In Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region, Small Farmers Work Exhausted Lands, Hoping a New Government Will Revive the War … – InsideClimate News

This story was reported by Marco Zero journalists in Recife, Brazil as part of Report for the World, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project and in partnership with Inside Climate News.
ICÓ-MANDANTES, Brazil—Beyond the fence, rows and rows of lifeless coconut tree trunks stand like skeletal sentinels, their leafless forms stark against the horizon. These once-thriving giants, now mere sticks protruding from the earth, line the right side of a narrow gravel road. To the left, in a slightly lower expanse of terrain, hundreds more cling to life, their leaves dry and brittle, signaling an inevitable demise, the land itself in a state of terminal decline.
Manoel Joaquim dos Santos slowly dismounts his old motorbike, its noisy engine sputtering and belching smoke. He approaches a heavy gate, secured with a rudimentary wooden latch, and swings it open with weary familiarity.
In Brazil’s rural heartland, farmers usually welcome visitors with pride, eager to showcase their sprawling fields and flourishing crops. But on this sweltering January afternoon in the agro-village of Icó-Mandantes, Santos, 66, short and stern, with a mustache and bald pate, looks frustrated and discouraged.
Please take a look at the new openings in our newsroom.
Over the years, he has watched as climate change aggravated an historic drought, leaving the soil as dry as the coconut trees. The relentless sun of the semi-arid region in Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco has turned his skin a weathered shade of copper and etched deep lines into his face, each one a testament to the harsh realities of his life. His gaze sweeps over the dying plantation, a poignant reflection of his own fading hopes.
“Before, I’d harvest 35,000 coconuts each season,” Santos, an Indigenous Pipipã, recalls. “Today, my production is zero.”
Santos started planting coconut trees in the 1990s on land granted to him by the Brazilian government to compensate for the loss of his ancestral home, which was submerged by an artificial lake created to power a hydroelectric plant. All of his production was sold to a processing industry established in the region. In the early 2000s, his family’s income was equivalent to 336,000 Brazilian reals (BRL) per year ($67,000).
However, the irrigation system installed by the government, which had enabled him to produce and sell so many coconuts, also contributed to the degradation of his land due to excess salt.
Now, all around this region, the soil is turning into a desert. 
The problem is not new. Three decades ago, the United Nations was so worried about the degradation of fertile lands around the world that it created a permanent forum to discuss how to slow down the process. The forum, called the Convention to Combat Desertification, has held 15 “Conferences of the Parties” (COPs) since 1994. In 1999, the COP took place in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, the state where Santos lives. The city was selected because the region was already the most threatened by land degradation and climate change in the country. 
At that time, surveys by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) indicated that the areas in the process of desertification, in different degrees of intensity, added up to a surface corresponding to 22 percent of the total area of the Brazilian Semiarid Region.
In the world’s semi-arid regions, the annual rainfall is less than 800mm, and the risk of drought occurring each year is 60 percent. In Brazil, the territory with these characteristics has increased from 219,797 square miles to the current 307,305 square miles. Similarly, the area susceptible to desertification has grown from 274,306 square miles to more than 417,805 square miles. This is not an unpopulated region: 28 million people live in 1,262 cities and towns in the Brazilian Semiarid Region.
Despite the alerts and the international debates, the problem has gotten worse in Brazil. The 1999 U.N. conference did not generate any lasting and sustainable government policies to reduce or contain the degradation of threatened lands, and the few initiatives that showed promise have been underfunded or interrupted for political reasons.
Since then, the affected area considered susceptible to desertification has increased from 22 percent to 25 percent, and perhaps most alarmingly, 13 percent of the lands previously identified as in danger of desertification have now officially become deserts. That means that 104,247 square miles in the semi-arid region (an area similar in size to the U.S. state of Colorado) are now degraded, of which at least 49,094 square miles (an area almost as big as the state of Pennsylvania) have become deserts, according to LAPIS, the Satellite Image Analysis and Processing Laboratory at the Federal University of Alagoas, a research center that currently carries out the most rigorous monitoring of the entire semi-arid region.  
