2019
May
15
Wednesday

The plan seemed like something out of “Oliver Twist,” circa 2019. Students in Rhode Island’s Warwick School District who could not pay for lunch would instead be given cold “sun butter and jelly” sandwiches (whatever those are). There is no word on whether those wanting seconds would be greeted by hair-netted servers yelling “More?”

Nobody likes solutions like these. At its worst, it becomes “lunch-shaming” – turning kids who can’t afford food into objects of derision. Elsewhere, students who can’t pay for lunch have had to wear wristbands or get hand stamps.

An article in The New Food Economy, however, shows the other side. Lunch debt is becoming a major concern as cash-strapped public schools struggle to meet budgets. What should they do?

In Warwick, the $77,000 deficit has prompted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from parents and philanthropists – including nearly $50,000 from yogurt-maker Chobani, NPR reports. “No child should be facing anything like this,” said CEO Hamdi Ulukaya in a tweet.  

At the moment, donations seem to be the only answer. The broader question is about what we expect a public education to provide. In many districts, teachers are paying for snacks and supplies out of their own salaries. How does food fit into that calculus? Says one expert to The New Food Economy: “School meals are just as important to student success as textbooks and teachers in the classroom.”

Now on to our five stories. They include a look at China’s emerging vision for Hong Kong, a Belize reef that could help save other reefs, and a different kind of memoir on race in America. 

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1. With ‘kindness not brutality,’ Joe Biden woos Obama Democrats

While young progressives get most of the headlines (from both the right and the left), more Democratic voters resemble Joe Biden: older centrists. In New Hampshire, voters say his calls for unity resonate in a deeply divided country.

Mark
Brian Snyder/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, May 13.

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What is the appeal of Joe Biden, a two-time presidential candidate who is going for his third try at 76? Put more bluntly, how could an avuncular white man who talks about consensus-building be whupping all 21 of his rivals at a time when liberals put such emphasis on freshness, diversity, and progressive ideals?

For New Hampshire voters who came out to see him this week, it’s pretty simple: He’s tough enough to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump, but is also someone who can help bring America together again. “One thing I like about Joe Biden is he has this red-blooded American [demeanor] that might appeal to Trump voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary in 2016,” says Lisa Coté, an ACLU volunteer who attended a campaign event at Manchester Community College on Monday night.

Carol Miller sees another side of him. “We need to bring back humanity. … We need somebody who brings kindness, not brutality,” says Ms. Miller, who says she cries when she watches the news every night. “[Mr. Biden] is definitely the unifier.”

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With ‘kindness not brutality,’ Joe Biden woos Obama Democrats

A full hour before Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at Manchester Community College, the only parking spaces left are way in the back of the lot, behind the welding shop. The neon letters on the school’s electronic sign trumpet through the darkness and drizzle: WELCOME TO NEW HAMPSHIRE JOE BIDEN.

Inside, the gymnasium is overflowing with checkered plaid shirts and fleece jackets, with teachers and geologists, bikers and firefighters, and people who drove an hour and a half from Republican enclaves where they don’t dare reveal their Democratic leanings.

As Mr. Biden steps up to the mic, ear-piercing whistles ricochet around the gym. “You know in your gut, this is the most important election you’ve ever voted in,” he tells the crowd.

Three African American teenagers in the back zoom in on him with their smartphones. For these teens, it will be the first election they’ve ever voted in. And they can’t wait to cast ballots for the former vice president who served alongside Barack Obama.

“Being a person of color, I’d definitely like to see someone like Kamala Harris [win]. But there will be a time,” says Layla Mohseni of Boston, who remembers watching President Obama’s inauguration when she was 7, and still has an Obama-Biden sticker on her smartphone.

Why not Senator Harris this time?

“I think [Mr. Biden] is the guy,” she says simply, though adds that it would be “ideal” if Ms. Harris became his running mate, a suggestion that has been gaining momentum among some Democrats as a way to combine experience and freshness, continuity and diversity, electability and possibility.

Since announcing his candidacy late last month, Mr. Biden has skyrocketed in the polls – to the surprise of Washington pundits, many of whom had predicted his first day on the trail might wind up being his best.

His front-runner status can be attributed in part to the strong support he’s getting from African American voters. But it’s not only that.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
Munira Ahmed (l.) extends her hand to Joe Biden as Ayan Ahmed (c.) finishes a handshake after a campaign speech at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire. They drove up from Boston with Layla Mohseni (center left), who remembers watching Barack Obama’s inauguration when she was 7 and is eager to cast her first vote for Mr. Biden.

While it may have seemed that candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were pulling the Democrats inexorably to the left, Mr. Biden’s calls to unify a deeply divided country appear to be resonating with many voters whose No. 1 priority is ending what they see as a dangerous presidency that is corroding American democracy.

“One thing I like about Joe Biden is he has this red-blooded American, ‘badass grandpa’ [demeanor] that might appeal to Trump voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary in 2016,” says Lisa Coté, an ACLU volunteer. Even though she personally has reservations about Mr. Biden, she says, “It’s going to come down to people who didn’t vote or who regret voting for Trump.”

