Posts Tagged ‘academia’

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

 

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Staff, EcoSikh, ecosikh.org

 

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EcoSikh has been invited to make a presentation on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at a key academic conference on Sikhism and Gender at the University of Toronto on October 1, 2011.

The SAFAR: Our Journeys conference will feature over 30 speakers including Sikh feminist scholars, theologians and leaders, including keynote speaker Nikky-Guninder Kaur author of The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory of Sikh Identity.

Bandana Kaur of EcoSikh will be presenting a paper on Sikh women and biodiversity conservation in Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion.

In her paper, titled “Women Farmers of Punjab: Forgotten Voices from the Plains”, Bandana will examine the Green Revolution from the perspective of Sikh women living in the Malwa region of Punjab, an area recognized for the challenges posed to the farming community. Her paper examines the historical relationship between women and agricultural biodiversity in Punjab, and contemporary efforts by rural Sikh women to revive agricultural biodiversity today.

“Sikh women engaged in agricultural biodiversity conservation can help inform a new approach to agricultural development in Punjab that recognizes complex and interrelated systems in: the content and diversity of what is produced, the inputs both human and technical used to produce these goods, and the knowledge systems upon which choices are based.”

A special issue of the academic journal Sikh Feminist Review will be devoted to the conference proceedings. This public record of Sikh feminist research will serve as one of the first accessible domains to privilege Sikh feminist scholarship.

 

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http://www.ecosikh.org/ecosikh-presents-on-sikh-women-and-biodiversity-at-safar-conference-toronto/

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Wangari Maathai

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Editor, Vanguard, vanguardngr.com

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ON Sunday, September 25, 2011, one of the most famous African women in modern times took her exit from the planet earth which she served with distinction.

Her name was Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (April 1, 1940 to September 25, 2011). She succumbed to the scourge of cancer in a Nairobi hospital.

Since her transition was announced by her family, tributes have poured from various quarters, high and low from around the world. From President Barack Obama of the USA to the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon; from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former US Vice-President, Al Gore all the way down to many non-governmental interest groups devoted to earth conservation, such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, The National Geographic organisations and the so many websites and blogsites committed to conservation, the world has been unsparing in its tributes to the first female Nobel Laureate from Africa.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, “Wangeri Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short-term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilise communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

Wangari was an extraordinary woman, who ensured that her high quality education was not just for her own benefit but for the rural communities in her native Kenya and the world at large. She was an evangelist for the preservation of the environment. As far back as the early 1970s when she was but a young woman, she founded the Green Belt Movement, with which she mobilised thousands of women to plant trees and raise environmental consciousness. The Movement enlisted over 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and over the years planted about 45 million trees.

She was also a women rights activist. As the first East African woman to be awarded the Ph.D. when she graduated from the University College of Nairobi in the field of Anatomy, she was a female pioneer in most of the posts she worked. While she taught in the university, she fought for equal status for both male and female staff of the university and would have formed the first academic staff union (similar to our own Academic Union of Universities, ASUU) in the institution had the courts not turned the effort down.

She was a fierce force against the long dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, who made sure she never emerged as the President of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) until one of her opponents favoured by Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, suddenly withdrew for her to emerge unopposed. She went on to join partisan politics and win a seat as a member of her country’s parliament. Her Right Livelihood Award of 1984 served as an appetiser for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.

Unfortunately, Prof. Wangari Maathai fell victim to cancer, one of the major consequences of pollution and deforestation, which she fought against in over 40 years of her lifetime.

The life lived by this amazing woman is worthy of emulation, especially by other African women. In spite of her divorce a few years into her marriage, she devoted the rest of her life to battles to save the earth, banish autocracy from her country and advance the cause of women.

Africa will honour her memory adequately if African countries take seriously the challenge of continuing the struggle to save the environment, especially in the face of rapid advance of the Sahara Desert, intensification of coastal erosion and gradual disappearance of fresh water resources around the continent and the globe at large. Africa must join hands to make the continent “the last man in defence” against deforestation by massive planting of trees, especially economic trees.

It is heroes and heroines of Africa like Prof. Maathai Wangari that we want our leaders to honour (not sit-tight dictators) as we celebrate a life of uncommon achievements.

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari Maathai. Rest in peace.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/adieu-earth-mother-wangari/

Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem

 

Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem

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Posted 25 September 2011, by Tom Atwell, Maine Sunday Telegram (MaineToday Media Inc.), pressherald.com

 

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The Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco has given a new name to its organic garden.

“We are calling it a ‘sustainable food ecosystem,’ ” said John Ibsen, coordinator of the school’s Food for Thought program. “This garden is our feeble attempt to replicate a natural ecosystem.”

Ibsen showed a bit of a twinkle when he mentioned the new name, but it fits with the school’s goals.

“Our focus is on the science of ecology,” said executive director Drew Dumsch, “and the practice of sustainability. It is sustainability applied to ecology.”

Founded in 1999, Ferry Beach Ecology School hosts students from other schools for as little as an afternoon or as long as a week, taking advantage of the seven natural ecosystems within walking distance of the school and teaching about nature and ecology. It’s located at a Unitarian summer camp that was established in 1901, and uses the buildings when the camp isn’t. So far, 80,000 students have taken part in the program.

The garden is located on a challenging site that was built on beach sand on secondary dunes and buffeted by ocean winds. But the students and staff have slowed the winds by creating woven fences from trees cut down for projects elsewhere on the property.

