Friday, March 20, 2015

BC Media Weekly Wrap Up....





I've been monitoring Butte County Print Media for about a month now. Every Friday, I write a Weekly Wrap Up---to sort of summarize the week's activity. This is this week's edition:

Weekly Wrap Up: 3/20/2015

The Sunday edition of the ER looked more like the left-wing Nation Magazine judging by the letter-to-the-editor content. Two letter writers used heavy rhetoric to call the actions by 47 Republican Senators treasonous when they decided to write the Clerics in Iran, telling them to ignore the sitting President. Obama said that there is no precedent for such an action. The Chico ER's editorial board was mute on the topic; the CNR had addressed the topic... the week before.
 
A couple brave Right Wing letter writers jumped to the Republican Senators' defense. Both letters were entertaining, especially local Tea Party gadfly (and probable candidate for something someday) Loretta Torres who pretty much said Iran is trying to usher in some utopic golden age by building Nukes, which will result in the birth of the 12th Eman and the destruction of the US and Israel (or something like that, you have to read the letter to believe it).

Never mind the fact there are Christians who still think Hal Lindsey's interpretation of Middle Eastern politics is dictated in the Bible, culminating in the battle of Armageddon with Jesus finally coming back to build a new Jerusalem after Russia and China invade.

The other major issue was water. Both the CNR and the Chico ER had some very timid editorials, praising the area for meeting water use reductions and encouraging all of us to do more. Neither paper challenged the notion that agriculture is the single biggest water hog and that, perhaps, we should rethink the type of agriculture we pursue.

And much to my amazement, I found myself agreeing with the Crank of Durham, Gary Cooper, who generally writes a letter-to-the-editor every week. This week Cooper managed to bring up the unethical practice of farmers selling their surface water rights at a handsome profit and then using pumps to irrigate their crops from the Tuscan Aquifer. Just today I saw two drilling rigs in orchards that were putting in new wells (both in Tehama County). Farmers are getting ready to save their orchards. You can't blame them for that, but, perhaps it is time to consider that drought is the new norm and that we should be making the transition to growing row crops and not commit to orchards that need the same amount of water every year . No amount of consumer water conservation will make a dent in the impending lack of water without a change in agricultural practices.

Then there is the matter of salmon. They deserve their share of water too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Smart Phone Luddite




Well, I finally decided to act like it is 2005 and bought myself a Smart Phone. Joni went and picked one up one for both of us. Two mini droids (sounds like Star Wars). We now spend more money on our electronics: cell phones, Internet, satellite TV----we spend more money on those three things than we do on our house payment.

I remain mostly a technological Luddite until someone actually shows me the usefulness of a device or the sheer fun of something that connects all of us together. I was anti-personal computer until a visit to my brother's back in 1995, where I ignored him and his whole family in order to chat with some stranger in a chat room on his computer. Amazed by this technology, I drove home to Reno from Minnesota in about 26 hours in order to go buy a computer. I've been hooked ever since.

But up until that day when Doug showed me how it works, I was anti-computer. My brother, who is much more modern than I ever hope to be, argued that computers were "extensions of our brains" and that we become inherently smarter with the things. I guess that's one of the major differences between my brother and me: He was a Gary Hart fan; I liked Mondale. He is modern; I am not. But as for computers enhancing our lives and making us smarter? Yeah, right. Maybe. But porn and computer games are probably the two biggest uses of the PC. And now nobody even e-mails anymore (let alone write an actual letter---can you remember the last time you received one?).

So now I have a Smart Phone. And a Blue Tooth (can anybody tell me why we call those little ear plugs a tooth?). I still can't figure out how the sound is actually picked up by the Blue Tooth. I still can't answer a call with the thing.

As for the phone? It took me a day to figure out how to answer it. Press and swipe. Sort of like Harry Potter's wand, "Swish and flick". Kylie showed me some basics as to how to use the phone. Like how to turn it on. Basic stuff.

I downloaded two things when I got the phone. The first thing was a Facebook app. Now the thing vibrates anytime a friend does an update on Facebook. The second thing I downloaded was Walden by H.D. Thoreau.

What would Henry think? Henry didn't even like trains. Nor newspapers.

