8 January 2013


Thirty-third in a series of notes and comments on The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Chapter 24: Xenoglaux

page 333: cloud forests. Things I learned as a field biologist #612 gives a sense of what they're like. See also The Strange Forests that Drink—and Eat—Fog.

page 333: deforestation.  Where to begin? In November it was reported that deforestation in the Amazon was at a record low. An earlier article suggested that Colombia, for one, is increasingly reforesting.  But even where things are ostensibly getting better there may be an 'extinction debt' still to pay.  Commentators on the role of REDD include REDD monitor.

page 335: extinction...do individual species matter?...the eye of eternity...There are numerous blogs about extinction. Here is one.    As species approach extinction they become more and more valuable.  Michael McCarthy has written well about the loss of nature and the nature of loss.  Regarding the very long run consider the beginning of a fine essay by Ross Andersen:
No event, however momentous, leaves an everlasting imprint on the world. Take the cosmic background radiation, the faint electromagnetic afterglow of the Big Bang. It hangs, reassuringly, in every corner of our skies, the firmest evidence we have for the giant explosion that created our universe. But it won’t be there forever. In a trillion years’ time it is going to slip beyond what astronomers call the cosmic light horizon, the outer edge of the observable universe. The universe’s expansion will have stretched its wavelength so wide that it will be undetectable to any observer, anywhere. Time will have erased its own beginning.

On Earth, the past is even quicker to vanish. To study geology is to be astonished at how hastily time reorders our planet’s surface, filling its craters, smoothing its mountains and covering its continents in seawater. Life is often the fastest to disintegrate in this constant churn of water and rock. The speed of biological decomposition ensures that only the most geologically fortunate of organisms freeze into stone and become fossils. The rest dissolve into sediment, leaving the thinnest of molecular traces behind...
page 337: owls [fascinate] humans. Humour from David Sedaris

page 338: The caption to Goya's Capricho 43, El sueño de la razón produce monstruos, is more usually translated as 'The sleep of reason produces monsters.' (Sueño means both dream and reason.) One tag translates as 'Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of her wonders.'

page 339: protect and restore. Kevin McKenna makes a case for bringing wolves back to Scotland. Robert Macfarlane appreciates the philosophy behind a successful rewilding experiment in the Netherlands:
Sea eagles came here of their own accord five years ago, moving down into the area from Scandinavia. They were charismatic proof of the conservation ethic of the Oostvaardersplassen: increase scale, reduce management inputs, resist species farming, avoid deliverables and goals, and let wild nature take its course as far as possible.
But, warn the likes of Oliver Rackham, Peter Marren and Richard Mabey, the rush to reforest parts of Britain in the 1990s and 2000 may have encouraged the spread of new tree diseases (from imported stock), of which ash dieback may be just one example. For a fresh view of rewilding, look out for a book by George Monbiot published later this year. See also a post on Nature 2.0 here.

Yew Tree. Photo Dan Hartwright

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