Saturday, November 18, 2017

Making Waves, or, How Dickheads are Everyone’s Fault but Women Have the Largest Role to Play in Fixing the Problem

I’ve always spoken up about unfairness and injustice, and it has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion. (I was once arrested twice in one day for having the temerity to defy the authorities. A sense of moral responsibility can be a burden.) I’ll keep doing so.

As an elementary school teacher and an animal rights activist, and coincidentally in other realms, the large majority of my relationships have been with women, both as a superior and as an employee, as a leader and as a follower, and in most cases, as a collaborator. It galls me now to be told that I ought not voice my opinion on the spate of examples coming to light of women being taken advantage of or otherwise harmed by men, because I am a man. But, I’m not a dog, a monkey, or a chicken, and I speak up for them, so I’ll keep voicing my opinions on whatever injustice, unfairness, or misleading claims I think I see, and making suggestions about how to fix the problems; I am after all, a man.

Most recently, I agreed with a man who commented on a FB post that to him it did not appear that Al Franken was actually groping Los Angeles morning TV host Leeann Tweeden. It does not look to me like he is actually touching her. He seem to be miming a grope. If he did touch her after the photo was snapped, then he did. But the photo does not seem to me to show him groping her.

I was chastised for saying this, even though I said that his behavior was inappropriate or juvenile. I was told that if Ms. Tweeden felt like she was being groped then we should just accept that she was. Who was I to question her? I was told to stop defending Franken, even though I commented only on the photo. Franken says he is sorry for having taken advantage of her.

This was the second time that I commented on a FB post related to the rash of women speaking up about their previous experiences with men’s sexual predation. In both cases, I was told that because I am a man, I can’t really know what it would be like to be one of those women, and thus, I can’t have a valid opinion on the subject. But that’s like saying that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a monkey strapped in a chair and having someone experimenting on my eye. I think I can.

All that aside, here I am writing mostly to affix blame and offer suggestions for how to fix this ugly problem.

Gentlemen, stop being dickheads; treat everyone like you would want to be treated if you were them. If you see or hear about someone acting wrongly, abusing their power, speak up. Tell someone. If something isn’t done about it, yell louder. Make them stop. Do all you can to fix it. Intervene. Don’t be a dickhead.

Ladies, the same thing goes for you. Because you are so often the victims, the burden on you is much heavier, but you must speak up because if you don’t, you may be allowing it to happen to someone else. This isn’t fair, but much in life isn’t. Further, whether we like it or not, essentially every man who treats women or anyone else in their power unkindly, unfairly, or disrespectfully, was raised primarily by a woman. This means that men’s behavior and mores can be changed by the group from which the greatest number of victims come. Fathers, uncles, brothers, or male friends also have a responsibility to instill an ethic of fairness and compassion, but the weight of the solution to the problem again rests more squarely on women’s shoulders.

I wish life was a lot more fair than it is. I’m working on it. I am, after all, a man.

I stand with all the victims, no matter their color, creed, species, gender, sex, or any other damn thing. I will not stand mute. And, finally, if you, dear reader, don’t want to read comments you disagree with about the things you post to FB, well, tough. Want to stay in your bubble? It’s easy to un-friend someone.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"What would happen if all Americans went vegan?"

I am responding here only to the article in Science announcing the publication of "Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. I've not read the original because it is not yet available to me. Assuming that Science's reporting is accurate, it just goes to show that dominant paradigms and financial interests are overwhelming confounds in the world of normal science. "The authors declare no conflict of interest," says PNAS.

But given the author's affiliations, it seems matter-of-factly otherwise. Robin R. White is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and and Mary Beth Hall is a scientist employed by the US Dairy Forage Research Center, US Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service. Her office is in the Animal Science Building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In any case, from the Science article:
“Our logic was to start at the extreme scenario [and work backward from that],” says Robin White, the study’s lead author and an animal sciences researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She and fellow animal sciences researcher Mary Beth Hall, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food.
What? They began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food. Why in the world would they have done that?

Consider this: "Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed ... And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat." (The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production. Time. 2013.)

So, we use about 10% of the world's land surface to grow all the non-animal food we eat. So, following the authors' methods, presumably, if we don't eat meat, dairy, etc., we will need four times the amount of everything else we eat. What? They must imagine a vegan diet as something akin to a county fair all-you-can-eat-contest. Maybe they think we eat out of a big bucket. My evening meal?

They also make the wild claim that even if we eat bucketfuls of nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables, that we will all have serious vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. You just can't be healthy on a vegan diet say these unbiased animal agriculture professionals:
Looking at the nutritional content of crops now produced, the team also found that a plant-only system wouldn’t be able to meet the U.S. population’s requirements for calcium, vitamins A and B12, and a few key fatty acids. “With carefully balanced rations, you can meet all of your nutrient requirements with a vegetarian diet,” White says. “But the types of foods that seem to do that, we don’t currently produce in sufficient quantities to make it a sustainable diet for the entire population.”
What? We don't currently produce sufficient quantities of brightly colored vegetables and dark leafy greens? Wow. And unexplainably ignorant of basic nutrition.

