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On Hubris (or, how to combat ‘scandal fatigue’)



(Note: Originally written in 2017, this post seems even more relevant today, in 2019).

By Dan Franco, Oakland, California

It seems to be necessary to clear up confusion and doubt. Around the nation today, many are dismayed to see the shabby state or our Republic. Not only that – they believe this situation will not get better. They fear it is only going to get worse, and they are powerless to change it.

They are correct. And that’s the good news.

We’ll get to the bad news in a moment. First though, how could this possibly be good news? Well, simply put, because defeatism is a huge drain on the energy of those who are actually trying to win. It’s good news because those folks will take them selves out of the discussion, and sit on the sidelines while ideas are contested in the arena.

Is this you? Do you feel fatigued, weary? Do you think the Right Wing and their craven business cadres will run this country into a sewer? Are you giving up on pushing back? Good.

I’m not. Outta the way, ya lump! Don’t need ya, kvetching and harrumphing but ultimately not lifting a finger.

As you may have guessed, this note will contain no small amount of ‘tough love’. I aim to ruffle your feathers, but will also offer some perspective and insights that may snap you out of the fugue that likely has been dogging you for months now.

I’ve been around long enough to know that this moment in history isn’t the end of anything; neither is it the beginning. I’m “tanned, rested, and ready” as they used to say in politics before a Cheeto got elected to high office. I’ve got all my tools and weapons prepared, and am motivated for the coming campaign to return America to sanity and fairness. By the end of this letter, I hope you will be too.

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California-based activist Gary Snyder once said, “Don’t feel guilty. If you’re gonna save the world, do it because you love it.” He was right. Activism is hard, and boring. There are endless setbacks and complications, negotiations and surprises. It’s also totally worth it, because often enough you eventually win.

A fundamental problem today is that too many people confuse ‘the world’ with ‘the present situation’. The present situation sucks, and most folk don’t actually think it’s worth trying to save. No really, despite all the hype in the media, the vast majority of people have been tricked, cheated, or plain old beaten down too many times to keep trying. Those who are talking and engaging are a tiny few, they merely seem to be magnified by our 24-hour / 7-day news cycle.

But the World is still very worthy, and our mission needs to be to show people the difference between the two. Then we can present a better example of what can be. We can activate those folks, we can build a nation that finally works for all it’s citizens. You see I was just trolling you in the opening paragraphs, because I know something really important that get’s overlooked all too often.

The people in this land are good people.

They really are. They maybe don’t vote the way you do, don’t embody their faith traditions as you might like them to. Yet they have, for generations, set down roots and built communities and done the tedious but necessary work of creating the towns and cities we call home. Sure, they are often badly misinformed. We can do something about that – and we’ll discuss that in my next letter. What we need to deal with first though is YOU. We need to get you re-vitalized, so you will understand how much power you have.

To do that, we ought to start with some history. I said above that this time we live in isn’t the end of anything, and I meant it. Every generation tends to fall into a trap. I’ve seen it at least three times in my lifetime – the 60’s hippies, the 80’s yuppies, and now again today. It’s the ‘Last Generation’ fallacy, and it’s a dangerous delusion. In the 1970’s all the idealists saw their efforts crash and burn against a tide of indifference and hostility, largely because they’d ‘dropped out’ of society but found out the hard way that they were not free, they had merely moved to a different part of the prison yard.

In the 80’s the Nukes were going to drop on us “any day now”, and so the masses concluded the best thing was to say “I Got Mine” and go out with a bang. Obviously they were wrong, because decades later we are still here. And for a great many Americans, life got steadily better during those 4 decades. How did that happen? Because some folks quietly worked in meetings, on city councils, and at conferences to find solutions where they could.

Now here in 2017 and it seems the only things getting done are protests and demonstrations. Well, those were going on too all throughout those years, and they were as vital then as now. They raised awareness, and then folks set about fixing problems. So from both ends – policy and public awareness, things got done. As they say, ‘good news never makes the front page’ so it’s easy to overlook the thousands of tiny achievements. Instead the ‘big bads’ suck up all the ink – healthcare, a border wall, etc.

