Blinded by the Lite-Green

October 27, 2009

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http://livingincinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/No-Impact-Man-OS-Large.jpgWould it shock you to find out that even if you adopted the No-Impact-Man lifestyle and created zero waste, and you even convinced your local businesses to recycle you’d only, at the most, impact waste by 3% ? What if you discovered that 90% of all water used was coming from agriculture and industry and that taking longer showers really has minimal effects on water consumption? I tell you one thing, I’d shift my focus from turning the water off while I brushed my teeth to stopping the largest offenders. Any strategist would tell us the same thing: when it comes to saving the environment from “ourselves”, a lot of us are wasting our good intentions on a misguided idea that it is truly ourselves (individual “consumers”) who are ultimately responsible for these problems. Ideas and films like No Impact Man shift focus away from the real causes of global environmental crisis and allow industry and government to slide by, unnoticed.

The truth is so much scarier, and it’s easy to see why we have retreated to personal solutions; it’s easier to change a light-bulb than bring a multinational corporation or the military to its knees. So in the end, while we can all pat ourselves on the back from a puritanical perspective, many of us are just running around doing a lot of nothing under the impression we’ve used our time and energy wisely. I was so offended when I first looked into this. I didn’t want to believe that all that effort I made in my personal lifestyle choices were ultimately having very little impact on the problem at large. I didn’t want to admit that my efforts would be better leveraged in other areas.

Lite Green is the most mainstream, most digestible, and most corporate-friendly incarnation of the environmental movement (if you even want to call it that). Bright Green, with celeb advocates like Adrian Grenier, proclaim that, sure, you can drive your H2 through the McDonald’s drive-through, so long as you remember to bring your canvas bag and reusable coffee mug. It’s the movement that allows us to believe the contradiction that we can buy our way out of the hugest crises we face. Bright Green is so bright it’s blinding people to the real problems. In his August 2009 article for Orion Magazine, “Forget Shorter Showers” Author, Derrick Jensen asks:

WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

The values of conserving, reusing, and protecting what’s left are amazing, but if we are to solve the ecological and social problems we face, they must be brought their their logical conclusions. This is not a call to stop caring or to stop living simply with more compassion – it’s a call to shift focus away from what industry wants us to focus on – buying more stuff that’s labeled “green” and filling our days with behavioral rules. Let’s not confuse personal choices and social change or political revolution. Let’s start with reclaiming our time and energy and shifting our focus to the real problems, getting together, and doing something about it.


Crayola Terrorism, Vick Fights Eagles, and SolarRolls

August 19, 2009

"Guilty" illustration by Ian Kim

• Michael Vick will now fight with Eagles instead of dogs.  After doing jail-time and anti-dogfighting campaigns with the HSUS and PETA, Vick has returned to the NFL and joins the Philadelphia Eagles. Will the Eagles be able to dodge the press about this, and furthermore, was it a wise decision when they already have an amazing QB Donovan McNabb, and considering Vick won’t be allowed to play for another seven months? What do you think?

• Speaking of Fighting Eagles, get this organic Loomstate tee at 25% off! For Kaight’s third anniversary, enjoy 25% off all purchases through Aug. 31. Online customers use coupon code “three” to redeem at www.kaightshop.com.

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• Raise your hand if you think Crayola supports “terrorism”. Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) and civil rights attorneys will make oral arguments before the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is unconstitutional. The AETA is being used for the first time since its passage by Congress in 2006 to do exactly what civil rights advocates  feared it would do – criminalize activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – activities like writing slogans in chalk on the sidewalk.

How can you help? Join CCR in protecting our basic constitutional rights by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper about the AETA.

Center for Constitutional Rights

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SolarRolls are not eco-friendly sushi. Meet the first flexible solar panel. Waterproof and durable, this gadget gives you portable electricity anywhere there’s sun. You can charge your car battery, run a video camera, or use it to power cell phones. The possibilities are endless.  Starting at $295

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An elephant known as Jewel, who IDA has been working to rescue for over two years, was attempted to be confiscated from her abuser by the USDA. Her abusive handler, Will Davenport – who has a history of abusing animals and violating the endangered species act in the illegal purchase of elephants Tina and Jewel from the Cole Brothers Circus. Read the whole article.


