Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
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Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News”. I am the KZUM News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
It has been a crazy news week. And we’re trying to go over as much of it as we can. So welcome to today’s game of “How much relatively breaking news can I cover in a timely manner.”
Starting off with national news, the United States Supreme Court has been dropping decisions left and right this last week. Last show, we talked a little bit about the June 24 final decision for the Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe versus Wade and rescinded federal protections for abortions.
Due to the overwhelming response to the Dobbs versus Jackson decision, many of the Supreme Court’s other recent decisions have been overlooked.
Among those decisions is the June 23 decision on Vega versus Tekoh. In a 6-3 vote, this case determined that suspects who are not informed of their Miranda rights cannot sue law enforcement for damages under federal civil rights law, even if that evidence is later used against them in their criminal trial.
That same day, the Supreme Court also released their final decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association versus Bruen, which decided in a 6-3 vote that states with strict limitations on carrying guns in public violate the Second amendment.
Shortly after, the Supreme Court announced their 6-3 ruling on Kennedy versus Bremerton School District, stating that a football coach who was fired for praying at the 50-yard line after his team’s games had a constitutional right to do so.
On the 29th, the 5-4 ruling in Oklahoma versus Castro-Huerta declared that large portions of Oklahoma fall within Native American reservations and, therefore, state authorities may prosecute non-Native individuals who commit crimes against Native American individuals on those reservations.
The final determination for West Virginia versus Environmental Protect Agency was announced the following day on June 30. In a 6-3 vote, this decision limited the Environmental Protect Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court also announced the decision for Biden versus Texas on June 30. This case allows the Biden administration to end the Trump-era immigration program that requires asylum seekers arriving at the southern border to wait in Mexico for approval to enter the United States.
Now, as usual, all of our shows are posted on our website at kzum.org. Each show has an attached transcript and today’s transcript will include links to the official decisions for those of you who want to read these cases in their entirety.
And, while these Supreme Court cases were important, they weren’t the only thing going on with the Supreme Court this week. Earlier this week, former Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he would retire on June 30, effective at noon. Having had her nomination confirmed in April by a 53-47 vote, Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn into the Supreme Court that same afternoon.
And we still have one more piece of relatively breaking news.
Last week, we also did a segment on the June 28th special election to replace former 1st Congressional District Representative Jeff Fortenberry. Fortenberry resigned from office on March 31 after he was found guilty on three felony counts for lying to the FBI about campaign donations. Running as his replacement was Republican candidate Mike Flood and Democratic candidate Patty Pansing-Brooks.
Since the June 28 election, the Lincoln Election Commissioner, David Shivley, announced that Mike Flood is the new 1st Congressional District Representative.
And that is all we have today for relatively breaking news. Coming up next, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has released new information about Covid-19 vaccinations for young children. Additionally, the first case of Monkeypox has popped up in Nebraska. So, don’t change the dial or you might miss something important.
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As we mentioned earlier, there have been some updates from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Director Patricia Lopez held a press conference on June 23, allowing healthcare professionals to discuss the important facts surrounding the vaccination process for young children. Without further ado, I present Director Lopez to tell us a little more this community briefing on our ongoing pandemic response.
Patricia Lopez, Director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department: Again, providing an interpretation for us today is Margie Propp. Thank you, Margie. And thanks to everyone for joining us.
There have been some new important developments related to the Covid-19 vaccine for young children. Late last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for children five and under. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention gave it stamped of approval shortly after. We’re here today to share some important information about vaccine for this age group. In Lancaster county, we have just over 23,000 children who are newly eligible to receive vaccine. The safe and effective vaccines can better protect them from severe illness, from Covid-19, and help keep them healthy.
Covid-19 is still here and we continue to see the virus spreading in our community. We’ve received our Pfizer and Moderna vaccine shipments for this age group. We’re in the process of distributing the vaccine and it will be available soon through local pediatricians and family practice physicians.
Joining us today is Dr. Sian Jones-Jobst, a pediatrician and president of Complete Children’s Health in Lincoln. She’ll touch on Covid-19’s impact on children and what she’s telling parents about vaccine for younger children. Thanks for being here, doctor.
Dr. Sian Jones-Jobst, Pediatrician and President of Complete Children’s Health: Thanks for having me Director Lopez. Um, I’m pretty excited to be here. We’ve been waiting for a while to have Covid-19 vaccination available for our youngest patients. And it’s important because we know that, um, Covid-19 complications, hospitalizations, and patients requiring ICU level care are higher in that youngest age group.
And so, although we’ve had vaccine available for quite some time now for our older pediatric patients, having vaccine available now for that six months through five-year age group is actually quite important. Um, the, the six months to four-year age group is actually more likely to be hospitalized, more likely to require ICU level of care, um, and more likely to have ongoing complications from Covid-19.
