Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rulings Protect the Environment, Animals and Yes Humans

Factory Farm Fails to Obtain Permits

A Netherlands company is trying to open a factory dairy operation in southwest Michigan's St. Joseph county. Over 2200 cows would be crammed into 80 acres, causing environmental havoc and horrendous suffering. The community successful fought the operation by raising concerns about the damage that would be done to water quality, air quality and even wages if the factory farm were allowed to open. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality denied the factory the permits necessary to open, a first for a Michigan factory farm or cafo (concentrated animal feeding operation). Of course, the corporation is threatening appeal.

The Netherlands company claims that it would bring 35 jobs to the area. St. Joseph county farmers argued that the wages paid by the factory farm are significantly lower than the wages paid by the county's small farms. The pollution to air, water and ground would affect the human population for miles away and even would disturb the water quality of Lake Michigan.

It is frightening that so many companies and people do not get it. Global warming is real and threatens not only our way of life but the survival of life on our planet. One of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses are animals raised for meat and dairy. In fact, 25% of the greenhouse gasses emitted every year are from farm operations. CAFO's are a source of runoff that threatens our great lakes, our ground water supply is contaminated by nitrates, which are from animal farming operations. We must change our eating habits and quickly or the earth is pretty much doomed. So this ruling, while it did not consider global warming, does stop more greenhouse gasses, nitrates and other contaminates from being generated.

US Federal Judge Stops Drilling for Oil in Michigan Forest

You know, it has been a miserable 7 years for the environment and for science and reason. The Bush Administration's abject refusal to recognize the threat of global warming, admit that there are oil supply issues in my opinion borders on treason. Continuing in its quest to line the pockects of the oil companies, the administration quietly opened millions of acres in national forests and parks to oil and gas drilling. In the rush to drill, rules regarding environment and economic impact have been ignored. Thankfully, the Federal court stepped in to put a stop to it.

The area in question is a pristine old growth forest in the Huron Manistee National Forest, near the Au Sable River. The area is a nesting ground for the endangered Kirkland Warbler. Arguments that the impact on the Kirkland Warbler were ignored by the forest service and that the economic impact of destruction of the recreational use of the land were accepted by the court. The court admonished the Forest Service for the lack of investigation it did prior to issuing the drilling permits.

Already the oil and gas industry is peppering the air waves and blogs with comments that again, humans are loosing out to birds. They are bemoaning the high gas prices, which is a hoot since they financially benefit from the high prices. I've read some ridiculous comments on this ruling and expect to see more.

So here is a fact none of us want to really accept. We've known for 40 years that oil supplies are tenuous at best. Whether from war, environmental concerns or an explosion in consumption, the days of cheap oil were bound to end. We've chosen to ignore the warnings of experts, our politicians have taken the easy route, favoring short term answers over the tough long term choices that have to be made. Sadly, the run up in oil prices is hurting the poor and the middle class, the groups least prepared to deal with the turmoil that is coming because of oil price increases. However, we should not be foolish enough to believe that more drilling is the answer to our dilemma, it isn't. More drilling means more fossil fuels will be burned which means that more CO2 and greenhouse gasses will spew into the atmosphere. As hard to accept as it is, the high oil prices may actually save the planet.

Although he's made some repugnant rulings in the past, Judge David Lawson stood up and did the right thing, legally and morally this time. By protecting the forest, he is serving to protect all of us from the destruction brought by oil and gas drilling. Thank goodness there is a Kirkland Warbler in that forest turns out that protecting the endangered bird might help to save our own species.

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