DON’T JUST DEPLORE, RESTORE!
Highest Form Of Cruelty Cynically Fixed, If Need Be.
Abstract: As Wikipedia puts it: “Cruelty can be described as indifference to suffering, and even positive pleasure in inflicting it. If this habit is supported by a legal or social framework, then it receives the name of perversion.” Several species disappear, each day. The biosphere has clearly entered its sixth great extinction, in 500 million years. And it’s caused by just one species, us.
Usually people evoke, a la Cousteau, the prospect of the sad, uninteresting world that their grandchildren will inherit to give themselves some moral spur to save the biosphere. This is a valid argument, at least to people who care about their grandchildren, real or imagined.
But there is a more fundamental moral question.
Is it CRUEL to be indifferent to the suffering of the biosphere? Is destroying the biosphere a perversion of the degeneracy of civilization that affects us? And if it is, why should we be surprised that this cruelty, once fully exercized and in great shape, does, of course, come out somewhere else, here, there, everywhere, to exert its horror on all things human?
There is a solution to the deterioration of the biosphere: restoration, on an industrial scale (you want to lower unemployment? Here you go!). Restoration does not mean just asking the Indians to save Asiatic Lions, the Chinese to save the Pandas, and Africans to be trampled by elephants. It means for the richest countries to take the burden directly, even more so.
To restore the biosphere is not just an esthetic and hedonistic necessity, but also a socio-economic necessity. Beyond this, restoring crucial elements of the life we are meant for, is a moral necessity, a psychological necessity, and even a neurobiological necessity.
The perverse society plutocracy is pushing on us is enabled by a loss of moral and common senses, both originating from cruelty against the biosphere.
(As I will hopefully explain in this and a companion essay.)
CAN THOSE WHO ATTACK MOTHER EARTH FEEL GOOD?
Cruelty against various species is often condemned. However, although great prayers evoking lofty principles are always good, they can also immunize against effective action, by replacing the humble, mitigating task by self satisfaction. The sad fate of individual animals should not be used to occult a much more ominous fate, the assault against life itself.
That assault is fundamentally immoral, and that immorality has drastic consequences. They lay at the bottom of the present socio-economic crises, as I will show in this essay, and the next.
Some will say:”Wait a minute, which moral system are you using? Certainly not Judeo-Christo-Islamism!” Ok, first there is no doubt that religions and moods such as found in the Indian sub-continent, all about the inter-connectivity of lives and life, have more expertise in their appreciation of the wealth of the biosphere. Spinoza and Schopenhauer, even Nietzsche, infused Indian thinking into their Western brew (since their thoughts are derivative, I will ignore them).
As my attack against Jainism below will show, I present as all encompassing a moral system closer to that of “First Nations“. I don’t know of a name for it, but it’s the simplest thing. Maybe I should call it paleolithic morality.
“Mores” means long term habits, ways of doing things, which have proven sustainable.
So morality is what works in the long run for the continuation of the human experience. Anything making human life unsustainable is immoral. Certainly the destruction of the biosphere qualifies as the ultimate immorality. Because without biosphere, man dies. And when everything dies everything, and everybody will suffer. And the indifference to that is the definition of cruelty.
Thus one can say that cruelty against various animals generalizes to a much higher form, CRUELTY AGAINST THE ENTIRE BIOSPHERE.
Instead of hounding businessmen who want to make a buck from the biosphere, much salvation, especially regarding the preservation of species, could be found, by carefully turning greed on its head.
Example: To save elephants, as a species, one should use their two greatest assets, and those are tourism (of course) and…ivory. Otherwise elephants will disappear, because common people need very good reasons to learn to manage their lives with up to 11 metric tons beasts around, those mountains of irascible flesh capable of charging at 40 km/h through rice paddies (yes, there is native rice in Africa).
Making the biosphere profitable, by investing in it, is a high moral calling.
And if it means unsavory means, so be it. After all, people are known to go to the euphemistically named “restroom” everyday. The biosphere may be a temple, but Aztec style, with lots of blood. Invest in the biosphere, as it is, avert your senses, if need be.
AUSTERITY DOES NOT WORK: DEPEND, SAYS THE BIOSPHERE!
Many ecologists have an anti-technology, anti-passion approach to the biosphere. They think AUSTERITY (that concept again) will solve it all. There is a Jainist side to them.
Jainism is the original version, 3,000 years old, of fanatical pacifism and ultra Buddhism. Its main idea, as practiced by its monks, is to have no dependency whatsoever. No dependency to love, even to their own parents. No dependency even to appreciating food, which is viewed only as a necessary fuel, as bland as possible. No dependency even to clothing, so they wear strictly none.
That works better in balmy India, rather than Siberia.
Jainism is superficially impressive. Its (naked) priests were already well known to pre-Socratic Greeks (who called them “gymnosophers“, that is the naked wise ones).
