This is a French video about the Eurasian lynx; with English subtitles.
This video is called Eurobirdwatch 2013 – Maramures Romania.
Join us for a fascinating birdwatching weekend on 4 – 5 October
By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 12/09/2014 – 13:08
EuroBirdwatch – BirdLife’s biggest birdwatching event in Europe and Central Asia – will take place this year on the weekend of 4 – 5 October. Join us to explore the beauty of birds and experience the magic of bird migration!
Created in 1993, EuroBirdwatch aims to give the opportunity to the youngest as well as the oldest, to confirmed nature lovers as well as the simply curious, to observe the unique migration of birds and to promote efforts to save threatened bird species and their habitats.
As they have done every year on the first weekend of October since its inception, BirdLife national Partners will be organising a wide variety of activities and events across Europe and Central Asia. These will include birdwatching excursions, special birdwatching events on organic farms, contests for children to identify birds by their song, bird fairs, trips to watch birds in national parks and many more activities.
In 2013, EuroBirdwatch was celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark this special occasion, that year 19,000 people, including children and families, took part in many events organised by the BirdLife Partners in Europe and Central Asia. More than two million birds of different species were counted and reported to the BirdLife Research Center.
Participate in EuroBirdwatch 2014!
Book your time for the weekend 4 – 5 October. Find your national EuroBirdwatch coordinator, which will be the BirdLife Partner in your country. Choose your event and enjoy your birdwatching!
If you are a BirdLife Partner and you want to take part in EuroBirdwatch 2014, to find useful information for registration and organisation please contact Birgit Gödert-Jacoby, EuroBirdwatch Advisor.
This video from the USA is called Stephen Greenblatt – The Swerve – Part 1.
And this video is the sequel.
By Tom Carter in the USA:
A key moment in the prehistory of the Enlightenment
9 August 2014
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt, W.W. Norton, 2011 (US$16.95)
In his autobiography, Trotsky compares the Protestant Reformation in Europe to the work of men who have broken out of an insane asylum. “To a certain extent, it really was,” he remarks. “European humanity broken out of the medieval monastery.”
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, a recent bestselling non-fiction book by Harvard academic Stephen Greenblatt, tells the story of how the first cracks began to appear in the medieval monastery walls. It chronicles a little-appreciated but nevertheless significant event in the history of human ideas: the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) in the winter of 1417 by former papal secretary and book hunter Poggio Bracciolini. Key philosophical conceptions drawn from this rediscovered poem, Greenblatt argues, formed the foundations for many subsequent developments in modern thought.
Greenblatt’s controversial book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and it has also come under attack as an “anti-religious diatribe.” The book has merit and, as a celebration of the very early stages of the intellectual trajectory that would become the Enlightenment, deserves to defended.
The Swerve paints a truly dark picture of the Middle Ages in Europe. At the dawn of the fifteenth century, society is subordinated to the whims and caprices of a cruel aristocracy of landowners, warlords, and priests. Ignorance and superstition reign, and lists are maintained of banned and heretical books. War, hunger, and disease regularly carry off entire populations. The ruins of ancient Rome are pilfered for bricks and scrap metal, and the literary treasures of antiquity are forgotten. The Catholic Church treats every original thought as a potential threat to its hegemony, and it aggressively tortures dissenters and burns them at the stake. There is not a drop of romance in Greenblatt’s grim account of this period in history.
Even 200 years after the events that are the main focus of the book, at the height of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church continued to use the most barbaric methods against those who would challenge its worldview. Greenblatt gives the following description of the death of the colorful and brilliant philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was murdered by the Inquisition on February 17, 1600:
“He [Bruno] had steadfastly refused to repent during the innumerable hours in which he had been harangued by teams of friars, and he refused to repent or simply to fall silent now at the end. His words are unrecorded, but they must have unnerved the authorities, since they ordered that his tongue be bridled. They meant it literally: according to one account, a pin was driven into his cheek, through his tongue, and out the other side; another pin sealed his lips, forming a cross. When a crucifix was held up to his face, he turned his head away. The fire was lit and did its work.”
