Of late, I’ve been under the spell of the Mongolian film-maker Byambasuren Davaa. She has made three movies: The Story of the Weeping Camel, The Cave of the Yellow Dog, and The Two Horses of Genghis Khan (Das Lied von den Zwei Pferden). I’ve only seen the first two of Byambasuren’s movies, the last was not released in the US. Her movies are a fascinating blend of fiction and documentary; the actors, humans and non-human, are themselves, they don’t even play themselves, they live their own lives but there is a movie camera and a story that they act in. Sometimes they think of the camera for a split second, as real people would do Continue reading “Pastoralist Propaganda”
This is Bunny, the newest member of my animal family. He lost his mama somehow so I’ve adopted him. He is awfully cute and fuzzy, but still I wish I didn’t have to adopt him. Continue reading “Sharing Well-being”
What is true and real and what makes it so? Why is it that the only kind of science we know depends on math for its truth-claims and our math is (as far as I know) strictly quantitative? Continue reading “Qualitative”
anthropomorphic: ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity. – – Dictionary.com
I’m at mass in a Catholic church: a beautiful, modern church filled with flowers, warm wood panelling and richly colored stained glass. Continue reading “Anthropomorphic”
Bill Parke of Blackview Farm, a pasture-based livestock farm that uses rotational grazing and Holistic Management practices, was nice enough to sit down with me and talk for a bit about the farming life. Continue reading “Life All Around: The Joys and Challenges of Small Farming with Bill Parke & Blackview Farm”
Who defines what an animal is? Is an animal rational or irrational? Are the animals inside of us or outside? Descartes wondered how they were different from machines. Continue reading “Actual Animals”
George Monbiot, the acclaimed British writer, recently wrote a review of the book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change in which he points out the many disturbing social, political, and economic trends that seem to be making us less able to deal with climate change than more so. But there is a way out, he says: “Over the past few years, there has been a convergence of findings in different sciences: psychology, anthropology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Research in all these fields points to the same conclusion: that human beings are, in the words of an article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, “spectacularly unusual when compared to other animals”. This refers to our astonishing degree of altruism. We possess an unparalleled sensitivity to the needs of others, a unique level of concern about their welfare, and a peerless ability to create moral norms that generalise and enforce these tendencies.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/09/george-monbiot-how-de-we-get-out-of-this-mess
Now George Monbiot is a good, trying kind of person, very urbane and a fine writer, but it amazes me how he (and we in general) constantly have to pat ourselves on the back about how amazing we are. We have being doing this obsessively since the Renaissance. Can we not give it a rest already? Are are so insecure that we constantly have to pump ourselves up?
I don’t know what kind of experiments led to these findings of our extreme specialness but I can just about guarantee that they were all designed with human capacities in mind. We don’t know enough about the emotional life of other animals to begin to measure their altruism. In my experience most cows are kinder to each other than most humans. But we can barely see them as emotional beings. And this is a problem, because if we can only see ourselves we can’t see the inherent value of non-human beings.
Monbiot goes on to talk about how the way out of our downward spiral is to rebuild community and connection, and I am not arguing with that at all. Rebuilding local communities and social connections among humans is critical, but in order for it to really work we need to see beyond the purely human realm into the life of the places where we live, and all of the non-human lives that are an inherent and necessary part of those places.