Nature Blog Network Future Earth: September 2008

Friday, 26 September 2008

Are frogs swans or canaries?

Serenading frogs led me to slumber almost every night in Africa. But are these evocative calls swansongs for our amphibian friends? The world might have to get used to missing frogs if their decline continues and in this Year of the Frog, venerable Sir Dave is coming to their rescue. In their declining years we might just hope that frogs show the resilience and determination that Attenborough does in his. (As an aside, BBC Radio 4 listeners will note with pleasure that Attenborough is the first interviewee to reduce lookalike Humphreys from a rotweiller to a puppydog). Our concern for frog declines is not altruism - in retreat from loss of habitat and a warming world they are less able to survive attack by pathogens. The loss of frog song could be the miner's canary of the modern world - alerting us to the danger of our own demise. Hang on in there treefrogs - and 82 year old Sir Dave - we need both of you!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Are you feeling lucky?

"Are you feeling lucky?" Clint Eastwood's character asks in the film 'Dirty Harry'. Here on an increasingly dirty earth another IUCN world gathering is about to descend on Barcelona, and "Transition to Sustainability: towards a Humane and Diverse World" has been put together to this deadline.

It will need more than luck. Adams and Jeanreneaud argue that the two essentials (of a low carbon economy and a world that values nature) require a third companion to have any chance of planetary sustainability - social equity. What was that at the back? "Fat chance" did you say? Well think again... in this philosophical narrative of conservation we are reminded of the self-fulfilling politics of fear. "I had a nightmare..." might not have had quite the resonance, or stimulated quite the change, that Martin Luther King's dream managed to do. All very well and yes, we need inspiration as much as information - but both science and history indicate that we'll change the world only when the selfish genes kick in. Too late? Another soundbite pulled from the ether by these authors.. "there are no sewers on a spaceship".

If you are expending carbon to help save the world at the IUCN congress, you can offset intellecually by engaging in the "sustainability dialogues" around these issues.

And by the way
is it, or is it not, the "World Conservation Union" - compare the mixed branding still on the IUCN website against comment on this post.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Darwin's busy bees

Something is buzzing in south Kensington. Around the side of the Natural History Museum a giant transparent wasp nest is emerging- in anticipation of the Darwin 200 celebrations next year, the "Darwin Centre" - a 200 cell hive for 200 busy bee scientists is nearing completion. They are excited and they will be on show, doing their bit for taxonomy. Watch the promo video (and spot the deliberate error):

"Don't worry (about the rate of species extinction)" they say as "90% of all the species in the world are still to be classified". So its O.K. if we go extinct as long as we are monitoring our own decline is it? As the workers, drones and multiple queens settle into their new surroundings we will have to amplify the buzz of the promo video that connects what they do to conservation impact in the world around us. Yes, it can be about food, disease and climate change, but it is important that not all available funding resources are carried back to this particular hive, and that a clear "line of sight" to conservation of living biodiversity is created.

Meanwhile, watch the story unfold .... will some of the drones follow an escaping queen on her nuptial flight back to America? Are there lessons to be learned from the devastating decline of honeybees....?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Howl from the heart ...

Wolves, bears, humans ..... be scared, be very, very scared.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Dances with wolves

From Shaun Ellis with his wild wolf pack to Mrs Mattisson-Sandstrom with her champion pyrenean mountain dog, dog-human relationships are certainly deep, diverse - and dependent. We've been here before on Future Earth as I am fascinated by where we might go from here on out. I have my own hounds marked out as food providers, in conditions of global scarcity (one will pluck pigeons out of the air and the other will hunt down hares) which should ensure their survival as the resource crunch starts to bite.

Still 3 weeks to watch this 2-part exploration of where this symbiotic relationship comes from by Martin Clunes on the itv site. The bit I would like to explore further is the evidence that all dogs in the world will accept humans as part of a pack, where the only important factors are appropriate behaviour and relative dominance. All except the "Painted Hunting Dogs" of Africa, where the leadership role is genetically inherited. Canine nepotism?