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Saturday, June 05, 2004

Moving Against Corporate Power

The Corporation is a powerful new site (connected up with the new documentary of the same name) for inter(net) active(ism) on the issue of "corporate personhood." In particular, the flash critical media literacy module, I-Corp is worth spending some time clicking around on, as is the interactive journal -- this issue devoted to phactory pharming -- BioTalk.

A couple weeks back the new paradigm town of Arcata, CA passed a Resolution of the City Council Regarding Corporate Personhood denying corporations inalienable rights such as persons may be granted. We need more cities to come out like Arcata against the attempts by corporations to subvert democratic means and substantiate themselves as supra-legal entities.

One fault of Arcata's resolution, however, is its unfortunate conflation of "persons" and "human beings" as true right bearers. Human beings certainly have rights, as in human rights, but importantly, rights cross species lines too and should be more appropriately be considered the protection of "persons." In this sense, dolphins, apes, parrots, etc., are not human, but do meet the legal criteria to be considered "persons" and deserving of rights -- in a way that corporations never could.

WHEREAS, the citizens of the City of Arcata hope to nurture and expand democracy in our community and our nation.  Democracy means governance by the people.  Only persons who are human beings should be able to participate in the democratic process; and

WHEREAS, interference in the democratic process by corporations usurps the rights of citizens to govern; and

WHEREAS, corporations are artificial entities separate and apart from human beings.  Corporations are not naturally endowed with consciousness or the rights of human beings.  Corporations are creations of law and are only permitted to do what is authorized under law; and

WHEREAS, corporations claim to be persons, possessing the rights of personhood, including free speech and other constitutional freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, corporations presuming such rights of personhood have influenced and interfered with democratic processes by lobbying and pressuring our legislative bodies, making campaign contributions which dominate election campaigns, and using the media to substitute corporate values for community and family values; and

WHEREAS, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in a 1938 opinion, "I do not believe the word 'person' in the 14th Amendment includes corporations"; and

WHEREAS, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution.  The people have never granted constitutional rights to corporations, nor have we decreed that corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of the people of the United States.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata believes that no corporation should be deemed a person and therefore that no corporation should be entitled to the same rights and protections as those guaranteed only to persons under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata supports education to increase public awareness of the threats to our democracy posed by corporate personhood, and the Council encourages lively discussion to build understanding and consensus on appropriate community and municipal responses to those threats.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata supports the Committee on Democracy and Corporations in hosting town meetings to draft an ordinance or ordinances addressing the legal fiction of corporate personhood and other threats corporations pose to our democracy in Arcata.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata authorizes sending copies of this resolution to our elected representatives.

DATED: May 19, 2004.

Posted by Richard
6/05/2004 03:40:48 PM | PermaLink

Friday, June 04, 2004

Two Planetary Celebrations: One With Clothes, One Without

Today is World Environment Day -- a major multinational UN celebration and conference. This year, with the sustainability of the planet as its theme, the UN is seeking to call attention to world oceans and water under the title "Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive?" As with all UN activities, it is a mixed bag, as useful information and programs are promoted along with more spectacle-oriented activities like giant parades and festivals and global managerialism in boring bureaucratic conference programs. Here is an example of one document that UNEP has put together that helps underscore the good educational aspects of their work:

1. Oceans cover 70 per cent of the Earth's surface.
2. More than 90 per cent of the planet's living biomass is found in the oceans.
3. Eighty per cent of all pollution in seas and oceans comes from land-based activities.
4. Forty per cent of the world's population lives within 60 kilometres of a coast.
5. Three-quarters of the world's megacities are by the sea.
6. By 2010, 80 per cent of people will live within 100 kilometres of the coast.
7. Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy US$12.8 billion a year. The annual economic impact of hepatitis from tainted seafood alone is US$7.2 billion.
8. Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year.
9. Sea creatures killed by plastic decompose, the plastic does not. Plastic remains in the ecosystem to kill again and again.
10. Harmful algal blooms, caused by an excess of nutrients -- mainly nitrogen from agricultural fertilizer -- have created nearly 150 coastal deoxygenated "dead zones" worldwide, ranging from 1 to 70,000 square kilometres.
11. An estimated 21 million barrels of oil run into the oceans each year from street run-off, effluent from factories, and from ships flushing their tanks.
12. Over the past decade, an average of 600,000 barrels of oil a year has been accidentally spilled from ships, the equivalent of 12 disasters the size of the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige in 2002.
13. Oil tankers, transport 60 per cent (approximately 2,000 million tons) of oil consumed in the world.
14. More than 90 per cent of goods traded between countries are transported by sea.
15. Each year 10 billion tons of ballast water is transferred around the globe and released into foreign waters.
16. Ballast water often contains species -- such as the zebra mussel and comb jellyfish -- that can colonize their new environment to the detriment of native species and local economies.
17. Pollution, exotic species and alteration of coastal habitats are a growing threat to important marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs.
18. Tropical coral reefs border the shores of 109 countries, the majority of which are among the world's least developed. Significant reef degradation has occurred in 93 countries.
19. Although coral reefs comprise less than 0.5 per cent of the ocean floor, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of marine species are directly or indirectly dependent on them.
20. There are about 4,000 coral reef fish species worldwide, accounting for approximately a quarter of all marine fish species.
21. The Great Barrier Reef, measuring 2,000 kilometres in length, is the largest living structure on Earth. It can be seen from the Moon.
22. Reefs protect human populations along coastlines from wave and storm damage by serving as buffers between oceans and near-shore communities.
23. Nearly 60 per cent of the world's remaining reefs are at significant risk of being lost in the next three decades.
24. The major causes of coral reef decline are coastal development, sedimentation, destructive fishing practices, pollution, tourism and global warming.
25. Climate change threatens to destroy the majority of the world's coral reefs, as well as wreak havoc on the fragile economies of Small Island Developing States.
26. Average sea level has risen between 10 and 25 centimetres in the past 100 years. If all the world's ice melted, the oceans would rise by 66 metres.
27. Sixty per cent of the Pacific shoreline and 35 per cent of the Atlantic shoreline are receding at a rate of one metre a year.
28. The phenomenon of coral bleaching is a major threat to coral health. In 1998, 75 per cent of the world's reefs were affected by coral bleaching. Sixteen per cent died.
29. The Plan of Implementation adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) calls for a global marine assessment by 2004 and the development of a global network of marine protected areas by 2012.
30. Less than one half a per cent of marine habitats are protected -- compared with 11.5 per cent of global land area.
31. The High Seas -- areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction -- cover almost 50 per cent of the Earth's surface. They are the least protected part of the world.
32. Although there are some treaties that protect ocean-going species such as whales, as well as some fisheries agreements, there are no protected areas in the High Seas.
33. Studies show that protecting critical marine habitats -- such as warm- and cold-water coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves -- can dramatically increase fish size and quantity, benefiting both artisanal and commercial fisheries.
34. Ninety per cent of the world's fishermen and women operate at the small-scale local level, accounting for over half the global fish catch.
35. Ninety-five per cent of world fish catch (80 million tons) is from near-shore waters.
36. More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion.
37. Artisanal fishing communities, who harvest half the world's fish catch, are seeing their livelihoods increasingly threatened by illegal, unregulated or subsidized commercial fleets.
38. More than 70 per cent of the world's marine fisheries are now fished up to or beyond their sustainable limit.
39. Populations of commercially attractive large fish, such as tuna, cod, swordfish and marlin, have declined by as much as 90 per cent in the past century.
40. Governments at WSSD agreed, on an urgent basis and where possible by 2015, to maintain or restore depleted fish stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield.
41. The WSSD Plan of Implementation calls for the elimination of destructive fishing practices and subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
42. Government subsidies -- estimated at US$15 to US$20 billion per year -- account for nearly 20 per cent of revenues to the fishing industry worldwide, promoting excess fishing capacity and encouraging over-fishing.
43. Destructive fishing practices are killing hundreds of thousands of marine species each year and helping to destroy important undersea habitats.
44. Each year, illegal longline fishing, which involves lines up to 80 miles long, with thousands of baited hooks, kills over 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses.
45. As many as 100 million sharks are killed each year for their meat and fins, which are used for shark fin soup. Hunters typically catch the sharks, de-fin them while alive and throw them back into the ocean where they either drown or bleed to death.
46. Global by-catch -- unintended destruction caused by the use of non-selective fishing gear, such as trawl nets, longlines and gillnets -- amounts to 20 million tons a year.
47. The annual global by-catch mortality of small whales, dolphins and porpoises alone is estimated to be more than 300,000 individuals.
48. Fishing for wild shrimp represents 2 per cent of global seafood but one-third of total by-catch. The ratio of by-catch from shrimp fishing ranges from 5:1 in temperate zones to 10:1 and more in the tropics.
49. Shrimp farming, too, is highly destructive. It causes chemical and fertilizer pollution of water and has been largely responsible for the destruction of nearly a quarter of the world's mangroves.
50. Mangroves provide nurseries for 85 per cent of commercial fish species in the tropics.
Meanwhile, speaking of spectacular is one that I totally support -- the World Naked Bike Ride set to take place on June 12. Here is an opportunity for people across the planet to come out in an emancipatory fashion in favor of their bodies, their joy, sustainable energy and transport, and critical mass activism, as they protest big oil and gas industry and its spin offs like the auto giants, global warming, the Bush administration, and other reactionary anti-people, anti-earth administrations!

Strip on down and pedal your way into the world's progressive imagination!

Posted by Richard
6/04/2004 08:48:02 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Oil's Dark Future is Our Own

News today that OPEC will increase oil production by another 2 million barrels a day in order to help offset the rising price of crude. But as Paul Roberts has put it in The End of Oil, the growing Chinese demand for automobiles is so enormous that their oil consumption alone may increase global oil purchases by a full additional percent to 2.25 percent this year, or 2 million barrels/day. A news story from NPR this morning echoes this and points out how the rapid modernization of China will be perhaps the central drama of 21st ecological life. Increases in private ownership of cars have been upwards of 40% recently, though most of China's fossil fuel needs revolve around its urbanization and industrialization.

