Is this all humans are?
Diminutive monsters of death and destruction?
You want to know who we are? Really? You think you do, but you will regret it. This article, if you have any love for the world, will inject you with a venom – a soul-scraping sadness – without an obvious antidote.
The Anthropocene, now a popular term among scientists, is the epoch in which we live: one dominated by human impacts on the living world. Most date it from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But it might have begun much earlier, with a killing spree that commenced two million years ago. What rose onto its hind legs on the African savannahs was, from the outset, death: the destroyer of worlds.
Before Homo erectus, perhaps our first recognisably human ancestor, emerged in Africa, the continent abounded with monsters. There were several species of elephants. There were sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyenas and creatures like those released in The Hunger Games: amphicyonids, or bear dogs, vast predators with an enormous bite.
Prof Blaire van Valkenburgh has developed a means by which we could roughly determine how many of these animals there were. When there are few predators and plenty of prey, the predators eat only the best parts of the carcass. When competition is intense, they eat everything, including the bones. The more bones a carnivore eats, the more likely its teeth are to be worn or broken. The breakages in carnivores' teeth were massively greater in the pre-human era.
Not only were there more species of predators, including species much larger than any found on Earth today, but they appear to have been much more abundant – and desperate. We evolved in a terrible, wonderful world – that was no match for us.
Homo erectus possessed several traits that appear to have made it invincible: intelligence, co-operation, an ability to switch to almost any food when times were tough, and a throwing arm that allowed it to do something no other species has ever managed – to fight from a distance (the increasing distance from which we fight is both a benchmark and a determinant of human history). It could have driven giant predators off their prey and harried monstrous herbivores to exhaustion and death.
Artist's rendition of a prehistoric mastodon. Photograph: Bettmann/CorbisAs the paleontologists Lars Werdelin and Margaret Lewis show, the disappearance of much of the African megafauna appears to have coincided with the switch towards meat eating by human ancestors. The great extent and strange pattern of extinction (concentrated among huge, specialist animals at the top of the food chain) is not easy to explain by other means.
At the Oxford megafauna conferencelast week, I listened as many of the world's leading scientists in this field mapped out a new understanding of the human impact on the planet. Almost everywhere we went, humankind erased a world of wonders, changing the way the biosphere functions. For instance, modern humans arrived in Europe and Australia at about the same time – between 40 and 50,000 years ago – with similar consequences. In Europe, where animals had learned to fear previous versions of the bipedal ape, the extinctions happened slowly. Within some 10 or 15,000 years, the continent had lost its straight-tusked elephants, forest rhinos, hippos, hyenas and monstrous scimitar cats.
In Australia, where no hominim had set foot before modern humans arrived, the collapse was almost instant. The rhinoceros-sized wombat, the ten-foot kangaroo, the marsupial lion, the monitor lizard larger than a Nile crocodile, the giant marsupial tapir, the horned tortoise as big as a car – all went, in ecological terms, overnight.
A few months ago, a well-publicised paper claimed that the great beasts of the Americas – mammoths and mastodons, giant ground sloths, lions and sabretooths, eight-foot beavers, a bird with a 26-foot wingspan – could not have been exterminated by humans, because the fossil evidence for their extinctionmarginally pre-dates the evidence for human arrival.
Artist's rendition of a pack of dire wolves and two mammoths. Photograph: Stocktrek Images/AlamyI have never seen a paper demolished as elegantly and decisively as this was at last week's conference. The archaeologist Todd Surovell demonstrated that the mismatch is just what you would expect if humans were responsible. Mass destruction is easy to detect in the fossil record: in one layer bones are everywhere, in the next they are nowhere. But people living at low densities with basic technologies leave almost no traces. With the human growth rates and kill rates you'd expect in the first pulse of settlement (about 14,000 years ago), the great beasts would have lasted only 1,000 years. His work suggests that the most reliable indicator of human arrival in the fossil record is a wave of large mammal extinctions.