Perspective! We cannot let weariness and fatigue at all these scandals and outrages cause us to give up. Because in the face of those, I offer you decades of examples of progress. We cannot defeat ourselves just because the cops are still doing horrible things, or because Wall Street robs Main Street every chance it gets. The problems we face today are solvable; have been already greatly remediated in many cases (compared to decades ago).

Hubris is a concept that comes to us from the Classics, and most folk know about it as the traits of Pride, Vanity, or Arrogance. The current President is a fine example of Hubris demonstrated on a daily basis. BUT – Hubris is not only those traits. Defeatism is also a part of it. So when I hear someone tell me that the problem is too big, or the battle is already lost, I know they too are displaying hubris. And Hubris in all it’s forms is a characteristic each and every one of us should seek to root out and remove from ourselves. It is a mistake for any one of us to presume we have all the facts, that we alone hold “truth”. This is because it often leads one’s thinking to one end of the spectrum or the other, away from the middle where the truth often lies.

Giving in to defeatism is EXACTLY what the opposition wishes for you to do. They have planned and executed a multi-decade strategy, with nearly endless funding, specifically to suppress your voice, to create the illusion that they are right and they are undefeat-able. THEY ARE WRONG.
So, yeah sure, Trumpy is a narcissistic hubristic fool. But so too are far too many on the other side, and that needs to change. Because folks who are unaware of their failings will fall prey to those failings.

So too are those who have said over the last six months that ‘things are not normal’. If only that were true! Things are not ACCEPTABLE, but that is very different. In 240 years we’ve veered back and forth, back and forth, from extreme to extreme in our politics. At every turn there were the same teeth-gnashing and recriminations as we see today. So, sad but true – this is the norm. We got lucky, and for about 30 years it was tamped-down, so that has allowed many to forget that this is the normal pattern. But I need you to focus on the fact that the present situation is not Acceptable, not the suddenness of it. Again, no letting your fears get the better of you.

Having this much naked corruption is wrong; and as we have done before it must be stopped. Having theocrats and sycophants meddling in the affairs of government is wrong; and as we have done before they must be turned out.

We routed the Robber Barons. Twice, technically, if you count both the Great Depression and the Great Panic of the late 1800’s. We enacted strong Civil Rights laws, and seem to be on the cusp of doing so again since it’s become clear that the last round wasn’t sufficient. We cleaned up our air and water. We took a tiny and long overdue step towards fixing our healthcare mess. Nothing about the present regime is new, or goes further than previous ones, let’s get that straight. It seems new and shocking but it’s not. We have so very many resources to draw from, when engaging them in the war of ideas.

So, yeah, sure, if you choose to believe you are powerless to act, then you are correct. “Argue for your limitations, and guess what you get to keep them!” – Richard Bach.

I don’t believe I am powerless, I don’t believe you are powerless. I have witnessed the Occupy protestors go on to organize themselves and quietly get taxes passed for building bike lanes. I have witnessed them get engaged locally in their home cities and cause those places to move steadily leftward and become more progressive. I see that globally we are somewhere in the middle of a vast ‘sea-change’ that began in the 1990’s and is only just now coming into common awareness in the US. I know you, reader. I know that you care deeply, or you would not have read this far. YOU CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS, and the time is coming soon to do so.

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And now for the bad news.

Yeah, sorry, I’m going to talk about the Democratic party now, and how they have every potential to blow it. Not “take us over the cliff”, because as I mentioned above that kind of thinking is a fallacy. But they (at this moment) could screw up so badly that these cretins will solidify their hold on power for generations. That would be a pity, to say the least.

There has been too much ink shed already about the DNC and their heart-rendingly wrong-headed election strategy in 2016. I have to add some more, regrettably, because it’s so important to this discussion. By and large it is far too soon to be taking any lessons from this election cycle. History offers us valuable lessons, but in almost all cases history has been vetted and checked and reconfirmed dozens of times over decades before we safely draw any conclusions.

So I will merely point out that once again Hubris was at play here, and that is such an obvious fact that we don’t need to wait for the academics. The Dem’s by their own admission suffered from a gigantic case of arrogance, and they realized it far too late in the game to alter course. Many in their leadership have not yet accepted this, actually, and *that* is the Bad News of which I speak. Because part of our task is to convince them to climb down from their high horses and start listening to the people on the ground. More than Russian meddling, more than an insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign… more than anything it was their overweening certainty that turned the electorate against them. This too, is not Acceptable. This can never happen again, if they wish to exist as a party. Because their leaders do not seem to realize that this is their last chance. We-the-people have endured their compromises and collusion with Wall Street long enough. We don’t believe in them because their Integrity has become so tarnished.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. It must move to the left, far to the left, and it must do it today. Because the people all across this land have already done so. Or, it can be eviscerated in the next election, and my earlier prediction will come true – – it will then break into 2 weaker parties. (The GOP faces a similar crossroads, and similar fate, but I’ve no desire for them to do anything BUT implode so let them go ahead and do so).

All around the world the message is clear – Centrism and Austerity are ideas whose time has passed. They may once have been winning ideas, but no longer. So as you go along be mindful of this fact. The future of this country belongs to those who seek to restore Integrity to the processes of our government. It belongs to those who understand that the next economy will be the one that retires Capitalism and replaces it with a better system.
The past is a useful teacher, and it can teach you many ways to remain enthusiastic about the work to be done in the coming years. Yet it’s also true that the solutions of the old days only go so far. We need not bring them back as creaky scaffolds to build upon. Instead we can invent a more solid foundation by avoiding the mistakes of days gone by. It will not happen quickly, but as you will see in future letters it is indeed already underway.

And YOU can choose to be a vital part of this change – that’s the best news of all.

Push back: where you can, when you can. Get even more engaged locally. Take over your local Democratic party and then stick around for the long haul. Be kind to yourself. “Each one, teach one.” When you can do nothing else, study history, (recent and ancient). Better days lie ahead, for you and yours.

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The Hoodless Hoodie and No-Wax Floors



It seems like the signs are everywhere.  Yesterday, as I potato-couched my way through a myriad of mindless “entertainment” produced by the corporate giants with their fingers on the pulse of the American viewing audience, already aware that content is determined in reaction to what their audience wants and will tolerate, my somnambular  trance was interrupted with an offering by Sketchers for a product they were touting as the “hoodless hoodie.” WHAT?  Don’t they know a garment without a hood is not a hoodie?  Or rather, do they fully expect that we, their mindless captive audience, on a brisk autumn day care not? What’s in a name?  Honestly, apparently everything.

It’s 101 marketing, plain and simple.  I was immediately harkened back to a period in time, perhaps it was the seventies, when no-wax floors were introduced. What immediately followed was a product offered as wax for no-wax floors.  What were they thinking?  Why would anyone purchase a no-wax floor only to buy another product to wax it with?  Are we really that gullible?

The resounding answer is yes.

Take the news, for example.  “News” is a label applied to a reactionary product that is fashioned to deliver a story that coincides with the beliefs of a specific viewing audience.  When stories were generated by the source it was called “spin”, but if generated by the media it is propaganda tailored to fit and sold to believers. In so doing, they did not create the audience, but captured it. It’s all about the “Benjamins.” Find the weak and gullible, herd them into a defined area and then sell them the goods they crave.  It’s too easy.  Just give it a good label.

Any news of a different persuasion is regarded as “fake news.”  Lacking accurate data, it is no more news than a hoodless garment is a hoodie, but the application of labels is the defining argument that separates us into “us” and “them.”  There is no more “We the people.”  It’s “our people” and “their people.”

Conservatism is one such label, but what does it mean?  On its most basic level it is a political philosophy that embraces traditionalism—civility and the rules of fair play, law and order, family values and above all, the Constitution.  It does not take a genius to deconstruct the actions of so-called conservatives to realize they are no more conservative than the violent mobs that support them.  They are that wax for a no-wax floor, an unnecessary and useless product sold to wax over and put a deeper gloss on what were otherwise solid principles to live and govern by. Witness the GOP reaction to the events of January 6th.

The greatest impediment to knowledge is a belief system.  Knowledge is the fuel of a democracy.  Governing by consensus lacking true knowledge is impossible.  Let’s recognize that gloss for what it is. It’s not the floor.  It’s the reflection.

