Posts Tagged conservation
This is to be sung to the tune of Hotel Paper by Michelle Branch.
I like mostly just hotel bacon.
Knowing the leftovers would never be consumed.
Raised, erased, their flesh is too tasty to leave here.
so I try not to eat meat but I do.
But I do.
No need to feed pigs the grain for my breakfast.
Sow means, reap none from the future; it’s theft.
I try to stop but it’s free to get this.
I know tomorrow there’ll be nothing left.
And I wanted to be
living in places I could keep living.
But I want luxury,
so I’ll take this hotel, and all it’s serving.
This turned out to cost more than I bargained for,
and I can’t stay in this place another day.
Forgive me; now that I’m baconless like you, I like you.
I just realised it way too late.
And I wanted to be
Living in places I could keep living.
But I got luxury,
So I took this hotel, and all its servings.
(Maybe this temporary retreat is surrender.)
My life’s mostly just hotel bacon.
Mildred Feldnether was on her way to take birth for the twenty-eighth time when she found the creature. She heard it first; a call that didn’t belong to any animal she’d heard in the forest before. The sound came from a bundle of clothes behind a tree just off the track. She squatted and gingerly pulled away some of the fabric to reveal a red, bloody thing. She didn’t immediately recognise it as a human baby; it had been more than a millennium since she’d seen one.
“Hello,” she said to it. “What’s your name?”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, first in the most popular local language and then in several others she knew.
The baby continued to wail. Mildred’s foetus kicked her from the inside.
“Where are you from? Where do you work? Are you lost?”
At the last question, Mildred noticed that the baby didn’t seem to have a navigator. She took out hers and showed it to the baby, who stopped wailing and gurgled at it.
Mildred sighed with relief. It was just lost. Soon it would get on its way. She said goodbye and continued walking to the extraction clinic.
It wailed again.
Mildred turned back towards it. “What do you want?” It seemed so upset. Most of it was still wrapped in a sweater, and Mildred suddenly wondered whether babies even had arms and legs like normal people.
Her sister had had a baby once. Or maybe her sister had been a baby. Or had she just heard a legend about a baby? It was so long ago.
She sat next to the baby and tried to remember other languages to speak to it in. She remembered how frustrating it had been when when she was just a few centuries old, and only knew a few languages. She could imagine wanting to wail when she couldn’t express herself. She was frustrated just trying to remember what the thing was called. Baby. Baby. Like in the old fairy tales. She looked it up in the encyclopaedia:
A baby is a juvenile form of human, commonly created in the pre-extraction era as a means to perpetuate the human species when it was possible that existing individuals may succumb to death (q.v.) In modern times, a baby may develop from a foetus whose life is not fully extracted after removal. This is effectively remedied by further extraction.
From a foetus? Mildred burst out laughing. Foetuses grew inside people. This thing was outside and it looked like a little human that could only speak wail. Somebody must have vandalised the entry. The baby ceased crying and seemed to look at Mildred. Mildred watched it, enchanted. It was hard to believe it really existed.
The forest they were in was even older than Mildred, and offered a secluded path to the clinic, where those unable to carry foetuses wouldn’t plead with the pregnant women for a share of the life within them. They weren’t needy, just lazy; less than a year’s work as a manservant protecting a pregnant woman and they’d have decades more life. Mildred had already made a contract with her friend and three-time manservant James, who had made sure she stayed safe and healthy and didn’t need any infusions of life which could delay or destroy the pregnancy. Four decades for her, four for him, and the rest to the clinic for miscellaneous healing. She always preferred to make the last walk to the clinic alone though, so that she wouldn’t have to explain the knot in her throat that she didn’t understand herself. Most women were excited at the prospect of becoming four decades younger. Mildred was nervous. With the crying baby tugging at it, the knot in her throat unraveled into tears.
Just then, James called her. “We’re waiting for you at the clinic. Are you on your way? Do you need me to help you with anything?”
“I’m fine, I just… I found something. But I’ll be right there.”
The baby started to wail again. “Right,” she said to it. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but if you’re sick maybe half a decade could fix you. Unless you’re already too young for that. Well, the clinicians should know the right dosage.” By this time she was almost certain the baby could not understand her, but it was hard to get used to.
