Watching the Numbers and Charting the Losses – of Species

Like everyone, I have been reading the graphs and looking at the
numbers that measure the convulsions in the global financial markets.
And as I do, I keep hearing the echo of another frightening set of
numbers — the ones that gauge the precipitous declines in the
species that surround us. The financial markets will eventually come
back, but not the species we are squandering.

Last week in Barcelona, Spain, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature released results of a global survey of mammal
populations. It concluded that at least a quarter of mammal species are
headed toward extinction in the near future. Don’t think of this
as an across-the-board culling of mammals, of everything from elephants
to the minutest of shrews. The first ones to go will be the big ones.
And among the big ones, the first to go will be primates, which are
already grievously threatened. Nearly 80 percent of the primate species
in southern and southeastern Asia are immediately threatened.

The causes are almost all directly related to human activity,
including, for marine mammals, the growing threat of ocean
acidification, as the oceans absorb the carbon dioxide we emit.

The numbers are not much better for other categories of life. At least
22 percent of reptile species are at risk of extinction. Perhaps 40
percent of North American freshwater fish are threatened. In Europe, 45
percent of the most common bird species are rapidly declining in
numbers, and so are the most common bird species in North America.
Similar losses are expected among plants. What is especially worrying
is how much the rate of decline has increased over the past
half-century as the human population has increased.

numbers are shocking in their own right. But they don’t begin to
tell the whole story. These are projections for the most familiar, best
studied, most easily counted plants and animals, which, all told, make
up less than 4 percent of the species on Earth. It is only reasonable
to assume that many, if not most, of the legions of uncounted species
are doing as poorly.

What complicates matters further is a
simple lesson we might also draw from the present financial crisis:
everything is connected. No species goes down on its own, not without
affecting the larger biological community. We emerged, as a species,
from the very biodiversity we are destroying. At times it seems as
though the human experiment is to see how many species we can do
without. As experiments go, it is morally untenable and will end badly
for us.

The good news here is the same good news as always
— the resilience of nature. Given even the slightest chance,
declining species often find a way to recover. But the bad news is also
the same bad news — human irresponsibility. In our myopic
pursuits, we characteristically overlook the possibility of giving
species the chance to recover.

We are watching a global,
international effort to stabilize the financial markets. It will take a
similar effort to begin to slow the rate at which species are
declining. The bottom line is that what is good for biodiversity is
also good for humanity. This includes protecting habitat and finding
ways to reduce human pressure on other species. It also includes a
concerted effort to slow climate change, which, unchecked, could have a
devastating impact on the entire planet.

What we need, really,
is a new ability to think selfishly in a slightly different way.
Instead of saving the Sumatran orangutan or the Iberian lynx for
itself, it may make more sense to think of saving them for ourselves
— not as resources to be harvested somewhere down the road or
even as repositories of genetic difference, but as essential elements
in the biological complexity from which we arose and in which we

Without them, we are diminished.

Published: October 15, 2008


State of the Blogosphere 2008

The time you spend online does matter. According to
Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, almost 50% of
bloggers dedicate from five to ten hours per week to their own blogs.
Via computer or via mobile, bloggers seem to understand the importance of using tools to provide their users with always new, updated content.

But frequently updates may not suffice. Is your content easily searchable on the internet? Or you just rely on your aficionados to get good traffic? Bloggers know the importance of Google ranking and linking to other blogs to gain more authority.
They know this is a good way to have people stumbling upon your blog
while searching for their interests, and maybe find some other
interesting stuff you have already published.

And do not forget about tags. Technorati’s top 100 bloggers use targeted tagging to make sure their blog gets good results on search engines. Classifying the content of your blog with good, targeted keywords
makes your content more easy to found on the internet. Posts, videos,
images, podcasts: everything can be tagged to improve its reachability.

So, which kind of blogger are you? Read further for some advices on how to improve your blogging experience.


The Live Web

The other day I was sitting in the company of leaders in one
industrial category. (I won’t say which because it’s beside
the point I want to make.) A question arose: Why are there so few visitors to our websites? Millions use their services, yet few bother with visiting their sites, except every once in awhile.

The answer, I suggested, was that their sites were buildings. They were architected, designed and constructed. They were conceived and built on the real estate model: domains with addresses, places people could visit. They were necessary and sufficient for the old Static Web, but lacked sufficiency for the Live one.

The Web isn’t just real estate. It’s a habitat, an
environment, an ever-increasingly-connected place where fecundity
rules, vivifying business, culture and everything else that thrives
there. It is alive.

The Live Web isn’t just built. It grows, adapts and changes. It’s an environment where we text and post and author and update and tweet and syndicate and subscribe and notify and feed
and — and yell and fart and say wise things and set off alarms
and keep each other scared, safe or both. It’s verbs to the
Static Web’s nouns. It is, in a biological word that has since
gone technical, generative.

This is what I see when I look at Twitter Search. It’s what I see in my aggregator, in FriendFeed, in Technorati and Google Blogsearch
(and in feeds for keyword searches of both), in IM and Skype, in the
growing dozens of live apps — for weather, sports, radio and rivers of news — on my phone. And when I watch myself and others mash and mix those together, and pipe one into another.

And I say all this knowing that most of what I mentioned in that
last paragraph will be old hat next week, if not next month or next
year. C’est la vie.

Speaking of this week, I just discovered Google InQuotes
via one or more of the Tweeters that I follow. And it struck me that
the reason Microsoft has trouble keeping up with Google is as simple as
Live vs. Static. Google gets the Live Web. Microsoft doesn’t. Not
yet, anyway. It’s comfortable in the static. It’s cautious.
It doesn’t splurge on give-aways because it doesn’t know
that life is one long give-away in any case. We’re born with an
unknown sum of time to spend and we’ve got to dump it all in the
duration. That’s why now is what matters most. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, John Lennon said. The game of business is the game of life.

Years ago somebody said that everybody else was playing hockey while
Bill Gates was playing chess. I think now the game has changed. I think
now the game isn’t a game. It’s just life. The Web is
alive. It’s a constantly changing and growing environment
comprised of living and static things. Meanwhile what said long ago still applies: …companies so lobotomized that they can’t speak in a recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death.

I don’t think Microsoft is dead, or even acting like it. Nor
do I think Google is unusually alive. Just that Google is especially
adapted to The Live Web while Microsoft seems anchored in the static.
As are most other companies and institutions, frankly. Nothing special
about Microsoft there. Just something illustrative. A helpful contrast.
Perhaps it will help Microsoft too.

If you want to participate in the Live Web, you can’t just act
like it. You have to jump in and do it. Here’s the most important
thing I’ve noticed so far: it’s not just about competition.
It’s about support and cooperation.
Even political and business enemies help each other out by keeping each
other informed. There may be pay-offs in scarcity plays, but the bigger
ones emerge when intelligence and good information are shared, right
now. And archived where they can be found again later. All that old
stuff is still nourishment.

Veteran readers know I’ve been about for .
(And credit goes to my son Allen for coming up with the insight in the
first place, more than five years ago.) I think Live vs. Static is a
much more useful distinction than versions. (Web 1.0, 2.0, etc.) Hey,
who knows? Maybe it’ll finally catch. It seemed to in the room
where I brought it up.

By the way, a special thanks to , , and the audience at our panel at BlogWorld Expo
for schooling me about this (whether they knew it or not). I got clues
galore out of that, and I thank the whole room for them. (Hope the
video goes up soon. You’ll see how it went down. Good stuff.)