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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Can we BUILD VEGETARIAN COMMUNITY AND CULTURE (around 'what we don't eat')?

These four (4) ideas seem to have very little to do with one another.

My obdervations are that:

When ages ago - in the 1970s - I first announced that I was interested in organizing networks of vegetarians, groups of vegetarians, local vegetarian societies, I heard on occasion that there's no LESS powerful reason for organizing a random (or 'motley') group of persons than in terms of what we do not eat.

That may account for (a) the difficulties I've had organizing folks, (b) the problems local groups (bar none) have experienced in terms of (i) growth and (ii) leadership, and (c) and, of course, the low volume of constructive contributions on this particular list.

My ineptness, social clumsiness, age, girth, or lack of physical beauty may all have contributed to these challenges, but I wonder now whether or not there's something inherently problematic about organizing others, not in terms of what we have in common, but in terms of (or 'around') what we agree NOT to eat.

Vegetarianism and veganism know a number of themes, and in light of that, my own second phase efforts were to build a local organization with several tiers of activity and association: such an incorporated entity would have had (formally organized) (a) an education committee (for INTERNAL education) around issues, needs, news, interests, and personal well-being of individuals and families on vegetarian diets, (b) a news or public relations committee (for EXTERNAL education) to advance our growing body of knowledge to the world (and to intervene interpretively in the news of the day - sort of like PCRM does online now), (c) a financial committee to manage costs for these aggressive efforts, and (d) a standing committee (which includes officers).

Experiments with hierarchical group organization or distributed communities organized around geography, personalities, ages, social values, and so forth could occur (or have occurred) without jeopardizing the organizational structure. Plenary events (like those held by the EVU, IVU, or NAVS in North America (at the annual Summerfest) would have made kept the disparate subcommunities together.

However, the lack in North America of a thriving MOVEMENT to organize and build local vegetarian groups MAY, I dread, have something to do with the challenges of building community around a negative value.

We do have local, regional, national, and international ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS, and we have social pluralism within the 'community' of practicing vegetarians around what others do wrong (abuse or even use of animals, as in the abolitionist movement).

Many of these themed-networks are built around individuals and their personalities (e.g. Gary Francione, Erik Marcus, Michael Greger, et al.), and some have resurgent success (macrobiotics was once vigorous and highlyvisible; raw foodism is thriving today). Junk foods veganism (the 'sinfully' self-indulgent teens and pre-teens and faux-teens with 'vegan cupcakes' and 'decadent desserts') and the varying measures the faith communities are adopting aspects of vegetarianism (the classically pro-vegetarian religious communities are not 100% vegan, but Suma Ching Hai gives folks an option; others think of creation care and creation stewardship, and we all know that there are opportunities within widespread ecological awareness to talk about the consequentialist benefits of shifting towards more completely plant-based diets; also, 'Meatless Monday' campaigns offer the small so-called 'flexitarian' 'numbers' some ways to 'get in on the action' - and this challenges homemakers and volume feeding institutions to develop more meatless meals.

I fear, also, that a consumerist mentality drives our folks in terms of how we socialize AND how we think about food AND our vegetarianism. If vegetarianism is about food - mostly about food, then there's merely a strategic problem to be solved: 'how do I get vegetarian food' when I'm in any of the following situations. Raw Fooders in the 1970s used to discuss how great the steak houses in the southern states were for their salad bars; so were the bars. Once the

I'm pinning MY historical hopes for veg*ism's widespread public growth (overtaking the human population, eventually dominating their feeding habits) on two strengths: one from the human intellect: a growing public health awareness that is built from assembled evidence: an evidence-based advocacy movement for plant-based diets is what I'd like to see; and the other on dreaded historical outcomes (ecological incapacities to feed burgeoning human life on heavily

Neither will move us to veganism; abolitionism will, but so many of US have deep and fundamental issues with abolitionism (most professing 'vegans' are not abolitionists).

Now, how we work conditions how we socialize because it 'constructs' how we earn money and what money we earn. It shapes our attention for most of our daily (work-week) waking hours (WWWH), and it significantly defines our social (a) outlook (and expectations of others and of 'the world') and (b) image (how others see us). The movement to intelligently 'socially construct' vegetarians and vegans so that we could become vocationally and financially successful was pooh-poohed by others as (a) needlessly invasive AND (b) unnecessary (but that was in times of extended financial prosperity).

Vegetarians have SELDOM been culture builders; if 'we' (the poetic or literary 'we') HAD been, today's generations would 'receive' a deep and longstanding legacy of social and cultural institutions around vegan values, or at least around vegetarian values.

Oh, but wait: we DID receive those social institutions, did we not?

We received (a) religious vegetarianism AND (b) a broad array of (i) humane AND (ii) anti-vivisection organizations. We also noted occasional (and more often failed) institutions around raw foods and natural health. Indeed, that MOST vegetarian institutions have ([please forgive me for saying this) have 'fallen into the scrap heaps of history' is tragic, but to be predicted. Often, what has happened is a result of cash flow issues; oh, had we the cash flow and the institutional wisdom to move what were often family, individual, or small group operations boldly into the public arena to compete aggressively. But hindsight is...

Nonetheless, I think the question remains: in vegetarian community organizing, is MERE vegetarianism (reminds me of how Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis became a rallying tool for enthusiastic Christians in the late 20th century) enough of a pivot, focus, center, agenda, or REASON for associating with one another and building communities that WORK (a) FOR US AND (b) for the world and the other persons in that world, both human AND nonhuman?

Does MERE vegetarianism merely lack sufficient, clear, and LEAN definition so that the public can come together around MERE vegetarianism, pure and simple? And will many or most VEGETARIANS themselves accept any MERE vegetarianism.

'what we eat' 'how we socialize' 'how we work' 'how we build'

Does insight INTO this quartet help us understand HOW to do vegetarian organizing:
'what we eat' 'how we socialize' 'how we work' 'how we build'

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nicknames from Smilin' Bob

Years ago (and I do mean YEARS ago), long before I became vegan or had even heard the word (and at which time I would not have thought the word could make sustaianble sense), a local radio personality, "Smilin' Bob" Yontz appeared at his radio sponsor, the local River Dale Dairy, where youthful fans crowded around him and asked him for nicknames so they could phone him during the mornings before they went to school and ask questions, tell him jokes, pose riddles, ask for favors, and ask for him to play their favorite tunes (I think we enjoyed during those years "Tie me kangaroo down" and "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight" and similar works of artistic merit.

Nicknames from "Smilin' Bob" were odd but creative, sometimes witty, usually disconnected from the person, and sometimes downright insulting, if "Smilin' Bob" didn't take a shine to the person.

My name was 'soda' (unrelated to my love of seltzer water), and I managed to phone in (quite aggressively) and pose some great riddles he failed to guess well over half the time.

Pretty soon, I had a reputation for two things: (a) great riddles AND (b) managing (before touch tone phones - giving away my age) to redial the phone fast enough to get on the show nearly any morning I wanted to hear my own voice on the radio.

"Smilin' Bob" - if you're out there now, I remember you.

But hey, there are other things in life. Ha!

What's the difference between...?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Climate change yields higher water levels and more extreme rainfall

Study: Climate change yields more extreme rainfall; water rises

Water levels in the world's rivers and oceans rose 18% over a 13-year period ending in 2006, due in part to melting polar ice sheets, according to a scientific analysis by the University of California, Irvine. The so-called water-cycle acceleration could result in more water availability, but it will likely lead to more extreme wet and dry climates around the world, a sign of global warming, the study's lead author said. The Orange County Register (Calif.)
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Warming sign: harder rain, higher rivers


Rainfall is intensifying, rivers are rising and water flow into the ocean is increasing rapidly, a new UC Irvinestudy shows -- a possible "warning sign" of higher sea levels and global warming.

Satellite and surface measurements over 13 years revealed an 18 percent increase in the flow of water from rivers and melting polar ice sheets into the world's oceans, according to the study, likely one of the first of its kind, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Those are all key indications of what we call water-cycle acceleration," said Jay Famiglietti, aUC Irvine Earth System Science professor and lead investigator on the study. "That is a very important and anticipated outcome of climate change."

Planetary warming includes higher ocean temperatures, which increase evaporation; higher air temperatures drive more evaporation as well, Famiglietti said.

That means more fuel for monsoons, hurricanes and storms over land.

"You're talking a lot more energy transfer between the surface and the atmosphere," he said. "We're expecting much more energetic storms, and that translates into the potential for more extreme events."

During the study period ending in 2006, the scientists saw an average 1.5 percent increase in water flows per year. They relied largely on radar data from NASA satellites, instead of computer models, to calculate the flows.

And while 13 years is probably too short a time frame to remove any doubt, the consistent trend of higher flows leaped out at the researchers.

"Although there are a lot of ups and downs in the data sets, the trends are all the same," Famiglietti said.

Such changes might sound potentially beneficial -- more water, more water availability. But if the water cyle is growing more extreme, that likely means extremes in both wet and dry climates around the world -- catastrophic flooding in some places, intensifying drought in others.

No single storm or weather event can be directly linked to global warming, which is measured in averages over decades. But recent catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is a powerful example of what may be ahead if the trend-line continues.

"We always need more data, but we don't want to stick our head in the sand," Famiglietti said. "This is an early warning, a glimpse of the future."