February 6, 2010

1/28/2010 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Happy Tu B’Shvat/a Tu B’Shvat Op-Ed on Responsibilities to the Environment

2. Action Alert: Support a Comprehensive Climate and Energy Bill

3. Action Alert: Petition to President Obama to Stop Eating Meat

4. Major World Conference on Climate Change Scheduled

5. Report by Roberta Kalechofsky on Two Conferences She Recently Attended

6. Progress in Creating Artificial Meat

7. Are We Spreading Too Much Gloom and Doom to be Effective?

8. ABC TV Exposes Abuses on Dairy Farm

9. Amazing Number of Vegetarian Links

10. Does Harsh Winter Give Climate Skeptics Ammunition?

11. How To Respond to Climate Skeptics

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 Tu B’Shvat/a Tu B’Shvat Op-Ed on Responsibilities to the Environment

Tu B’Shvat, the most environmental and vegetarian of Jewish holidays, begins at sundown on Friday, January 29 this year. Please see my articles about Tu B’Shvat at the festivals and environmental section at JewishVeg.com/Schwartz, and please help spread the messages in these articles. Thanks.

Below is an op-ed article with an important Tu B’Shvat-related message:

Op-Ed: Our Tu b’Shevat responsibility

Steve Gutow and David Saperstein · January 25, 2010


WASHINGTON (JTA) -- As the holiday of Tu b’Shevat approaches, congregations and families prepare to look at the natural world with wonder and celebrate the abundance of earth’s incredible resources. At many of our celebrations, we will read from Ecclesiastes 1:4: “One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever.”

Yet our generation is learning that this promise may not be ensured. The earth is changing before us, and the resources we enjoy today -- abundant food, a stable climate, and clean, breathable air -- may not be here forever.

This Tu b’Shevat, which falls on Jan. 30, brings an awesome responsibility: We must act to save the very creation that we celebrate -- the planet that is ours in trust.

Tu b’Shevat, which began as a minor holiday marked by a festive meal, has grown into the modern Jewish Earth Day, linking traditional celebration with our growing sense of environmental responsibility. As we connect our tradition to these modern challenges, we deepen our sense of personal responsibility, planting trees and reminding ourselves that it’s a mitzvah to reduce, reuse and recycle. Jews have long taught that every act counts and each decision matters.

But we must also step beyond. As citizens of the nation that sets the tone for the world’s environmental standards, American Jews have a special duty. It is a Jewish imperative to raise our voices for what we believe is right and just: legislation that will effectively address the environmental crises of our generation.

This Tu b’Shevat, we have the opportunity to move beyond individual and communal celebratory activities to raise our voices in addressing broader challenges to our environment. To truly mark the holiday and meet its intent, we must do more than plant trees or attend a seder -- we must commit to advocacy on the polices that affect environmental integrity. And the place to start is the United States Congress.

Scientists, economists and religious leaders agree on the need for comprehensive climate and energy legislation. We need laws that include science-based targets placing a strong cap on carbon emissions and have stringent short- and long-term goals. This is the only way to limit both the current global temperature rise and future environmental degradation.

We need laws that will create the bedrock for America’s transition from polluting fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources. It’s simply not enough to tell citizens and corporations to pollute less. We must provide them with viable alternatives, and that will require a national legislative framework.

We need meaningful measures to minimize the impact of climate change and new energy policies on low-income communities and vulnerable populations in America and around the world, including sufficient funding for international adaptation programs that help communities confront the effects of climate change -- drought, flooding, changing agricultural patterns -- that some are already seeing. Industrial changes of this magnitude will have an enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. We must see to it that in our efforts to save the planet, we do not harm the people who live on it. In the aftershock of Haiti, we see vividly the horrifying damage of neglecting infrastructure among the poorest of the poor.

Some argue that Congress needs more time to consider environmental legislation, insisting that we cannot rush such an important task. Yet time is the one thing that we, and the planet, do not have. As ice caps melt and oceans rise, island nations and entire species are becoming endangered even faster than predicted.

The United States exerted essential leadership at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, and it is time for our nation to follow that lead with legislation. We must call on our elected representatives and the administration to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation for a healthier environment -- and for the cause of human survival.

In Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah, we learn that the Creator led Adam around the Garden of Eden saying, “Look at My works. See how beautiful they are, how excellent. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world -- for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.”

On Tu b’Shevat, it is our moral and spiritual duty as part of our celebration to call on our lawmakers to join us in the task of tikkun olam, repairing our broken world. The seasons are turning, and time is not on our side.

(Rabbi Steve Gutow and Rabbi David Saperstein are board members of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.)

[The thoughts in this op-ed article are ones that JVNA can certainly endorse. However, we wish that there was some consideration of the enormous impact of animal-based agriculture.]

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2. Action Alert: Support a Comprehensive Climate and Energy Bill

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook for forwarding us this material. It certainly is consistent with the Tu B’Shvat op-ed article above.

Please take action to support a comprehensive climate and energy bill.

In the last year alone, new evidence has emerged that the climate crisis is nearer—and scarier—than we had believed.

Please take action now to urge your Senators to support comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation that will reinvigorate our economy and create millions of new jobs.

The stakes are high. We must start cutting our carbon emissions now, or we may soon lose the ability to prevent runaway global warming.

Here are 10 startling facts we learned in 2009 that underscore the climate threat:

1. A study published in the journal Science reports that the current level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere – about 390 parts per million – is higher today than at any time in measurable history -- at least the last 2.1 million years. Previous peaks of CO2 were never more than 300 ppm over the past 800,000 years, and the concentration is rising by around 2 ppm each year.

2. The World Meterological Organization reported that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record with 8 of the hottest 10 years having occurred since 2000.

3. 2009 will end up as one of the 5 hottest years since 1850 and the U.K.'s Met Office predicts that, with a moderate El Nino, 2010 will likely break the record.

4. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that while a bit more summer Arctic sea ice appeared in 2009 than the record breaking lows of the last two years, it was still well below normal levels. Given that the Arctic ice cover remains perilously thin, it is vulnerable to further melting, posing an ever increasing threat to Arctic wildlife including polar bears.

5. The Arctic summer could be ice-free by mid-century, not at the end of the century as previously expected, according to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

6. Recent observations published in the highly respected Nature Geosciences indicate that the East Antarctica ice sheet has been shrinking. This surprised researchers, who expected that only the West Antarctic ice sheet would shrink in the near future because the East Antarctic ice sheet is colder and more stable.

7. The U.S. Global Change Research Program completed an assessment of what is known about climate change impacts in the US and reported that, "Climate changes are already observed in the United States and… are projected to grow." These changes include "increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows."

8. According to a report by the US Geological Survey, slight changes in the climate may trigger abrupt threats to ecosystems that are not easily reversible or adaptable, such as insect outbreaks, wildfire, and forest dieback. "More vulnerable ecosystems, such as those that already face stressors other than climate change, will almost certainly reach their threshold for abrupt change sooner." An example of such an abrupt threat is the outbreak of spruce bark beetles throughout the western U.S. caused by increased winter temperatures that allow more beetles to survive.

9. The EPA, USGS and NOAA issued a joint report warning that most mid-Atlantic coastal wetlands from New York to North Carolina will be lost with a sea level rise of 1 meter or more.

10. If we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century, some of the main fruit and nut tree crops currently grown in California may no longer be economically viable, as there will be a lack of the winter chilling they require. And, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. production of corn, soybeans and cotton could decrease as much as 82%.

What you can do:

a. Take action today to urge your Senators to support a strong climate and energy bill.

b. Forward this email to your friends and family.

c. Make a donation to support our campaign to pass a strong climate and energy bill in 2010.

