#145 | Inheritors Of The Earth: Approaching Conservation In The Anthropocene w/ Chris Thomas

In this episode I speak with ecologist and evolutionary biologist Chris Thomas — author of ‘Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.’

In this discussion, Chris lays out his understanding of whether we have truly entered into the “Sixth Mass Extinction Event,” and provides his views on whether the current rate of species extinction on this planet lives up to that dire description. Chris also discusses the difficult challenges ecologists and conservationists are currently facing in the effort to preserve species in a radically changing world, and lays out the choices that lay before us when it comes to the difficult task of conserving biodiversity and preventing species loss in the face of anthropogenic climate change and other human-caused crises. We also discuss his view of whether abrupt changes in the global climate system will lead to severe loss of life on this planet, in particular human life — or whether many of the fears regarding this subject are overblown, but rooted in legitimate understandings of where these changes can ultimately lead. Chris invites us to look at species loss with a longer view, and understand these trends within perspective of millions of years of biological evolution and ecological change on this planet.

Chris Thomas is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, interested in the dynamics of biological change in the Anthropocene. He works on the responses of species to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and biological invasions. He is interested in developing conservation strategies appropriate for a period of rapid environmental change. His research has concentrated on insects and insect-plant interactions, but he is interested in a wide range of taxonomic groups, especially butterflies, birds and plants. In addition to his scientific publications, Chris has been a co-editor of nine scientific journals and is the author of ‘Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.’☼

☼ Source: http://bit.ly/ThomasBio

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about and purchase ‘Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction’ here: http://bit.ly/InheritorsBook

- Learn more about Chris and his research here: http://bit.ly/ThomasBio

- Follow Chris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Prof_CThomas

- At the end of this episode, Chris recommended the book ‘The Sixth Mass Extinction: An Unnatural History’ by Elizabeth Kolbert. Learn more and purchase here: http://bit.ly/6thextinctionbook

- The songs featured in this episode are “Bloom” and “Neon” by Zomby from the album Let’s Jam!!

#125 | Marching Toward Collapse: Biophysical Limits & Our Cognitive Blindspots w/ William Rees

In this episode, I speak with William Rees, human ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Rees is the originator and co-developer of the “ecological footprint analysis,” and the co-author (with Mathis Wackernagel) of 'Our Ecological Footprint,' an exploration of this concept. The Ecological Footprint concept has become the world’s best-known metaphor for the human ‘load’ (the resources required of ecosystems to maintain our current mode of living) on the planet.*

In this interview, we discuss Dr. Rees’ lifetime of research into the ecological footprint of human societies on this planet, as well as the global biophysical limits we are coming up against due to our current mode of living (particularly in the "developed" world). We then discuss Dr. Rees’ work regarding the “neuro-biological, cognitive and cultural barriers to sustainability, including human’s well-developed capacity for self-delusion.”** In the face of abrupt climate change, catastrophic loss of biodiversity around the globe, and rapid species decline across the board in recent decades, why are we, as a species, unable to clearly perceive the very perilous situation we find ourselves in? What is it about creating very large-scale, complex systems (technologies, cultures, societies), that makes us unable to perceive how our way of living detrimentally impacts planetary life-systems, which we rely on for our own survival and well-being? In the face of the physical reality we are forging for ourselves and all other life on this planet, what can we expect to happen in the face of these profound changes currently underway? We discuss these subjects, and more, in this episode.

Dr. Rees has authored (or co-authored) more than 150 peer reviewed papers and book chapters, and numerous popular articles on humanity’s (un)sustainability conundrum. Active across disciplines, Dr Rees is a long-term member of the Global Ecological Integrity Group, a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute, a founding member and past President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics and founding Director of the OneEarth Initiative.**

*Source: https://bit.ly/2sSbPwT
**Source: https://bit.ly/2LrZpn3

Episode Notes:

- Keep up to date with Dr. Rees’ recent writings at The Tyee: https://thetyee.ca/

- Find out more about Dr. Rees and his work at his website: http://williamrees.org

- Purchase Dr. Rees’ book 'Our Ecological Footprint' here: https://amzn.to/2sAMRCO

- Here are links to the resources/papers Dr. Rees mentioned at the end of the episode:

“Avoiding Collapse: An agenda for sustainable degrowth and relocalizing the economy” (https://bit.ly/1qHAq1G)

“What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial” (https://bit.ly/2Jmw5NX)

The Global Footprint Network website: https://www.footprintnetwork.org

- The song featured in this episode is “Kelau” by Flako from the album Mini Tollbooth

#104 | Wicked Problems: Lessons From The Ruins Of Maya; Machine Learning & Ethics w/ David O’Hara

This is my second episode with David O'Hara, and as with the first episode I recorded with him, conversing with David is always a delight and a great pleasure. In this episode we discuss his trip to Central America, and we also talk about the recent archaeological discovery of a vast Mayan metropolis that "at its peak some 1,500 years ago, covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, with an estimated population of around five million." David goes over the cutting edge technology that is now being used to discover these, until very recently, hidden ruins of an ancient Mayan civilization, and what we can learn from these discoveries in regards to our own civilization. 

