Got Milk? Got Ethics? Animal Rights v. U.S. Dairy Industry

Jan. 26, 2010

Undercover videos produced by animal rights groups are fueling a debate over the need for new laws to regulate the treatment of American dairy cows.

Graphic footage suggests milk cows may be victims of some cruel practices.

The graphic videos include one made inside a huge New York dairy operation where cows never go outside, have the ends of their tails cut off in painful procedures without anesthesia, and are seen being abused by one employee who hits a cow over the head with a wrench when it refuses to move.

An investigator for the group Mercy for Animals worked at the New York dairy farm, Willet Dairy, one of the largest in the state, for two months as a mechanic. Willet supplies to Leprino Foods, based in Denver, which produces mozzarella cheese and other cheese products that are used at chains including Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s.

“These animals are really treated as little more than milk-producing machines,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals. “The overall environment at this facility was really a culture of cruelty and neglect.”

Portions of the video were played in reports aired on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and later on Nightline.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Founder Steve Ells Turns Happy Pigs into Happy Fare

When recycling gets in the way

I was catching up on my TiVo last night when I had to have a laugh at a certain “Desparate Housewife” who violently threatened a non-recycling neighbor. You see, the night before, I was having a lovely vegetarian dinner with some of my own neighbors (we’re all married with careers, but perhaps we are  a little desperate) when I learned that they had stopped recycling. Call it a form of marital protest.

In the months prior (yes, they just began recycling last year), she had rinsed and sorted the garbage, but it was his job to remove the recyclables from the kitchen and place them in their proper bins on the side of the house. When he stopped living up to his end of the bargain, she stopped sorting.

“Am I supposed to do everything?” she cried, tossing a wine bottle in the (gasp!) garbage.

Of course she’s the same friend who read “Skinny Bitch” once and was off the meat before you could say vegetarian twice. If she watched “Earthlings,” she’d likely have a meltdown. But she and the non-garbage-toting husband did see “Food Inc.” and vowed to one day live the organic farm life.

Sadly, recycling is such a basic necessity that there’s no clever book or horrific documentary to scare us into action. Maybe I’ll go back and kick over her cans, a la Wisteria Lane?

Nah. I had a lot of fun emptying that bottle of wine.

Eckhart Tolle TV

Eckhart Tolle, the New York Times bestselling author of “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now,” has created a unique and revolutionary online community intended to help usher in a new state of consciousness. presents a monthly subscription service with the following benefits:

•     Unlimited access to a private seminar series, with each issue featuring a new and exclusive 60 to 90-minute streaming video with Eckhart Tolle

•     Live guided meditations led by Eckhart once a month, connecting individuals in presence in more than 90 countries

•     Unlimited access to an online community to interact with members worldwide

•     The ability to submit personal questions to Eckhart—and become eligible for a seat in the audience during our recording sessions

•     Exclusive content from Kim Eng

If you are interested in participating in EckhartTolleTV you can:

Follow this link to see Eckhart talk about his inspiration for and the “evolutionary impulse” behind EckhartTolleTV.

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Climate Crossroads: Q&A with EDF Scientists

This is a make or break moment in our fight against global warming. We must act now to reduce our carbon emissions or we will commit the earth to devastating climate change.

The Environmental Defense Fund interviewed three EDF scientists on the crisis and how important it is that we act now.

EDF: What is the best estimate today of what we’re committed to regarding global warming over the next two or three decades? Is it too late to change anything?

Steve Hamburg: We’re really working hard to limit the impacts of global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. The most important question is when do we actually stop the increase in emissions and start decreasing it? At what point and at what level and then at what rate can we decrease it? That becomes a really critical point.

James Wang: We could in theory remove carbon dioxide from the air and thereby start cooling the climate. Given technical and political realities…a lot of groups are shooting for limiting warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is a level that many scientists consider to be a threshold, above which we’re going to have really serious irreversible impacts, like the meltdown of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which would raise sea level by over 20 feet.

EDF: At two degrees what kind of visible impacts can people expect?

Dr. Lisa Moore earned her Ph.D. from Stanford and specializes in the effects of global change on ecosystems and biogeochemistry.

