Book Review: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, Mark Hawthorne (2016)

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

A Concise and Compelling Introduction to Veganism and Intersectionality

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: Changemakers Books sent me a free book in exchange for an honest review. I also downloaded an electronic ARC through NetGalley.)

If, as the animal rights movement argues, there is no moral distinction between human and nonhuman animals—if animal rights are human rights—then it makes sense that we should be working for the liberation of all species.

In introducing the topic of intersectionality, pattrice [jones] asked the audience, “What is 6 times 7?” A few people yelled out, “42!” pattrice said, “OK, everybody imagine 42. Now, what is the 6 and what is the 7? You can’t say, can you? No, because the 42 is the product of the 6 and the 7 in interaction with one another.”

I think it’s safe to say that for most Black people in the United States, a polar bear on a melting ice floe is not the face of climate change—it’s Katrina.

“Compassion is a verb.”

Despite what 30+ years of PETA campaigns would have you believe, ethical veganism is not inherently incompatible with human rights. In fact, many of us vegans believe (passionately!) that the opposite is true, thanks to the concept of intersectionality.

First introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is the idea that different forms of oppression don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather interact with one another. For example, Crenshaw coined the term to explain the myriad ways that racism and sexism interact, thus acknowledging that the oppression experienced by black women (“misogynoir”) is unique from and arguably more complicated than that experienced by black men or white women. The concept has since expanded to include all marginalized groups: women; people of color; immigrants; LGBTQ folks; those living with a physical or mental disability; sex workers; religious minorities; children and the elderly; the impoverished; and nonhuman animals.

While the animal rights movement has been a little too slow (imho) to incorporate the idea of intersectionality into its activism (see, e.g., PETA’s many problematic campaigns, not to mention their vociferous defenders), more and more vegans are expanding their circle of compassion to include human animals. In his third book, A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, Mark Hawthorne makes a concise yet compelling case for intersectionality and inclusivity. His argument is actually quite simple: “If veganism is about doing your best to not harm any sentient life, we must logically extend that circle of compassion to human animals as well.” What more is there to say?

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Book Review: Join, Steve Toutonghi (2016)

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Quirky and thought-provoking, with a darkly humorous streak.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review though Edelweiss. Trigger warning for offensive language.)

That kind of intimacy among drives is mocked by solos. Before most solo resentment hardened into religious resistance, there was a famous sketch comedy show, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, and Howard, that parodied the closeness. The seven Howards would stand in a circle, five men and two women, picking one another’s noses.

“In the beginning,” Rope Three says, “when Join was first introduced, and for a long time after, I assumed we’d all join. That we’d all become one single individual. Can you imagine that? No more other.”

Set in a distant (?) future that’s both inconceivable and all-too-familiar, Join takes the “soul mate” concept to the next level through its innovative “join” technology. Individuals – the vast majority of whom have already had their brains hacked into and connected to the biowave network via implants called “caddys” – can choose to join with one another, creating a single consciousness that lives on even after the death of a member (“drive”). Joins often start out as pairs – i.e., married couples – who later join with younger “honeymooner” couples. As the various drives work and save for additional licensing fees, the join can continue to accumulate more drives, whether they choose to merge with existing joins or court more desirable “solos.”

However, twenty is the upper limit for joins; after this, the competing perspectives can cause disorders in the join, such as the rare but terrifying meme virus. Likewise, the join must be consensual throughout the procedure and recovery/integration period; if one of or more the drives changes her mind, it could cause a “flip” – a progressive and fatal disorder.

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Cowspiracy & Circles of Compassion: Two New Indiegogo Campaigns Need Your Support!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Two new Indiegogo campaigns recently caught my eye: Cowspiracy, a feature length documentary which examines the environmental movements’ unwillingness to talk about the v-word; and Circles of Compassion, an anthology of essays “on the connections between human, animal, and environmental well-being.” They both sound pretty rad, and you know what they say about sharing!

First up: Cowspiracy. I don’t usually go out of my way to watch animals rights/welfare documentaries – I can watch a zombie get its head bashed in 102 different ways, but am entirely too sensitive for even the tamest of feedlot footage – but am really looking forward to this one!

