Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stop Whale Captivity: Killer Whale kills another trainer at Seaworld

Another death of a trainer at Seaworld in Orlando today by the killer whale named Tilikum. Isn't it time we realize that holding these massive, migratory creatures in tanks that amount to the size of a small fish bowl to them, is insanity? Not to mention cruelty of the highest order? How many deaths do we need to get the message? This particular whale has been linked to the deaths of three people. Logan Scherer posted this on the PETA blog about the incident. I join them in calling for an end to abusive animal treatment and in particular to these captive whale and dolphin shows that make for wretched lives for these animals that can lead to tragic consequences:

Earlier this afternoon, another trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando was killed after being pulled into the tank by an orca named Tilikum (or Telly, for short). According to a witness, the whale, who has been involved in two previous fatal incidents involving human beings and who our captive wildlife director, Debbie Leahy, describes as "12,300 pounds of sheer rage," leapt out of the tank and grabbed the trainer by the waist, pulled her into the water, threw her around like a rag doll, and then held her underwater until she drowned. SeaWorld officials canceled the dolphin and whale shows for the rest of the day, but SeaWorld remains open (have they no shame?!) and will continue to exploit and abuse these captive animals despite the many horrific injuries and deaths of trainers and animals that have occurred throughout the theme park's history.

PETA has long been asking SeaWorld to stop taking wild, ocean-going mammals from their families and ocean homes and confining them with no semblance of a life to an area that, to them, is the size of a bathtub. No wonder these huge, intelligent animals, like the beaten elephants in the Ringling Bros. circus, lash out after being forced into subservience and forced to perform stupid circus tricks for their food for so long. For years, PETA has been calling on SeaWorld to switch to hugely popular robotic replacements like those used in the amazing "Walking With the Dinosaurs" exhibit. The public needs to stand up now against this cruelty and stop patronizing aquariums and whale and dolphin shows. Please join us in saying, "Enough!" ~ Posted by Logan Scherer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New York Times: Obituary for Rex Nettleford

I was glad to see today that the New York Times published an obituary for Rex Nettleford:

Rex Nettleford, a Jamaican scholar, educator and choreographer who devoted his life to studying postcolonial Caribbean culture and in the process helped shape it, died in Washington on Feb. 2, one day before his 77th birthday.

The cause was catastrophic brain injury following cardiac arrest, Dr. Christopher Junker of the George Washington University Hospital said.

Mr. Nettleford was in Washington to participate in a meeting of experts charged by the United Nations with monitoring the state of racial discrimination around the world. He had been expected in New York for a Jan. 28 fund-raising event for the University of the West Indies, where he had worked for over half a century.

Although he was a trusted adviser to political leaders throughout the Caribbean and the driving force behind the University of the West Indies’ extramural studies department, which widened the institution’s reach by offering educational opportunities to the general population, Mr. Nettleford is perhaps best known as a founder of the National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica, which was established in 1962, the same year Jamaica gained independence from Britain.

Incorporating traditional West Indian music and dance forms like kumina, ska and reggae, Mr. Nettleford served as the choreographer and even in his later years remained a lead dancer of the troupe, which still tours internationally, exploring the unique blend of African and European influences that comprises Caribbean culture.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding of Jamaica called Mr. Nettleford “an intellectual and creative genius” whose “contribution to shaping and projecting the cultural landscape of the entire Caribbean region are unquestionable.”

Raised in the rural town of Falmouth in the parish of Trelawny, where he was born on Feb. 3, 1933, Mr. Nettleford enrolled in the University of the West Indies in Kingston and went on to earn a Rhodes scholarship to study political science at Oxford University.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rhodes Scholarships in 2003, Mr. Nettleford was one of four alumni presented with honorary degrees. In addition, the Rhodes Trust established the Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies.

Alister McIntyre, a classmate of Mr. Nettleford’s at Oxford whom he eventually succeeded as vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, recalled that Mr. Nettleford had never considered pursuing the opportunities available to him in England: “He had a one-track mind. For him returning to the Caribbean meant everything. He wanted to make contact with the wider population.” To that end, he founded and ran the Trade Union Education Institute, which offered free classes to agricultural and factory workers.

