Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

A senior editor at Mother Jones, Kiera covers health, food, and the environment. She is the author of the new book Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever (University of California Press).

 

Get my RSS |

"It Feels Weird To Shoot the Lady Zombie in the Boobs"

| Wed Feb. 2, 2011 6:00 AM EST

Read the Feral Pig Diaries: "Day 1: Moonshine and Teen Swine" is here; "Day 2: Do Hogs Like Supermarket Danishes" is here; and "Day 3: OK, but How Does Wild Hog Taste?" is here.

On Monday I dragged fellow MoJo staffers Mac McClelland and Adam Weinstein with me to our (sort of) local shooting range. What, you may ask, were some hippies like us doing in a place like this? Well, I needed to learn to shoot for an upcoming reporting trip. I'll explain that part in a second, but first, some pictures and a video clip of our afternoon:

 We piled into my car and drove out to Jackson Arms, a shooting range within spitting distance of San Francisco International Airport. (File this fun fact away for your next layover.) Once inside, Adam passed a quick test so we could rent a few guns and a rifle lane—novice shooters like me must be accompanied by at least one experienced marksman, house rules. I was the only novice in the crowd: Adam is a Navy veteran and grew up around guns, and Mac was a great marksman in college.

Adam showed me how to load, carry, and shoot the gun safely, then we headed into the rifle range. Above, Adam fires off a round on the AR-15. Doesn't he look cool? Both he and Mac were total badasses shooting this gun, which made a big noise and had quite a kick. In a moment that probably would have reminded my mother of the time when, at age five, I had to be carried out of the lightning show at the Boston Science Museum because it was too loud and scary, I declined to shoot the AR-15 and decided to stick to this gun instead:

Yes, this Ruger 1022 semiautomatic rifle is very one-if-by-land compared to the AR-15. At first I was aiming pretty well, hitting the evil clown target (see below) right between the eyes. But by my fourth round or so, my beginner's luck had worn off considerably. Also, I was freezing; the range was, for some reason, like a meat locker. Mac and I decided to go warm up in the lobby for a minute. I took out my granola bar and asked the guy behind the counter if it was okay to eat it, at which point Mac tweeted, "Kiera to attendant: 'Can I eat my granola bar in here?' #MotherJonesGoesToTheFiringRange!" Then, as I was eating my granola bar I noticed a sign about how you should always wash your hands after handling ammo, and I started worrying about whether hunters inadvertently give themselves lead poisoning. Like Mac said, #MotherJonesGoesToTheFiringRange!

 

The sheer variety of paper targets for sale at Jackson Arms really surpassed my expectations. We selected this evil clown, a man zombie, a lady zombie, and a few plain old bullseyes. While I had no qualms aiming for this clown's big red nose, Mac remarked, "It feels weird to shoot the lady zombie in the boobs." 

Unfortunately I don't have a video of Mac and Adam shooting, since my phone is the opposite of smart. But this one, which Adam took, shows me shooting and Mac sweeping up some bullet casings and generally looking cool.

Now back to the reason for the trip to the shooting range: Next week, I'm headed down to rural Georgia to work on a story about invasive species—specifiically, the idea that the best way to get rid of destructive non-native animals is to get people to eat them. Jackson Landers, a.k.a the Locavore Hunter, aims to whet American appetites for invasive species like lionfish, geese, deer, boar, and even spiny iguanas by working with wholesalers, chefs, and restaurateurs to promote these aliens as menu items. As Landers recently told the New York Times' James Gorman, "When human beings decide that something tastes good, we can take them down pretty quickly.”

I'll be accompanying Landers and a few of his friends on a hunt for invasive feral pigs, which have proliferated over the last decade in much of the southeastern US, competing with native species for food and wreaking havoc on farmlands with their rooting. They're particularly problematic in coastal areas, where they eat the eggs of endangered sea turtles. (A few years ago, Ian Frazier wrote an eloquent New Yorker piece about the hog population explosion; among his observations: "The presence of feral hogs in a state is a strong indicator of its support for Bush in '04.")

Let's be clear: I've never wanted to go hunting before. I come from a family that likes creatures the way other families like football. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad hustling me outside to listen to migrating Canada geese honking overhead. More recently, he has been known to imitate yipping coyotes, loudly and gleefully, at the dinner table. Needless to say, my father is not pleased about my upcoming pig trip. When I explained to him that we were hunting animals that didn't belong here and were forcing out native species, he countered: "Yeah, and immigrants are taking our jobs, too, isn't that right, Kiery?"