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The Decisive Role of Conscience: Clues for Non Violence



“Some clues for nonviolence”: 10 – The decisive role of conscience: “A clue to nonviolence

We transmit to you the study “Some clues for nonviolence” carried out by Philippe Moal, in the form of 12 chapters. The general table of contents is as follows:

1- Where are we going?
2- The difficult transition from violence to nonviolence.
3- Prejudices which perpetuate violence.
4- Is there more or less violence than yesterday?
5- Spirals of violence
6- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (a) Disconnection.
7- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (b- Flight).
8- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (c- hyper-connection).
9- The different ways of rejecting violence.
10- The decisive role of consciousness.
11- Transformation or immobilisation.
12- Integrating and overcoming duality and Conclusion.

In the essay dated September 2021, the author expresses his thanks: : Thanks to their accurate vision of the subject, Martine Sicard, Jean-Luc Guérard, Maria del Carmen Gómez Moreno and Alicia Barrachina have given me precious help in the realisation of this work, both in the precision of terms and ideas, and I thank them warmly.

Here is the tenth chapter:

The Decisive Role of Consciousness

Our inventions and creations, the progress of science and technology, but also our beliefs, our ideological choices, our values, our lifestyle, etc. are the fruit of the intentionality of the consciousness that is shaping the world in its image. If consciousness is altered, the resulting world is altered; a violent consciousness generates a violent world, a consciousness on the run produces a runaway world.

The question of consciousness therefore deserves to be addressed, but let us begin with the concept of the unconscious, which is omnipresent in today’s society.

It is true that psychoanalysis and developments on the unconscious have made it possible to unveil our inner world and reveal its meanderings: fear, anguish, resentment, contradiction, compulsions, the desire for revenge, and so on. We know that these inner contents have implications for life and that they are very active. However, today there is a new tendency to resort to the development of consciousness, as if we decided to move to another stage, to change the level of consciousness.

If psychoanalysis has allowed us to understand that the contents of consciousness are active, phenomenology has also allowed us to discover that consciousness is active. The subject of intentionality is arousing great interest. The image inculcated during education, in which consciousness was shown more as a critical judge than as an ally, is being questioned.

The presentation of the active role of the conscience is moving away from the classical theses on the subject. Indeed, the consciousness does not transmit its vision of the world to us according to the information it receives, like a simple mirror; it does not passively reflect the world, but, on the contrary, it does something with the world it perceives. It does not limit itself to evaluating whether what we do is good or bad, but integrates and interprets the data that reaches it and, above all, structures this data, uses it to elaborate responses in order to transform what it perceives, even to transform itself.

Being active, it is therefore mobile and therefore free in its essence, as it is not subject to determinism. We note that fixation on values, beliefs or prejudices immobilises it in conceptions that can cause it to close in on itself and become violent.

It is easy to notice this active aptitude of the conscience. “I ask myself about a particular situation or a problem to be solved without being able to give an immediate answer; sometimes, after several days and in an unusual situation, the answer suddenly appears to me”. The conscience, silently one might say, has continued to search for an answer during all this time. The questions, doubts, needs and desires that I formulate internally are acts that activate the consciousness to give an answer. Technically, we speak of an act-object operation.

However, the initiated acts are not always completed with an object, that is, they do not always find an answer, which generates a tension that, in a certain way, places the consciousness in a constant dynamic, in a state of permanent search, in order to complete the initiated acts.

It is clear that sometimes these acts of consciousness are not completed in an object, because sometimes it happens that the object is not found. Then there remains a line of tension. Fortunately, on the other hand. It is because consciousness is not complete that consciousness is dynamic. It is because consciousness is not stopped, completed in an object, that consciousness can set its various mechanisms in motion [1].

By showing the active nature of consciousness that expresses itself through intentionality, we approach the thesis of phenomenology, according to which the world is given to consciousness, creating a reciprocal interrelation between consciousness, which exists because it is part of this world, and the world, which exists because I am conscious of it, both forming a consciousness-world structure. However, the Husserlian concept must be completed by specifying that intentionality is expressing itself through the image and that consciousness essentially intends to transform the world.

Moreover, with the issue of human intentionality, we are moving away from today’s dominant reductionist theses, according to which only physics and chemistry would explain the essence of life and its evolution, reducing everything to matter.

