Obama Preserves Our Way of Life

Awakened by the muffled, distant howls of slaughtered Indians, Uncle Sam rises from his bed and hits the light switch…blissfully, purposefully unaware of how valley fills enable him to gain access to that electricity day after day.

*****

Here’s how The Sierra Club begins its discussion of mountaintop removal mining: “In places like Appalachia, mining companies blow the tops off mountains to reach a thin seam of coal and then, to minimize waste disposal costs, dump millions of tons of waste rock into the valleys below, causing permanent damage to the ecosystem and landscape.” That is a valley fill.

Then comes word—on October 18, 2008—that the Interior Department has “advanced a proposal that would ease restrictions on dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams, modifying protections that have been in place, though often circumvented, for a quarter-century.” This from a New York Times article, which continues: “The department’s Office of Surface Mining issued a final environmental analysis Friday on the proposed rule change, which has been under consideration for four years. It has been a priority of the surface mining industry … The proposed rule would rewrite a regulation enacted in 1983 that bars mining companies from dumping huge waste piles, known as “valley fills,” within 100 feet of any intermittent or perennial stream if the disposal affects water quality or quantity.”

*****

Like any good American, after subconsciously blocking out the faint sounds of slave chains clinking and bull whips cracking, Uncle Sam’s first chore of the day is to check e-mail. No time for him to contemplate e-waste, now is there?

*****

E-waste (discarded electronics and electrical products) has some potential in supplying secondary raw materials to keep the entire system afloat, when not properly treated properly it becomes a major source of carcinogens and toxins.

“A whole bouquet of heavy metals, semimetals and other chemical compounds lurk inside your seemingly innocent laptop or TV,” adds Jessika Toothman at HowStuffWorks.com. “E-waste dangers stem from ingredients such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, beryllium, barium, chromium, nickel, zinc, silver and gold. Many of these elements are used in circuit boards and comprise electrical parts such as computer chips, monitors, and wiring.”

According to the EPA, in 2005, “used or unwanted electronics amounted to approximately 1.9 to 2.2 million tons. Of that, about 1.5 to 1.9 million tons were primarily discarded in landfills, and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.”

*****

Uncle Sam decides he wants eggs for breakfast and what Uncle Sam wants, Uncle Sam gets. Not even the din of doomed chickens can slow down this hungry man.

*****

Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns has written a narrative of what a battery hen might say if it could speak human language. The narrative begins: “I am battery hen. I live in a cage so small I cannot stretch my wings. I am forced to stand night and day on a sloping wire mesh floor that painfully cuts into my feet. The cage walls tear my feathers, forming blood blisters that never heal. The air is so full of ammonia that my lungs hurt and my eyes burn and I think I am going blind. As soon as I was born, a man grabbed me and sheared off part of my beak with a hot iron, and my little brothers were thrown into trash bags as useless alive.”

Battery hens produce the vast majority of eggs you’ll find in your market.

*****

With food now in his stomach, Uncle Sam joins the vast majority of Americans who take at least one form of pharmaceutical drug each day. Choosing to ignore the agonized screams of tortured animals, Uncle Sam gulps down his pills.

*****

Aysha Z Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., is a senior medical advisor and Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D., is a senior research consultant for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “The more we study the relevance of animal tests, the more apparent their shortcomings become,” Akhtar and Bailey state in a Feb. 9, 2007 letter published in the British Medical Journal. “Even subtle physiological differences between humans and animals can manifest as profound differences in disease physiology and treatment effectiveness and safety. For example, numerous differences in spinal cord physiology and reaction to injury exist between species and even strains within a species. These differences likely contribute to the repeated failure of spinal cord treatments that have tested safe and effective in animals to translate into human benefit.”

“Results from animal tests are not transferable between species, and therefore cannot guarantee product safety for humans,” agrees Herbert Gundersheimer, M.D. “A major shift in our research paradigm is long overdue,” declare Akhtar and Bailey. “The move away from animal experiments toward more accurate methods of studying disease and intervention is scientifically superior and more ethical for humanity, as well as for animals.”

“Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: ’Because the animals are like us,’” writes Professor Charles R. Magel. “Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ’Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.”

*****

Uncle Sam’s medicine is washed down thanks to store-bought water. As he packs his water bottle in his work bag, he could swear a cruise missile has soared past his house but instead nods his head in disbelief.

