Just to put this into context, if you watched the George Monbiot speech that was the highlight of my post last Tuesday, The Goon Show, you might well have been forgiven for wondering if these are starting to feel like the end-times for species homo sapiens.
Almost perfectly on cue, on Monday, John Hurlburt down in Payson, AZ., sent me the following. It does make one think!
Time Required for the Earth to Heal if the Human Race Disappeared Today
(While John over the telephone read out the URL that was the source of this ‘chart’, I was unable to link to it. Thus apologies for not recognising the author.)
Then if you are up for more of the same theme, here’s a film that will ‘entertain’ you.
Published on Sep 2, 2012
What will happen when humans disappear from the face of the Earth? This movie will certain make you think about the impact we have made on this beautiful planet. But when humans are gone… Earth does continue.
Imagine if one minute from now, every single person on Earth disappeared. All 6.6 billion of us. What would happen to the world without humans?
How long would it be before our nuclear power plants erupted, skyscrapers crumbled and satellites dropped from the sky?
What would become of the household pets and farm animals? And could an ecosystem plagued with years of pollution ever recover?
Similar to the History Channel’s special Life After People (recommended), Aftermath features what scientists and others speculate the earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect that humanity’s disappearance would have on the artefacts of civilisation.
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First of all a Very Happy Summer Solstice wherever you are (in the Northern Hemisphere!)
Neighbour Larry sent me a link to a delightful story about solving the problem of a yacht, with a mainmast stretching 85 feet above the water level, passing under a bridge that had a clearance of 65 feet above that same water level.
Here’s a picture to whet your interest. (Notice I wrote ‘whet’ not ‘wet’!)
The story was reported in UK’s The Daily Mail newspaper nearly three years ago. So I shall take a chance and republish it for you.
Beats going the long way round! How sailors got their 80ft mast under 65ft bridge
It may not look like an entirely safe practice – but it sure beats going the long way round.
These sailors came up with an ingenious way to get their boat – complete with 80ft mast – under a 65ft bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway. A video posted on YouTube shows how the sailors keeled the boat over by dangling containers filled with two tons of water from the mast.
But it is not a solution for the faint hearted.
Any miscalculation with the weight has the potential to send the whole boat crashing into the water.
The sailor ‘hunterparrot’ who posted the video said he initiates the roll by fixing the containers to the mast and slowly turning to port. The severity of the roll is then controlled by letting the ropes affixed to the mast out gradually with a cockpit winch.
The intracoastal waterway is a 3000-mile network of waterways that run up the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. It runs from New Jersey, around Florida to Texas.
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The photographs in that Daily Mail article may be viewed here.
Really? If the bridge clearance is 65 feet and the mast height is 80 feet, then the cosine of the heel angle would be 65 / 80. This corresponds to a heel angle of about 36 degrees; the mast is 54 degrees above the horizontal. Still, a pretty impressive maneuver.
If the bags are full of water, then his setup is self-limiting. As the bags start to immerse, the pull on the halyard is reduced. This means he would be nearly unable to capsize unless he winches the bags WAY too high. I think he has done this trick before.
I think the reason he is sitting on the high side is twofold: He can see the masthead more easily and it is more comfortable
The weight of one person really doesn’t make much difference when you are trying to heel that big a boat that far.
If someone had to do this sort of trick a lot, would it be worth putting a small video camera on the top of the mainmast? This would make it easier to judge clearance.
Last Saturday, I published a post called Are you grounded?The essence of that post was that grounding our bodies on a very regular basis, as in daily, was the primary means of avoiding a wide range of illnesses. In that post was included the first part of a speech given by Dr. Stephen Sinatra M.D. and I promised to include today the full speech.
So here are the videos including that Part One that was included on Saturday. (I do hope I have them in order!)
A simple heart-healing exercise
Sharing the “secret” for living longer
The healing modality
These further items also could be of interest to you.
Dr. Sinatra has his own website that may be found here.
There’s a 90-minute interview of Dr. Sinatra by Dr. Mercola; see below.
And much more if you spend a short while exploring the internet.
A shaggy brown terrier approaches a large chocolate Labrador in a city park. When the terrier gets close, he adopts a yogalike pose, crouching on his forepaws and hiking his butt into the air. The Lab gives an excited bark, and soon the two dogs are somersaulting and tugging on each other’s ears. Then the terrier takes off and the Lab gives chase, his tail wagging wildly. When the two meet once more, the whole thing begins again.
