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An Indian spiritual leader is urging the world to ‘save soil.’ Experts say he’s not helping.

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Friday, December 9, 2022

On a clear, bright day in March, a few dozen people gathered in Parliament Square in central London, many of them wearing green T-shirts and carrying signs emblazoned with the words “Save Soil.” They were there to see an Indian spiritual leader named Sadhguru, who was about to set off on a 13,000-mile motorcycle journey through Europe, the Middle East, and India in a bid to raise awareness of a growing problem: the widespread loss and degradation of the world’s soils.  In front of a statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, flanked by members of the British Parliament and India’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Sadhguru proclaimed that the future looked grim: Without healthy soil, it would become increasingly difficult to grow food, an issue he’s previously warned would lead to mass starvation and civil war. But now, he said, humanity has a chance for redemption, if people all around the world call on their governments to protect soil.  “Soil is one aspect where everybody has to come together, because all of us come from the same soil, live upon the same soil, and go back to the same soil,” he told the listening crowd, and more than 100,000 people watching the event live on YouTube. “The question is only, do we get this point now, or when we are beneath the Earth?” The world, in some sense, appears to be listening. In February, the United Nations’ World Food Programme agreed to collaborate with Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation, the umbrella organization for the Save Soil movement, on “conversations, awareness, and outreach” around soil and food security in India. Sadhguru has addressed world leaders at the annual meeting of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Ivory Coast and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. His most popular video on the Save Soil movement has been viewed more than 5.6 million times on YouTube. But as the campaign has gained traction worldwide, it’s also attracted criticism for its vague methodology and singular focus on the physical characteristics of soil, to the point of excluding larger, more systemic issues like climate change and the industrialization of agriculture. Activists in India have drawn attention to the Isha Foundation’s history of failed environmental campaigns and clashes with Indigenous people, while calling out Sadhguru’s ties to Hindu nationalism and authoritarian leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And scientists have challenged the Save Soil movement’s policy prescriptions for reversing soil degradation, bringing the effectiveness of the campaign into question.  Scientists have challenged the Save Soil movement’s policy prescriptions for reversing soil degradation. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images “It’s extremely performative,” Rohan Antony, a researcher based in India who works for global nonprofit A Growing Culture, which promotes sustainable food systems around the world. “There’s nothing really happening except everyone saying, ‘save soil.’ And whose soil? Why is the soil depleted? None of these questions are being asked.” The stakes are high, as the 65-year-old Sadhguru, born Jagadish Vasudev, has a global audience. With his meandering anecdotes and casual turns of phrase, he strikes a balance between wisdom and relatability, a charismatic mix that’s drawn in the likes of Will Smith, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama, who have publicly praised him or appeared in promotional materials for the Save Soil campaign. He has done extended interviews with singer Demi Lovato and actor Matthew McConaughey and made appearances on The Daily Show and The Joe Rogan Experience. But activists and politicians have accused Sadhguru, whose foundation did not respond to requests for comment from Grist, of starting environmental campaigns to gin up publicity and donations despite having little experience with environmental work. In 2019, he led a campaign to plant trees along the Cauvery River in southern India that was questioned by activists for promoting an overly simplistic solution that might end up actually damaging the environment. Youth climate activist and Fridays for Future India founder Disha Ravi has also criticized Sadhguru for “grabbing land from Adivasis,” India’s Indigenous communities, to build the Isha Foundation headquarters in Coimbatore. Meanwhile, Indian outlet Newslaundry reported last year that the compound was built illegally in a protected elephant habitat. (The Isha Foundation has denied all these allegations.) In launching his latest venture, the Save Soil movement, Sadhguru is bringing attention to a real problem: According to the United Nations, 52 percent of the earth’s agricultural land is “moderately or severely” degraded, a catchall term for a drop in quality that can mean soil is eroded, less fertile, or contaminated with toxic chemicals. Without major changes, a UN report released earlier this year found that an area the size of South America will become degraded by 2050, even as more food will be needed to support a population that’s expected to reach 9.8 billion that year.  Soil is being worn away much faster than it’s being replaced, said Jo Handelsman, a biologist and author of the book A World Without Soil. And the soil that’s left has been stripped of its nutrients and organic matter, making it less productive for growing crops and more vulnerable to extreme weather like flooding and drought.  Fifty-two percent of the earth’s agricultural land is “moderately or severely” degraded, a catchall term for a drop in quality that can mean soil is eroded, less fertile, or contaminated with toxic chemicals. Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images “It’s a very dire situation,” Handelsman said. “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that.”  But while the Save Soil movement has been clear on the impacts of soil degradation, it’s much more vague on the causes — and that’s by design. In a talk in London the day before setting off on his motorcycle journey, Sadhguru emphasized that the campaign is definitively “not a protest,” and that he doesn’t want to lay blame on anyone — corporations or individuals — for the soil crisis. “This confrontational approach to ecological and environmental solutions,” he said, “has to go.”  This big-tent strategy obscures the systemic issues that lead to soil degradation, namely the shift from small-scale, locally self-sustaining agriculture to a globalized system that relies on the cheap export of a handful of cash crops, said Antony of A Growing Culture. That transition, which is connected to colonialism and the violent seizure of Indigenous land, has also devastated small farmers in countries like India and the United States, who are either forced to give up their farms to large-scale producers or use practices that damage the soil to compete economically.  Some of those practices include a worldwide switch over the last 150 years to “modern” farming techniques like plowing, which turns over the soil and exposes it to the air, Handelsman said. That has the dual effect of drying out the earth, making it more vulnerable to erosion, and speeding up the breakdown of organic matter, which makes the soil less nutritious and releases carbon dioxide. The technological shift in farming after World War II, known as the Green Revolution, also encouraged practices like monocropping, or growing just one type of plant on an area of land — particularly high-yield, annual crops like corn and soybeans. These systems have reduced the amount of plant matter that returns to the soil; every year, farmers cut away the crops they’ve grown without leaving anything to decompose into the ground.  “It’s industrial agriculture, not small-scale, peasant agriculture, that’s ruined soil,” Antony said. “But the Save Soil movement makes it sound like the soil is just magically ruined because of our collective abuse of the environment.”  Climate change is exacerbating the issue, with extreme weather events like droughts and heavy rains alternately drying topsoil into dust and washing it away. But Sadhguru has said that he sees soil as a separate issue, telling a crowd in London the day before the sendoff event that “we are talking about climate change, carbon emissions, and global warming … but we are not addressing soil.” Depoliticizing the problem the way the Save Soil campaign does, Antony said, allows governments and corporations responsible for soil depletion to signal their support without changing their practices or making fundamental shifts like redistributing land, which he called a form of “greenwashing.”  Instead, the Save Soil movement has called for governments to pass laws that require agricultural soils to contain 3 to 6 percent organic content, which it says is the minimum for growing healthy food; in some parts of India, that number currently stands at less than 0.5 percent. It’s unclear how much success the campaign has had; while countries like Nepal and six Caribbean nations have signed agreements with Save Soil pledging to halt soil degradation on their territory, they have not yet stated how they plan to do so.  Save Soil also claims to have drafted “a policy for soil regeneration on the planet, based on soil types, latitudinal positions, and agricultural traditions of a given nation,” though viewing it online requires users to agree to “support the Save Soil movement” and not comment on or criticize the policy publicly without permission. (Save Soil did not respond to Grist’s requests to see the document without agreeing to those terms.)  Meanwhile, experts say the goal set by the Save Soil campaign may be overly simplistic. Increasing organic matter by any amount will help boost fertility, improve biodiversity, and fight climate change, as plants that draw carbon dioxide from the air store some of it in the soil once they decompose. But fixating on a specific number obscures the variation in soil types across countries and environments, Handelsman said. Some agricultural soils might, for example, already be at 3 percent but could use an incentive to improve, while others will never get there but can still benefit from smaller increases.  Instead, she recommends a strategy that rewards practices rather than focusing on outcomes; for example, implementing no-till agriculture and planting cover crops, low-value plants like rye and barley that stay in the soil during winter months when it would otherwise lie fallow. Others, like Indian environmental activist Leo Saldanha, recommend turning to agroecology, mingling native plants with grazing animals and crops grown for food consumption in a sustainable manner. Andrew Smith, a farmer and head of operations at the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that researches organic agriculture, said integrating organic practices — like using manure and compost instead of synthetic fertilizers — will also be necessary to improve the health of the soil.  “Most farmers want healthy soil,” Handelsman said. “It’s not that they don’t want to use these methods. It’s that either they’re not provided sufficient education, or the financial wherewithal, to make that switch.”  Soil degradation has been linked to a shift from small-scale, locally self-sustaining agriculture to a globalized system that relies on the cheap export of a handful of cash crops. Aleksander Murzyak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Sadhguru has intentionally avoided endorsing any particular solution for restoring soil health, saying it should be left up to farmers to decide. But Saldanha told Grist that the Save Soil campaign overlooks the voices of India’s farmers and agricultural communities. “It disrupts the efforts put in for decades by farmers and the farmers’ movement to return to a system of pastoralism and agriculture, in which soil health, biodiversity, water security, good water, good food, become the central part of living,” Saldanha said.  And Sadhguru’s ostensible deference to farmers on implementing solutions presumably includes large-scale farmers — but there’s an escalating debate over whether soil health issues can truly be addressed by corporations and large food producers, some of which have embraced “regenerative agriculture” in name while continuing to rely on practices like monocropping that deplete the soil. Some scientists, like Handelsman, believe larger producers can have a role to play in restoring soil health because they’re better able to absorb the economic risk of changing their practices, however slowly.  But for Antony, the only way forward is to move toward a system of food sovereignty, where farmers and local food producers have control over what they plant and how they grow it. This goal is especially salient in India, where farmers are still dependent on seeds introduced by companies such as Bayer (formerly Monsanto) to grow high-yield crops that drive soil degradation and can throw farmers into a cycle of debt.  “If we don’t democratize this control, then farmers will always be shackled to the transnational corporations,” Antony said. “And they will not be free, the soil will continue to be tilled … until it can never replenish itself.”  This story was originally published by Grist with the headline An Indian spiritual leader is urging the world to ‘save soil.’ Experts say he’s not helping. on Dec 9, 2022.

