Schlagwort-Archive: climate change

Species extinctions & pandemics: Will we survive or are we the next endangered species?

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

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The Earth is suffering from three diseases: Species extinction, climate change and pandemics! This is as if the patient had liver cirrhosis, heart failure and kidney insufficiency at the same time. Consequently, there will be many complications: Even more wars, diseases, conflicts, natural disasters and civil wars if we do not get the population growth under control. Food shortages, distribution struggles and migration flows can already be seen as a consequence. If we do not change our behavior, it is very likely that the end of humanity is near and our population will largely collapse. This will not be the end of evolution, but certainly the end of an era as we know and love it! And it is also not excluded that with the big species extinction also our species will be wiped out to a large extent and the human being will become the planetary history.

The human being has raged on the planet earth and will ruin it soon completely. First we have wiped out the Pleistocene fauna in North America and in South America, then in Australia the large giant marsupials and birds, and when man populated Polynesia, the large megafauna elements disappeared all the way to New Zealand. When these are missing, it also has an impact on the entire fauna and flora. For example, in the last 10,000 years we have destroyed about half of the earth’s natural forest cover and altered the biosphere to the point that entire animal populations have been wiped out. Whereby the Red Lists show only a fraction, barely ten percent, of the species described, let alone of all species living on Earth. In other words, the 800 species that have been shown to have become extinct in the past 500 years do not represent the number of animals and species that have disappeared or are currently disappearing. We are losing many species in the last remaining primary forests long before we even discovered and scientifically described them.

Today we know that 78 percent of flying insects have declined in 40 years. In the near future, we will lose about one million species. First we changed vegetation and wildlife with agriculture and resource extraction, then we poisoned into the geosphere, first with CFCs, now with greenhouse gases. What do we need to do to stop the destruction of our planet? Well we would have to take a whole series of drastic measures. The pandemic gives us a foretaste of what awaits us, or rather, at the end of 2020, Switzerland should have taken stock of where it stands with regard to the protection of its biodiversity, to review the objectives achieved both in the Swiss biodiversity strategy and the global biodiversity convention: it says: „The conservation status of populations of National Priority Species will be improved by 2020 and extinction prevented as far as possible.“ But among birds alone, partridge, snipe, curlew, red-headed shrike and ortolan are extinct or present in tiny numbers as breeding birds by the end of the decade. Switzerland is on track for only one target of the biodiversity strategy, and that is forest biodiversity. For one third of the targets, the result is lower, for one third no progress can be seen, and for the last third, developments are going in the opposite direction. The picture is also almost congruent with the national strategy for the „Aichi“ biodiversity targets, which were agreed in 2010 as part of the Biodiversity Convention: Switzerland is on track for only one-fifth. For 35 percent of the targets, however, there is no progress at all.

The Swiss flora was one of the richest and most diverse in Europe. However, more than 700 plant species are considered to be threatened with extinction. Researchers from the „University of Bern“ and the Data and Information Center of the Swiss Flora have analyzed the results with the help of 400 volunteer botanists and visited and verified over 8000 old known sites of the 713 rarest and most endangered plant species in Switzerland between 2010 and 2016. This unique treasure trove of data has now been analyzed by the „University of Bern and the results published in the scientific journal „Conservation Letters“. In their „treasure hunt“, the botanists often came up empty-handed – 27% of the 8024 populations could not be recovered.

Species, which are classified by experts as most endangered, even lost 40% of their populations in comparison to the findings from the last 10 – 50 years. These figures are alarming and impressively document the decline of many endangered species in Switzerland. Particularly affected are plants from so-called ruderal sites – areas that are under constant human influence. The affected plant species include the marginal vegetation of agriculturally used or populated areas. These populations showed losses more than twice as large as species from forests or alpine meadows. The intensification of agriculture with a large use of fertilizers and herbicides, but also the loss of small structures such as rock piles and field margins are particularly affecting this species group. Plant species of water bodies, banks and bogs are similarly affected. Here, too, the causes are home-made, according to the researchers: water quality losses due to micropollutants and fertilizer pollution from agriculture, the loss of natural river dynamics due to river straightening, the use of rivers as a source of electricity, or the draining of moorland.

