Thursday, March 26, 2015

Respecting the Acres and Animals: The Path to Establishing Equality

By Chad Marvin

Ecofeminism and animal rights are two topics that have been intertwined far before they were even formed as ideas. Ecofeminism is an idea that links the wrongdoings done to women to nature by saying that these wrongdoings in many ways parallel each other. Animal rights are based on the belief that all animals and living things deserve the same equality that humans do as living things. Both of these ideas have been formed and have come to the forefront of people’s attentions during the time of the modern, technology driven world.  Take for example, a large-scale dairy farm, there; cows are raped through artificial insemination constantly until they can no longer produce milk. Here we see an obvious example of animals being denied rights as well as a female part of nature being taken advantage of.  The connection does not stop there, when people first settled land in America, they took the earth and its resources as things under their control, they strapped oxen to their plows and put their plows through the hills and trees, they granted themselves dominion over all that lied in front of them and created a trend that still exists today. In all places of the developed world today this can be seen, humans consider themselves above animals and above the land and often it isn’t even something considered, rather general knowledge that anything in the world is at human disposal.

It can be seen through many sources how humans will abuse the world around them, looking at everything, as a resource to serve the ever-growing needs of our ever-growing species.  From a New York Times article entitled U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit, reporter Michael Moss writes, “At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.” Here an extremely anthropic view is given, that we as humans have the right to do whatever we want to animals, and should if it benefits us.  The article goes on to explain some troubling results, that animals being born from these experiments, are coming in bigger numbers however, they are all born with various physical abnormalities such as small bones, organ defects, and nutrient deficiencies. Such shocking facts, only resulting due to the fact that we as humans want things to be more convenient for us fall into the topics of animal rights and ecofeminism, we are exploiting aspects of the world in a way that puts them in an inferior position to us and from this we lose the integrity and true spirit of that aspect of nature. This feeling is one that is detailed throughout the article “As the decades have passed, the center has bucked another powerful trend: a gathering public concern for the well-being of animals that has penetrated even the meat industry, which is starting to embrace the demand for humanely raised products.” It is being shown here that people, some people at least are even recognizing this injustice to animals, there is a feeling that this is unnatural and unfair. Yet still this article tells of more unfair treatments to animals, like lambs who are being bred to live without the need for humans to take care of them and protect them, but already many lambs are suffering and being killed “30 to 40 percent of the lambs were dead, and some of those still alive were in bad condition, separated from the moms, and they would be dead the next morning.“ and for what, so that humans will not have to spend time with these animals as if they are so horrible.

The thought that animals are so horrible is something that can be seen even in cases where you would think of the relationship between animals and humans to be a loving one. The television show, Pitbulls and Parolees displays this, showing the disconnect between humans and dogs, namely pitbulls. In the show, there is a group of people who run an animal shelter for pitbulls as they are often seen as a species that is dangerous and unwanted. In the show, they display that these animals have many positive qualities and just because they have been devalued and diminished by a world that more and more wants the commoditized fluffy and friendly dogs, does not mean that they aren’t just as worthy of peoples respect, admiration and more so of being a part of someone’s family. The show points out that in a way these dogs have been denied equal rights to other animals, they have been deemed as violent and aggressive, but really they can be just as loving and affectionate as any other dog. In looking at this one species of animals as lesser to others, and then going on living our lives, as humans we create a severe inequality in the world.  In acting as we are we are not only taking away the rights of one species but we are changing the rights of all species, we are placing our bias onto what connotes the right to have rights, as if not all living things should have equal rights; we cannot act as if it is just to impose these restrictions on the world. We are an extremely powerful species, we can dictate anything that goes on in the world, but something we may want to think about is how this can change the way of the world. Pitbulls and Parolees show the countless pitbulls who have to live in shelters because they are unwanted. The show also shows the countless pitbulls found wild because people released them. We are changing the way the world functions exponentially, and it is probably time we change the channel to Pitbulls and Parolees, recognize this, and then change the way we live our lives.  

It is clear that although there are cases where people are striving to help animals, more influential people still are often making strong pushes to keep animals and nature in a place where they are ours to commoditize them and use them as we need them. An article written by Maddie Oatman for Grist titled Will the USDA Weaken Dietary Guidelines to Please the Meat Industry? talks about the fact that although today the world is focused on making our lifestyles more sustainable and environmentally friendly, there is still a focus on exploiting nature. The article says that since meat industries have received more strict guidelines as to how they can operate, that the meat industry has responded by spending millions of dollars to lobby against these restrictions. This just goes to show the nature of the modern world today, where spending millions of dollars to fight restrictions is more important that maybe just accepting these restrictions and not treating animals like they are merely slaves. All that was said in regards to the guidelines being expressed is that “a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods … and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with a lesser environmental impact” this is not new stuff, how many people have heard the expression “eat your vegetables before” and yet now the meat industry is kicking up a fuss, refusing to “eat their vegetables” (do what is right) because now everyone is being told this and it threatens their way of life, which is, well, threatening the lives of others, (the animals that make up the meat industry). To them animals are their property, a part of the world is theirs to kill and sell, there is no morality, just a more harsh reality being created by their senseless actions.

In many places this corporate takeover of nature is not going over well, from The Ecologist Magazine, an article tells about how some people are not accepting the way nature and its many forms are being treated. In Occupy Agriculture! Polish Farmers Sit in for Land and Freedom Julian Rose talks about how Polish farmers are protesting large agricultural businesses buying up their land to plant genetically modified crops. These farmers value the land and want to live with it, without it they cannot survive and in exchange they tend to it with nutrients: “a focus of protest against the sell-off of their land to agribusiness, the arrival of GMO crops, and the imposition of a failed 'Western' model of farming that's creating huge corporate profits while debasing food.” Here we see another case of the typical modern cultural norms acting like a leech to nature, sucking out all that it offers with no regard for its own health. And it obviously is a terrible thing, the article says “In February, 6,000 farmers marched through” meaning six thousand farmers who need to be on their land to live and produce food to make some money walked away from this to move towards showing that it is unacceptable to take land and suck everything out of it as if it is a bottle of water existing to fulfill ones needs. But like that bottle, the result poses and obvious threat to the environment, where does that plastic go and what happens after genetically modified seeds and chemicals have been used on the land? The answer to this is what the farmers are fighting, and it is a fight that all people should get it in on, for it is simply not right to use the land as if it only exists to be used.

It’s detrimental to look at land and animals as things to be used, with that mindset, the actions we take cause both to endure great harm. In a PETA video, it shows how animals are abused constantly to help produce all of the products the human market demands today. They are branded constantly, have their horns clipped, are castrated, artificially inseminated, and left to lye next to their own feces until it is time to abuse them more. What this video is encouraging is to think about this and to realize that our actions and needs as humans, cause animals to be brutalized for their entire lifetime. The video encourages people to think about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, where you do not need as much animals products or any at all. This is a great solution as it is hard to produce all of you own food, if you go vegetarian or vegan you can help these animals by causing production orders to go down so that at least less will suffer. In living this way you may inspire others to do so and if a movement like this was powerful enough, it could stop this terrible treatment all together.

Looking more towards solutions and ways to help support the land and animals around you, things to think about are where your food comes from, and what are the details behind its travel. In a Think Progress article by Cole Mellino titled, Local Versus Non-Local Food: Is The Kind of Food You Eat More Important Than Where it Comes From? it is recommended that you think about where your food comes from, and how that impacts the world, all the carbon emissions it may take to produce it and ship it are important things to be considered. “The average distance traveled by nonlocal broccoli delivered to Virginia Tech during the month of October 2009 was 2786.0 miles. The total amount of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of this transport was 105,830.0 pounds. This averaged to approximately 11,758.9 pounds carbon dioxide per shipment and 15.3 pounds carbon dioxide per pound of broccoli delivered.” Here we get great insight into our impact on the world. But this is only from one food, imagine of impact of all of the foods you may have in your house. So what is the solution? The article suggests that eating locally grown food and also vegan and vegetarian food can reduce impacts tremendously. By buying locally grown food, you are reducing carbon emissions, and by eating non animal products you cut down on the amount of production that is necessary “Replacing red meat and dairy with vegetables one day a week would be like driving 1,160 miles less” which reduces environmental impacts across the boars! Less carbon, less animal cruelty, less destroying land! “so yes, eating less meat and dairy will greatly reduce the impact your diet has on the planet. However, the combination of choosing the right foods with a local approach will have the biggest impact.” It could be an extremely powerful thing to both lose the animal products and lose the carbon emissions.

Looking at all of the information presented, it is clear that animal rights and ecofeminism are two rightfully prevalent topics today. This is clear, but what is key to see is that what must be done is to see an issue all the way through. Do not just complain about aspects of nature being treated poorly, do something about it, Buy locally grown foods. Give up animal products. Spread the knowledge that things are not as they should be. A general point of all of the sources used in this piece is no just that something is wrong but that something needs to be done. Stricter guidelines need to be imposed, guidelines that will counter the meat industry’s menacing quest for dollars. Local farmers will take care of our land and should be given the freedom to do so. Animals should be without cages, without abuse and without the assumption that they exist to serve human needs.  Making personal choices to support all of these things is a monumentally important factor as well, going vegan, buying from these local farmers; living a life style that promotes equality for any and all is what must be done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Robert Hong -- News Media Blog

By Robert Hong

Global climate change is not an unheard of term - at least not in the age that we live in. The media constantly trawls over this highly debated topic: with naysayers on one side, extremists on the other, and every other middle ground in between. With every side throwing around stories and news laced with their own versions of science and opinions, it can be hard for the average media consumer to know what to take in and what is actionable information. The basics for this major issue is that while deniers may claim global warming is natural, many top scientists believe that our world is currently in a sped up warming cycle caused by human action - pollution, CO2 emissions, etc. - all byproducts of our industries and technologies. In fact, this trend is already accepted by the majority of the scientific community. The main concern rests on calculations and projections that warn us that continued temperature escalations will lead to widespread global environmental catastrophes: more powerful storms, floods, and droughts. In this post, I will be collecting and analyzing some of the top current events in order to understand how different media outlets handle the issue of climate change today.

