Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: environment

the times, they are a changing (maybe)

This has been an interesting week in the news. There is the tales of the weird:

Dr. Paul Grabb, a pediatric brain surgeon, said he was surprised when he discovered a small foot growing inside the brain of 3-day-old Sam Esquibel.

“The foot literally popped out of the brain,” Grabb told TheDenverChannel Wednesday.

I looked at the picture linked in the article. It was fascinating, and horrifying, and makes me feel queasy to think about. And while there are occasional cases of what they call a “fetus in fetu”, where a fraternal twin begins to develop inside the other twin, I can’t help but to wonder, when I hear of cases like this, if we are beginning to pay the price of all the poisons dumped into our ecosystem for all these years.

Will, over at Green is the New Red, posted a challenge for his readers to connect the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) to terrorism in less than 6 steps. Real terrorism, that is, not the saving of bunnies or the waving of signs. This was in response to the CCF taking out a huge ad in the NYTimes linking HSUS to “terrorism”. They had to use a diagram in the ad because it was so weird and convoluted, and frankly absurd. They had six steps to form that link, which is why Will’s challenge was for us to connect CCF to real terrorism in less than six steps.

The result? Two steps separating CCF from the funding of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Go read his post, it is eye-opening!

And that leads me to a post on Crisis? What Crisis? regarding Obama’s chosen appointee for the energy secretary.

Scientists and everyone else who value intelligence, accuracy, research, and freedom of thought over dogma are rejoicing over one of PEOTUS Obama’s key appointments. The Tribune yesterday used a brief profile of Steven Chu, the new energy secretary, as a jumping-off point to examine the anti-science, pro-corporate stance the Bush Administration has taken the past eight years.

Chu is a scientist. Imagine that, putting a scientist in a position where scientific knowledge is not only useful but downright necessary.

It remains to be seen what Obama’s presidency will look like, but one thing is for sure – he’s making big changes, away from anti-science positions. He gives a shit about the environment. How far that will get us, time will tell.

And of course the environment is one thing, his attitude towards freedom and activism might be an entirely different topic. He voted for the FISA after all.

An email tonight reminded me that Sea Shepard’s final episode of Whale Wars on Animal Planet airs tonight. Not that I’ve seen any of these episodes myself, but someday perhaps I’ll get them on DVD and remember to watch them. (It is a challenge…for all my focus (haha) on photography, I have a hard time sitting down to watch movies!)

Sea Shepard’s email also provided a great visual to highlight the difference between the tools used by those who have an intent to kill, and those who have an intent to prevent killing. The preventateurs (yes, I made that up) are called terrorists by most governments. Yet who has the deadly weapons? Sea Shepard lays it all out for us.

My friend, Rich, sent this to me earlier today. I have no idea how he stumbled on it, but it seemed the perfect cap to this post!

sphere o’blog updates

I’m the first to admit that I have a hard time keeping up with a lot of the happenings in The Movement, especially since I’m spectacularly bad at remembering to subscribe to the blogs I always intend to subscribe to.

But, I do happen to know of a few things that have happened that are pretty cool.

First, Boston Vegan Association has come out with their AR pamphlet. It looks glossy and professional from the pdf’s that I’ve seen, and they’re offering “generic” versions which we can fill out with our own organization’s info. I think that’s really generous of them, since they’ve done all the work on this! I like that the pamphlet jumps right in to address the issues of “humane” animal products. The only issue I could really take with the pamphlet as a whole, is the “male calves are killed” statement. In reality, both male and female calves are killed, only a small number of female calves are kept alive as “replacements” for the adults who are becoming “spent.”

It is such a common statement to hear that no one questions it. I never did until Terry brought it up – the common misconception that only male dairy calves are killed has become a pet peeve of hers! And indeed, most of the female cows at Poplar Spring are dairy cows saved from becoming veal.

Charlotte, saved from becoming veal

Charlotte, saved from becoming veal

But that is a fairly minor issue in the scheme of things. There are (ah hem) lovely pictures on the front and back covers too! You might even recognize some of them.

