2021 summer

Summer in Northern hemisphere is always a big thing, because this is when most go into vacations, young and adults! 2021 was no different…but what is more special, although turning into routine, is the wildfires – “wild” probably because they are out of firefighters control, but not so “wild” regarding their cause, people cigarettes thrown from the car windows, during dry summers. The “small” forest fire in below photos in Spain didn’t even make people from next-by beachfront restaurants stand-up from their chairs.

This one below was taken in Greece, which together with Turkey, covered the news all over the world this summer, with the impressive size and impact of the wildfires. Turkey very soon after was also affected by massive floods, along with other European countries, like Germany.

And in the meantime, more and more fences are being build along the borders, as if this is really the world priority number 1…Below photo earned Alejandro Prieto’s a well deserved Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 Award, capturing perfectly what is so wrong about these fences, apart from the fact that they are not solving the inequality, nor the climate or economic immigration, they are also blocking wildlife from their migration routes, cutting-off entire populations – did any politician think about it? or what, roadrunners don’t vote? Shame!

Other events like rain in Greenland or vast wildfires in Siberia I think also don’t get the rightful attention, but the trend they build is obvious, affecting everyone around the world, though humanity is still in denial phase…Let’s see for how long we can afford not to care!

Interview with inner-Self

Me: I don’t understand…

Me-Self: Maybe I refuse to accept reality as is…

Me: It’s like a bad dream that doesn’t go away, and it’s only getting worse…

Me-Self: But am I really different then the rest of them?

Me: I should do more indeed. But self-motivation is really tiring sometimes…

Me-Self: This shouldn’t be an excuse…Pathetic!

Me: Such a shame! How did we get here? Well, maybe I shouldn’t talk indeed, I haven’t proved anything yet, just maybe reading a bit more books than average Joe…Otherwise I am no different indeed: I live in a city (despite my preference for nature), I do pay a mortgage, I drive a car (although rarely) but complain every day over the quality of the air, I eat food – we all have to – , I do produce a 30 l beg of garbage every 1-2 day, I even eat meat from time to time! But how can I not do all this? Is life any different around the world?

Me-Self: Maybe in Bhutan…

Me: Oh, boy. Maybe wouldn’t be bad if this system resets? After-all, you need to reach the bottom to re-build something better….

Me-Self: Be careful what you wish…

Me: I have red stories how during the war, because of hunger, one is capable of terrible things. Imagine a real world-wide famine, with 8 billion starving people…

Me-Self: Maybe not all 8 billion…

Me: Well, yes, there is always the 1%. Those could build castles under-sea and wait-out any crisis…

Me-Self: You really think they have a plan B?

Me: Maybe not…they are too busy counting their own money…

Me-Self: Money – this strange man-made invention that allows unlimited wealth accumulation and power over the others…the same money I am so dependent on right now…

Me: I keep forgetting I am no different…complaining alone doesn’t help! I don’t understand…

Me-Self: Maybe better to start from the beginning. What is my point?

Me: Well, for one, I truly believe it is not fair for one species to send all the others into oblivion…

Me-Self: But who said life is fair? Maybe that was nature’s plan all along. Experiment until a perfect species is created, than others become irrelevant…

Me: Doesn’t make sense…

Me-Self: Maybe planned outcome was a species capable to actively colonize the Universe, rather then waiting for an asteroid to passively transport life from one place to the other…A species capable of brining other planets to life…

Me: Mars story again…Maybe for the next great species…I don’t see how people would get there and what they would do there…

Me-Self: Maybe that is the part I don’t understand and should try harder…

Me: In any case, fairness will eventually apply, if humans fail then they are gone…Like the dinosaurs who couldn’t pass the meteorite test…Nature’s way to RESTART life…so if Mars project fails, they better find a more sustainable way of living on this planet…

Me-Self: You always talk as if there is such truly “they” or “we”…

Me: Human-kind is not a bee-hive indeed…”They” also implies some conspiracy, a planetary one…haha! No way! People rather behave like a gang of hungry chimps…a large 8 billion gang, not hungry (yet), but greedy…

Me-Self: And you planned to educate them with your blog?

Me: Quite naive indeed…I realize only people who share my passion for nature will read my blog, those they don’t need to be convinced. The others I should reach out to…

Me-Self: Ok, worse case scenario, what would that be?

