Tag Archives: rant

Pink Slime Explained

20 Apr

Welcome to another We Meat Again video post — this one dedicated to explaining the great pink scare…

Apologies for the awkward skip in the middle of the video. Our first filming was briefly interrupted due to a doggie seriously needing to get outside.

More information available here:

FDA on Ammonia Hydroxide

Andrew Revkin:“Why I’m OK with ‘Pink Slime’ In Ground Beef

Michael Moss: “Safety of Beef Processing Method Questioned

Marion Nestle “Is It Wrong to Feed Pink Slime to Our Kids?

Tom Philpott explains Why the FDA is Still OK with BPA in Our Food, and Four Things Grosser Than Pink Slime

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment, tweet at us, or drop me an email and let us know what you think about pink slime…

Iowa Outlaws Undercover Factory Farm Investigation

7 Mar

This past weekend, Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the nation’s very first bill making undercover factory farm investigations illegal.This is a major loss for food safety, farmer’s protection and animal rights, so let’s break it down.

The law actually makes lying on a job application to get access to a farm facility a serious misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,500. A second conviction carries harsher penalties.

I’ve already covered why these laws are problematic. Let’s today work to un-do the spin on these undercover videos. They aren’t problematic — they are valuable artifacts of one of our society’s greatest fights, to protect the source of our food.

Proponents of the bill claim that this strikes a balance between protecting farmers from fraudulent job-seekers while continuing to encourage current employees to report animal abuse. The flaw in that logic isn’t something getting a lot of attention, however, because it means acknowledging the differences between who those employees are.

Current employees of farms and slaughterhouses–especially ones contracted with major meat producers–will tend to be lower-income minorities or other marginalized populations, including undocumented immigrants. They are much less likely to endanger their job status by reporting abuse than an activist working for the Humane Society who can afford to take–and then lose–the job to uncover the abuse.

And uncover the abuse they do. Some supporters of the law would have us believe that these videos are only flukes, carefully edited together portraits of rare and occasional abuse that doesn’t need reporting.

Let’s look back just a few months ago to the Humane Society’s release of this video, which documented legal practices of the pork industry, and led pretty directly to McDonald’s announcing it would phase out those exact practices.

The videos lead to change, just as other acts of undercover investigation have in the past.They are an important tool in an ongoing struggle to change the laws and practices of the industrial agriculture industry, and Iowa, which raises more hogs and laying hens than any other state in the nation, has become the center of the problem.

Don’t Call Us Foodies

22 Feb

I know I’ve dangled this subject multiple times, and thought it was time to finally tackle it: why I (and many, many others) so strongly dislike the term “foodie.”

My good friend Steve wrote me, as a post-script to his “How I Became a Food Advocate” story, this explanation:

I cringe at that term.  It seems so contrived and pretentious.  People who care deeply about music are not called “Musicies” and people who love theatre are not called “theatreies.” I am not a foodie in the sense that I go to restaurants all the time and ooh and aah over the food of this chef or that.  I am a foodie in the sense that I am OBSESSED with food.  I think about food, and my next meal, and the next thing I can cook, and the last thing I cooked, and the next thing I want to eat… ALL THE TIME.  Does that make me a foodie?  I don’t think so because food is not a hobby for me.  Food is life.

I couldn’t agree more.

To my mind, foodie is the way that people who want to dismiss food’s importance use to dismiss the new food consciousness as elitist. These are the people who don’t understand the real and meaningful connection between defending local food markets, supporting artisanal producers and experimental chefs, and food as an issue of labor rights and social justice.

Foodie implies a gourmand, a snob, a high-brow eater who dines only at five-star restaurants and turns up her nose at anything cheap. What that distinction fails to recognize is that there are a great many of us in between, people like Steve and I, who I know grew up eating a lot of that cheap food–Kraft macaroni and cheese and cans of sloppy joe mix, among other delicacies–who ate it for a great portion of our lives, and who have begun to realize that the evils of that food are not limited to a low price tag.

In fact, the evils and dangers of processed food, industrially-produced, premade, water-packed food, lies in what the corporation who made it will do to sell it to you at such a low price tag. What it takes to make food that cheaply is not pretty. It is disgusting.

But foodies don’t turn up our noses at it because we think we’re better than that–we think all human beings are better than that.

