The knights are restless and for good reason.

Archive for the category “Sustainability”

From a Restless Knight – Rest in Peace

I’ve spent many a restless night imagining a GOP win in November, and the Supreme Court appointments the next President is destined to make. I don’t know which of the remaining candidates will make it to the top, and frankly, it won’t really matter. I’m sure he is envisioning Scalia think-alikes (I say “he,” because Carly has mercifully made her exit, leaving an all-male field). Her nominees would have been those slightly to the right of Himmler, with regard to women’s reproductive rights.

The jovial Scalia, with his many liberal friends including ladies on the Supreme Court, could actually have competed with old Heinrich on women’s rights and those anti-biblical gay marriage rules.


Antonin Scalia posing with fellow hunter and Justice Elana Kagan

The death of Scalia affords an additional opportunity for a Trump or a Cruz to name one more justice to the high court. To give you an idea what that could mean, the chart below shows the ages of the eight remaining members of the Court:

Justice Born /Age Nominated By
Anthony Kennedy 7/23/1936

Age: 79 yr 6 mo

Ronald Reagan
Clarence Thomas 6/23/1948

Age: 67 yr 7 mo

George H. W. Bush
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 3/15/1933

Age: 82 yr 11 mo

Bill Clinton
Stephen Breyer 8/15/1938

Age: 77 yr 6 mo

Bill Clinton
John G. Roberts 1/27/1955

Age: 61 yr 0 mo

George W. Bush
Samuel A. Alito, Jr. 4/1/1950

Age: 65 yr 10 mo

George W. Bush
Sonia Sotomayor 6/25/1954

Age: 61 yr 7 mo

Barack Obama
Elena Kagan 4/28/1960

Age: 55 yr 9 mo

Barack Obama

It is likely that several of those listed above could be awaiting Angel of Death visits within the next five years. The problem is that most of those are Democratic Presidential appointees, with the exception of Anthony Kennedy, who Reagan thought would be far more conservative than he turns out to be. Scalia, 79 when he died, was Anthony Kennedy’s age.

I just watched an old Charley Rose interview with the recently departed jurist, and can understand why people liked him. This proves the point that you don’t have to hate someone because you disagree with just about everything they stand for. In Scalia’s case, I might make an exception.

One of Scalia’s last acts was to become part of the 5-4 decision striking down Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CCP), one of President’s signature achievements. This had enabled the U.S. to take the lead at the Paris Summit on addressing the very serious issue of Climate Change. With the climate initiative in trouble, there will be little motivation for other COP21 signing countries to stick with their commitments. The remaining Republicans in the Presidential race have all vowed to repeal the CCP, on the day of inauguration. They appear to be champing at the bit to do so.

Scalia was at a hunting lodge when he bit the bullet. Maybe it was that other Supreme Court’s punishment for killing some of His helpless creatures, as if letting the planet sink in a mire of toxicity and rising seas were not criminal enough.

The Senate, which has final approval of the nominated justices has been given a command by their General, Mitch (Make Him a One-Term President) McConnell: Stall, stall, stall, with the hope that it will delay the appointment to the next administration. Many Republican voices are echoing a statement that has no basis in reality (what else is new?). Lame ducks should not make Supreme Court appointments. Maybe Marco Rubio should observe the rule, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” As this Politifact article confirms, conservative superman, Ronald Reagan did nominate Kennedy to the high court during the final year of his administration

Now the Republicans have a real dilemma: There is currently an even number of remaining justices on the Supreme Court. Contests ending with a 4-4 tie will have the effect of allowing lower court rulings to stand. Most of these do not serve the GOP cause. See the USA Today article for more information.


Pig Out

About 12 years ago, I decided to eliminate pork (as well as all other mammals) from my diet. The decision was done for several reasons, not the least of which was the inhumane keeping of factory farm animals.

We now know (or should) that the cost to maintain animals to feed humans is unsustainable. As populations rise and attain affluence, people, unsurprisingly, want what the wealthiest societies have enjoyed for years. The problem is that the world is becoming a very different place than it was only a few years back.

When it became common for people to purchase meat from butchers and grocery stores, the Earth’s population was under two billion people, staying relatively consistent for about a century. As this graph shows, population took a meteoric rise, and now is estimated to have reached seven billion. world-population-1820-to-2010

As increases in population continue, people begin to replace arable land, further restricting food growing possibilities.  It takes acre upon acre of land, not to mention scarce water, to produce the feed for the animals humans consume. Based on the inevitable outcome of continuing this practice, wouldn’t to make so much more sense to focus on vegetables (and others – see below)?

What prompted me to write this post was the restless night I had after listening to an interview on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. I was already aware of most of the things that were discussed on the subject of cruelty to factory-farmed pigs. What I did not realize is that pigs are highly sensitive and intelligent animals (which is more than we can say for many Americans). The next time you call someone a pig, it could be considered a compliment.

I’m supplying a link to this podcast, which might be painful for some to listen to. But it might just cure you of your desire to consume pork, and even make you think about giving up, or at least reducing, your consumption of animals.

