Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meeting Dr. Temple Grandin -- HBO's Upcoming Movie

Last Spring I was at a "Cooking for Solutions" event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, learning about farming, fishing, and animal rights issues.  One of the panel sessions was on the "Humane Treatment of Farm Animals: Best Practices and New Directions" with Panelist Dr. Temple Grandin.  And her story is the focus of an upcoming HBO movie "Temple Grandin" on February 6.  Dr. Grandin has autism, which has given her challenges but also immense gifts that have been applied in the area of animal science.

At the Monterey event, I would say a majority of us were unaware of Grandin's autism.  She came across extremely assertive -- almost shockingly so -- and several us would turn heads and look at each other when she would make forceful statements early on into the presentation.  All of us had the look ... wouldn't want to get on her bad side.

However, as the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly apparent who was the most educated, articulate, and solution oriented on the subject of humane farm animal treatment.  And that was Dr. Grandin.  In fact, when the buzzer rang to end the discussion, no one wanted to end the panel's time.  We had all been convinced of humane solutions, even when scaling up, and wanted to know more, largely due to Dr. Grandin's immense passion for the subject.

Here are some of Grandin's quotes and comments --

  • Speaking of cows and pigs and how they develop fear of humans when inhumanely kept and raised -- "Animals afraid of people produce less milk and less piglets."  In fact, one of the other panelists, Marcus Benedetti, said about cows that "the longer an animal can live more comfortably, the better milk [it] produces for a longer period of time."
  • She spoke about how there should be a scoring system for handling and slaughtering animals -- a simple auditing system -- "Slaughter houses are easier to deal with than farmers because slaughter houses are highly regulated and used to standards.  We must have reasonable standards depending on each region."  She said that some regions have needs and conditions which other regions do not -- thus the by-region regulations.
  • Grandin said there needs to be a new eco label when it comes to animal products and have this label based on a triple-check sysytem of 1) internal audits, 2) third-party verification, and 3) custom audits from buyers and a random basis --  "[If the producers have] clear guidelines, then they will actually do it."  Areas of Grandin's particular concern were lame animals, body conditions, dirty animals, lesions, swellings, bald spots, lumps, sick animals that don't get treated, chemical levels, lice, and pastures that have less than 75% vegetation.
  • She also felt strongly that the behavior of animals tells us a lot about how to tell if animals are humanely treated, noting that when you see irregular behavior it is a sign of maltreatment.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will Solar and Wind Power Gain Major Traction ... well, it Depends on Coal

Copenhagen Over, Now What?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Support Oxfam in Haiti Relief and Rebuild

Although there are many reputable organizations that are helping Haiti during this emergency time, I would like recommend Oxfam as an organization I feel would be an excellent choice in giving of your donations to help this crisis because the organization is not only attending to immediate needs like water and sanitation but also has a sustainable plan for country's future.

  1. Cancel foreign debt
  2. Focus economic aid support on Haitian farmers and small businesses -- this can make Haitians less dependent on food and product imports and also ensure that monies are not disproportionately ending up in the hands of the few Haitian wealthy
  3. "Ensure poor areas benefit from cash grants to speed economic recovery" such as microloans and also paying the local people to clean up and rebuild their own communities
  4. Help in rebuilding the government through "support for civil society and the Haitian government, including 'ministries in a box' ... large tents containing the basic tools, such as telephones, desks and chairs, which are needed for a government department to operate."
  5. "Build back better, e.g. earthquake-proof buildings and alternative fuel sources to reduce deforestation."
You can donate by going to  Thanks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

After the earthquake: Haiti's deforestation needs attention

From the Christian Science Monitor -- 1/20/10 
Ever since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti a week ago -- the most powerful to strike in 200 years -- stories of the extraordinary damage and suffering wrought by the disaster have [rightfully] dominated airwaves and front pages around the country.  The coverage and the outpouring of aid that followed have, for the time being, focused international attention on the country's poverty and vulnerability to disasters just like this, hopefully to lasting effect.
But somewhat overshadowed in all this activity is one of Haiti's longer term, but nonetheless serious, problems.
The island nation suffers from one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. This is troubling for a number of reasons. The loss of nearly all its trees promises to amplify how dramatically earthquakes, hurricanes, and other periodic natural occurrences impact Haitians, to say nothing of deforestation's impoverishing legacy of erosion and climate change on local scale (less moisture). Without trees holding the soil in place, a heavy rain — let alone a hurricane or an earthquake — can easily cause mudslides on the island's steep slopes.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island in the Caribbean — Hispaniola. Both countries are at the same latitude and, generally speaking, the same climatic conditions prevail.
But one country, the Dominican Republic, has lush forests. The other, Haiti, is almost completely brown and bare. The stark difference is visible from high above — one side green and full of foliage, the other bare.
Here's a photo from NASA and another from a National Geographic story in the 1980s.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Recycled" School Books Plant Trees

Want to save money on school expenses and still go green?   Start with textbooks.  You can either purchase them used from a retailer like (sometimes only $.04 + shipping but can often take two weeks to receive) or through a private textbook loaner like (which has a variety of faster shipping options).

The great thing about a book loaner -- which we might just call book "recycler" -- is that the book gets used over and over.  Just like a library system on a mass scale but with shipping costs.

With the cost of textbooks being sky high, not only do both of these options save you tons of money but they also reuse resources, and this keep books out of waste recycling efforts longer (which additionally saves on resources and emissions).

The book loaner is the best option because it will loan out the book to MANY.  However, if you purchase the book used, unless you personally find a way to sell it to someone else who has a use for it, you'll probably toss it into the recycling bin after you have re-used it.

Another bonus, in the case of book loaner, the company has partnered with American Forests to plant a tree for each order.  You even get to choose where it is planted.  American Forests is rated 4-star on Charity Navigator -- a very good rating.