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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

A Vegan Blog Vacation

No, I'm not losing interest in the Vegan Blog -- but if you don't see those daily postings that you're accustomed to, it's because even ecopedagogical theorists need a vacation once in a while. Beginning Dec. 19th I'll be headed eastward in my annual On The Road adventure back towards my origins and to see the great mass of country that is in between New York and Los Angeles.

I'll be returning to blog action on a regular basis by Jan. 6th, but I'll try to post a few from the road for good measure.

Until we meet again...

Posted by Richard
12/18/2002 07:58:14 PM | PermaLink

A Question About Cows

Paul wrote in:
I wonder what you would think about about the International Society of Cow Protection. The basic tenants are that cow's milk should not be rejected, but by taking the milk one accepts the cow as equal to one\s mother. The male calfs are trained to pull a plow, and they are considered equal to the father. Every effort is made to provide a high quality of life for them, and they are never slaughtered under any condition. Rather a loving relationship is maintained for the good of both species. The principles are not invented by philosophy, but are taken from the scriptures that are followed by the group. I would appreciate if you would take a look at the web site and let me know what you think.

Note the specific standards specified on this page:

Thank you.
Paul Howard

My response:
Hi Paul,
In theory, while a vegan, I am not 100% in opposition to taking milk from a cow (or goat for that matter). I can imagine cases in which dairy cows -- such as perhaps with the Krshna Consciousness society -- are humanely treated, loved, and whose milk nourishes the community as such.

There are radical vegans out there who would condemn any use of an animal for milk because it implies a turning of the being into an instrument for human needs and power and so even a relatively unharmful act as basic milking might be symbolic of disrespect and the implication of non-rights for the animal.

It is worth considering, at least, in all cases as to what the reasons and implications are in our interactions with animals (indeed with all of nature -- humans included).

Yet, I do not take that route. My own veganism, though related in part to my own lactose intolerance and modern medical findings as regards the affects of American dairy-based diet upon the body, are more pointedly political and less spiritual...though my politics is an embodiment of my spirituality.

Basically, my position is that considering the reality of the modern corporate dairy industry (and we could include meat industry, etc.), the conditions that have rightly been linked to the Holocaust, the abundance of chemicals, hormones and antibiotics that are carried in the milk, and the role that the industries play in supporting what I take to be a repressive and hegemonic establishment bent on greed and power (over charity and love), that people who want a better world should "stop getting mad, and get vegan." Veganism, then, for people who live in big cities or suburbs and who are surrounded by establishment culture and politics, who feel trapped and defeated and end up shrugging their shoulders -- "Sure I would like a better world, but what can I do?" My answer is one thing that can be done is switching diets -- which can make one not only healthier, but more politically and culturally authentic in one's beliefs (this has psychological benefits, it's empowering) and it can create a counter-cultural movement that is capable of transforming and shocking the status quo.

Now, becoming Hare Krshna might very well be akin to what I\'m talking about and that might be another answer -- but that's for someone else to have a website (Don't Get Mad, Get Krshna!).

I support the consciousness movement, certainly. I don't know enough about the actual relationship to the cows, but it seems so far away from establishment industry practice as not deserving to be linked. My attack is not on abstract principles but on real life structural oppression. HK's may or may not have the answer, but I don't think we could call them oppressive.

My two cents, anyway. Thanks much for writing Paul.
All the best to you. Shanti.

Posted by Richard
12/18/2002 07:53:47 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Preventing an Accidental Nuclear Winter

As Bush goes for missle defense by 2004, this message bears repeating:

Preventing an Accidental Nuclear Winter
By Dean Babst

Nuclear Winter

In a study made by the World Health Organization, they found that a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could kill one billion people outright. In addition, it could produce a Nuclear Winter that would probably kill an additional one billion people. It is possible that more than two billion people, one-third of all the humans on Earth would be destroyed almost immediately in the aftermath of a global thermonuclear war. The rest of humanity would be reduced to prolonged agony and barbarism. These findings are from a study chaired by Sune K. Bergstrom (the 1982 Nobel laureate in physiology and medicine) nearly 20 years ago. (1)

Subsequent studies have had similar findings. Professor Alan Robock says, "Everything from purely mathematical models to forest fire studies shows that? even a small nuclear war would devastate the earth." (2)

