14 August 2011

Re-Inspiration Take 2

Good lord. I've had this draft post sitting here for over a month. So much for recommitting to my blog!

I'm back at uni now after a holiday that was really too short and quite enjoying this semester, though it's a work load. I've got four courses - stats, Life on Land: Animals, Life in the Sea and Contemporary Urban Challenges. Life in the Sea has a lot of overlap with last semester's oceanography material but lots of zoology thrown in. So far it hasn't been too exciting but it should pick up soon. Contemporary Urban Challenges is a course I really haven't been looking forward to but it's compulsory to take if you want to major in EGS. It's all about urbanisation and sustainable cities which is great, I love learning the concepts and applying it to Indian cities for instance, but it's very South Africa focused, which is a bit annoying. It's also quite boring at times but let's see how that goes...The Animals course however, I'm absolutely LOVING. The course convener, Mike Picker, is Southern Africa's main entomologist and such a brilliant lecturer (see Ecosystem Engineers). His life's work is all about insects and he's so enthusiastic, his passion is inspiring. Plus his knowledge is just overwhelming. It's not an easy field to know inside out but he's like an encyclopaedia. I love him. The course is split into invertebrates this term and vertebrates next term, after camp. Another camp, Namaqualand, SO excited :D The bulk of the inverts section is all about insects and in spite of my little phobia, I'm loving it. God knows why, because it's actually quite dull, but I'm really enjoying learning about insect classification. For some reason all the phylogeny stuff is really fascinating. It got me thinking about the tree of life but that's for another post ;) The only squeamish bit is the practicals where we have to examine and identify all these preserved specimens. This week is apparently a  dissection which I'm not too chuffed about :S

Another amazing thing this semester has brought already - Jane Goodall in person. On my first Monday back from India she did a talk at Bishops (thank you Ky!). She basically spoke about her own work in conservation, mostly with the chimps. It was different to Attenborough (yeah that's right, Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Jane Goodall in one year :P) in that his was on a more focused topic while her's was a kind of motivational conservation talk. But she's amazing. There's something so sweet and innocent about her, you just want to hug her. She's just so inspiring, I can't describe it. If hearing her speak wasn't enough, we met her after the talk and she signed my book :D

my new most prized possession

Anyway, back to business. This was meant to be a whole post about the IWC after the meeting that happened last month because I love to write about whaling issues and all that bureaucracy (Life, Times and Japanese Whaling). At least I used to. It was an issue I followed so closely but now it just gets more and more difficult to keep track of... I wanted to blog about the meeting but it wasn't all that fruitful so there's not much to talk about.

Last year they tried to reach a compromise between anti-whaling nations and pro-whaling nations. Of course in a body like the IWC, compromise means a country like Japan will agree to stop it's hunt in the Southern Ocean on the grounds that it is allowed to dabble in a bit of commercial whaling off of its own coast. Commercial whaling is banned, just by the way. Fortunately, in the time between last year's meeting and the current one, some developments have been made. For one, last year, Japan suspended it's whaling season saying they could no longer cope with Sea Shepherd's increased harassment (victory!). On top of that (not that I'm happy about the tragedy that came with it, but it's definitely welcomed damage to the whaling fleet) one of their main ports was destroyed by the March tsunami. Since then, their whaling policy has (finally) been under review. This is something I was hoping to hear more about, but unfortunately it looks like they will be returning to the Southern Ocean this year.

Not only has Japan been under scrutiny but so has the IWC itself. There has been pressure on the organisation to get its act together and put an end to the corruption that plagues it. When the IWC started in the 1940s, it's main purpose was to regulate whaling and ensure proper whaling practices (if such a thing exists) and management of whale stocks. Whaling has long since been accepted as a barbaric activity. As the practice of whaling has become outdated, the initial purpose of the IWC too has become redundant. The commission now consists primarily of countries opposed to whaling, and has effectively become a body for whale conservation. It needs to evolve with the times and make sure that its signatories do the same.

The outcomes of this year's meeting haven't really got much substance to them. The focus of the meetings always come back to the bureaucracy and the whales are pushed aside. Here's a little summary on some of what went down at the meeting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14110079. Beyond that there's not much to say..

For fun here's a little article about how the male competition in sparrows' songs makes it very similar to a rap battle! It's the most amazing, bizarre thing I've ever read. Also an incredible parallel to draw between bird and (such a random little aspect of) human societies. Brilliant :)

And to end, here's some pretty sunset pictures from McLeod Ganj. Just before leaving India, I went up for a weekend with a few family friends. What a stunning little place. All hill stations in India have this amazing vibe. The people are so friendly and calm, there's fresh mountain air, new birds, lush green valleys and these quaint little towns. I love the mountains in India so much. I've decided I'm going to open a coffee shop/bed and breakfast in the hills with my mum some day :)

By the way - I reorganised the blog last month to make things a little more ordered but it's looking quite dull now so it's still under construction. Also I've realised what an idiot I am. Whenever I do have lots to blog about, I do it all in one ridiculously long post and then vanish for a month because I'm all blogged out - stupid. So even though I have lots of other stuff to ramble about at the moment, I've kept them for other posts. Intelligent me :p More to come!

Bookmark and Share


  1. Your posts are long, but the pictures make it much easier to get the ideas behind them... Keep up the good work!

    And I wonder how a school student was able to meet both Attenborough and Jane Goodall, in a single year... Jealous I am!

  2. Thanks! I only got to meet Jane Goodall, not Attenborough. But seeing them both speak was priceless enough :)