Mark Your Calendar: August 12 MOGO Meeting at Vege Thai

Our next MOGO meeting is Tuesday, August 12 at 7:00 pm. Charley is organizing this one, and here are the details, via Charley:

I’ll be facilitating our next meeting on Tuesday, August 12. We’ll meet at Vege Thai, 3272 SE Hawthorne, at 7 pm. This is the only completely vegetarian Thai joint in town, as far as I know!

The featured topic is Taking a Stand. You can think about it ahead of time or just chime in, sharing about when you have taken a stand and the experience around it; or you may choose to discuss a stand you would like to take in the near future and get support about it. If possible, read an interview with Julia Butterfly Hill ahead of time, as inspiration. Julia lived in a tree for a couple of years in the interest of protecting it from loggers.

In addition, we’ll talk about what’s ahead for our MOGO group.

If you can join us at Vege Thai, please let Charley know by August 10 so that he can reserve the right size table(s). You can email him at: ck1world@gmail.com.

MOGO in the Media

AREA NEWS:

West coast states to cooperate on ocean action planEnvironment News Service – 7/29/08
”The three states will work together on 26 actions. They promised to advocate for stricter ocean going vessel emission standards, prevent the introduction of invasive species, explore the feasibility of offshore alternative ocean energy development, improve ocean research, increase ocean education and prevent and respond to offshore oil spills, among other efforts.”

Oregonians prefer their cars greenOregonian – 7/29/08
”Nine of every 10 Oregonians say that even if gas prices drop, leaders must act now to avoid a future crisis, and eight of every 10 say car manufacturers should be required to make more efficient cars that pollute less and use less gasoline.”

Sherwood middle school girls learn to stop bullyingPortland Tribune – 7/29/08
”By the end of the two weeks, many of the girls said the training had helped them realize they often played the aggressor and the victim, alternately being mean to other girls and being the target of such abuse.”

Oregon wind farm to be largest in worldPortland Business Journal – 7/28/08
”The Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm, which would span Gilliam and Morrow counties in north-central Oregon, is proposed to have 303 wind turbines with a peak capacity of 909 megawatts — instantly doubling the state’s current wind-generated capacity of 889 megawatts, making it one of the largest wind farms in the country.”

So. Oregon getting first biodiesel plantKTVZ.com – 7/28/08
”Three entrepreneurial young graduates of Southern Oregon University have started the Rogue Valley’s first biodiesel manufacturing plant.”

West coast climate convergence to take place near EugeneOregon Daily Emerald – 7/28/08
“In a nutshell, it’s an opportunity for locals to participate and live in an environment that concentrates on sustainable living through both practice and learning.”

Wolves have returned to OregonSan Francisco Chronicle – 7/27/08
”The announcement triggered celebrations among conservation groups, who have been hoping to see wolves re-established in Oregon to restore a balance of nature broken a century ago when a major predator was eliminated.”

Proposal to charge fees for disposable bags exploredOregonian – 7/26/08
”Love it or hate it? There was no shortage of opinion Friday on the idea to charge up to 20 cents to get a plastic or paper bag at Portland stores.”

Couple works for clean water in Southeast AsiaEugene Register Guard – 7/25/08
”The Bradners were some of the first aid workers allowed into Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis killed 84,000 people in the country in May. They were allowed in thanks to Thirst-Aid, their nonprofit program based in Eugene. Thirst-Aid has been providing jobs in Myanmar making water purification filters for nearly two years.”

Walkable PortlandPortland Tribune – 7/17/08
”Under the catchy title, ‘Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver,’ the free guidebook outlines an impressive variety of local routes, ranging from pastoral strolls to gritty urban sorties, each with a map, description, difficulty rating and even GPS coordinates.”

For an annotated list of recent national/international stories, check out a recent post from Humane Connection.