The soil is improved by a no-till method of lasagna gardening, where layers of organic matter and newspapers are put down and allowed to decompose to create a rich topsoil.

“We teach that it takes 5,000 years in nature to create an inch of topsoil, but we can make it a lot faster,” Dumsch said.

Ibsen stresses putting plants close together, having mulch and compost on the soil and gardening vertically, to make the most of a garden that is about the size of a small house lot.

“Bare soil is like an open wound, letting out soil moisture and soil fertility,” Ibsen said.

He combines the permaculture and American Indian practice of the three sisters with a crop rotation in several plots in the garden. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. The corn provides structure for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the other two plants, and the squash shades the soil to keep weeds to a minimum.

The planting pattern is more like a forest, Ibsen said, where there is a mixture of plants rather than the distinct rows of a traditional vegetable garden.

After the squash is harvested in October, Ibsen has the students plant garlic, which is supposed to cleanse the soil. This year, he planted some summer squash around the garlic a few weeks before the garlic harvest to make more use of the soil.

Next year, that plot will be planted with peas, rye and vetch, all of which improve the soil.

In another area, Ibsen uses more combination planting with an apple tree as a centerpiece. Rhubarb will improve the soil. Fennel is believed to repel a lot of apple-tree pests. And bee balm will attract a lot of pollinators.

Ibsen was especially proud of a tomato cage that was about 7 feet tall and 6 feet long, made entirely from items taken from a Dumpster at a school construction project.

The wood for the frame came from discarded pallets. The tomatoes climb metal reinforcing grids that usually go into a concrete floor.

All of this is put together in a package that will please older elementary and middle-school students. There are wanted posters for some of the bad bugs, such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms.

The little red garden shed has snacks from the garden as well as tools. The woven fences are both whimsical and practical. The mammoth sunflowers are about 8 feet tall with foot-wide seed heads.

Although the garden provides only a small percentage of the food served at the school, the dining hall is used as a teaching tool.

“With the kind of teaching we do here, we didn’t want the cafeteria food to be from Sysco,” Dumsch said.

It costs the school about an extra $30,000 a year to get organic and local food, he said, but donations help pay for it.

One of the major fundraisers for the school will be Eco Appetito, to be held from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 2 at Cinque Terre, 36 Wharf St. in Portland.

Chef Lee Skawinski and his staff will be preparing locally sourced food, wine and beer. There also will be live entertainment, door prizes and a silent auction. Tickets are $40.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/life/homeandgarden/ferry-beach-students-elevate-garden-to-a-sustainable-ecosystem_2011-09-25.html

Glendon Links Religion, Legal Rights

 

Glendon Links Religion, Legal Rights

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Amanda Serfozo, The Emory Wheel (Emory University), emorywheel.com

 

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Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand professor of law at Harvard University and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, discussed the relationship between modern ethics, religious leadership and legal rights at the Emory School of Law on Tuesday.

The lecture was part of a 2011-2012 series titled, “When Law and Religion Meet,” a symposium featuring scholars with an interest in the fields of both law and theology. Emory Law will host speakers who will comment on topics such as genetic cloning, Islamic family law and marriage throughout the year.

Glendon has served many diplomatic and theological roles, most notably as the head of the Vatican delegation to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the Bush Administration. She was also the first woman to be named president of the Pope’s committee of social scientists and Catholic researchers.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has maintained a stronghold that religion is a private affair; that individual standing alone cannot maintain conditions for free practice,” Glendon noted during her opening remarks. “Freedom of religion needs free speech and supporting entities like a free press and free enterprise in order to thrive.”

At the spring meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, where the Pope met with leading Catholic thinkers, Glendon learned about the status of religion worldwide. Glendon noted that acceptance of all religions at the social and governmental levels is critical to a healthy, democratic society.

“To ignore the social makeup of religion is to ignore the implications for our own form of government, as they are undoubtedly tied,” she noted. “If there is government cooperation, there is religious cooperation.”

In her lecture, Glendon discussed how the U.S. government decides the ways in which religion is financed and how the Catholic church supports its religious freedoms.

“We are lucky to be in the United States,” she acknowledged. “No one is killing us for our beliefs.”

Glendon explained her work at the Becket Fund, a legal enterprise that works to represent those who have been restricted for practicing their beliefs, and its ongoing attempts to allow for open religious practices across every denomination.

She also answered questions from an audience comprised primarily of theology students and religious leaders from the Atlanta community, often agreeing with their proposals for creating a more tolerant state. Glendon inquired whether American education systems should teach about the commonalities of religion rather than the differences of each.

“Americans love individuality over equality, but we are proud of unity in diversity,” she said. “I agree with you, that we should be relating rather than marginalizing.”

Defining terms such as “moral ecology,” or the idea that religion is a source of social division and “profound paradox,” Glendon said a long-standing religious elitism among social groups is trickling down to the masses. She also noted that the political costs of neglecting religion could mean lesser forms of compassion, community involvement and declines in service-oriented action.

Ultimately, she advocated for the free expression of every religion and government tolerance for all.

“There can be a pluralism of various forms of religious freedom,” she said. “Guarantees regarding freedom of and from religion, only work in a society of tolerance. There is no prohibition or requirement to practice a religion, and this is not a denigration or advance of either.”

Religious leaders, according to Glendon, also serve an important function in democracies with a tolerant philosophy, particularly when it comes to working where government is legally confined.

