Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
The Children’s Climate Crusade.
But first some thoughts for the newer followers of this blog.
Being the author of this blog I have no idea how people find this place, and more importantly, what they make of it! It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it is as a result of a web search associated with dogs. Let’s face it, the blog is called Learning from Dogs!
It also wouldn’t surprise me if many don’t drop in to the About this blog page and read:
The underlying theme of Learning from Dogs is about truth, integrity, honesty and trust in every way. We use the life of dogs as a metaphor. The first Post was published on the 15th July 2009.
Be part of this yourself in whatever way you would like.
All of which is my way of explaining why, more often than not, the daily post has nothing to do with our beautiful canines. But I do hope if a post is not about dogs then it is about “truth, integrity, honesty and trust in every way.”
So with that off my chest, let me use the rest of this post to republish in full the final broadcast from Bill Moyers, the link to which was kindly sent to me by friend John Hurlburt. Thanks John.
The Bill Moyers programme is less than 30-minutes long. It is extraordinarily fine viewing, especially for the younger viewer. Do share it widely.
Full Show: The Children’s Climate Crusade
January 1, 2015
The very agencies created to protect our environment have been hijacked by the polluting industries they were meant to regulate. It may just turn out that the judicial system, our children and their children will save us from ourselves.
The new legal framework for this crusade against global warming is called atmospheric trust litigation. It takes the fate of the Earth into the courts, arguing that the planet’s atmosphere – its air, water, land, plants and animals — are the responsibility of government, held in its trust to insure the survival of all generations to come. It’s the strategy being used by Bill’s recent guest, Kelsey Juliana, a co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust, that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions.
Wood tells Bill: “If this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake, the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job.”
Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Rob Kuhns.
So having explained why dogs often aren’t featured in posts, there’s only one way to close today. That’s with a picture of young Ollie, our latest member of the family, taken last June.
Amazing how quickly a year flows by.
When, yesterday, I was wondering what to post today, I was curious as to what I had posted a year ago to the day: January 15th., 2014.
To my surprise it was the WordPress summary of my year in blogging; for 2013. I’m not going to prattle on with all the figures, just offer the following: Learning from Dogs was viewed about 93,000 times in 2014. The busiest day of the year was April 16th with 879 views. The most popular post that day was The night sky above.
I dropped in to that post, to refresh my memory of what it was, and saw that it was just delightful. As there have been a great number of new followers in the last twelve months, it seemed worthy of being repeated. Trust me, it’s not what one might expect from the title.
The night sky above.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert.
After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep. Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says,
“Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?“
The Lone Ranger replies,
“I see millions of stars.“
Tonto then responded,
“What that tell you?“
The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says,
“Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
However, astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.
Then again, thinking about the time just now, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning.
From a theologically perspective, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.
Finally, meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
What’s it tell you, Tonto?”
Tonto is silent for a moment, then says,
“Kemo Sabe, you dumber then buffalo chip. Someone has stolen tent.”
So returning to the theme of blogging for 2014, all I want to add is this: Thank you all for taking an interest in Learning from Dogs.
Perhaps the fundamental reason why I am so hooked on this world of blogging is because there are always wonderful surprises. What do I mean by this?
Yesterday’s post, Sometimes the world seems very strange was a rather bleak affair. I had been affected by, and reported, a couple of items read elsewhere that seemed to me, in a rather dark and miserable way, to highlight what is wrong with our so-called modern society. Perhaps, no more clearly expressed than in my reply to a comment left by Sue Dreamwalker.
Here is what Sue said, and how I replied.
I agree with what Alex has to say… The super rich live in a totally different reality… Have no clues on the real structure of how their wealth is being created often on the backs of the poor. Who are squeezed ever tighter at every conceivable way of extracting more in the form of taxes, both on incomes and on everything else..
Change will come but what frightens you Paul is that when it does come it will come swiftly.. We have seen the social unrest in other nations… What is happening in many countries is the injustices and discriminations which are getting ordinary peoples backs up..
Stupid Gun Laws to teach children how to handle weapons..
Yes Paul sometimes the world is very Strange.. and also Very Stupid!..
Thank you and wishing you and Jean a lovely week
Sue, a wonderful reply from you. Thank you. What I find so strange is this. That here I am, turned 70-years-old, having enjoyed a fabulously interesting life, full of variety and opportunities. That, to some small degree, I believe I have a better, albeit still partial, sense of how we humans tick than, say, 20 years ago. How our lives fundamentally revolve around our relationships, with the most important one being our relationship with ourself and, flowing from that, some understanding of who we are!
