Links and Tweets for the Week — November 29, 2009

hicks-jenkins mari lwyd
“Stumble” from the Mari Lwyd series by Clive Hicks-Jenkins


The Transition Movement’s Founder at TED: “What is most distressing when I speak with climate scientists is the increasingly terrified look I see in their eyes as each new study that is published.” Rob Hopkins explains the astonishing energy efficiency of oil, and how our lives have come to be utterly dependent on it. “The [absurd] idea that prevails at events like these TED Talks is that technology can somehow solve everything, and get us through this completely, that we can invent our way out of a profound economic and energy crisis.” A good summary of the Transition Response as a movement that shares its successes and learns from its mistakes, and adapts to the unique situation of each community. Thanks to Sheri Herndon for the link.

Medicated America: Melissa Holbrook Pierson: “In the line we desultorily watch four white-coated employees beyond the counter scurrying to fill the prescriptions, click-clicking little tablets by the hundreds into bottles and then white paper sacks. In a mirror image beyond them, another white-coated employee tends to the cars that have pulled up outside in the dark to a window with a microphone in it. The only money changing hands this night is doing so over drugs.”

Guerrilla Software: John Robb describes the essential attributes of software that helps activists get things done. What he describes sounds amazingly like Google Wave. Thanks to David Parkinson for the link and the one that follows.

Cellular Organization Can Work for Activists Too: The kind of cellular organization used so effectively by churches (and terrorists) can also help coordinate and encourage grassroots activism, according to a new book.

Pollution Now Causes 40% of Deaths: The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, now cause diseases that ultimately kill almost half of us. Overcrowding, malnutrition, poor sanitation and unhealthy diets, combined with the industrial agricultural system and inadequate and unenforced pollution laws underlie this high and growing mortality rate. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.


A Plea to Become Vegan: As a result of the ADA study I reported on recently (that vegan diets can be perfectly healthy diets), and some other persuasive articles readers have sent me, I’m now taking the step to become vegan. This is a challenge: A recent shopping trip to buy two weeks’ worth of food took me over an hour, most of it spent reading labels. It also means sometimes foregoing local and organic foods to get enough variety in your diet. Gary Steiner’s recent piece in the NYT has encouraged me — it’s a straight-forward, unemotional explanation of why, if you care about animal cruelty and suffering, vegan is the only way to go.

A Lesson on Improvision: In the New Yorker, a brief story of how a librarian exemplifies improvisation in the kitchen. Thanks to Chris Corrigan for the link.


How the US (Still) Funds the Taliban: If you read this and can still understand why Obama isn’t immediately withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan (let alone proposing to increase troop levels), please explain it to me. And Malalai Joya, the country’s bravest politician, says US troops are just making the situation worse. Thanks to Eric Lilius and Raffi Aftandelian for the links.

Tar Sands Water Waste Ignored: Another study shows that Canada’s federal and provincial governments are ignoring the laws designed to protect the country’s fresh water, and allowing Tar Sands developers a free pass to pollute. More evidence we cannot rely on Canada’s “bought” Conservative governments to police or limit this atrocity.

Greed Stifles Innovation: Greedy corporatists, preying on obsolete and fuzzy intellectual property laws and corruptible officials, are copyrighting and patenting everything, and then sic’ing armies of lawyers on anyone encroaching on their ‘property rights’. The effect is to discourage and penalize innovation and increase costs for everyone. Thanks to Jerry Michalski for the link.


An amazing presentation by Colleen Wainwright, that, as a fellow auto-immune disease sufferer, sent shivers right through me.

The stunning artwork of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (sample at the top of this post) is generously shared and described on the author’s “art-log”. Thanks to Dave Bonta for the link.

Great spoof of Amazon for buy-nothing day. Read the whole thing. Thanks to Keith Farnish for the link.


From Christopher Isherwood back in 1966 (thanks to Dave Smith for the link):

To live sanely in Los Angeles (or, I suppose, in any other large American city) you have to cultivate the art of staying awake. You must learn to resist (firmly but not tensely) the unceasing hypnotic suggestions of the radio, the billboards, the movies and the newspapers; those demon voices which are forever whispering in your ear what you should desire, what you should fear, what you should wear and eat and drink and enjoy, what you should think and do and be. They have planned a life for you — from the cradle to the grave and beyond — which it would be easy, fatally easy!, to accept. The least wandering of the attention, the least relaxation of your awareness, and already the eyelids begin to droop, the eyes grow vacant, the body starts to move in obedience to the hypnotist’s command. Wake up, wake up — before you sign that seven-year contract, buy that house you don’t really want, marry that girl you secretly despise. Don’t reach for the whiskey, that won’t help you. You’ve got to think, to discriminate, to exercise your own free will and judgment. And you must do this, I repeat, without tension, quite rationally and calmly. For if you give way to fury against the hypnotists, if you smash the radio and tear the newspapers to shreds, you will only rush to the other extreme and fossilize into defiant eccentricity.

From my friend Sara in Second Life: “I have to hide me at work.”

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14 Responses to Links and Tweets for the Week — November 29, 2009

  1. Dale Asberry says:

    Cellular networks for political activism: Jeff Vail, John Robb, and Shlok Vaidya. Read and know their stuff.

  2. Dale Asberry says:

    John’s less formal musings.

  3. vera says:

    Just responding to Dave’s “vegan is the only way to go”. And here I am going by Quinn’s “there is no one right way to live….” — is the vegan brigade another form of civ’s insistence on human monoculture?

  4. scruff says:

    I’m happy for Dave that he’s finding value in going vegan, but I’m not vegan, and I’m not convinced by what’s convinced him. I hope this can be a point of exploration without becoming another proselytizing issue like poly was a few months back.

  5. Paul says:

    Dale, thanks for the leads.

  6. Well done Dave for making the decision to go vegan. I was vegetarian myself for a year and spent that whole time feeling like a hypocrite knowing what I knew and continuing to support the system. After that I became vegan and that was 4 years ago and I’m happy with the decision. For me the driving choice was simply the ethical treatment of animals and the only “against” argument for going vegan was taste. Yes I like the taste of animal products! Probably because I grew up on it like everyone else. But that is such a weak argument if you can even call it that.Ever since going Vegetarian I started getting yearly blood work done to build up a history and ensure no problems. Since then my cholesterol level has dropped, my good to bad ratio has improved out of sight, and I haven’t had any issues with iron, B12, etc… levels. I’m also an avid cyclist doing around 200km/week and amongst the top 10-20% of riders in Perth. So energy certainly isn’t an issue for me.For the others. I often hear long-time friends (non-vegan) or new non-vegans I meet that are quick to tell me they don’t eat much meat, or buy free-range eggs etc… To me that implies some sense of acknowledgement that something isn’t right with the system. Most people know more though and choose to ignore the realities. Some are curious but at the same time want to make sure their conscious is clear and out come all the usual attacks like how can I even be alive without animal protein, or how can I even walk around I should be so weak. However if you do make the decision to do the right thing, and that may be to only consume ethical animal products (perhaps that’s an oxymoron – i didn’t explore this option) then you’d find that you 1) couldn’t eat out at all since you don’t know where they source their animal products in most cases 2) couldn’t eat at any friends place for the same reason. In effect pretty much a vegan diet beyond the home where you have complete control and even then it’s probably not practical. Of course being vegan extends beyond diet, but diet is the most difficult aspect to deal with IMO.The human body is a marvelous contraption with the ability to keep itself running on such a broad range of diets in the shorter to medium term. Poorly balanced diets are going to lead to poor health and disease regardless if it’s omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. In most cases the people who aren’t vegan, yet criticism my diet, have no clue about their own diet and if it’s healthy so it’s a bit rich to argue in such a way. Oh and yes, you’re going to get some clueless vegans too who are unhealthy due to an unbalanced diet.The health benefits and reduced environmental footprint are just a bonus :)

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone. Dale, great stuff from these 3 — thanks. Vera, I just said it was the only way to go IF you care about animal cruelty and suffering. Scruff, after the threats I received for my writing on poly, I’m nervous about writing about any issue construed as ‘moral’. I guess that means no more pro-masturbation posts either, huh? Jason, thanks for the reassurances — sounds as if our lifestyles are similar though I run more than cycle.

