Some thoughts on ecology, evolution and economics

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)

Nature needs 59.28%

E.O. Wilson, a Harvard ecologist, has never shied from controversy.  His latest bold statement is found in the title of his most recent book, “Half Earth“, an argument for conserving a substantial portion of the landscape for natural systems to function properly. Previously, we have discussed the early estimates of the percentage of land required for… (read more)

Our Common Home

This blog has, from the beginning, focused on ecology and economics.  These topics are taken up in a recent encyclical by Pope Francis with the extra dimension of how faith informs our decisions in these areas.  Like Al Gore in his book, “The Future” , the pope summarizes some trends in the world around us and… (read more)

All of world history in 500 words

The Penguin History of the World tells the story of humankind. Of necessity, it is a selective telling of our species’ story. The focus is on civilized society – a term which the authors recognize as being difficult to pin down.  Rejecting typical criteria of civilization, such as writing, cities and monumental buildings, Roberts and… (read more)

A Tale of Tails

By far, the most recurring theme in this blog is an exploration of the lopsided nature of evolutionary success – what I have called Haldane’s Rule.  Is this a function of the process of speciation or is it something more mundane – something that we would expect in any branching process?  I have come to… (read more)

Deeper patterns in foreign trade

When I started this blog, I referred to the similarities between ecosystems and economies.  Here, I will make an ecologist’s observations on the patterns of world trade.  Foodwebs are an important tool in understandng ecosystems.  They are a list of species from which each species draws energy. That is to say, who eats whom. Economists… (read more)

Flower power

The floral emblem of Canada – you know, the little garland at the bottom of the coat of arms – has four species.  Each species represents an ancestral homeland of the first settlers of Canada: England (rose), Scotland (thistle) , Ireland (shamrock), and France (lily).  Of course, the coat of arms also has maple leaves… (read more)

Tree of trees

The imagery of nature is woven into our language and culture. The moral significance of “going green” or the fear expressed by the term “running wild” are two examples.  It is ironic when we turn our nature-derived concepts to the task of describing nature.  I have been talking about branching rates in many of my… (read more)

The Beetles!

I have been working on this post  since 2013. ” I’ll just go to Encyclopedia of Life and count the genera in each of the beetle families”, I said to myself.  If my previous post on the perching birds represented  one neighbourhood in a tidy  little town of  10,000 occupants, the order of beetles is… (read more)

The Triple Bang

Something remarkable happened 160 million years ago. Three of the most diverse groups on the planet exploded in a simultaneous speciation event.  Two of the groups were new at the beginning of the Cretaceous period, the last chapter in the age of dinosaurs.  Flowering plants had just evolved from conifers and birds had just come… (read more)