Aug 27, 2007
Here's the top 15 cities and few runners up who have made the most impressive strides toward eco-friendliness and sustainability
These metropolises aren't literally the greenest places on earth -- they're not necessarily dense with foliage, for one, and some still have a long way to go down the path to sustainability. But all of the cities on this list deserve recognition for making impressive strides toward eco-friendliness, helping their many millions of residents live better, greener lives.
1. Rekyjavik, Iceland
Remember the grade-school memory device "Greenland is icy and Iceland is green"? It's truer than ever thanks to progress made by Iceland and its capital city in recent years. Reykjavik has been putting hydrogen buses on its streets, and, like the rest of the country, its heat and electricity come entirely from renewable geothermal and hydropower sources and it's determined to become fossil-fuel-free by 2050. The mayor has pledged to make Reykjavik the cleanest city in Europe. Take that, Greenland.
2. Portland, Oregon, U.S.
The City of Roses' approach to urban planning and outdoor spaces has often earned it a spot on lists of the greenest places to live. Portland is the first U.S. city to enact a comprehensive plan to reduce CO2 emissions and has aggressively pushed green building initiatives. It also runs a comprehensive system of light rail, buses, and bike lanes to help keep cars off the roads, and it boasts 92,000 acres of green space and more than 74 miles of hiking, running, and biking trails.
3. Curitiba, Brazil
With citizens riding a bus system hailed as one of the world's best and with municipal parks benefiting from the work of a flock of 30 lawn-trimming sheep, this midsized Brazilian city has become a model for other metropolises. About three-quarters of its residents rely on public transport, and the city boasts over 580 square feet of green space per inhabitant. As a result, according to one survey, 99 percent of Curitibans are happy with their hometown.
4. Malmö, Sweden
Known for its extensive parks and green space, Sweden's third-largest city is a model of sustainable urban development. With the goal of making Malmö an "ekostaden" (eco-city), several neighborhoods have already been transformed using innovative design and are planning to become more socially, environmentally, and economically responsive. Two words, Malmö: organic meatballs.
5. Vancouver, Canada
Its dramatic perch between mountains and sea makes Vancouver a natural draw for nature lovers, and its green accomplishments are nothing to scoff at either. Drawing 90 percent of its power from renewable sources, British Columbia's biggest city has been a leader in hydroelectric power and is now charting a course to use wind, solar, wave, and tidal energy to significantly reduce fossil-fuel use. The metro area boasts 200 parks and over 18 miles of waterfront, and has developed a way-forward-thinking 100-year plan for sustainability. Assuming civilization will last another 100 years? Priceless.
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
With a big offshore wind farm just beyond its coastline and more people on bikes than you can shake a stick at, Copenhagen is a green dream. The city christened a new metro system in 2000 to make public transit more efficient. And it recently won the European Environmental Management Award for cleaning up public waterways and implementing holistic long-term environmental planning. Plus, the pastries? Divine.
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7. London, England
When Mayor Ken Livingstone unveiled London's Climate Change Action Plan in February, it was just the latest step in his mission to make his city the world's greenest. Under the plan, London will switch 25 percent of its power to locally generated, more-efficient sources, cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent within the next 20 years, and offer incentives to residents who improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The city has also set stiff taxes on personal transportation to limit congestion in the central city, hitting SUVs heavily and letting electric vehicles and hybrids off scot-free. 8. San Francisco, California, U.S. Nearly half of all 'Friscans take public transit, walk, or bike each day, and over 17 percent of the city is devoted to parks and green space. San Francisco has also been a leader in green building, with more than 70 projects registered under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification system. In 2001, San Francisco voters approved a $100 million bond initiative to finance solar panels, energy efficiency, and wind turbines for public facilities. The city has also banned non-recyclable plastic bags and plastic kids' toys laced with questionable chemicals. Next thing you know, they'll all be wearing flowers in their hair.
9. Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador
After it suffered severe damage from natural disasters in the late 1990s, the Bahía de Caráquez government and nongovernmental organizations working in the area forged a plan to rebuild the city to be more sustainable. Declared an "Ecological City" in 1999, it has since developed programs to protect biodiversity, revegetate denuded areas, and control erosion. The city, which is marketing itself as a destination for eco-tourists, has also begun composting organic waste from public markets and households and supporting organic agriculture and aquaculture.
10. Sydney, Australia
The Land Down Under was the first country to put the squeeze on inefficient, old-school light bulbs, but Sydney-dwellers took things a step further in March, hosting a city-wide one-hour blackout to raise awareness about global warming. Add to that their quest for carbon neutrality, innovative food-waste disposal program, and new Green Square, and you've got a metropolis well on its way to becoming the Emerald City of the Southern Hemisphere.
