Is Carrboro Making Progress in Protecting the Environment?

In an earlier post, we examined the fact that the Carrboro Climate and Energy Task Force had effectively ignored Mayor Lydia Lavelle’s June 2015 recommendation that the Community Climate Action Plan include “an initiative to encourage eating less meat and more foods that don’t emit greenhouse gasses.”

Tonight, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen will consider a revised draft of the Community Climate Action Plan. The good news is that the deer cull is off the table for now, replaced by a recommendation to study “deer herbivory” and climate change and its effects on the ecosystem.

Still absent, however, is the Mayor’s suggested initiative. While we couldn’t find any other local governments who had tried to hide a deer cull in a climate action plan, we did find several other local and global organizations who tried to promote more environmentally friendly food choices.

As far back as 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, entitled Livestock’s long shadow warned: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.”

In 2008, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio took the progressive, visionary action of including the FAO recommendations in their Climate Protection Action Plan. They even came up with models that would produce specific outcomes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most notable was the conclusion of their entire plan: “Food for thought – You can change your light bulbs, buy a hybrid car and plant more trees till the cows come home, but nothing is as effective, available, inexpensive, quick, powerful for the individual in affecting global warming as the choice of where to stick your fork. Former Sierra Club director and Greenpeace cofounder, Paul Watson, crunched the numbers and declared a vegan driving a Hummer does less planetary greenhouse damage than a meateater riding a bicycle.”

In 2010, the city of Eugene, Oregon followed suit with their Community Climate and Energy Action Plan, which recommended, among other things: “Reduce consumption of carbon-intensive foods. Growing evidence shows that the kind of food we eat makes a significant difference in the associated GHG emissions. The facts and choices are not always intuitive and it is important that education and outreach programs are developed to inform the community about the importance of food choice as a strategy to reduce GHG emissions…Specifically encourage reduced consumption of red meat and dairy products and other carbon-intensive foods. Implement a ‘Buy climate-friendly first’ food purchasing policy for public institutions including city and county governments, schools, and hospitals.”

In 2013, the city of Santa Monica, California joined in with their Climate Action Plan, which declared, “Eating locally produced, fresh food, and choosing grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of meat, has the dual benefits of lowering greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production and improving health. Santa Monica is committed to supporting sustainable, local, and organic food through its own purchasing, and by helping to make sustainable food more accessible to its residents. The City can reduce carbon emissions from food by promoting its four thriving Farmers Markets and limiting municipal purchasing of meat and dairy products.”

In June 2015, the Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan warned that “On a per calorie basis, consumption of red meat results in three times the carbon emissions of cheese, nearly six times the emissions of chicken, fish, and eggs, and more than twenty times that of many grains and vegetables.”

So why aren’t more policy makers talking about this important issue? In October 2015, an article published in the Georgetown Environmental Law Review Online, entitled “A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It” briefly discussed two points: “(1) animal agriculture is a leading cause of many major environmental problems we face globally and domestically—most importantly, climate change; and (2) animal agriculture is too often left out of the policy discussion.”

The following month, the London-based policy institute Chatham House, issued a research paper entitled Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat, which recommended, among other things, that: “Governments must lead. Our research found a general belief across cultures and continents that it is the role of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat. Governments overestimate the risk of public backlash and their inaction signals to publics that the issue is unimportant or undeserving of concern.”

As recently as March 16, 2016, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers concluded that “Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050.”

We hope that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen will continue to protect our local wildlife and all of the inhabitants of this planet by adopting Mayor Lavelle’s recommendation for environmentally friendly food choices.

 

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Will Carrboro Do the Right Thing?

On January 19th, 2016, Lindsey Paydon delivered our petition to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen at their regular meeting.

Alderwoman Jacqueline Gist questioned whether we really have a deer overpopulation problem. “The proof we have is only anecdotal,” she said.

Alderwoman Michelle Johnson agreed that bow hunting is violent. She added, “I think that if… it’s not safe…it’s not going to happen. And I would like that answer first, before we enter into another discussion about the data, because maybe we don’t have to go there with the data, if the police chief could just let us know. Because at one time, a different police chief did suggest that it was not going to be city-safe for culling to happen in Carrboro because of the density. And you’re right, the deer do not die immediately, and none of us want a half-dead deer running around downtown, right? That’s traumatic for deer and people.”