Watch a couple of dogs play, and you’ll probably see seemingly random gestures, lots of frenetic activity and a whole lot of energy being expended. But decades of research suggest that beneath this apparently frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.
Now I don’t have permission to reproduce the entire article but will draw your attention to this further piece:
All of this suggests that dogs have a kind of moral code — one long hidden to humans until a cognitive ethologist named Marc Bekoff began to crack it.
A wiry 68-year-old with reddish-gray hair tied back in a long ponytail, Bekoff is a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he taught for 32 years. He began studying animal behavior in the early 1970s, spending four years videotaping groups of dogs, wolves and coyotes in large enclosures and slowly playing back the tapes, jotting down every nip, yip and lick. “Twenty minutes of film could take a week to analyze,” he says.
The data revealed insights into how the animals maintained their tight social bonds — by grooming each other, for example. But what changed Bekoff’s life was watching them play. The wolves would chase each other, run, jump and roll over for seemingly no other reason than to have fun.
Few people had studied animal play, but Bekoff was intrigued. “Play is a major expenditure of energy, and it can be dangerous,” he says. “You can twist a shoulder or break a leg, and it can increase your chances of being preyed upon. So why do they do it? It has to feel good.”
Suddenly, Bekoff wasn’t interested just in behavior; he was interested also in emotions and, fundamentally, what was going on inside these animals’ heads.
Marc Bekoff’s name rang a bell with me and, sure enough, I found that previously he was mentioned here. It was a post called Daisy offers a lesson for all,:
Do animals think and feel?
by Marc Bekoff – Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Daisy: The Injured Dog Who Believed She’d Walk Again and Did
Often, a simple video captures the essence of the deep nature of the incredibly close and enduring bonds we form with other animals and they with us. As a case in point, my recent essay called “A Dog and His Man” showed a dog exuberantly expressing his deep feelings for a human companion he hadn’t seen for six months. Another essay titled “My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals” dealt with the relationship between homeless people and the animals with whom they share their lives.
Daisy: An unforgettable and inspirational symbol of dedication and hope
I just saw another video called “Daisy – the Little Pup Who Believed” that is well-worth sharing widely with others of all ages. There is no way I can summarize the depth of five-month old Daisy’s resolve to walk again after she was injured or of the devotion of the woman, Jolene, who found her on the side of a road – scared, malnourished, unable to walk or wag her tail, the people who contributed money to help her along, or the wonderful veterinarians and staff at Barrie Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada, who took care of her. You can also read about Daisy’s remarkable and inspirational journey here.
Please take five minutes out of your day to watch this video, read the text, listen to the song that accompanies it, and share it widely. I am sure you will get teary as you watch Daisy go from an injured little ball of fur living in a ditch on the side of a road with a broken spine to learning to walk in water to romping around wildly as if life had been that proverbial pail of cherries from the start.
I’ve watched Daisy’s journey many times and every single time my eyes get watery. Among the many lessons in this wonderful video is “stay strong and never give up”. Clearly dogs and many other animals can truly teach us about traits such as trust, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.
Back to that Washington Post article.
Bekoff’s recent work suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking — a so-called “theory of mind.”
Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.
So will leave you with this video and return to the theme tomorrow.
Yesterday’s post spelled out in letters bold, so to speak, the madness of our present relationship with food. As in the blindness of the vast majority of consumers when it comes to our consumption of food. Such as the blindness of Americans, for example! Presuming that few are aware that feeding all of us Americans accounts for about 15% of US energy use,  and the average food item travels more than 5,000 miles from farm to fork. 
So it’s encouraging to see that there are signs of hope.
For example, in the UK, Martin Crawford has a wealth of information about forest gardening on his website The Forest Garden.
Welcome to the Forest Garden.
Inspired by the effortless abundance in nature we believe that forest gardens are the best way to produce local wholesome organic food, timber products and a myriad of other natural non-wood items. Forest gardens, with careful design and management, also improve degraded soils and create wildlife havens, employment and beauty. We love this way of gardening and farming with nature, we hope you do too.
We’ve just started to create the largest Forest Garden site in UK so please check back regularly to see how we’re getting on.
And Martin’s thirteen-minute video on the topic is pure inspiration.
Then in the USA, we see the increasing power of the voice of such organisations as the Post Carbon Institute whose mission statement reads:
Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity crises that define the 21st century. We envision a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.
Still in the USA but much closer to home, indeed just a four-minute drive away, is Sweet Water Farm.
