More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Animals: Climate Change’s Other Victims
by Bruce Roney, President & CEO, Ottawa Humane Society
Aug 27, 2020

Lately, I find the news exceedingly depressing: so many stories of illness, death and destruction. Adding to the long list of heartbreaking news in 2020 has been the long-expected catastrophes caused by climate change. As I write this, two hurricanes are headed toward landfall in the U.S. one, Marco, has been downgraded, but the second, Laura, is being described as “unsurvivable.” It occurs to me that if humans won’t survive it, neither will animals. Just last January, Australia’s bushfires were estimated to have caused the deaths of over one billion animals.

Well beyond the horrific images of burned Koalas and starving polar bears, the effects of climate change on animals is profound. Here are just a few examples:

  • Hurricanes generate strong winds that can completely defoliate forest canopies and cause dramatic structural changes in wooded ecosystems. Animals can either be killed by hurricanes or impacted indirectly through changes in habitat and food availability caused by high winds, storm surge and intense rainfall. They destroy bird nests, kill hatchlings and disrupt bird migrations — leading to death.
  • Warming temperatures are driving many species to move to higher latitudes in search of cooler temperatures; however many are already at their northern limits. Animals such as caribou, snowy owl and arctic fox cannot move further and are consequently losing their natural habitat.
  • Warmer temperatures allow insects, such as ticks, to migrate to new areas. Disease that was never experienced before can spread to humans and animals, including the family dog.
  • Warmer temperatures cause greater winter precipitation, which can affect many species. Increasing precipitation means deeper snow, which can make it difficult for animals like deer and elk to forage for food.
  • The warming of waters causes the loss of vegetation and coral, which impacts the sea life that requires vegetation as a food source, and breaks the food chain for animals and people who rely on sea life to survive.
  • As humans seek refuge during natural disasters, sometimes they are forced to make the unimaginable decision to leave their companion animal behind — possibly to die.

For me, the challenge is that I don’t always know what to do about the climate crisis. I believe in individual action and its importance, but the scale of the calamities and their causes simply seems too big for individuals to confront. Mostly, it probably is. Only governments truly have the ability to make the massive changes that will be required to save the planet and its human and animal inhabitants.

So, maybe I do know what I can do — what we all can do. We can demand government action on climate change. And we can vote.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I agree, @Daniel.

Not only are we killing ourselves and creating a scenario where our children and grandchildren will grow up having to cope with pollution, extreme weather conditions, loss of food supplies, hunger/starvation, and disease, but we are also condemning many other life forms on our planet to extinction.

Our descendants deserve better. And the other species which inhabit this planet deserve better.

Daniel E.
Re: Animals: Climate Change's Other Victims

If you are under 34, you have never experienced a month of below average temperatures
The Guardian
9 Oct 2019

If you are less than 43 years old you have never experienced a year with below average temperatures.

If you are under 34 you have not even experienced a month of below-average global temperatures -– because the last such month was February 1985, and even that was a bit of an oddity as it was just the second such month in six years.

Even if you are 65 years old and ready for retirement, 79% of your life has been spent in a world with above-average temperatures.

Daniel E.
Re: Animals: Climate Change's Other Victims

Scientific American backs Biden for its first presidential endorsement in 175 years
The Washington Post

September 15, 2020

The October issue of Scientific American will carry what has never been seen in the magazine’s pages in 175 years: a presidential endorsement.

In an urgent and impassioned editorial first published online Tuesday, the editorial board endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, calling him the candidate “who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment.”

It was a striking move for the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States and one its editor in chief, Laura Helmuth, said was both carefully considered and entirely necessary. (Helmuth previously worked as The Washington Post’s science editor.)

Four years ago, the magazine flagged Donald Trump’s disdain for science as “frightening” but did not go so far as to endorse his rival, Hillary Clinton. This year, its editors came to a different conclusion.

"A 175-year tradition is not something you break lightly," Helmuth told The Post on Tuesday. "We'd love to stay out of politics, but this president has been so anti-science that we can't ignore it."

