Category: Animals and the earth


1 TSUNAMI ONE EDITED

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

In 2004, on the day before Christmas, a catastrophe swept across the Indian Ocean, a tsunami that killed around 250,000 people. Countless animals also lost their lives.

 

Thanks to the immense dedication of animal groups in India and in other countries, thousands of animals were saved.

 

On December 26, 2004, four ambulances from Blue Cross of India headed south along the coast to save as many animals as they could. Each ambulance brought 2,000 liters of water and was equipped as a mobile vet clinic to treat injured animals in the devastated villages of the Kanchipuram, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts.

 

Public officials in these districts, Gagandeep Singh Bedi and J. Radhakrishnan, were grateful that someone was thinking of the animals, and they offered all the help they could. Mrs. Bhargavi Devendra, Honorary Secretary of the South India Red Cross instructed her chapters all along the coast to be on the lookout for animals in need of help. They did so, letting Blue Cross coordinator, Shanti Shankar – who during those hectic days lived and worked fulltime at the Blue Cross shelter – know where to pick up stranded animals – and in this way, rescue teams were able to reach thousands of cows, goats, chickens, and dogs.

 

People working with Red Cross and the Indian Bank opened their homes for Blue Cross rescuers to stay in and helped in many other ways.

 

Temporary fencing was set up for rescued cows near where they were found, and they were given food and water until their owners could come for them.

 

In the town of Vailankanni, right beyond the beautiful cathedral there, three one-week old puppies, their eyes still closed, were handed to a Blue Cross worker. Sadly, their mother, who had been tethered, did not survive, nor did their human family who had lived in a house quite close to the beach. The three puppies were swept inland on the waves, landing on top of a tall hedge and, amazingly, were still alive when a kind villager spotted them. He took care of them until Blue Cross rescuers arrived.

 

Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the Founders of Blue Cross, recalls seeing the three tiny puppies right after they were turned over to Blue Cross in Vailankanni. A week later they had arrived back in Madras, and were taken first to the very large Blue Cross shelter. Because of the magnitude of the emergency, the shelter was at that time critically understaffed and overcrowded. So the three little puppies, who needed special feeding and care, were moved to Dr. Krishna’s factory, Aspick – a specialized factory with a global reputation. There, the three puppies were not alone, since Dr. Krishna has always invited street dogs to live on the grounds of his factory (his family house is also home to a dozen rescued dogs).

 

The three puppies were handfed by Mani, a longtime employee, and the other factory workers, who all love the dogs.

 

Two of the puppies were quickly adopted by Mr. Shashi Nair, then Editor of the magazine Buisness Line.

 

That left one puppy who the factory workers called Tsunami. Her name stuck and she grew up in the factory – much loved and well cared for. In fact, she ran the factory, or at least the dog brigade. She was the alpha dog of the whole team and kept everyone in line.

 

3 Tsunami and friend

 

Now, thirteen years later, Tsunami has slowed down a bit. Having stepped down from her post as alpha dog – another dog is now in charge – Tsunami enjoys napping a bit more – sometimes .

 

Tsunami’s eyesight isn’t quite as good as it was, but her hearing seems fine. She’s had a tumor on her chest that’s been treated twice, but she seems to be doing okay. She spends time hanging out with Tyag, the CEO of one of the group companies of Aspick.

 

A lot of her time is spent inside in the conference room – attending important meetings. At noon, she joins the workers for lunch, and then goes up to Dr. Krishna’s office to have a chapatti (Indian bread).

 

Her job now is giving a happy greeting to all the factory visitors – and at night, she still keeps a protective, wary eye out for any intruders who shouldn’t be there.

 

Soon, Tsunami will need a bit more shelter and some extra care, so Blue Cross is building her a house at their big shelter at Guindy. There she’ll have lots of company – community dogs who live on the streets can live a long time, and there are others who need a house too, as they slow down and get a bit older. (Blue Cross has run a spay-neuter program for street dogs – the oldest such continuing program in the world – since 1964.)

 

Tsunami is looking forward to a lot of delightful naps in the shade during her retirement.

 

To help give Tsunami and her friends their new house, click here to donate!

 

Tsunami and her friends will send you lots of grateful hugs!

 

Many thanks!

 

Photos:

Top photo: Tsunami

Second photo: Tsunami with a friend

© text and photos, Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

 

 

Mahadeva

© Jsuspence7cc | Dreamstime

 

Ender of worlds, you who are

 

The moon-winged light

 

Glimpsed through silver clouds that recall only

 

The music

 

Of the rain

 

That hums

 

On the dry branches of the scrub oak,

 

You who are the soul

 

Of the juniper trees and the wind-waving sage,

 

Re-awaken now your lands of magic,

 

And so,

 

Unmask the deeper, greener forest

 

Of long ago,

 

Abode of the forgotten fairy folk.

 

Young Ganesha watches from among the red-encircled blossoms

 

To hear anew

 

The clear

 

Ringing chimes

 

Sound, that the dust of a crumbled age

 

Is gone,

 

Swept away and cast

 

Asunder

 

On the gusts of the great

 

Gale,

 

That peace may settle ever after

 

On the blue-

 

Belled petals

 

That gather in an opalescent bowl,

 

A glimmering, crystal grail,

 

Far

 

Beyond where the ragged hulls of iron ships

 

Were set adrift on a tired sea.