The executions of religious reformers Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague—also by burning at the stake—likely had a particular impact on the protagonist of the story, the early humanist Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459). Poggio witnessed the execution of Jerome, who, according to a contemporary chronicler, “lived much longer in the fire than Hus and shrieked terribly, for he was a stouter, stronger man, with a broad, thick, black beard.”
Poggio, in a letter to a friend, praised the eloquence with which Jerome had made his case before his persecutors, even with his own life in the balance. His friend replied, “I must advise you henceforth to write upon such subjects in a more guarded manner.” The terror of the Inquisition was everywhere.
Under these conditions, the work of the early humanists was driven semi-underground. Their work took the form of searching for and appreciating the works of the classical writers of Greek and Roman antiquity.
Some authors of historical novels and detractors of books like Greenblatt’s glorify the Middle Ages as a lost paradise of beautiful damsels, chivalrous courageous knights and pious Christians; while ignoring the exploitation of the peasantry, horrible executions imposed by the Inquisition and the nobility, etc. However, some authors of the Renaissance and later, opposed to the ‘dark Middle Ages’, tend to idealize Greek and Roman culture, forgetting aspects like slavery or Julius Caesar’s bloody war of conquest in Gaul.
To give a sense of how much had been lost, Greenblatt quotes Roman rhetorician Quintilian’s praise for the works of Macer, Lucretius, Varro of Atax, Cornelius Severus, Saleius Bassus, Gaius Rabirius, Albinovanus Pedo, Marcus Furius Bibaculus, Lucius Accius, Marcus Pacuvius, and others. With the exception of Lucretius, Greenblatt writes, all of the works of all of these authors have been lost.
The poem of Lucretius, which Poggio rediscovers in 1417, has significant philosophical implications. Little is known about the life of Lucretius (99 BCE–c. 55 BCE), who was a follower of Epicurus. In his masterpiece De Rerum Natura, he sought to combine beauty of aesthetic presentation (poetry) with the highest achievements of science and philosophy.
Partway through the book, Greenblatt makes a list of some of the key ideas in Lucretius’s poem: everything is made of invisible particles; these elementary particles are eternal; all particles are in motion in an infinite void; the universe has no creator or designer; nature ceaselessly experiments; human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty but in a primitive battle for survival; there is no afterlife; all organized religions are superstitious delusions; religions are invariably cruel; there are no angels, demons, or ghosts; understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder; the highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain; and the greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain but delusion.
According to Lucretius, all phenomena come into being as a result of the unpredictable “swerve” of elementary particles, and this conception is the source of the title of Greenblatt’s book. There is a curious quasi-materialism in Lucretius that no doubt fascinated his early modern readers: “Sight did not exist before the birth of the eyes, nor speech before the creation of the tongue.”
In addition to its radical philosophical content, Lucretius’s poem is rich in passages of arresting beauty, even now after the passage of so many centuries. Lucretius portrays the world as ever-changing and yet still possessing continuity. Life has meaning, even if an individual’s life does not continue after death, as part of something greater. “Thus the sum of things is ever being renewed, and mortals live dependent one upon another. Some nations increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and like runners pass on the torch of life.”
The Swerve traces the fascinating impact of the poem and its Epicurean ideas across the subsequent centuries. Botticelli paints scenes from the poem; Shakespeare refers to it in his plays; Montaigne cites it in his essays; and it animates Thomas More’s Utopia. Asked to describe his philosophy of life, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I am an Epicurean.”
Greenblatt does not mention it in The Swerve, but Epicurean philosophy had a certain influence on another important figure in modern thought: the very young Karl Marx, who filled seven notebooks with a study of Epicurean philosophy and even wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature.”
