#1617: Green Sex For Climate’s Sake

Green Sex for Climate’s Sake (Yes, Green Sex is a shade of green)

There is no single solution for climate change…but separating sex from childbearing represents an under appreciated opportunity to forestall climate disaster…for the climate, family planning’s potential benefits are profound.

Those are the words of my guest this week, Alisha Graves, who is the co-founder of the OASIS Initiative (a project of UC, Berkeley which focuses on reducing population growth and poverty in the Sahel region of Africa). Her recent article, “Green Sex for Climate’s Sake,” debates the link between carbon emissions and population, and the need to educate young women, as well as young men, about contraception, family planning and health. For more information go to: oasisinititative.berkeley.edu and projectdrawdown.org.

Get the Lead Out

By Susan Lutz

Tests came back from our school’s water samples. The results indicated elevated levels of lead and copper in faucets throughout the system. Drinking fountains were shut off; signs posted. Our school initiated testing, something they did voluntarily. Many samples were “first draws,” from the water sitting in the faucets during the night. Fixing water supplies is a difficult and expensive task. I threw extra water bottles for my son into his backpack. He’d been in some of the rooms that tested positive. Water fountains are located right in many of the rooms. He loves drinking fountains. I’ve watched kids saunter up to fountains after a good romp on the playground. They are empowered, quenching their thirst on their terms and rewarding their body and mind for a job well done. Clear and cold, the water tasted great and at the same time, full of toxins.

Flint, Michigan. Once the words meant simple a town, now they spell a disaster. Many schools around the country report problems with their water supply. Old buildings mean aging pipes. Schools struggle with budgets to keep up everything from teachers to infrastructure. The story in Flint raised a flag of the dangers in our waters supply across the country.

I’ve always worried about toxins in water. When I lived in Central America, water was checked for the levels of cockroach droppings in it. Chlorine was a regular addition to many water supplies. I tried keeping up with buying bottled water, but news reports showed even that supply was tainted, and, the price kept going up. Bottled water adds yet another dimension to the environmental impact that fills the land with plastic. Many of the brands of bottled water are not better than the water from the tap and the cost can be 2000 times more than tap water. Yet, now what? Does bottled water now return as our water source? What do we do?

My son runs to a water fountain with such glee. The water flies out, and he takes a sip. I can’t always stop him. Even in school, signs are posted to not drink out of certain fountains. My child can’t read those yet. At the library, the shopping center, or any other public places, water now makes me worry. We make messes that become so hard to clean up. From the little plastic, disposable coffee K-cup, to the use of plastic bags, to glow-in-the dark plastic wands, I have a choice to consume these or not. Though not always easy to avoid, I feel maybe I have a fighting chance. With water, however, we as a nation must deal with it. We start with schools, and then we must move on to open our eyes and not ignore the problem that most likely is flowing everywhere we drink.

WECAN: Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network

Maxine-Abba-Meg_2This weeks episode takes us to the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action at the UN, sponsored by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). This event was attended by women from over 50 countries. To have such a collection of amazing women in one place, who presented stories of courage and resilience in combating climate change was deeply touching. Women play a key role in adapting solutions to climate change, and it was an honor to speak with WECAN founder Osprey Lake, environmentalist visionary Sally Ranney, as well as Neha Misra founder of Solar Sister, Harriet Shugarman Executive Director of ClimateMama, Executive Director of CELF Katie Ginsberg and student Coreena, and Patricia Gualinga-Montalvo, Indigenous Leader of Ecuador, whose interview was translated by Amazon Watch’s Executive Director Leila Salazar-López. For more information visit wecaninternational.org


#1538: NY Senator Liz Krueger

liz-krueger-500How compassionate is the New York State Compassionate Care Act of 2014 legalizing the use of medical marijuana? My guest this week, New York State Senator Liz Krueger, a lead advocate for legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and also for recreational use, gives us some insight into the pros and cons of the current bill, and why it needs to be enhanced to allow coverage for more diseases. Senator Krueger has also sponsored the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act to limit the investment in oil and gas stocks in NYS pension funds. For more information go to: nysenate.gov/senators/Liz-Kruger or send a tweet @LizKrueger

Science and Slaughter: Are Dissections A Waste?

Do educational institutions face a dilemma in the way animal anatomy is taught in school?

By Michael Kohlberg

Do educational institutions face a dilemma in the way animal anatomy is taught in school? Should animal dissections and vivisections be conducted in Science classes at all? LaGuardia Community College, a CUNY school, says no to cat cadavers, instead replacing them with clay models of humans. It seems, that the areas of debate, lie in 3 main ethical questions which I will describe in this article.

The first is the question of respecting animal rights as they relate to dissections and vivisections. Then comes the question, is animal experimentation necessary for understanding anatomy? In other words, do students learn best by dissecting? Are alternatives like virtual dissections comparable or even superior learning tools?  Finally, I will briefly explore broad Sustainability Issues that dissections pose to Society.

America has acknowledged the value in respecting basic animal rights as shown by the Animal Welfare Act, a Federal Act passed by Congress in 1966. In general, this reflects the idea that our Society has adopted some moral standard for respecting the rights of animals. The United States Department of Agriculture puts it best, calling the Animal Welfare Act a “minimum, accepted, standard” of animal treatment “in research, exhibition, and transport”. However, many educated animal lovers believe that this minimum standard is set too low and that not enough is done to enforce existing federal laws.

In Biology classrooms, the animal rights argument is clear. Many of us have pets and therefore very personal and emotional connections with dogs, cats, and maybe even frogs, snakes, or mice. Performing dissections and vivisections on these types of animals can pose moral dilemmas for students taking part. Studies show that many students feel a moral dilemma when taking part in animal dissections. One study, by Arnold Arluke and Frederic Hafferty, interviewed 40 Pre-Medical students about how they felt before, during, and after using a dog as a test subject in the lab. They found that prior to the experiment, there was “widespread uneasiness” regarding moral implications, but during and after, students were able to “neutralize the moral dirty-work”.

This study not only suggests that many feel innately compassionate towards animals, but it suggests that humans have the capacity to subdue that compassion and “learn” desensitization. This raises the question, what do dissections really teach students?Along with anatomy, are our educational institutions teaching humans a lack of compassion for animals? Are we prepared to change our way of thinking about animal dissections if the answer to the previous question is true?

That leads us to our next question. Do today’s students actually learn better by dissecting, or do they learn better by using technology they are familiar with already, such as the computer? Do virtual dissections and vivisections compare as as educational tools? Many students and teachers say yes and site other benefits as well. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an animal rights organization that among other things, provides practical knowledge in dissection or vivisection alternatives. Their website has a page with resources dedicated to just this subject. According to the document “Cutting Out Dissections”, studies have shown that computer-based teaching methods saved academic and nonacademic staff time … were considered to be less expensive and an effective and enjoyable mode of student learning [and] … contributed to a significant reduction in animal use” (PETA 2013).

Also, teachers in the United States have been advocating for few dissections. Ten years ago, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) amended its official position statement to acknowledge the educational effectiveness of non-animal teaching methods and to support teachers’ decisions to use them as complete replacements for animal dissection (NSTA 2005).

Another example of how effective non-animal anatomy learning can be is the example of LaGuardia Community College. The Cuny Newswire reported that “LaGuardia is one of the first community colleges in the nation where its students will be learning the muscles of the human body not by dissecting cat specimens but by applying clay muscles to a [human] skeletal mannequin.”

“Studying human muscles is one of the hardest and most difficult areas,” said Professor Carol Haspel, “so we are always trying to find ways, mechanisms and pedagogical techniques that assist our students in learning the basics that they need to know.  The clay models are a key factor in helping them.” (LaGuardia Community College 2011)

Animal dissections may actually pose a barrier to students’ learning. As researchers find out that more and more students are morally against dissections, the issue becomes worrying for education itself. One study done by Theodora Capaldo on the psychological effects of reluctant, obligated dissection participants indicates that “cognitive abilities may become impaired, resulting in less learning”. The study concludes that their findings, “present a compelling argument for the 100% replacement of the harmful use of animals in education.” (Capaldo 2004)

To shift gears, let’s examine some of the Economic Sustainability issues. In order to asses whether the school would be better off, the costs of dissections must logically be compared to the costs of alternatives, which could vary depending on the type and manner in which they are implemented.

Since animal specimens are expensive for many Biology Departments, we might ask the question will a school that bans dissections and vivisections all together be better off financially? To make sense of this question let’s use a real life example. One specimen retailer, Bio Corporation, sells a class set of 15 cat corpses for $373. Theoretically, if you have 20 lab classes per semester at a University and replace specimens each semester, the cost would be $7,460 per semester on cats alone. That number does not even include any auxiliary equipment, like proper protection, tools, et cetera.

PETA’s informational pamphlet entitled, “ Animal Dissection and Interactive Anatomy Software” factors in many of the auxiliary costs which they total at an additional $759 per five year period accounting for 30 students. In the event that a school keeps their cat specimens for 5 years, PETA calculates a grand total of $3906.05 for a class of 30 students. In the same article, PETA compares the costs of virtual cat dissection, which amounts to $800 per 5 year period of 30 students. Obviously, a university like Brooklyn College has a much higher dissecting student body than 30, so the costs would be significantly higher.

From the data found, it seems that the long run economic viability of switching from perpetual spending, (in our hypothetical example that is $7,460/ Semester) to more fixed spending like dissection software or clay molds, would be a cunning financial move for the Brooklyn College school board to consider.

In Conclusion, the economic costs associated with animal dissections that most students and faculty members might not be aware of are high. Furthermore, the documented psychological stress that many students undergo while performing obligational dissections has led psychological researchers to believe that the practice of dissections and vivisections does not promote learning(Capaldo 2004). Students and teachers have repeatedly advocated for bans on dissections and vivisections since 2005. And basic marginal benefit analysis of switching to dissection alternatives has suggested that the change would be more than cost effective.

Would it not, in theory at least, be more practical, for all, to ban dissections all together?

#1532: The Green Living Guy

Seth-LeitmanDo the electric slide into an EV (electric vehicle), and plug into a greener way to travel. My guest this week, Seth Leitman, a/k/a Green Living Guy, brings his expertise on vehicles that are electrifying the roadways. From Ford Fusion to Mitsubishi to Tesla, we learn about how the car industry is heading towards a more electric future. Seth’s Green Guru Guides and soon to be videos, are great tools to help you become a more sustainable Earthling. For more information go to greenlivingguy.com

#1532: The Green Living Guy by The Many Shades Of Green on Mixcloud

#1530: Rewilding Manhattan

Rachel-Frank-The-Many-Shades-of-GreenWild thing, you make my heart sing, you make everything groovy, wild thing. Enter my guest this week, Rachel Frank, a Brooklyn based artist who focuses on the environmental practice of rewilding. Her performance pieces have been shown at Socrates Sculpture Park, The Select Fair and the Bushwick Starr. I met Rachel at an art event on a rooftop in NYC via the Franklin Furnace. She performed a piece using giant sculpted Bison Head Masks, as a vehicle to reintroduce bison into select landscapes in NYC and other parts of the country. The Bronx Zoo is currently working on a Bison Project, and the concept of rewilding is taking hold in both urban and rural areas. For more information on what Rachel is currently working on go to rachelfrank.com

#1530: Rewilding Manhattan by The Many Shades Of Green on Mixcloud