 

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Book Review: The Culling, Robert Johnson (2014)

Monday, January 6th, 2014

The Momentum of Folly

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

Young upstart Dr. Carl Sims is moving on up the food chain at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta – though not as quickly as he’d like. While visions of Level 4 Ebola research dance in his head, Carl is dispatched to Guangdong, China, in order to track down an emerging flu virus. What was to be a rather mundane and tedious assignment quickly morphs into a battle for the future of humanity, as Carl is thrust into a conspiracy orchestrated by his senior colleagues. Led by his own superior on the assignment, Dr. Jenna Williams, the scientists hope to release the 1918 “Eskimo” flu strain, thus “culling” two thirds of the earth’s population and saving the rest from impending environment collapse. It’s up to Carl to stop them – that is, if he doesn’t decide to join them.

Robert Johnson has an interesting idea in The Culling – but, for whatever reason (or combination of reasons), the finished product just didn’t do it for me. Johnson is an adept enough writer, and mostly keeps a quick pace, but it takes some time for the conspiracy angle to get off the ground. The book – or at least the ARC I received – isn’t divided into chapters, which makes the story feel as though it’s unfolding more slowly than it is. Johnson fills the book with facts and figures that are supposed to drive home the urgency of the situation, but which mostly made my eyes glaze over. (To be fair, I’m already convinced that humanity is headed swiftly off a cliff. A member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement – emphasis on “voluntary” – I can do Johnson’s “just two children” credo two better: I have none. So I didn’t really need any convincing, is my point.)

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Product Review: Earth Rated Dog Waste Poop Bags

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Good for small and medium sized jobs!

four out of five stars

Currently, I’m a guardian to seven rescue dogs: six rat/fox/Jack Russell terrier mixes and a dachshund. Though they only go walking once or twice a week (luckily, we have a big yard, which is where they get most of their exercise), this still adds up to an impressive number of poop bags. (Ralphie the dachshund has been known to go as many as five times on one walk, though his average is three. Seriously!)

Previously I was using repurposed bags – unrecyclable bread and cereal bags, mostly, with a few bagel and grocery bags thrown in as needed – and having to constantly scrounge for them was becoming tiresome. Plus, I wanted a greener option. After a quick search I decided to try the Earth Rated brand, both because of its high ratings and relatively low prices.

What can I say other than that they get the job done! (And really, isn’t that what you want in a poop bag?) The bags come on a large roll, with perforations that make it easy to tear off a bag or two as needed. I keep a roll in the garage and grab a length of six bags or so per trip. If you have a dispenser, all the better: the roll has a hole in the middle for just this purpose.

While individual bags can be a bit of a pain to open, I find that licking my thumb and index finger ever so slightly helps to create some traction. After several months of use, I’ve yet to have a problem with a rip or tear in a bag (an improvement over grocery bags the magnitude of which cannot be overstated!). The bags measure 8” wide x 13” long, which seems to be the perfect size for my dogs: just big enough to handle their largest piles, but not so big that you waste a ton of extra material.

However, if you have a larger breed dog – or perhaps one who leaves particularly voluminous “presents” – these bags might prove a tight fit. Worst case scenario? You sometimes need two bags to handle a single job.

Likewise, as a relatively small-handed person, I don’t have any trouble fitting my hand in the bags and manipulating objects (read: feces) from within. If you have especially large hands, though, you may want to consider a bag with more generous proportions.

The bags are long enough that tying knots is a snap, which I appreciate.

I noticed that I number of reviewers have complained about the lavender scent. Though noticeable (and not particularly pleasant – it doesn’t mask the feces smell so much as it mingles with it!), I don’t find it overwhelming or nauseating. That said, if you’re especially sensitive to perfumes and such, these probably aren’t the bags for you.

(This review is also posted on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.)

Book Review: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey, Valerie Estelle Frankel (2012)

Friday, September 28th, 2012

(Full disclosure: I received a free advanced review copy of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

The Slayer Who Would Be Queen

four out of five stars

A newbie Buffy fan like myself, I was super-excited when copies of Valerie Estelle Frankel’s Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One were offered up for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. At the time I was just finishing up Season Seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and picking up Season One of the comics, so the timing was perfect – fresh as the material was in my head.

