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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“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!

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Happy International Day of Forests!

Enjoy a very special day, the Day of Forests, celebrated today around the World! If man is to find inspiration and wisdom, that is likely to come through reflection, in the natural environment, where time slows down, the pace of life is back into normality and all senses are coming alive, re-activated by nature’s voices and smells! A feeling of scope and priority is born, our lives are mentally reviewed, and desire to change and improve will come! There is no better way for one to reflect at own existence and place in Nature and the Universe, then in a natural pristine forest! While you take the path (!in the countries where going out is still possible today ref. the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions!), make sure you wear a binocular, you may be awarded some beautiful sights and memories of fellow species, with whom we once shared this home – the forest! Enjoy an unforgettable day with your self-conscience in the Forest! And for the ones of you locked at home (ref. Covid-19 movement restrictions), don’t miss the chance as well to reflect at what is really of importance to you, to the planet, and make a pledge to come a step closer to natural world and chose how to do it, could be through your daily behavior, adopting a more sustainable way of life, or making your voice heard in protecting nature and all its species from today’s economic system and its nature-destroying practices, before it is too late!

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Famous quote to remember: “Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning Renaissance painting to cook a meal” – Edward O. Wilson

Happy World Wildlife Day 2020!

Happy World Wildlife Day 2020, to all Wildlife and Nature lovers around the World! As a new decade has started, find a way to contribute to saving Earth’s species before it is too late, as their remaining wild habitat is under threat from a man-made ever stronger phenomenon, the climate change! Massive wildfires are ravaging through wild country, every time extending more North, destroying the last home of very iconic species and the last genuine ecosystems! Wildlife is counting on you to make a difference! You may find some guidance on how to be a better global citizen at the ECO section of this blog, but feel free to find your own way!

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A 2020 Climate story

Meteorological phenomena we are witnessing aren’t entirely due to climate change, but climate change is accentuating them. It’s been 60 years since Spain hasn’t witness such strong impact from a weather event, as when the Atlantic storm Gloria reached its shores, eventually covering all its territory between 19 and 22nd of January 2020.

Four days after storm passed, I took the below pictures into Mediterranean sea resort of Estartit. Badly located neighborhoods were basically underwater…complete human error, by allowing their constructions in the first place…

Girona‘s province largest river, Ter, has normally a small delta, but that grew to considerable size during the storm days, bringing mud into the blue waters of the sea, and all left-overs of the upstream civilization…Even the natural parc around Isles Medes, an underwater paradise, was also reached by the muddy waters!

As expected, aside from material damages and human victims, there were also wildlife victims, caught unaware by the rage of waters! Sweet water fish pushed into salty water, drown wild bores and birds and insects…

The entire beach around river Tar delta was covered by left-overs of an invasive plant, the American-cane, which in fact reached Spain from Asia, and which is now suffocating other local plants, and it is cut (without much success) by local population, along rivers and wet lands, but which eventually reaches the sea.

Natural beach is lost under sea waters every year, except for few places where ground is still hold by vegetation, unfortunately these places are now rare (see the 2 photos below)…Such vegetation would protect the beach and its ecosystem, if there was only wisdom to allow their free service…

In the aftermath of the storm, local populations gathered by hundreds to clean the beach, I was one of the volunteers. I was surprised to see that number one plastic item in the sea are the ears cleaning cotton sticks, I could have collected entire bags of them!…In any case, first wave of people did a great job cleaning all the plastic, rubber and other materials from the entire beach, in just few hours…

After plastics were collected, also on the touristic side of the beach, the wood and the cane were collected, to be removed at later stage by local authorities. The beach around the delta is probably still not cleaned, would take much more human power to clean such a large territory were you were stepping on wood only, not on sand anymore…

One thing is for sure, we will witness more such events in future, in more places of the globe. Hope you learn from it, once you see its impact with your own eyes, and not through TV or smartphone screen, and will contribute either pro-actively to stop climate change (some tips on the ECO page of this blog), and/or by volunteering retroactively to help your community, the ecosystem clean-up or wildlife rescue.

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.