Tag Archives: wildlife

Video

Why study ecology? Spontaneous poetry.

The brilliant, 100% Made of Awesome (no artificial colors or preservatives) Hank Green, somehow capturing exactly why the science of ecology is great, and hikes in the woods are even better.

Plus, pretty butterflies.  (And, ya’ know, predation, death, and decay, because nature.) Enjoy!

Some days it seems to me like the purpose of life is to convert energy into beauty.

~Hank Green (Vlogbrothers, SciShow, Crash Course and more)

World Wildlife Day: It’s about their lives

In this beautiful essay, naturalist Paul Rosolie reminds us that it’s not just about ecosystem accounting.  It’s about individual, intelligent animals.  It’s about tapping into our compassion and empathy.  It’s about the suffering in the world, and how we could choose to reduce it.

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Whenever I come face to face with wildlife, especially in when it is something like a family of elephants, it strikes me how we depend on euphemistic terms to soften the truth. When we learn that since 1970 half the wildlife on earth has been ‘lost’ or that species are ‘vanishing’ so rapidly that A Great Silence is Spreading Over the World, the language used in communicating these abstract ideas neglect what Dr. Jane Goodall wisely notes: “It’s not just a species facing extinction, it’s massive individual suffering”.”

~Paul Rosolie, “World Wildlife Day 2016: Why Wildlife Needs You

These are amazing beings with whom we share the beauty and Propithecus tatersalii, Duke Lemur Center, photo by E.S.Petersonwonder of this world.  They have complex and fascinating lives. They are different from us, but that does not mean that they are incapable of thinking and feeling. We have the choice to use our unique human gifts of elaborate foresight, language, imagination and abstract reason to find ways to help them thrive. Doesn’t that behoove us to use our gifts on their behalf?

Happy World Wildlife Day!

[…dismounts soapbox]

 

Little humans on a big planet

Happy Earth Day!  I hope you enjoyed the Google doodle and quiz as much as I did (in my squiddy way, I ‘spose).  You can even get Google to match your donations to the Jane Goodall Institute  and other wildlife charities (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, World Wildlife Fund, WildAid, Zoological Society of London and Virunga Fund), through the end of the month.  Such donations are a small thing, to be sure, but if enough people pitch in where money is being leveraged so cleverly, we can change outcomes for the better.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2015

However, there are some big problems that are not going to be solved by a little donation here, or a shorter shower there. These are great things to do, they’re not wrong, but they’re still not enough.  All indications are that we are tipping over into some serious crisis conditions, and we will not be able to just do the first 10 of the 50 Simple Things… or shop our way out of it. As a recent Union of Concerned Scientists blogger pointed out:

When we focus on the “human activities” that are causing climate change, we sound like we’re laying climate blame on things like using a washer and dryer, driving, flipping a light switch and other day-to-day things many humans in the developed world take for granted and that many humans in the developing world would very much like to do, too.

two-thirds of all industrial carbon emissions come from just 90 institutions...

The problems are big, and the biggest sources of those problems lie in the policies of governments and the actions of big industries.  The people who make the decisions about how much coal and oil is burned to run our economy are the tiny handful of humans with most of the ability to cause (or, one hopes, fix) the problems.  And as Utah Phillips is alleged to have said

The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.

What’s more, those people who bear the vast majority of the responsibility could fit into a small auditorium (or, say, a few dozen board rooms, plus the chamber of the US House of Representatives).

How do we get them to change their evil ways?  Well, that’s where our real power comes in, not as individuals, but as groups and communities.  We need to demand transparency, so that we can make informed choices.  We need to demand accountability, so that those who are most responsible for making the messes are the ones who pay the most to clean them up.  We need to demand justice, for the global billions alive today who did so little to cause the problems, and the coming generations who are blameless, but who would suffer so much if we do not make real changes.  And we need to demand sanity, so that the nearsighted self-interest of a few does not lead to catastrophe for all.  To make these demands, we must come together, share information, and refuse to be silenced.

We are primates that have undergone millions of years of evolution to specialize in social learning and creative problem-solving. The seven-billion-plus humans alive and breathing right now have a lot of potential.  We can do incredible things.  So, let’s decide to do them, together.  We haven’t got time to wait any more.

Observational Learning in Sumatran Orangutans

Observational Learning in Sumatran Orangutans

Okay, now that I’m done ranting, I should probably go hug a tree 🙂

Happy Earth Day!

Aside

From Sumatran Orangutan Society Newsletter Emergency: Planned destruction of 1.2 Million hectares of forest in Sumatra The Governor of Aceh province in Sumatra is set to wipe 1.2 million hectares of forest off the map, replacing some of the most … Continue reading

Painful Topics: Primate Conservation

I realize that the title of my blog probably makes some think that I’d be talking about non-human primates a bit more.  But, despite the fact that I could be called an expert on them, I find it very difficult to devote much time or thought to these creatures that I love.  It simply hurts way too much.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus) - photo by FJ White

I went to Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) to study female cooperation among bonobos in 1996.  I had to leave after a couple months, in part because a civil war was brewing (it continues to simmer).  War is bad for any primate that’s unwittingly caught in the middle – for large monkeys and apes in Africa, it means an increased threat of poaching as well-armed mauraders move through their habitats.  In Congo, a lot of the money that keeps the war going comes from coltan – essentially, people like us buying electronic gadgets.

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) - photo by M Merrill

So I changed my research topic to social learning in orangutans, and went to Sumatra in 1999.  While I was there, one of the research sites where I lived was being logged illegally.  I wrote letters and set up a website about it, but I wasn’t able to do much to stop it.  I somehow managed to get through analyzing what data I had and get my dissertation done in 2004, and I haven’t really been involved in primate research since.  The wounds just never healed right.

I face the pain from this every semester when I come to the place in the Introduction to Biological Anthropology classes I teach where I have to talk about my research and primate conservation.  It’s always a hard week.

Now I’ve been asked to co-present on great ape conservation with some of my colleagues at Cabrillo College, so I’m facing it at least twice this semester.  This also necessitated putting together some resources (though Renee found more of them) – I’ve posted those here: Great Ape Conservation.

I keep hoping someday this will get easier, it will hurt less so I can do more, but the news keeps getting worse.  So I try to focus on the things I can do here, just simple stuff like changing the entire culture of consumerism that is driving the destruction.

Wish me luck!