The silence of Greek philosophers is deafening. It’s not that the Greeks were afraid of nakedness: they exerted in the nude (gymnastics!). The Greeks could only feel that Jainism was mostly wrong. First because it denies the nature of Homo Sapiens, Earth’s ultimate predator. So it’s make belief. Even the rice the Jainist monks eat comes from violence. If Jainist monks want to be involved in absolutely no violence, they better stop eating. However, they would then commit violence against themselves. Jainism is a religion which tries to make us believe that lions can be angels, if they would just beg for grass and stop wearing clothing.
As a semi anecdote, Hitler wanted to be seen as a man of peace. That is the angle he found in Maynard Keynes’ “The Economic Consequences of Peace” (a German supremacy document that alleged that anything causing Germany umbrage was against peace!). So Hitler adopted the most sacred Jainist symbol, the Swastika (changing its red color to black, and putting the red around in a creative fit of his).
The fundamental intuitions of Jainism that we can just disconnect from the world, and that this is a good thing, are wrong, on both counts.
A baby depends upon love and adults, for years. All Jainists who ever existed started with love and dependency. Even Jesus had to acknowledge he needed a support system, when very little.
Of course one can deny co-dependency, and believe one is better than anybody else, that’s what the Nazis did, on an industrial scale. But that means one is either incapable of thinking correctly (co-dependency is a fact), or one hates all and any life. The Nazis proved both phenomena can happen at the same time (and Merkel is trying her best to demonstrate the same point again).
But that’s a mistake, austerity is anti-life, dependency the way, the biosphere is about exuberance, passion, experiments. Life is about the Red Queen Hypothesis (Alice asks the Red Queen why they are running the landscape does not move, and the queen explains they have to run, just to stay in place). Don’t go Jain on us, that’s what mussels do, and we are not mussels.
Life is all about maximum interdependence, no holds barred, it’s about bursting out of the biosphere, and death itself (French researchers just found that muscular stem cells keep the entire rebirth capability, 17 days after “death”, and out of one of these apparently dead cells, a million new ones could be born).
The most developed world should reintroduce dangerous megafauna. A new industry, another new way to fight unemployment (same as the old one, during eons passed, when the genus Homo was already the manager of life, at least on land).
THE SUFFERING MOON BEARS: YES, BUT HOW MUCH?
I had not heard of all the charms of Traditional Chinese Medicine. However Sherryn Groch revealed to me in “Raging Against Cages“ an industry that I never suspected existed: extracting bile from caged bears. One gram of bile sells for $20 (that is half the price of gold)… Here we have a piece of nature with a high market value. From the BBC’s China bear bile farms stir anger among campaigners:
“In a secretly shot video, a Chinese farmer holds up a bag of yellowish bile he has just extracted from a caged bear.
“Some Westerners say this is cruel – but I think the bears are making a contribution to mankind,” says the grinning man.
Animal welfare groups have recently stepped up their campaign to end the practice of milking bears for their bile, still legal in China. They say the animals suffer enormous physical and psychological pain.
But bear bile has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years and it is not proving easy to change habits formed over generations. Pharmaceutical companies that farm bears are also fighting back to protect their industry, in a public relations battle to win hearts and minds.”
Sherryn exhibits gruesome cases, which could clearly be outlawed for extreme cruelty against an advanced animal, the Asian Black Bear (“Moon Bears“).
Sun Bears, and the much larger Moon Bears, are tropical bears, all black, except for a big white crescent moon on their chests. Animals like these are part of the megafauna, and, as man replaces primary forest everywhere with furniture, palm plantations, asphalt, they are threatened with extinction.
Outlawing all and any bear farming is very honorable, at first sight, a bit like when Gandhi proclaimed that he did not want India to take part in World War Two. A honorable end: peace at any cost.
Never mind that if Hitler’s henchmen had their way, they would have stuffed the likes of Gandhi in an oven. If the means destroy the ends, are the ends worth pursuing?
Indeed, there is another side to the whole question. The Asian Black Bears are a “threatened” species. Yet, officially pharmaceutical companies in China hold 10,000! Some want to hold even more, and be listed on stock exchanges.
Says the BBC: “…. [a] company opened its doors to journalists – the BBC was not allowed in – to counter claims that its business is cruel.
Reporters were shown bears playing in a pit and others being milked for their bile by workers dressed in face masks and protective clothing. The bears appeared comfortable and unconcerned by the procedure.
At a news conference, company director Zhang Zhijun said making a hole in a bear’s abdomen was no different to “piercing people’s ears”.”
The notion that the pain can be so small should be judicially explored. If it is demonstrated, then the business ought to be tightly regulated, but kept legal. And I am going to explain why.
