Monday, November 28, 2011

Yes, it makes a sound, and we hear it

The documentary, "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" is not just a compelling tale of environmental activists frustrated by traditional methods to thwart (usually unsuccessfully) the destruction of the living planet, but also an exposé of the ratcheted up government response to what was really just property damage. (See: "Eco-terrorism.")

There are two kinds of brutality shown in the film. The first, short clips of oil spills, smokestacks, logging, slaughterhouses and mountain top removal mining. The second, law enforcement's excessive force against protestors, including direct application of pepper spray in the eyes of non-violent resisters, billy-club beatings, etc. Both of these are hard to watch.

A third kind of violence was depicted: that of black block protestors smashing store windows at the "Battle in Seattle," of unoccupied buildings burning, and similar actions. Even a sensitive viewer can watch these without visceral empathy, compassion, or despair. And for us, that's the difference. One thing causes economic pain; the other true, physical suffering. The slaughter of a whale, or a wolf, or a mountain is considered a legitimate transaction; an attempt to harm a corporation's bottom line is a federal crime. It's a fucked up world.

And speaking of suffering, Daniel McGowan is [one of many environmental activists] still in prison. He is the tree that they tried to chop down; let us be the forest that continues to resist.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

We're with Tim DeChristopher on this, too

Via Grist.
It goes without saying that politics is a dirty system. It's so dirty that I believe there are only three reasonable approaches to politics: apathy/despair, overthrowing the system, or playing dirty to win...

[T]his is actually about the third option, playing dirty, and it's intended for those of you who intend to vote next year. I know lots of smart, engaged people who don't participate in politics because they don't want to play dirty. I understand their position as a sensible one. What I don't understand is the large percentage of liberals who avidly engage with the political system but refuse to win.
His analysis is smart and coherent, and he takes on the "What are you going to do, vote for someone worse than Obama?" argument that we hear so much.

For the record, we're not going to vote for someone worse than Obama. We're not going to vote at all, unless there is a huge shift in the candidate pool. Obama is a spineless mess of a President, not the President we hoped to elect by donating large-for-us sums of money to his campaign. Not the President we hoped would select a reasonable person to run the Department of Interior instead of Cowboy Ken Salazar and his Posse of Oil & Gasbags. Not the President who makes hard decisions instead of punting them (e.g. Keystone Pipeline).

We had such high hopes.

Thank you, Tim DeChristopher. You've got our vote.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ooohh, Take the money and run.

Gentle readers,

A bit of good news: A legislative fix to endorse, promote, and be optimistic about!
Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Legislation Introduced in Congress

Bill would Provide Cash Option for Grazing Permittee

Conservationists hailed the introduction of the Rural Economic Vitalization Act (H.R. 3432) in Congress today, a bill that would allow federal grazing permittees to voluntarily relinquish their grazing permits back to the managing federal agency in exchange for compensation paid by a third party. The bill was introduced by Representative Adam Smith (D-WA-9th) and six original cosponsors.

"When enacted, this legislation will help resolve endless conflict on public lands, while providing ranchers with opportunities to restructure their operations, start new businesses, or retire with security," said Mike Hudak, author of Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching and leader of the Sierra Club Grazing Team.

Domestic livestock grazing is the most pervasive and damaging use of federal public lands. On public land across the West, millions of non-native livestock remove and trample vegetation, damage soil, spread invasive weeds, despoil water, deprive native wildlife of forage and shelter, accelerate desertification and even contribute to global warming.

Unfortunately, antiquated federal law generally prohibits closing grazing allotments to benefit fish, wildlife and watersheds. The Rural Economic Vitalization Act would authorize federal agencies to permanently retire grazing permits if requested by ranchers.

"Grazing permit retirement has been implemented in a few places around the West with marked success, but there is much greater need-and demand from ranchers-to retire grazing permits," said Mark Salvo of WildEarth Guardians.
One landscape that has benefited from grazing permit retirement is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where grazing allotments have been closed to reduce conflicts with wolves, grizzly bears and bighorn sheep, and to expand winter range for bison outside Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone bison, the last remaining genetically pure wild herd in the U.S., are subject to intensive management and control based on the irrational fear that they will transmit disease to domestic livestock.

"Bison are hazed, captured, shot and slaughtered to protect grazing interests on public land in Yellowstone country," said Josh Osher of the Buffalo Field Campaign. "REVA is the tool we need to finally, permanently address these conflicts."

In addition to being the source of immeasurable environmental harm, the federal grazing program is a fiscal boondoggle for federal taxpayers. The Government Accountability Office reported that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service annually spend $132.5 million on grazing management, but collect only $17.5 million in grazing fees for a net loss to taxpayers of $115 million.

"We want to save public lands and do our part to solve the deficit," said Brian Ertz of Western Watersheds Project. "We just need Congressional approval to buy out willing ranchers and retire their grazing permits."

Grazing permit retirement is a voluntary, non-regulatory, market-based solution to public lands grazing conflicts. Permittees determine if and when they want to retire their grazing permits. Permittees and third parties separately agree how much a permittee will be paid for relinquishing their permit. And federal agencies facilitate the transaction by immediately retiring grazing permits received from a permittee. The Rural Economic Vitalization Act caps the total number of grazing permits that may be retired each year at 100.

"This is a win-win-win for ranchers, the environment, and taxpayers," said Rose Chilcoat of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. "Let's pass this bill so that we can finally take some common sense steps to ensure healthy public lands.

See also the press release from the office of Rep. Adam Smith.

THANKS TO ALL WHO MADE THIS HAPPEN! Let's get this puppy passed!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Welfare Ranching or Old-Fashioned Extortion

Seems like the livestock industry has reached a new level of forthrightness in their demands for public (and private) money. This article in the New York Times concludes like this:
If wolves are going to be part of the landscape,Mr. Peterson decided, he wants ranchers to get their share of the money “the people in Los Angeles and New York send” to conservationists to find solutions.
Yeah, well, you know what the people in Los Angeles and New York want? A share of the money the federal government throws at ranchers. For an extra $123 million a year, we're pretty sure them city slickers could find some small businesses to support that wouldn't foul our water and air. Ahem.