Episode 11: Mad Max: Fury Road

Alex Brown is back! You may remember him from the Cane Toad episode, but this time he tackles gender disparities, the effects of resource depletion and the depiction of ecofeminism in Mad Max: Fury Road, a Silvan Goddin favorite. In this episode we debate whether or not linking womanhood and motherhood with nature is good or bad for environmentalism (hint: it’s complicated!). Emily shares some examples from the chocolate industry on women’s role in development projects for agriculture (i.e. the vuvalini in action). Tune in here for the whole discussion, or find it on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever podcasts are available.

Also, fine listeners, we want to share this lovely photo of when Silvan, Jordan, Steffi and some friends went to a Mad Max: Fury Road showing at the NC Museum of Art, which came with a flame show! Emily, sadly, was traveling through New Zealand and could not attend this glorious event.

Mad Max 2

Updates from the Field:

Alex shares a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finding that about 44% of freshwater lakes in North America are getting saltier, and that this salinization is largely due to road salt. The study concluded that at the current rate these lakes will surpass EPA-recommended chloride levels within 50 years, meaning they’ll have to be desalinated before becoming drinking water.

Steffi tells about a new agricultural revolution just discovered which occurred 30 million years ago when the climate was cooling and dry areas spreading. Farming ants learned that moisture-loving fungi could not survive in newly dry areas. These ants created underground chambers and regulated the moisture levels to grow the fungi, which completely isolate the fungi from wild-growing fungi. The farmed fungi now cannot survive without the ants.

Emily was coming down from her chocolate easter bunny sugar-high and shared a little PSA from the chocolate industry. Easter is a good time to remember that chocolate, like other commodities, is vulnerable to climate change. The two largest producers of cocoa, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, could lose up to 20% of their climatic suitability by 2050 according to current models. So enjoy those Cadbury creme eggs while you can, and act on climate to protect your Easter candy!

Silvan tells us about the new Regulatory Accountability Act. It is designed to add new obstacles for agencies to overcome before making new regulations. The big one to keep in mind is that they have to keep cost effectiveness central to any new regulation. They are choosing regulations on cost efficiency rather than food safety. Yikes!

What’s Giving Us Hope for the Earth this Week:

Alex is stoked on the March for Science which was on Earth Day! There are over 500 satellite marches going on throughout the world, in addition to the main march in Washington, D.C., with expected total turnout in the millions. The language of the march could very well be subject to ecofeminist critique by its emphasis on logic and reason in setting policy.

Silvan is excited about the results of a new study which looks at how agricultural practices can combat climate change. Farmers grow tons of plants every year that take carbon and store it, either as food or in the ground. The dilemma is if you use farmland as carbon banks, will yields decrease, causing farmers to just use more land to up production? Can we both increase soil carbon and increase harvests? Researchers have been trying to figure this out for years and recently Dr. Johnathon Sanderman published a paper showing that there is actually greater soil carbon storage and faster turnover rates with increasing agricultural productivity. They found that you have to invest carbon to save carbon, which is good news for carbon storage and food security, since it appears they are a team rather than at odds.

Emily tells us about a new venture called bext360, which aims to use high tech innovations to change the way farmers sell, and are paid for, coffee beans. They’ll use blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins bitcoin, to track and verify sustainably sourced coffee beans. Kiosks like Coinstar machines will give farmers a place to sell their beans, and smart image recognition technology within the kiosks will determine the quality of the beans and pay farmers based on that quality. Payments will be delivered directly to farmers via their mobile phones. They’re piloting this approach on Mexican coffee plantations right now, so it’s not clear yet that the model works, but it’s really exciting to see a group bringing technological innovation to the massive challenge that is transparent sourcing in supply chains.

Steffi is excited to see a new bill which has been introduced in Colorado. This bill would penalize drivers who coal roll, which is the dangerous practice of expelling heavy exhaust on road users like cyclists from vehicles with modified diesel engines. Coal rolling is already indirectly illegal nationally under EPA guidelines, but the new statewide bill calls for levying an additional $100 ticket on drivers who expel exhaust “in a manner that obstructs or obscures the view of another driver, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian.” If only they had this at the Citadel!

Suggested Further Reading:

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/09/no-gmos-didnt-create-indias-farmer-suicide-problem

https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publication

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/gender.shtml

 

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