Latest Entries »

The bells of Shiva

rainforest during foggy day
Photo by David Riaño Cortés on Pexels.com

Beside the stones,

The rain

Intones 

The song of the evening star;

There lies the derailed car

Of arrogance

Fallen, still

In the hour of reckoning.

Mother of the Rising Light

Not far away,

As they were wont to say,

But near,

As the breath of moonbeams. On the horizon

Of unmarked time, the stray

And wayward galaxy,

By a kind fate,

Has escaped the dreary, dismal chain

Of bondage,

That lurks at the sharp edge

Of being.

Every light,

Every shining.

Here the beginning

And the ending

And the beginning anew;

Here the enduring flame,

The bells of Shiva

That ring long

In the never-ending 

Standing

In cool water where

The summer crane

Slowly goes,

At ease

Among the lilies,

And, on high, the hawk will view 

The Himalayan snows.

Abaya mudra,

Fear not.

Though the wraith

Of this current world feeds only

On lies,

Deception,

And distain,

Across the unwise

Plot

Of terror,

With no faith

And, seeking stolen redemption,

Finds bitter loss.

But look to the spring sleet

Shimmering on the raven’s wing.

See the unseeable, cloaked in mist;

Now how to remember to walk through

The fires 

Of truth and through

The spires

Of nevermore

On feet

Impelled by grace.

Atman

By the fence post of wood

By the boundary

By the old, unpainted gate,

Stood

Waiting.

No time, no space.

You know they covered over

Gobekli Tepe

To prevent a desecration

Of the Holy Light

That never dims,

That is known by no name.

Grace

Of the One,

The Green Heart of the forest, deepening,

The One who spoke earlier,

In the still air,

Or,

In clouds rent

By winds that toss

The tree limbs

Of the dawn that awoke — though not yet.

The silver-sailing moon knows

The primeval bones

That hid

An intent,

Unbidden, but not unwise,

Bones that slumber

In the rustling sighs under the leaves on the floor

Of the grove,

Buried, but not forgotten,

Silent,

Sacred.

And now – after a time, with the passing

Of the sunset

Beyond the darkened road,

Scarred and malevolent,

All is changed, rising,

When the geese 

Fly 

Anew,

Bright-

Winged, here

By the bent

Hill 

Of the green-toed

Mountain of peace,

Sent,

Just there

In the sparkle 

Of the dew

To awaken.

Listen

Hear only the bells of Shiva

In the silence

Beyond the dissonance

Of this world, only the bells of Shiva

Ringing in the ever-drifting rain,

Singing.

Written in the spring of 2020.

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

The raven’s walk

On a half-lit day

Rain-rent

And clouded

The raven sipped the gray

And bitter brew

Of the sacred yew

And walked alone –

Where

No one could tell –

In a country no one knows

His footfall

Made no sound

On the hollowed ground

In mist

Enshrouded

There he went

Until the sun

Tossed her gold net

Of flowers

Around

The crystal goblet

In the cathedral

Of enchanted hours

By the tall forest

And tolled the bell

Of rainbows.

Written around 2003

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

Photo 4888 © Denise Mcquillen | Dreamstime.com

tiger walking on green plants during daytime
Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

In the forest 

Of tigers

Moonlight tumbles across

The enchanted lake.

Death and life pinned

In the tiger’s paws

In her jaws,

In her wide, clawed feet.

The silent

Shadow that can never be understood

Stirred 

In the tree

In the murmuring wood.

Ancient beings walk free

In their domain

Awake

In the pounding rain

Until the sun returns, majestic one,

In the living flowers 

Of the earth,

Or in the thick mist

Clasped by the mountain

In the wind of time.

Yet, 

Even the dissonant 

Dust

Of gray, pedestrian powers

Seeps into the furrow 

Of being

Deluding perception, inflicting loss,

Eclipsing 

Reality 

With soul-bending lies that deny

The great ones,

That bring about death and distrust.

Yet,

In the end,

May the dust be as it is meant to be,

Footfalls of the tiger go 

Undeterred

In the bells of sunset

Until truth turns and the moon rises in another far-off clime

In a brighter, radiant night

In the light

Of Shiva’s trident

In the sky.

By Sharon St Joan

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

brown goat beside green plants
Photo by Nina Rath on Pexels.com

Well, I can hear you thinking – What a silly question, of course, wildlife are important! They are sentient beings, beautiful animals that have feelings. Of course, they are important.

Most kind people who care about animals would reply this way. As for those who genuinely do not care, we lost them when they saw the title. So, this is for those who do care.

But let’s pause for a moment. Many of us, especially at the moment, are quite overwhelmed. If we are fortunate enough to have a relatively secure situation in life – if we have a job, if we are not lining up for a food bank, if we are not in a state of crisis – we may still either be afraid for the future or in a state of distress at the suffering of our fellow human beings. To some extent this is not new – it is worse now, but it is not new. Life has always had difficult times – for those who have a sick child, or elderly parents, or who are sick themselves – or who are struggling in any of many, many ways. And yes, absolutely, if we have a sick child, the child must come first, and we need to care for the child – or whoever else we may need to care for.

