You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

by Bryan Walker on May 1, 2010

Biodiversity continues its steady decline. A team of scientists have this week published a study in Science confirming that fact.  Governments in 2002 at a summit on the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to aim to halt biodiversity loss by the year 2010. When experts meet in Nairobi on May 10 it will be to face the news that they have failed.  For example, since 1970  the world’s animal population has decreased by 30%, mangroves and sea grasses have shrunk in area by 20%, and live-coral coverage has fallen by 40%. “The state of biodiversity is definitely showing a rapid decline,” says Matt Foster, one of the lead authors on the Sciencepaper. “And the pressure just keeps increasing.”

It’s not that governments have made no efforts. The amount of protected land has steadily increased around the world, as has the area of sustainably managed forests. Increased money is being spent on biodiversity aid. But we’re still shouldering other species out of our way. And in doing so we’re attacking our own well-being. “We all benefit from biodiversity and we all hurt when it’s lost,” says Foster.

Climate change is only one of the ways in which humankind is contributing to biodiversity loss.  But it’s worth reminding ourselves that it is seriously exacerbating the process. I’ve been re-reading a fine book by Michael Novacek, Terra, published in 2007. He’s a distinguished paleontologist, Provost of Science at the American Museum of Natural History.  He was involved in the splendid Darwin exhibition put together by the Museum of Natural History which I was fortunate to be able to see when it was brought to the Auckland Museum in 2007.  That’s when I bought his book.  It’s subtitled Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem –- and the Threats That Now Put It at Risk. I think some points from his chapter on how the current warming is contributing to biodiversity loss are worth recounting here.

He notes changes in the activity of 694 species whose life history data between 1951 and 2001 has been studied.  A 2003 review found on average the species were either breeding, blooming, or doing other seasonally related activities 5.3 days earlier each decade.

The warming trend has also set species in motion. Some move poleward. Other species have moved upslope. Some have simply contracted and their surviving, marginalised populations have been reduced to precariously low levels.

Novacek is interesting on the evolutionary processes at work in the organisms affected by rapid alteration of range. The hardy colonisers which often establish at the leading edge of the shift may have a very low level of gene diversity, leaving them susceptible to further environmental changes. The populations at the trailing edge of the migration may have more genetic diversity, but they will start to fragment as the environmental conditions break up their preferred habitats.  The rate of environmental challenge may determine how a population’s genetic makeup and evolution are transformed. Slow change may be easier for the species to maintain genetic diversity at levels that allow it to persist. Drastic and rapid change make it more vulnerable. Simply moving to a cooler habitat does not guarantee that the genetic composition of the migrating populations will be robust enough to sustain them.

It’s made more complex by the bewildering diversity of examples in nature. Some species, especially in tropical and mountainous regions, may be buffered by the amount of genetic variation already resident in their populations. Other genetic studies suggest that climate change has easily outrun the rate at which a given population can adjust.

Novacek  sees contemporary evidence that climate change in combination with other factors is killing off certain species.  It seems to be the coup de grace for some coral species.  Increasing ocean acidification also plays a part in the demise of coral and threatens the most abundant and ecologically important sea organisms, the coccolithophorids, foraminifera and pteropods which are vitally important food for many fish.

On land, organisms that live in lakes, streams, rivers, and other bodies of freshwater are highly endangered and are especially susceptible to climate change because they cannot escape its effects, being captive in their habitat.

Most threatened are the habitats and species at high latitudes, the northern tundra and polar deserts such as those on the Arctic islands and Antarctica as well as species inhabiting high Alpine or montane habitats at middle to low latitudes.

I liked the last sentence of his chapter. In the preceding sentences he noted what he regarded as encouraging signs of acceptance of the science of global warming.  He recorded, however, still encountering individuals normally open to the discoveries of science who find it beyond belief that humans could disrupt the balance of the planet in such an enormous way. The final sentence: “But science has eventually convinced us before of the unbelievable.”

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

bill May 1, 2010 at 12:32 am

'we all hurt when it's lost'"? That I'm not so sure about. Whilst I'm concerned about AGW, and the stupidity of the denier movement, I can't say i'm so terribly distracted by this, and I'm certainly not hurting.

Sure when species finally go, as has happened to 99% of all those that ever existed, it's a tragedy for that species of bog weevil or whatever, and whilst i may consider it a shame, I'm not hurting.

Surely the point of evolution is that things adapt. We'll have to adapt too to differing environments and so on. Yes, it's likely to be uncomfortable etc, but we'll manage.

