Natural Culture

To what extent does culture (i.e. arts and entertainment) affect how people view nature or ‘the environment’?

Nature is not ‘immediate’ – she needs time to grow, time to heal, time to be appreciated and understood. Yet, for many people, their most available culture (‘popular’ culture) is all about the Now – if it looks to the past or the future, it measures it in days or weeks, not years or decades. Does this then influence their attitude to the environment?

It’s a pretty interesting question, and I’m sure the answer is mighty complicated. There would be some effect from nationality, racial background and possibly gender (as these things can sometimes determine what cultural elements you are mostly exposed to or ‘wired’ for), but the answer goes beyond that – not all ‘women’ think the same, not all ‘Australians’ think the same, and not all ‘English men’ think the same. Continue reading

To be or not to be … Scientist or Writer?

I have just had the opportunity to attend the Publishing With Impact workshop, facilitated by Camilla Myers from CSIRO Publishing. Without any overstatement, it was the most enjoyable and helpful workshop I have ever attended. Although the ultimate success of a workshop is purely context-specific – dependent on the dynamics of the participants and the facilitator as well as the information involved – the structure of this workshop is invaluable for any academic who struggles with either writing or the publishing puzzle … and inspiring for any who don’t!

I am currently in the final scenes of my PhD saga, in which I have to “write” The Unwritten. Ironically, this has always been the part of my PhD I was most looking forward to. I have been writing “creatively” since high school and my first degree and pre-enviro science work history were all about Writing and using English as a creative tool (rather than an arduous accessory to life!). So, suffice to say, I thought I was a pretty good wordsmith when I dove naïvely into the world of Science. Continue reading

The Origin of a Species

It’s easy for some to think that we’ve stopped evolving as a species, at least for the time being. As far as we can tell, Homo sapiens has looked, and mostly behaved, fairly similar since it developed speech and communal living, albeit with small changes in language, customs, clothing, transport and house structures. But evolution of any system never really stops, and sometimes can even work in reverse (e.g. Darwin’s finches and Seattle’s sticklebacks).

After all, as Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species, “Under domestication we see much variability… [which] is governed by many complex laws, – by correlation of growth, by use and disuse, and by the direct action of the physical conditions of life.” A species can only keep reproducing carbon copies of itself for multiple generations “as long as the conditions of life remain the same”.

And the conditions of human life have changed.

But when I was young, we ate meat!

Continue reading

‘Communication’ … overworked and underpaid

Homo sapiens are the great Communicators.  That’s what apparently makes us more advanced than all the other animal species on Earth—we can talk, write, sing, dance and draw pictures to describe what we are trying to say.  And we can conjure up a plethora of technological and physical aids to help us.

So one might say it’s ironic that, of all the animal species, we suffer the most from misunderstanding and lack of communication.  Other animals may have what we call simple, primitive communication tools, but they never pick up the wrong end of the stick.  When a group of meerkats spies an approaching predator and starts screeching and jittering around, old mate foraging on his own down the hill doesn’t just roll his eyes and mutter ‘Women!’ under his breath, he hightails it out of there. Continue reading