Too busy

Even in the best of times, many of us are just busy – really busy.  We rush here. We rush there, and if we stop rushing, things fall behind and do not get done. So to stay on top of our situation, we need to take care of those immediate, insistent things that require our attention. No one is saying that we shouldn’t do this.

Some of us, perhaps most of us though, do have a little bit of leeway – there are the couple of hours in the evening we spend in front of the TV. There is some time here and some time there. There are days, weeks, months when there is no crisis – when we do have some time.

Priorities

And what are our priorities?  In the past few years, statistically speaking, our priorities have been health care, national security, the economy, maybe climate change, social and racial justice – or stability, depending on how we look at the world. If we are asked if we care about wildlife, we say, yes, of course. But really, that’s not at the top of our list. Overwhelmingly, our concerns are human concerns. We care about ourselves and other people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with caring about other people. It’s a wonderful quality to have. It is essential. There is really in our country a state of vast social and racial injustice, and it is fundamentally important – and this moment in time is, we trust, a profound turning point for change.

symmetrical photography of clouds covered blue sky
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

But, then where are we with wildlife? We care about dogs, cats – sometimes we care about horses, or even elephants and tigers. Somewhere, somehow, the little songbirds, the dragonflies, the coyotes, the squirrels, and the bobcats just do not quite register in our consciousness. And their habitat – without which they cannot survive – even less.

Let me give a couple of examples based on real, factual situations. When there is a water shortage due to lack of rain, and there is a stream – a little stream – and a coal company wants to pollute the waters of the stream just a little bit more than it already does – first, when it appears that this might affect the town’s drinking water, there is huge concern – then, when it is understood, that, no, nobody is talking about drinking water, this would only affect the water way upstream, and any tiny bit of pollution would just be washed away naturally by the rain (forgetting conveniently that there is no rain), without affecting the water downstream (which doesn’t make sense, but nevermind), then, amazingly all concern vanishes – and the same people who were alarmed about their own drinking water, somehow can no long find the time to be interested in this situation. What about the deer, the ring-tailed cats, the badgers, the songbirds who also need to drink? Somehow, they are just not anywhere near the top of our list. They may take our attention for a moment, just a moment – then they are gone from our thoughts.

And what about climate change? For many of us this means our own clean air, our own clean water – it means kids not having asthma (which is absolutely important) – it means developing clean energy so that, whatever the future may bring, we will be able to drive our cars, heat and cool our homes, and live decent, comfortable lives. Yes, these things are important. We’re used to them and we would get frazzled (myself included!) if it were freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. Really, are we giving a single thought to the plight of the birds for whom breathing adequately is even more necessary than it is for us? Have we noticed species after species of songbirds greatly diminished in numbers or gone altogether? Have we noticed that, without rain, there are no butterflies at all? And so few insects that insect-eating birds have nothing to eat? The answer is – no, we haven’t noticed. It’s not because we don’t care. If someone told us, we would care. We just literally haven’t noticed. For the vast majority of us, we simply do not see wildlife. Wildlife just do not appear on our radar screen.

So why does this matter? What difference does it make? And, yes, we don’t want to see wildlife suffer, but really we can’t spend our whole lives worrying about bobcats, let alone butterflies.

Why are wildlife important?

But there is one extremely relevant reason why wildlife are important – not just for their own sake, but for our sake as well – and this is the reason: Wildlife are the children of the earth. They are part of the earth. They may be invisible to us, but they are an essential part of the universe. As children of the earth, they, in a truly meaningful way, are life itself. Yes, we are all children of the earth – but to us as humans this is mostly an abstraction – a truth to be remembered only occasionally, if at all. But a wild being – a deer, a wolf, an eagle – is the earth – is part of the fabric of life. And when we deny life, deny nature, deny existence, and deny the universe, then we will soon be in trouble, just as we are now.  When we alienate ourselves from the natural world – to the extreme extent that we no longer even think about the natural world, not even in passing, then we have climbed to the end of the tree branch, and we are about to saw off the branch on which we are sitting, thereby sending ourselves plummeting down to injury and death – and that is precisely where we are now. We have alienated ourselves from life.

Consequences?

The consequence of we, as the human race, alienating ourselves from life is this: We have become parasites – unthinking, unconscious parasites who are destroying life, and nature – maybe not intentionally, but sometimes just accidentally – unaware, unconcerned. And the only solution that will make the slightest difference, ultimately, is not the Paris climate accords, or the Clean Air Act or clean energy or any number of government meetings and agreements (which are not happening much, but even if they were, they would not reach the root of the problem). The root of the problem is our disassociation, our alienation from nature. This concept is woven into the fabric of western civilization – which is a topic for another time. But this is killing us. Alienation from nature is killing the source of our lives – the earth herself – who we, without even paying attention, have thoughtlessly and unconsciously – abandoned, neglected, ignored, and then slaughtered and destroyed. When we kill the earth, we kill ourselves.

