2021
June
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Monitor Daily Podcast

June 15, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

A bake shop’s customers show a taste for inclusivity

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

The universe probably intends that baked goods and conflict remain diametrically opposed. 

Yet almost exactly three years after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who’d refused to make a cake for a gay couple, sweets have again stirred a clash. 

This time the action was in Lufkin, Texas. It was over cookies. And the local court of public opinion stood with a small baker whose taste runs to full-spectrum inclusivity. 

It began with an innocuous act. Staff at a small, women-owned bakery called Confections crafted some heart-shaped cookies in rainbow livery and posted a photo on Facebook. In came disdain. One response charged that the shop was pushing “gay propaganda.” A customer pulled an order for five dozen baked goods in protest.

The bakery posted again, telling the story. Again came a strong reaction: A blocks-long line of shoppers formed. The phone rang with orders. The shop sold out, then cash donations flowed in. 

“We were so overwhelmed,” co-owner Miranda Dolder told The Washington Post

It was a small June win in a Pride Month that also saw San Francisco’s pro baseball team taking the field with its logo in rainbow colors for the first time, and Congress voting to make Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were killed by a shooter five years ago, a national memorial

For Jesse Roberts, a onetime Lufkin resident now living in New York, it hinted at a kind of growth.

“I was not shocked by the way the bakery was being treated,” he told the Post. “But I was hopeful because of the reaction from the community that came around to support them.”

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A deeper look

In New York, crime spike is top of voters’ minds

Remember last summer’s call to “defund the police”? Top Democrats vying to become New York’s next mayor now are promising more policing. We look at why, and what it means for that city and the nation.

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The candidates in next week’s Democratic mayoral primary in New York – the winner of which will almost certainly become the city’s next mayor – have been sharply divided over how to address the city’s spike in violence. After years of low crime rates, 2020 was New York’s most violent in a decade, and 2021 is on track to be even worse

Relative moderates, like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, would increase the role of the New York Police Department. More left-wing candidates, such as civil rights activist Maya Wiley, want to reallocate funds away from the NYPD.

A similar debate over how to balance public safety and racial justice played out in the 2020 elections, with some Democrats later blaming the left’s “defund the police” messaging for their party’s House losses. As Democrats prepare to defend their razor-thin majorities in 2022, New York’s mayoral race may be an early indicator of how quickly the pendulum may be swinging back. 

“Here we are in the most liberal city in America – but the most liberal city in America depends on safety,” says Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. “This is not a negotiable service.”

In New York, crime spike is top of voters’ minds

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Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
New York mayoral candidate Maya Wiley campaigns alongside Rep. Jamaal Bowman at a campaign stop in the Bronx June 7, 2021. A progressive, Ms. Wiley says she would like to cut the police department’s $6 billion budget by $1 billion. "We aren't eliminating the police," Ms. Wiley tells the Monitor. "We are creating a balance."

Sami Shamlan came to New York 11 years ago hoping to give his family a better life. A lawyer in Yemen, he now spends 10 to 12 hours a day driving for Uber to show his four children “what an American work ethic looks like.” But lately, he’s been losing faith in the American dream.

Crime has gotten so bad in Mr. Shamlan’s Harlem neighborhood that he no longer lets his children play outside. He says he hears gunshots almost every night. And while he hasn’t decided which candidate he’ll support in next week’s Democratic primary for mayor, he’s sure of one thing: It won’t be anyone who wants to “defund the police.”

“The police have just gone away,” says Mr. Shamlan. “I hope it all goes back to normal, because we are all worried about our kids.”

The spike in gun violence represents a painful reversal: Before 2020, violent crime in New York was at record lows. But as the city was hit by the pandemic and then protests against police brutality swept the nation, that progress slipped. Last year was the city’s most violent in a decade, and 2021 is on track to be even worse. Violent crime has not only increased overall, but it has spilled over into previously safe, tourist-heavy areas such as Times Square and Greenwich Village. 

Crime is now the No. 1 issue in the mayoral race, according to recent surveys. The candidates vying for the Democratic nomination – the winner of which will almost certainly become the city’s next mayor – have been sharply divided over how best to address the violence, particularly when it comes to policing. Relative moderates, like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, are running on platforms that would increase the role of the New York Police Department. More left-wing candidates, such as civil rights activist Maya Wiley and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, want to reallocate funds away from the NYPD. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia says New Yorkers are “very concerned” about the uptick in gun violence and hate crimes happening throughout the city. “They really want us to be having serious conversations about what [we] are going to do,” says Ms. Garcia.

With crime rates rising nationally, a similar debate over how to balance public safety and racial justice will likely be front and center in the 2022 midterm elections. After Republicans flipped 15 House seats in 2020, several Democratic lawmakers blamed the left’s “defund the police” messaging for their party’s losses. As Democrats prepare to defend their razor-thin congressional majorities, New York’s mayoral race may be an early indicator of just how potent the issue will be – and how quickly the pendulum may be swinging back. 

“Here we are in the most liberal city in America – but the most liberal city in America depends on safety,” says Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. “The underlying point here is that this is not a negotiable service.”

“We’ve seen the streets change”

Thus far, it seems as if #DefundthePolice is not winning over most New Yorkers. Ms. Garcia received the endorsements of both The New York Times and the New York Post. Although polling has been limited and complicated given the city’s new implementation of ranked-choice voting, which will allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, Ms. Garcia, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Yang have most often been in the top three. 

A former officer who has leaned heavily on his NYPD background and called stop-and-frisk “a great tool,” Mr. Adams has been leading in the latest polls, with nearly half of likely voters ranking crime and public safety as the top priority for the next administration. If elected, Mr. Adams says he will implement gun “spot checks” at bus and train stations and “significantly increase” funding to the city’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. 

