Wednesday 17th of April 2024

the lonely planet .....


the lonely planet .....

Sir David Attenborough: Saving life on our fragile planet earth …..

In the fifty years since his first documentary for the BBC, Sir David Attenborough has seen thousands of species on earth. Now his thoughts have turned to the impact of climate change on the natural world.

Although he does not shy away from telling shocking stories about the deterioration of the natural world, he is convinced that the way to retain the public's interest in protecting nature is by showing it at its best, enchanting rather than berating the audience. "I don't believe every programme on the natural world should be about conservation. There should be a place for programmes which say look, these are interesting animals, they are beautiful, they are extraordinary ..." he says. "Unless you have programmes that convince people that animals are interesting and valuable and worth looking at they aren't going to care, they will say: 'So what we are losing the snow buntings, I couldn't give a damn.' "

But the arguments are not getting any easier to win. "People are increasingly urbanised. More than 50 per cent of the world lives in urban conurbations. They don't have the feel for the natural world that people had 100 years ago. When we say that we are dependent on the natural world and that if we diminish it we will suffer, people think 'Oh yes, that's poetic hyperbole' - but it isn't, it's true."

Saving Life On Our Fragile Planet Earth

and we sleep through that...

Australian nature on borrowed time

Australian wildlife has been savaged by introduced pests like cats and foxes and its habitats degraded by human exploitation. Can they be saved?





the planet is in aspirational trouble...

Polar Bear Population Seen Declining

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two-thirds of the world's polar bears will be killed off by 2050 — and the entire population gone from Alaska — because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic, government scientists forecast Friday.

Only in the northern Canadian Arctic islands and the west coast of Greenland are any of the world's 16,000 polar bears expected to survive through the end of the century, said the U.S. Geological Survey, which is the scientific arm of the Interior Department.

USGS projects that polar bears during the next half-century will disappear along the north coasts of Alaska and Russia and lose 42 percent of the Arctic range they need to live in during summer in the Polar Basin when they hunt and breed. A polar bear's life usually lasts about 30 years.

"Projected changes in future sea ice conditions, if realized, will result in loss of approximately two-thirds of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century," the report says.


Gus: as mentioned on this site before (re mammoths), more often than not it takes more than one factor to create a situation in which a species can become extinct. The most important being the critical mass factor under which a species cannot survive — unless humans out of their vicarious guilty charitable desire try as hard as they can to save the species via breeding programs, IVF and other "wonderful" techniques.

Why do I call this a vicarious guilty charitable desire? Presently humans are at the source of most extinction worldwide via overtaking habitats, destruction of territories, ruthless use of insectices and other poisons, soaps and solvents, creating pollution with various noxious gases, increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere — all major contributing factors to reducing others species ability to live... And we know that. But because we see some of our "animals" survive well under these conditions we tend to accept these conditions as okay...But we know we are do this terrible devastation on the planet. Our major response to this onslaught is not to stop it but to give us the illusion of being good by creating artificial breeding programs for these vanishing species...

Why can't we stop the slaughter and the destruction before having the need for these expensive doctor Frankeistein experiments? Below the surface of our deliberate carelessness, there are ugly desires... We want control... we want ownership of everything that moves. And the more "advance" we are the more we're deliberately careless.

And our Johnnee porks of aspirational targets — sneaky euphemism for manipulating our vicarious charitable attitude to fool the guilt we should feel, while we're DOING MORE TO DESTROY THE PLACE... and do not plan to stop.


non-aspirational shockwaves...

Shockwaves from melting icecaps are triggering earthquakes, say scientists By Daniel Howden, in Ilulissat, Greenland Published: 08 September 2007

High up inside the Arctic circle the melting of Greenland's ice sheet has accelerated so dramatically that it is triggering earthquakes for the first time.

Scientists monitoring the glaciers have revealed that movements of gigantic pieces of ice are creating shockwaves that register up to three on the Richter scale.

The speed of the arctic ice melt has accelerated to such an extent that a UN report issued earlier this year is now thought to be out of date by its own authors.

The American polar expert Robert Correll, among the key contributors to the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued in February, described the acceleration as "massive".