Yet, (and you knew there was a ‘yet’ coming, didn’t you!) beyond the very small world of loved ones, family and close friends (and I count blogging friends in that last category) the world around me becomes more strange, more remote, more alien almost on a week-by-week basis.
I was born in the middle of London six months to the day of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Those first six months would have been unrecognisable to the later world I grew up in, and got to know. My fear is that I will spend the last six months of my life in a world that is similarly unrecognisable from the world I thought I knew.
Thank my lucky stars for a wonderful, loving woman in my life and for so many fabulous doggie friends.
Sue, apologies, I went on a tad – nay, a tad and a half!
Fondest love to you and your Hubby.
I think that makes it pretty clear what my mood was like yesterday morning.
Jean and I were out from 9am until 12:30 pm and it was coming up to 3pm when I sat down in front of my PC. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to what to write and still felt pretty miserable about the ‘strange world’.
However, one of the first things that I saw in my ‘in-box’ was the weekly email from the Rev. Terry Hershey. Here is how his email opened up:
Live deeply and deliberately
January 12, 2015
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Pema Chodron
“On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love,
and on his left hand was the word fear,
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear.”
Bruce Springsteen: “Cautious Man“
“To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Wow! Did that ‘speak’ to me or what!
Then the very next item in my ‘in-box’ was a note that “Deaf Duke is now following Learning from Dogs“. I try and make it across to every new follower of this blog and thank them for their support. Seems the least I should do.
So it was with ‘Deaf Duke’. But I have to quietly admit that before clicking on the link I found myself wondering just what Deaf Duke was.
Deaf Duke is an American Bulldog mix that my boyfriend (Tyler) and I got just after the Fourth of July this year. He was only 6.5 weeks old when we got him so he had some issues to begin with. When he was about 6 months old we decided to take him to a trainer, we thought he was a bad dog because he would never listen to us, we soon found out that he was becoming deaf. He wasn’t a bad dog he just couldn’t hear us. Our lives changed a lot from that moment on. Everyone says that training a deaf dog is no harder than training a dog that can hear, which is true on so many levels but they never talk about how difficult it can be for the owners who are primarily vocal beings. This blog is about the upbringing and stories about Duke and his life.
Here’s a post from Deaf Duke from last December.
When we got Duke at 6.5 weeks old he was very under weight. Finding out that he was deaf could explain why he was. Deaf dogs generally don’t wake up for feedings because they cannot hear when the other puppies in the litter are eating. Duke is now a healthy and happy 7 month old boy learning just like his parents are to train him and us.
So thank you Terry, and thank you Duke and your Mum and Dad, for reminding me that life is utterly and whole-heartedly what we make of it!
Onwards and upwards!
Turn aside if you are looking for a bright, optimistic start to the week.
Two separate experiences have come together to offer, well anyway for me, a sense of now not recognising the world I grew up in. The first was Episode One of a programme on BBC Television, broadcast last Thursday, and the second was an essay from Ann Jones on the TomDispatch site, published yesterday.
First, that BBC programme. Despite not being able to view it directly here in Oregon, both the programme details and a first-hand account from a British viewer confirm the essence of this two-part series. Here’s what is on the BBC iPlayer website:
The Super Rich and Us
First shown: 8 Jan 2015
Britain has more billionaires per head than any other country on earth, yet we’re also the most unequal nation in Europe. We were told the super-rich would make us richer too, so why hasn’t that happened, and what does the arrival of their astronomical wealth really mean for the rest of us? In programme one of this two-part series, Jacques Peretti looks at how the super-rich first exploited an obscure legal loophole to make Britain one of the most attractive tax havens on earth. He argues this was no accident. Wooing the super-rich was a deliberate strategy by government to reconfigure the British economy, under the belief their wealth would trickle down to the rest of us. But it didn’t. The OECD now say the British economy would have been 20 per cent bigger had we not pursued the super-rich. So who sold us the fallacy and why?
Jacques meets the super-rich themselves – from those buying premiership football clubs to the billionaires who are breaking ranks to criticise the decisions that made them richer and society more unequal.
Jacques challenges the architects of these policies, as well as tracking down the foreign multimillionaires who are buying up Britain and turning us from a nation of property owners to a nation of renters. He uncovers new research that shows growing inequality has been driven by this key factor of unaffordable property, and the far-reaching effect this will have on every aspect of our lives. Inequality is reshaping Britain into two simple classes: the 99 per cent and the one per cent. This is the story of how it happened and what it means for all of us.