Me: As if it is not bad enough already…

Me-Self: Hm…

Me: I mean of course it can get much worse…But it is bad enough to be sure you are heading towards cliffs but you are not able to do anything to change course…Even the most well intended politician would be voted-out quickly trying to implement a real-sudden change of the status quo…It is bad enough to see the silent acceptance of all as a necessary evil, or even the ignorance, when the nature and its other species are being destroyed…

Me-Self: There were other mass-extinctions before, as you gave the dinosaurs example earlier…But here we are, thanks to that event…and by the way, we did reach the Moon, that is pretty remarkable…

Me: Well, yeah…but what was the connection with the Western consumerism society?! In fact, communists were flying a man to space first…People may still achieve great things, especially now in science and space research…But less likely the next Einstein will come from some parts of Africa for example…because if he would be born there, he would be too poor to meet his materialistic needs and pursue his research, like he did in Switzerland, so he would live in poverty without ever reaching his potential…or he would emigrate as soon as possible. People in some countries have already been condemned to perpetual poverty, and as time passes, the harder is to catch-up…But it is all the same from Planet point of view, with no exception, everyone, rich or poor, is busy exploiting nature, for getting rich or survival…Can you ask Brazil politicians to stop cutting the tropical forests with their yet undiscovered species? I think they have already replied that rich Western countries have no right to ask this, and they will keep cutting until they will be out of poverty as well – rich countries already know that, because they are the ones creating the demand in the first place, so it is all a show for the worried voter’s eyes.

Me-Self: If someone is rich, there has to be one other poor. Either cannot be like in Imagine Dragons’s Thunder video, with all driving a Ferrari…People are like that, they won’t be happy for having a Ferrari, they will be unhappy because the neighbor has one as well. Anyway, what is the worst-case scenario?

Me: I think it is bad enough with current state: lockdown due to real or imaginary viruses, entire proximity forests sealed to keep people off when it would make more sense to impose a permanent ban on smoking,…

Me-Self: Good one! Try that…

Me: …border walls between countries, record temperatures, more and more climate disasters and climate refugees, less and less natural space for wildlife…

Me-Self: Worst case scenario!

Me: Man completing nature conquest! To live in a man-made world, as a domesticated being. Or a final war over resources! The WAR! Or ignorance taking over completely…Or stupidity wining over…Yuval Noah Harari warned “not to underestimate human stupidity” – makes sense!

Me-Self: Is there a solution?

Me: Could be 8 billion conscience-based solutions. But like the Covid vaccine utopia, they need to be applied immediately and to all in same time! And even if it was true, we see how this is going….

Me-Self: Pretty pessimistic today!

Me: I truly believe people are born good, or at least they are not born evil, but they quickly adapt to today norms – which have no long-term future – as they learn by copying from their parents/peers the status quo. Strange man-made inventions, starting with “money” or “nation states” expose you from early age to a set of pre-defined values and goals, a very specific, individualistic and competitive way of thinking, with consumerism bombarding your young mind before you learn how to read…With great effort, if not impossible, you can keep your children away from this socio-economical-cultural environment these days. But with great parental patience, if well guided at young age, although with great difficulty, as adults they would know who they really are and what really matters, would easily filter all man-made cultural and social norms from the natural reality, and they can bias-free judge anything that comes across: real or fake, worth doing or not, good or evil…A truly new upgraded generation, genuine citizens of Planet Earth, different from average person today, who, as Ryszard Kapuscinski puts it: “is not very curious about the world…he is alive, and being somehow obliged to deal with this condition, feels the less effort requires the better…whereas learning about the world is labor, and a great, all consuming one at that…most people develop quite antithetical talents in fact – to look without seeing, to listen without hearing – mainly to preserve oneself within oneself…”. We need to scale-this up, we need a solid base of such upgraded-minded people!

Me-Self: One sure needs hope to carry on…Is there enough time?

Me: Who can tell really? I hope I can see some changes during my life-time…so far I don’t see any tangible change. And I don’t understand…

On Evolution

Has Evolution for Homo Sapiens or other species really stopped? That is what one of my primary school teachers suggested…and she may not be alone! “The human mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.” – Charles Darwin, on the ability of humans to understand the evolution of species, including our own.

