My choice of quotation last Monday was taken from E. F. Schumacher: “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.“
Deciding on what should be my second selection turned out to be more difficult. Simply because there were so many buzzing around my head.
In the end I chose this:
Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences!
Despite a web search, that brought up numerous articles concerning unintended consequences across many fields of the human experience, I was unable to find a source for the quote and therefore cannot attribute it to the original author.
Nevertheless, it strikes me as one of the core aspects of human behaviour!
As offered on Monday, here are my nominations for today:
Just a few days ago, on May 1st to be precise, I published the post Dogs and Humans.
Colin Reynolds, he of the blog Wibble, left the following comment:
Good to see you back, glad to hear you had an enjoyable trip.
Those goslings are really cute 🙂
At risk of self-promotion: I was thinking of you when I wrote my latest blog post. Granted, wolves aren’t dogs, but they almost are… 🙂
I went across to Colin’s latest blog post and immediately wanted to share it with you all in this place.
It also seemed appropriate to ask Colin for his introduction. But here’s what he offered: “When Paul asked me if I would be willing to turn this post into a guest post for Learning from Dogs, I was more puzzled than anything else. The only words here that aren’t my own are those where I explain that all I did was transcribe George Monbiot’s words from the video.” I’m bound to say that the transcription was a grand job!
Anyway, here is Colin’s post.
How Wolves Change Rivers
by Colin Reynolds
“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 for nearly 70 years, the most remarkable ‘trophic cascade‘ occurred. In this short film, George Monbiot explains what a trophic cascade is, and how wolves do actually change rivers.
I found this so remarkable that I took the time to transcribe George’s words:
One of the most exciting scientific findings of the past half century has been the discovery of widespread ‘trophic cascades’. A trophic cascade is an ecological process which starts at the top of the food chain and tumbles all the way down to the bottom, and the classic example is what happened in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States when wolves were reintroduced in 1995. Now, we all know that wolves kill various species of animals, but perhaps we’re slightly less aware that they give life to many others.
Before the wolves turned up, they’d been absent for seventy years, but the numbers of deer — because there’d been nothing to hunt them — had built up and built up in the Yellowstone Park and despite the efforts by humans to control them, they’d reduced much of the vegetation there to almost nothing; they’d just grazed it away. But as soon as the wolves arrived, even though they were few in number, they started to have the most remarkable effects.
First, of course, they killed some of the deer. But that wasn’t the major thing: much more significantly, they radically changed the behaviour of the deer. The deer started avoiding certain parts of the park: the places where they could be trapped most easily, particularly the valleys and the gorges — and immediately, those places started to regenerate. In some areas, the height of the trees quintupled in just six years; bare valley sides quickly became forests of aspen, and willow, and cottonwood.
And as soon as that happened, the birds started moving in. The number of songbirds and migratory birds started to increase greatly. The number of beavers started to increase because beavers liked to eat the trees; and beavers, like wolves, are ecosystem engineers, they create niches for other species. And the dams they built in the rivers provided habitats for otters and musk-rats and ducks and fish and reptiles and amphibians.
The wolves killed coyotes, and as a result of that, the number of rabbits and mice began to rise, which meant more hawks, more weasels, more foxes, more badgers. Ravens and bald eagles came down to feed on the carrion that the wolves had left. Bears fed on it too, and their population began to rise as well, partly also because there were more berries growing on the regenerating shrubs. And the bears reinforced the impact of the wolves by killing some of the calves of the deer.
But here’s where it gets really interesting: the wolves changed the behaviour of the rivers. They began to meander less, there was less erosion, the channels narrowed, more pools formed, more riffle sections, all of which was great for wildlife habitats. The rivers changed in response to the wolves. And the reason was that the regenerating forests stabilised the banks so that they collapsed less often, so that the rivers became more fixed in their course. Similarly, by driving the deer out of some places and the vegetation recovering on the valley sides there was less soil erosion, because the vegetation stabilised that as well.
So the wolves, small in number, transformed not just the ecosystem of the Yellowstone National Park, this huge area of land, but also its physical geography.
Note from the video’s publisher (Sustainable Human): “There are ‘elk’ pictured in this video when the narrator is referring to ‘deer.’ This is because the narrator is British and the British word for ‘elk’ is ‘red deer’, or ‘deer’ for short. The scientific report this is based on refers to elk so we wanted to be accurate with the truth of the story.”
As that quote from John Muir infers, we are all connected. No better illustrated by a very sad piece of research news that will be the topic for tomorrow’s post.
A reflection of the future year; this last day of 2014
I struggled for some time, wondering what to write for this day: December 31st, 2014. Part of me wanted to be light and cheerful. Yet, nothing came to mind in terms of what to write that wouldn’t be pointless or inane. Then dear Colin who writes the blog Wibble – just another glitch in the matrix posted yesterday: Are we ready for 2015? Here’s that post:
Are we ready for 2015?
I’m not sorry for sounding somewhat melodramatic, here: what we face is nothing less than the archetypical existential threat. You may well
dismiss me as ‘alarmist’: but if you were in a crowded theatre and you were to hear me shout “FIRE!” — what would you do then?
When, in late 2009, I first saw The Age of Stupid, I was struck by one scene in which ‘a man in a shed’ stated, quite categorically, that humanity’s carbon emissions had to peak by around 2015 in order for us to avoid the risks of passing beyond 2°C above the average pre-industrial global temperature. Almost everyone agrees that two degrees centigrade of warming is the threshold beyond which we will face serious risk of uncontrollable planet-wide climate change effects of potentially catastrophic proportions. And I do mean ‘civilisation-ending’.
This is not histrionics; it’s based upon very solid science. The ‘man in the shed’ is Mark Lynas, author of ‘Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet,’ which won the Royal Society’s science book of the year award in 2008. In the short video clip below he speaks from that same year, and his message is blunt: he says we have “seven years” to stabilise global carbon emissions to avoid the risk of climate change accelerating beyond our ability to control it.
The problem is that 2008 + 7 = 2015. Those seven years are up: we’ve squandered them.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention — perhaps you’re more focused upon the fortunes of your favourite football team, or the latest antics on ‘Strictly’ or Eastenders; maybe your mind is firmly on your house or job move, or where your children are going to school next year, or any one of the myriad of (relative) trivia such as the ‘immigrant problem’, or the ‘war on terror’ — so in case you’re not familiar with the current situation:
Global carbon emissions are not slowing towards a peak in this coming year. On the contrary, emissions are soaring beyond anything humans have ever previously managed. I’m talking BIG numbers. Yay, us: we’re beating all records.
So… What are your new year resolutions?
On reading the blog post I found myself leaving a comment that seemed to encapsulate my inner fears, explaining why I was struggling to find a light and cheerful tone for today’s post. Here is that comment that I left for Colin:
I hesitate to offer a view. Not because I don’t agree with your article, agree totally, but because I’m afraid that I can’t offer any original thoughts. There is a growing awareness of the need to change, even some quasi-political ambitions that the world ‘needs to talk about climate change’, but no sign that we are anywhere close to a global response of emergency proportions.
Despite being a person with a naturally positive view of life, for reasons I can’t articulate, I have a profound sense of gloom about the New Year. Maybe a result of recently becoming aware of my own mortality. Maybe, an unspoken fear of some huge global catastrophe, natural or otherwise, just around the corner. I hope that I am wrong. Then if I am wrong, it is suggesting that 2015 will be more of the same and, as you so acutely point out, more of the same is the last thing this natural world of ours requires.
So make of that what you will! (And apologies for rambling on a tad!)
Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones.
Then something struck me. It’s no good just giving up and having a moan. Each and every one of us has to find a motivation for changing. Or, if the scale of global change required is just too overwhelming a prospect, then embrace these times as just one of the planet’s natural thresholds; global changes that have been going on for billions of years.
As we come to the end of 2014, it’s natural to reflect on the year that has gone by, as well as to look forward to the new year ahead. This is a time for “kind sight”.
Below are two journalling exercises to explore, now that the rush of the Holidays is over. I like to think of this as a Middle Ground pause. A time for being present, reflecting and allowing your inner wisdom to inspire you for whatever comes next.