A Few Words to Live By: Precautionary Principle, Code for Corporate Citizenship, and Cradle to Cradle

We’ve had rules and guidelines about how to live floating about us for centuries, from the Golden Rule to aphorisms to spiritual teachings. Those sorts of guidelines are finding their way more and more into business, government and community policy. Below are three such “guidelines” that I’ve run across recently:

Precautionary Principle

The true origin of the Precautionary Principle seems unclear, though Wikipedia points to the German concept of Vorsorgeprinzip (precaution principle) from the 1930s. One of the most popular definitions of the PP in the U.S comes from the 1998 Wingspread Statement from the Wingspread conference, convened by the Science & Environmental Health Network. That statement says:

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”

It can sort of be summarized as first, do no harm; or, better safe than sorry.

Code for Corporate Citizenship

Whether a fan or a foe of corporations, most people can agree that the main purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for its shareholders. So, even if a company wants to “do the right thing” for people, animals and the planet, if it harms the bottom line, it’s not to be done. Lawyer Robert Hinckley has developed a Code for Corporate Citizenship, 28 words to add to a corporation’s charter, that would allow them to do good AND make money. Those 28 words:

“…but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public health or safety, the communities in which the corporation operates or the dignity of its employees.”

Hinckley is trying to get each state to adopt the code as a requirement for all corporate charters.

Cradle to Cradle

In 2002 William McDonough and Michael Braungart published Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a “manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.” The authors offered a new paradigm for using natural systems as a guide for how we make and “dispose of” all the stuff we think we need to live. Cradle to Cradle has become an important philosophy for many businesses, governments and communities, and has spawned a C2C certification. C2C basically means that:

“…products are developed for closed-loop systems in which every ingredient is safe and beneficial – either to biodegrade naturally and restore the soil, or to be fully recycled into high-quality materials for subsequent product generations again and again.”

On the surface, these three (and the many others out there like them) seem like great, adoptable ideas; so why are they meeting such resistance? Are they realistic and implementable? Or, are they too idealistic and costly? (Can you be too idealistic?)

Guidelines (or rules, or concepts — however you want to think of them) like these provide great opportunities for us to examine our own lives at home, work, and in our communities and to explore what’s possible (and what’s not). If we want to help guidelines like these become mainstream, we need to understand some important elements, such as: What about these ideas work well and are easily adopted? What about them is more complex? Why do people support them? Why do people oppose them? How can we bring together stakeholders with opposing views and come to consensus on solutions that work for everyone?

Whatever guidelines and principles our local and global communities adopt, in our own lives we can always choose to return to the core MOGO question: What will do the most good and least harm for people, animals and the planet?

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Tigr.

Are You Ready for a Post-Carbon World?

Whether we want to accept it or not, our supply of fossil fuels is dwindling. Peak oil, the time when we’ve reached our maximum rate of global oil extraction (and thus demand outweighs supply), is near, if not here, and it affects almost every aspect of our lives. In his How to Save the World blog, Dave Pollard recently highlighted an article from Permaculture Magazine (a UK publication) called 10 Things to Do to Prepare for a Post-Carbon Future. The list includes:

  1. Organize a screening of The End of Suburbia.
  2. Insulate your house.
  3. Get out of debt.
  4. Start a garden.
  5. Become more aware of your surroundings.
  6. Take a permaculture design course.
  7. Ask yourself: “Do I need it?”
  8. Take a look at your work situation.
  9. Form a community group.
  10. Celebrate your successes.

The article provides more detail about each of these.

If you’re a Portlander interested in learning more about peak oil and in preparing yourself for a post-carbon world, the Portland area already has peak oil groups, both in Portland and in Washington County, as well as the Portland Permaculture Institute and Portland Permaculture Guild.

Wikipedia gives a good overview of the peak oil issue and includes a slew of print and online resources.

Have you been preparing for peak oil and a post-carbon world? Please share how.