What does it mean for us or our fellow species, in today context? For one, we don’t need to wait an “infinite number” of generations to predict an evolution trend for our species, everything happens on fast lane today. For some time now, humans altered the environment, also impacting fellow species in the process, to maximize their own short term survival. However today level of comfort and scale (~7.9 billion people) make us extremely vulnerable to relative quick changes, like those climate or pandemics induced. Starting with Covid-19, despite technological success of developing an apparently effective vaccine in record time, we have difficulties rolling it over short time to billions of people! What if a climate event destroys today the main sources of food, can humans wait like in case of Covid vaccine for at least a year to receive their daily needed calories? Climate plays an important part in determining the average numbers of species, and periodical seasons of extreme cold or drought (or floods or wildfires or other natural disaster) may be the most effective of all checks – as ecosystems developed complex balancing mechanisms to hamper a species growing to an unsustainable size by comparison with available resources.

Humans need to embrace natural evolution and try as well to adapt to the changing environment, as genes editing and other technological silver bullets may not be there for everyone, at the right time (if needed, in future). Stay informed, stay fit, fight climate change not with better air-conditioning, but also with physical and metal training (alternative hot/cold showers), train your ability for resisting hunger through fasting (one day per week of fasting does miracles on long term to your health – experts say) etc. If not for yourself, maybe more motivating is thinking at the genes your children will inherit: strong/fit genes vs. vulnerable ones e.g. obesity and diabetics disposition may be inherited at birth by a child just as height is also influenced at birth by parents – basketball players can grow taller if they perform this sport from childhood, and some of these height gains are passed through genes to their next generation. Walking instead of driving will contribute greatly to your health – as organs or parts of your body not used would reduce their capacity (ask an astronaut), restricting your abilities when you might really need them…Remember, both knowledge and health give you more freedom, the freedom to chose, making your life richer and happier! Training your mind and body may be your best evolutionary investments!

When it comes to other species, we just need to make sure we don’t interfere in their environment – easier said than done considering today hunger for resources of a growing billions strong human population. That is why natural parks are very important today, in the worst case scenario of human induced disaster, these Noah’s arcs full of wildlife biodiversity, can rapidly extend and given enough time (potentially thousands of years), they can restore the balance of the nature. I think we have the responsibility as humans to hedge against such risk, to make sure not all complex life will disappear together with us from the face of the planet in event of disaster, rolling back billions of years of evolution this time, letting planet to be inhabited only by the more simple forms of life. Best case scenario, if no disaster comes, our life will definitely not be so lonely on this Planet and so the investment was worthwhile. You may help, by visiting such natural parks – as Covid restrictions ease around the world, make your travel plan today! Chose nature, chose wildlife, chose the proximity natural parks and enjoy!

Exclusive interview with Covid

Wildlife-Reporter: Hello! Hola! Ola! Hallo! Priviet! …We are happy to present you a truly global character, Mr. Covid, who may not be our Top impact nomination for 2020 only, but potentially for the last decade, and beyond! How are you?

Mr. Covid: Hello! Really happy to be here! I appreciate the invite, your home is really cozy so I might stay for a while!

W.R.: Well, we didn’t really invite you, let’s say we were a bit taken by surprise by your visit…

M.C.: Ooh, sorry to hear! But in fact, it is your kind who stepped un-invited into my house first, and disturbed my eventless life, which then led to my unexpected adventure into human world! I was perfectly happy in my natural home, living among different species like forest bats, keeping a low profile…but this is the past! Now my life has a true meaning, your world really allowed me to expand and travel in all corners of the planet, in such record times!

W.R.: Well, don’t get too comfortable…

M.C.: Why not? I am already very comfortable! I have officially met more than 40 million of your kind, unofficially a lot more, I survived the many barriers you put to stop me, I am now preparing a full come-back…I am a truly global force now, impacting your way of life, your society, your economy, your sleep, and even …climate change, they say…everything!

W.R.: And that is the problem! Most people liked their way of life before you showed up…

M.C.: And which way of life was that? The unsustainable one you keep promoting even now? It has no future anyway, with or without me…I am only a consequence of that way of life, not the cause of its (self)destruction!

W.R.: Well, what about a vaccine? Wouldn’t that stop you?

M.C.: Haha! You simply cannot accept the failure of your own system and keep dreaming of a silver bullet to comfortably continue living as before! I am afraid you are missing the point I was trying to make here: your model of living is broken and even an anti-Covid vaccine wont change that. I am just one insignificant option – a simple form of virus – from a very large arsenal of options that planet has and will imminently use if you don’t learn the lesson now! Don’t be so negative when it comes to me, be open-minded, understand the causes that led to this situation and try to improve! Humans have for long time dodged evolution’s challenges, but tough as they may seem, on long-run they only make your species stronger!

