Some thoughts on ecology, economics and evolution

Deeper patterns in foreign trade

When I started this blog, I referred to the similarities between ecosystems and economies.  Here, I will make an ecologist’s observations on the patterns of world trade.  Foodwebs are an important tool in understandng ecosystems.  They are a list of species from which each species draws energy. That is to say, who eats whom. Economists… (read more)

Flower power

The floral emblem of Canada – you know, the little garland at the bottom of the coat of arms – has four species.  Each species represents an ancestral homeland of the first settlers of Canada: England (rose), Scotland (thistle) , Ireland (shamrock), and France (lily).  Of course, the coat of arms also has maple leaves… (read more)

Tree of trees

The imagery of nature is woven into our language and culture. The moral significance of “going green” or the fear expressed by the term “running wild” are two examples.  It is ironic when we turn our nature-derived concepts to the task of describing nature.  I have been talking about branching rates in many of my… (read more)

The Beetles!

I have been working on this post  since 2013. ” I’ll just go to Encyclopedia of Life and count the genera in each of the beetle families”, I said to myself.  If my previous post on the perching birds represented  one neighbourhood in a tidy  little town of  10,000 occupants, the order of beetles is… (read more)

The Triple Bang

Something remarkable happened 160 million years ago. Three of the most diverse groups on the planet exploded in a simultaneous speciation event.  Two of the groups were new at the beginning of the Cretaceous period, the last chapter in the age of dinosaurs.  Flowering plants had just evolved from conifers and birds had just come… (read more)

The Future

My last blog post was about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.  The scientists shared that award with an individual who won an Oscar  in the same year.  That has to be some kind of record, inspiring peace and artistic acclaim in one effort. This same individual,… (read more)

Warming to the task

The 40 page summary published this month by the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change makes some startling statements. The summary is the capstone of three major reports, 6 years of work and 30 years of experience in getting governments and scientists to clarify the likely outcomes of the increasing load of greenhouse gasses in our shared… (read more)

Sober Second Thought

Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine led the Reform Party to power in 1848, bringing an end to the influence of appointed chambers of representatives  in Canada. The principle of elected, representative government has held sway ever since. And yet, there is one group of appointed individuals whose power, though slight, remains to be dealt with:… (read more)

How lopsided is evolution?

Back in May, I said that there was nothing extaordinary about the  maximum rate of branching that occurred early in the evolution of perching birds and that I would show my calculations in my next post.  I want to go to the trouble of backing up my statistics on this so that I can use the… (read more)

The McCanny Pattern

It began with a mislabelled graph.  My comment on that simple mistake led to my name being linked with those of the leading ecologists of my day and the designation of an entirely new pattern of seed dispersal and survival. I was a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario in 1984 and I… (read more)