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Saturday, June 28, 2003

Destruction of the Rainforest Increasing at Alarming Rate, Soybean Cultivation a Major Factor

The destruction of the rainforest has been a central issue for two decades and remains a major case study for understanding the relationship between global economy, lifestyle, human/animal identities and values, and using international bodies like the UN federation of states, the WTO, World Bank, etc., towards affecting real change towards "sustainable" balance. The overall result, apparently, has been disasterous, with many programs of action working in direct contradiction to one another, with global bodies failing to inform and be informed by local peoples and places, and with US subsidized agriculture creating a kill or be killed market for developing nations in the South that demands high-quantity of production in order to have any economic pay off in the short run...the parallel might be the theory of the high-rate of childbirth in Southern countries, where the low GNP would naturally prefigure a lower rate of childbirth (making family situations more affordable). The theory there is that children can be quickly sent into the workforce bringing back small capital returns each to overcome short-term deficits. The problem, of course, is that over the long-term this algorithm works in the opposite fashion, helping to instantiate poverty qua the low rate of labor wage. Here, more land is developed for soybeans, for instance, which delivers more short-term profit for the farmer due to increased quantity of production, but as the land is finite and so the long-term potentials of this strategy must ultimately backfire in the face of unchanging global economic norms.

Two quick points to consider:
1) At this year's World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, farmers across Latin America (and especially in Brazil) announced a new strategy of non-market growing -- growing crops for one's own local community and a turn towards self-substinance agriculture. This is obviously not figured into these figures about rain forest degredation b/c it is a very new strategy: it may represent an on-the-ground politics that is already in place towards helping to overcome what the State(s) have not been able to do.
2) The rise of the soybean in Latin America as a crop of choice may demand immediate refigurings of vegan and vegetarian eating choices. Soy is quickly becoming a staple food in American culture, with any number of corporations (large and small) producing soy-based offerings for the growing vegan/vegetarian subculture. However, whereas eating soy over animals is a benefit in one regard, to the degree that it does not necessarily affect the larger structural problems of where the food is grown and the economy of food transportation (the energy required to ship the average food item 2000 miles), soy may be a co-opted alternative already. In other words, for instance, if the soy products we eat are configured from a significant percentage of Latin American soy crops -- crops which are helping to destroy the rainforest containing 30% of the planet's animal and plant species -- then our soy-alternative is not only not helping animals, it is directly part of the larger capital process which is any animal's real enemy. Now, I'm not saying that any vegan/vegetarian's diet is being maintained by Latin American rainforest/soy crops -- but the question remains: do you know if it is or not? And if it is, doesn't this demand a modification of your consumer behavior?

Via: MSNBC (thanks to Steve Best)
Amazon destruction accelerates

The deforestation rate in Brazil’s Amazon, the world’s largest jungle, has jumped 40 percent, sparking alarm among environmentalists and a promise by the government to launch emergency measures. “This is shocking,” said Mario Monzoni, a project coordinator for Friends of the Earth group in Brazil. “The rate of deforestation should be falling, instead the opposite is happening.”

Posted by Richard
6/28/2003 10:48:44 AM | PermaLink

2003 Academic Awareness Day on the Animal Liberation Front

Support the effort in explaining, understanding, and discussing with students, professors, and your peers at your school, college, or university the Animal Liberation Front. Discuss what many call “the modern-day underground railroad” and what the FBI calls a "domestic terrorist." Are you interested in talking with others about the ALF, but do not know how? Here are some creative ideas that we came up with?

• Book a classroom to allow a former ALF prisoner to speak

• Present a paper on the history of the ALF to your local organization, school, or university

• Show an ALF video with Q and A afterward

• Set up a table on the ALF

• Hold a discussion on the ALF and invite the FBI or local law enforcement

• Roundtable discussion on the ALF

• Invite people for and against the ALF in the animal rights movement to dialogue

• Invite a national animal rights organization offer their thoughts on the ALF

*Post events at: www.cala-online.org

Purpose:

The purpose of this action is to de-escalate the frustrations that some people feel in response to extreme tactics in the animal rights movement, and to learn more about why the ALF was formed, their goals, and what their opposition thinks and feels about them. In order to build a peaceful planet we need to hear all sides of the conflict. While conflict is part of life, if not managed properly it can be a destructive event.

Endorsers seek to:

** Educate the public about the ALF and other underground players in the animal liberation movement.
** Counter popular misconceptions about the 'violence' illegal tactics reflect, underscoring the distinction between what is legal and what is ethical.
** Disseminate information (specifically within academia) to ensure that animal liberation is recognized as a legitimate social justice movement in the world.

