All of the recent stories on the coming shortages in water seem to have overlooked
a key point – there are enormous amounts of recoverable water that go wasted
every year. A more rational, market-based system for water distribution would
go along way toward relieving water shortages by boosting efficiency and encouraging
recovery of wasted water.
India appears to be finally catching on to this. A recent Associated Press
story on India’s water storage notes that much of the country’s water reclamation
efforts are poorly managed. The Indian government spent billions of rupees setting
up 14 desalination plants in Ramanathpuram, for example. Today only one of those
plants is still operational; the rest have all failed due to poor maintenance
by government workers.
Similarly although many parts of India receive up to 38 inches of rainfall
annually, only 10 to 20 percent of it is actually captured – the rest washes
out to sea. Again, although there are literally thousands of tanks and water
reservoirs dotting the landscape of southern India, they are poorly maintained.
The New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment estimates that merely
capturing the rainwater and runoff on 2 percent of India’s land area could supply
26 gallons of water per person.
India is taking an important step in starting to maintain and rebuild its
water capture and desalination facilities, but an important complement must
be market prices that give individuals and companies incentives to spend the
time and money to capture and use water efficiently.
India’s farmers tap into demand for water. Neelesh Misra, Associated Press,
March 8, 1999.
Low prices for agricultural goods could continue through the year 2000, leaving
many US politicians urging a return to broad subsidies through crop and farm
insurance. According to Keith Collins, an economist with the US Department of
Agriculture, a rebound in the Asian economies is two to four years off, and
until that recovery takes place foreign demand for US agricultural products
will be weak.
And that’s got Congress ready to jump back on the subsidy wagon. After the
1996 Freedom to Farm Act, it appeared that US subsidies for farms might be on
their way out, but now Democrats and Republicans from farm states seem willing
to resurrect the system of subsidies through the back door of crop insurance.
Crop insurance compensates farmers if commodity prices fall below a certain
level. But because crop insurance encourages farmers to plant more than they
normally would, it also tends to result in larger than average crops and as
a result a greater risk of extremely low prices. In effect rather than a typical
insurance scheme, this is a roundabout way of setting a price floor on agricultural
The US would be better off getting the government out of the crop insurance
No quick fix seen for struggling farm economy. Joe Ruff, Associated Press,
Feb. 16, 1999.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is asking the federal government to remove the dairy
requirement from the food pyramid because large numbers of minorities
are lactose intolerant. PCRM is getting support for its efforts from Rev.
Jesse Jackson, former surgeon general Jocelyn Elders, and the Congressional
Black Caucus Health Braintrust.
The food pyramid recommends
two to three daily servings of dairy products. The PCRM recommendations
claims are a bit bizarre. First, although minorities are disproportionately
lactose intolerant, there are plenty of white folks that suffer from lactose
intolerance as well. I personally know about half a dozen people who are
not minorities and severely lactose intolerant – the kid next door vomits
rather violently if he eats cheese. One of my family members cannot drink
milk without getting sick and as a child I had similar, though milder,
problems with dairy products (even today although I can tolerate it, I
cannot stand milk). The food pyramid guidelines were never meant to be
universally applicable to everyone.
Second, most people suffering
from lactose intolerance generally have milder symptoms and often only
intermittently; only a small percentage suffer from the severe symptoms
PCRM is complaining about. But this doesn’t seem to phase PCRM’s |Neal
Barnard| who told the Sacramento Bee, “Milk shouldn’t be required.
It should be optional. It has health risks and takes a particular toll
on certain people.”
But that is also true of almost
any food. I cannot drink orange juice without experiencing stomach discomfort.
A friend of mine has to avoid sulfates or risk potentially fatal consequences.
Other people can’t eat peanuts. The list goes on and on. If the goal is
a food pyramid that takes into account any food that “takes a particular
toll on certain people” it is going to have to be as big as the real
pyramids in Egypt.
Besides as many dieticians
point out, PCRM’s recommendations aren’t likely to be all that more appealing
to people than dairy. Certainly people can get their recommended daily
allowance of calcium from broccoli or beans or even sardines, but as UC
Davis Medical Center dietitian Craig Petersen puts it, “very few
people will consume enough vegetables to get the calcium they need.”
Calling food pyramid biased, group fights dairy requirement. Stephanie McKinnon McDade, Sacramento Bee, March 17, 1999.