Dr. Glen Barry, on his Earth Blog, rightly points out that growing American consumer outrage at rising pump prices is mis-informed and spoiled, but he is incorrect in over-polemicizing that the oil crisis is a result of American car consumers. Work like that of Roberts, mentioned above, points to a international publics' need for a more complex understanding of the fossil fuel economy, one that goes beyond the symbolic blaming (and destruction by militants) of large SUVs in filthy rich glutton nations like the United States. For even in America proper, oil energy burdens are often arising from "hidden" factors like housing and office development. As Hal Levin, of the Building Ecology Research Group, muses:
Consider the case of buildings rather than cars with respect to energy and other resource consumption -– just building smaller buildings can significantly affect resource consumption and pollution emission. Making buildings more energy efficient -- improvements of 50 to 80% are realistic and feasible now -– would make a real dent in U.S. and global energy consumption. Check it out –- U.S. buildings use 10% of total global energy consumption.

U.S. house average sizes have almost doubled since 1968 while occupant density (household size) has decreased.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of total U.S. energy use occurs to support U.S. buildings. Of course this includes the "plug loads" (appliances, etc.) inside them. But energy consumed to illuminate, heat, cool and ventilate them is in the range of 25 to 35% of U.S. energy consumption. Then there is the energy used to manufacture building materials, to maintain and renovate buildings, and to demolish and dispose of them at the end of their useful lives.j Others have found that these same sorts of numbers apply generally around the world.

Regarding other resource consumption -- buildings are responsible for the following: [Source: Levin, H., A. Boerstra, and S. Ray, 1995, “Scoping U.S. Buildings Inventory Flows and Environmental Impacts in Life Cycle Assessment” Presented at Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) World Congress, Vancouver, BC, November 1995.]

Raw materials (30)
Energy use (42)
Water use (25)
Land (in SMSAs) (20)

Atmospheric emissions (40)
Water effluents (20)
Solid waste (25)
Other releases (13)

Buildings Share of National Use of Major Industrial Materials:
Material / Buildings Share (%)
Clay (80)
Polyvinyl chloride (75)
Timber (67)
Sand (55)
Polystyrene (38)
Copper (34)
Aluminum (25)
Steel (25)
We should think the same in terms of Chinese and global development over the coming 21st century.

Bill McKibben in his latest NY Book Review speaks to the systemic immensity of the problem. Bush with his "No Forests Left Behind" plan is just plain horrible. But John Kerry's kinder and gentler "increase the stakeholders" approach towards achieving progressive goals one small step at a time is neither really honest nor profound. Nothing short of effecting a cultural and political revolution is necessary, as McKibben notes:
Bush has evaded energy and climate issues, but Bill Clinton and Al Gore weren't conspicuously better. That's because dealing with global warming is not a matter of simply paying a relatively small price to clean the air or water. It will demand nothing less than the overhaul of the entire global economy, which is currently based on the very fossil fuels whose combustion we can no longer afford, but whose replacement remains technologically, economically, and politically more challenging than perhaps any transition in modern human history.
Hydrogen fuel cells are not the answer, as I've written about here. For years, such technology would remain fossil-fuel based, moving from oil to natural gas, and the component parts themselves would come with their own smorgasbord of environmental and social costs. And as interesting as biodiesel and other green fuels are, and despite the growth in the number of biodiesel fuel stations, they remain for now beyond the ability of a Thoreauvian few. On the other hand, certainly, Gaia-theorist James Lovelock's demand for more nuclear power as the ecological answer couldn't be more wrong-headed and politically reactionary.

So what to do? The age old work of "the struggle continues." We must educate and organize. We must demonstrate political voice and force and transform our world collectively. Up until recently, the hope for being able to organize at the international level still seemed downright utopian. But now, after planetary anti-war protests and the like, it has been demonstrated that new media provide a tool for getting information out, strategizing, and organizing at distances both great and remote. In so doing, we will need to always keep the political economy and ecological effect of the worldwide information society in mind. But right now, with our faces to the wall and the firing line of earth crisis at our back, we need not be purists. We need creative and sound demonstrations towards generating popular appealing futures for all.

Posted by Richard
6/03/2004 08:50:12 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Developer Unearths Burial Ground and Stirs Up Anger Among Indians

I'm just so angry about this development in LA's Playa Vista region -- a prime coastal region south of Marina Del Rey and Venice, which was initially held up by the Save Ballona organization that has attempted to prevent the loss of wetlands and tribal homeland to tax-subsidized private development. Save Ballona pointed out how the area has been used for half a century as a methane gas storage area for SoCal Gas, causing its development to be a toxic danger named by consultants as the "largest oil field gas seep in the country." Developers have responded by denying methane dangers (outrageous) and claiming that they will in fact protect and reinvigorate a section of the previously polluted area as the new Ballona Wetlands state park.

