back from extinction

Essays in Existentialism: Jurassic

I really love your fics so I was wondering if you’ll pleaseee write a clexa jurassic park au Tks

“Most meat eaters walked on two feet. This made them faster and left their hands free to grab their prey,” the professor explained, clicking the pointer so that the page changed. “Most plant eaters walked on four feet to better carry their heavy bodies. Some plant eaters could balance on two feet for a short time.”

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Is it a trilobite back from extinction—or is it a very large cockroach? Neither. These giant isopods (Bathynomus giganteus) are crustaceans and related to decapods like shrimp and crabs as well as to pill bugs. They rule the deep, chilly waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and are considered a good example of deep-sea gigantism—a phenomenon where invertebrates in deep waters are much larger than their shallow-water relatives. This species can grow to be over 16 inches long and have compound eyes with over 4,000 individual facets, making them extremely sensitive to fast movements in dark waters.  
Photo: Orin Zebest

Gharial study - these dudes look so crazy it’s unreal. I saw a couple when I was a kid at a reptile sanctuary and thought they were crocodiles with bad diets. They’re criticality endangered, but I hope they can come back from the brink of extinction.🐊🙏

2

I drew this a long time ago as a collaboration with my biologist friends to raise awareness about various endangered species and their habitats. Unfortunately we all got too busy and the project never took off. I found the file again and decided to post it anyway.

This one is about the Whooping Crane and how conservation efforts brought this endangered species back from near extinction. My friend, Joleen Tseng, worked with these beautiful birds and here’s her write-up about the importance of conservation for these birds and all species of life:

When we hear [the crane’s] call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.
–Aldo Leopold

Whooping cranes, North America’s tallest and rarest bird, have quite the story. Due to habitat loss and over hunting, these birds have fallen to just 21 individuals in the 1940s but through the enormous efforts of conservationists, local, national, and international governments, the Whooping cranes have recovered to around 600 individuals today. The story of the Whooping crane can be seen as a symbol of hope for endangered animals. Through intensive methods involving captive breeding, constant monitoring across nations, research, education, enforced protection, and specialized reintroduction programs, the Whooping cranes have been able to make an astounding recovery.
Whooping cranes have been blessed to be a “charismatic species” or in other words, a species with popular appeal. Their beautiful profiles trumpeting calls have inspired conservationists around the world to fight for their cause. However, many endangered animals are unable to gather as much popularity. Whether they may be considered ugly, small, or even “unimportant,” every animal has a place in the web of life and it’s our job as fellow animals to respect and uphold the system of nature that we are part of.

Ways to help:
Of course there are the standard ways to help Whooping cranes and other endangered species. Donate/ participate in citizen science/ support conservation organization or programs, etc.
If you’re lacking the funds, the best way to help conservation efforts and endangered animals is to educate yourself. Visit a wildlife refuge with your family. The money goes directly to helping efforts to restore endangered species habitat, monitoring, research, and education. Volunteer at nature centers, zoos, refuges. And most importantly, educate yourself. Take biology, take environmental science, look into zoology/ environmental science/ natural resource majors in college. All these can lead to a career in conservation. And last but not least, practice conservation: be mindful of waste, re-using, recycling, etc.

While not normally arboreal as adults this large male Blue Iguana climbed this tree after significant rainfall which left the ground slightly flooded.

In 2007 I had the great privilege of visiting Grand Cayman Island to work with and document the critically endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) with the team at the Blue Iguana Recovery Program founded by Fred Burton.

Blue Iguanas are endemic only to the small island of Grand Cayman and as such are at risk habitat destruction, road kills, free-roaming dogs, and feral cats. Thankfully the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (B.I.R.P.) has brought this beautiful iguana back from the brink of extinction with breeding and release programs as well as the acquisition of habitat.

It is the largest native land animal on Grand Cayman with a total nose-to-tail length of 5 ft (1.5 m) and weighing as much as 30 lb (14 kg).

Nikon D200 + Sigma 70-200mm
f5.6 1/400sec ISO640

#iguana #blueiguana #caymanisland #grandcayman #caribbean #wildlife #wildlifephotography #WildlifeConservation #shannonwild #reptile #lizard #blue

Southern White Rhinoceros - Africa

Over 98% of Africa’s Southern White Rhino’s can be found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. They are the second largest land mammal in the world, after the elephant. They can grow to weight 3.6 tonnes, and have a longer skull and a more pronounced shoulder hump than their northern cousins, the Black Rhino.

A conservation success story, they were brought back from the brink of extinction. In the early 20th century, it was estimated only 20 individuals remained in the wild. Now, the Southern white rhino is the most abundant sub species of rhino in the world, with over 21,000 individuals living in the wild. Despite all these efforts, the rhino is still under a great threat from poachers, who illegally trade their horns.

