Nature Blog Network Future Earth: August 2008

Monday, 25 August 2008

Going for Gold in Ghana?

Quietly, under the media shadows created by activities in Beijing and Georgia, a meeting of fundamental importance for the planet is taking place in Ghana. One of a series leading to "post Kyoto" agreements on Climate Change next year, it needs to go for Gold and not settle for just taking part - not something the UN has a great track record in. Blue sky thinking and innovative action rather than flying the flags of narrow national vested interests.

Personally, if we had to rely only on the U.N. in this arena, I'd give up now. Fortunately we have civil society knowledge and ingenuity as well as corporate economic drive to turn to as well. If they work together, rather than in opposition, they could provide some winning solutions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Conservation Clarity

What a trill..... Birdlife International et al have come up with a new language for conservation hoping that this will make life easier for its advocates. Now we can reduce complex systems to comparable components and make logical decisions on how to intervene. Ah ha.

That's the science, anyway. But as conservation is a social process guided by science, not the other way around, how far will this really take us? Who really makes those decisions? And what will they make of (I quote Dr Butchart) ".....common databases of conservation practice, enabling practitioners to share and compare......"

I have a request to make of the conservation lexographers. Can our conservation Rosetta Stone provide clear and unambiguous definitions in at least Chinese, English and Portugese of

(a) Biodiversity, (b) Ecosystem Services and (c) Going, going, Gone!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Spectres at the GM feast.

Those blight-resistent potatoes growing quietly in an experimental agricultural plot outside Cambridge, those fields of golden corn fulfilling their genetically manipuated destiny of higher yield and disease resistance, those countries allowing policy change under the radar - you have been rumbled. HRH Prince Charles has thrown the spotlight back on Genetically Manipulated Food Crops with an impassioned, angry tirade of concern. But is he over-reacting?

On the plus side, food security is indeed the more important underlying factor, and there is little argument that creating an environment where small farmers can flourish around the world is crucial to global food security. On the other, in a land-constrained world, what is wrong with helping the evolutionary process along in food crops? According to many small and family farms, the problem lies not with the technology or its application, rather in the behaviour of the profit-driven large companies who insist that (going beyond return on investment) anyone seeking their GM seeds is required to use all their support services. Seeds cannot be saved either, so the customer is forced into repeat purchase.

Oh, I see. The real problem lies in the competetive behaviour that drives our global corporate economy. Well, as consumers we have shown that we can make Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility a competitive advantage for financial investors. So we can, if we combine efforts, insert the CESR gene into some of the biggest agri-tech brands and engineer a longer future for (our) life on earth.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Web World

Future Earth is the sum of its web presence? (World map of 1001 weblogs)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Swamp(ed with) Gorillas?

In his breathtaking film Swamp Gorilla Bruce Davidson captures the fragility and (although I baulk at my own anthropomorphism) loneliness of swamp-living western lowland gorillas in central Africa. On the edge of survival, beset by waves of disease and destruction, I wondered when I saw early scenes from this fabulous film whether they might be the last comprehensive record of another ape to vanish from all but our screens.

Not so, it would seem - surveys led by by the Wildlife Conservation Society have confirmed local knowledge (and Steve Blake's work in the 90s) by rustling up another 125,000 or so lurking further from the madding crowd. Yay! Can we rest assured then for their future? Not so fast - their sources of conservation support are at risk from budget cuts in the US government. In that great democracy, I hope its citizens will rally in support of central african forests and their primate inhabitants. After all, its our future too.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Primates in peril

No laughing matter this, whatever the orang art featured here might indicate.

A report released today by the IUCN (World Conservation Union - howzat for a branding nightmare) revealed that 48% of the world's primates are in severe trouble. 303 of the 634 species are now listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN threat risk scale.

The report is being picked up by the media
but will the news be taken seriously by the primate responsible, the human kind? There are heros and advocates battling against the odds, and there are some good news missives from the front line. The cost of saving an orang utan has been (simplistically but interestingly) calculated as £568.48 - a better investment in the future than a year's car tax or an airline flight one might, equally simplistically, assume.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sense, sensibility and symbolism

Charity begins at home as a released baloon, and ends up overseas in the belly of a turtle. A welsh charity for the homeless has finally settled on the release of biodegradable chinese lanterns as part of a fundraising drive after a proposed baloon release was criticised by the Marine Conservation Society. A replacement release of pigeons and doves was then stopped after being criticised on ethical grounds. What do readers of "Future Earth" think of the lantern release? A deal of unecessary energy expenditure in an energy-constrained world (bah, humbug) or beautiful symbolism of global connectivity (peace and love)? Either way, we can expect more of it as the tiger economies roar across the globe - this is a big thing across Asia and, sadly for the turtles, the biodegradeable lanterns are being replaced by more durable materials.

(And anyone who wants to help save our seas from uneccesary plastic can support the Marine Conservation Society's Coastal challenge - via the two intrepid canoeists navigating Raasay to Rhona)