February 18, 2019

The Escalator to Animal Extinction

“In 1985, John Fitzpatrick hiked up a ridge called Cerro de Pantiacolla, in the Peruvian Andes, in search of birds. On an eight-kilometer uphill walk, he and his team meticulously documented all the birds that lived on the mountainside. They found dozens of species, many with delightfully ostentatious names. The buff-browed foliage-gleaner. The hazel-fronted pygmy-tyrant. The fulvous-breasted flatbill. The variable antshrike. After their census, they returned to their base camp on the banks of the Palatoa River, and Fitzpatrick took a photo of the Andes, towering in the distance. Then they sailed away.

Thirty years later, Benjamin Freeman, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia and a former student of Fitzpatrick’s, decided to retrace the same hike to see whether the birdlife had changed in the intervening decades. “We motored up the river in a canoe, literally holding up that photo, until we said, ‘Oh, we’re here,’” Freeman says.

As they climbed, the thickets of tall bamboo by the river gave way to big rainforest trees with huge buttress roots. And at the top of the ridge, 1,400 meters up, the team found a “gnarled, mossy wonderland of stunted trees,” Freeman says. What they did not find, however, was the buff-browed foliage-gleaner, the hazel-fronted pygmy-tyrant, the fulvous-breasted flatbill, or the variable antshrike. They had all disappeared.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"Apple, Google, Starbucks, and companies like them all claim to be socially responsible, but the first element of social responsibility should be paying your fair share of tax."

"One problem with today’s polarized politics is that both parties don’t mind stretching constitutional limits to achieve their policy goals. Democrats cheered on Barack Obama’s legal abuses on immigration and so much more..."

"The Democratic Party has problems with Israel. But Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), the new members of Congress who have attracted attention with toxic tweets and support for boycott, are not the main protagonists."

"Chicago Police sources now suggest he staged what he says was a racist and homophobic attack on him. Smollett vigorously denies it. Whatever the truth, it's a moment to reflect."

"In talmudic tort law.. the responsible party must transfer to the plaintiff an area of his best land of equivalent value- rather than a larger area of low-quality land. From the standpoint of classical economics, such a requirement is nonsensical."

"“Alexa, can I use you on Shabbat?” The journalist spoke into a small glass-and-metal device he held in his hand, which connected him to a distant supercomputer in a place known only as “the Cloud.”"

"Racial capitalism is the process of getting some sort of social or economic benefit from someone else’s racial identity. In the United States, this usually, though not always, involves white people benefiting from nonwhite racial identity."

"A gay French writer has lifted the lid on what he calls one of the world’s largest gay communities, the Vatican, estimating that most of its prelates are homosexually inclined..."

"I’ll state the obvious and say that much if not all of the reason my life hasn’t changed is that I’m not a parent. Children are life’s great timekeepers, and when you don’t live with any, you’re at the mercy of your own internal clock..."

"...cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill same as cutting vegetables into dice. It’s a way to improve your confidence in the kitchen and to make the act of cooking fun when sometimes it seems like a chore."

"Psychedelics have frequently been maligned in both the scientific community and mainstream culture. But new medical research and a more capacious understanding of the drugs have started to shift opinions."

"The story of angels stretches all the way back to the opening sections of the Book of Genesis. There, God posts cherubs as sentries at the gates of the Garden of Eden, following Adam and Eve’s expulsion. "