Monday, 25 July 2016


Hillary Clinton: A Threat to All Humanity
Global Research TV, 24 July 2016.

The world looks on in horror as Hillary Clinton heads to Philadelphia to be nominated as the Democratic Party's candidate for the presidency. Yet still the leading lights of the so-called "progressive" movement argue that it is the left's duty to vote for this neocon warmonger. But the consequences of this strategy may well lead directly to nuclear war.

Top image screen captured from the video.


Non-Starters: Weirdest crowdfunding fails - Infographic
By, 30 June 2016.

Well over a decade of targeted broadcasting about entrepreneurship from programs like ‘Dragon’s Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ have convinced thousands into believing that they can ‘make it big’ by creating the next ‘killer IP’.

Up until recently these shows snapped would-be Zuckerbergs back to reality quickly, by reminding them that there was always a business-savvy investor they needed convince. Sometimes even featuring a terrifying blond toupee.

However, thanks to the invention of crowdfunding websites, all that now needs convincing is the internet: a collective of individuals who worship the obscure and delight in the deluded. Want to raise US$1,500 to disprove the existence of gravity? Sure. Want US$18,000 to fund your internet-enabled toothbrush attachment? Go for it. Want £1.8 billion to fund the construction of a fictional city? Why not.

The other game-changing facet of crowdfunding sites is that they require very little initial investment of time or money to set up a campaign. They’re intentionally built this way to ensure that campaigning is as easy as humanly possible. This is not only great for those on a shoestring budget, but also for those with a down-right mental business idea.

The craziest ideas fail to raise the required amounts to get access to their funds. Those that capture the public’s imagination, though, often snowball and massively exceed their initial funding ceilings. Sadly, even with what seems like limitless money many of these ‘successful’ projects fail to deliver on time, or in worst case scenarios, at all.


[Source: Links added.]


10 Predictions About the Future That Should Scare the Hell Out of You
By George Dvorsky,
Gizmodo, 13 July 2016.

The future looks bright, except when it doesn’t. Here are 10 exceptionally regrettable developments (listed in no particular order) we can expect in the coming decades.

1. Virtually anyone will be able to create their own pandemic

Illustrated version of Stephen King’s The Stand (Image: Marvel Comics).

Earlier this year, Oxford’s Global Priorities Project compiled a list of catastrophes that could kill off 10 percent or more of the human population. High on the list was a deliberately engineered pandemic, and the authors warned that it could happen in as few as five years.

Many of the technologies for this prospect are starting to appear, including the CRISPR/cas9 gene-editing system and 3D-bioprinters. What’s more, the blueprints for this kind of destruction are being made available. A decade ago, futurist Ray Kurzweil and technologist Bill Joy scolded the US Department of Health for publishing the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus, calling it “extremely foolish.” More recently, a number of scientists spoke out when Nature decided to publish a so-called “gain of function” study explaining how the bird flu could be mutated into something even deadlier.

The fear is that a rogue state, terrorist group, or a malign individual might create their own virus and unleash it. Natural selection is good at creating nasty and highly prolific viruses, but imagine what intentional design could concoct.

2. People who transfer their minds to computers are actually killing themselves

Ben Kingsley having his mind transferred in Selfless.

One of the more radical visions of the future is a world in which biological humans have traded-in their corporeal bodies in favor of a purely digital existence. This would require a person to literally upload their mind to a supercomputer, but this hypothetical process might actually result in the permanent destruction of the original person. It would be a form of unintentional suicide.

This is what’s known as the “continuity of consciousness” problem. Sure, we may eventually be able to cut, copy, and paste the essence of a person’s personality and memories to a digital substrate, but transferring the seat of consciousness itself may be an untenable proposition. Neuroscientists know that memories are parked in the brain as physical constructs; there’s something physically there to copy. But consciousness still eludes our understanding, and we’re not certain how it arises in the brain, let alone how we can transfer it from point A to point B. It’s also quite possible that subjective awareness cannot be replicated in the digital realm, and that it’s dependent on the presence and orientation of specific physical structures.

