Sunday, March 12, 2017

Eastern Washington-This Place Fooled Scientists for Decades

Formed by Megafloods, This Place Fooled Scientists for Decades

Formed by Megafloods, This Place Fooled Scientists for Decades

Picture of Streamlined Poulse Hills near Morango

Remnant of a lost landscape, this island of ancient soil—crowned by a crop of wheat—survived the ice-age floods that sculpted the region known today as the Channeled Scablands.

By Glenn Hodges

Photographs by Michael Melford

In the middle of eastern Washington, in a desert that gets less than eight inches of rain a year, stands what was once the largest waterfall in the world. It is three miles wide and 400 feet high—ten times the size of Niagara Falls—with plunge pools at its base suggesting the erosive power of an immense flow of water. Today there is not so much as a trickle running over the cataract's lip. It is completely dry.

Dry Falls is not the only curiosity in what geologists call the Columbia Plateau. Spread over 16,000 square miles are hundreds of other dry waterfalls, canyons without rivers that might have carved them (called "coulees"), mounds of gravel as tall as skyscrapers, deep holes in the bedrock that would swallow entire city blocks, and countless oddly placed boulders. All across southeast Washington, fertile rolling hills border eroded tracts of volcanic basalt, as if Kansas farmland and Utah canyon land had been chopped up and sewed together into a topographic Frankenstein.

The first farmers in the region named the rocky parts "scablands" and dismissed them as useless as they planted their wheat on the silt-rich hills. But geologists were not so dismissive; to them, the scablands were an enigma. What could have caused this landscape? It was a question hotly debated for several decades, and the answer was as surprising and dramatic as Dry Falls itself.

Tall as a five-story building, this wall of volcanic basalt in Drumheller Channels took shape 10 million years ago as lava cooled, shrank, and cracked vertically. Massive floods later ripped away sections, creating this pillared landmark.

For that matter, so was the source of that answer: a high school science teacher named Harley Bretz. In 1909, the Seattle teacher visited the University of Washington to see the U.S. Geological Survey's new topographic map of the Quincy Basin, a large area on the west side of the Columbia Plateau. He was 27, with no formal training in geology, but when he looked at the map, he noticed a striking feature: a huge cataract (much like Dry Falls) on the western edge of the basin, a place where water appeared to spill out of the basin and into the Columbia River, gouging a canyon several hundred feet deep. The falls would have been bigger than Niagara, but there was no apparent source of water for them—no signs whatsoever of a river leading to the cataract.

Bretz asked faculty in the department about the feature, called Potholes Coulee, but they had no answers for him. Nor could they explain many of the other unusual features of the region. That's when, as legend has it, Bretz decided to become a geologist. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Chicago four years later, changed his professional name from Harley to "J Harlen" to sound more respectable, and in 1922 returned to eastern Washington to take a closer look at the plateau and its scablands. And after two seasons in the field, his conclusions shocked even himself: The only possible explanation for the all the region's features was a massive flood, perhaps the largest in the Earth's history—"a debacle which swept the Columbia Plateau," ripping soil and rock from the landscape, carving canyons and cataracts in a matter of days. "All other hypotheses meet fatal objections," he wrote in a 1923 paper.

Carved by repeated flooding, a horseshoe-shaped canyon called Potholes Coulee lies along the Columbia River. Raging water dropped 850 feet in less than three miles here, stripping away topsoil and eroding the underlying basalt.

It was geological heresy. For almost a century, ever since Charles Lyell's 1830 text Principles of Geology set the standards for the field, it had been assumed that geological change was gradual and uniform—always the product of, as Lyell put it, "causes now in operation." And floods of quasi-Biblical proportions certainly did not meet that standard. It didn't matter how meticulous Bretz's research was, or how sound his reasoning might be; he seemed to be advocating a return to geology's dark ages, when "scientists" used catastrophic explanations for the Earth's features to buttress theological presumptions about the age of a Creator's divine handiwork. It was unacceptable. How did canyons and cataracts form? By rivers, of course, over millions of years. Not gigantic floods. Period.