“This is where our true responsibility lies,” she said. “What hangs in the balance is whether religion could help to hold together individual freedom and our American community.”

Glendon gave her discussion in memory of Western legal scholar and long-time Emory Law faculty Harold J. Berman. The Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion sponsored the event.

— Contact Amanda Serfozo.

 

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http://www.emorywheel.com/detail.php?n=30108

Amanda Serfozo

Why the world is running out of helium

 

Why the world is running out of helium

An employee at the Eden Project in Cornwall uses a helium-filled balloon to prune the upper branches of the tropical zone's plants

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Posted 23 August 2011, by Steve Connor, The Independent, independent.co.uk

 

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It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons. But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.

The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky.

Helium is made either by the nuclear fusion process of the Sun, or by the slow and steady radioactive decay of terrestrial rock, which accounts for all of the Earth’s store of the gas. There is no way of manufacturing it artificially, and practically all of the world’s reserves have been derived as a by-product from the extraction of natural gas, mostly in the giant oil- and gasfields of the American South-west, which historically have had the highest helium concentrations.

Liquid helium is critical for cooling cooling infrared detectors, nuclear reactors and the machinery of wind tunnels. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and Nasa uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets.

In the form of its isotope helium-3, helium is also crucial for research into the next generation of clean, waste-free nuclear reactors powered by nuclear fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the Sun.

Despite the critical role that the gas plays in the modern world, it is being depleted as an unprecedented rate and reserves could dwindle to virtually nothing within a generation, warns Nobel laureate Robert Richardson, professor of physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

“In 1996, the US Congress decided to sell off the strategic reserve and the consequence was that the market was swelled with cheap helium because its price was not determined by the market. The motivation was to sell it all by 2015,” Professor Richardson said. The basic problem is that helium is too cheap. The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and it has taken that long to accumulate our helium reserves, which we will dissipate in about 100 years. One generation does not have the right to determine availability for ever.” Soon after helium mining was developed at the turn of the previous century, the US established a National Helium Reserve in 1925. During the Second World War, helium was strategically important because of its use in military airships.

When the Cold War came along, it became even more important because of its uses in the purging of rocket fuel in intercontinental ballistic missiles. The national reserve was established in the porous rock of a disused natural gasfield 30 miles north of Amarillo, which soon became known as the Helium Capital of the World.

A billion cubic metres – or about half of the world’s reserves – are now stored in this cluster of mines, pipes and vats that extend underground for more than 200 miles from Amarillo to Kansas.

But in 1996, the US passed the Helium Privatisation Act which directed that this reserve should be sold by 2015 at a price that would substantially pay off the federal government’s original investment in building up the reserve.

The law stipulated the amount of helium sold off each year should follow a straight line with the same amount being sold each year, irrespective of the global demand for it. This, according to Professor Richardson, who won his Nobel prize for his work on helium-3, was a mistake. “As a result of that Act, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource,” he said. “It’s being squandered.”

Professor Richardson co-chaired an inquiry into the impending helium shortage convened by the influential US National Research Council, an arm of the US National Academy of Sciences. This report, which has just been published, recommends that the US Government should revisit and reconsider its policy of selling off the US national helium reserve.

“They couldn’t sell it fast enough and the world price for helium gas is ridiculously cheap,” Professor Richardson told a summer meeting of Nobel laureates from around the world at Lindau in Germany. “You might at first think it will be peculiarly an American topic because the sources of helium are primarily in the US but I assure you it matters of the rest of the world also,” he said.

Professor Richardson believes the price for helium should rise by between 20- and 50-fold to make recycling more worthwhile. Nasa, for instance, makes no attempt to recycle the helium used to clean is rocket fuel tanks, one of the single biggest uses of the gas.

Professor Richardson also believes that party balloons filled with helium are too cheap, and they should really cost about $100 (£75) to reflect the precious nature of the gas they contain.

“Once helium is released into the atmosphere in the form of party balloons or boiling helium it is lost to the Earth forever, lost to the Earth forever,” he emphasised.

What helium is used for

*Airships

As helium is lighter than air it can be used to inflate airships, blimps and balloons, providing lift. Although hydrogen is cheaper and more buoyant, helium is preferred as it is non-flammable and therefore safer.

*MRI scanners

Helium’s low boiling point makes it useful for cooling metals needed for superconductivity, from cooling the superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners to maintaining the low temperature of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

*Deep-sea diving

Divers and others working under pressure use mixtures of helium, oxygen and nitrogen to breathe underwater, avoiding the problems caused by breathing ordinary air under high pressure, which include disorientation.

*Rockets

As well as being used to clean out rocket engines, helium is used to pressurise the interior of liquid fuel rockets, condense hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, and force fuel into the engines during rocket launches.

*Dating

Helium can be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals containing uranium and thorium by measuring their retention of helium.

*Telescopes

The gas is used in solar telescopes to prevent the heating of the air, which reduces the distorting effects of temperature variations in the space between lenses.

Sofia Piazza

 

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/why-the-world-is-running-out-of-helium-2059357.html

A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Six)

 

A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Six)

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The resistance continues at Liberty Plaza, with free pizza 😉

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Posted 23 September 2011, by OccupyWallSt, Occupy Wall Street, occupywallst.org

This is the sixth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.

