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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query ecoanarchism. Sort by date Show all posts

September 20, 2014

A 'crisis of bigness'

from “This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness'” by Paul Kingsnorth, The Guardian, 25 September 2011:

To listen to a political leader at this moment in history is like sitting through a sermon by a priest who has lost his faith but is desperately trying not to admit it, even to himself. Watch Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Ed Miliband mouthing tough-guy platitudes to the party faithful. Listen to Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or George Papandreou pretending that all will be well in the eurozone. Study the expressions on the faces of Barack Obama or Ben Bernanke talking about "growth" as if it were a heathen god to be appeased by tipping another cauldron's worth of fictional money into the mouth of a volcano.

In times like these, people look elsewhere for answers. A time of crisis is also a time of opening-up, when thinking that was consigned to the fringes moves to centre stage. When things fall apart, the appetite for new ways of seeing is palpable, and there are always plenty of people willing to feed it by coming forward with their pet big ideas.

But here's a thought: what if big ideas are part of the problem? What if, in fact, the problem is bigness itself?

The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth.



Published in 1957, The Breakdown of Nations [by Leopold Kohr] laid out what at the time was a radical case: that small states, small nations and small economies are more peaceful, more prosperous and more creative than great powers or superstates. ... Kohr's claim was that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. ... [O]nce scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because "the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself".

Drawing from history, Kohr demonstrated that when people have too much power, under any system or none, they abuse it. The task, therefore, was to limit the amount of power that any individual, organisation or government could get its hands on. The solution to the world's problems was not more unity but more division. ... Small states and small economies were more flexible, more able to weather economic storms, less capable of waging serious wars, and more accountable to their people. Not only that, but they were more creative. ...

Bigness, predicted Kohr, could only lead to more bigness, for "whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions". Beyond those limits it was forced to accumulate more power in order to manage the power it already had. Growth would become cancerous and unstoppable, until there was only one possible endpoint: collapse.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Green Capitalism: The God That Failed

By Richard Smith, Jan. 9, 2014

[excerpts]

The project of sustainable capitalism based on carbon taxes, green marketing, "dematerialization" and so forth was misconceived and doomed from the start because maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, here and there, they might coincide for a moment.

‘Despite all this good work, we still must face a sobering fact. If every company on the planet were to adopt the best environmental practices of the "leading" companies - say, the Body Shop, Patagonia or 3M - the world would still be moving toward sure degradation and collapse. ... Quite simply, our business practices are destroying life on earth. Given current corporate practices, not one wildlife preserve, wilderness or indigenous culture will survive the global market economy. We know that every natural system on the planet is disintegrating. The land, water, air and sea have been functionally transformed from life-supporting systems into repositories for waste. There is no polite way to say that business is destroying the world.’ (Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce)

But two decades on, for all the organic groceries, the energy-efficient lightbulbs, appliances and buildings, the carbon trading and carbon taxes, the global ecology is collapsing faster than ever.

[T]he capitalist market system is inherently eco-suicidal. Endless growth can end only in catastrophic eco-collapse. No amount of tinkering can alter the market system's suicidal trajectory. Therefore, like it or not, humanity has no choice but to try to find a way to replace capitalism with some kind of post-capitalist ecologically sustainable economy.

[C]onsumerism and overconsumption are not "dispensable" and cannot be exorcised because they're not just "cultural" or "habitual." They are built into capitalism and indispensable for the day-to-day reproduction of corporate producers in a competitive market system in which capitalists, workers, consumers and governments alike are dependent upon an endless cycle of perpetually increasing consumption to maintain profits, jobs and tax revenues.

Paul Hawken and Al Gore call for "offsetting" carbon taxes by reducing income taxes. Hansen's "tax and dividend" plan proposes "returning 100 percent of the collected tax back to the public in the form of a dividend." Yet, as ecological economist William E. Rees, co-founder of the science of ecological footprint analysis, points out, if carbon-tax offsets are revenue-neutral, they are also "impact neutral." Money returned to consumers likely will just be spent on something else that consumes or trashes the planet.

If we're talking about 90 percent cuts in CO₂ and other greenhouse emissions, then we're talking about the need to impose huge cuts in everything from farming to fashion.

Either we radically transform our economic system or we face the collapse of civilization.

Even when it's theoretically possible to shift to greener production, given capitalism, as often as not, "green" industries just replace old problems with new problems: So burning down tracts of the Amazon rain forest to plant sugar cane to produce organic sugar for Whole Foods or ethanol to feed cars instead of people is not so green after all. Neither is burning down Indonesian and Malaysian rain forests to plant palm-oil plantations so Britons can tool around London in their obese Land Rovers. ... Aquaculture was supposed to save wild fish. But this turns out to be just another case of "green gone wrong," because, aside from contaminating farmed fish (and fish eaters) with antibiotics to suppress disease in fish pens, farm-raised fish are carnivores. They don't eat corn. Feeding ever-more farmed fish requires capturing ever-more wild forage fish to grind up for fishmeal for the farm-raised fish, which leaves ever-fewer fish in the ocean, starving those up the food chain like sharks, seals, dolphins and whales. So instead of saving wild fish, fish farming has actually accelerated the plunder of the last remaining stocks of wild fish in the oceans. "Green certification" schemes were supposed to reduce tropical deforestation by shaming Home Depot and similar big vendors into sourcing their wood and pulp from "certified" "sustainable" forests - the "sustainable" part is that these "forests" get replanted. But such wood "plantations" are never planted on land that was previously unforested. Instead, they just replace natural forest. There's nothing sustainable about burning down huge tracts of native Indonesian or Amazonian tropical forests and killing off or running off all the wild animals and indigenous people that lived there to plant sterile eucalyptus plantations to harvest pulp for paper. To make matters worse, market demand from overconsuming but guilt-ridden Americans and Europeans has forced green certifiers to lower their standards so much to keep up with demand that today, in most cases, ecological "certification" is virtually meaningless. For example, the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), the largest such organization, has come under fire for allowing its tree-with-checkmark logo to be used by rainforest-raping lumber and paper companies, for taking the word of auditors paid by the companies, for loosening its standards to allow just 50 percent certified pulp to go into paper making, and other problems. The problem is that the FSC is not an international government body with a universal mandate and authority to certify the world's lumber. It's just a self-funding NGO environmental organization like the NRDC or the WWF or Greenpeace. Such organizations live on voluntary contributions from supporters, on contributions from corporate funders or on payment for services. As these organizations grew in size and ambition, they sought bigger budgets to better fulfill their "missions" - more than they could solicit from individual contributors. With few exceptions, nearly all these organizations eventually adopted "business" models that drove them into the arms of corporate contributors, in this case, typically lumber companies. When the FSC was founded in 1993, it certified just three producers whose lumber was 100 percent sustainable and not many more in the following years. But by 1997, as the organization faced competition from new "entrants" into the green product-labeling "field" (to use capitalist lingo), the FSC faced the problem, as the Wall Street Journal reported, of "how to maintain high standards while promoting their logos and increasing the supply of approved products to meet demand from consumers and big retailers." This is ever the contradiction in our capitalist world. They started off seeking to protect the forest from rapacious consumers. But demand by luxury consumers in the North is insatiable. To make matters worse, because no one certifier has a monopoly, new certifiers could come into the market. And if they were not so fussy about their criteria for "green certification," they might be more attractive to big retailers hungry for "product." So competition ensued, and, in the end, the FSC could hold onto its dominant position, aka "share of the market," only by caving in - introducing more-relaxed labeling standards, letting producers use just 50 percent sustainable pulp in paper manufacture, letting industry pay for "independent" FSC auditors and so on. In the end, "green" lumber certification has steadily drifted away from its mission and become more and more a part of the corporate plunder of world's remaining forests.

