Tuesday, November 13, 2018

3076. Anthropomorphism and the Need for Respectful Engagement

By Alice Oven, Alice Oven Blog, November 11, 2018

Many of you will have been as disgusted as I was by the recent news story in which American TV presenter Larysa Switlyk, dressed in camouflage, shot and killed a wild goat in Scotland. Posing next to the dead animal with a beaming smile, Switlyk posted on social media “Beautiful wild goat here on the Island of Islay in Scotland. Such a fun hunt!!” Glorifying hunting in this way is obviously far more problematic than simply being “very unBritish”, as the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group put it on BBC Radio 4’s Points of View. However, the listener’s comment that really got my goat was that we were all getting too ‘worked up’ because “people have a habit of humanising animals; they forget they’re just a food source”. Wild animals like these goats are not “just” a food source; they are sentient, autonomous beings with emotional ties, the capacity to feel pain and joy, and families that are left behind when their lives are pointlessly taken from them by idiots like Switlyk.
Why are we so terrified of humanising animals? ‘Anthropomorphise’, from the Greek for ‘human form’,  was originally used to describe ‘human-like’ actions of the ancient gods and later extended to talk about human-like animal actions. Psychological or emotional anthropomorphism means ascribing a human-like mind and emotions to animals, and has long been controversial. In his brilliant bookMousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes John Shivik describes how anthropomorphising in animal science in the eighties was a cardinal sin: “under the thinking of the gatekeepers of my field, admitting that animals have human characteristics was the gateway drug to the opiate of subjectivity and scientific ruin”[1]. Yet humans, after all, are also animals. We share a huge amount in common with other species, especially other mammals: we make family bonds, we raise and nurture infants. We take pleasure in food, sex, exercise, social connections, play. We feel pain, boredom, frustration, anger, even jealousy. There are going to be shared experiences; as Fredrik Karlsson points out, “Even if human beings constitute a unique species, each specific trait may be shared with some or all other animals”[2]. We now know that animals suffer, but to understand that reaction in an animal we must make an analogy from our own experiences of suffering.
Recently, one of my editors told me “When referring to animals I encourage authors to use ‘animals who’ rather than ‘animals that’ – attention to language is important for a book about ethics”. It’s important everywhere, because discussing animals as if they are objects rather than individuals  somethings rather than somebodies — allows humans to treat them in ways that would be inconceivable to treat another human animal. We fall into the trap, like the BBC Radio 4 caller, of seeing animals as ‘just’ a food source, as tools or resources put on this earth for us, to use how we like. We call cows, pigs, chickens ‘food’ or ‘farm animals’, as if being raised for food is part of their inherent nature; not so: they are ‘farmed animals’. Farming is something we do to them. Being farmed is not part of the animal’s natural behaviour or characteristics, and the use of terminology like ‘farm’ or ‘food’ animals is a symptom of “the kind of society that treats animals as disposable and that views our implicit commitments to them as revocable for convenience”[3].
On the flipside, the very human idea of ‘loving’ animals can be equally problematic, the word love tied to our own stake in the relationship with the animal. Switlyk might “love” beautiful goats, but she has zero respect for them or for their right to live out their lives without her interference. Similarly, how many self-proclaimed animal lovers do you know who eat cheap meat and use cosmetics tested on mice and rabbits? A much more valuable ideal is to ‘respect’ animals.  Acknowledging our responsibilities to animals, rather than redefining them according to their relationship to us, is essential if we are to view animal welfare as important outside of how it affects humans.
Humans are very confused when it comes to how we relate to other animals. We see this in the age-old dilemma around animal testing: in asserting that ‘animal models’ (another limiting and possessive term) are appropriate to reliably validate drugs and procedures intended to be used on humans, we are obviously humanising the animals used. But at the same time, we’re morally dehumanising and devaluing them, as it would be ethically unacceptable to conduct invasive tests on fellow human beings. The irony is that the closer the animal to a human (monkeys, for instance), the more useful the results but the more ethically problematic the research. Animal research sets up a situation where the animal is equated to a human in physiological and biological functioning but dehumanised in all the ways that matter: most obviously, his or her basic right not to suffer or be killed.
In a less disturbing but equally extreme way, look at the way we treat our pet dogs. On the one hand, we dress them up in human outfits, feed them ‘Pawsecco’ and discuss their canine “girlfriends” (just me?) but on the other we insist that they are still fierce, carnivorous ‘mini wolves’, a stereotype as inaccurate as the idea that they’re human babies.  Dogs were domesticated and tamed over 15,000 years ago; their genetics have evolved so that they can adapt easily to human companionship and even digest the starches in a plant-based diet. Dogs are no longer aggressive predators and nor are they tiny humans. They are dogs and we need to make it our job to understand what that means, rather than projecting our own ideal onto them.
In this way, a real danger in humanising animals is undervaluing or misrepresenting their nonhuman qualities and thus undermining their autonomy. There have been instances where anthropomorphism has been used strategically to encourage the public engage with an animal’s plight: the death of Cecil the lion led to public outrage partly because he was “a majestic, well-studied animal with an English nickname”[4]. By using anthropomorphism to emphasise animals’ personalities, scientists can bridge the ‘otherness’ dividing them from humans, essential to convince people to care about animals. But when anthropomorphism is ‘anthropocentric’, it risks misrepresenting animals and their cognitive abilities and then it can be hugely limiting. Switlyk calls her hunting target “beautiful”, but she is ascribing a value based on qualities that she esteems rather than anything to do with the goat’s essential nature. Being “beautiful” was utterly meaningless to that goat: Switlyk was simply referring to how he would look, dead, in her photo.
When we use inaccurate human terminology to describe animals, we do them a disservice: it’s only by recognising and valuing what philosopher Bernie Rollin famously describes as the animal’s telos that we can truly respect him or her. Telosrefers to the essential biological and psychological nature of an animal: the specific behaviours, characteristics and instincts that are natural to him or her (the ‘pigness’ of a pig, or the ‘cowness’ of a cow). They don’t experience human joy, they experience pig joy, or cow joy. I love this line by Karlsson: “A peculiar fact about the way we speak about animals is that we often have specific terms for their feet, but not for their happiness or anger… why would we believe that equine happiness would not also contain particular content that would merit a specific term?”[5] We often assume animals experience the world exactly as we do and when we humanise them in this way, we don’t attempt to understand them better or we do them an injustice by not meeting their needs. Animals might be stuck on a planet dominated by humans, but they each perceive and build their own worlds.
