[Taxacom] New Years thoughts

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Fri Dec 31 22:31:36 CST 2010

 Hi Bob, 
         As for your correction, actually I think your
first calculation was correct. Almost an 80% increase in the world
population (of humans) in 30 years. The 4.5 billion we had then was bad
enough, but it has now reached insane levels (although the Catholic
Church, big governments, and big corporations seem to benefit from more
followers, tax payers, and cheap labor). It has been so for a very long
        And I really think we could learn a lot from the
Chinese who have taken population control seriously. The one-child
policy has been widely (but simplistically) criticized because people
haven't looked at it carefully. Over half of the population have
exemptions to this policy, and it is mainly applied to urban centers
(where population control is most needed---and certainly NOT ONLY in
China). The freedom to excessively overreproduce has been touted for far
too long (especially by the powerful who financially benefit). 
       I can remember 40 years ago as a young college
student being very impressed by Paul Ehrlich and the "Zero Population
Growth" movement. And even before that I wrote a paper in High School on
Robert Malthus, who was warning about the population problem over 200
years ago. When is humanity (beyond China) finally going to wake up and
actually do something about it??? 
        I might also add that China taxes it highest
income rates at 45%. The U.S. reverting back to 39% would have been a
good thing, but politics and greed got in the way. Actually even 45%
seem way to low to me if someone is earning over $5 million dollars per
year. Beyond that income, it's usually just the "Lifestyles of the Rich
and Famous" that often waste money on superficiality (and are often not
all that happier for it). Especially those who spend their time and
money on cosmetic surgery, overpriced art, yachts, mansions, ad nauseum.
  Even Warren Buffet himself seems to think this is terribly wasteful,
unfair, and counterproductive.          
         But getting back to biodiversity, until we
can actually increase the measly tiny slice of the economic pie which
humanity allocates to biodiversity (which is pathetically meager), we
need to allocate that available pie to LIVING biodiversity---its
documentation and preservation. That means that dinosaur fossils should
take a back seat in the meantime. Collect and store such specimens that
are most valuable and in danger of being eroded away, but the extremely
expensive process of preparation can wait until later. 
        Just because little kids think dinosaurs are
fascinating is no reason for adults to justify such excessive
expeditures on fossils of animals that are long dead and gone. Likewise,
adults should resist kids demanding to go to fast food joints (etc.)
just because adveritizing on cartoons make them badger their parents
that they want (not need) the toys that come with fast food. No wonder
obesity is such a problem. Spoiled kids obsessed with sports, fashion,
consumerism, celebrities, and facebook, is absurd and not indicative of
a good future. And speaking of Facebook, that its 26-year-old founder is
now a multi-billionaire is just one sign  of such absurdity. Only in a
society obsessed with advertizing and consumption would such
billionaries exist. That billionaires are taxed below 80-90% is absurd
in itself, so the debate in the U.S Congress over raising it from 35% to
even 39% is so ludicrous it boggles the mind.  
Bob Mesibov wrote: 
            Every New Year the Australian
federal government makes available previously archived 'secret'
documents from 30 years earlier. This year's release includes a
statement to federal Cabinet from the then-Prime Minister Malcolm
Fraser. He urged formal Australian support for the World Conservation
Strategy proposed by the UN, WWF and the IUCNNR: 
'Development requires modification and transformation of the environment
? The planet's capacity to support its people is being irreversibly
reduced by the destruction and degradation of the biosphere and the need
to understand the problem and take corrective action is becoming
          Fraser was talking at a time when the
world's population was estimated to be 4.5 billion. Thirty years later
it's 7 billion. That's an almost 80% increase in about one generation.
The rate of capacity reduction hasn't tracked the population increase,
which would be bad enough, but has instead kept in step with the demand
on resources needed for modern lifestyles. This demand has increased
enormously in the past 30 years, notably in China and India, which is
why I don't say 'Western' lifestyles. 
          Another Australian, biologist Harry
Recher, has pointed out that there are no unused natural resources.
Every bit of land and water not being used by humans is used by other
species. When we appropriate those resources, we reduce what's available
to those species and increase their risk of extinction. Intensifying use
also increases the risk: there are species on farms that can't survive
in small towns, and species in small towns that can't survive in cities
and industrial lands. 
        All these things were well understood 30 years
ago, and the best the world's conservation strategies have managed to
achieve in that time is to increase the area of natural reserves around
the world. Anything more in the way of 'corrective action' is pretty
hopeless, like demanding that your children have no kids or only 1, or
that meat eaters around the world should change to a mainly vegetarian
          Those of us interested in discovering and
documenting the world's biodiversity before it disappears also face a
gloomy future. Remarkable new digital tools and rapid publishing may be
making individual taxonomists more productive, but that increased
productivity is being compensated by a steady decline in the worldwide
total of discoverers-and-documenters. We are not growing enough
taxonomists. Meanwhile, biodiversity salvage of disappearing habitats
remains low on every funding body's priority list, so we are also not
discovering and documenting where the disappearing is fastest. What else
can be done? I've previously pushed here (ad nauseam to some) on Taxacom
for biodiversity salvage and for 'open taxonomy' online projects which
anyone can join. I'm begining to think that a third worthwhile strategy
is to remind potential discoverers-and-documenters just how amazing the
natural world is, in detail. Too many students around the world (at
primary, secondary and tertiary) are having their heads sucked into
intellectual structures which generalise ecology, or evolutionary
relationships. Too much boring big picture, too little surprising
It alarms me that I can't find much of what used to be called 'natural
history' in today's curricula. The 'gee whiz!' in today's biology is
Craig Venter sticking a 'synthetic' genome into a prokaryote cell, not
the revealing of one of the mind-bogglingly complex *natural*
connections between (for example) a phytophagous insect, its plant host
or its parasites and predators. Here in Tasmania I can still get 'OMG!'
reactions from people of all ages by showing them on a bushwalk how our
common terrestrial nemertean everts its proboscis, or that a certain
bright-yellow strip of slimy material in their garden is actually a
living, actively predacious terrestrial triclad. But neither of these
common animals is in any biology course here. 'Worms' aren't science, it
seems. I'll try to work on that... 

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