[E]ven if a shift to renewables could provide us with relatively unlimited supplies of clean electricity, we can't assume that this necessarily would lead to massive permanent reductions in pollution. That's because, on the Jevons principle I discussed elsewhere, if there are no non-market constraints on production then the advent of cheap, clean energy production could just give a huge solar-powered green light to the manufacturers of endless electric vehicles, appliances, lighting, laptops, phones, iPads and new toys we can't even imagine yet. But the expanded production of all this stuff, on a global scale, would just consume more raw materials, more metals, plastics, rare earths, etc. It would produce more and more pollution and destroy more and more of the environment. And the products ultimately would end up in some landfill somewhere.

[C]oal is not only burned to generate electricity, coal is critical for making steel. And coal provides carbon for aluminum smelting. And coal and coal byproducts are critical for paper making and many other products, from rayon and nylon to specialist products like carbon fiber, carbon filters, etc. So no coal, no steel or aluminum. No steel and aluminum, no windmills or solar panels or high-speed trains ("goods"). No coal, no carbon fiber, no superlight "hyper cars." So "taxing coal out of business" would undermine some of Hawken's other environmental goals. Same with oil. Oil and oil byproducts are indispensable for petrochemicals, plastics, plastic film for solar panels, plastic insulation for electric wires and countless thousands of other products. Oil is so critical for so many industrial products and processes that it is just inconceivable to imagine a modern industrial civilization without oil. Rare earths mining is a no less dirty process. But no rare earths, no windmill generators, no electric cars, no cellular phones or iPads. And the search for lithium to make the batteries for all those future electric cars threatens fragile ecologies from Bolivia to Finland, Mexico to Canada. Metals smelting is, likewise, an extremely polluting process with little real potential for greening, which is why producers try when possible to do this out of reach of US and European environmental laws. But no copper, no electric lines from those solar panels and no electric motors for those windmills and electric cars. No aluminum, no windmill generators or light vehicles. ... Many metals are recyclable, but world demand for aluminum, copper, steel, nickel and other metals, not to mention "rare earths," is soaring as more and more of the world modernizes and industrializes.

The problem for eco-futurist inventors such as Lovins is that they understand technology but they don't understand capitalist economics.

So if the reality is that, when all is said and done, there is only so much you can do in most industries, the only way to bend the economy in an ecological direction is to sharply limit production, especially of toxic products, which means completely redesigning production and consumption - all of which is impossible under capitalism.

[E]ven in Hawken's "restorative economy," toxic polluters would still be free to spread their carcinogens everywhere - if they just pay to pollute. It is hard to imagine a more bankrupt strategy, guaranteed to fail, nor for that matter, a more hypocritical and immoral strategy.

[H]ow can we "reject consumerism" when we live in a capitalist economy where, in the case of the United States, more than two-thirds of market sales, and therefore most jobs, depend on direct sales to consumers while most of the rest of the economy, including the infrastructure and military, is dedicated to propping up this consumerist "American way of life?" Indeed, most jobs in industrialized countries critically depend not just on consumerism but on ever-increasing overconsumption. We "need" this ever-increasing consumption and waste production because, without growth, capitalist economies collapse and unemployment soars, as we've seen. The problem with the Worldwatch Institute is that, on this issue, they're looking at the world upside down. They think it's consumerist culture that drives corporations to overproduce. So their solution is to transform the culture, get people to read their Worldwatch reports and re-educate themselves so they understand the folly of consumerism and resolve to forego unnecessary consumption - without transforming the economy itself. But it's not the culture that drives the economy so much as, overwhelmingly, the economy that drives the culture: It's the insatiable demands of shareholders that drive corporate producers to maximize sales, therefore to constantly seek out new sales and sources in every corner of the planet, to endlessly invent, as the Lorax had it, new "thneeds" no one really needs, to obsoletize those thneeds just as soon as they've been sold, so the cycle can begin all over again. This is the driving engine of consumerism. Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentice Victor J. Papenek had it right: "Most things are not designed for the needs of people, but for the needs of manufacturers to sell to people." This means that "consumerism" is not just a "cultural pattern." It's not just "commercial brainwashing" or an "infantile regression," as Benjamin Barber has it. Insatiable consumerism is an everyday requirement of capitalist reproduction, and this drives capitalist invention and imperial expansion. No overconsumption, no growth, no jobs. And no "cultural transformation" is going to overcome this fundamental imperative so long as the economic system depends on overconsumption for its day-to-day survival.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

June 24, 2014

Ozymandias, the Wind Power King

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “A vast and headless trunk of steel
Stands in the desert. Near it on the sands,
Half sunk, the shattered arms doth lie and peel
A twisted skin from antinatural bands
That tell its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped in this lifeless thing—
The hands that fed it and the hearts that bled.
And on the pedestal in letters spare:
‘My name is Ozymandias, wind power king:
Look on my work, ye mighty . . . and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

(with profuse apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley)

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

June 17, 2014

Why Not Wind: an open letter

To whom it may concern:

This is a brief representation of the reasons industrial-scale wind is a destructive boondoggle that only fools – or worse – would approve.

Unlike “conventional” power sources, wind does not follow demand. As the Bonneville Power Authority in the Pacific Northwest of the USA has shown (www.wind-watch.org/pix/493), the relationship between load and wind generation is essentially random. That means that wind can never replace dispatchable sources that are needed to meet actual demand.

The contribution of wind generation is therefore an illusion, because the grid has to supply steady power in response to demand, and as the wind rises and falls, the grid maintains supply by relying on its already built-in excess capacity.

That is also why meaningful reductions in carbon emissions are not seen: because fuel continues to be burned in “spinning reserve” plants which are kept active to kick into electricity production when needed for meeting surges in demand or, now, drops in the wind. Denmark’s famously high wind penetration is possible only because it is connected to the large Nordic and German grids – so that Denmark’s wind power actually constitutes a very small fraction of that total system capacity. To make further wind capacity possible (despite a public backlash that has essentially stopped onshore wind development since 2003), Denmark is now building a connection to the Dutch grid.

Another reason that meaningful reductions in carbon emissions are not seen is that the first source to be modulated to balance wind is usually hydro. This is seen quite clearly in Spain, another country with high wind penetration: The changes in electricity from hydro are an almost exact inverse of those from wind (https://demanda.ree.es/generacion_acumulada.html). This is also seen in the USA’s Pacific Northwest (http://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/Wind/baltwg.aspx).

Finally, on systems with sufficient natural gas–powered generators, which can ramp on and off quickly enough to balance wind’s highly variable infeed, wind forces those generators to operate far less efficiently than they would otherwise. It is like stop-and-go city versus steady highway driving. According to several analyses (e.g., www.wind-watch.org/doc/?p=1568), the carbon emissions from gas + wind are not significantly different from gas alone and in some cases may be more.

And again, whatever the effect, wind is always an add-on. The grid must be able to operate reliably without it, because very often, and often for very long stretches of time, wind is indeed in the doldrums: It is not there.

And beware the illusion of “average” output. The fact is that any wind turbine or group of turbines generates at or above its average rate (which is typically 20%–30% of the nameplate capacity, depending on the site) only about 40% of the time. Because of the physics of extracting energy from wind, the rest of the time production approaches zero.

