In Review: Inside Animal Hearts and Minds
In Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears that Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion, Belinda Recio serves up an engaging coffee table book demonstrating that animals share a broad range of attributes with humans. A visually attractive light read, the book enjoys a foreword by Jonathan Balcombe (biologist); and it has been reviewed by Irene Pepperberg (cognitive psychologist), Con Slobodchikoff (conservation biologist), Jennifer Vonk (cognitive psychologist), and James Wood (veterinarian) — all of whom having specific credentials as ethologists.
Photo by Sylvain Friquet
Recio hopes that her effort will contribute to a greater realization of our commonalities with other creatures, which, in turn, will lead us to "more readily recognize them as kindred spirits and treat them — and the environments that sustain them — more compassionately." To that end, she stitches together relatively recent findings about particular aspects of multifarious creatures.
Intermittently illustrated through key photographs — including from experimental and field studies — and accompanying explanations, the majority of these findings are research-based. Some of them are accidental observations videotaped by nature watchers; still others are observations made by credible researchers even though the researchers could not record the requisite evidence.
Also reported in the book are anecdotes about some species — anecdotes that are either common knowledge or are well known to people that have happened to share a close proximity with those species. On such occasions, Recio brings a more immediate credibility to the anecdotes as a writer by bridging the gap between the creature world and the research world.
Recio's account is lightly sprinkled with references to YouTube and other Internet links that have attained conspicuous popularity for their depictions of nonhuman animals in impressively human-like actions. She has provided useful explanatory contexts to these otherwise scattered links.
The overall comprehension and credibility of the text is assisted by its outstanding "Notes" section and a fine index.
As for the attributes whose presence in "animals" Recio has undertaken to highlight, they are as follows: laughter, humor, and mischief; reciprocity and cooperation; rule-bound conduct; friendship; play and imagination; empathy and altruism; a sense of the sacred; awareness and identity; language; numerical cognition; tool use; spatial intelligence; creativity and aesthetics (dance, music, creative mimicry); …more
The Lummi Nation campaigns to free a once-wild orca from Miami's Seaquarium
The orca, or killer whale, is a popular icon of wildness in the communities surrounding Puget Sound, a complex system of waterways forming the southern portion of the Salish Sea and extending 100 miles from Washington's Whidbey Island to the state capital of Olympia. Orcas adorn license plates, t-shirts, and murals throughout the Seattle metropolitan area, where human residents sometimes see small family groups (pods) of these striking marine mammals swim by the shorelines of the city's public parks. Killer whales also spark the imaginations of regional ferry riders, who keep their eyes peeled for towering dorsal fins or the dramatic black and white flash of an orca breaching in the distance.
Photo byRoss Cobb
Meanwhile, 3,000 thousand miles and a world away, an orca named Lolita performs showy tricks twice a day at Miami's Seaquarium, where exuberant crowds have cheered her on for almost half a century. Lolita, known before her sale to the Seaquarium as Tokitae (a Coast Salish greeting meaning "nice day" or "pretty colors"), was taken as a juvenile from Puget Sound's Penn Cove in 1970 and has lived in Miami ever since. Her small concrete pool — at only 80 feet long and 35 feet wide, the tiniest killer whale tank in the US — is basically the equivalent of a bathtub for a 7,000-pound, 20-feet-long cetacean. Tokitae shares the tank with two white-sided dolphins, having lost her last orca companion, Hugo, when he died of self-inflicted damage to his head in 1980.
This spring, Washington's Lummi Nation is saying enough is enough for Tokitae, and that it's long past time to bring her home. In early May, several tribal members — with support from orca organizations, Sierra Club, and other activists — embarked on a 27-day, cross-country Tokitae Totem Pole Journey to return Tokitae to Puget Sound. As part of the journey, Lummi leaders are transporting a totem pole carved in honor of the captive orca.
To come to terms with the many dimensions of our ecological crisis we need to co-create conscious, connected communities, and act together
A healthy future for humanity requires a healthy living planet. And our growth economy based on constant material expansion has become incompatible with the health of our finite planet. But transitioning beyond a growth-dependent industrial economy will require a multidimensional transformation, not just outward political and economic change, but radical cultural and psychological change as well.
This means that to radically reengineer the system, we will have to simultaneously reengineer ourselves. This is whole system transformation — requiring a healthier, more creative, more compassionate and engaged humanity than we have ever seen up to now. Both of these together — our Earth and its biosphere, and our own inner lives and life choices, individually and in community — constitute our life-support system. And on every level we are poised at a tipping point.
The nature and unprecedented seriousness of our predicament presents us not only with great challenges, but with a basis for radical hope.
The more I learn, the more I find myself moving in two directions simultaneously. On the one hand, I have grieved ever more profoundly for the worsening state of the planetary biosphere. On the other, the more radically I submit to the chilling recognition of our actual situation, the more I find myself opening into radical acceptance of the adventure of doing what we can on behalf of our personal, interpersonal and global health and future, even amidst great uncertainty.
We must do our best to anticipate future conditions. But clearly, our ability to foresee the future has severe limits. This calls for forms of activism rooted in something much more profound than prediction and strategy. The nature of the problem demands a kind of thinking that we mostly don’t yet know how to do. As Einstein is quoted as saying, “We can’t solve our most pressing problems with the kind of thinking that created them.”
We are being called to make a transformative leap to a whole new paradigm not only of thinking, but of being human — a new consciousness and a whole new stage in the evolutionary trajectory of our species.
No one can say with certainty how our civilizational crisis will play out. We don’t know how much suffering and destruction — human and nonhuman — might lie ahead, or where, or exactly how, or how soon. But we do know, with …more
California groundskeeper makes history by taking company to trial on claims it suppressed information about the weedkiller’s toxicity
At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.
Photo courtesy of Global Justice Now
On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.
Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages.
“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”
Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s hometown of St Louis, Missouri.
The lawsuits challenge Monsanto’s position that its herbicides are proven safe and assert that the company has known about the dangers and hidden them from regulators and the public. The litigants cite an assortment of research studies indicating that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicides, a chemical called glyphosate, can lead to NHL and other ailments. They also cite research showing glyphosate formulations in its commercial-end products are more toxic than glyphosate alone. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a more
Animal rights and environmental groups question ethics, efficacy of annual event in Australia's capital
May is late autumn in the southern hemisphere, and as we creep closer to winter, Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is carrying out its annual, and controversial, kangaroo cull. With some pride, the city is known as the “bush capital” due to its wide corridors of native grasslands and gumtree and casurina tree woodlands, and an abundance of accompanying wildlife. As the city sprawls, it is displacing native habitats. At the same time, suburban lawns and sports ovals offer appealing alternative spaces for some animals, particularly our largest and most mobile grazing species, the eastern grey kangaroo. Due in part to the near disappearance of the kangaroo’s main natural predator, the dingo, or wild dog, and declines in traditional Indigenous hunting, kangaroo populations have exploded over recent decades.
Photo by Dieter Bethke
The annual killing by shooting of kangaroos is a slaughter of a creature intricately associated with Australia. The kangaroo is immortalized on our coat of arms, the logo of our world-renowned airline, Qantas, the star of the stilted but global hit ‘60s TV series “Skippy,” not to mention a major a tourist drawcard.
Yet the Canberra government says the adaptable eastern grey also poses hazards as its numbers grow. While the government has been grappling with appropriate, effective and socially-acceptable responses to the kangaroos since the 1990s, in 2014, they categorized the eastern grey kangaroo as a “controlled native species,” paving the way for culls to take place and becoming the first Australian government to publish a government policy on the marsupials and conservation. In May 2017, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government issued an updated management plan for the species. This plan identified three areas of concern regarding the proliferation of eastern grey kangaroos in the region: environmental, economic, and social. The plan was finalized following community consultations which occurred earlier in the year.
The environmental concerns relate to claims of the overgrazing of native grasses by kangaroos, leading to further degradation of the habitat, and harm to threatened species like grassy woodland bird species, lizards, and invertebrates. This includes birds that nest or rely on grassy ground cover for food and insects, such as the hooded robin and brown tree creeper, and reptilian grassland specialists such as the earless dragon, striped legless lizard, and pink tailed worm lizard. Threatened invertebrates include grassland specialists such as the golden sun moth and Perunga …more
Tributes to the curlews, moths, and toads that are no more
An excerpt from Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader.
Urania Sloanus at Sunrise
When the pear tree blossoms, one after another begins to appear just as the sun rises — whence they come is a mystery — and their velvet black wings, banded in metallic blue-green and flecked with red and gold, now radiate ever more brilliantly as the sunbeams glint off them, and, fluttering, by dozens, by hundreds, dizzy with the fragrance of the bloom, the glancing light sparkling from myriad refractions so bright one must almost shield the eyes, they engage in playful combats, dancing in their joyousness, crazy with delight, wheeling and soaring higher and higher above the tree, flying up and up till they are lost to sight.
Recalling the Golden Toad, Now Extinct
Like a dream conjured by the pools of the cloud forest, longing for a splash of color amid the monotony of rot and decay far below the canopy. The pools themselves fleeting, brought by the mists that creep over the mountains of Monteverde, the spring rains. Neon Day-glo orange males, eyes like round black jewels, thought to be deaf and dumb, sensing by vibration, summoned from underground by the life-giving pools. And for a few weeks the pools would thrive in the mating frenzy when the olive-colored females arrived. This went on once a year for a long time. The pools still awaken but can no longer summon the toads. Some dreams only come true once. On a night hike, flashlight beams shine into the clouds like searchlights in the cosmic dark.
The Freshwater Mussels of North America
Lolling about in the riffles and shallows of the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems were once so many mussels, their names evocative and flamboyant: Sugarspoons and Acornshells, Winged Spikes and Narrow Catspaws. The free-flowing waters were filtered by Angled Riffleshells, Forkshells, and Leafshells, both Cumberland and plain, and in the gravels with rapid currents hid the Yellow-blossoms, Green-blossoms and Tubercled-blossom Pearly Mussels.
Pollywogging in the Wabash tributaries would turn up abundant Round Combshells, Tennessee Riffleshells and Sampson’s Naiads.
In the Apalachicola River system, both the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that ran through the loblolly pine forests, you could find the …more
Growers accused of illegally diverting rivers and leaving locals without water
British supermarkets are selling thousands of tons of avocados produced in a Chilean region where villagers claim vast amounts of water are being diverted, resulting in a drought.
Major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl source avocados from Chile’s largest avocado-producing province, Petorca, where water rights have been violated.
Photo by Procsilas Moscas
In Petorca, many avocado plantations install illegal pipes and wells in order to divert water from rivers to irrigate their crops. As a result, villagers say rivers have dried up and groundwater levels have fallen, causing a regional drought. Residents are now obliged to use often contaminated water delivered by truck.
Veronica Vilches, an activist who is responsible for one of the Rural Potable Water systems, says: “People get sick because of the drought – we find ourselves having to choose between cooking and washing, going to the bathroom in holes in the ground or in plastic bags, while big agri-businesses earn more and more.”
In 2011, Chile’s water authority, the Dirección General de Aguas, published an investigation conducted by satellite that showed at least 65 illegal underground channels bringing water from the rivers to the private plantations. Some of the big agribusinesses have been convicted for unauthorized water use and water misappropriation.
The British Retail Consortium, which represents the major supermarkets, said the stores had been made aware of the allegations. A spokesperson said: “Our members have been made aware of the allegations made regarding production practices of avocados in the Petorca region of Chile. Retailers will work with their suppliers to investigate this.
“Safeguarding the welfare of people and communities in supply chains is fundamental to our sourcing practices as a responsible industry.”
Lidl said most of its avocados came from a supplier whose practices they trusted. But the store said it would investigate to see if any of its fruits came from Petorca.
A spokesman said: “While not all of our avocados are sourced from the Chilean province of Petorca, those that do come from this region are sourced from Rainforest Alliance-certified producers. Nevertheless, we were concerned to learn of these allegations and will therefore be investigating the matter with both our supplier and the Rainforest Alliance.”
Two thousand liters …more