The premises and background of the idea of active consciousness are to be found in the philosopher Frantz Brentano [2], who, at the end of the 19th century, introduced the notion of intentionality as a basic universal descriptive concept [3]. 3] One of his students, Edmond Husserl, further developed the concept and created phenomenology, describing intentionality as a fundamental structure of consciousness (and not only as a psychological phenomenon). Another pupil of Brentano’s, Sigmund Freud, developed the concept of the unconscious at the same time as Husserl, which shows the effervescence that reigned around the subject of consciousness at that time and which was heralding the discoveries to be made from this time onwards about the inner world of the human being [4].

Until then, past experiences were considered to have little impact on the present and even less on the future. Freud’s great contribution was to demonstrate that the contents of the psyche are active, and this was a real revolution for the time. However, it was Husserl who contributed the concept of the active role of consciousness: not only are the contents of consciousness active, but consciousness itself is also active.

New currents in the field of psychology were making their appearance… The winds of renewal were blowing in, while one by one our old idols were falling: no more Binet tests, no more Rorschach psychological diagnoses, no more Ribot, Wundt, Weber and Fechner… Experimental psychology had become a statistical or neurophysiological branch. The Gestaltists had landed on these beaches so far from the high psychology debate. Wertheimer, Koffka and Köhler were synthesised with behaviourism thanks to Tolman and Kantor. Behind all this, we saw a gigantic methodology which, moreover, was influencing the fields of logic, gnoseology and even ethics and aesthetics. It was the Husserlian phenomenological method that had long ago produced its critique of psychologism and transcended Heidegger and the psychology of existence. The psychoanalytic pantheon then collapsed with Sartre’s criticisms of the schema of the unconscious based precisely on the application of phenomenology. In particular, we discussed one of Sartre’s least studied essays, his magnificent Outline of a Theory of the Emotions [5].

The two schools of thought mentioned above obviously entail different research methodologies for resolving violence. Broadly speaking, let us say that one looks to the past and the other to the future. “With phenomenology, we free ourselves from the worlds behind us”, said Nietzsche.

In one case I see violence according to what I interpret and in the other I interpret it according to what I see. In the first case, there is a tension linked to the fact that I start from the interpretation. In the second case, I start describing without explaining, without analysing, without a previous reading grid, which allows a more relaxed approach to the problem, although it is necessary to be as exhaustive as possible in the description of the phenomenon. Moreover, I can observe without noise and see without interpreting, allowing intuitions and inspiration to emerge.

Nor do we appeal to the action of a supposed subconscious or unconscious, or some other epochal myth whose scientific premises are incorrectly formulated. We rely on a psychology of consciousness that admits diverse levels of work and operations of different pre-eminence in each psychic phenomenon, always integrated in the action of a global consciousness [6].

Research on consciousness does not use the concept of the unconscious, but considers the concept of co-presences [7] which, although we do not see them, although we are not aware of them – in the sense of not being aware of them and not in the sense of being unconscious – have a strong influence on our everyday life. Jean Gebser illustrates the phenomenon as follows: “We never see what we have in front of our eyes, without thinking that to the visible side corresponds a side that is not perceived because it is not visible, but indispensable for the whole to exist [8]”.

The co-presences can be unresolved background noises of everyday life, permanent preoccupations, subjects of reflection that occupy the mind, more deeply rooted beliefs whose values dictate life and intervene when one moves away from a certain line of conduct. The formative stage is therefore very important, as beliefs and values are formed at this time and can resurface at any time.

The co-presences may be at the surface, linked to the contexts in which I live, but they may also come from my more distant memory and resurface suddenly and unexpectedly, by association with situations that I am experiencing in the present. Their accumulated emotional and affective charge can be the trigger for great violence. In a conflict between two people, memories linked to the conflict come to the surface and act in co-presence.

Every individual representation is part of a more or less copresent system of representation, which varies according to the conditions of the memory data. In other words, a response to the world elicited by a stimulus has been selected by a field of copresence among many other possible representations. Thus, the co-presence system, in more than one sense, determines the overall behaviour of individuals and human ensembles [9].