Endorsers have no relationship with the ALF or any underground group. ALF members are unknown and communicate their messages and report actions via anonymous media. This event is not in anyway striving to promote ALF actions. The goal here is education about one of the important social movements our our time.

Endorsed by:
Center on Animal Liberation Affairs, Arkangel, GetVegan.com, Institute for Revolutionary Peacemaking and Education, and Bite Back

Posted by Richard
6/28/2003 10:31:26 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, June 27, 2003

Two PC Makers Given Credit and Blame in Recycling

Via: NY Times

The nation's two largest personal computer makers, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, handle recycling of the waste from computer products in remarkably different ways, according to a report by environmentalists released today. The report was prepared by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a group that also focuses on health issues, and the Computer Take Back Campaign. It commended Hewlett-Packard for using "state of the art" practices in partnership with an expanding commercial recycling industry, while criticizing Dell for using low-cost prison labor in association with Unicor, an industrial prison system within the Justice Department.

Posted by Richard
6/27/2003 11:08:32 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, June 26, 2003

ISwitched.Org Launches Virtual Green Party Presidential Nomination Primary

Voters can register for the ISwitched.Org Green Party Presidential Nomination Primary at http://www.iswitched.org/dc03/. The ballot is at: http://www.iswitched.org/dc03/dcballot.php.

ISwitched.Org announced today that it is launching a "virtual" Green Party Presidential Nomination Primary. The ISwitched.Org Primary has three goals: highlighting actual and potential Green Party presidential candidates that were excluded from the MoveOn.org "virtual primary"; allowing Green Party members and sympathizers to demonstrate early support for particular candidates; and demonstrating the use of Instant Runoff Voting, a system which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, thereby addressing major flaws in the "plurality" system used by MoveOn.org and in most American elections (such as the potential for a "split" in the "progressive" vote between Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich highlighted in commentary on the MoveOn.org "primary"). "MoveOn.Org has demonstrated the viability of the 'virtual primary' concept, but unfortunately, their failure to utilize an Instant Runoff Voting based system, and their decision to focus exclusively on candidates currently seeking the Democratic Party nomination left many progressive voters disenfranchised and limits the credibility of their results in the eyes of the public. ISwitched.Org seeks to address these deficiencies by offering a wider range of actual and potential choices to progressives of all parties and demonstrating the beneficial nature of IRV when selecting from multiple candidates," stated Thomas Leavitt, co-founder of ISwitched.Org. "It is particularly important to note that, combined, Gore and Nader registered the strongest 'left of center' vote since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and that if IRV had been in place in 2000, it is very likely that Gore would be President today, Nader would have received over 5% of the vote. and the Green Party would have qualified for Federal matching funds in 2004 - all infinitely better outcomes for the progressive movement than what actually occured. With the increasing strength of the Green Party, voting reform that encourages democracy without 'splitting' the vote or 'spoiling' it is one of the critical issues facing progressives today - MoveOn.org's failure to use IRV in its electoral process is extremely disappointing, and we hope to encourage them to adopt it for future primaries by providing a working example of how it can be done."

Posted by Richard
6/26/2003 09:01:26 AM | PermaLink

Fish Flushers Learn Life Does Not Imitate 'Nemo'

While Finding Nemo has been praised for delivering to children an especially palatable message about the integrity ocean habitat, fish rights (small tanks are no place for fish) and the smelly underbelly of the pet trade, the past few weeks have seen upsurges of children trying to free their own pet fish via the method used by the movie's star -- the flush down the toilet. So here is another example of 1) media demonstrating a powerful affect upon children's minds and 2) media fantasy having a negative effect upon ecological reality -- flushing fish just kills them and clogs pipes requiring toxic chemical cleaning methods. The Tonight Show parodied the sort of corporate irresponsibility under the guise of "family-oriented" filming aimed at teaching children good messages by producing a fake public service message with one of the film's voice stars Ellen DeGeneres informing "children that their fish were happy in their tanks — or their 'pads,' as she described them, likening them to a twentysomething's first apartment." She went on to muse that it was a beautiful sentiment that children were trying to free their fish, but that it was a bad thing that they were flushing them.