Sadhguru's campaign points to a real problem, but agricultural advocates say his solutions miss the mark.

On a clear, bright day in March, a few dozen people gathered in Parliament Square in central London, many of them wearing green T-shirts and carrying signs emblazoned with the words “Save Soil.” They were there to see an Indian spiritual leader named Sadhguru, who was about to set off on a 13,000-mile motorcycle journey through Europe, the Middle East, and India in a bid to raise awareness of a growing problem: the widespread loss and degradation of the world’s soils. 

In front of a statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, flanked by members of the British Parliament and India’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Sadhguru proclaimed that the future looked grim: Without healthy soil, it would become increasingly difficult to grow food, an issue he’s previously warned would lead to mass starvation and civil war. But now, he said, humanity has a chance for redemption, if people all around the world call on their governments to protect soil. 

“Soil is one aspect where everybody has to come together, because all of us come from the same soil, live upon the same soil, and go back to the same soil,” he told the listening crowd, and more than 100,000 people watching the event live on YouTube. “The question is only, do we get this point now, or when we are beneath the Earth?”

The world, in some sense, appears to be listening. In February, the United Nations’ World Food Programme agreed to collaborate with Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation, the umbrella organization for the Save Soil movement, on “conversations, awareness, and outreach” around soil and food security in India. Sadhguru has addressed world leaders at the annual meeting of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Ivory Coast and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. His most popular video on the Save Soil movement has been viewed more than 5.6 million times on YouTube.

But as the campaign has gained traction worldwide, it’s also attracted criticism for its vague methodology and singular focus on the physical characteristics of soil, to the point of excluding larger, more systemic issues like climate change and the industrialization of agriculture. Activists in India have drawn attention to the Isha Foundation’s history of failed environmental campaigns and clashes with Indigenous people, while calling out Sadhguru’s ties to Hindu nationalism and authoritarian leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And scientists have challenged the Save Soil movement’s policy prescriptions for reversing soil degradation, bringing the effectiveness of the campaign into question. 

India's yoga guru and Isha Foundation founder and spiritual proponent Jagadish "Jaggi" Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, attends a press conference in Mumbai on June 12, 2022.
Scientists have challenged the Save Soil movement’s policy prescriptions for reversing soil degradation. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s extremely performative,” Rohan Antony, a researcher based in India who works for global nonprofit A Growing Culture, which promotes sustainable food systems around the world. “There’s nothing really happening except everyone saying, ‘save soil.’ And whose soil? Why is the soil depleted? None of these questions are being asked.”

The stakes are high, as the 65-year-old Sadhguru, born Jagadish Vasudev, has a global audience. With his meandering anecdotes and casual turns of phrase, he strikes a balance between wisdom and relatability, a charismatic mix that’s drawn in the likes of Will Smith, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama, who have publicly praised him or appeared in promotional materials for the Save Soil campaign. He has done extended interviews with singer Demi Lovato and actor Matthew McConaughey and made appearances on The Daily Show and The Joe Rogan Experience.

But activists and politicians have accused Sadhguru, whose foundation did not respond to requests for comment from Grist, of starting environmental campaigns to gin up publicity and donations despite having little experience with environmental work. In 2019, he led a campaign to plant trees along the Cauvery River in southern India that was questioned by activists for promoting an overly simplistic solution that might end up actually damaging the environment. Youth climate activist and Fridays for Future India founder Disha Ravi has also criticized Sadhguru for “grabbing land from Adivasis,” India’s Indigenous communities, to build the Isha Foundation headquarters in Coimbatore. Meanwhile, Indian outlet Newslaundry reported last year that the compound was built illegally in a protected elephant habitat. (The Isha Foundation has denied all these allegations.)

In launching his latest venture, the Save Soil movement, Sadhguru is bringing attention to a real problem: According to the United Nations, 52 percent of the earth’s agricultural land is “moderately or severely” degraded, a catchall term for a drop in quality that can mean soil is eroded, less fertile, or contaminated with toxic chemicals. Without major changes, a UN report released earlier this year found that an area the size of South America will become degraded by 2050, even as more food will be needed to support a population that’s expected to reach 9.8 billion that year. 

Soil is being worn away much faster than it’s being replaced, said Jo Handelsman, a biologist and author of the book A World Without Soil. And the soil that’s left has been stripped of its nutrients and organic matter, making it less productive for growing crops and more vulnerable to extreme weather like flooding and drought. 

Soil degradation from overstocking, Ground cover has been removed, exposing fragile soil to wind and water erosion. Selective grazing pressure favouring ground herbs and leaving woody shrubs, plus altered fire regimes reducing burns to preserve the little ground cover available, has promoted dominance of woody weeds like those in background: Turpentine (Eremophila sturtii) and Emu bush (Eremophila duttonii). Far western New South Wales, Australia.
Fifty-two percent of the earth’s agricultural land is “moderately or severely” degraded, a catchall term for a drop in quality that can mean soil is eroded, less fertile, or contaminated with toxic chemicals. Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“It’s a very dire situation,” Handelsman said. “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that.” 

But while the Save Soil movement has been clear on the impacts of soil degradation, it’s much more vague on the causes — and that’s by design. In a talk in London the day before setting off on his motorcycle journey, Sadhguru emphasized that the campaign is definitively “not a protest,” and that he doesn’t want to lay blame on anyone — corporations or individuals — for the soil crisis. “This confrontational approach to ecological and environmental solutions,” he said, “has to go.” 

This big-tent strategy obscures the systemic issues that lead to soil degradation, namely the shift from small-scale, locally self-sustaining agriculture to a globalized system that relies on the cheap export of a handful of cash crops, said Antony of A Growing Culture. That transition, which is connected to colonialism and the violent seizure of Indigenous land, has also devastated small farmers in countries like India and the United States, who are either forced to give up their farms to large-scale producers or use practices that damage the soil to compete economically. 

Some of those practices include a worldwide switch over the last 150 years to “modern” farming techniques like plowing, which turns over the soil and exposes it to the air, Handelsman said. That has the dual effect of drying out the earth, making it more vulnerable to erosion, and speeding up the breakdown of organic matter, which makes the soil less nutritious and releases carbon dioxide. The technological shift in farming after World War II, known as the Green Revolution, also encouraged practices like monocropping, or growing just one type of plant on an area of land — particularly high-yield, annual crops like corn and soybeans. These systems have reduced the amount of plant matter that returns to the soil; every year, farmers cut away the crops they’ve grown without leaving anything to decompose into the ground. 

“It’s industrial agriculture, not small-scale, peasant agriculture, that’s ruined soil,” Antony said. “But the Save Soil movement makes it sound like the soil is just magically ruined because of our collective abuse of the environment.” 

Climate change is exacerbating the issue, with extreme weather events like droughts and heavy rains alternately drying topsoil into dust and washing it away. But Sadhguru has said that he sees soil as a separate issue, telling a crowd in London the day before the sendoff event that “we are talking about climate change, carbon emissions, and global warming … but we are not addressing soil.” Depoliticizing the problem the way the Save Soil campaign does, Antony said, allows governments and corporations responsible for soil depletion to signal their support without changing their practices or making fundamental shifts like redistributing land, which he called a form of “greenwashing.” 

Instead, the Save Soil movement has called for governments to pass laws that require agricultural soils to contain 3 to 6 percent organic content, which it says is the minimum for growing healthy food; in some parts of India, that number currently stands at less than 0.5 percent. It’s unclear how much success the campaign has had; while countries like Nepal and six Caribbean nations have signed agreements with Save Soil pledging to halt soil degradation on their territory, they have not yet stated how they plan to do so. 