With a quick search of “global climate change” in the news section of online search engines, we can see that some of the top stories involve the U.S. and China - with China being the world’s current top polluter and the U.S. coming at a close second. According to Reuters, the next few top polluters include Russia, India, Japan, and then various European nations. Because the world is so interconnected today, the news is littered with stories of these nations striking deals to lower their own emissions - yet can anyone believe that action will be taken through politics? I think if the voice comes from a nation’s top administrators then the government will be transparent enough to feel the need to address the issue. This is what we see in a March 2015 article “Climate Change: China Official Warns of ‘Huge Impact.’” BBC, a London based public service mass media company, is the world’s largest broadcaster by size, and its reach spans multiple regions in multiple languages. In it’s article, we are greeted with a brown-tinted photo of pollutants from smokestacks blocking the sun. The article itself is fairly straightforward - short and informative - but with emphasis on how China’s administrative admission of climate change is rare. This article seems to aim to show us that 1. Westerners are keen on China’s policies and are ready to accept any form of change in its industrial policies, and 2. China is aware of it’s own internal demands for action against climate change. I believe that it is especially important that superpowers and nations developing their industries need to keep their numbers in check, and with articles like these, we can see that active efforts to curb emissions are taking effect in the parts of the world that are causing the most pollution. The idea is that if highly developed nations start controlling their industries, other developing nations may take note and follow in their footsteps. 

Smaller countries that do not have large carbon footprints also participate in discussions, as can be seen by the interaction between France and the Philippines. In this February article by Euronews, we are told by author Tobunko Salako that the two nations are striking an agreement to be proactive which is, according to the Philippine president,  “vital for the planet’s future.” These partnerships between developing countries and larger countries are a common affair in today’s world. The topic of climate change is graced with mention of Hollywood stars in this article, and the picture we get are the two political figures shaking hands. The article gives a sense of action between governments and their policies toward the future of the climate. It portrays a sense of urgency, but overall, it is worded very impartially as it is only stating a development that has occurred.

On the other spectrum, London based conservative news and opinion website, Breitbart, published an article “New Climate Paper Gives Global Warming Alarmists ‘One Helluva Beating.’” From the top of the page, we are given the choice to share this article on various social media outlets - even before the article starts. Instead of smog, we get a picture of an individual wearing a smiling polar bear suit with a sign that reads “Climate Change Devastates Lives.” The feel from this picture is very satirical. The article goes on to describe in detail how the information of one paper defeats the data given by previous climate change models. The tone of the piece is quite casual - as seen when the author, James Delingpole, describes how aerosols contribute to global warming, then finishes with “...often cited by alarmists to excuse the awkward fact that the world has stubbornly failed to warm at the disastrous rate they predicted it would.” Delingpole seems to alienate these alarmists with words like “failed,” “stubborn,” and “awkward.” The writing does indeed cite many scientific sources - but only to reference how the first article is able to defeat their evidence. While I believe we do need thorough and considerate opinions and facts from both spectrums, this article gives me difficulty judging its fairness. Although riddled with verifiable sources, the injection of assertive opinions in between every paragraph creates an air of bias - even if we were to ignore the irony of using an image that is supportive of the very climate change models the author is trying to disprove.  

Closer to home, American broadcasting company CBS has published a recent article titled Answers Sought After Reports Of ‘Climate Change’ Ban.” As a reputable news network, we can expect to see that the article does give references to interviews as well as equal footing to each side in question. We are told that certain politicians are covering up global climate change in the media by telling spokespeople of various agencies to not use the words “global climate change” or “global warming.” This leads us to believe that in fact, politicians are very intent on shrouding media coverage of these controversial topics - especially when it refers to plans they plan on proposing. You can expect to see whistleblowers from many of these agencies calling for more transparency because there is clearly a divide in the agency that manages the environment and agencies that manage money. The article puts a face to the name of Gov. Rick Scott, allegedly directing offices to keep quiet with the mentioned volatile words. In the spirit of balance, we hear the governor’s side of the story as well - mentioning how he has spent millions on preserving Florida’s environment and parks. I believe this is a well-written piece of news which gives the consumer the freedom to weigh the facts and make their own opinions of the agencies and people involved. 

Another format that I have explored exists on the Letters page of The Guardian. It’s title states its intention as a simple sentence: “There are ways to tackle climate change: now we must find the will.” This page is a collection of comments in the form of letter replies in response to a recent campaign that the company promoted. In the related campaign, it referenced many sites and articles about how people are working to combat global climate change as well as facts about the issue. However, when you focus on this standalone page, we can see how media actually has affected these individuals - the majority of commenters state gratitude and approval of the company’s initiative. In fact, many people offer their own suggestions on how to continue the campaign and their personal stories of how their lives were changed. I found this letters format extremely important because as a collective, social media is where we input our voices instead of reading a general article and it is how we can change people’s views and actions. It is not to say that there is already a giant platform that exists (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but it seems that this collection is much more professional than microblogging - yet more tolerable than a lengthy journal. Even though it is opinion based, the fact that the site requires registration and names per remark makes the piece at least verifiable overall.  

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world such as Siberia, we hear news of giant craters opening up in the ground. According to another article by The Guardian, Russian scientists have found giant craters in remote icy areas. This is a discovery article where we obtain information about when where and what these craters are. Apparently, as the Siberian ice melts, it releases methane gas. That can cause underground explosions which the land collapses into. This is, of course, still understudied and a speculation. The purpose of this article is to inform readers about potential damage of global climate change. It ties a very real event to the mathematical models and we are able to see some sort of perceptible event. While the article itself is relatively neutral, sometimes we should focus on the comments section of a debated topic such as global climate change. After all, that is where all the interaction between readers will occur. In this particular instance, we see people denying that humans can advance climate change. Then, we see others trying to educate them, but with sarcasm. This is very apparent in our online culture today - as many individuals who have the power of anonymity may turn to ridicule instead of honest explanations. 

