the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia in June. Photo credit: Jason Redmond / The High Country News

    From The High Country News [July 27, 2020] (Anna V. Smith):

    “That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice.”

    In the first weeks of June, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, a group of people who were neither demonstrators nor law enforcement began to appear in the streets. These members of the Patriot militia movement — an assortment of groups defined by antigovernment, pro-gun and conspiracy-driven ideologies — watched from the sidelines, kitted out in bulletproof vests and camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles.

    By mid-June, there had been 136 instances of paramilitary, far-right and armed militia groups or individuals attending anti-police violence protests nationwide, according to Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, militia groups and motorcycle clubs gathered in hopes of confronting antifascists who never materialized. In Oakdale, California, rumors of a Black Lives Matter protest drew members of the California State Militia but few others. In Olympia, Washington, members of the Washington State Three Percent guarded businesses, at, they said, the owners’ request, posing for a photo with a police officer. (The police department later launched an investigation into the incident.)

    The protests and concurrent pandemic have proven a boon to extremist groups looking to increase their visibility. During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, Patriot militia members — particularly those in the Three Percent — mobilized around food drives and “reopen” rallies. Then, as protests against police violence spread, Three Percenters and other Patriot militia groups positioned themselves as guardians of private property and free speech. The leadership vacuum left by state and federal authorities in recent months offered the groups an opening, allowing them to accrue clout, provide services in lieu of government action and build political influence.

    Source: Political Research Associates with the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights; research support Alexander Reid Ross
    Luna Anna Archey / High Country News

    “We’ve certainly seen a clear pivot from militia groups active in the so-called reopen protests to, now, armed security in local communities,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, deputy director of Western States Center, a politically progressive organization that promotes inclusive democracy. “That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice. We see a throughline from militia groups mobilizing to exploit the pandemic to their military presence in small towns across the West — another opening for them to try and posture as providing a service that we’d normally look to government to provide.”

    The Three Percent has been particularly visible in the Western U.S. Founded in 2008, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s administration and its perceived threat to gun rights, the movement takes its name from settler-colonial mythology: the belief that just 3% of people in the 13 British colonies took up arms to fight in the Revolutionary War (a statistic that historians dispute). Members generally describe themselves as defending individual liberty from a tyrannical government. The sprawling and decentralized movement is without a national leadership structure: Some Three Percent groups operate statewide, while others are county-based. And while some have disavowed racism, others are virulently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. Because anyone can claim the movement, a variety of activities, from violence to paramilitary training to nonprofit food drives, have been carried out beneath its banner.

    Still, several ideological tenets bind Three Percenters together. One is a refusal to obey “unjustified martial law” or a “state of emergency.” So when the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States earlier this year, some members were primed to oppose the policies enacted to curb it. As schools and businesses closed and governors issued stay-at-home orders, rumors of “medical martial law” circulated. Three Percenter Facebook pages roiled, comparing stay-at-home orders to the Holocaust, questioning the legitimacy of local and state public health decisions, predicting civil war and spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

    Threats, real or perceived, provided an opportunity for a show of strength by various Patriot militia groups. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Washington State Three Percent — which rejects the antigovernment, militia and extremist labels — delivered truckloads of goods to food banks, coordinated a dozen food drives and organized reopen rallies to address the twin problems of food insecurity and economic fallout, according to Matt Marshall, the group’s founder. Meanwhile, its Facebook posts included threats to contact tracers. As a registered nonprofit, the group is required to “be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” Marshall — a Republican currently running for the Washington House of Representatives — is on a school board; other members are on city councils and run food banks. “The purpose (of the group) is to prepare, and support the community. And, if the time ever came, defend the community,” said Marshall. “Not taking a militia-type role, but a truly grassroots support role.” Marshall is also a supporter of Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, who, last year, was found to have participated in domestic terrorism by an investigation commissioned by the Legislature.

    Patriot militia groups, who generally see themselves as good community members, often use civic engagement to gain local support and new members. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Oath Keepers mobilized to provide boats, search and rescue operations and medical care. In the Pacific Northwest, there are at least 20 instances of Three Percent and other Patriot militia groups signing up for Adopt-a-Highway, a nationwide program that promises “positive impressions when consumers know that you are doing good for the community.” In May, the Real 3%ers Idaho coordinated the distribution of 15,000 pounds of surplus potatoes donated by a farm in Reardan, Washington, according to The Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press. Armed members of the group later showed up in Coeur d’Alene during a protest against police violence.

    Washington State Three Percenters also intertwined their pandemic efforts with a political push. In May, the group posted on Facebook asking for volunteers to help with the next food drive, while also collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal Washington’s comprehensive sex education law. (In June, the petition, which was backed by anti-LGBTQ+ groups, gathered enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.) Tying ideological aims to the distribution of essential goods is problematic, Herzfeld-Copple said. “Often, part of their ideology is to replace civil infrastructure. And if they have opportunities to step in and build shadow government infrastructure, it’s not going to serve the interests of the whole community.”

    THAT CONCERN IS REFLECTED in Patriot militia groups’ presence at protests as an extrajudicial authority, which they point to as another example of fulfilling a civic duty. At a Black Lives Matter protest in Sandpoint, Idaho, organizers denounced the armed presence of militia members as nothing but intimidation, saying they neither needed nor wanted their protection, according to The Sandpoint Reader.

    The mayor of Sandpoint echoed this in a statement: “Civilians have legal authority to use firearms for self-protection, not vigilante justice. It is the job and responsibility of the police to enforce the laws and protect the city from looting or violence.”

    In the past, militia groups have directed their ire and conspiracy theories primarily at the federal government, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism, who has been studying the groups since the 1990s. Now, for the first time, they have someone in office to stand behind. President Donald Trump has broad support within the militia movement, so groups have turned to state-level issues, focusing especially on laws limiting access to guns. In 2018, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers campaigned for an ordinance that would allow county sheriffs to disregard gun laws they deemed unconstitutional. (It passed in eight Oregon counties.) This year, Three Percenters in Oregon, Idaho and Washington are running for county commissioner, state representative and sheriff.

    Members of the Patriot militia movement watched the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia, Washington, in June.
    Jason Redmond / High Country News

    Researchers say Patriot militia group leaders are political extremists, who operate as such. “They contribute to a conflictual understanding of politics,” said Sam Jackson, who researches antigovernment extremism at the University at Albany and is the author of an upcoming book on the Oath Keepers, “where there are enemies across the political divide, and we’re in a battle against those enemies, and we need to be prepared to use whatever means necessary against those enemies.”

    Watchdogs expect Patriot militia groups to mobilize around this year’s election. It has happened before: In 2016, after candidate Donald Trump falsely claimed voter fraud, Oath Keepers showed up at polling stations. In Portland, Oregon, in 2017, the local Republican Party voted to hire Three Percenters and Oath Keepers to provide event security. This year, amid ongoing waves of the pandemic and with some states halting their reopening, “there is going to be so much distraction and calls for voter suppression by the White House between now and November,” Herzfeld-Copple said. “There are going to be lots of openings for antidemocratic groups to seize.”

    Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at

    Leprino Foods Greeley, Colo., plant recognized for its focus on sustainability — The Fence Post

    Leprino Foods headquarters in North Denver.

    From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadechek):

    Leprino Foods Company in Greeley, Colo., has earned a 2020 sustainability award for its outstanding dairy processing and manufacturing, and has been recognized (as one of six dairy businesses across the U.S.) as a “technologically advanced and environmentally friendly dairy manufacturing facility improving the well-being of people, animals and the planet.”

    Leprino, headquartered in Denver, is a global leader in the production of premium-quality cheese and dairy ingredients. The awards program, managed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, was established under the leadership of dairy farmers, through their checkoff, and dairy companies.

    Leprino’s employees are credited with earning this impressive award.

    “We were very surprised and honored to have our employees’ hard work recognized by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Every employee has contributed to our success in both Greeley and across our operations — starting at the top. Our leadership is committed to global responsibility and reinforcing the importance of sustainability in how we operate, every day,” said Adam Wylie, associate director of environment and global responsibility at Leprino Foods. “We have worked diligently over the past several years, but our work isn’t done. We will continue to focus on sustainability as part of the core values and priorities of our company.”

    The Greeley plant is built on an abandoned sugar-processing factory site, and is Leprino Foods’ newest facility. The company purchased the Greeley property in 2008, then began construction in 2010.

    The plant has approximately 550 employees and produces mozzarella cheese, nonfat dry milk, and several nutrition ingredients including whey protein isolate, lactose, native whey and micellar casein.

    “Leprino Foods is the largest producer of mozzarella cheese in the world and a leading manufacturer of lactose, whey protein and sweet whey,” said Leprino Foods Company President Mike Durkin. “Our commitment to sustainable operations allowed us to improve environmental performance while simultaneously reducing costs, enhancing worker safety, and benefiting the community.”


    Leprino’s dairy plant was recognized for relying on a combined heat and power system generating electricity from two natural gas turbines which handle 75 percent of the plant’s power needs. The plant uses technology that pulls water from milk during the cheesemaking process to clean the facility, which reduces the need for fresh water. Leprino also uses recycled water that goes through treatment, resulting in feedstock for the plant’s anaerobic digester, which in turn creates renewable biogas. Leprino management said these projects add up to $4.5 million in estimated annual energy cost savings and provided a quick return on investment…

    The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, made possible through sponsors, show appreciation to farmers, companies and organizations for their commitment to improving communities, the environment and their businesses. For this year’s awards, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognized DeLaval, Zoetis, Phibro Animal Health, Syngenta and USDA for their support.

    These awards are held annually. The next call for entries will go out this fall. A farmer or company is nominated by someone, to become eligible. More than 70 U.S. dairy farms, businesses and collaborative partnerships have been honored since 2011.

    “The program shines a light on the many ways our industry is leading the way to a more sustainable future,” said Dairy Management Inc. Executive Vice President of Global Environmental Strategy Krysta Harden, in a statement.

    From using an anaerobic digester to make cow bedding and crop fertilizer out of cow manure to using no-till and strip cropping in the fields, Twin Birch Dairy of Skaneateles, N.Y., partnered with an environmental group to safeguard good water quality in New York’s Finger Lakes, and also earned a 2020 Sustainability Award.

    Then, through genetics and breeding cows that live longer and are less susceptible to disease and illness, Rosy-Lane Holsteins of Watertown, Wis., earned a 2020 award for producing 70 more semi-tankers of milk a year; using the same inputs as other dairy farms.

    An award also went to Oregon’s largest dairy farm; Three Mile Canyon Farms of Boardman, for its closed-loop system of mint harvest byproducts included in the cows’ feed, manure — used as fertilizer, and its methane digester that produces renewable natural gas.

    When runoff and pollution from six states including Pennsylvania severely affected the Chesapeake Bay’s habitat, Turkey Hill Dairy of Pennsylvania partnered with local farms, the private and public sectors. That resulted in dairy farmers developing modern housing for cows, manure storage, tree planting, cover crops and nutrient management and improving the farms’ soil, the Chesapeake Bay, and earned a 2020 award.

    The sixth dairy award went to Sustainable Conservation, Netafim, De Jager & McRee Dairies, Western United Dairies of California, who together developed a subsurface drip irrigation system so crops can benefit from manure’s nutrients, which are applied closer to the the plants rootzone for improved growth.

    The awards are judged by an independent panel of dairy and conservation experts. Among the criteria to apply is participation and good standing in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program and use of the FARM Environmental Stewardship online tool for determining their GHG and energy footprint…

    Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at

    Is a big win for conservation a blow to climate action? — @HighCountryNews

    From The High Country News (Carl Segerstrom) [July 22, 2020]:

    As extinction and climate crises loom, the Great American Outdoors Act and recreation industry continue to rely on oil money.

    On July 22, Congress passed the biggest public-lands spending bill in half a century. The bipartisan bill, called the Great American Outdoors Act, puts nearly $10 billion toward repairing public-lands infrastructure, such as outdated buildings and dysfunctional water systems in national parks. It also guarantees that Congress will spend the $900 million it collects each year through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF. The legislation boosts access to nature, funds city parks and will pay for a significant chunk of the massive maintenance backlog on public lands in the U.S.

    But it all comes at a cost to the climate. To pay the bill’s hefty price tag, Congress is tapping revenue from the fossil fuel industry. Though the new law has been cheered by conservation groups, it fails to address either the modern crisis of climate change or the impacts of the West’s growing recreation and tourism economy on wildlife. In this way, the Outdoors Act exposes the gaps between conservation and climate activism, while providing a grim reminder of the complicated entanglements of energy, economics, climate — and now, a pandemic.

    The biggest windfall from the Great American Outdoors Act — up to $6.5 billion over five years — will go to the National Park Service. National parks are the public lands’ top tourist attraction, receiving more than 327 million visits in 2019 alone, but dwindling annual funding has left the agency with about $12 billion in overdue projects. These projects include everything from a $100 million pipeline to bring water to visitors and communities on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to routine campground and trail maintenance.

    The money will also benefit gateway communities in the West. A National Park Service analysis projects that the new legislation will create an additional 100,000 jobs over the next five years, on top of the 340,500 jobs the parks already support in nearby towns. For many places reeling from the pandemic’s economic toll on tourism, such as Whitefish, Montana, a gateway community to Glacier National Park, the bill will be a shot in the arm. Glacier has more than $100 million in overdue projects, and the infusion of money will bring new jobs after a dismal tourist season.

    The impacts also stretch beyond immediate job gains because of the way access to recreation drives economic growth in the rural West. Communities that have more protected lands nearby generally grow faster and have higher income levels, said Mark Haggerty, who researches rural economies for Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit think tank in Montana. That growth is driven by both tourism and new arrivals looking to live closer to the outdoors. “Residents and businesses want to be close to public lands,” Haggerty said. “Recreational amenities can attract high-wage jobs.”

    Federal public lands aren’t the only places that will benefit from the bill. Since 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has paid for a variety of outdoor projects around the country with taxes and royalty payments from oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Outdoors Act obliges the LCWF to spend the entire $900 million it collects each year, something that’s happened only twice in the past 50-plus years.

    With full LWCF funding, more money will be flowing from federal coffers to local projects. In urban areas, like the South Park neighborhood in Seattle, the fund recently paid for new playground equipment and a spray zone at a local park. Out in the country, the program typically finances projects to protect habitat and improve public access, as at Tenderfoot Creek in Montana, where the fund paid for more than 8,000 acres to be transferred from private to public ownership by 2015.

    BUT RISING RECREATION COMES AT A COST for critters. Recent studies have shown that it poses a serious threat to the very wildlife that draws people to backcountry trails. In Vail, Colorado, a town built around access to nature and outdoor sports, local elk herds have been in precipitous decline, a phenomenon biologists attribute to more people tromping through the woods. In Idaho, snowmobilers and federal land managers are battling over whether to reroute the machines to save wolverines. And a recent review by the California Department of Fish and Game found that vulnerable species can be pushed to extinction by expanding human activity on public lands.

    Supporters of the Outdoors Act see securing LWCF funding as vital for conservation. “It’s the best and virtually only tool for protecting land for wildlife,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, the leader of the National Wildlife Federation’s public-lands program. But that doesn’t mean that recreation’s impacts are being ignored, Stone-Manning said. “We need to protect open spaces, then we need to get smart about managing the impact of recreation on wildlife.”

    Oil burns during a controlled oil fire in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, following the April 20, 2010, explosion on Deepwater Horizon. The Great American Outdoors Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund depend on the oil and gas industry. This leaves both funds vulnerable should the U.S. transition away from fossil fuels or if production drops for other reasons, like the current pandemic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Justin E. Stumberg/Released)

    Even as many rural Western communities grapple with an economic future tied to recreation, the Outdoors Act underlines the enduring legacy of American dependence on fossil fuels. The $9.5 billion set aside for the public-lands maintenance backlog will come from revenue paid by private companies that produce energy — from both fossil and renewable sources — on federal lands and waters. At first glance, this appears to be a shift away from the LWCF’s funding model, which depends solely on offshore oil and gas income. But for now at least, most of the money will still come from fossil fuel production: In 2019, for example, federal offshore wind energy generated just over $410 million in revenue, a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $9 billion from fossil fuels on federal land and waters.

    Reliance on oil production to pay for parks ignores the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to preserve a livable climate. “You have to give kudos to the Republicans for shifting the conversation so far to the right that the premise has been agreed to that we should fund conservation with the destruction of the earth,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

    Because they depend on the oil and gas industry, the LWCF and park maintenance are vulnerable should the U.S. transition away from fossil fuels, or if production drops for another reason, like the current pandemic. (Compared to the same time period in 2019, onshore oil and gas royalty receipts dropped 53% and offshore royalties plummeted by 84% in April 2020.) The arrangement also provides rhetorical cover for energy executives. “These programs underscore the need to continue safe development of domestic offshore energy reserves,” said American Petroleum Institute Vice President Lem Smith in a press release cheering the Senate passage of the bill. “Policies that end or limit production in federal waters would put these essential conservation funds in doubt.”

    Even as Congress relies on the fossil fuel industry to pay for conservation projects, legislative frameworks that recognize the climate and extinction crises are intertwined are emerging. Recently proposed initiatives like the “roadmap for climate action” put forward by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the 30 by 30 resolution, a Senate push to protect 30% of U.S. land and oceans by 2030, tie climate action to land and wildlife conservation. And proposals for different funding models for conservation, including a “backpack tax” on outdoor apparel and equipment that would shift some conservation costs to recreationists, have been proposed for decades.

    All of these plans are a far cry from the bill currently being celebrated as a major win for conservation and public lands. “We need to be sure we’re not pretending our work is done; this money is not a panacea for reaching conservation goals,” said Kate Kelly, the director of public lands for the Center for American Progress and an Obama-era Interior Department senior adviser, who supports the bill. “The funding model needs to be re-examined and reimagined.” Moving forward, addressing climate change and biodiversity loss requires acknowledging that the crises are inextricable. “The climate and conservation communities haven’t always coordinated, and that needs to change,” Kelly said. “They’re two sides of the same coin.”

    Carl Segerstrom is an assistant editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington. Email him at

    R.I.P. Peter Green: “I could tell you about my life. And keep you amused I’m sure”

    Peter Green Bliston England, 2009. By Tony Hisgett –, CC BY 2.0,

    From Rolling Stone (Daniel Kreps):

    Peter Green, guitarist and co-founding member of Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 73.

    Green’s family confirmed his death in a statement to the BBC, “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”

    Green was one of eight Fleetwood Mac members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998; the blues guitarist also placed number 58 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list.
    The London-born blues guitarist first came to prominence beginning in 1965 when he was handpicked as Eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. “He might not be better [than Clapton] now. But you wait… he’s going to be the best,” Mayall told his producer at the time.

    Two years later, Green and fellow Bluesbreaker and drummer Mick Fleetwood formed their own band, later to be known simply as Fleetwood Mac; the pair would later recruit another veteran of the Bluesbreakers, bassist John McVie.

    With Green at the helm, this early blues rock incarnation of Fleetwood Mac released three albums, beginning with their 1968 self-titled debut. The instrumental “Albatross,” a non-LP, Green-penned single, would reach Number One on the British singles chart soon after, with a follow-up single “Man of the World” peaking at Number Two. Green also wrote the band’s 1968 single “Black Magic Woman,” which later became a hit for Santana.

    Following 1968’s Mr. Wonderful, Green’s Fleetwood Mac released their most revered album, 1969’s Then Play On.

    Interview: “If we carry on with business as usual, we’re going to destroy ourselves” — Jane Goodall #ActOnClimate

    Dame Jane Goodall in Tanzania. By Muhammad Mahdi Karim – Own work, GFDL 1.2,

    From (Jeff Beradelli). Here’s an excerpt:

    CBS News recently spoke to Goodall over a video conference call and asked her questions about the state of our planet. Her soft-spoken grace somehow helped cushion what was otherwise extremely sobering news: “I just know that if we carry on with business as usual, we’re going to destroy ourselves. It would be the end of us, as well as life on Earth as we know it,” warned Goodall…

    Dr. Jane Goodall: Well, the thing is, we brought this on ourselves because the scientists that have been studying these so-called zoonotic diseases that jump from an animal to a human have been predicting something like this for so long. As we chop down at stake tropical rainforest, with its rich biodiversity, we are eating away the habitats of millions of animals, and many of them are being pushed into greater contact with humans. We’re driving deeper and deeper, making roads throughout the habitat, which again brings people and animals in contact with each other. People are hunting the animals and selling the meat, or trafficking the infants, and all of this is creating environments which are perfect for a virus or a bacteria to cross that species barrier and sometimes, like COVID-19, it becomes very contagious and we’re suffering from it.

    But we know if we don’t stop destroying the environment and disrespecting animals — we’re hunting them, killing them, eating them; killing and eating chimpanzees in Central Africa led to HIV/AIDS — there will be another one. It’s inevitable…

    We have to have a different kind of economy, we need a different way of thinking about what is success. Is it just about having more and more money, more and more stuff, being able to show off to your friends, and the wasteful society we live in? We waste clothes, we waste food, we waste laptops and cellphones. That pollutes the environment. So we’ve got to think differently, haven’t we?