On September 22nd, 2011, sixteen cities from around the country and the world stood in solidarity with us, protesting the disparity of power and wealth that exists in our society. In Liberty Square, no such disparity exists. Everyone’s needs are taken care for, food, medicine, water. The only need, the only right, that we cannot take care of is shelter, though this is not our choice. Mayor Bloomberg said that he would give us a space to protest but at every moment he attempts to erode us. He uses absurd police tactics – arresting protesters for using chalk on sidewalks, for wearing masks on the back of their heads in violation of a law that is a century and a half old, for… what, exactly? He uses the tactics of media suppression only available to a billionaire with a media empire. It has not worked. It will not work. We are growing. Each day more cities join us. Each day our movement grows. We demand real change. We will see it.

As organized by our labor working group and outreach working group, we stood in solidarity with Teamsters local 814 and picketed Sotheby’s. We are joined and will act in solidarity with the Professional Staff Congress, a union of 20,000 employees from the City University of New York.

As always, our General assembly and work groups kept busy maintaining and securing our space and our freedoms.

Tonight we were joined by a protest against the for-profit legal lynching of Troy Davis. We are all Troy Davis. If Troy Davis had been a member of the 1% he would still be alive. Together we numbered nearly a thousand strong and marched on Wall Street. The police arrested six of us and attempted to incite violence by splitting the march and boxing in protesters, in spite of this, we remained true to our principles of nonviolence. After the police arrested our members we marched on their First Precinct as phone calls from supporters flooded in, urging the police to release the jailed peaceful protesters.

We are unions, students, teachers, veterans, first responders, families, the unemployed and underemployed. We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent.

As members of the 99 percent, we occupy Wall Street as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate and as an example of a better world to come. Therefore we invite the public, our fellow 99 percent, to join us in a march on SATURDAY AT NOON, starting from LIBERTY SQUARE (ZUCCOTTI PARK) at LIBERTY & BROADWAY.

This is a call for individuals, families and community and advocacy groups to march in solidarity.

We stand in solidarity with Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madison, Toronto, London, Athens, Sydney, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Algiers, Tel Aviv, Portland and Chicago. Soon we will stand with Phoenix, Montreal, Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and Orlando. We’re still here. We are growing. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.

We speak as one. All of our decisions, from our choice to march on Wall Street to our decision to continue occupying Liberty Square in spite of police brutality, were decided through a consensus based process by the group, for the group.

 

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https://occupywallst.org/article/a-message-from-occupied-wall-street-day-six/

Is Green the New Red? Thinking About Political Repression Today


Is Green the New Red? Thinking About Political Repression Today

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Posted 22 September 2011, by Craig Hughes and Kevin Van Meter (posted by , Left Eye on Books, lefteyeonbooks.com

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“While corporations and the state have certainly targeted activists as ‘eco-terrorists,’ too many other populations have also been targeted for repression to sufficiently pair the Red Scares and the Green Scare.”

“McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled,” said Joe McCarthy to a public audience at the height of the second Red Scare that marked the years between 1947 and 1957. While we presume the first part of the sentence to be correct, the rolling of sleeves is a bit more complex, as it can connote both gearing up for a fight as well as preparing for hard work.

The “Green Scare” — a period of government repression of radical earth and animal liberationists, wherein the government has utilized anti-terrorism rhetoric and legislation — as with the Red Scare before it, has both reinvigorated direct violence of the state and attempted to produce a particular form of American society. It is the subject of Will Potter’s important new volume, “Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement under Siege.”

Potter has undoubtedly written a valuable book. While animal rights activists, animal liberationists, environmentalists and earth liberationists have increasingly been targets of repression for decades under the guise of attacks on “eco-terrorism,” the increased repression they’ve faced, particularly following Sept. 11 2001, is not always included in discussions of the hysteria that followed that tragic day. As importantly, the slow linkage of “terrorism” with animal rights and environmental direct action through legislation and shifts in political discourse is an important but little known history. In “Green Is the New Red” Potter has provided us with a well researched, easily accessible and engaging work that tells the story of the corporate and government assaults on environmental and animal rights activists, which has led to dozens of arrests, and numerous convictions — including some with so-called “terrorism enhancements.” Potter explains in clear terms the development of repressive legislation, identifies the major corporations and lobbying units involved, and illuminates the emergence of a policing apparatus that has enforced the criminalization of a wide array of dissenters in the name of “anti-terrorism.”

We hope in this review to supportively, but critically, explore Potter’s book. We do this first by summarizing the volume, then by relaying a story from our own past, which is briefly mentioned in Potter’s work. We think that the conclusions from our own experiences add to the story Potter tells, and may point to other ways to think about the development of the Green Scare. From here, we want to think through the meaning of the Green Scare by questioning the concept in relation the more generalized state of siege that activists and other communities are under, as well as the co-optation of the environmental and animal rights movements.

Green is the New Red

This volume is divided into eleven chapters that span the course of thirty years, but focus primarily on the last twenty. Potter begins with his own limited experience of animal rights activism in Chicago, which led to attempted intimidation by FBI agents who told him that, unless he cooperated and provided them information, he would be labeled a terrorist. Potter’s story is alarming although by no means unique particularly in the post-September 11 period.

The majority of the book is focused on two major subjects: those convicted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA) as part of the “SHAC 7” (the handful of activists involved in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign, who also received convictions for conspiring “to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” (AETA)); and those arrested in Operation Backfire for Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) actions that occurred in the West and Northwest near around the millennium turn. SHAC, the ELF, as well as the ALF, are often grouped together under the rubric of “eco-terrorism,” though not a single individual was harmed in any of the hundreds of ELF or ALF actions.

