Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Posts Tagged ‘Planet Earth

The history of everything – In just three minutes.

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The history of life on Earth  - quicktime!

A whole clutch of things happened yesterday to conspire in me running out of creative time.  Indeed, it was after 4pm when I sat down in front of my computer wondering about today’s LfD blog post.

Luckily (well for me!), amongst the list of draft posts was this one from January 1st, 2014.  So I cheated by grabbing it and offering it for you today. I just hope you find it of interest.  It was originally presented on Big Think on the 1st January, 2014.

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The History of Life on Earth in Three Minutes

by BIG THINK EDITORS
JANUARY 1, 2014, 12:00 AM

earth_dna

Happy New Year, planet Earth!

According to the Anno Domini designation, the year is now 2014. But the Earth has been around a lot longer than that – about 4.567 billion years. The first evidence of life dates back to around 3.8 billion years ago. Homo sapiens first appeared on the planet around two hundred thousand years – or ten thousand generations – ago.

How’s that for perspective?

Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History, calls this perspective “deep time.” This is the story of our planet preserved in “the DNA of living things,” Johnson explains, as well as “in the fossils we find, in the geologic structures of our planet, in the meteorites we scavenge from the ice fields in Antarctica. Those things together give us an incredible manual for thinking about the planet.”

Why is this manual useful? We are facing a century that will be an incredibly challenging one for humanity. We now live on a planet with seven billion people, which is up from 1.7 billion people just three or four generations ago. So we have more people, and a greater need for resources.

Fortunately we have the bodies of extinct plants and animals that lived for the last three-and-a-half billion years. These fossils are not only a source of energy, but also a source of knowledge about how this planet works. Over its history the Earth has seen an incredible diversity of life – maybe as many as fifty million species. Johnson says we’re learning “as much about the evolution of life on Earth by looking at what happened in the past as we are at looking at the breakthroughs in genomics and DNA of living things.” Furthermore, Johnson sees the sequencing of the human genome as the vanguard for what will eventually be “the study of the genomics of all living things.”

We have the opportunity right now, Johnson says, to choose what our future will be. Our understanding of the diversity of life on this planet, he says, will be our guide. This story is being told at a current exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History called “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.”

In the video below, Johnson shares a unique perspective on deep time in the form of a timeline of life on this planet in just three minutes.

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Don’t know about you but I found the video fascinating.

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Written by Paul Handover

February 27, 2014 at 00:00

The critical value of predators in our wild lands.

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The consequences of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

I have two people to offer my thanks to for today’s post: Suzann and Ginger.   Both of them within hours of each other sent me an email recommending the following video.  So, without further ado, here is that video.  (Oh, would you believe this.  The video was released on February 13th, 2014 and, at the time of me writing this post, has been viewed 1,453,345 times! Wow!)

Published on Feb 13, 2014

Visit http://sustainableman.org/ to explore the world of sustainability.

For more from George Monbiot, visit http://www.monbiot.com/ and for more on “rewilding” visit http://bit.ly/1hKGemK and/or check out George Monbiot’s book Feral: rewilding the land, the sea and human life: http://amzn.to/1dgdLi9

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

Narration from TED: “For more wonder, rewild the world” by George Monbiot. Watch the full talk, here: http://bit.ly/N3m62h

B-Roll Credits:
“Greater Yellowstone Coalition – Wolves” (http://bit.ly/1lK4LaT)
“Wolf Mountain” (http://bit.ly/1hgi6JE)
“Primodial – Yellowstone” (https://vimeo.com/77097538)
“Timelapse: Yellowstone National Park” (http://bit.ly/1kF5axc)
“Yellowstone” (http://bit.ly/1bPI6DM)
“Howling Wolves – Heulende Wölfe” (http://bit.ly/1c2Oidv)
“Fooled by Nature: Beaver Dams” (http://bit.ly/NGgQSU)

Music Credits:
“Unfoldment, Revealment, Evolution, Exposition, Integration, Arson” by Chris Zabriskie (http://bit.ly/1c2uckW)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 106A-117 of the US Copyright Law.