“Eric Adams, I like him. I like that he’s an African American male like myself and he’s been in the system,” says Jordan Johnson, buying flavored ice on a street corner in Harlem to combat the summer heat, as sirens wail in the background.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate who is running in the Democratic primary for New York mayor, speaks at a Jewish center in Queens, June 6, 2021. "How many of you are tired of being scared to let your kids go out and play?" asks Mr. Yang, to cheers from the crowd.

“We definitely should not be defunding the police,” says Mr. Johnson. “There were two shootouts just last week.” 

There have been 687 shooting victims so far this year, a 68% increase from 2020. Hate crimes against Asians are up 335% in May 2021, and almost 200% against LGBTQ New Yorkers. On Memorial Day alone, seven shootings occurred across the five boroughs within six hours.

“I am listening to voters, and what voters say is that they aren’t feeling safe right now,” says Ms. Garcia at a campaign stop in Richmond Hill in Queens, home to the largest Sikh population in the city. Ms. Garcia is campaigning on a promise to get 10,000 illegal guns off New York City streets during her first year in office, partly by upping the city’s buyback rebate from $200 to $2,000. She wants to reassign more police personnel to the neighborhood policing unit and increase police presence on the subway, among other measures.

“We need to have neighborhood policing and patrols walking the beat like they used to back in the day,” says Ms. Garcia in an interview, “because we cannot live in a city where we see gun violence go up again.”

Nearly all the Democratic candidates say they’ve felt the change in the city firsthand. 

“In our neighborhood, Evelyn and I, we’ve seen the streets change,” Mr. Yang says. He’s just wrapped up an event at a Jewish center in Kew Garden Hills, also in Queens, during which he proclaims, to loud cheers from the crowd, that “defunding the police is the wrong answer for our city.” If elected, Mr. Yang promises to increase police presence at the city’s 472 subway stations as well as on the streets, while “bolstering the detective ranks” to improve crime-solving rates.

“It’s real,” Evelyn Yang, Mr. Yang’s wife, agrees. “I grew up in Flushing and Bayside, and I have never felt unsafe in this city. Never in my life. And now I do a little dance, like a little 360 spin when I go outside.”  

High unemployment, record homelessness

Experts offer several potential reasons for the recent violence, such as psychological and economic distress from the pandemic and greater distrust of the police following last summer’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The number of unemployed New Yorkers more than quadrupled between March and May of 2020, and the city’s unemployment rate is still more than 11% – three times what it was before the pandemic. New York was already experiencing record homelessness among single adults before the pandemic began, a problem that has only increased in the past year. In 2020, almost 120,000 additional New York City households were added to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Shaun Donovan, one of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the New York mayoral race, speaks to Diane Lucas and her daughter Nzuri at an anti-gun-violence event in Brooklyn on June 6, 2021.

Many activists on the left argue that focusing on those problems, rather than policing, is the best way to lower the city’s crime rates.

“If we actually start hitting at most of these issues, we’ll see that at the end of the day, most of [the gun violence] will be solved,” says Anthony Beckford, president and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter-Brooklyn Chapter. “It is a very desperate cry out for help out here.”

Mr. Beckford is making the rounds at an anti-gun-violence event in East Flatbush in Brooklyn, where community groups pass out food and face masks. Children shriek and chase one another on the playground, while young men compete in a basketball game as four NYPD officers cheer from the sidelines. 

Diane Lucas, a young mother bouncing her daughter Nzuri on her hip, has lived in Bedford–Stuyvesant for more than decade. She says she’s noticed a definite uptick in neighborhood violence this past year. She’s also seen way more homeless people than ever before.

“My No. 1 priority in the mayoral race is having someone who focuses on [crime] prevention instead of what we are doing now, which is reactive,” says Ms. Lucas. “The rise in crime is a response to something: People are struggling.”

Handing out pantry staples and toys, mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan pitches locals on his plans for the city. If elected, Mr. Donovan, who served as U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, says he’d focus on creating “15-minute neighborhoods,” where all New Yorkers can easily access a good education, transportation, and fresh food without long commutes. 

“I know we can have both safety and respect at the same time,” says Mr. Donovan, who has struggled to gain traction in the polls. “A big part of the challenge is that we are asking the police to do so many jobs.”

A false choice?

Most of the candidates from across the party’s spectrum actually offer variations on this same point: Public safety and racial justice don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and police officers could benefit from supplementary support from social workers and mental health experts. 

“We are not going to say there is a choice between safety and violence perpetuated by police officers who go rogue. That is a false choice,” says Ms. Wiley at an event in the Bronx’s Co-Op City, a series of high-rise buildings housing more than 43,000. After speaking to a crowd of roughly two dozen, half of whom appear to be reporters, Ms. Wiley joins in with the Bartow Swingers, a local dance group practicing nearby. 

Ms. Wiley, a former counsel to current Mayor Bill de Blasio, appears to have largely consolidated the support of progressives following controversies engulfing Mr. Stringer and the campaign of Dianne Morales. She recently earned high-profile endorsements from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and has been moving up in the polls. 

Still, even the candidates who are promising to cut funding for the police – Ms. Wiley would cut the NYPD’s annual $6 billion budget by $1 billion, and Mr. Donovan would decrease the budget by $250 million annually for four years – appear uncomfortable with the term “defund.” 

“I don’t use the word ‘defund,’” says Ms. Wiley, pointedly. Mr. Donovan clarifies that he would “reinvest.” 

Progressive politicians need to explain better what “defund the police” actually means, says New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, another left-wing lawmaker who is backing Ms. Wiley.