And so, having this vaccine, that we’ve actually had for quite some time available in that population, is, um, really a, a game changer for us in pediatrics. We have a lot of experience with this vaccine as well. Now we’ve had it approved for the 12 and up age group since, um, May of 2021 and for the five to 11-year-old age group since, uh, November of 2021.
So, this is not a new vaccine. It’s been around for a while. In fact, um, over 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been given across the country and almost a billion doses of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine have been given across the world. Um, if you count from the beginning of when the studies began on the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, we’ve been giving this vaccine now for two years and the studies show that it is safe and effective, most importantly, in preventing complications and severe disease. Um, and that’s important in children, not necessarily because we see many deaths, although Covid-19, is that one of the top five causes of death in, um, young pediatric patients, um, but because it does cause hospitalizations and other complications, like MISC, which is a complication post Covid-19 and also long Covid-19.
We now have enough data to be able to say that the vaccine helps to prevent those complications as well, and not just Covid-19 infection and hospitalization. And, so, we’re at a great place to be able to offer this to our six-month to a five-year age group.
We do this, time’s a little bit different this time. We have two vaccines available for patients. Um, and so we have, as Director Lopez said, we have the Moderna vaccine. We also have the Pfizer vaccine.
The modern Moderna vaccine will be a two-vaccine series given four weeks apart. Um, immunocompromised patients will require three with a second dose given eight weeks after the second, uh, third dose given eight weeks after the second dose.
The Pfizer vaccine will be a three-dose series for both immunocompetent and immunocompromised, um, pediatric patients. And that’s given three weeks between the first and second dose and eight weeks between the second and the third dose. So it’ll take a little bit longer to get your Pfizer vaccine in. Um, but like I said, we have great experience and long period of time of experience with these vaccines, knowing that they’re safe and effective.
The side effect profile was mild. We did see fever, fatigue, some soreness at the injection site in the study group between six months and five years of age. Those are expected side effects that we’d often see with vaccines and so that’s not surprising. We also saw in the studies that the antibody levels and the level of protection was similar to what we saw with the adult vaccines against the Omicron variant. And, so, we expect it to be quite effective and able to protect our pediatric patients as well as it’s protecting the adults as well.
So, um, antibody levels actually with these vaccines in the younger age group were equivalent to, if not a little bit better, um, than the 18 to 25-year-old age group with their vaccine, which was showed the strongest antibody response to the vaccine. So, this is an exciting time in pediatrics.
I will say I’ve had a lot of parents ask me the question, which vaccine should my child get, if there’s an opportunity to get one or the other. And it’s really hard to compare those vaccines back to back right now, they’re a different, um, schedule. Um, and because of that, they were given over a different time period and had different numbers of cases in the studies.
Um, the Moderna vaccine was during the height of the Omicron outbreak and so we saw a lot of cases in that study. Fewer cases over the course of the Pfizer vaccine study. So, there isn’t really a head-to-head comparison. The best vaccine for your child is gonna be the vaccine that you can get into your child safely, um, at either your pediatrician’s office, your family medicine office, um, a pharmacy. If your child is over three years of age and it’s available to them or at the public health department.
So, I’ll be happy to take any questions at the end.
Patricia Lopez, Director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department: Thank you for that valuable information. And we really appreciate our partnership with Complete Children’s Health and all our other pediatric and family practice offices in our community. Especially even our entire medical community has been phenomenal in their response and support and guidance to us. And as a community, we really owe them a sincere thank you.
We’re excited to continue to work together to now offer Covid-19 vaccine to younger children in the pediatric or family practice setting. Parents can have a candid conversation with their children’s healthcare provider about Covid-19 vaccine and any questions they may have.
This helps them get the information they need to make the best choices for their child. For more information about how and when your child’s medical home will be providing vaccine to younger patients, we encourage you to go to the clinic’s websites or social media sites. They have the fastest answers for, and the most up to date answers for you.
The health department will also be offering Covid-19 vaccine to younger children. We’re currently finalizing dates and locations for upcoming clinics, and we’ll share more details as those are confirmed. In the meantime, parents and guardians can register through covid19.lincoln.ne.gov or by calling us at the health department at (402) 441 – 4200. And we’ll notify them as soon as they can schedule an appointment.
Several pharmacies are also offering vaccine to younger children by appointment, you can contact the pharmacy or go to vaccines.gov to check availability.
Vaccinations are critical in preventing many childhood diseases like chickenpox, flu measles, mumps, polio, and whooping cough.
As I mentioned, Covid-19 vaccine is another safe and effective vaccine that will help protect children and keep them healthy. Vaccinating children can also protect family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick, if they should get Covid-19.
The Covid-19 vaccine is now essentially available to everyone from older adults to younger children. The primary series is available to those six months and older. The first dose, the first booster doses are available to everyone, five and older, and a second booster dose is available for those 50 and older, and those 12 and older that are immunocompromised. If children are eligible for Covid-19 vaccine, please get them vaccinated.
