NPR on Food Shortages and Nutrition

NPR weighs in on the food situation around the world today. And not surprisingly, America has a few things to work on. Who should we emulate? Well, perhaps Denmark.

If you want to understand the major issues we have with the world food system, just ask Max Lawson, member of Oxfam an anti-poverty nonprofit located in England.

“Basically, if you arrive from Mars and design a food system, you probably couldn’t design a worse one than what we have today on Earth,” Oxfam’s Max Lawson tells The Salt. “There is enough food overall in the world to feed everyone. But 900 million people still don’t have enough to eat, and 1 billion people are obese. It’s a crazy situation.”

The link to the full article is here. For those of you interested, I suggest it as a great mid-morning read!

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The Original Environmentalists of Taos, New Mexico

By Lauren Rule

The location of the sacred Blue Lake is known only to the Native Americans

The location of the sacred Blue Lake is known only to the Native Americans

While studying Environmental Communications in Taos, our class traveled to the Taos Pueblo to experience the traditional Buffalo Dance. The Taos Pueblo Native Americans exemplify the true environmentalist. They believe the environment to have a spiritual life to which they are connected. The Battle of Blue Lake demonstrates the spiritual connection between the Native Americans and their land.

The Blue Lake consisted of 50,000 acres of sacred land where they practiced religion and lived for hundreds of years. In 1906, the government placed the sacred Blue Lake watershed in the newly created Carson National Forest. Under this decree, the land no longer belonged to the Native Americans, but to the government. The Blue Lake, as well as its surrounding 50,000 acres, now belonged in the public domain. This angered the Native Americans as they witnessed tourists and recreationalists destroy what they believed sacred. In order for the Taos Pueblo Indians to protect their beliefs in the land, they commenced a legal battle to oust the Forest Service and reclaim dominion over Blue Lake.

With help from the National Council of Churches, the Native Americans launched a nationwide public relations campaign.  Rev. Dean M. Kelley, the NCC’s director of the Commission on Religious Liberties, visited the Taos Indians and finally understood why the area was so sacred to them. Kelley wrote in an article,

 “The members of the tribe feel an ancient identity, not only with Blue Lake–the headwaters of their life-sustaining stream–but with the entire watershed, its plants and animals. Anything which mutilates the valley hurts the tribe. If the trees are cut, the tribe bleeds. If the springs or lakes or streams are polluted, the lifestream of the tribe is infected.”

The Reverend understood the connection between the Native Americans and the land.

As stated by Gordon-McCutchan in The Battle For Blue Lake: A Struggle For Indian Religious Rights, in their fight against the government, they argued that, “Our religion is based upon the unity of man with nature in the Rio Pueblo watershed. Any outside interference with natural conditions of the watershed interferes with our religion.” They wanted the exclusive ownership so that the public could not further harm the land. A key contribution to the recovery of the Lake came from the growing understanding of the idea of ecology. The public began to recognize the relationships between the environment and the Native Americans.

On December 2, 1970, Nixon decided on the Blue Lake Bill and announced the restoration of the Blue Lake lands to the Taos Pueblo Indians. As described by Gordon-McCutchan, once the land had returned, the Native American Spiritual Father stated, “God has given us this land back. The spiritual things that we said about our land are true . . . we are going to use it like we said, the religious way.”

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We need to stop and make a change

This video is about changing the importance of the environment globally.

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The Misinformation Network

By: Ty Johnson

Despite the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) September 2013 report unequivocally linking humans to climate change, citizens and government officials alike still face climate change deniers who use a variety of misinformation strategies to instill doubt and halt progress on environmentally friendly practices and legislation.

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University, believes like-minded organizations have formed what he calls the “climate change countermovement” in an “effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions.” Although these organizations do not openly band together, they have a well-established network of think tanks, media outlets, prominent government officials, and industries that combine to “reposition global warming as theory not fact.” This short Greenpeace film (3:35), titled “The Koch Brothers and Their Amazing Climate Change Denial Machine,” explains the misinformation network.

Similarly, think about how the tobacco industry used misinformation and advertising strategies to confuse the public about smoking and cancer in the ‘60s. Big tobacco stared down the very clear scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer. Its misinformers came up with new strategies of ignoring the evidence, hiring their own scientists, obscuring the truth, and generally selling doubt. When compared side by side, the tactics used by big tobacco to misinform are identical to those used by the fossil fuel industry.

Do me a favor and read those last few sentences, but with a slight change: Today, the oil and gas industry is staring down the very clear scientific evidence that carbon emissions cause climate change. If accepted, that connection would devalue their product. Instead, like big tobacco, they came up with strategies of ignoring the evidence, hiring their own scientists, obscuring the truth, and generally selling doubt. (See the resemblance?)

Ads for smoking used to depict studies by doctors who denied smoke-related health issues (left). Fox News used a anti-climate sanctioned study to refute the IPCC findings on climate change (right).

Ads for smoking used to depict studies by doctors who denied smoke-related health issues (left). Fox News used a anti-climate sanctioned study to refute the IPCC findings on climate change (right).

Brulle sees the climate change counter movement acting the same way with strategies that are focused on communicating misinformation to citizens in order to keep the status quo. He identifies a range of arguments used — from flat-out denial of climate change (which is becoming increasingly hard to back without looking like a moron), to acceptance paired with denial of responsibility (convenient for those who don’t want to look moronic, but still don’t want to change). These arguments serve to delay legislative action intended to help subsidize renewable energy or decrease dependency on fossil fuels.

Recently, Brulle has come out with a new study highlighting the issues behind the funding of the counter movement. “Money amplifies certain voices above others. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. And when you look at the results of the study, it seems clear that the countermovement has fossil fuel interests on its side.

A major finding in Brulle’s study shows Koch and ExxonMobil pulling back from public funding since 2008, but indicates a simultaneous increase in funding through “untraceable sources” such as the Donors Trust. The foundation advertises itself as a way for people like the Koch brothers to “fund sensitive or controversial issues groups” —such as those funding the climate change counter movement— without being exposed as anti-green. Greenpeace investigations into Koch funding indicate $61,375,781 spent on the anti-climate movement and front groups from 1997-2010. Keep in mind, that number does NOT include the “dark money” donations that come from funds like Donors Trust. And this is just one of the major contributors to the climate change counter movement. Remember, major conservative foundations such as the John William Pope Foundation and the Searle Freedom Trust also contribute financially.

In the end, it is vitally important to remember who the voice is behind the arguments against climate change. By putting their hands in pockets all around the nation, conservatives and the oil and gas industry can alter the information reaching the public.

Next time you come across a denier, invite them to sit down for a smoke while you explain the irrefutable scientific evidence that connects their gas-guzzling pick-up truck with climate change, just as they can connect their cigarette to that horrible cough.


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Taos Ski Valley: On Owners and Conservation

By Savannah Stephens

Many of us here at J-term took more than one class. Of course, right now you’re thinking, “TWO CLASSES? In 10 days? How is this possible?!” Well, my friends, enter one of SMU’s greatest classes: Mountain Sports.

Yes, not only have I been traversing ’round Taos checking out super cool non-profits, but I have also skied in Taos Ski Valley. And yes, you have permission to be jealous.

In Taos Ski Valley (TSV) I talked to great ski instructors about the recent TSV headlines. In a surprising change of ownership, TSV has been bought by Louis Bacon, a man with many descriptors– billionaire, recluse, outdoorsman, and perhaps most important to Taos, conservationist. But, Bacon still has a lot to prove to skeptical Taoseños (Taos locals). Are his conservation chops up to their standards? At least Mr. Bacon looks the part.

Louis Bacon, new owner of the Taos Ski Valley

Louis Bacon, new owner of the Taos Ski Valley. Photo credit:

Bacon’s recent purchase is significant to Taoseños, particularly with regard to his conservation of the much revered mountain region. According to a New York Times article, “[TSV] has been in family hands since Ernie Blake opened it in 1954. Mr. Blake, a German immigrant who served on George S. Patton’s intelligence staff during the World War II, was inducted into the United States Ski Hall of Fame in 1987, two years before he died.” With the memory of Mr. Blake still highly respected, it will be important to continue his vision of conservation and sustainable building methods.

Many on the mountain see this purchase as a new start for the valley. In fact, locals are optimistic about the new ski lift, planned for completion this summer. It stands to connect many to new terrain only currently accessible by a 30-minute hike.

Organizations like Renewable Taos, whose mission is to make the Taos area sustainable by 2020, have a vested interest in enveloping small hamlets like the ski valley into their cause as well. Luckily, the valley is already on board.  TSV endorses Sustainable Slopes – The Environmental Charter for Ski Areas that is intended to raise the collective environmental performance of the ski industry. TSV currently ranks midway among western USA ski resorts in measures of environmental and sustainability factors including renewable energy.  Renewable Taos and others are urging TSV to incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into its future development plans towards a higher ranking in years to come.

This hope has potential. Bacon has a substantial record for environmentally responsible projects. According to the Taos News:

“The man bought a 175,000 acre ranch just north of the Colorado border, then took on two wholesale power suppliers who proposed to build a transmission line across the property. Bacon waged a public relations war against the plan (a war he says costs him millions), and defeated the proposal. To seal the deal, he donated a conservation easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it nearly impossible to develop any part of the property.”

Recently, Bacon organized a Bipartisan PAC with a former Colorado Senator, Ken Salazar, aimed at preservation, leading many to believe Bacon will carry on this tradition to TSV.

Bacon obviously has much to do, but he has asked for patience and time to strike the balance between the quaintness enjoy with the TSV and the improvements planned, according to the Taos News. For the locals and for Bacon, it will be interesting to see what that balance eventually becomes.

As for me, I can’t wait to see how the mountain changes because I will definitely be back. And, I would be remiss without a shutout to my instructors, Todd, Randy, and Terry Sue for a great time. And, perhaps more importantly, getting me off the mountain in one piece. And, for showing me amazing views like this. Its no wonder so many are so passionate about conservation at the Taos Ski Valley.

Taos Ski Valley, at the top of the mountain.

Taos Ski Valley, at the top of the mountain.

Kachina Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

Kachina Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

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Western Environmental Law Center

We had the opportunity to have Kyle Tisdale visit with our class and discuss what he is working on in the Taos, NM area. This video explains more of what they do all throughout the West.

A video commemorating WELC’s 20 years (1993-2013) of utilizing the power of law to protect the American West’s clean water, breathable air, verdant forests, majestic landscapes, iconic wildlife, and to promote a clean energy future in the West. What started as a law clinic at the University of Oregon School of Law is now a thriving non-profit law firm with offices across the West. We look forward to the next 20 years of taking on powerful interests to safeguard our climate and to preserve the natural heritage of the American West. (Produced and Directed by Christi Cooper Kuhn, Barrelmaker Productions.)

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David Keith

A funny interview with David Keith on his new book, “A Case For Climate Engineering. In the book he details a strategy to slow climate change.

From the Colbert Report: “A Case For Climate Engineering” author David Keith explains his proposal to use geoengineering as a means of slowing climate change.  (06:25)

David Keith is a Professor of Applied Physics and Public Policy, Harvard University.

For more on David Keith visit his website:

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