These species were not just ornaments of the natural world. The new work presented at the conference suggests that they shaped the rest of the ecosystem. In Britain during the last interglacial period, elephants, rhinos and other great beasts maintained a mosaic of habitats: a mixture of closed canopy forest, open forest, glade and sward. In Australia, the sudden flush of vegetation that followed the loss of large herbivores caused stacks of leaf litter to build up, which became the rainforests' pyre: fires (natural or manmade) soon transformed these lush places into dry forest and scrub.
In the Amazon and other regions, large herbivores moved nutrients from rich soils to poor ones, radically altering plant growth. One controversial paper suggests that the eradication of the monsters of the Americas caused such a sharp loss of atmospheric methane (generated in their guts) that it could have triggered the short ice age which began about 12,800 years ago, called the Younger Dryas.
And still we have not stopped. Poaching has reduced the population of African forest elephants by 60% since 2000. The range of the Asian elephant – which once lived from Turkey to the coast of China – has contracted by 97%; the ranges of the Asian rhinos by over 99%. Elephants distribute the seeds of hundreds of rainforest tree species; without them these trees are functionally extinct.
Is this all we are? A diminutive monster that can leave no door closed, no hiding place intact, that is now doing to the great beasts of the sea what we did so long ago to the great beasts of the land? Or can we stop? Can we use our ingenuity, which for two million years has turned so inventively to destruction, to defy our evolutionary history?
Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found atMonbiot.com
A Reporter at Large
Change the World
BY GEORGE PACKER
In 1978, the year that I graduated from high school, in Palo Alto, the name Silicon Valley was not in use beyond a small group of tech cognoscenti. Apple Computer had incorporated the previous year, releasing the first popular personal computer, the Apple II. The major technology... more
Important GMO Message from Mayor Billy Kenoi
“Aloha, Chair Yoshimoto and Members:
On Nov. 19, 2013 the Hawaii County Council adopted Bill 113 Draft 3 adding a new article relating to Genetically Engineered Crops and Plants, and on Nov. 21, 2013 delivered the Bill to me for my consideration. After careful deliberation and discussions with members of my administration and the public, I am signing Bill 113.
Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources. We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world. With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.
The debate over this bill has at times been divisive and hurtful, and some of our hard-working farmers who produce food for our community have been treated disrespectfully. We are determined to protect every farmer and rancher. Agriculture on Hawai‘i Island will continue to grow with county assistance, investment and support. That commitment includes initiatives such as the public-private partnership to improve and expand the Pa‘auilo Slaughterhouse to support our grass-fed beef industry, and the launch of the Kapulena Agricultural Park, the largest agricultural park in the state on 1,739 acres of county-owned land. It also includes support for innovative training programs to grow the farmers of the future, and to train veterans to engage in agriculture on Hawaiian Home Lands, and the introduction and advancement of Korean Natural Farming as a sustainable method of producing healthier crops and livestock. It includes completion of the first-in-the-state Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline Study of Hawai‘i Island to measure the island’s progress toward food self-sufficiency.
We are determined to reunite our farming community to create a stronger and more vibrant agricultural sector. It is time to end the angry rhetoric and reach out to our neighbors. Our farmers are essential to creating a wholesome and sustainable food supply on this island, and they deserve to be treated with respect and aloha. We must turn now to a meaningful, factual dialogue with one another.
With my approval of this bill, our administration will launch a year of research and data collection to investigate factual claims and to seek out new directions that farming in our community should take. This work will include an expanded database detailing the locations of both organic and conventional farms, the crops that are grown, more accurate estimates of the revenue earned from these enterprises, and the challenges our farmers face in meeting food safety and organic certification requirements. We will work with our farmers and our ranchers to carefully monitor the impacts of this bill over the next year to separate speculation and guesswork from the facts.
Today our communities expect that government will be as cautious as possible in protecting our food and water supplies. We all want to minimize impacts to the environment while also producing abundant, affordable food for local consumption. This ordinance expresses the desires and demands of our community for a safe, sustainable agricultural sector that can help feed our people while keeping our precious island productive and healthy.