For any concerns or questions, you may contact us athttp://sustainableman.org/contact/

If you want to read more on a general level, then my post on the 11th January, 2014, An echo in the hills! may be worthwhile. It included this from William Ripple, of Oregon State University:

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Top dogs keep ecosystems in order

Many of these large carnivore species are endangered and some are at risk of extinction, either in specific regions or entirely. Ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning about their important ecological effects, which is what led us to write a new paper in the journal Science to document their role.

From a review of published reports, we singled out seven species that have been studied for their important ecological role and widespread effects, known as trophic cascades. These are the African lion, leopard, Eurasian lynx, cougar, gray wolf, sea otter and dingo.

Based on field research, my Oregon State University co-author Robert Beschta and I documented the impact of cougars and wolves on the regeneration of forest tree stands and riverside vegetation in Yellowstone and other national parks in western North America. Fewer predators, we found, lead to an increase in browsing animals such as deer and elk. More browsing disrupts vegetation, reduces birds and some mammals and changes other parts of the ecosystem. From the actions of the top predator, widespread impacts cascade down the food chain.

Similar effects were found in studies of Eurasian lynx, dingoes, lions and sea otters. For example in Europe, absence of lynx has been closely tied to the abundance of roe deer, red fox and hare. In Australia, the construction of a 3,400-mile dingo-proof fence has enabled scientists to study ecosystems with and without dingoes which are closely related to gray wolves. They found that dingoes control populations of herbivores and exotic red foxes. The suppression of these species by dingoes reduces predation pressure, benefiting plants and smaller native prey.

In some parts of Africa, the decrease of lions and leopards has coincided with a dramatic increase in olive baboons, which threaten crops and livestock. In the waters off southeast Alaska, a decline in sea otters through killer whale predation has led to a rise in sea urchins and loss of kelp beds.

Predators are integral, not expendable

We are now obtaining a deeper appreciation of the impact of large carnivores on ecosystems, a view that can be traced back to the work of landmark ecologist Aldo Leopold. The perception that predators are harmful and deplete fish and wildlife is outdated. Many scientists and wildlife managers now recognise the growing evidence of carnivores’ complex role in ecosystems, and their social and economic benefits. Leopold recognised these relationships, but his observations were ignored for decades after his death in 1948.

op carnivores, at work keeping things in check. Doug Smith

Top carnivores, at work keeping things in check. Doug Smith

Human tolerance of these species is the major issue. Most would agree these animals have an intrinsic right to exist, but additionally they provide economic and ecological services that people value. Among the services documented in other studies are carbon sequestration, restoration of riverside ecosystems, biodiversity and disease control. For example, wolves may limit large herbivore populations, thus decreasing browsing on young trees that sequester carbon when they escape browsing and grow taller. Where large carnivore populations have been restored – such as wolves in Yellowstone or Eurasian lynx in Finland – ecosystems appear to be bouncing back.

I am impressed with how resilient the Yellowstone ecosystem is, and while ecosystem restoration isn’t happening quickly everywhere in this park, it has started. In some cases where vegetation loss has led to soil erosion, for example, full restoration may not be possible in the near term. What is certain is that ecosystems and the elements of them are highly interconnected. The work at Yellowstone and other places shows how species affect each another through different pathways. It’s humbling as a scientist to witness this interconnectedness of nature.

My co-authors and I have called for an international initiative to conserve large carnivores in co-existence with people. This effort could be modelled after a couple of other successful efforts including the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, a non-profit scientific group affiliated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the Global Tiger Initiative which involves all 13 of the tiger-range countries. With more tolerance by humans, we might be able to avoid extinctions. The world would be a scary place without these predators.

William Ripple does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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The ConversationMan! We are a strange species at times!

Written by Paul Handover

February 24, 2014 at 00:00

Dogs and wolves – fascinating research.

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Something new to learn every day!

I have been saving this report for a few weeks.  Following yesterday’s great news about the latest concerning wolves in Oregon, today seemed a perfect follow-on with a report first published in online journal PLOS ONE. However, what follows is a full republication of the report as I read it on the Science Daily website.

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Teaching young wolves new tricks: Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs

Date: January 31, 2014

Source: Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

Summary: Although wolves and dogs are closely related, they show some striking differences. Scientists have undertaken experiments that suggest that wolves observe one another more closely than dogs and so are better at learning from one another. The scientists believe that cooperation among wolves is the basis of the understanding between dogs and humans.

Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs. Credit: Walter Vorbeck

Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs.
Credit: Walter Vorbeck

Although wolves and dogs are closely related, they show some striking differences. Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have undertaken experiments that suggest that wolves observe one another more closely than dogs and so are better at learning from one another. The scientists believe that cooperation among wolves is the basis of the understanding between dogs and humans.

Their findings have been published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Wolves were domesticated more than 15,000 years ago and it is widely assumed that the ability of domestic dogs to form close relationships with humans stems from changes during the domestication process. But the effects of domestication on the interactions between the animals have not received much attention. The point has been addressed by Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi, two members of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) who work at the Wolf Science Center (WSC) in Ernstbrunn, Niederösterreich.

Wolves copy other wolves solving problems

The scientists found that wolves are considerably better than dogs at opening a container, providing they have previously watched another animal do so. Their study involved 14 wolves and 15 mongrel dogs, all about six months old, hand-reared and kept in packs. Each animal was allowed to observe one of two situations in which a trained dog opened a wooden box, either with its mouth or with its paw, to gain access to a food reward. Surprisingly, all of the wolves managed to open the box after watching a dog solve the puzzle, while only four of the dogs managed to do so. Wolves more frequently opened the box using the method they had observed, whereas the dogs appeared to choose randomly whether to use their mouth or their paw.

Watch closely …

To exclude the possibility that six-month old dogs fail the experiment because of a delayed physical or cognitive development, the researchers repeated the test after nine months. The dogs proved no more adept at opening the box than they were at a younger age. Another possible explanation for the wolves’ apparent superiority at learning is that wolves might simply be better than dogs at solving such problems. To test this idea, the researchers examined the animals’ ability to open a box without prior demonstration by a dog. They found that the wolves were rarely successful. “Their problem-solving capability really seems to be based on the observation of a dog performing the task,” says Range. “The wolves watched the dog very closely and were able to apply their new knowledge to solve the problem. Their skill at copying probably relates to the fact that wolves are more dependent on cooperation with conspecifics than dogs are and therefore pay more attention to the actions of their partners.”

The researchers think that it is likely that the dog-human cooperation originated from cooperation between wolves. During the process of domestication, dogs have become able to accept humans as social partners and thus have adapted their social skills to include interactions with them, concomitantly losing the ability to learn by watching other dogs.

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Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität WienNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Friederike Range, Zsófia Virányi. Wolves Are Better Imitators of Conspecifics than DogsPLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e86559 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086559

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So if you, like me, are one of many people who believe that your dog knows what you are thinking, then we need to thank the wolf!

Picture parade thirty.

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We interrupt your life to bring you a moment of beauty, part two.

Last week I published the first set of pictures sent across by John Hurlburt.  Here is the second set (but do look at the postscript).

John11

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John14

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JH15

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John17

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John18

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John19

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John20

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Now a bonus.

I was reading Naked Capitalism earlier on Saturday and came across the link to a story in Huffington Post about a young man who jumped into a swollen river in Bangladesh to rescue a young fawn in danger of being swept away to it’s death.  This how that story opens:

Courageous Teen Risks His Life To Save Drowning Baby Deer

This is pretty incredible.

A wildlife photographer visiting Noakhali, Bangladesh, was able to witness — and document — an amazingly courageous teen risk his own life to save a drowning fawn, Caters News Service reports.

The boy waded into the fast current of a surging, swollen river in Noakhali, holding the deer above his head, even as he, himself, disappeared beneath the water at times.

The link in the last sentence takes you to the article as it appeared in The Daily Mail newspaper (online version).

Two of the photographs from that article.

PIC FROM HASIB WAHAB / CATERS NEWS (Pictured: DEER RETURNED SAFELY) - A brave boy fearlessly risked his own life - to save a helpless baby deer from drowning. The boy, believed to be in his early teens, defiantly held the young fawn in one hand above his head as he plunged through the surging river. During the ordeal onlookers were unsure whether the boy was going to appear again. When he finally made it to the other side the locals cheered as the deer was reunited with its family. The incident took place in Noakhali, Bangladesh, when the young fawn became separated from its family during torrential rain and fast-rising floods.

PIC FROM HASIB WAHAB / CATERS NEWS (Pictured: DEER RETURNED SAFELY) – A brave boy fearlessly risked his own life – to save a helpless baby deer from drowning. The boy, believed to be in his early teens, defiantly held the young fawn in one hand above his head as he plunged through the surging river. During the ordeal onlookers were unsure whether the boy was going to appear again. When he finally made it to the other side the locals cheered as the deer was reunited with its family. The incident took place in Noakhali, Bangladesh, when the young fawn became separated from its family during torrential rain and fast-rising floods.

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PIC FROM HASIB WAHAB / CATERS NEWS (Pictured: DEER) - A brave boy fearlessly risked his own life - to save a helpless baby deer from drowning. The boy, believed to be in his early teens, defiantly held the young fawn in one hand above his head as he plunged through the surging river. During the ordeal onlookers were unsure whether the boy was going to appear again. When he finally made it to the other side the locals cheered as the deer was reunited with its family. The incident took place in Noakhali, Bangladesh, when the young fawn became separated from its family during torrential rain and fast-rising floods.

PIC FROM HASIB WAHAB / CATERS NEWS (Pictured: DEER)

Here’s that article in The Daily Mail newspaper.

OK, I know I have a tendency to get a little sentimental but here’s my closing thought.  That is that while there are people in the world such as young Belal who will not hesitate to rescue a vulnerable creature then there’s hope for all of mankind.

Science and understanding

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Our weather systems are entirely driven by the laws of science.

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.

So wrote William Wordsworth.

The last twelve months has been a period of untypical weather in many parts of the world.  It’s easy to scratch one’s head with puzzlement and blame it on the most convenient and fashionable theory of the moment.  Unusual jet stream pattern; polar vortex; aliens! You get the idea! However, the principle behind what is happening to the weather systems across our planet is very straightforward.  Our weather systems are described by the laws of science.

Thus it is a great pleasure to offer the following guest post from a scientist: Martin Lack.  Martin should be no stranger to readers of Learning from Dogs; his most recent contribution was the major three-part essay From Environmentalism to Ecologism.

Martin is the author of the blog Lack of Environment and this essay was first published there on the 11th July, 2012.

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Conserving mass, water, and energy

I must admit that I am rather fond of quoting Sir Arthur Eddington as having once said, “…if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” Without quibbling over the detail, the Law of Conservation of Mass is pretty darn close; but what, you may ask, has this got to do with climate change denial?

Conservation of mass of water
Well, consider for a moment that scientists seem to agree that there has been a 4% increase in the average moisture content of the Earth’s atmosphere since 1970. That being the case, I am bound to say that this extra 4% is making its presence felt in the UK at the moment! This year we have had the wettest 3 months (April – June) in over 100 years; the wettest June on record; the rain is still falling (sometimes as much as 80mm in a day); and – we are now being told – there is no change anticipated in coming weeks. So, if you’re coming over for the Olympics, expect to get wet!

However, whilst the UK suffers from near Biblical levels of flooding, if the Law of Conservation of Mass is to be upheld and – all other things like terrestrial ice volume remaining equal(!) – the volume of water in the oceans is to remain constant, then it must be failing to rain somewhere else. If so, is there any evidence to support this theory Law? Well, funnily enough, there is: Whilst the UK continues to receive more rain than it wants or needs (all hose pipe bans and drought restrictions have now been lifted), many parts of the World continue to suffer from persistent drought (in sub-Saharan West Africa) and/or record-breaking temperatures (in most of North America).

Sadly, none of this seems to stop self-confessed scientifically-illiterate English graduates such as James Delingpole from ridiculing the entire notion of global warming simply because it is raining a lot here at the moment. It may seem that he has just got a nasty case of tunnel vision and/or short-term memory loss but this is what the fake sceptics always do; they never look at the big picture: Rather than look at daily, monthly, or even annual average temperatures over multi-decadal periods to determine significant long-term trends; they just cherry pick data to reach fallacious conclusions such as “global warming stopped in 1998″.

I am therefore left hoping that the 57% of the British adult population that seem to fall for this kind of nonsense will soon decide that it is time to stop running down the up escalator and, by embracing the reality of what is happening, decide to become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. If not, climate change denial may well lead to a failure to conserve mass; with the mass in question being the sustainable number of humans this planet can support in the long-term.

Conservation of mass of carbon
If the Law of Conservation of Mass explains why anthropogenic global warming climate disruption is not invalidated by any amount of cold weather or torrential rainfall in one place; can it be used to validate concern regarding a 40% increase CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere? Funnily enough, it can: Since the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th Century, a vast amount of fossilised carbon has been burnt; with the carbon it contained combining with oxygen in the air to form CO2. Note here that the oxygen was in the air anyway; whereas the carbon had been out of circulation for hundreds of millions of years. All this new carbon has to go somewhere and, given that it will be many more millions of years before any of it gets taken back out of circulation by nature, it is either making the atmosphere warm-up or it is reducing the pH of seawater (just enough to make life very difficult for corals and shellfish).

So then, what is the human response to all this? Shall we stop burning the fossil fuels now we know we’re causing a problem? It doesn’t look like it! It seems far more likely that we shall gamble the future habitability of all the planets diverse ecosystems on finding a way to defeat the Law of Conservation of Mass by artificially removing this carbon from the biosphere: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). And do you know what I find most astonishing about CCS? It is the fact that our governments are spending huge sums of money on long-term tests to simulate the effects of CO2 leaking from a submarine CCS repository – to see if it has any noticeable effects on marine life?

Errr, hello-oh? If any CO2 ever escapes from any CCS repository, the entire exercise will have been a complete waste of time and money! The CO2 will be back in circulation and the Law of Conservation of Mass will have won (again). If the genie will not stay in the bottle we will all be in big trouble: Rather than being likely to“collapse in deepest humiliation”; such a failure to defeat the Law of Conservation of Mass will probably result in the collapse of the entire planetary ecosystem; because of our other big problem – the Law of Conservation of Energy: The reason the atmosphere is warming up in the first place; more energy is coming in from the Sun than is getting out into Space!

Conclusions
So, this year’s weather should be a wake-up call to all of us: Irrespective of the actual kind of extreme weather being experienced in any one place, the impacts on agriculture seem to be equally destructive and spiralling food costs the inevitable end result: All just as was predicted by people dismissed for decades as doomsayers: People like Garrett Hardin, Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Meadows, E.F. Schumacher, William Ophuls, Mathis Wackernagel, Ernest Callenbach, and Lester Brown… It looks like that darn ‘wolf’ finally showed up!

Funnily enough, it turns out that a doubling in the size of the global human economy every 50 years is not sustainable after all; and worshipping at the Temple of the God of Growth has got us in some serious trouble; otherwise known as a global debt crisis (see the short video embedded below). We thought we could just lend imaginary money to each other indefinitely but someone blinked and the spell was broken. Sadly, it turns out the Emperor was naked after all; it’s just a shame that by the time we realised this we were all completely sold on the latest fashion ourselves: The New Clothes are everywhere; and we have all been left looking for fig leaves to cover our genitals.

Just as The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al) predicted all those years ago, the Earth is running out of the ability to cope with the effects of our chronically dysfunctional mis-management of it. This was why, as I pointed out six months ago, the failure of food harvests in 2010 led to the Arab Spring of 2011… Are you, like me, wondering what is going to happen this time around? My prediction is that some economist such as Tim Worstall will get himself on TV and tell everyone that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a load of old rubbish; and that technology will save us from the consequences of our selfish pursuit of profit at any cost; and from our failure to recognise that we humans are not superior to nature – we are part of it – and we cannot survive without it. Or, to put it another way, as a Native American tribal leader once did:
When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

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I can add nothing to the above other than to thank Martin for giving me the opportunity to republish his post.

Written by Paul Handover

January 31, 2014 at 00:00

Synchronocity!

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Funny how things go around!

According to the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary, one of the two definitions of synchronicity is:

:  the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung

That seems sufficiently apt to warrant the choice of title for today’s post.

Here’s why!

Yesterday, Chris Snuggs left a comment to my post Unconditional love. Essentially, Chris made the argument that much of what we see as wrong with the world is not new; not new at all [my insertion of the image of and link to the Great Fire of London].

Great Fire of London. September 2nd-5th, 1666.

Great Fire of London. September 2nd-5th, 1666.

What I mean is, the danger of thinking that today’s events are somehow special and different in kind than throughout history, a feeling generated by the fact that WE are living NOW. However, is it not true that ALL ages of Mankind have seen disasters, wars, dangers, catastrophes, including natural ones? How must those have felt who lived through the 30 Years War, the plague, the Great Fire of London, Stalin’s purges and of course the holocaust?

Even in these present times, Chris doubted that mankind had not been here before [my emphasis]:

WHAT then is special about OUR era? Well, Patrice is and rightly very concerned about the kleptocracy. The staggering statistic that emerged the other day about 85 individuals having as much wealth as 3,5 BILLION people was yet another wake-up call, especially as history seems to tell us that A) there have ALWAYS been kleptocracies and B) they ALWAYS end in revolution, dictatorship or social collapse. But the point is, this is nothing NEW. On the contrary, it has in many societies been the normal progression of things for millenia.

So what about Global Warming, as in man-caused? Chris wrote:

No, all my uncertainties lie in the area of GW. It’s pretty clear that there Is global warming, but A) Is it our fault? B) What should we DO about it? and C) Is it too late anyway?

The notion that it is too late to prevent widespread, major consequences from the heating of our planet is widely shared; I sing the siren’s song myself.

So when an item came along yesterday from Transition Network’s blog courtesy of Rob Hopkins pointing out that Chris, me and many others may be wrong to sing the ‘doom and gloom’ song, it naturally caught my eye.  A quick call to the Transition Network team in Totnes, Devon gave me permission to republish on Learning from Dogs, so here it is. Thanks TN team.  (My thoughts follow the TN piece.)

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Lipkis on Holmgren: “Our job is to make viable the alternative and have it ready”

You know how sometimes someone will just put something you were thinking far more eloquently and clearly than you would have been able to? On Thursday we’ll be posting an interview with Andy Lipkis of TreePeople in Los Angeles. When I talked to Andy last week, it was 80°F, and a state of drought emergency had just been declared (in LA, not Totnes, it was raining here, as usual). At the end of the interview, I asked for his thoughts on the recent debate sparked by David Holmgren’s Crash on Demand article. I asked him “Can we achieve the action on climate change that we need within the existing paradigm, or do we need to deliberately bring the economy down, to deliberately crash it?”.  Here’s what he told me.

Andy Lipkis

Andy Lipkis

“This system is so armoured to defend itself from a deliberate crash that much of our resources and intelligence networks are focused on exactly stopping that. On the flip side, the crash is already happening. We don’t have to engineer it: it’s already been engineered into the system. Check it out: Infrastructure systems are in breakdown in major cities around the world, with severe climate exceeding the designed capacity for storms, floods, water shortages, heat events resulting in increasing numbers of people being dislocated, injured or killed.  In the US, taxpayers are unwilling or unable to pay for the rapidly inflating costs for upgrading and climate-proofing the outmoded infrastructure systems, all the while, climate change denial campaigns prevent communities from preparing for and protecting themselves from the impacts.

I think our job is to make viable the alternative and have it ready. If we’ve really done our homework, we could scale this thing in a flash in California right now because this crash is upon us. And I hope we’re going to be able, perhaps within months…I invented a cistern that could replace the backyard fence or wall, that could hold 5,000 – 20,000 gallons and could be manufactured locally. The City’s going “hey, maybe we should do that now”. Now. Because it’s going to rain again, even if this drought lasts some years, we could deploy them quickly, just as they did in Australia’s 12 year drought.

I think we’ve been trained to spend time on these battles, on the negativity, and we lose people.  We’ve lost precious decades. The crash is on its way. We don’t have to do anything. We need the time to convert people and move people. We need to use examples of Australia and what’s happening now in California to tell those stories, because I agree, denial, defending the system is keeping it pumping.  But as you saw from Snowden and all the evidence, for those of us who went through the ‘60s and ‘70s in protest, I don’t think that’s going to succeed. If we focus on that our best leaders are going to end up in jail for too long.

When you look at how fast people change when you add inspiration, when you add attraction, people change on a dime! When we were growing up, there were – I don’t know if you had The Munsters?  One of the only people who we all knew who was doing yoga and eating yoghurt was Uncle Fester. But when we started seeing beautiful, sexy male and female bodies doing that, it started selling, moving people by the millions and then billions to choose these lifestyles.

I’m not saying the marketplace is the only answer, I’m just saying that if we choose attraction and inclusion we can create those markets, as you’re starting to do. Your stories over and over again on what’s happening with local currency – it’s time to tell the stories better and use those market forces, because people will choose those because they’re less painful and more attractive. And to be smart, to say wow, yeah.

The Bush administration was ready for all Americans to be protesting to try to stop the Iraq war. They expected that, they built that into their design. I was so amazed that they could say they didn’t care what the people said, that I had to think through why they did not care about that. How did they make it resilient?  Because all they cared about was as long as people kept consuming, especially petroleum, their objective was being met. They were counting on no-one changing lifestyles.

The most radical thing sometimes that you can do is actually vote with your feet and vote with your dollars. I was going – “wow, yeah, they’re counting on people complaining”. Protesting and not changing. I started thinking that even the Obama administration is still using the same metrics as the Bush administration was, saying people won’t change on energy. “It’s going to take 35 years to reduce our energy use by 30%”. Well that’s bullshit, because we can choose to do that in a week.

So, I decided that I was going to show that that’s possible even in my own lifestyle. I drive a Prius which is especially fuel efficient, but I’m going to stop driving that car two or three days a week. I told my secretary to book meetings downtown where I could get the bus to. I got out of the car, took the bus, and it actually became a really cool thing. I started investing my dollars in the local bus system. I did it for over two years.  I blogged about it. A lot of other people stopped full time car use,  and right at the right time as gasoline prices were spiking, a proposal came out to build a new transit system. It’s always been rejected in LA, but the voters at that moment chose to fund 40 billion dollars to build a new subway system in Los Angeles so we could get out of our cars. It’s a radical move, but it’s starting to happen.

So maybe that’s a long complicated answer, but we’ve built the right foundation. Our happiness, our health is the answer. It’s infectious. Our job is to be that much more infectious and inclusive. And don’t put up barriers of titles. Don’t put up barriers of shame and blame. Be open to learning fast and welcoming people in. We’re hacking the system and making it so much better. If we invite that kind of creativity, the generation that’s inheriting this right now is really ready to take this home.

ooOOoo

Don’t know about you but I find that compelling. It’s far too easy to wait for others to fix the problems. Too easy to see the issues as insurmountable. Each of us has the ability and the common-sense to make a change in our lives. Whether it is a small, medium or large change in your behaviour, you will make a difference.

So if you have been inspired by this, as Jeannie and I have been, commit to making a difference.

The power of truth

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Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

The above is a quote attributed to the Buddha.  It is perfect as an introduction to today’s piece.

When I sat down at my PC yesterday afternoon I was planning to finish off a Post about the BBC’s fabulous Frozen Planet TV series.  But a check of my email changed all that.  Because there was an email from Merci O., someone in Payson that Jean and I know well.  Merci had sent me an email with a link to the following YouYube video.

Watch and be moved.

This is a non-commercial attempt to highlight the fact that world leaders, irresponsible corporates and mindless ‘consumers’ are combining to destroy life on earth. It is dedicated to all who died fighting for the planet and those whose lives are on the line today. The cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network (www.sanctuaryasia.com).

Content credit: The principal source for the footage was Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s incredible film HOME http://www.homethemovie.org/. The music was by Armand Amar. Thank you too Greenpeace and http://timescapes.org/

2001: A Space Odyssey

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Even today, still an amazing film

Jean and I watched this film the other evening.  I have seen it a number of times but Jean just once before when it first was released in 1968!  Yes, over 40 years ago!

What struck me watching it today was how beautifully slow the film was.  I mean in the sense of camera and scene changes.  I had forgotten just how beautiful the film was from a technical perspective.  It held the eye and brain in a way that seemed so foreign to the way that films have been made in the last so many years.

WikiPedia has a very good summary of the film.

