Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tropic of Cancer

Last night the BBC broadcast the last in the travel series the "Tropic of Cancer" in which Simon Reeve followed the line of that name around the globe. For those with access to the BBC's iPlayer it can be found here.

He started in Mexico and kept going east until he reached journey's end in Hawaii. There he found the plastic beach I blogged about earlier and he made a good point: the plastic doesn't come from Hawaii itself. That's a rather scary thought, as it means the plastic has travelled a very, very long way, and there must be an awful lot of it out there, bobbing about in the Pacific.

Simon also dropped in on the bird sanctuary to visit some of the very few Hawaiian Crows in existence. The 'Alala as it is also known is now extinct in the wild, the only ones left are being bred in captivity. In a room containing a large mural of birds his guide went round pointing at those that are already extinct.

It was a sobering moment.

In a previous series when Simon travelled around the Tropic of Capricorn I was struck by his travels through Madagascar. 90% of the forest, he discovered, had already been cut down.

There are no easy answers for a world who's population is increasing while at the same time getting richer, and when getting richer means consuming more.

But like politicians at election time (such as here in the UK) no one likes to connect the dots and identify where the compromise is going to be. I am pretty convinced that we must use our brain power and technology. To save the planet we need to protect it's species, and that means protecting vast areas as natural parks.

That means increased efficiency in what we use, which means GM food and nuclear power, and taxation on consumption, including on CO2 generating sources of energy.

And that means a lot of angry people across the political spectrum.

Can we as a species do it? I have no idea, but we can should at least try.


Pat said...

Can we overcome the tragedy of the commons?

Can we defer immediate gratification for the future good?

Tillerman said...

Yes we can!

Pat said...


True, tribes, countries, and movements have banded together to sacrifice individual desires for the greater good.

But then the question becomes, will we?

VW: gradis
(eventually free?)

michael b said...

It's so much easier than we think -the wealthier we are on a scale of (?) the more we have to lose. Those who have more can give it up, or those who have less can take it.
In the case of a songbird 8cm tall, guess who loses, unless those who are stronger sacrifice their Darwinian prerogative.
No room for cynicism.

Eau Gazeuse said...

The technological changes you are talking about aren't the hardest part by far.
The real problem is that the scale of change needed to prevent global warming (only one problem among others) is so large that we need to change our way of life. And nobody wants to do that, unless forced to...

JP said...

Pat: good questions - I hope so!

Eau G: yup, that's the rub of the problem. I've heard James Lovelock (of Gaia) on this subject and he is very pessimistic.

Geo-engineering anyone?