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Archive for Social Environment

‘Scientists Proclaim Animal and Human Consciousness the Same’ by Megan Drake

August 29, 2012

A remarkable thing happened at The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference held at the University of Cambridge, July 7 in U.K. A group of prominent neuroscientists signed a proclamation declaring human and animal consciousness alike. Called The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, it states:

We declare the following:  The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.

To many pet parents and animal lovers, the conference only confirms what they already believed through their own observations and interactions with animals – albeit, not with the credibility of scientific research.

Stephen Hawking — considered the greatest mind in physics since Albert Einstein — was the guest of honor at the signing ceremony.  The declaration was authored by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch, all well-respected neuroscientists.  The signing was memorialized by 60 Minutes.

Joseph Dial, former Executive Director of the Mind Science Foundation, explains why this declaration is historic and groundbreaking:

What is Consciousness?

There is an important distinction between intelligence and consciousness.  Intelligence is measured by the “capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.”  So, is it fair to say humans are more intelligent than animals?  Animals certainly have a capacity for learning.  They cannot create an atomic bomb; maybe that should define them as smart?

The dictionary defines consciousness as “aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.”   Take a good, hard look at your pet; for that matter, watch a zoo elephant or a deer in the woods.  They are always aware of their own existence.  They feel pain and other sensations.  Your dog may get annoyed with you if you tease him with a treat for too long before tossing it his way.  A deer caught in your headlights feels fear before deciding to take flight.  Elephants mourn their family members just like humans.

What This Means for the Future

For millennia, humans have held onto their hubris regarding the belief in human superiority.  Perhaps The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness will inspire a different attitude and further research into the minds of all non-human creatures.

Starting with animal rights through to veganism, changing the minds of those who believe humans are “top dog” will be a challenge.  Notable scientists formally recognizing animal consciousness on a level with humans should make for some interesting conversations.

Related Reading:

Declare ‘Human’ Rights for Dolphins and Whales, Scientists Urge

Freedom’s New Frontier: A Guide to Animal Rights

7 Reasons Why We Have Not ‘Evolved’ to Eat Meat

Fish Uses Tool

Read more:


Support Free Internet – Sign This Petition

Stop the Internet Blacklist!
The US Congress is considering a bill ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act’ (COICA) that can seriously injure the freedom of the internet. View it here:

Sign This Petition Protect Our Freedoms

More about it:

‘COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.

‘The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

‘One example of what this means in practice: sites like YouTube could be censored in the US. Copyright holders like Viacom often argue copyrighted material is central to the activity of YouTube, but under current US law, YouTube is perfectly legal as long as they take down copyrighted material when they’re informed about it — which is why Viacom lost to YouTube in court.

‘But if COICA passes, Viacom wouldn’t even need to prove YouTube is doing anything illegal to get it shut down — as long as they can persuade the courts that enough other people are using it for copyright infringement, the whole site could be censored.

‘Perhaps even more disturbing: Even if Viacom couldn’t get a court to compel censorship of a YouTube or a similar site, the DOJ could put it on the second blacklist and encourage ISPs to block it even without a court order. (ISPs have ample reason to abide the will of the powerful DOJ, even if the law doesn’t formally require them to do so.)

‘COICA’s passage would be a tremendous blow to free speech on the Internet — and likely a first step towards much broader online censorship. Please help us fight back: The first step is signing our petition. We’ll give you the tools to share it with your friends and call your Senator.’

From David Segal and Aaron Swartz
Read it here

Sign the Petition

GROW Project Walk June 25 in Vancouver

GROW Project | Walk

Due to the weather this event has been rescheduled for June 25th from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. Please note that an indoor venue will be provided if the weather does not cooperate – so rain or shine we hope to see you at this event! Please see below for updated information about presenters.

Sustainability in Relationship: Conscious, Connected and Creative Living
Rajdeep Singh Gill
Fabiola Nabil Naguib
Saturday June 25, 2011
At the north entrance to Creekside Community Centre
1 Athletes Way
Vancouver, BC V5Y 0B1
(604) 257-3050
Google Map

We will meet outside if it is sunny and if it is raining, we will hold the talk and discussion at a venue inside

Please join curator and scholar Rajdeep Singh Gill and artist, writer, and activist Fabiola Nabil Naguib for this talk, discussion and walking journey in expanding notions of sustainability.

