Monday, April 14, 2014

Homo erectus and Australopithecus aferensis

The Decreasing Importance of Bipedalism which was once the Key to our Evolution


The differing biomechanical leg evolution in north-east Africa and Eurasia

Climate change created the situation whereby the forest areas deceased and the savannah increased opening up the opportunity for hominine ancestors to venture out of the forests into the savannah. With this new environment, considerable opportunities were brought about and this space was filled as space is always filled with living plants and animals. The new environment brought about change but there was no direction in the change. The result was bipedalism. Walking and running was not the aim of bipedalism but a fortunate spin off. Running is just so natural to us when you consider how children run almost as soon as they can walk. Once bipeds evolved they were able to move even farther, eventually occupying the habitable earth. Legs became very efficient enabling Homo erectus to travel large distances walking and running, perfectly ‘designed’ for the purpose. Bipedalism gave birth to increased head and brain size. Large heavy heads could develop on an upright body which would have been to heavy to be carried horizontally. Homo erectus over millennia ventured around Africa and Eurasia with variations on a theme, but it was in Africa that the they gave rise to Homo sapiens that spread throughout Africa with considerable variation. Eventually however a population of north-east Africans branched off 100000 years ago from the main sub-Sahara African population of Homo sapiens and later another branch populated Eurasia. The environment in Eurasia may not have favoured long legged 'athletes’ like north-east Africans, however it may be that after the split from the population that left Africa, the running ability of the north-east African population continued to evolve favouring their athleticism while those in Eurasia did not for a variety of reasons, mainly the different environment, including the cold climate and perhaps the admixture of Neanderthal genes. With recent genome analysis of Neanderthals up to four percent of Eurasian genes are from this source. Neanderthals have been depicted as being short and squat and they may have passed on ’leg genes’ to Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia. It is also claimed that the cold weather caused legs to become shorter but that does not account for normal legs of Scandinavians and Chinese. Eurasians have for the past 10000 years relied less and less on legs for their existence. The agricultural revolution made hunter-gatherers redundant, and allowed for a vastly increased population. With a greater population there is an increased chance of mutations and of course a greater chance of beneficial mutations being passed on to future generations. Other ways in which mutations that are not beneficial or greatly disadvantageous can be passed on is by genetic drift. If mutations that change the geometry of the leg structure have no adverse effect because the agricultural environment has no need of running bipeds, they could be passed on from generation to generation. In a hunter-gatherer populations these mutations would be deleterious.

. Faulty legs

The north-east populations of Africa were able to retain their efficient bipedalism. Hunter gathers like the San and other sub Saharan African all had well proportioned legs. If they had not they would have succumbed in one way or another and not passed on ‘poor leg genes.’ In long distance athletic events in South Africa the first ten places are almost all filled by Africans, even though a greater number of Europeans and Asians take part. Africans of West African decent dominate athletic sprint events without fail. This can be put down to the fact that either Eurasian legs degenerated over the past 100000 years or did not evolve further and are not as efficient as longer African legs. Japanese tend to have shorter lower limbs that are bowed while European legs come in all sorts and sizes which causes many injuries in long distance athletes. Runners with well constructed legs that are gifted runners seldom suffer injuries. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico supposedly never get injured though they don‘t match the North East Africans. Those that have been unfortunate to inherit legs of different lengths, poorly constructed feet, and bowed legs, faults of which only a few are mentioned here, will suffer injuries. Over-pronation and high arch ‘clunk’ feet, cause a multitude of problems for runners. These faulty biomechanical factors such as different leg length bowed legs and lateral pelvic tilt can cause ilitotibial band friction syndrome and runners knee amongst other injuries. These inherited deformities will be passed on with increased frequency, and concentrated in the non athletic population. In the perfect running stride the knees will pass each other with barely a millimetre between and if foot marks are left on a sandy beach, a line can be drawn that will be parallel to the inside of the heel and big toe of each foot with only the width of the line in between them* Runners with abnormalities are unable to run like this and have to train less to avoid injuries, which means poorer performance. However these badly constructed legs can perform very efficiently in sports like cycling. Most good athletes can cycle well but not all cyclists can run well. Japan has the fourth largest rugby playing population in the world with 125000 players yet languish at the bottom of world cup competitions. They are keen participants in triathlons but are seldom seen amongst the winners while for a country with such a large population they do not make their presence felt in long distance running. Considering the poor conditions and other adverse conditions in the African countries their athletes perform exceptionally well. Africans with Kenyan and Ethiopian ancestry hold all world records from 3000 to marathon distance records while Africans with West African ancestry hold all records up to 400 metres. In all other sports where legs are not as important, Eurasian athletes competes just as well.

. Athletes and non athletes.

The change to a situation whereby bipedalism was not so important began with the agricultural revolution but perhaps increased more rapidly with the industrial revolution, though it is difficult to pinpoint that exactly. But up till recently in evolutionary terms humans needed their legs to get themselves around or they were in trouble. Now legs have become less and less important with mass transport, motor vehicles, and escalators moving people around without the necessity to walk any distance. Once at the work place there is little moving around. With the ever increasing population in densely populated cities, there is very little opportunity for people to run any distance and those that do, form a very small part of the total population. This is a relatively new phenomenon. There are also implications such as obesity, exacerbating the situation. However there is another side to the coin. Sport has in the last 125 years become an increasingly important cultural phenomenon in which only the gifted and motivated really take part and are just a minority in heavily populated areas, while most of the population are just fans or followers. Future generations may well be divided into athletes who pass on their genes to athletic children. Male athletes will produce children with women with well shaped legs. This will be sexual selection or they will produce children with female athletes. It is noticeable that female athletes whether in sports like skiing as seen in the Sochi Olympics or in other athletic sports all have well shaped legs. It is not just beauty in the eye of the beholder . Efficient legs are beautiful and beautiful legs are efficient. Well shaped legs going back in time to Greek statues are the same as what we consider perfect legs 2500 years on. Sport and particularly athletic sports as we know them today are a relatively new phenomenon and in only recent years have sports people been raised up to such heights of popularity There will be gene flow between athletes and non athletes, but it will result in a gradual sorting out. A huge population of non athletes will still be able to carry on normal lives but they will just not be able to participate in athletic sports effectively because genetic mutations will be passed on by genetic drift and not be removed by natural selection. The genes have been discussed earlier that cause deformed legs and running injuries. It will happen quite quickly in evolutionary terms and will be very noticeable in a few hundred years or so. Long term prognosis is impossible to forecast as there are too many variables to consider but all things being equal this is the scenario. The African population that lagged behind in the agricultural revolution and remained hunter gathers up till much more recently may well follow the same trend.

