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Catastrophe and Hope

The San Francisco Chronicle (and many other papers) carries a weekly feature at the bottom of the weather page called Earthweek — a Diary of the Planet. It's often fascinating, with tiny snippets about oddments of weather, earthquakes, animals, and other events and phenomena. On Jan. 3, it was more like Earthyear, with a litany of scary blurbs followed by one that should inspire hope — or a chuckle or two.

The first item reported that that human changes to the earth have now officially launched a new epoch —the Anthropocene — which replaces the Holocene. This is not necessarily good news. Next came news that food riots in March and April were the result of too much foodstuffs being turned into fuel for vehicles. Then more bad news on the climate: natural systems for removing carbon from the atmosphere have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of humans' emissions. There's more bad that I'll spare you for now. The last item was so cheery, however, that I quote it in its entirety:

"Two separate European nations granted unprecedented rights to members of the animal kingdom. Spain declared that monkeys and apes ('our nonhuman brothers') may not be killed or arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. New Swiss regulations make it illegal to flush live goldfish down the toilet. Fishermen may no longer practice catch-and-release fishing, and the use of live bait is prohibited. Pets such as parrots and hamsters may no longer be kept by themselves, and livestock such as sheep and goats must have at least 'a visual contact with their fellows,' under the new laws. A Swiss federal committee proclaimed that plants deserve respect, and killing them unnecessarily is morally wrong."

Tags:  none, science