Category Archives: Animals

Beasts at Bedtime in Chicago Review of Books

‘Beasts at Bedtime’ Explores Environmental Themes in Children’s Lit

Liam Heneghan’s Beasts at Bedtime: Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children’s Literature conjures a world of natural magic and wonder. Animals are more than animals, trees are more than trees, the moon and the stars draw close, and they are all mysteriously intertwined.

This marvelous book is an introduction to environmental themes in children’s literature as well as a model of literary criticism accessible to a broad audience—because it must be. Such work must be accessible, because environmental issues are so critical and the need for increased environmental literacy so urgent. The genius of the work, however, is Heneghan’s ability to speak from a wide variety of experiences and perspectives with one exceptionally lively, congenial, and coherent voice. On the surface we encounter a scientist, teacher, and father; but in the depths we see flashes of a child, animal, and sprite.

Read more here.

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Filed under Animals, Environment, Literature

Entangled

By Joshua Mason at Fieldwork Studios and Not So Solid Earth

 

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Filed under Animals, Art, Jeff VanderMeer, photography

How cities are driving animal evolution

Reposted from WHYY

 

Guest: Menno Schilthuizen

Our fast-paced crowded cities aren’t just impacting our lives, they are shaping animal evolution, even accelerating it. To survive the noise, smog, traffic, light and heat of our urban jungles, wildlife has had to quickly adapt. In his new book, Darwin Comes to Town, evolutionary biologist MENNO SCHILTHUIZEN explains how cities are driving natural selection in animals all around the world, including in mosquitoes in London, spiders in Vienna, and mice in New York.

Thanks again and always to Dirk Felleman at Synthetic Zero

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Filed under Animals, Urban Ecology

End Plastic Pollution: Million Acts of Blue

plastic_beach

From GREENPEACE Canada, Million Acts of Blue, Plastic-free Future Toolkit.


Key facts and information

 

What’s the current state of the plastic pollution crisis?

  • About 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s – the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales. [1]
  • Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled, 12% has been burned and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or the environment.[2]
  • In Canada, about 3 million tonnes of waste plastic is generated each year and only 10-12% is recycled.[3]
  • Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.[4]
  • The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the oceans every minute.[5]
  • There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans[6] – enough to circle the Earth over 400 times.[7]
  • Countries like Canada, the US and the UK export plastic waste to various countries in Asia and Africa8-10, offloading their trash problem to other communities.
  • Almost 10,000 tonnes of plastic enters the Great Lakes each year.[11]

 

Who is most impacted by plastic pollution?

 

Who’s to blame for this problem?

  • Annual plastic production has skyrocketed since the early 1950s, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015. This does not include synthetic fibers used in clothing, rope and other products which accounted for 61 million tonnes in 2016. It is expected that plastic production will continue to increase, likely doubling by 2025..[19]
  • Drink companies alone produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles annually.[22]
  • Well known coffee company Starbucks produces 4 billion coffee cups each year.[23]
  • Tim Hortons sells 2 billion cups of coffee a year and most are sold in throwaway cups.[24]
  • Tens of billions of bags of chips are sold each year by companies like Pepsi Co.[25]
  • 500 million straws are produced each day in the United States alone, that’s over a straw a day for each American![26]

 

What are real solutions?

  • Government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. Legislative reuse targets.
  • Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire life cycle and true costs of their products.
  • Government and corporate investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging.
  • Corporate phase out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.
  • A shift in dominant public mindsets away from our throwaway culture focused on convenience being equal to disposal, toward a vision of healthy, sustainable and more connected communities.

What are false solutions?

  • Bioplastics – not as green as they seem, approach with caution. Though companies often market them under the same umbrella, a product is not necessarily biodegradable and may require very specific conditions to break down. They also do not solve the litter or throwaway culture problem.[27]
  • Incineration – creates other pollution and does not address the overproduction problem.[28]
  • Focusing on end of life like recycling or disposal – we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis.[29]
  • Clean up – while clean up efforts help reduce litter problems, they do not address the source of the problem and ignore the unseen plastic pollution – microplastics.[30]
  • Throwaway alternatives – replacing one single-use item with another does not necessarily solve the problem or help to address our throwaway culture.