And this is the core of why I dislike the term “foodie.” Aside from being intentionally dismissive, from making us sound like elitists, it limits our passions about food to its taste or quality. While I certainly do believe there is a significant difference in taste and quality between fresh, healthy, local food and processed food, my tastebuds are not my only — or even my primary — reason for wanting that fresh food.

My body is my reason: keeping it fit and healthy and fueled. My planet is my reason: supporting its ability to support us, keeping its rivers clean and soil invigorated with nutrients.

My concern for social equality is my reason: supporting everyone’s ability to access organic, healthy, whole foods, and supporting everyone’s ability to cook it. My concern for labor rights and fair trade are my reasons: ensuring that this whole, healthy food comes from a long line of whole, healthy people, who feel respected and are well-paid for the hard, crucial work they are doing.

My imaginary future children are my reason: protecting their future bodies and the future air they will breathe from poisons.

This is why I’m trying out the term “food advocate” (make it happen, people). Because I advocate for food in every way — its growth, production, taste and uses. Food is in every aspect of our life. As Steve said, food is life.

What do you think of the term “foodie”? Love it, hate it, never cared this much to think about it? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with your fellow food advocates!

Inequality in Our Food System

12 Dec

A few events, some louder than others this week got me thinking about just how unequal our current food system is. The protestors on Wall Street are angry because income disparity leads to a disparity in political representation and access to education, improvement, etc. The food system, as it currently exists in this country, has the same results. The poor stay poor (and less healthy), and the small farms fail, so that the large corporate farms may survive.

In fact, the first event this weekend that reminded me of the parallels between food and finance was the first major gathering of farmers at Occupy Wall Street. Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Trader’s Organization, spoke to The New York Times last week about why he’d be making the journey from Maine to join the protests:

He said farm gate prices — wholesale prices for farm products, excluding transportation — were the lowest he had ever seen. “And the price of food in supermarkets is higher than it’s ever been. So, farmers are hanging on by their fingertips, and consumers are paying through the nose.”

“The money that gets made in between,” he continued, “is going to companies, and the government isn’t doing anything about it.

“And if it goes on like this, all we’re going to have to eat in this country is unregulated, imported, genetically modified produce. That’s not a healthy food system.”

*

Gerritsen’s quote is so valuable in that it reminds us that the current system of wholesale food distribution harms both producers and consumers. Just as big finance is constructed to continually insulate those in positions of power, to reward and encourage their risk-taking on the backs of a working class who suffers when these high-stakes maneuvers fail, so too is the food systm constructed to encourage consolidation and cheap growing methods that cause higher prices for less healthful foods.

And the people suffering most are the consumers with the least.

*

The second event was much more quiet, in terms of news coverage anyway, and much more disturbing. After a seven-hour stand-off last week, a woman in Texas shot her two children, and then herself, in the head. The reason? She was at the end of her rope, having repeatedly been denied food stamps by the state.

She and her children bathed in hoses outside of their trailer park. She begged at the back doors of restaurants for their food waste scraps. But her child support payments were greater than her expenses, so she was deemed able to care for her children without assistance.

Clearly, this was not the case.

*

Last Monday, at a campaign event in Iowa, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum promised to significantly reduce federal funding for food stamps, citing the nation’s obesity crisis as evidence that the program was being fradulently misused.

If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?” Santorum asked.

I had to re-read the last part of the sentence a few times to fully understand what it meant.

Set aside for the moment the complete lack of understanding of the roots of the obesity crisis (a significant increase in the consumption of certain types of foods, such as refined sweeteners combined with a sharp increase in the prices of whole foods due to the above mentioned consolidations) that this quote shows. Set aside for the moment the reality that SNAP has actually been proven to help grow the economy by protecting the poorest consumers.

I think it’s important to take a minute to address what Santorum meant by “among the people who we say have a hunger program.”

Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m pretty sure what he’s saying there is that poor minorities tend to be those receiving federal nutrition assistance, and also tend to have the highest rates of obesity. I think what he’s saying is, why do black people need food stamps when they are already so fat?

*

Santorum isn’t wrong. According to the most recent data, adult obesity rates for Blacks and Latin@s were higher than for Whites in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia.

Why? Do we believe, as Rick Santorum seems to, that this is because black and Latin@ people eat more? Are lazier?

Or could it be this: 35.3 percent of adults earning less than $15,000 per year were obese compared with 24.5 percent of adults earning $50,000 or more per year.

Could it be that we need food assistance from the federal government not in spite of increased obesity rates among the poorest, but because of those rates?

Could it be that our government’s food system, as its finance system, rewards the lowest-brow, cheapest, poorest-quality investment, and that the customers for those shoddy investments — in this case, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup and soda — are the least fortunate among us?

That those who have the least choice suffer the most loss.

*

Internet comments on stories about the Texas family are too cruel to replicate, but include standard lines about the selfishness, or laziness, or incompetance of a woman who would turn to such desperate (and indefensible) measures when faced with an 18-page form and proof of income and employment.

But of nearly $262 billion in farm subsidies paid by the federal government over the last fifteen years, the farms with the highest top ten percent in annual incomes raked in more than 74%. $165.9 billion. And no one is calling them lazy.

The Weird & Wacky World of Food Marketing & Policy

29 Nov

Sometimes, as a composition teacher, I get very sad at the world.

Sometimes I have to walk around in a world where many people speak, think and behave in the very ways I try to convince my students not to. They use flawed illogical assumptions. They repeat ideas without verification or citation. They trust a single source without questioning its authority or credibility. And they build their own knowledge base with this rotting foundation.

Nowhere is this more true than in the world of food policy.

This is a world where it makes more sense for the government to spend trillions of dollars we don’t have on direct subsidy payments to farmers to grow corn we don’t need, and allow corporations to profit by injecting this corn into every known food substance to the detriment of the nation’s health — rather than  to change the policy.

This is a world so upside-down-backwards-on-its-head that very little makes sense any more. And I think of this whenever I try to have a conversation with someone who hasn’t spent as much time in this world as I have, whenever people ask questions like “Why is it such a big deal for my vegetables to come from Mexico?” or “But isn’t corn-fed beef the best kind, you know, according to the USDA?

So I have a brief policy roundup for you all today, to use as fodder whenever you are up against opposition that’s so dramatically different from your world view you don’t know where to start. Because we have to start. It’s up to all of us who care about food to have those tough conversations, and to have them with compassion, not condescension. The education has to begin by explaining just how weird food policy becomes when Big Ag marketing strategies and lobbying budgets get involved:

  • The Freakonomics blog calls a relocalized food system “inefficient” in comparison to modern industrial agricultural systems. Nevermind that industrial ag grows corn that becomes steak or salad dressing emulsifier or bread-browning agent or gas that costs more to make than its worth, whereas locally grown produce becomes, you know, food. That would be inefficient. (Anne Lappe has a great take-down of the Freakonomics post featuring actual economics, here.)
  • Congress failed to pass new regulations mandating certain amounts of certain types of actual vegetables in school lunches (considering the existing standards adhere to federal dietary suggestions from 1989, and include items you may have seen in headlines like the tomato pasta in pizza sauce) in a patently obvious fold to industry pressure. The frozen food industry didn’t want to have to repackage their meals to be “less palatable” to children, so instead our children get to eat whatever the frozen food industry can produce cheap and easy (see above. Corn is a vegetable, right?). This is where all those “Pizza is a vegetable” headlines are coming from.
  • A national marketing strategy document for the innocuously-named “Center for Food Integrity,” (sponsored by, among others, Monsanto and Smithfield) suggests the following for responding to consumer trends towards more sustainable farming methods:

As consumer values change, the food system needs to evaluate and potentially modify current practices and fundamentally change the way it communicates in order to maintain consumer trust.

See the rest of the document yourself to decide whether you think the CFI is looking to modify its practices or just to change communication strategies to make themselves sound more sustainable. See Tom Philpott’s coverage of a Sara Lee rebranding plan for Hillshire Farms to see proof of these communication strategies in action.

My point here is that the modern agricultural industry is an industry. I do not believe everyone who works for Monsanto is evil, nor do I believe that large corporations have no place in a new food system. I don’t think there is a giant, nation-wide conspiracy to force-feed us all corn (well, I kinda do). But industries behave like industries. The job is a CEO is to turn a profit, and he will do this with a billion dollar lobbying budget, campaign financing, public relations and marketing strategists and any other tool at his disposal.

So when we hear information on food policy, even from the federal government, we must trace that information back to its source and run a credibility check. If the author of a marketing memo stands to turn a profit from getting his audience to believe that “corn sugar is just sugar,” perhaps we should find out whether “our body can’t tell the difference” from a medical, rather than a marketing, expert.

The Secret Farm Bill

7 Nov

Seems like it’s been too long since I’ve addressed any food policy here on We*Meat*Again, and here’s a doozy for us to get angry over together: the imminent passing/announcement of a “secret” farm bill, likely to become public this week. I’ll let the experts explain what this is, and why it’s troubling.

Normally, the U.S. Congress must renew Farm Bill legislation every five years to designate the budget for agricultural programs such as direct payment subsidies, nutritional programs (like Food Stamps and WIC) and conservation easements. As the food movement heats up, the Farm Bill has become a more and more controversial piece of legislation, as it largely dictates the financial direction of federal food policy into large-scale industrial agriculture.

So this year, to avoid that public debate, agricultural lobbyists in conjunction with representatives from Midwestern farming states are using the deficit-reducing “supercommittee” (created last summer because Congress couldn’t get it together to raise the debt ceiling) to write the 2012 Farm Bill behind closed doors.

Writing the Farm Bill in this way pre-empts any chance at reform. If representatives whose campaigns are paid for by Big Ag outfits write legislation, we’re unlikely to see a shift in food policy. Proposals currently being considered focus the spending cuts mostly on nutrition, conservation and environmental protection policies.

But setting aside for a moment what may or may not actually become legislative reality, the real egregiousness of this choice comes from the complete absence of any public debate. Anyone without a voice on this committee has no say in this important legislation. The San Francisco Gate has observed that this approach excludes the entire state of California, the country’s single largest agricultural producer, but on an even more fundamental level, it simply does not include “we the people” at all.

This OxFam editorial summarizes the problem best, by explaining how we all — Republicans, Democrats, etc. — should be able to come together to protest this end-run around democracy:

If you’re a Tea Party supporter, you probably shouldn’t like this deal because:

1. It is a back room deal negotiated without any public scrutiny.
2. It cuts less wasteful spending than other proposals.
3. The $23 billion in proposed cuts could shrink dramatically if the volatile agriculture markets or increasingly volatile weather swings production or prices in a new direction.
4. It authorizes the government to pick certain industries/commodities as winners over others.

If you’re an #OWS supporter, you shouldn’t like this deal because:
1. It was negotiated to satisfy high powered industry lobbies that pay lots of money to influence the Ag Committee.
2. It’s a giveaway to big industrial farms at the expense of family farmers.
3. It promotes unhealthy, unsustainable farming practices at the expense of sustainable farming.
4. It targets conservation and nutrition programs for cuts disproportionately.

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat this Week

21 Oct

This week was a tough one for me from an activist perspective. A few major things happened that brought to life connections I knew (abstractly) existed between corporate system control, climate change and the devastation of our food system. And side-by-side with those events, a few news items about those corporations clinging desperately to the old world order, refusing to acknowledge that anything has to change.

Let’s use links to walk through some of this together…

It all started when the island nation of Tuvalu ran out of water. We officially live in the post-climate change world, folks. An entire nation is currently surviving off of emergency aid water. Sure, it will be awhile before these kinds of consequences reach the soils of industrialized nations, but it’s coming.

The consequences of global climate devastation we’re already beginning to see hit our food and water supplies first, and hardest. For the full connection between food and geopolitics explained, check out Lester Brown’s great article from this summer’s Foreign Policy food issue.

Then, you can read Frederick Kaufman’s accompanying article to learn how speculative commodities trading led directly to the current food crisis, banging its head up against climate change in what will — I’m not being hyperbolic at all here — be a global disaster of magnitude.

And yet… a new report by Food & Water Watch this week demonstrates that, rather than federal subsidies, the deregulation of commodities markets leads to an overproduction of “junk food” crops.

And a consumer advocacy group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over PepsiCo & Frito-Lay’s use of “deceptive and unfair digital marketing tactics” to promote junk food to kids in direct violation of the FTC Act.

And Monsanto is selling an 1950s-era pesticide, rife with dioxin, to farmers whose superweeds can no longer be defeated with RoundUp.

All of which makes me want to scream: A country ran out of water on our watch this week, people! This is no longer business-as-usual.

Taking Action for Kids’ Health

17 Oct

Marion Nestle is reporting rumors that after last week’s House hearing on the voluntary food marketing standards, the White House may be caving to industry and dropping the suggested standards. As she notes, the rumor is not yet confirmed, and may well be false. We can only hope.

I’ve covered before the so-called “voluntary regulations” themselves, and have already ranted at you all about why they are crucial and benign. What’s at stake here is a larger issue that I am getting pretty fundamentally sick of.

That even from the White House of the Let’s Move campaign…

From the first White House to put a garden on the grounds

From the White House of the candidate who promised to pursue labeling GMOs

From the White House which has, against political will, stood up for children’s health insurance practices…

And, frankly, in the midst of a growing anti-corporate movement…

I am tired of seeing my government actively put the needs and desires of corporate lobbying powers above those of the people that government has been elected to represent. I know this is the way our electoral system is structured — I know that whatever my vote in the last election may have been, it was corporate money that paid for the campaign. I get it.

But we are talking about a clear-cut case here of universally better for the health of our children versus slightly inconveneint for big business. And when big business gets the government’s vote on that one? Well, that’s what the protestors on Wall Street are pissed off about.

And if this rumor ends up being true, I’m right there with them.

Some of my best friends in the world are parents now, or are about to become them. And I want to join them someday, soon. And I want to know that these beautiful children are being born into a world where people will look out for them, not a world where we allow ourselves to forget what’s really at stake here.

I’ll be following this rumor closely, and whatever I find, I will share with you. And if the White House appears to be backing off the notion of regulating this industry, I’m going to ask for a big push of emails and phone calls from you all. It’s time to stop being complacent about the way of doing business around here.

Why Won’t the Food Industry Give Up Tony the Tiger?

8 Sep

In 2009, Congress, in an important first step in regulating the food industry’s marketing impact, asked the FTC to join with the FDA, CDC, and USDA to recommend standards for food products marketed to kids. These agencies, collectively as the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, issued a report recently with the 100% toothless and relatively benign recommendations for the food industry to “self-regulate.”

Shockingly, the food industry balked. Their rebuttal has focused around two key issues: the first is a financial loss in food & beverage retail sales they argue will result in a significant loss of jobs; the second claims that the suggestions pose a first amendment free speech violation.

No thumbs up, Tony. No thumbs up.

*Ahem*

That’s me clearing my throat for another We*Meat*Again rant…

First, let’s do away with this ridiculous term “voluntary regulations.” If it’s voluntary, it’s not a regulation. And if these are recommendations, guidelines for proper conduct, mere whiffs of the suggestion of change, with absolutely no agency designed to enforce them as policy (which they are) then the recommendations of the interagency group can simply not be considered a first amendment violation. The first amendment protects us from legal action regarding our speech. There is no legal action to be had here, and a giant team of legal scholars agrees with me.

Second, The Orwellian industry response group known as the Coalition for Sensible Food Policy, instead wants America to rally behind the ever-popular notion of personal responsibility when it comes to nutritional food choices. I am left to wonder — if they want personal responsibility, why are they advocating so strongly for their continued right to market towards a group of people (children ages 2-17) who are widely recognized as not being responsible for themselves?

Children ages 2-17 do not buy their own food. They do not vote. They cannot drink alcohol, or join the military. These are not people we believe are yet responsible for themselves, and so why should the food industry cling so tightly to the notion that children should make their own nutritional decisions? If  personal responsibility in decision-making is what you want, food industry, how about you market to the parents, rather than the children?

Because all the guidelines do is ask that food marketed toward children 2-17 meets certain nutritional standards — not that the industry stops marketing to children at all. And if the industry doesn’t want their food to have to meet those standards — no problem. Just market it to adults who are buying the food for children, rather than the children themselves.

Which leads me to point the third. The economic argument. We hear this one all over the place these days — from fossil fuel industry claiming that developing renewables would mean fewer jobs for American workers, from the auto industry claiming that fuel efficiency standards cost too much to comply with.

You know when else we heard that argument? From the auto industry, when Congress began regulating the inclusion of seatbelts in cars. And from the tobacco lobby when Congress asked them to stop marketing towards kids. Guess what? It did cost the industry money. The industry got over it.

Complying with regulations (which, I may remind you, these are not) does cost money — but it’s money we as a society deem worth spending, as it saves us the long-term costs of a national healthcare system groaning under the weight of childhood obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. That is the balancing act of policy required by a democratic society whose purported goal is equality, which in my mind includes an equal right to health, and a long life.

