If you're a first time visitor (or just generally confused), here's an explanation: Originally this blog was titled "The Tree of Knowledge" and was full of my exhortations and explanations about various social issues. Now they aren't so much explanations as Tourette's like interjections, because I started to find the research exhausting.

Amazon Earth Day

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Trap Neuter Return, then Get Over Yourself

Washington Post Magazine article
Alley Cat Allies Response to WaPo
Dr. Fox's and Readers' comments on TNR

I have not been a dedicated blogger, I know. As with all diaries and journals I have tried to keep throughout my life, I start out strong and then just sort of peter out. My apologies to anyone who actually missed me. (Allow me a few delusions of importance, please.)

I feel inspired to post after reading the Washington Post Magazine's article on Trap Neuter Return programs operating in DC. I was extremely disturbed by some of the comments reported.

I do believe that pet cats should be kept indoors to the greatest extent possible, or at least to escape-proof back yards (I wouldn't want my dog to wander around unsupervised, why would I want that for my cat?).  It does seem to me that felis catus probably should be categorized as an invasive species in the Americas and certainly in Australia and New Zealand, and that they can prey on indigenous animals that may or may not be threatened. They may, of course, also prey on other invasive species, like rats. And their destructiveness is nothing compared to the destruction caused by the species that helped them migrate to new continents: humans.

We are the most destructive invasive species of all. However, if I suggested wide-spread "euthanasia" to manage human populations, I would be considered a monster, and rightly so. Progressive humans can look back at history and recognize that efforts at eugenics, at keeping "undesirable" people from reproducing, were and are horrific. I would like to think that nobody read Lois Lowery's The Giver and thought it was a blueprint for an ideal society.

I lead with all this not to say that there is no distinction between human and non-human animals, though I find the importance/meaning of those distinctions so minimal that some find it offensive. I lead with all this to say that large sections of humanity must let go of their arrogant assumption that it is right and proper that humans curate the planet.

It is dangerous thinking that both environmentalists and non-environmentalists adopt. The position of Ingrid Newkirk is a perfect example of this. The president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals believes it is unethical to return feral cats to outdoor lifestyle. PETA often seems to be of the view that animals are better off dead than in less-than-perfect circumstances of any kind. It's ironic, I think, that the world spends considerable resources on psychiatric treatment to prevent people from adopting the same philosophy in their own lives. 

A representative of the American Bird Conservancy thinks its morally justified to kill cats because this saves birds. Of course, organizations also justify killing invasive bird species to preserve indigenous birds. But whoever is being killed and who is being saved, we humans have reserved the right to make that decision. And our reasons often fail tests of practicality and morality.  It makes no sense to euthanize healthy homeless dogs while people continue to purposefully breed English bull dogs, animals of notoriously poor health. We also devote significant amounts of money and labor resources to trying to breed pandas in captivity, despite ample evidence that this is a losing battle. But hey, they have those cute black circles around their eyes, so by all means, lets focus on them.

The world is in many ways a big mess right now, and it's all thanks to human behavior. In a misguided effort to preserve the native species that we have endangered, many organizations institute eradication policies of species considered invasive, which frequently means killing any that can be found. This is as if animals have no emotional lives, no sentience worth considering. Moreover, it is an attempt to solve problems with the same defective thinking that caused the problems in the first place. We change the landscape and the ecosystems we inhabit to accommodate our needs. If we find that in accommodating our physical needs we have left a wake of destruction, we satisfy our psychological need to make reparation by creating making a new path of destruction. Yet destruction is the result no matter what. It is only that we have convince ourselves that the latest form of annihilation is a moral good. This is also what European colonialists thought about their policies of forced sterilization and transplantation of indigenous human populations.

We know now that they were wrong to think that because they had the power, they had the right, or even the obligation, to tell others humans how or whether or they could live. We now redirect that energy to animals, animals that are in the wrong environments because of our interventions.

Trap-neuter-return is humane and sensible. It may be slower than mass extermination (and the evidence doesn't necessarily prove it is), but you would think by this point we would have learned that the quickest solution is not the best or the most sustainable. When we stop thinking about the planet and its non-human denizens as though it was our living room and decor, to be arranged in the most pleasing and efficient manner, maybe we will finally start to find real solutions to our problems.

Monday, June 28, 2010

E-book readers

According to this Grist article, e-book readers appear to be the way to go, which has been my instinct all along, at least in terms of going for e-books for my computer.  Of course, the e-book reader is a lot more portable than even my laptop.  To that end, I am posting this link to the Amazon Kindle, which has been severely reduced in price.  I recently saw a news piece on News 1 in New York City that ranked the Kindle as the best of the e-book readers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of Course Plants Like to Live

The title of this article reminds me of the time someone told me in high school that broccoli screams as though that would somehow undermine my recent choice to become a vegetarian.  Of course, the whole "eat animals, save the plants" argument is ridiculous because eating meat causes the death of far more vegetation than a vegetarian diet would.  Not to mention the fact that a person can live without eating meat, but not without eating vegetables.

However, the lesson to take away here is that one cannot treat plants as though they are inanimate and without moral weight. I am not suggesting some sort of plant liberation movement, but rather that we should think twice before carving our names into living trees.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Am I a Jerk?

Probably, but this isn't really about me. This article from Slate discusses the possibility that people trade in on moral credit.

They failed to mention some other types of credit that may affect decision making in these instances: namely, credit cards. When someone spends more money to buy organic/local/fair trade/other socially responsible item, they may feel like they have less cash to flat out give to charity. The same can be true of energy expenditures: the harder you work to try to make ethical choices a part of your everyday life, the more burnt out you may feel when it comes to volunteering your time.

So readers, if you do actually exist, do you think you cash in on "moral credit?"

Monday, November 09, 2009

Gender Wars and Objectivity

This piece in XX Factor is interesting and scary.

What I think is also interesting is an issue I see coming up in the comments that goes along with what I wrote when I came back from Australia a couple of years ago: the lack of trust in the objectivity of the journalist. Though I do not have objections or doubts about what has been presented by Katheryn Joyce, it has become so expected that journalists are writing (and scientists are researching) from their own inherent biases that people can dismiss any evidence that goes against their own preferred notions as being the presentation of people trying to unfairly sway the argument. For example, when confronted with the fact that all peer-reviewed articles found in scientific journals support the conclusion that there is extreme anthropogenic global warming, the naysayers argue that there is conspiracy within the scientific community to reject any evidence that goes against global warming and that any who dare to argue are immediately and unfairly blackballed. Conservatives don't trust the Washington Post and Liberals won't rely on the Washington Times for information. I for one have difficulty trusting anyone to give me a completely objective reporting and end up being swayed by personal pathos and whatever empirical observations I am able to draw from my own limited experience to decide where I stand on an issue, which makes any sort of open debate difficult.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hautelook link

I've added a new link to the side, "hautelook." It's to my personal invitation page. If you're wondering why I posted it as a "Just Living" link, it's because they occasionally have sample sales by eco-designers. Considering the high costs of some of them, 50% off is pretty exciting.

Friday, May 01, 2009

There Is No Sex In Your Violence

I have a fantasy wherein I write frequent posts and people read them and leave insightful complimentary comments.  

Item 1: So, the new incarnation of the H1N1 virus, popularly (and somewhat inaccurately) still referred to as swine flu, is big in the media now.  It is actually a hybrid of avian, porcine, and human viral strains. I haven't read anything but the subject lines yet, but I can see that PETA is sending out emails about how this is more proof of how factory farming in particular and meat-eating in general are great evils that should be stopped.  I said the same thing to my parents before I heard it from PETA (Yay! The frequently irrational crackpots at PETA back me up!).  The unhealthy conditions that abound in slaughterhouses and the "farms" that supply them are ideal incubators for virulent diseases.  Even the factory farm owners know it, since they pump their animals full of preemptive antibiotics.  I guess they should have used antivirals as well.  Granted, the bird flu originated in small, family-owned fowl coops, but these were also homesteads of people with antiquated sanitation systems (or no sanitation systems at all).  And of course, meat farming is devastating to the environment, which threatens wild species and ultimately biodiversity, which increases the likelihood that new contagions will adapt to humanity as they lose their former hosts.  I realize as a formerly struggling vegetarian and a currently struggling (and frequently failing) vegan that giving up animal products is hard (and perhaps not even entirely possible: book bindings, as well as other seemingly innocuous, everyday items are manufactured with animal by-products), but we really all should be making an effort to decrease our dependency, even if it is only by incremental amounts.

Item 2:  I encounter someone who pronounced vegan as "vay-gan."  This is incorrect.  Even if Merriam Webster does recognize several pronunciations, the originator of the word released a pronunciation guide soon after coining the term to clarify that the word is vee-gan.  Long E, hard g.  Knowledge is power.

Item 3: Last week two of my coworkers and I went to see Disney's new Earth movie, a collaboration with the BBC.  It was mediocre.  The footage was stunning, but according to my coworker, much of it was recycled from the Planet Earth series, Discovery Channel's collaboration with the BBC.  I have not yet seen any of this series, much to my chagrin, but I don't have any reason to doubt her word on this.  The documentary's story line/unifying theme was weak, and they showed the typical American view that violence is less offensive (and less corrupting of children) than sex and birth.  While I recognize that violence and death are part of the natural world, the scene of the Great White Shark snatching a seal up in its jaws shown in slow motion from three different angles seemed excessive.  

Item 4: I've been spending the last 7 months working for Americorps via the Maryland Conservation Corps (and will continue to do so into August).  I have the very best intentions of writing a post in the near future about my experiences and impressions.