While, for obvious reasons, the programme can’t be included in this post, one can get a flavour of the degree of inequality in Britain from this BBC News item from last May.
The second experience was reading the latest post published over on the TomDispatch site; an essay from Ann Jones (see bio at end). Some while ago, Tom Engelhardt, he of TomDispatch, was sufficiently generous to give a blanket permission for his essays to be republished on Learning from Dogs. Here is that essay from Ann. (NB: In the original there are numerous hyperlinks to other materials, too many for me to transfer across: Apologies.)
Tomgram: Ann Jones, Answering for America
Posted by Ann Jones at 8:00am, January 11, 2015.
One of the grimmer small events of recent American life occurred just as 2014 was ending. A mother had her two-year old toddler perched in a shopping cart at an Idaho Wal-Mart. He reached into her purse, specially made for carrying a concealed firearm (and a Christmas gift from her husband), found his mother’s pistol in it, pulled it out, and shot and killed her. And she wasn’t the only victim of a child who came upon a loaded weapon. Between 2007 and 2011, at least 62 children 14 or younger died in similarly nightmarish accidents with loaded weapons.
Nor was this specific incident an anomaly. In fact, if you are an American, you are statistically in less danger of dying from a terrorist attack in this country than from a toddler shooting you. And by the way, you’re 2,059 times more likely to die by your own hand with a weapon of your choosing than in a terrorist attack anywhere on Earth. You’re also more than nine times as likely to be killed by a police officer as by a terrorist.
And remind me, how many American taxpayer dollars have gone into “security” from terrorism and how many into security from weaponry? You know the answer to that. In fact, guns of just about every variety seem to circulate ever more freely in this country as the populace up-armors itself in yet more ways. Think of it as a kind of arms race. Emboldened by the National Rifle Association (NRA), Americans are ever more weaponized. There were an estimated 300-310 million guns in the U.S. in 2009 (a figure that has undoubtedly risen), and up to four million Americans now own assault rifles — one popular weapon of choice, by the way, for mass killers. In the meantime, the percentage of Americans who favor a ban on handguns (25%) has fallen to an all-time low.
As for “carrying,” it’s now legal in every state in America and allowed in ever more situations as well. In the last year, for instance, Idaho, where that mother died, became the seventh state to green-light the carrying of concealed guns on college campuses. To put all this in perspective, less than two decades ago, fewer than a million concealed weapons were being legally carried in the U.S.; now, more than one million people are permitted to carry such weapons in Florida alone. In twenty-first-century America, the “right to bear arms” has been extended in every direction, while there has also been a “sharp rise” in mass killings.
Meanwhile — since what’s an arms race without a second party? — the police, mainlining into the Pentagon, have been up-armoring at a staggering pace. It’s no longer an oddity for American police officers to be armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers as if in a foreign war zone or to arrive on the scene with a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle previously used in our distant wars. And by the way, while much anger has been displayed, by the police in particular, over the recent murders of two patrolmen in Brooklyn by a disturbed man carrying a Taurus semiautomatic handgun, that anger seems not to extend to his ability to arm himself or to the pawnshop filled with weaponry that originally sold the gun (but not to him).
One mistake you shouldn’t make, however, is to imagine that Americans consider the right to bear arms universal. Just consider, for example, the CIA’s “signature drone strikes” in Pakistan and elsewhere. Over the last two presidencies, the Agency has gained the “right” to drone-kill young men of military age bearing arms — in societies where arms-bearing, as here, is the norm — about whom nothing specific is known except that they seem to be in the wrong place at the right time. The NRA, curiously enough, has chosen not to defend them.
If, to a visitor from Mars or even (as TomDispatch regular Ann Jones points out) Europe, all this might seem like the definition of madness, it’s also increasingly the definition of a way of life in this country. What was once the “tool” of law enforcement types, the military, and hunters is now the equivalent of an iPhone, a talisman of connection and social order. It’s something that just about anyone can put in a pocket, a purse, or simply strap on in the full light of day in a land where all of us, even toddlers, seem to be heading for the O.K. Corral. Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, has seen her share of carnage and experienced her share of stress. Today, however, she considers another kind of stress, the pressure to explain to others a country whose citizens don’t even notice how inexplicable they are becoming. Tom
Is This Country Crazy?
Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know
By Ann Jones
Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States. Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.