In her book Seeing Species: Re-presentations of Animals in Media & Popular Culture, Debra Merskin shows how we are constantly making one-dimensional judgements about other animals, such as all wolves are evil; polar bears are cuddly; all pit bull dogs are vicious; and these reductionist portrayals dangerously impact both animal lives and ours. This sort of communication, she says, usually has nothing to do with real animals but is entirely about humans. ‘Aggression’ is an example: when a protective dog owner pulls their animal away from a supposedly ‘aggressive’ dog, they might be depriving the dogs of a valuable play or learning opportunity. Labelling a dog ‘aggressive’ can also justify poor welfare, from electric shock collars to abandonment and euthanasia.
Lucy Cooke, in The Unexpected Truth About Animals, shows how we ‘reduce’ wild animals too: pandas, for instance, are not cute and hapless but tough, sexually potent survivors in a diminishing habitat. Cooke points out that “The image of the pathetic panda—a benign, bungling creature who needs human help to survive—is a very modern myth, conjured more from human desires than from biological facts.”[6] The captive panda population has more than doubled since 2005 and zoos have created ‘cartoon’ pandas which justify their removal from the wild into ‘protective’ cages. Their big foreheads, low set eyes and humanlike way of sitting and eating trigger our nurturing instinct and we treat them like human babies. In doing so, we do them a huge disservice. It’s the powerful muscles in the panda’s cheeks that give him a “lovable big round head”, the strength of their bite somewhere between that of a lion and a jaguar. Also, because of the problems in breeding pandas in captivity, people assume that they are impotent, sexless creatures; but a dominant male in the wild can have sex over 40 times in a single afternoon. The semen of the giant panda contains 10 to 100 times more sperm than a human male. By ‘humanising’ and infantilising these powerful, virile animals, we’re perpetuating a myth that the only way they can survive is in human captivity – actually, we’d be better off letting them get on with their own lives by protecting their natural habitats.
After reading Cooke’s book, I couldn’t stop seeing examples of people reducing other animals using our specifically human terminology, normally for an agenda that has no benefit for those animals. The article below is from the April 2018 newsletter from respected science publication The New Scientist, yet the language used anthropomorphises raccoons (so-called ‘pest animals’) in a way that is designed to engender fear: the raccoons walk zombie-like on their hind legs and “to make matters worse” they aren’t afraid of humans. These raccoons are simply sick, the article goes on to say, but we shouldn’t worry because the disease can’t be spread to humans. There is a notable lack of sympathy for the raccoons plight here, with humans and their companion animals being the main cause of concern. There is no suggestion that we should try to help, or even pity, these suffering animals, who have been transformed into a very human horror story.
So what’s the solution? Is there a ‘good’ way to humanise animals that helps us better understand them, as opposed to projecting our own misconceptions onto them? This is where critical anthropomorphism comes in, coined by Gordon Burghardt in the eighties. Critical anthropomorphism takes into account the animal’s species-specific characteristics and behaviour: his or her telos. When a human observer ‘critically’ humanises an nonhuman animal, she bases her inferences about that animal on her scientific knowledge of the species, the physical context they’re both in, and the animal’s ecological and evolutionary history. As Jonathan Balcombe states, anthropomorphizing is not a sin “so long as we make reasonable assumptions backed by good science”[7].
Humanising is to some extent unavoidable when talking about animals; we only have human language after all, and we’re always coming from a human perspective. Laurel Braitman, who has been studying animal mental illness, points out that “It’s not like you can take your human brain out of your head, and out it in a jar, and then use it to think about another animal thinking. We will always be one animal wondering about the emotional experience of another animal”[8]. But our aim should always be to go beyond humanising our nonhuman cousins by learning as much as we can about the unique ways animals think and act. Biologist George Schaller shows how we undermine our own learning when we refuse to attempt to engage with animals on their own level:
“You’re dealing with individual beings who have their own feelings, desires and fears. To understand them is very difficult and you cannot do it unless you try to have some emotional contact and intuition. Some scientists will say they are wholly objective, but I think that’s impossible. Laboratory scientists wasted years putting rats in mazes to show they were learning. They never got close enough to a rat to realise that they were not going by sight and learning, they were following the scent trails of previous rats. By overlooking this simple fact they wasted years of science”[9]
The Dalai Lama famously stated that “Perhaps the most important point is to ensure that science never becomes divorced from the basic human feeling of empathy with our fellow beings”. Obviously empathy is important (and it might have helped those sick raccoons) but it can also be limiting, shutting off those sensations and needs that animals do not share with us. Instead we must stay vigilant in remembering that animals have their own agenda outside of our human concerns and that agenda must be respected. As Paul Waldau put it so succinctly at the Vienna Summit on Animal Welfare this year: “The aim is towards respectful engagement with animals on their terms.”[10] Animals are not failed or substandard humans; they are their own selves and this does not make them better or worse than us. Certainly in Switlyk’s victorious photograph, the question of which individual is the ‘substandard’ moral entity is up for debate.
[1] Shivik, J. (2017). Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes: The Science of Animal Personalities, Beacon Press: 9.
[2] Karlsson, F. (2012). Critical anthropomorphism and animal ethics. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, 25, 707-720.
[3] Rollin, B. (2014). The “unwanted horse”— a modest proposal. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 55, 1234.
[4] Kerr, M. (2018). Can storytelling save wildlife? National Geographic [Online]. Available from: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/04/can-storytelling-save-wildlife/
[5] Karlsson, F. (2012). As above.
[6] Cooke, L. (2018). The un-cuddly truth about pandas. The Wall Street Journal.
[7] Balcombe, J. (2009). Animal pleasure and its moral significance. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 118, 208-216.
[8] Braitman, L. (2014). Depressed dogs, cats with OCD: what animal madness means for us humans. TED Talk [Online]. Available from: https://www.ted.com/talks/laurel_braitman_depressed_dogs_cats_with_ocd_what_animal_madness_means_for_us_humans
[9] Schaller, G. (2007). Feral and free. In: Bond, M. (ed.) New Scientist.
[10] Waldau, P. (2018) Humans and other animals – an essential connection? Making the case for a holistic approach.  International Animal Welfare Summit IAWS 2018, April 24, Vienna, Austria.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

