Just read a very important story and am not happy about it:
- American Prospect/Food & Environment Reporting Network – Jocelyn C. Zuckerman: Plowed Under / Across the northern plains, native grassland is being turned into farmland at a rate not seen since the 1920s. the environmental consequences could be disastrous ;
No, not about the subject matter even though it is dispiriting. Zuckerman digs deep into the expansion of corn, soy, and other farming in the northern tier of the plains – Minnesota, the Dakotas.. – to bring back a tale of vast acreage that had been mostly grazing land, and remained more or less like the post-Pleistocene landscape of recent millennia, being plowed up for farming. Land owners see prices for soybeans and corn so high that they can make money even off marginal land. The result is a collapse in game birds that hunters notice, in songbirds that even the farmers notice, and a fear that migrating waterfowl that have depended for nearly ever on the ponds, lakes, and sloughs of the northern plains for food and respite.
More important to me is that while this is a dynamite environmental story, well told, it is long on statistics and anecdotes from environmentalists, farmers, hunters, bee keepers, and the like there is, far as I can tell, not a professor to be found. That is, no science. I should think a gripping element could have been somebody with truly authoritative, scholarly expertise telling readers why the soil is going to hell or why waterfowl or earthworms or something are in a frightening downward spiral.
And important story nonetheless. The anecdotes and stats are powerful. But a few passionate academics would have helped propel it along. Too bad, really, as American Prospect (a respected progressive pub, its founders being writer Robert Kuttner, Princeton Prof. Paul Starr, and that most impressive lefty, Robert Reich) and the non-profit network that paid for much of this story are on to a good one. To be sure, scientists have been terribly mistreated by the right wing lately, as seen in the despise with which climate researchers are regarded now days by large corners of the American public. Such a seditious rampage that has been. So adding their fact and data-based analyses does not have the weight it might once have. But still, it's worth it.