Saturday, April 03, 2010

My magazine subscriptions

One point I left out yesterday was a comment Maria Cornejo made about fashion magazines feeling alienating; she said she subscribes to the National Geographic and Architectural Digest. It was a privilege to have a subscription to National Geographic throughout my childhood - thanks dad; something I'll likely renew later this year as life in NY settles down. Guess which one magazine I bought during last week's trip to Taipei? That's right:

Make no mistake; I love fashion magazines, even if I don't buy them with the frequency I did some years ago. Anyhow, during the move, I redirected the three subscriptions I had back in Australia to New York. This may or not surprise. The first:

Emu is a peer-reviewed journal but somewhat thin on fashion content. Emu is published by CSIRO and I opt for it as part of my Birds Australia membership. Likewise with the two that follow:

World Birdwatch is published by Birdlife International, a conservation organization that works closely with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN is behind the classification system of conservation need of each species on the planet; Birdlife International looks after this where it comes to the class Aves, better known as birds. The classification ranges from Least Concern (LC) to Near Threatened (NT) to Vulnerable (VU) to Endangered (EN) to Critically Endangered (CR) (with a subcategory of Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)) to Extinct in the Wild (EW) to Extinct (EX). The last three are depressing for sure. Take the Po-ouli, (or Po'ouli) for example. The last known individual bird died in 2004 and although for the moment the species hasn't been declared extinct, it's safe to assume it is. Gone forever. A while back a student suggested that cloning will reverse extinction (this came after my 15-minute monologue, during a meeting about a fashion design project, about the dire straits of birds in New Zealand and Hawaii). I have difficulty in agreeing. Cloning an individual dead animal may well be possible but then what? An individual does not a viable population make. Sure, some species are less prone to inbreeding problems: all Black Robins in New Zealand descend from one female and to date there have been minimal problems with the thankfully increasing population. Contrast that with the Whooping Crane. Down to 15 birds in 1941, there are now more than 500 in the wild and captivity combined. A fantastic blog from Operation Migration documents the captive breeding efforts each spring (the new season is almost upon us) and each year there are chicks with deformities and other problems; almost certainly a result of all the birds descending from a likely eight individuals. This is no criticism of the captive breeding effort - truly, the various stakeholders working towards saving Whoopers do an incredible job - but a reminder that once a population has experienced a bottleneck, inbreeding problems are likely. So, I'm not convinced that cloning will ever be a viable solution even if in some cases it may be a possibility. Maybe the Pyrenean Ibex, eventually.

Um, I did have a point. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. It's a year to celebrate the tireless work by Operation Migration, the International Crane Foundation, the Kakapo Recovery Program, and countless other organizations working to conserve what is left. It's also a year to remember what has been lost for eternity. Back in 1999, I did a project based around the current extinction wave, and it pains me to say that things are worse now than they were 11 years ago. Nevertheless, projects like Operation Migration and the Kakapo Recovery Program provide hope and optimism for the future. Thank you.

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