In other news, I learned recently that there is an animal rights blog as part of the change.org group of blogs. It took me a while, and an explanation by Stephanie (who is running the animal rights blog) to get a grasp on what this is all about. There are many “causes”, such as Homelessness, Stop Global Warming, Gay Rights, Humanitarian Relief, etc, and Animal Rights is one of those causes. Which is pretty exciting, in the scheme of things. And it has more members than most of the other causes, which is great.

It will be interesting to see how it develops, situated as it is to get attention from those who are already of a mindset to act based on their conscience, even if their current focus is other causes.

And to cap off my paltry gathering of updates, it is a call to action to prevent some bad news. Sheryl posted late last week about some of the last minute rules that the Bush Administration is trying to push through to further damage the environment.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Contact your reps, and make public comments where you can. Sheryl’s post gives direct links to where you can make public comments regarding the killing of the wolves that the Bush Administration is proposing.

Blog Action Day – Poverty

I’ve been thinking a lot about poverty for the past few weeks. I decided before I knew this year’s topic that I would participate in Blog Action Day. Last year the topic was the environment, which is a no-brainer in terms of the intersection with animal rights.

This year’s topic is Poverty, and the more I think about it, the stronger the connection I see with the more general topic of resources. That’s something that seems obvious, and perhaps simplistic, but as I thought about it I realized that to examine “resources” as an issue is to examine the entire world. Not exactly in the scope of a blog post. Or even within the scope of my abilities.

And first, what is poverty?

That is a question that I also found surprisingly complex. In the U.S., we have an income level that we declare to be the poverty line. Yet I have lived below that line, and not because of a political, activist, ethical or aesthetic stance…I lived below the poverty line because I had a crappy job with crappy pay.

Yet I was not living in poverty, as I saw it. I had an apartment, and was able to pay my rent on time every month. I was able to pay my utilities every month. I even had health insurance, despite that I didn’t have it through my job. I lived on $8 of food per week, which amazes me now to think about, but I never went hungry and neither did my dog. I was, amazingly, able to save money to move across the country. That doesn’t sound anything like poverty to me, even though I was on a very strict budget and lived on very little money.

Gas was cheap then. I was living in, as it turned out, the cheapest place I have ever lived in. (Nashville, if you’re curious.) So poverty income or not, I was doing okay. I was lucky too, because I didn’t have any big events, no health issues, no pregnancy, my landlord didn’t get foreclosed on, no car accidents, etc, that could have wiped out my savings in a heartbeat.

That was my experience at the poverty line. For me, living at that income level was precarious because though I was able to pay my bills and keep myself and my dog fed and housed, I was also very aware that I could fall off that cliff way too easily and with no notice. Getting a bag of chips from the vending machine was, after all, a luxury I almost never could justify indulging in at that time. Yet my life was luxurious in comparison to others.

Many people are supporting families on that kind of income. And then there are the situations such as of those in Bolivia, where people drink gasoline tainted water because they do not have the money to connect to the water pipes that are taking the water from their own land to be sold to the rich countries like the U.S. In the U.S. we have access to water from our own taps, yet we will often ignore it so that we can buy water from companies that knowingly prevent people in other countries from accessing water they need for life. Our convenience drives the degradation of lives elsewhere.

Or what about the people in China (and other places) who are “recycling” our used electronic parts by melting them down at great damage to their own health and the environment? Our luxuries create waste that harm others. It would be illegal to do in our own backyards what others are forced to do for lack of options.

That is what comes to mind, for me, when I think of poverty. A lack of options, forcing people into impossible situations, impossible choices. There is an unending list of other examples, many of them in our own backyards. Or perhaps only a bit further out of sight than that.

Poverty is not merely a lack of housing, to me. I remember being at a festival of some sort in Boulder, Colorado. I had been on my feet all day, and wandered into an area where there was a band playing and amphitheater type seating. A man wandered by with a backpack. The kind of backpack I traipsed around Europe in, back when I was doing a semester abroad. His was very well worn. He was well worn, wrinkled around the edges, road dust embedded into his very soul.

