Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Smarter than Mother Nature?

While traveling from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, I wrote about how a species, whether bird or human, can actually drive itself into extinction through the actions of a few rogues. We're back now, and I have a few more thoughts on the topic.

Lonesome GeorgeI still haven't organized the hundreds of pictures and videos I took in the Galapagos, and I'll post more when I can make some sense of them. But here is a picture of Lonesome George, the very last member of his species, the Pinta Island Tortoise. He is kept at the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz Island in the hopes that eventually another of his kind (hopefully female) will show up in some private collection sometime in the next century (his expected lifetime), to keep this species alive. For companionship, he shares his space with a couple of females of a different species of Galapagos tortoise, but the hybrid eggs produced, even if they hatched and were fertile, would not be the same species.

George is so lonesome because, prior to the protection currently enjoyed by the native and endemic species of the archipelago, the giant land tortoises and other animals were hunted extensively. Four species (out of fifteen) of the tortoise are extinct and the fifth is down to just George.

Moai at Rano Raraku, Easter IslandDuring the down times on the boat during our cruise, I read about Easter Island, among other things. Easter Island is about 3000 kilometers southwest of the Galapagos. When the Polynesians first moved to Easter Island, they built an amazing culture. It is symbolized by the Moai, huge stone statues like the one shown here, up to 33 feet high and 82 tons.

But the Polynesians destroyed the ecosystem on their paradise island. They destroyed all tree species, which meant they could no longer build, transport, and erect the statues, nor could they make seaworthy vessels for fishing. They destroyed most of the food sources on the island as well, and descended into cannibalism by the time the Europeans stumbled onto them.

These examples make it clear that people can have a huge impact on their environment, and that they have the capability to literally make their home unlivable. In the middle of the South Pacific, the Easter Island natives had nowhere to retreat (and no more ability to build any vessel capable of getting them anywhere else). Similarly, the human race is stuck on this planet. If we mess it up and are forced to eat each other, don't say I didn't warn you.

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