Twenty-third Christmas

the series is as follows so far:

FirstSecond ThirdFourthFifthFifth Christmas, Part 2SixthSeventhEighthNinthTenthEleventhTwelfthThirteenthFourteenthFifteenthSixteenthSeventeenthEighteenthNineteenthTwentiethTwenty-firstTwenty-secondTwenty-third

Here’s the last one … 23 chapters later … no idea it woud turn into this … and am totally glad it did :)

Thanks everyody who reblogged, noted, commented and tagged … you are all gods in my world and I appreciate you from the bottom of my soul :)

&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Sitting quietly on the couch, fire crackling on the hearth, wind whistling in the eaves, Mulder put his head back, nestling in beside Scully’s as she read something or other with a pastel cover and a beach scene and a faceless woman wearing a floppy hat, “hey, Scully?”

Patiently, she put her finger in her book to hold her spot, “yeah?”

“I want to decorate the hell out of this place.”

She couldn’t fight the smile that burst forth, “only you would use hell to describe Christmas.”

“Come on. I think Maggie would like us to do it up right, our first Christmas back together and in her house to boot. We can intermingle her stuff and our stuff and I can go buy stuff for the front yard and porch.” Having sank his teeth into the idea, it was now exploding in his head, visions of inflatable things and blinking lights and evergreen garland, pointsettas and pinecones and cinnamon-smelling potpourri boiling on the stove, “I mean, it’ll be the stuff of Christmas dreams!”

“Okay, you had me with your overuse of the word ‘stuff’ but then you rolled out the emphatic Christmas dreams ending and moved it right on into over-saccharined insanity.”

Shifting sideways, he pulled his leg up, the ever present Flab jumping on his lap while Dagoo looked on, comfy from his blanket near the heat of the fireplace, “look, even Flab appreciates my saccharine enthusiasm. Look at her. She’d dying to have you say yes because she wants her own Grinch costume and Dagoo needs a Rudolph nose.”

“I think Dagoo wants you to be quiet so he can keep napping.”

He saw the moment he won and grinning, “we should go shopping.”

“Yes, we should.” Will’s voice drifted down the stairs where he’d been listening rapturously, with both mind and ear, feeling his father’s win and his mother’s amusement. Coming down further and poking his head past the wall, “right now. The Uncles will love it when they come over for Christmas.”

“That’s right, Scully. We’re gonna have like 20 people here for two days. We owe it to them to make this completely Maggie Christmas worthy.”

Not about to deny Will or Mulder a damn thing ever in life, Scully stood up, holding her hand out to pull him with her then gesturing towards the fire, “put that out so we don’t burn the house down and we’ll go buy out the Christmas sections of everywhere.”

Will hooted, racing back upstairs for a sweatshirt, Mulder gave her a big, wet kiss on the cheek and did as told while Scully just giggled in happy glee.

&&&&&&&&&&&

When the Gunmen had shown up with Will on that bridge, the world didn’t end but began anew, saving Mulder, getting everyone back to the hospital, aiming a homemade and completely genius EMP handheld device at the hovering ship, sending it and its government fuckers as Frohike called them, away for long enough to get the gang safely away in the boat parked just below the bridge.

She’d saved the world but more importantly, she’d saved Mulder with the help of Will’s blood and her ability to completely compartmentalize the fact that her friends were alive and had been hiding her son from her for the past 16 years. Science kicked in, she brought human beings back from the brink of extinction and when it was all over, she screamed at the Gunmen for three minutes apiece then broke down, crying with her equally emotional son in her arms.

Eventually, over the course of the following three days, while the world was vaccinated, her and Mulder learned the story of the past decade and a half of the Gunmen and Will in abstentia. In the silence that hung around them when Frohike finished, Scully breathed out the largest sigh of relief in her entire, God-damned life and looked at her boy, “will you come home with me and be our son again … if you can ever forgive me?”

More crying ensued and an hour or three later, Will moved into the Unremarkable guest room, which was neither a guest room nor unremarkable anymore, given it had proudly been a resting spot for Maggie and would now be the home of her grandson. Within a few weeks, an agreement was floated between the six of them, Scully, Mulder and William moving into Maggie’s home while the Gunmen took over the farmhouse, the basement perfect for computer equipment, enough room for the three of them and the solitude to which they’d become accustom.

They came over three times a week for dinner to see their nephew.

&&&&&&&&&&

Shopping had never been so much fun. Both Mulder and Will had carts, racing down aisles in the local Wal-mart, doing their best not to steer into rows and nearly failing with regularity and hilarity combined. They called back and forth over tall things because, as Mulder put it, Scully was a short thing and needed to be kept track of. They debated icicle lights or fat LEDs for the front porch. They held up garish stockings and neon pink garland and giggled in unison at the metallic orange Christmas tree on display.