  8. Janene says:

    Hey –Dave… ouch…. really you’ld go there? If you eat meat then you cannot care about animal cruelty and suffering?Actually, this coming up again inspired me to write a post today on my own food decisions and relationships. Not to convince anyone to join me, but merely to expound upon the ethical issues from within my own worldview…

  9. scruff says:

    Dave, I’m sorry; I never knew you got threats for your writings about poly. That’s horrible, absolutely unacceptable behavior. I do hope that never happens again.

  10. vera says:

    “Vera, I just said it was the only way to go IF you care about animal cruelty and suffering.” Exactly. You have just divided the world into caring vegans and the rest of us immoral scum. Thanks a lot!Jason, I sure would like to see you show that a high grain diet has a reduced environmental footprint. Considering it takes 7 kg lost soil to put 1 kg bread on the table in Oz, maybe there is a tiny little problem with such a claim. Prad here ducked it claiming he is a veg & fruit man. How many veg folk fall into the category? Less than 1%?

  11. Vera, you may be right in a worst-case vegan diet (highly processed non-organic grain based foods) vs best case omnivore diet (e.g. permaculture food garden, eating the animals that are part of that system) but you’re deluding yourself since this isn’t how most of the western world feeds itself.The world feeds itself thanks to huge intensive (mono-)agriculture and intensively raised animals. In Australia that means pretty much all intensively raised Chickens and Pork are done on grains and eating bits of other animals. Since this is a very inefficient method to create protein/calories, then the inputs (i.e. grains) are much HIGHER than if we just cut out the middle man (the animal) and ate the grains. Cattle and Sheep/lamb do spend most of their lives in fields but cattle are usually sent to intensive feed lots (on grains) before butchering. With this in mind even a poor vegan food selection would be better than a typical western selection.It’s also more complicated than what’s fed to the animals, i.e. water use, water pollution, air pollution, etc… Read the UN report on the environmental issue of livestock ( Remember land reclaimed from grazing or growing food (in excess of human needs) can be returned to nature. I don’t really believe this will happen since the world population keeps increasing but in an ideal situation…So from an environmental/ecological point of view there could be huge improvements in how food is grown, both at the plant level and at the animal level. I don’t think anyone can dispute this.Also I suggest reading Animal Liberation by Peter Singer or the newer co-authored “The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter”.

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Everyone — what Jason said. The facts (as distinct from one’s personal choices) are I think an incontrovertible as climate change.Having said that, this (like everything I write here) is JUST MY OPINION. The number of close vegan friends I have is zero, and I completely respect those who don’t agree with me on this. I’m just announcing my own intention to become fully vegan as soon as possible, because there do not seem to be any compelling health reasons not to, and because I can’t in any conscience work to stop factory farming if I’m a customer. I still love you if you eat meat.It’s interesting to me that when I write about bringing down industrial civilization no one gets too perturbed, but when I write about veganism, or polyamory, or masturbation, or other matters of personal choice, it attracts a firestorm of debate and criticism. I’m guessing it’s all about what we think we have some control over. It’s interesting, anyway. Thanks to you all, and really, no offense intended.

  13. vera says:

    Dave, I am not perturbed by anything you say about wanting to be a vegan, but when you start telling us it is the only way to go for those who care, then I balk. You got judgmental on us, man…! :-(Jason, you want to cut out the middleman and eat the grains. I say, let’s cut out the grains and the middlemen and the destructive grain fields and convert them to pastures and permaculture and forest. And let’s not turn eating into religion.

  14. Richard says:

    Read “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

    It is possible to be a “mindful omnivore.”

    Also, see today’s New York Times:

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