Welcome to my Blog! … Well more like my overall info page about anything and everything you could possibly want to know about me today on-line. I’m based on the West Coast whilst the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) remain active hubs for me, but, I am also a committed proud member of The Foreign Press Association (FPA), London office. I am a 3x UN media accredited correspondent, New York and UN Geneva campuses. Cross-border issues are key for me. I classify myself as an investigative journalist. I write for new media outlets as well as long-established left-leaning print publications. I blend writing, videography and photo-journalism into creative-form. What do I mean by investigative? Don’t worry I get that question a lot. Critical thinking about the world in which we live, advanced source-seeking and background-checking, probing deeply into research projects of my choosing (and/or those of my fave editors) and the pursuit of eclectic interviews with people I find the most interesting. I’m not afraid of politically sensitive topics and on a good day being in possession of a signature style/forté for spontaneous and revealing Q&As (I’ve been told anyway). I’m easy to talk to and easy to reach. I enjoy covering international news items and I guess you could say I have a social justice bent. Motivated to cover issues that have some social relevance and perhaps, in some small way, I try to help to improve people’s quality of life. I enjoy freelancing here and there for a couple of glossy mags covering various topics on internet trends, lifestyle & social identity, alternative music/fashion scene, and of course eco-travel (something I like to dabble in on a more personal level). That’s about it other than if you’d like to gab and share ideas about art please check my e-portforlio in the “Artworks” section of this site. Would welcome hearing from you! My twitter feed is @dwalshmedia. (c) Diane Walsh 2015 |mediageode| Please contact mediageode AT yahoo DOT com if you’d like to republish anything from this site. Skype me @ [mediageode] ~ Diane Walsh, MA
Standing up for Perspectivism! DRAFT ESSAY Ontological_Turn_essay_Perspectivism_
The Beluga’s Culture Shock
By Diane Walsh
Seeing the world through the ‘Bubble’— Musings from East Scotland
Culture shock is something usually associated with a human being feeling a sense of alienation or confusion when arriving in a place that is strange and new. It would be no surprise then, if difficulty in adapting cropped up as a culture-shock after-effect.
But what if the concept of culture-shock was applied to, say, placing the Beluga whitewhale in a ‘Bubble’ such as an Aquarium setting — whose ancestors had lived in the Ocean Wide for thousands of years?
Without falling into a debate about anthropomorphism, I would like to us to ‘problematize’ the idea of the ‘strangeness’ of having a huge Whitewhale in, arguably, a fishbowl.
An Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean, this Whitefish is also occasionally referred to, as the melonhead or sea canary.
I do not wish to be delving too deep into a discussion of Anthropology. If you would like to read more on the topic, ‘Beyond the Human’, Samantha Hurn (2012) researches the idea of animal exploitation, animal-rights theory and the anthropological implications of the evolving cultural ideas and concepts about animal personhood. She asks us to think about our own attitudes towards ‘other’ animals on earth (i.e. other-than-human) and relate this to what it might mean to be human. Perspectivism (e.g. Kohn; Descola; De Castro) asks us to take up seeing the world from the point of view of the ‘other’ in the natural world, while at the same acknowledging our thoughts as being, from a human standpoint (Key words; post-humanist, human exceptionalism).
With this all in mind, try and understand the example I have suggested, of ‘the foreignness’ of the fishbowl (Aquarium) from the perspective of the Beluga.
Granted we can never get into a cetacean’s mind, per se, but we can entertain the idea of ‘seeing the world from the perspective of the ‘Beluga’.
Here is an analogy. We’ve all likely observed the poverty and resignation of people who are on the wrong side of the ‘economic divide’. At times I have been there myself. What if this conceptualization of reality was applied to thinking about the Beluga? ‘Seeing’ the Beluga as being on the wrong side of the ‘divide’— whose fate is unlucky enough to have been captured — whose awesome and glorious natural-habitat nature/subjectivity modified into a mere object of money-making and gawk? Might I be able to force an argument that the Beluga is ‘ecologically impoverished’ i.e. trapped in a container?
Is this the Beluga’s ‘Bubble’ reality? It would be no surprise to see the ‘resignation’ of the Beluga in this scenario. I argue that there doesn’t seem to be a concerted effort to connect the ‘poverty’of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. I mean the poverty of the identity of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. Is the Beluga not powerless over its fate, resigned to its working conditions?
Applying social theory to an understanding of the captive Beluga might actually prove useful. I could even push for a focus on the idea of ‘discrimination’ against Belugas. Why not? The fate of Beluga has been shown to be ‘poor’. We need to consider Maris’ recent death in Atlanta.
Keeping Belugas in captivity is really more about controlling the population in order to allow money to be made. It is about the circuits of capitalism reaching the Beluga as an object of profit. We don’t hear much of this phenomena at the moment but it underlies much of what is happening. If a Beluga dies, it is always ‘a complete mystery’. Whether it’s Vancouver or Atlanta.