As an add-on, therefore, its costs are completely unnecessary and wasteful. And even if, by some miracle, it were a reliable, dispatchable, reasonably continuous source, its costs would still be enormous – not only economically, but also environmentally. Wind is a very diffuse resource and therefore requires a massive mechanical system to catch any useful amount. That means ever larger blades on ever taller towers in ever larger groupings. And the only places where that is feasible are the very places we need to preserve as useful agricultural land, scenic landscapes that are so important to our souls (and to tourism), and wild land where the natural world can thrive.

Besides the obvious damage to the land of heavy-duty roads for construction and continued maintenance, huge concrete platforms, new powerlines, and substations (while making no meaningful contribution to the actual operation of the grid) and the visual intrusion of 150-metre (500-ft) structures with strobe lights and rotating blades, there are serious adverse impacts from the giant airplane-like blades cutting through 6,000–8,000 square metres (1.5–2 acres) of vertical airspace both day and night: pulsating noise (including infrasound which is felt more than heard) that carries great distances and disturbs nearby residents (especially at night, when there is a greater expectation of – and need for – quiet and atmospheric conditions often augment the noise), even threatening their physical health, pressure vortices that kill bats by destroying their lungs, blade tip speeds of 300 km/h that also kill bats as well as birds, particularly raptors, many of which are already endangered, and vibration that carries through the tower into the ground with effects on soil integrity and flora and fauna that have yet to be studied.

In short, the benefits of industrial-scale wind are minuscule (if that), while its adverse impacts and costs are great. Its only effect is to provide greenwashing (and tax avoidance) for business-as-usual energy producers and lip-service politicians, while opening up to vast industrial development land that has been otherwise fiercely protected – most disturbingly by many of the same groups now clamoring for wind.

Industrial-scale wind is all the more outrageous for the massive flow of public money into the private bank accounts of developers. It is not surprising to learn that Enron established the package of subsidies and regulatory “innovations” that made the modern wind industry possible. Or that in Italy, the Mafia was an early backer of developers. It is indeed a criminal enterprise: crony capitalism, anti-environment rapaciousness, and hucksterism at its most duplicitous.

After decades of recorded experience, there is no longer any excuse to fall for it.

 ~~
Eric Rosenbloom
President, National Wind Watch, Inc. (www.wind-watch.org)

Mr Rosenbloom lives in Vermont, USA, where he works as a science editor, writer, and typographer. He has studied and written about wind energy since 2003. He was invited to join the board, and then elected President (a wholly volunteer position), of National Wind Watch in 2006, a year after it was founded by citizens from 10 states who met to share their concerns about the risks and impacts of wind energy development. National Wind Watch is a 501(c)(3) educational charity registered in Massachusetts.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

May 18, 2014

Betraying the Environment

Suzanna Jones writes at Vt. Digger:

There is a painful rift among self-described environmentalists in Vermont, a divide that is particularly evident in the debate on industrial wind. In the past, battle lines were usually drawn between business interests wanting to “develop” the land, and environmentalists seeking to protect it. Today, however, the most ardent advocates of industrial buildout in Vermont’s most fragile ecosystems are environmental organizations. So what is happening?

According to former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, this change is symptomatic of a broader shift that has taken shape over many years. In his book “Death of the Liberal Class,” Hedges looks at the failure of the Left to defend the values it espouses – a fundamental disconnect between belief and action that has been corrupting to the Left and disastrous for society as a whole. Among other things, he argues, it has turned liberal establishments into mouthpieces for the power elite.

Historically, the liberal class acted as watchdog against the abuses of capitalism and its elites. But over the last century, Hedges claims, it has traded that role for a comfortable “seat at the table” and inclusion in “the club.” This Faustian bargain has created a power vacuum – one that has often been filled by right-wing totalitarian elements (think Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) that rise to prominence by ridiculing and betraying the values that liberals claim to champion.

Caving in to the seduction of careerism, prestige and comforts, the liberal class curtailed its critique of unfettered capitalism, globalization and educational institutions, and silenced the radicals and iconoclasts that gave it moral guidance – “the roots of creative and bold thought that would keep it from being subsumed completely by the power elite.” In other words, “the liberal class sold its soul.”

From education to labor to agriculture and environmentalism, this moral vacuum continues to grow because the public sphere has been abandoned by those who fear being labeled pariahs. Among the consequences, Hedges says, is an inability to take effective action on climate change. This is because few environmentalists are willing to step out of the mainstream to challenge its root causes – economic growth, the profit system, and the market-driven treadmill of consumption.

Hedges’ perspective clarifies a lot. It explains why so many environmental organizations push for “renewable” additions to the nation’s energy supply, rather than a reduction of energy use. It explains why they rant and rail against fossil fuel companies, while studiously averting their eyes from the corporate growth machine as a whole. In their thrall to wealthy donors and “green” developers (some of whom sit on their boards), they’ve traded their concern about the natural world for something called “sustainability” – which means keeping the current exploitive system going.

It also makes clear why Vermont environmental organizations like the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont Natural Resources Council – as well as the state’s political leadership – have lobbied so aggressively to prevent residents from having a say regarding energy development in their towns. By denying citizens the ability to defend the ecosystems in which they live, these groups are betraying not only the public, but the natural world they claim to represent. Meanwhile, these purported champions of social justice turn their backs as corporations like Green Mountain Power make Vermonters’ homes unlivable for the sake of “green” energy.

Hedges’ perspective also explains why environmental celebrity Bill McKibben advocates the buildout of industrial wind in our last natural spaces – energy development that would feed the very economy he once exposed as the source of our environmental problems. Behind the green curtain are what McKibben calls his “friends on Wall Street,” whom he consults for advice on largely empty PR stunts designed to convince the public that something is being accomplished, while leaving the engines of economic “progress” intact. Lauded as the world’s “Most Important Environmental Writer” by Time magazine, McKibben’s seat at the table of the elites is secured.

In this way the “watchdogs” have been effectively muzzled: now they actually help the powerful maintain control, by blocking the possibility for systemic solutions to emerge.

Environmentalism has suffered dearly at the hand of this disabled Left. It is no longer about the protection of our wild places from the voracious appetite of industrial capitalism: it is instead about maintaining the comfort levels that Americans feel entitled to without completely devouring the resources needed (at least for now). Based on image, fakery and betrayal, it supports the profit system while allowing those in power to appear “green.” This myopic, empty endeavor may be profitable for a few, but its consequences for the planet as a whole are fatal.

Despite the platitudes of its corporate and government backers, industrial wind has not reduced Vermont’s carbon emissions. Its intermittent nature makes it dependent on gas-fired power plants that inefficiently ramp up and down with the vicissitudes of the wind. Worse, it has been exposed as a Renewable Energy Credit shell game that disguises and enables the burning of fossil fuels elsewhere. It also destroys the healthy natural places we need as carbon “sinks,” degrades wildlife habitat, kills bats and eagles, pollutes headwaters, fills valuable wetlands, polarizes communities, and makes people sick­ – all so we can continue the meaningless acts of consumption that feed our economic system.

Advocates for industrial wind say we need to make sacrifices. True enough. But where those sacrifices come from is at the heart of our dilemma. The sacrifices need to come from the bloated human economy and those that profit from it, not from the land base.

We are often told that we must be “realistic.” In other words, we should accept that the artificial construct of industrial capitalism – with its cars, gadgets, mobility and financial imperatives – is reality. But this, too, is a Faustian bargain: in exchange we lose our ability to experience the sacred in the natural world, and put ourselves on the path to extinction.

