Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
11/30/2010 12:04:25 PM
If hunting is largely about the thrill of the chase, “canned hunts” don’t offer much opportunity for thrill: In these increasingly popular pay-to-shoot events, hunters kill tame or semi-tame animals that have been put in enclosures. Audubon columnist Ted Williams describes the phenomenon in “Real Hunters Don’t Shoot Pets” in the magazine’s November-December issue:
Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the [game farm] proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage.
Canned hunts are hardly new. Williams first wrote about them for Audubon in 1992, but he notes that they have grown more popular, and their critics increasingly include not just animal-rights advocates but also ethical hunters who consider fair chase essential to the sport and its reputation.
Because the general public has scant understanding of canned hunting, it frequently doesn’t differentiate it from real hunting. “If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state.
Other states have banned them, namely Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. In 2009, Vermont and Tennessee banned new canned mammal hunts but allowed existing ones to keep operating. In November, North Dakotans voted down a proposed law to ban canned mammal hunts.
Of course, bans without firm enforcement and prosecution don’t mean much, as one Minnesota incident demonstrates. Troy Gentry of the country duo Montgomery Gentry shot a docile captive bear named Cubby at the Minnesota Wildlife Connection game farm in 2004, and as the online activist platform Change.org reports:
Gentry was charged with a felony but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of falsely registering the tag from the hunt. He was fined $15,000 and not allowed to hunt in Minnesota for five years. The taxidermied body of Cubby and the bow used to kill Cubby were taken from Gentry.
This isn’t the first time Minnesota Wildlife Connection’s owner Lee Greenly has been in trouble with the law. He has several previous felony charges for wildlife-related crimes under his belt, but avoided convictions. For his role in Cubby’s death, Greenly pleaded guilty to two felony charges—yet somehow walked away with only probation.
To see what canned hunting looks like, check out the following two-part video of Gentry’s bear kill. It was posted on YouTube last month after being obtained by the animal-rights group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness in a three-year lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The narrator’s snide tone is understandable but unnecessary, since the images pretty clearly speak for themselves:
11/22/2010 12:27:19 PM
A run-in with Roundup herbicide was a transformative episode in farmer Eric Herm’s shift toward sustainable agriculture. A fourth-generation farmer, Herm tells the tale in the book Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth: A Path to Agriculture’s Higher Consciousness (Dream River Press):
In May of 2009, my neighbor had his Roundup Ready cotton sprayed by Helena Chemical Company less than 40 yards from my home garden. The Roundup herbicide drifted and wiped out over 800 garlic bulbs, and all of my tomato, pepper, potato, bean, and corn plants. Within 48 hours every single plant in my garden curled up into a fetal position. Leaves curled upward, cupped around the edges, and plants showed visible signs of suffering. For three or four days I couldn’t figure out what had happened until I discovered my neighbor had sprayed Roundup a few days previous. I flew into a rage yet maintained my cool talking to Helena company officials. They were very courteous yet proceeded to blame a plane spraying half a mile away to the southwest.
Herm had tissue from his dead crops tested, and the results came back positive for glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup. Still, the local Helena Chemical Company store manager insisted that his product wasn’t to blame.
That’s how these chemical companies work. Did I receive the $4,000 in damages? Take a wild guess. They put their lawyer against yours, and these chemical companies have a lot more money to spend on attorney fees than an individual farmer. Thanks to my neighbor and Helena Chemical Company, I lost an entire season of garlic, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beans, and corn as months of hard work spiraled down the drain.
Tomato, people, onion, garlic, and potato plants are extremely sensitive to Roundup. One whiff and their leaves curl upward and they are unable to produce healthy, normal-sized fruit. Very frustrating when you begin an entire garden from seed. Money cannot replace healthy food. … As long as we continue to think Roundup Ready crops are the only answer, agriculture is doomed.
Herm’s writing has a folksy, ticked-off tone, kind of a Jim Hightower with a stronger streak of rural individualism, a distrust of big government, and a dash of new age spirituality. But his overall message is positive and forward thinking: Our industrial, chemical-intensive farming practices are destroying the land and harming our health and security, and we must change them:
“It is up to you and me—us. We the people,” he writes. “If not us, if not now … well, then we are all really in trouble.”
Source: Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth
11/19/2010 12:10:01 PM
At least one brave Republican in Congress concedes that global warming is real and should be aggressively addressed, unlike many of his colleagues. There’s a problem, though: He’s just been voted out of office, replaced by a Tea Party-backed challenger.
Raw Story reports that District of Columbia Rep. Rep. Bob Inglis, a ranking member of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, gave climate change deniers a bit of a tongue-lashing during a committee hearing.
Noting pointedly that the CSPAN-broadcast hearing was “on the record” for future generations, Inglis made a primarily economic argument: The Chinese by and large accept the consensus of climate scientists,
“And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that’ll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.”
Think Progress recently reported that 50 percent of incoming House Republicans deny the existence of human-caused climate change, and 86 percent oppose climate change legislation. So Inglis’ call for science-based rationalism, even in its capitalist-friendly presentation, faces an uphill battle at best.
See the video here:
UPDATE 11/22/10: Former New York congressman Sherwood Boehlert also spoke out forcefully on Republican climate-change denial in a Washington Post commentary, calling on Republicans “to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party's line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities.”
Source: Raw Story, Think Progress, Washington Post
11/16/2010 12:27:44 PM
Under the Democratic-led Congress, action against climate change went essentially nowhere. Under the coming Republican-led Congress, it appears to be headed backward.
Republican Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who according to the New York Times Green blog stands a dark-horse chance of chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has gone so far as to suggest that climate change won’t destroy the planet because God promised Noah it wouldn’t. His 2009 comments, recounted here by London’s Daily Mail, sent a shockwave of amazement through the progressive and environmental blogospheres:
Speaking before a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March, 2009, Shimkus quoted Chapter 8, Verse 22 of the Book of Genesis.
