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Leading Environmentalists Reflect on Senator Gaylord Nelson’s Eloquent Launch of Earth Day 0

Often in these pages we quote Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, founder of the first Earth Day. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) His April 22, 1970 call for decency and respect toward all living things, for a universal commitment to human and natural rights, was the purest expression of Earth Day’s original intent, and a blueprint for American environmentalism. He saw the plight of the impoverished and of the endangered through the same lens, and asked a new generation of environmentalists to do the same. Forty-four years later, six EarthDesk friends reflect on Senator Nelson’s call, and its continued relevance in the twenty-first century. Click on each image to read the author’s full remarks.

ED Paul Tonko

All Americans, and indeed all of humanity, have a right to clean air and water, safe and sustainable food, and reliable and secure shelter. Twenty-first century environmentalism must reassert its embrace of those ideals.

Honorable Paul Tonko, Representative, Twentieth Congressional District, New York

ED richard ottinger

With the revelation of the threats posed by human-caused climate change, Senator Nelson was prescient in declaring that environmental protection is vital to every aspect of life, to poverty, civil rights, peace and human dignity.

Richard Ottinger, Dean Emeritus, Pace University School of Law; founder, Pace Energy and Climate Center; former U.S. Congressman.

ED Manna Jo

Senator Gaylord Nelson’s vision for Earth Day was closely aligned with Clearwater’s founder Pete Seeger, and with Dr. King, who had been assassinated two years before Earth Day 1970.

Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and Ulster County Legislator, District 19

ED Safina

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, which blew out in a fireball on April 20, 2010 and burned for two days, sank into a mile of water in the Gulf of Mexico on the 40th anniversary of Gaylord Nelson’s Earth Day speech.

Carl Safina, Founding President, Blue Ocean Institute, co-chair Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University

ED Joe Roman

Senator Nelson’s question remains: Are we willing to expand the rights of human beings to other species? Can we get to zero extinction?

Joe Roman, Conservation Biologist, University of Vermont; author, Listed: Dispatches from America’s Endangered Species Act

ED Revkin

In calling for the pursuit of Gross National Quality in place of Gross National Product, Senator Nelson foreshadowed a building global shift from quantitative goals to qualitative ones.

Andrew Revkin, Senior Fellow, Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies; NY Times Dot Earth blogger.

Senator Gaylord Nelson: “Our Goal Is an Environment of Decency” 0

The Water Carriers of Central Malawi and the Trócaire Campaign 0

The video clip above, of villagers in Central Malawi gathering the day’s water, is part of an extraordinary interactive story published recently on the Irish Times site by Trócaire, a Catholic charity in Kildare, Ireland that works in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The story invites the reader to make the difficult choices the villagers must make due to the “extreme poverty,  . . .  drought and poor access to water [that] are having a detrimental effect on their daily lives.”

Below is an excerpt followed by a link to the site, where you can scroll down to participate in the story and join the Trócaire campaign:

It’s 5am in a small village in Central Malawi and the first thing on everyone’s mind is water. As with many duties, the responsibility lies solely with the female members of the community. Women and girls, young and old must walk to the nearest river, buckets in tow to queue for water.

The shallow river, which in reality is just a stream dries up when the dry season begins, leaving the entire village reliant on one small trickle of water.

People can wait up to 3 hours for their turn. When it comes, they hunker down barefoot on the muddy riverbed and scoop water into their buckets. Then they must make the long walk home, often balancing up to 20 litres on their head. It’s now 7.30 am and the sun is already beating down on them. The daily struggle for water has begun.

Now decide how you’d like to see the villagers’ day proceed

Pace Clinic Students Parse School Food, By the Letter 0

CAFO: A Four-Letter Word Found in School Cafeterias

By The Food Justice Team
Pace Environmental Policy Clinic

Note: Students from the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic launched their ePolicy blog with features spanning circus animal abuse, microgrid development, invasive plants and more.  The article below, by the Clinic’s Food Justice Team, reposted from ePolicy, walks you through the grisly alphabet soup of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. — John Cronin

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Drawing by Mallory Butlin

What is the quality of treatment of the livestock and poultry that are the source of meat served on a college campus? We three freshman enrolled in the new Environmental Policy Clinic course at Pace University decided to find out. This led us immediately to the acronym CAFO.

Honestly, like many students, we had never heard this term before we began researching our food supply. We know now, and what we learned has made us determined to do what we can to limit the purchase of food from this kind of operation. So what does Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) really mean? Let us take you behind each letter:

oncentrated: According to various dictionaries, concentrated means to be closely gathered together, compressed and thrown together in a pile. Right off the bat this doesn’t make CAFO sound too great. Are they trying to tell us that all of their animals are piled together in a tight location? No wonder people often call it “Confined Animal Feeding Operations!” About 100 or more cows are placed in a pen on a CAFO, all standing and sleeping in their own manure. Guess there’s not a lot of room for the animals to walk around, not that the CAFO operators mind…

nimal: Almost all farms have animals. But a CAFO designation, according to the EPA, is all about numbers: 700 dairy cows, 30,000 ducks, 10,000 swine, 10,000 sheep…. Well, you get the idea. A large chicken CAFO can have 125,000 or more birds! Seems a little packed, don’t you think?

eeding: is the action of consuming and supplying food for nourishment. It is the process of fattening and feeding an animal. Pasturelands are a form of providing food for the animals; however, on a CAFO animals are not given much time to graze. Rather, animals are fed corn and antibiotics. Feeding them corn makes caring for them easier and cheaper while the antibiotics make the animals grow faster and fatter. Who needs to go to a doctor when there are so many antibiotics in the meat coming from CAFOs?

peration: is a business or industry run on a large scale, often thought of as a practical or mechanical process that involves a particular form of work. CAFOs place a large amount of animals in a small space for maximum efficiency. So, in case you did not realize, CAFOs are not farms.

