21 April 2011


EXTINCTIONS. The NYTimes reports that "The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is in emergency triage mode as it struggles with an avalanche of petitions and lawsuits over the endangered species list, the chief tool for protecting plants and animals facing extinction in the United States. Over the past four years, a few environmental groups have requested that more than 1,230 species be listed, compared with the previous 12 years in which annual requests averaged only 20 species.

"Some environmental groups argue that vastly expanded listings are needed as evidence mounts that the world is entering an era of mass extinctions related to destruction of habitat, climate, and other changes. Such threats require a focus on entire ecosystems, they say, rather than on individual species .... Since Congress passed the Endangered Species Act 37 years ago, some 1,370 species have been listed. Last month the agency [FWS] asked Congress to impose a cap on the amount of money the agency can spend on processing listing applications, both to control its workload and as a protection against lawsuits."

Let's think about this. Over the past 37 years (not to mention the centuries of human presence in North America), species have been pushed to extinction at an accelerated rate, and entire ecosystems have disappeared. (NOTE: the graph above depicts extinctions of animals only, not plants or microbes. It only covers extinctions through the year 2000.) If mass extinctions are being caused by humans, it is incumbant upon us as stewards of the planet to remedy the situation. The fate of the human species is inextricably bound with the fate of all other species on our interdependent planet. As they go, so shall we.

That reasoning is shared by the two environmental groups responsible for 90 percent of the listings petitions since 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, both highly respected organization. They want to "compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to look at the full extent of the extinction crisis in the United States .... to force the service to be more assertive in its wildlife protection mission."

The FWS, for its part, appears to want to sweep it all under the rug. Like any regulatory agency, I'm certain that the FWS comes under intense pressure from an array of business interests and their political hacks, whose aim in this case is to further exploit and ravage our natural resources until they no longer exist. It is a sad day for humanity and for the planet. John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson must be rolling over in their graves.

SURVEILLANCE. Thanks to my Chicago friend Bill for this link to the Surveillance Self-Defense Project, whose purpose is to "educate the American public about the law and technology of government surveillance in the United States, providing the information and tools necessary to evaluate the threat of surveillance and take appropriate steps to prevent it. Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD) exists to answer two main questions: What can the government legally do to spy on your computer data and communications? And what can you legally do to protect yourself against such spying?"

The website offers information on risk management, data stored on your computer, data on the wire, information stored by third parties, foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations, and defensive technology. It is a timely and informative array of resources, in an era when the deep pockets of corporations and government provide access to tools and software about which most of us can only dream. Data mining, identity theft, and malicious programs like viruses, worms, and spyware have become not the exception, but the rule. It pays to inform oneself.

SKYNET. In the mythos of the Terminator movie series, there came a time when Skynet, a defense computer system with links to homicidal cyborg assassins, becomes self-aware. A tongue-in-cheek analysis by Angela Watercutter indicates according to the Terminator clock, that moment of self-awareness came two days ago, at 8:11 p.m.

Welcome to Armageddon. To prepare for total domination by our new artificially intelligent masters, the human race can choose from the following --

~ attempt to celebrate doom through Facebook.
~ don't panic.
~ terminate yourself.
~ buy a bunker.

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