The 2016 election came down to fewer than 80,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where Donald Trump eked out razor-thin victories thanks in part to the support of blue-collar Democrats who surprised many by throwing in their lot with the New York billionaire. 

Appeal to blue-collar Midwesterners

Before Mr. Biden entered the race, skeptics wondered if there was any room left in the Democratic Party for someone like him – someone who’s been in Washington longer than Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been alive, with a long list of controversial positions in his past, from his opposition to busing in the ’70s to his role chairing the Clarence Thomas hearings in the ’90s. Even though he had been VP under the country’s first African American president, he was too middle of the road, too willing to work with Republicans, too out of touch with the woke millennial masses and the party’s progressive transformation. And yes, a bunch of people thought he was too touchy-feely to survive in the era of #MeToo.  

But Mr. Biden’s rise in the polls over the past few weeks suggests they were wrong. He was already the most popular Democratic candidate when he entered the race on April 25, but he has since more than tripled his margin of advantage over his closest competitor – Senator Sanders – from 4 points to 20 points, according to Morning Consult.  

That likely reflects the fact that the party’s voters as a whole are not nearly as left-wing as its most activist standard-bearers. In a January poll, Democrats were offered a variety of labels and allowed to choose up to three. The most popular label? “Obama Democrat,” with 25%. Only 7% chose Socialist or Democratic Socialist. 

Mr. Biden, who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is banking on the votes not of liberal elites in Washington, but of average people who yearn not only for more comfortable financial circumstances but also a deeper sense of dignity and pride.

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters during a campaign stop at The Works in Concord, New Hampshire, May 14.

In the Manchester gymnasium on Monday night, he starts to roar as he talks about restoring the working class in America.

“YOU BUILT THIS COUNTRY,” he bellows. American workers are three times more productive than in Asia, he says. We have more great research universities and labs than any other country, and you own them – you pay taxes for them, says the former vice president, who once described the United States to China’s Xi Jinping in one word: possibilities.

“What are we doing? We’re walking around with our heads down, like ‘Woe is me,’” he said, sending the crowd into wild cheers. “The only thing that can tear America apart is not another country, it’s America itself. … So get up, and let’s take back this country!”

“You tell ’em Joe!” whoops a well-dressed man in the back, accompanied by more whistling. It’s Dick Swett, a former New Hampshire congressman and ambassador who sees in Mr. Biden a youthful enthusiasm that belies his age.

“If we’re going to win this election, we’ve gotta be enthusiastic,” Mr. Swett says afterward. “We need wisdom that comes with age, we need energy that comes with attitude, not just youth.

Oldest president ever inaugurated?

Many voters who came out to see Mr. Biden brushed off concerns about the fact that if elected, he would be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78 years old. (Senator Sanders would be 79.) He also would bring more experience in government than any other president-elect, according to a CNN analysis.

“I have a lot of friends in their late 70s and early 80s and they are still vigorous, active, bright,” says Carol Martell, who showed up the next morning for a Biden house party in Nashua, New Hampshire. “[Mr. Biden] doesn’t think old.”

Still, a recent Gallup poll found that voters were more comfortable voting for a Muslim, a gay or lesbian, an African American, or a woman – just about anyone except a socialist – than they were for someone over the age of 70. 

Some voters notice that he sometimes trips over his words or interrupts himself and doesn’t finish his sentences. Maybe it’s the result of a campaign aide’s mandate to stop rambling, they muse. Or maybe it’s just the miserably cold drizzle.

“He looks better today,” says Mike Marsh, who also saw him in Manchester last night, close up, from just under the teleprompters. “There’s more color in his face.”

He and his friend Robert Schepis, who saw Mr. Biden Monday morning in Hampton, both agree his performance today was better.

“Everybody knows who Trump is. We gotta know who we are,” booms Mr. Biden, his voice carrying out into the New Hampshire woods, where damp oak leaves still lay compressed from the winter snows and the new buds were barely beginning to unfurl in bright greens and reds. “We choose hope over fear. We choose truth over lies. We gotta choose unity over division.”

More than 200 people turned out, despite the wintry weather, with cars lining both sides of the neighborhood’s streets for nearly half a mile and boots tromping all over the hosts’ beautifully landscaped backyard. There were immigrants and Bernie supporters and a woman in a blue headscarf and a man in a blue knitted kippa; longtime New Hampshire residents who had never come to such an event; and a high school student who asked what Mr. Biden would do to keep him and his sister safe from school shootings, then grabbed a hug in front of the whole crowd before he had to dash back to school for English class.

As people started trickling back to their cars, Chris Miller was glowing.

“We need to bring back humanity. … We need somebody who brings kindness, not brutality,” says Ms. Miller, who says she cries when she watches the news. “[Mr. Biden] is definitely the unifier.”

“I think Trump is in for a very rude awakening.”

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2. As US-China trade war ramps up, how will it affect you?

