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How School Food Can Make the Grade
From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director
Millions of children rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition, but U.S. public schools offer very few climate-friendly, plant-based options. This leaves children unable to choose plant-based foods for medical, ethical, religious or other reasons. Seven billion school meals are served up per year, so these meat- and dairy-heavy menus fail the environment, too.
Next week we’re meeting on the Hill to encourage members of Congress to support the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act. Introduced by Reps. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Bowman (D-N.Y.) and cosponsored by dozens of others, this bill aims to help schools meet the increasing demand for green, healthy menu options. Make sure you’re subscribed to Food X for exciting updates about the campaign and how to get involved. In the meantime, read on to learn more about the sex education gap, corporate greenwashing, and a grant opportunity for population-related projects.
A bill was introduced in California that would prioritize wildlife connectivity in state transportation projects to help protect species like bobcats, mountain lions, desert tortoises, California tiger salamanders and other wildlife in the region from vehicle collisions.
When it comes to preparing youth to lead healthy, sex-positive lives, we know that the state of sex education in our middle and high schools is dire. Only 16 states require instruction on condoms or contraception, and 34 states require schools to stress abstinence. In 13 states, sex education and HIV/STI instruction aren't required to be age appropriate, medically accurate, culturally responsive, or evidence based. What’s worse, seven states explicitly require instruction that discriminates against LGBTQIA+ people. This means many young adults graduate high school without ever having received comprehensive sex education.
Here’s one thing you can do: This week is the first annual Sex Ed National Week of Action. Tell your sex ed story on social media using the hashtag #SexEdForAll and draw attention to the need for comprehensive sex education across the country.
Corporate Climate Pledges Under Fire
An analysis of “net-zero” pledges made by 25 major corporations found that they fall far short of their promises, amounting to only about a 40% reduction of future emissions — far less than what’s needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The report by NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch found that behind the flashy press releases, these corporate commitments were full of greenwashing tricks, loopholes, and data omissions.
This report underscores a growing wave of criticism of corporate pledges. Although corporations should take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis and be pushed to make meaningful commitments, it’s not going to happen without government action to hold polluters accountable.
Here’s one thing you can do: Tell your members of Congress to cosponsor the National Climate Emergency Act, which would declare the climate crisis a national emergency.
The Worst Megadrought in 1,200 Years
A new study found that the drought that’s been drying up the western United States for the past 22 years is the worst megadrought in the region in the past 1,200 years. And while droughts do occur naturally, the researchers determined that more than 40% of the current dry spell can be attributed to human activity.
This megadrought contributes to the deadly wildfires in the West, threatens agriculture, and harms wildlife. The region also continues to experience high population growth, increasing pressure on already-dwindling water sources. Officials are scrambling to come up with a new plan for managing the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to more than 36 million people and is home to dozens of species, including four endangered fish.
Here’s one thing you can do: The Center is fighting a pipeline that could drain billions of gallons of water a year from the Great Basin Desert. Tell the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to save the desert by rejecting the Pine Valley Water Supply Project.
New York Times Exposes Agribusiness
In a powerful video, The New York Times exposes the devastation caused by the American appetite for cheap meat. “Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet” breaks down the environmental cost of industrial agriculture and how food has been virtually ignored by the climate movement, despite its significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It also explains the enormous lobbying power of the meat and dairy industries, which has allowed them to evade government scrutiny and regulation, pointing out that Tyson spends a larger percentage of its revenue on lobbying than ExxonMobil.
Here’s one thing you can do: Urge your representatives to support the Farm System Reform Act, which would take steps to shift power from industrial meat and dairy producers to independent family farmers.
Grants for Population-Related Projects
The GAIA Initiative is offering grants to organizations with innovative approaches for education, public policy, media, and family planning services that can help increase access to reproductive healthcare and broaden understanding of the impact of population pressure and strategies to adapt to declining populations. Grant opportunities are divided regionally to address the unique dynamics of the Global South, which is focused on empowerment and reproductive freedom, and the Global North, which considers the context of per capita consumption to improve access to healthcare and supporting those who want to be childfree.
Grants range from $5,000 to $10,000. Expressions of interest for the spring grant cycle are due March 31. To learn more and apply for a grant, visit the GAIA Initiative’s website.
Wildlife Spotlight: Eastern Black Rail
Eastern black rails are small, secretive birds who often choose to walk or run through the grasses of salt and freshwater marshes instead of flying. They nest on the ground, weaving marsh plants into a cup-shaped home with a canopy and entrance. Because they’re rarely seen behind the rustle of grasses, not much is known about their habits, though it’s likely they eat insects, snails and seeds.
The rapid disappearance of wetlands due to urban and agricultural sprawl and climate change is leaving these birds with nowhere left to hide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the species is likely to disappear over the next five decades. So this month the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue to change the Endangered Species Act listing for these critically imperiled birds from threatened to endangered.
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Photo credits: School food via Canva; desert tortoise by Brad Sutton/NPS; sex education by The People Speak/Flickr; smokestacks via Pixabay; Colorado River during drought by Desert LCC/Flickr; beef cattle courtesy USDA; money by Nicole Mays/Flickr; eastern black rail by Christy Hand/South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 710
Tucson, AZ 85702