One of the claims that sounds on its face like it might be a real problem is the questiomn of fertilizer. The authors seem to believe that everyone is fertilizing their fields with manure. As if. Here's what Wikipedia says about the production of modern fertilizers: "Nitrogen fertilizers are made from ammonia (NH3), which is sometimes injected into the ground directly. The ammonia is produced by the Haber-Bosch process. In this energy-intensive process, natural gas (CH4) usually supplies the hydrogen, and the nitrogen (N2) is derived from the air. This ammonia is used as a feedstock for all other nitrogen fertilizers, such as anhydrous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and urea (CO(NH2)2)." No cows or manure involved. Discomfort with the various costs of these processes was an impetus for the organic farming movement.

But if we all embraced a vegan diet and also wanted it to be organic, that wouldn't be an issue either. By freeing up so much land, crop rotation and fallow fields over-planted with nitrogen fixing legumes would easily supply more than the space and fertile soil needed to grow a bounty of foods. And, greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically reduced, ground water pollution and runoff from feedlots and dairies, etc. would end, people would be much healthier, we would end the farmed animal holocaust. That's win, win, win, win, win.

That's what would happen if all Americans went vegan.

Friday, November 3, 2017

No one should have kids, not even vegans.

A friend asked me to respond to a blogger’s argument that vegans should have kids.

The author, the mother of twins, makes the same argument that most modern somewhat progressive parents who decide to have children rely on. Because they are good people, their children will grow up to be good people. There is at least some evidence that no one can say with much certainty just how their children will turn out.

I’m going to address the arguments she expressed here:
Adoption is often suggested as the solution to overpopulation. Here’s a good breakdown of why that’s probably not true. [linked in the original] Even if adoption were a winning solution to overpopulation, is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally? In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies. I have two biological children, and I will not be having any more. My husband and I have simply replaced ourselves, and we’re working hard to ensure that our replacements will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate people who choose to remain vegans as adults, who will influence others to do the same, and who will probably do more than I ever have to help animals, the planet, and other humans. I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel too guilty about that. I think the world would be a nicer place if more vegans would do the same.
The post she points to as evidence that adoption probably doesn’t help reduce population says clearly and a couple of times that the data is extremely unclear. There isn’t much evidence to draw on. The article is interesting but far from conclusive. (The author of that article has a passel of children -- her own and adopted -- and raises goats.)

In any case, adoption would help with the overpopulation problem if the people adopting would have had children if they hadn’t adopted. It isn’t adoption that reduces population growth, it is not having children that reduces it.

She asks, “... is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally?” and then answers her question: “In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies.”

But overpopulation is a problem everywhere. Equally. The rainforests in Indonesia are not being destroyed because of overpopulation in Indonesia. Polar bears and penguins are not starving to death because of overpopulation at the poles. Corals are not dying because of too many sailors. Life on earth is interconnected; the population of humans worldwide has created an unsustainable demand for the space and other resources other animals need in order to survive, let alone flourish.

The current U.S, government denies that climate change is caused by us; pointing to governments’ policies as evidence that a problem does not exist is an unwise appeal to authority.

The hope that one’s children will be better people and amount to more than oneself is probably natural and maybe even universal. All sorts of justifications are available to people who decide to have children. None of them are part of the solution to the harm we are causing. Humans are killing the other beings who live here. Fewer humans means less harm. No one should have kids, not even vegans.

Finally, though the best thing we can do for the planet’s other inhabitants is to not have children, once someone is born, a baby, a calf, a kitten, a chick, we have an absolute obligation to treat them as we want to be treated. Once they are here, they count and have rights.

Stand Up to Cancer.

Game 4, 2017 World Series

“Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in men and women combined, affecting people of all ages. Surgery is often an option for those patients whose cancer is caught early, but sadly, we have just a few lines of treatment for patients with advanced disease. The hope is that our research will one day develop better therapies for patients whose cancer is too advanced for surgery.” Nita Ahuja, M.D., and Nilo Azad, M.D. The State of the Fight: Colon Cancer. Stand up to Cancer. (Here’s some info on the drug they are testing: Griffiths, E. A., et al. "SGI-110: DNA methyltransferase inhibitor oncolytic." Drugs of the future 38.8 (2013): 535.

Eat more hotdogs.

The World Health Organizations classifies processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. "This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.

In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer."

Friday, March 28, 2014 Press Release from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council"
WASHINGTON, D.C.-It's a love affair that has spanned generations and baseball fans will once again make hot dogs their number one choice at the ballparks this summer. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimates that fans will eat a whopping 21,357,316 hot dogs and 5,508,887 sausages during the 2014 Major League season, enough hot dogs to stretch from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Wrigley Field in Chicago....

This year's total includes a new single season record for most hot dogs at one stadium as the Los Angeles Dodgers anticipate fans will consume 3,077,537 hot dogs, a jump of more than 800,000 hot dogs from last year. That is enough to round the bases at Dodger Stadium 4,274 times and based on last year's attendance, means if everyone had just one, 82 percent of fans at every Dodger home game will eat a hot dog.
Meanwhile, disease mongers define prevention as early diagnosis. Money can be made from studying a disease but not from pointing to an avoidable cause. And there is enough money in "early detection" to motivate it's promotion. But there's not a dime in telling people to stop eating animals. There's no money in it for the pharmaceutical industry, the disease "charities," or the vivisectors and their universities. People can't be told to stop eating animals, the potential monetary costs to the meat industry are astronomical.

It's win-win for everyone but the people who get sick.