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Saturday, August 17, 2019

What If I Didn't Care?

This thought came to me this morning as I was walking my dogs: Wouldn't my life be a lot less stressful if I stopped caring?

What if I didn't care 

  • about wolves being persecuted for merely being wolves? 
  • that elephants are being driven to the brink of extinction so some Asians can adorn themselves with ivory trinkets? 
  • that millions of dogs are tortured and cruelly killed every year in -- where else -- Asia as part of the dog meat industry? 
  • that pigs, at least in the US, are kept in horrible conditions?
  • that rhinoceros are facing extinction because some ignorant people -- in Asia -- believe their horns are aphrodisiacs?
  • that America is keeping immigrant children locked in cages?
  • that 4 million animals -- including people's pets -- die in traps in the US every year?
  • that countless coyotes are shot for fun every year in contests to see who can kill the most or the biggest coyotes in a given time period?
  • that Japan is resuming commercial whaling, along with Norway and Iceland?
  • that Africa's iconic animals continue to be hunted as trophies so some guy can hang the head on the wall of his 'man cave' or put its skin on the floor? 
  • that Asians -- who else? -- are pushing the pangolin ever closer to extinction due to their superstitious belief that pangolin skins have magic powers?
  • about the inevitable destruction of our way of life due to climate change?
  • about the pending extinction of countless species of animals due to human overpopulation and climate change?
  • that US citizens are being rounded up and detained simply because of the color of their skin or the sound of their surnames?
What if I
  • lived my life as so many others do, not worrying about the environment or the threat of extinction or pollution or cruelty to animals? 
  • ate whatever I wanted to eat -- pork, veal, shark -- without a thought to the cruelty involved or the status of a wild population? 
  • didn't feel a need to boycott places that engage in abhorrent wildlife management practices (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa come to mind)?
  • didn't care about the obvious turn toward a fascist state under the 'leadership' of the current president?
If I did these things, would anything in this world change? Would trophy hunting and killing for fun suddenly go away? Would certain African countries stop selling their wildlife to trophy hunters or to languish in China? Would pigs suddenly be raised more humanely? Would trappers stop using their barbaric devices to catch fur-bearers?

That is the question: Is anything I am doing really making a difference to the planet or to the animals involved? Sadly, I think it isn't. I think all it does is make me feel as if I'm doing something. If that's all my boycotts and actions are doing, does it really matter what I do, or what I eat, or where I visit?

Sunday, August 11, 2019

My Favorite Sounds

 I love this sounds of nature.

The sounds of nature are rarely nerve-janging or irritating as are so many artificial sounds. Just think about how the body reacts to the sounds of birds singing or frogs croaking. Then compare the reaction to honking car horns and the roar of jet engines.

These are some of my favorite sounds of nature:
  • wolves howling. 
  • the yapping of coyotes. 
  • the sound a whale makes when it breaks the surface and exhales after a dive. 
  • a trumpeting elephant 
  • singing birds
  • thunder, although my dogs would disagree. 
  • rain hitting the skylights in my house 
  • waves crashing on the shore 
  • hippos snorting and grunting
  • water running in a river or stream
  • the braying of zebras
  • the guttural roar of lions

I think my favorite natural sound is the sound of ... nothing. I love being out in nature, being still, and hearing nothing. Our world is so full of noise -- televisions, traffic, airplanes, barking dogs, cell phones -- that total silence makes some people uncomfortable. I find it a welcome change,

I'm not someone who has to have the television on "for the noise" if I'm not watching it. Sometimes I listen to classical radio, and once in a while I will play a music CD. But often my house is quiet.

I find loud, noisy places to be annoying and stressful. I don't like the sound of endlessly barking dogs. Crying babies and screeching toddlers drive me crazy. Cars with thumping 'music' make me irritable. Give me classical music, or modern jazz, any day.

One of the things I love about where I live is the quiet. I never hear traffic unless I'm outside in the yard. Once in a while, early in the morning, I will hear coyotes talking to each other through yips and howls. Sometimes, when I'm in the yard, I will hear the resident Cooper's hawks chattering. I enjoy these sounds. But best of all, I love the sound of silence.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Why Do Humans Enjoy Killing?