[See also: 
Exploitation and destruction: some things to know about industrial wind power” (2006)
Thought for the day: left vs. right

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

April 27, 2014

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy

The Editorial Board of the New York Times today published a rather misleading piece about moves to tax solar panels, which already commonly enjoy an exemption from property taxation. Property taxes are egregiously regressive and tend to punish homeowners for positive changes to their property, but favoring only the improvements made by one industry suggests cynical manipulation, not an interest in general reform. And indeed, that is not what the editorial is interested in.
For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.
Whatever the intention driving the Kochs might be, there are a number of aspects to these battles that are ignored in this editorial. Like the targeted tax exemptions to favor one industry group, “incentives for renewable energy” are shamelessly biased. If the goal were truly to reduce carbon emissions or pollution, then that would be the stated requirement. Instead, these laws specify only the theoretical means, usually limited to wind and solar, not allowing hydro, and often specifying in-state generation. Furthermore, they make no provisions for monitoring the results on emissions. In effect, they simply tell utilities which suppliers they can and can not buy from without regard to actual effect. Indeed, one of the changes being fought by the wind industry in Ohio is to simply remove those purchasing directives from the renewables and efficiency standards, i.e., to let the utilities, not industry lobbyists, determine how best to achieve the goals.

As for net-metering, it is far from the equal exchange implied in the editorial. While homeowners get to install solar panels on the cheap by using the grid as a battery, net-metering laws generally require utilities to pay a hefty premium for taking the overflow. So not only are solar panel owners relying on a grid they no longer pay for, utilities have to pay them handsomely for dumping their excess production. Hence the logic of a tax on solar panels: to help pay for the grid that they continue to use.

Demonizing the Koch brothers, “big polluters”, and “big carbon” in these discussions is no more acceptable than the demonizing of all things Obama that the editorial decries about “Koch Carbon” ads. Nor is automatically defending all things Obama. In fact, Ken Lay of Enron, with the help of George W. Bush, essentially created the modern wind industry as a heavily subsidized darling of environmentalists. (Bush was keynote speaker at the 2010 American Wind Energy Association conference.)
The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. ... Renewables are good for economic as well as environmental reasons, as most states know. (More than 143,000 now work in the solar industry.)
Coal isn’t even a part of Koch Industries activities. Piping natural gas, however, is, and in terms of actual electricity production, natural gas is the fastest growing source, driven in large part by the need for generators that can react quickly enough to the highly fluctuating production of wind. (Ironically, if it did not have to contend with wind, natural gas generators could be built to be almost twice as efficient.)

Nor is coal threatened by solar and wind. It is the increase of natural gas that has reduced coal’s share of electricity generation. Because it takes several hours for a large coal plant to start up, it can not shut down as solar and especially wind production rises, because that production will fall again, usually unpredictably. That means coal must still be burned even while not producing electricity. Furthermore, world demand for (cheap) electricity is only increasing, and U.S. coal is increasingly exported to those markets.

The only threat to coal profits would be enforcement of environment and labor laws, but fighting for that would recognize that even so-called progressives are indeed users of coal, which is hard to nuance in a simple-minded fund-raising appeal or media event.

As for jobs, the solar and wind lobbies count every ancillarily involved contract as a job. The lawyer who draws up leases, the consultant who adapts the boilerplate environmental review, the concrete company that pours foundations, the lunch truck that hits a construction site on its rounds — these are all counted as “jobs in solar and wind”, even though they all existed before and will continue to exist after.

(According to Wikipedia, Koch Industries employs 50,000 people in the U.S. and 20,000 in other countries. Is that a justification per se for anything?)
That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it’s deliberately misleading. This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.
Again, this editorial might appeal to Obama apologists and corporate-allied environmentalists, but it does so by being deliberately misleading.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, ecoanarchism

February 11, 2014

More on science fetishization

The corporate bullies of GMOs, wind power, “smart” meters, etc. invariably appeal to “science” to dismiss concerns of harm and tout the claims of good. But the actual good is invariably the benefit to their companies’ or research teams’ viability and profits. There is no questioning of their necessity or consideration of what is to be lost or taken away (e.g., farming freedom, open and wild spaces, privacy, etc.).

Their appeal to science is amoral. Their defenders apparently believe that a conclusion is “good” simply for being reached logically. And that criticism of science, however logical, can not in fact be so, because logic has already determined that it is good.

The problem, of course, is an infantile division of human thought between “rational” and “emotional”. Both religion and science operate with both, but the latter claims the exclusive mantle of “reason” and then self-servingly stops there. Any questioning of what science does in the name of reason, or what companies do under the name of science, is called an attack on reason itself, even when it is itself quite reasonable.

The business of science, as its own gatekeeper, is often deaf to reason outside its own self-serving logic. A prime example is the swallowing by GMO supporters of the claim that Roundup-Ready crops would reduce pesticide use, when they are expressly designed to tolerate the company’s own pesticide, thus removing an important check on that pesticide’s use. The result has indeed been an increase in pesticide use, and the “anti-science fear-mongers” who warned of super-weeds and the threat to monarch butterflies have been proved correct. While “golden rice” has been talked about for many years without any practical results, the actual results of GMO “research” have been “terminator” genes to prevent seed saving and plants that produce their own pesticides, as well as pesticide-tolerant crops. Even if golden rice were a beneficial reality, it has nothing to do with all that is wrong with the GMO business.

The assertion that humans have always manipulated the genes of plants and animals illustrates the amoral logic that actually, in the service of corporate science, avoids thought. There is a big difference between selecting the results of a plant or animal’s own natural processes and splicing genes between species and even kingdoms. The latter represents a violation of the natural order that science purports to study.

Reason without consideration of ethics or morals, or simply without considering potential harms or seriously assessing actual benefits, is a mark of a sociopath. Human reason is not a good in itself. It is ultimately self-serving: hence the term “rationalization”. And rationalization of corporate depredation and profit — along with demonization of those who question it — is not science.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

January 30, 2014

Social aspects of wind energy development

“When people are talking about changing the way we harness and use energy, industrial wind instead entrenches a centralized and inefficient system. When people are talking about reducing the burning of fossil fuels, industrial wind entrenches the grid’s dependence on them. When people are talking about moderating the corporate control of society, industrial wind entrenches the worst of predatory and crony capitalism that works to move more public money into private hands, transfering the common wealth of the many into the pockets of a few without regard for human, societal, or environmental cost. Big wind operates much like — and is often firmly embedded in — the military-industrial-banking complex subverting democracy and fairness by making politics a stepping stone to private riches, with the frisson of riding a wave of green-technology utopianism. Only those who have sworn allegiance to their program are citizens of their country. The rest of us are only resources to exploit and barriers to overcome.”


wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, , anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

January 29, 2014

And down with all kings but King Ludd!

He may censure great Ludd’s disrespect for the Laws
Who ne’er for a moment reflects
That foul Imposition alone was the cause
Which produced these unhappy effects
Let the haughty no longer the humble oppress
Then shall Ludd sheath his conquering Sword
His grievances instantly meet with redress
Then peace will be quickly restored

“The concerns and causes and methods vary, but there is to it all, at bottom, the message that is unmistakable Luddistic:  Beware the technological juggernaut, reckon the terrible costs, understand the worlds being lost in the world being gained, reflect on the price of the machine and its systems on your life, pay attention to the natural world and its increasing destruction, resist the sedutive catastrophe of industrialism.”
—Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels Against the Future (1995)

environment, environmentalism, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

September 24, 2013

350.org: Just Another Wall St Greenwash Department

Cory Morningstar writes at Counterpunch:

Anne Petermann writes: ... “if you focus solely on eliminating fossil fuels without changing the underlying system, then very bad things will take their place because it is the system itself that is unsustainable. It is a system designed to transform ‘natural capital’ and human labor into gargantuan profits for an elite few: the so-called ‘1%.’ Whether it’s driven by fossil fuels or biofuels or even massive solar and wind installations, the system will continue to devour ecosystems, displace forest-based communities, Indigenous Peoples and subsistence farmers from their lands, crush labor unions and generally make life hell for the vast majority of the world’s peoples. That is what it does.”