They ended up spending nearly all of Scully’s paycheck and she couldn’t have cared in the slightest.

Once back in the car, they stopped for Frosties, eating them while shivering their way home before finally pulling in the driveway and unloading Scully’s filled to the brim SUV. In typical teenage boy fashion, Will informed them that since he was out of school for Christmas break and had absolutely no reason to get up early in the morning, he would like to start the decorating now.

Mulder couldn’t think of one reason to argue and Scully gave them an approving smile, “why don’t you two start and I’ll go make the hot chocolate.”

&&&&&&&&&

It took until the next evening to finish, sleep finally taking the three of them down around two a.m. and lasting until noon. By that night, however, the only thing left were the Christmas trees, standing bare on either side of the fireplace, Maggie’s on the left and theirs on the right. William sat between them, boxes of ornament surrounding his crossed legs, lids off, treasures waiting patiently to be hung. “So, Scullly, would it be better to mix all the ornaments or would you like to keep them separate? Maggie’s on Maggie’s and ours on ours?”

She couldn’t give him a definite answer through the tears suddenly streaming down her cheeks.

Mulder’s heart cracked and with his own eyes damp, he pulled her into a hug, “I think we should mix ‘em all up. I have a feeling Maggie’d like it that way; she’d know that we’re really back together for good this time because, I mean, nothing says steadfast togetherness like mixing the mother-in-law’s holiday decorations in with our own.”

Scully laughed against his shirt, wiggling one arm from her hold on him to ruffle through their son’s hair, “what do you think, Will? Mix or separate?”

“Already mixing, mom, so the question is moot.” He had his own small box on his lap from which he was pulling homemade things, a popsicle-sticky, glittery, shiny, gluey, messy, intricate, woven, carved assortment of historically significant baubles he’d made with the Gunmen over the years. He lay them out on the rug, “we should keep taking one from each pile, nine ornaments each, put them on one tree then do the same for the other. We’ll have an even distribution that way or at least as even as we’ll be able to get given I don’t know your ornament count but we’ll make do.” The silence that hung above him made him look up to see his father shaking his head in befuddlement and his mother about to burst into laughter, “what?”

Mulder nudged Scully with his elbow, “he is totally your kid.”

Pointing to one of Will’s ornaments, “he made a green sequin alien head. He’s both of ours.”

Will held the alien head up to Mulder, “I sure am.”

&&&&&&&&&&&&

It took most of the evening to hang 78 years worth of bulbs and memories, backstories being told for most, Will curious and open, questioning, commenting, loving the fact that he had a history, that he had a family with a history, that he was a part of that history. It was only when they’d finished that Scully suddenly realized, “if these are the things you made with your Uncles, what are they putting up on their Christmas tree?”

Will grinned, “I was confined to a building with them for 15 years, I made so many things that they’ll never miss what I took and besides, they wanted to give me more to bring home but I knew they wanted to keep a lot of it so believe me when I say, these aren’t even the tip of the iceberg … but I need to crash now so g’night and I’ll see you in the morning.” Giving both of them the long hugs they all needed all the time lately, he disappeared upstairs, leaving his parents to their standing and hugging and enjoying and occasional quick kissing.

Before anything got out of hand, Mulder pulled away from her, “I’ve got a gift for you.”

Because after several decades she was sure she knew what it was, she sat down, ready and waiting, grin on and hand out. Seeing her once he came back in the room, he chuckled, “no more surprising you is there?”

“Nope.” Waving her fingers in a hand it to me motion, “gimme.”

Laughing louder now, he sat down beside her, “it’s actually a two-fold gift. Here’s number one.” Opening the plain box, she found, resting quietly on the bed of cotton, the quarter necklace she had found in her mother’s possessions at the hospital, chain gone, Christmas hook attached. Before she could utter more than a small, confused, “Mul-,” he stopped her with a hand to the knee, “I know what that quarter is.”

She’d been wondering since the moment she found it, in the items envelope at her mother’s bedside, “how?”

“I gave it to her. Well, actually, she gave it to me. Back then, it was just a quarter from her purse but she gave it to me the night I met her, the night you were abducted by Barry. I was standing there, lost and confused and angry and scared out of my mind and I had to go do something, anything, just … find you. She’d watched me throw my cellphone at the wall at one point, frustrated as hell that no one was doing anything immediately, all talking and thinking instead of finding. Once I’d decided I needed to do something myself, she stopped me and gave me a quarter and told me to call her if I heard anything, regardless of time or information.” Stopping for a deep breath, he continued in a whisper, “I didn’t find anything out to call and tell her but I kept the quarter in my pocket anyway, holding it and hoping I’d need to use it soon. Eventually I got … we got you back but I kept the quarter anyways. I saw it as kind of my good luck charm at that point but then Maggie yelled at me and put me in my place for running with you so I had the quarter made into a necklace and I gave it back to her, telling her she’d never need a quarter to call me because we’d never be that far away again.”

