High Country News reports on the inequitable burden of heat in Tucson, one of the cities most at risk of experiencing extreme heat in the US, and argues for planting trees and capturing stormwater for irrigation: “A few years ago, city and county officials mapped tree canopies and shade throughout Tucson. The results showed that in northern and eastern Tucson, where the city’s wealthier residents live, the tree canopy is expansive. But south of 22nd Street, home to many of the city’s low-income and minority residents, shade is scarce to nonexistent. And its absence shows: The south side can be up to 5 degrees hotter than the greener neighborhoods to its north.This disparity will only worsen as the climate continues to change. The Southwest is projected to warm by as much as 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. In Tucson, rising temperatures will be further amplified by the urban heat island, a phenomenon linked to rooftops and asphalt roads, which absorb more heat from the sun during the day than natural surfaces and then radiate it at night. The effect is particularly pronounced in the sparsely vegetated parts of the city where people of color and low-income residents live. Those areas are expected to heat up more quickly and be less equipped to buffer the changes with costly amenities like air conditioning. Here, extreme heat could lead to more hospital visits and even deaths. Planting trees and using captured stormwater to irrigate them could help a lot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the hottest part of the day, shaded areas can be 20 to 45 degrees cooler than unshaded spaces. To grow more vegetation, the city of Tucson has created programs to encourage installation of rainwater-harvesting cisterns and stormwater collection basins. But so far, the programs have disproportionately benefited the more affluent areas of the city, where they are least needed.”
When the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is sworn in in January, their first legislative push will be House Resolution 1, which focuses on reforming our political system to be more democratic through automatic voter registration, felon reenfranchisement, independent redistricting commissions, and small-donor matching for campaign financing, among other measures.
The US Department of Agriculture announced that it will roll back school meal standards put in place by the Obama administration. Marion Nestle translates the changes as follows: “First, it will broaden the milk options in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program by allowing local operators to permanently offer flavored, low-fat milk. For consistency across nutrition programs, it will also allow flavored, low-fat milk in the Special Milk Program for Children and in the Child and Adult Care Food Program for participants ages 6 and older. [My translation: a green light to sugar-sweetened milk]. Second, this final rule will require that half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich, thus ending the need for the exemption process. [Translation: Schools can serve a lot fewer whole-grain foods]. Third, it will provide schools in the lunch and breakfast programs more time for gradual sodium reduction by retaining Sodium Target 1 through the end of school year (SY) 2023-2024, continuing to Target 2 in SY 2024-2025, and eliminating the Final Target that would have gone into effect in SY 2022-2023. [Translation: Good-bye Target 3; forget about serious sodium reduction]. By codifying these changes, USDA acknowledges the persistent menu planning challenges experienced by some schools, and affirms its commitment to give schools more control over food service decisions and greater ability to offer wholesome and appealing meals that reflect local preferences. [Translation: USDA is committed to letting schools serve junk foods]. It’s worth reading the Federal Register notice:, which reveals: 97% of more than 84,000 comments on grain flexibility opposed the changes; 96% of more than 83,000 comments on sodium flexibility opposed the changes.”
Berkeley Media Studies Group’s Heather Gehlert shares the top 10 public health soundbytes of 2018, including: "We are survivors not only of gun violence, but of silence. We are survivors of the erratic productions of poverty. But not only that. We are the survivors of unjust policies and practices upheld by our Senate." - D'Angelo McDade, a high-school senior and activist from Chicago. Appeared March 27, 2018 in The Nation. Why we like it: Pulling back the lens to reveal the connections among root causes, legislation, and gun violence can be challenging even for the most seasoned spokespeople. Leading with a powerful juxtaposition between violence and silence, this youth advocate pulls it off beautifully.
A new state law in California bans charitable organizations from serving food in parks and other public spaces without a permit, with non-permitted organizations risking confiscation of food and misdemeanor citations. The San Francisco Public Press reports that “Assembly member Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, introduced the bill in response to complaints to local health departments about community groups feeding the hungry and making people ill. Opponents, including Hunger Action LA, argued unsuccessfully that no data backed up the claims of widespread food-borne illnesses… The law expands the definition of a food facility, which is regulated under the Retail Food Code, to include charitable groups ‘whose purpose is to feed food-insecure individuals.’” Bay Area-based groups like Food Not Bombs are protesting the restrictions on feeding homeless and hungry people.
The US Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill this week, and is expected to pass the House before the end of the month. The current legislation does not include the strict work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients and the rollbacks of pesticide regulations that were included in earlier House versions of the bill.