There are still places where animals are farmed humanely, and certainly organics eliminate the fear of additives like hormones and antibiotics that are routinely fed to factory farmed animals.  But when meat is ordered in a restaurant, in most cases the public has no idea of the conditions the animal they’re about to consume has had to endure, or what’s  been put into their feed. This makes a further case for reduction of those sources of protein in your diet.

I alluded to other forms of protein which are already showing up in restaurants, on grocery shelves and mail order. If I had made the suggestion that we should become insectivores a few years back, you would have laughed me out of the room. But entomophagy is emerging. The consumption of tarantulas and centipedes has existed in other places in the world for centuries. according to the website shown in the above link, there are almost 1,500 species of edible insects in the world. Their consumption has many advantages over traditional meat-eating, without most of the drawbacks:
A. It takes a minuscule amount of water to raise a pound of crickets, vs the hundreds of liters for all mammals
B. Insects have a huge protein to fat ratio, which cannot be said of mammals
C. It doesn’t seem quite as cruel to kill those creatures as it does the pig or others (listen to that podcast!)
D. No additives that could actually harm you and your children are needed to add insects to our food supply
E. A decent cook could easily add the flavorings needed to make this a gourmet meal.

Another industry of the near future is protein made in a laboratory, cloned from mammals. No pig, cow or goat is forced to live in a cell barely large enough to hold it. Once the texture and flavor of your favorite hamburger can transferred to you lab-burger, you will become a fan. As the cost of this process becomes competitive with traditional meat-rearing, you may never want some corporate farmer to torture another animal again.

My dad was raised as a vegetarian from birth, something that was quite rare in the early part of the twentieth century. When I was growing up, I never realized what wonderful thing he was doing for his own health, and the animal population. Dad, I know you can’t hear me now, but I think you would be proud of this stand that I take.

We Shale Overcome

As a Restless Knight, lying awake, thinking about our food and water safety, I wish I could be sitting around the fire with a bunch of old hippies, singing that song. But evidence gives me no confidence that that will soon happen. We are not overcoming shale; it is overcoming us.

In a recent story in the The Nation Magazine entitled, Fracking Our Food Supply, Elizabeth Royte painfully points out just what’s wrong with the energy industry’s methodology for extracting natural gas from shale deposits.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my preference for renewable energy (Gas is far from being a clean green energy source. As the World Wildlife Fund energy team points out: “The idea that gas is the solution to climate change is a myth put out by vested interests.”), I am not dismissing natural gas as a temporary alternative to the dreaded coal — it is the way it’s being done that makes me restless. And if you happen to be a farmer near land that has been leased to hydraulic fracturing interests, you’ve got real reasons to be restless, and even scared manureless. I’m also restless over the distinct possibility that Americans will believe that shale gas is the answer to all of our problems, and the need to develop sane, clean, renewable energy sources will no longer be an imperative.

Some time in the not-too-distant-past, our nation lost the political will to guaranty the delivery of safe food to its population. By defunding judiciary agencies like the FDA and EPA, congress has made it inevitable that the vested interests will win out over food safety. In the case of corn, we shut our eyes to an agra industry becoming an energy industry, whose desire for profit dictates that we fill gas tanks, not hungry stomachs. Well, thanks, but no tanks. Can we please find another fuel for our cars and trucks other than what was once the product of the “Great American Bread Basket?”

But it’s all politics. It was suggested (I’m sure by a disinterested party) that corn-based ethanol could replace gasoline or at least become part of the mix that is now mandated to go into your fuel tank (Can we still call it a gas tank?). Which of out 50 states always begins the Presidential selection process? Hint: It is neither the political nor the financial capital. And don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Iowans. In ten years, corn price per bushel rose from $1.97 to over $7.00, a jump of over 75%. I couldn’t find another food commodity having that rate of inflation.

But I digress. I switched to a related subject of food degeneration from my original topic, Shale and its impact on the food supply.


Healthy cattle – before hydraulic fracturing

Tails of Woe

What caught my attention to this story was the reporting of farm animals, located near a fracking site, having their tails fall off. I guess we humans have nothing to fear from that alarm bell, as our ancestors lost theirs eons ago.

But perhaps we men should be concerned about what other of our body parts could meet the same fate.

Elsie, as shown in this undoctored photo, has become one of the casualties from a hydraulic fracking blow out, on a parcel of land a half mile upwind from where she and her sisters graze.


Here is Elsie, after a good fracking.

In addition to the non-standard rear appendage, she and some of her fellow bovines began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Some lost over sixty pounds in a single week, preventing them from lactating. Calves take umbrage when their moms fail to deliver milk. Bulls did not escape the wrath of fracking. One $5,000 breeding bull had to be put to death after veterinarians were unable to treat him.

After testing the water, it was learned that it contained sulfate levels of up to 4,000 parts per million (ppm). The Illinois Department of Health (and they should know) states that 30 to 40 ppm of this additive is safe for drinking. High levels of sulfate can cause polio in cattle. But if you feel you’re not ingesting enough sulfides from your water, come to Schilke’s Farm in North Dakota (Elsie’s home), and enjoy a long soothing sip. Don’t let it bother you that other animals around the farm, such as cats and dogs had elevated levels of selenium. They drink from the same water supply as the rest of the farm population (including the humans). Incidentally, toxicity from this chemical is cumulative in the body.


