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Entries in Ecology (6)

Wednesday
Oct282009

Schmalhausen's Law

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen was a Soviet evolutionary biologist working at the Academy of Sciences in Minsk. In the 1940's his book "Factors of Evolution" appeared and was denounced by T.D. Lysenko, whose neo-Lamarckian theories of genetics were then on the ascendancy. At the close of the 1948 Congress of the Timiryazev Academy of Agricultural Science it was revealed that Stalin had endorsed Lysenko's report to the Congress in which it was affirmed that the environment can alter the hereditary makeup of organisms in a directed way by altering their development. Schmalhausen was one of the few who affirmed his opposition to Lysenko and spent the rest of his life in his laboratory studying fish evolution and morphology.

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Wednesday
Oct282009

“Cuba's Accidental Revolution”

The transition toward a sustainable agriculture in Cuba was no accidental revolution but the result of struggle between different views of development within the process of inventing the appropriate relation between an evolving socialist society and the rest of nature. The groundwork was laid in the 1960's and 1970's when labor law protected agriculture workers from pesticide poisoning by regular screening, micropresas were dug to make water available, and Fidel was circulating Rachel Carson's “The Silent Spring” among his friends. The Instituto Nacional de Sanidad Vegetal was experimenting with polyculture in their field plots in Guines de Melena, the Institute for Fundamental Research in Tropical Agriculture was examining the potential of ants as biological control agents, researchers at the Institute for Citrus Research were discussing integrated ecological agriculture. The Voisin system of rotational grazing was being introduced into dairying. In the 1970's, Cuban ecology was emerging fro the more classical colonial descriptive botany and zoology. A Communist Party nucleo of museum workers prepared its case for an ecological approach to development against the common dismissal of ecology as sentimental nostalgia for a golden age that never really existed.

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Saturday
Oct242009

Branching Pathways of Development

We are now facing an eco-social crisis of immense proportions. The Eco-social distress syndrome is a pervasive multi-dimensional dysfunctional relation between our species and the rest of nature and also among ourselves, an incongruence between the magnitude of the problems and our organizational and intellectual capacity to confront them. It is more global than previous crises, reaches deeper into the ground, higher into the atmosphere, it affects more aspects of our lives, even offering eyes and kidneys and the creative products of our arts and the fruit of our thought for sale, emotional support and wombs for rent. It is more long lasting and less reversible. It includes the undermining of our main life support systems—forestry, fishing, range land and cropland. It includes the exhaustion of non-renewable resources and over-use of renewable ones to the point where they may be lost for ever. It pollutes our physical and social habitats (air, water with toxic substances and bigotries) and makes us more vulnerable to new and resurgent infectious disease in people, animals and plants. It creates demographic imbalance and is provoking disastrous climate change. It increases the frequency of local and short term disasters. There is a great gap between the magnitude of the problems and our knowledge for coping with them. Worse, it erodes our homeostatic system, our capacity to respond to the changing conditions.

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Saturday
Oct242009

Schmalhausen's Law

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen1 was a Soviet evolutionary biologist working at the Academy of Sciences in Minsk. In the 1940's his book "Factors of Evolution" appeared and was denounced by T.D. Lysenko, whose neo-Lamarckian theories of genetics were then on the ascendency. At the close of the 1948 Congress of the Timiryazev Academy of Agricultural Science it was revealed that Stalin had endorsed Lysenko's report to the Congress in which it was affirmed that the environment can alter the hereditary makeup of organisms in a directed way by altering their development. A number of opponents of Lysenko's views then took the floor to reverse themselves and support Lysenko. Schmalhausen was one of the few who reaffirmed his opposition and spent the rest of his life in his laboratory studying fish evolution and morphology.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct242009

Schmalhausen's Law

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen1 was a Soviet evolutionary biologist working at the Academy of Sciences in Minsk. In the 1940's his book "Factors of Evolution" appeared and was denounced by T.D. Lysenko, whose neo-Lamarckian theories of genetics were then on the ascendency. At the close of the 1948 Congress of the Timiryazev Academy of Agricultural Science it was revealed that Stalin had endorsed Lysenko's report to the Congress in which it was affirmed that the environment can alter the hereditary makeup of organisms in a directed way by altering their development. A number of opponents of Lysenko's views then took the floor to reverse themselves and support Lysenko. Schmalhausen was one of the few who reaffirmed his opposition and spent the rest of his life in his laboratory studying fish evolution and morphology.

Click to read more ...