    As I think you know, I began a program for young people back in 1991 called Roots and Shoots because young people had lost hope in the future. I’ve met them all over the world. They were mostly apathetic and didn’t seem to care. Or they were angry or deeply depressed and they told me they felt like that because we compromised their future and there was nothing they could do about it. And we have compromised their future. We’ve been stealing it for years and years. And yes, we still are still stealing it today. But when they said there was nothing they could do I thought, no, that’s not right. We got this window of time. If we all get together, take action, we can start healing some of the harm, we can start slowing down climate change and we can work on educating people.

    Electoral College benefits whiter states, study shows — The Conversation

    A congressional staffer opens the boxes containing the Electoral College ballots in January 2017.
    Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

    William Blake, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    States can force members of the Electoral College to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state’s presidential primary, the Supreme Court recently ruled. The July 6 decision removed one of the two reasons why the framers of the U.S. Constitution created this election system: to empower political elites who may know more about the candidates than ordinary voters. Now, the founders’ only remaining justification for the Electoral College is structural racism.

    Though the Electoral College has changed since it was first used to elect George Washington to the presidency in 1789, my research shows that the system continues to give more power to states whose populations are whiter and more racially resentful.

    Electoral College myths and realities

    The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College in large part because they feared voters would not know all the candidates who would be running for president. In that era, most people never left their home states, so they were not likely to know candidates from other states.

    The founders did not foresee the development of political parties and campaigns, which help teach voters about their options. Instead, Alexander Hamilton argued that those serving in the Electoral College would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment” needed to choose a president.

    With its recent decision, the Supreme Court has abandoned the possibility that electors might vote for people other than the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state.

    [Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]

    The other reason for the Electoral College was to bridge a major divide among the states: slavery. As James Madison said at the Constitutional Convention: “[T]he great division of interests in the U. States did not lie between the large & small States; it lay between the Northern & Southern” because of “their having or not having slaves.”

    The original 13 U.S. colonies and their territorial changes from 1782 to 1802.
    The 13 colonies had competing land claims in the early years of the United States.
    Kmusser, CC BY

    Race in early America

    By the time the founders discussed how to pick a president, they had already made the so-called “three-fifths compromise,” counting enslaved people as three-fifths of a person in the census and allotting seats in the House of Representatives accordingly. That gave Southern slave states an advantage over the Northern states in the House.

    Slave states – with many people and with fewer – insisted on the Electoral College to preserve this advantage to give them a similar advantage in presidential selection. Ultimately, delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided that each state would receive votes in the Electoral College equal to their representation in both houses of Congress.

    As a result, after the 1790 census, Virginia got 21 electoral votes and Pennsylvania got 15, though both were home to just over 110,000 free white male adults, who were then the only Americans allowed to vote. That’s because Virginia had 292,627 enslaved residents, to Pennsylvania’s 3,737, the country’s very first census shows.

    Similarly, South Carolina and New Hampshire had nearly identical numbers of free white men – right around 36,000. But South Carolina got two more electoral votes, for a total of eight, because more than 100,000 enslaved people lived there, compared to New Hampshire’s 158 enslaved people.

    Congressman Samuel Thatcher of Massachusetts.
    U.S. Rep. Samuel Thatcher, in 1806.
    Fevret de Saint Memin/Wikimedia Commons

    In 1803, the 1800 census was about to shift the balance even more toward slave states. Representative Samuel Thatcher of Massachusetts complained that counting enslaved people added significant numbers to the slave states’ delegations.

    The slavery bonus ensured that the nation’s first 18 presidential elections delivered a slave-owner as either president, vice president or both. Only in 1860, with the victory of Abraham Lincoln from Illinois and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, did a team of Northern politicians manage to beat the Electoral College’s skew toward white Southerners.

    After the Civil War

    Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment removed the three-fifths clause, and the 15th Amendment should have protected African Americans’ legal right to vote. But that didn’t fix the Electoral College’s anti-Black bias. It actually made the problem worse, because Southern state governments were happy to get the representation from their large numbers of Black citizens – while keeping them from voting through discriminatory practices like literacy tests and poll taxes.

    Judicial decisions at the time upheld Jim Crow restrictions on the right to vote, but those practices are illegal today.

    This system benefited the Democratic Party, which was dominant in the South. Republicans tried to counter that power by strategically admitting new states from the Great Plains and Mountain West. In part because of racially disparate postwar settlement policies, these states – such as Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming – were unusually thinly populated, heavily white and reliably Republican.

    A woman looks at papers.
    Staff of the House of Representatives review Illinois’ Electoral College vote report in January 2017.
    Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Race and the Electoral College now

    Those statehood decisions made a century and a half ago still reverberate today. States with smaller populations have more electoral votes per resident because, no matter how few people they might have, they still get two senators and one House member.

    I recently performed a quantitative analysis of race and the allocation of electoral votes. The data indicate that whiter states consistently wield more electoral power partly because of their population.

    On average, as a state’s racial composition gets whiter, its electoral power increases. For instance, in 2016, North Dakota was the seventh whitest state and 47th on the list in terms of adult population. It had more than 5.2 electoral votes per million adult residents, when an average state had just 2.2 electoral votes per million adult residents. According to my analysis, a state that is 10% whiter than the average state tends to have one extra electoral vote per million adult residents than the average state.

    I also found that states whose people exhibit more intense anti-Black attitudes, based on their answers to a series of survey questions, tend to have more electoral votes per person.

    Statistically speaking, if two states’ population numbers indicate each would have 10 electoral votes, but one had substantially more racial resentment, the more intolerant state would likely have 11.

    This is not an ironclad rule, and the inherent bias isn’t always decisive. For instance, Donald Trump owes his presidency to winning Wisconsin, a state that is whiter than the average state, but that has slightly less electoral votes per capita than average.

    In addition, the centuries-old racial bias in the Electoral College could disappear with future population changes. Perhaps other states with relatively few people will follow the pattern of Nevada, whose population has recently become larger and more racially diverse. But the Electoral College remains a system born from white supremacy that will likely continue to operate in a racially discriminatory fashion.The Conversation

    William Blake, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    CU Boulder Center for Environmental Journalism welcomes new class of fellows

    Congratulations to friend of Coyote Gulch, Grace Hood.

    Here’s the release From the University of Colorado:

    The Center for Environmental Journalism is proud to welcome its 24th class of Ted Scripps Fellows, who will spend nine months at the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information working on long-term, in-depth journalistic projects and reflecting on critical questions.

    The group brings a depth of experience across a range of media, with backgrounds covering local issues as a public radio reporter and a photojournalist, overseeing a non-profit news organization and a science magazine, and reporting abroad as a Moscow correspondent.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome these incredibly accomplished journalists to the Center for Environmental Journalism,” said Tom Yulsman, CEJ director. “We gain as much from their presence as they do from spending a year at the university.”

    The 2020-21 Class of Ted Scripps Fellows in Environmental Journalism includes:

    Vasquez Boulevard/ Interstate 70 Superfund site. Map view via

    Stacy Feldman, co-founder of InsideClimate News (ICN), a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-profit news organization providing reporting and analysis on climate change, energy and the environment. Serving as executive editor from 2015 to 2020, she’s spent the past 13 years helping to build and lead ICN as it transformed from a two-person startup to an operation with nearly 20 employees and a model for national and award-winning non-profit climate journalism.

    As a fellow, she plans to study new approaches to local journalism that could help people connect environmental harm and injustice to their own health and their communities’ well-being.

    Karley Robinson with newborn son Quill on their back proch in Windsor, CO. A multi-well oil and gas site sits less than 100 feet from their back door, with holding tanks and combustor towers that burn off excess gases. Quill was born 4 weeks premature. Pictured here at 6 weeks old. Photo credit: The High Country News

    Grace Hood, who has covered water, science and energy topics across the American southwest as Colorado Public Radio’s environment and climate reporter since 2015. Throughout more than a decade in public radio, she’s profiled octogenarian voters worried about climate change, scientists tracking underground mine fires, a visually impaired marijuana farmer and a homeowner who lives next door to Colorado’s first underground nuclear fracking experiment.

    As a fellow, she plans to study how cities and states monitor air quality near oil and gas sites. She has a particular interest in the rise of citizen science when it comes to measuring air pollution across the West.

    Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, looking south toward the Brooks Range. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – (image description page), Public Domain,

    Alec Luhn, an independent journalist with a focus on the changing communities and ecosystems of the far north. Previously a Moscow correspondent for The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, he’s been published in The Atlantic, GQ, The Independent, MAXIM, The Nation, The New York Times, POLITICO, Reuters, TIME, Slate and WIRED, among others. During a decade abroad, he’s reported from the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth and covered the conflict in eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea, war-torn Syria and Chernobyl reactor four, as well as covering oil spills, permafrost thaw, reindeer herding, polar bear patrols, Gulag towns and the world’s only floating nuclear power plant in the Arctic.

    As a fellow, he plans to study how climate change and resource extraction are altering the fragile environment of the north, with deep repercussions for reindeer and caribou and the indigenous peoples that depend on them.

    Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

    Amanda Mascarelli, managing editor of Sapiens, an award-winning digital magazine that covers anthropology and archaeology for the general public. She has led the publication since before its 2016 launch and has overseen the production of hundreds of stories on topics including Holocaust archaeology, schizophrenia, fracking, cultural appropriation, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, she spent more than a decade as a freelance science journalist specializing in health and the environment. She’s been published by outlets including Audubon, Nature, New Scientist, Science, Science News for Students and The New York Times and worked as a health columnist for the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

    As a fellow, she will study the social inequalities of health in vulnerable communities in the Denver metro region and elsewhere in Colorado, with an eye to exploring the health and social impacts of industrial expansion, fossil fuel extraction, and a planned massive urban redesign.

    Center pivot sprinklers in the Arikaree River basin to irrigate corn. Each sprinkler is supplied by deep wells drilled into the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer.

    RJ Sangosti, who has been a photojournalist at The Denver Post since 2004, where he’s covered events spanning from Hurricane Katrina to presidential elections. Over more than a decade, he has documented the people and landscape of eastern Colorado, where years of drought and a loss of agricultural earning power continue to hurt farmers. Most recently, he completed a story about a Denver neighborhood in one of the country’s most polluted urban zip codes, whose residents continue to be impacted by a huge interstate construction project. His work was included in the 2012 Time Magazine top 10 photos of the year, and he was honored to be part of the 2016 jury for the centennial year of The Pulitzer Prizes.

    As a fellow, he will report on the effects pesticides and fertilizers have on aquifers and groundwater, and he hopes to gain new skills in research and writing.

    To reduce world hunger, governments need to think beyond making food cheap — The Conversation

    Iraqis buy produce at a street market in Baghdad during the COVID-19 pandemic, July 14, 2020.
    Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

    Michael Fakhri, University of Oregon and Ntina Tzouvala, Australian National University

    According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people – 8.9% of the world’s population – were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.

    If you also include the number of people who the U.N. describes as food insecure, meaning that they have trouble getting access to food, over 2 billion people worldwide are in trouble. This includes people in wealthy, middle-income and low-income countries.

    The report further confirms that women are more likely to face moderate to severe food insecurity than men, and that little progress has been achieved on this front in the past several years. Overall, its findings warn that eradicating hunger by 2030 – one of the U.N.‘s main Sustainable Development Goals – looks increasingly unlikely.

    COVID-19 has only made matters worse: The report estimates that the unfolding pandemic and its accompanying economic recession will push an additional 83 million to 182 million people into undernourishment. But based on our work serving as independent experts to the U.N. on hunger, access to food and malnutrition, under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, it’s clear to us that the virus is only accelerating existing trends. It is not driving the rising numbers of hungry and food-insecure people.

    The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) is a global reference for measuring food insecurity. SDG Indicator 2.1.2 measures progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030.

    How much should healthy food cost?

    Experts have debated for years how best to measure hunger and malnutrition. In the past, the U.N. focused almost exclusively on calories – an approach that researchers and advocacy groups criticized as too narrow.

    This year’s report takes a more thoughtful approach that focuses on access to healthy diets. One thing it found is that when governments primarily focused on making sure people had enough calories, they did so by supporting large transnational corporations and by making fatty, sweet and highly-processed foods cheap and accessible.

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    This perspective raises some important issues about the global political economy of food. As the new report points out, people who live at the current global poverty level of US$1.90 per day cannot feasibly secure access to a healthy diet, even under the most optimistic scenarios.

    More broadly, the U.N. report addresses one of the longest-running debates in agriculture: What is a fair price for healthy food?

    One thing everyone agrees on is that a plant-heavy diet is best for human health and the planet. But if prices for fruits and vegetables are too low, then farmers can’t make a living, and will grow something more lucrative or quit farming altogether. And costs eventually go up for consumers as the supply dwindles. Conversely, if the price is too high, then most people can’t afford healthy food and will resort to eating whatever they can afford – often, cheap processed foods.

    What it will take to achieve a zero-hunger world.

    The role of governments

    Food prices don’t just reflect supply and demand. As the report notes, government policies always directly or indirectly influence them.

    Some countries raise taxes at the border, making imported food more expensive in order to protect local producers and ensure a stable supply of food. Rich countries like the U.S., Canada, and in the EU heavily subsidize their farming sectors.

    Governments can also spend public money on programs like farmer education or school meals, or invest in better roads and storage facilities. Another option is to grant people living in poverty food vouchers or cash to buy food, or to ensure everyone has a basic income that allows them to cover their fundamental spending. There’s a host of ways in which governments can make sure food prices allow producers to make a living and consumers to afford healthy meals.

    The human cost of cheap food

    The U.N. report focuses on trying to make sure that food is as cheap as possible. This is limited in a number of ways.

    New research highlights that mostly focusing on cheap prices can promote environmental damage and brutal economic systems. That’s because only large corporations can afford to compete in a market committed to cheap food. As our research has shown, today and in the past, people’s access to food is usually determined by how much power is concentrated in the hands of the few.

    One current example is meatpacking plants, which have been coronavirus transmission centers in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Europe. To keep prices low, people work shoulder-to-shoulder processing meat at an incredible speed. During the pandemic, these conditions have enabled the virus to spread among workers, and outbreaks in factories have then spread the virus to nearby communities.

    New international standards allow factories to continue to operate, but in a way that protects workers. In our view, governments are not adequately enforcing these safety standards to stop the spread of the virus. Globally, four corporations – Brazil’s JBS, Tyson and Cargill in the United States, and Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods – dominate the meat-producing sector. Studies have shown that they are able to lobby and influence government policy in ways that prioritize profit over worker and community safety.

    Our work has convinced us that the best way for governments to make sure that everyone has access to good food is to view a healthy diet as a human right. This means first understanding who has the most power over food supplies. Ultimately, it means making sure that the health, safety and dignity of people who produce the world’s food is a central part of the conversation about the cost of healthy diets.The Conversation

    Michael Fakhri, Associate Professor of International Law, University of Oregon and Ntina Tzouvala, Senior Lecturer in International Law, Australian National University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    #COVID19 has resurrected single-use plastics – are they back to stay? — The Conversation #coronavirus

    Volunteers load plastic bags for a weekly food pantry service in Everett, Mass., May 10, 2020. Everett has some of the highest COVID-19 infections rates in the state.
    Joseph Prezioso /AFP via Getty Images

    Jessica Heiges, University of California, Berkeley and Kate O’Neill, University of California, Berkeley

    COVID-19 is changing how the U.S. disposes of waste. It is also threatening hard-fought victories that restricted or eliminated single-use disposable items, especially plastic, in cities and towns across the nation.

    Our research group is analyzing how the pandemic has altered waste management strategies. Plastic-Free July, an annual campaign launched in 2011, is a good time to assess what has happened to single-use disposable plastics under COVID-19, and whether efforts to curb their use can get back on track.

    California banned single-use plastic bags in 2016, but state officials waived the ban during COVID-19 quarantines because plastic was perceived as more sanitary.

    From plans to pandemic

    Over several decades leading up to 2020, many U.S. cities and states worked to reduce waste from single-use disposable objects such as straws, utensils, coffee cups, beverage bottles and plastic bags. Policies varied but included bans on Styrofoam, plastic bags and straws, along with taxes and fees on bottles and cups.

    Social norms around plastic waste have evolved quickly in the past several years. Pre-COVID-19, “Bring your own” tote bags, mugs and other foodware had become part of daily life for many consumers. Innovative startups targeting reusable foodware niches include Vessel, which partners with cafes, enabling customers to rent stainless steel to-go mugs, and DishCraft, which picks up dirty dishes from dine-in restaurants and to-go food outlets, cleans them with high-tech equipment and returns them ready for reuse.

    Just before COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, the New Jersey senate adopted a bill that would have made the state the first to ban all single-use bags made of either paper or plastic. And U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act – the first federal measure limiting use of single-use disposable items.

    COVID-19 shutdowns drastically changed all of this. In just a few weeks, plastic bags returned to grocery stores in states that had recently banned them. Even before lockdowns were official, restaurants and cafes started refusing personal reusables such as coffee mugs, reverting to plastic cups and lids, wrapped straws and condiment packets.

    By late June, cities and states had temporarily suspended almost 50 single-use item reduction policies across the U.S. – mainly bans plastic bag bans. The pandemic also spurred demand for single-use personal protective equipment, such as masks and plastic gloves. These items soon began appearing in municipal solid waste streams and discarded on streets.

    The plastic pandemic

    With legislation restricting disposables suspended, many food vendors and grocery stores have shifted entirely to disposable bags, plates and cutlery. This switch has raised their operating costs and cut further into their already-low margins.

    Grocery stores have sharply increased plastic bag usage. Households are generating up to 50% more waste by volume than they did pre-COVID-19. Anecdotal reports indicate that these waste streams contain more single-use disposable items.

    The recycling industry has weighed in on the impacts of more single-use bags and higher residential waste volumes. Waste industry workers, who have been uniformly declared essential, work in closed spaces with many other people, so even if surface transmission of coronavirus is not a serious risk, the pandemic has increased person-to-person transmission risks in the waste industry.

    Hygiene: A red herring

    The main rationale that states, cities and vendors have offered to justify switching from reusables back to disposables is hygiene. Plastic packaging, the argument goes, protects public health by keeping contents safe and sealed. Also, discarding items immediately after use protects consumers from infection.

    This narrative handily dovetails with the plastics industry’s ongoing effort to slow or derail bans and restrictions. The industry has loudly supported turning the clock back toward single-use disposable products.

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    In a March 2020 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Plastics Industry Association argued that single-use items were the “most sanitary” option for consumers. Industry representatives are actively lobbying against the Break Free From Plastics Act.

    However, studies show that these products are not necessarily safer than reusable alternatives with respect to COVID-19. The virus survives as long on plastic as it does on other surfaces such as stainless steel. What’s more, studies currently cited by the plastics industry focus on other contaminants such as E.coli and listeria bacteria, not on coronaviruses.

    Viewed more holistically, plastics generate pollutants upstream when their raw materials are extracted and plastic goods are manufactured and transported. After disposal – typically via landfills or incineration – they release pollutants that can seriously affect environmental and human health, including hazardous and endocrine disrupting chemicals.

    All of these impacts are especially harmful to minority and marginalized populations, who are already more vulnerable to COVID-19. In our view, plastic goods are far from being the most hygienic or beneficial to public health, especially over the long term.

    States with enacted plastic bag legislation as of Jan. 24, 2020. Preemption means a state has adopted a law barring state or local regulation of plastic bags – measures often promoted by the affected industry.

    Building resilience

    Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic make it hard to see the bigger picture. No longer having to remember reusable tote bags or coffee mugs can be a relief. But the quick return of single-use disposable products shows that recent restrictions are precarious, and that industries don’t cede profitable markets without a fight.

    Waste reduction advocates, such as Upstream Solutions and #BreakFreeFromPlastic, are working to gather data, educate the public and prevent decision-making about plastics that is based on perception rather than scientific reasoning. On June 22, 115 health experts worldwide released a statement arguing that reusables are safe even under pandemic conditions.

    Some governments are taking notice. In late June, California reinstated its statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and requirement for plastic bags to contain 40% recycled materials. Massachusetts quickly followed suit, lifting a temporary ban on reusable bags.

    For the longer term, it is unclear how COVID-19 disruptions will affect consumerism and waste disposal practices. In our view, one important takeaway is that while mindful consumers are part of the solution to the plastics crisis, individuals cannot and should not carry the full burden.

    We believe that at the local and federal levels, policymakers need to build cross-jurisdictional alliances, recognizing shared interests with the waste management industry and emerging businesses like Vessel and Dishcraft. To make progress on reducing plastic waste, advocates need to reinforce measures in place before the next crisis hits.The Conversation

    Jessica Heiges, PhD Candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley and Kate O’Neill, Professor, Global Environmental Politics, University of California, Berkeley

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Fed’s independence helped it save the US economy in 2008: The CDC needs the same authority today — The Conversation

    Trump with two of his top health advisers in May.
    AP Photo/Alex Brandon

    Mitchel Y. Abolafia, University at Albany, State University of New York

    The image of scientists standing beside governors, mayors or the president has become common during the pandemic. Even the most cynical politician knows this public health emergency cannot be properly addressed without relying on the scientific knowledge possessed by these experts.

    Yet, ultimately, U.S. government health experts have limited power. They work at the discretion of the White House, leaving their guidance subject to the whims of politicians and them less able to take urgent action to contain the pandemic.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines only to later revise them after the White House intervened. The administration has also undermined its top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, over his blunt warnings that the pandemic is getting worse – a view that contradicts White House talking points. And most recently, the White House stripped the CDC of control of coronavirus data, alarming health experts who fear it will be politicized or withheld.

    In the realm of monetary policy, however, there is an agency with experts trusted to make decisions on their own in the best interests of the U.S. economy: the Federal Reserve. As I describe in my recent book, “Stewards of the Market,” the Fed’s independence allowed it to take politically risky actions that helped rescue the economy during the financial crisis of 2008.

    That’s why I believe we should give the CDC the same type of authority as the Fed so that it can effectively guide the public through health emergencies without fear of running afoul of politicians.

    The paradox of expertise

    There is a paradox inherent in the relationship between political leaders and technical experts in government.

    Experts have the training and skill to apply scientific knowledge in complex biological and economic systems, yet democratically elected political leaders may overrule or ignore their advice for ill or good.

    This happened in May when the CDC, the federal agency charged with controlling the spread of disease, removed advice regarding the dangers of singing in church choirs from its website. It did not do so because of new evidence. Rather, it was because of political pressure from the White House to water down the guidance for religious groups.
    Similarly, the White House undermined the CDC’s guidance on school reopenings and has pressured it to revise them. So far, it seems the CDC has rebuffed the request.

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    The ability of elected leaders to ignore scientists – or the scientists’ acquiescence to policies they believe are detrimental to public welfare – is facilitated by many politicians’ penchant for confident assertion of knowledge and the scientist’s trained reluctance to do so.

    Compare Fauci’s repeated comment that “there is much we don’t know about the virus” with President Donald Trump’s confident assertion that “we have it totally under control.”

    Experts with independence

    Given these constraints on technical expertise, the performance of the Fed in the financial crisis of 2008 offers an informative example that may be usefully applied to the CDC today.

    The Federal Reserve is not an executive agency under the president, though it is chartered and overseen by Congress. It was created in 1913 to provide economic stability, and its powers have expanded to guard against both depression and crippling inflation.

    At its founding, the structure of the Fed was a political compromise designed make it independent within the government in order to de-politicize its economic policy decisions. Today its decisions are made by a seven-member board of governors and a 12-member Federal Open Market Committee. The members, almost all Ph.D. economists, have had careers in academia, business and government. They come together to analyze economic data, develop a common understanding of what they believe is happening and create policy that matches their shared analysis. This group policymaking is optimal when circumstances are highly uncertain, such as in 2008 when the global financial system was melting down.

    The Fed was the lead actor in preventing the system’s collapse and spent several trillion dollars buying risky financial assets and lending to foreign central banks – decisions that were pivotal in calming financial markets but would have been much harder or may not have happened at all without its independent authority.

    The Fed’s independence is sufficiently ingrained in our political culture that its chair can have a running disagreement with the president yet keep his job and authority.

    Trump slammed Fed Chair Jerome Powell repeatedly in 2019 over interest rate policy.
    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Putting experts at the wheel

    A health crisis needs trusted experts to guide decision-making no less than an economic one does. This suggests the CDC or some re-imagined version of it should be made into an independent agency.

    Like the Fed, the CDC is run by technical experts who are often among the best minds in their fields. Like the Fed, the CDC is responsible for both analysis and crisis response. Like the Fed, the domain of the CDC is prone to politicization that may interfere with rational response. And like the Fed, the CDC is responsible for decisions that affect fundamental aspects of the quality of life in the United States.

    Were the CDC independent right now, we would likely see a centralized crisis management effort that relies on the best science, as opposed to the current patchwork approach that has failed to contain the outbreak nationally. We would also likely see stronger and consistent recommendations on masks, social distancing and the safest way to reopen the economy and schools.

    Independence will not eliminate the paradox of technical expertise in government. The Fed itself has at times succumbed to political pressure. And Trump would likely try to undermine an independent CDC’s legitimacy if its policies conflicted with his political agenda – as he has tried to do with the central bank.

    But independence provides a strong shield that would make it much more likely that when political calculations are at odds with science, science wins.The Conversation

    Mitchel Y. Abolafia, Professor Of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Troubled waters: Decision to close #Colorado streams, lakes causes controversy amid ongoing pandemic — #COVID19 #coronavirus

    Clear Creek Canyon via Bob Berwyn

    From (Russell Haythorn):

    Avoiding a nightmare spike in COVID-19 cases is exactly what cities like Golden, Lakewood and Westminster are trying to prevent by cutting off or delaying access to creeks and swim beaches.

    Their decision is understandable. It’s also frustrating for people who planned on hitting the water to beat the heat and get away from crowds…

    …Clear Creek through Golden is now shut down due to overcrowding and coronavirus health concerns, and so are several metro-area reservoirs including Bear Creek Reservoir, Cherry Creek Reservoir, Big Soda Lake and Standley Lake…

    …last Friday, the City of Westminster announced it would be delaying the opening of Standley Lake.

    Chatfield Reservoir can hold more than 350,000 acre-feet of flood water in emergency situations, but its current capacity is only 27,000 acre-feet of water, the equivalent of 8.8 billion gallons.

    From Out There Colorado (Breanna Sneeringer):

    All water-based recreation activities such as paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking will be off-limits at Bear Creek Lake Park until further notice. The temporary closure applies to two popular swim beaches located within the Jefferson County park including Big Soda Lake and Bear Creek Reservoir…

    Other swim beaches in the metro area including Chatfield State Park and Aurora Reservoir have reopened with restrictions and limited capacities.

    Meanwhile, Cherry Creek State Park has recently closed their swim area due to harmful levels of blue-green algae. Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs was also closed for the same reason.

    Find the opportunities during #drought — The Fence Post

    Cattle in a pasture along the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Fence Post (Teresa Clark):

    In his own operation, [Jim] Faulstich has used drought to improve genetics and clean up problem animals. He keeps two herds of cattle. The second group of cows are ones with problems like big bags, bad eyes or a not so perfect disposition. He keeps these cows with his heifers and breeds them for a short season. “If I need to pull the trigger because it’s dry and we don’t have enough forage, I can easily disperse those,” he said. “It’s nice to have that option.”

    Haigh reminds producers how important it is to maximize the health and flexibility of an operation before drought. “Monitor the health of resources and precipitation, as well as soil moisture and the plant, itself,” she said. “Maximizing the health of resources can be through the grazing system or adjusting the stocking rate and resource base. Maximizing the hydrologic base and plant diversity in the rangeland system are also important.”

    Faulstich sees drought as an opportunity to improve infrastructure and natural resources on the ranch. “During a drought, the government will usually step forward with emergency cost-share programs,” he said. “I take advantage of that by putting in waterlines and new water sources. On our operation, we have made natural resources a priority. As a result, we have an increase in wildlife, which is a good indicator of how healthy our land is.”

    Drought has also shown Faulstich the importance of wetlands, and how they can be used to survive a drought. “Wetlands have saved us a number of times when it is dry,” he said. “We have windrowed cattails, chopped them up and poured molasses on them. One winter, we fed them to the cows along with some ear corn I was able to buy.”

    “While we can’t control whether or not it rains, we can control what we do before, during and after drought,” Haigh said. “Recovery can really change the impact drought can have. The more we can do to minimize the impact, the better off we are.”


    A drought plan could be more accurately called a disaster plan, Faulstich said, because it should also cover other disasters like fire, storms and insect damage. “Every operation is different, so there is no drought plan that will be the exact same as someone else. It applies to large operations as well as small ones,” he said “Profitability, sustainability, and resilience are all important to the ranching business, and they require working with nature, diversity, flexibility and soil health.”

    In a drought situation, Faulstich said the decisions made are the result of basic business plans he learned the hard way. He points out a photo from his own operation where a piece of land looks grazed to the ground. “It was actually one of the nicest pieces we ever had. It was 18 inches to 2 feet tall, and then we got snow and 3 inches of rain on it. It formed a layer of ice and was just like concrete. There was no grazing left. It was our winter pasture, and if we wouldn’t have had a drought plan, we wouldn’t have been prepared for it,” he said. “It is situations like this that bring us that much closer to be ready for a drought.”

    Another year, they left one acre plots of corn in the field, harvesting strips in-between those one acre plots. “We moved those cows every day, but it was the cheapest we had ever wintered cows. We grazed 320 cows per acre per day,” he said. “A lot of it was poor quality corn where some didn’t tassel or make ears. It was a way to utilize that.”

    Faulstich also paid for three hay sheds in three years many years ago by selling hay to a dairy farmer in another state suffering from drought. “We keep those three hay sheds full. Our goal is to never use any of that hay, but of course we do. Some of it in one of the buildings is pretty old, and will need some supplement fed with it, but another shed has some top quality alfalfa” he said.

    Between harvested feed, grazing grass and standing crops, Faulstich keeps a year’s supply of forage available at all times. He has also used planning to establish flexibility in his operation. A custom grazing program was added to the operation that allows him to graze yearlings on a piece of invasive bromegrass in the spring, without having to invest in the cattle or worry about rain. “It is built into the contract that they have two weeks to remove the cattle if we are running out of grazing,” he said. “It provides us some flexibility from a drought standpoint, while giving us some enterprise opportunity.”

    — Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at

    5 #COVID19 myths politicians have repeated that just aren’t true — The Conversation #coronavirus

    The purveyors of these myths aren’t doing the country any favors.
    Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    Geoffrey Joyce, University of Southern California

    The number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has jumped to around 50,000 a day, and the virus has killed more than 130,000 Americans. Yet, I still hear myths about the infection that has created the worst public health crisis in America in a century.

    The purveyors of these myths, including politicians who have been soft peddling the impact of the coronavirus, aren’t doing the country any favors.

    Here are five myths I hear as director of health policy at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer Center that I would like to put to rest.

    Myth: COVID-19 is not much worse than the flu

    President Donald Trump and plenty of pundits predicted early on that COVID-19 would prove no more lethal than a bad flu. Some used that claim to argue that stay-at-home orders and government-imposed lockdowns were un-American and a gross overreaction that would cost more lives than they saved.

    By the end of June, however, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that national antibody testing indicated 5% to 8% of Americans had already been infected with the virus. With over 130,000 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths – and that’s likely an undercount – the case fatality rate is around 0.49% to 0.78% or about four to eight times that of the flu.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who also downplayed COVID-19 as the death toll grew, calling it a “little flu,” announced on July 7 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

    Myth: Cases are increasing because testing is increasing

    At one point, the idea that COVID-19 case numbers were high because of an increase in testing made intuitive sense, especially in the early stages of the pandemic when people showing up for tests were overwhelmingly showing symptoms of possible infection. More testing meant health officials were aware of more illnesses that would have otherwise gone under the radar. And testing predominately sick and symptomatic people can result in an overestimate of its virulence.

    Now, with millions of tests conducted and fewer than 10% coming back positive, the U.S. knows what it is facing. Testing today is essential to finding the people who are infected and getting them isolated.

    Unfortunately, Trump has been a leading purveyor of the myth that we test too much. Fortunately, his medical advisers disagree.

    Myth: Lockdowns were unnecessary

    Given the current spike in infections after reopening the economy, more people are arguing that the lockdowns were unsuccessful in crushing the virus and shouldn’t have been implemented at all. But what would the country look like today if state governments had tried to build herd immunity by letting the disease spread rather than promoting social distancing, prohibiting large gatherings and telling the elderly to stay home?

    Most epidemiologists who study pandemics believe that reaching herd immunity could only be achieved at enormous cost in terms of illness and death. About 60% or 70% of Americans would have to become infected before the spread of the virus diminished. That would result in 1 to 2 million U.S. deaths and 5 to 10 million hospitalizations.

    These are horrific, yet conservative estimates, given that mortality rates would surely rise if that many people were infected and hospitals were overrun.

    Myth: The epidemiological models are always wrong

    It is not surprising that many people are confused by the proliferation of predictions about the course of the virus. How many people become infected depends on how individuals, governments and institutions respond, which is hard to predict.

    Faced with the warning early in the pandemic that 1 to 2 million Americans could die if the U.S. simply let the coronavirus run its course, federal and state governments imposed restrictions to constrain the spread of the virus. Then, they relaxed those restrictions as new cases ebbed and pressure mounted to reopen the economy.

    Now, they must consider reimposing some of those restrictions as infection rates rise in a majority of states, including Texas, Arizona, Florida and California. The models were based on data and assumptions at that time, and likely influenced responses which in turn changed underlying conditions. For example, new cases of COVID-19 are rising in the U.S., while fatalities are falling. This reflects a shift in infection rates toward younger populations, as well as improved treatment as providers learn more about the virus.

    Just like an investment disclaimer that past returns do not guarantee future performance, modeling a pandemic should be seen as suggestive of what might happen given current information and not a law of nature.

    Myth: It’s a second wave

    Sadly, the myth here is that we have contained the virus enough to buy time to prepare for a second wave. In fact, the first wave just keeps getting bigger.

    A second wave would require a trough in the first wave, but there is little evidence of that from either an epidemiologic or economic perspective.

    During the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, the weekly UK death toll from influenza and pneumonia, shown here, reflected three clear waves.
    Taubenberger JK, Morens DM. 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(1)

    The U.S. recorded a record number of new cases during the first week of July, exceeding 50,000 per day for four straight days. The rising number of cases led several states to halt or roll back their reopening plans in hopes of stemming the spread of the virus.

    Meanwhile, most consumers are reticent to return to “normal” economic activity: Fewer than one-third of adults surveyed by Morning Consult in early July were comfortable going to a shopping mall. Only 35% were comfortable going out to eat, and 18% were comfortable going to the gym. For almost half of the population, an effective treatment or vaccine may be the only way they will feel comfortable returning to “normal” economic activity.

    COVID-19 is an immediate threat that requires a unified, science-based response from governments and citizens to be successful. But it is also an opportunity to rethink how we prepare for future pandemics. Some misinformation is inevitable as a new virus emerges, but perpetuating myths for political or other reasons ultimately costs lives.

    [The Conversation’s most important coronavirus headlines, weekly in a new science newsletter.]The Conversation

    Geoffrey Joyce, Director of Health Policy, USC Schaeffer Center, and Associate Professor, University of Southern California

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Photo gallery: #Colorado’s Revolutionary Fireworks — Greg Hobbs

    Colorado’s Revolutionary Fireworks

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    Greg and Bobbie Hobbs July 3, 2020

    (Harvard Gulch Park and Washington Park)

    Why some people argue we should find another name for Gore Range — The Mountain Town News

    Big snows coated the Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

    With word that the Governor has appointed a Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, Allen Best dug this post out of The Mountain Mail archives. Sir St. George Gore is the villain of this story:

    Renaming of Gore Range gathers local support

    Might less Gore be more in north-central Colorado? That’s the proposal from Summit County, where part of the county line is defined by the range of 13,000-foot peaks. It’s called the Gore Range.

    There’s a Gore Creek that flows through Vail and then farther north, a Gore Canyon, where the Colorado River thrashes its way through the range, the steepest three or four miles of descent in the river’s 1,450 mile journey. There’s also a crossing, Gore Pass, and a brass plaque is affixed to a granite boulder remembers an Irish baronet after whom all these Gores are named.

    The baronet, Sir St. George Gore, traveled to the United States in 1854 and hired Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man and guide, to show him the sights and lead him to rich hunting grounds.

    It was an extravagant expedition. His entourage included a valet, an expert at tying flies, a dog-handler, 20 greyhounds and foxhounds, 100 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, and 4 Conestoga wagons, each pulled by 6 mules.

    Jeff Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado, in a 2010 op-ed in the Vail Daily, further noted that Gore had an arsenal of 75 rifles, a dozens shotguns and many pistols.

    There were also abundant creature comforts: a carpet, a brass bedstead, a carved marble washstand, and a big bathtub. There were also enough men, 40 altogether, to create the hot water needed to make a bath in the wilderness, a luxury.

    If Lord Gore, as he was remembered colloquially, suffered few wilderness discomforts, he caused great pain to the wildlife that came within range of his armory during his three years in the West. He claimed to have killed 2,000 bison, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.

    In his first summer, he ventured as far as today’s Kremmling, but then spent the next two years in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas before returning across the Atlantic Ocean.

    Shouldn’t this princely geography be named for somebody more deserving? Or maybe something altogether, perhaps a name given it by the Utes who lived there?

    (Although it should be noted that when John Fremont traveled through the Blue River Valley in June 1844, he saw much evidence of Arapahoe Indians, too, and a few miles away, in South Park, turned down an invitation from the Utes to join in a battle with the Arapahoes).

    Mitton, in his 2010 op-ed, proposed keeping the same name—but to honor a different Gore, as in the former U.S. vice president named Al, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to heighten public awareness about climate change.

    “All that we have to do is to mount a new plaque on the granite boulder on Gore Pass,” he said.

    Now comes the efforts of Summit County resident Leon Joseph Littlebird, who has persuaded county officials to take up the cause.

    “It’s one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas we have,” Littlebird recently told the Summit Daily News. “Considering Lord Gore was a pretty bad dude —the stories are really horrible, really scary —it would be great to see it recognized as what it really is, instead of for a guy like that.”

    Summit County has adopted a resolution seeking a name change. It has received support from the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, a local group, and the Colorado Mountain Club. A meeting was planned for Monday night to take public input, including ideas on what the range should be named.

    The final arbiter in such matters is the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, an agency nested within the U.S. Geological Survey. John Wesley Powell was second director of that agency, from 1891 to 1894. His name lingers on Mt. Powell, which is the range’s highest peak, at 13,586 feet.

    Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at or 303.463.8630.

    2020 #COleg: Gov. Polis signed into law Monday a bill that provides $1 million to support @COParksWildlife’s development of #Colorado’s next state park.

    Fishers Peak. By Michelle Goodall from Trinidad, USA – Fishers peakUploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Bill Vogrin):

    In a sun-soaked open space flanked by 9,633-foot Fishers Peak, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Monday a bill that provides $1 million to support Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s development of Colorado’s next state park.

    As state and local officials looked on, Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 3, which provides $1 million to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop the 19,200 acres surrounding Fishers Peak near Trinidad in Colorado’s next state park. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin

    Polis called the funding critical toward achieving his goal of CPW opening the 19,200-acre park to the public as the 42 state park.

    The governor also called the next state park an economic engine that will drive the economy of Trinidad and the region as he signed Senate Bill 3 in front of a small group of lawmakers and dignitaries including Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Department of Natural Resources, and CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

    “This is a big day because developing our 42nd state park is not as simple as opening the gates and inviting the public,” Prenzlow said. “CPW parks staff, wildlife and aquatic biologists, engineers, wildlife managers and all our partners are deep into the process of transforming this former ranch into a showplace for all who might want to recreate here.

    “CPW staff is committed to meeting the governor’s challenge to open this park by 2021 by accelerating the designing and construction of state parks from a multi-year process down to a single year. This funding will help us expedite the process. I’m confident when we finally open these gates, the public will be thrilled at the park that will greet them.”

    Gibbs and Prenzlow were joined by Representatives Daneya Esgar and Perry Will, local government and business officials from Trinidad and Las Animas County as well as leaders of CPW’s non-profit partners The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), each playing a critical role in the purchase of the Fishers Peak property.

    “We could not have gotten this far without the hard work of our partners from GOCO, the City of Trinidad, TNC and TPL,” Prenzlow said. “Nor could this happen without our partners in the Legislature and in the hunting and fishing communities who provided millions in revenue from hunting and fishing license sales.”

    In February 2019, CPW partnered with the City of Trinidad, TNC, TPL and GOCO to purchase the mostly undeveloped property, prized for its variety of habitat, wildlife and the linkage it provides between grasslands to the east with foothills and mountains to the west.

    On April 2, the partners signed over ownership of the property to CPW and the agency, with its partners, immediately ramped up master-planning efforts to create a park that will protect the natural treasures and wildlife found there while welcoming visitors, including hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, wildlife watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

    For months, biologists have been combing the property to inventory the flora and fauna. Among their discoveries was the presence of the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. In 2014, the mouse was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to loss of habitat and low population numbers.

    Bird surveys continue and are going well; biologists believe they have found a potential golden eagle nest as well as a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. They also report owl sightings.

    Herptile surveys have found an unusual lizard species, a variable skink, making the property likely the only state park with this species.

    Biologists have also deployed dozens of trail cameras across the property to study everything moving on the ground. There’s even coordinated weed-mapping underway with experts studying plants to formulate the appropriate seed mixture to use when landscaping areas of the park.

    The information gathered will then be combined with research into the archaeological and cultural history of the property. Next comes the public process as planners gather input to set management goals for the property and design recreation areas that include roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas, trails and wildlife-viewing areas for the public to enjoy.

    In recent weeks, crews have begun grading and laying gravel on a new access road and parking lot.

    Installing vault toilets is expected to be completed in the coming days. To stay informed on continuing progress of the park, please sign up to receive CPW eNews emails or visit

    The property remains closed to public access.

    Gov. Jared Polis handed to State Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, a pen he used to sign Senate Bill 3 into law, providing $1 million for CPW to continue the work of transforming the Fishers Peak property into the next state park. Esgar was a key sponsor of the bill. Photo credit: Bill Vogrin/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    This simple model shows the importance of wearing masks and social distancing — The Conversation

    Hospital and nursing staff wear face masks and observes social distancing guidelines at an event in the U.K.
    Ben Birchall /Getty Images

    Jeyaraj Vadiveloo, University of Connecticut

    The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

    With the advent of an infectious disease outbreak, epidemiologists and public health officials quickly try to forecast deaths and infections using complex computer models. But with a brand new virus like the one that causes COVID-19, these estimates are complicated by a dearth of credible information on symptoms, contagion and those who are most at risk.

