Poetry: “One Vote”

[After reading a letter from his mother, Harry T. Burn cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – giving white women the right to vote – Ratified 8/18/1920]

My parents are from countries
where mangoes grow wild and bold
and eagles cry the sky in arcs and dips.
America loved this bird too and made

it clutch olives and arrows. Some think
if an eaglet falls, the mother will swoop
down to catch it. It won’t. The eagle must fly
on its own accord by first testing the air-slide

over each pinfeather. Even in a letter of wind,
a mother holds so much power. After the pipping
of the egg, after the branching—an eagle is on
its own. Must make the choice on its own

no matter what it’s been taught. Some forget
that pound for pound, eagle feathers are stronger
than an airplane wing. And even one letter, one
vote can make the difference for every bright thing.

By – Aimee Nezhukumatathil

American poet (b. 1974, Chicago), Nezhukumatathil draws upon her Filipina and Malayali Indian background to give her perspective on love, loss, and land. Wikipedia

Copyright © 2020 Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Photo from: <https://therumpus.net/2018/05/the-rumpus-mini-interview-project-137-aimee-nezhukumatathil/&gt;

Listen to Tracy K. Smith –  22nd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017 to 2019 – talk about elections — and read “One Vote” on her podcast “The Slowdown.”


FILE – In this April 16, 2012 file photo, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Tracy K. Smith poses outside her apartment in New York. Smith has embarked on the first of several trips to bring her poetry to rural pockets of the country where she says book festivals rarely take her. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)


Your Vote is Your Voice and Your Power. Please Vote.

Aloha, Renee

Poetry: “So Many”

So Many

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

The frogs are so many
you can’t mistake the pond for emptiness.
Each voice, different, like a moment.
And I stop my hurrying, for awhile.
What fortune it is to awaken each morning!
I go to the ponds, anticipating something
miraculous at the edge of what is solid and
what is not. And, it is there, something,
always there to greet the unknown day,
and I wonder if my coming isn’t its story
of something ordinary but worthy of words. Maybe, I’m lucky and it’s praise.

I’m praising them, all of them, so many
of them, now here calling out for what they want.
Look at that! How they know it and say it.
“Come to me! Come to me!” Have any of us
ever been that bold, truly?
Imagine that in your own body! Really saying what you want and need.

Surely, I will praise them as they float on the pond and tell it as it is! This day is worthy of their gusto, 
of their intent to say “Yes!” with bravado to the forces rushing through them. Life! Sometimes I forget 
about it. About what a chance this is. What a chance
to live, and call out for what you really want, 
for what brings you alive. This is my frog voice.

© 2016-2020/Jamie K. Reaser Published in “Conversations with Mary: Words of Attention and Devotion”

From: <https://talkingwaters-poetry.blogspot.com/2016/02/so-many.html?fbclid=IwAR3HtHOZZl0vIVptw8Oam8jeLe4j5n0ri2r671dIuRTrPZ3CFRDg_HWfJk0&gt;

Thanks to Grete for introducing me to Jamie & her Talking Waters. Enjoy. Aloha, Renee

Quotation: Gratitude

The wise words of 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi offer us excellent advice even today — perhaps especially today:

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life”

  • Rumi

Aloha, Renee

Quarantine Kitchen: Ulu Cake

We have ulu (breadfruit) dropping from lofty trees in our neighborhood right now. Kate gave me a couple of hers, and Barry brought one home from the Y. I can’t find my tried and true ulu bread/cake recipe, but this one from Mahala Farms looks good and is simple to make – and healthy.

The recipe calls for NO flour, NO eggs, NO dairy!! And no sugar – except, if you do as I did, add grated chocolate for the topping and batter.

It’s healthy and moist and wonderful.

Chocolate Ulu (Breadfruit) cake

Bruddah’s Ulu Cake

Prep: 30 minute
Cook Time: 40 minute 
Serves: 5-7


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut open ripe ulu and spoon out flesh.
Inside a ripe ulu
  • Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.


  • 1 medium Ulu, sweet ripe flesh (4 cup)
  • 4 small apple banana, semi-mashed (1 cup) [I used 2 regular bananas]
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cups date pieces
  • 1 tbl baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, ground [I didn’t have nutmeg – so in this quarantine kitchen, I just skipped it].
Easy to mix

Add 1 cup chocolate chips or dried cherries. Experiment with using other dried fruits and nuts.

In this quanantine kitchen, I’m still grating up the melted and clumped together bag of chocolate

Pour into a lightly oiled 8” x 8” square baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes – easy and delicious

From: http://www.mohalafarms.org/ulu-breadfruit.html

Not only is this dessert easy to make, ulu is very versatile.

This article from Blue Zones explains:

From: <https://www.bluezones.com/2019/04/what-is-ulu-and-why-should-you-eat-it/&gt;

Meet Hawaiian ‘Ulu, the Protein-Rich Tropical Superfruit

By Elisabeth Almekinder, Health Journalist, Registered Nurse, and Diabetes Educator for the Manos Unidas North Carolina Farmworker Health Program

“’ULU.” The word rolls off the tongue but may be unfamiliar to mainland folks. Also known as breadfruit, ‘ulu is a local produce found on the Hawaiian Islands and in the Caribbean, South Asia, and Polynesia that is nutritious, delicious, underutilized, and extremely versatile—it can be enjoyed and prepared as a fruit or a vegetable. When roasted, it resembles baked bread.  When ripe, you can eat the soft, pudding-like texture like a custard.

A sustainable fruit

An ancient example of modern-day sustainable agriculture, the life of an ‘ulu tree spans decades. As legend has it, the god Ku transformed himself into an ‘ulu tree to feed his human family and spread the fruit trees throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Ulu fruit

The islands are rich with folklore related to the plant. One of the highest yielding food trees on earth, one tree can produce over 100 to 200 fruits in a year’s time with little effort, and they grow well in backyards as well as on farms among other varieties of trees. The trees are fast-growing and require very little labor, fertilizer, or pesticides compared to other crops. Scientists also believe that ‘ulu could be a way to combat hunger and malnourishment in subtropical climates like Haiti and Jamaica where the tree could easily flourish.

What are the health benefits of ‘ulu?

It’s considered a superfood not only because one fruit feeds an entire family and there’s enough fruit on the islands to feed the whole population, but due to its nutritional value. It’s sometimes called the tree potato for how versatile it is in cooked dishes and for how it tastes when it’s mature. But it [is] higher in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white potatoes.

There are many nutrients packed into one fruit. ‘Ulu is loaded with:

  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Omega 6 fatty acids
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Thiamine
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

What does it taste like?

You can eat and enjoy ‘ulu at any stage. When it’s green and hard, it tastes like an artichoke. When it’s mature, it tastes and cooks like a potato or other root vegetable. When very ripe, it’s sweet and is enjoyed like fruit or dessert.

How do you eat it?

It can be eaten in the raw state or steamed and pounded into poi or added to desserts and drinks. It can be fried, baked, or made into a gluten-free flour. (1) In Hawaii, the traditional method of cooking is by roasting the fruit. It is also cooked in deep fire pits, called “imu.”

In its immature state before ripeness occurs, it’s cooked much like a green vegetable and tastes like artichokes. You can use it as a healthier substitute for potatoes in your homemade dishes. (2)

“My wife mashes it like potatoes and makes it into baked french fries and chips,” said Randy Malfalfa, musician and resident of Big Island. “It helps me to keep my Type 2 Diabetes in control because it raises my blood sugars less than potatoes.”

At the size of a small basketball, this green-colored fruit can be made into pancakes, stews, soups, salads, casseroles, bread, and dips. It can be formed into vegetarian burgers. It can be marinated or pickled or used in curries.”