..."The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people -- because he rejects evidence and science," the endorsement reads, citing his push to eliminate health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, his rejection of stricter air pollution standards and his continued denial of climate change...
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Daniel E.
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Daniel E.

...The devaluation of animals and disconnection of us from them reflect a deeper devaluation of the material universe in general. In this scheme of things, we owe nature nothing; it is to yield us everything. This is the ideology of species annihilation and environmental destruction, and also of technological development...

Our supposed fundamental distinction from “beasts, “brutes” and “savages” is used to divide us from nature, from one another and, finally, from ourselves. In Plato’s “Republic,” Socrates divides the human soul into two parts. The soul of the thirsty person, he says, “wishes for nothing else than to drink.” But we can restrain ourselves. “That which inhibits such actions,” he concludes, “arises from the calculations of reason.” When we restrain or control ourselves, Plato argues, a rational being restrains an animal.

In this view, each of us is both a beast and a person — and the point of human life is to constrain our desires with rationality and purify ourselves of animality. These sorts of systematic self-divisions come to be refigured in Cartesian dualism, which separates the mind from the body, or in Sigmund Freud’s distinction between id and ego, or in the neurological contrast between the functions of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

I’d like to publicly identify this dualistic view as a disaster, but I don’t know how to refute it, exactly, except to say that I don’t feel myself to be a logic program running on an animal body; I’d like to consider myself a lot more integrated than that. And I’d like to repudiate every political and environmental conclusion ever drawn by our supposed transcendence of the order of nature. I don’t see how we could cease to be mammals and remain ourselves.

There is no doubt that human beings are distinct from other animals, though not necessarily more distinct than other animals are from one another. But maybe we’ve been too focused on the differences for too long. Maybe we should emphasize what all us animals have in common.

Our resemblance to squirrels doesn’t have to be interpreted as a threat to our self-image. Instead, it could be seen as a hopeful sign that we will someday be better at tree leaping.
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Daniel E.

Future Sacred: The Connected Creativity of Nature

[This book, Future Sacred] reveals how our survival depends on embracing complexity consciousness and relating to nature and all life as sacred

• Rejects the “survival of the fittest” narrative in favor of sacred symbiosis, creative cooperation, interdependence and complex thinking

• Provides examples from complexity studies, cultural history, philosophy, indigenous spirituality, biomimicry, and ecology to show how nature’s intelligence and creativity abound everywhere

• Documents how indigenous cultures lived in relative harmony with nature because they perceived themselves as part of the “ordered whole” of all life

In Future Sacred, Julie J. Morley offers a new perspective on the human connection to the cosmos by unveiling the connected creativity and sacred intelligence of nature. She rejects the “survival of the fittest” narrative--the idea that survival requires strife--and offers symbiosis and cooperation as nature’s path forward. She shows how an increasingly complex world demands increasingly complex consciousness. Our survival depends upon embracing “complexity consciousness,” understanding ourselves as part of nature, as well as relating to nature as sacred.

Morley begins by documenting how indigenous cultures lived in relative harmony with nature because they perceived themselves as part of the “ordered whole” of all life--until modernity introduced dualistic thinking, thus separating mind from matter, and humans from nature. The author deconstructs the fallacy behind social and neo-Darwinism and the materialist theories of “dead matter” versus those that offer a connection with the sentient mind of nature. She presents evidence from complexity studies, cultural history, philosophy, indigenous spirituality, biomimicry, and ecology, highlighting the idea that nature’s intelligence and creativity abound everywhere--from cells to cetaceans, from hydrogen to humans, from sunflowers to solar panels--and that all sentient beings contribute to the evolution of life as a whole, working together in sacred symbiosis.

Morley concludes that our sacred future depends on compassionately understanding and integrating multiple intelligences, seeing relationships and interdependence as fundamental and sacred, as well as honoring the experiences of all sentient beings. Instead of “mastery over nature,” we must shift toward synergy with nature--and with each other as diverse expressions of nature’s creativity.
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