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Jan 10 2012

Am I Published In India?

Ok, I need some information. Do I have any readers in India? My stats say no, but a couple of recent search terms and an email have got me thinking. More after the jump:

I wrote a verse a couple of years ago, and was approached by a textbook publisher in India about including it in an anthology. I gave my permission, and have not heard a word since then. Until, maybe, now. Over the past two days, I have had two google searches land here using variations of “time to eat dog by digital cuttlefish summary”, and a brief email (from someone who appears to be more accustomed to texting than to emailing) asking for a summary and explanation. Mind you, I have no idea why they would choose this particular verse for their anthology… but my question is this—does it exist?

Details—it would be the Macmillan Publishers of India, but any more than that I don’t know—and I couldn’t find it on their website (actually, their website didn’t answer). And the verse in question? ( I include the commentary that went with it, for the sake of context. This was from November of 09.)

I bike to work; I do not drive;
My thermostat’s on “chilly”.
I compost; I recycle; I
Think wasting fuel is silly.
I have a backyard garden, where
I grow my corn and beans;
I can my own tomatoes, and
I patch my old, torn jeans.
I try to purchase locally
From stores that show they care,
And speak at local gatherings
To make us all aware.
I’m doing all I know to do;
I’m hedging all my bets…
But now, I hear the latest news:
It’s time to eat our pets.

Our pets have carbon footprints,
Just the same as you or me,
And Lassie has the impact of
A good-sized S.U.V.
The meat it takes to feed a pet
Should make you think a bit
And that’s before we mention all
The tons and tons of shit.
Our dogs, of course, reflect ourselves,
In how much we consume
It’s time for some reflection here,
Ere Fido meets his doom.
With lots of bigger targets here
Before I roast my bitch;
You want to save the planet?
Then it’s time to eat the rich.

Both the BBC and the Guardian (UK) report on the provocatively-titled “Time to eat the dog?“, which takes an interesting new approach to analyzing our environmental impact.

Instead of measuring emissions of CO2, or CO2 equivalent, they calculate the literal footprint or “global hectare” (gha) – the amount of land it takes to support a given activity.

So they work out that constructing and driving the Land Cruiser for a year takes 0.41 gha.

Growing and manufacturing the 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a border collie or cocker spaniel eats every year takes about 0.84 gha.

A bigger dog such as a German shepherd consumes even more – its pawprint is more like 1.1 gha.

By their reckoning, that is more than the environmental footprint of the average Indian person, who uses just 0.8 gha of resources.

If you are a multiple dog owner you are in even more trouble. Two big dogs have a bigger carbon footprint than some British citizens.

According to the book the average resident of Cardiff requires just 1.89 gha.

The average American, by contrast, requires a whopping 9.5 gha.

Taking a closer look at that 0.84 gha figure for a border collie, New Scientist points out (in an editorial titled “Cute, fluffy, and horribly greedy”):

If that’s troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison. In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares. For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares. In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?

As I have known for some time now, I am clearly part of the problem. We all are, in a global Tragedy of the Commons.

We need to become part of the solution. If using Fido or Fluffy gets people’s attention, then the authors’ unusual approach has done its job. Judging from the comments on various news articles, though, there is a significant population who won’t quite get the point of the book.

Oh… for those who think the “Time to eat the dog?” people go too far, you might not want to click here.

UPDATE: Ah, it seems it was too bad to be true, or at least too bad to be accurate. Take a look here for a nice skeptical look at the analysis. (In a nutshell, the researchers underestimated the impact of SUVs, and overestimated the impact of dogs; the majority of pet food comes from “byproducts” of the production of food for humans, and cannot be meaningfully seen as competing for the same scarce resources. On the other hand, the Guardian article did focus on a trend of gourmet dog food, which does use the same cuts of meat that people eat. It is, admittedly, a small part of the market.)

45 comments

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  1. 1
    MoeFaux

    You’ve whet my appetite with verse, but now what’s for dinner?

    (I’m actually eating a sub-par curried red lentil boxed soup as I type. Could go for real Indian.)

    :)

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    Just discovered the local Indian place last week; went with Cuttledaughter. Wonderful…

  3. 3
    I. D.

    The only thing I am willing to do to reduce my carbon footprint is HAVE NO KIDS.
    Being poor is not voluntary – I would change it if I could.

  4. 4
    Avicenna

    It may be some of my hits that you are seeing. I am living in India at the moment.

    A weird thing is my family tends to feed the dog table scraps too. (My dog is an Indian Dog and thus eats curry and rice and chappathis and naan bread.) alongside his normal food. If you calculated that then the dog probably would have an equal impact to a human.

    However the low impact of the average indian is tarnished by the fact that there are billion of them and that most Indians still live in crushing poverty in rural areas.

  5. 5
    Cuttlefish

    Just heard back from my emailer–seems she read my verse in her textbook! My question is answered, which (as is the case with so many answers) opens up a whole new set of questions!

  6. 6
    sumdum

    The difference between a man from Cardiff and an average american is staggering. Is that for real ? What on earth causes such an immense difference ?

  7. 7
    Cuttlefish

    Sumdum, I suspect it is quite real, and that the extremes of the distribution would be even more gobsmacking. Many Americans, for instance, living in suburbia, will drive to the store for a couple of items, while (of course!) leaving the whole-house air conditioning on, not to mention the big-screen TVs and a computer or two, and then have to drive to several different stores (each air-conditioned and brightly lit, with internet-connected cash registers, scanners, debit card readers, open-case freezers displaying foods from around the world, fresh produce shipped in daily from a continent away… Their closets, some big enough to live in, are full of clothing that is rarely organically produced, and comes with its own carbon footprint. Their job is likely to be some distance from their house, with poor public transportation (cities tend to be considerably more efficient in this); if they are lucky enough to be in walking distance of school, they will still (if being cool is as important as it has been for decades) want to drive or be driven by friends, and if they live further out, they’d rather drive than take the bus.

    Americans are so affluent in so many ways, they don’t have to actively try to be wasteful. It just comes with the infrastructure, and is sometimes built into the rules–there is a housing development near me where hanging your clothes on a line to air-dry is a fineable offense. My street has no sidewalks (fortunately, it is not a busy street). I do bike to work, but there are no facilities there to encourage biking–no changing room, no dry place for bike storage, even the bike rack outside my office is badly dented from the snow plows that regularly bury it each winter (well, not yet this winter). I have to shovel my own bike parking place, or carry my bike up three flights of stairs to drip in my office. It is far, far easier to drive in, a distance that the man from Cardiff would rightfully sneer at.

    *sigh*. Off to plan my course, to see what I can do to fight against this crap.

  8. 8
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Some offices just haven’t thought about it. If asked, they might provide a bit of store-room space for bikes, or a taped-off section of underground parking if you have such a thing. Of course, people who bike to work in snowy winters are rare birds so they’re less likely to be accommodated. If you can bike it, can you walk it?

    Personally, I think it’s futile of my city to promote biking to work in summer when the alternative is public transit. Almost everyone switches to transit in the winter or bad weather, so the “bike/walk to work” campaigns take revenue away from the transit system without really letting them reduce their capacity. However, thousands of people choose to live in walking distance of work and about 10% of the population either bikes or walks. It’s really 8% – 12%, which might represent a seasonal swing.

  9. 9
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Heck, about 20 years ago someone from India or thereabouts was pointing out that the right thing to do would be reduce pet ownership in the rich countries and feed more actual people in the poor countries; and that this apparently unselfish action was actually in our best interest for a stable, peaceful globe.

  10. 10
    Cuttlefish

    “Of course, people who bike to work in snowy winters are rare birds so they’re less likely to be accommodated.” Or… Of course, people who bike to work in snowy winters are less accommodated, so they’re more likely to be rare birds.

    Yeah, I could walk, but I’m much too lazy. Biking lets me do it in less time, sitting down, on wheels. I’d burn more calories driving in and walking from the parking lot.

  11. 11
    Muppidathi

    hey,
    My name is Muppidathi. I have this poem for my exam today. The exam is at 2 P.M and its nine now. I just started reading and analysing your poem. To answer your question, yes its macmillan and you are published here(in India). Personally, i like the poem. anyways……. CONGRATULATIONS….:)
    PS- i am doing my BA.Your poem is a part if our general english exams.

  12. 12
    Cuttlefish

    Good luck, Muppidathi! And to your classmates as well–I have seen a few other visits here. I would love to hear what the class thinks of my verse, and what the instructor thinks as well!

    To tell the truth, I would not look for a lot of deep meaning in it–it was, honestly, composed in less than an hour, as a reaction to the news story that is linked to this post. Everything we do has an effect, of course, and the more affluent our standard of living, the more resources we use. Certainly, pets use resources, but if anything they are just one measure of affluence. At least, here in America.

    But don’t quote that on the exam or you’ll be caught plagiarizing!

  13. 13
    Kylie Sturgess

    On the “But don’t quote that on the exam or you’ll be caught plagiarizing!” – there is a story, possibly apocryphal, of an Australian poet.

    He graduated from high school, worked in the ‘real world’ and wrote poetry in his free time. Eventually, he became published, and became well-known. Then he decided to go to university, meaning he had to take an entrance exam, since it was a long time since he graduated from high school.

    There, on the English Competency paper, was a request that he analyse his poem.

    So, he did.

    And failed.

    And appealed, and got a grovelling apology, for questioning what the author actually meant.

    k.

  14. 14
    Vinay

    Yes, we have to write summaries on the poem for class!

  15. 15
    Ajay Simha

    You are of course published in India. We have your poem “Time to Eat the Dog” as a part of our curriculum. Can I have a brief summary of the same? Well we analysed the poem and I was not satisfied by the analysis. Just thought you are the right person to approach.

    Regards
    Ajay

  16. 16
    Cuttlefish

    You first, Ajay; what was your analysis, and why were you not satisfied?

  17. 17
    Ajay Simha

    The teacher just gave us a vague interpretation. From what i’ve analysed it talks about the various issues regarding our environment. The other fact being the limited resources available and the constant growth associated it with. We are in a dilemma in analysing what’s the right approach towards a sustainable development and what is not. This is my analysis. Can I have your say on this and can you add on to this?

    Regards
    Ajay

  18. 18
    Cuttlefish

    I’d say you’ve pretty much got it.

    I find it interesting, reading through the comments here from January, your class and the previous commenters have spent more time analyzing the verse than I did writing it. It was, as I have said, a fairly straightforward response to the newspaper articles I linked to in the post. Not a lot of hidden meaning or tricky metaphor.

  19. 19
    Ajay Simha

    I absolutely agree with you. We tend to analyse the poem in greater depth than the poet himself. Strange but true. Anyways thanks a lot for your response mate.

  20. 20
    ashwin

    Hey Mr.Fish,

    Just dropped in to give you a heads up about your heartfelt concern of the publisher that is using your piece of passionate work as part of an educational syllabus. As you already know, it’s Macmillan India and a particular university is fortunate enough to study your poem, Time to Eat the Dog.

    However, it would really help a lot more if you could provide a deeper understanding of the topic. It would help the forthcoming batches invaluably.

    Thanks bro =)
    Peace out
    Stay fly.
    \m/

  21. 21
    Cuttlefish

    Ashwin, have you read the links in the original post? That’s the information I had, so there’s the deeper understanding.

  22. 22
    Saumya

    hi, cuttlefish i’m student of the university where your text has been included. and i need some explanation for the text, so as mentioned in your above post can you please attach the link of the original post because i’m unable to find it?
    please reply asap.
    Thanks
    Saumya

  23. 23
    Cuttlefish

    Saumya–

    In the verse itself, at the end of the first stanza, there are two links highlighted–the first is to the BBC article which prompted my verse, and the second to the book which the article was about. My own first article did very little more than quote from the BBC article, but it is here, if you want: http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2009/11/15/time-to-eat-the-dog/

  24. 24
    Niharika

    well, its a nice poem. Can i have a brief summary of the poem please..?

  25. 25
    ZMI

    Hi!
    I’m one of the people reading your poem as a part of the course too. Just wanted to say your poem is amazing.
    One of the most interesting, thought-provoking poems I have ever come across.

    :)

  26. 26
    Cuttlefish

    Thanks, ZMI!

    Niharika–I’ve made this offer before: if you tell me your own summary, I’ll give you my comments on it.

  27. 27
    Narasimha

    I tried to tell my lecturer that your poem was a pretty straight forward response and there wasn’t much critical thought and analysis behind it, but he just wouldn’t listen! Then in the examination, I had my marks deducted for not having a ‘deeper’ analysis of the poem :/

  28. 28
    Cuttlefish

    Please feel free to tell him that you spoke with me and that I would love to read his own analysis.

  29. 29
    Isaac Darryl Raj

    Hey Cuttlefish! Nice to speak directly with a guy who wrote what I’d be writing for my exams tomorrow! :)
    Great to see unorthodox poems like yours get adopted by universities like ours! They convey the message right onto your face and that’s quite an achievement!
    Just wanna say “Congrats!” Keep writing great throughout life! All the best for your future endeavors:):)

    Regards,
    Isaac D.R.

  30. 30
    Argle Bargle

    I read some of the comments on this post and thought of what Sir William Schwenck Gilbert wrote of the poet Bunthorne in Patience:

    And ev’ry one will say,
    As you walk your mystic way,
    “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
    Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”

  31. 31
    Cuttlefish

    Beautiful, Rodney Nelson!

    Clearly, I am a singularly deep Cuttlefish! Benthic, even…

  32. 32
    Kylie S

    Could someone give the name of the book that the poem is in please?

  33. 33
    Chirag

    Hey cuttlefish !! I am from the same university as the people above have mentioned.
    As a part of a project I have been assigned to do a presentation on your poem. Would you like to say Hello to the class yourself through a video call over Skype or Google hangout? I can arrange a projector and everything for the same.
    It will be pretty interesting for you too to actually speak to the class for 5-10 minutes as the author is directly getting to talk to the audience of the poem. You can even recite the poem :D
    Let me know ASAP as presentation is due on 12th of February.

    P.S. I bike to work too \m/

  34. 34
    Cuttlefish

    Chirag–

    I’m looking at my schedule, and seriously thinking this could be fun. What time? (I can work out the time difference. I hope.) Of course, the trick is that I prefer anonymity, so I may show up as a blob of light, a stuffed animal, or an unspeakable evil. Bottom line is… I am interested, but there are hurdles that stand in the way. I am hopeful that they can be jumped.

    DC

  35. 35
    Durga Menon

    Hello Digital Cuttlefish, We are currently studying your poem in class , and i thought about telling you about a few thoughts i had about this poem, when i read it. The title reminds me of the metaphor ‘ its a dog eat dog world’. the usage of the word ‘dog’ in your title , got me thinking about how the world will compete for the limited resources, and the rich will continue to exploit while the poor cant afford to. I thought this quote in a way sort of summarize the idea behind your entire poem. What do you think?

  36. 36
    Cuttlefish

    Durga Menon–

    I think you have summed it up perfectly.

    I honestly tend to write these verses quickly, and there may be elements of the interpretation that were not consciously thought of, but were just part of the surrounding world and were incorporated into the verse. For instance, the news story that inspired this verse included a bit on high-end dog food, which has choice cuts of meat and is quite expensive. Reading this verse in India, where literally scores of millions of people are living at under a dollar a day, underscores the disparity you speak of, with the rich exploiting and the poor suffering. More money is spent to feed these dogs than to feed poor families; you could see the verse as highlighting the privileged position of the wealthy. And of course, since the dogs aren’t choosing and buying the food themselves, this expense (and this carbon footprint) must clearly be added to the amount consumed by the rich people themselves… So getting rid of the dog is only a small step toward solving the problem. Their owners, on the other hand…

  37. 37
    Durga Menon

    Hello again :) . Another thing that i’d like to mention is that in class, our teacher keeps mentioning the irony of the title. He says it is ironic that it is ‘time to eat a dog’ because a dog is man’s best friend. Did you have this thought in mind when you wrote it?

    Also, I agree it is the rich that need to judiciously use the limited resources we have, because the poor are unlikely to afford a pet ( to feed it and take care of it.)

  38. 38
    Cuttlefish

    Hello!

    At the risk of appearing very shallow indeed, I must point out that the title of my verse was the same as the title of the book that the newspaper articles were reporting on. In a sense, I did not choose my title at all, since my verse was meant as a response to their writing, and I chose it just to make that connection clear.

    Sometimes, the irony is not to the credit of the author; the irony just happens to be in the world reported on.

  39. 39
    Durga Menon

    Oh I see :) I had a feeling that that’s what you might have intended.
    By the way, Im very intrigued as to why you call yourself digital cuttlefish. Its quite a unique blogger name.

  40. 40
    Cuttlefish

    It’s a great name! I did not choose it myself–a friend of mine labeled me a “cuttlefish”, because as a writer (particularly a pseudonymous writer) I “hide in my own ink”, like a cephalopod. Hiding in ones and zeroes on the internet led to the “digital” part, so I was a digital cuttlefish before I was the digital cuttlefish.

    But it is the coolest name ever, and it is an accurate description, so I’m just glad I got to use it before anyone else did!

  41. 41
    Avani

    Hello !

    This is so weird. I am from the same university as almost all the readers above me and I have a test on it tomorrow. So I thought, I should get online and see if the poem offers a deeper meaning than the obvious metaphors in it but what I found is so much cooler! The author of the poem himself (Or herself).

    This thrills me to no extent because I really liked the poem- the fact that it is so simple but it carries such a strong message. I mean, most poems and lessons we have in our book are by someone famous(which comes with an extremely complex past to each author which then influences the interpretation of the poem as per the wish of the teacher) and in high probability, also dead.

    This has always led to sighs and wistful dreams about how easy it would be to just ask the poet himself or herself what he or she actually meant – than have a teacher over analyzing, under analyzing or producing a post-facto summary of the poem.

    I shall not ask for a summary of the poem, instead I would like congratulate you on the poem and also thank
    you because I cannot express how thrilling this is. I hope I do well on the test tomorrow and if not, i will always have something the teacher probably does not – an almost direct contact with the poet himself(Or herself)

    I hope you keep writing and continue to be featured in our textbooks.

    Bye

  42. 42
    Cuttlefish

    Best comment yet!

    Thanks, Avani, and good luck!

  43. 43
    JustAnotherStudent

    So I am just another student from the university who decided to publish your poem. :) I have a test on the aforementioned poem and several other literary pieces in a couple of days, and I am super fascinated by this particular poem.

    Many congratulations to you! I finally know why you wrote this poem. It seems so straightforward when we keep the context in mind. Yes, as literature students we aren’t he habit of over-analyzing and came up with some crazy interpretations of the poem. Just like one of the guys above, I wonder if you’d be open to directly speaking to some of the students studying this. Please let me know if you’d be interested, sometime in the month of February.

    Thanks a lot (:

  44. 44
    Cuttlefish

    Hey, get me a ticket and I’ll talk to your class in person!

  45. 45
    JustAnotherStudent

    Haha, I wish I could buy a ticket. Alas, I am merely a student. :(

    But if a Skype/Hangout session would be cool, I’ll speak to my Profs :)

  1. 46
    Time To Eat The Dog–The Video » The Digital Cuttlefish

    […] was delighted, today, to hear from a student from Christ University, in Bangalore. As I have noted before, a bit of my doggerel is included in a textbook used in some English classes in India; these […]

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