Essays for Hope and Reflection

Guest opinion: Heritage area can unite us

Arizonans were caught off guard when they heard that the Santa Cruz National Heritage Area had recently been designated by Congress and signed into law at the White House on March 12, 2019.

Suddenly, we found ourselves living in a 3,300-square-mile landscape that was nationally recognized for its distinctive natural and multi-cultural heritage.

Hadn’t a decade passed since all the communities in the upper Santa Cruz watershed pledged their support for such a designation?

By the time Tucson became the first “City of ...

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How the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Can Bring Us Together to Envision a Common Future

Were you among the many citizens of southern Arizona who were caught off guard upon hearing that a designation for the Santa Cruz National Heritage Area sailed through Congress in late February and was signed into law at the White House on March 12, 2019?

Were you surprised to find yourself living in a 3300 square mile landscape that was nationally-recognized for its distinctive natural, historical and multi-cultural heritage?

Hadn’t it been over a decade since most non-profits as well as all ...

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Talk Nerdy. Episode 246. Gary Paul Nabhan.

In this episode of Talk Nerdy, Cara speaks with Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan, founder of the Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona. They talk about sustainability, conservation, indigenous agriculture, and his newest of several books, “Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair.”

Mesquite is a book that will delight mystics and foresters, naturalists and foodies. It combines cutting-edge science with a generous sprinkling of humor and folk wisdom, even including traditional recipes for cooking with ...

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Build a Border Wall? Here’s an Idea That’s Better for Communities and the Climate

President Trump has declared a national emergency to fund a wall along our nation’s southern border. The border wall issue has bitterly divided people across the United States, becoming a vivid symbol of political deadlock.

But for many of us who actually live along the U.S.-Mexico border, the wall is simply beside the point. We know that a wall can’t fix the problems that straddle the boundary between our nations; nor will it build on our shared strengths. So a group ...

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Mesquite Manifesto: A Collaborative Vision for the Borderland

The recent acrimonious debates about further fortifying barriers all across the 2000 mile US/Mexico boundary line beg a larger question: Just what might make communities more stable, secure and prosperous while providing more livelihoods as well as wildlife habitat on both sides of the border? What particular natural resources and cultural assets in the region can be utilized to offer long-term solutions to problems perceived to be border-related?

Within the US, border counties have twice the level of poverty and food ...

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Bioneers: A Review of “Food from The Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Our Communities”

“Have you ever stumbled into a place where you were bowled over by an abundance of wildlife?” So begins the chapter Bringing Back the Bison in Gary Paul Nabhan’s latest book: Food from the Radical Center: Healing our Land and Communities (Island Press, 2019).

The question brought to mind a time in 2013 when there was an unexpected spike in anchovies in the Monterey Bay and massive schools were swimming by the mouth of the Santa Cruz Harbor. There ...

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Civil Eats: Hold the Soy, Save the Pollinators

These are tough times for soybean farmers. As President Trump’s trade war with China drags on, retaliatory tariffs are clobbering soybean prices—and some farmers are selling their crops at a loss.

The federal government has stepped up to help: At the urging of Midwestern senators, the USDA is compensating farmers for some of their losses, shelling out $3.6 billion to soybean farmers so far. While the subsidy is appreciated, many soy farmers I’ve talked to see it as ...

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Guest Opinion: Heal Arizona’s chasms

Our elections may be over, but one thing is for sure: Arizona remains politically divided, just as much of our country is. One party’s candidate may have won this or that senate or congressional race, but the split in how Arizonans view our future is as sharp as it was before the elections took place.

What politicians cannot mend is what our citizenry should see as our sacred responsibility to heal, if nothing else, for the benefit of future ...

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Working at the “Radical Center”

How do adversaries find common ground? How do they work together to find common goals and interests? Food from the Radical Center: Healing our Land and Communities by Gary Paul Nabhan is about food and land conservation, and its lessons have the potential to bring together many people in our polarized nation. Nabhan is a writer, seed conservationist, and MacArthur genius grant recipient; he’s endowed chair in sustainable agriculture at University of Arizona, and he’s a long time activist for ...

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Remembering Lincoln Brower: A field scientist who went through as many metamorphic life stages as monarch butterflies do

When I heard of Lincoln Brower’s passing, I remembered how I dreamed that my father had turned into a monarch butterfly after he had died. But with Lincoln, the story could not be as simple as just one transformation. He was a truly ecological lab scientist of incredible ingenuity in experimental design, a skill that he applied to the study of mimicry and milkweed toxicity as they relate to monarchs, viceroys and queens. His ingenuity and originality was evident in ...

