Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic Magazine

Climate change is not a right vs left issue.

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A revealing article in The Atlantic by Professor Adler.

Yesterday, I published a Post called Denialists standing up for insanity.  Then within hours of writing that, up popped in my email ‘in-box’ the latest ‘What’s New’ from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.  One article that jumped off the page at me was this one,

How A Conservative Sees, Wants to Address, Climate Change

June 6, 2012

Law professor Jonathan Adler, no flaming liberal, accepts much of the science and outlines conservative property rights principles for addressing climate change challenges.

What is surprising about these quotations?

  • “… there is reason to believe many of the effects [of climate change] will be quite negative.
  • “Excesses” of climate campaigners and “bad behavior” by some scientists “do not, and should not, discredit the underlying science.”
  • Despite some “substantial uncertainty … this is not sufficient justification for ignoring global warming or pretending that climate change is not a serious problem.”
  • “… effects will be most severe in those nations that are both least able to adapt and least responsible for” the greenhouse problem.
  • “Even non-catastrophic warming should be a serious concern.”

What’s actually surprising about these points is not so much the messages, but the messenger.

Then a couple of paragraphs later, the Yale Forum article links to The Atlantic piece as in, “Adler expresses his views on the seriousness of climate change in “A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change.”

Let me just give you a taste of that Atlantic piece.

It opens thus,

A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change

Guest post by Jonathan H. Adler, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and regular contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy

No environmental issue is more polarizing than global climate change.  Many on the left fear increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases threaten an environmental apocalypse while many on the right believe anthropogenic global warming is much ado about nothing and, at worst, a hoax.  Both sides pretend as if the climate policy debate is, first and foremost, about science, rather than policy. This is not so. There is substantial uncertainty about the scope, scale, and consequences of anthropogenic warming, and will be for some time, but this is not sufficient justification for ignoring global warming or pretending that climate change is not a serious problem.

The fifth and sixth paragraphs present a powerful ‘constitutional’ perspective,

Accepting, for the sake of argument, that the skeptics’ assessment of the science is correct, global warming will produce effects that should be of concern.  Among other things, even a modest increase in global temperature can be expected to produce some degree of sea-level rise, with consequent negative effects on low-lying regions.  Michaels and Balling, for instance, have posited a “best guess” that sea levels will rise 5 to 11 inches over the next century.  Such an increase in sea levels is likely manageable in wealthy, developed nations, such as the United States.  Poorer nations in the developing world, however, will not be so able to adapt to such changes.  This is of particular concern because these effects will be most severe in those nations that are both least able to adapt and least responsible for contributing to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It is a well established principle in the Anglo-American legal tradition that one does not have the right to use one’s own property in a manner that causes harm to one’s neighbor.  There are common law cases gong back 400 years establishing this principle and international law has long embraced a similar norm.  As I argued at length in this paper, if we accept this principle, even non-catastrophic warming should be a serious concern, as even non-catastrophic warming will produce the sorts of consequences that have long been recognized as property rights violations, such as the flooding of the land of others.

Professor Adler closes the article, as follows,

Fourth and finally, it is important to recognize that some degree of warming is already hard-wired into the system.  This means that some degree of adaptation will be necessary.  Yet as above, recognizing the reality of global warming need not justify increased federal control over the private economy.  There are many market-oriented steps that can, and should, be taken to increase the country’s ability to adapt to climate change including, as I’ve argued here and here, increased reliance upon water markets, particularly in the western United States where the effects of climate change on water supplies are likely to be most severe.

I recognize that a relatively brief post like this is unlikely to convince many people who have set positions on climate change.  I can already anticipate a comment thread filled with charges and counter-charges over the science.  But I hope this post has helped illustrate that the embrace of limited government principles need not entail the denial of environmental claims and that a concern for environmental protection need not lead to an ever increasing mound of prescriptive regulation.  And for those who wish to explore these arguments in further detail, there’s lots more in the links I’ve provided throughout this post.

The links provided by Professor Adler, as he refers to above, are well-worth pursuing, so for that reason alone, I do recommend reading the whole Atlantic piece in full.

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The truth about (pet) food!

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We are what we eat! A sobering assessment of the food industry this Friday, the 13th!

This saying, which has been around for some time, reminds us that the foods we eat break down into elements that our bodies absorb. What we eat literally becomes part of us, and not just us humans but our dogs and cats as well.  That’s why I haven’t differentiated between us humans and our pets in this Post.

Let’s start off with our pets.

On the 28th December, just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the possible harm to dogs from Jerky treats coming in to the USA from China.  Kenneth Bryant of TriPom Chews added a comment that included a link to a news story about 353 dogs possibly being made sick.  Since then he and I have been in email correspondence including Ken passing the web address of Susan Thixton’s website Truth about Pet Food.  If you have a pet, go to this website!

I’m sure Susan wouldn’t mind me giving you a flavour (pardon the pun!) of what she has on this important website.  Try this.

Is there Chicken in Chicken Pet Foods?

One of the newest trends of pet food marketing is a tag line something like ‘Chicken is the first ingredient’.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Chicken, first or second on the ingredient list surely means this pet food contains lots of quality meat doesn’t it?  No wonder this ‘chicken’ pet food is a little more expensive – it contains more meat.  Right?  Maybe not.

Just because petsumers think meat when the ingredient ‘chicken’ is listed on a label, doesn’t mean the pet food actually contains chicken meat.  Pet food can have a very different definition of ‘chicken’.  Thanks to very broad Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ingredient definitions, the ingredient ‘chicken’ listed on a pet food label could be nothing more than skin, bone, cartilage, and maybe a few tiny fragments of meat.

Here is the AAFCO definition of poultry (quoting the 2011 AAFCO Official Publication): “Poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.  It shall be suitable for use in animal food.  If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Problems with this pet food ingredient definition…
#1  This ingredient (which includes all types of poultry including chicken) can be “a combination thereof” of any part of poultry.  This means that a pet food, proudly claiming Chicken as the #1 ingredient, can include ONLY chicken bones and/or skin (left over from the human food industry).

#2  “It shall be suitable for use in animal food” means that animals rejected for use in human food for reasons including (but not limited to) disease and drug residues are approved for use in pet food.  This we can thank the FDA for.  Federal Food Safety Laws should make it illegal for pet food to include whole or parts of diseased or rejected animals, but FDA Compliance Policies tell pet food it is acceptable to use diseased and drugged animals in pet food [My emboldening, PH.] (“it shall be suitable for use in animal food”).

Chicken Meal/Poultry Meal is very similarly defined – except ‘meal’ implies moisture removed.  However the very same end result can apply – the meal can consist of little more than skin and bones — no meat.

Other pet food meat ingredient definitions are a bit more descriptive, however all meat pet food ingredient definitions include the “it shall be suitable for use in animal food” disclaimer.  Thus any pet food meat ingredient – thanks to FDA Compliance Policies and AAFCO ingredient definitions – can be the same quality as human meats or can be sourced from diseased, rejected animals.  But, regulations do NOT provide petsumers with a means to determine which is which.

Read the rest of this article on Susan’s website.  Even better subscribe to her newsletters.

I could go on and on but will close this section by saying ‘thanks’ to Ken of TriPom for providing this awareness of what we all may be feeding our beloved cats and dogs.

So, humans next!

Just a few days ago there was an article on The Atlantic magazine website about The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods.  It’s a detailed article that, nonetheless, needs to be read by the widest possible audience.  Here are some extracts,

Chinese researchers have found small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to proteins in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.

The type of RNA in question is called microRNA, due to its small size. MicroRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been linked to human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. The Chinese research provides the first example of ingested plant microRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function.

Should the research survive scientific scrutiny, it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we’re eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but information as well.

Later on the article says,

Monsanto’s claim that human toxicology tests are unwarranted is based on the doctrine of “substantial equivalence.” This term is used around the world as the basis of regulations designed to facilitate the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered foods, by sparing them from extensive safety testing.

According to substantial equivalence, comparisons between GM and non-GM crops need only investigate the end products of DNA translation: the pizza, as it were. “There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods,” Monsanto’s website reads. “DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard.”

The Chinese RNA study threatens to blast a major hole in that claim. It means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous.

And the closing two paragraphs,

The OECD’s 34 member nations could be described as largely rich, white, developed, and sympathetic to big business. The group’s current mission is to spread economic development to the rest of the world. And while that mission has yet to be accomplished, OECD has helped Monsanto spread substantial equivalence to the rest of the world, selling a lot of GM seed along the way.

The news that we’re ingesting information as well as physical material should force the biotech industry to confront the possibility that new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for. Can we count on the biotech industry to accept the notion that more testing is necessary? Not if such action is perceived as a threat to the bottom line.

Please read the whole article as my extracts do not give justice to the importance of these findings.

Finally, let me turn to a recent item on the BBC website about the decline of brain function from as soon as age 45!  (I’m 67!)  The item starts,

The brain’s ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as 45, suggests a study in the British Medical Journal.

University College London researchers found a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in women and men aged 45-49.

What caught my eye were these concluding paragraphs,

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said he wanted to see similar studies carried out in a wider population sample.

He added: “Previous research suggests that our health in mid-life affects our risk of dementia as we age, and these findings give us all an extra reason to stick to our New Year’s resolutions.

“Although we don’t yet have a sure-fire way to prevent dementia, we do know that simple lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check – can all reduce the risk of dementia.”

Professor Lindsey Davies, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said that people should not wait until their bodies and minds broke down before taking action.

“We need only look at the problems that childhood obesity rates will cause if they are not addressed to see how important it is that we take ‘cradle to grave’ approach to public health.”

Let me repeat this sentence, “we do know that simple lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check – can all reduce the risk of dementia.”

Understanding what food is healthy for us and our animals ought to be straightforward.  But it’s not, when one understands the terrible lack of integrity in the industries that make our food!

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