Healing Our World Commentary: Environmental Success Stories

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

It Does Pay to Fight - Environmental Success Stories

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Every day, millions of people stand up for what they believe in, demanding protection for the Earth's species and life support systems. Injustice abounds in our world, but more people than you think are willing to take on the long, often arduous, frustrating and demoralizing battles to protect our world.

The well funded conservative opposition does its best to make opponents feel like they are wrong and going against the American way. The corporate controlled mainstream media does its best to represent these activists as loners and misfits. But these hard fought efforts by individuals and groups of all ages around the world do have an impact. They are changing the face of our culture.

Just a few years ago, organic food was considered a fad. But thanks to the efforts of food activists who have exposed the dangers of pesticide poisoning, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that pesticide residues remain on most produce, even after it is washed, the organic food industry is now a $6 billion a year business.

farmer

J.J. Haapala, an organic seed grower and director of research and education for Oregon Tilth, pours harvested Red Russian kale into a device that separates the seed from debris. (Photo by Brian Prechtel courtesy USDA)
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tried to expand the organic food standards to include genetically engineered foods, the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, and even some pesticide use, people from around the nation voiced their opposition to these proposals, which were clearly supported by the powerful non-organic industry. The USDA received more than 200,000 comments against allowing organic foods to be produced using these methods.

Recently, the USDA released new organic food standards that will increase the confidence of organic food buyers everywhere. The new regulations ban the use of biotechnology and irradiation. Meat producers claiming to be organic cannot feed antibiotics to the cattle and organic dairy cows must have access to pasture.

There are currently more than 10,000 farms across the United States that use organic methods that must now comply with the new regulations. Activists successfully fought the efforts of the National Food Processors Association which wanted the USDA to label organic produce with a statement that such food is no better than other products.

None of these protections would have come about if people had remained silent.

Millions of people care deeply about how poorly animals are treated by mainstream culture. Activists have been fighting inhumane treatment for years, in spite of attempts by the media, politicians, and industry leaders to represent them as a few bleeding heart liberals or extremists. But the large number of people who are members of humane organizations demonstrates that a significant portion of the population puts compassion before profit.

chimp

Chimps are confined for decades in tiny cages. (Photo courtesy U.S. Humane Society)
An example of an animal who has been championed by many caring people is the chimpanzee. There may be no animal more abused by our culture. Chimpanzees are humans' closest living cousins. They have more than 98 percent of our genetic code. These intelligent, social beings have a distinct language amongst themselves as well as distinct cultures. Research has shown that they plan for the future, teach their young, use tools, and make moral choices. Chimpanzees in captivity have been taught American Sign Language, and they even pass their acquired language skills on to their children.

There are over 1,100 chimps in federally sponsored laboratories. For nearly every chimp that is used in research, five to 10 have been killed in the wild. Chimps for research are often caught as babies in African forests, chased up trees by dogs after their parents are murdered. After years of being research subjects under often deplorable conditions in laboratories, they are frequently doomed to live out the remainder of their lives in tiny cages. Chimps can live up 60 years.

Legislation recently signed by President Bill Clinton directs the National Institutes of Health to work with humane groups to create sanctuaries for retired and surplus chimps and allocates funding for this purpose. This legislation would never have made it through Congress without the tireless work of many compassionate people and the support of thousands of concerned citizens who were brave enough to stand up for what is right.

demo

On December 9, 2000, an often isolated group of Utah Progressives marched from the Utah state capitol in Salt Lake City to the U.S. Federal building to protest the United States electoral college and "anti-democratic" process. (Photo by Jonny Jemming courtesy Indymedia.org)
It is often difficult to stand up for compassion and truth. All around us are displays of values by the corporate controlled media that suggest only a few weak people care for other people and other life forms. We are constantly told that being independent and free of responsibility should be our ultimate goal, along with owning the most stuff.

Fear of being ridiculed and singled out keeps many of us silent. Many people are intimidated by the threat that they will be labeled a radical, different, or even unchristian. It takes a special kind of courage to withstand these labels from friends, coworkers, and even family.

Everyone has the potential to become a champion for justice and compassion. You don't have to know everything about an issue, and you don't have to be fearless. All you need is practice connecting with your heart and trusting your gut reaction to what is right and what is wrong.

This new year marks the beginning of a challenging time for us all. The new conservative presidency in the U.S. has begun to turn back the clock, as every executive branch leader is being hand picked to promote the greed based conservative agenda. We must all find our voices and our hearts and protect what is left of our world. We must show those that would put profit and greed before life that such obscene priorities will not be tolerated.

What we choose to do every day has an incredible effect in our world. Choose with your heart and your soul. Don't be afraid - there's more of us out there than we can possibly imagine.

RESOURCES

1. Polish your activist skills with the Protest.net Activist Handbook at: http://protest.net/activists_handbook/

2. Learn about scores of activist opportunities at: http://www.workingforchange.com/activism/index.cfm

3. Use your dollar as a potent activist tool. Check out Coop America's Boycott Action News at: http://www.coopamerica.org/boycotts/index.html

4. Keep an eye on the conservative efforts to undo the progress that has been made from the Conservative Caucus website at: http://www.conservativeusa.org/

5. Stay involved with the organic food movement at: http://www.purefood.org/index.htm

6. Keep track of corporate abuses through Corporate Watch at: http://www.corpwatch.org/

7. Make sure the new administration doesn't weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Justice program. Watch it at: http://es.epa.gov/oeca/main/ej/index.html

8. Filter your media intake through Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting at: http://www.fair.org/

9. Change your food choices with the help of EarthSave at: http://www.earthsave.org/

10. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Demand that they stay strong and work harder to protect our health, the environment and animal rights. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html or you can search by state at: http://www.webslingerz.com/jhoffman/congress-email.html. You can also find your representatives at: http://congress.nw.dc.us/innovate/index.html.

[Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle. He can be found thinking about his son who will be born in this new year and what kind of world will greet him. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at http://www.healingourworld.com]