I talked to him for a few minutes. I can’t remember how or why the conversations started, and I can’t remember exactly what we said. I do remember that he is homeless and unemployed, and that both are by choice. He didn’t want to live a life hemmed in by rent and wages, he wanted to live a life that he felt gave him freedom. It was a risky choice, sure, but it was his choice.

That’s an important aspect to consider. The key point is by choice, because it actually highlights several issues.

If someone chooses to live without a permanent address, society sees that as a problem, but why? That’s a recent aspect to society, when you think about it. Only people who are rooted somewhere are seen as legitimate. Those who would choose to not have a residence are discouraged in specific ways that end up impacting everyone.

Water is severely restricted. Potable water, at least. Public lands are restricted as well. Public, they might be, but there are rules as to how long we can sit on benches, whether we can sleep on a piece of grass, or whether we can do something like grow strawberries on land that we do not own. Who makes these decisions? What kind of of society is this where growing strawberries on our public land is illegal? Why is potable water a privilege? We’re not living on Dune, after all.

So it isn’t really the resources that are the issue, so much as the access to them. We, as a society, have made basic requirements of life a privilege. Why?

This is taken further elsewhere. Companies based in this country, go to other countries where people have little to spare, and they will find ways to trick people into giving up what little they have, and even what they don’t have.

Nestle is one example. Nestle will go to countries in Africa and convince new mothers that there is something lacking in a mother’s milk. These new mothers are given formula, for free at first, and by the time they realize that they can’t afford to purchase the formula, their milk has dried up, and they’re left with little choice other than to use resources they don’t have to purchase milk. Unethical and perverted, companies like Nestle perform a double-whammy of exploitation. The cows have their entire lives controlled, including their reproduction, so that this milk can be stolen from them and their babies, in order that it can be used to steal milk from other women and their babies.

Sick.

This entrenches the poverty of these families in Africa that are tricked by the snake oil salesmen of Nestle.

Control and exploitation. Control of resources to further exploitation and expand the profits of the corporations.

This is the same pattern we see repeated over and over.

Control of resources is where it seems to start. The same pattern applies to the exploitation of animals. Control their resources, control their reproduction, control how they live and when they die.

The location of these animal exploiters is telling also. No one wants this in their backyards, so they are forced on communities without the economic and political power to block them. The resulting environmental and economic degradation of the area creates a backlash that degrades the local society as well. The pattern repeats, entrenching poverty, pushing people closer to that precarious line. And not by choice.

Groups that seek to alleviate some of the symptoms to meet the immediate needs fall into two general categories that I’ve seen. Those who help without question, and those who help with controlling conditions.

Some who help with no conditions have few resources themselves. Some try to use edible food that others are throwing out, to address environmental resource issues even as they work on poverty resource issues. Food Not Bombs is one such groups.

The government harasses groups like this. Threatened by the end-run around resource control?

There is no quick and easy solution to poverty. Not in this country, not in others. The way I see it, we need to work on many levels.

We need harm reduction. This is working on the symptoms, finding ways to get food, water, shelter, and medical care to those with too little access. This is about life, it should not be about privilege.

We need to address the contributing factors, such as education, environmental degradation of economically suppressed areas, and access to fresh vegetables and other healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. We can get bikes to people with transportation limitations so they achieve greater mobility and independence, so they have one sustainable tool for breaking out of the limits that access imposes.

Finally we need to address the root of the issue, which has elements of “society’s ills”, as in laws and atttitudes, as well as corporate greed. This one is tougher, and less clear. As expected.

I don’t have all the answers, only things that each of us can do. When we consume something, whether food or clothes or anything at all, we need to ask: is this necessary? Is this ethical? Who is this impacting? Is this a good choice?

We can donate our time and/or money to those groups whose ideals and ethics match our own. There are so many things we can do.

I saw this on a coffee cup, of all places, attributed to Tom Brokaw:

It will do us little good to wire the world if we short-circuit our souls. There is no delete button for racism, poverty or sectarian violence. No keystroke can ever clean the air, save a river, preserve a forest. This transformational new technology must be an extension of our own hearts as well as of our minds. The old rules still apply. Love your mother – Mother Earth.

