Monday, February 26, 2007

Winter Sunset

After five years my Nikon CoolPix has finally called it quits. I've wanted a digital slr for a long while but put it off many times. Most of my photos from the past year were taken with a GL2 which is not bad for a video camera. Thanks to the GL2 zoom I've been able to get some decent bird photos. Still, it's a video camera and it shows. All this to say that I finally bought a dslr (a Canon Rebel XT and it rocks.) First slr I've had in 13 years and I'm remembering how much better it is to have complete control. So, here's one of my first photos.

I should have a zoom lens at my front door tomorrow... much better for bird and critter photos!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Climate change and the meat industry

With the exception of a handful of catfish I've been a vegetarian since 1989 but it's never been a focus of my activism. I think factory farming is a terrible thing for animals and the environment. I also think a meat centered diet is not healthy for humans. That's my reasoning and it still stands. However, in the future I think I'm likely to be a bit more vocal about the climate change/energy conservation benefits of a vegetarian diet or at least a diet free of feed-farmed cows, pigs, and chickens. Of course most meat eaters I know act as though meat is an absolute requirement for their continued survival and would throw themselves on on the floor crying at the thought of giving up meat. It's not a survival thing, it's a desire thing. They simply want to eat meat because it tastes good to them which is to say, it is a luxury not a need. I'll post this anyway but generally these kinds of people just don't care regardless of what information is placed in front of them. What they want is what is most important. The folks at Celsias have an excellent post regarding the meat industry and the environmental consequences:
This might hurt a little, but it’s for your own good. Put something between your teeth, bite hard, and watch (please, not for children - parental discretion advised):

What the Meat Industry Doesn’t Want you to See

Okay, still with me? Sorry to do that to you - but, hey, you’d rather know wouldn’t you?

Why am I sharing this? Aside from the horrific acts of cruelty, we need to realise the environment just can’t take this abuse any more (either). If you didn’t catch the recent release of the United Nation’s ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ report on the effect of our diet on the environment, please take a look. This information is, as mentioned, coming from the United Nations - not an animal rights lobby, or a sandal-wearing band of hippies.

A few concise facts from GoVeg.com:
Would you ever open your refrigerator, pull out 16 plates of pasta and toss them in the trash, and then eat just one plate of food? How about leveling 55 square feet of rain forest for a single meal or dumping 2,500 gallons of water down the drain? Of course you wouldn’t. But if you’re eating chicken, fish, turkey, pork, or beef, that’s what you’re doing—wasting resources and destroying our environment.

Animals raised for food expend the vast majority of the calories that they are fed simply existing, just as we do. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals, and almost all of those calories go into simply keeping the animals alive, not making them grow. Only a small fraction of the calories consumed by farmed animals are actually converted into the meat that people eat.

Growing all the crops to feed farmed animals requires massive amounts of water and land—in fact, nearly half of the water and 80 percent of the agricultural land in the United States are used to raise animals for food. Our taste for meat is also taking a toll on our supply of fuel and other nonrenewable resources—about one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the farmed animal industry.

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States, and since factory farms don’t have sewage treatment systems as our cities and towns do, this concentrated slop ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil, and contaminating our air. And meat-eaters are responsible for the production of 100 percent of this waste—about 86,000 pounds per second! Give up animal products, and you’ll be responsible for none of it.

Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it’s the overuse of resources, unchecked water or air pollution, or soil erosion, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. The most important step you can take to save the planet is to go vegetarian. - GoVeg.com

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recreating society for the new tomorrow

Jim Kunstler of Clusterfuck Nation has written a great post on what needs to be done to move us in a sustainable direction. I could not agree more with his list which can be summed up as decentralization of everything. Social Ecologists and green anarchists have been saying this very thing for over three decades. We're going to need more deCleyre Co-ops in our cities and towns as we learn to live more simply and relearn new skills of self reliance. We're going to need to redevelop real communities that are inhabited by connected neighbors that produce and share the goods of everyday survival. The Agenda Restated:

Insofar as I just returned from a college lecture road trip, and heard the same carping all over again, I conclude that it's necessary for me to spell it all out a'fresh. I think of this not so much as a roster of "solutions" but as a set of reasonable responses to a new set of circumstances. (Not everything we try to do will succeed, that is, be a "solution.") So, for those of you who are tired of wringing your hands, who would like to do something useful, or focus your attention in a purposeful way, here it is.
Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. This obsession with keeping the cars running at all costs could really prove fatal. It is especially unhelpful that so many self-proclaimed "greens" and political "progressives" are hung up on this monomaniacal theme. Get this: the cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax™ oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem. And trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse. The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car. We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.
We have to produce food differently. The ADM / Monsanto / Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming -- e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils -- will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America's young people (if they can unplug their Ipods long enough to pay attention.) It also presents huge problems in land-use reform. Not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history. Get busy.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A new time frame for climate change

Take a look at all of the climate change reporting of the past two years and you will see two things. First, you will see that the words "worse than scientists previously thought" over and over. Another pattern you will see that the timeframe mentioned is always 100 years. Folks, this has to change. The sad truth is that when the problem of climate change is constantly framed within a 100 year context it leaves far too much wiggle room and thus, inaction. It allows the adults of today to delay the development of the appropriate level of concern and needed action. I see it over and over in the people I interact with, even those who are relatively young and just starting out with their own children. 100 years is too far away to cause the level of concern that results in the kind of serious action that needs to be taken.

