The Expanding Circle

…health, the environment, and social justice…

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Meta

Posts Tagged ‘environment’

“If You Care”: Unsustainable Violence in a Compostable Bag

Posted by tinako on October 14, 2015

if you careI’m speechless.

If you have a comment for If You Care, you can leave it at their web site.  Maybe you have a thought for Sierra Magazine, which ran this ad in their Nov/Dec 2015 issue.

Posted in Animals, Environment | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

What I Can Do

Posted by tinako on June 28, 2015

Native plants support native animals.

Native plants support native animals.

I was tabling for our local vegan society and a GMO Labeling Bill a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the despair expressed by a few people who came up to me.  “No one cares, even when they know the facts about animals,” said one woman.  An organic farmer said, “Monsanto is so big.  People don’t know.  Who will tell them?”

My responses?  Who will tell them? “Me!!”  No one cares? “On this side of the table, I return to the same locations and every year hear from people who have come to care based on the info that I gave them last year.  In my personal life, I know several people who are vegan directly because I am.”

While I am sad at the effects of animal exploitation and GMOs, I am undaunted by the scope of the problem, because that is not my task.  Someone said,

It is not for us to peer dimly into the future
but to face the issue clearly at hand.

What I can’t do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.
What other people do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.

And I can show up with a table and some vegan and GMO materials, stand there a few hours and do my best to answer questions.  This is not impossible.

Vegan educator Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.  Do something.”

I thought about all this as I have spent many hours pulling and bagging invasive alien Garlic Mustard from woods by myself (with permission), and knowing I will have to repeat this for several years in each site before the seeds existing in the soil are all gone.  I would look up and see a large area infested, but before I could lose heart, I looked down at my feet and said to myself, “That area is not my job.  Next year is not my job.  This right here within my reach, this is my job right now.  Now it’s this plant.  Now this one.”  I would think about the relief the remaining, native plants will have with this individual allelopathic poisoner gone, and the relief the animals who live here will have when a co-evolved native plant of use to them can flourish.  After a while I looked around and the area was cleared.  This year.

My son thinks I’m nuts with a goal of eventually clearing an entire woods, but I see no contradiction in attempting the seemingly impossible.  I can’t rid the continent of this disruptive pest by myself, but as long as I have sufficient health, and as long as I care, I can pull that one.  And now it will never seed.

I tutor inner city elementary students, mostly immigrant refugees, a few hours a week.  Will I solve our country’s education crisis?  That’s not my job.  One week my task was to show 40 kids, not all of whom speak English, how to use a protractor.  Done.

In analyzing what is my job, two aspects to consider are, 1. are my efforts efficient and useful?, and 2. what do I do with failures?

As for the first, I try what seems sensible, listen to constructive feedback (seeking out contradictory opinions), watch carefully for results, and adjust.  I will choose this path over paralytic indecision.  As for the second question, first be sure you have defined failure correctly.  If I am vegan, someone asks me why, and they don’t immediately go vegan, have I failed?  Not if my goal was to express my veganism – automatic success.  If I approach a non-profit and they talk with me about social justice for animals but ultimately decide not to make any changes, did I fail?  Not if my goal was to offer a wider view of social justice for their consideration.  If I find I could have done better, I can learn and either try another direct approach or “go around.”

Each plant pulled, each person spoken to, each person who sees me rejoice in my vegan life.  Was I solving animal and consumer exploitation at that tabling event?  No.  That is not my job.  Was I making a difference?  You betcha.

Will you join me?  Please consider volunteering for any organization which is striving to make the world a better place, one action at a time.

Posted in Environment, Garden, GMOs, Musings, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food

Posted by tinako on January 17, 2015

chainI just read half of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food by Ted Genoways.  It seems well-researched, and though I personally found the history of slaughterhouse labor unions tedious, that does explain how we got the system we have.  Having read Fast Food Nation years ago, much of the material was not new to me.

