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Posts by Michael Mountain

Yazidis, Ethnic Cleansing & the Denial of Death

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Two weeks ago, I'd never even heard of the Yazidi people. This week, they're top of the news, driven from their homes in Iraq by the murderous Islamic State militia – raped, thrown into mass graves, even crucified and buried alive. Some who escaped have been starving to death on a mountain top under a blazing 120-degree sun, with United States planes dropping emergency food and water packages.

What's this all about? And how does it relate to our usual topic of nonhuman animals?

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SeaWorld Stock Officially in the Tank

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When SeaWorld's stock took a dive earlier this year, the company claimed that the weather and the timing of Easter were to blame for the drop in attendance.

But their stock is continuing to fall, and the business world is now saying there's no doubt what the problem is: People understand that marine circus shows involve a lot of animal abuse.

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King Lear, Nature and the End of the World

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"The possibility of genuine chaos, real cannibalizing barbarism, is closer to the surface than we can possibly imagine."
Oscar Eustis, artistic director, New York's Public Theater.

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In Israel-Gaza War, Animals Pay Price

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A donkey suicide bomb and a farmyard massacre – two examples of how nonhuman animals have become targets in the current war between Israelis and Palestinians.
(Updated below with photo of homeless Palestinian boy and his cat.)

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Previous Extinction Was Largely Bad Timing

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Their reign lasted roughly 170 million years, and the latest news is that what finally did them in wasn't simply the notorious asteroid that slammed into the Yucatan 65 million years ago. According to a new study, if the asteroid had hit just a little earlier or later (a few million years either way), the dinosaurs might well still be around today.

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Exploring Consciousness with Jeff Warren

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Jeff Warren calls ecology "the contemplative tradition of our time." His Consciousness Explorers Club meets in Toronto each week for guided meditation and "collective wonderment."

In this discussion, we talk about how people who care about the natural world have a kind of empathic consciousness that embraces other living beings, rather than just a small circle of humans; about how meditation can help you to be more focused and effective in what you're doing; and about how he sees the future as we enter a time of mass extinction.

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Nonhuman Rights Project on ‘Colbert Report’

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Legal rights for animals?? Expect Stephen Colbert to be suitably shocked, horrified and appalled when, in character as the classic right-wing bloviator, he welcomes Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project as his special guest, Thursday evening, on The Colbert Report. Read more

An Emerging Consciousness – Part Two

Does the empathy that certain people have with nonhuman life constitute the seed of a new kind or level of consciousness?

Could it be possible for a body of people, who are of like mind and heart in relation to our fellow animals, to give rise to a new kind of collective consciousness?

At a time of mass extinction, it’s a notion that, however fanciful, may be the only future available to us.

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An Emerging Consciousness

(This is one of a series of posts exploring how, as chaos grows around the world and a Sixth Extinction takes hold, a new kind of collective consciousness may be emerging among certain kinds of people – and what this may mean.)

One evening, in the fall of 1995, when I was checking the message boards of our CompuServe forum (remember those old online services?!), the following suddenly appeared:

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Authentic Spirituality in the Coming Storm

Once you've accepted that Planet Earth has entered a Sixth Great Extinction – one that's irreversible and that will consume most, if not all, species, including our own – the question becomes: What now? Where does this leave you? And what do you do with the time remaining?

Most people, of course, haven't accepted that we're already well into a major extinction event. They prefer either to remain in complete denial or to pretend to themselves that human ingenuity and technology will somehow ride to the rescue. (In fact, more technology almost invariably goes hand-in-hand with more destruction.)

But for those of us who do understand that the facts are undeniable, it's time to discuss where we go from here. So, what are some of the things we need to consider?

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Happy Birthday, Daphne Sheldrick

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The original photo bomb? A baby elephant joins Daphne Sheldrick for tea in the early days of the Elephant Orphanage.

At the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, nobody has ever used a bullhook or a million-volt electrical prod. The very idea would be unthinkable.

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SeaWorld Becomes a Laughing Stock

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You know your company is in trouble when everyone starts laughing at you. That's what's happening to SeaWorld now that the activists have been joined by the hacktivists. And for SeaWorld it's no joke.

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Chimpanzee Personalities Almost Identical to Humans


A new study of captive chimpanzees concludes that the personality traits of chimpanzees are almost identical to those of humans.

I asked psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas at Austin what's been learned from the study. Prof. Gosling didn't take part in this particular research, but, as one of the first people to study personality in nonhuman animals, he has perhaps the best overview of personality in all kinds of animals, both human and nonhuman.

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How the Weather Is Like Fido

The new Cosmos series continues to take down those who prefer to believe that the Earth is flat, that we were all created in six days, and that we're not in the middle of a human-caused climate crisis. In this clip, Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why global warming can give you a freezing winter.

How to Get the Doors to Open

Pope Francis: ‘We Are Custodians of Creation’

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In my post Ask the Beasts yesterday, I mentioned that however well-meaning the idea of humans as "stewards" of creation, it's a fundamentally problematic notion. Stewardship inevitably implies a level of superiority and "dominion" over the rest of nature. It also implies that we humans know what we're doing – which we don't. We're not the solution to the mass extinction that's taking place; we're the problem.

Today, nonetheless, Pope Francis embraced the stewardship notion, calling upon Christians to become "custodians of creation," and warning us to "safeguard creation, because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!"

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Ask the Beasts

ask-the-beasts-cover-052114It's hard to look at what's happening to the Earth and all the animals as being part of a divine plan. As mass extinction wipes out hundreds of species every day, most religions offer little more than bland resolutions about "stewardship" and ecology. Others even say that what's happening doesn't matter because they're "saved" and after they've wrecked this world they all get to go to a new one.

In her new book Ask the Beasts – Darwin and the God of Love, Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson calls such disrespect for life "the cardinal sin". In fact, Ask the Beasts might just be the best book ever written when it comes to bringing together natural science with the realm of faith and religion, and with the clear mission of protecting life on Earth from the havoc that our species is wreaking upon it.

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U.S. Military Warned about Climate Change

Climate change-denying senators scramble to respond

climate-change-us-military-051414Yet another major report this week on climate change.

This latest, published on Tuesday by the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, warns the government that global warming now represents a major national security threat.

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Pit Bulls Do It Best


Stealing the show at Western Oregon University softball game.

Collapse of Antarctic Ice Sheet Irreversible

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One of the six major glaciers being eroded from below by warm water

What does it mean when two major studies this week tell us that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is "collapsing"?

It means that another critical tipping point has been passed – one that will add probably another 13 feet to sea levels around the world.

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