Thank you for your activism and support,

Environmental Defense Action Fund

Sources for climate facts:

1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618143950.htm

2. http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2110&from=rss_home

3. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/sap4-1.html

4. http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_869_en.html

5. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2009/pr20091210b.html

6. http://nsidc.org/news/press/20091005_minimumpr.html

7. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090402_seaice.html

8. http://sciencestage.com/resources/climatic-changes-lead-declining-winter-chill-fruit-and-nut-trees-california-during-1950-2099

9. http://news.ncsu.edu/releases/crop-yields-could-wilt-heat/">

10. http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts

11. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=41455

Environmental Defense Action Fund
1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20009


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3. Action Alert: Petition to President Obama to Stop Eating Meat


Forwarded message from author and JVNA advisor Arthur Poletti:

Hello Richard:

My petition is beginning to pick up some steam now. I hope you will support the PETITION and forward it to everyone you think should be interested. Google and Congress.org are helping me spread the news.

I feel certain that President Obama will see the results of this petition. Imagine how great it would be for animals if President Obama announced to the world that he and his family stop eating animal flesh.

All the best.

Arthur Poletti

=== Google Web Alert for: President Obama You And Your Family Should Stop Eating Animal Flesh, For All Humans, All Animals, The Earth, And The Earth's Atmosphere
Congress.org - : President Obama, You And Your Family Should Stop ... President Obama, You And Your Family Should Stop Eating Animal Flesh ... you have the power and worldwide influence to save the lives of billions of animals, ... monumental benefits for humans, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere. ... down most or all animal factory farms and slaughterhouses

in the world. ...


Arthur Poletti - The New York City Vegetarian Meetup Group (New ...

PETITION: President Obama, You And Your Family Should Stop Eating Animal Flesh Soon. "Please sign the following petition and forward it to everyone you think would be interested. For the sake of humans, animals, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere. Thank you. ... All Meetup Groups in New York


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4. Major World Conference on Climate Change Scheduled


Evo Morales, president of Bolivia

January 5, 2010 -- Considering that climate change represents a real threat to the existence of humanity, of living beings and our Mother Earth as we know it today;

Noting the serious danger that exists to islands, coastal areas, glaciers in the Himalayas, the Andes and mountains of the world, the poles of the Earth, warm regions like Africa, water sources, populations affected by increasing natural disasters, plants and animals, and ecosystems in general;

Making clear that those most affected by climate change will be the poorest in the world who will see their homes and their sources of survival destroyed, and who will be forced to migrate and seek refuge;

Confirming that 75% of historical emissions of greenhouse gases originated in the countries of the global North that followed a path of irrational industrialisation;

Noting that climate change is a product of the capitalist system [Socialist countries have also contributed to the problem.] ; Regretting the failure of the Copenhagen conference (COP15) caused by countries called "developed", that fail to recognise the climate debt they have with developing countries, future generations and Mother Earth;

Affirming that in order to ensure the full fulfillment of human rights in the 21st century, it is necessary to recognise and respect Mother Earth’s rights;

Reaffirming the need to fight for climate justice;

Recognising the need to take urgent actions to avoid further damage and suffering to humanity, Mother Earth and to restore harmony with nature;

Confident that the peoples of the world, guided by the principles of solidarity, justice and respect for life, will be able to save humanity and Mother Earth; and Celebrating the International Day of Mother Earth;

The government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia calls on the peoples of the world, social movements and Mother Earth’s defenders, and invites scientists, academics, lawyers and governments that want to work with their citizens to the Peoples’ World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights to be held April 20-22, 2010, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

More at http://links.org.au/node/1447

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5. Report by Roberta Kalechofsky on Two Conferences She Recently Attended

Conferences this Year: Minding Animals and Hazon

copyright (c) 2010 roberta kalechofsky [author, speaker, educator, activuist, JVNA advisor]

Within the last few months, my husband and I went to two interesting conferences: “The Minding Animal Conference” in Newcastle, Australia last July, and the “Hazon Food Conference” at Asilomar in California this past December. Neither conference was described as a vegetarian conference, but both conferences served vegetarian/vegan food, and most of those who attended were mainly vegetarian or vegan, even though the conference was not. Somemay be dismayed at this, but it registers how pervasive the vegetarian ethos has spread into organizations that are interested in animal and food matters---whethey they are self-professed vegetarians or not. At both conferences there was universal agreement that the factory farming system (or CAFO) or industrialized animal food has to go, and since no one wanted to eat meat that came through this system, vegetarian food may have been the choice of ethical logic.

