The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld

The Dark Net
The Dark Net
As the jacket cover details, Bartlett reports on “trolls, pornographers, drug dealers, hackers, political extremists, Bitcoin programmers and vigilantes–and puts a human face on those who have many reasons to stay anonymous.” Bartlett enters into and exposes the digital underworld of power and freedom that is the Dark Net, where persons are set loose to “explore every desire, to act on every dark impulse, to indulge every neurosis.”

The book left me deeply saddened. Saddened by the lostness of many individuals, profiled by Bartlett, who seek advice and support on pro-self-harm, pro-suicide, pro-anorexia websites. Saddened by the tales of cavalier disinhibition on the Web that, when exposed, has resulted in the destruction of individuals’ lives in the “real world.” Saddened to hear how the pseudo-anonymity of the Dark Net elevates “nobodies” to the status of radicalized “somebodies” who use their newfound influence to foment hatred in the rank and file. The book is, indeed, as one reviewer opined, “a flashlight into a dark, dark cellar.”

I especially appreciated Bartlett’s concluding chapter that leaves the reader to ponder where all of this will eventually lead. Who will win out? The Transhumanists (those who would like to upload their brains to computer servers), the Anarcho-Primitivists (contemporary Luddites), or … ?

The Dark Net
The Dark Net

Of Ants, Anticipation, Appreciation and Acceptance

It promised to be a great place to visit: a spectacular series of multi-colored cliffs rising 90 feet above the water; springs reputed to offer mineral water cures; a river coursing through that provides a gateway to the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean; a river that even had an ironclad named for it, the CSS Neuse, a vessel that played a role in Civil War history. Flora and fauna in abundance: more than 420 species of plants; a cypress swamp and Spanish moss; river otter and muskrat swimming along the waterways; white-tailed deer to be seen along the hiking trails.


We were in the area, up for doing something impromptu, and had an afternoon made for a hike in the woods. From the map before us, a state park called to us: Cliffs of the Neuse.

There were very few moments when one could stop to take a photo without being covered with ants. This was one of those moments.
There were very few moments when one could stop to take a photo without being covered with ants. This was one of those moments.

BUT, BUT, BUT–as I read in blog posts after we returned home–the trails in this park are delights to traverse in the fall, winter and spring but should be avoided in the summer months. Why? Because of the MULTITUDE OF ANTS that hikers encounter along the trails!!

My companions (Jean, Alan, Gene, and an Old English Sheepdog named Molly) and I had never seen swarms like these!! There appeared to be millions of them! It wasn’t too bad initially, as the first few photos in this entry suggest but the further inland we went, the worse it got. You couldn’t stop for even a moment. We used our ball caps to swat ants off of our pant legs and feet. I was in my nearly-always-worn Columbia sandals while my companions were more sensibly shod (remember, this was a spur of the moment turn of the wheel), so I got the worst of it and was bitten several times.

Once we knew what we were facing, we raced along and, when we–at last–reached the parking area, which was relatively insect-free, I picked ants out of our Molly’s pads and swept her body to make sure she was okay. A fellow hiker, who had traversed the trails with a little dog, came upon us and suggested we go to the on-site campground to hose our Molly down. She planned to do the same with her tiny, low-to-the-ground canine as she had ants all over her body.

All that said, I must admit that I am grateful for the day’s experience. The park has a well appointed, inviting visitors’ center that was staffed at the time of our look-see by a warm and friendly woman. The park’s overseers respect the ants and THEIR habitat and do not spray to eliminate their colonies (though I was told by a fellow hiker the parking areas are treated). I can also appreciate why the ants would respond to our presence as they did: they were trying to protect each other and their communities as we stomped through them.IMG_2012

I have but two complaints.

On not a single page of the park brochure and nowhere on the park’s online site did we find any mention of the ants. At no time, during our conversation with the attendant at the visitors’ center, was a warning issued about the ants. This wasn’t fair to the humans and canines visiting the park and it wasn’t fair to the ants.

Our encounter with the tiny park denizens provided a very vivid reminder of our need to respect these fascinating socially-oriented creatures that share this world with us. The ants and we would have benefitted from a heads-up. We would also have benefitted from better-marked trails (the target of my second complaint) that could have led us more directly out of their habitat.

Two of the biggest challenges facing creatures in the wild today are habitat loss and conflicts with humans resulting from that loss. There may well have been other visitors or there may yet be visitors to the park, spending an afternoon as we were, who would complain because the ants hadn’t been eradicated so bipeds and quadrupeds could better enjoy the trails. What’s important to keep in mind here is that, for the six-legged ants, the park is home. It would be disastrous for the trails to treated with pesticides as some folks might demand. Better to tell people when to stay away.

Humans are, regularly, moving into and taking over the habitats of other species and, when the natural denizens are deemed by the interlopers to be nuisances, demands are made for the original inhabitants to be removed post haste. This is ethically and environmentally absurd. It’s long past time we reevaluated the ways in which we view the myriad of species that share this world with us.

“People often ask which animals are ‘good,’ as if it were the most natural thing in the world to judge them by what benefits they provide to humans. Even animal advocates can lapse into this faulty way of thinking. Bats are important, many say, because they perform mosquito control; snakes are valued because they eat rodents. These are indirect services that can help humans, no doubt, but they do not so much justify why people should tolerate and accept these species . . . Tolerance comes through understanding and raised awareness and acceptance of the diversity of life, not from a benefit calculation that reduces animals to the services they provide.” [Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife, p. 148]


I hope I will have the opportunity to make a return visit to the Cliffs of Neuse State Park but I will only attempt to do so when I can hope to be less of a detriment to the ants.


Sea Turtle Release off Topsail Island

IMG_1971Six sea turtles were returned to the ocean off Topsail Island, North Carolina, this morning after having been healed of illness or injury by the staff and volunteers of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. One by one, in slings or in the arms of caregivers, Camper, Coldie, October, River, Simon and Theodore were carried to the water as hundreds of turtle lovers and onlookers erupted in applause and cheers.

Joy is found in abundance at these releases and you can sense the excitement in the turtles, in the caregivers and in the onlookers! It’s the culmination of lots of love and lots of rehab. Wonderful!

IMG_1925 2

The idea for the center originated with Karen Beasley, who died from leukemia in 1991 at age 29. As her health was declining, she specified to her mother, Jean, that her insurance funds be used “to do something good for sea turtles.” Together, they began to organize their sea turtle protection efforts into the Topsail Turtle Project, writing a mission statement, structuring the beach monitoring program, and recruiting volunteers. The dream became reality in 1997 when the first sick and injured turtles were rescued and rehabilitated. The center was housed in a 900 square-foot building until June of 2014, when home became a new 13,600 square-foot, $1.5 million facility. The center has rehabilitated and released more than 300 turtles since 1997.

IMG_1932According to its mission statement, the sea turtle hospital is dedicated to:

  • The conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles, both in the water and on the beach;
  • The rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured sea turtles;
  • Informing and educating the public regarding the plight of all sea turtles and the threat of their extinction; and
  • Providing an experiential learning site for students of biology, wildlife conservation and/or veterinary medicine from around the world.

The center, which is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City, will open for daily tours starting June 8, from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit:

Follow this link to a story and video tracing the treatment and release of October:

See also

All photos by D.F.G. Hailson.

“Great for Kids and Pets”?

I’ve just come in the door after having had a very disturbing conversation with the owner of a pesticide franchise.

On my morning walk here in North Carolina, I came upon two men, wearing chemical packs on their backs, spraying a tree. I motioned my desire to chat with them and one man turned and walked toward me. As he did, he was still holding the sprayer aloft and I ended up being misted in the face before the machine was completely disengaged.

I inquired as to what chemicals they were using and I was told permethrin and piperonyl. A man, whom I understood to be the owner of the franchise, was standing close by, came over immediately, motioned for the other man to continue his work, and began to engage me in conversation.

I told him I was concerned about the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides that kills not only the target mosquitoes but also beneficial insects like honeybees.

His reply? “Will we kill a couple of bees, yes? But, do the biting flies bother you? Would you rather have the mosquitoes? Where are you from?”

“Massachusetts, originally,” I said.

“Did they spray for mosquitoes along the coast there?”

