National Forum Series: Virtual Seminars
Meeting the Health, Biodiversity, and Climate Crises with a Path for a Livable Future
You will see tremendous change in the format of this year’s National Pesticide Forum, now called National Forum Series—as we try to avoid virtual conference and webinar burn-out. The Forum is all about giving you easier access to timely, bite-sized, and provocative learning experiences and empowering action to fuel change. The first seminar launched September 15, and additional seminars are taking place in October and November.
The Beyond Pesticides 2022 National Forum Series is intended to 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’ effort 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!
Seminar 3: CLIMATE—November 29, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm EST [Video recording now
This session focuses on the scientific work that has been done to call attention to the urgency of the climate crisis, as captured in the United Nations Environment Program and World Health Organization report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. As stated in the report, “The report recognizes the interactions of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies, and integrates knowledge more strongly across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments. The assessment of climate change impacts and risks as well as adaptation is set against concurrently unfolding non-climatic global trends e.g., biodiversity loss, overall unsustainable consumption of natural resources, land and ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanisation, human demographic shifts, social and economic inequalities and a pandemic.” As the United Nations Secretary-General in July, António Guterres told the leaders of more than 40 countries at the 13th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
Rachel Bezner Kerr, PhD, is a Professor in Global Development at Cornell University, and does research in Africa on sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, food security and nutrition. She has published over 80 scientific articles.. She was a Coordinating Lead Author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Dr. Bezner Kerr also served as a member of the High Level Panel of Experts for the United Nations Committee for World Food Security, coauthoring the 2019 report on agroecology. She does long-term research in Malawi and Tanzania, using participatory research methods to test the impacts of agroecological approaches on livelihoods, nutrition and sustainable land management for rural communities. Dr. Bezner Kerr is the director of the Community Food Systems minor in Cornell University, which provides engaged learning experiences for students with organizations working on sustainable agriculture and food justice issues.
The Rodale Institute produced a White Paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution, in 2020, which outlines a strategy, based on the Institute’s research, for combatting the climate crisis. The report analyzes the explosive amount of data available on soil carbon sequestration potential in the past decade to conclude that a global switch to regenerative crop and pasture systems could drawdown more than 100 percent of annual CO2 emissions. The report builds upon claims first made by Rodale Institute in the widely read 2014 white paper, “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,” integrating the newest research data while providing actionable steps for consumers, policymakers, farmers, and more. The publication shows that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not only feed the world while reducing chemical exposure and improving biodiversity and soil health but could also be the key to mitigating the climate crisis. The paper was compiled through extensive peer-reviewed research data and interviews with leaders in the fields of soil microbiology, ranchland ecology, agronomy, and more, as well as research conducted in Rodale Institute’s world-renowned long-term comparison trials, including the 40-year-old Farming Systems Trial.
Andrew Smith, PhD, Chief Operations Officer at Rodale Institute, is passionate about growing the organic movement by providing science-based solutions to farmers and facilitating opportunities to expand the number of organic farmers and farmland across the globe. He is coauthor of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution. Dr. Smith has over 20 years of experience working in the organic industry as an agronomist, researcher, and farmer. While trained as an entomologist, his motive for entering the organic industry was to reduce the use of chemicals for food production that end up in our environment, food, and bodies. He now has the opportunity to support an amazing group of dedicated people working diligently on many projects to transform the food system and the way we farm to improve the lives and health of all people and the planet. He also owns a 140-acre organic farm with his wife where they raise Shetland sheep, grow fiber and fruit crops, and manage a Seed-to-Share garden and provide educational programming.
Seminar 1: HEALTH—September 15, 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.
Seminar 2: BIODIVERSITY—October 12, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm EDT [Video recording now available]
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.