Archives

Walking home from work one day

Oh, darn. We live in interesting times. Like all of us plugged in to the internet I receive international news and views and I struggle to digest the world’s currents and tides. While history is marked up for a hefty new chapter, I live my peaceful Spanish existence in my little flat on the Costa Brava and mull over my small preoccupations. I’ve got a few things to consider. Like when I’m walking home from work I can’t help but notice how humans feel about their habitat. Respect isn’t the word.

Captured plastic flies no further.

As I walk, I sometimes listen to narrated books. Currently I’m listening to Scott Aiello read a pretty tough book called Getting to Green by Frederic C. Rich. It’s been Getting Me Down. (I’m doing it so you don’t have to.)

http://fredericrich.com/getting-to-green/

Fredric C. Rich thinks the Green movement has failed on a number of fronts, particularly on preventing Climate Change, and they ought to do better. He’s got some ideas.

Twisted vines and grass come to terms with cast off packaging

The book holds many delights, the historical perspective, for one. Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s heart-felt belief that at least some of the Nation’s assets lay in lands and waters that needed protection for future generations (ie conservation AND capitalism). This philosophy is alive and well in successful Land Conservation Trusts where grassroots folk around the world have saved beloved pieces of land, even if those lands remain in private hands – not part of Government.

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1061428

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1061428

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson was famous for his Natural Beauty Message; ‘For centuries, Americans have drawn strength and inspiration from the beauty of our country.’

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1060638

Surprisingly, Republicans used to be proud of their deep and loving relationship with the land that is America. And it was Richard Nixon who established the much maligned EPA.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Qd4LJcSz8Vk?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Back in the sixties, when Rachel Carson sounded the alarm, rivers were burning. Air was unbreathable. Birds were falling out of the sky. You could see the problem. Industry was rampantly careless about their waste. Nixon’s admin had to act because that’s what everyone wanted. Twenty million people marched on the first Earth Day in 1970 and extensive clean-up programs sprang into being.

Redbull can lies on its side in the grass

Today’s problems are fuzzy. You can’t see the climate change. Environmentalists turn into communist the-end-is-nigh-fearmongers. It snows when Obama worries about global warming.  George Marshall calls climate change the Wicked Problem. Unless you happen to be in the way of one of those worst storms ever seen. Even then you’re only going to want to get straight back to normal, not cope with terrifying scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Leftovers

Please note Getting to Green’s subtitle; Saving Nature; a Bipartisan Solution. Okay. I’m all for getting to Green. I’d even like to save Nature. But, can we talk about this Bipartisan thing? Mr Rich describes the Great Estrangement (abyss) between the Republican Party and the Democrats.  He’s not alone in noticing this, of course. The Guardian talks about The Age of Anger. The magnificent Van Jones tries to listen to the opposition. George Monbiot pulls the curtain aside to reveal the gold paying the piper. Someone’s comments lead me to watch George Lakoff talking about framing. Speaking to a clearly Democrat audience, Lakoff looks at political dualism in terms of the American Family; the strict father vs the nurturing parent. The Democrats want all the nuturing for themselves. The strict father believes in tough love. If the kids can’t succeed on their own, tough. And the GOP want the message out there, training leaders and getting Think Tanks organised. A lot.

A flying rag and a cup

When I was at university in New Zealand we joined protests about apartheid in South Africa. Hundreds of miles away, the plight of Africans captured our compassion. But the opposition, in government, community and student flats, wanted the chance to watch a good game of rugby. The rights of the individual sports fan against the rights of the many oppressed. Either/or. Versus. Wrong against Right. Left against Right. Communists against Capitalists.

Drain with objects

Mr Rich thinks the Greens need to pull in their heads regarding negative comments about capitalism. The NSW Greens of Australia are struggling with this emotive debate right now. Mr Rich fears Naomi Klein is not helping matters. Mr Rich worries some Deep Green thinkers would even like nature to overwhelm humans. (Hmmmm … ) If only it were this simple.

