Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Forests: the backdrop

I welcome my readers to join me for a quick jaunt to the nearby forests….

… and here we are, standing amongst the soaring verdant trees, with their chestnut coloured barks and branches reaching out towards the blazing Sol. One can make out the distinct canopies and the undergrowth with ferns and mosses. A gentle breeze sends a few reddish leaves fluttering down to the ground, where it joins its companions in enriching the soil. There is peaceful silence, sometimes interrupted by the forests’ orchestra- the rustling of leaves reaching sporadic crescendos when played upon by gusts, the chirping of numerous unseen birds, accompanied by the fluttering of wings, the croaks of a tree frog, the piping of grasshoppers and crickets, the distant milieu of a pure cascade, and the nearby gurgling of a hidden spring watering the rushes. How much long until these trees are made way for humans? Until when will the silence of the forests be interrupted by the whirring of the chain saw and the felling of trees?

Over the next few weeks, I am hoping to post a series of posts on deforestation and biodiversity. As always, I welcome your contributions and comments.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Poll

The polls, which previously used to be displayed on top of this page, have been relocated to the RHS of the blog, directly below the 'About Me' box. I will be very grateful for your input on my questions. Thank you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poll results: What should be our responsibility towards the planet?

60%- We are morally obliged to preserve this planet for our own benefit and survival

20%- We should preserve the planet for the future generations, so that they wouldn't drive themselves to extinction.

20%- We needn't worry because if we run out of natural resources, we are bound to develop new technologies to compensate for these losses.

0%- The planet and its resources are for our sole use- we needn't be concerned about preserving anything
Why should I care?

A lesson from the past

A few months ago, a research team led by Dr. David Beresford-Jones (Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge) published some interesting findings in the Latin American Antiquity journal ('The Role of Prosopis in Ecological and Landscape Change in the Samaca Basin, Lower Ica Valley, South Coast Peru from the Early Horizon to the Late Intermediate Period')

Nearly two millennia ago, a civilisation existed in Peru. Their claim to fame was their strange creation of ‘Nazca Lines’ in the desert plains between Nazca and Palpa. Many were the hypotheses behind these bizarre etchings.

In their paper, the research team points out that this civilization was obliterated, around AD 500, as a result of their deforestation activities aimed at clearing away forests for agriculture. Specifically, the annihilation of huarango (Prosopis), an unlikely jack of all trades (providing food, fuel, and timber, apart from nitrogen fixing/recycling and water retention) led to the irreversible calamity. The result: the civilisation could not recover when the climate changed for the worse, helped by an El NiƱo event. Eventually, it all resulted in persistent drought and famine.

A civilisation, thus, met its demise because of their own unsustainable anthropogenic activities. Perhaps their unwise disregard could be excused: after all, they did not possess the knowledge and tools which the current generation has. It may always be tempting for entities (countries/regions/companies/individuals) to make the fullest and pillaging use of the vast resources offered by planet Earth, without remembering that these resources are mostly nonrenewable. Such lucrative ventures may neglect the importance of maintaining the ecosystem, that fragile web of balance where excessive stresses can change and destablise the dynamics. If the planet continues to be maligned and stabbed…. even the optimist shudder to visualise the future.