9] Research on consciousness shows that it is primarily oriented towards the future. This vision conditions present behaviour and positively and gradually counteracts the burden of past traumas. Reconciliation with a lived situation, for example, aims at rehabilitation for tomorrow. I was able to experience a real integration of difficult experiences from my past by being able to elaborate future projects related to those same painful experiences.

No phenomenon is predetermined, including violence, as Ilya Prigogine demonstrated in his thermodynamics experiments [10]; there are multiple options in any situation and our free will allows us to always have the possibility to choose.

“We are condemned to be free [11]”, says Sartre, for whom, once thrown into this world that we have not chosen, we are responsible for everything we do in it. If we do not choose, we cannot speak of freedom. One cannot reply: “If one chooses to be violent, one is therefore free”, because this freedom, which is granted by eliminating that of the other, is at the origin of an enchainment, in which case one cannot speak of freedom.

In 1960, in a public speech as assistant pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta with his father, Martin Luther King also invoked the notion of choice: “It is not a choice between violence and non-violence; it is a choice between non-violence and non-existence”.

Silo poetically refers to the need to choose in the chapter The Guide to the Inner Path in his book The Inner Look: “… On the inner path you can walk darkened or luminous. Attend to the two paths that open before you. If you allow your being to be thrown into dark regions, your body wins the battle and dominates. Then sensations and appearances of spirits, of forces, of memories will arise. There you descend further and further. There is hatred, revenge, strangeness, possession, jealousy, the desire to remain. If you descend further, you will be overcome by frustration, resentment and all those reveries and desires that have brought ruin and death to humanity. If you push your being in the luminous direction, you will meet resistance and fatigue at every step. This fatigue of ascent has its culprits. Your life weighs, your memories weigh, your past actions impede the ascent. This ascent is difficult because of the action of your body which tends to dominate [12].

[1] Foundations of thinking. The pure form from the psychological point of view, Silo Lecture, Corfu, October 1975, Winged Lion Editions, 2019, p. 21.

[2] Franz Brentano (1838-1917), German philosopher, author of the reference work Psychology from the Empirical Point of View, Ediciones Sígueme, 2020.

[3] La phénoménologie et les fondements des sciences (Phenomenology and the foundations of the sciences), Hermann, 2019, Edmund Husserl, “Founding text of phenomenology. Husserl establishes here the principles and methods that make possible a new science, the pure descriptive science of the structures of consciousness, transcendental phenomenology. Revealing the implicit laws of intentional life and the constitutive power of intentionality” Jean-François Lavigne, specialist in contemporary philosophy, ontology and phenomenology.

[4] The influence of Husserlian phenomenology on the psychological sciences has been considerable, as has Heidegger’s philosophy derived from it. Many authors belong to this current. Almost all of them have been influenced by the phenomenological method of Franz Brentano and Husserl. The works of Jaspers, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre and Binswanger are universally known. As a psychiatric trend, the Third Viennese School of Viktor Frankl joins this trend. The psychological work methods of Ludwig Ammann in his Self-Liberation System are also well known.

[5] Self-Liberation, op. cit., p. 11.

[6] Contributions to Thought, Psychology of the Image, op. cit. p. 54.

[7] Self-Liberation, op. cit., p. 111.

[8] La imagen del hombre y la conciencia, lecture given in 1965 by Jean Gebser (1905-1973), German philosopher and poet, phenomenologist of consciousness, author of Origen y Presente, published in Spanish by Atalanta, 2011.

[9] La modificación del trasfundo psicosocial, Silo Conference, 4 January 1982 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Source: Pressenza

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The Love for All Animals



Love for Living Animals: The Javan Rhinoceros Communicates Through Secretions on its Foot


We must safeguard the web of life and care about the other living species that we share this planet with. Pygmy tarsiers eat and host bugs that we’ve seen at home — insects, spiders, lizards, bedbugs, lice, fleas, roundworms, and tapeworms. The vaquitas are preyed upon by large sharks and killer whales, keeping them away from us. But only 10 vaquitas are left and in their absence, the diet of sharks and whales may change. A tiger in the wild indicates that the forest it inhabits is healthy and diverse. As of now, there are 3,900 tigers in the wild globally, and more than twice as many (8,000) in captivity. By protecting the web of life, we build a kinder world for everyone.