Scully had been turning it over and over in her fingers, holding, spinning, twirling absently while she listened. When Mulder fell silent, she looked up at him, confusion still evident, “why didn’t you tell me when I found it or years ago, really?”

“Don’t be mad but it was a Maggie and me thing. It was ours. Our link. Our … connection to each other that was just ours. I never really had anything like that with my mother and …” now going sheepish on her, ducking his head, “I didn’t want to share it in case we went our separate ways. I didn’t want you to think of anything of your mom’s with a bad taste. I guess I figured a mystery was better than anger.”

Completely appreciating the logic, she first kissed his cheek, then kissed the quarter, dangling it in front of them, smiling through her ever-present tears, “I love it and the story and regardless of what may happen in the future, I’ve always loved you and always will so you don’t have to worry about that. I do however, wonder why you’re telling me now.”

“Because that was my last secret from you forever. I wanted everything out there when you got your second gift.” Reaching under the couch, he slid out a larger box, perfect size for a round bulb, “Merry Christmas part two.”

With that quizzical eyebrow he so very much loved to the ends of the Earth, he watched her open the box to a clear ornament, a piece of parchment paper rolled inside it, a handful of iridescent confetti heaped underneath it. Carefully unscrewing the sphere, she withdrew the paper, unrolling it carefully, reading intently then shaking her head in wonder, reading a second time just to be sure.

Once she looked up at him, eyes filled with twinkling amazement, he tossed the confetti in the air, covering them both, “so, will you be there?”

Her affirmative answer came in the form of her climbing eagerly onto his lap, straddling him, hugging him tightly as she whispered her, “I could never be anywhere else,” as she clutched her wedding invitation in her hand, the date printed as December 26, the time 2pm, the place being their front room.

“Gonna change your name? Let me make an honest Mulder out of you?”

As she kissed him once more behind the ear before shifting sideways, sliding down next to him, legs still akimbo around his thighs, “I was thinking more about Fox Scully. What do you say?”

Before he could answer, Will’s voice called down to them, in that uncanny way he had with timing, “I’m best man, right?”

Scully buried her head in his neck while he called back up to his son, “of course but you may have to battle it out with Frohike.”

“Naw, we’ll just tell him he’s Gunmen of Honor. He can be on mom’s side.”

“G’night, Will.”

“Night, Mom.”

Turning her attention back to her finally, very near future husband, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Mulder.”

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Scully.”

@wolveria

Accredited zoos and aquariums do not focus on the entertainment factor. Modern zoos aren’t theme parks solely for entertainment like they used to be. SeaWorld is a theme park and not a zoo, for example. Good zoos and aquariums focus on education and awareness to the public, not giving a good show.

Besides, if nobody came to “gawk” at the animals, how do expect the zoos and aquariums to make enough money to continue upkeep for those animals? Conservation is expensive. 

And you’re SO right!! Zoos don’t do anything for conservation!!! At all! The Arabian oryx, golden lion tamarin, Puerto Rican parrot, black footed ferret, Californian condor, Kihansi spray toad, Przewalski horse, Karner blue butterfly, giant panda, red wolf, and the freshwater mussel just somehow magically came back from the brink of extinction without any sort of human intervention in the form of zoos. 

And it’s not like zoos and aquariums are currently working to save the blue-crowned laughing thrush, mountain chicken frog, white clawed crayfish, amur leopards, potosi pupfish, partula snail, blue eyed black lemur, ploughshare tortoise, scimitar horned oryx, african lions, african elephants, asian elephants, northern white rhino, black rhino, gharial, and more or anything.

Zoos dont do anything, am i rite lads :)

On my way to the airport yesterday, I was picked up by a cabbie named Chuck.

Chuck served in the Navy for 22 years. He worked, lived, and partied across the Pacific Islands until deciding to collect his retirement. When he saw my poster tube, we naturally got on the subject of why I was in Vegas, how I studied sea turtles and was presenting my research here, etc.

He thinks turtles in general are the coolest (“I mean, nothing else ‘cept maybe the armadillo has a shell! Think about that! That’s why they’ve been around so long!”), and one of the first things he said was, “I wish they’d start doing better and we’d bring ‘em back from the brink of extinction because man, they are such good eating

I didn’t bat an eye. I’ve heard this before; I also know that some very successful conservation efforts are borne out of a regular person’s desire to eat a species sustainably; that locals get involved with conservation efforts for this very reason. We chatted about this and I got to tell him about turtle excluder devices (TEDs) used in the shrimp trawling industry. We agreed how we would both much rather pay taxes that go to funding TEDs on every trawl boat in the Gulf than to our corrupt governor or legislator’s next mansion. That it’s hard for a seasonal fisherman to fund a $700 TED on a boat, or that scientists and government officials don’t get that he and his daddy and his granddaddy have been doing this their whole lives, and have a bad taste in their mouth from people telling them what to do and telling them that they know better.