Gus: while aspirational hot air is being frothed up in Sydney's APEC like milk in a cappuccino machine and while Business-at-all cost pushes forward the even bigger but sneakier problem of nuclear energy, proper necessary massive reduction of emissions is not considered by our ditherers.

Elasticity in warmed porkies

APEC leaders sign climate change pact

Posted 15 minutes ago
APEC leaders have signed up to the Sydney Declaration on climate change which says concerted international action is needed.

APEC leaders have signed up to the 'Sydney Declaration' on climate change, which Prime Minister John Howard says forges a new international consensus on the challenge of global warming.

The declaration says concerted international action is needed and the APEC members support flexible arrangements to ensure their energy needs while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


Gus: Yes john, I think it's time to publish the cartoon I did about five days ago on the "final communiqué.."... 

not only careless, we are ruthless...

The appalling fate of the polar bear, symbol of the Arctic It has been declared at risk by conservation groups. Yet rich Westerners are paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of shooting an animal whose very existence is already threatened by environmental disaster. Geoffrey Lean reports from Ilulissat, Greenland, on a fight for survival Published: 09 September 2007

Polar bears – the very symbol of the Arctic's looming environmental disaster – are crashing towards extinction as a result of global warming, the US government has found. The admission, the result of a massive investigation by the Bush administration, could force the President finally to take action against climate change.

The development comes at the end of the most momentous week in the human history of the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else in the world. Satellite observations have revealed that its ice has shrunk to much its lowest ever level, raising fears that it had reached a "tipping point" where it would melt irreversibly, disappearing altogether in summer in less than 25 years, with incalculable global consequences.

planet greedo

From the ABC

The UNEP report offers the broadest and most detailed tableau of environmental change since the Brundtland Report, 'Our Common Future', was issued in 1987 and put the environment on the world political map.

"The systematic destruction of the Earth's natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged - and where the bill we hand on to our children may prove impossible to pay,"

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.


Gus: see cartoon at the head of this line of blogs... 

bears and Bushit of the ice melts...

White House vs white bear: Judge says Bush must decide whether to save the polar bear as the ice melts
By Geoffrey Lean
Sunday, 11 May 2008

It's a classic stand-off between one of the world's best loved animals and one of its most unpopular leaders, between the planet's largest bear and its most powerful man. And it comes to a head this week.

On Thursday, by order of a federal judge, George W Bush must stop stalling on whether to designate the polar bear as a species endangered by global warming. The designation could have huge consequences for his climate-change policies; his administration would, by law, have to avoid doing anything that would "jeopardise the continued existence" of the mammal whose habitat is melting away...

loosing the planet

World 'to fail' on nature target
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Barcelona

The world's governments will fail to meet their agreed target of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010, according to experts questioned by BBC News.

Nearly 200 countries signed up to the target in 2002.

Not all the experts questioned would go on the record, and some said there was a reluctance to embarrass governments over their failures on the matter.

Others suggested the target was unachievable even at its inception six years ago.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), told BBC News that the 2010 target was achievable if governments acted urgently, but conceded that "all indicators are telling us it is unlikely".

Ten leading conservationists asked here at the World Conservation Congress were unanimous that the goal cannot be met.

All the global indicators of progress are heading in the wrong direction, and few governments have even translated the target into national legislation.


see the little prince at top...

the religions of destruction...

Attenborough: Genesis? It can go forth and multiply

The Bible is to blame for devastation of the planet, says Sir David Attenborough

By Steve Connor, Science editor
Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sir David Attenborough yesterday blamed the Book of Genesis for all number of environment ills, from deforestation to the extinction of species

He has romped with gorillas, turned his back on grizzly bears and found himself knee-deep in suffocating bat dung. After decades of getting to know the furthest-flung corners of the world – and its inhabitants – Sir David Attenborough has vented his ire on the Bible for promoting the belief that man has complete dominion over the Earth.

Sir David, probably the best-loved broadcaster and certainly the most distinguished television naturalist, has blamed the Book of Genesis for many environmental problems, from the burning down of tropical rainforests to the extinction of species.