Mind uploading will likely require destructive atomic-scale scanning of the brain. It would be similar to the way teleportation is done in Star Trek. Indeed, one of the dirty little secrets of this sci-fi show is that the person being teleported is actually killed each time it happens, replaced by an exact duplicate who’s none the wiser. Mind transfers could be similar, where the original brain is destroyed, replaced by a digital being who’s convinced they’re still the original - but it would be a delusion.

3. Authoritarianism will make a comeback

Hitler certainly knew how to capitalize on fear (Image: Wikimedia).

As threats to national security increase, and as these threats expand in severity, governments will find it necessary to enact draconian measures. Over time, many of the freedoms and civil liberties we currently take for granted, such as the freedom of assembly, the right to privacy (more on this next - it’s worse than you think), or the right to travel both within and beyond the borders of our home country, could be drastically diminished.

At the same time, a fearful population will be more tempted and willing to elect a hardline government that promises to throw the hammer down on perceived threats - even overtly undemocratic regimes.

The threats to national security will have to be severe to instigate these changes, but history has precedents. Following the September 11 attacks and the subsequent mailings of anthrax spores, the US government enacted the Homeland Security Act. This legislation was criticized for being too severe and reactionary, but it’s a perfect example of what happens when a nation feels under threat. Now imagine what would happen if another 9/11-type event happened, but one involving hundreds of thousands of deaths, or even millions.

Such an act of terrorism could be unleashed through miniaturized nuclear weapons, or the deliberate release of bioweapons. And the fact that small groups, and even single individuals, will have the power to attain and use these weapons will only make governments and citizens more willing to accept the loss of freedoms.

4. Privacy will become a thing of the past

Big Brother watches William Hurt in 1984.

We are rapidly approaching the era of ubiquitous surveillance, a time when virtually every aspect of our lives will be monitored. Privacy as we know it will cease to exist, supplanted by Big Brother’s eyes and ears.

Governments, ever fearful of internal and external threats, will increasingly turn to low-cost, high-tech surveillance technologies. Corporations, eager to track the tendencies and behaviors of its users, will find it impossible to resist. Citizens of the surveillance society will have no choice but to accept that every last detail of their lives will be recorded.

Already today, surveillance cameras litter our environment, while our computers, smartphones, and tablet devices follow our daily affairs, whether it be our purchasing proclivities or the types of porn we watch.

Looking ahead, government agencies and police could deploy more sophisticated tracking devices, including the much-anticipated smart dust - tiny sensors that would monitor practically anything, from light and temperature to chemicals and vibrations. These particles could be sprinkled around Earth, functioning as the eyes and ears of the planet. In conjunction with powerful data mining algorithms, virtually everything we do would be monitored. To ensure accountability, we could watch the watchers - but will they allow it?

5. Robots will find it easy to manipulate us

Image: Ex Machina

Long before artificial intelligences become truly conscious or self-aware, they’ll be programmed by humans and corporations to seem that way. We’ll be tricked into thinking they have minds of their own, leaving us vulnerable to all manner of manipulation and persuasion. Such is the near future envisaged by futurist and sci-fi novelist David Brin. He refers to these insidious machine minds as HIERS, or Human-Interaction Empathetic Robots.

“Human empathy is both one of our paramount gifts and among our biggest weaknesses,” Brin told Gizmodo. “For at least a million years, we’ve developed skills at lie-detection...[but] no liars ever had the training that these new HIERS will get, learning via feedback from hundreds, then thousands, then millions of human exchanges around the world, adjusting their simulated voices and facial expressions and specific wordings, till the only folks able to resist will be sociopaths - and they have plenty of chinks in their armor, as well.”

Brin figures that some experts will be able to tell when they’re being manipulated by one of these bots, but “that will matter about as much as it does today, as millions of voters cast their ballots based on emotional cues, defying their own clear self-interest or reason.” Eventually, robots may guide and protect their gullible human partners, advising them when “to ignore the guilt-tripping scowl, the pitiable smile, the endearingly winsome gaze, the sob story or eager sales pitch - and, inevitably, the claims of sapient pain at being persecuted or oppressed for being a robot.”