No doubt many of you guys agree with my dad, and you'll probably tell me so in the comments section of this post and elsewhere. (I'm looking at you, Vegansaurus!) I don't mean to be flip about any of this. If we do end up shooting a pig, Jackson has generously offered to show me the whole butchering process. We'll try to make use of the entire animal. I'm not sure how I'll feel when I'm actually on the trip, but I'm going to be thinking a lot about ethics. I'll be chronicling the whole thing here on the Blue Marble. Let's call it the Feral Pig Diaries. 

Read the Feral Pig Diaries: "Day 1: Moonshine and Teen Swine" is here; "Day 2: Do Hogs Like Supermarket Danishes" is here; and "Day 3: OK, but How Does Wild Hog Taste?" is here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Live Chat: Author Mark Hertsgaard

| Tue Jan. 25, 2011 6:00 AM EST

Join Grist for a live chat with renowned environmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard about his new book, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. (Read an excerpt of the book here.) Find out what he thinks is in store for "Generation Hot," the 2 billion or so people under the age of 25 who are facing life in a climate-changed world. And find out what gives him hope for the future—there's a lot that does! Read a Grist post about the book.

The chat starts today at Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. Eastern (noon Pacific) to ask questions and join in the discussion between Hertsgaard and Grist's Lisa Hymas.

This piece was produced by the Climate Desk collaboration.

Will "Smart" Household Electricity Meters Give You Cancer?

| Mon Jan. 17, 2011 5:30 AM EST

You'd think Marin County, California, famous for its tree huggers, would be all for "smart" household electricity and gas meters. Experts say that the devices, which allow utilities to calculate your energy rates in real time instead of once a month, are an important step toward greening our Rube-Goldberg-ish energy grid. But earlier this month, the Marin County board of supervisors voted unanimously to impose a moratorium on installation of the devices, primarily because of health concerns about the electromagnetic radiation the devices emit. As Jonathan Hiskes points out in his post on the subject, health worries are only part of the debate: Some worry that smart meters will broadcast consumers' private information to utilities and businesses. Still others believe that smart meters will actually increase users' power bills.

So is there reason to fear the new system, or are Bay Area folks just nuts? I polled a few experts. Herewith, their answers to some of the most pressing smart-meter questions.

Will my smart meter give me a brain tumor?

Do Space Heaters Save Money and Energy?

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 5:30 AM EST

Brrr! It's been unusually cold in the Bay Area: I had to scrape actual ice off my car last week. (Isn't that why I left the East Coast in the first place?) We've been cranking the space heaters all night at my house, lest we turn into icicles in our sleep. Since our central heat isn't very efficient (it is itself kind of a giant space heater), I've assumed that the room-by-room approach is best. But our power bill soared last month, so I decided to do a little more research.

The short answer is that it depends on how much of your house you're heating. In general, if you only need one or two rooms to be warm, space heaters will use less energy than central heat. (Unless your central heating happens to be wildly efficient: Geothermal users, I'm looking at you). "But in terms of energy per heat output, small space heaters will rarely ever be as efficient as a central heating system," says Tom Simchak, a senior policy-research associate at the Alliance to Save Energy. "There would be few situations where putting space heaters in every room and turning them all on would be more efficient than a properly-operating and relatively modern central system."

Wed Jan. 28, 2015 6:00 AM EST
Wed Jan. 14, 2015 6:00 AM EST
Tue Aug. 12, 2014 12:35 PM EDT
Thu Jun. 26, 2014 5:42 PM EDT
Fri Apr. 25, 2014 5:00 AM EDT
Mon Nov. 11, 2013 6:00 AM EST
Mon Sep. 16, 2013 1:28 PM EDT
Mon Jul. 15, 2013 5:00 AM EDT
Mon May. 13, 2013 5:00 AM EDT
Thu Dec. 27, 2012 11:52 AM EST
Fri Sep. 21, 2012 1:02 PM EDT
Tue Sep. 18, 2012 3:37 PM EDT
Fri Aug. 31, 2012 10:12 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 23, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Mon Aug. 20, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 16, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Fri Aug. 10, 2012 1:43 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 7, 2012 11:49 AM EDT
Thu Jul. 19, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Wed May. 16, 2012 2:43 PM EDT
Wed May. 16, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Tue May. 15, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Fri May. 11, 2012 2:08 PM EDT