 

Who is championing solutions?

  • Around the world, various cities, countries and regions are banning or proposing bans on different single-use plastics like Morocco’s bag ban[31], Seattle, U.S.’s straw ban[32], and the City of Vancouver, Canada’s proposed coffee cup and styrofoam container ban.[33]
  • More than 30 countries have either regional or country-wide bans on plastic bags, and dozens more have levied fees or taxes on disposable bags.[34]
  • UK retailer Iceland committed to go plastic free for all of its own brand products.[35]
  • Zero waste supermarkets are popping up in various cities in countries including the UK, Germany, Canada, the United States, Mexico, South Africa and more.

 

REFERENCES

[1] http://www.fao.org/3/a-­‐i7677e.pdf

[2] http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full

[3]http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/subjects/environment/pollution_and_waste?subject_levels=3425%2C1762&pubyear=2017&HPA=1

[4] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768

[5] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

[6]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/full-scale-plastic-worlds-oceans-revealed-first-time-pollution

[7] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913

[8] Statistics Canada, Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database. Accessed September 2017.

[9]https://www.recyclinginternational.com/recycling-news/8574/plastic-and-rubber/united-states/us-plastic-scrap-exports-jump-higher-2014

[10]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/02/rubbish-already-building-up-at-uk-recycling-plants-due-to-china-import-ban

[11]Rochester Institute of Technology. (2016, December 19). Researchers estimate 10,000 metric tons of plastic enter Great Lakes every year: Study inventories movement of plastic and microplastic debris throughout lake system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 9, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219151752.htm

[12]Gall and Thompson, 2015; Kühn et al., 2015

[13] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/38/11899.full.pdf

[14] http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/03/17/turtles-marine-plastic_n_9455496.html

[15]S. Baulch, C. Perry / Marine Pollution Bulletin 80 (2014) 210–221

[16]http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/seabirds-in-high-arctic-ingesting-more-plastic-researcher-says-1.2661580

[17] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0051

[18]https://www.iswa.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Calendar_2011_03_AMERICANA/Science-2015-Jambeck-768-71__2_.pdf

[19]http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7677e.pdf

[20]https://www.livescience.com/59110-remote-henderson-island-most-polluted.html

[21]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/26/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge

[22] http://pmmi.files.cms-plus.com/AnnualMeeting/2015/Margulies.pdf

[23] https://globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/9265e80751db48398b88bdf09821cc56.pdf

[24]https://globalnews.ca/news/2506654/11-things-you-didnt-know-about-tim-hortons/

[25]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_chip

[26] https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

[27]https://environmentalcritique.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/52463-5gyresbanlist2018.pdf

[28]http://www.no-burn.org/burning-plastic-incineration-causes-air-pollution-dioxin-emissions-cost-overruns/

[29]http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782

[30]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411978/Assessing_the_impact_of_exposure_to_microplastics_in_fish_summary.pdf

[31]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/green-morocco-bans-plastic-bags-160701141919913.html

[32]https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/the-last-straw-seattle-will-say-goodbye-to-plastic-straws-utensils-with-upcoming-ban/

[33]http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-considering-ban-on-disposable-coffee-cups-plastic-bags-1.3436086

[34]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_lightweight_plastic_bags#Morocco

[35]http://about.iceland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Iceland-aims-to-be-plastic-free-across-own-label-range-by-2023-16.1.18.pdf

 

 

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Heneghan Book Launch Event and Reception: Wednesday May 2nd

RSVP for reception so we can order enough food.  However, everyone is welcome to attend the event, whether or not they RSVP.

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by | April 2, 2018 · 15:34

Strange Bird in Tempe

 

IMG_2134

 

Read Jeff VanderMeer’s The Strange Bird.

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Non-human Strangers and Climate Refugees

Iiwi_BrettHartl_FPWC.0

 

Conversations about climate change generally focus on human activity, suffering, and solutions. They often include or imply a critique of anthropocentrism, and yet our attention to the seemingly infinite variety of life forms on the planet remains extraordinarily limited and superficial. Earth is not only our home, and humans are not the only climate refugees.

In his recently published book Humankind, Tim Morton argues that we are severed from other forms of life through agriculture and industrialization. He calls it “The Severing,” a Game of Thrones style trope. One aspect of this split is a very passive relationship to animal and plant life. Unless we are directly involved with animals, in agriculture or wildlife management, for example, we simply don’t appreciate the activity, suffering, and creativity of non-human beings. We also tend to view animals as passive. Though animals must be actively adapting to climate change, we don’t generally observe or appreciate their adaptive behavior.

We have also lost our emotional connection to animals, in various ways. Contemporary animal ethics are typically founded on rational, legalistic arguments. Animals should be afforded consideration or rights because they are like us—intelligent, emotional, and self-conscious. But these arguments miss the most basic and common foundation of human ethical behavior. Love.

If reproduction is the key to species survival, and animals form emotional attachments as humans do, then various forms of love are likely a common characteristic of animal life. But is love only reserved for members of our own species? What does it mean that human children love non-human animals? When and why do children stop being fascinated by animals? It seems that society cultivates an interest in and love of animals in children, and then (for no apparent reason) expects adolescents and adults to stop loving and caring for them.

Why do pet-owners love their pets as if they were people? Is it because they engage with them—in person? Anyone who has had a pet has experienced getting to know the pet. We form personal relationships with them. They become part of the family. If we spent more time engaged with non-human animals could we cultivate or reclaim the capacity to love all animals?

We remember the principle “love they neighbor” but often forget the origin and end of this principle is to love the stranger, the “alien.” Surely non-human animals, however strange or alien, are also our neighbors.

Colleagues in academia and beyond have cautioned me, on more than one occasion, against appearing to prioritize animal welfare over human welfare. Focusing on animal rights in impoverished areas, for example, can be interpreted as a challenge to human dignity. Recognizing animals a climate refugees is out of line (out of order), in the midst of multiple and ongoing human refugee crises. This advice is pragmatic and rhetorically savvy, but is it ethically defensible?

A Guardian article recently posted on Environmental Critique gives a moving account of a refugee, Mansour Shoushtari, who occupies himself caring for animals while detained in Manus prison. (He has been waiting four years to be resettled.) While being treated as a less than human stranger, he has retained his humanity, or should I say his sense of solidarity with other animals. Here is an illustrative quote from the Guardian interview:

I asked him: “Do you love animals more than humans?” He smiled once again. He responded in a humorous way: “You’re asking some really tough questions today! The question you ask is similar to asking the question: do you love your father more than your mother? It’s an extremely tough question to answer. I love human beings and I also love animals. But I have a special affection for birds.”

Why should human suffering tacitly give us permission to abuse animals or to shut down conversations about animal welfare? Who among us, well-fed and literate, deserves consideration if sympathy can only be afforded the most downtrodden humans? Can suffering justify suffering? Returning to the subject of love, is there ever a reason not to extend love and compassion to another living creature?

“The Severing” also results in a dark underworld of violence against non-human animals. Factory farming, habitat destruction, and mass murders that are never reported in the evening news. Is there any relationship between human violence against animals, and a general culture of violence? Again Shoushtari offers insight: “It’s love. In my opinion one does not need to give reasons for love. Love is a personal matter, love is an existential state. But in my view if a human being does not love animals they are incapable of loving human beings.” Human beings do love selectively, of course, as do cultures. Sadly, we are not only taught but also encouraged to love selectively, and even to hate.

Love thy neighbor. Love the stranger. Love all living creatures. These are certainly not pragmatic solutions or policy guidelines. But neither pragmatism nor policy should prevent us from questioning and exploring ethical, dare I say moral, principles.

So I do say, impudently, non-human animals are climate refugees, as are plants, and future generations of every kind. And we have no right to destroy their home.

 

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/19/16334652/endangered-species-list-sonoyta-mud-turtle-iiwi-pearl-darter-protection

 

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Filed under Animals, Tim Morton