What the Pandemic Reveals About Our Food and Water

This week's investigative reporting, analysis and environmental news.
The Revelator
Washing hands

No. 128, April 16, 2020

Hello Revelator readers,

The past month has upended life for millions and presented us with a long list of new challenges. But the pandemic has also exposed some longstanding problems and provided an opportunity for meaningful change.

For example, water has always been critical to a healthy society, but the COVID-19 crisis is driving that point home and revealing a growing affordability gap and critical infrastructure shortfalls. Will solutions become a political priority? We investigate.

The crisis is also exposing deep flaws in our food system and the economic mechanisms at work propping up industries that are troubled even in good times. A new essay calls for us to do more than cry over spilt milk.

We'll also be headed for another health disaster if we don't address the root causes of the current crisis — the global wildlife trade — an expert warns. Here are his recommendations for how we can learn from our mistakes.

Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed with the global crisis is elephant hunting. A new story reveals that Botswana is still tapping the trophy-hunting business. Here's what's at stake.

And scientists are hard at work understanding how climate change is affecting oceans — of particular importance are phytoplankton, which produce half of the oxygen in our atmosphere.

Subscriber bonus: The Wild 5

Here are five more stories we're watching this week.

1. The Trump administration is extending timber-harvesting contracts in national forests by two years in the lower 48 and three years in Alaska, which could double the length of time loggers have to cut trees.

2. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, making his state the first in the South to approve a plan to transition to 100% carbon-free energy by 2050.

3. Experts warn that climate-charged disasters like flooding, hurricanes and wildfires could amplify threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. California's Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended that the iconic Joshua tree be protected under the state's Endangered Species Act.

5. New research finds that the closure of a coal plant and the addition of new pollution-control devices on another plant in Louisville, Kentucky, resulted in 400 fewer hospital visits by local residents.

In case you missed it:

Sometimes we need to take the long view. Esteemed scientist Warren Washington talks about what he's learned in 50 years of studying climate change.

What should we cover next?

Tell us about how the novel coronavirus is affecting your community and what you're doing to stay connected while keeping your distance. We want to hear from you, so please drop us a line anytime.

Coming up:

We'll check in on the Gulf of Mexico 10 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and we've got the latest look at new books to keep you company when you're housebound.

Look for our latest links in next Thursday's newsletter — or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the headlines as they go live.

As always, thank you for reading — and stay safe.

Tara Lohan

Tara Lohan
Deputy Editor, The Revelator


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Photo of handwashing courtesy Providence of British Columbia

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