Second in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to identify and understand inequality, in seeking solutions to one of America’s most vexing problems.“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both,” Associate Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said decades ago during another period of pronounced inequality in America.Echoing the concern of the Harvard Law School (HLS) graduate, over the past 30 years myriad forces have battered the United States’ legendary reputation as the world’s “land of opportunity.”The 2008 global economic meltdown that eventually bailed out Wall Street financiers but left ordinary citizens to fend for themselves trained a spotlight on the unfairness of fiscal inequality. The issue gained traction during the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in 2011 and during the successful U.S. Senate campaign of former HLS Professor Elizabeth Warren in 2012.What was once viewed as a fringe political issue is now at the heart of the angry, populist rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign. Personified by outsider candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, economic inequality has resonated with broad swaths of nervous voters on both the left and right.“Smart poor kids are less likely to graduate from college now than dumb rich kids. That’s not because of the schools, that’s because of all the advantages that are available to rich kids.”— Robert PutnamLawrence Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), says the most damaging aspects of the gap between the top 1 percent of Americans and everyone else involve the increasing economic and political power that the very rich wield over society, along with a growing educational divide, and escalating social segregation in which the elites live in literal and figurative gated communities.If the rate of economic mobility — the ability of people to improve their economic station — was higher, he says, our growing income disparity might not be such a problem.“But what we have been seeing is rising inequality with stagnant mobility, which means that the consequences of where you start out, whether it’s in a poor neighborhood, whether it’s from a single-parent household, are more consequential today than in the past. Your ZIP code and the exact characteristics of your parents seem to matter more,” said Katz. “And that’s quite disturbing.”The growing gap between the rich and the rest isn’t a matter of who can afford a yacht or a Manhattan penthouse, analysts say. Rather, it’s the crippling nature of these disparities as they touch nearly every aspect of daily lives, from career prospects and educational opportunities to health risks and neighborhood safety.The widening income gap also has fueled a class-based social disconnect that has produced inequitable educational results. “Now, your family income matters more than your own abilities in terms of whether you complete college,” said Robert Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). “Smart poor kids are less likely to graduate from college now than dumb rich kids. That’s not because of the schools, that’s because of all the advantages that are available to rich kids.”Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerEconomic inequality also feeds the political kind, driving everything from the actions of our political representatives to the quality and quantity of civic engagement, such as voting and community-based public service.“It’s long been known that the better educated, those with higher incomes, participate more” in politics on “everything from voting to contacting politicians to donating,” said Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at FAS. “What is quite new in recent times is … very systematically, that government really responds much more to the privileged than to even middle-income people who vote.”Money eases accessThe U.S. Supreme Court’s unlacing of campaign-finance laws that limited how much donors could give candidates or affiliate organizations, coupled with allowing donors to shield their identities from public scrutiny, have spawned a financial arms race that requires viable presidential candidates, for example, to solicit donors constantly in a quest to raise $1 billion or more to win.Given that rulebook, it’s hardly surprising that the political supporters with the greatest access to candidates are usually the very wealthy. Backers with both influence and access often help to shape the political agenda. The result is a kind of velvet rope that can keep those without economic clout on the sidelines, out of the conversation.“In the current election cycle, 158 families have given half the money to candidates.”— Lawrence Lessig“Something like the carried-interest provision in the tax code, when you explain it to ordinary citizens, they don’t like the idea that income earned by investing other people’s money should be taxed at a lower rate than regular wage and salary income. It’s not popular in some broad, polling sense. But many politicians probably don’t realize it at all because … politicians spend a lot of their time asking people to give money to them [who] don’t think it’s a good idea to change that,” said Skocpol. “There’s a real danger that, as wealth and income are more and more concentrated toward the top, it does become a vicious circle.”“Money has corrupted our political process,” said Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at HLS. In Congress, he said, “They focus too much on the tiny slice, 1 percent, who are funding elections. In the current election cycle [as of October], 158 families have given half the money to candidates. That’s a banana republic democracy; that’s not an American democracy.”Lessig was so unhappy with how political campaigns are funded that he briefly ran for president on the issue. Reviewing his efforts during a Harvard forum on the topic in November, he described his candidacy as a referendum on the campaign-finance system, but also on the need to reform Congress, which he called a “broken and corrupted institution” undercut by big donors and gerrymandered election districts.How we got hereChristopher “Sandy” Jencks, the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at HKS, believes that the past 30 years of rising American inequality can be attributed to three key factors:The decline in jobs and employment rates for less-skilled workers, which has increased the number of households with children but no male breadwinner.The demand for college graduates outpacing the pool of job candidates, adding to the gap between the middle class and upper-middle class.The share of income gains flowing to the top 1 percent of earners doubling as a result of deregulation, globalization, and speculation in the financial services industry.The U.S. government does “considerably less” than comparable democracies to even out disposable family incomes, Jencks says. And current state and local tax policies “actually increase income inequality.”