Category Archives: Conservation

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Belize, Central America

REVIEW FROM A TRAVELER IN CONSERVATION

FullSizeRender
Brandon Wiggins, center, with resort owners, Dave and Dana Krauskopf

Hamanasi Resort in Belize is one of my new favorite spots on the planet. The property is clean, modern, well-staffed, and an overall delight. It is a small resort, only about 75 guests, but it seems as there are just as many sweet and courteous attendees to fulfill your every wish.

Hamanasi (translated as “almond tree” in the local Garifuna dialect) is an all-inclusive resort—including a different adventure every day. I swam under a waterfall, saw howler monkeys (including a mom with a baby in tow), manatees, agouti, sting rays, dolphins, hundreds of varieties of fish and birds, and a plethora of exotic flora and fauna.

The food is plentiful and mostly delicious. The fruit salsa cannot be beat. Freshly made bread of all varieties and fresh fruit juices and plates abound. The pineapple is so sweet that you will abandon ever eating it again anywhere else.

The most appealing thing about Hamanasi is that it is a place where like-minded people have the opportunity to converse about various subjects in conservation. In my meetings with the owners, Dave and Dana Krauskopf, their commitment to environmental sustainability is evident in their enthusiasm. I was surprised to see that they served beverages with plastic straws. When I mentioned it to Dana (when I went down to the bar to get a drink in my jammies—that’s how comfortable it is here) I could see the wheels turning in her head. My guess is that the next day, she was sourcing paper straws for the resort.

On property is an organic garden, which feeds the guests (speaking of which, Hamanasi just received their organic grower’s certificate three days before my arrival), a compost area, a beach, a pool, an adventure center, bountiful hammocks, and a pond complete with crocodiles.

I had to try to imagine what it would be like to conceptualize, design, and implement a project like this in a country like Belize. Dana and Dave had lived all over the world, including Moscow, and were experienced in sustainable precepts. Dave’s mother was very involved in the Sierra Club, so he cut his teeth on the cause.

Dana described their greatest accomplishments in sustainability with passion in her eyes. Unlike the atrocious resort next door and many other local resorts, the Krauskopfs did not clear cut and burn the property to make way for the buildings. They positioned each and every room and building in and amongst the indigenous flora and fauna. I was fortunate enough to spend my first night in the deluxe treehouse (something I would not recommend as a solo traveler as it is a whole lot of romantic space wasted…) where I took a hot tub on the deck by candlelight in the company of a lady iguana and an agouti.

Every detail was attended to perfectly, even the housekeeping staff drew my bath while I was at dinner.

I transferred to a beach bungalow with amazing breezes and views. An epic lighting storm ensued as I danced on the patio in the rain. The beach accommodations were equally enticing as the tree houses, just in a different way. I would highly recommend both.

Dana and Dave have plans to make the resort even more eco-friendly. They have procured an additional 4-5 acres behind the resort where they endeavor to have a black water processing and treatment facility, a solar energy station, and staff housing, while reforesting the lot.

I inquired about the recycling infrastructure in the country of Belize. Dana tilted her head. Since the number one industry in Belize is tourism, the fact that when you are taxied to the resort you pass mounds of plastic trash, one would think that the government would make a concerted effort to remedy that situation.

Dana gave me a brief history of the recycling infrastructure that began in 1995 (Dana and Dave began conceptualization of Hamanasi in 1991-1992). It is in need of modernization, but Dana mentioned that in parts of Belize they are using “crush and reuse” bottles for construction. Many of Hamanasi’s paths use crush glass as an concrete aggregate. Dana and Dave are working with the local governments on changing the culture of the indigenous peoples as well as remediating the recycling and trash conundrum. (FYI – I JUST HAD A CONVERSATION WITH THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND THE PRIME MINISTER’S BUSINESS PARTNER ABOUT THIS!)

When I inquired about the functionality of local governmental entities, Dana was very complimentary in her dealings with the Belizean government. Since Belize was previously a British colony, everyone speaks English and American dollars are welcome (the currency is tied $2 BZD to $1 USD). Bribing is not necessary to run a successful business. They function under a legal system based on British Common Law. From my experience, Belize offered the best of Latin America without the drawbacks. Back to the resort itself.