Notes This is partly inspired by Charles Murray’s ‘Coming Apart’ where he describes, new upper class (the rich and famous and elite) diverge from the new lower class. As an athlete, much of this essay is from personal observations especially leg geometry and the perfect stride*, including running injuries, though I referenced the Internet for some details and Tim Noakes ‘The Lore of Running’ on running injuries.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

My New Book.

This little book is to bring closure to a subject that has been with me since 1960. In 1958 I joined the Department of Bantu Agriculture as a professional Agricultural Officer and was appointed after a year to the Basuto homeland of Witsieshoek. Soon after I married, my wife Elaine became a lecturer in the Teachers Training College. She became embroiled in a very small issue which at the time of Sharpeville was blown up out of all proportion. She resigned her post and we decided that it would be best if we leave and I further my studies by doing a post graduate degree in Pasture Science. I asked for and was granted permission to take unpaid leave. At the beginning of 1961 I applied for a post in the Department of Pasture Research to be transferred from Bantu Agriculture and at the same time be able to carry on the degree course, which many of the staff were doing. All seemed to be going well in the pipeline when in the middle of March of that year I received a telegram that I should report back to Witsieshoek by the 28th February or I would be dismissed. After this I tried to find out what was happening to my hoped for position. Dr. Charles Tidmarsh, Head of the Department of Pasture Research in Pretoria asked me to take him for a drive in my VW beetle so we could talk. He told me that because of what happened to my wife with the political implications at the time of Sharpeville I would not be able to get a post in the Department.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Invasion by Setaria perennis

                                       
96

N1
P
85

n1
L
84


L
73


P
72

L
61

n1
P
60
N2
P
L
49


n2
48

P
L
37

N3
P
36


n1
25

n2
P
24

N3
L
13

n2
L
12

n3
P
1


N1
95


N2
86
n2
P
L
83


n3
74
N3
P
L
71


P
62


N3
59

N1
L
50
n3
P
L
47
N1
P
L
38

n3
L
35


(1)
26

N2
L
23

N2
P
14

P
L
11


(1)
2
n1
P
L
94


L
87

N3
L
82


N2
75


P
70


(1)
63

n1
P
58

N2
P
51

n2
L
46


N1
39


n2
34

n3
L
27
N2
P
L
22

P
L
15


(1)
10

N2
L
3

N1
P
93


n1
88
N1
P
L
81
n2
P
L
76

n3
P
69


n3
64

N1
L
57

P
L
52
N3
P
L
45

N3
P
40


L
33


P
28
n1
P
L
21

n1
L
16

n2
P
9


N3
4
n3
P
L
92


P
89

n2
P
80
n1
P
L
77


L
68


(1)
65

n1
L
56

N1
P
53

N3
L
44

n2
L
41
n3
P
L
32

N2
P
29


P
20


N2
17

N1
L
8

n1
P
5
n2
P
L
91
N3
P
L
90


n3
79


N1
78

N2
L
67

P
L
66


n2
55
N2
P
L
54

n3
P
43
N1
P
L
42


L
31


N3
30


n1
19


(1)
18

n3
L
7

N3
P
6

P
L

Setaria perennis increased with higher levels of Nitrogen mostly with P and or L.The visual observation bore no relationship p to the point quadrant analysis.

Eragrostis curvula invasion.

                                       
96

N1
P
85

n1
L
84


L
73


P
72

L
61

n1
P
60
N2
P
L
49


n2
48

P
L
37

N3
P
36


n1
25

n2
P
24

N3
L
13

n2
L
12

n3
P
1


N1
95


N2
86
n2
P
L
83


n3
74
N3
P
L
71


P
62


N3
59

N1
L
50
n3
P
L
47
N1
P
L
38

n3
L
35


(1)
26

N2
L
23

N2
P
14

P
L
11


(1)
2
n1
P
L
94


L
87

N3
L
82


N2
75


P
70


(1)
63

n1
P
58

N2
P
51

n2
L
46


N1
39


n2
34

n3
L
27
N2
P
L
22

P
L
15


(1)
10

N2
L
3

N1
P
93


n1
88
N1
P
L
81
n2
P
L
76

n3
P
69


n3
64

N1
L
57

P
L
52
N3
P
L
45

N3
P
40


L
33


P
28
n1
P
L
21

n1
L
16

n2
P
9


N3
4
n3
P
L
92


P
89

n2
P
80
n1
P
L
77


L
68


(1)
65

n1
L
56

N1
P
53

N3
L
44

n2
L
41
n3
P
L
32

N2
P
29


P
20


N2
17

N1
L
8

n1
P
5
n2
P
L
91
N3
P
L
90


n3
79


N1
78

N2
L
67

P
L
66


n2
55
N2
P
L
54

n3
P
43
N1
P
L
42


L
31


N3
30


n1
19


(1)
18

n3
L
7

N3
P
6

P
L

Invasion by Eragrostis curvula on plots heavily fertilized with both kinds of Nitrogen but not on all plots with heavy dressings of Nitrogen.Eragrostis dominant in dark blue plots but also present in light blue plots.Invasion seems to have started from Plot 49 and 50 or there abouts in the top triangle. Those plots were predominantly E. curvula.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Effect of Lime and ammonium Nitrate on Aristida barbicollis.