Sweet Water Farm is a small family owned and operated farm located in beautiful Hugo, Oregon near the base of Mt. Sexton. Sam and Denise work the fields with their son Ari and daughter Ivory overseeing the operation. Our mission is to provide healthy food to our community while take care of the place we call home.
More than 96 per cent of all the food grown in Britain is reliant on synthetic fertiliser. Without it we’d be in serious trouble.
But without artificial fertiliser there’s not enough nutrients for the crops to grow, and without ploughing there is nothing to aerate the soil. So how can we manage without them?
The answers are in nature. As Charles Darwin pointed out, earthworms have been ploughing and aerating the soil for millions of years. And as for fertilisers, just look at how a forest flourishes: by using the natural fertility created by billions of living microbes, fungi, plants and animals.
OK, I accept that the sub-heading is slightly provocative but so what!
The fascination in truly knowing who we are is endless!
Back in January of this year, I penned an essay under the title of 20:20 self-awareness. Here’s a snippet from that post:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have once said!
Today’s essay on the challenges of speaking clearly to another, perhaps better described as communicating in a clear and unambiguous fashion, came out of a recent conversation with Jon Lavin, a good friend from my Devon days. (Jon offers services for business owners and entrepreneurs under his business banner of The People Workshop.)
Jon was explaining that the number one hurdle for businesses that are managing change, and for so many businesses managing change is practically a constant, is having clear communications within the team.
The essence of that, and other posts over the years, is that knowing others, communicating with others, is so much easier when we know ourself well.
Not just relevant to us humans, by the way. Dogs love knowing us sufficiently well that they can trust and understand our behaviours.
So all of that is an introduction to an article that was recently on the website of London-based Harley Therapy. The article is called How to Be Your Authentic Self. I have taken the liberty of republishing it in full here on Learning from Dogs. (See copyright statement at the end.)
It’s a little after 6am.
I awoke this morning with the terrible realisation that I didn’t have permission to republish that article and, therefore, have ‘amended’ today’s post and removed the item..
The OU was established in 1969 and the first students enrolled in January 1971. The University administration is based at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, but has regional centres in each of its thirteen regions around the United Kingdom. It also has offices and regional examination centres in most other European countries. The university awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates or continuing education units.
With more than 250,000 students enrolled, including around 32,000 aged under 25 and more than 50,000 overseas students, it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom (and one of the largest in Europe) by student number, and qualifies as one of the world’s largest universities.
For reasons that I am unclear about, I subscribe to the OU’s newsletter. Thus it was that a few weeks ago, this dropped into my ‘in-box’.
Do animals fall in love?
Do romantic relationships exist in the animal kingdom?
Throughout his lifetime, evolutionist and biologist Charles Darwin researched and wrote about how he felt that love can exist within the animal world. Particularly in his papers ‘The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals’ and ‘Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals’, he explored how animals can display supposed ‘human emotions’ like pleasure, pain, happiness and misery. He investigated how animals could seemingly appear to feel ‘down’ when separated from their companions, and seemed to jump for joy and touch one another in a way similar to a human hug when reunited.
Although monogamy and lifelong pair bonds are generally rare in the animal kingdom, some animals seem to thrive on it. Recent research has shown that Gibbons, who were thought to mate for life, have more complicated relationships, with mates occasionally philandering, and even sometimes dumping a mate, suggesting some similarity to human relationships. Swans also form monogamous pair bonds that last for many years, and occassionally for life. Loyalty to their mates has made them a virtually universal symbol of love. But some researchers believe it isn’t as romantic as it first appears, and that they stay together because spending extra time attracting a new mate has the potential to impact on the otherwise reproductive time.
Darwin’s theories have paved the way for further studies. In this free article, Tim Halliday explores natural selection and evolution in the animal world.
Here is that article.
Natural Selection and Evolution
Tim Halliday explores natural selection and evolution in the animal world
In the Rules of Life series, and its accompanying CD, Aubrey Manning looks at the behaviour of animals and describes many new discoveries about the way that this is beautifully adapted to meet the challenges which animals face in their daily lives. The scientific study of animal behaviour, or ethology, was founded some 50 years ago by Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz. Their most significant contribution was to bring together the study of natural history with an understanding of evolution by natural selection. Since then, the numerous studies that have been made of animal behaviour have revealed that animals do many things that challenge many of the ideas that people had about natural selection 50 years ago. Natural selection theory has developed enormously since that time, largely as the result of animal behaviour studies, and a number of popular misconceptions about evolution have been revealed to be false as a result.
