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Susie Cagle's Posts


Will 2013 be the year of ag-gag bills?

The U.N. has declared 2013 to be the Year of Quinoa. But it's also shaping up to be the Year of Ag Gag, those bills that make it illegal to covertly investigate factory farms for animal and ecological abuse. From Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary:

In 2011, the meat industry backed laws in four states to make taking photos or videos on farms and slaughterhouses illegal. In 2012, the industry pushed similar laws in 10 states. This year, we expect even more.

Photo by Shutterstock.

In 2011 and 2012, Iowa, Utah, and Missouri all enacted some version of an anti-whistleblower ag-gag law, while similar proposals were struck down in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.

This year, more such laws are proposed in Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Wyoming.

Read more: Food, Politics


Right-wingers’ dream town is a new urbanist paradise, but full of guns

Remember this?


This was Glenn Beck's worst nightmare. Sustainable planned communities were going to destroy our future, he feared.

But over the past few weeks, Beck seems to have had a change of heart. He's now promoting his own Independence, USA, a "city-theme park hybrid" to be located somewhere in Texas with abundant "craftmen and artisan" small businesses and stores, a working ranch "where visitors can learn how to farm and work the land," an innovation center, and dedicated mixed-income housing.

Hold on to your hats, though, folks, because Beck is not alone. The dense green community idea is catching on among the right-wing crowd, and these people even use some of Beck's dreaded key words.

Read more: Cities


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to ride off into the sunset

Ray LaHood.
Bike Portland


That collective urbanist cry burst forth on the internet this morning when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he would not be staying on for Obama's second term. In recent weeks, there was speculation that LaHood might remain in his post at the president's urging, but it was not to be.

Read more: Cities, Politics


Are you a terrible person for eating quinoa?

The quinoa debate has ravaged the internet these past few weeks -- kind of like how selfish Westerners with a taste for gluten-free grains are allegedly ravaging the livelihoods of South American farmers.

Quinoa growing in Bolivia.
Quinoa growing in Bolivia.

Joanna Blythman kicked off the brouhaha earlier this month with a piece for The Guardian contending that the fast-growing Western appetite for quinoa has priced the Peruvian and Bolivian poor out of the market for the delicious, protein-laden (and kind of sperm-resembling) grain. "[T]here's a ghastly irony when the Andean peasant's staple grain becomes too expensive at home because it has acquired hero product status among affluent foreigners preoccupied with personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon 'foodprint,'" she writes.

The piece sparked a quinoa pile-on. Esquire called it "the quinoa quandry" (groan). "The more you love quinoa, the more you hate Bolivians," declared a Care2 headline. "A long time ago, 'Bolivian marching powder' meant cocaine. Now it could mean quinoa," wrote a Yahoo! News correspondent who was having a really bad day with ledes. And I think Technorati may actually for reals be suggesting here that "America just needs to send a few hundred Chick-fil-A's to Peru and Bolivia."

Blythman's moral panic about quinoa is not baseless, but it is somewhat misled, and definitely misaimed.


Waste heat from cities can heat up other parts of the planet

Cities aren't perfectly efficient energy machines, you guys. They're great, especially when transit and density make it possible for city dwellers to use less energy, but cities still release a lot of waste heat out of tailpipes and chimneys. And all that waste heat has to go somewhere.


According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, that waste heat is disrupting the jet stream and warming up other parts of the world, thawing winters across northern Asia, eastern China, the Northeast U.S., and southern Canada. From Reuters:

That is different from what has long been known as the urban-heat island effect, where city buildings, roads and sidewalks hold on to the day's warmth and make the urban area hotter than the surrounding countryside.

Instead, the researchers wrote, the excess heat given off by burning fossil fuels appears to change air circulation patterns and then hitch a ride on air and ocean currents, including the jet stream. ...

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


One step forward, one step back for tar-sands protesters

It's a bittersweet moment for direct environmental action against nasty tar-sands pollution. (So many moments are bittersweet in the fight against nasty tar-sands pollution ...)

On the sweet side, Canada's Idle No More movement has gone global today, mobilizing protests around the world to highlight mistreatment of indigenous peoples and the environment. The movement has been galvanized by plans to pipe tar-sands oil across First Nations land in British Columbia and by the Canadian government's attempts to roll back environmental protections for most of the country's waterways. Actions are already rolling across Canada, at U.N. headquarters in New York, and as far away as Australia and Greenland.

"This day of action will peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th," organizers said in a statement.

But for the bitter: The Tar Sands Blockade, which is fighting ongoing construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas, faced a significant setback in court on Friday.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Laws banning ‘dooring’ of bicyclists mean well but don’t do much

You're riding along on your bike, minding your own lane, when suddenly a driver flings open a car door right in front of you. If you're lucky, you brake in time or swerve out of the way. If you're not lucky, you could die.

As the Atlantic Cities reports, earlier this week the Virginia state Senate easily passed a bill that makes opening car doors into traffic "unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so" an infraction punishable of a fine up to $100. Not much, but better than nothing, right? Well, not if you're Virginia House Speaker William Howell (R) or Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty, who called the bill "stupid" and "asinine," respectively.

According to Cyclelicious, 40 states plus the District of Columbia have anti-dooring laws of some kind. But come on: How many cyclists do you know who have been doored, and how many drivers do you know who have ever gotten in trouble for it?

Read more: Cities


‘The East': A stupid eco-activist fantasy film only the FBI could love

This week the "gritty" "fascinating" "illogical" "thriller" The East debuts at Sundance. The film stars Brit Marling as an ex-FBI agent hired by an evil corporation to infiltrate an eco-anarchist group. Watch this while I try to take some deep breaths and calm the fuck down.

The film's writers Marling and director Zal Batmanglij did not exactly do in-depth research before embarking on the project. They could've read Green is the New Red, or gone to a protest action. Instead they spent a summer dumpster-diving. From the Huffington Post:

In reality, Marling and Batmanglij -- who previously teamed up for the 2011 Sundance entry "The Sound of My Voice" -- seem to have nothing but wide-eyed admiration for the people they met during their summer off the grid. "You learned how to hop trains, but you also learned how to take things that are given away to the service industry back for yourself," Marling said. "In many of these collectives, you'll learn: How do you fix your bike? In fact, how do you build it from scratch? If you have a car, how do you convert it to biodiesel? How do you learn homeopathic remedies from weeds you can forage from dumpsters?"

They were foraging weeds from dumpsters. This should tell you all you need to know.

"Marling and Batmanglij's experience among real-life 'travelers' helps give the film authenticity," says one of the most generally clueless articles I've ever read at the (generally clueless) Huffington Post, which ends with the filmmakers saying that the glorious dirty angels they encountered were "so happy, and not in a simple way" and also "very handsome."

Read more: Living, Politics


McDonald’s new sustainable fish is — surprise! — not so sustainable

This week, McDonald's announced that it will start serving a lot more fast-food fish starting next month, in the form of "Fish McBites" that it hopes will boost sales.

The company also announced that all those bites, plus its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, will be made from sustainable, wild-caught Alaska pollock, with the Marine Stewardship Council's stamp of approval right there on the box.

Marine Stewardship Council

The MSC "is proud to support McDonald's and its commitment to sustainability." The fast-food giant has been serving four kinds of MSC-labeled sustainable fish in European locations since October 2011.

Is this the part where I'm supposed to say, "Yay McDonald's"? Because yeah, that's not happening.


When trees die, so do we

Trees! Everyone loves trees. They soak up carbon, make stuff pretty, and have been shown to keep crime down in cities. It's pretty clear our fates are tied to the trees'. Sooo, what happens when they all die? Uhh, so do we.


Millions of ash trees in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. are being chomped to bits by a beetle called the emerald ash borer. But those beetles aren't just hurting trees. From Discovery:

[I]n the neighborhoods hit by the beetle that kills ash trees, researchers noticed a stark rise in human mortality from cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease: there were 15,000 more deaths from cardiovascular disease, or 16.7 additional deaths per year per 100,000 adults, and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease than in unaffected areas, or 6.8 additional deaths per year per 100,000 adults.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living