Save Soil also claims to have drafted “a policy for soil regeneration on the planet, based on soil types, latitudinal positions, and agricultural traditions of a given nation,” though viewing it online requires users to agree to “support the Save Soil movement” and not comment on or criticize the policy publicly without permission. (Save Soil did not respond to Grist’s requests to see the document without agreeing to those terms.) 

Meanwhile, experts say the goal set by the Save Soil campaign may be overly simplistic. Increasing organic matter by any amount will help boost fertility, improve biodiversity, and fight climate change, as plants that draw carbon dioxide from the air store some of it in the soil once they decompose. But fixating on a specific number obscures the variation in soil types across countries and environments, Handelsman said. Some agricultural soils might, for example, already be at 3 percent but could use an incentive to improve, while others will never get there but can still benefit from smaller increases. 

Instead, she recommends a strategy that rewards practices rather than focusing on outcomes; for example, implementing no-till agriculture and planting cover crops, low-value plants like rye and barley that stay in the soil during winter months when it would otherwise lie fallow. Others, like Indian environmental activist Leo Saldanha, recommend turning to agroecology, mingling native plants with grazing animals and crops grown for food consumption in a sustainable manner. Andrew Smith, a farmer and head of operations at the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that researches organic agriculture, said integrating organic practices — like using manure and compost instead of synthetic fertilizers — will also be necessary to improve the health of the soil. 

“Most farmers want healthy soil,” Handelsman said. “It’s not that they don’t want to use these methods. It’s that either they’re not provided sufficient education, or the financial wherewithal, to make that switch.” 

An aerial photo shows a combine harvester cutting through a field of wheat during harvesting season in the Orenburg region, Russia on August 31, 2022. Farmers of the Ural region received a large amount of wheat harvest due to the dry climate in the southern regions as it allows harvest even at nights without dew.
Soil degradation has been linked to a shift from small-scale, locally self-sustaining agriculture to a globalized system that relies on the cheap export of a handful of cash crops. Aleksander Murzyak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sadhguru has intentionally avoided endorsing any particular solution for restoring soil health, saying it should be left up to farmers to decide. But Saldanha told Grist that the Save Soil campaign overlooks the voices of India’s farmers and agricultural communities. “It disrupts the efforts put in for decades by farmers and the farmers’ movement to return to a system of pastoralism and agriculture, in which soil health, biodiversity, water security, good water, good food, become the central part of living,” Saldanha said. 

And Sadhguru’s ostensible deference to farmers on implementing solutions presumably includes large-scale farmers — but there’s an escalating debate over whether soil health issues can truly be addressed by corporations and large food producers, some of which have embraced “regenerative agriculture” in name while continuing to rely on practices like monocropping that deplete the soil. Some scientists, like Handelsman, believe larger producers can have a role to play in restoring soil health because they’re better able to absorb the economic risk of changing their practices, however slowly. 

But for Antony, the only way forward is to move toward a system of food sovereignty, where farmers and local food producers have control over what they plant and how they grow it. This goal is especially salient in India, where farmers are still dependent on seeds introduced by companies such as Bayer (formerly Monsanto) to grow high-yield crops that drive soil degradation and can throw farmers into a cycle of debt. 

“If we don’t democratize this control, then farmers will always be shackled to the transnational corporations,” Antony said. “And they will not be free, the soil will continue to be tilled … until it can never replenish itself.” 

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline An Indian spiritual leader is urging the world to ‘save soil.’ Experts say he’s not helping. on Dec 9, 2022.

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Opinión: Proteger a los niños indígenas es proteger el agua

Al despuntar el alba, bajo el calor seco y sofocante del verano de Arizona, mi masáni, mi madre, mis tías y muchos primos reúnen el rebaño de ovejas de nuestra abuela. Incluso al amanecer, los suelos resecos liberan el calor almacenado en nuestros zapatos con suela de goma. Condujimos a los animales desde sus corrales en el cañón hasta nuestro campamento de verano en la montaña Lukachukai. A lo largo del camino, parábamos en varios abrevaderos de acero conectados a pozos de agua que bombeábamos a mano. Bajo el sol del mediodía, el agua era un refugio para los animales y para nosotros, que bebíamos y jugábamos en ella. Durante estos viajes aprendí historias sobre la tierra y la interconexión entre todos los seres vivos. Me enseñaron los principios fundamentales del K'é [parentesco] y del Diné Bizaad [lengua] para entenderme a mí mismo como Diné y mi relación con la tierra que pisaba. Así, el pastoreo de ovejas no era en absoluto secular, sino que se convirtió en una forma de estar inmerso en mi cultura.Este ensayo también está disponible en inglésAl volver a estos lugares de adulto, me enteré de que muchos pozos se habían secado. Los que siguen dando agua podrían ser fuentes no declaradas de contaminación elevada. Ante la creciente preocupación por los periodos de sequía cada vez más prolongados y sus costos asociados, el año pasado mi familia subastó lo que quedaba de su rebaño, una decisión cada vez más común en toda la reserva, ya que muchas familias Diné se enfrentan a circunstancias similares para encontrar y conseguir agua a grandes distancias. La pérdida gradual de estas prácticas antaño cotidianas me hizo apreciar aún más las enseñanzas culturales que las acompañaban. He visto cómo, ya desde mi generación, muchos jóvenes Diné tienen experiencias limitadas con nuestra cultura y nuestra lengua. La escasez de agua, exacerbada por el cambio climático, está creando un presente y un futuro en el que nuestros hijos sólo oirán hablar de rebaños de ovejas como un recuerdo lejano. El cambio climático tiene un costo cultural.Es fundamental transmitir la identidad Diné a nuestra juventud, un llamado que compartimos todos los grupos indígenas. Sin embargo, las fuerzas que han tratado de exterminarnos a nosotros y a nuestras culturas han atacado desde distintas direcciones. Por un lado, los niños indígenas han sido apartados a la fuerza de sus comunidades -y de sus culturas- mediante políticas de asimilación. La negligencia del gobierno federal hacia las tribus, especialmente en lo que respecta al acceso al agua y a la infraestructura básica, ha creado unas condiciones de vida en los hogares indígenas que, en última instancia, contribuyen a justificar la separación de nuestros hijos. Esto fractura aún más a nuestras comunidades y debilita nuestra soberanía, abriendo la tierra, los recursos y nuestra infancia a intereses no nativos. Teniendo esto en cuenta, para garantizar la continuidad de nuestra cultura y nuestras comunidades, debemos comprender las intrincadas relaciones entre cultura, lengua y naturaleza, y promover políticas que garanticen que nuestros hijos puedan acceder a un entorno seguro, sano y próspero.Daños culturales a través de las leyes Las comunidades indígenas de Estados Unidos nos enfrentamos a una amenaza existencial para conservar nuestra identidad cultural y soberanía desde que nos convertimos en naciones dentro de una nación. Se trata de un antiguo proyecto genocida que se remonta a siglos atrás y que ha afectado negativamente a sucesivas generaciones. Muchas de nuestras familias todavía se están reconciliando con su impacto a través de la generación de nuestros abuelos, que fueron de los últimos en soportar los internados indios avalados por Estados Unidos y gestionados por misioneros cristianos. A partir de 1819, el gobierno federal promulgó la Ley de Civilización India para asimilar a las y los niños indígenas mediante su traslado forzoso y su reclusión en internados gestionados por iglesias hasta la década de 1960. En 1900, se estimaba que se habían llevado a 20.000 niños indígenas, y en 1925 se registraron algo menos de 70.000. El 11 de mayo de 2022, el Departamento del Interior de Estados Unidos publicó su Informe de Investigación sobre la Iniciativa Federal de Internados Indígenas, que confirmaba las experiencias y testimonios ofrecidos por los supervivientes décadas antes. Se identificaron más de 500 muertes de niños indígenas en 408 internados de pueblos indígenas. Este sobrecogedor anuncio se produjo un año después de que investigadores de la Cowessess First Nation, en Saskatchewan (Canadá), descubrieran más de 600 tumbas sin nombre en un único internado para infancias indígenas.Al mismo tiempo, las tribus fueron relegadas a reservas que en la actualidad ocupan, en promedio, el 2,6% de nuestras tierras originales. Dentro de estas áreas limitadas, el gobierno federal no construyó infraestructuras como el acceso al agua potable, creando la situación actual en la que se estima que casi la mitad de los hogares de las reservas no tienen agua potable ni un saneamiento adecuado. Esta realidad pasada y presente agravó aún más la narrativa de que los niños indígenas estaban mejor en sociedades "civilizadas" y bien dotadas de recursos.Así que no es de extrañar que incluso después del cierre de los internados para indígenas, gracias a la movilización de las tribus, se siguiera separando a nuestros niños de sus familias y colocándolos en hogares de acogida y hogares adoptivos no indígenas. Las y los menores indígenas estaban "sobrerrepresentados en los hogares de acogida en una proporción 2,7 veces mayor que su proporción en la población general", según la National Indian Child Welfare Association. Esto suscitó un activismo dirigido por las tribus que desembocó en la adopción de la Ley de Bienestar de la Infancia Indígena (ICWA) de 1978. La ICWA vela por "proteger el interés superior de las infancias indígenas y promover la estabilidad y seguridad de las tribus y familias indígenas".A pesar de la reciente sentencia del Tribunal Supremo a favor de la ICWA, casos como el de Brackeen contra Haaland actualizan la amenaza existencial a nuestra soberanía, al atentar contra protecciones como la ICWA. El caso judicial, apoyado por Texas, Luisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma y Ohio, alegaba que el éxito de la adopción de un niño Cherokee/Navajo (Diné) por una pareja blanca se vio obstaculizado (un total de cuatro meses) por el proceso de la ICWA. En noviembre de 2022, el Tribunal Supremo escuchó los argumentos orales que cuestionaban la ICWA, afirmando que su "clasificación de 'niño indígena' está basada en la raza y viola la Agents of Change in Environmental Justice · Kevin Patterson on Indigenous communities’ heavy metal exposureCláusula de Protección Igualitaria". Como aprendiz Diné en salud medioambiental, trabajo con datos de censos y cohortes que categorizan a mi comunidad y a otros ciudadanos tribales por igual en un grupo racial singular fusionado que neutraliza nuestras identidades políticamente diferenciadas. Me frustra y decepciona que siglos de precedentes que afirman nuestro estatus político como ciudadanos tribales soberanos puedan ser descartados, borrados y, en última instancia, revocados por un fallo de la Corte.Aunque pueda parecer que no está relacionado, el destino actual de los asuntos del agua para las naciones tribales de Estados Unidos está íntimamente ligado a este caso del Tribunal Supremo. No había pasado ni una semana cuando la Corte Suprema falló en contra de la Nación Navajo en un litigio sobre derechos del agua. Basándome en la opinión de mi colega sobre el caso Arizona contra la Nación Navajo, el hilo conductor de ambos casos reside en su interpretación de la responsabilidad federal ante las tribus, los ciudadanos tribales y los recursos de las tierras tribales. La responsabilidad "fiduciaria" federal puede ocuparse del bienestar de un niño nativo, pero no del bienestar de su entorno. Es una paradoja curiosa. Pueden devolvernos a nuestros hijos, pero los devuelven a condiciones que no han cambiado y a la contaminación medioambiental que puede haber contribuido a su traslado inicial. Abordar la injusticia del agua en las tierras indígenas, al igual que la incapacidad del gobierno estadounidense para garantizar que las reservas tengan acceso a agua potable limpia, se basa en entender la justicia del agua como una condición necesaria para la soberanía tribal. Una visión que puede ser respaldada por investigadores, científicos y profesionales no nativos. Nuestro bienestar integral pasa por respetar todas las facetas de la soberanía tribal que conciernen a nuestros hijos, a nuestra agua y, en última instancia, a nuestra relación de nación a nación.La independencia y autodeterminación tribal son clave para salvar nuestra cultura y ambienteDesde el primer tratado registrado sobre un cinturón de Wampum Gaswendah (Dos Filas) entre la Confederación Haudenosaunee y comerciantes holandeses en 1642, se han firmado casi 400 tratados entre los pueblos indígenas y Estados Unidos. Según la Constitución, estos tratados son contratos jurídicamente vinculantes que constituyen "la ley suprema del país" y confirman derechos, beneficios y condiciones especiales para las tribus que "aceptaron" ceder millones de acres de tierra a Estados Unidos a cambio de protección, reconocimiento, servicios y derechos de propiedad reservados, aunque limitados, por parte del gobierno federal. Sin embargo, el gobierno no ha cumplido con su parte, lo que ha dado lugar a promesas incumplidas.Un ejemplo de estas promesas rotas es la crisis del agua que sufren muchas tribus de las regiones suroeste y oeste de EE.UU., que sólo hasta hace poco han visto una inversión y un reconocimiento significativos tras décadas de lucha por establecer infraestructuras hídricas adecuadas en nuestras comunidades. La Ley Bipartidista de Infraestructura del presidente Biden incluye una inversión de 2.500 millones de dólares para el Fondo de Finalización de Acuerdos sobre Derechos de Aguas Indígenas que pretende "entregar a las tribus los recursos hídricos prometidos desde hace mucho tiempo". Aún así, en casos recientes relativos a la construcción de oleoductos sobre o cerca de sistemas de agua comunitarios existentes que sirven predominantemente a comunidades tribales, los funcionarios federales no reconocen ni mantienen sus responsabilidades ante los gobiernos tribales.Proteger a nuestros significa proteger nuestras aguas Teniendo en cuenta todo esto – la posible anulación de la ICWA, la falta de infraestructura hídrica y sus repercusiones en la calidad del agua –, tenemos que dejar de sectorizar el medio ambiente, la familia y la cultura como problemas separados. Las vivencias de mi infancia entre el cañón de mi masáni y su campamento de verano en las montañas me han ayudado a enmarcar la justicia ambiental para que abarque cuestiones convencionalmente no asociadas a la salud ambiental, como la lengua y la cultura, como rasgos interconectados del medio ambiente, porque estas enseñanzas vienen emparejadas con prácticas culturales como el pastoreo de ovejas, que a su vez dependen de una infraestructura hídrica adecuada. Nuestras comunidades exigen justicia y responsabilidad. Nuestros hijos proceden de familias potentes y resistentes que abarcan generaciones de conocimientos ancestrales. Los avances recientes en los servicios federales durante la administración de Biden no son suficientes si nuestros hijos siguen siendo trasladados a un ritmo superior al de cualquier otra comunidad. Somos descendientes de supervivientes de un genocidio. Ahora, exigimos entornos para que nosotros, nuestros abuelos y nuestros hijos puedan prosperar.Este ensayo ha sido elaborado gracias a la beca Agents of Change in Environmental Justice. Agents of Change capacita a líderes emergentes de entornos históricamente excluidos de la ciencia y el mundo académico que reimaginan soluciones para un planeta justo y saludable.

