Totalitarian agriculture and our limited understanding of the economy

Oil palm produces palm oil, a cheap and therefore ubiquitous ingredient in modern foods. This oil palm plantation swallows the rainforest in Kalimantan. Palm oil is considered extremely harmful to Indonesian rainforests, a vital ecosystem that’s home to many endangered species. Several products in your home probably contain palm oil. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

NOTE: This essay is taken verbatim from a graduate school application and contains the original academic citations.


Modern humans and our institutions are not equipped to fully comprehend the broad impact our economy imposes on the natural world. That’s because we conceive of “the economy” as the body of financial transactions that make lavish modern life possible. Not everyone enjoys that lavish life, but most of us believe in it. We mostly know our actions can pollute the environment, but this understanding is academic and circumscribed, the solutions simplistic, individual, and divorced from the economy. Ride a bike to…

The VP’s progressive task force gesture doesn’t touch the most essential part of addressing climate change

A Shell Oil drilling platform. Recommendations from a progressive task force for Joe Biden’s climate change platform allow drilling, which activists say has to stop. Photo by Thomas Boyle.

When he became the presumptive Democratic nominee for this fall’s presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden commissioned a task force to develop a policy platform bridging the gap between centrist and progressive lawmakers in the Democratic Party. The group released recommendations in a 110-page report Wednesday. The climate section of the document calls to mostly end carbon emissions by 2050. …

Despite this victory for water protectors, Trump is still dismantling environmental protections

Photo shows: a Field Medic wearing camo and a red headband that reads: “Water is Life,” raising her right fist. A large wood fire behind her blocks a road. Fellow Water Protectors behind her also have fists raised. Photo by Avery White. Caption by Oceti Sakowin Camp.

A federal judge on the D.C. Circuit stopped the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from operating Monday and ordered the oil removed from it, citing a 1970s federal law requiring U.S. government agencies to conduct rigorous environmental assessments before rubber-stamping building projects.

An intense, years-long protest has swept the region containing DAPL, which extends from North Dakota through Illinois. The movement says the pipeline threatens Indigenous water supplies and demands the project be dismantled.

Judge James Boasberg said in the ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not conducting a thorough review…

So why do gaslighting pundits say otherwise?

A corn monoculture in Washington state. Only 3 percent of American corn is used for human consumption. The bulk, 37 percent, is used for feed. In the United States, 67 percent of all crops are used for feed production to grow beef, pork, chicken, and several other meat categories. Only 27 percent of all crops grown in the United States are consumed by humans. Photo by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Globally, the meat industry slaughters between 70 billion and 150 billion animals each year. But crop production also carries a heavy toll. The best estimate for how many wild animals die annually in crop monocultures is about 7.3 billion. Still, more than half of the global crop feeds livestock, so most of those secondary deaths can be laid at the feet of the meat industry, too.

Yet, a handful of commentators who’ve taken up a defensive battle flag against veganism say vegans kill more creatures than meat eaters.


Some people hate that other people don’t eat meat. The Guardian

An article with M copy

Protesters take the Black Lives Matter cause to Capitol Hill on and the White House on a second day of DC protests against the police brutality in the death of George Floyd. However, after days of taunts from the President, the protest had featured strong anti-Trump chants. Photo and caption by Geoff Livingston.

DALLAS, Texas — In recent weeks American security forces staged a militant nationwide crackdown on peaceful protesters assembling in public squares across the United States to demand cities reallocate policing money to social programs.

The violent police actions failed to stamp out the protest movement, but they fomented riots and looting among opportunists and nihilists, according to activists and news organizations.

Protest is constitutionally protected in the United States, but that fundamental right is often not enforced, especially for Americans who belong to minority groups. …

Some Christians think repentance is the solution to police brutality

A Christian preacher tells Black Lives Matter protesters they wouldn’t need to worry about police brutality if they accepted Jesus on Saturday in downtown Dallas.

On a street corner in downtown Dallas, a white guy, maybe in his 40s, with a protruding brow, thick biceps, a trim physique, and a mic and speaker, was preaching.

At least four people supported him, a white man in his late teens or early 20s, a black man about the same age, a Hispanic teenager, and a bearded man who looked to be in his mid-30s.

Their presence disoriented me; this protest was not about God or Christianity or Jesus.

The young white man shoved pamphlets with something about God on the cover at the protesters.

The bearded man…

A writer remembers killing A. anguilla

Cyprus Akamas — European eel (Anguilla anguilla) at Aphrodite’s Bath by muffinn.

Like Hansel and Gretel, Danish biologist Johannes Schmidt followed the crumbs. But they weren’t crumbs; they were eel larvae, strung in a meandering but generally westward trail across the Atlantic Ocean. And he hadn’t laid them. And he wasn’t feeling his way out of the forest. He was, writes Swedish culture reporter Patrik Svensson in his new book The Book of Eels, instead searching for the mysterious breeding ground of the European eel, Anguilla anguilla.

This creature had perplexed researchers and intellectuals going back at least to Aristotle (as does virtually everything else). The eel’s life cycle was for centuries…

This is the freedom of whiteness

Protest in response to the Philando Castile shooting by Fibonacci Blue.

Joy and I were on our way to commit a crime or two. I was driving. It was in Dalhart, a cow town with a huge famous grain elevator in the westernmost part of Texas before you cross into the northeast of New Mexico. I was pulled over for speeding. Though there were no drugs in the trunk, I was so nervous I couldn’t figure out how to pull up my insurance.

The policeman was accommodating. He asked where we were headed. Raton, I lied, to see family.

In fact, we were headed to Colorado to hike a little, buy…

It’s the environment

“I don’t believe in Global Warming”: Climate change denial by #Banksy

I’m sometimes asked by people who say they can’t see a difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump why I would support the former in the election, which I plan to. I’m never articulate when I answer — it’s too easy, in those conversations, to get mired in palace intrigue, the Tweets, or banal and inaccurate equations of the two candidates.

None of this ever addresses Trump’s or Biden’s actual policy stances, which is how the Trump administration is genius. It operates like a decadent funhouse full of shiny magnets for liberal rage. Leftist pundits are riled by his latest…

We don’t know how many animals there are

Jaycees measure the length of a western diamondback rattlesnake in the research pit at the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, March 14. The Jaycees also record the weight and sex of the snake but not where it was caught.

Early every spring, dozens of bounty hunters canvass the hilly brush country of West Texas for western diamondback rattlesnakes.

The hunters know where they’re going. They’ve done this before, seen preceding generations do the same. Some talk about the dens they search as “my dens.” They have relationships with ranchers who unwillingly host the serpents on their land. Some are ranchers themselves. They know the geology, the topography.

If you can imagine the perfect army for counting snakes, this is it. It’s conceivable that, armed with radio transmitters and tags, they could track snakes and gather rich, meaningful data on…

Aaron Hedge

I like to write about human-wildlife relationships, mostly.

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