... the so-called climate movement has sabotaged any chance of mitigating a full scale global ecological collapse, having instead cleared the way for corporate profiteering, deforestation, fund-raising and full-out omnicide. ...

A key design element within the non-profit industrial complex is that “movements” are created top down. In the case of Rockefeller’s 350.org/1Sky, the game is simply this: 350.org locals take their marching orders straight from the top (350.org International) while “the top” (McKibben et al) take their marching orders directly from their funders – and in the case of 350.org’s Do the Math Tour, those funders are Wall Street investors.

McKibben, along with key 350.org staff, developed the divestment campaign in consultation with Ceres Investors – referred to fondly as their “Wall Street friends.”

Such loyalties are par for the course in the corporate enviro world where Wall Street execs can be referred to as “our Wall Street friends.” Never mind that Wall Street is the very root cause of our multiple and ever accelerating ecological and economic crises, not to mention the global food crisis. These crises are not truly “crisis” in a spontaneous sense, rather they are strategic by design with the aim of furthering corporate profit, which is simply insatiable. ...

One must take note of 350.org’s obsession with fossil fuels exclusively. With certainty, 350.org, in tandem with the non-profit industrial complex, is strategically preparing the populace to accept what Guy McPherson calls the “third industrial revolution.” This “climate wealth” agenda will include false solutions such as biomass, unbridled “green” consumerism, carbon market mechanisms such as REDD, etc. What it will not include is: the urgent necessity to destroy the expanding military empire, to transition from/dismantle our current economic system, to address the industrialized livestock industry, to massively scale back and conserve, to employ tactics of self-defense by any means necessary, nor anything else that is imperative to address if we are to mitigate full-out omnicide. [See also: : “White House misinformation and inaction regarding greenhouse gases”.] In a nutshell, the agenda will not include anything that would actually pose any meaningful threat to the system. It’s always divide and conquer with the corporate/elite-funded NGOs. The point is to ensure the masses fight meaningless battles and never “connect the dots,” to use 350.org’s phrase. Just like the Avaaz founder MoveOn.org, 350.org successfully induces consent. ...

We are about to witness the global transition to profitable false solutions under the guise of “green economy” coupled with the complete commodification/privatization of the shared commons by the world’s most powerful corporations. All while they simultaneously greenwash themselves as noble stewards of the Earth.

[Also see: Activist Malpractice” by Michael Donnelly]

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 10, 2013

The Politics of the Pasture

James McWilliams writes:

Green Mountain College, from the founding of Cerridwen Farm in 1997 to its decision to kill Bill and Lou in 2012, was seeking to do what it genuinely thought best to do: farm in a way that modeled an environmentally sound alternative to industrial agriculture. The school loved the idea. The students loved the idea. The media loved the idea. It was extremely popular in every progressive corner. Replacing industrial agriculture with sustainable agriculture has become one of the most inspiring goals of the twenty-first century. GMC, through 22 acres known as Cerridwen Farm, aimed to play a direct role in this emerging revolution. ...

When animal advocates seized upon a controversy — the decision to kill and eat Bill and Lou — to argue that GMC’s pursuit of “sustainable agriculture” obscured basic moral consideration for animals, an unusually high-profile debate unfolded. That debate explored something that has, for the most part, enjoyed a free pass through an otherwise bramble-ridden landscape of agrarian discourse: the intensifying role of animal exploitation in “sustainable agriculture.” This book has tried to sketch out and analyze the depth and breath of that debate. As I hope has been made clear, animal advocates have made a strong case for not raising animals to slaughter and eat. They have effectively highlighted the ethical problem of killing sentient beings for unnecessary purposes. Repeatedly, and with varying levels of respect, they have demanded, sometimes forthrightly, that this quandary be acknowledged and explained by the advocates of small-scale animal agriculture at GMC.

In response, GMC never provided a serious answer. Ever. They provided excuses, but never did they make a sufficient ethical case in favor of killing the animals they supposedly loved for food they merely wanted rather than needed. More often than not, their primary battle tactic was to hyperbolize a few incendiary comments made by a few hotheads in the animal rights movement and deem themselves the innocent and helpless victim of vicious intimidation. I don’t buy for a moment that anyone at GMC ever felt truly in danger, but, as we’ll see, they put on an Oscar-worthy performance promoting their own victimhood.

As an advocate for animal rights and social justice, I’ve come to believe something very strongly: when a group seeking to reform an oppressive institution (in this case industrial agriculture) does so by relying on the exploitation of other sentient beings (in this case, two oxen), that group will eventually assume the tactics of the oppressors. They will, in other words, take the low road to perdition despite their articulated intentions to elevate themselves in the name of a nobler mission. To put a finer point on it, when a group of agricultural reformers seeks to dismantle industrial agriculture and its state sponsorship while simultaneously encouraging the single most important habit required to sustain industrial agriculture — eating animals — that group will find itself aligned, in the end, with the oppression of industrial agriculture.

Well, we’re at the end. And, in ways that could not be more affirmative of my thesis had I scripted them, GMC, in the wake of Lou’s death and the resulting vituperation that followed, has explicitly and implicitly aligned itself with American agribusiness. Indeed, GMC and Big Beef hopped in bed, divided the world into those who did and did not eat animals, and proceeded to do what those who exploit animals for a living do so very well: they consolidated their power and exploited the weakest.


environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 1, 2013

Doublethink in the promotion and defense of wind power

Doublethink is an aspect of Newspeak, the language used in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four to simplify and control thought, not only of the general public (the "proles"), but also of the very bureaucrats running the state. Doublethink acknowledges cognitive dissonance betweeen what the state says and what it does and simply asserts that they are the same. This is exemplified in the slogans: "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength." This is the kind of language that is called "Orwellian".

"Ignorance is Strength": This doublethink concept is the basis of modern propaganda (and marketing), in which simple lies are propagated and those who question them or recognize them as such are marginalized as "conspiracy theorists", kooks, Luddites, flat-earthers, Nimbys, sockpuppets, "virulent", "vitriolic", "opportunist", "terrorist".

Large-scale industrial wind power, marketed as "green energy", must use such smear and doublethink to avoid the undeniable fact that it is not "green" in the slightest. Recently, for example, complaints of adverse health effects and examination of that issue have been attacked as a campaign to harm the industry: "Wind farms don’t harm human health, anti-wind campaigners do." The victims and those who listen to them are blamed for the ill health obviously caused by wind turbines. The aggressor is the victim.

Health is Disease. Ignorance is Health. Effect is Cause. Noise is Silence.

Wind industry flacks have achieved the level of doublespeak that distinguishes the Ingsoc bureaucrats of Orwell's Oceania, seemingly believing as true what they nonetheless know to be false. In addition to turning the table on health effects, they use doublespeak to deny or rationalize wind power's adverse environmental effects, lack of fossil fuel reduction, dependence on subsidies, and unreliability:

Development is Conservation.
Blight is Beauty.
Add is Subtract.
Poverty is Wealth.
Dear is Cheap.
Wayward is Sure.

