Rekindle Your Wild Joy and Deep Belonging to the Earth

Thoreau’s town bans single-use plastic bottles! January 30, 2013

Thoreau's town bans single-use plastic bottles!

Some very excellent news! Here we see a political action in service of the health of both people and our environment. And what a perfect place to do it: the hometown of Henry David Thoreau.

Thank you, Concord, Mass, for carrying on his legacy of visionary activism.

This action will mean less plastic building up the Pacific Garbage Patch, an island of garbage floating in the sea; cleaner groundwater in Massachusetts’ landfills, and healthier people who won’t be drinking water out of these as much, or breathing air polluted by manufacturing and transport of these unnecessary plastic bottles.

For a link to a Huffington Post article that provides more details, click the picture (the admirable work of missionpraxis).

Manufacturers of reuseable bottles, now is your chance! Sales will be increasing. Please make your wares sturdy, non-toxic, and beautiful. It’s nice to own such possessions worthy of long-term respect, instead of those intended from their birth for thoughtless insto-disposal.

Ah, it’s a good day.


Weird animal news: shark falls on golf course October 27, 2012

Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark

And in today’s weird news… an osprey protest?

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (AP) – “Nobody yelled “Fore!” at a Southern California golf course when a 2-foot-long shark dropped out of the sky and flopped around on the 12th tee.”

The 2-pound leopard shark was apparently plucked from the ocean by a bird then dropped on San Juan Hills Golf Club, said Melissa McCormack, director of club operations.

“Down with golf courses! Bring back the wetlands!” the osprey was heard to think. (Okay, no, I made that part up.)

Still, can you imagine being there? Talk about a golf hazard!

This incident reminds me of the wonderful collection of weird phenomena collected by Charles Fort. His books, compiled in the early 20th century, center on exhaustively documented ‘puzzling evidence.’  These run the gamut from events of Biblical proportion like sudden plagues of locusts or rains of blood, and what would today be called UFO phenomena, to small surrealistic moments like this one.

The best part of this story is that the golf course workers managed to save the little shark’s life! One noticed it and took it to their office, where they quickly stuck it in a bucketful of water. Then they suddenly remembered, hey, this is a SALT water creature. So they mixed in some table salt (!) and transported the shark to the ocean. He initially just sat there, stunned, but then flipped his fin and swam off.

Read more from  Shark Falls From Sky Onto California Golf Course


P.S.: There are many kinds of sharks. The one we usually think of, thanks to the movie Jaws, is the Great White shark (pictured grinning below). Leopard sharks (pictured above) are much smaller and sleeker in design, and their skin features cute spots.

Another big difference is that leopard sharks have not acquired a taste for human flesh. However, just to set the record straight, given the choice, Great Whites will overwhelmingly choose other fare too. Apparently, we just aren’t the choicest dish in the sea. (I don’t know about you, but knowing this brings me a combo of relief and petulant wondering why not.)


Rat Empathy January 24, 2012

It will be no surprise to readers of Indigenize! what Univ. of Chicago researchers found in their most recent rodent study, published December 9, 2011 in Science.

According to Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, one of the co-researchers, it turns out that rats will spend a lot of time and energy figuring out how to open a cage if they see another rat trapped in it.

In fact, if faced with two cages, they’d choose to free their pals just as often as they’d choose to open a cage full of delicious chocolate for themselves. Now *that’s* compassionate action! The freedom of their friend was as just sweet to them as a big hoard of chocolate chips.

Further, even when the rats got the chocolate, they weren’t stingy with it. In more than half the trials, rescuer rats left some chocolate to share with the newly freed. Researchers were surprised by this rodent kindness or perhaps shared celebratory meal. Bartal says, “The most shocking thing is they left some of the chocolate for the other rat. …It’s not like they missed a chocolate. They actually carried it out of the restrainer sometimes but did not eat it.”

This was not the first time such an experiment had been done; not by a long shot. Stéphan Reebs reported in the October 2007 issue of Natural History reported on a study done at the University of Bern, Switzerland in which researchers Claudia Rutte and Michael Taborsky trained rats to pull a lever that gave food to a rat in a neighboring cage. These rats were then placed either next to other helpful, lever-pulling rats’ cages or near those untrained to be generous in that way. On the sixth day, they discovered that

“…rats that had been paired with helpful neighbors were, on average, 21 percent more likely to pull a lever for a new neighbor they had never encountered than were test rats paired with unhelpful neighbors. What’s more, the rats could distinguish between strangers and former benefactors. In another experiment, test rats that encountered a rat that had given them food earlier were—not 21 percent—but 51 percent more likely to return the favor. Notably, Rutte and Taborsky studied only female rats. No word on whether males would be equally obliging.”

Similar empathetic behavior has long been observed in other animals as well. Franz de Waal’s brilliant work Peacemaking Among Primates comes immediately to mind, as does the chapter about animals in the “Anarchist Prince” Pyotr Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. Not to mention all those videos on YouTube.

What do such studies prove? Scientists now state it’s plausible these rats demonstrated “empathically motivated pro-social behavior.” The same behavior exhibited in people would generally be called helpfulness and even kindness or compassion. In the Swiss study, we also see how empathy begets more empathy; kind actions spread and come back to benefit the generous. University of Chicago neurobiologist Peggy Mason said, “Rats help other rats in distress. That means it’s a biological inheritance. That’s the biological program we have.”

So we can read into this finding a very important message for the currently dominant culture: Collaboration is hardwired into us as animals. Not cold, me-first, gotta win and get mine and the hellwithyou competition, but cooperation and collaboration. It’s NOT “survival of the fittest,” as ‘social Darwinists’ Thomas Malthus and Herbert Spencer mutated the message to be. It’s as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace themselves originally observed: “survival of the FIT,” meaning those who best adapt to the situations in which they find themselves. Both anthropological studies and game theory statistically show that cooperatively working together creates the most likely conditions for long-term survival.

You can read more about the U of Chicago rat study in this accessible report by Laura Sanders in the Dec. 31, 2011 issue of Science News:  He’s no rat; he’s my brother

Rat liberation: gotta love it.  I’ll end by saying that if we have to do studies on our kindred in other kinds of bodies, I like this trend of doing studies that involve the animals as themselves, instead of merely as test items for some product.


No Witch Tax November 3, 2010

Elections having just ended here, the outcomes that both please and distress us are naturally on our minds. But even California’s Shakespearean machinations for gleaning shekels from the pockets of the people can’t compare to what just happened in Romania.

According to the AP, the country is desperately seeking new sources of revenue. They’ve raised sales taxes and slashed the wages of public servants (sound familiar?) Nevertheless, the Romanian Senate recently rejected one revenue-enhancing proposal – namely, a proposal to regulate and tax witches and fortune-tellers.

The bill, introduced by by lawmakers Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu of the ruling party, would require witches and fortune tellers to produce receipts for their professional services. Wait, there’s more: from now on, they would also be held financially liable for wrong predictions!

A famous Romanian witch, Maria Campina, told the media that practitioners’ erratic income from these endeavors would make record-keeping difficult.

This is likely true. But the bill’s sponsor Popoviciu thinks that the opposition actually arose not out of enforcement concerns but from lawmakers who were afraid of having curses and spells put upon them.

<<<…and Margaret Hamilton’s cackle echoes throughout the land…>>>

Not a bad strategy, eh? Wonder if we could get our corporate raiders to fear spells?


I was first alerted about this newsworthy item by Chuck Shepherd’s most excellent column, News of the Weird. Each month, Shepherd collects legit but odd news items from the mainstream press and offers them as excerpts. (Yes, I did search, and easily confirmed this piece with original sources.) I read NotW in my favorite newspaper, Funny Times, to which I subscribe. Sometimes it comes quite late and rather wrinkled: I suspect that the post office workers are having their way with it before it reaches my box. But that’s okay. They likely need it, and besides, I’m saving my curses for the truly worthy.