We found the eggs of a Monarch butterfly on the underside of a milkweed leaf. Dad got a big jar and put the milkweed leaf there, along with other milkweed leaves. And we watched it every day.
Soon, there was a little caterpillar that quickly grew into a big, tigerish caterpillar. We kept bringing fresh milkweed leaves, and the caterpillar ate and ate and ate. We put our faces right up to the jar to see.
One day, the caterpillar switched gears entirely and got about the business of creating its astonishing chrysalis, that ethereal pale green with the touch of gold, like an angel’s wing. And every day, we just watched and waited.
Finally, more magic happened. The new Monarch emerged with its limp wings. We stared, as the butterfly pumped and tested the wings. Then, we knew it was time.
We took the jar outside and opened it up near the milkweed patch and the trees. The Monarch flew up into the skies. We stood gazing, amazed and happy.
Little did we know then how tenuous life was already becoming for the Monarchs. We would watch every year for their migration, and slowly realize that something was happening. Their numbers were dwindling.
The glimpse we had of the precious and beautiful life of our Monarch butterfly made us open our eyes to the wide world and all of the ways we are connected — mysteriously and wonderfully. So now we watch for the butterflies and the birds and the fish and the bears and the bees and the milkweed and the trees and so much more, and we tread ever more softly in the home we share.
The report calls out seven “human-mediated factors … most likely driving the emergence of zoonotic diseases.” They cite seven “disease drivers”:
1) increasing human demand for animal protein; 2) unsustainable agricultural intensification; 3) increased use and exploitation of wildlife; 4) unsustainable utilization of natural resources accelerated by urbanization, land use change and extractive industries; 5) increased travel and transportation; 6) changes in food supply; and 7) climate change.
No big surprises here. It’s the usual culprits for so many of the things ailing us, particularly the impoverished citizens of the globe.
Given all that we know, it’s still startling how little we’re actually doing about any of it. As the report mentions, these negative impact factors are actually increasing or intensifying.
Human demand for animal protein is just one of them. It’s startling to realize that even though it is common knowledge that our insatiable demand for meat and dairy directly contributes to profound health and environmental issues, it remains on the increase.
“Meat consumption worldwide is expected to increase 1.4% per year through 2023…”
It predicts that “…global meat and poultry consumption will reach 313 million metric tons in 2023. Global per capita consumption will rise slightly to 39 kilograms per year.” That’s roughly 86 pounds per person — globally.
USDA data cited by the The National Chicken Council shows that in the United States, per capita meat consumption (including beef, pork, and poultry) in 1960 was 167.2 pounds. In 2019 that number was 224.3. Although a slight dip to 220.2 pounds is predicted in 2020, meat consumption is forecast to be on the increase again, up to 223.5 pounds in 2021.
That is a lot of dead animals. And repercussions.
While plenty of folks are being religious about wearing masks and social distancing, the UNEP report underscores that there are other truly meaningful things we could be doing to help the world both now and in the future relative to pandemics and beyond. Just look at that list of seven things above. There is no doubt in my mind that there are at least several that each of us, personally, can directly impact. Reducing meat consumption is just one of them.
Don’t wait for the powers that be to tell you how they’re gonna change the world (and then figure out if you can like it). YOU change the world.
So maybe some people noticed the more-than-ten-billion-dollars Bayer just agreed to pay out in order to settle thousands of outstanding lawsuits. This involved litigation relative to its subsidiary Monsanto’s product, RoundUp, which contains glyphosate, among other things. The lawsuits had been brought by RoundUp users who became cancer patients suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Why oh why are people still spraying this stuff on their lawns? Just yesterday, I watched people in a neighborhood, calmly walking around their yards doing just that. Yards where kids play. I imagine some of these conscientious folks wear a mask in the store where they buy their RoundUp. Hmm.
Elsewhere, start noticing those little pesticide/herbicide signs. They are everywhere on the lawns of neighborhood homes and businesses. You know, there’s a reason they have to put an actual warning on a lawn.
I don’t get why people are willing to compromise themselves and others and the natural world for the sake of … weeds. Weeds are a mental construct. That’s about it.
Lawns, honestly, should be a thing of the past anyway. I understand people are concerned about property values, but there’s also the value of life itself. It’s a simple matter of changing perspective about what actually constitutes “beautiful.”
I also don’t get why any glyphosate products are even allowed to be sold in the United States.
Think about it: Bayer would rather shell out $10 billion dollars than try to defend RoundUp in these cases. That’s how unwinnable it is: $10 billion dollars unwinnable.
But wait, I do know why RoundUp can still be sold in the United States. It’s because people are still buying it. Which is also why Bayer has $10 billion dollars to spend on this and remain in business.
What, folks, are we thinking? Alas, I fear, there is no thinking involved. At least, not critical thinking.
