Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

Kiera answers your green questions every week in her Econundrums column. She was a hypochondriac even before she started researching germ warfare.

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Kiera has written about the environment, arts and culture, and more for Columbia Journalism Review, Orion, Audubon, OnEarth, Plenty, and the Utne Reader. She lives in Berkeley and recently planted 30 onions in her backyard.

Lisa Jackson Leaves the EPA

| Thu Dec. 27, 2012 12:52 PM EST

EPA chief Lisa Jackson has stepped down after four years on the job. The NY Times puts her resignation in the context of what many perceive as a lack of climate-change action on the part of the Obama administration:

Ms. Jackson's departure comes as many in the environmental movement are questioning Mr. Obama's commitment to dealing with climate change and other environmental problems. After his re-election, and a campaign in which global warming was barely mentioned by either candidate, Mr. Obama said that his first priority would be jobs and the economy and that he intended only to foster a "conversation" on climate change in the coming months.

Here's Jackson's statement:

I want to thank President Obama for the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years ago this month when he announced my nomination as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time I spoke about the need to address climate change, but also said: "There is much more on the agenda: air pollution, toxic chemicals and children’s health issues, redevelopment and waste-site cleanup issues, and justice for the communities who bear disproportionate risk." As the President said earlier this year when he addressed EPA’s employees, "You help make sure the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are safe. You help protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving toward energy independence…We have made historic progress on all these fronts." So, I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference.

More at NY Times.

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Butterball's PR Staff Mysteriously Absent Pre-Thanksgiving

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 3:03 PM EST

A while back, the animal advocacy group Mercy For Animals turned up some alarming footage of workers at a Butterball facility kicking and throwing turkeys and hitting them with metal rods. MFA sent out a bunch of emails yesterday reminding reporters of that awful footage. I thought this might be a good opportunity to ask Butterball a few questions about its operations—including its reaction to MFA's allegations. So I sent the company a few questions, including: 

  • How many turkeys does Butterball sell every year?
  • How long does it take for an average Butterball turkey to reach slaughter age?
  • Are Butterball turkeys fed antibiotics? How about ractopamine (Topmax)? Any other growth enhancers?
  • How has Butterball responded to Mercy For Animals' allegations of abuse at factories?

I got an away message from the first spokeswoman I tried, so I forwarded it along to someone else. Here's what I got back:

I hope you're well today. I received your note below from my colleague, Bridget.
Unfortunately, resources who are appropriate to answer these questions are limited this week and are unavailable to respond by your deadline.

I wrote back:

Okay, but it does seem like this week of all weeks would be a crucial one for answering these questions! I'd really like to include Butterball's input if at all possible.

No dice. The spokeswoman responded:

Thanks, Kiera. Due to scheduling, we just won’t be able to make it work. Re: the MFA allegations, I can share with you the company statement if you’d like – let me know.

I wrote:

Okay. Can you at least tell me whether Butterball uses antibiotics, ractopamine, and/or other growth enhancers?

And...crickets. No company statement, no answers on growth-enhancers, nada. Mind you, this is the same company that runs a fully-staffed hotline to tell you how to cook your turkey. The company's website boasts that "No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them." 

Except, it seems, when it comes to the turkeys themselves.

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