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A stark snapshot of nature loss

Richard Black | 10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

While spending a few days off last week with the young primates closest to my own heart, I neglected to flag up here a new report on the threats facing various other primate species around the world.

Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2006-8 is compiled by specialists from universities and conservation organisations (co-ordinated by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, the International Primatological Society and Conservation International), and does pretty much what the title indicates - listing the 25 primate species and sub-species considered by that battery of experts to be at most imminent danger of extinction.

Spider monkeys

Some of the species listed by will be pretty familiar to everyone, such as the Sumatran orangutan.

Silky sifakBut others are considerably less familiar and more exotically-named: the silky sifaka, the rondo dwarf galago, and Miss Waldron's red colobus - a named bestowed by its discoverer, British collector Willoughby P Lowe, in 1933 in honour of a research assistant about whom he was thinking...well, we can only guess.

If you want to see or hear Miss Waldron's red colobus in the forests of Cote d'Ivoire or Ghana, you may be out of luck. Not a single live specimen has been spotted since 1993.

Conservationists are always reluctant to declare a species extinct but the odds of this one still being around, the report concludes, are pretty long.

If you're interested in nature's variegated forms, it's worth visiting the picture gallery supplied by the report's authors - a few of the entries are dotted around this post.

But perhaps more interesting are the reasons why Miss Waldron's red colobus is perhaps already beyond salvation and why the other 24 may be heading in the same direction.

They're really simple: loss of habitat, and hunting.

Take the golden-headed langur of Vietnam. Now, it's only found on Cat Ba Island, on the edge of the spectacular Ha Long Bay.

Once the langur roamed over many other of the islands there, according to accounts from local people.

But by 2000, hunting had reduced the population to just 53 individuals; and even though hunting has now been stopped, its habitat is broken into such small fragments that the current population of 65 exists in seven separate groups, five of which are all female and so will not yield any young.

Cat Ba now does a lively tourist trade - to quote the Lonely Planet guide, the number of hotel rooms has expanded 20-fold in a decade. Apparently there is now talk of an airport.

And why not? I spent a couple of days in Ha Long Bay some years ago: the vista that nature has carved from the limestone is extraordinary, particularly just after dawn when the hills appear to float on the spectral morning mists.

But no creature that needs space and trees and a natural soundscape can survive such an onslaught.

There is a conservation project on the island and so far it is keeping the langurs alive. But perhaps this is an indication of their true status - they are living on the terms that humanity dictates.

TarsiusRegular readers who have issues with the notion of anthropogenic climate change will probably like to know that this is not mentioned in the report at all as a cause of the primates' decline.

And that's not unexpected. As I've mentioned before on these pages, when you look through the Red List of Threatened Species - not just for primates, but for everything - it is loss of habitat that emerges again and again as the number one issue driving plants and animals towards extinction, encapsulated most spectacularly in places such as Ha Long Bay (which is not to say that specialists don't expect climate change to become a more important issue in time).

When you look at where the 25 species are clustered and think about the progress of human societies around the world, something else that probably won't be surprising is that East Asia emerges as one of the "hotspots".

The other continent well represented is Africa. That's partly because it has a naturally high number of primate species to start with, but also because human population growth and deforestation rates are high, and in areas where the effective rule of law is suspect (Madagascar, recently) or torn by conflict (much of West Africa the last few decades) hunting, poaching and illegal logging inevitably soar.

In one sense, Primate in Peril tells us little that we don't already know about our world. But it does throw into stark relief the trends that are affecting biodiversity and nature across the planet, and is well worth a read.

This is the family, after all, to which we belong.

Comments

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  • 1. At 11:45am on 24 Feb 2010, eddhind wrote:

    The tarsier has been around for 45 million years! Would be very upsetting to see it extinct! Hopefully conservation and changes in attitude towards habitat use can save many of these species. It is their earth just as much as ours!

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  • 2. At 12:11pm on 24 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    we really need to find an effective way to protect whole ecosystems. it's pretty pointless keeping a species going if its habitat no longer exists unless you want a zoo exhibit or a pet (you may as well just extract some dna and stick it in a freezer).

    however, whatever is implemented is going to be, in effect, wealth distribution since most of the threatened hotspots are in poorer parts of the world which are trying to 'develop'. and that topic does not go down too well with many (often influential) individuals.

    so i'm not optimistic. but still hoping we'll eventually realise that globally, we need to fight/compete less and cooperate more.

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  • 3. At 12:53pm on 24 Feb 2010, pandatank wrote:

    Thanks for this Richard. I suspect that when we finally wipe ourselves off the planet, our epithet will also read "loss of habitat"

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  • 4. At 1:06pm on 24 Feb 2010, Omar wrote:

    Many Tarsier population still exist in some parts of Philippines, to name one is Bohol, Philippines. One of the tourist attraction there which is protected by the locals and the Government.

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  • 5. At 1:12pm on 24 Feb 2010, Ted Daniels wrote:

    Allll Right! Just one more generation and those creepy things'll all be gone. Nothing but Us!

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  • 6. At 1:40pm on 24 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    "But no creature that needs space and trees and a natural soundscape can survive such an onslaught." (Richard Black)

    From the Sierra Club in Calgary - just this morning:

    "Alberta’s grizzly bear is a threatened species that needs special protection. In 2002, Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC), representing scientists, universities, First Nations, industries, hunters, conservationists and ranchers, recommended that the grizzly bear be listed as a Threatened species under Alberta’s Wildlife Act. Unfortunately, the government so far has failed to implement this recommendation and Alberta’s grizzlies continue to suffer from a wide array of threats."
    ------------------

    Not primates, but "grizzly habitat has continued to be lost or damaged due to industrial and residential development and motorized backcountry access."

    Always the same.

    - Manysummits -


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  • 7. At 1:59pm on 24 Feb 2010, Rustigjongens wrote:

    Wonderful photos, what a shame that so many species are being hunted into history.

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  • 8. At 2:07pm on 24 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Indigenous peoples of the Americas and islands also were reduced because of "loss of habitat". As Europeans colonized the local populations were displaced and often exposed to diseases that were fatal.
    Development has been the non-stop model throughout the world. In the Western countries the old is replaced by the new and planned decline has become the model. The idea of structures lasting many years is over. This expansion is driven by money. We have yet to develop a sustainable model for any area. Governments rely on growth for taxes and that drives development and the laws and regulations that encourage this process and the usually associated corruption. Even though the consequences are apparent they are ignored. Large housing projects are built around cities and the roads do not support the traffic and the citizens complain and the pollution increases. This is an obvious effect, yet the process continues. Development requires natural resources and those natural resources support the wildlife therein. Urban environments distance the individual from nature. Like the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the Moslem conquest of India and the destroying of the arts representing images, the destruction of the Imperial Library and Summer Palace by Western governments during the Opium War in China, record the history of ignorance by human beings. Immediate gains are always presented with higher values and the past as lower values even though the projections are always questionable. Human beings have a much higher opinion of themsevles than history supports. We now face the consequences of the industrial revolution.

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  • 9. At 2:11pm on 24 Feb 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    A fully functioning habitat has the inate capability to regenerate itself. What prevents full functionality? One of the most intelligent species on the face of Mother Earth - homo sapiens.
    E.g. In Central Africa, the loss of species like gorillas, chimps, & elephants reduces the ability for regeneration e.g. the loss of North American migratory birds reduces the ability for regeneration,
    How?
    Seed dispersal declines: The last figure I could find was @ 2.5% annually (and that was 1997).

    Humans go deep into rainforests; they carry their greed and/or hunting into the darkest corners of the world.
    They encounter "new" microorganisms. Some become carriers. When and if these microscopic death-dealers are released, they could devastate humankind. I’m not just talking about mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria, or water-borne diseases like cholera. I’m talking about things far worse than Ebola.

    Disease propagates in "artificialty" - like dams, drainage ditches, irrigation canals and those tire tracks left by western transport. Out of these artifical wounds in mother-earth come vengeful diseases, diseases as yet unknown and unnamed. Humankind is playing with something far more dangerous than fire.
    Malaria has killed 25% of the Yanomani in Brazil and Venezuela.
    Malaria is becoming drug-resistant.
    Some strains in Southeast Asia have proven resistent to 20 or more anti-malarial drugs. What if the climate gets warmer? Will malaria distribution change?