Supermarket with ironic name leads the way to bridge over littered water

When I did economics at school I was a bad student. I worked hard to disrupt the class and annoy the teacher. But she persevered and I think I remember learning something about cycles. (This may have been Biology?) However, to persevere, does not an industry grow from a seed? If looked after, it may prosper and live a long and happy life. It sustains itself and the humans that work within. For a time. If it is sustainable. If not, it withers and dies. Like a rock and roll band. (Shit, maybe it was music?)

Roadside litter assortment

Clearly there’s a few nuances I missed because I don’t understand how capitalism can keep propping up coal power stations. Visibly polluting, getting older and not part of a clean energy future, how can capitalists possibly back coal? Is not capitalism about buying low, encouraging start-up and making the most of growth? Van Jones’s book, The Green Collar Economy, points out just how many valuable jobs could arise from forward thinking business minds. Corporate, capitalist interests are supposedly represented by the right, the GOP. But, it seems the Republicans’ big ol’ Tea Party is a little out of control. The heavy-weight CEOs now in charge have tremendous power. They can do anything they like. They can even change the rules to get more power! To what end? Interesting times indeed.

To my mind, this Estrangement is not only about two parties. It’s also about the missing middle. That’s three sides. At least. A bipartisan schism would be an obvious diagnosis if everyone voted and there were only two parties. 9% of enrolled Australians didn’t turn up to the latest election and it’s compulsory to vote in Australia. In the UK 72.2% of voters turned out to chose whether to stay or leave the European Union, missing over a quarter of the eligible voting population. In the States, only 55% of the population turned up. What was the other 45% thinking? There’s obviously more than two sides to every story. Maybe there are fifty shades of red? Blue? Purple? Green? Sounds like a bruise, doesn’t it.

Limp plastic bag beside the road

At the risk of sounding naive, what if we act like King Arthur and bring in a Round Table? Instead of the oppositional parliamentary system Australia and NZ inherited from Britain, what about everyone coming to the table with no head? What if parliament was reconfigured (the UN is a semi-circle – that’s a start) and representatives worked together to solve problems? What if there was no dualism but only folk bringing information to help find effective solutions for the greatest number of people?

Fanta can in grass

The Gandhi Experiment is a new initiative for Peace. Does a debate need cutting, slashing argument? Winner takes all? Or could teams work, not in opposition, but together, towards a solution?

Flat out after obstructing arteries

There is one sure way of uniting people. Bring in a common enemy. When the new administration in the USA threatened to sell off 3.3 million acres of public land, environmentalists were joined by hunters and fishers who fiercely lobbied to protect their common lands.

Blue plastic attachment on roadside

Can you imagine caring for your local lands so much you’d fight for them? Clean them up? Enjoy their beauty? Regard them as a Natural Asset? Guess I might just have to get involved. Suppose I could take along a rubbish bag and some gloves on my next walk home. Big job. Someone’s got to do it. Take a look at Walkers Against Waste. I think it’s up to us. It’d be easier with friends, of course. I’d better find some like-minded people!

Soft plastic jelly-fish amongst the grass

Finally, in case you haven’t seen Valarie Kaur yet, can you imagine the light at the end of the tunnel?

https://www.sikhnet.com/news/video-valarie-kaur-delivers-rousing-speech-church

(All three of these links are to a speech delivered by Valarie Kaur. I hope it works for you.)

 

 

Balloons! Why are they still a THING?

Balloons.

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/NEW-High-Quality-Oversized-3-D-Hello-Kitty-Foil-Balloons-Wedding-Decoration-Balloon-Party-Balloon-Cartoon/1711988033.html

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/NEW-High-Quality-Oversized-3-D-Hello-Kitty-Foil-Balloons-Wedding-Decoration-Balloon-Party-Balloon-Cartoon/1711988033.html

So pretty.

http://balloonsblow.org/

http://balloonsblow.org/

Such trouble when they are released into the atmosphere. They eventually fall down, perhaps whole or in pieces. They can end up on land or in oceans. They might get eaten by a bird or by a fish fooled into thinking it looks like a jelly fish. They might trap a bird and strangle it.

http://www.mcsuk.org/what_we_do/Clean+seas+and+beaches/Campaigns+and+policy/Don't+let+go+-+balloons+and+sky+lanterns

http://www.mcsuk.org/what_we_do/Clean+seas+and+beaches/Campaigns+and+policy/Don’t+let+go+-+balloons+and+sky+lanterns

But balloons are biodegradable! They are made of latex! Rubber! From trees! Foil balloons are notThe ribbons and clips are not.