Bryan Walker May 1, 2010 at 3:01 am

Bill, in the final chapter of his book Novacek offers six facts (he defends his use of the word by saying that they are at least as close to facts as anything scientists know of) which add up to a response to what you.
First, the current extinction rate is soon to be as much as ten thousand times faster than the normal background rate. Not as big a deal as as the 90 percent loss at the end of the Permian, 250 million years ago, but approaching the Cretaceous extinction event 65 million years ago. And the current assault is not a matter of epochs, millenia, or even centuries, but of decades.
Second, although humans have assaulted the ecosystems of the world for more than forty thousand years, there is no scientific indication that our indefinite exploitation or abuse of the environment will ensure livable conditions in the future. With the recent acceleration of abuses we are approaching, may even have crossed, the threshold to catastrophe for much life on the planet.
Third, extinction is irreversible. The impact of the extinction events such as the one we are now experiencing reverberates through many other species that interact with those that have been lost perhaps for millions of years.
Fourth, the irreversibility of species extinction and its reverberating effect clearly impede eco-system recovery. By hundreds of thousands of years in the case of previous events.
Fifth, the interconnectedness and compexity of ecosystems maximise the impact of species loss. He mentions spiders as an example – their extinction allows the increase of swarms of crop-destroying, disease-carrying insects.
Sixth, people need biodiversity. We use thousands of species of plants and other organisms for food, pharmaceuticals, and raw materials. Our land system depends on plant pollination by insects.

The famous biologist E O Wilson puts it succinctly when he asks in an <a href ="http://www.actionbioscience.org/biodiversity/wilson.html">interview whether we want to personally manage our water systems, our food supply, and our atmosphere by prosthetic devices day by day instead of relying on powerful organisms to do the work for us.

bill May 1, 2010 at 6:15 am

Hello Bryan

thanks for this.

Sorry but is still does not move me. I think that it may be that i have a bit of a bugbear with environmentalists per se. Their apparent need to preserve everything and anything is aspic. I don't see the world that way. As for biodiversity, as one thing goes west, another thing fills that gap. It too will flourish and then move on.

Bryan Walker May 1, 2010 at 7:01 am

Yes, as a general rule species die out and others take their place, but the concern of these scientists is that the pace of extinction, like the pace of the CO2 build up, is much too fast for normal evolutionary processes to cope with. The resultant eco-system poverty will hit coming generations hard, as will the impacts of climate change. If we accept the scientific verdict on climate change why draw the line at the verdict of scientists who work in the fields of evolution and biology? In any case they are very much allies in the fight against climate change.

bill May 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

Hello Bryan

I recognise and understand the points that you are making.

I'm going to be very open and honest here. I still don't feel the connection to me in all of this. In many ways it goes to the heart of the AGW thing. Many people conflate the question of 'the problem' ie, recognising that there is such a thing, and then the 'solution or solutions' to that problem.

I recognise that there is a problem, and that something should be done about it. I'm just not sure what that something should be. If it should turn out that bio-diversity gets a free ride on the back of that, hell, why not. But I'm not sure that i want a solution that based on biodiversity needs only.

Does that make sense to you?

Many are turned off by the hippy lifestyle opportunities presented by what are essentially Luddites. I have no need, desire or want, to be living in the shadow of the green party, or alternative health quacks. To be frank, that gives me the creeps.

I like technology, and the freedoms that it brings. I would like that to continue

Sorry for the ramble.

Bryan Walker May 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Bill, I share your appreciation of technology. As someone whose life has been extended several times by surgical intervention I have every reason to. Alternative medicine holds no appeal and I have never been attracted to a hippy lifestyle.

It was the science of climate changewhich arrested me and made me realise that this was an issue of critical importance for the human future. I’ve read less about biodiversity, but enough to accept that there is a scientific verdict there too which bears critically on human life and the future. The underlying message from both seems to me to be that we need to understand that we are a dependent part of the biosphere and must learn to work with its processes.

Whether we are in time to prevent massive future disaster for humans from the damage we have done (unwittingly until relatively recently) remains to be seen. Indeed many still deny there is much to be concerned about. But there are plenty of things we can at least try if we can find the will, and technology is basic to most of them. And what we do to combat climate change (if we do it) will also assist in preserving biodiversity. As I see it the two issues are very much entwined. There’s no forsaking of technology in addressing them. Quite the opposite.

Terry Mock May 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Bryan,

Great post, as usual. I think Bill has honestly given us a snapshot of the real challenge for a majority of the human species here – How do we learn to know and appreciate the need for biodiversity before it's gone?

What kind of motivation would people like Bill need in order to replace his short term mindset with a longer term one that benefits future generations of all species?

As you know, this dilemma has led James Lovelock to have a rather pessimistic view of the future for a majority of earth's human population and he now says, "Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/29/james-lovelock-climate-change).