On October 24, 2015, I read, while in Scotland, that “Maris the beluga whale dies suddenly at Georgia Aquarium [emphasis mine] (Source: Faith Karimi, CNN).
We are told that Maris, who was born in the New York Aquarium, in 1994 lived for 10 years at the site in Atlanta and died on October 22, 2015.
It’s well known that Maris had given birth to two babies, both of whom died. The first baby died in 2012 only days after birth, and the second, after less than a month. There are two Belugas left at the Georgia Aquarium – Grayson and Qinu.
Karimi, the reporter from CNN, obtained this quote from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). “Maris was denied her freedom her entire life. She was transferred from one facility to another, and her babies died, one after the other. Whether or not she had a physical ailment that went unnoticed, she was killed by captivity, plain and simple.”— PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange.
Okay, we know the drill. Aquariums argue that belugas in captivity (modified, with the phrase ‘belugas in human care’) enable scientists to better comprehend them in the wild. Latest ‘ethical’ research, needless to say, focuses on how ‘underwater sounds’ affect belugas — including the human-created noise-pollution created by industrial or military activity? The Aquarium is a lab, effectively. Biologists from respected universities are involved in this project and do not have to wrestle with any sort of conundrum relating to ethics. It is taken as a given that this is, ‘good’ research – no questions asked.
Karimi continues to explain that “The data can be combined and applied to help conserve and protect wild belugas from threats in their natural habitats”, according to the Georgia Aquarium website.
It’s clear that the Georgia Aquarium has been very careful to maintain the position that Maris, 21, “showed no signs of illness before her death. She ate and interacted normally with Grayson and Qinu, the other two beluga whales at the aquarium.This is a case of sudden, acute animal death. Our animals receive exceptional care, and our dedicated team of experts responded to her within minutes to render aid.”— Dr. Gregory Bossart, Chief Veterinarian at the Georgia Aquarium.
All the public is told is: “An autopsy is underway”.
End of discussion.
What is curious is that only recently we heard of one Beluga death and then another at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada. It would not have been difficult to put a sentence about that. The second one was said to have been due to pneumonia.
Care2care.com reports “In 2012, the aquarium filed a controversial petition to bring 18 wild-caught belugas here from Russia who would be split up at different facilities under breeding and loan agreements. Unfortunately for those supporting the effort, in September a federal judge shut down the effort”. We’re told there’s pressure on “The National Marine Fisheries Service to declare the population of belugas, suffering from captures in Russia, as depleted, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act”.
In the context of another published CNN news article, “SeaWorld can expand its tank but not breed whales, board rules” all eyes are likely now focused on the Georgia Aquarium’s desire to ‘grow’ belugas.
I have reflected briefly on ‘animal/human’ interaction and the assumptions humans make when beginning to use models of observation. I have asked that readers reconsider the idea of Belugas in labs. I suggest here, that there may be a benefit in actually applying human social theory to the fate of the captive Beluga.
I will leave you with this final thought.The light/colour/frequency spectrum experienced by humans, that, compared with the receptors that cetaceans/animals/birds experience, confines us to a uniquely human world. We can never enter the complete experiential world that enables the ‘others’ in the animal kingdoms and the seas, to exist on the same planet. Technology will never enable us to ‘see’ the colours/frequencies that non-humans experience – not even with Hubble style magnification. To that extent we should understand an inherent disability — so is this the anthropological blind leading the blind?
If we see that our ways of seeing are blind to the ways that the Beluga sees — just one ‘animal’ example — we might be able to better understand their deaths in the aquarium setting. To understand if the Beluga and the baby beluga experiences culture-shock in the Aquarium fishbowl, the ‘Bubble’must first be burst.
Tags: UN Geneva
May 1, 2015 – Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement here.
Battle lines and battle scars – FGM Education 101
The last two weeks of April 2015 saw the ground break in the global fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The regressive and regrettable article in The Atlantic entitled ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised‘ is causing an uproar.
From the hidden depths of the #EndFGM twitter movement to the ears of Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation, who endorsed the Olga Khazan article in a tweet – the outcry of complaint is continuing to reverberate. Understandingly so, FGM survivors are gobsmacked by The Atlantic publication language-usage.
An angry firestorm across twitter explained it was felt that the content of the article was more than questionable; it was believed to have had a hand, in glamorizing FGM. According to the undisputed definition by the World Health Organisation, FGM is all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-therapeutic reasons. (AKA Clitoris, labia lips). Artistic rendition here.
All this has had the effect of galvanizing efforts for a united front to press for FGM Education specifically in the U.S. We can find comfort in that the United Nations 2012 Official FGM Resolution is unequivocal. The goal is total eradication of FGM including all the efforts to justify it.
Spearheading much of the unified response is one of the movers and shakers on the FGM front. Hibo Wardere is a formidable anti-FGM activist based in UK London. She is FGM coordinator for Waltham Forest and mediator-educator. Integrate Bristol Charity @FGMSilentScream and thousands of others in Europe, the U.S. and Canada also present themselves in solidarity, taking the bull by the horns as the United Nations has done, tackling the practice as an FGM with no excuses.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists @RCObsGyn has issued a statement about their concerns over The Atlantic article (see end of post).