And so now I do something I swore I would never do (besides vote Republican) and that is: I sent a text message. It makes me feel a little like I moved to the suburbs and bought a BMW. Now to learn that awful corruption of English that the text message has taught us. It used to be called, shorthand. Now it is just text language and goes something like this. LOL U SCK. BRB. CYa.

What would Shakespeare say? Or Thoreau? Or Ed Abbey?

Essentially, I need the Smart Phone for work. And to be an alarm clock. The jury is out as to how much I actually enjoy the thing. So far I'm not so enamored with it that I'd drive across the continent in order to purchase one.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Thoughts on Turning 54....



I turned 54 yesterday. I realize that has no significance to anyone other than me. So be it. But as I take another step closer to the grave, bucket lists and resolutions come to mind. As we age we start to accept the fact that we probably aren't going to ride a bike across the US. And a Thru Hike of the Pacific Crest Trail probably is not going to happen.

But goals are important. So are resolutions. Resolutions are more likely to be kept if decided on a birthday than on January 1. An individual birthday is more important than the mass Times Square, seldom sober, New Year's Day hangover resolution.

And so I resolve a couple of things for the next year:

1. I will step on the scale everyday. People who step on the scale daily weigh less than people who don't. As this is written one day after my birthday, I am in total compliance with this.

2. I shall take at least a thirty minute walk everyday. I have a new job that is very, very demanding time-wise. I spend too much time in the car driving only to sit and talk to a client and then repeating the process until my butt is sore and my voice is hoarse. I need to take the time to walk.

3. I shall limit my screen time. I spend much of my life charting Nurse stuff for my job on a fancy electronic tablet. That thing is always with me. In my leisure time, writing and reading articles on a screen are important to me too. In fact, I should be working on an article right now instead of plucking away at this computer. I spend too much time wasting my life away looking at Facebook and reading all the articles my very intelligent friends want me to read. I love this and love what I learn, however I need to limit this time.

4. I shall not look at my work E-mail from Friday evening until Monday morning. My workplace expects me to check E-mail on Sunday Night. I shall not comply with this rule. Work takes up too much of my life.

5. I shall take an electronic Sabbath of 24 hours in length every Saturday or Sunday with the exception of my phone because I am on-call 24/7 for work.

6. I shall have an outdoors event planned for every weekend.

7. I shall buy a canoe and go fishing.

8. I shall take a trip to the Pinnacles in order to try and catch a view of the California Condor.

9. I shall hike from Sierra City, California to Belden, California on the Pacific Crest Trail.

10. I shall go camping more with Joni and our delightful dogs.

11. I shall start to reduce my meat consumption and eat more veggies. We shall go more "Ornish" as we say in our household. It is good for me and good for the planet. A win/win. I feel convicted by my Enviro Vegan friends to make this adjustment.

12. I shall keep a log of both my walking times and my weight from stepping on the scale.

That about does it. Feel free to write me and ask about my progress.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Support Your Local Newspaper...



The other night I was at a meeting where a gentleman stated he had written a letter-to-the-editor but hadn't seen it in print as he doesn't believe in subscribing to the Chico ER because he doesn't agree with the views of the editorial board and David Little, the editor.
This is a constant complaint I hear all the time. The Paradise Post took up the issue in two columns last week.

Rick Silva, the editor of the Paradise Post, wrote about the heat he takes for printing the views of the very liberal Jaime O'Neill. Evidently he had people threaten to end their subscriptions to the paper because he prints O'Neill's delightful and fun-to-read columns. The opposite also happened when somebody canceled a subscription because of something that Rick Silva wrote. Jaime O'Neill wrote a companion piece about those who cancel subscriptions just because they disagree with a certain columnist.

I decided to subscribe to the Chico ER electronically this week (I live in the boonies and nobody delivers papers out here). I often buy a copy of the Paradise Post whenever I am in Paradise.

I don't agree 98% of the time with the editorial board, and the editors, of the Paradise Post and the Chico ER. I do, however, love print journalism and I think both communities (Chico and Paradise) are well served by having those papers published.
 
I also read the more liberalChico News and Review every week (and in full disclosure, I contribute to that paper). It is interesting to note that the Chico News and Review has the highest readership in Butte County.