11. Barcelona, Spain
Hailed for its pedestrian-friendliness (37 percent of all trips are taken on foot!), promotion of solar energy, and innovative parking strategies, Barcelona is creating a new vision for the future in Europe. City leaders' urban-regeneration plan also includes poverty reduction and investment in neglected areas, demonstrating a holistic view of sustainability.
12. Bogotá, Colombia
In a city known for crime and slums, one mayor led a crusade against cars that has helped to make Bogotá one of the most accessible and sustainable cities in the Western Hemisphere. Enrique Peñalosa, mayor from 1998 to 2001, used his time in office to create a highly efficient bus transit system, reconstruct sidewalks so pedestrians could get around safely, build more than 180 miles of bike trails, and revitalize 1,200 city green spaces. He restricted car use on city streets during rush hour, cutting peak-hour traffic 40 percent, and raised the gas tax. The city also started an annual "car-free day," and aims to eliminate personal car use during rush hour completely by 2015. Unthinkable!
13. Bangkok, Thailand
Once known for smokestacks, smog, and that unshakeable '80s song, Bangkok has big plans for a brighter future. City Governor Apirak Kosayodhin recently announced a five-year green strategy, which includes efforts to recycle citizens' used cooking oil to make biodiesel, reduce global-warming emissions from vehicles, and make city buildings more efficient. Bangkok has also made notable progress in tackling air pollution over the past decade. Though the city's pollution levels are still higher than some of its big-city Asian counterparts, its progress thus far is impressive.
14. Kampala, Uganda
This capital city is overcoming the challenges faced by many urban areas in developing countries. Originally built on seven hills, Kampala takes pride in its lush surroundings, but it is also plagued by big-city ills of poverty and pollution. Faced with the "problem" of residents farming within city limits, the city passed a set of bylaws supporting urban agriculture that revolutionized not only the local food system, but also the national one, inspiring the Ugandan government to adopt an urban-ag policy of its own. With plans to remove commuter taxis from the streets, establish a traffic-congestion fee, and introduce a comprehensive bus service, Kampala is on its way to becoming a cleaner, safer, more sustainable place to live.
15. Austin, Texas
Austin is poised to become the No. 1 solar manufacturing center in the U.S., and its hometown utility, Austin Energy, has given the notion of pulling power from the sun a Texas-sized embrace. The city is on its way to meeting 20 percent of its electricity needs through the use of renewables and efficiency by 2020. Austin also devotes 15 percent of its land to parks and other open spaces, boasts 32 miles of bike trails, and has an ambitious smart-growth initiative, making it a happy green nook in what's widely perceived as a not-so-green state. To put it mildly.
Chicago, IL, U.S.
Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) is striving to make his hometown "the greenest city in America." There's lots of literal greenery: under his leadership, Chicago has planted 500,000 new trees, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the revitalization of parks and neighborhoods, and added more than 2 million square feet of rooftop gardens, more than all other U.S. cities combined. And there's plenty of metaphorical greening too: the Windy City has built some of the most eco-friendly municipal buildings in the country, been a pioneer in municipal renewable-energy standards, provided incentives for homeowners to be more energy efficient, and helped low-income families get solar power.
Home to the famously car-free Vauban neighborhood and a number of eco-transit innovations, Freiburg is a tourist destination with a green soul. The city has also long embraced solar power.
Seattle, WA, U.S.
Mayor Greg Nickels (D) has committed his city to meeting the emission-reduction goals of the Kyoto climate treaty, and inspired more than 590 other U.S. mayors to do the same. True to its name, the Emerald City is also planting trees, building green, and benefiting from biodiesel and hybrid buses.
Quebec City, Canada
Dubbed the most sustainable city in Canada by the Corporate Knights Forum, Quebec wins big points for clean water, good waste management, and bike paths aplenty. C'est magnifique!
Aug 27, 2007 8:24pm
Jan 11, 2007
Darfur: Do We Need More Facts?
The UN Human Rights Council has decided to send a fact-finding mission of five "highly qualified persons" plus the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan to make recommendations to the government of Sudan and the Darfur insurgencies. This is an important step to bring to an end a conflict which began in 2003 and is growing more destructive each day.
The UN Human Rights Council, the 47-member replacement of the Commission of Human Rights held a two-day Special Session 12-13 December 2006 devoted to Darfur, Sudan. The Council heard 30 Council member states, 40 UN member states which can come to the Council as observers with the right to speak but not vote, 5 UN Specialized Agencies such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as well as 19 NGOs. Some of the NGO speakers had come from working in Darfur or neighboring Chad.
A Special Session is the “highest profile” event which the UN human rights bodies can organize, and in the Commission on Human Rights’ 61 year history there were very few. The Special Sessions on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were outstanding events. The transition from the Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at the start of 2006 required writing new rules of procedure. The holding of Special Sessions was made easier by lowering the number of states needed to sign a request to hold a Special Session.
The 12 July-14 August 2006 war in Lebanon was the first real test of the way the new Human Rights Council would work. Two Special Sessions were called closely together to deal with Lebanon and a Third Special Session was called to deal with the continuing violence in Gaza and the West Bank in Palestine. The Special Sessions were called, largely as a reaction to the failure of the UN Security Council to demand a cease-fire but without thinking out in advance the role of human rights in reaching a compromise solution to the conflicts in the Middle East. There have been an endless number of resolutions in the Commission on Human Rights concerning Israel and Palestine, mostly critical of Israel. However, there has been little change on the ground. Some NGO representatives had hoped that the change from the Commission to the Council would bring about changes in the way of working. The hope was that there would be careful analysis of the purpose and possible impact of resolutions. However, in a rush to react to real violence and despair in Lebanon and Palestine, resolutions whose wording differed little from past condemnation of Israeli behaviour were adopted.
In order to give some teeth to the resolutions and to mark a difference from the Commission resolutions, it was decided to send a team of Special Rapporteurs to Lebanon and Israel and to report back. The Special Rapporteurs were a creation of the Commission on Human Rights, largely in response to growing awareness of a problem. The Human Rights Council has decided to continue these Special Rapporteurs for one year during which there is a governmental review of their objectives and roles. NGO representatives fear that the governments want to abolish the Special Rapporteurs as the Special Rapporteurs are named as independent experts and some have been highly critical of government actions. Nevertheless, for 2006, they have been particularly active and have started working together or making joint statements or appeals. It may be that this “higher profile” of Special Rapporteurs will prevent governments from abolishing them or limiting their capacity to work.
The following Special Rapporteurs and their UN Secretariat staff went to Israel and Lebanon from 7 to 16 September :
Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;
Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on physical and mental health;
Walter Kalin, Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons;
Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing;
Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
The five Special Rapporteurs went to Lebanon and Israel and made a well-documented report. While there were useful recommendations made to the government of Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah, there were few new avenues of action proposed. The most telling contribution was the section by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, who stressed the impact of cluster bombs in preventing agriculture in south Lebanon. His report has helped to highlight the destructive quality of cluster bombs and the need to work for a ban on the use, manufacture and transfer of cluster bombs — an effort now undertaken led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the government of Norway.
In the light of the dramatic recent worsening of the situation in Darfur, the spreading of the conflict to Chad and the Central African Republic, could the Human Rights Council do less than also send a team to collect facts and make recommendations? Currently, ever-larger areas of the three Sudanese provinces of Darfur are the scene of fighting. More and more people are displaced within Darfur. The luckier ones are able to cross the frontier into eastern Chad, but the situation in Chad is increasingly unstable as insurgencies wanting to overthrow the government of Chad mix with those of related tribal backgrounds in Darfur. The fighting in Darfur is also spilling over into the Central African Republic — a poor country with a fragile government. There is a real danger of regional instability.
Although the insurgency in Darfur began in 2003, it was really only in 2004 that the UN humanitarian agencies and international NGOs started highlighting what was going on. While there are currently parts of Darfur where UN and NGO aid workers cannot go due to the lack of minimum security, there have been highly detailed reports on the systematic destruction of peoples, the uprooting of communities and the destruction of economic infrastructure. Louise Arbor, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Special Session that there was “credible evidence” that the Sudanese military was responsible for ground attacks and aerial bombardments.
With so much information on Darfur available, what is the value of a fact-finding mission of five “highly qualified persons” – as yet unnamed by the Council Chairman, Ambassador Luis De Alba of Mexico?
The value of the fact finding report is not for the additional information to the UN and the NGO world which is already well informed from aid agencies working in the area. The value will depend on the way in which factions in the government of Sudan and the insurgencies use the report to justify policies which they have already chosen for other reasons. A UN report can serve in some ways like the Baker Commission report on Iraq. It says nothing that people interested did not know already from other sources. However, the Baker report can serve to legitimize those who see the need to talk to the governments of Syria and Iran and to those who want to start planning a withdrawal of troops. The “wise men” status of the Baker Commission offers a justification for those in decision-making positions to raise issues that had not had high profile debate before.
In Sudan, both the government and the Darfur insurgencies are “closed societies” with no public debate and repression against those who do not follow the &ldquoarty line”. Thus we can only assume that there are factions who see the “dead end” quality of the current warfare and who are ready to negotiate a real settlement based on sharing power and revenue and starting a development program so that people in Darfur see some rapid improvements in their standard of living. Such people are probably in a minority and not at the highest level of power either in the government or the insurgencies. Unless they can say “international opinion holds that a continuation of violence and counter-violence leads nowhere”, their policy proposals will not be heard. Thus they need support from outside such as the UN fact-finding team and from calmer civil society voices within Sudan.
It is only a guess that such people exist and will take the chance of coming to the fore. We will have to see who the wise men are and what their recommendations will be. However those of us concerned must be prepared to highlight the report so that it does not end, as too many UN documents, as just file numbers.
Rene Wadlow is the editor of the online journal of world politics
www.transnational-perspectives.org and an NGO representative to the United Nations, Geneva.
Mar 10, 2006
Sugar or Sweetener? Sucrose Has its Problems, But so do Artificial Substitutes
Article By Brian C. Howard - Mar 07 2006
But we also swallow enormous amounts of “hidden” sugars that are added to a bewildering array of processed foods, from cereals to ketchup and from canned fruits to some vitamins.
Americans are known around the world for our voracious appetite for sugary treats. Our collective sweet tooth compels us to ingest mountains of candy and cookies, truckloads of ice cream and sodas, and many other confections.
Consumption of sweeteners in the U.S. has risen from 113 pounds per person per year in 1966 to around 142 pounds per person per year in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Compare that to an average of 8.3 pounds of broccoli and 25 pounds of dark lettuces for 2003, according to U.S. News and World Report. Americans now consume an average of 61 pounds a year of high fructose corn syrup (especially in sodas), and we scarf down 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day (not including lactose or fructose naturally found in milk and fruit).
The USDA recommends adults consume no more than eight or nine teaspoons of sugar for a typical 2,000-calorie diet. Staying within this limit can be much easier said than done, however, considering that some candy bars, 12-ounce sodas and one-cup servings of ice cream contain around nine teaspoons of sugar.
What’s wrong with sugar? In addition to its tooth-rotting properties, Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, explains, “Sugar’s empty calories (meaning lack of nutrients) contribute to the big problem with the American diet: too many calories.” Sugar has also been widely linked to increasing risk for type II diabetes. Plus, the sweet stuff has a considerable environmental footprint (see EarthTalk, this issue).
Closely related to sugar is the now ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup, which is prepared by treating cornstarch with acids or enzymes. The sticky, tooth-attacking syrup is often made with genetically engineered corn, and, like sugar, it contains no nutritional value beyond its caloric content. During the past few decades, corn syrup (which tastes sweeter than sugar) has become the sweetener of choice for many food processors, who load it into everything from baked goods to sauces, jellies, drinks and even frozen fruit. In fact, corn syrup recently overtook sugar itself as America’s most popular sweetener.
Corn syrup is a blend of fructose and glucose, while refined sugar is made of the larger molecule sucrose. Recent research suggests that fructose may be handled differently in the body than other sugars. “It appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation,” Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, told the Washington Post. “Fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion. It doesn’t increase leptin production (a hormone that helps regulate appetite and fat storage) or suppress production of ghrelin (which helps regulate food intake). That suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain.”
Partly because they are also sweeter than sugar pound for pound, a number of artificial sweeteners have been on the U.S. market for years, and are ubiquitous in such foods as diet soda and “sugar-free” candy. Perhaps echoing the sentiment of many environmentalists, Nestle cautions, “I don’t like artificial sweeteners because I do not like artificial anything when it comes to food.” Observers have also questioned whether the widespread adoption of artificial sweeteners has made much of a dent in the ever-growing American waistline.
Less popular than it once was, saccharin (often known as Sweet ‘N Low) has long raised red flags among food safety scientists after it was definitively linked to bladder cancer in male rats. The industry denies those studies have any application to human beings, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) points out, “In some studies, saccharin has caused bladder cancer in mice and in female rats and other cancers in both rats and mice.”
The group also suggests staying clear of the German-made sweetener acesulfame-k, which it says has been linked to cancer and other ailments in lab animals. Safety tests of the chemical, conducted in the 1970s, were of “mediocre quality,” reports CSPI.