Having covered the subject and worked in the field myself, I too chimed in, on twitter. Coining the term, anthro-apologists and shouting out, saying No to Anthro/Apologists, this very second! Please see a more detailed discussion here. Credit: Hilary Burrage
I join in challenging any apologist anthropologist bleating female genital cutting (FGC)/female circumcism (FC)-messaging. It’s Female Genital Mutilation, for goodness sake. FGM is everyone’s fight.
On the damaging and poisonous message that the article-title ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised‘ communicates – The Atlantic was advised to issue a response.
Is The Atlantic seen to be guilty of a subterfuge in condoning the use of overt apologetic language and using the ‘choice’ defence antic?
Is one of the most insidious of human-rights violations when the mainstream media posits the practice of FGM as a ‘choice’ and calls it cutting and circumcism? In my view, yes. No worst evil than, condoning the practice, in this, sneaky, way.
Why did a longstanding, high-currency American publication in Washington DC brazenly publish disinformation? Sheer ignorance or something more sinister?
The UN Resolution against FGM passed in 2012 and the breath of the world-wide movement is moving against justifying slicing off girl’s private parts. Using ‘choice’ rhetoric as means of suggesting, a deeper-understanding, is beyond the pale.
When you click the Twitter share-button for The Atlantic article, it then takes you to this sentence, “What many people don’t understand about [Female Circumcism] sic”. A nuance, noticed by careful watchers concerned about the title of article in the first place; which still remains as ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised despite survivor’s protestations.
Please also read my 2013 article on migration of FGM on Western soil and the global context in UN Special.
Update: Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté is one of the signatories for 2012 UN Resolution. He is Executive Director of Inter-African Committee and a UN Expert. Given his strong diplomatic mediation skills and connections internationally, it made sense that the details of the uproar about The Atlantic article were communicated to him. He agreed to make a formal statement. Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement here. Since then, the magazine responded in agreeing to post a blog re: concerns.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Joint statement on story about women choosing to be circumcised
News 23 April 2015
The Intercollegiate FGM Group, along with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have read the article on why some women choose to be circumcised published on 8 April 2015. We are extremely concerned by the way FGM is treated in the article.
While we welcome new social scientific research into the complex reasons why FGM occurs across societies, since it helps us to better understand the phenomena and thereby enable us to prevent it, articles such as this are retrograde.
This is our collective position:
- We agree that FGM is child abuse and a severe form of violence against women and girls.
- We agree that FGM is a violation of the rights of the child and a violation of the rights of women and girls.
- We agree that the medicalisation of FGM must stop.
We know that in some communities, FGM occurs because it is regarded as a tradition, a rite of passage. On the surface, it may appear that the girls themselves willingly subject themselves to be circumcised, with their families’ blessing.
However, this does not make the practice acceptable. It is wrong to suggest that children can chose to undergo FGM. Many of these girls are underage and therefore they are not in a position to give informed consent to a practice that has lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Similarly, they may be under intense social pressure to have FGM and may also be unaware of what the procedure truly entails and the long term impact on their sexual and reproductive health.
There is no compelling argument to excuse FGM. The long-term physical, psychological and emotional trauma from FGM (not fully addressed in the article, some of which are transgenerational) which healthcare professionals and the women themselves are only too aware of, mean that there are no benefits but significant harm attached to the practice.
Notes – The Intercollegiate FGM Group comprises the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) and Equality Now.
Diane’s suggested links to peruse in conjunction with the above FGM News update
UN 2012 United Nations Official FGM Resolution https://indydianewalsh.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/resolution-unga-english2.pdf
Global context: post by highly respected anti FGM activist Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté, one of the signatories http://www.morissanda.com/mgffgm.htm
Florence Ali now sadly has died; worked with Inter-African Committee with Dr. Kouyté. Highlights the steep uphill battle fighting FGM and the apologists. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/fgm-in-ghana-what-local-african-organisations-are-doing-to-eliminate-female-genital-mutilation-8537898.html
International-migration factor: FGM in Western-countries
UN Geneva/New York http://www.unspecial.org/2013/02/change-the-fate-of-girls-it%E2%80%99s-in-our-hands/ covers
U.S.A. context http://indydianewalsh.com/2014/11/17/we-are-the-ones-that-cant-be-ignored/ U.S.A context
University of Geneva first University FGM Chair 2015 http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/female-genital-mutilation_university-of-geneva-chair-to-fight-fgm/41256858
With special emphasis now on Western soil, the UK is said to be leading the movement: “Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting” provides overview https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/news/tackingfgmuk.pdf
The strongest leadership we’ve seen to date; the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists allies with FGM activists/survivors. The ill-considered article in The Atlantic ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised gets a response which can’t be ignored. Read statement above or at @RCObsGyn on twitter.