~ Marsha

Muscles of Soy: Vegan Bodybuilder Busts a Few Vegan Myths

One of the most common questions vegans get is “Where do you get your protein?” One of the most common myths about vegan diets is that they take oodles of careful planning, spending hours each day in the grocery stores and kitchen, reading labels, combining foods, calculating every nutrient and calorie — and that they aren’t sufficient for sports fans. Portlander and vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke recently found himself splashed on the cover of Willamette Week, serving as vegan spokesman and myth buster. “Lean, Mean Meat-Free Machine” was WW‘s July 16th cover story.

A couple quotables:

Cheeke is a bodybuilder, but he has an even better reason to be proud of his massive muscles—they’re made of soy. (And almonds and tempeh and hummus.) Cheeke isn’t just vegan; he’s vegangelical. He’s preaching the good news that eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean being a noodle-armed wimp.

Is a vegan diet really viable for athletes? According to Monica Hunsberger, assistant professor and clinical coordinator at OHSU’s program for graduate studies in human nutrition, it’s no sweat. Although Hunsberger cautions that getting adequate nutrition may be more difficult for vegan athletes, who choose to limit their sources of important nutritional components like protein and vitamin B-12, she maintains that “with a balanced diet, it should be fine.” She’s quick to add that although there are no specific benefits of a vegan diet to a bodybuilding regime, there are pluses for the environment and personal health.

Reporters often tend to bypass positive stories about vegans and veganism, but author of this feature did a pretty good job and took a chance — which, judging by the number of comments, shows that it paid off. Check out the article, and if you’re into bodybuilding, see Robert’s Veganbodybuilding.com.

~ Marsha

P.S. Thanks for your patience with the skimpy posts while I’ve been out of town. Regular posts will now resume.

Does Summer Vacation Have to Mean Trashing the Planet?

Millions of people from all over the world descend on Niagara Falls each year — a projected 20 million in 2008 — to enjoy the magic and power of all that liquid rushing toward the earth, rocks and water below. Families and tour groups gather daily to collectively experience the Maid of the Mist boat ride past the three sets of falls, the Cave of the Winds walk under the falls, the IMAX movie detailing humanity’s patchwork relationship with the falls, and the rough beauty of Niagara Falls State Park. It sounds like a fantastic and memorable adventure, and it is, but seeing the impact of all those people on this small piece of land and water shocked me.

Every person who takes the Maid of the Mist boat ride (they run on both the U.S. and Canadian sides about every half hour from morning until night) is given a blue plastic hooded poncho to wear. 30 minutes of getting blown and drenched, and those bits of plastic are no longer useful. Some take them home as souvenirs, some put them in the recycle bins provided (the plastic is the kind dry cleaning bags are made of), and some throw them away or drop them into the water.

Every person who takes the Cave of the Winds tour is given a yellow plastic poncho (just like the blue ones) and a pair of plastic sandals to wear, as well as a plastic bag to keep their shoes in. On a busy day, this particular tour attracts several thousand people. After an hour of waiting in line and 30 minutes or so getting pummeled by the water hurling itself onto the people below, those plastic items become obsolete. Again, there are places to recycle the ponchos and plastic bags, and a nonprofit organization has a bin to collect the shoes to give to “poor children” in developing countries. But, some people throw the shoes and ponchos and bags away, or take them home as souvenirs (which will eventually find their way into the waste stream). And every Cave of the Winds visitor gets their photo taken, in case they want to buy a memory of their experience. Many people don’t, so those photos also end up in the trash.

And then there are all the trinkets visitors can buy, the food they can eat (that comes with plenty of disposable packaging), and on and on. Multiply this by all the tourist attractions around the world, and humanity’s hunger for beauty, fun, relaxation and adventure is helping cripple the planet and its inhabitants.

There’s only so much a conscientious visitor to such a destination can do. John and I went with his brother and family. The five of us brought our own lunch in reusable containers, so we created little waste there. We recycled all our plastic ponchos and accoutrements from the tours; we walked a lot or took the trolley to minimize fossil fuel use. We avoided the souvenirs. We recycled our leftover ticket coupons.