Cheney tells the U.S. to go frack itself

And speaking of water, a commodity in short supply in many places in the world, including the U.S., fracking a single well can require up to 7 million gallons of potable water. If that’s not enough, thanks to former VP Cheney, fracking interests are not required to report every nasty chemical they intend to use to accomplish their task. Ah, good old Dick Cheney. He was the first to receive a heart transplant when there was no evidence that he ever had one in the first place. I don’t suppose his connection to Halliburton (a major player in the hydraulic fracturing business) had anything to do with this industry secret, do you? By the way, that same great American got fracking excluded from violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Toxics Release Inventory, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. So shooting a lawyer as quails are released from their cages is not the only act he can take credit for.

But that is only the beginning. The World Wildlife Fund has documented the many organs, including the kidney and liver that have been affected by the 632 chemicals used in natural gas production.

The Catskill Mountainkeeper lists on its website some of the chemicals found in water after hydraulic fracturing. Have you enjoyed some fine barium lately? How about cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury? This resource is on the alert, possibly because NY State Gov. Cuomo is under pressure and is yet to make his decision on permitting fracking on the state’s vast Marcellus shale deposits.

I stated in the beginning of this piece that I am troubled by the possibility, and even the probability that our citizens will become complacent about fracking and all of its evils. Yes, shale gas will bring us a certain amount of energy independence – but at what price? Is it worth having cheap fossil fuel in exchange for endangering the safety of our food supply?

Are the earthquakes that have been reported throughout areas in which hydraulic fracturing is taking place acceptable? As of this writing, fracking-suspected quakes have occurred many areas, including the following:
Dallas, Texas
Basel Switzerland
Youngstown, Ohio

I don’t know about you, but the possibility of an earthquake can make me pretty restless.

Keeping It Bottled Up

You know that nothing makes a knight more restless than keeping things bottled up inside. When that happens, they get sloppy with their lances; there is a reduction in the number of saved damsels in distress, and new leases on life to the endangered dragon population are granted.

But what should stress out even the non-knight population is the amount of detritus in the form of empty plastic bottles seen on the side of roads. Since there seems to be no moral compunction against littering, the road is a convenient place to toss that empty beverage bottle, after it has done its damage to your liver with the world’s fastest sugar delivery system. In fact, soda delivers sugar even faster than Mitt Romney fired people at Bain.

If bottle debris is not a problem for you, think about the waste associated with plastic bottles and all of its negatives on society.  Incidentally, they are estimated to be about half the waste stream.

First, plastic bottles are a petroleum product. Last time I checked, petroleum is the commodity for which we sacrificed four thousand lives, a trillion in un-budgeted military expenses and the wrecking of an entire country that did nothing to us to provoke such an invasion. And, despite the fact that there is a surplus of oil supply compared to demand, prices for this viscous goo are always threatening to rise meteorically. This is especially true when tensions are heightened in the Middle East (like that ever happens).

Making more bottles out of this scarce resource seems a waste unto itself, especially since most of those plastic containers could be reclaimed.  This would obviate the need to use even more of that sludge for which we send young people to die. Did you know that in 2006, Americans purchased over 31 billion liters of bottled water that took 17 million barrels of oil to produce, with a carbon footprint of 2.5 million tons of CO2? That was five years ago, and I doubt if those numbers have diminished since then.

In my adopted state of Florida, a bill is being considered that would place a deposit on each plastic bottle purchased. The legislature and governor has not always acted in our best interest, so they need to hear from you.  Would you mind that much, paying another nickel or dime for your bottle of sugary poison, or the more fashionable Evian, so that there would be an incentive to return those bottles for re-use? You could personally reclaim that deposit, or let the many unemployed folks in our state gather them from the streets and otherwise pristine beaches to earn a few bucks. Would you like to join the forty other U.S. states (and Guam) that treat plastic bottles sustainably?

If you agree, please join me in signing this petition now!

We could all be doing our part to reduce plastic bottle use by doing a few simple things:

  • Carry a refillable water bottle. There is a vast selection available at most retailers, from $10 and up. These can replace the many plastic bottles for which you paid up to $1.25 per pint of water (gasoline is only 72 cents a pint by comparison).
  • Store water in much larger containers. If your tap water doesn’t taste quite right (and it probably doesn’t), think about a service that delivers quality water at regular intervals, and carts away the original for re-use.
  • Talk to the event handler at your business or organization. Suggest pitchers of water instead of those tiny throw-aways sitting in front of each guest.
  • Think twice before consuming that next bottle of soda. The teeth you save may be your own, not to mention the empty calories, or worse, the artificial sweetener to which you are exposing your organs.

Okay, I’m through ranting (for the moment). Now that I know my message has gotten through, loud and clear, my night might not be quite as restless going forward.

For more on the environment, check out my non-profit website,

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