    I have often said that what we arrogant, greedy, thoughtless humans need is an invasion of aliens, aliens that
    - hunt us, eat us, rip off our skins, club us onto death, play taxidermy with our body and hang our trophy-head on walls
    - destroy our habitat so that we hunger and thirst, and have no place to lay our head
    - yank us from our families & habitat so that other aliens can gawk at us in zoos,
    - use us for experimentation, to test their new drugs. Whether we live or mercifully die is of no consequence to them. Just another carcass on the garbage heap
    - cut off bits and pieces of our bodies because some of these aliens believe, powdered (whatever) will increase their virility.

    Why did these aliens come here?
    To rape Mother Earth. What becomes of her children, what do these aliens care? There are billions of planets in the universe, and tomorrow is another day.
    This must be the way "primates" look at us.

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  • 10. At 2:30pm on 24 Feb 2010, George wrote:

    Once again, a useless study. There are too many humans on this planet. Individual species do not have to be studied in order to find out why they are going extinct, and nothing can be done to stop that, other than human population reduction in the order of over 50%.
    If you will not advocate that, don't bother me with your reports.

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  • 11. At 2:43pm on 24 Feb 2010, JRWoodman wrote:


    The problem is not just about extinctions. Managing to save a small colony might make us feel good but it provides only a limited long-term solution.

    People should realise that when a population of a species falls below a certain threshold -- which varies, but is frequently in the tens of thousands -- the diversity of genetic material necessary for a species long-term survival and evolution is under threat. Breeding below this threshold might appear to give short term results, but in-breeding weakens natural defences against disease. This is evidenced in some of the 'manufactured' breeds of dog.

    Many of the species that were dwindling and we think we've saved will still be lucky to survive long-term.

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  • 12. At 3:34pm on 24 Feb 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Pandatank at #3

    I don't know if it was deliberate or not, but your "epithet" instead of "epitaph" seems rather appropriate!

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  • 13. At 3:39pm on 24 Feb 2010, Kingmuzza wrote:

    I'm in 2 minds about this issue.

    On the one hand, primate species that I've never heard of are going extinct. It happens, but perhaps in the greater scheme of things, humanity has more important things to worry about. Primates get attention because of a cuteness factor, like dolphins and whales do, but species going extinct is part of the natural order of things. Others have taken over their habitat, and so there is no longer place for them on the planet. It's not a nice thing, but business is business, and its really nothing personal.

    On the other hand (I have different fingers) - Although I'm a sympathizer on the whole AGW issue, its nice (and important) that "green" issues don't focus exclusively on CO2 emissions. Perhaps CO2 is important, but people (the media and big government especially)focus on CO2 to the detriment of a plethora of other environmental issues. Habitat destruction; local pollution; landfills filling up; resources running out; etc; etc. These are issues that directly effect our (personal) local environment. And they are issues that the average person can be dealing with personally. Instead, the focus is on CO2, and the rest of the problem is pushed aside and forgotten.

    CO2 emissions and global warming are concepts that can be abstracted to a level of theoretical or academic interest. Habitat destruction is something that can be seen in your neighbourhood, and which you (as an individual) have more chance of affecting change to. You might not save the cute orangutang unless you live somewhere exotic, but what about the chameleons and butterflies and long-nosed hedgehoggy type things that wander your garden (and neighbourhood) in the middle of the night.

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  • 14. At 4:15pm on 24 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    Richard: "...it is loss of habitat that emerges again and again as the number one issue driving plants and animals towards extinction..."

    And sometimes it all planned and discussed and approved and close to home...

    Population density ... n/sqr mile
    ------------------- ----------
    World (land)........ 118
    UK .................... 660
    Sweden .............. 54
    Swedish Wolves .... 0.0012

    0.0012 wolf/sqr mile = 1 pack of 5 wolves per 4000 sqr mile.

    Just how much "habitat" do they think a wolf needs?

    I especially like one of the justifications (4th paragraph up from end)...

    "Mr Gloersson, of the hunting association, said: 'We have a lot of problems with wolves - in reindeer areas, with livestock, and for hunters they kill our valuable dogs.'"

    Oh, I see; you go out hunting with dogs, and then the dogs gets attacked by wolves.

    Hang on... why did you go out hunting?

    And just how much livestock could the 210 wolves (now remaining) consume in one year compared to the country's 9 million people. If they eat as much as us, then 0.0023%. Wow, that bad?

    And nice to see that when then culled the 27 unlucky (?) ones, as many as 10,000 hunters signed up to go out and do the deed. That's 10,000 who weren't afraid of losing their dogs I guess.

    /davblo

    PS.
    JRWoodman #11: "People should realise that when a population of a species falls below a certain threshold -- which varies, but is frequently in the tens of thousands -- the diversity of genetic material necessary for a species long-term survival and evolution is under threat."

    How do you rate the chances for the 210 wolves we have left?

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  • 15. At 4:56pm on 24 Feb 2010, Kamboshigh wrote:

    #10 please start your campaign by doing the right thing by yourself first.

    Richard interesting stuff, but the massive jump by some comments to habitat distruction is very wide of the mark when it comes to alot of these wonderful animals. From the link you gave most seem to very specialised animals living in very small areas with specialised diets and requirements.

    Now I am not saying so what they need protecting and supporting, what especially got me is how would Johnny Morris and Dotty feel with the plight of Madagasar.

    The thing that is really important to remember is that it is the local people on the ground we need to support (not education)to preserve these animals, in a lot of cases these animals are hunted for food, or the habitat is cut down to provide heating and cooking methods.

    That is not transferring great sums of money to the third world because the money never gets through. I totally beleive that by creating tourist attractions out of these areas with the proper support to the local economies will result in a positive result. From personnel experience, it is a massive up hill struggle but it can be done.

    A point about Miss Waldorn's red thingy which is a sub-species. First beleived discovered in 1933 maybe you are right of said prof. might have had his mind on other things, but it appears they are one of the main carriers of EBOLA. Perhaps they died out because of the virus last known report hearing (not WIKI)was 2005 last seen dead specimen 2001.

    For all the money (millions) these NGO's have collected or granted they could buy up these areas and protect them, why don't they do it?

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  • 16. At 5:01pm on 24 Feb 2010, b5happy wrote:


    #10 - "Once again, a useless study. There are too many humans on this planet. Individual species do not have to be studied in order to find out why they are going extinct, and nothing can be done to stop that, other than human population reduction in the order of over 50%.
    If you will not advocate that, don't bother me with your reports."

    I believe one could refer to this as 'piss and vinegar'...

    Cuts to the quick!

    How do we 'bottle it'?




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  • 17. At 5:10pm on 24 Feb 2010, He With An Awesome Name wrote:

    At 1:12pm on 24 Feb 2010, Ted Daniels wrote:
    Allll Right! Just one more generation and those creepy things'll all be gone. Nothing but Us!

    If all we're left with is selfish fools like you, then I'd rather go extinct before that.

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  • 18. At 5:18pm on 24 Feb 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    As people in undeveloped countries are being driven by increasing population into conflict with nature, that nature gets trashed, only people in developed countries care about nature. You can try paying these people not to trash their nature but they will just take your money and still trash their nature. It is time for the conservation movement to forget about its largely discredited anthropogenic climate change position and concentrate on the big issue, population control.

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  • 19. At 5:41pm on 24 Feb 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @Richard,

    Very insightful article, thank you.

    I think you hit on it briefly here - and a couple of posters picked up on it - as well as a previous article you wrote earlier this year.

    The key in my mind is habitat - without saving and restoring natural habitats and ecosystems - biodiversity has little hope - as do the monkeys. The key I believe in Africa in particular is development - reduce the need to cut forests for sustenance farming and fuel for heating and cooking.

    This would have a lot of other beneficial impacts in my view. Well fed people have much less tendency to want to make war. More time for education, reduced mortality rates, etc. All lead to less strife and ultimately less corruption and better enforcement of the rule of law.

    At this point, it would seem - it is a catch 22, a vicious cycle. One that we need work hard to break. The key (as Rossglory pointed out) is really habitat preservation and restoration. But how to do that - that is the question.

    Cheers - and thanks for the article.

    Kealey

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  • 20. At 5:56pm on 24 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    Smiffie #18: "only people in developed countries care about nature"

    You mean because they haven't got much left....

    /davblo

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  • 21. At 6:02pm on 24 Feb 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @Smiffie #18

    I agree with you - to a point - paying people not to 'trash' their natural habitats will not work.