One such misconception is embodied in the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, first coined by Herbert Spencer, and often used to encapsulate the way natural selection works. It is misleading, because ‘survival’ is only part of the story. Evolutionary change comes about because some individuals are more successful in reproduction and so pass on their genes to succeeding generations. As a result, the characteristics that make individuals successful in reproduction become more common in the population. It is thus reproduction that is important in evolution, and survival becomes simply a means to that end.
The importance of this point becomes apparent when we appreciate that, for most animals, reproduction is a very costly and sometimes dangerous activity, as illustrated many times in the series. To engage effectively in reproductive activity requires a great deal of energy and other resources that could otherwise be put towards survival. This is apparent in the common observation that animals show a greatly reduced growth rate, or stop growing altogether, when they reach sexual maturity. The resources that they derive from feeding are diverted from growth to reproduction.
A second common misconception is that natural selection acts ‘for the good of the species’. There are numerous examples of animal behaviour that show that this cannot be the case. For example, African lions live in prides, consisting of several females and their cubs, controlled by a group of two or three males. Other mature males are excluded from living in a pride. From time to time, a coalition of excluded males is formed and they attempt to take over a pride, by attacking and driving away the current pride-holders. If they succeed in doing this, their first act is to kill any cubs in the pride that are still being suckled by their mothers. To kill the young of one’s own species cannot benefit the species. The adaptive value of this behaviour for males is that, deprived of the cubs they have been suckling, the females very quickly come on heat and can conceive cubs fathered by the new pride-holders.
This example illustrates another common misconception about evolution, that, when mating, males and females are acting cooperatively. While it is in the interests of both parents that reproduction is successful, the way that that success comes about is not necessarily the same for the two sexes. For male lions, it is of no reproductive benefit to them to guard females that give birth to cubs fathered by other males. Infanticide is of benefit to them because it ensures that cubs born in the pride are their offspring. Infanticide is costly for females because the considerable time and resources that they have put into producing cubs is wasted. There is thus a conflict between the sexes, even though they have to behave cooperatively if either is to reproduce at all.
The interplay of cooperation and conflict is also apparent in the relationship between parents and offspring. For animals that produce more than one young at a time, it is usually to the advantage of the parent to share food more or less equally among its progeny. For each individual progeny, however, it is to its advantage if it receives more food than its siblings. There is thus a great deal of competition among progeny. This takes a bizarre form in the European Fire Salamander, and in a species of shark described in one of the programmes. In these animals, the young develop within the mother and, as they grow, they eat one another until only one, very large young is left. It may be that producing one offspring at a time is a good strategy from the mother’s point of view, or it could be that she would have higher reproductive success if she produced more; it may be, however that she has no choice in the matter.
The key to understanding evolution by natural selection is to think of it, not in terms of an individual’s survival, but in terms of its effectiveness in passing on its genes, what in the series is referred to as ‘genetic accounting’. Natural selection favours those individuals that pass on the most copies of their genes. This enables us to explain many aspects of animal behaviour that are difficult to explain purely in terms of survival. For example, in many species, particularly among birds, certain adult individuals do not breed themselves, but help other adults to do so, for example by feeding their young. In almost all cases, helpers turn out to be close relatives of the parents they are helping and so they are, in an indirect way, helping to spread those genes that they share with their relatives.
* Tim Halliday is professor of biology at The Open University, where he has worked on newts, toads and frogs since 1977.
Two photographs that offer my answer to the question: Do animals fall in love?
A reflection on intelligence, learning and knowledge.
Today’s essay has been prompted by a fascinating exchange of views and comments on a post recently published by Patrice Ayme. More of that tomorrow.
Before getting to the heart of things, I feel compelled to offer a little background on my own educational journey. It is presented today as a preamble to tomorrow’s main essay.
By rights, I should have enjoyed a stunning academic journey as a young man. My mother holds a double degree in French and German from Cambridge University. My father was both a Chartered Architect and Chartered Surveyor and worked for Barclay Perkins & Co at their Anchor Brewery in Southwark, London all his working life. My uncle, Christian Schiller, took up a mathematics scholarship at Sidney Sussex college at Cambridge University and ended up HM Inspector of Schools in the United Kingdom. Notably, he was a promoter of progressive ideas in primary education.
But it was not to be so.