The baby had freed a hand from its cocoon, so Mildred took it to lead it to the clinic. The baby gripped her finger, but didn’t get up. Mildred looked at its face for a second. So tiny. So new. Too new even to walk?
Mildred felt uncomfortable carrying someone she barely knew, but there didn’t seem to be much choice. She picked up the baby, finding the underside of its wrap to be soaked with dew, and tried to find a way to hold it that was comfortable for both of them. The baby did not stop crying for the rest of the way to the clinic.
“Oh dear,” said the clinician. “A baby?” The other clinicians gathered around to look at the specimen. “Oh, that must have been a disturbing thing to find. Don’t worry, we’ll do the extraction for you. It doesn’t look like you need any decades yourself,” she looked down at Mildred’s pregnant belly, “but if you’d like to donate them to the sick or less fertile, we’ll make sure you get something nice as a thank-you.”
“I’ll take them if you like!” grinned James.
“But… isn’t it like a person? I mean… can you really extract… It’s crying. I think it needs to be healed.”
“We’ll take care of that. It’s just crying because it’s not supposed to be outside the womb.”
Mildred felt a bit like crying again herself. “But is a baby a person?”
“Oh, no. I’m not a specialist in antiquities, but from what I’ve heard it takes decades of round-the-clock treatment before a baby can turn into anything like a normal person, and even then it would be centuries behind in general knowledge; it would be a complete stranger in society.”
They were silent for a few seconds, then they both started talking at once.
“Let’s get that…” began the clinician.
“Did you have a baby? In the beginning… when you were new?”
“Yes I… think I did. This is my daughter,” she gestured to one of the other clinicians.
“What was it like?”
The clinician’s eyes glazed over for a second. “It was… centuries ago. I don’t know if the things I remember about it are even real. Now let’s get these extractions underway.”
“If you… this sounds ridiculous, I know, but if you… if you removed my foetus without extracting its life, would it be a baby?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, we won’t let that happen. We have strict quality standards here.”
“So babies do come from foetuses? And people come from babies?” Mildred felt a little lightheaded.
The clinician shook her head slowly, as if Mildred were a few decades too senile. “And people need life, and life comes from foetuses, and babies are just primitive remnants from a millennium ago. Don’t you worry about it, love. You’ve found yourself some free decades!”
The baby cried even louder, and Mildred almost wanted the clinician to make it quiet. It was driving her crazy. Crazy enough that in an instant she was running out of the clinic and screaming over the noise, “I found myself a free person!”
“You can’t make a new person!” the clinician shouted after her. “They’ll have no records! They won’t know anyone! There won’t be enough food for them! It probably doesn’t even speak!”
She ran without thinking, without being aware of anything except the wailing coming from the thing in her arms. She only realised what she had done when she found herself twisted on the ground, having turned to protect the baby and her belly when she tripped. Her back hurt and her eyes were wet and the baby’s wrap was still soaked and the baby was still screaming and her mind was a cacophony of new information clanging into memories. Twenty-seven extractions, more than two millennia for her and her manservants, not a year for twenty-seven potential people. But wasn’t it just like eating meat? Some creatures give life to others. Twenty-seven more people would mean less meat for others and less space for the forests and fauna that kept humanity and the rest of the biosphere alive and prosperous. Twenty-seven stunted proto-people who knew nothing and nobody, taking life when they should be giving it. As Mildred’s head started to clear, she began thinking about how to apologise when she went back to the clinic.
As Mildred’s eyes started to dry, she realised a woman was leaning over her. What was her name? Sandra? They’d been good friends a century or so ago, and lost touch. “Milly, are you okay?” Sandra asked.
“Sandy, what are you doing here?”
“Milly, are you okay?” panted James as he arrived. He was getting old, and could do with those decades she owed him. “Sandy?! What are you doing here?”
Just as Mildred realised the wailing had stopped, it started again.
“That’s my sweater! Is that…” Sandra went white. “Is that m…mm” she stopped speaking seemed to be concentrating on not crying. Mildred stroked the baby’s face, momentarily forgetting she was caressing a complete stranger.
“It’s okay, Sandy. Take your time. What happened?”
Sandra took her time. Finally, she managed to cry, “My foetus came out! It was horrible; it hurt so much! It came out by itself, out my vagina; there must be something wrong with me. It hurt so much. I never want to take birth again; I’ll just take a manservant contract whenever I need more life.”
