An Introduction to Junglenomics

  1. Flying into danger.

You may have heard a lot of people talking and writing about solutions to the world environmental crisis. I certainly have – they’ve been at it for decades. But do you ever wonder why, with some of the best brains in the world and billions of dollars thrown at it, still the relentless environmental slide goes on? Many of the things they advocate seem so sensible – electric cars, cutting down on meat, clean power, recycling, certification of goods - the list is long. Unfortunately, the stats show that none of this is really working. As a result, a spate of new environmental movements has sprung up, quite rightly demanding much bigger change. The remarkable Greta Thunberg has firmly pointed the finger at those with power and influence, demanding they do something to solve the crisis – not just more tinkering but something big and bold. Yet still there is no comprehensive plan – no blueprint to follow either for the immediate or the long-term future of the planet. We should be demanding to know why.

Like so many of you, I have spent my life witnessing the decline of the natural environment of this spectacularly beautiful planet with a deep sense of frustration at the seeming inability of mankind to protect the world on which he depends for his very survival. This wilful neglect has gone unchecked for so long that it is even changing the climate, creating an existential threat to humankind.

At the same time, I have always believed passionately in science and in the inimitable workings of evolution. Charles Darwin – a fellow free-thinker from another century who achieved heights of revelation I could only dream of – has been my idol. If scientific discoveries have led us to this place, can science not show us the way out, I asked myself? So some twenty years ago I began to investigate why this extraordinary dichotomy should exist, to enquire what underlying evolutionary reasons could bring the most intelligent entity on the planet to rush so unremittingly towards his own decline and possible destruction in the full knowledge of what he is doing. I began to view it as a phenomenon - one that, like all other things in the Universe, must have a rational, scientific explanation.

However much of a sceptic you may be about dire warnings – they can’t all be wrong – planet Earth is steadily sliding into deep trouble and there’s no end to the decline in sight…. But could there still be a way to turn things around?

October was an ice bath shock for those who care about the welfare of the world’s wildlife and the environment. First it was the UN’s revelation that we only have 12 years to limit climate change to avoid the world getting to a tipping point of no return. To add to this shocker, they said that the 2⁰C maximum for global warming now needs to be restricted to just 1.5⁰C. Wasn’t 2⁰C meant to be nearly impossible?

Economics creates the human-wildlife conflict, and only economics can cure it

We watched episode 3 of Dynasties last night, presented by the indefatigable Sir David Attenborough. Set in Kenya’s Masai Mara, it told the story of an exceptionally resourceful lioness, ‘Charm’, and her number two, ‘Sienna’, and their struggles to feed and protect their extended young family – the remnants of the famous Marsh Pride. Deserted by the males, Charm and her band of young and adolescent lions faced the same challenges that her forebears have done for thousands of years – among them marauding hyena, aggressive buffalo, and the potentially lethal, slashing horns of those they would prey on – chiefly wildebeest.

The problem of waste plastics won’t be ended merely by the actions of concerned citizens – it will take something new, profound and dynamic.

If the Queen of England’s doing it, with fanfare, you know it’s got to be significant. And it is. David Attenborough’s sensational Blue Planet series awakened the masses to a truth long known by anyone half interested in the environment – that the oceans are being smothered in plastic waste. As I recall it, Thor Hyadal, crossing the Atlantic on his papyrus raft, “Ra II” to try to prove the Egyptians got to South America and built pyramids, reported giant floating masses of debris tens of miles across in remote regions. Then it was the great marine ecologist and inventor of the aqualung Jacques Cousteau.