Popular Posts

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Deadly Scramble For The World's Last Resources

For better or worse, a lot of the things we humans like about the way we live now – from electric lighting and indoor plumbing to global travel, advanced medicine, flat-screen TVs, and iPhones – depend on our ability to suck, scrape and blast stuff out of the earth. And not just obvious stuff, like oil, coal, and natural gas; modern life, with all its wonders and comforts, is brought to you by a huge array of natural resources, from metals like copper (used in electric wiring) and iron ore (steel), to minerals like lithium (batteries) and tantalum (cell phones), to so-called "rare earth elements" (lasers, fiber optics, hybrid car engines, iPads and more). Some are more important than others, of course, but if even a few of them were to run out, we'd be in bad shape.

Well, here's the thing: They're all running out. All of them.

The world is hurtling towards what author Michael Klare calls "a crisis of resource depletion." In a new book, Klare drops the stunning news that the earth's easily accessible supplies of oil, coal, gas, metals, minerals, rare earths and even water and food are disappearing fast, plunging governments and corporations into a balls-to-the-wall "race for what's left." And what's left is, above all, hard to get at – it's under the Arctic ice, deep below the ocean floor, in tar sands and shale, and in war zones, like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Getting at it is becoming more and more dangerous, both environmentally – we can expect to see more Gulf-style disasters as companies breach the "final frontiers" of resource extraction – and politically, as countries clash more and more over who gets what.

Holy crap, right? But there's a (somewhat) hopeful part: For some of these resources, there are substitutes (say, renewables in place of oil), and if we pick up the pace in developing them, we won't have to plunder the planet quite so much; in other cases, we'll just need to learn to do more with less (conservation, efficiency). The essential thing, says Klare, whose new book is called The Race for What's Left, is to start figuring this stuff out right now.

Rolling Stone recently got Michael Klare on the phone to talk about "peak everything," the mad scramble for the world's last resources, and our stark choice of futures.

If I read you right, conflict is pretty much inevitable as countries compete to scoop up as much of what's left as they can. Is this already happening?

There’ve been some testy moments. Russia and Norway have had some naval show of force up in the Bering Sea, but they’ve resolved that for the time being. The East China Sea and the South China Sea, where you have disputed off shore oil and gas fields, are exceedingly tense; we’ve seen naval clashes between Japan and China and between China and Vietnam and the Philippines. And now President Obama has said that the U.S. is going to become more deeply involved in those areas.

And things could get pretty hairy up in the Arctic.

The Arctic has been totally neglected up until now, but it’s seen as the most promising future source of oil and natural gas, so suddenly it has become valuable real estate. Suddenly, national boundaries that nobody cared about before are becoming very important.  Ironically, this is partly because the ice sheet is shrinking thanks to climate change, and so you can drill more of the year. Russia claims almost half of the entire Arctic region as its national territory and is seeking to dominate as much of the region as possible. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he’s going to build up Russia’s military capabilities in the Arctic in years ahead to protect it against anybody else coming in there.

But other countries also have claims in the area: Norway, Canada, and Greenland, which is ultimately controlled by Denmark and the United states, so you could have a very intense geopolitical competition for control over these future resources.

And why are the environmental risks so much greater with these harder-to-get resources?

When you look at what’s being developed today, whether it’s the deep oceans or the Arctic or shale gas and shale oil, you’re seeing levels of costs and danger and environmental risks that are unlike anything we’ve seen before. You see it with hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – which produces a huge volume of toxic waste water, close to heavily populated areas of the Northeast. Or offshore drilling. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico showed what can happen. Off the coast of Greenland they’re beginning to drill for oil – which is only possible because the ice sheet is shrinking -- but this in turn will increase the risk of environmental damages to the shoreline of Greenland, which is very fragile and is home to a lot of endangered species.

And it goes without saying that as these resources become scarcer, they’ll get more and more expensive.

Right. Take Canadian tar sand. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to get it out of the ground and to convert it into liquid, so it’s only profitable when oil is over $80-$90 a barrel in some cases. In the future, when the easily developed tar sands are depleted, Arctic oil will be even more costly to produce. So we’re entering a period of increasingly high-priced oil.

How does food figure in this story?

Food production requires a lot of energy – plus a lot of fertilizer and herbicides and pesticides, all of which are derived from oil and natural gas. It requires a lot of irrigated water. Those things are becoming more and more scarce and costly, and it’s unclear that the world can continue to provide increased food supplies for people. And certainly poor farmers can’t afford all of these inputs, so it’s only these highly financed operations from the rich countries, these pockets of wealth of food production.

One of the things you write about is the phenomenon of “land grabs,” where rich and developing countries are buying up huge swathes of land in poor ones, especially in Africa. What’s that all about?

Right. China, India, South Korea and oil producers like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are among the countries buying large tracts of farmland in Africa – not to feed the African population, but to produce food to airlifting back to the home country.  They’re afraid they won’t have enough food to feed their population in the future. This is another example of the race for resources in a world where people are fearful there won’t be enough to go around.

What about rare earths?

Rare earths are a group of about 17 elements. They’ve become important because they play a very useful role in green technology, like high-speed magnets for motors in the Prius and other hybrid cars, and in the turbines for windmills, and in solar panels. The problem is, rare earths are not found in concentrated amounts anywhere on the planet. There’s a huge demand and a very limited supply, and mining them is very hard and very environmentally hazardous, because it takes a lot of acids and other solvents to leech them out from other minerals.

The United States once produced a lot of rare earths in California, on the Nevada border, but because of the environmental hazards, that operation was shut down in the 1990’s, and since then China has been the leading producer of rare earths. And they’ve used them to put economic and political pressure on their clients, like Japan.

It’s a little ironic that green technology depends on materials that environmentally hazardous to produce…

Right. Hybrid cars, for instance, are full of rare earths. That suggests we may have to be thinking even more radically in the search for solutions.

So…what to do?

We humans have always behaved as if new sources of energy will come along to replace the ones we use up, so we don’t have to think about conservation or efficiency or alternatives, but we are at the end of that process, we can’t think that way anymore, because there aren’t new abundant pools of energy that are affordable.

Can we replace everything we use now with something else?

It’s not at all clear that we can. We have to think about reusing things much more, holding onto things longer and using them more efficiently; rebuilding our cities, our towns, our landscape to be much more energy efficient and resource efficient. So the innovative research and technologies of the future will really be about efficiency.

What timeframe are we talking about?

The high point of the crisis is still some years away, but I would say that we have to start now if we’re going to avoid really desperate conditions in 10, 20, 30 years, when many of the materials we rely on will become much more scarce. We’re going to have more conflict, more crisis, more poisonous relations with countries like China because of the competition between us. But I also fear we’re going to have more bad environmental crises occurring -- more Deepwater Horizon-like events that will remind us of the perils of relying on these extreme forms of energy and other minerals. That’s what’s in store for us if we don’t begin to change our behavior today.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pass The Books, Hold The Oil

Thomas Fuchs

EVERY so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?”

I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. “Taiwan? Why Taiwan?” people ask.

Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction — yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today. How did you get so lucky?”

That, at least, was my gut instinct. But now we have proof.

A team from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., has just come out with a fascinating little study mapping the correlation between performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam — which every two years tests math, science and reading comprehension skills of 15-year-olds in 65 countries — and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of G.D.P. for each participating country. In short, how well do your high school kids do on math compared with how much oil you pump or how many diamonds you dig?

The results indicated that there was a “a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population,” said Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA exams for the O.E.C.D. “This is a global pattern that holds across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment.” Oil and PISA don’t mix. (See the data map at:

As the Bible notes, added Schleicher, “Moses arduously led the Jews for 40 years through the desert — just to bring them to the only country in the Middle East that had no oil. But Moses may have gotten it right, after all. Today, Israel has one of the most innovative economies, and its population enjoys a standard of living most of the oil-rich countries in the region are not able to offer.”

So hold the oil, and pass the books. According to Schleicher, in the latest PISA results, students in Singapore, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan stand out as having high PISA scores and few natural resources, while Qatar and Kazakhstan stand out as having the highest oil rents and the lowest PISA scores. (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Syria stood out the same way in a similar 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or Timss, test, while, interestingly, students from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — also Middle East states with few natural resources — scored better.) Also lagging in recent PISA scores, though, were students in many of the resource-rich countries of Latin America, like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Africa was not tested. Canada, Australia and Norway, also countries with high levels of natural resources, still score well on PISA, in large part, argues Schleicher, because all three countries have established deliberate policies of saving and investing these resource rents, and not just consuming them.

Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students. “Today’s learning outcomes at school,” says Schleicher, “are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”

Economists have long known about “Dutch disease,” which happens when a country becomes so dependent on exporting natural resources that its currency soars in value and, as a result, its domestic manufacturing gets crushed as cheap imports flood in and exports become too expensive. What the PISA team is revealing is a related disease: societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits and incentives for doing homework and honing skills.

By, contrast, says Schleicher, “in countries with little in the way of natural resources — Finland, Singapore or Japan — education has strong outcomes and a high status, at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. ... Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.”

Or as my Indian-American friend K. R. Sridhar, the founder of the Silicon Valley fuel-cell company Bloom Energy, likes to say, “When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful.”

That’s why the foreign countries with the most companies listed on the Nasdaq are Israel, China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Singapore — none of which can live off natural resources.

But there is an important message for the industrialized world in this study, too. In these difficult economic times, it is tempting to buttress our own standards of living today by incurring even greater financial liabilities for the future. To be sure, there is a role for stimulus in a prolonged recession, but “the only sustainable way is to grow our way out by giving more people the knowledge and skills to compete, collaborate and connect in a way that drives our countries forward,” argues Schleicher.

In sum, says Schleicher, “knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is Silence Going Extinct?

Click here to read the full essay from Kim Tingley at the New York Times Magazine

Indeed, though soundscape ecology has hardly begun, natural soundscapes already face a crisis. Humans have irrevocably altered the acoustics of the entire globe — and our racket continues to spread. Missing or altered voices in a soundscape tend to indicate broader environmental problems. For instance, at least one invasive species, the red-billed leiothrix of East Asia, appears to use its clamorous chatter to drown out the native European blackbird in Northern Italy. Noise can mask mating calls, cause stress and prevent animals from hearing alarms, the stirrings of prey and other useful survival cues. And as climate change prompts a shift in creatures’ migration schedules, circadian rhythms and preferred habitats — reshuffling the where and when of their calls — soundscapes are altered, too.

Soundscape ecologists hope they can save some ecosystems, but they also realize they will bear witness to many finales. “There may be some very unique soundscapes around the world that — just through normal human activities — would be lost forever,” Pijanowski says — unless he and colleagues can record them before they disappear. An even more critical task, he thinks, is alerting people to the way “soundscapes provide us with a sense of place” and an emotional bond with the natural world that is unraveling. As children, our grandparents could hope to swim in a lake or lie in a meadow for whole afternoons without hearing a motorboat, car or plane; today the engineless hour is all but extinct, and we’ve grown accustomed to constant, mild auditory intrusions. “Humans are becoming an increasingly more urban species, and so we’re surrounding ourselves with concrete and buildings” and “the low hum of the urban landscape,” Pijanowski says. “We’re kind of severing the acoustic link that humans have with nature.”

"Yoga and Ecology" by Radhanath Swami

 Click here to see the lecture at Organic Remix

Renowned spiritual leader Radhanath Swami gives a lecture on how a spiritual perspective can have an impact on ecological situation in the world and we can save planet by changing the ecology of the heart.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Projects To Add Wind Power For City Gain Momentum

From Mireya Navarro at the New York Times

Despite Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long-expressed dream of putting wind turbines on skyscrapers and bridges, the constraints of an urban landscape have so far proved too challenging for reliable wind power in the city, energy experts said. As a result, New York City has been largely inactive — and behind the national curve — in embracing wind power.

But that is about to change. This spring, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection will solicit plans for the first major wind project, the installation of turbines atop the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island. And city planners are working on zoning changes, now under review by the City Planning Commission, to allow turbines up to 55 feet high on the rooftops of buildings taller than 100 feet, and even taller turbines on commercial and industrial sites along the waterfront.

But the biggest potential for supplying wind power to the city lies offshore, where the Bloomberg administration is supporting an application filed last September by a coalition led by the New York Power Authority to lease a swath of the ocean floor for a wind farm 13 miles off the coast of the Rockaways in Queens.

City officials say they are ready to take advantage of their coastal proximity to seek bigger renewable-energy projects and quicken the pace toward cleaner air and the jobs and economic benefits that would accompany those projects. A study commissioned by the city last year said wind farms could play a major role in replacing power now generated by the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County. The plant supplies up to 25 percent of consumption in Consolidated Edison’s service area, including New York City.

“When you’re talking about huge wind, offshore is really a unique opportunity,” said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The proposal for the offshore wind farm, which is scheduled for a public hearing before the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management next month, is considered a game changer in that it would start at 350 megawatts but have the potential to double its capacity — eventually generating enough electricity to power a half-million homes in New York City and Long Island.

