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Richard Martin, "Humanity Dick"

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Renowned in his day as a daring duelist and an outspoken advocate of Irish tenant farmers' rights, Richard Martin is now remembered for his tireless efforts to end animal cruelty. One of the SPCA's charter members, Martin pushed the first successful bill forbidding cruelty to animals through the House of Commons. Although he was an Independent MP, his diverse group of friends included the royal family, Prime Minister William Pitt and many other prominent figures. His tireless efforts to abolish poverty and suffering caused George IV to nickname him "Humanity Dick."

In 1822, Martin brought forth his "Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill." While other figures, such as Lord Erskine and William Johnstone Pulteney, had previously introduced similar bills, their attempts had been unsuccessful. The new law, quickly dubbed "Martin's Act," subjected those who abused livestock -- especially horses -- to two months' imprisonment or fines of up to ₤5. To attract attention to the law, Martin delivered speeches in crowded London streets. The comedians and political cartoonists had a field day, making up ditties and depicting Martin with a pair of donkey's ears.

Soon after the act's passage, Martin gave the comedians even more material. The MP spotted Bill Burns, a man who sold fruits and vegetables in the streets, beating his donkey. When Martin brought charges against Burns, however, the magistrate was bored by the testimony and tried to look the other way. The prosecution came up with a new tactic: why not let the donkey's injuries speak for themselves? When the donkey was led into the courtroom, everyone, including the magistrate, noticed its obvious wounds. Burns was immediately found guilty.

Many people thought Martin's Act and its enforcers targeted only working class violators, while the wealthy were permitted to abuse animals scot-free. Eager to counteract this image, Martin credited Burns' apology. He asked the judge to fine Burns the minimum of ten shillings -- and ended up paying half. This trial gave Martin all the publicity he wanted. Not only was he in the news, but an artist named Matthews painted a picture of the trial and the comedians made up a new song:

Richard Martin.jpgIf I had a donkey wot wouldn't go,
D'ye think I'd wallop him? no, no, no!
But gentle means I'd try, d'ye see,
Because I hate all cruelty;
If all had been like me, in fact,
There'd have been no occasion for Martin's Act
Dumb animals to prevent being crack'd,
On the head.

He attained fame as an orator due to his storehouse of anecdotes and his habit of switching arbitrarily between an elite English accent and his Irish burr. Nettled by a Morning Post article poking fun at his brogue, Martin waited outside the newspaper offices until the editor came out. Gesturing to the objectionable passage, Martin cried, "Sir! Did I ever spake in italics?" Actually, he took a lot of raillery from the press. The Dublin Star dubbed him "Brahmin," The Chronicle called him "Don Quixote," and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine referred to him as "that blustering and blundering blockhead."

His flaring temper prompted his political opponents -- who burst out laughing whenever Martin stood up to deliver an oration -- to dub him "Hair-trigger Martin." Flaunting this reputation, Martin engaged in over 100 duels. George IV visited Ireland during one of Martin's parliamentary campaigns. When the king wondered who would win the election, Martin bowed and replied, "The survivor, sire!"

Martin encouraged animal rights supporters to resort to unconventional (to say the least) means of enforcing their statutes. He personally fought a duel to avenge the shooting death of a friend's wolfhound. Unbeknownst to Martin, the dog's killer was wearing bulletproof clothes. Consequently, he went unscathed although Martin hit him twice before receiving an injury in the chest -- after his recovery, Martin enjoyed showing off the scars. Years later, sixty-seven year old Martin noticed a London man whipping his horse in Ludlow Hill. A few minutes later, two men showed up, jerked the man away from the horse and showered blows on him. They had been paid five shillings each -- compliments of Richard Martin, who proudly told the story in Parliament.

Richard Martin house.jpgRichard Martin remained in Parliament for twenty-five years. Always vociferous, Martin brought forth hundreds of bills. He continually sought to add amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill requiring regulations on slaughterhouses and banning dogfights, bull- and bear-baiting. Although animal rights were his primary focus, he was also dedicated to representing his constituents' best interests. For instance, he was a chief proponent of Catholic Emancipation. (At that time, only Church of England members were granted basic civil rights.) Born into an ancient Irish family, Martin inherited a beautiful seaside estate that encompassed over a hundred miles. Known as the "King of Connemara" for his seemingly limitless fortune, Martin was a benevolent landowner who supplied his tenants with adequate food and shelter. The only rule he adamantly enforced decreed that farmers could not hitch plows to horses' tails.

Eighty years old and deeply in debt, Martin lost his estate in the Irish Potato Famine and his seat in 1826, due to charges of voter intimidation. Previously, his creditors had been powerless to act because MPs couldn't be prosecuted. Denied this protection, Martin fled to France to avoid going to debtor's prison. In 1829 -- three years after Martin had escaped to Boulogne -- Parliament finally passed the Catholic Emancipation bill. Soon afterwards, they also approved Martin's amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill. Even though his career was over, the Irish statesman's influence lived on.

Lewis Gompertz: Animal's Friend

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I admit it as an axiom, that every animal has more right to the use of its own body than
others have to use it.
                                                   
Lewis Gompertz, 1822

It was June 16th, 1824. Dusk was falling on the London streets as Lewis Gompertz pushed open the door of Old Slaughter's Coffee House. The shop was already crowded with reformers of all stripes: Arthur Broome, the incompetent clergyman who had organized the meeting; Richard Martin, the dashing Irish M.P. whom the Prince of Wales nicknamed "Humanity Dick;" and William Wilberforce, the benevolent abolitionist who spent most of his time juggling the forty charities dependent on him.

Forty-year-old Lewis Gompertz was a retired diamond merchant with a mission. The youngest child born into a Jewish family, he had been unable to go to college, enter politics, or even take a large part in society. Animal rights had always been his primary interest; now, he had plenty of time to dedicate to the cause.

Two years before, Richard Martin's bill forbidding cruelty to domestic animals had passed in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the law was often disobeyed. Soon after the act's passage, Arthur Broome had tried to form a society to enforce the statute. This failed miserably, as did a Liverpool-based "Society for the Suppression and Prevention of Wanton Cruelty to Animals."

Tonight, however, these philanthropists who gathered around the table had the prominence -- and the money -- needed to make their venture a success. Soon, the activists had worked out a charter appointing committees to distribute tracts and influence public opinion and for "Inspecting the Markets and Streets of the Metropolis, the Slaughter Houses, the conduct of Coachmen, etc.- etc." The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was born.

Before long, Arthur Broome had spent all the Society's money chasing impractical schemes. Gompertz and Richard Martin came to his rescue. Broome promised not to repeat his mistakes, so Gompertz and Martin went over the account books and straightened things out, paying the remaining expenses out of pocket. Once Broome was out of trouble, however, he resumed borrowing money to throw away on his plans -- landing himself in debtor's prison. Needless to say, these actions reflected poorly on the minister and his entire group. Gompertz stepped in once again to save the Society, bailing Broome out and taking his place as the organization's head.

The Society flourished during Gompertz's six years of leadership. He attended police courts, arranged meetings with magistrates to discuss the importance of upholding the anti-cruelty statutes, coordinated fundraisers, wrote letters, participated in public debates, broke up dogfights, helped in the parliamentary struggle to ban bull-baiting, and endeavored to set a legal limit on the loads horses could pull. A vegan, Gompertz refused to ride in a carriage. He famously wrote, "How can man do without the aid of horses?... That is his business to find out."

Despite Gompertz's competent command, jealousy and strife were rife among the members. Some of them -- the hunters and meat eaters -- were concerned by his veganism. Others resented his Judaism. A man named Greenwood denounced Gompertz for following "Pythagorean" principles and passed a bill saying that the Society would be governed in accordance with "Christian" doctrines and that "certain sects" would be denied entrance. Several members, including William Wilberforce, Countess Selina Hastings (a humanitarian socialite) and many Quakers, were deeply offended by this resolution. Rallying around Gompertz, they encouraged him to break with the SPCA.

Disgusted, Gompertz did resign. With the help of his friends, he started a new group called the Animal's Friend Society. Rather than simply stopping inhumane practices, Gompertz' new association was intended to actively benefit animals. Before long, the Animal's Friend Society was outdoing the SPCA in terms of membership and contributions.