                                       
96

N1
P
85

n1
L
84


L
73


P
72

L
61

n1
P
60
N2
P
L
49


n2
48

P
L
37

N3
P
36


n1
25

n2
P
24

N3
L
13

n2
L
12

n3
P
1


N1
95


N2
86
n2
P
L
83


n3
74
N3
P
L
71


P
62


N3
59

N1
L
50
n3
P
L
47
N1
P
L
38

n3
L
35


(1)
26

N2
L
23

N2
P
14

P
L
11


(1)
2
n1
P
L
94


L
87

N3
L
82


N2
75


P
70


(1)
63

n1
P
58

N2
P
51 n2 L 46


N1
39


n2
34

n3
L
27
N2
P
L
22

P
L
15


(1)
10 N2 L3

N1
P
93


n1
88 N1 P L81
n2
P
L
76

n3
P
69


n3
64

N1
L
57

P
L
52
N3
P
L
45

N3
P
40


L
33


P
28
n1
P
L
21 n1 L16

n2
P
9


N3
4
n3
P
L
92


P
89

n2
P
80
n1
P
L
77


L
68


(1)
65 n1 L 56

N1
P
53 N3 L44

n2
L
41
n3
P
L
32

N2
P
29


P
20


N2
17

N1
L
8

n1
P
5
n2
P
L
91
N3
P
L
90 n3 79


N1
78 N2 L67

P
L
66


n2
55
N2
P
L
54

n3
P
43
N1
P
L
42


L
31


N3
30


n1
19


(1)
18

n3
L
7

N3
P
6

P
L

Aristida barbicollis favoured by Lime L, and Ammonium nitrate N, as opposed to Sulphate of ammonia n.Plots in green show its presence, but not in every case.
However every plot with N and L had Aristida barbicollis. This was just from visual observations. There were virtually no hits with the point quadrant. Still under construction.Its very laborious.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Effects of Fertilizer on Paspalum dilitum invasion

                                       
96

N1
P
85

n1
L
84


L
73


P
72

L
61

n1
P
60
N2
P
L
49


n2
48

P
L
37

N3
P
36


n1
25

n2
P
24

N3
L
13

n2
L
12

n3
P
1


N1
95


N2
86
n2
P
L
83


n3
74
N3
P
L
71


P
62


N3
59

N1
L
50
n3
P
L
47
N1
P
L
38

n3
L
35


(1)
26

N2
L
23

N2
P
14

P
L
11


(1)
2
n1
P
L
94


L
87

N3
L
82


N2
75


P
70


(1)
63

n1
P
58

N2
P
51

n2
L
46


N1
39


n2
34

n3
L
27
N2
P
L
22

P
L
15


(1)
10

N2
L
3

N1
P
93


n1
88
N1
P
L
81
n2
P
L
76

n3
P
69


n3
64

N1
L
57

P
L
52
N3
P
L
45

N3
P
40


L
33


P
28
n1
P
L
21

n1
L
16

n2
P
9


N3
4
n3
P
L
92


P
89

n2
P
80
n1
P
L
77


L
68


(1)
65

n1
L
56

N1
P
53

N3
L
44

n2
L
41
n3
P
L
32

N2
P
29


P
20


N2
17

N1
L
8

n1
P
5
n2
P
L
91
N3
P
L
90


n3
79


N1
78

N2
L
67

P
L
66


n2
55
N2
P
L
54

n3
P
43
N1
P
L
42


L
31


N3
30


n1
19


(1)
18

n3
L
7

N3
P
6

P
L

Paspalum dilitatum was favoured by both kinds of nitrogen fertilizer especially the higher amounts enhanced by P and or L.There seemed to be clusters of plots with Paspalum dilitatum indicating its spread from perhaps one plot.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

More on Glyphosate - Don Hubers Warning to Vilsack and his Cover Letter by Green Pasture

 Don M. Huber, Professor Emeritus of Purdue University writes a cover letter about his letter to Vilsack plus the text and images from his original letter regarding his concerns about glyphosate:
I wrote the letter to Secretary Vilsack for a very simple reason: we are experiencing a large number of problems in production agriculture in the U.S. that appear to be intensified and sometimes directly related to genetically engineered (GMO) crops, and/or the products they were engineered to tolerate – especially those related to glyphosate (the active chemical in Roundup® herbicide and generic versions of this herbicide). We have witnessed a deterioration in the plant health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops recently with unexplained epidemics of sudden death syndrome of soybean (SDS), Goss’ wilt of corn, and take-all of small grain crops the last two years. At the same time, there has been an increasing frequency of previously unexplained animal (cattle, pig, horse, poultry) infertility and spontaneous abortions. These situations are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers.

More on Glyphosate - Don Hubers Warning to Vilsack and his Cover Letter by Green Pasture

Monday, March 15, 2010

Good news for Couch Potatoes. No more Excuses.

The body can get as much benefit from a short but intensive bursts of exercise lasting ten minutes than it can from ten hours of moderate training.

The technique not only takes less time but also involves much less physical effort.

That is maybe for couch potatoes only but certainly not for serious athletes. They already do this sort of interval training but to reach peak fitness for a race an athlete or cyclist has to do hours of base training going into weeks, without which the peak would be very low indeed. I decided to try the programme and realised that before you can do the intensive bursts you have to first warm up for at least ten minutes and then also warm down for a few minutes afterwards, which brings the training time up to half an hour. Another problem with this is that it is certainly not going to control your weight.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Copenhagen and all that Jazz

I am a climate change sceptic.Not a denier in the sense that I deny that Global warming is man made but a sceptic about our ability to do anything about it. I accept James Lovelock's foresight that we have passed the tipping point. Read what he says;
Most of the things we have been told to do might make us feel better, but they won't make any difference. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable.
"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can't say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do.

I also see it another way. I don't think we will be prepared to lower our standard of living sufficiently to make any difference. The world's population is rushing headlong to 9 billion people,that's 9000,000,000. All these people are adding to the degradation of the planet's with limited resources.

China don't see why they should not reach the standard of living of the West and they have the ability to do it.
At Copenhagen the US climate change special envoy Todd Stern said emissions weren't about "morality or politics", they were "just maths", with China projected to emit 60% more CO2 than the US by 2030. But Stern ignored the more transparent measure of pollution per capita; the US emits 20 tonnes per person every year, compared to China's six tonnes.
and
• Mark Lynas seems to skim over a fundamental issue: justice. He points out that China's massive growth depends on cheap coal, but fails to note that other nations have depended on coal to achieve huge global power. The UK used coal to help it dominate the world, and its current wealth is due to this. With no real reparations available, it is not difficult to understand why China is scared that a climate deal will prevent it from growing to be in the UK's situation. The problem is more with the concept of unlimited economic growth. This and environmental sustainability cannot go hand in hand. To find these kinds of critiques you have to look outside the Bella Centre, at the protesters in the streets. It seems once again these views are not being heard.
Guy Mitchell

There is something else that seems to have been forgotten. China and India have become the world's factory. The US and other countries in the West have transferred all their manufacturing capacity that uses fossil fuels to these two countries and then buy the finished products back.in order to produce all these products energy is required.

Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe,

Is not bad news for all countries. Some will gain by becoming warmer, like Greenland and Siberia. It seems Africa and Australia will be the big loosers, yet Australia's population could just move North. Lets look on the bright side and as Lovelock says"Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."

I'm back to growing trees for sale.Open all hours.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

150th anniversary of Darwin's Publication that changed they way we Think

One Hundred and fifty years ago Darwin published his famous book On the Origin of Species.. I am in the middle of reading Jerry Coyne's very good book 'Why Evolution is True". There is so much recent research and information contained in it that every one interested in evolution should read it.
On thing I learned and found really interesting is that all mammals except primates, guinea pigs and fruit eating bats are able to convert glucose into vitamin C. There are four stages in the process, but the fourth stage has been disabled through a mutation in the primates and the two other genera. However the mutation in primates is different from that of guinea pigs and fruit eating bats.It would be impossible for all the members of the primates to have exactly the same gene sequence disrupted in the same place except if it had occur ed in their common ancestor. It would be like hundreds of members of the same family getting the winning numbers in lotto on the same day .The reason put forward as to why this mutation spread so easily was that we no longer needed to manufacture vitamin C as there was sufficient in our diet. Only 75mg is needed to prevent scurvy.

I want to add my own story to this.I have been suffering from gout and discovered via theInternet that research strongly showed that high doses of Vitamin C reduced gout by reducing the uric acid. Now maybe we actually do need more Vitamin C than the 75mg and that if we could still manufacture Vitamin C there would always be sufficient to prevent gout.Vitamin C disappears very quickly, within hours, from the body so it has to be continuously replenished and if it was manufactured in the body from glucose there would always be an adequate supply and stay at a high level all the time.It seems that a mammal of the size of a human produces about 1200 gms. per day. However gout usually is associated with old age long after reproduction has taken place, so our inability to produce vitamin C would not have been selected against. There may also be many other problems associated with not being able to manufacture Vitamin C that we are at this stage unaware of.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is there a Law that says Life will always go on Improving?



Is there a law that says that human behaviour, evolution and culture will always go on advancing or improving. Are we more advanced than we were in evolutionary terms? Looking at the past it seems to me that we are certainly better off than we were in the past.During the first part of the last century we were plagued by wars,where millions were lost in battle.There was the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia and millions killed in China and Russia. For most of the century a cold war existed between the communists and the West. The flu pandemic in 1918 killed millions.Yet in the nineteenth century there was just as much loss of life through war and disease.Yet gradually there seemed to be improvement in the human condition. Early wars were more local,like civil wars in the UK between what were no more than war lords and then between Scotland and England. When these were settled the were wars between countries and later between groups of countries as in the last World War.

Still now the improvement is a bit patchy as there are areas of conflict and the AIDS and TB pandemic continues in certain areas. Just go back to the nineteenth century Britain and the time of Charles Dickens and one can see how miserable life for the poor was with a short life expectancy. Health everywhere has improved. Education is much more wide spread and people are better fed housed and are warmer. We now have human rights where nearly everywhere life is more valued. We have the good old days but that's only because of amnesia.

On the material side,think of travel, improved hotels, motor vehicles , aircraft and television not thought of a little more than hundred years ago. Communication and information through the internet.

Look how sport has changed and how brilliant sportsmen and women have become,in standards not even dreamed of. We have wondered if records can go on tumbling indefinitely.



So will life go on improving? We have just had a wakeup call with the recent depression with millions losing their jobs.At the same time the world population continues to increase so that the economy has to increase at a greater rate than ever for life to improve for the vast majority of the worlds population.

