For decades… animal welfare advocates, labor and environmentalists have joined together in an effort to educate their peers and affect policy change with the broad goal of improving the way our food is grown, processed, distributed and eaten. They've snuck into animal factories with hidden cameras, staged protests in Washington and boycotted fast food establishments. They've shopped at farmers markets and planted seeds in community gardens. They've formed a massive and remarkably powerful food and farm movement, and in general, they've kept quite busy reaching for a goal that until recently seemed completely futile and utterly out of reach….
[However], it was just announced that the Obama's are putting in their very own vegetable garden on the White House lawn. This is something that the food movement has been dreaming of since day one, and not one but two separate organizations -- Eat the View and the White House Organic Farm Project -- have been tirelessly promoting for years….
In other exciting news, on March 14th something kind of crazy happened: the USDA banned the slaughter of downer cows. For years, the downer cow has been a compelling symbol of the extreme cruelty and unbridled mechanization that characterizes modern animal farms and slaughterhouses. The web is strewn with videos of nearly-dead, non-ambulatory cattle being dragged, forklifted and shoved through the gates of muddy abattoirs to be slaughtered, butchered and injected into the food supply.
The heart-wrenching and stomach-turning images of downer cows have been an effective tool in converting ignorantly blissful burger addicts into soldiers for PETA, Sierra Club and Slow
Food, and eliminating these sad creatures from our food system is a fairly small but truly meaningful step forward.
So the USDA up and banned them. (Wait, they can do that? If the USDA could do that all along, why didn't this pass decades ago?)
Environmentalists, who for years have fought tooth and nail against an EPA and USDA whose powers were seemingly limited to pandering to corporate evil-doers, are now pleasantly surprised and perhaps even a little shocked to see that these institutions can actually fulfill their mandates of promoting public health and environmental sustainability. [Emphasis added.]
Eco-leaders like NRDC President Francis Beinecke are publishing lists of all the advances that the new administration has already made with regards to environmental policy, and noting how good it feels to have people in Washington who are actually on their side.
I await the inevitable comments that these palpably good things many of which fired the hopes of a generation of good people are actually so superficial in their emerging realization in the face of our actual problems that they are really more or less the same thing as the nothing at all that preceding them blah blah betrayal blah blah paralysis blah blah narcissism.
Although Schantz provided no link to the Beinecke list she mentioned, I'm pretty sure she meant this one, which found its way onto HuffPo two weeks ago. This shifts the focus from Industrial Ag to environmentalism more generally, but really one cannot stress enough the necessity of drawing attention to accomplishments like these that easily get lost in the midst of the crowing catastrophists whose only hope is to demoralize those who work to clean up after their messes and protect the world from their dumb and dirty tricks:
January 26, 2009: President Obama directs the EPA to reconsider the agency's decision to deny California's strong limits on global warming pollution from cars, and he calls on the Department of Transportation to raise national fuel efficiency standards.
February 4, 2009: More than 100,000 acres of Utah wilderness win protection from oil and gas drilling after the Department of Interior announced that it will cancel 77 leases issued under the Bush administration.
February 5, 2009: President Obama signs a presidential memorandum requesting that the Department of Energy set new efficiency standards for common household appliances. This will save in 30 years the amount of energy produced by all the coal-fired power plants in America over a two-year period.
February 6, 2009: The EPA announces it will reconsider its decision to deny California permission to set standards controlling greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.
February 6, 2009: On instruction from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Solicitor General asks the Supreme Court to drop the Bush administration's desperate appeal to resurrect EPA's illegal and harmful power plant mercury rule.
February 10, 2009: Department of Interior Secretary Salazar announces that he is going to make a thorough review of the five-year Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program that was announced in the final days of the Bush administration.
February 10, 2009: Administrator Jackson grants a petition by NRDC to reconsider and "stay" for three months a harmful midnight air pollution rule adopted by the Bush administration in mid-January 2009 that would allow dirty industries to release more pollution.
February 13, 2009: Congress came to an agreement on an economic stimulus package that includes bold investments for renewable power and energy efficiency, including weatherization programs that will save consumers billions while creating up to 90,000 jobs. Repairing our nation's outdated and corroded water and waste systems will also create more than 200,000 jobs and improve the safety of our beaches, streams, and drinking water.
February 17, 2009: EPA Administrator Jackson grants a petition by NRDC, Sierra Club and EDF to reconsider a disputed memo signed by Administrator Johnson in December 2008 that refused to regulate carbon dioxide from new coal-fired power plants. She announced that EPA would convene a public process to review this memo, in what was widely seen as the first step to reversing the Bush policy.
February 20, 2009: The Obama administration puts its support behind an international, legally binding treaty to reduce global mercury pollution. This position--a dramatic change for the stonewalling of the Bush years--influences policy reversals from other nations including China and India. Now more than 140 countries commit to regulating this dangerous neurotoxin.
February 24, 2009: In his first State of the Union address, Obama calls on Congress to pass legislation to cap global warming pollution and drive expansion of renewable energy. He also pledges $15 billion a year to invest in solar, wind, biofuels, and more efficient vehicles, and to put American to work making our homes and buildings more energy efficient.
February 25, 2009: Thousands of acres in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado will be protected from harmful oil shale research and development after Department of Interior Secretary Salazar announces that he will reverse course on the Bush administration's leasing program.
February 26, 2009: The Obama administration releases a federal budget that is the first in history to make critical investments in our clean energy future and tackle global warming head on. It includes revenue from a cap and invest program to limit global warming pollution, which is forecast to generate $150 billion over 10 years starting in 2012.
This is an impressive list, but it is only the beginning. President Obama initial decisions show that he meant what he said on the campaign trail. He has a bold, ambitious vision to move American to a new clean energy future, and he has a powerful sense that the safeguards protecting our health and environment must be strengthened. But most important, he has the conviction to put those beliefs into action.