Update, May 9, 2013:  "Wind Watch" posted the following (and suggested a couple of corrections made here) on Facebook:
Is it significant that the most vehement hatred of those who question any aspect of industrial wind power comes from that part of the world called Oceania, which is what George Orwell also called the English superstate in Nineteen Eighty-Four? Often it seems that the industry and its committed defenders take their guidance from Orwell's (presciently) dystopian government. They use "doublespeak" to call industrial development green, to describe the industry as victimized by those it harms, to insist that killing birds is actually beneficial, and so on. Comment forums transform into "Two Minute Hates" when someone challenges the party line. And the busiest attackers are in present-day Oceania: anti-tobacco activist Simon Chapman, IBM employee Mike Barnard (from Ontario), and Infigen employee Ketan Joshi. The work of this triumvirate readily suggests three of the four ministries of Oceania: respectively, the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Truth, and the Ministry of Plenty. The Ministry of Peace is of course represented by the wind industry itself.
Addenda, May 12, 2013:  “The common Fluency of Speech in many Men and [...] Women is owing to a Scarcity of Matter, and Scarcity of Words; for whoever is a Master of Language, and hath a Mind full of Ideas, will be apt in speaking to hesitate upon the Choice of both; whereas common Speakers have only one Set of Ideas, and one Set of Words to cloath them in; and these are always ready at the Mouth.” —Jonathan Swift

“Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (1946)

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

April 29, 2013

Hasta la victoria siempre!

“Men and women of the new age: you have arisen to do battle for the race! . . . There is no easy victory before us.

“This night is a beginning. This battle that is coming, this battle that rushes upon us to-night, is only a beginning. All your lives, it may be, you must fight. Take no thought though I am beaten, though I am utterly overthrown. I think I may be overthrown.

“I come out of the past to you, with the memory of an age that hoped. My age was an age of dreams — of beginnings, an age of noble hopes; throughout the world we had made an end of slavery; throughout the world we had spread the desire and anticipation that wars might cease, that all men and women might live nobly, in freedom and peace. . . . So we hoped in the days that are past. And what of those hopes? How is it with man after two hundred years?

“Great cities, vast powers, a collective greatness beyond our dreams. For that we did not work, and that has come. But how is it with the little lives that make up this greater life? How is it with the common lives? As it has ever been — sorrow and labour, lives cramped and unfulfilled, lives tempted by power, tempted by wealth, and gone to waste and folly. The old faiths have faded and changed, the new faith—. Is there a new faith?

“Charity and mercy; beauty and the love of beautiful things — effort and devotion! Give yourselves as I would give myself — as Christ gave Himself upon the Cross. It does not matter if you understand. It does not matter if you seem to fail. You know — in the core of your hearts you know. There is no promise, there is no security — nothing to go upon but Faith. There is no faith but faith — faith which is courage. . . .”

—The Sleeper Awakes, H. G. Wells, 1899

anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

April 13, 2013

When you put things in people’s heads

I don’t understand why you’re saying these things ... It’s got to stop — can’t have it, mate. ... You don’t know how I feel — Mum is all upset. Is it attention for you ... is that what it is? I’m going to put you in a home, you know that I love you ... See what happens when you put things in people’s heads? You put it into their heads and it steamrolls on, and other people start to believe it. You’ve got to get these false thoughts out of your head, Tom, you’ve got to stop it — they’re wrong, you know they’re wrong. You’re not sick, you’re just, um, just going through your teens ... You see how you can put things into people’s heads? I suppose I’ll be doing it with him next? You can’t keep saying these things, Tom!

— ¿Simon Chapman and his associated sociopaths ranting against doctors and acousticians who report infrasound and illness due to large-scale wind turbines, thereby challenging the authority of the industry and the self-delusions of its corporate cheerleaders?

— No, the quote is from the climactic scene in The War Zone, a 1999 film directed by Tim Roth, as the father of the family is confronted by his son and daughter, when the latter at last stops rationalizing to herself and denying to others the fact of his regularly raping her.

The sociopathic position is disturbingly similar: It’s all in her head, put there by the envious in a bid for attention and desire to hurt a rival. No ability to admit guilt, perhaps because the crime is so obvious and so egregious that denial is the only possible response, twisted into an effort to explain the witnesses as the sociopaths.

In one sense, though, they do indeed “put things into people’s heads”. They awaken the conscience, they give utterance to what was suppressed, by the victims and well as the perpetrators and their enablers. They give voice to what was kept unspoken. Both victim and attacker act for self-preservation. One of them must be silenced.

wind power, wind energy, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

March 28, 2013

Rump Steak

Advocacy group Rural Vermont is promoting its 2013 “Annual Celebration”:

“Philip Ackerman-Leist,” director of Green Mountain College’s Farm & Food Project ... will be the guest speaker. Ackerman-Leist will share his first-person account of the recent international controversy involving Green Mountain College’s pair of working oxen “Bill” and “Lou.” This moving and disturbing story illustrates the profound lack of understanding and connection between contemporary American society and the source of our food. ... Special guest Philip Phillip [sic] will offer his ideas on how we can work together to bridge this divide.
Rural Vermont is a fairly politically progressive organization unfortunately bound by a devotion to and reflexive defense of the exploitation of animals. Ackerman-Leist similarly is too gorged on the flesh of (and the profits from) his grass-fed heritage-breed cows to consider that he might be the one with a profound lack of understanding. What possible ideas could he offer to bridge the divide between those who think a team of oxen deserved retirement after 10 years of work and those who can only think about such animals as food?

It was precisely people who are connected with the sources of their food who were able to draw a line at killing Bill and Lou. Ackerman-Leist, who petulantly had Lou killed despite (or rather because of) the controversy, is like the slaughterhouse worker who recently posted a video of himself shooting a horse. There is nothing in his actions or words that suggests working together to bridge a divide. In fact, the bridge is already there, but he refuses to acknowledge it, stubbornly seething at the shoreline, still shouting impotent defiance after those who have left him behind.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

March 24, 2013

Life after Oil and Gas: Pity Earth’s Creatures

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review juxtaposed two pieces on its front page: Elisabeth Rosenthal’s puff piece (last gasp?) for large-scale renewable energy, “Life After Oil and Gas”, and Edward Hoagland’s lamentation about nature’s disappearance under the march of human civilization, “Pity Earth’s Creatures”.

Hoagland’s piece stands as the answer to Rosenthal’s.

Except for some comments by International Energy Agency economist Fatih Birol suggesting that conservation and efficiency are more practical and effective choices, Rosenthal hardly considers why we have an energy crisis, of consequences as much as supply. (She also ignores, of course, the fact that huge investments in wind and solar have never been documented to actually reduce the use of other fuels. And both Rosenthal and Birol ignore the fact that countries and states that produce a high percentage of their electricity from wind are actually on larger grids, which make the percentage very much less.)

Instead Rosenthal assumes that we can “easily” produce the power we need from wind, solar, and water, citing the latest work of Mark Jacobson, whose numbers should frighten rather than inspire:

For New York State alone: 4,020 onshore and 12,770 offshore 5-MW wind turbines, 387 100-MW concentrated solar plants, 828 50-MW PV solar plants, 5,000,000 5-kW home and 500,000 100-kW business rooftop PV solar systems, 36 100-MW geothermal plants, 1,910 0.75-MW wave systems, 2,600 1-MW tidal turbines, as well as 7 1,300-MW hydro plants (half of which already exists).