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

Many people are realising that balloons are not so fun after all.

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

Keep Australia Beautiful considers balloons litter. Some councils in Queensland are trying to ban mass helium balloon releases. Sunshine Coast Council banned the release of balloons into the atmosphere about five years ago.

And there is some debate about helium. Perhaps it is a scarce precious element. Perhaps it is running out. Perhaps it is not. Some say there should be reserves (which there are around the world but the US Government sold theirs off too soon and too cheaply!) Some say it may be a renewable resource and it doesn’t matter anyway because there’s just tons of it around anyway. Some point out that as the planet/universe is finite, so any minerals by definitions must be finite too.

https://bcachemistry.wordpress.com/tag/helium/

https://bcachemistry.wordpress.com/tag/helium/

Helium is used by humans for many interesting things, not just party balloons. Welding, medicine (cooling MRI machines) and testing for leaks in containers are quite important activities that may or may not be able to use another gas in helium’s place should the unthinkable happen. Is it too valuable to use in trivial party balloons? Or do balloons only use a tiny percentage of low quality helium? As opposed to the 30% used in scuba tanks!

http://www.elitedivingagency.com/articles/scuba-tank-gas-mixture-divers-use/

http://www.elitedivingagency.com/articles/scuba-tank-gas-mixture-divers-use/

Maybe we can err on the side of the environment. What no balloons? Oh, Good Grief! Why are all greenies such party-poopers? The British Marine Conservation Society has some ideas which they’ve gathered together under the title ‘Don’t let go.’ Why not consider lighting candles or planting trees or bubbles or kites or …

http://www.wishuponabutterfly.com/weddings/butterfly-packages/

http://www.wishuponabutterfly.com/weddings/butterfly-packages/

Butterflies! Nope. Don’t use butterflies, you’re endangering local populations with diseases, parasites and possibly altering local ecology. And apparently wedding planners don’t like them because they tend to turn up dead on arrival!

Why not chuck some rose petals around – left over roses from the florist might even be a bargain!

http://www.greenbrideguide.com/blog/diy-rose-petal-confetti-your-wedding

http://www.greenbrideguide.com/blog/diy-rose-petal-confetti-your-wedding

For a fundraiser idea or charity work racing a virtual balloon is only as environmentally damaging as the cloud is!

http://www.purepages.com/work-examples/marketing/lmc/

http://www.purepages.com/work-examples/marketing/lmc/

Or plant sunflowers!

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/UJtTZ5s1ntU?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

Beasts; Good, Evil and Agriculture

A reader, Jenny McCracken, commented on my post on bullfighting, referring to Beasts by Jeffery Moussaieff Masson. I thought I’d better read it, quick smart. I recommend it to you, too.

cover of 'Beasts'

http://wamc.org/post/beasts-Jeffrey-moussaieff-masson

Subtitled What Animals can Teach us about the Origins of Good and Evil, Beasts explores what humans have in common with animals, myths about the relationship between humans and animals and starts to suggest what might be a way forward.

The passage about bullfighting that Jenny alludes to describes the way the beasts are prepared for the ‘fight’.

‘To create the show of a fight, the bull is wounded and disabled before entering the ring, and is given large amounts of salt to make sure he drinks to the point of being bloated and will move slowly. On the day of the “fight”, Vaseline is rubbed into his eyes so he cannot see clearly, and newspaper is stuffed into his ears so he cannot hear properly. Horns are shaved to make them less dangerous and to throw the bull off balance. The muscles in his neck are cut so that he cannot raise his head in a normal fashion, wich would allow him to see his adversary. His kidneys and testicles are beaten. He is given laxatives, tranquilizers and drugs to induce paralysis, and other drugs to disorientate him. He is kept in a tiny cell for at least twenty-four hours, dazed and confused, without food or water (except sulphates, which give him severe diarrhea).’ pg 71

As readers of the previous blog may note, the book that inspired that post, Death in the Sun by Edward Lewine, corrects our notion of the bullfight. Clearly the bull has no chance. It’s not a fight in Spanish eyes. In that book, Lewine denigrates horn shaving, as casting aspersions on the skills of the toredor, and I wonder if this sort of bull tampering is done in less salubrious places where the condition of the bull is not so closely examined as it was in the corridas of the famous bullfighter, Francisco Rivera Ordonez, featured in the book. There’s nothing in the Appendices or notes of Beasts to say from where this information was gathered so I’m assuming it’s not commonplace – I may be wrong.