6. The effects of climate change will be irreversible


Late last year, world leaders forged an agreement to limit human-caused global warming to two degrees Celsius. It’s a laudable goal, but we may have already passed a critical tipping point. The effects of climate change are going to be felt for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years to come. And as we enter into the planet’s Sixth Mass Extinction, we run the risk of damaging critical ecosystems and radically diminishing the diversity of life on Earth.

Climate models show that even if carbon dioxide levels came to a sudden halt, the levels of this greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere will continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years. Our oceans will slowly release the CO2 it has been steadily absorbing, and our atmosphere may not return to pre-industrial levels for many centuries. As a recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, “A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales.”

In The Bulletin, science writer Dawn Stover lists the ramifications:
The melting of snow and ice will expose darker patches of water and land that absorb more of the sun’s radiation, accelerating global warming and the retreat of ice sheets and glaciers. Scientists agree that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet has already gone into an unstoppable decline. Currents that transport heat within the oceans will be disrupted. Ocean acidification will continue to rise, with unknown effects on marine life. Thawing permafrost and sea beds will release methane, a greenhouse gas. Droughts predicted to be the worst in 1,000 years will trigger vegetation changes and wildfires, releasing carbon. Species unable to adapt quickly to a changing climate will go extinct. Coastal communities will be submerged, creating a humanitarian crisis.
Our only recourse, it would seem, is to start geoengineering the planet, but that will also introduce complications.

7. The antibiotic era will end

Image: NIAID/Wikimedia Commons

An increasing number of diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Eventually, we could make the unhappy transition to a “post-antibiotic era,” a time when even the most routine infections could threaten our lives.

The era of antimicrobial resistant bacteria will change medicine as we know it. Transplant surgery will become difficult, if not impossible. Simple operations, such as a burst appendix, will be perilous once again. Pneumonia would ravage the elderly, as would many other diseases of old age, including cancer.

How bad could it get? A recent report by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in Britain predicted that the new era of antimicrobial resistance will kill upwards of 10 million people each year by 2050. No wonder they’re calling it the “antibiotic apocalypse.”

Thankfully, we’re not completely out of options. Scientists are currently on the hunt for undiscovered antibacterial compounds. They’re also working to develop bacteria-fighting viruses and vaccines. Failing that, we could always design artificial microorganisms that can hunt down and destroy problematic bacteria.

8. Getting robots to kill humans will be disturbingly routine - and dangerous

Image: Terminator Salvation via Wikia

It’s The Terminator scenario come to life - the unleashing of fully automated weapons systems that dispassionately hunt down and kill human combatants.

These systems, known as LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Weapons), are under development, and it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re tacked onto pre-existing weapons, including powerful munitions and nuclear warheads. These robotic weapons are supposed to reduce human casualties and make war more humane, but experts fear these futuristic killing machines could be prone to accidents and even escape human control.

LAWS will be imbued with safety mechanisms and “moral” programming, but as Wendell Wallach from Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics told to Gizmodo, they’ll be difficult to test, will still have software bugs, and will act unpredictably at times, even displaying unanticipated behavior.

“The speed-up of warfare and cost factors will make LAWS essential for advanced nations and attractive to non-state actors,” Wallach said. “While countries like the US promise that there will be meaningful human control and strong communication links to LAWS, they are particularly interested in LAWS for undersea weapons because they are difficult to communicate with.” As an example, Wallach worries about an unmanned submarine that mistakenly launches powerful munitions or even a nuclear warhead.

“We could have a nuclear conflagration before anyone even recognized what happened,” he said. “This is only one of hundreds of scenarios where semi-intelligent weaponry poses existential risks for humanity, long before the better recognized superintelligence might ever be realized. The long-term consequences of failing to ban LAWS far-outweigh any short-term benefits.”

9. We’ll lose all the satellites

Image: Gravity

Few people today are aware of the risks posed by the partial or total loss of our satellite fleet, a catastrophe that could be instigated by a Kessler Syndrome (as portrayed in the film Gravity), a massive geomagnetic solar storm, or through a space war.

