Introducing children to nature engenders hope

As the global fires and extinctions of species proceed at speed, the only hope of human survival may be in the stars
Introducing children to nature engenders hope

We tend to forget that 'flies' are insects that play a vital role in sustaining our world. This is a hover fly, roosting on a sea aster. It will pollinate a wide variety of plants and crops.

Down west, the other day, I was struck by the sight of a cow standing apart from their companions with her 'teenage' calf while she licked its neck and shoulders with deep and, it seemed to me, loving affection. The calf stood absolutely still, clearly enjoying its mother's love.

Do animals 'love' their young? Does such behaviour arise from, simply, protective instinct? After all, the parent will drive the offspring away at a certain age, viciously, if need be. The 'child' which enjoyed its mother's 'love', is suddenly expelled into the world to fare for itself.

What trauma it must be for the young ones, when a parent bares its teeth in warning when it reappears near the den. It's a hard adolescence they have of it! Some human offspring remain in the protection of their parents half their lives.

This week, astronomers announced that they have recently discovered signs of what might be life in the atmosphere of Venus, where surface temperatures reach 464C. Also, we hear that private companies may send unmanned or manned spaceware to explore Mars. These companies may or may not be affiliated to the major powers. They could well be at the forefront of the exploitation or, even, colonisation of the planet.

It's comforting to know that according to the internationally agreed Outer Space treaty of 1967, "no country may lay sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies". 

The Antarctic continent is already, per international treaties, off-limits for territorial conquest.

However, given the fact that two western democracies are led by men who play fast and loose with international agreements — Trump and Johnson — what are such treaties worth anymore? Regarding space exploration, at various times I've suggested in this column that, in the event of rendering our own benign and astounding planet incapable of sustaining life, we should seek other worlds to colonise, while leaving our inherent greed behind. As the global fires and the extinctions of species proceed at, we fear, unstoppable speed, the only hope of human survival may be in the stars.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that James Lovelock, formulator of the Gaia hypothesis — that Earth is a self-regulating organism composed of trillions of known and as yet undiscovered parts, organisms, systems, and elements — proposed the use of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels, the burning of which have, most overwhelmingly, contributed to its destruction. "The real dangers to humanity and the ecosystems of the earth from nuclear power are (he said) almost negligible."

David Attenborough's Extinction: The Facts offers insights into the greed of a few destroying the Earth.
David Attenborough's Extinction: The Facts offers insights into the greed of a few destroying the Earth.

The other evening, I watched David Attenborough's one-hour programme Extinction, The Facts on BBC 1, and was once again appalled by the stark reality that it is the greed of a few individuals, driving monolithic companies, that is destroying the Earth and the lives of their 7.8bn fellow humans.

They seek wealth beyond their capacity to ever spend and fritter it away on personal vainglory. But if Earth burns, we all burn and, too late we learn the climactic lesson that greed profits nobody. Some philanthropists, like George Soros, a Jewish-Hungarian billionaire, spend their personal fortune supporting freedom of expression, accountable government, and societies promoting justice and equality. They are targeted by Trump and other hard right-wing exponents.

But it is men and women like Soros and Attenborough, now age 94 and still battling to save the planet, who will leave a tangible legacy — if humanity can survive the grasp of that self-serving percentage of humanity. Earth need not be left a burnt-out shell, all the love and genius and godliness of those who lived upon it turned to ashes.

Those who accuse natural scientists of hyperbole and untimely alarm haven't grasped the reality of what is happening to our world. They are 'deniers'. Millions of Americans, either through gullibility or by agenda, followed Trump when, last February, he told them that he knew more about Covid than the scientists. He said "like a miracle, it will disappear overnight", and millions believed him.

In Extinction, The Facts, "the windscreen test" was referred to, as revealing the decline of insects. In a column of January 29, 2018, I said, "A clear windscreen strikes me as a graphic paradigm of a lost world, where the very air teemed with life [...] Now they (the insect multitudes) are gone and won't be returning 'anytime soon'. [...] What, on Earth, have we done?"

Introducing children to nature engenders hope. To teach them about insect life, put a high-backed chair draped with a white sheet in the garden at night, with a light behind it. Insects will roost on the sheet and can be identified and counted. Counts can be compared, night to night, season to season.

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