Some of the value of Greenblatt’s book is reflected in the ferocity of the attacks against it. Hostility to the Enlightenment and all of its accomplishments predominates in ruling circles in America and throughout the world. The epoch of imperialism, Lenin wrote, is “reaction all down the line.” It is no coincidence that, in a country where the Supreme Court recently affirmed the “religious right” of corporations to deny health care to women, a book celebrating secular humanism and the Enlightenment would encounter a chilly reception in certain quarters.
The Los Angeles Review of Books published one such attack, entitled “Why Stephen Greenblatt is Wrong—and Why It Matters.” The author of the attack, Jim Hinch, a religion correspondent for California’s Orange County Register, takes furious exception to Greenblatt’s narrative “of how modern western secular culture liberated itself from the deadening hand of centuries of medieval religious dogmatism.”
“Greenblatt’s caricatured Middle Ages might have passed muster with Enlightenment-era historians,” Hinch writes (using the word “Enlightenment” as an epithet). The Swerve, he continues, is “filled with factual inaccuracies and founded upon a view of history not shared by serious scholars of the periods Greenblatt studies.”
These “factual inaccuracies” are never specified. Meanwhile, it appears that “serious scholars” (whom Hinch does not name) have lately determined that the Dark Ages were not that dark, that there is no such thing as the Renaissance, and that life under the Inquisition was not really that bad!
Replying to a hostile review in a different journal, Greenblatt wrote, “I plead guilty.… That is, I am of the devil’s party that believes that something significant happened in the Renaissance. And I plead guilty as well to the conviction…that atomism—whose principal vehicle was Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura—was crucially important in the intellectual trajectory that led to Jefferson, Marx, Darwin, and Einstein.”
It is a testament to the power of the poem—more than two millennia after it was composed, and nearly 600 years after its rediscovery by Poggio —that it still evokes such hostility. Indirectly, in a way, the response of people like Hinch confirms Greenblatt’s thesis.
Finally, the description of The Swerve as an “anti-religious diatribe” is one of those slanders that depends on the audience not having read the book in question. Greenblatt’s sympathies are clearly with reason, secularism, and the Enlightenment, but the book is not actually concerned with making a case for or against religion.
Greenblatt, in fact, rather objectively relates how the protagonist of the story, Poggio, made his career within the complex institutions of the Catholic Church. Greenblatt also describes medieval religious monasteries as places where books were carefully copied, preserved, and revered (if not always fully appreciated). There is a glimpse here and there, across six centuries, of how life really was, with some of its movement and contradiction.
Greenblatt’s book deserves to be defended against right-wing obscurantism, but in the opinion of this reviewer it has other limitations. In an effort to make the book as simple and approachable as possible, the reader sometimes feels that Greenblatt has “dumbed down” the material too much, almost to the point of being condescending. One wants to ask the author to kindly dispense with the “popular” style, and instead to tell us what he knows. Meanwhile, the author returns again and again to certain key philosophical themes for emphasis, but the result is sometimes simply repetitive.
Greenblatt’s suggestion that the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem actually “caused” the world to “swerve” in a new direction is more than poetic license. It is an outright exaggeration. De Rerum Natura is fascinating, and certainly it had broad influence over a long period. But the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment cannot all be understood as contingent on the rediscovery of this poem.
Material conditions for a major change in consciousness in Europe were in the process of ripening at the time of Poggio’s rediscovery of De Rerum Natura. Medieval Church doctrine had served as the dominant ideology throughout a long historical period characterized by feudal relations of production, namely the exploitation of peasants tied to estates owned by the feudal aristocracy. The growth of towns, which featured early capitalist relations and which were increasingly controlled by what would develop into the modern bourgeois class, heralded a shift in ideas.
The old forms of consciousness were being undermined by changing material conditions, and the rediscovery of the poem under such circumstances was a fortuity. In other words, if Lucretius’s poem had not been rediscovered, and instead had been lost forever, then the form of the historical processes that led to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment might have been affected, but not the eventual trajectory.
But as a history of how it actually did happen, and as an introduction to a masterpiece of world literature that deserves to be rediscovered again, Greenblatt’s book is worthwhile reading.
