We are suckers for hype. The recent media sequel of the mythical Insect Armageddon and the coverage of the latest WWF report on wildlife declines are a reminder of this.
Global declines in insect populations are a huge concern. Insects contribute to myriad ecosystem services through a multitude of ecological processes and functions. If we lose insects, we WILL suffer. But the two studies media have hyped on this issue are not actually evidence that this happening. They are concerning; they are a wake-up call; they are worrying. But, in and of themselves, they are not evidence of apocalyptic declines in the number of all 1+ million species of insect on Earth.
Similarly, the recent WWF report does not show any evidence that humans have ‘wiped out’ 60% of all animals on Earth in the last 30/40 years, as many media outlets are claiming. The truth: the report considered around 4000 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians…i.e. vertebrates. There are at least ~400,000 more species of vertebrate on Earth (depending who you talk to), probably more. And huge caveat!… Invertebrates are the most abundant and diverse group of animals, so any claim about ‘all animals’ that doesn’t include invertebrates is automatically dubious. Continue reading
IPBES has released media summaries of their reports on global land degradation and restoration, and regional biodiversity and ecosystem services assessments. The results of these reports are really important.
Anyone who has been working in this area for the last couple of decades might have noticed that the reports refer to ‘nature’s contributions to people’ (NCP). Where did this term come from and what does it mean?
In a nutshell, it’s a new term for ‘ecosystem services’.
But do we need a new term? The term ‘ecosystem services’ was only established about 20-odd years ago (the concept is centuries’ older). I’ve been working on ecosystem services research for just over 10 years, and NCP came out of the blue for me. I heard about it a few months ago (just before the IPBES reports had been finalised), when a paper was published in Science by a group of well-respected scientists in the ecosystem services field who were involved in the IPBES assessments. Some related papers were published (here and here) in another journal, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. Continue reading
A few years ago, I wrote an article for Ensia about how popular media tend to separate science and nature stories as if they’re unrelated categories. Most major online news websites have separate pages for ‘Science’ stories (predominantly technology, space and medical research) and ‘Environment’ stories (mostly pieces on nature, wilderness, environmental activism, or cute wildlife, sometimes with a few pieces on climate change thrown in for good measure). Continue reading
Music is one of the greatest storytelling media. Art can lay claim to being the oldest – but only from a human perspective. Birds, insects and animals were sending messages through song long before we started drawing on cave walls.
Music has the euphoric power to move us in a way that rivals a cliff-top ocean sunset. It connects us to environment, warns us of danger, and inspires us to change.
Because it’s World Environment Day every day (and you can only listen to Rip Rip Woodchip so many times), here is some of my favourite earth music to keep you in an ecological mood year-round. Continue reading
The only thing that man learns from history is that man doesn’t learn from history.
This quote, in various forms, has been attributed to a number of people over the years, so I’m not going to credit any one person. But the gist of all these versions is the same — and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, however it’s articulated.
Today I’m thinking about alternative energies. Whatever camp you’re from, you must agree that we need to figure out alternative forms of energy, pronto? Even if you don’t believe in climate change or carbon emissions; even if you don’t care an iota about the environment, green spaces, nature or wilderness areas, there is still the basic economic issue of Excess Demand.
The consumption rate of coal exceeds its natural production rate — hence, its classification as a non-renewable resource. Yes, it’s still being dug out of the ground. Yes, there’s still quite a bit lying around the place, and occasionally someone even announces that they’ve found a new reserve. But eventually, the last lump of coal will smoulder off into the sunset and every coal-powered television, PC and light around the world will sign out.
Do you reckon it would be sensible to have a back-up? If you were going caving in Mammoth Cave, and you knew with absolute certainty that your headlamp batteries were going to run out of juice halfway in, would you pack extras? Continue reading