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

July 16, 2014

The Oxen at the Intersection: Review

A Collision (or, Bill and Lou Must Die: A Real-Life Murder Mystery from the Green Mountains of Vermont), by pattrice jones (2014, Lantern Books)

This book is a page-turner. Jones is an excellent writer. She provides not only a history of the whole fiasco of the plan to kill rather than retire the oxen Bill and Lou, and the efforts to save them, but also a concise overview of the mythologies, intersections of power relationships and prejudice, and psychologies that came into play. It is both a valuable case study for social activists and a good introduction to the holistic anti-oppression perspective of eco-feminism.

Regarding the case itself, Jones seems to betray some personal rancor over what can well be seen as "hijacking" of the issue by others not directly involved (Jones' sanctuary had been approached by concerned alumni). Critiques of some of those are warranted, but they probably wouldn't have mattered if there was more direct "face-to-face" interaction, which Jones notes as perhaps the biggest shortcoming. However, she doesn't acknowledge the difficulty of direct action in this case: Poultney is rather far from everywhere as well as unfamiliar to almost all of the activists involved. And rights activists in Vermont simply do not go against the farming industry. Even the abuses revealed in late 2009 by HSUS at Bushway Packing, an "Animal Welfare Approved" slaughterhouse where organic dairy farms sent their male calves to be turned into veal, made barely a ripple. In another case in the late 2000's, a jogger in Greensboro noticed a pile of dead and dying animals on a farm, alerted authorities, and – nothing happened. As in these cases, the media, when they paid attention at all, only helped to support the "right-to-farm" viewpoint and discourage questioning of what farmers actually do to their animals.

One interesting and damning aspect of the Green Mountain College farm program is revealed in the book regarding their treatment of animals. Jones describes Princess, a cow who was given to them from someone who had bought her from an "agricultural college". It was clear that Princess had been abused (beyond the "normal" routines of animal ag), and Jones had written about her just before the Bill and Lou affair began, not knowing what college she had come from. When the campaign to save Bill and Lou began, people at the college recognized Princess and accused Jones of a concerted campaign against them. Jones also describes the visit of a couple of her colleagues during an open house at the college, where they saw a calf with so many burrs around his penis that he couldn't easily urinate. That calf was later sold, no questions asked, on Craig's List, with the stipulation that the buyer never reveal where they got it – which appears to have been a condition for saving Princess as well. As Jones points out, the head of the college farm program is a mathematician. It is an extension of his own hobby farm, with the added inexperience (and callousness) of college students. The animals seem to be neglected and abused and then disposed of, without acknowledgement, when they become too much trouble. As Jones also notes from the visit, the college garden was smaller than the one at their sanctuary. And as satellite pictures show, the college's acres of meadow are far from enough to sustain more than a very few animals (for meat, that is; used for produce, they could in fact feed quite a few humans). In other words, the farm is a sham, but worse, the animals are treated like toys for these very unserious dabblers.


Back to the problem of direct communication, as Jones makes clear, the bottom line was that the college was not at all open to discussion, even within their own walls. They were determined to prove a point, their authority, their "mastery". Closed off as they were, then, it was clearly the chaotic clamor of the social media–fired campaign to save Bill and Lou that at least saved Bill (whose actual fate, however, remains a mystery; for that matter, the actual fate of Lou also remains a mystery). And as Jones notes, it was the uncontrolled barrage of telephone calls to nearby slaughterhouses that stopped the original scheduled plan to turn both of them into hamburgers.

Jones also mentions her doubts about the effectiveness of gory photos and videos of animal abuse and suffering in the fight for animal rights. I agree. People are already desensitized and, as the "conscious carnivore" pushback shows, actually relish the fact that a life is sacrificed for their passing enjoyment. As the chef in Peter Greenaway's film "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover" observes, people like to feel that they are eating death. Shocking pictures only serve to reinforce the very viewpoint we are attempting to change. As with the picture of the Green Mountain College student grinning maniacally in a hand-scrawled "Death to Chickens" T-shirt holding a dead rooster up by its legs, or the students screaming at protesters that even though they're "vegetarian" they were "excited" to eat Bill and Lou, the people who need to be persuaded away from harming animals are more likely to embrace the imagery, to fling it back defiantly. Disturbing pictures can be effective – if they are used effectively for specific messages and/or to specific audiences, not for indiscriminate shock value.

Anyhow, this book is a stimulating and inspiring read, an insightful analysis of the mostly failed effort to save these two lives. It is also very nicely typeset.

Last known photograph of Lou and Bill, Nov. 10, 2012.
Lou was reportedly killed before dawn of the next day.

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

July 20, 2006

Violation of the mountains by wind erections

The Mountaineer wind power facility on Backbone Mountain, Tucker County, West Virginia, which kills thousands of bats every year (and owner Florida Power & Light has therefore halted access to researchers so they and other developers can get on with erecting hundreds more giant (and useless) turbines on this ridge that spans West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania).

"I looked around me, to a place where months before had been prime country for deer, wild turkey, and yes, black bear, to see positively no sign of any of the animals about at all. This alarmed me, so I scouted in the woods that afternoon. I am accustomed to these woods, and know them and the signs of animals well. All afternoon, I found no sign, sight, or peek of any animal about.

"I did notice, in the next few months, that the animals were more abundant down here in the valley, in the farmers' fields and such. Places that they had steered away from before, they now were in, and causing trouble for man, and, in turn, getting shot. I saw more bear and bobcats in the populated areas than I had ever seen. I went up to the windmills several times to check, and it seemed that the animals had moved away from that area. There were no sight of them, no prints, no sign."
wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism, ecofeminism, animal rights

November 18, 2005

Wind developers and the urge to conquer

From today's Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times-Argus:
"Officials behind a major wind project proposed here unveiled more details of their plans Thursday evening, meeting with the planning commission as required by the state law that regulates energy projects.

"Massachusetts-based UPC Wind Management presented the update, bringing in its president, power sales director, project manager, lawyer, publicist and environmental consultant. They were joined by Avram Patt, general manager of East Montpelier–based Washington Electric Co-op.

"UPC has ... U.S. offices in Maine, New York, San Diego, Toronto and Maui, Hawaii, where UPC's first U.S. wind project is under construction on state-owned virgin mountain tops," Gaynor said." [Paul Gaynor, president of UPC, which is actually based in Italy]
Sheffield and Sutton residents appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to the project, which will sprawl across three mountain ridges. After the usual private dealings with town officials, whom they easily wooed, the company is clearly upset by the public response. Despite an earlier promise to heed the public's wish, UPC never intended to abandon its quest. Besides the show of force to the planning commission reported here, they have hired an advertising firm to organize a "grass roots" support campaign.

A few supporters of the project argue for property rights, even as they sign away control of their own property for decades in a lease written by the lessee and drastically impinge on the rights of the neighbors to enjoy their property.

But the revealing comment is about the "state-owned virgin mountain tops" on Maui. It's about conquest and nothing else. That's why progressives, feminists, and environmentalists oppose these projects. Industrial wind power provides no mitigating benefit that even begins to justify this rape and pillage.

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April 3, 2005

Industrial wind, corporate vandalism

In the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press today:

Many well intentioned people champion industrial wind power, but it baffles me when those who label themselves "environmentalist" or "green," or who otherwise consider themselves to be politically progressive, seem so eager to do business with the same huge profit-driven corporations that have already done so much to destroy the planet. GE, one of the biggest manufacturers of military weapons and nuclear power plants, is also the US manufacturer of industrial-size wind turbines. GE got into the business by buying the wind division of the Enron corporation. War profiteer Halliburton is involved in the construction of off-shore wind facilities. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase own wind energy companies, as reported by the New York Times on March 22. Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor and consumer rights group, has noted that FPL Group, the parent company of the biggest wind energy company in America, paid no federal income tax in 2002 and 2003 on more than 2 billion dollars of profit, thanks in large part to the tax evasion schemes of industrial wind.

Blasting Vermont's lovely ridgelines to ram monstrous turbine assemblies into the earth, along with clearcut wide strong roads through wild areas and ever more power lines strung about, is a violent assault, despoiling all life around it. There seems remarkably little concern from the pro-industrial wind crowd regarding the further loss of habitat for other species and the inevitable deaths of many birds and bats. It seems that the big-wind supporters have bought into the rapacious corporate mindset of "think big." The US government is granting subsidies for industrial wind not because it gives a damn about green energy but because it benefits corporate America, as always. It is the same mentality, ironically, that applauds drilling for oil in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.

What ever happened to "small is beautiful"? Vermont is a small state. Why not instead promote small windmills, such as at the Danville School? We could advocate for and more generously subsidize even smaller windmills for home use along with solar panels, microhydro, and insulation to save heating fuel, as the purchase and installation of most of these things are beyond the means of many Vermonters. What about the use of biodiesel from non-genetically modified crops? Why aren't unnecessary recreational gas-guzzlers and polluters heavily taxed instead of relentlessly encouraged? Why are SUVs not required to be more environmentally friendly? Conservation would save much more energy than giant wind facilities could ever generate. Alas, none of this will happen easily, if at all, because it won't benefit big business.

We have made a dire mess of this planet, and trashing and industrializing Vermont's mountains is simply adding to it. And the saddest part is that industrial wind facilities won't close down one fossil or nuclear fueled power plant after all that "necessary" destruction of Vermont's most valuable resource. The gargantuan turbines will be only an empty symbol for those people who need to easily assuage their consumerist guilt, most of whom will probably not be living anywhere near the noisy brightly lit monsters.

I sometimes wonder if the "progressive" supporters of big wind realize exactly what they are opening the door to and who will be profiting from the further industrialization of Vermont. Though there are no easy answers or quick fixes, we need to step back from the abyss of this high-testosterone approach and try to create more peaceful, imaginative, harmonious, and decentralized ways of employing renewable energy in Vermont.

-- Joanna Lake

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March 25, 2005

Vegetarianism (and veganism) for peace

Ecofeminists and many anarchists see vegetarianism as an essential response against exploitation of other beings. Many religious people see vegetarianism as consistent with a message of peace.

Unfortunately, most people who call themselves progressive (let alone liberal) do not see the defense of all animals as relevant to their concerns about human society.

Yet the way that humans treat other animals is one of the most indicators of how we treat the environment and each other. Eating, hunting, wearing, poisoning, abusing animals is one way everyone participates in a social organization based on exploitation and jealous protection of power.

Besides hunting and fishing and fur farming and beings tortured and killed in labs, in the U.S. one third of what is spent for raw materials and half of all our water are used just to produce food for the animals of the "meat" industry -- 26 billion individuals killed and eaten every year.

Like the reality of our invasion of Iraq, the reality of the meat and other animal-exploitation industries are hidden behind euphemistic doublespeak and outright lies. To speak the truth is considered treasonous, a threat to traditional values and the cohesion of society. People would rather not hear it. Yet the pursuit both of meat and of war is ridiculously wasteful, counterproductive, and self-destructive.

If there is to be an anti-war movement, vegetarians, those who understand the intersection of all violence against another, should join it openly as vegetarians.

Vegetarianism for Peace -- Nonviolence begins with our diet

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