Global climate change has an immense reach over worldly news, as many parts of the world are currently headlining the topic. In social media, the topic occasionally trends (having many posts in a short amount of time), but only if a major event occurs. We can see that this is a hugely debated topic - by looking at the comments section of many fair news articles, you will find a heated dispute. The government will not deny global climate change, but we also do not see a lot of media covering their actions on that topic. From what I gathered, politicians will do their best to avoid being seen as biased (or in this case, choosing a side) of the climate change debate. The majority of news organizations do portray global climate change as a real thing, but our scientific community only has models and not real life figures to effectively persuade many deniers - who incidentally actively seek out data that discredits previous climate change models. Overall, our media today does a very good job at forcing people to re-evaluate the news that they consume and through discussion, we can come to terms with very real problems. Unfortunately, it seems that the more people join in, the less the odds of one side giving in and eventually, there will be a stalemate that produces very slow results - which is exactly what is happening in our society these days. Global climate change may remain “tomorrow’s problem,” until the realities hit us today. 

Factory Farming: Friend or Foe? Countries Across the Globe Claim Foe

By Isabelle Naimo

Industrial livestock production, more commonly known as factory farming, refers to the modern methods of keeping and raising livestock at larger scales and in higher densities than in more old-fashion traditional ways of animal agriculture. Animals such as cattle, poultry, hogs, and even fish are crammed in confinement until they’re slaughtered for their meat.

Factory farming has become a widespread practice in developed nations. It has become the more popular option compared to smaller scaled animal agriculture (for example, local family owned farms) due to its ability to produce the highest output while still keeping costs low, a benefit its supporters view as essential for feeding the ever growing global population. But it’s not without faults – artificial methods, such as growth hormones and vitamin supplements, are usually needed to maintain the health of the animals, as well as to improve production. And in regard to overcrowded living conditions, factory farming usually requires the use of antibiotics and pesticides to control the spread of infection and disease amongst the animals. Such practices have caused factory farming to go under fire with much speculation and debate in recent years due to growing health concerns, animal cruelty and welfare issues, and the potential environmental impact. Several different media outlets across the world have addressed these topics in recent years.

TIME Magazine is an American weekly news magazine based out of New York City. Bryan Walsh addressed meat production’s environmental concerns in his 2013 article “The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production.” In his article, Walsh addresses that 40% of the world’s land surface is used for food production and 30% of it is not utilized for harvesting fruits, vegetables, and grains but to support the mass amounts of farm animals that we ‘eventually’ eat. 

While livestock production feeds the population’s demand for animal products and provides financial income for billions of people, Walsh states that it uses “one-third of the world’s fresh water” and “there may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.” However, not all livestock production is created equal. Walsh turns to the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and their research of livestock production from different regions around the world, from factory farming in developed nations to other approaches used in lesser-developed nations. One staggering fact is,
“The highest total of livestock-related greenhouse-gas emissions comes from the developing world, which accounts for 75% of the global emissions from cattle and other ruminants and 56% of the global emissions from poultry and pigs.”

But despite the huge environmental hit factory farming causes and setting aside criticism of animal cruelty and public health risks due to air and water pollution, he suggests, “it can be remarkably efficient.” 
In the end, it all resorts back to the vast differences in animal agriculture depending on the region. For example, in some regions grain is too precious that it wouldn’t be feasible to use them for the animals but in other developing areas of the world, livestock production can be tremendously economically beneficial. When it comes to America though – factory farming and levels of meat consumption need to change in the future in order to prevent further environmental and health impact. Overall, Walsh effectively presents factual data and statistics to his readers. As a reader, whether your stance is for or against, he’s convincing that factory farming is anything but a black or white issue.

I came across an older 2011 interview with Bryan Walsh by CNN – a mainstream news media outlet – regarding the threat factory farming poses in a live segment entitled “Move To End Factory Farms.” I typically don’t watch mainstream news so I was pleasantly surprised to see them addressing these issues. It was refreshing to hear such a popular, renowned television outlet leaving the sugar coating in the cabinet and exposing not only inside footage of factory farms but the effect cheap and unhealthy meat is having on America’s health and waistlines. It’s easier for the common audience to simply “hear” or “read” about an issue and brush it off, maybe because they’re a conspiracy theorist or were only reading but not absorbing facts. But when it’s aired across the country and they’re seeing the reality, it’s much harder to deny.

BBC News, or the British Broadcasting Corporation, is a broadcasting news organization hailing from the United Kingdom. Matt McGrath, an environmental correspondent for the corporation, in 2014 focused on the environmental damage beef production alone has on the planet – claiming “Beef environment cost 10 times that of other livestock.” McGrath gets his information from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where researchers used data over a decade from the US department of agriculture as a way to calculate the total resources needed for livestock production. McGrath cuts down the research into quick and painless summaries, cutting to the chase so fast I couldn’t formulate an opposition even if I wanted.

The study cited not only included greenhouse gas emissions from the production of the animal’s feed but those that resulted from digestion and manure. Scientists found that due to the cattle’s low energy conversion from what they eat that it results in beef having the biggest environmental impact. McGrath points out, “Cattle release five times more greenhouse gas and consume six times more nitrogen than eggs or poultry.” Although the exact numbers found refer to US livestock, the carbon footprint of cattle in Europe would still be much more than that of poultry, pork, and eggs.  

