I was supposed to be on a break. I fostered eight puppies back to back last year with the last one leaving right after Christmas. No doe-eyed dog was going to tug on my heartstrings.
But then I heard about a hoarding and neglect case where some 30 doodles were found living outdoors, perched on piles of hard clay and mounds of feces. A local rescue, Releash Atlanta, waded into the mess and scooped up seven of these dogs, putting out a plea for fosters to help. I kept looking at the face of a mama dog curled up with her newborn pup.
What break? The frightened mom and her itty-bitty baby are now decompressing in my basement until their permanent foster takes over next week. They’re learning that people aren’t terrible, and mama has found that chicken tastes great.
There’s something about cases like these that hit animal lovers — heck, most people — with a sickening blow. We can’t wrap our heads around the idea of animals, especially pets, living in such deplorable conditions.
The 5 freedoms of animal welfare
Look at the lives of most of the pets you know. They eat quality food, go to the vet regularly, stay cool in summer and warm in winter and want for very little.
These life basics seem like common sense to most of us, but more than 50 years ago the U.K. government wanted to put them in writing. In 1965, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council) defined the specific conditions that must be met for animals being cared for by humans. They called them the “Five Freedoms,” which cover an animal’s physical and mental state. The freedoms were later updated but the gist is basically the same.
These conditions of humane treatment have been adopted by veterinarians and animal-welfare groups including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The Five Freedoms are:
Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigor
Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment
Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
Freedom to express normal behavior, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind
Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering
Taking things for granted
These freedoms seem so incredibly basic and that’s likely why when an animal neglect case makes headlines, we’re all so horrified.
This happened in early January, when hundreds of German shepherds were found living in unimaginably squalid conditions from a suspected puppy mill in two locations in Montgomery and Candler counties in Georgia. Led by New York’s Guardians of Rescue, dozens of rescue groups immediately stepped up to help, rescuing more than 300 of the mostly purebred dogs. They found that in addition to being housed in filthy, crowded pens, some of the dogs had sores and had been living like that for at least five years.
“We know that a lot lost their lives fighting simply because they fought for dominance. It was a recipe for disaster every single day,” Mike Lawson, an investigator for Guardians, tells MNN. “They didn’t get out, they didn’t go for walks and they had to share the same soil covered with their own feces and urine. There was no protection from the cold and no shelter from the sun on a hot day. Obviously we are grateful they are no longer there.”
People from around the country and even in other parts of the world followed the drama on Facebook as all the dogs were removed from the property. Many people donated to the various rescue groups and offered to help foster or otherwise give support to these hundreds of dogs.
While Guardians also is involved with typical, everyday rescues, the group is often called in for these complicated cases.
“When people feel there’s no more hope, that’s when we jump into action,” says Lawson, who’s a retired FBI agent, like many of the group’s investigators.
“There’s the sheer number of animals and generally it’s the same typical M.O. in all these hoarding cases: It’s cramped areas, the hygiene is at an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, and generally the health of the animals is not taken into consideration,” Lawson says. “Regardless of how it started, nobody should be keeping so many dogs on any property.”
People step up
Rescues and animal shelters save animals every day. They always need donations, fosters and other kinds of support. But when these unimaginable neglect stories surface, they know they can count on people to help.
“We see an outpouring of support from the community for a few reasons,” says Kristin Sarkar, founder of Releash Atlanta. “The first is, usually it’s a big undertaking that requires a lot of donations, whether financial or just items needed to begin the process of transferring the dogs to safety and it’s something everyone can help with, such as donating blankets, crates or leashes and collars.”
Sarkar posted the heart-wrenching video above of the doodle dogs being rescued with photos of the petrified pups as they were taken from their filthy pens. Immediately, people started asking how they could help.
“There’s also a visual that makes it hard to ignore. We can tell a story all we want, but when you actually see the story, it has a much greater effect. We’ve passed 100 car accidents, yet we will still slow down to look at the next one,” she says. “Lastly, a lot of times with cases like this, for the most part, people are good, and they want to help, and what better time to want to help than when the need is so great? Such is the case with these recent hoarding situations.”
I’ve learned this kindness firsthand.
My scared little foster dog was covered with mats and not trusting enough to really be handled yet. I asked a trainer friend of mine for advice and she called her assistant trainer who is also a groomer. He immediately came over on his day off and spent time calmly talking to this frightened pup as he trimmed off these horrible clumps of nastiness. People are amazing.
I fostered one other hoarding dog, Pax. He was petrified when he arrived and had heartworms, so he had a long road to recovery. People donated toys, treats and medical care while he was with me and were very kindly invested in his background and rescue, as well as his transformation. It took five months for him to come around and realize that people can be good.
The doodles and the German shepherds have a long road ahead of them. Thanks to rescues, fosters and the people who are donating for their care, they will now have access to the Five Freedoms. They’ll be free from hunger and pain, discomfort and fear, and will be in a safe, loving environment.
It will take a lot of work, but the good news is that eventually there will be happy endings.
“So many people have to invest time, energy, love and money into these dogs to fix them,” Lawson says. “These dogs have never been inside a home. They have never taken a car ride. Never been on a leash. Never have had a collar. To put these dogs into wonderful homes, everybody who has taken these dogs will have to put a lot into them. I’m sure, before you know it, you will start seeing some wonderful before-and-after photos of these dogs placed in homes.”
Words fail me when it comes to the appalling cruelty as described above.
So thank goodness for those wonderful people who truly understand what it means for a dog to be loved and cared for.
I am going to publish a TomDispatch essay. Or rather, I am going to republish a piece written for Tom Engelhardt by Dahr Jamail. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading.
For a few days I agonised whether or not to republish it.
Then Tom wrote in an email to me: “Here’s what I think… or have, at least, thought these last 17 years… It’s better to plug on and do what you know should be done, say what you know should be said, no matter the state of the world, no matter whether anyone’s listening. That’s their problem, not ours. Better to do your best and hope that just one person notices and maybe just once that will be the person who makes all the difference.”
Dahr Jamail, a TomDispatch regular, reported strikingly from Iraq in the years after the 2003 American invasion of that country. Since then, he’s refocused the skills he learned as a war reporter on covering a fossil-fuelized war against the planet (and humanity itself). It goes by the mild name of climate change or global warming and, while a Trump tirade about the border or just about anything else gets staggering attention, the true crisis this planet faces, the one that our children and grandchildren will have to grimly deal with, remains distinctly a secondary matter not just in the news but in American consciousness. Yes, opinions are slowly changing on the subject, but not nearly fast enough. Something about the time scale of this developing crisis — no less that it could, in the end, take out human civilization and so much else — makes it hard to absorb. It’s increasingly evident that we are already living on a climate-changed planet whose weather is grimly intensifying. If you doubt this, just ask the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, Houston, or Paradise (California, that is). Its most devastating consequences will, however, be left to a future that still seems remarkably hard to absorb in an era of the endless Trump Twitch and in a time when we’re becoming ever more oriented to the social media moment.
In 2013, as Dahr Jamail mentions in his piece today, he penned a dispatch for this website on climate change. In my introduction to it, I wrote, “Still, despite ever more powerful weather disruptions — what the news now likes to call ‘extreme weather’ events, including monster typhoons, hurricanes, and winter storms, wildfires, heat waves, drought, and global temperature records — disaster has still seemed far enough off. Despite a drumbeat of news about startling environmental changes — massive ice melts in Arctic waters, glaciers shrinking worldwide, the Greenland ice shield beginning to melt, as well as the growing acidification of ocean waters — none of this, not even Superstorm Sandy smashing into that iconic global capital, New York, and drowning part of its subway system, has broken through as a climate change 9/11. Not in the United States anyway. We’ve gone, that is, from no motion to slow motion to a kind of denial of motion.”
Sadly, with different and more severe examples of every one of the phenomena mentioned above — four of the years since have, for instance, set new heat highs — that paragraph could stand essentially unchanged. In those same years, however, Jamail did anything but stand still. He traveled the planet, producing a remarkable new book, The End of Ice, which is being published today. It holds within its pages the most dramatic (and well-reported) of stories about what both the present and future will mean for us in climate-change terms. If it were up to him, we would all feel the desperate immediacy of our situation as we face the single greatest crisis since that ancestor of ours, Lucy, walked the edge of a lake in Ethiopia so many millions of years ago. I only hope that the passion in his piece today (and in the book it describes) carries a few of us into the new world we now inhabit, whether we care to know about it or not. Tom
I’m standing atop Rush Hill on Alaska’s remote St. Paul Island. While only 665 feet high, it provides a 360-degree view of this tundra-covered, 13-mile-long, seven-mile-wide part of the Pribilof Islands. While the hood of my rain jacket flaps in the cold wind, I gaze in wonder at the silvery waters of the Bering Sea. The ever-present wind whips the surface into a chaos of whitecaps, scudding mist, and foam.
The ancient cinder cone I’m perched on reminds me that St. Paul, was, oh so long ago, one of the last places woolly mammoths could be found in North America. I’m here doing research for my book The End of Ice. And that, in turn, brings me back to the new reality in these far northern waters: as cold as they still are, human-caused climate disruption is warming them enough to threaten a possible collapse of the food web that sustains this island’s Unangan, its Aleut inhabitants, also known as “the people of the seal.” Given how deeply their culture is tied to a subsistence lifestyle coupled with the new reality that the numbers of fur seals, seabirds, and other marine life they hunt or fish are dwindling, how could this crisis not be affecting them?