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Guest opinion: Cruelty and incompetence on the border

Like most Americans, we have been sickened by the sights and sounds of children torn away from their families at the border. President Trump’s separation policy was designed for maximum deterrence against immigrants seeking asylum or crossing the border. And whether by incompetence or by intent, Trump’s administration had no plan to keep track of children and parents in order to reunite them.

Trump blamed previous administrations, saying that he had no choice but to enforce the existing immigration laws. But ...

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ThE bOrDeR iS nOt A wAr ZoNe

National Guardsmen, Go Home!
Today 330 National Guard troops
came to the Arizona-Sonora border
12 miles south of our home,
one for nearly every mile of the state’s line;
They are likely to break more laws
than they will enforce.
Even the Border Patrol
is better trained on human rights
& on respecting wildlife laws.
The Border Patrol needs more INTEL
to stop drug runners, their drones
and their ultralights that fly over my home
nearly every night, not an ...

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Borderlands wildlife doesn’t need the National Guard

Have you ever crossed a national boundary and realized that wildlife had crossed the very same line? We’ve frequently seen the evidence of such crossings, as both of us have lived and worked close to the international boundary with Mexico for much of the last four decades. From endangered pronghorn antelope to lesser long-nosed bats, rufous hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, itinerant species that routinely cross the border have thrilled us with their stunning presence.

These creatures and many others have long ...

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Tucson a Model in Food Biodiversity, Report Says

A report on Tucson food systems done by The Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona shows 14 community organizations make Tucson a leader in conserving food biodiversity.

Gary Paul Nabhan is the founding director of regional food studies at the UA. He said nonprofits like Desert Harvesters are thinking long term.

 

 

“Many of these organizations are, in a sense, sewing our future food security by bringing this diversity into our food ecosystem,” Nabhan said.

Jonathan Mabry is ...

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The chiltepin pepper has a special home in Santa Cruz County

After enduring a bouncy drive up a rough road heading into the Tumacacori Mountains last Tuesday morning, the group of hikers crossed a shallow rocky canyon on foot. Then, after bushwhacking through spiky desert plants and looking under trees, they found their prize: a single bright red, shriveled chili clinging to a dry chiltepin plant.

The fruit of the chiltepin isn’t always so hard to find at this spot, said Kevin Dahl, an ethnobotanist specializing in desert plants. The ...

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An Ecumenical-Interspecific Communion

The so-called Last Supper was not the last we know that nourished Yeshua of Nazareth and his motley crew of ne’er-do-well friends from Galilee. The other ones had fish swimming into them. For two millennia, Christians all around the planet have faithfully practiced the Ritual of the Open Table—one where everyone has a place at that table to have their hunger curbed, their thirst slaked, and their dignity respected. Other faiths have similar rites of sharing food among both friends ...

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Four Vows for Food Justice: An Earth Day Prayer

Although the many beings lost or wounded in our foodshed,
somehow seem nameless & numberless,
we vow to remember their names,
to hear their needs & to never forget their faces.

For the many children who are hungry daily,
while perfectly useable food is thrown away,
inundating landfills & making methane,
we vow to curb our consumption & end of our waste.

For the many immigrant farmworkers
who harvest the bounty with their sweat & blood.
but are seldom offered a place ...

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Gary Nabhan: Solar idea is a viable, job-creating option to border wall

Because I have lived within 20 miles of the U.S./Mexico boundary much of my life, the complexity of the debate regarding President Trump’s border wall proposal is not lost on me. I have worked in communities on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border, the border in the world with the greatest disparity for dwellers on its two sides.

There are horrific differences in access to clean water, healthy food and jobs with livable wages that currently divide Mexican and U.S. citizens. ...

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How can Tucson and surrounding Sonoran Desert communities revitalize a legacy of using plants such as mezcal both for food and for drink?

“Welcome to the Agave family!” was the way that late Arizona botanist Howard Scott Gentry used to greet aficionados of these wondrously-shaped and deliciously-tasting desert-adapted plants. Of course, many Americans are aware of the fact that is the popular name of a distilled alcoholic beverage, but how many newcomers to Southern Arizona know that it is also the common name for several kinds of native plants that are as good to eat as they are to drink?

Also known as the ...

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Living, Dying, and Eating in the “Day of the Dead” Belt

To properly celebrate Día de los Muertos, we must do one thing: offer our deceased loved ones the food that feeds their souls.

Other regions of North America may claim that they are the Corn Belt or the Bible Belt, but here in Tucson, we cling to the buckle of the cinturón of Day of the Dead. In an arc stretching from New Orleans through San Antonio and Albuquerque, from Tucson to Yuma and San Diego, the Dia ...

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