“That’s your baby?” said James. Sandra didn’t hear.
“I wasn’t due for extraction yet but I was feeling sore and my manservant’s run off to do some kind of crazy botanical research so I started going to the clinic but then…” She broke into sobs as the baby screamed. “Is it… is it the foetus? How come it’s alive? It wasn’t… I mean I don’t think it… It didn’t move. I thought it was just a foetus. It was horrible and bloody and blue and it had almost like a face on it. I covered it up so nobody would find it.”
“It’s a baby,” sniffed Mildred. “A… a juvenile form of human, often created in pre-extraction times as a means to perpetuate the human species… at the clinic they said it can turn into a person with a few decades of round-the-clock treatment. But it’s a foetus. They can still extract. They want to and it’s kind of… kind of like eating meat…” In the face of Sandra’s tears, Mildred’s own conclusion seemed silly again. How could they extract life from a thing that could become a person?
They were silent for a while. Even the baby quieted down. James leaned against a tree for support and flexed his creaking knees.
“Can I hold it? Does it mind?”
“I don’t know. It seems to mind everything.” Mildred passed the baby to Sandra.
“Milly, I think I’m really sick,” she confided. “First my foetus came out and now there’s yellow stuff coming out of my nipples. Can you take me to the clinic? I know they expect me to give them some life rather than take it, but maybe I could use some from your foetus.”
“Hey, you know half of that foetus is for me, right?” said James. “Nah, you can have a some of my share. Anything to help a fetching fertile lady.”
The foetus kicked, and she realised that the word was not metaphorical; it was kicking with actual legs. “I don’t know if I want it to be extracted today.” Mildred said quietly.
Sandra reached out and held her hand. They were silent, except for the baby.
Suddenly, Mildred thought of something. “What if it’s hungry?”
“I have some bacon sushi,” said James. The soon learnt that the baby could not use chopsticks.
Once again, Mildred checked the encyclopedia for information on babies. “You’re not going to believe what it says about feeding them…”
Over the next week, while Sandra and James tried to figure out how and whether to keep the baby alive, and how to keep it quiet, Mildred researched the early history of extraction. Of course there was the ugly time they all commemorated each decade on Death Day, the time when people would kidnap and extract the remaining life out of strangers. It must have been horrible to live in fear of dying. Nine out of ten of them did die. Nine out of ten adults died so that the rest could live longer.
Then perinatal extraction, called today simply extraction, solved everything. More life with no killing, and no fear of accidental breeding creating an infinite number of hungry immortals. The inventor shared the technique with the oldest and newest people he knew, the ones who hadn’t stolen anyone else’s life. They won round extractors with their ethically-sourced life, and soon nobody would extract from an adult, and nobody would give life to those known to have done so. Over the next century, the life thieves died of old age and the rest bred up to the capacity they knew they could sustain without competition for resources, and then ceased with the bother of people-making. Most of this was familiar to Mildred; the well-known story told each decade on Life Day. She’d even seen the inventor of perinatal extraction telling the story in person. Though she’d all but forgotten the meaning of the archaic words such as ‘perinatal’ and ‘breeding’.
It wasn’t quite so pretty, though. As she read older and older memoirs, Mildred discovered that many people had actually protested, saying foetuses were people; some even thought that embryos were people. And some even thought that animals should not be eaten; not just because of the unsustainable farming practices back then, but because animals were also a sort of people. Mildred wondered why nobody thought of things like that any more.
Further into her research, she came across an old journal entry which struck her:
I took my first birth today. I know it isn’t right, but I was getting old, almost too old to be coaxed into fertility, and if I die the foetuses will have nobody to fight for them. Thirty more years should give me the time to fix things. I need to find a way to prevent both death and overpopulation without sacrificing living humans.
That’s what happened to people who thought foetuses were people. They either took life anyway, or they died. She checked the author to see which group this one had ended up in.
Mildred felt lightheaded at the sight of her own name, and saw the edges of her vision prickle black. Her foetus turned, and so did her stomach. She fought to stay conscious for fear of what people might do to help her.
She’d been one of the people who’d fought to stop perinatal extraction. She’d been one of the people who’d let her survival instinct change her mind. On the backs of those she’d claimed to want to save, she’d lived long enough to forget they existed. And she would forget again.
Unless she fixed things soon.
Mildred switched her attention to learning all she could about the science of life extraction. It came to her easily at first, as if she’d learnt it all before, which she probably had. She felt less familiar with the breakthroughs that led to increased efficiency in more recent centuries. She enrolled in some classes and followed the century-old standard practical experiments involving extraction and infusion in small plants.
One night she was idly dissecting a piece of sushi, picking out the individual grains of rice and twirling the meat between her chopsticks. That meat had been in a pig once. Pigs were probably smarter than babies. She put it aside and ate the rice and seaweed thoughtfully. Just like eating meat…
She jumped up and ran to the bedroom. “Sandy!” she called out loudly before realising that it was past midnight. “Sandy, come here,” she whispered, but the baby was already gearing up to surpass her careless loudness.
“What is it?” Sandra asked groggily, before gasping in horror, “is yours coming out too?”
“No, no, it’s not that! What did you say your manservant went to do?”
“Botany. Some nutso alternative healing thing.”
“Listen, I think he might be onto something. I was thinking, we can live without meat, right? So we can live without foetuses! It’s so obvious!”
“Hey, you didn’t get me out of bed to tell me you’ve gone as crazy as Jezdimir, did you?”
James wandered in holding the screaming baby.
“Look, there are trees out there that’ve lived longer than us, right? What if we could extract life from them? I mean their seedlings? There’d be millennia! They’ve made a lot of improvements in extraction lately. Did you know that even plant extraction was not possible a few centuries ago, and now they teach it in introductory classes? All we’d need to do is figure out how to convert their life to ours, and no more foetus-killing!”
James squinted his reddened eyes and looked down at the noise-maker in his arms. “Are you sure you want more of these around?”
“No, you see that’s the other thing. If anyone gets pregnant by mistake, which, let’s face it, hardly ever happens, they can take enough life, plant life, to make the embryo regress back into nothing. Or wait, maybe that’s bad too, I don’t know. But some of them could make babies. Did you know that fish are edible; they were just banned back when there weren’t enough of them? And that there’s way more of everything now than back at the beginning of extraction? And that you can feed way more people with plants than with meat? The population limits they set back then are way lower than they need to be now. We could have new people!”
“Hey hold on there… is that even possible? What about the new people? They’re not going to know anything,” said James.
“But even at our ages, everyone knows different things,” answered Sandra before Mildred could think of an answer. She pointed at the baby. “He’s the only one who knows what it is to be new in an old world. That’s worth knowing.”
“So we need to contact this, what was his name? Jezdimir? Your manservant, and see if they can help us. I reckon we’re only a few decades away from converting plant life into…”
Mildred stopped and winced as a pain surged through her belly. Sandra stared at her with a terrified look in her eyes. Mildred regained her composure in order not to upset Sandra. “…converting plant life into human. I’ll never have to have another extraction.”
Then she collapsed in agony. James and Sandra practically carried her to the clinic, Sandra holding the baby in her free arm, and James clutching at trees with his.
“Are you back for your extraction, finally? It’s about time,” said the clinician.
“Noo…” moaned Mildred. The clinician laid her on the bed.
“What do you mean no? You clearly need the life,” said James. “I hate to see you like this.”
“No,” said Sandra. “She doesn’t want any more extractions. You’re going to take this foetus out of her and let it become a baby.”
“But she said she didn’t want another extraction. She meant after this one. I’m sure!”
Mildred filled her lungs to protest but the breath hurt so much that she let it out in a moan. Her head felt as bad as the rest of her. For a moment she thought she remembered being a child, watching her mother cry over her brother. But she had no brother.
“No, no, she doesn’t want to take any life! Haven’t you seen her? She’s been obsessed with this idea of foetuses being people.” The baby screamed louder as if to affirm its personhood.
“Well no, I haven’t seen her, because I’ve been trying to keep this thing alive! She doesn’t want one of these!”
“She does. She does. She wants the baby to live.”
“It’s not a baby! Look, she owes me four decades. She owes herself four decades. How could she just let herself die in this day and age? I’d miss her! We all would! And she needs time to finish that plant thing.”
“Sure, but the baby…”
“…doesn’t owe anyone anything.”