The first thing we can do – is un-alienate ourselves. This may not save the planet. It is quite late for that and, until we can engage others, we are, by ourselves, just one person. Yet still we must start somewhere. We must shine a small light into the darkness. Not by feeling bad – feeling bad accomplishes nothing, but instead by re-connecting with nature. Just simply doing that.

Take a walk in the woods. If there are no woods because you are in a city, then go to a park, sit by a tree. No trees? Then go to a flower shop and smell the flowers. If nothing else, then watch the clouds overhead – watch the sunlight or the rain. Watch a pigeon fly through the air. Be thankful, be grateful, and acknowledge the reality that you and I are not superior beings at all. We are at one with the natural world, with the earth – and this will be a step. The first thing this will do is put us in touch, just a little bit, with the peace of the universe. And the second thing it will do, is create a little wave in the ether – a little life-giving wave that will help someone somewhere – another being – a fish in a river, a tree in a park, another human being – and by becoming part of the resurrection of life – we will have played some small part in renewing the earth – if not in this age, then in the age that is to come – building a bit of a bridge to a world of light.

I know this seems simplistic, and it is not a remedy meant for everyone – if it were, we would all already be doing this, and there would be no problem. But if we are to some extent, in touch with real reality, then this will not be incomprehensible to us. We will remember sometime in our life when we felt in contact with the earth, with a tree or a bird or a sunset, and we will understand that this is the point where we must begin – to be at one, once again, with the web of life that is the earth – that is our life and the life of the universe.

By Sharon St Joan

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

Interested in wildlife and the earth? Take a look at

forestvoicesofindia.com and sign up for the newsletter!

Kamakshi’s Light

landscape photography of waterfalls surrounded by green leafed plants
Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

In a meandering land of mystic moons,

At the waystation 

Between the worlds — unremembered, translucent,

Walking, not yet understanding,

Beyond the shifting sand dunes.

At the crossroads by the river

Of fish glimmering, shimmering,

In a sliver 

Of moonlight

Waits a boat of mist,

In a time that is no 

Time,

In a place that is no place,

We walk before the dawn

In a land of gentle grace,

In a land of stars and mist,

As we climb a tilted rise,

There ahead a mountain looms alone,

Home of fir trees, of summer’s moss,

And winter’s cold,

Of crystal stone,

Eclipsed in silver wings of snow

Of thrice-weathered rocks,

Of beings old

Older than the earth – from long before,

Of grandfathers that go along on a bent cane,

In the time that never was – sure-footed, wise,

Beyond a fog-inducing year 

Of history 

Come unpinned,

In a land that will wait,

Just past the wooden post of the gate,

There, where an angel’s footstep shone 

On the dark 

Valley floor – benevolent,

And be waiting, for the dawn that breaks, 

Transcendent,

For the golden eagles to lift into the clear sun,

Once more,

Into the deep blue,

To fly,

To cry,

To lift their sky-

Engulfing intent

In awakening days

Of lakes

And the white, waving wildflowers,

The rose-enchanted nettles,

That sing songs of ancient powers

In the cool wind

Anew,

Where Kamakshi,

The black, opalescent one, ringed in every mystery,

She who is mother of the forest,

Of springing deer

And sparkling fawn,

Of flocks of horned lark,

Of the long-billed curlew

Who tiptoes across 

The water’s edge then turns to glance

Again at the light-calling pinion jays,

While Kamakshi gathers up her winged petals

Of joy – anew,

Now to dance 

In the bright-

Singing rain.

By Sharon St Joan

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

 

What to do?

By Sharon St Joan

On a practical note – and unrelated to the thoughts below: I am no longer able (for purely technical reasons) to post reblogs on this site – either temporarily or maybe for quite a while. I’m quite sorry about this since many of them were beautiful glimpses of nature and very much worth reblogging. Thank you to all those who created them. In any case, I shall have to do a bit more writing myself in order to have something to post.

Today, the sad passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left us as a nation teetering on a brink that we may not get past.

This compounds the sense of danger and a sense of impending doom that we may feel creeping here and there, through the shadows, that menaces our country and our future.

This morning I noticed that an acquaintance of mine had discontinued his blog. The other day, a friend mentioned that probably, this was all just a “blip in time” and that we would soon get past it – a thought that sounded optimistic, but that revealed an underlying sense of fear.

A black patch?

Some of us, for better or for worse, have learned to become quite good at escaping black patches of reality – at just skating away into a dreamland – but as one looks around it would be hard not to notice that others seem to be sinking fast into a certain black patch. So here are a couple of reflections that might help — a few tips just in case a black patch might be looming ahead.

There can be a growing sense of futility if we begin to wonder how it is possible to do anything positive in our own lives – when justice, at this moment in time, does not seem to prevail.