“Yes,” I replied. “And, you could be assured of a quorum at a Town Meeting if mosquito spraying was on the agenda. I’m on the other side of this. I think we should be using more natural methods of mosquito control. We keep using these pesticides and we’ll lose all of our pollinators.”

Sensing that neither was going to be won over in the argument, we went our separate ways. As I continued my walk, I came upon one of the company’s trucks. Wording on the side panels proclaimed, “Great for kids and pets.”

If that’s so, then why is permethrin “classified by [the] EPA as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on animal studies. Animal studies also point to permethrin as an endocrine disruptor . . . [T]he National Pesticide Information Center’s factsheet for permethrin shows is has a similar profile to bifrenthrin for its acute effects on people and pets, and its toxicity to bees and aquatic life.”

According to the NPIC, “bifenthrin is highly toxic to fish and small aquatic organisms, very highly toxic to bees, and [is] classified by the U.S. EPA as a possible human carcinogen . . . Other more recent work (based on animal models and human cell lines rather than studies of actual people) hints that bifenthrin may have additional toxic effects (including endocrine disruption, DNA damage, fertility issues, and increased risk for inflammatory responses.”

“People and pets are advised to avoid areas recently sprayed for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes until the solution dries to avoid acute effects, which, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, can include numbness and itching with contact. Breathing in bifenthrin can be an irritant and eating it is a no-no. So if you have a toddler running around your backyard, pulling grass and leaves, and putting them in his or her mouth, it’s probable that they are ingesting some pesticide. Spray drift can be an issue and water body contamination is to be avoided. Pets can experience acute effects as well, including vomiting, reduced activity, and partial paralysis.” [Source:

So, here I sit on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, within feet of water and marshlands–a glorious natural landscape–wondering what it will take for us to stop this senseless march toward destruction. When I came in the door, I scrubbed my face and downed copious amounts of water to get the smell and feel of pesticides off of me. But, I have no doubt that every day I’m being inundated by these chemicals coming at me from any number of sources. I don’t want to fight a losing battle. I want to win this one and I’m begging you to join the push back against the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Organic farmers, with whom I’ve spoken, are certain the pesticides that non-organic farmers are using are finding their way into the food supply. A neighboring oncologist here opines that many of the cancers he’s treating can be traced back to pesticide exposure. His wife, who is a beekeeper, reports that she’s seeing a reduction in the bee population. She reasons the bees are being destroyed by pesticides.

Yesterday, I came across a post on Facebook warning folks not to purchase plants treated with a particular class of neuro-active insecticide. Alongside the alert, was a photograph of a flower next to the reverse side of a plant card from a home improvement store noting that the plant was treated with neonicotinoids. Below was wording that, I presume, was meant to assuage any fears: the pesticide had been approved by the EPA.

These nerve-agent pesticides act on insects’ central nervous systems and are increasingly blamed for problems with bee colonies. They are believed to disorient a bee so it can’t find it’s way back to the hive. If it does make it to the hive, it spreads the insecticide to the rest of the population. A few weeks ago, after nearly two years of pressure from the public, Lowe’s Home Improvement announced that it will, at last, begin phasing out neonicotinoid pesticides.

According to Lowe’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report: “To support pollinator health,” the company is taking the following actions: “Including greater organic and non-neonic product selections; phasing out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available; [and] working with growers to eliminate the use of neonic pesticides on bee-attractive plants we sell . . . ” [Source:

Fifty three years ago, Rachel Carson in her prescient book, Silent Spring, described “the control of nature,” as a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.” She wrote Silent Spring, she said, because she had discovered “that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.”

“As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life—a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways . . . Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.”

Fifty three years ago, Carson sounded the warning. FIFTY THREE YEARS AGO! Just how great a catastrophe has to befall us before we will, at last, stop this needless destruction? Educate yourself. Read labels before you buy. Buy organic and be certain the “organic” IS organic. Stop using pesticides indiscriminately. Look for and buy safe, nature-friendly products. Make your voice heard with local growers, farmers’ markets, and stores where plants and pesticides are sold. Project forward the ultimate results of your individual actions and corporate actions. Begin TODAY.