February 20, 2013

Lifting livestock’s long shadow

To the Editor — In the News Feature entitled ‘Light is cast on a long shadow’ by Anna Petherick [1], it is stated that developing countries’ middle classes “are on course to demand twice the current amount of livestock products in 2050.”

This statement does not take into account the International Food Policy Research Institute’s scenario by which global meat consumption will decline until at least 2030 [2]. Moreover, Petherick [1] cited mainly livestock researchers, whereas good practice is to consider assessment by environmental specialists where significant environmental risk occurs [3].

As environmental-risk specialists employed by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation — two United Nations agencies — my colleague Jeff Anhang and I have estimated that livestock products account for at least 51% of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions [4]. Links to consequential citations of our analysis can be found on our website [5].

In our assessment, reality no longer reflects the old model of the carbon cycle, in which photosynthesis balanced respiration. That model was valid as long as there were roughly constant levels of respiration and photosynthesis on Earth. However, respiration has increased exponentially with livestock production, and intensified livestock and feed production accompanied by large-scale deforestation and forest-burning have caused huge increases in volatilization of soil carbon, resulting in a dramatic decline in the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity. Therefore, either carbon dioxide in livestock respiration, or its reflection in carbon debt created where land is used for livestock and feed production, must be counted as emissions.

In assessing livestock, emissions relating to land use for livestock and feed production are considered indirect emissions. According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol — the most widely used tool for greenhouse-gas accounting — indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and can be mitigated or reduced [6]. One of the key sources in Petherick’s Feature [1], Mario Herrero, co-authored an estimate that 45% of all land is now used for livestock and feed production [7].

Kanaly et al. [8] summed up our study as follows: “Goodland and Anhang explained what may be a large-scale paradigm shift in the approaches to mitigating climate change.” Previously, renewable-energy infrastructure was thought to be the key to reversing climate change. After years of inadequate action, sufficient new infrastructure is now projected to take at least 20 years and US$18 trillion to develop [9].

Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have both warned that the next five years may be the last real chance to reverse climate change before it’s too late [10,11]. We say that the only pragmatic way to do so is to replace at least 25% of today’s livestock products with better alternatives — this would both eliminate much more than 4% of agricultural emissions, and allow reforestation and forest regeneration on vast amounts of land, which could then absorb enough atmospheric carbon to reduce it to a safe level.

Robert Goodland
World Bank, 1818 Society
e-mail: rbtgoodland/gmail.com

Nature Climate Change, January 2013

  1. Petherick, A. Nature Clim. Change 2, 705–706 (2012).
  2. Msangi, S. & Rosegrant, M. Feeding the Future’s Changing Diets: Implications for Agriculture Markets, Nutrition, and Policy (IFPRI, 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/Sdukkp
  3. Green laws take no prisoners. Legal Brief Today (13 September 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/IeAfKM
  4. Goodland, R. & Anhang, J. World Watch 22, 10–19 (2009).
  5. www.chompingclimatechange.org
  6. Putt del Pino, S., Levinson, R. & Larsen, J. Hot Climate, Cool Commerce: A Service Sector Guide to Greenhouse Gas Management (WRI, 2006); available at http://pdf.wri.org/hotclimatecoolcommerce.pdf
  7. Thornton, P., Herrero, M. & Ericksen, P. Livestock and climate change. (ILRI, 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/wYaVA6
  8. Kanaly, R. A., Manzanero, L. I. O., Foley, G., Panneerselvam, S. & Macer, D. Energy Flow, Environment and Ethical Implications for Meat Production (UNESCO, 2010); available via http://go.nature.com/VBMWVw
  9. Statement by Nobuo Tanaka, IEA Executive Director to COP 16 (IEA, 2010); available via http://go.nature.com/ivfhds
  10. Spotts, P. Climate change report: Time to start preparing for the worst. The Christian Science Monitor (28 March 2012); available via http://go.nature.com/8Cl4ct
  11. DiLorenzo, S. IEA: Time running out to limit Earth’s warming Newsvine (9 November 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/1fdbPO
environment, environmentalism, vegetarianism, veganism