Now, as Brazil prepares to host next year’s climate COP 30, (part of a different U.N. program than the desertification COP previously held in the country) in the Amazon region, as more frequent heat waves stifle the country, desertification has returned to a high place on the government’s agenda. 
Alexandre Pires, head of the Desertification Combat Department of the Ministry of the Environment, ensures that addressing the problem is a priority. Pires assumed office in 2023 as part of the incoming administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula DaSilva, who campaigned on the promise to reinstate an environmental agenda after four years of anti-environmentalist policies by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, and has been working on a new national strategy to fight desertification: “We have to put our agenda forward, and we have to show the importance of the agenda in combating desertification and droughts, which is not a problem exclusive to the northeast region of Brazil. This is a national problem,” he said. “Desertification is, in fact, a consequence of climate change; they are linked.”
For farmers like Santos, soil degradation, exacerbated by climate change and other factors such as deforestation, charcoal production, salinization and overgrazing, is leaving them with few alternatives to survive on their land, despite the renewed efforts from the government. Given that the damage is widespread, moving is rarely an option. 
“Even though they do not know the technical terms, the population has empirical knowledge about desertification,” said meteorologist Humberto Barbosa, coordinator of the Satellite Image Analysis and Processing Laboratory (Lapis) at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL), one of the leading research organizations tracking the advance of desertification in the country. “The population is living with a shortage of water and food and trying to adapt to this new environment that is undergoing transformation.”
Looking at his dying coconut trees, Santos knows desertification is not a theoretical concept. 
“If it were not for my rural retirement, I would be facing hunger,” Santos said, explaining he receives a subsidy of BRL 1.412,00 (about $284) to make ends meet. 
Desertification is a process of soil degradation in which vegetation decreases and eventually disappears. Human activities, such as deforestation, contribute to the problem by causing intense erosion. Barbosa explained that this persistent loss in soil productivity is influenced by the entire ecosystem, including rain patterns, winds, increased temperature and droughts. “As a result, desertification has a significant socioeconomic impact, especially on the lives of farmers in the Brazilian semi-arid region,” the expert said. 
The United Nations estimates that about 500 million people around the world live within areas that have experienced desertification since the 1980s, and the risks are only increasing as a consequence of climate change. Projections suggest more and more people are likely to face extreme weather events such as droughts and natural disasters, which amplify vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and health issues due to malnutrition and lack of access to clean water.
“The warming global climate means desertification poses a challenge across the world, especially in existing drylands,” the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a “Special Report on Climate Change and Land.” “Desertification aggravates existing economic, social, and environmental problems like poverty, poor health, lack of food security, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, forced migration, and lowered resilience to climate change or natural disasters.”
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), droughts worldwide have increased by 29 percent in both frequency and duration throughout the 21st century compared to the previous two decades. According to the U.N., one consequence of this is the degradation of 40 percent of the planet’s land.
The majority of the hundreds of millions of people facing the consequences of desertification are poor farmers. This phenomenon is a significant problem in Africa and several countries in Asia. Globally, the work that has become a reference on the subject is the book ”Response to Land Degradation,” co-written by scientists Rattan Lal, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University and a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Hemalatha Eswaran, from Mahalingam College of Engineering in India and Paul F. Reich, from the United States Department of Agriculture. The book was published in 2001 and reissued with updates in 2019.
“Response to Land Degradation” warns that “the reduction in yield in Africa due to soil erosion is, on average, 8.2 percent for the continent. In South Asia, the annual loss of productivity is estimated at 36 million tons. The total annual cost of erosion in agriculture in the U.S. is estimated to be about $44 billion per year, which is approximately $247 per hectare of cultivated land and pasture. On a global scale, the annual loss of 75 billion tons of soil costs the world about $400 billion per year, or approximately $70 per person per year. (…) Desertification affects 33 percent of the global land surface and impacts more than one billion people, half of whom live in Africa.”
Officially, the Brazilian government works with the concept of areas “susceptible to desertification,” which raises the areas at risk in the country to a territory of more than 386,102 square miles (an area similar to the combined areas of Ukraine and Germany), including the regions that surround the degraded areas. The numbers differ from LAPIS’ because the government incorporates multiple sources of data, while the lab uses numbers from dozens of satellites in real-time. 
Some experts prefer to use different methodologies to track the problem. Iêdo Bezerra Sá, a forest engineer, Ph.D. in geoprocessing from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and a senior researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), estimates that the desert area is less than 38,610 square miles (an are slightly smaller than the size of Iceland), as he uses a different methodology in his work than government scientists, whose estimate is somewhat larger: “I usually exclude all those areas whose soil is naturally too shallow, with rocky outcrops on the surface, and which have always been like this.”
While the precise area of desertification in Brazil may vary, analysts agree that the problem is growing faster than the authorities’ ability to find solutions.
In other parts of the world, the U.N. has sponsored projects to fight desertification that offer hope and highlight the challenges that governments face worldwide. One of its most ambitious projects is The Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land stretching 8,000 kilometers across 22 countries in Africa’s Sahel region by 2030.
Although the project has faced delays and setbacks, the initiative has helped restore 18 million hectares. Senegal has been one of the most successful cases, thanks to a model that, beyond just planting trees, has involved empowering local communities to manage the land following indigenous practices.
Over the years, the Brazilian government has sporadically tried initiatives to stop or reverse desertification in parts of the region. At least one of them has made the situation worse. 
When the government created the artificial lake of Itaparica in the mid-1980s, Santos and his family were forced to leave their land. But, at that time, it seemed that the promised benefits would outweigh the risks.  
Santos was resettled in Icó-Mandantes in 1994, six years after the waters of the artificial lake at the Itaparica hydroelectric plant flooded the place where his family lived for centuries. 
His plot of land had guaranteed access to water. The irrigation system, funded by the federal government through the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (Chesf), came with rural technical assistance and guidance to plant coconut trees, as the production would be purchased by coconut derivative factories installed in the region.
During the first years, everything went well, until the pipes carrying water from the artificial lake to his plot started to leak and burst, problems that occurred at increasingly shorter intervals. “Chesf didn’t perform maintenance, today everything is destroyed, and because of that, water hasn’t reached here for four or five years,” Santos said. 
Relying only on increasingly scarce rainfall, production decreased and coconut trees began to die one by one. The plants in the lowest part of the land survived for a few more years because when it rains, the water flows to that side. “Today I can’t get anything from this land,” said Santos, a strong man with a broad chest.
Now, climate change is compounding human errors to accelerate soil degradation, as rainfall is scarcer and more irregular.
And, as it turns out, the collapse of the pipes only hastened a problem that would have plagued Santos’ farm a few years down the road: the soil salinization caused by the sprinkler irrigation technique employed by Chesf, the state-owned company, whereby large amounts of water are sprayed by powerful sprinkler nozzles in all directions. The method, commonly used in large plantations of sugarcane, cotton, rice, beans, coffee, corn and soybeans, is far from suitable for coconut trees. 
The excess of water in the soil along with the high evaporation rate leads to the excessive accumulation of mineral salts in the form of ions on the surface and in the interior structure of the land used for planting, causing soil fertility loss and contributing to desertification.
If the pipes hadn’t failed and water was coming in normally, it still would have only been a matter of time before salinization would render the land useless.
“It wastes too much water, coconut trees don’t need that much,” explained Santos.
As a result, in addition to drought, the land is salinized, rendering it practically sterile. “The lemon trees are wilting. Without the plants, even the bees from the beehives I had disappeared. Some died, others left,” Santos said. 
Standing side by side in the middle of Santos’ ranch, his friend Natanael Caetano de Silva, 43, president of the Rural Workers Union of Petrolândia, explained that the waters of Lake Itaparica are quite saline and, since they were used in large volumes, the mineral salts were not absorbed, remaining in the soil. “The tendency is that, without vegetative cover, the situation worsens because, now, when it rains, it’s a storm,” he said. 
Natanael said that most of the 800 families resettled in the almost 23,000 hectares of Icó-Mandantes are in the same situation as Santos.
By email, Chesf responded that the “operation and maintenance process of the irrigation system of the Icó-Mandantes project should be handled by the São Francisco and Parnaíba Valley Development Company (Codevasf).” Chesf was a state-owned company that was part of the Eletrobras system of the federal government, which was privatized in February 2022, during Bolsonaro’s term, with the issuance of new shares that diluted the company’s control, although the Brazilian government still maintains 40 percent of its shares.