This dynamic couple, partners in life and work for almost a decade, will explore concepts and practices of conscious, creative, and connected living and how they cultivate and nurture sustainability as a relationship between all things. They will share some of their insights, speak to the importance of engaging the interconnections of sustainability and facilitate an open discussion.

This walk is sure to stir those already committed to sustainability and those awakening to its expansive possibilities.

Learn more about the presenters here.

Energy Security and Climate Change: Pakistan

Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Time: 10:00-02:00pm
Venue: Marriot Hotel, Islamabad

Ms Javeriya Hasan
Research Associate, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), (Consumer Network and NEPRA)
Mr Arshad H Abbasi
Advisor Water and Energy, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), (Energy Governance in Pakistan)
Mr Shakeel Ahmed Ramay
Head, Climate Change Study Centre, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
(Renewable Energy Resources in Pakistan)

Concept Note
A spectrum of landscapes marks the geography of Pakistan; with the mountains and glaciers of the north to the coastal belt in the south and a host of hills, plateaus, forests and deserts in between. Despite lying in a temperate zone, the unique geography of Pakistan ensures that extremities of temperature are experienced in different locations across the country. Encompassing a land mass of 880,940 km2, Pakistan also geographically overlaps the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Pakistan’s unique geographical position has made it especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change which include glacier melt, sea level rise, increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards, changes in rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, and increased frequency of extreme weather conditions. These vulnerabilities will only be exacerbated by the current social, economic and political schemes operating in the country. With the sixth largest population in the world, most of which still under the poverty line, unstable government structures and institutions, military conflicts, worsening fiscal crisis, rampant food insecurity and a deepening energy crisis, Pakistan is becoming increasingly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Its geographical location and its status as a state marred with the crisis of underdevelopment makes climate change in Pakistan a pertinent concern. Inaction in the face of climate change is not an option, as the recent floods in Pakistan have made the urgency and necessity of a response to climate change clearly evident.

The concept of mitigation within the discourse of climate change refers to the set of actions taken to eliminate or substantially reduce the long term hazards associated with climate change. As the main cause of climate change is identified as the emission of greenhouse gases, mitigation efforts are focused on a reduction of the sources of greenhouse emissions. The major contributors to climate change are the developed nations whose past emissions have resulted in the rise of average global temperature. In an attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the future, developing countries today must reconsider employing the same strategies of economic growth characteristic of their developed counterparts. Failure to do so would have potentially catastrophic impacts as increased emissions cannot be sustained by the ecosystem.

The rising demand for energy in the developing world comes from the high population growths and ambitious developmental programs that attempt to curb the widespread poverty in these areas. Provision of energy becomes the prerequisite for economic development and as developing countries strive to industrialize, they resort to the cheapest and most readily available sources of energy. As the growing energy sector in the developing world would eventually contribute more to the greenhouse gas emissions than the current biggest emitters, their energy sectors cannot be immune from mitigation policies. The 450[1] scenario outlined in the World Energy Report 2009, which seeks to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 450ppm, reiterates the recognition of common but differentiated responsibilities requiring each region in the world to implement mitigation policies.

While Pakistan’s emissions contribute a mere 0.8 of the global GHG emissions, the number is projected to rise in the coming decade owing to the country’s burgeoning population and growing energy needs to fuel its development plans. Pakistan must embark on a comprehensive and efficient mitigation strategy not only as a responsible state within the global arena committed to emission reduction, but also because it would be much easier and economically feasible to make the transition to a low carbon economy now rather than later. Thus it is imperative that efforts aimed at sustainable development in the country incorporate the goals of emission reduction.

As the energy sector is the primary contributor to GHG emissions in the country, it is essential that mitigation strategies are aimed at reforms within this sector. For Pakistan, this presents a host of opportunities. The vast potential of alternate energy in the country has not yet been exploited though efforts are being made in this direction. Increased use of alternate energy does not only coincide with mitigation of emissions in the country but also serves as a long term strategy for achieving energy security.

Pakistan is an energy deficit country, relying heavily on imported oil to meet its energy needs. In recent times the energy crisis has reached alarming heights; Power outages have become a routine phenomenon and are gravely impacting economic development in the country. While there is no prospect for Pakistan to reach self sufficiency in hydrocarbons, the exploitation of renewable energy to counter the current energy crisis presents itself as a sustainable option. Cheap and reliable sources of energy are imperative to push the country on a path of development; exploitation of indigenous renewable sources of energy is likely to serve this end.

Reliance on traditional fossil fuels is not a sustainable option for Pakistan, not only because it would contribute heavily to growing emissions but also because the limited reserves within the country have prompted oil imports and rapid depletion of indigenous gas reserves. This has put a financial strain on the economy and made the energy sector extremely vulnerable to the unreliable global supply of fossil fuels. The energy sector in Pakistan needs to be restructured to be made more reliable and secure and a shifted reliance on the vast supply of indigenous alternate sources of energy presents itself as a viable step in this regard.

It is important to recognize that exploitation of alternate energy resources does not only constitute as an essential and urgent response to climate change but also satisfies Pakistan’s long term goals of energy sufficiency and sustainable development.

Consumer Network and NEPRA
Pakistan is currently grappled by a severe energy crisis that has spearheaded significant socio-economic repercussions. An inability to install sufficient power generation capacity in addition to a heavy reliance on costly furnace oil imports has contributed immensely to the climax of the crisis. This has come at a time when Pakistan is already plagued with many other important woes such as the menaces of poverty, illiteracy and terrorism. The energy shortages and escalating cost expenditures in meeting needs has necessitated that power sector governance is revisited; rather analyzed critically for apparent pitfalls that have led to the severe situation the country is facing today.

One of the institutions that figures prominently in the equation is Pakistan’s National Electricity Regulation Power Authority (NEPRA), whose mandate is basically to promote principles of openness, transparency, accountability and competition in the power sector. It grants licenses to generation, transmission and distribution companies and also prescribes standards for this purpose in order to ensure that the consumer is provided with a safe, efficient and reliable supply of electricity. Unfortunately, it has been observed that the performance of NEPRA, has very much deviated from its mandate and has not been in line with the vision with which it was created.

Consumers, particularly the domestic consumers, don’t matter much as a priority in its decision making processes. NEPRA organizes public hearings on tariffs, licenses and fuel adjustments and these have reduced to mere cosmetic exercises, whereby those in authority only mark it against a checklist of items. There is no concerted effort to include the public proactively, in fact, the entire regulatory environment is convoluted and complex for any individual to fully comprehend the nitty gritty involved in electricity regulation.

The seminar on ‘Consumer Participation in Electricity Regulation’ would help bring together academics, professionals and concerned civil society in brainstorming on ways the vacuum of consumer participation can be overcome. The aim is to create a network of likeminded individuals who can contribute in generating awareness among the public about the issue of electricity governance, which they are key stakeholders of.


Faisal Nadeem Gorchani
Sadia Sharif
Policy Advocacy and Outreach Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute
38, Old Embassy Road
(Atta Turk Avenue), G-6/3,
Ph: 051-2278134-6, Ext: 113
Fax: 051-2278135
Cell: 0333-5592210

Hariyali Genda Teej, 12 August 2010, New Delhi

August 12, 2010
7 to 10 pm
72, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi 110003

Presented by
Red Earth / Alliance Francaise de Delhi / Exhibit 320 / Latitude 28

Celebrate the traditional monsoon festival of Hariyali Teej with Genda Phool, the eternal marigold flower.

Swing: genda phool jhoola….
Shringaar teej-genda: mehendi, bangles, floral jewellery
Thela Mela 1: genda merchandise and groovy design on the Indian hand pushed cart
Sawan ka Khana, Sawan ka Gana: special teej foods, jive to monsoon music

Hari Bhari Genda Wari Dress Code: Wear the monsoony Indian Greens and genda colours – orange, red, yellow. Green and genda together! Bonus points for Sarees & Rajasthani Leheriya

Entry by invitation only.
For donor invites / details contact 41764054 /

Opening Event of The Monsoon Festival 5
Conceived, Curated and Presented by Red Earth / Himanshu Verma

Festival Partners:
Alliance Francaise de Delhi
Latitude 28
Exhibit 320
Take 5
The Wall Project


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