Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Spooky supply chains bring Halloween shortages

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Spooky supply chains bring Halloween shortages
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Shoppers planning spooky costumes and decorations are encountering something uncanny: bare shelves, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It’s a product of the global supply chain snarl, which has left ports like Savannah, Ga., overstocked with 50 percent more shipping containers than usual — some abandoned, according to The New York Times.

“It’s not sustainable at this point. Everything is out of whack,” Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch said of a supply chain he called “overwhelmed and inundated.” 

All of which means “if you want a store-bought costume, you had better be ordering it now,” Mark Lippert, who runs the global supply chain for Halloween supplier Trick or Treat Studios, told the Journal. 

Today, we’re looking at another side of sustainability: the social division over Indigenous People’s Day, which is the nation’s newest federal holiday, and a nationwide confrontation of land dispossessions. And in Afghanistan, an ongoing drought is leading the United Nations to worry about state collapse — and drawing a reluctant U.S. back into dealing with the Taliban.

For Equilibrium, we are Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Please send tips or comments to Saul at selbein@thehill.com or Sharon at sudasin@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @saul_elbein and @sharonudasin

Let’s get to it.


As Indigenous People’s Day shares billing with Columbus Day, both sides angered

The broader conflict over the newest federal holiday, Indigenous People's Day — which now shares calendar real estate with Columbus Day — is exposing the ongoing conflicts over identity, resources and belonging that still characterize America.

First steps: On Friday, President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE proclaimed that the second Monday in October would become Indigenous People's Day. 

The announcement came the same day that President Biden restored environmental protections to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both sacred to Native peoples and both drastically reduced in size by President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE.

"We must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation and terror wrought upon Native communities," the president's proclamation on Friday read. 

One problem, however: The president established Indigenous People's Day on the same day currently listed as Columbus Day.  

This recognizes what is in much of the country a fait accompli: beginning in the

1990s with South Dakota (home to the nation's largest Lakota population), states and localities have replaced the holiday honoring the Genoese sailor with one recognizing the peoples who lived in the hemisphere before he arrived in 1492, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Why? His long-term legacy is tragic, but his personal behavior was awful too. On his own voyages to the Caribbean, he and his crew mutilated, murdered, raped and enslaved the Arawak and Carib peoples — acting with such particular caprice and cruelty in their search for gold and slaves that they provoked 50,000 to mass suicide, while Columbus was brought back to Spain in chains to face trial, according to reporting in VoxThe Guardian, and the Rapid City Journal.


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Why do Italian-Americans care about a 15th century sailor? Because for previous generations of Italian immigrants, the sailor’s fame helped reaffirm their place in America.

The first Columbus statues began to go up in 1891, after 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans following their acquittal for murder of a city police chief, The Washington Post reported.

Does Columbus actually represent Italian-Americans? Some Italian-Americans give an enthusiastic yes, decrying attempts to change the name of the holiday even to Italian Heritage Day, as in New York City, the New York Daily News reported. 

But other Italian-Americans say that, however useful the association was at one time, it blots out the actual history of America's Italian community, political philosopher Lawrence Torcello wrote in The Conversation.

Most of these were southern Italians driven to America by the "feudalistic cycles of poverty" Columbus’s voyages, and the expansion of the imperial powers that funded him, helped set in motion, Torcello wrote.

A continuing conflict: That process led to European seizure of Native-claimed lands, both in the past — but also today, many activists argue, in conflicts over both petroleum-based energy and renewable energy.

For example, many of the oil pipelines intended to move Canadian crude to the United States cross — and threaten — Indigenous lands never released by treaty. 

That has led to activist blockades on the Minnesota border, where local police moonlight as contractors for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, claimed by the Ojibwe people, The Guardian reported; as well as along the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia, on land claimed by the Wet’suwet’en, The Tyee reported. 

But it’s also spurred conflict over a proposed lithium mine, which activists fear would trade clean energy and electric vehicles elsewhere for local devastation, National Public Radio reported.

"We can't flush out all of the water from out of here and rip up all the grass, and the sagebrush … and call it green energy," tribal activist Gary McKinney told NPR — a deal that some local Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone tribal members nonetheless feel they can’t afford to pass up

Last Words: That kind of conflicted, painful history of dispossession, exploitation, discrimination and triumph should be familiar to Italian Americans, political philosopher Torcello wrote.

It gives them "reason to stand in solidarity with indigenous groups as they reclaim histories that were previously expunged," he concluded.

Afghans face ‘worst drought’ in more than 30 years, amid economic crisis

Extreme drought is compounding a long-running economic crisis made worse by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan — gutting agricultural income for farmers and inflating food bills for city dwellers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

One farmer, Niamatullah, told the Journal that he stuck out nearly two decades of conflict, while growing beans, wheat and corn as war raged around him. But last month the weather finally forced his family to flee, he said.