    My team at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research has developed a free, user-friendly computer model that has a different goal. It demonstrates how infections and deaths progress on a daily basis over a three-month period depending on how people behave in response to the outbreak. This model allows the public to input data that demonstrate how changes in safety measures in their communities, including wearing face covering and social distancing, can significantly impact the spread of this virus and mortality rates.

    Our Goldenson Center COVID-19 model uses a hypothetical 1,000-person population and calculates outcomes using three types of information: the initial number of infections, social distancing, and personal protection measures that include wearing masks, frequent hand-washing and staying quarantined if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Our model then uses this initial information to project on a daily basis the cumulative infections and deaths over a three-month period. It’s not based on actual disease data and is designed to demonstrate the effects of safety measures, rather than make specific predictions.

    This simple actuarial model uses general guidelines, rather than data and assumptions about COVID-19 specifically, to simulate the effect of safety protocols. Here, a hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a population of 1,000, with 10% observing good safety protocols, leads to hundreds of infections and deaths after three months.
    Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut, Author provided
    This simulation shows the effect on the same hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a group of 1,000 where 80% of people wear masks and practice social distancing, which slows the infection rate to almost zero after two months.
    Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, CC BY-NC-ND

    Why it matters

    By inputting different assumptions, people can see how their community’s personal actions can change the course of this pandemic – and how poor protocols can trigger exponential spread of the virus.

    For example, let’s assume that 100 people are infected out of a population of 1,000, with one in 10 wearing masks, keeping appropriate distance and quarantining if necessary. The model shows that 30 days later, the virus would have killed 156 people. After three months, the death toll reaches 460 – with 510 now infected.

    However, our model shows that if half the population practices safe protocols, infections after 90 days drop to 293 and deaths drop even more dramatically, to 149 – about one-third of the lives lost under looser measures.

    The main takeaway is that safety measures that are within our control have significant impact – and ignoring those protocols can have dire consequences.

    If a state opens up and maintains safety measures for at least three months, the virus will be contained and possibly eliminated. On the other hand, if a state opens up too soon and its residents ignore safety protocols, there could be an exponential increase in COVID-19 deaths within months. It’s important for the public to realize that spread of the virus is impacted only by personal behavior.

    What’s next?

    Our model shows that there must be continued emphasis on maintaining necessary safety measures as we relax shelter-in-place rules and get people back to work. Practicing common-sense social distancing, wearing masks in public and quarantining when necessary is a small inconvenience for a limited amount of time – that will contain the devastation of this virus and ensure that our economy is restored.

    [You’re too busy to read everything. We get it. That’s why we’ve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]The Conversation

    Jeyaraj Vadiveloo, Director of the Janet and Mark L. Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, University of Connecticut

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    How #deforestation helps deadly viruses jump from animals to humans — The Conversation

    Pangolins have been found with covonaviruses that are genetically similar to the one afflicting humans today.
    Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

    Amy Y. Vittor, University of Florida; Gabriel Zorello Laporta, Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum, Universidade de São Paulo

    The coronavirus pandemic, suspected of originating in bats and pangolins, has brought the risk of viruses that jump from wildlife to humans into stark focus.

    These leaps often happen at the edges of the world’s tropical forests, where deforestation is increasingly bringing people into contact with animals’ natural habitats. Yellow fever, malaria, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Ebola – all of these pathogens have spilled over from one species to another at the margins of forests.

    As doctors and biologists specializing in infectious diseases, we have studied these and other zoonoses as they spread in Africa, Asia and the Americas. We found that deforestation has been a common theme.

    More than half of the world’s tropical deforestation is driven by four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil and wood products. They replace mature, biodiverse tropical forests with monocrop fields and pastures. As the forest is degraded piecemeal, animals still living in isolated fragments of natural vegetation struggle to exist. When human settlements encroach on these forests, human-wildlife contact can increase, and new opportunistic animals may also migrate in.

    The resulting disease spread shows the interconnectedness of natural habitats, the animals that dwell within it, and humans.

    Yellow fever: Monkeys, humans and hungry mosquitoes

    Yellow fever, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, famously halted progress on the Panama Canal in the 1900s and shaped the history of Atlantic coast cities from Philadelphia to Rio de Janeiro. Although a yellow fever vaccine has been available since the 1930s, the disease continues to afflict 200,000 people a year, a third of whom die, mostly in West Africa.

    The virus that causes it lives in primates and is spread by mosquitoes that tend to dwell high in the canopy where these primates live.

    In the early 1990s, a yellow fever outbreak was reported for the first time in the Kerio Valley in Kenya, where deforestation had fragmented the forest. Between 2016 and 2018, South America saw its largest number of yellow fever cases in decades, resulting in around 2,000 cases, and hundreds of deaths. The impact was severe in the extremely vulnerable Atlantic forest of Brazil – a biodiversity hotspot that has shrunk to 7% of its original forest cover.

    Veterinarians inspect monkeys found dead in Brazil, where primates are suspected of spreading yellow fever.
    Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

    Shrinking habitat has been shown to concentrate howler monkeys – one of the main South American yellow fever hosts. A study on primate density in Kenya further demonstrated that forest fragmentation led a greater density of primates, which in turn led to pathogens becoming more prevalent.

    Deforestation resulted in patches of forest that both concentrated the primate hosts and favored the mosquitoes that could transmit the virus to humans.

    Malaria: Humans can also infect wildlife

    Just as wildlife pathogens can jump to humans, humans can cross-infect wildlife.

    Falciparum malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people yearly, especially in Africa. But in the Atlantic tropical forest of Brazil, we have also found a surprisingly high rate of Plasmodium falciparum (the malaria parasite responsible for severe malaria) circulating in the absence of humans. That raises the possibility that this parasite may be infecting new world monkeys. Elsewhere in the Amazon, monkey species have become naturally infected. In both cases, deforestation could have facilitated cross-infection.

    We and other scientists have extensively documented the associations between deforestation and malaria in the Amazon, showing how the malaria-carrying mosquitoes and human malaria cases are strongly linked to deforested habitat.

    Children in Ethiopia read under mosquito netting, used to protect people from mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
    Louise Gubb/Corbis via Getty Images

    Another type of malaria, Plasmodium knowlesi, known to circulate among monkeys, became a concern to human health over a decade ago in Southeast Asia. Several studies have shown that areas sustaining higher rates of forest loss also had higher rates of human infections, and that the mosquito vectors and monkey hosts spanned a wide range of habitats including disturbed forest.

    Venezuelan equine encephalitis: Rodents move in

    Venezuelan equine encephalitis is another mosquito-borne virus that is estimated to cause tens to hundreds of thousands of humans to develop febrile illnesses every year. Severe infections can lead to encephalitis and even death.

    In the Darien province of Panama, we found that two rodent species had particularly high rates of infection with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, leading us to suspect that these species may be the wildlife hosts.

    One of the species, Tome’s spiny rat, has also been implicated in other studies. The other, the short-tailed cane mouse, is also involved in the transmission of zoonotic diseases such as hantavirus and possibly Madariaga virus, an emergent encephalitis virus.

    While Tome’s spiny rat is widely found in tropical forests in the Americas, it readily occupies regrowth and forest fragments. The short-tailed cane mouse prefers habitat on the edge of forests and abutting cattle pastures.

    As deforestation in this region progresses, these two rodents can occupy forest fragments, cattle pastures and the regrowth that arises when fields lie fallow. Mosquitoes also occupy these areas and can bring the virus to humans and livestock.

    Ebola: Disease at the forest’s edge

    Vector-borne diseases are not the only zoonoses sensitive to deforestation. Ebola was first described in 1976, but outbreaks have become more common. The 2014-2016 outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa and drew attention to diseases that can spread from wildlife to humans.

    The natural transmission cycle of the Ebola virus remains elusive. Bats have been implicated, with possible additional ground-dwelling animals maintaining “silent” transmission between human outbreaks.

    Bats, sometimes eaten as food, have been suspected of spreading Ebola.
    Tyler Hicks/Getty Images

    While the exact nature of transmission is not yet known, several studies have shown that deforestation and forest fragmentation were associated with outbreaks between 2004 and 2014. In addition to possibly concentrating Ebola wildlife hosts, fragmentation may serve as a corridor for pathogen-carrying animals to spread the virus over large areas, and it may increase human contact with these animals along the forest edge.

    What about the coronavirus?

    While the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak hasn’t been proved, a genetically similar virus has been detected in intermediate horseshoe bats and Sunda pangolins.

    The range of the Sunda pangolin – which is critically endangered – overlaps with the intermediate horseshoe bat in the forests of Southeast Asia, where it lives in mature tree hollows. As forest habitat shrinks, could pangolins also experience increased density and susceptibility to pathogens?

    In fact, in small urban forest fragments in Malaysia, the Sunda pangolin was detected even though overall mammal diversity was much lower than a comparison tract of contiguous forest. This shows that this animal is able to persist in fragmented forests where it could increase contact with humans or other animals that can harbor potentially zoonotic viruses, such as bats. The Sunda pangolin is poached for its meat, skin and scales and imported illegally from Malaysia and Vietnam into China. A wet market in Wuhan that sells such animals has been suspected as a source of the current pandemic.

    Preventing zoonotic spillover

    There is still a lot that we don’t know about how viruses jump from wildlife to humans and what might drive that contact.

    Forest fragments and their associated landscapes encompassing forest edge, agricultural fields and pastures have been a repeated theme in tropical zoonoses. While many species disappear as forests are cleared, others have been able to adapt. Those that adapt may become more concentrated, increasing the rate of infections.

    Given the evidence, it is clear humans need to balance the production of food, forest commodities and other goods with the protection of tropical forests. Conservation of wildlife may keep their pathogens in check, preventing zoonotic spillover, and ultimately benefiting humans, too.

    [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

    Amy Y. Vittor, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Florida; Gabriel Zorello Laporta, Professor of biology and infectious diseases, Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum, Professor of Epidemiology, Universidade de São Paulo

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Crop pathogens are more adaptable than previously thought — The Conversation

    Bananas in Java, Indonesia, infected by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, which causes Fusarium Wilt.
    Clare Thatcher, CC BY-ND

    Antonis Rokas, Vanderbilt University

    The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

    The big idea

    Many of the pathogens threatening the world’s major crops and food security are either fungi or fungus-like organisms known as oomycetes. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found that these microorganisms have the ability to rapidly adapt to environmental conditions and to the plant hosts they infect. This finding adds to growing concerns around these types of pathogens, which could become harder to control in both agriculture and forestry.

    Potato infected with the oomycete Phytophthora infestans. This oomycete was the cause of the Irish potato famine that led to the starvation and death of more than 1 million people in the 19th century. Phytophthora infections cause annual damages that amount to billions of U.S. dollars.

    To understand why only certain organisms are pathogens and others are not, ecologists like to think of each organism’s lifestyle or “ecological niche.” An organism’s niche is a space defined by its relationship to other organisms, such as the host organisms it interacts with, and preferred environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. For example, the oomycete Phytophthora infestans that causes potato late blight thrives at lower temperatures, around 15 degrees Celsius, whereas Botryosphaeria fungi causing apple “bot rots” prefer temperatures around or above 25°C.

    While the ecological niches of many plant and animal pathogens are well understood, this is not the case for microbial pathogens, such as fungi and oomycetes. To begin filling this gap, the new study synthesized and analyzed temperature and host plant range data from hundreds of fungal and oomycete pathogens.

    The researchers found that although some pathogens infect just one or a few plant hosts, others infect a broad range. The same was true of temperature; some pathogens can grow in a broad range of temperatures, while others thrive in only a narrow range. Simply put, there’s not one pathogen lifestyle; rather, any lifestyle could be that of a pathogen.

    But an even bigger surprise came when the researchers discovered that the two traits, temperature range and plant host range, did not correlate with one another. Thus, crop pathogen lifestyles cannot easily be grouped into general categories, such as generalists that grow in a wide range of temperatures and infect many plant hosts, and specialists, which is the opposite. What’s more, the new study found that both temperature range and plant host range change rapidly during evolution.

    Why it matters

    Rice infected with the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe grisea. Annually, rice blast destroys a quantity of rice that could feed 60 million people.
    Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

    Knowledge that crop pathogens exhibit diverse ecological lifestyles and evolve rapidly is decidedly not good news for our crops and global food security. On a planet where the climate is changing, highly adaptable pathogens are likely to be harder to control. In addition, much of the world relies on an outdated system of agriculture that favors monoculture and reliance on fungicides to which pathogens quickly evolve resistance. This combination make for a deadly mix, with new outbreaks of emerging plant diseases on the rise.

    What still isn’t known

    We still know little about the ecological niches of microbes. Examining host range and temperature, two important traits to the lifestyles of crop pathogens, is but the first step. In the future, researchers will need to examine additional facets of the ecological niches of these pathogens, such as humidity or competition with other organisms, which will be key for understanding why some microbes are pathogens and others are innocuous.

    [Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

    Antonis Rokas, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Informatics, and Director of the Vanderbilt Evolutionary Studies Initiative, Vanderbilt University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The West has a role in reimagining the U.S. — @HighCountryNews #BlackLivesMatter

    From The High Country News [June 23, 2020] (Ruxandra Guidi):

    Our notion of ‘American exceptionalism’ has collapsed. What will replace it?

    was not yet born in October 1968, when U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals, respectively, for the 200-meter dash. As The Star-Spangled Banner played over the loudspeakers inside the Mexico City stadium, the two men bowed their heads, and each raised a black-gloved fist to the sky. They stood shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to protest Black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent Black pride.

    “If I win, I am an American, not a Black American,” Smith said during a press conference afterwards. “But if I did something bad, then they would say ‘a Negro.’ We are Black, and we are proud of being Black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

    For their gesture, both Smith and Carlos were thrown off the U.S. Olympic team, but they became instant heroes for many of us around the developing world. Their salute to the Black Power movement amid the ongoing civil rights struggle and the rising death toll of the Vietnam War, their silent protest, spoke to me years later, when I was still a child. I grew up in Venezuela, in a society that liked to define itself as “post-racial,” even though your neighborhood and the color of your skin made you a target for the cops, deprived you of opportunities, increased the chance you’d die young. Today, I’m an adult living in the United States, where the raised Black fist is now omnipresent, even commodified, marking everything from T-shirts to mugs.

    “What does it mean?” our daughter, who is 7, asked recently. I showed her the old photo of Smith and Carlos and tried to explain about the Black Panthers, the history of civil rights in this country, about Black Lives Matter and how, eight years ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a stranger as he walked home from a convenience store. I told her how a white police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, even as Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe” and “Mama.”

    These are not easy conversations to have with a Latina girl living in Arizona, a land marked by centuries of conquest, land grabs and dispossession.

    But I knew that if not today, sometime in the future — and for the rest of her life — my daughter would encounter anti-Blackness and understand how it defies the myth of the Land of the Free. She will come to know that there is no such thing as the American Dream, only a state that continues to disinvest from its own people amid growing inequality. And she will have to learn to navigate anger and despair alongside hope. I say “hope,” because the latest uprisings may yet prove that sustained rebellion can change minds — even change our world. But what will that change bring? If the story of America isn’t one of “liberty and justice for all,” then what is it? And what could it become?

    This nation is experiencing a profound moment of unexceptionalism. By late April, almost three months after the first known COVID-19 death was reported in the U.S., the disease had claimed more American lives than two decades of the Vietnam War. As of this writing, more than 119,923 people in the U.S. have died according to available data.

    A man raises his fist in solidarity with some 500 individuals who had come together during an early June vigil organized by the NAACP calling for an end to police brutality. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

    The Western U.S., where I have lived a good part of my adult life, reflects a stark inequality. In Clark County, Nevada, to give one example, almost one-fifth of those who have died from the disease were Black, even though Black residents make up just a little over one-eighth of the county’s population. In Colorado, Latino residents have been equally hard-hit, making up almost one-third of COVID-19 cases. The five highest rates of infection in the U.S. are found in Western tribal nations, according to a study by the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA.

    Such disparities took root in the West generations ago. First, white settlers conjured Manifest Destiny to justify the killing and forced removal of Indigenous peoples and the theft of their lands. Then, a war with Mexico preceded a major land acquisition, setting the stage for another kind of racism, against Hispanics and Latinos. The Great Migration and World War II’s industrialization brought Black Americans into the West, where they continued to face discrimination. Black Westerners are more likely to live in densely populated neighborhoods, in areas marked by redlining and poorly funded schools, with fewer options for healthy food, green space, decent jobs or safety.

    Being Black or brown in America means that you’re less likely to be insured, and that quality hospitals will be farther from your home. It means exposure to toxic pollution and environmental hazards, and record unemployment made worse by a rising cost of living. In the West, these inequalities cross urban-rural divides even more than racial divides.

    Now, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a reckoning.

    The pandemic not only exposed today’s racial wealth gap, it magnified the contrast between privileged people like myself — middle-class professionals with steady jobs, who could afford to stay home, work remotely and remain healthy — and underpaid workers without child care, insurance or other resources.

    But just as this pandemic has revealed a broken system, it has taught us another lesson, too. The first few weeks in self-quarantine at home in Tucson reminded me that our government does not have our back. But our neighbors and friends and food banks and mutual aid groups do: We may have been stuck at home, but we were not alone.

    IN THE SPRING OF 1991, the vicious beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles cops gave me my first real glimpse into how racism is lived in America. I was 15 years old, one year into my new life in the U.S., and I remember watching the video on the TV news, thinking that our collective rage over this act of brutality would surely lead to the cops’ conviction. Instead, that display of police violence ended in the acquittal of the officers involved, sparking the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles. It also inspired then-President Bill Clinton’s response: the so-called Community Oriented Policing Services office, or COPS, which put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. Some of the officers hired back then are probably still on duty today, facing off with protesters in LA this June during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

    Perhaps little has changed in the past 30 years. Then again, perhaps change — tangible change — is on the horizon.

    The killing of George Floyd in May has sparked a nationwide uprising, calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racial inequities in the United States. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra

    Seven years ago, three young black women —Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Alicia Garza of California and New York’s Opal Tometi — dreamed up Black Lives Matter.

    Within a year of its founding, 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed by a white police officer, who, in an all-too-familiar pattern, wasn’t even charged with a crime. Black Lives Matter was there to “imagine and create a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

    As modern-day abolitionists, Black civil rights protesters today are reiterating decades-old demands that were once deemed unthinkable: They’re calling for the release of low-level offenders from jail, independent investigations of police corruption, and the defunding or dismantling of police departments. But they’re also dreaming beyond the criminal justice system — demanding federal job guarantees, more resources for social workers and educators, rent moratoriums, reparations for not just the descendants of slaves, but displaced Indigenous peoples, and more.

    The current moment has reawakened a feeling I remember from long ago. In 1995, as a freshman at Rutgers, a public college in New Jersey considered one of the most racially and culturally diverse in the country, I was part of something that gave me a sense of purpose for a long time afterwards: the campus takeover by Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and first-generation immigrant kids like myself to protest the publication of The Bell Curve, a book that made bogus claims about race, including that Black people were inherently less intelligent than whites and Asians. Meanwhile, our university president, Francis Lawrence, echoing the book’s racist pseudo-science, argued that Black students performed poorly on standardized tests because of their “genetic, hereditary background.”

    At basketball games and inside classrooms, wherever we could assemble, we called for Lawrence’s resignation. In the end, Lawrence apologized and was spared. Eventually, the protests quieted down. But a new generation of leaders would come out of these protests and find their own voices. I found journalism. The memory of my fellow students staring into the fire as new copies of The Bell Curve burned still gives me chills. It reminds me of the importance of young idealism, of what it’s like to see demands that may at first seem unattainable suddenly come to life. It continues to give me some hope now for some kind of awakening, a remaking of the world, hope for my daughter’s future.

    After George Floyd was killed, I joined a live webinar featuring former Black Panther and U.C. Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis. Now in her 70s, Davis was flanked by young activists video-conferencing in from around the country. With her office library behind her, Davis beamed as she spoke to activists at least four decades younger than her, reminding them that the United States has always set Black and brown people up for failure. The tragedy of COVID-19 had simply exposed the raw reality many people have known all along.

    Hundreds of people gathered at an NAACP vigil to protest police brutality in in Tucson, Arizona, in early June.
    Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

    “Even when it appeared that no one was listening outside of communities of color, this anti-racist organizing has made a major difference,” Davis told us. “We don’t often have the opportunity to so dramatically witness the results of activist and intellectual work that dramatically changes people’s minds and begins to shift mainstream narratives within a very short period of time.”

    We are living through a moment of rebellion and possibility, of long-overdue demands that are finally getting traction beyond so-called communities of color. America’s old foundational myths are being questioned by millennials, Generation Z, and moderate and progressive whites. For the first time in our lives, we are witnessing a Black-led multiracial uprising that’s growing in numbers and impact, not just in large cities, but even in the most obscure rural towns in the West. Here, the mission is urgent. Manifest Destiny and its legacies — conquest and land theft, blind patriotism and old promises — let these wither and die. Let the West instead lead the struggle for reconciliation and reparations for Black, brown and Indigenous peoples. Our new legacy can be one of true justice, civil rights and radical change. Let’s keep it going.