As Easter gets closer, many
newspapers and news services are covering People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals‘ “Jesus Was a Vegetarian”
campaign. PETA has been paying for billboards around the country proclaiming
“Jesus Was A Vegetarian” and garnering lots of controversy.
In addition PETA has sent letters seeking the support of Christian evangelists
including Jerry Falwell; no word on whether PETA might interest Falwell
in a “Tinky Winky Was a Vegetarian” campaign.
Thankfully there’s been a
lot of good comments coming from religious authorities. Sister Sylvia
Schmidt, executive director of the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, told the
Daily Oklahoman that “dumping guilt on people about eating or not
eating meat is not what Jesus is all about.”
Several people have attacked
the theological and historical claims of PETA’s Bruce Friedrich, who is
directing the campaign. One might sum up the consensus by saying “Bruce
Friedrich Isn’t a Historian.”
As Dave Henry, editorial page
writer for the Amarillo Globe-News, pointed out, one doesn’t have to be
a biblical scholar to read several positive references to fishing in the
New Testament. Friedrich apparently believes these are later interpolations
into the text. Similarly, the PETA web site on the matter claims the narrative
describing Jesus multiplying fish was a later interpolation by Greek scribes.
Without going into a long debate about Biblical scholarship, it should
be pointed out that this sort of textual criticism opens the New Testament
open to a lot more challenges than simply Jesus’ dietary habits.
PETA also makes a lot of hay
over the fact that Jesus is described eating on several occasions, including
the Last Supper which, by tradition, would have included lamb – and yet
the New Testament doesn’t give us complete menus for these meals. Which
is hardly remarkable – although I eat meat, I don’t always relate what
I have at every dinner in letters to friends. I would be especially loathe
to do so if I had to painstakingly transcribe by hand such menus
as the original authors and their copyists had to do with the New Testament.
L. Michael White, professor
of classics and director of religious studies at the University of Texas
at Austin, summed up the PETA’s campaign rather succinctly: “This
is just another cause making bad use of Scripture. I’d say to them: You
can’t make the Bible do that.”
“Jesus was a vegetarian” ad makes critics cross. Reuters, March 4, 1999.
In some good news on the animal
rights terrorism front, hunger striker-extraodinaire Barry Horne recently lost an
appeal of his conviction for a fire-bombing campaign in the United Kingdom.
Horne, 46, was sentenced in 1997 to an 18-year prison sentence for the
Horne’s fellow UK animal rights
activist and former spokesman Anthony Humphries was recently sentenced
to spend 7 years in jail for conspiracy to cause explosions and possession
of explosives. Humphries planned to firebomb drug firms that tested on
Closer to home, two Michigan
women were sentenced for their role in a raid on a Canadian mink farm.
The two women, Hilma Ruby and Patricia Dodson, plead guilty and were sentenced
to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $34,000 apiece in fines for releasing
1,540 mink from the farm. According to the Canadian Mink Breeders Association,
this marks the first time a Canadian court has handed animal rights activists
jail time for a raid on a fur farm.
Their only crime was compassion… Frontline Information Service, Press Release, March 18, 1999.
Two Jailed in Canada Mink Farm Raid. Associated Press, February 22, 1999.
Animal activist loses appeal. The BBC, February 26, 1999.
One of the shibboleths of the
animal rights movement is that eating meat is unhealthy and contributes
to diseases such as cancer. But a new report from the ongoing Nurses’
Health Study suggests at least some of those claims may not prove to be
Researchers compared the diet
of women in the study who didn’t have breast cancer with the almost 3,000
women in the study who did have breast cancer. What they found was surprising
– there was no association between consumption of fat and breast cancer.
In addition, researchers found that women who ate large proportions of animal
fat were at no greater risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t.
As the researchers summed
up their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
“Our research indicates it’s highly unlikely that women who consume
a low-fat diet are protected against breast cancer. Equally it appears
a high-fat diet also poses no increased risk for the disease.”
There are some limits to study,
though. It only looked at a 14-year time period, and the results of low
fat diets may require longer than 14 years to show any decreased risk.
In addition, the study didn’t look at women with extremely low fat intakes
of 10 percent or less of total calories.
There is one bright spot for
animal rights activists in the study, though – it does contradict results
of animal studies which found associations between high fat diets and
No link between dietary fat and breast cancer, study shows. Brenda Coleman, Associated Press, March 9, 1999.