Here Be Chickens - Part 1
The first animal we went to look for, three years later, was the Komodo dragon lizard. This was an animal, like most of the animals we were going to see, about which I knew very little. What little I did know was hard to like.
They are man-eaters. That is not so bad in itself. Lions and tigers are man-eaters, and though we may be intensely wary of them and treat them with respectful fear we nevertheless have an instinctive admiration for them. We don't actually like to be eaten by them, but we don't resent the very idea. The reason, probably, is that we are mammals and so are they. There's a kind of unreconstructed species prejudice at work: a lion is one of us but a lizard is not. And neither, for that matter is a fish, which is why we have such an unholy terror of sharks.
You can order both the book and a cd-rom set containing "the entire text of Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine's book, over 700 colour photographs, Douglas Adams reading the book, and lots more" from the Douglas Adams site, if you'd like to know more.
Related -- Granta: 'Worried? Us?' by Bill McKibben:
For fifteen years now, some small percentage of the world’s scientists and diplomats and activists has inhabited one of those strange dreams where the dreamer desperately needs to warn someone about something bad and imminent; but somehow, no matter how hard he shouts, the other person in the dream—standing smiling, perhaps, with his back to an oncoming train—can’t hear him. This group, this small percentage, knows that the world is about to change more profoundly than at any time in the history of human civilization. And yet, so far, all they have achieved is to add another line to the long list of human problems—people think about ‘global warming’ in the way they think about ‘violence on television’ or ‘growing trade deficits’, as a marginal concern to them, if a concern at all. Enlightened governments make smallish noises and negotiate smallish treaties; enlightened people look down on America for its blind piggishness. Hardly anyone, however, has fear in their guts.
[. . .] Fifteen years ago, it was a hypothesis. Those of us who were convinced that the earth was warming fast were a small minority. Science was sceptical, but set to work with rigour. Between 1988 and 1995, scientists drilled deep into glaciers, took core samples from lake bottoms, counted tree rings, and, most importantly, refined elaborate computer models of the atmosphere. By 1995, the almost impossibly contentious world of science had seen enough. The world’s most distinguished atmospheric chemists, physicists and climatologists, who had organized themselves into a large collective called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made their pronouncement: ‘The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.’ In the eight years since, science has continued to further confirm and deepen these fears, while the planet itself has decided, as it were, to peer-review their work with a succession of ominously hot years (1998 was the hottest ever, with 2002 trailing by only a few hundredths of a degree).
Update: Sorry, from that first link in the above sentence, for those of you who aren't into that whole clicking of links thang (in which case, why the hell are you reading blogs?):
Climate is one of the main determinants of wildfire regime. By warming and drying vegetation, and by stirring the winds that spread fires, global warming and associated climate change have the potential to increase the severity and extent of wildfires. Researchers applying predictions of general circulation models (GCMs) have consistently found that climate change will lead to increases in the frequency of weather conditions associated with high wildfire hazard and to corresponding changes in weather-related indices of potential fire intensity and rate of spread (Figure 2), increases in fire ignitions, and a lengthened fire season.
Not that I'm driving at anything.