3075. Does Criticism of Israel Equal Anti-Semitism?

By Steve Xavier,  Socialist Action, November 10, 2018
Palestine solidarity activists picket the Philadelphia Orchestra, protesting its June 2018 tour to Israel. (Photo by Joe Piette)
The aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting has focused renewed attention on anti-Semitism. Claims that a shadowy group of sinister figures is behind world events—which appear in conspiracy theories about financier George Soros, the 9/11 tragedy, and elsewhere—have dangerous implications.
These conspiracy theories have deep roots on the far right, where concocted stories involving the Rothschild banking family and Soros (both Jewish) are commonplace. Marxists reject prejudice against Jewish people and oppose any attempt to target Jewish communities.
Recently, allegations from Trump and other GOP politicians that Soros, a major Democratic Party donor, is a sinister force behind the migrant caravan going through Mexico has brought anti-Semitism close to the mainstream.  In his speeches, Trump has also spoken of the threat posed by “globalists,” a common code word on the far right for Jews. Trump has even attacked the ultra-conservative Koch brothers as “globalists.”
Rather than tackling the real sources of bigotry against Jews, the capitalist media have repeated claims that anti-Semitism is a problem on “both the right and left.” Democratic politicians like Senator and presidential hopeful Corey Booker have declared the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to be “anti-Jewish.” On campuses, there are moves to marginalize pro-Palestinian activism with attacks on the free speech of BDS activists and Students for Justice in Palestine.
On Oct. 29, The New York Times wrote, “Activists on the left—sometimes including young Jews—call for boycotts and divestments from companies doing business in Israel, or the occupied territories. Mainstream Jewish groups are now branding such campaigns as anti-Semitism. Where to draw the line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is a growing source of friction in many colleges and state capitals.”
The Washington Post went further in an Op-Ed article that claimed that left-wing anti-Semitism is the major problem: “It [anti-Semitism] lived on in the [Soviet] communist attacks on the conspiracy of Zionists with ‘American monopoly capitalists,’ during the anti-cosmopolitan purges of the early 1950s; in the New Left’s denunciation of a supposedly powerful Israel working as a tool of American imperialism in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967; in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s lies that Israel was an apartheid state that practiced deliberate mass murder.”
Problematic notions have even crept into the fringes of the left and antiwar movements. In the antiwar movement, 9-11 “truth” claims can take on an anti-Jewish coloration when they assert that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. In the Green Party, 9-11 truthers and anti-vaccination “activists” play a destructive role. Recently, the Green Party in Ohio had to disavow its Congressional candidate, Jim Condit Jr., after his anti-Jewish statements came to light. In a recent radio ad, Condit excoriated “billionaire communist Jews.”
Former Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, for years a stalwart of Palestine solidarity activism, has more recently appeared at conferences organized by white nationalists and was called out by activists for posting a blatantly anti-Semitic meme on Facebook.
Marxists are clear that such hatred is not welcome on the left, echoing the words of German socialist August Bebel, “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.” But at the same time, we reject the notion that criticism of the Israeli apartheid state, or the colonial-settler ideology of Zionism, makes supporters of Palestinian rights and self-determination anti-Jewish. In fact, it’s true that many of the activists in the pro-Palestine movement are anti-Zionist Jews.
When anti-Semitism rears its head in the movement, socialists do not shrink from fighting against those backward ideas. We do this in the same way that we stand up to racism and sexism in the unions. A responsibility of revolutionary leadership is to take a strong stand against reactionary ideas wherever they present themselves. This means standing against manifestations of anti-Semitism in the movement.
The BDS tactic has made it possible for activists to expose the connections between apartheid Israel and government entities, educational institutions, and corporations. By threatening the base of financial support for the occupation, including settlement building, the BDS movement has undermined support for Israeli policy in U.S. society and internationally.
It is this threat to the legitimacy of the Israeli state that drives the attempts to discredit the BDS movement. Zionist organizations and bourgeois politicians who try to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism actually reinforce the growth of anti-Jewish thinking by blurring the lines between the legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and actual hate speech.
Ironically, some far-right politicians have embraced Israel. This includes white nationalist Richard Spencer, who has stated that Israel is the model for the “white ethno-state” he wants to build here in the U.S.  Also, the recently elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for his racist, sexist and homophobic speech, expressed his intent to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem and was considering shutting down the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia. Bolsonaro’s sons, members of his far-right party, have been photographed wearing Israeli Defense Force and Mossad t-shirts to demonstrate their support of Israel.
In a period when the Palestine Solidarity movement is under attack on campuses and in communities, it is imperative that we defend the right of activists to organize and speak. At the same time, we mobilize in solidarity with those communities targeted by the far right and their hateful speech and actions. Revolutionaries always stand with the oppressed.

