Exclusive interview with Mother Nature

Wildlife-Reporter: Happy New Year, Mother Nature! Here we are, in 2020, what can we expect this milestone year? People like rounded figures and there were many predictions in place on how the world will look like in 2020, 2050 or 2100!

Mother Nature: Happy New Year! Indeed many predictions are being made especially around climate change and its impacts on peoples’ lives, and many already a reality. Carbon cycle affects the fabric of life. Increase in carbon and the web of life weakens and sometimes collapses. But what is the point of no return in avoiding a climate apocalypse, difficult to say in reality, as it depends on number of unknown inputs into the equation, for example, what measures will people take to avoid a worst-case scenario. The ecosystem is very complex and difficult to precisely pin-point when and what will trigger a chain reaction, the permanent change or the apocalypse. But following the statistics and trends, it is clear that the world is heading fast in the wrong direction and you should be concerned, we see record heat in many points of Earth, more intense drought or floods in others, ever increasing number of climate migrants, record surface ravaged by wildfires and ever more North, more coral bleaching then before, more often and stronger hurricanes…these are facts, impacting already lives of millions of people, and it is a matter of (relatively short) time before it impacts each of you individually, wherever you are in the world! Most likely, 2020 is just another year in this direction, since disappointingly so far not much has been done to change the course!

W-R: What can be done to change the course? And by whom?

M.N.: At population level of 7.6 Billion and growing (by +80 Mil in 2019 alone, adding another Germany to the world population), and with current economic system, based on fossil fuel, consumption under the economic growth mantra and competition between countries and individuals at an equivalent of an arm race, only individual change towards a more nature friendly way of life may not be enough, but it is a beginning. A complete change of the economic system and people mindset may be needed, in a very short time, with appropriate global institutions and laws, that would genuinely protect Nature, its forests, its waters and all the other species of the ecosystem Earth, with people mindset moving towards Global citizenship instead of nationalism, within a sustainability oriented system and not focused only on continuous economic growth, with its GDP all-fit indicator being replaced by sustainability indexes, focused on cooperation rather than competition! The nature solution is built on cooperation and self-organization, trillions of atoms combined and working together to keep human body alive everyday or the millions of species living in an inter-dependent state in the ecosystem. Only in economics is endless expansion seen as virtue, in biology it is called cancer. The highest race of animals, the human race, ought to unite into one whole like a swarm of bees, it should thrive towards continence and not towards inflaming desire and comfort – to which the whole system of human life is now directed.

W-R: What would be the challenge, in making the right changes effective, in short term?

M.N.: Firstly, humans…and their limitation to understanding their own history and that of the planet they inhabit, and visualize what is their place in the Nature and Universe (from which you may know as much as 5%) and where you are heading. When it comes to its daily existence, the average human intellect cannot grasp beyond immediate senses stimulus, and the full range of causes that lie behind any phenomenon. Too often effect is taken for cause! But the need to discover cause is deeply ingrained in the spirit of the man. And so the human intellect ignores the infinite permutations and sheer complexity of all the circumstances surrounding a phenomenon, any one of which could be individually construed as the thing that caused it, latches on the first and easier approximation and says: “This is the cause!”. Humans believe in stories rather than in facts, numbers or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Man-made institutions and laws are now above natural laws. If nature destruction is done in name of “progress”, because a politician says so and a government makes it legal, then it is hardly challenged by the majority. Entire political careers were built around simplistic story-telling with promise of never ending well-being, voters choosing plain language and charisma over science complex language specialists, favoring short term economic gains, which only increase the ecological debt, to be paid by future generations. So democratically elected politicians today are only the effect, not the cause of the problem, telling people what they want to hear, caring only about quarterly economic results and at most the election cycle of few years. But Homo Sapiens is not built for satisfaction, human happiness depending less on objective conditions and more on own expectations, which, however, tend to adapt to conditions, including those of other people. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvements in conditions might leave them dissatisfied as before…And next elections start, new stories are being told, and same or more extremist choices are being made, and so on…Non-democratic governments follow trend, locked in an eternal struggle with their democratic counterparts to prove and deliver economic well-being to their citizens, thus legitimizing their existence.