My father died suddenly and with very little warning five days before Christmas in 1956. I had turned 12-years-old some six weeks previously and just completed my first term at Preston Manor County Grammar School. My secure, comfortable young life was thrown into emotional turmoil with one of the consequences being that instead of passing a clutch of GCE ‘O-Level’ exams, I barely managed to pass two subjects and was unable to continue on with a higher level of studying and the consequent sitting of GCE ‘A-Level’ exams, a pre-requisit for university.
Somehow, I then managed to win a place as a student at the Faraday House of Electrical Engineering, in those days based at Southampton Row, London. It was to study for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering. The requirement was that by the end of my first year at Faraday House I should pass two A-level examinations.
I was very happy as a college student. That first year was spent entirely learning about engineering with much time ‘hands-on’ in the engineering workshop. Then came time for me to sit those two A-level exams. I failed both of them! There was no choice but for me to leave the college.
So that’s enough to demonstrate that academic prowess was not my speciality.
However, being unable to jump through the hoops needed for a degree or equivalent didn’t mean that I was a poor learner; far from it.
After my father’s death, my mother remarried and my ‘new’ Dad was very supportive. He had a background in communications and quickly encouraged me to become a radio amateur. I joined the nearby Radio Society of Harrow (still in existence!) and their encouragement enabled me to pass the full set of exams necessary to become a licensed radio amateur and a full member of the Radio Society of Great Britain. My amateur call sign was (and still is) G3PUK. I was 17.
Later on, when I was an apprentice at the British Aircraft Corporation’s site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, one of the commercial staff, Jim Jenner, spent many hours preparing me for the Institute of Advanced Motorists examination. I passed that exam and became a full member of the IAM in May, 1966.
So there’s my background that, hopefully, will set the scene to a wonderful exchange of views and ideas that flowed from Patrice’s blog. Ideas that will be explored tomorrow.
For the reason, the powerful reason, that the intelligence and wisdom of humanity has always been important. But now, in this time of the affairs of man, our collective intelligence and wisdom has never been more important.
A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do.
Adám Miklósi, Enikö Kubinyi, József Topál, Márta Gácsi, Zsófia Virányi and Vilmos Csányi
Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány P. 1c, 1117, Hungary. firstname.lastname@example.org
The present investigations were undertaken to compare interspecific communicative abilities of dogs and wolves, which were socialized to humans at comparable levels. The first study demonstrated that socialized wolves were able to locate the place of hidden food indicated by the touching and, to some extent, pointing cues provided by the familiar human experimenter, but their performance remained inferior to that of dogs. In the second study, we have found that, after undergoing training to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look/gaze at the human, while socialized wolves do not. Based on these observations, we suggest that the key difference between dog and wolf behavior is the dogs’ ability to look at the human’s face. Since looking behavior has an important function in initializing and maintaining communicative interaction in human communication systems, we suppose that by positive feedback processes (both evolutionary and ontogenetically) the readiness of dogs to look at the human face has lead to complex forms of dog-human communication that cannot be achieved in wolves even after extended socialization.
Actually, that article from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös University in Budapest is just an excuse for me to post three photographs confirming the good scientists results!
There’s no question in my mind that millions of dog lovers across the world know the intimacy that is conveyed in a dog’s eyes!
There was a recent TED Talk that really made me sit up and think. Before I introduce the talk, let me offer a personal view. I’m speaking about the changing nature of the Earth’s climate.
On balance I believe that the climate of our planet is changing and, again on balance, I believe that mankind’s activities especially with regard to CO2 emissions are the primary cause.
But here’s the rub! I’m not a scientist.
So when scientist Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist no less, recently gave a twelve-minute TED Talk about the complexity of Planet Earth’s climate I found it compelling.
Here is is.
Published on May 1, 2014
You can’t understand climate change in pieces, says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. It’s the whole, or it’s nothing. In this illuminating talk, he explains how he studies the big picture of climate change with mesmerizing models that illustrate the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.
Then just two days later, on May 3rd, Alex Jones, he of the blog The Liberated Way, posted Unpredictable nature, that I have the pleasure in republishing in full. Read it and then reflect on Alex’s post and the talk given by Gavin Schmidt.
Posted on May 3, 2014 Nature is always full of surprises.
I went camping and woke to frost on the ground. I wrote yesterday that summer had arrived in Britain. A pool of water from recent rains had frozen over.
One thing you quickly learn about nature is its unpredictability. Everything in nature has its own free will, and will determine its own unpredictable path regardless of what humanity thinks. Those that are able to let go of control enjoy a nature full of surprises.
Thanks to the modern-day internet, it takes only a moment to find a relevant quotation to close today’s post.
“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.” Sir Winston Churchill.