You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sustainability / Conservation’ category.

Here is the Do Not Buy list if you are interested in not purchasing Monsanto products or items containing Monsanto products.

Monsanto Boycott List

Learn more about Monsanto.

Millions Against Monsanto

Monsanto Boycott

The Greenhorns is an organization that recruits, promotes and supports young farmers in America.

Their eponymous film is touring the country this summer. Find out more at their website!

The Greenhorns film in Brooklyn

[Complete streets] are streets reconfigured for a range of functions, with the safety and comfort of pedestrians given priority over the convenience of motorists for the first time in half a century.

-Mother Nature Network

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

-National Complete Streets Coalition

Former PA Senator Rick Santorum, while burnishing his anti-abortion credentials, recently uttered the following:

“The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that human life is not a person then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.”

India Gay Pride

India’s Gay Magazines!

SHOCKER: Financial Crisis Was Avoidable

No Evidence that Unions Caused Post-Christmas NYC Slowdown
The only thing revealed so far is that Councilman Daniel J. Halloran is really fucking weird.

Sexual Assault & the Super Bowl

The number of NFL teams still in the running toward becoming America’s Next Top Big Tackley Dudes has been narrowed down to two, and both teams contain players with serious sexual assault allegations. What’s a fan to do?


Food speculation: ‘People die from hunger while banks make a killing on food’

It’s not just bad harvests and climate change – it’s also speculators that are behind record prices. And it’s the planet’s poorest who pay.

No Trains Running

Photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

What with New York public transportation being cut, and prices raised, and being cut again, and prices raised again, we all see these signs with great frequency.

This vandal is just saying what we all are thinking.

[This post has been edited to reduce ranty-ness. 9/7/10]

The popular over-population myth is still around—clearly debunking efforts have been insufficient. Over-population is blamed for such woes as famine, pollution, environmental degradation, price increases, child slavery, global warming, “too many Muslims” , war, terrorism, animal extinction, Peak Oil, disease, crime, alcoholism and more. I provided links to some of the more surprising claims so that enterprising readers can see that I am not just making this up!

But wait, an astute reader might say, haven’t most of these things (with the exception of “too many Muslims” and global warming) occurred since time untold? Aren’t famine and poverty and disease, etc. all things which have existed since long before over-population was a twinkle in Malthus’s eye? Why yes, yes they have. Are they proven to be causally linked to over-population? No, not really.

Also, there are some interesting facts to consider. Such as:
The world already produces enough food to equal 3,200 calories per person, per day.
Only certain humans lead environmentally unsustainable lifestyles.
The major role of inequality is ignored by most over-population proponents.
Almost no one mentions that the continuous growth and perpetual consumption required by capitalism has created a global economy which is unsustainable no matter what our fertility rates are.

Also, people keep sounding the “population bomb” alarm, but yet we keep growing and no bomb has gone off.

So inspite of sketchy evidence, why would over-population be the popular, mainstream, one-size-fits-all answer to this shameful list of problems? And why do we automatically think the cause of pollution, hunger or whathaveyou is “fertility rates”, i.e. women’s reproductive choices? And not just any women. When you dig deeper into this issue, you will find that we are talking about certain women, and their unacceptable reproductive choices. Did you know that worldwide fertility rates are falling precipitously? They have actually “dropped by half since 1972, from six children per woman to 2.9.” Some parts of the world have below replacement level fertility, meaning more deaths than births.

So upon a little reflection, it seems wacky at best to blame women’s fertility for the list of woes. Why do it? Well, historically, as now, it is easiest to blame the least powerful for the sins of the most powerful—and make them pay for it. The people with the highest fertility levels continue to be poor third world women of color. Yet they have a vanishingly small environmental footprint and consume a tiny fraction of resources when compared to Western people, wealthy people, and white people.

What’s easier? Blaming the poor third world women of color, or getting the wealthy and the powerful to reduce their addiction to consumerism, capitalism, and The Bottom Line?

Instead of an over-population problem, we have a politico-economic problem. Why do we have mass starvation and impoverishment as well as a small elite who are wealthy beyond imagination? Why do third world countries produce commodities for export to rich countries, instead of growing food for themselves? Why are third world countries always in debt to rich countries, despite being richer in natural resources?

The other half to this myth is that getting impoverished women to reproduce less, without actually alleviating their poverty, will require coercion: forced sterilization, forced abortion, economic penalties for non-compliance, etc. In other words, the Big Solution to over-population right now seems to be abusing the human rights of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Brilliant solution! Review women’s experience with the One-Child Policy if you are in any doubt.