To cancel a subscription just because an editor says something you don't like is silly. If you disagree, scribble down 250 words and send it in to the paper. Editors have a right to have an opinion. They also have a right to express them. They also have an obligation to print rebuttals from people who disagree with them.

And until it is proven otherwise, I do believe that the editors of the local papers do make an attempt to print views that do not agree with the newspaper's positions.

Newspapers are dying. They need our help. Working with them and participating with them is a much better form of dissent than to just simply take the very childish path of boycotting a newspaper and then creating a situation where we no longer have print journalism in our county.

For those who might be interested, I created a new Facebook page dedicated to the editorials, columnists and letters-to-the-editor of Butte County print journalism. I daily monitor the Chico ER, the Oroville MR, the Paradise Post, the Chico News and Review, and the Gridley Herald. I also keep an eye on the ChicoSol which is a local online publication. Find the page here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A New Project: Butte County Media Watch




I've started a new project. I've been asked by a local political guy to investigate the possibility of getting more left wing/liberal opinion into the local newspapers. As such, I have to figure out what the current state of affairs of opinion are amongst the local press.

I've always paid attention to the content of the local papers. I read most of them often (online). But I've never really tried to put it all into a consistent study. The four major papers in Butte County are: The Chico ER; the Oroville MR (which is owned by the ER and has almost identical content to the ER); the Paradise Post (owned by the company that owns the ER, but with vastly different content); and the liberal Chico News and Review (to which I am an occasional contributor). Of all the newspapers, the one with the largest circulation is the Chico News and Review.

I've been looking at the content of the opinion pages, mainly the Editorials, the Columnists and the Letters to the Editor.

I've been told by local Democratic Party activists that it is tough for liberals to get Letters to the Editor published in the right wing papers (the ER and the Paradise Post). I have a hard time fathoming whether this is true or not, after all, doesn't every editor want a lively opinion page to drive up readership?

In these non-tolerant times, people gets their panties all in a twist over reading opinions with which they disagree. Editor Rick Silva of the Paradise Post mentioned such a dilemma last week when he wrote a piece about various people who wanted to cancel their subscriptions for the views expressed on the Opinion page of that newspaper. Silva wrote:

"It seems to me that too many of us want our news to be presented in a way that exclusively reflects our own views. It seems odd to me that two opinion pieces that view the world from totally different perspectives would engender a similar response.

Even if you find one opinion objectionable, surely the presence of another with an opposing view, when presented in a fair and balanced manner, should offset your objection. The reality is that in spite of our own worldview, it is only through our ability or willingness to reach out and read views contrary to our own that we challenge ourselves to expand our understanding."

The interesting thing is that of all the newspapers around here, the Paradise Post has the fewest Letters to the Editor published. I don't know why.

As for the content of the Letters to the Editor? The Chico ER has the most lively content, with much of it swinging to the Rabid Right. As is common around here, you can find the Obama is a Communist/Muslim letters.

This letter, which I will print in full, was in the Chico ER just a couple days ago. The letter was titled: Obama's goals sound like the Communist Manifesto.

Here's the letter:

“From each according to capacity (original Marx), later changed to ability, to each according to need.”

After hearing Barack Obama’s State of the Union, I was reminded of the Communist Manifesto. Your readers might reflect on the countless millions killed to implement this failed economic agenda.

Upon hearing that Saul Alinsky was a community organizer in Chicago, I researched his book, “Rules for Radicals.” Hillary Clinton and Obama were students of Alinsky. The bottom line was the ends justify the means. The goal is political power. He remarks that such power rests not in political left and right, (Republican and Democrat), but is the independents and middle-class voters. Notice the emphasis of the “poor” middle class by Obama.

Alinsky says that leaders of organizing must frequently change the subject of interest in order to keep followers energized. Readers will no doubt note the daily shift in the White House emphasis.
Consider the State of the Union address and the current budget proposal by Obama and then reflect on the “fundamental transformation of America.” May the Almighty bless and deliver us from these Marxists and ISIS enablers and other Islamic jihadists.

— Hugh Rhodes, Magalia

Now why would David Little, the editor of the Chico ER, publish a letter like that? To show just how stupid some of their readership is? To throw a bone to the radical right? Did he publish it as a bit of local color? Did he publish it to show just how hickish this part of the state really is?

