Category Archives: environment

The Coming of Man


I hope you will take time to look at this video. Notice the squirrels right at the beginning. Now don’t you agree that the world would be a better place if you humans would just return it to squirrel rule?

If you are ready to discuss the terms of your surrender to the Squirrel World Domination Army, please leave a note in the comment section of this post.

It’s Hazy and It’s Crazy


Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze.  (phto from The Star)
Both the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur and the search for the missing plane seem blurred by haze. (phto from The Star)

Nat King Cole had a song called “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer”.   Do you remember?  Well, these days Malaysia is certainly experiencing the Hazy and the Crazy and some might even say the Lazy and all not in a good way.

The search for missing flight MH370 with 239 souls on board, now entering the 9th day, has been gripping the nation’s attention and that of most of the world too.   It has been a grueling 9 days for the families awaiting word about their loved ones on board as well as for all the investigators and searchers involved.

However, the whole thing has also evolved into a crazy circus; from the way the Malaysian authorities have managed the press conferences and briefings for the relatives with the frequent dearth of  actual information or worse peppered with contradictory statements, denials and false leads, to the ever expanding search area which grew from the relatively small area of sea between Malaysia and Vietnam where the plane disappeared from the ATC radar to the now  wide swath of both land and sea ranging from the borders of Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the Indian Ocean near Australia.  The search area now encompasses an unbelievable 10 % of the world surface and includes the world’s highest mountain ranges to some of the deepest stretches of oceans.  Up to now 25 nations have become involved in the search.

Then there is also the craziness of the bomoh (or Malay shaman) and his followers carrying out rituals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport which involved coconuts, a magical bamboo binoculars and a  mystical flying carpet for the stated purpose of removing the influences of evil spirits which were hiding the plane and hampering search efforts.

Searching using magical bamboo binocularrs
Searching using magical bamboo binoculars
bomohklia
Searching using the mystical flying carpet

His self proclaimed title is Raja Bomoh Sedunia Nujum VIP which translates to “The Very Important Person, Clairvoyant King of all the world’s Shamans”.    It is reported that he claimed at the end of his first session a few days ago that the spirit realm had told him that “the plane was still in the air or that it had crashed in the sea”.  Despite what Dogbert would call the “Gross Prophet Margin”, he might still be wrong if it turns out the plane has landed somewhere in Central Asia.

Still more criticism has been aimed at the perceived slow (lazy?) pace of the investigations led by the Malaysian authorities.  For example, many query why investigators did not go to the homes of the pilots sooner especially to examine a flight simulator at one of the pilot’s home until just two days ago.

The only distraction to all of this for Malaysians is the ongoing drought and water shortages affecting 2.5 million Malaysians as well as our food crop and palm oil crop.  Water rationing has been going on for about three weeks now.  The dry weather has also caused bush and forest fires with extremely bad air pollution and haze as a result.  Yesterday I woke up in the early hours of the morning smelling smoke and thinking there was a fire but then realising that the haze was particularly bad.

And so, pity Malaysia as we seem stricken by a trifecta of ills – lazy, hazy and crazy days are here.

Wet – Yeah, Right!


The Lone Grey Squirrel’s secret hideout is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I know I’ve kind of just given away the secret location but hey, it’s still not as if you will find the hideout on Google Map.

Now what you should know about Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia is that it is an equatorial country with a vast equatorial rainforest.  According to all geography text books, encyclopedias and even Wikipedia, this means that the place is hot and wet.  Equatorial = hot and rainforest = wet.

Well it looks like all those books and websites are defunct.

We are supposed to get about 2360 mm of wet, refreshing rain every year with February being one of the dryer months still getting  145 mm.   Most of the time in February, we can expect it to rain on 53% of the days.

So why is it that this year there has been almost no rain at all?  Many places in Malaysia have not had rain for at least 20 days and a few areas have not had rainfall for a month.  In Kuala Lumpur, we finally got a small splattering of rain these last two days.; not a lot but just enough to make the accumulated dust on my car turn into caked mud!

So now in Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor, we are faced with water rationing as our water reserves drop to critical levels.  I once attended an experts’ meeting on water resources about 10 years ago in which the issue of future water shortages and climate change was raised.  Despite the scientific paper presented by one of the speakers on the topic, it was clear that many of the government officials did not take it seriously.  When I spoke to some of them, they merely felt that whatever challenges would arise in the future, they would be able to use technology or engineering to resolve it.  “Just build more dams.” they said.