The sugar substitute aspartame, known as NutraSweet, Equal and Spoonful, accounts for 75 percent of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. In recent years, aspartame has been at the center of an Internet firestorm, in which various advocacy websites have linked it to cancer, ADD, autism, Parkinson’s disease and other problems. CSPI cautions, “Most such claims are not supported by studies.” However, the group does point out that a 2005 study found that “even low doses of aspartame increased the incidence of lymphomas and leukemia in female rats and also might have caused occasional brain tumors.”
A relatively new sweetener on the block is British-made Splenda, which was first approved in the U.S. in 1998. Splenda is the trade name of the patented sweetener sucralose, which is marketed solely by Johnson and Johnson subsidiary McNeil Nutritionals.
When it was first introduced, sucralose sparked considerable consumer excitement, because it is extremely low in calories. Sucralose is now appearing in everything from baked goods to sweetener packets, and makes up about 50 percent of the U.S. sugar substitute market, according to the Associated Press.
However, Splenda’s success hasn’t been entirely sweet. Lawsuits have been filed in several states against McNeil Nutritionals on behalf of the sugar industry, which claims the company misrepresents Splenda with its slogan “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar.” In fact, Splenda is made in a patented, highly industrial process that adds chlorine atoms to sucrose. McNeil countersued, claiming the sugar industry is waging a “malicious smear campaign”—including promotion of the slick Truth About Splenda website—by trying to convince consumers that Splenda is “unhealthy or unsafe” and that they “would be better off consuming refined sugar.”
Jim Murphy, a Sugar Association lawyer, told the Associated Press, “I think one of the concerns is that there really have been no long-term studies that resolve whether or not consumption of Splenda is healthy.” Echoing this concern, natural products retailer Whole Foods moved to ban sucralose from its stores on the basis that there aren’t enough studies to prove that it is safe and the fact that it requires heavy industrial processing.
The good news is a number of more natural alternatives are becoming widely available to help people enjoy their food without risking their health (see “How Sweet It Isn’t,” Eating Right, November/December 2003). Better choices include maple syrup, honey and date sugar, which at least provide some nutrients in the form of vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and minerals, even though their sugar content is very similar to regular sucrose.
Agave nectar absorbs more slowly into the bloodstream than traditional sugar, making it less likely to result in an energy “crash” after consumption. Natural birch sugar, called xylitol, packs fewer calories than cane or beet-based sugar. Some nutrients are also found in Sucanat, a brand name for organically grown, dehydrated cane juice.
BRIAN C. HOWARD is managing editor of E.
Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 332-9110
Tel: (301) 827-5006
Mar 10, 2006 10:43am
Jan 13, 2006
Animal Liberation: Do the Beasts Really Benefit?
Are You a Speciesist?
"When it comes to feelings, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."(1) That is the moral bottom line for Ingrid Newkirk, founder and director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA). I intend to discuss in these pages the contentious issue of animal rights; yet for Ms. Newkirk the issue is settled: a boy has no more (and no less) rights than a rat.
Almost every week there is a story in the media about a research project stopped by an animal rights group, a protest against women wearing furs, a laboratory bombed by a militant animal rights activist, or a media figure protesting the conditions of animals on factory farms. What are all these protests about, and how should a Bible-believing Christian approach these issues? That is our subject in this pamphlet.
In 1975 Australian Peter Singer wrote a book whose title was to become the banner of a new movement: Animal Liberation. This book laid the foundation for most of the discussion since 1975, but it also set the tone of that discussion as specifically anti-Christian. Singer is quite clear about his distaste for Christianity: "It can no longer be maintained by anyone but a religious fanatic that man is the special darling of the universe, or that animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them."(2)
By using the echoes of specific passages from the Bible and claiming that only a "religious fanatic" could still believe them, Singer is making clear not only that his view is not based on anything resembling a biblical world view, but that, in fact, the Bible is the root of much of the problem.
It was Peter Singer's book that also made popular the rather ponderous term "speciesism." He writes of this as, "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species."(3) Singer says speciesism is just as bad as sexism or racism.
So what does "speciesism" really mean? If you think it's acceptable to test a medicine on laboratory animals before giving that medicine to a sick child or a cancer patient fighting for life, then you, too, are a speciesist. If you believe it is all right to eat meat or fish or shrimp, you are clearly a speciesist, just as guilty as someone who thinks that slavery is an acceptable way to treat another human being, according to Singer and others in the animal rights movement.