Chuck may be “just” a cab driver, he may be a retiree, but he reads Science magazine. He may want TEDs so that he can sustainably eat shrimp, whereas I want them to save sea turtles and couldn’t care less about eating shrimp anymore. He’s plugged in, and he isn’t stupid; his background is just slightly different than mine, and we want the same things.

We naturally got onto the topic of climate change. Chuck acknowledges that something is going on, that the Earth’s climate is heating and changing. He’s not sure whether it’s entirely anthropogenic, and a 15 minute cab ride to the airport was neither the time nor the place for me to throw facts at him.

Instead, I focused on the fact that Chuck, regardless of the cause of climate change, wants to see humans try to make it better. He said, “We have got to do something or this (gesturing to the surrounding sprawl of civilization on either side of the highway) will all fall apart.”
So that’s what I said to him. I said, “Chuck you know, that’s it exactly. The science is pretty sound, our models are getting better and better every day, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t it just be enough that you want to make the earth a better place for everyone? That the sooner that we get past this rhetorical pitfall of ‘who dun it’, we can start to make actual, appreciable changes?”

Chuck must have been about 82 years old. I’m nearly 25. He’s been around, seen a lot. And he remarked to me at the end of the cab ride how much he enjoyed talking to me, how it made his day, and how this was a new, great way of thinking about climate change and activism. That we have nothing to lose by switching to sustainable resources, eating less meat, telling our politicians to get their acts together and make good on their climate summit promises.

I reflect on this on Earth Day, and because March for Science isn’t far from my mind today. I’m reflecting on how the newly published video narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson revs me up in certain ways, but how problematic I find some of its rhetoric, and some of the rhetoric on the March for Science official facebook page.

For whom is this video made? I’ll tell you, from the time I spent with him, Chuck wouldn’t have been compelled by this video. He’d have been indifferent at best, and angry at the worst. This video isn’t made for him. But isn’t it important that he, and people like him, be reached, encouraged to make a difference, feel like they’re not considered ‘less than’ just because they’re not scientists?

What did work was having a conversation with him. Being kind, talking about things person to person– no lecturing, no fact regurgitation. I think that my conversation with Chuck will have more of a lasting impact on him than seeing that video ever would. And talking with Chuck has had an impact on me too. It reminds me that I’m a citizen of the Earth just like him. And that outsider perspective is absolutely key to my work and how I relate to the science I do. What does it all even matter if it’s not positively impacting people like Chuck? What does it even matter if I can’t sympathize with the shrimp boat drivers that have to rely on a transient resource to put dinner on the table for themselves and their families?

It occurs to me that this conversation could have gone much more differently for Chuck if it had been a different person in his cab. If it had been a different sea turtle conference attendee, or a different scientist. That someone could have jumped down his throat for his ‘good eating’ comment, or his thoughts on climate change. And he wouldn’t have walked away from that conversation telling the person how he was going to go out and buy a book on sea turtles now.

We march for science, but let us also march for the people who stand to benefit from it, whose lives are made better from its advances. Let us march for them even when we don’t see quite eye to eye on certain issues, for certainly the issue of saving our planet is more important. I think far more often than not, we can all agree that something needs to be done. I think we’ll find that people are more willing than we realize to join in and help. And we need them if we’re going to win this fight.

Of Hearts

“Tell me again how the swooping move is supposed to surprise the other team,” Luna requested, enjoying the echoing quality of her voice with her head on top of Ginny’s chest, listening to her steady heartbeat.

Ginny stroked surprisingly gentle fingers through Luna’s long locks. “Well, you see, the dive is called a feint and seekers only attempt it if they are very good and very confident in their skills. You feint when you see the snitch, but you dive in a direction that the snitch is not in. It’s a very tricky move because the seeker has to divert all their attention away from the snitch in order to trick the other team’s seeker. Seekers usually react on instinct. If one starts diving, the other is likely to follow just to ensure they don’t miss a chance to try catching the snitch. Once the seeker who is feinting is sure the other seeker has bought their fake, they then swiftly change directions back towards where the snitch was. The hope is that all this happens quickly enough that the seeker doesn’t loose the snitch. However, if that can’t happen, the other use of the feint is when the other seeker is closer to the snitch than you are and you just want to draw them away from the snitch until it’s too late for them to catch it.”

One of Ginny’s favorite things was quidditch, so one of Luna’s favorite things was watching her qpp play and listening to her talk about quidditch.

