Category: Environmental Issues

Book Review: Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage, Stephanie Hamel (2011)

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Note to readers: Full disclosure – I received free copy of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

Note to self: Never never ever again will you request from LT an environmental book written by a non-vegan. Nothing good ever comes of it.

Clever title, but this marriage was already fracked.

two out of five stars

Suppose a natural gas company offered you a small fortune to lease your land for exploration and possible drilling. Would you do it? What if all your neighbors had already signed on, thus transforming your small, idyllic “home away from home” into one giant construction zone, complete with road-clogging traffic and the ceaseless noise of drills and pumps? Further imagine that the energy company has the legal right to extract gas trapped under your property – without your consent – if it drills horizontally from a neighboring property, thus making your “sacrifice” all but futile.

Author Stephanie Hamel doesn’t have to imagine such a scenario; she’s lived it. In Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage (2011), she explores the ethical, emotional, and practical implications she and her family faced when offered to lease their fifty acres of farmland in north central Pennsylvania to a natural gas company at $2500 an acre. Hamel’s parents had purchased the land when she was just a girl, to serve as a vacation home. (“Camp,” they called it. I can relate; my father recently inherited a small cabin in the Adirondacks, similarly bought and built by his parents when he was just a kid. A multi-generational family project, you could call it.) Hamel’s childhood is peppered with memories of escaping to this rural oasis, where her family played at part-time farming, landscaping, and construction work. The existing buildings were old and ramshackle, and required much repair and maintenance. While this might not sound like much of a vacation, Hamel’s clan tackled these projects with much gusto – together. Consequently, the land holds a special significance for Hamel; and so, when her father passed away, she decided to purchase the property from her mother, to keep it in the family, and to carry on the traditions she so enjoyed as a child with her own children.

In 2008, an unnamed natural gas company approached Hamel – and many of the other property owners in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania – about leasing her land for gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. A relatively new procedure in 2008, “fracking” has met with greater opposition in recent years. Among other things, fracking is associated with groundwater contamination, air pollution, the mishandling of toxic waste – and perhaps even earthquakes. Though most of Hamel’s neighbors quickly signed up – many without so much as consulting a lawyer – Hamel dragged her feet. When rumors of drilling began circulating through Wellsboro in early 2008, Hamel was staunchly opposed to drilling. However, as gossip materialized into a pricey contract that fall, she began to waffle: with her husband’s job on the ropes, they could really use the money. Plus she could donate some of the windfall to environmental organizations. Surely this could help to offset any damage done during drilling? And if the gas company could extract gas without her permission anyhow (via the “Law of Capture”), wouldn’t it be foolish not to take the money? Besides, with all her neighbors jumping on the bandwagon, the town was already being sullied by traffic and noise pollution. Complicating matters further was her husband Tom, who welcomed the drilling as a financial boon – hence the titular “fracking of a marriage.”

While this all but promises to make for a compelling read, the result is anything but. Hamel largely based this memoir on a diary she kept during this time – and it shows. (Cue Sarah Silverman’s rant about diaries in her own autobiography, Diary of a Bedwetter: “Unvisited tombstones, unread diaries, and erased video game high-score rankings are three of the most potent symbols of mankind’s pathetic and fruitless attempts at immortality.” No one wants to read your diary – yourself included.) Although there is some useful information to be found in Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage – concerning, for example, the legal issues involved in drilling, as well as the possible health effects of fracking – these bits are few and far between. (Indeed, the entire reference section consists of just three items. THREE! Why bother?) This is especially disappointing given the author’s background: though currently a stay-at-home mom, Hamel holds a BS in Chemistry and a joint PhD in Exposure Assessment and Environmental Sciences. You’d think she’d be uniquely qualified to comment on the subject, no?

(More below the fold…)

Disaster Relief in Japan: Animal Rescue & Vegan/Animal-Friendly Resources

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Last updated on 4/18/11 @ 11:15 AM CDT.

Jump to:

1. Introduction / Choosing a Charity
2. Human-Centered Disaster Relief, Vegan & Non
3. Animal Rescue & Disaster Relief
4. Vegan Fundraisers
5. Armchair Activism
6. News & (Somewhat Vegan) Views
7. Newsletters & Dispatches

 

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Before and after the quake, Arahama in Sendai. This image shows one continuous landscape across the rectangle–at center, see the roadway sloping slightly upward from left to right across the black bar. In the original, dynamic version of this image, the black bar can be scrolled left and right across the landscape.
Credits: Google, ABC, GeoEye
Source: cnet.com
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It’s a startling picture of how dramatic and destructive Friday’s massive earthquake actually was.

The quake, which has upgraded to a magnitude 9.0 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, may have shifted the position of Earth’s axis about 6.5 inches, Richard Gross, a geophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times. The quake likely sped up the Earth’s rotation, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds, Gross said. Also, the main island of Japan appears to have moved 8 feet, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey told CNN.

To help illustrate the damaging power of the quake and the ensuing tsunami, Google has compiled a collection of high-resolution before-and-after satellite images that depict the areas affected most by the devastation.

“We’re working to provide this data directly to response organizations on the ground to aid their efforts,” Ryan Falor, Google Crisis Response team, said in a Google Lat Long Blog post. “We hope this new updated satellite imagery is valuable for them as well as everyone else following this situation to help illustrate the extent of the damage.”

ABC News has created a presentation of the images, overlaying the before and after images for each specific area for a more immediate representation of the quake and tsunami’s devastating effects.

(Source: cnet.com)

(More below the fold…)

Food, oil, energy and excess: A review of The Energy Glut (Ian Roberts, 2010)

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

The Energy Glut by Ian Roberts (2010)

The Energy Glut: The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World by Ian Roberts with Phil Edwards (2010)

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Note: I received a free copy of The Energy Glut through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

While researching the link between traffic-related injuries and fatalities, trends in car usage, and public health issues such as obesity, Ian Roberts – a public health professor in Britain and a former practicing physician – developed a simple yet radical premise: that the discovery and subsequent adoption of fossil fuels as a cheap source of energy can be directly implicated in the “obesity epidemic” as well as global climate change. Just as cheap oil powers our cars, so too does it make possible the abundance of energy-dense foods that feed human bodies. Designed for movement, these bodies grow increasingly sedentary in a “motorized” world, thus compounding the problem. The result? Congested roadways, air and water pollution, fewer green public spaces, reduced opportunities for movement, and overall poor public health.

Roberts adeptly demonstrates how seemingly disparate issues are connected, oftentimes exhibiting multiple points of intersection. Like threads in a tapestry, you cannot tug on one without disturbing the others. Likewise, in linking a supposedly personal failing – obesity – with larger societal trends, The Energy Glut reflects that good ol’ feminist adage of the ’60s, namely: the personal is political (and the political, personal). Consider, for example, the following observations made by Roberts:

Artificially cheap oil paves the way for the widespread availability and use of motor vehicles powered by fossil fuels:

  • The use of motor vehicles is positively correlated with BMI, at both the individual and societal levels – as car use increases, so too does BMI;
  • Likewise, modes of active transport – walking, cycling, taking the subway – are negatively correlated with BMI;
  • As the amount of kinetic energy (i.e., in the form of motor vehicles) on the roadways increases, so too does the danger to pedestrians, creating a tension between the two groups. Rather than risk injury or death, pedestrians are apt to abandon walking and cycling in whole or part.;
  • Public policies – such as those favoring motor vehicle over foot and cycle traffic – exacerbate the problem, such that “might makes right,” personally and politically;
  • Thus begins a “motorized arms race which drives the downward spiral of walking and cycling”: pedestrians take to cars in greater numbers, thus making the roads more dangerous for remaining pedestrians, and so on;
  • As people are driven indoors and into cars, streets and sidewalks become less hospitable, giving rise to violence and discouraging a sense of community;
  • The increased motorization of movement encourages suburban sprawl, which leads to longer commutes;
  • Larger people require larger vehicles, which consume more gas;
  • Larger vehicles generate more kinetic energy, thus making the roadways less safe for those driving smaller vehicles;
  • Consumers buy increasingly large vehicles because they’re safer for the occupants in the event of an accident;
  • The congestion of our roadways with more and larger vehicles slows down traffic, increasing the amount of time spent in cars and the amount of gas burned.

    (More below the fold…)

  • A belated vegan review of eaarth (Bill McKibben, 2010) and Diet for a Hot Planet (Anna Lappé, 2010).

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    Last summer, I received review copies of eaarth and Diet for a Hot Planet – authored by Bill McKibben and Anna Lappé, respectively – though Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. Though I devoured them rather quickly and back-to-back, it’s taken me quite some time to put together reviews for each. (2010 was a funky year for me, and not in a good way.) Given that they cover similar territory; complement one another in several respects; and suffer the same, all-too-common pitfall (in a word, speciesism), I thought a joint review might work best.

    Eaarth by Bill McKibben (2010)

    Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben (2010)

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    Let’s start with Bill McKibben’s eaarth, which is by far the more radical of the two books. eaarth opens with a terrifying premise: that, when it comes to climate change, humanity has already altered the earth’s environment to the point of no return. For the bulk of human existence, the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has remained somewhat stable at 275 parts per million (ppm). Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels have been on the rise, as has been scientific debate over its safest uppermost concentrations. Initially, 550 ppm was the supposed ceiling; in 2007, climatologist Jim Hansen identified 350 ppm as the “safe number.” This is problematic to say the least, as currently the planet has almost 390 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Even if we drastically reduce emissions overnight (an impossibility, both practically and politically speaking), we’ve already reached the tipping point; our home’s climate is changing, and for the worse.

    “Worse,” anyhow, for most of the species that have evolved to live on earth as it was, humans included. The “new earth” – christened “eaarth” by McKibben – will be a planet of much harsher living conditions and more extreme weather patterns; a planet “with dark poles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat.” McKibben looks to current climatological trends as indicators of what’s to come: warmer air and water temperatures, melting glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels, increasingly acidic oceans, more powerful storms, prolonged droughts, a decrease in biodiversity and corresponding increase in invasive “pest” species – all of these phenomenon are interconnected and influence one another in myriad ways; sometimes unpredictable, almost always tragic.