The Minding Animals Conference is an ongoing affair which will hold conferences in various places in the next few years. The next conference is scheduled to be in the Netherlands. Note that it is not titled or described as an “Animal Rights”conference. Its aim is to reach out to all sorts of professions and people who are engaged with animals, whether as veterinarians, farmers, or experimenters, to find the interspaces between those who use animals professionally or otherwise, and those who oppose any use of them. Also, and importantly, to educate those who use animals about the physiological and psychological (yes, psychological) nature of animals. One of the most breathtaking lectures was by Gisella Kaplan, who has been studying magpie behavior for years, and specializes in animal cognition and communication. She is a research professor in animal behavior at the Research Centre for Neuroscience and Animal Behaviour at the University of New England in Australia. She holds two Ph.D.s, one in the arts and another in animal behavior and veterinary science, and has written eighteen books, some co-authored with Lesley Rogers. Her book “Australian Magpies: Biology and Behaviour of an Unusual Songbird” (University of New South Wales Press, 2004) is on the bestseller list of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. She possibly knows more about birds than any other human being, and after hearing her talk the term, “bird brain” would be stricken from anyone’s vocabulary. Clearly, the Minding Animals approach is to educate, enlighten, to clear away the debris of misinformation that clogs the arteries of sympathy.

Hazon is also dedicated to exploring the interface between the militant animal rights and vegetarian movements and those who work with animals. In this case, however, the focus was strictly on food--which means on environmental issues, immigration, kashrut,etc. Hazon (which means “vision” in Hebrew) is the brainchild of Nigel Savage from England, who started Hazon ten years ago as an environmental organization, dedicatd to bringing Jews and the environment together by joining them into bicycling events. But the environmental movement exploded this narrow aim, as global warming and the climate crisis became more evident and more evidently linked to the problem of food production. Beginning four years ago, Hazon broadened its perspective and became the leading Jewish environmental organization. After the scandal at Agriprocessor exploded, it turned its attention to the crisis in the kosher food industry.

At the conference in Asilomar, we heard from Jewish organic farmers and Jewish organic egg producers. In three days of scheduled talks, only two were devoted to exploring vegetarianism as a solution to kashrut in the modern world---and at the last two Hazon conferences a goat and a lamb was schechted. Clearly the emphasis is on saving the kashrut tradition, but just as clearly not many Jews are going to personally shecht their own animal anymore than they are going to follow Michael Pollan’s path (in The Omnivore’s Dilemma) of personally killing their own cow.

It is painfully evident that the modern food system does not offer easy choices for those who do not wish to get their meat through the factory farming system (which, like the rest of commercial meat is 98% of kosher meat). Vegetarianism becomes more and more of an obvious choice. But it is also evident that many concerned Jews want to save the kashrut tradition, for family or religious reasons. They may eat meat only once a week, but they want to get that meat honorably.

A good deal of emphasis was on the interface between the illegal immigrant problem, justice for workers, and the continuation of kosher meat. Agriprocessor hung over all these discussions. New standards, a new heksher tzzadik label, will likely emerge, but it is also apparent that it is the enormity of how much meat is eaten that puts pressure on a system that was designed for a small population that ate meat several times a year, when kashrut fit the appetite.

A word about who attended. Someone said that all ages were there, from eight weeks to eighty, and that seemed to be true. And Jews from every background were also there, from the very religious to secular. The point is that at the vegetarian table, everyone can eat, and as befits a Jewish convention, there was plenty of food. The crowd was very lively, and the Havdala service was the most memorable I ever attended: Candles lit everywhere and dancing like crazy.

Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D., fiction writer, speaker, essayist, publisher.

Micah Publications (www.micahbooks.com) is the source for Jewish vegetarian and animal rights books. See website for these and other titles.

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6. Progress in Creating Artificial Meat


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7. Are We Spreading Too Much Gloom and Doom to be Effective?

Using religious language to fight global warming


By Helen Grady

Analysis, BBC Radio 4

Is apocalyptic language an effective campaigning tool?

If the case for tackling climate change is backed by science, why do so many green campaigners rely on the language of religion?