3074. New Studies Suggest Ancient Populations Expanded Across the Americas Approximately 13,000 Years Ago

By Lizzie Wade, Science, November 8, 2018

The Suruí from the Brazilian Amazon carry traces of Australasian ancestry, now confirmed to have arrived in South America more than 10,400 years ago. 
 Craig Stennett/Alamy Stock Photo 
For decades, scientists could describe the peopling of the Americas only in broad strokes, leaving plenty of mysteries about when and how people spread across the continents. Now, state-of-the-art ancient DNA methods, applied to scores of new samples from around the Americas, are filling in the picture. Two independent studies, published in Cell and online in Science, find that ancient populations expanded rapidly across the Americas about 13,000 years ago. They also emphasize that the story continued in the thousands of years since, revealing previously undocumented, large-scale movements between North and South America.
The data include 64 newly sequenced ancient DNA samples from Alaska to Patagonia, spanning more than 10,000 years of genetic history. "The numbers [of samples] are just extraordinary," says Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Prior to these studies, only six genomes older than 6000 years from the Americas had been sequenced. As a result, says Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, "The [genetic] models that we've been using to explain the peopling of the Americas have always been oversimplified."
Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Copenhagen who led the Scienceteam, worked closely with the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe in Nevada to gain access to some of the new samples. The tribe had been fighting to repatriate 10,700-year-old remains found in Nevada's Spirit Cave and had resisted destructive genetic testing. But when Willerslev visited the tribe in person and vowed to do the work only with their permission, the tribe agreed, hoping the result would bolster their case for repatriation.
It did. Willerslev found that the remains from Spirit Cave are most closely related to living Native Americans. That strengthened the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe's claim to the bones, which were returned to them in 2016 and reburied. Willerslev's study validates that "this is our homeland, these are our ancestors," says Rochanne Downs, the tribe's cultural coordinator.
Willerslev added the Spirit Cave data to 14 other new whole genomes from sites scattered from Alaska to Chile and ranging from 10,700 to 500 years old. His data join an even bigger trove published in Cell by a team led by population geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston. They analyzed DNA from 49 new samples from Central and South America dating from 10,900 to 700 years old, at more than 1.2 million positions across the genome. All told, the data decisively dispel suggestions, based on the distinctive skull shape of a few ancient remains, that early populations had a different ancestry from today's Native Americans. "Native Americans truly did originate in the Americas, as a genetically and culturally distinctive group. They are absolutely indigenous to this continent," Raff says.
The two studies also provide an unprecedented view of how ancient Americans moved across the continent beginning about 13,000 years ago. Previous genetic work had suggested the ancestors of Native Americans split from Siberians and East Asians about 25,000 years ago, perhaps when they entered the now mostly drowned landmass of Beringia, which bridged the Russian Far East and North America. Some populations stayed isolated in Beringia, and Willerslev sequenced one new example of such an "Ancient Beringian," 9000-year-old remains from Alaska's Seward peninsula. Meanwhile, other groups headed south. At some point, those that journeyed south of the ice sheets split into two groups—"Southern Native Americans" and "Northern Native Americans" (also sometimes called Ancestral A and B lineages), who went on to populate the continents.
By looking for genetic similarities between far-flung samples, both papers add detail—some of it puzzling—to this pattern. The 12,700-year-old Anzick child from Montana, who is associated with the mammoth-hunting Clovis culture, known for their distinctive spear points, provided a key reference point. Willerslev detected Anzick-related ancestry in both the Spirit Cave individual—who is associated with western stemmed tools, a tradition likely older than Clovis—and 10,000-year-old remains from Lagoa Santa in Brazil. Reich's team found an even closer relationship between Anzick and 9300- to 10,900-year-old samples from Chile, Brazil, and Belize.
Those close genetic affinities at similar times but across vast distances suggest people must have moved rapidly across the Americas, with little time to evolve into distinct genetic groups. Reich's team argues that Clovis technology might have spurred this rapid expansion. But anthropological geneticist Deborah Bolnick of the University of Connecticut in Storrs notes the Anzick-related ancestry group may have been broader than the Clovis people, and doubts that the culture was a driver.
Willerslev also finds traces of this Anzick-related ancestry in later samples from South America and Lovelock Cave in Nevada. But in Reich's data it fades starting about 9000 years ago in much of South America, suggesting "a major population replacement," he says.
After that population turnover in South America, both teams see striking genetic continuity in many regions. But that doesn't mean no one moved around. Reich's group sees a new genetic signal entering the central Andes about 4200 years ago, carried by people who are most closely related to ancient inhabitants of the Channel Islands, off Southern California. Meanwhile, Willerslev's team detects ancestry related to the present-day Mixe, an Indigenous group from Oaxaca in Mexico, spreading to South America about 6000 years ago and North America about 1000 years ago. Neither of these migrations replaced local communities, but rather mixed with them. Both teams say they could be seeing the same signal, but "without comparing the data, it's really hard to tell," says archaeogeneticist Cosimo Posth of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, the first author of the Cell paper.
Just as mysterious is the trace of Australasian ancestry in some ancient South Americans. Reich and others had previously seen hints of it in living people in the Brazilian Amazon. Now, Willerslev has provided more evidence: telltale DNA in one person from Lagoa Santa in Brazil, who lived 10,400 years ago. "How did it get there? We have no idea," says geneticist José Víctor Moreno-Mayar of the University of Copenhagen, first author of the Willerslev paper.
The signal doesn't appear in any other of the team's samples, "somehow leaping over all of North America in a single bound," says co-author and archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He wonders whether that Australasian ancestry was confined to a small population of Siberian migrants who remained isolated from other Native American ancestors throughout the journey through Beringia and the Americas. That suggests individual groups may have moved into the continents without mixing.
Delighted as they are with the data in the new studies, scientists want more. Meltzer points out that none of the new samples can illuminate what's happening at pre-Clovis sites such as Chile's Monte Verde, which was occupied 14,500 years ago. And Potter notes that, "We have a huge, gaping hole in the central and eastern North American [sampling] record. … These papers aren't the final words."