There’s a lot of breathlessness and opining about what the U.S.-China trade battle means. Here’s a look at what is actually being affected and how.

Mark

American trade complaints against China aren’t new, but tensions over them could rattle the world economy as never before. President Donald Trump last week moved to jack up U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports, complaining that President Xi Jinping had backtracked on Beijing’s pledges to address things like corporate subsidies and intellectual property theft. China is retaliating with penalties of its own.

Cutting a deal would make economic sense for both sides, experts say. Now that feels miles of negotiation away. The average U.S. tariff on Chinese imports will now be 18%, up from 3% in 2017, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. By July that level could be 28% under U.S. plans to include things like cellphones, computers, toys, and shoes in the penalties.

“Pain is already being felt” by consumers and manufacturers in both nations, says trade expert Jacqueline Varas at the conservative American Action Forum in Washington. “Businesses are reporting a hard time finding materials; prices are being raised.” She sees valid trade concerns to address but argues the U.S. should try other channels that do less damage than tariffs to the global economy. – Mark Trumbull

SOURCE: Fung Business Intelligence and Bloomberg (drawing on US International Trade Commission data); Peterson Institute for International Economics; U.S. Census and Bureau of Economic Analysis
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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3. Global city or Chinese city? Hong Kong fears balance is tipping

Hong Kong has long been more than a hub for trade and finance. In many imaginations, the “fragrant harbor” represents the quintessential world city – and a test of where the wind is blowing in Beijing.

Mark

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In 1997, Britain handed Hong Kong back to mainland China after 155 years of colonial rule. But the territory wouldn’t exactly become a Chinese city, the countries’ agreement stipulated – not yet. Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong was promised relative autonomy for at least 50 years, until 2047.

But to many Hong Kongers, signs of change are all around: from the increased emphasis on Mandarin Chinese, not their native Cantonese, to massive infrastructure projects better linking them to the mainland. Most significant are perceived encroachments on Hong Kong’s judicial independence. And that’s how many see a proposal to make it easier to extradite offenders, including to the mainland.

The bill has prompted Hong Kong’s largest protests since the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and even sparked a scuffle in the local legislature last week. Critics worry the plan could sap Hong Kong’s strength as an international financial center. But they also fear political consequences and say one more piece of the distinctly global city’s special status is being chipped away.

“I believe that come 2047, all the buffer will be gone,” says Lau Sai-leung, a political commentator, at a protest on a drizzly day. “The extradition bill is a crucial step along the way.”

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Global city or Chinese city? Hong Kong fears balance is tipping

It was a sight Hong Kongers aren’t used to: legislators clambering over each other and the press corps, grabbing at the microphone as security struggled to restrain them. At the center of the commotion, a desperate voice asked for someone to second a nomination.

The city’s legislature descended into scuffles May 11 over a government attempt to amend its extradition laws. The former British colony of 7.4 million people, which reverted to Chinese control in 1997, does not have extradition arrangements with mainland China, Macau, or Taiwan, among others. But that may not matter if the local government succeeds with its proposal allowing Hong Kong’s chief executive – elected by a predominantly pro-Beijing committee of 1,200 people – to order offenders’ extradition to territories with which the island has no rendition agreement.

For weeks, pro-democracy legislators have fought – literally, last Saturday – to delay the bill’s progress, knowing they lack the votes to stop its passage. But the proposal has also spurred Hong Kongers’ largest show of force since pro-democracy rallies in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement.

Many in and outside Hong Kong worry that the law could sap the city’s strength as an international financial center that has stood shoulder to shoulder with New York and London. But critics also fear the long-term political consequences, seeing the extradition bill as a heavy-handed way to chip away one more piece of the distinctly global city’s special status.

At the first demonstration, on a drizzly day in March, protesters shouted slogans like “People to the mainland extradite, turns Hong Kong into a black site” and called the law the “Send to China Bill” – a play on words that sounds, in Cantonese, like the term for funerals. In late April, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets.

“The Hong Kong government wants to serve the totalitarian regime on the mainland and disregard our status as an international city,” said K.P. Kwok, a teacher attending the first march. “This will turn Hong Kong into a mainland city.”

Hong Kong operates under the “one country, two systems” framework with China, which grants it a high degree of autonomy until at least 2047 – the 50th anniversary of the handover. The city has its own currency, passports, and legal system and is a member of the World Trade Organization in its own right. 

But signs of the mainland’s growing influence are ubiquitous, from the spread of Mandarin Chinese (rather than most residents’ native Cantonese) to sky-high rents driven up, in part, by mainland buyers. In the past year alone, two multibillion-dollar projects that better connect Hong Kong to China’s southeast Guangdong province were inaugurated, making closer ties seem inevitable. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, completed in October, forms a road link through the Pearl River Delta. One month before that, the high-speed rail terminus was opened, plugging Hong Kong into the rest of the country’s rail network.

Both projects are part of an ambitious Chinese plan to knit together Hong Kong, Macau, and eight mainland cities, creating a “Greater Bay Area” to eventually compete with Silicon Valley.