What has enabled us to have and improved life.It has been our ability to use fossil fuels to produce energy which takes the drudgery out of life and gives us time to do other things.When there is an electricity outage we realise just how dependent we are on electricity. The other important development in the last hundred years has been the automobile.This has given us freedom undreamed of before.Another important development has been communication.Before electronic communication about the only way to get a message from on person to another was to take it by hand.If a criminal was on the run the only way to catch him was the chase him and not send a message ahead to stop him. So many little developments like this have improved life.

On the other hand crime murder and drugs seem to be on the increase. Drugs and alcohol abuse are devastating the youth and their families. This increase had led in many cases to increased crime.
All this has happened in my lifetime. Drugs were not an issue in my youth.

However what I have called improvement has come at a cost. A cost to the environment. A cost to the animal, plant and sea life. If we have gained the ecosystems of the world have lost.Most people have no idea where their food actually comes from. Most have never seen a cow being milked and think their milk comes from a plastic bottle.The quality of life in many ways has diminished because of their disconnect from nature. So what has improved for them? They are warm, clean,dry, well fed and can play on the computer and watch TV.For many their main interest seems to be watching football and their favourite club.They do not take part in sport themselves.

The new generation is becoming fatter and unhealthier, addicted to binge drinking. Education is being dumbed down with fewer and fewer studying science which has brought us this far.

China and India are hell bent on achieving the living standards of the West, and who can blame them?The world's resources are limited and running out and the population continues to increase. Their standard of living continues to improve though their quality of life in real terms decreases.Quality of life is its connect and enjoyment with nature and not just material benefit.

Well I don't know if there is a law that says life will continue to improve. This improvement has been because of our intellect. We have been able to overcome the limitations of limited resources that have been placed on other animal life. We have been able to manipulate these resources to our benefit.Now there is pressure being put on these resources. The soils are becoming more infertile and can only produce with the application of more and more fertilizers.The soils are eroding and being lost forever. Forests are being destroyed so that their soils soon degenerate through loss of organic matter.Fish stocks have been exhausted in the once abundant oceans.Cities have been built on flood plains after draining and destroying the ecosystems rich in bird life.

We all of course live in the present,physically anyway. We only really know what life was like during our lifetime, or the part that we can remember. Its therefore difficult to compare life in the present with the past.The best of life is really for the well off.You can use the normal curve of Bell curve to place people using IQ, achievement or wealth and there will be 50% below and 50% above average and there is a good correlation between the three traits. Of course there are always exceptions and those that disagree with this always point to the exceptions. For those above the average life has always been getting better and for those below life will always be more difficult and for those at the bottom life is always dire. For those in the top ten percent life can be very good but it may not bring happiness. That is another story.Life for the top ten percent I suppose has always been pretty good.

As the worlds resources decrease its those in the top perhaps twenty five percent that will survive and maybe this will be a sustainable level of life on earth. About two billion people.

How will this number of people be achieved. Who knows, but there are several candidates that could bring this about. Wars over scarce water resources. Famine and disease. Several diseases are having their toll. AIDS and extreme drug resistant TB, malaria on the increase and a virulent strain of swine flu for starters. We have been cute in that we produce vaccines in response to these dangers. Drought and famine may be difficult to combat in the event of a perfect storm. The main areas of food production may be hit by drought and crop disease at the same time in well off countries. They will not be able or willing to send food to the poor nations, also in the grip of a climate catastrophe. Millions could die off in a matter of months before anything could be done. Weakened plants and people are more susceptible to disease.To make the storm more potent, nations that could help may be at war or near war taking their attention away from the looming disaster. Then of course there is always the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.This is what many are thinking of at the present.Yet in spite of all the wars and the flu pandemic in the first half of the last century the population continued to escalate. What will give and where will be the tipping point?

As we have seen disease has little effect so either the perfect storm or a nuclear holocaust are the most likely candidates.The perfect storm will allow the survival of the fittest. Just as in the past humans success was because of their brain power so those most intelligent will find a way of surviving. Those remaining will build a better world,regenerating the stocks in the sea,the forests and the grasslands,thereby rescuing the animal and plant life from the brink.Ha ha just wishful thinking.If on the other hand there is a nuclear holocaust destruction may be indiscriminate and it will all depend on the way the cookie crumbles.Wars disease and famine with no time for the worlds ecosystems.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Hundred Years since Charles Darwin's Birth.



Today is Charles Darwin's Birthday. He is considered the most influential biological scientist and had the greatest influence on how we see ourselves in this world. He wasn't the first to talk about evolution but it was his theory that was so important. Later this year it will be the 150th anniversary of publishing his book The Origin the full title is 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’


When Darwin arrived the Scientific world had been placed on a sound foundation through the efforts of men like Galileo. Observation, measurement, and publication of findings for peer review. No sitting in an armchair just pondering. But as before, the work was to discover God's handiwork and his creation.

So we therefore have to move forward and bypass all the philosophers and thinkers that followed Galileo; Descartes, Kant Hume, Hegel, etc to Darwin. It was into the new freedom that he was born. It has been said, "with Luther the monolithic medieval Christian world had cracked. With Copernicus the medieval Christian cosmology had cracked but with Darwin the Christian world view showed signs of collapsing altogether. As the earth had been removed from its position at the centre of creation by Copernicus so now was man removed from the centre of creation by Darwin to become just another animal".

In the first few years of the nineteenth century there was already a movement towards the idea of the evolution of life. Men like Erasmus Darwin and Lemarke had supported the idea but there was no acceptable understanding of the way it could work., though Lemarke proposed the inheritance of aquired features. Virtually all naturalists considered it their place to examine and study God's handiwork and to think of any other point of view was very unpopular.