On the eve of a BBC1 documentary on the life of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, Sir David has criticised the centuries-old idea running through the Judaeo-Christian tradition which assumes God gave the Earth to man to exploit and use in whatever way he saw fit in order to populate the world.

Sir David, 82, said the devastation of the environment has its roots in the first words that God supposedly uttered to humankind, as detailed in Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."


Gus: The Bible — a fiction book weaving some misinterpreted historical events is at the origins of three religions that can't stop arguing about the value of their gods — is also at the forefront of the world destruction. Agree, Sir... Capitalism, in which growth at any level and cost is necessary to sustain, is one of the many children of the bible too. Now, some world leaders are begging for a "new world order"... But have they understood the limits of this planet that, day after day, is showing its natural exponential suffering more and more. The fine balance of life on earth is dependent on our next moves. Have we got the balls to recognise the full extend of the problem and our part in having created it?

If not, we're doomed to a poorer world. See toon at top. It's time for the real atheist thinkers of the world to rise up to the task, without fear or favour and save the planet from misdirected ideas.

godly misunderstandings

Sir David has misunderstood the scriptures

Catherine Pepinster, Editor, The Tablet

David Attenborough is right to talk about the influence of the Book of Genesis on our relationship with the rest of creation, for the first book of the Bible is the foundation of the theological account of humanity's relationship with the land. It is a story of the struggle for survival, of a people for whom the desert was very close and very threatening.

But the idea that you survive by treating the world as if it is dispensable and only there for our purposes is to misunderstand was is meant in scripture by "dominion". If you go back to the roots of that term you find that it means a kingly rule of the kind bestowed by the shepherd-king David. It means rule in God's image, a pastoral rule of great care. In other words, stewardship.

Stewardship means responsibility. It means acting like Noah to preserve the animals threatened with flood. Increasing numbers of Christians today are rethinking their relationship with the environment, with God's creation. This planet is not ours to use and abuse. It is to be tended, helped to blossom and to be fruitful. Otherwise we will indeed turn the world into a desert.


Gus: Catherine Pepinster, Editor, The Tablet, is wrong on all counts.

First, not all of humanity had to deal with desert space, unlike the "chosen" people who weaved their history around a "struggle" in a specific yet changing environment of bounties and rations, from around 4,000 years ago (6,000y according to some creationists)... It encompassed their illusions of god(s) as well as their battles with other tribes such as the Egyptians.

The "chosen" people, like all other tribes or groups of humans that have emerged from the depth of Africa, had acquired the ability to communicate, thus tell stories, eventually most embellished by successive generations, around the theme of accidental or hard-fought survival developed into a storyline that creates a tradition, then fostering a ritualised dogma. This is not new. The Aborigines of Australia have had their dreamtime of creation, mostly verbal tradition that goes back more than 40,000 years ago possibly. Some of the "dreamtime" stories can be traced back to geological or climatic changes, in the same way as the great Noah flood could be traced back to the last ice-age big melt, although of course the "biblists" would argue the fact with dogmatic illusions... 

David Attenborough is correct : Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." means what it means : This planet is ours to use (and abuse should we wish). Any fiddle to interpret it in any other way is like saying that black is white.

Sure some Christians are appalled at what we're doing to the earth, rethinking their relationship with the environment, with God's creation. Sorry, Ma'am, the Earth is not god's creation. The environment is far more complex than the bible ever grasped in its simplistic ways to feebly interpret events and falsify realities. The time-lines of the earth are far more precise in science than is possible to imagine from a "biblist" brain. These time-lines are specific, extracted from precise studies such as the decay of certain elements, such as the structural layering of specific sedimentation, our more precise understanding of the constructs of genetic material — and many other specific knowledge, much of it acquired in the later part of last century. Without understanding chemistry or physics, the world would still be in biblical candle darkness.

The story of Noah for example taking two of every species on earth in his ark to help the survival of fauna is loaded with myths that do not stack up. Two of every species might work with a few species but for many that would be the end of the line, via in-breeding — including humans. This interesting imaginary story is more than certainly built around the possibility that someone took a few goats and some cows on board a boat to save his own skin, while feeding his family with the animals for a while. Building a fanciful myth around this possibility would be easy.

In order to explain our social continuum, we invent stories, including fairy tales, father chrismases and more. Science relies on fact, even if not as palatable as tall tales... Stewardship means responsibility sure, but the responsibility not to invade the place beyond damage is not there in the bible.Nor is it an imperative in science either...

Thus that is not to say that science is not culpable in having helped the mess we're in. But what has precipitated the problem has been that over the years before science was developed as it is today, the rule of the people and nations was that god had given the earth to plunder, which most nations did, especially in other counties, provinces and countries — even once they had mastered their own local natural cycles of crops.

Darwin saw a conundrum. Things were not that simple. In changing environments, flora and fauna can change from the same stock to a point a which the resultant variation can no longer breed with the original stock. This is evolution and this does not necessarily means improvements. We interbreed dogs to create special characteristics of appearance and behaviour. We do the same with cats. But a horse and donkey can breed but their resultant is an infertile mule or an infertile jack.

In most cases the changes can improve but there are extinctions. shunt-line with nowhere to go.  Of these extinctions, the major recent one we "folklorise" is that of the dinosaurs — but there has been many since and far too many presently, due to our activities. And the destruction having gained momentum in the past hundred years is now going at a rate of knots, way beyond the natural cycle (should there be no human interference). Our existence is like a magnifier of destruction, despite our ability to magnify our own creations.

It is also for us to accept or reject the notion that other species have a right to exist. Up to now some science and most religions have been designed to deny this right. The major difference of influence there is that religion does it by misinterpretation of facts and a desire to conquer the earth or other people "on god's instructions", while some science, presently in its infancy, is too narrowly focused on the technology of fabricating stuff — such as GM crops — rather understanding the greater damage coming to the earth. 

We need to wake up from our comfort zone now, because when we (might) do in 2032, it will be far too late — for us and most other species. The earth is likely to become poorer, and possible barren.  Sir david's call is most important because the decision of "natural rights to existence" is now in our hands.

still nitwitus monkeysii....

Half of Britons do not believe in evolution, survey finds
More than one-fifth prefer creationism or intelligent design, while many others are confused about Darwin's theory

    * Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
    *, Sunday 1 February 2009 13.52 GMT

Half of British adults do not believe in evolution, with at least 22% preferring the theories of creationism or intelligent design to explain how the world came about, according to a survey.

The poll found that 25% of Britons believe Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "definitely true", with another quarter saying it is "probably true". Half of the 2,060 people questioned were either strongly opposed to the theory or confused about it.

The Rescuing Darwin survey, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, found that around 10% of people chose young Earth creationism – the belief that God created the world some time in the last 10,000 years – over evolution.

About 12% preferred intelligent design, the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the structures of living organisms. The remainder were unsure, often mixing evolution, intelligent design and creationism together. The survey was conducted by the polling agency ComRes on behalf of the Theos thinktank.

A spokesman for Sense about Science, an independent charitable trust, said it was important for scientists and educators to disentangle religious belief from evidence.

James Williams, a lecturer at Sussex University, said: "Creationists ask if people believe in evolution. Evolution is a theory and a fact. You accept it because of the evidence. What the creationists have done is put a cloak of pseudo-science to wrap up their religious belief."

Later this month scientists and academics from across Europe will meet in Dortmund, Germany, to discuss evolution and creationism. It will be the first European conference of its kind to deal with different aspects of attitudes and knowledge related to evolution. They will discuss specific difficulties regarding the acceptance of evolution theory in their home countries.

Williams, who will give a paper presenting a British perspective on evolution and creationism in school science, said: "Evolution is very badly taught in schools so the results of the survey don't surprise me. On the other hand, creationism has traditionally been an issue in North America and there is a big problem in Australia and Turkey. It matters if people don't understand how science works."


Sad state of affairs... In the US, similar surveys show stats that are horrendous. Science is mostly misunderstood — although sometimes feared, sometimes admired, but still misunderstood.  Misunderstood even by scientists, some who still try to reconcile their craft with the existence of god via fanciful books in total opposition to their knowledge. No proper explanation for this contradiction of acceptance. Why fear the mechanical explanation of life? Because we're think we are worth far more than we are? Why fill the holes in our knowledge with a variety of fanciful silly concepts that do nothing but falsify our observations? Is it because we fear uncertainty?...

fat westerners....

The rising numbers of people who are overweight and obese in the UK means the nation uses 19% more food energy than 40 years ago, a study suggests.

That could equate to an extra 60 mega tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the team calculated.

Transport costs of a fatter population were also included in the International Journal of Epidemiology study.

Dr Phil Edwards, study leader and researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said they had set out to calculate what the UK energy consumption would be if the weight of the population was put back a few decades.

A "normal" adult population, where only 3.5% are classed as obese, was compared with a population where 40% are obese.


see toon at top. 


a better world...

"I believe we can build a better world! Of course, it'll take a whole lot of rock, water & dirt. Also, not sure where to put it."

see toon at top

the mouse that cried...

The importance to medical research of genetically modified (GM) mice was highlighted yesterday as official statistics showed that their use in scientific experiments has exploded over the past decade.

Almost all of the increase in animal testing since 2000 has resulted from the revolution in research that means biologists now routinely alter the genes of laboratory mice in order to mimic a range of human diseases, from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases to cancer and cystic fibrosis. For the first time, the number of scientific experiments and other "procedures" involving lab animals that have been either genetically modified or afflicted with harmful genetic mutations has exceeded the number using normal animals. More than a million GM mice were created in Britain last year alone. Such tests have already enhanced our understanding of a range of human diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer's and the common cold.

The total number of scientific procedures involving animals fell by 1 per cent last year, Home Office figures showed yesterday, but there was a steady and significant rise in the use of GM mutants, which accounted for nearly 53 per cent of the 3.6 million procedures carried out in Britain.


The most likely way to produce accurate results is to conduct tests with humans instead. Techniques are emerging with tests that can ethically be done on humans with the actual disease. There are limits but it's an advancing frontier. The more clinical research on actual patients, providing its done with strict ethical controls, the more likely are relevant results.

The other way to limit animal experimentation is to be critical about the way the development of modified animals is going before you start producing them in large numbers.

Testing on GM animals isn't intrinsically worse than testing on normal animals, but when you breed animals to develop diseases very early on in their lives, some of the outcomes can be extraordinarily harsh. All the time the issue scientists must consider is the balance of potential human benefit, weighed against the suffering and the dignity of the subjects being tested.


Gus: in our search for the next cure to our addiction to find cures, we tend to forget animals' rights to exist... we devalue their existence to our pituful level of trials and errors. Of course to paraphrase the percentage number the all-germs-are-nasties-that-deserve-to be-killed industry, 99.9 per cent of experiments performed on lab rats are actually useless. They only provide a pseudo-scientific platform for some pharma company to make more dosh. Sure, some cures work but most are not the ones that have made the mouse weep, in degeneration...

"Pinky and the Brain" is but a cartoon making fun of lab rats, it is designed to be desensitising us from the cruelty of it all...

obvious, my dear dr watson...

She noted that, because dogs have a very different body shapes to people, they also had to interpret what they saw.

"This type of learning has obvious evolutionary advantages for animals," Dr Range said. "They can learn about certain aspects of life without having to learn by trial and error, which always comes with some risk."

The new evidence supports a theory of learning which suggests that a system of "mirror neurons" and the capacity to imitate are forged as an animal learns and develops, rather than this system being inborn.


Gus: I did the same experiments more than 45 years ago with my dog in Africa... He had one stiff front leg from having been run over by a car, he was afraid of lightning — and on the nights the police was out shooting the stray dogs that plagued the place (there was no RSPCA to humanly put the ferals to sleep), he hid under the staircase. I use HE because he was human... He was a human in the shape of a dog...

And if you feel like it, read:

To this article that also comments on animals' rights to exist, I will add that there has been a confluent of human activities that is precipitating the greater problem of slash and burn. The dogma of conquering the earth from our illusionary traditions has been agmented by our propensity of invention, mostly since the late 18th century. Science of course is the understanding of the world around us, from study of repeatable experience rather than from dogma. Inventions make usage of this study to "improve" our comforts in the environment we live in. This confluent has merged two seemingly opposing conquering concepts (science and religion) and added the ability to invent a tool that can multiply our destruction of nature a thousand fold.

Only our ethical restraint can save this planet from being modified beyond its "natural" boundaries.

about 1 per cent per year



The dead sea: Global warming blamed for 40 per cent decline in the ocean's phytoplankton


The microscopic plants that support all life in the oceans are dying off at a dramatic rate, according to a study that has documented for the first time a disturbing and unprecedented change at the base of the marine food web.

Scientists have discovered that the phytoplankton of the oceans has declined by about 40 per cent over the past century, with much of the loss occurring since the 1950s. They believe the change is linked with rising sea temperatures and global warming.

If the findings are confirmed by further studies it will represent the single biggest change to the global biosphere in modern times, even bigger than the destruction of the tropical rainforests and coral reefs, the scientists said yesterday.


fattening the bears...

The Interior Department designated 187,157 square miles of Alaskan seas and lands as critical to the survival of the polar bear on Wednesday. More than 95 percent of it is offshore, including some areas that may have large undersea oil deposits.

Any development in an area that has been declared critical habitat for an endangered or threatened species must undergo extensive scrutiny by federal biologists and is often eventually ruled out.

Two populations of polar bears designated as threatened two years ago and thus protected under the Endangered Species Act roam widely in the areas designated by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

A population of about 1,586 animals roams the ice and shores of the Beaufort Sea in the United States and Canada, said Rosa Meehan, the chief of the service’s Marine Mammals Management Program in Alaska. That group “is a very well-studied” population, she said, and there are indications that it is declining as fewer cubs and young bears survive.

The statistics are not robust enough for biologists to declare that this group’s population decline is certain, however.

A second population moves between the United States and Russia, occupying a wide swath of the Chukchi Sea. Ms. Meehan said that a lack of data makes that population “far more enigmatic,” although the best estimate is that it includes 2,000 to 3,000 bears. Most of those captured and collared “have been in very good condition,” she said. “They are really fat.


from willy...

from Robyn Williams — ABC radio, the science show

How delightful it is, as ABC listeners turn from the wireless during these hedonistic days of summer (if you're not awash in Queensland) and as most Australians give current affairs a bit of a swerve, to know that the stalwarts at News Ltd are still tuning in.

How flattering too - with hectares of print on that first Science Show of the year. Our program on January 1 (all new stuff, throughout summer) was an interview, at length, with Dr Tim Flannery based on his new book Here On Earth. We spoke of ants and mammoths and of Copenhagen, of climate and population, and of China.

But, it seems, some papers don't approve of the genial, soft-spoken Timothy. "Religious fundamentalist" harrumphed Tim Blair in the Daily Telegraph referring to Flannery's enthusiasm for Gaia, which Blair eruditely dismisses as "rubbish".

The following day The Australian reproduced no fewer than four short columns from the Science Show script together with an editorial snorting that the Gaia Hypothesis is little more than quasi spiritual tosh.

Gaia is far more interesting than that. It also has had decades of serious attention from hard-nosed scientists, despite, (as I noted in the Science Show) some folk such as Richard Dawkins calling it crap.

But why would some newspapers get so agitated about such a topic, hyperventilating like dowager maidens from Toorak at the sight of Jean Shrimpton's miniskirt revealing two inches of thigh at the Melbourne Cup way back in the 1960s? The Gaia Hypothesis goes back almost as far, proposed by that brilliantly original boffin Jim Lovelock and named by his drinking mate William Golding, of Lord Of The Flies fame.

Lovelock has a superb record as a pioneering space chemist. He developed the technology enabling us to detect CFCs in the atmosphere and so, ultimately, save the ozone layer. His work for NASA was stupendous and he has been elected to the Royal Society of London, CBE and Companion of Honour.

