from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
If The New Scientist (05-10-13) is to be believed, we are not to became the planet of the apes, as Hollywood would like us to believe or apathetic morons, as most of us believe, but a planet of vines. No, not wines. Climbing plants. Yes, I know. Another week at The New Scientist, another sobranie of alarmist articles. This one was indeed called Planet of the vines.
Professor William Laurance: “Gaze out over a tropical rainforest and the scene looks idyllic – kaleidoscope of trees festoned with colourful vines, orchids, ferns and lichens. Don’t be fooled. Myriad ecological battles are being fought beneath this tranquil surface. None is more imbittered than that between trees and their ancient enemies, the vines.
As I do not fly to those planet saving conferences and do not command taxpayers’ money to pay for helicopters, I can’t gaze over a rainforest, so I walk it. I am not fooled, I think. The life goes on; more or less according to Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest.
So admirably emotional language for a scientist: A bitter battle between trees and vines? Why not a good natured one? Or ordinary natural one? A la Darwin? Remember him? And are all competitors enemies? A nasty mind here could suggest that Professor Laurance is too steeped in the Marxist mantra of a constant class warfare.
Biologists like myself who study these jungle ecosystems are now seeing a shift in this war. Until a decade or so ago two adversaries were evenly matched, but vines now seem to be on the march. If that continues, the face of our forests – and of our planet – could be changed irrevocably. We are left scrambling to unearth the root cause.
Could it be in the roots? Or in the earth? And why irrevocably? Is a decade or so of any significance compared to the duration of life on the earth – 3.5 billion years, according to scientists? Of course, it is 2013 so the approved suspect, the human race, has to be mentioned: “Humans have introduced invasive species, such as rubber vine to northern Australia and kudzu to the south-eastern US, that smother native forests.” And elsewhere: “It is possible that global warming is intensifying wind-storms that increase tree fall in affected areas, yet there is little evidence for such an effect.” (Scientists need evidence now? What an unusual idea!) “Instead, a more subtle driver seems to be at play: (wait for it, wait for it) rapidly rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. CO2 fuels photosynthesis, and the more there is, the faster plants grow.”
University of California, San Diego:
“… long-term reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 levels going back in time show that 500 million years ago atmospheric CO2 was some 20 times higher than present values. It dropped, then rose again some 200 million years ago to 4-5 times present levels–a period that saw the rise of giant fern forests ...”
The following sentence suggests so beautiful analogy that I could not resist:
“Vines are down-and-dirty competitors, producing great flushes of leaves that bask brazenly in the sun.”
The Professor could be writing about his climate change colleagues. I hope the academic cabal of flannerys, korolys and lewandulowskis does not sue him. After all, his expression, battles are being fought beneath this tranquil surface could apply to academia as well – backstabbing, denouncing, plagiarising, grants-grabbing, mimicry-ing, arse-licking and over-riding hypocrisy of political correctness, all under the veneer of academic respectability of the centuries past. That is the fight for survival in their piddlicky ivory towers; they have children and egos to feed; wives and mistresses to support, and for them the sun shines only out of the grant-givers’ backsides. The symbolism of the jungle struggle may even be too benign.
It amuses me that majority of scientists is unable or unwilling to accept that’s that life also means death and thus deny the principles of natural election. (See Fog of Chaos – O you of little faith!) I am risking an accusation of anthropomorphising (were I an Aborigine, I would be praised for it) but – mammoths, vines, moas, trees, impalas and cougars accept the implications of the natural selection. The modern “educated” elite with its de riguer al gorism does not.