Originally posted on North African Birds:
Mori, A., Baldaccini, N. E., Baratti, M., Caccamo, C., Dessì-Fulgheri, F., Grasso, R., Nouira, S., Ouni, R., Pollonara, E., Rodriguez-Godoy, F.,Spena, M.T., Giunchi, D. (2014). A first assessment of genetic variability in the Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus. Ibis 156(3): 687–692. doi:10.1111/ibi.12164
The Eurasian Stone-curlew is a species of conservation concern in Europe. We investigate for the first time the extent of population structure among populations sampled from six geographical areas, representing four subspecies inhabiting the western part of the species’ distribution. Neither mitochondrial nor nuclear markers fully supported current subspecies boundaries. However, both markers support significant differentiation of the Canary Island populations from those sampled from the Mediterranean. Further work is needed to establish the taxonomic status of this potentially distinct Macaronesian taxon. More broadly, further genetic research is required to design and implement an effective conservation plan for this species.
This video is about birds in Uganda.
By Obaka Torto, Tuesday, 10/06/2014 – 15:15
On 10th May 2014 a group of conservation organizations gathered at the Katwe Eco-tourism centre (KATIC) ground in Katwe-Kabatooro town council, Kasese District Uganda to mark the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). The event was attended by members of local conservation groups, namely, Mabamba Wetland Eco-tourism Association and Lutembe Wetland Users Association as well as government agencies such as the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority. Non Governmental Organsations were represented by Nature Uganda and the Uganda Wildlife Society. These groups came together to highlight the contribution of birds and avi-tourism (tourism from birds) to the economic development of Kabatooro town council, Uganda.
The event kicked off with a nature walk to Lake Munyanyange where 78 bird migratory bird species were recorded including the Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor, Ruff Philomachus pugnax, Little Stint Calidris minuta, Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea and Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus. This was followed by an exercise dubbed “Keep Katwe Clean”. It involved cleaning Katwe-Kabatoro town and the area around Katwe Salt Lake. The exercise was aimed at raising awareness on solid waste management as a means of maintaining the integrity of sites used by migratory birds. Sanitary equipment was distributed to two Katwe community groups and five schools in Katwe-Kabatooro town council. The event was spiced up with songs and poems from Kanyiginya Drama Actors – a local performance group that treats visitors to vibrant music and drama performances at KATIC.
The event was co-organized by Nature Uganda (BirdLife Partner in Uganda), Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Wildlife Society and KATIC. World Migratory Bird Day was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. This year’s theme was ‘Destination Flyways: Migratory Birds and Tourism’. For more information see www.worldmigratorybirdday.org
Story by Dianah Nalwanga/Nature Uganda and Olivia Adhiambo/BirdLife International.
World Migratory Bird Day 2014: Lake Natron, Tanzania – a Global Tourism Spot: here.
New scientific evidence confirms that legal protection of bird species do work. A recent study focusing in Eastern Europe shows that the rate of decline of protected species was approximately halved after the onset of protection. The study, published in the leading journal Biological Conservation, was led by scientists from the Czech Republic and the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and involved experts from across Europe, including BirdLife: here.
By Sara R Farris in England:
Is Europe’s Islamophobia following the path of 19th century anti-Semitism?
5 June 2014 13:22
In 1844, Karl Marx published a short but dense text entitled “On the Jewish Question”. It was a critical review of two essays by the-then famous philosopher Bruno Bauer, who had argued against equal rights for Jews if granted on religious grounds. If Jews wanted to be considered full citizens – Bauer maintained echoing the widespread opinion of the time – Jews would have to abandon their religion and embrace Enlightenment. According to this logic, there was no room for religious demands in a secular society.
As Bauer’s position suggests, anti-Jewish racism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in the first half of the 19th century, was justified mainly on cultural and religious grounds. Jews were discriminated and regarded with suspicion because they were considered an alien “nation within the nation”. In fact, it was not until the second half of the 19th century and the rise of “social Darwinism” that “racial anti-Semitism“, framed in biological terms, appeared on the political scene and Jews were openly discriminated against on the basis of their alleged genetic inferiority.