Take a few moments to let yourself get settled and comfortable. Start by reflecting with “kind sight” on the past year. “Kind sight” means being kind to yourself, instead of being critical or judging. With “kind sight” we are able to see mistakes as lessons, and life’s challenges as times of resiliency and personal growth.
Ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers:
What happened during 2014…
What was a highlight?
What was a lowlight?
What was a surprise?
What do I feel proud of?
What do I feel grateful for?
What did I learn (or am still learning) from either the highlights or lowlights?
Some people do a month by month reflection, while others evaluate important areas in their lives. (For example – career, family, health, hobbies, learning, contribution, spirituality, travel, environment, self-care, personal growth).
Once you’ve reflected on 2014, write a Future Gratitude Letter:
This is a letter to yourself written a year in advance, describing all the things that you are grateful for during the year. Start with the date December 31st, 2015 and address it to yourself.
Include who you’ve become and what you now have or are moving towards. Be careful not to include anything that feels like a “have to” goal or something that you “should” achieve.
This is a letter of “kind sight” for the year ahead. The key is in the energy. If your energy feels uplifted when you think about the things you’re grateful for in a year’s time, then you are tapping into your own passion and inner wisdom.
This can be a revealing and inspiring process, letting the creative juices and intention begin it’s journey.
Val’s recommendation is fabulous. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a go myself. And if I do write the letter, it will be published in this place.
However you feel about yourself and about the future, whether you are gloomy and downcast, or upbeat and hopeful, never forget that you are a valid human being, a unique individual, and capable of amazing things.
So go and hug a dog and wish yourself the very best for 2015!
A Happy New Year to all – and thank you for your wonderful support of this blog these past years!
The many joys of a connected world. As I wrote that sub-heading above, it struck me that the virtual world of blogging partially mimics the real world of life, as in that in nature everything is connected. To say that everything is connected in the world of blogging is rather far-fetched, but (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you) there is no question that bloggers tend to gravitate towards other bloggers where there is some sense of resonance. All of which could have been said in far fewer than the eighty-one words above! Try like-minded tend to be drawn to each other! So whether it’s in ten words or eighty-one words, it’s a preamble to the wonderful words of another blogger. I’m referring to the blog Wibble that is authored by Pendantry. Mr. P (and I’m assuming it is a ‘he’) wrote a post for the recent Earth Hug Day on December 12th. I thought it would make a nice republication this last Friday before the Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere this coming Sunday.
I subscribe to two blogs: Pendantry’s Wibble and Christine’s 350 or bust. But a temporary lack of quiet reading time has meant that recent posts from each of them were initially only briefly skimmed. I made a mental note to read the one from Pendantry, Where oceans meet, because I have always had a love affair with the oceans. When I did read it, I was blown away, to use the modern vernacular. Why? Stay with me.
Where oceans meet opened thus:
I’ve recently been introduced to two things that demonstrate (to my satisfaction, anyway) that the universe is much stranger than I first thought. Mind you, my first thought was quite some time ago, now.
Then after showing a wonderful photograph of where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, (this one below) …
…. Pendantry goes on:
The other one of those ‘strange universe’ things is something that I find even more surprising: after decades of eating meat, an hour watching just one film has persuaded me to reconsider the habits of a lifetime.
That really jumped off the page at me because Jeannie has been a vegetarian for most of her life and I have been flirting with the idea.
That ‘one film’ was Vegucated. Here’s the rest of that Wibble post republished with Pendantry’s kind permission.
A TED talk highlighted yesterday over on 350orbust (well worth watching — thanks, Christine) included a reference to the film Vegucated. Intrigued, was I, so I trundled off to watch it, and returned a changed man. Well, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but I do now feel motivated to think more about what I eat, why I’m eating it, and to actively seek out vegan alternatives — something that I have never considered before.
Vegucated reinforces the betrayal of a society that has sold us all on the idea of having ‘consumer choice’ — but continues to withhold from us the information necessary to make informed choices. And on that point: don’t just take my word for it that this is a film well worth watching: there are many other reviews and quotes about it.
Our world is changing, and, one way or another, we must change with it. I believe that films like Vegucated are essential to help us to choose to move in the direction of a healthier, happier world.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. “— Paul McCartney.
Naturally I was curious and wandered across to that post. Here are Christine’s own words,
It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust, and today’s presenter is Zoe Weil who spoke to the young people who gathered at the TEDx Youth symposium held at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, last December. Ms. Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education. Ms. Weil’s inspiring talk is entitled “How To Be A Solutionary.” Enjoy!
I tell you what! That 11 minute presentation by Zoe Weil was not just inspirational, it was one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard! That’s EVER!
Take this quote that comes in less than 2 minutes from the start of the speech, “Never before have we had the capacity to cause the breakdown of so many ecological systems that sustain our life.“
Now if that doesn’t have you gagging for the rest of what Zoe talks about, nothing will. So here it is.
Published on Jan 11, 2013
Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, which provides people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a better world. Zoe created the first Master of Education and Certificate Program in Humane Education in the U.S. covering the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection. She has also created acclaimed online programs and leads workshops and speaks at universities, conferences, and events across the U.S. and Canada. She has taught tens of thousands students through her innovative school presentations, and has trained several thousand teachers through her workshops and programs. Zoe’s most recent book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life, won the 2010 Nautilus silver medal in sustainability and green values. She is the author of several other books including Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times for parents; The Power and Promise of Humane Education for educators; and Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs, winner of the Moonbeam gold medal in juvenile fiction, which follows the exploits of two seventh graders who become clandestine activists in New York City, righting wrongs where they find them. Zoe received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania.
So from the meeting of vast oceans to the meeting of minds.
I admit to being too free with my silly clichés including, “I can predict anything unless it involves the future!” So now that millions of informed people have the benefit of “20:20 hindsight“, why is it years since the banking crisis first erupted and we are still without a root and branch overhaul of the governance of the industry?
Did you see Per Kurowski’s interview with a leading regulator on Learning from Dogs yesterday? Aren’t we so slow to learn!
Anyway, I waffle on! Let me get to the point of today’s post.
Back on the 1st September, there was a post called Understanding Europe. One of the resulting commentators was Pendantry who is author of a blog called Wibble. He included a link to a poem that he wrote on the 28th February, 2009! The fact that the poem is still so relevant (and when we see what’s happening in Europe perhaps even more relevant now!) is truly shocking. I wanted to republish it which I do with the kind permission of Pendantry. Here it is.
House of cards
When the inevitable strikes,
when the house falls down,
do you patch up the walls,
fix the holes in the roof,
shore it all up,
splash it with paint?
You learn from the mistakes.
You start from scratch.
You call in the architects.
You rebuild the foundations.
You use new materials;
replace wattle and daub
with a sounder design.
Because you’re lost outside the box,
and your mates demand
to regain their riches (and, now!):
You set up the same as before,
perhaps with a few bells and whistles
(spun to persuade that they’ll work).
And… in the end, we’ll believe
that your clothing is not invisible.
“Who is more foolish?
The fool, or the fool who follows him?”
Written over three years and five months ago. Shame on us all!
All my life, well all the years that I have appreciated a ‘tea-break’, stopping for a cup of hot tea has been laden with symbolism. A chance to let the brain catch up with whatever one is doing. When working with others an opportunity to stand back and evaluate how the particular project is going. When sharing a project with a loved one, an opportunity to lay down memories for future years, and so forth. (Jean and I were building a chicken coop yesterday afternoon.) Sure there are millions of people that share these feelings.
Anyway, as many of you have been aware, the last 10 days or so on Learning from Dogs have been pretty ‘full-on’ in terms of man and Planet Earth. It started with me publishing on the 27th February a Post called Please help! – A plea to those who understand climate science so much better than I do!. Then on the 2nd March, I republished a Post from Patrice Ayme called The collapse of the biosphere.
That there were a total of 6,313 viewings of those Posts and 69 comments (OK, that doesn’t mean different individuals) was incredibly gratifying – a very big ‘thank you’ to all of you that read the Posts, and likewise to those that commented.