    Contributing editor Ruxandra Guidi writes from Tucson, Arizona. Email her at

    Poem: Summer-Solstice Longest-Light Fathers-Day 2020 — Greg Hobbs

    Summer-Solstice Longest-Light Fathers-Day 2020

    My Wester-Pointed prow and rudder set for best intention,
    Enter for that realm of light; Invite the sky to flash within

    This hallowed earthern bowl; These throated-breasted-feathered
    Beings cry, “I’m Here and Here and Here;” Stand forth the

    Quaking Aspen, the Star-Shaped Columbine, the Wild Geranium!
    I leave the mountain hold me up above the fruited plain.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Shall we slice a piece of heaven’s tarp to fit Pike’s Peak?

    Greg Hobbs 6/21/2020

    My heroes have always been rodeo clowns By Patty Limerick

    A rodeo bullfighter at work. By I, Cszmurlo, CC BY 2.5,

    From Writers on the Range (Patty Limerick):

    When historians see that their nation is in big trouble, facing the proliferation of protests that raise bedrock questions about American race relations, and locked in disputes over the proper pacing of “re-opening” after the regime of social distancing, it is time for people in my line of work to follow the example set by rodeo clowns and head straight into the epicenter of trouble. We are called to put ourselves at risk—thankfully only of scorned expertise and bruised egos.

    Once rodeo clowns see that a rider is in big trouble, tangled in his gear while the animal beneath him is twisting up a storm, the clowns don’t hold themselves back. They head straight into the epicenter of trouble, putting themselves at risk to distract the bull and do everything imaginable to rescue the rider.

    To use the terms of our times, in a bull-riding competition the clowns (also known as bullfighters) are hands-down the most essential of workers. No rider with an ounce of sense would agree to come out of the chute on a bull if the clowns weren’t waiting in the arena.

    When it comes to responding to the nationwide protests against police brutality and to the tensions between economic recovery and public health, no one in any line of work is escaping the burden of making hard decisions. When all hell breaks loose and disorder rules, rodeo clowns stay self-possessed and focused, setting an example not just for historians, but for elected and appointed officials and, indeed, for all citizens who want the best for their country.

    Rodeo clowns would be at terrible risk if they did not carry expertise with them into the arena. They know the turning radius of an angry bull, and they know how to identify the pocket of safety where the bull’s horns cannot reach. And even more important, they know themselves: They know how to make quick calibrations to map the subtle line that separates confidence from over-confidence.

    The legendary rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen has summarized this expertise: “to be a rodeo clown takes a lot of . . . patience, knowledge, and timing.”

    Even though they have the advantage of a defined goal (“save the rider” is a lot clearer than “save the nation”), rodeo clowns still get tossed around and still hit the ground hard. Here is the most important lesson for historians to acquire from the clowns: Step forward to help your nation, and the next thing you know, you could be landing on the earth without a lot of dignity to cushion the impact.`

    And there’s no escaping the fact that rodeo is controversial. Animal rights activists abhor it. From the point of view held the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the bull and the rider should never have been locked into a contest in the first place. But from the angle of the rodeo clown, the rider is in trouble and that train has left the station. There is no time for the clown to visit the PETA website to contemplate a different perspective.

    Here is what we know with certainty: No rodeo clown will ever linger on the sidelines thinking, “What a lost cause! Let’s leave this guy to his fate.”

    The crucial talent for a clown, one second-generation professional told a reporter for Forbes in 2009, is “adrenaline control,” or “the ability to remain calm in a dangerous situation.” “A lot of times,” Dusty Tuckness said, “the crowd won’t even realize that we prevented a huge wreck.”

    For half my life, I have been entranced and enchanted by rodeo clowns, dazzled by their breathtaking willingness and capability to help people who are in trouble. For the whole of my life, I have myself felt compelled to try to be helpful. Yet I am fully aware that compulsive helpers can sometimes make things worse.

    Still, I continue to believe that bringing people together to talk, with the chance that they might hear each other, stands a chance of helping. When the nation faces a crisis, working together has to be the better way. Along with thousands of my fellow Westerners, I’m going to keep trying. This isn’t our first rodeo. Not by a long shot.

    Patty Limerick. Photo credit Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.

    Patricia (Patty) Nelson Limerick is a contributor to Writers on the Range (, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. She is a writer and professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and board chair and faculty director of its Center for the American West.

    @COParksWildlife Commission Supports Full Funding of Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund #LWCF

    Full and permanent funding of the LWCF supports Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission to conserve wildlife and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Olivia Baud):

    On June 12, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a resolution voicing support for the secure, long-term and dedicated funding for land and water conservation, wildlife management, parks and outdoor recreation. Full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was subsequently granted on June 17 when the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422).

    The resolution, presented to the CPW Commission by Outgoing Chairwoman Michelle Zimmerman, supported full funding of the LWCF, federal funding to reduce the maintenance backlog on public lands, and respectfully requested the Colorado Congressional Delegation to support federal legislation that achieves these aims. With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the LWCF is guaranteed to receive the maximum $900 million annual allotment advocated for in the resolution.

    “We applaud the U.S. Senate for passing this historic act which supports Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission to conserve wildlife and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “As the resolution highlighted, full and permanent funding of the LWCF is key to helping us manage our state parks and shared wildlife resources so that more people can enjoy the outdoors far into the future.”

    Colorado uses LWCF federal funds to increase recreational opportunities for citizens and visitors. Since 1965, CPW has provided over 1,025 LWCF state matching grants totaling more than $61 million to fund local government and state park outdoor investments.

    The LWCF program was enacted by Congress in 1965 to create parks and open spaces; protect wilderness, wetlands, and refuges; preserve wildlife habitat; and enhance recreational opportunities. Funds are allocated through both a federal program and a state-managed matching grant program and are derived from offshore oil and gas leasing revenues. While the LWCF program can be funded up to $900 million annually, it has only received maximum funding twice in its history prior to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.

    To learn more about the LWCF and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, visit our website at

    Joe Neguse wants to direct billions to public lands to help Western states recover from #coronavirus — The #Colorado Sun #COVID19

    Photo credit: Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation,

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    The Boulder County Democrat says it’s time to “go big and be bold” with his sweeping 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act, which provides economic relief from coronavirus shutdown while investing in overlooked forest management, wildfire mitigation and civilian corps.

    U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse on Thursday introduced comprehensive legislation that aims to help Western economies better recover from the pandemic while addressing long standing conservation, forest management and wildfire challenges on public lands.

    The Boulder County Democrat’s 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act is a mouthful and a big ask.

    His bill would direct more than $40 billion toward wildfire prevention, bolstering the conservation corps to restore public lands, funding deferred maintenance on U.S. Forest Service land and delivering coronavirus relief for the country’s outfitters and guides. It’s one of the most ambitious public lands bills in recent memory.

    Here’s some highlights of his legislation:

  • $3.5 billion for the Forest Service’s hazardous fuels, fire-risk reduction program, which is funded at about $445 million a year, and $2 billion for the Bureau of Land Management’s hazardous fuels program.
  • $6 billion for the Forest Service’s capital improvements and maintenance program, which also is funded at about $445 million a year. The agency estimates it has a $5.2 billion backlog of maintenance on roads and other infrastructure.
  • $600 million for state and private forests programs.
  • $100 million for Forest Service personal protective equipment.
  • $5.5 billion for the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program that focuses on water infrastructure development.
  • $150 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife habitat conservation program for private lands.
  • $4.5 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program that gives water efficiency grants to farmers and ranchers.
  • $575 million for National Park Service programs.
  • $6 billion for construction and maintenance at national parks.
  • $9 billion for the Civilian Conservation Corps program to hire and train workers for public lands restoration while addressing unemployment during the pandemic.
  • $2 billion for the National Coastal Resilience Fund to restore shorelines.
  • $7 billion for direct payments to outfitters and guides enduring closures from COVID-19.
    Temporarily waives permit fees for ski areas operating on public land and waives fees paid by guides and outfitters.
  • […]

    The American guiding industry saw bookings evaporate in March as the pandemic ground the economy to a halt. The decline in reservations by skiers, rafters, climbers and hunters lingered for three months and only recently have outfitters and guides seen a gradual return of customers, said Matt Wade, the head of policy and advocacy for the American Mountain Guide Association.

    But even as outfitters ramp back up, they are incurring additional costs for protective equipment — think replacing all group tents with single-person tents — and seeing smaller guide-to-client ratios as they keep people distanced.

    Many guiding businesses and outfitters saw business plummet 90% in the spring and the summer season is pacing to be about 50% down, Wade said.

    Neguse’s relief fund would give outfitters the chance to apply for relief payments that would cover the gap between increased costs and declining revenues while keeping guides on the payroll…

    Neguse is not creating new programs. He’s multiplying the budgets of a host of programs — like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration, the Every Kid Outdoors, the Vegetation and Watershed Management, the Landscape Scale Restoration, Urban and Community Forestry, the Firewise, the Regional Conservation Partnership programs and dozens more…

    Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate and Neguse has enlisted support from counties in his Colorado district and a growing list of conservation, outdoor recreation and sportsmen groups. He said his bill “stands a good chance” as both Democrats and Republicans study another round of funding to help the country recover from the pandemic.

    @COParksWildlife: Virtual Partners in the Outdoors Awards Ceremony – 2020

    From email from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):

    At the 2020 virtual Partners in the Outdoors Conference [June 17, 2020], Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced the winners of its annual Partner of the Year Awards.

    CPW’s Partner of the Year Awards
    CPW presents these awards to those who display outstanding efforts in support of Colorado’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), and CPW’s Strategic Plan.

    In the introduction to the virtual awards ceremony, CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said, “The Partner of the Year Awards are presented to those who have displayed outstanding efforts in support of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission, our Strategic Plan, our State Wildlife Action Plan, and the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Each of the organizations honored play an integral role in advancing and balancing outdoor recreation and conservation in Colorado.”

    Statewide Partner of the Year:
    Children & Nature Network, Natural Leaders Initiative

    The Children and Nature Network’s (C&NN) Natural Leaders Initiative has been instrumental in CPW’s ability to build the leadership capacity and engagement of young diverse leaders in Colorado. Through a multi-year partnership, C&NN has served as a strategic partner regarding youth engagement at our Partners in the Outdoors Conference. They have provided professional development and leadership to allow cohorts of youth to connect with professionals in the outdoor and natural resource management industry in meaningful ways.

    Through this partnership, we are: building trust, relationships and networks while breaking down identified barriers; utilizing and supporting existing programs including the Colorado Legacy Camp and GOCO’s Generation Wild coalitions; and helping to recruit and retain an outdoor recreation workforce that is diverse and representative of Colorado’s demographics.

    The Children and Nature Network also partner closely with Great Outdoors Colorado through the support of the Generation Wild Coalitions. C&NN has facilitated three cohorts of Colorado Legacy Camp which is C&NN’s signature leadership training for diverse, emerging leaders between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. Participants in this multi-day intensive training leave camp with the skills and support they need to develop community-driven action plans to increase nature access for children, families and communities. The curriculum is built upon four foundational pillars: the power of personal narrative, leadership development, community organizing, and action planning.

    We have expanded our partnership in 2020 with C&NN and they are working with us to build relationships with youth-serving organizations to increase the intergenerational connection and knowledge through the virtual conference and beyond. They will conduct a stakeholder scan and create an inventory of youth serving organizations, facilitate workshops to connect CPW with Colorado stakeholders and partners in engaging diverse youth leaders and advancing their leadership efforts. Additionally, C&NN is working to build the capacity of CPW as a model of equitable young professional development and retention among state/federal land management agencies.

    Statewide Collaboration Award:
    Fishers Peak Property: A partnership between Great Outdoors Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, City of Trinidad and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    As you cross into Colorado from New Mexico on I-25, one of the first things you see is Fishers Peak. This iconic mountain is located on a 30-square-mile property just outside the City of Trinidad and is the symbol of the community. Thanks to a unique partnership among Great Outdoors Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the City of Trinidad and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this property will become Colorado’s next state park, thus providing public access while protecting it for future generations.

    This partnership supports almost all of CPW’s Strategic Plan goals. A key aspect of this project is to plan for both ecological and recreational goals from the beginning to ensure recreation and conservation priorities are balanced. This project supports conserving wildlife habitat while providing excellent outdoor recreation opportunities to connect people to the Colorado outdoors. This partnership is also helping the agency build awareness and trust with the public because it demonstrates our commitments from the Future Generations Act. Finally, this project will ensure public access to the outdoors while achieving land conservation priorities in southern Colorado.

    A main reason for the partnership’s success is the collaboration of a local municipality, two national conservation nonprofits, and two state entities. The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy would not have pursued the acquisition without the demand and support from the City of Trinidad and the local community to preserve the property’s natural values and open it to the public. Nor would they have been able to risk acquiring and financing over $20 million of the purchase or committing to holding it indefinitely without GOCO and CPW’s financial support, which came largely from hunting and angling dollars. If you remove any one of the project partners, then the project simply would not have happened, and Fishers Peak would have been slated for private development.

    Northwest Region Partner of the Year:
    Summit County Safe Passages

    Summit County Safe Passages (SCSP) is a diverse, community-based collaboration working toward a vision of balancing wildlife needs with a growing human population that lives, travels and recreates in Summit County. The team is working towards creating safe passage for both wildlife and people along our roadways by identifying key movement corridors for wildlife and prioritizing safety for motorists. The community support behind this partnership reflects a shared passion to conserve our wildlife and create safer highways for all.

    SCSP protects wildlife corridors to ensure sustainable populations. Development of wildlife crossing structures improves habitat connectivity, enhances ecosystems and reduces wildlife-vehicle mortality. SCSC supports sustainable access/opportunity for outdoor recreation by improving safety for motorists through development of wildlife highway crossing systems, reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions, as well as community outreach/public engagement. SCSP promotes stewardship by participating in community events and school programs to educate on the importance of habitat connectivity for wildlife. SCSP promotes conservation by enhancing landscape-scale connectivity across multiple types of land ownership, protection of migration corridors, and reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

    Southeast Region Partner of the Year:
    Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance

    Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA) is a collaborative of businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies who recognize the value of our region’s incredible natural and recreational resources to our community, both as an economic driver and for our health and well-being. PPORA is led by a Board and Advisory Council consisting of outdoor industry and community leaders. Their goal is to shape the future of outdoor recreation in the Pikes Peak Region so that the region is known as THE place for outdoor recreation.

    The PPORA partnerships allow CPW to create unity by being in collaboration with local outdoor recreation businesses and nonprofits, and also leverages the agencies’ ability to reach diverse and new audiences.

    PPORA has gathered over 50 nonprofits, local businesses and government agencies to support their mission. Bringing partners together at events such as the State of the Outdoors, Colorado Springs Get Outdoors Day and Pikes Peak Outdoor Leadership Summits, PPORA’s supporters collaborate and learn about current outdoor issues and challenges. As a convener of diverse partners, PPORA builds partnerships that help everyone involved make progress on difficult issues. PPORA believes that together we are stronger. They brought partners together for five years at the Colorado Springs Get Outdoors Day to provide free outdoor activities for over 6,000 participants and hosted Gubernatorial candidates to share their thoughts on outdoor issues in 2018.

    Northeast Region Partner of the Year:
    Big Thompson Watershed Coalition

    Since the floods of 2013, the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition is a valuable partner to CPW in stream restoration and riparian health, but has been a true community leader bringing together essential stakeholders to care for and improve the natural resources of the watershed. These stakeholders include municipal water suppliers, agricultural producers, habitat advocates, and government agencies who have successfully worked together to plan and fund several river projects.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition assists CPW in achieving the goals of our strategic plan by helping conserve wildlife and habitat to contribute to healthy ecosystems, they provide opportunities for CPW to increase awareness and trust for the organization, and they connect people with the outdoors. The BTWC has restored or improved over 10 miles of river. Currently, the BTWC is facilitating a multi-stakeholder group working towards a strategic plan for the Big Thompson River. This project has many potential benefits for the river but it also helps CPW connect and form relationships with other partners on the river. Finally, through their 71 outreach efforts, are getting the community outside and connected to nature.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition is a good partner to CPW for the many beneficial projects they have completed in watershed health and resilience planning; construction of river restoration improvements; forest health improvement projects; and community involvement opportunities in watershed stewardship through project planning/design, restoration workdays, monitoring, and organizational board leadership.

    Southwest Region Partner of the Year:
    Durango Wildlife Volunteers

    This organized group of volunteers has continually partnered with CPW to educate over 250,000 visitors at CPW’s Wildlife Museum in Durango about Colorado’s wildlife and ecosystems. The Durango Wildlife Museum Volunteers provide a public service and outreach that would not be possible with staff time and resources, making it an essential natural resource education program for CPW. The volunteers provide exceptional customer service and have recorded over 14,000 volunteer hours, equivalent to 6.7 full-time employees.

    The Durango Wildlife Volunteers provide a public service and outreach that would not be possible with staff time and resources, making it an essential natural resource education program for CPW, one of the agency’s core competencies. Since the 1990s, museum volunteers have partnered with CPW to recruit, train, and retain committed volunteers annually. They assist CPW in providing “real life” opportunities for our youth to experience leading interpretive education to our community and visitors. They are dedicated to CPW’s mission while increasing awareness about wildlife management and participation in outdoor recreation while promoting conservation and stewardship of natural resources. Over the last three years, Durango Wildlife Volunteers have reached an average of 15,300 visitors annually with a record 16,923 in 2019.

    @COParksWildlife: Bear rescued from East Canyon fire in southwest #Colorado

    This bear was rescued on June 16, 2020 from the East Canyon fire in souithwest Colorado by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers. It is shown at CPW’s rehabilitation facility in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandowski):

    Bear rescued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife from East Canyon fire

    A bear whose feet were badly burned during the East Canyon fire was rescued Tuesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and is now being cared for at a CPW facility in Del Norte. The bear is expected to make a full recovery.

    “We always hate to see injured animals, but we’re pleased we were able to rescue this bear so we can nurse it back to health and return it to the wild,” said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango.

    CPW’s Durango wildlife office received a call from the fire dispatch center late Tuesday afternoon explaining that firefighters saw a bear that appeared to be injured. It walked across a meadow and into reeds next to a pond. The location was on the east side of the Cherry Creek Road which is on the east side of the fire. The fire is burning about 30 miles west of Durango.

    Wildlife officers Steve McClung, Andy Brown and Thorpe left as soon as they received the call and arrived on scene at 5:40 p.m. When the officers approached, the bear did not move.

    “You could tell it was really hurting,” McClung said.

    The bear was sitting in reeds and the officers used poles to push back the vegetation. That allowed them to administer a tranquilizer dart to sedate the bear. The officers examined the bear and found that its feet were burned. The bear was then placed in a trap and transported to the Frisco Creek wildlife rehabilitation facility for evaluation and treatment.

    The bear is a male yearling, which means it was born during the winter in 2019 and is now living on its own. Bears usually stay with their mothers for a year. It was moving alone when it was spotted by the firefighters.

    “Across the road from where we found it the area was burned heavily,” McClung said. “There were little spot fires and some stumps burning. We can’t say exactly what happened, but it probably got caught and had to move across some hot spots.”

    Michael Sirochman, veterinary manager at Frisco Creek, said the bears paws were burned, but not so deeply that the animal was permanently injured.

    “The prognosis is good and the underlying tissue is healthy,” Sirochman said. “We cut off the burned tissue that was sloughing off and we put on bandages.”

    He said the bear weighed 43 pounds and was quite thin, but that’s not unusual for yearlings at this time of year. He expects that the bear will be ready for release in about eight weeks. The bear is being kept in a cage with concrete floors to assure the wounds will stay clean.

    Bears that are taken in for rehabilitation are usually released near the same area where they were found.

    This is the second rescue of a burned bear that Durango wildlife officers have been involved with in the past two years. A bear cub, whose feet were burned, was found during the 416 Fire north of Durango in 2018. It was also taken to Frisco Creek where it made a full recovery thanks to the care that it received from CPW veterinary staff. After it went into hibernation the bear was placed in a man-made den with another cub in the mountains west of Durango in January 2019. Game cameras showed that the bears emerged successfully from the den. No other information is known about those bears.

    The photo below shows the condition of the bear’s paws. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Herd immunity won’t solve our #COVID19 problem — The Conversation #coronavirus

    Without a vaccine, getting to herd immunity would mean many more illnesses and deaths.
    Andreus K via Getty Images

    Joanna Wares, University of Richmond and Sara Krehbiel, Santa Clara University

    Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, use of the term “herd immunity” has spread almost as fast as the virus. But its use is fraught with misconceptions.

    In the U.K., officials briefly considered a herd immunity strategy to protect the most vulnerable members of its population by encouraging others to become exposed and develop immunity to the virus. Others reignited the discussion by focusing on how far we are from herd immunity. But trying to reach herd immunity without a vaccine would be a disastrous pandemic response strategy.

    As mathematics and computer science professors, we think it is important to understand what herd immunity actually is, when it’s a viable strategy and why, without a vaccine, it cannot reduce deaths and illnesses from the current pandemic.

    What is herd immunity?

    Epidemiologists define the herd immunity threshold for a given virus as the percentage of the population that must be immune to ensure that its introduction will not cause an outbreak. If enough people are immune, an infected person will likely come into contact only with people who are already immune rather than spreading the virus to someone who is susceptible.

    Herd immunity is usually discussed in the context of vaccination. For example, if 90% of the population (the herd) has received a chickenpox vaccine, the remaining 10% (often including people who cannot become vaccinated, like babies and the immunocompromised) will be protected from the introduction of a single person with chickenpox.

    CC BY-ND

    But herd immunity from SARS-CoV-2 is different in several ways:

    1) We do not have a vaccine. As biologist Carl Bergstrom and biostatistician Natalie Dean pointed out in a New York Times op-ed in May, without a widely available vaccine, most of the population – 60%-85% by some estimates – must become infected to reach herd immunity, and the virus’s high mortality rate means millions would die.

    2) The virus is not currently contained. If herd immunity is reached during an ongoing pandemic, the high number of infected people will continue to spread the virus and ultimately many more people than the herd immunity threshold will become infected – likely over 90% of the population.

    3) The people most vulnerable are not evenly spread across the population. Groups that have not been mixing with the “herd” will remain vulnerable even after the herd immunity threshold is reached.

    Reaching herd immunity without a vaccine is costly

    For a given virus, any person is either susceptible to being infected, currently infected or immune from being infected. If a vaccine is available, a susceptible person can become immune without ever becoming infected.

    Without a vaccine, the only route to immunity is through infection. And unlike with chickenpox, many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 die from it.

    Sara Krehbiel, CC BY-ND

    By mid-June, more than 115,000 people in the U.S. had died from COVID-19, and the disease can have lingering health consequences for those who survive. Moreover, scientists don’t yet know the extent to which people who recover are immune from future infections.

    A vaccine is the only way to move directly from susceptibility to immunity, bypassing the pain from becoming infected and possibly dying.

    Herd immunity reached during a pandemic doesn’t stop the spread

    An ongoing pandemic doesn’t stop as soon as the herd immunity threshold is reached. In contrast to the scenario of a single person with chickenpox entering a largely immune population, many people are infected at any given time during an ongoing pandemic.

    When the herd immunity threshold is reached during a pandemic, the number of new infections per day will decline, but the substantial infectious population at that point will continue to spread the virus. As Bergstrom and Dean noted, “A runaway train doesn’t stop the instant the track begins to slope uphill, and a rapidly spreading virus doesn’t stop right when herd immunity is attained.”

    If the virus is unchecked, the final percentage of people infected will far overshoot the herd immunity threshold, affecting as many as 90% of the population in the case of SARS-CoV-2.

    Proactive mitigation strategies like social distancing and wearing masks flatten the curve by reducing the rate that active infections generate new cases. This delays the point at which herd immunity is reached and also reduces casualties, which should be the goal of any response strategy.

    CC BY-ND

    Herd immunity does not protect the vulnerable

    People who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as people over 65, have been urged to stay inside to avoid exposure. However, many of these people live and socialize in communities of people in the same cohort.

    Even if the herd immunity threshold is reached by the population at large, a single infected person coming in contact with a vulnerable community can cause an outbreak. The coronavirus has devastated nursing homes, which will remain vulnerable until vaccines are available.

    How to respond to a pandemic without a vaccine

    Without a vaccine, we should not think of herd immunity as a light at the end of the tunnel. Getting there would result in millions of deaths in the United States and would not protect the most vulnerable.

    For now, washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing remain the best ways to lessen the destruction of COVID-19 by flattening the curve to buy time to develop treatments and vaccines.

    [You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

    Joanna Wares, Associate Professor of Mathematics, University of Richmond and Sara Krehbiel, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Santa Clara University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    2020 #COleg: @COParksWildlfe: Passage of SB20-003 [State Parks Improvement Appropriation] provides $1 Million in support for #Colorado’s next state park

    A view of Fishers Peak from the property that will become Colorado’s next state park. Senate Bill 3 provides $1 million toward the park’s continuing development. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Rebecca Ferrell):

    In the closing hours of the 2020 legislative session, Colorado legislators approved $1 million to support efforts to develop Colorado’s next new state park around iconic Fishers Peak near Trinidad.

    The Colorado Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 3 will provide critical funding to help Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) develop trails and infrastructure on the 19,600-acre property that features Fishers Peak, a landmark that towers over Trinidad and guided pioneers along the Santa Fe Trail in the 1800s.

    “We extend our sincere gratitude to the Legislature for recognizing the value of investing in Colorado’s state parks,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “As we’ve all worked through the many challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak, including budgetary challenges, one constant was the ability for people to center themselves a bit in nature while visiting our parks. Having this investment in our next state park will allow us to provide even more of Colorado’s outdoors to our residents and visitors.”

    The funding authorized by this bill will support the early stages of the park’s infrastructure development. A master planning process that will guide future development of the park is also underway, involving community stakeholders and additional project partners The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, the City of Trinidad and Great Outdoors Colorado. While the property is not yet open to the public, CPW’s goal of providing initial public recreational access to a portion of the property by early 2021 remains in place.

    “This initial investment in our 42nd state park would not have been possible without the strong advocacy and support of Governor Polis, Senators Leroy Garcia, Dennis Hisey, and Representatives Daneya Esgar and Perry Will, along with the businesses, local governments in Trinidad and Las Animas County and our non-profit partners,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Department of Natural Resources. “We came together during a difficult year to provide needed resources to move forward on what is going to be a signature and our second largest state park. I can’t wait to climb the flanks of Fishers Peak or try new mountain bike trails of this fantastic amenity which will serve as a draw for visitors and recreationists alike to explore the Park and other attractions of this incredible region of Southern Colorado.”

    Though Senate Bill 3 has undergone several iterations as the state made adjustments for the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife remain committed to creating a state park with input from the local community, sportspersons and other conservation stakeholders.

    Why George Floyd protests resonated so early in #Denver — @HighCountryNews #BlackLivesMatter

    From The High Country News (Lindsay Fendt):

    After years of community pressure for police reform, the city was primed for protest.

    Protesters march through downtown Denver on June 4, 2020.(Photo by Tina Griego via The Colorado Independent)

    On May 30, Denver’s third night of protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man allegedly murdered by police in Minneapolis, thousands gathered in Civic Center Park, hoisting signs with slogans reading “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter.” Traffic cones and graffiti covered most of the statues, empty tear-gas canisters littered the streets and scorch marks scarred the vast lawn. Police in riot gear, holding paintball guns and foam bullet launchers, lined the streets surrounding the park.

    Without warning, the officers began throwing metal canisters into the crowd. As they clinked to the ground, explosions boomed, and some of the canisters sprayed a grayish-yellow mist into the air. Protesters, gagging on the mist, stumbled towards the Capitol building, pushing aside the masks they wore to protect them from the coronavirus.

    In the Western United States, Denver’s protests were early flashpoints for violent conflicts between protesters and police, resulting in more than 300 arrests and a curfew starting Saturday, May 31. In 2010, Denver outranked other U.S. cities for publicized incidents of excessive police force, and ever since, it has grappled with police reform. A highly developed network of protesters was primed for action when word of Floyd’s death on May 25 spread.

    “Denver has a long history of abuse in its police departments,” said Alex Landau, who co-founded the Denver Justice Project after he was beaten nearly to death by police in 2009, after he asked for a warrant during a traffic stop. “There is more going on out here than people just expressing their feelings.”

    Protesters have marched on Denver’s streets every day since May 30, with the peaceful afternoon assemblies routinely devolving into chaos as the sun went down. In early June, the tenor began to shift. Police Chief Paul Pazen joined the afternoon protest, marching arm-in-arm with protest leaders at the front of the crowd. That night, fewer officers arrived in riot gear, and the protest did not escalate to the violence of previous nights.

    Though the police have toned down their presence, Pazen defended the initial show of force in public statements, calling it a response to vandalism, looting and water bottles and rocks being thrown at officers.

    Protesters say that, in many instances, police officers escalated the violence unprovoked. Meanwhile, peaceful bystanders were reportedly caught in the crossfire: A tent in one of the park’s many homeless camps caught fire Thursday after being struck by a police projectile, and protesters were hit with rubber bullets while marching or simply standing. Journalists have also reported being targeted by police fire, even with their press credentials visible. (When I was covering the protests in late May, a police officer kicked a canister of tear gas into the pool of photographers I was standing near. The chemicals sprayed onto my face and blinded me for several minutes.)

    Many in Denver carried signs and posted on social media, comparing the video of Floyd’s killing to the 2015 death of Michael Marshall, a homeless Black man with schizophrenia who had been arrested for trespassing. A deputy pinned Marshall to the ground, face down, during a psychotic episode at the jail. An autopsy later found that Marshall died by choking on his own vomit.

    With a megaphone in hand, Tay Anderson, a member of the Denver School Board, led chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe” through downtown last week. Anderson — at 21, the youngest Black man elected to office in Colorado — first stepped into the public eye as an organizer for Black Lives Matter in 2016, when he was still a student at Denver’s Manual High School.

    From the front of the crowd, Anderson politely ordered the marchers to stop at traffic lights to let cars pass, and he did not tolerate protesters who sought to stir up trouble. While there has been some vandalism and violence against police officers, both the police and protest organizers blame those actions on a smaller group.

    On Friday afternoon, Anderson called off a group of white protesters who ran after a police car. In a pattern that would become habitual as the weekend passed, he repeatedly rebuked agitators for harassing the police and defacing property. Since Monday, when the police presence began decreasing, other protesters have also joined in policing the crowd. Reports on social media described protesters taking fireworks from a man who appeared to be attempting to launch them at police.

    “The people starting this are definitely not allies,” Anderson told me when I called him after the march. “We’ve asked folks to please just go home. We don’t have a need to tear up our city.”

    While Anderson has condemned vandalism and violence against police, he says that the police reaction was disproportionate. “The police officers have escalated things,” he said. “There is no reason for them to show up in their riot gear to a peaceful protest.”

    Lindsay Fendt is a freelance reporter based in Denver whose work focuses on the environment and natural resources. She is currently an Alicia Patterson fellow working on a book about the rise of environmental murders worldwide. Email High Country News at

    Interview: What really is antifa? — @HighCountryNews

    From The High Country News (Leah Sottile):

    Effie Baum, an ‘everyday anti-fascist,’ talks about President Trump’s threat to designate the movement as a terrorist organization, and corrects the record.

    As cities across the United States entered a sixth day of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, President Donald Trump did something no other president had done before: He attempted to make a terrorist designation via tweet. “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” he wrote, referring to an anti-fascist movement that has gained momentum during his administration.

    The next afternoon, speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump reiterated that promise as flash-bang grenades echoed nearby. Peaceful protesters, demonstrating against nationwide police brutality against people of color, were sent screaming and sprinting away. “In recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, or, arsonists, looters, criminals, rider rioters, antifa and others,” Trump told reporters.

    Experts called Trump’s designation an “empty threat” that would be challenged in court. But it wasn’t a new idea: Last year, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, R, co-sponsored a bill to brand anti-fascists as terrorists. In Washington, Republican state Rep. Matt Shea — who has himself participated in far-right domestic terrorism, according to a bipartisan investigation last year — introduced a bill to investigate antifa. Neither gained traction.
    Two years ago, tired of seeing anti-fascists portrayed as only masked, black-clad protesters breaking windows or getting into fistfights, an “everyday anti-fascist” group formed in Portland, Oregon. Popular Mobilization — or PopMob — was a response to the rallies continually being held in the city by far-right agitators like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. As PopMob spokesperson Effie Baum told High Country News, the group’s goal was to send a clear message: Fascists aren’t welcome here.

    PopMob also wanted to reframe the media’s image of antifa. The group coined the term “everyday anti-fascist” and turned counter-protests into dance parties, circuses and, most famously, free milkshake giveaways. HCN recently caught up with Baum to talk about Trump’s threat and the fact that not all anti-fascists wear black. Some, in fact, wear banana costumes.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    HCN: Let’s start with a very basic question: What is antifa?

    Effie Baum: “Antifa” is short for anti-fascist. It is not a unified organization. Anybody can use (the term), and anybody who identifies as an anti-fascist could also say they are antifa. You don’t have to “join” antifa. It is a self-designated thing. If you are anti-fascist, you are antifa.

    Where it gets muddy is that the media representation of “antifa” is often images of people utilizing a tactic known as “black bloc,” which is big groups of people dressed all in black that you see on television. And the issue with that is that, in addition to equating antifa only with that specific tactic, it does a huge disservice to all of the work that anti-fascists do besides that one very small thing, which is community defense. Ninety-eight percent of the work that anti-fascists do does not happen in the streets. Black bloc is a tactic — it is not an organization or a group.

    The stereotype is that (people in black bloc are) disruptive, that they’re just troublemakers, but the fact of the matter is they are our front lines of defense from state violence and from violence that would be inflicted on us by the right.

    One of the other things that anti-fascists do is expose fascists and people that are engaging in white nationalist and far-right ideologies and violent activity. A lot of it is also, like, internet research and looking at pictures from things like Charlottesville, and identifying the people in those photos and then posting their information as a way to raise that cost of participation.

    HCN: My mind goes to the way that KKK groups were more visible in the 1960s, and those people were socially shamed out of participating in outwardly racist activities. Is that the logic of that practice, too?

    EB: That’s exactly what it is. We want these people to be exposed because we know that the majority of people don’t share their ideology, the majority of people are not white supremacists or active, organizing, white nationalists, and don’t support that far-right violent rhetoric. So, by exposing them — yes, it makes them uncomfortable, because then all their co-workers know that they’re engaged in that work, their landlords, their spouses, because sometimes not even their family knows. And it is a way of making them be shamed by their community.

    HCN: Yesterday, Trump reiterated the tweet that he sent out on Sunday, that he intends to designate antifa as a terrorist organization. How do you understand what he’s trying to do?

    EB: Right now, in this moment, the people are a real threat to the power of the police and the power of the state and basically all of the authoritarianism that Trump has been utilizing in his time in office. And so (he is) desperate to discredit what is happening by any means necessary. Because it is growing and spreading so rapidly, they cannot contain it. So, given the public perception and stigma that already exists against anti-fascists, anti-fascists are an easy scapegoat.

    It also works to delegitimize the movement, because if they say, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of white kids or white supremacists, or these out-of-towners or outside agitators’ — what that does is it delegitimizes the real issues that we are dealing with and (why) these marches and protests are happening: the murder of George Floyd, the rampant murder of Black men and women across the country by police, and the violence that the state and the police inflict on Black and brown bodies every day.

    An authoritarian administration is always going to villainize those that are the most opposed to this rising tide of fascism and authoritarianism that we’re seeing both in the U.S. and internationally. By shifting the narrative away from the police brutality, they do get that public support from both sides that are clutching their pearls over broken windows, instead of focusing on the police violence that we’ve been seeing.

    HCN: Legislators around the country, as well as Portland city and Oregon state officials, are talking a lot about broken windows right now.

    EB: Well, I think it is just business as usual for the police, because the police basically protect property and the wealth of the ruling class. The entire purpose of the police is largely property protection, and capitalism prioritizes the safety of property and capital over people.

    It is really absurd that people are more concerned about broken windows, which can be fixed, than the fact that we have an entire culture of policing that gets away with murder every single day. And the issue shouldn’t be whether or not Target got its windows broken, because Target is a multi-bajillion dollar organization that can afford to replace some windows. But people like George Floyd and all of the people that have been murdered by the police are never gonna get their lives back. Those family members are never going to get their sons and daughters, and sisters and brothers and spouses, back. Those people are gone forever. Windows can be fixed. Graffiti can be painted over or washed off. All of that is just stuff.

    A common strategy for anti-fascists is black bloc. PopMob reframes the public’s image of antifa. Members of PopMob form a “Banana Bloc” band to oppose a KKK rally planned in Portland, Oregon. Photo credit: John Rudoff via The High Country News

    HCN: Popular Mobilization started two years ago. Tell me how your role has shifted from when you formed then to what it is today.

    EB: When we originally formed, our main goal was trying to encourage as many people as possible to show up and stand against these far-right groups that were having these rallies in Portland. We wanted to create an environment where it was more accessible and more welcoming for a larger, diverse group of people to show up and participate. The idea is that it would hopefully dissuade the police from using a lot of violence and crowd control.

    The other thing that we do is try to make it fun as a way to invite more people to participate. And, you know, all of this stuff against anti-fascism and standing up against the violent far-right is so serious. And the thing is, one of the ways that you can really take away the power from those guys is to laugh at them.

    Some Proud Boy-affiliated loudmouth from Florida named Joe Biggs was organizing, and they were busing and flying in far-right dudes from all over the country for this “war on antifa” in Portland (in August 2019). And so we decided we did not want them to have the capability of making what I refer to as “toxic masculinity riot porn,” which is the videos that they will post of themselves engaging in street fights. … So we encouraged people to be as ridiculous as possible and, like, dress up in banana costumes or the giant poop emoji and unicorns and dinosaurs so that any opportunity they had to try to make some video of them looking all macho would have something completely ridiculous in the background. We had an entire brass band dressed as bananas. That was the Banana Bloc — like, 50 people dressed in banana costumes.

    It was also the largest coalition we’ve ever had around an action. We had more than 30 organizations signed on. It was a very broad-based, diverse coalition that ranged all the way from more militant organizations like Rose City Antifa, all the way to the NAACP, interfaith organizations, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Portland United Against Hate — a very, very diverse group of organizations coming together united around one idea, which is we don’t want these fucks in our city.

    HCN: What is your role in the current rallies — to back up Black and brown leaders?

    EB: Yes. … It is not appropriate for us to take center stage in planning these; instead, we should be supporting the groups that are organizing events — amplifying, boosting, uplifting the voices of our local Black organizers. There are a lot of organizers in this town that have been doing this work for a really long time that are seasoned and (have been) working on police accountability for a long time.

    HCN: A lot of our readers live in small communities or small cities. What do you say about being anti-fascist in places like that?

    EB: Well, that’s part of our everyday anti-fascist thing. Anybody who is opposed to fascism, you are an anti-fascist. And you don’t have to show up in the streets or fill some role or be an organizer or a protester to identify as anti-fascist. You know, 75 years ago, everybody in this country was an anti-fascist. When we were at war with fascists in Europe, everyday people, everyone would have been an anti-fascist. Being an anti-fascist should not be a controversial thing. It should be controversial to be a fascist.

    Leah Sottile is a correspondent at High Country News. She writes from Portland, Oregon.

    Email High Country News at

    What Laws Work Best to Cut #PlasticPollution? — The Revelator

    From The Revelator (Erica Cirino):

    Experts have recommended how the United States can drastically curb the use of throwaway plastics with new federal legislation.

    According to legal analysts who advised Congress at a briefing in January, the United States could reduce its contribution to the global plastic pollution crisis by implementing sweeping federal policies that restrict plastic use and hold manufacturers accountable for responsibly handling waste.

    The expert group, composed of members from Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic at UCLA and ocean conservation organization Surfrider Foundation, specifically recommended that Congress craft federal legislation banning single-use plastic products such as bags, straws and expanded polystyrene foam food containers. They also called for establishing “extended producer responsibility” schemes, which hold plastic manufacturers responsible for the waste they create.

    Their recommendations, along with a new report, drew on research into existing legislation targeting plastic pollution in the United States and across the world. The experts found that the key to reducing plastic pollution is curbing consumption. The report and its presentation resulted from a semester-long project by UCLA students Charoula Melliou and Divya Rao, in collaboration UCLA attorney Julia E. Stein, Surfrider’s legal expert Angela Howe and plastic bag legal expert Jennie Romer

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    What Works

    There are currently no federal laws restricting single-use plastics, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good examples that could serve as useful templates.

    According to Stein, Congress could shape federal policy by following existing local and state laws that have already been crafted to tackle plastic problems with bans on all types of single-use plastic items, from bags to expanded polystyrene foam food containers to straws. California made headlines in February after lawmakers proposed a phaseout of all plastic products that aren’t completely recyclable.

    Such laws are grounded in scientific evidence that plastics are problematic because they don’t break down in the natural environment and pose a danger to wildlife and probably people.

    There’s a precedent for using state and local laws to help craft national legislation: microbeads. After several states and municipalities banned the sale and manufacture of health and beauty products containing these ecologically damaging exfoliating plastic beads, the United States passed a federal act doing the same.

    Most experts agree banning single-use plastic products is a more useful strategy for reducing plastic use and pollution than recycling, which is much less effective. A ban also tackles the issue at the source, helping to curb greenhouse gases coming from the rapidly expanding petrochemical industry that uses fossil fuels to produce plastic.

    Commonly Used Plastics

    With plastic so ubiquitous, where to start? Experts say that banning just the most commonly used and littered items could cut pollution significantly.

    That puts single-use plastic bags front and center…

    Broader Focus

    Besides banning common problematic single-use plastic products, the expert group also recommends Congress pass legislation that would hold corporations accountable for handling plastic waste at the end of its life.

    Extended producer responsibility regulations require manufacturers of plastic products to take their items back for reuse, recycling or disposal to increase recycling rates and prevent plastic waste from entering landfills and the natural environment. Container-deposit legislation is one example of such a program that’s widespread — though not ubiquitous — around the United States.

    Telesetsky says these schemes may be useful when designed to manage long-lasting plastic products, but they’re trickier to implement and incentivize when plastic packaging is involved. “The problem with applying extended producer responsibility principles to existing single-use plastic is that there is simply no market for all of the reprocessed cheap packaging plastics that are being generated,” says Telesetsky. “Cheap plastics have a finite usable life before they are inevitably landfilled or burned.”


    Telesetsky praises the new briefing because it raises awareness of a critical problem. But unlike the briefing group, she proposes banning single-use plastic products outright, on a global scale, in addition to incentivizing innovation in creating new biodegradable products and packaging, which she argues would stop plastic pollution more closely to its source. And it would address the issue on what she sees as a more radical and international — and thus more impactful — scale.

    Yet Stein emphasizes that while her briefing has a national focus specifically tailored to U.S. Congress, the wider view is international.

    “We support international efforts to address plastic pollution, but the United States also needs to take responsibility at home for its own contribution to the problem.”

    Will Congress take up that challenge?

    Stein says she and other members from the UCLA-Surfrider group who traveled to Washington, D.C. in January held several legislative briefings for Congressional members and staff, including those involved with last year’s 2018 Save Our Seas Act.

    The act provides some funding for federal marine cleanup and waste-prevention efforts through NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. Already, two of the bill’s cosponsors, Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), have begun working on a revamped “2.0 version.”

    “Overall, we felt the reception was positive — plastic pollution is a topic that is on the minds of the American public and the congresspersons who represent them,” Stein says. “We’re hopeful that Save Our Seas 2.0 legislation in the Senate may provide a chance to think about comprehensive federal strategies to reduce plastic pollution.”

    Roberto Salmón, Mexican Commissioner, Steps Down From Mexican Section Of The International Boundary Waters Commision #ColoradoRiver #COriver #RioGrande #aridification

    Roberto Salmon and Edward Drusina at the Minute 323 signing ceremony September 27, 2017. Photo credit .U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    From the Arizona Department of Water Resources:

    After 11 years of service on the Mexico-United States International Boundary and Water Commission, Roberto Salmón Castelo has stepped down from his position as Mexican Commissioner.

    A graduate of the University of Arizona with a master of science degree in agricultural economics, Salmón was appointed to the position of Mexico IBWC Commissioner on April 15, 2009.

    In his time with the Commission, which has the responsibility for applying the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico, the two nations have taken huge steps forward in assuring that commitments to the primary binational water agreement in the Southwest – the 1944 Mexico-U.S. Water Treaty – were faithfully upheld.

    “It was pleasure working with Commissioner Salmon,” said Jayne Harkins, Commissioner, United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission.

    “He was visionary and worked to find benefits to both countries on international projects. I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

    Thanks to a minute to the Treaty backed by Salmón in 2010, Arizona and the other Basin States were able to participate in binational discussions on Colorado River matters. Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke observed that the personal relationships that developed from those discussions helped pave the way for future binational agreement.

    “Commissioner Salmón recognized the value of personal relationships and worked to develop trust among colleagues on both sides of the border,” recalled Buschatzke.

    “That work was a key component in successfully negotiating the minutes and managing the Colorado River.”

    Commisioner Salmon with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, at a November 2012 in San Diego (Tami A. Heilemann — Office of Communication, U.S. Department of Interior)

    In November 2012, Salmón joined in San Diego with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and other representatives of both countries at an official signing ceremony of Minute 319 to the 1944 Treaty. The ceremony capped three years of work to reach an agreement on a set of cooperative measures for management of the Colorado River system lasting through 2017.

    Commissioner Salmón observed at the time that the agreement paved the way for cooperation that can “guarantee sustainability” in the border region, particularly on future water supply for Mexican border communities.

    Salmón again was on hand at the U.S. “entry into force” event in September 2017 in Santa Fe, which constituted the final flourish of the intense binational negotiations over Minute 323, the successor update to Minute 319.

    Minute 323 established a program of joint cooperative actions to improve Colorado River water management through 2026.

    Like Minute 319, the new Minute 323 provides for the U.S. and Mexico to share proportionately in Lower Basin shortage and surplus, and allows Mexico to create water savings in the Colorado River system in the U.S.

    The updated agreement also opened up opportunities for U.S. water users to fund conservation programs in Mexico, which in turn create “Intentionally Created Surplus,” or ICS, in Lake Mead. ICS is playing an important role in helping to keep the reservoir from descending to dangerously unstable surface levels.

    Salmón’s work on the Commission extended to developments that directly impacted Arizona’s capacity to express its interests in Colorado River matters.

    In 2010, he participated in treaty negotiations that produced Minute 317, known as the “Conceptual Framework for U.S. Mexico Discussions on Colorado River Cooperative Actions.” It established a binational process for coordination on Colorado River matters and expressly called for Basin State participation.

    Also in 2010, Salmón negotiated with his U.S. counterparts on the enactment of Minute 318, which called for the creation of deferred water deliveries to Mexico after infrastructure damage caused by the 2010 Mexicali earthquake.

    Minute 318 allowed Mexico to implement a form of its own ICS, then called “deferred deliveries.” Because Mexico could not beneficially use water as a result of extensive earthquake damage, the water was saved in Lake Mead for Mexico to use in future years.

    In an interview with the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center published shortly after his appointment to the Commission in 2009, Salmón hailed the level of cooperation on water issues between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly through the IBWC.

    “Although there have been rough times in the relationship, the IBWC has been able to succeed, to the benefit of both countries,” he said.

    “(T)here is an accumulated knowledge and methodologies developed for dealing with delicate issues that have worked in the past, and still work in the present.”

    Salmón replaced Arturo Herrera who died in a plane crash in late 2008 along with his U.S. counterpart, Carlos Marin, while flying over flooded areas near Ojinaga, Mexico.

    Salmón’s experience in water and agriculture is extensive.

    Prior to assuming his position with the Commission, he served as Northwest Regional Manager of Mexico’s National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua), known as CONAGUA, and covering the state of Sonora and part of the state of Chihuahua where the Yaqui and Mayo river basins originate.

    His duties with CONAGUA were sweeping. The federal institution deals with all aspects of water in Mexico. Among its many missions, CONAGUA administers water rights, and constructs, manages, operates and maintains reservoirs throughout the country. CONAGUA also manages irrigation districts and units.

    The organization also is involved in the extensive negotiations occurring among the many stakeholders and interest groups in Mexico concerned with water issues – tasks that, in later years, would provide great preparation for Salmón’s duties with the Commission.

    @ColoradoStateU unveils educational resources on potential #restoration of wolves in #Colorado

    Gray wolves are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act, but the Trump administration has petitioned to delist them. That decision, expected this spring, will impact the management and possible reintroduction of wolves in Colorado. Photo credit: Tracy Brooks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

    Colorado residents will vote in November on a ballot initiative that calls for the proposed reintroduction of gray wolves to the state. Proposition 107, a citizen-initiated measure, would direct the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and oversee a science-based plan to restore wolves to the western part of the state.

    To help ensure the public is informed on this topic, Colorado State University scientists have teamed up with Extension staff to produce and publish educational materials on the possible wolf restoration.

    The resources include 12 information sheets on topics including wolf biology, wolves and livestock, disease, human and pet safety, big game and hunting, ecological effects and economics, and a robust list of frequently asked questions with answers.

    “As Colorado’s only land-grant institution, CSU is uniquely positioned to provide science-based information on the subject,” said Kevin Crooks, professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and director of the new Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence. “The educational materials have undergone extensive review by scientists within and outside CSU, including world experts on wolves.”

    Crooks helped lead the development of these educational materials. The center he leads is focused on integrating science, education and outreach to minimize conflict and facilitate coexistence between people and predators.

    The center’s team has developed projects in a variety of systems where human-carnivore coexistence is proving difficult. In addition to wolves, they are tracking growing conflicts with urban black bears and coyotes, polar bears in energy fields in Alaska, lions and cattle keepers in East Africa, and ranchers in systems with predators in the United States.

    A trail of wolf tracks observed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers in
    Northwest Colorado on January 19, 2020. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Wolves already spotted in Colorado

    In early 2020, after the initiative was approved to be placed on the ballot, a pack of wolves was confirmed to be living in Moffat County in the northwestern part of the state. Another lone wolf was confirmed in North Park in summer 2019. These wolves likely migrated from a nearby state, perhaps Wyoming, where they were reintroduced 25 years ago.

    “Science-based information provided from this team is critical to aid in policy development around wildlife and public lands,” said Ashley Stokes, associate vice president for Engagement and Extension at CSU.

    Stokes said that these resources are also important for people who vote, so that they may better understand the issues surrounding potential reintroduction of wolves and the impacts on ecological systems, agricultural producers and local communities.

    CSU researchers analyzing public response, media coverage

    Rebecca Niemiec, assistant professor in the Department of Human Dimension of Natural Resources at CSU, recently led research studies on public perspectives and media coverage of the wolf restoration issue in Colorado.

    “One thing we have found from our social science research is that the public has a diversity of beliefs about the potential positive and negative impacts of wolves,” explained Niemiec. “Some of these beliefs are supported by ecological and social science research, while some of them are not. Our hope is that with these educational materials, we can facilitate more productive, science-based discussions about wolf reintroduction and management.”

    John Sanderson, who directs the Center for Collaborative Conservation at CSU, helped direct the scientific review process and worked with partners to produce the educational materials.

    “The topic of wolves is uniquely contentious,” Sanderson said. “If wolves are part of Colorado’s future, we need an inclusive process of creating policy and making decisions that builds trust and identifies mutually acceptable solutions among people with different perspectives.”

    Public surveys over the last few decades suggest support for wolf reintroduction from the majority of Colorado residents. Despite those survey results, restoring wolves in the state is a contentious topic that taps into diverse emotions and passions across various groups. And misinformation about wolves is widespread, on all sides of the issue.

    CSU Extension has a goal to empower Coloradans and to address important and emerging community issues using science-based educational resources. The information sheets are also available to the public through Extension’s website.

    Learn more about the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence.

    The Center for Collaborative Conservation and the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence are part of the Warner College of Natural Resources.

    2020 #COleg: #Colorado Senate OKs asking voters to repeal Gallagher Amendment — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

    From The Denver Post (Alexander Burness) via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    The effort to ask Colorado voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment — a huge potential fiscal reform for a state in budgetary free-fall — took a key step forward Tuesday, receiving the necessary two-thirds vote in the state Senate.

    Now it needs two-thirds support in the House, and Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, a sponsor, says he is confident he has secured the needed margin. That vote is expected later this week.

    Gallagher, named for a former state senator, was initially approved by voters in 1982. It was designed to limit residential property taxation and ensure that business property owners paid a fair share. The calculation built into it is such that the financial impact of the coronavirus will result in substantial property tax cuts if Gallagher remains untouched. Legislative analysts predict K-12 education will lose roughly half a billion dollars, in addition to hundreds of millions of additional losses for local government spending.

    Lawmakers want to avert that situation by repealing Gallagher, which many of them view as outdated and inflexible…

    One of the main criticisms of Gallagher is that it’s one-size-fits-all, meaning that a recalculation triggered by rising property values in Denver affects rural communities just the same, even when property values there don’t change.

    Water Education Colorado Racial Justice and Equity Statement June 9, 2020 @WaterEdCO #BlackLivesMatter

    Click here to read the statement From Water Education Colorado:

    In January 2020, the Board of Trustees of Water Education Colorado adopted a set of Equity Principles to guide our programs. These principles followed meetings with Black and Latino colleagues. We learned from their personal experiences how racism devastates people of color and their families. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery shockingly demonstrate how Black people and other People of Color continue to suffer from institutionalized racism and crimes perpetrated against them. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in its insistence for justice and equity.

    In our conversations, we are trying to listen more than we speak. We hear from our Black, Latino, and other non-white friends, neighbors and colleagues about the inequities they are more likely to experience in terms of access to education, access to outdoor recreation, and access to equal representation in decision making bodies, all of which affect their ability to influence the future of water for our state. With our Equity Principles (also in Spanish), we established our clear commitment to breaking down barriers to participation and providing opportunities for equipping all Coloradans, regardless of background, race or demographic, with the knowledge and skills needed to engage in making smart decisions for a sustainable water future.

    In 2002, WEco’s formation was catalyzed by an act of the General Assembly providing startup funds and a legislative mandate to “help Colorado citizens understand water as a limited resource and make informed decisions.” We believe this mandate includes ALL people who call Colorado home.

    For the past 18 years, we have worked to provide reliable, trustworthy, impartial water reporting and educational opportunities that help advance democratic systems for water management and protection. We have done so according to our values (read them here), which include that “Water is Life,” and therefore necessary to every person and living thing, and that “Information is for All,” and should be accessible to anyone who wants to understand and engage.

    We are making strides to ensure our programs are available to assist diverse community members in understanding water well enough that they can confidently participate in the discourse around water issues at local, regional and state levels, for the benefit of current and future generations.

    We recognize these small steps on our part are merely a start, but we hope they ripple through the Colorado water community as we work with our members, partners and program participants to be an agent for change. We are committed to scrutinizing our internal policies and procedures to ensure they are equitable and inclusive, and to continuing to listen and learn.


    Lisa Darling, Board President

    Jayla Poppleton, Executive Director

    Jayla Poppleton and Lisa Darling. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    #Denver is a Top 10 Bike-Friendly City


    Denver is movin’ on up in the rankings for two-wheels! People for Bikes recently released its third annual ratings of the best cities for bicycling in the U.S.

    Out of 567 cities, (drum roll please) Denver ranked 8th! The Mile High City has shown steady improvement since People for Bikes began its City Ratings program in 2018. Take a look…

    2018 Rank 27th out of 480 cities

    2019 Rank 18th out of 511 cities

    2020 Rank 8th out of 567 cities

    Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) is delivering a rapid buildout of 125 miles of bike lanes by 2023, making biking a safer and more comfortable commuting option. Denver’s three-pronged approach includes:

  • Coordinating the striping of bike lanes with street paving operations.
  • Installing high comfort bike facilities around the city that will serve as the backbones for future, large area bike network buildouts.
  • A significant buildout of the bike network in the city’s core where population densities are higher to significantly increase the number of Denver households within ¼ mile of a high comfort bikeway (a primary goal of the Denver Moves: Bikes Plan).
  • Of the 125 miles of bike lanes to be installed by 2023, the majority will be considered high comfort facilities that provide greater separation between people in cars and on bikes, traffic calming measures to slow vehicle speeds along residential roads, and greater connectivity to the places people want to bike.

    What are high comfort bikeways? They provide:

  • Dedicated space on the street for people who drive cars and ride bikes
  • Street designs that lower the stress of riding and reduce potential conflicts between bikes and cars
  • A convenient and more viable way for people to get around safely
  • Better connections to the places people want to go, such as schools, parks, trails and transit.
  • People for Bikes’ city ratings are scored across five key indicators: Ridership (how many people are riding bikes), Safety (how safe is it to ride bikes), Network (how easy is it for people to bike where they want to go), Reach (how well the network serves all parts of the community), and Acceleration (how fast the community is working to improve biking).

    Currently, there are total of 206 miles of on-street bike lanes in Denver. When complete, the city’s bike network, as identified in the Denver Moves: Bikes Plan, will consist of nearly 450 miles of bike facilities and every household will be within a quarter mile of a high ease of use facility.

    To learn more about Denver’s bike program, please visit

    The “Emerald Mile” at Centennial Gardens in Denver, May 2020.

    Our Infrastructure Is Being Built for a Climate That’s Already Gone — #stationarity #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    From (Shayla Love):

    Our drain pipes, reservoirs, power lines, roads, sewage systems, and more are all designed based on past climate data. But with the climate crisis comes the uncomfortable realization that the past can’t predict what we’ll need in the future.

    Cimarron River Basin. By Shannon1 – Drawn by myself; shaded relief data from NASA SRTM North America imagery here, CC BY-SA 4.0,

    In 1979, the Army Corps of Engineers predicted that by 2014, Optima Lake, in the panhandle of Oklahoma, would have 600,000 visitors a year camping, fishing, boating, and swimming. Instead, the lake sat empty, a dry expanse of land about three miles long. Today, it is still abandoned.

    The Optima Lake and Dam was originally intended to control flooding from Beaver Creek and the North Canadian River. After $45 million was spent on its construction, though, the lake never filled up, and it has never reached more than 5 percent of its capacity.

    Ed Rossman, a planning branch chief for the Corps of Engineers’ Tulsa District, told a local NPR station in 2013 that the project had been led astray because planners used historical climate data to pick the spot where the dam would be built. That data was wrong by the time construction was completed, and the water no longer flowed there. “We know that the historic record may not be a good snapshot for the future,” Rossman said.

    In other parts of the world, the opposite problem has occurred. A flooding barrier put up in the 1990s in the Netherlands to protect Rotterdam will likely fail 25 years sooner than was predicted when it was first built in the 1990s. Replacing the barrier will cost around a billion euros, 10 million of which would be just the cost for taking it down.

    The issue here, in its different guises, is one that engineers and city planners continue to face, and which reveals an inherent problem with how we’ve planned, designed, built, and made predictions around all of our infrastructure. At its core, this problem revolves around a concept called stationarity.

    Stationarity is the idea that, statistically, the past can help you predict and plan for the future—that the variations in climate, water flow, temperature, and storm severity have remained and will remain stationary, or constant.

    Nearly all the infrastructure decisions with which we live have been made with the assumption of stationarity. Engineers make choices about stormwater drainage pipes based on past data of inches of rain. Bridge engineers design foundations that can withstand a certain intensity of water flow based on the severity a certain location has experienced in the past. Reservoirs are designed to hold water based on historical information about water flow, and the historical water needs of a community.

    “Stationarity has been the foundational concept used in the design of water infrastructure for as long as knowledge of the past has been around,” said Chris Milly, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

    And it’s more than just water. Experts choose what materials to make power lines out of based on how hot it has been before in a given location; if the lines get too hot, they could sag or short circuit. Asphalt cracks at high temperatures, but you can design asphalt mixtures to withstand extreme heats; those mixture decisions are made based on past weather data. Train tracks, airport runways, power plants, sewage systems— they are all designed with the past climate in mind.

    Yet the assumption of a stationarity world has not withstood the test of time, or of climate change. In 2019, the average temperature around the world was 1.7 degrees above the 20th century average; it was the second-warmest year ever to be measured. The planet’s temperature has been increasing steadily and the five warmest years since 1880 have all taken place since 2015. The increase in global temperature is causing temperature and weather extremes that past climate data can’t fully predict.

    Experts say it means we need to undergo an ideological shift in how we think about infrastructure and how it interacts with the environment—discarding the notion that our history can dictate what we need in the future, and instead turn to more adaptable and flexible versions of infrastructure that embrace deep uncertainty.

    Over the past two decades, many hydrologists and engineers have raised the alarm about how a stationary approach isn’t working anymore. In 2008, an international group of scientists (including Milly) announced in the journal Science that “stationarity is dead,” and that it was time we accept we’re living on a non-stationary planet.

    How did stationarity die? We’ve changed the planet so much with carbon emissions and other human activity that the past can no longer reliably determine what will happen in the future, or guide decisions about what kind of infrastructure we will need, what size it needs to be, what material it needs to be made of, what kind of climate it needs to be able to withstand.

    “When people say stationarity is dead they’re saying something pretty straightforward, which is the past is no longer a good guide to the future,” said Giulio Boccaletti, the chief strategy officer and global ambassador of water at The Nature Conservancy. “That’s pretty momentous for a sector like water, which for the last century has essentially based its designs on statistics from the past, rather than being able to predict what is going to happen. Then the issue becomes, well, OK, so how different will it be?”

    Non-stationarity means that we live in a world where there is no such thing as “normal,” where every new year comes rife with uncertainty and the threat of extremes we’ve never seen before. And “stationarity cannot be revived,” the Science paper declared.

    Engineers constantly have to make choices when designing infrastructure. If you are designing a road with a stormwater system—a pipe underneath the road that moves water away to prevent flooding—how big would you make the pipe? It would have to be a different size depending on whether you lived in San Diego, Minneapolis, or New York City.

    Engineers don’t just pick a random diameter that they think sounds good—the process is systematic, said Mikhail Chester, an associate professor of civil, environmental, and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University.

    “Often at the national level, there are engineering societies that will make recommendations that make their way into city codes,” Chester said. “And those say that when you design a stormwater pipe, it needs to be able to accommodate a 10-year-event, or something like that.”

    A 10-year event isn’t when something happens every 10 years. It’s when an event, like an earthquake or flood, has a 10 percent chance of occurring each year. A 100-year event, rarely used when designing infrastructure, has a one percent chance of occurring each year.

    Where do engineers get that probability? Weather stations have collected data on what happened in the past—rain, water flow, temperature—and we have records that go back 40 to 60 years. When trying to decide how big to design something, engineers will often go to the National Weather Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. They plug in the location of the infrastructure they’re designing for, and see what the past has been like for that area. “This concept is everywhere in infrastructure,” Chester said.

    It’s also linked intimately with stationarity. It’s only useful to use past data if you assume that the future will be similar to the past. “How big should my reservoir be, for example,” said Boccaletti. “The idea was, if I build a reservoir that can hold water for long enough to ride through whatever droughts there have been in the past, then surely that will also be adequate for the future.”

    But if the future is going to be different, then the past isn’t so helpful. One paper on stationarity said designing infrastructure in this way was like “dancing on the tip of a needle.”

    Twenty years ago, discussions about stationarity versus non-stationarity were non-existent in the context of infrastructure, Chester said. Figuring out how to design non-stationary infrastructure has only started to be discussed, researched, and published about in the last 10 years.

    “Here I am today, in 2020, and I’m an engineer,” Chester said. “And I’ve literally had these conversations with engineers where they say to me, ‘Something’s not right. We’re seeing extremes happening at a greater intensity and more frequently than we’ve experienced in the past.”

