Category: Capitalism

Floppy ears!

Is there a difference? Mother Nature News thinks there is.

We don’t subscribe to the following idea that floppy-eared dogs are sweeter, more friendlier.

But there’s a serious notion that there is a difference.

I’m sceptical but see what you make of the following.

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Why do floppy-eared dogs seem friendlier?

Many people think they seem nicer than those with pointy ears.

By MARY JO DILONARDO

January 4, 2019

Charles Darwin thought there was a link between floppy ears and domestication. (Photo: Renee Heetfeld/Shutterstock)

You see a German shepherd and a golden retriever at a park. Which one do you want to pet?

A lot of people might perceive the German shepherd — with its pointy, upright ears — as a little more off-putting and maybe even scary. But the floppy-eared retriever seems friendly and sweet and just asking for a cuddle.

We all make judgments about dogs (and people, for that matter) based on certain characteristics. In dogs, one of those things is the shape of their ears.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been using more floppy-eared dogs to sniff out explosives because the agency says pointy-ear dogs are scarier.

“We’ve made a conscious effort in TSA … to use floppy ear dogs,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told the Washington Examiner. “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”

Around 80 percent of the 1,200 canines the agency uses in the U.S. have droopy ears, according to the TSA. The agency uses seven types of dogs: five with droopy ears (Labrador retrievers, German short-haired pointers, wire-haired pointers, vizslas and golden retrievers) and two with pointy ears (German shepherds and Belgian Malinois).

But even though the dogs are friendly looking, they still have a job to do. Floppy-eared or not, they aren’t to be approached when they’re on duty, says the TSA.

A look at the science.

Charles Darwin thought a lot about ears when considering evolution, as the NPR video above explains in more detail.

“Our domesticated quadrupeds are all descended, as far as is known, from species having erect ears,” Darwin pointed out in “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.” “Cats in China, horses in parts of Russia, sheep in Italy and elsewhere, the guinea-pig in Germany, goats and cattle in India, rabbits, pigs and dogs in all long-civilized countries.”

In many species, ears seemed to flop when they no longer needed to be erect to catch every passing sound, Darwin mused. He called the phenomenon domestication syndrome.

More recently, in a 2013 study, Suzanne Baker of James Madison University in Virginia and Jamie Fratkin of University of Texas at Austin showed 124 participants images of a dog. In one, it was the identical dog, but it had a yellow coat in one photo and a black coat in another. The other photos showed the same dog but in one image it had floppy ears and in the other it had pointed ears.

Participants found the dogs with a yellow coat or floppy ears to be more agreeable and emotionally stable than the dogs with a black coat or prick ears.

But why the bias?

Pointy-eared German shepherds are often associated with working K-9s. (Photo: John Roman Images/Shutterstock)

Although there are plenty of people who love pointy-ear pups, why are so many wary of them? There are no studies that show prick-eared dogs are less friendly than their floppy-eared counterparts, says Elinor K. Karlsson, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and founder of Darwin’s Ark, a citizen’s science project centering around genetics and pets.

Instead, it’s likely that people base their opinions on past experiences they’ve had with dogs.

“If people do perceive floppy eared dogs as being ‘friendlier looking,’ it could be just because dogs they’ve known personally are more likely to be floppy eared,” Karlsson tells MNN, pointing out that Labrador retrievers, the most common breed in the U.S., have floppy ears.

In addition, many of the working police and military dogs people meet are breeds such as German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, which tend to have erect ears. So people may associate the ears with the working dogs which are in protector, not friendly, roles.

Karlsson says this kind of “perception bias” can affect how people see and interact with dogs, which is why she’s very interested it this theme in her research.

“People do have a habit of assigning characteristics to things based on general groupings,” she says. “People do this to humans as well. It’s the way ours brains work.”

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 I’m still not convinced but it makes a lovely story and one that I wanted to share with you.

Dark money.

Back to politics of the bigger order.

I stopped and pondered whether I should share this with you but then I decided to so do. Reason is that this is …. well, let me put it in the words of the essay: “Dark money is among the greatest current threats to democracy. It means money spent below the public radar, that seeks to change political outcomes. It enables very rich people and corporations to influence politics without showing their hands.

Enough said!

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You Want It Darker?

10th December 2018

The remarkable story of how the hard-right Koch brothers funded a Trotskyite splinter group.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th November 2018

Dark money is among the greatest current threats to democracy. It means money spent below the public radar, that seeks to change political outcomes. It enables very rich people and corporations to influence politics without showing their hands.

Among the world’s biggest political spenders are Charles and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, a vast private conglomerate of oil pipelines and refineries, chemicals, timber and paper companies, commodity trading firms and cattle ranches. If their two fortunes were rolled into one, Charles David Koch, with $120bn, would be the richest man on Earth.

In a rare public statement – an essay published in 1978 – Charles Koch explained his objective. “Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.” As Jane Mayer records in her book Dark Money, the Kochs’ ideology – lower taxes and looser regulations – and their business interests “dovetailed so seamlessly it was difficult to distinguish one from the other.”

Over the years, she notes, “the company developed a stunning record of corporate malfeasance”. Koch Industries paid massive fines for oil spills, illegal benzene emissions and ammonia pollution. In 1999, a jury found that it had knowingly using a corroded pipeline to carry butane, which caused an explosion in which two people died. Company Town, a film released last year, tells the story of local people’s long fight against pollution from a huge papermill owned by the Koch brothers.

The Koch’s chief political lieutenant, Richard Fink, developed what he called a three-stage model of social change. Universities would produce “the intellectual raw materials”. Think tanks would transform them into “a more practical or useable form”. Then “citizen activist” groups would “press for the implementation of policy change.”

To these ends the Kochs set up bodies in all three categories themselves, such as the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Cato Institute and the “citizens’ group” Americans for Prosperity. But for the most part they funded existing organisations that met their criteria. They have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a network of academic departments, thinktanks, journals and movements. And they appear to have been remarkably successful.

As researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities have found, Americans for Prosperity alone now rivals the Republican party in terms of size, staffing and organisational capacity. It has pulled ”the Republican party to the far-right on economic, tax, and regulatory issues.” It was crucial to the success of the Tea Party Movement, the ousting of Democrats from Congress, and the staffing of Trump’s transition team. The Koch network has helped secure massive tax cuts, the smashing of trade unions and the dismantling of environmental legislation.

But their hands, for the most part, remain invisible. A Republican consultant who has worked for Charles and David Koch told Jane Mayer that “to call them under the radar is an understatement. They are underground.”

Until now, there has been no evidence that Charles and David Koch have directly funded organisations based in the UK. But a few weeks ago, a reader pointed me to one line he found in a form submitted to the US government by the Charles Koch Foundation, which showed money transferred to a company that appears to be the US funding arm of a UK organisation. Once I had grasped its significance, I set up a collaboration with the investigative group DeSmog UK. We could scarcely believe what we were seeing.

The organisation the Charles Koch Foundation has chosen to fund is at first sight astounding: a US organisation established by an obscure magazine run by former members of a tiny Trotskyite splinter group. Some of its core contributors still describe themselves as Marxists or Bolsheviks. But the harder you look at it, the more sense the Koch donations appear to make.

The name of the magazine is Spiked. It emerged from a group with a comical history of left factionalism. In 1974, the International Socialists split after a dispute over arithmetic in Volume 3 of Das Kapital. One of the new factions formed the Revolutionary Communist Group. In 1976, it split again, and one of the splinters became the Revolutionary Communist Tendency. It was led by a sociologist at the University of Kent called Frank Furedi. In 1981 it changed its name to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

In 1988, the party launched a magazine called Living Marxism (later LM). By then, it had abandoned many of its former convictions. Among the few discernible traces of its revolutionary past was an enthusiasm for former communists in the Balkans, such as Slobodan Milošević. In 2000, it closed after losing a libel case: it falsely claimed that ITN had fabricated evidence of Serb atrocities against Bosnian Muslims. But as soon as the magazine folded, a network of new groups, with the same cast of characters – Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, Mick Hume, Brendan O’Neill, James Heartfield, Michael Fitzpatrick, James Woudhuysen – sprang up to replace it. Among these organisations were the Institute of ideas, the Academy of Ideas, the Manifesto Club and a new magazine, Spiked. It had the same editor as LM (Mick Hume) and most of the same contributors.

