Engineering Nature

Humans are the greatest ecosystem engineers.  We’ve already altered most of the world’s land surface through mining, agriculture and urban development; we’ve modified marine ecosystems through introduced species, commercial fishing and shipping infrastructure; chemical pollutants from our greywater entering waterways are creating inter-sex fish; and light pollution from our cities, and even from ski-runs, is altering behaviour, reproduction and circadian rhythms of resident wildlife.

Now even the mere sound of our existence is reworking Nature.  Noise pollution from development, airports, mining, and road traffic has always been an issue, not just as an annoyance to our own communities, but as a threat to nearby wildlife.  Animals and birds can abandon their habitats through fright, or be driven out because the human-made noise makes it too difficult for them to find food or mates.  Many birds and even whales have been forced to change the volume, sound frequency or timing of their calls to ensure they are heard above the din of human existence. Continue reading

Supermarket ecology

I have an amensal relationship with my local supermarket—I give it money, it gives me rotten fruit and rancid yoghurt in return.

My fridge was low on fresh food the other day, so I headed off to my neighbourhood Superagora megabyssiae. Mine’s about 10 minutes up the road. It lies in wait like a huge concrete anglerfish, luring me into its automatic-opening jaws with its promises of “fresh food” and “everyday low prices”. I stood in the ‘fresh’ produce section eyeing soft apples, wilting lettuce and green potatoes with distaste. I even found a mouldy capsicum. And don’t get me started on the dairy cabinet. Continue reading