Thursday, 30 December 2010

Scarred Earth

In just over 24 hours we will have completed the first decade of the millennium. It is an ideal time to look back over our recent history and see how we are faring from a conservation standpoint. The term Shifting Baselines entered the conservationist's vocabulary some time ago, along with the help of Jack Black and other Hollywood celebrities, they raised the perspective that we do not notice the changes going on around us; that over generations, even our own short lifetimes, the changes happening slowly around us are absorbed into our psyche and go pretty much unnoticed. Generational shifts are even less noticeable, with tales told to us by our grandparents of how this wetland used to be twice as large, or that housing project used to be a field with hedgerows full of wildlife, long forgotten by us in the mists of our childhood. And our own children, what we look upon as a degraded and destroyed environment, they will look upon as normal. And so what of our grandchildren?
I may be writing this at the risk of sounding a tad sentimental, but a recent online application made me realise that there are ways we can accurately look back into the past to weigh up the impact we are having on our planet, and what the real issues will be for our species in the years to come. The UNEP maps are viewable in Google Earth and other applications, that allow side by side comparisons of satellite images of a wide variety of sites around the world from very recent images and ones dating back numbers of years. The contrast of some of the images are stark to say the least, and certainly bring the changes we accept on a daily basis home to us. I recommend you look at it, if you are genuinely concerned about natural resource depletion, it is the cold flannel slap in the face you have been looking for to welcome you into 2011.

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