If they have not yet received their booster. We also strongly encourage parents to get them vaccinated as soon as possible so they can benefit from the protection that vaccines provide. Just before the press conference, we learned one more development on the vaccine front. Um, CDCs advisory committee has endorsed Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children six to 17. A final decision from CDCs director is expected soon. And with that, I’d be happy to take any questions.
All right. Thanks for joining us today. Uh, we appreciate it and we’ll be getting more information out to you very soon.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You just heard Director Patricia Lopez with more information on the vaccination process for young children.
Now, switching gears, you may have heard me mention Monkeypox earlier.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Douglas County Health Department have identified an individual in Nebraska with a positive Orthopoxvirus test. After receiving test results on June 27, officials expect this case to be confirmed as Monkeypox.
In a same day press release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, officials ask community members to follow preventative measures. The virus is transmitted through prolonged physical contact with infected individuals, so avoid contact with individuals or animals that could harbor the virus. Practice good hand hygiene and use personal protective equipment when caring for patients.
Monkeypox – true to its name – is characterized by a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear all over the body. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
If you are showing signs of any of these symptoms, take steps to quarantine yourself to help prevent the spread of Monkeypox.
And moving right along, we have more information on Lincoln’s upcoming biochar initiative.
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On June 29, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that Lincoln will receive up to 400,000 in funding and technical support for a project to turn wood waste into biochar, a carbon-rich charcoal, which is used as a soil amendment.
For those of you not familiar with biochar, it is a soil amendment used to prompt plant growth, increase water retention, and improve general soil health all while reducing fertilizer use. The grant will help the city of Lincoln complete a feasibility study and begin work to build its first biochar facility, which is scheduled to be operational by the summer of 2023.
The initiative is an exciting advancement, given that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska Forest Service have spent almost 10 years testing and analyzing biochar feasibility. That afternoon, the city of Lincoln hosted a press conference to inform the public on the details.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Great. Well, good morning and thank you all for joining us for this news conference today. We are here to share some really exciting news.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has awarded the city of Lincoln a $400,000 grant for what we are calling our Lincoln Biochar Initiative. Now we are just one of three cities in the United States selected to receive this funding. And on behalf of the city of Lincoln, I want to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies for their generous support of our efforts to advance key goals of our climate action plan and our Resilient Lincoln Initiative. Together with our partners, Lincoln is innovating to develop solutions that reduce our carbon footprint, create economic opportunity, extend the life of our landfill and improve the soil we rely on to grow.
So now, before getting to the details, some of you may be thinking what the heck is biochar.
Biochar is charcoal made for organic waste, like trees and plants, heated at very high temperatures with very little oxygen and this process results in a carbon rich charcoal with many benefits to our environment, including plant growth, water retention, fertilizer reduction, carbon sequestration, waste management and soil health. As Nebraskans, we realize the importance of the soil, the fertility of our soil determines the health of our land and the health of our, of our land determines the future of our state and our community, the future with challenges and opportunities that we wanna embrace.
So, through the work of our climate action plan and Resilient Lincoln Initiative, our city is committed not only to reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate, but also to preparing for the effects of climate change and biochar is one of the ways we can achieve both.
Here’s how this new award will help us do that.
In recent years, as many understand, the Emerald Ash Borer has killed millions of ash trees in North America. And this invasive past is already in Lincoln and will continue to decay our supply locally of ash trees. And while this presents an obvious challenge, it also presents an opportunity. These dying Ash trees are also an abundant supply of organic waste that we can transform into a valuable feed stock for biochar production. And, perhaps more importantly, when we convert this tree waste into biochar, we prevent carbon dioxide from reentering the atmosphere and we return it back to enrich our public spaces far into the future.
Biochar can help the economy in Lincoln too, because through this grant, we are exploring its potential for agricultural carbon credits, recovery and resale of energy byproducts and direct sale to gardeners and farmers.
And perhaps more importantly, when we convert this tree waste into biochar, we prevent carbon dioxide from reentering the atmosphere and we return it back to enrich our public spaces far into the. Biochar can help the economy in Lincoln two, because through this grant, we are exploring its potential for agricultural carbon credits, recovery and resale of energy byproducts and direct sale to gardeners and farmers.
This award would not be possible without a really strong team. And we have with us today, several members of that remarkable team, including Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Director, Liz Elliott. Liz, and her team at LTU, are key to ensuring the success of this initiative. And, with that, I’d like to invite Director Elliott up to the podium.
Liz Elliott, Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: Thank you, Mayor.
We are excited and honored by this Bloomberg Philanthropies award. Our solid waste management team’s vision to develop sustainable programs that advance the city’s climate action plan continues to break boundaries and advance the community’s opportunities to give back to mother nature.
The Lincoln biochar initiative includes LTU, Parks and Recreation Department, neighborhood organizations, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, more commonly known as NRCS.
