Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mum, why is it OK for us to kill cows and sheep but not to kill whales?

 
I read this on a poster in town and it got me thinking, how would I answer this if one of my own children asked this?
Well, first of all I’d remind them that I’m their dad, but I certainly wouldn’t be offended. [if anything, “Mum” should].
Anyway… the interesting thing about the question is the “OK” part, and how that all fits with Nature.
We all love Nature, right? And we wouldn’t dream of questioning Her methods. [Yes, yes – I know nature doesn’t have a gender any more than the wind does]
So let’s look at Nature; who’s killing who and why.
If you divide up the creatures that eat stuff, there’s basically 3 kinds of ‘vore’.  You’ve got your Herbivore, Carnivore and Omnivore [including us!].
Herbivores chow down on poor defenceless plants all day long. Where are their Greenpeace zealots, hurling themselves in the path of those relentless molars?
It’s fine. Nature has a plan. The herbs in question produce masses of extraneous biomass in the complete realisation that a vast percentage will be gobbled up by the next step up the food chain. And, besides, plants don’t feel anything so there’s guilt-free dining all ‘round.
It’s even a bonus to a lot of them. Look how many seeds get dispersed via herbivore poop.
RIghto, carnivore time. Now events take on a whole different tenor.
Every creature, all ‘vores’ alike, run the risk of being dinner to a carnivore. From field mice to you and me.
And in Nature’s hands, do you know how those dinners play out? Every single object of every carnivore’s meal  – with the exception of those dead already [cheers, scavengers] – died and was devoured by horrifically brutal and ruthless means without the slightest consideration for the pain and trauma experienced.
Nature, eh? What’s she like? She has no feelings about it, actually. But, just as she did with the plants, she has a plan for the walking meat.
Many, many more offspring are produced under Nature’s governance than is ever likely to survive. The more chance you have of being eaten, the more of you there are born.
She’s got it all worked out. There’s this many meat-oriented appetites out there, so I’m going to need this many edible beasties out there to be eaten. The ferocious pain each of them feel at the receiving end of each gruesome encounter is not a factor in Her calculations.
So, to get to ‘us’.  [“why is it OK for us…”] What we’re talking about is a controlled system.
We just happen to be the ones who have a high sense of the control involved and have engineered it our advantage.
Just like Nature, we’ve assessed volumes of appetites and managed populations of edible living things accordingly. We gave it a name. Farming.
We produce artificially exaggerated numbers of plants. And we produce artificially exaggerated numbers of animals. All to eat. Because we are biologically omnivores.
Yes, we can survive just on plant matter but I think that’s denying our essential make-up.
[Ever see a David Attenborough where the bear is having an existential crisis about eating the bunny it just caught and dismembered?]
We are probably unique in the animal world regarding the philosophical enquiry we put into the ‘nature’ of killing our dinner. Why else would we, for the large part, go to such trouble to contrive ‘humane’ ways of ending the lives of our next meals? Show me one other creature who gives a flying darn for the howls of terror and agony coming from the creature in their jaws/talons/coils?
Yes, we artificially inflate numbers of edible animals where we are able to manage it – and can do so with a reasonably justifiable imperative.
What we cannot do for the moment is manage numbers of whales in any direction but down.
And that’s probably the big reason why it’s not OK.
The issue is confused further with the awareness of their intelligence. Though that doesn’t seem to stop us eating pigs, does it? But nor we get all activist when we see killer whales do a number on another Minke.
If we could successfully farm whales in viable numbers – I wonder what we’d do? Would it be OK then?
But that’s not the question is it?