Why should Christians even bother to think about issues like animal rights when people are not even treated as well as animals in places like Bosnia or Iraq or many inner cities? Christians need to be actively involved in speaking out and acting clearly on this issue because the very definitions of humanity, of human dignity, and human responsibility are being rapidly reconstructed and any hint of man as created in the image of God or of a God who creates and gives value is seen as "speciesist" and dangerous.
Are We the Creation's Keeper?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.... They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. That's how God describes His coming kingdom in Isaiah 11.
Clearly God is concerned for all the animals He has created, and they will share a future, a non-violent future, with us. But what of today? How does God intend us to treat animals now?
The animal liberation movement opposes favoring humans over other animals. "Speciesism," they say, is treating humans as if they were more valuable than other animals. What does the Bible say?
God, in Genesis, tells us we have a responsibility as stewards to care for His creation. We are God's representatives on earth, but we are not Lords of the earth. In Proverbs Solomon says that "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal" (Prov. 12:10). It is a mark of righteousness that we give animals the care they need. But at the same time we must understand that both we and the rest of creation have value because a sovereign God created us and gave us value because He cares about us. Our value comes from God and not ourselves.
Our concern for animals does not mean we should give up the Bible's insistence that we are unique in all of God's creation because we bear His image, or that we should immediately eliminate all use of animals for any purpose and live resolutely vegetarian lives. What place, then, should animals have? In Matthew 12:11-12 Jesus berates the Pharisees' willingness to help an animal on the Sabbath but not a human.
If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
Jesus' point is clear: we should have compassion on animals in trouble, but have even more compassion for human beings, because they are "much more valuable" than sheep! But Christians sometimes show little compassion for either.
As Christians we have often not lived up to our responsibilities to animals as creations of God. Frequently we have acted as if all animals are here only for our use, to do with whatever we wanted. We have taken God's statement in Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth," as giving us the right of despots, not the responsibilities of stewards. As Christians we have not set an example for the world of valuing the rest of creation because it belongs to God, and we have often abused the creation with no sense of damaging a creation that is not our own.
Next, we will look at what happens when people who deny God try to find an adequate basis on which to build value for themselves or animals, and how far into dangerous territory this can lead them.
From Animal Rights to Abortion: A Small Step from Man to Animal
"Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."(4) This is how Ms. Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sums up her outrage at the killing of animals. What happens when well- meaning people try to give animals value without God? Ms. Newkirk may think she has improved our view of chickens by comparing them to Jews who were killed in concentration camps. But actually she only trivializes one of the most brutish examples of evil in our century. In her view numbers are everything; if more chickens than people were killed, then poultry farming is worse than Nazi Germany.
What is the foundation of Ms. Newkirk's sense of value? She speaks of Peter Singer's book, Animal Liberation, as "the Bible of the animal-rights movement." Singer develops a purely utilitarian view of the greatest good for the greatest number of beings that can experience pain. For Singer there can be no God over creation. He almost sarcastically says: "The Bible tells us that God made man in His own image. We may regard this as man making God in his own image."(5) So Singer turns to evolution to consider how we are related to other creatures.
Singer believes the evolutionary history of humans and other animals, particularly mammals, makes our central nervous system and theirs very similar. His conclusion? That many animals must feel pain like we do. Since we have no basis, in his view, to see humans as any different from other animals, if it is bad to do something to another pain-feeling human being, then it is wrong to do it to any other pain-feeling animal. The logic is simple, but it leads to just the kinds of confusion that cannot separate Jews dying in gas ovens from chickens dying in processing plants.
Where does a view like this ultimately lead? Singer willingly points the way in its application to new-born children. Writing for physicians in the journal Pediatrics, he shows how his ethic applies to humans,
Once the religious mumbo jumbo surrounding the term "human" has been stripped away...we will not regard as sacrosanct the life of each and every member of our species, no matter how limited its capacity for intelligent or even conscious life may be.(6)
With chilling clarity, Singer says that once we come to his position of valuing a life only if it meets certain requirements, it is much easier to take the life, not only of the unborn, but of those who have a "low quality of life." He argues for the right to take the lives of new-born children who do not have certain capacities for "intelligent or even conscious life." Singer concludes:
If we can put aside the obsolete and erroneous notion of the sanctity of all human life,...it will be possible to approach these difficult decisions of life and death with the ethical sensitivity that each case demands, rather than with a blindness to individual differences.7
In other words, if a baby does not measure up to Singer's standards, it is not kept alive. The values of animal rights, applied to people, lead coldly to abortion and euthanasia.
