Saturday, December 03, 2011
Here is what I wrote today in support of Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (H.R. 3353 / S. 1802).
"Last Child in the Woods" will change the way you think about children and the outdoors. After I read Last Child, I made it my mission to get my four year old out into the natural world and discovered a whole new magical realm in New York City. Every child deserves and I think, requires, this experience.
Humans are animals - we need trees, soil, wind, rivers, oceans, sand, stars and endless sky. We need sunlight, and not just for Vitamin D. We need to run, jump and climb as our ancestors have done, and not just to burn calories or build muscle. When we grow up without knowledge of the world that has borne us (and only of the world we have borne, namely the indoor electronic world), we lose that vital connection, that primal sense of self. We become unmoored from ourselves and in some way, less human.
We cannot live without the nature, and we increasingly need to protect nature from our incursions. You cannot protect what you do not love. You cannot love what you do not know.
Please help the "Healthy Kids Outdoors Act" move one step closer to becoming law today.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Mark Bittman's op-ed in the Times, "Some Animals Are More Equal than Others," just went to town on our hypocrisy about how treat our pets versus how treat other animals, especially those we eat (well not me, since I'm mostly vegan). Below is my (edited) comment.
The only reason we even have laws regarding treatment of "companion animals" is because as a society we have decided that the way we treat our pets is a first indicator of how we treat or will treat other humans. This is a slippery slope or "gateway" type of crime that is really more about keeping immediate law and order then it is about preventing suffering among members of other species. As a society, we are clearly not concerned with how other animals feel, or really even whether their species exist (see the constant attrition of the Endangered Species Act and the selling out of habitat everywhere so that people can have a nice view, new wool sweaters, or cheaper food).
I would argue that extension of the humane laws to wildlife and farm animals and conservation of animals in the wild ARE about keeping law and order and about preserving our health, prosperity, even survival. Why should we care about animal suffering? For one, we care about animals, whether dogs, raccoons, lions, or cows, for the same reason we care about each other. Empathy is built into our DNA as a social species and reinforced through parental attachment. Even people who say that they are not animal lovers (and perhaps eat beef or pork three meals a day) do care about animals and their potential suffering, because as empathetic humans, they cannot help themselves. Humans who do not have these feelings are known as dissociative and more likely to commit violent crimes. Factory farms/slaughterhouses and planned killings of wildlife may not only function as magnets for dissociative people, these environments may even create violent people who lack empathy..
Additionally, factory farms, poisoning of wildlife, and destruction of habitat are environmentally harmful, and our sensitivity to these inhumane actions could be a warning about the physical consequences to follow. Our industrial production of animal products in this country contributes to widespread mismanagement of land (a huge amount of farmland is actually devoted to growing alfalfa, soy and corn for farm animals, not humans) and pollution in many forms. Some torturous practices arise because the number of CAFO workers simply cannot care properly for the amount of animals in the amount of time allotted to them, and some abuses happen because the space cannot accommodate the density of animals. This kind of density leads to the spread of disease, waste creation, and so on. So when we cringe at dairy cows crowded into barns, chickens with their beaks snipped off, or dens of poisoned wolf pups, our minds could be using emotion to express the real, pragmatic harm that follows from treating the elements of our environment so unsustainably.
We keep pets to help us stay connected to nature and establish a bond of unconditional love. Yet we see that as we continue to demolish wilderness for subdivisions and cropland, poison and shoot wild animals for recreation or "hygiene" and send millions to the slaughterhouse after an abbreviated life of abuse and degradation, that we have no greater appreciation for nature, sustainability or the feelings of other species. Pets are even taking on our lifestyle diseases (one of my cats has diabetes) and we spend billions on them every year when we could be spending some of that forests, finding alternative energy sources, growing food organically, and generally saving the world.
Still, companion animals are great, I love my cats and I hope they are teaching my daughter about love, responsibility, and the non-human world. But our relationship with animals and nature cannot and should not end with my or anyone else's pets. Bittman has hit the nail on the head - it's high time we extended the measly protections afforded our pets to other living creatures, domesticated and wild alike. Our empathy is something with which are naturally but not irrevocably endowed - when our empathy is lost, so are we.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Historically, Americans have complicated relationship with wolves. And by complicated, I mean we waver between complete annihilation and annoyed tolerance. We were in an annoyed tolerance phase which is now giving way to a complete annihilation phase. I, for one, would like to break the cycle by encouraging Salazer to start protections anew with America's wolves. I told the Department of the Interior:
Wolves are amazing and important animals. Wolves are like us in their social interactions and their use of social behaviors to enhance their group's survival. They are also the ancestor of our favorite pet, our animal "best friend." They are emblematic of wilderness and a symbol of lost human cultures and ethnicities. They are a keystone species and we have seen biodiversity increase and overall ecosystem health improve in Yellowstone since their reintroduction. Wolves have been in wild forests and plains for millions of years and their brief eradication should not be repeated. We need wolves and now the wolves need us. Let us not abandon them and our own wild hearts in this hour of peril for the planet.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Fundamentally, billions of years of evolution created the planet's atmosphere - plants, animals, and yes, catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions, tectonic plate shifts, and gaseous emissions from the earth's core, have collaborated in a giant feedback loop to give us the delicate balance of the climate that literally breathes life into all of us. This miraculous-seeming climate, the work of so many generations, has been remarkably stable because of that work, and that stability has produced the greatest biodiversity and profusion of life the earth, and possibly the universe has ever seen. Needless to say, humans came out of and no doubt rely on this entire system, this delicate web of relationships. I for one do not want to conduct a giant experiment on the planet in order to maintain this supersized way of life and I believe that if others knew the incredible risks of this experiment, they might join me in pushing for change. Call it sacrifice or call it opportunity - change is coming to a town near you and we can embrace it now when we have the possibility for success or let circumstances force it on us en masse with, in all probability, a much less favorable outcome