“All the costs and risks of capitalism seem to have been shifted largely to those who work rather than those who invest,” he said.Compounding the economic imbalance is the unlikely prospect that those at the bottom can ever improve their lot.“We have some of the lowest rates of upward mobility of any developed country in the world,” said Nathaniel Hendren, an associate professor of economics at FAS who has studied intergenerational mobility and how inequality transmits across generations.Source: CBPP.orgHendren, along with Harvard economists Katz and Raj Chetty, now at Stanford University, looked at the lasting effects of moving children to better neighborhoods as part of Moving to Opportunity, a short-lived federal housing program from the ’90s. Their analysis, published in May, found that the longer children are exposed to better environments, the better they do economically in the future. Whichever city or state children grow up in also radically affects whether they’ll move out of poverty, he said.For children in parts of the Midwest, the Northeast, and the West, upward mobility rates are high. But in the South and portions of the Rust Belt, rates are very low. For example, a child born in Iowa into a household making less than $25,000 a year has an 18 percent chance to move into the upper 20 percent of income strata over a lifetime. But a child born in Atlanta or Charlotte, N.C., has only a 4 percent chance of moving up, their study found.Graphic by Judy Blomquist/Harvard StaffWhat unites areas of low mobility, Hendren says, are broken family structures, reduced levels of civic and community engagement, lower-quality K-12 education, greater racial and economic segregation, and broader income inequality.In addition, 90 percent of American workers have seen their wages stall while their costs of living continue to rise.“When you look at the data, it’s sobering. Median household income when last reported in 2013 was at a level first attained in 1989, adjusting for inflation. That’s a long time to go without any gains,” said Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (HBS).Wage inequality is on the rise for both genders. Within that range, the gap between men and women remains a hot-button issue despite gains by women in the past three decades. Broadly, the ratio of median earnings for women increased from 0.56 to 0.78 between 1970 and 2010.Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graphic by Judy Blomquist/Harvard StaffBut according to Claudia Goldin, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at FAS, the gender earnings gap is not a constant, varying widely by occupation and age. While women in their late 20s earn about 92 percent of what their male counterparts earn, women in their early 50s earn just 71 cents on the dollar that the average man makes. For some career paths, like pharmacists, veterinarians, and optometrists, corporatization has closed the gap between men and women.Even so, wiping away the gender pay gap isn’t a cure-all for the larger issues of inequality.“If you reduce gender inequality to zero, you’ve closed inequality … by a very small percent,” said Goldin. “I’m not saying there aren’t things that we can’t fix, but I am telling you, without a doubt, they’re going to move the lever by very little.”Underinvestment in “the commons”Rivkin says that the pressures of globalization and technological change and the weakening of labor unions have had a major impact. But he disagrees that political favoritism toward business interests and away from ordinary citizens is the primary reason for burgeoning inequality. Rather, he says that sustained underinvestment by government and business in “the commons” — the institutions and services that offer wide community benefits, like schools and roads — has been especially detrimental.Last spring, HBS conducted an alumni survey for its annual U.S. Competitiveness Project research series, probing respondents for their views on the current and future state of American businesses, the prospects of dominating the global marketplace, and the likelihood that the resulting prosperity would be shared more evenly among citizens.“What is quite new in recent times is … very systematically, that government really responds much more to the privileged than to even middle-income people who vote.”— Theda SkocpolThe survey findings, released in September, showed that most HBS alumni were skeptical that living standards would rise more equitably soon, given existing policies and practices. A majority said that inequality and related issues like rising poverty, limited economic mobility, and middle-class stagnation were not only social ills, but problems that affected their businesses.“My sense is that a larger and larger number of business leaders are waking up to the idea that issues of inequality, and particularly lack of shared prosperity, have to be addressed for the sake of business,” said Rivkin, the project’s co-chair.The surging power of the very wealthy in America now rivals levels last seen in the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, analysts say. One difference, however, is that the grotesque chasm between that era’s robber barons and tenement dwellers led to major social and policy reforms that are still with us, including labor rights, women’s suffrage, and federal regulatory agencies to oversee trade, banking, food, and drugs.Hendren said there’s no less chance today of rising or falling along the income spectrum than there was 25 years ago. “The chances of moving up or down the ladder are the same,” he said, “but the way we think about inequality is that the rungs on the ladder have gotten wider. The difference between being at the top versus the bottom of the income distribution is wider, so the consequences of being born to a poor family in dollar terms are wider.”What price inaction?Unless America’s policymakers begin to chip away at the underlying elements of systemic inequality, the costs to the nation will be profound, analysts say.“I think we will pay many prices. We will continue to have divisive politics. We won’t make the investments we need to provide the majority of kids with a better life, and that would be really not fulfilling,” said Katz.Partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., has diminished the effectiveness of government — perhaps the most essential and powerful tool for addressing inequality and citizens’ needs. By adopting a political narrative that government should not and cannot effectively solve problems, legislative inaction results in policy inaction.Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer“It’s definitely been a strategy” to justify starving government of resources, which in turn weakens it and makes it less attractive as a tool to accomplish big things, said Skocpol. “In an everybody-for-themselves situation, it is the better-educated and the wealthy who can protect themselves.”Surveying the landscape, Katz sees reasons to be both hopeful and worried.“The optimism is that there are regions of the U.S., metropolitan areas that have tremendous upward mobility. So we do have models that work. We do have programs like Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit that work pretty well. I think that if national policy more approximated the upper third of state and local policies, the U.S. would have a lot of hope,” said Katz. “My pessimistic take would be that if you look at two-thirds of America, things are not improving in the way we would like.”Putnam is heartened that inequality has been widely recognized as a major problem and is no longer treated as a fringe political issue.What can be done?Jencks says there are many steps the federal government could take — if the political will existed to do so — to slow down or reverse inequality, like increasing the minimum wage, revising the tax code to tax corporate profits and investments more, reducing the debt burden on college students, and improving K-12 education so more students are better prepared for college and for personal advancement.“Strong regulation and strong support for collective control over the things that society values is much more prevalent in societies that have lower levels of inequality,” he said.Though labor rights have been eroding for decades, Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at HLS, still thinks that unions could provide an unusual way to help equalize political power nationally. Unions used to wield both economic and political clout, but legislative and court decisions reduced their effectiveness as economic actors, cutting their political influence as well. At the same time, campaign finance reform to limit the influence of wealth on politics has failed.To restore some balance, Sachs suggests “unbundling” unions’ political and economic activities, allowing them to serve as political organizing vehicles for low- and middle-income Americans, even those whom a union may not represent for collective bargaining purposes.“The risk that economic inequalities will produce political ones … has led to several generations of campaign finance regulation designed to get money out of politics. But these efforts have not succeeded,” Sachs wrote in a 2013 Yale Law Review article. “Rather than struggling to find new ways to restrict political spending by the wealthy … the unbundled union, in which political organization is liberated from collective bargaining, constitutes one promising component of such a broader attempt to improve representational equality.”Still, given the historic labor and wage trend lines, Goldin said the economic forces that perpetuate unequal wages — and inequality more broadly — won’t simply disappear even with a spate of new laws.[gz_sidebar align=”right”]Possible solutions to economic and political inequality:Increase economic mobilityTax corporate profits, investments moreRaise the minimum wageCut the debts of college graduatesImprove K-12 educationReduce the influence of money in politicsEven out disposable family incomesTax carried interest at a higher rateMake business taxes a compliance issueMentor low-income childrenJump-start vocational education[/gz_sidebar]“I think it is naïve of most individuals to think that for everything there is something that government can legislate and regulate and impose that makes life better for everybody,” she said. “That’s just not the case.”Even so, with Congress stalled over fresh policies, analysts say that much of the innovation concerning inequality has moved to state and local levels, where partisanship is less calcified and the needs of constituents are more evident.In Oregon and California, for example, residents will be automatically registered to vote upon turning 18, a move that Skocpol says should bolster civic participation and provide protection from onerous new voter-identification laws.While it’s clear that investing in children and their education pays lifelong dividends for them, those gains take 20 years to be realized, said Katz. That’s why it’s critical that their parents get help and live in less vulnerable situations.“There is certainly evidence that if we reduce the degree of economic and racial and ethnic segregation of our communities, we can move in that direction,” said Katz, who is working on an experiment to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in New York City to help younger workers without children who are struggling to break into the labor market.Changes to the minimum wage, the tax system, and the treatment of carried interest “are all debates in which our society should engage,” said Rivkin, who cautioned that those would be hard-fought political battles that wouldn’t yield results for at least a decade.Of course industry needs to run its businesses productively and profitably, but it can do so without harming “the commons,” Rivkin said. “Business has been very effective at pursuing its narrow self-interest in looking for special tax breaks. I think that kind of behavior just needs to stop.” Drawing on an idea from HBS Finance Professor Mihir Desai, Rivkin suggests that businesses treat their tax responsibilities as a compliance function rather than as a profit center. That money could then go back into investment in “the commons,” where “lots of common ground” exists among business, labor, policymakers, educators, and others. “The businesses should be working with the local community college to train the workers whom they would love to hire; the university should be getting together with policymakers to figure out how to get innovations out of the research lab into startups faster; business should work with educators to reinvent the school system,” said Rivkin.Putnam suggests more widespread mentoring of low-income children who lack the social safety net that upper- and middle-class children enjoy, a topic he explored in his book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”He recently convened five working groups to develop a series of white papers that will offer overviews of the key challenges in family structure and parenting; early childhood development; K-12 education; vocational, technical, and community colleges; and community institutions. The papers will be shared with mayors and leaders in churches, nonprofits, and community organizations across the nation, where much of the reform effort is taking place.“There’s an increasing sense that this is a big deal, that we’re moving toward an America that none of us has ever lived in, a world of two Americas, a completely economically divided country,” said Putnam. “That’s not an America I want my grandchildren to grow up in. And I think there are lots of people in America who, if they stop and think about it, would say, ‘No, that’s not really us.’”Illustration by Kathleen M.G. Howlett.Next Tuesday: Inequality in education The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