The Javan Rhino, only found in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia, is critically endangered. It’s not just because only 75 of them are alive, but also because the park where they are located is too small for a growing future population.

They are the most threatened of all five rhino species. Their small population may lead to inbreeding, which will cause poor genetic variability. Forthcoming rhinos will be more vulnerable to disease.

Javan Rhinos, the second smallest rhino globally, have the smallest horn of all rhinos, at 10 inches. If its horn is broken, a new one will grow. Only the male Javan rhino has a horn.

The Javan rhino never reproduces in captivity. However, 25 individuals were placed at Ujung Kulon National Park in 1967. Today, they number 75, but the Park is too small for more Javan rhinos, so a new area is being studied to accommodate this growing population. Also, Ujung Kulon is near a volcano that has instigated tsunami waves in the past.

In Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam, the last Javan rhino was killed by poachers, for its horn, making them extinct in the country in 2011. There is an excessive demand for their horns as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for pain and fever, despite studies showing that no medicinal value is in the horn.

A Day in its Life

A Javan rhino spends more than half of the day in mud holes for their body temperature, to prevent sunburn, eliminate skin parasites, and avoid insects. If the mudhole is too small, the Javan rhino will deepen it with its horn and feet, turning puddles into pools. It is believed that Javan rhinos depend on the forest for protection from solar radiation.

After the Javan rhino is done relaxing, it will look for food. It will scrape the sides of its mud hole with its horn for plants. Then it will leave the hole and seek thick vegetation on the ground.

In the absence of a horn, this rhino still has its pointed upper lip to grab food. Its diet is a rich variety of leaves, shoots, twigs, and fruits. In one day it will eat as much food as a healthy person will eat in one year.

Still Much to Learn

Scientists say there is much to learn about the Javan rhino’s biology. They are observing the rhino and studying its dung. Javan rhinos don’t communicate vocally, although they’re capable of making sounds.

Instead, they communicate through, first, a spray of urine, second, a secretion from its foot glands, third, twisted saplings, and fourth, scrapes on the ground made with secretions released from its foot.

An example of a Javan rhino sound can be heard here. They have more aggressive sounds when two males fight over a female, or when a male and female fight before mating.

Scientists use camera traps to better understand this rhinoceros. Some things they have learned:

  1. Unlike humans that have evolved steadily to the way we look today, the Javan Rhino is believed to have remained unchanged for over one million years.

  2. Space. If you keep a silent, respectful distance from a Javan rhino, you will be allowed to observe it and photograph it until it tires and moves away. This was the experience of wildlife photographer Stephen Belcher.

  3. However, you mustn’t approach a javan rhino. Otherwise, they will attack humans by plunging their long sharp lower teeth into your body.

  4. Solitary animals. The Javan rhino lives alone, but may sometimes be with other rhinos in places rich with mud holes for wallowing, or areas where there is a large deposit of mineral salts. The rhinos use these salt licks to get essential nutrients like calcium, sodium, magnesium, and zinc.

  5. Occasionally young Javan rhinos will come together in pairs or small groups.

  6. Javan rhinos also interact during mating season, or when a female is caring for its young. A Javan rhino female is pregnant for 16 to 19 months and gives birth to a single calf every 2 ½ to 5 years. On very rare occasions, she’ll bear two calves. The calf separates from its mother at three years old. The lifespan of a Javan rhino is from 35-40 years in the wild.

  7. Courtship behavior is one of the rare times this animal will vocalize. Sometimes males will use their saber-like sharp incisors to fight each other during mating season for a female. Other times, a male and female Javan rhino will fight and growl loudly, followed by mating. In other cases, a male and female rhino may eat vegetation together. Suddenly, they’ll engage in a 200 meters long chase.

  8. Javan rhinos have poor eyesight, but their smelling and hearing are keen.

  9. Forest: Although the Javan rhino prefers ground vegetation to tree vegetation, they still use the forest for protection from solar radiation. Also, a forest has fewer water supply fluctuations. They also eat saplings from forest trees. The Javan rhino’s habitat requires a mesh of glades, and patches of forest.

Threats to the Javan rhino

At the start of the 20th century, 500,000 Rhinoceroses ran through much of Southeast Asia including Calcutta, India, Borneo, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Sumatra, and Java. They lived in tropical rainforests, floodplains, and grasslands.

