“How many chances does Northern Metal get to do business as usual?” said Roxxanne O’Brien, who spoke at a May rally alongside Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ). “We can’t breathe for so many reasons and our Black Lives continue not to matter to our city and state government. Enough is enough.”
The 55411 zip code where the plant is located has the highest rate of asthma hospitalizations in the state, according to The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA). Northern Metal moved its metal shredder from Minneapolis to Becker in 2019 after the State found the company had submitted false pollution reports.
“Tensions over land use, extraction rights and subsequent drops in oil prices due to overproduction eventually resulted in curbs on drilling and a long-standing practice of oil companies’ voluntary “self- regulation,” such as noise-reduction technologies. The industry began touting these voluntary approaches to deflect governmental regulation.
Increasingly, oil companies disguised their activities with approaches such as operating inside buildings, building tall walls and designing islands off Long Beach and other sites to blend in with the landscape. Oil drilling was hidden in plain sight.
Today there are over 20,000 active, idle or abandoned wells spread across a county of 10 million people. About one-third of residents live less than a mile from an active well site, some right next door. Since the 2000s, the advance of extractive technologies to access harder-to-reach deposits has led to a resurgence of oil extraction activities. As extraction in some neighborhoods has ramped up, people living in South Los Angeles and other neighborhoods in oil fields have noticed frequent odors, nosebleeds and headaches.
Cuban rivers are cleaner than the Mississippi because Cuban farmers practice organic farming and conservation agriculture to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss.
One sobering report warns that all topsoil could be gone in the next 60 years if agriculture continues as normal.
Over the past four years, a Long Island woman has transformed two acres of trash-strewn dirt into a profitable organic farm by betting big on soil. Tests of the soil show the organic content is now seven times higher than when she began. The result is produce so flavorful that she can’t keep up with the number of restaurants and home cooks looking to buy shares.
The Forever Green Initiative (FGI) is a University of Minnesota and U.S. Department of Agriculture research service that engages teams of experts in genomics, breeding, agronomics, soil health, and commercialization. FGI places equal importance on “working hand in hand with farmers, rural communities, food businesses, policy makers, and consumers who insist that healthy food, healthy rural communities, and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive.”
One of the crops in experimentation is Kernza,® a perennial, intermediate wheat grass developed by the Land Institute in Kansas and FGI. The new MN-Clearwater variety is planted in water protection areas to prevent nitrates from leaking from farms into water sources. Says an FGI professor, “The science shows there is less nitrate leaving Kernza fields compared to typical annual crops.”
The FGI initiative also is working with farmers to develop camelina oil, which comes from a winter-hardy crop that provides habitat for pollinators and wildlife, retains topsoil, and stems erosion.
Although agriculture remains the biggest threat to biodiversity, experience suggests we can produce more food on less land without overexploiting natural resources and degrading wildlife habitats. We explore five critical factors to ensure agriculture becomes a force for biodiversity conservation.
Ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September experts warn that the transformation of our food systems and the protection of our increasingly fragile ecosystems depends on improved water management and cross-sectoral collaboration.