Saturday, October 30, 2010

Year of the Tiger

2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger, and also the United Nation's International Year of Biodiversity.  While the polar bear is a most arresting poster species of climate change, probably no other animal can fit the same role as well as the tiger when it comes to looming mass extinction and our ongoing loss of the Earth's biodiversity.  Despite years of conservation funding, all sorts of legal protections and masses of blood, sweat and tears from dedicated human champions, tigers are still worse off in 2010 than they have ever been. 

The animal most widely regarded by humans as the most beautiful of all, endlessly evocative to poets and artists, and the epitome of wildness to many nature-lovers, remains precariously confined, in the smallest of numbers, to pitiful, isolated slivers of land; as vulnerable as ever to death by poaching humans, mostly for consumption for completely superstitious or egocentric reasons.

How can this be?

In the days before I gave birth to my child, a friend came by with a pile of books she had cleared out.  Amongst them was Ruth Padel's Tigers in Red Weather.  I pounced on it.  Here was a celebrated British poet and great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin writing of her travels through tigerlands in 2005.  It was irresistible, and after my daughter was born I ignored the wisdom 'to sleep when baby sleeps', and instead lay with sleeping child in my arms as I consumed the book.  While I relished the quality of the writing so much, the dismal plight of tigers hit home very hard; extra cutting when you have just brought a new life into the world. 

What is happening to this world?

90 countries have just reached agreement in Nagoya, Japan on 20 goals to minimise mass extinction in the next 10 years.  This includes increasing the amount of protected land from 12.5% to 17%.  The area of protected ocean will increase from 1% to 10%.  This is being heralded as a landmark agreement.  Every gain, no matter how paltry is a gain.  Yes. 

Of course, what justifies the decimation of wildlands and the extinction of species is always "human interest".  We've got to look after business first; then people, then tigers, then habitats, then eco-systems, then the Planet.  We're still way short of the acknowledgement that all human interest is irrevocably embedded in Nature.  There is no business on Earth without the eco-system services that sustain life.  We need biology because we are biology.  How much do we need to lose before we understand this?  When do we look to our precious children and say it is not okay to bequeath this world of loss to them?

There are probably no more than 3000 wild tigers alive today. 

At the top of their particular food chain, tigers are a measure of the health of our eco-systems.  As their viable populations collapse, so millions of other species are vulnerable to collapse too.

Read more: Convention on Biological Diversity

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010

The theme for Blog Action Day 2010 is water.  The problems are so vast and varied, it seems the world over, wherever there is water, we're wasting it, polluting it and killing off all life in it.  In comparison, the solutions being implemented seem so very small and limited.  For example, it is a good idea for individuals to choose not to buy bottled water; but what would be revolutionary is if the beverage companies all committed to never bottling water again!  That kind of sweeping change in consciousness would feel like the kind of triumph we are sorely missing at the moment.  However, in commemoration of Blog Action Day, I don't want to be a harbinger of doom. So I am remembering this wisdom from Tom Robbins, and applying it to the waters of the world:

This is not a quote but an accurate paraphase of the gist of the message:
If you look at the world through one eye and see everything that is wrong; look at it then and vow to live in such a way that you change what is wrong. If you look at the world through the other eye and see the beautiful fields stretching to the majestic mountains against the backdrop of a glorious sky, know that the world is also perfect.  Then open both eyes and hold these two ideas of the world in your mind's eye in perfect, dynamic balance.  For if you see only out of the first eye, you will be a contributor to the darkness of the world; and if you look only out of the other eye, you will be vapid and ineffectual.

Water is in trouble and needs as much good action from us that it can get.  Water is also beautiful and stupendous, glorious and life-giving, awesome and unfathomable.  It will, of course, survive us; but I hope it won't have to.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Living Wall for World Food Day

This is not one of my photographs - copyright Woolies

Happy to admit my bias - I wrote the copy for this campaign.  I love it.  It is a wonderful virtual rendition of a permaculture design for vertical food gardening.  Just a few clicks and you plant a strawberry, spinach, basil or tomato seedling on the virtual wall.  For every seedling 'planted' the Woolworths Trust donates a real-life plant to an under-resourced school with a permaculture food garden.  It makes a difference to food security in South Africa.  Even if you don't like getting your hands dirty, you can still plant!
The 2010 theme for the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organisation's World Food Day is United Against Hunger.  Plant to grow something different from food shortages and rising food prices; and the unrest it begets.  It's free and fast and fun...