Even if everyone who visited such destinations made more sustainable choices, the negative impact would still be great. In fact, a recent article from Plenty magazine discussed how eco-travel is helping destroy the places it was meant to help preserve.

So what’s the answer? How do the many billions of us enjoy the wonders of this world without consuming it to death? What are your ideas?

~ Marsha

Lessons Down on the Farm (Sanctuary)

I've admired cows from afar; now I get to show some love up close!

Some of you may have been wondering where the heck all the posts have gone. I’ve been traveling in the Northeast since July 3 (combination of work and visiting family), and have had brief and infrequent Internet access, so my ability to post has been nearly non-existent. But, my time has been well spent. Among other adventures, John (my husband) and I made a pilgrimage to the vegan vatican, Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York (near one of the lovely finger lakes).

We’ve been long-time supporters, but have never had the opportunity to actually visit either of the sanctuaries (the other is in Orland, California). So, when our plans took us out east, we knew we had to visit.

This guy loved me because I knew where to find his scritchy "sweet spot."

As you can imagine, it’s an amazing place. Cows, pigs, sheep and goats, chickens, ducks and geese, rabbits and turkeys all have their own luscious spaces to roam, to feed, to snooze, to hang with their friends. Farm Sanctuary makes it clear to visitors that we’re guests in the animals’ homes.

The whole time I was there among the animals, I felt like a giddy kid. I petted cows and scritched goats (their favorite spot is right between their horns, where they can never reach). I gently stroked a turkey’s feathers and got to hug pigs and give them belly rubs. I coaxed kids into feeling the softness of the pigs’ bellies and giving the goats a little scratch. It was heaven!

Not every woman realizes her dream of getting to hug a pig!

While we were there, we went on two of the tours (as I didn’t get in enough cow petting during the first one). And, I’m really glad that we did. During the first tour, our guide (a young intern in her late teens/early twenties) was rather perfunctory in leading us through the different barns to meet the various animals. We spent only a few minutes in each of the barns, and the information she shared was general and given distractedly. Most of the visitors weren’t paying attention; some were talking loudly over what she was saying. It seemed that she was either really unsure of herself, or completely bored with the repetition of doing the tour a gazillion times — just another thing to do as quickly and painlessly as possible. Since I’d never been to a Farm Sanctuary before, I didn’t really have many expectations (other than the hopes of getting to hug animals). But, I was pretty disappointed. The ennui of the tour guide had diminished my enthusiasm for the experience.

A "heritage" breed rescued from an organic farm enjoys his mud bath, and posting for his fans.

Fortunately, we decided to go on a second tour, which happened to have a different tour guide. We were only going to stay long enough to see the cows again (the first stop). We ended up staying for the entire tour. It was a completely different — and amazing — experience. This guide connected with us from the beginning. He was friendly and personable, and took the time to share important information with us. One of the biggest differences in his approach was that, at each barn, he introduced us to several of the animals there and told their stories, thus interweaving the personal life histories of these beings in front of us with the horrors that are unleashed on farmed animals in the U.S. Then, just as importantly, he gave us time to just be with the animals. Both approaches made the tour more meaningful and powerful.

The experience reminded me how important our daily interactions with others are, especially when we’re serving in our roles as advocates. Are we answering people’s questions (you know, those ones we’ve been asked a million times before) distractedly, with a little eye-rolling, or with sincerity and a genuine desire to connect with them? Are we repeating facts about the cruelties and injustices of the world (or going into details graphic enough to make horror director plug his ears), or are we making an effort to share compelling stories and to help people see the issues from a more personal perspective? Are we rushing through, to hurry up and get to the end of the interaction? Or, are we taking time to just be with the people around us and give them time and space to think and explore and inquire?

Every interaction we have with someone can mean a positive experience that brings them closer to making more humane choices, or a negative experience that drives them farther away. We each have the power to help decide which it will be.

~ Marsha