How does a smart person reduce fertility? They start by augmenting, not violating, human rights. The most consistent indicator for low fertility is high standard of living. The more a society satisfies human rights, the fewer babies. So even if you happen to buy into the myth that poor, third-world women of color just have too many dark-skinned babies, it is still clear that destroying wealth inequities and focusing on economic policies that generate sustainable wealth inside third-world countries is the best way forward.

Why do I think discussions of “high fertility” and “over-population” are really about punishing poor, third-world women of color? Well, take a world-wide gander at who has high fertility and who has low fertility. Clue: European and American fertility is currently below replacement rate, i.e. fewer births than deaths, i.e. population decline without immigration. The sick reality is that no one is getting their panties in a knot about “too many” white babies. To the contrary.

I am providing hella links because I know whenever you challenge a popular, useful myth, there will be people who insist you are making it all up and will demand impossibly high standards of proof on your part, while feeling no commensurate responsibility to provide any proof for theirs. So my proof is right here in this rant pudding.

I can only rant for so long today, but FYI, it was instigated by a white, Western feminist pondering government-enforced restrictions on women’s fertility to stop this self-evident “over-population” problem.

PS. Don’t even start with me, because of course I am pro-contraception and pro-abortion, when the woman chooses it. Reproductive choice is reproductive choice is not government restrictions.

I compiled this list originally to help me with social justice organizing… I wanted to find alternative holidays to use as occasions to do education, activities, or protests around certain issues. I was looking for holidays that celebrate people with marginalized identities, economic and social human rights, or events with social justice significance. I wanted alternatives to holidays celebrating imperialism, jingoism, consumerism, or a dominant religion.

I have linked to a website for each holiday if you want to learn more. Many of these are US-specific, which simply reflects my nationality. I encourage readers to add anything I have missed- this list is far from exhaustive!

January 17: Martin Luther King Day of Service [US]

January 27: Holocaust Remembrance Day (This is the day that Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated.)

February: Black History Month [US]

February 20: World Day of Social Justice

March: Women’s History Month

March 8: International Women’s Day

March 31: César Chávez Day [US]

May: Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month [US]

May 1: International Worker’s Day aka May Day
(Find out why we have a different Labor Day in the US.)

June 19: Juneteenth (commemorating the end of slavery in the US) [US]

June 20: World Refugee Day

July 18: Nelson Mandela Day [South Africa]

August 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

September 15-October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month [US]

1st Monday in October (Oct.4 in 2010): World Habitat Day (Celebrating the right to housing.)

2nd Monday in October (Same day as Columbus Day, Oct.11 in 2010): Indigenous People’s Day aka Native American Day [US]

November 20: Trans Day of Remembrance

November 29: Solidarity Day aka International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

December 1: World AIDS Day

December 10: Human Rights Day

December 26-January 1: Kwanzaa [US]

The UN’s list of EVEN MORE alternative holidays! (Scroll down to the United Nations category.)

Some of the denizens of Kellogg, Idaho and the surrounding Silver Valley area would really prefer the government not clean up the toxic mining waste in their community. So what if poisonous chemicals are found at record-setting levels in the bodies of their children. Because you know what, if the toxic waste clean-up efforts continue, it would be bad for business.

That’s right. The willingness of the government to clean up the toxic waste sends a bad message to mining companies, a message that some locals are trying to silence: Companies should have a plan for safe hazardous waste disposal. THE HORROR!!!

Or to put in the words of a concerned resident:

“They’ve got their environmental science degree from some place like Berkeley and they drive their Prius to the back hills of Idaho and here are a bunch of miners and they want to do what they think is best for us,” said attorney James McMillan.

We like our poisonous mining sludge just the way it is, thank you. That arsenic doesn’t just get into children’s blood by itself, for gosh sake!

A few days back I wrote a lengthy piece titled Financial Security & Social Justice. I have continued to keep my thoughts on this topic, and came across this article: Are You Overpaying for your 401(k)?

Interesting quote:

Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research Center has a study out this month about the cost of 401(k) plans, and they have found another flaw in the nation’s defacto retirement savings system: It is overpriced. So not only do 401(k) plans not meet the needs of the average American, they aren’t cost effective either.

