Most of my posts about the state of the world today tend to be, well, negative (and I so dislike that). That’s because human events, the trend of our actions over thousands of years, have been so negative, selfish and destructive to this planet we call home. The first quarter to third of my novel, Opalescence, is one prediction of this sad trend taken to its logical conclusion.
Yet, of late, something else is afoot. Beneath the tide of bad news, there is developing a strong undercurrent that is flowing in the opposite direction. And though the tide has much momentum behind it, so much history and infrastructure built to sustain it, this new undercurrent is strong and is poised to overwhelm the tide.
On this page I want to collect some of these positive movements. What makes them exciting is that these are not merely random, one-off events, but represent, via disparate avenues, general trends of people in action. Taken together, they appear to refect a change of mind in our collective unconscious.
As a species, we truly are at a crossroads. There’s so much that needs fixing in a short amount of time. Which path we take will determine the future, not only for ourselves and our descendants, but the future of life itself on earth.
“Several years after allegations that it abused and neglected orcas at its theme parks, SeaWorld continues to see declining profits and attendance – a trend that some say speaks to a broader shift in public attitudes toward animals.
“The company, whose third-quarter profits fell short of analysts’ forecasts, is one of a number of United States businesses – including circuses, zoos, and grocery stores – facing consumer pressure to curb what Americans increasingly see as unfair treatment of animals. The push comes amid growing public awareness of both animals’ level of consciousness and humans’ widespread impact on the environment.
“There’s a larger interest in what’s going on for other animals … [and] the ways that we’re changing the planet,’ says Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy and co-coordinator of Wesleyan Animal Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. ‘People have questioned what kind of relationship we want to have with other animals….’”
Update: see Why SeaWorld Is Finally Doing Right By Orcas
Another: after nearly 150 0f animal mistreatment, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is finally closing shop.
“How the circus treats it animals — especially elephants and big cats — has long been a focus for groups like the Humane Society of the U.S and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They see it as part of a larger change going on in this country — about how Americans view animals and the way we treat them….
“In announcing the end, Feld Entertainment chairman Kenneth Feld acknowledged the decades of conflict with animal welfare groups. But he said the decision was made because of declining attendance and a change in public taste. ‘Yes, people no longer have a taste for that kind of entertainment,’ [Peta’s Lisa] Lange said. ‘But we believe it’s because they now know what that kind of entertainment costs those animals….'”
“‘It’s happening across the economy. It’s happening across our culture,’ said Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society. He believes a major change is going on in how Americans view animal welfare issues. ‘We’re really seeing a rising tide of consciousness when it comes to the treatment of animals.'”
“Animal welfare groups have seen success in many other areas as well. In the last few years, major pork producers have eliminated confinement pens for pregnant sows. Egg producers have also begun getting rid of cages for their chickens. Pacelle says some of this has been accomplished through legislation. In other cases, change has been pushed by retailers like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart.
“‘In most cases, companies are now adapting,’ he said. ‘They’re simply changing the way they do business to reflect a growing consciousness about animals and wringing the animal cruelty out of the business model.’….
“Pacelle cites a powerful example — the death of Cecil the lion. For years, the Humane Society worked to stop trophy hunting of lions, elephants and other big game with limited success. But two years ago, when a Minnesota dentist killed a lion in Zimbabwe named Cecil, the story went viral. One brave Zimbabwean activist got a hold of the image of the grinning hunters over the slain lion and, within 24 hours, more than a billion people had seen it. Soon, all the major air carriers had agreed to ban shipment of lion, elephant, rhino and other large animal trophies worldwide.”
“’We find no evidence that there is a need to continue to do research of an invasive sort on chimpanzees, not now and not going into the future,’ Dr. Collins said…. To date, the N.I.H. has retired 183 of its chimpanzees to a federally funded sanctuary in Louisiana called Chimp Haven. The agency said it planned to send an additional 308 chimpanzees, including the last 50 research chimps, to the sanctuary.”