Secondly, humans! Their current adaptability, provided they lived for generations now in relative comfort, losing many of the abilities of their ancestors, as well as willingness or stubbornness to face the truth and embrace the change, to challenge the status-quo. Too many people today feel genuinely distressed sitting in winter in their homes at anything below 25 degrees Celsius, or eating less then 5000 calories per day…As well as the ignorance, reacting only to immediate life threatening situations! The greatest crimes in modern human history result from ignorance and indifference, today air pollution killing more people then historical wars and terrorism combined – in annual terms -, but with everyone embracing it as a “necessary evil”, or not even thinking about it when crossing highly vehicle contaminated streets on the way to daily job to pay the bills, just because you don’t see the immediate threat to oneself health; agriculture, another major contributor to global warming, the majority of you remain unaware of how, where and by whom our food is grown and at what ecological cost, and what it actually contains and what long term impact has on your health; immediate poisoning would be unacceptable, long-term health implications from bad food or polluted environment are seen as a myth or something for others to worry not for oneself; a bag of garbage thrown in the street may trigger through visual stimulus an unpleasant reaction of anyone passing-by, but the tones of garbage thrown out-of-sight in nature or exported to poor countries every day, these are not upsetting anyone; a documentary on plastic pollution of oceans enrages anyone, but that doesn’t stop individuals using the plastic straws or bags, somehow the connection between cause and effect is not made, if the effect is visible outside individual visual range…and so on…But not using straws or buying an electric car doesn’t make you environmental friendly over night, there is a burden on nature with each person, but the problem only occurs when nature regeneration ability is exceeded and a balance is upset. Nature stewardship is not a Hollywood movie, with evil clearly defined, limited number of characters, and an almost guaranteed outcome, the predefined good defeating the predefined evil, it is much more complex then that! Then there are the climate skeptics, and a man with a conviction is a man hard to change, even in the face of contradiction, he is immune to evidence and rational arguments. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him the facts and figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see the point…Like smokers continuing their habit as they watch the photos with smoking related illnesses on each cigarette package they purchase, too many are in business-as-usual mode…

Thirdly, humans! And their cynic man-made social and economic system, and humans’ lack of imagination when it comes to alternatives! There are some 4 million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problem of staying alive but your man-made system doesn’t chose to learn from other species but exploit them, quickly monetize, turn them to materialistic profit (of a small elite), anything what would give them a competitive edge over the peers, and the rest of you hails that, under assumptions that through economic competition and nature exploitation we get the best there is in life, without even having discovered yet what life is. Nature has been slashed and categorized, and a price tag has been put on its real-estates, as if you can really price them in human economic terms, ignoring that Nature offers free of charge trillions-worth of services (free, air, clean water,…) to humans, which are valued at zero in human economic terms. All the solutions to human problems are there in the nature, the most energy efficient systems but people prefer a natural resource-exploiting economy. There is a cure for any disease or virus in nature, but you destroy it before you get to know all its species and their secrets. Humans’ system of monetizing does not extend to other species, they have no value. A system who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, this is the very definition of a cynic.

W-R: What about technology, can it save the planet? The recent innovations, they must be useful somehow in the fight against climate change…

M.N.: Some people are convinced of efficacy of science to bail them out of any and every crisis, regardless of what science can actually do, impatient of anything scientists might actually say, people will always search the easy way-out of anything, a cure-all kind of pill to swallow or a reset button to press. The recent solar and wind energy were only increasing economic capacity, as fossil fuel use was globally on the raise as well. And computers didn’t bring the expected efficiencies and economic growth that was expected. In reality, people only benefit nature’s stored energy over millions of years, as they learn how to dig it out and use, the timeline of economic growth is just about perfectly consistent with the burning of those fossil fuels. Problem is that burning that energy and releasing all the carbon in the atmosphere is like a gaseous suicide, a running car in a sealed garage! And in general, innovation today is led by private organizations, which are only interested in innovations that can be monetized, the charity they make is usually for lobby purposes, or because there is a potential for profit, like for the recent more organic and ecological friendly products created…And so, less likely to count on any technology silver bullet, unless maybe, faced with imminent and immediate annihilation scenario, when humanity may work together in this direction…

W-R: And the Artificial Intelligence, bio-engineering and other futuristic science? Will they help people adapt to the new environment challenges?