Well, now we are facing water rationing in what should be a water rich country.   Taps are running dry, crops are failing and the air is thick with haze from the record 7,000 forest and bush fires last month.  Currently, some 2.5 million Malaysians will receive water for two days followed by two days without water.  Some really unfortunate households only get two pails of water delivered to them each day by water tankers.  This is expected to go on for at least till the end of March when it is hoped that some rain will come.

But there really is no guarantee that the rain will come.  The authorities tried to do cloud seeding but the most we got was that little bit that was absorbed by the dust on my car.

I think they are now resorting to more traditional ways.  The bomoh.  The Malay version of a witch doctor, the bomoh is believed to be able to cast spells and influence the weather.  Bomohs are often used to help teams win soccer games but judging from Malaysia’s FIFA world soccer ranking of 150 (out of 207), doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in their abilities!

Traditional "Match-Fixing" by Bomoh
Traditional “Match-Fixing” by Bomoh

So my friends, beware of climate change and human arrogance.  A very parched and smelly un-showered squirrel signing off.  Have to go store water instead of nuts.

Adapting to Living in the New Artic


I understand that our friends in North America are currently facing a second major snow storm of the winter brought about by an extreme weather formation called the polar vortex which in turn is probably an impact of climate change.

Let’s face the truth.  Climate change is already here.  It’s too late to try to avert it; now we can only look into adapting to climate change.  Us squirrels are already learning how to find our buried nuts under several feet of snow (we are experimenting with adapting avalanche beacon activity).

I know that all that endless arctic snow and cold can be a real emotional and mental strain.   So as a service to all polar vortexed readers, the Lone Grey Squirrel has scoured the icy wastelands of the world for ways to adapt to this aspect of climate change.

And we found the answer in Irkutsk, Siberia.  Ah, Irkutsk, Irkutsk.  I know it so well. (It is one of the territories on the board game Risk).

irkutskrisk

Anyway, the only way to adapt to the drudgery of cabin fever and the bitter cold is to learn to love the icy weather.  Have fun with it.  If life gives you lemons, make lemonades.  If climate change gives you ice as far as the eyes can see, then do as Ethnobeat, a group from Irkutsk, has done – make ice music!

Let’s face it.  Much of North America is going to look a lot like Siberia from now on.

Here is Ethnobeat playing on and with frozen Lake Baikal.

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Our Battlefields Green


Once again, the Lone Grey Squirrel has scoured the world for more ideas to help promote war between humans.  After you have killed each other off, then us squirrels will take over the world.  And boy, have I found a gem.

It was President Reagan who gave the world the “Neutron Bomb”.  This is a thermonuclear weapon similar to an atomic bomb except that it is designed such that most of the energy released is in the form of neutron radiation rather than explosive energy.  This means less of a boom but more killer radiation.  Hence, it has been called the “capitalist bomb” because it was designed to kill people while preserving property.

Thankfully, some scientists influenced by the “Flower Power” ideals of the sixties or perhaps while under the influence of smoking weed power, have been developing the  ultimate “anti-capitalist” or “green” bomb.  “What’s a green bomb?” you ask.  It still kills people but it is more environmentally friendly cause it has less toxic byproducts which is good for us squirrels when we take over.

Sweden has always been schizophrenic about war and peace.  For example, Swedish inventor and industrialist, Alfred Nobel, set up the Nobel Prizes to recognize individuals who contributed the most each year to scientific and cultural advances of mankind.  One of the prizes is the famous Nobel Peace Prize which is awarded to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”  But wait!  Alfred was also the inventor of dynamite and owned the Bofors company which is a major manufacturer of artillery and armaments.  War and Peace?

So perhaps it is not surprising to learn that the Swedish Army uses green bullets.  These bullets kill as efficiently and devastatingly like any other bullets but ….. wait for it……wait for it…….. it is lead free and releases less toxic gases when fired!  In fact, the company that manufactures these wonderful bullets claim that each green round is designed to “minimise the impact on users’ health” and on the environment while demonstrating “improved lethality”.  So you get to kill more enemy, improve your health and feel good about helping the environment.  What more can you ask?

Isn’t science wonderful?

On behalf of the other living creatures of the world, we thank you humans for finding new ways to kill each other while helping the environment.  A request please.  Could you perhaps design your land mines to be bio-degradable and have the explosives degrade to useful fertilisers for plants and trees?   Thanks.