Whether one is swayed by having a section preserved as a park or not -- which seems to me to be more an attempt to avoid further legal proceedings while providing a "value added" that will help drive community property costs up -- the other major problem this development faces is that it is running rough shod over sacred burial territory of the Tongva people in what amounts to a sort of real life Poltergeist in which capitalist real estate pundits brazenly build on the spirit of the angry dead. But it gets worse, for scientists and archeologists have moved in claiming rights of their own -- destroying and otherwise tampering with skeletons and stealing artifacts for removal to local museums! All of this over the stern objections of the very people whose ancestors are being profaned. Lest one fool oneself that the whole fiasco is more over-sensitivity and political correctness than anything else, Rep. Maxine Waters has herself remarked, "It is absolutely unbelievable that right here in the middle of the city this is going on unnoticed. It has to be exposed."

Maybe the Playa Vista development will receive a friendly visit from the ELF or the American Indian Movement and those groups will help to put it off the political map. Already numerous multimillion dollar condos have been erected and there appears to be no way to prevent it from becoming Los Angeles' next hot community of the upcoming decade.

Two last comments: 1. Notice how this otherwise Tongva-friendly article gives the developers the last word; an old AP "objective journalism" trick of the trade.

2. I do want to disagree slightly with Rhonda Robles, the Native American elder who speaks in the article that the reason the Playa development is going ahead is because the cemetery found was Indian -- that if it were white, or even animal, it would be respected. On the one hand, yes, it is clear that there is a special disrespect paid to this burial ground because it is indigenous. But on the other hand, no, Robles analysis doesn't get to the evil heart of the future of non-sustainable development. For capitalism, especially American capitalism, is not historical -- it is presentist. It makes profits now; and the ongoing cycle of booms and busts repeatedly goes to show that for all the micro- and macro-economics classes that MBAs and their ilk must take during their student years, no one ever learns anything about how steady state conservation and traditionalist economies of scale have worked for most, while globalizing industries have hurt the most. Increasingly, as populations and developments rise, and cash flows in rich nations like the United States increase, choice territory will come at a premium. As cemeteries of all kinds often retain pristene real estate, we can expect that the dead will be bought out just as the living now are, and they will be laid off and dismissed. It is the logical behavior of a civilization that has no spiritual base or values and which has disdain for death even though the large amount of its behavior is apparently centered around producing it.

Via: NY Times
With the precision of a watchmaker, an archaeologist clasped a small paintbrush and gently swept the brown, sandy dirt off the spine of a Native American woman buried some 200 years ago.

From the condition of the bones, the archaeologist, Penny Minturn, deduced that the woman was 30 to 40 years old when she died, had suffered from arthritis and had recently given birth, and that her diet had probably consisted of shellfish, native plants, nuts and berries.

"This is one of the most fascinating sites I've been on," Ms. Minturn, an archaeologist for 25 years, said as she worked under a large tent in the Ballona wetlands here, less than two miles from the ocean. "We're finding out a lot about this time period and letting these people tell their story."

But many Native Americans are outraged that the bones of their ancestors are being dug up from the ancient burial ground, known to the Tongva tribe as Saa'angna and filled with the skeletal remains of people whose predecessors hunted and roamed across Southern California 7,000 years ago or more. Archaeologists here believe it is the largest excavation now going on in the country.

The skeletons, most of them female, are being removed for the development of Playa Vista, a complex of condominiums, apartments and townhouses, some selling for more than $1 million. The burial grounds, which were discovered late last year, stand in the way of a proposed stream that opponents call a drainage ditch and that the developer more elaborately calls a riparian corridor.

So far, about 275 skeletons as well as countless artifacts and funerary objects have been unearthed, and no one knows how many remain.

Native Americans like Rhonda Robles, an elder of the Acjachemen, said the excavation was being conducted over her strenuous objections. "Our ancestors are being put in buckets and boxes, and they're being separated from the things they were buried with," said Ms. Robles, whose tribe is commonly known as the Juaneño. Like many tribes, the Acjachemen and the Tongva see themselves as spiritually united.

Ms. Robles said of the developers: "They're being disrespectful. All around the world, cemeteries are respected, even pet cemeteries. We'd be up in arms if our pet cemeteries were desecrated. But our culture and our cemeteries are not respected by law.''

Steve Soboroff, a former Los Angeles parks commissioner who is president of Playa Vista, the developer, said his company had hired "the best people with the best experience to do the right job out of respect and out of dignity to the remains that are being disinterred."

Mr. Soboroff dismissed claims by some Native Americans that their objections had been ignored. "There's a big difference between not responding and not giving them the answers they wanted," he said.

He said the remains would be reburied somewhere on the property and that many of the artifacts would be displayed at the U.C.L.A. Fowler Museum of Cultural History on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. At Playa Vista, outdoor displays will recall the site's history.

Donn R. Grenda, chief archaeologist at the site, said the discoveries would be scientifically and culturally beneficial. Most of the bodies in the current excavation were buried relatively recently, between about 1770 and 1810, and the deaths were possibly the result of an epidemic. The oldest remains found so far are about 500 years old, but Mr. Grenda said there was evidence of human habitation as long ago as 4,600 years or so.

To the Native Americans, the land is sacred ground. "Our people have lived on this land five times longer than the present culture," Ms. Robles said. "But we were cheated out of our land and cheated out of recognition. We're an extreme minority in our homeland, but that doesn't mean we should be shown such disregard." Playa Vista is the most recent name given to a huge marsh where oil rigs predominated early last century and where Howard Hughes built an aircraft plant in the 1940's. The plant produced the Spruce Goose and, later, helicopters for the Vietnam War. More recently, the land was to be the site of the DreamWorks film studio, until Steven Spielberg and his partners backed out in the face of disagreements with a previous developer and lawsuits by environmentalists eager to save the wetlands.