In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet. I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.
That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people — in the Middle East, no less — willing to withhold judgment on the U.S. Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it. Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him. And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.
In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.
Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.” It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them. This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think — even countries with which we were recently, are currently, or threaten soon to be at war. America’s belligerence alone, not to mention its financial acrobatics, compels the rest of the world to keep close track of us. Who knows, after all, what conflict the Americans may drag you into next, as target or reluctant ally?
So wherever we expatriates settle on the planet, we find someone who wants to talk about the latest American events, large and small: another country bombed in the name of our “national security,” another peaceful protest march attacked by our increasingly militarized police, another diatribe against “big government” by yet another wannabe candidate who hopes to head that very government in Washington. Such news leaves foreign audiences puzzled and full of trepidation.
Take the questions stumping Europeans in the Obama years (which 1.6 million Americans residing in Europe regularly find thrown our way). At the absolute top of the list: “Why would anyone oppose national health care?” European and other industrialized countries have had some form of national health care since the 1930s or 1940s, Germany since 1880. Some versions, as in France and Great Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems. Yet even the privileged who pay for a faster track would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive health care. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not frankly brutal.
In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially advanced in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program, funded by the state, is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system. In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have an equal right to education (state subsidized preschool from age one, and free schools from age six through specialty training or university education and beyond), unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining services, paid parental leave, old age pensions, and more. These benefits are not merely an emergency “safety net”; that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available to all citizens as human rights encouraging social harmony — or as our own U.S. constitution would put it, “domestic tranquility.” It’s no wonder that, for many years, international evaluators have ranked Norway as the best place to grow old, to be a woman, and to raise a child. The title of “best” or “happiest” place to live on Earth comes down to a neighborly contest among Norway and the other Nordic social democracies, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland.
In Norway, all benefits are paid for mainly by high taxation. Compared to the mind-numbing enigma of the U.S. tax code, Norway’s is remarkably straightforward, taxing income from labor and pensions progressively, so that those with higher incomes pay more. The tax department does the calculations, sends an annual bill, and taxpayers, though free to dispute the sum, willingly pay up, knowing what they and their children get in return. And because government policies effectively redistribute wealth and tend to narrow the country’s slim income gap, most Norwegians sail pretty comfortably in the same boat. (Think about that!)
Life and Liberty
This system didn’t just happen. It was planned. Sweden led the way in the 1930s, and all five Nordic countries pitched in during the postwar period to develop their own variations of what came to be called the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universal social welfare, political democracy, and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It’s their system. They invented it. They like it. Despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?
In all the Nordic countries, there is broad general agreement across the political spectrum that only when people’s basic needs are met — when they can cease to worry about their jobs, their incomes, their housing, their transportation, their health care, their kids’ education, and their aging parents — only then can they be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that, from birth, every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.
These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution. You know, the part about “we the People” forming “a more perfect Union” to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Even as he prepared the nation for war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt memorably specified components of what that general welfare should be in his State of the Union address in 1941. Among the “simple basic things that must never be lost sight of,” he listed “equality of opportunity for youth and others, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privileges for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all,” and oh yes, higher taxes to pay for those things and for the cost of defensive armaments.
Knowing that Americans used to support such ideas, a Norwegian today is appalled to learn that a CEO of a major American corporation makes between 300 and 400 times as much as its average employee. Or that governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state’s debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from the pension funds of workers in the public sector. To a Norwegian, the job of government is to distribute the country’s good fortune reasonably equally, not send it zooming upward, as in America today, to a sticky-fingered one percent.
In their planning, Norwegians tend to do things slowly, always thinking of the long term, envisioning what a better life might be for their children, their posterity. That’s why a Norwegian, or any northern European, is aghast to learn that two-thirds of American college students finish their education in the red, some owing $100,000 or more. Or that in the U.S., still the world’s richest country, one in three children lives in poverty, along with one in five young people between the ages of 18 and 34. Or that America’s recent multi-trillion-dollar wars were fought on a credit card to be paid off by our kids. Which brings us back to that word: brutal.
Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down? Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty? The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest rate recorded in Texas history? (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)
Other things I’ve had to answer for include:
* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?
* Why can’t you understand science?
* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?
* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?
* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
* Why do you Americans like guns so much? Why do you kill each other at such a rate?
To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?