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So in 1927, after Bretz had published yet another paper about the "Spokane Flood" and the landscape it carved, the nation's geological bigwigs invited him to Washington, D.C., to present his findings—and receive his beatdown. Bretz was game, and explained to the expert assemblage how a massive ice-age flood had carved three parallel tracts of flood channels south of the Cordilleran ice sheet (which covered Canada and the northern United States), pooled in a temporary lake twice the size of Rhode Island at the southern edge of the scablands, and then drained like an overflowing tub into the Columbia River Gorge. On the way, the floodwaters carved the famous Grand Coulee, a canyon up to three miles wide with walls up to a thousand feet high, cut hundreds of waterfalls, washed away entire hillsides, deposited gravel bars hundreds of feet high, carried rocks the size of cars and even small houses, and created a terrain of braided channels across eastern Washington.


Floodwaters scoured this chaotic labyrinth of channels into the bedrock of Babcock Bench, perched 600 feet above the Columbia River.


A wall of basalt at Frenchman Coulee lures rock climbers and shows the shrinkage cracks that formed in cooling lava millions of years ago.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Rivers and streams could not have done this, Bretz said. The landscape bears none of the marks of riverine systems, with smaller tributaries joining into larger ones, forming tree-like, branch-and-trunk patterns. Instead, you see a pattern of braided channels—the crisscrossing pattern that flowing water creates when it makes its way across fresh terrain. The difference between the channels we typically see—say, after a rainfall or on the margins of a flooding river—and the channels in the scablands is simply scale. These are just much larger, and were carved into rock instead of sand or silt.

The key to the rapid erosion, Bretz said, was the volcanic basalt that forms the bedrock of the Columbia Plateau. When basaltic lava cools into rock, it forms vertical hexagonal pillars that have weak bonds to each other. Compared to, say, granite, which erodes grain by grain, basalt can erode chunk by chunk as these pillars separate. So a massive, high-energy flood could pluck apart the bedrock so quickly that a canyon like the Grand Coulee might be formed virtually overnight.

"During the ice-age floods, this entire scene was submerged beneath hundreds of feet of water," says geologist Bruce Bjornstad. The Palouse River, shown here, "was hijacked and forced to follow a new route to the Snake River."

Bretz's research was thorough, and his map of the channeled scablands was so accurate that it's a virtual tracing of modern-day satellite images, creating the immediate impression of channeled floodwaters. But his audience—none of whom had visited, much less studied, the scablands—was having none of it. Bretz's hypothesis was not just "wholly inadequate," in the words of one critic, but "preposterous" and "incompetent." Compounding the problem of his unlikely hypothesis was the question of where all this water would have come from, and Bretz had no convincing answer.

Creating the Channeled Scablands

During the last ice age, 18,000 to 13,000 years ago, the landscape of eastern Washington was repeatedly scoured by massive floods. They carved canyons, cut waterfalls, and sculpted a terrain of braided waterways today known as the Channeled Scablands.

Glacial Lake




Area affected by cataclysmic flooding

For more than a decade afterward, Bretz was on the losing side of a pre-ordained conclusion, as the other geologists who began studying the area concocted one labored hypothesis after another for how the scablands' features might have been created by gradual erosion. Then, in the early 1940s, the other shoe dropped: Joseph Pardee, a geologist for the USGS, reported that he'd discovered strong evidence of a massive flow of water in western Montana: a swath of current ripples 30 to 50 feet high—like the sand ripples that might form in river or tidal water, but made of gravel and orders of magnitude larger. Their source? A giant ice-age lake—Glacial Lake Missoula—that formed when the Cordilleran ice sheet progressed south and blocked the Clark Fork river valley, forming a dam of ice 2,000 feet high.

Behind that dam, water from the Clark Fork gathered, forming a lake with as much water as Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined, stretching for hundreds of miles in Montana's mountainous river valleys. Then the dam broke, and a torrent of water with ten times the combined flow of all the world's rivers barreled into eastern Washington, reaching speeds approaching 80 miles an hour, decimating the terrain and leaving giant current ripples and gravel bars in its wake.


Rich soil called Palouse loess covers the rolling fields of eastern Washington. "This is what the topography might have looked like before the floods removed the loess," says Bjornstad.


A farmer rakes hay into windrows near Moses Lake. The rows follow the circular pattern of pivot irrigation.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

It would take another two decades to win the establishment over, but for many geologists this was convincing evidence that Bretz's flood was real. The impossible had happened after all.

Seeing Like a Geologist

It takes practice to see the world as a geologist does. When I got my first glimpse of the Channeled Scablands more than 20 years ago on Interstate 90 west of Spokane, I was struck by their strange beauty, by the way rolling fields of wheat could suddenly yield to a landscape of rocky buttes. I had no explanation for the terrain, and I didn't need one—I had that primitive eye that looks at rocks and just sees rocks. But when I returned to the scablands with Bretz's story in mind, suddenly I was in an entirely different world.

