We interrupt our regularly scheduled marine science and conservation discussions and frequent Aquaman adulation to bring you this important announcement:
“My legs creak as I climb the stairs to our meeting room. I lean against the wall to steady myself. I could have taken the elevator, saved myself the pain, but I need to heal. I am lucky. I can still walk after the disease ravaged my body, but my legs are weak, my arms emaciated, my face scarred and hollow. I keep my body moving, to help it heal. That’s why we are all here: to heal.
I don’t know why I still come, though. I don’t get much from these meetings. They used to be comforting, but now they’re just tedious. The survivors, overcome with grief or anger or disgust, are more likely to descend into fits of rage than to open up to any of us about their experiences. They are fighters, they had to be. You didn’t survive, uninfected, by being soft. They internalized everything. Many were so consumed with guilt that they couldn’t continue. Survivor suicides are an almost daily occurrence now.”
Head over to Nature (yes, that Nature) to continue reading my freshly minted short story “The Lucky Ones” in their Futures section.
We are in the midst of a global extinction crisis. Biodiversity is in decline as species after species disappear. Some estimates predict that up to 50% of species will be committed to extinction by 2050. Other estimates claim the current rate of extinction may be 10,000 times the background rate. Many ecologists and conservationists have declared the current species decline the sixth great mass extinction.
A recent paper published in the journal Nature argues that our current estimates of species loss are based on a flawed model and tend to overestimate the magnitude of species decline. The paper has received plenty of attention, and has been heavily criticized by ecologists and conservation biologists. The paper is wrong, but it is wrong for the right reasons, and the criticisms it has garnered point to a gaping hole in our understanding of population dynamics.
Continue reading The Global Extinction Crisis — species area relationships, habitat loss, and population dynamics
In the last few months, the Middle East and North Africa have seen some of the most dramatic political changes since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled with an iron fist for more than 20 years, was overthrown. Shortly after, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had also been a brutal dictator for decades, stepped down in the wake of massive public protests. As of this writing, similar protests are taking place in Yemen, Oman, Morocco, Iran, Djibouti, Jordan and Libya (where government retaliation to the protests has been particularly brutal). If you’re a CNN junkie like I am, you’ve read all about how these revolutions will affect human rights, international relations, oil prices, and the influence of terrorism in the region. There has been relatively little mainstream media focus on how science will be affected, however.
Continue reading Science and the Arab Awakening