Nature Blog Network Future Earth: December 2007

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Ant Analogies

We are social beings – well, most of us anyway. We are intelligent – well, by our own measures. So perhaps there are lessons for us to be derived from sociobiology on social organization in the face of resource depletion? I admit to a fascination with ants, and we are finding out amazing things about what drives their organization and behaviour... check out the work of Nigel Franks and others from Bristol University -

In full despondency about the small size of the gains made at the Bali Climate Change conference, we might speculate as to whether the major difference between ants and people is that they make the right decisions for their species survival? What do you think President Bush? “T h i n k” I said.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Chinese Walls...

.....“ barriers to information flow” – implemented by business people to protect insider insights, or between friends to protect against gossips. (Yes – experience shows that they are usually as thin as a paper tiger, rather than reflecting the substantial aspiration of the Great Wall of China).

For the good of the globe, please break them down on anything to do with the environment. Check out the reasoned and knowledgeable responses from John MacKinnon on this NYT blog:

Environmental insights that range in scope from….China v. Rest-of-the-World in the trade arena, to whether two turtles can save a species. Little and large – all fascinating and pertinent. Too late for the Baiji freshwater dolphin perhaps, but the different shades of green around energy solutions paint a palette as complex as a tropical rainforest.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bountiful Baobabs

"Baobab trees are living monuments, the oldest natural things in Africa, outlasting every plant and animal around them”.....

.....words that lead you in to a beautifully crafted exploration of this iconic tree. The author’s persistently inquisitive mind unearths a wealth of detail – cultural, ecological, geographic, historical – as he follows his nose around mainland Africa and Madagascar visiting individual trees and meeting the people who use and respect them.

The smile of a young Mozambican honey gatherer, dripping with honeycombs retrieved from the baobab whose height and trunk protected this bounty from all but the bravest tree climbers (human or otherwise)... has never left me. The images – photographic or literary – in this gem will similarly linger and luxuriate in your mind.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Morally wrong to waste energy?

In 2002, I listened as Sir David Attenborough was asked “what is the one thing you would do to make a difference for wildlife conservation?” He replied “there are two”.

One concerned the spread of disease. As people, their livestock and wildlife are forced into greater proximity, the potential for pandemics increases (Ebola and bird flu were examples in the public eye). Right. The second surprised me – he argued that as women were the resource managers in much of the developing world, enhancing their access to knowledge and skills to make long-term choices on sustainability would have a huge impact. Right again.

Five years on, in 2007, Sir David was asked the same question and did not hesitate....."the one thing we must all do is use less energy. With what we know now, choosing to waste energy must be morally wrong". Yes, the stakes are higher and the answer lies with the choices we make – each and every one of us.

Sir David is a consummate observer...and we watch him introducing us to the diversity of life on earth. If we listened to him as well we might be able ensure a future for that earth that includes life (almost) as we know it.