While on St. Paul, I spoke with many tribal elders who told me stories about fewer fish and sea birds, harsher storms and warming temperatures, but what struck me most deeply were their accounts of plummeting fur seal populations. Seal mothers, they said, had to swim so much farther to find food for their pups that the babies were starving to death before they could make it back.
And the plight of those dramatically declining fur seals could well become the plight of the Unangan themselves, which in the decades to come, as climate turbulence increases, could very well become the plight of all of us.
Just before flying to St. Paul, I met with Bruce Wright in Anchorage, Alaska. He’s a senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, has worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and was a section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 11 years. “We’re not going to stop this train wreck,” he assures me grimly. “We are not even trying to slow down the production of CO2 [carbon dioxide], and there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere.”
While describing the warming, ever more acidic waters around Alaska and the harm being caused to the marine food web, he recalled a moment approximately 250 million years ago when the oceans underwent similar changes and the planet experienced mass extinction events “driven by ocean acidity. The Permian mass extinction where 90% of the species were wiped out, that is what we are looking at now.”
I wrap up the interview with a heavy heart, place my laptop in my satchel, put on my jacket, and shake his hand. Knowing I’m about to fly to St. Paul, Wright has one final thing to tell me as he walks me out: “The Pribilofs were the last place mammoths survived because there weren’t any people out there to hunt them. We’ve never experienced this, where we are headed. Maybe the islands will become a refuge for a population of humans.”
The Loss Upon Us
For at least two decades, I’ve found my solace in the mountains. I lived in Alaska from 1996 to 2006 and more than a year of my life has been spent climbing on the glaciers of Denali and other peaks in the Alaska Range. Yet that was a bittersweet time for me as the dramatic impacts of climate change were quickly becoming apparent, including quickly receding glaciers and warmer winter temperatures.
After years of war and then climate-change reporting, I regularly withdrew to the mountains to catch my breath. As I filled my lungs with alpine air, my heart would settle down and I could feel myself root back into the Earth.
Later, my book research would take me back onto Denali’s fast-shrinking glaciers and also to Glacier National Park in Montana. There I met Dr. Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist and director of the Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Project. “This is an explosion,” he assured me, “a nuclear explosion of geologic change. This… exceeds the ability for normal adaptation. We’ve shoved it into overdrive and taken our hands off the wheel.” Despite its name, the park he studies is essentially guaranteed not to have any active glaciers by 2030, only 11 years from now.
My research also took me to the University of Miami, Coral Gables, where I met the chair of the Department of Geological Science, Harold Wanless, an expert in sea-level rise.
I asked him what he would say to people who think we still have time to mitigate the impacts of runaway climate change. “We can’t undo this,” he replied. “How are you going to cool down the ocean? We’re already there.”
As if to underscore the point, Wanless told me that, in the past, carbon dioxide had varied from roughly 180 to 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere as the Earth shifted from glacial to interglacial periods. Linked to this 100-ppm fluctuation was about a 100-foot change in sea level. “Every 100-ppm CO2 increase in the atmosphere gives us 100 feet of sea level rise,” he told me. “This happened when we went in and out of the Ice Age.”
As I knew, since the industrial revolution began, atmospheric CO2 has already increased from 280 to 410 ppm. “That’s 130 ppm in just the last 200 years,” I pointed out to him. “That’s 130 feet of sea level rise that’s already baked into Earth’s climate system.”
He looked at me and nodded grimly. I couldn’t help thinking of that as a nod goodbye to coastal cities from Miami to Shanghai.
In July 2017, I traveled to Camp 41 in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, part of a project founded four decades ago by Thomas Lovejoy, known to many as the “godfather of biodiversity.” While visiting him, I also met Vitek Jirinec, an ornithologist from the Czech Republic who had held 11 different wildlife positions from Alaska to Jamaica. In the process, he became all too well acquainted with the signs of biological collapse among the birds he was studying. He’d watched as some Amazon populations like that of the black-tailed leaftosser declined by 95%; he’d observed how mosquitoes in Hawaii were killing off native bird populations; he’d explored how saltwater intrusion into Alaska’s permafrost was changing bird habitats there.
His tone turned somber as we discussed his research and a note of anger slowly crept into his voice. “The problem of animal and plant populations left marooned within various fragments [of their habitat] under circumstances that are untenable for the long term has begun showing up all over the land surface of the planet. The familiar questions recur: How many mountain gorillas inhabit the forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes, along the shared borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda? How many tigers live in the Sariska Tiger Reserve of northwestern India? How many are left? How long can they survive?”
As he continued, the anger in his voice became palpable, especially when he began discussing how “island biogeography” had come to the mainland and what was happening to animal populations marooned by human development on fragments of land in places like the Amazon. “How many grizzly bears occupy the North Cascades ecosystem, a discrete patch of mountain forest along the northern border of the state of Washington? Not enough. How many European brown bears are there in Italy’s Abruzzo National Park? Not enough. How many Florida panthers in Big Cypress Swamp? Not enough. How many Asiatic lions in the Forest of Gir? Not enough… The world is broken in pieces now.”
“A Terrifying 12 Years”
In October 2018, 15 months after Jirinec’s words brought me to tears in the Amazon, the world’s leading climate scientists authored a report for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning us that we have just a dozen years left to limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change. The gist of it is this: we’ve already warmed the planet one degree Celsius. If we fail to limit that warming process to 1.5 degrees, even a half-degree more than that will significantly worsen extreme heat, flooding, widespread droughts, and sea level increases, among other grim phenomena. The report has become a key talking point of political progressives in the U.S., who, likejournalist and activist Naomi Klein, are now speaking of “a terrifying 12 years” left in which to cut fossil fuel emissions.
There is, however, a problem with even this approach. It assumes that the scientific conclusions in the IPCC report are completely sound. It’s well known, however, that there’s been a political element built into the IPCC’s scientific process, based on the urge to get as many countries as possible on board the Paris climate agreement and other attempts to rein in climate change. To do that, such reports tend to use the lowest common denominatorin their projections, which makes their science overly conservative (that is, overly optimistic).
In addition, new data suggest that the possibility of political will coalescing across the planet to shift the global economy completely off fossil fuels in the reasonably near future is essentially a fantasy. And that’s even if we could remove enough of the hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 already in our overburdened atmosphere to make a difference (not to speak of the heat similarly already lodged in the oceans).
“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5 degree Celsius target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the IPCC report, told the Guardian just weeks before it was released. “While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”
In fact, even best-case scenarios show us heading for at least a three-degree warming and, realistically speaking, we are undoubtedly on track for far worse than that by 2100, if not much sooner. Perhaps that’s why Shindell was so pessimistic.
For example, a study published in Nature magazine, also released in October, showed that over the last quarter-century, the oceans have absorbed 60% more heat annually than estimated in the 2014 IPCC report. The study underscored that the globe’s oceans have, in fact, already absorbed 93% of all the heat humans have added to the atmosphere, that the climate system’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is far higher than thought and that planetary warming is far more advanced than had previously been grasped.
To give you an idea of how much heat the oceans have absorbed: if that heat had instead gone into the atmosphere, the global temperature would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. For those who think that there are still 12 years left to change things, the question posed by Wanless seems painfully apt: How do we remove all the heat that’s already been absorbed by the oceans?
Two weeks after that Nature article came out, a study in Scientific Reportswarned that the extinction of animal and plant species thanks to climate change could lead to a “domino effect” that might, in the end, annihilate life on the planet. It suggested that organisms will die out at increasingly rapid rates because they depend on other species that are also on their way out. It’s a process the study calls “co-extinction.” According to its authors, a five to six degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures might be enough to annihilate most of Earth’s living creatures.
To put this in perspective: just a two degree rise will leave dozens of the world’s coastal mega-cities flooded, thanks primarily to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm. There will be 32 times as many heat waves in India and nearly half a billion more people will suffer water scarcity. At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought and the area burned annually by wildfires in the U.S. will sextuple. These impacts, it’s worth noting, may already be baked into the system, even if every country that signed the Paris climate accord were to fully honor its commitments, which most of them arenot currently doing.
At four degrees, global grain yields could drop by half, most likely resulting in annual worldwide food crises (along with far more war, general conflict, and migration than at present).
The International Energy Agency has already shown that maintaining our current fossil-fueled economic system would virtually guarantee a six-degreerise in the Earth’s temperature before 2050. To add insult to injury, a 2017 analysis from oil giants BP and Shell indicated that they expected the planet to be five degrees warmer by mid-century.
In late 2013, I wrote a piece for TomDispatch titled “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice?” Even then, it was already clear enough that we were indeed heading off that cliff. More than five years later, a sober reading of the latest climate change science indicates that we are now genuinely in free fall.
The question is no longer whether or not we are going to fail, but how are we going to comport ourselves in the era of failure?
Listening While Saying Goodbye
It’s been estimated that between 150 and 200 plant, insect, bird, and mammal species are already going extinct every day. In other words, during the two and a half years I worked on my book 136,800 species may have gone extinct.
We have a finite amount of time left to coexist with significant parts of the biosphere, including glaciers, coral, and thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects. We’re going to have to learn how to say goodbye to them, part of which should involve doing everything we humanly can to save whatever is left, even knowing that the odds are stacked against us.
For me, my goodbyes will involve spending as much time as I can on the glaciers in Washington State’s Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park near where I live, or far more modestly taking in the trees around my home on a daily basis. It’s unclear, after all, how much longer such forest areas are likely to remain fully intact. I often visit a small natural altar I’ve created amid a circle of cedar trees growing around a decomposing mother tree. In this magical spot, I grieve and express my gratitude for the life that is still here. I also go to listen.
Where do you go to listen? And what are you hearing?