Frankel didn’t discover the show until long after the final episode had aired; but, once she did, she was quick to devour it all: BtVS, Angel, and the comics. As she watched, she also worked on an impromptu, 100-page draft comparing Buffy’s trials and tribulations to the classic hero’s journey, as described by mythologist Joseph Campbell. Eventually her thesis grew into Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey.

A “monomyth” that can be found in the great epics of every culture (see, e.g., Hercules, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter), the Hero’s Journey takes a somewhat predictable path – beginning with the call to adventure and ending with the “freedom to live” – during the course of which the protagonist gains wisdom and self-knowledge and successfully grows into a fully integrated adult. Of course, many adventures are had along the way: the hero battles with (and triumphs over) a Dark Lord (his Shadow) who threatens the world; he meets his Princess, goddess of the forest and embodiment of the earth’s magic; and he battles monsters of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps he’s also accompanied by a trustworthy friend or two, who function as outward reflections of his inner self.

As articulated in a handy chart by Frankel, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey includes:

* World of Common Day
* Call to Adventure
* Refusal of The Call
* Supernatural Aid
* Crossing The First Threshold
* Belly of the Whale
* Road of Trials
* Meeting with The Goddess
* Woman as Temptress
* Atonement with The Father
* Apotheosis
* The Ultimate Boon
* The Refusal of the Return
* The Magic Flight
* Rescue from Within
* Return
* Master of Two Worlds
* Freedom to Live

In contrast, Frankel offers up a different – but oftentimes parallel – outline of The Heroine’s Journey:

* World of Common Day
* Call to Adventure: A Desire to Reconnect with the Feminine
* Refusal of The Call
* The Ruthless Mentor and the Bladeless Talisman
* Crossing the First Threshold: Opening One’s Senses
* Sidekicks, Trials, Adversaries
* Wedding the Animus
* Facing Bluebeard
* Sensitive Man as Completion
* Confronting the Powerless Father
* Descent into Darkness
* Atonement with the Mother
* Apotheosis through Accepting One’s Feminine Side
* Reward: Winning the Family
* Torn Desires
* The Magic Flight
* Reinstating the Family
* Power of Life and Death
* Ascension of the New Mother

As you can see, many of the points on these paths are quite similar, with nearly all of the differences hinging upon the hero’s gender. (Paging Captain Obvious!) For example, while the male hero has daddy issues (the mother being largely absent), the heroine is plagued with mommy problems – and a weak father (and/or father figure), to boot. Whereas the hero will be seduced by a woman (“Woman as Temptress”), the heroine must remain vigilant against intimate partner violence (“Facing Bluebeard”). The hero meets and falls in love with a mysterious princess/goddess who introduces him to the magic of nature, whereas the heroine must wed the animus – her dark, masculine Shadow Self.

Drawing upon the whole of Buffyverse canon – the 1992 film, seven seasons of Buffy, five seasons of Angel, and Seasons One and Eight of the comic – Frankel elucidates the ways in which Buffy’s journey functions as a “perfect example” (I’m paraphrasing) of The Heroine’s Journey. Xander (passionate, practical) and Willow (innocent, intelligent) can be read as aspects of Buffy’s self, manifested externally, which must be nurtured and protected at all costs. Giles is both a manly guardian of knowledge and a (physically) powerless father (figure; Buffy’s actual father is both powerless and largely absent from her life). Maggie Walsh and Glory are Terrible Mothers – destructive forces that Buffy must avoid succumbing to. Whereas Joyce vacillates between a Good Mother and a mother who is at best oblivious to her daughter’s needs, Tara acts as a surrogate Good Mother in the wake of Joyce’s death; after Tara is murdered, Buffy must integrate Tara’s goodness into her own psyche, so that she can care for her little sister/adopted daughter Dawn. As Buffy confronts and defeats increasingly disturbing and powerful opponents – absorbing their darkness into her Self – she matures. So do her weapons: from a common crossbow (which allows to her keep a relatively safe distance from vamps), to a masculine, army-issued rocket launcher, culminating in the ultra-powerful, ultra-ancient scythe, which helps to unleash the power of the feminine so that all women are potential slayers.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Four stars for I Am Number Four

four out of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts, but you get the idea!