A conversation long ago

I have been recalling a lot lately a conversation that I had ten or twelve years ago with a friend who has done a great deal in his own life, especially in east Asia, but also in the rest of the world, for the cause of animals. He had gone on a solitary retreat to try to sort out his purpose in life. In a state of profound despair, he felt that the suffering of animals was so immense and overwhelming that nothing could help. After three days spent alone – I think on the top of a mountain – he came to the awareness that he would spend the rest of his life just helping when and where he could. He would never be able to help all animals. But he could alleviate the suffering of just one dog here and one cat there – just a few in one city — a few hundred in another city — and maybe also a squirrel or a bird in distress, along the way — and that this was worth doing and would be his purpose in life. He has done this since, and after that insight, he felt some clarity and peace.

A bridge to the future

To go back for a moment to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a woman of extraordinary brilliance and accomplishments who has even bent the trajectory of history, she wrote many dissenting options for the Supreme Court. Interestingly, she said that she was, in some ways, most proud of her dissenting opinions. She did not regard these dissenting opinions as losses or defeats. Instead, she viewed them as possibilities for the future — as views whose time had not yet come, but that might pave the way for a changed and more just future, when others might come to agree and more enlightened action might be possible — in short, as a bridge to the future. Life is not static — there are highs and lows – positives and negatives – cycles. When we focus on windows for change – no matter how tiny these little windows may be, there can be momentum and ultimately, transformation.

Focusing on the immediate

It is good for us to value the work that we can do right now to help one animal, or one human being, or to plant one tree that may grow up in the sunlight. This is enough. It is enough because it is a beginning. Do not focus on the grand outcome. That is the responsibility of the universe. It is not your responsibility and not my responsibility. The universe will do what it does.

The yugas

According to The Hindu faith, there are four ages that cycle on, one after another. After the last age, the terrible time known as the Kali Yuga – then there will arise another age – the beginning one – of great vision and great insight, of love and compassion, of new life and energy. What we do now, even when it may be unseen or unacknowledged, can help build a bridge to that new age.

There is a great cycle of many yugas, following each other.

Let us focus, in the meantime (in this time of transitions and endings), on the good that we each can do — imparting peace to the earth, wherever and whenever we can – not wasting time on fear for the future or on regrets about the past — or, even worse – on blame and anger. Let us spend our days living in peace and imparting peace and reassurance to others — not just humans, but to animals and to trees and to the land of the earth as well.

One step, then another

Not all of us may be able to do much at his moment because truly there is a potential for very great catastrophe, and some may see that more clearly than others. If you find yourself caught in a moment of despair — just try to do one very small thing — extend a hand of kindness to someone — then later on to another and then to another — that will be a beginning. Water a flower or call a friend, or a stranger, or say a prayer.

Remember the Great Light of the Universe who enters the world and who makes the world out of Her (or His) own being – who takes on the mantle of time — who lives and dies and rises again, who is the heart of all faiths. (Yes, there is profound truth, even in Christianity. ) (There, now I have offended everyone – Christians, atheists, Moslems, everyone — oh, well, so be it.)

Let us carry a light each day — a beacon — big or small — a gift that comes to us from that Great Light from which all arises and to which – and to whom – all returns.

Bless you and

Namaste,

Sharon

Trees walking

By Sharon St Joan

Photo by Melvin Wahlin on Pexels.com

Within the rose

Shining in the night,

A shimmering cloud 

Grows,

Within the night

A crowd

Of trees walking,

Walking through bright

Hills of mist,

Back to the beginning

Again,

Back to the sacred – not forgotten – forest

Of rains and stars and winged beings,

Of boats that sail long in the rushing rivers of the skies.

There floats

Within the lake-enchanted eyes

Of the tiger;

In an ember of perception,

The presence

Of Durga,

Who holds up the resilient dagger 

Of truth,

Imparting the courage

To be walking

Through fields of lilies,

On dimming days,

Through the magic of the gloam,

Guided by the long-known

Beings of light,

By the souls of the trees

Going home,

By the trees

That remember

Always.

In the night of the swan

Who knows 

All things

Within the fire,

The river of eternity,

The beings walk on

Within the voice, lone, not far away,

Of the great-horned owl

Who calls, 

In reply to the howl

Of the winds of the night, 

And who guides lost feet

In the frost

Of winter’s time,

In the sleet,

In the snows,

In the reflection,

Dancing on the ice,

Breaking in the spring,

In the sound of the chime

Of the ancient day,

Returning.

The higher 

Truth of the light

And the walking, not alone,

Where the souls of the trees

Breathe 

In the holy darkness

And in the brightness

Of the day that is yet to be,

Shining.