Whether you make Bruddah’s Ulu Cake or bake ulu as pototoes, the ulu/breadfruit is one to try when you are in tropics.

Be well.

Aloha, Renee

Books: In “Afterward” by John Lewis

From Jon Meacham’s His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and The Power of Hope. Random House, N.Y. 2020. “Afterward” from Estate of John Lewis, 2020.

“I came of age in a segregated America. The message of the civil rights movement was straightforward, and it was a message grounded in hope. We are one people; we are one family; we all live in the same house–the American house, the world house. As Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, whenever and wherever we saw injustice, we had a moral obligation to say something, to do something, to speak up and speak out. We might get arrested, we might be thrown in jail, we might be beaten, we might be left bloody, or we might be left for dead. But we couldn’t stop.

It became a way of life for many young people. The first time I got arrested demonstrating–it was in Nashville, Tennessee, sixty years ago–for speaking up and speaking out against segregation and racial discrimination, I felt free. I felt liberated. I felt as if I had crossed over. It made me a stronger and better person. And eventually, because of the civil right movement, America became stronger and better.

John Lewis – his first arrest for protesting unfair treatment – When you see that something is unjust or unfair, you must say something, do something.

We must now rededicate ourselves to the ideas and to the actions that accomplished so much good when I was a young man, when the students of the American South helped lead the way, when justice was denied and too many dreams were deferred.

We won the battles of the 1960s. But the war for justice, the war to make America both great and good, goes on. We the People are not a united people right now. We rarely are, but our divisions and our tribalism are especially acute. Many American have lost faith in the idea that what binds us together is more important than what separates us. Now as before, we have to choose, as Dr. King once put it, between community and chaos.

We chose community once, in the 1960s, and I believe we can choose community once more. While our problems may seem less clear-cut than the segregated signs of Jim Crow and the obstructionism of voting registrars, the means by which America redeemed part of her soul then can guide us now. When you see something you believes unfair or unjust, you have to say so.

Silence is not the answer. So much of what makes America truly great is hanging in the balance–our openness to immigrants, our treatment of the poor, our protection of a free and fair right to vote, our care of the climate, our expansion of economic opportunity, our attitude toward our political foes. Fear is abroad in the land, and we must gather the forces of hope and march once more.

The spirit of Dr. King lives with us. The civil rights movement brought about a nonviolent revolution–a revolution in values, a revolution in ideas. The soul force of this movement enabled America to find its moral compass.

I have long believed–I have long preached–that our nation’s moral compass comes from God, it is of God, and it is seen through God. And God so loved the world that he gave us the countless mean and women who lost their homes and their jobs for the right to vote. God gave us the children of freedom who lost their lives in a bombing in Birmingham and the three young men who were killed in Mississippi. But above all else God gave us courage–the power to believe that what I call the Spirit of History behind us is stronger than the terror of hatred in front of us. That is what I believed then. And I believe it now.

How to march forward? We all can study our history and thus learn what has worked in the past and therefore might just work in the present and in the future. We all can be trained to find our way or to get in the way. The teaching of individuals like James Lawson, Gandhi, and Dr. King lift us. They move us, and they tell us over and over again if another person can do just that, if another generation can get in the way or get in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble, I, too, can do something. I, too, can get in trouble for the greater good.

In the 1960s, the forces of the civil rights movement sensitized and educated a nation. I remember Attorney General Robert Kennedy saying to us on one occasion, “We now understand.”

That was the power of the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. By appealing to the conscience of the nation, we could say to elected officials, and to the larger American community, ‘We can change. We can help create the Beloved Community. We can help people to higher heights.’ That’s what the movement did. And if the movement could do it in the face of Bull Connor and Jim Clark, we can do it again now, however difficult the struggle may seem.

There are forces today in America trying to divide people along racial lines. There are forces today that are still preaching hate and division. There are forces today that want us to return to the old ways, to lose ground, to take our eyes off the prize. It makes me sad, for we don’t want to go back. We want to go forward and create one community –one America.

The journey begins with faith–faith in the dignity and the worth of every human being. That is an idea with roots in scripture and in the canon of America, in Genesis and in the Declaration of Independence. The journey is sustained by persistence–persistence in the pressing of the justice of the cause. And the journey is informed by hope–hope that someday some way, our restless souls will bring heaven and earth together, and God will wipe away every tear.

I think there’s something brewing in America that’s going to bring people closer and closer together. Adversity can breed unity; hatred can give way to love. We need a leadership of love now, a strong leadership to lift us, to transport us, to remind us that God’s truth is marching on. We can do it. We have to go forward as one people, one family, one house. I believe in it. I believe we can do it.

Within all of us there is the spark of the divine that helps us and moves us. This force is part of our DNA. Maybe it’s planted by God Almighty, and we have to use it for good, to be the best we can be.

We’ve come too far, we’ve made too much progress as a people, to stand still or to slip back. When I was growing up there was a song that people would sing in the church:

I’m so glad trouble don’t last always

O my Lord, O my Lord . . .

You have to believe that. You have to believe it. It’s all going to work out “(247-249).

John Lewis – a brave and inspiring American. He practiced loving even those who didn’t agree with human rights for all people

“Be the change you want to see,” said Gandhi.

Martin Luther King Jr. said,

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish toge

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

And John Lewis says, “We are one people; we are one family; we all live in the same house–the American house, the world house. . . We have to go forward as one people, one family, one house”[my emphasis].

Lewis expects us to “make America both great and good.” Let’s not disappoint him.

Please vote wisely — and work on needed change wherever you are.

Aloha, Renée

Be a Patriot

“Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

What is patriotism? Let us begin with what patriotism is not. It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families. It is not patriotic to discriminate against active-duty members of the armed forces in one’s companies, or to campaign to keep disabled veterans away from one’s property. It is not patriotic to compare one’s search for sexual partners in New York with the military service in Vietnam that one has dodged. It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay. It is not patriotic to ask those working, taxpaying American families to finance one’s own presidential campaign, and then to spend their contributions in one’s own companies.

It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators. It is not patriotic to cultivate a relationship with Muammar Gaddafi; or to say that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are superior leaders. It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election. It is not patriotic to cite Russian propaganda at rallies. It is not patriotic to share an adviser with Russian oligarchs. It is not patriotic to solicit foreign policy advice from someone who owns shares in a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to read a foreign policy speech written by someone on the payroll of a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to appoint a national security adviser who has taken money from a Russian propaganda organ. It is not patriotic to appoint as secretary of state an oilman with Russian financial interests who is the director of a Russian-American energy company and has received the ‘Order of Friendship’ from Putin.

The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.

The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, ‘although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,’ wrote Orwell, tends to be ‘uninterested in what happens in the real world.’ Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo  Kiš  put it, nationalism ‘has no universal values, aesthetic or ethic. . .’

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concered with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well–and wishing that it would do better.

Democracy failed in Europe in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, and it is failing not only in much of Europe but in many parts of the world today. It is that history and experience that reveals to us the dark range of our possible futures. A nationalist will say that ‘it can’t happen here,’ which is the first step toward disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it” (111-114).

From: Chapter 19 “Be a patriot” On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder – published in 2017.

Many more examples, examples every day since then – like the deaths of about 213,000 Americans so far from COVID-19, a mainly preventable illness if masks and physical distancing and testing protocols are followed — show that our current president does not really care about most Americans; he is not a patriot.

My dad and my brothers served in the U.S. military; good, kind men, who pay their taxes and are good fathers and good neighbors; they are patriots.

And most other Americans are patriots: the essential workers and those who help their neighbors in this very stressful time, those who wish the best for everyone.

