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      Marching for a Green Economy "Built to Last"

      Jane Goodall, former Vice President Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon march in Sunday's climate march in New York City. (Photo: Getty, 2014)NEW YORK CITY- Sept 22. With hundreds of thousands of marchers converging on the United Nations climate summit, New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio took the opportunity to declare a massive initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, calling it "a moral imperative."

      The 111-page plan, called One City: Built to Last, was strongly supported by the City Council and a diverse network of community-based organizations. Its major focus will be on retrofits of the city's public and private buildings. In city-owned properties the goal is to cut emissions by 30 percent below 2006 levels in three years.  

      The New York announcement is consistent with a growing environmental strategy of building a clean energy economy from the bottom in the face of a US Congress dominated by climate-deniers.

      In a New York Times op-ed September 21 a former US environmental official, Daniel Esty, in a column titled, “Bottom-Up Climate Fix”, endorsed the strategy. He asked, "Why not invite leaders from states, provinces, cities and companies to join representatives of national governments in signing the anticipated 2015 climate change agreement?"

      The strategy, piloted for years by California, is rapidly gaining traction due to timelines for greenhouse gas reductions set by the United Nations summit talks planned through 2015. The timelines are pressuring national leaders, including President Obama, to announce goals for measures to prevent an overheated planet by 2050. Taken together, US states now embracing low-carbon energy policies represent 166 million Americans and $7 trillion GDP.

      The UN deadline also prompted the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, founded on oil wealth, to announce its plan to divest its $890 million from fossil fuel companies. Nearly 200 institutions are in the process of divesting from fossil fuels and turning instead to renewable resources.

      In the New York City case, a city Climate Action Plan was developed as early as 2006 but the focus of the De Blasio mayoral campaign and his early administration was on economic inequality. The dateline of the UN climate summit energized New York political and community leaders to speed up developing their urban environmental platform to showcase in New York. (Indeed, the announcement was carried on page one of the New York Times.)

      The Mayor has long wanted to be "a climate hero", according to one insider who helped develop the plan, making the climate march and UN summit a perfect context to vault the environmental agenda forward.

      Under De Blasio, New York has a major opportunity to fuse the movements against inequality and carbon pollution into one vast laboratory of social change. The effects of pollution fall most heavily on people of color and working class communities, while the activist base of the environmental movement - as demonstrated by the New York march - is overwhelmingly white and young, organized by groups like and Avaaz.

      If New Yorkers and de Blasio can integrate those movements into a strategy of building a clean energy economy, the US will begin to restore credibility at the UN climate talks scheduled for Lima in late November. The demand of Third World countries is for a green infrastructure bank to cope with the ravages of climate change and develop along sustainable lines.

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      Reader Comments (3)

      Veganism Is Direct Action!

      "A diet that can lead to heart attacks, cancer, and numerous other diseases cannot be a natural diet," writes Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983). "A diet that pillages our resources of land, water, forests, and energy cannot be a natural diet. A diet that causes the unnecessary suffering and death of billions of animals each year cannot be a natural diet."

      I understand there are conservative Christians who fear vegetarianism... which is kind of like being afraid of nonsmoking, nondrinking, or recycling. Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain fed to livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.

      A pamphlet put out by Compassion Over Killing says raising animals for food is one of the leading causes of both pollution and resource depletion today. According to a recent United Nations report, Livestock's Long Shadow, raising chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other animals for food causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks and other forms of transportation combined.

      Researchers from the University of Chicago similarly concluded that a vegetarian diet is the most energy efficient, and the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by not eating animal products than by switching to a hybrid car.

      "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation."

      --Union Nations' Food and Agriculture Association

      Nearly 75% of the grain grown and 50% of the water consumed in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. (Audubon Society)

      Over 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to grow grain for livestock. (Greenpeace)

      It takes nearly one gallon of fossil fuel and 5,200 gallons of water to produce just one pound of conventionally fed beef. (Mother Jones)

      Farmed animals produce an estimated 1.4 billion tons of fecal waste each year in the U.S. Much of this untreated waste pollutes the land and water.

      The following points and facts are excerpted from Please Don't Eat the Animals (2007) by the mother-daughter writing team of Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers:

      One study puts animal waste in the United States to between 2.4 trillion to 3.9 trillion pounds per year. The United states produces 15,000 pounds of manure per person. This is 130 times the amount of waste produced by the entire human population of the United States.