That last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions. Throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, right-wing parties that have scarcely or never played a role in government are now rising rapidly on a wave of opposition to long-established immigration policies. Only last month, such a party almost toppled the sitting social democratic government of Sweden, a generous country that has absorbed more than its fair share of asylum seekers fleeing the shock waves of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”
The Way We Are
Europeans understand, as it seems Americans do not, the intimate connection between a country’s domestic and foreign policies. They often trace America’s reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order. They’ve watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a government that has done so little new for them over the past three decades or more, except for Obama’s endlessly embattled health care effort, which seems to most Europeans a pathetically modest proposal.
What baffles so many of them, though, is how ordinary Americans in startling numbers have been persuaded to dislike “big government” and yet support its new representatives, bought and paid for by the rich. How to explain that? In Norway’s capital, where a statue of a contemplative President Roosevelt overlooks the harbor, many America-watchers think he may have been the last U.S. president who understood and could explain to the citizenry what government might do for all of them. Struggling Americans, having forgotten all that, take aim at unknown enemies far away — or on the far side of their own towns.
It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others. Crazy may be too strong a word, too broad and vague to pin down the problem. Some people who question me say that the U.S. is “paranoid,” “backward,” “behind the times,” “vain,” “greedy,” “self-absorbed,” or simply “dumb.” Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely “ill-informed,” “misguided,” “misled,” or “asleep,” and could still recover sanity. But wherever I travel, the questions follow, suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others. It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around. There’s another world out here, an old and friendly one across the ocean, and it’s full of good ideas, tried and true.
Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2015 Ann Jones
ANN JONES is a journalist, photographer, and the author of ten books of nonfiction. She has written extensively about violence against women. Since 2001, she has worked intermittently as a humanitarian volunteer in conflict and post-conflict countries in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and central and south Asia. From Afghanistan and the Middle East, she has reported on the impact of war upon civilians; and she has embedded with American forces in Afghanistan to report on war’s impact on soldiers. Her articles on these and other matters appear most often in The Nation and online at www.TomDispatch.com. Her work has received generous support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she held the Mildred Londa Weisman Fellowship in 2010-11, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2011-12), and the Fulbright Foundation (2012). She lives in Oslo, Norway, with two conversational cats.
My apologies if you, too, have been disheartened by today’s post. However, these fundamental issues about how nations serve their peoples really do need to be very widely broadcast.
Just puts everything back into perspective.
I subscribe to EarthSky and the link to this image and background information was in yesterday’s daily summary. The mind-blowing facts are that the Eagle Nebula is found in the constellation Serpens and is 6,500 light-years away from our dear planet. To put that into context, that is 38,210 trillion miles from us. The star cluster associated with the nebula is about 5.5 million years old.
EarthSky has the very interesting text of the NASA Press Release regarding this new, high-resolution image.
For me, I just want to let that image wash over me. Not least because it reminds me that I am a very lucky person to be living at a time when one can lose oneself in such sights.
Here’s the image again, this time without the explanation.
A return to a theme previously presented in this place.
The primary motivation for today’s post was to continue the theme in my post last Wednesday: Canada – Ellesmere Island, that featured the most beautiful film from the BBC about the wolves on Ellesmere: Snow Wolf Family and Me.
Now it struck me that in writing a blog called Learning from Dogs there was a fair chance that the history of dogs had been featured before. I ran a quick search through previous posts using the search term ‘history of dogs’. There were a number of returns. Such as the republication of an article by Mark Derr: The Wolf Who Stayed last November. Then there was a post called Dogs and Wolves: Fascinating Research in February, 2014. Back in 2013, a post Dogs and Man: An eternity of a relationship.
Yet, all these and more didn’t quite offer what I am presenting today. (Well, that’s my story!)
First up was the chance finding of a blog called Bioventures. On the 11th September, 2013 there was a post published by D.K. Taylor under the title of: The Science of Dogs: Dogs Vs. Wolves. Here’s how it started:
While watching The Science of Dogs, one portion of the documentary that interested me was the comparison of domestic dogs verses wolves. I knew beforehand that dogs and wolves behaved differently, but it was not until now that I knew much about these differences. Wolves depend upon their pack only, while dogs have been taught to rely on humans to meet many of their needs. The difference must be extreme for it to have been so obvious in the demonstration with the meat and rope from the documentary! (For anyone in the class that watched the other documentary: A piece of meat was tied to a rope, and a wolf kept pulling at it and trying to solve the problem for itself while the dog almost immediately looked to the nearby human for help.)
Then, and I forget how, I came upon a news blog, for want of a better description, called The Examiner. More precisely, I came across an article published on The Examiner back in January, 2013 called: How wolves became dogs explained in groundbreaking study.