And there are more summaries on the INDB website, here’s an example:

“2001″ is a story of evolution. Sometime in the distant past, someone or something nudged evolution by placing a monolith on Earth (presumably elsewhere throughout the universe as well). Evolution then enabled humankind to reach the moon’s surface, where yet another monolith is found, one that signals the monolith placers that humankind has evolved that far. Now a race begins between computers (HAL) and human (Bowman) to reach the monolith placers. The winner will achieve the next step in evolution, whatever that may be.

The sign!

What is just as interesting is remembering the feelings that I had when I first saw the film, probably in 1968 or 1969, when I was living out in Australia, aged mid-twenties!

I was incredibly fascinated by the US expeditions out to the moon with the actual landing in July 1969.  Indeed, I rented a TV and took a complete week’s holiday from work just to watch every minute of this historical event.

So the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, seemed to capture, for me anyway, the feelings and mood of a brave new world reaching out beyond Planet Earth.  The year 2001 felt like aeons away.  It was obvious that when we eventually got to the 21st century, mankind would be unbelievably advanced in many exciting and positive ways.

Ah, the dreams of the naive young!

Now here we are heading towards the year 2011 and the world, I mean mankind, seems to be going where?  Here’s Jon Lavin’s rather sombre view:

Have been musing about the part failure of the Russian grain harvest and the resultant speculation, that has forced the grain price up astronomically, the impact on bread/food/beer etc., evidence of the same mentality that kicked the banks/investments recession off.

Also, the fact that Lloyds TSB are 43% owned by the British people and are charging interest on non-approved loans of 165% and have a bonus fund of half billion pounds that certainly they have not asked my permission about.

This continuing lack of integrity, in the face of food shortages, untold hardship for millions of people, just goes to show that until an absolute calamity strikes to stop the whole of mankind in our tracks, it’s business as usual for the financially-led people and get-rich-on-the-back-of-anything-and-anybody crowd.

Are we still at consciousness level 204 or have we crossed back below the threshold, back below integrity 200, where falsehood rules?

The answer is to retain faith in the future, faith in the power of love and compassion, and faith in the fact that being the best that we can be today, now, in the present, just as dogs are so wonderful at doing, will bring us the better tomorrows we all dreamed about in 1968.  Here’s a reminder:

By Paul Handover

P.S. Serendipity at work.  Saw this from the BBC less than 5 minutes after completing this Post!

Written by Paul Handover

August 26, 2010 at 00:00

Another ‘ah’ moment!

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Again, apologies for a ‘thin’ posting – here’s why.

I first saw this in Naked Capitalism but the picture came from the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper 6th August, 2010.

Trust!

The accompanying text:

This baby six-week old kookaburra called Kookie and a tiny duckling have struck up a friendship at the Seaview Wildlife Encounter, near Ryde in the Isle of Wight. Kookie was saved by staff after they feared his parents would kill him. And the duckling was rescued from one of the park’s aviaries because he was thought too small to defend himself against larger birds. Keepers took a chance and decided to see what would happen if they were put together. The duckling instantly cuddled up under Kookie’s protective wing, thinking he was his mum and Kookie didn’t seem to mind playing the caring parent

Picture: MIKAEL BUCK / SOLENT

By Paul Handover

Written by Paul Handover

August 15, 2010 at 00:00

A chance to pause.

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The beauty of wild deer.

Apologies for a ‘thin’ posting – here’s why.

Wild English deer.

Julie has gone on ahead, but returns to tell me that the sika deer are feeding in the reed beds ahead of us. (These are one of two types of deer found at Holton Lee.) She offers to stay with Genie while I go and photograph them, so that Genie won’t frighten them off. They see me, but continue feeding whilst remaining alert.

It really is a magical sight – I am quite converted from my original anxiety about deer leaping out in front of the car!

There is something extremely primeval about deer, which is probably not surprising as their bodies have provided everything from meat and clothing to fish hooks and sinews for many indigenous people, while still remaining wild. It is hard to see why anyone would hunt them simply for sport, though, and I fear that Walt Disney has spoilt me for enjoying venison – ancient, organic, sustainable, non-farmed food source or not, it would be like eating Bambi!

Taken from Ju’s Holton Lee blog.

By Paul Handover

Written by Paul Handover

August 14, 2010 at 00:00

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