“We need another entity to respond to mental health crises, nonviolent crises,” says Congressman Bowman, who won his Democratic primary in 2020 against a 16-term incumbent. “Call it defund or refund – meaning, reallocate the resources where they need to go.” Still, he allows, that message may not work everywhere.

“Each Democrat needs to run on their own platform,” he says. “You got to run your own race, you know?”

Can US aid help would-be migrants see opportunity at home?

Talk of curbing migration from Latin America has often focused on social ills in the countries of origin. An emerging emphasis: showing the opportunities that can come with staying put. 

Jeff Abbott
Martín Zapil stands among the lettuce plants growing in one of his plots of land on June 10, 2021, in the village of San Martín la Calera in Zunil, Guatemala. He chose to stay in Guatemala instead of migrating to the U.S.

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Martín Zapil, single and in his 20s, fits the profile of many Guatemalans who head to the United States in search of opportunity. He estimates four of his seven closest friends have left – and he half expected to do it himself.

But his family raised him with an emphasis on working the land, and connecting to their Mayan history. And he has something else that puts his dreams within reach: access to land. After years of planning, he’s built an organic agricultural business here in the western highlands. 

“My connection to the land helps maintain me. ... This is what opened opportunities for me,” he says.

U.S. conversation about halting migrants and asylum-seekers along its southern border tends to center on “push-pull” factors. Crime, hunger, and limited jobs push migrants away from home, while promises of employment, family reunification, safety, and education pull them north. Rarely does the conversation focus on learning from cases like Mr. Zapil’s: those who decide they can build a future at home.

It’s a perspective migration experts say could make or break the success of new U.S. initiatives. The Biden administration has pledged an additional $310 million in aid to Central America to improve living conditions and lower migration, on top of a proposed four-year, $4 billion package.

Can US aid help would-be migrants see opportunity at home?

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Martín Zapil crouches down and examines the lush green leaves of a lettuce plant growing on one of his small plots of land here in Guatemala’s western highlands. Access to this land – parcels that he rents from neighbors and family – has given Mr. Zapil the opportunity to build an organic agricultural business, supplying restaurants and local markets with his fresh vegetables.

And it’s done something else that few in rural Guatemala can claim: It’s given him hope, and alleviated his drive to migrate to the United States. 

“I’m tied down here; these lands have absorbed me and told me living here is possible,” says Mr. Zapil, taking a seat on a nearby boulder where he surveys his onion, lettuce, and spinach crops.

Guatemalans make up one of the largest groups of migrants apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. Many are fleeing rural areas, where climate change and lack of access to land and food have severely limited opportunities to thrive. Rates of chronic malnutrition are some of the highest in the world, racism is rampant toward the nearly 44% of the population that identifies as Indigenous, and corruption is rife, with high rates of violence and crime.

U.S. conversation about halting migrants and asylum-seekers along its southern border tends to center on “push-pull” factors. Crime, violence, hunger, lack of public services, and limited formal job opportunities push migrants away from home, while promises of employment, family reunification, safety, and education pull them north. But rarely does the conversation focus on learning from cases like Mr. Zapil’s: those who fit the profile of someone prone to migrate, yet decide there’s a way to build a future at home.

It’s a perspective migration experts say could make or break the success of new U.S. initiatives.

The Biden administration has pledged an additional $310 million in aid to Central America to improve living conditions and lower migration, on top of a proposed four-year, $4 billion package. It’s an about-face from the Trump administration, which focused on penalizing migrants’ home countries, even threatening to cut off U.S. aid from the region entirely.

As vice president under Barack Obama, Joe Biden played a key role in trying to reduce migration through an aid partnership in the region called the Alliance for Prosperity. Some question how this round of efforts will differ from prior attempts to improve conditions in the Northern Triangle.

Just last week, Kamala Harris visited the region – her first international visits as vice president – and was criticized for telling Guatemalans, “Do not come.”

“The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders. ... I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back,” she said at a press conference.

“It’s not about telling people not to come to the United States; it’s about explaining or showing them why they should stay” in their home countries, says Nicole Kast, head of programs in Guatemala for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The international aid organization, which receives the vast majority of its funding from the U.S., recently published a study exploring factors that tend to decrease someone’s likelihood of leaving Guatemala – like education and training opportunities that feed into formal employment, access to fertile land, and a sense of connection to one’s community.

The U.S. has traditionally looked at migration from Central America “as what are the problems that exist in those countries that are pushing people out, and not from an opportunity or resilience perspective,” Ms. Kast says. She’s hopeful there could be a broader shift in the future to focus on what’s keeping people at home and tailoring aid initiatives accordingly.

“People don’t migrate because they want to,” says Juan José Hurtado, executive director of the migrant advocacy group Pop N’oj, based in Guatemala’s western highlands. “The lack of hope, the despair is something that pushes [migration].” Like most people, Guatemalans want to remain in their communities, he says – if they can.

Jeff Abbott
María and Elena sit in a field preparing onions for market on June 10, 2021, in the village of San Martín la Calera in Zunil, Guatemala. The fields produce agricultural crops for the surrounding area.

Land to dream on

Mr. Zapil, single and in his 20s, fits the profile of many Guatemalans who head to the U.S. in search of opportunity. He estimates four of his seven closest friends have left in recent years.

He half expected to do it himself. Zunil is an agricultural town, where children can attend school locally through junior high. If they want to continue studying – as Mr. Zapil did – they have to travel to a nearby city, making a diploma a sometimes cost-prohibitive prospect.

