Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

A few weeks ago I popped by my local Tesco. On my way back home I found myself behind a man out walking his dog. Due to the weight of my shopping my usual brisk pace was somewhat slowed down. This allowed me to observe the way the man and his dog interacted with each other and the environment around them. First, there was a stop for the canine to raise one of its legs and water one of the trees that populate the road on which I was walking. A few blocks further and still weighed down by my shopping I saw the dog and its owner make a second stop. This time for a number two. The dog, mind you, not the man. Again, the repository of this physiological need was a tree. Similar to the previous one, tall and with a strong trunk. I caught up with the pair as they were about to cross a busy road. Whilst waiting for the lights to change the man patted his pooch on its head. I asked myself silently: “I wonder if someone will be patting those trees we left behind”.

It seems to me that we humans have a funny – as in strange, funny – relationship with our environment. Especially when it comes to animals and plants. One of the reasons, I think, is because animals, pets mainly, are capable of interacting with us and responding to our actions. Imagine if those trees had been able to tell that dog off for peeing and pooing on them. This is a topic that has fascinated me for many years: motion versus stillness. Purely because when the need has arisen I have also behaved in a similar fashion to that dog. However, I would never dream of defecating on a cute kitty or using a guinea pig as the repository for my urine. Is it, I wonder, the lack of motion and conspicuous responses from plants and trees that leads us to believe that we can do with them as we like?

One of the most hilarious cartoons I’ve ever seen in my life was in The New Yorker a few years ago. Two trees were giggling together with a speech bubble above one of them reading: “They (humans) smell our gases, how sick is that?”. The anthropomorphic nature of the joke could not hide the fact that we would never consider two trees immersed in conversation, let alone cracking a very good joke like that one.

But whilst I am not suggesting that we start adopting bushes as pets and walking them in the local park (where they could be watched enviously by other bushes without the same luck) I do think that the way we discriminate against plants says a lot about our attitude as humans to our environment. Whether you believe in climate change or not, we know that our planet is in peril. More than half of plants and trees could see dramatic losses in the next half century and this could have a knock-on effect on animals as many habitats will become unsuitable for them. The collapse of eco-systems would have a huge impact on the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink and the lands we visit as tourists. Funny that the air we inhale comes from trees like the one pooed on by the cute dog I mentioned earlier. We are part of a universal chain and yet our actions are dictated by an individual mindset.

In the grand scheme of things the dog I saw weeing and pooing on those trees would have no more significance than a toddler running joyfully around in my local park. That is what animals do. But when you take into consideration that plants and trees are not at the front of our minds (unless you happen to be an avid gardener whose fruitful labour is evidenced by the photos you post on your blog or website regularly. Ta muchly!) and that we could prevent the danger they face by scaling down our carbon emissions and behaving more responsibly, then that dog takes on a more sinister meaning. We can crap (pardon my French) on our green environment all we want with impunity.

Coincidentally one of the songs I was listening to earlier on my mp3 player that day was The Secret Life of Plants by Stevie Wonder but performed by Gilberto Gil. The first verse could not be more appropriate for what I witnessed later: I can't conceive the nucleus of all/Begins inside a tiny seed/And what we think as insignificant/Provides the purest air we breathe. All sung beautifully in a Brazilian accent. As for the dog and the man, forget about – up to a certain point - disrespecting the two trees. That I can put up with, muse over and write about. What I can’t stand is pet owners who do not clean up after their darlings. But I will leave that for another column.

© 2014

Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 15th January at 11:59pm (GMT)


31 comments:

  1. I feel that concern for the enviroment, too as pet owner. I do care about what my dog does and where. I clean up after he finishes,and eventhough there are more people still doing it, there are still some other who don't. As to the trees, I also realize that we care more for pets than for trees. That doesnt mean we don't care at all for them. It's just they can't interact with us as pets do as you, yourself said it.
    Greetings from Bilbao.

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  2. Hay muchos parques públicos que no dejan que se pasee uno con el perro y la respuesta está clara ya que todos los que pasean su perro no tienen cuidado de limpiar lo que deja el perro y muchas veces no se puede limpiar el hecho.
    Que tengas un buen domingo con música.

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  3. haha the dog will mark and bark and mark some more. But yeah people need to pick up the crap across the map

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  4. Cuban, you forget that we all used to crap on each other, and our excrement fed the soil, which fed the plants, which nourished the animals...
    I must agree with you that humans must pick up after their pets since we no longer inhabit our past.

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  5. I see that Rosaria has expressed my thoughts. The dog selecting trees is quite natural, normal and not unhealthy for the tree. It is an incredible annoyance for we humans though, since we don't want to step in it/smell it/see it. But I don't believe that it's an insult to the tree and it might well be a compliment in nature-speak.

    You're so right about the connectivity though. Everything we do has an affect. Everything affects every living thing. We all need to be more mindful of that and appreciative of the roles we play in each others existence (human and otherwise).

    A great post.

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  6. There's evidence of plants expressing emotion and of communicating chemically. We just think we know everything - we don't really.

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  7. nice...i like the message...we have to really consider our environment...and we dont...we give it voice a bit but keep on burning fossil fuels and buying from companies that produce emissions....

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  8. Ha re the NYorker cartoon. I am in complete agreement with you. In the city, there are many trees with signs about the dangers of dog urine--and frankly, people are pretty good in NYC re the pooh--there are very heavy fines, but even without them, most dog owners are well trained on that score--but terrible about the other. I love dogs, and was an owner, but there is a feeling of all being allowed.

