Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Musings: True Equality

I returned yesterday from California, where one might find a sign in an elevator advising that it contains materials known to cause cancer in humans, which raises such questions as, why, then, are they still using that stuff, and what am I supposed to do it about it now that I’m enclosed in this toxic box?

I was reminded, after engaging in some limited commerce there, that Hawaii lawmakers have not yet begun to tax: the general sales tax is nearly 9 percent, though it’s not applied to groceries, and the rental car bill included such charges as a "daily ff fee” of $4.50, a tourism fee of $5.17, a concession recovery fee of $20.78, a customer facility charge of $10 and, of course, sales tax.

On the other hand, the park bathrooms were clean and stocked with toilet paper, even those getting heavy use, and at one beach, a sign reminded folks that the water they were using came from creeks used by fish, so please conserve.

I’m all for getting people to think about how our behavior impacts other species, which is why I enjoyed writing an article about Robin Torquati, a Kilauea woman who raises organic garden starts and is “into befriending plants.” As she observed:

”People look at plants as a lower life form. They aren’t. They’re equals. They evolved alongside humans. They’re complex organisms. They give us air to breath, for starters, and they feed us. And they’re way more ready for any climate change than we are.”

People also tend to look down on animals, as if that isn’t what we human beings are, too. At the conference, I heard some scientists giving the usual rap about how only big-brained mammals are capable of empathy, emotion and communication, though one guy noted that slime mold, an organism lacking a nervous system, is able to efficiently navigate a maze to reach food. Another spoke of the sea squirt, a creature that begins life as an animal, then devours its brain and turns into a plant, which might be a worthy aspiration for we thought-mired humans.

And it struck me, as it did when I reported on plans to relocate nene to the equivalent of concentration camps on the other islands and to put monk seals from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands through the same kind of forced relocation suffered by numerous Indian tribes, that our wildlife management actions are so frequently governed by the paternalistic attitude of we know best. Or more accurately, we know what’s convenient and desirable for us.

The dismissive language that was used by some in the meeting about the nene relocation — “they’re just geese, after all” and “they make such a mess with their poop” — is not unlike the language used by aggressors in World War II and modern day Afghanistan — “they’re only Poles, Jews and dirty towel heads, after all.”

And the patronizing language used in describing the monk seal translocations — “these are hardy, curious animals that can easily adapt to new surroundings” — was not unlike the language used in moving Native Americans thousands of miles from their homelands: “these people are savages. They can live anywhere.”

Where did we get the idea, which I believe is patently false, that humans beings — members of a young, upstart, destructive species unable to live in harmony with its environment — are at the top of the evolutionary ladder?

Maybe one day we’ll give other animals, plants and even rocks the credit they’re due, just as we're slowly beginning to treat women and other ethnic groups with more (though sometimes grudging) respect. And just as we once believed blacks and women weren't capable of casting an intelligent vote and newborns weren’t aware of their surroundings and couldn’t feel the pain of circumcision, we’ll come to understand that other inhabitants of Earth also have consciousness.

After all, if the universe is comprised solely of energy, are we really so different in the beginning, or the end?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rocks?

Would it be moral to eat plants, if we truly saw them as equal beings?

Anonymous said...

Paper and scissors deserve respect also...

"New Age" freaks...

Anonymous said...

Their constant war...rocks - paper - scissors...when will it cease???

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a lyric in Jesus Christ Superstar, where Jesus says, "If every tongue were still the noise would still continue. The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing."
Hosana to God's creation and thank you for being an advocate for protecting it.

Anonymous said...

so relocating seals from a place with insufficient food to keep them from starving is bad?

whodathunkit

Anonymous said...

since when do seals need to be relocated? if there is not enuf food, certainly they would swim where there is. only creatures who are feed might sit and wait. So is the real reason military?

Anonymous said...

"Would it be moral to eat plants, if we truly saw them as equal beings?"

It would be more moral. Eating an equal is better than eating a defenseless being. Buddha will tell you that eating comes with the responsibility to propagate and grow more than you ate. Its OK to eat plants. The energy of the plant transfers to us. That is God's energy. Certainly better than being fueled by the food like substances that the corporations are peddling - transforming our nation into a bunch of grouchy, fake, mean spirited blobs of jello.

Anonymous said...

"It would be more moral. Eating an equal is better than eating a defenseless being."

So, eating other people would be the most moral?

Anonymous said...

Attack of the Moral Majority

aka

The Zombie Apocalypse!!!

watchdog said...

For toxic elevators, there is always the stairs...

And don't believe everything on your rental car bill is a tax:

* "daily ff fee” of $4.50

This one was new to me, I found it with some googling:

"Is there a cost associated with earning frequent flyer miles with Thrifty's domestic airline partners?
When the renter chooses to receive frequent flyer miles or credits, a frequent flyer surcharge will be collected at the time of rental to offset a portion of Thrifty's annual cost of participation in these frequent flyer programs. The surcharge varies per airline."

(http://www.thrifty.com/customercare/content/faq.aspx#10)

In other words, you thought those miles were free? Have to wonder though how legal this is, considering miles are generally assumed to be earned based on the existing purchase, not paid for through a fee. Considering that miles are generally valued at 1 cent (eg avg 15000 miles for a $150 interisland r/t on Hawaiian airlines), I hope you got at least 450 miles per day.

* tourism fee of $5.17

This is a tax (without representation) that local governments collect to offset the cost of extra infrastructure for the extra people who are tourists. Rather makes sense. Last time I rented a car on Oahu, there was a "rental tax surcharge" of $7.50 per day. I don't know if that's state or county level, but the base rental was only 12.40 per day.

* concession recovery fee of $20.78

This is the rent that the car company pays to be in the airport. since they pay it to the gov't running the airport, they call it a fee. They are essentially itemizing their business costs on your bill, so the rental price looks lower when quoted without fees. They all seem to do this now. For example, see: http://www.elliott.org/blog/bizarre-new-car-rental-trick-an-airport-fee-for-an-non-airport-rental/

* customer facility charge of $10

Same thing, this is just another business expense for operating at the airport that the car rental company itemizes for you on your bill. See http://www.paylesscar.com/faq/#10

This is, of course, how the free market works in the US: make sure the consumer cannot get enough information to make a rational decision.

I always noticed the soap in the park bathrooms in CA cities and towns. Then again, the state is closing something like 1/4 of their state parks due to budget cuts, so no restrooms or soap there, just pot growers and meth bootleggers.