      Factory farm pollution is the primary source of damage to coastal waters in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Scientists report that over sixty percent of the coastal waters in the United States are moderately to severely degraded from factory farm nutrient pollution. This pollution creates oxygen-depleted dead zones, which are huge areas of ocean devoid of aquatic life.

      Meat production causes deforestation, which then contributes to global warming. Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, and the destruction of forests around the globe to make room for grazing cattle furthers the greenhouse effect.

      The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reports that the annual rate of tropical deforestation has increased from nine million hectares in 1980 to 16.8 million hectares in 1990, and unfortunately, this destruction has accelerated since then. By 1994, a staggering 200 million hectares of rainforest had been destroyed in South America just for cattle.

      "The impact of countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and sub-division developments combined."

      --Philip Fradkin, in Audubon, National Audubon Society, New York

      Agricultural meat production generates air pollution. As manure decomposes, it releases over four hundred volatile organic compounds, many of which are extremely harmful to human health. Nitrogen, a major by-product of animal wastes, changes to ammonia as it escapes into the air, and this is a major source of acid rain. Worldwide, livestock produce over thirty million tons of ammonia. Hydrogen sulfide, another chemical released from animal waste, can cause irreversible neurological damage, even at low levels.

      The World Conservation Union lists over 1,000 different fish species that are threatened or endangered. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 60 percent of the world's fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. Commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock, and flounder have fallen by as much as 95 percent in the north Atlantic.

      The United States and Europe lose several billion tons of topsoil each year from cropland and grazing land, and 84 percent of this erosion is caused by livestock agriculture. While this soil is theoretically a renewable resource, we are losing soil at a much faster rate than we are able to replace it. It takes 100 to 500 years to produce one inch of topsoil, but due to livestock grazing and feeding, farming areas can lose up to six inches of topsoil a year.

      Livestock production affects a startling 70 to 85 percent of the land area of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union. That includes the public and private rangeland used for grazing, as well as the land used to produce the crops that feed the animals.

      By comparison, urbanization only affects three percent of the United States land area, slightly larger for the European Union and the United Kingdom. Meat production consumes the world's land resources.

      Half of all fresh water worldwide is used for thirsty livestock. Producing eight ounces of beef requires an unimaginable 25,000 liters of water, or the water necessary for one pound of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year.

      The United States government spends ten million dollars each year to kill an estimated 100,000 wild animals, including coyotes, foxes, bobcats, badgers, bears, and mountain lions just to placate ranchers who don't want these animals killing their livestock. The cost far outweighs the damage to livestock that these predators cause.

      The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs: five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.

      Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter. In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.

      "It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat."

      --Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life AND pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

      "Carl Pope could probably affect the world more by being a vegetarian than through his job as president of the Sierra Club," quipped Jennifer Horsman.

      According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:

      "The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease."

      Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly says in the February 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left):

      "...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging--to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer."

      The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.

      People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is challenging those who think they can still be "meat-eating environmentalists" to go vegan, if they really care about the planet.

      peta2 is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world.

      peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans.

      Several years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers what nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a two to one margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined.

      “If anyone wants to save the planet,” says Paul McCartney in an interview with PETA's Animal Times magazine from 2001, “all they have to do is stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it.

      "Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let’s do it! Linda was right. Going veggie is the single best idea for the new century.”

      Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption--or *enough* to feed sixty million people.

      September 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVasu Murti

      One key way to unite the movements is to preferentially hire and train (in that order) people from high-unemployment communities, especially communities devastated by Sandy, disproportionately people of color and immigrants, to do the work of building retrofits, and pay them living wages. The training must include occupational health and safety: retrofits of old buildings can expose people to lead paint and asbestos.

      This is an important initiative: heating and cooling buildings is a major component of energy end use. A systematic retrofit program should be complemented by very strict City standards, perhaps LEED gold, for all new buildings, residential and commercial.

      September 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlbanius

      US donates a paltry $15 million - rest of the world gave $5 billion. Obama again kicks the can down the road till Nov 2015, when he promises a specific plan - we'll see what he does. Most of the world recognizes the urgency of taking immediate action - US still hangs back with congress afraid of angering fossil fuel donors - pathetic.

      September 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill McLaughlin
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