Rich Small's work, financed by the Defense Nuclear Agency, suggests that burning cities would produce a particularly troublesome variety of smoke. The smoke of forest fires is bad enough. But the industrial targets of cities are likely to produce a rolling, black smoke, a denser shield against incoming sunlight. (3)

Nuclear explosions can produce heat intensities of 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Centigrade at ground zero. Nuclear explosions can also lift an enormous quantity of fine soil particles into the atmosphere, creating more than l00,000 tons of fine, dense, radioactive dust for every megaton exploded on the surface. (4) The late Dr. Carl Sagan said the super heating of vast quantities of atmospheric dust and soot will cover both hemispheres. (5) For those who survive a nuclear attack, it would mean living on a cold, dark, chaotic, radioactive planet.

A nuclear warhead is far more destructive than is generally realized. For example, just one average size U.S. strategic 250 Kt nuclear warhead has an explosive force equal to 250,000 tons of dynamite or 50,000 World War II type bombers each carrying 5 tons of bombs. The truck bombs that terrorists exploded at the New York World Trade Center and in Oklahoma City each had an explosive force equal to about 5 tons of dynamite. (6)

Accidental Nuclear War

The U.S. and Russia each have more than 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads set for hair-trigger release. If launched they could be delivered to targets around the world in 30 minutes. They would have an explosive force equal to l00,000 Hiroshima size bombs. (7) Russia and the U.S. have more than 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world. The more automated and shorter the decision process becomes the greater is the possibility of missiles being launched to false warnings.

The U.S. is trying to decide whether to build an anti-missile star wars defense or not. In order for an anti-ballistic missile to hit another missile traveling at incredible speed that can come from many different directions, it would be necessary to have a very complex computerized system.

President Reagan's Defense Secretary, Casper Weinberger, said that since an anti-missile defense would require decisions within seconds, completely autonomous computer control is a foregone conclusion. There would be no time for screening out false alarms and a decision to launch would have to be automated---there would be no time for White House approval. (8)

A highly automated defense system that has no time for determining whether a warning is false or not is highly likely to launch to a false warning. There are always false warnings. For example, during 1981, 1982 and 1983 there were 186, 218 and 255 false alarms, respectively, in the U.S. strategic warning system. (9)

There have been at least three times in the last 20 years that the U.S. and Russia almost launched to false warnings. Fortunately there was enough time to determine that the warnings were false before decision time ran out.

In 1979, a U.S. training tape showing a massive attack was accidentally played.

In 1983, a Soviet satellite mistakenly signaled the launch of a U.S. missile.

In 1995, Russia almost launched its missiles because of a Norwegian rocket studying the northern lights. (l0)

If the U.S. builds an anti-missile defense it appears certain that missiles would be launched to false warnings because no time is available for determining whether a warning is false or not.

Preventive Action Needed

Plans to build an anti-missile defense need to be carefully researched as to how it could increase the danger of an accidental nuclear war. As the research progresses, the findings need to be widely discussed in the news media. The more widely and clearly the danger is made known the more concerned the public should be for agreements to greatly reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons from the world.

As humanity's safety becomes more and more dependent upon technology, the technological dangers need to be guarded against. Technical errors in one system may trigger errors in others. When researching missile defense dangers the following types of factors need to be included in the assessments, e.g. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)), "Dead Hand" control of missiles, High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO). Russia's blind spots in its satellite warning system also need to be included in this research.

The U.S. and Russia are in a position where either can destroy humanity in a flash and yet there appears to be little recognition of this peril hanging over the world. Only 71 out of 435 U.S. congressional representatives signed a motion calling for nuclear weapons to be taken off of hair-trigger alert. (11) The U.S.? Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. (12)

Queen Noor al Hussein, of Jordan, said "The sheer folly of trying to defend a nation by destroying all life on the planet must be apparent to anyone capable of rational thought." (13) There is a need to greatly increase public awareness of the danger in order to provide broad, long-term understanding and support for arms agreements ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Reference and Notes

1. Sagan, Carl. The Nuclear Winter, Council? for a Livable World Education Fund, Boston, MA, 1983.

2. Robock, Alan. "New models confirm nuclear winter," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, September l989, pp? 32-35.

3. Blum, Deborah. "Scientists try to predict nuclear future from forest? fires," The Sacramento Bee, November 28,? 1987.

4. Sagan, Op.Cit.

5. Ibid

6. Babst, Dean, Preventing An Accidental Armageddon," Nuclear Age Peace? Foundation, February 2000,

7. Blair, Bruce. "Nuclear Dealerting: A Solution to Proliferation Problems,"? The Defense Monitor, Volume XXXIX, No.3,? 2000.