~

Harry looked haggard and worn. The lines on his face were more pronounced than usual, the bags under his eyes bigger, and there was a good tangle of wrackspurts circling him.

Luna immediately got to work on a cuppa. Harry preferred firewhiskey, but Luna didn’t like to overindulge when it came to alcohol. Besides, tea was more calming.

“I know you don’t like to, but it helps to talk about it,” she said gently.

Harry rubbed a hand over his eye, then dragged it down his face. “Just. I just don’t understand how anyone can continue to sympathize with Death Eaters,” he said.

Luna added extra honey to his tea and sat it in front of him. “Harry, I know you don’t want to hear it, but there are other ways of helping than being an auror. You’re very good at it, but it’s not the only thing you’d be good at. And another job would be nicer to you.”

Harry ignored his tea. He groaned and lowered his head into folded arms. “Not you, too, Luna. Please.”

“Okay,” she replied simply, scooting her chair closer to rub gentle circles on Harry’s back. Too much fighting this week. He wasn’t ready for this fight. She’d sit back and just let her best friend talk and do things his own way. 

Luna started humming, an old lullaby her mother used to sing to her.

~

“Oh! And I think you’d like this one,” Neville chattered on, more animated than usual. He led her to a pale purple plant with large, round leaves that waved gently with the air currents. “Sedatis ut folium, better known as the Tranquiliseed. I was awarded one to help bring them back from the brink of extinction. Using its essential oils or brewing it is supposed to result in an immediate calm for any who smell its sweet fragrance, but some are calmed just by watching its dance.”

Luna reached out a hand over the plant but didn’t touch it. She felt mesmerized. “It’s beautiful, Neville. And you were trusted to help bring it back from extinction. Oh, Neville - congratulations.”

Neville placed a friendly hand on her shoulder, warm and comforting. These walk throughs of Neville’s growing greenhouses were a regularly scheduled event for Luna and Neville. Luna loved how confident and happy Neville was around his plants, and she knew her bestie really needed someone to talk about his work to. Luna was happy to volunteer.

~

Luna and her datemate, a wonderful nonbinary muggle whom she’d met while hanging out in a coffeeshop to escape the magical world, laid curled up together, a blanket between them and the grass as they watched the stars above.

“I believe that one’s supposed to be a lynx, but it’s always looked more like a thestral to me.”

“What’s a thestral again?”

“They’re beings of death. Skeletal winged horses. Very sweet, family-oriented, and hard workers.”

“Hm. I dunno. Looks more like a leaping kangaroo to me.”

Luna giggled. “Maybe it’s all three. Maybe it’s endless possibilities.”

Her datemate squeezed her hand and pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek. “I like that,” xe whispered. Luna nuzzled into xyr neck. This was always the best way to end her day.

~

Because Luna is asexual, but that hasn’t made her capacity for love any less than anybody else’s.

Asexual Awareness Week HP Fandom Challenge

Day 1: Post about your favorite/long-held ace/spec HP character headcanons.

~Hufflepuff Mod

Useless fact: South African scientists managed to bring a species back from extinction. The quagga, a subspecies of zebra, was hunted to extinction in the 19th century and geneticists, using a breeding programme, have managed to bring it back.

Oneida runner racing to save his language from extinction

Back when he was 14, Evan John was content with a medal in each colour. At this year’s North American Indigenous Games, he’ll only be happy with gold.

Despite his success at the last Games in 2014, the 17-year-old long-distance jumper and sprinter started running because his uncle told him it was the only way to shine at lacrosse.

“I always wanted to play lacrosse. Growing up with it, it was the coolest sport,” John recalled. His uncle — hall-of-famer Duane Jacobs, who played professional lacrosse for the Rochester Knighthawks — "always told me I had to run.“

And run John did, attracting attention from school coaches. The 11th-grader now practices four times a week.

John still loves lacrosse, but said running has its own place in his life. "It’s more individual. What I put into it is what I’m going to get out of it.”

John’s prowess comes at a cost. He notes that staying in shape takes focus and dedication, and he has to juggle time on the track with full-time studies.

He applies that determined attitude to learning, too. He’s working on saving the Oneida language, which he says today has only about 55 fluent speakers left.

Renae Hill, executive director of the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre in Windsor, Ont., called John “one of our success stories.”

He’s been taking Oneida language classes since 2014, Hill said, and even opens each meeting with a thanksgiving address.

“I like sharing my language. I’m proud of it,” John said, noting that learning and passing on knowledge is the only way to ensure Oneida culture kept alive and well. 

As much as John wants to win this year’s Games, he gives back, too. He works with kids in a high-school co-op placement, showing them that confidence leads to success. 

Like sharing his language, John believes teaching sports strengthens Oneida culture.