After an abortive time spent studying medicine and with Darwin's fathers blessing he started studies in Theology with the intention of becoming a priest. This entailed studying God's nature and this is where he excelled and was in his element. Studying all of God's Creation. His studies were very extensive and considering it was at the beginning of the 1800's, his studies included chemistry and geology and was tutored and taken under the wings by outstanding men in their fields. These included Sedgwick for Geology and Henslow for Biology. He did have a good education even if much was self taught. He and his brother Erasmus had their own little laboratory in a garden shed in the garden of 'The Mount' in Shrewsbury where they analyzed for minerals in rocks. They made extensive collections of beetles. Darwin even paid others to collect for him.

After he finished his studies he was invited to join Captain Fitz Roy on the Beagle as companion and Naturalist for a circumnavigation of the earth charting various parts. The voyage took five years and included South America, The Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Mauritius,,Capetown, St Helena, and Ascension Island. He sent specimens back to England and made copious notes.A number of years after returning, he came up with the idea that Natural Selection was the cause of the great diversity in animal and plant life and that all life had descended from a few or just one. What made Darwin different from all the previous scientists and naturalists was that this theory no longer needed the hand of God, but brought in the element of chance with natural selection the architect.

Darwin's theory of the origin of species is simple and elegant. Thomas Huxley said "it is so simple,why didn't I think of it myself?" The essential aspects of this theory may be more apparent when divided two interrelated parts
1] Most species have numerous off spring, more than enough to maintain the population of the species,and they cannot all survive.
2] There is variation between the individuals of the species, those with favourable traits that are able to reproduce and survive will be successful and those that do no will die out. Later the term coined by Spencer 'Survival of the fittest' was reluctantly adopted by Darwin.
The non acceptance of Evolution by natural selection is the Church's Second denial and they argue that it is "just a theory" Some Theory.The first denial being that the earth was the centre of the Universe.

Darwin's book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life was about 500 pages long and in much of it he seemed to be trying to destroy his theory.
It was the basic picture which I call 'Darwin's Jigsaw Picture' with many parts still missing and a puzzle to him. Many of these missing parts have since been filled in.

This is a excerpt fromThe Church's Three Denials'

View Down House where Darwin wrote The Origin

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Soil Erosion in South Africa



I took these slides over fifty years ago. They are very faded but you can see the extent of the erosion with the African huts surrounded by deep gullies(dongas).Click it to see it more clearly.
Degradation of the grasslands is going to be one of the greatest problems in the country with increasing population and land redistribution.See the little figure of the man in the red shirt.

The causes of this erosion may be overgrazing, cattle paths which soon form gullies or cultivation without protecting the lands from excessive runoff.As the water gathers speed it removes some soil making small gullies which in turn causes the water to run even faster by concentrating it in a narrow area, and therefore a feedback loop.

Slowing the water down in early stages by building small walls of stone or even earth can do wonders. Sometimes putting stones on a contour can also help or keeping the water out of the early furrows can help. Of course preventing overgrazing is vitally important allowing strong root growth and a dense cover.

The reason these gullies are as deep as this is because of the very erodible subsoil in this area. Once formed the situation is dire. The lands nearby have their water table lowered, so much so, that crops soon fail, even with reasonable rainfall. Many do not consider filling them to be practical but I have seen the results where walls of gabian baskets have slowed the water to such an extent that if the catchment above brings sufficient silt down the dongas are filled.




In 1957 many of my photos were taken with Anscochrome with an Exposure Index (E.I.) of 32 and later 100, 32 was three times faster than existing color films.
The slides have all faded badly over the years whereas Kodak slides are still perfect.

The black and white picture shows the damage caused by cattle paths.The bottom picture shows erosion all around the houses where cattle were brought down from the mountains and concentrated during the cold winters with very little conserved fodder.Note the very badly eroded stream on the left and the very poor grass cover generally. Even during the summer this grass was unable to recover as there were horses and other cattle keeping it short. If the areas could have been fenced off and rested they would have recovered to a great extent.As a demonstration I had and area of about an acre fenced off and within a few months in summer the grass (Mostly Hyparrhenia hirta) was waist high. These were taken in 1959 in what was known as Witsieshoek, and now Qua qua.










This bottom photo of one of the mountain camps shows very little erosion. The cattle had to be removed in autumn as it became too cold for them and the herdsmen to remain at the high altitude so the grass was protected to a large extent.However large areas became invaded by Leucosidea sericea

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Grasslands and Global Warming


I'm not claiming to be an authority on grassland and global warming but this is my take on it based on my studies decades ago.

One of the most significant findings that science has made is that after the initial initiation of life on our planet there evolved a sort of symbiotic relationship between the earth and life. Life itself shaped the evolution of the planet and made it what it is today. It wasn't there ready for us as it is now.After the initiation of life with the first simple cell, there evolved the blue green bacteria that were able to use the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere with energy from the sun by using the process of photosynthesis to store this energy in the form of carbohydrates, giving off oxygen. This oxygen did not accumulate but oxidized the earth, or in other words, rusted it.This took billions of years. Once rusted the oxygen was able to accumulate in the atmosphere while the CO2 eventually reached its present low level with the whole system in equilibrium.The Carbon of the once rich Co2 atmosphere became stored in the earths surface. So it is the earth's grasslands that help maintain this equilibrium. At the beginning of the Miocene, 24 million years ago, grasses first become common. They are at the end of eons of evolution and yet are only transitional.

Native Grasslands cover about twenty five percent of the land surface so are an important part of the earth's vegetation.They are usually maintained at the grassland stage of development by rainfall or by fire. There are two classes ,temperate and tropical.They differ from cultivated pastures by their great diversity of species and have evolved and developed over millions of years.In Africa grasslands are called veld,'The Pampas'in South America ,The North American prairies,and the steppes of Central Asia. In most cases the grasslands have remained as such because they could not be cultivated.
Top Southern Tall Grassveld,South Africa in spring after burning. Note the dolerite rocks preventing ploughing.