Leather Jacket: The Rebel Icon That Lost Its Gall

July 30, 2009

by Joshua Katcher

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Since the first Harley Davidson Motorcycle Jacket appeared in the United States in 1919, there might not be a symbol that resonates more clearly in almost every subculture than the leather jacket. From rock stars, punks, bikers, to hipsters, fashionistas, greasers, goths, metal-heads, and even the not-so-subcultured like military aviators and the police – the leather jacket has largely defined ‘cool’ since the word cool was made to mean something new by jazz legend, Lester Young, in 1933.  In addition, many fashion experts regard leather as having unsurpassed sex-appeal – so much that it has one of the most http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/ramones.jpgpopular fetish followings. Originally made for its functionality of durability and protective properties, it has come to suggest masculinity, and strength – and more recently as high-end designers cash in our desires to look cool and strong, wealth.

Sid Vicious’ suicide note instructed: “Bury me in my leather jacket…” Images of James Dean, Elvis, Marlon Brando, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Michael Jackson, The Fonz, Cathy Gale, Indiana Jones, and even the Black Panthers and the Russian Bolsheviks come to mind when we think of leather jackets.  Hollywood helped launch the leather jacket as a symbol of intimidation and rebelliousness early on with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in Leather Bomber Jackets, and films like The Wild One, Easy Rider, Grease and Mad Max .

What is a leather jacket? Well, to be simple, it’s the preserved skin-organ of an animal, torn from its body, treated with chemicals, dyed, and cut up into pieces to be used as a “fabric”.  Like all flesh, without the toxic tanning process, leather would rot and decompose. Horses, goats, cows, calves, lamb, sheep, pigs and “exotic” animals like crocodiles, ostrich, and many kinds of snakes are all used for their skins. Other species are hunted and killed specifically for their skins, including zebras, bison, water buffaloes, boars, kangaroos, elephants, eels, sharks, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, turtles, and lizards. Dairy cows are also turned into leather once they are “spent” and their calves become expensive calfskin once slaughtered for veal. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global leather industry slaughters more that a billion animals and tans their skins each year, globally.

tannery pollution in Bangladesh

The tanning is especially problematic. If a billion animals are killed for their skins per year, you do the math on how many gallons of toxic chemicals are used to turn that into leather jackets. Communities surrounding tanneries in India, Kentucky, and Sweden report high instances of leukemia and cancer, and the chemicals used to tan leather, including heavy metals like chromium, find their way into water supplies and river systems. Animals on factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population, without the benefit of waste treatment plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has even acknowledged that livestock pollution is the greatest threat to our waterways. Turning skin into leather also requires mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based.

Eco-friendly leather is a myth and a travesty. Based simply on the amount of resources it takes to raise animals – from feed crops, pastureland, water, and fossil fuels, to the record-breaking amounts of greenhouse gasses emitted by cattle (livestock production is the #1 cause of greenouse gas emissions), even if, at the very final stage of this environmentally devastating process, a “vegetable-based” tanning process is used, it does not erase the colossal leather boot-print that raising livestock has on ecosystems . What also becomes clear is the myth that synthetics are environmentally inferior to so-called “natural” materials like leather.

Many people see leather as by-product of the meat and dairy industry, and justify wearing it with the rationalization “ The animal is dead already, so we may as well make use of the skin”. But would the animal be dead if there weren’t a demand for it’s flesh and skin in the first place? According to the USDA,  the skin of the animal represents “the most economically important byproduct of the meat packing industry.” So it isn’t just someone making use of scraps – it is a profitable industry in itself.

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It’s clear that the leather jacket is a force to be reckoned with, but as our relationships to animals and ecosystems evolve, what does the leather jacket really mean, now? It all boils down to power – like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, the leather trench represents his potentially intimidating and powerful appearance. Much like the meaning of fur, which has come to represent arrogant indifference towards animals, leather is headed down that same path, towards being a symbol of ignorance and indifference.