Alderwoman Bethany Chaney was concerned about “hiding a deer culling program in a Climate Change Action Plan.” She mentioned “folks that would sort of like to have something happen to the deer population because of other things, not because of climate change.” She went on to say that “all of the recommendations in the Climate Change Action Plan ought to be based on some recognized values that we have as a community. And I’d like to propose that one of them needs to be a recognition that climate change is in fact human driven, and that we solve a problem by correcting human behavior, not by correcting the natural world around us.”

Alderman Sammy Slade agreed that the deer cull needed to be assessed as to “whether it’s appropriate to even include in the Climate Change Task Force given its significance in relation to climate change specifically.” He later reiterated, “If we pulled out this specific recommendation, which is very specific to deer hunting, which we could do, because we may find that it doesn’t make a strong connection to climate change, it would mean that it wouldn’t be in the Climate Change Task Force at all.”

Mayor Lydia Lavelle repeatedly referred to the staff review process that was in progress, and that they were waiting for staff’s recommendation about all the recommendations in the plan.

Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, although she has previously responded to our correspondence: “I am with you. You don’t need to convince me.”

Alderman Damon Seils was also absent from Tuesday’s meeting. We have not received any correspondence from him regarding his position on this matter.

It appears that the safety of deer and humans in Carrboro now rests in the hands of Police Chief Walter Horton.

Are Our Dietary Habits the Real Inconvenient Truth?

This is the 18th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Until this point, we’ve been discussing what’s in the Community Climate Action Plan that shouldn’t be, namely, the deer killing plan.

Is there anything that the task force should have considered that they didn’t?

On June 23, 2015, the Energy and Climate Protection Task Force presented a draft version of the Community Climate Action Plan to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and asked for their feedback. Mayor Lydia Lavelle suggested an initiative to encourage eating less meat and more foods that don’t emit greenhouse gasses.

The Mayor is wise. According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. And according to a 2009 report by the Worldwatch Institute, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

At that same meeting, Alderman Sammy Slade expressed the desire to align the climate action plan with social justice issues. We wonder if he knows that perhaps the most pressing social justice issue of our time is the fact that “82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals that are then killed and eaten by more well off individuals in developed countries like the US, UK, and in Europe.

The Task Force ultimately gave lip service to the Mayor’s suggestions in Community Integration Recommendation #1: Create Grass Roots Partnerships to Engage Community. Within that recommendation, under the heading Implementation Opportunities, we find: “Many local and other groups are involved in environmental outreach and/or climate action. These include but are not limited to…Meatless Monday Communities…Carrboro can adapt and use programs with proven track records for community engagement.

According to the Triangle Meatless Monday web site, “Meatless Monday is an international non-profit initiative established to encourage healthier and more sustainable eating, one step at a time.

“Triangle Meatless Monday (TMM) is our local version of the initiative, inviting everyone to try meat-free dishes each Monday. To make it easier and more fun, we have invited Triangle area restaurants to participate by offering at least one vegan dish.”

Durham’s County Commissioners officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Monday” at their monthly board meeting on Monday, June 13th, 2011.

The Town of Chapel Hill passed a lamer version of the resolution by proclaiming September 2011 as “Meatless Monday” month.

And there, the “proven track record” of the Triangle “Meatless Mondays Communities” ends.

In his book, Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work (Langdon Street Press, 2013), Dr. Richard Oppenlander writes that 45% of the Earth’s landmass is now devoted to livestock, including land used for grazing and land on which plants used to feed livestock are grown.

For centuries, Earth’s forests have been cut down primarily to create more land for grazing cattle. Worldwide, 91 percent of all rainforest land deforested since 1970 is now used for grazing livestock, much of it for export from poorer nations to richer ones.

There is more than enough food to feed the world’s population today, and even enough to feed the nine billion people projected to be alive in 2050. But because half of the world’s grain is fed to livestock rather than directly to humans, many millions of people face starvation or food insecurity at the same time that resources are being depleted at an alarmingly unsustainable pace. At current rates of animal food consumption, we would need two Earths to feed everyone expected to be alive in 2030. As Oppenlander writes, we have the ability to feed everyone, now and in the future, but only if we change the types of foods we consume. As long as humans consume animals and their secretions, the problem is unsolvable.

Unfortunately, in current political and public policy debates, resistance to seriously examining the unsustainable impacts of animal agriculture is deeply entrenched. Oppenlander suggests that this may be because the meat-eating leaders of corporations, governments, and the environmental movement refuse to believe evidence that would require them to question their own dietary habits.