    However, I do believe the only answer to curbing population growth (I will abstain from the term 'population control') is development and education. As peoples become developed, as we have in the west, population growth has declined and education has improved (as a result of development, people have to learn...). Ultimately it leads to more conservation efforts as people realize the value of those natural habitats and can enjoy them.

    Development also drastically reduces the 'ecological footprint' of the individual. As I mentioned previously - it requires ten times more land per person in the undeveloped world - just to live, than in the developed world. This is certainly the key to both population explosion and erosion of natural habitats.

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 22. At 6:23pm on 24 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #19 LarryKealey wrote:

    "Well fed people have much less tendency to want to make war."

    I'm not really disputing this, but let's bear it in mind that in the UK there is an entire class of people whose lives revolve around killing things. As children, they get guns as toys and kill animals. In public school, they get uniforms and go on army manoeuvres. In adult life, they become officers and conduct real-life wars. In their spare time, they hunt foxes. And they're well-fed!

    But seriously...

    "More time for education, reduced mortality rates, etc. All lead to less strife and ultimately less corruption and better enforcement of the rule of law."

    I think the most important by-product of widespread wealth is not more time for education, etc., but a stronger biological pressure to invest more in each child. This makes people in wealthy countries have fewer children, and spurs them on to give each child the best they can provide, including education, health care, etc.. Fewer children means smaller human population, which usually leads to less destruction of habitats.

    That's an optimist's point of view, anyway. The jury's still out, but there has been a very encouraging drop in population growth all over the Western world that seems correlated with increasing wealth.

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  • 23. At 6:25pm on 24 Feb 2010, steveta_uk wrote:

    Although this subject isn't directly related to global warming, as Richard pointed out, there is still the indirect link in that large amounts of land are being converted into farmland to provide food due to previous wood producing areas now producing biofuels.

    So the AGW scaremongering is partly responsible for the habitat destruction, which to me seems a much more serious and immediate problem.

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  • 24. At 7:10pm on 24 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    LarryKealey #21: "As peoples become developed, as we have in the west, population growth has declined and education has improved (as a result of development, people have to learn...). Ultimately it leads to more conservation efforts as people realize the value of those natural habitats and can enjoy them."

    ...and by the time they decide to do something about it it is too late.

    /davblo

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  • 25. At 7:19pm on 24 Feb 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @bowmanthebard

    Agreed, but I think that perhaps in a sense, we are both right.

    Certainly, in the west, we have a warrior class - as we always have. But we don't make war to expand our borders or because our neighbors have food and we do not.

    I also agree with the notion that we invest more in fewer children to give them the 'best we can' - but that is a direct result of lower infant mortality rates and the reduced need for so many children needed as hands to maintain the homestead. This was the first result of development.

    While the cause and effects are not necessarily well understood - I think we are in agreement that development is the key to tackling population explosion.

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 26. At 7:42pm on 24 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #25 LarryKealey wrote:

    "I think we are in agreement that development is the key to tackling population explosion."

    Yes, we agree on that.

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  • 27. At 7:51pm on 24 Feb 2010, Peter317 wrote:

    The Panorama programme (as well as the article on this website) about deforestation and palm oil, made no mention of the fact that most of the huge increase in demand for palm oil is down to the push for biofuels.

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  • 28. At 8:00pm on 24 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    There is a tone of unjustified superiorty in much to this. Do you really believe that people whose very existence depends on productivity of the land, destroys that land. My, you people are sheltered. Now, what governments and developers do is different and tied to multi-national investors and firms. Wipe the film of education from your eyes and see the world as it is and not with your ignorant prejudices.

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  • 29. At 8:51pm on 24 Feb 2010, jazbo wrote:

    Ah now we get to the truth and some lights are switching on in the heads of the AGW nuts.

    All these endangered species survived previous climate change and ice ages.

    But they are being wiped out by our population explosion.

    Now which should we be more worried about and devoting our energies to addressing?

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  • 30. At 8:54pm on 24 Feb 2010, jazbo wrote:

    Richard, are you seriously blaming the decline of native Madagascan species on politics?

    How about population explosion?
    How about prioritising of growing bio fuel crops which is stopping regeneration because they are chasing the dollars in the madness of AGW theory?

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  • 31. At 8:57pm on 24 Feb 2010, jazbo wrote:

    8. At 8:00pm on 24 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:
    There is a tone of unjustified superiorty in much to this. Do you really believe that people whose very existence depends on productivity of the land, destroys that land.

    Well actually yes they are:

    http://blackswhitewash.com/2010/01/15/poor-land-management-no-its-climate-change-killing-kenya/

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  • 32. At 9:04pm on 24 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #22 bowmanthebard
    "Fewer children means smaller human population, which usually leads to less destruction of habitats."

    not denying that human population is an issue but it's not humans per se rather their ecosystem footprint. if we need western development and wealth to reduce the population we will be toast anyway. it takes a lot of 'habitat destruction' to keep your average brit (including me) in the style to which he/she's become accustumed.

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  • 33. At 9:15pm on 24 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Jasonsceptic:

    You can apparently read but fail in comprehension. Your linked article does not support what you say. Read into things what you already believe and you will always find what you want.

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  • 34. At 11:02pm on 24 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    For some reason this thread of Richard's has hit a nerve.

    Manys excellent posts - or at least ones that I truly felt came from the heart.

    How if I try something - a snapshot in time - this time - our time:

    \\\ Thoughts at a Coffee Shop /// (this morning, in Calgary)

    1) The owner of the coffee shop was talking to two well-to-do businessman, one in new home construction, and another who had just returned from Detroit - money talking to money.

    Listening to them, observing their mannerisms, the tone in their voices - I thought, these guys have no clue as to the geophysical situation - none whatsoever of any substance.

    Opportunistic hunter-gatherers - in a different time - our time
    -------------

    2) Toyota:

    Mr. Toyoda is in the papers, and is testifying before the US Congress, on how Toyota lost its way.

    Growth over quality employees and vehicles, according to Mr. Toyoda.

    Quality, Quality, Quality - Robert Pirsig, "Zen & the Art of Mororcycle Maintenance"
    ----------

    3) Grizzlies moving into Polar Bear territory in Canada, around Churchill, Manitoba, again!

    "Tipping Point", by James Hansen; first words of the essay: "Animals are on the run. Plants are migrating too." (see his website)

    4) Utica Shale Gas southwest of Quebec City (Canada)- bonanza!; and the Marcellus field in Pennsylvannia;

    - possibly 30 years of supply at total US demand - unconventional fossil fuel resource - requiring horizontal drilling and extensive costly fracturing of the reservoirs.

    "Stupid to the Last Drop" (a book). We are going to go after every last bit of fossil fuel, aren't we? The nightmare scenario.
    ----------

    Conclusion:

    There are indeed primates in peril - \\\ Us ///

    - Manysummits -



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  • 35. At 11:24pm on 24 Feb 2010, Sam wrote:

    It's sad to see all the nature are endangered by Us!
    Totoaba
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Totoaba
    Conservation status

    Critically Endangered (IUCN 3.1)
    Scientific classification
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Actinopterygii
    Order: Perciformes
    Family: Sciaenidae
    Genus: Totoaba
    Species: T. macdonaldi
    Binomial name
    Totoaba macdonaldi
    (Gilbert, 1890)

    The totoaba or totuava (Totoaba macdonaldi) is a marine fish of the drum family (Sciaenidae) that is indigenous to the northern half of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Formerly abundant and subject to an intensive fishery, the totoaba has become rare, and is listed on CITES[1], the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species[2], and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).[3]

    The totoaba can grow up to two metres in length and 100 kg in weight. Their diet consists of finned fish and crustaceans. While individuals may live up to fifteen years, sexual maturity is usually not reached until the fish are six or seven years old. As totoaba spawn only once a year, population growth is slow, with a minimum population doubling time of four-and-a-half to fifteen years.[1] The totoaba spawn in the Colorado River delta, which also serves as a nursery for the young fish. The diversion of water from the Colorado River within the United States leaves little or no fresh water to reach the delta, greatly altering the environment in the delta, and the salinity of the upper Sea of Cortez. The flow of fresh water to the mouth of the Colorado since the completion of the Hoover and Glen Canyon dams has been only about 4% of the average flow during the period from 1910 to 1920. This is considered to be a major cause of the depletion of the totoaba population

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  • 36. At 11:26pm on 24 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To ghostofsichuam 28:

    Indeed we are sheltered Ghost. And out of touch with Nature, and thus out of touch with ourselves - thus neurotic, perhaps psychopathic.