The SHAC convictions were focused on the organization’s website, which functioned as a clearinghouse for information for direct-action — activists could use this information for interventions against individuals and corporations with ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences. The multi-pronged approach worked, as underground actions combined with relentless above ground protests succeeded in shifting business as usual — the SHAC campaign was so successful in targeting Huntingdon that it wiped the corporation from the New York Stock Exchange and nearly caused it to go bankrupt.

The Operation Backfire arrests focused on a series of arsons committed under the name of the ELF by a group of about 20 people. The arrests sprang from the work of Jacob Ferguson, the first person to ever commit an ELF arson in the U.S., who later began to work for the FBI to round up his past comrades. Ferguson was able to escape without jail time in this case because he was so instrumental in solving the string of ELF actions, which had caused millions of dollars in damage. Some of those convicted in the Operation Backfire incidents received “terrorism enhancements,” which could add significant years to their sentences and increase the hardship they faced throughout their prison terms and after release.

In order to explain the development of the Green Scare and the notion of “eco-terrorism,” Potter has to explain a significant amount of history. Accordingly, we are treated to a succinct and well-conceived explanation of the development of post-‘60s environmental radicalism in the States. There is also a lengthy and insightful analysis of the word “terrorism,” which, as Potter points out, is rarely clear in meaning, ever-expanding, and always intended to “demonize the other.”

The ALF first appeared in the 1980s but the use of arson was not used until later. As ALF actions increased underground during the 1990s, above ground activism intensified and their combined effectiveness led the animal-product industry to actively lobby for repressive legislation. Similarly, as environmentalism gained ground and was increasingly effective in the 1980s and 1990s, the industries under pressure from environmentalists began to work hard to target activists and prevent further victories. Accordingly, Potter points out that corporations “needed to displace activists from their moral highground,” and “[a] key development in orchestrating this fall from grace was the decision to wield the power of language.” He points out that a lobbyist from the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise coined the absurdly defined term “eco-terrorism” — “a crime committed to save nature,” in 1983. Think tanks like the Center for Consumer Freedom, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, the National Association for Biomedical Research, and others have had influence on politicians and in political discourse, which has played a significant role in labeling direct action, or support of direct action in the case of SHAC, as “terrorism.” As corporations and think tanks have built relationships with congress and developed PR campaigns, and as legislation has been passed and “anti-terrorism” has become the driving force in law enforcement, animal rights and environmental activists have increasingly seen even banal behavior, like flyering, become criminalized.

Potter traces environmental and animal rights intra-movement developments along with those in legislation and discourse. The ELF’s use of arson and sabotage caused a split inside Earth First!, which was undoubtedly the cutting edge of radical environmentalism in the States during the ’80s and ’90s. In the post-September 11 period some of the major environmental organizations have actively supported legislation that explicitly targets direct-action-oriented environmentalists; some have passively supported the repression of targeted activists through refusals to speak out in support of them during their cases. The above-ground animal rights movement has also had a tricky relationship with underground activists; although groups like PETA have refused to denounce ALF actions. As activists have found legal, above-board action insufficient to deal with issues like vivisection and factory farming, some have taken to clandestine direct action to damage the animal-abuse industries.

Environmental and animal rights activists have become targets due to the effectiveness of their campaigns that cut into profit margins. Further, Potter points out that within the policing apparatus “anti-terrorism” is a significant career ladder for individual agents. Particularly following Sept. 11, the government has sought to sponsor and fund “anti-terrorism” initiatives that then need to locate targets to justify themselves. Potter’s research on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which brings together state lawmakers, think tanks and corporations to draft legislation is particularly salient. Potter points out that “[b]y 2010, thirty-nine states had passed laws carving out special protections for animal and environmental enterprises and special penalties for activists.” In 2006, in light of the ELF, ALF, and the SHAC campaign, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act was expanded to create the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act – this was done, simply, to increase the penalties activists faced for using direct action. And activists have felt the pressure of this change, where simple actions of flyering can bring the wrath of being called, and punished as an “eco-terrorist,” or simply a “terrorist.”

The feeling of terror that activists have thus felt, and the crazy but very real ways the government has codified processes that evoke it, are at the core of Potter’s notion of the Green Scare, which of course harkens back to the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s (he does not address the first Red Scare that targeted the Industrial Workers of the World and others around the 1920s). Potter’s argument here is that the second Red Scare, like the Green Scare today, functioned through legislative, legal and extra-legal levels — the latter, “scare-mongering,” he argues “was by far the most dangerous” because it had the “sole intention of instilling fear.” Potter does not argue that we are today seeing something equivalent to the Red Scares of old, but rather something historically contingent, which thrives from the confluence of corporate involvement in American politics, the power of PR campaigns and the post-September 11 political environment.

In his discussion of SHAC, the ELF, ALF, and the Operation Backfire convictions, Potter successfully humanizes those who have been targets of anti-“eco-terrorism” efforts. The SHAC defendants had long histories in organizations like Food Not Bombs and a variety of charitable groups. Operation Backfire defendant Daniel McGowan, the subject of the recent documentary “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”, is the son of a New York City police officer, who felt an urgency to save the environment after painfully experiencing the ineffectiveness of above ground activism. Though efforts were taken to avoid injuring any human being in any action — and these efforts have always been successful — people like Daniel have been labeled “terrorists” and imprisoned in the Communications Management Unit, which some have labeled “little Guantanamo.”

In contrast, Potter powerfully points out that right-wing activists, particularly those who have waged brutal campaigns against abortion providers and in the course harmed human beings, have rarely been a target of anti-terror legislation. He points out that for the FBI, “in the three years following September 11, every act of domestic terrorism, except for one, was the work of animal rights and environmental activists.” In contrast, he points out that “[f]rom 1977 to 2008, anti-abortion activists committed eight murders” — in addition to the hundreds of other acts that include assaults, arsons, vandalisms, bomb threats, death threats, and anthrax threats — and “[n]one of these crimes are recorded by the FBI as acts of domestic terrorism.” In 2005 the FBI publicly announced that “The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement…” That’s the absurdity of the current circumstance.

With this brief summary in mind, we now turn toward our own experience with anti-“eco-terrorism” efforts in order to expand on Potter’s story and raise some questions. We want to stress that our points and questions are comradely in intent. Potter’s work adds to our understanding of the current situation, and deepens the sophistication of activist attempts to understand repressive state and corporate activities today. There’s just more to say.

Days We Struggle to Remember

In April of 1998 a handful of radicals on Long Island formed the Modern Times Collective. In our approximately four years of existence we attracted significant local attention, especially for a small group spread across many miles that compose suburban Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Various press outlets ran stories on what they called a ‘rag tag’ group of radicals organizing small protests and cultural events such as DIY flea markets. Significant players in the establishment-Left on Long Island categorized us as “bomb throwing anarchists,” for little more reason than that we challenged the overwhelmingly boring and ineffective approach to social justice politics so dominant in the area at the time. Then, in early 2001, the FBI arrested Conor Cash, one of our main organizers, and charged him with conspiracy to commit arson as part of the ELF, which had committed a series of actions in the region during the last days of 2000. On Sept. 19, 2001 his charges were upped to include a “terrorism enhancement” that could have added decades to a potential sentence if convicted — he became the first person to be charged as a “domestic terrorist” after Sept. 11. He was swiftly acquitted after a two-week trial nearly three years later, in 2004. This is a story that while included in Potter’s narrative, only appears briefly. His basic summary of the case is as follows:

 By 2000, the FBI reassigned one of the Joint Terrorism Tasks Forces to investigate ELF arsons in Long Island, New York. The task force had previously investigated the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Then came September 11th.

Modern Times had thought, from early on, that we were being surveilled, if only because anarchist groups on Long Island are few and far between and we were also increasingly aware that we were part of a larger movement that was rapidly gaining momentum and visibility. As the turn of the millennium social justice protest cycle intensified in the U.S. –from the Millions for Mumia march in Philadelphia, where we participated in one of the first significant black blocs on U.S. soil, through the Battle of Seattle, International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in DC, the 2000 Republican and Democratic Conventions, the Free Trade Area of the Americas resistance in Quebec, and so on — we became more and more aware of policing, surveillance and, to some extent, infiltration. Simultaneously, we became swept up in what we perceived as a new cycle of struggle.

In 2000, Modern Times members inspired by Reclaim the Streets (RTS) actions in New York City and Britain, organized a local May Day protest, where a few dozen people held a main intersection in Huntington Village with a street party for about an hour during a busy shopping weekend day. Our desire to disrupt privatized-public space and create a ‘carnival against capital,’ was complemented by the attention we sought to bring to rising living expenses and falling wages. It was an important coup for us in the end, as we successfully disrupted traffic and business in a place that isn’t well known for its use of direct action or proliferating radicalisms. For a short period of time, as the crowds gathered around, it was irresistible. For the FBI and local police, who videotaped the event from start to finish, it was alarming; taken in the context of our increasing involvement in national street mobilizations, it was particularly concerning for them.

As street mobilizations like RTS were gaining momentum, and local manifestations of the global justice movement developed in numerous areas across the U.S., repressive rhetoric on the part of the government intensified. Thus, on May 10, 2001, in light of the increasing presence of radical protests and organizing, the federal government declared RTS a terrorist organization. An FBI reported explained,

 Anarchists and extremist socialist groups — many of which, such as the Workers’ World Party, Reclaim the Streets, and Carnival Against Capitalism –have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States. For example, anarchists, operating individually and in groups, caused much of the damage during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.

Our local Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) — the locally based coalitions of FBI agents and police departments that focus on disrupting and stopping “terrorism” — began following Modern Times members by May of 2000; this was confirmed during court testimony. The JTTF/FBI agent charged with pursuing the case against our friend had been flown to Seattle and later to Philadelphia to learn about protestors and anarchists, and to use this information in his work on Long Island.

Starting in November 2000 and continuing through to early January 2001, the ELF claimed responsibility for a string of actions at construction sites and a duck farm. The FBI started door knocking, targeting some of those arrested during the May Day RTS protest the MTC organized. They offered monetary compensation to at least one member of Modern Times, who was also an organizer of the RTS action, to infiltrate the ELF culture that the government presumed he had access to; he turned their offer down and later testified about it in court as a defense witness. The FBI had determined Conor to be a leader in the MTC, and hence, the ELF. During the RTS action he sat on top of the 21 foot tripod that allowed us to hold the street and unfurled a banner that read “this is what democracy looks like,” with a circle around the ‘A’ in democracy. In August of that year he would be arrested along with three dozen other Modern Times members at the 2000 Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia. A few months later, Conor was arrested — supposedly for playing a leading role in the ELF actions.

What became clear to many of us before 2004, but certainly during our friend’s trial, was that the government’s case was much less about specific incidents of arson or vandalism than it was about breaking apart our communities and slowing down the ‘movement of movements’ — even in the suburbs, even on Long Island. We watched as the FBI showed a clearly doctored video during the trial — and we laughed at such an impressive example of tragic comedy, but that concocted video was used as evidence against someone we loved. One of those convicted for the ELF actions, a cooperating witness and high school student at the time of his arrest, stated bluntly on the stand that the FBI had “coerced” him. The FBI had the gall to visit a prominent New York University professor the eve before he testified for the defense to question him about his testimony. Perhaps most ridiculous, was that at the center of the government’s case was this argument: because Conor had a ‘circle-A’ tattoo on his shoulder, and the ‘A’ in democracy was circled on the banner during our May Day protest, and because someone had spray-painted a circle-A symbol at one of the arson sites, clearly our friend was guilty. That was the plain of absurdity the U.S. government played on. Absurd. Tragic, but real; and terrifying, which, of course was their point.

In “Green is the New Red” Potter points to this case, stating that the government’s “first victory against the number one domestic terrorism threat was the conviction of three seventeen-year-old high school students” (this requires a slight clarification — three people were convicted, two of these functioned as cooperating witnesses against Cash, and a mysterious fourth who confessed to involvement to the FBI, according to court testimony, was never formally charged).

In our view, this case deepens and complicates Potter’s account in a couple of important ways. First, it points to the fact that pre-September 11 the government had sought to vilify radical activists, like those who host unpermitted street parties, as “terrorists,” and to target them accordingly. Secondly, in our view, it points to the importance of placing the Green Scare within context of the counter-globalization struggles at the turn of the millennium.

The Seattle resistance against the World Trade Organization in 1999, and the organizing surrounding it, was a watershed moment in U.S. social movement history. The “Battle of Seattle” is referenced various times in the book — indeed, some of those convicted as part of Operation Backfire were involved in protesting at the WTO and in the infamous black bloc actions — but Potter does not adequately draw out how the state conceived of “Seattle,” nor its consequences, and does not adequately draw out the organizing surrounding it, which upped the ante for both the movements and the state. For example, as mentioned above, RTS had been designated a “terrorist” threat at least months before Sept. 11, but Potter does not mention this in the book. This designation occurred largely in the context of the Seattle actions. That perception, and the government concern about the global justice movement, certainly played an important, indeed decisive role in our experience with repression on Long Island.

The counter-globalization protests against the WTO in Seattle shows up in various Green Scare indictments and in the narratives of various activists mentioned in the book. And certainly some of those involved in the ELF actions in the Northwest, those targeted in Operation Backfire, would point to this moment as anomalous, inspirational and motivational. Notably, for example, current ELF political prisoner Daniel McGowan, whose case is a major focus of Potter’s work, stated to one of us in a personal conversation that the oft quoted slogan spray painted on buildings during the Seattle protests — “We are winning” — was taken by him and others as a sign of radicals actually winning. We felt similarly, although we turned down different roads.

Indeed, the years surrounding the turn of the century were a time when a culmination of decades of radicalism came to a crescendo. Activisms exploded nationally — not just in the environmental and animal rights movements, but in the anti-corporate movements, the myriad of immigrant rights struggles, the prison justice movements, and various others; these struggles challenged the bottom line and impacted popular discourse, to the detriment of corporate profits, in critical ways. As corporations and politicians sought to stifle the environmental and animal rights movements, the rhetoric of “terrorism” and pre- and post-September 11 government repression intensified because the policing apparatus also sought to dismantle the counter-globalization movements — both their local manifestations and their militant street demonstrations. In our view this context is very important for understanding both movement history and the development of government repression over the past couple of decades.

 Is Green the New Red?

Potter’s research is particularly impressive in tracing the roots of the two major pieces of legislation against the animal rights movement — the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (1992) and its expanded and amended version, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (2006). The former was created in the context, at least rhetorically, of numerous ALF actions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The latter development is contextualized through the SHAC campaign and is largely about intensifying penalties faced by activists and increasing the risk associated with animal rights activism. What Potter shows throughout his work is that a well-funded group of industry lobbyists and think tanks, their politician friends and allies, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have created a web of legislation and policing powers intended to dismantle earth and animal rights campaigns, and to punish activists, like those convicted for politically motivated arsons.

Potter’s ultimate point is that the Green Scare is not just about money, not about profits alone. Rather, he argues, the repression is about spreading fear and about winning a “culture war” — “[t]he only way to explain the conflation of mainstream and radical groups as terrorists is to assume that all of it — from ballot initiatives to sabotage — poses a threat.” He summarizes:

Ultimately, the rise of the Green Scare was no conspiracy. It does not seem to be the result of any secret planning document drafted jointly by industry and the FBI. The shift was gradual, slowly merging the rhetoric of industry groups with that of politicians and law enforcement. Eventually, what was once a fringe argument became official government policy.

Potter’s case is strong, but calling this all “the Green Scare,” while compelling, isn’t sufficient or precise enough given the context. While corporations and the state have certainly targeted activists as “eco-terrorists,” too many other populations have been targeted simultaneously for repression to sufficiently pair the Red Scares and the Green Scare. This would require almost endless caveats about the substantive differences between the two. That doesn’t make this volume less valuable, but rather speaks to the need more nuanced analyses and broader conceptualizations of the current situation.