    I’m no climate scientist, so I can’t speak to the veracity of McKibben’s predictions – but the data presented in eaarth (buttressed by 25 pages of end notes) certainly makes for a striking argument. If nothing else, McKibben clearly demonstrates the degree to which seemingly disparate natural occurrences are interdependent; a change in one aspect of the earth’s climate affects all others. Human-driven climate change is real, and it’s really happening. Even if you accept this as a scientific truth, however, McKibben’s solution will be hard to swallow (not that you’ll necessarily have a choice, mind you).

    In the second half of eaarth, McKibben shares his vision of a new way of life for a new planet. Though he doesn’t describe it in so many words, McKibben’s eaarth strikes me as somewhat anarchist in nature, marked by a number of small, mostly self-sufficient city states functioning under a shared moral code or social contract.* (It’s hard to pin down this new society exactly, as MicKibben doesn’t elaborate on such minor details as systems of government or human rights. I guess those things will just…work themselves out? Sarcastic, who me?) Rather than “regressing” to older ways of life, McKibben sees us living lightly on this changed planet by retaining some necessary and beneficial aspects of our current culture (e.g., the internet, new energy technology) and discarding those which are unnecessary and unsustainable (most of our current, bloated economy, including but not limited to the entertainment industry. No word on traveling bards, fwiw.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Frugal vegans invest in sharing.

    Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

    Invest in Sharing / People Walking

    In this black and white double exposure, we see a photo of some sidewalk graffiti juxtaposed with the image of two people walking together, arm in arm, along a city street. The graffiti is a stencil of the bespectacled, top-hatted Monopoly millionaire – now bearing wings as well – flying out of an opened bird cage; freedom! Underneath this image is the slogan “Invest in Sharing.” A lovely pairing of words, I think. CC image via Flickr user beeteeoh.
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    I admit it; I so did not come up with the title of this week’s “frugal vegans” post by my lonesome. Prior to finding multiple examples of the totally awesome “Invest in Sharing” stencil (pictured above) on Flickr, this tip was to be called “frugal vegans share with others.” Meh, how boring. I don’t even think such a title is fit to grace a Sesame Street skit.

    So what, pray tell, do I mean by “invest in sharing” in the context of frugality? Well, it’s simple, really. If you’re anything like me, you own multiple kitchen appliances, utensils and assorted gadgets that rarely, if ever, see the light of day. Possibly you purchased them new – or even second-hand – and with every intention of getting your money’s worth. Perhaps you do use some of these items as often as is reasonable – but reason only requires occasional or seasonal use. Whatever the case, your kitchen – indeed, your entire house – is most likely packed with consumer goods that are not in use 99% of the time.

    Why not save money – and the environment – by splitting the cost and custody of these items with like-minded friends?

    By way of illustration, let’s say that both you and your BFF are jonesing for a shiny new ice cream maker. Neither of you can afford to buy a nice electric model on your own. But if you pool your resources, what was an out-of-reach luxury purchase suddenly becomes do-able (albeit possibly still a luxury). At most, you might churn a batch or two of ice cream a month; the rest of the time, the machine would sit on a shelf in your pantry, unused and totally bored. Rotating the ice cream maker between two households on a weekly basis, then, won’t really affect the amount of use and enjoyment that each party can get out of it. Just plan ahead and make a little extra ice cream for your “off” week when it is your turn to use the ice cream maker.

    This “shared cost, shared custody” arrangement could work with a number of kitchen items – depending, of course, on personal use and preferences:

    (More below the fold…)

    Call for Papers: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon

    Monday, July 5th, 2010

    In-Memory-of-All-That-Is-Lost: An Oil Spill Cemetery in Grand Isle, Louisiana, on You Tube.

    The above video depicts an “oil spill cemetery” erected by Grand Isle, LA resident Patrick Shay in his front yard. The art installation/protest includes dozens of white crosses, each standing waist high and bearing the name of something (or someone) – an animal species, activity, item or foodstuff – that’s been impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil “spill.” The “deceased” include: the beach, sand, a walk on the beach, seagulls, diving, sharks, birdwatching, star gazing, shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp omelette, shrimp cocktail, shrimping, oyster boats, oyster Rocherfeller, summer fun, sandcastles, family time, frogs croaking, marsh, brown pelican, sea turtles, dolphins, redfish, crabbing, boiled crabs, stuffed crabs, fish fry, seafood gumbo, and our soul. Shots of individual crosses in the cemetery are interspersed with footage of the local beaches as they look now.