    How else to describe a 'civilization' that can watch the destruction of its own life support systems without raising an eyebrow?

    I am at a loss. The shale oil article I read this morning caught me by surprise. My consulting firm was expert in horizontal drilling, and now, many years later, in Quebec, my home province, where they don't have any history of oil and gas drilling at all, there is suddenly this catapulting into the fossil fuel business, just downriver of Montreal, where I was born and raised.

    Soon we will be in the Beaufort Sea, driling for oil and gas and perhaps methane clathrates in a seasonally ice-free sea.

    Ghost - this may well result in the worst case scenario - stratified oceans and Hydrogen Sulphide gas bubbling out of a world ocean, under Peter Ward's "Green Sky." That would be a terminal event, for us.

    - Manysummits - trying to smile -

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  • 37. At 11:37pm on 24 Feb 2010, Sam wrote:

    but We have fail too:
    Efforts by the Mexican government to create conservation zones have been hampered by lack of enforcement resources as well as a lack of a political consensus on this issue of conservation of the Gulf. The thousands of miles of coastline are remote and difficult to police, and the politically powerful commercial fishing industry has been slow to embrace even economically viable conservation measures, much less strict measures of conservation. Conservation of the Gulf's fisheries and coastlines is also complicated by a long history of over-capitalization in the sector, and the direct, often negative impacts that conservation measures have on the livelihoods of Mexico's coastal inhabitants. At present, the Mexican government and business interests have promoted a macro-level, tourist development vision for the Gulf, whose impacts on local ecology and society are uncertain

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  • 38. At 11:39pm on 24 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    35 Sam wrote:

    "It's sad
    [...]
    "Totoaba macdonaldi"

    A tragedy too that they don't make fatter fries. The curly fries are grand, but why can't the curly fries be available all the time? Rats!

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  • 39. At 00:29am on 25 Feb 2010, HumanityRules wrote:

    I wonder whether it’s worthwhile beating ourselves up about this.

    The whole of human history has been a process of transforming nature into something that will suit our needs. This process is so far down the line in Europe that in the UK for example there is almost no habitat that can be considered truly natural, that hasn't in some way been shaped by the hand of Man. Many larger mammal species have been pushed out of existence by that process. But what have we got left? My experience is that we still have some extraordinary ‘wild’ regions.

    So how forward for other peoples that wish to tap into the value of some of their wilderness areas? It's probably for the people of Ha Long Bay and others to decide their own futures. As I always emphasise people in such regions still have a long way to go in improvements to their quality of life. Maybe we should just accept that many of those 25 species will not be in existence in a decade or two as a cost for those improvements.

    But we don't have to assume this means that everything is going to hell.

    The fact that we have concepts such as extinction and conservation means that we have the potential to make development as well thought through as possible. Ha Long Bay is listed as a world heritage site and the Vietnam government take environmental control of the region seriously. After all it's not just Richard Black's pounds that is being spent there. I'm not sure there was much thought of conserving the Grey Wolf in the UK in the 18th century while I do think there will be a lot of effort to preserve many of these 25 species.

    I have every expectation that species will continue to become extinct, its part of the natural process, and some of them at the hands of Man. But I'm also confident that many of the natural wonderlands will also continue to exist, reshaped a little by us.

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  • 40. At 00:42am on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To davblo2:

    You are sounding very glum this last while.

    Restricting your commentary.

    I am wondering why?

    Manysummits

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  • 41. At 00:50am on 25 Feb 2010, xtragrumpymike2 wrote:

    Population increase results in demand increase. No need to be PhD to work that one out.
    Demand increase in one direction results in supply decrease in another. Again, I'm only stating the obvious.
    Putting it another way, we all agree on the problem but there is not the same degree of agreement on the solution.
    LarryKeeley suggests that "development" solves the problem.

    (by the way, Larry, for once in total agreement on the previous 'blog'.If only the Ozzy and Kiwi Government had "fired" those shots, then "Sea Shepherd" would not have been motivated to take matters into it's own hands. But that's wishful thinking!)

    There is also much evidence to support that solution.
    BUT..........there is also much evidence to show that this process (development) can backfire on population demography.

    When populations decline (as appears to be happening in South Korea for example, a well developed nation today) along with medical advances, they are getting worried. The old are getting older and there are fewer and fewer "young" coming through.
    Over the border in North Korea, there's a different story. Less developed (but still over 80% households have running water and education is the third largest employment sector) the populations is still on the rise.

    In Singapore, a highly developed Island Nation, hence very land constrained, population growth became a significant problem. Attempts by the Government to remedy the issue also created other unwanted side-effects.

    The simple problem ignores the simple fact. We are talking about people, not robots and what is "sauce for the gander" is not necessarily sauce for the "goose".
    One lesson the West needs to learn is that it is not always the best arbiter for what is best for other parts of the world.
    Don't take any of the above to indicate I am in favour of habitat destruction, I'm just suggesting the solutions are very complex.

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  • 42. At 01:00am on 25 Feb 2010, HumanityRules wrote:

    8. At 2:07pm on 24 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    "In the Western countries the old is replaced by the new and planned decline has become the model. The idea of structures lasting many years is over. This expansion is driven by money."

    I couldn't let this pass. Life for much of the UKs inner city middle classes is very refined in their beautiful 1880s and 1930s semi-detached houses. But life has always been less pleasant for the poorer sections of society. Cheap housing for the poor is a well trodden road. Remember the 1960's estates were built to replace the disgusting slum housing that went before. And its no surprise that much of the 1960's housing has been replaced by cheaply built property. This is not because we can't or don't build fine things today but because we're still happy to unload dross on the poorest. It's a mis-placed belief to think the poor had it better in the olden days.

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  • 43. At 03:14am on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    HumanityRules:

    It seems to me you are confirming what ghostofsichuan has said, rather than refuting it, which is your intention I think:

    The 1880's and the 1930's are not 'now', which is the time Ghost is presumably referring to. (#8)
    -----------------------------

    "In the elder days of Art, Builders wrought with greatest care. Each minute and unseen part; For the Gods see everywhere."

    - The Builders; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

    - Manysummits -

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  • 44. At 03:23am on 25 Feb 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    HumanityRules #42.

    "It's a mis-placed belief to think the poor had it better in the olden days."

    like youself, I couldn't let this pass. ;)

    depends entirely on your definition of "better", in 'the olden days' at least we ('the poor') were allowed to seek solace in drugs and die early, these days it's all po-faced risk avoidance, fascist regimentation and paying taxes 'til you're 75.

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  • 45. At 03:30am on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    HumanityRules - PS to my #43:

    George Monbiot,coincidentally has an interesting and obviously heartfelt piece on the rich. Perhaps not your middle class, but who knows?

    "Bleak Havens"
    Posted February 22, 2010
    How the ultra-rich enslave themselves

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/02/22/bleak-havens/

    - Manysummits -

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  • 46. At 04:22am on 25 Feb 2010, HumanityRules wrote:

    43. At 03:14am on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    No I was talking about present day middle classes living in their lovely older houses. I should have added that they also get the well built city centre luxury apartments.
    We can build nice things just we choose to house the poor in dwellings built with the worst available materials, it is not a product of modern greed it's been going on forever. Ghost's is another post just slamming the modern world and it's perceived immorality.

    Another quote from him "Human beings have a much higher opinion of themsevles than history supports." I suggest a listen to "A History of the World in a Hundred Objects" on Radio4 (or iPlayer). This might suggest why we should appreciate our greatness.

    44. At 03:23am on 25 Feb 2010, jr4412
    Risk assessors are the new priests and H&S manuals are their bibles.

    45. At 03:30am on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits
    I wasn't moved to cry for the rich ;)

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  • 47. At 09:28am on 25 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #44 jr4412

    "depends entirely on your definition of "better"," - i couldn;t agree more! in the 'olden days' the utilitarians (like mill and bentham) thought they had the answer (maximise happiness) and more recently the humanists (before you act think what would happen if everyone acted the same).

    but the real problem is 'better' means different things to different people. currently 'better' in the west means working stupid hours for less and less benefit whilst at the same time destroying the only planet we have. a few people benefit but from my experience most don;t.

    imho, to a large extent life quality comes from expectation and perception. either change your expectations or change your perception i.e. don't just accept the fear mongering, 'dog eat dog', 'you can be a celeb' nonsense in much of the media, and life will probably be a lot better (and you could just help save some ecosystems to boot!).