 

Soon the haloed star

 

May bless the night,

 

And the coyote

 

Sing her laughing song again

 

In the darkness, beside the shimmering gate

 

Of a time beyond times

 

When

 

At last

 

The long-toed crane

 

Dips his beak

 

Into the cold waters of the creek.

 

Then,

 

Mahadeva, Shining One, Dispeller of fear,

 

May the swans, who know, and have always known, all things, sail

 

Ever near

 

Before the bright, sky-clad boat of the dawn

 

Climbs

 

On through the echoing waters of a many lilied mist.

 

© Sharon St Joan, August 2017

Photo: © Jsuspence7cc | Dreamstime

 

 

 

 

 

4 ID 64684980 © Maik Brand | Dreamstime 

By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

A fallacy – that killing cougars protects calves

 

Concerning the mortality of young calves, only 1 to 2 percent of these deaths are caused by predation — from all predators, including dogs. All the other calf deaths are caused either by illness or are weather-related. Ranchers are compensated for the loss of their livestock, and non-lethal forms of predator control have been shown to be the most effective response. So there is no reason to kill cougars to protect calves.

 

Just the opposite is true. It has been shown that increased hunting causes more, not fewer, calf deaths.

 

It is, in fact, a grave mistake to increase cougar hunting quotas in the hope of lessening livestock predation. Hunting cougars (and other predators) disrupts their social order. This means that young cougars are separated from their mothers while they are still learning to hunt their natural prey. With fewer adults in the population, hungry adolescent cougars are far more likely to engage in erratic behavior – to attack livestock or to roam near agricultural fields and structures, potentially leading to more human/wildlife conflicts.

 

The higher incidence of livestock deaths noted in certain areas in Utah was most likely directly caused by the increased hunting of predators in recent years. If the hunting quotas are increased again, as is planned, then the greater numbers of cougars hunted will almost certainly lead to even higher livestock deaths in these areas next year and the year after. Like pouring gasoline on a fire – killing more cougars will not work and will only make things worse.

 

5 ID 32644895 © Mazikab | Dreamstime

 

Cougar mothers ought not to be killed

 

When their social order and their habitat are left undisturbed, cougars do not seek out or attack human beings or livestock, and they do not hang around human structures. They prefer living deep in the wilderness, and maintaining wilderness for them to live in is the best way to help both wild lands and ourselves.

 

The lives of individual cougars and their offspring have a value conferred on them by nature. When they are chased with packs of dogs, treed, and then shot, this is inhumane and is not ethical hunting.

 

Both female and male cougars are hunted. From a distance the hunter cannot with any certainty tell male from female. At any time of year, kittens may still be with their mother because they stay with her, learning survival skills, for up to two years.

 

Although, according to Department of Wildlife Resources regulations, killing a mother accompanied by kittens is prohibited, as is killing any adult accompanied by a young cougar, this does nothing to protect very small kittens left in their den, or left to play while their mother goes off to hunt, or kittens which are separated from their mother (and therefore are out of sight) when their mother is fleeing a pack of dogs. About one third of all cougars killed are females, and clearly a great many kittens die as a result.

 

It is a universally accepted norm that female animals with offspring should not be hunted – though, sadly, this basic humane principle is often disregarded. In the case of cougars, wherever any cougar hunting at all is allowed, whatever the season, females as well as males will be killed, and kittens and youngsters not old enough to fend for themselves will inevitably die.

 

Since cougars are not hunted for food, increasing the numbers hunted is for no good reason. Fewer cougars should be hunted, not more.

 

 

No taking into account future threats

 

Without a scientific estimate of the numbers of cougars in Utah, there is no basis for increasing the hunt quotas.

 

The increase is arbitrary, and may be critically harmful to sustaining the cougar population. This is true especially since there has been no taking into account of clear, predictable threats to wild lands, such as the shrinking and chopping up of wild lands and wilderness corridors. Further loss of habitat is likely in the wake of more intense wildfires, possible droughts, more people moving into Utah, and government policies that promote extractive fossil fuel activity, along with the accompanying pollution and habitat deterioration that oil wells, coal, and fracking bring.

 

Not planning for future conditions that are scientifically and statistically probable leaves wildlife populations at risk. Not only will they have to deal with overhunting, but they will have to do this while being exposed to all the other growing threats to wild lands and ecosystems – the harm we as human beings are causing to the earth.

 

Just as we normally plan for any disasters likely to strike, future threats to wildlife should also be taken into account when setting hunting quotas – because they are a foreseeable part of our future.

 

6 ID 39369003 © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

Nature must be left in peace

 

We need to take a new look at wildlife, cougars included, to see them once again as our valued and beautiful fellow beings on this planet, whose presence is a gift, enriching the natural world and our own lives. Let’s let them live in peace.

 

 

 

How you can help

 

Please send an email to help cougars.

 

You may choose one or two of these points below and use your own words. Ask that cougar hunting be reduced, not increased. Please indicate the state and/or country where you live. See the link at the end for the email address.

 

One: Cougars’ lives have an intrinsic value. They are not hunted for food, and hunting them does not provide humans with anything that is actually needed.

 

Two: Overhunting harms the balance of nature.

