On the responsibility of conserving nature

Yea, this sustainability thing too, while we’re at it.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.

A dude I talked to defined sustainability is leaving the world better than our ancestor left it for us.

Ah, but that’s subjective isn’t it, I retort. And why is it more moral to leave the world better than it was? Did our ancestors really left the world better than it were for them for us? If so, how?

I could go on questioning about how these statements cannot be properly justified. I think it’s a sweet idea — a really romantic one. But we are making too much assumptions here. For one, what we like might not be what the future generations like. We are imagining a future where we want to live in, however our ancestors will never have imagined our future. We may lament how great was nature a century ago but we are trapped in this digital world that makes communication so easy we probably wouldn’t want to really go back to the past. Unless you’re a hipster. Heck, even hipsters have their AT&T telephones.

But there is at least one thing to agree on. We like the future to have more opportunities so that future generations can choose their paths. We really don’t know what the future would want, the future will probably never know what their future¬†descendants¬†want either. We just keep the doors open, try to rid lesser trees, just in case they actually want the trees, squirrels and shit.

As for these moral responsibilities to leave the world better — or come’on, at least as good as we took over it — such obligations are unfounded. I do like it to be retain as a romantic idea but there’s too much uncertainty here. Who’s to define what’s good. How do we measure goodness after being defined? Can be chart our progress somehow? And then I realize these visions that can’t really be debated against and for reliably just fall into something we vaguely term good values — the commonly agreed upon framework of living in our society.

Entire Japan coast shifted 2.4 metres

Often ignored facts:

Japan earthquake factbox: Entire Japan coast shifted 2.4 metres, earth axis moves ten inches


  • Tsunami waves that hit California earlier today washed three onlookers out to sea. Two have been recovered.
  • St Louis, Missouri media outlets report that city has moved an inch as a result of the quake.
  • Waves from the ensuing tsunami reached 32 feet high.

Read more: Vancouversun.com

In related news:

Fukushima nuclear reactor has exploded:

Fukushima, Japan – Nuclear Reactor Explosion – March 12, 2011

There is a possible meltdown. This is Japan’s first nuclear emergency. More at BBC.

Kinetic wave sculptures

Reuben Margolin, a Bay Area visionary and longtime maker, creates totally singular techno-kinetic wave sculptures. Using everything from wood to cardboard to found and salvaged objects, Reubens artwork is diverse, with sculptures ranging from tiny to looming, motorized to hand-cranked. Focusing on natural elements like a discrete water droplet or a powerful ocean eddy, his work is elegant and hypnotic. Also, learn how ocean waves can power our future.

Maker Profile – Kinetic Wave Sculptures on MAKE: television

Nice pieces of art.

What, actually, are figs?

I just found a new reason to dislike figs from the market. I don’t like them in the first place but they tend to come with the mixed nuts that I have as snacks. I bought the one with figs before realizing how hard to chew they are. Anyway, spoiler, figs have wasp:

Figs are not actually fruits but a mass of inverted flowers and seeds that are pollinated by a species of tiny symbiotic wasps. The male fig flower is the only place where the female wasp can lay her eggs, at the bottom of a narrow opening in the fruit that she shimmies her way through. The baby wasps mature inside the fig into males that have sharp teeth but no wings and females ready to fly. They mate, the males chew through the special fig pollen holders and drop them down to the females, chew holes in the skin of the fig to let the females out, and then die. The females, armed with the pollen, fly off in search of new male figs to lay her eggs in. In the process some of the female wasps land on female figs that don’t have the special egg receptacle but trick the female into shimmying inside. As the female wasp slides through the narrow passage in the fig her wings are ripped off (egg laying is a one-way mission) and while she is unsuccessful in laying her eggs, she successfully pollinates the female flower. The female flower then ripens into the fig that you can get at the supermarket, digesting the trapped wasp inside with specialized enzymes! (Source: ScienceBlogs)

A related video:

NATURE | The Queen of Trees | Wasps Inside the Fig | PBS

This is one part of nature that I am amazed about — that two species so different can be made so interdependent to each other. It almost seemed like perfect engineering.

Nature’s greatest events

In late summer the plankton bloom is at its height. Vast shoals of herring gather to feed on it, diving birds round the fish up into a bait ball and then a humpback whale roars in to scoop up the entire ball of herring in one huge mouthful.

HD: Bait Ball Feast – Nature’s Great Events: The Great Feast – BBC One

The largest mouth wins.