Category: Core thought

Our beautiful planet.

It is the only lovely planet that we all have.

That ‘we’ being all the animals, plants, insects and humans there are.

I’m not saying anything new and not making this plea for the first time in this place.

But just take a few minutes out of your busy day to reflect that for you, for me, for everyone wherever they are in the world, physically and culturally, doing nothing is not an option.

More of that in a minute.

First I want to share with you a few autumnal photographs of our home here in Oregon.

Below was taken at 9am on October 24th showing the  mountain mist right down to the tops of our trees that mark the edge of our driveway from the house to our Hugo Road entrance.

Next, a sunrise photograph with the camera pointing to the East. The tree line follows the ridge of some hills the other side of Hugo Road. The picture taken on the 19th October at 07:20.
Now a close-up of the remains of a very old tree trunk with the trees that border Bummer Creek, that runs through our land, just showing through the morning mist. Taken on the 24th October at 09:05.

Final photograph I wanted to share with you is this beautiful sight of the moon taken from our property at 16:05 on the 25th. October.

Regular readers will know that Jean and I are not believers in any religion; we are atheists. But to my way of thinking that puts even more pressure on me and Jean to try to make a difference. We do all that we can but there’s no doubt that we can do more.

Yesterday, I referred to Bill Ripple, or to give him his full signature: William J. Ripple, Distinguished Professor of Ecology, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

I sent Bill an email:

Dear Bill (and forgive the over familiarity if that offends),
I am a Brit, just turned 73, living with my beautiful wife, Jean, London-born as I was, down in Merlin, Oregon.

We live on 13 wonderful acres of rural property with 6 dogs (down from 12 when we moved here 5 years ago) and 4 horses, the majority of whom are ex-rescues.

I am the author of the blog Learning from Dogs and want to publish a post highlighting that viewpoint article. Because I believe with every neuron left in my ageing brain that the political changes that this world so urgently needs can only come when 99.9% of the public are screaming out “enough is enough”!

But there’s another saying that comes to mind, the one about being the change you want to see or something like that.

Is there information anywhere online that spells out, almost in words of one syllable, what lifestyle changes each of us can and need to commit to today? Changes that are as appropriate for elderly authors living in the country as young people seeking their first job or those up to their necks in working and raising families?

For that is what I want to publish on my blog!

If it would be easier for me to make an appointment to call you and take notes over the phone then I am just as happy to do that.

Sincerely,

Paul Handover
Hugo Road, Merlin,

Bill promptly replied:

Hi Paul, how long of a list of lifestyle changes do you want to make? Would three or four be enough? Bill

then followed that up with another email:

Paul, Consider suggesting that if people want to help, they could have fewer children, reduce energy consumption such as driving autos and flying, avoid meat and eat mostly plant-based foods and avoid wasting food. Below are quotes from our paper. Bill

“It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources ….

… reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure; promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods

Now watch this video

I will close this post by listing out all the things that you and I can do now!

  • Set a target for reducing your car mileage next year compared to 2017,
  • If you are a regular aircraft passenger, then set a target for flying fewer hours in 2018 compared to 2017,
  • reduce or stop eating meat,
  • do not waste food,
  • reduce the use of heating and cooling in your home/s for next year,
  • commit to a dietary change away from meats and processed foods to a plant-based diet.

Then for younger couples who want a family around them, limit the number of children to a “replacement level” at most. Adopt??

A plea for this planet!

I feel compelled to ‘bang the drum’!

The recent news that many scientists have signed an open letter warning about how soon it will be too late to “save Earth” has been widely broadcast; not that this stops me from republishing the version of the news story that I read on the EarthSky blog site.

Here it is.

oooooh

Scientists warn: Soon it will be too late to save Earth

By Eleanor Imster in EARTH | HUMAN WORLD | November 16, 2017
More than 15,000 scientists in 184 countries have signed a letter urging the world to address major environmental concerns. “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

A letter to all of us, signed by more than 15,000 scientists (and counting) in 184 countries, warns that human well-being will be severely jeopardized by continuing trends in environmental harm, including our changing climate, deforestation, loss of access to fresh water, species extinctions and human population growth.