William P. Kenoi
mammograms are considered by some in the medical community to be so dangerous as to even promote the development of cancer, due to the heavy amounts of ionizing radiation mammograms use. A single test can expose you to the same amount of radiation as 1,000 chest X-rays—that’s nearly the equivalent of three chest X-rays per day for a year, an amount if seen from that perspective certainly gives one pause.
Indeed, according to top cancer expert Dr. Samuel Epstein, “The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1 percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade’s screening.”
More importantly, mammograms an almost negligible ability to prevent cancer deaths, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. A September 2010 study found that mammograms only reduced cancer death rates by 4 deaths for every 1,000 women who received annual testing for 10 years, which means that only 1 breast cancer death was averted per 2,500 women.
What most doctors won’t tell you, however, is there’s a safer, far more accurate alternative. The technology, called thermography, does not rely on radiation, but instead scans for heat levels in the body to detect inflammation. It’s so safe in fact that it poses no risks even to pregnant and nursing women. Cancerous and pre-cancerous cells are normally characterized with inflammation first before any growth visible on by mammography, and so thermograms are able to detect cancer years earlier than any other method.
A study conducted on women who received regular thermogram screenings over a ten year period found that an abnormal thermogram scan was ten times more reliable as a risk measure for breast cancer than family medical history. In addition, it also found that thermography was the first detector of potential cancer for 60% of the women who developed it.... read more
Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermography
The Web is not a network of computers, the Web is a network of people ~ Sir Timothy Berners-Lee
In 1990, Robert Cailliau and Tim Berners-Lee changed the way internet information was managed when they invented The World Wide Web (www). In 2004 Sir Timothy John Berners Lee received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work in Internet Information Management, while the work of his colleague, Robert Cailliau, seems to remain un-recognised.
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard internet protocol suite to serve several billion users worldwide. It is a network of private, business, government and academic networks that are linked by an array of electronic, wireless and optical communication networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources, including the hypertext documents of the World Wide Web. Many search engine companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, McAfee and so on catalogue the world wide web. This catalogue of information is then packaged as a 'one stop shop' information resource for the general public to access. How good any search engines is, in attracting users, is reflected in how big, or small, the opportunity shows itself to be in terms of being able to value add with income generating trading practices. In 1990, university lecturers Cailliau and Berners-Lee not only changed the way the internet was managed, but probably unwittingly, fostered the introduction of global business trading practices; The significance of which is yet to reach its peak.
The Allied Forces Resistance Heroine who led 7,000 men against the Nazis
On Tuesday 9 August 2011, John Lichfield paid tribute to Nancy Wake, the Second World War's most decorated woman.
Nancy Wake, "the White Mouse" and the most decorated woman of the 1939-45 war, disliked people messing around with her life story. Small wonder. It was an extraordinary story and an extraordinary life.
Ms Wake, who has died in London just before her 99th birthday, was a New Zealander brought up in Australia. She became a nurse, a journalist who interviewed Adolf Hitler, a wealthy French socialite, a British agent and a French resistance leader. She led 7,000 guerrilla fighters in battles against the Nazis in the northern Auvergne, just before the D-Day landings in 1944. On one occasion, she strangled an SS sentry with her bare hands. On another, she cycled 500 miles to replace lost codes. In June 1944, she led her fighters in an attack on the Gestapo headquarters at Montlucon in central France.
Work began earlier this month on a feature film about Nancy Wake's life. Ms Wake, one of the models for Sebastian Faulks' fictional heroine, Charlotte Gray, had mixed feelings about previous cinematic efforts to portray her wartime exploits, including a TV mini-series made in 1987.
"It was well-acted but in parts it was extremely stupid," she said. "At one stage they had me cooking eggs and bacon to feed the men. For goodness' sake, did the Allies parachute me into France to fry eggs and bacon for the men? There wasn't an egg to be had for love nor money. Even if there had been why would I be frying it? I had men to do that sort of thing."
Ms Wake was also furious the TV series suggested she had had a love affair with one of her fellow fighters. She was too busy killing Nazis for amorous entanglements, she said.