We found three payments over the past two years from the Charles Koch Foundation. They amount to $170,000, earmarked for “general operating support”. The payments were made to Spiked US Inc. On Spiked’s “Donate” page is a button that says “In the US? Donate here”. It takes you to the PayPal link for “Spiked US, Inc”. Spiked US, in other words, appears to be its American funding arm. Beyond a postal address is Hoboken, New Jersey, it is hard to see what presence it has in the US. It appears to have been established in 2016, the year in which the Koch donations began.

When I asked Spiked what the money was for and whether there had been any other payments, its managing editor, Viv Regan, told me that the Charles Koch Foundation has now given Spiked US a total of $300,000, “to produce public debates in the US about free speech, as part of its charitable activities.” She claims the foundation supports projects “on both the left and the right”. The Koch Foundation has funded “a free-speech oriented programme of public debates on campus titled the Unsafe Space Tour” and four live events, the first of which is titled ‘Should we be free to hate?’. She told me “We’re very proud of our work on free speech and tolerance, and we are proud to be part of the programme.”

But I have been unable to find any public acknowledgement of this funding. Neither on the videos of the debates, in the posters advertising them or in reports of the events in Spiked magazine is there any mention of the Charles Koch Foundation. From what I could see of the title slides in the videos, they acknowledged an organisation called the Institute for Humane Studies, but not the Foundation. Spiked has yet to reply to my questions on this matter.

The Koch brothers are famously careful with their money. According to Jane Mayer, they exert “unusually tight personal control over their philanthropic endeavours”. David Koch told a sympathetic journalist, “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent. And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.” So what might have attracted them to this obscure organisation?

Spiked magazine, now edited by Brendan O’Neill, appears to hate left-wing politics. It inveighs against the welfare state, against regulation, the Occupy movement, anti-capitalists, Jeremy Corbyn, George Soros, #MeToo, “black privilege” and Black Lives Matter. It does so in the name of the “ordinary people”, whom, it claims, are oppressed by the “anti-Trump and anti-Brexit cultural elites”, “feministic elites”, “green elites” and “cosmopolitan politicians”.

It repeatedly defends figures on the hard right or far right: Katie Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Alex Jones, the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance, Tommy Robinson, Toby Young, Arron Banks, Brett Kavanaugh, Viktor Orban. They are portrayed as victims of “McCarthyites” trying to suppress free speech. It demands the hardest of possible Brexits, insisting that “No Deal is nothing to fear”, as it would allow the UK to scrap EU regulations.

But what it appears to hate most is environmentalism. It rails against “climate scaremongering”, and has called for fracking and coal production to be ramped up. It blames the Grenfell Tower disaster on “the moral fervour of the climate change campaign”. It mocks the idea that air pollution is dangerous and has proposed abolishing the planning system. “We need to conquer nature, not bow to it,” it contends. “Let’s make the ‘human footprint’ even bigger”.

Spiked’s writers rage against exposures of dark money. It calls the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, who has won a string of prizes for exposing the opaque spending surrounding the Brexit vote,the closest thing the mainstream British media has to an out-and-out conspiracy theorist”. It carries numerous articles by writers from the obscurely-funded Institute of Economic Affairs and from the Cato Institute, that was founded by Charles Koch. Its editor, Brendan O’Neill, also writes for Reason Magazine, owned by the Reason Foundation, which has received $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation over the past two years.

Bizarrely, Spiked still uses Leon Trotsky to justify its positions. It claims to have built its philosophy on his objective of “increasing the power of man over nature and … the abolition of the power of man over man”. This means, it says, that “we should fight for greater human dominion over the natural world”, and that regulatory power should not be used to prevent anyone from exercising their agency. The result appears to turn Trotsky’s objective on its head: without constraint, those with the greatest agency can exercise uninhibited power over others.

Its enthusiasm for Trotsky is highly selective. As one of Spiked’s writers noted in 2002, his central message was that “the retreat behind national boundaries is a recipe for reaction”. Yet the magazine’s defence of both Brexit and Viktor Orban, Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, is founded on the notion of national sovereignty. Spiked seems to have remembered everything Leon Trotsky wrote that could be recruited to the cause of corporate capital and the hard right, and forgotten all his, shall we say, less enthusiastic musings about those forces.

Above all, its positions are justified with the claim to support free speech. But the freedom all seems to tend in one direction: freedom to lambast vulnerable people. The Unsafe Space tour that the Charles Koch Foundation financed was heavily slanted towards this line. Yet, when I exercised my freedom of speech in sending my questions to Spiked, I was denounced on the front page of the magazine as a “McCarthyite”. This is its favourite insult, which it uses prolifically to dismiss legitimate inquiries and critiques. The usual term for asking awkward questions about powerful interests is journalism. Open information and transparency are crucial to free speech: the more we know, the freer we become. Spiked has also called for schools, universities and governments to be “cleansed” of “the malign influence” of green NGOs, which it denounces as “the environmentalist enemy within.” Some friends of free speech, these.

The Kochs are mentioned in several Spiked articles, but no corresponding interests are declared. An article in 2016, when Spiked received $170,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, attacked the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, in which the Koch brothers have a major interest.

Is this the extent of the Koch brothers’ funding of groups based in the UK? Who knows? I have not yet had a response from the Charles Koch Foundation. But I see these payments as part of a wider pattern of undisclosed funding. Democracy without transparency is not democracy.

http://www.monbiot.com

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If I was a younger man I would be very active in trying to stop this threat to our open society.

But I am not!

All I can do is to republish this insightful essay by George Monbiot and hope that a few of you didn’t realise this thing was going on, and are concerned!

A Letter to Mr. Cosmos, Page Two

The concluding part of my letter to Mr. Cosmos.

Your Universe, Mr. Cosmos, is an enormous place.

Just the view at night from one small planet, the one that I happen to live on, Planet Earth, reveals millions upon millions of stars. It is then beyond inconceivable that there are not, in turn, countless numbers of other planets.

Extending this line of thought and recognising that a ‘mere’ billion years after the formation of our solar system and Planet Earth, some 4.54 billion years ago, the earliest life appeared, we can’t surely be alone!

Granted it was only cyanobacteria, as in blue-green algae, but, but, but ……… that this evolution of life on Planet Earth, and that evolution eventually leading to intelligent life, including the gift to us humans of the genetic separation of the dog from the wolf some 100,000 years ago, has not occurred on other planets is also totally inconceivable.

So, dear Mr. Cosmos, why have we not detected any signs of that intelligent life. Where are they?

Mr. Cosmos, back in June this year there was an article on the Big Think site that asked just this question.

Are we alone in the universe? New Drake equation suggests yes

A fresh take on the decades-old Drake equation incorporates new factors and greater uncertainty, suggesting a high likelihood that humanity is alone in the universe.

By , 25th June, 2018

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi famously posed to his colleagues a simple question borne of complex math: ‘Where are they?’

He was asking about aliens—intelligent ones, specifically. The Italian-American scientist was puzzled as to why mankind hasn’t detected any signs of intelligent life beyond our planet. He reasoned that even if life is extremely rare, you’d still expect there to be many alien civilizations given the sheer size of the universe. After all, some estimates indicate that there is one septillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, stars in the universe, some of which are surrounded by planets that could probably support life.

So, where are they, and why aren’t they talking to us?