W.R.: Well, trying to be positive, I acknowledge something: You managed in a short time to raise awareness of the many issues humans have created to the planet, well better than any NGO or environmentalist could have done. Despite your arrival being anticipated by some, the majority of us today are still in shock and in denial phase, as well as politicians, whereas others may welcome you as you made them richer faster…

M.C.: You see? Perception differs from the point of view…

W.R.: Trump or Biden?

M.C.: Haha! You would think because I have met Trump personally, I may prefer him? It makes no difference to me!  As long as you all don’t change individually from inside, change your social and economic model, your infrastructure, your habits,…, everything, I am here to stay! We will have to learn to live side by side!

W.R.: Will see about that, time will tell! Thank you for the conversation!

Did you know that…

compared to geological time, humans have lived on Earth for the blink of en eye?

If you think of Earth’s history as a single year, the first single-celled life appears around the end of February. Not until September do we see multi-celled life. Dinosaurs appear in early December and die out suddenly on December 26. Humans don’t show up until 11:58 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Scientists think that more than 99 percent of all species that have ever lived are extinct today. Earth is now home to about 1.5 million known species and millions not yet discovered. But this biodiversity is threatened by an extinction rate 100 or more times larger than before year 1800. Scientist Edwards O. Wilson warns “we should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.

Source: Science Encyclopedia, by National Geographic

geological eras

2020 summer

For those like me who cannot travel to their favorite wild places this year, due to Covid or other restrictions, take your time reviewing the past journeys and think where will you go next, when circumstances allow!

Remember many national parks rely on income from tourism, and although travel itself is not very climate friendly (unless close to area where you live), the longer-term existence of these wild places depends on your visit! It is very important to maintain such samples of unspoiled nature, to allow many emblematic species to survive, and hopefully one day, to roam again their natural extended territories, when people have become wise enough to learn to coexist with other species!

Enjoy a wonderful summer, stay positive!

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PS. Picture taken in August 2015, in Alaska

On Relative Values and Co-operation

Using the scientific principles (make an observation, form a question, form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment – or more -, analyse data and draw a conclusion), Ben Ambridge builds a strong case for the intelligence and even conscience of fellow species in his book Are you smarter then a chimpanzee? . What author suggests is that “by exploring the similarities and differences between humans and other animals, we can begin to understand when and how our abilities, our likes and dislikes, and even our foibles and mental blind spots arouse in the course of evolution“. Because according to Darwin: when it comes to the differences between humans and other animals, everything is relative and everything is a relative: we are all part of one big family“.

But since animals show remarkable ability to understands words and even phrases, to count or even to communicate specific wishes through sign language or body movements – as proved through specific experiments, Ben Ambridge explains why can’t we talk to the animals: “Research conducted by Mike Tomasello, who has studied language learning in both children and chimpanzees, suggests that what non-human species just don’t get is that language is fundamentally co-operative, almost altruistic, in nature. Doing something for the benefit of someone else, even if it involves no personal cost, is completely alien to chimpanzees … they simply haven’t evolved in such a way as to be capable of considering the altruistic option in the first place. Virtually all of the mankind’s greatest achievements, such as science, governments and the arts, are based fundamentally on co-operation. If humans are qualitatively different from other animal species – and throughout the book author shows that this is far from clear that this is the case – then an inclination to co-operation (at large scale – think at entire countries, monetary system and/or organizations -) is perhaps the best candidate for that special something that makes us unique.

Ben Ambridge – Are you smarter then a chimpanzee?

are you smarter

One step further into analysis, moving from comparing other species to people to comparing (still existing) traditional societies of hunter-gatherers to modern humans, to separate what is nature-influenced into our today behavior and what is rather socially and culturally biased, is offered by Jareed Diamond in his highly recommended book The World until Yesterday. You will find out also how our modern life style influences our health, how we approach competition and co-operation in societies by comparison with native tribes, how the justice systems evolved to what it is today and sometimes on social progress made, like the treatment for elderly people. This book answers to a lot of WHYs on our modern life and society, helps us understand where we come from and what we have lost or gained on the way!