While there are many areas where Christians might disagree with the animal rights movement, one might well ask, Have we Christians lived up to the responsibilities God gave us towards animals?
Are Farm Animals Just Machines?
After the Flood, God tells Noah: "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." God also makes a covenant, not only with Noah, but "with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth" (Gen. 9:3, 10).
So, while there is no question that God has given us permission to eat meat, we must also remember that we are moving towards a kingdom in which, as we saw in Isaiah 11, all of creation will live at peace with one another. So what should we be doing now, as we await perfection?
We have already looked at problems with the animal rights position. On the other hand, there are some uses of animals that should cause Christians significant concern.
One of the great changes in Western economies has been the change from the small family farm to the huge "agribusiness." With this change has come not only increased production and lower food prices, but the treatment of animals as machines and land as a commodity. One area where animal rights activists have done commendable work is in showing the appalling conditions under which most farm animals now live.
Chickens live in battery cages that, on average, allow them only 36 to 48 square inches. This means that two chickens live in less space than a page of paper. Generally four or five chickens share a cage, so that they must almost physically live on top of each other. Does this sound like what Solomon means when he said that "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal"?
As one other example, pigs too are treated as machines to produce food. The United States Department of Agriculture tells farmers: "If the sow is considered a pig manufacturing unit, then improved management...will result in more pigs weaned per sow per year." This is surely not man acting as a good steward of created beings that belong to God. The decline of any belief in God has been accompanied by a decline in any attempt to treat animals on farms as anything other than "manufacturing units" to be treated in whatever way will cause them to produce the most.
If we truly believe what the Psalmist says, that "The earth is the LORD's and all it contains" (Ps. 24:1), then we must not accept how those who do not believe this have acted. While we are directly given permission in Scripture to eat meat, it might well make a great difference in how animals are treated if Christians choose not to buy from those meat producers who do not tend to their animals as if they really did belong to God.
In the same way that if we believe in the sanctity of human life we must stand against abortion, so too, if we believe that "the earth is the LORD's" then we must consider whether we can support those who do not treat animals as animals but only as "manufacturing units."
I want to conclude this discussion with some suggestions about how we can both uphold the uniqueness of humans and stand against the mistreatment of God's creation.
Recovering the Creation as Compassionate Stewards
I have pointed out the disturbing consequences of abandoning the biblical view that humans are created in the image of God. As theologian and social critic Richard John Neuhaus perceptively puts it: "The campaign against `speciesism' is a campaign against the singularity of human dignity and, therefore, of human responsibility.... The hope for a more humane world, including the more humane treatment of animals, is premised upon what [animal rights activists] deny."(8)
If we are merely animals, we have no reason to be less species- ist than other animals. Dogs show no concern for the welfare of cats. If we are moral in a way that other animals cannot be, then we are both different from other animals and responsible to God for that difference. Because we have a spiritual aspect that no other animal shares, what the Bible calls the "image of God," we also have a responsibility to care for what God has entrusted to us. How should we live out that responsibility?
First, we must live in obedience to Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who reminded us that God clothes even the grass as an example of His care for all His creation. We need to demonstrate in our actions and in how we teach our children that we, too, consider all of God's creation as something that shows His glory.
Secondly, we must consider what our own role is as God's stewards. Just as not all are called to give their lives in vocational missionary service, so, too, not all are called to be full-time activists for better treatment of God's creation. But we are all called to be missionaries, and we are all called to be stewards and not spoilers of the natural world.
Medical research and experiments on animals provide an excellent place for Christians to be proactive. Animals must be humanely treated, but at the same time we have much to learn about the treatment of cancer, diseases of the nervous system, and the management of serious injuries from animal experiments. If a cure for AIDS or any one of a number of genetic diseases is to be found, it should first be tested on animals. However, just as on farms, we have a duty as stewards to see that animals are treated with the respect due them as part of God's creation. Like Jesus, who regarded helping the sheep out of the well as more important than keeping the Sabbath, so too we must speak out strongly for the humane treatment of animals whenever they are used by humans.
We have been given the right and the responsibility to rule over the earth by its Owner, God. Once Christians led in this area, starting the whole movement for the humane treatment of animals. Now we have little to say to our culture about real stewardship. We must read our Bibles carefully and prayerfully consider how God would have us help recover His creation. Animals may not have rights, but we as Christians clearly have responsibilities to them.
As Christians we must stand for man as created in the image of God and His creation as a reflection of His glory. Let us say with the Psalmist: "How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps. 104:24).
