Category: Culture

Returning to Sabrina.

These next couple of weeks are going to be challenging!

So ….. I am returning to a post I published a year ago.

Sabrina’s Loyalty

Lisa Mae DeMasi offers you all a beautiful guest post.

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How this Handler and Service Dog Nurture One Another

by Lisa Mae DeMasi

At two years old, Lady’s ribs protruded from her coat and her belly was swollen with milk.

Like the thirteen other Labs that had arrived at a rest stop in Union, CT on the straight 12½-hour drive from Muncie, IN, she was presented to us on a crisp autumn day amid the chaos of respective adopters.

My husband Dennis had never experienced the warmth and companionship of having a dog and well, I surprised him with Lady, who we quickly renamed to Sabrina. The very afternoon we picked her up, we raced to the park, wanting her to feel the joy of freedom and play. My husband’s face lit up and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to befriend and care for Sabrina; it meant closing the 20-year gap since our beloved German Shepard from my childhood passed away.

Until laying my eyes on Sabrina’s profile, my heart couldn’t entertain loving another dog.

And what canine isn’t after the same love?

 In Sabrina’s case, she couldn’t know of the family members that awaited to embrace her presence. Within days of the initial hair-raising excitement, the cat sought out occasions to groom her ears. Our pet rat was free to waddle the kitchen floor un-bothered, and the pair of bonded bunnies in want of company stretched out beside her on the living room floor.

Dog, cat, rat, rabbit?
You bet.
And Dennis and me?
Like kids again.
Sabrina settled into the folds of our lives, well-nourished and exercised in Boston’s epic snowfall in the winter of 2009-2010, taking careful watch over all of us. The fear expressed in her eyes pre-adoption disappeared.

Eight years later, she watches over me in particular. Thirty years ago, I was struck and thrown from the passenger side of a car until my abdomen collided with the steering wheel—blunt force that called for iterative repair to my digestive system  and caused permanent damage to the nerves that signal my bladder is full.

Today when I’m busy working away, Sabrina will alert me to get up every couple of hours to make a trip to the restroom by gently placing her head in my lap.

When I suffer acute intestinal cramping, Crohns-like symptoms, she’ll sit at my side and lean her body against mine. Her calm and steady source of nurturing, helps me to relax and mitigates the cramps.

In 2008, the Department of Justice amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was amended to include digestive, bowel and bladder impairments that limit major life activities as the disabled, calling for employers to make reasonable accommodations and if the individual elects, to allow task-oriented service animals [dog or miniature horse] to accompany them on the job.

Sabrina, serving in the capacity of a sensory/medical assist – alerting me to get up and take care of myself –  qualifies.

The HR Director, Debra Susler of Reputation Institute in Cambridge, MA this past April would not allow Sabrina to accompany me on-the-job. I sent her an elaborate email explaining my condition and Sabrina’s certification. She did not reply to me but to my supervisor.

She said “no”.

My response?

I walked out of the place

Sabrina: rescue dog to devoted helper dog.

Respectively, Sabrina’s competencies and understanding of language cease to astound us and her behavior on-the-job at Dell EMC is so well-mannered, coworkers never run out of compliments.

And bystanders in public? The grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dentist, doctor?

Gazes from cell phones are broken, conversations fall short.

Then, come the smiles. A question. Praises. The feel-good moment.

Sabrina brings people together.

I recently read a distressing post from a woman who said every time she looks into a service dog’s eyes, she sees sadness. Even Ingrid Newkirk, CEO and Co-Founder of PETA, has told me, “the life of a typical service dog is a terrible one.”

It’s true. Any canine enslaved to servitude is doomed a dog’s life unlived.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

The ADA confirms it.

But that’s not the relationship Sabrina and I share [and I understand it can’t be the same with other handlers and service dogs]. In addition to being my devoted helper, Sabrina teaches me to exist in the moment — just like she does. To enjoy the sight of the sun shimmering through the trees, the call of the birds, the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of the soft soil I tread a few yards behind her when we’re on our hikes.