His solution? Well, it would be a herbivore’s dream to see a mainstream media outlet urge it’s viewers to adopt an exclusive plant-based diet but it’s not necessary. A professor involved in the study says, "In fact, eliminating beef, and replacing it with relatively efficiency animal-based alternatives such as eggs, can achieve an environmental improvement comparable to switching to plant food source."

In 2013 Michael Kirby wrote “Factory farming masks meat’s true costs” for ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). The piece differs from those found in TIME Magazine and BBC News because Kirby focuses on incorporating his own personal opinion instead of relaying strictly on scientific data and research studies. Kirby notes that animals were raised in a traditional way in Australia a few decades ago but now close to 95% of livestock is factory farmed. Factory farming decreases the value of meat, making cheap meat a right and furthermore, allowing the common Australian to eat meat at least three times per day. Kirby poetically writes, “The sticker price is far from the real price. There are enormous costs to be paid, by the environment, by our health, and by the 500 million animals suffering on Australian factory farms. If those costs are considered, we are facing some very important questions.”

Kirby is able to shock readers into agreeing with his opinions when he writes in details about factory farmed turkeys. The typical factory farmed turkey lives only 12 weeks out of their natural lifespan of 10 years. In those short weeks leading to slaughter, they’re bred to pack on the pounds as fast as possible. They grow so large that their joints are often painful and their own legs can’t support their body weight. Kirby notes that they’re also susceptible to heart disease and questions, “Who would consider that eating those unfortunate animals could be part of a healthy diet?” 

I found the most powerful part of Kirby’s article to be when he addresses the reality that most people don’t consider what their meat really once was. “They prefer not to consider that it is at the cost of the life of a sentient being. They prefer not to acknowledge that those animals, who feel pain and fear as we do, are forced to be our food, or to acknowledge that most are kept in appalling conditions and endure a life of immense deprivation, with no compassion to alleviate their pain.” It’s a sad reality that billions of animals are brought into this world to live a sufferable life just to die for human consumption. As a result our environment is declining, as well as, our health. 

As of 2014, The New Zealand Labour Party seems to be taking a proactive approach to factory farming issues, announcing it would ban all factory farming by 2017. The Labour Party came to this conclusion, however, not because of the environmental devastation being caused or because of health concerns, instead because animal activists have been releasing footage of the horrors found on factory farms. In this particular case, the horrors of hog farms.

Rachel Parkin of 3 News reports that every time a new piece of footage is released the pork board claims, “This is a rogue farm. This is not typical of the industry.”  The Labour Party finally declared that would be enough excuses. Despite the video footage provided that would make any viewer turn their heads in disgust, the reader sees a business perspective in this piece. MP Trevor Mallard is quoted as saying, “If people in Europe see this then we will have trouble getting any of our meat into Europe.” Certainly, this would be fatal for those who earn their income off the pork industry. 

According to the Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy, New Zealand aims to have sow stalls gone within a year and hen battery cages out by 2022. Even if they’re successful at banning all factory farms by 2017, that’s still a lot of time the damaging consequences to take affect. Admittedly, it’s better than keeping their blinders on though.

It was surprisingly hard to come across a source supporting factory farming. I did stumble upon a website called Texas Agriculture Talks that had an older 2010 piece suggesting “Factory farming not so bad after all.” I gathered from the website title alone that this wouldn’t be the best place to find a valid argument in support of factory farms and I was exactly right. While the previous news sources had loads of scientific evidence or footage to back up their statements, Gene Hall of Texas Agriculture Talks merely resorted to a few dictionary definitions and vague numbers supporting the low cost and jobs factory farming brings. Hall boasts, “There would be consequences for outlawing this kind of agriculture.” It can be conjured that these consequences refer to a loss in jobs, increase in food costs, and shortages of food. Though, he completely lacks supporting evidence and doesn’t even attempt to debunk environmental and health risk claims. It’s very clear that Texas Agriculture Talks wants to target an audience that’s already set in their ways and not critical thinkers.

I researched various different archives for articles or news stories around the world in attempt to bring more diversity to this argument but it appears that factory farming supporters are few and far between. Usually I can trust the Internet to give me a number of different opinions that are backed up by some study or another, and yet all my google searches came up empty handed. On the contrary, there were endless articles, blogs, YouTube videos, documentaries (Cowspiracy, anyone?) and activism sites bringing awareness to the issues of factory farming. So the verdict seems to be out – factory farm accusations are anything but a false alarm.

It’s pretty unanimous from developed countries around the world that the cons of factory farming far out weight the pros. So, what’s the solution? Luckily, we have a few options and the best way is to stop supporting factory farms by purchasing their meats. Instead, consumers should seek out organic local farms that practice more sustainable agriculture methods. Vendors such as these can be found at your local farmers markets and meeting the people handling your meat face-to-face gives you the opportunity to ask any important questions regarding how they raise their animals. But aside from purchasing local, organic, grass-fed meat and dairy, and organic eggs, there’s always the option to adopt a plant-based meat-free diet. 