You know how the auto industry, among others, was able to take on new regulations and move forward profitably? That great American word we love to hear: innovation. Toyota sold the Prius at a loss for three years, and it’s now one of their most profitable models. Innovation requires businesses to spend extra, out-of-pocket now, by promising that down the line, they will have created a new market, a new group of consumers demanding their product and theirs alone, as this company will have taken the leap of faith to develop and market a product no one thinks they want now. Ask Steve Jobs how well innovation works out.

We’re not saying stop making Frosted Flakes. We’re saying make Frosted Flakes healthier, or stop using a cartoon character to sell them, because the cartoon characters are contributing in a meaningful and significant way to increased death and disease. If that sounds like an unreasonable request, you’re either a food industry lobbyist, or a horrible cynic who doesn’t believe that policies designed to protect the well-being of our nation’s children are in all of our best interest.

Could the Keystone XL Pipeline Affect Our Food?

1 Sep

You all know by now that I sometimes like to write about (slightly) non-food related issues on the blog, mainly in an effort to convey the ways in which those issue are, in fact, food-related. One of the things I’ve learned in researching and understanding our food and agricultural systems is that nothing is isolated. Food moves from the environment into people’s bodies, crossing just about every foreign and domestic issue along that route.

So any major development that will affect the landscape of this country will inevitably affect our food supply. Right now, Washington D.C. politicians are considering a project which has the potential to be one of the most environmentally destructive developments in recent history: the Keystone XL Pipeline, a system that would extend nearly 2,000 miles from Canada into Texas, in order to transport oil derived from Canada’s tar sands into the U.S.

Tar sands are considered one of the most pollutive forms of fuel on the planet, even rivaling coal in terms of emissions from burning, and this action would therefore be bad enough, given its implication for worsening global climate change during the exact years we need to be dramatically reducing our carbon impact. But the Keystone XL Pipeline project isn’t only problematic because it’s transporting pollutive fuel.

Image created by Emma Pullman of DeSmogBlog and Heather Libby of TckTckTck

As this infographic shows, the proposed pipeline crosses most of the Midwest, the land upon which we grow the majority of this country’s food, and raise much of this country’s meat animals (often in conditions that are already dire). The pipeline itself will disrupt more than 11,000 acres of rangeland and pastureland, and nearly 5,000 acres of agricultural and crop land. And it’s very likely to leak. Based on the track record of Keystone’s other pipeline project in the same area, we can count on virtually all of those acres of land used as food supply to become contaminated with oil spills — within as little as a year of the pipeline’s operation.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, the impact on food supply isn’t limited to direct contact with cropland. Perhaps the most dangerous potential hazard of the pipeline comes in the fact that it will run directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, the single most important supply of water in the Great Plains. The Aquifer supplies drinking water to millions of people in the Midwest, and provides a total of 30% of this country’s water used for irrigation. When you consider the states in which the Aquifer is used for irrigation — mostly Nebraska, Texas and Kansas — you come to realize just how significant that irrigation is, and why the National Farmers Union has spoken against the Pipeline. We’re not watering lawns out here. We’re watering farm land.

Nearly all the significant voices in the environmental world — including Al Gore, Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen — have stood in opposition to the Pipeline. But that’s not all. The conservative governor and congressional representatives of Nebraska are also against the project, for all the reasons described above. But the U.S. State Department is in favor of the project, and the President has yet to make his opinion clear.

In order to ensure that our Democratic President Obama doesn’t end up to the right of the governor of Nebraska, over the last few weeks, thousands of protestors have gathered in front of the White House to engage in a long-term, systematic sit-in to call for the President’s refusal to issue the permit to develop the Pipeline.

I feel strongly that this action will come to be recognized in the future as one of the most significant acts of civil disobedience in our country’s history. Finally, ordinary people have come to care deeply enough about the threat of climate change to take direct action in a way echoed by the American Revolution and anti-Vietnam war movements, by the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. This is a turning point decision for our country’s choices in protecting our land and natural resources. This is the single largest act of climate change civil disobedience in history. Rather than defending our right to consumer as much oil as we might ever desire, the Tar Sands Action protestors are defending our right to keep our land and water safe for continued use.

Oil sustains an increasingly unfeasible way of life in this country, one that we will eventually be forced to change, regardless of the Pipeline’s production. But the land out here, land that stretches across states I have come to love deeply in the last few years, sustains actual life, sustains our ability to feed ourselves. However much I might disagree — and however often — about the methods employed on much of this farmland, it remains the best agricultural soil in the nation. And we are about to ruin it with oil spills.

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