Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Kansas City Star. June 17, 2022.

Editorial: Did climate change kill 2,000 Kansas cows? Farmers can’t afford to ignore science

Extreme weather conditions that caused thousands of cattle to perish in Kansas feedlots this past weekend may or may not have been caused by climate change. Either way, it seems farmers in that region are beginning to believe the science alerting them to long-term climate trends. And that’s good news for all of us.

Kansas State University climatologist Xiaomao Lin spends a significant amount of time talking with Kansas farmers about climate change. The farmers “will challenge us, because that’s what they do,” said Lin, who is also the state’s official climatologist. But they are also adjusting the way they farm because of climate change, he said.

Maybe the farmers and cattle ranchers are realizing they can’t afford not to trust the science-supported warnings from Lin and other experts: Unless they make adjustments, climate change will greatly diminish their livelihood, Lin said.

“The way they deal with their crop in terms of water reserves is a major concern,” Lin said. “A drought situation is for certain. The science is there. It’s true. It just is what it is,” he said.

It’s been a tough row to hoe to get farmers to accept the science. But the work is showing results. Last year, an Iowa State University poll showed Midwest farmers overwhelmingly — 80% — believe climate change is real. Just eight years earlier, a 2013 survey found that only 8% of farmers in the Midwest believed that “climate change is occurring, and it is caused mostly by human activities.”

Some Kansas Republican lawmakers, however, continue to recklessly deny the science around climate change, views that threaten not only the survival of Kansas farms but food supplies for the nation.

Kansas state Sen. Mike Thompson, a Johnson County Republican and a retired television meteorologist, presented a seminar on the “weaponizing” of climate change. Speaking at the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association event in Wichita in August, he called climate change a natural-recurring cycle. Human behavior had little to do with it, he said, and called warnings from scientists about climate change “propaganda.”

Weather-related phenomena, like what killed an estimated 2,000 cows in Kansas, are studied over a long period of time before scientists link them to climate change, Lin said.

So is long-term global warming responsible for the cattle deaths? “It’s a good question, but we can’t answer that yet,” Lin told us, adding that scientists will be looking to see what happens in years to come before they make that call.

Does that sound like someone “weaponizing” science? Hardly.

Meanwhile, there’s no denying the scorching hot temperatures that hit triple digits in the region and barely cooled down in the evenings, which normally would happen, said Chip Redmond, a Kansas State University meteorologist.

Cattle are adaptable to heat, but they don’t sweat like humans. They absorb the heat of the day and expend it through panting. But since it never cooled off enough last weekend, the cattle never got a break and died of heat stress, said A.J. Tarpoff, a veterinarian at K-State.

Yes, it’s still early to determine whether the combined heat, humidity and breezeless conditions that killed the cattle were the result of long-term climate change.

Regardless, Kansas lawmakers need to stop denying, for political reasons, what their constituents have already come to know: Climate change is real. It’s time to get behind every legislative effort to help the farmers and ranchers in these changing climate conditions.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. June 17, 2022.

Editorial: Return Topeka Correctional Facility to intended purpose of education? It’s worth consideration.

The Topeka Correctional Facility sits on the site of a former Black vocational school affiliated with the Tuskegee Institute.

Curtis Pitts would like to see the site returned to its original purpose.

Pitts, a self-described community servant, told The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jason Tidd the Topeka Correctional Facility occupying the buildings of a former school reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline.

“It’s a symbol of something that we need to get rid of,” Pitts said. “We can’t go from being an educational institution — built by the sweat and hard work of African-Americans, and like-minded and concerned white Americans — and then turn it into a prison.”

Records from the Kansas Historical Society and the University of Kansas show the school has roots dating back to the late 1800s, when it was known as the Industrial and Educational Institute of Topeka. It later was called Kansas Technical Institute — colloquially as the “Tuskegee of the West” because of its connections to the prominent Tuskegee Institute. The institute had affiliations with Black Baptist churches.

Tidd reports Pitts’ search for historical documents turned up one that may help convince Kansas legislators. That document stipulates that, despite state appropriations and control over the property, the facility was required to remain a school for as long as the state owned the land.

Clearly this didn’t happen.

But perhaps it should. Regardless, it merits a serious discussion. Especially now during Juneteenth.

There’s certainly a precedent for it. Land seized from Native Americans has been returned to tribes through state action. Last year, two bills returned land to the Shawnee Tribe and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

From where Pitts stands, this is an opportunity for restorative justice. An opportunity to return this state to the free state ideals it was founded on.

“That’s a historically Black college out there that’s a prison,” he said. “For all of our ancestors and what this state was founded on, that cannot be. They would roll over in their grave if they knew that this abolitionist state, this free state, that shot the bow across racism in the world, turned what they believed in and supported into a prison.”

Additionally, Pitts is very aware a transfer could take years. Tidd reports he is planning a series of community meetings in the lead-up to the next legislative session to discuss how to reestablish the facility as an educational institution.

We need to hear him out.

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