“The image of leather no longer defines outcasts, rebels, and counter-culture; instead, it is the epitome of mainstream, problematic relationships with ecosystems and violent and exploitative relationships with animals.”

The gorgeous illusions spun by the Goliath fashion industry are, indeed, spellbinding. And it’s no wonder the leather industry, with its orthodox relationship to the oldest, largest and most powerful http://www.truelegends.com/images/pce15.jpgfashion houses, has seen such consistent success. We hear writers, journalists and experts avow the nature of leather – how this “material” molds to our shape, breathes, and can withstand extreme punishment. But, it is not a “material” per se (any more than the Jewish hair used to stuff mattresses and pillows from the Nazi death-camps was a “material”). It was someone’s very skin. How can anyone be taken seriously as a compassionate, conscientious, and ecologically responsible individual, while boasting such a powerful symbol of both ecological devastation and animal suffering?

We know better. This isn’t a leap of faith – the evidence is right there in front of us. Not only are there countless documented cases of animals being boiled and dismembered alive, but in India, one of the largest leather exporters, the cows have their tails broken and chili-peppers rubbed in their eyes to keep them moving on their exhaustive journey outside the boarders of India where they can legally be killed specifically for their skins. Snakes and lizards may be skinned alive because of the belief that live flaying makes leather more supple. Kangaroos are slaughtered by the millions every year; their skins are considered prime material for soccer shoes. The conditions and treatment these animals face are horrifying.

Losing its gall. The image of leather no longer defines outcasts, rebels, and counter-culture; instead, it is the epitome of mainstream, problematic realtionships with ecosystems and violent and exploitative relationships with animals. It is woefully ordinary, and painfully tired. When you wear leather, you are no longer saying “I am powerful, individual, and cool“, you are saying “I am environmentally irresponsible and I hate animals“.


NYC’s Lower Foodprint & Running On Air

July 21, 2009

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Tuesday, July 21st is FoodprintNYC Call-In Day to your City Council representative!

You know by now that farm animal production wreaks havoc on our environment. By increasing the availability of local, just and sustainably-produced fruits, vegetables and whole grains, New York City can decrease its ecological Foodprint. This resolution would help the city meet its goals of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing access to local, healthy plant-based food, particularly in New York City’s underserved communities. The Foodprint resolution, organized by the NYC Foodprint Alliance – a collaborative network of organizations, including Farm Sanctuary – also builds on the environmentally-friendly policies and programs recommended in the Manhattan Borough President’s 2009 report “Food in the Public Interest.” Get involved!

What, You Think This Runs on Air?

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Actually – yest, it does. A car manufacturers and developers in France have developed a car that runs on compressed air. The fruit of more than ten years of researches, MDI’s mono-energy engines operate on a totally eco-friendly basis using compressed air stored at high pressure.

These engines are used on vehicles designed for urban use, backup generators or industrial tractors. They are particularly tailored for applications where the torque has an importance and when an averagely moderate power is needed.


Lawn Order: Spatial Victims

May 26, 2009

LawnCare

Aside from the 4-B’s of Mainstream American Male Identity: Beer, Ball, Bitches & Beef, there are a few other realms of manly-manifestation. The lawn is one of them. If you grew up in suburbia, like I did, you may have spent your summers mowing lawns, weed-waking, poisoning so-called ‘pests’, and cursing both the dandelions and the neighbors who so carelessly let their laws go wild!

I’ll never forget the summer my father (a man who grew up in Brooklyn – and who, upon purchasing his first small house in the suburbs of upstate New York with my mother, proceeded to mow the lawn every single day of the warm seasons), in a fit of rage and as a last-stitch effort to communicate with the new Chinese-speaking neighbors who had let the grass get tall, drew a cartoon of a person mowing a lawn and left it in their mailbox. The next step would be a stealthy midnight-mow, which I knew was dead-serious. I also will never forget the bizarre behavior of our other neighbors who spent most days on their hands and knees cutting the lawn with scissors first, weeding, and then mowing. The saddest part was, their lawn never really even looked good after all that elbow-grease!