I strongly suggest that we begin thinking and talking about the effects that will be felt in 50 years or 25 years. We don't have to lose sight of the effects that will be felt in 100 years but we need to shift our focus to a shorter time frame. The reality of climate change is right now, in our lifetimes.

Technorati Tags: ,

Game over on global warming?

Alan Zarembo of the Los Angeles Times has written the most sobering and in my opinion, honest assessment of the global warming scenario. There's no sugar coating when he asks: Game over on global warming? This is exactly what I've been thinking and writing. It's not pretty and the danger with this kind of truth is that people will just give up if they feel there is no hope. I've said before that I think Al Gore is purposefully overly optimistic for this very reason. Frankly, I think that we have to face the truth, however harsh it may be, so that our actions reflect the seriousness of the problem. What this means is that we should be taking very radical and extreme action. It's not going to be pretty either way and there is no doubt our lives from here on out will be VERY different.

Action would have to be radical -- but climate change can be slowed.

Everybody in the United States could switch from cars to bicycles.

The Chinese could close all their factories.

Europe could give up electricity and return to the age of the lantern.

But all those steps together would not come close to stopping global warming.

A landmark report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Friday, warns that there is so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that even if concentrations held at current levels, the effects of global warming would continue for centuries.

There is still hope. The report notes that a concerted world effort could stave off the direst consequences of global warming, such as widespread flooding, drought and extreme weather.

Ultimately eliminating the global warming threat, however, would require radical action.

To stabilize atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — the primary contributor to global warming — CO2 emissions would have to drop 70% to 80%, said Richard Somerville, a theoretical meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Such a reduction would bring emissions into equilibrium with the planet's ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The last time the planet was in balance was more than 150 years ago, before the widespread use of coal and steam engines.

What would it take to bring that kind of reduction?

"All truck, all trains, all airplanes, cars, motorcycles and boats in the United States — that's 7.3% of global emissions," said Gregg Marland, a fossil fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Closing all fossil-fuel-powered electricity plants worldwide and replacing them with windmills, solar panels and nuclear power plants would make a serious dent — a 39% reduction globally, Marland said.

His calculation doesn't include all the fossil fuels that would have to be burned to build the greener facilities, though.

Trees could be planted to absorb more carbon dioxide. But even if every available space in the United States were turned into woodland, Marland said, it would not come close to offsetting U.S. emissions.

"There is not enough land area," he said.

The United States accounts for nearly a quarter of the carbon dioxide released each year, according to government statistics. China, in second at about 15%, is gaining fast.

If the rest of the world returned to the Stone Age, carbon concentrations would still rise.

Carbon does not dissipate rapidly. Some is eventually absorbed by oceans and plants, but about half stays in the atmosphere. And there is no easy way to get it out.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bush and Co. lied to get their war...

Now that they have it they refuse to take responsibility for it. Mithras of Fables of the Reconstruction takes a look at one particular conservative mouthpiece:
Charles Krauthammer:

Iraq is their country. We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.

"We midwifed"? No. You, you asshole. Your fault. You and your friends who thought it would be cool to try out your experiments in New American Muscularity on the darkies. Shut the fuck up about freedom. We know you weren't interested in freeing anyone - you were interested in kicking raghead ass after 9/11, and fulfilling some fucked-up post-Cold War vision of American hegemony. How surprised you are that those "freed" to serve your agenda don't want to stick to the script. What a fucking shock - your boy George announces we're on a "crusade" to overturn the political order in the region, and goddammit, that political order just won't lay down and die. Instead, Iran can raise the price we are paying to stay in Iraq faster than we can raise the price Iran must pay to oppose us.

Among all these religious prejudices, ancient wounds, social resentments and tribal antagonisms, who gets the blame for the rivers of blood?

You, you vicious little troll. You knew going in that Iraqi society was such a tinderbox, but proceeded anyway? Or you didn't inform yourself first? Recklessness or gross negligence, which is it? It's like performing elective surgery with no medical training and then blaming the patient for choosing to die. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was a foreseeable trainwreck. Everyone who supported it at any time deserves a share of the blame, but above all it must be laid at the feet of those, like Krauthammer, who insist to this very day that it was the right thing to do.

And of course now they are lying us into another war and it seems like the media is going along again. W.T.F.

Note to CNN: I hate you.
Note to Wolf Blitzer: You also are a despicable, vicious little troll.



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,