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 any 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!

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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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