But one of the most wonderful aspects for me was the incredible sharing of ideas and resources. So the point of today’s Post is to bring all those links and contacts onto one ‘page’, so to speak.
Martin Lack was the first to point me in the direction of the book, Merchants of Doubt. There are a number of videos on YouTube but the one below is a good introduction to Naomi Oreskes.
On October 28, 2010 historian of science Naomi Oreskes gave a presentation at Forum Lectures (US Embassy Brussels), based on her new book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, about how right wing scientists founded the George Marshall Institute which has become a key hub for successfully spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about climate change, along with other environmental issues, and how myths about science enable these political strategies to work.
An in-depth video of over an hour from the University of Rhode Island’s Spring 2010 Vetlesen Lecture Series, hugely worth watching, is here.
Then there is the powerful blog site, De Smog Blog. As the site explains, “The DeSmogBlog Project began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns. TIME Magazine named DeSmogBlog in its “25 Best Blogs of 2011” list.“
Moving on. One of the challenges is knowing how to look up some reasonably reliable information about a person who is claiming this or that. That’s where SourceWatch is invaluable. The website describes itself, “The Center for Media and Democracy publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative resource for citizens and journalists looking for documented information about the corporations, industries, and people trying to influence public policy and public opinion. We believe in telling the truth about the most powerful interests in society—not just relating their self-serving press releases or letting real facts be bleached away by spin.“
Let me give you an example of how SourceWatch works. In my Post A skeptic’s view, Dan offered extensive comment about U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax. A quick search on SourceWatch revealed (a) (my emboldening)
Arthur B. Robinson is one of the three co-founders of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group best known for organising a petition disputing the scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.
On January 7, 2009, the Willamette Week reported that Robinson is “in the vanguard of a small but vocal and persistent collection of scientists, industry advocates and commentators who dismiss human culpability for climate change. … Robinson’s critics say his analysis is simplistic, but it remains persuasive a decade later with powerful policymakers like U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a visible and effective player in blocking a bill to limit greenhouse-gas emissions last fall.
James Mountain Inhofe, usually known as Jim Inhofe, has been a Republican Senator for Oklahoma since winning a special election in 1994.
James M. Inhofe has voted in favor of big oil companies on 100% of important oil-related bills from 2005-2007, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq war funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and emissions.
On to another book. I forget who recommended the book by James Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren but it’s another ‘must-read’ for all those wanting to better understand the risks that lay ahead. As the book’s website explains,
In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return.
On that website there is a section Hansen On The Issues that includes this 2-minute YouTube video of Dr. Hansen talking about his book.
I can’t close without mentioning some other wonderful websites. There is Skeptical Science, described thus,
Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Then there’s ClimateSight, a wonderful effort by Kate, “Kate is a B.Sc. student and aspiring climatologist from the Canadian prairies. She started writing this blog when she was sixteen, simply to keep herself sane, but hopes that she’ll be able to spread accurate information about climate change far and wide while she does so.” Kate’s interest and passion in the subject is unmissable and it’s a real pleasure to subscribe to her postings.
Bill McKibben’s famous site, 350.org, is a must for the thousands of people that are working for a better future. As the mission statement opens up,
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.
350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
350.org works hard to organize in a new way—everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. We want to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world.
RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.
There are so many more fabulous sources of real caring about the society we are and, more importantly, the society we hope to be. In this category comes Wibble. Then there’s Dogs of Doubt, that I shall be referring to tomorrow on Learning from Dogs, and The Green Word and so on and so on. It shows the power of ‘hands across the ether’ that the modern world of web sites now offers. I put great faith in this power becoming the power of truth and the power of change. (If you have a blog or a website that resonates with the ones mentioned here, please do drop me an email giving me details.)
Finally, I’m closing with this. If it all sometimes feels too much for you and you want to drift away into the world of the inner consciousness, into the world of dreamtime, then you can do no worse than to call by Sue Dreamwalker‘s wonderful website. Try this, for example. Dan and I had no idea what we were getting into. 😉