Lisa Moore: At two degrees, as James mentioned, there is certainly big concern that the Greenland Ice sheet will be committed to full disintegration over the next several centuries. The tipping points might come earlier or maybe we will be lucky and they will come later. The Greenland Ice Sheet certainly gets a lot of attention. Some of the tipping points that scientists are talking about involve total disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, really widespread extinctions of earth’s plants and animals and dramatic changes in whole ecosystems. Various species have temperature ranges that they can tolerate. If they cannot move to new places because either there are no places available to them or they can’t get there fast enough as the temperatures and other conditions change and if they can’t tolerate those new temperatures they will die off. There are some species that are more vulnerable than others, but biologists are seriously discussing really scary numbers, including one-third of species going extinct.

SH: One of the things that we have to think about, which is fundamentally different than what has happened historically with the record of climate change over the past millions of years, is that now the surface of the earth has large numbers of human-caused alterations—roads, agriculture, forestry, housing—those are all impediments and alterations to the way species can migrate. It is important to remember that species migrate through their offspring and their seeds. The individuals are seldom the ones that are migrating, or they go a little distance and their offspring go a little further. Our best guess for what the rates are don’t include humans, so in some cases humans are helping because things attach to cars and attach to boats and so they spread faster. In other cases their dispersal is negatively impacted, for example by an interstate they are not going to get across.

LM: Remember that all species depend on others, so when one is impacted another will feel those effects. Think about when plants bloom; when leaves fall; when birds migrate. As that timing changes, species respond differently and they can get out of sync with each other. Interactions among species are going to ripple out to affect whole ecosystems. Again, there are really big uncertainties around the details, but very, very good reasons to expect very large changes. Another big concern is ocean acidification. CO2 doesn’t just cause warming, it also dissolves into the ocean where it forms carbonic acid and the oceans are acidifying at a rate that marine organisms haven’t seen in their evolutionary history. It is extraordinarily rapid and there are reasons to believe it could have really bad effects on coral reefs, other shell-forming organisms and all of the food chains that they support.

SH: Even if we accomplish what many now believe is going to be a big challenge maintaining, keeping climate change to within two degrees Celsius, one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world will be coral reefs.

EDF: What kinds of changes might people in the United States have seen in their own back yards if they’ve been paying attention?

Dr. Steven Hamburg earned his Ph.D. from Yale and specializes in ecosystem ecology.

SH: We’re actually developing two museum exhibits on this issue: one for New England and one for North Carolina. In New England we are using three iconic issues: One is maple syrup production—maple syrup producers’ seasons start earlier and they have to use more technology to maintain their production. These farmers will no longer be able to produce syrup commercially because the winter won’t be sufficient to support it—they need the snow, cold temperatures during nights and warm temperatures during the day. The nights are not getting cold enough to produce the sap runs needed for maple syrup production.

Second, you’re going to see more invasions in central New England of red oaks, which are present in southern New England. Everyone enjoys the fall foliage—particularly magnificent with the inclusion of bright oranges for sugar maple and the reds for red maple. The oaks have much more brown and those will diminish the quality of that experience. I have personally seen the invasion of oaks up the side of a mountain over the course of my research career. The oaks are present in places they weren’t 25 years ago and it is directly attributable to climate change.

Third, lobster fisheries are moving north as a result of temperature changes; places that supported a vibrant lobster industry in Long Island Sound 50 years ago are now seeing very limited takes and will soon be completely gone. North Carolina has similar issues within the crab fisheries. The Balsam Fir Christmas tree trade is also being threatened; the trees just can’t thrive and grow in an area in the western part of the State.

LM: Some other examples include the snow pack in the west, which has been decreasing for at least the last five decades; it is starting to melt earlier and earlier. The evidence for that is very clear. The Audubon Society recently put out a report about how bird patterns are changing in North America. Gardeners are also feeling the effects. In fact, in 2006, the Arbor Day Foundation actually re-drew the hardiness zones for the United States because of documented climate changes.

JW: Also, there’s been a trend of larger and more destructive wildfires in the West and there have been studies showing that not only has the area of wildfires increased over time in recent decades, but also these fires are moving up higher in altitude to areas that had previously experienced little fire, so this shows that it’s not just a consequence of our forest management practices, namely suppression of fires in the past, but it’s also influenced by climate change. In the year 2000, the west experienced its worst wildfire season in 50 years and in more recent years we’ve seen record destruction from wildfires in California.

