Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time
“I have a mini pig that is not getting along with my dogs.”
It was a simple Facebook message that sparked a chain of events that would forever change the lives of a Toronto-based real estate agent, his partner and millions of others around the world.
When Steve Jenkins received this note on social media from an old friend about wanting to find a new home for a companion pig, he was filled with glee. He and his partner, Derek Walter, already had two dogs and two cats living at home and Jenkins figured that a pig who would grow no bigger than a canine would fit right in. But as Jenkins and Walter would eventually come to learn, the tiny porcine they named Esther was not a mini-pig as advertised but, rather, a commercially bred sow who would soon weigh more than 600 pounds.
"This story is one of overcoming fear, and learning to love freely. Their quest for doing the right thing is inspiring. I laughed and cried along with them, and fell for Esther and her antics all over again. If you're not inspired to do something good after reading this book, then read it again." -L. Karam (via Amazon) If somebody asked us what we hoped to achieve with our book, this reader review would sum it up perfectly. We're so glad the message is coming through. Kindness is magic, and a smile can change the world. The fact that we even wrote a book still seems very surreal, and will likely take some time to get used to. The fact that you helped us make it a "National Best Seller", well that's gonna take even longer. It's overwhelming. Thank you so much for reading it, and thank you again for sharing your reviews with us. We're so happy you're enjoying it. https://www.amazon.com/Esther-Wonder-Pig-Changing-World/dp/1455560782/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
A photo posted by Esther The Wonder Pig (@estherthewonderpig) on
Bringing a farmed animal into a suburban home is no easy task, requiring a change not only in furniture but also of heart. Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, written by Jenkins and Walter with Caprice Crane, recounts the couple’s evolution from being meat-eaters (who happened to have a pig) to becoming animal activists.
“I’d always thought I was a huge animal lover. But suddenly I felt very misled,” Jenkins recalls about making the connection between the pig he loved and the millions of other pigs who are slaughtered. “I was angry about what we’d been told, how we’d been made to believe ‘they’re just farm animals.’”
Throughout Esther the Wonder Pig, readers learn of Esther’s vibrant personality and it’s impossible to miss that the only difference between her and other commercially bred pigs is that she was given a chance. Reading this book will certainly be an eye-opening experience for someone who is not very familiar with animal agriculture and farmed animals.
It’s also eye-opening to learn just how challenging it is to raise a pig who outgrows her litterbox every few weeks. You will surely laugh as Esther figures out new and exciting ways to flip over her water bowl and will feel for her dads as they clean up torrential floods of pig urine. Jenkins points out that one of the reasons why he and Walter first started doing interviews about Esther was because they wanted to caution anyone else from adopting a pig, as pigs are so often returned to shelters—or subjected to worse fates—when they become problematic.
A photo posted by Esther The Wonder Pig (@estherthewonderpig) on
But Jenkins and Walter wouldn’t change their new life for anything. Thanks to what they term the “Esther Effect,” the two have grown into farmed-animal rescuers and committed vegans—there’s even a recipe section, full of ideas for tasty vegan meals, at the end of their memoir.
And if you have read PETA’s interview with Jenkins and Walter or are one of this wonder pig’s nearly 700,000 Facebook followers, you just might have experienced the “Esther Effect” yourself! From her refusal to drink any water that’s not sweetened with juice to her fierce determination to see what’s behind the freezer door, Esther demonstrates a personality that’s loud and proud and from her, many humans have learned just how intelligent, loving and inherently worthy of life pigs really are.
Esther truly is changing the world, one heart at a time.
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When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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