I expected this book would explore the social justice issues around Big Meat, and I was hoping that would include justice for non-human animals. Halfway through, I seemed to have already passed the chapters dealing with inhumane treatment, and it became pretty clear that this author is only appalled by a factory killing 13,000 pigs a day in that it is unsafe for workers and consumers; as long as we can stop workers from beating or sodomizing the pigs (doubtful), he seems more-or-less OK with the pigs lives and deaths.  I have all compassion for the workers, both American-born and immigrant, and am grateful that their story is being told, and I greatly appreciated the paragraph that found compassion even for abusers, caught up in the system themselves. From other reviews, however, it seems as though I am justified in putting down the book, that I would read in vain for even a passing thought given to asking: Is this system not working because it’s big and fast, or because it’s inherently, *inescapably* violent.

For example, the author indicates understanding that, when you have to move a mother that has been immobilized in a cage no larger than herself for months, and she finds it difficult or painful to walk and doesn’t want to, you have to make her, and that probably means hurting her. He seems satisfied that as a result of being caught abusing pigs while moving them, the business decided to move pigs less.  So… the solution to crippling animals by not allowing them to move is: to keep them from moving even more. What he doesn’t mention is that, on top of the obvious cruelty of immobilizing an animal even longer, the pigs do have to move at least once, to the truck and off the truck to slaughter, and that is where a lot of abuse happens, for exactly the same reason: crippled, terrified pigs. But he never makes the connection that we have another choice.

I didn’t expect this to be an animal rights book, but there was no acknowledgement of this choice, and the omission was glaring. This author is subtle, and often seems to let the facts speak for themselves rather than editorializing, but while you can often infer his discomfort with certain things, there is no hint given that he is not 100% comfortable with the killing.

Violence is arguably never useful, and in this case, it’s so unnecessary, so transparently frivolous: Spam. I was hoping that a compassionate author would make this connection, and my disappointment is why I didn’t like the book.  Would you want to finish a book about injustice written by a racist?  Perhaps an investigation on how difficult life in the southern slave states was for the poor whites, a book which only seems to be bothered by slavery if there’s beating involved?  Being a non-speciesist, that’s how I felt about this book.

Posted in Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gandhi Earth Keepers

Posted by tinako on September 15, 2014

gekiI had the privilege of spending a little over an hour today talking to George Payne, the founder of the new organization Gandhi Earth Keepers International.  If you look at their web site, you will see something unusual – it’s an organization that isn’t focused solely on justice for animals, but which includes this concept as a matter of course.  An environmental organization which happens to fully support animal rights!

I can’t recommend this organization highly enough.  George has taken a personal leap of faith to follow his dream and values to fill a gaping hole in our society: how to solve our problems nonviolently, including nonviolence towards animals.

I hope you will visit the site and support this act of courage.

 

Posted in AR, Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cowspiracy

Posted by tinako on August 19, 2014

20140417173626-cowspiracy_posterThe movie Cowspiracy has come out.  I was so excited to learn that someone was finally asking these questions – why aren’t environmental organizations talking about livestock’s impact on the environment?  It’s such a glaring omission.  I supported the filmmakers on Indiegogo, so I received my promised DVD a few days ago.  You can look up local screenings at their web site.

The film is very well done, and I think it could have a big impact if it is put before local environmental leaders.  Two local vegan/AR organizations I’m in are going to co-host a showing.  Don’t miss it, and be sure to recommend it to your “environmentalist meat-eater” friends.

Posted in Environment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Energy Fair Tabling

Posted by tinako on June 22, 2014

Water Beef Infographic

I find that I don’t like the picture of packaged body parts on my blog.

For the 6th year in a row, I tabled at my town’s energy fair on the topic of livestock’s effect on the environment.  Here’s a post about what I say, and it includes a closeup of the main display I made for the first energy fair; this year I removed the rather confusing information about choice of car vs. choice of diet and instead put up a graphic showing how much water is used for beef.  That got some comments.

I had tried to update the pie chart on causes of Amazon deforestation but couldn’t find anything more recent than what I had, 2006.

Really, though, I barely need my display any more at this event.  Of the dozens of people I talked to, almost every one knew about the livestock/environment connection.  I’m kicking myself for not asking them where they found out, although several volunteered that it was covered in a 6-week course they took on plant based diets, offered by our vegetarian society’s co-presidents, one of whom is a doctor.  When I first put up this display at the first energy fair six years ago, not a single person knew.  Some of the people I recognize as repeat visitors, but most are finding this info somewhere else.  Great!