Now, as the article reveals, there is a lot to tackling this question, much of it involving statistics and mathematics, but it does prove one very important fact: Finding another planet as good for life and humanity as this one is just about impossible.

This is our only home!!

My wish, dear Mr. Cosmos, to you is this: That before I die it becomes clear beyond question that the peoples of this sweet Planet, from the lone individual living on some island out in the wilderness to the Governments of the most powerful nations on Earth, understand that nothing is more important than loving, caring for and looking after Planet Earth.

I remain, dear Mr. Cosmos, your respectful servant.

Paul H.

Changing the world.

The problem is not plastic. It is consumerism.

I closed yesterday’s Letter to the Moon with the last sentence from a recent essay from George Monbiot: “Defending the planet means changing the world.

Shortly, I will be republishing, with Mr. Monbiot’s generous permission, the whole of that essay.

But first I am going to reproduce in full what arrived via email from George in the early hours of yesterday morning.

If you are within reach of London please go, or if not do leave a comment on the wall.

Hi Paul,

I’m contacting you because you’re one of the people who emailed me as part of the overwhelming response to my columns In Memoriam, and Incompetence By Design, where I mentioned that ‘some of us are now mobilising to turn the great enthusiasm for wildlife and natural beauty in this country into political action, and to fight the dismantling of the laws that protect our precious wild places’.

Many of you asked what I meant by ‘Watch this space’. The mobilisation starts next Saturday, in London, with The People’s Walk for Wildlife. It’s not a demonstration, nor a rally – it’s a gentle, family-friendly day. The only kind of strength we need is strength in numbers – to show that many thousands of us care deeply about the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish, and that we want the Government to commit properly to protecting those that remain.

On Saturday 22nd September, we’ll gather at Reformers Tree, Hyde Park at 10.00am; entertainment will start at 12 noon. At 1pm we’ll walk from Hyde Park Corner, via Piccadilly, St James, Pall Mall, and Cockspur St, to Whitehall. Please come along if you can. Download the birdsong app to play as we go. Bring friends, dress up as your favourite plant or animal or just come as yourself!

I’m looking forward to walking for the missing millions – I hope you can join me!

George
P.S. If you can’t make it, you can still contribute by adding your message of support to the Walk’s Wonder Wall – every post is valuable proof that you care.

Now on to that post.

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Plastic Soup

The problem is not plastic. It is consumerism.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 5th September 2018

Do you believe in miracles? If so, please form an orderly queue. Plenty of people imagine we can carry on as we are, as long as we substitute one material for another. Last month, a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted.

Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land is needed to grow it or how much food production it will displace. They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.

The problem is not just plastic. The problem is mass disposability. Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle. Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.

Don’t get me wrong. Our greed for plastic is a major environmental blight, and the campaigns to limit its use are well-motivated and sometimes effective. But we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one over-used resource for another. When I challenged that call, some people asked me, “so what should we use instead?”. The right question is “how should we live?”. But systemic thinking is an endangered species.

Part of the problem is the source of the plastic campaigns: David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series. The first six episodes had strong, coherent narratives. But the seventh episode, which sought to explain the threats facing the wonderful creatures the series revealed, darted from one issue to another. We were told we could “do something” about the destruction of ocean life. We were not told what. There was no explanation of why the problems are happening, what forces are responsible and how they can be engaged.

Amid the general incoherence, one contributor stated “It comes down, I think, to us each taking responsibility for the personal choices in our everyday lives. That’s all any of us can be expected to do.” This perfectly represents the mistaken belief that a better form of consumerism will save the planet. The problems we face are structural: a political system captured by commercial interests and an economic system that seeks endless growth. Of course we should try to minimise our own impacts, but we cannot confront these forces merely by “taking responsibility” for what we consume.

Unfortunately, these are issues that the BBC in general, and David Attenborough in particular, avoid. I admire Attenborough in many ways, but I am no fan of his environmentalism. For many years, it was almost undetectable. When he did at last speak out, he consistently avoided challenging power, either speaking in vague terms or focusing on problems for which powerful interests are not responsible. I believe this tendency may explain Blue Planet’s skirting of the obvious issues.

The most obvious is the fishing industry, that turns the astonishing lifeforms the rest of the series depicted into seafood. Throughout the oceans, this industry, driven by our appetites and protected by governments, is causing cascading ecological collapse. Yet the only fishery the programme featured was among the 1% that are in recovery. It was charming to see how Norwegian herring boats seek to avoid killing orcas, but we were given no idea of how unusual it is.

Even marine plastics is in large part a fishing issue. It turns out that 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that has come to symbolise our throwaway society, is composed of discarded nets, and much of the rest consists of other kinds of fishing gear. Abandoned fishing materials tend to be far more dangerous to marine life than other forms of waste. As for the bags and bottles contributing to the disaster, the great majority arise in poorer nations, without good disposal systems. But because this point was not made, we look to the wrong places for solutions.

From this misdirection arise a thousand perversities. One prominent environmentalist posted a picture of the king prawns she had just bought, celebrating the fact that she had persuaded the supermarket to put them in her own container, rather than a plastic bag, and linking this to the protection of the seas. But buying prawns causes many times more damage to marine life than any plastic in which they are wrapped. Prawn fishing has the highest rates of bycatch of any fishery: scooping up vast numbers of turtles and other threatened species. Prawn farming is just as bad, eliminating great tracts of mangrove forests, crucial nurseries for thousands of species.

We are kept remarkably ignorant of such issues. As consumers, we are confused, bamboozled and almost powerless. This is why corporate power has gone to such lengths to persuade us to see ourselves this way. The BBC’s approach to environmental issues is highly partisan, siding with a system that has sought to transfer responsibility for structural forces to individual shoppers. It is only as citizens, taking political action, that we can promote meaningful change.

The answer to the question “how should we live?” is “simply”. But living simply is highly complicated. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers. This is generally unnecessary: today they can be safely marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.

One-planet living means not only seeking to reduce our own consumption, but also mobilising against the system that promotes the great tide of junk. This means fighting corporate power, changing political outcomes and challenging the growth-based, world-consuming system we call capitalism.

As the famous Hothouse Earth paper published last month, that warned of the danger of flipping the planet into a new, irreversible climatic state, concluded, “incremental linear changes … are not enough to stabilize the Earth system. Widespread, rapid, and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold”. Disposable coffee cups made from new materials are not just a non-solution. They are a perpetuation of the problem. Defending the planet means changing the world.

http://www.monbiot.com

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Share this! Please!

A Letter to the Moon

We live on such a fragile planet!

The idea of writing a letter to the moon is not a new one and it came to me when listening to an item yesterday morning, Pacific Time, broadcast by the BBC on Radio 4. The item was the news that Elon Musk has announced that:

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has unveiled the first private passenger it plans to fly around the Moon.

Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, 42, announced: “I choose to go to the Moon.”

The mission is planned for 2023, and would be the first lunar journey by humans since 1972.

So here is that letter!

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Dear Mr Moon,

I cannot believe how quickly the years roll by!

Who would have thought that yesterday, the 18th of September, 2018, was the anniversary of the day in September, 1977 when:

On September 18, 1977, as it headed toward the outer solar system, Voyager 1 looked back and acquired a stunning image of our Earth and moon.

You will surely remember that first image taken of the Planet Earth and your good self in the same frame.

Here is the 1st-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame. Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km) from Earth. Image Number: PIA00013 via NASA/JPL.

Now here we are some 41 years later and, my, how things have changed.

But something, dear Mr. Moon, has never changed for you. That is the sight of our most beautiful planet. Plus, I would go so far as to venture that what makes our planet such a beautiful sight, one that has captivated us humans when we have gone into space and looked back at home, is the magic of our atmosphere.

It is so thin!

Picture taken by a NASA satellite orbiting the earth some 200 miles above the planet’s surface.

So, so thin …. and so, so fragile.