  • The basic premise of the Lorien Legacies series is this: we are not alone. Besides Earth, multiple planets capable of sustaining life exist in the universe. Among these are Lorien and Mogadore, whose contrasting pasts and presents reflect two possible futures for Earth.

    Much like Earth today, in its early history Lorien was faced with ecological collapse. Caused by greed and fueled by rapid technological advancements, the Loric people were quickly depleting their planet’s resources, driving it ever closer to ruin. Rather than continue on this self-destructive path, the Loriens chose another way: they simplified their society, living sustainably and in harmony with nature. (Just what this entails isn’t clear. For example, there’s no indication that the Loriens are/were vegans, nor do they seem to have renounced their “ownership” of nonhuman animals.)

    In thanks, the planet endowed the Loriens with special gifts. While all Loriens are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average human, roughly half of the population have additional, supernatural abilities: Telekinesis. The ability to control the elements. Invisibility. The gift of flight. Imperviousness to fire. They are members of the Garde, the superhuman – or rather super-Lorien – protectors of the planet. Behind the scenes, the Cêpan manage the society and act as mentors to young Gardes who are just discovering their Legacies. At the time of our hereos’ births, Lorien is a veritable Eden, with everyone coexisting in peace and harmony.

    Mogadore offers a terrifying glimpse of the road not taken by Lorien. Faced with a similar fate, the Mogadorians deplete their planet’s resources, turning it into a barren hellscape – and then set out to conquer other planets and plunder their resources as well. The first of these is Lorien, which is caught with its guard down and is taken easily. Save for a lucky few, all of the Loric people are slaughtered. Lorien is laid to waste.

    Obvious moral is obvious, though no less true. We are at a crossroads; will we emulate the peaceable Lorien, or – be it through, antipathy, stubbornness, or privilege – go the way of Mogadore? Human history, rife as it is with genocide, colonization, slavery, and wars of convenience, does not speak well of us.

    (More below the fold…)

  • Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 26: Milk Thieves, Body Hair, and the Cannibals Within

    Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

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    Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: A Powerful Statement

    This stunning sculpture by Liu Qiang is an accurate depiction of humanity’s use of, and utter dependence on other animals and, in particular, the savage and bizarre habit of consuming the breast milk from mothers of other species-milk that these mothers have produced for their own babies, babies that we forced them to become pregnant with only to kill shortly after birth so that we can take the bereft mother’s milk, milk that we drink as though we were the children that we murdered.

    Live vegan. There is no excuse not to.

    Learn about non-violent living
    Learn who is spared when you live vegan…
    …and who suffers when you choose not to:
    Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother
    Dairy is a Death Sentence
    The “Humane” Animal Farming Myth

    29h59’59 by Liu Qiang is on exhibition at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China
    Photo by Ng Han Guan

    VegNews: June Twitter Chat, Wednesday, June 20 @ 6pm PT/9pm ET

    In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’ll be talking with prominent gay animal-rights activists about the connection between both movements. Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Don’t worry. We have a handy guide to explain it all. Join us at the hashtag #VegNewsChat. You don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy the discussion.

    Kaili Joy Gray @ Daily Kos: Safeway’s general counsel tells hilarious sexist joke at annual shareholder meeting

    You can listen to the audio at the link above, but here’s a transcript for the a/v averse:

    You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

    The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”

    And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

    And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

    Women as livestock. Nonhuman animals as items of trade. Sexism and speciesism, the stuff of high comedy. TAKE MY LAWYER, PLEASE!

    Fat Girl Posing: Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

    This is a year-old piece about fat shaming in the vegan community that recently recirculated on Facebook. h/t to Emelda (I think).

    The whole piece is worth a read, but here’s the excerpt I posted on FB:

    So here’s your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you’ll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or “lifestyle change” will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg’s don’t lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you’ve lost your pull. More so, you’ve become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal.

    Word.

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    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…)

    "…quietly turning to rust."

    Friday, February 3rd, 2012

    “Dinosauria, We (blue man)”: CC image via flickr user danielofredorota.
    ——————————

    Father Gomez

    I.