What more could a dog do for a girl?

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There is something rather special about Lisa’s guest post; special in an introspective way!

That will be better appreciated if you go across to Lisa’s blog site at Nurture Is My Nature.
In particular when you read, via her ‘About’ link, what Lisa offers about herself. Republished here in full.

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As time goes by and you’re getting older and stuff like that—getting older sucks. You know, I hear all this crap about, ‘Oh, you can age with dignity.’ Really? —Mickey Rourke

Lisa’s creative work has recently placed second in Fiftiness’s 2017 Writing Contest (Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston) and been featured in the anthologies, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty (9/17, print) and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (11/17, print). Her essays have been published in the lit journals and several other media outlets. She considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and holds a Master certificate in Reiki.

Lisa is seeking a development editor [that gets her] to work on her collection of essays and her memoir.

Published work:

Contests:

Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston, Fiftiness, Second Place Winner, 5/23/17

Anthologies:

  1. The Kickass Formula that Restored My Libido, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty, print, 9/17
  2. Grievances, Vine Leaves Vignette Collection (coffee table book), 11/1/17

Literary journals:

  1. This Writer’s Secret (Fiction Southeast, 11/1/170
  2. Snowflake (Crux Magazine, 9/17) [FINALLY got picked up!]
  3. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Gravel, 12/4/16)
  4. T-boned (Gravel, 12/4/16)
  5. Forgive Me (Slippery Elm, 12/16)
  6. What More Is There to Ask? (Foliate Oak, 9/1/16)
  7. Becoming Our Fathers (East Bay Review, 2/23/16)
  8. The Subversive Writer (Shark Reef, 7/9/14)

Media Outlets:

  1. Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path (Fiftiness, 12/16)
  2. What More Is There to Ask? (Huffpost, 9/16)
  3. The Secret to Doing What You Love (The Artist Unleashed 9/16; HuffPost 3/15)
  4. The Kickass Formula That Restored My Libido (HuffPost 2/16; Rebelle Society 4/15)
  5. My Dear Friend, the Dirty (HuffPost 1/16; Elephant Journal, 12/14)
  6. She, Mother. Me, Daughter. (Huffpost 2/16; Elephant Journal, 1/15)
  7. What the Wrong Job Can Teach You (HuffPost 1/16)
  8. What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother (Elephant Journal, 1/15)
  9. Why Regret Is So Deliciously Fun (HuffPost 1/16; Midlife Boulevard 8/15)

 Write to me at lisa dot demasi at gmail

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Now please watch “Just Like Heaven,” the video Lisa filmed of Sabrina, post-adoption in 2009.

Brushing one’s teeth!

A delightful post, and one that had an edge to it.

Brushing one’s teeth is hard enough for us to do, let alone our dogs.

No more from me than to reproduce this item which is a republication of a post that appeared in The Conversation site.

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Why is it such a pain to brush a dog’s teeth?

This ‘magic stick’ claims to provide a solution to the problem.

by MARY JO DILONARDO

August 11, 2018
It’s a toy and a toothbrush rolled into one. (Photo: Bristly)

You eye each other across the room. You’re using your sweetest, most coaxing voice, but behind your back you have a toothbrush covered in chicken-flavored paste. Your pet eyes you warily, knowing something is up. Those teeth haven’t been pearly in a very long time, but it’s not for a lack of trying.

About 80 percent of dogs will have some periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old. In addition to dental checkups by your vet, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends regularly brushing your dog’s teeth as “the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy.” It may even eliminate the need for occasional dental cleanings by your veterinarian.

In addition (or in place of cleaning, if your dog isn’t a fan), you may have also tried dental chews or dental toys. The hope is that by gnawing on these items, your pet will scrub off the tartar and plaque buildup all by himself.