Fifty years ago he was puzzling about the way temperatures and gases here on Earth tend to stabilise within limits. It reminded him of the way our healthy bodies maintain themselves at about 36 degrees Celsius and have fluids of constant chemical content. He began to talk of feedback systems and homeostasis, but Golding, preferring the vivid language of legend, offered Gaia, after the Earth Goddess.

That started the trouble. Yes, it made the hypothesis world famous, but it also recruited the flakes. Lovelock was dismayed.

Robyn Williams

Science journalist and broadcaster, Robyn Williams, presents Radio National's Science Show, Ockham's Razor and In Conversation.

Although he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in England, Robyn admits to spending as much time acting as studying. Early in his career he made guest appearances in The Goodies, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Dr Who and stood in for Tom Jones for four months in his TV series.

He has conducted countless interviews with scientists on ABC TV on programs such as Quantum and Catalyst, narrated the Nature of Australia series and appeared in World Safari with David Attenborough.

Outside the ABC, Robyn has served in various capacities, including President of the Australian Museum Trust, Chairman of the Commission for the Future, and President of the Australian Science Communicators. In 1987, he was proclaimed a National Living Treasure.

In 1993, Robyn was the first journalist elected as a Fellow Member of the Australian Academy of Science. He was appointed AM in the 1988 Australian Bicentenary honours list and in the same year received Honorary Doctorates in Science from the University of Sydney and Macquarie and Deakin Universities. The ANU awarded him a Doctorate of Law, and he is a Visiting Professor at the University of NSW and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland.

A Reuters Fellowship at Oxford University allowed him time to write his autobiography, And Now for Something Completely Different. He was a Visiting Fellow at Balliol College Oxford in 1995-96.

Robyn has written more than 10 books, the latest being a novel, 2007: a true story waiting to happen.

see toon at top...

no planet B...

If you attend any climate change protest these days, you're bound to see a sign that reads, "There is no planet B." Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has adopted the slogan. "This is our planet Earth. This is a very small planet, if we consider the vastness of the universe," he told an audience at Climate Week in New York City last year. "There is no plan B, because we do not have a planet B."

It's self-evident that the solution to man-made climate change is not packing ourselves into a space ship and heading off to colonize far-away galaxies. Curbing carbon pollution and developing low-carbon energy sources are the generally agreed-upon solutions to help slow global warming.

But, in the distant future, if we really had to leave our broken home for better climes—and we possessed the technology to catapult ourselves to solar systems that are light-years away—where could we go?

Planet-hunting for Earth-alternatives is now in full swing, says Professor Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We already know about thousands of planets orbiting stars other than the sun, we call them 'exoplanets,'" she told me via Skype from California. "And I believe there's definitely a 'planet B' out there somewhere, we just have to find it. And right now, myself and others around the world are building the next-generation of telescopes so that we'll have the capability of finding and identifying another Earth."

See more at:

See toon at top...

and suddenly planet A has problems...

US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) commander Charles Richard predicted during congressional testimony last week that Russia would engage in a significant build-up of nuclear weapons in the coming years and lamented the diminishing transparency of the country’s non-conventional capabilities.

Last year, the United States withdrew from the INF with Russia that had for decades restricted the development and deployment of intermediate and shorter-range ballistic and land-based cruise missiles.

Richard estimated that Russia had recapitalized 76 percent of its strategic nuclear forces with modern weapons and equipment.

The two countries account for almost 95 percent of the world’s nuclear stockpile.

The last major arms control pact, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), expires in early 2021. US President Donald Trump repeatedly indicated he would let it come to an end unless a new deal was signed to include other nations, mainly China. Beijing has rejected the idea.


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A Pentagon official specializing in China recently warned that while US competition with China is “not a replica” of the 40-year Cold War waged against the Soviet Union in the 20th century, it is “equally as consequential and therefore merits the same concentration of effort.”

As the US rushes to confront China as it continues to assert its military and political power in East Asia, one Pentagon official has warned a congressional advisory committee that the competition will be neither short nor cheap.

“In most of the potential flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific region - the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands or the Korean Peninsula - the United States may find itself in a military crisis with China,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia told the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commissionon Thursday. 