Eating locally grown plant food brings many health and environmental advantages. However, Oppenlander cautions, contrary to myth, even a 100% locally sourced diet that includes typical amounts of animal products uses more fossil fuel than a plant-based diet of foods trucked 1,500 miles. The reason is that transportation from farmer to retailer accounts for only 4 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in the entire food production process.

The Task Force’s recommended goal is “a 50% reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.” Perhaps they don’t realize that we could reach that goal almost overnight by eliminating animal flesh and secretions from our diets. A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover.

Can Naturalized Landscaping and Deer Coexist?

This is the 17th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 17: “Encourage naturalized landscaping instead of manicured lawns. These types of landscapes offer critical wildlife habitat, cause a decline in the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, more effectively capture stormwater runoff, and reduce the heat island effect.” [page 47]

Encouraging naturalized landscaping instead of manicured lawns is an excellent suggestion. Many of the plants that cause the most complaints regarding deer damage, including tulips, hostas, and azaleas, are not native to the southeastern United States and should be avoided in naturalized landscaping. There are other plants, including American holly and southern magnolia, that are both native to our area and tend to be avoided by deer. There’s a helpful list here.

As for the native species that deer love, plant them behind tall fences so that they can thrive. Ditto with your vegetable garden.

 

Tell the Carrboro Board of Aldermen: Remove the deer-killing program from the Carrboro Community Climate Action Plan

Sign the petition now.

We respectfully ask that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen remove Ecosystem Recommendation #2, the deer-killing program, from the Community Climate Action Plan.

The Carrboro Energy and Climate Protection Task Force released its Community Climate Action Plan on November 4, 2015, which was presented to the Board of Aldermen on November 10, 2015.  Among their many recommendations, the Task Force presented “Ecosystem Recommendation #2: Pursue Deer Herd Management…through culling.”

“Excess deer” (whatever that means) are not the primary cause of decreasing plant diversity and spreading of exotic species.According to a review in the journal Science, “For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration.” In other words, humans are the primary cause of a decrease in plant diversity and the spreading of exotic species.

The Task Force has failed to prove that Carrboro is an area with deer overpopulation, or that such overpopulation is the cause of the spread of exotic species. Deer and other large wild animals rarely exceed their biological carrying capacity. If there is not enough food available to support the population, the weaker individuals will die and the does will absorb some embryos and fewer fawns will be born in the spring. Further, humans, not deer, are making the purchasing and planting decisions that are the major reason for the spread of invasive species.

Wildlife management is code for recreational hunting. According to In Defense of Animals, “Wildlife management, population control and wildlife conservation are euphemisms for killing–hunting, trapping and fishing for fun. A percentage of the wild animal population is specifically mandated to be killed. Hunters want us to believe that killing animals equals population control equals conservation, when in fact hunting causes overpopulation of deer, the hunters’ preferred victim species, destroys animal families, and leads to ecological disruption as well as skewed population dynamics.”

Deer killing does not reduce deer population. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Deer kills do not keep deer numbers down. Deer are highly prolific, and their high reproductive rate can quickly compensate for declines in their population. When deer numbers are reduced after killing programs, the remaining female deer will often respond to greater food abundance by giving birth to twins or triplets. Fawns also have higher survival rates and earlier onset of sexual maturity. The end result is a quick ‘bounce-back’ in numbers.”

The deer-killing program in neighboring Chapel Hill has failed to reduce the deer population there, even after 60 deer were killed over 5 years. In fact, it’s likely that there are now more deer in Chapel Hill.

Deer hunting is cruel. According to In Defense of Animals, “Bow hunting is, next to trapping, the cruelest way of killing animals. A report summarizing 24 studies of bow hunting demonstrated that there is little chance that deer die instantly when struck, but more typically bow hunters take an average of 14 shots (!) to kill an animal, and there is a 54% wounding and crippling rate. For every deer killed and dragged out of the woods, another one is wounded and runs off only to die hours, days or even weeks later, all the while in pain, defenseless against further attacks by natural predators.”

Carrboro has rejected two other deer-killing proposals as unsafe and unsuitable for a densely populated urban area. According to the organization Safe Backyards, “While it is true that accidents with bows and arrows are less common than other forms of hunting, they do happen… Most go unreported, as people remove errant arrows from their yards, homes, garages, etc., without notifying the authorities. There are also deliberate killings with bows and arrows. It’s the prosecutions of these crimes that are rare.”