*****

“Americans buy 30 billion single-use water bottles every year, the majority of which end up in landfills,” writes Dominic Muren at TreeHugger.com. “In fact, 845 bottles end up in the land fill every second. All these water bottles are made from petroleum, and require petroleum to be shipped around the world. All that, and there’s no evidence that bottled water is any cleaner than tap-water.”

Catherine Clarke Fox of National Geographic adds: “But all those plastic bottles use a lot of fossil fuels and pollute the environment. In fact, Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles a year to the problem. In order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months. Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.”

*****

Tired of getting animal blood on his socks, Uncle Sam reaches for his leather shoes…courtesy of the $1.5-billion-and-100-million-animal-skins-per-year U.S. industry.

*****

“Leather is not simply a slaughterhouse byproduct,” says animal issues columnist Carla Bennett. “It’s a booming industry and an important part of the slaughter trade, since skin accounts for approximately 50 percent of the total byproduct value of cattle.” Leather is also made from slaughtered horses, sheep, lambs, goats, and pigs. “When dairy cows’ production declines, for example, their skin is made into leather; the hides of their offspring, ‘veal’ calves, are made into high-priced calfskin,” adds Bennett. “Thus, the economic success of the slaughterhouse (and the factory farm) is directly linked to the sale of leather goods.”

Another tactic for procuring animal skins is hunting. Species such as zebras, bison, water buffaloes, boars, deer, kangaroos, elephants, eels, sharks, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, crocodiles, lizards, and snakes are murdered solely for their hides. These animals are often endangered or illegally poached—and death is rarely swift or painless. Alligators are clubbed with axes and hammers and may suffer for hours. Reptiles are skinned alive to achieve suppleness in the leather and may take days to die. Kid goats are boiled alive.

A clever diversionary tactic of leather makers is to label their products “biodegradable” while pointing out that synthetic versions are usually petroleum-based. However, says Sally Clinton in Vegetarian Journal, the tanning process acts to “stabilize the collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable.” In turn, the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology explains, “On the basis of quantity of energy consumed per unit of product produced, the leather-manufacturing industry would be categorized with the aluminum, paper, steel, cement, and petroleum-manufacturing industries as a gross consumer of energy.” The primary reason for this is that over 95 percent of U.S. leather is chrome tanned. “All wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the EPA,” writes Clinton. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average. According to a study released by the New York State Department of Health, more than half of all testicular cancer victims work in tanneries.

*****

Uncle Sam heads for his beloved SUV, trying his best to not only find his cell phone but also to avoid stepping on the thousands of dying frogs that litter his driveway.

*****

The South American tree frogs’ population is declining and biologists are blaming global warming. These frogs, it seems, have the very un-froglike habit of basking in the hot sun (most frogs normally avoid prolonged exposure to light due to the risk of overheating and dehydration). According to a research team at the University of Manchester, “global warming is leading to more cloud cover in the frogs’ natural habitat. This, in turn, is denying them the opportunity to ‘sunbathe’ and kill off fatal Chytrid fungal infections, leading to many species dying out.”

Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology at the Manchester Museum, says: “With a third of the world’s amphibians currently under threat it’s vitally important we do our utmost to investigate the reasons why they are dying out at such an alarming rate.”

*****

Uncle Sam starts up the engine and plugs in his cell phone headset, ready for a drive’s worth of important, essential, and utterly crucial business calls…but how can he hear over the sorrowful primate calls echoing off the SUV’s interior?

*****

Here’s how the United Nations describes it: “Columbite-tantalite—coltan for short—is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge.” Tantalum from coltan is used in consumer electronics products such as cell phones.

Why would the UN be involved in describing a component of your cell phone? Well, coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an African nation besieged by a brutal civil war. The mining and sale of coltan is used by both sides in the conflict to fund their military mayhem. In addition, the UN explains: “In order to mine for coltan, rebels have overrun Congo’s national parks, clearing out large chunks of the area’s lush forests. In addition, the poverty and starvation caused by the war have driven some miners and rebels to hunt the parks’ endangered elephants and gorillas for food.” Within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number of eastern lowland gorillas has declined by 90% over the past 5 years, and only 3,000 now remain.

*****

Uncle Sam (on the phone): “Yeah, I’m on my way. (pause) I’m fine. Just got a headache. So much damn background noise lately. (pause) Ah, stop your worrying. It’s all gonna be fine. What could possibly go wrong now that Obama is in charge?”