Who knows.

From a preliminary reading of the letters to the editor, it seems that the ratio of rabid right letters to more liberal minded letters is about five to one. Hopefully we can increase the left's presence a bit more over the coming years.

Why do this? Because it works more than I ever thought it would. Neighbors taking a stand on an issue has impact. You'd think that a liberal college town like Chico would have innumerous professors and academics writing letters, addressing questions of the day. That doesn't seem to be the case (although I haven't paid enough attention to firmly state that).

Measure A in Butte County, the ballot measure that severely limits the cultivation of cannabis in Butte County, was passed even though they were way outspent. Measure A people had no TV commercials. Measure A had just a few billboards and a few signs. They were outspent by the opposition by, at least, 2 to 1. But what they did do was write a constant barrage of letters to the editor which turned out to be very effective. By doing this, they managed to switch 30,000 votes and change 30 percent of the citizens of Butte County's minds. Two years previously, the pro-cannabis crowd won a relaxed measure by 10 points; two yeas later they lost by 20 points. Quite an achievement to which a letter writing campaign certainly helped.

Liberals and Lefty's should take note of that achievement and mimic it. If you are interested, I started a new Facebook page to monitor the local press. Please join it here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Defense of Vegetarianism by Jennifer Molidor





A response to my last piece by Jennifer Molidor. Jennifer is a staff writer for a major environmental organization. She also has a Phd in English---and the writer of a popular blog that is shared on the Coyote Network with another amazing writer, Chris Clarke.  I was so impressed with her response, I felt that it just had to see the light of day.


Thank you for this thoughtful response, post-lamb dinner :)

Good for Kylie--she sounds like a great kid. Kids can teach us quite a bit sometimes, and sometimes have nobler, purer motivations (and the other times, not so much). I had an experience like hers but stuck with it going on 18 years now.

I'm not sure it is piety, this choice. Piety I associate with the social valuation of female sacrifice (in sexual restraint, good housekeeping, etc) combined with the denigration of female desires and subjectivity, for example. Rather, I see it as an ethical choice one makes, if one makes it for the reasons I do, more akin to a feeling of kinship with all life around you, compassion. Is that the same reason people don't use plastic bags or ride their bikes to work? I suspect it is different. I suspect green recycling and restraint is more akin to vegetarianism, localvore-ism, "humane" meat (what a myth that is), choices that impact one's *idea* of "the planet" and their carbon footprint, ie against industrial agriculture and its pollutants, not a recognition of the sentience of other beings and a moral choice to protect them. My concern is much more for the latter--concern with causing suffering. Concern with utterly devastating the planet through air, water, and soil pollution just happens to coincide with it, as does concern for the toxins one ingests in one's body by consuming animals, particularly from factory farms.

We did legislate the proper size of chicken cages and ban foie gras. But the foie gras ban was relentlessly mocked and broken by chefs and restaurants and the law was recently overturned. And 99% of chickens still come from inhumanely, unimaginably small dark cages the size of a sheet of binder paper. Would I feel better if these chickens could run about freely in the sun? It's a start. But I still wouldn't eat them--because as you say boy chicks are ground up alive, and chickens cycles are artificially reset over and over again, producing hundreds more eggs than they would naturally, until they are spent and then butchered. Those eaten must be first bathed in what is essentially bleach before consumption, their bodies so pumped with toxins. And if they were raised on the same scale, even if more humanely, they would still be massively polluting the environment with waste.

We are omnivores. It is our evolution. It is what is natural. This of course is the common response given by thoughtful, sensitive, thinking creatures who delve into the issue upon considering that humans are, by eating other animals, destroying themselves, the animals, and environment.


As for barbecues--yesterday I threw a hugely fun, mostly vegan barbecue for family and friends. No big deal was made, but I easily, through practice, presented delicious, cruelty-free alternatives. My stepmother brought pork ribs and some people had them and some people didn't. We had a feast, besides those ribs, almost all of it was plant-based, high-protein, inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and mostly local. We got the good smell of campfire, briskets and barbecue in the air, and fun was had by all. Nobody was left wanting for food.