Broadway theatergoers know that tickets to the musical “Hamilton” can cost more than a month’s rent, except for winners of the show’s $10 online lottery. But the hit’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, played to a different kind of packed house on Thursday night at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), speaking about Latino identity and activism.Miranda, who is also the force behind “In the Heights,” kicked off the second “America Adelante” conference, hosted by the Center for Public Leadership. The conference drew together Latino students from across the University, as well as more than 40 Latino leaders in business, arts, and government. Through a series of panel discussions and networking events, the conference tried to foster connection and collaboration between the students and guests.“I feel really underqualified to be here,” Miranda joked as he took the stage with Amanda Matos, M.P.P. ’19, an HKS student and co-founder of the WomanHOOD Project, a Bronx-based mentorship program for girls of color.Since both Matos and Miranda are proud Nuyoricans — New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent — Matos fired off a few home-based warm-up questions: Yankees or Mets? The A train or the 1? Once they’d covered the basics (Yankees and the A train), Miranda settled in for a more serious discussion on code-switching, activism, and staying true to one’s roots.“I’m in a roomful of would-be Nina Rosarios right now,” Miranda said, referring to a character from “In the Heights” who leaves her neighborhood to attend Stanford University, becoming the first person from her block to attend college. Miranda shared some of his experiences of attending Hunter College and Wesleyan University, and gradually coming to see his dual cultural identity as “a superpower.”,Miranda began work on “In the Heights” as an undergraduate at Wesleyan, mixing the salsa and merengue beats of his heritage with the musical theater and freestyling hip-hop he also loves. The result, he said, was a realization that “you have to bring all of yourself into a room, not just the parts that fit in.” He cited the problematic stereotypes of knife-wielding Puerto Ricans from “West Side Story” and Paul Simon’s 1998 musical “The Capeman” as a wake-up call, adding, “I realized: No one’s making your dream musical. You have to make your dream musical.”Matos asked Miranda how Latinos can create solidarity and stay connected to their heritage while building bridges with non-Latino allies and supporters. “Give us some best practices,” she urged.Miranda’s response was simple. “I think continuing to support ourselves and our humanness is so important,” he said. “That’s what ‘Hamilton’ does: It represents the other strand of the American story that we export. It celebrates the one founder who wasn’t from here — who grew up in the Caribbean. We’re a nation of immigrants, and we ought to be proud of that story.”“Latinos in the U.S. — both immigrant and native-born — are a group that has been growing in size and influence and will continue to grow,” said Erika Carlsen, the assistant director of fellowship programs and Latino initiatives at the Center for Public Leadership, who organized “America Adelante.” “How do future public leaders understand this community, and the challenges and incredible potential benefits related to it?” She cited the great economic power of Latinos, and the need to build networks among young and seasoned Latino leaders to address key policy issues.Matos agreed. “As Latinx students and students who care deeply about communities of color, it’s important that we have an infrastructure to build power, solidarity, and strategy on the most pressing issues impacting our communities,” she said. “I hope students will see that they are all leaders now, and that we already have the power and skills to continue creating good in the world.”Carlsen and Miranda paid tribute to Lisa Garcia Quiroz ’83, M.B.A. ’90, a longtime executive at Time Warner who was also a champion of diversity both at her alma mater and in her workplace. Garcia Quiroz, who was instrumental in organizing the first “America Adelante” conference in 2016, worked tirelessly to mentor and encourage young Latino leaders until her death in March from pancreatic cancer. HKS has established a graduate fellowship in her honor.“There’s no shortage of ways to do good,” Miranda told his audience, citing the examples of Garcia Quiroz and activists such as the high school students from Parkland, Fla., who have spearheaded the #NeverAgain movement. “I can get as overwhelmed as the next person,” he admitted. “What I try to tell myself is: Don’t think of it as this tidal wave. Think of it as: There’s no shortage of lanes you can go into and do good.” Miranda’s own efforts have included several recent collaborations with other musicians and composers in support of hurricane relief for Puerto Rico and for the movement against gun violence.“That came out of being inspired by these kids,” Miranda said of “Found Tonight,” his duet with “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt in support of March for Our Lives on March 24. “We sort of made the Marvel/DC crossover. I asked myself: What’s the thing I can make for them that will put wind in their sails?”If “Hamilton” is the origin story of American democracy — “It’s how Spider-Man got bit by the bug,” Miranda said with a laugh — his activism on current issues, including voter registration, hurricane relief, and speaking out against gun violence, are part of a chapter in that book.“What we’re seeing is a huge accumulation of everyday voices,” Miranda said, praising the wave of activism and political engagement from many corners of American society. “The success of ‘Hamilton’ has given me a huge megaphone, and it helps me to think of it as a literal megaphone. I try to use it sparingly, so that what I say will be helpful.”He closed by urging his audience to support each other and make their voices heard. “Our stories,” he said, “are more necessary than ever.”
