Category Archives: Environment

Industrial Farming: Expensive, Inefficient and Dangerous

But let’s do it anyway, shall we? Let’s eliminate family farms despite the fact that on only 25% of the planet’s arable land, family farms provide about 70% of the world’s food while the industrial farms of Big Agro own 75% of the land and produce only 30% of the food supply.

Yessir, that’s the right system for us.

The world is increasingly hungry because small farmers are losing access to farmland. Small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland, a new report reveals. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.

“Small farmers are losing land at a tremendous rate. It’s a land reform movement in reverse,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers, which released the report Thursday.

Nothing about this way of handling a basic human need makes sense. The rationale for allowing industrial farming has always been its supposed efficiency and ability to increase the food supply. Yet a new study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization shows quite clearly that industrial agriculture is inefficient, wasteful, dangerous, and a breeding ground for speculators. So why are we doing it? All over the world?

If all farms in Central America matched the output of small farms the region would produce three times as much food, the report said.

“Every day we are exposed to the systematic expulsion from our land,” said Marina Dos Santos of the National Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement.

We’re doing it because we’ve given up fighting the money. They own the world’s governments, they make the rules, they do whatever makes the most profit the quickest, and we get out of their way and let them do it even though it means destroying more than building and we get starved in the process.

Might be we ought to reconsider that strategy before we’re all living on cat food.


BP Dumps on Gulf Clean-up

BP has decided that it’s done with that “responsibility thang.”

In an op-ed article this month in Gulf Coast newspapers, John Mingé, the chairman of BP America, highlighted the coast’s record tourism numbers, emphasized the $27 billion BP had spent and dismissed environmentalists skeptical of the gulf’s recovery as advocates using the spill “to raise money for their causes.”

They took a lot of credit in their PR for their continuing resolve to stick with the clean-up after they damn near destroyed the whole Gulf Of Mexico. They were, they said, “committed to returning the Gulf to its previous greatness” Or words to that effect repeated again…and again and again…over the past years. Until now. Continue reading

BP Bail Fail – UPDATED

The corporation that virtually destroyed half the Gulf of Mexico by spilling millions of tons of oil into it tried this week to get out of its responsibility – and previous agreement – to pay for at least some of the damage it caused.

Last week, [the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals] rejected [British Petroleum]’s attempt to stop businesses in the Gulf from collecting on losses resulting from the 2010 oil disaster. BP claimed that the companies were trying to recover “fictitious losses,” but the New Orleans court didn’t buy it. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges upheld an earlier ruling against BP, and said that an injunction on BP payments to Gulf businesses should be lifted. These payments are part of a settlement that BP agreed to back in 2012 – a settlement that the oil company said was “good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf, and in the best interests of BP’s stakeholders.”

This is just s-o-o-o corporate America. First they lowball damage estimates, then they make promises they have no intention of keeping, then they attack the victims by claiming they’re perpetrating fraud, and finally they send their high-priced lawyers to convince the courts to let them off the hook when the damages turn out to cost more than their original, absurdly low, estimate. Corporate America takes NO responsibility for its actions unless forced to by the courts (an increasingly rare outcome, btw) and even then never stop trying to get out from under. Continue reading

Chickenshit Democrats Attack Food Supply…Again. Literally. (Updated)

This is almost unbelievable.

Chicken contaminated with chicken manure is one likely result to come from the ag department’s dangerous and ridiculous determination to privatize poultry inspection in some 200 processing plants across the country. Currently, government inspectors – who’re professionally-trained in food safety – are stationed along the processing lines in the factory operations of such giants as Tyson Foods. They examine the birds for diseases and visible defects, including – yes – contamination by feces.

But the Obamacans have a “modernization” plan to remove these skilled, independent inspectors and let corporations police their own lines with untrained company hirelings. In addition, the privatization scheme would allow the poultry plants to speed up their lines to an absurd 175-birds-per-minute!

I said almost unbelievable. If I hadn’t, years ago, given up on Obama proving to be something other than a tame corporate shill, this would feel like a betrayal. As it is, I just sighed, “Of course.”