Middle Themeda-festuca Alpine veld South Africa

Bottom. Southern Tall Grassveld Pietermaritzburg South Africa. Dominant Species Themeda triandra and is a dominant climax species in many parts of Southern Africa

Little is made of their importance by those concerned with global warming.It's all about forests,hug a tree,but why not kiss the grass?. James Lovelock never mentions them in his book 'The Ages Of Gaia' and this is not a criticism, though their importance in storing carbon is significant. The Carbon is stored mostly in the grassland soil as opposed to forests where it is in the organic matter on the surface of the soil, and in the trees and plants themselves.



Colorado prairies







Most of the worlds grasslands that could have been used for arable crops have been ploughed and what is left, is for one reason or another, not usable.The reasons may be climatic,topographic, shallow soil or just unploughable. To make things worse as much as 70 per cent of the world's 3.2 billion acres of grasslands have become degraded, usually due to overgrazing, say FAO.Also see this
report on CNN

The grasslands that have been destroyed have lost a large part of their soil organic carbon(SOC) through mineralisation and lost it to the atmosphere as CO2. When the land is returned to grass it will gradually accumulate carbon but it would take hundreds of years to reach a point where it is unable to hold any more SOC. Work at Rothamstead in the UK showed it would reach this point in about 200 years. There is a strong correlation between Nitrogen and Carbon with a ratio roughly 10C to 1N. This is very constant and independent of soil treatment, so applying Nitrogen fertilizer may more quickly regenerate the SOC in the grassland.The advantage would be offset as the production of nitrogen fertilizer itself would use considerable energy. Old Woodland had a C/N ratio of 9.5 and old pasture also 9.5. However SOC does vary from one soil type to another and is affected by temperature and rainfall. The higher the rainfall the higher the SOC, but the higher the temperature the faster the mineralisation and the lower the SOC.

Grasslands that have been

Damaged by overgrazing erode and also lose SOC to the atmosphere as CO 2 and such pastures do not easily recover to regenerate the SOC,see further research here


New research suggests replacing grassland with forests to combat global warming, where climate permits, may be a waste of time, especially if those trees are at high latitudes,even though it can increase the SOC. This in turn may increase the heat absorbed because of the darker colour of the vegetation.In an earlier post on this blog the same was shown when grassland was overgrazed and replaced with darker grazing resistant bushes.See also the effect of invading trees and shrubs.
and here
Growing more forests in United States could contribute to global warming





Close up of Themeda-Festuca Alpine Veld.

In the western part of South Africa there is a type grassland which has gradually given way to arid desert because as the light reflecting grasses are overgrazed they are replaced by darker coloured desert bushes which absorb the heat. The soil heats up and as the air passes over, it in turn heats and dried the areas to the east, increasing the desertification even further.A vicious cycle.The picture below shows what happens when the grassland is badly treated. The light grasses on the left are replaced by the darker Karroo scrub.(Charles Tidmarsh


Friday, December 01, 2006

Al Gore- An Inconvenient Truth

To view click Part One and then go back to the blog and click Part Two and so on.
Al Gore An Inconvenient Truth Part One
Al Gore Part Two
Al Gore Part Three
AL Gore Part Four
Al Gore Part Five
Al Gore Part Six
Al Gore Part Seven
Al Gore Part Eight
Al Gore Part Nine
AL Gore Final

Pressure Groups against Tobacco Health Risks,Global Warming and Evolution

Al Gore has used a very good example of how certain groups who oppose a view and sow doubts in peoples minds when all evidence points in a certain direction. When he was young his sister died of lung cancer. He was the son of a tobacco farmer. All evidence showed that tobacco caused many deaths yet the tobacco industry sowed seeds of doubt amongst the population saying that it was not proven and that many scientists disagreed. Of all the scientific papers ever produced, all found tobacco to be a major cause of death and not one paper could be found that refuted these claims yet the industry continued to debunk the claims using massive financial muscle to squash the evidence. Now of course we know the truth but the damage has been done.


He is able to show the same thing is happening with climate change and global warming. Those with most to lose are doing the same thing by debunking all scientific evidence and saying that it is not proved and than many scientists disagree. It is a repeat of the tobacco industries tactics only this time it is the oil industry. There are no scientific papers published that offer any significant counter claims.

This made me take another step where evidence is even greater. For many decades there has been a crusade against science and evolution by creationists and Intelligent Design advocates or creationists in sheep's.clothing They say there is disagreement between scientists and that there are scientists that disagree and mention a few but there has never been an acceptable scientific paper that is able to refute evolution.The evidence for evolution is even greater than that for the dangers of smoking and global warming, the latter two based much on statistical evidence,( and I would claim common sense but I would have to be careful with that one otherwise common sense may say there must be a God) while evolution is more on hard evidence of fossils and molicular biology (DNA). The Fundamental Christian groups are financially and politically very powerful and have all to lose if Evolution was generally accepted, as the God of their Bible and Evolution are mutually exclusive.Having said that there are still some scientists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins and many other non-scientists are able to accept Christianity and evolution at the same time and see nothing odd about it.
Lloyd Geering
a New Zealand Theologian calls it 'spiritual schizophrenia'

Somehow there seems to be a link between those that oppose the idea of global warming and those that oppose Evolution,'The Religious Right' as they don't believe that God will let any thing happen to the earth and that he will take care of everything as the earth and all that is here is for our use and our exploitation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Global Warming and Gaia