Prescribed burning is no small task. To execute a safe burn for all involved, including the wildlife and neighbors to the property, it requires a lot of equipment and personnel. Stephen Living, a regional lands and access manager for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), uses fire to restore habitats for wildlife. One of the department’s current focuses is restoring the open pine savanna habitats for species like the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. As a fire manager, Wilson oversees prescribed burning in the eastern region for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Natural Heritage Program. DCR and other government agencies and private organizations use fire in a variety of ways to manage natural areas. [metaslider id=131358 cssclass=””] The burn starts out slow, a few flames rolling across the eastern edge of the unit as the crew tests the weather conditions and makes sure the fire does not cross the swampy phragmites at the property’s boundaries. Once the test is complete, the drip torch crew proceeds to make their way back and forth across the preserve until the 43-acre burn unit is covered in flames and enveloped in a haze of smoke. You can hear the crackling, snapping, and roaring as the fire burns different types of vegetation. The Tree That Fire Made Because it evolved in a fire-adapted environment, the longleaf pine is also better equipped to survive a wildfire than other tree species. When it germinates from a seed, it produces long needles above ground that look like a clump of grass while developing a strong underground root system. “The loblolly pine makes a miniature tree,” Wilson said. “If you have fire in the first couple of years of growth of that tree, it’s likely to kill it because it has a very small root system. It puts all of its energy into above-ground growth. You can easily burn that off. Whereas [with the] longleaf pine, if you get fire in the system while it’s in that grass stage, instead of it harming the trunk of the tree, it just affects the needles. I like to say it’s just having a bad hair day.” Those involved with prescribed burns are required to pass a work capacity test, a demonstration of physical capabilities, and take a refresher course to be certified as a wildland firefighter every year. Instead of each agency conducting their own training, members train together so that everyone’s on the same page when out in the field. “We try to take it to the next level and really offer some practical training so that it doesn’t just become a rote checking the box every year,” Living said. “This is challenging and risky so we have an obligation to really approach it from the standpoint of giving people the tools to be successful.” In addition to serving as eastern fire manager, Wilson is also a longleaf pine restoration specialist. Fire is her number one tool for bringing the tree back. “That’s the one you go to every time,” Wilson said. “We use fire to get rid of the vegetation, like you would a plow or a disc. We use fire to prune the trees and get rid of any fungus or disease in the leaves or needles so that they regrow more healthy. We use fire to add nutrients to the soil. There’s this whole spectrum of things that the only way to do that at the landscape level is with fire.” The burn plan also includes control lines, barriers like a waterway or road to stop fire from spreading beyond the burn unit. If the property doesn’t include any of those nearby, land managers will put their own line in using a tractor, mowing, chemicals, or rake. “We have a lot of different options, but we like to start with what is already on the landscape that will limit the spread of fire naturally because those are always going to be your best bets,” Wilson said. “It’s way better to use a creek than it is to rely on you manipulating the landscape.” Not All Fire Is the Same Rebecca Wilson gives the go ahead, watching the drip torch crew as they start to make their way across the preserve. As the day’s burn boss, she’s responsible for making sure everything goes according to plan at the South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve in Suffolk, Va. Prescribed burns are being used for land management and habitat restoration in the Southeast. Land managers are working to restore the longleaf pine, left, to the Virginia landscape. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger With frequent, low-intensity fires, you’re continually getting rid of above-ground mass so that it doesn’t accumulate as fuel for a potential wildfire. “Not to single out Smokey Bear, but Smokey Bear was part of the climate that all fire is bad,” said Claiborne Woodall, DCR’s western fire manager. “Even Smokey changed his message about 10 or 15 years ago. It went from ‘only you can prevent forest fires’ to ‘only you can prevent wildfires,’ drawing the distinction between wildfires and prescribed fires.” The prescribed burn of the South Quay Sandhills Preserve stands in contrast to the devastation seen out west this fall. Wildfires of historic proportions destroyed millions of acres and displaced thousands of people in California, Oregon, and Washington as smoke from the flames polluted the air from coast to coast. According to Gary Wood, the Southeastern regional coordinator for the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, it’s part of an initiative born out of the FLAME Act of 2009 that’s attempting to create fire-adapted communities, maintain resilient landscapes, and respond to wildfires with regionally specific solutions. At the South Quay Sandhills preserve, Wilson and her team are using fire to preserve Virginia’s last remaining natural stand of longleaf pine. The day’s prescribed burn will help clear the property of logging byproduct left from the previous owner and allow the longleaf pine to thrive without other competition. Seeds collected from the site will be used in longleaf pine restoration across the commonwealth. “It’s more than any one