For me, these days, it all begins and ends with doing my best to listen to the Earth, with trying my hardest to understand how best to serve, how to devote myself to doing everything possible for the planet, no matter the increasingly bleak prognosis for this time in human history.
Perhaps if we listen deeply enough and regularly enough, we ourselves will become the song this planet needs to hear.
I’m still too close to it to gauge my own reactions. So I will close with this:
TomDispatch author and naturalist William DeBuys has this to say about it: “In a sane world The End of Ice would be the end of lame excuses that climate change is too abstract to get worked up about. From the Arctic to the Amazon, from doomed Miami to the Great Barrier Reef, Dahr Jamail brings every frontier in our ongoing calamity into close focus. The losses are tangible. And so is the grief. This is more than a good book. It is a wise one.”
The California assembly member who introduced the legislation, Patrick O’Donnell, has insisted the legislation is not just “a big win” for “four-legged friends”, but for California taxpayers too, as they spend hundreds of millions on sheltering animals across the state.
In my travels around for items about dogs I came across this one. It’s not your usual item. For it features dog art at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.
This NYC subway station has gone to the dogs
With more than a little help from William Wegman’s Weimaraners
By MATT HICKMAN
December 24, 2018.
Dogs aren’t that unusual of a sight in the bowels of the New York City subway system.
There are service dogs and law enforcement dogs; dogs being transported in tote bags, baskets, backpacks and baby carriages; dogs swaddled beneath heavy winter jackets; very small dogs that come scurrying from the darkest corners of the platform towards … oh wait.
What you don’t see beneath the streets of New York are dogs depicted in public art. This has all changed with the unveiling of “Stationary Figures,” a collection of 11 glass mosaic pooch portraits now on permanent display at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
No doubt a number of straphangers passing through 23rd Street station, which services the F and M trains and was closed for several months earlier this year while undergoing a major revamping, will find that the pooches in question look familiar — maybe a bit like the average New York commuter: stoic, alert, borderline restless. But it’s mostly because the mosaics, fabricated in stunning detail by Mayer of Munich, are based on images created by none other than Mr. Weimaraner himself, William Wegman.
Although Wegman’s subjects have varied over his lauded career as a photographer, painter and video artist, he’s best known for whimsical compositions that depict his beloved pet Weimaraners in humanlike poses (and sometimes donning wigs and costumes). It all began in the 1970s with Wegman’s first true four-legged muse, the leggy and camera-loving Man Ray. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, that Wegman’s second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, achieved true art world stardom. Fay’s descendants — they include Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny — have all also modeled for their human.
Wegman’s pet Weimaraners — a German hunting breed dating back to the early 19th century — have the distinction of appearing in the permanent collections of numerous top art museums and being a regular feature on “Sesame Street.” That’s no small feat for an extended family of very good boys and girls.
The dogs depicted in “Stationary Figures” are Flo and her brother, Topper — Wegman’s ninth and 10th Weimaraners, respectively. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which commissioned the portraits as part of its MTA Arts & Design program, explains: “The portraits highlight Wegman’s deadpan humor by juxtaposing Flo and Topper in poses that suggest the way customers group themselves with waiting for a train at the platform. In some portraits, they’re dressed in human clothes and others they’re in their natural state.”
In addition to showcasing the work of a world-renowned artist (and local Chelsea resident) in an unexpected venue, “Stationary Figures” is meant to bring joy to — and lower the blood pressure of — harried commuters passing through 23rd Street station, which ranks amongst the 50th busiest in the Big Apple. After all, who wouldn’t crack a smile when chancing across a mosaic portrait of a handsome pooch, especially when said handsome pooch is gussied up in a bright red rain slicker and matching cap?
As Mark Byrnes points out for CityLab, this isn’t the first time Wegman’s dogs have brightened up an American subway station. In 2005, two Weimaraners, both outfitted in NASA spacesuits, became permanent fixtures as circular murals above exits at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C.
Very good dogs, very poor service
It goes without saying that New York City subway stations, while teeming with various forms of microbial life, have never exactly been known as hotbeds of contemporary art and design.
That, however, began to change with the long-anticipated January 2017 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, which features eye-catching new works by Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin spread out across four different stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the Second Avenue line’s secondary function as subterranean contemporary gallery (price tag: $4.5 million) as the “the largest permanent public art installation in New York history.”
And this is all fine and good — great in fact. The more public art in the subways, the better — especially when it involves local artists of international renown, dapper-looking dogs and an ample dose of wit. Flo and Topper are the best thing to hit the 23rd Station since, well, forever.
Critics, however, have been left wondering as to when significant, tangible improvements to the MTA’s declining service will finally be instituted. And this is especially true with new fare hikes on the horizon.
As is the case with the 23rd Street station, which also received new benches, lighting, tile work, countdown clocks and digital screens as part of its extensive overhaul, what does it matter if the platforms and other public areas look fantastic but the trains aren’t running efficiently? (Byrnes points out that accessibility, or a lack thereof, also remains a major issue at 23rd Street station.)
The MTA needs to do more than outfit stations with delightful distractions to keep straphangers — who mainly just want to get from point A to point B in a minimal amount of time with minimal headache — happy. While mosaics, murals and the like do act as a sort of soothing balm and improve the user experience, public art is ultimately best enjoyed while also not on the verges of tears because three completely packed F trains have gone by and you’re running 30 minutes late.
As for Wegman, described by the New York Post as a “frequent subway commuter,” he doesn’t offer any specific thoughts as to how the MTA can also improve its service.
“I really like what they’re doing as far as making it look better,” he tells the Post. “But how to make them run better, that’s out of my area.”
Now I can’t really comment any more as the odds of me being on the New York Subway are slim to none. Plus, it’s many years since I travelled on the British Underground.
But that doesn’t stop me from applauding this. Both the authorities for permitting it to happen and especially to William Wegman for such beautiful and outstanding work.
On the back of yesterday’s article about dogs obtaining protein from eating soldier ants comes another piece from the BBC about fibre. It has much information some of which I hadn’t come across before.
So it’s another share with you.
The lifesaving food 90% aren’t eating enough of.
By James Gallagher, Health and science correspondent, BBC News
January 11th, 2019.
If I offered you a superfood that would make you live longer, would you be interested?
Naturally it reduces the chances of debilitating heart attacks and strokes as well as life-long diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
And it helps keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.
I should mention it’s cheap and widely available in the supermarket.
What is it?
Fibre – it’s not the sexiest thing in the world but a major study has been investigating how much fibre we really need to be eating and found there are huge health benefits.
“The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it,” one of the researchers, Prof John Cummings, tells BBC News.
It’s well known for stopping constipation – but its health benefits are much broader than that.
How much fibre do we need?
The researchers, at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, and the University of Dundee say people should be eating a minimum of 25g of fibre per day.
But they call this an “adequate” amount for improving health and say there are benefits for pushing past 30g (1oz).
Is that all?
Well, a banana on its own weighs about 120g but that’s not pure fibre. Strip out everything else including all the natural sugars and water, and you’re left with only about 3g of fibre.
Most people around the world are eating less than 20g of fibre a day.
And in the UK, fewer than one in 10 adults eats 30g of fibre daily.
On average, women consume about 17g, and men 21g, a day.
What other foods have more fibre in them?
You find it in fruit and vegetables, some breakfast cereals, breads and pasta that use whole-grains, pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, as well as nuts and seeds.
Elaine Rush, a professor of nutrition at Auckland University of Technology, has put together this example for getting into the 25-30g camp:
half a cup of rolled oats – 9g fibre | two Weetabix – 3g fibre | a thick slice of brown bread – 2g fibre | a cup of cooked lentils – 4g fibre | a potato cooked with the skin on – 2g fibre | half a cup of chard (or silverbeet in New Zealand) – 1g fibre | a carrot – 3g fibre | an apple with the skin on – 4g fibre
But she says: “It is not easy to increase fibre in the diet.”
Prof Cummings agrees. “It’s a big change for people,” he says. “It’s quite a challenge.”
cooking potatoes with the skin on | swapping white bread, pasta and rice for wholemeal versions | choosing high-fibre breakfast cereals such as porridge oats | chucking some chickpeas, beans or lentils in a curry or over a salad| having nuts or fresh fruit for snacks or dessert | consuming at least five portions of fruit or vegetables each day
Well, after analysing 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results are in and have been published in the Lancet medical journal.
It suggests if you shifted 1,000 people from a low fibre diet (less than 15g) to a high-fibre one (25-29g), then it would prevent 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease.
That’s during the course of these studies, which tended to follow people for one to two decades.
It also showed lower levels of type-2 diabetes and bowel cancer as well as lower weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
And the more fibre people ate, the better.
What is fibre doing in the body?
There used to be a view that fibre didn’t do much at all – that the human body could not digest it and it just sailed through.
But fibre makes us feel full and affects the way fat is absorbed in the small intestine – and things really become interesting in the large intestines, when your gut bacteria get to have their dinner.
The large intestines are home to billions of bacteria – and fibre is their food.
It’s a bit like a brewery down there, admittedly one you wouldn’t want a pint from, where bacteria are fermenting fibre to make a whole load of chemicals.
This includes short-chain fatty acids, which are absorbed and have effects throughout the body.
“We have this organ set up to digest fibre, which a lot of people just don’t use very much,” says Prof Cummings.
Why is this relevant now?
The fact fibre and whole-grains and fruit and vegetables are healthy should not come as a surprise.
But there is concern people are turning their back on fibre, with the popularity of low-carb diets.
Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, says: “We need to take serious note of this study.
“Its findings do imply that, though increasingly popular in the community at large, any dietary regimes that recommend very low-carbohydrate diets should consider the opportunity cost of missing out on fibre from whole-grains.
“This research confirms that fibre and whole-grain intakes are clearly important for longer term health.”
The study has been done to help the World Health Organization come up with official guidelines for how much fibre people should be eating to boost health and they are expected next year.
From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, white bread fell while brown and wholemeal rose.
Since then, white bread sales have continued to fall, but brown and wholemeal bread sales have been falling for most of that period, although at a slower rate.
So it looks as if while overall demand for bread has been falling, a higher proportion of bread sold has been higher fibre.
Whole wheat pasta has made less of an impact on sales than higher fibre breads, with a survey for the British Journal of Nutrition finding that pasta accounted for less than 1% of the occasions on which people were consuming whole grains.
Well nothing much more to be said other than going vegan.
I had to look twice at this but it wasn’t April 1st and it appeared to be a serious article. It’s from the BBC website.
Will say no more. You have a read of it.
Climate change: Will insect-eating dogs help?
By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst
10th January, 2019
Do you fret that your pet pooch is blamed by environmentalists for turning rainforests into poo in the park?
Have no fear – you can now fatten Fido on black soldier flies instead of Brazilian beef.
A pet food manufacturer now claims that 40% of its new product is made from soldier flies.
It’s one of many firms hoping to cash in on the backlash against beef by people concerned that the cattle are fed on soya.
These soya plantations are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases in significant quantities.
Is it good for the dog?
The key question is whether a diet of 40% soldier flies meets the nutritional needs of your beloved canine.
We put the question to a pet diet expert at the Royal Veterinary College, Aarti Kathrani. Her conclusion was a cautious “yes”.
“Insects can be a very useful source of protein,” she told us. “More studies are needed to show how much of these nutrients can actually be absorbed by a dog’s body – but some studies suggest that insects can provide nutrients for dogs.”
Does it help the climate if dogs eat flies?
At first sight it seems obvious that feeding your dog meaty food is bad for the environment. The link between humans eating meat and the allied emissions of CO2 and methane is well established – and pets are estimated to eat 20% of global meat.
It’s also true that flies produce protein much more efficiently than cows – using a small percentage of the water and land.
But actually the analysis is more subtle than that – because as societies become more wealthy, people often turn to muscle meat and reject the animal’s offal.
That offal is just as nutritious – and it gets made into pet food. That means that dog food is just as sustainable – or unsustainable – as humans eating meat.
In fact, if dogs were weaned off meat and on to insects, the industry would have to find another purpose for the offal. More sausage, perhaps? Or more humans eating insect protein. Or more going vegan?
Could cat food be made out of insects, too?
Dogs are omnivores – they eat more or less anything. Cats are much more choosy, because they can’t make an essential amino acid, taurine. They find it instead in meat and fish.
But Dr Kathrani says studies show that insects do contain taurine, so it’s possible that insects could also form a useful part of the moggie diet.
The new product is from Yora, a UK start-up. The insect grubs are fed on food waste in the Netherlands.
There are several competitors which also produce pet food incorporating fly protein. They include Insectdog, Entomapetfood, Chippin and Wilderharrier.
Now I have heard of some strange things but in essence this does make very good sense.
I can’t recall whether I have previously shown this to you …
I don’t think so.
(But see my note at the end of the piece.)
Why people become vegans: The history, sex and science of a meatless existence.
By Joshua T. Beck Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon
November 19th, 2018.
At the age of 14, a young Donald Watson watched as a terrified pig was slaughtered on his family farm. In the British boy’s eyes, the screaming pig was being murdered. Watson stopped eating meat and eventually gave up dairy as well.
Later, as an adult in 1944, Watson realized that other people shared his interest in a plant-only diet. And thus veganism – a term he coined – was born.
Flash-forward to today, and Watson’s legacy ripples through our culture. Even though only 3 percent of Americans actually identify as vegan, mostpeople seem to have an unusually strong opinion about these fringe foodies – one way or the other.
As a behavioral scientist with a strong interest in consumer food movements, I thought November – World Vegan Month – would be a good time to explore why people become vegans, why they can inspire so much irritation and why many of us meat-eaters may soon join their ranks.
It’s an ideology not a choice
Like other alternative food movements such as locavorism, veganism arises from a belief structure that guides daily eating decisions.
Also, just like Donald Watson’s story, veganism is rooted in early life experiences.
Psychologists recently discovered that having a larger variety of pets as a child increases tendencies to avoid eating meat as an adult. Growing up with different sorts of pets increases concern for how animals are treated more generally.
Thus, when a friend opts for Tofurky this holiday season, rather than one of the 45 millionturkeys consumed for Thanksgiving, his decision isn’t just a high-minded choice. It arises from beliefs that are deeply held and hard to change.
Veganism as a symbolic threat
That doesn’t mean your faux-turkey loving friend won’t seem annoying if you’re a meat-eater.
The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously quipped that meat avoiders “are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”
Why do some people find vegans so irritating? In fact, it might be more about “us” than them.
Most Americans think meat is an important part of a healthy diet. The government recommends eating 2-3 portions (5-6 ounces) per day of everything from bison to sea bass. As tribal humans, we naturally form biases against individuals who challenge our way of life, and because veganism runs counter to how we typically approach food, vegans feel threatening.
Humans respond to feelings of threat by derogating outgroups. Two out of 3 vegans experience discrimination daily, 1 in 4 report losing friends after “coming out” as vegan, and 1 in 10 believe being vegan cost them a job.
Veganism can be hard on a person’s sex life, too. Recent research finds that the more someone enjoys eating meat, the less likely they are to swipe right on a vegan. Also, women find men who are vegan less attractive than those who eat meat, as meat-eating seems masculine.
Crossing the vegan divide
It may be no surprise that being a vegan is tough, but meat-eaters and meat-abstainers probably have more in common than they might think.
Vegans are foremost focused on healthy eating. Six out of 10 Americans want their meals to be healthier, and research shows that plant-based diets are associated with reduced risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes.
It may not be surprising, then, that 1 in 10 Americans are pursuing a mostly veggie diet. That number is higher among younger generations, suggesting that the long-term trend might be moving away from meat consumption.
In addition, several factors will make meat more costly in the near future.
Meat production accounts for as much as 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and clear-cutting for pasture land destroys 6.7 million acres of tropical forest per year. While some debate exists on the actual figures, it is clear that meat emits more than plants, and population growth is increasing demand for quality protein.
Seizing the opportunity, scientists have innovated new forms of plant-based meats that have proven to be appealing even to meat-eaters. The distributor of Beyond Meat’s plant-based patties says 86 percent of its customers are meat-eaters. It is rumored that this California-based vegan company will soon be publicly traded on Wall Street.
Even more astonishing, the science behind lab-grown, “cultured tissue” meat is improving. It used to cost more than $250,000 to produce a single lab-grown hamburger patty. Technological improvements by Dutch company Mosa Meat have reduced the cost to $10 per burger.
Even during the holiday season, when meats like turkey and ham take center stage at family feasts, there’s a growing push to promote meatless eating.
London, for example, will host its first-ever “zero waste” Christmas market this year featuring vegan food vendors. Donald Watson, who was born just four hours north of London, would be proud.
Watson, who died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 95, outlived most of his critics. This may give quiet resolve to vegans as they brave our meat-loving world.
Jeannie has been a vegetarian all her life and I willingly adopted the lifestyle back in 2008 when we first started living together. Then in 2017 we took the final step to becoming vegan on account of there being too much uncertainty about fish, chicken and dairy products.
We both feel great on a vegan diet and more and more people seem to be coming across to this position.
(N.B. And this post has been published before – oh well it won’t do any harm in being repeated.)
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.
“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?
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.”
I’m still not convinced but it makes a lovely story and one that I wanted to share with you.
When most people think of Finland, they likely imagine a country of sprawling forests and winter wonderlands where everyone is content and has a respectful relationship with wildlife.
Helsinki University student and photographer Ossi Saarinen has lived in Finland his whole life, and his work reveals his passion for nature and animals.
“I’ve always been interested in animals. Somehow I find their behavior all very interesting,” Saarinen, 22, tells MNN. “Even being in the nature without seeing any animals is very enjoyable for me.”
Saarinen has been interested in nature since he was a little boy, but it wasn’t until he started taking photos of a family of foxes in 2015 that he realized this love of animals could frame his life’s work.
“When I was just starting my photographing career I met a fox family with four tiny cubs. I managed to get some photos and in one of them, it looks like they’re all walking towards the camera. It’s my favorite not only because I like it as a photo but also because it was the day when my career really started and I felt like it was something I wanted to do in the future as well.”
Since then, Saarinen has honed his craft into a beautiful collection of photographs featuring different wild animals in their natural habitats. What sets his work apart is the sense you get of just how much he loves animals.
“I try to show the emotions and feelings of the animals and that way also make the people watching the photos to feel something.”
Not only is the raw beauty of animals captured in his images, but they also shine a spotlight on the gorgeous Finnish setting. Saarinen wants people to know how Finnish people take care of the land and respect it.
“Finnish nature looks almost like untouched, which is very rare thing in developed countries. It’s clean, full of different kinds of plants and animals. It has four beautiful seasons over the year. Even if you live in the center of our biggest city, Helsinki, you don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature and animals. Actually most of my animal photos are taken less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki.”
“I like to tell and show people how clean and beautiful the nature here is. How it can look when people really take care of it.”
You can see more of his photography below, follow him on Instagram or check out his website, where his photos are available for purchase.
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
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