In Germany, 80,000 measurements were carried out by interdisciplinary working groups from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands as part of the „Jena“ experiment. They had sown different numbers of plant species on more than 500 experimental plots, ranging from monocultures to mixtures of 60 species. In addition to plants, all organisms occurring in the ecosystem were studied – in the soil and above it. In addition, the material cycles of carbon, nitrogen and nitrate and also the water cycle over the entire period of 15 years. In this way, the scientists were able to demonstrate how species diversity affects the capacity of the soil to absorb, store or release water. The Jena experiment showed for the first time how much the nitrogen cycle of a soil depends on many factors such as species diversity, microbiological organisms, the water cycle and plant interaction.

Species-rich meadows had higher productivity than species-poor meadows over the entire period of the „Jena Experiment“. Increased management intensity through additional fertilization and more frequent mowing achieved the same effect: if a farmer promotes and fertilizes certain species, he is on average consequently no more successful than nature. The biomass energy (bioenergy content) of species-rich meadows was significantly higher than that of species-poor meadows, but at the same time similar to many of today’s heavily subsidized species, such as Chinese reed. Species-rich areas had better carbon storage. The number of insects and other species was significantly higher. Interactions between species such as pollination occurred more frequently. Species-rich meadows transported surface water into the soil better. Species-rich ecosystems were more stable to disturbances, such as droughts or floods, than species-poor ecosystems.

In France, 80 percent of insects have been lost in the last 30 years. In Switzerland, the figure is about 60 percent, and in Germany, species loss is also dramatically high. In view of the rapid loss of biodiversity and the desolation of the cities, I have been asking myself for a long time why all the useless lawns in front of all rental and apartment buildings are not converted into gardens for inclined hobby gardeners and self-supporters among the residents, and especially the poorer people and those with a migration background and agricultural know-how could grow their food partly in front of the house. This would also counteract poverty a little and guarantee the survival of many families as well as be meaningful. Why should we all import food from Africa, China and Latin America when we could beautify our cities, increase biodiversity and counteract climate change with local cultivation. As soon as a blade of grass makes itself felt, the lawn robot is already there. Useless thuya hedges as far as the eye can see. Most people don’t know what to do with nature anymore. We should think about what our communities actually do with their communal areas. They create large cultivation structures instead of promoting small-scale, local cultivation.

The core problem we all face is that 80 million people are added to the population every year, and those just born now theoretically have a longer life expectancy, even in the developing world. By the end of the century, there will be eleven billion of us, so we will need even more living space and even more agriculture for food production. By totally transforming the earth’s surface for agriculture and feeding future generations, we are destroying the treasure troves of biodiversity for all eternity. It cannot be that we destroy alone with the cattle economy for the meat production whole species existence and important ecological systems irretrievably. A vegan diet is therefore becoming the supreme credo for the growing world population. And what about an even more important resource, drinking water? Through the use of pesticides, we are poisoning our drinking water, the rivers and the lakes – also in Switzerland. There is only one solution: to abandon pesticide-intensive cultivation and return to mixed crops, which have proven their worth over centuries and promoted biodiversity.

The palm oil industry has cut down more than half of the rainforest (the size of Germany) in the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan and Sumatra in the last 30 years and is now starting to destroy the virgin forest on a grand scale in Papua New Guinea as well. The timber industry is happy about this, as are the oligarchy and the military. In the process, small farmers are inevitably expropriated, which is quite legal in Indonesia. The Indonesian parliament also recently passed a law that radically curtails national environmental, labor and social standards and provides for zero environmental impact assessments. Therefore, the progressively worded agreement is another illusory paper tiger that will lead to the worrying destruction of huge rainforest areas in Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea. With the free trade agreement with Indonesia, Switzerland would legitimize this state of affairs and once again declare the completely insufficient eco-labels as standard.

