Getting relief from troubling times through nature – and maps

Thanks Jane for getting me to think again especially about travel. I would choose our own Arctic partially because I have spent some time in Labrador and learned to appreciate the solitude.

Posted on June 29, 2020by Jane Fritz

Today is Map Monday, but all the maps I’ve been looking at are awfully depressing. They seem to offer yet more evidence of what poor decisions humans have made throughout history. I thought I’d see what maps I could find that tell us about the animals that inhabit the world instead. Once I got past maps of what animals are endangered or extinct thanks to the poor decisions of humans, I settled on simple maps that show us where we are still able to observe the beauty and majesty of animals in nature … that is once we are able to travel again! Meanwhile, we can watch them close up and personal on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

You can click on any of the maps or images to zoom in on them. Image credit: Dieter Braun

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about Speech Day and the amazing animals of Botswana. Botswana has to rate at the very top of anyone’s animal viewing list. Bar none. But there are other options that are very worthy of being added to your own personal animal-viewing list.

Fairly recently I ‘gave’ another technology-enabled grandmother speech to one of our sons’ families in a city currently off limits. This ‘speech’ was called “Choosing the best wildlife trip”. (Of course, what it should have been called was choosing the best wildlife trip after Botswana, but I did explain that in my presentation. And I did explain that I was not suggesting that we were going to take them on the trip they chose; this is purely hypothetical!)

In fact, there are obviously way more than 3 or 4 astounding wildlife trips on offer around the world, but these three make a good starting point, after Africa. I’m going to give you the overview and see which trip you would pick if you could only choose one. And if you’re keen, another week I could take you on some other virtual wildlife tours, like to Costa Rica and Borneo. Or maybe to see the amazing herds of buffalo roaming the broad valleys of Yellowstone. Or all the places in the world for unbelievable whale-watching.

Here we go. Let’s suppose you are offered, as a special treat, ONE special wildlife trip, bearing in mind that nothing will ever measure up to wildlife viewing in Botswana – or maybe Kenya or South Africa, or Tanzania.

Which will it be? Your choices are:

  • Galapagos Islands
  • Madagascar
  • Canadian High Arctic and Greenland

Each one has different unique animals, unique geology and geography, unique history, and unique cultures.

First, let’s take a look at what the Galapagos Islands have to offer. The Galapagos were first made famous for Charles Darwin having spent time here while on his around-the-world voyage collecting animal and geological specimens. Many of the animals that live here are not found anywhere else in the world. Some are only found on their one tiny island in this group of islands. The animals are not afraid of humans at all; you can lie on a pristine beach next to sea lions and iguanas. Try snorkeling or scuba diving. As a bonus, you could pair this trip with a visit to Ecuador’s upper Amazon region.

Now, let’s take a look at Madagascar. Madagascar split from the African continent over 160 million years ago. The Malagasy people who live there are descended from seafarers from Borneo, Polynesia, and east Africa. There’s a French influence to their food, which is always a good thing. The only place on earth where you can find lemurs and several other species of animals. It’s a poor country and it is difficult to get around, but fascinating and unique.

And, finally, let’s take a look at what we’d see in the High Arctic. What isn’t special about the high Arctic. History and culture of 12,000 years of indigenous habitation. History of the European explorers trying to find a way to Asia, through all that ice and cold. All those amazing animals. All those amazing icebergs. You probably only want to go there between July-mid-August; it’s pretty darn cold the rest of the time, but has the bonus of nearly 24-hour days in mid-summer.

And so,

I know what our family chose, and it surprised us. What about you? Which of these three special opportunities would you choose? Why?

Let me know if you’d like to have further around-the-world wildlife trips to think about. There are lots more!


‘Normal Is the Problem’

So is normal’s idiot child, ‘the new normal.’ What we’ve made normal never was natural.

Andrew Nikiforuk 30 May 2020 |

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk’s 2006 book Pandemonium predicted the pandemic we are now living.

Let’s review what ‘normal’ human behaviour has done to our one and only home over the past few centuries. Image of Earth taken from Apollo 17 via Wikimedia.

Sharon Wilson is a fifth-generation Texan who drives around rural communities and takes pictures of oil and gas facilities with an infrared camera. The pictures make visible all the methane pollution that industry and governments pretend is not happening in rural communities.


Wilson recently tweeted these two sentences: “We can and must do better than going back to normal. Normal is the problem.”

And she is right as rain about that. Normal has become a pathological state.

After the random normlessness of this pandemic, I don’t want to go back to normal either. Or its idiotic child, “the new normal.”

Let’s face facts: our hi-tech, globalized-trade-anything-for-peanuts world run mostly by tyrants isn’t natural.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Since 1970, an outpouring of normality has just about destroyed the Earth: It has created an abnormal economic machine, blind to energy spending, that doubled the global population and boosted per capita consumption by 45 per cent.

At the same time the so-called value of global economic activity grew by 300 per cent. Meanwhile global trade has exploded like a coronavirus by 900 per cent. To support all this consumption and trade, the extraction of “living materials” from nature has jumped by 200 per cent.

Now here’s just a partial list of the cost of all this exponential normality: Humans have appropriated or altered 70 per cent of the world’s lands with mines, roads, industrial farms, cities and airports. We have engineered more than 75 per cent of the world’s longest rivers. We have filled the ocean with plastics and slaughtered coral reefs. Anyone who calls that kind of behaviour normal is crackers. It’s ecological imperialism, and nothing more than a full-scale assault on the dignity of local life.

The list goes on, and scientists now think it’s normal to publish papers on “the pervasive human decline of life.” Humans, for example, have destroyed 85 per cent of the wetlands. That’s like eating your kidneys for dinner, and I can’t think of anybody who would consider that normal except Hannibal Lecter.

We have eliminated 40 per cent of the world’s original forests. We have extirpated (and there’s a word for these normal times) most of the world’s large mammals. An estimated one million species of animals and plants stand on the brink of extinction.

Homo sapiens, another mammal, are on that list, and we pretend that’s normal. As these species disappear, our ever-expanding artificial intelligence probably won’t wave goodbye because replacing the natural with artificial is what normal is all about.

Three hundred years ago, no one talked about normal or yearned for normal because it didn’t exist. That’s because normalis was a Latin word that described right angles made by a carpenter’s square.

Only with the advent of industrialization and machine thinking did the word normal colonize our vocabulary and gain currency in the 18th century.

The standardized machine system demands normalcy because everything must conform to the right angles of progress, which means endless growth and consumption — all fuelled by the fiction of cheap energy.

Normal really means big-box living and being a slave to machines. It means you’re so distracted by screens, speed and mobility, you can’t pay attention to what matters. Normal means you don’t have any respect for limits or sacred places. Normal means you think you can simply swap fossil fuels with so-called “clean energy” and protect the norm. But it mostly means you have surrendered your capacity to be human and to love this place.

So I don’t want to go back to normal.

I don’t want to go back to a world where it’s okay to industrialize and then globalize the care of old people as though they are just another resource to be mined before they die.

Vampires behave that way, and no one thinks that’s normal.

I don’t want to go back to the digital contagion uprooting our minds and souls where authoritarian males justify the mining of our computers for data to improve their ability to engineer our behaviours.

That’s just predation.

I don’t want to go back to a world where lawyers and judges don’t understand the difference between a legal system and a justice system. I don’t want to go back to a world where governments think it is okay to sacrifice agricultural communities with disruptive fracking technologies that cause earthquakes, pollute groundwater and consistently lose money.

That’s just white-collar crime with a high-pressure water pump.

I don’t want to go back to a world where a few foreign-owned meat-packing corporations control the slaughter and distribution of so-called “cheap meat.”

That’s just cultivating food insecurity (and obesity) for the many to serve a rapacious few.

I don’t want to go back to a world where we accept the status quo of escalating wealth inequalities and polarized political thinking.

Polarization ends in one of three bloody ways: civil war, revolution or slavery.

I don’t want to go back to a world where economists from the evangelical church of exponential growth preach infinite consumption on a finite planet.

I don’t want to go back to a world where the solution to everything is either more education or more technology.

Our universities and technocrats now posit that thinking like machines or not thinking much at all is “the new normal.”

I don’t want to go back to a world where political parties cultivate men and women obsessed with power and deny the truth. That’s just evil.

I don’t want to go back to world where people don’t know their neighbours, or the names of the birds in their trees.

I don’t want to go back to a world where billionaires think so little of this Earth that their primary obsession is to escape to Mars.

I don’t want to go back to a world where political leaders don’t have the courage to talk about cheap energy, reckless consumption, over-population and climate change in the same sentence.

And I don’t want to go back to a world where the media can’t admit that our civilization, as William Ophuls puts it, “has gotten too big, too complex and too hard to manage.”

I don’t want to go back to an economy where corporations socialize all costs and privatize all gains. That’s robbery and theft. And it must end.image atom

The World Is a Burning Ring of Liars with Pants on Fire


I don’t want to go back to a world where governments subsidize bottom trawlers to scrape the floor of the ocean to support globalization.

That’s a normal world hell-bent on annihilation.

I don’t want to go back to a world that regards the precautionary principle as just another tweet.

I don’t want to go back to a world that doesn’t understand life is a precious miracle composed equally of joy, astonishment, love, tragedy and death.

So Sharon Wilson got it right. Normal is the problem, and the normlessness of a pandemic has exposed the fat tail of normal as pathology.

And I am not going back to it.

Sharon Wilson says we can leave normal for better this way: “Do all things with love, and be damn fierce about it.”

Amen to that.  [Tyee]

The Dangerous Gnat

Nasty little critters but essential food for many birds and bats.

I can't believe it!

We used to call them gnats in Lincoln. The Spanish call them mosquitoes (diminutive for mosca – fly). It was many years before I realised these are the same thing, basically, although there are different sorts.

For us they were just pesky nuisances, but this is mankind’s ‘deadliest predator’. How come? The answer: malaria. In 2018 there were 228,000,000 new cases and 400,000 died, but few in the ‘developed world’.

For millennia people got the ague, got sick and many died. It even decided major events, such as Hannibal’s failed assault on Rome, the limits of Alexander the Great’s conquering. It was thought to be bad air that caused it (mal-aria).

Eventually mankind found the cure – draining swamps and quinine, a refined variant of which, hydroxychloroquine, has been in the news recently. Of course, a lot of the world can’t afford these solutions.

This reminded me of a trip…

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