So now we learn a company called Oxitec is getting ready to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West, Florida, starting this summer and carrying on through 2022. They plan to expand the experiment to include Harris County, Texas as well.
The Oxitec GMO mosquito project is aimed at making it so that the progeny of normal female mosquitoes who mate with male GMO mosquitoes are rendered less viable to survive to maturity. This leads to the “temporary collapse of a wild population.” One has to wonder how both the altered mosquitoes and the environmental collapses might affect other insects, birds, and mammals that feed on the mosquitoes.
It’s amazing to me that this got the go-ahead from both the Environmental Protection Agency (that’s what they call it, anyway) and the State of Florida, particularly during this time of a heavily studied but still poorly understood pandemic of theoretically zoonotic origins, environmental issues notwithstanding.
The experiment’s approvals came over the objections of local residents and environmental groups who assert that the risks have not been seriously analyzed. A number of environmental groups plan to sue the EPA over the matter.
I get that mosquitoes are a real problem for us, spawning serious diseases. I also get that the expressed intent of engineering the GMO mosquitoes is to ultimately reduce the threatening population. I am sorry, though, genetically modifying the composition of life itself to address our problems is not an acceptable approach.
We are not God, not the universe, and we are absolute neophytes in our understanding of our world and its complex interrelationships. I trust no man or woman to act in such a capacity, altering the very design of earth’s creatures.
This is not science. It’s a crap shoot.
Tampering with the genetics of life on this earth is dangerous business. We really have no idea what the ultimate ramifications are or could be. Nor will we know the broad answers to that question in the space of a season, or a year, or ten years.
This is not Oxitec’s first foray into such experimentation. From 2013 to 2015, they released 450,000 GMO mosquitoes every week in the vicinity of Jacobina, Brazil. The results from that experiment were touted as successful, but are, in fact, unclear, when you consider a Yale study that raised questions about the unintended results of the experiment. Of course, Oxitec rebutted such concerns, and what do you know, here we are getting ready to do it again.
I imagine that when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of your investors, it helps to grease the skids.
Beyond the unknown impacts of these experiments, it is also disturbing to ponder the notion that once you get comfortable modifying plants, and then mosquitoes, bats, and who knows what else, how long will it be before they come to genetically modify You for whatever purposes?
It’s just not that hard to imagine a government somewhere applying that kind of technology in more disturbing ways. Even as we read about the GMO mosquitoes, we learn that China is amassing a vast database of DNA information, sending its police out to collect blood samples from its male population, including children.
At the same time, worldwide, many people have, in the course of a few short months, learned to desire wide scale testing, clamor for a vaccine, and accept the idea of contact tracing.
It is just not that great a leap to imagine GMO being put to unacceptable and unimaginably dangerous uses.
Conspiracies or not, entities like the Gates Foundation have their hand in all of this.
I trust no profiteering humans, no matter how benevolent the veneer may be polished, to mess around with life in such a fashion.
In the midst of the myriad urgent issues facing our nation and world, we lately learn the Trump administration is taking time to broaden rules regarding the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska. They are revising public land rules to allow the hunting of bears and their cubs in their dens. Oh, and wolves and their pups as well. The new rules also allow for shooting caribou from motorboats and for the baiting of bears.
I find these rules depraved on every level, but, hey, it makes for great sport, huh?
I am still having trouble getting my head around this. Who, exactly, really wants this? What constituency is pushing for such barbaric rules? And should we not perhaps be concerned about them?
The National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service maintain that the broadening of the federal rules to accommodate such outright cruelty more closely aligns with state law.
Hunters and tribal groups reportedly support the changes. For hunters, I question what exactly is sporting about killing animals and their babies in their homes. Tribal arguments about subsistence hunting wear thin as well. Subsistence concerns might be better aimed at simply securing the planet we live on before searching out bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens to slaughter.
Of course this is just a drop in the ocean of maneuvers the administration has made to ensure that we are able to pillage every last thread of life on this earth, but it is especially disturbing in its utter savagery.
What kind of people are we? What kind of animals are we?
the naturalist approaches, his hand splayed out in front of us showing four distinct pieces of a porcupine’s scat. he urges us to keep an eye on the trees. we all scan the forest as if the porcupine is right there waiting. the forest looks back at us. later, the naturalist points to the cocoon of a gypsy moth. with a low hum of concern, the group presses close, muttering we’ll know what to look for then. we stop again when the naturalist finds the rotting corpse of a porcupine overhung with thin naked branches, the black and dirty white of its quills stark against the leavings of winter. the group moves on but I stay and look. a man stays, too, silent. finally, he leans down and reaches in. he plucks a quill from the dead porcupine and puts it in his pocket. he looks at me and says, do you want one, too?