Sbragia pointed to Chinese military expansion, especially of its maritime forces, as a key indicator that Beijing is taking seriously its ability to assert power inside what it calls “the first island chain,” or those archipelagoes bounding the eastern coast of Asia, stretching from the Kuril Islands to Japan, the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo.

According to Beijing’s tripartite plan for meeting and exceeding US technological capability in war by 2049, once Chinese forces reach technological parity with the US and begin to surpass them, China’s People’s Liberation Army will focus on denying US forces the ability to operate not just inside the First Island Chain, but also inside the Second Island Chain, which is formed by the Marianas and Caroline Islands, as far south as New Guinea.


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An outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new strain of coronavirus was first registered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province, and has since spread to more than 25 countries worldwide.

The first death from novel coronavirus has been registered in Padua, Italy, Ansa news agency reported on Saturday citing governor Luca Zaia.

According to the outlet, the patient who died was a 78-year-old retired bricklayer. 

Earlier in the day, the country's health officials added 14 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 17. The Italian government earlier announced that a quarantine would be arranged for those who had been in contact with the infected. As of today, 250 people are reportedly placed in isolation.

The new coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in China's Hubei province and has since claimed the lives of more than 2,200 people in mainland China, with over 75,400 people infected.

The Wolrd Health Organisation declared a global health emergency over the outbreak.


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Living Planet: Climate change and toxins are taking a toll on Lake Victoria 

Africa's biggest lake, Lake Victoria, is under threat. The lake shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is bearing the brunt of climate change. Researchers from the US teamed up with scientists from Uganda and found high levels of lead, arsenic, aluminum and phosphorous. That could spell disaster for more than 400 fish species in the lake and the 40 million people surrounding the freshwater body.


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On November 28, 2015, Roger Majano, plagued by a noxious smell overwhelming his Los Angeles neighborhood, heaved a jackhammer onto the walkway in front of his property at 323 Firmin Street. It was the dead of night, but Majano had run out of patience trying to get to the bottom of the sickening and persistent smell.

What he found, two days later, would eventually confirm his fears and frustrations surrounding an environmental and public health risk haunting the City of Angels. Under his property, Majano had discovered an ancient oil well, leaking potentially toxic gases. 

Firmin Street sits directly atop the Los Angeles City Oil Field, where, during the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of active oil wells dotted the four-mile stretch from Downtown to Hollywood. This oil field contains masses of explosive and toxic fumes, which experts link to long-term health problems, including cancer and severe respiratory illnesses. The old wells are conduits for these dangerous fumes and may be quietly affecting tens of thousands of Los Angeles residents in this densely populated area — including in Majano’s Vista Hermosa neighborhood.

By 1950, after Los Angeles’ oil boom slowed, oil well owners began unsystematically deserting the no longer productive wells — filling them with items including telephone poles, old rags, and garbage...


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The world’s largest financier of fossil fuels has warned clients that the climate crisis threatens the survival of humanity and that the planet is on an unsustainable trajectory, according to a leaked document.

The JP Morgan report on the economic risks of human-caused global heating said climate policy had to change or else the world faced irreversible consequences.

The study implicitly condemns the US bank’s own investment strategy and highlights growing concerns among major Wall Street institutions about the financial and reputational risks of continued funding of carbon-intensive industries, such as oil and gas.

JP Morgan has provided $75bn (£61bn) in financial services to the companies most aggressively expanding in sectors such as fracking and Arctic oil and gas exploration since the Paris agreement, according to analysis compiled for the Guardian last year.


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Fears have been raised over a potential coral bleaching "disaster" on the Great Barrier Reef in coming weeks, with sea surface temperatures already two degrees above average in many parts of the marine park.

Key Points 
  • Sea surface temperatures are one and two degrees above average in many parts of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Scientists say reefs off Cape York are most at risk of significant coral bleaching over the coming weeks
  • The Great Barrier Reef has not had enough time to recover since mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017


Climate Council professor Lesley Hughes said there were reports of bleaching that had already occurred at three sites off Cape York, in Far North Queensland.

"If those temperatures are maintained there is definitely a heightened risk of bleaching over the next few weeks with a potential peak in the second week of March," she said.

"It's very, very concerning."


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