“Our children are crying because there is nothing to eat,” Niamatullah said.

“Worst drought” in decades: Drought is threatening the livelihood of up to 9 million Afghans in 25 of the country’s 34 programs, the Journal reported, citing United Nations estimates.

With 14 million people — more than one-third of the entire Afghan population — already in a food-security crisis, this year’s harvest is expected to be 15 percent below average, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said, according to the Journal.

It’s “the worst drought in 35-36 years,” Richard Trenchard, FAO country director for Afghanistan, told the Journal. “Many public institutions …  have ceased to function.” 

Children at risk of malnutrition, disease: On a trip to Afghanistan last week, UNICEF deputy executive director Omar Abdi said in a news release that he met dozens of children suffering from potentially life-threatening acute malnutrition, while others endured severe outbreaks of measles and watery diarrhea.

Abdi called for increased access to basic health care, immunization, nutrition and water and sanitation for children, while stressing the importance of continuing education programs for both boys and girls.

A future disaster? Although only about 12 percent of Afghanistan’s land is suitable for agriculture, around 80 percent of the population depends on farming for survival, the Journal reported, citing Sanim Hoshmand, a former climate negotiator under the country’s National Environment Protection Agency.

“If the drought continues, and political instability continues, the future will be a disaster,” Hoshmand told the Journal.


Compounding crises: When the Taliban overthrew the previous Afghan government, the U.S. and other countries froze some $9 billion in Afghan central-bank assets, which then spurred a large swath of the country’s professionals to flee, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has yet to present a plan as to how the new government will create jobs or provide economic support to the populations — which farmers have said could lead to civil unrest, the Journal reported.

“We will wait for six months,” one farmer in an arid region west of Kabul told the Journal. “If things don’t get better, we will stand against the Taliban.”

A call for international aid: Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, urged world leaders to provide promised aid to Afghanistan on Saturday, in order to thwart the burgeoning economic crisis, Reuters reported.

The Taliban, meanwhile, said on Sunday that the U.S. had agreed to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, without recognizing the political leadership of the country’s new rulers, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The U.S. statement, however, was less clear, conveying that the two sides had “discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” according to the AP. 

Baloch said $600 million in humanitarian assistance is needed in the next few months, but only 35 percent of that has been fulfilled by international donors, according to Reuters.

Last words: The impacts of an increase in “Afghan suffering” could spread outside the region, “ not only to countries like Pakistan and Iran that have been generous hosts of refugees for decades, but beyond," Baloch told Reuters.



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Monday Miscellanies

In rare conservation win, tigers rebound in Northeast China 

  • With the United Nations Biodiversity Conference going on today in Kunming, China, there is some good news for the country’s Amur — or “Siberian” — tigers, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • While the big cats have been driven extinct across Southeast Asia, their numbers are at 55 and climbing in Northeast China, thanks to habitat protection and anti-poaching campaigns — still critically endangered, but recovering.
  • On Friday, a Chinese policy paper promised to enshrine 1 million square as “priority areas for biodiversity protection” — nearly a quarter of the country, and an area four times the size of Texas. 

Parents stocking backpacks with air quality monitors to mitigate coronavirus risk

  • Parents are equipping their children’s backpacks with what The New York Times described as a “hot new back-to-school accessory” — an air quality monitor, to determine whether their school buildings are sufficiently ventilated. 
  • The portable carbon dioxide monitors give parents a quick way to determine how much fresh air is flowing through the school: low levels of CO2 indicate that the building is well-ventilated, reducing a child’s risk of catching coronavirus, according to the Times. 
  • That gives parents data they can use: when one Philadelphia mom observed a rise in lunchtime CO2 levels in the cafeteria rose to nearly double those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she took her data to the principal and asked that students eat outside, the Times reported.
  • Some schools have integrated monitors into their pandemic precaution protocols — New York City has already distributed such devices and the British government has announced plans to do so as well, according to the Times.

Surfers celebrate Huntington Beach reopening after spill, but economic losses may continue

  • Southern Californian surfers celebrated on Sunday night, following an announcement that Huntington Beach — contaminated after an undersea pipeline leaked crude oil into the ocean last week — would reopen on Monday, the AP reported. 
  • Since the spill, residents have been permitted to walk along the sand but were forbidden from the shoreline and the water — meaning that popular surfing and swimming shops in the area were closed and took a big economic hit, according to the AP. 
  • The owner of “Let’s Go Fishing” on the pier told the AP that sales had halved since the spill, while the owner of the shop Zack’s said he had to close three of his four locations and that business dropped 90 percent without surf lessons.
  • “It could be a year to two years to get the tourism to come back,” the owner, Mike Ali, told the AP, noting that a 1990 spill caused tourists to opt for beaches south and north of the city.


Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you on Tuesday.