10.21.19 – What We’re Reading

Below are a few headlines from the last week that caught our attention. The articles below are not intended to be indicate our views on any certain topic, just an update on some of the latest news in the areas in which we work.

Deep Soils Have Dual Role in Global Carbon Cycle, New Study Shows [UMass Amherst]

AMHERST, Mass. – Soils, especially those one meter down and deeper, play a critical role in the global carbon cycle and are estimated to hold more than three times the amount of carbon as the atmosphere, say researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an international team, but this deep soil carbon can be dramatically perturbed in response to environmental changes.

Deep carbon appears to be particularly vulnerable to increased root growth induced by elevated carbon dioxide levels in the air, by drying climate or vegetation change, the researchers say.

Indigenous farming practices failing as climate change disrupts seasons [National Geographic]

The Hopi Tribesmen of northern Arizona are born meteorologists.

When snake weed blooms in the spring, they know they’re in for bumper summer rains. When the desert stays largely barren, they prepare for drought. As far back as tribal lore goes, Hopi farmers have sustained themselves and their crops by diligently reading their arid mesa surroundings.

This summer, however, their millennia-old forecasting techniques failed them, and not for the first time in recent years. The weeds sprouted in great numbers in April. The usual rains in August did not come at all. Were it not for local grocery stores and the seed stockpiles they maintain in anticipation of the occasional bad year, many Hopi might well have gone hungry.

Chicago Teachers’ Strike: Citywide Scramble Begins as Classes Come to Halt [NYTimes]

CHICAGO — Tens of thousands of public school teachers took to picket lines on Thursday morning as a strike in the nation’s third-largest school district canceled classes across the city, sent parents racing to find child care and left Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, grappling with her most significant crisis to date.

City officials said schools would remain open to students, who would be fed three meals and supervised by nonunion workers like principals. But some parents were skeptical of that option, signing up for last-minute camps at community centers and local parks. Others said they would have to stay home from work or hire babysitters. School bus service was suspended starting Thursday.

What’s Behind The Research Funding Gap For Black Scientists? [NPR]

Black applicants to a prestigious research grant program at the National Institutes of Health are awarded funding at a significantly lower rate than their white peers. The NIH has been intensively investigating this funding gap since a 2011 report revealed the extent of the problem, looking for underlying mechanisms to use as opportunities for corrective intervention.

NIH’s latest finding, described in a study released this month in the open-access journal Science Advances, reveals that part of the gap can be attributed to differences in the types of topics scientists propose studying and how those topics are valued by grant reviewers.

As The Climate Warms, Companies Scramble To Calculate The Risk To Their Profits [NPR]

Every year, the company Ingredion buys millions of tons of corn and cassava from farmers and turns them into starches and sugars that go into foods such as soft drinks, yogurt and frozen meals.

Lots of things can go wrong along the way. Weather can destroy crops. Machinery can break.

Lately, though, Ingredion’s top executives have been worried about a new kind of risk: what might happen on a hotter planet.

“That could be anything, [from] where climate change is impacting the crops we purchase, to water availability driven by climate change,” says Brian Nash, Ingredion’s head of sustainability.