“It’s a way of connecting to other people and Nations,” he said. “That’s how we used to settle disputes. If we needed more hunting grounds, say — if we got into a dispute over that ground — instead of going to war and hurting each other, a good game of lacrosse would fix that." 

The rules had to remain fair, "even though it was a brutal sport,” he said, noting that it’s humbling and inspiring to promote these values through sport. "That’s the story I carry on.“

For the Oneida Nation of the Thames, sports are a "medicine,” explained John. "When I run, I run because I believe it’s a gift from our Creator,“ he said.

"People use a sport to speak,” said John, but also to help others speak. “Sport is my talent and I let it shine,” he said.

“It's a whole different way to connect to people.”

Context, or “What the TLJ haters refuse to acknowledge in relation to Luke’s character”

{ You’re Luke. You have brought the Jedi way back from the brink of extinction, it survives through only you and a few handfuls of students in a single temple. Then one day you discover your most powerful and talented student has been seduced by the Dark side. You’re shocked, horrified, scared. This student has raw power that could destroy everything you’ve saved forever if you do not act.

Worse still, this person is your own nephew. In that moment you are torn between love for your nephew, and duty to the Jedi and the galaxy. You feel like you failed him, like you failed his parents, like you failed as a teacher. You are at a crossroads of choice: the old Jedi order would not have chosen personal attachment or familial bonds over the safety of the galaxy, even Obi Wan was forced to cut down Anakin because of what he had become. And in that moment of fear, confusion, obligation, guilt, and conflict, the Dark side thrives and goads you to make the choice: “kill him, it’d be so simple, so easy, the solution to all you fear might happen to everything you’ve built, kill the threat before it kills a great many others”. But only for a moment, because you’re Luke and the Light inside and love for your family is so much stronger. It’s an impossible situation but the thought of killing this boy was but a fleeting second, immediately squashed and replaced with deep shame. Unfortunately, a second was all it took. Ben saw that second, and in that second all he was fed to believe by Snoke and the Dark side was confirmed, and he was lost. }

Just thought I’d blatantly spell this out for everyone who seems to have missed it and are apparently incapable of wider thought on the situation. Every single person whining about Luke’s “character assassination” either was not paying attention to the movie or just lacks basic skills in character and narrative analysis.

Player Agency and Violence in Games

Recently, Toby Fox’s critically-acclaimed indie RPG Undertale has gotten a lot of attention for being a game that encourages pacifist runs, going so far as to have a tagline “nobody has to die.”

This is something the game has been praised for as most video games treat violence as being the default option for solving problems, and often the only option. While violence in games is by no means a bad thing in and of itself, the fact that it’s accepted as being the default means of progressing in most genres (with the exception of puzzle games, sports games, and life simulators) is creatively limiting. Undertale proves that there is a way to make a video game fun without having to force the player into the standard “kill or be killed” binary seen in most conflict-driven game narratives.

Of course, when it comes to Undertale, this isn’t anything new. Many people have praised the game for this, and it’s become one of the most commonly-cited reasons for why Undertale is seen as so subversive. However, I would argue that the subversion of violence as a necessary mechanic isn’t the reason that Undertale’s pacifism works so well. There’s something beyond that, and it demonstrates how the game has a much deeper understanding of the power dynamics behind violence than most other games. Namely, that Undertale repeatedly hammers home the point that all the monsters you’re killing basically have no chance of surviving if you actually demonstrate any intention to kill them.

We know that the monsters are no strangers to battle, and many monsters no doubt died when humans declared war on them. Pacifism was almost certainly not an option for the monsters at that point: they had to fight back to save themselves from extinction. Even during the game itself, the monsters that are actively antagonistic only act so because, as far as they know, they don’t have any means of freeing themselves from the hopelessness of the Underground outside of killing the player character and taking their soul. 

The player character, however, doesn’t have to resort to violence to achieve their goals, and the reason that they don’t have to is that it’s hammered home repeatedly that none of the enemies in the game pose any real threat to them. Even dying is ultimately rendered trivial by the power to save and load the game, which is acknowledged in-story as being a power exclusive to the player character. Pacifism is encouraged not only because violence unnecessary to making it through the game, but because if you do choose to be violent, there’s virtually nothing the other characters can do to stop you.

In this sense, Undertale isn’t just about pacifism: it’s also deeply understanding of how pacifism is fundamentally built on personal agency, something that distinguishes Undertale from most other games that allow for the possibility of pacifist runs. There is another game, however, that understands this dynamic very well, but approaches it very differently in execution.