Be a patriot: Vote like your future and the future of your children, their children, and your neighbors – ones you know and those you don’t know throughout the U.S – and beyond – depend on it. It does.

“In politics, being deceived is no excuse” – Leszek Kolakowski

Please vote. Aloha, Renée

Be a real American patriot – be kind, care about one another and those throughout the world

Please vote.

Banner photo from UnSplash: Leonardo Silva

Barry’s Gleanings: “Is Early Los Angeles A Model for Food & Agriculture in Hawaii?”

From: <https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/10/is-early-los-angeles-a-model-for-food-and-agriculture-in-hawaii/&gt;


IDEAS: Essays

Is Early Los Angeles A Model For Food And Agriculture In Hawaii?

Believe it or not, yes. In the first half of the 20th century, smart planners put land in the hands of farmers and transformed LA County into an agricultural powerhouse.

By Nancy Redfeather

October 11, 2020 · 13 min read    17

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately, and I’m pretty sure that you have been too.  The pandemic has shown us how quickly everything can change and reminded us of the risks of having all of our eggs in one basket.

I’ve been watching prices rise at my local supermarket. I’ve been witnessing climate changes and disruptions in global supply chains. I’ve been thinking about the fact that 90% of Hawaii’s food comes from outside of the islands and wondering how much longer that system will survive.

I’ve been concerned about those who have lost jobs and need help putting food on the table. We are fortunate that Hawaii has a deep tradition of sharing food, and backyard abundance plays a big role in that. Over the past six months, a growing number of people on every island have created home food gardens and planted food trees, many for the first time.

I live on a small farm homestead at Kawanui in mauka Kona that is just over one acre. I farm every day and a good portion of what I eat at any given meal I have grown myself. My family and I have lived on this farm for 20 years. I know firsthand food’s connection to soil and water, place and ecosystem, health and wellness, economy and education, and climate.

I see food as the great connector: to our earth, ohana, community, culture and each other. Food gives us our daily sustenance and a deep sense of belonging. As University of Hawaii West Oahu Professor Albie Miles recently wrote, if we get food right, we get everything right.

The great poet and farmer Wendell Berry urged us to start from the perspective that eating is an agricultural act.

We all know that the challenges to our local food and agricultural economies are significant, and now the pandemic is bringing those challenges into heightened focus.

People who want to grow food in Hawaii must confront high land prices, compete with development pressures and deal with water and labor costs. They must contend with invasive species and new crop diseases, with educational and legislative foot-dragging, with export and import uncertainties, with funding cuts and cheap food policies.

These are the issues we need to confront if we are to once again seriously produce food in these islands. These are the issues we need to confront if we are to truly transform.

The Lesson of Los Angeles

I know a story about the creative transformation of food and agriculture. It began 120 years ago in Los Angeles, California, and it forever changed the way that I look at food.

I was born in 1946 into one of 10,000 small farm families in the County of Los Angeles. You probably don’t think of LA as an agricultural area, but from 1910 to 1960 it was the top producing agricultural county in the entire United States.

The founders of Los Angeles sought to turn the county into an area where agriculture was thriving, and they transformed the landscape from large ranches into small farms.

Before the Spanish colonized the area in the 1700s, LA was a vast fertile plain with flowing rivers, wild edible plants, wildflowers, trees and many types of animals. The 40 tribes of native peoples who lived there were not farmers, but hunters and fisherman who gathered wild foods.

By 1900, that lush landscape had been transformed. Most of the land, formerly in haciendas, was now owned by large landowners, cattle ranchers and land speculators. The main “crop” was cattle, not for meat but for hides to ship to the East to make shoes, belts and bags.

By 1900 that system was no longer working. Landowners were struggling to keep their lands in productive use. Local indigenous workers were reluctant to participate in the system. The ecosystem was exhausted by sheep and cattle and severe drought. Many who had tried farming were inexperienced and their projects had failed.

The founders of Los Angeles and the businessmen of the LA Chamber of Commerce came up with a new idea. They knew there were vast opportunities for these lands. The LA ecosystem had so many assets. The problem was that the wrong ideas were driving land use.

The new idea was to persuade large landowners to break up their vast holdings into smaller parcels of land and sell them to more experienced farming families from across the United States. These smaller holdings would be called Small Farm Homesteads.

In the first decades of the 20th century, thousands of small farmers moved onto homesteads and transformed Los Angeles County into the most productive agricultural county in the United States.

First, LA’s leaders created a nationwide campaign to show people across the United States the incredible diversity of food crops and products that could be grown in LA County. They placed an array of California products and crops on their own train car and traveled coast to coast, stopping at every small town. They attended World’s Fairs. The vision was first to build a food system based around the small family farm that would feed the city and eventually position Los Angeles as the West Coast food hub.

They were very successful.

Beginning around 1910, the land was subdivided into 10,000 half- to 3-acre affordable parcels. Deep fertile soil, a year-round growing climate, ample water resources and a growing market attracted farmers and families from around the country who were looking for new opportunities.

My entire family came west from Iowa during the Great Depression in 1932, purchased one acre in the San Gabriel valley and started a small farm. By the time I was born, truck farms, orchards, dairies, egg and chicken farms and cattle ranches were integrated into the landscape.

In 1946, the small farms of LA provided over 50% of the food for the growing city. There were 300 small dairies, 16,000 acres in vegetable production, thousands of acres of fruit and nut orchards, hundreds of egg and poultry farms, and 3,500 larger farms and cattle ranches.

By 1970, suburban devel­opment was replacing many of these small farms. Although there are few signs of this agrarian history in LA today, the economic vitality of the area still has its roots in the small farm homestead. The leaders of Los Angeles were applauded for their insight that 10,000 small farms would be better for the economy, the land and the people than ten large 1,000-acre plantations.

The first great lesson I learned was: Who owns the land, and how it is used, matters. Very much.

The glamour of Los Angeles wasn’t just for the movies — it extended to the farmers’ markets.

The Lessons of Hawaii’s Past

So I began to wonder, what was agriculture like in Hawaii in 1946, the year I was born?

At that time there were fewer than 500,000 people living in the islands and the annual visitor count was under 50,000. According to the statewide Ag Census of that year, there were then 3,922 diverse farms in Hawaii: 83 small dairies, 525 small hog farms, 748 egg and poultry farms, 228 cattle ranches, 1,568 fruit/vegetable/nut farms, 727 coffee and rice farms, 45 apiaries and two sheep farms.

In post-war 1946 there were also plenty of backyard victory gardens dotted with fruit trees and there was much fishing, hunting and gathering of wild foods. There were also, of course, thousands of acres of pineapple and sugar growing on plantations, mainly for export.

There was clearly greater diversity in local food production, driven by small family operations. That era seems to have lasted into the 1960s. Today in Hawaii, egg, poultry, hog and dairy commercial farms are mostly gone.

What happens when we go back further, to 1846? Then the makaainana, the people, were allotted plots on which to grow food. They planted and nurtured taro, sweet potato, ulu and other crops, raised pigs and chickens, and had the right to fish in the sea and in some protected fishponds. They worked six days a month for the chief, fought in wars and paid taxes with goods produced.

Masterful at engineering water and land for maximum productivity, Hawaiians developed some of the most sophisticated agricultural systems in the world. Taro, and the poi created from it, was at the heart of the Hawaiian diet.

Although that system of agriculture was still feeding the people, by 1846 a new era was beginning. Farms were also producing foods for export to the West Coast (potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar and coffee) or provisioning whaling ships in port with local produce, meat and fruits. Sugar plantations had begun to arise a decade earlier.

The Great Mahele, the Kuleana Act, the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the enforcement of the Republic, then of the Territory and then of statehood all had profound repercussions for land and food in the islands. The formal ownership of Hawaii’s 4 million acres became concentrated in the hands of the few and it remains so.

The government (federal, state, and county) is now the largest landowner in Hawaii followed by 40 large estates of 5,000 acres or more. We are basically in the same place that Los Angeles was in 1900, surrounded by large landowners. And just as then, land use — at least some of it — is being driven by wrong ideas.

I think constantly about how we can actually put more of Hawaii’s lands back into the hands of the next generation of farmers in a meaningful and supportive way.

At the community level, many encouraging and innovative new ideas are emerging for rethinking, reforming and reenergizing agriculture and community food systems. There seems to be an underlying consensus that history is now presenting us with a unique opportunity.

Land availability greatly affects opportunities and outcomes for new and beginning farmers who want to own, farm and live on the same piece of land. When farmers live on their land, they also invest in the quality of the soil and farm infrastructure.

I know so many people in Hawaii who have invested everything in a farm on leased land and then lost their lease because the landowner simply changed their mind.

Hawaii’s largest farmer, Larry Jefts, suffered this fate earlier this year when he had to pull up 200 acres of tomatoes and bell peppers on land he leases in Kunia to make way for a planned solar farm. While renewable energy is a laudable and vital goal, state policies should support the development of renewable energy alongside serious farming endeavors, not in opposition to them. If this can happen to Larry, it can happen to anyone.

My own story offers one example of struggle: After growing up in a farming family and moving to Hawaii in 1978 seeking to farm, it took me 23 years to find a piece of land that I could afford. It didn’t happen until I was 50.

And even then it took a confluence of lucky breaks: The one acre of land I now own and farm came up for sale during the real estate downturn in 1998. It was in foreclosure. They were asking more than I could afford so I made a lower offer and they accepted. My family, not a bank, loaned me the down payment.

Today the land I farm is flourishing and produces thousands of pounds of food a year.

This corner of the kitchen garden on Nancy Redfeather’s farm in Kawainui features (visible in the photo) carrots, shelling peas, lettuces, collards and tomatoes that were bred by renowned UH plant researcher Dr. James Gilbert.

I am concerned for the next generation. Land prices that were already prohibitive have only risen over the past two decades.

And what all of this means is that the food security we now so desperately need is not being supported in ways that actually work.

Why Now At Last?

Hawaii, like Los Angeles in 1900, has so many ecosystem assets: a year-round growing season, no frost, ample water, rapid nutrient recycling for soil building, clear air and clean water, 10 of the world’s 14 climatic zones, basalt soils full of minerals, and of course knowledge of the great Hawaiian field systems and loi.

We will need all of those assets to deal with the climate changes that are already beginning and to keep food in our bellies. We are currently talking about diversifying our economy so why don’t we put food and agriculture right at the top of the list?

Share Your Ideas

To submit an essay or if you just want to talk over an idea, contact:

IDEAS Editor Julia Steele

I urge us to collectively search for new ways of looking at food security while we still can. The Kohala Center’s 2017 Report, “Affordable Land and Housing for Farmers: Exploring Agricultural and Community Land Trusts for Hawaii” helps to provide some direction.

At the community level, many encouraging and innovative new ideas are emerging for rethinking, reforming and reenergizing agriculture and community food systems. There seems to be an underlying consensus that history is now presenting us with a unique opportunity.

If we are ever going to increase our food supply and create greater food access, justice and security for this small island nation, we will need everyone — big farms, medium and small farms, backyards — to support each other. We will need policies that support all producers and secure places for our farmers to both live and work. Lively and diverse conversations can help us develop shared common goals that can be used to create change in policy and practice but only if we are willing.

We do not need to follow Los Angeles’ story all the way to the present and urbanize. We can stop at a flourishing world of farming. And we do not need to travel outside of the islands to find farmers. We need to support Hawaii’s own people.

In the end, it comes down to this: Food is the basis of life and health, and when there isn’t enough food, people suffer and die. Farmers need land and each of us has a role to play in ensuring they can find it, live on it and develop its resources in support of all of our futures. It is the kuleana of us all to pick up the work and imagine a new way to live.

Before you go…

During a crisis like this, it’s more important than ever to dig beyond the news, to figure out what government policies mean for ordinary citizens and how those policies were put together.

This is perhaps the biggest, most consequential story our reporters will ever cover. And at no other time in Civil Beat’s history have we relied on your support more. Please consider supporting Civil Beat by making a tax-deductible gift.Contribute

About the Author

Nancy Redfeather

Nancy Redfeather, who grew up on a farm in Los Angeles, now lives and grows food and seed for her family on their small farm in Kona. She has been an educator in Hawaii’s public and private schools for the past 40 years and at The Kohala Center helped revive school garden programs and establish the Hawaii Farm to School Hui.

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Book: “Perilous Bounty”

Do You Know: Trayvon, George, & Matthew?

You’ve probably heard of the shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old Black high school student, Trayvon Martin as he walked at night in a gated Sanford, Florida community in 2012. Wearing a hoodie, he was coming back from a convenience store and talking on his cell phone with his girlfriend. She later testified that she heard Trayvon say, “What are you following me for?” followed by a man’s voice responding, “What are you doing around here?” She then heard Martin yelling, “Get off! Get off!” The phone went dead.

Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, the man following Martin, claimed to have killed the youth in self-defense. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute, which is also a law in many other U.S. states, Zimmerman had a right to defend himself with lethal force. Zimmerman was a volunteer for a neighborhood watch program linked to the Sanford Police Department. When Zimmerman had called the police to report an unknown person in the complex, he had been told to stay away from the youth. Instead, George got out of his car, confronted the student, a tussle resulted, and Zimmerman killed Trayvon.

Here’s another reason to live in Hawaii – Duty to retreat!
George Zimmerman – right- found not guilty

Since that 2012 fatality, George has repeatedly been questioned about domestic abuse – threatening his loved ones with guns, speeding, and various other issues, but he has not been convicted of any charge.

Interestingly, a Aug. 2013 Huffington Post article noted,

Public Policy Polling included George Zimmerman . . . on a poll to see whom Alaskans would favor as a GOP presidential contender in 2016.

In an email to TheBlaze, PPP director Tom Jensen explained that “[Zimmerman] had high favorability ratings with Republican voters in some national polls, so we were just curious how he would do.”

Zimmerman did not fare well against his hypothetical Republican opponents. . . Only 2 percent of Alaska respondents voiced their support for Zimmerman.” But why would he be considered? And did the 2 percent of Alaskans really know about Zimmerman?

From: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/george-zimmerman-2016-poll_n_3713943

The biggest issue since Trayvon’s death is a 2015 road rage incident with Matthew Apperson. The Huffington Post reported, “

Circuit Court Judge Debra Nelson in Seminole County called Apperson ‘a danger to the community’ as she handed down the mandatory minimum sentence [20 years in prison!] on Monday, ABC-affiliate WFTV 9 said.

Apperson also was sentenced for convictions of shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm stemming from the altercation with Zimmerman, who sustained minor injuries from shattered glass.

During his trial, Apperson testified that the shooting was in self defense. Zimmerman testified it was unprovoked.”

Both men had guns in their cars during a roadside confrontation in Lake Mary, Florida in May 2015.

From: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/matthew-apperson-attempted-murder_n_7615416

Lake Mary PD “learned that Apperson . . . exhibited unusual behaviors in which he had . . . been admitted to a mental institution. It appears that Apperson has a fixation on Zimmerman and has displayed some signs of paranoia, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.”[54]

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Zimmerman#Shooting_by_Matthew_Apperson

Is it really prudent for George Zimmerman to be allowed to have a gun? Why did Apperson, who has mental challenges, have a gun?