Is a large-scale pro-active transformation of human consciousness on this matter really possible, or is a sustainable retreat the only real alternative for a minority of us who share feelings about unborn future generations?

Ecology for a Crowded Planet/Biodiversity is the Foundation for Sustainable Development -http://www.magicoflandscapes.com/Research/Ecology

Terry Mock

Bryan Walker May 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Terry, I pin what hopes I have on continuing to urge public attention to the science which reveals how critical the issues are. I would also hope that a majority are concerned for future generations and that the problem is that it's not yet clear to them how threatened the future is. Retreat from engagement with communicating the message of the science doesn't hold any appeal for me.

Terry Mock May 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Bryan,

Well, it's now been 4 days since our last exchange on this subject, and the follow up list of sustainable solutions that I have offered for consideration in this forum has generated ZERO responses.

I have only one conclusion to draw from this lack of substance emerging from either side in this debate – James Lovelock is correct about human nature.

With all due respect Bryan, in spite of our mutual efforts, the evidence suggests that the vast majority of humans have already retreated from engagement with the holistic message of triple-bottom-line science, and do not share a real concern for future generations when compared to the overriding desire for short term gratification through continued exploitation of diminishing natural resources…

Terry

Terry Mock May 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Bryan,

Well, it's now been 4 days since our last exchange on this subject, and the follow up list of sustainable solutions that I have offered for consideration in this forum has generated ZERO responses.

I have only one conclusion to draw from this lack of substance emerging from either side in this debate – James Lovelock is correct about human nature.

With all due respect Bryan, in spite of our mutual efforts, the evidence suggests that the vast majority of humans have already retreated from engagement with the holistic message of triple-bottom-line science, and do not share a real concern for future generations when compared to the overriding desire for short term gratification through continued exploitation of diminishing natural resources…

Terry

Bryan Walker May 8, 2010 at 4:49 am

Terry, you may well be right, though I imagine that your offerings here received more attention than you might think. Not all readers make comments by any means. Anyway I see no alternative but to keep going. I still incline to think not that people reject the truth of the matter but that it hasn't yet dawned widely enough. I'll be reviewing Bill McKibben's latest book shortly. He looked pretty desolate after Copenhagen, and his book is certainly not optimistic, but he perseveres.

bill May 2, 2010 at 12:02 am

Bryan, I am with you on the medical front, similarly I've been fortunate to benefit from major surgery last year.

I hope that you are correct in the technology aspect. I've been impressed by the development work re electric cars, I also think that there is merit in nuclear reactors. I remember reading on 'pebble bed' devices that are intrinsically 'safe'.

I've always thought that domestic recycling is somewhat trivial, i would have thought that better use of industrial waste would be a better use of time and materials.

As I said above, if the 'environment' and that includes 'bio diversity' gets a free ride, so much the better.

Effort has to be made in establishing 'self interest' on the behalf of humans,

bill May 2, 2010 at 12:11 am

I'd like to make it clear that the Bill above isn't me!

I completely disagree with the argument that 'biodiversity doesn't really count' and that evolution will somehow miraculously fill the void left by any species that disappears. It may, but it will take a long time to do it. We're not going to see it, and that's the problem.

A mass extinction is actually an event where normal 'background' species loss accelerates to such a point that diversity is diminished by at least an order of magnitude, and we are currently losing species at a rate that has grown exponentially to be well above any hope of avoiding a very significant – and possibly disastrous, even by selfish standards – collapse in diversity.

AGW can only exacerbate this process, as anybody who has lived through the impact of Australia's decadal drought can attest (note, I am not saying I know with the required absurd level of confidence that the drought was caused by AGW, but it is certainly the kind of thing that goes along with it.)

As to not feeling any pain of the loss of beauty and complexity in nature, If the other Bill doesn't appreciate this I literally pity him. But if that bit of someone is missing in my experience it's futile arguing with them.

nommopilot May 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm

"The simple fact is that Bill speaks for the majority of people on the planet"

I don't for a minute think that's true and if I did I'd be very very depressed. It may be that the small minority with the loudest voices and deepest pockets think like this but fnck them…

bill May 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I think that terry is correct, you have to win the hearts and minds of people. Not preach, or tell them what is good for them.

That's why i think that the AGW thing will be won eventually. There's rear guard fight being fought by the denialist fraternity, however, slow erosion will see them done to.

You need to build a sound base for your ideas. Not hysterically jumping all over those that don't feel the 'connection'

Ben May 2, 2010 at 3:29 am

Thanks for posting something on this, its good to look at other environmental issues aside from climate change (even though there are synergies everywhere) – I've done a bit of research on this topic, so this discussions very interesting for me.

