December 28, 2008

12/28/2008 JVNA Online Newsletter

12/28/2008 JVNA Online Newsletter
Shalom everyone,

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

1. Happy New Year

2. Accomplishments in 2008

3. Thanks SO Much

4. Let's Make 2009 a Turning Point Year

5. Still Time to Make a Tax-Deductible Gift in 2009

6. We have an Additional Web Address (

7. Great Opportunity to Help and Influence Important Jewish/Food Blog

8. Getting Vegetarianism Onto Barack Obama's Agenda

9. Getting Vegetarian Foods Onto School Lunches

10. Web Site Has Many Important Articles Re Global Warming and Other Environmental Threats

11. Powerful Vegetarian Documentary Produced

12. Global Warming Pace Faster Than Expected

13. Dvar Torah With a Vegetarian Message

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 the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, 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. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.



1. Happy New Year

Best wishes to everyone for a very happy, healthy, successful year in which all your desires are fulfilled. I look forward to continuing to work with you in furthering our objectives, as they are more important than ever in view of recent reports about global warming and its effects.

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2. Accomplishments in 2008

This has been a very successful year for JVNA:

* We distributed almost 20,000 complimentary DVDs of our acclaimed documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World,” to rabbis, Jewish educators, JCC directors, Hillel directors, professors of religious studies, environmentalists, health professionals and many more people.

* Thanks largely to the efforts of Leonardo Fishman, “A Sacred Duty,” can be seen on You Tube and several other internet sites. It has received over 14,000 hits on You Tube.

* Thanks to the efforts of web coordinator Noam Mohr, his helper Maida Gensher and of Rina Deych, “A Sacred Duty” may be seen in its entirety at One can also find blurbs, reviews and questions and answers about the movie at that web site, and can request a complimentary DVD.

* Thanks to the efforts of Supreme Master TV, the documentary can be seen with subtitles in many languages at There is also a version with Hebrew subtitles at that web site.

* “A Sacred Duty” won several awards during the year.

* JVNA newsletters were sent out almost weekly to help increase awareness of vegetarian-related issues.

* We sent out many press releases during the year, most related to breaking news about the scandals at the Agriprocessors' glatt kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa.

* A Sacred Duty was screened at many conference and at events at synagogues, JCCs, Hillel centers and other venues.

* I was interviewed on several radio programs and by several groups, including the Humane Society of the US and Best Friends of Animals, and these interviews are all now on the internet, several of them in the last section of

* Lionel Friedberg was also interviewed on radio and TV programs and made several appearances in promoting “A Sacred Duty.”

I became director of a new group “Veg Climate Alliance,” whose objective is to increase awareness of the strong connection between animal-based diets and global warming. Please visit the web site, and let us know if you have suggestions.

I am sure there were additional events, as all of this is written from memory. Suggestions welcome.

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3. Thanks SO Much

In addition to my great appreciation for the people mentioned above, I am also very thankful for the efforts of the many wonderful volunteers who helped in getting DVDs to interested people and helped in so many ways.

I am especially grateful to:

Lionel Friedberg, multi-award winning producer, director, writer and cinematograph and his wife Diana, whose labors of love and dedication, with no professional fees, resulted in us having such a valuable outreach tool “A Sacred Duty.”

John Diamond, our very dedicated and capable secretary/ treasurer who, with the help of his wife Donna, very efficiently mailed out many thousands of DVDs.

Roberta Kalechofsky and Roberta Schiff who attended many conferences and other meetings and got DVDs to many key people.

The anonymous volunteer who is now producing additional DVDs for us at a very low price, so that we can continue distributing complimentary DVDs at a time when our financial resources are low.

There are so many more people who deserve thanks and I could go on for many additional pages, even while inadvertently forgetting some. But, you know who you are and please know that your efforts are much appreciated.

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4. Let's Make 2009 a Turning Point Year

With some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, arguing that the world may reach a global warming turning point and spin out of control unless major changes soon occur, it is essential that major changes begin in 2009, including a major societal shift to plant-based diets. As I have indicated, we have truth, morality and justice on our side, and we must strive to get our messages out more effectively.

The Jewish establishment has been ducking our issues for a long time. We need more personal conversations with rabbis, educators and other leaders in the Jewish community, more letters to editors, more calls to talk-radio shows, more personal conversations, more op-ed articles and more of every other approach that might help get our messages into the mainstream.