His father migrated, like many before him, when Mr. Zapil was just 2 years old. The elder Zapil couldn’t read or write, and spent 10 years in the U.S., driven by poverty and a desire to provide for his family. The children’s grandfather raised them, while their father sent paychecks home to put food on the table and keep them in school. When Mr. Zapil was 13, a cousin proposed they migrate north together, and he considered the offer. But his dad had just returned home, and his grandfather raised him with an emphasis on the value of working the land and connecting to his K’iche’ Maya history.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone,” he says. “My connection to the land helps maintain me. ... This is what opened opportunities for me,” he says. “Most youth don’t want to work in the field like their grandfathers.”

His access to land is key to building what he refers to as the Guatemalan dream. It allowed him to develop his company, Sorel Granjas Ecológicas – a project he’s been working on and dreaming about for at least five years. The pandemic shuttered many markets and restaurants, but he’s continued making connections with potential partners.

“Those who have sufficient land to live on will not migrate,” says Mr. Hurtado, from the migrant advocacy group. Some 40% of the 874 people interviewed for the CRS study said they’d been affected by extreme weather and natural disasters over the past year. The impact of droughts and hurricanes on farmers is intensified by what little land is available, with most ownership in the hands of a small percentage of Guatemalans.

Nearly half of Guatemalans live in rural communities, according to the 2018 census. If there’s no land to work, there’s not much else to do. This can drive migration first from rural to urban areas, and then abroad, Mr. Hurtado says.

There’s also the education conundrum. The report found that young people with higher levels of education are also likely to migrate. Their families may have invested in education as a way to get ahead at home, only to find there are few jobs available that tap into those skills or ambitions.

Informed incentives

Studying past aid projects and looking more closely at what keeps potential migrants at home is key to the success of the U.S.’s most recent financial pledge to the region, says Úrsula Roldán, director of a migration research institute at Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala City. She says she and her colleagues plan on doing follow-up research on the CRS report.

Incentives to stay home tend to be more effective than disincentives, observers say, whereas crackdowns at the border or on traffickers only make the trip riskier and more expensive. When potential migrants hear a message like Vice President Harris’, telling them “do not come,” they might “pause for a moment. But it’s just a moment,” Dr. Roldán says.

“More than disincentives, we need more structural changes and alternatives to illegal migration: more visa options for working in the U.S., more attention to what gives people hope for a future at home.”

Mr. Zapil agrees.

“I want to believe in myself and stay,” he says.

Climate conundrum: Tax on emissions is pragmatic but unpopular

A long-touted tool for cutting carbon emissions keeps getting left out of U.S. policymakers’ tool kit. Our climate writer unpacks the political and practical reasons for that.

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In the search for practical ways to curb the emissions behind global warming, policy experts come back to one big idea again and again: If you tax those emissions, businesses and people will find ways to reduce them.

Yet that very policy, a carbon tax, has been notably missing in President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate agenda since he took office. It highlights the roadblocks in the American political system for major environmental action – at a time when Mr. Biden’s goal of including big climate initiatives in an infrastructure bill is also in doubt. 

Despite support in the business community, carbon pricing ideas haven’t found substantial support on Capitol Hill – partly because the word “tax” is unpopular. There are ways to offset the burden, such as by giving taxpayers dividends back after paying carbon-related fees. Yet even a centrist policy like carbon pricing becomes buffeted by the political wings of each party. 

“It has bipartisan support in principle,” says Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute. “But if you actually try to count up Republican members of Congress who have sponsored or co-sponsored a carbon pricing bill that’s currently in Congress – it’s pretty thin.”

Climate conundrum: Tax on emissions is pragmatic but unpopular

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Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/AP/File
Workers listen during a rally against Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed carbon tax plan on Aug. 26, 2020, at the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Local labor, energy, business, and legislative leaders challenged the impacts Pennsylvania's economy could face if the state were to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

During his first months in office, President Joe Biden has pushed an unprecedentedly aggressive climate agenda, rejoining a global treaty, firing off executive orders, and proposing billions of dollars for transitioning toward a clean energy economy.

But one policy has been notably missing from the president’s plans. And it happens to be the one that economists around the world say is the most straightforward way to curb emissions and fight climate change.

This is the carbon tax – or “carbon pricing,” as supporters prefer to call it. The idea is to let markets do the transformative work: When a fee or tax is assigned to carbon emissions, then those who produce or use fossil fuels feel an incentive to produce or burn less. 

The absence of carbon pricing in the president’s proposals, scholars say, highlights the roadblocks in the American political system for major environmental action. It also raises questions about the possibility for bipartisan compromise when it comes to curbing global warming, at a time when environmentalists are worrying that the president’s climate initiatives will get dropped from any infrastructure bill in favor of across-the-aisle dealmaking. 

“One of my takeaways from this is that any climate policy in the U.S. is hard,” says Barry Rabe, professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the author of the book “Can We Price Carbon?”

“It’s why we’ve really struggled with this for more than 30 years,” he says.

Carbon pricing is not a new concept. A number of countries and regions – from the European Union to California – already have carbon pricing systems. But even where they exist, the details are thorny. The taxes often aren’t yet high enough, critics say, to fully reflect the true communal costs of emissions – from floods to heat-related deaths and wildfires. 

“We have perverse incentives,” says Matthew Kotchen, a Yale School of the Environment professor who has studied these communal costs. “We just don’t have the market system there reflecting the true costs.”

 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island arrives for votes at the Capitol in Washington, on June 7, 2021. Senator Whitehouse has supported carbon tax legislation alongside other measures to stem global warming.

Scientists say that in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century – the target amount set forth by the Paris Agreement to avoid ecological catastrophe – countries will need to dramatically curtail emissions. The Biden administration has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to about half of what they were in 2005; this past weekend, leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations agreed to cut emissions by 2030 to half of what they were in 2010.