(To be continued?)

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Read other articles by Mickey.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on November 24th, 2008 at 8:40am #

    Frank communication with the public is essential. At present, all around the world,
    governments are guilty of greenwash, an implausible approach of goals and half-measures
    that will barely slow the growth of CO2. The world, not just the United States, needs an open
    honest discussion of what is needed. It is a tremendous burden to place on the Presidentelect,
    who seems to be the only potential candidate. The only chance seems to be if he
    understands the truth – the whole truth. Hansen

    Frank who is Frank? That would be us. I sure hope that some of you out there are trying to get a few million people in front of the halls of power as so far from this new guy doesn’t look good. We could all change are name to Frank, think Frank. Yes a few million yell Frank at the same time. Do you think we could get an echo down those halls? “Think Frank”. $300 billion to Citigroup, “Hallelujah”

    Now color me crazy but “Think Frank” could just work as a start. Frank communication with the public is essential and as we all know that doesn’t happen because the Frank communication needs to be about the very people who are in control of the communication. Yes it has come to this. We all used to read that this could happen well it has. “Think Frank”.

  2. bozh said on November 24th, 2008 at 9:04am #

    while i dislike very much to talk ab any politico and what he/she says/said/’promised’/or might do, i note that clinton faced impeachment for having sex and not for US crimes against iraqi children.
    if a prez is as powerful as media/schooling propagate, wld clinton have tolerated the nonsense from some deluded reps?
    and wld nixon have been deposed for trivial reasons if he had been that powerful?
    not to mention any name, a prez is quite limited in his/her powers.
    change can come in US and elsewhere when a mass of people picket churches, small business, etc.

  3. Don Hawkins said on November 24th, 2008 at 9:50am #

    For some reason many want to forget we are out of time. Some things will take a few hundred years to change and the last time I checked we all have about 9 years to level out CO 2. We need to focus and beat the darkside at there own game sort of. It’s there game we need to change but let’s not be stupid about this. We are out numbered because they are organized and we are not but remember in numbers it’s about 300 to 1 in our favor if we can get started. The darkside is strong nature of the beast and we have the truth and knowledge those two things are there worst enemy. Remember 2005 and the weather well when El Nino comes back it should be a real eye opener and the darkside will spin like a top. Think Frank the time is now and economy’s come and go we will probably not get a second chance with drought, flooding, disease that’s the one that will not be to good, sea level rise, plants and animals going bye bye and human’s. Food and water a problem think frank.

  4. Brian Koontz said on November 24th, 2008 at 11:59am #

    Greenwash is the present and future of the corporate propaganda model. Since celebrities and hyper-brands like Disney are another major model, our corporate overlords should combine the two and produce a Green Celebrity to expound their monstrosity. Imagine Hannah Montana as a proponent of Obama’s “Green Jobs”.

    Or a Disney film about “saving the environment”.

  5. Don Hawkins said on November 24th, 2008 at 1:13pm #

    Good films cutting edge History Channel and National Geographic Channel. A new one I just watched on the History Channel posed the question in a film on the Universe what if George W Bush had become baseball commissioner instead of President, scientists can be very clever. Let’s see how clever this new administration is say the first six months.

  6. bozh said on November 24th, 2008 at 2:44pm #

    greenwashing is a new term to me. it seems to me that it had been invented after the word “whitewash”;ie, to hide some dirty work.
    and gren washing means covering up dirt, i take it.
    hawkins is correct ab decades-long delay btw cause and effect.
    or, a better way to say it wld be, causes-effects since one cannot in nature separate one from the other.
    effects cause causes; causes affect effects. thnx

  7. Max Shields said on November 24th, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    bozh, green washing (somewhat akin to whitewashing) is when a corporation like WalMart claims that in spite of the slave labor and destruction of the planet through excessive fossil use to transport cheap (slave made goods), they [WalMart] are “green” because they put solar panels on their big box stores.

    This “green-washing” is the coopting of progressive initiatives, and undermining them through heavy doses of marketing (kinda like the way Obama became president) so that the world’s major polluters claim the thrown of ECO-friendly Capitalism. Like the uber-neoliberal Tommy Friedman who grabs onto eco-sustainability to turn it into the NEXT BIG Globalized THING.