What has George been doing more recently? In 2016 (Reuters) reported, “George Zimmerman said he has sold the gun he used to kill unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 for $250,000, television stations in Orlando and Las Vegas reported on Friday. . .

On his own website that day, Zimmerman said the auction had “raised funds for several worthy causes.” He has said he would use proceeds to counter violence against law enforcement officers by the group Black Lives Matter and to fight Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric.”


Recently, George Zimmerman has been painting Confederate flag artwork to benefit a Muslim-free Florida gun shop.

Also according to Wikipedia, on December 4, 2019, Zimmerman sued the Martin family and others involved in the trial for $100 million on grounds of false evidence and abuse of process.[1] On February 18, 2020, Zimmerman filed a defamation lawsuit for $265 million against Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.[2] The reason? On February 3, 2020, Pete had tweeted: “Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today. How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?” Elizabeth wrote, “My heart goes out to @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today. We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children—especially young Black boys—can grow up safe and free.”


Matthew Apperson, serving a mandatory 20 year sentence for 2nd degree attempted manslaughter. The surprise is he is white.

Trayvon, George, and Matthew show that the gun laws and U.S. Justice System that includes “stand your ground” laws in the U.S. are very flawed. Trayvon, dead at 17, Matthew serving a 20-year sentence, and even George could be living much different lives if hand guns weren’t so readily accessible and the laws more sane and Black people weren’t targeted. Tragedies all.

We in the U.S. must change.

Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: Climate

This is a sobering wake up call. Even if you have been okay, others aren’t, and we must make sure we take care of each other. And we can’t wait.

AZUSA, CALIF. The Ranch 2 Fire burned more than 4,200 acres, part of the worst wildfire season in California history.
HOW CLIMATE MIGRATION WILL RESHAPE AMERICAMillions will be displaced. Where will they go?
By Abrahm Lustgarten | Photographs by Meridith Kohut
August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By midmonth, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record. Soon, California was on fire.
This article, the second in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. Read Part 1.
Over the next two weeks, 900 blazes incinerated six times as much land as all the state’s 2019 wildfires combined, forcing 100,000 people from their homes. Three of the largest fires in history burned simultaneously in a ring around the San Francisco Bay Area. Another fire burned just 12 miles from my home in Marin County. I watched as towering plumes of smoke billowed from distant hills in all directions and air tankers crisscrossed the skies. Like many Californians, I spent those weeks worrying about what might happen next, wondering how long it would be before an inferno of 60-foot flames swept up the steep, grassy hillside on its way toward my own house, rehearsing in my mind what my family would do to escape.
But I also had a longer-term question, about what would happen once this unprecedented fire season ended. Was it finally time to leave for good?
I had an unusual perspective on the matter. For two years, I have been studying how climate change will influence global migration. My sense was that of all the devastating consequences of a warming planet — changing landscapes, pandemics, mass extinctions — the potential movement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees across the planetstands to be among the most important. I traveled across four countries to witness how rising temperatures were driving climate refugees away from some of the poorest and hottest parts of the world. I had also helped create an enormous computer simulation to analyze how global demographics might shift, and now I was working on a data-mapping project about migration here in the United States.
So it was with some sense of recognition that I faced the fires these last few weeks. In recent years, summer has brought a season of fear to California, with ever-worsening wildfires closing in. But this year felt different. The hopelessness of the pattern was now clear, and the pandemic had already uprooted so many Americans. Relocation no longer seemed like such a distant prospect. Like the subjects of my reporting, climate change had found me, its indiscriminate forces erasing all semblance of normalcy. Suddenly I had to ask myself the very question I’d been asking others: Was it time to move?
I am far from the only American facing such questions. This summer has seen more fires, more heat, more storms — all of it making life increasingly untenable in larger areas of the nation. Already, droughts regularly threaten food crops across the West, while destructive floods inundate towns and fields from the Dakotas to Maryland, collapsing dams in Michigan and raising the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Rising seas and increasingly violent hurricanes are making thousands of miles of American shoreline nearly uninhabitable. As California burned, Hurricane Laura pounded the Louisiana coast with 150-mile-an-hour winds, killing at least 25 people; it was the 12th named storm to form by that point in 2020, another record. Phoenix, meanwhile, endured 53 days of 110-degree heat — 20 more days than the previous record.
For years, Americans have avoided confronting these changes in their own backyards. The decisions we make about where to live are distorted not just by politics that play down climate risks, but also by expensive subsidies and incentives aimed at defying nature. In much of the developing world, vulnerable people will attempt to flee the emerging perils of global warming, seeking cooler temperatures, more fresh water and safety. But here in the United States, people have largely gravitated toward environmental danger, building along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida and settling across the cloudless deserts of the Southwest.

AZUSA, CALIF. Zach Leisure, a firefighter, working to contain the Ranch 2 Fire last month.

I wanted to know if this was beginning to change. Might Americans finally be waking up to how climate is about to transform their lives? And if so — if a great domestic relocation might be in the offing — was it possible to project where we might go? To answer these questions, I interviewed more than four dozen experts: economists and demographers, climate scientists and insurance executives, architects and urban planners, and I mapped out the danger zones that will close in on Americans over the next 30 years. The maps for the first time combined exclusive climate data from the Rhodium Group, an independent data-analytics firm; wildfire projections modeled by United States Forest Service researchers and others; and data about America’s shifting climate niches, an evolution of work first published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last spring. (See a detailed analysis of the maps.)

What I found was a nation on the cusp of a great transformation. Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly one in two — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water. For 93 million of them, the changes could be particularly severe, and by 2070, our analysis suggests, if carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least four million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life. The cost of resisting the new climate reality is mounting. Florida officials have already acknowledged that defending some roadways against the sea will be unaffordable. And the nation’s federal flood-insurance program is for the first time requiring that some of its payouts be used to retreat from climate threats across the country. It will soon prove too expensive to maintain the status quo.

By 2070, some 28 million people across the country could face Manhattan-size megafires. In Northern California, they could become an annual event.
A megafire on average every …
1-2 years
2-5 years
5+ years
No data
*High Emissions scenario 

Then what? One influential 2018 study, published in The Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, suggests that one in 12 Americans in the Southern half of the country will move toward California, the Mountain West or the Northwest over the next 45 years because of climate influences alone. Such a shift in population is likely to increase poverty and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. It will accelerate rapid, perhaps chaotic, urbanization of cities ill-equipped for the burden, testing their capacity to provide basic services and amplifying existing inequities. It will eat away at prosperity, dealing repeated economic blows to coastal, rural and Southern regions, which could in turn push entire communities to the brink of collapse. This process has already begun in rural Louisiana and coastal Georgia, where low-income and Black and Indigenous communities face environmental change on top of poor health and extreme poverty. Mobility itself, global-migration experts point out, is often a reflection of relative wealth, and as some move, many others will be left behind. Those who stay risk becoming trapped as the land and the society around them ceases to offer any more support.

There are signs that the message is breaking through. Half of Americans now rank climate as a top political priority, up from roughly one-third in 2016, and three out of four now describe climate change as either “a crisis” or “a major problem.” This year, Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, where tens of thousands of acres of farmland flooded in 2019, ranked climate second only to health care as an issue. A poll by researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities found that even Republicans’ views are shifting: One in three now think climate change should be declared a national emergency.

Policymakers, having left America unprepared for what’s next, now face brutal choices about which communities to save — often at exorbitant costs — and which to sacrifice. Their decisions will almost inevitably make the nation more divided, with those worst off relegated to a nightmare future in which they are left to fend for themselves. Nor will these disruptions wait for the worst environmental changes to occur. The wave begins when individual perception of risk starts to shift, when the environmental threat reaches past the least fortunate and rattles the physical and financial security of broader, wealthier parts of the population. It begins when even places like California’s suburbs are no longer safe.