I just spent a couple days at an expensive Web Design conference held at an expensive hotel where we were given stuff, free food, unending supplies of snacks and various drinks, and even an iPod Touch to one lucky person. It was the antithesis of poverty in many ways, yet at the same time there was an underlying theme: Think Of Others.

And it was actually meant on several levels, not just the superficial one, which would be “think of the end user/customer” which is not that different from “think of the money.”

One of the last speakers talked about William Morris. Who is he, you are likely thinking. I had no idea, myself. He was essentially the Father of the Arts and Crafts movement. He was someone who valued the work of others, even the tedious work that he himself did not like to do. He did it all, ast least once, to make sure he understood and valued what he’d hire others to do. It was part of his ethic.

What drove him was a desire to make the world a better place. The details matter. What we do, matters. How we do it matters. Beauty matters. Ostentatious displays of wealth do not.

This struck many chords for me.

What we do matters. What we do impacts others. Choosing bottled water degrades the environment and gives greedy corporations incentive to steal water from people whose land contains it. Choosing to eat animal products causes death and suffering to those animals, and entrenches poverty and violence and environmental degradation in the communities who are forced to house those companies profiting from the exploitation.

What we do matters.

Choose with a conscience. Take action. Change the world.

Sea Shepherd: Whale Wars

I think it is pretty exciting to hear that a series about Sea Shepherd is going to appear on Animal Planet in November. Animal Planet! Even my exceedingly conservative coworkers watch things like that.

The series is called Whale Wars and I find it even more exciting that there is a series planned than the simple fact that it will be on a regular TV show to begin with.

If you go to animal planet’s site, you can see more info on the series, as well as a video sneak peak. It will premiere November 7th at 9pm EST/PST.

I’ve heard Paul Watson speak at a couple of the Animal Rights conferences. One thing that always sticks out in my mind is that he is not an animal rights activist, he is an environmental activist. He points that out to us often, perhaps because it is so unusual for us, as animal rights activists, to see people in other movements (other than the anarchist movement, in my experience) who so strongly see that these thing are connected.

Paul’s pretty blunt about it. I think that he’s a great person to use as an example and source of information for people primarily concerned with the environment. Have you read his essay, “A Very Inconvenient Truth“?

He starts with:

The meat industry is one of the most destructive ecological industries on the planet. The raising and slaughtering of pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens not only utilizes vast areas of land and vast quantities of water, but it is a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry.

The seafood industry is literally plundering the ocean of life and some fifty percent of fish caught from the oceans is fed to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc in the form of fish meal. It also takes about fifty
fish caught from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.

We have turned the domestic cow into the largest marine predator on the planet. The hundreds of millions of cows grazing the land and farting methane consume more tonnage of fish than all the world’s sharks, dolphins and seals combined. Domestic housecats consume more fish, especially tuna, than all the world’s seals.

And that’s just the intro paragraphs.

I’m not actually putting the blame for the disconnect between movements on the shoulders of others. I think that we have a lot of work to do ourselves, and I think that we need to put in time in other movements instead of letting ourselves be isolated. It was surprising to me when I first learned what a negative opinion most movements have of animal rights activists. “What have we done?” I wondered to myself. Well, we’ve done nothing, and that’s the point. We tend to point fingers without offering a hand.

But I’ve talked about that before.

The real point here is that what we eat, it matters. It is a choice, and it is a choice that is about a hell of a lot more than just what it tastes like. It is a choice that has a rippling effect – from the environment to the animals to the workers, and back around to our health and the environment and … well, it is a feedback loop, see?

What we eat matters, and our choices arguably impact others more than they impact us.

And that impact has nothing to do with the grumbling of the people in our lives as they complain about the “inconvenience” of feeding The Vegan.

Live Green

I was at a party last night, which I almost missed due to getting lost as I always seem to in DC. I can get to Stickyfingers without getting lost, but that’s about it. Then again, what could be more important than a vegan bakery?