I pulled my tiny 401(k) savings right before The Great Recession. It was because I quit the job that provided me with the account. If I hadn’t, I would have ended up with less money after investing than I had put in. As it was, after two years, the account had stayed about even. I would have had the same amount of money whether it had been in savings, the 401(k), or in my mattress. This personal experience gave me the inkling that 401(k)s might not be the infallible vehicle for retirement security that they had been pitched to me as.

Stephen Gandel, the author of the article above, also wrote:

The ugly truth, though, is that the 401(k) is a lousy idea, a financial flop, a rotten repository for our retirement reserves. In the past two years, that has become all too clear. From the end of 2007 to the end of March 2009, the average 401(k) balance fell 31%, according to Fidelity.

Also, individual participants in 401(k)s have little choice regarding what they are investing in. They typically get the option to work with one company, and chose between a limited number of products. If the employee objects to the corporations that their money ends up supporting, tough luck. No retirement for you!

Now I have an IRA through a credit union. The account makes me somewhere between $5.00 and $15.00 a year. I’m rolling in it.

Your thoughts on 401(k)s?

You won’t regret reading this awesome piece by Greg Bloom.

Included is this brilliant idea:

A proposal for dismantling racism: Let’s eat together

We affirmed the radical notion of sitting down and eating together as a starting point for building relationships, gaining historical perspective, sharing culture, learning from each other, offering practical tips for healthy cooking/eating, supplying food for those is need, discussing future action, recognizing who is missing from the table, and action to bring them into the circle next time. Many of the key ingredients to dismantling racism.

Building on the example of the People’s Kitchen Collective in Oakland we see endless potential in this model. Here are some ideas:

* Work to raise $$ so the meal can be free to all or on a sliding scale
* This example was a meal for 200 people
* Invite 20 people to come help prepare the meal
* Invite 4 people to teach one dish each
* Set up 4 stations and have each cook discuss the role this dish plays in their culture, where the ingredients come from (work to include the growers whenever possible), and how food can be used for organizing in their community
* Have the 20 cooks report back what they learned to the larger group
* Collectively say grace/thanks for the food!
* Offer discussion questions for each table
* Send each guest home with the recipes and whatever ingredients you can provide (especially cultural spices or things harder to find)
* Discuss who is missing from the table and what collectively can be done to include them next time
* Set a date for next meal!

As a person who holds her values dear, I often run into difficulty trying to sustain my lifestyle in an unequal and capitalistic society. It has been extremely hard to establish financial security for myself while living my values fully. I believe that basic human needs are human rights. I believe that any government or society should not prevent access to any person’s basic needs, i.e. should not abuse the human rights of it’s population. Shorter version: First, do no harm. I also believe that all governments and societies have a positive imperative to ensure that the human needs and human rights of each member are met. Shorter version: Second, do good.

I have similar values regarding individual conduct. First, do no harm. Second, do good. If you cannot meet the first imperative, there is almost no point to the second. You are simply exerting effort in two opposite directions, in the end negating yourself.

I want to focus this discussion on individual conduct, and how to do no harm within the reality of the American context. The reality is that only a tiny minority of people in America can secure their future without money. The vast majority of people cannot lead a stable, safe and secure life without financial security, and so money must be discussed. But how do you achieve financial security for yourself without harming that of others, or more commonly, helping a large institution perpetuate human rights abuses against others?

For the principled person, this question is extremely difficult to answer honestly. As a matter of fact, I have no answer myself.

STOCKS & FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
Immediately, we can eliminate the option of buying stocks or other such traded financial commodities. Some would argue that we can invest in “green” stocks or “social justice” funds. No. Such ideas work in one of two ways, and both are grossly insufficient to meet the standard of “do no harm”. The first way these financial products work is by only including companies which meet certain basic issue-oriented criteria. For example, a green fund might only include investments in companies that have met certain emission or environmental standards. Or an LGBT fund might only include companies that have LGBT-friendly policies. But the flaws become clear immediately. First, the minimum standards may be very basic and insufficient to preclude all harmful activities. Additionally, it is extremely hard to ascertain whether companies are really even following these standards. Third, each fund can only focus on so many issues. It would be impossible to create a fund for investment that included only companies that exhibited absolutely zero harmful practices. Any firm competing on the national or international level, large enough to sell stocks, must ipso facto create harm. Where does surplus profit, necessary to sell and trade stocks, come from, if not from harm: to the environment, to the government, to the worker, or to the consumer?