It is akin to the thinness of the skin of an onion.

In fact, Mr. Moon, that layer that we earthlings call the troposphere, the layer closest to Earth’s surface varies from just 4 miles to 12 miles (7 to 20 km) thick. It contains half of our planet’s atmosphere!

Everything that sustains the life of air-breathing creatures, human and otherwise, depends on the health of this narrow layer of atmosphere above our heads. Now the thickness of that layer varies depending on the season and the temperature of the air. But let’s use an average thickness of 8 miles (say, 13 km) because I want to explore in my letter to you some comparisons.

In your infinite gaze down upon your mother planet you will have seen the arrival  of H. sapiens, out of ancestral H. erectus, that took place roughly 315,000 years ago.

You will also have seen from your lofty vantage point the growth of both CO2 levels in the planet’s atmosphere and the average land-ocean temperature. Forgive me quoting something at you, but:

OBSERVABLE CHANGES IN THE EARTH

SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

While politicians have been busy debating the merits of climate science, the physical symptoms of climate change have become increasingly apparent: since the industrial revolution, sea level has grown by 0.9 inches, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen to unprecedented levels, average global temperatures have increased by about 1.0 degree Celsius and, to top it off, the global population has jumped by nearly 600 percent; 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurred in the 21st century, and 2016 is likely to be the warmest year ever recorded.

Now the Industrial Revolution was all but over back in 1840 and the last 178 years have seen an explosion in the way we use energy, in all its forms. Plus we have to accept that back then the global population was around 1 billion persons. It is now over 7 billion.

Between 1900 and 2000, the increase in world population was three times greater than during the entire previous history of humanity—an increase from 1.5 to 6.1 billion in just 100 years.

So on to my comparisons.

The radius of our beautiful planet is about 3,959 miles (6,371 km). The average thickness of the troposphere is 8 miles (13 km).

Thus the ratio of thickness of our liveable atmosphere to the radius of the planet is 8 divided by 3,959. That is a figure of 0.002! Our atmosphere is 1/1000th of the size of the radius of our planet.

Hang on that figure for a moment.

In the last 178 years humanity has transformed our consumption of energy and especially carbon-based fuels. H. sapiens has been around for 315,000 years.

Thus the ratio of these present ‘modern’ times (the last 178 years) to the arrival of us back then (315,000 years ago) is 178 divided by 315,000. That is a (rounded) figure of 0.0006. Our modern times are just 1/10,000th of the time that so-called modern man has been on this planet.

So, dear Mr. Moon, you must despair that in so short a number of years, proportionally ten times smaller than the ratio of the troposphere to the radius of our planet, we funny creatures have done so much damage to what we all depend on to stay alive – clean air!

Or maybe, my dear companion of the night sky, because you are celebrating your 4.1 billionth year of existence, what we humans are doing is all a bit of a yawn.

Sincerely,

This old Brit living in Oregon.

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My dear friends (and I’m now speaking to you dear reader, not the moon!) when you reflect on the fragility of our atmosphere, well the layer we depend on for life, you realise without doubt that each and every one of us must make this pledge.

“I promise to do everything possible to reduce my own personal CO2 output and to ensure that both to my near friends and my political representatives I make it clear that we must turn back – and turn back now!”

Or, as George Monbiot writes in closing a recent essay (that I am republishing tomorrow): “Defending the planet means changing the world.”

Can we really avoid the ‘train crash’?

The idea that humanity will not prevent the approaching disaster is beyond belief!

One of the results of all you great people signing up to follow Learning from Dogs is that it encourages me to share things that strike me as so, so important.

Another of the results in there being, as of today, 3,349 following this place, is that I get the sense of what many of you good people also feel is important. Ergo, it is clear to me, clear beyond doubt, that caring and loving a dog or two makes you a person who cares and loves passionately this beautiful planet that is our home.

The emotion that is spilling out of me via these words to you is a result of having just read an essay published recently on The Conversation site and shared with you today.

Directly, it has nothing to do with our dear dogs. Yet, in a way, it does!

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7.5 billion and counting: How many humans can the Earth support?

By Associate Professor of Mathematics, College of the Holy Cross, July 9th 2018.

Humans are the most populous large mammal on Earth today, and probably in all of geological history. This World Population Day, humans number in the vicinity of 7.5 to 7.6 billion individuals.

Can the Earth support this many people indefinitely? What will happen if we do nothing to manage future population growth and total resource use? These complex questions are ecological, political, ethical – and urgent. Simple mathematics shows why, shedding light on our species’ ecological footprint.

The mathematics of population growth

In an environment with unlimited natural resources, population size grows exponentially. One characteristic feature of exponential growth is the time a population takes to double in size.

Exponential growth of world population

It took 127 years for the world population to double from one billion to two. By contrast, it took only 47 years, from 1927 to 1974, to double from two billion to four. Since 1960, world population has grown by about one billion every 13 years. Each point represents an additional one billion people.

[Ed: Text taken from a chart displayed in the article.]

Exponential growth tends to start slowly, sneaking up before ballooning in just a few doublings.

To illustrate, suppose Jeff Bezos agreed to give you one penny on Jan. 1, 2019, two pennies on Feb. 1, four on March 1, and so forth, with the payment doubling each month. How long would his $100 billion fortune uphold the contract? Take a moment to ponder and guess.

After one year, or 12 payments, your total contract receipts come to US$40.95, equivalent to a night at the movies. After two years, $167,772.15 – substantial, but paltry to a billionaire. After three years, $687,194,767.35, or about one week of Bezos’ 2017 income.

The 43rd payment, on July 1, 2022, just short of $88 billion and equal to all the preceding payments together (plus one penny), breaks the bank.

Real population growth

For real populations, doubling time is not constant. Humans reached 1 billion around 1800, a doubling time of about 300 years; 2 billion in 1927, a doubling time of 127 years; and 4 billion in 1974, a doubling time of 47 years.

On the other hand, world numbers are projected to reach 8 billion around 2023, a doubling time of 49 years, and barring the unforeseen, expected to level off around 10 to 12 billion by 2100.

This anticipated leveling off signals a harsh biological reality: Human population is being curtailed by the Earth’s carrying capacity, the population at which premature death by starvation and disease balances the birth rate.

World population projections

In 2020, the UN predicts that there will be 7,795,482 people worldwide.

[Ed: Text taken from a chart displayed in the article.]

Ecological implications

Humans are consuming and polluting resources – aquifers and ice caps, fertile soil, forests, fisheries and oceans – accumulated over geological time, tens of thousands of years, or longer.

Wealthy countries consume out of proportion to their populations. As a fiscal analogy, we live as if our savings account balance were steady income.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank, the Earth has 1.9 hectares of land per person for growing food and textiles for clothing, supplying wood and absorbing waste. The average American uses about 9.7 hectares.

These data alone suggest the Earth can support at most one-fifth of the present population, 1.5 billion people, at an American standard of living.

A man works recycling plastic bottles outside Hanoi, Vietnam. REUTERS/Kham

Water is vital. Biologically, an adult human needs less than 1 gallon of water daily. In 2010, the U.S. used 355 billion gallons of freshwater, over 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) per person per day. Half was used to generate electricity, one-third for irrigation, and roughly one-tenth for household use: flushing toilets, washing clothes and dishes, and watering lawns.

If 7.5 billion people consumed water at American levels, world usage would top 10,000 cubic kilometers per year. Total world supply – freshwater lakes and rivers – is about 91,000 cubic kilometers.

World Health Organization figures show 2.1 billion people lack ready access to safe drinking water, and 4.5 billion lack managed sanitation. Even in industrialized countries, water sources can be contaminated with pathogens, fertilizer and insecticide runoff, heavy metals and fracking effluent.

Freedom to choose

Though the detailed future of the human species is impossible to predict, basic facts are certain. Water and food are immediate human necessities. Doubling food production would defer the problems of present-day birth rates by at most a few decades. The Earth supports industrialized standards of living only because we are drawing down the “savings account” of non-renewable resources, including fertile topsoil, drinkable water, forests, fisheries and petroleum.

The drive to reproduce is among the strongest desires, both for couples and for societies. How will humans reshape one of our most cherished expectations – “Be fruitful and multiply” – in the span of one generation? What will happen if present-day birth rates continue?

Population stays constant when couples have about two children who survive to reproductive age. In some parts of the developing world today, couples average three to six children.

We cannot wish natural resources into existence. Couples, however, have the freedom to choose how many children to have. Improvements in women’s rights, education and self-determination generally lead to lower birth rates.

As a mathematician, I believe reducing birth rates substantially is our best prospect for raising global standards of living. As a citizen, I believe nudging human behavior, by encouraging smaller families, is our most humane hope.

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This essay from Professor Hwang is one of those articles that one frequently sees online that comes across as really interesting but, in the end, only gets a skim read; at best.

So if you didn’t fully comprehend what the good Professor included then ‘Stop‘ and go back and read it all very carefully.

Don’t just be alarmed at Professor Hwang writing:

This anticipated leveling off signals a harsh biological reality: Human population is being curtailed by the Earth’s carrying capacity, the population at which premature death by starvation and disease balances the birth rate.

Or:

Though the detailed future of the human species is impossible to predict, basic facts are certain. Water and food are immediate human necessities. Doubling food production would defer the problems of present-day birth rates by at most a few decades. The Earth supports industrialized standards of living only because we are drawing down the “savings account” of non-renewable resources, including fertile topsoil, drinkable water, forests, fisheries and petroleum.

Be concerned that each and every one of us, as in you and me, can only prevent the train crash by making a change in how we live: Today!

Otherwise ….

In so many ways we are such a clever and inventive race, capable of exploring the farthest reaches of outer space and the innermost aspects of quantum mechanics. Surely we must learn to live sustainably on beautiful Planet Earth!

Just say “No!”

We have to keep banging this drum on behalf of our wildlife!

OK! This new essay from George Monbiot applies specifically to the United Kingdom. But there’s no question in my mind that awareness of what is going in the U.K. will be important for readers in many other countries.

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Incompetence By Design

As state bodies are dismantled, corporations are freed to rip the living world apart

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th July 2018

It feels like the collapse of the administrative state – and this is before Brexit. One government agency after another is losing its budget, its power and its expertise. The result, for corporations and the very rich, is freedom from the restraint of law, freedom from the decencies they owe to other people, freedom from democracy. The public protections that constrain their behaviour are being dismantled.

An example is the cascading decline in the protection of wildlife and environmental quality. The bodies charged with defending the living world have been so enfeebled that they now scarcely exist as independent entities. Natural England, for example, has been reduced to a nodding dog in the government’s rear window.

Its collapse as an autonomous agency is illuminated by the case that will be heard next week in the High Court, where two ecologists, Tom Langton and Dominic Woodfield, are challenging its facilitation of the badger cull. That the cull is a senseless waste of life and money is well established, but this is only one of the issues being tested. Another is that Natural England, which is supposed to assess whether the shooting of badgers causes wider environmental harm, appears incapable of discharging its duties.

As badger killing spreads across England, it intrudes upon ever more wildlife sites, some of which protect animals that are highly sensitive to disturbance. Natural England is supposed to determine whether allowing hunters to move through these places at night and fire their guns has a detrimental effect on other wildlife, and what the impact of removing badgers from these ecosystems might be. The claimants allege that it has approved the shooting without meaningful assessments.

Some of its decisions, they maintain, are farcical. In Dorset, for example, Natural England assumed that overwintering hen harriers and merlins use only one out of all the sites that have been designated for their protection, and never stray from it. It makes the same assumption about the Bewick’s swans that winter around the Severn estuary. That birds fly, enabling them to move from one site to another, appears to have been overlooked.

Part of the problem, the claimants argue, is that staff with specialist knowledge have been prevented from making decisions. The location of the badger cull zones is such a closely guarded secret that Natural England’s local staff are not allowed to see the boundaries. As a result, they can make no meaningful assessment of what the impact might be. Instead, the decisions are made in distant offices by people who have not visited the sites.

I wanted to ask Natural England about this, but its external communications have been shut down by the government: any questions now have to be addressed to Michael Gove’s environment department, Defra. Defra told me “staff carrying out this work have all the necessary information. It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing legal matter.” How can Natural England be an independent body when the government it is supposed to monitor speaks on its behalf?

Another example of how far Natural England has fallen is the set of deals it has struck with grouse moor owners, allowing them to burn protected habitats, kill protected species and build roads across sites that are supposed to be set aside for wildlife. For several years, the redoubtable conservationist Mark Avery has been fighting these decisions. This May, Natural England conceded, in effect, that he was right. The agency that is meant to protect our wild places has been colluding in their destruction.

A correspondent from within Natural England tells me its staff are so demoralised that it has almost ceased to function. “Enforcement, for example, is close to non-existent … Gove seems to have somehow both raised the profile of environmental issues whilst simultaneously stripping the resources … it has never been as bad as this.”

In March, the House of Lords reported that Natural England’s budget has been cut by 44% since it was founded in 2006. The cuts have crippled both its independence and its ability to discharge its duties. It has failed to arrest the catastrophic decline in our wildlife, failed to resist the housebuilders trashing rare habitats and abandoned its regulatory powers in favour of useless voluntary agreements. As if in response, the government cut the agency’s budget by a further 14%.

Dominic Woodfield, one of the claimants in the court case next week, argues that Natural England has been “on death row” since it applied the law at Lodge Hill in Kent, where the Ministry of Defence was hoping to sell Britain’s best nightingale habitat to a housing developer. Natural England had no legal choice but to designate this land as a site of scientific interest, hampering the government’s plans. As the government slashed its budget and curtailed its independence, the agency’s disastrous response has been to try to save itself through appeasement. But all this has done is to alienate its defenders, reduce its relevance and hasten its decline. “There are still good people in Natural England. But they’re broken. They talk very slowly because they’re thinking very carefully about everything they say.”

If this is happening before we leave the European Union, I can only imagine where we will stand without the protection of European law. The environmental watchdog that, according to Michael Gove, will fill the role now played by the European Commission, will know, like Natural England, that its budget is provided by the government and can be cut at the government’s discretion. What is to prevent it from being nobbled as other agencies have been?

Already, the deliberate mutilating of the administrative state, delivering incompetence by design, has released landowners, housebuilders and assorted polluters from regulatory restraint. Only through European law have government agencies been forced to discharge their duties. Brexit strips away this defence. And if, as some propose, it paves the way for One Nation Under Gove, we should, the evidence so far suggests, be even more alarmed.

But some of us are now mobilising to turn the great enthusiasm for wildlife and natural beauty in this country into political action, and to fight the dismantling of the laws that protect our precious wild places. Watch this space.

http://www.monbiot.com

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On George Monbiot’s blog home page is this quote:

“I love not man the less, but Nature more.”

We must all love Nature more!

Defending the world we love!

Mr. George Monbiot offers a deeply personal, deeply powerful reason to change!

I have long followed George Monbiot’s writings. Both for his writing skills and the many times he really spells it out. As in spelling out the madness of our present ways! Frequently I find him very inspiring. However, his latest essay In Memoriam is one of the best ones that I have read. It is a plea from George Monbiot to see what we are doing to our wildlife and our ecosystems.

It is republished here with George Monbiot’s very kind permission. I have taken the liberty of including a few recent photographs of the wildlife that graces our acres here in Oregon.

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In Memoriam

As our wildlife and ecosystems collapse, remembering is a radical act.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29th June 2018

It felt as disorientating as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted in being able to identify almost any wild plant or animal. And now it has gone. This ability has shrivelled from disuse: I can no longer identify them because I can no longer find them.