Saturday, November 10, 2018

3073. California at the Center of a Nuclear Arms Race

By Beatrice Fihn, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2018

California is complicit in the buildup of nuclear weapons
Two scientists in the target bay of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. on May 29, 2009. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

A new nuclear arms race is underway, with California at the center, though it’s not clear its citizens realize it.

Under President Obama, plans were put in place for the U.S. to spend $1.7 trillion over the next 20 years to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons. President Trump quickly decided that wasn’t enough; he needed new, more “usable” weapons of mass destruction. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his generals were ready to deploy new hypersonic missiles in the “coming months,” and days later Trump announced his intention to tear up the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF. The INF ended the first Cold War in 1987; its demise signals the beginning of another.
In California, the new nuclear arms race is bringing in a flood of cash to laboratories run by the University of California, where scientists, engineers and technicians have had a hand in designing every single nuclear weapon the U.S. has ever built. And yet the state Legislature and the Los Angeles City Council have resolved that America should support the U.N.’s 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. California is complicit in the arms race, and if nuclear weapons were ever launched, it would be one of the prime attack targets. Its citizens need to speak up to safeguard their future and end the state’s participation in the weapons industry.
The relationship of UC and nuclear weapons goes back to the 1940s, when the university managed the Manhattan Project laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M. That lab developed the first nuclear warhead and the atomic bombs that leveled most of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. In 1952, UC Berkeley and the Department of Energy set up another weapons research facility, in the Bay Area: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Every warhead ever created and deployed by the U.S. and its allies has been designed by a UC-managed or co-managed lab.
The UC regents have tried to separate the school from the weapons business to some degree. Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos are now co-managed with Bechtel and the University of Texas. But UC’s direct ties to the labs remain strong. In 2013, when the regents visited Lawrence Livermore, then-lab director Parney Albright said, “UC is the main supplier of talent to the lab. UC faculty have partnered on more [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory] papers than any other institution.” A third of all postdoctoral researchers at the lab, he said, came from one or another of UC’s 10 campuses.
Although Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos do not exclusively work on nuclear weapons research, it is key to both labs’ existence and funding. The 2019 U.S. budget includes $1.48 billion for Lawrence Livermore alone, with 88% of that money focused on nuclear weapons.
The weapons under development in the East Bay and at Los Alamos are capable of causing harm so catastrophic it’s almost unimaginable. The labs advertise their mission as national security, but nuclear weapons development creates conditions of political and global instability, not security. That is why more than 120 nations voted in favor of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year. It has since been signed by 69 nations and ratified by 19.
On Aug. 8, during a commemoration of the Hiroshima bombing, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the nuclear ban treaty and policies such as ending the president’s sole authority to launch a nuclear attack. The same month, the state Legislature approved similar resolutions. It makes no sense that Los Angeles and the state Assembly and Senate have overwhelmingly voted to reject nuclear weapons, but new weapons — more usable and meant to last decades — are being designed in labs managed and staffed by and with the blessing of the University of California.
California is a leader on social issues, in technology and in politics. We’ve seen the power of the state’s activism on many issues, including an effective fossil fuel divestment campaign targeting the UC regents. That same energy can be brought to the issue of nuclear disarmament. The University of California must permanently disengage from developing nuclear weapons, and the state’s representatives and senators in Washington should take the lead in supporting the U.N. nuclear ban treaty in Congress.

3072. A Summary of Recent Anthropological Research on Contemporary Hunter-Gatherer Societies

By Carol E. Ember, Explaining Human Culture, 2014
On average Hadza children gather and hunt half their food.  Here they are cooking their meal. 

In the quest to explain human culture, anthropologists have paid a great deal of attention to recent hunter-gatherer, or forager, societies. A major reason for this focus has been the widely held belief that knowledge of hunter-gatherer societies could open a window into understanding early human cultures. After all, it is argued, for the vast stretch of human history, people lived by foraging for wild plants and animals. Indeed, not until about 10 thousand years ago did societies in Southwest Asia (the famous Fertile Crescent) begin to cultivate and domesticate plants and animals. Food production took over to such an extent that, in the past few hundred years, only an estimated 5 million people have subsisted by foraging.