A carbon price, supporters say, could be one of the best paths toward meeting those pledges. The resulting income from the tax or “price” can either go into government reserves to support other sustainability initiatives or be returned to citizens in the form of dividend checks.

One way a carbon tax could work

Researchers from Yale University analyzed one prominent plan and determined that the proposed carbon fee would, by itself, cut U.S. emissions in half by 2035. This plan, from the bipartisan Climate Leadership Council, an advocacy group, would set a price on carbon and then redistribute the revenue back to American households – about $2,000 a year for a family of four. It also calls for integrating a “border carbon adjustment,” or a way to apply the same carbon price to goods coming from abroad, with the goal of keeping American companies from losing competitive advantage to countries without similar pricing mechanisms.

But this and other carbon pricing ideas haven’t found substantial support on Capitol Hill – or in the White House. At least not yet. Part of this is because even a centrist policy like carbon pricing becomes buffeted by the political wings of each party. 

“It has bipartisan support in principle,” says Dan Lashof, the U.S. director of the World Resources Institute. “But if you actually try to count up Republican members of Congress who have sponsored or co-sponsored a carbon pricing bill that’s currently in Congress – it’s pretty thin.”

The Republicans supporting carbon pricing tend to be former administration officials or out of office, climate advocates say. Businesses are also increasingly supportive, says Hugh Welsh, the president of DSM North America.

“It’s something the business community wants,” says Mr. Welsh, who has lobbied for a climate price system for years with the conservative-leaning Chambers of Commerce, which recently came out with a new position urging market-based solutions to the climate crisis. “When there’s a federal price on carbon it brings clarity.”

And that clarity can unlock investment and business opportunities, says Catrina Rorke, vice president of policy at the Climate Leadership Council. The carbon dividend plan now has support from a slew of organizations and financial figures – including big corporations like ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs.

“Is it greenwashing?”

But those actually in Congress still see little to gain from supporting it, observers say.

“Nobody wants to do a tax,” Yale’s Dr. Kotchen says. 

Meanwhile, on the left, where there is an increasing focus on environmental justice, critics worry that a climate tax could fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes – people who cannot upgrade to an electric vehicle, say, or who, because they are renting, don’t have the option to avoid carbon-intense heating systems. Progressives stand ready to fight over any dividend proposal – saying tax revenue should be focused on helping populations that have suffered unequal harm from climate change. 

But there is a deeper concern about carbon pricing among many environmentalists, and that is the more fundamental question of whether it is possible to address climate change through existing economic tools and markets, or whether more dramatic changes are needed in the way we live and consume. 

Over the past months, there have been a number of new efforts to address climate change through the financial system, whether by creating a uniform way to calculate climate risks in investments or putting an actual dollar amount on the cost of carbon. The idea is that these market forces, if designed correctly, will inevitably push emissions down. Large corporations, from banks to oil and gas conglomerates, have jumped on board with this approach – something that raises eyebrows among some climate advocates.

“We have seen a lot of fossil fuel companies come out in favor of climate pricing,” says Rachel Cleetus, policy director with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And at the same time, they’re continuing to double down on their fossil fuel investments and infrastructure. So it feels a little disingenuous …. is it greenwashing? Is this just some convenient way of claiming the mantle of leadership while not actually doing anything?”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is not opposed to a climate pricing policy, she says. It supports one – but as part of a full suite of climate initiatives.

The result is that a top idea from a pragmatic standpoint has become a political pickle – for even a climate-focused president. Without more enthusiastic support from the left, and without enough growing support on the right, President Biden is likely wanting to avoid the fight over climate pricing, a number of advocates say.

“The Biden administration is trying to answer the political economy question,” Dr. Kotchen says. “What’s the most likely thing to get the job done?”  

‘We still live here’: Native Americans affirm their New Hampshire roots

New Hampshire may not be a state that’s immediately associated with Native American history. We look at an arts-and-events project that aims to shift that perspective and tell a fuller story.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Abenaki artists Sherry Gould and Darryl Peasley stand outside Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, New Hampshire, on June 9, 2021. They founded the Abenaki Trails Project to help people learn about Native American history in New Hampshire and the ongoing presence of Native Americans in the state.

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Darryl Peasley and his friend Sherry Gould started the Abenaki Trails Project in August 2020, not only to correct misconceptions about Native Americans in New Hampshire, but also to verify their long history – and ongoing presence – in the state.

The group holds hikes and paddling trips to explore Native American sites in the area and has worked with historical societies and museums to sponsor exhibits.

Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould are both members of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation. “We want people to understand that Abenaki weren’t just what you read in history books, the murderers and marauders,” says Mr. Peasley. “They helped the colonial settlers also or they wouldn’t have known how to plant corn, how to survive the winter.” 

“I want to prove that not only did we live here, we still live here,” he adds.

Even in its early stages, the Abenaki Trails Project is changing the narrative. “The Native people have always known that they have a long history here,” says Robert Goodby, who has found evidence in archaeological digs of Indigenous people living in the area for over 12,000 years. “This is a way of bringing that presence into the light.” 

‘We still live here’: Native Americans affirm their New Hampshire roots

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For years, Darryl Peasley and Sherry Gould, two friends and members of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, heard stories about various Native American sites dotting the region around their small southern New Hampshire hometowns. 

There was the Indian Tie Up in Henniker, an overhanging rock formation said to have been a site where Native Americans camped or spent winters; a mineral springs sacred site in Bradford; and an old chimney in the woods in Hopkinton rumored to hold ties to Native culture. 

Before last summer, Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould had visited only a few spots. That’s changed since they launched the Abenaki Trails Project in August 2020 and organized outings to explore each site with other tribe members and community partners. The project aims to create a network of sites and art installations that the public can visit to learn about Native American history and the continued presence of Native Americans in New Hampshire today.  