M.N.: The danger is that if you invest too much in developing AI and too little in developing human conscience, the very sophisticated AI of computers might only serve to empower the natural stupidity of their masters. Instead of globalization resulting in global unity, it might actually result in “speciation”, the divergence of humankind into different biological casts or even different species, based on bio-engineering and nano-technology available to super-rich only, who would finally have something really worthwhile to do with their wealth. Not just entire classes, but countries and continents might become irrelevant…This is a fight against human man-made inequality as it is a fight against climate change, and the poorer majority of people have most to lose. Advanced technology, depends by whom and how it is used, may be both good or evil. Same as with nuclear energy, can produce worse mass-destruction weapons or can provide energy for civil purposes…

W-R: Is there still time and hope to save the Natural World as we know it? Many say we are in the middle of a new mass extinction event created by humans!

M.N.: When a mass extinction event kills off many species, those left will evolve and multiply – sometimes relatively quickly, to fill vacant ecological niches, as the mammals did after the age of dinosaurs  – with condition now that enough natural parks, species and unspoiled natural ecosystem are still protected somewhere in a natural state, from where a natural world can rebound, buying time until humans will learn the true value of nature… or by itself, in a post-humans world. The astonishing biodiversity on this planet resulted from unicellular organisms, so even if reduced to that, Nature will re-bound, given enough time, which is insignificant and never a difficulty for nature. The question is, if there is time and hope to save the Human World? Yes, there are successful stories and examples of international cooperation, to be able to further build on optimism and further initiatives. But rapid change has to start inside each of you, upgrade to the next level, through education and reconciliation with natural world, from which you have always been part of, and is the only way to progress in a sustainable way, side by side! Nature has the power to unite the world. Encounters with wild country would keep people “in touch with fundamental reality of the universe of which they are part”. Save the Nature, its ecosystems and its biodiversity and you save yourself! It is as simple as that and the price is supreme, a meaningful existence and own long-term survival!

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P.S. from author of the article: the replies on behalf of Mother Nature are paragraphs selected or inspired from books of specialists, historians and journalists, which are mentioned in the Facts section of this blog, and which I encourage reading. Photo has been personally taken on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.

Wildlife as a symbol

Wildlife may be under pressure today, but seems it will always exist as a symbol. Homo-sapiens is a story-teller– as per the famous historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari – and most of his journey has been inspired-by and depended on nature and wildlife, and starting with early days, our ancestors tried to tell the story of survival, courage and admiration, through cave paintings, which survived thousands of years.

cave.art-Cueva.de.Manos  cave painting

Many wildlife icons become symbols (of power, of courage, of bravery, etc), and myths and traditions were born in multiple cultures, today having an animal representation for many aspects and ideologies of our modern life and personality traits, allowing human brain to continuously create meaning and decode these symbols through both denotation and connotation.

Many countries have wildlife icons as their national symbol, on flags or national currency notes or coins. Through-out time, wildlife has been immortalized through art, paintings, stories, objects of great value made gifts at time of emperors, permanent skin tattoos or even mummified in Egyptian ancient civilization time. This attention wasn’t all beneficial for the real wildlife, who were killed for various parts of their bodies to be traded by modern humans. Especially Asiatic culture has been particularly destructive here, through the believe that consuming particular wildlife parts will give you certain magic powers.