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  • 48. At 09:39am on 25 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #47 rossglory wrote:

    "utilitarians (like mill and bentham) thought they had the answer (maximise happiness) and more recently the humanists (before you act think what would happen if everyone acted the same).

    "but the real problem is 'better' means different things to different people."

    You're not acccusing Mill of not taking that into account, I trust?

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  • 49. At 10:26am on 25 Feb 2010, eddhind wrote:

    Not a useless study at all!

    Scientists are right to say that habitat loss is the main issue here. Well actually that is a little bit up for dispute. I should imagine unchecked direct hunting of the animals in times gone by may have been a fairly serious factor. Maybe it is just now that habitat loss has become the main factor. HOWEVER, we as scientists (for those of us who are) are often frustrated by how our research fails to spill into the public arena. One of the reasons is habitats just aren't as sexy as monkey or pandas. Reserach such as this by IUCN (especially its Red List) and those programmes where we vote for a single species may seem like poorish ways to do conservation, but they are brilliant ways to transfer sciences worries to the public. The higher profile the better as far as I am concerned.

    @Omar #4 I have indeed been to Bohol, a beautiful place. And I did see tarsiers (although I wasn't a good enough stalker to see any of the wild ones - had to settle for the caged variety for tourists). Do you know if any of the other Philippine islands have tarsiers? I did some work with a group called NFEFI on Negros andthey are doing good work in trying to protect the Visayan deer and other species. Unfortunately species such as the Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon have already become extinct this century.

    @Richard - Liked the "this isn't mainly a global warming blog' warnings in this blog. You have started to sound like Barack Obama and his "this isn't about Democrat vs. Republican" speeches. We must be careful not to put politics before thought/principles/belief or something like that! Warming is a big issue, but certainly not the only one!

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  • 50. At 10:47am on 25 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #48 bowmanthebard

    nope, just that the concept of 'maximum utility' is not even hypothetically calculatable

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  • 51. At 1:24pm on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To eddhind #49:

    Re: "brilliant ways to transfer sciences worries to the public."
    -------------

    This brings up the subject which I alluded to earlier. The public is not spurred to effective action.

    Yes, some progress is made, but we are accustomed now to seeing progress as something slow and incremental - perhaps the International Whaling Commission is a good example.

    I remember reading a book of fiction, on the Celts and the druids in days gone by. The druid was intimately involved on a day to day basis with the community. He drank and revelled with them - that sort of thing. They knew him as a human being, warts and all so to speak, as well as respecting him as a druid.

    I don't know if this was an accurate portrayal, but I do know that the present scientific community does not resemble this portrayal.

    Everyone these days travels in their own little circles.

    Neighborhoods here in Canada are zoned for the different classes, and in addition, everyones friend is the TV, where you can watch your cute little primate going extinct, and wring your hands.

    This is not the effective action I would like to see, either on habitat loss or on any of the other environmental issues which are destroying our future.

    There has to be another way.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 52. At 1:37pm on 25 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Manysummits:

    The world it what it is. There appears to be an awakening of people to the knowledge that big business and banking run the governments and the people are just consumers of products and payers of taxes. It is interesting to hear this from both the right and the left. I think what the banks and investment firm did was criminal and that was followed by the governments burdening the taxpayers with bailing out private companies...interesting how the right wing in the US sees healthcare as socialist but bailing out private investors not. As long as there are vehicles running on gasoline they will dig for oil. The projections of availability seem no deterent even when faced with growing demand. It is always about short term gain.

    HamanityRules: I agree about low income housing. Those areas are always laid to waste when a developer sees a potential for higher income homes or commerical development and the local governments are always standing by to lend a hand. I was thinking more about the overall building and how outside of new bank builidngs, some public buildings and museums, not much is built that in a decade or two will not be subject to demolition. The older homes you mention that are owned by the middle class are worthy because of when they were built and quality mattered, even for the middle class. Look at any map of an urban area and see the expansion over the past thirty years. The central city quality housing and the newer building do not comapare. Governments that rely on property taxes like to tear down the old (particularly in poor areas) and build the new because they can tax at higher rates. The myth that an urban area is somehow more efficient does not hold true. Currently the ruling philosophy for governments is that of creating another bubble to bring in more tax dollars. One would think that the bubble and bust scenarios would move some toward developing sustainable economic models but that does not favor the rich. We have large governments and corporations that we do not have the ability to manage or regulate. We, therefore, are always subject to piracy by the banks and governments favoring big business. The people have abdicated their responsbility as citizens in exchange for a job and home and no security. Darwin economics has replaced any idea of creating a better society for all.

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  • 53. At 2:57pm on 25 Feb 2010, eddhind wrote:

    Progress is indeed fairly slow at the moment, but I believe this could be down to the fact that we are on the cusp or a turn to the better after a long and quick downhill. Think of it as the perfect curve on a graph if you can. I see more and more people getting involved on the ground in the world I work in. People from all walks of life from concerned citizens, to acadaemics, to politicians to ex-industrialists. Things are changing and the only way we can make sure we reverse that curve is by getting out and doing it ourself.

    Start local if you want... when things work they spread. Neighbours become jealous of what another community has achieved. Once politicians see what we want they will take the correct decisions.

    Blogs like this are great for debating the issues but we won't solve any issues on them.

    All I can ask anyone who cares is to just do something. get involved i a campaign, join a conservation organisation, volunteer. There are loads of oppurtunities. We can't all be Rachel Carson, Ghandi or Al Gore, but we can all be people who leave this planet happy that we tried our best to live in harmony with those (people and environments) around us. There are no excuses for not taking personal action if you care people. Take it!

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  • 54. At 3:00pm on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To ghostofsichuan:

    Yes - Yes - and Yes again!

    I will post again in a half-hour or so, in the hope that it will do some good.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 55. At 4:11pm on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Richard Black; eddhind; rossglory; ghostofsichuan; JRWoodman; simon-swede; davblo; xtragrumpymike2; jr4412; ...:

    I am writing to the old-hands on this blog because I think a reassessment is due.

    I have before me an iconic image in this morning's newspaper, by Associated Press.

    Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda and Yoshimi Inaba, president and CEO Toyota North America are standing together, their right hands raised, as they are sworn in on Capitol Hill, Wahington D.C. prior to testifying before the government. Both are wearing dark suits, white shirts and dark ties - both look very sombre.

    If you will bear with my hand-waving style:

    \\\ Homo Sapiens Sapiens [1], & an Iconic Image (see above) ///

    We are primates all, every last one of us.

    Peripatetic opportunistic hunter-gatherers from Africa. One of our ancestors is apparently 'homo habilis,' the handy man. But of all our ancestors, only we are left.

    And we have chosen to call ourselves the wise of the wise.

    But homo habilis is closer, don't you think? But not exact.

    We are, quite obviously, brilliant technologists. I do not know the appropriate Greek or Latin word to affix right behind our 'homo' genus?

    And, as the iconic image I spoke of earlier shows very dramatically, we are still a paradox to ourselves, for this image compels that we think of our religious/superstituous/mythological selves, does it not?

    The suit and tie from Japan, land of the Kimono and the Samurai? Conformism to a new world order, and business as usual.

    The right hands raised - a pledge to some higher authority - as we don't think enough of ourselves to pledge on our honor alone, and an indication of the simple fact that most of the 6.8 billion of us now living:

    - do not know or believe that we are homo sapiens sapiens, from Africa, creatures like all others, save in our unique capabilities, which have propelled us to the status of a Force of Nature.

    - and are religious, in either an institutional sense or personally.

    How are we to proceed, those few who think, rightly or wrongly, that the very future of our species is now in imminent peril of collapse or extinction, that the sixth great mass extinction of the past 600 million years is actually underway as we speak?

    The issues to address are many, mutitudinous in fact. And each individual, a product of his or her own genetic abilitiy and talents, and of unique life experience and circumstance, will naturally see the world in a different way, and will tend to focus on what he or she sees as a priority in the 'big picture', given the need to make a living.

    But what is the 'big picture'?