More of the Myth and one of the reasons corporate-owned Pubs spent so much spreading it around. “Govt is bad, corporations can do a better job policing themselves if we just leave them alone” is the kind of thinking that certainly makes it easier for corporations to dump govt inspections (after having paid the appropriate bribes to the appropriate officials and pols, of course), which means, of course, there will be no inspections at all, thus no possibility that profits will be lost due to nasty govt refusing to let them sell – at full price, mind you – spoiled food or food full of, you know, poisons and nuclear waste and shit and what not. Of course.

Apparently it isn’t enough for the Democrats to let agrocorps make our food unsafe, now they have to let them make it lethal. I hope the Dems are getting a good price for poisoning us. Because that’s what’s important here.


Obviously this is less important than it might at first appear.

Among the ostensibly “non-essential” services on hold during the government shutdown is the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspection program. Within the country, as the Huffington Post points out, that means as many as 80 food production facilities each day may be going uninspected (although an FDA spokesman clarified that an unclear portion of those will be carried out by state agriculture and public health departments).

Yes. Well.


You Dare Punish BP? BP Sue!

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that British Petroleum, fresh from their sterling response to their destruction of the Gulf of Mexico by pumping oil all into it – and over it and under it and next to it and… – namely, “God did it, not us, so how come we have to pay?”, is suing the US for refusing to give it more chances to spill just as much oil in other places, too.

BP sued the U.S. government on Monday over its decision to bar the British oil giant from new federal contracts to supply fuel and other services following the company’s agreement to plead guilty to manslaughter and obstruction charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The company said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Houston that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to suspend the company from such contracts and its continued enforcement of that order is arbitrary, capricious and “an abuse of discretion.”

“Abuse of discretion”. That’s, like, if your boss rapes you at a company party but then he apologizes afterward, it’s an “abuse of discretion” to report him to the police anyway because he’s, like, totally sorry, dude, so it’s completely unfair to hold him responsible just because he, you know, did it. Continue reading

This Will Not Happen

There’s a new analysis of the Gulf oil spill that makes plain the reasons for it are, as many of us said, systemic. Not an accident, not a once-in-a-lifetime concatenation of incompetence, faulty equipment, and mismanagement, no, the direct result of BAU. The report calls for massive new regulation of the oil industry. The reason I know this will not happen is that Harry Reid promises to get right on it. QED.

The Mind of a Biologist: Big Meanings in Tiny Animals

It’s hard to know where to begin with a book like Lewis Thomas’ The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. As slim as a mystery novella (the chapters are very short, the longest a bare 9 pgs), Lives of a Cell is packed with low-key language that disguises world-changing ideas. It took me a week to read a book that would ordinarily have taken a day simply because each short chapter generated so much I needed to think about that I couldn’t digest more than one at a time. It was like eating a meal so brilliantly prepared, balanced, and spiced that even though there wasn’t much bulk to each course one didn’t want to disturb the pleasure of the last by moving onto the next until one’s mouth and taste buds had been thoroughly cleansed and were ready for the richness to follow.

For instance, the two macro-notions that more or less underpin the book each could – and most likely have – engendered many deep philosophical works that discussed the ins and outs, pros and cons from the many different directions each of them suggests. I can’t possibly do justice to them here. I barely have the space to explain them let alone the many and various lines of thought they open up.

For example, one of the book’s two major themes is the idea that it is possible that mankind is a sort of superorganism, that, like certain kinds of social insects, when organized into a social marcrocosm we become, like ants and termites, capable of far more than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own – when we are operating on what he calls “our conjoined intelligence”. In the chapter titled “On Societies as Organisms” he writes:

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. The familes of weaver ants engage in child labor, holding their larvae like shuttles to spin out the thread that sews the leaves together for their fungus garden. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.


A solitary ant, afield, cannot be considered to have much of anything on his mind; indeed, with only a few neurons strung together by fibers, he can’t be imagined to have a mind at all, much less a thought. He is more like a ganglion on legs. Four ants together, or ten, encircling a dead moth on a path, begin to look more like an idea. They fumble and shove, gradually moving the food toward the Hill, but as though by blind chance. It is only when you watch the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence, a kind of live computer, with crawling bits for its wits.