Perhaps this forgetfulness is protective. I have been averting my eyes. Because I cannot bear to see what we have done to nature, I no longer see nature itself. Otherwise, the speed of loss would be unendurable. The collapse can be witnessed from one year to the next. The swift decline of the swift (down 25% in five years) is marked by the loss of the wild screams that, until very recently, filled the skies above my house. My ambition to see the seabird colonies of the Shetlands and St Kilda has been replaced by the intention never to visit those islands during the breeding season: I could not bear to see the empty cliffs, whose populations have crashed by some 90% this century.

I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted. Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find her visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another Old Master had been cut from its frame.

The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin.

This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.

We have a fatal weakness: a failure to perceive incremental change. As natural systems shift from one state to another, we almost immediately forget what we have lost. I have to make a determined effort to remember what I saw in my youth. Could it really be true that every patch of nettles, at this time of year, was reamed with caterpillar holes? That flycatchers were so common I scarcely gave them a second glance? That the rivers, around the autumn equinox, were almost black with eels?

Others seem oblivious. When I have criticised current practice, farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial rye grass, with the message “look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature”. It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway. One of my readers, Michael Groves, records the shift he has seen in the field beside his house, where the grass, that used to be cut for hay, is now cut for silage. Watching the cutters being driven at great speed across the field, he realised that any remaining wildlife would be shredded. Soon afterwards, he saw a roe deer standing in the mown grass. She stayed throughout the day and the following night. When he went to investigate, he found her fawn, its legs amputated. “I felt sickened, angry and powerless … how long had it taken to die?”. That “grass-fed meat” the magazines and restaurants fetishise? This is the reality.

When our memories are wiped as clean as the land, we fail to demand its restoration. Our forgetting is a gift to industrial lobby groups and the governments that serve them. Over the past few months, I have been told repeatedly that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, gets it. I have said so myself: he genuinely seems to understand what the problems are and what needs to be done. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it.

He cannot be blamed for all of the fiascos to which he has put his name. The 25-year plan for nature was, it seems, gutted by the Prime Minister’s office. The environmental watchdog he proposed was defanged by the Treasury (it has subsequently been lent some dentures by Parliament). Other failures are all his own work. In response to lobbying from sheep farmers, he has allowed ravens, a highly intelligent and long-lived species just beginning to recover from centuries of persecution, to be killed once more. There are 24 million sheep in this country and 7400 pairs of ravens. Why must all other species give way to the white plague?

Responding to complaints that most of our national parks are wildlife deserts, Gove set up a commission to review them. But governments choose their conclusions in advance, through the appointments they make. A more dismal, backward-looking and uninspiring panel would be hard to find: not one of its members, as far as I can tell, has expressed a desire for significant change in our national parks, and most of them, if their past statements are anything to go by, are determined to keep them in their sheepwrecked and grouse-trashed state.

Now the lobbyists demand a New Zealand settlement for farming after Brexit: deregulated, upscaled, hostile to both wildlife and the human eye. If they get their way, no landscape, however treasured, will be safe from broiler sheds and mega-dairy units, no river protected from run-off and pollution, no songbird saved from local extinction. The merger between Bayer and Monsanto brings together the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal pesticides with the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal herbicides. Already the concentrated power of these behemoths is a hazard to democracy; together they threaten both political and ecological disaster. Labour’s environment team have scarcely a word to say about any of it. Similarly, the big conservation groups, as usual, have gone missing in inaction.

We forget even our own histories. We fail to recall, for example, that the Dower report, published in 1945, envisaged wilder national parks than we now possess, and that the conservation white paper the government issued in 1947 called for the kind of large-scale protection that is considered edgy and innovative today. Remembering is a radical act.

That caterpillar, by the way, was a six spot burnet: the larva of a stunning iridescent black and pink moth that once populated my neighbourhood and my mind. I will not allow myself to forget again: I will work to recover the knowledge I have lost. For I now see that without the power of memory, we cannot hope to defend the world we love.

http://www.monbiot.com

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“… the world we love.”

No better illustrated each morning as my world reaches out to me with love and trust.

Thank you, George, for speaking out so powerfully!

Going Vegan!

More evidence that supports the sense, the very great sense, in going vegan!

Some three weeks ago, on June 15th to be exact, I published a post called On Veganism. Jean and I had just watched a film What The Health and what it presented in terms of eating chicken and fish convinced us to immediately go the final step, as in going from being vegetarians to vegans.

Many of you offered kind words and encouragement. Colette Bytes included a link to a blog post that she published in April, 2017. It is called Vegan Future and with her kind permission that post is republished today.

It is chock full of information and videos so do settle down and let all the information provided by Colette ‘speak’ to you! This is really worthy of an evening spent watching all the videos!

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Vegan Future

by Colette Bytes, April 21st 2017

Seventeen percent of human caused greenhouse gases,  come from meat and dairy production. It is actually a greater figure than all CO2 produced by global transportation!

Posted by The Daily Conversation

But is it enough, just to reduce our animal consumption, or should we look at the compelling evidence that we need a Vegan future!

Animal and Environmental Ethics

On a previous blog, I mention the documentary ‘Earthlings’ narrated by Hollywood actor, and lifelong Vegan, Joachim Phoenix. ‘Earthlings’ is the definitive Vegan film on exposing the meat and dairy industry in the US. And while other countries may not have factory farming on such a broad scale, many of the same procedures occur on a smaller scale. No member of the general public is allowed into the kill sections of slaughter houses for a very good reason. It is horrendous to watch a fear-ridden animal that wants to live, face its painful death.

This filmed reaction of a viewer watching ‘Earthlings’ is an average reaction. It is a moving experience for anyone with compassion. Posted by Raw Vegan, Fruitarian, Michael Lanfield, it is worth watching if you cannot bring yourself to actually watch the devastating, but common images of the meat, dairy and egg industry.

Switching your food intake to a plant-based Vegan diet, (eliminating all meat, dairy, egg and seafood), is the biggest change with the most impact that you can possibly make to reduce climate warming, land and water degradation, extinction rates, deforestation, pollution, human and animal suffering, and war (often over lack of food and water resources). And It is the number one thing you can do to improve your own health. It can also cut the cost of your food bill while you continue to eat a healthy diet.

There is no downside to this change if you keep your diet healthy and balanced. You can even eat processed plant-based, meat-like products if you want, but they may cost a similar amount to having meat in your diet.

The United Nations has already stated that we need to switch to a plant based diet if we are to survive.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53984

So what is holding you back?

Australian, James Aspey, a survivor of thyroid cancer, has become a Vegan Speaker (on ending animal cruelty) with his own Youtube channel, but he is also one of an exponentially growing number of people who have improved their own health through a plant based diet switch.

James Aspey interview posted by Plant Based News

Find out more about James Aspey on his YouTube channel, Facebook, and on his website:
http://www.jamesaspey.com.au/

Healthy Eating

AllPlants interview on Plant Based News

Lots of new Ethical, Healthy Vegan Ready Made meals like this brand are appearing now on Super market shelves. So even if you don’t ‘do cooking’ you can still find nutritious Vegan options. And Vegan restaurants, holidays and lifestyles are all available now.

And new research is beginning to show that meat and dairy are actually toxic to our body.

Meat is a neurotoxin, Posted by 8/10/10 in London

And for when you have time, do listen to this amazing and life changing Cardiologist’s 1:20:00 hrs talk…on your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other life threatening diseases on a meat based diet…and also look at doctor Greger’s work and videos too (links below)

Robert Ostfeld, Cardiologist and Director of a US Cardiology Centre. Posted by Jeanne Schumacher, ‘Plant Power’ YouTube channel

More on Dr Ostfeld is available on The Forks over Knives (film) website https://www.forksoverknives.com/contributors/robert-ostfeld/

Elite Athletes and Hollywood Icons
You’d be surprised how many top athletes eat a vegan diet just to be at the top of their sport…Names like Serena and Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, are all Vegans. Winner of the world Strongman competition is Vegan. Many top boxers eat vegan. Look at PlantBased News on YouTube for lots of informative videos on who is Vegan. And see their 100 countdown of awesome Vegan celebrities.