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I was indoctrinated to the ways of the lawn early on, and I made a job of it,  dangerous and tedious as it was. I always felt a small pang of grief imagining that microcosm beneath the grass canopy subjected to a huge, gas-powered, spinning blade. I empathized with the crawly things when I would picture a similar scenario happening to my house. I also remember thinking how absolutely silly the whole idea was, but I could never really articulate exactly why.

Green carpets. Turf. Perfectly mowed, lush, thick, emerald yards with no weeds, pests or brown-patches. It’s almost like a myth; the perfect lawn. Commercials for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and lawn-care hardware tell us that suburban-utopia is just within reach, and when you buy into the myth by buying their products and working away homogenizing a little patch of nature, your neighbors will love you, your community will rejoice, and your self-worth, financial worth, and status as a man will be carved in stone! Right?

But what exactly is a lawn? Where did this tradition come from, and how does this $30 billion industry of seeds, fertilizers, mowers, power-tools, and water continue to enthrall the masses with illusions of a threatless, perfectly-controlled environment? Most importantly, what are the ramifications of this phenomenon for our health, the planet, and our psyches?

The lawn certainly has not gone unnoticed. It is the subject of the books “The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession” by Virginia Scott Jenkins, and “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn” by Ted Steinberg.

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Both of these books explore something so ubiquitous that most of us have never even stopped to ponder it’s meaning. The first thing to note is that the lawn is almost completely American – and as the American lifestyle continues to enthrall and infiltrate the globe, the lawn is short to follow. In the sixteenth century and continuing through the eighteenth, the “launde”, an open space or glade maintained by laborers wielding scythes, began to appear throughout the residences of British aristocrats. Obviously, it soon came to represent the leisure of class privilege, wealth, and power, and the culmination of lawn culture, according to Jenkins, was the establishment of twentieth century golf courses and country clubs. But as Steinburg argues, it never became the moral crusade it has become in America quite possibly because grass grows so effortlessly in Britain, and turfgrass is not at all native to North America – not even Kentucky Bluegrass. The early colonizers’ cattle quickly destroyed the native grasses, not used to grazing, and in came bluegrass seeds from Europe to fill that niche.

On a deeper level, the lawn represents a desire to control unpredictable, wild nature. Some anthropologists argue that that lawn comes from self-defense. When nomadic gatherer-hunters began settling into sedentary and semi-sedentary homes, they cleared the vegetation surrounding their dwellings in order to foresee potential danger coming – a predator, a snake, an enemy. The lawn is a bastion among the fearful and dangerous wilderness. Even more so, it is the manifestation of the deepest-seeded principals of our culture and civilization: man’s control over nature. Therefore, those who let their lawns go wild are threats to the foundation of civilization itself. Those who fail to uphold this symbol fail to be Americans. This is an unconscious concern, of course. I’d be startled to see my father articulate this to the Chinese family whose lawn-gone-wild was “destroying our neighborhood”.

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My father’s anger is not alone. Stories of pissed-off neighbors leaving notes, making death-threats, and organizing at midnight to mow the black-sheeps’ lawns are as bountiful and insidious as crabgrass and dandelions. The disconnect among American immigrants to their lawns is also hugely misunderstood, and often met with xenophobia, racism and aggression.

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The lawn is largely considered the male domain in the same sense that the backyard garden is traditionally considered the woman’s. And with it, comes an ever-expanding arsenal of tools made for killing and controlling. A man with a good lawn is simply seen as a powerful protector and provider. A place for the kids to play is also a defense against ticks and whatever other creatures could hide in less manicured yards.

Environmentally speaking, the partnership between the USDA and the US Golf Association (which made it possible for grass to be grown in all regions of this country) has been devastating to ecosystems with the overuse of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Couple that with suburban sprawl and the demands for water in dry regions of the country specifically for lawn maintenance, and the lawn reveals itself as a remarkable environmental problem.