Iji is a freeware game released in 2008 by the Swedish developer Daniel Remar, who also developed the freeware games Hero Core, Hyper Princess Pitch, and Princess Remedy. Like Undertale, Iji also encourages pacifist runs, but it does so in a starkly different way and for starkly different reasons. The game isn’t about morality of violence committed by a vastly overpowered main character as much as it is about the psychological effects of violence on the protagonist. The main character acts as a deconstruction of the “lone hero tears through hordes of enemy soldiers” trope in most action video games, and the story goes into great detail to show that such a thing would actually be hugely psychologically damaging to any normal person.

The game’s plot is about Iji, a young woman who is caught on the wrong end of an alien invasion and is soon given reverse-engineered nanomachine technology that allows her to fight the aliens, thrust into the midst of conflict to put a stop to their hostile occupation. She has the option to be a pacifist, in which case she comes out somewhat less traumatized than she would otherwise, but the only reason that it’s even an option to begin with is for the exact opposite reason that pacifism is an option in Undertale: namely that Iji has literally no hope of defeating the aliens through violence. If you play through the game like a traditional action-platformer, she still becomes an incredibly powerful soldier capable of mowing down hundreds of enemy combatants, to the point where the alien forces practically soil themselves just thinking of her, and yet it’s repeatedly made clear that she’s just one person against a force of millions. No matter how many soldiers she kills, she only truly manages to survive through resourcefulness and cunning, and only succeeds at her goal in the end because one of the alien leaders takes pity on her and orders his army to leave. Even the most powerful soldier in the world simply does not stand a chance against an entire army.

As a result, while Iji is capable of killing alien soldiers with little effort, from a practical standpoint almost none of the lives she can take actually contribute to her goal of driving off the invasion. She is capable of making her way through almost the entire game without directly (though the game is admittedly a bit loose with what counts as “directly”) killing anyone, instead relying on stealth, sabotage, and diplomacy with the few aliens who are sympathetic to her. This doesn’t mean that any of the enemy combatants won’t die: the story soon takes the conflict to an all-out war between two opposing alien factions, with Earth as the central battlefield. In any war death is inevitable, and this is no exception.

Like in Undertale, however, the enemies of the game don’t have the option of pacifism: all of the aliens we see are soldiers either by profession or by necessity, and in the case of one faction they’re literally fighting off their own genocide at the hands of the other. The fact that Iji can achieve her goals through pacifism is in one regard a symbol of how useless violence is against an enemy that cannot be defeated through brute force, but at the same time it’s also acknowledged as a privilege that virtually no other character in the game can afford.

The end result is that Iji makes nonviolence entirely centered on player agency in the same way that Undertale, but it does so by approaching it from the exact opposite direction. While in Undertale the player character has vast amounts of power over the game’s other characters, in Iji the player character is at best an afterthought to the central conflict between both alien factions. In both games, killing is unnecessary, in Undertale because the player character is strong enough to make it through the game regardless, and in Iji because the player character isn’t strong enough for it to meaningfully prevent the invasion and subsequent war. In both games there is nothing that explicitly forces the player to resort to killing foes, and so it is entirely left up to the player’s own preference whether they choose to do so or not. And in both games, there are significant consequences for choosing violence over choosing to avoid it: whether it be for the player character or for the world and supporting cast around them.

This is what ultimately distinguishes both these games from games that otherwise offer the option of pacifist runs. Compare this to most other games, where pacifism is simply a self-imposed challenge that’s left open for the player to complete. At best pacifist runs are usually treated as nothing more than a way for the player to test their skill, with the challenge being primarily that violence is the more convenient and immediately gratifying option. The effects of choosing to be nonviolent are rarely given any weight beyond this extra challenge, with little tangible impact on the characters or the world. By making pacifism more difficult and refusing to tie it to any in-world consequences, the choice to remain nonviolent is left meaningless and empty. The player is left separated from any sense of agency, as there is nothing to suggest that there’s any real difference to be made.

But in reality, nonviolence and agency are inseparable. Violence is often the only option that people have left to defend themselves when faced with subjugation, enslavement, or the threat of genocide. The ability to remain pacifist in the midst of a conflict is only made possible by circumstances where one can find other solutions: and not everyone has that luxury. Games that allow for pacifist runs but don’t go through the effort of acknowledging the importance of player’s own agency are left thematically and narratively confused, and the experience of a pacifist run is left unsatisfying and devoid of impact. More than anything, these two games understand that the impact of a pacifist run is built upon both the encouragement and consequences of different player choices.

Ridgway’s Hawk

Decembirds 2017

Day 14: Endangered

The Ridgway’s hawk was named after one of my ancestors, the American ornithologist Robert Ridgway. Its critically endangered and lived only in a few pockets of territory in the Dominican Republic. Its been killed by local farmers in rural areas because it was thought to kill chickens but the hawk actually prefers to eat lizards and small pests, not poultry. The Peregrine Fund has been doing some amazing work to help bring this bird back from the brink of extinction and I’m super happy to support their efforts.