Last night, though, was a party thrown by a fellow sanctuary-volunteer, so it was all vegan food and a lot of people I know from the vegan/poplar spring volunteer community. It was fun, and I had a chance to talk to DJ, the owner of Java Green and who more recently started “Live Green” in conjunction with some other friends.

It was a really great conversation. Java Green, for those who don’t know it, is a small mostly-vegan eatery in the middle of DC’s business district. DJ is completely committed to being as environmentally conscious as possible, and Java Green has become a model nationwide for green businesses. He’s actually doing what most people are just talking about. It is mostly a lunch place, and the amazing thing is that 80% of the customers during the week are not even vegetarian. That’s right, a vegetarian mostly-vegan restaurant that does not rely on vegans to stay in business. He says he sees people come in and bring others for lunch meetings who he’d never have expected to ever choose to eat a vegetarian meal. Now, that’s some pretty good culinary activism! And the food is delicious. It is no wonder that his business would be thriving even without the vegans in town!

He seems to be making a complete success of creating spaces where his view of a sustainable world is being put into action, and his belief is that if he creates these spaces and shows people that it can be done, people will be convinced on their own to do more. To be responsible and conscious.

Live Green is part of that, allowing him to join with others to help them find ways to become more green.

It was very motivating to talk to someone who lives his beliefs in such a positive and successful way. He had some great things to say about radicalism as well. He doesn’t see what he is doing as radical, he sees people who know they’re part of the problem and who aren’t working to make changes as radical. And it is true – it isn’t logical to not make those ethical and green choices in our own lives. We should always be looking at the next step to take towards environmental responsibility and sustainability. Luckily that often is the same as making the ethical choices from the animal rights and social justice perspectives as well.

two pigs sleeping

Cell phones and birds

bird in tree

I was at a fur protest about a year and a half ago when a passerby engaged us in conversation and stayed the whole time we were protesting. He was interested in one of my fellow protesters, it was clear. He wasn’t vegan, he wasn’t vegetarian, but he asked some interesting and relevant questions. He was willing to follow us to a vegetarian restaurant for a fellow protester’s birthday party, and seemed to enjoy the food. He came back the next week, and more conversations ensued.

In the end, his questions seemed focused on finding ways to avoid facing the ethics of his own consumption, or maybe to find reasons to excuse himself from the issue, and so when he asked me, “what about cell phones? You have a cell phone, so don’t you care about the birds? I refuse to get a cell phone because of the birds.” I thought it was a variation on the many excuses he’d been trying out on us for why he wouldn’t go vegan. I have a cell phone and so he doesn’t need to consider veganim?

You have got to be kidding me.

But he wasn’t. At least, he wasn’t kidding and he wasn’t wrong about cell phones and birds.

The towers are the problem. They are tall structures, they have to be, to provide us signals. And because they are tall structures, they get in the way of birds as they fly. Migratory birds are killed by the towers’ guy wires and by smashing directly into the towers themselves.

 

Did you know our TV and cell phone habits are contributing to the deaths of millions of migratory birds a year? The birds collide with the communications towers transmitting our cell phone and TV airwaves and with the cables that anchor the towers. Those towers become sky-high death traps for birds, who then drop in grass, streets, parks, and fields, and on rooftops. Using numbers from several long-term studies, conservation groups and government biologists estimate that communications towers kill from 4 to 50 million birds a year. They endanger or threaten at least 50 species.

Some guidelines were given for tower construction that could help minimize the additional killing that will happen with each new tower.

Another article put most of the blame on the lights on the towers, though it has been known since the 1800′s that tall structures were a danger to birds. According to this article, adverse weather conditions which disrupt visibility make the lights on the towers a big draw, confusing them as well as drawing them in.

Very tall towers with numerous guy wires are especially hard on birds. On a foggy night when celestial clues are obscured, the migrating birds are attracted to and confused by tower lights. They fly around and around towers, striking the towers, their supporting guy wires and other birds, often with fatal results.

These fatalities could be considered takings under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Unfortunately, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that all television stations be digitized by 2003, which could add up to 1,000 new megatowers (towers over 1,000′ in height) to the landscape.