“Integrating [Hong Kong] into the Greater Bay Area will gradually remove the barriers accorded by the ‘one country, two systems,’” says Lau Sai-leung, a political commentator attending the march. “I believe that come 2047, all the buffer will be gone. The extradition bill is a crucial step along the way.”

Competing vision of law

The Hong Kong government claims the proposed bill closes a loophole in existing laws that must be urgently closed so that a Hong Kong man accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan may face trial there. Critics say the so-called loophole was intentional, to protect Hong Kongers from the yawning gap between mainland laws and their own common-law system, and that suspects cannot be guaranteed a full and fair trial on the mainland.

Hong Kong ranks 16th globally in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, the mainland 82nd. The Chinese criminal justice system is known for arbitrary detentions, forced confessions, and other rights-violating practices. Strengthening the Communist Party takes precedence over strengthening rule of law, President Xi Jinping emphasized in remarks published this year, vowing not to follow “the West’s path of ‘constitutionalism,’ ‘separation of powers,’ and ‘judicial independence.’ ”

The Hong Kong bill, which also makes crimes such as bribery and fraud liable for extradition, has attracted unusually public dissent from business groups. Entrepreneurs are worried about the retroactive effect of the law, Felix Chung, leader of the Liberal Party, explained at a forum hosted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association. He noted that, for many businesses, “small-scale bribery” has been the norm when dealing with mainland counterparts.

Following criticism, the government removed nine crimes from the list for which suspects could be extradited. But that hasn’t won over the skeptics.

“There are so many land mines,” says Rosalind Lee, a businesswoman and accountant. For instance, accountants may worry about being tried on the mainland for accounting fraud based on false data provided by mainland firms. She will avoid mainland-related accounting work if the bill is passed, she says, “but how much room for survival does that leave us with?”

China’s political clout beyond its borders is growing, aided by massive investments like the Belt and Road Initiative, stretched across three continents. Recent years have seen Beijing accused of kidnapping a Hong Kong-based bookseller with Swedish citizenship in Thailand, ferrying the son of a Chinese human rights lawyer from Myanmar, and pressuring the government of Malaysia to extradite ethnic Uyghurs, a million of whom are believed to be locked up in internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province in the name of “fighting extremism.”                 

The ‘best gateway to China’

For many observers, the bill debate extends beyond Hong Kongers’ rights to the future of a cosmopolitan hub whose own government has marketed it as “Asia’s World City.”

“Hong Kong’s international reputation for the rule of law is its priceless treasure,” reads a statement from the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which said the bill will reduce Hong Kong’s appeal for international companies.

Britain, Canada, the European Union, and the U.S. have all expressed concern about the government’s proposal. The U.S. State Department warned in an April 25 statement that Hong Kong’s “long-established special status in international affairs” is at risk with the continued erosion of “one country, two systems.”

“The global community will turn their backs on Hong Kong if this is passed,” says lawmaker Dennis Kwok, adding that foreign officials have warned him about “serious consequences for Hong Kong as an international city if countries revoke their bilateral agreements.” For example, the U.S. treats the city as a separate customs territory from China under the Hong Kong Policy Act.

Those changes could carry consequences for Beijing as well. Leo Goodstadt, an economist who advised the last governor of Hong Kong before the handover and has written extensively about Hong Kong, notes that Chinese leaders from Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai (the first premier) to President Xi have said China needs Hong Kong to succeed thanks to its respected legal system, mature financial institutions, and talented workforce. The city is ranked the world’s 7th most competitive economy in the last World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, while China is 28th.

For international companies, Hong Kong is “the best gateway to China,” he says. “It has the capacity for knowing exactly what the Chinese government and economy want without demanding anything back politically.”

Ms. Lee, the accountant, says the biggest worry for her and others is Hong Kong’s status as a world city, if local laws grow more like Beijing’s.

“What, then, is still special about Hong Kong?” she asks.

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4. Reef restored: How Belize saved its beloved coral

A biodiversity superstar, coral reefs worldwide are under tremendous threat. In Belize, bold efforts to change environmental laws and replant coral helped save its reefs from extinction, providing a model for others. 

Mark
Chris Iovenko
A diver inspects coral off the coast of Laughing Bird Caye in Belize. A decade ago, Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System was in such decay that UNESCO added it to its List of World Heritage in Danger. But thanks to a multipronged conservation effort, the reef is once again thriving.

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One of the most biodiverse systems on the planet, reefs are home to roughly a quarter of all marine species. Some 6 million fishermen around the world derive livelihoods from the reefs. Reef systems help shield coastal communities from the brunt of tropical storms and serve an important role in tourism. But the world’s reefs are in trouble.

In Belize, battering hurricanes, rampant oil exploration, and unchecked coastal development had ravaged its fragile reefs. By 2009, the downward spiral had become so severe for Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System that UNESCO put the nation’s reefs on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

But then, something remarkable happened. Belize brought its reefs back from the brink of extinction. The Central American nation offers a compelling example of how a grassroots environmental movement can spur governments to enact tougher environmental laws and regulations and how, when properly applied, restorative processes can help coral recover from even the severest damage.

