Two events share top prize as game changers for the year just ending:
The question now being asked is: For how long now can an adult chimpanzee who can contemplate her life, think about yesterday and plan for tomorrow, and who knows she’s being held prisoner, go on being treated as a piece of property rather than as an individual?
And Blackfish, the movie that explores why killer whales go berserk and kill their trainers, has upended how millions of people think of orcas and other animals being used as entertainment at SeaWorld and other circuses.
Back in July, SeaWorld thought it could ride out the wave of publicity. But the wave just kept growing. Rather than answer questions from reporters, SeaWorld placed full-page ads in major newspapers. But the ads, full of obvious falsehoods. just set off yet another round of media discussion.
As the Rose Parade brought in the New Year in Los Angeles, the SeaWorld float had to be escorted by armed guards.
Other things we’ll remember:
Packing Their Trunks: After three years of petitions, arguments, agreements, disagreements, votes, flight plans, road plans, preparations, hold-ups, green lights, and more red lights , it was finally “All aboard!” for the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo as they headed out to a new life at the PAWS sanctuary in California. The question of whether zoos and circuses are appropriate places for elephants is now being debated in the mainstream media.
The New Pope took the name of the patron saint of animals, urging people to shun “the omens of destruction and death.” He said this means “respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”
Most church leaders, however, still avoid talking about anything to do with how we humans relate to our fellow animals on a planet that we’re systematically destroying. But one outstanding exception was Elizabeth Johnson, whose fascinating talk “An Ecological Inquiry – Jesus and the Cosmos” makes the case for why we humans need to stop trying to separate ourselves from the other animals and nature.
The Sixth Great Extinction: If you’ve heard about it but still aren’t quite sure what it means, start with this easy-to-read explanation of each of the five previous known extinction events. Scientists keep updating their forecasts of the one that’s now underway, saying it’s happening much faster than they had projected.
(One of the major causes of what’s happening is climate change. 350 parts per million of CO2 gas in the atmosphere is considered the point of no return for runaway global warming. In May of 2012, we rocketed through the 400 ppm mark.)
In the War Zones: Nonhuman animals always make up most of the “collateral damage” in war zones. The war in Syria is no exception: When the Assad regime (“allegedly”) unleashed poison gas in the suburbs of Damascus, thousands, maybe millions, of animals – from squirrels and mice to sheep and goats to birds and bees – were among the dead.
What Sparked the War in Syria, incidentally, wasn’t sparked by religion and politics and ethnic squabbles. It was about water. The same is now true when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. And you can be sure that the growing drought will be the cause of more wars – in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Teddy Bear the Porcupine was not, of course, preoccupied with these global concerns. Happily, he was more focused on how to eat a pumpkin. And Buzzfeed, often the best place for the buzz on felines, recorded what cats were writing in their diaries.
We wish them and you a very Happy New Year.