As we complete our celebration of Chanukah, we should recall that it was a triumph of non-conformity, of the weak against the strong, of the few against the many. We need such a victory today. And to accomplish it, we need the continued involvement of as many people on this list. So, please consider how you might help. The future of our precious, but imperiled, planet depends on it. Thanks.

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5. Still Time to Make a Tax-Deductible Gift in 2009

As I have pointed out, I believe that the most important contribution that one can make for our children, grandchildren and all future generations is to contribute to groups like JVNA that are working to increase awareness that will help the world avoid the unprecedented catastrophe that it is rapidly approaching.

We have truth, morality and justice on our side, but we lack the financial resources to effectively get our message out. With your help we could challenge the establishment which continues to ignore our respectful attempts to start a dialogue on “Should Jews be Vegetarians.”

So, before the end of the year, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to JVNA. I can assure you that we will put it to very good use promoting vegetarianism.

To contribute, please go to Or send a check made out to Jewish Vegetarians of North America or JVNA and send it to our secretary/treasurer John Diamond at

49 Pattern Drive
Newport News, VA 23606-7744

Many thanks!

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6. We have an Additional Web Address (

Thanks to the initiative and generosity of JVNA advisor Rina Deych, our web site ( can also be visited at This may help many people find our site. Visiting will automatically get you to

Many thanks, Rina, for this and all the many positive things you have done for JVNA.

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7. Great Opportunity to Help and Influence Important Jewish/Food Blog

Forwarded message from Hazon:

JOB OPP: Blogging editors/writers for award-winning site
Green Jewish food site is looking for people to run its blog, “The Jew And The Carrot.”

Volunteer positions:

Message from Hazon director Nigel Savage:

Dear friends,

After almost five years, The Jew & The Carrot's Editor-in-Chief, Leah Koenig, is leaving Hazon. Leah started as an intern at Hazon in the summer of 2003, then joined the staff the following year after graduating from Middlebury College. She spent the first three years running Hazon's new (at the time!) Jewish CSA program, Tuv Ha'Aretz, and ran Hazon's first Food Conference in 2006. A year and a half ago, she transitioned to part time to pursue a freelance journalism career, while being the editor of The Jew & The Carrot at Hazon. Now, with simultaneous excitement and sorrow, she is joining the illustrious “Hazon staff alumni association.”

As Leah transitions away from her position at Hazon, The Jew & The Carrot blog is also changing. From the blog's inception in December, 2006, Hazon has depended on the creative and inspiring contributions from an impressive group of volunteer contributors. Now, the blog is shifting towards an all volunteer model, and we are seeking several outstanding volunteers to help move forward the new Jewish food movement on the blogosphere. Specifically, we are looking to fill the following key volunteer roles:

Business Manager
Circulation Manager
Associate Editor
Lead Contributor

We're expecting all the roles, but particularly the three lead roles: Editor-in-Chief, Business Manager, and Circulation Manager, to be 1-year positions. We're looking for serious and committed inquiries and the capacity of volunteering at least 15-20 hours/week. This is a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world and gain experience that should stand you in great stead if you're looking to have a career in one of these fields. Applicants do not have to be from NYC, so please forward this email widely and be in touch if you're interested.

More information below, but first - a little back blog story:

The Jew & The Carrot began as an attempt to answer many questions at once. How could Hazon expand the conversations we were beginning around food, Jewish life, and sustainability to the broadest possible audience? How could we spread the impact of our food work beyond the participants who attend our Food Conference, or belong to one of our Tuv Ha'Aretz CSA communities? And how might we create a forum for people all around the world to discuss and push forward these important issues, all year round? Of course! A blog.

We officially launched The Jew & The Carrot in December 2006 at Hazon's first food conference. Our team of volunteer contributors began a conversation that continues today - one that combines healthy, sustainable food news with an inclusive, joyful Jewish community.

Since then, the blog has become an important voice in the new Jewish food movement. What started as Hazon bringing some of its thoughts about food to the larger audience grew into a true community-wide conversation, with contributors and readers chiming in from across the United States, Israel, Europe, and beyond. Some highlights from the past two years have included:

* Interviews with Jewish food thinkers like Michael Pollan, Joan Nathan, and Michael Ableman

* Extensive coverage about the raid of the Agriprocessors' kosher meat plant and its aftermath - including an exclusive interview with a former mashgiach (kosher supervisor) from the plant. Several readers commented that they turned to The Jew & The Carrot as their primary source of Agriprocessors related news.