This unique material improves soil quality, offers less water runoff, and requires less chemicals to grow. Managing our waste is key to Lincoln’s resiliency now and in the future. By reusing our tree waste and other resources already present in our lives, we help save landfill space, create jobs to collect and process the materials, can conserve and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
Our dedicated staff, put us in a strong position to incorporate biochar more heavily into our soil in the near future. In fact, LTU and its partners are already working on trial uses of biochar with a few local organizations. As you can see on your screen, Community Crops is currently using the city’s biochar on some of its crops. At one of Lincoln’s most popular tourist destinations, volunteers at the Sunken Gardens incorporate biochar into the soil there and over at the Holly Historic District 12, near north 25th and T streets, neighbors are using biochar to enhance the Holly Hamlet Urban Agricultural Garden.
Biochar is a somewhat newer resource growing in popularity. To assist with education, the team can be spotted engaging with community at local sustainability events, as demand for biochar grows. We will continue to work together with project partners and other city departments to generate positive outcomes from this initiative. Speaking of generating, one of the key first steps will be to install new technology that transforms biomass into biochar at LTU Solid Waste Management Facility on north 48th street transfer station. Biochar has proven to increase soil quality, reduce soil runoff, and reduce the need for chemicals on crops and plants.
We plan to utilize the bio Char’s natural benefits and apply it to more mediums across the city. Examples of uses include mixing the materials into mulch for tree plantings, use as a soil amendment on city owned farmland, and incorporate it into some of our storm water mitigation practices. Our research partners at the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Forest Service have spent nearly 10 years testing and analyzing biochar; they will provide vital technical support and performance management along the way.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Well, thank you so much Director Elliot and to your team at LTU.
And I just want to acknowledge that every project, especially this kind of innovative, comprehensive project needs a quarterback to lead the charge. And Frank Uhlarik, who is also with Lincoln Transportation Utilities has been ours on this one. And, so, I’d now like to invite him up to share a few more details about the initiative. Frank?
Frank Uhlarik, Lincoln Transportation Utilities: Thank you, Mayor.
And any quarterback that’s worth his weight in gold has all the support of a general manager, Mayor, a coach, Liz, and a fantastic team around them.
Many of the folks that are in the room today… But yeah, we’re quite pleased that, uh, Lincoln’s one of just seven cities around the world to have received this award.
One of the competitive advantages of is our network of Urban Agricultural Plots and Practitioners. One of which is here today, Tim Reno, with Holly Hamlet.
Megan McGuffy couldn’t make it, but Community Crops, another of our, our, our consistent partners in, in testing Biochar. Uh, we’ll partner with local food organizations that test biochar’s ability to improve soil fertility, increase soil, moisture retention, and a potential range of other potential benefits.
On a larger scale, we plan to incorporate biochar as of soil amendment on city managed farmland, which includes row crops and hay ground.
We already have a good local project utilized biochar last year. Some of you may be aware we got an $800,000 EPA Brownfields grant, uh, to assess and clean up brownfields in the west and south Haymarket. One of the sites of the grant targeted areas is contemplated as gardening operation, where we’ll pilot, the use of biochar.
In addition to revitalizing important neighborhoods, his award expands the train on which border- biochar can enrich or urban agriculture and address local food security in densely populated areas. Thank you all. Mayor.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Thank you, Frank.
Um, we have another key partner in the Nebraska Forest Service, and I want to acknowledge and thank them for their $100,000 contribution toward our biochar efforts.
And here, now to share more about how they will contribute to the Lincoln biochar initiative, is Adam Smith, forestry and fire bureau chief with the Nebraska Forest Service. Adam. Welcome.
Adam Smith, Forestry and Fire Bureau Chief with the Nebraska Forest Service: Thank you, Mayor.
Uh, good morning. Today is a special day for the city of Lincoln and community forestry in general. Trees and forests provide their most significant benefit to humanity when they are strong and healthy, providing clean air to breathe, food to eat, habitat for wildlife, water to drink, and shade on a hot day.
However, when faced with environmental factors such as drought, heat and severe storms or insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer, community trees don’t often get the opportunity to fulfill their life’s work and they must be removed. By creating biochar from the removed trees and other urban wood waste, the Lincoln biochar initiative will put these trees back to work for the community and surrounding areas by addressing critical climate related environmental challenges, including soil health and water quality.
The Nebraska Forest Service works with businesses, communities, researchers, and homeowners, to identify ways to create biochar or create wood products from dead trees and community wood waste rather than that material be pile burned or landfilled.
In 2016, we began a multi-state partnership with others in the Great Plains to promote the use of biochar as a solution to our wood waste issues. In 2018, we worked with the Lincoln Public Schools to provide woodworking students with lumber produced from trees that had been removed from across Lincoln. In 2020, we brought together artisans, including some of those students and concerned citizens to showcase furniture and other woodworking projects that had been created from urban lumber and also discuss the impacts of declining Ash trees from across the city.
Today, we are excited to continue our partnership with the city of Lincoln, through the Lincoln biochar initiative to solve big problems and help achieve the city’s climate goals.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Thank you, Adam.