The plans are in the initial stages, but they are part of a push by states along the Eastern Seaboard to make wind power a significant staple of their energy mix. The region lags behind the West and Midwest, where flat, open spaces are plentiful and wind turbines already supply up to 20 percent of electric power in some states.

“We certainly have an ocean in our backyard that can host these turbines,” said Katherine Kennedy, clean-energy counsel at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If we can develop wind and solar, all of a sudden we look like a European city.”

Through most of the last decade, turbines have been springing up all over the country, including in dairy farms in upstate New York. As a result, New York State, which has set a goal of deriving 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015, now ranks 12th among the states in wind power installations, with 1,400 megawatts, or enough to meet 2 percent of the state’s electricity demand, says the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

Some states got a lift this month when federal officials from the Department of the Interior cleared the way for companies to seek federal leases in wind-energy areas off New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, speeding the process to approve wind projects.

Environmental groups say New York has been less focused on tapping into wind than some of these neighboring states but this year the New York Department of State is expected to identify the most viable locations for offshore wind farms with an eye toward protecting shipping, commercial fishing and ocean habitats — an approach that experts say should save time and red tape and help attract developers looking to begin such a project.

Long processes to win approvals and the higher cost of wind compared with less sustainable sources of electricity are not the only obstacles to developing wind installations. The projects must also withstand public scrutiny. Despite support from environmental groups, the only federally approved offshore wind project to date, Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Cape Cod, has been stalled, in part by opposition over aesthetics and the impact on American Indian artifacts and burial grounds, among other issues.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, opposed a proposed wind farm three-and-a-half to five miles off Jones Beach in Long Island over concerns about the potential harm to fish. The project was ultimately derailed in 2007 by high costs. Ms. Brady said the proposal off the Rockaways, while farther offshore, was still worrisome. It calls for at least 70 wind turbines that could each soar 430 feet above the water.

“The biggest problem we have is that there’s really no science to either support or negate wind power as something that wouldn’t affect the fish negatively,” she said. “If there’s a problem, once you’ve done the damage, who’s responsible?”

While more expensive to produce than wind power, solar energy is more suited to cities, energy experts said, because it can be harnessed more discreetly from thousands of rooftops. New York City has so far grown its solar production to seven megawatts, a modest amount but well over its practically nonexistent wind production. This runs counter to what is occurring in the rest of the state and the country, where wind installed capacity, 46,000 megawatts, vastly outpaces the 3,800 megawatts of solar.

Some New York buildings are already experimenting with private wind production, like the Eltona apartments in the Melrose section of the Bronx. But they have found that they do not get enough wind to make turbines a reliable source of power. City planners are revising zoning regulations to allow more private turbines, but still concede that wind turbines may not thrive here unless they are on or near the shore.

City officials say the former environmental wasteland known as Fresh Kills is an ideal location. The Department of Environmental Protection will, in the next two months, ask for wind and solar proposals to develop 75 acres of the landfill, with the goal of adding 15 megawatts of energy, enough to power 3,300 homes. Officials said at least a third of the production would be wind power.

The Fresh Kills plan could double the city’s solar output, but it is the wind turbines that excite the Staten Island borough president, James P. Molinaro, who has lobbied for a wind farm for years, and persuaded the state to finance a study that showed the site could support seven 400-foot turbines.
City officials say it has taken them this long to evaluate the challenges of installing wind turbines on the landfill’s unique subsurface.
Fresh Kills closed as a landfill handling the city’s residential garbage more than a decade ago and is now undergoing a transformation into a 2,200-acre park.

“It’d change the biggest tragedy that ever happened to Staten Island and convert it to something wonderful,” Mr. Molinaro said. “Windmills that would give us clean energy in a beautiful park. It’d be a model for the rest of the world to look at.”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

GMO Meltdown: The Round-Up Pathogen

From Farm And Ranch Freedom

For more, click here for Dr. Huber's letter to the European Commission
And watch and share this video

One of the nation’s senior scientists alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health.  Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, believes the appearance and prevalence of the unnamed organism may be related to the nation’s over reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup and/or to something about the genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the professor called on the federal government to immediately stop deregulation of roundup ready crops, particularly roundup ready alfalfa.

Below is the full text of the letter.  FARFA received an electronic copy of the letter from Dr. Huber and we have spoken with him directly to confirm its authenticity.

The letter was intended as to alert the government about preliminary research results that indicate serious problems.  As Dr. Huber himself clearly states, more research is needed. 

Dr. Huber wrote a second letter, in March, to European officials, explaining the issue in more depth.  Click here to read the second explanatory letter.

January 16, 2011

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup.  This organism appears NEW to science!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen’s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties

This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration

It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease

The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income—sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss’ wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure

Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.


In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.

COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS) 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls Everyone Would Be a Vegetarian

 Click here to see the video at Organic Remix

Music legend and activist Paul McCartney delivers a powerful narration of this must-see video about factory farmed animals and how we can help animals and the environment by adopting a plant-based diet. Watch now to discover why everyone would be vegetarian if slaughterhouses had glass walls. Learn more:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Best Friend

A great article from my friend Rasaraj Das at the Govardhan Eco-Village page

In America, many people consider themselves to be “animal lovers”. As a matter of fact, I would even file myself under this category. For example, it is not uncommon for the question to arise among new acquaintances: “Are you more of a ‘cat person’ or a ‘dog person’?” as though one is expected to have an affinity for at least one of the two. One might also be hard pressed to find an individual or a family in the United States who does not keep some type of furred, feathered, scaled, shelled, or otherwise outwardly clad creature as a loyal companion and friend throughout the trials and tribulations of life. Among their caretakers, these pets are generally seen as members of the family, sometimes even taking precedence over children or spouses.

What is interesting is that many of these self-professed “animal lovers” also happen to eat animals. I do not make this statement in a critical or condescending way because I, until a few years ago, was also one of these confused but generally well-meaning people. For one reason or another, they fail to make the connection between the hamburger or steak on their plate and a living, sentient being, certainly no less intelligent or lovable than any dog or cat. When I decided to become a vegetarian in 2009, this connection between meat and its origin became painfully apparent to me, and very quickly I became repulsed at the thought of ever touching meat again.

Recently, when I was fortunate enough to spend a few months at GEV serving in the gosala and helping to take care of the cows, this realization came full circle. As I was petting one of the calves my first week at the farm, this confronting thought hit me like a freight train — what had I done to these peaceful, loving bovines before giving up meat? I will not soon forget the intense emotions that swept over me as a result of this thought, and I almost had to sit down as the nausea and disgust were too much for me to handle. One might compare this to the feeling someone would have after realizing they had just eaten the family pet for dinner.

Perhaps you may be thinking it a bit extreme or unreasonable for me to compare a cow with a domesticated animal. If so, I would humbly request you to spend thirty minutes in close proximity with a cow. Give her a good brushing under the neck and see how she lovingly reciprocates. Observe as she lets her calf enthusiastically nurse from her udders while she licks her baby with an undeniable display of motherly affection. Unless your heart is completely stone cold, you will undoubtedly see that these animals are just as capable of giving and receiving love than any other more traditional household pet.

As the days turned into weeks and months, my attachment and appreciation for these incredibly personable and sweet animals increased significantly. I began to observe how each cow has its own unique temperament and personality distinct from all the rest. Devarishi, a young bull about one year old, quickly became one of my best friends here at GEV and my morning routine of greeting him with a big hug around his trunk as I entered the gosala was one of the highlights of my day. Recently, I think Devarishi might have even hugged me back! I was bending down in front of him to scoop up some manure, and he took a few steps towards me and lifted his bulky head over the back of my neck. We both stood there for a few seconds in this heart-warming, though slightly awkward, embrace.

In just a few days from now, I will be boarding a plane and making my way back home among the crowded, concrete streets of New York City, far away from any farms or cows. I can honestly say that the most difficult part of leaving GEV will be saying my “good-byes” to my four-legged friends in the gosala. Their quite presence in my life has added a great amount of joy and satisfaction to my heart, and I hope that I may one day be fortunate enough to serve these amazing animals once again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Organic Remix

 Click here to explore Organic Remix

ORGANIC REMIX is a free informational source, devoted to an organic and sustainable lifestyle, holistic health practices, a nurtured environment, renewable technologies and consciousness-based education for all.

It was created by Olia Saunders, a New York based graphic designer and photographer, organic lifestyle enthusiast, yoga teacher and a non-violent food advocate.

The impetus for this blog was driven by her passion to share information gathered over many years of research. It is dedicated to like-minded people who want to learn from and share knowledge with each other, thus helping to improve our world by making conscious decisions and ultimately, benefit from a holistic and sustainable lifestyle.