 

Three: Cougars are beneficial to the ecosystem. A scientific study in Zion National Park demonstrated that where there are cougars, there are abundant deer herds, healthy streams, and a far greater abundance of life forms: three times as many fish, and more saplings, birds, butterflies, frogs, and small mammals.

 

Four: Cougar hunting leads to more deaths of ranchers’ calves. Cougars self-regulate their populations according to availability of food and habitat considerations. Only one to two percent of calf predation can be attributed to predators. Hunting disturbs the cougars’ social order, leading to erratic behavior by young cougars who are then more likely to kill calves.

 

Five: Hunting cougars is inhumane. Chasing cougars with dog packs up a tree and then shooting them is inhumane. Killing females with kittens who will then be left to starve is also inhumane. Because there is no certain way to hunt cougars without killing females that have dependent kittens, hunting cougars is not ethical hunting, and they should not be hunted.

 

Six: Predictable future threats to our wild lands ought to be taken into account when determining cougar hunting quotas.

 

 

Please send an email expressing your views to Dave Black, Chair of the southern Utah RAC region. daveb@racivil.com

 

Or better yet, attend the RAC meeting on August 1, 2017, at 7 pm in Beaver, Utah, at the Beaver High School and speak up for cougars!

 

Information for this was drawn from the HSUS cougar report – State of the Mountain Lion: A Call to End Trophy Hunting of America’s Lion

humanesociety.org/stateofthemountainlion ,

from communications with Kirk Robinson, Executive Director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, and from other sources. Any inaccuracies are mine alone. – Sharon St Joan

 

 

To read the article in BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 133 (2006) 397–408

Linking a cougar decline trophic cascade, and catastrophic regime shift in Zion National Park by William J. Ripple and Robert L. Beschta, who conducted the cougar study:

http://www.mountainlion.org/Library/Lion_Research/UT-R-Ripple-Beschta-2006-Linking-Cougar-Decline-Trophic-Cascade-Zion-National-Park.pdf

 

To read an article about the Zion cougar study published in Park Science, 4 September, 2015, Impact of a cougar decline on Zion Canyon, Zion National Park, By Betsie Blumberg:

https://www.nature.nps.gov/parkscience/index.cfm?ArticleID=318&ArticleTypeID=28

 

 

Photos:

 Top photo: © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 Second photo: © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 Third photo: © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 Fourth photo: © Maik Brand | Dreamstime

 Fifth photo:© Mazikab | Dreamstime

 Sixth photo: © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

© text, parts one and two, Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

1 © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Standing on a rock in the sunlight surveying the lands below or leaping through a rushing stream, cougars, like all wild animals, have a striking, incredible beauty – an intrinsic worth and value as individuals and, collectively, as a species. The value of their lives is their own and is quite independent of their usefulness or benefit to human beings.

 

The natural world is an interwoven net, grown up over many millions of years, in which each species plays an essential role in the health and well-being of the whole. We are part of this net.

 

Extirpating or decimating any natural species harms the ecosystem and adversely impacts the vitality of the whole system.

 

Every year in Utah these beautiful animals, the lions of North America, are targeted for more killing. This year the planned hunting quotas are being raised yet again. For the 2017/2018 season, the proposed target for cougar hunting is 565, up 40 from last year. This does not even count certain areas where there is unlimited cougar hunting.

 

Like all of our fellow beings on the planet, as humans, we do need to use some resources – but, really, cougar hunting, which is mainly trophy hunting, is not a normal use of natural resources. It serves no purpose at all – not even for food.

 

2 ID 29753610 © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 

Human beings’ use of the earth’s resources to live and thrive ought to be minimal and limited to what is actually needed. When we use more than our fair share, we are harming not just other species, but also ourselves. By using too much, we undermine the whole of nature, and nature is also our own habitat. It is the home where we live, and we cannot continue to live without the natural world. We are dependent on nature and the earth.

 

This core principle applies in a unique way to predators, which are keystone species. Scientific studies have shown that predators are essential to the health of wild lands and wild species. We must stop trying to get rid of them.

 

 

A study on the benefits of cougars

 

A scientific study done by Oregon State University, published in 2006 in the online publication Biological Conservation 133 (2006) 397-408, looked at the impact of cougars in Zion National Park. (Please see the links at the end of part two.)

 

This study uncovered profound, long-term effects following the decline of cougars in Zion.

 

As the numbers of cougars took a downward dip, herds of mule deer no longer kept moving along as they would naturally do in the presence of cougars. Instead, the deer began to spend a lot of time hanging about, congregating in stream beds, browsing on cottonwood and other saplings, and leading a “sedentary” lifestyle. The forest was diminished and the abundance of all wild species: mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and other plant and animal life went into decline. The stream beds were trampled and muddy, and all life near them dwindled.

 

By contrast, in the North Creek area of Zion National Park, where there was far less human intrusion, both the cougars and the deer remained lively and active much as they always had. With far less trampling, streambed erosion and loss of soil were less than half what they were in the rest of Zion. There was an abundance of young cottonwoods, squirrels, butterflies, lizards and water plants. There were three times as many fish found in streams in this area. The wild lands stayed healthy and thriving.

 

All this was thanks to the continued presence of the cougars. Cougars are essential to Utah’s wild lands.