Um, we are fortunate to have experts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in our backyard. And one of those is Dr. Michael Kaiser, an agronomy professor with expertise in soil, health, and biochar. In addition to his time and talents, Dr. Kaiser will mentor students who will contribute to this initiative.
And I now like to invite Dr. Kaiser up to say a few words.
Dr. Michael Kaiser, Professor of Agronomy at UNL: Thank you very much.
Um, I’m very happy to be here and I’m very excited to be a part of this biochar, uh, Lincoln Biochar Initiative, uh, which really brings us to a point where we can put this biochar work to a next level, especially with the synergies and interactions with this many different stakeholders under leadership of the city, uh, of Lincoln.
At UN now we are doing biochar research. So I, by myself, am in the biochar research since 2010 in different positions in Germany and the us, especially looking into calm secretation, but also nitrate retention in soil, uh, mediated by biochar.
But, at UNL, we have several colleagues working in biochar research since several years. That’s, uh, Dr. Blanco from agronomy and horticulture, uh, looking into improvement of low fertile soils. Dr. Xu from, uh, civil and environmental engineering, looking into biochar and it… its improvement or concrete. And then Dr.Watson and Dr. Erickson from, uh, animal sciences, uh, looking into biochar as an addition to cattle feed and, and as a conditioner for feed lots to improve nutrient retention. And this is also a big opportunity to engage with the community, to bring our students and all the professors, uh, work and several projects, supervising undergraduate and graduate students.
And this is also a big opportunity for us to do more research on urban application or application of biochar in urban soils, so this is an exciting endeavor and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Thank you to you and everyone at UNL for your support and leadership and innovation.
You know, as, as we all are seeing more and more across the globe and locally right here in Lincoln, the next generation, the younger generations and next generation of leaders are particularly concerned about climate change and the impacts that they will face going into the future. And they are very committed to actions that mitigate its effect.
Um, one of those individuals in our community is Nash Leif, who is an Environmental Health intern with our city and a biochar enthusiast. New term, but I’m sure it will become more popular into the future.
Nash, why don’t you come on up and share a few words.
Nash Leif, Environmental Health Intern: Thank you. Mayor.
Climate change is arguably the greatest threat facing our generation.
Lincoln will face many challenges in my lifetime, and I expect to be here to see them through. Lincoln is my adopted home. Uh, my family has been out in the South Platte River Valley for 128 years, row cropping. And I personally own a farm just south of town and biochar presents a nature-based solution that can help us to curb the effects of a change in climate, such as increased precipitation events and, uh, increased soil runoff.
It is also a powerful, uh, source for connections between urban forestry, carbon sequestration, and urban agriculture. I can personally vouch for the efficacy of this material as I work on it almost every day and it is truly incredible on scales, both small and large. It has been my pleasure to work with so many great gardeners, uh, across the city of Lincoln and the development of this project.
Uh, one of whom is in the room today, uh, Tim from Holly Hamlet, but also, uh, with Megan McGuffy, and Amy Gerdes and Shahab from Community Crops, uh, as well as Molly from Southern Heights Food Forest, and, uh, Steve Nosal from City Lincoln Horticulture, and, of course, our incredible researchers at UNL.
We have all seen the impact that biochar can have on our soils here in Lincoln and it is immense. Lincoln will see many challenges in the coming years do our changing climate. And I am proud to see our city rising to tackle these threats, that climate change poses.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of Lincoln: Thank you, Nash.
Um, to sum up, you know, biochar increases the resilience of our land, air, water, and plants, and increasing resilience is at the heart of our city’s efforts to build a climate-smart future.
Our Lincoln Biochar Initiative will enable us to convert a steady supply of local organic waste in the form of Ash trees into a potent source of sustainable growth. And when you think about it, uh, if Shell Silverstein could write a final chapter in “The Giving Tree”, he might have called it biochar with that.
We’d love to point out that you can find more information about this initiative at Lincoln.ne.gov/biochar.
If there are no more questions, I just want to say thank you again to the many important partners we have in this project. And I want to acknowledge that some of my colleagues from the city council are here, Tom Beckius and Councilman Benny Shobe have arrived. They, um, are, have helped us accomplish our climate action plans, passage that is helping to drive the vision for this work. And we are so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you again to Bloomberg Philanthropies. And with that, we’ll see you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You just heard from Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird during her press conference on the Lincoln Biochar Initiative. After receiving 400,000 in funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the city plans to move forward with construction of the first Lincoln biochar facility. As the project moves forwards, we’ll keep you updated.
But for now, we have another segment of Humanities Nebraska’s event, “Weathering Uncertainty: Conversations about Climate in Nebraska.” You don’t want to miss that. So stay tuned through the break.
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Amantha Dickman, News Director: And welcome back to “KZUM News.”
The last few weeks we have dug in deep listening to that Humanities Nebraska “Weathering Uncertainty: Conversations about Climate in Nebraska” event.