Worms in Space


On 31st October 2011, a baby was born somewhere in the world and suddenly the Earth groaned under the strain of supporting 7 billion human beings.  Then, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) released a scary report on 28th November 2011 entitled, “The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture .” or SOLAW.

SOLAW notes that in the 50 years between 1961 and 2009 cropland increased by just 12% but agriculture and food production grew by an amazing 150% largely due to the practices introduced during the “Green Revolution”.  It could be said that we dodged the bullet then because in the same period, the world population also increased by 100%.  If it were not for the Green Revolution, the world would already be facing widespread famine.

However, SOLAW also noted that the success of the Green Revolution has also been costly in terms of soil fertility and pollution and today the “rates of growth in agricultural production have been slowing in many areas and are today only half of what they were during the heyday of the Green Revolution. ”  Today, there is very little arable land left for expansion of agricultural lands.  If anything, we are even losing arable land, burying it under concrete as cities spread out.  Furthermore, SOLAW points out that 25% of the world’s land is now highly degraded, another 8% is moderately degraded and only 10% is showing an improvement in status.

Water scarcity, salination and pollution of groundwater and other water sources and habitats are all making food production harder.  All these effects will be magnified further by the effects of climate change.

Yet while agriculture and food production is in decline and under threat, the human population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050.  So in the midst of the decline and decay, we will have to pull another miracle out of the bag and increase food production by another 70% in the next 40 years.

Yet at the Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa that is on right now, developed countries and even some developing countries are trying to delay implementation of further measures to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impact of climate change.  Canada is even threatening to pull out of the minimal Kyoto Protocol because of concerns that carbon reduction targets might affect its economic competitiveness with the USA.

This reminds me of a Government Minister from a developing nation who called his farmers “stupid” for planting food crops when they could use the land for planting cash crops.  He said with the profits, “we can always buy food”.  How short sighted!  The recent flood in Thailand for example caused widespread panic amongst countries dependent on it for their rice.  Climate change is going to make this situation far worse.

It sure looks like we are all heading towards global disaster like idiots; like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned or like lemmings heading for the cliff while assuring themselves there is no other way.

Is it any surprise then that even worms are venturing into space to escape?  Read about it here and see the video here.

And just to link with my previous post on the Muppets, there are also Pigs in Space.

 

Mongolian Beasts


This post is about two beasts that I encountered in Mongolia.   The first is the rare Przewalski’s horse.  When we think of wild horses, we might often think of the American Mustang or other such horses.   However, these are really just domesticated horses that have gone feral.  The Przewalski’s Horse is the only surviving true wild horse.   It is a possible ancestor of the modern domesticated horse.

It has 68 choromosones whereas the modern horse has only 66 chromosomes.  It also has faint striping on its legs which is a sign that it is a more ancient species.  Scientists believe that it and the modern horse diverged from each other some 160,000 years ago.

The horse is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky; hence its unusual name.  However, the Mongolians call it the Takhi.     The Takhi disappeared from its home range in the Mongolian Steppes in the 1960’s but since 1998 an international effort has successfully introduced takhi taken from zoo populations and reintroduced them into three Mongolian  protected areas.  This is a rare example of a successful reintroduction of a species into the wild and the Mongolians are rightly proud of this.

One of the places to see the takhi is in Hustai National Park near Ulaanbaatar.  However, you still need a bit of luck to see them.

We first saw the Takhi against this spectacular backdrop.
Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
The Herd

 

My blogging friend  Geewits always speaks of “synchronicity”.  By this she means, the strange phenomena when suddenly a topic or an item keeps appearing in a short period from different sources.  Well, this second beast of this post is an example of synchronicity.

Just before going to Mongolia, I did my Halloween post which was about the Beast of Gevaudan.  While researching for the post, I discovered that some cryptozoologists proposed that the animal may be a surviving member of a group of wolf-like animals called Mesonychids which were believed to have gone extinct 32 million years ago.

When I was in Ulaanbaatar, I had the opportunity to visit the Mongolian Natural History Museum and guess what I saw there?  The top part of a skull of the Andrewsarchus mongoliensis.  This animal is known from fossils dug up from the Mongolian Gobi Desert and is thought to be the largest of the Mesonychids.  What would be the odds about posting about this and then coming face to face with its fossil within a week in a foreign land?  That’s synchronicity.

Hopefully I will now not meet one of these creatures alive and biting.  That would not be synchronicity.  That would be a story from the Twilight Zone.

Andrewsarchus mongoliensis skull