It is the end of 2007 now, and while I don’t have a TV, and am thus mostly oblivious to what is going on around TV, whether it be shows or technology, I believe my parents were quite proud of their HDTV that they got in this past year.

The best site I have found so far for information on all of this is Towerkill, which has collected more information on numbers than anywhere else, as well as information on individual towers. Audubon’s article boiled it down:

To answer such questions, Manville had hoped the government and industry would pony up a pot of money for studies. For example, ornithologist Bill Evans–an independent researcher from Mecklenburg, New York, who has helped publicize the tower-kill issue through a web site, towerkill.com–has proposed a $50,000 study that would equip a TV tower with a variety of lights, then use acoustic-monitoring gear to document how birds react to different colors and flash rates. Other researchers have outlined a multiyear, $15 million to $20 million, national survey to nail down the size of the problem. But research funds remain scarce, in large part because neither the Bush administration nor the fast-moving communications industry consider the studies a priority.There are exceptions: Several tower and utility companies recently offered to fund fieldwork that might shed light on tower kills in the West and the role of lights. And despite the uncertainty, some major U.S. tower builders, including New York-based American Tower, have altered their construction plans to conform to the voluntary guidelines.

One obstacle to more action, however, is that when tower kills are compared with other causes of declining bird populations, they don’t seem like a big deal. For instance, it is estimated that hundreds of millions of birds a year smash into windows and buildings. Pesticides possibly poison an additional 65 million birds, and cats probably claim even more. (Conventional wisdom is that habitat loss is the biggest problem birds face.) Still, such comparisons are beside the point, says Robert Beason, a researcher at the University of Louisiana in Monroe. “Towers may not be causing drastic declines on their own,” he concedes. “But they clearly are a contributing factor and, moreover, one that we can probably do something about.”

What does this mean for us? It means that cell phone towers are a poor excuse for not going vegan, obviously. Cell phone towers are not the biggest danger for birds, not even for songbirds. Can I keep my cell phone? I’m not sure what the answer to that is, it is something I’m thinking about.

I happen to hate TV, have never owned one, so I’m not going to comment on that. It would be too easy for me to tell everyone that they should throw out their TV’s (I do so with less reason than this, after all!), but would that solve the problem? Power lines and landlines aren’t completely without blame either, and I have no control over them or the many tall buildings that exist in our society.

So what can we do? We can eliminate poisons from our environments, and campaign to prevent more from being applied. We can work to get the builders of communication towers to follow the voluntary guidelines for tower construction. We can protect the habitat that has not yet been destroyed, and part of that is campaigning to prevent towers from being placed in ecologically sensitive places.

It seems much of what we already would campaign for is what is needed to address this issue. We simply have to add in awareness for tower construction and help educate people about how to best prevent the deaths of millions of birds every year.

power lines

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action DayIt is Blog Action Day and the topic is the environment. I suppose the question is: what does this have to do with animal rights? My answer is: everything.

Animal rights starts for me with the most basic right: the right to live. People, animals, whatever species, we should have the right to live, unquestionably. That means not purposefully killing us for any reason. Not if we’re a “nuisance”, a “pest”, “unwanted”, or “tasty.”

This means not poisoning us. This means not destroying our habitat. This means protecting the environment, and thus the inhabitants of the earth. This means avoiding causing harm.

Humans have altered the earth and its populations and ecosystems in almost unimaginable ways. We have altered the paths of waterways, as well as their existence. We have removed vast populations from large regions of the earth. We have created substances that nature had never seen before, and we have distributed them so widely that it is believed by scientists who study these things that there is not a single organism on the planet Earth that does not have plastic incorporated into their individual environments on some level. Plankton in Antartica have been found to have plastic molecules in them.

When we contribute to the pollution and consumption of the Earth, when we cause harm to the environment, we are putting pressure on the most basic right of all Earthlings – the right to live.

