Animal Geography

The start of my interest in the environment


The start of my interest in the environment


At a relatively young age I began to have an interest in the environment in which we live. 

I am defiantly not an older Greta Thunberg in any way shape or form. Total respect to her.

I was something of a swot at secondary school. I remember a school Prize Giving Assembly where after my name was called and I bounded up the stairs, two at a time, onto the stage. I was later told off, (gently) as it lacked decorum and was not visually attractive. I was tall for my age and somewhat gangly, but in hindsight I don't think that was the lesson.

 IMG 6370Fortunately it was not like the Oscars where you have to go onto the stage separately for each prize to be awarded. The prizes were collated, if you were fortunate enough to receive multiple awards, by the person. There was a stack of eleven books for me, one of which was Animal Geography by Wilma George. It had a chapter on Continental Drift, which was the beginning of Tectonic Plates Theory.

IMG 6373

Tectonic Plates Theory has grown up a lot since then, and is probably generally accepted. At that time, less than thirty years after it was first expounded, it was all very new.

The reason for selecting this particular book was not Continental Drift as I think this was the first place I read about it. It was because of my interest in animals and their classification.  How and why the family groups came about and what separated them.

Whilst the Double Helix DNA discovery was before this book, and 'although scientists have made some minor changes to the Watson and Crick model, or have elaborated upon it, since its inception in 1953, the model's four major features remain the same yet today.' However, DNA in Species Identification was not common until several decades later.

Even before secondary school I had started to collect information regarding animals and how they were classified with the intention of writing a book on the subject. I still have the box of information I collected, all paper in those days. I never wrote the book as there are other books which are much better than I could have done, from more knowledgeable people than a school kid. Also, it has become something of a movable feast as more becomes known about animal families, thanks in part to DNA and also Paleogenomics. For instance is a Hyrax still the closest living relative to an Elephant?

Fortunately, I had some good teachers who were able to expand what they taught based on interest as well the set curriculum. It may have been Mr Baldwin, the Physics teacher or Mr Angel - Geography (Last name from Facebook Group).

I recall being taught at the time that the world is a fragile place and that if the ambient temperature rose by as little as 4oC it would result in a Mass Extinction Event, not that they were called that at the time. Nor the more recent term, Extinction Level Event. (ELE). 

This was enough to set me off with both an interest in animals, the environments in which they live, and which we share, and the wider "how is the planet".


That figure of 4oC appears to have risen to 5.2oC or sometimes 6oC. I am not sure how much the latter figure is driven by the politics of providing hope for the future to avoid despair and anarchy, as we are sailing perilously close to exceeding the threshold.


Several decades after I was at school, David's school had a evening lecture about past Mass Extinction Events, and of course a discussion about the possibility of one in the not to distant future due to Global Warming.


To update that somewhat, below is a photo taken when I was at the top of Kilimanjaro in May 1979.

Top of snow capped Kilimanjaro1M

 Part of the permanent ice cap and glazier, taken from Gilman's Point. That was than, and this is now, and this. A stark difference!

In August 2014, my son David climbed Kilimanjaro, and here are some of his photos, as a comparison. Davids Kili 9618

 Davids Kili 9550

 There was a benefit. David got all the way to Uhuru Peak, whilst our group only got to Gilman's Point, also known as Gillman's Point. We were told that it would be dangerous to travel the additional mile on to Uhuru because of the conditions. On the return we would not be able to see properly as the cloud was already coming in. They were the guides, and local knowledge knows best. So, yes David climbed higher than I did. Ururu is 5895 / 19341 according to the photo. Gilman's is 5685m / 18652ft according to a similar photo on Google Maps. It was nothing to do with up in 3 days and down in one, just the weather on the day. I think the round trip is now seven or more days.Davids Kili 9663

 A smattering of snow and frost, and the warmer jackets have come out. Understandable, it was about 6 in the morning, and just shy of 20,000ft. The difference between May and August, the change of months between his and my trips can not explain the difference in the snow coverage. It is Global Warming melting very very old snow and ice. Permanent, no longer.

 Google Maps satellite view. Where has all the snow and ice gone? Admittedly there is some left, but not much.

There are some opinions that the current Global Warming, AKA Climate Change, is the only thing stopping us from entering the well overdue, next Ice Age, but I don't think that is a widely supported view. Why the move from Global Warming to Climate Change? My thought is that Global Warming is what is happening. On average the world is getting warmer. However, that does not mean that we can go down to Brighton and get the Mediterranean experience. The initial consequence of Global Warming is an impact on the climate with both general weather changes, both better and worse, and more severe weather events. Plants can't move easily to accommodate gentle weather changes let alone extreme ones. Animals are more mobile, but not all sufficiently so. Too much change will result in another Mass Extinction Event.





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