Michael Pollan of course writes of the Omnivore's Dilemma but he gets several parts wrong. But certainly it is possible, as an omnivore, to consciously reduce one's consumption of animal products to a much more agreeable level--we overconsume now in a way we think is normal but is nowhere near it, in terms of what our bodies need--and we can have more of a conversation as environmentalists about the impact of animal agriculture on the planet we claim, and believe, we care so much about. And we can come more face to face with the bloodshed of eating meat, and less distant from where our "meat" comes from.

But for me the omnivore, piety, lifestyle, evolution, biology argument isn't convincing. For one thing bonobos, our closest primate relative, are vegetarian. So too are gorillas. And factory farming is not in our genetic code.

But there's more, and this is for me the key. Here is where nobody has been able to dissuade : we humans are not mere creatures of biology. We make choices. And so it doesn't matter to me what we can eat, used to eat, once ate. I don't want to eat things that cause suffering to animals. I'm not resisting temptation. I'm resisting that which is repulsive to me. I care as much for the chicken as the coyote, the cow as the dog, the pig as the endangered elephant.

I see those animals as individuals--and I think meat eaters have found ways not to do that, and that is what allows meat eaters to eat meat and environmentalists to unconcern themselves with animal agriculture--despite being a massive contributor to climate change and environmental degradation of wilderness. Environmentalists seem more concerned with "species" than with individuals.
I recently read something about how "prey animals" (what a convenient label for them that simultaneously absolves us of guilt and vindicates what we hope is true, despite all evidence to the contrary) want to be eaten, it's their destiny and they enjoy it. I think it was in a crime novel and spoken by the serial killer. This notion is too ridiculous to entertain further.

Ultimately, for me, it is this: do I need to stuff young ducks so full of grain three times a day that their livers grow diseased, in order to be an omnivore, in order to satisfy my hunger? Do I need to eat processed hamburger, chicken patties, pork chops. Do I need to? Really? I don't. Humans in their entrepreneurial compassion have come up with delicious, healthy, increasingly affordable alternatives.

I'm not living in a yurt eating raw, locally-produced kale three times a day in between bouts of yoga and holistic cleanses. Nobody's perfect. Truthfully, I don't at all feel that I'm denying an appetite. It must seem that way, but it doesn't correlate with my experience. I don't feel deprived to have a "plant-based" or "cruelty-free" or "vegan" diet, whatever label suits. I just feel better because I don't eat crap. I do feel hugely guilty that I eat while others starve, but that's another conversation (or is it?--Bill Gates has been supporting plant-based alternatives as a revolutionary way we can adequately and effectively feed the planet, which is not something we can do with animal products: omnivore or not we simply CANNOT feed the planet with animals, it is not sustainable in any way).


So if something is unhealthy for me, bad for the planet, and is the result of great suffering of a nonhuman animal (and likely human also, as workers in slaughterhouses are often economically disadvantaged and emotionally traumatized) why do it? Here are some possible answers and my personal feeling about them. 1) it's what we've always done (do something else, we have done lots of stupid things) 2) I need protein (I'm an athletic person and consume plenty of protein, as do gorillas) 3) It tastes yummy in my tummy (after eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, the processed crap that used to taste delicious honestly tastes and smells repulsive and I am known for being a good cook, so everything I make is yummy in anyone's tummy) 4) it's cheaper and easier (easier possible, in terms of what you can get at a convenience store but who wants to eat that diet? cheaper is changing because of the costs of health-associated diseases that come from eating animals and alternatives like Just Mayo, an eggless, delicious mayo that is cheaper than any other brand and sold at the dollar store).

So it again comes down to this. If I don't have to do it, why would I? Why would I consume something that is bad for me, for others, for our earth? This is the same argument that occurs to us about our "addiction" to consuming fossil fuels. Enviro responses have been creative -- I bike more, recycle more, drive smaller car, etc, because I don't want to have to rely on oil. So WHY, what is the obstacle, can't enviros apply the same logic to animal agriculture, which is in so many ways MORE harmful to the planet, to wilderness, to clean air, to healthy bodies, to topsoil, to species diversity, and so many other things?

I have no interest in fads. I don't do raw, paleo, gluten free, or anything else. But veganism/vegetarianism is not a fad. As I said, it is seen in other primates, and it is a cultural and individual choice that has been around as long as we have.