Shortly after returning from Oxford, Mr. Nettleford was chosen by Prime Minister Norman Washington Manley to undertake a serious study of the Rastafari movement, which had taken root in the slums of West Kingston and grown increasingly vocal in demanding repatriation to Africa. While Jamaican society considered the Rastas dangerous outcasts, the groundbreaking report written by Mr. Nettleford and his two colleagues, published in 1961, credited the movement with helping reconnect Jamaica with its African roots, calling it “a revitalizing force, albeit a discomforting and disturbing one.”

Mr. Nettleford’s field research among the Rastas informed his work with the dance troupe as well as his seminal 1969 study of Caribbean identity, “Mirror Mirror.” And his reframing of the Rastafari movement helped pave the way for the worldwide explosion of Rasta-inspired reggae music in the 1970s.

Mr. Nettleford was also influential in Unesco’s Slave Route Project, which studies the centrality of the slave trade in shaping the modern world.

He is survived by a sister.

“He was probably one of the most brilliant African thinkers of the last century,” said his friend and colleague Howard Dodson Jr., director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. “He was looking for ways to use his incredible intellectual gift to empower African people and to come to their defense and protection in a frequently hostile world.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

UK Climate Change Commercial - Spare the Kids Please!

I am all for raising awareness about the dangerous rise of CO 2 in the atmosphere, however, I was shocked and outraged by a story on EcoHearth today about a commercial which has been scaring children in the U.K. The commercial shows a father reading a bedtime story to his daughter, however the story reads more like a nightmare about rising sea levels and the loss of cities, etc. The ad is put on by a U.K. government department with the goal of educating people about the need to reduce carbon emissions.
This ad is unconscionable scare mongering in my opinion and it is reaching and scaring the least prepared people to deal with this: children. If we want to teach children about the environment (as we should), there are appropriate and much more effective ways of doing it than scaring them to death. Perhaps this ad is targeted to adults, however, just the scene of a nightmarish “bedtime” story being told to a child is despicable and the Government of the United Kingdom, who is really behind this television ad, should be ashamed of itself. The UK Government has been forced to defend itself for the ad, however they seem to miss the point of the outrage. They think people don't like the ad because they don't believe in the science of climate change. I am sure that is not the case with educated viewers. The point is that this ad is just plain wrong in its method and style of delivery. Why did they have to target a child in this ad? Whoever thinks that this is the right way to get across the message about climate change and lowering our carbon footprint, needs to go back to school to receive some serious environmental education training.

How do we educate children appropriately about the environment? One place to start is following the wise advice of notable environmental educator and writer, David Sobel. Sobel’s small book Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (Nature Literacy Series, Vol. 1) (Nature Literacy)  is a masterpiece of wisdom for any teachers, parents and communities interested in environmental education. Sobel notes that it is fine to educate adults with messages of the environment that show the destruction of rainforests and other disturbing images, as adults are developmentally prepared to receive and process this type information with necessary critical thinking skills. Children, on the other hand, are not prepared for this, and neither should they be expected to be ready to handle the saving of the planet at such young ages! Sobel says:
“Lurking underneath ‘environmentally correct’ curricula is the assumption that if children see the horrible things that are happening, that they too will be motivated to make a difference. But those images can have an insidious, nightmarish effect on young children whose sense of time, place, and self are still forming. Newspaper pictures of homes destroyed by California wildfires are disturbing to my seven-year-old New Hampshire daughter because she immediately personalizes them. “Is that fire near here? Will our house burn down? What if we have a forest fire?” she queries because for her, California is right around a psychic corner. What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds. . . Our problem is that we are trying to invoke knowledge, and responsibility, before we have allowed a loving relationship to flourish.”
Sobel has studied children’s relationship with the environment and recommends that there should be three stages of environmental education that follow the stages of development in children:
“At each of these stages, children desire immersion, solitude, and interaction in a close, knowable world. We take children away from these strength-giving landscapes when we ask them to deal with distant ecosystems and environmental problems. Rather, we should be attempting to engage children more deeply in knowing the flora, fauna, and character of their own local places. The woods behind the school and the neighborhood streets and stores are the places to start.”

Empathy between the child and the natural world should be main objective for children ages four through seven. As children begin their forays out into the natural world, we can encourage feelings for the creatures living there. Early childhood is characterized by a differentiation between the self and the other. Children feel implicitly drawn to baby animals; a child feels pain when someone else scrapes her knee. . . . Cultivating relationships with animals, both real and imagined, is one of the best ways to foster empathy during early childhood. Children want to run like deer, to slither along the ground like snakes, to be clever as a fox and quick like a bunny. There’s no need for endangered species here – there are more than enough common, everyday species to fill the lives of children.
Sobel goes on to indicate that “social action appropriately begins around age twelve and certainly extends beyond age fifteen. While woods, parks, and playgrounds are the landscapes of middle childhood, adolescents want to be downtown. As children start to discover the “self” of adolescence and feel their connectedness to society, they naturally incline toward wanting to save the world.”

It is my hope that there will be enough of an outcry to stop these horrible ads from showing on U.K. television stations. Even if they are targeting adults, some unknowing adults may think that it is appropriate to scare their children with these bedtime stories about environmental destruction. Don’t kids have enough burdens placed on them these days? Let kids be kids. Let them play in the garden, and the parks, let them develop relationships with beloved pets. Let them hear soothing, peaceful bedtime stories. Take them to the forest and let them play in the stream. Those early childhood days of play and discovery can never be given back to them.
If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.” ~ David Sobel

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jamaica loses a legend. Rest in Peace Rex Nettleford

One of Jamaica's greatest cultural icons, Rex Nettleford, passed away in Washington D.C. last night at the age of 76. He had suffered a heart attack last week. Jamaica has lost a legend. From the Jamaica Observer:

Last night, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who is in China on an official visit, expressed deep regret at Nettleford's passing.

"I am deeply saddened at the news, just received, of the passing of Professor Rex Nettleford," Golding said. "Jamaica and the entire world have lost an intellectual and creative genius, a man whose contribution to shaping and projecting the cultural landscape of the entire Caribbean region is unquestionable."

Added the prime minister: "Rex Nettleford was an international icon, a quintessential Caribbean man, the professor, writer, dancer, manager, orator, critic, and mentor. He has left a void in our world that will be a challenge to fill."

Nettleford, he said, "stamped his indelible mark in every chosen field of endeavour and his rich and lasting legacy should be preserved for those who must carry on his life's work -- the emancipation of the Caribbean colonial mind from mental slavery in its quest for identity".

Golding extended, on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, condolences to Nettleford's family, the UWI community, the members of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which Nettleford founded and led for almost 50 years, his colleagues and friends.

Ralston Milton 'Rex' Nettleford was born on February 3, 1933 in Falmouth, Trelawny.

He was a professor of Extra Mural Studies at the University of the West Indies and also headed the Trade Union Education Institution.

As a Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Oxford University and has authored a number of books, among them Mirror Mirror, Manley and the New Jamaica, The African Connexion, In Our Heritage, and Caribbean Cultural Identity: the case of Jamaica.

Nettleford was known as much for his involvement in the arts as his immeasurable contribution to academia.

For the entire life of the NDTC he was its driving force. Through his guidance and influence the group won international acclaim and is regarded as one of the best dance ensembles in the world.

He was cultural adviser to the prime minister, member of the Inter-American Committee on Culture, founding governor of the Canada-based International Development Research Centre, and had acted as expert/consultant to the government of Ghana, FESTAC, CARIFESTA and UNESCO.

He is the recipient of Jamaica's third highest honour, the Order of Merit, as well as the gold Musgrave Medal, the Pelican Award from the UWI Guild of Graduates, an honorary doctor of Humane letters from the University of Hartford and the Living Legend Award from the Atlantic Black Arts Festival.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day

The groundhogs definitely see their shadows today on this bright sunny Oregon day. We had the 3rd warmest January on record in Portland (thanks to the El Nino this year) and crocuses are in full bloom at the Elk Rock Gardens. Even some early Rhododendrons are blooming and many other trees and flowers are budding.