 

3 ID 53530707 © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 

Cougars benefit human beings too

 

A healthy ecosystem does, of course, also benefit human beings. Who would not prefer to be surrounded by wild lands where wildlife are active and in good shape, where lands shine with the natural vitality, health, and the beauty that nature intended?

 

When our wild lands are healthy, we too can breath clean air, drink pure water – our agriculture benefits, and so does our economy – not too mention our own health, peace of mind, and happiness.

 

Predators, including cougars, are keystone species that have been proven to sustain and invigorate the well-being of the environment on which our own lives depend.

 

Yet, paradoxically, we continue to persecute and attempt to eliminate these essential, beneficial predators. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, bobcats, and other species that belong in nature are systematically targeted, year after year, with increased quotas for hunting and/or trapping.

 

 

Why hunt cougars?

 

The hunting of cougars is not real hunting at all. No one hunts cougars for food.

 

They are hunted for trophies and also because of a mistaken perception that where there are fewer cougars, deer hunting will be better, and ranchers will lose fewer calves to predation. None of these beliefs is true.

 

The head of a cougar is far more beautiful and magnificent on the living animal where it belongs, than it is when it is dead and mounted on a wall.

 

Whether or not one is a deer hunter, we can all appreciate that the health of deer herds is enhanced by cougars and other predators who maintain a dynamic and beneficial relationship with the deer. The natural order of things serves the animals far better than human interference. Cougar populations are self-regulating and do not require human management. Their mating and breeding are determined by the numbers of cougars that the land will hold. Killing cougars does not regulate their population. The availability of food and good habitat does.

 

 Continued in part two (with how to help, sources, and photo credits)…Click here.

1*1000CEDSC00262

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Inside a stone structure near the temple, langur monkeys played in the rays of the late afternoon sun.

 

Like nearly all Hindu temples, the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi began as just a small shrine; it is thought to go back to around the seventh century CE.

 

Virupaksha is the God Shiva, and this is a living temple, which means that people still go there to worship so many centuries later.

 

Over time many rulers contributed to its growth. Around 1000 CE, the temple was expanded. In 1510 CE, on the occasion of his coronation, King Krishnadevaraya, the iconic emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire, added a complex comprised of the inner eastern entrance, or gopuram, a pillared hall, and many more shrines.

 

Near the temple entrance are several graceful statues of Nandi, the sacred bull who is the vehicle of Shiva; he gives permission to each devotee to enter the temple. One of the Nandis has three heads. There’s nothing mysterious about this, the sculptor simply gave him three heads, but normally Nandi has only one head.

 

*2Nandi by VirupakshaDSC00293

 

Quite far away, perhaps a tenth of a mile up high in a structure of pillars built by the side of a mountain, near where the monkeys were playing, the original Nandi looks out towards the temple – a very imposing figure carved out of a giant black boulder.

 

It is said that it was Nandi who taught Shiva to dance. The dance of Shiva is an important one since Shiva is the God of destruction, and one of his two dances is the tandava, the dance which brings the world to its end. The other is a gentle dance during which the world begins anew.

 

The destructive aspect of Shiva is not in any way unkind or malevolent. It is essential; without destruction there can be no renewal. It is the essence of how the cosmos works, causing the wheel of life and death to turn. There are many worlds, many levels, both seen and unseen, and many Gods, yet they are all One, the ultimate Brahman.

 

To be separated and cut off from the truer levels of being is to live in a world of turmoil and unrest. To be in touch with the deeper levels of reality and with the Gods, is to know peace and truth.

 

*3boulders near NandiDSC00300

 

Many thousands of years ago, during the time when the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world, was written, there existed another, earlier, magnificent phase of Indian civilization. The ruins of over a thousand cities which existed along the banks of the Saraswathi River, in India, and spread out encompassing a far wider area, have been found, along with other already well-known ancient cities such as Mohenjo Daro and Harrappa, now in Pakistan, which were all part of the same civilization. The artwork found there shows clear evidence of continuity between the customs and worship of Indian people then and today.

 

The Rig Veda describes the Saraswathi River as being vast and energetic, a huge, dynamic river. Eventually, the Saraswati River dried up and most of it went underground, which is how it remains today. Archeologists and geologists have noted that the last time the Saraswati River was flowing in full force as a huge beautiful river was around 5,000 BCE. This has led to their being able to date the time when the Rig Veda must have been composed as no later than 5,000 BCE – which means that the history of India goes back at least seven thousand years, and possibly much, much farther. Many more fascinating confirmations of this very ancient antiquity are described in an article in the IndiaFacts newsletter – please see below for the link to this and also for the link to Michel Danino’s book, Land of Seven Rivers.

 

One of the most intriguing pieces of artwork found in the Indus-Saraswati Civilization is the depiction of a God believed to be Shiva. Portrayed as a yogi, he is surrounded by animals and is shown as the God of the natural world. Shiva is a sacred being, the beginning and the ending of all existence, of the entire cosmos. His living beings — the animals, the plants, the trees, the rivers, the mountains, and all of nature, are sacred too, and they are to be cared for and worshipped.