It's interesting to note, as you say, that our concerns have changed in the last decade. We've become disconnected from the wilderness. I agree. But I think in the last decade we've become disconnected even further from the where-our-food-comes-from in terms of the big and the small picture. My original question was regarding what I see as environmentalists backing off from addressing the impact of animal agriculture--in terms of cattle grazing on public lands and in terms of factory farming. Animal advocacy conferences, for example, have panels on animal agriculture and the environment, and these conferences do not serve animal products at their receptions. Environmental conferences have panels on species extinction, biodiversity, population growth, and yet serve animal products, without seeming to recognize or discuss the irony of that leading industry's impact upon species extinction, loss of biodiversity, and population booms (industrial agriculture results from and allows for enormous population growth).

So I'm still left wondering why environmentalists refuse to see the greater picture and act upon it--and why they seem to be backing away from issues of cattle grazing and factory farms. It's not that none of them care, it's that it doesn't seem to be reaching the leaders and driving force of the movement.

It's like Edward Abbey--caring about the wild snakes, mice, horse, and other animals he encounters, but cruelly dismissing the cow. I suppose that bothers me that he failed to extend his logic (not piety, but logic) the full extension, but also that he blamed the cow for the situation we put her in. And where, today, is that irate fury with those who permit grazing on wild lands anyway? I agree we need more writers and activists as the general cause of "nature" isn't valued in our culture at the moment, and our world grows more urban--and possibly less humane, while telling ourselves that we are more humane.

Anthony Bourdain is a dbag.  




 

 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Polemics on Vegetariansim, Cattle Feedlots and Trends in Environmentalism




I was asked by an enviro/writer friend on Facebook the other day a couple questions. To quote her: "...why don't more environmentalists stop eating meat and focus on animal agriculture as a problem?"

Of course, when she wrote me this, Joni and I were about to sit down to a rack of lamb as an early Valentine's dinner (it was delicious). Irony.

We all know the problems of trying to provide enough meat protein for 320 million people in the USA. Capitalism, being incredibly efficient (and without that pesky notion of morals) has invented feedlots where GMO corn is used to feed beef, combined with anti-biotics and hormones, to rapidly finish off cattle so that they can grace our plates at a reasonable price. The problem is that these cattle are confined shoulder to shoulder in pens where they stand knee deep in their own excrement. The stench is eye watering. The problems extend to other domesticated critters. The commercial production of chickens has reduced the time from egg to barbecue by several weeks. These chickens are kept in pens that are lit 24 hours a day to stimulate appetite. Again, confinement is belly to belly and these poor chickens never see the light of day. I've seen films of chicken producers who only want hens; the male chicks are put live into a grinder to become animal protein for dog food. Lots of writers have addressed the problem, the most popular being Michael Pollan and several documentaries including Food Inc.

One day a couple years ago, Kylie came home from school after seeing Food Inc. and--filled with the idealistic "this isn't the way things should be" fervor of an angry 12 year old--proclaimed she was going to be a vegetarian. It lasted a couple months.

As my friend asked: "Do you feel like enviros as a movement are more concerned with species than individual animals, and if so, why? And why do you think environmentalists are so resistant to really delving into or extending the logic behind protests against animal agriculture-a massive contributor to climate change, more so than transportation. And why do you think environmentalists often think animal rights activists are crazy?"

I think much of my friend's questions have to do with what amount of personal piety is required in those of us (and we are legion, but we just don't know it) who give a damn about the planet and its inhabitants. Bringing canvas bags to the store in order to avoid plastic, or recycling bottles and cans and not just throwing it in the trash, or even not eating meat because of its environmental impacts, or riding our bikes to work, the list of individual acts are endless. And probably futile and noble at the same time.

I was born into a Lutheran household, so I know a thing or two about piety. Mostly that it is no fun. Sure, the piety of a Lutheran is much different than a Goddess Loving Treehugger, but in ways they are much the same. Don't get me wrong, as I am all for piety: Piety is just acting on your own sense of morality that usually involves decreasing some human appetite. Greens have seven deadly sins too. The sins are different but the motivations are much the same.

