Weekend Reads: Bird Lovers vs. Cat Fanciers, Only the Best for Baby, Let Them Eat Lobster!
Four #greenreads to enjoy over beers with dear ol' dad.
Jessica Pressler in New York magazine on what the cat dragged in: Humans have coveted cats since the dawn of civilization, but we haven't always taken responsible care of our beloved pets. Feral and unfixed cats breed like rabbits and kill like ... well, like cats. A recent study quantifies the feline bird slaughter in the billions nationwide. “The bird community’s position is, we need to get rid of the feral cats, and that means cats must die,” says one avian advocate. Cat fanciers (obviously) prefer a different sort of population control, one that involves catching, neutering, and releasing the felines back to their homes in the alleyways. The debate has the fur and feathers flying among animal lovers in online comment sections. And on the streets, the matter gets even hairier, with death threats for humans, kidnappings for cats, and videotapes of midnight poisonings.
George Black in OnEarth on death and destruction: In India the centuries-old Hindu practice of cremating the dead has become a giant environmental hazard. Every year, Varanasi’s fires consume about 750 square miles of forest and belch carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The custom also calls for dumping the ashes of the deceased into the already polluted Ganges and other sacred rivers. A few Hindu innovators have proposed alternatives, but the practice is deeply embedded in cultural tradition as well as in a corrupt underworld of death-related commerce. "The moment they see a body coming," writes Black, "they look for ways to make money." Hordes of woodcutters illegally chop down trees and sell the wood to a long chain of middlemen: brokers, truckers, porters, boatmen. And at every step of the way, government officials collect bribes. "In Banarsi culture," says one guide, "you pay a commission when you’re born, you pay a commission when you go to the temple, and you pay a commission when you die."
Daniel Luzer in Pacific Standard on a delicacy’s trashy past: Lobster is considered fancy fare, but it wasn’t always this way. “If today’s lobster wears a top hat and an opera cape, 80 years ago he was wearing overalls and picking up your garbage,” writes Luzer. The crustacean was once so plentiful that it would wash up on New England beaches in piles. This abundance -- and the lobster's insect-like appearance -- caused people to think of it as trash food, something for servants and poor people to eat. But once railway chefs began secretly serving lobster to inland passengers as a rare, exotic seafood, demand for it took off. Americans loved it. Fishermen overfished it, and lobster prices went up. And up. “Just imagine what could have happened," writes Luzer, "if the dining cars had just decided to serve liver or processed ham.” For starters, we'd probably have more lobsters and fewer plastic bibs around.
Adam Davidson in the New York Times Magazine on security blankets: The next time you see a parent buying a ridiculously expensive baby product (like a $250 organic carseat cover), instead of -- or perhaps, in addition to -- rolling your eyes, thank them. Davidson argues that parents who are willing to pay a premium for "natural" products do all children a favor because without them, companies wouldn’t compete as hard in the name of safety. "Occasionally companies seeking differentiation come up with safety features that are eventually adopted by government regulation and mandated for all competitors," he writes. And when that happens, the good life comes cheap for all babies. An organic carseat cover in every garage!
Tired of Reading Yet? Watch This.
Quang-Tuan Luong at io9 on lava porn: Turn up the volume. This volcano video's dramatic score (chanting! drums! cymbals!) will have you doing a little chair dance in tribute to the fire gods.
Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
Image: David Leather