Canadian Furries Become Accidental Ambassadors to Syrian Refugee Kids

Convention attendees in animal suits were an exciting surprise for the newly arrived children.

Photo via Twitter user @LiveitRivet

Here’s a study in contrasts for you! Remember at the end of last year, in the wake of the tragic terror attacks in Paris, when 30 Republican governors in the U.S. said they would not welcome Syrian refugees into their states? Yeah. That was a terrible example of what many of them would surely refer to as “being good Christians.”

Canadians, on the other hand, have handled the situation very differently. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took office in October, personally greeted a group of refugees who recently arrived in British Columbia. Trudeau has committed to accepting 25,000 refugees, and last weekend a small number of them were welcomed by yet another open-armed Canadian community: furries.

In a delightful bit of chance, a group of refugees was put up at a hotel in Vancouver, B.C., on the same weekend that it hosted the fifth annual VancouFur convention, where the furry fandom gathered to connect through their shared appreciation for anthropomorphized animals.

Reports have come in indicating VancouFur’s desire to be sensitive toward the newly arrived Syrians and ensure that “each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe,” minding the fact that “this is likely to be a major shock to them.”

But fortunately, little kids don’t have the ingrained normative biases that so many adults do, and many of the Syrian children, in fact, loved interacting with the fur-suited convention-goers. Just imagine yourself at age 9, displaced from your home amidst conflict and suddenly in a completely new country, and one of the first things you see is a group of man-size dogs and rabbits walking around your temporary home. That’s basically like having Disneyland’s Storybook Land show up in your hotel lobby. The furries got to immerse themselves in role-play for a young audience, and the kids got to make fantastical friends for an afternoon. Everyone wins!

The movie Zootopia has recently landed in the news for its smash box-office performance and stellar reviews. But it’s also gotten some attention for Disney’s marketing tactics. BuzzFeed reported that the Mouse House was deliberately targeting the movie at furries, which has put the community back in the news as a kind of sexual fetish community.

In reality, furries are just a community of enthusiasts. Some take the culture more seriously than others, spending thousands of dollars on elaborate role-playing costumes. Some like to explore their sexual identity through it, and others just love the art and culture around it. So it’s a lot like Comic-Con, just with a specific animal focus. Gizmodo even published a letter from a reader last week, under the headline “In Defense of Furries,” that outlined what the furry community actually is, as opposed to what everyone else has decided to focus on—like the sex stuff.

“The definition that unites us all is that we all have some fascination for anthropomorphic animals to a certain extent,” the reader explained. “Inevitably, some people will come for the NSFW aspects such as sex and fetishes just how others come for the art, music, and dancing.”

So, in case you were wondering if the VancouFur attendees were just hanging out with the kids while they took a break from their backroom LARPing sexcapades, the answer is no. And you never know—if the John Kasichs and Ted Cruzes of the world donned fursuits of their own and hugged some Syrian refugee children, maybe they’d feel differently about telling those kids, “You’re not welcome here.”

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less