oh, shit

In response to my on-going quest for utopic living, my ex-husband would often quip some clever sociological quote that investigation deep into any culture you would find a horror.  In my opinion he was a party pooper.  But there is something about Patent Law, of all the things, which brings me face to face with that horror.

It’s the most behind the scenes of the behind the scenes, steeped in greater intimacy than a company’s books, for this is not external property, it is internal property.  The patent world revolves around what people know, and know deeply.  If you want to know about a company’s integrity, explore how they handle their intellectual property.

The chemist I work for is an honest and kind man, who, sensitive to my sensitivities, is very up front about matters he handles which I may find, well, not in keeping with my ethical ideal.

It’s an interesting journey.

Today, I found myself slogging through a mountain of scientific data about the synthesis of civetone.  As an aspiring vegan, I was aware of the use of civet absolute in flavorings.    Civets are members of the cat family, found in the Phillipines and Indonesia.  Civet absolute is a substance used in natural flavorings which is made from the secretions of the civet.  Now here I was, sorting a pile of chemical literature about manufacturing civetone synthetically.  I thought it was time I did a little more digging about the abuse of the civets.  Were they still being exploited for their flavorful and aromatic secretions?  I’m always hopeful that controversy will create change.

I uncovered a landmine, and forgive me if you already know about this (it won’t be the first time I’ve been the last to know).  While the data on present time civet natural flavorings industry was a little bit scanty, there was a mountain of information about Kopi Luwak.  A mountain of poop.

Kopi Luwak is a high end coffee, upwards of $200 a pound, made of coffee berries eaten and pooped by civets.  That’s right.  The high end coffee drinkers of Kopi Luwak are drinking seeds plucked from poop.

Generally, wild civet poop is considered to make a more tasty brew than farmed civet poop.  The civets still running wild are happier, eat better, and apparently, their poop is finer.  Wild civet poop has to be “found”, although, in the wake of how the food industry has abused the term “wild” in reference to fish, and “humane” in reference to farm animals, one can’t really be sure.  When you are dealing with a price tag of $200 a pound, one can expect a few frauds and tall tales to emerge.

Of course, such economic gain from an animal substance is sure to lead to deeper and deeper levels of exploitation and abuse.  Civets are being imprisoned for their poop.  Taken from free lives in the jungle and confined in a foot of two (if they are lucky) of space and fed prison meals on rigid schedules.   As if that is not abuse enough, often the conditions (as the conditions are for all other farmed animals, including the ones from whom dairy products are taken) are extreme, the animals being treated like objects without sentience, without feelings at all.  As Lakshmi the cat sits here next to me as I write, I feel sad not only for the civets, but for those who see them as no more than objects to be used.

No one, absolutely no one, can argue that this is a necessary evil.   While one can argue that living in the perception that drinking brewed poop refuse and thinking it’s delicious is its own kind of punishment, there is no reasonable argument which anyone could make for allowing this to continue.  There is no need for these beings to suffer.







The Black Bear (repost)

There was a whiff of spring…kind of. The sun was out and the temperature registered at a balmy high forties. While I confess to have the heat on in the little honda, we had the moon roof open. I know we were wasting fuel, but it was a short drive and I couldn’t resist the little extra dab of sun on the crown of my head. Toshi the cat was riding shotgun, albeit in his carrier. We sped along to the vet to see what was up with him, the night before had been rough for both of us…he seemed really sick. The shock of being sick, trapped in a plastic box and then scuttled to the car seemed to have abated. His eyes were bright, and as the wind from the open moon roof ruffled his whiskers he looked at me, and chirped an unusually cheerful meow. We drove past blocks of concrete, the medical school and some section 8 housing, and were preparing to make a left onto the highway when I saw it.

Now I must digress a moment to describe the terrain a wee bit more. Right on the outskirts of the city of Newark lies lovely Branchbrook park, designed by acclaimed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and John Charles Olmstead and home to our world famous cherry trees. To access the highway one has to navigate an unusual intersection. One path, if followed leads to a vibrant corner of downtown, another reveals humble homesteads of those whose destiny led them to be homeowners, but right by the highway. To the left is the ramp onto the highway, and then one can glimpse, on the other side of the ramp, a bit of grass and trees and the sign “Welcome to Branch brook Park, Home of World Famous Cherry Blossoms”. Beyond the sign, the green grass and shady trees beckon one, always (as many things in Newark do) to stop and remember that no matter how tough things get, that one can always choose to dance.