Similar burial grounds have been found elsewhere in California, many of them south of here in Orange County.

Jordan David is a member of the Tongva, also known as the Gabrieleño, and has been monitoring such sites for 11 years. He was permitted to observe the Saa'angna excavation and has been harshly critical of the work.

Mr. David said that at least three of the approximately 70 archaeologists and osteologists had quit because they were unhappy about what they were being asked to do. Mr. David said some archaeologists had shown "appalling disrespect to the people who have passed."

He said one archaeologist had waved a carved bone tube used to draw out sickness or bad spirits and had exclaimed, "Oh, look, I can do magic!" A supervisor told her to stop, he said.

On another occasion, Mr. David said, he saw someone walking atop a wooden plank on the ground. He lifted it. "There was a cranium underneath, and it was crushed," he recalled. "I cried for 45 minutes. Spiritually, it was like having a hot poker in my eye. It felt like the ancestors were crying through me."

The man who had stepped on the plank was not an archaeologist but an employee of a company erecting a tent on the site, Mr. Grenda said. "When you're working with fragile bones, sometimes they break," he said. "I don't think that comes from carelessness."

During a recent visit, a reporter saw an archaeological team member in heavy boots standing within an inch of a skeleton as he took notes on a clipboard, so close that a misstep could have crushed the bones.

Other experts appeared to be working with great care around the remains, most of which were covered with cloths. Debby Cogan, an archaeologist, spoke excitedly about finding ceremonial shells and beads, as well as tools, bowls, grinding stones and a "beautifully intact" whistle made from a deer tibia.

Another archaeologist, Don Tatum, resigned last month after working at the site for five weeks because, he said, "I wasn't comfortable with the situation."

One of his objections centered on a forced lack of communication with at least one of the designated Native American observers, whom Mr. Tatum said workers were told not to speak to. "Part of his job was to observe and discuss what we were doing, and he wasn't allowed to do his job,'' Mr. Tatum said in a telephone interview. "It didn't seem right to me."

Mr. Tatum said the problem with digging for bones at Saa'angna came down to human rights.

"If the shoe were on the other foot and this was a cemetery in New England and these were European-Americans, there'd be a huge stink in the community," Mr. Tatum, an archaeologist for 15 years, said.

George Mihlsten, a lawyer representing the Playa Vista development, said the company was not legally bound to consider the Tongvas' wishes because they were not members of any of the 562 federally recognized Indian tribes. The Tongvas acknowledge that they do not have federal recognition but said their cemetery should be respected nonetheless.

Mr. Mihlsten rejected suggestions that the riparian corridor be moved a few hundred feet to accommodate the cemetery. More bodies might be found there, he said, and besides, any change would open the permit process again and expose the project to more lawsuits.

But he said the company was doing everything it could to respect the remains.

"In the old days, this would all be bulldozed," he said. "Now it's done with brushes."

Posted by Richard
6/02/2004 02:20:08 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Will Canada Roll Over For Bush's Domestic War on Terror?

Notice the flattering manner in which Portland television casts Tre Arrow -- the hi-tech image is akin to a sort of science fiction mugshot, the kind one might find in a movie such as Total Recall or Blade Runner. Arrow's case is important because it opens the possibility of another international check against the War on Terror. Canadian authorities can in fact rule that the ELF is not a "terrorist organization" -- someone get them a copy of Terrorists or Freedom Fighters pronto! -- thereby checking America's right to prosecute activists in this manner beyond its borders. Since Canada, by protocol, is already arguing the US position in its hearings, one might be inclined to believe that the more hopeful ruling towards blocking War on Terror interests may be that Tre is not associated with the ELF. I am personally concerned that the public campaign against Tre has done enough to suggest an ELF association, however. Therefore, I think the only logical, ethical, and progressive ruling that can be made here is the stronger position that the ELF is not an organization involved in terror. We should watch this carefully...

A Canadian immigration panel began hearings Monday to decide if one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives is a terrorist or not before allowing him to apply for refugee status in Canada.

Tre Arrow is wanted for his alleged role in the 2001 firebombing of logging and cement trucks in Oregon.

The FBI claims he is associated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), its number one domestic terrorist priority. The group has claimed responsibility for dozens of acts of destruction over the past few years.

Obtaining refugee status would prevent authorities from extraditing Arrow to the United States.

The Immigration and Refugee Board hearings are being held behind closed doors unless the applicant requests otherwise.

The gaunt and shackled Arrow, clad in red prison overalls would not comment on the privacy of the hearing as officers hustled him down a hall filled with supporters.

"I love you," he called to them as he passed. "I think its important that people recognize the injustices that are being committed against the people and animals of this planet," he told The Associated Press.

Arrow's lawyers have said the Canadian government is alleging Arrow is a terrorist. Canadian officials will decide if he is admissible to the country before his hearing on refugee status proceeds.

In extradition cases, the Canadian government acts on behalf of the government seeking the individual who is facing charges in his home country.