I can understand the previous Bill's position, it's pretty pervasive. Although, I don't agree with it. I think it stems from anthropocentrism, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of biodiversity in maintaing human society.

Most arguments for biodiversity preservation are based on green righteousness – how we MUST conserve the natural beauty of nature etc. Personally, I don't disagree with those arguments, but many people do. Using normative viewpoints to persuade is not always effective, in fact, I think it can be divisive. Many people don't agree with environmentalism due to its perceived liberal or left-wing (dirty-hippy) connotations.

I think unbiased arguments that use evidence, not viewpoints and emotions, are more persuasive . For example, a report called 'the economics of ecosystems & biodiversity', which a Deutsche Bank economist (Pavan Sukhdev) wrote in the depths of the GFC found that the cost of biodiversity loss eclipsed the value being wiped off the financial markets – due to losses of ecosystem services. I recently went to a lecture by a Harvard paediatrician on the link between health and biodiversity, he talks about how the two are interlinked and this is not recognised by policymakers, business or the public. The links for the report and lecture are below.

Economics report:http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversi

Health lecture: http://www.anu.edu.au/discoveranu/content/podcast

Terry Mock May 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Thank you, Ben, for acknowledging that Bill's attitude about biodiversity is "pretty pervasive".

The simple fact is that Bill speaks for the majority of people on the planet when he says, "I still don't feel the connection to me in all of this…I'm not sure that i want a solution that based on biodiversity needs only…I like technology, and the freedoms that it brings…Effort has to be made in establishing 'self interest' on the behalf of humans."

Given the historical effect of human nature on the rise and fall of civilizations, I can see only three sustainable choices for our species going forward:

1) Develop a voluntary scheme to preserve ecosystem services that immediately benefits a majority of existing humans around the world;

2) Impose Martial law and dictate necessary actions to preserve ecosystem services around the world;

3) Allow the inevitable consequences of current trends to unfold, and prepare for a sustainable retreat for civilization.

bill May 2, 2010 at 3:53 am

Bill.

I have no need for your pity. I do like to see the beauty and complexity of nature, but not at any cost. I just don't feel your pain, and that's the simple matter of it, now whether or not you like to wear that on your sleeve, is up to you. I don't.

Kind regards

Bill

nommopilot May 2, 2010 at 4:26 am

"I do like to see the beauty and complexity of nature, but not at any cost."

Do you really believe yourself to be separate from nature? How long do you think man will last without a biosphere? you really need to think a bit more broadly about this issue. maybe get outdoors.

bill May 2, 2010 at 4:55 am

Not really, it's very nice to look at. As for lasting without a biosphere, I would imagine that time would be short. But that was not the topic of this thread.

simply put, I don't feel that 'connectedness' that those who like to walk in it, gawk at it etc. do.

I frankly find all that kind of thing very boring.

nommopilot May 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

"As for lasting without a biosphere, I would imagine that time would be short. But that was not the topic of this thread."

really how far do you think we can let the mass extinction happen before our life support breaks down? collapse of our fisheries and pollinators could cause some pretty major food shortages (just two plausible scenarios for the not too far future).

"simply put, I don't feel that 'connectedness'"

just because you're not feeling it doesn't mean you're not connected. go watch the lion king or something. jeebers…

bill May 2, 2010 at 10:09 am

it's a tragedy for that species of bog weevil or whatever, and whilst i may consider it a shame, I'm not hurting

no, you're not, are you?

Not really, it's very nice to look at

are you sure you really even believe that?

I don't feel that 'connectedness' that those who like to walk in it, gawk at it etc. do. [my emphasis]

no kidding? since when has being unable to do something been a sufficient virtue to enable one to sneer at those who can?

I frankly find all that kind of thing very boring

snap! that's exactly how i feel about your argument…

All you've succeeded in establishing is that people like you aren't really part of the public debate over the future of biodiversity, since by your own admission you're incapable of making any reasonable assessment of its merits!

If terrorists had captured the Louvre and were threatening to burn masterpieces one at a time until their demands were met I think it's unlikely that anyone – outside of perhaps Fox – would put forward someone saying 'Oh, that stuff's all over-rated crap; just blow up the whole place' as a reasonable authority on the crisis.

And if your family was kidnapped, who'd want police who'd stated that they were untroubled by the idea of their deaths to be handling hostage negotiations?