On the horrific business of killing animals for their fur:
“‘I am pleased to announce that the Armani Group has made a firm commitment to abolish the use of animal fur in its collections,’ Armani said. ‘Technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposal that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals…. Pursuing the positive process undertaken long ago, my company is now taking a major step ahead, reflecting our attention to the critical issues of protecting and caring for the environment and animals.'”
“‘We could not be more grateful to the leadership the Armani brand has shown, and we hope this action will strongly influence the rest of the high-end fashion industry.'” – Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation.
On the food front there is A Seismic Shift in How People Eat
“IT’S easy to make fun of people in big cities for their obsession with gluten, or chia seeds, or cleanses.
“But urbanites are not the only ones turning away from the products created by big food companies. Eating habits are changing across the country and food companies are struggling to keep up.
“General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft declared it was dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey’s will begin to move away from ingredients such as the emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to “simple and easy-to-understand ingredients” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar….
“For legacy food companies to have any hope of survival, they will have to make bold changes in their core product offerings. Companies will have to drastically cut sugar; process less; go local and organic; use more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods; and develop fresh offerings.”
“Although the feat has yet to be certified by Guinness World Records, Indian officials have reported that volunteers planted a whopping 49.3 million tree saplings on July 11, blowing past the previous record for most trees planted in a single day.
“That record, a mere 847,275 trees, was set by Pakistan in 2013.
“A reported 800,000 volunteers from Uttar Pradesh worked for 24 hours planting 80 different species of trees along roads, railways, and on public land. The saplings were raised on local nurseries.
“The effort is part of the commitment India made at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015. In the agreement, signed on Earth Day 2016, India agreed to spend $6 billion to reforest 12 percent of its land (bringing total forest cover to 235 million acres by 2030, or about 29 percent of the country’s territory)”.
On taking action against deliberate environmental destroyers:
“The systemic crimes committed under the guise of ‘development’ are no less damaging to victims than many wartime atrocities… The ICC [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor has sent a clear message that such offences may amount to crimes against humanity and can no longer be tolerated.”
“Google is getting a lot smarter about how much electricity it uses.
“The internet goliath is now using its DeepMind artificial intelligence technology ― the same one that recently trounced one of the world’s best human players of the notoriously difficult game “Go” ― to cut electricity bills at its energy-guzzling data centers. Using DeepMind algorithms, researchers found more efficient ways to distribute electricity throughout Google’s vast network of servers, which make up about 5 percent of the cloud, the digital backbone of the internet.
“The company wrote in a blog post Tuesday the machine learning helped it cut energy used for cooling by 40 percent, translating to a 15 percent decrease in overall power usage.”
“In a landmark moment for renewable energy, Hornsdale Power Reserve, featuring the world’s largest lithium ion battery, was launched today by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and Neoen Deputy CEO Romain Desrousseaux. This means that, for the first time, clean and affordable wind energy can be dispatched to the grid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether the wind is blowing or not, improving system reliability.” From Charged up and ready – as renewable energy to be delivered around the clock.
Here’s a big one: Renewables now account for 30% of the world’s power generation
Though hydroelectric currently makes up the bulk of it, “wind and solar PV have witnessed an explosive average annual growth of 23% and 50% respectively“. Yay! Go alternatives!
Rather than the usual bottom up scenario, where NGOs struggle to motivate a complacent and monolithic power structure, there is also a new urgency coming from the top down, as there should be. In a recent speech on climate change, this statement from President Obama caught my eye:
“we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.”
Pope Francis’ in his comprehensive Laudato si’ ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME (May 24, 2015), says:
“Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures….The Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism.”
Says IPCC scientist Chris Field
“With a high enough priority, societies or even the world community can do amazing things. But amazing accomplishments require amazing efforts.”
What do you say? Can we do it? I think we can.
Here’s one vision of how that different future could look.