 

*4one of the Virupaksha gopurumsDSC00277

 

Within the Virupaksha Temple, in the late afternoon, one can feel an age-old connection with levels beyond; an ancient continuity that is only evident when there is still a link with the past – when we are not lost in a present that is chaotic like a boat cast adrift without moorings. Like the temple trees whose roots provide a grounding strength, the centuries and centuries that go back into the mists are rooted in an ancient truth that is always there, a light shining through the forests of time.

 

© Sharon St Joan, text and photos, 2017

 

Photos: Sharon St Joan

 

Top photo: A part of the Virupaksha Temple that goes back to around 1000 CE.

 

Second photo: A giant Nandi overlooking the temple.

 

Four: Nearby boulders.

 

Five: One of the temple gopurams.

 

 

Aryan Invasion Myth How 21st Century Science Debunks 19thCentury Indology – the IndiaFacts newsletter http://indiafacts.org/aryan-invasion-myth-21st-century-science-debunks-19th-century-indology/

 

 

Lost River: On the trail of the Sarasvati by Michel Danino https://www.amazon.com/Lost-River-Sarasvati-Michel-Danino/dp/0143068644/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498344116&sr=8-1&keywords=Michel+Danino

 

800px-Metate_Arch_-_Grand_Staircase-Escalante_National_Monument

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

The 27 National Monuments now under review for downsizing are some of the most uniquely beautiful wild lands on the planet earth, with spectacular mountain ranges, enchanting rock formations, magnificent wild birds and animals, essential wildlife corridors, and hundreds of thousands of sacred Native American sites. Nature really is not ours to destroy, and the continued protection offered by National Monument status is needed to prevent opening up these lands to threats – either from coal, oil, fracking and other development, or from further changes in status down the road which could lead to their being sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of.

 

Please send a comment to the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking that the 27 National Monuments and the oceanic Monuments which are also now under review, not be diminished or downsized in any way.

 

The comment I have sent is given below.

 

Bighorn_lamb_Alberta

 

Here is the link where you may send your comment. Sometimes this link doesn’t work. You can also go to www.regulations.gov and continue from there.

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

 

The deadline for comments is July 10, 2017. The deadline for comments on the Bears Ears National Monument was May 26, and has already passed.

 

If you live in southern Utah, or even if you don’t, you may wish to comment specifically on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which is the largest of the Monuments.

 

800px-House_on_Fire_Ruin

 

Several criteria are listed which Secretary Zinke will be considering when making his decisions about these Monuments.

 

If you can submit a comment that relates to these criteria, please, by all means do so. That may be most effective. I’m not suggesting that you write a comment similar to mine below. Sticking to the criteria given may work best.

 

I confess that I was unable to force my comments into something that could be fitted into the pigeon holes of the criteria. Because we have freedom of speech and freedom of thought, it seems that our comments ought to be considered, whether or not they fall within the stated categories. Also our own sense of justice requires that we speak up clearly on behalf of nature that is in peril.

 

Among many of us there is a feeling that perhaps the decision has already been made, and the die has already been cast. There have been a great many occasions; however, when public comments have actually been heard and have modified an outcome. In any case, speaking up in defense of wildlife and wild lands is worth doing, regardless of whether or not one is being heard, even if only the clouds and the wind are witnesses.

 

Also, hearing happens on many levels. We ourselves hear what we have said, and all those who have ears to hear do also hear. This gives strength to the global movement to protect the natural world, and on some level, joins forces with the plants, the wild animals, and the earth itself.

 

Berryessa_Snow_Mountain_National_Monument

 

 

 

Here is the comment that I sent:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the review of certain National Monuments established since 1996.

 

I am opposed to this review, and I ask that Secretary Zinke not recommend diminishing any of these Monuments which were designated by former presidents.

 

In my view, there are no legal grounds and no justification for attempting to undo or downsize any Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act provides for the establishment of such Monuments by American presidents, but it does not provide for their dismantling by any succeeding president.

 

The efforts to downsize or diminish any of these Monuments are misguided.

 

Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon is home to two hundred species of birds, including the endangered Great Grey Owl. Craters of the Moon in Idaho is made up of amazing volcanic landscapes found nowhere else. Giant Sequoia Monument in California has some of the oldest and most spectacular of these beautiful trees. Gold Butte in Nevada protects the threatened Mojave Desert Tortoise, Bighorn Sheep, cougars, and magnificent desert rock formations. Grand Canyon-Parashant includes remote natural wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon.

 

Grand Staircase Escalante has some of the most beautiful rock formations on earth as well as sacred Native American sites and essential wildlife corridors. The only remaining jaguars within the United States, whose presence is greatly endangered, are to be found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana is filled with scenic wild lands, still unspoiled since the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through in 1805. The Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona holds 12,000 years of Native American settlements and some of the earth’s most astonishing 3,000 feet high rock formations. For 11,000 thousand years, human beings have lived among the forests and rivers of the Katahdin Woods and Waterways National Monument in Maine. Each of these Monuments has unique and irreplaceable natural wild lands.

 

The five marine National Monuments also being reviewed, the Marianas Trench, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea, and Rose Atoll are the homes of some of earth’s rarest and most endangered sea birds and sea creatures. The preservation of these great ocean expanses is essential to the continuation of life in the sea.