    He came out at sunset on a little headland beside a shallow bay. If they had tides in this sea, the tide was high, because there was only a narrow fringe of soft white sand above the water.

    And floating in the calm bay were a dozen or more. Father Gomez had to stop and think carefully. A dozen or more enormous snow-white birds, each the size of a rowboat, with long, straight wings that trailed on the water behind them: very long wings, at least two yards in length. Were they birds? They had feathers, and heads and beaks not unlike swans’, but those wings were situated one in front of the other, surely…

    Suddenly they saw him. Heads turned with a snap, and at once all those wings were raised high, exactly like the sails of a yacht, and they all leaned in with the breeze, making for the shore.

    Father Gomez was impressed by the beauty of those wing-sails, by how they were flexed and trimmed so perfectly, and by the speed of the birds. Then he saw that they were paddling, too: they had legs under the water, placed not fore and aft like the wings but side by side, and with the wings and the legs together, they had an extraordinary speed and grace in the water.

    As the first one reached the shore, it lumbered up through the dry sand, making directly for the priest. It was hissing with malice, stabbing its head forward as it waddled heavily up the shore, and the beak snapped and clacked. There were teeth in the beak, too, like a series of sharp incurved hooks.

    Father Gomez was about a hundred yards from the edge of the water, on a low grassy promontory, and he had plenty of time to put down his rucksack, take out the rifle, load, aim, and fire.

    The bird’s head exploded in a mist of red and white, and the creature blundered on clumsily for several steps before sinking onto its breast. It didn’t die for a minute or more; the legs kicked, the wings rose and fell, and the great bird beat itself around and around in a bloody circle, kicking up the rough grass, until a long, bubbling expiration from its lungs ended with a coughing spray of red, and it fell still.

    The other birds had stopped as soon as the first one fell, and stood watching it, and watching the man, too. There was a quick, ferocious intelligence in their eyes. They looked from him to the dead bird, from that to the rifle, from the rifle to his face.

    He raised the rifle to his shoulder again and saw them react, shifting backward clumsily, crowding together. They understood.

    They were fine, strong creatures, large and broad-backed, like living boats, in fact. If they knew what death was, thought Father Gomez, and if they could see the connection between death and himself, then there was the basis of a fruitful understanding between them. Once they had truly learned to fear him, they would do exactly as he said. […]

    (More below the fold…)

    Chewy Chocolate Chip Dashboard Cookies!

    Thursday, August 18th, 2011

    2011-07-23 - Dashboard Cookies - 0007

    Dashboard cookies!

    I made a batch last month – when the mercury was approaching 100 degrees – and completely forgot to post about it! Hopefully it’s still hot enough where you live so you can try it out if your tummy desires. Or maybe not? Hot, humid weather is the worst. But cookies make it more bearable. Especially if you use ’em to make ice cream sammies!

    Anywho, dashboard cookies are exactly what they sound like: cookies baked on the dash of your car. It’s pretty simple; all you need is batch of vegan cookie dough, a sunny day that’s expected to hit at least 95 degrees F, an oven thermometer, some towels and a vehicle (duh!). Park your car directly in the sunlight (preferably first thing in the morning, so it heats up with the day) and, in the early afternoon, pop your cookies in to bake. Keep the car sealed up tight so as not to let any of the heat out and, after two to three hours, all the vegan cookies will be yours!

    Sounds weird, but it really does work!

    2011-07-23 - Dashboard Cookies - 0020

    Here’s a nifty little tutorial from howcast;

    Snarky Vegan, who first tipped me off to the practice, has a nice how-to guide up, too. (Much more timely than me, she. And with a cleaner car! By which I mean a clean car.)

    Last but not least, here’s the recipe I used. In a car or in an oven, it’s delish!

    (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
    ——————————

    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…)

    Blog Action Day: Water

    Friday, October 15th, 2010

    Today, dear grasshopers, is Blog Action Day – the fourth annual. Held every October 15th, the goal is to focus attention on a given topic via mass participation (this year, the White House is even getting in on the act!). Whereas previous year’s topics have included poverty, the environment and climate change, Blog Action Day 2010 is all about water. Pollution, scarcity, waste – you name it. Water it is.

    As I noted last year, pretty much any and every topic under the sun can be tied to veganism and animal advocacy in some way, shape or form. Last year ’twas simple; the consumption of animal flesh and secretions is a major contributor to climate change. So too does our exploitation of nonhuman animals impact water, in myriad ways: waste from animal agriculture operations pollute our waterways; the production of “meat,” eggs and dairy requires the use (waste) of more water than does eating lower down on the food chain; and, by contributing to climate change, animal ag. has a further negative impact on weather patterns, including precipitation. Etc., etc.

    Unfortunately, looking at change.org’s Blog Action Day page, one might not know this. Of its 18 featured post ideas, only one mentions “meat” production, and with little context – only by clicking through to The Water Project’s website does the reader learn of “meat’s” “water cost” relative to, say, an apple. Since most of us consume three meals a day throughout our lives (while only purchasing a new cell phone or pair of jeans sporadically), food should really be a primary focus of this action day as opposed to an afterthought, don’t you think?

    Because I’m feeling both lazy and cynical (the former perhaps owing to the latter), I really don’t have the heart to delve too much more into the topic. Luckily, Elaine did, so instead I shall direct you to her post, and leave you with the following tables to consider:

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    Table: The water cost of food
    Source: The Water Project. Click through for a plain-text version.
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    (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…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 21: Campaign WIN/FAIL edition

    Saturday, May 15th, 2010

    MTV's Retro Hit Girl Poster

    “MTV’s Retro Hit Girl Poster”: In a reimagining of J. Howard Miller’s iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, a purple-wigged Hit Girl flexes her bicep, gun in hand. The purple bubble emanating
    from her head reads, “We Can Kick Ass!” Message brought to you by the Women’s Ass-Kicking Committee. (This photo has absolutely zilch to do with today’s post; rather, it just makes me smile. The warm and fuzzies, I sure needed ’em after wading through not one, but two PETA campaigns. Maybe you will too?)
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    Okay, so there’s much, much more FAIL than WIN in this edition of Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, but seeing as I’m all about the power of positive thinking, half-full beer steins, and all that fluffy fun stuff (sike!), I had to lead with WIN. In the title, anyhow. Had you fooled, didn’t I?

    The Discerning Brute: Rape of Africa in “A Bid to Save the Earth.”

    So this is…interesting. In honor of Earth Day, Christie’s hosted an auction to benefit several environmental organizations. One of the art pieces – David LaChapelle’s “Rape of Africa” – is unsettling, to say the least. Click on over to the Discerning Brute to view the image (which is totally NSFW as it depicts, among other things, Naomi Campbell’s bare breast). Joshua Katcher’s interpretation of the photograph is worth a read as well, particularly as he links the exploitation of farmed animals to that of human women, to wit:

    [S]itting beside Naomi Campbell are farm animals, which suggest the failure of programs like Oxfam and Heifer International as well as making the statement that, like domesticated farm animals, Naomi is a chattel.

    WIN or FAIL? Well, I dig the piece, though it’s not exactly something I’d hang over the fireplace, if you know what I mean.

    Catholic Vote - Earth Day 2010

    Her Authority: Women’s Bodies Are… Pieces of Land?

    In this Earth Day-themed ad, the anti-choice group CatholicVote.org links women (particularly mothers, o givers of life!) with the natural world by superimposing an image of the earth over the womb of a heavily pregnant woman. A cute (read: white, blond-haired, appropriately feminine, etc.) little girl rests her head against her mother’s belly; index finger pressed to her lips, she seems to be saying, “Shhh! My little sister is trying to sleep in there!”

    With this imagery, CatholicVote.org is romanticizing two “homes,” if you will: that of the developing fetus (baby!), i.e., a womb which belongs to an adult human female; and planet earth, i.e., home to all of humanity (and a trillion other creatures, as well). Women are not individual beings with their own thoughts and desires, but rather pieces of land. And what do we humans do with land, the earth, and the natural world, class? That’s right – we conquer and dominate them! Nice.

    Which makes the romanticization of each – women/mothers and the earth/nature – all that much more distasteful and disingenuous. Throw me on the bottom of the shitpile and tell me that I live on a pedestal, why don’t you?

    (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…)