Besides, until she led her men into Vichy, the headquarters of the pro-Nazi wartime French government, she believed that her French husband, Henri Fiocca, was still alive. She discovered in Vichy in August 1944 that Henri, a wealthy businessman, had been captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis in Marseille the previous year. He had, until the end, refused to give them any information about his wife, codenamed the White Mouse by the Germans.
Even before she escaped to Britain, through Spain, in 1943 to train as a guerrilla leader, Nancy had been top of the Gestapo's French "wanted" list. With her husband, she ran a resistance network which helped to smuggle Jews and allied airmen out of the country.
Her "invisibility", according to French colleagues, was partly explained by her gender and her beauty. The Germans could not believe that one of their chief opponents was a slender, pretty, dark-haired woman.
Nancy both used, and refused to hide behind, her femininity. In London, at the age of 31, she became one of 39 women, and 430 men, recruited into the French Section of the British Special Operations Executive. She was trained in guerrilla fighting techniques and parachuted back into France in April 1944.
Nancy recalled later in life that her parachute had snagged in a tree. The French resistance fighter who freed her said he wished all trees bore "such beautiful fruit". Nancy retorted: "Don't give me that French shit."
Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was born on 30 August, 1912, in Wellington, New Zealand, the youngest of a family of six. When she was two, her family moved to Australia but her journalist father soon abandoned the family and returned to New Zealand.
Nancy became a nurse. With a £200 bequest from an aunt, she travelled to New York, London and Paris. She studied journalism in London, worked for US newspapers in Europe and interviewed Hitler in 1933.
By the time war broke out in 1939, she was living a pampered life in Marseille with her first husband, Henri Fiocca. Both were among the earliest resistance leaders after France capitulated in June 1940 and the southern part of the country became a nominally independent, Nazi satellite.
After the war, Nancy briefly became a politician in Australia. She returned to Britain to work for British intelligence until 1957, when she married a former British fighter pilot, John Forward, and moved back to Australia. Four years after her second husband's death, in 1997, she returned to Britain and lived in The Star and Garter Home for veterans in Richmond, London. She never had children.
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said yesterday: "Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end."
Ms Wake's relationship with her adopted country was not always simple, however. Australia was one of the few allied countries which declined to decorate her after the war. Nancy refused later Australian honours on principle.
"I told the government they could stick their medals where the monkey puts it nuts," she said. She relented in 2004 and became a Companion of the Order of Australia. Her earlier honours included the George Medal from Britain for her leadership and bravery under fire; the Resistance Medal, Officer of the Légion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre with two bronze palms and a silver star from France; and the Medal of Freedom from America.
Nancy Wake asked to be cremated privately. It is expected that her ashes will be scattered next spring in the hills near Montlucon.
People in the U.K. may soon be able to test themselves for HIV at home, as became possible in the U.S. last year. The UK government said in August 2013 that the law would be changed to allow home testing, with the aim of reducing the number of people in the country who are unaware of their infection. HIV infected unawareness is estimated at 25,000 people and the new law aims to reduce this amount. [17/08/13 New Scientist p7]
Protect yourself from HIV.
Always use a Condom.
AFTER years of trying, the EU has finally put into effect a complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing.
The EU has progressively clamped down on animal testing since the 1990's and banned most such products in 2009, but it left a few exemptions for several toxicity tests which will now cease.
The ban applies to all products, wherever in the world they come from.
The European Commission has "thoroughly assessed the impacts of the marketing ban and considers that there are overriding reasons to implement it", it said in a statement on Monday.
"This is in line with what many European citizens believe firmly: that the development of cosmetics does not warrant animal testing."
EU Health Commissioner Tonia Borg said Brussels would continue "supporting the development of alternative methods and to engage with third countries to follow our European approach".
Birthday's are the best change days ever!!
Biodiversity is a great thing, ensuring that our ecosystems have the ability to function and prosper, even at times of extreme events and disease. In 2012, The scientific research crew of the French vessel Tara discovered significant amounts of plastic particles off the coast of Antarctica. Plastics have leaked their way into oceans as a result of human activity, and are having a murderous effect on marine life.