We continue to enjoy propelling winds and choppy seas in an overcast sky. The "Modern Family" watch crew now owns the new drua record for this trip of 30.04 nm in 3 hours (with an average speed of 10.01 knots). Well done Jim, Tuks, Kim, Salome and Bob who is more observer and cheer leader than uli master like his teammates. At this rate, knock on drift wood, we could see Faite in less than three weeks!
After a few less than controversial articles, let's rattle some cages. Answer this question first. You don't have to be a scientist, give it a try! What organism, still alive today, has done more harm to its environment than any in paleontological history?
Hint ù some may even call it invasive as opposed to introduced or endemic. Once that's figured out, it won't be difficult, let's try and discover why this is so.
Second hint. This species is always accompanied by what might be the two most successful species that exists today ù the rat and the cockroach! I'm not sure that there was a conscious effort to transport these two survivors, they simply tagged along. Although we do know that groups have eaten Rattus from time to time and not simply out of necessity.
If you said human beings, you are correct. While some species have been known to modify their environment, the beaver is a classic example, only man has so drastically altered it that irreparable damage has been done to it! Whether you believe in global warming or not (I didn't know it was a faith-based issue) the point is wherever man has migrated change followed and along with that change came one or all of the following in various degrees.
Environmental destruction leading to loss of habitat and ultimate extirpation of certain organisms that once lived there (in harmony within the ecosystem it called home).
Pollution of the environment from byproducts of man's way of life.
Direct extinction of species through exploitation for food, clothing, medicines etc.
Modifying of and the taking from the environment of resources needed by man without any adequate safeguards for the future.
Over-populating areas that lead to one or all of the above.
You might question this premise by saying early man surely lived within the parameters of a balanced ecosystem. While early man may have lived "closer to nature" he surely didn't walk without leaving pretty large footprints! Picture early man migrating to an area hitherto unpopulated by humans. What's one of the first things the group would do? Find shelter and food? Many places where man moved his food supply never saw such a predator before and was easily dispatched before it knew what hit it. This continued until the species was no more than folklore or bones in a midden!
The Moa in New Zealand. Large mammals and reptiles in Australia. The Dodo of Mauritius. Tortoises the world over including Fiji. And into the 19th century with NA American Buffalo (Bison) ù tonka to many native Americans who did live in coexistence with them until more modern methods of culling came along.
The Passenger Pigeon had flocks so large they blotted out the sun as they flew past. The only Passenger Pigeons remaining today are stuffed birds in a museum.
The list goes on and on, but those few examples should be enough to illustrate the point. What's the point?
Man can be a part of the ecosystem he chooses to live in. Some remote groups have actually come very close to that ecological harmony ù taking no more than can be eaten by his group in one sitting. Constantly rotating or alternating areas where hunting and gleaning takes place will allow for regrowth, breeding of prey species and in general his exploitative footprint is within a sound ecological relationship.
However, in this time of bigger is better, luxuries are necessities and technology is the latest deity we have Homo egregious ù the excessive man. With increased technology the taking of his latter day prey species becomes huge business dominated by corporations of environmental rape ... need concrete examples? Let's start with the tuna you eat. According to many knowledgeable fisheries gurus there is only one viable tuna stock left in the world and that's in the South Pacific and that has been targeted by these mega monsters for exploitation with their long lines and purse seine.
Whatever happened to one man or two men one hook and manual tuna fishing? Not enough profit "mate"!
You want a terrestrial example too? All we children of man's bright past, the rainforest you see may be your last! Eliminate your tropical hardwoods and start an irrevocable chain of events that will lead to species extinctions, soil degradation and loss of the essential elements in the carbon dioxide ù oxygen cycle. Even if we replant dakua trees how long do you think they will take to grow to maturity? Don't hold your breath! Oops you might have to when the air gets so polluted you find it difficult to find clean air to inhale!
There are a growing number of people that will no longer accept the status quo. They want action and aren't afraid to speak up when they see something going further wrong than it already is. In Fiji, as in many parts of the world, people do talk about invasive species with concern, tut-tutting about termites, iguanas, cane toads, mongoose, mynahs and any critter that has read Darwin's "Origin of Species" and joined the survival of the most fit club! We have TV, music and movies awards and an award for almost everything from exporter to reporter! How about an award called the Most Adaptable and of course it would be presented by the most invasive species ever ù us! There's even more irony here than meets the eco-eye.
How did each of those so called "invasive" species come to be invasive on our fair shores? You got it! We brought them here! Then we lament the fact that they "arrived"? We spend large sums of money to pay an invasive expert to come in and tell us how to eradicate the pest.
Once established, history tells us we might be able to manage the beast or plant for that matter, but short of nuking the place there will always be some a little more adept at staying invasive than others and it passes on those genes and before we know it the invasive is entrenched or what we say established with the hope that it won't breed too rapidly! Bufo marinus is just such a creature. It's an amphibian that has proliferated to epidemic proportions in parts of N. Australia. Even the feared Ozzie venomous snakes can't eat it without dying an agonising death from toad parotid poisons. So why in Fiji has it not become that big a pest? An enigma that herpetologists and any "ist" that wants to should solve, if they already haven't?
Now for the ultimate marriage of what we are calling destructive technology with controlling and eliminating invasive species.
Before this unique panacea is revealed we need only look to Britain and the famous author of Gulliver's Travels ù Jonathon Swift (sorry if I spelled his name incorrectly). As a satirist of note he wrote a terribly "tongue in cheek' essay titled "A Modest Proposal" where he suggested that in order for the Irish to gain control of the poverty and famine that was prevalent in their country ... they should eat their babies!
Proposal yes ... modest ... well I suspect that would be determined whether you took Swift seriously or not! None did and to the best of historical fact, no Irish babies were eaten, but many did migrate to greener pastures and away from such notions.
Now how about our "What if"? What if big business decided that it's "all in the packaging". Sound familiar "Fiji Agua"?
Only this time don't suck our aquifers dry, rethink how we manage our invasives. What if we look at them as "God sent" ù after all according to Genesis, man is meant to be the steward of all the nature he surveys ù beasts and plants of the earth are part of his domain.
So let's think of toads, termites, iguanas, mynahs, rats and cockroaches as simply another source of protein; package them attractively and "voila (more French) we have developed a new and innovative industry ù promote investment in invasive and we all get rich. It's a win win situation and the only losers are the invasives.
You're scoffing by now, I understand. However, we already do just that and call it by a euphemism! Pigs, goats and deer run wild in parts of Fiji and you guessed it, we like nothing better than curry goat, roasted venison and lovo pork! Gotcha!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and taste in the mouth of the gourmand. Expensive and trendy restaurants the world over pride themselves in their ability to fuse foods and create new and exotic taste tempting treats.
You guessed it ... herps, insects, rodents and birds are high on their chemin de fer ... menu!
Tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma ... we are eating freshly caught tuna ... one line, one lure, one fish ù devoured from head to tail and most of the bones used for soup. We then save the bones for decorative ornaments.