Except for the rooftop solar, where do these go? Where do all the new “smart-grid” power lines and substations go? Where do all the materials to build and maintain and replace all these things come from? And what if these projections fall short (as they most certainly would)?

Except for rare hydro sources like Niagara Falls (or geothermal sources like Iceland’s volcanoes), renewable energy sources are diffuse. Therefore they require sprawling facilities of huge devices to collect enough to meet even a fraction of our electricity needs, let alone all of our energy (i.e., including transportation, heating, and manufacturing).

Furthermore, wind and solar are intermittent: The wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun shines only during the day. On top of that, their energy is variable, wildly so, in the case of wind. That means they need 100% backup.

Jacobson’s vision has already been imagined by H.G. Wells. In his 1897 “A Story of the Days To Come”, he described “the Wind Vane and Waterfall Trust, the great company that owned every wind wheel and waterfall in the world, and which pumped all the water and supplied all the electric energy that people in these latter days required.”
Far away, spiked, jagged and indented by the wind vanes, the Surrey Hills rose blue and faint; to the north and nearer, the sharp contours of Highgate and Muswell Hill were similarly jagged. And all over the countryside, he knew, on every crest and hill, where once the hedges had interlaced, and cottages, churches, inns, and farmhouses had nestled among their trees, wind wheels similar to those he saw and bearing like vast advertisements, gaunt and distinctive symbols of the new age, cast their whirling shadows and stored incessantly the energy that flowed away incessantly through all the arteries of the city. ...

To the east and south the great circular shapes of complaining wind-wheels blotted out the heavens ...
Where is nature in all this? Where is the countryside? Jacobson’s vision would turn it all into a power plant for the cities, and mines and refineries for endlessly building that power plant. There would be no escape. No nature to marvel at and lose oneself in. No nature to be left alone to live its own lives. Only the vain hand of human expansion.

As Hoagland writes in the other piece, we have already lost so much, as 7 billion people (doubled since 1970, tripled since 1940) trample over and push aside the world of other lives. The dream of renewables, which are inherently inefficient, only expands that process. If we would decry what we have already done to the earth, we need to start doing with a lot less. But the reality of renewables is that their use not only allows but requires more use of fossil and nuclear fuels, more extraction of resources, more paving over paradise.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, ecoanarchism

February 16, 2013

The animal killers' dilemma

Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and pro-GMO blogger at fieldquestions.com, posted an essay on Nov. 26, 2012, "The Animal Lover's Dilemma", by Elizabeth Vandeventer of Davis Creek Farm, Nelson County, Virginia. She is another supposedly ex-vegetarian who describes her sense of missing out on the death action in the great cycle of life. So she attacks vegans, who she blames for palm oil plantations, among other evils of industrial agriculture and chemistry, for not being more informed than the general population about the same food that everyone else eats. And of course, unlike people who just buy their packaged meat in the grocery store, she "honors" animals by raising them and thanking them before killing them to sell as packaged meat at farmers' markets.

Vandeventer was inspired to write because of the international outrage about Green Mountain College's determination to kill their oxen Bill and Lou. (They went ahead and killed Lou, rather than give him adequate veterinary care, but did it medically so they could whine that his "meat" was wasted.) Bill, no longer working for his room and board, still languishes at the college in Limbo despite at least two offers of sanctuary.

While the college raised one of those sanctuaries, called VINE, for Veganism Is the Next Evolution, to arch-adversary, unable to separate VINE's specific concern for Bill and Lou from their antipathy to its larger outlook (animal rights, human rights), and then unwilling to hear any advocate for Bill and Lou except that of their imagined version of VINE — now an extremist, terrorist organization ready to firebomb the college — Vandeventer creates her straw man at the other end, conjuring mindless consumerist sentimentalist "animal lovers" who are singularly responsible for the destruction of rain forests for palm oil plantations.

The essay is the usual self-justifying drivel, which continues in the comments below it. I write about it today because host Glenn Davis Stone just added what I suppose he thinks should be a succinct wrap-up:

Meat eating causes more death but it causes more life as well. I have been to Elizabeth’s farm and seen the hundreds of chickens and cattle enjoying life on her pastures. All because of meat eaters.
How does one respond, after the laughter, to such madness? "Rucio" tries:
And then having that life cut violently short. For the enjoyment of meat eaters. Only increasing the animals' gratitude, no doubt.
Note: According to a profile of Charlottesville (Va.)–area farmers, Vandeventer's farm has 4,000 "meat" chickens. Each of them named, of course, and roaming free. And according to her own web site, both the chickens and the cows do not exist solely on the grass and grains of the farm. Although Vandeventer claims that grazing is the only agriculture possible for her land (the pictures showing lush grasses and fairly flat fields suggests otherwise, however), her business depends on other farmland growing crops not for people but for her "livestock", i.e., it is not at all a model of sustainability unless that means only sustaining a meat industry.

Update:  Davis Stone replied to Rucio's comment: "I’m not sure what “violent” means here — Elizabeth’s animals are killed instantly. Hard to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing they never be born just because they were going to die." To which Rucio replied: "What could be more violent than killing another being well before the time of its natural death?" and "It is even harder to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing that they must kill it to justify its life."

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

January 7, 2013

One way to look at it

William Blum writes:

Capitalism can be seen in historical evolutionary terms, independent of any moral point of view or judgement. Broadly speaking, the organization of mankind's societies has evolved from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. And it's now time for the next step: socialism.

Socialism or communism have always been given just one chance to work, if that much, while capitalism has been given numerous chances to do so following its perennial fiascos. Ralph Nader has observed: "Capitalism will never fail because socialism will always be there to bail it out."

Capitalism gave rise to some very important innovations, such as mass production and distribution, and many technological advances. But now, and for some time past, the system has caused much more harm than good. It's eating its young. And our environment. We can take the advances instituted by capitalism for the purpose of profit and use them to create a society based on putting people before profit. Just imagine.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

December 13, 2012

Self-sabotage at Green Mountain College

The people of Green Mountain College think it has been wrong for the public to protest their decision to kill their oxen instead of letting them retire at a sanctuary, because the people of GMC are against factory farms so the public should join them in protesting factory farms instead.

Some of them think that protesting GMC's decision to kill their beloved and hard-worked (if that's not too cognitively dissonant) oxen is serving the interests of industrial agriculture by attacking one group's efforts to challenge that hegemony.

Sorry, GMC folks, but that doesn't make any sense.

First, the people you are admonishing already protest factory farms. They care about animal welfare, and that is why they are protesting GMC's efforts regarding their oxen.

Second, killing two oxen after 11 years has nothing to do with moving away from factory farming. And the public outcry against the desire to kill them is not against your efforts to be independent from industrial ag.

The issue is not you or various elements of the public. It's Bill and Lou, and most people think Bill (Lou having already been dispatched) deserves a peaceful retirement. The more you try to rationalize the decision to kill them, the more unhinged and unlikeable you appear to be. And that, not the public's protest, is what reflects badly on, and thus most threatens, the mission we share.

Update, Dec. 22:  The most reactionary students at Green Mountain College continue to amuse with their self-righteous victimization narrative. After the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, they suggested that compared to that crime they ought to be absolved of murdering Lou and allowed to murder Bill. Now they have likened those trying to save Bill and Lou's lives to Fred Phelps and family’s Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which blames all unnatural death on the tolerance of gays and travels around the country to disrupt funerals to celebrate those deaths as God's righteous punishment. The WBC, basically, hates everyone except themselves, which does not seem very different from what we've seen out of GMC.