Posted by Richard
6/26/2003 08:40:26 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Greenpeace Takes Hot Iraqi Canister to U.S. Forces

Two words: Environmental Racism. Okay, a third: Imperialism. A fourth? Capitalism. Going for Five: Incompetance...Hans Blix had found a large majority of the materials capable of being classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction -- there was the peaceful disarmament of a regime underway -- Bush and Blair, zilch and thousands dead, Baghdad without power on 104 degree days, and a seeming Vietnam on the horizon. The IAEA, finally allowed into the country for some small measure of nuclear assurance, quickly rounds up the materials that Bush and Blair allowed to be stolen and unwittingly used by Tuwaitha villagers, etc. The country should be handed over to the UN pronto, as the local self-determination process begins rapidly. The US/UK coalition has had there moment of glory, but now they either need to belly up the money (which will significantly decrease their expected future rate of profit) to provide desperately needed infrastructure (which the two US wars helped to destroy a vast quantity of), or pull out altogether and not compound this tragedy with outrage.

Via: ENS

A convoy of vehicles bearing Greenpeace banners with a single activist walking in front carrying a white flag, today returned a uranium yellowcake mixing canister to U.S. military guards stationed at the Tuwaitha nuclear plant just south of Baghdad. The size of a small car and adorned with radiation symbols, the canister was brought into Tuwaitha on a flatbed truck.

The canister contains quantities of radioactive yellowcake uranium and had been dumped on a busy section of open ground near the Tuwaitha plant. Yellowcake, a fine powder, is the product of the uranium extraction process, and can be sent to a conversion plant that produces uranium hexafluoride as the next step in the manufacture of nuclear fuel.

The military was aware of the canister's presence, locals say, but it was left open and unattended for more than 20 days. Greenpeace is calling for a cleanup of radioactive contamination in villages surrounding the plant.

“If this had happened in the UK, the U.S. or any other country, the villages around Tuwaitha would be swarming with radiation experts and decontamination teams," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace. "It would have been branded a nuclear disaster site and the people given immediate medical checkups." [...]

Posted by Richard
6/25/2003 02:14:37 PM | PermaLink

Learning the Ropes

Via: The Missoulian

Likening themselves to the patriots who raised a ruckus by dumping crates of tea into Boston Harbor two centuries ago, more than 100 environmental activists are camped in the Bitterroot National Forest backcountry this week, practicing nonviolent civil disobedience. By the time they break camp Sunday, the assemblage will be well-versed in tactics both traditional and contemporary: filing lawsuits against unpopular decisions, sitting in trees to prevent their cutting, blockading roads and doorways, writing letters to newspaper editors, diffusing angry opponents.

Posted by Richard
6/25/2003 09:44:09 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Idaho Environment Worsens, Enforcement Cut Under Likely EPA Head Choice

Via: Knight-Ridder

Using EPA databases and state of Idaho documents, Seth Borenstein of Knight Ridder Newspapers looks at the record of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who Washington insiders say is the top candidate to be EPA administrator. The analysis found that the state's air exceedances doubled, TRI emissions increased, polluted river miles went up slightly (while national averages went down) during the past four-and-half years. Kempthorne has also cut his state environmental services budget three times and cut inspections. It's not fair to judge Kempthorne just by statistics, his press secretary says.

Posted by Richard
6/24/2003 09:40:29 AM | PermaLink

Controversy Plagues Positive EPA Report

Via: LA Times

EPA points to progress in new report on the state of the national environment, while critics point to political interference in the conduct of science. Not only has almost all reference to climate change been deleted, "the report is also silent on the growing evidence of harm to wildlife from pesticides and industrial chemicals and says nothing about scientific concern that human hormone and neurological systems may be vulnerable to the same pollutants."

Posted by Richard
6/24/2003 09:33:15 AM | PermaLink

Only a Paw in Their Game

Technocratic management practices in the name of ecology don't just threaten large carnivore species like wolves domestically, but similarly lions are also under the gun (or this case the spear) in Kenya. In this case, the problem is not poaching but rather that the ecology of the park dedicated to conserving lions has itself changed so much -- with increased human population on its outskirts, agricultural borders and slums, plus the general climatic change brought about by the mixture of global weather with largescale human practices -- that lions are hungry and naturally following prey into inhabited areas. This has led to repeated kills of Maasai livestock, which apparently the government is not reimbursing, choosing instead to threaten the Maasai with the law that killing a lion is a federal offense. The Maasai have reacted by killing 10 lions, leaving 9 left, saying that any lion that kills their livestock is subject to attack. The entire business points out the seeming irrationality in what are suppossed to be rationally managed technocratic conservation plans. Both the Maasai and lions have found their traditional ways of life radicalized by new state development conditions, but the state appears unwilling to take equally radical measures to ensure their conservation. Instead, a "can't we all just get along theme" is proposed, under the threat of law, as both lions and Maasai are jeopardized.

At: Maasai Kill Half the Lions in Nairobi National Park

Posted by Richard
6/24/2003 07:21:24 AM | PermaLink

GM Rebel Taken to Jail

As the GM protests rage in Sacramento, the world cracks down...

Via: The Guardian

Eighty gendarmes swooped on France's anti-globalisation figurehead, José Bové, at his home yesterday, arresting him and taking him by helicopter to a nearby prison where he is to serve 10 months for destroying genetically modified crops. The peasants' rights campaigner and sheep farmer had been hoping for a presidential pardon from Jacques Chirac, but found none forthcoming. Dominique Perben, the justice minister, said: "If Mr Bové finds himself today in this situation, it is because of the decisions he himself made." Mr Bové and a group of supporters ransacked a partly-built McDonald's fast food restaurant in Millau, near the farm on which he raises ewes to make Roquefort cheese, in 1999. He was sentenced to three months for that offence and served six weeks in prison in 2002.

See also:
'Superweeds' signal setback for GM crops
Ministers 'ignored' GM crop evidence, Environment Minister Sacked Who Wouldn't Play Ball

Posted by Richard
6/24/2003 12:35:58 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, June 23, 2003

Mining Giant Threatens to Scar Island Paradise

Via: The Guardian

On the southern side of Madagascar lies a wilderness paradise. The Indian Ocean washes over white sands. There is a primeval rainforest which is home to thousands of plant and animal species found nowhere else. Nature has won some battles against man - shipwrecks stud the surf and wind-whipped dunes have swallowed buildings - but lost the war: 90% of the forest is destroyed, chopped down for timber and charcoal, leaving a landscape of rock and scrub.

But there is one last battle. The world's largest mining company, Rio Tinto, intends to dredge hundreds of millions of tonnes of soil over 6,000 hectares to extract ilmenite, a mineral used to make paint and toothpaste. It will mean carving an artificial lake in what is left of the woodland and moving it, at about a metre a day, while a machine sucks up the earth and another sifts the ilmenite. The mining could last 60 years. Life will change utterly in the town most affected, the coastal community of Fort Dauphin. There will be a new port and breakwater, ships, roads, trucks and strangers.

For the flora and fauna of what is classified as a bio-diversity hotspot, an ecosystem which could hold cures for human diseases, the impact will be dramatic. In an age where ethical investment has become common the proposal seems to be a throwback to Africa's plunder by grasping Europeans and greedy multinationals. Environmental groups are preparing for fresh challenges.

Posted by Richard
6/23/2003 12:20:21 PM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Americans Seem Dour on Oil's Image

USA Today Snapshot asks: Would you pay more for a recyclable, hydrogen-based fuel system?
More than half of Americans say they would not be willing to pay more money for a recyclable, hydrogen-based fuel system.(Harris Interactive for Millenium Cell and U.S. Borax/Lori Joseph and David Neil)
Now, I'm not on the Hydrogen fuel bandwagon by any means -- at least not the version of it that has President Bush handing over money to car manufacturers and big-money sci-tech firms to implement a "sustainable" transport mode (by which Bush means a fraction of such) as of 2020. Then, of course, there is the problem of how sustainable this vision really is -- if the power of Hydrogen really comes from conversions of natural gas, how different is this transportation economy? In terms of sustainable ecology, to my mind, not much. Jeremy Rifkin's vision may be more so; but I'm not convinced that the Bush administration has ever even heard of Jeremy Rifkin.

In any event, above is another classic media spin. The Harris poll shows that over 40% of Americans would be willing to pay at least TWICE AS MUCH for their fuel if they knew it were ecologically responsible. Instead, the media emphasize that over half would not be willing to move away from oil/gas if it meant more money out of pocket. Half empty or half full -- you be the judge.

Posted by Richard
6/22/2003 08:17:12 AM | PermaLink

President's Tumble off a Segway Seems a Tiny Bit Suspicious

Via: USA Today

Over the weekend, while on vacation, Bush looked like Chevy Chase doing a Gerald Ford imitation as he stepped onto the platform of a Segway personal transportation scooter and went flying right off.

The first U.S. president to try a Segway supposedly forgot to turn it on, so the gyroscopic stabilizers couldn't automatically balance him.

But maybe Bush wanted to fall. Maybe he understands in a way few do that society is on the verge of a debate that could mold the future of transportation, much like the debate 100 years ago when cars first suggested that horses weren't the only way to travel....The conspiracy theory is bolstered by this: It's nearly impossible to fall off a Segway....

The Segway is powered by a rechargeable electric motor. A Seattle owner who commutes on his Segway and keeps a Web journal (www.bookofseg.com) says it costs him $1 a month to charge.

Posted by Richard
6/22/2003 08:04:15 AM | PermaLink