    It is the ultimate cynicism. Orwellian in the truest sense, it turn all the evil into a pleasant field of lillies. It is Amerikan imperial capitalism unbound.

  8. joed said on November 24th, 2008 at 3:26pm #

    T.Boone Pickens, the spokesperson for “GREEN” wind mill power in amerika, is an elite texas oilman. these scumbags know what is happening and they have taken over the “green” movement in amerika. i saw him on tv doing an add. he said he needs the amerikan people to help him make amerika ‘green” . it’s a real revolution says he! personally, i couldn’t agree more, at least it is the only revolution amerika will see and T. Boone is the amerikan rebel resistance leader that ya’ll have been waiting for. now tear down the walls of this FREE SPEACH ZONE known as Dissident Voice and join the revolution, get out in the streets and make some noise. rejoice with T. Boone for he is the “green” one.

  9. Don Hawkins said on November 24th, 2008 at 3:45pm #

    And here is some Greenwash in it’s purest form.

    WASHINGTON, Nov 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Chevron has hired a “scientist” affiliated with a think tank dedicated to denying the threat of global warming while it spends tens of millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign to promote a “green” image.
    The Chevron consultant, Douglas Southgate, is actually an “environmental economist” affiliated with a think tank called the Heartland Institute. Based in Chicago, Heartland promotes the idea that there is a “debate” about global warming despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is responsible for it. The Institute also creates research that downplays the dangers of secondhand smoke.
    Contributions to the Heartland Institute have flowed from the likes of Exxon, Phillip Morris, and the ultraconservative Scaife Foundation. The Institute stopped disclosing its funders in 2006 after it came under attack for producing tailor-made research in support of its industry supporters.
    The disclosure of Southgate’s affiliation is bound to raise even more questions about Chevron’s commitment to green policies, which observers say has fallen significantly behind its industry rivals. Unlike industry peers Shell and BP, Chevron has no significant human rights policy for countries where it operates and currently faces numerous environmental problems around the globe — including a potential $16.3 billion liability for toxic dumping in Ecuador’s Amazon.
    Southgate recently was quoted in news reports defending Chevron’s practices in Ecuador, which included the dumping of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and the abandonment of more than 900 waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor. The indigenous groups in Chevron’s former concession area have seen their populations decimated and ancestral lands plagued by the toxic contamination.
    Amazonian communities have long charged that Chevron has fabricated “junk science” to cover up the fact thousands of soil samples produced in the Ecuador trial demonstrate life-threatening levels of contamination. An independent, court-appointed expert who reviewed 54,000 chemical sampling results recently found that 100% of Chevron’s former well sites are contaminated with illegal levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons.
    Chevron has tried to paper over its problems by spending millions to tout the company’s new “human energy” slogan.
    “Chevron’s so-called ‘green’ advertising campaign is a fraud when compared to the company’s environmental record in the Amazon,” said Pablo Fajardo, an Ecuadorian lawyer and Goldman Prize winner who leads the Ecuador case.
    “Chevron is paying academics to distort research to hide a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe in Ecuador,” said Fajardo. “Their advertising budget would be better spent on solving real problems.”
    Southgate is just one of the discredited experts employed by Chevron. Other questionable Chevron “scientists” on the Ecuador case include Ralph Marquez, a former chief lobbyist for the chemical industry in Texas, and Sara McMillen, a Chevron scientist who speaks to the media about toxicological issues without having a degree in the subject.
    About the Amazon Defense Coalition
    The Amazon Defense Coalition represents dozens of rainforest communities and five indigenous groups that inhabit Ecuador’s Northern Amazon region. The mission of the Coalition is to protect the environment and secure social justice through grass roots organizing, political advocacy, and litigation.
    SOURCE: Amazon Defense Coalition

    He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother and that money as the indigenous groups in Chevron’s former concession area have seen their populations decimated and ancestral lands plagued by the toxic contamination and of course Chevron and Exxon and on and on have decided to sell all the fossil fuels they can and good luck kids have a nice life.

  10. Don Hawkins said on November 25th, 2008 at 7:27am #

    Thursday 20 November 2008

    »
    by: Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian UK

    A surface mining operation in a Colorado portion of the Green River Formation. (Photo: Ray Ng / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images)
    Oil shale mining in Rocky Mountains gets go-ahead. “Midnight regulations” to dismantle safeguards.