But it gets more confused. The WBC post was a tongue-in-cheek letter of gratitude to the Phelps family for raising awareness of issues of intolerance and facilitating support drives. In their enthusiasm to embrace this new model of empowered victimization, the GMC students forget that elsewhere they and their professors (falsely) accuse animal rights and welfare activists of using GMC's intransigence (standing by their "values", as Fred Phelps would agree) for their own publicity. That is, they are now embracing a codependent tactic for which they had earlier attempted to condemn "ARAs". How must be logic twisted and mirror fogged to evade the truth!

Green Mountain College

Update, Dec. 24:  Another example brought to our attention of getting everything backwards (even their own defensive positions) is from GMC student Emily McCoy. On Dec. 14, she shared on Facebook a photo of President Obama wiping away a tear for the victims of Newtown, Conn., with the caption, "Pretends to cry about school shooting — while bombing innocent men, women, and children in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine." The first commenter (Jon) expressed disgust, which McCoy and others fended off, rightly noting the commander-in-chief's hypocrisy. But then she added, ‘Jon's reaction reminded me a lot of ARAs [animal rights activists] being all "everyone feels sorry for the billions of animals in CAFOs [concentrated animal feed operations], but you have a chance to spare the lives of THESE TWO OXEN. COMPASSION!"’

Her thinking almost defies analysis. Which it would have to, because it is animal rights and welfare activists who point out that killing Bill and Lou (and all the other animals on GMC's play-farm, since they insist on making that the issue) is the same result as on factory farms. She must see that, since she can see that we need to decry all of the deaths wrought in our name in other countries along with domestically. That is, killing in one's own backyard and killing in a distant place are both wrong. Killing in CAFOs is wrong, and so is killing in the "happy" farm. Of course, it's not the killing that bothers McCoy, and in that she is aligned with the President, who weeps for irrational carnage but has little problem with it when it is suitably rationalized. And so she believes that compassion means killing Bill and Lou, simply because they are not at a CAFO.

Just as McCoy challenges the President's compassion, we question hers.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

December 11, 2012

Green Mountain College, Carnism, and the Embrace of Death

The echo chamber's not going to work if you allow dissenting opinions!
(Green Mountain College student Emily McCoy, who blocks Facebook users who engage her in public fora, on a GMC page that blocks dissenting opinions)

The people of Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont, remain defensive about the public outcry over their decision to kill for meat two oxen that they had worked for 10 years. A brief history: Lou was injured in the Spring such that he could no longer work; over the summer the GMC farm staff decided it was time to kill both him and his brother Bill and eat them (or, more likely, get some human-grade meat in exchange for their value as dog food). Some students and/or alumni, when classes resumed in the fall, were shocked by that decision and alerted Green Mountain Animal Defenders in Burlington, which led to an offer of veterinary care and sanctuary from VINE Sanctuary in Springfield. People’s shock at the decision to kill Bill and Lou was then compounded by GMC’s refusal of the offer to let them live out their lives in peaceful retirement. But the school became only more entrenched, lashing out at those asking for compassion and mercy as “extremists” and “abolitionists” “terrorizing” slaughterhouses and the college. Then they “euthanized” Lou (†Nov. 11, 2012), who had been seen happily grazing with Bill the day before his pre-dawn “sacrifice”, and perversely made themselves out to be the victim because he had to be composted instead of eaten. Two faculty members in particular, Steven Fesmire and Philip Ackerman-Leist, the latter a beef farmer himself, have been interviewing and writing all over the place to present this simple call for compassion toward two loved and hardworking oxen as a concerted and militant effort to end food choice and all animal agriculture.

It would be funny if it did not mean that Lou was killed and Bill remains in danger.

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The first reason given for killing Bill and Lou, and then for refusing sanctuary, was economic. In a cold calculus of utility, these aging oxen were deemed to be no longer paying for their upkeep, and a sanctuary would only perpetuate the “waste” of resources. This is the thinking of psychopaths. Bill and Lou are not machines to be junked for parts or materials, but living creatures as deserving and desiring to live as those calling for their deaths.

The defense developed, along with the paranoid exaggeration of “the enemy”, to a more complex idea of “sustainability”. At the basis of that “sustainability” ethic is the self-serving “happy meat” paradigm, by which human carnivores think they are being conscientious and environmentally mature by convincing themselves that their taste for meat is “love” for the animal itself and its place in nature (or rather the nature of agriculture that includes them), particularly when it is applied locally (eg, in the name of food sovereignty).

Let us look at that ethic, which has come to be called “carnism”.

To rationalize their inability or unwillingness to live without meat or dairy, they have constructed a system that is environmentally conscientious only within the terms of a perceived necessity for consumption of animals. There is no room in that vision for the rejection of animal agriculture. Ethical veganism is heretical, not just because it considers the interests, even rights, of the animals themselves (assuming that like all creatures they want to live full lives according to their own interests and social needs) apart from their usefulness to humans, but mostly because it recognizes that consuming animals is a choice, not a necessity.

With all ethical issues, each of us comes to a balance or accommodation that we are comfortable with, constantly weighing myriad factors of society, personality, culture, economy, etc. And that balance changes (or ought to) throughout our lives. Ethics isn’t about that balance, but about the choices we make when we are able to.

It is indeed good that some of those who won’t give up meat are trying to make that choice less cruel to the animals and less harmful to the environment. That is a step forward and does not obviate further steps. But the “carnist” trend of recent years has been to assert that it is actually better in every way (morally, environmentally, nutritionally) to continue to consume animals in this “balanced” way, which, first, is offensive to those whose decision not to is also shaped by efforts to be less cruel and harmful, and, second, only suggests that it most certainly is not.

It is obvious that loving animals can not include killing them unnecessarily just because we want to eat them. Animals are not things (”I love my teddy bear”). They are not meals (”I love squash soup”). Love, applied to any animal, is the same love we mean when we apply it to the human animal. That is a simple truth. The complex arguments to prove that animal agriculture is natural or necessary or beneficial serve to obscure that truth. They serve as a firewall between salving one’s conscience by treating animals marginally better and having to consequently recognize animals as having their own rights. They serve as an artificial boundary between granting animals a right to “welfare” and granting them the actual rights implied by concern for their welfare.

It is the same dynamic that has been seen in every battle for rights. Of course, the first principle of carnism is that animals aren’t people (not even noncivilized people, however sentient and social). Evolution of conscience is a slow process, and most vegans recognize that frustrating fact. Most of the time, they are biting their tongues about the world’s casual cruelty and disrespect. What vegans can not abide is carnists challenging or claiming superiority to veganism on any ground. It is frightening to see the lengths people go to rationalize needless killing. As they take their arguments farther and farther but go nowhere, stuck in their self-imposed carnism, their urge becomes to silence, if not destroy, those who remind them of that shortcoming. The vegan “no” is taken as an existential threat. Again, this is a fact of human history, which vegans must suffer through like anyone who has ever taken an ethical stand against entrenched cultural assumptions.

If carnists were truly comfortable about their choice, then they would not feel so threatened by the very existence of vegans. After all, everyone eats what vegans eat. Vegans just cut out the animal bits. And that small reduction of violence by our diet can only be for the good — of the planet, all animals, and humanity.

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As to Green Mountain College, they were given a choice: kill Bill and Lou or let them live out their lives at a sanctuary. While claiming to assert their rights and responsibilities, they revealed their sustainability ethic as one that embraces death, not love.

[See also:  Omnivores? ]

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecoanarchism