Snitches, Service Dogs and Cool Finds

22 05 2011

A couple of months back at Joshua Tree National Park, we posed the following ethical dilemma:  What do you do when you see someone walking out of a national park with stolen treasure in hand?  The responses were feisty, from calls to civic responsibility to snarky comments about being a snitch.

Petrified Forest National Park (PFNP) doesn’t hesitate to answer that question.  Upon arrival, every guest is handed two pieces of paper: one is a park brochure and the other is a green card urging you to turn in anyone who might be stealing from the park.  The card doesn’t miss a detail…  When did it happen?  Where did it happen?  Who did it? What were they wearing?  How old?  Describe their vehicle.  License plate number?  This message of “turn thieves in” was repeated at every ranger tour and on every sign in the park.

The Who Dunnit Card...  It's All About Preservation

The Who Dunnit Card... It's All About Preservation

If You Take, You Shall Be Punished...

If You Take, You Shall Be Punished...

Because it’s so easy to steal petrified wood or crystals and because the park went unprotected for so long, PFNP is probably the most looted of all the parks.  The orientation video stated that one ton of petrified wood and rocks are stolen from the park each month.  Craziness.  For those of you who want to check out Petrified Forest, don’t wait too long or there might not be much left!

Emergency Phones Stationed Throughout the Park to Report Theft

Emergency Phones Stationed Throughout the Park to Report Theft

Our first stop at PFNP was the visitor’s center, where I befriended a sweet dog named Lily.  We struck up a conversation with Lily’s owner who shared with us that she has MS and that Lily is a service dog.  Lily goes everywhere with her (a right protected under U.S. law).  The dog assists with keeping her balance and even somehow reminds her when she is too tired and pushing herself too hard.  I remember reading an article on the increasing prevalence of service dogs for all sorts of reasons, including military veterans battling PTSD.  Amazing.

Service Dog Lily Has Been Helping Her 'Mom' Stay Balanced for 10 Years

Service Dog Lily Has Been Helping Her 'Mom' Stay Balanced for 10 Years

Finally, I have three cool finds to share with you:

1-  Check out this incredible TED talk on the re-purposing of Google streetview… for art.  Only 5 minutes long, but wow.

2-  I played around on this week, a quasi-new website built around the idea of micro-volunteering.  It connects non-profits who need help with branding, fundraising, programming, designing, whatever with professionals who might be too busy to volunteer in the flesh but can spare 15 minutes to do some good online.  The opportunities are still being built out, but it’s worth taking a look.

3-  Take five minutes and visit, where you will become part of a powerful and educational game that raises awareness about poverty and the underprivileged.

That’s all for now!  Beautiful photos of PFNP to come.

posted by ayo




4 responses

23 05 2011

Not sure if I posted this already. But here’s something I wrote awhile ago that relates to your subject of reporting theft.

I think the conventional wisdom or ethics regarding the publishing of peoples contact information is changing. Especially in light of all the fraud that has taken place in the financial markets. Perpetrators think they can hide within the complexity of our society and that has got to change in my view. In fact for larger fraud I think home addresses should be published. Here’s some science to support the idea.

“In a paper that was published in Nature a few years ago, in which Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter had people play a commons dilemma. A game in which you give people money, and then on each round of the game, they can put money into a common pot, and then the experimenter doubles what’s in there, and then it’s all divided among the players. So it’s a really nice analog for all sorts of environmental issues where we’re asking people to make a sacrifice and they themselves don’t really benefit from their own sacrifice.

Fehr and Gachter said — on the seventh round they told people, “You know what? New rule. If you want to give some of your own money to punish people who aren’t contributing, you can do that.” And as soon as people heard about the punishment issue going on, cooperation shoots up. It shoots up and it keeps going up. There’s a lot of research showing that to solve cooperative problems, it really helps. It’s not enough to just appeal to people’s good motives, it really helps to have some sort of punishment. Even if it’s just shame or embarrassment or gossip, you need some sort of punishment to bring people, when they’re in large groups, to cooperate. There’s even some recent research suggesting that religion — priming God, making people think about God — often, in some situations leads to more cooperative, more pro-social behavior.”

Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

On another note, I need help finding an organization or website that can organize volunteers to give working sled dogs the attention they need during the off/summer season. Any ideas?

23 05 2011

Thank you for the link to Google Art Project! Awesome!

23 05 2011

Thanks for the link also great! Peter Singer head of philosophy at Princeton did the fifth grade math in a 1999 NYT essay. By studying world statistics on overpopulation and over-consumption he found, if we’re getting and spending more than 30k per year we’re basically guilty of murder.

The question comes down to what are we here for? I believe I’ve answered that in my Theory of Almost Everything.

25 05 2011

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