It has already begun.

LAKE CHARLES, LA. A woman lost consciousness in a parking lot after Hurricane Laura left her without electricity or air-conditioning for several days.

Let’s start with some basics. Across the country, it’s going to get hot. Buffalo may feel in a few decades like Tempe, Ariz., does today, and Tempe itself will sustain 100-degree average summer temperatures by the end of the century. Extreme humidity from New Orleans to northern Wisconsin will make summers increasingly unbearable, turning otherwise seemingly survivable heat waves into debilitating health threats. Fresh water will also be in short supply, not only in the West but also in places like Florida, Georgia and Alabama, where droughts now regularly wither cotton fields. By 2040, according to federal government projections, extreme water shortages will be nearly ubiquitous west of Missouri. The Memphis Sands Aquifer, a crucial water supply for Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, is already overdrawn by hundreds of millions of gallons a day. Much of the Ogallala Aquifer — which supplies nearly a third of the nation’s irrigation groundwater — could be gone by the end of the century.

It can be difficult to see the challenges clearly because so many factors are in play. At least 28 million Americans are likely to face megafires like the ones we are now seeing in California, in places like Texas and Florida and Georgia. At the same time, 100 million Americans — largely in the Mississippi River Basin from Louisiana to Wisconsin — will increasingly face humidity so extreme that working outside or playing school sports could cause heatstroke. Crop yields will be decimated from Texas to Alabama and all the way north through Oklahoma and Kansas and into Nebraska.

By 2060 in Missouri and throughout the Midwest, people will experience weeks of “wet-bulb” temperatures above 82 degrees, a humidity threshold that makes outdoor labor dangerous.
Wet-bulb temperature above 82 degrees …
15-18 days
5–15 days
0–5 days
*High Emissions scenario 

The challenges are so widespread and so interrelated that Americans seeking to flee one could well run into another. I live on a hilltop, 400 feet above sea level, and my home will never be touched by rising waters. But by the end of this century, if the more extreme projections of eight to 10 feet of sea-level rise come to fruition, the shoreline of San Francisco Bay will move three miles closer to my house, as it subsumes some 166 square miles of land, including a high school, a new county hospital and the store where I buy groceries. The freeway to San Francisco will need to be raised, and to the east, a new bridge will be required to connect the community of Point Richmond to the city of Berkeley. The Latino, Asian and Black communities who live in the most-vulnerable low-lying districts will be displaced first, but research from Mathew Hauer, a sociologist at Florida State University who published some of the first modeling of American climate migration in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2017, suggests that the toll will eventually be far more widespread: Nearly one in three people here in Marin County will leave, part of the roughly 700,000 who his models suggest may abandon the broader Bay Area as a result of sea-level rise alone.
From Maine to North Carolina to Texas, rising sea levels are not just chewing up shorelines but also raising rivers and swamping the subterranean infrastructure of coastal communities, making a stable life there all but impossible. Coastal high points will be cut off from roadways, amenities and escape routes, and even far inland, saltwater will seep into underground drinking-water supplies. Eight of the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas — Miami, New York and Boston among them — will be profoundly altered, indirectly affecting some 50 million people. Imagine large concrete walls separating Fort Lauderdale condominiums from a beachless waterfront, or dozens of new bridges connecting the islands of Philadelphia. Not every city can spend $100 billion on a sea wall, as New York most likely will. Barrier islands? Rural areas along the coast without a strong tax base? They are likely, in the long term, unsalvageable.

In all, Hauer projects that 13 million Americans will be forced to move away from submerged coastlines. Add to that the people contending with wildfires and other risks, and the number of Americans who might move — though difficult to predict precisely — could easily be tens of millions larger. Even 13 million climate migrants, though, would rank as the largest migration in North American history. The Great Migration — of six million Black Americans out of the South from 1916 to 1970 — transformed almost everything we know about America, from the fate of its labor movement to the shape of its cities to the sound of its music. What would it look like when twice that many people moved? What might change?

COOLIDGE, ARIZ. Marisela Felix set up a pool to keep her daughters and niece cool during 108-degree heat.
Americans have been conditioned not to respond to geographical climate threats as people in the rest of the world do. It is natural that rural Guatemalans or subsistence farmers in Kenya, facing drought or scorching heat, would seek out someplace more stable and resilient. Even a subtle environmental change — a dry well, say — can mean life or death, and without money to address the problem, migration is often simply a question of survival.

By comparison, Americans are richer, often much richer, and more insulated from the shocks of climate change. They are distanced from the food and water sources they depend on, and they are part of a culture that sees every problem as capable of being solved by money. So even as the average flow of the Colorado River — the water supply for 40 million Western Americans and the backbone of the nation’s vegetable and cattle farming — has declined for most of the last 33 years, the population of Nevada has doubled. At the same time, more than 1.5 million people have moved to the Phoenix metro area, despite its dependence on that same river (and the fact that temperatures there now regularly hit 115 degrees). Since Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1992 — and even as that state has become a global example of the threat of sea-level rise — more than five million people have moved to Florida’s shorelines, driving a historic boom in building and real estate.

Sea-level rise could displace as many as 13 million coastal residents by 2060, including 290,000 people in North Carolina.
Percent of properties below high tide …
Under 1%
*High Emissions scenario 

Similar patterns are evident across the country. Census data show us how Americans move: toward heat, toward coastlines, toward drought, regardless of evidence of increasing storms and flooding and other disasters.

The sense that money and technology can overcome nature has emboldened Americans. Where money and technology fail, though, it inevitably falls to government policies — and government subsidies — to pick up the slack. Thanks to federally subsidized canals, for example, water in part of the Desert Southwest costs less than it does in Philadelphia. The federal National Flood Insurance Program has paid to rebuild houses that have flooded six times over in the same spot. And federal agriculture aid withholds subsidies from farmers who switch to drought-resistant crops, while paying growers to replant the same ones that failed. Farmers, seed manufacturers, real estate developers and a few homeowners benefit, at least momentarily, but the gap between what the climate can destroy and what money can replace is growing.

Perhaps no market force has proved more influential — and more misguided — than the nation’s property-insurance system. From state to state, readily available and affordable policies have made it attractive to buy or replace homes even where they are at high risk of disasters, systematically obscuring the reality of the climate threat and fooling many Americans into thinking that their decisions are safer than they actually are. Part of the problem is that most policies look only 12 months into the future, ignoring long-term trends even as insurance availability influences development and drives people’s long-term decision-making.

Even where insurers have tried to withdraw policies or raise rates to reduce climate-related liabilities, state regulators have forced them to provide affordable coverage anyway, simply subsidizing the cost of underwriting such a risky policy or, in some cases, offering it themselves. The regulations — called Fair Access to Insurance Requirements — are justified by developers and local politicians alike as economic lifeboats “of last resort” in regions where climate change threatens to interrupt economic growth. While they do protect some entrenched and vulnerable communities, the laws also satisfy the demand of wealthier homeowners who still want to be able to buy insurance.

LAKE CHARLES, LA. Cassidy Plaisance surveying what was left of her friend’s home after Hurricane Laura.

At least 30 states, including Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, have developed so-called FAIR plans, and today they serve as a market backstop in the places facing the highest risks of climate-driven disasters, including coastal flooding, hurricanes and wildfires.

In an era of climate change, though, such policies amount to a sort of shell game, meant to keep growth going even when other obvious signs and scientific research suggest that it should stop.

That’s what happened in Florida. Hurricane Andrew reduced parts of cities to landfill and cost insurers nearly $16 billion in payouts. Many insurance companies, recognizing the likelihood that it would happen again, declined to renew policies and left the state. So the Florida Legislature created a state-run company to insure properties itself, preventing both an exodus and an economic collapse by essentially pretending that the climate vulnerabilities didn’t exist.