“Belize had a willingness to chart a new course for its country,” says Fanny Douvere, coordinator for the marine program at UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. “It’s an innovative plan that resulted in a landmark conservation success, and it can serve as a model elsewhere.”

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Reef restored: How Belize saved its beloved coral

A choppy half-hour boat ride from the mainland lies a narrow, ribbon-like island ringed with granular coral sand beaches. In the distance, the azure sky seems to meld with the cobalt waters. Along the beach, the gently lapping waves and shallows are tinged brown with native seagrass.

It’s an idyllic setting. But the island’s real draw lies hidden beneath the waves.

Under the clear, calm water, large outcroppings of chocolate-colored elkhorn and staghorn coral are entangled in a pastel wash of coral fans and sponges. Queen triggerfish, with tails like neon-blue sickles and pointed, skeptical faces, mingle with schools of yellow-tailed, horse-eye jacks. Occasionally a marine giant such as a spotted eagle ray or loggerhead turtle swims by. It’s a tranquil, otherworldly scene, like an Impressionist painting brought to life.

A decade or two ago, this scene would have been impossible. Tiny Belize had a massive problem.

Karen Norris/Staff

Battering hurricanes, rampant oil exploration, and unchecked coastal development had ravaged the fragile ecosystem. By 2009 the downward spiral had become so severe for Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System that UNESCO put the Central American nation’s reefs on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

But then something remarkable happened. Belize brought its reefs back from the brink of extinction at a time when coral around the world is under tremendous threat.

As the clock ticks for the world’s coral reefs, Belize offers a compelling example both of how a grassroots environmental movement can spur governments to enact tougher environmental laws and regulations and how, when properly applied, restorative processes can help coral recover from even the most severe damage. What’s more, Belize, with its steadily growing tourism-fueled economy, sets an example of how even small, poor countries can prosper when they put environmental issues front and center.

“Belize had a willingness to chart a new course for its country,” says Fanny Douvere, the coordinator for the Marine Program at UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. “It’s an innovative plan that resulted in a landmark conservation success, and it can serve as a model elsewhere.”

A system in crisis

One of the most biodiverse systems on the planet, reefs are home to roughly a quarter of all marine species. Some 6 million fishermen around the world derive livelihoods from the reefs, particularly in the developing world. Reef systems help shield coastal communities from the brunt of tropical storms and serve as economic buoys for tourist-dependent communities.

But the world’s reefs are in trouble.

One of Earth’s more ancient complex life forms, coral has proved to be very vulnerable to the higher ocean temperatures and increased ocean acidification brought on by climate change. Mass bleaching events along with disease and the increased frequency and ferocity of tropical storms have decimated reef systems. The Caribbean alone has lost up to 80% of its coral reef cover in recent decades.

Chris Iovenko
Coral outcroppings grow on submerged bed-like grids of rebar off the coast of Laughing Bird Caye, Belize. A longterm reseeding and replanting program for Belizean reefs has helped to revive Belize's battered reef system.

In Belize, reefs were being rapidly degraded by both changing environmental factors and human development. Particularly damaging was the depletion of the nation’s mangrove forests, which have a vital symbiotic relationship with the coral reefs. A lack of adequate government oversight, a regulatory framework, or a vision for future conservation exacerbated these problems.

Lisa Carne, a marine biologist, recalls 2001 as the year that could have been the beginning of the end for Laughing Bird Caye.

In 2001 Hurricane Iris hit southern Belize and caused massive damage on land; less obvious was the effect it had on the reefs that line the coast. Fragile reef systems are frontline natural barriers to tropical storms, and as such, often suffer grievous damage from them. Laughing Bird Caye was no exception.

“It was a wasteland,” says Ms. Carne, a California transplant who started the Belize nonprofit Fragments of Hope, which focuses on restoring local coral reefs. “The caye was split in half, the trees were destroyed, and it was washed over with dead marine life. Most local guides gave it up for dead.”

But Ms. Carne wasn’t ready to mourn just yet.

‘Giving nature a boost’

The devastation that Ms. Carne witnessed sparked an idea. What if she could help the reef recover by reseeding and replanting coral beds the same way landscapers replenish flower beds? She eventually founded Fragments of Hope to spearhead this enterprise. It now has some 40 employees and volunteers who, in addition to other duties, develop and maintain coral nurseries at Laughing Bird Caye and other sites in need of maintenance and recovery.

These nurseries are in situ marine laboratories containing submerged grids of rebar (called tables) as well as rope lines that foster young coral until they are big and healthy enough to be transplanted onto coral reefs in need of restoration or replenishment. The focus is to target hardy, thermally tolerant coral that stands the best chance of surviving in the warming marine ecosystem.

After propagating the coral, Ms. Carne’s team transplants them in tightly knit patterns that facilitate cross-fertilization during spawning, she explains.

