Conservation

Earth is not a Garden

Yesterday, I came across an article that touched upon technology efforts in the name of conservation: Algorithmic Wilderness: Robo-bees and drone-seeded forests: can technology mend our broken relationship with the natural world?

It was not so much the idea to develop drones doing the work of bees that puzzled me. Or the idea to plant a billion trees a year using unmanned aerial vehicles – the goals may be noble, but the approach worries me. Saving the world with technology? Nonetheless, this was not the painful part of the essay. The following sentence was more concerning:

Wilderness no longer exists. Humans have … irrevocably altered the conditions of life for almost every species on the planet.”

That realization hurt.

It was obvious to me that national parks are just some small protected islands that give us a glimpse what nature can look like. Most parks are too small to maintain a healthy ecosystem without human interference, and the human impact cannot be denied. However, some sparsely populated places like Alaska, Siberia, and Mongolia I thought would still be largely untouched by human activity. Apparently not so. I can see how climate change is affecting regions globally and our continued and renewed expansion into formerly protected areas, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, certainly does not help the cause. It actually supports the notion of modern conservationist that tell us to give up the romantic idea of true wilderness, untouched by humans.

I must have lived under a rock. I had not heard of Green Modernists, or New Conservationists, Post-environmentalists or Eco-pragmatists until yesterday. These schools argue that we should embrace our planetary lordship and consider Earth as a giant garden. A garden, where we decide what grows, what gets harvested, and what gets eradicated. We are the gardeners calling the shots…

There is a flaw in this thinking: A garden is small enough in scale that we can control most parameters. We can even trick the weather, to a degree, using irrigation, green houses, artificial lights etc. When it comes to our planet however, that analogy fails. We cannot control nor trick the weather, and I am very doubtful that drones are suitable gardening tools to solve global problems. They also will not  change the tide of our current thinking that we can fix everything with smarter, better, and more efficient technology.

We simply need to become better stewards of the land. So much for today.

Find more details here:

Earth is not a garden

Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake.

 

 

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Quote

In no particular order – № 1

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”

Elwyn Brooks White


Elwyn Brooks White is the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

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Nature

Who do you think we are?

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“Our mastery over the forces of nature has led to a rapid growth of population, and a vast accumulation of wealth; but these have brought with them such an amount of poverty and crime, and have fostered the growth of so much sordid feeling and so many fierce passions, that it may well be questioned, whether the mental and moral status of our population has not on the average been lowered, and whether the evil has not overbalanced the good.”

Alfred Russel Wallace


That was more than 150 years ago. Alfred Russel Wallace was born 194 years ago and became a leading scientist, who independently proposed a theory of natural selection, which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory.

I wonder what instilled his negative view on the evolution of human society. It is also remarkable to read his historic assessment of our proliferation and its effect on our ethics. What would he think if he were around today? Did his voice go unheard?

On another note, it is also Elvis Presley’s birthday today.

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Life

Grounded

“Every giant leap for mankind resulting from a technological advance requires a commensurate step in the opposite direction – a counterweight to ground us in humanity.”

Alex Morritt


Dense fog lingered yesterday in the Upper Lynn Canal grounding the local helicopter fleet. Usually they shuttle visitors onto a nearby glacier, so they can experience the magic of walking on ice or riding in a dogsled.

Obviously I am on a different schedule and I would rather spend a winter with the dogs or go on a long hike to experience the beauty of remote ice fields, but not everybody has the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, I can’t help the thought that the best way to connect with Nature is to be in Nature. Taking the helicopter feels like a thrilling shortcut to me.

Seems to me taking shortcuts is a virtue of our times.

Grounded in humanity…

What does that mean?

Who is teaching us about humanity, one of the seven virtues?

 

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