Posts Tagged ‘public radio’

CITES trying to save Tuna

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

NPR reported on the planned proposal to ban the trade of bluefin tuna in this year’s meeting to determine the new CITES treaty (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Bluefin populations are estimated to be 10-15% of what they once were. Japan has said they will ignore the ban, should it be passed.

Also on the CITES table is a possible one-time legal ivory sale.

Click here for the story


Radiolab: Animal Minds

March 2, 2010 Leave a comment

photo by The Marine Mammal Center

The Animal Minds episode of Radiolab explores what we often wonder about our pets and other animals: what are they thinking? Jad and Robert get into discussions about dog guilt, anthropomorphizing, and the most amazing story about a whale caught in a web of crabtraps. It’s an excellent hour of radio, and I definitely recommend checking it out. Considering the mind of an animal is a good thought experiment.

We often think animals may have thoughts and feelings similar to our own. This concept usually advances the pursuit of animal rights, as it helps us relate to them and thus show compassion. However, making comparisons between animal and human minds can also impede compassion towards animals. I say this because it is unfair to animals to make that comparison. Scientists really know so little about the brains of animals, let alone humans. When we try to think about whether an animal is as smart as a human, we too often look at the problem in the context of human intelligence: Do they use tools? Do they communicate with each other? And when we find that they are not very human-like, we tend to classify them as somehow sub-human. This tendency is what feeds the widespread belief that animals do not deserve the same rights as people. Thinking this way justifies zoos, validates factory farms, funds animal testing, distorts our own sense of morality.

 Consider the humpback whale. The evolution of a whale’s brain happened in a way that has been advantageous to its species’ survival, while the long process that led up to the (seemingly) exceptional human brain occurred under vastly different circumstances. Realizing this, we must acknowledge that our brains are not necessarily that special in the animal kingdom. Yes, our brains have given us the ability to create, imagine, dream, love, and all that, but that does not make the human brain superior, except by our own biased standards of what intelligence means. Who knows what a whale brain can do? They are incredibly complex creatures that we know very little about. Maybe a humpback freed of its entanglement by a friendly group of human divers is showing gratitude when it nuzzles them afterward, or maybe it is doing something we just cannot yet understand. That behavior is something though, I gotta say.

Cows and Methane. Heating up.

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment


Today’s Morning Edition on NPR had a great story on one of the most overlooked causes of global warming: methane. They even mentioned (although it was almost completely glossed over) how about half of all methane released is from human-related causes including belching cows.

Molecule for molecule, methane is much more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And that’s just part of the trouble.

Methane-releasing wetlands are largely to blame for the 150% (since pre-industrial times) increase in methane floating up to the atmosphere, and they are showing the first signs of the vicious cycle of the greenhouse effect:

“The higher the temperature, the more efficient they are at producing methane,” he says. So global warming is causing these wetlands to produce more methane. And the methane is causing more global warming.

Little has been done to control methane because, apparently, governments and climate-change policy makers have been afraid of diverting attention away from the threats of carbon dioxide. But NPR’s story mentions how methane-reducing initiatives would pay for themselves because of the myriad other benefits to public health and the energy sector.

So here’s what I think: isn’t it obvious why governments are afraid to demonize methane? If you read last month’s Mother Jones article on the most powerful lobby in Washington, the reasons are clear. The industry with the most clout? BIG AG. The agriculture lobby. Any legislation fighting global warming would certainly threaten the meat and dairy industries because of how much they rely on oil, and the amount of methane they release through their milk-machines (aka COWS). So this may never happen, but it would make sense to me for many reasons if:

  • COW TAX: put a tax on every gallon of milk. Milk is already at unsustainably low prices, so this wouldn’t even hurt milk-drinkers. I would advocate for a big increase in the price of milk to reflect the damage it causes the environment and public health. It would lower demand and make people think twice about that white liquid, which they have grown up hearing is as pure and harmless as fluffy snow. I’m no economist, but it just makes sense to me. Revenue from these taxes should go to further climate change initatives.