“Basically, this accelerates the natural reef recovery processes,” says Ms. Carne. “We’re giving nature a boost.”

The first of their kind in Belize, these nurseries have been at the center of the coral reef renaissance at Laughing Bird Caye. However, this remarkable resurgence of coral and its accompanying marine life at Laughing Bird Caye and at other coral reefs in Belize would not have been possible without widespread public awareness of the problem, a buy-in from local communities, and a willingness on the part of the government to reprioritize the reef.

“Typically in ocean conservation, everyone works in specialized areas and they don’t necessarily communicate with each other,” says Dr. Douvere of UNESCO. “In Belize what was so novel and new was that we were able to build bridges between different entities and have everybody to move forward together towards the implementation of the common vision for conservation.”

Reevaluating priorities

Not everyone is jumping on board the save Belize’s reef campaign right away. In fact, as Ms. Carne and her team cultivated coral, legislators had been secretly selling offshore oil concessions. Those secretive deals became public right around the time that the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded releasing 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The environmental devastation caused by this disaster was not lost on the people of Belize, some 50% of whom derive livelihoods from reef-related fishing and tourism. That coupled with the revelation that the government had been secretly greenlighting unchecked oil exploration around their reef served as a turning point in national priorities.

By 2012 environmental organizations had helped mount a public referendum in which 96% of voters supported the restoration and protection of reef systems. The referendum set the stage for reform of environmental laws and regulations, and it created public awareness around the environmental dangers threatening coral reefs.

The government took its cues from this public outpouring and with UNESCO’s help began to work with scientists, grassroots organizations, and nongovernmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund to develop a plan to tighten regulations, preserve mangrove habitats, and enact more oversight of reef systems.

In 2015 Belize’s government began to implement a long-term conservation plan, and in 2017 the government took the step, virtually unprecedented around the world, of putting a moratorium on all oil exploration. In 2018 the government enacted regulations designed to protect Belize’s mangroves and national parks. These actions led UNESCO in 2018 to remove Belize from its List of World Heritage in Danger. The success was the highlight of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage 2019 Annual Report, which hailed the effort as a model for other nations.

Belize’s multilateral conservation plan was developed by the government but also drew assistance from UNESCO and nonprofits, as well as local stakeholders such as guides and tour operators. It was this environment of shared stakes and common purpose that allowed groups and individuals who didn’t ordinarily work together to unite with a common vision for the future.

And that success has given new hope to marine scientists elsewhere who have been documenting the stresses facing the world’s reef systems.

“If the climate continues to change at the rate that it has been then we are heading towards a pretty grim outlook for reefs,” says Andrew Altieri, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “However, you can have an individual reef that is pretty degraded turn around dramatically if you enact the right remedies. We are constantly being surprised by the capacity for marine systems to be resilient or adaptive.”

Karen Norris/Staff
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5. Unfiltered: This author uses humor, honesty to talk about race

Straightforward discussions about race are not always comfortable for Americans. How might cultural critic Damon Young’s memoir, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,’ change that? We sought him out to ask. 

Mark
Sarah Huny Young
Writer Damon Young is co-founder of Very Smart Brothas, now part of The Root website. In his recently published memoir, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,’ he uses personal stories to address institutional racism.

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The very self-aware Damon Young knows his name is not as common as Michelle Obama’s, but the cultural critic says that should not keep people from his new memoir. “What people care about are the connective things that we all share: the angst, the anxieties, the neuroses, the vulnerabilities,” he says in an interview.

“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” chronicles not only Mr. Young’s life but how outside – and institutional – forces affect it. Diving into the encounters, moments, and relationships that have shaped him, he says the narrative surrounding black people is two-dimensional and typically oscillates between trauma and excellence. He is working to change that.

“When America focuses on us, they tend to focus on the two extreme ends of the spectrum, but we have all of this abundance within us, all of this beauty. We talk about love; we talk about pain; we talk about chicken wings and have arguments about which ones are better, flats or drums.” Mr. Young coyly adds, “The answer is flats, by the way. Ultimately, I wanted to create a thing that was authentic and was as true to my experience as it could possibly be.”

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Unfiltered: This author uses humor, honesty to talk about race

Cultural critic Damon Young is known for using his platform to demonstrate and explain the intricacies of blackness. His blog, Very Smart Brothas, was acquired by The Root (an online magazine centering on issues that affect the black community) in 2017 and is a brave exploration of how race, pop culture, and politics all intersect. 

Mr. Young is also a columnist at GQ.com, and his work has been featured in publications like Ebony, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. From the effects of white supremacy to the complexities of colorism, Mr. Young’s voice, observers say, is a critical one when it comes to amplifying the unique and difficult nature of the black male experience. Humor is often his vehicle of choice. 

“[L]iving while black has provided me with enough thrills to make Wes Craven scream,” he writes in the introduction to “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,” his memoir in essays, released earlier this spring. “Whenever I am followed by a police officer while driving, for instance, the theme song from “Mission: Impossible” plays on a loop in my head, and the mental checklist I run through reminds me of [action hero] Ethan Hunt attempting to defuse a nuclear warhead.

‘OK, people. Relax. Stay calm, and do exactly what I tell you. Make a sharp right at this light to see if he’s following us or just happens to be behind us.’”  

“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” chronicles not only Mr. Young’s life but how outside – and institutional – forces affect it. With startling self-awareness, he dives deep into the encounters, moments, and relationships that have shaped him.

“Each chapter in the book, even though it delves into very specific parts of my life, injects larger things into it. There are critiques of masculinity, critiques of patriarchy, critiques of race and racism, critiques of myself,” Mr. Young explains in a phone interview.

The book examines the prevalence of overlapping forms of discrimination, classism, and otherness in the era of Trump and the microaggressions that black people routinely deal with but which fail to make their way into larger conversations. Mr. Young says that the narrative surrounding black folk is two-dimensional and typically oscillates between trauma and excellence. He is working to change that.

“When America focuses on us, they tend to focus on the two extreme ends of the spectrum, but we have all of this abundance within us, all of this beauty. We talk about love; we talk about pain; we talk about chicken wings and have arguments about which ones are better, flats or drums.” Mr. Young coyly adds, “The answer is flats, by the way. Ultimately, I wanted to create a thing that was authentic and was as true to my experience as it could possibly be. That’s what I hope I’ve done.”

From racist epithets being hurled at his family that resulted in a volatile confrontation when he was just 6 years old to disclosing his fears when it comes to raising his daughter, Mr. Young knows that it’s the broader themes that will captivate audiences. 

“I’m not Michelle Obama. ... I’m not Black Panther. No one really cares that much about my biography or where I went to school or how I met my wife,” he says with a slight chuckle. “What people care about are the connective things that we all share: the angst, the anxieties, the neuroses, the vulnerabilities.” 

Mr. Young has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and identity has saturated a significant amount of his work. He says that it is integral in his memoir and only strengthened its message. “I didn’t set out to write a black book. I set out to write a book about me. But blackness is a central part of me. Anything I do or create is black by virtue of me doing it.” 

He expounds on that in an essay about his daughter. “Blackness forces you to love harder,” he writes. “It forces you to entertain the concept of forgiveness and choose whether it’s a thing you’re interested in possessing. It forces your hugs and your kisses and your daps to be tighter and longer, like a book you read ever so slowly because you’re not quite ready for it to end. It forces improvisation to be an immutable function of life.”

Elsewhere he takes on white privilege and how it is perpetuated by the feelings and opinions of white people counting more than the feelings and opinions of those who are not white. “It’s not so much that blacks are thought to be subhuman, although that belief festers too. It’s that the humanity of whites is the only humanity that matters. Their humanity is the standard all other humanities are judged by.”

National Book Award-winning author Ibram Kendi, offering praise ahead of the memoir’s release, called it “unobstructed and unsanitized” and applauded Mr. Young for being brave enough to write it. Still, Mr. Young’s unfiltered, sometimes R-rated, approach is perhaps not for everyone, and even he is anxious and “terrified” at times about the process and how people will react to his work. 

“I write a lot about anxiety and self-consciousness, but I’m a bit more confident than I give myself credit for. I put very personal things into these essays, and it’s been very cathartic and therapeutic.” He adds, “I didn’t think I had it in me to write something so vulnerable.”

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The Monitor's View

The calm for Congo’s Ebola storm

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The world has never faced a mental challenge quite like this. Despite a well-organized global effort to stop an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Congo, including the use of a new vaccine, the numbers have only worsened. If that sounds fearful, you may understand why officials have pinpointed a key reason for the lack of progress against the disease: fear itself.

As response teams have worked diligently to curb the outbreak, local armed groups and politicians have whipped up fears among the Congolese and exploited false rumors. This has led to more than 100 acts of violence against health workers. After each attack, officials note, the outbreak increases.

Restoring trust is now essential to quell the fear. Biodefense first requires a buy-in by local communities. That means greater transparency and consistency in delivering humanitarian aid as well as better communication about goals and methods. Medicine alone is not sufficient.

What’s needed is a cease-fire in the area, perhaps brokered by international leaders and Congolese officials. This would create a calm that might allow health workers to operate safely. Only by loosening the grip of fear can Congo conquer the grip of Ebola.

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The calm for Congo’s Ebola storm

The world has never faced a mental challenge quite like this.

Despite a well-organized global effort to stop an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Congo, including the use of a new vaccine, the numbers have only worsened. Since October, when the outbreak began, more than 1,000 have died. The toll is the second largest in history for Ebola. And the fatality rate is higher than in previous outbreaks. In the past month, the virus has spread only faster and farther in the northeast provinces of Africa’s second-largest country.

If all that sounds fearful and suggests a wider epidemic, you may understand why officials have pinpointed a key reason for the lack of progress against the disease: fear itself.

As response teams have worked diligently to curb the outbreak, local armed groups and politicians have whipped up fears among the Congolese and exploited false rumors. This has led to more than 100 acts of violence against health workers. After each attack, officials note, the outbreak increases.

“The tragedy is that we have the technical means to stop Ebola, but until all parties halt attacks on the response, it will be very difficult to end this outbreak,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.

In a study of Congo’s crisis published in March, scholars discovered that fewer people sought medical care as fear of the disease rose. The fear has stayed one step ahead of the facts. It has also led people to abandon any concern for others.

Some global experts have called for the European Union to send a “white-helmeted security battalion” to the area. They note President Barack Obama sent 3,000 American troops to Liberia during the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Yet militarizing the Ebola-hit area with foreign forces may not be the answer. In fact it may only add to a deeper cause of the outbreak: a general mistrust of outsiders bred by a vacuum of governance in eastern Congo after decades of conflict.

Restoring trust is now essential to quell the fear. Biodefense first requires a buy-in by local communities.

That means greater transparency and consistency in delivering humanitarian aid as well as better communication about goals and methods. Medicine alone is not sufficient.

What’s needed immediately is a cease-fire in the area, perhaps brokered by international leaders and Congolese officials. This would create a comfort and a calm that might allow health workers to operate safely. Only by loosening the grip of fear can Congo conquer the grip of Ebola.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Is life really ruled by chance?

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For today’s contributor, who was anxious at the thought of being at the mercy of forces beyond her control, the idea that God’s plan for all is unequivocally good brought peace and lifted fear of an uncertain future.

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Is life really ruled by chance?

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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It can sometimes seem as though our lives are subject to an unpredictable and chimerical unknown, that things could go haywire because of whatever, whenever. The notion that chance or luck has power to control our lives can leave us with a constant sense of uncertainty. Is there a way to find a more permanent stability and certainty?

One helpful line of reasoning and inspiration lies in the idea that God, Spirit, is the one and only creator. Studying Christian Science, which is solidly rooted in the Bible, has highlighted for me that God’s plan includes only abundant good and freedom for each one of us. As God’s creation, our true being is entirely spiritual, governed by God’s beneficent care. Understanding this even just a little can make a real difference in our lives.

Years ago when I decided to buy my first home and applied for a loan, the situation seemed engulfed in contingencies, statistics, and uncertainty. I felt like a piece on a game board at the mercy of external factors, but I knew – because I had seen this so many times before – that turning to God in prayer would be a guiding light out of fear and fixation on the perplexing circumstances.

Over the years, some of the simplest verses in the Bible have brought me just such peace. One of them is this one, which affirms the presence and power of the one and only God, who cares for every aspect of His creation: “I am the Lord, and there is no one else; there is no God except Me. I will embrace and arm you” (Isaiah 45:5, Amplified Bible).

As God’s children, divine Spirit’s likeness, each of us has all the abundant good that God gives. In this way we are infinitely cared for. This enables us to lay off limiting thinking that accepts chance as inevitable and leads to fear of an uncontrollable future.

It’s not that I was praying specifically to get a loan or a particular house. What I was really seeking was a sense of peace that wasn’t vulnerable to circumstance. So I turned away from the notion of chance as a powerful force in my life in order to feel God’s, divine Love’s, plan of good for me. I also acknowledged that everyone involved in the potential home purchase transaction was governed by this supremely tender and constant divine Love.

One day when I was reading “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, the phrase “Mind, God, is the source and condition of all existence” (p. 181) jumped off the page. One meaning of the word “condition” is a term of an agreement. It flashed in my thought that a key “agreement” had always been in place and was in place right then: my permanent relation to God. God knows me – knows each of us – as His cherished child, and divine Love is a fountainhead of infinite benevolence, exempt from evil in any form. This “agreement” is actually a permanent state of being, fully authorized and maintained by spiritual law.

That was the moment when I felt completely at peace; and there I stayed.

A few days later, I received a phone call that the loan had gone through without further ado. How I loved that home! But even more, I loved gaining a greater conviction that life is not controlled by random forces that are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Rather, life is controlled by God and unfolds precisely according to His direction, which only blesses. Because God, Love, is the only true cause, the only legitimate effect can be good, which is never withheld from one and given to another, but is provided impartially to all.

As we awaken to God’s all-powerful presence and follow His perfect guidance, there is a natural lessening of the fear and uncertainty that hide the power of divine Love.

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Viewfinder

Beethoven’s 5th ... x 50

Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
Ottmar Hoerl, a German conceptual artist, poses in Bonn's Muensterplatz square amid hundreds of Ludwig van Beethoven sculptures made of plastic to mark the 250th anniversary of German composer’s birth.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( May 16th, 2019 )

Thank you for joining us today. With the the Alabama Senate passing a law Tuesday that essentially bans abortion, we wanted to give you a heads-up that the next installment in our abortion series is coming Friday. It looks at the dramatic shift in anti-abortion activism, from extreme rhetoric to a focus on the humanity of the woman, and how that is having an effect in nearby Louisiana.

Monitor Daily Podcast

May 15, 2019
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