Al despuntar el alba, bajo el calor seco y sofocante del verano de Arizona, mi masáni, mi madre, mis tías y muchos primos reúnen el rebaño de ovejas de nuestra abuela. Incluso al amanecer, los suelos resecos liberan el calor almacenado en nuestros zapatos con suela de goma. Condujimos a los animales desde sus corrales en el cañón hasta nuestro campamento de verano en la montaña Lukachukai. A lo largo del camino, parábamos en varios abrevaderos de acero conectados a pozos de agua que bombeábamos a mano. Bajo el sol del mediodía, el agua era un refugio para los animales y para nosotros, que bebíamos y jugábamos en ella. Durante estos viajes aprendí historias sobre la tierra y la interconexión entre todos los seres vivos. Me enseñaron los principios fundamentales del K'é [parentesco] y del Diné Bizaad [lengua] para entenderme a mí mismo como Diné y mi relación con la tierra que pisaba. Así, el pastoreo de ovejas no era en absoluto secular, sino que se convirtió en una forma de estar inmerso en mi cultura.Este ensayo también está disponible en inglésAl volver a estos lugares de adulto, me enteré de que muchos pozos se habían secado. Los que siguen dando agua podrían ser fuentes no declaradas de contaminación elevada. Ante la creciente preocupación por los periodos de sequía cada vez más prolongados y sus costos asociados, el año pasado mi familia subastó lo que quedaba de su rebaño, una decisión cada vez más común en toda la reserva, ya que muchas familias Diné se enfrentan a circunstancias similares para encontrar y conseguir agua a grandes distancias. La pérdida gradual de estas prácticas antaño cotidianas me hizo apreciar aún más las enseñanzas culturales que las acompañaban. He visto cómo, ya desde mi generación, muchos jóvenes Diné tienen experiencias limitadas con nuestra cultura y nuestra lengua. La escasez de agua, exacerbada por el cambio climático, está creando un presente y un futuro en el que nuestros hijos sólo oirán hablar de rebaños de ovejas como un recuerdo lejano. El cambio climático tiene un costo cultural.Es fundamental transmitir la identidad Diné a nuestra juventud, un llamado que compartimos todos los grupos indígenas. Sin embargo, las fuerzas que han tratado de exterminarnos a nosotros y a nuestras culturas han atacado desde distintas direcciones. Por un lado, los niños indígenas han sido apartados a la fuerza de sus comunidades -y de sus culturas- mediante políticas de asimilación. La negligencia del gobierno federal hacia las tribus, especialmente en lo que respecta al acceso al agua y a la infraestructura básica, ha creado unas condiciones de vida en los hogares indígenas que, en última instancia, contribuyen a justificar la separación de nuestros hijos. Esto fractura aún más a nuestras comunidades y debilita nuestra soberanía, abriendo la tierra, los recursos y nuestra infancia a intereses no nativos. Teniendo esto en cuenta, para garantizar la continuidad de nuestra cultura y nuestras comunidades, debemos comprender las intrincadas relaciones entre cultura, lengua y naturaleza, y promover políticas que garanticen que nuestros hijos puedan acceder a un entorno seguro, sano y próspero.Daños culturales a través de las leyes Las comunidades indígenas de Estados Unidos nos enfrentamos a una amenaza existencial para conservar nuestra identidad cultural y soberanía desde que nos convertimos en naciones dentro de una nación. Se trata de un antiguo proyecto genocida que se remonta a siglos atrás y que ha afectado negativamente a sucesivas generaciones. Muchas de nuestras familias todavía se están reconciliando con su impacto a través de la generación de nuestros abuelos, que fueron de los últimos en soportar los internados indios avalados por Estados Unidos y gestionados por misioneros cristianos. A partir de 1819, el gobierno federal promulgó la Ley de Civilización India para asimilar a las y los niños indígenas mediante su traslado forzoso y su reclusión en internados gestionados por iglesias hasta la década de 1960. En 1900, se estimaba que se habían llevado a 20.000 niños indígenas, y en 1925 se registraron algo menos de 70.000. El 11 de mayo de 2022, el Departamento del Interior de Estados Unidos publicó su Informe de Investigación sobre la Iniciativa Federal de Internados Indígenas, que confirmaba las experiencias y testimonios ofrecidos por los supervivientes décadas antes. Se identificaron más de 500 muertes de niños indígenas en 408 internados de pueblos indígenas. Este sobrecogedor anuncio se produjo un año después de que investigadores de la Cowessess First Nation, en Saskatchewan (Canadá), descubrieran más de 600 tumbas sin nombre en un único internado para infancias indígenas.Al mismo tiempo, las tribus fueron relegadas a reservas que en la actualidad ocupan, en promedio, el 2,6% de nuestras tierras originales. Dentro de estas áreas limitadas, el gobierno federal no construyó infraestructuras como el acceso al agua potable, creando la situación actual en la que se estima que casi la mitad de los hogares de las reservas no tienen agua potable ni un saneamiento adecuado. Esta realidad pasada y presente agravó aún más la narrativa de que los niños indígenas estaban mejor en sociedades "civilizadas" y bien dotadas de recursos.Así que no es de extrañar que incluso después del cierre de los internados para indígenas, gracias a la movilización de las tribus, se siguiera separando a nuestros niños de sus familias y colocándolos en hogares de acogida y hogares adoptivos no indígenas. Las y los menores indígenas estaban "sobrerrepresentados en los hogares de acogida en una proporción 2,7 veces mayor que su proporción en la población general", según la National Indian Child Welfare Association. Esto suscitó un activismo dirigido por las tribus que desembocó en la adopción de la Ley de Bienestar de la Infancia Indígena (ICWA) de 1978. La ICWA vela por "proteger el interés superior de las infancias indígenas y promover la estabilidad y seguridad de las tribus y familias indígenas".A pesar de la reciente sentencia del Tribunal Supremo a favor de la ICWA, casos como el de Brackeen contra Haaland actualizan la amenaza existencial a nuestra soberanía, al atentar contra protecciones como la ICWA. El caso judicial, apoyado por Texas, Luisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma y Ohio, alegaba que el éxito de la adopción de un niño Cherokee/Navajo (Diné) por una pareja blanca se vio obstaculizado (un total de cuatro meses) por el proceso de la ICWA. En noviembre de 2022, el Tribunal Supremo escuchó los argumentos orales que cuestionaban la ICWA, afirmando que su "clasificación de 'niño indígena' está basada en la raza y viola la Agents of Change in Environmental Justice · Kevin Patterson on Indigenous communities’ heavy metal exposureCláusula de Protección Igualitaria". Como aprendiz Diné en salud medioambiental, trabajo con datos de censos y cohortes que categorizan a mi comunidad y a otros ciudadanos tribales por igual en un grupo racial singular fusionado que neutraliza nuestras identidades políticamente diferenciadas. Me frustra y decepciona que siglos de precedentes que afirman nuestro estatus político como ciudadanos tribales soberanos puedan ser descartados, borrados y, en última instancia, revocados por un fallo de la Corte.Aunque pueda parecer que no está relacionado, el destino actual de los asuntos del agua para las naciones tribales de Estados Unidos está íntimamente ligado a este caso del Tribunal Supremo. No había pasado ni una semana cuando la Corte Suprema falló en contra de la Nación Navajo en un litigio sobre derechos del agua. Basándome en la opinión de mi colega sobre el caso Arizona contra la Nación Navajo, el hilo conductor de ambos casos reside en su interpretación de la responsabilidad federal ante las tribus, los ciudadanos tribales y los recursos de las tierras tribales. La responsabilidad "fiduciaria" federal puede ocuparse del bienestar de un niño nativo, pero no del bienestar de su entorno. Es una paradoja curiosa. Pueden devolvernos a nuestros hijos, pero los devuelven a condiciones que no han cambiado y a la contaminación medioambiental que puede haber contribuido a su traslado inicial. Abordar la injusticia del agua en las tierras indígenas, al igual que la incapacidad del gobierno estadounidense para garantizar que las reservas tengan acceso a agua potable limpia, se basa en entender la justicia del agua como una condición necesaria para la soberanía tribal. Una visión que puede ser respaldada por investigadores, científicos y profesionales no nativos. Nuestro bienestar integral pasa por respetar todas las facetas de la soberanía tribal que conciernen a nuestros hijos, a nuestra agua y, en última instancia, a nuestra relación de nación a nación.La independencia y autodeterminación tribal son clave para salvar nuestra cultura y ambienteDesde el primer tratado registrado sobre un cinturón de Wampum Gaswendah (Dos Filas) entre la Confederación Haudenosaunee y comerciantes holandeses en 1642, se han firmado casi 400 tratados entre los pueblos indígenas y Estados Unidos. Según la Constitución, estos tratados son contratos jurídicamente vinculantes que constituyen "la ley suprema del país" y confirman derechos, beneficios y condiciones especiales para las tribus que "aceptaron" ceder millones de acres de tierra a Estados Unidos a cambio de protección, reconocimiento, servicios y derechos de propiedad reservados, aunque limitados, por parte del gobierno federal. Sin embargo, el gobierno no ha cumplido con su parte, lo que ha dado lugar a promesas incumplidas.Un ejemplo de estas promesas rotas es la crisis del agua que sufren muchas tribus de las regiones suroeste y oeste de EE.UU., que sólo hasta hace poco han visto una inversión y un reconocimiento significativos tras décadas de lucha por establecer infraestructuras hídricas adecuadas en nuestras comunidades. La Ley Bipartidista de Infraestructura del presidente Biden incluye una inversión de 2.500 millones de dólares para el Fondo de Finalización de Acuerdos sobre Derechos de Aguas Indígenas que pretende "entregar a las tribus los recursos hídricos prometidos desde hace mucho tiempo". Aún así, en casos recientes relativos a la construcción de oleoductos sobre o cerca de sistemas de agua comunitarios existentes que sirven predominantemente a comunidades tribales, los funcionarios federales no reconocen ni mantienen sus responsabilidades ante los gobiernos tribales.Proteger a nuestros significa proteger nuestras aguas Teniendo en cuenta todo esto – la posible anulación de la ICWA, la falta de infraestructura hídrica y sus repercusiones en la calidad del agua –, tenemos que dejar de sectorizar el medio ambiente, la familia y la cultura como problemas separados. Las vivencias de mi infancia entre el cañón de mi masáni y su campamento de verano en las montañas me han ayudado a enmarcar la justicia ambiental para que abarque cuestiones convencionalmente no asociadas a la salud ambiental, como la lengua y la cultura, como rasgos interconectados del medio ambiente, porque estas enseñanzas vienen emparejadas con prácticas culturales como el pastoreo de ovejas, que a su vez dependen de una infraestructura hídrica adecuada. Nuestras comunidades exigen justicia y responsabilidad. Nuestros hijos proceden de familias potentes y resistentes que abarcan generaciones de conocimientos ancestrales. Los avances recientes en los servicios federales durante la administración de Biden no son suficientes si nuestros hijos siguen siendo trasladados a un ritmo superior al de cualquier otra comunidad. Somos descendientes de supervivientes de un genocidio. Ahora, exigimos entornos para que nosotros, nuestros abuelos y nuestros hijos puedan prosperar.Este ensayo ha sido elaborado gracias a la beca Agents of Change in Environmental Justice. Agents of Change capacita a líderes emergentes de entornos históricamente excluidos de la ciencia y el mundo académico que reimaginan soluciones para un planeta justo y saludable.

