OBAMA TO UNVEIL CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION PLAN
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to unveil what he described as â€œthe biggest, most important step we've ever takenâ€ to tackle climate change. The revised Clean Power Plan aims at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by almost one-third over the next 15 years and represents â€œthe administrationâ€™s boldest attempt to date to reduce emissions,â€ The Washington Post writes. â€œClimate change is not a problem for another generation. Not any more,â€ the President said in a video released Sunday.
ATHENS STOCK EXCHANGE REOPENS
The Athens Stock Exchange opened down 22.87% this morning after a five-week closure that came at the peak of Greeceâ€™s debt crisis, Kathimerini reports. Four of the countryâ€™s biggest banks were among the biggest losers, with Piraeus Bank and National Bank of Greece sinking 30%.
ON THIS DAY
La Scala opened its doors for the first time on this day in 1778! Time for today's 57-second shot of history here.
When asked about the weight of money in U.S. politics, former President Jimmy Carter replied that America is now â€œjust an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.â€
Hillary Clintonâ€™s advertising campaign will begin tomorrow in Iowa and New Hampshire, as her lead over her relatively unknown Democratic rival and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is beginning to erode. And with reports that Vice President Joe Biden is still considering entering the race to be the Democratic Partyâ€™s candidate for the White House, Clinton is determined to use her campaign war chest to build an insurmountable lead. For five weeks of ad campaigns in the two early voting states, the ex-First Lady is spending $2 million. Read more from Politico.
BOKO HARAM HOSTAGES FREED
The Nigerian army has freed 178 people, 101 of them children, being held hostage by terrorist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, AFP reports. The move marks an important step in the fight against the Islamist sect, especially after recent deadly attacks in the countryâ€™s northeastern region. In a speech on Sunday, a confident President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria â€œwill defeat Boko Haram by the end of this year.â€ Read more from Vanguard.
Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the climate had a major blind spot: cattle farming and meat consumption. Nowhere is the damage more evident than his native Latin America, writes Klaus Ziegler for El Espectador: â€œPope Francis should have cited the harm meat and meat-eating are doing to the planet in his encyclical on the environment. Perhaps Adam was banned from Paradise not for biting into an apple, but for trying his first steak.â€
Read the full article, Cattle Farming, A Wretched Environmental Legacy.
ISRAEL VOWS TO TACKLE â€œJEWISH TERRORâ€
Jewish terror suspects in Israel will be detained without trial, the cabinet announced in response to the death of a Palestinian toddler in the West Bank on Friday, in a criminal fire caused by Israeli settlers. The attack caused a national and international uproar, coming just one day after a man identified as an Ultra Orthodox Jewish militant stabbed six people during Jerusalemâ€™s gay pride. One the victims, a 16-year-old Israeli girl, died as a result of her wounds. According to Haaretz, the experts who are investigating Fridayâ€™s attack said they believed those responsible to be likely linked with radical groups who have been targeting mosques, churches and Palestinian homes over the past year. Their ultimate goal is said to be to overthrow the government and establish a new governing system based on Jewish law.
CALIFORNIA FIRES: 134,000 ACRES AND COUNTING
Photo: Stuart Palley/ZUMA
A wildfire raging through northern California more than doubled in size on its fifth day on Sunday.
According to the stateâ€™s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 9,300 firefighters are now battling at least 21 wildfires that have torched more than 134,000 acres over the past weeks. California is in the fourth year of a severe drought that has made the region very vulnerable to brush fires.
DOPING IN RUNNING
Distance running is in a similar state as cycling when a doped Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times, experts concluded after the results of thousands of athletesâ€™ blood tests from 2001-2012 were leaked to British and German media. At least one-third of Olympic and world championship medals are believed to have been won by doped athletes.
SAUDI KING CUTS FRENCH HOLIDAY SHORT
Saudi Arabian King Salman has left the French riviera on Sunday after eight days of controversy, cutting short a planned three-week stay. Some 150,000 citizens had signed a petition against the closure of a public beach outside the monarchâ€™s villa, which officials approved in apparent breach of French law on equality. Also controversial was the kingâ€™s request that a female police officer be withdrawn from the beach.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
THE FORMULA TO CATCH THEM ALL
Thanks to a group of academics, thereâ€™s now a formula to find out who the killer is in Agatha Christieâ€™s novels before Poirot or Miss Marple do.
Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.
If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.
The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.
Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.
This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.
It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."
In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.
Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.
Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.
But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.
In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.