 

When my ancestors and the ancestors of many Americans first arrived on our shores around five hundred years ago, and began to travel west, they found a continent overflowing with life. From coast to coast, there was such an unimaginable abundance of wild lands and wildlife that it would have been impossible to imagine that today it would be mostly gone. The Native Americans who lived here for 13,000 years used what they need to survive and destroyed nothing else. They left the natural world as they had found it.

 

A September 9, 2016 article on the online site Science Alert, reports on a study which estimates that today only 23 percent of the world’s wilderness areas remain intact. Very little is left of the natural world. Yet, instead of striving to protect whatever bits of nature are left – every tree, every mountain range, every wild species, the rivers, the oceans, and every blade of grass – instead, we continue to plunder the natural world.

 

The claim that the natural world “belongs” to us, because our forbears traveled across the prairie displacing the Native Americans who were here for many thousands of years before us – or that wild lands exist solely in order to be gobbled up by coal, oil, fracking, and other industrialization, is absurd. The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.

 

This is not a weird or unpopular point of view. The vast majority of the American public supports protecting public lands, including the National Monuments, along with all wild lands and wild species. Americans, like all peoples on the earth, value the intrinsic beauty and worth of the natural world. We are part of nature. We cannot exist without nature, though, irrationally, we are rapidly killing the very source of life on which we depend. When the natural world is gone, we will be gone too. Yet that, in itself, is not the primary reason to protect life on earth. The earth has it’s own existence and its own value, and it is not ours to destroy.

 

When we destroy our past – the ancient sacred sites that are the legacy of this continent, and when we destroy the great beauty and sacred integrity of the rocks, the rivers, the mountains, the wild animals and birds, and all the life that was put here long before we arrived, that is a mistake that cannot be undone.

 

I would like to request that the Department of the Interior and Secretary Zinke undertake a review of all the as-yet-unprotected wild lands in the U.S. with the intent of seeing how they can be safeguarded by being designated as National Monuments, National Parks, or other protected lands.

 

Thank you for your consideration,

 

Sharon St Joan

Canyons_of_the_Ancients_ruin

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

Photos:

 

Top photo: John Fowler / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / Metate Arch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, in Utah.

 

Second photo: Philipp Haupt / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / A Bighorn lamb.

 

Third photo: Snowpeak / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / House on Fire Ruin; Anasazi Ruin in upper Mule Canyon near Comb Ridge in Utah.

 

Fourth photo: Bob Wick, BLM / “This image is a work of a Bureau of Land Management employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.” / Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California.

 

Fifth photo: Bob Wick, BLM / “This image is a work of a Bureau of Land Management employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.” / Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, in Colorado, Painted Hand Pueblo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narasimha ShDSC00350

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

On this planet, as we all know, life began in the sea, with the fish and other sea creatures; then came reptiles like the turtles, as animals began to adapt to life on land. Great sea turtles still swim in the sea, but they lay their eggs on the shore. Then the land animals, like the boar, appeared. And of course, much, much later humanoid beings appeared, including the several species of early humans.

 

In Hindu tradition, one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is Narasimha, who is half-man, half-lion. Preceding Narasimha are three Vishnu incarnations that have an animal form: Matsya, the fish, Kurma, the turtle, and Varaha, the boar. The incarnations that follow Narasimha are all human in form: Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Ballarama (or in some sources, Buddha) and Kalki.

 

Interestingly, this progression throughout time corresponds to the theory of evolution: first a fish; then a reptile; then a mammal; then a half-mammal half-human, followed by the human forms.

 

An eighteenth century painting This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.808px-Narasimha_oil_colour

 

How did ancient Hindu seers know about the theory of evolution—which was only “discovered” by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century? Well, they seem to have known quite a lot of things. Ancient Sanskrit writings are filled with scientific treatises on mathematical and scientific topics, especially astronomical knowledge, a lot of which was only “discovered” many centuries later by Europeans, yet this knowledge was there all along, and was written down in very early Sanskrit texts.

 

We are so used to thinking that only modern humans, within the past few centuries, have possessed any real knowledge about the world, that we remain ignorant of all the thousands of years of human history in which there is evidence that humans knew far more than we give them credit for.

 

In any case, Narasimha stands on the threshold between the animal and the human forms of Vishnu. He is an intriguing figure.

 

Author Adityamadhav Narasimha at Simhachalam Temple in Visakhapatnam

 

Many stories in Hinduism and in legends all over the world, portray the great battle that takes place between the self-absorbed forces of darkness and the beings of light who defend the innocent from wrongdoing. Narasimha is a defender against injustice.

 

Once upon a time, so one of these stories goes, there was a demon named Hiranyakasipu who didn’t like Vishnu very much because in a previous incarnation Vishnu had killed his younger brother. This had happened because one day the brother, Hiranyaksha, had brutally attacked and then tried to drown Mother Earth at the bottom of the sea. In his role as protector of the innocent, Vishnu had saved Mother Earth from the sea, and killed the demon brother.

 

The demon Hiranyakasipu, who was perhaps afraid because his brother had been killed as a consequence of his evil deeds, feared death and wanted to live forever.

 

So one day, he approached Brahma to ask for the gift of immortality. Brahma replied that that gift was not within his power to bestow, but, at Hiranyakasipu’s insistence, he agreed to do the next best thing. Brahma granted him a boon – that he would not die either inside or outside, neither during the day nor the night; also that he would not be killed by any weapon, or by any human being or any animal. Hiranyakasipu was quite happy with all this and felt pretty certain that he would now live forever.