The most alarming example of how desertification is changing the Brazilian landscape can be found in Gilbués, a city in the neighboring state of Piauí. In an area of 312 square miles—about the size of New York City—the landscape as far as the eye can see is colored in shades of red, in some regions darker like carmine, in others more orange, with large craters that resemble images of Mars.
Gilbués has become a vast desert of red earth, filled with deep gullies. The soil has little or no capacity to regenerate due to the scarcity of vegetation capable of protecting it, and it is susceptible to gravel washouts during periods of heavy rain.
The region historically had drylands associated with the natural features of an arid climate. Fabrício Brito Silva, a researcher from the Federal University of Piauí, said that deforestation caused by large landowners and the unregulated extraction of diamonds in the municipality since the 1940s have contributed to the accelerated aggravation of desertification.
Piauí has an extensive semi-arid territory, covering 148 out of the state’s 224 municipalities, and all of them are susceptible to desertification. Gilbués’ desert area includes another 14 municipalities. The area is one of the four territories officially considered by the Federal Government as a “desertification nucleus” in the Brazilian semi-arid region.
Despite the dystopian atmosphere that surprises outsiders, the nearly 11,000 residents of Gilbués are enchanted by their red lands. They have learned that desertification doesn’t necessarily mean scarcity and no longer associate the desert with poverty. 
Almost 700 miles west of Santos’s dying coconut plantation, another farmer, Francisco Washington Rodrigues, 61, displays the garlic heads grown and harvested on his land. His once-white t-shirt and blue jeans, now smeared with multiple red dust stains, offer a hint of the work required to breathe life into soil that for others would be a lost cause. The largest desert area in Brazil hosts living proof that it is possible to recover desertified lands and make them productive again, thanks to a project started—and then abandoned—by the Brazilian government.
With his broad shoulders, strong hands and tanned skin, Rodrigues cuts a similar, albeit taller, frame than Santos. But where the coconut farmer seems to have lost all hope, Rodrigues is brimming with it. 
In an area that was once unproductive, dry, and without investment prospects, Rodrigues now grows vegetable gardens, cornfields, bean fields and banana plantations, in addition to cattle farming. “These lands here were worthless before, they were areas with poor soil, nowadays we make great use of the lands, it’s an area within the desertification where we produce everything,” he said. 
Rodrigues was one of the farmers who benefited from the activities of the Research Center for Recovery of Degraded Areas and Desertification Combat (Nuperade), a project conceived by the Ministry of the Environment in 2006. Gilbués was the first and only test case, receiving the benefits of studies and technologies for recovering degraded land, until it was deactivated in 2016 during Michel Temer’s government.
“We had training, received fertilizers for the soil, learned to take better care of the land, and that was very important for all the farmers in the region, but unfortunately, the project did not continue, and it is difficult for us to manage to recover the degraded lands on our own,” Rodrigues said. 
After almost ten years participating in Nuperade’s activities, Rodrigues understands the role authorities play in addressing the problem: “I think there is a lack of investment from the three levels of government, federal, state and municipal, because we are here in an area that can be cultivated, and we have already proven that, that this is a productive desert,” he said. 
Rodrigues has never stopped believing that Gilbués’ lands could produce food again. That’s why, when technicians from the State Secretariat of the Environment and Water Resources of Piauí arrived in Gilbués with the idea to ​​join forces to properly manage the land, he was one of the first to accept the offer, never missing any of the activities they organized.
Initially, Nuperade focused on making corn and beans viable, but Rodrigues was not satisfied with just two options and insisted that it would be possible to invest in other crops. Persistence paid off. 
“Here we produce vegetables, bananas, tomatoes, corn, beans, and also raise some cattle,” he said.“Here is a prime area, whatever you plant grows, I’ve even planted sunflowers here. The only things I planted here that didn’t thrive were cashew trees and mango trees. But look at the beauty of these lettuces, these garlics, all harvested here in the desert.”