8. Strategic Defense and Anti-Satellite Weapons, hearing before the Senate? Foreign Relations Committee, April 25, 1984, pp. 69-74.

9. Letter from Air Force Space Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force? Base, Colorado, February 16, 1984.

10. Babst, Op.Cit.

11. The Sunflower, No. 31, Jan. 00, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa? Barbara, Calif.

12. Gordon, Michael R. "Russia rejects call to amend ABM treaty," Contra? Costa Times, Oct. 2l, 1999.

13. Hussein, Queen Noor al. "The Responsibilities of? World Citizenship," Waging Peace Series, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa? Barbara, Calif., Booklet No 40, July 2000.


*Dean Babst is a retired government research scientist and Coordinator of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Accidental Nuclear War Studies Program. The author acknowledges the helpful suggestions of David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Bob Aldridge, who heads the Pacific Life Research Center, and Andy Baltzo, who is Founder of the Mount Diable Peace Center in northern California.

Posted by Richard
12/17/2002 09:17:43 AM | PermaLink

Monday, December 16, 2002

Global Environmental History

Global Environmental Histories
Part of an ecological understanding of things is that everything is in relation and is changing over time systematically. Thus, it does some good -- but ultimately not enough -- if we change things in Ohio, but all the surrounding states don't update their own environmental activities and statutes. The same holds true on the world stage. One of the big projects of our time will be the piecing together and attempting to understand the total environmental history of the planet. When we have this, then we will finally be able to see the real nature of planetary development and its corresponding effects. The following essays -- one brand new from Finland -- are part of a free H-net series in global environmental history. Some interesting topics...

* "Causation and Climate in African History," James C. McCann, Boston University (September 25, 2000)
* "Where Are The Historians? Australian Environmental History," Don Garden, University of Melbourne (October 11, 2000)
Bibliography of Australian Environmental History
* "The Greening of Our Past? An Assessment of South African Environmental Historiography," Phia Steyn, University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa (November 13, 2000)
* "Urban History and Environmental History in the United States," Joel A. Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (November 30, 2000)
* "At the Intersection of Histories: Technology and the Environment," Jeffrey K. Stine, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, and Joel A. Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (January 8, 2001)
* "Environmental History (Made) in Latin America," Guillermo Castro Herrera, Director for Programs and Institutional Relations, with the Direction for Academic Affairs, City of Knowledge, Panama (April 19, 2001)
* "Linking American Women's History and Environmental History: A Preliminary Historiography," Elizabeth D. Blum, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Troy State University, Troy, Alabama, U.S.A. (May 25, 2001)
* "African History and Environmental History," William Beinart, Professor of Race Relations, University of Oxford, Oxford, England (June 11, 2001)
* "Sowing the Field of British Environmental History," Matt Osborn, Lecturer in Humanities and Coordinator of the Stevenson College Core Course, University of California, Santa Cruz (September 19, 2001)
* "Writing about the Past with Green Ink: The Emergence of Finnish Environmental History," Timo Myllyntaus, Senior Lecturer of Economic and Social History, Department of Social Science History, University of Helsinki, Finland (December 16, 2002)

Posted by Richard
12/16/2002 04:27:17 PM | PermaLink

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Whither Environmental Education?

Most people may not even realize that the U.S. Government (well, the U.S. Gov't prior to the Bush administration anyhow) officially supports environmental education and wants it integrated into the school curricula. Unfortunately, teachers and schools have not been quick to take it up en masse, but still environmental education has continued to grow and flourish over the last three decades (it has needed to), and Japan has recently asked the U.N. to announce "a decade of environmental education" beginning in 2004.

However, there's always a left of left remember. In a new paper of mine -- Whither Environmental Education?, I survey and compare the field of environmental education and find that in the attempt to bring it into the mainstream, key ideas and methods are being co-opted and the form that it is taking is generally one that is sympathetic with present corporate and state concerns.

In response to this, I then outline a number of approaches that are being imagined that go beyond the mainstream and point towards what is a new emergence of a leftist ecopedagogy that looks both to the whole cosmos even as it names the neo-liberal oppressors for what they are...

Posted by Richard
12/15/2002 06:26:45 AM | PermaLink