‘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

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