Ecoknowledge

Ecoknowledge

Some thoughts on ecology, evolution and economics

Taking the measure of nature

The Système Internationale (or SI) offers a coherent and standard way of measuring nature. It is based on seven standard units for time, length, mass, electric current, temperature, brightness and amount of substance. This fussy, academic world has been roiled by passionate debate about the very idea of measurement. Rather than allowing units like the second (1.157… (read more)

Plastics: the problem or the solution?

My wife and I wrap cheese when we put it into our lunchbags.  I use plastic and she uses waxpaper. As the waxpaper is at least twice as thick as the low density polyethylene in my lunch bag, I initially create a smaller waste burden in our local landfill.  Of course, over time, the waxpaper… (read more)

What’s shaking in world trade?

A couple of years ago, I offered a synopsis of world trade patterns on the basis of the Economist’s Pocket World in Figures.  Here is an update of that post for 2018 with a bit of a forecast of how the trade deals (or lack thereof) we keep hearing about might shake things up in… (read more)

Evolutionary genomics

Evolution has always been about the complete package. Traits, like pea shape or hummingbird tongues, do not evolve – genomes do.  It is true that evolution is not real unless the list of instructions that makes up a genome is expressed in the real world but our genetic material is the scorecard of what succeeds and… (read more)

Gene therapy

Siddartha Mukherjee is a compelling author and a respected authority on medical science. His latest book, The Gene, traces the history of genetics -the prediction of heredity. Gregor Mendel, the 19th century monk who launched the discipline, features prominently with his experiments on breeding peas . Connecting a particular trait to a piece of DNA is… (read more)

Caring for Americans

Shortly before leaving office in 1974, Richard Nixon proposed a universal healthcare bill that would have assured all Americans of health insurance coverage. Developed countries around the world were passing similar legislation at the time, using some mix of private and public insurance. It was also at this time that the American healthcare system began… (read more)

Caring for Canadians

Four years ago, I highlighted Jeffrey Simpson’s five recommendations for improving the value of  medical care in Canada.  These addressed some of the natural weaknesses of a single payer system, which frequently lead to long wait times.  One of these recommendations, investment in home care, has been seized upon by the Trudeau government as a… (read more)

Small but mighty

Mosses stay close to the ground. Their humble habit belies their importance to evolution and ecology. For one thing, they have been on the banner of this blog right from the beginning. I think I instictively chose mosses as the essential combination of biology and physical geography that underpins all the topics dealt with in these… (read more)

The greener side of trade

In October 1992, shortly before his victory over George H. Bush, Bill Clinton declared that trade deals should “require each country to enforce its own environmental and worker standards”. Clinton was trying to distance himself from the NAFTA trade deal that the Republicans had negotiated with Canada and Mexico without denying its expected economic benefits…. (read more)

Tightening the bolts

Saving a planet is a complex business. World government is already a tricky concept but when you layer that over with the inability of ecosystems to speak for themselves and the concentration of biodiversity near the equator -far from centres of economic and political power- you get a process that has many actors and little… (read more)