The natural


All our laptops and monitors, external hard drives and usb sticks, midi controllers and broadband dongles: where do they go when die? After issuing their final breaths, it is more than likely they will end up one of the many electronic graveyards in the developing world.

[e-waste]

In Guiyu, China, for example, where men, women and children alike are to be found pulling apart old aspects of the first world’s computers, tearing out wires and burning them at night; or during the day working for next to nothing w/ little or no protection handling e-waste which contains among other varied substances, dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and mercury according to Time. In Environmental Helath Perspectives, we read findings that seem to demonstrate that children in Guiyu have elevates blood lead levels.

China has long been a place for the West to export a great deal of its potentially recyclable (and not so) waste to. In Shanghai Journal: Dump Trash, Add Scavengers, Mix and Get a Big Mess, we read

Each morning, on average, 6,300 tons of garbage arrives by barge from the central city. Mr. Kearsley-pratt’s company, Onyx, won an international bidding competition in 2003 to replace an old municipal landfill next door, which had observed almost no environmental precautions, with a state-of-the-art dump — a fenced-in area slightly larger than New York’s Central Park.

There are towns in China which are literally covered in trash of all forms, the streets are lined w/ garbage and the locals “make a living chopping up and melting down toxic plastics and metals out of the mountains of trash.”

[courtesy of our old friends, the nytimes]

Look here where we have a multimedia look at e-waste (including a variety of its exports), a site with various texts, a doco and interactive maps chronicling various aspects of what now seems to be termed eDumping. I would be very interested in seeing some sort of data visualisation showing countries exporting waste and those importing, perhaps in terms of weight of refuse, type of refuse and time of transport. Perhaps senseable city lab’s New York Talk Exchange, which visualises ways in which the inhabitatants of New York communicate with the world, could be used as a model.

[screenshot of the new york talk exchange]

O course, the procuring of such data could be a touchy subject, especially if intended for the purposes of making more clear exactly how much waste the world outsources.

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Oscar the cat

[Oscar the Cat or the Angel of Death? from the guardian]

 

Oscar the Cat, resident at the Steere nursing home, Providence, Rhode Island, has ‘an uncanny ability to predict when nursing home patients are going to die’, according to our old friend the guardian unlimited. What happens is the following: Oscar will generally walk around the nursing home not paying much attention to anyone, purportedly not the friendliest of cats. However!, every now and then Oscar will approach a resident and hang out with them. 25 times in a row this patient has passed away within four hours of Oscar befriending them.

 

So: either Oscar is the grim reaper and his presence in fact causes the subsequent death of said patient OR he is able to sense something, a shift, a movement, just as nurses are able to do so after spending enough time in such a place. The former suggestion is absurd and the latter highly credible; of course, Oscar’s sense seems more highly tuned than that of any nurse. What I find fascinating is not that Oscar can tell such a thing, but that an otherwise unfriendly cat will decide to join someone in their very last hours. And now when Oscar does join a person their family will be called straight away and informed. Only one family member so far has asked Oscar to leave the room for their father’s last moments.

 

And then there’s my concern for the patient, entirely aware and aware and aware of Oscar’s uncanny gift, who, at sunset, sipping on a cup of camomile tea, has Oscar pass by, stop, stay still for an instant, yes, just an instant, turn around, approach and sit down next to them with his head slightly touching the side of their right calf.

 

—-Oscar, has my time come? ————-…——–

raven2

[the all seeing eye of a raven: pbs nature]

 

Spiegel online International has recently reported that ravens are indeed the smartest guys around town. This is, of course, according to leading ravenologists Mareike Stöwe and Thomas Bugnyar at the Konrad Lorenz Research Center in Grünau, Austria. Most recent diversions for these wily birds include such recreation as what the experts have dubbed wild boar rodeo, in which

The especially courageous [ravens] grab a boar by the tail and let themselves be towed through the snow on their backs, as if by a drag lift.

 

Were watching a raven be dragged around by a boar the extent of the research undertaken, i would be slightly dubious as to the ravenologists’ claims of their chosen object of study’s intelligence, however!: the following observations should really convince any sceptics of the superior-mind-at-work behind the -oh-so-evil-eye of every blackbird….

 

  • ravens are scavengers: when eating flesh, it will have been killed by another beast-of-prey, for example a wolf. Now, if a raven sees an animal weaker than a wolf, it will croak and scream to direct the attention of any nearby wolves to this animal in order, of course, for them to kill it, the raven, lover of carrion that it is, feeding on the remains.
  • When plundering a corpse of rotting flesh, a raven will not necessarily eat it straight away. More often than not it will grab as much as it can and hide it elsewhere, then go back and repeat this process so as to retrieve more meat for the long term.
  • If two ravens are plundering the same corpse, each will remember where the other has buried their fleshy carrion treasure. Not only this, but each one will note that the other has noticed where they have buried their food. For this reason some ravens may pretend to hide their food in one particular place, then transfer it elsewhere when no other glimmering black eyes are watching.
  • Now this is amazing: lets say raven X and raven Y are tearing apart a corpse. Not only, for instance, will raven X be watching raven Y in order to see where raven Y puts its stash and not only will raven Y be aware of raven X’s voyeuristic hatching-of-a-plan, BUT raven X will pretend NOT to be watching, it will pretend to be grooming its feathers or something like that so as not to arouse the suspicion of raven Y. However, were raven X watching a wolf bury some meat it would do so openly and dig it up as soon as the wolf was out of sight because the raven knows that wolves are stupid.

As the Spiegel will tell you,

They have a long evolutionary process of espionage and counter-espionage to build on, in the course of which they [ravens] became masters of deceit and problem-solving. They got better and better at guessing the intentions of others and concealing their own. “Ravens are cognitively equal to a two-year-old child,” says Bugnyar.

 

 

 

five ravens

[five ravens pretending not to watch each other pretending not to watch each other.]

Seeing the television quiz show is effectively dead, perhaps the next step is an animal think-off, a show in which the mind of a raven is pitted against that of a dolphin to see once and for all which animal intellect towers above the rest, engulfed in its very shadow. However, at the earliest signs of defeat, would the crow get some wolves onto the dolphin’s ass? Rrrarrk! Or would the dolphin attempt to get frisky with the crow, perhaps, highly sexualised creature that it is?

The dolphins! Sexual appetite vs intelligence in animals other than human beings? Do you remember the trouble Peter Singer got into with the neocon. born-agains who probably aren’t anywhere near as clever as crows for posing the question: is bestiality really wrong if instigated by the animal? This was in particular reference to dolphins getting frisky with humans.

See Newswise: Animals Think in Their Own Way, But Unlike Humans to find out whether or not dolphins are the only species apart from humans that engage in sex for pleasure and not for procreation and that

among Australian dolphins sex is quite violent.

[sexual predators of the pacific. The dolphin Snake (pictured left, staring at you) pictured above is wanted on hundreds of charges of coercion and intercourse with humans: see this]