Today though, I must say that my heart skipped a beat, and I near stopped in my tracks. Inside, anyway. The screeching halt I quickly prevented myself from making would have endangered not only Toshi the cat and I, but also every other auto turning onto the highway.


By the side of the road, half on the highway, and half off, was a bear. It truly was black and somewhat small, a teenager, perhaps, its coat plentiful and thick, the luster apparent even at this distance.

I had been moved more than once in this life to sculpt bears as a gesture of honor, love and awe. Revered by native cultures for strength and self-sufficiency, bear embody the gift of introspection. Bear too, it seems, had been stopped in his tracks, literally.   This beautiful being, although still majestic, had met his or her demise on the hood of some previous driver’s automobile.

My initial grief was rapidly replaced by explosive anger. In case you don’t know, there is a war going on in suburban America. The habitat of a considerable number of species has been obliterated by overdevelopment, and the original inhabitants (we’ll limit our discussion here to the non-human animals) have been displaced.

Okay, lets take the gloves off, and forgo the polite euphemisms, shall we? In our gluttony for comfort and social status, we’ve stolen their homes, and now these beautiful beings who once roamed the continent freely taking their food from nature have no where to rest their heads and are forced to scavenge through our garbage for food. And dammit, if this makes us uncomfortable, we shoot them!  Not one at a time, mind you, but rather in a one day free for all, us against them.

So, you know it might not even be the bear that scares you that gets shot. Not that that makes a difference. But imagine someone declared a free for all safari on the humans for taking up too much space on the planet. You might get shot for someone elses bad behavior. But that’s beside the point.

Now, I too have dreamed often of having a little plot of land of my own, where I could stick my hands in the earth and look up at the sky. The consolation prize for remaining in the urban human habitat of the deep city is that I was not a direct participant in the human contribution to the war against the wild. But that war had just landed on my concrete doorstep.

At that moment several thoughts went through my mind. Was this a figment of my imagination? Was it the totem spirit of bear, sculpted and called out to so long ago in this life? Or was I actually seeing this with my physical eyes? It mattered not, as one way or another there was clearly trouble ahead. Two possibilities came to mind. Either this little guy had been so hungry that he’d crossed MILES of concrete looking for food, or bear spirit was giving me the heads up that something was big coming. And then I knew…spirit or material, this sighting was a clear indication of what was coming…another BEAR HUNT.

In 2006, the state of New Jersey declared a ceasefire on it’s bear population. Since the ceasefire, our bear population has increased from an estimated 1700 to an estimated 3400. There are approximately 8,600,000 people in the state of New Jersey. That means there is only one bear for every 202,000 humans. I’m sorry you won’t get to have your own. We are the most densely populated of states, and to be honest with you, this impacts you even if you don’t live here. We are the only state that doesn’t currently have such a hunt. And to the parties advocating the hunt, that’s part of the argument for having one. In case you don’t think that your vote matters on such things, well, it’s no coincidence that we are losing that precious non-violent claim to fame in the year after Chris Christie took office. The increase in reported incidents after the suspesion of the bear hunt was only approximately 200 more “bear nuisance” incidents in two years.

Now, here’s what we know about the strategy of this war against the wild. When the former inhabitants of this land make themselves a nuisance (and it’s not just bears) by pooping on lawns, rifling the garbage for snacks or coming too close for comfort, some convenient form of extermination is conducted.

Sometimes these dire offenders are rounded up, forced into the back of a truck and gassed to death (canadian geese who were pooping on the lawn of a condo development). Sometimes they are mass poisoned (starlings poisoned systematically by the USDA in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon). Sometimes the humans go right to the battle lines and declare a rampage, a hunt.

