March 6, 2006

3/6/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Happy Purim – Check out our recipes

2. Plans for Vegetarian Shabbat on Earth Day Going Forward

4. A Rabbinic Call for Environmental Activism

5. Are Backyard Pet Animals and Farm Animals Endangered?

6. Severe Water Shortages Related to Animal-based Agriculture

7. Climate Change May Spark Conflicts Between Nations

8. Armed Forces Are Put on Standby to Tackle Threat of Wars Over Water

9. World’s Largest Group of Climate Scientists Issues Dire Warning

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Happy Purim – Check out our recipes

Purim this year begins on Monday evening, March 13. May you have a joyous Purim and may the joy of the holiday be the beginning of far better conditions for klal Yisrael and all people and animals in our imperiled world. Check out our vegetarian Purim recipes at

If you have a chance, please see my article “Purim and Vegetarianism” in the holiday section of my articles at, and please consider using the points in the article to help promote vegetarianism.

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2. Plans for Vegetarian Shabbat on Earth Day Going Forward

Progress is being made re celebrating Earth Day 2006 as an “Environmental Shabbat,” and more broadly as an “Environmental Sabbath,” in which people of other religions will also take part at a time and in ways consistent with their religious traditions. We are also planning to get many vegetarian and animal rights groups to join in promoting the idea that a vegetarianism and animal-based agriculture should be a significant part of Earth Day 2006. More re this soon in a special JVNA newsletter.

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4. A Rabbinic Call for Environmental Activism

[The statement below is a very powerful rabbinic statement, signed by key rabbis of the major Jewish branches. Please read it carefully and help spread its very powerful message. I hope that it will be a major part of celebrating Earth day 2006 as an “Environmental Shabbat.”]

(From COEJL (Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life).

Wonder and Restraint:
A Rabbinic Call to Environmental Action
January, 2006

At this very moment, our Earth is hurtling through space at 18.5 miles per second while the Sun burns with an internal heat of 20 million degrees. Forests and vegetation sweep the planet’s atmosphere of carbon dioxide and provide oxygen and food for countless creatures. A 40-ton humpback whale sings a symphonic cycle of songs in the depths of the sea; a tiny hummingbird flaps its wings 4,500 times per minute as it sips nectar from flowers. The million-year-old messages of our DNA repair and reproduce themselves and create a spectacular diversity of human beings on Earth.

These interwoven testaments to the God of Creation, unveiled by our senses and by the probings of science, have stirred millions of people to become mindful guardians of the biosphere.

Now our Jewish tradition must, and can, do likewise.

As rabbis of long experience, we are moved by psalms of praise and blessing: “You have gladdened me by Your deeds, O Lord; I shout for joy at Your handiwork . . “ (Psalm 92). We have studied the texts of Mishna and Gemara explicating the halakhic duties derived from the law of lo tashchit, you shall not waste (Deuteronomy 20: 19). We take to heart the curses of Deuteronomy 28, which chillingly resemble the environmental catastrophes now being predicted by an overwhelming majority of the scientific community: “Lord will strike you . . . with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew. . . “ We are inspired by the proclamations of the kabbalists and the hasidic rebbes: “that we see, sky, earth and its fullness, are God’s outer garment.” (Rebbe Shneor Zalman, Tanya).

Yet we worry that the same factors of abundance and alienation in modern life that have inured people to the pleading voices of nature could inure them, as well, to these voices of Torah. We know that within Jewish texts, law, theology, philosophy, and ritual practice are spiritual resources that could profoundly transform our people and influence a human race estranged from the essences of life. Within the Jewish tradition reside rich teachings about the unity of Creation, about boundaries and limits, about deeds and consequences, about poverty and wealth, and about individual and communal responsibility, which together form a comprehensive environmental vision and provide practical guidance for environmental balance and restoration.

Within Jewish history, moreover, the reality of annihilation, and the process by which it results from a society’s worship of false gods, have been made terribly clear.

How, then, can we help the Jewish people hear the covenantal heartbeat of Judaism and feel it racing as a pulse through our bodies? How do we turn the notion of tselem elohim, that human beings are made in the Divine image, into a living identity of stewardship and responsibility for God’s Earth?

The awakening we seek begins with wonder: the wonder that turned Moses aside to regard the burning bush and realize that he was standing on “holy ground.” (Exodus 3: 3-5). That vision of light is what we all see every year in the buds of spring, the spawning of new generations, the migrations of birds, mammals and fishes, the cleansing streams of atmosphere and oceans … in all of the miraculous processes by which life awakens from dormancy and recovers from stress, even from disaster, to recreate the world right before our eyes.

Traditionally, Jews express this sense of wonder by reciting some hundred blessings a day, at all the junctures of interaction with Creation that constitute our lives. But to paraphrase the words of the Prophet Isaiah, are these the blessings that the Creator desires? To give thanks for the bounty of our meals while our industrial farming system despoils the waterways? To praise the splendor of a rainbow while driving a wasteful, polluting vehicle? To kiss the mezuzah on the doorpost of an oversized, energy-inefficient house that consumes enough electricity to power a shtetl? To give tzedakah while we invest our personal or institutional wealth without regard for which corporations are pouring pollutants into the soil, the water, the air?

No, says our Torah, these are the blessings required:

* that we unify our words and our deeds;
* that we sustain and expand our awe, not simply discharge it with a prayer;
* that we unveil revelation with all of our God-given capacities and respond, with humbled hearts, to the “signs and marvels.” (Exodus 7: 3) with which God animates our world;
* that we respond to God’s summonings by declaring ourselves ready, as a people, to renew the covenant made at Mount Sinai . There, in the wilderness of life, amid “thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking,” (Exodus 20: 18), our ancestors, freed from enslavement in Egypt, awoke en masse to the responsibilities of their freedom. And had they not, the Midrash warns, the world would have been returned to desolation and chaos.” (B. Shabbat 88a).

Today, the “blare of the horn” is louder than ever. As the oil economy heats the atmosphere and disrupts the climate; as the ice shelves of Antarctica, frozen for eons, melt and break off into the sea; as fisheries around the globe collapse; as our world’s ecosystems, and the systems of our own human bodies, are forced to absorb a plethora of artificial chemicals; as the Earth loses its animal songs and the ancient text of DNA gets trampled by human-propelled forces of extinction; as the entire planet groans in bondage to its human slave-drivers” the horn that summons us to covenant is blaring in our ears.

Two covenantal responsibilities apply most directly to the environmental challenges of our time. The first demands inwardness, the second, outwardness. The first fulfills the traditional Jewish role as a “holy nation,” the second, as a “light unto the nations.” The first, in a word, is restraint: to practice restraint in our individual and communal lives. Judaism encourages this sensibility in many of its most fundamental metaphors and mitzvot. There is the restraint embodied by Shabbat, our central holy day of wholeness and not-producing. There is the restraint expressed through kashrut, dietary consciousness, which gives us an appetite for sacredness instead of gluttony.

There is the restraint expressed as bal tashchit, the injunction against wanton destruction that is rooted in the Torah’s responses to the environmental ravages of warfare; and as tza’oar ba’alei chayyim, pity for the suffering of living creatures, requiring us to treat our fellow creatures as sentient beings, not as objects for exploitation.

There is the restraint required to fulfill the demands of kehillah, the communal and intergenerational obligations that Judaism applies to our wealth, our private property, our decision-making, and our salvation. In the tradition of Maimonides, modesty and open-handed generosity have long been hallmarks of Jewish life.

There is the restraint implied by sh’mirat haguf, protection of our own bodies and by pikuakh nefesh, the commandment to protect life at nearly any cost. There is the restraint mandated by s’yag l’otorah, building a “fence around the Torah,” which bids us to err on the side of caution when it comes to matters of life, limb and spiritual integrity, all of which are surely endangered by the destruction of biological diversity and the degradation of the biosphere, most obviously by the catastrophes likely to be induced by global warming.

In the Jewish mystical tradition, it is God who sets the example of restraint by practicing tsimtsum, self-withdrawal, in order to permit the universe to emerge into being. The mystics, drawing upon the Talmud (Chagigah 12a), linked this creation story to the appellation Shaddai, usually translated to mean “Almighty,” but understood by mystics as the One Who said to the infant universe, “dai,” “enough,” and thus gave form and boundary to the chaos.

Today, we who are made in the image of Shaddai must emulate this act of tsimtsum if we want our world to persist in health and abundance. Human activity is now as consequential to the Earth and its wealth of species as glaciers, volcanoes, winds and tides, so we cannot persist in the illusion that the world is inexhaustible. Human activity has split the seas, brought down manna from heaven, cured pestilence, built vast tabernacles, so we cannot continue to quake and stammer at the prospect of assuming the responsibility given to us along with our power. Instead, we must transform ourselves from nature, children to nature’s guardians by learning to say “dai ,“enough,” to ourselves.

But not only to ourselves: for the second covenantal obligation that our Earth and our faith require is that we speak out, and speak truth, to the world’s leaders.

We are obliged to contrast our religious and ethical values with the values of self-indulgence, domination, short-term national security, and money-worship that fuel the ravaging of the Earth.

We are obliged to oppose the political empowerment of religious fatalists who view our environmental crisis as a mark of Armageddon and a glad-tiding of redemption.

We are obliged to support policies that ease poverty and spare the planet its ravages; that protect underdeveloped countries from serving as the world’s environmental dumping grounds; that tie economic development to environmental stewardship; and that enable poor people to pursue sustainable economic lives.

We are obliged to withdraw support from corporations that act parasitically rather than symbiotically with the natural world, or that tamper with fundamentals of Creation without caution, without reverence, but solely for purposes of short-term profit and petty self-interest.
We are obliged to challenge the fever of consumption that drives unsustainable economic growth.

We are obliged to challenge public officials who deify property and wealth, reducing our living planet to a commodity.

We are obliged to seek peace and pursue it, to oppose easy recourse to military violence, outside of legitimate self-defense, not only for its destruction of human life and health, but also for its shattering impact on nature and natural resources.

It is precisely in taking these kinds of prophetic stances, lifting our voices to join protest to prayer, that we renew Judaism’s capacity for stirring the rachamim, the womb-love, of God and of the human race, thus keeping the gates open to a healthy future for our planet and its inhabitants.

“Too much singing,” warns a Yiddish folksaying, “and not enough noodles! Before we conclude this letter, we want to be realistic and careful to leave no sense of hubris or overreaching that might disconnect our message from the world of the possible and the plausible.

We know, for example, that many of our people are unaware of, or indifferent to, the teachings of Judaism that we have been expounding.
We realize, moreover, that the Jewish people number barely two percent of America’s population and only fractional percentages elsewhere, and that the environmental health of the planet will ultimately depend on decisions made in the developing world, with its vast populations, where Jews have virtually no presence.

We recognize that in Israel, the one land under Jewish dominion, despite the back-to-nature idealism of Zionism and the environmental guidance and vision of Judaism, even the sincere activism of Israeli environmentalists has been unable to protect the country’s environment from the overwhelming pressures of nation-building, economy-building and national defense.

Finally, we admit that Judaism, as filtered through our people’s centuries of urbanization and ghettoization, has been estranged from much of the Creation-centered sensibility that saturated its early formation.

Nevertheless, we have every reason to hope that we can catalyze new levels of participation and leadership in environmental protection among the Jewish people today.

Our hope is rooted in the belief that our people, for all of their worldliness, are not so far removed from the Jewish values we seek to invoke, “for surely,” as our Torah says, “this is a wise and discerning people,” (Deuteronomy 4: 6) who show every evidence of retaining a covenantal sensibility even at a remove from the language and metaphors of Judaism. The environmental wisdom of our tradition does not require a conversionary experience, a renunciatory lifestyle, or a suspicious stance towards science and modernity. To the contrary, Judaism counts science, technology, and the human capacity for innovation as among our greatest blessings and our greatest tools for partnering in Creation.

We are hopeful, too, because, notwithstanding our small numbers, Jews of conscience and integrity have overcome obstacles of discrimination and oppression to gain positions of influence within economic, intellectual, and policy-making institutions throughout the developed world. This is especially so in the United States, the world’s leading economic and military power, where great prosperity has been purchased at great cost to the biosphere. American Jews therefore have an indispensable role to play in political and civic institutions, corporate boardrooms, the courts and academia, to help guide our country to lead and build alliances in response to global warming, deforestation, overfishing and other environmental crises of our generation.

Finally, we are confident that the State of Israel will serve, in a time of peace, as a tremendous asset, scientifically and spiritually, to a world confronting the demands of development with limited natural resources. And we are grateful for the fact that the modern renaissance in Jewish life has embraced Jewish festivals that connect us with nature (such as Rosh Chodesh, Sukkot, and Tu B’Shevat) and explored a theology that identifies God most powerfully and most intimately with our perceptions of unity and interconnection.

Being realistic also means defining policies and benchmarks of progress that the Jewish community might use in strengthening its commitment to environmental protection. Happily, these have begun to be defined through the collective Jewish effort represented by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL,, which is the organizing force behind this rabbinic letter and a founding member, with major Christian faith groups, of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Among the policies deserving our most immediate commitment are:

* the pursuit of low environmental impact practices in our own households, workplaces, synagogues, and other Jewish institutions (e.g., reduce, reuse, recycle, conserve energy and water);
* the encouragement of sound and positive environmental business policies through our expenditures and our investments;
* the incorporation of environmental considerations, particularly the urgency of global warming and biodiversity loss, in the formulation of political, religious and cultural Jewish communal policies, and a heightened emphasis on environmental justice and wholeness in our public policy statements and activities;
* the integration of nature-oriented activities and Creation concerns in our observances of holy days, our Jewish education for children and adults, our liturgies, and our life-cycle ceremonies.

In addition, we take special note that for individuals, families, and congregations, Shabbat presents a weekly opportunity to reawaken our sense of wonder and to practice restraint. On Shabbat, we can connect with the wonder of Creation through liturgy, outdoor experience, and reflection. We can practice restraint by removing ourselves from the consumption economy for one day each week and by focusing instead on the interactions with family, friends, and community that give our lives richness and meaning.

God willing, we will have time to pursue a transformation of our Jewish environmental consciousness and commitment while our Earth continues to journey through space and spin on its axis to bring evening and morning, morning and evening to innumerable creeping, crawling, climbing, swimming, walking and flying creatures. God willing, elephants will continue to bury their dead and call to each other in subsonic voices that travel for miles across the savannah, and ants will continue to herd aphids and feed on their honeydew. God willing, new species and variations of flora and fauna will continue to evolve and fill the Earth, and the good garden of Creation will continue its renewal and rebirth.

Let us rejoice that we, as children of God, have been endowed with the intelligence, reverence, scientific capacity, and faith to serve as the caretakers for such an extraordinary world! And when God declares to us “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it,” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7: 13) let us respond, with unified voice: “we will do and we will hearken.” (Exodus 24: 7).

Signed by:
Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director, Edah, New York, NY
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Director of Jewish Life, Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Rabbi David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College /Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, NY
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA
Rabbi Arthur Green, Dean, Rabbinical School at Hebrew College, Newton Centre, MA
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President, Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, New York, NY
Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Westfield, NJ
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life | 443 Park Avenue South, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10016
(212) 532-7436 |
Copyright © 2006 COEJL (COEJL operates within the Jewish Council for Public Affairs)

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5. Are Backyard Pet Animals and Farm Animals Endangered?

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Rabbi Yonassan Gershom for his original, challenging article below:

[Please help make others aware of the threat indicated in Rabbi Gershom’s important article. Thanks.]

Here come Big Brother and the Chicken Police
by Rabbi Yonassan Gershom

According to an article by Dr. Mary Zanoni, PH.D., in the Feb/Mar 2006 issue of "Backyard Poultry", Big Brother is about to invade the backyards of every American who owns even one single animal that could conceivably be used as food. Even if you are a vegan and never use any animal products yourself, you should be concerned about this issue, because, if passed, the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations could spell the end of the animal welfare movement and the triumph of factory-farm agribusiness.

For several years now, the USDA has been asking the big producers in the meat, egg, and dairy industries to voluntarily register their herds and flocks under the proposed "National Animal Identification System" (NAIS). The goal, if the USDA has its way, is to make this registration MANDATORY by January 1, 2008 -- and not just for commercial producers.Even if you have only one chicken, turkey, goat, goose, duck, sheep, pig, cow, horse (yes, some people do eat horse meat), ostrich, emu or whatever -- and even if they are beloved pets that you never plan to sell or eat, you will still be required to:

1. Register your farm or backyard flock with the USDA, including your name, address, telephone number, and Global Positioning System coordinates for satellite-assisted location of your home and farm. You will then receive a 7-digit "premises ID number" to use in all reports to the USDA. (By doing this, you are essentially consenting to be spied upon.)

2. Register each animal individually and receive a separate 15-digit number for each animal. This will then be programmed into a microchip and implanted the animal at YOUR expense.

3. Report within 24 hours the birth, death, sale, or any movement of each animal to or from your property (even to take it to the county fair or the vet!) -- again at YOUR expense.

If this sounds like some kind of weird conspiracy theory to you, check it out for yourself at the official NAIS website (

There you will find an overview of the plan and the stages for implementing it, plus updates and statistics on your own state, including how many animal owners have voluntarily complied with the request to register their premises. (The microchips will come later.) The USDA, in turn, is using this "voluntary compliance" data as "proof" that people don't object to this program -- even though most people with backyard flocks don't even know about it. At least one state, Wisconsin, has already made registration mandatory, with over 100,000 homes and farms registered. Other states are soon to follow, unless people wake up to what is happening and understand the REAL implications of this for the humane and organic movements.

Although this is being touted by the USDA as a way to track animals in case of an outbreak of a disease or pandemic such as Asian bird flu, the reality is, that it will hit hardest on small organic and niche farmers, people who want to raise their own eggs or meat, hobbyists who enjoy the animals as pets, and anyone who prefers free-run poultry or eggs to those from factory farms. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to NAIS, not even for people like the Amish, who, for religious reasons, do not use electronic devices. In short, this could spell the end of the family farm as we know it. Mary Zanoni writes in her article:

"The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will make people abandon raising animals for their own food, will invade Americans' personal privacy, and will violate the religious freedom of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply. The NAIS will also encourage increased industrial-scale animal farming, and discourage the humane, small-scale production of animal foods." (Source: "The USDA's proposed 'National Animal Identification System': A plan for Government Monitoring and your Flock," Backyard Poultry, Feb/Mar 2006, p. 44)

And get this: The big companies, like National Pork Producers and Cargill Meats, get special breaks and considerations. Rather than mark each animal individually, they can register a whole flock of poultry under a single ID number as the birds move through the system from chick to market. But backyard poultry owners, small-scale farmers, or even classroom incubator projects will have to individually register EACH CHICK as it is hatched, as well as keep up with all the paperwork that will entail. The extra costs of all this red tape in time, labor, and equipment (including the microchips and the computer with internet access needed for the "within 24 hours" reports) will NOT be funded by the government.
Even the USDA admits this on their site. For small-scale family farms already on the edge economically, this additional bureaucratic burden will be the death knoll.

So I ask myself: Are the USDA and the meat industry using the "mad cow" and "bird flu" scares to get this plan implemented without public protest? Quite possibly. It is no accident that recent news stories about bird flu show free-run birds being hauled off by workers in anti-contamination suits, while, at the same time, touting the "safety" of poultry raised under roofs or in cages in the commercial [read "factory farm"] industry. Even though Asian bird flu is difficult to catch unless you are actually slaughtering birds, people are now panicking over it. To the general public, the NAIS plan probably sounds like a nice, modern, efficient way to protect the food supply. But people in the organic, vegetarian, and animal welfare movements know that meat produced in factory farms and feedlots is MORE likely to pose a threat to public health. "Mad cow" disease, for example, is not caused by free-run cattle grazing in a field. It is caused by feeding cows commercial feeds contaminated with the virus from ground-up animal parts -- something a cow would never choose to eat in its natural diet.As Zanoni explains:

"The NAIS is touted by the USDA and agricorporations as a way to make our food supply 'secure' against diseases or terrorism. However, most people instinctively understand that real food security comes from raising food yourself or buying it from a local farmer you actually know... Ultimately, if NAIS goes into effect, more consumers will have to buy food produced by the large-scale industrial methods which multiply the effects of any food safety and disease problems. (Ibid, p. 45)

What can you do? Zanoni recommends that small-scale farmers and backyard animal owners should NOT participate in any so-called "voluntary" NAIS registration programs. I agree. Instead, we should get organized and create an effective movement against this unholy marriage between the USDA and the argricorps. Here are some activist suggestions:

1. Educate yourself on this issue by going to the NAIS site ( Then read up on the realities of factory farms, disease control, family farm economics, etc.

2. Work to make the public, and especially those in the animal welfare movements, aware of this well-kept secret that Big Brother has not been telling us about. Write letters to the editors of your local papers, email your contacts, etc.

3. Talk to your local farmers, Humane societies, animal activist groups, hobbyists, etc. and make them aware of this program and its negative impact on farms and farm animals. Hand out info at farmers' markets, coops, organic food stores, etc.

4. Write to your Congresspersons and tell them you are opposed to this plan. Suggest that money be spent instead to develop a bird flu vaccine, as has been done with other poultry diseases in the past.

5. As an act of civil disobedience on behalf of the animals, REFUSE to cooperate with this program, on the grounds that it violates your beliefs about kindness to animals by forcing them to be raised under factory farm conditions.

6. Organize public protests whenever a USDA representative comes to your area to speak on behalf of the program.Challenge him/her with your questions during the discussion period. You won't convince the speaker, but the audience is listening.

7. Join "Farm for Life," an organization formed to combat NAIS and promote healthier, more sustainable agriculture. For more info on "Farm for Life," contact Mary Zanoni at, or call 1-315-265-2800.

And remember -- the NAIS is not yet law -- but it soon will be, unless people speak out and prevent it.

The time to act is now!!!

Rabbi Gershom

P.S. feel free to pass this email around, post it to discussion groups, newsletters and blogs, etc.

COMING SOON -- Rabbi Gershom's latest book:

"Jewish Themes in Star Trek" -- Where No Rabbi Has Gone Before!
More info:


Hasidism FAQ: http://www.hasidi6
To support Rabbi Gershom's web resources, use this link to shop on Amazon:

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6. Severe Water Shortages Related to Animal-based Agriculture

Forwarded message from Pamela Rice (Director of the VivaVegie Society)

Dear Richard: Here is an article from The Economist that accounts for something environmental vegetarians have been warning people about since the 1980s. It's really quite terrifying what it's saying about something in our own national back yard, and it's essentially all because of our nation's meat-based diet. As per typical, the article blames the livestock "operations," which are the immediate cause of the problem, not the meat eating behind those operation, and so leaves your average meat eater off the hook. in the popular mind, car driving is linked to global warming, yet meat eating is not associated with water shortages. The media need to hear from the vegetarian community on this. Time to send letters to the editor - in general, yes, to The Economist, at .
- Pamela Rice

[EXCERPT: ... a boom in cattle and pig operations has stretched [the water] supply to the limits. ... cheap subsidised water has spurred people (and farmers in particular) to overuse it.]


also posted at:

The Great Plains: Turning off the taps
Feb 9th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Amid all the other problems a growing need for new pipelines

THERE was a time when clean, sweet water bubbled up from wells in
Hull. But like other Iowan towns, Hull's shallow aquifers left its water supply vulnerable to contamination. Pesticides and fertilizer leaked from local farms, raising sulphate levels in the well water and wreaking havoc on newcomers' digestive systems. Ten years ago, Hull capped its wells and turned to its neighbours for clean water. Now a boom in cattle and pig operations has stretched that supply to the limits. Without a new source of clean water, the town's future prosperity is doubtful.

Hull may be a harbinger of a drier future on the northern Plains. The town is one of many in the area whose groundwater has been contaminated by farm chemicals. Hull is one of 15 towns and five rural water systems, including South Dakota's biggest city, Sioux Falls, that have hitched their futures to the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System (LCRWS), a big new pipeline, which in theory will pump 45m gallons a day from the Missouri river to about 200,000 people thinly spread out across South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

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7. Climate Change May Spark Conflicts between Nations

[One more reason that a shift towards vegetarianism is so essential.]

John Reid warns climate change may spark conflict between nations - and says British armed forces must be ready to tackle the violence.

Climate Change May Spark Conflict Between Nations
The Independent UK
Tuesday 28 February 2006

John Reid warns climate change may spark conflict between nations - and says British armed forces must be ready to tackle the violence.

Israel, Jordan and Palestine

Five percent of the world's population survives on 1 percent of its water in the Middle East and this contributed to the 1967 Arab -Israeli war. It could fuel further military crises as global warming continues. Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan rely on the River Jordan but Israel controls it and has cut supplies during times of scarcity. …

Turkey and Syria

Turkish plans to build dams on the Euphrates River brought the country to the brink of war with Syria in 1998. Damascus accused Ankara of deliberately meddling with their water supply as the country lies downstream of Turkey, who accused Syria of sheltering key Kurdish separatist leaders. Water shortages driven by global warming will pile on the pressure in this volatile region.

China and India

The Brahmaputra River has caused tension between India and China and could be a flashpoint for two of the worlds biggest armies. In 2000, India accused China of not sharing information of the river's status in the run up to landslides in Tibet which caused floods in northeastern India and Bangladesh. Chinese proposals to divert the river have concerned Delhi.

Angola and Namibia

Tensions have flared between Botswana, Namibia and Angola around the vast Okavango basin. And droughts have seen Namibia revive plans for a 250-mile water pipeline to supply the capital. Draining the delta would be lethal for locals and tourism. Without the annual flood from the north, the swamps will shrink and water will bleed way into the Kalahari Desert

Ethiopia and Egypt

Population growth in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia is threatening conflict along the world's longest river, The Nice, Ethiopia is pressing for a greater share of the Blue Nile's water but that would leave downstream Egypt as a loser. Egypt is worried the White Nile running through Uganda and Sudan, could be depleted as well before it reaches the parched Sinai desert.

Bangladesh and India

Floods in the Ganges caused by melting glaciers in the Himalayas are wreaking havoc in Bangladesh leading to a rise in illegal migration to India. This has prompted India to build an immense border fence in attempt to block newcomers. Some 6,000 people illegally cross the bored to India every day.

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8. Armed Forces Are Put on Standby to Tackle Threat of Wars over Water

[This article reinforces the one above. Increasing water shortages is a global problem and it is essential that step be soon taken to reverse current trends. It should be kept in mind that animal-based diets require as much as 14 times as much water as vegan diets.]

By Ben Russell, and Nigel Morris
The Independent UK
Tuesday 28 February 2006

Across the world, they are coming: the water wars. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Botswana, arguments are going on over disputed water supplies that may soon burst into open conflict.

Yesterday, Britain's Defense Secretary, John Reid, pointed to the factor hastening the violent collision between a rising world population and a shrinking world water resource: global warming.

In a grim first intervention in the climate-change debate, the Defense Secretary issued a bleak forecast that violence and political conflict would become more likely in the next 20 to 30 years as climate change turned land into desert, melted ice fields and poisoned water supplies.

Climate campaigners echoed Mr Reid's warning, and demanded that ministers redouble their efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Tony Blair will today host a crisis Downing Street summit to address what he called "the major long-term threat facing our planet", signaling alarm within Government at the political consequences of failing to deal with the spectre of global warming.

Activists are modeling their campaign on last year's Make Poverty History movement in the hope of creating immense popular pressure for action on climate change.

Mr Reid used a speech at Chatham House last night to deliver a stark assessment of the potential impact of rising temperatures on the political and human make-up of the world. He listed climate change alongside the major threats facing the world in future decades, including international terrorism, demographic changes and global energy demand.

Mr Reid signaled Britain's armed forces would have to be prepared to tackle conflicts over dwindling resources. Military planners have already started considering the potential impact of global warming for Britain's armed forces over the next 20 to 30 years. They accept some climate change is inevitable, and warn Britain must be prepared for humanitarian disaster relief, peacekeeping and warfare to deal with the dramatic social and political consequences of climate change.

Mr Reid warned of increasing uncertainty about the future of the countries least well equipped to deal with flooding, water shortages and valuable agricultural land turning to desert.

He said climate change was already a contributory factor in conflicts in Africa.

Mr Reid said: "As we look beyond the next decade, we see uncertainty growing; uncertainty about the geopolitical and human consequences of climate change.

"Impacts such as flooding, melting permafrost and desertification could lead to loss of agricultural land, poisoning of water supplies and destruction of economic infrastructure.

"More than 300 million people in Africa currently lack access to safe water; climate change will worsen this dire situation."

He added: "These changes are not just of interest to the geographer or the demographer; they will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer.

"Such changes make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than less likely... The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur. We should see this as a warning sign."

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The science of global warming is becoming ever more certain about the scale of the problem we have, and now the implications of that for security and politics is beginning to emerge."

He said the problems could be most acute in the Middle East and North Africa.

Charlie Kornick, head of climate campaigning at the pressure group Greenpeace, said billions of people faced pressure on water supplies due to climate change across Africa, Asia and South America. He said: "If politicians realize how serious the problems could be, why are British CO2 emissions still going up?"

Tony Blair will be joined by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, at today's talks in Downing Street.

They will be meeting representatives of the recently created Stop Climate Chaos, an alliance of environmental groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam. It will also meet opposition parties.

The alliance will call for the Government to commit itself to achieving a 3 per cent annual fall in carbon dioxide emissions.
The facts
* On our watery planet, 97.5 per cent of water is salt water, unfit for human use.
* Most of the fresh water is locked in the ice caps.
* The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 litres. But people can get by with about 30 litres: 5 litres for food and drink and another 25 for hygiene.
* Some countries use less than 10 litres per person per day. Gambia uses 4.5, Mali 8, Somalia 8.9, and Mozambique 9.3.
* By contrast the average US citizen uses 500 litres per day, and the British average is 200.
* In the West, it takes about eight litres to brush our teeth, 10 to 35 litres to flush a lavatory, and 100 to 200 litres to take a shower.
* The litres of water needed to produce a kilo of:

* Potatoes 1,000
* Maize 1,400
* Wheat 1,450
* Chicken 4,600
* Beef 42,500
Mike McCarthy

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9. World’s Largest Group of Climate Scientists Issues Dire Warning

Forwarded article:

Climate Scientists Issue Dire Warning

The Earth's temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations' team of climate experts. Recent computer models have foreseen increases as high as 11 degrees centigrade.
Climate Scientists Issue Dire Warning
By David Adam
The Guardian UK
Tuesday 28 February 2006

The Earth's temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations' team of climate experts.

A draft of the next influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will tell politicians that scientists are now unable to place a reliable upper limit on how quickly the atmosphere will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase. The report draws together research over the past five years and will be presented to national governments in April and made public next year. It raises the possibility of the Earth's temperature rising well above the ceiling quoted in earlier accounts.

Such an outcome would have severe consequences, such as the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and disruption of the Gulf Stream ocean current.

The shift in position comes as Tony Blair is expected to pledge today to work towards a date for stabilizing international greenhouse gas emissions when he meets Stop Climate Chaos, the climate change equivalent of Make Poverty History. The group is campaigning for a target date of 2015 for stabilization, saying a later date would endanger the planet.

The new IPCC report will underpin international talks on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions when the first phase of the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.

Set up in 1988 by the UN, the IPCC brings together hundreds of experts to summarize the state of climate science for policymakers. It has produced three reports since 1990, each of which has been instrumental in establishing national and international strategies to address global warming. Government officials have until June to comment on the new draft, when scientists will gather in Bergen, Norway, to produce a final version.

The IPCC's removal of the upper temperature estimation is posited on new predictions about how the atmosphere would react to the carbon blanket wrapped around it. The three previous reports assumed that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase average global temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5C. Since then, computer models have foreseen increases as high as 11C, and some scientists wanted the naturally conservative IPCC to raise the upper end of the range. Others said such a move would be increase would be misleading and alarmist.

According to sources who have seen it, the draft now assumes a doubling of carbon dioxide would cause a likely temperature rise of between 2 and 4.5C, but says higher increases are possible.

The shift follows several high profile studies convincing some scientists the atmosphere may be much more sensitive to greenhouse gases than they had thought. Peter Cox, a leading climate expert at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Winfrith, Dorset, said: "The scientific agenda has moved from improving the predictions to thinking about what are the chances of something awful happening."

Dr Cox said the IPCC's move is significant because it will force governments to seriously consider extreme scenarios that are unlikely but potentially devastating. "The most probable thing is not the most important thing to worry about. The upper end is where the big problems are, because the impact rises as the temperature does."

If we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach 550 ppm (parts per million) - double pre-industrial levels - by around 2050. The most recent IPCC report, published in 2001, said this would increase global temperatures by between 1.4 and 5.8C by 2100, and that sea levels would rise by between 0.09 and 0.88 metres.

Climate scientists remain divided about the likelihood of the worst-case scenario being realized. James Annan, a British climate scientist who works on the Japanese Earth simulator supercomputer in Yokohama, says the risks of extreme climate sensitivity and catastrophic consequences have been overstated. He is about to publish a study showing that the chance of climate sensitivity exceeding 4.5C is less than 5%. He said: "It seems to me that some people seem to be talking up the possibility of disaster in order to scare people into doing something."

Dave Stainforth, a climate modeller at Oxford University, said: "This is something of a hot topic but it comes down to what you think is a small chance - even if there's just a half per cent chance of destruction of society, I would class that as a very big risk."

The IPCC findings mirror a British report on avoiding dangerous climate change published last month, in which Mr Blair admitted that the risks may be more serious than previously thought. It included a warning from Chris Rapley, head of the British Antarctic Survey, that the huge west Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate, an event that would raise sea levels around the world by five metres. "The last IPCC report characterized Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change," he said. "I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."

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