agency can really do on their own at the scale that we need to be working at,” Living said. “The interagency partnership we have allows us to fluidly share resources, personnel, equipment, and time. There are a limited amount of days that it’s appropriate to burn so by coming together in this collective, we can prioritize the different agencies’ goals and try to get as much of it done as we can.” In Virginia, this partnership includes DCR, DWR, Department of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Services, and The Nature Conservancy. When DCR is burning, it’s not just DCR personnel and equipment on the scene managing the fire. Prescribed burns help clear the land of fuel to reduce a wildfire’s impact. Photos by Shannon McGowan “It’s a weird thing to wrap your mind around but when you take the fire out of the system, you’re actually making the fire that eventually comes much worse,” Wilson said. “What the Europeans did was basically cut down all of the big trees and take fire out of the system. You went from having these wide open forests where fire would have occurred frequently and just poked around on its own and gone out eventually to having these landscapes that were more extreme when they did have fire. That is a product of fire exclusion.” Before Europeans sailed across the ocean and forced the Indigenous Peoples off their land, longleaf pines covered around a million acres in Virginia. By 2000, when scientists started to get serious about restoring the species to its native habitat, less than 100 acres remained. Before a prescribed burn can even happen, the individuals and agencies involved put together a detailed burn plan that addresses all of the safety and biological factors that might affect the fire. “We actually write a prescription, like a doctor would write a prescription for a medication, for what we want the parameters to be when we burn,” Wilson said. “By the time we strike the match, 80 to 90 percent of my job is already done.” The parameters include things like wind direction, temperature, fuels, relative humidity, days since rain, and the number of people and equipment needed. In addition to reviewing the basics every year, everyone must also practice deploying a fire shelter. “We hope we will never be in a situation where we have to do that,” Wilson said. “But we make sure that we train annually so that it’s not only what we know to do, we have some muscle memory that backs it up. Because it’s a really intense situation, wildfires and prescribed burning, it’s very easy to lose focus and concentration. There’s a lot of adrenaline that you need to learn how to control.” Only then, once a plan is put in place, neighbors are contacted, and conditions are right, does the fire start. Although we don’t have the same level of wildfires as the West Coast, events like the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires of 2016 demonstrated there are still dangers in this region. Those wildfires burned over 17,000 acres in eastern Tennessee, including parts of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. “It really brought back home the risk that we have here in the East due to decades of fuel accumulation and fire exclusion and the risk that poses to adjacent communities,” Woodall said. “Virginia is never going to be California as far as severity of wildfire risk and the flammability of the fuels, but we have our own version of it.” There are a variety of factors that determine how frequently and intensely a fire burns on a landscape, including the type of vegetation in the area and climate patterns. The Southeast’s landscape is long adapted to fire through natural ignition from lighting and traditional Indigenous burning practices. But decades of fire suppression almost completely removed fire as a natural tool from the land. It’s also being predicted that climate change will likely exacerbate fire conditions in the Southeast and across the country as the frequency and intensity of storms increases and rising temperatures extend the fire season and drought conditions. With the future in mind, prescribed burning is currently one of the primary tools used in the region to reduce potential wildfires through proactive fuel mitigation. Richard Ayers, an operations steward with DCR, starts a fire with a drip torch. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger Interagency Training Fire is critical to the survival of other species in the region. The table mountain pine relies on fire to melt its cones and release the seeds. Without fire, it doesn’t regenerate very well. In restoring these various pine savanna ecosystems, fire managers are also helping to provide habitat, cover, and food for a variety of species which rely on these habitats to survive. Rebecca Wilson, the day’s burn boss, reviews the burn plan for South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger All of these factors affect how the fire will act on the landscape and need to be approved at multiple levels before any fire can be used. The goal of a prescribed burn is to minimize extreme fire behavior and ensure the smoke has somewhere to go. If on burn day even one of those factors is outside the range detailed in the prescription, the fire is called off until another day when the conditions are right. “My job is literally dependent on which way the wind blows,” Wilson said. [metaslider id=131387 cssclass=””] After storing all of its energy underground, the longleaf pine will then bolt from the grass stage to about four feet tall in one season. “It’s not the kid who eats all his Halloween candy that first night,” Wilson said. “It’s the kid that saves it.” “Even though everybody hears about the fires in the West, we actually have, annually, more than 50 percent of the ignitions of the overall wildfires,” Wood said. “So we actually have more fires. They just happen to be smaller because we can get to them quicker. And we do so much more prescribed burning here than what is done in the West.”
13SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr It’s been approximately one year since USAlliance Financial Federal Credit Union($1.6B, Rye, NY) began using the tagline, “Live Life Fully.”Beyond a simple branding exercise, the new motto has real-life implications as the credit union refreshes its product suite to lead with the most financially healthy options. Here, CEO Kris VanBeek shares the thinking behind “Live Life Fully,” member reaction to it, and how it’s making a difference in everything from new hire orientation to marketing communications.What’s the idea behind the “Live Life Fully” tagline?Kris VanBeek: It was a natural evolution from our former tagline, “Pursue Happiness.” We had good traction with that, but the idea of pursuing happiness might or might not be good in the long run. For example, I might feel happy in the short term eating a lot of chocolate but develop health problems in the long term. continue reading »
continue reading » There are only so many “transformational” technology shifts an average person can handle at once. So it’s not surprising that in the run-up to the launch of 5G communications technology, there’s some reluctance among business leaders to go all in.An Accenture survey reveals a great deal of confusion and ambivalence about the new technology among business executives. While the leaders acknowledge its potential competitive implications, they don’t grasp how significant it will be, even though 5G — the fifth generation wireless technology — has already been launched on a limited basis in dozens of U.S. cities and elsewhere around the world.The ongoing marketing war among the major carriers — accusations of dubious claims continually fly back and forth — hasn’t helped. Amid the rhetoric, a growing number of respected voices warn financial institutions about the danger of ignoring this major technology shift.FIS Chief Data Officer Bob Legters states that 5G will be a key factor in enhancing consumers’ banking experience. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
Commissioner of BC Transit Greg Kilmer said he appreciates the support from elected officials, and told 12 News that money received recently will be used to help support rural communities in the Southern Tier. “The rural communities in Broome County are much, much larger than anyone would imagine,” he said. “We have embraced the spirit of the CARES money, and so we’ve made a lot of modifications to make things safer, and it’s going to make us safer going ahead.” Congressman Anthony Brindisi announced around $1 million in funding would be heading to the Broome County Department of Transportation from the Federal Transit Administration. VESTAL (WBNG) — As Broome County Transit continues to receive funding, the Commissioner Greg Kilmer said he appreciates the support and changes to the bus station are coming. He mentioned that he’s been in touch with officials at the county’s health department, and said the contact tracing teams have seen few issues with buses. The department had previously received just under $11 million as part of the CARES Act back in April. Kilmer says these measures are just part of the department’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will allow for changes like touchless fare systems, and the experimentation with new sprays that kill germs more effectively, as well as helping hire and retain CDL drivers for buses. Kilmer says there is no evidence to support the virus being transmitted on a bus. Overall, Kilmer said the current funding the department has will also be used to help offset costs brought on by the pandemic, which has included a decrease in ridership.
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Dec 23, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – A recent outbreak of E coli O157:H7 infections was traced mostly to a petting zoo at the North Carolina State Fair, even though the zoo had posted signs and provided facilities to promote hand hygiene.The outbreak in October and November involved 108 likely and confirmed cases, many of them in children younger than 6 years, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCHHS). The outbreak led to 15 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening kidney complication of E coli O157:H7 infection in children.After recognizing that most of the people with symptoms had attended the fair, investigators compared case-patients with healthy fair visitors to identify possible causes of the outbreak, the NCHHS said in a news release. The patients and controls were asked about exposure to the fair’s two petting zoos, other animal exhibits, food and drinks sold at the fair, and possible household sources of E coli.The comparison pointed to the Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo as the likeliest source of infection for most of the patients, officials said. Contact with manure at the petting zoo stood out as a risk factor: among children under age 3 who had visited the zoo, case-patients were more than seven times more likely to have had contact with manure than controls were.In an effort to prevent illness, the zoo had followed guidelines from an organization of public health veterinarians, which included posting signs and providing hand sanitizing stations, the NCHHS said. But information from interviews indicated that hand hygiene failed to protect people from infection.”Exposures from direct contact between petting zoo visitors and animals or manure might have already led to infection before hand-sanitizer use,” or patients might have picked up contamination on skin areas where subsequent hand cleansing failed to remove it, the department said.Laboratory tests supported the results of the case-control study. In 33 of the 43 confirmed cases, the E coli strain had the same DNA fingerprint (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern) as E coli samples from the petting zoo. Testing of environmental samples from the petting zoo showed that most of the samples containing E coli O157:H7 came from areas where people could pet sheep and goats.The NCHHS concluded that most patients fell ill as a result of visiting the petting zoo, though some probably picked up the infection elsewhere at the fair.”In light of the investigation, we recommend restricting direct contact with animals, reducing fecal contamination, and reducing crowding in petting zoos in addition to existing recommendations to prevent future E. coli O157:H7 infections,” the NCHHS said, citing recommendations from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV). “These recommendations are particularly pertinent for young children and others with reduced immunity to infection.”The North Carolina outbreak is one of several E coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to petting zoos or farms in recent years. A petting zoo in Ontario was found to be the source of 159 cases in 1999, and 51 cases were traced to a Pennsylvania dairy farm in the fall of 2000, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).See also:April 20, 2001, CDC report on E coli cases associated with farm visits in Pennsylvania and Washington statehttp://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5015a5.htm