EDF: What is your answer to individuals out there who ask, “What can I do?”

LM: People should educate themselves about the issues. They should tell their elected representative that this is an important issue for them, vote accordingly, take whatever steps they’re able to take and make lifestyle changes that are better for the environment, whether that’s being better about turning off the lights when you leave the room, or replacing your light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, or turning down your thermostat. And all the little things that people probably have heard over the years, those things really do add up if you adopt those changes. From a large-scale perspective, putting pressure on governments and corporations to make large-scale changes is really important.

JW: A personal favorite solution of mine is for people to purchase renewable electricity—it is in fact available in most states in the U.S. now, so the argument that we don’t have that option is not valid. Here in New York State, for example, I purchase 100% wind power for my apartment, and I think more people ought to do that. It doesn’t necessarily cost that much more than conventional fossil fuel-powered electricity. And the greater the demand for renewable energy, the more renewable resources will be developed to meet demand. This is basic economics. Of course, a national cap on emissions would give a tremendous boost to demand for renewable energy.

EDF: How do you engage children in the issue of climate change? Are many young people familiar with climate change science?

JW: Lisa and I have made presentations in front of school children before, talking to them about what global warming is and what they can do about it.

LM: I’ve spoken in schools, I’ve gone to community science events, I’ve given information to teachers to pass on to students. My experience is that the students have heard about it, they’re concerned about it and they’re open and engaged, which gives me hope. Now if we can just get them to vote when they’re of age, that would be great! But yes, the young people that I’ve talked to about this issue are familiar with it. They may have some misconceptions, they may not know all of the facts, but they know it’s a problem, they know that humans are the cause and they know that there are things that we can do about it. So, that’s definitely a cause for some optimism.

EDF: Is there one thing that you wish every American could know about Global Warming?

Dr. James Wang earned his Ph.D. from Harvard working on earth and planetary sciences.

JW: I’d say that a few degrees of warming might not seem like a lot, but people should realize that the difference in global temperature between the last major Ice Age, when the ice sheet in North America went all the way down to New York City, and the present time is only about five degrees Celsius or nine degrees Fahrenheit. And we’re expecting that if we don’t do anything about global warming, the Earth is going to warm by about that much over the next century. So the world will be completely different. This is a very, very serious problem. I’d like to add that on the flip side it’s something that we can solve; we can do something about global warming, so we really need to be concerned and working on this.

EDF: How do you get up and do what you do, knowing what you know? There is so much information on climate change that is disturbing and upsetting. How do you do it every day?

SH: I think you’ll find that most of the people who work on climate change impacts are inherently optimistic individuals. We realize that both human systems and natural systems are resilient, so we have faith that humans, once they really understand these impacts, will make the changes that they need to make; and we recognize that while we may suffer a lot of losses in the natural world, that we’ll also get some positive surprises and hopefully that human society will respond quickly enough so that those losses are not overwhelming. It can be bleak if you think about it rationally and what it’ll be like for my grandchildren. You have to be an optimist; you have to have faith that humanity will recognize the threat that’s before them and they’ll respond.

JW: I guess what motivates me is that I know that many other people are working on the issues—environmental problems in general and climate change in particular—and so it’s definitely a team effort and eventually we’ll get it solved. This has happened for various other issues in the past, like civil rights or like various other problems. I think there’s definitely hope for the environment.

Jan. 23: Yoga Day

On Jan. 23, join your fellow yogis for the 4th annual Yoga Day USA in downtown West Palm Beach at the Meyer Amphitheatre.

Bring your family, friends, dogs, and anyone interested in a fun-filled day of free yoga! Bindu Yoga Stuidio will be situated in a tent directly across from the main stage, so please stop by for a chat with our teachers and register to win a free yoga stuff from Bindu!

Join our lovely and amazing yogini Emily Large on the main stage for a free class that will support all levels and abilities!

