Updated: Jul 29
Invention: what do you think of when you hear that word? Cell phones, computers, airplanes, cars, electricity—[snoring] probably lost you already. But if you take a look around your house, you'll realize that almost EVERYTHING there is a human invention--except for you, your companion animals (and I’m not so sure about some of those Labradoodles), food, some house plants, your seashell collection, and some little creatures you don't know are there.
Your house contains big breakthrough inventions like metal, and many smaller inventions made from that, like nails and door knobs. Glass, and windows made from glass. Paper, invented thousands of years ago, and Kleenex. I have no clue how to make the inventions in my home. Dye in paint. Drywall. Lamps. Dental floss. Vacuum cleaners. Plastic—it seemed like a great idea at the time and has a ton of uses, but now we realize it's bad for the environment.
Inventions are all around us, and whether they were invented 5,000 years ago or this year, every single one of them was dreamed up by some clever, creative person who decided things were not quite good enough the way they were, and he or she had the confidence to try to make them better. Sometimes an inventor doesn't get the credit—somebody else with a similar idea does. Sometimes inventors die broke and unhappy without succeeding. Society is often unkind to creative people.
WHY INVENTORS WORK IN THEIR GARAGES
In school, "Invention" isn't usually a subject. Most of us are taught skills that will hopefully help us get a job, which is important, but we're not taught how to be inventive, so inventors tend to be self-taught, which is probably why there are so many stories about people inventing things in their garages and basements. The rest of us are surprised when something new comes along, and then we adapt to it almost instantly and forget that it wasn't always around.
Those of us who care about animals and nature, with good reason, tend to be suspicious of new inventions, because sometimes, they're bad for the environment, bad for animals, and bad for people. Right now, those of us who care about animals are especially sad about medical advances because so many animals are senselessly tortured and killed in the development of these products. It's up to all of us to change this system, to gain enough public support to compel lawmakers and drug companies to switch to practices that don't harm animals. We're all trying, and it's taking decades, but someday, hopefully, it will happen.
Inventions can be used for good or bad purposes, because there are good people, and there are selfish and greedy people, and there are desperate people just trying to survive. That's a reason to try to stop bad people and improve desperate conditions, not to stop creativity. Unless we live in a cave, we use human inventions every single day, all day, whether begrudgingly, unconsciously, or enthusiastically.
BEING INVENTIVE FOR THE ANIMALS
600 Million Dogs founder Alex Pacheco was instrumental in the founding of the animal rights movement and in inspiring countless people to help animals. A social movement is a type of invention, like democracy, law, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Even more important than physical inventions. People cared about animals, sort of, but not ENOUGH. Caring about animals more than ever before was a Big Idea, new at that time, and he was a major influencer.
But let's just go back to inventing STUFF for now. At 600 Million Dogs, the goal is not to think of a breakthrough invention. The idea and methods of preventing reproduction have been around for centuries—no, actually, thousands of years—thank you, Wikipedia. Since then, the changes have been incremental (the old expression for that was "building a better mousetrap"—ugh). Anyhow, these incremental changes were things like improvements in the safety of spay/neuter surgery (accomplished by tubal ligation and vasectomy in humans), the human birth control pill invented in 1960, barrier methods, and Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives that last several years but allow people to change their minds.
Obviously, birth control is already a thing. 600's task is simply to hire people who are inventive, who have a proven record of innovation--multiple patents, education, experience, brains, and creativity--and to get these people to complete the Spay and Neuter Cookie.
600 Million Dogs is not trying to build the transporter on the starship Enterprise; they are trying to develop one product that safely stops reproduction and is easy to administer to stray dogs and cats. That should be easier than bringing a damaged or cancerous organ back to life, as medical science often tries to do. There are lots of inventive people, though you probably only know the names of a few of them (in contrast to the hundreds of Hollywood celebrities you know all about). These inventive people just need to get something—a salary, basically—to motivate them to give this issue their attention.
SPAY/NEUTER SURGERY: NOT HELPING ENOUGH STRAYS
600 Million Dogs is not in any way ignoring the ongoing tragic situation with dog and cat overpopulation when they spend precious, limited donations to try to come up with something newer and better. Exactly the opposite. Although surgical spay/neuter works, it only reaches a small fraction of the animals who need it, even when people are using it as fast as they can, since most of the animals who need it are strays in areas that can't afford effective spay/neuter programs. There's a lot of room for improvement.
Dog and cat overpopulation is a problem that humans created, and it needs solving. The animals don't know why they're suffering. It's humanity's fault. It's humanity's responsibility to right this wrong. I think everyone who cares about animals agrees about this. We just disagree on how to go about it, and unfortunately we don't have billions of dollars among us, so we argue about how to spend it.
DON'T BE SATISFIED WITH THE SAME OLD THING
Older people remember ice boxes instead of refrigerators. If they had decided ice boxes were perfectly fine, we'd still be hauling blocks of ice around. If people thought open fires were good enough, the stove wouldn't have been invented.
How many inventions, big and small, are in my house? If you count the minor ones, probably thousands. Just for fun, I'll take a trip around and name a few:
Clipboard, flashlight, sponge, baby gate, door hinge, knife, screwdriver, purse, refrigerator magnet, flip-top trash can, light switch, sink, venetian blind, couch, dish rack, pot, carpet, sneakers, closet, toaster oven, leash hook, pillow, glasses, key, stapler, clock, radio, pencil, Rolodex, envelope, stamp, money, credit card, rubber band, bicycle tire pump, washing machine, dryer, hot water heater, heater/air conditioner, cup, fire alarm, railing, tile, toilet, photo, painting, chandelier, DVD, circuit breaker, paper bag, hammer, dish rack, vinyl floor, broom, soap, cooler, pot holder, box, high-speed blender, zipper, button, mattress, rope, scale, thermometer, bicycle…
Band-Aid, glue, tape, pockets, drawer, twist-tie, fireplace, carpet sweeper, rolling pin, cutting board, folding table, wheels, books, frisbee, tennis ball, sheet music, wood, swivel chair, pen, copier, roof, water filtration system, garbage disposal, mirror, coat rack, gloves, ceiling fan, hose, rake, shovel, stepstool, brick, screen, drill, funnel, dolly, windshield ice scraper, saw, scissors, plate, clothes hanger, belt, fire extinguisher, air vent, needle, raincoat, balloon, figurine, cotton face mask, toilet paper, toothbrush, and no longer in my house but in my fond childhood memories: piano, ping-pong table, pogo stick, troll doll, Hula hoop, Wiffle ball and bat. Whew.
SMART PEOPLE ARE A DIME A DOZEN. INNOVATORS ARE RARE.
That's what makes me optimistic about what's possible when there are creative people like Alex Pacheco on the case. I have a lot of respect for inventors and their creations. We need them, and most of all, the animals need them. It's up to all of us to make sure new inventions are used not to hurt animals, but to help them.