Today Wildlife symbols sell, especially to the parents in search for toys or clothes for their young ones. While this should be good, at least for the educational part, somehow neither kids nor parents connect the symbols with the real world and state of wildlife, and most contact with wildlife comes from visiting the local ZOOs, which are the least ethical place keep wildlife for  human entertainment.

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How we want the Wildlife story to end? Today we are still writing it, as it is not too late for many species to be permanently turned into symbols only…But time is running short! We need to better learn to use wildlife symbols and share the wildlife impressive stories, to appeal and educate others and reconnect to nature and its wildlife, as well as, according to National Geographic, to recycle, volunteer, donate money and join wildlife-protection organizations or contact government representative (through specific petitions signing). If we want us humans to become a symbol of wisdom, and not one of shame for being responsible for the mass extinction of Earth’s biodiversity, we need to find a way to contribute, each of us! Choose your way today!

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Wild goats of l’Estartit, Spain’s Costa Brava

L’Estartit is an excellent tourist destination to enjoy some active tourism journeys. Stand out the fabulous sea bottom from the Medes Islands, a big reserve of fauna and marine flora considered one of the most interesting area in all the Mediterranean.

The nearby natural park is no less impressive, it surprised me when on my way to Cala Pedrosa (a rocky beach nearby), I had the privilege to meet some of the wild residents. I felt truly lucky (probably as my walk was outside touristic season) and promised to get back one day!

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Exclusive interview with the Lion King

Wildlife-Reporter: Your Highness, we are very happy to have you! After the amazing success of 2019’s animation movie – The Lion King – we definitely nominated you the Wildlife character and image of the Year, before even the year ended! How are you doing?

The Lion King: Thank you for having me! Indeed, for a short time, as the latest version of the movie “The Lion King” was rolling in the cinemas, our species got the a lot of sympathy from people of all ages around the world! However, did you know that in reality, between the release of the first version of “The Lion King” in 1994 until now, so in just 25 years, the number of wild lions reduced in half?

W-R: How is that possible? The movie didn’t share such tragic message…I was not aware!

L.K.: Indeed most people are too busy with their daily routines… And the movie was offering only a distraction to that routine, and bit of entertainment for the young ones, but doesn’t reflect our reality…

W-R: Is the mighty Lion King losing the fight against the Hyenas?

L.K.: Far from that…another human world stereotype! In our world, as opposed to Hollywood’s virtual world, we don’t have good characters and bad characters, we are all part of the same world, lions and hyenas, zebras and other animals and plants, locked in a permanent race for survival, but somehow always in a natural state of balance – the famous cycle of life! Hyenas are only our competitors in the Savannah, but they are doing a great sanitary service to the ecosystem, and they are not the cause of our disappearance! Animals are an easy subject of the media since they cannot protest, they can be inserted into any story as a positive or negative hero. Loss of prey species, loss of habitat, and human encroachment (agriculture, hunting and poaching) have caused our numbers to precipitously decline in the wild! But that has only led to a very concerning fact: in order to satisfy the demand of Western hunters, our kind is now bred and grown to maturity, legally, across Africa, in so called “lion farms” and sold to be killed for sport…not quite a royal death, I would say! Another earlier movie – Mia and the White Lion – has quite well captured this reality!

W-R: But will your fans around the world be able to help your kind?

L.K.: No doubt some of our human fans help a lot, through donations, by raising awareness of our reality or simply visiting national parks, where our kind is usually the main attraction…But we have lost already 94% of our historical range, and this is part of a bigger picture. Human world today looks rather similar with Hyenas world in the movie, where nature’s sustainable balance has been broken, there are no other species around and even the grass stopped growing! The human laws today are above Nature, serving only themselves, especially the top 1%…and another big majority, especially urban population, living in a state of “Hakuna Matata”, where good life is a guarantee and not much responsibility is desired! There is less and less room for wildlife and nature in the human world! Man is born into a world of artificially created institutions which are the only ones he considers to be objective and natural, standing apart from truly natural processes! And the impenetrable barrier only deepens between the realm of nature and culture! In this division nature is passive. It embodies irrationality, instinct and therefore primitivity!