11:20am Main Stage:  Yoga for Stiff People with Emily Large PT, CYT, ERYT500

One misconception common to yoga is that it is only for women or those who are flexible. Come experience a simple, challenging, accessible practice that is appropriate for those new to yoga, those who sit in chairs for work, or those who lack flexibility secondary to sports specific training such as running or cycling. Ladies bring your men. Men, bring your buddies. (all levels, all genders, asana)

For further details click here

Call for entries: Garden Design magazine’s Green Awards

Brought to you exclusively by the editors of Garden Design magazine, the Green Awards program reveals the exciting moment when great design meets ecological responsibility. Smart water and energy use, repurposing, recyclables, natives and organics, and other earth-friendly innovations will be recognized. Designers are invited to submit their projects in the following categories: Residential Gardens, Public Spaces, Corporate Landscapes, Edible Gardens and Outdoor Products: Furniture, Décor and Lighting.

Step 1: Enter Now For a Chance to Win: Online submissions will be accepted from January 15 – May 1, 2010

Visit the Garden Design web site to upload up to 10 photos per project (no “before” shots) that best illustrate the “green elements” and overall design as per the category selected. Entrants may enter as many projects as they wish, at a cost of $50 per project.  Each project is considered a single entry.  Entries must be made online (no checks) between January 15 and May 1, 2010.

Eligibility: Only designers and companies owning designs are eligible to enter this awards program.  Entries must highlight key “green” components and may not have previously appeared in a national publication.  Note: Residents of Arizona, New Jersey and Vermont are not eligible to enter.  See Rules.

If you encounter technical issues with your upload, please contact

Feb. 6: Movie Night at Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

Preserve green space and local history by supporting and enjoying one of West Palm Beach’s treasures: Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.

Movie Night at the  Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens will be held Saturday February 6. At 7:00 pm, join a screening of “The Last of the Mohicans,” starring Daniel Day Lewis.

ANSG and GOG Members Free
Visitors Donation Suggested
Please bring your own chair, blanket and drinks

All parking at Unity Church located on S. Flagler Drive, just north of the Gardens. Entry at rear Unity Gate; opens at 6:30 pm.

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
253 Barcelona Road, WPB, FL 33401

Why buy local? Just ask Trish Strawn of Deep Creek Ranch

“Eating Local provides a multitude of benefits including personal health, community health and environmental wellness. These benefits are passed onto the people consuming the food as well as the farmers providing the food.  Further, Eating Local also means eating seasonally, just as Mother Nature intended. By choosing to eat with the seasons, the products are abundant in taste, freshness and product options as well as being less expensive.

“Choosing to Eat Local supports our local economies. When you purchase products direct from local farmers, your dollars stay within your community and strengthen the local economy.  A dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy.[i] When businesses are both owned and supported locally, money stays in the community with every transaction. When you buy local, you give farms and pastures an economic reason to stay undeveloped. This keeps land development in balance while preserving open spaces.

“Locally grown produce such as meat and eggs are fresher, therefore containing a higher nutrient value. Often, the produce has been harvested within 24 hours of purchase, including the collection of eggs. Another advantage is yours when you can actually pick the product yourself. It is important to note that the producers usually harvest based on the demand for their product.

“Getting to know your producer will give you direct customer service as you will have a direct connection if you are in need of more products or options, or if you are not completely satisfied with your product. Generally speaking, this type of direct involvement is key to ultimate satisfaction. Having this type of connection is a win-win situation for all involved.

“Eating locally grown food is better for your health.  Small farms tend to be less aggressive than large factory farms about dousing their wares with chemicals.[ii]   Further, small farms are also more likely to  grow more variety, says CNAD, protecting biodiversity and preserving a wide agricultural gene pool, an important factor in long-term food security.

“Eating locally grown food helps fight against global warming.  The average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there.[iii]    Buying locally produced food eliminates the environmental issues associated with cargo and transportation.

“Locally grown food simply tastes better. Small local farmers usually do not have any chemicals added because their products do not have to be transported and stored for long periods of time.  John Ikerd, who writes about the growing “Eat Local” movement, states that farmers who sell direct to local consumers need not give priority to packing, shipping and shelf-life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste..[iv]”

[i]New Economics Foundation in London.
[ii]Center for a New American Dream (CNAD)
[iii]   Rich Pirog, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
.  John Ikerd, a retired agricultural economics professor

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