Now, there are only 29,000 rhinoceroses left in the world. Out of that number, 75 are Javan rhinos with only one habitat, Ujung Kulon National Park. Despite this, there are still some dangers, such as:

  1. The 2018 tsunami, caused by the eruption of the nearby Anak Krakatau volcano, resulted in 10 feet high waves. Four hundred and thirty people died, two park rangers among them. Park buildings and ships were destroyed. This tsunami hit the north coast. If it had hit the south coast, all the Javan rhinos left in the world would have died.

  2. Anak Krakatau volcano is active. In August 1883, Krakatau erupted, resulting in 60 feet high waves. This volcano can wipe out the entire Javan rhino population in one fell swoop.

  3. Arengu palm. This invasive tree has overtaken 60% of Ujung Kulon National Park. It’s a tall tree, and its fronds block sunlight needed for ground vegetation. This results in food reduction and poor nutritional quality of what remains. The WWF is removing the Arenga palm trees, and restoring natural vegetation and food plants for the rhinos.

  4. Disease. In 1981 and 1982, five rhinos died in Ujung Kulon. The Morris Animal Foundation blamed the tabanid flies, horse flies, and deer flies, all of which can spread parasites that result in hemorrhagic septicemia, an acute, highly fatal form of pasteurellosis, causing death. A free vaccination program for livestock by the local government is in progress to address this.

  5. Habitat loss. Ujung Kulon is the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Javan rhino species. However, another location is being eyed and studied to see if it can accommodate Javan rhinos.

  6. Poaching. In colonial times Javan rhinos were displayed as trophies. Now, they’re hunted for their horns. This continues to threaten the 75 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon.

What is Being Done

Many conservationist groups are working to save ecosystems, plants, and other animals by saving the Javan rhino first. Some groups doing this are:

  1. Save The Rhino. This group seeks to produce 2,000 to 2,500 Javan rhinos within the next 150 years. This is the number required for Javan rhinos for possible long-term survival. They do this by:

  • Protecting the Javan rhinos and their habitat.
  • Searching for new habitats to translocate Javan rhinos.
  • Providing ranger kits that include quality shoes, backpacks, and accommodation.
  • Expanding Dog squads to track and apprehend poachers.
  • Detecting illegally smuggled wildlife products.
  • Funding for veterinary interventions.
  • Providing transmitters and radio frequency tags to help track rhinos in the wild.
  1. WWF. The World Wildlife Fund and its partners found a possible habitat area for new Javan rhinos. As a result, they are: Conducting a feasibility study of the habitat.

  • Establishing management structures
  • Enlisting surrounding communities to protect the area. Engaging scientific research to inform conservation and management efforts.
  • Planning to remove all Arenga palm trees in Ujung Kulon
  • Planting suitable vegetation for the rhinos.
  • Patrolling against poachers with community help.
  • Addressing illegal trade through local and international law enforcement to subject traffickers to justice.
  1. The Morris Foundation funds studies focused on saving the Javan rhino.

  2. The International Rhino Foundation and the staff of Ujung Kulon National Park protect the Javan rhino. Javan rhinos are the flagship species of the Western Java Rainforests ecoregion.

Ecological Importance of the Javan Rhino

The Javan rhino does a lot of good for an ecosystem. For example:

  1. Javan rhinos keep an ecosystem healthy and balanced. By consuming so much vegetation, they help shape the landscape and keep plant life populations in check, and permit soil space for new plants to grow. Other animals in the ecosystem also benefit from this.

  2. The Javan is the most adaptable feeder of all rhino species. Biologists have identified 300 species of food that they eat.

  3. Javan rhinos topple vegetation and crush it with their feet and body weight, so it can wallow in the mud. This provides natural plant trimming that strengthens the forest. It also stores CO2 and releases clean air.

  4. Many plants and animals cohabit an area with Javan rhinos. Protecting the rhinos keeps all plants and animals in the ecosystem protected too, such as antelopes, buffalo, elephants, and large carnivores.

  5. Local people depend on natural resources from the rhino’s habitat for food and fuel. Ecotourism can generate income for locals.

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