‘Civilized’ Human Migration

In the journal Science, the researchers (led by University of Texas at Dallas art historian Maximilian Schich) published a study that looked at the human cultural history of Europe and North America by mapping the birth and deaths of more than 150,000 notable figures—including everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci to Ernest Hemingway. That data was turned into an amazing animated infographic. Blue dots indicate a birth, red ones means death.

Rome’s stronghold on cultural production dissipates around the 12th century and spreads to other European cities like Paris and Berlin. As the mid 20th century rolls around, a boom in the number deaths in Paris, nodding to its iconic art and literature scene in the earlier part of the century. As the years roll by, human modern culture continues to crawl west to New York City and ultimately to Los Angeles, where many a movie star has been born and died.

The researchers used data from Freebase, which touts itself as a “community curated database of people, places and things.” This gives the data a strong western-bent. You’ll notice that many parts of Asia and the Middle East (not to mention pre-colonized North America), are almost wholly ignored in this video. But the abstract did acknowledge that the study was focused mainly on Europe and North America.

Still, mapping the geography of cultural migration does gives some insight about how the kind of valued, dominant culture has shifted over the centuries. It’s also a novel lens through which to view our more general history, as those migration trends likely illuminate bigger historical happenings like wars and the building of cross-country infrastructure. At the end of the video you see Florida blowing up in red. More proof that indeed, the sunshine state is viewed as a nice place to die.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret–a Review

…All by simply raising and eating livestock.

“My calculations are that without using any gas, or oil, or fuel ever again from this day forward, that we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse emissions (565 gigatons) by the year 2030, without the electricity or energy sector even factoring in to the equation. All by simply raising and eating livestock.“

-Dr Richard Oppelander, Environmental Researcher
Source: Cowspiracy

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COWSPIRACY: THE SUSTAINABILITY SECRET VIDEO HITS A HOME RUN

I recently had the pleasure of viewing new video of Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. The basic question these two film makers ask is why the contribution of livestock to ecosystem degradation is missing from the world’s environmental agenda. To find the answer they set out to interview environmental leaders as well as others to see if they could find the answer. The video is well researched and illustrated. But more than that, it is also entertaining. You will enjoy this video.

The first lesson they learned is that no one wants to fund a video about why livestock degradation is ignored. That was a lesson  itself about the cow conspiracy. The duo were not able to find any normal sources of funding, instead they had to rely upon contributions from strangers.  But they persevered and produced what I think is one of the best environmental documentaries done in recent years.  What they show and document in their video is the implicit or in many cases, the explicit omission of livestock production as a major source of global environmental degradation on many fronts including water pollution, deforestation, global warming, species extinction, ocean dead zones, and more.

So, for instance, the duo interview various well known authors and scientists like rancher Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy; Michael Pollen of Omnivore’s Dilemma; Will Tuttle, Environmental and Ethics author, Dr. Greg Lutis, and others who lay out the basic problem—no one wants to talk about the contribution of livestock to global environmental destruction.

This is illustrated over and over again throughout the video where spokespersons for various “green” groups are interviewed and either avoid livestock as a problem or deny/downplay its contribution to environmental woes.

For instance, Bruce Hamilton of the Sierra Club, is interviewed about global climate change. Hamilton correctly identifies fossil fuel burning as one factor contributing to global warming, but when asked about livestock’s contribution to green house gas emissions—Hamilton says “what about it?” At this point, the video discusses many recent scientific papers that point to livestock production as the single largest contributor to Green House Gas production—even exceeding all transportation sectors, yet the Sierra Club, like many other groups, simply does not identify it as a problem.

The duo has similar responses from other organizations. For instance, when interviewing Rainforest Action Network about the causes of rainforest destruction, land clearing for livestock grazing and forage production is barely acknowledged.

Their goal is not to embarrass these individuals or organizations, but rather to illustrate how the contribution of livestock to environmental degradation is too often ignored or omitted from official recognition by nearly everyone.

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Finney Farm began in 1989 by a group of six activists…

who knew each other through their work in groups like EarthFirst! and publications like Live Wild or Die. They sought to live closer to their ideals, and found a 65 homestead in the Upper Skagit.  Originally a blueberry and ginseng farm and later a Girl Scout camp, the land was overgrown and had been abandoned for some years.  The original group formed a non-profit land trust to maintain the ownership of the property, and purchased an adjacent 40 acres of raw land in the early 90s.

Most of the original members were drawn to different endeavors within the first few years, and all eventually moved on.   Two of our current members became acquainted with the farm in 1995, and had made it their home in the late 90s.  At that time, the farm was a few different looking place—many unfinished projects, overgrown orchards, a teeny garden plot, and blackberries everywhere!   For years the main goal was to recover ground/buildings and bring the landscape back to a manageable state.  After much work, some years, and the help of many residents and visitors who came and went…the land was much improved and we felt that we could finally devote some energy to starting new projects and endeavors which have included a half acre forest garden, expansive gardens including nearly 2 acres in annual food production and 2 acres in perennials/orchards, two large commercial greenhouses, riparian planting, cabins (timber frame, recycled materials), barn addition, and much more-using a plan that we have devised with permaculture and community ideals.As anarchists, we favor  a social system based on voluntary cooperation and have chosen to use consensus as our decision making process.  We have a cohesive set of bylaws and policies which reflect the needs of the community.  We also have a comprehensive plan of action including social and educational outreach programs, physical infrastructure, and more…

http://www.finneyfarm.org/home.html

On Speciesism and Token Gestures

The bottom line is that for any animal advocacy to bring about meaningful long term change for the billions killed each and every year for human pleasure, it needs to address speciesism. Convincing someone to give up beef for climate change, fishes to save the oceans or meat on one day a week for personal health? It merely persuades people to make token gestures for themselves — often just temporarily — rather than to initiate meaningful permanent change for other animals. People are left feeling better about choosing the other animal products they’ll invariably choose to replace the ones they may omit or use less often. They become convinced that those other options are better or more ethical choices. They’re left feeling good that they’ve done “enough” – and hey, if animal advocates are patting them on the back for it, then surely they’re doing enough, right?

Some animal advocates argue that “something is better than nothing”, assuming that getting non-vegans to shuffle animal products around is actually “something” in the first place. How is it “something” if instead of having a burger for lunch on Meatless Monday, someone instead has an omelette? How is it “something” if someone decides to stop consuming beef, but instead chooses to eat chickens or fishes? And why this false dichotomy, as if the only two options available in animal advocacy result in varying degrees of the continued deliberate exploitation of others? Is it not incredibly arrogant for us to think that although a message got through to us and we went vegan that the same could not possibly occur with others?

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