Personally, I’ve tried them all. My beautiful boy, Brodie, has breath that will make your eyes water. We’ve worked very hard on brushing. Normally he acts like I’m going to torture him when I persuade him to sit in the bathroom for a dental session. He either clamps down on the bristles as hard as he can or performs impressive gymnastics trying to evade my grasp. A few teeth get lightly grazed in the process.

The dental chews are equally unsuccessful. My pup doesn’t understand that he’s supposed to be taking his time with them. Instead, he manages to gulp them down (even frozen) which, I’m pretty sure, defeats the purpose of the exercise.

My friend has offered to scrape Brodie’s teeth with a dental tartar scraper he bought online (and uses on his well-behaved dogs), but I’m pretty sure my anxious boy would never recover.

A glimmer of green hope

If only it were this easy. (Photo: KPG Payless2/Shutterstock

There may be a solution. Years ago, Petros Dertsakyan lost his childhood Pomeranian to dental disease. As an adult and the father of two dogs of his own, Dertsakyan knows the importance of dental care but also knows first-hand the struggles of taking care of a dog’s teeth.

He decided to come up with a solution and, after lots of prototypes and testing, he developed what he calls Bristly, a “magic” toothbrushing stick that dogs hold down with their paws while gnawing on rows of flavored bristles. There’s also a reservoir to dispense toothpaste during the whole process.

Dertsakyan put his invention on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $15,000 to fund his project. He way underestimated how much people want to avoid getting anywhere near their dogs’ teeth. Just hours before the campaign ended, more than $437,000 had been raised from more than 10,000 backers. The products are scheduled to be shipped in October.

Here’s the Bristly in action. I know my dog has high hopes it will work.

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I love these dogs!

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.

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Fifty-Eight

The last of dear Su’s photos.

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So, so beautiful! Especially loved the photo of the chimp bottle feeding the tiger.

How about your favourite?

P.S. Later on yesterday, at 13 minutes past 4pm to be precise, we had rain. Thus ended 111 days without rain.

Then shortly after we had eaten supper and I was washing the dishes, I looked up to see the most beautiful rainbow over the hills to the East of us.

This photo doesn’t do it justice!

Saturday Smile

Another great news item about our wonderful wildlife.

This update about the Tiger population in Nepal was read on Mother Nature Network yesterday. Coming so soon after the positive news about the wolf population once again I wanted to share it with you!

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Tiger population rebounds, nearly doubling in Nepal

By Mary Jo Dilonardo, September 26th, 2018.

Photo: Amy Fitzmaurice/Living with Tigers

The number of wild tigers in Nepal has nearly doubled over the past nine years as a result of conservation efforts. A survey carried out earlier this year found 235 tigers in Nepal, up from just 121 in 2009.

To count the tigers, conservationists and wildlife experts used more than 4,000 cameras, traveling a 2,700-kilometer (1,700-mile) route across Nepal’s southern plains where most of the big cats are found.

“This is a result of concentrated unified efforts by the government along with the local community and other stakeholders to protect the tiger’s habitat and fight against poaching,” Man Bahadur Khadka, director general of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, told AFP.

Nepal and a dozen other countries signed the 2010 Tiger Conservation Plan, pledging to double their tiger populations by 2022. Since then, the tiger population — which has been decimated by deforestation, loss of habitat and poaching — has begun to show positive changes. The World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum announced in 2016 that the wild tiger population had grown for the first time in more than 100 years, according to AFP.

Co-existing in harmony

A tiger comes in for a close-up, thanks to a camera trap in Bardia National Park in Nepal. (Photo: Amy Fitzmaurice/Living with Tigers)

Although this news is obviously heartening, there’s a challenge that comes hand in hand with the growth: making sure people and tigers co-exist safely. A team of conservation scientists from the Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom is working with groups such as Green Governance Nepal to reduce conflict between tigers and residents.

The Living with Tigers project uses methods such as predator-proof livestock pens and changes in livestock management practices to help lessen the risk of tiger attacks on livestock and people.