The environment and animal rights are so intrinsically linked together that contributing to the industries that are in the business of raising and slaughtering animals for consumption cause the immediate environmental degradation of the surrounding area. The air, water, and land is polluted. Property values lower, health aliments increase. So much methane is added to the atmosphere that even the U.N. has finally admitted that animal agriculture has a major impact on the global climate. Methane, as we all should know, does not last as long as carbon in the atmosphere, degrading after about 10 years, but while it is up there, it has a 100 times greater impact on the issue of global warming, depending on how you calculate it.

Care about the environment? Care about animals? The answers are the same. Go vegan. Change your consumption, your carbon footprint, your habits.

It isn’t as difficult to make changes as we imagine. Certainly going vegan, while somewhat challenging in the beginning, is easier than learning to live with the major lifestyle changes that will be forced on us as the global climate changes drastically. Giving up some paper products, driving less, buying local produce, reducing our consumption (of plastic especially), reusing and recycling as much as we can, these are all minor changes in the grand scheme of things. If we haven’t passed the tipping points for the major changes in the global climate already, we’re within ten years of triggering them, some scientists believe. They could be wrong. The easiest and smartest option for every Earthling is to play it safe. Go vegan. Change your consumption, your carbon footprint, your habits. And maybe we’ll survive what we’ve done to the Earth.

sheep at ps

Blog Action Day – October 15, 2007

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

This one is about the environment, but it can be approached from whatever angle you choose.

I know I’ve talked about it a bit here, the connection between environmental issues and animal rights issues, so even if you’re an animal rights blogger who doesn’t take away any time from the animal rights issues, you can still participate. After all, the more we destroy the environment, the more pressure we put on animals, denying them of the basic right to survival. Not only by targeting them in hunts, “eradication” campaigns, and similar actions, but by poisoning their water, taking away the locations and habitats they need for survival, killing off what they would eat to survive, we are infringing on their rights as surely as when we otherwise treat them as commodities.

Well, I’ve made my position clear over time, so anyone reading is probably not at all surprised to hear me harping on the environment! If you’ve a mind to participate, you can sign up, and join the 10,000 + blogs currently signed up (with an estimated combined reach of over 8.25 million people) and then blog about the environment this coming Monday, October 15, 2007.

Green Festival, DC

I went to the Green Festival today, tabled with RAN, and despite the various things I always seem to hear about environmentalists being resistant to considering veganism, the two other people tabling with me were also vegan, and it seemed like at least half the people stopping at the table were wearing stickers that said things like “veganism is direct action” or “save an animal, eat a vegetable”. Now, I didn’t ask everyone if they were vegan, but when I would talk about the links between animal rights, environmental rights, and social justice, I got emphatic agreement. So I was encouraged, overall!

I didn’t have much time to spend at the festival, but I did cruise the activism aisle and came away with more ideas and energy, which was the point, at least for me. I also got some temptation soy ice cream, which is a happy event.

I talked to the people at the Carbon Conscious Consumer table, and they had people pledging to do various things, like give up bottled water, use cloth grocery bags, and some other things that I mostly do. I don’t agree with everything they say (they’re against factory farming, but promote “free range” instead of veganism), but overall I think I might get some ideas from their site.

I skipped the Vegetarian Society of DC, COK, and FARM tables, because I talk to them all the time anyway! I’ll be tabling for COK at the Takoma Park Street Fair tomorrow. And I helped out at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary this morning.

My animal rights activism will continue to outweigh other activism I participate in, but it was a great experience for me to table for RAN, to be part of the environmental movement.

salta day tour

Blogging against abuse, a blog for hope

hermie

This is a harder post to write than I anticipated. I do a lot of work fighting various forms of abuse (mostly through animal rights and environmental activism), I read a lot, and I face up to a lot of difficult realities. To choose a focus when talking about abuse is difficult. They all bleed together for me.

So that is what I’m going to talk about. It is easy to look at the obvious abuses and point our fingers, and work to stop individual events from happening. Well, easy is relative. What I mean is it is easy to recognize these, and the path is relatively clear in stopping it. The neighbor’s child is being abused? There are authority figures to contact, there are things you can do to try to protect that child.

But what about the overall issue of child abuse? Why does it happen? Not just child abuse, but animal abuse as well. And while we’re at it, why is this world so violent? And why do we consciously turn a blind eye to it (yes, it is difficult and it is unpleasant to think about, but is that really a good excuse?), and why do we resist making changes in our own lives that would begin to limit, for example, the environmental abuse we are complicit in and perpetuate?

I believe there is a connection, a thread that runs through all of these forms of abuse. (And yes, I do think exploitation is a form of abuse.)

There is a garbage patch in our oceans, and there are manure lagoons on our land. The most toxic industries and waste sites are located in the poorest areas of the country, and of the world. The U.S.A. is a giant consumer of the earth’s resources, and that means that we are also a giant producer of refuse. We ship much of it down to the global south, which allows us to ignore the consequences of the problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

This prevents the world’s largest consumer of resources and producer of refuse from looking seriously at solutions to the problem. Imagine, for those of you who live in the land of consumerism, if you had to deal with your own trash in your own way, and it had to be dealt with on your property. I think we’d all take a hard look at our behavior, our consumption. And maybe, just to start, we’d grow food not lawns.

In Bolivia, the nation’s poor had to fight what is now known as a resource war for access to their own water after their government (due to pressure by the IMF) sold the water rights out from under them to an international company. The actions of this company, and those who supported it, caused the deaths of many people. Many poor people. Why don’t we call it murder? It is not ethical, it is not moral, so why aren’t we protesting? This, naturally, is one snapshot of the fight for basic survival that people are in all over the earth. Please don’t buy bottled water. It is killing people in Bolivia and India and may other places, and it is also killing the albatross, whose starve to death with stomachs full to bursting from plastic bottle caps.

The earth itself is taking a beating. The human population continues to grow, and the earth’s resources are used with little to no thought for sustainability. The earth can not sustain the current rate of resource usage. It is obvious and simple math to figure this out. So why aren’t we protesting? Why aren’t we changing?

One of the reasons I think all of these abuses and exploitations are tied together, and need to be fought as if they are one, is that if you follow the issues back far enough, you’ll see something interesting. We abuse and exploit those who we have determined are different, and in saying they are different, we usually mean they are lesser than we are. We also only exploit and abuse those who have less actual power than we do.

This may seem simplistic, and it doesn’t fully get at the psychosis in the people in our society, as individuals. However, it gets at the root cause.

When we are born, we are not sexist, we are not racist, and we are not even likely to abuse or exploit other species. We have all witnessed the child’s wonder and awe at nature’s everyday miracles. A child committing animal abuse is seen as a future psychopath and/or sociopath. So what happens? How do we go from the innocent child to being sexist and racist and turning a blind eye to a variety of abuses in society and in our community?

It starts when we’re taught that some are okay to hurt, and others aren’t. The distinctions are arbitrary. Explain to a small child exactly why dogs are pets and pigs are food. They are both affectionate, and pigs have been judged to be smarter than dogs. Explain to a small child why it is okay that some people are not allowed to sit on a public bench in a public park, while others are. Explain to a small child why it is okay for a wealthy corporation to tell people that they deserve to die for lack of potable water for the heinous crime of having been born into an economically repressed family.

These lines we draw, they don’t make sense. But children learn them, and they use them. They make fun of their classmates who are “different.” We are taught that different is wrong, even though there is no such thing as normal. Abused children are more likely to abuse animals, and more likely to grow up to abuse both animals and children. And anyone else they have power over.

Governments and corporations abuse and exploit those who have less power. Highways cut through poor rather than powerful neighborhoods, increasing poverty. Health care is distinctly lesser in quality in poor neighborhoods, and the school systems suffer as well. Grocery stores are scarce in poor communities, which impacts the health and the scholastic achievements in these same neighborhoods that are already at a disadvantage.

I could go on. I could look at the specifics, or I could look at the bigger picture, and I could continue to find more and more connections. The problems are many, as are the solutions. We only have so much time to act before some things will pass us by and become more devastating than we seem willing to imagine.

Despite everything, I manage to retain some hope, in part because of grassroots community oriented action, such as BlogCatalog’s action that spurred this post for me. We can make changes, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Start small. Think big.

beach

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