Archive for April, 2012
I have just found out that a large number of rainbow lorikeets have died around the suburbs of Melbourne, over 32 at one site. These deaths were caused by a bacterial infection of the gut which occurs when birds are fed an inappropriate diet. Needless to say many of these birds were found dead near feeders. The bacteria causing these deaths thrive in high sugar environments, which is exactly the sort of thing that people put out in the feeders. I can only repeat my earlier plea that, if you really love and care for the welfare of these birds, then don’t feed them! More information can be found at http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/animal-diseases/vetsource/rainbow-lorikeet-deaths-in-melbourne.
Dr. F. Bunny
But some animals are more equal than others, according to George Orwell. I have long been an advocate of leaving nature, cruel as it can be, to get on with it. After all, it’s hard to argue with millions of years of natural selection and evolution. However, all that natural selection has also imbued the human species with qualities such as compassion, empathy and altruism. So that when my family saw a green turtle lay her eggs and then inadvertently wedge herself under a tree branch we felt compelled to drag her out and point her back in the direction of the sea. Two nights later each one of us played the role of guardian to a newly hatched sea turtle and hovered over it protectively as it made the long and arduous trek to the sea. Any marauding gulls were quickly waved away and we were not content until our little turtle had disappeared from view into the bosom of the Pacific Ocean. What made the experience even more memorable was that there were many more people on the beach doing exactly the same thing, shepherding turtles to the sea without picking them up, or taking photos or doing other untoward things one usually associates with people and animals (unfortunately two nights later there were people waving torches about, which caused mass turtle confusion). It gave me hope for our species and the world in general and it certainly gave me pause to think.
What, exactly, was going on here? We had all taken the side of the sea turtle against the gull who, after all, was only after a decent meal to feed itself and its hungry chick. But, like the people who object to kangaroo and koala culls on the basis of their cuteness (When culling was suggested as the best solution to the koala overpopulation problem on Kangaroo Island (a place koalas are not native to) the Australian Koala Foundation hit back with a campaign that featured a close up of a koala above the question, “How could you shoot this face?”) we too had based our actions on the cuteness of the turtle. This is hardly new. Many conservation programs base themselves around so called charismatic megavertebrates such as giant pandas, elephants, and tigers. Pity the Puerto Rican crested toad and western swamp tortoise. And yet emotion is an incredibly powerful force that, when used for good instead of evil, can achieve amazing things such as the global ivory ban and the cessation of commercial whaling. We are emotive creatures and to deny our connection with the other life forms that share our planet is to deny ourselves. We cannot lock environments up and we cannot exploit them without regard to consequences. Both roads are unsustainable. Our only hope lies in sharing and working together with all those who live on our beloved Earth.
Denying any emotional attachment is perhaps as unrealistic as basing our conservation decisions solely on emotion. After all we have evolved these emotions for a reason. Societies that bond and share and work together succeed where societies that lack these traits fail. We must harness these attributes but combine them with intelligent science. Sometimes culling is the easy way out and cuteness has forced us to develop alternative non-lethal methods of control. However, cuteness has also resulted in much greater destruction caused by animals eating themselves and others out of house and home eg kangaroos in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in Victoria.
Ultimately nature cares nothing for the survival of one little turtle, no matter how cute. We are geared to survival of the individual, while nature exists to guarantee the survival of the species. Somehow we must try and combine the two, where the individual serves as the flagship for the species, without individual survival occurring at the expense of species survival. A tricky balancing act, but one we need to achieve.
Dr. F. Bunny
If you, too, want to help the incredibly cute sea turtles visit http://www.seaturtlefoundation.org/ for more information.
Just stood beside a fellow sidewalk traveller who was wearing a facemask. Why would facemasks be necessary for pedestrians in Melbourne’s CBD? Diesel soot allergy perhaps? Fear of stray air-borne pathogens? Flu? Swine, Avian, Common? I was more interested on this occasion with the design of the facemask. This particular one, with the blue central patch facing outwards covered by plastic and a pale inner side that is in contact with the face. These are known as ‘surgi-masks’ and are designed to prevent contamination of the patient by the surgeon and not vice-versa. In spite of this purposeful design, during the recent Swine Flu epidemic world wide, millions of people took to wearing this type of mask in the mistaken belief that that they were in some way protecting themselves from infection. This design of mask seals very poorly with the contours of the face and is really only to prevent gross contamination of the surgical patient via coughing and sneezing on the part of the surgeon as they lean over their work. The majority of the air inhaled by the wearer of the mask does not pass through, indeed, cannot pass through, the pores of the mask, which incidentally are not small enough to prevent the passage of viral particles in any case. The plastic outside layer prevents all air flow forcing the wearer’s expiratory material to go around the side. Perhaps these masked pretenders are really only trying to protect others from their own contagion? No, if you want protection in that way you have to don the full breathing apparatus with its filtered full flow ventilation capacity. This will add around 15 kilograms to the shopping and set the snufflepuss back by at least 10 thousand AUD. Have I answered my own question?
Don’t suppose any of this logic would influence the people’s choice however.
This week’s Q and A on ABC 1 (9/4/12) featured the great debate about the existence of god (any god I think). The antagonists were Richard Dawkins and the ever obtuse George Pell. Goodness me if ever we were to be granted evidence of the non-existence of a catholic deity this was it.
Viewers of course could make up their own minds by watching the footage (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm), however any person with a functioning cranium could see that the poor old church is struggling to come up with evidence for the existence of their almighty imaginary friend god. It is just not acceptable to start an argument using scientific strategy and as soon as the going gets tough call for divine intervention. What a load of rubbish. The audience was stacked with sycophants who couldn’t even follow the debate closely enough to work out when to cheer on their hero. Embarrassingly, during moments of George’s extreme ignorance, the entire auditorium fell silent.
Message for George Pell: Arrogance is not an antidote for Ignorance.
The age-old question, “why does a benevolent deity create such extensive misery” was once again buried beneath a mountain of holier than thou faithspeak. When faced with the difficult questions Pell had nothing constructive or illuminating to offer. His ignorance of basic biology and the methods of science were breathtaking.
Unfortunately no-one posed the obvious to George. If the teachings of the catholic church are so intimately connected to goodness and caring for the wellbeing of others, why oh why, did George and his peers turn their backs on countless acts of sexual abuse within their own ranks? How can the purveyors of good simultaneously be the perpetrators of these acts of extreme evil? I hold the view that the person who is aware of such crimes and does nothing, ranks alongside the criminal. I fail to see how these cowards could possibly rate a seat on George’s heaven bus.
My final dismay with this most frustrating program was in regard to the existence of global warming and the influence of human activity on the process. George once again seized the high ground and pronounced that he was not convinced by the science. George is not qualified to evaluate the science. George has no problem accepting various miraculous acts in the absence of any plausible explanation such as parting the sea, converting water into wine, moving heavy stones and curing various uncurable conditions all without a scrap of evidence but when faced with the rather unsubtle reality of global warming can’t come at the science.
Thanks George, nature is my religion and your efforts do nothing to convince me otherwise.