We also get into the ethics of artificial intelligence and the corporate control of the development of computer technology, and the implications this has for how information is disseminated through our society. David discusses some of the underlying issues on relying on algoriths and computer learning making big desicions for us, and how the kind of thinking leads to unintended outcomes. 

David O'Hara is a professor of Philosophy and Classics at Augustana University, and the author of the book "Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia." David teaches a variety of courses on philosophy, classics, religion, and environmental ethics, and not long before the recording of this episode, had just recently got back from a trip to Central America where he teaches an in-depth course on reef ecology. 

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about David's book "Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia" here: https://wipfandstock.com/downstream.html

- Read David's writings and get to understand him more at his blog: http://slowperc.blogspot.com/

- Follow David on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Davoh

- Read the article cited in this episode on the "Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle" here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42916261

- The song featured in this episode is "Sewee Sewee" by Mountain Man from the album Made The Harbor.

#96 | Minutes To Midnight: The Spectre Of Catastrophe w/ Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies of the Department of Biology at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. 

In this episode, Paul and I discuss the very severe loss of biodiversity on this planet in recent decades, human civilization and its detrimental impact on animal and insect populations, abrupt climate change, the toxification of the environment, the looming spectre of nuclear war, as well as the psychological blind-spots in the individual and collective human psyche that allows for this massive level of destruction to take place without much attention and meaningful change to ensure our collective survival.

Episode Notes:

-  To get more of an understanding of the work Paul does regarding these subjects, I encourage listeners to check out The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere website at https://mahb.stanford.edu

- Learn more about Paul here: https://ccb.stanford.edu/paul-r-ehrlich

- The song featured in this episode is "How's It Going To End" by Tom Waits from the album Real Gone.

#81 | Downstream: Rivers Of Wonder & What Lies Beneath w/ David O'Hara

Just like David O'Hara's book "Downstream," this episode is about so much more than fly fishing. David imbues the conversation with great knowledge and wisdom, and speaking with him was a great pleasure in and of itself. 

The topics touched in this episode are broad: fishing the rivers of Appalachia; empathizing with other creatures; studying and observing reef ecology in Belize; enduring and recovering from a major head injury; the wonder of it all. 

A special thank you to Danielle Billing for introducing me to this wonderful human being.

David O'Hara is a professor of Philosophy and Classics at Augustana University. David is the co-author of "Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia" and "Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis."

Episode Notes: 

- David's book recommendations: 

"Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants" by Robin Wall Kimmerer: https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass

"Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water" by Kathleen Dean Moore: http://www.riverwalking.com/riverwalking.html

"Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness" by Peter Godfrey-Smith: https://us.macmillan.com/otherminds/petergodfreysmith/9780374227760/

"For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist's Journey" by Kurt D. Fausch: http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/for-love-of-rivers

- Find out more and purchase David's book "Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia": http://wipfandstock.com/downstream.html

- Also, David's book "Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis": http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=2062#.WcUytL1MGEd

- David's Full Bio: 

"Dr. David O’Hara teaches a variety of courses, including ancient philosophy, American philosophy, environmental ethics, Asian philosophy, and philosophy of religion.  He regularly teaches a course on classics in Greece, and a course on tropical rainforest and reef ecology in Belize and Guatemala. His most recent book is Downstream, (Cascade Press, 2014) about brook trout and the ecology of the Appalachians.  He is also the author of Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis (U. P. Kentucky, 2008). He is currently preparing an edited volume of the Religious Writings of American philosopher Charles S. Peirce. Dr. O'Hara is a graduate of Middlebury College (B.A., Spanish), St John's College (M.A., Liberal Arts), and The Pennsylvania State University (M.A., Ph.D., Philosophy)."

Source: http://www.augie.edu/faculty-20

- The song featured in this episode is "Animal Tracks" by Mountain Man.