* Innovative recipes that take healthy, seasonal twists on traditional foods like: apple cider challah, savory hamantaschen with mushrooms and onions, pesto blintzes, and homemade date honey for Rosh Hashanah

* Interviews with the leaders of the new Jewish food movement: from Rabbi Morris Allen of Hekhsher Tzedek, to kosher vitner Jeff Morgan of Covenant Wines and kosher artisanal cheese maker, Alan Glustoff of 5 Spoke Creamery.

* Controversial and inspiring personal essays that push forward the conversations around kashrut and identity.

* Extensive resources and tips for “greening” Jewish holidays, making a Shabbat or Kiddush table more sustainable, or finding a farm to visit with the family.

* An ethical food advice column from the hilarious yenta, The Shmethicist.

* “Unboxed” segments that demystify seasonal produce and offer practical advice and techniques for the kitchen.

In two years, our base of readers - which ranges from Orthodox to secular, and not Jewish at all - has grown steadily, forming a community that feels tied to the blog, the conversations, and each other. Two recent comments from readers help to illustrate the diversity and closeness of the community:

I have to confess, I am obsessed with The Jew & The Carrot. My favorite procrastination method is to hop on my Google Reader, hoping, praying, that they have another witty post about contemporary Jewish issues explored through food.


I love The Jew & The Carrot - in my pretty right wing orthodox world, it's hard to find people who care about the grand and expansive impact of food in our world, both physical and spiritual, for good and bad. Thanks for bringing Michael Pollan and Torah together.

The press has also picked up on the blog's impact - in the last year, The Jew & The Carrot has received press mentions in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Report, and many other publications. It was also named Best New Blog and Best Kosher Food/Recipe Blog in the 2007 Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards.

Volunteer with The Jew & The Carrot

We're incredibly proud of what The Jew & The Carrot has accomplished in the last two years. But we are also incredibly excited to enable a small group of people in the coming year to strengthen and grow the blog in new directions.

For more information about applying and joining The Jew & The Carrot team, please click here. All cover letters and resumes should be sent to

With thanks and best wishes,


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8. Getting Vegetarianism Onto Barack Obama's Agenda

Many thanks to JVNA advisor Arthur Poletti for the message below and this important, innovative initiative:

Dear Members Of The Media, Friends, And Associates:


Here is the final draft of the cover message.

Dear Friends and Associates:

Do you think President Elect Obama is capable of being wiser and braver than Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey have been?

As you may know, there's a movement by citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who are now submitting ideas for how they think the Obama
Administration should change America.

It's called "Ideas for Change in America." I've submitted an idea to Barack Obama and wanted to see if you could quickly vote for it. The title is: (You Must Be The Change You Want To See In The World)

The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run
by, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration.

So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

Once President Elect Obama carefully evaluates and considers the magnitude of the recommendation we will all find out if *he is wiser and braver* than Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey have been.

Will the future leader of America make a decision that could potentially shock and improve the world like never before?

You can help persuade our next President to make the most important decision of his
Presidency by casting a vote for what could result in the biggest and most beneficial change in history.

You can read and vote for the idea by clicking on the entire following link:

There is no change that would be bigger or more beneficial to all humans, all animals, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere.

Please also consider forwarding this request to anyone you think might want to help this campaign.

Arthur Poletti
Author of the free online short story titled:
*God Does Not Eat Meat*


You Must Be The Change You Want To See In The World

1. Dear President Elect Barack Obama: Being the President will not be easy. Sometimes, with Gods guidance you may need to go against the status quo and take a stand against overwhelming odds. No matter what the majority of the people in the world may think or say. I am sure you will agree that God is the supreme symbol of compassion, kindness, life, and love for all creatures with a soul which clearly proves why God wants all animal factory farms and slaughterhouses to close!! President Elect Obama, your action of becoming the first vegetarian or vegan President in the history of the United States would send a glorious message throughout the world like a "lightning bolt of compassion from heaven." You and maybe even former Vice President of The United States Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey could make a simultaneous announcement that none of you will ever eat the flesh of Gods creatures again. Imagine the immediate and long range positive results these incredible announcements would create throughout the world for the benefit of all animals, all humans, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere. Thank you for your important consideration and most urgently needed action. Please seriously consider the wisdom of the following famous quotation. “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Albert Einstein - arthur poletti (Peacemaker), Western Springs, IL Dec 21


