Eyes Wide Shut

Why we should always fact-check our assumptions.

Sometimes, our assumptions so blind us that we fail to see what’s hiding in plain sight.

I’d assumed, for instance, that fur wasn’t fashionable any more; that decades of persistent, high-profile anti-fur campaigning by animal rights groups like PETA had sensitized most people, as it had me, to the grim suffering and killing of animals that underpins fur coats and accessories; that given the variety of high-quality faux fur and other warm outerwear options out there, consumers had lost interest in expensive, inhumane, animal-pelt clothing.

Besides, I’d rarely noticed people wearing fur in recent years. Certainly not here in the California Bay Area, and not on the East Coast either, during the few winters that I spent there.

photo pronghorn
The Sonoran pronghorn is among some 100 species already at risk of extinction that would be negatively affected by Trump’s border wall. Photo by Alan English CPA .

But as our cover story (“Hanging On,”) reveals, my assumption was more like wishful thinking. This deeply reported feature by Journal managing editor Zoe Loftus-Farren shows how entrenched the fur industry is in North America and how popular fur remains in parts of Asia, particularly China. It shows how tens of millions of animals continue to be slaughtered every year to cater to consumers who still choose to wear fur. Now that my eyes have been opened, I’m beginning to notice fur on the streets and in virtual stores more frequently — not coats so much, but certainly things like earmuffs and key rings and winter jacket hoodies. On a more positive note, Loftus-Farren does find that though progress has been slow, “we might be on the brink of a downward trend when it comes to fur.” Amen to that.

Another eye-opener in this issue, “Mending the Staff of Life”, challenges the popular notion that wheat, which until quite recently made up the bulk of the diet of most Europeans, is necessarily bad for you. It also questions whether gluten sensitivity, which up to 20 percent of Americans believe they suffer from, is actually a thing, or whether the problem may be in the types of wheat we consume and how they are processed.

Meanwhile, based on his long-debunked assumptions about those crossing into the US via Mexico, our president just declared a national emergency to fund a wall along our southern border. While the wall probably won’t make our nation more secure, a 2,000-mile barrier stretching from the Gulf of Mexico in Texas to the Pacific Ocean in California, cutting through six diverse ecoregions, will certainly disrupt critical wildlife migration corridors and species habitats, and compromise decades of bi-national conservation efforts. Moreover, the emergency declaration automatically suspends almost all environmental regulations that normally apply to construction zones.

Scientists say an estimated 800 species would be negatively affected by the wall, 100 of which — including the Mexican gray wolf, Sonoran pronghorn, jaguar, ocelot, Peninsular bighorn sheep — are already at risk of extinction. But these facts make little difference in Trump and his cohort’s make-believe world where reality checks don’t apply.

The onus of staying clear-eyed and on task in defense of our environment is, yet again, on us.

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