Overpopulation and the environment

It’s a weird feeling when you find people questioning something you would’ve thought was both obvious and widely accepted. That’s something that happened to me recently regarding the impact of human population on the environment, something we’ve been hearing is a problem from environmentalists for decades. That’s why I was surprised to read an article by Ketan Joshi talking about the problems in a recent film (which I haven’t seen) and being completely against the idea that we need to talk about population. In fact, he goes so far as to call population control “a cruel, evil and racist ideology.”

I had no idea how he had come to that conclusion, and I still don’t know how much of that was directed specifically at the film he was critiquing and how much was a general comment, but there was a Twitter thread by George Monbiot which is a good read and makes explicit a similar line of reasoning. His contention is that, although the majority of carbon emissions are by the, primarily white, ultra rich, people (particularly white people) prefer to blame population growth than the wealthy as it deflects responsibility from their own actions and that this is, intentionally or not, racist because those countries with the highest population growth rates have largely black or brown population. While I agree with several of his starting points, I think he makes several errors in reasoning as he builds upon them that undermines his conclusions and which I wish to address here. Continue reading

Cape Town water crisis: My experiences

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
-W. H. Auden

When I visited my family in Cape Town a few weeks ago there was one topic which came up every day; water. Even before had I landed there was announcement on the plane that Cape Town was in the middle of a severe drought and that everyone should use water sparingly. This was followed up with posters in the airport and the first tangible signs of how life had changed. I finished up in the airport bathroom but there was no longer the luxury of soap and water. That had been replaced with waterless hand sanitisers, as in my family’s homes.

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Ignorance Trumps science

One of the most frustrating things about hearing news about Donald Trump is the complete disconnect between the fantasy world in his head and the real world that we all live in. Most of the time, people like that are ridiculous but can be, more or less, ignored. With Trump it’s different because what he does has a large amount of influence.

Given what we know about climate change and the stakes, it’s extremely depressing to see Trump pulling the US out of the Paris climate change agreement, especially when all his reasons to do so seem to be nonsense. He is basically flying against all the climate science that we have and upsetting most of researchers in the process. Continue reading

How dangerous is nuclear power?

I rather like nuclear power. It’s not perfect but it is powerful and, although the depleted fuel does need to be carefully stored away, it’s clean. However there are those people that are intent on demonising it as nothing but a massive disaster waiting to happen. This happens all over the world, but is it actually true? Continue reading

Don’t blame animals for human behaviour

Just over a week ago a Scottish woman visitng South Africa was injured while in a Cheetah enclosure. Then another woman claimed that she had also been attacked by the same cheetahs a few years earlier. The manager of the facility then admitted there had been other minor incidents. I’ve petted a tame cheetah before and it really is a great experience because it’s the sort of animal that you admire because of it’s physical attributes. At the same time you need to realise that those same attributes make it a dangerous creature that is probably physically superior to you. Continue reading

Rhinos need evidence-based thinking

Late last year the Western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in West Africa. This year South Africa, home to up to 80% of the world’s rhino population, has had to deal with incredibly high levels of poaching. They are being killed for their horn, even by the very people that are meant to protect them, which sells for an astronomical amount. If the trade on rhino horn was lifted South Africa would be sitting on a stockpile worth R10 billion! Continue reading

Field Trip: Acacia stricta

A. stricta

This past week I have been on a field trip up in the George/Sedgefield area. I was part of a small team studying and removing Acacia stricta (hop wattle) plants, which are alien to South Africa. Overall I’d consider the trip a success. We removed a population of almost 1 000 trees over two days, mapped a few other populations and delivered fliers detailing the Early Detection and Rapid Response programme and to help identify various aliens. Outside of our official duties we also bought a few plants of our own, I will share mine shortly, and had some unexpected vehicle problems. Continue reading