Plummeting nearly 200 feet, Palouse Falls is a trickle compared to the megafloods that carved this canyon and shaped the surrounding landscape of eastern Washington State.

Standing in the middle of a broad swath of scablands extending from horizon to horizon, my mind's eye could clearly see the floodwaters blasting through, like a raging inland sea, ripping up everything not strong enough to stay moored. Driving through what's known as the Ephrata Fan, a broad open area where floodwaters left the confines of the Grand Coulee and spread out and slowed as they neared what would become Ancient (and very temporary) Lake Lewis, I easily understood why the landscape was riddled with boulders: As the water lost speed, it began dropping all the rocks it was carrying. And when I stood on the lip of the dry falls of Potholes Coulee, looking at this immense canyon with farmland on three sides and a precipitous drop on the other, I felt what Bretz was thinking when he looked at that map a century ago: If a river didn't carve this, what did?

With the flood story in mind, it all seems so obvious—so obvious, in fact, that it's almost impossible to see the terrain and not see the floodwaters that shaped it. Why, then, were the experts in Bretz's day so blind to what now seems like a self-evident geological record? I posed that question to Vic Baker, a geologist with the University of Arizona who became the pre-eminent scablands expert in Bretz's wake, when we met to tour several of the region's features. "It's the mistake people have made most in the history of science," he said. "They forgot that nature has the answers, not us."

"Bretz was making arguments, and no one was going into the field to see anything," Baker said. "They were just countering his arguments with theory." And because scientists are first and foremost human beings, they're loathe to change their theories or their minds because of mere data.

The basalt and granite boulders now littering the Ephrata Fan were carried there by torrents of water that gushed out of a canyon called the Grand Coulee. The largest piece of rock is more than 25 feet tall.

Baker told me a story as we looked out at Palouse Falls, another dramatic cataract at the head of a massive canyon, with a stream running through it that seems comically out of scale, like a toddler wearing a grown man's boots. Sometime in the late 1950s or early '60s, a geologist named Aaron Waters brought one of Bretz's most vocal critics—James Gilluly, the one who'd called his ideas "preposterous" and "incompetent"—to the scablands for a first-hand look. As they took in the sight of the falls and the canyon, Gilluly was dumbfounded by their scale. "Gilluly was just quiet the whole time," Baker said, "and as they were leaving, he broke out into this immense laugh and said, 'How could anybody be so wrong?'" After resisting Bretz's theory for decades, simply seeing the landscape with his own eyes had changed his mind.

Of course, for some of Bretz's most stubborn critics, even eyewitness experience wasn't enough. Bretz's arch-adversary, Richard Foster Flint, a Yale geologist who remained a premier authority in the field until the 1970s, spent years studying the scablands and resisted Bretz's theory until he was virtually the only one left who did. He finally acknowledged the scablands flooding (grudgingly, with a single sentence in a textbook in 1971), but as philosopher Thomas Kuhn observed, new scientific truths often win the day not so much because opponents change their minds, but because they die off. By the time the Geological Society of America finally recognized Bretz's work with the Penrose Medal, the field's highest honor, it was 1979 and Bretz was 96 years old. He joked to his son, "All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over."

It is tempting to see this story as a simple morality tale, with "good guy" geologists lining up against "bad guy" geologists in a battle between open-minded inquiry and closed-minded dogmatism. But that might just compound the error, because it neglects the fact that scientists almost always favor their own theories over others', and rarely are those theories completely right. Enter Richard Waitt, a geologist with the USGS. In 1977 Waitt was exploring the Walla Walla valley in southern Washington when he noticed that one of the 40 sediment layers from the temporary flood lake contained ash from an eruption of Mt. St. Helens. It had been assumed that all those layers had been laid by one flood event—but if only one of them had the volcanic ash, it meant that each of those layers must have represented a separate flood.

"I knew right away that there couldn't have been just one flood," Waitt said. But when he published his findings in 1980, arguing that there had been at least 40 ice-age floods in the scablands, he faced such stiff resistance that he felt like Bretz himself. "Baker and his students were totally against it for years," he said. And the irony for Waitt is that the lines seemed to be drawn just as they had been during the initial controversy. The authorities in the field were invested in a particular theory, and contrary evidence was dismissed without an adequate hearing.