Jareed DiamondThe World until Yesterday

Jareed

Weather our unique large-scale co-operation ability is enough to save us today from choking into our own smoke, or save the planet’s biodiversity for our own sake, remains to be seen. Today countries are fully integrated into a capitalistic system that externalizes costs to nature for its short-term benefits, but are more divided then ever on what should be the longer-term priorities of humanity and future generations on this planet and agree on the way forward. Do not count on the appearance of well-being and scientific progress to date, humans still have a lot to proof, after all we have only been around for 3 million years (counting from the moment when we left the trees), whereas other species like dinosaurs flourished for 200 million years (before being wiped out by an asteroid)…So far our ability to co-operate only came at a cost for ecosystem and its biodiversity and likely for future human generations…

Shared Wisdom

Quotes from Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910), one of the greatest writers of all times (War and Peace and Anna Karenina are among his masterpieces), and also famous, among many others, for his advocacy against war and meat consumption, for giving up his fortune into helping others or to supporting the causes and ideals he believed in, and for his extensive search for answers when it comes to one’s life meaning and soul, through observation and reflection:

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“There are two ways by which you can understand the external world.

The first way is the crudest and surest: to understand the external world through the five senses. If this were the only way, then it would not instil in us an image of the world as we know it, but it would merely be one of meaningless chaos.

The other way is to get to know oneself through love for oneself and then, through this love, to get to know other living creatures and substances: people, animals, plants, rocks, heavenly bodies, and also, in the same way, the relationship of these beings and substances among themselves, and from these relationship to build up a picture of the world as we know it…”

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The sense of joy which arises from our feeling of pity and compassion for animals far outweigh any pleasure which otherwise might derive from hunting or eating of meat

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The highest race of animals, the human race,…ought to unite into one whole like a swarm of bees, …, it should strive towards continence and not towards inflaming desire – to which the whole system of life is now directed…

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“Although it appears mankind is occupied with such matters as trade, treaties, wars, the science and the arts, it is actually engaged in only one matter that is really important: to make clear the moral laws by which it lives. And such clarification is not only mankind’s most important concern, but the only one that it should be engaged in”

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The more people believe that some external force, working independently of their will, can bring change and improvement to their lives, the less likely it will be for such change and improvement to take place!

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“We are indissolubly spiritually linked not only with all people but with all living creatures!”

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“However low we have fallen, we can always keep the ideal in view, and set our sights on that!”

from Leo Tolstoy, “A Calendar of Wisdom

a Calendar of Wisdom

Micro worlds

Microbes – bacteria, moulds, viruses, protozoa, and algae – are present in every environment, living in soil, water and air. Some microbes cause disease but most are vital to life on Earth. Among other things, they break down organic matter so that it can be recycled back into the ecosystem, hence the famous saying: “It is the microbes that will have the last word“, by Louis Pasteur.

Trillions of microbes also live on and in the human body. The most common of these are beneficial bacteria, which aid the digestion of food, produce vitamins, and help immune system to find and attack more harmful microbes. Scientists did not understand microbes until they could see them. The first observations began in the 17th century, using the recently invented microscope.

Viruses, more in spotlight at present due to famous Covid19 pandemic are by far the most abundant biological entities on Earth and they outnumber all the others put together. They infect all types of cellular life including animals, plants, bacteria and fungi. Different types of viruses can infect only a limited range of hosts and many are species-specific. Some, such as smallpox virus for example, can infect only one species – in this case humans, and are said to have a narrow host range. Other viruses, such as rabies virus, can infect different species of mammals and are said to have a broad range. The viruses that infect plants are harmless to animals, and most viruses that infect other animals are harmless to humans. But as we destroy forests and consume wild animals (especially in China and Africa), it is expected for humans to get more exposed to viruses, which otherwise would have lived in a state of balance within their ecosystem.

As per Wikipedia, a virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses are considered by some biologists to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection, although they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life. Because they posses some but not all such qualities, viruses have been described as “organisms at the edge of life”, and as replicators.

Viruses are an important natural means of transferring genes between different species, which increases genetic diversity and drives evolution. It is thought that viruses played a central role in early evolution, before the diversification of the last universal common ancestor into bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Viruses are still one of the largest reservoirs of unexplored genetic diversity on Earth.

What we all experience today with the coronavirus must be also a lesson of humbleness, showing how vulnerable we are as a species, especially in an ever more global world, in front of an invisible virus, how quickly situation can turn pandemic, how many lives can cost and how even more vulnerable, artificial and unreliable is the economic system we depend on. Time will tell, how much we have learned from this lesson, or we miss another good opportunity to change for better!

virus