Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Death of a Species

ANW regrets to announce the death of Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoises and a conservation icon at more than 100 years old (which, nevertheless, is only middle-age for these Methuselahs). Weighing in at about 400 kgs, George was a remaining member of a type of tortoise that helped the great Charles Darwin to develop his brilliant theory of evolution; the odd shape of the Pinta Island giant tortoise's shell suggested to Darwin that creatures evolve to adapt to their specific environments.  George would never mate with other types of tortoises, perhaps because he was depressed from being alone on his island for so many years (scientists thought his species was extinct from over-hunting until they found him in 1972). He thereby gained the handle "Lonesome George." His passing leaves us a little more lonesome and woefully aware that our irresponsible treatment of the environment can very well have a permanent deleterious effect on nature.

RIP, dear George. We are sorry you didn't leave any progeny behind you. But, then, if you did, you wouldn't be Lonesome George.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dappled Things

This post is an homage to variety in nature. The links below will lead you to amazing stories about wonderful oddities in nature, such as a spotless cheetah in Kenya, a white killer whale off the coast of Russia, and a strawberry-coloured leopard in South Africa. Together, they remind me of one of my favourite poems (under the links), by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit from the Victorian era in England, who, like me, loved the richness and diversity of nature.  It all makes one wonder: why are humans so conservative, so intolerant of difference, when nature teaches us that dissimilarity is the name of the game -- that it is the source of health and evolution?

          Pied Beauty
GLORY be to God for dappled things—     
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;          
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;          5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.      
All things counter, original, spare, strange;    
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)     
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;         
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:                   10
                  Praise him.