As a result, Florida’s taxpayers by 2012 had assumed liabilities worth some $511 billion — more than seven times the state’s total budget — as the value of coastal property topped $2.8 trillion. Another direct hurricane risked bankrupting the state. Florida, concerned that it had taken on too much risk, has since scaled back its self-insurance plan. But the development that resulted is still in place.

On a sweltering afternoon last October, with the skies above me full of wildfire smoke, I called Jesse Keenan, an urban-planning and climate-change specialist then at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, who advises the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission on market hazards from climate change. Keenan, who is now an associate professor of real estate at Tulane University’s School of Architecture, had been in the news last year for projecting where people might move to — suggesting that Duluth, Minn., for instance, should brace for a coming real estate boom as climate migrants move north. But like other scientists I’d spoken with, Keenan had been reluctant to draw conclusions about where these migrants would be driven from.

Last fall, though, as the previous round of fires ravaged California, his phone began to ring, with private-equity investors and bankers all looking for his read on the state’s future. Their interest suggested a growing investor-grade nervousness about swiftly mounting environmental risk in the hottest real estate markets in the country. It’s an early sign, he told me, that the momentum is about to switch directions. “And once this flips,” he added, “it’s likely to flip very quickly.”

AZUSA, CALIF. Residents watching the Ranch 2 Fire.
In fact, the correction — a newfound respect for the destructive power of nature, coupled with a sudden disavowal of Americans’ appetite for reckless development — had begun two years earlier, when a frightening surge in disasters offered a jolting preview of how the climate crisis was changing the rules.

On October 9, 2017, a wildfire blazed through the suburban blue-collar neighborhood of Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, Calif., virtually in my own backyard. I awoke to learn that more than 1,800 buildings were reduced to ashes, less than 35 miles from where I slept. Inchlong cinders had piled on my windowsills like falling snow.

The Tubbs Fire, as it was called, shouldn’t have been possible. Coffey Park is surrounded not by vegetation but by concrete and malls and freeways. So insurers had rated it as “basically zero risk,” according to Kevin Van Leer, then a risk modeler from the global insurance liability firm Risk Management Solutions. (He now does similar work for Cape Analytics.) But Van Leer, who had spent seven years picking through the debris left by disasters to understand how insurers could anticipate — and price — the risk of their happening again, had begun to see other “impossible” fires. After a 2016 fire tornado ripped through northern Canada and a firestorm consumed Gatlinburg, Tenn., he said, “alarm bells started going off” for the insurance industry.

What Van Leer saw when he walked through Coffey Park a week after the Tubbs Fire changed the way he would model and project fire risk forever. Typically, fire would spread along the ground, burning maybe 50 percent of structures. In Santa Rosa, more than 90 percent had been leveled. “The destruction was complete,” he told me. Van Leer determined that the fire had jumped through the forest canopy, spawning 70-mile-per-hour winds that kicked a storm of embers into the modest homes of Coffey Park, which burned at an acre a second as homes ignited spontaneously from the radiant heat. It was the kind of thing that might never have been possible if California’s autumn winds weren’t getting fiercer and drier every year, colliding with intensifying, climate-driven heat and ever-expanding development. “It’s hard to forecast something you’ve never seen before,” he said.

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. Homes are being rebuilt in Coffey Park, a community destroyed by the Tubbs Fire.

For me, the awakening to imminent climate risk came with California’s rolling power blackouts last fall — an effort to pre-emptively avoid the risk of a live wire sparking a fire — which showed me that all my notional perspective about climate risk and my own life choices were on a collision course. After the first one, all the food in our refrigerator was lost. When power was interrupted six more times in three weeks, we stopped trying to keep it stocked.

All around us, small fires burned. Thick smoke produced fits of coughing. Then, as now, I packed an ax and a go-bag in my car, ready to evacuate. As former Gov. Jerry Brown said, it was beginning to feel like the “new abnormal.”

It was no surprise, then, that California’s property insurers — having watched 26 years’ worth of profits dissolve over 24 months — began dropping policies, or that California’s insurance commissioner, trying to slow the slide, placed a moratorium on insurance cancellations for parts of the state in 2020. In February, the Legislature introduced a bill compelling California to, in the words of one consumer advocacy group, “follow the lead of Florida” by mandating that insurance remain available, in this case with a requirement that homeowners first harden their properties against fire. At the same time, participation in California’s FAIR plan for catastrophic fires has grown by at least 180 percent since 2015, and in Santa Rosa, houses are being rebuilt in the very same wildfire-vulnerable zones that proved so deadly in 2017. Given that a new study projects a 20 percent increase in extreme-fire-weather days by 2035, such practices suggest a special form of climate negligence.
It’s only a matter of time before homeowners begin to recognize the unsustainability of this approach. Market shock, when driven by the sort of cultural awakening to risk that Keenan observes, can strike a neighborhood like an infectious disease, with fear spreading doubt — and devaluation — from door to door. It happened that way in the foreclosure crisis.

By 2060 in Florida and elsewhere, the costs of sea-level rise and hurricanes will be compounded by knock-on economic challenges, from growing crime to falling productivity.
Economic damages as a proportion of G.D.P. …
Economic benefits
*High Emissions scenario 

Keenan calls the practice of drawing arbitrary lending boundaries around areas of perceived environmental risk “bluelining,” and indeed many of the neighborhoods that banks are bluelining are the same as the ones that were hit by the racist redlining practice in days past. This summer, climate-data analysts at the First Street Foundation released maps showing that 70 percent more buildings in the United States were vulnerable to flood risk than previously thought; most of the underestimated risk was in low-income neighborhoods.

Such neighborhoods see little in the way of flood-prevention investment. My Bay Area neighborhood, on the other hand, has benefited from consistent investment in efforts to defend it against the ravages of climate change. That questions of livability had reached me, here, were testament to Keenan’s belief that the bluelining phenomenon will eventually affect large majorities of equity-holding middle-class Americans too, with broad implications for the overall economy, starting in the nation’s largest state.

Under the radar, a new class of dangerous debt — climate-distressed mortgage loans — might already be threatening the financial system. Lending data analyzed by Keenan and his co-author, Jacob Bradt, for a study published in the journal Climatic Change in June shows that small banks are liberally making loans on environmentally threatened homes, but then quickly passing them along to federal mortgage backers. At the same time, they have all but stopped lending money for the higher-end properties worth too much for the government to accept, suggesting that the banks are knowingly passing climate liabilities along to taxpayers as stranded assets.

Once home values begin a one-way plummet, it’s easy for economists to see how entire communities spin out of control. The tax base declines and the school system and civic services falter, creating a negative feedback loop that pushes more people to leave. Rising insurance costs and the perception of risk force credit-rating agencies to downgrade towns, making it more difficult for them to issue bonds and plug the springing financial leaks. Local banks, meanwhile, keep securitizing their mortgage debt, sloughing off their own liabilities.
Keenan, though, had a bigger point: All the structural disincentives that had built Americans’ irrational response to the climate risk were now reaching their logical endpoint. A pandemic-induced economic collapse will only heighten the vulnerabilities and speed the transition, reducing to nothing whatever thin margin of financial protection has kept people in place. Until now, the market mechanisms had essentially socialized the consequences of high-risk development. But as the costs rise — and the insurers quit, and the bankers divest, and the farm subsidies prove too wasteful, and so on — the full weight of responsibility will fall on individual people.

And that’s when the real migration might begin.