“It is wonderful news for the entire conservation community around the globe and it demonstrates that ambitious conservation goals can be achieved when governments, conservation partners and local communities work together,” said Kiran Timalsina, chairperson of Green Governance Nepal.

“It also highlights the need for more concentrated efforts particularly focusing on human-tiger conflict mitigation to bring about conditions where tigers and the local communities with whom they share the landscape could coexist.”

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Don’t know about you but I feel I can handle a great deal of bad stuff about these present times so long as news items such as this come along on a regular basis!

More benefits of four legs!

Look what dear Monty found!

I shall cut my waffling and just say that I saw this item on The Smithsonian ‘Smart News’ section last week and just knew it should be shared with you!

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Who’s a Good Archaeologist? Dog Digs Up Trove of Bronze Age Relics

While on a walk outside a small Czech village, Monty the dog and his owner found nearly two dozen 3,000-year-old artifacts

Monty, the dog that found the Bronze Age relics, unearthed 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes and several bracelets. (Hradec Králové Region)

Some archaeologists carry tools and painstakingly chip away at historic sites. Others might have fluffy bodies, keen senses of smell and an affinity for digging stuff up.

As Tom McEnchroe reports for Radio Praha, a very good dog named Monty recently unearthed a rare trove of Bronze Age artifacts near the Czech village of Kostelecké Horky. Monty was walking with his human, identified as “Mr. Frankota,” in a field when he began pawing frenetically at the ground. Soon, thanks to Monty’s hard work, metallic objects began to emerge in the soil.

The cache of relics includes 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes and several bracelets. The objects have been dated to the Urnfield period around 3,000 years ago. This late European Bronze Age culture is marked by the transition from inhumation burials to cremations; the remains of the dead were interred in urns, giving the era its name. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Urnfield culture first appeared in east-central Europe and northern Italy, but eventually spread “to Ukraine, Sicily, Scandinavia, and across France to the Iberian peninsula.”

It is rare to find a cluster of intact Urnfield objects, according to a press release. “The culture that lived here at the time normally just buried fragments, often melted as well,” Martina Beková, an archaeologist at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické who studied the artifacts after they were discovered by Monty, tells McEnchroe. So she suspects that the relics were tied to a ritual—“most likely a sacrifice of some sorts,” Beková says.

Additional evidence could help pin down the function of the objects, and according to Michelle Starr of Science Alert, local archaeologists have been searching the area in the hopes of finding more relics. They haven’t uncovered anything yet, but Sylvie Velčovská, a spokeswoman for the region, tells McEnchroe that there have been, considerable changes to the surrounding terrain over the centuries, so it is possible that the deeper layers are still hiding some secrets.

The newly uncovered objects will be on display at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické Mountains in the town of Rychnov until October 21, after which point they will undergo conservation and be moved to a permanent exhibition in the village of Kostelec.

Frankota, Monty’s owner, was awarded 7860 Czech Koruna (around $360) for his role in alerting archaeologists to the ancient treasures. One can only hope that Monty was given many treats and pets for his superb fieldwork

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dog-uncovers-trove-bronze-age-relics-czech-republic-180970324/#HE8cRkejVQOPDlzk.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media’s Women in the World.

Read more from this author |

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Where would we be without our dear dogs!!

Sweet Oliver surveying the new sights and smells down by the stables!

Saturday Smile

Changing the world – one wolf at a time.

I read this wonderful story yesterday morning and wanted to share it with you all. It is a story carried by The Madras Pioneer.

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Wolf pups born on Warm Springs Reservation

Holly M. Gill, Thursday, September 06, 2018

A male and a female wolf have been photographed with their two pups on the northern part of the reservation.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF WARM SPRINGS – Two wolf pups with the adult male of the pack are caught on a remote trail camera on the Warm Springs Reservation. The wolf pups are believed to be the first born on the reservation since the 1940s.