Under the auspices of his organization, Gompertz organized a periodical: The Animal's Friend, or, The Progress of Humanity. In his role as editor, Gompertz kept busy writing articles showcasing his innovative theories. He republished his book, Moral Inquiries: on the Situation of Man and of Brutes, which described how humans ought to interact with animals. In it, Gompertz deplored the practices of hunting, slaughtering animals for food, and vivisection (the dissection of living creatures in the supposed interest of science). A long, rambling text, it also included his observations on the injustice of the property laws and the oppression of women.

Then, suddenly, Gompertz's wife, Ann Hollaman Gompertz, fell terminally ill. To spend as much time with her as possible, Gompertz gave up his activities. Lacking a leader, the Animal's Friend Society disbanded. Following Ann's eventual death, the reformer dedicated his energies to writing.

Gompertz Bike.jpgAn avid inventor, he collected many of his ideas into another book with a whopper of a title: Mechanical Inventions and suggestions on land and water locomotion, tooth machinery and various other branches of theoretical and practical mechanics. Spurred by a desire to lessen animal labor, Gompertz also made improvements on the then-developing bicycle. The existing model had no chain: the rider's feet pushed it along the ground. Gompertz added a pole -- sawed off a hobbyhorse -- and a gear to the front wheel of the bicycle, maximizing the distance one could travel with every step. He even devised methods to keep horses from falling while pulling carriages! Some of his inventions are still used, including the expanding chuck on modern drills.

Although Gompertz's writing style looks stilted today, his dialogues between Messrs. Y and Z are typical of Victorian essayists. This excerpt is from Moral Inquiries:

Y: In the first place, you dispute the right invested in mankind of slaughtering other animals for food, and of compelling them to labour for his benefit, for which purpose they have been created, their flesh and their services have been made palatable and necessary to man, without the nourishment of which he would soon grow sickly and unfit for his station - his life would be painful - his death premature.

Z: First, how do you prove that mankind is invested with the right of killing them, and that brutes have been created for the purpose you assert them to be? Secondly, is it to be observed that the flesh of man himself possesses the same nourishing and palatable qualities? And are we then to become cannibals for that reason? ...


Mr. Y goes on to say that animal populations, if left unchecked, will destroy each other, starve, or overrun the world. Thus, he contends, it is better to "cause them to have a short and happy life, than a long and miserable one."

Z: Then it is right for one to kill another, if he fear not the laws of his country, and if he fancy that it is to the benefit of the other... But even allowing it to be so, the two are unconnected with each other, and I do not see what right one animal has to deprive another of its small importance to prevent himself from losing more: if this theory be generally admitted, a young man might kill an old man, to save his own longer expectant life. And are we authorized to kill one animal for the benefit of another of its species?


Other parts of the same book read as essays:

Who can dispute the inhumanity of the sport of hunting, of pursuing a poor defenceless creature for mere amusement, till it becomes exhausted by terror and fatigue, and of then causing it to be torn to pieces by a pack of dogs? From what kind of instruction can men, and even women, imbibe such principles as these? How is it possible they can justify it? And what can their pleasure in it consist of? Is it not solely in the agony they produce to the animal? They will pretend that it is not, and try to make us believe so too, that it is merely in the pursuit. But what is the object of their pursuit? Is there any other than to torment and destroy?

In Gompertz's day, the British economy was entirely dependent on animal labor for food, construction, transportation, clothing and glue. Gompertz was consequently labeled a radical and a revolutionary -- a man determined to undermine the foundations of civilization. Yet his persistence paid off: many of his inventions were displayed in public, and Prince Albert awarded him a medal. Though Lewis Gompertz is largely overlooked by today's animal rights activists, he gave an impetus to the movement that can never be forgotten.



Thomas Paine: American Activist

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Thomas Paine.jpgThe first article protesting cruelty to animals ever written on American soil was penned by the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine in 1775. The editor also wrote the first essays against slavery, cruelty to children, the subjugation of women and dueling, denouncing society's practices as inhumane and disgraceful.