    Don't get me started on cats destroying birdlife! Thanks. This was very comically written and much enjoyed. k. (Manicddaily)

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  9. You have written a thought-provoking post here. I must admit I have never thought of where in nature my dogs have peed...always some grassy spot, except in winter now where it is (of necessity) snow. I do agree about the necessity to be a responsible dog owner though as far as 'poo' goes. I always carry baggies. Actually most people here are pretty good, with some exceptions.

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  10. I largely agree with your observations, CiL, but I think most people are tolerant only of their own pets and few things infuriate them more than another person's dog, for instance, "doing his business" in their yards or on their trees or, especially, in their flower beds.

    My home "work station" is by windows facing my front yard and the street. When weather permits, there is a steady stream of dog walkers and, to a person, I have never seen one who did not pull a plastic bag from his or her pocket when their dog (sometimes, dogs) felt the call of Nature. I know not every neighborhood is this way, so I guess I am living at the right place in that regard.

    As for the way most people treat plant life as opposed to animal life, you absolutely are on target. But, I will have you know I am not so brutal. I consider clearing land to be "white man's disease," but I accept the necessity for doing it in terms of raising crops.

    And, by the way, I think Genesis 1:26 should be stricken from the Bible.

    I enjoy your posts, CiL, and I am glad you are back to writing them.

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  11. As an obsessive gardener (and a lover of animals) I talk to both. And I suspect that the plants and trees in my garden pay more attention to me than the cats.
    The character in Lord of the Rings that I wanted more of (much more) was the Ents.
    And I really, really resent the people who don't clean up after their animals (or themselves).

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  12. I would have confronted the man (unless he looked scary!) for not cleaning up after his dog. All you have to do is cary a small bag in your pocket since irresponsible dog owners always claim not to have one. By offering them one, they are forced to clean up. I always carry a bag or two to clean up after my dog and an extra for others who are missing one. If only it were so easy to lower carbon emissions!

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  13. I agree with you that people should clean up after their pets, but for our sake, not for the trees. The trees actually might appreciate the nutrients in the droppings. And in the middle of a drought, they might appreciate the urine, too. Heck, they might even whistle to get the dogs to come to them.

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  14. We do show a terrible disregard for nature and the environment very often. However, dogs peeing isn't the problem - apparently, that's good for trees and plants - but it's we humans who are the problem with our CO2 emissions. Cutting down on transport, finding renewable resources and not cutting down the forests would be a good start.

    So glad you enjoy Lisa Nilsson too.

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  15. you know...those that don't have a voice we often treat respectless - and not only trees - when i read this the sewers in vietnam, that are on strike at the moment came to my mind... as long as they do not say something, they get dumping wages while the big companies earn a lot of money on their backs...

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  16. I would of said a few words to him myself! There is just no excuse for this behavior. Its the mentally...its all about me...lol.

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  17. about the dogsowners. They seem to think that, if the snow hides it, it goes away forever. :(

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  18. I have to confess...I do get really annoyed with dog owners who refuse to clear up after their pets. I hate stepping out of my front door and into dog poo!
    I have seen people kick dogs for messing on the street, but of course, that is totally wrong. How can an animal know it is doing wrong. It is the irresponsible owners who should be brought to task, isn't it?

    As for the trees...I adore them. I would never hold them in any less esteem than pets. We can interact with then just as effectively as animals, it is just a question of altering the way we perceive their communications with us!

    Very thought-provoking...as ever!*smiles*

    Greetings from Hampshire

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  19. What a great post and yes, something to definitely consider that is often overlooked.

    I happened to read your Introduction on your profile page, while I was waiting for my computer to re-load the page today. Wow, so true and so inspiring, thanks for sharing those powerful words.

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  20. You're thoughts have rich depth. I like your consideration of how we take plant life for granted, when it is so crucial to our own survival. it speaks to the absurdity of our mindless living. This is such a good environmental piece, from a unique perspective. Good thinking and writing.

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  21. Much to think about in this post. When I think of trees I know in heart and soul that we are all connected and it's time we all started to do our part. Every small step can turn into leaps and bounds. By the way, if I haven't said it before, your header photo of the dancer is magnificent and today's musical video was also wonderful. Thank you, it's been a lovely visit. Wishing you a great week.

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  22. Food for thought here, thank you.
    I wish we could get the message across to those who don't seem to care that the environment is worth saving.

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  23. In the grand scheme of things, they are all living creatures.

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  24. I think you're right, we see plants as just part of the scenery because they can't move from place to place.

    One of my pet hates is when people will carefully scoop up their dog's poo, put it into a bag then hang the bag on a branch of the tree.

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  25. funny :-) the main thing is tidying up after your pet :-) and caring for environment

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  26. ah you know I live in the countryside so my dogs make this in many parts (but only I have two dogs Thank´s God) but I dont like Ares (the male dog) make his pis in my plants and we always fight for this !
    Mouska (the woman dog) is a lady:))

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  27. I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours!

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  28. The twist of perspective her is both fun and thought provoking--which means you've achieved your goal, Mr. Good Writer, you.

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  29. Many thanks for your kind comments. Funny that I'd never given the turd and its positive effect on the soil a second thought. Then, again, I'm human! :-) But you're right. That crap might have benefited the tree in the long term.

    Greetings from London.

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  30. Wonderful post! I'm here from Hilary's POTW (for which, congratulations!), but am staying for the way you write. Yes, we need to watch out for our environment because all of us, animal, vegetable, mineral are connected. I don't know about the first tree, but the second might have been grateful for the extra "nutrients" the dog provided it.
    Then again, in an urban environment, it's nicer when folks pick up after their pets…
    Thank you for this.

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  31. Great article..I am looking so forward to your blogcomment and
    I love your page on your post.. That is so pretty
    កាស៊ីណូអនឡាញល្អបំផុតនៅកម្ពុជា

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