Tag Archives: environmental issues

Change is inevitable

The media is currently on tenterhooks as Yang Guang and Tian Tian, a pair of giant pandas currently resident in Edinburgh Zoo, look like they might actually be in the mood for love.

Good news, if you are a fan of that lovable black and white furry thing, notorious for being unable to breed and eating nothing but the wrong kind of grass.

I used to be a person who worried about the fate of the giant panda, the white rhino, various rare tigers and innumerable other species that inhabit the planet with we humans. I used to worry about the fact that animals were in danger of extinction. We had to save them!

Sadly, no matter how hard well-meaning folk try to save the various species, it seems inevitable that many will become extinct—extinct in the wild, at least. There are active captive breeding programmes at zoos and wildlife parks around the globe whose aim is to breed enough of the near-extinct creatures that they can be reintroduced into the wild.

Presumably, once in the wild, they will promptly go extinct again.

As I’ve got older, I’ve come to realise that trying to save cute animals from the inevitable is flawed. Not wishing to poke fun at the panda, let’s look at some facts about them:

  • They live in bamboo forests in China.
  • They eat the bamboo.
  • This is odd because they’re a bear, and bears generally don’t eat grass as their staple diet.
  • Female pandas ovulate once a year, and remain fertile enough to breed for about three days.

On the face of it, the panda should be left for evolution to deal with. It has nothing going for it, save being cute to look at, and being the poster child of all kinds of well-intentioned eco-friendliness.

Take a look at the white rhino. It’s not as cute as a panda, but it’s also endangered. It’s reached this stage because the rhino’s horn is believed to have medicinal properties in certain Asian countries. The poor old white rhino is killed, just so its horn can be hacked off and sold

All kinds of efforts have been made to prevent this pointless and senseless poaching, yet it continues. It seems the white rhino will soon follow its black savannah-mate, and only be seen in captive environments.

All kinds of animals and plants are in serious danger of going extinct. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is humans. Humans are just too resourceful, and outbreed everything except bacteria. Some of these humans, though, want to retain the status quo. They want to see animals in the wild, and want to help protect them.

This argument is flawed. Something like 99% of all species that have ever existed since this planet began to support life have become extinct. It’s what nature does. Things change. Humans, rightly or wrongly, are accelerating the changes, but that doesn’t mean we should be trying to prevent animals dying out. No amount of hand-wringing is going to prevent an inevitable natural outcome of there being too many humans.

Besides, killing an animal just for the flawed belief the tail or horn is some fantastic medical cure-all really just proves to me that humans don’t deserve nice things any more. We should be pragmatic about nature, let things die out, be hunted and poached to extinction in the wild, because once they’re gone the poachers will be out of luck, too.

My attitude is perhaps a depressing one, but I think I’m being realistic. Despite the WWF’s fifty years of campaigning, little seems to be really changing for the better. In that time, the human population on Earth has virtually tripled. With all the will in the world, I can’t see how we can save other species from extinction when we can’t stop our own species from outbreeding the resources available. In fact, by what measure do we think we are even capable of preventing natural extinction due to human greed? We’re as much a part of the biosphere as any other species. 

So, I say we should let species die out in the wild. They may remain captive curiosities, but in many ways perhaps seeing them in zoos may make us realise just what damage we’re continuing to do to our world. Do not ignore the fact that all things will change, and humans too will one day be extinct—especially if we carry on the way we are now.

BBC News – Lord Foster unveils plans for Thames Estuary airport

But now the new Transport Secretary Justine Greening has refused to rule out the possibility of building an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Speaking at a conference of airport operators Ms Greening, who was appointed last month, said all the options for increasing airport capacity in the South East would have to be considered – including a new airport offshore between Kent and Essex.

So, it seems the plans, despite being dismissed by opponents could, if Lord Foster gets his way, yet fly.

This thing just won’t lay down and die, will it?

Answers, please: what happens to London City Airport, Biggin Hill, Southend, Manston, Stansted, and all the smaller airfields in the vicinity?

What will happen to the environment? It might look like the Hoo Peninsula is a wasteland, but that’s purely because hardly anything human lives there. It’s one of the few truly wild places left in North Kent, and should be left as such.

