Extinctions, that is
I know I’ve been all over Mongabay lately, but there’s just so much good stuff there. First on the list is a longish article about a study in Biotropica, which suggests that instead of losing up to seventy-five percent of our biodiversity as many scientists fear, we may only lose twenty, maybe thirty percent tops. However, there are no guarantees that come with the study. The optimistic figures, if you can call them that, are largely the result of declining rural populations and the subsistence farming that goes with it. In short, saving much of our biodiversity hinges on continued urbanization. Grab a beer and go read it.
Optimistic reports worry environmentalists, because we fear it will give people an excuse to stop trying, and I think that is a legitimate concern. Studies like this also tend to be used by libertarian types to bash conservation efforts.
The study has many points of contention, which the authors acknowledge. The results could easily be thrown off by things like biofuel demand and increasing urban wealth, which individuals will use to build houses and vacation homes. And then there are all of the unknown unknowns. Personally, I think we need to find ways to preserve as much as we can for as long as we can until the human population tidal wave passes. This quote from the authors was chilling:
Energy demand represents a potentially larger danger to tropical forests if biofuels are developed on large scales: the production of sugarcane for ethanol, oil palm for palm oil, and plantation trees for wood could easily replace all natural forests [my emphasis].
Rhett Butler met one of the authors of the study while on his recent trip to Panama and wants to get the discussion, which has been raging in science journals for some time now, out where the public can see it. He facilitated email exchanges between eight scientists to put the article together. He confided that those exchanges were not always nice. If you look at the history of science, it is filled with heated exchanges that are reminiscent of what you see on blogs today. Darwin did all he could to avoid them, but then, he had a bulldog to do his dirty work.
While you are over there, you might want to take a look at this article as well. I really enjoyed it.
Finally there was this blurb where the president of Brazil joins the head honcho of Venezuela in berating the United States for failing to reduce gas emissions (while at the same time hinting that we should do so with purchases of Brazilian ethanol and carbon credits).