Saw a great T-shirt today 'When you're Nature's guest, behave yourself'. Doubtlessly expressing enthusiasm for this makes me, oh, let me guess, a hippy? Cut to the core….

dappledwater May 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

Perhaps Bill the 2nd needs a change of moniker Bill?. Despicabill?

bill May 2, 2010 at 11:27 am

William, I think that you are over reacting a bit there. You may need to loosen your hair shirt.

I have a keen appreciation of the transcendent, I am moved by literature, art and music. I'm not overly interested in the natural world, it's very nice to look at, thrilling even. But it's not my scene.

I never said that I wanted to be part of the discussion on the future of biodiversity. All i alluded to was the fact, that if in the process of cleaning up our act, vis-a-vis, CO2 emissions and the like, it [biodiversity, that is] gets a free ride, then good on it.

I am really quite interested in your hostile reaction to anyone that disagrees with you, or rather, puts up a position that you don't like.

What's all this about art work at the louvre, my family etc, got to do with anything? I think that you may have lost the plot there. As for Fox, I refuse to watch it.

Get yourself a wet flannel and calm down.

Kind regards

Bill

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:32 am

""I have a keen appreciation of the transcendent"

you don't seem to appreciate that nature transcends you.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 2:17 am

"Who would have thought large scale spraying of toxic chemicals may have had unintended consequences?"

I don't feel any connection to bees, dappled, because, you know, they're bees and I'm a human. I mean I don't mind if we happen to save the bees accidentally as a side effect of useful economic activity but I would hate to think good money could be spent on saving a bunch of insects.

it is the way of nature, the bees die out and nature replaces it with newly evolved pollinators (cause evolution works really quickly) or man invents nifty pollinating machines so there's no way anything bad can happen like massive crop failure… </channelling_bill>

thanks 4 the link

nommopilot May 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

"I never said that I wanted to be part of the discussion on the future of biodiversity."

this is a discussion of biodiversity in which you are participating. is someone holding a gun to your head and telling you to make stupid comments or he'll kill you?

"I am really quite interested in your hostile reaction to anyone that disagrees with you, or rather, puts up a position that you don't like. "

we're engaging with your argument which seems to be that biodiversity is unimportant because some guy named bill doesn't care much for it. what you mistake for hostility is more a kind of bewilderment and maybe abhorrence from those who find your sentiments quite narrow-minded and uninformed.

nommopilot May 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

"I have a keen appreciation of the transcendent, I am moved by literature, art and music. I'm not overly interested in the natural world, it's very nice to look at, thrilling even. But it's not my scene."

what is your scene?

Gosman May 3, 2010 at 2:58 am

It is all weel and good to use Science to support your arguments for AGW but you can't then ignore it when it comes to other areas.

Please note the following statements from that article:

"Since then more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers."

"Potential causes range from parasites, such as the bloodsucking varroa mite, to viral and bacterial infections, pesticides and poor nutrition stemming from intensive farming methods."

"There are still a lot of mysterious disappearances," he said. "We are no nearer to knowing what is causing them."

Essentially noone knows what is causeing the Bees to die. However you two have lept to a conclusion that it must be related to pesticides. The only supporting evidence for this is some Scientist stating that they believe there might be a link (no supporting evidence beyond this vague statement) and some Bee Keeper giving his opinion.

I'd like to see some consistency in your arguments please.

dappledwater May 3, 2010 at 11:40 am

"However you two have lept to a conclusion that it must be related to pesticides." – Gosman.

Yeah, I'm a real iconoclast. Just like those guys who saw smokers with high rates of lung disease and cancer and thought "Hmmmmm?"

bill May 3, 2010 at 3:42 am

There you go again, with this 'place in the universe' thing again.

and you can keep your pity.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 5:18 am

I'm just trying to work out why you can't see the connection between yourself and the rest of life on the planet beyond it being nice to look at.

do you eat any foods derived from plants or animals? do you wear any plant or animal fibres? or leather? do you breathe oxygen?

I just want to understand what you're trying to say. to me it seems like you think that our way of life can sustain a huge loss of biodiversity without changing despite the fact that our way of life is dependent on that biodiversity. you have said nothing to support your argument except that you don't 'feel' any connection with nature. is there any more to it than that?

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 6:19 am

"The key lies in better communication"

It is clear that a lot of people do not want to engage in communication or accept any message that suggests their lifestyle may have to change.

"We need another way gentlemen."

I'm all ears!!

... May 3, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Do as I say, not as I do.

"Al Gore, Tipper Gore snap up Montecito-area villa
The Italian-style home has an ocean view, fountains, six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms."
http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-hotpro

bill May 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm

My goodness, you are all a bit touchy aren't you.