Entitled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, it was published in the international journal Bioscience on November 13, 2017.

In 1992, more than 1,700 scientists signed a World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. But global trends have worsened since 1992, the authors wrote in the new letter. In the last 25 years, trends in nine environmental issues suggest that humanity is continuing to risk its future.

Read the letter here.

The scientists wrote:

Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.

The letter also says …

By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere.

The article was written by an international team led by William Ripple of Oregon State University led the international team of scientists who created the letter. Ripple said in a statement:

Some people might be tempted to dismiss this evidence and think we are just being alarmist. Scientists are in the business of analyzing data and looking at the long-term consequences. Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path. We are hoping that our paper will ignite a wide-spread public debate about the global environment and climate.

Progress in some areas — such as a reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals and an increase in energy generated from renewable sources — shows that positive changes can be made, the authors wrote. There has been a rapid decline in fertility rates in some regions, which can be attributed to investments in education for women, they added. The rate of deforestation in some regions has also slowed.

The warning came with steps that can be taken to reverse negative trends, but the authors suggested that it may take a groundswell of public pressure to convince political leaders to take the right corrective actions. Such activities could include establishing more terrestrial and marine reserves, strengthening enforcement of anti-poaching laws and restraints on wildlife trade, expanding family planning and educational programs for women, promoting a dietary shift toward plant-based foods and massively adopting renewable energy and other “green” technologies.

Scientists who did not sign the warning prior to publication can endorse the published warning here.

Bottom line: A letter entitled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, urging the world to address major environmental concerns. was signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 184 countries.

Read more from Oregon State University

ooOOoo

As is the way with this modern inter-connected world it was but a moment to track down said William Ripple, find his email address and ask him what he recommended as the top things that you and I should be doing now.

Not just for you and me but for all the animals as well on this very beautiful planet.

Bill’s reply is part of tomorrow’ post. See you then!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Twenty-One

More from Tanja Brandt (but not entirely!)

As with last week first seen here.

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

More from Tanja in a week’s time. (I presume you spotted the interloper!! Brandy having a love-in with Jean one evening a week ago just before the bedside lights were turned out.)

Unconditional love

Another powerful guest post from Linley.

Last October 11th, I published a guest post that had been sent in by Linley Achtenhagen. The published post was called Life with Luna and was incredibly well-received.

So here’s another guest post from Linley that I have no doubt will be equally well-received.

ooOOoo

Unconditional Love

by Linley Achtenhagen, October 29th, 2017.

Up until January 12, 2017, I had never lost a loved one.  I grew up with three grandparents, one grandpa passing away shortly after I was born, so I was pretty lucky to grow up with three out of four grandparents.  Sure, I had been to funerals for distant relatives I had met once or twice or my friend’s grandparents, and I grieved for them because they were hurting and I hate seeing people hurt.  I, however, had no idea what that pain felt like until one of my best friends passed away in a tragic accident while she was on a family vacation in Mexico.

Abbey Connor, my sweetest, sassiest, most beautiful friend and fellow UW-Whitewater student, taken away far too soon.  Getting the news that she was gone rocked me to the core.  I had just celebrated New Year’s Eve with her a few short weeks ago, and now I was never going to see her again.  How is that possible?  Why would this happen to her?  I had absolutely no idea how to handle this.  Going from losing no one to losing one of my best friends so suddenly was something I was not prepared to deal with but is anyone?  I cried and cried and cried and listened to people tell me it was going to be okay, but those words didn’t mean anything.  Of course, I appreciated the support of my friends and family, but nothing made the pain in my chest go away when I thought of Abbey.  I hurt so much for her family, if I felt this horrible, I couldn’t imagine how her family felt.  The only thing that I found comfort in was the one thing that couldn’t tell me they were sorry and that it was going to be okay, Luna.

There is no doubt in my mind that Luna knew I was hurting.  I am convinced that dogs have a 6th sense and are much more aware of our emotions than we give them credit.  Luna would just lay with me while I cried and her presence alone eased that pain.  My crazy and energetic dog would just sit and let me pet her for as long as I needed to.