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

Written August 28, 2020

Celebrating Biodiversity

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY – June 5, 2020

VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW: CELEBRATE BIODIVERSITY

Gujarat National Law College, Gandhigram, Gujarat

CELEBRATING BIODIVERSITY

by

Nanditha Krishna

In 2002, the Indian Parliament enacted the Biological Diversity Act followed by the National Biodiversity Rules in 2004. The main objectives of the Act were the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Earlier, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1973, and its 1991 Amendment provided for the protection of birds and animals, while the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, a vast improvement on the earlier Act of 1927, was intended to provide a high level of protection to the forests and to regulate diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes.

Biodiversity – or biological diversity – includes all the organisms found on our planet, the plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the different ecosystems of which they form a part. India is one of only seventeen mega diverse nations in the world, with over 85,000 out of 12,00,000 animal species in the world, and 45,000 out of 3,90,000 plant species. It is estimated that the world knows only about 17,70,000 species out of 5 to 10 million. We hardly know what we have, leave alone what we have lost.

Biodiversity is essential to the survival of every species, as each organism is linked to another in a fragile web of life. These form a food chain that links food producers to consumers, and maintains ecosystem diversity. The amount of green plants in any environment should be much more than the animals or insects that feed on them. Humans are only a strand in this delicate web of relationships. Every living creature is a part of a food chain. There are several food chains which, depending on the environment, could be simple or complex. But all food chains are fragile, and if even one link is broken, it sets off a series of reactions that could cause the collapse of the ecosystem. If predators are killed, the herbivores will multiply and eat up green plants and grains, leaving the land barren and unproductive. This is how a biologically-rich region like North Africa became the Sahara Desert. What would happen to public health if scavenger birds like the vulture were wiped out? Every species has its role, making species diversity essential.

Loss of biodiversity impacts immediately. There is the example of the genetic similarity of Brazil’s orange trees causing a terrible outbreak of citrus canker in 1991. The rapid deterioration of the ecology due to human interference is aiding the rapid disappearance of several wild plant and animal species.

As natural resources are depleted, there is less to go around, less to share. Economic, social and political problems are a natural corollary. Water, the most important natural resource which comes from hills and forests, is a source of discord today.

Loss of biodiversity is a threat to civilization, second only to thermo-nuclear war in its severity. The consequences could be quite incalculable. Other environmental problems like pollution, global warming and ozone depletion could be overcome, but not the erosion of biodiversity or extinction of species. Species once lost cannot be brought back.

The current Covid 19 pandemic, which has emerged from the wet animal markets of Wuhan, China, is the result of human interference with nature, the destruction of the intricate web of life and the loss of biodiversity. The virus always existed. Its predator is missing. Habitat destruction, air and water pollution, indiscriminate poaching and killing of wildlife, intensive farming of animals and the disappearing green cover have combined to cause global warming, climate change and now this destructive pandemic.

In this lockdown, people are celebrating the return of avian and terrestrial wildlife, or birds and animals in cities and in the countryside. Air and water pollution have decreased, while the North Pole’s largest-ever Ozone hole has finally closed. What humans could not achieve despite spending millions of dollars or rupees, Nature has achieved – a rejuvenation of planet earth. Humans are a very small part of the web of life, but cause the greatest damage. Celebrating biodiversity is celebrating Mother Earth.

I would like to end with a hymn to the tree and the forest from the Rig Veda (IX 5.10.):

The cosmos is a tree with a thousand branches…

The tree is the lord of the forest…

Which is a symbol of life that is self-regenerating and immortal…

And a Hymn to the Earth from the Atharva Veda’s Bhoomi Sukta (XII.I.26, 28):

Earth, my mother, set me securely with bliss…

The earth, which possesses oceans, rivers and other sources of water;

Which gives us land to produce food grains on which human beings depend for their survival;

May it grant us all our needs for eating and drinking: water, cereals and fruit.

​Let us celebrate biodiversity by making time and space for nature, by remembering that the earth was made for animals and plants too. Ahimsa is non-violence in thought word and action, and non-violence to all creation would be the best celebration of biodiversity.

June 5, 2020 global online broadcast, World Environment Day, 2020:

https://www.wedonthavetime.org/events/worldenvironmentday

Hinduism and Nature, as well as several of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s other

books, can be found on Amazon.

dreamstime_s_130437718

By Sharon St Joan

 

So far, the history of the human race on this planet has not been a happy story.

 

In recent days, something surprising has happened. We have all seen the photos of clear skies and waterways. Towns near the Himalayas can now see the face of these mountains for the first time. In Los Angeles and New Delhi the pollution has lifted, and it’s possible to see clearly. In Venice, in unclouded waters, fish can be seen swimming.

 

Leatherback turtles, almost gone in recent years from the world’s beaches, are now returning to nest on beaches in Florida and Thailand.

 

With an absence of humans who are mostly on lockdown because of the coronavirus, the world of nature is experiencing a spell of relief.

 

An overbearing presence

 

In a May 21, 2018 article in the Guardian, the Environmental Editor, Daminan Carrington, wrote, “Of all the mammals on Earth, 96% are livestock and humans, only 4% are wild mammals.”

