Friday, 21 November 2014

Hare Brained

I was reading in New Scientist today about Snowshoe Hares and how they are becoming increasingly out of step with the environment in which they live.

Snowshoe Hare (image by©)
Climate change is meaning that snow melts sooner and the hares white coats cease to be camouflage and become instead "target identification" for some predators.

So while the white stands the Hare in good stead in the snow time, by it being white during the early melt changes this attribute from a survival attribute to an early death attribute.

I thought it interesting that the researchers identified that the Hares seemed to not be aware of this coat coloring and did not alter their behavior in response to the changed environmental conditions.
Snowshoe hares appear to be oblivious to whether or not they are camouflaged. "They do not act in any way to reduce colour mismatch, or to reduce the negative consequences of mismatch," says Zimova. When mismatched with their environment, they don't hide more, flee more or hang out in areas that match their coat. In short, these hare-brained creatures don't seem very smart.

Interesting ... I immediately thought that applied to humans  as well. I don't think we are much smarter, in fact as we are aware of the issues we do not change, so we are dumber for it. For instance Urban Development goes on willy nilly , despite great evidence to demonstrate that what we are doing is neither the best nor good for us (even in the medium term) nor good for the environment.

This graph shows the general trends of population growth rates in Australia:


So its fairly clear that our population is increasing at a high rate, yet what is our response to this? Well so far it seems to be "clear more land, increase urban sprawl, and make things worse for every other living creature" (and perhaps even for ourselves).

Back in 2011 I wrote (over here) that the infrastructure supporting our lifestyle was under stress and that (for instance) the roads are unable to sustain our needs (let alone support growth, which in my view is actually the problem).

I happen to live in Southport and commute to a small town for work (the city of Logan). It is 51Km from my door to my work door, which isn't a long commute by modern standards but forces me up and down the highway every day.

The other day an event occurred which  is perhaps a bit more drastic than usual, but as anyone who travels that road knows was only a matter of time.

Yep, you read that right closed for 6 hours.

The population density of this region is not really high by European standards, yet (I would argue) that due to urban sprawl and geography there is really no alternative but to accept that this madness is the only alternative if we want to live in the way we do here.

With a population growth rate that's actually the highest in Australia ...

I don't see that the congestion is going to ease until the population growth does.

I live in an area of the world which was once a beautiful natural haven and has for the last 40 years been fast paced into becoming the most overcrowded and over developed part of Australia (well except for perhaps Sydney). This Google Maps screen shot shows the area, hard to find anywhere now that's natural which will support construction. Indeed the only areas as National Park are swamps, wetlands and tidal sand islands.

In fact not yet appearing on that map is a bunch of new clearing (the last patches of bush) in that bit of green up near Coomera. So more population to be going up and down that highway ... more congestion longer delays and an erosion of lifestyle. It doesn't look good for the environment either.  In fact since I put that graph together the data has emerged that the population here has gone to over 700,000. Which from less than 50,000 is a massive change. Of course water will be the next problem....

Who benefits from this? Its not the people who really have no choice but to live in this "pseudo-planned sprawl" and its sure not the ecology or the wildlife (which we seem to say we love so much). Is it just the greedy few? Or is it that as a society we are just stupid and greedy?

As I wrote back in 2008, its bye bye Koala and hello urban sprawl, roads and cars.
So you tell me ... are we much smarter than the hare?

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