© 1994 Probe Ministries
1. Ingrid Newkirk cited in Charles Oliver, "Liberation Zoology," Reason (June 1990), p. 22.
2. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Avon Books, 1975), p. 215.
3. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, new revised ed. (New York: Avon Books, 1990) p. 6.
4. "Liberation Zoology," p. 26.
5. Animal Liberation, new rev. ed., p. 187.
6. Peter Singer, "Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life," Pediatrics (July 1983), pp. 128-29. (Cited in Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster.)
8. Richard John Neuhaus, "Animal Lib," Christianity Today, 18 June 1990, p. 20.
About the Author Rich Milne is a former research associate with Probe Ministries. He has a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rich works in the area of the philosophy and history of science, focusing in particular on the origin of the universe and the origin of life, and the history and philosophy of art. He and his wife, Becky, are currently on staff with East-West Ministries in Dallas, Texas. He can be reached via e-mail at @eastwestministries.org.
Dec 25, 2005
DO YOU KNOW WHERE FOOD COMES FROM?
Dec 19 - When Chef Gordon Ramsey slaughtered Christmas turkeys live on TV all hell broke loose. But why are we squeamish about reality asks Jane Plunkett?
First Jamie Oliver did it and people were shocked. Last month, as part of a cooking programme following him around Italy in a camper van as he attempted to rediscover his love of food, Oliver was shown on TV slitting a lamb's throat while it[sic] was still conscious.
Now fellow chef Gordon Ramsey has caused all manner of upset on his TV show by electrocuting six turkeys that he reared in his back garden. The birds, which[sic] were named after various celebrity chefs were killed by a 600-volt stun gun put in their mouths - which incidentally adheres to RSPCA guidelines.
So just why do people get so upset at seeing the reality of how an animal[sic], which[sic] they're perfectly happy to eat, got there in the first place. Some critics believe it's symptomatic of the cosetted, unreal lifestyles we live in the modern era.
"We have become too industrialised," says Nills El Accad, owner of organic foods and cafÈ, Dubai.
"We are not used to seeing animals[sic] get killed, and not only that some people don't even know what some animals[sic] that[sic] they eat even look like. People don't like to think about the process involved to get food on their plate.
They like to remain oblivious of the reality of how meat arrives on the table, they are happy to disassociate the lamb chop on a supermarket shelf from the real animal[sic]. They prefer the out of sight out of mind idea."
Funnily enough, these squeamish meat eaters also have a skewed perspective when it comes to animal[sic] and then human welfare.
They are up in arms and sickened over an animal[sic] being slaughtered on TV, but they will often not even blink an eye lid when viewing dead human bodies - shot not for food but for hate - on the six o'clock news.
Animal rights[sic] campaigners on the other hand were delighted with the show, which highlighted for them where food comes from and the pain animals[sic] go through to become food.
The UK channel that aired the Gordon Ramsey Turkey slaughter episode, did air a warning about the slaughter before the programme, but the programme did however air at 8pm, an hour before the 9pm watershed.
Public upset directed at the fact that children may have been vulnerable to witnessing the gruesome turkey executions is understandable.
Images of dying turkeys squealing and flapping frantically, with their necks split and blood draining into a small plastic bag over their heads is definitely not an image guaranteed to give children a peaceful nights sleep.
Young children do not understand why the turkey is being killed and it could upset them a lot. Even Gordon Ramsey himself admitted having "second thoughts" about killing the turkeys, because he was worried his[sic] four young children would not be able to cope with their deaths.
And others in the food industry question whether or not a celebrity chef should be getting involved in any way in what is basically a buthcery job. French executive chef Patrick Lannes, at Le Royal Meridian and Grovsner House, Dubai, says he does not agree with the killings.
"A chef's job is to give an appetite to his guests by presenting them with colourful and tasty dishes," says Lannes.
"There is nothing more mouth watering and beautiful than the look and smell of a roast dinner, but nobody wants to be getting flashbacks at the table of how the roast ended up on the plate.
"Animals[sic] have to be killed to be eaten, but this is done nowadays through exact standards in the slaughter house. In my opinion a cook is a cook. A hunter is a hunter and a butcher is a butcher. Stick to what you do best."
Lannes has been cooking up a storm in the kitchens for 41 years and apart from slaughtering animals[sic] on cookery programmes, Lannes is otherwise disillusioned with trendy and modern celebrity chefs.
"I think these new trendy chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey have missed the notion of what it is to be a chef," says Lannes. "A hat and an apron are the basic tools of a chef, but these guys don't even wear them. This I find disrespectful and it upsets me."
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