 

The presence of humans on the planet is overbearing and has been catastrophic for the other creatures of the earth – both animals and plants. We have occupied the whole earth and are squeezing everything else out of the way.

 

Really, the universe would not mind if we, as humans, took a little something for ourselves – some food to eat, and some shelter. But that is not what we do – instead we dominate all of life – driving much of earth’s life completely out of existence all together. As human beings, we take far more than our fair share. We are, as most of us now realize, destroying the planet.

 

Let’s look at our current world situation. The human race is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists come to different views as to the possible origins of this disease. Did it come from wildlife markets or from an accident in a lab where experiments where being carried out on bats? Or maybe from huge pig farms? What does seem clear is that the disease came originally from animals and was then transferred to humans.

 

dreamstime_s_92575638

 

So, some people have blamed animals; there have even been a number of bats killed by irrational humans. Yet, the problem, of course, does not lie with the bats, but rather with the disruption and disturbance of nature caused by human beings. Everywhere on earth, the world of nature is under extreme stress caused by human beings. It is not surprising that diseases emerge in such a situation – and then are carried, again by human beings, all across the globe.

 

Those who are brave

 

As we know, in countless countries, there are many very brave and self-sacrificing human beings who risk their lives daily, both in their jobs in service industries, and, especially those in the medical profession, to care for those who are sick, who confront first-hand the tragedy of so many ill and dying people.

 

There is no doubt that many courageous and kind individuals have arisen in this crisis to act nobly, to put the interests of others above themselves.

 

Individuals can and do act with great courage and kindness, and they are heroes. However, though we do not wish to see it, there is a darker side to the human story – and that is the way we as a species behave towards our fellow beings of other species on this planet.

 

Where do we look for help?

 

There is no doubt that this pandemic was caused by cruelty to animals – whether it was cruelty to bats or other animals in markets or laboratories, or perhaps cruelty on giant industrial pig farms – it is in the horrible conditions in these places that the virus arose and was transmitted to humans.

 

Cities, hospitals, nursing homes, even rural areas are overwhelmed with this disease that is suddenly upon us. Where does our attention go in this crisis?  Where do we look for an answer, a resolution, something that will alleviate all this suffering?

 

Understandably, we look for a cure, or for prevention – especially for a vaccine – a vaccine that will put an end to human suffering.

 

Nearly every doctor and every anchor we see on TV speculates on when, where, and how a vaccine may be created. All express hope that this will be soon and that this vaccine will put an end to the enormous death toll and suffering that is being experienced all over the world. Doctors and researchers devote their careers – and billionaires spend their fortunes – to find this elusive vaccine.

 

The unmentionable reality

 

But how is a vaccine developed? A vaccine is developed first by testing on animals, and then as a later step by testing on human beings. In the U.S., the FDA requires that animal testing be carried out when developing new drugs or a vaccine, and that animal testing precede testing on humans. Most countries have similar laws. The reasoning behind this is that, in case a potential vaccine is dangerous, this will be discovered while it is being tested on animals, and only a vaccine that is believed to be safe will then be tested on humans.

 

The underlying rationale for this is that human beings are worth more than animals, and the suffering and death of animals does not matter in comparison to harm that might be caused to human beings.

 

Apparently, most human beings do not question this reasoning. Yet animals in laboratories suffer far more than do humans who volunteer for testing.

 

Animals are deprived of their freedom and their lives in their natural habitats; they are usually killed to obtain the results of the experiments, and they suffer greatly, unlike human beings who are given only an already tested product, believed to be harmless. A little imagination will suffice to see that this is true, even for those who have read very little about animal experiments.

 

Make no mistake, every authority on television, talking about a vaccine, who mentions “animal models” or who talks about getting ready to do “testing on humans” is acknowledging that large-scale testing is already being carried out on animals.

 

dreamstime_xs_65811519

 

On CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church, on April 28, Dr. Fauchi mentioned testing being done on rhesus monkeys.

 

In short, what are we doing really?  We are subjecting innocent animals – mice, monkeys and other animals who should be free to live out their lives – to extreme suffering and death because we, as a species, feel that we are much more important, more significant, and more worthy of protection from pain.

 

We sacrifice the innocent lives of beings who have no power to defend themselves or to understand what is happening or why.

 

In this way, once again, we are exploiting the world of nature, as if we had a right to do that – causing pain to all those beings who we feel are less than ourselves. And this is just a further step in the very, very long destruction and desecration of the earth and her children by the human race.

 

This is not the right road to be on, and it will lead not only to the destruction of the earth and all creatures, but also to the destruction of ourselves as well.

 

Yet blame will not help. It is not for us to blame others, those who work towards a vaccine, who are doing their best, in an imperfect world, to follow what our society of today deems to be right and correct. We are all, in one way or another, following the norms of society. That is what we do as human beings. But we do need to find a different path.