The NC Wildlife Commission has no interest in reducing deer populations in Carrboro or anywhere else. Their mission is to “provide programs and opportunities that allow hunters, anglers, boaters; other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy wildlife-associated recreation.” In other words, they exist to provide humans the opportunity to kill for fun.

Submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season abdicates control to the state. The recommendation “that the Town consider submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season program of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission” is particularly troublesome, as this “letter of intent” ruse was exactly how the neighboring town of Chapel Hill was duped into implementing a deer killing program without the express consent of the Council, and before the public had a chance to address the issue.

Killing deer does not improve the health of the herd. “Improved health” when applied to free-living animals is hunter-speak for improved fertility. It creates more animals, not fewer, which is exactly the opposite of the stated goal of the task force.

Killing deer does not decrease deer-vehicle collisions. According to Erie Insurance Company, the number of deer-vehicle collisions actually rises “nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season.” And according to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year.”

For more information and references, please visit Friends of North Carolina Wildlife.

Bow hunters make up only 1.4% of the population of the United States (94% of all hunters are white, and 84% of bow hunters are men). We suspect that the number in Carrboro is even lower. Carrboro is a town that values peace, justice, and non-violence. We ask that the Board of Aldermen consider these values and remove this violent, unjust recommendation from the Community Climate Action Plan.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

Sign the petition now.

How Can We Know Where We’re Going, If We Don’t Know Where We Are?

This is the 16th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 16: “Evaluation Criteria • Number of deer culled and reduction of deer per square mile. • Improved health of deer population. • Reduction in number of deer-vehicle collisions. • Return of forest understory (increase in native flora, decrease in exotic species, and increase in plant and animal biodiversity). Reduced loss of crops, gardens, and planted ornamentals.” [page 44]

What is the current number of deer per square mile in Carrboro? Nobody knows? Then how is it possible to evaluate a program based on reduction of deer per square mile, if we don’t know the number we’re starting with, and we don’t have any plans to determine the number we end up with? The only number that might be known at the end of this program is the number of deer killed, and that number means nothing in terms of the goals of the Energy and Climate Protection Task Force.

What is the current health of the deer population, and how was that measured? How will the future health of the deer population be measured? As we’ve already established, deer population health is hunter-speak for deer fertility, the opposite of the stated goals of the task force.

What is the current annual number of deer-vehicle collisions? What was the number of deer-vehicle collisions in Chapel Hill in 2010? What was the number of deer-vehicle collisions in Chapel Hill in 2015? Wouldn’t a better metric for an Energy and Climate Protection Task Force be reduction of vehicles per square mile? As we’ve already established, deer killing does not decrease deer-vehicle collisions.

What if there is no return of forest understory, increase in biodiversity, or decrease in exotic species in five years? Will it have been worth it to kill 60 deer in five years, as Chapel Hill has done, with no benefit to the forest to show for it? As we’ve already established, deer killing does not keep deer numbers down. If, by some miracle, Carrboro was able to eradicate the entire deer population, year after year, what if the forest understory and biodiversity are adversely affected, as many studies have shown? Will the genocide experiment have been worth it?

Are there nonviolent ways to protect crops, gardens, and planted ornamentals in Carrboro? Of course there are, and thoughtful, compassionate people have successfully used those methods all over town.

In the end, a deer killing program in Carrboro will be a failure, just as the deer killing program in Chapel Hill has been a failure, because deer killing programs do not reduce the deer population.

When is Urban Archery Season in North Carolina?

This is the 15th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 15: “Urban archery season is in the fall. A decision could be made as to whether to look into for the fall of 2016 or 2017.” [page 43]

Um, no. Urban Archery season is in the winter. The 2016 season runs from January 9 through February 13. Obviously, the Task Force has not researched this issue very well.

At the November 1, 2011 Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, one of the out-of-town bow-hunters who showed up lamented that the Urban Archery season was in the winter, when the leaves were off the trees, and “deer aren’t stupid.” They avoid the hunters when they can. The regular season is much better, in the fall, when you can hide in the leaves and tell the bucks from the does and kill more bucks, which leaves more does to produce more fawns. Oh, also, in the regular season, you can use firearms, which are much more effective (deadly).

So, in the end, the Urban Archery program is just a training ground for more urban people to buy more archery equipment, and eventually, more guns.