This bigger picture extends far beyond the counter-globalization movement, and far beyond the animal rights and environmental movements. It extends to Middle Eastern and Islamic communities that are only marginally mentioned here, even though these communities have faced the brunt of the government’s daily assault in the name of “anti-terrorism.” It also extends to the massive round up and deportation of immigrant peoples after the successful Sí, Se Puede movements defeated a major piece of federal anti-immigrant legislation — the Sensenbrenner Bill – in 2006. It extends to the arrests of Black Panthers for decades-old charges. It extends to the rhetoric used against anti-nuke, South African divestment, and Central American Solidarity activists roughly twenty years ago.

While it’s understandable to focus on animal rights and environmental activists, who have been one significant focus of government and corporate attacks, one is left to wonder how something like the Green Scare relates to a much larger situation where all of society has been mobilized to be on consistent alert for “threats,” and to be constantly ready to become police in the day-to-day. How do we read the many scares in the name of “anti-terrorism,” –one inclusive of the assault on environmentalists and animal rights activists and the many, many others who’ve suffered similar repression in recent decades? How do we read the many “scares” and develop a coherent concept that reflects the intensified repression in the name of “anti-terrorism?” Is it better to think about “Green” as a “new red,” rather than the new red?

Additionally, it also seems worthwhile to explore the differences between the ELF and SHAC in terms of effectiveness and repression when describing and thinking through the Green Scare. Potter doesn’t effectively differentiate environmental and animal rights groups. While the powers that be may see them as interchangeable, and composed of many of the same activists, it’s highly doubtful that they always are, and it’s not necessarily clear that in terms of repression that the government sees them as the same. In terms of effectiveness, each used a different approach – including entirely different models, approaches to research, approaches to media, and tactics – and weighing these out seems worthwhile for understanding how activists have impacted social change. In terms of repression, we were also left with some curiosity in thinking through the Green Scare. The framing of Green Scare came into being prior to the SHAC 7 trial, prior to the cooperation of many of the Operation Backfire defendants, though four of the latter individual pled guilty while maintaining a non-cooperating stance with the government. There was no clear reformulation of the concept with these developments since that point.

If under the second Red Scare most people did not commit the “crime” of involvement with the Communist movement, but under Operation Backfire those accused turned out to actually be involved in the ELF, how do we perceive the meaning of the Green Scare in thinking through government repression? Does this conceptualization need to be more nuanced? It also seems worthwhile to explore fundamental differences between how the repression against the SHAC 7 and the Operation Backfire functioned; since, for those considering a defense against future and current repression it is important to understand these particulars and the aspects of the situation they are encountering.

Perhaps most controversially within our own communities, we were also left with questions related to issues of political economy. Potter discusses FBI targeting of mainstream groups like PETA, and the impression one gets is that environmentalism and animal rights as a whole face repression, and are threats to the established order of some sort. Potter makes a point similar to this explicitly when describing the theoretical strands that underlie contemporary animal rights and environmental organizing: “Their confluence is the redefinition of what it means to be a human being.” Going on, he summarizes a DHS report that argued “Animal rights and environmental movements directly challenge civilization, modernity and capitalism,” and directly quotes the report as saying that if victorious these movements “not only would fundamentally alter the nature of social norms regarding the planet’s living habitat and its living organisms, but ultimately would lead to a new system of governance and social relationships that is anarchist and antisystemic in nature.”

This is debatable. Capital is tricky, and what was liberatory one moment is a profitable investment the next, and sometimes there is never a separation between the two. Green capitalism is a major industry and it only looks to be growing. Co-opting the language of environmentalism has been profitable for sectors of capital in the current crisis as — buzzwords such as ‘sustainable,’ ‘green,’ ‘local,’ and even ‘vegan’ become opportunities for new markets. Indeed, the animal rights movement is gaining significant cultural ground. But even as vegans ourselves, we are under no illusion that a shift toward healthier, somewhat less brutal diets, in anyway leads to some sort of gradual process toward a more liberatory, post-capitalist world. How the growth of more compassionate capitalism as a direct response to the supposed threat of the animal rights and environmental movements is very much unclear. These aren’t questions that Potter’s volume sought to tackle, but it is worthwhile to point out the issues here.

In conclusion, in “Green is the New Red,” Potter did an impressive job tracing the various threads that played a role in developing the contemporary animal rights and environmental movements. In doing so, we are offered the opportunity to follow the leads and learn more. Potter has created an easily accessible volume that helps document some of the dangers radicals currently face. And while one can only hope the book reaches far and wide, it is important to consider the various scares — green, red, and otherwise — that are both acts of violence against our movements and part of the State’s attempt at creating a society without said movements. We must roll our sleeves as well — there are many waves of repression to fight against and a new world to work for.

Craig Hughes and Kevin Van Meter co-edited, with Team Colors Collective, “Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States” (AK Press, 2010) and co-authored the short book “Wind(s) From Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible” (Team Colors & Eberhardt Press, 2010). Both have been involved in various organizing efforts together over the past 14 years. Hughes and Van Meter, along with Conor Cash, are currently writing a chapter titled “The Curious Case of Conor Cash” for a forthcoming volume on counter counter-insurgency.

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