2) "All ancient philosophy was oriented toward the simplicity of life and taught a certain kind of modesty in one's need. In light of this, the few philosophic vegetarians have done more for mankind than all new philosophers, and as long as philosophers and world leaders *do not have the courage to* seek out a totally changed way of life and *to demonstrate it* by their example, they are worth nothing." Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)


My comment:

Kudos for this wonderful proposal. Since, according to a 2006 UN report, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the means of transportation worldwide combined (18% vs 13.5%), it is essential that there be a major shift to plant-based diets in order to help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable course. For more information, please see my over 130 articles at and please see our documentary "A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World" at

Further comment from Arthur Poletti:

Think of how amazing it would be and the impact it would have on the world if Barack Obama announced that he has become a vegetarian.

You know that Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey would feel an obligation to do the same, as well as many other well known leaders in the world.

Obama keeps talking about change and uses the slogan *YES WE CAN*

What bigger or more important change could possibly happen?

Imagine headlines like this throughout the world.

The President Of The United States Is A Vegetarian!!

Obama Says: No More Animal Flesh For Me Or My Family!!

Richard, let's see how many votes we can create for this worthy cause. We need 58 more votes to get to the next round which will give us a real chance to make it to the

For the sake of all animals, all humans, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere.

Thank you.

"One of the great tragedies of history is that so many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change." The Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you Richard.

I have a real good feeling about just how far we could go with this.

To dream the impossible dream.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To reach the unreachable star.

Yes We Can!!

Let's get the votes for all of God's precious


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9. Getting Vegetarian Foods Onto School Lunches

Related further message from JVNA advisor Arthur Poletti:


Dave Warwak is another popular and outspoken vegan and friend that is getting a lot of votes for the same subject but in a different category. We can help each other.

Vegetarians and vegans should join ranks now in every way to put this subject right in Barack Obama's face like never before.

He can run but he should not hide from the truth!!

Thanks again.

Message from David Warwak:

Silence is complicity
By Dave Warwak

I find it very disturbing that schools hide veganism from children and promote false dairy industry advertisements. School administrators have proven they do not care to change - even when children's lives are at stake.

The American public school system is actively keeping gravely serious information from our children. Children deserve all the information so they can choose wisely about things such as living an extra 10 to 12 years or never having to worry about many cancers, heart attacks or strokes. Promoting vegan school lunches addresses the Health Care Crisis.

What can be more important than children's lives?

Schools should be delivering truth; instead, money-hungry administrators promote evil lies and sell out the children we entrusted them to care for.

Children want all the information and appreciate having choices - especially when their own health and well-being are in danger.

Not knowing and not caring are different things. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is nothing to sweep under the rug. I wonder how people will feel in 10 to 15 years when the children of today are the “dropping-like-flies” adults of tomorrow. It breaks my heart, but at least I know I did everything possible to let people know.

After trying to teach the evils of meat to our children, there was a 143 million-pound recall that was too late for our children in the school system. Turns out, 384 pounds of the recalled meat from Westland was made into taco meat and fed to our children at Fox River Grove Middle School, Illinois in April and the months after of 2007.

You can confirm this with Jim Copp, Principal Consultant Division of Nutrition Programs and Support Services Illinois State Board of Education. The recall effected children in schools across the county. The USDA announced the recall for fears of Mad Cow Disease. Children should be warned of the perils of meat-eating, for if just one of them gets Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is the human form of Mad Cow Disease, who are we to blame?

How sad it would be if just one child gets a brain-wasting disease through our fault. It is called Spongiform Encephalitis for a good reason. The brain turns into a sponge. I know what you are thinking. It cannot happen here. Meat and dairy have no place in the school lunch program. Animals were never food. We were raised wrong. We are teaching wrong.

It is a crime against humanity to decide that children shall stumble and die early deaths so that those in control may eat and work as they wish.

Tell the world you care more about our children and ultimately our future than those in charge do and that you don't want children to get sick or die from: Strokes, Heart disease, Osteoporosis, Kidney Stones, Colon cancer, Prostate cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Ovarian cancer, Cervical cancer, Stomach cancer, E-coli, Endometrial cancer, Breast cancer, Hypoglycemia, Diabetes, Kidney disease, Peptic ulcers, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Hiatal hernias, Diverticulosis, Obesity, Gallstones, Hypertension, Asthma, Salmonellosis, Trichinosis, Irritable colon syndrome, and Mad Cow/CJD (all related to meat and dairy products).