SAVE PRESTIGIOUS SPECIES BY CAGING THEM IF NECESSARY:
A few years back, a company asked for authorization to farm a nearly completely disappeared species of sea turtles. They intended to grow thousands, although only a few hundreds were left in the wild. As the mortality, in the wild, is more than one adult turtle for 1,000 baby turtles, from predation, it’s easy to save sea turtles, if one raise them on a farm. They were refused. (I did not follow the story after that.)
Generally conservation organizations make the silly argument that it is more important to save the environment, and that, if one saves the most prestigious species in captivity, people will be less motivated to save entire ecological system. (Merkel makes a similar argument: better a dead patient, pour encourager les autres.)
However this is exactly how the California Condor was saved. Instead of waiting for the South West USA to return to wilderness, state conservationists captured all the condors, and bred them in captivity. They are now back in the wild, over several states. (Still dying from lead pellets, though.)
I do think that one should encourage the (as non cruel as possible) farming of some species threatened by extinction presently (say some sea turtles, sharks, etc.). As is done with some saurians (there are highly successful crocodile farms; crocodiles in farms are so well nourished and content that they do not practice cannibalism, differently from their common practice in the grand outdoors.)
I do not mean one should kill dolphins, because they are good to eat. Japan should stop killing whales. One should draw the line somewhere, with sentient animals. (Although I have seen Africans butcher dolphins, as they have always done traditionally to feed themselves; they should be allowed to keep on doing so, under legal monitoring, as is done with “first nations” Arctic hunters and sea mammals).
The case of elephants is different: dolphins or whales are innocuous to humans, and do not live where people do, whereas elephants, who are as intelligent, need another reason to justify their encumbering existence, in the midst of humans, because they are very dangerous, if not carefully managed (that means half domesticated; wild elephants can be domesticated, they are that intelligent).
In general saving prestigious species helps to remind common people how prestigious the environments they came from, as a species, were. Thus reintroducing the prestigious species is conducive to re-introducing said environment. For example California is making efforts to be ecologically correct enough so that condors can survive. Little things, such as leaving enough carcasses.
THE GREATER CRIME: EXTINCTION.
There are three crimes often committed nowadays against the animal kingdom:
1) the cruelty to individual animals. (Princeton philosophy professor Singer has waxed lyrically, not to say rather grotesquely, on the subject, with the base, not to say deranged, argument that, since people are animals, animals are people. Or something akin to that.)
2) the cruelty to the biosphere, by amputating it of its species. If one thinks about it carefully, literally, etymologically speaking, exterminating a species is genocide (it kills genes!). Some will say I torture semantics, but, if one insists to torture the biosphere, the following will happen:
3) inuring ourselves to being cruel and devastating to the biosphere, and the termination of species. That will make the commission of genocide something normal. We will start with bugs, and, when we run out of bugs, we will treat human beings as we treated the bugs (yes, this is a reasoning similar to Singer’s, and Singer falls exactly in that pit, like the mammoth he is). Call that psychological inertia: commit cruelty here, consider it normal, carry it somewhere else.
2) and 3) are arguably higher category moral wrongs than the cruelty against individual creatures. It’s torture against creation itself.
Farming wild species may often be the way out. For example, saving rhinoceroses by large scale farming beats the disappearance of the species, anytime. As it turns out, rhinoceroses readily domesticate (they were even used militarily, because they are highly combative. ).
Farming wild species may also necessitate saving enormous areas of wilderness (say if one were raising elephants for ivory). Hunting ranches in Texas are said to have more of some subspecies of tigers than there are left in the wild.
Another example is Spanish fighting bulls used for corrida de toros. They constitute a breed of their own. To cultivate their ferocity, they are brought up wild. For human reasons (bullfighting is cruel, at least at some terminal point, for beast, and, or, man alike) corrida may well be outlawed (as it just was in Catalonia). Then the breed will certainly disappear.
In general species without any commercial interest whatsoever may well disappear. Better sell a sea turtle soup, than to see the species the soup is made from, disappear forever.
A related activity would be to displace threatened species to places where they would have much more room. My preferred example would be to transfer surplus zoo Amur leopards to Yukon national parks (reducing if need be the local mountain lions’ population).
In conclusion, developing commercial interests to save elements of the biosphere is not crime, but virtue and (short term) solution.
Reciprocally, preventing the rise of legitimate, lawful, well regulated businesses, augments even more the commercial value of organized crime, and is leading to the present disappearance of many species.
NO DANGEROUS LIFE WITHOUT HIGH INCENTIVES:
The main reason Asian Black Bears are eliminated is that they are very dangerous. They are known to attack people without provocation, viciously and lethally. As someone who got charged twice by black bears (in the American West), and had many all too close calls (as a solo mountain runner), I can testify that only lions I fear more (OK, I have never run among grizzlies, and did not try it when I could, fishing proved dangerous enough).
If Asians are not given very good pecuniary reasons to keep dangerous predators around, they simply will not. True there are lots of national parks in the USA, but they are mostly in the empty west, and the really dangerous predators, such as grizzlies, and the equivalent of tigers and lions, have long been eliminated. The progressive return of the wolf is highly resisted.
Large animals tend to be deadly. A small, 5 kilogram shark is not a problem. It is a problem when it is 100 times more massive. The lethality of some species calls to actively manage them, and thus to make them profitable to:
1) pay for said management.
2) give a considerable incentive for the population to live cautiously, if not dangerously.
Elephants in Sri Lanka constitute a particular subspecies. Under human pressure, they have quickly become smaller in the last two centuries. Without careful management, they are terrifying, and dangerous neighbors.
There are at least 5,000 elephants, there used to be 15,000 two centuries ago. They particularly like the rich alluvial plain, best for rice farmers and their families. Often girls come back from school and have to stop before getting home, terrified by a trumpeting band of irate multi tons quadrupeds in the distance. More than 100 elephants a year are killed to protect crops and houses. Their habitat is extremely fragmented.
An extensive government monitoring and teaching program, complete with frightening pachyderms at night with firecrackers, has established some modus vivendi. However, that program is expensive, and will survive if, and only if watching elephants can be turned into such a profitable tourist activity, that it pays for itself. Blatantly.
RESTORE NATURE AS IT EVOLVED TO BE. IN GIANT PARKS EVERYWHERE:
Speaking of elephants brings attention to the hypocrisy of much of the North Atlantic countries will be exposed. Large species related to elephants, mastodons and mammoths, used to roam present say NATO. Agreed, they were a threat. But also a resource. NATO now has the technology to enjoy the resource, and keep the threat in check.
There used to be mammoths, wooly rhinoceroses, and elks with antlers 3 meters across all over Europe. Men eliminated them all in the last 14,000 years. The extermination started with the (giant) Cave Bears, about 50,000 years ago. Thank the Neanderthals for that.
Up to 3,000 years ago, European Lions were still found in Western Europe. Aurochs survived until the 17C. Lions and tigers were still in the Caucasus-Caspian area up to very recently. The Atlas lion, a larger species, survived until the 20C. Poison nearly completely eliminated Brown Bears in Europe (the ancestors of American Grizzlies), and wolves (who are coming back, big time).
So is Europe going to show the way, and re-introduce what it used to enjoy? Real big dangerous animals? Experiments in France (reintroducing prehistoric horses and bison) show that nature becomes completely different, taking more the appearance of a park, like the African savannah park (for the same reason).
Homo sapiens has eliminated megafauna on most continents. Australia had many large animals (marsupial “lion”, marsupial “rhinoceros”). Men arrived by boats, killed them all. Ever since Australian ecology has been out of balance (in spite of dingoes to play predators).
Notice that the usual anti-idea that the climate fluctuations and attending vegetation change truly killed the megafauna do not hold for Australia: the extent of glaciation in Australia was rather reduced (to put it ironically). Verily, it’s the other way around. It is likely that killing (most of the) megafauna changed the vegetation, and maybe even the climate.
Exterminating “lions” allowed the cattle to multiply. This is what Neolithic herders wanted. However, differently from lions (previously the most frequent species, as they eat everything, from rabbit up), cattle make a lot of methane, CH4, the powerful greenhouse gas. Thus the first man made greenhouse. It may have prevented a return of a little glaciation.
It’s high time to reverse all this, and restore megafauna. Before being able to re-create the original species, stand-ins ought to be brought in. Elephants and rhinoceroses have been suggested for Australia, be it only to reduce the (African) Gamba grass (a giant grass, meters tall, made to burn spectacularly. I have seen some of these brush fires in the park-savannah). Australia had a full megafauna, with rhinoceros sized ”giant wombats“, and predators to control them. It disappeared 50,000 years ago, as Homo Sapiens invaded (that disappearance led, in turn, to climate change… this, please notice, is the exact opposite to what Conventional Wisdom is paid to babble about).
The full panoply of prehistoric animals ought to be reintroduced, say in Europe. OK, none of the ancient animals has been yet recreated, using genetic engineering (although some Japanese have just such a plan for mammoths). However some animals close to extinction such as the Amur Leopard, the Siberian Tiger could be reintroduced in safe places, along the lines of the reintroduction of the California Condor.
And yes, some of these places ought to be in Western Europe. Britain could start by reintroducing the wolf, exterminated in the 17C (the UK has signed a treaty to this effect, but “forgot” to implement it).
RESTORE THE HUMAN MINDS, IN FULL:
Why should we restore wild nature? As I said above, to abate cruelty, restore morality. However it goes much further than that, as I evoked in the abstract. That will be the second part of this essay, where spectacular connections with neurobiology, neurohormonology, institutional cycles, and the present civilizational crisis will be established.