What can we infer about our distant ancestors by looking at a few well-known hunter-gatherer societies of recent times? To draw reliable inferences, we would need to believe that pockets of human society could exist unchanged over tens of thousands of years—that hunter-gatherers did not learn from experience, innovate, or adapt to changes in their natural and social environments. Even a cursory look at the ethnographic record, however, reveals that many foraging cultures have changed substantially over time. Moreover, recent hunter-gatherer cultures share some traits but are also quite different from one another.
Explaining Human Culture 2
How can we draw better inferences about the past? Cross-cultural researchers ask how and why hunter-gatherer societies vary. By understanding what conditions predict variation and also using the paleoanthropological record to make educated guesses about past conditions in a particular place, anthropologists may have a better chance of inferring what hunter-gatherers of the past were like (Hitchcock and Beisele 2000, 5; C. R. Ember 1978; Marlowe 2005).

Because cultures change through time, we cannot simply project ethnographic data from the present to the past.
Below we summarize the cross-cultural literature in the last half century on hunter-gatherers. We generally restrict the discussion to statistically supported hypotheses based on samples of 10 or more cultures. We also discuss what is not yet known and pose questions that invite further research.

What We Have Learned
We know about hunter-gatherers of recent times from anthropologists who have lived and worked with hunting and gathering groups. Some of the best recently known cases are the Mbuti of the Ituri Forest (central Africa), the San of the Kalahari Desert (southern Africa) and the Copper Inuit of the Arctic (North America). These hunter-gatherers live in environments that are not conducive to agriculture.
What are hunter-gatherers of recent times generally like?

Based on the ethnographic data and cross-cultural comparisons, it is widely accepted that recent hunter-gatherer society:

• are fully or semi-nomadic.
• live in small communities.
• have low population densities.
• do not have specialized political officials.
• have little wealth differentiation.
• are economically specialized only by age and gender.
• usually divide labor by gender, with women gathering wild plants and men
fishing and almost always doing the hunting. Some cross-cultural findings are less widely discussed:
• Compared to food producers, hunter-gatherers are less likely to stress obedience and responsibility in child training. On the other hand, hunter-gatherer cultures that emphasize hunting are more likely to stress achievement in children (Barry, Child, and Bacon 1959; Hendrix 1985).
• Compared to food producers, hunter-gatherers show more warmth and affection toward their children (Rohner 1975, 97–105).
• The songs of hunter-gatherers are less wordy and characterized by more nonwords, repetition, and relaxed enunciation (Lomax 1968, 117–28).
• In contrast to food producers, hunter-gatherers are less prone to resource
unpredictability, famines, and food shortages (Textor 1967; C. R. Ember and Ember 1997, 10).

Are hunter-gatherers more peaceful than food producers?
Some cross-cultural findings contradict each other, inviting further investigation.

It is widely agreed that, compared to food producers, hunter-gatherers fight less (C. R. Ember and Ember 1997). But are hunter-gatherers typically peaceful? Different researchers have arrived at different answers to this question. For example, C. R. Ember (1978) reported that most hunter-gatherers engaged in warfare at least every two years. Another study found that warfare was rare or absent among most hunter-gatherers (Lenski & Lenski, 1978; reported in Nolan2003).

Hunter-gatherer cultures differ from food-producing cultures in child-rearing practices and vocalization. Food-producing cultures are more vulnerable to famines and food shortages.

How we define terms will affect the sample and determine the outcome of a cross-cultural study. When asking if hunter-gatherers are typically peaceful, for example, researchers will get different results depending upon what they mean by peaceful, how they define hunter-gatherers, and whether they have excluded societies forced to stop fighting by colonial powers or national governments.

Most researchers contrast war and peace. If the researcher views peace as the absence of war, then the answer to whether hunter-gatherers are more peaceful than food producers depends on the definition of war. Anthropologists agree that war in smaller-scale societies needs to be defined differently from war in nation-states that have armed forces and large numbers of casualties. Also, within-community or purely individual acts of violence are nearly always distinguished from warfare. However, there is controversy about what to call different types of socially organized violence between communities. For example, Fry (2006, 88, 172–74) does not consider feuding between communities warfare.

How and why do hunter-gatherers vary?
Hunter-gatherers vary in many ways, but cross-cultural research has focused on variations in types of food-getting, contributions to the diet by gender, the degree of nomadism, the frequency of external and internal warfare, and marital residence.

• The closer to the equator, the higher the effective temperature, or the more plant biomass, the more hunter-gatherers depend upon gathering rather than hunting or fishing. (Lee and DeVore 1968, 42–43; R. L. Kelly 1995, 70; Binford 1990, 132)
• The lower the effective temperature, the more hunter-gatherers rely on fishing (Binford 1990, 134).
• Males contribute more to the diet the lower the effective temperature or the higher the latitude (R. L. Kelly 1995, 262; Marlowe 2005, 56).
• In higher quality environments (with more plant growth), men are more likely to share gathering with women. Greater division of labor by gender occurs in lower quality environments (Marlowe 2007).
• Fully nomadic lifestyles are more likely as the growing season lengthens (Binford 1990, 131).
• Among hunter-gatherers, in contrast to other kinds of societies, the division of labor predicts marital residence. The more a foraging society depends upon gathering, the more likely the society is to be matrilocal. The more dependence upon fishing, the more likely a society is to be patrilocal. The degree of dependence on hunting does not predict marital residence (C. R. Ember 1975).
• Patrilocal hunter-gatherers do not have more warfare than those that are matrilocal. Among foragers, as in other societies, patrilocal residence is predicted by internal (within society) warfare or a high male contribution to subsistence; matrilocality is predicted by a combination of purely external warfare and a high female contribution to subsistence (C. R. Ember 1975).
• Bilocal residence, rather than unilocal residence, is predicted by community size under 50, high rainfall variability, and recent drastic population loss
(C. R. Ember 1975).
• Hunter-gatherers with higher population densities have more warfare than
those with low population densities. Similarly, more complex hunter-gatherer societies have more warfare than simpler hunter-gatherers (Nolan 2003, 26; R. C. Kelly 2000, 51–52; Fry 2006, 106).
• Hunter-gatherers with a high dependence on fishing are more likely to have internal warfare than external warfare (C. R. Ember 1975).
• In New Guinea, foragers with a high dependence on fishing tend to have higher population density and large settlements. Some of the foragers in New Guinea with a high dependence on fishing have densities of 40 or more people/square km and settlements of over 1000 people (Roscoe 2006).