“I want to prove that not only did we live here, we still live here,” says Mr. Peasley, an artist who creates pouches, hats, and dance sticks in contemporary and traditional Abenaki style. He’s mulled over the idea of sharing Abenaki history more broadly ever since he heard state legislators years ago call New Hampshire a “pass through” state for Native Americans, an assertion he and others say is a misconception.  

Last summer, he and Ms. Gould decided to take action. They approached select boards and historical societies in four towns, asking to work together to better document local Native American history. They’ve held hikes, paddling trips, and spoken at community events, and they plan to branch out to two more towns this summer.

On June 5 the Abenaki Trails Project and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association launched an art show at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner. On display is a birchbark canoe made in the traditional Indigenous style by Ms. Gould’s husband, Bill Gould, who is Abenaki, and Reid Schwartz, a local craftsperson. They sourced all their materials, including white birch bark, spruce root, and moss, within a five-mile radius of Warner. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
This birchbark canoe, on display at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, was handmade by Bill Gould (right) and Reid Schwartz, who calls himself a “community partner,” since he is not Abenaki. They tested their canoe in the water and were pleased to find that it floats.

Bringing the Native “presence into the light”

Even in its early stages, the Abenaki Trails Project is “raising consciousness, particularly among non-Native people,” says Robert Goodby, an archaeologist and anthropology professor at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, who was invited to attend several of the group’s events to offer an archaeological perspective. 

“The Native people have always known that they have a long history here and that these sorts of sites exist. For most non-Native people, it’s very easy to spend your whole life living in New Hampshire and never really think about the Native presence here, and I think this is a way of bringing that presence into the light, community by community,” says Dr. Goodby, who has found evidence in archaeological digs of Indigenous people living in New Hampshire for over 12,000 years. 

The Abenaki Trails Project aims to highlight positive relations between historic Native Americans and European settlers and dispel the myth that Native Americans disappeared from New England – or that they were primarily antagonistic toward settlers.

“We want people to understand that Abenaki weren’t just what you read in history books, the murderers and marauders. They helped the colonial settlers also or they wouldn’t have known how to plant corn, how to survive the winter,” says Mr. Peasley on a recent afternoon at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum art show, where some of his handcrafted hats are on display.   

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
This creel basket, made by Bill Gould, is on exhibit at Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum as part of an art show by Abenaki artists.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
This gourd box and ornament, on display at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, were made by Jeanne Morningstar Kent.

Other efforts led by Native Americans in the region are working toward similar goals. In Vermont, the Indigenous Heritage Center recently expanded an exhibit showing the continual presence of Native Americans in the region. And members of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People are involved with an effort in Boscawen, New Hampshire, to update a statue of Hannah Duston, a 17th-century English woman depicted holding the scalps of 10 Native Americans she killed. The group wants the site to include a memorial to the slain Indigenous people, more information about Abenaki history, and an explanation about why the Colonial woman was held captive. 

“Because these initiatives are going on all over New England, I’m hopeful that it will help change dialogue,” says Christoph Strobel, author of “Native Americans of New England” and a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “It’s always a matter of how much mainstream society pays attention. I think Indigenous people – for the last 400 years of New English colonization and 500 some years of other colonization – have tried to make their voices heard.” 

Living in a “dual reality”

One of the highlights of the Abenaki Trails Project for Ms. Gould, a basketmaker, is how enjoyable the exploratory outings are, which bring together Native Americans and non-Native community partners like historians, geologists, and archaeologists. “It’s been a lot of fun,” she says.

Yet Ms. Gould still struggles, she says, with feeling like she lives in a “dual reality” where friends know she’s Native American, but in broader society “a lot of people want to think that’s not true or you’re trying to appropriate someone else’s culture.”

“We’ve worked so long dealing with people saying, ‘Oh, you’re not legitimate,’” especially legislators, she adds.

It doesn’t help that there are no federally recognized Native American tribes in New Hampshire. The Nulhegan Band that Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould are members of is headquartered in and recognized by Vermont.

And only about 0.3% of New Hampshire residents, or roughly 4,000 people, identify as American Indian or Alaska Native alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Another 1.8% of state residents identify as two or more races, which could include Native Americans.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
"Moose in Swamp," by Francine Poitras Jones, is painted on deer hide and framed with birch sticks.

Having Abenaki people lead an effort like the Abenaki Trails Project is important, says Dr. Goodby. “For a long time if something was being said about Abenaki history and culture to the public, it was being said by people like me, by white anthropologists. I think this is a very healthy development.”  

Volunteers with the Abenaki Trails Project are having difficulty managing all the requests for speaking events. At the same time, they have found art installations and historical plaques more costly than expected – and grant funding for them harder to secure than they anticipated.

But the project’s impact continues to ripple out. Heather Mitchell, executive director of the Hopkinton Historical Society, says that seven years ago the society created an exhibit including a paddle trip with points of interest along the Contoocook River. None of the sites included any Native history. This summer, after participating in outings with the Abenaki Trails Project, the society plans another paddle trip that will focus exclusively on Native American points of interest. They’ll also open an exhibit related to the Abenaki Trails Project on June 17. 

“It’s had a tremendous impact already,” says Ms. Mitchell. “It’s contributed to our knowledge.” 

Essay

My little chickadee

Those bold little black-capped birds that visit so many backyards? Our essayist really fell for one, so she forged a bridge – and perhaps a bond – with a little tasty outreach.

Murr Brewster
A pair of chickadees became seasonal occupants of a nesting box near the author’s home years ago. It had long been her dream to befriend a wild bird.