The second type of “social justice” fund operates on almost the opposite principle. Instead of singling out the “least bad” companies for inclusion, it targets the worst. The theory is that if enough principled people invest in the worst offenders, some of the good guys can attend board meetings and advocate for change. This theory is a bit quixotic considering that large companies are strong and powerful, and efforts to create change from within by a handful of non-rich, non-powerful people do not have a great effect. Real change would mean an end to the kind of profits that allow the selling and trading of financial products, because such profits are based on abuses, and the majority of people who purchase financial products do so specifically to make a profit, and so would be incredibly adverse to any change that decreases profit. Also, as you are trying to “effect change”, your money is still being used to perpetrate abuses. There is a reason that the stock exchange has long been characterized as “a wild den where the treasure of the state and the fortune of families are stolen with impunity”. (La Ruche populaire, November 1842)

BANKING
More common than investments is simpler banking. This includes everything from trust funds to CDs to savings accounts and loans. The idealized purpose of a bank is to supply community members with financial management tools that allow families to save for large and important purchases, or to lend money so that a purchase can be made now and slowly paid off according to the family’s ability.

I find nothing wrong with this ideal. My problem is with the reality.

Read the rest of this entry »

In a raid coordinated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, armed investigators raided a Venice, CA health food shop.

The dangerous criminals inside were harboring illegal substances: raw food, including milk, honey and cheese.

With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts.

Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid’s target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.

Incensed that small, local organic farmers are able to produce food that is healthier and tastier than their own, BigAg has been pushing for a crack-down on the availability of sustainable, local products. Everyone from the feds to local-level politicians are listening.

Demand for all manner of raw foods — including honey, nuts and meat — has been growing, spurred by heightened interest in the way food is produced. But raw milk in particular has drawn a lot of regulatory scrutiny, largely because the politically powerful dairy industry has pressed the government to act.

I sincerely hope that these people with a criminal interest in supporting health and sustainable agriculture spend the rest of their life behind bars for treason against Capitalism.

Calculate your carbon footprint at WattzOn. This calculator is better than some of the ones you can find by random googling, but is still imperfect. It’s cool to see which of your activities contributes most to your carbon footprint. Air travel is the worst.

H/t Ayana J.

ALSO, I just heard about the Environmental Working Group, which offers a compendium of tips for avoiding poisonous industrial chemicals in many areas of your life. Huh, isn’t it strange that we have to rely on random non-profits to avoid life-threatening substances in common products? Doesn’t it seem like there should be some sort of government regulation preventing such toxins, or, even more radical, humans with functioning morals who work at the companies producing these products? I wonder what it feels like to live comfortably with money you make by offering poisonous products.

H/t Louise J.

Global Private Consumption

From the World Bank, via Global Issues.

Oil spill threatens Native American land
“This could be the end of our way of life,” said Chuckie Verdin of the Pointe Aux Chenes Indian Tribe.

Palin Blames BP Spill on “Extreme Enviros”
Palin wrote on Facebook:

With your nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.


LA Senator David Vitter wants to “double-down” on off-shore drilling

He also wants to cap BP’s liability!

So much news, so little time!

Grassroots Oil Clean-up Efforts
Seeing a complete lack of action on the part of the US government or BP, some Louisiana residents take control as oil washes ashore. Some even commandeered idle BP-hired boats!

Men, Masculinities, and Peacebuilding
Gender Across Borders discusses an awesome new manual for men against violence and sexism. International case studies included!

Drug bust or racist revenge for Louisiana Jena 6 victory?
Uh oh.

At 4 a.m. on July 9, 2009, more than 150 officers from 10 different agencies gathered in a large barn just outside Jena, Louisiana. The day was the culmination of an investigation that Sheriff Scott Franklin said had been going on for nearly two years. Local media was invited, and a video of the Sheriff speaking to the rowdy gathering would later appear online.

The Sheriff called the mobilization “Operation Third Option,” and he said it was about fighting drugs. However, community members say that Sheriff Franklin’s actions are part of an orchestrated revenge for the local civil rights protests that won freedom for six Black high school students – known internationally as the Jena Six – who had been charged with attempted murder for a school fight.

One thing is clear: The Sheriff spent massive resources. Yet officers seized no contraband. Together with District Attorney Reed Walters, Sheriff Franklin has said he is seeking maximum penalties for people charged with small-time offenses. Further, in a parish that is 85 percent white, his actions have almost exclusively targeted African Americans.