That radical, feminist, anarchist Emma Goldman famously said; "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution". Goldman's point: Piety should be liberating.

Having said that, what to make of my friend's questions? I think she is really asking about lifestyle. Do we care more about endangered elephants in Africa more than the Foster chicken in the Safeway fridge? And don't you think we are hypocrites to advocate for the end of coyote killing contests at the same time we sit down to a rack of lamb?

Would lifestyle save the elephant? Do we care about the quality of life for a cow or a chicken? In California, we started to act on some of these questions. We outlawed foie gras. We legislated the proper size of chicken cages. A start.

I continue to eat meat. I more than admire Vegetarians and  Vegans but tend to agree with Anthony Bourdain (and Michael Pollan in Cooked) that the raw food movement is stupid and boring. I don't agree with Anthony Bourdain when he writes:

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans ... are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”  

So why eat meat when almost everything about it is wrong in this country: The environmental impact, the life shortening fat, the mistreatment of animals, the CO2 and methane produced?

We are omnivores. We come from a long evolutionary line of omnivores. We are hunters and gatherers. We like to roam, free and uninhibited. I don't endorse the Paleo diet because it breaks one of the Seven Deadly Sins of being Green: Greed. But I do think that there is something healthily primitive about having a barbecue. The social nature of it, the open fire, the friends and the celebration of the critter about to be consumed.

I don't know many outdoor enthusiasts who wouldn't mind their bodies becoming a meal for a grizzly as a way to meet our maker (it sure beats dying of cancer in a hospital connected to tubes, pumps and electronic gadgets). Do prey animals, perhaps, feel the same way? Maybe that chicken doesn't mind too much being enjoyed?

I think the anti-gluten movement is more dangerous than anything. First off, it is a fad: gluten toxicity is rare and most people who say they are gluten intolerant suffer from some other malady of personality that they, conveniently blame on a life saving product that allows us to create civilization and culture. Secondly, between the anti-gluten thing and the Paleo Diet (and let's also include the carb free advocates),  these movements attack the one food that is the most nutrient dense, feeds the most people, and allows some wilderness to survive: the consumption of grains by eating bread (and also potatoes) by humans.

If you want to save the planet, learn to bake decent bread. The late great semi-Marxist/Anarchist journalist Alexander Cockburn said that the biggest legacy of the New Left in American society is that you can buy decent bread nowadays. He was right.

What is new in the Environmentalism movement today that wasn't true 60 years ago is that contact with wilderness is absent. Environmentalism has become an urban and domesticated concern. Hence, we are more worried about how our food is farmed (and that is a good concern) as opposed to whether Sandhill cranes have a place to roost in the winter. And as more and more of us become fully domesticated and no longer have contact with the wild, our environmentalism concerns will also change. And have changed.


Wilderness experience is becoming less and less prevalent amongst the entire population. For many, the only experience we will have with the wild is to go to the theatre to see Cheryl Strayed's Wild. The percentage of 12 year old kids who have gone to a park, or the beach, or camping in the last year has declined from 40 percent in 1980 to 8 percent in 2010. There are no longer references to wild spaces in the music teenagers listen to. I defy you to listen to a pop music station and actually find a reference to nature (other than sex, which is the last wild holdout--besides eating meat--to our wild past).

As we get more disconnected from both farming and wilderness, environmentalism becomes, not only less influential, but also more urban. Urban forests become of more concern than national forests. Last week, in Oroville California, 200 protestors turned out to protest the slaughter of 12, 130 year old sycamore trees. Arrests were made (my wife being one--after she fell out of a tree). Yet, up in the hills, pot growers have decimated acres of trees and Sierra Pacific hundreds of  thousands more in clear cuts with hardly a peep of protest.

How we live has changed. And like romantic interests, proximity is more important than anything. And unless we have more writers and protagonists for nature to get the word out, environmentalism is doomed. 


The answer? The answer is always political and seldom a result of personal piety (to circle back to the piety argument). If personal piety is just a feel good notion to disengage oneself from a sense of guilt, then the act is ineffective. If that action is done as personal protest, then the act of piety just might have a chance to change something. However, a retreat from politics to recycle, and only recycle, because politics is dull or boring or frustrating, then recycling is just Environmental Masturbation. Nothing will come of it.