Just a reminder for you, if you forgot, the event had a fantastic panel lineup. Joining Martha Schulski, a Nebraska state climatologist and the moderator of the event, is Mark McHargue, the president of Nebraska Farm Bureau. Next on the panel is Hannah Birge, the director of agriculture for the Nature Conservancy-Nebraska. Lastly, we have Josh Moennings, mayor of Norfolk, and Jesse Bell, the director of Water, Climate, and Health programs at UNMC.
Now that you’ve had that reminder, let’s get started on today’s segment.
Martha Shulski, Humanities Nebraska Moderator: So, I wanted to, to touch a little bit on how you all engage with people on the topic of climate change. So, it’s something that I do. Pretty much daily. And, so, I’m just curious to kind of hear perspectives on just communication strategies and what, what do you find works best and, and what doesn’t, and kind of what approach you use to talk about something that can be not easy to talk about and people have varying views. So I just wanted to spend a little bit of time on that. We’ll start with you, Josh.
Josh Moenning, Mayor of Norfolk: Sure. I, I think, uh, talking about this in terms of the it’s, it’s a challenge, right? But it also, uh, comes with opportunities. So, if we embrace the position of, um, being part of the climate solution, leading to economic opportunities, especially in our rural places, I think that is a very effective way to have this discussion.
We’re seeing that play itself out in real life. In Northeast Nebraska, it’s been the hotbed of clean energy development over the last five to 10 years in the state. A lot of wind energy development has come into place, uh, throughout that region. And that has meant new jobs, both in the construction phase and then the, then the operations phase.
Um, it’s meant new farm income for property owners, uh, leasing that space to for wind now, solar, uh, coming on as well. And it’s been new tax revenues for, for counties and local governments that as that I think can be a solution to alleviating the property tax, uh, burden that we have in the state.
And so when you can talk about the opportunities that come with the challenge and tie it back to business activity that is contributing to us being part of the solution, but also generating new business, um, uh, enterprise, uh, in our local economies. Uh, that’s real to people and you’ve seen through our institutions in and around Norfolk we’ve, we’ve supported that Northeast community college has the only accredited wind energy program in the state.
And it’s training, uh, young people who 10 years ago, had to move to Iowa or Minnesota to find jobs. They can stay here now. In their small towns in Northeast Nebraska, because the opportunity is there and that’s having a big impact on our economy. Norfolk, I think, uh, our local economy was pretty well insulated from some of the worst of the the last few years, the pandemic, um, because a lot of that construction phase, uh, spending continued, uh, it, it, you know, from, from three to four years ago to today, we’ve had anywhere from 800 to 1000, uh, wind farm construction workers.
In our local economy, spending money there and bringing on those projects that are, are creating those new jobs and generating new tax revenue and new farm income opportunities for farmers.
Martha Shulski, Humanities Nebraska Moderator: Yeah. Yeah. I think keeping it local and solutions-focused is, is always a good way to go. That’s something that I’ve noticed is people really want to work through solutions and flipping it into it’s a, it’s a huge grand challenge, but it’s also a very good opportunity to pivot into something that maybe you hadn’t thought about before.
So, um, Hannah, I don’t know if you want to comment on that as well, and just engagement with people on this topic.
Hannah Birge, Director of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy-Nebraska: Sure. So, one of the things that I love about working for the Nature Conservancy is we engage on multiple scales. So, with our members of Congress or our state policy makers, we understand what’s important to that policymaker and we bring them the science that they need to make informed, uh, information-based votes and decisions because they are representing us and they should be working in our best interests. And oftentimes that means the best available science on climate change. Um, but in my role, I actually work more directly with the closer-to-the-ground scale with farmers. Um, and I actually reached out to a few farmers that I work with in advance of tonight because I wanted to hear their thoughts on climate change.
Um, when we work with farmers, the Nature Conservancy, one thing we’re doing is we’re piloting, uh, payments to farmers to take on practices that sequester carbon in the soil and we’re finding really fast uptake. And we are finding that when those practices are on the ground, we are storing more carbon in our cropland in Nebraska. And I’ve been asked the question before, “Oh, so these farmers believe in climate change” and some do and some don’t.
And I think it’s really important that to acknowledge that in science, generally, skepticism is embraced. It’s welcomed. I have a PhD in soil science. I would not have it if I. Learn how to have a skeptical mind and a really critical mind. And when it comes to climate change, I think there’s been this strange departure where we say, if you express skepticism in climate change, you’ve failed a value test. And I can’t work with you and maybe you’re not a good person and maybe you don’t like science and, and that’s a cartoonish, you know, characterization.
I know not everyone feels that way, but a lot of farmers. and they feel like if they work with us, they can’t express skepticism. And, so, we’re trying really hard to embrace that. And to say, if you have a scientific mind, you should embrace skepticism. We should be willing to have these conversations at that scale. And we should listen. And some of the messages that I’ve gotten from farmers are pretty phenomenal. So, I, we hear things like, um, we saw extreme droughts in the fifties, in the nineties and 2012, that was our climate crisis. Like we know that extreme weather is part and parcel of being a farmer. And maybe it has gotten worse in the last 10 years, but I don’t know, because it’s really hard to get a signal from the noise and I’m open to it.