    To complicate matters further, infrastructure isn’t designed for only the next few years. Ideally, it will last decades. “If something is going to be there for a long time into the future, what should I be designing for exactly?” Chester said.

    There’s not an easy answer to this question yet. Climate modeling is imperfect, but let’s say that one forecast estimates that flooding will get 12 percent worse. Should engineers make storm pipes 12 percent bigger?

    “It doesn’t quite work that way,” Chester said. “Upsizing everything is not financially feasible. We don’t have enough money to upgrade the infrastructure that we have, let alone start making it even bigger for uncertainty in the future. This is where we stand as engineers, trying to reconcile what to do.”

    When temperatures rise, there’s more evaporation, leading to more droughts in some areas, but also more moisture in the atmosphere, and so more rainfall in others. Sea levels have risen about 7 inches since the start of the 20th century. Summers are getting hotter. The rainfall during Hurricane Harvey was 15 percent more intense and three times more likely to occur because of the changes to the climate caused by human activities.

    Our infrastructure is already inadequate in the face of these changes, and will, in the future, when the climate has changed even more, become even more inadequate. In 2014, for the first time, the National Climate Assessment report included a section about the ways that climate change threatened infrastructure. The authors highlighted how power, sewage, roads, drinking water are all linked to one another, and one extreme weather event could cause a cascading effect, like in 2011 when a heat wave led to 20 different infrastructure failures in only 11 minutes, affecting millions in Arizona, California, and Mexico.

    “It’s not unreasonable to think that you are going to start to see more failures of assets under even normal conditions,” Chester said. “But the worst is going to be the extremes.”

    These cascading events will become more likely if we continue with static infrastructure that’s designed from the past. And yet, the Trump administration’s infrastructure revitalization plan doesn’t mention the risk of climate change, nor does it discuss the necessity of anticipating the uncertainty that comes with designing infrastructure for a future that doesn’t resemble the past.

    The solution is to develop infrastructure that is agile, flexible, and ultimately adaptable, rather than sturdy, unchanging, and permanent. The goal isn’t to make rickety bridges or weak pipes that need to be replaced all the time, but to shift from an ideology of rigidity to flexibility so that the infrastructure that surrounds us can be updated quickly to match our environments.

    One way to achieve that is through modularity, inherently adaptable infrastructure, that can be changed more easily, and with compatibility of hardware—like being able to easily raise the height of bridges, or change the size or scope of drainage, or design infrastructure with multiple uses. One example of this is that in Kuala Lumpur, they can use their traffic tunnels as stormwater tunnels if there’s an extreme storm or heavy rainfall.

    There’s a field of decision science called decision-making under “deep uncertainty,” and engineers have started their foray into this discipline; the collaboration will be crucial for the future. Simply taking the time to predict a myriad of future conditions and walking through the outcomes is helpful too, and isn’t something that reliably happens now with infrastructure design. Instead of planning funding until a project is complete, it could anticipate future changes and adaptations that need to be made in the budget from the start.

    In the UK, the Thames Estuary 2100 Project was one of the first to rigorously consider deep uncertainty and climate change right from the beginning of the planning process. A large part of the plan was to upgrade or replace the Thames Barrier, which protects London from flooding due to a storm surge.

    Instead of looking at what happened in the past to determine how to modify the barrier, the group planned out multiple possible options for the future, created an “adaption map” with different choices arising depending on what was going on with the climate, like a choose your own adventure book informed by the climate.

    Another approach is called “minimizing future regret.” “It’s a totally different way of looking at problems,” Chester said. “I don’t know how bad it’s going to be. What I do know, is that in making decisions, I want to minimize retreat about how I make those decisions. I essentially want to look at a number of scenarios of ways that I could adapt, and ask myself, ‘If I’m totally off in those scenarios, how bad is that? How much cost did I waste, how much resources did I waste, and what were the social, political, and capital concerns in doing that?’”

    We need to build infrastructure that is safe to fail. Traditionally, infrastructure is designed to be fail-safe up to a certain point—those 10 or 100-year events. Anything over that, and severe consequences occur. At the moment we don’t design infrastructure with that failure in mind. Thinking about the consequences right at the beginning of the design process forces engineers and city planners to work to avoid them.

    All of this doesn’t mean completely disregarding the past. “We need somehow to blend what we know from the past with what we can infer about the future,” Milly said. “Continuing to measure and observe the real system is a crucial part of this endeavor, because it gives us feedback about where the climate models might be on the mark or going astray.”

    Non-stationary is a statistical problem that reflects a more existential one: How do you make decisions in the context of deep uncertainty? How do you plan for the future, when finally accepting that the future won’t look like the past?

    Stationarity and non-stationarity can serve as apt metaphors to think about the climate crisis overall. We cannot continue to behave in the future as we have in the past, because we’ve changed the environment too much to do that. Even outside of infrastructure, we need to act differently than we did before. What Nietzsche wrote that “God is dead” he meant that the Enlightenment’s progression of science, philosophy, and society no longer needed to frame itself around the rules of religion and faith. Similarly, since “stationarity is dead,” we can no longer have faith in a constant, unchanging world, and the promise that a future will be just like the past.

    This acceptance of uncertainty could prove useful in other domains too. Chester and his colleagues recently wrote that our inability to design adaptable and flexible infrastructure has been revealed in other sectors too, like during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With all types of infrastructure, including the medical infrastructure system, efficiency and resilience are in conflict,” they wrote.

    Our medical infrastructure was only able to handle extremes it had dealt with in the past, but unable to adapt to a new, unprecedented extreme event. We weren’t able to easily scale up testing, contact tracing, or social and economic policies to help people as the country shut down. We ran out of essential medical equipment like PPE and ventilators.

    “When the situation does change—and especially if the change is anomalous, high-impact, and rapid, allowing little time for adaptation—such a system will be very fragile, since the conditions to which it has been adapted no longer prevail,” the authors wrote.

    Climate change, pandemics, population growth, resource demands—all of these factors reflect how fast and how much our societies are changing, and challenging us to innovate and develop along with them.

    “The fact is that over the course of the next 100 years, everything is going to change because nature is changing quite significantly,” Boccaletti said. “And so we have to transition to a more adaptive and resilient system of managing.”

    @USDA Issues First #Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Payments #COVID19

    Photo credit: Purdue University

    Here’s the release from the US Department of Agriculture:

    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has already approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. FSA began taking applications May 26, and the agency has received over 86,000 applications for this important relief program.

    “The coronavirus has hurt America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers, and these payments directed by President Trump will help this critical industry weather the current pandemic so they can continue to plant and harvest a safe, nutritious, and affordable crop for the American people,” said Secretary Perdue. “We have tools and resources available to help producers understand the program and enable them to work with Farm Service Agency staff to complete applications as smoothly and efficiently as possible and get payments into the pockets of our patriotic farmers.”

    In the first six days of the application period, FSA has already made payments to more than 35,000 producers. Out of the gate, the top five states for CFAP payments are Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and South Dakota. USDA has released data on application progress and program payments and will release further updates each Monday at 2:00pm ET. The report can be viewed at

    FSA will accept applications through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

    In order to do this, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.

    Getting Help from FSA

    New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

    Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help producers identify sales and inventory records needed to apply and calculate potential payments. Producers self-certify their records when applying for CFAP and that documentation is not submitted with the application. However, producers may be asked for their documentation to support the certification of eligible commodities, so producers should retain the information used to complete their application.

    Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print a pre-filled CFAP application, sign it, and submit it to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery through an office drop box. Please contact your local office to determine the preferred delivery method for your local office. Team members at FSA county offices will be able to answer detailed questions and help producers apply quickly and efficiently through phone and online tools. Find contact information for your local office at

    Video conference: “Eddied Out with WRC — Capturing River Moments Like a Pro” — Western Rivers Conservancy

    Click here to register.

    From email from the Western Rivers Conservancy:

    Rivers provide us with some of our best memories with friends and family. Yet it often feels impossible to do those moments justice through the camera lens. With some coaching from Val Atkinson, one of the world’s most accomplished fly fishing photographers, you’ll come a heck of a lot closer!

    Want to step up your photography game for your next trip to the river? Join us for a live how-to webinar with renowned river photographer Val Atkinson!

    As part of our Eddied Out series, Western Rivers Conservancy is hosting Val for a one-hour instructional session about capturing rivers with your iPhone. He’ll show you:

  • Why light is everything
  • How to compose a great shot
  • The importance of moment
  • iPhone technical tips
  • What makes Val’s and some of WRC’s best river photographs work
  • About Val Atkinson

    Val Atkinson is an internationally acclaimed fly fishing photographer whose work has taken him to over 30 countries. He has published four photography books, and his photography has appeared in more than 100 publications worldwide. This is a rare chance to learn from a true pro, who knows rivers intimately and knows how to capture them unlike anyone else.

    Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos — The Conversation

    Diligence, technological progress and a little luck have together solved a 20 year mystery of the cosmos.
    CSIRO/Alex Cherney, CC BY-ND

    J. Xavier Prochaska, University of California, Santa Cruz and Jean-Pierre Macquart, Curtin University

    In the late 1990s, cosmologists made a prediction about how much ordinary matter there should be in the universe. About 5%, they estimated, should be regular stuff with the rest a mixture of dark matter and dark energy. But when cosmologists counted up everything they could see or measure at the time, they came up short. By a lot.

    The sum of all the ordinary matter that cosmologists measured only added up to about half of the 5% what was supposed to be in the universe.

    This is known as the “missing baryon problem” and for over 20 years, cosmologists like us looked hard for this matter without success.

    It took the discovery of a new celestial phenomenon and entirely new telescope technology, but earlier this year, our team finally found the missing matter.

    Origin of the problem

    Baryon is a classification for types of particles – sort of an umbrella term – that encompasses protons and neutrons, the building blocks of all the ordinary matter in the universe. Everything on the periodic table and pretty much anything that you think of as “stuff” is made of baryons.

    Since the late 1970s, cosmologists have suspected that dark matter – an as of yet unknown type of matter that must exist to explain the gravitational patterns in space – makes up most of the matter of the universe with the rest being baryonic matter, but they didn’t know the exact ratios. In 1997, three scientists from the University of California, San Diego, used the ratio of heavy hydrogen nuclei – hydrogen with an extra neutron – to normal hydrogen to estimate that baryons should make up about 5% of the mass-energy budget of the universe.

    Yet while the ink was still drying on the publication, another trio of cosmologists raised a bright red flag. They reported that a direct measure of baryons in our present universe – determined through a census of stars, galaxies, and the gas within and around them – added up to only half of the predicted 5%.

    This sparked the missing baryon problem. Provided the law of nature held that matter can be neither created nor destroyed, there were two possible explanations: Either the matter didn’t exist and the math was wrong, or, the matter was out there hiding somewhere.

    Remnants of the conditions in the early universe, like cosmic microwave background radiation, gave scientists a precise measure of the unverse’s mass in baryons.

    Unsuccessful search

    Astronomers across the globe took up the search and the first clue came a year later from theoretical cosmologists. Their computer simulations predicted that the majority of the missing matter was hiding in a low-density, million-degree hot plasma that permeated the universe. This was termed the “warm-hot intergalactic medium” and nicknamed “the WHIM.” The WHIM, if it existed, would solve the missing baryon problem but at the time there was no way to confirm its existence.

    In 2001, another piece of evidence in favor of the WHIM emerged. A second team confirmed the initial prediction of baryons making up 5% of the universe by looking at tiny temperature fluctuations in the universe’s cosmic microwave background – essentially the leftover radiation from the Big Bang. With two separate confirmations of this number, the math had to be right and the WHIM seemed to be the answer. Now cosmologists just had to find this invisible plasma.

    Over the past 20 years, we and many other teams of cosmologists and astronomers have brought nearly all of the Earth’s greatest observatories to the hunt. There were some false alarms and tentative detections of warm-hot gas, but one of our teams eventually linked those to gas around galaxies. If the WHIM existed, it was too faint and diffuse to detect.

    The red circle marks the exact spot that produced a fast radio burst in a galaxy billions of light-years away.
    J. Xavier Prochaska (UC Santa Cruz), Jay Chittidi (Maria Mitchell Observatory) and Alexandra Mannings (UC Santa Cruz), CC BY-ND

    An unexpected solution in fast radio bursts

    In 2007, an entirely unanticipated opportunity appeared. Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at the University of West Virginia, reported the serendipitous discovery of a cosmological phenomenon known as a fast radio burst (FRB). FRBs are extremely brief, highly energetic pulses of radio emissions. Cosmologists and astronomers still don’t know what creates them, but they seem to come from galaxies far, far away.

    As these bursts of radiation traverse the universe and pass through gasses and the theorized WHIM, they undergo something called dispersion.

    The initial mysterious cause of these FRBs lasts for less a thousandth of a second and all the wavelengths start out in a tight clump. If someone was lucky enough – or unlucky enough – to be near the spot where an FRB was produced, all the wavelengths would hit them simultaneously.

    But when radio waves pass through matter, they are briefly slowed down. The longer the wavelength, the more a radio wave “feels” the matter. Think of it like wind resistance. A bigger car feels more wind resistance than a smaller car.

    The “wind resistance” effect on radio waves is incredibly small, but space is big. By the time an FRB has traveled millions or billions of light-years to reach Earth, dispersion has slowed the longer wavelengths so much that they arrive nearly a second later than the shorter wavelengths.

    Fast radio bursts originate from galaxies millions and billions of light-years away and that distance is one of the reasons we can use them to find the missing baryons.

    Therein lay the potential of FRBs to weigh the universe’s baryons, an opportunity we recognized on the spot. By measuring the spread of different wavelengths within one FRB, we could calculate exactly how much matter – how many baryons – the radio waves passed through on their way to Earth.

    At this point we were so close, but there was one final piece of information we needed. To precisely measure the baryon density, we needed to know where in the sky an FRB came from. If we knew the source galaxy, we would know how far the radio waves traveled. With that and the amount of dispersion they experienced, perhaps we could calculate how much matter they passed through on the way to Earth?

    Unfortunately, the telescopes in 2007 weren’t good enough to pinpoint exactly which galaxy – and therefore how far away – an FRB came from.

    We knew what information would allow us to solve the problem, now we just had to wait for technology to develop enough to give us that data.

    Technical innovation

    It was 11 years until we were able to place – or localize – our first FRB. In August 2018, our collaborative project called CRAFT began using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope in the outback of Western Australia to look for FRBs. This new telescope – which is run by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO – can watch huge portions of the sky, about 60 times the size of a full Moon, and it can simultaneously detect FRBs and pinpoint where in the sky they come from.

    ASKAP captured its first FRB one month later. Once we knew the precise part of the sky the radio waves came from, we quickly used the Keck telescope in Hawaii to identify which galaxy the FRB came from and how far away that galaxy was. The first FRB we detected came from a galaxy named DES J214425.25–405400.81 that is about 4 billion light-years away from Earth, in case you were wondering.

    The technology and technique worked. We had measured the dispersion from an FRB and knew where it came from. But we needed to catch a few more of them in order to attain a statistically significant count of the baryons. So we waited and hoped space would send us some more FRBs.

    By mid-July 2019, we had detected five more events – enough to perform the first search for the missing matter. Using the dispersion measures of these six FRBs, we were able to make a rough calculation of how much matter the radio waves passed through before reaching earth.

    We were overcome by both amazement and reassurance the moment we saw the data fall right on the curve predicted by the 5% estimate. We had detected the missing baryons in full, solving this cosmological riddle and putting to rest two decades of searching.

    Sketch of the dispersion measure relation measured from FRBs (points) compared to the prediction from cosmology (black curve). The excellent correspondence confirms the detection of all the missing matter.
    Hannah Bish (University of Washington), CC BY-ND

    This result, however, is only the first step. We were able to estimate the amount of baryons, but with only six data points, we can’t yet build a comprehensive map of the missing baryons. We have proof the WHIM likely exists and have confirmed how much there is, but we don’t know exactly how it is distributed. It is believed to be part of a vast filamentary network of gas that connects galaxies termed “the cosmic web,” but with about 100 fast radio bursts cosmologists could start building an accurate map of this web.

    This article was updated to indicate that Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, operates the new telescope.

    [Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.]The Conversation

    J. Xavier Prochaska, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz and Jean-Pierre Macquart, Associate Professor of Astrophysics, Curtin University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    GDP measures the wrong things: Here’s something better — Marilyn Waring, TEDxChristchurch

    “Because humankind and our planet need another way” — Marylyn Waring

    In 1953, a group of economists got together to create the Gross Domestic Product: a way to measure everything that involves a market transaction. But GDP doesn’t measure the single biggest contributor to almost every nation’s economy—the unpaid labour performed every day in homes, in families, and by volunteers—and it doesn’t account for the cost of externalities like the environment. In this funny, engaging and enlightening talk, noted economist Dr Marilyn Waring makes a compelling and accessible argument for finding a better way to measure what counts.

    Dr Marilyn Waring is a prominent New Zealand economist and feminist, and a leading activist for human rights.

    At 23 years old, Marilyn was one of the youngest New Zealanders ever elected to Parliament. She pushed to have marital rape criminalised and threatened to cross the floor to vote with Labour on a nuclear-free New Zealand, precipitating the 1984 snap election.

    On leaving Parliament, Marilyn earned a PhD in Political Economy; her research has been influential in establishing the field of feminist economics. She argues for the economic importance of women’s unpaid work and the environment, revealing the serious policy consequences caused by ignoring these when calculating national economic measures such as GDP.

    More recently, Marilyn’s work has focused on the inequities of globalisation and the importance of acknowledging women’s work as an international human rights issue. She has undertaken a range of projects dealing with these issues for the United Nations. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

    @ColoradoStateU atmospheric scientists identify cleanest air on Earth in first-of-its-kind study

    Aerosol filter samplers probe the air over the Southern Ocean on the Australian Marine National Facility’s R/V Investigator. Photo by Kathryn Moore via Colorado State University

    Here’s the From Colorado State University (Jayme DeLoss):

    Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Sonia Kreidenweis and her research group identified an atmospheric region unchanged by human-related activities in the first study to measure bioaerosol composition of the Southern Ocean south of 40 degrees south latitude. Kreidenweis’ group, based in the Department of Atmospheric Science, found the boundary layer air that feeds the lower clouds over the Southern Ocean to be pristine – free from particles, called aerosols, produced by anthropogenic activities or transported from distant lands. Their findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Weather and climate are complex processes connecting each part of the world to every other region, and with climate changing rapidly as a result of human activity, it’s difficult to find any area or process on Earth untouched by people. Kreidenweis and her team suspected the air directly over the remote Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica would be least affected by humans and dust from continents. They set out to discover what was in the air and where it came from.

    “We were able to use the bacteria in the air over the Southern Ocean as a diagnostic tool to infer key properties of the lower atmosphere,” said research scientist Thomas Hill, coauthor on the study. “For example, that the aerosols controlling the properties of SO clouds are strongly linked to ocean biological processes, and that Antarctica appears to be isolated from southward dispersal of microorganisms and nutrient deposition from southern continents. Overall, it suggests that the SO is one of very few places on Earth that has been minimally affected by anthropogenic activities.”

    CSU researcher Kathryn Moore collected bioaerosol samples aboard the R/V Investigator, an Australian Marine National Facility research vessel. Photo by Kendall Sherrin (CSIRO, AU) via Colorado State University

    Samples were collected during the NSF-funded SOCRATES field campaign, led by research scientist and coauthor Paul DeMott. Graduate student Kathryn Moore sampled the air in the marine boundary layer, the lower part of the atmosphere that has direct contact with the ocean, aboard the Research Vessel Investigator as it steamed south from Tasmania to the Antarctic ice edge. Research scientist and first author Jun Uetake examined the composition of airborne microbes captured from the ship. The atmosphere is full of these microorganisms dispersed over hundreds to thousands of kilometers by wind.

    Using DNA sequencing, source tracking and wind back trajectories, Uetake determined the microbes’ origins were marine, sourced from the ocean. Bacterial composition also was differentiated into broad latitudinal zones, suggesting aerosols from distant land masses and human activities, such as pollution or soil emissions driven by land use change, were not traveling south into Antarctic air.

    These results counter all other studies from oceans in the subtropics and northern hemisphere, which found that most microbes came from upwind continents. Plants and soil are strong sources of particles that trigger freezing of supercooled cloud droplets, known as ice-nucleating particles. This process reduces cloud reflectivity and enhances precipitation, increasing the amount of sunlight reaching the surface and altering Earth’s radiative balance.

    A wave breaks off the side of the Australian Marine National Facility research vessel, the R/V Investigator, during the SOCRATES field campaign. CSU researchers found sea spray emissions dominate cloud-forming material over the Southern Ocean. Photo by Peter Shanks (CSIRO, AU) via Colorado State University.

    Over the Southern Ocean, sea spray emissions dominate the material available for forming liquid cloud droplets. Ice-nucleating particle concentrations, rare in seawater, are the lowest recorded anywhere on the planet.

    The air over the Southern Ocean was so clean that there was very little DNA to work with. Hill attributed the quality of their results to Uetake and Moore’s clean lab process.

    “Jun and Kathryn, at every stage, treated the samples as precious items, taking exceptional care and using the cleanest technique to prevent contamination from bacterial DNA in the lab and reagents,” Hill said.