Search This Blog

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who are the Koch brothers?

On a different topic than I usually write about...

Hi. My name is Emily, and I have been living under a rock.

Up until a few weeks ago, I did not know who the Koch brothers were. I had heard their names of course, but I -- like many people -- assumed they were part of the Coca-Cola (Coke) family. I first found out the truth about them at a rally I went to with Alex and Winston in solidarity with Wisconsin public workers.

The Koch brothers were behind Gov. Walker's successful ploy to ban the right for public employees to collectively bargain, effectively undermining unions. Their company, Koch Industries, was one of the largest contributors to Gov. Walker's campaign, and they have grown Americans for Prosperity(AFP)'s -- a conservative group that has opposed progressive causes from health care reform to cap-and-trade legislation -- budget from $7 million to $40 million. It is AFP that has been the public face for the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, and other states that have taken up the politically motivated fight against unions.

So, who are the Koch brothers? David and Charles Koch head Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S., an energy company. Koch is credited with supporting some of the leading conservative think tanks, in addition to AFP, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

Right, so these guys are big. Like multi-billionaire big. And you really didn't hear about them until they started donating their big money to support conservative causes.

I had my first direct experience with the Koch brothers' far-reaching money today at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History when we went to the Hall of Human Origins. As soon as I saw the description of the exhibit, I knew something was up:

Travel back 6 million years to discover how our ancestors struggled to survive dramatic climate changes, and, in the process, evolved the traits that make us human..?!?!?! (punctuation mine)

You have got to be kidding me! An anti-climate science exhibit on human origins??? Oh, but it got better as we walked through the propaganda, mouths agape. Here's a snapshot of what we saw, as described by the online interactive floor plan:

A 2-minute climate video shows how Earth’s climate has shifted between periods that were warm and cool, and periods that were moist and dry. These shifts became more extreme over time. Human traits such as toolmaking and large brains emerged during times of extreme climate shifts.

An area on how modern humans changed the world, and how our human traits help us imagine our future.

A computer game asking people to think about what humans might look like millions of years from now as Earth continues to change and humans continue to evolve.

A graph explaining that climate fluctuations have been increasing in the last 6 million years. ***This graph was not featured in the interactive floor plan, but remains vivid in my memory ***

Alex told me that he had heard that it was subtle, and it was. After all, who would think it was egregious to say that climate change has been happening for the past 6 million years, unless they knew that was a talking point devised by climate deniers, like the Koch brothers?

If people aren't pretty familiar with climate science and the politics around it, they might leave thinking, "Okay, so humans and the Earth have evolved through many changing climates and ages, and we have all done fine."

But that is not the case, despite Mr. Koch's spin. Of course, our climate is warming at a dangerous rate that is threatening our coastal communities in many countries, our water supplies and sources, and land- and water-stabilizing ecosystems.

This is not the first time the Smithsonian Institution has crossed the line, but they should return the roughly $21 million Mr. Koch donated to create this propaganda exhibit, and stick to exhibits based on science, not the donor's political agenda.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are all animals created equal?

Today, Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times' Opinionator column, Some Farm Animals Are More Equal Than Others, a piece looking at the injustice that goes one everyday in the factory farming industry.

The piece addresses the disparity between our treatment of our beloved pets and farm animals. For example, a woman went to jail for killing a hamster, but the people who kill and torture 10 billion animals every year in the U.S. are not accountable for their actions.

I encourage you to read Mark's piece here to learn about Common Farming Exemptions and how the Factory Farming industry is trying to cover up their "work."

Check it out here!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Requesting Vegan

I have been going to A LOT of conferences, meetings and what-have-yous these past few months, and it has been increasingly hard to maintain my "humane living."

It's not that there are not enough vegetarian options -- requesting vegetarian is easy. When I was a kid, I certainly not alone in my vegetarianism, but it was not the norm. There were not the options that there are today, but I got by just fine. As I recall, there was just the lone Boca Burger, without its comrade of fake-meats standing beside it in the frozen Organic food section, or other fake meats in the refrigerated tofu section wedged in the produce aisle.

And my mom always made a vegetarian option for me at dinner. (I am not sure she knows how grateful and thankful I am for that, so thanks mom!). If she was making meat lasagna, she would make a pan without the meat. And there were always plenty of delicious sides that would have filled up my tummy, but she always went the extra mile to make sure I had a main portion.

Anyways, today it is even easier to be a vegetarian. There is always at least one vegetarian option at restaurants, and meat-free sandwiches at conferences (usually not enough, but always some).

Essentially, being vegetarian is now part of the norm. People are used it. In fact, three percent or 6-8 million people living in the United States are vegetarians. To give some perspective, Jewish people make up only two percent of the population.

Now, I will bet my bottom dollar that the cheese and dairy used in these sandwiches is not humane, and I have yet to find a readily-available vegan option. So, I have just been sucking it up and eating the vegetarian wrap or sandwich. But I want to change that.

Vegans, like vegetarians, are in the minority of eaters. Vegans make up roughly one percent of the population -- although there are questions as to their overlap with the vegetarian figures. Well, after breaking my humane standards these past three days at a conference, I am going to start making an effort to request vegan options now.

I don't think it will be too difficult. I saw an attendee at the conference receive a gluten-free meal everyday, so why should vegan be so difficult?