 What is the human obsession with killing?

It seems the news, whether it’s on television, in the newspaper or on the Internet, is filled with stories about killing. On a recent local newscast, the first five stories reported on killings. And if people aren’t killing each other in ridiculous road rage disputes, over some perceived slight, or over racial or religious issues, they’re killing other animals for fun.

I have spent a lot of time in Africa on safari, watching elephants and other magnificent wild animals. I have seen a zebra nursing her young. I have watched a giraffe drinking peacefully -- and awkwardly -- from a pool of water. I watched a gorgeous male lion babysitting his cubs as their mother slept a short distance away. I've seen two lion brothers fighting over the rights to a beautiful lioness. I have watched a mother grizzly bear roll onto her back to nurse her two cubs. I have seen a mother elephant use her trunk to help her tiny calf up a slippery river bank. 

And I have seen far too many photos of grinning imbeciles proudly posing with the carcasses of the magnificent animals they have killed for pleasure. Sure, some claim they are 'saving' endangered animals by shooting them. Nobody can really explain how killing endangered animals saves the species. But the reality is, these people enjoy on some perverse level the killing of animals who posed no threat to them. 

Andlet's not forget those who kill for fun, to see who can kill the biggest or most coyotes over a weekend to win bragging rights and a case of cheap beer. Fortunately, such contests are increasingly being banned.

I know that some people hunt for food. The moose someone kills in Maine will provide a winter's worth of food for the family. But most people don't eat giraffes or elephants or leopards or bears. No, they want the rights to brag about their kill, to pose with a stupid grin on their faces with the carcass of the animal they just murdered, and perhaps to put the animal's skin on their floor or hang the head on the wall.

Well, I have an elephant head on the wall of my office, too -- a nice elephant head carved of wood. My daughter, knowing how much I care about elephants, bought it for me. I can admire it and know that no intelligent animal had its 60-plus year life cut short so I could hang its head on the wall. I also have a photo of a gorgeous leopard looking directly at me, as well as a photograph of two elephants, their trunks entwined. I took those photos, and the animals were able to go on with their lives. And I am proud of having taken such great shots with my camera.

Some scientists believe that humans -- and some other mammalian species -- are genetically predisposed to kill. Millions of years of evolution may have dimmed that urge, but in some humans at least, the instinct appears to thrive. Just look at America's gun violence/mass murder epidemic. Look at the humans who get a thrill from killing animals, the bigger the better for no reason other than that they can.

Maybe this genetic predisposition to kill is stronger in some people than in others. Maybe there is something wrong with their brains. Maybe they really are mentally ill, as some have claimed. How do we explain the fact that a white, upper class professional found nothing wrong with luring a gorgeous male lion out of the protected preserve where it lived so he could shoot it and hang the head on the wall of his 'man cave'? 

I'm not a scientist or a psychologist. I can't begin to explain why humans seem to either enjoy killing, or at the very least have no problems with killing others. I just wish this drive to kill weren't so pervasive in our supposedly advanced world.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

America's Living Legends

With all the mass murders in the news recently, I want to focus on something positive.

America has some amazing living legends. Here are a few that come to mind (in no particular order):
  • Betty White, actress and animal advocate
  • Barbra Streisand, singer, actress, producer, director and philanthropist
  • Bob Dylan, singer and songwriter
  • Robert Redford, actor and environmental activist
  • Tony Bennett, singer and artist
  • Carol Burnett, actress and comedienne
  • Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, explorer and environmentalist
  • Quincy Jones, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer and film producer
  • Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
  • Dolly Parton, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman and humanitarian
  • Itzhak Perlman, violinist
  • Leontyne Price, opera singer
  • Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist
  • Steven Spielberg, movie producer
  • Judy Collins, singer, songwriter and social activist
  • Meryl Streep, actress
  • Wynton Marsalis, jazz musician
  • Carole King, singer, songwriter, activist, environmentalist

I deliberately left sports figures off this list. I wanted to focus on those whose talents have made this world a better place. Sports, while enjoyed by many, isn't anything I enjoy. And those who participate in it don't fit my personal definition of living legends.

