Is America Ready for Bernie Sanders?

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders, Independent Senator from my old home state of Vermont, is running for President in the Democratic primaries. This is a picture from the press conference he held today (April 30) on the lawn of the Capitol to talk about why he is running and take a few questions.

It was classic Bernie – no backdrop, no flash, he said up front that he didn’t have a lot of time (the whole press conference lasted less than 15 minutes).

What are the most pressing issues he sees that need to be addressed?

  • Income inequality – stopping the decline of the middle class
  • Repealing Citizen’s United
  • Raising taxes on the richest Americans and making sure corporations pay their fare share
  • Creating millions of new, decent paying jobs
  • Addressing climate change
  • Invest in infrastructure
  • Universal healthcare – implementing a Medicare for all system
  • Providing free college tuition

I lived in Vermont for 10 years. Bernie is one of the most accessible politicians I have ever met – and I met him several times, including in Burlington’s food co-op.

Contrary to popular belief, Vermonters are not all liberals. Most of the time we lived in Vermont, there was a Republican governor. One year when the governor and Bernie were running for reelection for different offices, I would see lawns with yard signs for both men. How could that be? I would hear more conservative Vermonters say that they didn’t agree with Bernie on every issue, but you always knew where he stood. The list of issues above are the same ones Bernie has been talking about for years.

He always ran his campaigns like he was running for the first time – even when he would regularly get 65+% of the vote. He would hold town hall meetings across the state, usually provide a meal, give a short speech and then take questions.

Will this scale for a nationwide campaign? I don’t know, but I hope he finds a way to reach the millions of people in this country who believe their vote and their voices don’t count. Bernie can give them a reason to believe he is on their side.

I do know that I am pleased to see him in this race – and hear him say over and over that he is in it to win.

As Rolling Stone’s Matt Tiabbi put it in his latest article – Give ’em hell, Bernie.

Our Planet Needs You to Stop Eating Meat

report cover

Everyone should read the Chatham House report Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector: Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. Their mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

The report looks at the alarming growth in meat and dairy consumption in non-Western countries, especially in Asia, and makes the case that the only way to deal with this problem is to lower consumption.

In the report they go beyond detailing the disastrous impact of animal agriculture on climate change, but also look at, like Cowspiracy, why governments, environmental groups and the media aren’t raising awareness about this issue.

This lack of awareness means that people who might be willing to change their eating habits, don’t get the messages that would drive that change.

To discover the size of this awareness gap, Chatham House commissioned a multi-country, multilingual online survey. The results found recognition of the livestock sector as a significant contributor to climate change is markedly low. The chart below shows the difference between the survey participant’s perceptions and the actual contribution to climate change for different sectors of the economy. Note the big difference for meat and dairy production.

Chatham House Figure 7

However, the survey also found that in those areas, like energy and transportation, where governments, environmental groups and the media have raised awareness, consumers are willing to make changes to impact the climate.

This is a tremendous challenge, and opportunity, for those of us who would like to see the message in this report spread far and wide.

The survey asked participants who was best able to shift the awareness gap

Closing the awareness gap appears to be an important precondition for behaviour change. An important question, therefore, is who is best placed to inform publics of the links between livestock and climate change. The survey assessed public confidence in a range of sources to which consumers may turn for information about the environmental and health consequences of meat and dairy consumption. Across all countries polled, those labelled ‘experts’ – with an unidentified field of expertise – were afforded the highest degree of confidence from respondents…although there were important differences across countries.

Here are the results of the survey

Chatham House Figure 9

Looking at the results is a bit disheartening. The respondents in the US ranked experts highest with environmental groups a distant second. They also gave social media a thumbs down as a helpful source of information.

We already know that the major environmental groups aren’t talking about reducing meat and dairy consumption. If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy, do it now (you can finish reading when you get back) to find out the extent of the disconnect between the goals of these groups to save the planet and their lack of action regarding animal agriculture. Our government – captured by the meat, dairy and agriculture industries – isn’t willing to upset their “owners.”

The report lays out these reasons for the lack of action:

  • Intrusion in lifestyle decisions
  • Cultural significance
  • Private-sector resistance
  • Public ambivalence regarding climate change
  • Uncertainty regarding the efficacy or acceptability of policy interventions

However, behind these concerns lie multiple assumptions and generalizations. The belief that in aggregate they represent an insurmountable challenge is untested, and clear examples of behavioural shifts in populations do exist. In reality there is minimal research on how dietary change might best be effected. Ironically, this lack of research may well be symptomatic of the belief that the challenge is insurmountable, suggesting a cycle in which a lack of research allows this belief to remain uncontested, leading in turn to a lack of research. The result of this is the policy vacuum described above.

I’m not sure that I have any good answers to this dilemma. We need to lift up the voices of the experts who are willing to go against the status quo. Experts like Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of two books on this subject – Comfortably Unaware – Global Depletion and Food Responsibility and Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work.

Can we meet this insurmountable challenge? We must if we are going to have a chance at limiting the impact of climate change. Let’s get to work.

 

Chris Hedges: Saving the Planet, One Meal at a Time

Chris HedgesI have been reading Chris Hedges columns at Truthdig for years. He tells it like it is. I was delighted to see his latest column about going vegan.

My attitude toward becoming a vegan was similar to Augustine’s attitude toward becoming celibate—“God grant me abstinence, but not yet.” But with animal agriculture as the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones and habitat destruction, and with the death spiral of the ecosystem ever more pronounced, becoming vegan is the most important and direct change we can immediately make to save the planet and its species. It is one that my wife—who was the engine behind our family’s shift—and I have made.

The column makes the case for why animal agriculture is at the root of many of the world’s problems – climate change, deforestation, water pollution, hunger. It also, as I have written about before, talks about how the animal ag industry has built a wall of restrictive laws around the devastation and agony they create to shield the public from the truth.

The animal agriculture industry has used the excuse of national security, public safety, trade agreements and the need for business secrets to pass what are known as ag-gag laws in about a dozen states and, on the federal level, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, all enhanced with anti-terrorism laws to criminalize anyone who investigates or challenges the industry. It is illegal under the Patriot Act to issue statements or carry out actions that harm the profits of the animal agriculture industry. Radical change, as with every challenge to the power of our corporate state, will have to be built outside the structures of power, including the leading environmental groups, which have refused to confront the livestock industry.

It includes quotes from Comfortably Unaware author Richard Oppenlander; journalist and author of Green is the New Red, Will Potter; and the co-directors of Cowspiracy, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn.

Kuhn and Anderson laid out the problem.

“So many more people have a connection to animal agriculture, both in society and government, than have a direct connection to the oil industry,” Kuhn said. “The oil industry employs, relatively speaking, a very small percentage of people and is controlled by a very small percentage of people. The agricultural industry, both animal agriculture and commodity grains fed to those animals, involves a much bigger demographic. Politically it is a lot more challenging. Corporations such as Cargill, one the largest commodity food corporations in the world, is able to create U.S. policy. The government says it needs to have affordable food, which means giving massive subsidies to these corporations. The belief is that we have to eat animal products to survive. It is not something that is even questioned. The fossil fuel industry is more easily challenged with the argument that there are alternatives. People do not feel there is an alternative to eating animals.”

Please read the entire column and make the commitment to going vegan – for the health of the planet and your own also.

We have only a few years left, at best, to make radical changes to save ourselves from ecological meltdown. A person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one sentient animal’s life every day. We do not, given what lies ahead of us, have any other option.

 

Catching Up – The Voodoo Made Me Do It

Voodoo DoughnutsWow, its been over a month since I did a post and there’s a lot of catching up to do.

About the time I did the last post, I volunteered to be the webmaster for 350Marin and that led to one of their members asking me to create a site for him for his new book.

Then our daughter, who is living with us, adopted two kittens – which did not make our 18-yr-old cat happy. But has added to the daily chores around the house.kittens

Bottom line – its been a busy month. So let’s get caught up.

The last post was about the upcoming Sonoma Veg Fest. It was great. The planners hoped for 300-400 people, they got almost 1,000. There was great energy with fabulous vegan food, cooking demonstrations, speakers and a standing room only showing of Cowspiracy.

The speakers included Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. He gave a fantastic talk about why caring for animals and the planet will help us care for each other also.

Cowspiracy is an incredible film – it’s a look at why the large environmental groups don’t talk about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Concerned about the drought in California? Shorter showers aren’t going to make a difference, going vegan will. Here’s a clip from the movie – find a showing near you on their website and go see it.


Sweet Pea BakeryThose of you familiar with Portland, Oregon will recognize the Voodoo Doughnuts sign above. We went there over Labor Day weekend. My wife is convinced that Portland is where vegans go when they die and go to heaven. There are so many vegan restaurants and others that cater to them – including Voodoo Doughnuts.

We visited the “Vegan Mini Mall” on SW Stark Street in Portland, where you can find a food store (Food Fight), clothing store (Herbivore), tattoo parlor (Scapegoat) and a bakery (Sweetpea). Here is a look at some of their pastries. They make a cinnamon roll that was gooey as any non-vegan roll. If you are in Portland, you need to check it out and support vegan businesses.


climate_marchFinally, get out in the street where ever you live for the People’s Climate March tomorrow September 21. If you can’t make it for the main event in New York City, then find an event near you.

Whether it’s ending the proliferation of factory farmed animals, stopping fracking or keeping the dirty coal and oil in the ground – we have to get serious about stopping climate change.

Naomi Klein’s new book – This Changes Everything – makes the case that we all know is true – the politicians will not solve this, the people – US! – have to make our voices heard and our presence seen.

See you in the streets. Watch this video – the entire film is available online – to understand why this is so important.