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

February 3, 2013

Vermont Senators defend “rural tradition” of military-style assault weapons

From The Valley News, Tuesday, Jan. 29 [comments below]:
Gun control advocates in the Upper Valley are criticizing Democrats in the Vermont Senate for abruptly withdrawing a bill that would have banned the sale or manufacture of assault weapons before the legislation even had a chance to be discussed at a public hearing.

The bill, initially filed by Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth, D-Burlington, would have prohibited the manufacture, possession and transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition, and made it a crime for a person to leave a firearm accessible to a child. ...

Caledonia state Sen. Joe Benning, R-Lyndon, had lunch with Baruth a few days before he pulled the bill, and told him he wouldn’t support the assault weapons ban. Baruth then shared with him that he couldn’t find anyone in the Democratic caucus who would support his bill, either.

“When he recognized there was no support for his bill, he decided to withdraw it so not to cause any conflict or discussion,” [emphasis added] said Benning, whose district includes several Orange County towns in the Bradford area.

Numerous Democrats interviewed said they wouldn’t have supported the bill if it had gone forward, many citing the rural nature of Vermont life.

Benning said he has received hundreds of emails from constituents and every email was opposing the bill, which Benning said he found shocking.

State Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Bethel, said that in 23 years, he has never supported gun control in Vermont, and it’s because Vermont is a rural area and firearms are part of rural life.

State Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Danville, said she wouldn’t have supported the bill because assault weapons are not the only way that people can harm or kill others. Take Melissa Jenkins for example. The St. Johnsbury Academy teacher was strangled to death last year and her death did not involve a firearm.

“I wish we could legislate (against) evil,” said Kitchel, a Caledonia senator also representing the Bradford-area towns.

And while Kitchel understands that there are a lot of gun owners in Vermont and gun laws are relaxed, she said there is no correlation between the number of gun owners in Vermont and gun violence. ...

Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Quechee, said he too wouldn’t have supported Baruth’s bill because he said he doesn’t want the Senate to have a reactive approach to what happened in Newtown, Conn.

Instead, he sided with Benning and said that the Senate should focus on the flaws in the system that allow people with mental illness to have access to guns. ...
If the 2nd amendment protects the right of individuals to own military-style assault rifles, why not rocket launchers, mortars, cannons, tanks? Weapons of mass destruction don't belong in the hands of individuals. This is not (yet) central Africa or Somalia. "Rural traditions" of hunting and shooting have nothing to do with assault weapons. And Adam Lanza's mom was considered to be a "responsible gun owner"; he himself was well trained to handle those guns "responsibly". Could it be that owning such guns — especially more than one — is itself a sign of mental instability? Or at least a dangerous antisocial proclivity? Or at least a very risky enabler of great potential harm?

Civilization is about limits: freedom, not license. No person is free when anyone can be a tyrant. Baruth's bill was withdrawn "so not to cause any conflict or discussion" — in other words, in cowardly capitulation to well armed bullies. That is indeed more suggestive of eastern Congo than open progressive democratic Vermont.

And U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy going on, like fellow "liberal" Jane Kitchel above, about how special Vermont is with so many guns and relatively little gun violence (ignoring its leading suicide rate) ignores the obvious fact, which Leahy just helped promote nationally, that Vermont is the go-to state in the region to load up on destructive weaponry. (This "straw purchasing" was noted in the Valley News article by former Norwich Selectwoman Sharon Racusin.) (And of course, Leahy's "job" as a senior senator is mostly to land military contracts for Vermont companies, and part of the military economy is our arming the world, including with "small" arms.)