Cell Phones: the Problem, Not the Solution

By Brian Khaneyan
Cell phones have become an object that every person is required to have. In late 2014, the amount of cell phones in existence surpassed the number of people in the world. It’s no secret that the general population who buy consumer electronics upgrade them frequently, but cellphones have an incredibly short life cycle comparatively. Americans replace their cellphone every 22 months. However the consequences of such an action are rarely considered. Julia Corbett states in chapter three of Communicating Nature that there are four main factors that influence behavior: attitudinal factors, personal factors, contextual factors, and habit and routine. Some environmental issues such as GMO’s or animal rights or fracking can cause behavioral change because they usually do not change habit and routine and are in line with a person’s attitudinal factors – “we should have clean drinking water and animals should not suffer.” However, the same cannot be said for buying a cell phone. The device is integral to our being, which is why it is incredibly difficult to change. 
The first step in understanding why cell phone waste and consumption is incredibly dangerous is understanding that cell phone manufacturers do not create, they design. Apple is an easy example to take since they are the largest cell phone company in the world, and the demand for their phones creates even more issues which will be discussed. A phone is made from an incredible number of parts. There is the glass for the screen, the digitizer underneath it, the aluminum case, the gold for contact points, the chip boards, the solder to connect the components that are made of even more various resources, and a slew of chemicals needed to ensure the bonding and proper function of all of these parts. Apple does not create any of these parts, they do not resource the tin needed for the solder, they don’t mine the silicon needed for the chips. They get these resources from other companies which can sell to multiple phone manufacturers. However Apple is their main source of income, and Apple will sign contracts with these companies to ensure that they can get enough materials needed for their upcoming phone launch. The same is done for the production of the phone. The assembly, specifically for Apple, takes place in the FoxConn factory. It is in the best interest of these companies to gather as much material possible no matter what it takes, and this many times involves violating worker’s rights and safety practices. 
The first source is a controversial documentary from the BBC that aired on TV, Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises. The documentary takes a look at the entire spectrum of issues by inserting an undercover employee who broke through apple’s rigorous security checks in order to document what was really going on. Among the highlights were employees commonly passing out due to lack of sleep, constant threats from line managers including slave-like chanting as part of employee’s duties, and the confiscation of identification once they entered the factory. This piece and its contents were incredibly shocking. These workers had to work in incredibly dangerous and unjust circumstances in order to support themselves. Apple responded saying that they were “deeply offended” by the piece, stating that they are working to improve the working conditions. The result of this is that finding the piece online is incredibly difficult. There is currently no legal way to watch this if you are in the US, and all YouTube links have been taken down. The major US online news networks like The Huffington Post have not covered the piece either, while their United Kingdom equivalents like The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Independent have.  It is typical for a company to do this kind of censorship throughThe major news networks including NBC, ABC, and CBS have not reported on these findings. However, Apple invited ABC News into their factory, and their findings were much more tame than the BBC’s. This occurred two years after the FoxConn Suicides, which were greatly highlighted in the media. 
As shown through the previous source, companies can greatly influence media and internet through their influence. However they can also have a great amount of influence through direct advertising. This print ad employs some of the tactics spoken about in chapter six of Communicating Nature. The ad states “There are some ideas we want every company to copy.” This is set on top of a field filled with solar panels. This serves a couple of purposes. It uses propaganda devices to insinuate that they are a cleaner company and a more innovative company than anyone else. They use name calling to label their competitor’s product as not-green. The ad evokes a certain feeling of beauty. There’s a sun setting over a green field and among this are perfectly lined up solar panels. The advertisement does an incredibly good job of making the reader feel like Apple is actually doing something to help the environment while suggesting that other companies do not. More of this can be seen at Apple’s own environmental page. Once again the clean design, statistics, and even sheer amount of information on the page. The page is truly inundated with statistics. “30%: amount of recycled post-consumer recycled plastic in Mac Pro speakers.” This is the part they are talking about. As shown, the part is incredibly small and clearly does not represent a relevant amount of the raw material needed to make this product. Stating numbers like 30% saved advertising hyperbole that Julia Corbett once again speaks of in chapter six.
The effect of this aggressive advertising campaign is that people listen, and it gets their point across. However, the companies do not control what is done after you buy the smartphone. Jessica Dolcourt’s article “Your Smartphone’s Secret Afterlife” on CNet goes in detail about the issues with smartphone waste. The main theme in this article is that is that the dangerous chemicals used in the making of cell phones could come back and affect your drinking water and harm you. Titles like “cell phones could kill you” are used throughout the article. This not only makes it clear that cell phone waste is hazardous, but it gives the reader an incentive to actually do something about it. Appropriately enough, after an entire section on the immense dangers of the chemicals used in cell phone manufacturing, the author presents the facts on recycling, and shows the reader how recycling can prevent the dangerous situations explained in the previous paragraphs. The article is also incredibly informative, using statistics throughout to bolster its main points. The article also doesn’t fully fixate itself on Apple and recognizes that all companies need to be friendly to the environment. 
Social media is incredibly important in influencing someone’s thought process and decisions. One of the newest and most popular platforms is This is a web-forum and news aggregator that sorts stories based on voting. A user can down-vote a story if it is not interesting to them, and up-vote it if it is. FairPhone is a startup company which was started to create a 100% ethical phone in all fields: mining, design, manufacturing, life cycle, and social entrepreneurship. The company has created their first phone and is now working on others. Similarly, the OnePlus One phone was created by a startup company and is aimed at bringing the lowest priced phone with the best features around. These two phones are easy to compare due to their startup nature and community funded origins. The top post on Reddit for the OnePlus One has 2,811 up-votes, and the top post for the FairPhone has 2,456 upvotes. However the FairPhone has 1000 less comments than the OnePlus. This shows that people are generally less interested in a phone that aims to be good for the environment, they want something that will benefit them the most, another idea brought up in Communicating Nature. Some of the comments for the FairPhone were “A good idea, but it’s a bit too soon to attempt.” “Great Concept, but no 4g is a dealbreaker.”Anothercommenter stated:
What I want to see is all the morons demanding ethically manufactured devices to put up and buy the things over the much better and with better value devices from HTC or Samsung that were allegedly manufactured on the blood, sweat, and tears of children.
The only reason these devices are made ethically is because there's a market for it, there's a bunch of idiots wanting to buy it to make themselves feel better for using it.
This is not the way most of the community thinks, as shown by its score of -6 points. The score shows us that people don’t think that they are morons for wanting to buy such a phone and they truly want to make a difference if given the chance. 
Print newspapers are also an incredibly important source of news. While the demographics for print media don’t particularly line up with those of smartphones, it is still important to see how this issue is portrayed in print. David Barboza of The New York Times wrote a piece, “Another Death at Electronics Supplier in China.” Like most print articles tend to be, the article is very informative and unbiased. The only bias present in pieces like these is based on what the reporter chooses to include. For this piece, the reporter brings up facts about the suicide rates at Foxconn. He also chooses to include quotes from workers rather than statements made from the company itself. Many articles, like the ABC segment shown earlier, won’t include worker statements. The second to last paragraph details why Sun Danyong committed suicide, reporting that he was beaten and humiliated by personnel for misplacing an iPhone prototype. This is clearly a sorrowful event, but the last paragraph and quote serves to tie the piece all together, “we are extremely tired, with tremendous pressure.” The inclusion of these last two paragraphs evokes empathy and forces the reader to think about the atrocities being committed at factories like Foxconn. 
The last source being reviewed is from a YouTube channel called SourceFed. The channel is aimed at short news content portrayed in an interesting way. The video “iPhone Factory Riot” explains the Foxconn riots. They use jump-cuts to keep the viewer interested throughout the piece while including images over their background commentary. Pictures of the riot event are also used in the video. The company is portrayed in a negative light, with a host stating that: “The whole place is a little weird… The employees are rising up against guards mutiny style- something smells fishy at Foxconn.” At the end of the video, they ask the viewers if they’d stop buying Apple products due to how they treat their workers. Thejerrymobile responded: 
It is however to note that companies of this ponderous scale usually have a finger in every possible (am I really using this metaphor) pie. They make small and medium scale components that are sold to other manufacturers, which eventually end up in every electronic thing you could possibly buy. Thus a better strategy (if you are concerned with doing something) is to use those devices to influence positive change

It turns out that he is completely right. All the articles reviewed are incredibly informative and focus on the injustices that companies like Foxconn commit. However none of them offer a solution. The FairPhone is somewhat of a solution, but in the end there are simply not going to be enough people who buy a more expensive and lesser advertised phone. The only way to truly inspire change in an industry like this is not to vote with your wallet, but to yell with your mouth – or keyboard. The riots and suicides in FoxConn have caused petitions to pop up that have garnered many signatures at and These petitions can incite change. If enough people speak, then the companies will listen. This page on creating an ethical iPhone sums it up quite neatly: “Can Apple do this? Absolutely.They’re sitting on $100 billion in cash.Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.” This is why we need to make our voice heard. If there are enough complaints as to the non-ethical nature of their products, companies will listen and will make change happen. 

No Farmers, No Food

By Jessica Kaplan

The history of food production goes back over 10,000 years ago with the first farmers. Although our methods have changed drastically through this time something has stayed constant: farmers are a vital part of our existence. During this time of change we’ve seen many food movements come and go, like the slow food movement (the counteraction of fast food) we are currently in. 
Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, poses a question that I think is crucial to the 21st century’s food concerns: “What if we were to start thinking about food as less of a thing and more as a relationship?” This may seem like a silly comparison to draw, but if you think about it it’s kind of the central problem with food production today. We produce so that people can buy as much as their personal economic situation will allow even if it’s unnecessary and wasted. This is why we have lost the notion that it’s important to know where your food comes from. Industrialization is one major contributor to this lost notion. Monoculture accounts for a large portion of industrialization and is being done across the globe. A single crop being produced on a huge scale depleting the soil of the same nutrients a thousand times over is leading to soil erosion and other ecological issues. Pollan argues that this is why the American diet has lost so much of its core nutrients. “The fact that at least 30 percent of Americans have a diet deficient in vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and magnesium surely owes more to eating processed foods full of empty calories than it does to lower levels of nutrients in the whole foods we aren’t eating.” He goes on to explain that the foods even before being processed are of lesser nutritional value already. Pollan’s book is one that appeals to people interested not only in food production, but also literature. He’s a well-known author and commentator on food topics. He explains all the scientific-based explanations thoroughly because he wants the information he’s writing to be accessible to anyone. This is important because every person should know about what they’re consuming. 
Monsanto is the basis for many arguments against GMOs and any biological tampering of really anything. If you take a look at the biotechnology company’s website, you may find yourself confused by all the drama around the company. At first glance it’s a rather cheery website. The company seems pro-farmer and environmentally friendly through tabs labeled “Sustainable Agriculture” and “Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.” If you watch their short video, "Monsanto at a Glance", you get a false idea of the company as a whole. The video highlights Monsanto employees explaining how they “empower farmers.” However, this is far from the truth. The corporation has taken ownership of seeds, literally. Vandana Shiva explains in her book Stolen Harvest how Monsanto patented the Indian mustard plant. This means that if the country wanted to plant mustard they are forced to go through Monsanto, and use genetically modified varieties of a plant that belongs to India and its people. Contrary to the smiley Monsanto employees, owning every aspect of agriculture production in places like India is not helping farmers. They find themselves forever entwined with the corporation once they purchase seeds once. When the seeds are purchased it’s almost impossible for a farmer to do anything else for the rest of their food producing lives. Indian farmers end up putting themselves in debt trying to pay for all the components of Monsanto’s agriculture production. 
A  2014 New York Times article entitled “After Farmers Commit Suicide, Debts Fall on Families in India” by Ellen Barry, Monsanto isn’t found explicitly named as a key factor in the high rate of farmer suicides in India. However, Barry does not state, “farmers took on new risks, switching to commercial crops and expensive, genetically modified seeds…” Monsanto was one of the companies selling farmers the genetically modified seeds. This article takes on a more unbiased approach than “Monsanto’s Seeds Contributing to Farmer Suicides Every 30 Minutes,” written by Anthony Gucciardi appearing in Nation of Change in 2012, makes Monsanto the core reason for the tragic loss of farmers. It says that some even used the insecticide from Monsanto to end their own lives. Although this article may seem like it is only blaming Monsanto there seems to be truth behind it. The article includes a story from a wife whose husband committed suicide and she says that they had bought the BT cotton seed from Monsanto and it failed twice. The incorporation of this story was to impact the reader in a way that makes them understand that farmers need support and not company’s imposing methods on them. Articles like the two mentioned above make the public, even if they’re thousands of miles away, realize the importance of farmers and the hardships they go through that we don’t always recognize. 
If you refer back to the Monsanto website, you’ll find Monsanto’s comments on the increase of farmer suicides in India. They include references to different scientific studies that show how other socio-economic factors played the major role in the increase. One of these being “lack of reliable credit,” but the farmers are most likely in need of loaned money because of failed GMO crops. Many farmers turn to the government in order to provide for their families when crops fail, but then when they need to pay it back they are already so in debt from purchasing the Monsanto seeds and supplies that they can’t come up with the money. They also only refer to the increase in production yield for the BT cotton crop when there are other possible GMO crops affecting the farmers. I can’t help but imagine how Monsanto would have constructed not just this comments page to the situation in India, but the entire website. I can tell that each word was carefully selected to make sure that nothing can be implied except the message they are trying to put out. The wording seems as though they are trying to not say too much. The language isn’t flowery or wordy. If someone who had no former knowledge of Monsanto looked at their website they may not believe that it is the company many people see it as. I think this is what made Monsanto into the power that it is.
So after all of this—where do the farmers stand? Who advocates for farmers? Beyond people like Shiva and Pollan, we owe a lot more than we think to the farmers around the world. Through the media today we hear a lot about GMOs and why or why not they should be labeled, but what about the farmers? People have gotten so caught up in the drama and controversy surrounding genetic modification, to the point where I had no idea about the farmer suicides in India until I heard it from a friend. I was shocked that I never heard about it, but thought I knew a considerable amount about GMOs. Farmers rights are something that is sometimes forgotten about because of our disconnect with food. If you look at, which is a website designed to provide information about farmers’ rights as they’re referred to in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, you will see that protecting farmers means protecting diversity of plant genetics. It seems like a rather simple concept, allow farmers to continue to use and save seeds in order to produce food. However, in today’s world this is being attacked by company’s’ desires to “own” seeds. This means that farmers would not be able to do seed saving, which has been a crucial component of food production since farming begun over 10,000 years ago. By farmers being able to have access to diverse plant genetics they’re able to adjust to environmental conditions as well as the changing needs of the global population. If you take this ability away (something that is connected to Monsanto seeds) you leave the farmers unable to utilize different types of crops that may work better one season because of changing environmental conditions. In the media today there isn’t a lot of coverage on the issue of farmers’ rights. It’s something that even in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which is a treaty that was created at the 31st Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2001, there is no definition as to what exactly constitutes “farmers’ rights” because each farmer’s needs vary depending on each of their situations. The importance of this treaty, as well as the website that highlights its main points, is to make sure that farmers have access to the genetic resources they need. The website makes reading a lengthy treaty simple. Looking at all of the conditions in the treaty I feel as though more needs to be done to make sure that farmers all over the world feel they have support from an organized body to advocate for them.  

We all see those bumper stickers that say, “If you’ve eaten, today hug a farmer” and we may find it cheesy, but it’s so true. We have lost the connection we once had with our food, and in turn, our farmers as well. We no longer find it important to know where our food came from. We get nutrients through foods processed to have nutrients when we could just eat foods that naturally have them. Farmers around the world are feeling the pressure of the increase in global population. In places like India, they feel like they have no other option than to use genetically modified seeds. Countless farmers are now caught up in the expensive monopolies created by corporations like Monsanto. Moving forward, it’s important to look to the ideologies of people like Michael Pollan and Vandana Shiva.