Negar Azmudeh, Arrow's defense attorney in immigration court, said the panel must find that the ELF is not a terrorist organization or that Arrow has no links to the organization.

If the panel decides he is connected with ELF, Arrow would be handed over to U.S. authorities, said Canadian activist David Barbarash.

Arrow contends that he wouldn't get a fair trial in the U.S. because of the FBI's assertion that the crimes he is accused of are acts of terrorism.

Arrow, 30, was born Michael Scarpitti but says the trees told him to change his name, has said he is not a terrorist. He gained notoriety by scaling the Portland offices of the U.S. Forest Service in 2000 and perching on a narrow ledge for 11 days to protest logging on Mount Hood.

He is facing federal charges in Oregon of using fire to commit a felony, destroying vehicles used in interstate commerce and using incendiary devices in a crime of violence.

The charges carry combined penalties of up to 80 years in prison.

Barbarash said Arrow has ended a hunger strike he had waged. He said Arrow has dropped from 150 pounds to 109 pounds while in custody.

Arrows supporters say that, as a vegan, Arrow has not been receiving food he can eat in custody. They brought food for him Monday.

"He was looking forward to today for the food rather than the hearing," Barbarash said. "Every now and then he gets some iceberg lettuce."

If the panel decides he is not associated with the ELF, Arrow has 28 days to begin the process to apply for refugee status in Canada.

Hearings would then be scheduled for the claim. That could take up to six months, Negar Azmudeh said.

If that application is refused, Arrow can apply for a review before the Federal Court of Canada.

The Canadian Department of Justice cannot discuss the issue due to Canadian privacy laws on immigration matters.

Arrow faces shoplifting charges for allegedly stealing bolt-cutters from a home improvement store in Victoria, B.C., in March, which is how authorities nabbed him.

Posted by Richard
6/01/2004 08:58:13 AM | PermaLink

Monday, May 31, 2004

Nutrition Ecology: The Contribution of Vegetarian Diets by Dr. Claus Leitzmann

Nutrition ecology is an interdisciplinary scientific discipline that encompasses the entire nutrition system, with special consideration of the effects of nutrition on health, the environment, society, and the economy. Nutrition ecology involves all components of the food chain, including production, harvesting, preservation, storage, transport, processing, packaging, trade, distribution, preparation, composition, and consumption of food, as well as disposal of waste materials. Nutrition ecology has numerous origins, some of which go back to antiquity. The introduction of industrialized agriculture and mass animal production gave rise to various negative influences on the environment and health. Food quality is determined in part by the quality of the environment. The environment, in turn, is influenced by food consumption habits. Research shows that vegetarian diets are well suited to protect the environment, to reduce pollution, and to minimize global climate changes. To maximize the ecologic and health benefits of vegetarian diets, food should be regionally produced, seasonally consumed, and organically grown. Vegetarian diets built on these conditions are scientifically based, socially acceptable, economically feasible, culturally desired, sufficiently practicable, and quite sustainable.

Nutrition ecology is an interdisciplinary scientific discipline that incorporates the entire food chain as well as its interactions with health, the environment, society, and the economy. The food chain includes production, harvesting, preservation, storage, transport, processing, packaging, trade, distribution, preparation, composition, and consumption of food, as well as disposal of all waste materials along the food path.

Nutrition ecology has many roots, some of which go back to antiquity. The introduction of systematic agriculture (slash and burn cultivation) and domestication of animals (food rivals) has markedly affected our environment. One early example of the consequences of systematic agriculture is the Greek invasions of other countries as a consequence of their increasing meat consumption, which required them to acquire more farmland for fodder production. Another example is the deforestation for farmland and for building purposes, which began thousands of years ago and has continued to this day. Both the Torah and the Bible mention environmental issues numerous times. The impact of systematic agriculture on the environment was discussed by Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), and Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). At the end of the 19th century, Jacob von Uexkuell (1864–1944) founded the science of ecology.

Industrialized agriculture was introduced in the 19th century and rapidly took command of all aspects of life, with striking social, economic, and environmental consequences. Reactions to these developments led to the formation of the Sierra Club in North America and to the Reform Movement in Central Europe in the second half of the 19th century. People migrated from urban to rural areas to dwell in unpolluted regions and to grow their own food. Economic and social reforms were proposed and practiced. Some of these included a vegetarian lifestyle. Another reaction to industrialized agriculture was organic farming, which was initiated by the anthroposophists in 1924 and started to flourish in the 1970s. At that time, a number of organizations were established that raised concerns about the environment and food quality [eg, the Club of Rome (1968), Greenpeace (1971), World Watch Institute (1975), the Green Party (1980)]. At the same time, literature on the negative influence of industrialized agriculture appeared by Rachel Carson (1), Frances Moore-Lappé (2), Dennis Meadows (3), Joan Gussow (4), and Ralph Nader (5). These authors discussed the dramatic effects of industrialization and industrialized agriculture on the environment, health, society, and the economy.

Nutrition Ecology
The term nutrition ecology was coined in 1986 by a group of nutritionists at the University of Giessen, Germany (6). Nutrition ecology as an interdisciplinary scientific discipline is a holistic concept that considers all links in the nutrition system, with the aim of sustainability. Thus, nutrition ecology describes a new field of nutrition sciences that deals with the local and global consequences of food production, processing, trade, and consumption. Nutrition ecology goes beyond econutrition, which is limited to the interactions of nutrition and environment. Nutrition ecology goes further than the older concept of ecology of food and nutrition, which is limited to the eating patterns of indigenous and aboriginal populations.

At present, nutrition sciences are dominated by health aspects of food and, in part, by food quality. Recommendations are based primarily on physiologic and toxicologic considerations (7). The implications of our current nutrition system are more complex and go beyond nutrient content and contamination with pathogens and contaminants. To avoid ecologic damage caused by the nutrition system and to attain nutrition security for the world population, additional aspects need to be incorporated (8–10). The necessity of taking a more holistic view for a sustainable development is underlined by the current crises in the nutrition system, as discussed at the World Food Summit in June 2002 (11).

Dimensions of nutrition ecology
As is typical for an interdisciplinary discipline, nutrition ecology deals with a wide range of issues, including research, teaching, and public actions. A broad view of the entire nutrition system covers subject matters such as total food quality, ecologic balances, and life cycle assessments; the influences of nutrition systems on climate, world nutrition, and food prices; and a comparison of different diets and agricultural, environmental, and consumer policies. Basically, there are 4 dimensions of nutrition ecology: health, the environment, society, and the economy.

To maintain or retain good health, the consumption of an individually optimal diet is recommended. The term preventative diet has been used recently to underline the possibility of avoiding nutrition-based diseases (12, 13). The aggregate of most studies suggests that the consumption of plant-derived foods (grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts) should be increased and that the intake of animal-derived foods (meat products, dairy products, and eggs) should be reduced. This principle applies particularly to sedentary individuals. Plant foods should be consumed when they are as fresh as possible, should be minimally processed, and should be eaten partly as raw food (14–16).

The nutrition system influences the environment (17), which in turn determines the quality of food. The environmental impact of food production is determined by the agricultural method used. Conventional farming methods rely on extensive use of natural resources and result in higher levels of food contamination. In contrast, the environmental impact of organic farming is lower. Organic farming practices include controlling pests naturally, rotating crops, and applying legume plants as manure, in contrast to the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in conventional farming. In integrated farming, organic and conventional methods are combined, resulting in an intermediate environmental impact (18, 19). To reduce the environmental impact of the nutrition system, organic farming needs to be supported globally. In addition, foods should be minimally processed, packaged, and transported.

The nutrition system is closely related to society, including the responsibility for food purchasing and meal preparation, as well as the social implications of the family meal. Furthermore, the interactions between food consumption habits and lifestyle, as well as the social conditions and the wages of people working in the nutrition system, need to be considered. Additional social aspects include the import and export of agricultural and other products and the influence of this trade on people in developing countries (20).

On a worldwide basis, the major factor driving food consumption patterns is the financial situation of countries, different population groups, and influential individuals. Transportation and processing of food are carried out under the premise that money can be earned. In private households, the food budget is a determining factor in the choice of foods. From a holistic point of view, the food price should include all costs caused by the nutrition system, especially environmental damage (internalization of external costs) (9).

These 4 dimensions of nutrition ecology are of equal importance for achieving a sustainable nutrition system. On this basis, the various aspects of food and nutrition are taken into account. What eating pattern best serves the holistic and sustainable aspects of nutrition ecology? From all we know, a vegetarian diet comes closest to fulfilling the demands and to minimizing damage to the 4 dimensions.

Contribution of vegetarian diets
Vegetarians have many reasons not to eat the flesh of animals. In addition to religious beliefs, there are health-based, ecologic, ethical, and philosophical reasons (14, 21–23). When the ecologic damage caused by industrial animal production is examined (24), certain aspects need to be considered. On average, land requirements for meat-protein production are 10 times greater than for plant-protein production. About 40% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to animals. Half of this grain would be more than enough to feed all hungry people of our planet. Animal manure, which is produced in huge amounts by industrial agriculture, causes high levels of potentially carcinogenic nitrates in drinking water and vegetables. Animal production requires considerable energy and water resources and leads to deforestation, overgrazing, and overfishing (8, 25–27).

One solution to the problems caused by industrial animal production is a vegetarian lifestyle (23, 28–32). The positive ecologic effects achieved by vegetarianism can be enhanced by avoiding processed and packaged foods and by choosing seasonally available and locally produced organic foods. In this way, support is given to subsistence and family farming, the securing of employment, and global food security. In addition to these socioeconomic benefits, the caging of animals as well as their transportation over long distances and finally slaughtering them can be avoided, thus fulfilling ethical concerns.

The 4 dimensions of nutrition ecology are the basis for sustainable nutrition behavior (6). The term sustainability was introduced in the 17th century by forestry experts in Germany to call attention to the fact that only the amount of trees that would grow back in a given time should be harvested. Presently, sustainability describes development that fulfills current global needs without diminishing the possibility of future generations to meet their own needs (33).

From a nutritional point of view, sustainability also deals with the fair distribution of food through ecologic and preventive eating behavior. To achieve sustainability, a comprehensive rethinking of common values is needed to attain a new understanding of the quality of life. The question as to the adequate amount of food needs to be addressed at all social levels with the goal of achieving nutrition security for all. To fulfill the demands concerning ecologic, economic, social, and health compatibility, the following 7 principles have been formulated: 1) food should be predominantly plant derived, 2) food should originate from organic farming, 3) food should be produced regionally and seasonally, 4) food should be minimally processed, 5) food should be ecologically packaged, 6) food trade should be fair, and 7) food should be tastefully prepared. These principles have been derived from guidelines of wholesome nutrition described elsewhere (34). A diet based on these principles has a scientific basis, is socially acceptable, is economically feasible, is culturally desired, is practicable, and has a high degree of sustainability.

There are only a limited number of long-term trials on sustainability. In one project, 3 apple production systems—organic farming, integrated farming, and conventional farming—were compared (19). The yields were nearly equal, but the organic production system showed not only the best apple quality but also the best soil quality and the least detrimental environmental impact. Therefore, the organic production system had the best environmental sustainability. The economic sustainability is given, since the market price was highest for the organic apples. The authors of this report question the sustainability of conventional farming systems because of escalating production costs, heavy reliance on nonrenewable resources, reduced biodiversity, water contamination, soil erosion, and health risks to farmworkers caused by pesticide use.

Another study carried out over 21 y showed that although the crop yield was 20% lower in the organic systems, the input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34–53% and the pesticide input by 97%. Enhanced soil fertility and higher biodiversity found in organic plots were due to compost- and legume-based crop rotations (35).

Biodiversity is also the basis of food variety. Apart from the promotion of breast-feeding, the recommendation to eat a variety of foods is the most internationally agreed-upon dietary guideline. Biodiversity also protects against climate and pestilence disasters. In addition, biodiversity serves increasingly as the basis for new pharmaceuticals.

Nutrition ecology has the goal of attaining sustainability of food and nutrition security worldwide. To achieve this goal, professionals involved in the nutrition system must inform the public about the principles of nutrition ecology. In this manner, people can be motivated to practice sustainable eating behavior (36).

Nutrition ecology is also a question of personal priorities. Interested and well-informed consumers will be able to weigh the arguments and make the necessary decisions. The vision of a sustainable future depends upon individuals who feel responsible for the environment and health. One of the most effective ways to achieve the goals of nutrition ecology, including healthy and sustainable food choices, is a vegetarian lifestyle (37).

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Posted by Richard
5/31/2004 09:20:43 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Media is Flooded with the Message, But What's the Message?

Via: iAfrica

The Haitian Prime Minister is blaming the de-forestation of his country -- 80% of the forests have been cut down, he says -- as a prime factor behind the tragic floods that have recently killed over a thousand people and devastated entire regions. There is no question that large scale timber harvesting can lead to eroded soil, silted rivers, and poor drainage. But the flooding that has also decimated the Dominican Republic as well, is probably better understood as resulting from a more complex association of causes grouped together under the concepts of "climate change" or "global warming."

As documented in international reports like the United Nations Environment Programme's GEO-3 Report, hydrometerological disasters will increase with regularity in the future. This will certainly put coastal regions, even in so-called "advanced developed nations," at risk of rising waters and changed socio-geographic conditions. However, the primary regions at risk are (and will be in) economically poor areas that will suffer a highly disproportionate burden of the costs in terms of death, disruption, and monetary expenses devoted to recovery. More so, those poor countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as in Southeast Asia (those nations who receive the increased rainfall patterns of global warming's El Nino effect), are at the highest risk of flooding and other forms of hydrometeorological disaster.

Thus, as environmental groups like Rainforest Action Network and liberal organizations like MoveOn have promoted the politics of a mass Memorial Day weekend exodus of Americans to witness the ecological horror film The Day After Tomorrow, I hope people will take the time to recognize that global warming is more than an entertainment spectacle in service of the Anybody But Bush campaign. Bush's turn away from Kyoto, his crackdown on EPA scientists who have spoken to the importance of global warming and America's primary relationship to it as its primary industrial promoter, and even his administration's recent attempt to classify Pentagon information that calls global climate change one of the most significant national security concerns of the 21st century are all reasons to salute any form of public attention that links this issue to our President. But neither Al Gore or John Kerry, or even Ralph Nader, I'm afraid would have been able to keep the murderous waters from pouring through the shanty towns of Haiti this last week.

In the end, it is a complex problem that arises from the mass industrialization of a large swath of nations, which causes low GNP countries to destroy nature in the name of survival and IMF debt relief. As the weather turns globally, then, these factors combine to increasingly create peril for those who are least able to withstand or prevent it. Making an immediate about face from the current Bush administration policy on global warming is necessary, but if such changes are to truly be meaningful, then we need a revolutionary cultural shift to be taken up likewise by industrialized and non-industrialized countries alike towards an ethic of sustainability. We need to act with precaution -- if a butterfly in Mexico can cause a typhoon in India, then each one of us has a responsibilty to try to act in such a way that we create a safer, less threatening world for all.

Posted by Richard
5/30/2004 02:26:04 PM | PermaLink