Aug 22, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Wildlife researchers and Mongolian officials have reported increasing evidence that H5N1 avian influenza has infected wild birds in Mongolia, though findings are not yet conclusive.The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced last week that preliminary tests revealed the virus in 1 of about 100 wild birds found dead earlier this month at Erhel Lake in Mongolia. But samples from close to 140 live birds at the lake tested negative, the group said.In addition, Mongolian officials reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Aug 19 that three wild birds from the same site had tested positive for an H5 virus. The results of further testing to fully characterize the virus were still awaited, the report said.The WCS said two of its field veterinarians, Dr. William Karesh and Dr. Martin Gilbert, visited Erhel Lake with Mongolian scientists and health officials shortly after the suspected cases of avian flu were reported there. They found about 100 dead birds and observed more than 6,500 healthy birds of 55 species, according to a WCS news release.The team sent samples from 774 birds to the US Department of Agriculture’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., for analysis, the WCS said. As of Aug 18, preliminary tests (involving reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction ) revealed H5N1 virus in one dead whooper swan, the group reported.Samples from 30 live whooper swans from the same site and another nearby lake were free of the virus, the statement said. Other live birds that tested negative included 60 ruddy shelducks, 24 bar-headed geese, and 25 black-headed gulls.The WCS called the finding at Erhel Lake “the first instance of this viral strain [H5N1] occurring in wild migratory birds with no apparent contact to domestic poultry or waterfowl.” Outbreaks in wild birds have usually occurred near outbreaks in poultry or in regions where contact with infected poultry could not be ruled out, but Mongolia has few domestic birds, the group said.According to the release, Gilbert said the percentage of sick and dying birds at Erhel Lake was “minuscule,” suggesting that “either the virus had little effect on the birds or that very few were actually infected by the bug.”The possible cases in Mongolia follow recent poultry outbreaks of H5N1 in six districts of southwestern Siberia, reaching to the Ural Mountains, and in at least one area of northern Kazakhstan. A large H5N1 outbreak in wild birds occurred last spring at Qinghai Lake in central China, which borders Mongolia on the south.Elsewhere, another poultry outbreak of avian flu was reported today in Japan, where an H5N2 outbreak surfaced on one chicken farm last week. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) report identified the latest outbreak only as an H5 virus.The outbreak occurred at a large farm in Ishioka, 50 miles northeast of Tokyo, where more than 1.1 million chickens are kept in 12 houses, AFP reported. The story said the farm is one of three that supply chickens to the farm where avian flu turned up last week.Health officials plan to kill all 100,000 chickens in the building where the outbreak was found, the report said. Japan had four outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu last year but has reported none so far this year.In Russia, the first avian flu outbreak on a large poultry farm was reported today, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. The disease was reported in the Omsk region, one of the six areas where outbreaks have been reported on small farms in recent weeks.A Russian official told the OIE on Aug 20 that poultry deaths in the outbreaks had not exceeded about 5% of the total flock in any given area, thanks to strict quarantine measures and fairly long distances between affected localities.The report, by Dr. Evgueny A. Nepoklonov, head of Russia’s main veterinary department, said, “Practically all the infected localities are close to reedy lakes or marshes used by wild ducks. In these villages, the first birds to be affected are those kept in homes close to reservoirs.” The prevalence of avian flu infection in wild ducks and geese is not known, but the virus is assumed to be “extremely widespread,” he added.Nepoklonov’s report says nothing about the recent rumors of H5N1 in the Kalmykia area near the Caspian Sea in European Russia.Another AFP report today said Russian authorities have told the European Union’s executive commission there has been no avian flu outbreak near the Caspian Sea. The information came from an EU spokesman named Philip Tod.See also:WCS news release on Mongabay sitehttp://news.mongabay.com/2005/0818-wcs_flu.htmlMongolia’s Aug 19 report to OIEhttp://web.oie.int/wahis/reports/en_fup_0000005465_20050818_190018.pdfAug 20 Russian report to OIEhttp://web.oie.int/wahis/reports/en_fup_0000005450_20050820_184956.pdf
Most overnight stays were made by guests from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Germany and Albania. Out of the total number of tourists from 1 to 31 January 2019, 14 guests stayed in 574 Dubrovnik hotels, which is an increase of 51% in hotel accommodation compared to January 48, and 2018 overnight stays were recorded, ie 27% more than last year. In January, 379 guests stayed in private accommodation, which is an increase of 12% compared to January 1, and 585 overnight stays were recorded, which is 7% more than the previous year. “Record tourist data in Dubrovnik in January are the result of direct winter flights from seven European destinations, but also the introduction of a charter program for senior groups from Scandinavia and Germany, organized by travel agency WTouristic, Karaci group members and RSD Reisen from Germany. May, over 11 visitors come to Dubrovnik. ” stand out from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board. During January 2019, there were 19.092 arrivals in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, which is 28% more than in January 2018, and 53.910 overnight stays, which is 10% more than in January 2018. Dubrovnik-Neretva County also grew in January RELATED NEWS: According to the eVisitor tourist check-in and check-out system, not including nautical data, 1 tourists stayed in Dubrovnik from 31 to 2019 January 16, which is a total of 878% more than in the same period in 41. 2018 overnight stays, or 38% more than last year. In January, most guests came from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Korea, the United States, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Finland and Austria. ZAGREB AND DUBROVNIK INCLUDED IN MICHELIN GUIDE – MAIN CITIES OF EUROPE 2019 AIR FRANCE INTRODUCES DIRECT LINES PARIS – SPLIT IN SUMMER SEASON AND INCREASES THE NUMBER OF FLIGHTS TO DUBROVNIK