Human Lives Are Not More Important Than Animal Lives

Excellent piece by Captain Paul Watson of Sea Sheperd on the pretentious view we humans have of our place in the world.

Humans have created a fantasy world called anthropocentrism, the idea that all of reality, all of nature exists only for humanity, that we are the only species that matters and human rights take priority over the rights of all other species.

This anthropocentric view of the world has made us selfish, self-centred and extremely destructive to all other forms of life on the planet including our own. Our fantasies have allowed us to destroy the very life support systems that sustain us, to poison the waters we drink and the food we eat, to amuse ourselves with blood sports and to eradicate anything and everything we do not like, be it animal, plant or other human beings. We demonize each other and we demonize the entire living world.

If humans disappeared tomorrow, the planet would be better off. If, to take a single example, bees went extinct, the whole system would collapse. We would do well to step off this self-created podium and re-evalute our position.

Read the full article at The Outdoor Journal

The fast fashion problem

There's a serious overconsumption problem in fashion these days. Cheap, so-called "fast fashion" is pushing people to buy more clothes, a good percentage of which is never even worn. It's all about the constant lust for something new which, as we all know, is never satisfied.

When there's a substantial cost to an item, we pause and ask ourselves questions like "Will I actually wear this?", "Is it comfortable?", "Will it last?". This is rarely the case when a t-shirt costs little more than a cup of coffee.

Obviously, there are reasons these items are so cheap, not many of them good:

As UNICEF reported on child labour, recruiters convince parents in impoverished rural areas to send their daughters to apparel manufacturing jobs with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation, three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for training and school, as well as a lump sum payment at the end of a defined period. In reality, these children are working in appalling conditions that amount to what has been called modern day slavery.

There is hope though, from this same article:

If Google searches or Marie Kondo’s best seller on decluterring is any indication, interest in tidying all this up is at an all time high. Consumers are reaching their limit. While the pleasure of cheap fashion is neurologically very real, consumers are equally experiencing the mental exhaustion from the accumulation of all of this cheap clothing. They are magically tidying up and wanting to spend more of their dollars on experiences and values over stuff.

In the meantime, we're donating so much clothing to charities, much of it too cheap and flimsy to be re-used, that whole industries have grown from this. Not always a positive either:

the flow of Western clothing to developing countries negatively affects them by disrupting local economies and putting textile workers out of jobs. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the constant flood of used clothing is so pervasive that it's even part of the language. In his book, Brooks translates the colloquial Ghanaian phrase "obroni wawu" to "clothes of the dead white man."

The quotes above are from these two articles: Our love of cheap clothing has a hidden cost – it’s time for a fashion revolution and The Truth About Your Clothing Donations

Weekend reads

How Animals Think

In the past 30 years, research has explored the distinctive ways in which children as well as animals think, and the discoveries deal the coup de grâce to the ladder of nature. The primatologist Frans de Waal has been at the forefront of the animal research, and its most important public voice. In Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, he makes a passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.

The Anomaly of Barbarism

For the current generation of liberal thinkers, modern history is a story of the march of civilization. There have been moments of regression, some of them atrocious, but these are only relapses into the barbarism of the past, interrupting a course of development that is essentially benign. For anyone who thinks in this way, ISIS can only be a mysterious and disastrous anomaly.

The car century was a mistake. It’s time to move on.

Cars were never necessary in cities, and in many respects they worked against the fundamental purpose of cities: to bring many people together in a space where social, cultural and economic synergies could develop. Because cars require so much space for movement and parking, they work against this objective — they cause cities to expand in order to provide the land cars need. Removing cars from cities would help to improve the quality of urban life.

How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat.

The heads of Presidents Park

The US is the land of roadside attractions. One of those was the, short-lived, Presidents Park in Virginia; an open-air park where visitors could amble among giant presidents' heads.

When it all went belly-up, the heads were moved to a nearby field to avoid destruction and have been slowly wasting away since…

In Croaker, Virginia stands a sight that would make just about anyone stop in their tracks. 43 ghostly effigies of presidents past crowd together in the tall grass. Some of the 18-to-20-foot busts have crumbling noses. Tear-like stains fall from the eyes of others. All have bashed-in heads to some degree. This could be a scene from the world’s most patriotic horror movie, but it’s all too real—and Howard Hankins’ family farm is just the latest stop on the busts’ larger-than-life journey from iconic pieces of art to zombie-like markers of America’s past.

Read more at Smithsonian Magazine.

A few recent reads

An end to parking?

A city run on shared autonomous cars would likely have a dramatically lower environmental footprint. That's partly because you'd get rid of the "circling" that plagues urban traffic. But it's also because high-tech cars would be new—and, given that they'll probably emerge en masse about 10 years from now, they'd be electric. A model of city traffic published in Nature last July by Berkeley Lab scientist Jeffrey Greenblatt deduced that emissions would be 90 percent lower if cars were all autonomous and electric. And the truth is, it's easier for a fleet of robot cars to go electric than it is for individual car owners to do so.

Colonization, Food, and the Practice of Eating

Europeans believed that food shaped the colonial body. In other words, the European constitution differed from that of Indigenous people because the Spanish diet differed from the Indigenous diet. Further, bodies could be altered by diets—thus the fear that by consuming “inferior” Indigenous foods, Spaniards would eventually become “like them.” Only proper European foods would maintain the superior nature of European bodies, and only these “right foods” would be able to protect colonizers from the challenges posed by the “new world” and its unfamiliar environments.

Why We All Dream of Being Jewel Thieves

One of the most interesting aspects of London, from both an historical and urban perspective, has always been its sponge-like porosity: the presence of tunnels, sewers, and ancient basements waiting just below the surface of the city. Indeed, London hides an unusually intense world of secret architectural connections. Whether it’s the city’s abandoned Tube stations and lost rivers or its Roman archaeological sites and medieval catacombs, the cumulative effects of these examples is that the city seems riddled with shortcuts, promising an unexpected link from one building to another behind the next basement door or a forgotten underground world lurking silently beneath the next manhole.

A long range forecast of our dark future

Charles Stross pulls together a rather apocalyptic, but all too believable, forecast for the next decade. An explosive cocktail of climate change, mass-migration, growing xenophobia and financial crazyness.

It's well documented, so it's worth going down the rabbit holes peppered throughout the article.

This is a toxic combination. We've just weathered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and we're undergoing an infrastructure crisis (due to climate change) and the extinction of an economic backbone industry—admittedly one we will be far better off without: coal and oil pollution directly kill tens of thousands of people even in developed nations—which will ultimately require the replacement of tens of trillions of dollars' worth of fossil fuel infrastructure worldwide. Add nativist/racist/right wing politics on top, from Hungary through Poland (above) and Russia and it really looks like we're in for a replay of the 1930s.