I'm very interested in how AGW affects humans, and how a response to that can be determined. First of all there's the recognitoin of the problem, then some determination of how to 'fix' that problem. All I was trying to say was that, if the biodiversity angle gets swept along with it, all fair and well. But i would not, and do not, want to see wholesale change inflicted upon the human race because of biodiversity reasons alone. Is that so hard for you to understand.

I consider this to be one of the major issues that those who consider the flora and fauna first, are going to have to work on.

I never said that it is not important, all i said was that i do not feel any connection towards it.

Maybe if it is bewilderment, then the authors of the comments should have phrased them, "I am bewildered that…." or " I fail to understand the point…" but no, i get " I pity …."

Flat earth types, greenies, etc., need to leave the condescending ruck sack at the door, and drop this, "I am better than you, because I care about [fill in your favourite species here].

bill May 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm

all of the above.

bill May 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

you tell me, you seem to have all the answers.

you see this is the part of environmentalism that gets right up my nose. When ever i hear phrases like,

"really? how far do you think we can let the mass extinction happen before our life support breaks down? collapse of our fisheries and pollinators could cause some pretty major food shortages (just two plausible scenarios for the not too far future). "

All i can think of is flat earth sandal wearers who want to turn us back to the middle of the last millenium, to live in communes up to our necks in pig shit. You have a marketing problem.

I suspect, or rather, I know, that I am not alone in that fear.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:23 am

"But i would not, and do not, want to see wholesale change inflicted upon the human race because of biodiversity reasons alone."

do you live in a bunker? you plainly do not realise the degree to which mankind depends on our ecosystem. it doesn't matter whether you 'like' nature or not, the fact is that a loss of biodiversity WILL inflict massive changes on human beings. pollinators dying out? crop failure? increased desertification? erosion? soil degradation? fish stock depletion? any of these things sound like they might have some impact on our way of life as more and more hungry mouths arrive on the planet?

""I am better than you, because I care about [fill in your favourite species here]."

what? I'm not saying I'm better than you I'm just saying you're wrong. if you're going to argue that our ecosystem can be ignored when addressing matters of climate change I am absolutely going to take issue with that. you have no idea of your place in the universe. this is both sad and indeed, piteous.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:29 am

"All i can think of is flat earth sandal wearers who want to turn us back to the middle of the last millenium, to live in communes up to our necks in pig shit. You have a marketing problem. "

you have a perception problem. there are no people like that the problem is with an entrenched stereotype of a parody similar to the spherical oil tycoon fatcat. in reality the people you are maligning are sensible creative people who have a valid concern for the environment of which they are a part and most have a much better understanding of ecology than you appear to.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 1:10 am

"you have to win the hearts and minds of people"

I'm not preaching to you you are more than welcome to respond to my actual arguments. why do you keep going on about not "feeling" a "connection". I have pointed out several times it is irrelevant what you feel, you are connected to our ecosystem. you have to eat food, you have to breath air.

what do you mean by "you have to win the hearts and minds of people" what could win you heart bill? shall I send you flowers (live ones in a pot of course) with a little card that says "yes bill, you are a part of nature, it provides everything you need and is currently being steadily destroyed by greedy greedy humans. I want you to feel the connection because a teenage girl like you needs to feel something, something, anything I don't know what to do this is all happening so fast. do you feel it bill?…"

because I can't do that for you bill, all I can do is tell you that this is an issue that you don't understand sufficiently to see why a diverse biosphere is an essential stabilising factor in our environment and a life support system that we absolutely cannot do without. every bog weevil species that dies out makes our ecosystem weaker.

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

FFS. Listen up. All I was reacting to was the orginal article, go back and read it, then read my first comments.

dappledwater May 3, 2010 at 1:48 am

Sorry your interrupt your discussion with Despicabill (another sockpuppet?), however have you seen this?:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/02

Who would have thought large scale spraying of toxic chemicals may have had unintended consequences?.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 3:34 am

I haven't leapt to any such conclusions. I have no idea what is causing the problem but I can see quite clearly that it is a problem that is going to have serious consequences for man and should thusly be given high priority in terms of research funding. given that they are finding pesticides accumulating in the wax and honey, and that since pesticides are in fact toxins used for killing insects that have been sprayed on the bees' food source I would be inclined to begin any search for the culprit with pesticides but I haven't done the scientific research (seeing as I have no training as a bee scientist) and have not reached any conclusion.

It's quite possibly the combination of factors above which are producing this effect. whatever and whichever, it is important that we recognise the importance of finding out and, taking action to address the problem.

bill May 3, 2010 at 3:42 am

that adds nothing to the conversation at all. Anyway, that's your opinion

bill May 3, 2010 at 3:45 am

Not only do I have a perception problem, but the mass of people in this country, also have this perception problem. SO, it is in the hands of those that are delivering the message to do something about it.