FACTS

  • NASA scientists estimate that turf grass is the single-largest irrigated crop in the United States. According to the Cristina’s study about 128,000 square kilometers or nearly 32 million acres of the United States are covered with turf grass.
  • A 2002 Harris Survey suggests as a nation we spend $28.9 billion yearly on lawns. To put that into a personal perspective that translates into approximately $1,200 per household
  • 50 -70% of all urban fresh water is used for watering lawns. More than half this amount is wasted, because of inappropriate timing or dosage. Nearly all the water used could be save by appropriate use of native landscaping that does not require any watering beyond natural rainfall.
  • Air Pollution
  • 78 million households in the United States utilize garden pesticides.
  • $700 million is spent annually on pesticides for lawns in the US.
  • 67 million lbs of synthetic pesticides are added to lawns in the US each year.
  • We use three times as much pesticide on our lawns per acre as we do on our agricultural crops.
  • $5.25 billion is spent on fossil-fuel-derived fertilizer for U.S. lawns. The majority of this fertilizer is wasted because of improper timing or dosage and becomes a source of pollution to surface or ground water. Most of this expense and pollution could be eliminate by proper timing, proper dosage, or intelligent use of compost and other organic fertilizers.
  • A typical power lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as driving an automobile for 20 miles. This can be greatly reduced by using 4-stroke gas lawn mowers or electric mowers. Where feasible, it can be totally eliminated by using a hand-powered reel mower.
  • 60 to 70 thousand severe accidents, some fatal, result from lawnmower use, as well as significant damage to human hearing.
  • 580 million gallons of gasoline are used for lawnmowers. Much of this goes to pollute the air by evaporation, or to harm vegetation and surface or ground water by spillage.

So, what are the alternatives? I think growing your own, organic food is probably the healthiest, smartest, and most economic solution to the virtually useless and destructive lawn. “Food Not Lawns” and “Edible Estates” are two books that explore this revolutionary act. Talk about local food! And free! Sounds good to me.

Food Not LawnsEdible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn


Earth Day, Shmerth Day!

April 22, 2009

Last year, we highlighted 3 Earth Day Doozies: the Holocene Extinction Event, the Overpopulation, Meat, and Food Crisis problems, and the problem of Greenwashing:

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We all know that recycling and changing light-bulbs is not going to solve the ecological crises we face. So why does every media organization keep feeding us this crap? And why is going vegan not on any list of “10 simple things you can do…blah blah“? If raising livestock is the #1 cause of Global Warming, the most effective thing we can do is go vegan! Duh. Check out these charts from Scientific American.

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In addition to being the leading cause of global warming – according to Farm Sanctuary:

Inevitably, intensive animal agriculture depletes valuable natural resources. Instead of being eaten by people, the vast majority of grain harvested in the U.S. is fed to farm animals. This wasteful and inefficient practice has forced agribusiness to exploit vast stretches of land. Forests, wetlands, and other natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats have been decimated and turned into crop and grazing land. Scarce fossil fuels, groundwater, and topsoil resources which took millenium to develop are now disappearing.

Eating 1 lb. of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.Meanwhile, the quantity of waste produced by farm animals in the U.S. is more than 130 times greater than that produced by humans. Agricultural runoff has killed millions of fish, and is the main reason why 60% of America’s rivers and streams are “impaired”. In states with concentrated animal agriculture, the waterways have become rife with pfiesteria bacteria. In addition to killing fish, pfiesteria causes open sores, nausea, memory loss, fatigue and disorientation in humans. Even groundwater, which takes thousands of years to restore, is being contaminated. For example, the aquifer under the San Bernadino Dairy Preserve in southern California contains more nitrates and other pollutants than water coming from sewage treatment plants.



DB Interviews: Vegan Triathlete BRENDAN BRAZIER

April 13, 2009

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Professional Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier is dispelling myths faster than a speeding bullet. He is a superman of sorts, and his empire of books, supplements, energy products and vegan handsomeness is not to be taken lightly – because as far as the stopwatches are concerned, faster and stronger is simply that. I chatted with Brendan recently about being a vegan athlete, nutrition, his new book, and how we can all learn to thrive. Listen to our conversation:

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http://www.brendanbrazier.com/book/US%20thrive%20diet%20site%20media/low-res/chinupsVenice.jpgEnergy bars

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer - Large Family

WE TALKED ABOUT:


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