But I know that I go day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, and trying to piece all those together and pinpoint that signal of climate change in the noise. That is the weather of Nebraska is really hard. Uh, so a lot of the work that we do is working again with. The policy level scale, where we’re bringing the science and we’re pushing our policy makers to represent our best interests and to vote the right way on climate change.
Uh, but we’re also working with farmers and we do not discount their really important traditional ecological knowledge about the land. Uh, one thing that we like to say is like, we don’t need to be right, we just wanna be happy. And if a farmer’s adopting those practices and they’re engaging with us in a conversation about climate change, and they’re willing to express that skepticism and hear us out, that’s a huge one for us.
Martha Shulski, Humanities Nebraska Moderator: Yeah. Interesting. Thank you. Um, so we do have a, a word on the screen here. um, so what word do you think of first, when you hear the term climate change and that can automatically just be a turnoff for, for some people or some audiences, but, so, um, so this is. The, this is what all of you, uh, think here.
So, this kind of goes back to the first question that we had in that severe weather extremes, um, heat, drought, water, those, those definitely rank as high. Um, but some of these other ones that we’ve got here, unpredictable uncertainty, um, certainty, um, fear. Uh, is, is what somebody thinks of first when they hear the term climate change.
Um, so that this conjures up a lot of different, um, things in people’s minds, um, when they think of climate change. So. Um, so I think given, um, the amount of time that we have left here, what I’m going to do is transition to those that have asked questions, um, on Slido. And so, um, so I can leave it to really anyone to, to answer these questions, but, um, so the first one here, how will climate change affects the quantity and quality of Nebraskan’s water resources in the next 20 years, next 50 years. So, quantity and quality, um, in the next few decades due to climate change, um, we’re gonna be hotter. Um, there’s gonna be more evaporative demand. Um, but we rely a lot on our water resources here in, we wouldn’t be the Cornhusker state if we didn’t have water. Um, so does anybody wanna tackle that?
Mark McHargue, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau: You know, I maybe I’ll maybe start just because water is so critical to. Uh, both the economy of Nebraska and, and what, what we do in agriculture really depends largely on the water. Now we are extremely blessed. I had the opportunity to, uh, travel in the middle east, uh, this winter. And, you know, our water issues are, you know, like pale in comparison to their issues.
But the fact that we do have a significant, uh, uh, groundwater in Nebraska, uh, we have good surface water. And it’s imperative that we actually, we protect that because it really is our lifeblood. If you take, if you take water outta Nebraska or imperate, uh, we, we really economically would, would not be who we are.
I mean, there’s just no question about that. And so I think, uh, I think agriculture really does understand that now I think we can get into water quality. And I think, Jesse, maybe you’ve got some, some study in that. One of the conversations I’m just gonna throw out there is, is nitrates in our water.
And as a, as a farmer that uses nitrogen fertilizer to grow our crops, uh, that’s a really important conversation that agriculture, uh, talks about both from the university level, in our research level, and then implementing that, uh, back on our lands to ensure. That we protect our water, both, uh, for irrigation and our drinking water.
When it comes to, to humanity. Now I can tell you that, uh, the research has come a long ways in how we handle nitrogen on our farms. And so I live, uh, right along the PLA river valley. And so over the last, probably 20 or 30 years, we haven’t, uh, put any nitrogen fertilizer on until really we plant our crop.
And then we put the majority of our nitrogen fertilizer. After the crop is growing. And the reason we do that is just so that we have immediate uptake and we don’t have the potential to leech, but then within our technology that we have, uh, whether it be a sensing our soil, uh, moisture to ensure that we don’t irrigate, uh, when we don’t need to be irrigating.
Um, the fact that on our farm, uh, on our corn, probably when my dad started farming, uh, we’ve been irrigated for a long time. He was producing. Maybe 80 bushels of corn on, on X amount of gallons, that same amount of gallons of water. We could produce almost 220 bushel and we have, haven’t actually increased our water demand and that’s largely due to, uh, plant breeding, genetics, the ability to tolerate, to, uh, water growth of out, uh, water drought, a little bit more, the ability to water on time, all those things that we’ve, we’ve put together to address.
Uh, some of our water quality issues and water quantity,
Martha Shulski, Humanities Nebraska Moderator Mm-hmm. Any of you others wanna?
Jesse Bell, Director of the Water, Climate, and Health Program at UNMC: Yeah, I, I can I, or, yeah, I can jump in there. You know, when the water quality quantity piece is definitely something I’m interested and concerned about for a variety of different reasons. And, and you know what, some of the things that we’ve talked about already droughts and.
