Beyond the Bubble – Lessons from History

by jacobbhunter

Soap Bubble with Sky by Brocken Inaglory

Image: Brocken Inaglory, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

This week has seen a great deal of rain and flooding across the UK, and inevitably these extreme weather events stimulate discussion about the reality of our changing climate. Certainly I have perceived an uptick in flooding reporting over the last decade, but I’m cautious to draw conclusion from that, as we’ve become more aware of the other effects we’re having on the world, and hence such stories are bigger news. Certainly a bit of searching around the web didn’t uncover any really convincing statistics, has anyone else had more luck?

The Xingu River From Space

The Xingu River from space, 1997. At this point deforestation was just encroaching (top right corner). Source.

I was emailed an interesting story by one of the other students on my course this week (thanks Leticia!) about the construction of a huge system for producing hydroelectric power using the water of the Xingu river, in the Amazon rainforest. The story isn’t about the construction per se, rather the indigenous people affected by its construction, and their attempts to prevent the project going ahead. There has been a bit of a back-and-forth in the courts, mainly dealing with the effectiveness of the consultation process, but it seems that the project is now set to continue.

I realise I’m supposed to be rounding up the week’s environment news, but I’d like to digress slightly to mention an episode of ‘The Long View’ I happened to hear on the radio this week. It looks back at the Dutch elm disease that struck trees in Britain in the 1920s and draws comparison with the recently emergent ash dieback fungus. A nice gentle discussion of the issues involved, but I will admit that every story I hear like this makes me a little more afraid that increasing globalisation means increasing transport of unwelcome biological material.

Scarlet Waxcaps in a lawn. Image by ceridwen, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With all this talk of fungi as the enemy, it’s important to remember their integral role in our ecosystems from the mycorrhizas that make up the ‘wood-wide-web’ of nutrient assimilation and transfer, to their value as foods and decomposers. Knowing that it’s hard to hate something attractive, the BBC have put-together a gallery of really beautiful fungi, well, their visible bits!

To round off with one more bit of old stuff (sorry David) the BBC have a new series ‘Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild’ which looks like it will be really interesting, reflecting on how the planet has changed during his long career. Given that he’s seen more of it than anyone else I can think of, it promises to be a really interesting watch (… though I’ve not got to it yet! Something for the weekend I think).