A study by a team of American and Swedish researchers published on Jan. 23 in the Journal of Nature, shows that dogs have more genes involved in starch metabolism than wolves.
The finding suggests that this was a major factor in the evolution process of the wolf. No one knows exactly when or how our ancestors began to be so closely linked to dogs, but archaeological evidence indicates that it was thousands of years ago.
One theory suggests that modern behavior of the dogs came from the hunters that used wolves as guards or fellow hunters.
But another theory – that underpins the study – suggests that domestication began when the wolves began to approach the villages in search of food, stealing the remains left by people.
This practice became increasingly common and as a result, wolves began to live around humans. According to this second hypothesis, when we became sedentary and dependent on agriculture, waste dumps created around our settlements soon became the power source of many wolves, explains Erik Axelsson, of the University of Uppsala.
You will need to go here to read the full article, but I will offer this further piece:
Dr. Axelsson and colleagues examined the DNA of more than 50 modern breeds – from the Cocker Spaniel to the German Shepherd.
They then compared their genetic information with 12 wolves from around the world. They scanned DNA sequences of the two canids in areas with large differences. They assumed that these areas contained genes that could help explain the domestication of dogs. Axelsson’s team identified 36 regions, with more than one hundred genes.
The analysis detected the presence of two major functional categories – genes involved in brain development and starch metabolism.
The latter suggests that dogs have many more genes encoding enzymes needed to break down starch, a feature that could have been advantageous to the ancestors who rummaged among the wheat and corn of the farmers.
“The wolves also have these genes, but not used as efficiently as dogs,” said Dr. Axelsson.
“When we look at the wolf genome, we only see one copy of the gene [for the amylase enzyme] on each chromosome. When we look at the dog genome, we see a range from two to fifteen copies; and on average a dog carries seven copies more than the wolf.”
“That means the dog is a lot more efficient at making use of the nutrition in starch than the wolf.”
As for the genes related to brain development, these probably reflect some of the behavioral differences we now see in the two canids.
The dog is an animal that is much more docile, which is probably due to the past humans preferring to work with animals that were easier to tame.
“Previous experiments have indicated that when you select for a reduction in aggressiveness, you obviously get a tamer animal but you also get an animal that retains juvenile characteristics much longer during development, sometimes into adulthood,” said Dr. Axelsson.
This may help explain why it is said that dogs act like puppies throughout their lives.
The study of the origin of dogs is still, in many ways, a puzzle.
Fossil evidence suggests that some populations have been around for tens of thousands of years, long before the advent of agriculture. One reason why it is so difficult to determine the time of this change of behavior is that domestication may have occurred more than once.
Over on YouTube, there are many videos about the subject of ‘the science of dogs’, albeit many of them lengthy. But so what!
I have gone for a 2013 Documentary film that has found its way on to YouTube: Wolf and Human – The Creation of The Dog (Full Nature Documentary). It is 90-minutes long and, at the time of writing this post, Jean and I haven’t watched it. We will this evening. But it comes highly rated and I very much hope it is a good film. The title of the film is perfectly aligned with the theme of today’s post. (N.B. We had bandwidth issues last night and gave up the struggle after just eleven minutes. Despite the poor resolution of the video, it still looked like an interesting video to watch in full.)
“The best laid plans of mice and men.”
Following yesterday’s post about Ellesmere Island and the white wolves, I had plans to write more about the history of the wolf and the dog. (Oh, and thank you so much for the great way you all reacted to yesterday’s post.)
But events transpired to get in the way.
We were longer in Grants Pass in the morning than anticipated, then it was time for a quick lunch, get the fire going again, go through a rather bulging inbox, and then I was in the mood to start the post. I stood up to stretch and noticed that the deer that we feed most days were waiting impatiently.
So outside to put down some feed for the deer, then hover around, just captivated by them, decide to grab the camera from indoors and take a picture,
then, while I was outside realised that I ought to bring some logs in for the fire, and …… you get the scene, I’m sure.
I sat down at my PC to start the post and knew that I was stressing about there not being enough time to do it justice.
Gave myself a talking to about writing a blog was not something to stress about and looked for a ‘fill-in’ for today.
Opened an email recently sent to me from long-time UK friend, Neil Kelly, and discovered Neil had included in the email the most wonderful, evocative, serenely beautiful photograph of a rambler from calmer, more peaceful times. It really had to be shared with you.