Top 2017 Vegans posted by PlantBased News

Making the change to Vegan

Eating junk plant-based foods is not advisable as it will lead to nutrient deficiencies…and ultimately a disease state, so you can’t survive on potato crisps, popcorn, and bread….there is a responsibility to eat a balanced fresh food diet to be healthy.

You do need to eat proteins (nuts, legumes, grains, beans, some veggies). You will need to supplement with Vitamin B12, a soil- based, active nutrient essential for our brain & nervous system which we do not get in our diet as we no longer forage and eat unwashed food like our ape ancestors. And you may need to supplement Vit D3 for bone health as we no longer spend enough time outside in the sunshine. Essential oil, Omega 3 can be obtained from flax and hemp seeds. The rest, you should be able to get from a ‘good’ Vegan diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, grains and nuts. Just 15 grams of nuts per day will give you enough protein to be healthy. Eating Kale and other dark leafy plants, beans, whole grain rice, legumes and some nuts, sweet potatoes are all sources of Calcium. The key to health is to have a full, varied selection of whole plant-based food!

Meat and Dairy Industry  Scare Tactics

The Meat and Dairy industry packers are worried that they will lose their industry and are fighting back with their political power and disinformation campaigns designed to scare us, but the smart companies will begin to think about how they can profit from exponential growth in the Vegan food industry.

Corporate Panick, posted by PlantBased News
Research

There are so many online sources to help you buy, and cook a healthy plant-based diet. Just type ‘Vegan Recipies’ into a search engine and you will find fantastic yummy recipes. You will love the variety and the taste of your new diet. And if you are not into cooking,  mainstream supermarkets are now starting to stock a growing variety of vegan ready made meals, and starting to label Vegan choices.

https://plantbasednews.org/

An all round informative website on Vegan trends, news headlines, and increasing popularity of healthy lifestyles including a plant- based diet.
Medical based RESOURCES on how to stay healthy on a Vegan diet

https://nutritionfacts.org/

Dr Michael Greger, MD, author of Best Seller, ‘How Not to Die’ and distributer of free videos and research on how plant based diets affect us. I have followed his work for years and he backs it all up with science based studies…his short videos and reports are packed with hundreds of supportive reports for a plant based diet.

https://www.drmcdougall.com/

Dr McDougal, Author of ‘A Starch Based Diet’ and follower of Nathan Pritikin, one of the forerunners promoting plant based nutrition.

http://www.theveganjunction.com/top-20-plant-based-health-professionals-to-follow/

Vegan Junction list of Plant-Based Diet health professionals
More Videos

Open Your Eyes – Toronto Pig Save posted by Bite-Size-Vegan

How not To Die – plant based diet by Dr Michael Greger
Latest documentaries to look up

Carnage (only on BBC iPlayer)

The Game Changers

Eating our way to Extinction

What the Health!

Plant Pure Nutrition

And there are so many more resources out there ! Join the growing trend to make this a better world for everyone, by making the biggest difference you can when you shop for food. Pick whole, plant-based, foods and kick the ‘animal eating’ habit to be healthy, stop animal cruelty, and save the environment and reduce global greenhouse gases. What could be a more worthy goal?

Why not check out my blog here on ‘Why do We Hurt Animals?

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This is so much more than just a blog post from Colette. It is a fantastic source of information, from a variety of sources, about why it makes such good sense to become a vegan.

I shall include it as a link from the home page of Learning from Dogs so it may serve as a reference long after it was republished today.

Then what about dogs eating a vegan diet? Sounds a bit strange? Maybe not! I shall be exploring that option with Halo, a company based in Florida, who claim:

Can dogs be vegan? Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores, dogs can be fed a vegan diet as long as it’s high quality and nutritionally balanced like Halo® Garden of Vegan® dog food.

More on this next week.

In the meantime, I’m taking a day off tomorrow but please do read George Monbiot’s latest post, being republished here on Friday, 6th July.

We truly are what we eat!

That’s both us and our beloved dogs!

Today through to Wednesday is all about increasing awareness of the risk of not being ultra-careful as to what we put into the mouths of both ourselves and our beloved dogs.

Thus, on Wednesday I will be republishing a recent post from Colette about the power of eating a vegan diet. Tomorrow will be a post about curbing the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Today is a republication of an important article that appeared on the Healthy Pets website on June 25th. (Thank you Belinda for the ‘heads up’!)

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Dozens of Dog Deaths Now Linked to This Pentobarbital-Tainted Food

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, June 25th, 2018

Earlier this year I wrote about a second incident of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital discovered in dog food. The first incident was in 2017 and involved Evanger’s formulas. Then came the more recent recall of Gravy Train tainted with pentobarbital.

Background on Contaminated Gravy Train Dog Food

The Gravy Train situation was investigated by WJLA ABC 7 in Washington D.C. The station teamed up with Ellipse Analytics, a laboratory that specializes in testing food for contami­nants. They tested 62 samples of over 24 brands of wet (canned) dog food for pentobarbital.

“After months of tests and re-tests, one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital,” says WJLA. “In total, we tested 15 cans of Gravy Train. Nine cans — 60 percent of the sample — were positive for pentobarbital. And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.”1

The WJLA investigation resulted in a class action lawsuit against J.M. Smucker/Big Heart Pet Brands filed on February 9 of this year in a U.S. District Court in California by a Missouri woman who believes Gravy Train may have contributed to the death of her Miniature Schnauzer.2

The lawsuit wants Smucker/Big Heart to “… disclose its pet food sold throughout the United States is adulterated and contains pentobarbital and to restore monies to the consumers and businesses who purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods ….”3

Later in February, Smucker/Big Heart voluntarily withdrew 10 varieties of Gravy Train dog food, along with certain shipments of Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy and Skippy.4 A complete list of the products pulled from store shelves — all of it canned dog food — can be found here. In early March, the FDA notified Smucker/Big Heart that its voluntary removal of products was now considered a recall, based on a test confirming the presence of pentobarbital in the tallow the company used in the recalled pet foods.

The Plot Thickens

My friend and pet food consumer advocate Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food recently wrote an update regarding the class action lawsuit, noting a Master Consolidated Complaint filed on May 1.5 The newly filed document names 11 additional plaintiffs (pet owners), and as Susan says, “… reveals some damning information against pet food manufacturer Smucker.”6

The updated filing asserts that “… Defendant [Smucker/Big Heart] knew the Contaminated Dog Foods contained pentobarbital.” The plaintiffs did not make this claim in the initial lawsuit, which means that between February 9 and May 1, their investigation revealed additional unfavorable details about Smucker’s business practices.

On February 16, 2018, the FDA issued an alert to consumers about the recalled Gravy Train dog foods, stating very clearly that pentobarbital should not be in pet food.

A week or so later, Smucker issued a press release stating it had identified the source of the pentobarbital and described it as “a single ingredient (beef fat).” According to the updated filing, Smucker was less than forthcoming about what they tested to arrive at their conclusion:

“Defendant did not identify what exactly was tested — whether it was cans of the food pulled from the shelves, cans shipped directly from the manufacturing plant, and/or isolated samples of beef fat from the supplier. Defendant did claim the tested beef fat was sourced from cattle from the United States. However, Defendant has offered no information about how it identified this particular ingredient or whether it tested any other ingredients included in the recalled pet foods.