A tower of basalt stands as a testament to the forces of nature that created the Scablands. "The region is unique: let the observer take wings of the morning to the uttermost parts of the earth: he will nowhere find its likeness," wrote J Harlen Bretz, the geologist who first described the flooding that sculpted this terrain.

It turns out that Waitt was right. In fact, subsequent research indicates that 80 or more floods ravaged the scablands near the end of the last ice age. Repeatedly over a two- to three-thousand-year span ending roughly 13,000 years ago, the Cordilleran ice sheet advanced to block the Clark Fork river, a new iteration of Glacial Lake Missoula formed, and then the ice dam broke, each time unleashing such a torrent of water that if it were to happen today, most of Portland's skyline would be submerged by the floodwaters. What's more, something similar might have happened during previous ice ages—meaning that perhaps the most dramatic features of the scablands, like Grand Coulee and Dry Falls, didn't form in the blink of a geological eye after all, but were shaped by catastrophic erosion over an extended period of time. Which would make both Bretz and his early critics right—Bretz about the flooding, and his critics in their skeptical assessment of his timetable.

This wouldn't have come as a complete surprise to Bretz. By the early 1950s he'd noticed that some scabland features appeared to be more weathered than others, and in his last paper on the subject, in 1969, he argued that there had been at least seven scabland floods. But by then the controversy that had defined his professional life had already come and gone. When I asked Waitt about the irony of Bretz's story, he said, "I think if Bretz could have made the argument in the 1920s for several floods, it would have muted the opposition a great deal."

Perhaps it's just as well that he didn't. That sort of neat resolution might obscure what's arguably the most important lesson of the scablands' story—the caution that "nature has the answers, not us." Just when we think we've got nature figured out, we find that among her many powers is the power to confound us, again and again and again.

Glenn Hodges writes about the mysteries of the universe at his blog.

Photographer Michael Melford says his mission is to share the wonders of the natural world with others.

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Beyond Monsanto's GMO Cotton: Why Consumers Need to Care What We Wear - Ronnie Cummins' Blog

Beyond Monsanto's GMO Cotton: Why Consumers Need to Care What We Wear

As the linked article below this article points out, Monsanto's new super-toxic GMO dicamba-resistant cotton is already wreaking havoc across the U.S. But even beyond Monsanto's latest "Frankencotton," there are a myriad of reasons why we need to start paying as much attention to what we wear as we do to what we eat.

We are not only what we eat, but also what we wear. The U.S. is the largest clothing and apparel market in the world, with 2016 sales of approximately $350 billion. The average American household spends about four percent of its income on clothing, more than one-third of what we spend on food.

If Americans are what we wear, then we—even the most rebel youth, conscious women, organic consumers, and justice advocates—judged by what we wear (not just what we say) are increasingly corporatized. The fashion statement we're apparently making with what we wear is that we don't care. A look at the labels in our clothing, or the corporate logos on our shoes, reveals that the brand name bullies, the transnational giants in the garment and apparel industry, reign supreme.

Walk into any department store or clothing retailer. Look for a label that says "certified Organic Cotton or Wool and Fair Trade." Search through rack after rack, in store after store, but you aren't likely to find very many items that are non-GMO, organic and Fair Trade certified.

There are, however, a growing number of online and retail clothing companies and brands, which offer non-sweatshop, natural fiber and organic clothes, accessories, and textiles. These companies include Patagonia, PACT, Under the Canopy, Fibershed, Savory Institute, TS Designs, Maggie's Organics, Indigenous, Hempy's, and many others.  Unfortunately, most U.S. consumers, even organic consumers, have never heard of these socially and environmentally responsible clothing companies.

Given the importance of clothing and fashion in American culture and the economy, there are a number of rarely discussed, yet crucial issues we need to consider—health, environmental, and ethical—before we pull out our wallets to purchase yet another item of clothing or a textile product.

1.Synthetic fibers in clothing and textiles pollute the environment, the ocean, and ultimately the food chain. Clothes and textiles are made from both natural fibers, like cotton, hemp and wool, and synthetic fibers, like fleece, rayon or polyester. Synthetic fibers, often marketed as wrinkle-resistant, durable or easy-to-clean, are industrially produced, utilizing large amounts of energy and toxic chemicals. Polyester, for example, is made from petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel. Rayon, technically "semi-synthetic," is derived from wood pulp and transformed into fiber through a highly water- and chemical-intensive process in notoriously polluting factories.

Once manufactured into fleece sweaters, bath towels or sheets, and brought home by consumers, synthetic fibers pollute the natural environment in the form of "micro-plastics."