You know, anytime you have a drought or you have a flood, there is a potential for water quality issues in the state. You know, the 2019 flooding was a, a perfect example of that. We saw, um, some of the groundwater, uh, resources, the wellheads become flooded. And then you see contamination of those water of that drinking water.
And then also just water availability as well. And then there’s been recent studies that have come out and showed that you know, we have arsenic in our groundwater here in, in Nebraska, and there was a study that was done by the US geological survey last year that showed during drought events. Um, you can actually find higher concentrations of arsenic in groundwater because that water resource gets dried up and taken up and you see more concentration.
You see the same thing with surface water as well. and yeah, it makes me a little bit concerned as well because, in Martha, you’re much more aware of this than I am. But when you look at Nebraska and some of the projections forward with how climate will potentially change for this region, we expect our winters to get wetter and our summers to potentially get drier.
And for farming, that’s not necessarily the right direction that you want to go, but also from human health and water quality and quantity issues, that’s not the direction we want to go either. And so yeah, that definitely makes me concerned. And, and it kind of goes back to what you were talking about.
We have the solutions for a lot of these problems to make sure that we are protecting our water resources. It’s just a matter, are we implementing those solutions as well, to make sure that we’re continue to protect our water resources? So yeah, the water quality piece and water quality piece is definitely a big concern, especially when we’re talking about human.
Hannah Birge, Director of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy-Nebraska: I mean, I, I would second and third, the emphasis on water quality. That to me is more top of mind. We absolutely have solutions, but it is, there are parts of it that are somewhat intractable. And I say that because, um, you know, farming practices have improved and the amount of nitrogen that’s put on the soil versus how much has taken up, has gotten a lot more efficient.
And in some places we’re actually seeing before that efficiency started. Old legacy pulses of nitrates that are moving down below where the plant roots can take them up and are slowly making their way to our drinking water, Wells and that’s nitrogen that was applied 10, 20, 30 years ago. In some cases.
And that’s a tougher nut to crack because you could go to every farmer in the state and you could give them the practices and give them the tools and the capacity and the incentives to adopt the practices that we care about. And we’re not doing that yet. We absolutely could, but you’re still gonna have this legacy pulse of nitrogen in your drinking water.
I think it’s really important, especially for rural communities, again, that might not have the resources or the attention, um, to probably be proactive and to find ways to make sure that they are protected. Um, I think absolutely. You know, we can continue working with farmers and landowners to fix that, but there is this legacy problem that we do have to address as a state.
Josh Moenning, Mayor of Norfolk: And we were talking about that backstage, uh, that, that has come to real life to some of our small towns. We were talking about the town of Creighton, Nebraska that was, uh, forced compelled to, um, implement a reverse osmosis water system for its, uh, township, because they had no other choice, the nitrate concentration problem had gotten that significant. And so that’s, that’s why I think it’s important. That we have these coordinated state and local discussions about preparedness and solutions. And to your point, mark earlier about incentives, some of the best, uh, in incentives are come through education. The, the best practices are economic incentives in themselves because farmers and producers are saving on input costs, uh, through these efficiencies and their, and, and thereby mitigating some of these.
Quality impacts, but it it’s, it’s real that what has already occurred, um, there are local government systems that are having to deal with the realities of it. And if we don’t get better and if we don’t tar start taking this, this advice on best practice, best practices, we’re only gonna face more of that in the future.
Jesse Bell, Director of the Water, Climate, and Health Program at UNMC: And I think one of the ways, um, you can think about it is also mitigation because we have some legacy issues. I think we have to think about actually helping funds. So, we work to get some APA money together to help put a pool of money together, to actually be able to, uh, treat that water after the fact.
I mean, there’s just, I think we’re gonna have to come up with a plan in certain hotbed areas that we’re gonna have to quit arguing about, you know, what cause it and how we’re gonna do it, but we actually gotta, we gotta take steps to actually. Uh, put in systems that clean that up to drinkable water.
Josh Moenning, Mayor of Norfolk: I, I love that.
I mean that, that’s incredibly important to make sure that we have clean water, especially to the populations that are most at risk. And for me, it’s, you know, when we’re talking about the nitrate issue, which is a little bit off, but when we’re talking about the nitrate issue, it’s women that are potentially pregnant or could be getting pregnant or.
Households with young children, because we have some, some major issues in this state. We’re one of the high, we have one of the highest rates of pediatric cancer in, in the United States. And we have high rates of birth defects as well. Now is all of that water or environmental related? No, but there is potentially some link there and there’s been a number of research studies that have shown those associations.
And, so, we need to make sure that we’re doing the necessary steps to protecting the communities that we. We’re already in like, you know, we’re already in this situation, like with climate change, we’re already in this situation. We need to make sure that we’re doing the appropriate steps to protect the populations that are most at.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That’s all we have for today, but we’re gonna keep learning from those climate change professionals, so check back next week for that next segment on the Humanities Nebraska event, “Weathering Uncertainty: Conversations about Climate in Nebraska.”
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