The bizarre new frontier for cell-cultivated meat: Lion burgers, tiger steaks, and mammoth meatballs

Jess Hannigan for Vox “Exotic” cultivated meats claim to be harmless, but they could threaten actual endangered animals. What is the strangest meat you’ve eaten? For me, it’s reindeer. This was during a trip to Finland when I was 7. We’d gone to the Arctic Circle, where I hoped to meet Father Christmas. I remember being driven through dark forests on the back of a snowmobile to a firelit clearing where we ate reindeer sausages. Though my baby brain didn’t then realize I was eating one of Rudolph’s cousins and that Santa might disapprove, I enjoyed the meat. It was spiced and tender and warmed me after the freezing journey. Eating reindeer remains one of my core memories, though I now consider eating all animals gross and unethical. But I’ve discovered reindeer is not a very exotic meat, at least compared with what my Instagram followers have been eating. When I posted the question: “What’s the most exotic meat you’ve eaten?” I discovered my followers had eaten everything, from alligator to minke whale. Which animals we find acceptable to eat vary from person to person, according to our values, palates, and upbringing. Many consider eating cows and chickens okay, but not octopus, dolphin, or tiger. Right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find tiger meat in your local supermarket, but developments in tech are making a future possible in which eating exotic meats, from alligator to zebra, could be commonplace. But, how? Well, factory-farmed tiger, thankfully, is not about to become a dystopian reality. But we might one day eat “ethical” tiger through innovations in cultured-cell technology. Cultured meat, also known as cell-cultivated meat, is not pork reared on caviar and Italian neorealist cinema — it is meat that has been grown in a lab. It has the potential to liberate animals from exploitation, creating burgers and sausages from meat that has been grown in bioreactors and harvested without the death of a sentient being. The first cell-cultivated chicken in the US came to market this summer. It’s an exciting technology, as it could substantially reduce the number of animals slaughtered yearly (or, at least, limit the expansion of that number). It’s not all chicken and pork, though. Recently, startups such as Primeval Foods and Vow have begun developing meat cultured from the cells of exotic (and even extinct) animals, such as tiger, zebra, or mammoth. A gigantic mammoth meatball produced by Vow earlier this year brought many people’s attention to the potential applications of cultured-cell technology, and advocates argue the novelty of nontraditional meats could help win over an otherwise hard-to-reach group of potential consumers. Mike Corder/Associated Press A meatball made using DNA from a mammoth is seen at the Nemo science museum in Amsterdam in March 2023. Some animal advocates, however, have voiced concerns that popularizing exotic meats could have unforeseen consequences. The tech, if successful (a big if), could create an appetite for real tiger meat, putting additional pressure on already-endangered wild big cat populations. And some vegans, who advocate against the commodification of animals, worry that eating cell-cultivated meat could entrench the belief that animals are something to be exploited and consumed, rather than beings to be protected; they argue the desire to manufacture cultured tiger meat reveals that “clean” meat is a fallacy promoted by meat producers developing new ways to exploit the animal kingdom. How cultured tiger steak could hurt real tigers In April, I spoke with Yilmaz Bora, CEO of Primeval Foods, a company developing cultured tiger meat. I’d imagined Bora to be a meat-lover, but I was surprised to discover that he was the opposite. “I went vegan roughly three, four years ago,” Bora said. “It started with activism, supporting UK [animal rights] groups. After a while, I realized that was not going to work. We had to involve the economy, involve the capitalist system, to have a meaningful impact on animals.” From there, Bora began developing alternative proteins that he hoped would convert diehard meat eaters from factory-farmed animals. According to Bora, exotic meat seemed a viable option because, he believes, the “masculine” group that drives meat consumption would find meat grown from big cats more compelling than meat grown from conventional livestock cells. “If you are making barbecue every weekend in Texas and you have no interest in climate, no interest in animal welfare, there is not any product for you,” he said. “Tigers, or other wild cats such as lions, represent power. ... There is this masculine profile [that is firmly anti-vegan], and they tend to not eat alternative plant-based or alternative protein on the market, but it will appeal to them because it represents something luxury.” Developing meat from the cells of an animal that represents power might be a compelling method of marketing cultured meats. But problems will arise if the appetite for lab-grown tiger causes an upsurge in demand for meat from wild tiger populations. Only 4,500 tigers remain in the wild. John Goodrich, of the big cat conservation charity Panthera, explained the potential complications cultured tiger meat could create for tiger conservation. “One of the biggest threats to big cats, especially tigers, is poaching for their body parts, primarily for use in traditional Chinese medicine,” Goodrich said. “You’d hope that [cultivated meat] would flood the market so that there would no longer be any market for wild tiger parts.” It’s not at all clear that this would happen, even if cultivated tiger meat did become a success. “My concern is that there’s always going to be the contingent that wants the real thing,” Goodrich added. “By mainstreaming it, you are creating this much, much bigger market for tiger parts. ... Let’s say your market is a billion people: If less than 1 percent of that wants the real thing, that’s still enough to put tremendous pressure on the remaining 4,500 tigers in the wild.” “It’s not worth the risk,” he concludes. Michael Sohn/Associated Press Tiger cubs at a zoo in Germany. When I put this to Bora, I was met with a confusing response. He said he was “not aware” of the market for tiger in China, and added that he believed people would not consume wild tiger because sourcing it “is not convenient” and “it will taste really really bad ... because they are very muscular animals, they move a lot ... they have little to no fat.” Cultivated meat technology, Bora added, allows Primeval Foods “to change the fat percentage on the end product. ... We can do whatever we want to have that better mouthfeel, better texture, better taste.” That’s fine, but, as Goodrich explained, what if even a small contingent of Primeval Foods’s future intended consumers decide they want to eat real tiger? With wild tiger populations dwindling, any increase in poaching would be catastrophic, and the fact that real tiger meat “tastes really really bad” can only be discovered after the animal has been slaughtered. It’s hard to fathom that degree of ignorance from the CEO of a startup with potentially harmful environmental implications — especially since others in the industry have engaged with such concerns more deliberately. When I spoke to George Peppou, founder of Vow, he said that, in the preliminary stages of developing Vow’s cultured cell products, Vow “started to work with the Zoo and Aquarium Association in Australia,” who “scared the crap out of me about ... unintentionally stimulating wildlife crime.” Ultimately, the product that Vow aspires to bring to market is not mammoth or other exotic animals, but what Peppou describes as “the Cheerios of meat” — synthetic, branded meats made from combining different animals’ cell lines in a way that’s comparable to the mixing of oats, wheat, and barley to create breakfast cereals. This would avoid problems like stimulating wildlife crime, as the meat Vow takes to market cannot be traced to a single species. Vow’s cultivated mammoth, according to Peppou, is a stunt intended to “challenge people’s perception of what meat is and get them comfortable with the idea that it can look different to what we have available to us now.” The mammoth meatball was developed, Peppou explained, after the company asked itself the question, “How do we move the window of what’s acceptable in meat?” Right now, synthetic “chimera meats” seem strange, and many consumers would choose chicken over lab-grown hybrids. Making synthetic meats seem conventional — at least compared to mammoth meatballs — is the strategic goal of Vow’s stunt. The philosophical trouble with tiger and all cultivated meat While Vow is embracing exotic cultivated meats with an eye toward preventing knock-on effects like further harming endangered species, there are also broader philosophical questions about cultured meats, whether conventional, exotic, or extinct, that are worth considering. John Sanbonmatsu, an animal rights philosopher and professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, argues that cultivated meat only entrenches the commodification of animals and the idea that it’s okay to consume their flesh. The development of tiger steaks by Primeval, he said, is “fundamentally disrespectful of their personhood.” “One of the major problems with the way we relate to other animals is we treat them as commodities,” Sanbonmatsu told me. “If you look at the discourse of Primeval Foods or these other companies, the way they describe the rationale for their enterprise is reinforcing the idea that humans are meant to exploit nature and other animals for their purposes without any ethical limits.” To Sanbonmatsu’s thinking, the assumption that animals are available for exploitation is only underscored by the development of exotic cultivated meat. Viewed through that lens, growing tiger meat is just another example of humanity’s disregard for the animal kingdom, demonstrating that the drive to find “ethical” ways to exploit them creates fresh problems that need solving further down the line. For example, Sanbonmatsu and charities such as Food & Water Watch argue that because lab-grown meat doesn’t challenge the idea that animal flesh is edible, it will augment rather than replace factory farming. As the market for meat increases around the world, they predict, there could simply be no reduction in the number of animals currently slaughtered yearly (tens of billions of land animals and hundreds of millions or even trillions of fish). Rather, cultivated meat could merely limit the expansion of this number. While this is arguably a good thing, insofar as one dead cow is better than two, animal slaughter will continue to be a massive, cruel industry with an immense environmental impact. Those ethical concerns bring up an underlying question animal rights advocates will have to confront: What does it take for meat to be “clean?” For vegans such as Sanbonmatsu, who believe in animal personhood and the absolute equality of animals and humans, there is no scenario where that is the case. For others, the cleanest cultivated meat would be a product created without harming animals at all, but even this is proving to be a quixotic goal, as cultivated meat companies struggle to make their products without animal-derived ingredients. Cultivated meat companies are also taking funding from conventional meat companies like Tyson and Cargill, some of the world’s biggest perpetrators of animal suffering. It might still be that the current fastest way to dramatically limit animal suffering is through embracing cultured meat companies while putting the total abolition of animal exploitation on the back burner. Deeper ethical questions aside, it is undeniable that some advocates, such as Bora, are working to develop cultivated meat with the aspiration, however unlikely, of ending factory farming and conventional meat consumption. All I ask is that they confront the potential implications of the tech: Developing cultivated tiger, mammoth, or anything else might be a cool way to draw attention to cultured-meat technology, and it could succeed in drawing new consumers. But if people decide they want to eat “the real thing,” then many wild animals, from tigers to elephants to lions, could go the way of the woolly mammoth.

Apple has an AirPod repair problem

Paige Vickers / Vox California’s new Right to Repair Act can’t magically make Apple’s popular earbuds good for the environment. On September 12, California’s State Assembly approved the Right to Repair Act. Once it’s signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, makers of consumer electronics will be required to provide independent shops in the state with tools, spare parts, and manuals needed to fix the gadgets that they sell. Advocates of Right to Repair, which included dozens of repair stores across the state, local officials, and environmental groups, hailed the move as a victory, the culmination of a years-long battle to force tech companies to allow regular people to easily repair their own devices. Even Apple, which had opposed the legislation for years, had a change of heart and officially supported Right to Repair in California at the end of August. The world’s richest maker of consumer electronics would finally be forced to make repair materials available for every shiny phone, tablet, laptop, and smartwatch it sells. But some activists had a question: What does this mean for AirPods? “If products have batteries, they should be easy to swap or easy to remove so that consumers and recyclers can separate them,” said Kyle Wiens, the CEO of product repair blog and parts retailer iFixit. “You just don’t see that with AirPod design.” For years, Apple has made its commitment to the environment part of its powerful marketing machine. It has shown off robots capable of disassembling over a million iPhones in a year, and increasingly uses recycled materials to build most of its flagship devices. It claims that its spaceship-like Cupertino headquarters, whose gigantic circular roof is covered with hundreds of solar panels, is powered by renewable energy, and is spending millions to save mangroves and savannas in India and Kenya. At its September 12 event, where it launched a $1,200 titanium phone and a watch that isn’t too different from last year’s model beyond a brand-new “carbon neutral” logo on its plastic-free packaging, Apple reiterated its plans to go entirely carbon neutral by 2030 in a deeply polarizing skit starring Octavia Spencer as “Mother Nature.” And yet, Apple sells tens of millions of AirPods each year, a product that critics have long pointed out is harmful for the environment. Every single sleek earbud is a dense bundle of rare earth metals glued together in a hard plastic shell. Each one also contains a tiny lithium-ion battery that degrades over time like all batteries do, which means that eventually, all AirPods stop holding enough charge to be usable, sometimes in as little as 18 months. That’s where the problem lies: Unlike iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and MacBooks, which can be opened up and have failing batteries swapped relatively easily, AirPods aren’t really designed up be cracked apart by you, repair shops, or recycling companies without destroying their shells in the process, or shedding blood trying to cut them open. “It’s in the ‘insanely difficult’ category,” Wiens told Vox, “which is why you don’t have too many repair shops in the US trying to do this.”This lack of repairability of AirPods raises an important issue: What does the Right to Repair law mean for a product that isn’t designed to be repaired?“AirPods are too difficult to fix — that is clear,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director at CALPIRG, a California consumer rights nonprofit that has been pushing the state to implement Right to Repair legislation for years. “Right to Repair reforms ensure that you can’t make repairs proprietary. But for some devices, the design gets in the way even if you can access parts and manuals. We believe Right to Repair sets a basic expectation that a product should be fixable. But yeah, we can only repair what is repairable.”Apple did not respond to multiple requests for comment.In 2022, Apple launched its own Self Service Repair program. For a chunk of change and a whole lot of trouble, the company provides manuals, sells parts, and rents out official equipment to let people repair iPhones, Macs, and Apple displays. But when Right to Repair becomes law in California, the company will be required to provide it for all products it sells. The problem is that AirPods aren’t designed to be repaired at all. “AirPods are an environmental catastrophe,” Wiens said. “They’re a product that I don’t think should exist in their current state. They’re almost impossible to recycle economically.” Hollie Adams / Bloomberg via Getty Images Due to their lithium-ion batteries, AirPods can stop working after just 18 months, and there’s no easy way to fix them. Apple released AirPods in 2016, the same year it removed the headphone jack on iPhones, spawning an entire industry of truly wireless earbuds with tiny charging cases. At first, AirPods were the butt of jokes. Some people thought wearing a pair in public was a flex. The Guardian said that AirPods were “like a tampon without a string.” Then, they were everywhere. As a feat of engineering, AirPods are, indeed, impressive. Each one packs in a sophisticated processor, microphones, drivers, optical sensors, and a motion accelerometer to detect when it’s in or out of your ear in a space less than 2 inches long. All these tiny components are jammed together and sealed inside sleek plastic casing designed to look smooth and seamless, making AirPods damn near impossible to open. But a key reason that makes AirPods disposable is what powers them. Thanks to chemical reactions that take place when you charge and discharge them, the lithium-ion batteries that power AirPods and other modern electronics hold less and less charge over time. The ones in AirPods are also tiny, which means that while a new one might run for up to six hours on a single charge when new, they might last for less than 60 minutes after a couple of years of heavy use. Apple didn’t provide a way to recycle a pair of AirPods when they were first released. Eventually, the company let people swap out a dying AirPod for a new one — for $49 a piece — if they were out of warranty, and then sent the old AirPods to one of the handful of recyclers it partners with. Apple also lets you mail in a pair of AirPods to recycle responsibly instead of tossing them into the trash. In 2019, however, after a viral, 4,000-word Vice essay called the wireless earbuds a “tragedy,” the notoriously secretive Apple pulled back the curtain on the AirPods recycling process. Wistron GreenTech, a Texas-based subsidiary of Taiwanese manufacturing giant Wistron that Apple hired to recycle AirPods, later told tech publication OneZero that AirPods couldn’t be opened by any kind of automated system. Instead, each device had to be manually pried apart by a worker with pliers and jigs. And because it cost more to open up a pair of AirPods than the value of the material extracted from it, Apple paid Wistron — and, presumably, its other recycling partners — a fee to cover the difference. “It is not easy to fully repair broken AirPods, but we are able to reuse components for other units,” Rob Greening, a spokesperson for Decluttr, an online platform that lets people trade in old devices for cash or gift cards, told Vox. When AirPods launched, iFixit gave them a repairability score of zero out of 10, noting that accessing any component was impossible without destroying the AirPods’ outer casing. At iFixit, Wiens said he bans employees from using AirPods at work. The company also has a workplace perk, he said, where it buys employees any headphones they want as long as they meet iFixit’s repairability criteria — which AirPods don’t. Because Apple claims to “replace your AirPods battery for a service fee,” Wiens thinks that AirPods should be subject to California’s Right to Repair law, too. But because the earphones are not designed to be opened up, it’s unclear how.“I’d sure like to see Apple’s recommended process for doing it,” Wiens said. “There is some possibility that Apple is smarter than everyone and has some secret way to do it, but we haven’t figured it out yet.” David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images With much fanfare, Apple announced its first carbon-neutral product, the latest Apple Watch, at an event on September 12. AirPods are likely just a fraction of the 6.9 million tons of e-waste that the US generates each year. But they are symbolic of the larger environmental problems that products of their category cause. In a 2022 paper called “AirPods and the Earth,” Sy Taffel, a lecturer at New Zealand’s Massey University whose research focuses on digital technology and the environment, argued that any right to repair legislation should prohibit the production of irreparable digital devices such as AirPods, as the right to repair an irreparable device is effectively meaningless.“You can’t pop in a new battery in an old AirPod the same way you can pop in a new battery into an old iPhone,” Taffel told Vox. “So even getting a replacement from Apple doesn’t really ameliorate any of the environmental harms these things cause. It just means that as a consumer, you end up paying a bit less money than if you were going to buy a completely new set.”Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved new rules that mandate consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets, and cameras to have batteries that users must be able to remove and replace easily. Taffel said that he would like lawmakers to lay down similar rules for wireless earphones including AirPods. “There’s a reason the sustainability mantra is repair, reuse, reduce, recycle,” he said. “Recycling always comes last because recycling stuff takes a lot of energy. It’s not always feasible.”Just over a decade ago, the primary battery-powered devices most people had were smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Today, we have smart watches, wireless headphones, smart speakers, e-readers, and VR headsets. Next year, Apple will release its own pair of high-end VR glasses called the Vision Pro. “The market capitalization of tech companies is partly based on the idea that they will continue to create new categories of digital devices that will be considered popular and will be widely sold,” Taffel said.Unlike a pair of wired headphones that you could potentially use for decades, the pair of AirPods you buy today will run out of steam sometime in the next couple of years. At that rate, you will have bought half a dozen pairs of AirPods, tossing your old ones in the drawer, or in the trash. Or maybe you’ll have sent them in for recycling, forcing recycling companies to expend even more energy in the process. “From an environmental perspective, we need to be doing less and less and less,” Taffel said. “But tech’s model is one of constant growth. There’s always more and more and more. Both these things are completely incompatible.”All of this is the opposite of Apple’s increased emphasis on being environmentally responsible. Hanging on to your existing devices for as long as possible is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. But it’s also bad for Apple’s bottom line. Already, the company’s latest iPhones, which went on sale today, are backordered.In Apple’s controversial skit, CEO Tim Cook promises “Mother Nature” that all Apple devices will have “a net zero climate impact” by 2030. “All of them?” she asks. “All of them,” Cook says. “They better.”“They will.” The two stare at each other for a long moment. And when the tension reaches a crescendo, Mother Nature breaks it with a cheerful “Okay! Good! See you next year.” Not once does anyone mention AirPods.