“But you can’t privilege this useless little thing that can’t even eat or speak over someone with a millennium of knowledge and skills and hundreds of people who love her! I know your baby is cute and it brings a fresh perspective and blah blah blah but you can’t have both, and I’m choosing Milly.”
“I love her too! But she doesn’t want to kill babies any more and we have to respect…”
“For goodness’ sake, you’re not killing anything! You’re just extracting the life out of something that isn’t alive yet to begin with!”
“Extracting the what? If it’s not alive, then…”
“Look, your friend’s not doing well. I’m going to need a decision,” urged the clinician, as Mildred slipped into unconsciousness.
Your father, his father, and his before that,
Your mother, her mother, and all the way back
Have kept a tradition by chance or by will
To each have a baby (or several) until
The flame’s passed to you, but now you have a choice
So don’t join the choir till you find your own voice.
Creating a person’s a huge thing to try;
You can if you want, but first think about why:
Not to continue this age-old tradition
Not to be sure that your life has a mission
Not for a god or a country or norm, oh
Not for a lark, or the whim of a hormone
Not for a vague or instinctive desire
Not just to copy the folks you admire
Not out of fear you’ll leave nothing behind
(Not that your DNA outdoes your mind)
Not ’cause you’re bright so you should spread your genes
Not ’cause you’re dim and don’t know what that means
Not to rebel against Mum and Dad’s view
Not because they want their vengeance on you
Not as a snake oil to quiet your fears
That you might feel a twinge of regret in ten years
Not when your body clock’s ticking through dates
And you’re always a sucker for ‘Buy now! Don’t wait!’s
Not because well-behaved babes tug your heart
Not so your parents can relive that part
Not ’cause your partner would like to have some
Not ’cause you’re grateful that Dad convinced Mum
Not ’cause you’ve thought of a name you must give
Or things you’d do better if you could relive
Not when a thoughtless mistake involved sex
Not ’cause you’re married and that’s what comes next
Not because all of your friends ask why not
Not because they’re doing well with their lot
Not ’cause you’re told that it’s selfish to live
without making a beggar to whom you can give
Not because parents say nothing else matters
Not to add glue to a romance in tatters
Not because children learn more tricks than cats
Not to prove your kids would never be brats
Not so your welfare amount will be goin’ up
Not ’cause you think it’ll make you a grownup
Not so they’ll pay for your food in old age
(for pyramid schemes have to collapse at some stage)
Not to fulfil a perceived need for love
Not if you’re not sure, when push comes to shove
Not ’cause you read this and thought, ‘This’ll show ’em!’
Not for the sentiment closing this poem.
But only because you adore helping youth
and can’t think of life without living that truth.
You know that their life-long love’s not guaranteed
and you’re yearning to face unconditional need
of a boy, girl or intersexed, well, sick or crippled
dunce, saint or murderer, one, twins or tripled.
You’re deeply concerned the resources you borrow
may add to the hardship of grandkids tomorrow
and realise your efforts to curb your consumption
are more than undone if you make the assumption
that your kids survive and continue to breed
and their kids spawn ever more hungers to feed.
If raising a person is your lifelong dream,
and not just a gesture to race with the team
then go ahead, try to conceive, but know this:
it’s not just a baby that’s made in all this.
You remake yourself as you start your new quest,
as parent first up, and then some of the rest.
From baby’s perspective you’ve made the whole world;
you’ve led them from nowhere to cosmos unfurled.
So enjoy your big bang and enjoy your inflation,
And cherish your well-informed act of creation.
Which way do you see things first? (Click the poems for pdf versions you can enlarge and copy the text from.)
Posted by Angela Brett in 52 ways to say I love you, Bäume, Birds of Canada, Cadbury Heritage Collection, CERN, Dinosaurier, Discover Ontario, Fische, Flowers and Animals, Holland, Hunde der Welt, Intriguing Development, Ireland, Johnny English, Katzen der Welt, Kräuter, Lyon, Mont Blanc, Paris, Pferde & Ponys, Pilze, Reptilien, Schmetterlinge, St James's Gate, Switzerland, The Best of Switzerland, Tierwelt Europas, Venezia, Wasservögel, Wildflowers of Canada, Wildvögel, Writing Cards and Letters on January 19, 2009
Although many stories end up coming full circle, the first step is always finding a few good lines to lead into it. The steps are too steep for me to climb, I will wait and watch.