The concept of mankind as a single organism unaccountably split into its component parts with each individual retaining its species cohesion while at the same time celebrating itself as the owner of a unique piece of the puzzle is not new. The entomologist William Morton Wheeler coined the term “superorganism” in 1911 to explain the phenomenon of insect intelligence when grouped together and science fiction writers have been playing with the idea ever since. The most recent well-known example is probably the Borg. But for a biologist to be toying with such an unorthodox interpretation of scientific data is unusual in 2008 and was near unheard of in the 70’s when this book was written.

Nor is that the only heretical idea Mr Thomas had up his sleeve. Continue reading

Global Warming 2: Empty Promises and Stalling at the G-8

I keep hoping somebody somewhere is going to hold the Emperor’s feet to the fire, and I thought maybe the G-8 conference on global warming would be the place. Host Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and a fire-breather when it comes to the environment, started out pushing Bush harder – a lot harder – than our home-grown Bubble Boy is used to. She was dead-set on specific commitments: actual numbers attached to real targets with specific end-dates. No more of these vague “voluntary” agreements from the US – the biggest polluter on the planet – that leave corporations free to spew as much poison into the air as they feel like without consequences or any kind of realistic plan to reduce harmful emissions in, like, this century.

Alas, it was not to be. Bush wanted the spotlight moved away from the US and onto the next two biggest polluters, China and India, and he got what he wanted by making another vague promise to “enter negotiations” before – get this – 2009.

The United States agreed Thursday to “consider seriously” a European plan to combat global warming by cutting in half worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, averting a trans-Atlantic deadlock at a meeting here of the world’s richest industrial nations.

The compromise, worked out in tough negotiations between the United States and Germany, also endorses President Bush’s recent proposal to bring together the world’s largest emitting countries, including China and India, to set their own national goals for reducing emissions.

The agreement reached Thursday does not include a mandatory 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050, a key provision sought by Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor does it commit the United States or Russia to specific reductions.

Coming from the man who has made a million promises in the past 6 years and kept two of them – tax cuts and the permanent occupation of Iraq – this one is worth nothing. Less than nothing. Bush, complaining of a convenient tummy ache, wasn’t even there for the announcement.

Continue reading

2100 Yr-Old Garbage and Bush

“Why am I bothering you with this?” you may ask.

TOKYO – Archaeologists digging in western Japan have excavated what they believe to be the oldest remains of a melon ever found, an official said Friday.

Based on a radiocarbon analysis, researchers estimate the half-rounded piece of fruit to be about 2,100 years old, said Shuji Yamazaki, a local official in the city of Moriyama.

The remains are believed to be the oldest of a melon that still has flesh on the rind, Yamazaki said. Previously, the oldest such find was believed to be remains found in China that date back to the fourth century A.D., according to local media reports.

The melon might have been so well-preserved because it was in a vacuum-packed state in a wet layer below the ground, an environment hostile to microorganisms that might otherwise have broken down the remains, Yamazaki said.

Read that last paragraph again. Those are the conditions under which we store hundreds of millions of tons of our garbage in landfills across the country.

Continue reading

SCOTUS Score: One and One

The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.

1. Detainee Suit Rejected

The SCOTUS won’t be hearing a suit filed by almost 400 Gitmo prisoners trying to restore the legal rights taken away from them by Bush and the Republican Congress.

The court decision was a significant victory for President Bush, who has asserted for nearly six years that the fate of hundreds of detainees, held without charges as alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, should be determined by secret military tribunals. The decision leaves intact, at least for now, a measure passed at the administration’s urging last year when Congress still was in Republican hands that denies Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to such habeas corpus petitions.

This despite the fact that the Court has ruled not once but twice in the last three years that the detainees have the right to petition the courts to “contest their detention”. Continue reading

Bush and Latin America 2: Brazil Isn’t Happy

Well, that didn’t take long.

Thousands of students, workers and environmentalists protesting President Bush’s arrival here Thursday shut down a road in a central business district, and some clashed with helmet-wearing riot police who fired tear gas and beat demonstrators.

The boisterous rally and the sharp police response presaged a potentially volatile visit for the president, who landed here in the evening for a six-day tour through Latin America, his longest since taking office. Protesters also gathered Thursday in Colombia and Mexico, two later stops on Bush’s itinerary, and organizers expect tens of thousands at a demonstration in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Before his plane had even set down on the tarmac, they were gathering. Six thousand of them, and that’s only the beginning. Expressions of deep disgust were everywhere.

Continue reading

To Stop the Coal Plants, Stop the $$$

There’s nothing like hitting the corporatocracy in the pocketbook for making them pay attention or moderate their greed. A coalition of environmentalists is doing just that by going after banks and convincing them not to finance new coal power plants.

A new front in the fight to slow down global warming follows trails of money, not wisps of polluting chemicals, straight to the doorsteps of banks.A coalition of environmental groups, including Boston-based Ceres , is demanding that banks reject loan requests for projects that emit high rates of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The groups say they have won commitments from more than a dozen banks in the last few weeks to turn away from supporting coal-fired electric plants.

This initiative is coming from the insane proposal of a Texas (naturally) utility called TXU to build 11 – count ’em, eleven – new coal-burning plants which, together, will spew some 78 Billion tons of carbon monoxide a year into the air and all over the central Texas plains. Continue reading

The National Park Service: Grand Canyon Created by Noah’s Flood

Via the Wege. Read it and weep.

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

These people are out of control.

Government by Cronyism

The Carson National Forest in New Mexico is home to alpine meadows, ‘200 species of birds and 60 types of mammals, including one of the state’s largest elk herds’, and is located right next door to the largest Boy Scout wilderness camp in the country. But all of that is less important to the Bush Admin than the fact that a Texas energy corporation that has given $2.3 million to Republican candidates and political action committees.

CARSON NATIONAL FOREST, N.M. — Overriding the opposition of the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico state officials, a White House energy task force has interceded on behalf of Houston-based El Paso Corp. in its two-year effort to explore for natural gas in a remote part of a national forest next door to America’s largest Boy Scout camp.Forest Service officials discouraged efforts to drill in the Valle Vidal at least three times since the agency acquired the land in 1982, citing concerns about water pollution, wildlife and recreation if a large-scale energy project were approved.

But last week, the agency took the first step toward approving the giant energy company’s proposal to tap into 40,000 acres of alpine meadows in the Carson National Forest. The agency released a report that forecast a high probability of recovering gas from the area and laid out a scenario in which 500 wells could be drilled on the forest’s east side.

The Forest Service’s action has sparked angry opposition from many groups and officials, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who was U.S. secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration. Such disputes are increasingly commonplace in Rocky Mountain states as critics of Bush administration energy policies accuse the White House of repeatedly targeting some of the most cherished wild places for development.

What, the ‘cowboy rancher’? How can that be? Hey, money talks, the environment walks.

[W]hen the Forest Service, in consultation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, rejected El Paso Corp.’s request in 2002, the company appealed to the administration.”In this environment, we need new natural gas supplies more than ever,” wrote El Paso’s federal government affairs director to Robert W. Middleton, the director of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining. “We believe that the Valle Vidal Unit could be a vital new source of such supply. Consequently, we would very much appreciate anything you could do to help move this process forward in a timely manner.”

Copies of correspondence made available to The Times show that after El Paso representatives met with Middleton, he instructed the Forest Service to revisit the project.

According to Forest Service staffers at the agency’s Taos office, the [WH Council on Environmental Quality energy] task force began making calls almost every week, beginning in 2003, to inquire about the progress of the Valle Vidal project.”The task force came down through the channels. The change was based on ‘Let’s see what we can do for El Paso Energy,’ ” said Benjamin Romero, public affairs officer for Carson National Forest.

“The overall thought was they are forcing us into expediting it,” said another staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Joanna Prokup, New Mexico’s secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources, said the task force’s message to the Forest Service left little room for interpretation. “El Paso called [Washington] D.C., D.C. called the Forest Service. They’ve put it on the fast track.”

Prokup, whose agency oversees oil and gas operations in the state, opposes any drilling in the Valle Vidal, “both personally and professionally,” she said.