    I remember reading Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance," a long time ago. But what I remember most was this:

    He said that in politics, or life, one needed a type of grand unifying principle to guide effective action.

    What is that, in the year 2010?

    Three of us wrote "The Mayday Declaration" last May, and we tried to answer that. I don't know if we were right or wrong.

    But I do know, or think, that the speed at which we are moving is not only insufficient, but criminally negligent, or perhaps the result of a mass hypnosis - a world-wide shell-shock - global depression if you will.

    Getting our priorities straight might then be our task.

    I would ask that you recall the words of one who did once rally a nation, for those of you reading this of the United Kingdom, your nation:

    "We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy?

    I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

    You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory; victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be. For without victory, there is no survival."


    - Winston Churchill [2]
    ------------------------

    If we change a very few words, this is the situation we are now in as regards the global environment - the ecosphere.

    But unlike World War Two, we must first identify our enemy - prioritize - and then we can act in a way that will maximize our chances of success.

    - Manysummits -

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_sapiens
    [2] http://www.school-for-champions.com/speeches/churchill_blood_sweat.htm (see 'Closing Remarks)

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  • 56. At 4:41pm on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To eddhind #53:

    I imagine, and think, that you are a very decent man. This is how I view Freeman Dyson, for example.

    And I agree that we all need to act - to do something.

    I and my family already have - we live a life that is very different than the norm.

    But it is not enough - not nearly enough.

    Blogging here is actually doing something, and I wouldn't be quick to dismiss it.

    The carpenter says - "measure twice, cut once."

    The 'old mountaineer' says - "focus before you move." I remember once, sitting on the edge of a precipice, a friend was being instructed by me, as it turns out, in the setting of an anchor. The trainnee was a bit nervous, and talking and moving around, all the while trying to learn the technique.

    Finally I said: "Sit down, stop talking, and concentrate only on your anchor."

    It worked, but later I was surprised, in a good way, when the trainee said something to the effect, "That was the best piece of advice I have ever been given," i.e., stop and think.

    Perhaps that is simply what I was trying to say earlier?

    - Manysummits -

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  • 57. At 9:44pm on 25 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To continue:

    Multi-tasking - a buzzword in use for some time now.

    Bill Tilman was fond of relating that it is proverbially not possible to both swallow and breathe at the same time - something to that effect.

    In #56, I forgot the other thing I said to the trainee - something to the effect:

    "The human being actually cannot do more than one thing at a time. So stop, and focus on one task, before you fall off this cliff."

    Wise wise Man - the multitasker - super-Moms and Dads.

    It is not so. We are kidding ourselves.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 58. At 11:29pm on 25 Feb 2010, xtragrumpymike2 wrote:

    Humanity Rules #46

    "44. At 03:23am on 25 Feb 2010, jr4412
    Risk assessors are the new priests and H&S manuals are their bibles."

    Wow! What sublime ignorance!........but since Richard's article was about "monkeys", I'll debate that one with you at a more appropriate time.

    Eddhind/manysummits...."doing something"

    "There has to be another way." Manysummits and


    "Blogs like this are great for debating the issues but we won't solve any issues on them" Eddhind.

    "Blogging here is actually doing something, and I wouldn't be quick to dismiss it." Manysummits.



    Doing nothing is not an option. AGREED

    BUT........I would have to agree strongly with Eddhind that this "blogosphere" is NOT achieving anything productive at all. In fact I am of the opinion that it is indeed counter-productive.

    If one has already started with "self" (a necessary place to start otherwise we are just being hypocritical) then as Eddhind puts it:-

    "Start local if you want........."

    That will be my road to follow

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  • 59. At 00:13am on 26 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Xtragrumpymike:

    1) Eddhind did not say that the "bloosphere is NOT achieving anthing productive at all," - he said:

    "Blogs like this are great for debating the issues but we won't solve any issues on them." (#53)

    2) Your assertion is that it is "counter-productive." (#58)

    That sounds like someone who has given up, or is a closet contrarian?

    The recent drop in support for science, especially climate-science, seems, from what I have seen, to be largely due to the power of the blogosphere.

    Either you are not seeing it this way, or you are in some sense super-sensitive to my posts - a closet contrarian?

    The time for fence-sitting is long past.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 60. At 00:59am on 26 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    manysummits:

    It is what it is. Things change when people act to support the change. People have been conditioned to believe they need permission from their governments or big businesses to institute product change. We wait to see what they will offer. It really doesn't matter about the arguements. If enough people want wind or solar or other alternatives than a producer will sell them. If those numbers increase politicians will become advocates for their own purposes. Eventually, the prime alternative will become a big business and they will have their political advocates.....and somewhere in the process the banks will create another bubble and people will be robbed of their personal wealth. This is the human condition.

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  • 61. At 02:47am on 26 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Yes Ghost, the human condition.

    But in order to arrange a time when the banks and a future plutocracy can rob us again, there has to be a future.

    For the wheel of life to continue turning there has to be an 'us.'

    This is the issue which concerns me.

    I, and perhaps my distant descendants, or at least someone else's distant descendants, shall always have to defend themselves and those dearest to them from the powers that be. I accept that.

    But James Hansen speaks clearly of "the end of creation," and James Lovelock is equally as pessimistic. Peter D. Ward is in agrrement, as far as I can see.

    These men are not rabble rousers, nor out for illicit gain. They speak the truth as they see it, and their words are carefully chosen.

    I am personally familiar with the Earth's history, and I have made myself familiar with some aspects of climate science, enough to have convinced myself that there is a potential threat of apocalyptic proportions. I cannot assign a scientific probability of this happening, or pick a date, but this does not mean that appropriate action on the widest scale is not called for, given the magnitude of the threat, and the very uncertainties which the contrarians love to trumpet - when they speak coherently that is, which isn't often.

    The evidence is empirical, not from models. The Planetary Boundaries paper by the Stockholm Resilience Centre is step two. Step One was the Limits to Growth report of 1972 vintage.

    We haven't even been able to quantify adequately some of the concerns, such as aerosol loading of either the absorbing black kind or the reflective type. Same for chemical pollutants. And the risk from disease vectors is problematic, but possibly very significant.

    Indeed we seem destined to fight for life as long as we live.

    All I am asking is that we are alive to fight.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 62. At 03:15am on 26 Feb 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To eddhind:

    "Blogs like this are great for debating the issues but we won't solve any issues on them." (#53)
    --------------------

    Problems have solutions.

    The one essential is that the problem be addressed. How this is done is less important. As Merlin is reported to have said, "Greatness is born little. Do not dishonor your feast by ignoring what comes to your table - such is the law of quest."

    For myself, I have just recently been following my own cyber-words, and re-assessing the entire situation, with a year and a bit of blogging under my belt, and a multitude of scientific articles, from 'local nuclear war' to the world fishery and of course, climate science.

    I have reduced my 'catch', from a wide net, to some three articles, which I hope to discuss soon.

    One is on the 'steady state economy,' one, a series of three actually, is on climate science, and one is the mathematical concept of chaotic bifurcations, and critical slowing down.

    Thus, for me at least, this blog has focussed my energies, provoked new thoughts, developed new cyber-acquaintances and working partnerships, and like a LASER beam, coherently collimated my thinking, to some extent anyway.

    The blogosphere and even the internet, in its current configuration, is very new. Its potential is unknown.

    "We were the first that ever burst into that silent sea."

    - Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    - Manysummits -

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  • 63. At 03:57am on 26 Feb 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    rossglory #47.

    "currently 'better' in the west means working stupid hours for less and less benefit whilst at the same time destroying the only planet we have. a few people benefit but from my experience most don;t."

    yes, the western way of life. ;( people who have a sixteenth century mindset developing the weapons of tomorrow -- ghastly.

    "imho, to a large extent life quality comes from expectation and perception.."

    on a personal level I agree; unfortunately, individuals changing their perception and way of living will not suffice, the momentum is with the fossils.


    xtragrumpymike2 #58.

    "I would have to agree strongly with Eddhind that this "blogosphere" is NOT achieving anything productive at all. In fact I am of the opinion that it is indeed counter-productive."

    agree and disagree; our discussions and venting of spleens is not likely to result in 'the powers that be' seeing the error of their ways and changing, but for some individuals reading through other people's arguments provides impetus to seek more information, to change their minds and life-styles perhaps. some positives, then.



    manysummits #55, #61.