We like to have causes. They can be religious or secular,and we love to jump onto bandwagons and bore everyone else with our latest cause. Mine is global warming and Gaia. But I'm not jumping onto any bandwagon because I have had this interest from when I was in junior school and then spent years at university studying it. It wasn't called environmentalism or global warming then, it was called soil conservation and grassland management and ecology in the country of my birth, because grassland was mostly what our natural environment was. Grasslands,with little forest. We had sixty nine different grassland types consisting of hundreds of different species of grasses and savannah trees, each having their own niche. It was grass that held the soil together and prevented its loss, and when it was damaged and the biodiversity reduced, soil eroded leaving behind impoverished farms.Worse than that, in the west of the country grassland gradually gave way to arid desert because as the light reflecting grasses were overgrazed they were replaced by darker coloured desert bushes which absorbed the heat. The soil heated up and as the air passed over, it in turn heated and dried the areas to the east, increasing the desertfication even further.A vicious cycle.The picture below shows what happens when the grassland is badly treated. The light grasses on the left are replaced by the dark bushes.(Charles Tidmarsh)


.

When I was in junior school the worlds population was less than two billion and now it is six and a half billion, and most are under twenty five years old which means that most only have experience of a world with this massive population and perhaps don't fully appreciate the strain that is being put on the environment because for them that is how it has always been. This makes me very pessimistic about about our future on this planet,so I suppose I should be joining the end timers bandwagon.Behold the end is nigh! An article on BBC World highlights the problem. Global warming is caused by hot air and all the conferences do is generate hot air. People in New Zealand and elsewhere are made to feel good by using eco light bulbs as if that is going to solve the problem while they drive gas guzzling SUVs and humvees, refusing to use cheap public transport and generally using the earths non renewable resources without a care

Everyone wants to have an improved standard of living. China and India are hellbent on becoming wealthy like the western nations and why shouldn't they, but before they do, something will have to give.The worlds population continues to rise and will do so till it reaches about nine billion,four and a half times what it was when I was a kid.We can't reduce the population when it is already here, it would be politically incorrect but nature may have to do it for us in one way or another,or are we just too cute.

I am aghast at the amount of fossil energy being used to light up, warm up and cool down the northern hemisphere, and as soon as there is a heat wave consumption goes up with all the airconditioners. As the global warming increases so will the airconditions have to work harder. Something will have to give.

Forests are still being cut down. New Zealand cut most of its forests a century ago but now preserves what is left, yet imports native forest timber from other countries that still have dwindling reserves. When the tropical forests go the soils built up over millions of years will lose their organic component through oxidation giving off nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to the air, leaving the soil impoverished, and liable to erode, eventually becoming a desert unable to generate rainfall for other parts.

Young people don't perhaps all realise just how things have changed during the last few years of their lives because that is all they know but they are the ones that will have to deal with it.There is little time left and I haven't the slightest idea what can be done because all I see are hundred of reports on how we are increasing greenhouse gases thus increasing global warming and damageing the environment. I see little evidence of anyone changing their habits over much. I have neighbours who have been working for a newly rich couple in the UK. They won't conserve water, or energy. They keep their swimming pool at a constant warm temperature the whole year even though it is used but a few days at a cost of US$4000 a month, and the underfloor heating is left on all the time even when they are absent.The few that are really trying wouldn't have be using much anyway.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Life in Petridish

Life in a petridish can be just as wild as the plains of Africa. There are numerous species in this small eco system all dependent on each other in one way or another. One small crustacean I have been unable to photograph as it moves too quickly, darting this way and that is the cyclops.It is a herbivore eating dead material on the petridish floor.There are many protozoa also not easy to photograph because of their transparency


The water beetle has gone through the larval stage,throwing off its exo skeleton several times(middle), each time leaving itself helpless for a short while, then recently the pupal stage leaving its last exo skeleton to be climbed all over by the ostracod scavengers,the equivalent of African vultures.They are only a fraction of a mm in size(see Movie) Meanwhile the now very vulnerable pupae has to hide itself amongst the duckweed and Azola roots. I had to chase it out to photograph it.(bottom)
(I no longer think it is a water beetle,looks more like a dragon fly larvae)






see movie

Friday, October 20, 2006

Predator and Prey Video


Well this is new to me editing my video clips. I've now identified the prey, its a Cypris,a freshwater Ostracod crustatian."Like the copepods, the ostracods are very numerous in both freshwater and marine environments. There are 2000 living species. The larger marine species are also known as mussel shrimps or seed shrimps, but the freshwater ostracods are usually smaller than a millimetre.
There are 10,000 or so fossil species dating from the Late Cambrian period (about 500 million years ago) to recent times. Their great abundance and widespread distribution have made them useful index fossils for dating marine sediments, notably in oil exploration.

In freshwater ponds they are usually found scuttling around among the submerged plants and debris at the shallow edges, and less commonly in the open waters. They swim smoothly with appendages extended from between the two halves of their carapace. When disturbed, they withdraw their limbs and clamp the halves of their tiny shells tightly together".
read on>> Above the castoff shells of the ostracod


See Movie

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Predators

Predators must have started their evolution soon after life was first established in the primeval soup with the primitive bacteria devouring plastid and mitochondria carrying entities.It evolved from the minute to the gigantic extinct dinosaurs and the largest killer whales or orcas which are still with us. These water beetle larva perform just like a fox terrier or a cat foraging after a mouse. Burrowing into the debris and rootlets of the duck weed in the petri dish with considerable aggression and energy.The action is the same though there are six legs instead of four. One could almost imagine them thinking. Their prey some unidentified spherical animals.All the predators have their niches and the prey fits the size of the predators. If the predator is very small and the prey large then I suppose it becomes a parasite. That's a bit rough and derogatory.






See the video of the attack. Just like a lion grabs a wildebees by its throat and suffocates it until its dead, this predator held the prey until it was dead before eating it.