Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
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Archive for September, 2007

Products and Paper

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

As many of you know or may have heard, I live a rather austere life on the outside. Perhaps it has to do with my genesis as an activist as I was introduced to groups that made significant changes to their lifestyle (yeah it’s a loaded word) to reduce their impact on the environment and animals. Other times, I think lowering my consumption and eschewing large amounts of material goods is my version of prefigurative politics – “I’m not going to let them tell me what I need to be happy, I’m going to live my life now as I want the world to be.”

However, in prison I have been confronted with a situation – albeit a minor one overall – that has proven irksome. Our commissary, unlike groceries or health-food stores on the outside, offers very little choices and there is no way to avoid products sold by companies that test on animals. Additionally, in order to write letters to the outside world, my only option is a pad of bone white, cheap and thus, I assume, non-recycled writing paper. Of course, I need to brush my teeth, wash my hair/body, and write to friends, family and community, but nonetheless, my lack of options troubles me.

Like in the outside world, there is more than enough discarded paper here for me to use but there is no alternative to the animal tested products. In the past, I’ve joke about particular prisoners’ requests to have people only write them on reused, discarded or tree-free paper. There is nothing like prison to give you an altered perception of things and now I find myself making a similar request and – in effect – eating crow.

My request then is pretty simple and I apologize if this request seems to you as bizarre or annoying as it did to me before I came here! If you write to me, I humbly request you to use either discarded paper (paper that was printed on one side), tree-free or 100% post consumer recycled paper, and if those options are not achievable, that you write on both sides of the page. The first option (using discarded paper) is pretty much free as any work, school, library or other recycling bin is overflowing with this sort of paper. In addition, using small margins, smaller font and lower ink levels on your print-outs will reduce the ecological impact even more.

Since I’m in a position where buying animal tested products is not optional, my other request is to educate yourself on vivisection and cosmetic testing and look for alternatives. PETA has a comprehensive list of companies that Do and Do Not test on animals, available on their website. You can easily find these products at any grocery or health food store. I realize that animal issues may not be ‘your issue’ and that is fine but all I ask is that you educate yourself on the unnecessary practice of testing consumer products on animals and cease funding this cruel and unethical practice. Compassion and advocacy for animal nations is congruent and consistent with the struggle for social justice and environmental protection.

Again, I apologize for my self-indulgent requests to you. Prison offers little opportunity for activism and advocacy and its dawned on me that my advocacy and agitation expressed to you could have a much greater impact than just my own actions.

For more info:
Dogwood Alliance
Native Forest Network
PETA’s Caring Consumer webpage
Close HLS
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

FCI Sandstone

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Whew, so I finally made to FCI Sandstone—a low security prison in northern Minnesota and my home for the next couple of years. It’s been a rough couple of weeks—2 flights, 2 long days in a bus, 11 days in the hole and not having a clue when I would be moved. Transit in the federal prison system is disorienting and frustrating but I’m here now and things are starting to normalize. Big thanks to everyone who wrote me in Oklahoma, Terre Haute, and Oxford—the letters are starting to catch up with me this week. I am way behind on correspondence and at times feel like I will be for a while.

How to describe Sandstone. Well, it has fences and barbed wire but it’s not Oz! The first couple of days here were tough—trying to figure out what to do, where to go, how to do mundane things that others know already. With some help, I’m adjusting and each day gets easier by far. I hear once you learn how everything works, the boredom sets in but I’m doing all I can to keep busy by reading, preparing for my master’s program, running and signing up for classes.

I want to thank everyone who came out for the September 1st benefit in Brooklyn, NY that was held to help me pay for tuition. From what I heard, it was a lot of fun and really successful— I can’t wait to see the photos.

Finally, I want to ask you for your participation in this year’s Leonard Peltier Annual Holiday Toy Drive for the children of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. This project has gone on for years and I’m happy to be part of it this year in a supporting capacity. My support crew will be creating a registry of toys that will make it simple for you to buy a toy or two for the Native children on the Pine Ridge reservation. I’m honored to be working on a project initiated by Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier and run by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee— true allies in the struggle for political prisoners and environmental protection. Please participate as much as you can to make a real difference in the lives of these children who live on one of the poorest reservations in the nation and also by lending your support to the struggle to free Leonard Peltier. Check www.supportdaniel.org and www.leonardpeltier.net for more information in the near future.

Thanks for all the letters and support!