Defendant also did not specify what animals they tested the Contaminated Dog Foods for beyond cattle. When doing DNA testing, it must be determined beforehand what species will be looked for (i.e. dog, cat, cattle, horse, etc.). Defendant has not disclosed whether its testing looked for dog, cat, or horse DNA.”

In early March, Smucker updated the above statement, claiming the animal fat was from “cow, pig and chicken and no other animal of the nine types tested.” Smucker still didn’t identify what types of animals were included in the testing, nor did it disclose the name of the manufacturing plant and/or supplier that is the suspected source of the tainted raw materials.

Later the same day, Smucker changed its statement yet again, now claiming the source of contamination was pig and chicken fat (no cow this time) and “no other animal of the nine types tested,” again neglecting to name the nine types of animals tested. From the updated filing:

“In the end, over ninety million cans of food manufactured and distributed by Defendant were recalled because of the inclusion of pentobarbital.

Moreover, the testing results showed alarmingly high levels of pentobarbital in the tallow. Specifically, the current supply tested showed levels ranging from 801 ppb to 852 ppb, and the retained sample from 2017 contained pentobarbital at the level of 529 ppb.

Despite this, Defendant has publicly represented that the testing showed ‘extremely low levels of pentobarbital do not pose a threat to pet safety’ but failed to disclose or acknowledge the testing results that showed the high levels of pentobarbital in the tallow.”

Smucker/Big Heart ‘Knew or Recklessly Chose to Ignore That the Contaminated Dog Foods Were Adulterated Pet Food’

Smucker ultimately named the source of the contaminated tallow as a single supplier, JBS USA Holdings, Inc. and its rendering facility. According to the plaintiffs, JBS “knowingly” works with meat byproduct recycling, including animal byproducts not suitable for human consumption.

And in addition, JBS “has been plagued by investigations, recalls, and other red flag situations.” This should have alerted Smucker that it needed to routinely confirm the safety and quality of products purchased from this supplier, especially since it claims to “regularly audit our suppliers and have assurances from them about the quality and specifications of the materials they supply us.” From the updated filing:

“Yet Defendant chose to utilize JBS as a supplier even though it maintains that it keeps rigorous quality and supplier standards from ‘start to finish’ and performs three-tier auditing that includes third party auditors, to ensure pure ingredients and fair labor are used in its products, including the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Given this rigorous auditing process, Defendant knew or recklessly chose to ignore that the Contaminated Dog Foods were adulterated pet food as it retained samples of the tallow that should have been tested based on the claimed practices and standards by Defendant.”

According to Susan Thixton, who’s been conducting her own investigation of Big Pet Feed business practices for years, these clearly shady dealings are commonplace.

“Audits of pet food ingredient suppliers, [and] testing of ingredients for safety and quality are mostly to support a paper trail,” she writes. “Little to no true quality control testing is ever performed.

Truck drivers delivering ingredients to pet food facilities have been instructed to carry in the truck cab ‘clean’ samples provided for testing; not a sample of what is actually delivered to the plant. Drivers have also shared that when a load of pet food ingredients is actually tested and fails, lot numbers are changed and the delivery is then accepted without question.

It has been shared multiple times from multiple individuals — the main goal is to keep the pet food plant in production … not the quality of ingredients.”

At an AAFCO meeting Susan attended a few years ago, pet food company employees shared that manufacturers keep a supply of clean samples on hand in the event regulatory authorities or auditors ask to test ingredients. “Rarely, if ever, are the actual ingredients used in a pet food tested by regulatory or auditors,”she writes.

Naming the Dead

Sadly, the victims of Big Pet Food’s unconscionable business practices and lack of regulatory oversight by the FDA and individual State Departments of Agriculture are innocent pets and their unsuspecting owners. From the Master Consolidated Complaint:

“In August 2017, Plaintiff Sebastiano’s dog became weak and confused, began vomiting, had blood in his stool, lost weight, no longer wanted to eat, and had trouble standing and walking. At only [7] and a half years old, Samson died, on December 4, 2017.

Plaintiff Johnson … fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his thirteen border collie and Australian shepherd mixes he used as herding dogs for his cattle. Plaintiff Johnson had seven males and six female dogs that ranged from [10] months to approximately [7] years old. … Devastatingly, Plaintiff Johnson lost all thirteen dogs, including one pregnant female, on January 14 and 15, 2018.

At that time, all of his dogs were showing symptoms of kidney failure so the veterinarian recommended that all thirteen be put down. All of the dogs were fed the Contaminated Dog Foods at the same time and all were sick within hours after eating the Contaminated Dog Foods. They subsequently all died within two days of eating the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Plaintiff Williamson purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to her two Great Danes, Nova and Sadie. Sadie passed away on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and Nova passed away on Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Plaintiff Todd purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his American pit bull, Tito. Tito passed away on November 18, 2017.” Plaintiff Brown purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog Foods … She rescues stray dogs and has fed all of them the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Several of her dogs have died over the course of the class period, including: Speedy, a [2]-year-old Chihuahua mix who died in December 2016; Humpty, an [8]– or [9]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in November 2017; Elly Mae, a [10]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in December 2017; Sara, an [8]-year-old lab who died in October 2017; Red, an [8]-year-old lab who died November 2017; Mary, a [9]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in August 2017; Duke, a [7]-year-old Great Pyrenees who died in August 2017.

Plaintiff Mayo purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to her dogs, including Cocheese (a lab mix), Glory B (a chocolate lab mix), and Blade (an Alaskan husky mix). Most recently, Glory B passed away on or around February 2, 2018, two days after she consumed a can of Gravy Train with Chicken Chunks on or around January 31, 2018. On February 5, 2018, Plaintiff Mayo’s cat, Midnight, also passed away after having accidentally ingested some of the Contaminated Dog Food fed to Glory B on January 31st.”

Plaintiff Collins purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his miniature poodle, Duffy. Duffy passed away in February 2018, soon after consuming a can of Gravy Train.”

As Susan Thixton points out, had it not been for intrepid reporters at WJLA ABC 7 in D.C., specifically Lisa Fletcher, the deaths of these precious pets and probably many more would have gone unnoticed by the FDA and others.

“Nobody cared … until they got caught,” writes Susan. “That is the real crime of pet food — nobody cares if ingredients contain pentobarbital, violate law, or pets die … until they get caught.”

Protecting Furry Family Members From Poisoned Pet Food

Between low-grade ingredients, too-frequent recalls, and an exploding population of pets with chronic digestive issues, allergies and degenerative disease, it’s no wonder so many pet parents are exploring homemade diets, fresh food diets made by smaller, transparent pet food producers, raw diets, and other alternatives to the dead, rendered, dubious, processed stuff.

My advice? Search this website for more information on choosing the best diet for your pet. There are dozens of videos and articles here that can help you become more knowledgeable about pet nutrition so that you can make the best diet choices for your own dog or cat.

If you want to help change the deceptive practices occurring in the pet food industry, I recommend becoming a member of the Association for Truth in Pet Food, which is the only organization out there committed to holding the regulatory agencies and AAFCO accountable.

ooOOoo

Dr. Becker opens up her important article with a summary of the situation.

I have chosen to close the post with that summary.

Story at-a-glance

  • Dog food contaminated with pentobarbital triggered a class action lawsuit that has been recently updated to reveal several additional plaintiffs and jaw-dropping allegations of pet food manufacturer misconduct
  • Over 90 million cans of Gravy Train were recalled due to alarmingly high levels of pentobarbital in tallow (animal fat)
  • Smucker/Big Heart Brands, manufacturer of Gravy Train products, has not been forthcoming with information about the company’s business practices or testing methods as requested by plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit
  • It seems likely Smucker knew it was selling dog food contaminated with pentobarbital
  • The Master Consolidated Complaint lawsuit update filed on May 1 reveals that tragically, many dogs fed pentobarbital-tainted Gravy Train diedGravy