National Forum Series: Virtual Seminars
Meeting the Health, Biodiversity, and Climate Crises with a Path for a Livable Future
HEALTH > Sept 15 completed | BIODIVERSITY > Oct 12 | CLIMATE > Nov TBA
This unique series will focus on both the existential problems associated with current public health and environmental crises and chart a path for a future that solves these urgent problems. We classify the existential crises into three challenging categories: public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency. In each category of our involvement—whether as professionals or lay people, local elected officials or concerned advocates—we play a critical role in enhancing public understanding of the science and the practical hands-on experience to inform the urgent steps that must be taken at the local, state, and national levels. In this context, our positions are informed by a recognition that with all the existential threats there is disproportionate risk to people of color communities and those with health vulnerabilities.
While the current challenges result from a confluence of issues that are harmful to sustaining life, the need for carefully defined sustainable land management and building and household practices and products is urgent. The National Forum Series launches Beyond Pesticides’ campaign to eliminate fossil fuel-based pesticide use within the next decade, putting a stop to toxic emissions, exposure, and residues, while embracing an organic systems approach that is holistic and respectful of life.
The goal of the Forum Series is to enable a collective strategy to address the existential health, biodiversity, and climate threats and chart a path for a livable and sustainable future. We come together to empower effective action. You are part of the solution!
October 12—Seminar 2: Biodiversity, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm EST
The Problem: Life depends on biodiversity—the diverse range of organisms that forms a community of interdependent species, collectively contributing to a healthy and sustainable environment. By some scientific estimates, published in Science, “Current rates of extinction are about 1,000 times the likely background rate of extinction. Future rates depend on many factors and are poised to increase.” (2014) According to the Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), “Harmful economic incentives and policies associated with unsustainable practices of fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture (including fertilizer and pesticide use), livestock, forestry, mining and energy (including fossil fuels and biofuels) are often associated with land/sea-use change and overexploitation of natural resources, as well as inefficient production and waste management.”
Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi, PhD, professor and director, Institute for Research in Natural Resources, Agroecology and Rural Development, Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro, Argentina, Is part of an international community of scientists both documenting the existential biodiversity crisis and calling for transformative change. He is a contributor to the IPBES report and co-chair the Transformative Change Assessment, which is charged with outlining the options for achieving the 2050 vision for biodiversity.
The Solution: The IPBES report endorses the transition away from pesticide-laden agricultural practices and toward sustainable agriculture to meet the challenges of protecting and enhancing biodiversity. Organic land management systems that eliminate fossil fuel-based toxic pesticides and fertilizers makes a substantial contribution in addressing the dire threat to biodiversity.
Bob Quinn, PhD, farmer and miller (Montana Flour and Grains) in Big Sandy, Montana has lived the value of organic food production and land management since the full conversion of his 2,400-acre family farm in Montana in 1989. His experience charts a course that can and must be embraced as a solution in the U.S. and worldwide. He coauthored Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs and Healthy Food (2019) with Liz Carlisle (professor in the Environmental Studies Program, University of California, Santa Barbara). Bob served on the first U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Standards Board and has also served on a USDA agriculture research advisory committee and on Montana’s first organic certification advisory board.
Seminar 3—Climate—November 15 (tentative date)
September 15—Seminar 1: Health, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm EST [Video recording now available]
The Problem: We start the Forum Series with a medical doctor who has both treated and studied the effects of toxic chemical exposure, with a focus on pesticides, throughout our daily lives. Claudia Miller, MD, MS provides us with a framework for understanding the dire health implications of the current dependency on pesticides and toxic chemicals and the failure of the regulatory system to fully evaluate and control for the range of adverse effects and complexity of their interactions. Dr. Miller is professor emerita at the University of Texas San Antonio. Her work has documented what is called Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT), which captures the disease process and range of nervous system symptoms that individuals develop as a result of low level chemical exposures, raising connections to a wide range of public health diseases. Dr. Miller is the coauthor of numerous peer-reviewed publications, and the professionally acclaimed book, Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes. Dr. Miller’s current research involves the relationship between synthetic chemical exposures and disruption of the gastrointestinal microbiome.
The Solution: The solution is found in a transition to management practices that are no longer dependent on toxic inputs and respect the value of nature and works in partnership with the diversity that it offers. This discussion will be led by an indigenous farmer, Kaipo Kekona, who is working in Hawai’i to regenerate and sustain traditional farming production on former sugarcane land. Mr. Kekona manages a 12.5 acre-farm site for the Ku'ia Agricultural Education Center in the ahupua'a of Ku'ia on Legacy Lands of Keli'i Kulani (foothills of the West Maui Mountains). Critical to the mission for the site is to not only reclaim space as a native historical food property, but also introduce to the community the practices that encourage a healthier food system and the soil health that forms the foundation of productive land management. Mr. Kepona brings the teachings from indigenous practices that have proven to be resilient, healthy, and respectful of life. He serves as the educational coordinator and project director at the Center.