Flipper Backlash

Dolphins’ Dark Side May
Have a Familiar Twist: Us

In the Gulf of Mexico, they are among the species most affected by the catastrophic oil spill that BP caused two years ago. Pink bottlenoses found in the Amazon river are also facing dire consequences from illegal mining pollution and other man-made hazards to the forest basin. And they’re still being hunted all over the world for the high value their meat is worth in the black market.
But there was an area where dolphins were still unbeatable: the court of public opinion. No longer.
But it’s not that they’ve dropped off the endangered species list. Or mass beachings, such as the one that’s just happened in South America have somehow waned. Dolphins, as it turns out, are so smart that even their messy social interactions remind us of wise guys behaving badly. Some are calling it the dolphin mafia mentality. Who knew?
You may say that there’s a backlash going on against dolphins, and that’s all their own doing. But this is, of course, an anthropomorphic and reductionist view of a species that, apart from breathing air and raising their young on milk, has very little to do with us. Except for the way they relate to each other, though, and social bonds are a reliable way to study any species.
Cetaceans, with their big brains and sophisticated social networks, connected by bloodlines and sexual partnerships, do resemble humans and other highly intelligent land mammals. Chimpanzees, elephants, canines and, whenever it’s convenient, even some feline species, Continue reading

Tiny Friends

Bacteria That Restore Old Frescoes & Change Climate By Group Decisions

Germaphobes not withstanding, without bacteria we wouldn’t last long on this unwashed planet. And there’s much more than meets the (microscope-clad) eye about these microorganisms.
They’re already being used in oil spills and for turning sewage into electricity. Now, meet a “new” generation of bacteria, capable of making decisions in group or restoring art masterpieces.
So, layoff those bacteria-killing products, in itself a multi-billion dollar industry already, and let some do the dirty work for you.
And it’s a lot of work for these tiny and incredibly diverse beings, whose biomass surpasses that of all plants and animals on earth combined.
That also includes the ones working inside and outside your body right now, which is a lot more than you could say about your uncle Bob.
In any event, you may need to keep in mind that the ones inside you Continue reading

One Year Ago


Have We Learned Yet?

Eye on the Year

RECORDS BROKEN &
VERY LITTLE CHANGE

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The Earth Shook & Burn But
The World Only Moved Sideways
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A year of extremes but no breakthroughs. Records of the wrong kind (U.S.’s longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and worst environmental disaster ever, highest temperature indexes in several regions of the world, increased infection diseases mortality rates in the Caribbean and Africa, and staggering drug trafficking casualties in Latin America) plagued the world, with the additional bonus of a certified freak: a snowstorm in the middle of the Australian summer.
But there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; no curbs on Iranian and North Korean authoritarian antics or scary nuclear ambitions; no meaningful proposals to solve political impasses in the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Disturbing tactics did get deployed, though, by the world’s superpowers but with the only intention of curbing whistle blowers and freedom of information acts such as WikiLeaks. It gave civil rights activists of every stripe a chilling pause to see Continue reading

Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets

____________

A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.

________

THE TOPS
1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading