Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sea dog surf rider makes me smile!

(Image from FB)

Never piss off a seal woman. Ever.

From Hakai, a story of a Seal Woman, aka Selkie.

Let’s start with the moral of this story: never piss off a seal woman. Ever.

Seal people—Selkies—are seal-human hybrids in the folklore of Irish, Scottish, Icelandic, and Faroese cultures. These mythological creatures live in the water as seals and, in some stories, come ashore once a year to human it up for a day. They flop out of the water and slip out of their fur, revealing their white, gleaming skin. And they dance. (Flamenco. Rumba. Disco. No one really knows what they dance, just that they’ve got feet for a day and they want to boogie.)

Read the rest of the story by Jude Isabella here.

And, if you've never seen The Secret of Roan Inish, treat yourself!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Just because...dogs and horses

 Image was taken from FB.

I love horses and I love Border Collies.  I live with one and would love to know more about the other.

Here's who I live with:

Her name is Kylie and she will be 10 years old in December.  She's a very good girl who is also known by other names, Mrs. Good Puppy and Baby Kylie being the most common.

I love horses - I don't know much about them, but I love them.  I have ridden them when I was a young teenager at summer camp in Canada many years ago.  I love the way they smell and the velvety feel of their noses.  I love the unfathomable depth of their eyes and their exquisite bodies.

It amazes me that they allow humans to ride them, what with them being prey animals.  It disturbs me greatly to see how they are treated as commodities in the racing world, as "beasts of burdens" around the world and in this country and how the BLM terrorizes our wild Mustangs on public land at the behest of ranchers who graze their cattle on our land for pennies or nothing.  It deeply bothers me that men have taken them, along with dogs, into their stupid and meaningless wars.  And I am extremely horrified that pregnant mares are used for Premarin, an estrogen and hormone replacement drug for women:
The mares are repeatedly impregnated, and for six months of each 11-month pregnancy most are confined in stalls that prohibit turning around, grooming themselves and comfortably lying down. Their water intake is often regulated to produce maximum estrogen-rich urine. The mares are continually attached to plumbing which is designed to fit over their urethras. It is held in place with movement-restricting body straps. When mares can no longer adequately "produce," most are sold for slaughter. Most of their surviving foals are either pulled and raised as "Pee Line" replacements or slaughtered for food in China.
Dogs and horses have been with humans for so many years...

When and why did we get to be so cruel and callous towards them - towards so many animals, the environment and towards each other?  

Will humans ever feel part of Nature again or will they continue to think that they are in control of Nature, not part of Her?

There may be flowing water on Mars. But is there intelligent life on Earth?

Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we value the possibility of water on Mars. Only 3% of the water on this planet is fresh; and of that, two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to the accessible portion. Sixty per cent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it. In the UK, domestic demand is such that the upper reaches of many rivers disappear during the summer. Yet still we install clunky old toilets and showers that gush like waterfalls.

As for salty water, of the kind that so enthrals us when apparently detected on Mars, on Earth we express our appreciation with a frenzy of destruction. A new report suggests fish numbers have halved since 1970. Pacific bluefin tuna, which once roamed the seas in untold millions, have been reduced to an estimated 40,000, yet still they are pursued. Coral reefs are under such pressure that most could be gone by 2050. And in our own deep space, our desire for exotic fish rips through a world scarcely better known to us than the red planet’s surface. Trawlers are now working at depths of 2,000 metres. We can only guess at what they could be destroying.
Let the market decide: this is the way in which governments seek to resolve planetary destruction. Leave it to the conscience of consumers, while that conscience is muted and confused by advertising and corporate lies. In a near-vacuum of information, we are each left to decide what we should take from other species and other people, what we should allocate to ourselves or leave to succeeding generations. Surely there are some resources and some places – such as the Arctic and the deep sea – whose exploitation should simply stop?

All this drilling and digging and trawling and dumping and poisoning – what is it for, anyway? Does it enrich human experience, or stifle it? A couple of weeks ago I launched the hashtag #extremecivilisation, and invited suggestions. They have flooded in. Here are just a few of the products my correspondents have found. All of them, as far as I can tell, are real.

An egg tray for your fridge that syncs with your phone to let you know how many eggs are left. A gadget for scrambling them – inside the shell. Wigs for babies, to allow “baby girls with little or no hair at all the opportunity to have a beautifully realistic hair style”.The iPotty, which permits toddlers to keep playing on their iPads while toilet training. A £2,000 spider-proof shed. A snow sauna, on sale in the United Arab Emirates, in which you can create a winter wonderland with the flick of a switch. A refrigerated watermelon case on wheels: indispensable for picnics – or perhaps not, as it weighs more than the melon. Anal bleaching cream, for… to be honest, I don’t want to know. An “automatic watch rotator” that saves you the bother of winding your luxury wrist-candy. A smartphone for dogs, with which they can take pictures of themselves. Pre-peeled bananas, in polystyrene trays covered in clingfilm; just peel back the packaging.
Every year, clever new ways of wasting stuff are devised, and every year we become more inured to the pointless consumption of the world’s precious resources. With each subtle intensification, the baseline of normality shifts. It should not be surprising to discover that the richer a country becomes, the less its people care about their impacts on the living planet.

 Read the entire Guardian article here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trapping = cruelty, pain and torture

Furbearer hunting and trapping season begins on Oct 1 - April 30 (bobcats - Nov 15 - Mar 1). Just when our Wyoming bobcats are the most vulnerable, they will be trapped and killed in legholds, snares, and conibears, suffering immeasurable pain, just for their fur.

We can make the choice to stop the cruelty and let these animals live - it's a simple choice - don't buy or wear fur.

Compassion is the fashion!

Photo by Chris Lorenz
Image and text from FB.

Shades of "No one could have predicted..."

In addition to increasing the risk of another devastating fire, the City of Oakland's deforestation/poisoning plan will also expose citizens to large amounts of dangerous chemicals, exacerbate climate change by releasing 17,495 metric tons of greenhouse gases into our environment, poison, displace and kill wildlife (including several protected species), radically alter the appearance and therefore the experience afforded by our public recreation areas, threaten homeowners values by degrading the aesthetics upon which those values depend, eliminate erosion control for hillside homes, result in (according to FEMA) “significant alternation of community character,” as well as cause a variety of other harms that FEMA admits are “unavoidable."
Read a letter to the Oakland City Attorney urging the City to rethink the dangerous policy:
This is a subject close to my heart.  I lived in the Bay Area for 30 years and to even THINK that this kind of measure is on the table is beyond my wildest nightmares.  The Bay Area has been the "greenest" places I've lived - people were very concerned about the environment.  It is heartbreaking and horrifying to me that this concern is dying and/or being overridden by political and corporate decisions that do not respect the environment or the people.

I happened to have lived in the area when the Oakland-East Bay Hills Fire occurred.  Eucalyptus trees were NOT the problem - the wind was very strong that day; the fire department thought it had the original fire completely doused - they did not; narrow streets crowded with cars prevented fire trucks from getting to the area; fittings for the hydrants did not work; the fire department ran out of water; there was no "perimeter" set by the fire department; there was no evacuation order.  None of which was the fault of eucalyptus trees.

The letter that Nathan has written (linked above) is lengthy but spells out why clear cutting these trees will not prevent another fire, and, in fact, will exacerbate a fire if one starts.  The grasses are the fuel, not the trees.

In addition to the clear cutting, other problems arise: the use of glyphosate (Monsanto's RoundUp) in very large doses - it is a carcinogen; the welfare of the wildlife who live in the area being clear cut; no trees to sequester carbon; home values decreased.  It is such a bad decision overall and it is beyond comprehension how it can be implemented.

Image is from here - the article is worth reading, too.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What price coconuts?

Did an abused monkey pick your coconut?
Agile and adept climbers, pig-tailed macaques—native to coconut growing regions in Southeast Asia—are capable of harvesting several hundred more coconuts a day than a human can. Chained by the neck and trained to pick only ripe coconuts, they are forced to do so, day in, day out and all day long. They are trained at monkey training facilities one visitor described as such, “The primitive, primate campus, a simple, open sided shed,” contains, “individual, meter high stakes, driven into the dirt floor… Onto each perch is tethered a solitary monkey by collar and chain. There are a dozen such perches, each one just out of reach of its neighbor.”
During training and beyond, the monkeys are tethered or caged 24/7, sometimes with little to no opportunity for socialization. Where do these monkeys come from? According to one monkey handler, “Sometimes the monkeys are offspring of berok (already trained monkeys); sometimes they are caught on the forest with nets or traps. Often though, nursing mothers are shot and their babies are taken.”
Unfortunately, much of the reporting you will find on this issue approaches it from a disturbing “entertainment” angle in which the subjugation and forced labor of primates is treated as a curious, amusing oddity rather what it really is: exploitation of highly intelligent individuals. Instead of living fulfilling, autonomous lives in deference to their natural instincts and will—lives that would include social interaction with others of their kind, mating, raising young, moving about freely and resting whenever they choose—these monkeys spend their lives in endless toil and forced obedience to the will of humans.
And though many articles about these monkeys contain quotes from handlers who state that they care about their animals, it is impossible to square such assurances with the long hours, hard labor, constant shackling and lack of autonomy these animals are forced to endure day in and day out for no personal benefit. It is, in a word, slavery. And as human nature and history demonstrate again and again—where there is a profit to be made on the backs of non-humans, those backs are strained and often broken.

This is an excerpt from a FB post; you can read Nathan's entire article here.  And here is another article which lists some companies that do not use monkeys or small children to harvest the coconuts.


(Image from FB)

Toxic Waste

The church spire is one of the last visible signs of the abandoned Romanian village, Geamana - flooded to create a pond for toxic waste from a copper mine 
(Credit: Glyn Thomas)

Image and text from the BBC.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sitting in Nature

Leopards vs humans in Pakistan

Over the past decade, dozens of leopards have been shot or poisoned in what wildlife officials fear is the systematic culling of one of Pakistan’s most threatened species. Now, officials are rushing to convince Pakistanis from rural villages – where poverty is widespread and educational facilities are scarce – about the need to protect even those animals they consider to be fearsome.

“The entire ecological system is being disturbed,” said Iftikhar-uz-Zaman, district forest officer in Abbottabad. “The growing human population and their intervention in the natural habitats of leopards is causing rising attacks on humans, and people are retaliating and killing the leopards.”

The precise number of common leopards remaining in Pakistan is not known, but wildlife experts suspect it’s no more than a few hundred. What’s clear, however, is that their numbers are shrinking because of Pakistan’s rapid population growth and its abysmal record of protecting forests.

About 180 million people live in Pakistan, and the UN expects that by 2050 that number will top 300 million. According to various studies, Pakistan has retained only 2% to 5% of its original tree cover, and it’s losing about 27,300 hectares of trees annually.
Small and medium-size mammals that once flourished in northern Pakistan, such as the Himalayan musk deer, are threatened. Now, hungry leopards are showing up around Abbottabad, which became famous in 2011 when the US military killed Bin Laden at a compound here.

You can read the rest of The Guardian article here, where image and text were taken.

Too many humans, so disconnected from the Earth, forget their proper place in the environment - alongside everything else, not on top smothering the life out of everything else.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Close Encounter of the Humpback Kind...

 (The red and yellow you see in this picture is the kayak.)
There are many theories about why whales breach: to get rid of parasites, to communicate, to fight, to display. All of these be true. Dolphins have been shown to recognise themselves in the mirror; humpback whales carry von economo neurons in the brain – a sign that they have emotions. We know that they have complex social relationships. There is no reason to think that they don’t think and feel things deeply.

Prof Joy Reidenberg from Mount Sinai University in New York, a whale specialist whom I worked with on a documentary series called Inside Nature’s Giant’s, told me: “Humpback whales usually breach in two ways: chin slaps where half the body emerges and they land on their throat, and full breaches where they land on their back (or side). Your whale did a full breach, but rotated and landed on the throat. This is unusual, and might indicate that it was surprised by your presence when it breached and saw you. Perhaps turning like that allowed it to put a softer part of its body next to you to cause less damage (compared with a body slam using the bone of the skull that they might employ while fighting). I think you two survived because the whale cared about trying not to hit you.

I’ve looked back and there is a photo of the whale landing which seems to back up Joy’s theory. As it turned above us it would have looked down on our craft. It didn’t crush us as it fell, or injure us in the water, and it moved away very slowly.

When I lie in bed looking up at the whale in my mind, I think how lucky we are not to have continued to get rid of them as we have done until recently. It is strange that we search so avidly for aliens outside of this planet and are obsessed with creating artificial minds, while knowing so little about the workings of these enormous thinking animals in the sea.

You can read the entire story, plus see the video that was captured, at The Guardian link.

 (Composite picture from here - all other photos from The Guardian link above.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Climate change victim

For tourists and wildlife photographers, the main reason to come to Svalbard is to see polar bears. And yes, usually we find them: beautiful bears, photogenic bears, playfull or even at a kill. At first glance, everything is as it has always been in one of the most easily accessible polar bear populations of the world, strongly protected and doing good, so some scientists say.

But are they really doing good, the bears up here? I am a critically minded person, and I observe. I see the summers being so pleasant (and warm) as never before. I see the glaciers calving, retreating dozens to hundreds of metres every year. I see the pack ice disappearing in record speed. Yes, I have seen bears in good shape - but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears. Bears walking on the shores, looking for food, bears trying to hunt reindeer, eating bird's eggs, moss and seaweed. And I realized that the fat bears are nearly exclusively males which stay on the pack ice all year long. The females, on the other hand, which den on land to give birth to their young, are often slim. With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they tend to be stuck on land where there's not much food. In the first year, they lose their first cub. In the second year, they lose their second (and last) cub. Only once I have seen a mother with a nearly independent cub. Only few times I have seen beautifully fat mothers with beautifully fat young. Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females - like this one here. A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land.

Experts claim the Svalbard population is stable, even rising. Well, here comes my question: how can a population be stable if it consists of less and less females and cubs? How can a population be doing good if most bear will score a body index of 2-3 out of 5? Only once I have seen a bear getting a big fat „5“, but several times I have seen dead bears and bears like this one: a mere „1“ on the scale, doomed to death. I do not have scientific data to proof my observations, but I have eyes to see - and a brain to draw conclusions. Climate change is happening big deal here in the Arctic. And it is our decision to trying to change this. So: let's do something about the biggest threat of our time. Maybe we cannot save this bear here. But every little action we do to change our ways is a step in the right direction. We just have to get started and keep on going!

Image and text from FB.

Sedna - a Sea Goddess

I awoke from sleep this morning thinking about Sedna, a Sea Goddess of the Inuit people.  When I first read about her years ago, I was horrified by her story - and I still am.  I will never understand how men, who will will never create Life, think that by killing a female, they are in some way, shape or form responsible for creating the life that emanates from her - as in the story of Sedna.

I went into Google Land to see if I could find another retelling and found a few things to share.

The second offering is another poem by Hila Ratzabi.

             “Our newly discovered object is the coldest most distant place known in the solar
             system, so we feel it is appropriate to name it in honor of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of
             the sea, who is thought to live at the bottom of the frigid arctic ocean.”
                                                                          ––Mike Brown, astronomer                                       
Now you’re nothing
but a dwarf planet at the edge
of the asteroid formerly known as Pluto,
neighbor to demoted planet,
When the scientists ran out of Greek and Roman gods
they settled on you, “Big Bad Woman,”
as one tribe puts it.
You are made of water,
methane, nitrogen ice,
frozen all over.
It takes you
more than ten thousand years
to orbit the Sun.
I want to place a blanket
around your shivering surface,
tuck you in surrounded by stars.
Where I’m from, we’ve released
so much heat into the sky
it’s burning us back.
But I can’t turn up the heat
at your edge of the solar system,
can’t drag you any closer to the Sun.
From your corner the Sun
Is a wink of a star, so small
you could block it out
with the head of a pin.
Just look what a nothing it is
next to you, big girl.
(Image from here)

And the third offering is a somewhat long, but beautiful essay entitled The Goddess vs The New Age:  Singing the Sacred Land by Jacqui Woodward-Smith, a Priestess of Avalon.  I've excerpted the beginning of the essay and you can read the rest of it here.  She makes a brief mention of Sedna.

Jacqui's words resonated with me because I simply cannot take the female body, no matter what her form, out of any discussion of spirituality.  I also read The Great Cosmic Mother way back in the late '80s and it changed my life.  It was the first book I had read on what I then called "Earth based spirituality," but what I now call "female spirituality." 
“Female spirit, the goddess in us, is not fragile or new; not an invention of privileged women or an escapist New Age elite. We are tough and ancient: tried by a million years of ice and fire. On enormous and minute wheels of pain and beauty we have turned…we return to tell and respell our story.”1
So says Barbara Mor in the 1990 introduction to her powerful book ‘The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth”, written with Monica Sjöö. And so we return to respell our story and the female spirit, and the goddess in us begins to emerge from the mists of our forgetting after enduring and surviving several thousand years of patriarchy … or so we may tell ourselves. But there is a threat to our remembering, a threat from within what many would consider our own circle. It is the threat of the New Age and its writers and gurus who talk of ascension, of transcending human form, and of becoming one with our ‘light bodies’, and other similar concepts, and who are providing us with many of the contemporary ideas about, and images of, the Goddess. Theirs is not the language of the Earth, but of the dualism which has held us in chains for millennia. In our thirst for the rise of the Sacred Feminine, in our joy at sensing her return to human consciousness, many of us have ceased to consider the form in which She is being presented to us through the many New Age images and writings that grow in popularity by the day. Our connection to the Goddess is being subverted and torn from Her roots within the dark earth. She is being ‘intellectualised’, made all light and logic, and yet we are being encouraged not to think.
Before I continue I will say that I have nothing against the New Age and acknowledge that the term means different things to different people, just as ‘Goddess’ does, but there is a huge groundswell within New Age thinking that places light above dark, or possibly even worse ignores the dark altogether, and which turns the Goddess, and therefore all women, into a stereotype of femininity. The Goddess is both light and dark, with no separation between the two, just as we are, and if we ignore one side of Her then we do nothing but damage to ourselves.
In 1992 the wonderful Goddess artist, researcher, writer and activist Monica Sjöö published her book, ‘New Age and Armageddon: The Goddess or the Gurus – Towards a Feminist Vision of the Future’ (now republished as ‘Return of the Dark/Light Mother’), in answer to what she saw as the dangers of the New Age movement. She saw the movement as paying lip service to the Goddess and to the Earth whilst, at the same time, stressing the need to become more ‘highly’ evolved and leave the Earth behind. This is the very antithesis of the message of the Goddess who asks us to rejoice in our physical form and in our incarnation on this beautiful planet. Monica noted that Sir George Trevelyan, considered by many to be the ‘Grandfather of the New Age Movement’, spoke about a battle between the forces of light and darkness on a cosmic and human level. He said that this battle was led by Christ and the Archangel Michael, the ‘Dragonslayer’; the ‘dragon’ being the dark, chthonic Earth Dragon energies of the Goddess.
The Goddess is linked to the serpent/dragon in many cultures and a battle of the masculine and the patriarchal ‘forces of light’ to gain supremacy over Her is echoed in stories such as Adam and Eve, in which Eve is ‘seduced’ by the serpent into eating the apple of wisdom, against the instructions of the male Father God (the apple, of course being yet another symbol of the Goddess), and in many others. We should also remember that Athena, said to have been born from the head of Zeus rather than from the womb of the Mother, was once one with the serpent-headed Medusa, rather than being her victor and wearing her screaming head on Her shield as a trophy; we are asked to murder a part of ourselves and to celebrate, rather than to grieve. In separation we are weakened; only in embracing all aspects of the Feminine and of the Goddess within ourselves can we be whole; when we can claim our Medusa coils and wear them proudly as a manifestation of all that it means to be a woman then, perhaps, the tide against the Feminine will truly have turned.

(Image from here, along with a version of Sedna's story) 

Sedna, Defiant One - you inspire me and I thank you.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mono Lake, California

How NOT to be a respectful witness

In Costa Rica this weekend, hundreds of tourists swarmed to Ostional Beach in canton Santa Cruz – most steered there by paid tour guides – to witness the migration of female sea turtles crawling from the water to lay their eggs in the sands of this national wildlife preserve. But instead of quietly observing the movements of one of Earth’s most ancient creatures, a mostly shirtless mob stormed the beach, completely disrupting protected habitat, preventing the animals from crossing the beachfront, and trampling vulnerable nests.
Local authorities were alerted, sending in three National Police officers to supplement the park’s two rangers, but they were unable to push back the crowd. The Tico Times reported that tourists splashed alongside the pregnant animals to pose for turtle selfies. Refuge administrator Carlos Hernández told the daily La Nación he had never before seen that many people on the beach. They touched the turtles, and more than a few parents set their children atop the turtles’ backs for impromptu rides and more photos.
What is happening to us? Have we reached a tipping point where we no longer have real connection to nature? Have we lost all respect as to what holds this planet together? We fail to control our personal consumption, and generate unrecyclable waste at unprecedented volume. We commodify basic resources like clean water, while allowing environmentally catastrophic exploitation in pursuit of more fossil fuel. All the while tightening political boundaries, as if water and air and all planetary life respect lines on a map.
You can read the entire horror story here; photo also from the same source.

Salmon - Will to Love

(Still image from video found here)

The bear and salmon have a unique predator-prey relationship, in that the salmon has no real defense against the bear. During the annual salmon run, salmon swim in large numbers to the site of their birthplace in order to reproduce. After reproducing, 95% of salmon die, so the salmon run brings them their one opportunity to complete their species’ mission. The grizzly bear, however, means to prevent this by catching and consuming the salmon while en route. While the salmon swim along the waters, they appear at the surface often, and the bear merely snatches its food into its very large mouth.


I remember the ocean from where I came
Just one of millions all the same
But somewhere someone calls my name
I'm a harpoon dodger, and I can't, won't be tamed.

(Part of the lyrics from Neil's song)