Food Heritage and History

Trump’s Border Wall: Epitaph for an Endangered, Night-blooming Cactus?

Construction is underway on a 30-foot-high steel wall along Arizona’s southern border in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. As several reports have recently warned, the wall will hurt many endangered desert species, from Sonoran pronghorns to cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. To understand how the wall will further fragment habitats for these already-declining plants and animals, let’s go deep with one rare species that’s at grave risk: a cactus called the night-blooming cereus.

Sacamatraca, a beautiful and rare ...

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Ancient watering hole in Southern Arizona at risk from border wall construction

An ancient spring near Lukeville has slaked the thirst of desert travelers for centuries, but its days may be numbered as groundwater is pumped to build a 30-foot border wall.

Water has bubbled out of the granite at Quitobaquito Springs for thousands of years, making it a key watering hole for the Tohono O’odham, Spanish missionaries, U.S. and Mexican boundary surveyors, and countless other humans and animals.

The Trump administration decided to build a wall along 44 miles of the border in ...

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Agrivoltaics proves mutually beneficial across food, water, energy nexus

Building resilience in renewable energy and food production is a fundamental challenge in today’s changing world, especially in regions susceptible to heat and drought. Agrivoltaics, the co-locating of agriculture and solar photovoltaic panels, offers a possible solution, with new University of Arizona-led research reporting positive impacts on food production, water savings and the efficiency of electricity production.

Agrivoltaics, also known as solar sharing, is an idea that has been gaining traction in recent years; however, few studies have monitored all aspects ...

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The Healthiest Thing You Can Do Today? Get Dirty!

Americans now spend a stunning 90 percent of their time indoors. Our sedentary, screen-addicted lifestyles have been blamed for a range of ills — including obesity, attention problems, allergies and more.

We know that getting out of the house and into nature confers many benefits for physical and mental health. But there’s an additional benefit you might not know about: contact with the soil — good old dirt — enriches the gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms ...

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Tensions at the US southern border are putting scientists and their work at risk

Scientists working on the US-Mexico border face unique challenges when trying to study borderlands ecosystems, from outright harassment by Border Patrol officers to tight restrictions on travel and what natural materials can cross the border. It’s all gotten worse under the Trump administration.

“In the course of talking to scientists, I found that nearly everyone I spoke to had some story about how the wall and the crackdown on immigration is affecting their ability to do their work,” says Living ...

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The Canary Islands Connection

I’m surrounded by date palms. Around them run dry watercourses that look like ones I find not far from my home in Tucson, Arizona. The traditional architecture in town would not be out of place in Tucson, either—or almost anywhere from southern Spain to Mexico and up into the southwest us. The fruit trees and grapevines hark back even further, to traditions of my ancestors from Syria and Lebanon. Perhaps this is what a visit to the ...

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Tariffs, AZ Dept. of Ag leave farmers barren

When President Trump initiated his trade tariff wars with China a year ago, economists warned that it could precipitate the second-worst farm crisis in a half century.

Most farmers in Arizona did not get hit as hard as those in Corn Belt states. The tariff wars alone didn’t seem to precipitate a crisis in Arizona. But last month, other danger signs began to register in the Grand Canyon State. The long-standing relationship Arizona has had with its strongest trade partner, Mexico, ...

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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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The spice trade: Selling the scents of luxury

The trade in spices goes back to ancient times: from the Frankincense trails that originated in the Dhofar Highlands in present day Yemen to the Queen of Sheba who travelled to Jerusalem with camels laden with spices. For centuries, spices have captured our imagination far more than any other commodities, and spice traders, from the Arab merchants to the European trading companies of the Age of Discovery, capitalized on the mystique of these luxurious aromatics to create a value chain ...

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Long-desired heritage area designation signed into law

A sweeping public lands bill signed into law by President Trump this week includes the designation of a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in Santa Cruz and Pima counties, bringing to fruition an effort begun well more than a decade ago to boost cultural preservation, economic development and tourism in the area.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Tucson), who represents all of Santa Cruz and parts of Pima county, had sought legislative approval for the NHA designation since 2007. In a ...

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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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How an appetite for local food fueled Tucson’s economic recovery

Could it be that Tucson is eating its way out of poverty and food insecurity?

Or to ask such a big hairy question in another manner: “How have Tucson’s citizens and businesses fared since the Great Recession devastated our community a decade ago?”

By the beginning of 2009, the Old Pueblo had been hit harder than most other US metro areas by bank and mortgage company scandals. But what, if anything, has helped our community’s economic recovery and changed its course for ...

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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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Healing Our Land and Communities Through the Power of Food

As an agricultural biologist, ethnobiologist and author, Gary Paul Nabhan is a renowned pioneer in the local food movement. In his new book, Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities, Prof. Nabhan writes about the power of working the soil with our hands in a collaborative spirit, with disparate groups. Gary Nabhan and host Steve Curwood discuss how restoring the health of our lands can improve the health of our communities.

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve ...

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The Radical Center: Episode 124

Gary Paul Nabhan, author and father of the local food movement, joins host Jenna Liut to talk about his new book, Food from the Radical Center: Healing our Communities and our Land, which contains a collection of stories that illustrate what good can happen when people organize and work together to restore land in order to produce healthy foods. They discuss just how divided our nation is today, various community-based collaborative restoration strategies, and the unprecedented impacts they have ...

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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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Will Work for Dirt

Have you ever tried to grow a garden in your backyard, only to find that the dirt was too worn-out and dry to produce anything? Have you coaxed that soil back to life so that it, in turn, could give life to fruits, vegetables, or root crops?

Gabriela Valeria Villavicencio Valdez, an urban garden enthusiast in Querétaro, Mexico, is all too familiar with lifeless dirt. In fact, she has adopted a newly coined name for this type of postapocalyptic, dystopian, metro ...

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A Good-for-Nothing Tree Makes Good

It is mid-November, and yet it is still warm and sunny in the Dunbar/Spring barrio just a mile from the heart of historic Tucson. Residents of the sprawling desert city still call it the Old Pueblo. It holds archaeological evidence of more than 4,000 years of continuous farming and foraging in its midst. That is one of several distinctions that has recently earned Tucson a United Nations designation as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States.

Mesquite trees might ...

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Water-Harvesting and Arid-Adapted Agrobiodiversity

Whenever I have a desire to be outside during the summer months as temperatures in Metro Tucson Arizona rise above 105 F, I select certain shady places where old trees offer me a break from the heat. Some are where old olive trees from north Africa were planted more than a century ago by agroecologist Robert Forbes, the first Dean of Agriculture at the University of Arizona. They are large and spreading, offering enough fruit each year for students to ...

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Helping Plants, Healing People

In ethnobotanist and author Gary Paul Nabhan’s newest book, Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities (Island Press) he writes about communities engaged in the radical restoration work of connecting culture, food and place. His stories range from bees to bison, soil to sturgeon. In this excerpt, readers get to meet the women who practice “plant wifery,” helping to protect and restore species that have medicinal and cultural importance.

Have you ever been hiking and ...

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