As I spoke with Keenan last year, I looked out my own kitchen window onto hillsides of parkland, singed brown by months of dry summer heat. This was precisely the land that my utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, had three times identified as such an imperiled tinderbox that it had to shut off power to avoid fire. It was precisely the kind of wildland-urban interface that all the studies I read blamed for heightening Californians’ exposure to climate risks. I mentioned this on the phone and then asked Keenan, “Should I be selling my house and getting — ”

He cut me off: “Yes.”

PINAL COUNTY, ARIZ. Pedro Delgado harvesting a cob of blue corn that grew without kernels at Ramona Farms last month.

Americans have dealt with climate disaster before. The Dust Bowl started after the federal government expanded the Homestead Act to offer more land to settlers willing to work the marginal soil of the Great Plains. Millions took up the invitation, replacing hardy prairie grass with thirsty crops like corn, wheat and cotton. Then, entirely predictably, came the drought. From 1929 to 1934, crop yields across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri plunged by 60 percent, leaving farmers destitute and exposing the now-barren topsoil to dry winds and soaring temperatures. The resulting dust storms, some of them taller than skyscrapers, buried homes whole and blew as far east as Washington. The disaster propelled an exodus of some 2.5 million people, mostly to the West, where newcomers — “Okies” not just from Oklahoma but also Texas, Arkansas and Missouri — unsettled communities and competed for jobs. Colorado tried to seal its border from the climate refugees; in California, they were funneled into squalid shanty towns. Only after the migrants settled and had years to claw back a decent life did some towns bounce back stronger.

The places migrants left behind never fully recovered. Eighty years later, Dust Bowl towns still have slower economic growth and lower per capita income than the rest of the country. Dust Bowl survivors and their children are less likely to go to college and more likely to live in poverty. Climatic change made them poor, and it has kept them poor ever since.

A Dust Bowl event will most likely happen again. The Great Plains states today provide nearly half of the nation’s wheat, sorghum and cattle and much of its corn; the farmers and ranchers there export that food to Africa, South America and Asia. Crop yields, though, will drop sharply with every degree of warming. By 2050, researchers at the University of Chicago and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies found, Dust Bowl-era yields will be the norm, even as demand for scarce water jumps by as much as 20 percent. Another extreme drought would drive near-total crop losses worse than the Dust Bowl, kneecapping the broader economy. At that point, the authors write, “abandonment is one option.”

Corn and soy production will decrease with every degree of warming. By 2060, parts of Texas may experience a drop in yields of more than 92 percent.

Crop yield decline by:
Yield increases
No data
*High Emissions scenario 

Projections are inherently imprecise, but the gradual changes to America’s cropland — plus the steady baking and burning and flooding — suggest that we are already witnessing a slower-forming but much larger replay of the Dust Bowl that will destroy more than just crops. In 2017, Solomon Hsiang, a climate economist at the University of California, Berkeley, led an analysis of the economic impact of climate-driven changes like rising mortality and rising energy costs, finding that the poorest counties in the United States — mostly across the South and the Southwest — will in some extreme cases face damages equal to more than a third of their gross domestic products. The 2018 National Climate Assessment also warns that the U.S. economy over all could contract by 10 percent.

That kind of loss typically drives people toward cities, and researchers expect that trend to continue after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. In 1950, less than 65 percent of Americans lived in cities. By 2050, only 10 percent will live outside them, in part because of climatic change. By 2100, Hauer estimates, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston and Austin could each receive more than a quarter million new residents as a result of sea-level displacement alone, meaning it may be those cities — not the places that empty out — that wind up bearing the brunt of America’s reshuffling. The World Bank warns that fast-moving climate urbanization leads to rising unemployment, competition for services and deepening poverty.

So what will happen to Atlanta — a metro area of 5.8 million people that may lose its water supply to drought and that our data also shows will face an increase in heat-driven wildfires?

Hauer estimates that hundreds of thousands of climate refugees will move into the city by 2100, swelling its population and stressing its infrastructure. Atlanta — where poor transportation and water systems contributed to the state’s C+ infrastructure grade last year — already suffers greater income inequality than any other large American city, making it a virtual tinderbox for social conflict. One in 10 households earns less than $10,000 a year, and rings of extreme poverty are growing on its outskirts even as the city center grows wealthier.
Atlanta has started bolstering its defenses against climate change, but in some cases this has only exacerbated divisions. When the city converted an old Westside rock quarry into a reservoir, part of a larger greenbelt to expand parkland, clean the air and protect against drought, the project also fueled rapid upscale growth, driving the poorest Black communities further into impoverished suburbs. That Atlanta hasn’t “fully grappled with” such challenges now, says Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, chair of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, means that with more people and higher temperatures, “the city might be pushed to what’s manageable.”
So might Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Boston and other cities with long-neglected systems suddenly pressed to expand under increasingly adverse conditions.

PHOENIX. People at a cooling center during Arizona’s record-setting heat wave.

Once you accept that climate change is fast making large parts of the United States nearly uninhabitable, the future looks like this: With time, the bottom half of the country grows inhospitable, dangerous and hot. Something like a tenth of the people who live in the South and the Southwest — from South Carolina to Alabama to Texas to Southern California — decide to move north in search of a better economy and a more temperate environment.

Those who stay behind are disproportionately poor and elderly.

In these places, heat alone will cause as many as 80 additional deaths per 100,000 people — the nation’s opioid crisis, by comparison, produces 15 additional deaths per 100,000. The most affected people, meanwhile, will pay 20 percent more for energy, and their crops will yield half as much food or in some cases virtually none at all. That collective burden will drag down regional incomes by roughly 10 percent, amounting to one of the largest transfers of wealth in American history, as people who live farther north will benefit from that change and see their fortunes rise.

The millions of people moving north will mostly head to the cities of the Northeast and Northwest, which will see their populations grow by roughly 10 percent, according to one model. Once-chilly places like Minnesota and Michigan and Vermont will become more temperate, verdant and inviting. Vast regions will prosper; just as Hsiang’s research forecast that Southern counties could see a tenth of their economy dry up, he projects that others as far as North Dakota and Minnesota will enjoy a corresponding expansion. Cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will see a renaissance, with their excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways once again put to good use. One day, it’s possible that a high-speed rail line could race across the Dakotas, through Idaho’s up-and-coming wine country and the country’s new breadbasket along the Canadian border, to the megalopolis of Seattle, which by then has nearly merged with Vancouver to its north.

Sitting in my own backyard one afternoon this summer, my wife and I talked through the implications of this looming American future. The facts were clear and increasingly foreboding. Yet there were so many intangibles — a love of nature, the busy pace of life, the high cost of moving — that conspired to keep us from leaving. Nobody wants to migrate away from home, even when an inexorable danger is inching ever closer. They do it when there is no longer any other choice.

SONOMA COUNTY, CALIF. Erika González and her son, Kevin, evacuating their home as the L.N.U. Lightning Complex fire approached in August.

Abrahm Lustgarten is a senior environmental reporter at ProPublica. His last article for the magazine was the first in a series about how climate change is driving a wave of global migration with unsettling consequences. Meridith Kohut is a photojournalist who has earned a Courage in Journalism award for her decade of work documenting international humanitarian crises for The Times. She was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography. She last photographed migrants from Central America for the first part of the climate-migration series.

Maps by Jeremy Goldsmith. Al Shaw contributed reporting. All maps based on the RCP 8.5 scenario used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Explore them in more detail here.) Wet bulb, sea level rise, crop yield and economic damage data are sourced from the Rhodium Group/Climate Impact Lab and represent ranges of median probabilities for each county modeled for the high emissions climate scenario RCP 8.5 between 2040 and 2060. Wildfire data comes from John Abatzoglou, University of California, Merced.
Additional design and development by Jacky Myint.

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