 

A few years passed, and Hiranyakasipu had a son named Prahalada. Unfortunately for Hiranyakasipu, his son became an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This upset Hiranyakasipu no end because he saw Vishnu as his mortal enemy. One day just as the sun was setting, Hiranyakasipu came upon his son Prahalada, who despite all his father’s objections, was still praying to Vishnu. He even said to his father that Vishnu is all-powerful and is present everywhere. Thoroughly exasperated, his father shouted at him, “Look at that pillar; is your God Vishnu inside that pillar?”

 

Prahalada replied, “Vishnu is inside every pillar and even every twig.” Losing his temper completely, Hiranyakasipu picked up his heavy mace and smashed the pillar into pieces. Out jumped Narasimha. By this time Hiranyakasipu was swinging his mace wildly, and his son’s life was in danger. To save the boy Prahalada, from the wrath of his father, Narasimha lifted the demon Hiranyakasipu up off his feet and killed him with his bare hands.

 

As it turned out, Hiranyakasipu was after all subject to death, despite the boon granted by Brahma, because he was killed at twilight – neither in the day or in the night; by Narasimha’s powerful hands, not by any weapon; in the doorway, and therefore neither inside nor out, and he was killed not by any animal or any human, but by Narasimha, who was part man, part lion. Perhaps the lesson is also that no matter what kind of deal one tries to strike with fate or with the Gods, one cannot evade one’s karma.

 

As an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Narasimha is a fierce and powerful, magical being who protects those who call on him from harm and danger.

 

The twenty feet high, beautifully carved statue of Narasimha at Hampi, however, was not immune to the violence done by the invading army which destroyed the city in 1565. His legs and hands were cut off, and they lay nearby on the ground for several hundred years until significant restoration work was done in the 1980’s by the Archeological Survey of India. Now he looks down, once again an imposing presence, ready to spring into action to bring about justice and rid the earth of evil.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan. Narasimha at Hampi.

 

Second photo: An eighteenth century painting of Narasimha. Wikipedia: “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.”

 

Third photo: Author: Adityamadhav83 / CC BY-SA 3.0, Narasimha at the Simhachalam Temple in Visakhapatnam.

 

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To the one who lived among the hills,

 

Unseen,

 

Now your voice has become an echo

 

In the distant mist.

 

You have gone

 

to other worlds on star-bright

 

Wings of snow,

 

To that far mountain

 

You call home, where white-

 

Throated swifts soar

 

In the shifting clouds,

 

Where silver chimes

 

Ring

 

In the rain-cloaked ravine

 

And deer nibble

 

In the frost-green

 

Stillness,

 

Where crowds

 

Of petals

 

Fall

 

From the nagalingam tree

 

In ever-present peace,

 

And the wind brings

 

Gales of blessings from across the wandering sea,

 

Where geese

 

Climb the sunlit stairway of the morning,

 

And the langur monkey

 

Sings lullabies to her children

 

In the foothills

 

Of times beyond times,

 

Where the Gods of the forest

 

Listen

 

In the dawn

 

To leaf-told tales

 

Of nevermore

 

And long before.

 

© Sharon St Joan, April, 2017

 

Photo: © Ronnachai Limpakdeesavasd | Dreamstime.com

 

 

*DSC00077little ganesha one 2017

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

The 500 year old peepal tree, majestic, lifts its branches into the sunlight. In front of it stands a stone Ganesha which has been there even longer, for around a thousand years, extending his blessings of profound peace to all. This is a special place near the buildings of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. The land of the Foundation was originally the ancestral home of the family of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, the Foundation’s Honorary Director. She recalls that when she was a child, much of the area was covered in trees with jackals scurrying through the brush and deer browsing among the leaves. Now, among the buildings built in the past few decades, trees still stand tall offering shade and tranquility, though sadly some fell during the recent severe cyclone, Vardah, which blew through in December.

 

*DSC00079ChinnyBhairava 5 2017

 

 

As the site of regular pujas, ceremonies to express devotion to the Gods, the air of this special place becomes filled with incense and ancient songs to Ganesha, who grants prosperity and knowledge, and who has the power to overcome all obstacles.

 

One day in 2006, when Dr. Chinny Krishna, who founded, with his parents, the well-known animal organization, Blue Cross of India, and who is the husband of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, had come to this site to spend a few quiet moments with Ganesha, he spotted a small brown form, barely visible, concealed in the brush off to one side.

 

With a lifelong understanding of street dogs – he and Blue Cross have rescued many, many thousands — he knew that a subtle approach was required with a frightened dog. Dr. Krishna sat down on the stone steps. Quietly, he called to a staff person and asked him to bring a little milk in a bowl and a leash. Leashes are always handy because rescuing dogs is a common event. Placing the bowl beside him on the step, Dr. Krishna waited. After half an hour or so, the brown form emerged from the bushes, gently approached the milk, and the thirsty dog began to drink. Within a few minutes, Dr. Krishna was able to slip the leash over the dog’s head. He did not touch the dog or try to pet him, and when he stood up, the small brown dog went with him. He put the dog into his car, into the back, and gave him a few moments to settle down while he went to have a bite of breakfast, then he drove him to Blue Cross to be neutered.

 

All street dogs rescued by Blue Cross are spayed or neutered if this has not already been done, along with many thousands of dogs on the streets of Madras, as part of Blue Cross of India’s ABC program. Blue Cross of India runs the world’s first and longest continuously operating spay/neuter program that began in 1964.

 

Giving the little dog time to recover from his surgery, Dr. Krishna picked him up a few days later from Blue Cross. He set him down by the gate of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, and walked away, giving the dog the chance to return to where he had come from. Generally, street dogs live in a neighborhood which is their home, where they know the other dogs who are their friends, and where one or two kind people will feed them and keep an eye on them. In this way they lead a stable life and may live for many years.

 

TNR (trap/neuter/ vaccinate/return) for dogs, not just for cats (as in the U.S.), is the accepted best practice way to relate to community dogs in most countries in the world. A shelter system, as is found in the U.S. and other developed countries does not work, and, for many reasons, wherever it has been tried in developing countries, putting street dogs in shelters creates an inhumane, over-crowded situation. TNR is the best and only workable solution for the many millions of street dogs in India. All animal welfare organizations in India are no-kill, and it would not occur to any of them to kill homeless animals. Also, it would be illegal to do so.

 

By evening, the small brown dog had shown no signs of going away and had found his way back into the center of the compound among the trees and the buildings. The next morning Dr. Krishna put him once again out by the gate. And by evening, he had wandered back. Clearly, he had no attention of leaving such a calm, welcoming place.

 

Soon given the name of Bhairava, or Bhairu for short, he joined the twelve to twenty rescued street dogs who, at any one time, are part of the family of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna. They go where they wish, inside or out, are much-loved and cared for, and they are safe within the gates of the large, walled compound, which contains the buildings of the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.

 

Now perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old, Bhairava has a touch of arthritis, but otherwise he is fine. Appropriately, a natural white mark on the fur of his forehead resembles the sign that devout Hindus wear as a mark of devotion. Bhairava is the form of Lord Shiva who wanders the world as a homeless outcaste, always accompanied by his faithful dog. When reminded that, since the little dog Bhairava appeared, as if dropped from heaven, in the middle of the centuries-old site of worship of the peepal tree and the little stone Ganesha, he must certainly be a sacred dog, Dr. Krishna, replied, “Yes, of course, all dogs are sacred.”

 

 

indischer_maler_um_1640_001

By Sharon St Joan

The most ancient myths of India tend to have a magical, timeless quality. Do they happen in this world, in another world? In this time? Or perhaps in all time, or no time? Do they simply transcend our limited, prosaic awareness of the nature of time?

Vrindivan is a town in Uttar Pradesh where it is said that Krishna passed the days of his childhood.

There, the Yamuna River is the second largest tributary of the Ganges. It originates from the Yamunotri Glacier in the Himalayas, at a height of 20,000 feet. It flows through several states and eventually merges with the Ganges.

A long time ago, an ancient story goes, a serpent king, Kaliya, had fled from his original home because he was afraid of Garuda, the great eagle or kite who is the enemy of all serpents. Garuda could not go to Vrindivan because of a curse that prophesied that he would meet his death there, so Vrindivan was a good place for Kaliya to live since his mortal enemy could not come there.

One day when the young boy Krishna and his friends were playing ball by the river bank, and Krishna had climbed up a Kadamba tree that was hanging over the river, the ball fell into the river and Krishna jumped into the water after it. Now Kaliya was a naga, a great serpent who lived in the river. Disturbed by this sudden intrusion of the boy Krishna jumping into the river, Kaliya’s giant head rose up above the surface of the water. A vile poison flowed out of his 110 hoods, poisoning the river and turning it black, killing the fish and all life in the river.

Kaliya wrapped himself around Krishna to strangle him, but, unexpectedly, Krishna grew bigger and bigger. He became so huge that Kaliya finally had to release him. When Krishna glanced at the people on the riverbank and saw that they were very frightened, he knew he had to do something. He leaped into Kalia’s head and took on the weight of the whole universe, then he danced on the naga’s many heads, in time to the beat of the music. Kaliya began to die, and his many wives prayed to Krishna for their husband to be saved from death.

At this moment, Kaliya came to his senses, and, acknowledging the power of Krishna, he surrendered, promising not to hurt anyone ever again. Krishna forgave him and let him go free, to return to his original home, Ramanaka Dwipa.

So ends the tale. Is this a story of the past, the present, the future – does it spell out a warning?

It is hard not to see in it a story of pollution — of polluted, lifeless rivers, which belong very much to our own time – of great black snake-like oil worming it’s way downsteam from one of those endless oil spills that, of course, can never really happen because the pipelines are “perfectly safe,” and we are informed that we are being quite silly to worry that they might be hazardous.

There is, however, a deadly spill; then Krishna, the essence of life and goodness vanquishes the pollution, sending it back to where it belongs and freeing the river from its grasp of death. All ends well.

This story, it seems, is a timeless one, of multi-layered meaning – of the past, the future, the present – of all time – of the physical world and the transcendent, spiritual world. Not just an odd tale from the distant past, but instead a profoundly relevant story of eternal truth – of the reality of evil and also of the recurring victory of good over evil.

Image: A painting by Maler in 1640. / Wikipedia / “The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide.”