Brazil/Salvador de Bahia: In the Cauldron of Magical Slave Energy

Brasilien: Candomblé Ritual, Salvador de Bahia | Candomblé spiritual ritual
Brasilien: Candomblé Ritual in Salvador de Bahia | Candomblé spiritual ritual in Salvador de Bahia

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

During one of the first of a total of five trips to Brazil, after the Iguacu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, I also discovered Salvador de Bahia, the landing place of the Europeans and the first capital of Brazil. If you want to get to know the exotic facets of Bahian life, get ready for hot come-ons, cool rejections and delicious consolations, at least during Carnival. If you dive into the mystical world of the candoble and let yourself be overwhelmed by the overwhelming spirituality, you will leave the local world and fall into a trance to the point of ecstasy. A trip to Salvador de Bahia is like a departure to new shores. First of all, it is admirable how exhilarated the Baihanos go through life. Remarkable how they express their joy and sorrow.

The mystical world of gods and spiritual source of the Bahanos is reflected in the Candomble, which gave reason for the Christian mission, especially since Bahia was the starting point of the western explorers and conquerors. Not only the bastions along the coast testify to this. The roots of the slave tower are deeply anchored in the local culture. Especially the candomble spirituality, lived out in secret, bears witness to this. When hundreds of gospel singers resound with fervor, not only does the earth tremble, but the air in the far periphery also vibrates, as with an approaching hurricane. The psalm-singing Catholic boys‘ choir next door in the Sao Fransico monastery in the baroque old town district of Pelourinho really sounds rather pitiful.

Rarely does one discover such a playful people that has produced an incredible number of dance and musically gifted people. In Salvador de Bahia, the cradle of carnival and samba, there is no standing still or being stiff as a board. Everything is in flux, everyone is constantly on the move, more or less gracefully. Another Bahian specialty is capoeira, the martial art disguised as dance. Here, too, the graceful flowing movements are recognizable, flowing through the whole life and triggering impulses. But not only in expressing feelings also the body cult is on top of the agenda. In this the Bahianos hardly differ from the Cariocas. There is hardly an Adonis who does not present his athletically steeled body in his skimpy briefs. There is no woman who does not proudly walk around the beach in her Fio dental (tooth thread) bikini, flirting with her grace and freedom of movement. No wonder the church has sent more friars here than anywhere else in the world. In Salvador de Bahia alone, 165 houses of worship have been built.

In 2003, I was stationed in Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil for three months as a resident manager for a Swiss travel company and had a hell of a good time. Few guests, so no stress, a hotel room right on the Beira Mar (that’s like the Copacabana in Rio), and a good vehicle with which I could drive all the way to Jericoacoara to the fantastic sand dunes or south to Moro Branco. I was very attracted to the Brazilian lifestyle, music, language and cultures on previous trips, so I also learned a little Portuguese. Since I spoke Spanish well, it was easy for me to get started and I like the Brazilian dialects better than the harsh Spanish accents. I am also enchanted by the music of many Latin American sounds: from the tango in Argentina to the bossa nova of a Gilberto Gil in Brazil or the folk dance forro, as in Fortaleza, from the salsa and son in Cuba to the merengue in the Dominican Republic, all these musical styles and dance forms appeal to me very much.

In Fortaleza I lived during these three months as a Station Manager at Beira Mar, ideally located also for daily trips to the beautiful city beach Praia do futuro and at night to Praia do Iracema at the end of Beira Mar, where the tourist entertainment district with all the nightclubs was located, which was very convenient for the local tourist service. At the end of the three months, I was shipped off to Sinai, but after the six-month assignment in Sharm el Sheikh, I returned to Fortaleza unemployed because the tsunami had hit Asia and as a result all the travel companies needed fewer station managers and tour guides.