Libya’s Unnatural Disaster

What a deluged town reveals about a broken country

Footage and eyewitness accounts have conveyed harrowing scenes from the storm-struck Libyan town of Derna: overflowing morgues and mass burials, rescuers digging through mud with their bare hands to recover bodies, a corpse hanging from a streetlight, the cries of trapped children. Two aging dams to Derna’s south collapsed under the pressure of Storm Daniel, sending an estimated 30 million cubic meters of water down a river valley that runs through the city’s center and erasing entire neighborhoods. Some 11,300 people are currently believed dead—a number that could double in the days ahead. An estimated 38,000 residents have been displaced.      Libya has seen no shortage of suffering and misery since the 2011 revolution that toppled its longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Yet Storm Daniel promises to be a singular event. Already, Libyan commentators inside the country and out are pointing to the apocalyptic loss of life in Derna as the product not simply of a natural disaster, but of Libya’s divided and ineffectual governance. The west of the country is run by the internationally recognized Government of National Unity; the east, including Derna, falls under the rule of the renegade strongman Khalifa Haftar.   [Read: Photos from Libya’s devastating floods]Derna has become an emblem of ills that afflict many of Libya’s 7 million inhabitants: infrastructural decay, economic neglect, unpreparedness for global warming. But to understand the scale of its destruction requires seeing the city in its particularity—as a stronghold of opposition to Haftar’s violent consolidation of power in eastern Libya, and before that, a hub of intellectualism and dissent. Derna’s suffering is not entirely an accident. Though for that matter, neither is Libya’s.Founded on the ruins of the Greek city of Darnis, Derna has always been a place apart in Libya, distinguished by its cosmopolitanism, creative ferment, and fierce independence. It sits along the Mediterranean coast, at the base of the aptly named Jabal Akhdar, or Green Mountains, which constitute Libya’s wettest region and account for anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of its plant species. A port city of 100,000, Derna is famous for its gardens, river-fed canals, night-flowering jasmine, and delicious bananas and pomegranates.Muslim Andalusians fleeing persecution in Spain helped build the city in the 16th century, leaving their imprint on the designs of mosques and ornamental doors in its old quarter. Waves of other settlers would make their way there across the Mediterranean. By the early 20th century, Derna had become a font of literary output and nationalist agitation. Poets and playwrights gathered in a weekly cultural salon called the Omar Mukhtar Association to rail against colonial rule across the region, and after 1951, against the Libyan monarchy.An officers’ coup ousted that monarchy in 1969, and the country’s new ruler—Colonel Muammar Qaddafi—naturally took a wary view of the coastal city’s troublemaking potential. By the 1980s, he had made Derna a place of despair, its arts scene eviscerated, its prosperous traders dispossessed, its youth crushed by unemployment. Many of Derna’s young men joined the Islamist insurgency against Qaddafi that spread through the Green Mountains in the 1990s. The dictator responded by shutting down the region’s water service and detaining, torturing, and executing oppositionists. By the mid-2000s, the city’s rage was channeled outward, as hundreds of young men flocked from Derna to Iraq to fight the American military occupation. The U.S. military captured documents attesting to the militancy of these recruits, also revealed in a U.S. diplomat’s 2006 cable titled “Die Hard in Derna.”[Read: How Qaddafi fooled Libya and the world]In the years after  Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, Derna became the site of violent infighting among Islamists, including a radical faction that sought to make the city an outpost of the Islamic State. Haftar, a Qaddafi-era general and defector, began his military campaign under the guise of eliminating jihadist militias and restoring security. But his sweep was actually a bid for national power, and Derna’s fighters were among its staunchest opponents. He was determined to subdue the city. With remorseless, siege-like tactics and substantial foreign assistance, including air strikes and special-operations forces from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and several Western countries, he did so in 2018, though at the cost of destroying swaths of the city and displacing thousands.In the years since, Haftar has kept Derna under a virtual military lockdown, ruled by an ineffective puppet municipality and deprived of reconstruction funds, human services, and, crucially, attention to its decaying infrastructure, including the two dams that collapsed during Storm Daniel. Studies and experts had long warned that the dams were in dire need of repair.Derna’s officials and Haftar’s military authority reportedly issued contradictory instructions as the storm approached: Some advised an evacuation and others ordered a curfew. The confusion suggests a lack of coordination within the eastern government, which, a Libyan climate scientist told me this week, habitually paid little attention to expertise. Haftar will exert tight control over relief and reconstruction efforts in the weeks ahead, funneling contracts to companies run by cronies and family members.Having obstructed Haftar’s ambitions, Derna has become a particular target for repression. But Haftar’s style of rule—kleptocratic, authoritarian, extractive—has made for poor stewardship of eastern Libya’s infrastructure and natural environment, leaving other communities vulnerable to climate-induced extreme weather events as well.Haftar’s militia controls a body called the Military Investment Authority, which is essentially a profit-making enterprise for the Haftar family. The authority has taken control of eastern Libya’s agriculture, energy, and construction, with dire consequences for the environment. Climate activists from the east have told me that under Haftar’s watch, the deforestation of the Green Mountains has accelerated. Elites and militias have cut down trees to build vacation residences and businesses, and to sell the wood as charcoal. Urban development and new settlements have expanded into once-forested areas to accommodate people displaced by war.The absence of tree cover, other human-induced transformations to the Green Mountains, and irregular patterns of rainfall caused by climate change are worsening the damage that floods can wreak. Those that hit the eastern city of Al-Bayda in late 2020 displaced thousands of people. And without the cooling effect of the mountains’ sizable forests, the average mean temperature in the area has risen, which in turn raises the risk of wildfires among the trees that remain. Already, soaring heat waves set forests aflame near the towns of Shahat and Al-Bayda, in 2013 and 2021 respectively.In most countries, civil society and other grassroots actors can help address such ecological concerns. But in Haftar-ruled east Libya, climate and environmental activists face an extremely repressive security machinery that either stifles their involvement or confines it to politically safe initiatives, such as tree planting.  “Young people are willing, but they are afraid,” an official from the region told me candidly in July. “There is no state support.” A member of a climate-volunteer group in the east told me this week by phone that Haftar’s government had blocked their group’s attempt to obtain weather-monitoring equipment from abroad, citing “security concerns.”I’ve heard variations on this theme time and time again during my research in Libya—an arid, oil-dependent country that is among the world’s most vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, including floods and rising sea levels, but also soaring temperatures, declining rainfall, extended droughts, and sandstorms of increasing frequency, duration, and intensity.  According to one reputable survey in which higher numbers correlate with greater climate vulnerability,  Libya ranks 126th out of 182 states, just after Iraq, in the lower-middle tier. Despite the recent inundation of Derna and the east, water scarcity poses the gravest climate-related risk to the majority of its inhabitants: Libya ranks among the top six most water-stressed countries in the world, with 80 percent of its potable-water supply drawn from non-replenishable fossil aquifers by means of a deteriorating network of pipes and reservoirs. And yet Libya has done little to address its climate vulnerabilities.[Read: We’re heading straight for a demi-Armageddon]The country’s political rivalries, corruption, and militia-ruled patronage system have stymied its response. The eastern and western camps engage in only modest exchanges of climate-related information and technology. Even within the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, the ministry of the environment and a climate authority within the prime minister’s office have been jockeying for control of the climate file. (They reached a modest modus vivendi in recent months, some insiders told me this summer.)Derna’s plight is so extreme that perhaps—so activists and commentators hope—it will not be ignored, as countless other Libyan calamities have been, but may instead lead to lasting and positive change. Derna holds a lesson for Libya’s elites, if they are listening, about the costs of division and self-aggrandizement. Momentum toward such recognition, however tragic its origins, would be in keeping with the city’s storied and sometimes controversial role as beacon of dissent.  “It’s a revolutionary city,” a climate scientist with family roots there told me this week.

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