    More than any news coverage I’ve witnessed since (the cemetery was erected and reported on in early June), this graveyard embodies the disconnect between humans’ expressed empathy for the nonhuman victims of the oil spill – and our actions toward them, before, during and (no doubt) after the Gulf disaster. For example, the inclusion of “food” animals in the cemetery is rather ironic; had they not perished or become otherwise “polluted” in the oil spill, “crabbers” and “fishermen” would have slaughtered these same shrimps, redfishes and crabs (etc.) by the millions. Absent the oil spill, these animals would have died anyway; Shay’s (et al.’s) tears are not for these animals themselves, but for the many products borne of their exploitation: seafood gumbo, oyster Rocherfeller and stuffed crabs. As someone who considers all animals equally worthy of consideration, I simply cannot join Mr. Shay in mourning a “way of life” that’s predicated upon taking the actual lives of others. Whether stolen by megacorp BP or by working-class fishermen, these mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons will never get their lives back.

    Although I continue to follow the Deepwater disaster with a mix of horror, anger and grief, my empathy rests with the disaster’s (and the kyriarchy’s) perpetual victims – in this case, the millions of nonhuman animals to whom the Gulf Coast is home. The rest of us? We’re all complicit in this tragedy – and the billions of smaller, mostly-invisible tragedies that take place every single day – to varying degrees.

    While many of vegans no doubt share similar feelings, our perspective is virtually nonexistent in mainstream coverage of the oil spill and its fallout. And so I was terribly excited to see the following call for papers posted on the NILAS mailing list. Crude Behavior: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon will examine the oil spill, its short- and long-term effects, and public discourse surrounding these from an animal welfare/rights perspective. (I’m inclined to scream “Finally!,” but – doesn’t it seem a bit soon to be dissecting a disaster that’s still ongoing? Wev, I’ll scoop up a copy regardless of when it’s released.) Abstracts are due August 1st.

    For more on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, please see BP Oil “Spill”: Animal Rescue, Disaster Relief, Action Alerts & Vegan Views, also at easyvegan.info.

    (More below the fold…)

    BP Oil "Spill": Animal Rescue, Disaster Relief, Action Alerts & Vegan Views

    Thursday, May 13th, 2010

    Last updated 4/20/11 @ 11:00 AM CDT.


     
     
    As with the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, I’ve decided to create a single blog post which will act as a sort of “hub” where I’ll post information, action alerts, newsletters, etc. related to the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Given that President Obama intends to push forward with previously announced plans to expand offshore drilling, there’s a special emphasis on action alerts that address fossil fuels and/or their place in proposed climate change legislation. Where appropriate, I’ve also included information on what you can do to help meet immediate disaster relief needs in the Gulf Coast region.
     
    (More below the fold…)

    Happy Earth Day?

    Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

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    My cynical, misanthropic, impatient, stick-in-the-mud thoughts on Earth Day: “Meat’s Not Green. Save the Planet – GoVeganNow.com

    Graphic shamelessly appropriated and repurposed from PETA2.
    (Hey, what’s good for the goose…)

    (More below the fold…)

    lol ur empty gestures.

    Thursday, December 17th, 2009

    When I opened this email from 350.org, I couldn’t help but snicker – after which, I inevitably felt a little guilty. (Hey, I’ve got lady bits; I’ve been indoctrinated into a sea of guilt, whether deserved or not.) Then, still feeling a pang of guilt, I snickered some more. You see, their hearts are (kinda sorta) in the right place; their tummies, not so much.

    Apologies again for bombarding you with email, but we’re in the final stretch here at Copenhagen and I hope you can join us in doing two unusual things.

    “Unsual”? Well, I’m up for most anything. Do tell!

    They’re unusual things for us to ask, but this is an unusual moment. In a certain sense the Copenhagen conference is going better than we dared hope. The small nations of the world have really been quite remarkable this week–their calls for strong climate action have completely changed the tone of these negotiations. They have stood up to immense pressure from the big powers, and they continue to rally behind the banner that all of you have raised for them. These nations are still trying to insert “350 language” into the treaty text, at least as a symbolic aspiration for the future. This would be a remarkable acknowledgment of physical reality, and give us a good base to keep moving on.

    But not all is well in Copenhagen. We’re not going to get the agreement that we need (current negotiations put us on track to hit a devastating 770ppm by century’s end) and this movement will need to fight on in the years ahead.

    But right now, while the Copenhagen climate talks are still unfolding, we need one final push.

    Yes, yes!? Quit with the teasing and spill the organic, fair trade, sustainably harvested beans already!

    (More below the fold…)

    Scientists, Poets, Changemakers and Heroes (Volunteer Opportunities & Action Alerts)

    Monday, October 26th, 2009

    There are several “actionable items” – not quite action alerts, but rather opportunities for participation, if that makes sense – I’ve been meaning to share, but just haven’t had the time to blog about in depth. Rather than neglect these projects altogether, here’s a handy-dandy roundup. Please scan through each item and help out where you can; these virtual volunteer opportunities are perfect for activists who have more extra time than they do money!

    1. Science

    It really chaps my rotund hide when speciesists claim that animal advocates are “anti-science.” Being all diverse and stuff, I’m sure the animal rights and welfare movements are home to a fair share of science-averse humans, but for the most part, we’re hardly anti-science. On the contrary: many of us harness the power of scientific research to demonstrate that veganism is a healthier alternative to “meat” and dairy consumption; that nonhuman animals can experience complex thoughts and emotions; that our exploitation of nonhumans animals is both unnecessary and harmful; etc., etc., etc. (you get the idea). On the whole, I don’t think we’re any more anti-science than our omni counterparts.

    Personally, I love science; once upon a time, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, specializing in anthrozoology and world vegan (then vegetarian, but wev) domination. I still peruse research articles and scientific journals (of a social nature) on occasion, just for the fun of it. No, it’s not science per se that I take issue with. Rather, I object to the imprisonment, torture, killing and exploitation of sentient, non-consenting animals, usually for redundant and frivolous research.

    So I’ve become increasingly interested in “vegan” science, particularly in supporting such endeavors whenever possible. For example, I would love to donate my body to science when I die. The thought of spending my “afterlife” rotting away on a body farm somewhere brings a smile to my face; doubly so if my remains can save a nonhuman animal from being birthed, tortured and killed in the name of science. Oooh, Dr. Brennan, pick me, pick me!

    Anyhow, when I saw an ad for research volunteers in the latest issue of Best Friends magazine, I immediately fired off an email to Dr. Frank McMillan to see how I might help. He pointed me to five open surveys, all of which are related to studies he’s conducting at Best Friends (as described here):

    Dr. Franklin McMillan has been the director of well-being studies at Best Friends since October 2007. As director of well-being studies, Dr. Frank assesses and studies the mental health and emotional well-being of animals who have endured hardship, adversity and psychological trauma. Through these studies, he hopes to learn what the effects of trauma are – the psychological injuries and scars – and how best to treat them in order to restore to these animals a life of enjoyment rather than one of fear and emotional distress.

    He is currently conducting such studies on cats from the Great Kitty Rescue in Pahrump, Nevada – an institutionalized hoarding situation – and the fighting dogs taken from the estate of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

    (More below the fold…)

    VeganMoFo, 10.24: 350 365 + Vegan = REAL Action

    Saturday, October 24th, 2009

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    Close on the heels of last week’s Blog Action Day for Climate Change comes today’s International Day of Climate Action. With a focus on the number 350 – “as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere” – the campaign’s goal is laudable:

    350.org is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that science and justice demand.

    Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

    Our focus is on the number 350–as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. But 350 is more than a number–it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.

    To tackle climate change we need to move quickly, and we need to act in unison—and 2009 will be an absolutely crucial year. This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn’t meet the severity of the climate crisis—it doesn’t pass the 350 test.

    In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we’re harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action on October 24, 2009. We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world – from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community – and clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.

    If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.

    Certainly, we need bold, cooperative, global action to combat climate change – and we need it now. Yet, 350′s campaign materials do not so much as mention vegetarianism, let alone veganism – this despite the fact that animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide (which have a global warming potential 23 and 296 times greater than C02, respectively). Given the world’s burgeoning human population and rise in “meat” and dairy consumption, we cannot stop and reverse climate change – not to mention, air and water pollution, deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, world hunger and poverty – without transitioning to a vegan diet. Our exploitation of nonhuman animals echoes in our exploration of the earth, and of one another.

    While I’m happy to see that many of the planned actions include vegan meals, this isn’t enough: the International Day of Climate Action must include veganism as its centerpiece. Talk about C02 and Copenhagen, yes, but don’t stop there: speak also of veganism and the politics of what’s on your plate. Anything less is dishonest, regressive, hypocritical. Suicide and murder, both.

    I get that “350″ is a cute, catchy, universally-understood campaign gimmick – so why not make next year’s theme 365? As in, GO VEGAN!: not just meatless on Mondays, or meat- and dairy-free on on November 1st, but vegan 365 days of the year. That’s real, meaningful change, and with minimal effort, too. Omnivores, vegetarians and vegans: we all already shop, cook and eat. To do so in a compassionate, (truly) green manner requires little to no extra action, especially in the long run – and living vegan will only become easier as demand and support for veganism increase.

    (More below the fold…)

    Veganism is the solution. (VeganMoFo, meet Blog Action Day!)

    Thursday, October 15th, 2009

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    As you may have already heard, today is the third annual Blog Action Day. Started in 2007, the goal is to create awareness of a single issue through mass participation. Activists online – and in the real world – focus their attention on a social problem: by writing or blogging about the issue; by posting links to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites; by donating time and money; by discussing the topic amongst friends and family members; and so forth. This year’s topic is climate change; previous areas of concern were the environment and poverty.

    While easyVegan is an animal rights blog, this is the third year I’ll be participating. The environment, climate change and yes, even poverty – all can be discussed vis-à-vis our relationship to animals. In fact – and this occurred to me while voting on next year’s topic – pretty much any subject you dream up can be tied back to animal rights, environmental justice and/or veganism. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, size, health, nutrition, labor, poverty, xenophobia, species, nature, the environment – you name it – all are interconnected. (So much so that it’s starting to feel arbitrary and capricious to file some posts under “intersections” at the expense of others; ditto: veganism. This entire blog is centered around veganism, yo!)

    Some of these connections are more obvious than others; for example, like many of the animal advocates taking part in Blog Action Day, my focus will be on the significant contribution of animal agriculture to climate change. Other intersections are much more subtle; take, for example, PETA’s “Save the Whales” billboard. While clearly sizeist, PETA’s fat-shaming is classist and racist, too. Because PETA fails to address factors linked to class and race (which themselves are inextricably connected) that make it more difficult for disadvantaged populations to consume a healthy, cruelty-free diet, the campaign reinforces class and race privilege and shifts responsibility to the individual, in contrast to systemic factors that set certain people up for failure.

    So it feels somewhat serendipitous that the third annual Blog Action Day – for climate change, to boot – falls smack dab in the middle of the third annual Vegan Month of Foods. I guess you could write this off as laziness, but the two blog carnivals (swarms? whatever!) seem a perfect match – so much so that they can share one post between the two of ‘em! Action to combat climate change must include veganism – not as an afterthought, not as a quirky personal choice, not one day a week – but as a lifelong commitment by humans (at first living in privileged/developed nations, and perhaps some day globally) to stop viewing other animals as commodities, products to be bought, sold, used and discarded at our convenience.

    For we all share the same fate: the water we poison with animal waste; the antibiotics we inject into sick and tortured factory farmed animals; the methane we unleash into the atmosphere; the forests we de-virginize; the so-called “pest” species we eradicate; the ecosystems we decimate – we are all one. We all share one planet, one environment. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, bask under the rays of the same sun. That which we do to one being, we do to all beings. Once we rationalize and accept our subjugation and exploitation of one class of “lesser” animals, it becomes that much easier to extend the oppression to other classes of animals – humans and nonhumans alike.

    Veganism is a diet, yes, but it’s also so much more: a lifestyle, an ethical system, a new way of viewing the world and one’s place within it. A light bulb, if you will.

    Before I get full-on radfem, let’s return to the topic at hand: climate change and veganism (or, because I’m all about the macro, the environment and veganism).

    Here are five reasons (out of a multitude) why environmentalists should – must – eliminate animals and their secretions from their diets.

    (More below the fold…)

    Current on "An Organic Death"

    Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

    Eco-friendly in life, eco-friendly in death. Current reports on “organic” burials in this short, quirky little segment.
     


     

    The film is way too long for me to transcribe, but here’s the gist:

    Death as part of the natural life cycle has been forgotten in the UK. The biological process of what happens to the body and the environment during burial and cremation is largely unknown. In an ultimate bid to recycle, should we take more responsibility for what we leave behind?

    If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford (2000), a muckraking exposé of the American funeral industry, as well as Lisa Carlson’s Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, a sort of DIY guide to nontraditional funerals. For more on “green” burial practices, start with the Wiki entry on “Natural Burial,” where you can find external links to a number of associations and websites.

    Finally, you may want to consider bypassing the whole funeral spiel altogether, and do something useful with your corpse – like donating it to science.

    Of course, there’s also the “Jim shoes” option.

    (More below the fold…)

    Kinship Circle: Friends of Kinship Circle Updates, June 2009

    Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Kinship Circle – KinshipCircleInfo [at] accessus.net
    Date: Sun, Jun 7, 2009 at 9:31 AM
    Subject: Pig Massacre, Cat Labs, Black Market Asia Film…[Friends Of Kinship Circle]
    To: “3) KINSHIP CIRCLE PRIMARY”

    FRIENDS OF KINSHIP CIRCLE, 6/7/09

    http://friendsofkinshipcircle.wordpress.com

    * KINSHIP CIRCLE DOES NOT WRITE OR RESEARCH THESE ALERTS.
    * QUESTIONS? CONTACT ALERT WRITERS. PLEASE DO NOT HIT REPLY.

    IN THIS ALERT:

    1. Egypt: Mass Pig Slaughter During Swine Flu Panic
    2. Stop Texas Tech’s Senseless Torture Of Cats
    3. Support New Film On Illegal Trade In Wild Animals
    4. Shield Polar Bears From Deadly Global Warming
    5. End “Jumps Racing” Carnage For Good
    6. Shocking Elephant Abuse Video From Greek Circus
    7. Brookfield Zoo Elephant Deserves Safe Haven
    8. Check Out Karen Dawn’s Blog
    9. 50+ Years In A Lab – Save Elder Chimps From Hell

    (More below the fold…)

    Happiness is a ‘pumped and dumped’ gun.

    Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

    First, the bad news: That rider to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, introduced by asshat extraordinaire Tom Coburn, which would allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks? Passed both the House and Senate – with the help of plenty of Blue Dog Dems, natch.

    But on the bright side, Stephen and his fiancé, Sweetness, can take that honeymoon in Yellowstone that they’ve always dreamed of:
     

     
    Also, this provides our park rangers an excellent opportunity to earn some extra funds, to prop up the crumbling national park system.
     

     
    $20k on AK-47′s, anyone?

    (More below the fold…)

    Bob Woodruff on boiling humans.

    Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

    Journalist Bob Woodruff made an appearance on The Daily Show last night in order to promote his latest project, Earth 2100:
     

     

    I find it interesting that Stewart and Woodruff open the discussion with a clip of Earth 2100 that invokes the anecdote of the frog submerged in a pot of boiling water: namely, if you put a frog in a pot of water that’s already boiling, she’ll jump right out, having sensed the heat and danger. But if you place her in a pot of cold or lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she’s none the wiser, and will remain in the deathtrap until she becomes frog soup. In this metaphor, humans are the frogs, and the pot is earth.

    Which is all fine and good, except according to Snopes, this is a folk tale:

    Like a fable, the “boiled frog” anecdote serves its purpose whether or not it’s based upon something that is literally true. But it is literally true? Not according to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology, whose research interests include “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures, critical thermal maxima and minima, thermal selection, and thermoregulatory behavior”:

    “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

    The “boiled frog” legend is a ubiquitous one – one that, given its falsehood, is both speciesist and completely inappropriate for what I assume is supposed to be a scientific documentary. The latter point is a given, but allow me to explain the former: central to the anecdote’s premise is the idea that a frog is so utterly stupid that, given subtle but entirely discernible cues, “it” would remain oblivious to the increasing danger and allow “itself” to be boiled alive. “Let’s not be like those lesser animals!” the tale cautions. Except. In denying climate change and poo-pooing slight increases in average global temperatures as “insignificant,” the human species is actually exhibiting less sense than Dog gave a frog. The frog isn’t earth’s complacent village idiot – we are.

    Also of note: Jon alludes to the presumed vivisection which led to the “discovery” that frogs might allow themselves to be boiled alive, given the right circumstances. Both Stewart and Woodruff appear to think that such gruesome experiments probably took place years ago, in the distant past. Except.

    “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

    While I can’t locate citations for these experiments, Wiki suggests that they’re more recent debunkings of “research” performed in the late 1800s (“research” on which the legend is apparently based).

    So, yeah, we boil frogs alive – or attempt to, anyway. And that’s not even the worst of it.

    Anyhow, back to Earth 2100.

    (More below the fold…)

    Meow.

    Thursday, May 28th, 2009

    American Bird Conservancy kicks its May BirdWire off with the following ominous blurb:

    ABC Video Highlights Damage to Birds from Trap, Neuter, Release Programs

    American Bird Conservancy has produced a new, short video “Trap, Neuter, and Release: Bad for Cats, Disaster for Birds.” Each year, feral and free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of our nation’s birds, putting additional pressure on the populations of many species that are in decline.

    Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) programs catch feral cats, neuter them, and then release them back to their colonies, which are subsequently maintained by volunteers. In theory, cat colonies managed under TNR will diminish over time through attrition, and eventually disappear. In practice this is not the case.

    View the video here.

    (If you have difficulty viewing the high-definition version, please click here.)

    Here’s the video, along with its description on You Tube:

    Each year free-roaming and feral cats kill hundreds of million of birds in the United States. One controversial solution to deal with the feral cat problem is trap, neuter and release. However, evidence is growing that this method is not eliminating the cat colonies or the predation of birds and other wildlife. There are other problems created by feral cats as well including threats to human health, and public nuisance issues. For more information see American Bird Conservancy’s website at http://www.abcbirds.org

    (If you can’t view the video, you can read more about ABC’s speciesist views vis-à-vis free-roaming cats here.)

    Though I’m not sufficiently educated on the issue to offer a counter to ABC’s assertions* (except to say that the birds with which ABC is so concerned have no greater right to life than their predators, the domestic and feral cats; but the guardians of domestic cats should most definitely keep them indoors, both for their own safety, and that of wildlife), I have to wonder whether ABC also advocates a vegetarian or vegan diet for Westerners. After all, meat consumption is a major contributor to climate change – which in turn is “the greatest threat to birds and other wildlife in human history.” (So says the Audubon Society, another organization that, inexplicably, engages in omni indulgence, if not outright apologism.) Most likely, ABC stands to save more birds by persuading their fellow Americans to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet – or even just eating less of the stuff.

    And yet.

    Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    And also, I’d love to hear Laura “Trap, Neuter and Find a Home” Reynold’s** ideas for rehoming all these feral cats when 1) most are not properly socialized to live indoors, with humans (they’re essentially wild animals, hello!); and 2) while between six and eight million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters every year, only half leave alive. Seriously, what a stupid, uninformed thing to say.

    One final thought: humans constitute a massive threat to wildlife. Unrivaled, perhaps. Remember, we’re the cause of climate change, “the greatest threat to birds and other wildlife in human history.”

    ….

    * Luckily, the HSUS and Alley Cat Allies are. For a rebuttal of ABC’s video, start with their websites.

    ** Of the Tropical Audubon Society; quoted from an interview in ABC’s video.

    (More below the fold…)

    The History Channel makes the case for VHEMT.

    Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

    The History Channel - Life After People

    Last January, The History Channel aired Life After People, a one-part documentary that imagined what a world suddenly absent humans might look like:

    In the program, scientists and other experts speculate about how the Earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if, suddenly, humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect humanity’s disappearance might have on the artificial aspects of civilization. Speculation is based upon documented results of the sudden removal of humans from a geographical area and the possible results that would occur if humanity discontinues its maintenance of buildings and urban infrastructure.

    The documentary features the gradual and post-apocalyptic disintegration of urban civilization in a time span of 10,000 years after humanity suddenly vanished. The hypotheses are depicted using CGI dramatizations of the possible fate of iconic structures and landmarks (i.e. the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hoover Dam).

    Having just received Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us for FSMas, I was super-psyched about the documentary (which aired as part of a block of similar programming, such as Last Days on Earth) – and Life After People did not disappoint. The graphics were amazing, and the time projections – from 1 to 10 days after our disappearance, to 1 to 10,000 years post-h. sapiens – were quite impressive. Perhaps most importantly, and much like The World Without Us, Life After People gave me great hope for the future – or rather, for a future without us. Many of humanity’s so-called “greatest achievements” will prove a small match for the forces of nature, particularly once we’re no longer around to beat nature back. Those species which we haven’t yet driven to extinction will be given a second chance, and the earth will regenerate, reclaiming the land and resources we’ve stolen from it.

    As I wrote in a review of The World Without Us,

    Environmentalists – indeed, any person [with a] modicum of decency – will be happy to know that much of what we’ve done to the Earth, can be quickly undone. With the exception of those species we’ve already managed to eradicate, many endangered and threatened animal species do stand a fighting chance in a world without us. Many of our “greatest accomplishments,” from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hoover Dam, will eventually crumble without humans around to maintain them. Forests, grasslands, and jungles will recover lost ground, though native species will be forced into competition with exotic ones introduced by humans. Global warming will slow and the ozone layer will regain molecular equilibrium. Our most enduring legacies will be our most unnatural creations: nuclear waste, plastics, and petrochemicals. Hopefully a world without us will evolve microbes to digest the more than one billion pounds of plastic we’ve dumped into the environment since the late ‘50s. [...]

    Whether it happens tomorrow or in 900 million years – when our Sun enters a red giant phase and begins to expand and contract, thus heating the Earth and evaporating our surface water – we will disappear. In this regard, we’re no better than the great megafauna of the Holocene epoch – or the lowly cockroaches and rodents that congregate in our fragile urban areas. It’s not a question of if we will vanish, but when; perhaps we should make our exit a graceful one, taking no more of our fellow earthlings to the grave than we already have.

    Call me a hopeless cynic if you’d like, but it’s worth noting that Life After People was the History Channel’s most-watched program ever, with an estimated 5.4 million viewers. Something resonated.

    Anyhow, while flipping around the teevee this morning, I was happily surprised to stumble upon Episode 2 of Life After People: The Series. Apparently last year’s documentary proved so popular that the History Channel commissioned a 10-part mini-series:

    (More below the fold…)

    The "right" to guzzle gas.

    Thursday, May 21st, 2009

    Tom Coburn is fast becoming my pick for Douchebag of the Week.

    See, for example, minute 2:30 of this Daily Show clip:
     

     
    Coburn’s complaints re: CAFE standards: “What if you want to drive a gas hog? You don’t have the right any longer in this country to spend your money to drive a gas hog?”

    Yes! And should I be struck with the desire to toss a barrel of arsenic in my pond, who is the government to tell me I can’t? It’s MY arsenic and MY pond, goddammit, and my grandfather fought and died in WWII so that AMERICA THE FREE would remain FREE from this sort of BIG GOVERNMENT FASCISM.

    What’s better/worse, Coburn defends the “right” of individuals to pollute and consume to excess while also working to strip women of the right to bodily autonomy and privacy. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape and supports the death penalty for medical doctors who perform abortions. (Nor does he care to reduce the need for abortion by increasing the availability of and access to contraception.)

    In Tom Coburn’s mind, a person has a greater “right” to decide what car to drive, than a person woman* has to decide whether or not she will lend her body and organs to another being – a potential being, which in its early stages exists as a tiny clump of cells – for nine months.

    Car purchase > Bodily integrity

    Seriously, what a douche.

    (More below the fold…)

    Urgent: Tom Coburn & Blue Dog Dems clear the way for loaded guns in national parks!

    Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

    Updated, 5/28/09:

    Sigh. As feared, the measure made it through the House. The new law won’t be implemented until February 2010, however.

    ————————

    While the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 is a piece of legislation I most definitely support, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced an rider to the bill which would allow visitors to openly carry loaded firearms in our national parks (as well as battlefields, national monuments and historic sites).

    The bill passed the Senate yesterday, with an overwhelming majority: 90 yes votes to just 5 no votes. The rider was left intact, with a vote of 67-29.

    CNN’s Brianna Keilar explains:
     



     

    A number of environmental groups oppose the rider, fearing that it will make national parks less safe for human visitors and non-human inhabitants alike.

    (More below the fold…)