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I’ve tried for years to make friends with a wild bird. So when I heard that various songbirds might accept a mealworm, properly flung from a polite distance, I bought a tub of them. 

I had my sights set on the chickadees living in our nesting box, Marge and Studley Windowson. Every spring, Marge and Studley are suddenly hauling in bugs and grubs every few minutes, all day long. The next thing to come out of the box is new chickadees. But it seems to take a toll. The industrious and dedicated Studley looks worn to a frazzle by June.

And I, you recall, have mealworms.

I cracked the window open and edged my palm out with a mealworm in it. Studley weighed his responsibilities against his caution, then stabbed at the worm and rocketed off. A half-hour later he was landing on my fingers. 

Now I get out of my car and he lights upon the closest branch. He dips over to my hand, his feet as important and small as punctuation. 

I know what he likes me for. But is it love? Does he love me too? 

It might not matter. I’ve got enough love for both of us.

My little chickadee

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I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it.

I’ve tried for years to make friends with a wild bird, and I’m willing to bribe. The crows have been unimpressed. So when I heard that various songbirds might accept a mealworm, properly flung from a polite distance, I bought a tub of them. 

Song sparrows and juncos were likely candidates, but I had my sights set on our chickadees, Marge and Studley Windowson. Marge and Studley have rented our nesting box – it’s 1 foot away from our window – for years. They use it for their spring project.

The thing about chickadees is that none of them veer off the template much. I couldn’t tell ours apart until a few years ago, when one of them showed up with an injured foot. It was pink and swollen and he kept it balled up in his belly feathers. The next spring he was back in business, all healed up and a couple toes short, and that’s when we found out he was Studley, because Marge was in the nesting box, hammering away on the grass mattress, and he was bringing her snacks. That’s the standard chickadee division of labor.

After a few weeks, something changed, and suddenly Marge and Studley were hauling in bugs and grubs every few minutes, all day long, dawn to dusk. Apparently they made new chickadees out of them, because that was the next thing to come out of the box. But it seemed to take a toll. The industrious and dedicated Studley looked worn to a frazzle by June.

And I, you might recall, had mealworms.

I cracked the window open and edged my palm out onto the sill with a mealworm in it. Studley definitely saw it. Studley definitely wanted it. He made feints at my hand, hovering. Then he landed on the sill, weighed his responsibilities against his caution, stabbed at the worm, and rocketed off as though he’d swatted a tiger’s nose on a dare. A half-hour later he was landing on my fingers. 

Studley is a tiny thing: He wouldn’t tip a scale with a peanut in the other pan. I was sure my life had just been made complete, sanctified by the blessing of bird feet.

But if something can get more complete, it did. 

They say there are wormholes in space-time, portals to other universes. I was already smitten, but it wasn’t until the next day that my entire heart tipped into that gravity well. I was outside weeding. When I stood up to stretch, I heard a flibbet of wingbeats, and there was Studley, on a twig 8 inches from my face. He tilted his head, back and forth, sent me one bright black eye, then the other. And I fell through the mealwormhole into Studley’s world.

I wasn’t anywhere near his window. And I was wearing a hat. But he knew me. Had he been looking at me all this time, even as I was looking at him? 

I stand in the garden with my hands relaxed at my sides, and a bird tucks into the cup of my fingers. I get out of my car and a bird lights up the closest branch, and dips over to my hand, his feet as important and small as punctuation. He doesn’t weigh any more than a held breath.

And he’s smart. If I’m inside, he figures out where I am in the house and hovers at that window. He’s taught me his “chip!” note. He lands on my friends, too. He’s an ambassador of joy.

I know what he likes me for. But is it love? I want to get this right.

Many sober voices say all love is self-interest. The sober voices are measured in their assessment. They manage risk. They keep their hearts on a short leash, safe from disappointment.

I choose headlong.

I don’t know just where a love story begins. But maybe love is the name of the charged ether that joins our worlds. I do know I’ve won the trust of the smartest, bravest, most valiant chickadee in the whole world, a world that can feel frantic, grabby, and barren. Does he feel a lift in his little bibbed chest when he sees me? Does he love me too? 

It might not matter. I’ve got enough love for both of us.

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The real US-Russia battle over Ukraine

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When President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, their most hotly contested issue may be Ukraine. Will the United States and its NATO allies decide to defend the country of 41 million from further Russian encroachments by making it the 31st member of NATO?

For Mr. Putin, such action would cross a “red line.”

Moscow took the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and its military supports rebels fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region. It wants to keep Ukraine in its geopolitical orbit. While the Biden administration says the U.S. backs “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” it’s not clear what that means.

Mr. Biden is far less ambitious about what Ukrainians must do. “The fact is they still have to clean up corruption,” he says.

While Ukraine has made some progress in bringing transparency and accountability to government, the key criteria for reform may be a cultural shift in local communities to demand honesty and accountability in leaders.

In the strategic struggle between the U.S. and Russia, Ukraine’s local reformers may help determine the outcome. Their expectation of honesty in governance could be the strongest defense against Russian aggression.

The real US-Russia battle over Ukraine

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AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian troops in a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people.

When President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, their most hotly contested issue may be Ukraine. Will the United States and its NATO allies decide to defend the country of 41 million from further Russian encroachments by making it the 31st member of NATO?

For Mr. Putin, such action would cross a “red line.”

Moscow took the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and its military supports rebels fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region. It wants to keep Ukraine in its geopolitical orbit. While the Biden administration says the U.S. backs “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” it’s not clear what that means. Mr. Biden says he wants to put Ukrainians “in a position to maintain their physical security” by increasing military assistance to the country. But beyond that, the U.S. commitment is vague.