Not even a month later, February 11th, our family dog, Will, passed away after a long battle with cancer.   For fellow dog lovers, you know how hard it is to let your furry companions go.  We had Will since he was a puppy, so he grew up with my siblings and me.  He was my four-legged brother and letting him go ripped my healing heart wide open again.  This time, my whole family was hurting, including Will’s sister, Grace.  Will and Grace had never spent a day apart; they slept in their dog crate together, chased chipmunks together, protected my family together, and she just couldn’t understand where he went.  We couldn’t explain to her that he wasn’t coming back and that made the pain that much worse.  The one thing that brought a smile to everyone’s face in the days, weeks, and months to come was Luna.  She would grab her squeaker toy and run up to everyone shaking and squeaking it just begging for someone to play tug with her. She would light up the room and bring a smile, even if only for a second, to our faces. She was helping us cope, and she didn’t realize it.

Two months later, April 13th, my grandma passed away.  I couldn’t believe that I had to deal with another death.  I was still grieving Abbey and Will’s passing, and now I had another death to try and cope with.  My grandma lived in Florida for half of the year, so while we weren’t the closest, she was my grandma, my dad’s mother, and of course, I loved her.  I hurt for my dad as he had to say goodbye to his mom.  I hurt for all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles.  I hurt for my mom and my siblings and I.  We had never lost a grandparent, and now we had to deal with this while still grieving Will’s passing, I still grieving Abbey’s.  It was such an overwhelming and stressful time, and once again the one thing that got me through each day was Luna.  No matter how hard of a day it was, each night when I crawled into bed, Luna would lay right next to me, her head on my chest and just be there.  I cannot put into words what that feeling is like.

John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, (if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, add it to your list) wrote one of my favorite quotes.  He said, “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull.  Give him your heart, and he will give you his.”  This quote is undeniably accurate and I saw this proof in the months to come after I lost all of these loved ones.  Luna didn’t care if I didn’t have time to take her for a long walk, or I didn’t want to get out of bed, or I didn’t have the energy to play fetch with her that day, she was there for me and comforted me every moment.  She knew I loved her, and that was enough.  The most comforting part of all of this is that Luna didn’t even know she was doing it.  If more people loved each other like dogs love their humans, this world would be a much better place.

ooOOoo

Linley’s closing sentence is perfect and requires nothing more from me to close today’s post than for me to repeat her words: “If more people loved each other like dogs love their humans, this world would be a much better place.

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Twenty

Returning to Tanja Brandt’s fabulous photographs.

Specifically sharing, with her very kind permission, more of her photographs from here.

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

oooo

Another seven of these glorious photographs in a week’s time.

Meantime you all take care of you, your families and your pets!

Caring for animals.

Some humans seem to care more about pets than people … but why?

This intriguing headline was the title to a recent post published by Mother Nature Network.

Coincidentally there was some useful material in the article that I could use in a chapter in the new book. But I did think the whole article should be shared with you good people.

ooOOoo

Some humans seem to care more about pets than people … but why?

Mary Jo DiLonardo   November 3, 2017

Unconditional love is one things pets can give us that humans can’t — but that’s only part of the story. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

A Facebook acquaintance of mine recently posted about walking past a pet store where volunteers were outside pleading for pet rescue donations. They pointed out how many dogs and cats were euthanized each year, which made her wonder how people could be so fervent about animals when there are so many sick babies in the world.

It’s not that those volunteers dislike babies — or grown-up humans, for that matter — but in some cases, they might simply like animals more.

You know the type, and you may even be one yourself. Some say it’s due to unconditional love. Your cat doesn’t care if you are in your pajamas all day. Your dog doesn’t talk about you behind your back. But when it comes right down to it, does anyone really value animals above humans?

The story of two shootings

A photo posted by supporters on the ‘Justice For Arfee’ Facebook page. (Photo: Justice for Arfee)

Psychology professor and author Hal Herzog looks at the “humanization of pets” in an editorial for Wired. Herzog is the author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”

“Newspaper editors tell me stories about animal abuse often generate more responses from upset readers than articles about violence directed toward humans. But do Americans really care more about pets than people?” Herzog asks.

He tells the story of two shootings that happened within 50 miles of each other in Idaho in 2014. One was Jeanetta Riley, a pregnant mother of two who was shot by police outside of a hospital while she incoherently waved a knife. The story didn’t make much of a blip on the news radar.

Less than 14 hours later, police in another Idaho town were called about a report of a barking dog locked in a van. An officer claimed when he approached the vehicle the dog (which he misidentified as a pit bull) lunged at him, so he pulled the trigger. Turns out “Arfee” was a Lab and people became incensed at the shooting, which made national news. There was a “Justice for Arfee” Facebook page and a rally. In the end, the shooting was ruled unjustified, and the police department issued an official apology.

“The bottom line is that, at least in some circumstances, we do value animals over people,” Herzog writes. “But the differences in public outrage over the deaths of Jeanetta Riley and Arfee illustrate a more general point. It is that our attitudes to other species are fraught with inconsistency. We share the earth with roughly 40,000 other kinds of vertebrate animals, but most of us only get bent out of shape over the treatment of a handful of species. You know the ones: the big-eye baby seals, circus elephants, chimpanzees, killer whales at Sea World, etc. And while we deeply love our pets, there is little hue and cry over the 24 horses that die on race tracks in the United States each week, let alone the horrific treatment of the nine billion broiler chickens American consume annually.”

Creating a moral dilemma

We obviously love our pets. But to what extent?

Researchers set up a moral dilemma where they asked 573 participants what they would do if they had to choose between saving a dog or a person who had darted in front of a bus. The answers varied depending on the relationship they had with the dog and with the person.

In some scenarios, the dog was the participant’s own personal dog versus a random canine. And the person was either a foreign tourist, a local stranger, distant cousin, best friend, grandparent or sibling.

The dilemma is something along the lines of, “A bus is traveling down the street. Your dog darts in front of it. At the same time, a foreign tourist steps in the path of the bus. Neither your dog nor the tourist has enough time to get out of the way and it’s clear the bus will kill whichever one it hits. You only have time to save one. Which will you save?”

The subjects were much more likely to save the pet over a foreign tourist, versus someone closer to them. People were also much more likely to save their own dog versus a random dog. And women were twice as likely as men to save a dog over a person.

The study was published in the journal Anthrozoos.

Empathy for animals versus people

Researchers hypothesized that people would feel more empathy towards babies and puppies because they were vulnerable. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

In another study, sociologists at Northeastern University had college students read made-up news stories in which a victim was attacked by a baseball bat “by an unknown assailant” and left unconscious with a broken leg and other injuries.

The participants were all given the same news story, but the victim in each case was either a 1-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy or a 6-year-old dog. They were asked to rate their feelings of empathy toward the victim after reading the story.

The researchers hypothesized that the victims’ vulnerability — determined by their age, not species —would be the key factor in triggering the most concern in the participants.

The baby elicited the most empathy, with the puppy and adult dog not far behind. The adult person came in last.

“Contrary to popular thinking, we are not necessarily more disturbed by animal rather than human suffering,” said study co-author Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, in a statement.

“Our results indicate a much more complex situation with respect to the age and species of victims, with age being the more important component. The fact that adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full-grown dog victims suggests that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids.”

The research was first presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2013 and has recently been published in the journal Society & Animals.

Although the study focused on cats, Levin says he thinks the findings would be similar for cats versus people.

“Dogs and cats are family pets,” he said. “These are animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics.”


Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.


ooOOoo

So all you wonderful followers of this place – what do you think of some humans seeming to care more for animals?

A new home for Max!

Can you help John Zande find a loving home for this recent rescue?

I can’t recall when John Zande and I first made contact but it was a while ago. John lives in Brazil and is the author of the book The Owner Of All Infernal Names. (Read by me and much recommended.)

John also writes from time to time on his blogsite: The Superstitious Naked Ape. Again, much recommended by me.