I don't disagree that they may have a better appreciation of ecology than me, that really goes without saying.

Any solutions that are derived have to be such that we don't have to have a great leap backwards a la mcgillycuddy serious party.

bill May 3, 2010 at 3:47 am

I read an article recently, maybe have been in New Scientist, which to my mind is getting a bit flakey, nonetheless, there was something in there regarding bees. And how this polination thing maybe over done.

dappledwater May 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

From the link:

"Flowering plants require insects for pollination. The most effective is the honeybee, which pollinates 90 commercial crops worldwide. As well as most fruits and vegetables – including apples, oranges, strawberries, onions and carrots – they pollinate nuts, sunflowers and oil-seed rape. Coffee, soya beans, clovers – like alfafa, which is used for cattle feed – and even cotton are all dependent on honeybee pollination to increase yields."

A tad more convincing than your vague recollections.

Gosman May 3, 2010 at 4:16 am

The have no idea if pesticides are causing anything. They might be but then again they might have no impact whatsoever.

You read like some of the Mercury Mom's in the States who think Vaccinations contributed to their childs Autism.

Research into this would be useful but, as the article points out, while Bee numbers seem to be falling in a number of places a lot of this is anecdotal. In short more information is required to determine the extent of the problem.

It can't be as bad as all that though as we would probably have heard of mass crop failure due to lack of pollination given the fact that it has been happening for a few years now.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 4:24 am

thanks, that's a valuable contribution. I remember reading something somewhere in a publication that contradicts what you say…

maybe it washttp://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19325964.50… which is behind a paywall but doesn't seem to say the "polination thing is over done" (whatever you mean by that). in fact it seems to say the same as what dappled's link said…

but here's some further info:
http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55919/ which suggests pesticides are not the cause so we wait and see…

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 4:34 am

"SO, it is in the hands of those that are delivering the message to do something about it. "

it's in the hands of everyone to do something about it. you, for instance could do some reading and learn about how the biosphere is comprised of species whose existence interconnects with the existence of other species in a web like structure. you could learn more about how the removal of key nodes can obliterate whole sections of the web and how the resultant shrinking of the gene pool affects the ability of ecosystems to adapt to changing climate.

then you could reflect that humans have their fingers in almost every part of the web and will thus be seriously affected by any major extinction event, particularly if it occurs at a much faster rate than ever before.

PS. you do know the mcgillicuddy's were a parody party who disbanded more than 10 years ago, right?

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

this is getting tedious. As I said above, humans first, if the creepy crawlies, and the other things that we eat come along too, great.

I remember the laird of Hamilton.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 4:37 am

are you telling me you think you're independent of the biosphere? if not, why do you think we can ignore major changes occurring in it?

you really are failing to bring any kind of reasonable argument for your stance.

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

No of course i'm not. All i am trying to say, and I am in danger of repeating myself here. Is that I don't feel the same level of connectiveness to biodiversity that others do. I see myself more as a spectator. A tourist. An observer. Not an active on, but merely an observer.

tomfarmer May 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

hello bill @ May 1, 2010 at 12:32 am

You want hurt? Try the bottom line of Talk About Things happening..

Go pick the Singularity line-up right out front of your complex head’s nose. So you can adapt, riight..

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:52 am

I'm sorry, while i am reasonably literate, I have no idea what your last para was about. Can you rephrase that?

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 5:04 am

"You read like some of the Mercury Mom's in the States who think Vaccinations contributed to their childs Autism."

What do you want me to say? I just told you I haven't drawn a conclusion. See below where I pasted a link to an article suggesting pesticides are not the cause. All I'm saying is that bees are a very crucial node in our ecosystems and we should really pay attention when the people who cultivate and study them start sounding the alarm.

"In short more information is required to determine the extent of the problem. "

I agree.

"It can't be as bad as all that though as we would probably have heard of mass crop failure due to lack of pollination given the fact that it has been happening for a few years now."

Excellent reasoning. If it hasn't already happened it can't possibly happen, right? And we certainly shouldn't do anything until the crops actually fail…

Bandersdad May 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm

The trouble is that bill’s right…
You have a marketing problem.
One I’ve mentioned previously.
The key lies in better communication and in this case that means alternate means of communication; for obvious reasons.
We need another way gentlemen.
And that alone should wake you up to the truth of my words…

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thank you.

Terry Mock May 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Bill,

Now that other reasonable participants have acknowleged your truth about self-centered human nature, I would be interested in your response to my previous list of (3) possible sustainable options, only one of which potentially results in preserving anything close to existing civilization – "Develop a voluntary scheme to preserve ecosystem services that immediately benefits a majority of existing humans around the world.