Hurricane v Oil Spill
The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1st. You know what that means: Hurricane versus Oil Spill! The battle of the millennium! Man-made disaster versus natural disaster! Grab some cold ones and a seat in front of the couch, because the news media is going to have a ball with this one. Unless, of course, you happen to live in one of the affected areas. Then you’re screwed. You’re probably poor, and even if not you are at least a living reminder of capitalism’s screw-ups, and Big Oil and the government wish you would just go away! This is one problem they’re not going to solve by… solving it. I can’t even imagine Obama or BP planning ahead and having emergency and or (god forbid) preventative measures in place in advance of this collision of terror.

Obama and BP, et al, may get lucky though. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a possible outcome of Hurricane v Oil Spill to be that: “The high winds and seas will mix and disperse the oil which can help accelerate the biodegradation process,” or that “A hurricane passing to the east of the slick could drive the oil away from the coast.”

Somehow, Hurricane v. Oil Spill does not strike me as a combo deal that will make the Gulf Coast’s problems magically disappear, though I’m sure that won’t stop our administration from sitting on its hands. No sir, I find some of NOAA’s other predictions more likely:

Storms’ surges may carry oil into the coastline and inland as far as the surge reaches.

Debris resulting from the hurricane may be contaminated by oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident, but also from other oil releases that may occur during the storm.

Hey if this goes on long enough, the “Deepwater Horizon incident” might just turn into “Obama’s Katrina” after all.

I’m sure the MSM will let us know when that happens.

Obama administration conflicted about relying on BP to stop gulf oil spill

With the realization that images of spoiled beaches and oil-covered animals are likely to become much worse in the coming weeks, the administration is torn between a political imperative — that it take a hard line with the oil giant — and a practical one — that it has no choice but to rely on the company to stop the flow.

Hasn’t an oil spill always been a known possibility with off-shore drilling? So why is there no plan? I find the government’s do-nothing response unconvincing. Yes, it is likely they do not have the expertise and technology of an oil company. But can the government not convene experts to advise them? Can the government not find contractors to hire who do have the expertise and technology?

Here’s a plan: 1. Locate experts. 2. Find contractors to carry out their recommendations. 3.(a) Ban BP from drilling in American waters forever. 3.(b) Fine the hell out of BP. Oh, and 4. Ban all off-shore drilling.

There, how hard was that?

This post was inspired by an article at Alternet titled Eating Meat Is Not Natural. I wrote a long-ass comment, but now that I am blogging again, I will turn it into a post, goddamn it! It got a good response over there, but I think my ideas were inspired by a post at Feministe, so I can’t take all the cred.

I am an omnivore. AND I completely respect and support the choices of those friends who are vegan and vegetarian, and I expect the same respect for my choices. We are all thinking adults and have come to our conclusions after careful deliberation.

I do have criticism for *some* vegans/vegetarians for the way they interact with omnivores.

1. Using gory images to try and shock omnivores into not eating meat, much the same way anti-abortion activists use shocking pictures of dismembered fetuses to make a point. It is disrespectful and in poor form for the anti-abortion activists, just as for the anti-meat activists. As a woman, I am turned off by this kind of rhetoric because of its close connection to a movement wanting to take my rights away.

2. Using the tactics of creationists to cherry-pick science and create specious pseudo-scientific arguments. We are talking about a moral choice, and it is clear that there are convincing scientific arguments for and against eating meat, as well as how long human have historically been eating it. When I see a side of an argument refuse to accept evidence simply because it contradicts a preferred world-view, I am reminded of creationists. Anyway, we all know that science can’t prove morality.

3. Using the language of the anti-gay movement. For me, as a queer person, a huge red flag goes up when I see an argument for what’s “natural” or not. Natural is a subjective and loaded term, and is often used by bigots against marginalized groups in society. Why would anti-meat activists choose such a term? Humans are also animals. We are part of nature, not separate from it. Humans and our behavior is just as natural as any other animal and their behavior.

4. Comparing meat-eaters to slave-owners, and animals to black people. As an anti-racist, it raises red flags when I hear the anti-meat argument put this way. It makes vegetarians seem as though they must all be white and privileged to be unaware of how insulting this rhetoric is to blacks. It makes me wonder why a movement would be willing to sacrifice dignity for blacks, to further marginalize an already marginalized group, in order to promote their cause.

Again, I am only speaking to those vegetarians and vegans who use this sort of disrespectful language. I have nothing but respect for those of you who respect me in return!

Please add your vegetarian/vegan dos and don’ts in the comments.

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