Finally, Joe Benning (and Kitchel with a more blatant diversion) echos the inanity that "guns don't kill people, people kill people". And people with assault weapons are able to kill lots of people. A letter in today's Valley News similarly insisted that guns are just tools, that we shouldn't blame the gun any more than we blame the car in an accident. But a gun is a tool with only one purpose, a deadly purpose. A civilized society requires cars to be safe so that their use does not bring undue danger to the public. Likewise, a civilized society limits the deadliness of weaponry in the hands of its citizens.

That lawmakers fear even talking about reasonable limits that do not threaten in any way hunting and other recreational shooting, nor the defense of one's home or animals, the "right to bear arms", is itself frightening.

[Note:  The Valley News carried an editorial on Saturday about "this unseemly bit of moral retreat".

human rights, Vermont]

January 27, 2013

Paul Gaynor forgets to mention mafia connection

In today’s New York Times, First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor writes:

In 2004, another G.E. colleague asked me to join UPC Wind Management as president and chief executive, and I accepted. Because another wind company had a similar name, we changed our name to First Wind in 2008.
That “other” wind company was in fact its own parent. They changed the name because its deep corruption was coming to light in Italy. That “other GE colleague” was Brian Caffyn  ...

UPC Solar: Our Management
Mr. Caffyn ... was the founder and inaugural Chairman of UPC Wind (now First Wind). ... Mr. Caffyn is also Managing Partner of UPC Capital Partners and UPC Energy Partners. He spent the first part of his career in project financing for wind, cogeneration, hydro, solar, geothermal, waste-to-energy and biomass energy projects with GE Capital, Heller Financial, Inc., and several private companies. Mr. Caffyn personally oversaw the establishment and construction of the largest wind energy company in Italy — Italian Vento Power Corporation.
Brian Caffyn: Executive Profile & Biography, Business Week
Mr. Caffyn is a co-founder of UPC Energy Group and UPC Group. ... He founded First Wind Energy Company in 1996 ... He founded First Wind Holdings, Inc. and served as its Chairman. He founded and served as Chairman of First Wind Energy LLC (UPC Wind Partners, LLC). ... Mr. Caffyn served as Director or Partner of ... Italian Vento Power Corporation (IVPC), Srl, ...
Caffyn, founder and former CEO and [still?] chairman, has been expunged from mention on the First Wind web site.

Italian Vento Power Corporation: Background
The Group [Italian Vento Power Corporation] came to light in 1993 from an idea of Oreste Vigorito who formed the company IVPC Srl on behalf of UPC, an American company which operates in the wind sector in California. ...

Between 1996 and 2000, UPC forms several project companies for the installation of new Wind Farms in the Campania Region, in Sardinia and in Sicily. During this period, the Group develops 241MW. In 2005, UPC sells its assets held in Italy to the Irish group Trinergy and furthermore, sells the 50% of the original IVPC Srl (with its trade mark) to Oreste Vigorito who remains in partnership with Eurus Energy (ex Tomen) which owns the other 50%.

Trinergy, in its turn, in 2007, sells the assets previously acquired from UPC to the English group International Power [IP]. Oreste Vigorito is Managing Director of the ex IVPC Group, previously called Trinergy and now IP Maestrale, until November 2008 when he hands in his resignation.
Anti-mafia police make largest asset seizure, by Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, September 14, 2010
Italian anti-mafia police have made their largest seizure of assets as part of an investigation into windfarm contracts in Sicily. Officers confiscated property and accounts valued at €1.5bn belonging to a businessman suspected of having links with the mafia.

Roberto Maroni, interior minister, on Tuesday accused the businessman – identified by police as Vito Nicastri and known as the island’s “lord of the winds” – of being close to a fugitive mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro.

General Antonio Mirone, of the anti-mafia police, said the seized assets included 43 companies – some with foreign participation and mostly in the solar and windpower sector – as well as about 100 plots of land, villas and warehouses, luxury cars and a catamaran. More than 60 bank accounts were frozen. ...

The renewable energy sector is under scrutiny across much of southern Italy. Some windfarms, built with official subsidies, have never functioned. ...

Mr Nicastri sold most of his windfarm projects to IVPC, a company near Naples run by Oreste Vigorito, also president of Italy’s windpower association. Mr Vigorito was also arrested last November on suspicion of fraud and later released.
Green energy tangled in web of shady deals, by Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, May 5, 2009
Over coffee, Mr Nicastri confirms that he has developed the "majority" of Sicily's wind farms, arranging land, financing and official permits. He then sold the projects for construction to IVPC, a company run by Oreste Vigorito, who is also president of Italy's wind power association.

Mr Nicastri says he has worked on projects resulting in construction of wind farms for International Power (IP) of the UK; Falck Renewables, the London subsidiary of Falck Group based in Milan; IVPC; and Veronagest, another Italian company.

"I am not a prostitute for everyone. There are other prostitutes for the others," Mr Nicastri laughs, mentioning other multinationals with wind assets in Sicily. ...

IP became the single largest wind farmer in Italy with its 2007 purchase of the Maestrale portfolio of mostly Italian wind farms, including five in Sicily, for €1.8bn from Trinergy, an Irish company, which had purchased them from IVPC.
Wind Power, by Joan Killough-Miller, WPI [Worcester Polytechnic Institute] Transformations, Summer 2005
As president and CEO of UPC Wind Management, located in Newton, Mass., Gaynor was tapped to bring the success of the parent company, UPC Group, to North America. In Europe and North Africa, UPC affiliates — including Italian Vento Power Corporation — have raised over $900 million in financing and installed some 900 utility-scale wind turbine generators (WTGs), with a total capacity of more than 635 megawatts. UPC subsidiary companies, positioned across the United States and in Toronto, are currently pursing some 2,000 megawatts in projects from Maine to Maui.
Also of note from Gaynor's NY Times piece: “Some people will always be against development, whether it’s a shopping mall, a condo project or a wind farm.” Yes, “wind farms” are “development”, no different from shopping malls and condo projects, which is why they should similarly never be allowed on the ridges, open spaces, and coasts that wind developers target.

wind power, wind energy

January 24, 2013

Let’s cry for the oxen, not for Green Mountain College

To the Editor, Valley News:

Lisa Rathke's Associated Press story about Green Mountain College (GMC) representatives presenting their case to the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture (“College Pleas for Vt. Aid in Ox Crisis,” Jan. 17) shows how unwilling they still are to take any responsibility for the consequences of their decision to kill the hardworked and beloved oxen Bill and Lou.

It was the cold heartlessness of that decision that outraged first some of GMC’s own students and alumni, and then as the news got out, so many people around the world, especially as the college adamantly refused offers of sanctuary and even monetary compensation to let Bill and Lou live out their lives in peaceful retirement with attentive veterinary care.

In response, the college only invited more outrage: by smearing as “extremists” all those asking them to show mercy; by responding to the offer of sanctuary for these two special oxen as a threat to all animal agriculture; and by characterizing the resulting publicity as “terrorizing” them.

This was a crisis of their own making, in both the inhumane decision itself and the paranoid and misplaced sense of victimization that this latest “plea” exemplifies. GMC’s quest for absolution and vindication only reminds the world — and perhaps themselves — of their guilt.

One hopes that someone on the Committee kindly suggested that they might stop being so childishly stubborn and show some human kindness: and let Bill, who they have not killed yet, retire to a sanctuary.

Eric Rosenbloom and Joanna Lake

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

Saving Paradise (Murder Is in the Wind)

Ua mau ke ea o ka ’aina i ka pono.
The life of the land is preserved in righteous action.

In this taut and fast-paced thriller about corporate and political greed, corruption, murder and mayhem, Mike Bond keeps the tension high throughout and the evil wonderfully complex (as well as the answer to it). The book also provides a nice tour — and history — of the islands.

Saving Paradise sets the fight against big wind clearly as one of good against evil. Which it always has been, of course, but a lot of people have a hard time believing that the developers really are purely evil, that there really is no benefit to big wind except to the developers, and to the ones who will follow them into the now desecrated lands that were off limits before Enron started buying environmental groups, who are now all about “balance” (their bank balance, in effect) instead of preservation and protection. And those that do see the developers for what they are, often do so through irrelevant political partisan eyes (as do most of those who support wind, even while otherwise decrying everything behind it), so the bigger problem remains: and corporate/political power pits community against community, neighbor against neighbor.

Big wind is nobody’s friend. They don’t even care about their own giant wind turbines, as they move on to destroy the next crest and plain and coast. It is only about destruction and robbery. The developers are vandals. Their supporters are fools or worse.

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

It’s Time to Jail the NRA

Mike Bond writes:

It’s time to jail the National Rifle Association Directors as accessories to mass murder. For once again a madman with automatic rifles has slaughtered our children. And we rid ourselves of the NRA’s political accomplices, the Senators and Congressmen who vote to legalize weapons of mass murder. The time has come.

If the United States were a civilized, rational nation this horror could never have happened. But we have become an errant, self-pitying, dysfunctional, and emotionally and fiscally bankrupt society run by a corporate-political clique that sells us nice visions of ourselves while they rob us blind and inject our minds with poison.

Over 13 years ago, after the Columbine School Massacre, I wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle that as a hunter and gun owner I recommended the following:

  • Private ownership of handguns and assault rifles be prohibited. Their sole purpose is to kill people.
  • Ownership of rifles and shotguns be registered, like automobiles, and limited to those who have passed a licensing program and mental and criminal background tests.
  • Advertisement of guns be prohibited in all media.
  • Gun-related political contributions be prohibited.
  • All media, particularly the Internet, be controlled for the level of violence. We spend billions to restrict trace chemicals in our children’s foods but scarcely a penny to govern what goes into their minds.

Obviously, none of this has happened. There have been 36 major massacres since then, each bloodbath aided and abetted by the National Rifle Association. Mass murder weapons are far easier to obtain now than they were then.

We are talking about murder here: cold, calculated murder. For even the NRA fanatics – even our pay-for-hire politicians – know that every law they pass to legalize mass murder weapons will result in many more deaths. This is premeditated murder. It’s time we jail them for it.

We have descended to the ninth circle of Hell, a place where so many crazy people have guns you fear you need to have guns yourself, because it’s obvious the society cannot protect us. The politicians will not protect us – they have no interest in our welfare, only in the corporate contributions they use to sell us nice visions of themselves so we keep them in office.

The police cannot protect us – they’re targets themselves. At Sandy Hook the police were earnestly reporting that they were going to do “a detailed investigation” – who cares about an investigation when your child is dead, and you know who did it and it keeps happening over and over again? And when for a long time everyone has known the cause?

Just like the insane murderer at Sandy Hook, the NRA and their fully-owned politicians have developed a pathological personality disorder, an emotional disconnect – they cannot understand the impact of their actions. They are immune to other people’s pain.

And the media is equally at fault – there’s lots of talk about emotional connections, how people are helping each other, lots of nice photos of teary mothers hugging rescued children. But what about the little girls with their heads blown away by high-powered bullets? Where are those pictures, so we can see what it’s really like? Where are the pictures of the little boys with their intestines spread across the classroom? So we can fully understand the horror?

Because until we fully understand the horror we can never change the evil in ourselves, in our nation, in our way of looking at ourselves, in our way of being governed.

The simple truth is that we are owned, and our politicians work for, Colt Arms, Ruger, Remington and all the other murder industries and their lobbyists. We are owned by the National Rifle Association.

It’s time to take our nation back. To do so, the first step is to jail the criminals. All of them.