No matter what anyone argues, schools feeding unsuspecting children the corpses of once living beings and promoting breast milk--complete with its blood, puss, and hormones--stolen from confined, drugged, and tortured creatures as normal and healthy beyond infancy is a socially, mentally, spiritually, and ecologically damaging, unnecessary crime against humanity.

As long as public schools serve children milk and chopped-up animals for lunch, students will disrespect life. School shootings are a testament how well children learn respect, responsibility, and love from those they trust to care for them.

Children deserve the truth and are the key to change. Children are the transmission of society. It is up to vegans to break the cycle of hereditary ignorance perpetrated by school boards who allow the meat and dairy industries to prey on the very children we entrust them to protect. The Milk Mustache' posters that hang in public schools across our nation are an embarrassment to the educational system and a crime against humanity, far worse than Joe Camel, for they hang in institutions that unsuspecting children trust for truth. The indoctrination vegans fight so hard is ingrained in schools - the very place we should be working on prevention.

Humane Education reinforced with a vegan school lunch will end school shootings and create a generation that cares. When children see that adults care enough to change, they will care in turn. This is too serious of an issue to leave alone just because some wish to eat unimpeded.

Schools avoid Humane Education and teach students to be ignorant and apathetic. Miss-educated doctors scramble to find a cure for cancer; yet, wise vegans know prevention is the cure. So too, truly defeating ignorance and apathy lies within prevention. Humane Education teaches children the truth about our world and raises a generation that cares. The philosophy learned in classrooms today becomes the philosophy of society tomorrow.

Humane Education helps raise a generation that cares, that realizes that what we do matters, not just to ourselves but also to everyone our lives touch; a generation that understands the connections between both our personal and cultural choices and the fate of other people, other species, and the Earth, and takes responsibility for creating a better world. Humane Education achieves these goals by inspiring people to identify the values that will guide them through life and by teaching them the process of embodying these values in the face of complex problems and needs.

I am simply offering information and have not forced food or beliefs down people's throats. Imagine if just saying or writing something could force people to change. Please do not believe the same arguments that have allowed these crimes to continue.

It is not a "personal choice" when you are eating my friends and you are ruining my world. When you made your "personal choice," did you ask the animal if you could confine, torture, and murder him or her? When you made your "personal choice," did you ask me if I mind all your pollution and devastation? My tax money subsidizes your "personal choice." Just because we personally make selfish choices does not make them "personal choices."

Welcome to the new world of beef recalls, truth, and responsible vegan teachers.

Please help Barack Obama address these very important issues by casting a vote at for the following initiatives -

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10. Web Site Has Many Important Articles Re Global Warming and Other Environmental Threats

This web site has many articles re global warming and other environmental threats

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11. Powerful Vegetarian Documentary Produced

On Dec 23, 2008, at 5:19 AM, Aaron Scheibner wrote:

Thank you Richard for your continuing support! Hopefully we can meet when I am in the US for the university tour.

{I have seen the movie and it is well worth watching, since it has a very powerful case for vegetarianism.]

We are going on tour next year to show the film at Universities in Australia and the United States. All screenings will be FREE. Can you make a mention of this?

Here is some copy:

A Delicate Balance has now been released! It can be watched online at or the DVD can purchased online at our website for $29.95 plus postage. Join our newsletter today! send a blank email to

A Delicate Balance documents the latest discoveries of some of the most prominent experts on nutrition in the world. Over 50 years of research is skilfully woven into what feels like a detective unravelling the mysteries behind the disease epidemic which has struck affluent countries with a vengeance - disease has been escalating over the last 50 years resulting in 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women being diagnosed with cancer.

Here are some blurbs for the documentary:

"My unprompted reaction was that this is a real wake-up call and I admit to some changes in dietary practices as a direct response to the film."

John Stanley Adjunct Professor, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, University of Sydney.

"This is the documentary that you and your family MUST see! This brilliant documentary will teach you 1) Exactly what food to stop eating to prevent illness and disease within your family 2) What food to eat to attain great health.

But this documentary doesn't just stop there, as well as helping you with your eating habits and health, it will also teach you how you can positively impact climate change, just by changing your eating habits. Again, making it a MUST see! This is the documentary that has the facts the media giants are just not focusing on passing on. Watch it yourself and pass it on to ALL of your friends. Brilliant!"