Due to the large number of gullies, known by the farmers in the region as grottos, one of the strategies proposed by Nuperade researchers was to teach farming families to make contour lines on the lands to avoid increased erosion. A curious technique was to take advantage of the depth of the gullies for fish farming. The idea of ​​raising fish, well received at first, ended up not working out very well, as heavy rains caused floods that destroyed the tanks.
Rodrigues and his neighbor, José Rodrigues Santos, 78, better known as Zé Capemba, believe that Nuperade filled an important gap: overcoming the lack of knowledge about proper land management, which was an important factor in aggravating soil degradation and desertification in the territory. “In the past, we didn’t know how to plant here, so we took advantage of it to raise cattle, and for that, we would clear the land by burning it to make room for the cattle, but we didn’t know that this only made the situation worse,” Zé Capemba said.
He recalled that “this was much more of a desert before, because we had to do everything by brute force, there were no machines, no right fertilizers for the land, it was all based on hoeing. The project was a blessing for us.” 
After the project ended, he said, “many people gave up and left.” 
He said that the region’s population has seen authorities announce several projects that never materialized. “There was even a project to create an irrigation system, but it never got off the ground,” he said. “It seemed like a lack of will.” 
When Nuperade was launched in 2006, it was announced by Brazil’s current Environment Minister Marina Silva, who held the same position then. The center for the recovery of degraded areas was part of the National Action Program to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought (PAN-Brazil). The headquarters of the project in Gilbués was built at a cost of R$ 100,000, but is now closed. At the launch, Minister Silva stated that the project aimed to “heal the wounded land.”
Ten years later, the project was interrupted shortly after the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff and the rise of her vice president, Michel Temer, to power. The political turbulence coincided with the dismantling of the country’s environmental policies. It started when Temer adopted austerity measures that affected programs to combat desertification. His successor was Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right former army officer who had an open anti-environmental agenda and interrupted all policies aimed at reducing the impact of climate change during his four years in power. 
Lêdo Bezerra Sá, the forest engineer and Ph.D. researcher at Embrapa, points out that the paralysis of the federal government on the environment predates the Temer and Bolsonaro governments. “Already in 2012, this issue died of starvation, without notices, without a budget. There were years of silence,” he recalled.  For him, after working directly on forest and soil issues for 42 years, the biggest obstacle is budget insecurity: “If governments do not include resources for this in the Union budget, there is no way to address the problem.”
According to Aline Araújo, an environmental tax auditor at the state secretariat of the Environment and Water Resources of Piauí, the Gilbués region has no mitigation or prevention activities for degraded and desertified areas in place at the moment. “Currently, all desertification combat activities of Nuperade are halted,” Araújo said. “But we are trying to partner with educational institutions in the state of Piauí so that they can conduct research in the area, and we have opened a dialogue with the Desertification Combat Department of the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) to obtain resources for the Gilbués region.” 
With President Lula’s return to power in 2023, environmental policies are back on the agenda. Alexandre Pires, the new head of the Desertification Combat Department, knows the challenges facing local communities. Until the end of 2022, he was the coordinator of Semi-Arid Articulation (ASA), a network of more than 3,000 NGOs, associations and unions that built over 1 million cisterns on small family farm properties, despite having a meager budget to address the problem (a total of BRL 5 million, or about $1 million). 
Environmentalists attribute the underfunding of desertification to Brazilian politics: the environment was ignored for six years under Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. Their governments failed to update the national desertification plan and dissolved the committee dealing with the matter. 
In January 2023, Lula’s government moved forward with the budget prepared by his predecessor. Since then, the Ministry of the Environment has been developing a new National Plan to Combat Desertification. In February 2024, Pires completed one of his board’s priority tasks for this year: drafting the decree that recreated the National Commission to Combat Desertification, which, until the beginning of this year, only existed on paper, based on legislation from 2008, a time when climate change was seen as a possibility in the future. A few days later, Lula reactivated the Commission, made up of representatives from 11 federal government ministries, as well as institutions, agencies, development banks and civil entities.
“Our objective is to think about a plan for 20 years, with a monitoring process and definition of goals for the short, medium and long terms,” Pires says. He intends to present the plan at the Convention to Combat Desertification’s COP16, in Saudi Arabia, at the end of this year, hoping to attract multilateral agreements. 