 

dreamstime_s_75947167 (1)

 

How do we see nature?

 

This is not written to change anyone’s view, which is not likely to happen. Most human beings really do believe that we are superior to animals – and that it is far more important to protect human beings than it is actually to consider the fate, the feelings, or the experiences of animals. And so, we hide the truth from ourselves – we minimize reality — saying to ourselves that animals in labs don’t suffer, that of course they are well treated, that they are lesser creatures and so don’t really feel pain. We close our eyes. As a society, we choose to ignore and not recognize the reality of pain, suffering, and death that is experienced by beings who cannot speak for themselves – and who have absolutely nothing at all to do with causing a disease that is contracted by humans.

 

And we go on, as we always have, subjecting and abusing the creatures of the earth, the world of nature, and all the species who live on the earth – all the individuals who ought to be left free to live out their own lives in peace.

 

Although most may agree that animals should be sacrificed for humans, not everyone agrees. There are those who definitely do not agree. That false view is not built into the nature of human beings, and it has not always been there.

 

For some people, myself included, it makes no sense at all to sacrifice innocent animals and to cause them pain and suffering. We need to look for another way to heal ourselves. As humans we have been on the earth for something like 200,000 or 300,000 years, and it is only in the last few centuries that we have turned to experimenting on animals.

 

Where to look for an answer?

 

Not all human beings have always seen nature in this upside-down, mistaken way. If we look to the traditions and beliefs of the earlier societies on the earth, we see that they did not make a distinction between the lives of animals and the lives of humans. We can see this still today in the traditions of some countries. In India, for example, in the concept of ahimsa – a word that means, “Do no harm.” Ahimsa is an ancient philosophy which honors the essential oneness of all existence. Many peoples in many countries – indigenous and tribal peoples, island peoples, hill peoples – often those left behind by the pervasive modern worldview – do still feel an affinity with animals and nature. Also, just regular people on every continent who love animals – whose hearts have not been turned astray and taught a strange modern worldview – often do simply care about animals as conscious, sentient beings whose lives have an intrinsic value. There is no need for us to continue down a mistaken path – of cruelty, of indifference, of blindness.

 

Whether we are talking about developing a vaccine or about renewing the earth so it can once again become a planet habitable by wild creatures and humans alike – we, as a race, need to go back to seeing ourselves as part of nature – as one with the earth and all her children. Only in that way can we and the earth return to a pathway of light and justice.

 

That will be a beginning – setting out on a path of kindness – and from there we can find a way toward solutions and ways of being that benefit all of life – ourselves included.

 

We will never be able to save ourselves through cruelty.  We need to leave behind a worldview that mistakenly places ourselves above all other living beings – because that view is neither correct, nor just. That worldview leads only to death, not life.

 

Instead, we can turn back from the wrong road we are on and once again walk on a road that is a path of beauty, of truth, of kindness, of respect for all that lives.

 

We need to learn again to see all life as connected, as one, as worthy of protection and caring. Only that worldview will lead us along a life-giving course.

 

With us or without us, one day the earth will be released from oppression and renewed – if not in this age, then in an age to come.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

 

Photos

Annapurna Mountain in the Himalayas   ID 130437718 © Jose Miguel Moya Gonzalez | Dreamstime.com  

Giant fruit bats  ID 92575638 © Satit Srihin | Dreamstime.com     

 Rhesus monkeys  ID 65811519 © Robiehi | Dreamstime.com

 Southern lapwing in Brazil.  ID 75947167 © Ondřej Prosický | Dreamstime.com

 

The views expressed are the personal views of the writer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mail
This is a message from CHAL-USA, a U.S. based organization that helps organizations in India. It is about the street dogs in India who are going hungry during the current lockdown, while the kind people who usually feed them are required to stay inside.
Dear All,
Hope you and your family are well and safe. In these trying times around the world, our hearts go out to people fighting to stay healthy, struggling to get by and facing so much insecurity in the near future.
In India, as in many countries with considerable stray animal populations, this crisis has indirectly manifested itself as a deadly killer of helpless and confused animals. Tens of thousands of street animals have lost their only source of food – the people who are forced to stay inside their homes in the ongoing lockdown.
Our partner organization in Chennai, Blue Cross of India, Chennai has stepped up big time during this pandemic.
Please, please give generously and help us save these innocent souls. It is heart wrenching to see the scenes of  hungry stray animals and abandonment of pets by misinformed people in the sweltering, unforgiving streets.
At the same time, the best of humanity comes out every day in the form of good-samaritans, angels and organizations like BCI toiling day and night to prepare meals, deliver across all zones while observing safety measures and obtaining the required paperwork to be out despite the lockdown.
Let’s dig deep in our pockets and help our fellow animals and the people making it all possible!
Costs and how to donate:
On a given day, it is costing Blue Cross of India an average of $500 for the food, transport charges and protective gear for volunteers (not taking into account the budget for creating a disinfectant chamber on-premise and loss of regular income and freeze of corporate donations).
Procuring vast amounts of food has been a huge challenge and BCI has been moving mountains to make it happen! CHAL has sent two emergency grants to date within the last month and a third one is in the works to assist with the extended lockdown period. But we alone are unable to fund the vast amounts needed and desperately seek your assistance.
Donors in the US can give tax-deductible donations on the CHAL website at and mark (add a note) your donation as COVID-19 for BCI:
Donors in India can give directly to the ketto fundraiser started by Blue Cross of India:
Stay safe..love and regards,
The CHAL team on behalf of Blue Cross of India, Chennai

