At the end of her talk at the Seattle Town Hall about her book The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert takes questions from the audience. The final question is from a boy in his mid-teens. He's the only one at the microphone who's likely to be around when this the extinction process has gone into high gear. So, what does he ask?
Since the Nonhuman Rights Project filed its first series of lawsuits in December, there have been several other initiatives to secure legal rights for nonhuman animals.
Last week, for example, the mayor of Malibu signed a proclamation endorsing the right of cetaceans to bodily liberty, saying that: Read more
Even when you understand that much of the damage climate change will do is now irreversible, it can be hard to understand the how’s and why’s of it all.
Where are we now? What do the various tipping points mean? Which ones have we crossed?
Here’s an easy-to-digest video from climate writer David Roberts.
After posting about the lion who photobombed a visitor to Lion Park, I was reminded of a few other famous photobombs:
The ray who bombed a seaside trip.
The sloth who bombed a student visit to Costa Rica.
The gopher with two hikers in the Northwest.
The cat with little respect for faces.
... and the cat who could teach these two young ladies how to take a good selfie!
Lina Jek simply wanted her husband, Chris, to take a photo of her with the African savannah in the background. But Chris, a wildlife photographer, got a more dramatic photo than either of them expected.
At Lion Park in South Africa, you can walk among the lions until they're eight months old, at which time they move to the adult section. This lioness was just turning eight, so this might have been her last chance to climb on the visitors' shoulders and lick their ears.
The 500-acre Lion Park isn't a zoo; more like a conservation area that's working to return lions to the wild. Part of it is run by Kevin Richardson, the well-known "lion whisperer." It's maybe not the ideal situation for lions, but in a world where the population of the "king of beasts" has dropped from 450,000 to 20,000 in the last 50 years, it's a lot better than most of what's happening to lions and other animals all across the continent.
Chris called the photo one of the luckiest shots he'd ever taken. A few days later, the lioness and her brothers and sisters were moved to the adult area of the park.
Check out some of Chris's best-of photos of lions and other great African animals, like this one:
"The Brave Old Fighter" by wildlife photographer Chris Jek
We were a motley crew, to say the least. And we were laughed right out of the Arizona State Legislature.
It was 1978, and we weren't lobbying for gay rights, as they're doing in Arizona this week. (That would have been unthinkable back then.) No, in our case we were trying to persuade the state to ban cockfighting.
Denmark has been much in the news over the killing of Marius the giraffe in a Danish zoo. But not much has been said about the other big animal-related story out of Denmark: the banning of kosher/halal slaughter.
Prince Harry in 2004 in South America with the water buffalo he'd just shot
How many animals does the British Royal Family kill every year?
The revelation that right before hosting an international conservation symposium in London, Prince William hopped a flight to an exclusive hunting ranch in Spain with brother Harry for a weekend shooting spree has left the British public wondering just how much killing these royal hunters get up to in any given year.
Now we have some insight.
In one of the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, an orphan teenage boy, Percival, stumbles into the woods surrounding the castle at Camelot, sees a swan flying over the trees, and shoots her down with his bow and arrow.
Brought before the outraged knights, Percival is told that in this forest all life is sacred. Mortified, he breaks his bow, throws it away, and sets out on his famous quest for the Holy Grail, a mythic cup or stone that will bring renewal and hope to the dying king of Camelot, to a land that’s become ravaged by famine, and to a people who have lost their way.
What shall we say of the decision by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is planning to license the killing, by shooting, gassing and beheading, of the state’s entire population of 2,200 mute swans?
Various blogs, including this one, have noted that the Sunday morning network news shows have been devoting no more than a few minutes each year to climate change. But this week, in the face of worldwide floods, droughts, snow storms and heat waves, they finally braved the elements, tiptoed up to the plate, and timidly asked: Are we humans really changing the climate?
Here's how it went:
How do you talk about the end of the world on a comedy show?
That was the challenge for Jon Stewart when he invited Elizabeth Kolbert onto The Daily Show to talk about her new book The Sixth Extinction. (Watch the clip here.)
Bengt Holst is bewildered. He can't figure out why everyone is so upset about his zoo knocking off Marius the giraffe.
Holst is the science director at the Copenhagen Zoo, and it all makes perfect sense to him. He's like the super-logical, totally insensitive husband who can't understand why his "irrational" wife only gets madder when he tries to explain his latest dumb remark.
"A giraffe is not a pet," he told reporters. "It’s not like a dog or cat that becomes part of the family. We do it to ensure a healthy population. It is a wild animal."
As if that explains it.
In a recent post, I talked with climate scientist Guy McPherson about Near-Term Extinction. He explained how, thanks to we're affecting the climate, we're now over the edge, beyond the tipping point, and basically screwed. (And not just iconic species like elephants, polar bears and monarch butterflies, but humans, too. And quite possibly all life – all of it.)
In response, one person wrote:
Our level of denial is so amazing. You'd think humans would be trying to save themselves, wouldn't you? Or is it still only about "me" and I'll be dead by then anyway!?
Another said he and his family are making plans to at least be able to cope as the economy collapses, weather events become more extreme, the Southwest sinks deeper into drought, and so on.
And another commented:
At least if you're a human visiting the Sochi Olympics (and despite what we've heard about toothpaste bombs, toxic yellow water, and homophobia), you'll probably make it home alive. The same is not the case for the dogs who live on the streets there.
City officials had planned to kill 2,000 homeless dogs last summer – until an international outcry gave them pause. But the dogs only got a few months grace. Now the city has hired a pest control company that describes homeless dogs as "biological trash."
Three years ago, in December 2010, when Sakile Chenzira refused to get a flu shot, she was fired from her job at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The hospital said that although she worked in the customer service department – not in direct contact with patients – she still represented a health risk.
Chenzira filed suit in federal court, claiming religious discrimination. She noted that flu vaccines are produced in chicken eggs, and that, as an ethical vegan, she avoids all animal products. And therefore, since being a vegan is her religion, she could not accept the vaccine.
The hospital promptly filed a motion to dismiss the case. What did the court say?
Is this a) an animatronic head on a stick being used to place people in a cataleptic trance? Or ...
b) a real cat?
And if b), then ...
c) What is she up to? (I have no idea. Perhaps I'm already in a trance.)
Prophecy buffs are all a-twitter over Pope Francis's somewhat bungled doves-of-peace release this week. Was it, they wonder, a sign of apocalyptic times?
Where the dolphins are shipped after they're captured at Taiji
The latest dolphin drive hunt at Taiji is now "over".
Over, that is, for the dolphins who are dead – 41 according to Sea Shepherd. And over for the people who massacred them and are busy pocketing their profits. But certainly not over for the 52 dolphins who were taken captive and are now being shipped around the world to marine circuses and hotels where tourists will pay hundreds of dollars to "swim with dolphins" and thousands of dollars for quack "dolphin therapy" sessions.
And anything but over for the 140 or so dolphins who were driven back out to the ocean. Most of them will die from their injuries or from being orphaned or separated from their pod and with no idea where to go, what to do, or how to live on their own.
Last week, as U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy joined the chorus of criticism, the Taiji hunters and the Japanese government responded with two main arguments. One of them is contemptible nonsense; the other is something we need to think about.
How could I not have realized that Corey Knowlton is risking life and limb to save the rhinos of southern Africa?
By now, more people are at least beginning to understand that we have a serious problem with climate change. Scientists used to tell us that we need to stop carbon dioxide going over 350 ppm in the atmosphere. That was considered to be the tipping point – the point of no return. Last year, it topped 400 ppm.
So, where are we at now?