“So we can have international resources that ensure the implementation of the plan itself,” he said. The plan should be presented June 17, on the International Day to Combat Desertification. 
Bezerra hopes the government’s plan can be implemented but sees two obstacles. The first is the challenge of continuity. “These plans that talk about combat, which are under the Ministry of the Environment, always have a continuity problem because they are always on a government platform and not a state platform. So, when the figure in power changes, everything changes,” he said. 
Our nonprofit newsroom provides award-winning climate coverage free of charge and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going. Please donate now to support our work.
The second and most crucial issue, again, is the lack of financial resources. Despite President Lula having issued a decree to create the National Commission to Combat Desertification with 42 members, there is still no significant budget to ignite action. 
“The money is very limited and Brazil is very large. And they are increasing the territory to be worked on by the Desertification Combat Department, which goes beyond the Brazilian semi-arid and encompasses the problem in other regions of the country,” Bezerra said. “So, we should have a specific fund for this, which would be within the Ministry of the Environment, and not involving a bunch of other ministries because it all becomes very divided, not a centralization of planning, budget and decisions.”
Far from the offices of public authorities, in the Icó-Mandantes area of Petrolândia, Manoel Joaquim dos Santos does not need to read reports or view satellite images to know that droughts are becoming more intense and the soil is even more depleted. He experiences this firsthand every day. Frustrated, he waits for governmental action to address the challenges that progressive desertification presents to him and his community. 
“We need the government to look at our project here,” he said. 
Despite all the uncertainty, he doesn’t intend to leave his property. “The thing is, I’ve been working in agriculture since I was seven years old,” he said. “It’s not fair that I get a piece of land and then get thrown out. It’s not fair for us having to leave our place now, which is our livelihood here in agriculture.” 
For him, the dry land where his coconuts are dying is the only thing that he has left. Migrating is not an option. “It’s painful. I had three hectares of coconut trees, and now we see everything disappearing. Our livelihood was this, and suddenly, a person is left with nothing,” he said. “I can say I have nothing here, just the land.”
Report for the World is a global journalism program that supports full-time, beat-focused reporting positions for public interest media. By creating a more sustainable and impactful media ecosystem, Report for the World informs, engages, and enables communities through public service journalism. Report for the World is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.
Giovanna Carneiro is a journalist covering the environmental and social impact of development for Marco Zero in Recife. Previously, she worked as a reporter for the newspaper Folha de Pernambuco. Additionally, Carneiro was a creator and collaborator on Revista Gruvi, a digital magazine that focuses on music and culture in the eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. She was also a researcher in the area of communication and music at the Laboratory for Analysis of Music and Audiovisuals, or LAMA, at UFPE. A graduate from the Federal University of Pernambuco, Carneiro is currently enrolled in the Masters in Communication program from the same university. 
Inácio França is content director and editor at Marco Zero. As a reporter, he worked for Brazilian newspapers O Globo, Diário Popular (SP) and Diário de Pernambuco, where he received the Vladimir Herzog award for Journalism and Human Rights, among others. He also worked as an official assistant and communications consultant for UNICEF in the Amazon and the Semi-Arid region.
Arnaldo Sete is a photographer with over five years of experience in the field, based in Recife, the capital of the eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. Prior to joining Report for the World, Sete was a photojournalist at Diario de Pernambuco. His work in social documentary photography began with his first authorial work in 2017 with the Filhos de Natuba, a yearlong project, during which he recorded the lives of families living and working in the garbage dump of Vitória de Santo Antão in Pernambuco’s interior. In 2020, he developed “Warao – Refuge in the Beloved Homeland.” His most recent work in documentary photography is “Behind the Canvas,” an ebook about the life of circus artists during the Sete studied Photography at the Catholic University of Pernambuco – UNICAP.
We deliver climate news to your inbox like nobody else. Every day or once a week, our original stories and digest of the web’s top headlines deliver the full story, for free.
In rural Marion County, some residents do the only thing they can think to do: call their legislator and cry.
By Lee Hedgepeth
ICN provides award-winning climate coverage free of charge and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going.