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Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Center for a New American Dream

Got a communication (below) from The Center the other day asking me to promote this contest. As they are involved in attempting (in however gentle a fashion) to transform consumer behavior away from unconscious capitalist acquisition and move it towards a more sustainable willful vision, and because their name contests in some manner the arch-imperialist rightist thinktank Project for the New American Century, I told them that I would. However, considering the massive ecological damage the meat industry does to society, I queried as to The Center's position on factory farms and vegetarianism.

It moves in the right direction, though like many more center-liberal environmentalists, The Center's position fails even to broach the ethical wrongs of eating animals and treating them heinously as instruments of predatory and hungry capital.

On the site, one can find the article Biodiversity to Go: The Hidden Costs of Beef Consumption. It won't awe or surprise any animal rightist but it does recognize the global problem of meat consumption and the author speaks of trying to become more vegetarian, as he attempts to break what he recognizes was his addiction to fast-food burger joints.

Additionally, I received this answer via email:
Our position is that conventional factory farm meat is an extremely resource-intensive and polluting proposition.  In fact, the second action in our Turn the Tide program encourages participants to 'Eat Less Feedlot Beef' and shows them exactly how much water and grain they can save by eating more vegetarian-based meals.  Together, the members of our organization have already saved over 1.1 billion gallons just by taking this action!
Again, right direction but I would encourage them to strengthen their commitment to vegetarianism beyond the rhetoric that it furthers natural resources, and I would also point out that even limiting their arguments to a resource-based exposition, the situation is in fact so dire that it demands moving down the protein ladder and taking up vegetarian and vegan-based practices. Eating less meat won't cut it -- how about "Don't eat it, pure and simple."

Again, for my part, the ethics stand out first and foremost. I don't want to be the sort of person who a hundred and fifty years ago would have patted himself on the back for using his slaves only on a Tuesday.

Anyhow -- here ya' go...win yourself a car with your creativity. Barring that, walk those streets you've been driving and get on a Freenet and procure yourself a bike. ;)
The Center for a New American Dream (a small nonprofit devoted to encouraging Americans to consume responsibly) is giving away a brand new 2005 Toyota Prius to whoever comes up with the best slogan for their national media and grassroots campaign to pressure automakers to speed up the production of hybrid cars.

Here’s a link to the contest web page if you’d like to learn more or enter now:

http://www.newdream.org/prius/index.php?contest_source=4

 As you probably know, the current wait time for hybrid cars is up to 9 months long, whereas anyone who wants to buy an SUV can drive it off the lot right then and there.  Given the current price of gas (not to mention the global and political costs of dependency on foreign oil) and the threats to our environment, it seems almost criminal to make people wait nearly a year to begin driving a fuel-efficient hybrid.

Posted by Richard
11/13/2004 11:42:35 PM | PermaLink

 
Friday, November 12, 2004

You Say You Want a Resolution

Great expose of Julia Butterfly...I generally hate those kind of people who look at celebs (of any kind) and say things like, "If we could only sit down for a cup of (shade grown, fairly traded, organic) coffee, I just know we'd hit if off!" But I read things like this snippet from the article below and I start to mumble things like "Voice of a Generation."

Via: East Bay Express
Hill excels at inspiring people to take personal action on the issues they believe in. For that reason, throughout the election season she looked forward to November 3, when people could stop worrying about whom to elect to solve their problems and get back to fixing things themselves. "No matter who ends up in office, we have a lot of work to do," she said. "There's a little part of me that goes, 'A vote for George Bush would be a vote for the revolution,' and that's a piece of me that's really frustrated by people who voted Democratic because at least it's not Republican, and we end up with spineless Democrats who sell us out too, they just sell us out slower."

Her success in getting just plain folks to pick up the balls that elected officials often seem to drop has less to do with how she presents herself than how she presents the issues -- not just as earth-shatteringly important, but also as solvable. She gives people hope, and a reminder that they themselves can make a difference, too, not just collectively but individually. What she does so powerfully and articulately is accentuate the positive.

"A big part of what I stand for is being part of a movement that I call 'resolutionary,' which means being focused on solutions," Hill told the animal-rights gathering. "I feel like we've gotten so good at defining what we're against that what we're against is beginning to define us. So I'm here to try on the idea of what an animal-rights movement would look like from a position of building what we are for, not just taking down what we're against."

Posted by Richard
11/12/2004 03:06:37 PM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, November 11, 2004

Help Expose Victoria's Dirty Secrets

This via Dr. Glen Barry's forests portal -- check out his Earth blog too (link in the blogroll). Click below and send an email to Victoria's Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands, and tell them that if they can't get hip to e-advertising then they had better get hip to recycling. Over 1,000,000 catalogs a day -- Bob Dylan and all the soft porn fantasy in the world isn't worth the clear-cutting of sacred groves...

Note: this goes to all my fellow computer users too -- are you buying 100% recycled paper for your printers? It's the least you can do to help stop the ravaging of our remaining old growth forests. And if you're a student, make sure your supplies office is moving towards doing the same; green universities is the hot thing right now in higher ed administrations and so there shouldn't even be a fight about it...quite simply it isn't happening largely because of habit and established contracts, the money difference is less and less an issue.

Via: Forests.org
Victoria's Secret - the "sexy" lingerie company - is a heavy user of paper, mailing more than 395 million catalogs a year. Yet they use hardly any recycled paper, buying instead from paper suppliers who drive the destruction of ancient forests and the conversion of natural forest remnants and wetlands to intensively managed tree farms. Two years of investigative research has revealed a direct link between Victoria's Secret catalogs and the destruction of endangered forests in the Canadian Boreal and dwindling natural forests in the southern United States.

Over twelve times the size of California, the California Boreal accounts for one quarter of the Earth's remaining intact forests and is a critical regulator of global climate. Victoria's Secret's paper usage is contributing to the demise of threatened mountain and woodland caribou herds in places like the Alberta foothills. Forests of the southern United States are also threatened. They are home to incredibly diverse natural forests and the richest temperate freshwater ecosystem in the world, yet 6 million acres of the South's forests are logged every year, primarily to make paper that ends up with companies like Victoria's Secret.

ForestEthics has launched a campaign against Victoria's Secret and its parent company Limited Brands for their leading role in forest destruction. The launch marks the beginning of actions and demonstrations by grassroots environmental groups across the United States and the launch of an advertising campaign and website (www.victoriasdirtysecret.net) challenging the retailer to stop using paper coming from the world's last remaining endangered forests and switch to high post-consumer recycled paper. The campaign is asking Victoria's Secret to:
• End purchases from any company that is not identifying and halting logging in Endangered Forests in the Canadian Boreal (Forests.org adds and other ancient forest wildernesses);

• Maximize post-consumer recycled fiber in catalogs (achieve 50% post-consumer recycled in five years);

• Ensure that all suppliers are shifting to Forest Stewardship Council certification (Forests.org adds from managed secondary forests); and

•End the use of any forest products from other endangered forests, like key areas of the Southern United States.
There is nothing sexy about the demise of the World's last great forests.

Posted by Richard
11/11/2004 09:39:10 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The New E.P.A. ("Everyone Pollute Anywhere")

Alarming note in Salon today about "Do Nothing" orders en vogue at the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush -- apparently a recent study found that civil penalties imposed by the EPA against corporate polluters reached a 15-year low, taking us back to the Reagan era (where these neoliberal freedoms largely proliferated originally).

The whole penalty system needs to be re-thought, clearly. Take the news (below) of major petrochemical company ARCO and the EPA reaching a settlement agreement in which ARCO agreed to a $62 million penalty. No small change, yes. But reading closely one sees that the penalty represents only 70% of the EPA's clean-up costs of $88.6 million...that's $26.6 million that the company just made by dumping its pollution costs onto the citizens of the United States. Further, one finds that ARCO will in fact only pay $50 million of the $62 -- drawing $12 million from the U.S. Judgement Fund that serves to pay companies that successfully sue the government. In this case, tieing up the legal system with litigation and costly counter-suits combining to $12 million, ARCO agrees to drop them and counts this as a penalty against it.

Bush is worried about small-time medical malpractice litigation, but I've got news for him -- this is where the big money is. Of course, one could argue that if the EPA refuses to even press cases on its books against criminal companies destroying the Earth for profit, then the sham of counter-suits and protracted litigation is also mitigated. Meanwhile, the EPA and the companies leave the polluted legacy in place, however, and its the very people who have been harmed the most by it who then are given the gift of having to pay to get rid of it.

But even if the EPA pressed its cases strongly, rich and powerful industries like Big Oil and Timber (as we have seen with the Tobacco industry) slip, slide, and use the legal system to endlessly forego having to change course, lose large amounts of revenue, and suffer in any sort of punative fashion.

A better way of handling things has emerged in Israel -- where the heads of an oil refinery and a petrochemical company in the north of the country were indicted Monday for causing severe or unreasonable air pollution through negligence.

"Now, the directors of companies that pollute will be personally punished for contaminating the environment," said Environment Minister Ilan Shalgi. "A director who knows he personally will sit in jail for polluting the environment will think carefully before polluting the air and water for all of us."

This is correct -- despite the fact that it's 3 years out and Ken Lay and co. still haven't come close to a trial for their Enron crimes, this is what the United States needs more of...the CEOs and managing chiefs of companies raping and plundering the planet, destroying communities, and extinguishing life in the name of shareholders (as executives bankroll) needs to be met with a greater deterrent than illusory EPA fines cum settlements that simply get factored into corporate bottom line cost analyses that routinely find that governmental penalties are no deterrent at all.

-----

Meanwhile, for a touch of protest humor, watch forest animals lead the charge against Bush and Cheney's anti-Roadless Rule, forest cutting agenda and send a message of "No" as you listen to the Monster Slash.

Via: Arco, EPA reach agreement on cleanup
The Environmental Protection Agency will receive $62 million, most of it from Atlantic Richfield Co., as reimbursement for cleanup costs at mines, smelters and settling ponds in the upper Clark Fork River Basin over the past 21 years.

On Friday, the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice announced an agreement under which Arco both pays for past cleanup work and waives its liability defenses for future cleanup costs.

"This is significant because it resolves a really long-running dispute with Arco over these costs," said Henry Elsen, an attorney for the EPA in Helena. "And it should really make things go faster and more efficiently in the future."

The consent decree covers past costs at the Anaconda smelter site, along the upper Clark Fork River, the Butte priority soils site and Warm Springs Ponds.

It does not, however, represent all of the EPA's costs - which, according to Elsen, totaled $88.6 million through 2002.

"This was a negotiation," he said, "so we are forgiving some of the costs in recognition of the risks associated with litigation."

The settlement amount represents about 70 percent of the EPA's past cleanup costs.

Under the consent decree, Arco will pay $50 million directly to the EPA, with another $12 million coming from the U.S. Judgement Fund.

Elsen said the fund normally pays people, groups or companies that successfully sue the federal government.

In this case, the money could have gone to Arco - which filed a number of counterclaims against the U.S. government. Instead, it will go directly to the EPA to offset some of Arco's debts.

"The $12 million is based on Arco's counterclaims, which involved allegations that the United States operated the Anaconda smelter and the Butte mines during World War I and World War II," Elsen said. "The U.S. did not acknowledge the validity of those claims, only the risk that we might not have prevailed in court."

Posted by Richard
11/10/2004 10:28:49 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Politics of Global Warming

The largest study to date of the Arctic climate, undertaken by 250 international scientific experts and by 8 nations with Arctic territories (including the US), found again that global climate change is heating the ice caps to an unprecedented degree and that this ecological change spells catastrophic social damage, millions of deaths, and important extinctions (such as of polar bears).

In the report released yesterday, it was found that polar ice has receeded some 20% over the last 30 years, with temperatures rising some 7 degrees fahrenheit, and could disappear completely by century's end as temperatures continue to rise another 13 degrees on average. While this would doom many species and essentially all cultures who currently live in this habitat, its effects would be global as rising waters would flood coastal areas, causing massive devastation, and weather patterns too would further shift in ways perhaps strengthening the effects of natural disasters.

Yet, just as the Bush administration pulled the country out of the now globally ratified Kyoto treaty on climate change in 2001, pressured governmental scientists not to produce evidence for climate change, and then went so far as to publicly bitch-slap its own EPA head, Christine Todd Whitman, when she released a report affirming global warming and the US's connection to it (subsequently causing the EPA to back down and edit their conclusions), so now too is the administration apparently unphased by its own science and global opinion. Apparently, not until the White House itself is flooded (or perhaps the golf courses of Kennebunkport), will Bush move to open his eyes, change his neoliberal pro-corporate "y'all do anything you want to do" tune and show some real leadership on this far-reaching, truly planetary, problem.

Despite Monday's report having been drafted over the last four years and despite the fact that it is this week the centerpiece of a major international conference on climate change, the White House stated that it will wait to comment until the report is finalized next year. "This is one draft of a report that has yet to be finished," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, as he intimated that this too might find its conclusion altered, as the administration bought time and sought to deflect the news. Meanwhile, as noted below, another Presidential advisor fought back against the very science it helped to pay for by announcing that the conclusions of the report were little more than a anti-American conspiratorial "fallacy."

What gives? Simply: it is a fact that the United States is the chief carbon producer on the planet, and as the leading industrialized nation (modern industry driven by fossil fuels is thought to be the chief cause of global warming), it stands the most to lose economically and politically from attempting to regulate carbon emissions. For this reason, perhaps no U.S. President would find it politically feasible to sign onto the Kyoto accord -- though Gore spoke in 2000 as if he would and John Edwards "lamented" in August of this year that the US did not sign, an off-message remark whose difference from the Kerry plan of emissions reduction through new technologies and further industrial modernization may simply have been a mis-statement and a sign that Edwards really is a foreign policy newbie.

As I have written about many times previously, the Kyoto treaty is flawed (Kerry is no doubt correct) -- even if the US signed on, the pact's slight move to limit carbon reductions and then its ability to do so mostly through emissions "trading," in which rich and filthy countries like the US buy up permissions from less developed regions so as to arrive at the targeted average of about a 5.5% drop by 2012, would achieve little effect. In this sense, that Kyoto is the closest thing to a serious political agreement that can be agreed upon and that it still can't bring the chief problem country on board despite 7 years of intense negotiations, might be more telling than rising sea-levels and temperatures themselves.

Bush's line has been that it is unfair to the US and would cost jobs -- which, friend of the worker that he is, he won't allow. Typically, this is Bushspeak. While Kyoto would target the US more than any other nation, like Kerry's tax would have targeted people making $250,000+/year more than any other tax group, this is not "unfair" but actually an attempt to move towards some limited sense of equity. As to jobs, Bush is correct that we might expect these CEOs to cut jobs in order to compensate for expenditures made in the emissions trades they would undertake so that their companies would not be subject to fines and further regulations. However, Kyoto in itself wouldn't cost any jobs, and if jobs were in fact cut over the next decade because of it, this would have been a typical corporate decision and the capital-hungry CEOs would be to blame, not the climate change scientists and developing nations.

Via: Green Consumer Guide
An advisor to President George W Bush has reportedly claimed that global warming is a fallacy created to disrupt the American economy, in an interview on Radio 4. Myron Ebell, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), claimed that the notion of climate change through man-made emissions was “ridiculous and unrealistic”.

The views of the UK’s chief scientist Sir David King – who stated that global warming posed a bigger threat to the planet than terrorism – were dismissed by Ebell as ‘a ridiculous claim’, and Sir David an ‘alarmist’. The European Commission was also accused by Ebell of targeting the American economy through efforts to develop an international climate change strategy.

Environmentalists responded by calling the CEI spokesperson’s claims “idiocy”.

A statement from the Greenpeace organisation read; “The world's best climate scientists agree the threat is real and growing. It is terrifying that this man is advising the White House on the gravest threat this planet faces. This kind of idiocy would be a mere distraction if it were not for the fact that Bush believes this nonsense. If Tony Blair really regards global warming as a huge threat, like he says he does, he needs to give the President a dose of straight talking the next time they meet.”

Greenpeace has also highlighted the fact that the CEI has received backing of around $1.5m from Esso since 1998.

Posted by Richard
11/09/2004 08:37:53 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, November 08, 2004

Hunting (for Dollars)

In an election cycle where candidates went out of their way to provide photo opportunities of themselves clad in hunting garb, bagging "game" with buckshot grins, it should perhaps come as no shock that the country overwhelmingly moved against animal welfare protections as numerous states more deeply identified themselves with making legal the sickening hunting practices of baiting and using leg hold traps on animals, as well as aerial shooting.

Even for pro-hunting interest groups and regions, that these versions of "sport" would be favored and acceptable is incomprehensible, for they take the very gamesmenship out of the practice and reduce quality to quantity as the traditional act of hunting is transformed into the commodity image of dead animals on the grill, mantlepiece trophy heads, door antler racks, and the guarantee of a successful hunt all for the price of a purchased state fish and game registration liscence.

More so, it is truly regressive that in states such as Louisiana, where one can still find working slave manors deep in the interior if one looks for them, that this caricature of hunting can be a legal right when civil rights remain denied and without constitutional force.

Finally, while the language of much of these pro-hunting amendments is phrased in the timely rhetoric of "values," the fact remains that beyond this the moving force for these statutory changes remains capital itself, as these legislative measures have to do with the attempt to grow state tourism revenues based on fish and game practices. Thus, we see Alaska moving to underwrite the shameless "harvest" of 80 grizzlies and hundreds of wolves -- again through baiting and air attack -- in order to make some money and grow the moose population that is a primary tourist agenda.

Against this, Friends of Animals is launching a continuance of its "howl ins" and is calling for boycotts, but without greater support from the Animal Rights and environmentalist communities (the latter is unlikely to weigh in quickly as its ties to hunting are arguably as strong if not stronger than its ties to the defense of animals), these are likely to amount to little more than a symbolic show of force.

While I am not one to engage in indigenous bashing for their own pro-hunting cultural practices, I do think that they too should be ashamed for not coming out strongly against these pro-hunting measures, especially those as proposed in Alaska. The state has framed the issue as a win/win in which tribes will be guaranteed larger stocks of the moose that are central to life there; but the tribes should not be in favor of doubling moose populations at the expense of the ugly slaughter of bears and of wolves, animals just as sacred and deserving of protection from the US white-skinned thirst for blood and money.

Via: A Right to Hunt, Fish and Trick Bears By Sarah Kershaw
On Tuesday, rural Americans spoke loudly about a lot of things - gay marriage (against), Democrats (against, mostly) and, in four states anyway, hunting, fishing, trapping and baiting bears (definitely for).

Nationally, this election may become known as the year of the Republican. But in Alaska and Maine, it was also the year of the black bear hunter; and in Louisiana, the winners were the deer, dove and wild turkey hunter and the speckled trout and red fish angler.

Voters in Alaska and Maine rejected ballot measures that would have banned bear-baiting, normally done when hunters use piles of doughnuts or food scraps as lures, as well as by chasing the lumbering animals with packs of hounds and snaring them with leg-hold traps. Ten states now allow bear baiting.

In Louisiana, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to make "the freedom to hunt, fish and trap," a state constitutional right, a "valued natural heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people," according to Louisiana's Amendment 1. Voters in Montana also approved a "right to hunt" amendment.

Louisiana, known as "the sportsman's paradise," and Montana are now two of seven states with such constitutional amendments, said the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, an advocacy group based in Columbus, Ohio.

Those amendments were approved after battles between animal rights' groups and sportsmen, between urban centers like Portland, Me., and "the county," Mainers' reference to their sprawling, northernmost county, Aroostook, where bear hunting is a way of life.

"I think people said, 'This is a part of our culture,' " said Doug Jeanneret, a spokesman for the sportsmen's alliance. "If you choose not to hunt, don't hunt."

The amendments in Louisiana and Montana were both approved by 81 percent of the voters. Similar amendments are pending in seven other states.

Posted by Richard
11/08/2004 08:30:15 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bush Opening Millions of Acres of Alaska to Oil Drilling, Pipelines, Business

For a larger version of the map (seen left) of what's happening in Alaska under Bush's watch, click here.

The Salon article below raises important points about the plight of animals there but loses sight of the issue as it instead moves to take up the way in which Alaskan tribes, which had shunned leftist environmental groups' support because those groups also had strong anti-hunting agendas, are now feeling so threatened by Bush that they are desperate for alliance.

One thing the article does not raise is the connection between opening up wilderness refuges in Alaska for oil leasing and the booming debt being brought about by the War on Terror. For instance, we might remember that during the Vietnam War, Lyndon B. Johnson basically sold out the Santa Barbara channel for about $600 million to companies desperate to get access to coastal mineral and oil rights. This helped him considerably on his budget as war costs skyrocketed. Today, costs are seemingly beyond scale but still, beyond Bush and friends making profits of their own, people need to understand that one of the costs of war is that the Dept. of the Interior routinely opens up wilderness for state-sponsored cash harvesting.

Via: Salon
Out of the vastness that is Alaska's coastal plain, I see the incongruous silhouette of an airplane. I point it out to Eli Kilapsuk, who has long since taken it in.

"DC-6," he says, without looking at it again. "Cargo plane. Going to Alpine."

His spare words contain more than a trace of bitterness. Alpine is an oil field, one of dozens of new and proposed developments popping up around Nuiqsut like poisonous mushrooms, transforming the open tundra into a vast complex of brown gravel pads, white elevated pipelines, lime green processing facilities, bright orange storage tanks and white Quonset huts. The oil rigs lie on the edge of a vast area of the Arctic called the NPR-A, short for the Northeast National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. Covering 23.5 million acres, it's the single largest unit of public land in America. It also contains crucial nesting areas for migrating birds and critical calving areas for hundreds of thousands of caribou. For the past 80 years, "biological hot spots" in the NPR-A have been off limits to oil drilling and other development, granted special protection by the federal government. But now the Bush administration, with its no-holds-barred push for oil production, is fast-tracking new oil fields throughout Alaska's North Slope, the cumulative environmental consequences be damned. If the administration has its way, its allies in the oil industry could soon displace the caribou and other wildlife around Nuiqsut -- and with it, alter a way of life that has survived among the Eskimos for more than 8,000 years.

Posted by Richard
11/07/2004 09:40:57 PM | PermaLink