When you enter the newly constructed guest dining room, you will get a treat when you look up. The trusses exhibit the traditional Caribbean architecture coddled in a 600 piece ‘puzzle’ of a Phillip Flurry design. Santa Maria and Mahogany woods embellish this dormered ceiling with cast ironed tie rods and 10-foot ceiling fans that will astound you.

I also encountered many more families and children than I had anticipated. Dana reminded me that it was spring break (Oh yea, I forgot about that) but also mentioned that when the kids come, they are unwittingly enticed into the concept of being unplugged. The children—and yes even the teenagers, of which there were a substantial number—were engaging. Even with their parents…

Amazing.

Dana’s foresight on eco-friendly travel was highly positive. She feels that the educated traveler is seeking out adventures such as this. As a mother herself of three  young boys (who were zip lining with their dad that afternoon), she sees the future of travel—and environmentally conscious guests—as where the trend is going, and staying.

When I asked this forward thinking entrepreneur and mom what would be the number one thing that she and Dave would wish to pass on to their boys, with respect to the environment, she paused for a moment. “I would like for them to promote long term thinking and planning in government and infrastructure.” She paused again. “I would also like them to champion the cause of holding big polluters accountable and pay for the social costs of their activities.”

Amen, sister.

She wants for her children to have a better environment than we have today. She does not feel overly optimistic that we have not already tipped the balance.

Then I looked at her three little boys. I felt optimistic.

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort is a place that I may have to visit on an annual basis. It really did feel like home, but way more fun.

Brandon Wiggins, Author, Conservationist

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Belize, Central America

REVIEW FROM A TRAVELER IN CONSERVATION March 2015

FullSizeRender
Brandon Wiggins, center, with owners Dave and Dana Krauskopf

Hamanasi Resort in Belize is one of my new favorite spots on the planet. The property is clean, modern, well-staffed and an overall delight. It is a small resort, only about 75 guests but it seems as there are just as many sweet and courteous attendees to fulfill your every wish.

Hamanasi (translated as ‘almond tree’ in the local Garifuna dialect) is an all-inclusive resort – including a different adventure every day. I swam under a waterfall, saw howler monkeys (including a mom with a baby in tow), manatees, agouti, sting rays, dolphins, hundreds of varieties of fish and birds, and a plethora of exotic flora and fauna.

The food is plentiful and mostly delicious. The fruit salsa cannot be beat. Freshly made bread of all varieties and fresh fruit juices and plates abound. The pineapple is so sweet that you will abandon ever eating it again anywhere else.

The most appealing thing about Hamanasi is that it is a place where like-minded people have the opportunity to converse about various subjects in conservation. In my meetings with the owners Dave and Dana Krauskopf, their commitment to environmental sustainability is evident in their enthusiasm. I was surprised to see that they served beverages with plastic straws. When I mentioned it to Dana (when I went down to the bar to get a drink in my jammies – that’s how comfortable it is here) I could see the wheels turning in her head. My guess is that the next day, she was sourcing paper straws for the resort.

On property is an organic garden, which feeds the guests (speaking of which, Hamanasi just received their organic growers certificate 3 days before my arrival), a compost area, a beach, a pool, an adventure center, bountiful hammocks, and a pond complete with crocodiles.

I had to try to imagine what it would be like to conceptualize, design, and implement a project like this in a country like Belize. Dana and Dave had lived all over the world, including Moscow, and were experienced in sustainable precepts. Dave’s mother was very involved in the Sierra Club so he cut his teeth on the cause.

Dana described their greatest accomplishments in sustainability with passion in her eyes. Unlike the atrocious resort next door and many other local resorts, the Krauskopfs did not clear cut and burn the property to make way for the buildings. They positioned each and every room and building in and amongst the indigenous flora and fauna. I was fortunate enough to spend my first night in the deluxe treehouse (something I would not recommend as a solo traveler as it is a whole lot of romantic space wasted…) where I took a hot tub on the deck by candlelight in the company of a lady iguana and an agouti.

Every detail was attended to perfectly, even the housekeeping staff drew my bath while I was at dinner.

I transferred to a beach bungalow with amazing breezes and views. An epic lighting storm ensued as I danced on the patio in the rain. The beach accommodations were equally enticing as the tree houses, just in a different way. I would highly recommend both.

Dana and Dave have more plans to make the resort even more eco-friendly. They have procured an additional 4-5 acres behind the resort where they endeavor to have a black water processing and treatment facility, a solar energy station and staff housing, while reforesting the lot.

I inquired about the recycling infrastructure in the country of Belize. Dana tilted her very beautiful head. Since the number one industry in Belize is tourism, the fact that when you are taxied to the resort you pass mounds of plastic trash, one would think that the government would make a concerted effort to remedy that situation.

Dana gave me a brief history of the recycling infrastructure that began in 1995 (Dana and Dave began conceptualization of Hamanasi in 1991-1992). It is in need of modernization, but Dana mentioned that in parts of Belize they are using ‘crush and reuse’ bottles for construction. Many of Hamanasi’s paths use crush glass as an concrete aggregate. Dana and Dave are working with the local governments on changing the culture of the indigenous peoples as well as remediating the recycling and trash conundrum. (FYI – I JUST HAD A CONVERSATION WITH THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND THE PRIME MINISTER’S BUSINESS PARTNER ABOUT THIS!)

When I inquired about the functionality of local governmental entities, Dana was very complimentary in her dealings with the Belizean government. Since Belize was previously a British colony, everyone speaks English and American dollars are welcome (the currency is tied $2 BZD to $1 USD). Bribing is not necessary to run a successful business. They function under a legal system based on British Common Law. From my experience, Belize offered the best of Latin America without the drawbacks. Back to the resort itself.

When you enter the newly constructed guest dining room, you will get a treat when you look up. The trusses exhibit the traditional Caribbean architecture coddled in a 600 piece ‘puzzle’ of a Phillip Flurry design. Santa Maria and Mahogany woods embellish this dormered ceiling with cast ironed tie rods and 10-foot ceiling fans that will astound you.

I also encountered many more families and children than I had anticipated. Dana reminded me that it was spring break (Oh yea, I forgot about that) but also mentioned that when the kids come, they are unwittingly enticed into the concept of being unplugged. The children – and yes even the teenagers (of which there were a substantial number) – were engaging. Even with their parents…

Amazing.

Dana’s foresight on eco-friendly travel was highly positive. She feels that the educated traveler is seeking out adventures like this. As a mother herself of three fine young boys (who were zip lining with their dad that very afternoon), she sees the future of travel – and environmentally conscious guests – as where the trend is going, and staying.

When I asked this forward thinking entrepreneur and mom what would be the number one thing that she and Dave would wish to pass on to their fine boys with respect to the environment, she paused for a moment. “I would like for them to promote long term thinking and planning in government and infrastructure.” She paused again. “I would also like them to champion the cause of holding big polluters accountable and pay for the social costs of their activities.”

Amen, sister.

She just wants for her children to have a better environment than we have today. She does not feel overly optimistic that we have not already tipped the balance.

Then I looked at her three little boys. I felt optimistic.

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort is a place that I may have to visit on an annual basis. It really did feel like home – but way more fun.

Brandon Wiggins, Author, Conservationist

thHi Brandon, 

I just wanted to write you to thank you very much for coming and speaking to my class last week! I know the kids were a little restless due to the miscommunication of their schedule but they definitely took a lot away from the talk. We have just started sending emails and setting up meeting times with our targets.
Once again thank you for taking the time to help motivate the students even more in their fight against plastic!

Best, Skylar

Skylar W. Knight 

University of San Francisco
Arts and Sciences | Biology
Biology Department | Peer Adviser
Phi Delta Theta CA Chi | Warden

prlogpolarbearsAs a scientist, an environmentalist, and a single mother, I have certain criteria for dating. First, my date must be bright. Second, a potential partner must be rational. Third, he must have a sense of self and the ability to stand for something worthwhile.

So, I tried online dating. I met some interesting people – an optometric surgeon, an astronaut now working for Google Maps, a Vintner. One date I encountered was a plant pathologist. Nice guy, my age, very sweet. Since I am a botanist, a plant pathologist was right up my alley.

You would think.

As we got into a conversation about nothing in particular, the subject came around (as it always does with me) to climate change. His tone immediately changed as he cited the remarkable rebound of the Polar Bear population. I slightly smirked and decided not to pursue this little snippet and changed the subject.

Then it came around again. He mentioned the fact that the hole in the Ozone layer has shrunken substantially over the last few years.

I nodded my head and smiled prettily while sipping on my Vodka soda (without a plastic straw of course).

Deciding to ignore these comments I agreed to a second date.

We met again and sat down for dinner. We chatted for a while about this and that and then I went for it.

“So you know that the Polar Bear population has increased substantially because of the International Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears, which outlawed hunting of them right?” I said matter-of-factly. He looked blank.

“Yes, since the agreement in 1973 it has been illegal to hunt Polar Bears. Their worldwide population has gone from several thousand to around 25,000. That being said, they are finding more and more corpses of starving and diseased bears due to the severe reduction of the sea ice from which they hunt.”

He furrowed his brow.

“Oh and by the way, you were absolutely correct about the Ozone layer! It has gotten smaller. The reason there is a hole in the first place is because of the use of CFCs (chloroflourocarbons). They were globally banned by the Montreal Protocol in 1987. The use of Hydroflourocarbons took its place. Recent studies are showing that HFCs, an even stronger greenhouse gas, could be worse but at least the Ozone layer – which protects our planet from deadly UV rays – does not have an ever widening hole at this particular juncture.”

I ordered another drink in response to his silence.

After several pregnant moments he replied.

“It is obvious that so called ‘climate change’ is a hoax. The ‘greenies’ (cringe) are only after the money.” He smugly sat back in his chair. “There have been many ‘climate changes’ throughout the millennia and this is just another one. Anyone who believes that global warming is caused by man is drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid?

I looked at him thoughtfully. It was clear that this relationship didn’t have a snowballs chance in you-know-where.

I called over the waiter and paid for my drinks.

I stood up and thanked him for a lovely afternoon.

“And by the way, where are you getting your information?” I asked sweetly.

He chortled, “Well, Fox News of course! The only real news station.”

I should have guessed…

So, I’m sure he was bright. And I’m sure that he was rational in most parts of his life.

As far as having a sense of self and standing for something worthwhile? Wow, um, my guess is that he stood for whatever Fox News made him believe.

Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid…

 

THE LAST STRAW

thWe need to instill a different culture in the consumption of beverages. This change would start with one itty, bitty urge in the direction of conservation for restaurateurs and their patrons. Not to mention a cool branding. In the process, it could save billions of tons of petroleum based waste.

I give you – the straw. When did the straw become an absolutely essential appurtenance for every beverage? God gave us lips for crying out loud! Unless you are elderly, disabled, or a 2-year-old and are in need of a sippy cup, this utensil is superfluous.

Straws are made of plastic and yes, plastic is petroleum based, although we are making huge strides in other compostable bio-based eating accessories.

The reality is that only 27% of all plastics get recycled. The other 73% goes into landfills and particulate matter in the ocean.

The use of straws with beverages goes back to the Sumerians in 3000 BC. Straws were made of gold and lapiz and were presumably used to keep the settled matter at the bottom of home-brewed beer away from one’s palate. Modern day straws were patented by the creative and thirsty Marvin C. Stone, in 1888, whilst sipping a mint julep on his front porch on a hot day in Washington, DC. The straw of choice in those days was made from a type of rye grass. Although tremendously eco-friendly, Marvin did not care for the way it tainted his bourbon. He had the notion (after a few juleps I’m sure, as the most creative ideas appear at such auspicious moments) to take a strip of paper, wrap it around a pencil and apply glue, later perfecting his invention with wax.

Every beverage in most every corner bar and eatery provides you with a straw, even when one asks specifically for its deletion. Try it and you’ll see, even when you remind the well-intended server that you didn’t want a straw, they will take it out of your soda and throw it in the trash. When you order another drink, purposefully leaving the straw on your napkin to be used with the subsequent beverage, they will throw away the napkin and the straw, missing the point entirely.

Every restaurant, diner, bar, coffee house, and deli will insert a straw in your drink, happily toss it in the trash when you are finished, and provide you with a brand new tubular utensil with your next order even though you are drinking the same gin and tonic and possess the same lips.

This oral addiction has been totally engrained in the hospitality industry.

Paper straws are not common. They tend to get soggy, like the rye grass straw, especially with warm liquid. Take in point my Sikh friend who was in definite need of a straw for sipping his chai tea as his mustache and beard (the pruning of which is against his belief system) would coalesce foam remnants on his glorious grey facial cascade. The paper straw at Flora Grubb was a great and heartfelt concept but not exactly practical, not to mention the fact that they are not really earth-friendly either. They are derived from trees after all.

Sometimes a plastic straw is covered with a plastic sheath – both being discarded in regular trash (yikes, a double global assault!)

Let’s say you spend your afternoon at Starbucks on your laptop and drink three Caramel Machiattos, extra espresso, low-fat whatevers. Most patrons will garner three straws. Since it is the same beverage and you have the same mouth, harboring the same germs, wouldn’t it be environmentally prudent to remove the straw from your first oral orgasmic experience and re-use it for the rest of your laptop jabbing afternoon? After all, it has been marinated. Not to mention, straws give you upper lip lines, like those found on smokers’ faces.

Let’s also review the fact that straws are generally loaded by hand into a receptacle at the bar by the bar back, and then handled by the person making drinks. Now I’m sure that these fine servers wash their hands frequently, but…

This conceptual plea has been submitted to Starbucks. In fact, it went to the senior director of global policy who actually took it directly to the corporate Board of Directors in Seattle, a huge deal. As an author and conservationist, I was thrilled to even get that far. My profound disappointment ensued when the supposedly globally conscious Starbucks referred the issue to their internal ‘waste management’, also missing the point entirely…

And, let’s not forget the cost (both fiscally and environmentally) of manufacturing the straw, transporting the little culprits and the price of all that extra trash. Starbucks as well as all of our local dining establishments would not only look cool if they campaigned against straws, they would save tons of cash!

Are straws important for certain people like my Sikh friend and Stephen Hawking? Absolutely.

Are there millions of plastic straw particles swirling around in no less than five global garbage vortexes floating in our oceans? Yes.

Straws are occasionally appropriate. But, every day? With every beverage? For every person?

No way. We have got to get a collective grip!!!

How to contribute as a restaurateur:

We know it has been engrained in the industry, but perhaps an edict to not automatically insert that plastic culprit would be in order. Have your servers and bartenders have straws on hand, but trained to only give a straw upon request. 100% biodegradable bamboo stirrers are available for cocktails that need to be mixed. Maybe even print a small notice on your menu that says something resembling:

“In the interest of our environment and our passion to preserve it, this establishment endorses the conservation of our resources. We offer straws (a petroleum based product that is not recyclable or biodegradable) only upon request.

Thank you for your contribution for the health of our planet.”

At the Rio Grill in Carmel California, I did a small survey asking the fine patrons of Tony Tollner’s masterpiece restaurant if they would feel slighted if they were served a beverage without a straw. The unanimous vote was that they would not and would simply ask for one if need be.

How to contribute as a person who drinks beverages:

Simply ask for your beverage without a straw. Most times, you will get one anyway.

That is, until we start making a cultural change.

And right now, that’s all we’ve got – small stabs. But collectively, on a planet with billions of people, cultural changes could be the most influential.

One straw at a time.

Author and Conservationist, Brandon Wiggins

How to Save the Planet While at the Bar

Enjoying your drink even more.
Enjoying your drink even more.

Brandon Wiggins, Science Writer at Large

Out on the town on a Friday night? Celebrating your big corporate promotion as a project developer in a green company? Perhaps putting a rough week to bed? Maybe your mother-in-law is—well, just who she is…

Here is a way to help the environment, and your future sustainability with no sacrifice on your part.

Let’s say you intend on having more than one cocktail (as if you were going to only have one). After we get past the bartender insisting that you need a straw like you were two years old, ask that your next drink be provided in the same glass with the same ice.

After the look of incredulity from the bartender, you explain that the ice has been “marinated” and since you are having the same drink and possess the same germs, it saves fresh water if you re-use your glass, both for the water used for washing and ice creation.

The reality is that for every glass washed in every bar (let’s just leave out restaurants, diners, etc. for mathematical purposes) a minimum of .2 gallons of fresh water is used to wash them. If you add in the electricity (often provided by polluting sources, i.e. coal or nuclear power, etc.) to heat the water, the detergent used to disinfect, the chemicals needed to treat the water, the sewer runoff into the bay, and a myriad of other toxic and semi-toxic scenarios, the well-intended bartender has unnecessarily harmed the planet.

Changing glasses is a cultural habit that became ingrained somewhere in the mid twentieth century. Cowboys in the Old West used the same shot glass and bootleggers undoubtedly clinked multiple use vessels.

So next time you belly up—speak up for a positive change in our beverage consuming existence. It is up to us to change the culture—one cocktail at a time.

LET’S STIR THINGS UP! In an eco-friendly manner

Ah, a delicious cup o' java!
Ah, a delicious cup o’ java!

Brandon Wiggins, Author and Conservationist

Coffee Stirrers. These, my friends, are perhaps the biggest environmental affront in the entire array of unnecessary disposable culinary accessories.

Stirrers come in red and black, tall and short, wood and plastic. They are displayed on the coffee condiment tables of every cafeteria, diner, break room, and beatnik java house from Berkeley to Boston, Pike’s Market to Pensacola.

The issue is, as tiny and seemingly inconsequential as these little buggers are, if you mathematically assess each coffee stirrer thrown in the trash from every borough in every country, it adds up to tremendous tonnage poised to infect the natural order of chemistry.

And yes, the balance of global chemistry is precisely the issue.

Plastic is a petroleum product. Due to the worldwide political and industrial machine, plastic is light, accessible, and cheap. Wood is not as bad, as it is also biodegradable. That being said, did you know that the average Smart and Final java stir stick is made from the White Birch (Betula pendula)? That this majestic beauty is cut down for stirrers? Seems kind of superfluous, don’t you think?

Let’s also not forget that every tree on this planet sequesters an amazing amount of carbon. Putting together the eradication of a live tree, the dirty fuel used to harvest it (gas burning farm and forestry implements are the worst offenders), and the manufacturing process consuming tons of fresh water, and we have issues on the larger scale…

If each coffee-drinking inhabitant of this tiny planet could just make a few miniscule changes in their daily rituals, we could begin a cultural change in favor of our Mother.

Here is the dilemma. You have coffee. It must be creamy—and of course you need sweetener. I for one dislike coffee but love cream and sugar. Nonetheless, they must be as one. So how can one accomplish a pleasing formulation of that silky sweet chemical concoction?

Here are some suggestions.

There may be a utensil on the table you can use. The use of your spoon is by far friendlier to the environment than any disposable stirring apparatus, but not as good as the next suggestion (unless your spoon was going to get dirty anyway).

If you want a sure-fire environmentally kind fix, try this:

Colloidal suspension: In your empty coffee cup, put in your sweetener. Liquid or powder, the science works the same. Add cream and swirl the mixture about while holding the cup. Then add your coffee. This is called a colloidal suspension. You will find that it mixes itself with absolutely no damage to the planet! If you use a powdered creamer, just pour a little coffee to mix it with in the beginning to achieve the same effect. The energy expended is your own, not the lumberjack, exporter, manufacturer, distributor, stocking clerk, waste management facility, or the regal Birch (not just any tree!) all who utilize countless ecological systems to create this beverage emulsifying product.

Now, I don’t mean to preach like your hippie Aunt Moonbeam but we have got to get a collective grip! We can do this. It requires our conscious choice.

We can start here, one little beverage accessory at a time.

The Pursuit of Fluff—A journey into the everyday life of reality

MatherVernalPond
Young naturalist enjoying Mather Vernal Pond, Sacramento, California

Brandon Wiggins, Author and Conservationist

The pursuit of anything is nebulous.

It takes a great deal of clarity, conviction, and perseverance.

The dilemma of the 21st century human is to decide how much effort to dedicate to the pursuit of (fill in the blank). There are many distractions, delusions, and detritus. It is hard to actually tell what is important for the individual—and what is fluff.

It is not for anyone to say for another what is “fluff” and what is not. It means different things to different beings. Can my kid get into the “right” private school? Will my boss recognize the great work I’m doing? Can I ever possibly be the member of society that the media, my friends, and my parents think I should be?

Let’s take a look at the other 99-point-something percent of the bio-mass on this planet.

There are two rules for the survival and perpetuation of species in the natural world, according to Dr. Richard Merrill, a brilliant man and my mentor.

  1. Reproduction
  2. Conservation of Energy

That’s it. Everything else is superfluous.

“Reproduction” may be translated by Homo sapiens as making a contribution to the betterment of our species. The “conservation of energy” reflects the individual’s utilization of available resources. There are only so many minutes in a day, but ever so few moments in a lifetime.

The “energy” that we conserve is finite. It serves all of us to use it wisely.

 

Wanting What One Has

Gorilla with baby
Gorilla with baby

Brandon Wiggins, Author and Conservationist

The unique thing about humans is that they are the only species—on this entire planet—that has the psychological ability to be dissatisfied with their lot in life.

Plants make the best of their situation—even ones of horrendous adversity—and either try to survive or disseminate progeny in a last-ditch effort to perpetuate the species.

Sea life attempts to adapt to climate change and pollution—even the floating islands of plastic detritus the size of Texas—sometimes surprising us their resilience.

Terrestrial creatures attempt to adapt but are hardwired to do so over multiple generations—not decades. Yet still they seem to survive with what Providence has thrown them. Well, that is except the most intelligent and sentient beings such as whales, dolphins, upper (perhaps most) primates, and elephants. Surely there are many more intellectually aware species (I, for one vote for octopi—I NEVER eat tako at the sushi bar). However, anthro-egotistical views and the overall analysis based on the separation between what is researched on a scientific level and what is felt on a human emotional level (a trait for which I don’t think we own the patent), seems to prohibit that the two shall meet.

It is improbable that any of these creatures whine about what they don’t have. It is highly doubtful that the Silverback Gorilla is upset that he does not live in Pompano Beach—or wherever. I recently saw a video of an eco-tourist hotel in Rwanda (I can’t wait to go!) where a guest was the unwitting new family member of a troupe of gorillas, mother, babies, dad, and all. It was one of the most amazing YouTube videos I’ve seen.

The primate family waltzed through the eco-village like they belonged there, grooming the man’s head and body. The human village welcomed these indigenous neighbors. The gorillas didn’t want for anything.

So why is it that many, perhaps most, humans (including myself) want more? Why does man/woman perpetually seek to improve his/her lot in life?

In actuality, this is perhaps what separates us from the rest of the mammals and certain cephalopods. Humans strive for more. This is how we have “come so far so fast”(“The End of the Innocence,” lyrics by Don Henley, made famous by the Eagles). In the grand scheme of things, this is both a curse and a blessing for earth. In the hunt for keeping up with the Jones’s, humans have lost touch with the reality of this tiny planet and its finite resources. What we do have, as a species, is incredible. The knowledge and resources available to Homo sapiens is unparalleled to anything that has ever been contributed to intelligent life as we know it.

So why is it that we want more? It is engrained in our DNA, hard wired—as it were. That is a good thing as long as education is the primer. Resources on this planet are infinitely finite. An old Quaker saying is that “one should not have what one wants, one should want what one has.”

And what one has is fleeting.