22 July 2011


WILEY POST. On this date in 1933, aviator Wiley Post became the first pilot in history to complete a solo flight around the world. He was assisted by one of the first autopilots and a radio direction finder, instruments which replaced the human navigator who had accompanied him on a previous aerial circumnavigation. Post was a pioneer in high-altitude long distance flight, and was instrumental in the development of a workable pressure suit. His career came to a premature halt when, two years later, he and American humorist Will Rogers died during a takeoff attempt near Point Barrow, Alaska, in an experimental aircraft. A photo of the two friends appears above (Post stands at right), and an image of Post's beloved Lockheed Vega "Winnie Mae" is seen below (click on image to enlarge).

OCEANIC WARNING. A Look Into the Ocean's Future, a new report by an international coalition of marine scientists, "makes for grim reading. It concludes that the oceans are approaching irreversible, potentially catastrophic change. The experts .... found that marine 'degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted.' The oceans have warmed and become more acidic as they absorbed human-generated carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are also more oxygen-deprived, because of agricultural runoff and other anthropomorphic causes. This deadly trio of conditions was present in previous mass extinctions .... Changes in the oceans, caused by carbon emissions, are perhaps 'the most significant to the earth system,' particularly because they will further accelerate climate change."

What is puzzling to me is that this should register as news. During my undergraduate studies in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology thirty years ago, issues like the greenhouse effect, global warming, climate change, and species extinctions were already being discussed, both in university classrooms and in professional journals. It's not like the evidence hasn't been around, or that warnings have not been issued all along.

But perhaps it is not so puzzling. Humans tend to lead their lives reactively, responding blindly to changes in their lives, rather than leading their lives proactively, using their well-endowed intellects to observe, consider possible consequences, and planning for the most favorable outcomes. Our collective myopia will be our undoing. How sad that we will take so much of the planet with us.

No comments:

Post a Comment