Now, I understand that starvation becomes an issue if the population is allowed to grow naturally. It is an issue for the entire world right now – and we are blaming the animals, rather than looking at ourselves. There a so many humans, and many humans who take much more than they really need.  The result in our lives is that humans are starving, and some feel that it is necessary to resort to violence to have their human needs met.  The definition of what we need is defined often, by consumer capitalist culture and not by a balanced assessment of our true needs in relationship to the planetary community as a whole. Of course this imbalance will show up in the populations of the beings we share the planet with, human and otherwise.

This bear hunt is an unnecessary ineffective way to patchwork address a larger problem . Rather than shooting bears, the good people of the state of New Jersey may want to examine their own behaviors and begin to shift to ways of life that are more harmonious with the planet. Is it an immediate solution? No. But 200 incidents does not indicate a state of emergency that requires a wholesale slaughter. Instead, we should take this as a wake up call to create space in our lives, that other lives may be saved.

A public hearing on the bear hunt will be held on May 11 at 6 p.m. at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.





somewhere in the badlands of south dakota Written Feb 4, 2011. posted for awareness sake.

It was late, late afternoon in the Badlands of South Dakota.  I was alone in the vast multi-hued rock formations.  Unscalable, unconquerable and uninhabitable, or so it seemed to me.  Lavender and vermillion outcroppings reflected the rapidly fading sunlight.   It was the day after Labor Day and the crowds that flood the national parks, the animal paparazzi, had returned home.    I was engulfed in solitude, not a single living thing could be seen for miles and miles and miles.  The Honda scooted over the sharp crest of a hill.

From nowhere, they became visible, not two, or three, or four, but hundreds.  Bison.

They crossed the road in front of me.  Some ignored me, some stared me down fiercely and then a few blessed souls stopped by to stick their furry faces to the windows.  I was alone in an ocean of bison.  What charmed action could I have done in some past life to be so rewarded by an audience with such divine creatures?  Bison, known to give to America’s first people everything that they needed to survive.  Bison, reminder of the sacred interdependent relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.  There they were,  surrounding me, in the most desolate landscape I’d ever visited.  Looking in their eyes, I knew that they knew so much more than I could even begin to fathom.  We were there for a very long time.  Them looking at me, me looking at them.  I was tempted often to look away, but it seemed there was something I needed to hear from them.  If ever I experienced a moment of genuine humility, it was that one.  A teacher later told me that they symbolized the heart, when I shared the story of meeting them in the heartland.  It was growing dark.

The whooping was audible long before the truck became visible.  White men in cowboy hats, beeping the horn and refusing to slow down.  The herd scattered.  As I gazed after them, I wondered after these strange men in their big hats, who drove blindly through a miracle, compelling it to scatter and dissolve.  How could they miss the meaning of this?

My heart broke to bits upon seeing the Yahoo news headling about the impending buffalo slaughter in Yellowstone Park.  Apparently it’s gone on before, and I at least was not aware of it.  There is concern that the buffalo carry mad cow disease and that it will contaminate the local livestock. 

A couple things to consider about this.  It’s important to know that, in increasing numbers, the wildlife of this country, and other countries as well, are forced out of their habitat and confined on limited grounds that the government declares “refuge”.  But it is not “refuge” when the animals, through living their own lives, are perceived by the government as being nuisances and subsequently murdered.  If you have ever been to our national parks, you have have heard the rangers plead with people not to behave in ways that encourage what might be perceived as disruptive behavior on the part of the furred and feathered residents of the parks.  It is an abomination that any life would be considered less than sacred, but for those of you who are skeptical of the value of non-human lives, be assured that humans can easily be considered just as dispensable.  It happens all the time.  Either life is sacred and we act in harmony with this, or it is not.

The second thing to consider is the impact the cattle industry has in this whole affair.  Please don’t support them at all by consuming their products.  We cannot condone and support an industry based on slaughter and expect that violence to stay confined.  Violence always begets more violence.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti








To do list:  

Eat vegetables, grains and legumes


“We deserve to live, just like you do” Howard the Bison remarked in response to a query about the pending slaughter.

church of trees

externalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand outexternalized heavenscarpet of spiresever-greens foreveran ocean that never endskiss the earthand kiss the infinite ocean oflove insideand out


externalized heavens

carpet of spires

ever-greens forever

an ocean that never ends

kiss the earth

and kiss the infinite ocean of love

inside and out 

october 2012

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