Anthony Aurelius - UK's No.1 Fitness Expert and Founder of Choi-Bo and Dynamic Choi Kwon Do

"Aaron Scheibner's A Delicate Balance takes a brave, bold look at something complex that we too often simply take for granted: what's on our tables, in our lunchboxes and in our bodies. Now more than ever, we need to better understand the inherent link between the health of our environment, and the health of ourselves and our communities."

Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia

"This documentary shows the power people have at the end of the knives, forks and chopsticks to ameliorate global warming, enrich our environment and extend compassion to all species. A Delicate Balance accessibly challenges the misguided trust people place in the medical profession and animal agriculture propaganda. It is a great film and it must be seen by the widest possible audience."
Lynda Stoner - Australian Actress and Animal Rights Activist

"Necessary, timely, and vital, this powerful film will have an everlasting impact. It is truly a must-see."

Rory Freedman, Coauthor of #1 NY Times Best Seller 'Skinny Bitch

Phoenix Philms

Watch Online Today!

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12. Global Warming Pace Faster Than Expected

Faster Climate Change Feared

Thursday 25 December 2008

by: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

New report points to accelerated melting, longer drought.

The United States faces the possibility of much more rapid climate change by the end of the century than previous studies have suggested, according to a new report led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The survey - which was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and issued this month - expands on the 2007 findings of the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change. Looking at factors such as rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic and prolonged drought in the Southwest, the new assessment suggests that earlier projections may have underestimated the climatic shifts that could take place by 2100.

However, the assessment also suggests that some other feared effects of global warming are not likely to occur by the end of the century, such as an abrupt release of methane from the seabed and permafrost or a shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean circulation system that brings warm water north and colder water south. But the report projects an amount of potential sea level rise during that period that may be greater than what other researchers have anticipated, as well as a shift to a more arid climate pattern in the Southwest by mid-century.

Thirty-two scientists from federal and non-federal institutions contributed to the report, which took nearly two years to complete. The Climate Change Science Program, which was established in 1990, coordinates the climate research of 13 different federal agencies.

Tom Armstrong, senior adviser for global change programs at USGS, said the report "shows how quickly the information is advancing" on potential climate shifts. The prospect of abrupt climate change, he said, "is one of those things that keeps people up at night, because it's a low-probability but high-risk scenario. It's unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, but if it were to occur, it would be life-changing."

In one of the report's most worrisome findings, the agency estimates that in light of recent ice sheet melting, global sea level rise could be as much as four feet by 2100. …

Konrad Steffen, who directs the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and was lead author on the report's chapter on ice sheets, said the models the IPCC used did not factor in some of the dynamics that scientists now understand about ice sheet melting. Among other things, Steffen and his collaborators have identified a process of "lubrication," in which warmer ocean water gets in underneath coastal ice sheets and accelerates melting.

"This has to be put into models," said Steffen, who organized a conference last summer in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of an effort to develop more sophisticated ice sheet models. "What we predicted is sea level rise will be higher, but I have to be honest, we cannot model it for 2100 yet."

Still, Armstrong said the report "does take a step forward from where the IPCC was," especially in terms of ice sheet melting.

Scientists also looked at the prospect of prolonged drought over the next 100 years. They said it is impossible to determine yet whether human activity is responsible for the drought the Southwestern United States has experienced over the past decade, but every indication suggests the region will become consistently drier in the next several decades. Richard Seager, a senior research scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said that nearly all of the 24 computer models the group surveyed project the same climatic conditions for the North American Southwest, which includes Mexico.

"If the models are correct, it will transition in the coming years and decades to a more arid climate, and that transition is already underway," Seager said, adding that such conditions would probably include prolonged droughts lasting more than a decade.

The current models cover broad swaths of landscape, and Seager said scientists need to work on developing versions that can make projections on a much smaller scale. "That's what the water managers out there really need," he said. Current models "don't give them the hard numbers they need."

Armstrong said the need for "downscaled models" is one of the challenges facing the federal government, along with better coordination among agencies on the issue of climate change. When it comes to abrupt climate shifts, he said, "We need to be prepared to deal with it in terms of policymaking, keeping in mind it's a low-probability, high-risk scenario. That said, there are really no policies in place to deal with abrupt climate change."

Richard Moss, who directed the Climate Change Science Program's coordination office between 2000 and 2006 and now serves as vice president and managing director for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund-U.S., welcomed the new report but called it "way overdue."