Hopefully this will help clarify what CAFOs really are.

Personally we feel that CAFOs should stand for Confined Animals Fighting Oppression. What do you think?

Comment or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #saynocafo.

More . . .

Climate Change Affects the Poor by Patrick Chappatte 0

Climate Change Affects the Poor by Patrick Chappatte. Cagle Cartoons. Used with Permission.

Climate Change Affects the Poor by Patrick Chappatte. Cagle Cartoons. Used with Permission.

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chappatte-headshot-articleInlinePatrick Chappatte is an editorial cartoonist for The International New York Times, formerly known as the International Herald Tribune, which has published his work since 2001. His cartoons have been featured in five books published by the newspaper. The latest collection, “Stress Test,” was released in 2012.He is also a regular contributor to the European newspapers Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Le Temps. Earlier in his career, he contributed to The New York Times Book Review and created a comic strip for Newsweek International called “Rob the Cybernaut.”

Mr. Chappatte has collaborated with editorial cartoonists in conflict-ridden countries with the goal of promoting dialogue through cartooning. These projects focused on Serbia, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Kenya and Guatemala. He described the work in a TED talk in 2010.

Patrick’s full bio at The International New York Times.

Student Environmental Policy Clinic: New York Law Could End Elephant Torture in Circuses 0

By the Circus Animal Team
Pace Environmental Policy Clinic

800px CircusProcessionElephants1888

Note: This week, our students from the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic launched their ePolicy blog, featuring news and updates on their docket of cases. The article below, by the Clinic’s Circus Animal Team, is reposted from ePolicy. It pulls aside the curtain on the ethical and political dimensions of the circus business in New York State: the torture necessary to make exotic animals entertaining and the law that could end it. — John Cronin

In 1805, Hachaliah Bailey, a farmer from Somers, New York, acquired an elephant, one of the first elephants to enter the United States. He named her Old Bet, and visitors flocked from all around to see the remarkable animal.

Eventually, a distant relative of Bailey teamed up with New York City showman P.T. Barnum. The modern-day ring-and-whip American circus was born.

Today New Yorkers can play a role in retaining the magic of the circus while keeping exotic animals out of the ring. Two bills have been introduced — Assembly A5407 and Senate S5971 — that would effectively ban traveling circuses that use exotic animals from entering the state.

The rationale? There is simply no way to train a wild animal for life in a traveling circus without cruelty, often from time the animal is a juvenile. In essence, the only tamed elephant is a tortured elephant.

Michelle Land, a Pace environmental law and policy professor and director of the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, laid out the case for concern in detail in a compelling 2012 brief, “The Elephant in the Room.” We encourage you to read the full essay, but here’s a particularly compelling point:

Circuses force animals to perform acts that have nothing to do with how they behave in the wild. For example, the difficult tricks that elephants must perform, such as standing on two legs, sitting on tubs, or waving their trunks, place a great deal of stress on their muscles and joints. Elephant experts and veterinarians agree that elephants will not voluntarily perform these physically taxing and painful maneuvers on command, over and over, hundreds of times a year without the constant threat of punishment. No form of positive reinforcement alone will elicit such unnatural behaviors.

A baby elephant in the circus is bound and beaten; a wild baby elephant plays happily in the mud (credit: PETA.org)

Exotic animals, including elephants, cannot live safe and healthy lives if they are forced to travel in small train cars for months out of the year. These are large, beautiful and dangerous animals held in check with the threat of pain from bullhooks used by trainers in all circuses.

Pace Law School Professor David Cassuto posted recently on the legal context:

Asian elephants are endangered. Elephants in circuses are brutally mistreated. In 2000, a lawsuit was brought under the Endangered Species Act, claiming that the elephants’ treatment by Feld Entertainment (parent of Ringling Brothers) violated the “No Take” provision of the ESA and should be enjoined. In late 2009, following a lengthy litigation, a judge threw out the case after deciding that the former circus worker who was the lead plaintiff lacked credibility, was paid for his testimony, and that there was therefore no standing for the plaintiffs to sue. The decision was a travesty on many levels (some of which I’ve blogged about elsewhere). Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that the treatment of the elephants became wholly ancillary to a ridiculous debate about people.

The circus industry sometimes shows photos of elephants doing circus-like movements in the wild, but that does not make the training acceptable. There are no bullhooks, whips, and cages in the wild. The abuse must stop.

On its website, Ringling Brothers says it opposes local legislation banning animal acts:

We believe that these bans are unnecessary and take away a treasured part of the circus experience that patrons tell us they support and love. (Fortunately, such communities are the exception, not the rule.) By banning performing animals, the town is effectively saying that our experts are not fit to handle the animals they have devoted their lives to caring for. We can’t say it enough: Ringling Bros. loves animals as much as you do!

We respectfully disagree.

The traditional American circus started in New York. Now, New York must work to create an even grander circus: One not tarnished by suffering but instead uplifted with wonder.

There are plenty of examples, including the Cirque de Soleil and Big Apple Circus that have found ways to draw big audiences without exotic animals.

Make New York a safer, kinder place. End the movement of exotic animals within our borders and reward those circuses that amaze us with cruelty-free shows. Let’s truly make it the Greatest Show on Earth.

Please contact your representative in the New York State Assembly (locator) and Senate (locator) and say you care about this issue and these bills.

A goal of the Circus Animal Team is to help advance this legislation and maintain the integrity of circuses in New York.

Please track our Twitter account for updates!