When I returned to Fortaleza, I lived for two months in the Serviluz favela with a friend who had a small brick house near Praia do Futuro and I felt quite comfortable there. Soon I knew a lot of people via Heldon and his friend Joaquin, and the neighbors in the favela also knew me, so I could move around freely there day and night. It was a comfortable time, because I had made good foreign exchange deals with the tourists in Sinai and before in Brazil. This was always a tolerable source of side income in this job. In Poland, I almost became a zloty millionaire. Then a friend from Switzerland visited me and we rented a „Highlux“, i.e. an off-roader, to drive up along the Brazilian coast from Fortaleza in the state of Céara via the states of Maranhão and Piaui to Manaus and to complete the return journey inland.

That’s a good 6000 kilometers we planned to cover in 11 days. The off-road driving was more comfortable than driving on the asphalt road, which was completely littered with holes, up to half a meter deep. The asphalt looked like it had been bombed over a wide area! Therefore, I often drove on the scree strip to the right of the roadway. There one comes basically faster ahead and whirled up strongly dust, which is to be seen already from a distance and prevents the accident danger. The journey went via Jericoacoara, with its fantastic dune landscape, which was surpassed in beauty by the crystal clear lakes in the sand dune landscapes in the next state of Maranhao. An extremely fascinating region! The deep blue Atlantic with lonely dream beaches to the left, a gigantic sand dune strip along the coast and inland the esmerad green jungle. The national parks of Jericoacoara and Lençóis Maranhenses on the Atlantic coast are unique biotopes.

I like deserts better than virgin forests. One gets on better. At least in 4×4. But even here, I would have been stranded without the help of the local fishermen, because on this trip numerous rivers had to be crossed. Except for one time it went quite well, but then we came to a river, which was shallow on our side first about 30 meters, then there was a small sand island in front of the place where the river flowed through a narrow, tearing mouth, like in a funnel. You could just make that out from 40 meters away, and it was probably the most dangerous part. „If I couldn’t cross the last ten meters after the tiny river island at full throttle,“ it would look bad, I thought.

And that’s exactly what happened. So I drove with a lot of speed through the 30 meters wide, shallow river towards the island, but got stuck there due to the slope and had too little momentum to cross the current channel with the ripping flow. and came to an abrupt stop with the engine hood stuck in the water at a 45 degree angle to three quarters. After a few hours, a couple of fishermen approached. Only thanks to a boat in the current channel that lifted the car a little and a car that pulled us back from behind with the wire rope over the shallow part of the river, we managed to get out of the river.

Another time, just as I was walking alone in the sweltering midday heat, I got stuck in deep quicksand. It took four hours, many drops of sweat and endless jerks for a few meters further. The sand was scorching hot, I shoveled like a madman for hours and didn’t think I would make it. But finally it worked out. And so the journey continued to Ilha do Maranhão, one of the largest alluvial areas in the world at the foothills of the Amazon. 800,000 buffalo populate the island, which belongs to only a few Hundert landowners who hardly employ any workers.

Where the animals pass in the dry season, a river course emerges in the rainy season. Thus, the fragile ecosystem and the thin layer of humus is destroyed in just a few years. Year after year, huge areas of virgin forest are being appropriated first for cattle breeding and then for intensive agriculture such as soy plantations. In the past 30 years, almost a quarter of the Amazon Delta has been destroyed. Yet the biodiversity here is unparalleled. In the Amazon alone there are over 2000 different fish. For comparison: In the whole of Europe there are just 150 species of fish. The same is true for all animal species, most of them are endemic.

The adventurous journey continued through the state of Piaui and from there we drove on to Manaus. Then again a good 3000 kilometers inland back to Fortaleza, where we visited the Gruta de Ubajara, Brazil’s largest caves with nine chambers and a depth of a good kilometer, at the Ubajara National Park, about 300 km west of Fortaleza. Now we come to the last and most special Brazil tripf Fortaleza.