Doesn’t matter, really, does it? The bull suffers. Lots of animals (billions … ?) suffer at the hands of humans. But that’s a taste of Beasts, provoking and sometimes untrackable. Luckily, there is plenty of thoughtful, attributed information to consider.

The preface kicks off with a quote from Stephen Hawking, ‘We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.’

Stephen Hawking floats

http://ultraculture.org/blog/2014/12/03/stephen-hawking-ai-could-spell-end-human-race/

Masson returns again and again to the self-destructive violent behaviour of humans. Why are humans so keen to find ‘the other’ in our own species and kill it? He points out that although there might be evidence of other species (chimpanzees, elephants, wolves… ) attacking one another, those examples are generally proven to be in the context of human-induced stresses (capture, torture, loss of habitat, interference in food resources, pollution etc etc) Even Jane Goodall admits that fighting and battles she witnessed amongst chimps may have started when her staff set up a banana feeding station. (pg 60)

chimp munching on bananas

http://www.lessonsforhope.org/scrapbook1.asp?sec=5&pgid=92

So why did humans start their own violence against each other? Perhaps because they interfered with their own lives when they stopped being nomadic and started agriculture? In the notes (pg 188) Jeffery Moussaieff Masson says,

‘My friend Sherry Colb reminds me that Plato predicted this in The Republic, where Socrates responds to Glaucon’s insistence that the ruling class must eat animals. Then, said Socrates, there would have to be armies, to guard the large amount of land needed for livestock, and the lawyers for disputes surrounding land boundaries, and the doctors to handle the sickness that comes from eating that way!’

sculpture of Plato

http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Plato.html

Good old Plato! And so it seems that what we gained when we stopped being hunter-gatherers was violence, disease and suffering. Not only for humans, but also all the other species. GREAT!!

Jeffery’s Appendices are informative. Human traits unique to us include: animal sacrifices, blood feuds, unbridled greed, mass murder, suicide and threatening the survival of all life on earth. (pg 163) Traits humans have in common with animals (pg 169) include: sexual infidelity, compassion, dignity, gentleness, protectiveness of young, yearning for freedom.

Many times throughout the book Masson states that predators do not choose to hate, hunt or hurt humans (unless as previously stated, stressed/maddened by us). But what do humans do to animals? (pg 174)

We raise them for food.

We experiment on them.

We use their fur and skin.

We take their eggs.

We take their children.

We use their milk.

We hunt them.

We lock them into cages.

Let’s add, we use them for entertainment. The chapter on ‘Hatred’ begins with this quote: ‘I couldn’t possibly write Jaws today. The notion of demonizing a fish strikes me as insane.’ Peter Benchley.

Sharks don’t hate people, they don’t even particularly like people, especially if wrapped in neoprene. Scientists surmise sharks mistake people for seals.

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/do-sharks-really-mistake-humans-for-seals-researchers-test-mistaken-identity-theory-20150405-1meqwf.html

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/do-sharks-really-mistake-humans-for-seals-researchers-test-mistaken-identity-theory-20150405-1meqwf.html

But in their turn, how many sharks are killed by people?

How many other animals? Cows? Pigs? Sheep? Is any of this killing necessary? Jeffery says,

‘My position is that we no longer need to kill animals at all, whether for food or for any other reason. Today we can recognise that whether we kill with reverence or with indifference, the result to the animal is the same. In the past we would justify this killing as necessary for our survival. No longer.’ pg 101

So in conclusion, I think Jeffery Moussaieff Masson in Beasts is telling us that animals are not moral creatures. They do what has to be done, mostly avoiding human contact when they can, not seeing good or bad in killing for food or protecting territory. Humans, it seems, have come up with evil all by ourselves.