"There is finally a greater flow of climate science from the administration," Moss said, noting that the report was originally scheduled to come out in the summer of 2007. "It really is showing the potential for abrupt climate change is real."

The report is reassuring, however, on the prospects for some potentially drastic effects - such as a huge release of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, that is now locked deep in the seabed and underneath the Arctic permafrost. That is unlikely to occur in the near future, the scientists said.

"It's unlikely that we're going to see an abrupt change in methane over the next hundred years, but we should worry about it over a longer time frame," said Ed Brook, the lead author of the methane chapter and a geosciences professor at Oregon State University. "All of these places where methane is stored are vulnerable to leaking."

By the end the century, Brook said, the amount of methane escaping from natural sources such as the Arctic tundra and waterlogged soils in warmer regions "could possibly double," but that would still be less than the current level of human-generated methane emissions. Over the course of the next thousand years, he added, methane hydrates stored deep in the seabed could be released: "Once you start melting there, you can't really take it back."

In the near term, Brook said, more precise monitoring of methane levels worldwide would give researchers a better sense of the risk of a bigger atmospheric release. "We don't know exactly how much methane is coming out all over the world," he said. "That's why monitoring is important."

While predictions remain uncertain, Steffen said cutting emissions linked to global warming represents one of the best strategies for averting catastrophic changes.

"We have to act very fast, by understanding better and by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, because it's a large-scale experiment that can get out of hand," Steffen said. "So we don't want that to happen."

© 2008 truthout

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13. Dvar Torah With a Vegetarian Message

Thanks to Rabbi Yossi Feintuch of Columbia, Missouri for this insightful dvar Torah, based on yesterday's Torah reading:

In seeking to fulfill Sage Ben Bag Bag's dictum to “Turn it and turn it for all is in it,” I approached the narrative of the Pharaoh's double dream in Genesis 41 (Parashat Miketz). And while turning it up and down as all serious students of Torah should do, I encountered what seems to me as a hidden “pro-vegetarian” message in this well-known dream of plenty and famine.

In the first dream the seven thin bony cows “ate up the seven strong healthy, fat cows.” What is different about these cows of the second set? Why, they did not graze in the rushes, as the first seven did in the reed grass, indeed, as cows in their natural habitat do. In a flash, the seven “ugly and thin” cows proved themselves to be carnivores causing the Pharaoh to wake up. When a species that is supposed to be solely herbivorous turns carnivores, one cannot stay asleep and must awake as it happened to the Pharaoh.

I cannot help but reflect that we humans are also a species that was not designed to be carnivores. One observer, the Bahai prophet, Bahaullah, observes that humans, unlike beasts of prey that must subsist on meat, have “neither hooked teeth nor sharp nails or claws, nor teeth like iron sickles. From this it becomes evident and manifest that the food of man is not . . . meat, nor is he obliged to eat it.” In other words, we have not been endowed by our Creator with such teeth that can handle raw meat, and consequently we must use artificial utensils to cut or mince the meat into small chewable pieces. The Pharaoh must awake from his dream because he notes the non-normative change in the character of the seven bony cows that ate up the seven grazing and fat cows.

Nevertheless, the Pharaoh does fall asleep soon after waking up from his first dream. But when he woke up after his second dream in which the “seven thin ears swallowed the seven large ears of corn,” his spirit became “agitated” or “troubled” -- a state of mind that was absent from his reaction to the first dream.

What could be the significance of all of this? The elimination of the fleshy cows by the scrawny ones meant the cessation of any further supply of meat and milk; the thin and bony cows who would not graze could not become themselves a source for meat or milk. Though a loss of major types of food on which most humans feed, this loss did not stop the Pharaoh from quickly falling asleep again. That means that such a loss hardly troubled him, for the food of man, in the words of the Bahaullah “is cereals and fruit” . . . [and] even without eating meat he would live with utmost vigor and energy . . . outward senses or intellectual virtues”. The Pharaoh's quick falling asleep after waking up from his first dream meant, then, that even without meat and milk he had no reason to be worried.

Conversely, the Pharaoh's spirit became agitated with the loss of “the seven plump and full ears” that were swallowed up by the “seven thin and blighted ears of grain.” He understood that humans cannot survive without the vegetarian component of their daily diet and this realization brought trouble to the Pharaoh. The loss of grain and corn to the meat industry, as more and more rain forest trees are cut down to make room for grazing land to feed cattle to produce beef, should agitate and worry us too.

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