    Washington – George Bush is working at a breakneck pace to dismantle at least 10 major environmental safeguards protecting America’s wildlife, national parks and rivers before he leaves office in January.

    With barely 60 days to go until Bush hands over to Barack Obama, his White House is working methodically to weaken or reverse an array of regulations that protect America’s wilderness from logging or mining operations, and compel factory farms to clean up dangerous waste.

    In the latest such move this week, Bush opened up some 800,000 hectares (2m acres) of land in Rocky Mountain states for the development of oil shale, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. The law goes into effect on January 17, three days before Obama takes office.

    Think Frank

  11. ed strong said on November 26th, 2008 at 6:14am #

    Greenwashing has echoes of brainwashing for me. The link’s obvious.

  12. anon said on November 28th, 2008 at 8:06am #

    Power and the Presidency have changed a lot since Nixon’s time. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the media was independent. Most TV stations, newspapers, networks etc were independently owned. Ie, not subisidiaries of some larger corporation. And, there was a distinct notion of journalistic integrity that doesn’t exist today. There was a notion of a ‘wall’ between the news and advertising operations.

    This allowed coverage of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and of reporting of Nixon’s crimes that is not allowed today. In those days, the ‘news’ organizations had more freedom to decide what would be important ‘news’ to the citizens and report it.

    It was also a time whe Congress still had some power relative to the President. In today’s money-driven politics, the people who have the power to back a Presidential candidate with $600 million in ‘contributions’ also have the power to support or destroy any congressperson. Money now rules, where that wasn’t true in the 60’s. Its much harder today for a congressperson with principles to stand by them and then count on the voters in the district to support them for that. Especially when you factor in the above point that the media is no longer an independent source of news but instead a corporate mouthpiece. A congressperson that tries to stand up to power the way Congress did to Nixon would not only face a set of well-financed primary and general election challenges, but also a media that would distort their views and make it very hard for such a congress person to get their own views about why they did this out to the voting public.

  13. anon said on November 28th, 2008 at 8:11am #

    PS … Nixon wasn’t impeached for ‘trivial reasons’. He was impeached for exactly the sort of power grab and attempt to create an ‘imperial presidency’ we’ve seen under Bush. He was impeached for extortion of money using government power as the threat (“donate to CREEP or face IRS prosecutions”). He was impeached for using those slush funds to subvert democracy. He was impeached for the sorts of black bag break-in operations and domestic spying that are now legal under the Democrat-support Patriot Act.

    Dick Cheney was on Nixon’s staff at the time. That’s where he learned his dirty tricks. Watergate and the impeachment of Nixon was the result of a still functioning democracy in America saying no to all of this. The change in the country over 30 years is noticeable in the failure to impeach Bush for similar crimes.

  14. bozh said on November 28th, 2008 at 8:55am #

    anon,
    i do not think US is a democracy; it is a plutocracy to me. this means there always had been in US one party only.
    plutocrats realized that they must have visible managers and to persuade nonruling class that it is ruled by the people for the people, they seemingly set up ‘two parties’ .
    that nixon was impeached, johnson did not run again, and clinton condemned for having sex prooves that a prez is a mere manager and not a ruler.
    the ruler always had been uncle sam and he cannot be split in two like politicians.
    remember, clinton was responsible for deaths of babies in iraq but uncle has never punished him for that.
    truman had murdered ab 200 civ’ns; again he not only was not condemned but was praised for doing the right thing.

  15. Don Hawkins said on November 28th, 2008 at 9:04am #

    Whatever the system in this age just maybe unplanned. To many players looking for the answers. I could be wrong on the answer part.

  16. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 9:33am #

    anon,
    I agree with your points – I don’ t think we’ve ever had a democracy or otherwise, but I understand your context relative to today.

    What’s interesting is that Nixon, compared to today’s standards, is actually left in terms of many of his enacted policies on the environmnet and workers’ rights than the Democratic Party today.

    Since signing the Geneva Accord and the UN Charter all of the US warring, across the two Parties and administrations are illegal, and most certainly immoral. These are all high crimes. We’ve not declared a war since WWII, and yet POTUS are allowed total impunity in spite of the Federal as well as international law breaking including crimes against humanity.

    Our impeachment proceedings in the early 70s seem an anomoly given what presdents of both Parties have been allowed to get away with.