Footnote: Since writing I came across this well-reasoned and informative article in the SMH on similar themes

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Youth resurrection central


I wouldn't call it a haunt exactly, but one of the places I pop my head into of an occasional lunch-break is the second-hand music store, Lawsons. (On Pitt St behind World Square, snuggled in comfortably between porn & liquor outlets - highly likely in that neighbourhood)
The clientele is pretty well exclusively 50-something guys - thickening waistlines, thinning hair - trying to look nonchalant as they click at impressive speed with practiced fingers through hundreds of CD's in minutes. They can assess in microseconds whether that row of 70's psychobilly has that lost treasure which has been their quest - their El Dorado - that will send the rush of recognition through their synapses, resurrecting their youth if only for a fleeting breath.
I mostly like to go to the back where they store the vinyl, and indulge in the 12" artwork.
Of course, the demographic means that, I have to admit, I fit right in. 
Which makes this picture so remarkable - never seen a woman in there ever - and when one appears, it's the chick from Ghostworld! Maybe it all makes sense.
 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Huh? Is this a cycleway?

Bonanzacam is back - blasting the big issues direct to your eyeballs!

I guess we must applaud Clover in her laudable mission to make Sydney cycle-friendly ("Friendly" is going to be a big paradigm shift for the town's non-biking populace...)
Anyway - there is visible evidence of noble intent scattered sporadically about the CBD & immediate environs in the form of dedicated cycleway projects
(The SMH's Miranda Divine recently had a pointed whinge about Ms Moore's shortcomings on these and it's true that the pace of progress has been a bit frustrating (and haphazard))
But there is another side to these advancements and that is: how my old nemeses, the pedestrians,  integrate these changes into their lives
I'm just going to highlight one location
For the better part of a year, a short stretch of Ultimo back road running from behind the casino to the Pyrmont Bridge pub has had new cycleway work done
It was sort of finished a week or two ago* and the many cyclists using that route took to the new path in numbers - unfortunately... so did pedestrians!

Now... to anyone observing the location - this is utterly baffling
The footpath (which has always been there) running immediately adjacent to the new cycleway is considerably WIDER than the cycle lane yet for reasons that escape your humble author, walkers have taken to using the ABSOLUTELY UNMISTAKABLY CLEARLY MARKED cycle only lane
As I say - Baffling (On top of that, the pedestrians you are politely swearing at to get out of the way, look totally mystified - this is a cycleway? Who'da thought?)
So - after a few days of weaving and frantic bell ringing I decided the people had to see for themselves

video

This isn't even a bad day - but you get the idea
(to make it extra mysterious - this practise persisted even on rainy days - even though the 'immediately adjacent' and 'considerably WIDER' footpath was protected by an awning...)

Sigh - will feet and wheels ever get along?

*Closed off again - maybe they're painting bigger 'cycle only' signs?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rail Trail Diary - Day 1 (The Real One)

So, it was time to turn talk into pedal pushing - I've no doubt we all sized each other up and came to the conclusion that none us were carrying any extra ballast.
Our genetics had been (predictably) fortuitous - but what about the fitness? Had we maintained the regime of the committed cyclist?
"Oh, I haven't done any special training", sayeth George, but eyeing those chiselled calves, one could tell he was no stranger to the saddle.
And Dave?... Well, he was a six-pack on legs. (Guinness, probably...) After all, his favoured at-home wheels were the super skinny kind, and he wore lycra without shame.

Itinerary: Sunday, 29 November  
Pick up Bikes (as-new Giant Sedonas) at Trail Journeys in Clyde
Set off to Lauder  

We kitted up the very capable looking vehicles with what was necessary for the day ahead (Trail Journeys carted our bulky gear to pre-arranged stop-overs - very civilised). "What was necessary" entailing, essentially, snacks, jackets and cameras - we were going to see a lot of them.

The first stretch was to take us to Alexandra, 10km or so away. We could either go the strictly 'rail' route - fairly straight and uninteresting we'd been told - or we could cross the Clyde River and follow a more adventurous, undulating path, weaving around the trees along the banks. 

video


video
An easy or hour or so ensued, humming 'round gentle curves and up gentler inclines watching the scenery change surprisingly spectacularly, until we hit a traditional watering hole - The Chatto Creek Pub. A couple of brethren had already hitched up, including a family with a little kiddy-trailer. Cruising down the traffic-worn track, high up, with fork suspension is one thing... but either side, where the unsprung trailer wheels travelled, was pretty rough - and you'd have Dad's bum for a view for 4 days!
And look at that weather - spoilt, what?

Anyway, we were greeted with the lashings of charm and hospitality we were already getting accustomed to, snarfing down about the best toasted sandwich I can remember - superlative.

Historical note - Chatto Creek is home to NZ's smallest (and almost certainly most miserable) Post Office - still set up just as dear old Millie Allsop (or whoever it was) serviced it all those years. Isn't that interesting?

Setting off satisfyingly fed & watered, we ambled (not so competitively after all) on until we reached the bustling metropolis of Lauder ("Lorder") - our first stopover. We had booked into a converted (they love converting in these parts) old schoolhouse - dead charming. Eeh - I 'ad a trike just like this when I were a lad...

How does the urbane-sophisticate-about-town occupy oneself in Lauder? Why a rubber or two of Boule at Ye Inne, of course. I think the publican said we were the first to try out the new... er... rink. He hadn't been sure how they were usually constructed and had gone for a bed of inches deep gravel. We ended up playing on the grass.

After settling on the pub as our dinner venue (yes - the only actual option) we enjoyed a hearty meal before settling in with Day 2 to greet us in the coming morn.

PS: I had intended to include some gripping clips of the Trail so far, but Blogger won't let me bloody upload 'em.

PPS: As you can see, I got a couple up!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rail Trail Diary - about bloody time

The Mission - 3 crusty old cronies who went their separate ways after surviving 5 years of Papanui High School in the 70's get together to mark their 50th birthdays (!) with a 4 day ride on the Otago Rail Trail.

The protagonists: David, George & Your Author (whom we shall call 'Bruce' - for it is he)

Truth is I'm pretty inexperienced at organising a mission like this, particularly an overseas one - but ultimately it was rewarding to have an itinerary fall into shape. Everyone I contacted, from bike hire to accommodation, could not have been more helpful.

Itinerary: Friday, 27 November
David & Bruce fly out of Kingsford Smith
Flight EK 418
Depart 10:15 am
Arrive CHCH 3:15pm

Snow-covered alps! And a long white cloud - one's dusty old NZ recognition neurons start to fire up...
Have a good look at the old Control Tower ("Control Tower" - incidentally, being my first words - in English - apparently) - it's being superseded by something new that couldn't possibly be as stylish.

Itinerary: Saturday, 28 November

David, George & Bruce drive to Clyde in Finchmobile

Starting the expedition proper, we load up the "Capsicum" (as I believe the green Corolla is nick-named), pick up George and head across the Canterbury Plains. After constant typically gloomy rain on the flat, we climbed up Burkes Pass and burst out into a brilliant sun-soaked vista.

video


The glorious weather showed off Lake Tekapo at its most picture-skew as we stopped for a lunch of fish (sorry "fush") & kumera chups - yum!
A spectacular drive followed with the clear air giving us a grand view of (the now 20 metres or so shorter since the landslide) Mt Cook (or "Aorangi" to the types that call Ayers Rock "Uluru").

We arrived at Clyde in the early arvo to find an unbelievably quaint and charming olde town situtated an unnervingly short distance downriver from a dirty big dam.

Our digs, Ye Hartley Arms, was the epitome of charm and a jolly pleasant end to the day was spent in the sun-dappled garden.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Should I stay or should I go now?

Gradually, more and more dedicated cycle lanes are cropping up in the city - thanks Clover.
But... of course, there had to be a 'but'... things aren't all smooth sailing yet.
Witness these lights on the corner of King & Kent...



I've gone up this cycle lane many times and never yet seen the green for cars coordinate with the green for bikes - officially, while automative traffic whizzes up the hill we're supposed to sit and wait - for no discernible reason.
Generally, most cyclists simply do what I do and let common sense dictate - but there's always that nagging feeling of "there's another cyclist flaunting the rules - again."
I wonder if pedestrians ever get that feeling?...