Anyway, I awoke yesterday morning to find an email from John. This is what John had written:

Morning Paul, hope everything is fine up there. I have a question. We rescued a dog the other day (part pit bull), lovely fellow, but needs a lot of nursing to get him back to health. Vet thinks he’s around 2 years old. I’d say closer to 1.5. We have him here, in the front of the house (keeping our animals inside and out the back), but he’s a barker. Not aggressive, but seems to enjoy “responding” to other dogs in the street barking… of which there are too many. Do you have any tricks for teaching a dog not to bark? I’ve tried putting him on a leash back on the house (to keep him from the front gate) as a sort of conditioning, but that hasn’t seemed to of worked. I bought a muzzle and put that on when he’s barking, but that hasn’t worked either. Any ideas?

Obviously I looked across at Jean, mentioned the email from John, and read it out to here wondering what would be her advice.

John,

A very good morning in return.

I have just shared your email with Jean and she offered the following.

Namely, that he is most likely barking for attention. If you have the time then stay with him and each time he barks say “No!” firmly and when he stops give him a treat as a reward.

Jean acknowledges that this a difficult one but let’s take it one step at a time. Let us know what you do.

Want me to make it a post on the blog? Do you have a photo of him?

Best of luck!

Paul

John is full in terms of taking on rescues just now and is looking for a caring home for this lovely-looking boy; his name is Max by the way.

Here are some photographs of Max.

oooo

oooo

oooo

What a kind, loving face!

These are some photos from last Thurs, when we got him. He’s put on some weight since. He was covered in oil, and his blood test has come back: low platelets, and ticks disease. Yeah, I’ve been out with him heaps, sitting with him and spending time. He knows its wrong, but seems to react to everything and every noise. I introduced the girl dogs to him this morning, and he was great. No problem. No aggression. Didn’t stop him barking, though 🙂 Our street has some noisy dogs (bad owners), so I guess he’s having trouble responding.
He is lovely. Would love to keep him, but we’re full, and can’t afford another. Had to get him off the street, though. He was in real trouble.
PLEASE!!! Can anyone find Max a home? If finding the money to transport Max to that new home is going to be an issue then I’m sure we can ‘pass the hat around’ to resolve that challenge.
The main thing is to find Max a home!
Finally …. my apologies to a number of you who have sent in guest posts for this place. You are not forgotten but you do understand why this plea from John had to be published today!

 

Book Two!

November is book-writing month for me.

Thus, good people, I shall be distracted for much of the month because despite the fact that book number two is a non-fiction book, as was my first, I am still using National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as my motivational tool to achieve 50,000 words before the 1st December. Ergo, November’s focus is on writing an average of 1,666 words a day, not blogging.

Last time, with my book Learning from Dogs, I did share much of what I was writing each day both in 2014 and 2015. This time I will not.

However, I would like to share the draft Introduction to this second book that I wrote yesterday.

ooOOoo

Introduction

It was a beautiful late-October evening. Not a breath of wind stirred the branches of the tall pines that soared up into the night sky around our house. Even a half-moon high in that sky out to the South didn’t diminish the mystery and magic of the stars that seemed to go on forever. It never ceased to fascinate me how wonderful it was to lose one’s mind in a dark night sky and ponder on the fact that in that instant, in that moment of my life, I was seeing the light from a star that had been travelling for hundreds or thousands of years.

Thus it was this evening around 9:30pm when I had gone outside with all our dogs for their nightly leg-stretch before bedtime. Our six most beautiful dogs: Ruby; Cleo; Sweeny; Pedy; Oliver; and Brandy. There I was utterly oblivious to the sniffing and rustling in the piles of newly fallen Autumn leaves that were everywhere because so quickly once outside the house I had looked up above my head to that night sky and become lost.

But to be returned to this very sweet present moment when ever so gently I felt Brandy’s soft shoulder touch my lower left thigh and then lean into me in what was so characteristic of him.

I lent forward and placed the side of my face alongside Brandy’s warm, furry face and became as lost as I was in that starry sky. Now, however, it was as real and tangible a loss, if one could describe it as such, as that night sky above was as unreal and mysterious. For it was me being lost in the love that Brandy was sending me, in his breathing, in his posture, in his closeness to me, in his whole demeanour and in my own deep emotional loving reply to Brandy.

Then it clicked. A philosophical click that was as bright and clear as that fabulous half-moon.

This is how I would introduce my book. The book that I had committed to write in the month of November. The book that I was going to start writing the next day but hitherto hadn’t a clue as to how I was going to set the scene.

For my next book was an exploration into the relationships that dogs and humans form with each other.

Brandy’s story since he had been part of my life, and the life of my sweet, dear Jean, was a story of just how incredible, glorious and special the love between a human and a dog can be. How the weeks and months since that fateful day on the 9th April, 2016 when we first met Brandy had given me the inspiration to go as far as I could in describing and understanding what having a dog in one’s life truly meant.
Welcome to The Dog And I.

ooOOoo

So hope all you good people will understand if my blogging activity is varied and replies to responses likewise a bit ‘up and down’. It is likely I will be re-posting quite frequently items that have previously been shown on Learning from Dogs.

Are we awake!

Returning to Earth with a bang!

My posts of the last few days have been in the ‘cuddly, cosy’ vein of life and, as many would say, a long way from the reality of this 21st century.

The reality is tough and scary and many, including me, favour running away from scary places. I’m sure that the urge to flee and hide is a survival behaviour from long time ago. BUT!! But the only hope for us humans is to face the facts full on.

Take, for example, the Ganges River. We have all heard of this famous river (my emphasis below):

The Ganges  is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through the nations of India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the eastern Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is the third largest river in the world by discharge.

The source of the Ganges is the Gangotri glacier. Here it is:

Gaumukh, snout of the Gangotri glacier,surrounded by the Bhagirathi peaks of Garhwal Himalayas, at an altitude of over 4,000 metres. Photo: Vidya Venkat.

The photograph was taken from this article; from which I offer:

Scientists say dwindling snowfall affects volume of water fed to the Bhagirathi, the main source of the Ganga

After a four-hour-long trek from Bhojwasa, the final camping spot in Gangotri, when a brown, fractured pile of rocks finally came into view it was hard to believe that this was the mouth of the glacier from which the ‘holy’ Ganga emerged.

Gaumukh, the snout of the Gangotri glacier, named after its shape like the mouth of a cow, has retreated by over 3 kilometres since 1817, says glaciologist Milap Chand Sharma of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

It was nearly two centuries ago that the retreat of the glacier was first documented by John Hodgson, a Survey of India geologist.

With 10 Indian States reeling under drought and the country facing a severe water crisis after two weak monsoons, the story of retreating freshwater sources such as the Himalayan glaciers is worrying. And though a three-kilometre retreat over a period of two centuries might seem insignificant at first glance, data shows that the rate of retreat has increased sharply since 1971. The rate of retreat is 22 metres per year.

Twenty-two metres or seventy-two feet a year!

Wringing our hands is no good. All of us who care for our Living Planet have to shout out just what is going on. As George Monbiot continues to do. Take his latest essay, for example, that is republished here in full with GM’s very kind permission.

ooOOoo

Insectageddon

The scale and speed of environmental collapse is beyond imagination.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th October 2017

Which of these would you name as the world’s most pressing environmental issue? Climate breakdown, air pollution, water loss, plastic waste or urban expansion? My answer is none of the above. Almost incredibly, I believe that climate breakdown takes third place, behind two issues that receive only a fraction of the attention.

This is not to downgrade the danger presented by global heating – on the contrary, it presents an existential threat. It is simply that I have come to realise that two other issues have such huge and immediate impacts that they push even this great predicament into third place.

One is industrial fishing, which, all over the blue planet, is now causing systemic ecological collapse. The other is the erasure of non-human life from the land by farming.

And perhaps not only non-human life. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss, driven largely by poor farming practice, we have just 60 years of harvests left. And this is before the Global Land Outlook report, published in September, found that productivity is already declining on 20% of the world’s cropland.

The impact on wildlife of changes in farming practice (and the expansion of the farmed area) is so rapid and severe that it is hard to get your head round the scale of what is happening. A study published this week in the journal Plos One reveals that flying insects surveyed on nature reserves in Germany have declined by 76% in 27 years. The most likely cause of this Insectageddon is that the land surrounding those reserves has become hostile to them: the volume of pesticides and the destruction of habitat have turned farmland into a wildlife desert.

It is remarkable that we need to rely on a study in Germany to see what is likely to have been happening worldwide: long-term surveys of this kind simply do not exist elsewhere. This failure reflects distorted priorities in the funding of science. There is no end of grants for research on how to kill insects, but hardly any money for discovering what the impacts of this killing might be. Instead, the work has been left – as in the German case – to recordings by amateur naturalists.

But anyone of my generation (ie in the second bloom of youth) can see and feel the change. We remember the “moth snowstorm” that filled the headlight beams of our parents’ cars on summer nights (memorialised in Michael McCarthy’s lovely book of that name). Every year I collected dozens of species of caterpillars and watched them grow and pupate and hatch. This year I tried to find some caterpillars for my children to raise. I spent the whole summer looking and, aside from the cabbage whites on our broccoli plants, found nothing in the wild but one garden tiger larva. Yes, one caterpillar in one year. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing – or rather, not seeing.

Insects, of course, are critical to the survival of the rest of the living world. Knowing what we now know, there is nothing surprising about the calamitous decline of insect-eating birds. Those flying insects – not just bees and hoverflies but species of many different families – are the pollinators without which a vast tract of the plant kingdom, both wild and cultivated, cannot survive. The wonders of the living planet are vanishing before our eyes.

Well, I hear you say, we have to feed the world. Yes, but not this way. As a UN report published in March explained, the notion that pesticide use is essential for feeding a growing population is a myth. A recent study in Nature Plants reveals that most farms would increase production if they cut their use of pesticides. A study in the journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions shows that the more neonicotinoid pesticides were used to treat rapeseed crops, the more their yield declines. Why? Because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which the crop depends.

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. A massive media onslaught by this industry has bamboozled us all about its utility and its impacts on the health of both human beings and the natural world.

The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders? At the moment, shareholder value comes first. And it will count for nothing when we have lost the living systems on which our survival depends.

To save ourselves and the rest of the living world, here’s what we need to do:

  1. We need a global treaty to regulate pesticides, and put the manufacturers back in their box.
  2. We need environmental impact assessments for the farming and fishing industries. It is amazing that, while these sectors present the greatest threats to the living world, they are, uniquely in many nations, not subject to such oversight.
  3. We need firm rules based on the outcomes of these assessments, obliging those who use the land to protect and restore the ecosystems on which we all depend.
  4. We need to reduce the amount of land used by farming, while sustaining the production of food. The most obvious way is greatly to reduce our use of livestock: many of the crops we grow and all of the grazing land we use are deployed to feed them. One study in Britain suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m hectares if all our farming were organic). This would allow us to create huge wildlife and soil refuges: an investment against a terrifying future.
  5. We should stop using land that should be growing food for people to grow maize for biogas and fuel for cars.

Then, at least, nature and people would have some respite from the global onslaught. And, I hope, a chance of getting through the century.

http://www.monbiot.com

ooOOoo

Please do share this as widely as you can. Please do inform others. Please do make whatever changes, however small, you can within your own lives.

Bhagirathi Peaks from the Gangotri Glacier

And, please, please, listen to our Living Planet that is screaming out to us that this cannot go on!

Dream on my beautiful dog

Science shows that animals, including dogs, do dream!

I wanted to republish a recent and serious article written by George Monbiot but couldn’t bear to push back against the wonderful video of yesterday. Those loving ripples are still spreading across my consciousness and, I’m sure, that’s the same for you.

Consciousness, sleep, and dreaming are fascinating states of the mind. Previously thought exclusively the states of human minds. But not so!

ooOOoo

Do Animals Dream?

By: Care2 Causes Editors October 22, 2017

About Care2 Follow Care2 at @care2

Written by Sy Montgomery, coauthor of Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

The electric eel exhibit at the New England Aquarium has a feature that makes it a favorite. Whenever the eel is hunting or stunning prey, the charge powers a voltmeter above his tank. It lights up when the eel is using his electricity, and allows you to see the invisible—like magic.

One day I saw another magical thing happen in the tank. Thanks to the voltmeter, I was able to watch the eel dream.

It happened when I was standing in front of the exhibit with Scott Dowd, the lead aquarist for the freshwater gallery, watching the eel resting motionless at the bottom of the tank. “I think he’s asleep,” I said to my companion.

“Yes, that eel is catching some serious z’s,” he agreed.

Being hard-core fish enthusiasts, we continued to watch transfixed while the electric eel slept. And that’s when it happened: A big flash shot across the voltmeter display—and another and another.

Electric eels hunt while swimming forward, wagging their heads to and fro, sending out electric signals that bounce back to them, sort of like a dolphin’s echolocation. But he was still motionless. So what was the flash for?

“I thought the eel was asleep!” I said to Dowd.

“He is asleep,” he replied.

We realized at once what we were almost surely witnessing. The electric eel was dreaming.

“It would appear that not only do men dream,” Aristotle wrote in History of Animals, “but horses also, and dogs, and oxen; aye, and sheep and goats. . . .”

It was obvious: Like most of us, Aristotle had watched sleeping dogs twitch their ears, paddle their paws, and bark in their sleep. Surely other animals dreamed as well.

But since Aristotle’s day, more “modern” thinkers denied that animals could dream. Complex and mysterious, dreams were considered the exclusive province of so-called higher minds.

As brain research advanced, however, researchers were forced to concede that Aristotle was right. Animals do dream.

And now we are even able to glimpse what they dream about.

Since the 1960s scientists have understood that our dreams happen during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of the sleep cycle. During this time our muscles are normally paralyzed by the pons of the brain stem, so that we don’t act out our dreams. In 1965 researchers removed the pons from the brain stems of cats.* They discovered the cats would get up and walk around, move the head as if to follow prey, and pounce as if on invisible mice—all
while asleep.

By 2007 we would get an even more vivid picture of animals’ dreams. Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists Matthew Wilson and graduate student Kenway Louie recorded the activity of rats’ brains while the animals were running a maze. Neurons fire in distinct patterns while a rat in a maze performs particular tasks. The researchers repeatedly saw the exact same patterns reproduced while the rats slept—and they saw this so clearly they could tell what point in the maze the rat was dreaming about and whether an individual rat was running or walking in his dreams.

The rats’ dreams arose from the hippocampus, the same area in the brain that seems to drive humans’ dreams. It’s an area known to record and store memories, and that supports the notion that one important function of dreams is to help us remember what we have learned. Of course, it’s important to a lab rat to remember the right way to run a maze.

So if rats dream of running mazes, what do birds dream about? Singing.

University of Chicago professor Daniel Margoliash conducted experiments on zebra finches. Like most birds, zebra finches aren’t born knowing their songs; they learn them, and young birds spend much of their days learning and rehearsing the song of their species. While awake, neurons in the forebrain known as the robustus archistrialis fire when the bird sings particular notes. The researcher was able to determine the individual notes based on the firing pattern of the neurons. While the birds were asleep, their neurons fired in the same order—as if they were singing in their dreams.

Much less work has been done on fish than on mammals and birds. No one has found REM sleep in fish—yet. But that does not mean they don’t dream. Interestingly, no one has discovered REM sleep in whales, either. But whales almost surely dream. They are long-lived, social animals with very big brains much like our own, and for whom long-term memory consolidation is crucial.

And if you were looking for rapid eye movement in sleeping owls, you’d never see it—because owls’ eyes are fixed in their sockets. That’s why they need to turn their heads around, Exorcist-style. Yet owls’ brain waves show they dream, too.

Fish do sleep, however—that much is well known. It’s been carefully documented that if zebra fish are deprived of sleep (because pesky researchers keep waking them up), they have trouble swimming the next day—just as a person would have trouble concentrating after a dreamless night.

What might an electric eel dream about? The voltmeter at the New England Aquarium showed us the answer: hunting and shocking prey.

This excerpt is from Sy Montgomery and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind (Chelsea Green Publishing, October 2017) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

*Care2 stands firmly against animal testing and believes it to be a cruel and unnecessary practice for which there are viable alternatives, such as computer modeling.

ooOOoo

A young Pharaoh asleep, and dreaming?? September, 2003.