The question we might want to ask ourselves today is whether contemporary Europe is confronting a Muslim question similar to the Jewish question 170 years ago. Is European antipathy towards Muslims comparable to that first stage of hatred towards Jews, a hatred that culminated in one of the darkest pages of human history?
In spite of the obvious differences between the two contexts, the success of the far right during the recent elections in several European countries seems to suggest that the answer is a resounding yes. The victory of these parties attests to the incredible gains made by Islamophobic propaganda in the last ten years. In France, the president of the National Front, Marine Le Pen – who obtained one quarter of all votes – has asked school canteens to stop offering Muslim children alternatives to pork. In Britain, the UK Independence Party campaigned against the construction of mosques and became the biggest winner in the elections, with an astonishing 27.5 percent of the vote.
Many of these parties, as well as those who voted for them, do not consider themselves racists. After all, the problem with Muslims – according to the likes of Le Pen – is their alleged backwardness, fanaticism and unwillingness to integrate.
In short, it is the Muslims’ fault. Just like the Jewish question of the 19th century, the contemporary Muslim question is premised upon cultural differences and thus presented as legitimate and politically correct.
Though immigrants in general are singled out as a social and economic threat to European societies and workers, it is Muslims in particular who have come to epitomise the “bad other”. This has been achieved not only through the xenophobic propaganda of the far right. Actually, conservatives and even liberal and left-wing parties have contributed to the fanfare.
On the one hand, conservative leaders such as current UK Prime Minister David Cameron, France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have repeatedly invoked the Christian roots of European countries, while, on the other, a much broader gamut of political forces, including liberals and leftists, have participated in decrying the headscarf as a symbol of backwardness and oppression. The voices nourishing anti-Muslim sentiment across Europe come from all sides of the political map.
Muslims have thus become, at least in many ways, the new Jews. They have become the scapegoats onto whom Europeans are projecting their anxieties about the future. Conservative and far-right politicians constantly intensify and exploit these anxieties in order to enhance neoliberal and nationalist agendas, while most liberal and left-wing parties have imitated the racist right, perhaps hoping it will bring them more votes.
Marx understood this process all too well. He criticised Bauer for claiming that the lack of political emancipation for the Jews was the result of their culture and religion. Marx maintained that religion had nothing to do with the continued discrimination of the Jews. The prejudice against the Jews and their lack of rights, Marx argued, is to be understood in the broader context of the state’s structural inequalities.
The transmutation of the Muslims into the Jews of the 19th century does not mean that a new genocide is imminent, or that the tragedy of the Jewish people in 20th century Europe will be replicated as the tragedy of the Muslim people in the 21st. History does not repeat itself in this way. But history can rhyme. It will only be the redoubled work of anti-racist militants and organisations that can potentially prevent that rhyme.Dr Sara R Farris is an Assistant Professor in Sociology in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.
This photo shows vandalism at a cemetery in Metz in France: a swastika and the letters PNFE, which stands for Parti nationaliste français et européen, the nazi French and European Nationalist Party.
UK schools witchhunted by government to foster anti-Muslim sentiment: here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
12 YEARS A SLAVE – Official Trailer (HD)
19 July 2013
12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:
Fifteen Caribbean heads of state, united in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), demand from their ex-colonizers compensation for the damage they have caused during the period of slavery. They want the Netherlands to be held liable as well, because of its history of slavery in Suriname.
It is the first time that such a large group of countries are demanding reparations from their former colonizers. The countries also address the requirement to Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. CARICOM convened in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines today to discuss a plan with ten demands.
Reparations for the suffering caused by slavery are not just about hard cash, says the chairman of the committee, Sir Hilary Beckles: “Our goal is a dialogue with the European countries, they are responsible for the disadvantaged situation of the Caribbean countries today.”
See also here.