Apr 21, 2008

Earth Daze

I had a great time at McLaren Park Earth Day. It was awesome to see a lot of my friends out in the park on a sunny SF day. I led a sustainable dog walk through the designated off-leash area. Attendance on the walk was great and I really liked all of the folks who came along. The pups were adorable, too.

I gave out seeds for planting, biodegradable poop bags, and coupons for my friend, Jeannine Giordan's, new critter supply shop, Hazel and Gertie's at 22nd and Guerrero. Props to Jeannine for opening her business in a Compact friendly fashion. All of the furnishings are used, giving the place a really homey feeling, distinctly anti-Ikea. Hazel and Gertie's also offers environmentally friendly products that I didn't even know existed. There are dog beds made from recycled soda bottles and durable, rubber-like toys also made from recycled materials. Did you know that stuff was on the market? I guess I'm out of the loop after 2+ years of the Compact.
I'll bet at H&G's regularly for food and Earth friendly litter. It's the only shop where you can get smallbatch, raw cat or dog food made from organic, local ingredients. My cats are going to be better adherents of the 100 mile diet than I am. (I still think I get points for being vegetarian.)

Today I should be working on the analysis of my data from the Bernal Hill observations. Instead I'm worrying about funding for grad school. After 4 nail-biting-hours of searching for new funding sources, I've got a stomach-ache and a strong urge to eat ice cream. How conflicted is that? To stave off the ice cream craze, I'm blogging. I love ice cream so this could be a super long post.

San Francisco is rumored to be a pretty wealthy place. Who's a girl got to meet to get some funding around here? Maybe I need to get out of the park and mingle. Maybe I should spend some time outside of the southeast quadrant. Sometimes I just want to shake this town and scream, "Hey! I'm trying to make this city a better place for plants, animals, and people, can you help me out?"
The same goes for the state, country, and planet.

But it kinda seems like the money for conservation is drying up just as it should be flooding. California has proposed closing 47 state parks this year because of a budget shortfall. Instead of water conservation education and incentives, which have the capacity to solve our current water shortfalls, Schwarzenegger proposes new dams. Americans have no savings so the Treasury offers us $300 and tells us to go to the mall. With solutions like these, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that funding is so elusive.

I'm going to avoid these angry and dismal feelings toward economic policy makers with dinner and You Tube. bread and circuses, ya know.


Anonymous said...

Pets like dogs are so environmentally unfriendly. They consume grain which means forest need to be cut down. They release methane. They consume gas in that food need to be purchase from the store. Pets are one of the greatest burdens on the environment city dwellers can own.

rachel kesel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel kesel said...

Hmmm, I have a lot of problems with this perspective. I'm a very conscious guardian of two rescued cats, and a lover of all animals, domestic or otherwise. While I agree that animals, human and non, impact all of our environmental systems, I don't think that companion animals are inherently "unfriendly" to the environment because they eat and crap. By this logic, humans are also "environmentally unfriendly". We also consume grain, release methane, eat from stores, etc. What's with the double standard?

I am a co-guardian of two cats, who in total weigh 20 lbs. They eat locally made, organic, free range meat and some vegetables. In short, they consume a lot less than a human. I'm not positing that folks should raise cats over kids, but that's my personal choice at the moment, though this is not necessarily an either/or scenario. (*choice subject to change, I'm 27 after all). And not that I believe in carbon credits, but the cows maintained for one meat eater take up a lot more resources than my cats + my vegetarian diet. Again, not a fan of environmental credits but I'm totally down to calculate my footprint with my cats included. I'd still be below average in consumption and my companions contribute to my perspective and lifestyle, which happens to be fairly environmentally friendly. Saying that my cats burden "the environment" is kinda ridiculous given my choices. But I guess the anonymous poster actually said "pets like dogs".

Even though I don't have a dog, I spend 30% of my work time advocating ecologically responsible dog guardianship. I do understand that companion animals increase our families' ecological footprints. And some of our families are not just comprised of humans. Non-human animals are also sentient, living beings: Thus they have their own ecological pawprints. Sure, we have domesticated cats and dogs, and allowed them to overpopulate. I don't contribute to that system and shame on anyone who does. One of my cats was dumped on my family's land in Georgia 10 years ago, she is spayed. The other was found in a Jack in the Box dumpster, he is neutered.

It's not that this argument is entirely without merit. But if you want to start tackling the unfriendliness of companion animals, do start with the jerks who don't spay and neuter. We could really reduce ecological impacts by eliminating the need for shelter systems by being responsible about the animals in our care.

I'd also argue that dogs, in particular, get people outside. Some folks that I work with only have interactions with nature when they are walking their dogs. Caring for animals inspires empathy for wildlife and an interest in open space.

Finally, the poster's view of domestic animals is dated and patriarchal. As is commonly said, they are not our property and we are not their owners. I am very conflicted about having companion animals, not because of their environmental impact, which comes with their birth, but because they are not entirely free. In domesticating animals we have brought them to live in our dangerous world, and by that I am mostly referring to cars. In order to protect them, we lock them up in our homes, lead them by the neck, and deprive them of free will. We choose their food, inject them with vaccines without consent, expect them to submit to commands, and lots more. I'm not saying that these concepts are cruel, but that they do not spell freedom. I'm not saying that our animals are unhappy, but that they have very limited lives. And I'm certainly not saying that our domestic animals should be "freed", that just wouldn't work. I'm saying that the system in which we have companion animals is inherently speciest, hierarchical with humans at the top. This doesn't reflect my view of animals, but I'm a part in this system. It's frustrating and difficult to navigate while treating our animals with compassion and respect. In the deepest part of my heart, I adore my companions. But if they were only wild and free, I'd never attempt to tame them.

Blue Yonder said...

Speaking of the state park closures, I hope you and any sympathetic blog readers will keep up-to-date on it at http://www.savestateparks.org/ . There's supposed to be a hearing about the state park closures in June in San Jose, but full details about the hearing are not yet available.