The editor, a penniless young man attempting to earn his bread by writing, was Thomas Paine. This poem was his first published article:

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS EXPOSED

Occasioned by a real circumstance

A Pale and wrinkled wretch I saw one day,
Whom pale disease had wither'd half away,
And yet the sad remaining half seem'd curst
With all the mis'ries that befell the first;
While death, impatient to unite the two
Pursu'd him hard, and kept him in his view.

This half-dead wretch with pain and palsy shook,
Beneath his arm a captived kitten took,
Close to his savage side she fondly clung,
And unsuspicious, kindly purr'd and sung;
While he with smiles conceal'd his black intent,
And gentle strok'd her all the way he went.

Without the town, besmear'd with filth and blood,
And foul with stench, a common butch'ry stood;
Where sheep by scores unpitied fell a prey,
And lordly oxen, groan'd their lives away;
Where village dogs, with half the dogs in town,
Contention held, and quarrell'd for a bone.

The crippled wretch to these unpleasing bounds.
His cat convey'd, a victim to the hounds.
To see her living mangled limb from limb,
Tho' scarce alive himself, was joy to him:
So close and slow he crept along the ground,
As if the earth was bird-lim'd all around;
And every step so feebly took its leave,
As if the next would step into the grave;
While ev'ry worm, impatient for its prey,
Cried, Stop him, Stop him, Stop him, all the way.
Yet not one soft relenting thought arose
To bid him spare, but on the murd'rer goes,
Down to the dogs the hapless victim threw,
And clapt his trembling hands to set them to.
Dogs will be dogs, and act as nature taught
Murder with them is merit, not a fault.

A stick I had, tall, knotted, stout, and straight,
Which many a mile had born my weary weight,
Been the companion of my trav'ling cares,
Age of Reason.jpgAnd stood my friend in many strange careers,
With which full many a pow'rful stroke I dealt,
Till ev'ry dog the crab-tree vengeance felt,
And feeling fled--For dogs, like wiser men,
Sleep most securely in an unbroken skin,
Poor puss escap'd-- while Moloch, good of blood,
Like some out-schem'd malicious devil stood,
Convuls'd he seem'd, like one by spells possess'd.
Or he who feels a night-mare on his breast,
And wanting power to move and breath to speak,
Remains in mis'ries till the witchcrafts break.

But fate, which soon or late, all wrongs redress,
Down from the greatest mischiefs to the less,
On Moloch's self the same diversion tried,
The dogs fell foul upon him and he died.

Decades later, when Tom had (wisely?) quit publishing poetry, he included this in the conclusion of The Age of Reason, a book that influenced and inspired generations of like-minded reformers:

"That seeing as we daily do, the goodness of God to all men, it is an example calling upon all men to practise towards each other, and consequently that everything of persecution and revenge between man and man, and everything of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty."                                                                     [First Part, pg. 54]

Edward I: Environmentalist by Accident

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Edward I.jpgEdward the First, the fifth Plantagenet king of England, is famous for clobbering the Scottish and Welsh armies, getting clobbered by the French, banishing the Jews, going Crusading, taxing everybody he could get his hands on, and performing other violent acts.

Tall for the times at 6'2", Edward had a terrible temper. When his son requested an earldom for his friend, the king tore out fistfuls of the boy's hair. When the Dean of St. Paul's entered the throne-room, mustering his nerve to discuss lowering taxes, he was supposedly killed on the spot by the mere sight of the king.

Is it feasible that this ferocious king, represented in medieval allegory not as the "noble" lion but as the "powerful" and "volatile" leopard, had a good side? It's possible. He maintained a good relationship with his parents, and loved his own wife and children. At fourteen, young Prince Edward married Eleanor of Castile, who was about the same age. Unusually, they were dedicated to each other; Edward didn't have affairs, and he didn't lock Eleanor up in a tower! When Eleanor died after thirty-six years of marriage, Edward was devastated, and built Eleanor Crosses wherever the funereal procession stopped. (His second marriage, to the young Margaret of France, also turned out well, despite their fifty-four-year age difference.)

Yet less well known is the fact that if Edward had had his way, coal pollution would never have been an issue.

Coal was so abundant on England's northeast coast that it was collected in wheelbarrows. People could even pick it up on the beach! It had been used since prehistoric times -- in the Bronze Ages, Welsh funeral pyres were fired by coal -- but when the Romans conquered "Britannia," they fell in love with the fuel.  At first, they thought it was very pretty, and fashioned it into ornaments for themselves. They called it gagate; this word would evolve into "jet," a dense variant of coal still used in making jewelry. (However, the Roman artisans often mixed up the higher quality jet with ordinary coal.) They also popularized burning it. After the Romans had cleared out, the Britons forgot about coal and resorted to wood. The early historian, St. Bede, describing the abundant "jet," didn't mention that it was used for heat, but observed that the smoke kept snakes away.

At any rate, until the 12th century, everybody in London burned wood. Soon, however, London began to grow, and the forests dwindled. Wood became expensive and rare. Instead, the Londoners decided to try the cheaper, easily-obtained coal. There was only one problem. Burning wood produced some smoke, but a lot of heat. Burning sea-coal produced a little heat, but a lot of sulfurous smoke. Nevertheless, instead of thinking of a better solution, everyone decided to burn more coal. The thick smoke combined with the natural fog and hung over the city for days.

In 1306, Edward, instigated by a group of prominent noblemen and clerics, passed legislation banning the burning of sea-coal. The king's mother, Eleanor of Provence, had gotten so sick from the smoke surrounding Nottingham Castle that she had had to flee the town. (Edward I's great-grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had had a similar experience with the burning wood around Tutbury Castle.)

Despite the king's commands, the law was disregarded. The poor didn't have the money to buy wood and there weren't any other alternatives. Edward altered his bill. Now, first-time offenders were subject to immense fines. If they were caught a second time, their furnaces were destroyed. Unfortunately, this didn't work either. The atmosphere was getting tense. Edward altered his bill again. This time, a death penalty was installed for burning coal. One person was seized and executed. But everybody kept on burning coal. Edward couldn't execute his whole kingdom. Besides, even if he could have, then he wouldn't have had anybody to tax or beat up, so what's the point of that? Consequently, the law was ignored, although Edward II, Edward I's successor, tortured a few people who were unable to meet its terms. Astoundingly, that didn't help.

princess elizabeth.jpgSubsequently, others tried to exterminate the burning of coal, including the kings Richard II and Henry V, whose palace at Westminster was permeated by the odor. By the time Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne, the situation was worse than ever. Short beds, which forced sleepers to sit up, were popular, as people had difficulties breathing if they lay down. The queen was reported to be "greatly grieved and annoyed with the taste and smoke of sea- coales," and tried to get it banned, at least while Parliament was in session.

Later, in 1661, a prominent Cavalier named John Evelyn was asked by Charles II (whose palace at Whitehall was getting all the fumes from a nearby duke's residence) to write a book against coal. He complied, and the result was Fumifugium: or, The Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated, Together with some Remedies humbly proposed by J. E. Esq., to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now Assembled. The title "Fumifugium" was compounded of two Latin words, fumus, meaning "smoke," and fugit, "to escape or get  away from." (It's actually pretty terrible Latin, just for the record.)

John Evelyn.jpgEvelyn's book was one of the first comprehensive studies of the dangers of coal burning, and one of the earliest to discuss air pollution. (It also blamed the English Civil Wars on bad air caused by coal fires, not on any political issues!) Not only did it berate the smell of the smoke, it also attacked it as being unhealthy and aesthetically unpleasing. Evelyn wrote that the fumes were

"...so universally mixed with that otherwise wholesome and excellent Aer, that her Inhabitants breathe nothing but an impure and thick Mist, accompanied with a fuliginous and filthy vapour, which renders them obnoxious to a thousand inconveniences, corrupting the Lungs, and disordering the entire habit of their Bodies; so that Catharrs, Phthisicks, Coughs and Consumptions, rage more in this one City, than in the whole Earth besides."

He also complained that "Whilst these [the "Chimnies of London"] are belching it forth their sooty jaws, the City of London resembles the face rather of Mount Ætna, the Court of Vulcan, [or] Stromboli, ... than an Assembly of Rational Creatures, and the Imperial feat of our incomparable Monarch," adding that the black particles in the smoke ruined the facades of palaces, churches, and houses. Evelyn goes on to say that it killed birds and insects and blighted flowers and fruit trees. He adds that travelers could smell the city long before they could see it.

Evelyn did not advocate the prohibiting of coal-burning; he merely said that trades, such as brewing, dyeing, lime-burning, which put out a significant amount of smoke should be relocated to where the soot would not affect the city. He also proposed moving other noxious businesses, such as butchers and chandlers, out as well. To promote cleanliness, no burials should be permitted in churches or even within the city walls. Not even this approach, however, gained much support.

James Watt.jpgThe Industrial Revolution effectively destroyed any hopes of outlawing this pernicious fuel, as it was considered indispensable to development. Anyone who was opposed to coal was opposed to progress. Factories relied on it to fire their huge furnaces. It heated workers' homes. Worst of all, it provided the steam for James Watt's new steam engine. Getting rid of it was impossible. In fact, coal usage in Great Britain multiplied by 100 between 1800 and 1900.

The coal-produced smog, called "fog" by the Londoners, was familiar to people such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Darwin, James Russell Lowell (who was proud to have survived the smoke), Arthur Conan Doyle, Heinrich Heine, and Thomas Carlyle, who called it "fluid ink." Finally, in 1956, four years after a four-day "fog" killed approximately 4,000 people, Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, which reduced coal burning to a large extent.

To this day, coal continues to be one of the worst energy sources on the planet. It is the largest contributor to man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The difference that the success of Edward I's 1306 law would have caused is unfathomable. Even though he was a terrifying warrior and sometimes a cruel king, ironically he deserves to be remembered as one of the earliest environmentalists.

Less Fog Means Withering Redwoods?

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rdwd1.jpgBesides the obvious issues that global warming introduces, like the melting of the polar icecaps or the rising ocean levels, issues affecting smaller areas are still disastrous. They are determining the future of our everyday lives and the land set aside permanently as national parks. According to a recent National Geographic news article, redwood trees, the world's tallest living things, may go extinct. We might have seen them just in time.

When we were staying in CA, sometimes we would be driving in at night. We lived about 45 minutes away from the beach, so the fog would drift in over the road and make it nearly impossible to see. We would cross over Golden Gate Bridge and look down at the gently rolling mists. While they made it harder to drive, they were also essential to the survival of these botanical giants.

The clouds kept the conifers moist, at exactly the climate they required. A hundred years ago, there was no threat from global warming. A university study said that there has been a 33 percent reduction in the amount of coastal fog produced today when compared to the data from a century ago.

The redwoods only live in the humid areas near the coast, where the fog keeps them watered. Because they have adapted to this ecosystem, they cannot live long in a drought by shutting down their systems to conserve water, as other desert plants do. This means that if there is nothing that can be done, the redwoods may dry out and wither. Some other species of tree, however, can adjust to living with less fog by not growing as quickly as they do in years when water is plentiful.

We went to Humboldt State Park on a mostly overcast, cold day. Logging had thinned many of the forests; the largest existing piece of hewn redwood, made into one person's RV, is on display at the park's visitor center. Early environmentalists had preserved large groves, which have been turned into state parks. To this day, the groves bear names like "Founders Grove," or "Rockefeller's Grove," after these early conservationists.

The tallest tree blew over in a storm a few years before and became a "nurse log." Nurse logs are decaying trees that provide the necessary nutrients for other plants to grow. Saplings, fungi, ferns, and lichen are common plants that sprout from the reddish-brown bark. Insects, like beetles and ants, live in the log's crevices. In places humid enough, these are also home to banana slugs and snails.

As well as being an impressive species themselves, these trees are essential to many other kinds of life. The terrible fact that they are in danger means that if they do not live, their ecosystem will be seriously disrupted. This issue is another reminder that the choices we make in our everyday lives do have consequences and therefore we need to decide to do everything in a manner that will not harm the planet. The fate of these giants is uncertain, the fate even of our planet is uncertain, and it's our actions that will determine it.

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