In a ground-breaking effort to address the problem, Sustainable Land Development International (SLDI) has released the world’s first comprehensive sustainable land development best practices system. Unlike other standards and certification programs, the SLDI Best Practices System helps to structure a triple-bottom-line (people, planet and profit) decision model that helps development projects achieve greater success in each area. We are interested in engaging all stakeholders in the review of this system.

The SLDI Code™ http://www.sldi.org/images/Research/sldi%20in%20f

bill May 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

Of course I eat animals and wear their skin.
But other people get that for me. I have no interest in the process other than the end product.

Your question on oxygen is just plain silly.

I'm sorry but your twisting things around here. All i tried to say was that, i don't get the same buzz that others get when it comes to orgiastic enthusiasm about 'nature' it's not my bag. It's as simple as that.

And that if changes are necessary, which it seems to me that they are. Then if the biodiversity gets a free ride with it, then great. But, I can't see us getting bent out of shape, just for 'biodiversity' as being a way forward.

Humans come first.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:08 pm

"Humans come first."

humans cannot live without a biosphere. its not just pretty stuff to look at. if there is large-scale extinction that will impact on our ability as a species to feed ourselves and will result in some very major climate changes where ecosystems have significant effects on climate.

I can see you won't be convinced and I'm not going to continue to try (frankly, talking to a log would be less a waste of my time) but I think you should try and think about biodiversity not as some optional extra that we can discard without consequence but what it really is: the web of interactions which allowed humans to evolve and thrive over millions of years (including converting our very atmosphere and climate to current conditions) and which we still depend upon for our very lives.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm

"this is getting tedious"

agreed.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

"A tad more convincing than your vague recollections."

depends who you are. some people prefer flaky recollections to actual facts. pollination is over done, dude, it's so last century…

dappledwater May 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hey, watch it, the wind might change and you'll be stuck like that!.

nommopilot May 3, 2010 at 10:47 pm

run along now, troll. no food for you here

... May 3, 2010 at 11:00 pm

But you wonder why people don't want to change their lifestyles when slugs like Gore are creaming their commission of hard working tax payers?

Good luck with "winning the hearts and minds"

Gareth May 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

If you intend to comment here on a regular basis, please supply a name (preferably not bill), and use a real email address when you post. And keep the comments on topic. Gore is not on topic in this thread. There are very few where he is…

preferably not bill May 4, 2010 at 3:29 am

My point is that (in answer to nomonpilot above) is that if you want to "win peoples hearts and minds" my telling them that they need to pay a good chunk if their income into carbon taxes, then it helps if they thought that this money was going somewhere useful.

In NZ's case, it will go to electricity companies and forestry owners with no guarantee that emissions will be reduced.

Furthermore, a part of this expense will be taken up by the bureaucracy required to administer the scheme. The real gains, however, are for the carbon traders, such as Mr Gore, and for the scammers. CO2 is a scammers dream, because it is literally trading in thin air.

So we don't really have much of a show "winning the hearts and minds of the public" The only realistic choice is coercion and propaganda.

Which is precisely what is happening.

Gareth May 4, 2010 at 3:45 am

Better: but – please provide a real email address on future comments.

The \”hearts and minds\” of the public are generally convinced of the need to do something. What's proposed is modest, despite your scary assertions to the contrary. If we don't start now, it will be more expensive to act later. That's true for NZ, it's also true for the world at large. Delay is no solution, it just makes the final price we pay much, much higher.

nommopilot May 4, 2010 at 6:30 am

you're not really on topic, so I won't go beyond saying I don't support the ETS as it stands, I don't think it will be effective and I don't really care what Al Gore says or does.

tomfarmer May 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm

hello bill @ May 3, 2010 at 10:52 am

I had a little time drop by to find your comment,, and I must say the immediate thought in my mind at reading it was hey, where were you in 2000 when Singularity hit the mainstream of human consciousness..?

Around my workplace folks would nod sagely at this question addressed to them, perhaps one of them assist with a tart — in short pants!

To wit, a pithy, prompt and polite response from me, bill, would be hard to find. BTW it is not literacy you need so much as brains.

Bandersdad — since your comment appears close to my earlier comment @ May 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm , can I take it that the ‘you’ in You have a marketing problem applies also to me. (bill being right and all, heh heh).

Some interesting literacy here, namely that marketing in your purview is not necessarily a matter of communication/s.

Which leads me to ask you which marketing are you refering to.? Is it the English dictionary defined marketing or the shadow marketing?

The former, as you concede, can and often does fail: whereas the latter never fails!

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