Why does a UK hub have to be so close to London anyway? What about all the ex-RAF airfields in East Anglia that could be renovated to act as a hub airport? I’d rather revamp a brownfield site that shit upon a green one.

I am concerned that the newly-promoted Transport Secretary appears to be positive to this project. I had been assured by my local MP that the Government was against such large projects in the Thames Estuary. I fervently hope that Kent County Council, Medway Council and the local MPs continue to oppose Boris Johnson foisting projects on an area which is outside his remit.

Best Beloved came up with an idea. If BoJo wants a new London Airport, how about flattening the West End? It would have perfect transport links to the main northern railway routes.

Population growth: the baby bomb | Editorial | CiF | The Guardian

The UN will announce the arrival of the 7 billionth human a week today. It seems not to regard the day as one to be celebrated. Why else declare what is, after all, only a guesstimate on 31 October, a solemn day of mourning in the Christian calendar and of ghoulish Halloween partying in the Anglo-Saxon world? Some demographers warn of catastrophic environmental degradation, most acute in the areas where the population grows fastest – the ecologically fragile sub-Saharan Africa – while policies to tackle poverty and disease stall. Others argue that population growth is not necessarily a bad thing: it is only 12 years since the birth of the six billionth person was announced and, for a majority of the world’s population, more things have got better than worse. But in an era so shaped by the burden of human activity that scientists are calling it the anthropocene age, the explosive near-trebling of the world’s population from just 2.5bn in 1950 demands at least an equal focus on reducing our environmental impact.

This is something that has been worrying me for a while. Good to see human population finally becoming a mainstream topic.

BBC News – Reuse of graves ‘needed to prevent crisis’

Tim Morris thinks pressure is mounting for a new law, covering England and Wales.

He says: “It’s really frustrating. Reuse is common in lots of other countries, and was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. Reuse is the simple answer to everything”.

Sorry, surely the “simple” answer is compulsory cremation unless a really good reason for a burial can be given.

The Cremation Society of Great Britain had a slogan they used: “Save the land for the living”. I think they’re right.

Beware the forest fairies, David Cameron | Louise Ingram | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Our native woodlands and the shy creatures that inhabit them feature heavily in British folklore. Filled with wood nymphs, spirits, goblins and sprites, long before Christian missionaries waded ashore, our forests reigned supreme. We have all heard the old stories of swaths of deciduous woodland completely covering Britain, a brooding misty isle that even worried the mighty ancient Romans. It was a strange unconquered place filled with the promise of mineral riches and mythical creatures, with monsters and witches that were said to lurk in the tangled woods and glades.

Having sold the family silver, our inglorious leaders seem intent on selling the furniture and garden, too. Eventually, they will realise there are better ways to cut this economic deficit we’re supposed to be suffering than to sell off bits of the United Kingdom to foreigners.

That snow outside is what global warming looks like | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

The weather we get in UK winters, for example, is strongly linked to the contrasting pressure between the Icelandic low and the Azores high. When there’s a big pressure difference the winds come in from the south-west, bringing mild damp weather from the Atlantic. When there’s a smaller gradient, air is often able to flow down from the Arctic. High pressure in the icy north last winter, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, blocked the usual pattern and “allowed cold air from the Arctic to penetrate all the way into Europe, eastern China, and Washington DC”. Nasa reports that the same thing is happening this winter.

There are folk who confuse weather with climate. I’m not a “denier”: I fully accept there are changes to the planet’s climate happening. I just query whether the accepted view that the changes can be entirely laid at the door of human activity.

Which is not to say that we humans are not to be blamed for cocking up our planet. I just think it’s too complex a thing to blame solely on CO2 emissions without taking into account changes to the sun, “normal” fluctuations in planetary weather systems (we are still emerging from an ice age, after all), and the effects of unsustainable human population growth on ecosystems.

Besides, we can argue, squabble and hand-wring all we like, nothing will be done to try to fix things. It’s all too late now. Instead of trying to meet targets no-one will accept, perhaps we should be putting our famed “intelligence” into coping with the effects of changing global climate.

Let us not also forget that the planet will continue long after we as a species have disappeared. Life is a tenacious thing.