For at least the past four years, a large male wolf has been observed roaming parts of the Warm Springs Reservation. Now, the wolf, his mate and two pups have also been seen on trail cameras.

On Aug. 27, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Branch of Natural Resources confirmed that the single male first observed in 2014, and his mate, first seen in 2016, have produced two pups.

“In early September 2014, biologists suspected that a large male wolf of unknown origin, more than likely from Northeast Oregon, had a mate on the Warm Springs Reservation and Mount Hood National Forest, when remote cameras captured several images of two or more wolves in the area,” said wildlife biologist Austin Smith Jr., of the tribes’ Natural Resources Branch.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF WARM SPRINGS – A female gray wolf from the Warm Springs/White River pack seems to be caught on a remote trail camera teaching her pup, on the right, how to howl. In August, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ Branch of Natural Resources caught the photos of the two adult wolves and two pups, which are estimated to be 3 to 4 months old.

“Initially, last year, we had been getting multiple reports from technicians and contractors working in the area, that there was a group of wolves in the area,” said Smith. “We were trying to verify that, but we couldn’t confirm that there was a pup.”

In August, Smith thought there might be new pups, so he and a high school intern walked to the “rendezvous site,” where the wolves had been seen last year. “We managed to track them to an area and we saw a pup, about the size of a dog. We saw it take off, and ended up setting up a camera.”

After they saw the pup, Smith notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which keeps track of wolf activity. At the end of 2017, Oregon had at least 124 gray wolves, including two known as the White River pair.

“They are in the southern portion of Wasco County, the northern part of the reservation, and the White River wildlife management area,” said Smith. “ODFW named the pack off of what area they’re covered in. We call them the Warm Springs pack.”

With assistance from USFW Biologist John Stephenson, the tribes set up remote trail cameras, which have been yielding numerous images of the wolves, including the pups.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Smith, noting that the pups are the first verified instance of wolves reproducing on the reservation since the mid-1940s. “It was the first time we had officially seen wolf pups.”

Gray wolves, which had historically been common in Oregon, were eradicated in the late 1940s. In 1974, wolves were listed as endangered by the federal Endangered Species Act. The state enacted its own Endangered Species Act in 1987, requiring the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to conserve wolves.

According to ODFW, the wolves in Oregon are part of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population, which was reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. The first wolf made its way to Oregon in the late 1990s.

Over the past decade, the documented population of wolves in Oregon has increased from about three in 2008, to 14 at the end of 2009, to 124 at the end of 2017. Most packs are located in Northeast Oregon.

Wolves have been wandering through Oregon for years, but the new group seems to have established itself on the reservation, said Smith. “Once they’re a breeding pair, they officially become a pack.”

Smith said that the wolves are an important resource on the reservation. “They’re a culturally significant and sensitive species,” he said. “They usually pick an area where they have enough food source. The numbers of deer and elk have increased on the reservation.”

The wolf pups are probably 3 to 4 months old, and weigh 75 to 100 pounds, he estimated.

“Typically, when they’re in the denning period, it runs from spring until early summer,” said Smith. “During that time, the female will stay in the den, while the male and siblings are out hunting. They will bring back food for the female.”

“Typically, they’re out of the den after a couple months, and pretty mobile by then,” he said. “These pups were probably born in June.”

The tribes’ Branch of Natural Resources will continue to monitor the pack and its movements to ensure an accurate population count.

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I must repeat what was quoted as being said by Austin Smith Jr. because it so perfectly explains what we see in our dogs. (My emphasis.)

Smith said that the wolves are an important resource on the reservation. “They’re a culturally significant and sensitive species,” he said.

Well done Oregon and in particular well done the good folk of the Warm Springs Reservation.

Here are a couple of photographs I found online to share with you.

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Mount Jefferson, Oregon.

Thinking of culturally significant and sensitive  animals, I must go and hug a dog or six!

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

ooOOoo

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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!

ooOOoo

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.

ooOOoo

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.”