Each of the people on this list has enriched us with his or her talents, whether it is singing, acting, or playing a musical instrument better than anybody else. You may disagree with some of my choices. I know that some will dislike the activism of Barbra Streisand, for example, but her many contributions to the world through her music make her, in my opinion, a true living legend. 

We as a nation are going through some very disturbing times. So let's take just a moment and think about the talented people on the list above and appreciate their positive contributions to our society and to the world at large.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting in America

Today in America, there was yet another mass shooting.

Last week, a gunman opened fire on people attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. Three people, including a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were killed. Today's shooting, at an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart, has so far killed 20 people. 

When will enough be enough? The deaths of 20 innocent kindergarten students and six teachers in Newtown, CT, weren't enough. The deaths of 58 people enjoying an outdoor concert in Las Vegas weren't enough. The deaths of 49 people at a nightclub in Florida weren't enough. And I'd guess the deaths of the people in an El Paso today won't be enough. Nothing will be enough until Congress decides to put the American public ahead of its payoffs from the NRA. They need to take their thoughts and prayers and shove them where the sun don't shine.

And no, I'm not advocating taking people's guns away. But I seriously doubt that our founding fathers, when they wrote the 2nd amendment, ever envisioned allowing access by so many dangerous people to weapons capable of carrying out mass murder.

Don't give me the "Guns don't kill people. People kill people" argument. Have you heard of somebody killing 58 people with their bare hands, or with a knife? Of course not. Because only guns can so easily and quickly kill dozens of people in such a short time. And don't tell me that we should ban cars because some 40,000 people lose their lives in the US each year in car crashes. That is simply a ridiculous statement. There's a major difference between cars and guns. Motor vehicles are used to transport people and goods. Accidents happen for any number of reasons, including mechanical problems, weather and drunk driving. Guns, on the other hand, have but one purpose -- to kill. And no, people don't need an AR-15 or any other assault-style weapon for self defense or hunting.

Schools in the city where I live are now hiring armed security at middle and high schools. What's next, armed guards at shopping malls, churches and grocery stores? Or perhaps we will return to the days of the Old West, when everybody toted a gun. It appears that even in gun-obsessed Texas, there were no 'good guys with a gun" at the Wal-Mart who were willing or able to take out today's shooter.

The sad fact is that as long as politicians are willing to sell their souls to the gun lobby, nothing will change. 'Thoughts and prayers' have become nothing more than a joke, an empty platitude offered by those unwilling to do anything, no matter how small, to address this problem. The US is the only nation that is willing to sacrifice its citizens', and in particular, its children's, lives on the altar of the great gun lobby. How many more citizens will be sacrificed, how many more children will lose their lives, while Congress sits idly by, collecting its fat donations and watching yet more Americans die while going to school, worshipping or shopping?

UPDATE: I woke up Sunday morning thinking about the 20 people mourning their dead loved ones, only to see a headline that nine more people were slaughtered in Ohio. We are watching the fall of our country at the hands of those who value money over life, whiteness over darker skin, 'Christianity' over other religions. All this is happening at the hands of a president who, rather than trying to bring the country together, as past presidents of both parties have done, stokes the flames of hatred. And Congress watches the bodies pile up while it collects its blood money.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Do the Little Things

I am a conservationist. I am an animal advocate. I am an environmentalist.

I will not apologize for the way I feel, the way I believe, or the way I act. I will continue to write about and post about these issues. I will continue to pick up trash in my neighborhood, trash tossed from car windows by people too lazy to properly dispose of their cans and bottles. I will continue to use reusable grocery bags, eschewing the single-use grocery bags handed out by the billions in this country every year. I will continue to take short showers. I will not own a gas-guzzling car. I will recycle everything I can. I will reuse plastic bread bags and other plastic bags that cannot be recycled. Those bags can be used to pick up dog poop from my yard, or to line small trash cans. 

I will continue to minimize my consumption of animal products. I switched from cow's milk to almond or cashew milk a few years ago. I haven't eaten pork for many years, and I won't eat lamb, veal, wild game or any endangered kind of fish. I enjoy vegetarian sausage and plant-based burgers. Yes, I do still eat cheese (which I love) and yogurt. I am a work in progress.

I will continue to support organizations working to preserve wild areas, and to protect animals such as wolves, bears, lions and elephants. I will continue to oppose trophy hunting or any form of animal killing for fun. I will continue to oppose coyote killing contests, and I will support all efforts to make such spectacles illegal. I will continue to oppose the wearing of fur, whether the fur comes from wild or 'farmed' animals. I try to avoid buying food that contains palm oil, although that blood-tainted oil seems to be everywhere.

I will continue to boycott businesses and states that engage in or encourage animal cruelty. I recently canceled plans to visit Namibia next year after that country sold the rights to murder a well-known bull elephant to a trophy hunter. I stopped visiting Yellowstone National Park, my favorite place in the US to visit, until the states of Montana and Wyoming stop the slaughter of wolves to placate the cattle industry. Do my boycotts change anything? Do they have an impact? On their own, probably not. But if enough people join the boycott, we may have an impact.

All these things I do are easily accomplished. It takes no effort to pick up and dispose of a can or bottle thrown from a car window. It takes no effort to throw paper into a paper bag for recycling. It takes no time to have my groceries packed into reusable bags. If enough people do little things, the impact can be huge. 

There are many people who do so much more than I do. Some have given up their cars, while others follow a vegan lifestyle. I do what I can. As I get older, I find it easier to give up some of the things I used to love, for the greater good. As I move farther into the sunset of my life, I worry more about my impact on this planet and the beings -- plant and animal -- that share the world with me.

Please join me and help save the only planet at this point able to sustain life. If we all do the little things, we can make a big impact.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why I Love to Write

What is it about writing that I so enjoy?

I have known I have talent as a writer since middle school, when a teacher invited me to join the school newspaper. I later worked as a public affairs and communications specialist for a large humane society and for a well-known federal agency. I'm not creative enough to be a fiction writer, but I do like to write about things I know, things I feel, and things I have experienced. 

  • I love the emotional release (venting) I get from writing about things that upset me (such as the current state of politics in the United States). 
  • I write to express my opinion about something, or to educate people about the ongoing slaughter of elephants and wilves. 
  • I also enjoy the craftsmanship of writing. I like to revisit a sentence or paragraph or an entire piece of work and search until I find just the right word, or rearrange paragraphs until they make more sense. 
  • As an introvert, writing allows me to express myself while remaining mostly anonymous and avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of interacting with a lot of people I don't know. 
  • I get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finish writing something. And if I'm not happy with it, I can always let it sit for a while and then revisit it with fresh eyes. 
  • Writing can help me articulate and organize my thoughts. 
  • Writing can help me process grief. 
  • Sometimes I write just to release emotions, never intending to publish or share what I wrote. 
  • Writing allows me to share with others some of my wonderful travel experiences.
  • Writing helps me  challenge myself to improve my skill as a writer. After all, the best way to become a better writer is to ... write!
  • My reward for writing comes from inside me. I don't get paid to write. I have had a few articles published in a local newspaper and in the newsletters of a few non-profit organizations. I have won awards from the Dog Writers Association of America. But my biggest reward comes from knowing that I have produced a well-written article or blog post.
  • Writing produces, for me, the joy of creating something.  The subject matter may not -- and often isn't -- unique. But my perspective, my story, is uniquely mine.
  • Writing lets me indulge my creative side, just as photography does. I enjoy photography more, but for me, the two creative processes go hand in hand.
  • Sometimes, I just feel a need to write something.
  • Ii am a writer. I don't get paid for my work, and not a lot of people read what I write. But I am a writer. I startled myself a few years ago when somebody asked me what I do, and I replied "I am a writer." I am a writer because I write, and because I consider myself a writer.

So this is why I write. If you enjoy reading my blog, please let me know what you like, and don't like, about it. And I would love to have you sign up as a follower. You won't be bombarded with e-mails, but you will be notified whenever a new blog post is available. Your e-mail address won't be shared or sold to anybody.

Thanks for reading!