What We Do Not Know
• Why do some foraging societies share more than others? Is meat consistently shared more than plants? Does sharing differ by gender?
• Why should division of labor predict residence amongst hunter-gatherers, but not among food-producing cultures (See C. R. Ember 1975)?
• Do foragers with a high dependence on fishing tend to have a higher population density and large settlements, as is the case in New Guinea (See Roscoe 2006)?
• How different are foragers with a little agriculture from those who lack agriculture?
• Are foragers with horses more like pastoralists than foragers lacking horses?
• Recently, discussion of the differences between complex and simple hunter-gatherers has increased (See Fitzhugh 2003; Sassaman 2004.) Complex
hunter-gatherers generally have considerable inequality and more political hierarchy.
– What other differences are there between complex and simple hunter-gatherers?
– What implications do such differences have for the emergence of complex foragers?
Explaining Human Culture 8

Bilocal residence A pattern in which married couples live with or near the wife’s or the husband’s parents with about equal frequency
Ethnographic What we know from descriptions written by observers, usually anthropologists, who have lived with and worked with people in the present and recent past
Matrilocal residence A pattern of marital residence where couples typically live with or near the wife’s parents
Multilocal residence Includes both bilocal residence and unilocal residence with a frequent alternative.
Patrilocal residence A pattern of marital residence where couples typically live with or near the husband’s parents
Unilocal residence A pattern in which married couples live with or near one specified set of relatives (patrilocal, matrilocal, or avunculocal)
Explaining Human Culture 10

Additional Cross-Cultural Studies of Hunter-Gatherers
Halperin, Rhonda H. 1980. “Ecology and mode of production: Seasonal vari- ation and the division of labor by sex among hunter-gatherers.” Journal of Anthropological Research, 36, 379-399.
Korotayev, Andrey V. & Alexander A. Kazankov. 2003. “Factors of sexual freedom among foragers in cross-cultural perspective.” Cross-Cultural Research, 37, 29-61.
Lozoff, Betsy and Gary Brittenham. 1979. “Infant care: Cache or carry.” The Journal of Pediatrics, 95, 478-483.
Marlowe, Frank W. 2003. “The mating system of foragers in the standard cross-cultural sample.” Cross-Cultural Research, 37, 282-306.
Barry, Herbert, III, Irvin L. Child, and Margaret K. Bacon. 1959. “Relation of Child Training to Subsistence Economy.” American Anthropologist 61 (1): 51–63. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1959.61.1.02a00080.
Binford, Lewis R. 1990. “Mobility, Housing, and Environment: A Comparative Study.” Journal of Anthropological Research 46 (2): 119–52. https://doi.org/10. 1086/jar.46.2.3630069.
Ember, Carol R. 1975. “Residential Variation Among Hunter-Gatherers.” Behavior Science Research 10 (3): 199–277. https://doi.org/10.1177/ 106939717501000302.
———. 1978. “Myths About Hunter-Gatherers.” Ethnology 17 (4): 439–48. https://doi.org/10.2307/3773193.
Ember, Carol R., and Melvin Ember. 1997. “Violence in the Ethnographic Record: Results of Cross-Cultural Research on War and Aggression.” In Troubled
Times: Violence and Warfare in the Past, 1–20. New York, NY: Routledge.
Fitzhugh, Ben. 2003. The Evolution of Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenun Publishers.
Fry, Douglas. 2006. The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions About War and Violence. New York, NY: Oxford
University Press.
Hendrix, Lewellyn. 1985. “Economy and Child Training Reexamined.” Ethos 13
(3): 246–61. https://doi.org/10.1525/eth.1985.13.3.02a00030.
Hitchcock, Robert K., and Megan Beisele. 2000. “Introduction.” In Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determinations, 1–10. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.
Kelly, Raymond C. 2000. Warless Societies and the Origin of War. Ann Arbor, MI.: The University of Michigan Press.
Kelly, Robert L. 1995. The Foraging Spectrum. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Lee, Richard B., and Irven DeVore. 1968. Man the Hunter. New York, NY: Aldine Publishing Company.
Lomax, Alan. 1968. Folk Song Style and Culture. Edited by Edwin E. Erick- son. Publication (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 88. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Marlowe, Frank W. 2005. “Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution.” Evo- lutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 14 (2): 56–67. https: //doi.org/10.1002/evan.20046.
———. 2007. “Hunting and Gathering: The Human Sexual Division of Foraging Labor.” Cross-Cultural Research 41 (2): 170–95.
Nolan, Patrick. 2003. “Toward an Ecological-Evolutionary Theory of the Incidence of Warfare in Preindustrial Societies.” Sociological Theory 21 (1): 18–30. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9558.00172.
Rohner, Ronald. 1975. They Love Me, They Love Me Not: A Worldwide Study of the Effects of Parental Acceptance and Rejection. New Haven, CT: HRAF Press.
Roscoe, Paul. 2006. “Fish, Game, and the Foundations of Complexity in Forager Society: The Evidence from New Guinea.” Cross-Cultural Research 4 (1): 29–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069397105282432.
Sassaman, Kenneth E. 2004. “Complex Hunter-Gatherers in Evolution and History: A North American Perspective.” Journal of Anthropological Research 12 (3): 227–80. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JARE.0000040231.67149.a8.
Textor, Robert B. 1967. A Cross-Cultural Summary. New Haven, CT: HRAF Press.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

