Tag Archives: new ideas

Invasive Species – The Key to Ecosystem Recovery?

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Invasive species are a touchy subject for many environmental advocates, especially those working to protect biodiversity, endangered species and wild ecosystems. But what if they’re wrong about them and are ignoring invasive species to the detriment of their larger goals?

the new wild fred pearceThis idea lies at the heart of ‘The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation,’ the latest book from British journalist and author Fred Pearce. Provocative and engaging, it uses on-the-ground evidence to challenge many long held beliefs regarding alien and invasive species and provides a detailed history of the origins and progression of many dominant ecological ideas. These include that nature is pristine and perfectible, only native species are ‘good’ and ecosystems evolve to a balanced state.

But as Pearce writes, the nature of nature is to be highly dynamic, adaptable and open; perfection by definition would mean the end of change. He considers the ‘myth of the pristine’ to be “…some dangerous mythology about how nature works,” and that the demonization of non-native species says far more about humans and our collective fears of change than any traits or behaviors of the new species.

While most environmentalists have long thought that alien species serve no positive purpose in their adopted locations, in most instances they actually increase biodiversity, provide habitat, help remediate human caused pollution and generally get along with flora and fauna already there. As Christian Kull of Monash University notes, most landscapes are ‘melting pots’ and making any hard distinctions about what belongs where long have been meaningless.

ascension cloud forest
Ascension Island Cloud Forest, 90% non-native. Photo credit: http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac, used without permission.

Pearce utilizes many terms coined by various scientists and researchers in the book to elaborate on his points: ecological fitting, biotic resistance, extinction debt and punctuated equilibrium being just a few. He additionally writes about several locations where alien species have had profound impacts, almost entirely positive, including Ascension Island, Hawai’i, Australia, San Francisco Bay, the Florida Everglades, Surtsey and Puerto Rico.

Significant world events have occurred due to the presence of alien species. On the positive side, here in North America we wouldn’t have earthworms or European honeybees unless they were brought here. During the 19th century, ‘acclimatization societies,’ formed in the U.S. and elsewhere to introduce plants and animals from (usually) European landscapes.

Also in the late 19th century, Africa was forever altered by an Asian microbe, brought by the cattle of Italian soldiers, that causes rinderpest. This cattle virus infected a wide variety of cloven-hoofed animals across Africa and led to significant die offs. As Pearce writes, “Herders had no livestock, and farmers had no oxen to pull their plows or drive the waterwheels that irrigated their fields.” People starved decimating many cultures, including the Masai (Kenya), Tutsi (Rwanda), Soga (Uganda), Nama and Herero (SW Africa) and Fulani (Nigeria); most never fully recovered. The outbreak “depopulated and impoverished Africa on a scale” that greatly exceeded the effects of the slave trade. Drought occurred simultaneously in some areas and with few grazers around, the tsetse fly, an endemic insect, flourished in the overgrown bush. Taken together this enabled the final colonization of Africa in the late 1800s / early 1900s.

 

‘Dear Humanity, We Have A Systems Problem’

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Reprinted from Common Dreams – Originally Published Thursday, April 02, 2015

‘Dear Humanity, We Have a Systems Problem’:  New Project Aims to Promote Deep Solutions, Radical Transformation

‘It’s time to talk about alternatives,’ says team of thinkers behind the Next System Project

“It’s time to talk about what’s next.”

“It is time for Americans to think boldly about … what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

Those are the words of academic and author Gar Alperovitz, founder of the Democracy Collaborative, who—alongside veteran environmentalist Gus Speth—this week launched a new initiative called the “Next Systems Project” which seeks to address the interrelated threats of financial inequality, planetary climate disruption, and money-saturated democracies by advocating for deep, heretofore radical transformations of the current systems that govern the world’s economies, energy systems, and political institutions.

As part of the launch, the Next Systems Project produced this video which features prominent progressive figures such as actor and activist Danny Glover, economist Juliet Schor, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, labor rights activist Sarita Gupta, and others:

According to the project’s website, the effort is a response to a tangible and widespread “hunger for a new way forward” capable of addressing various social problems by injecting “the central idea of system change” into the public discourse. The goal of the project—described as an ambitious multi-year initiative—would be to formulate, refine, and publicize “comprehensive alternative political-economic system models” that would, in practice, prove that achieving “superior social, economic and ecological outcomes” is not just desirable, but possible.

“By defining issues systemically,” the project organizers explain, “we believe we can begin to move the political conversation beyond current limits with the aim of catalyzing a substantive debate about the need for a radically different system and how we might go about its construction. Despite the scale of the difficulties, a cautious and paradoxical optimism is warranted. There are real alternatives. Arising from the unforgiving logic of dead ends, the steadily building array of promising new proposals and alternative institutions and experiments, together with an explosion of ideas and new activism, offer a powerful basis for hope.”