Whereas natural fibers, including cotton or wool, biodegrade over time, synthetic fibers do not. Scientists and marine biologists have begun sounding the alarm that clothing and other consumer products containing synthetic fibers (such as polyester, nylon, fleece and acrylics) release plastic-like micro-particles when washed, passing through sewage treatment plants, polluting surface waters and the oceans, where they are eaten and bio-accumulate in fish and other marine life, eventually contaminating the seafood that we eat.

 "[S]ynthetic fibers are problematic because they do not biodegrade, and tend to bind with molecules of harmful chemical pollutants found in wastewater, such as pesticides or flame retardants."

 As Reynard Loki pointed out in Alternet last year:

Finished apparel products contain large quantities of chemical substances . . . many of which are released from garments during consumer washing. This indicates that microfibers are of particular concern regarding their potential to transport hazardous chemicals into the environment. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) receive large amounts of microfibers daily. While most of these microfibers are removed, a significant amount is still released into the local environment. Aquatic organisms throughout the food chain consume micro-plastics and microfibers both directly and indirectly. Within the food chain, these particles have been found to cause physical and chemical impacts, resulting in starvation and reproductive consequences in species. Synthetic fleece jackets release an average of 1.7 grams of microfibers with every wash. Older synthetic fleece jackets shed nearly two times the amount of microfiber than new ones.

If you already have clothing or textiles containing synthetic fibers, and certainly most of us do, please consult the articles below for how you can safely and responsibly wash these garments, by using a washing laundry bag called "Guppy Friend"  or by installing a filter in your washing machine.

But perhaps the safest thing to do is to stop buying clothing and textiles containing synthetic fibers.

2. Non-organic cotton is one of the most genetically engineered, pesticide- and chemically-contaminated crops in the world. Over 90 percent of the cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, spliced with the Bt toxin and modified to survive the spraying of large quantities of Monsanto's controversial herbicide, Roundup. GMO cotton is grown on 70 million acres across the world, including the overwhelming majority of cotton grown in the U.S. India, Pakistan and China. While occupying a relatively small percentage of arable land globally (2.4 percent), GMO/chemical cotton crops account for a staggering 25 percent of global insecticide sales. In the U.S., it typically takes a third of a pound of toxic agricultural chemicals to produce a pound of cotton—that is, the amount of cotton it takes to make one T-shirt. Several pesticides used on cotton are known carcinogens, including Roundup.

Not only do these pesticides linger on the clothes worn next to human skin, but the fish, marine and wildlife surrounding or downstream from cotton fields also suffer from pesticide pollution. Non-organic cotton crops utilize large amounts of chemical fertilizers that routinely pollute groundwater and emit nitrous oxide, the most destructive of all greenhouse gases—300 times more destructive per weight than CO2. Non-organic cotton requires large amount of irrigation water and is typically processed and dyed with synthetic chemicals. Routine spraying of non-organic cotton fields with herbicides such as Roundup, and application of chemical fertilizers, not only kill soil fertility, but also destroy the soil's' ability to properly infiltrate and store rainwater and to naturally sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere.

3. GMO and toxic cotton: You're eating it. Keep in mind that most of the world's highly contaminated cotton seeds and cotton gin trash end up in animal feed (especially non-organic dairy) and in low-grade vegetable cooking oils, purchased by consumers or used in fast food restaurants and school cafeterias. Non-organic cotton is one of the most toxic crops on the planet.

Government regulatory agencies, prompted by large cotton farmers and the garment industry, falsely claim that cotton is not a "food crop," (in spite of the fact that 60 percent of what is harvested by weight ends up in the food chain). This means that super-toxic pesticides and herbicides are allowed to be sprayed, in copious quantities, on the cotton plant. So-called cotton by-products—cotton seeds, cotton seed oil and cotton gin trash—end up being sold and consumed as ingredients in both animal feed and human food. The pesticide residues in cottonseed accumulates in the fatty tissues of dairy cows, and are passed on in the milk and dairy products consumed by humans. Cottonseed oil is routinely laced into a variety of food products, from vitamins to potato chips, and is often addes to olive oil without being labeled. This means that GMOs and pesticide residues from cotton crops find their way into a wide range of non-organic food products, triggering health issues including food allergies, cancer and liver, kidney and immune system damage.