W-R: If there was an All-Mighty Human King, what should he do to reverse the trend in a better direction, for humans, wildlife and Nature together?

L.K.: As said in the movie, the compassion is the main quality of a king, but not only, should be of each person, because change must start with each of you! A world without its biodiversity will be a different world, one of loneliness, one of suffering… even if the latest technology makes lions look very real on the cinema screen, the virtual world is no substitute for the real one! Human societies and leaders should be wiser today, think more long term, drive the change, educate others, do the right things…you have this responsibility, and you need to embrace it, as the dominant species of the Planet! Objective is to overcome the imaginary boundary between wildlife, nature and man, only this will enable a society to view nature as a place where all organisms can live together!

W-R: Is there still hope?

L.K.: There is always hope! But hoping without acting, that is dreaming! Think how you can help, set a number of objectives, learn, make some changes in your lifestyle to make it more nature friendly, influence other where you can and visit wildlife national parks, and spend more time in nature!

W-R: Thank you, Your Highness! Hope our worlds will never set apart, and we will meet again, in the African savanna next time!

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Did you know that…

scientists have tried and so far failed to recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth?

The complexity of Earth’s biosphere is illustrated by man’s inability to construct artificial, closed and self-sustaining ecosystems.  The best known and largest of these experiments was Biosphere 2. From 1991 to 1994, scientists built a 1.6 acre glass dome housing a closed ecosystem acting as a life-support system for its inhabitants. This dome included varied environments such as rain forest, desert zone, swamp, an artificial ocean, agricultural areas, and human habitat.

Eight scientists were hermetically sealed inside the dome for a first 18-month experiment. Apart from rearing domestic animals and plants, they studied ongoing changes in the artificial ecosystems. The aim was to construct a fully self-supporting and regenerating system that did not depend on the input of material or energy other than sunlight. Such systems are a prerequisite for extended space missions, where continuous supply is impossible.

Contrary to the planned use for one century, only two enclosing experiments were actually conducted. The ecological balance in Biosphere 2 became unstable. The problems were caused by small details that had been overlooked. The harvest was lower than predicted and the team faced food shortages. Bacteria introduced with the soil produced nitrogen oxides, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, while lowering the oxygen levels. Cockroach and ant populations increased unchecked, but the bees necessary for pollination died. Both experiments were terminated prematurely. It all goes to show you can’t recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth. More details and lessons learned here.

Therefore, shouldn’t we do more to protect the Earth, the only viable ecosystem we have? Contrary to latest discussions, we won’t colonize Mars or other planet pretty soon, far from it. And even if we would, majority of people will still be bound to Earth, where even more inhospitable places are far more human survival friendly than other planets known to-date.

My take, in contradiction to Stephen Hawking’s advise*, I would say: Always look down at your feet before looking up! You’d avoid falling off a cliff before you learn how to fly!

*Stephen Hawking quote: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”

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Bears of South Kamchatka Sanctuary – part 2

We are back in Russia, where unfortunately massive wildfires are ongoing in several regions of Siberia, at a scale never seen before, covering million of hectares of pristine forest, sparked by unusually dry weather conditions. The coverage though gets so little attention in other parts of the world, where is business as usual, with everyone out for vacations in major cities, failing to grasp the meaning of this and other climate change effects, for all of us, regardless the location…Climate change can wait, vacations not!

In Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula however bears are just preparing for another feast, in anticipation for the yearly salmon run, which as of early July, didn’t yet start! Visibly skinnier after the long winter season, the bears still put safety before hunger, when a large boar makes his appearance on this beach, that is enough to send some even adult bears up in a tree (as heavy bulk is not an issue in early summer days)! Besides, this is an excellent spot for watching both neighbors and coming salmons!

Enjoy some of the great photos taken in July 2019 at Kuril Lake, South Kamchatka Sanctuary!