He said: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”
The Illinois Republican continued: “I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it is going to be for his creation.
“The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”
Speaking to Politico after his comments went viral, Shimkus stood behind them, clarifying that while he believes climate change is occurring, he thinks it’s folly to spend taxpayer dollars trying to stop “changes that have been occurring forever.”
See Shimkus’ 2009 remarks on the Bible and climate change in this video:
UPDATE 11/19/2010: At least one brave Republican in Congress concedes that global warming is real and should be aggressively addressed. There’s a problem, though: He’s just been voted out of office.
Sources: New York Times Green, Daily Mail, Politico
11/12/2010 11:27:48 AM
The recent U.S. election was discouraging in general for green transportation advocates, but one loss I felt particularly keenly was the unseating of Minnesota Democratic congressman James Oberstar by a slim margin. For as Carolyn Szczepanski writes on her blog People Powered Transportation at Mother Earth News:
If you don’t live in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District or follow federal transportation policy, you probably don’t even know the name James Oberstar. He was elected to Congress in 1974, and, since his very first term, served on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
For bike-ped advocates, those committee members are critical and, for three decades, Oberstar pushed to get bicyclists and pedestrians recognized and treated as “intended users” of our public roads. In the last wave election in 2006, when Democrats took control of the House, Oberstar was elected chairman of the Transportation Committee. A few months after he claimed leadership, he told a crowd at the National Bike Summit: “We’re going to convert America from the hydrocarbon economy to the carbohydrate economy.”
Oberstar was vested in many transit issues, as Minnesota Public Radio reports, but it was clear that biking was close to his heart, and he was responsible for directing funding to many bike trails in the nation and the state. He was in some ways a classic pork-barrel politician, but he served up an awful lot of tasty pork to bicyclists. I’ve ridden many miles on Oberstar-funded trails, including the Lakewalk along Duluth’s Lake Superior waterfront—and so, I imagine, have many of the people who voted red over blue this time around.
Washington, D.C.’s Streetsblog reports that now that Oberstar is out of the picture, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, a “coal-n-highways Dem,” may be angling for the top Democratic seat on the Transportation Committee. (The silver lining: This would take Rahall and his pro-coal agenda off the Natural Resources Committee.)
Oberstar is a savvy guy. He probably knows that he didn’t get voted out because people suddenly hate bike trails, but because the soft, doughy, pliable middle of the electorate simply swung in the other direction this time. Maybe they need to get out and bike a bit more.
Sources: Mother Earth News, Minnesota Public Radio News, Streetsblog Capitol Hill
Image of Rep. James Oberstar by John Schadl, courtesy of the photographer.
11/9/2010 5:34:30 PM
Mongolia is famed for its vast, open spaces, but calling it “empty” would be a misnomer. Not only does the country host a rich and largely pristine environment, but beneath the steppes and desert lie mineral riches worth an estimated $1.3 trillion, reports Eurasianet.org. A host of global mining companies want a piece of this resource prize, writes Ulaanbataar-based correspondent Pearly Jacob:
A landlocked nation of steppes and desert, Mongolia is now known mostly as a country of nomadic herders. But vast and sudden changes could be in the works for the country’s roughly 3 million inhabitants. … Some call it the “Saudi Arabia of Central Asia.” Analysts at Eurasia Capital have predicted the country’s GDP could swell from $5 billion to $30 billion by 2020, based on its mineral resources alone. The pressure on Mongolia—or “Minegolia,” as some investors call it—to develop is intense.
The country has a nascent environmental movement that is bent on protecting it from harm, and tensions are already surfacing. Jacob reports that in early September, four rifle-bearing activists fired on gold-mining equipment owned by foreign firms.
The shooters, members of the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, caused only minimal property damage, just a few dents in a bulldozer tread and a busted radiator. But they sent a powerful message: Puraam, a Chinese firm, and Centerra Gold, a Canadian-operated company, aren’t welcome in the area, one of Mongolia’s few forested regions.
While no one was hurt in the incident, Eurasianet points out that some conflicts are more serious, and one confrontation this year even turned fatal.
One of the accused mining-site shooters, Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, is a former herder turned conservationist and the recipient of a 2007 Goldman Environmental Prize. He could face up to five years in prison but defends his taking up arms, saying the mining companies’ actions threaten to pollute a rich forest and the headwaters of two important rivers.
He tells Jacob: “Exploiting everything is not development.”
, licensed under
11/5/2010 5:58:14 PM
A new high-rise planned for Dornbin, Austria, is notable for its principle construction material: wood. The 30-story tower will be the tallest wood building in the world, reports Treehugger, and its maker, CREE (Creative Renewable Energy and Efficiency), is mounting a charge to restore wood as a renewable material for large urban projects.
The tower’s skeleton, to be certain, comprises not entirely wood but rather a prefabricated, hybrid post-and-beam construction in which each level is made of a timber-concrete composite slab and columns are made from “glulam” laminated wood.
As a structural material for tall buildings, wood was long ago scrapped as old-school in favor of concrete and steel. But some qualities make it shine brightly in sustainable architecture and sustainable building. Treehugger quotes from CREE’s celebration of wood:
To use wood as the main component for high-rise buildings may at first sight appear to be unusual. However, the advantages are obvious, for no other building material is produced with a similar regard for energy saving. Wood is a naturally renewable raw material, has high strength and low weight, and guarantees optimum heat insulation, durability, noise and vibration damping characteristics. As one of the earth’s oldest building materials, wood meets the latest safety requirements even today, and is also 100 percent recyclable. In urban architecture, wood is therefore an outstanding alternative for the future.
Image courtesy of CREE.
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