4. Agricultural workers are being poisoned by toxic cotton. Farmers, farm workers and residents of rural communities who work and live in closest proximity to cotton fields suffer from exposure to pesticides, GMOs and chemicals. Many of these agricultural workers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning. Rural cotton farmers in particular lack the necessary safety equipment and training for handling the hazardous pesticides, leading to chronic and acute health issues. Pesticides used in cotton farming have been shown to cause endocrine dysfunction, with farmers in rural and poor areas especially at risk.

5. Millions of cotton farmers in the developing world are exploited in the global marketplace. Small cotton farmers in developing countries struggle financially, unable to compete in the global market because of multi-billion dollar (taxpayer-financed) U.S. cotton subsidies. The result is both economically and socially devastating. Subsidies allow U.S. cotton farmers to sell cotton at less than the price of production, lowering market prices for cotton, while production costs continue to rise along with the cost of seeds and pesticides. Thus, cotton farming in some developing countries is no longer financially viable, due to U.S. subsidies. Developing countries dependent on agricultural production falter economically, as farmers fall into debt. India's cotton farmers are committing suicide at an alarming rate in response to this phenomenon, its once-thriving cotton belt since renamed the "suicide belt."

6. Most garments are manufactured in sweatshops, such as those in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Viet-Nam, that routinely abuse and exploit their workers. Paid less than minimum wage, less than a living wage, and often deprived even of these wages, garment factory workers suffer from unsafe working conditions, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, 18-hour work shifts and other illegal labor practices in an industry that prospers from the dehumanization of its labor force. Women make up the overwhelming percentage of garment factory workers who are forced to work in these conditions under the threat of extreme poverty. Obscured by the maze of global industry, labor laws remain unenforced in sweatshops, while those who sell these garments to consumers claim ignorance of the exploitation from which they profit.

7. Chemical-intensive clothing poses dangers to human health. Skin is the body's largest organ. One of its major jobs is to protect internal systems. But skin also acts as a conduit, a way of entering the bloodstream through absorption. Chemicals and pesticides from synthetic materials and non-organic cotton make their way into human bodies through our skin. If you care about what you put in your body, you must also care what you put on your body. Health issues from such toxic chemical exposure range from headache to asthma to cancer.

8. The dangers of GMO/ chemical cotton and synthetic fibers increase the more your clothing promises. "Easy care" garments are especially saturated by chemicals, such as formaldehyde, triclosan and pre-fluorinated chemicals, to give clothes features such as anti-microbial, anti-odor or anti-wrinkle characteristics. Formaldehyde, used to eliminate wrinkles, static, odor and bacteria from clothes, is highly toxic and known to cause cancer, skin ulcerations, heart palpitations, eczema, asthma and other health issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies pre-fluorinated chemicals—which make fabric stain resistant—as cancer-causing agents. Triclosan is another chemical used in clothing to prevent the growth of bacteria on athletic clothing. These chemicals in "easy care" garments enter the bloodstream via the skin. Clothing containing nanoparticles, often marketed as stain- or odor-resistant, represents a new and ominous health and environmental threat. Nanoparticles in consumer products are neither labeled nor safety-tested.

9. What women wear "down there" is not as innocuous as you may think. Because feminine hygiene products are considered "medical devices," those who manufacture pads and tampons are not required to disclose their ingredients. Bleached and made from the chemical- and pesticide-drenched materials of non-organic cotton and rayon (wood pulp), pads and tampons contain various ingredients that may be toxic and absorbed through skin and mucous membranes. The FDA regulates the process through which tampon materials are bleached, claiming that levels of dioxins (toxic, chemically-related compounds common in environmental pollutants) are at or below the "detectable level" and that such trace amounts do not trigger health concerns. The World Health Organization explains that "dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer." Dioxins are present in environmental pollution, and commonly consumed by humans through food. Alhough new bleaching procedures for tampon materials generate a significantly less amount of dioxins, trace amounts remain.

Cotton used in pads and tampons also contain the pesticide residue from the highly treated crop, as well as genetically modified ingredients. What looks like cotton can also be bleached wood pulp, or rayon, a semi-synthetic material made in a chemically-intensive process. Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare and dangerous illness caused by a bacterial infection from Staphylococcus aureus, has been linked to super-absorbent tampons made of a blend of synthetic materials including rayon. Toxic Shock Syndrome occurs from leaving such tampons inserted for long periods of time, creating both an environment for the bacteria to grow as well as tears and abrasions inside the vagina.  As with anti-odor clothing, tampons with fragrance or anti-odor properties contain more chemicals that may be harmful to health. Safer alternatives to conventional feminine hygiene products include organic tampons and pads.

10. The choices you make regarding your clothing and textiles are not only expressions of style or identity, but are vital to personal health as well as environmental and ethical responsibility. You should feel good in your clothes—good about the way your clothes were produced and made, good about their effects on your health, and good about the way they make you feel. Consumerist culture is toxic in the way it encourages people to constantly buy and replace clothing produced through unethical conditions. It can be difficult to divorce yourself from this toxic culture, to establish your clothing choices outside of this pressure. To not care about clothes and textiles is not the solution. The solution, rather, is to care what you wear. The solution is to care how fibers are produced and processed, to care how your clothes are made, to care what is in the garments you wear next to your skin, and ultimately, to care how you feel wearing them.

It's time to care about what we put on or in our bodies and into the environment. It's time to address the issue of sweatshops in the fields as well as sweatshop factories. It time to Care What We Wear as we consider Clothes for a Change.

Source: Farmers in 10 States Sue Monsanto over Dicamba Devastation

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Sartorial Genius Of Georgia O'Keeffe | The Huffington Post

Hope the pictures make it...

The Sartorial Genius Of Georgia O'Keeffe

A new show at the Brooklyn Museum celebrates how the artist used fashion and photography to craft her persona.

03/03/2017 11:45 am ET | Updated 5 hours ago

Gift of The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Alfred Stieglitz, photo of Georgia O'Keeffe, circa 1920–22, gelatin silver print, 4½ by 3½ inches (11.4 by 9 centimeters).

The great American painter Georgia O'Keeffe flooded canvases with color, conjuring plants and sunsets and lakes with a generous relationship to her palette. At the mere mention of her name, images of flowers surely come to mind, their petals spread open in front of the viewer, each stamen and stigma brushed with heavy doses of gold or pink or green.

Yet images of the artist herself, who was born in 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, are mostly devoid of color. She preferred to memorialize herself in black and white, as evidenced by the astounding amount of portraits for which she posed. In front of the camera ― whether it was held by her husband Alfred Stieglitz or a slew of other famous photographers including Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibowitz and Andy Warhol ― she frequently appeared in monochrome. She was more likely to brandish a cape and bowler hat, accessories coded male at the time, than a floral dress or broach.

"Everyone wanted to redress her to make her appear more feminine," Wanda Corn, a Professor Emerita in art history at Stanford, and the guest curator behind the Brooklyn Museum's latest show, "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern," explained in a tour on Wednesday. But O'Keeffe was steadfast in her style: minimalist, modern, androgynous, deliberate.

Brooklyn Museum / Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Ram's Head, White Hollyhock—Hills" (Ram's Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico), 1935, oil on canvas, 30 by 36 inches (76.2 by 91.4 centimeters).

"She was black-and-white before she met Stieglitz," Corn added, echoing the overall tone of her show. O'Keeffe was no one's muse. Aware of her place in history before it was even set, she sat in front of cameras to take hold of her public persona. She dressed in monochrome, capes and all, to cleverly feed her growing status not just as an artist, but a pioneer of every aesthetic she touched.

"Living Modern" bills itself as the first exhibition to examine O'Keeffe's "self-crafted persona." With a cascade of artworks paired with personal objects from O'Keeffe's wardrobe, the show tells a story of how she evolved beyond the easel. The paintings and photographs and pieces of her closet ― handmade dresses, denim, hats, shoes, jewelry ― reveal how she owned her identity, and her eventual celebrity.

The exhibition, separated into four parts, follows her early rise in the New York art world, where she had her first solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1927, to the years she spent traveling to the American Southwest, a region that would steal her heart, to the career she nurtured after Stieglitz died. The black-and-white custom suits she'd wear to meetings or openings in New York contrast with the chambray button-down shirts and cowboy hats that marked her New Mexico existence. She was rarely photographed in the latter; more often she was seen in the wrap dresses that constituted her signature outfit later in life, with little or no embellishments.

"Nothing is less real than realism ― details are confusing," she famously said. "It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get the real meaning of things." 

Photo: Gavin Ashworth

(L) An ivory sile crepe dress attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe, circa 1926, courtesy of Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton; (M) a black cotton wrap dress, circa 1960s–70s, with an inner garment by Carol Sarkisian, courtesy of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum; (R) dress with matching belt attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe, circa 1930s, courtesy of Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton.

"Living Modern" is part of the Brooklyn Museum's "Year of Yes," a series of programs that celebrate the 10th anniversary of the institution's Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The decision to spotlight O'Keeffe's clothes, in conjunction with an anniversary aimed at "reimagining feminism," was made with careful thought.

Corn has been planning the O'Keeffe tribute since at least 2011, Cody Hartley, senior director of collections and interpretation at the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, told The Huffington Post. Much of the clothing on view comes from the two homes, once owned by the artist, that are now managed by the O'Keeffe.

Would Corn have organized a similar exhibition for a male artist who'd lived his life so strategically through clothing? "Yes, I think she would have," Hartley explained. Of course, the appeal of such an exhibition centered on O'Keeffe, rather than any male artist, is that her clothing ― whether she made pieces herself, commissioned them, or voraciously collected them ― was an extension of her agency in a male-dominated realm. She understood the power of putting on a cape, more often worn by male artists, and staring into a camera. She understood how her personal style, not just her art, could reflect her sincere commitment to modernism. She earned her title, Mother of American Modernism, by being in charge of her identity.

Georgia OKeeffe Foundation Georgia OKeeffe Museum

Alfred Stieglitz, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe at 29, 1917, platinum print, 9⅝ by 7⅝ inches (24.3 by 19.4 centimeters).

The last room of the Brooklyn Museum show appropriately focuses on O'Keeffe's life after Stieglitz, the artist who helped catapult her to fame. Before she died at the age of 98, O'Keeffe had become a beacon for a new wave of feminism, a celebrity reincarnated, at least for the 1960s generation who knew her only as a single artist.

At the end of her life, O'Keeffe was the woman, independent in her career and style, who'd left New York City behind for the freedom and solitude of New Mexico. Living a life close to the land, she dabbled in organic gardening and cooking. She was "prescient" to a new audience of housewives, students and young feminists, Corn said, who weren't so familiar with her early career alongside Stieglitz. They'd later read her interview with Andy Warhol in 1983, or read her 1974 New Yorker profile, or visited her major exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American art in 1970, which later traveled to Chicago and San Fransisco. 

Today, over 30 years after her death, O'Keeffe is still a celebrity. While she never fully embraced the feminism that adopted her as an icon during her life ― "Write about women. Or write about artists. I don't see how they're connected," she once told a journalist ― her ability to move through life unencumbered by expectations, so ready to take control of her image out in the world, continues to garner respect. 

Her face, peering at viewers dozens of times throughout the halls of the Brooklyn Museum, dares you to think otherwise.

Georgia OKeeffe Museum / Gift of The Georgia OKeeffe Foundation 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Ansel Adams, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox, 1937, gelatin silver print, 7¾ by 11 inches (19.7 by 27.9 centimeters).

Brooklyn Museum Gift of Mrs Alfred S Rossin Georgia OKeeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society ARS Photo: Christine Gant Brooklyn Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy)," 1926, oil on canvas, 27⅛ by 12¼ inches (68.9 by 31.1 centimeters).

Georgia OKeeffe Museum / The Georgia OKeeffe Foundation Estate of Todd Webb Portland ME

Todd Webb, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico, circa 1960s, gelatin silver print, 10 by 8 inches (25.4 by 20.3 centimeters).

Bruce Weber and Nan Bush Collection New York Bruce Weber

Bruce Weber, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M., 1984, gelatin silver print, 14 by 11 inches (35.6 by 27.9 centimeters). 

Georgia OKeeffe Museum / Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Emsley suit (jacket, pants, and vest), 1983, black wool, inner garment: Lord & Taylor, shirt, circa 1960s, white cotton. 

Georgia OKeeffe Museum / Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Blouse attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe, circa early to mid-1930s, white linen. 

National Gallery of Art Washington DC Alfred Stieglitz Collection Board of Trustees National Gallery of Art Washington

Alfred Stieglitz, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George, 1927, gelatin silver print, 4⅝ by 3⅝ inches (11.8 by 9.3 centimeters). 

Brooklyn Museum Bequest of Mary Childs Draper Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Brooklyn Bridge," 1949, oil on Masonite, 48 by 35⅞ inches (121.8 by 91.1 centimeters). 

Georgia OKeeffe Museum / Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Ansel Adams, portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, Carmel Highlands, California, 1981, gelatin silver print, 10⅛ by 13⅛ inches (25.7 by 33.3 centimeters). 

"Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern" is on view from March 3 to July 23 in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn Museum.