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8. ABC TV Exposes Abuses on Dairy Farm


Undercover videos produced by animal rights groups are fueling a debate over the need for new laws to regulate the treatment of American dairy cows.

Graphic footage suggests milk cows may be victims of some cruel practices.

The graphic videos include one made inside a huge New York dairy operation where cows never go outside, have the ends of their tails cut off in painful procedures without anesthesia, and are seen being abused by one employee who hits a cow over the head with a wrench when it refuses to move.

An investigator for the group Mercy for Animals worked at the New York dairy farm, Willet Dairy, one of the largest in the state, for two months as a mechanic. Willet supplies to Leprino Foods, based in Denver, which produces mozzarella cheese and other cheese products that are used at chains including Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Domino's.

"These animals are really treated as little more than milk-producing machines," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals. "The overall environment at this facility was really a culture of cruelty and neglect."

Portions of the video will be played in reports to be aired this evening [January 26]on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and later on Nightline.


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9. Amazing Number of Vegetarian Links


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10. Does Harsh Winter Give Climate Skeptics Ammunition?

Report: Harsh winter a sign of climate change

‘Hard for any of us to grasp’ warming trend in the midst of cold weather

Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images file

The Washington Post

By Juliet Eilperin and David A. Fahrenthold

updated 6:09 a.m. ET, Thurs., Jan. 28, 2010


This winter's extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.

It comes at a time when, despite a wealth of scientific evidence, the American public is increasingly skeptical that climate change is happening at all. That disconnect is particularly important this year as the Obama administration and its allies in Congress seek to enact legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and revamp the nation's energy supply.

"It's very hard for any of us to grasp how this larger warming trend is happening when we're still having wintry weather," said National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the new report's lead writer.

The study charts how climate change is linked to more heavy precipitation, including intense snowstorms like the one that blanketed the D.C. area last month. The Great Lakes region is also experiencing more snow, the report says, because during warmer winters, "the lakes are less likely to freeze over or are freezing later [and] surface water evaporation is recharging the atmosphere with moisture."

Richard Somerville, who was a lead writer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, said the public needs to grasp that it is important to reduce carbon dioxide quickly because it stays in the atmosphere for centuries.

"That's where the scientific urgency comes from, not a particular weather event," Somerville said. "There's a scientific case for rapidly reducing emissions."

Public doubts

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that 2009 tied as the second-warmest year on record, this week two new public opinion polls have confirmed a trend reported last fall: As Washington has focused more on climate change, the American public has come to believe in it less.

On Wednesday, Yale and George Mason universities released a survey showing that just 57 percent of people said global warming "is happening." That was down 14 percentage points, from 71 percent, in October 2008. Fifty percent of people said they were "very" or "somewhat" worried about global warming, down 13 points from 2008.

Edward Maibach, a George Mason professor, said two outside events may have played a role in the change: First came the recession; then Congress took up legislation to limit greenhouse gases, spurring industry groups and politicians to warn that tackling climate change would kick the economy while it was down.

"Global warming is not necessarily a conversation that most Americans want to actively participate in," Maibach said.

A poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press made a similar point: Respondents were asked to rank 21 issues in terms of their priority. Global warming came in last.

That was not a surprise, as it has been last before.

But this time it was worse than usual: Just 28 percent of respondents listed global warming as a top priority, down from 35 percent in 2008.

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11. How To Respond to Climate Skeptics

* Very thoughtful responses to many arguments of climate change skeptics are at: http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php

* Almost all, if not all of the peer-reviewed articles argue that climate change is happening, is a major threat to humanity and is largely caused by human activities. The media, however, gives much attention to climate skeptics, and this results in confusion and uncertainty.

* Climate skeptics should be asked to explain why the last decade was the warmest in history, that this is being called the century of drought due to so many severe droughts in many regions, that polar ice caps and glaciers are melting faster than the worst case scenarios of scientists, etc.

* If we follow the skeptics and they are wrong, it will result in a catastrophe, but if we take action to avoid climate change and there really is no threat, there will be many positive side effects, including cleaner air and less dependence on foreign governments for oil.

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