Given the power of big Ag money in Washington, the political suicide it would take for any Rep or Congressperson to take a shot at Big Food, and the fact that almost all Americans have been brainwashed into believing that we actually need milk to be healthy, I do not have high hopes for this grand scheme of mine. But I do hope that more and more people start seeing through the clouds of BS we have been fed in milk-industry ads, and school-lunch-program pints of chocolate milk, and realize there are other options. The 8 ounces of Pacific Foods Organic Oat Milk I had with my cereal this morning had 35% of my daily calcium, as well as good amounts of Vitamins A and D. Soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and others boast similar nutrition stats, or better! There are many other reasons (taste among them) that I think cow milk is an obsolete foodstuff, but I’ll leave the nasty bits up to PETA and the shock-value vegans. To me, this is about common sense, and not being lied to. Encourage your friends to educate themselves and opt out of the dairy addiction.

BBC’s One Planet: Animals and Us

January 5, 2010 Leave a comment

One Planet is a weekly half-hour show on the BBC World Service. The producers always put together an interesting, thoughtful look at environmental issues around the world. The most recent episode touches on issues with animals. 

 Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here is the synopsis from the One Planet website:

It was 28 years ago that the documentary maker Victor Schonfeld produced The Animals Film about the way humans exploit other species. He returns to the subject in a two-part documentary to give a very personal view on what, if anything, has changed since then.

In the first programme he looks at the use of animals for food and turns to experts in fields such as psychology, history, language and neurology to find out why humans seem so attracted to eating meat.

Next week, he focuses on the scientific establishment’s attachment to using animals, and considers the future. Might social justice for other species actually benefit humans?

Manure Management: New Mexico’s Dairy Row

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

From today’s Morning Edition on NPR:

Farms dispose of waste in two ways.

First, workers hose the muck off the concrete floor of a milking barn, and it flows into a plastic- or clay-lined lagoon where the liquid evaporates.

Second, waste from the feedlot where the cows live is collected and used as fertilizer for grain crops.

But the New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state’s 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland.

On Dairy Row along Interstate 10 between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, more than 30,000 cows live in 11 farms located one after the other.

In the past four years, the EPA has repeatedly cited these dairies for violating the Clean Water Act because manure-laced stormwater was washing into tributaries of the Rio Grande.


Everyday, an average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure. New Mexico has 300,000 milk cows. That totals 5.4 million gallons of manure in the state every day. It’s enough to fill up nine Olympic-size pools. Every single day.

That’s a lot of poo, eh?

My Open Letter to Whole Foods re: Overfishing

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

So, I work for Whole Foods. As a vegan, it works really well for me, and there are some things I just have to grin and bear. Overall, I am proud to work for a progressive, environmentally conscious company, and see their continued success as a positive thing for the planet. There has been one thing gnawing at my vegan ideals, however: selling seafood, possibly unsustainably. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the oceans are in huge trouble, and I decided it was time I use my position as a WFM employee to speak my mind on the topic, so I sent the following letter to some of the higher ups at my company… Click here to read on….

The Economy Explained – This American Life

September 17, 2009 Leave a comment


If you’re like me, this whole recession thing is a bit mysterious. I mean, I read the news, used to watch a lot of CNN (before I canceled my cable), and actually have some knowledge of finance, economics, and the like. But even with all that media coverage and college core-class education, it is hard to really get what happened in the last couple of years. Who ever heard the terms “sub-prime,” “toxic assets,” or even “bank bailout” before 2008? Well I recently heard somewhere that the fabulous weekly public radio program This American Life did a couple shows that actually make sense of the whole mess, and I, being a TAL fan already, decided it was time to check it out.

Now I actually feel like I get it. Mortgages, bank failures, government bailouts, sub-prime, Wall Street, etc… It is no longer a mystery to me, thanks to Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson, the guys who co-produced the episodes The Giant Pool of Money (about the housing and mortgage lending crisis), and Bad Bank (about how and why our biggest banks got themselves knee-deep in bad bets).

If you want get a grasp on our economy, and just how scary it is, find a couple of spare hours to listen to the free podcast on’s website (or pay a buck for a download on itunes). It’s worth it, especially if you like to understand the world you live in. CNN and FOX (obviously) won’t give you this kind of clarity. Trust PRI.

Teaser: It’s not all the banks’ fault. I know, it pains me to say it, but they are not entirely to blame, greedy as they are.