So my display was used as casual reference instead of an informational talk, but I also have a tableful of handouts provided by the veg society and a few I pick up at Farm Sanctuary, which has one of the only fliers on the environment issue.

I want to mention that I am aware of and considering the point made by some that to encourage people to eat less meat because it is bad for the environment is a betrayal of the animals, a betrayal of my values.  That is, I would not tell people not to eat children because their production causes greenhouse gases (or because it’s not healthy for you to eat them).  I keep this in mind.  However, it is a fact that I will not be allowed to come to this fair and talk about animal rights.  They do not allow our local AR group to table there.  I’m allowed there because they know me and while I don’t pull punches, and will talk about whatever my visitors bring up, my materials and talks keep on topic (my original pitch to the committee tied in the livestock/environment issue).  Our vegetarian society is invited to health fairs at schools and so forth to talk about health – if our argument is instead all about animal suffering, we won’t be invited back.  We reach a lot of people this way, and I see the same visitors year after year, making progress both personally and in their families.

I also hope that once people are cutting back on meat for environmental or health reasons, they will have less excuse to ignore the suffering.  I think a lot of people avert their eyes from suffering because they don’t want to change their behavior, but if the behavior is already changed, they are free to express their compassion.

These thoughts are in transition (you may see from my posts that I am thinking about AR a lot), but that’s where I am right now.

Posted in AR, Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gandhi Institute Nonviolence Intensive

Posted by tinako on June 21, 2014

gandhiAs a peace activist, I feel so fortunate to live less than six miles from the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.  A few months ago I attended their seminar on NVC, non-violent communication.  I had read the book, but felt overwhelmed by the task of finding the wisdom to respond in different situations and overhauling my habits of speech, and so it was great that the seminar was half small-group practice session.  The main speaker also discussed race and status.  NVC, in addition to making me a better person in my community and family, can make me a more effective activist for social justice in the areas I focus, primarily, but not exclusively, animal rights.  I’ve thought a lot about the comparison between NVC and Buddhism, but I’ll hold off on commenting for right now.

So I am excited that I am able to attend the Gandhi Institute’s 2014 four-day all-day workshop, their Nonviolence Intensive.  They’ll spend time discussing the lives and teachings of Gandhi and King (whom I have been studying), NVC (I am happy to have more instruction and practice in this useful skill), “tools for inner change based on mindfulness” (I like tools, I like change, and I’m Buddhist!), and “Deep Ecology and the Work that Reconnects” (from a superficial Googling, Deep Ecology encompasses AR, though an AR friend told me he was troubled by it, so we’ll see; and as for work, as my kids are needing me less, I am in the process of deciding what to do with the rest of my life).  So this seminar seems perfect for me.

Posted in AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Say No to Animal Gifting Hunger Organizations

Posted by tinako on March 13, 2014

I have no problem recounting statistics about the environmental problems caused by livestock here in the U.S., and taking into consideration that Americans can choose to eat a healthy diet containing no animal products.  But when it comes to countries where marginal farmland and subsistence farming may make the issues more complex, I stayed out of it.

This article, “10 Reasons to Say No to Animal Gifting Hunger Organizations,” dives right in.  Have you been told their land will support nothing but grazing animals?  Have you been offered the image of cows and goats wandering around the homestead eating plants that were of no use anyway, producing free milk which is healthy and nutritious for starving people?  Find out.

Posted in Animals, Environment, Nutrition, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

March Against Monsanto

Posted by tinako on October 10, 2013

Blogger Header MAM MainThere’ll be another March Against Monsanto this Saturday, October 12th, somewhere near you.  Don’t let our government and businesses think we’ve lost interest in these issues.  It only takes an hour to come out and show that you want a change.

Posted in Environment, GMOs, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Conflict Palm Oil

Posted by tinako on October 10, 2013

last stand logo_400pxDid you know that palm oil is associated with rainforest destruction?  If you’re eating a whole-foods diet, you won’t run into it too much.  The video at Rainforest Action Network features peanut butter with palm oil in it.  Yuck.  I’ve had non-natural peanut butter and it tastes like slightly-peanut-flavored Crisco.  Stick with the peanuts.

Posted in Animals, Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: | 1 Comment »