3071. Capitalism and the Decline of Wildlife Populations

By Anna Pigott, The Conversation, November 1, 2018

Photo: Simon Eeman / shutterstock 

The latest Living Planet report from the WWF makes for grim reading: a 60% decline in wild animal populations since 1970, collapsing ecosystems, and a distinct possibility that the human species will not be far behind. The report repeatedly stresses that humanity’s consumption is to blame for this mass extinction, and journalists have been quick to amplify the message. The Guardian headline readsHumanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations”, while the BBC runs withMass wildlife loss caused by human consumption”. No wonder: in the 148-page report, the word “humanity” appears 14 times, and “consumption” an impressive 54 times.
There is one word, however, that fails to make a single appearance: capitalism. It might seem, when 83% of the world’s freshwater ecosystems are collapsing (another horrifying statistic from the report), that this is no time to quibble over semantics. And yet, as the ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer has written, “finding the words is another step in learning to see”.
Although the WWF report comes close to finding the words by identifying culture, economics, and unsustainable production models as the key problems, it fails to name capitalism as the crucial (and often causal) link between these things. It therefore prevents us from seeing the true nature of the problem. If we don’t name it, we can’t tackle it: it’s like aiming at an invisible target.

Why capitalism?

The WWF report is right to highlight “exploding human consumption”, not population growth, as the main cause of mass extinction, and it goes to great lengths to illustrate the link between levels of consumption and biodiversity loss. But it stops short of pointing out that capitalism is what compels such reckless consumption. Capitalism – particularly in its neoliberal form – is an ideology founded on a principle of endless economic growth driven by consumption, a proposition that is simply impossible.
Industrial agriculture, an activity that the report identifies as the biggest single contributor to species loss, is profoundly shaped by capitalism, not least because only a handful of “commodity” species are deemed to have any value, and because, in the sole pursuit of profit and growth, “externalities” such as pollution and biodiversity loss are ignored. And yet instead of calling the irrationality of capitalism out for the ways in which it renders most of life worthless, the WWF report actually extends a capitalist logic by using terms such as “natural assets” and “ecosystem services” to refer to the living world.
By obscuring capitalism with a term that is merely one of its symptoms – “consumption” – there is also a risk that blame and responsibility for species loss is disproportionately shifted onto individual lifestyle choices, while the larger and more powerful systems and institutions that are compelling individuals to consume are, worryingly, let off the hook.

Who is ‘humanity’, anyway?

The WWF report chooses “humanity” as its unit of analysis, and this totalising language is eagerly picked up by the press. The Guardian, for example, reports that “the global population is destroying the web of life”. This is grossly misleading. The WWF report itself illustrates that it is far from all of humanity doing the consuming, but it does not go as far as revealing that only a small minority of the human population are causing the vast majority of the damage.
From carbon emissions to ecological footprints, the richest 10% of people are having the greatest impact. Furthermore, there is no recognition that the effects of climate and biodiversity collapse are overwhelming felt by the poorest people first – the very people who are contributing least to the problem. Identifying these inequalities matters because it is this – not “humanity” per se – that is the problem, and because inequality is endemic to, you guessed it, capitalist systems (and particularly their racist and colonial legacies).
The catch-all word “humanity” papers over all of these cracks, preventing us from seeing the situation as it is. It also perpetuates a sense that humans are inherently “bad”, and that it is somehow “in our nature” to consume until there is nothing left. One tweet, posted in response to the WWF publication, retorted that “we are a virus with shoes”, an attitude that hints at growing public apathy.
But what would it mean to redirect such self-loathing towards capitalism? Not only would this be a more accurate target, but it might also empower us to see our humanity as a force for good.

Breaking the story

Words do so much more than simply assign blame to different causes. Words are makers and breakers of the deep stories that we construct about the world, and these stories are especially important for helping us to navigate environmental crises. Using generalised references to “humanity” and “consumption” as drivers of ecological loss is not only inaccurate, it also perpetuates a distorted view of who we are and what we are capable of becoming.
By naming capitalism as a root cause, on the other hand, we identify a particular set of practices and ideas that are by no means permanent nor inherent to the condition of being human. In doing so, we learn to see that things could be otherwise. There is a power to naming something in order to expose it. As the writer and environmentalist Rebecca Solnit puts it:
Calling things by their true names cuts through the lies that excuse, buffer, muddle, disguise, avoid, or encourage inaction, indifference, obliviousness. It’s not all there is to changing the world, but it’s a key step.
The WWF report urges that a “collective voice is crucial if we are to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss”, but a collective voice is useless if it cannot find the right words. As long as we – and influential organisations such as the WWF, in particular – fail to name capitalism as a key cause of mass extinction, we will remain powerless to break its tragic story.