    "The suit and tie.."

    the uniform of the conformist; I am proud to say (though I know of the pitfalls of pride) that I have never owned a tie, nor a suit.

    "..James Hansen speaks clearly of "the end of creation," and James Lovelock is equally as pessimistic."

    cannot wait, the prospect of a perpetual post-1984 New World Order, even if entirely 'environmentally friendly', is too much to bear.

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  • 64. At 08:30am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #47 rossglory wrote:

    "currently 'better' in the west means working stupid hours for less and less benefit whilst at the same time destroying the only planet we have. a few people benefit but from my experience most don;t."

    I think there is something vaguely obscene about this claim. Most people in the West have a much better life than their ancestors did, or than their counterparts in the developing world do.

    Why is it "better"? It's better because we get more of what we choose to have -- cars, clothes washing machines, dish washing machines, television, computers, heating, air conditioning. Time for holidays, privacy for sex, ownership for pursuits such as gardening, and decently-enforced laws to protect all of the above and more, especially freedom of thought and expression, such as we enjoy on this blog.

    You should stop whinging and realize how lucky we are.

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  • 65. At 09:00am on 26 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    bowmanthebard #64: "...get more of what we choose to have -- cars, clothes washing machines, dish washing machines, television, computers, heating, air conditioning"

    I'd change "what we choose to have" to "what we are persuaded we can't do with out".

    /davblo

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  • 66. At 09:11am on 26 Feb 2010, Jack Hughes wrote:

    Oh dear. I keep on hoping that Richard and his pals have moved on from the war on carbon™ and are looking at real environmental issues like species decline and nature loss. But then I read this little filler:

    Whaling worsens carbon release, scientists warn

    No need to read the full piece because here is a summary:

    "...may...can...estimate...possibly...perhaps...could...some...could...would...could...likely"

    The whole piece reads like those spoof emails that calculate how fast Santa Claus has to travel to visit every child in the world in just one night.

    I wonder if was beer-reviewed?

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  • 67. At 09:25am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #64: "...get more of what we choose to have -- cars, clothes washing machines, dish washing machines, television, computers, heating, air conditioning"

    davblo #65: 'I'd change "what we choose to have" to "what we are persuaded we can't do with out".'

    That's a big difference between us then. In my book if someone wants something, he wants it, and we have to respect that, full stop. I'm allergic to the continental European "positive" concept of freedom which says you are free if you want what you ought to want. I regard it as the basis of Nazism.

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  • 68. At 09:34am on 26 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #64 bowman

    obscene? very odd. not surprised you disagree but i'm not sure what definition of obscene you mean.

    anyway, the thread was about what 'better' meant and you seem to equate better with 'choice'. and then go and list the joys of the wealthy middle class and above.

    i agree choice is important (but not synonymous) so what about:
    the choices of future generations or children in the sweatshops of india and china?
    what about the choice for a clean environment not polluted by ozone from others choosing tax subsidised cheap foreign holidays?
    what about the choice for a vibrant, healthy biosphere?
    what about time to spend with your children (not just the privileged few - most families i know have two full time working parents.....very different to when i was at school)?
    what about the choice for a stable local community and real local government representation?
    what about choosing a school for your children without drugs?
    what about real political choice (not just a choice between two groups that represent power not people)?
    what about the choice to let your child out the door without fear they'll be run over by someone exercising their choice to a sports car they can;t drive?
    what about the choice of a justice system that focusses on justice not targets?
    what about the choice of relatively stable employment?
    etc etc etc

    so how about becoming a bit more enlightened and redefining 'better' to include some (not necessarily all) of these? and not just which brand of tin box on wheels or shiny white goods you have?

    of course i could forget about them (and more) and immerse myself in the consumerfest you seem to love, but in the current circumstances i would find that immoral......which by the way makes your suggestion obscene.

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  • 69. At 09:56am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #68 rossglory wrote:

    "obscene? very odd. not surprised you disagree but i'm not sure what definition of obscene you mean."

    Here we are sitting on our fat behinds at our computers, having a little intellectual chinwag as our clothes get washed in machines. Meanwhile, impoverished Indians in slums wash their clothes by hand. And you have the brass neck to say they're better off than us.

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  • 70. At 10:25am on 26 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    bowmanthebard #69: "Here we are sitting on our fat behinds at our computers..."

    You forgot to mention: the people sitting in cars in traffic queues, the people stressed out of their heads at work, the people bored out of their heads at work, the people eating junk food, the people who do nothing but watch TV, (etc etc) and the fact that we've already trashed most our country's natural wildlife.

    /davblo

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  • 71. At 10:28am on 26 Feb 2010, davblo wrote:

    #70: continued...

    ...the people deep in debt, the people with no pension left, the people trying to keep up with their neighbours, the people with no jobs, ...

    (maybe you can think of some more)

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  • 72. At 10:49am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #70 davblo wrote:

    "You forgot to mention: the people sitting in cars in traffic queues, the people stressed out of their heads at work, the people bored out of their heads at work, the people eating junk food, the people who do nothing but watch TV"

    My heart bleeds for them! By the way, so-called "junk food" is what people eat because they like it -- and it's much much healthier than plain boiled rice.

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  • 73. At 10:59am on 26 Feb 2010, Dave_oxon wrote:

    @rossgloy & Bowman,

    might I enter an observation:
    It seems to me that Bowman is talking about what is personally "better", i.e. how the choice to have lots of labour saving devices obviously makes life better for us (and we are, of course, very lucky to be able to have this choice).

    rossglory however seems to be talking about what is globally "better" i.e. does my choice to have an extra labour saving device indirectly condemn 10 extra people in the third world to poverty through the mechanics of market globalisation.

    If you agree with this observation, could you both comment on the alternate point of view?

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  • 74. At 11:05am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #71 davblo wrote:

    "...the people deep in debt, the people with no pension left, the people trying to keep up with their neighbours, the people with no jobs, ..."

    Trying to keep up with their neighbours? What a terrible burden!

    Anyone whose pension is too small at least has the luxury of having been able to retire.

    Anyone whose debt is too large at least has the luxury of having been able to borrow some money.

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  • 75. At 11:17am on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #73 Dave_oxon wrote:

    'It seems to me that Bowman is talking about what is personally "better"'

    If rossglory is talking about something else, he's changed the topic of the conversation.

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  • 76. At 12:32pm on 26 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #73 Dave_oxon

    of course your input is welcome - i didn;t realise i had to define a topic , afraid i'm more of a free thinker, 'once you label me you negate me' :o)

    i think the difference is that my argument is nore nuanced than bowman's 'washing machine good, rock by river bad'.

    if we had a way to source all the materials for washing machines and the energy to run them and somewhere to throw them when they break that didn;t impact the environment i would agree (except that the time saved is often spent doing something else just as tiresome....commuting maybe, and the people that make them on 12 hour shifts may not be living the most fulfilled of lives).

    i think bowman has swallowed a couple of apocryphal myths.

    one is the concept of human progress. i'm all for progress but most of what bowman talks about is technological progress (try reading straw dogs by john gray - it may convince you). this is not necessarily tied to any political or economic model and it's these i suggest should change.

    the other is the idea of the green taliban. i'm sure there are some 'extremists' that would like a chaotic rolling back to medieval life but i'm not one of them (in fact we're already heading there, i'm trying to prevent it). we need solutions for the problems of the 21st century. more cars and white goods for everyone is not a viable solution. a more equitable sharing of resources is.

    in reality, i may not have the answer....but i do know that bowman definitely doesn't. perhaps as our resident bard he could give us an ode to the bosch 3271 megaspin or an elegy in torremolinos theme pub ;o)

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  • 77. At 1:04pm on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #76 rossglory wrote:

    "i think the difference is that my argument is nore nuanced than bowman's 'washing machine good, rock by river bad'."

    I'm just saying that what people choose for themselves is what is good for them, as long as they're competent adults. If there are people who freely choose to wash their clothes on rocks by rivers instead of washing machines, then rock by river is good for them. People who wash their clothes on rocks by rivers because they can't afford a washing machine do not freely choose to do so, and if they would buy a washing machine if they could afford it, then washine machine is good for them.

    Do you see how what is good for each individual differs from one individual to the next?