Mr. Biden is far less ambiguous about what Ukrainians must do. “The fact is they still have to clean up corruption,” he says. For NATO to protect a member’s democracy by force, the integrity of that democracy must be worth defending.

Since a 2014 democratic revolution in Ukraine and the election of a reformist president in 2019, Ukraine has made some progress in bringing transparency and accountability to government. It has digitized more than 30 public services, opening up information for activists to catch corrupt officials. It has digitized the government procurement system and reduced the state role in private enterprise. Corruption in the military has dropped dramatically.

Other measures have helped reduce official bribery. A decade ago, nearly 40% of Ukrainians reported paying bribes. That number has fallen to 23%. The country has also improved its standing on Transparency International’s corruption perception rankings.

Yet the pace has slowed with the low-level war with Russia and COVID-19. The International Monetary Fund is withholding a $5 billion loan until it sees substantial reform. Top-level change remains weak, especially against powerful oligarchs. This has left much of the anti-corruption effort at the grassroots levels.

While institutional change remains important, the key criteria for reform may be a cultural shift in local communities to demand honesty and accountability in leaders. Civil society groups “are conducting corruption investigations, monitoring local decision-making, publishing information, and filing appeals about cases of corruption,” according to a study published in March in the academic journal Demokratizatsiya.

Based on dozens of interviews with local anti-graft activists, the study finds that legal provisions on transparency, access to public information, and open data have substantially improved, providing activists with more tools to fight corruption.

Local watchdogs have discovered they are more effective when they use nonconfrontational tactics with authorities, opening a dialogue rather than using the tactic of “naming and shaming.”

A good example of a cultural shift is a development project in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk where entrepreneurs are converting a large factory into an “innovation center.” Some 900 private investors have put money into the project with the key criteria being that none of the money can come from Ukraine’s oligarchs. Investments must be open and legal.

“Autocrats and oligarchs cannot concentrate power without concentrating wealth through illicit means,” said Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, on June 7 in announcing a new initiative to improve Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts.

In the strategic struggle between the U.S. and Russia, Ukraine’s local reformers may help determine the outcome. Their expectation of honesty in governance could be the strongest defense against Russian aggression.

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.

Hear the message of God’s love for you

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God is always speaking to each of us – and we can hear the divine message that heals, restores, uplifts.

Hear the message of God’s love for you

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

What was I not hearing? I asked myself this question when I was seeking healing related to a problem with one of my ears. The deterioration in my hearing seemed to be related to wax buildup.

I have had many healings through Christian Science, and am always grateful for the spiritual growth and uplift that accompany such healings. So I was not looking for a “quick fix” through medical or material means, even if there had been one.

As I was praying about this one evening and listening for inspiration from God, some verses from the book of Isaiah came to thought – verses 9 and 10 of chapter 6.

Isaiah is prophesying the coming of the Messiah, fulfilled in Christ Jesus’ life and healing mission. The prophet speaks of the lack of receptivity that would greet the new Messiah, the bearer of the gospel message – the good news – concerning God’s healing and saving love for each one of us. He foretells that the people would hear but not understand, and see yet not perceive. They would not truly hear the message of the Messiah and be healed. That is, they would not take in the message and let it change how they thought and acted.

Christ Jesus referred to this prophecy of Isaiah when his disciples asked him why he spoke to the people in parables: “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:14-16).

The phrase, “this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing,” caught my attention. Jesus was clearly teaching about the function of a person’s hearing in a deeper way than merely sound waves hitting an eardrum. His teaching indicated to me that to receive the healing and saving benefit of Jesus’ lessons, we need to be open to “hearing” – truly understanding his message. The Greek word for “hear” used here is “akouo,” and means to understand.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, defines “ears” this way in the Glossary of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a book that opens up the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ teachings and enables us to heal as he and his disciples did: “Not organs of the so-called corporeal senses, but spiritual understanding.

“Jesus said, referring to spiritual perception, ‘Having ears, hear ye not?’ (Mark viii. 18.)” (p. 585).

“What am I not hearing about God’s healing and saving grace?” I asked myself. Again, another Scripture came immediately to mind. I thought about the “shema,” something I had previously studied. “Shema” in Hebrew means “hear.” It begins these two verses in the book of Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (6:4, 5).

In Judaism, this is the central prayer, the most important prayer, the beginning of all prayers. It is prayed every day by devout Jews.

I felt as if God was saying to me: “Listen up! Are you really hearing this message? I am your God! The one God. I love you! I am the source of your happiness, your supply, the fulfilling of your holy purpose. This will never change! You can count on it forever!”

Words from another prophet, Malachi, point to the impact of this true nature of God on each of us: “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

A sense of sadness that had tried to claim a home in my thought melted away that afternoon. I opened my thought and life to the extraordinary fact of God’s unchanging love for me. As a plant turns toward the light, I could not help but love God in return and feel overwhelming gratitude for this unchanging source of goodness in my life.

My hearing returned to normal, too. And I have had no further problems of this kind with my hearing since that time. I was listening to hear of and understand God’s love for me and all God’s sons and daughters, and letting it change how I thought about myself and the world.

There is no circumstance we can be in where God’s healing and saving grace is not present to heal, redeem, restore, protect, inspire. God is love, and God loves His spiritual creation as a father and mother dearly love their children. You can hear this message today and feel the peace and joy that will come.

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Among the laburnum

Owen Humphreys/PA/AP
Gardener Nicola Bantham tends to the laburnum arch at Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, England, on June 15, 2021. The nickname for laburnum is the golden chain tree.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow. We’ll have a report from Geneva on the Biden-Putin summit, with an assessment of what it might accomplish in the critical realms of global security and stability.

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