All the best pictures have canoes in them. As the boat left the wharf, they did not know that they would soon be the first victims of the biggest eruption in history. They used the clock tower to localise themselves in time and space. The people did not know that the tower would soon fall. It was big.
The butterfly said, “Some creatures are bigger than they have any right to be. The problem with rankings is that the first and second always crowd out the third. I am not going to react to that in the way you expect.”
The butterfly does not know what you have called him, he just lives.
The frog said, “I know a man who collects frogs. Hair brushed back to impress you, he has addled your brains, you no can no longer call yourselves human.
Why do you keep calling me a bull? I don’t wear armour and spikes to threaten you, but to protect myself. Standing on the stump of what was my home, I can’t help but wonder if there is any more of a future for those who destroyed it. After all their adventures, one diamond is still missing.”
A line of spikes separated the riches from the untamed sea. Many colours, reaching to the sky. Each stalk is topped with a permanent snowball. Scientists rushed to tend to the glowing backbone. The crowd rejoiced as they saw their work fall away.
Their neighbour was richer than they thought. A giant living diamond thrashed its way forward through the sea. A single female to perpetuate the genes of a thousand men.
And a gold-crazed fool said, “This is no more possible than a flower growing from another flower. I sent e-kisses over the internet before my first real kiss. I have two pillows, but there is no room for another in this bed.”
The trick in gathering treasure is to leave room for more. They got on like two flowers in a pod.
A village of silver, covered in white snow, one lasts and the other is precious.
Rearranging the components of your point does not make it any sharper.
She skipped from stone to stone across the stream,
each stepping stone subsiding with her stride.
No tears for trampled islands,
she was on the other side.
In comfort, and in loneliness, she mused
she’d never feel or be felt from outside.
Her brain a private island
she lived and thrived inside.
The world and she were sisters, though not fused,
new sustenance delivered on each tide.
She lived upon an island,
Her needs well met, she soon began to dream
of wants her bounded home could not provide.
She took them from the island,
and then the island died.
Assured the world would match her self-esteem,
She headed out across the sea’s divide
She found another island,
and there she multiplied.
And one by one each island’s stocks were used,
they one by one became desertified.
The world was but an island,
and then the island died.
The death and desolation soon suffused
the living brain she looked out from inside.
She never left the island,
and then the island died.
She’d skipped from stone to stone across this dream,
each stepping stone subsiding in her stride.
No tears for trampled islands,
she was on the other side.
I am the master of my environment. The king of the fifth kingdom. My sweet chestnut tree delivers all the nutrients I need. I have no need for even a brain to live in this paradise on a lesser creature. Nothing needs to change; even in the far future, if my tree dies, my descendents can continue to feed on it. This forest belongs to us.
With food security like this, it does not matter that I am incapable of surviving without my host. I have everything I need. I do not need to move, I do not wish to move, and, because a perfect design has no superfluous features, I have no ability to move.
And yet, I am moving. I am being pulled from my life source. Pulled by something even more powerful than myself.
I can no longer pretend that I am the master of my environment, above the rest of the animal kingdom. I can not go on as a parasite on less fortunate creatures, raising and killing them just because I have a big enough brain to know how. Something has to change. There are simply not enough resources to continue transforming large amounts of food into small amounts of meat. I want something to be left for my descendents. This forest belongs to nobody, and we have no right to destroy it for pasture.
I’m perfectly capable of surviving without meat. I can get all the nutrition I need from fruits, vegetables, chestnuts from the forest, mushrooms… ah, now here’s a beef steak I can eat without troubling my conscience.
I pull the beefsteak fungus from the treetrunk and take it home for dinner. I need not exercise my power over nature tonight.
It seems to be true that the world is in debt.
If I take from you then I won’t see it yet.
By nature we crave to spend more than we earn;
we’ve money to save and we’ve forests to burn.
We’ll use up the rest, extradition’s deferred;
we’re draining our nest-egg and killing the bird.
Their species are dying, and so are our own,
but let’s just keep flying, it’s fine in our zone.
Let’s use all the oil and eat all the fish,
abuse all the soil and do as we wish,
ignore all the damage that we cannot see;
Perhaps it hurts you but it doesn’t hurt me.
In Earth’s final hour, we won’t fear the night;
if we have the power, we’ll turn on the light.