China’s number one mascot the giant panda (ailuropoda melanoleuca) are only found in the bamboo forests of south western China. “They occupy 6 small forest fragments in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. (5,400 square miles).”
The panda is well travelled in popular culture, as well as being a local hero. With the recent release of Kung Fu Panda, the panda Po looks set to win over another generation of children to panda love.
Habitat fragmentation (by roads and railroads) and destruction and poaching (for their pelts) are still major threats to the Giant Panda, even though poachers and smugglers have received death penalties or long prison terms. Pandas are often injured in traps and snares set for other animals.
Emerging threats to the panda populations are mining, hydropower and tourism. A giant panda may consume 26-83 pounds of bamboo a day to meet its energy requirements.
The markings give them sad eyes and a kindly smile – and thus give them their best chance for long term survival. But I fear they are doomed to extinction, unless, perhaps, the 5,400 square miles are declared sacred and fenced off from almost all human activity. There is a real need to adapt and employ the concept of sacred landscapes in the modern world, using ‘sacred’ to mean ‘set apart for spiritual reasons’. David Attenborough supports the idea of using materialist arguments for conservation (eg the Giant Panda as a tourist attraction) but I would rather they were protected by a categorical imperative – and a ring of steel: “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!”
It would be interesting to see some more meaningful HIPPO measures for species including the Panda:
H = Habitat Destruction
I = Invasive Species
P = Population
P = Pollution
O = Overharvesting
It is said that “A typical North American consumes resources equivalent to the renewable yield from 12 acres of farmland and forests.”
And that if the entire world’s population consumed the same amount, we’d need four Earths’ worth of productive land.
Like energy per capita (domestic/imported), land consumption per capita (domestic/imported) is an important measure for food security, biodiversity conservation, eco-system services and climate change.
The HIPPO mnemonic is excellent.
The dream of the recyclers, including me, is that ‘consumption’ will change to ‘recycling’ and the Americans will become the world’s largest recyclers. I tend to think of America’s suburban sprawl has hopelessly unsustainable. But maybe not (1) the internet will allow drastic reductions in commuting and more will follow as video-conferencing spreads. It can be used for work, education, visits to the doctor etc (2) those vacant American backyard expanses of grass can become permaculture food gardens for fresh food (3) deliveries of other groceries can be efficiently planned (4) serious investment in alternative energy can kill our oil dependence (6) with people traveling less and living closer together there may be more space in the world for pandas etc. So the future may be wonderful!
I am an optimist and believe the future can be wonderful too! If we love our green spaces there is no reason why we can’t keep them as positive contributions to our quality of life. Rather it is the negative aspects of development that need to be addressed – including fossil fuel dependence. Better lifestyle choices and balances and transport planning as you suggest should contribtute to better urban environment/human habitation mixes.
I think of the problem of urban density as like the use of white in paintings or pauses in music – low/medium/high density must be used intelligently and judiciously. This example of street gardens in Surry Hills laneways Sydney is a great contextual (place based) example of integrating the garden with the urban environment. The laneways are pedestrianised with the use of removable bollards.
[ http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2706/4021117327_60814d0600.jpg ]
Perhaps a better fit between land use and ecology might assist with more efficient, optimal and less wasteful use of land allowing all creatures great and small a place in ‘our’ world.
The analogy with white in paintings and pauses in music is excellent – put I will confess to a weakness. Book designers also have a belief in white space: I always want to fill it with additional illustrations. Can a book be over-illustrated?
Not, inherently, if it is a picture book.
However, I understand the book designers perspective. In the book written for students of book design ‘White space is not your enemy: a beginner’s guide to communicating visually’ it says:
“…professional designers know what they are doing. By training and experience they have mastered both the fundamental and advanced rules of design. They know how to use creative license with the rules without breaking visual communication.”
“Creative license with the rules of design can lead to innovation, which leads us to changing design trends.”
I think book desigers would do well to think about your analogy with a pause in music. That’s what it is: a pause. I have often seen books with the left hand margin of the text pushed to the 25%++ of the way across the page, without any illustrations. I think it is a waste of space and example of the book designer thinking their art is as important, or more important, than what the author has to say.