Here’s the report from Blue Cross of India on their work and typical daily routine during this period:
80,000 plus – that’s the number of street dogs in Chennai by the most conservative of estimates, some like Wikipedia put this number at 185,000. But there is no debate on how they have been affected by the shut down …They are confused and they are starving.
The lockdown has been disproportionately harsh on them as humans have retreated and restaurants, roadside eateries and tea shops have shut, leaving the streeties no option but to scavenge their last refuge – the quintessential garbage bins of Chennai. With people hibernating, even the garbage bins were no longer abundant.
Starving, confused, restless and moving outside their usual territories searching for food and water, competition intense for the limited food sources, fighting and cowering, it is a cocktail of primal fear and basic instinct – a struggle for survival.
Blue Cross of India – for 56 years the voice for the voiceless – a household name in Chennai, amongst the oldest and arguably the largest and most well known animal welfare organisation in the country stepped in to reverse the tide the very next day of the lockdown. Our day now starts the previous day – with processed food in short supply,  our kitchen now runs continuously to cook as many batches of meals as possible, load up and leave early to feed the street animals. The sweltering heat does not help either. Short of manpower, and running to full capacity, we are now seeking help from leading hotels in Chennai to help us increase cooking capacity to feed more and more everyday.
This back-end team has creatively mobilised grains and ingredients and arranged in-house and outside cooking, thus reducing the dependence on things not in our control – the presently gridlocked supply chain of processed animal foods.
In The Trenches:
The bravehearts of our out-door team drive to and walk the streets of Chennai not only feeding but also distributing food to community feeders. Our own team of feeders that include volunteers like Neelagandan (featured in this news article) go into non-residential areas like the marina, industrial estates and gated office complexes while other teams fan out to distribute to a network of community feeders (what we now call ‘the last mile’) who have been enlisted primarily from our volunteer pool and expanded to different corners of Chennai through community engagement. All this in a matter of a few days since the lockdown came into effect.
We are now “all hands on deck” with every available resource going into dealing with this emergency. All this while still continuing to rescue seriously distressed animals, providing medical care for hundreds of in-patient animals and keeping the over 2,000 animals in our three locations fed and cared for..
The use of our cash reserves and resources towards the un-budgeted street feeding program combined with reduced personnel has severely impacted us. On top of this the lockdown necessitated the complete stoppage of ‘Out Patient’ consultation and the ABC programmes that were providing a steady stream of donations.
The combined result of all these has quickly eroded up the limited reserves in BCI and severely impacted our working capital for running the shelter in the medium to long term.
Why should you donate to us when there are so many others asking?
Short answer – because of how efficiently your money would be put to work for basic sustenance of street animals.
Long answer –
A. Because we are creative and frugal in how we are feeding the street animals, not depending on easy solutions like processed food that are more expensive and scarce.
B. Because much of our work is done by a group of professionals who donate their time and effort on a purely voluntary basis to ensure donations are not eroded by administrative expenses.
C. Because the Blue Cross of India is the only animal welfare organisation which has been audited by GuideStar and awarded the GuideStar Platinum level certification for transparency.
D. And last but not least, Ketto has recognised this and waived the entire fee for this fundraiser so every rupee will reach where it counts for the most.
So, how will we use your donation?
-Buy needed grains and ingredients for cooking more meals in our kitchen and in hotels that have opened their kitchens for this noble cause.
 (Presently 200 kgs of grains and ingredients are being cooked into meals for over 1500 animals everyday)
-Buy animal feed for the over 1200 animals in our shelter.
-Place orders for at least 10 tons processed animal food so we can further expand feeding activities without cooking capacity limitations.
-Place orders for feed for abandoned cattle and horses that now scavenge on the deserted streets
-Buy Fuel and Supplies for running our ambulances and our contact-less food delivery vehicles and to ‘last mile’ feeders in Chennai
-Buy medical supplies for our rescued animals
-Care for, foster and eventually rehome scores of pets abandoned due to baseless fear mongering during the pandemic.
-Buy and Install a disinfection walk-through chamber at the Blue Cross to sustain through this situation without a shutdown
-Last but not the least buy masks, gloves, hand sanitisers for our outdoor staff and volunteers who brave all odds to rescue and feed animals in distress
Do check out our work during the lockdown and what’s happening in Chennai now: