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Freeing Mink not Terrorism; Corporate Contributions not Speech

Why aren’t the two parts of that headline a non sequitur?

Last week two animal rights activists, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff, were indicted as terrorists. Federal prosecutors claim they released 2000 mink from a fur farm. That act is defined as terrorism under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Tyler and Kevin each face two counts. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If they are imprisoned as terrorists, they may be forced to serve their time in Communication Management Units under restrictive conditions that the Center for Constitutional Rights calls cruel and inhumane. They are also accused of the terrorist act of spray painting “Liberation is Love” on the walls of the farm.

How can freeing animals constitute terrorism? Lobbyists for the multi-billion dollar animal enterprise industry (defined as anything from fur farms to chicken factories to perfume companies) got Congress to pass a law defining protests that damage corporate property or hurt their profits as terrorism. President Bush signed it into law and Federal Courts have ruled that activists who damage property, even if those actions pose no threat to human life, can be convicted of terrorism.

I’ve had difficulty convincing left-wing friends to support targeted animal rights activists. One friend responded, aren’t they the people who think animals are more important than people? This echoes the belief of many progressive people that this is a relatively trivial pursuit compared to the terrible crimes against humanity carried out by the multi-national corporations and our government. But the corporate behavior the animal rights activists are fighting is part of the same culture that permeates the military industrial complex, the energy companies, the private prison corporations, and so on. These are the same foes we face every day. The rights that the corporations and their political flunkies seek to curtail belong to us all. The sensibilities these heroic young militants work to spread are the same values to which progressives aspire. They don’t think animals are more important than people; they attack corporations that place greater value on profits than either people or animals.

What do these indictments have to do with the Supreme Court’s decision declaring that corporate contributions to election campaigns are speech protected by the First Amendment? Corporations are striving for ascendancy on several fronts. On the one hand they wish to dominate public discourse by gaining all the protections guaranteed citizens under the constitution. On the other they seek to protect their primary purpose - making money - by demonizing as terrorists all who might turn public opinion against them and diminish their profits.

Evidently, the FBI had been investigating the mink release for a year, but chose to issue the indictments and arrest Tyler Lang in Los Angeles on the opening day of National Animal Rights Conference being held in that city. They are attempting to intimidate this movement just has they attacked the communists, anti-war, civil rights, anti-globalization, Occupy Wall Street, and other movements before them.

Divide and conquer is their age-old tactic. Let’s not help them out. We are in this together and we need each other’s support. For more information go to www.supportkevinandtyler.com  Read More 
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I’ve been fascinated by the weather since I was a child, and attracted to environmental movements since the early 1970’s. But it wasn’t until my first grandchild was born six years ago that global warming/climate change became the focus of my political attention. The science taught me that if we didn’t change course the second half of her life would be hellish, and I felt compelled to work at preventing that from happening.

Since her birth I’ve been reading and studying to understand the latest scientific analysis, and the proposed political solutions. These readings convince me that we need revolutionary economic changes and that Americans must come to a radically different understanding of our place on the planet.

I summarized the latter point in a blog earlier this year: “We are merely one manifestation of an almost unimaginably complex web of life…. Placing ourselves at the center feeds our sense of importance and justifies our efforts to dominate our environment. It is, however, a potentially fatal misreading of our current circumstances. The vibrancy of the biosphere is essential to our survival. If our economic system and personal requirements are shredding it, our system, not it, must change. Human beings with our unprecedented capacity can, for a while, act as nature’s master, but the biosphere as a whole holds the trump cards. The mounting torrent of extinction is a warning we ignore at our peril.”

In the face of a likely near-extinction sequence of events over the next several generations, humans must enter into a partnership with the land, plants and animals rather than trying to dominate all other life. This partnership can be viewed as biological, or spiritual; I sense it most strongly when working in my yard, when I feel as if my molecules are singing in harmony with my surroundings. My beliefs are grounded in a material scientific understanding, but they can also include a more spiritual worldview. They are, however, way out of synch with anthropocentric American consumerism.

Elli has pointed out an apparent contradiction in my thinking. On the one hand I’ve chosen to focus on combating global warming/climate change for intimately personal, species-oriented reasons – that is protecting my grandchildren, each of whom carry 25% of my genetic material. On the other hand I’m focused now on the biosphere as a whole, which or may not include human life in the future.

She’s right; multiple primary motivations are a contradiction in terms. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I now have two powerful motivations and maybe they complement rather than contradict each other. I want my grandchildren to live long and fulfilling lives as part of our glorious and healthy natural world. It would be tragic for them and it for this to become impossible.

Perhaps this is just a new version of the slogan “think globally; act locally” Read More 
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Writing Our Hot Planet

Next week Elli and I will present a program entitled “Writing Our Hot Planet” at World Fellowship Center in Conway, New Hampshire. www.worldfellowship.org The brochure describes the program: “Words can change minds and build a climate justice movement. Novelist Ellen Meeropol and nonfiction writer Robert Meeropol wrestle with how to transform science into education, motivation and hopefully, activism.”

This program grew, in part, out of discussions we’ve had in a global warming/climate change study group I’ve facilitated this year. Our of course of study includes the eight books listed below. This is not light summer reading, but worth the effort if you are so inclined. I will not post a blog next week, but plan to report on the program when I return the week of July 14th.

Climate Change Study Group Syllabus

A. The problem:
• Six Degrees, Mark Lynas (2008, National Geographic). The best scientific models in 2007 indicated that the global climate might warm by six degrees Celsius this century. The author employs current information and climatological data from prior geologic eras to describe the effects of each degree.
• High Tide On Main Street, John Englander (2012, The Science Bookshelf). Rising sea levels are inevitable, will have disastrous consequences, and will last at least 1000 years. Englander believes significant adaptation is possible and that we can survive this challenge without changing the basic nature of our system.
• Countdown, Alan Weisman (2013, Little Brown). Focuses on overpopulation by traveling the world interviewing people who are either working to control population or opposed to family planning. His thesis is if we reduce our population to a sustainable 2 billion, it will be much easier to deal with all other aspects of climate change.
• The Green Zone, Barry Sanders (2009, AK Press). This quote sums it up: “even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the earth would still be headed…toward total disaster…. The military produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants … in the most immanent danger of extinction.”

B. Possible Solutions
• Hot: Living Through The Next Fifty Years On Earth, Mark Hertsgaard (2011, Mariner Books).Overview of the problem and what actions we must take, written from the perspective of a father who wants to protect the quality of life of his young daughter. The author believes we can do this without changing the nature of our economic system.
• What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism, Foster & Magdoff (2011, Monthly Review Press). This is a Marxist analysis of green capitalist efforts to combat catastrophic climate change, written for activist-oriented environmentalists. The authors argue that the nature of capitalism is the primary cause of our current ecological crisis.
• Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, introduction by Derrick Jensen (2011, Seven Stories Press). The authors argue that humanity went wrong when we settled down, built cities and modified nature to suit our needs. This is an anarchist vision, claiming that to protect the earth we must sabotage modern industrial society and return to a pre-industrial life-style.
• True Wealth, Juliet B. Schor (2011, Penguin). This discussion of how we can consume less and have better quality of life while protecting the environment offers a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark landscape.  Read More 
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