If you've ever wondered whether there's an afterlife, you've probably found yourself making a mental list of the people you'd look forward to seeing there.
This may have led to thinking about the people you'd seriously want to avoid there ... which may, in turn, have sparked the question of what happens if you don't want to spend your afterlife with people who very much want to spend theirs with you.
It all gets quite complicated. And even more so when you bring nonhuman animals into the discussion, too. Many of us like to think of our deceased pets as waiting patiently for us at the proverbial Rainbow Bridge. But what does a mosquito's paradise look like?
Even more to the point: What happens to the chicken you roasted and ate last week? Imagine having a heart attack right after dinner and being greeted, just a few moments later, by Mrs. Chicken herself, slightly the worse for having been eaten and definitely not taking too kindly to what you just did to her.
Even more embarrassing: Imagine the problem at the Pearly Gates for the high-ups at animal welfare groups who promote "happy meat" and heap praise upon the people who kill animals for profit but do it "humanely".
In the story of the Garden of Eden, our early ancestors find themselves confronted by a choice.
They're already developing an increasingly complex self-awareness that gives them the ability to think in terms of good and bad. And they're acquiring an existential understanding of their personal mortality.
As this awareness grows, they find themselves hearing two voices: one calling them back to a state of innocence in paradise; the other beckoning them forward to a future where they might become "as gods" in their own right, taking dominion over the world, freeing themselves from their animality, and even becoming immortal.
The New York State Appellate Court, Third Division, has issued its decision in the case of Tommy the chimpanzee, and has essentially opened the door for Tommy’s case to be taken to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
A new paper by Michael Mountain and Dr. Lori Marino, published by the journal Anthrozoos, explores the psychology behind why we humans continue to reduce the other animals to the status of resources, commodities and property.
Why do we continue to behave in a way that’s driving much of life on Earth to extinction?
The answer is to be found at the core of the human condition in our need to tell ourselves and each other that “I am not an animal!”
"Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy."
That was UK Prime Minister David Cameron's take on the situation as 26 world leaders wrapped up their G-20 economic summit in Australia.
The solution, according to the leaders of all these countries and to most economists, is, as always, more "growth". But what exactly are we going to grow, and how and where are we going to grow it?
Most of all, how is yet more of this "growth" going to affect the millions of animals whose homes and lives we've already appropriated and who are now threatened with extinction? Read more
An eerily beautiful video, created by a NASA super-computer, showing how human-generated carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere in winter and retreats in summer as trees and other plants photosynthesize much of it.
Note also how plumes of carbon monoxide, shown in gray, stream from fires in Africa, Australia and South America.
If you care about the animals and nature, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is the climate science denier you love to hate. The senator, in turn, loves to go out of his way to make off-the-wall comments about the Environmental Protection Agency being a "Gestapo bureaucracy." And he gets a kick out of putting up signs like "Honk if you love global warming!"
Inhofe is poised to take over the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works again, and while he may seem like a cartoonish yahoo, he's no fool. So you have to wonder: Does he truly believe that climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy"? Does he just make this stuff up for fun? Or is something else going on?
A fascinating new study suggests that something else is indeed going on. And it helps explain why so many Republican legislators are determined to deny the plain fact that we humans are creating catastrophic climate change and mass extinction.
(Oh, and before we go on: Liberal Democrats are not off the hook; it turns out they do the same thing, just in relation to different issues. Basically, we all do it.)
Asked whether he thought the new Senate will be able to pass any bi-partisan legislation at all, Senator-elect Cory Gardner of Colorado paused for a moment and said, "Yes, the Keystone Pipeline."
In other words, the one thing we can expect Congress to agree on is poisoning the land and burning more fossil fuels than ever.
"This was the most content-free election I’ve ever seen," veteran reporter Al Hunt told Charlie Rose. "There was no talk about the war, there was no talk about immigration, there was no talk about infrastructure, any of the big issues."
But wait! When it comes to "big issues", even these top journalists are apparently oblivious to the biggest issue of all and the only issue that’s going to matter to anyone a few brief decades from now: global earth changes and mass extinction.
Light relief – a break from our usual fare! . . .
Baby rhino and baby goat do their thing. (More below)
In the Ancient Greek drama Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, Prometheus tells of the terrible mistake he made in giving humans self-awareness and enlightenment. The "gift", he explains, turned out to be a curse because it made us humans deeply aware of our own mortality.
But while he can't take the gift/curse away, Prometheus has taken steps to relieve the grinding, lifelong anxiety he's caused. His remedy, he says, is to enable us to live in permanent denial of our mortal nature.
Prometheus: I prevented mortals from foreseeing their death.
Chorus Leader: By finding what remedy for this malady?
Prometheus: I caused blind hope to dwell within them.
Chorus Leader: In this you gave a mighty benefit to mortals!
Prometheus's solution may have been workable when the stakes weren't as high as they are today. But blind hope and optimism are not the best prescription when you're entering a period of mass extinction.
While passengers arriving from West Africa at Dulles International Airport last week were having their temperatures taken, this woman was sitting on the other side of the airport, in the Departures area, wearing a homemade, head-to-toe Hazmat suit.
The woman's paranoia might be excused if she were concerned about seasonal flu, which kills up to half a million people a year. But of all the things we can be seriously worried about right now (like mass extinction), catching Ebola in the Departures area of an airport is not one of them.
If chimpanzees and gorillas had their own version of the Internet, they'd probably be posting headlines like:
Gorillas Face Extinction as Invasive Species Rampages through Forests
Humans Most Likely Source of Deadly Infection . . .
That's because while most of us seven billion humans are at small risk of catching Ebola, the same is not true for our great ape cousins. They're catching it in droves.
We don't know the numbers yet, but with gorillas and chimpanzees already facing extinction, Ebola could be the final coup-de-grace.
It was probably a good idea for Patrick Lavery, the "owner" of Tommy the chimpanzee, not to make an appearance at the appellate court in Albany, NY, yesterday. Check out what he told a TV reporter.
It was a packed courtroom at the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, for the Matter of the Nonhuman Rights Project v. Lavery, 518336 – better known as Tommy the chimpanzee's appeal hearing.
If you were a goat this weekend, would you want to be Christian, Jewish or Muslim?
Answer: Definitely Christian – at least for today. And definitely not Muslim.
In a sane world, it would be headline news. Everything else would immediately come to a screeching halt to make way for a massive, worldwide attempt to turn things around. (Of course, in a sane world, the whole thing would never have happened in the first place!)
In our insane world, however, the news from the World Wildlife Fund telling us that in the last 40 years we've killed off roughly half the world's wildlife went by largely unnoticed.
How could such a thing have happened?
The People's Climate March in New York City was the biggest march in history, demonstrating that more people than ever are now saying that concern about climate change should be a priority.
But what exactly are all these people protesting? How much do they really understand what's going on? And what are they prepared to do beyond taking a feel-good Sunday morning walk along Central Park?
October 13th, 2013: Deputies raid a Butterball plant in North Carolina after allegations of animal abuse. Shocking video taken by Mercy For Animals shows employees kicking and stomping the turkeys as well as injured birds with open wounds.
Sept 23rd, 2014: Butterball announces that it has received certification from the American Humane Association under the American Humane Certified program, thus verifying that "turkeys raised on Butterball's family-owned farms meet or exceed the rigorous, science-based American Humane Association standards for animal care."
Tommy the chimpanzee is headed back to court. He won't be there in person, but the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is appealing a December ruling of a lower court that denied him the legal right to "bodily liberty." (Setting of new precedents is generally left to the higher courts.)
You'll recall that Tommy is one of four chimpanzees in New York State who, according to the NhRP, are being held unlawfully under the common law and should be released to a sanctuary. (The other three are Hercules and Leo, who are being held at a research facility at Stony Brook University, and Kiko, who is being kept as a "pet" in a private home.)
The judges in each of the lower court hearings denied the writs of habeas corpus, which would have enabled the chimpanzees to be transferred to sanctuaries, but two of them clearly indicated that they supported what the NhRP is setting out to do.
What's behind the massive floods in Phoenix and Las Vegas that caused unprecedented death and destruction this week, along with the deepening megadrought in California, the chilly summer in several Midwestern states, and all the other weird weather effects this year?
For a simple answer, look to the latest figures on greenhouse gases from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year, they went through the roof, once again, with CO2 hitting 396 parts per million, the highest annual level since we started keeping records.
No human being has ever witnessed greenhouse gases at this level. Scientists say the last time Planet Earth was like this was probably about 2 million years ago, during the Pleistocene Era.