Tough luck, Joanna. The fix is in: a Bush Buddy and major contributor wants the US govt to give him 40,000 acres worth of national forest to turn into ‘an industrial landscape of roads, power lines, pipelines, wells, generators, compressors and waste-water ponds’? Well, he’s going to get it and that’s that. $$$2.3Mil$$$ gets you some consideration, you know. I guess that’s the going price for national forests in the Bush Admin. The country’s for sale to the corporations, didn’t you know that? Especially Texas corporations, most especially Texas energy corporations, and mostest especially of all, Texas energy corporations that contribute over $2Mil to Junior and the GOP. What’s 40,000 acres of pristine wilderness and a little ol’ Boy Scout camp compared to that? Get real.

Oil and gas are important, BIG BUCKS, get it? So the elk and the Boy Scouts can damn well go someplace else (until we decide there’s oil or gas there as well, in which case a few more measly $$Millions$$ will change hands and then they’ll have to move out of there, too). You people just can’t get your priorities straight, can you? It’s simple. All you gotta remember is this:

PROFITS FIRST! Everything else comes last…if at all. You better explain that to the Boy Scouts, because all that hooey they’re feeding them over there in Philmont–

Berger, the former Philmont Ranch staffer, described the Valle Vidal as a vivid outdoor classroom. He said that at a certain point on each backpacking trip, group leaders teach campers the Wilderness Pledge.”We tell them, ‘With a right comes a responsibility.’ With the right to use the land comes a responsibility to protect it.

–is giving them the total wrong idea about values in Bush America, completely bass-ackwards. The only responsibility anybody has to America is to make money, and it don’t much matter who pays the price as long as it’s not the corporations. ‘Get rich however you can or get the hell out of the way of the people who are’, that’s what you should be teaching them. That’s the American Way, and it’s about time they learned that.

‘Responsibility.’ Ptui!

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! by Seattle

Seattle is having a tough day, computer-wise. Blogger wouldn’t let him log into his account for some reason, and then his computer crashed. So I’m posting this for him, one of the many small duties of a edituh. Let us pray his troubles are temporary….

OK, so there aren’t any tigers in the Pacific Northwest, but there are plenty of lions and bears. And apparently they live closer to us than we realize.

Most people know that when suburban sprawl meets a semi-wild area, encounters between humans and wildlife go up. The standard explanation is that we’re entering their territory and although that’s true, it’s only part of the story. The flip side is that when wild animals learn about the benefits that come from living in close proximity to humans – basically food – they move closer.

In a recent study, grizzly bears in Montana were tagged with GPS collars that make hourly recordings of the bears’ locations. After a year the researcher retrieves the collars, downloads the bears’ last year of travels, and collars another group of helpful bears:

For a long time, the daily movements of grizzlies were shrouded in mystery. Known to biologists as Ursus arctos horribilis, grizzlies are notoriously difficult to track by day and nearly impossible to follow at night. Mr. Servheen’s bear-tracking maps are changing that. They have already yielded one surprising tidbit: America’s largest, smartest predators may be closer than many people think.For years, retired forester Bud Moore, along with many of the other 900 residents of the lush Swan Valley, believed that grizzly bears spent spring and fall in the valley and summers up in the mountains eating huckleberries. Then he saw the maps showing that the bears while away the summers in the valley, bedding down near humans.

One female grizzly spent the last couple of summers nestling in the woods just behind Mr. Moore’s house. That might upset some people, but not him. “For me, living anywhere else is just kind of a watered-down experience,” says Mr. Moore, 86 years old. “Those bears are big enough to keep your adrenaline up. You are just a little more alive than you would be.”

Over the past decade, this area’s human population has increased 20%. To Mr. Servheen, the bear-tracking maps suggest that grizzlies are responding by doing what deer, coyotes, wolves, cougars and the smaller, less dangerous black bears do where human habitation and nature converge. They are learning to live among people while keeping a lower profile. Increasingly, grizzlies are doing most of their feeding and socializing at night.

David Baron has written a book describing the same phenomenon with mountain lions in California and Colorado. Many of these lions live almost in people’s back yards.

It’s a nice phenomenon in many ways, but of course it can lead to problems – like dying. My step brother worries about his two young children after seeing lions (bears too, but just black bears) very near his house in rural Oregon.

This topic is on my mind after hearing a local radio show. You can listen to it on line.

OK, enough writing. I’m off to transfer my canister of bear spray from my wilderness backpack to our back porch.