The mission statement of the project—articulated in a short document titled It’s Time to Face the Depth of the Systemic Crisis We Confront (pdf)—has been endorsed by an impressive list of more than 350 contemporary journalists, activists, academics, and thought leaders from various disciplines who all agree  the current political and economic system is serving the interests of “corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power” while ignoring the needs and wellbeing of people, communities, ecosystems and the planet as a whole.

The statement addresses the dire crisis that now confronts humanity, but also marks the important element of optimism which undergirds the project. It reads, in part:

“The good news is that the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges has fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation in communities across the United States—and around the world. It has also generated an increasing number of sophisticated and thoughtful proposals for transformative change. Together these developments suggest that it is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present. […]

It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—’the next system.’ It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

As part of the official launch, the team behind the project published a kick-off report—titled The New System Project: New Political-Economic Possibilities for the 21st Century (pdf)—which lays out the problems and the proposed set of solutions in more detail. Key goals of the project, as listed in the report, include:

  • To crack through the national media silence and to radically shift the national dialogue about the future away from narrow debates about policies that do not alter any significant decaying trend to awareness that what must be changed is the nature of the political-economic system itself.
  • To stimulate national debate about how best to conceive different possible models of a radically different system based on genuine democracy, equality, ecological sustainability, a peaceful global foreign policy, and a thorough-going culture of cooperative community based on non-violence and respect for differences of race, gender, and sexual preference.
  • To give publicity to the many “next system” models and approaches now being developed and refined in many parts of the nation and around the world.
  • To engage committed academics, on the one hand, and activist organizers and thinkers, on the other, in an ongoing process of close collaborative work and common development in furtherance of such work.
  • To help develop concrete “elements” that will likely be required to deal with the structural reorganization of any next system design— and, at the same time, to invest in and work with others to help nurture a rising generation of young scholars who can carry the work forward over the coming decades.

Next month, as part of the project’s public engagement strategy, key members and supporters—including Alperovitz and Speth—will participate in an online webinar in order to expand the conversation about these ideas with people across the country.

According to Alperovitz and Speth, bringing people together around these ideas is one of the key aspects of the new project. As they note in an essay published on Common Dreams, “If we can roll up our sleeves and get organized and serious about really tackling the system question, about building a new system of political economy, there are grounds for optimism that deep and far-reaching change is possible.”

Let the conversation begin.

News Story – The Economics of Happiness

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econhappyI spent this past weekend at The Economics of Happiness conference, recording talks, meeting some amazing people, and conducting and setting up future interviews. While it’s a huge challenge to condense many hours of content into a few minutes, I feel like this news story I produced for KBOO, provides a reasonable summation of the event. I have almost 10 hours of audio to produce and will begin loading it here soon, so check back regularly.

Here’s the intro read by the news anchor prior to playing my piece:

Portland hosted the fourth ‘Economics of Happiness’ conference this past weekend. Inspired by a film of the same name, both of which were produced by the International Society for Ecology and Culture, the conference shared many key aspects of global economic re-localization efforts. Andrew Geller was there and filed this report.

Free Stuff!

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300 free thingsWhile unsuccessfully avoiding distraction looking for something work related (honest), I found this really big list of free resources for ‘entrepreneurs.’ But it’s so much more than that.

There’s likely something useful for you if you:

  • run a business or website (or would like to)
  • write or collaborate online,
  • edit or post images,
  • work remotely (and need ambient coffee shop sounds)
  • need fonts, icons, stock images or background noise to work better

WARNING. Attempting to view the entire list at once may prevent you from accomplishing anything else today.

Author of new French radiofrequency protection law speaks

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IF

On January 29th, French lawmaker Laurence Abeille (Europe Ecologie-Greens) made history when her law regulating public exposure to radiofrequency radiation was adopted. The law (2) “on sobriety, transparency, information and consultation for exposure to electromagnetic waves” is the first such law in France and Ms. Abeille thinks the first in Europe at a national level.

The bill bans all wireless devices in “spaces dedicated to the care, resting and activities of children under 3 years,” primarily nurseries and daycare centers. In primary schools, wi-fi will be off by default and turned on only when no alternative is available. Within the next year, the national government will produce a report about people suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and microwave ‘hot spots’ will need to have their levels reduced.

Laurence Abeille
     Laurence Abeille

Although significantly watered down from her original version filed two years ago, Ms. Abeille feels this is a very important first step to protecting the people of France, and especially children, from uncertain but potentially serious health effects from constant microwave exposure. We have a detailed discussion about the law, the struggle to get it passed, her plans to make sure it is properly implemented and how she wants to continue working on this issue.

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