Why Kurt Johnson's words: "The activities of La Condamine, Humboldt, Wallace, Bates, and other such explorers touched on only the tiniest fraction of the vastness of a world so expansive as to be impervious to harm. But today, the Amazon River Basin, occupying more than 2.7 million square miles, is at our fingertips and is considered one of the most ecologically threatened regions of the world."
... came to mind the other day was a mystery. It wasn't particularly profound and besides we've all heard it, or something similar to it before, in fact so many times that such naked facts barely have emotional resonance anymore..
What triggered the memory was the recent reading of an article on biodiversity by George Monbiot. Actually, not so much the article as a subsequent flicking to his 'about me' and finding laid before me a true eco-warrior, apparently fearless in his youth, with both an unwavering sense of social justice AND a facility with the written word that simply confirmed that I had been abandoned by the God of prose.
"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live," screamed Thoreau as my inadequacies demanded a degree of emotional flagellation.
There were two other ingredients to what I had begun lazily to interpret as a minor dawn of consciousness as they languidly slipped into place... while I mused on. The day before I was obliged to eat my hat as Mark Carney, The Governor of the Bank of England, warned to my astonishment that there was a growing sense that the basic social contract at the heart of capitalism was breaking down amid rising inequality.
"We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted. Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital. In short, the present was overvalued and the future heavily discounted," he proclaimed.
Why don't you pause for a contemplative break. When you return I'll further sooth your disbelieving ears by informing you that he subsequently claimed to be determined to see G20 leaders and international regulators on the Financial Stability Board working to resolve the issue of financial institutions that were "too big to fail", a problem that left taxpayers with a huge bill at the onset of the crisis in 2008. Occupy wake up!
Having reflected this tantalising glint of light we should also note that last weeks Conference on Inclusive Capitalism, brought together the most powerful financial and business elites to discuss the need for a more socially responsible form of capitalism and produced little in the way of solid commitments.
In reality, and despite breadcrumb rhetoric, a bloodsucking economic system on the brink of facing a global uprising appeared to be accommodating itself to 'a new age', this time one of climate warfare. Indeed proposed 'reforms' offered ways to rehabilitate perceptions of powerful businesses and corporations in order to head-off rising worker discontent. Sadly this appeared to be in a bid to project an image of business as usual rather than reflect any reconciliation with the rest of the species for the damage they've done.
If you're still around you'll no doubt be slightly bemused by what the final connection might be and you should be for I can hardly believe I'm saying it. Please take heed that I have never been a respectable environmentalist, usually take my food fast and have never graced a landfill in my life. However, I recently found a conversion to the fact that there may yet be hope in this area by reading a conservative (with a small c but still!), quirky and sometimes way-off-the-mark inventor and theorist of some considerable merit. Well to be frank ..he's a genius.
"..has made distinguished contributions to several diverse fields, including a study of the transmission of respiratory infection, and methods of air sterilisation; the role of Ca and other divalent ions in blood clotting; damage to various living cells by freezing, thawing and thermal shock and its prevention by the presence of neutral solutes; methods of freezing and thawing small live animals; methods for preparing sperm for artificial insemination, which have been of major economic importance.
"He has invented a family of ionisation detectors for gas chromatography. His electron capture detectors are the most sensitive that have been made and are universally used on pollution problems for residual halogen compounds. He has many inventions, including a gas chromatograph, which will be used to investigate planetary atmospheres. His chromatographic work has led to investigation of blood lipids in various animals, including arteriosclerotic humans. He has made a study of detecting life on other planets by analysis of their atmosphere and extended this to world pollution problems. His work generally shows remarkable originality, simplicity and ingenuity."
Enough for most mortal men you might think. He is now age 94, still working and since the time of his election been based from the shed in his back garden for fear of being bought off. His inventions and all his theories since 1974 are too lengthy to list here but the important one from the perspective of this particular note is the Gaia theory. A term Lovelock hates for its new age nuances yet it is a phrase now widely accepted in the scientific community. He prefers Earth Sciences.
The theory shows that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the very conditions for life on the planet. In short the planet acts as a self-regulating organism. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere, and other environmental variables that impact upon the habitability of Earth. And finally we arrive at the topic biodiversity!