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  • 78. At 1:38pm on 26 Feb 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Mannysummits:

    Change is a process. We see signs of change in the adoption of wind and solar and newer alternatives being announced. As people select these options things change. Of course the vested interest of coal and oil will make this as difficult as possible and the politicians tied to the money of fossil fuels will be reluctant to move in a new direction until it is an issue of their own survival. Many communities around the world are advocating for clearner environments and the governments are having to respond. They do the minimum, but this will build over time. We all want significant change in our own time but the profit obtained by providers and the governments protection of large tax streams makes this a difficult process. History is simply a record of change, not always good, but change. Oil lights, to gas, to electric....all improved lighting and economies. It is the vested interest that stall progress, those unwilling to change, a corporate laziness based on political protecttions rather than market forces. The science is still the science but the politics have diminished the importance because it does not fit the agenda of their patrons. Like the Japanese on Saipan who threw themsevles and their children off the cliffs because they had been told that the American troops would do horrible things to them...lies told long enough can be more harmful to those who believe them than for those who tell them. Predator economics is the order of the day and changing that will be needed before progress on other issues can be made. In China the influx of money has only increased the governmental corruption, not reduced it. Now the bribes to get things done have exceeded the means of most working people so the system is creating anger and disillusionment. It is hard to break old habits....particularly for those who benefit from them. With Global Warming changing to Climate Change and the reconition that changes in the atmosphere will create more extreme weather events does not undermine the science it only is a recognition based on that science of increased understanding. The process is continuing forward and changes will be made.

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  • 79. At 1:53pm on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Humans have made immeasurable progress over the centuries. That is why there are so many of us, and paradoxical though it may sound at first, that is also why there will eventually be fewer of us -- each human child will become a bigger and bigger investment as economies grow, wealth increases, and progress continues.

    Human life expectancies have increased, human leisure time has expanded, human work has become less onerous. Our health has improved, we live in a cleaner world, we have wider interests, we can travel easily, and we have achieved greater understanding and knowledge of the universe. Our systems of justice have generally become more humane, and our systems of education more widely available. Most people can read and write, and most can afford to buy things to read.

    As well as being less likely to die of diseases when young, humans are also far less likely to die a violent death in war, tribal conflict or through common crime. The most violent societies are those that have made least progress, such as the Yanomamo tribe of the Amazon.

    In a word, progress has enhanced human dignity.

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  • 80. At 1:55pm on 26 Feb 2010, Dave_oxon wrote:

    @ross,#76 & Bowman,#77

    The argument, as I've perceived it is: We all strive to be better off, depending on our personal definition of "better off [than we were previously]" (I note this is subtly different with the addition of the word "off" - I'm just trying to clarify the argument)

    So, if I understand these posts correctly (and I'm not saying I do):
    Bowman, the concept of "better off" you are putting forward is, essentially, increased freedom of choice for the individual: freedom to do what one wants, freedom to say what one wants and freedom to have what one wants. If this includes working harder to be able to afford the washing machine one wants, it comes down to the opportunity and freedom to do the work - if the work is not available the freedom and choice is removed hence the individual cannot strive to be "better" off according to their definition.

    Ross, your concept of "better off" is freedom of choice tempred by the possible negative impacts of the consequence of those choices directly on yourself (more work=more pay=better, more work=less free time=worse), indirectly on yourself (white good=less labour=better, white good=more pollution=worse environment=worse) and directly/indirectly on others (white good=less labour=good, white good=consumption of extra resources = fewer resources for everyone else = worse)

    Am I getting close yet?

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  • 81. At 3:15pm on 26 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #80 Dave_oxon wrote:

    "Am I getting close yet?"

    You're spot-on as far as my position is concerned. I'm an old-fashioned liberal: all "social goods" boil down to individuals being able to get what they want. Not what they "ought to want", mind, but what they actually do want. Obviously, this will involve quite a lot of compromise and the imposition of quite a lot of limitations on freedom. For example, if freedom for the pike means death for the minnows, the pike has to stay in a tank of his own!

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  • 82. At 8:58pm on 26 Feb 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #81 bowmanthebard

    "Humans have made immeasurable progress over the centuries. That is why there are so many of us" - well that's most certainly not my definition of progress.

    "Obviously, this will involve quite a lot of compromise" - that's a bit different to you telling me i was making obscene comments and should stop whingeing. have you changed the topic?

    anyway, here's a question for you. how do you know 'actually' what you want? is that not partly an aspect of the culture you were raised in? if i were successful in changing western culture could it be that your descendents (if you have any) may end up wanting something different? maybe even a healthy planet rather than a new dish washer.

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  • 83. At 1:43pm on 27 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #82 rossglory wrote:

    '"Obviously, this will involve quite a lot of compromise" - that's a bit different to you telling me i was making obscene comments and should stop whingeing. have you changed the topic?'

    I'm talking about compromise in limitations of freedom, not compromise in the sense of being wishy-washily polite!

    I'll give you an example. Suppose I want to paint my house pink, but my neighbour doesn't want me to. I think in that situation, he will just have to put up with it. But suppose I want to play very loud music at all hours. In that situation, I will just have to put up with not being allowed to do so.

    "how do you know 'actually' what you want?"

    Good question. We are all fallible about that sort of thing. But in general each individual is better at judging what he really wants than anyone else. We are our own best "experts" at ourselves, if you like, but we can all make mistakes all the same.

    "is that not partly an aspect of the culture you were raised in?"

    Partly. But nature works through nurture rather than the two being at odds. So I wouldn't hold out much hope of somehow nurturing people to want anything different from what their nature gives them the propensity to want. In general, people want to avoid boring manual labour, and with good reason.

    "if i were successful in changing western culture could it be that your descendents (if you have any) may end up wanting something different? maybe even a healthy planet rather than a new dish washer."

    Nobody wants an unhealthy "planet", but it's hard to see how washing machines make all that big a difference. Eventually they'll develop washing machines that use no detergent or very little, and that wilkl be much better than banging clothes against rocks in a cholera-infected stream somewhere.

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  • 84. At 1:51pm on 27 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #81 bowmanthebard: "Humans have made immeasurable progress over the centuries. That is why there are so many of us"

    #82 rossglory: "- well that's most certainly not my definition of progress."

    It's not my definition of progress either. But agricultural technology made more food available, which lowered fewer infant mortality, which resulted in more living adults. Is that a bad thing?

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  • 85. At 2:42pm on 27 Feb 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    I wrote: "agricultural technology made more food available, which lowered fewer infant mortality"

    Sorry, the word 'fewer' snuck in there by mistake. I meant: it lowered infant mortality.

    My point is that all living things multiply in numbers till their numbers hit a "ceiling" whose level is largely a function of the food supply. There have been more humans in recent centuries because of improvements in the food supply (and some other improvements such as better sanitation).

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  • 86. At 6:49pm on 27 Feb 2010, Giorgio wrote:

    Some years ago I traveled trough Africa for around 2 years and I found through my own experiences that, while habitat loss is surely an important reason for declining numbers of primates, the main reason lays somewhere else completely. As education is quite low throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the concept of primates being highly related to humans, better said, being our direct cousins in nature, has not spread into the common mind. While for a modern European the idea of eating monkey meat might come close to eating a human baby, in Africa any wild meat is just a cheap solution to fill their bellies. Besides many strange dishes like Antelope or rodent meat, I often enough found monkey meat in rural market food stalls. As long as pork or beef are more expensive, there will always be all kinds of wild meats on country folks' plates.
    One way to suppress this poaching for meat might be international aid to lower the price of "normal" meat like chicken, beef, pork or fish, making the hunt for wild alternatives unattractive for the poachers.
    Determining areas of National Parks and protective areas is to no avail as I found hunters inside conservation areas during most of my visits. That simply because the infra-structure of guards or park rangers is mostly limited to a few men for areas sometimes as big as small countries, making it impossible to protect anything at all.

    Instead of paying international aid workers on highly praised projects often 10.000$US a month and more (some of those I met even hated Africa and the Africans, clearly stating that they were doing this job just for the great salary), this money might be better spend on the low expenses for volunteers who'd accept to educate kids in rural areas breaking up classes of 120+ students per term into smaller units, thus allowing them to really learn something.
    Only with better education can the problem of habitat destruction and poaching been eliminated in Africa and other parts of the world.

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  • 87. At 8:59pm on 03 Mar 2010, carlos wrote:

    we need to stop degrading our planet further than it already is, worlds goverments need to put the natural world and the general public first way before giving in to the oil, gas , minning companies for a quick fix

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