Without satellites, our ability to communicate would diminish dramatically. GPS would be completely wiped out, along with those systems dependent upon it. Space-based synchronization would grind to a halt, affecting everything from the financial sector to the electrical grid.

We need to take this risk more seriously and act accordingly. For starters, we should improve the robustness and resilience of our infrastructure; our dependence on satellites has put us in a precarious position. We also need to develop an appreciation of the orbital ecology. As time passes, both Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) are getting increasingly cluttered with satellites and space junk. Unless we start to clean it up, we could lose these precious areas of space for decades, if not longer.

10. We’ll never make contact with aliens

Not bloody likely. (Image: Star Trek: First Contact via

We take it for granted that eventually - whether it be next week or sometime during the next millennia - we’ll make contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence. Trouble is, it’ll likely never happen. That’s because there’s no one out there transmitting signals for us to intercept, and no one’s travelling between stars in search of new places to conquer.

The on-going Great Silence isn’t just a trivial observation. Our galaxy is ancient, so we should have made contact with aliens by now. Signs of ET, from radio signal leakage through to megascale engineering projects, should be virtually everywhere. Yet we see nothing.

The fact that we haven’t had an alien meet-and-greet could be read as a dire warning for our future. Perhaps there’s a technological barrier that can’t be surmounted, such as artificial superintelligence or weaponized nanotechnology. Alternately, aliens might be paranoid and xenophobic, playing it safe in case the neighbors are hostile. Alternately, intelligent life may choose to explore the infinite realms of cyberspace instead of the cold, dead cosmos. Either way, zipping around the galaxy in spaceships doesn’t appear to be an option.

Top image credit: Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, via Imgur.

[Source: Gizmodo. Edited. Top image added.]


Tasty Tech Eye Candy of the Week (July 24)
By Tracy Staedter,
Seeker, 24 July 2016.

An electric speedboat, a levitating clock and a flying hotel round out this week's gallery.

1. Proposed Olympic Bridge


A proposal for a bridge in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympic games takes inspiration from the iconic Olympic rings. Designed by architecture studio Penda, the Olympic bridge would span the Gui River and create a new transportation route between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, a district to the northwest, where outdoor competitions will be held.

2. Flying Hotel Pods


Architecture firm HOK has a radical new idea for hotels and tourism. They propose individual flying hotel pods that would transport tourists to just about any destination, where building a hotel is not feasible or could bespoil the environment. The pods contain all necessary amenities for sleeping, showering, and eating. They can also be linked together to create an oasis for larger groups travelling together.

3. Electric Speedboat


Electric speedboats could be the best of both worlds, combining the thrill of fast cruising with the quiet of sailing. Dutch company Edorado Marine is working on their all-electric Edorado 7S, designed to travel at 40 knots with a range of about 50 miles.

4. Motion Sensing Walls

Credit: ESI Design via Vimeo

If you’re in Washington, D.C. in the near future, step inside Terrell Place at the corner of 7th and F Streets to experience the interactive media installation from ESI Design. The firm integrated floor-to-ceiling displays on several walls in public areas and then set up 14 infrared cameras in several lobbies and corridors. The cameras sense motion and then project graphics that swoon according to the activity.

5. Solar-Powered Drone


This week, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab conducted the first full-scale test flights of its high-altitude unmanned drone, the Aquila, which is part of the company’s long-term goal to bring internet access to hundreds of millions of people living in remote places.

6. Golf Cart Jetpack


Back in 2013, pro golfer Bubba Watson (above) teamed up with Oakley and Neoteric Hovercraft to create the Golf Cart Hovercraft. As a follow-up, they worked with Martin Aircraft and this week presented the Golf Cart Jetpack, which flies up to 3,000 feet high and travels as fast as 46 mph.

7. Solar-Powered Refugee Shelter


At the “A Home Away from Home” competition in the Netherlands, participants were tasked with designing temporary housing for people seeking asylum. The SolarCabin, from a team at dNArchitectuur, was one of six winners. Thanks to an uncomplicated modular design, the home can be built in one day and the sloping roof covered in solar panels helps generate 4,800 kWh of electricity per year.

8. Levitating Clock


Nixie tubes - which resemble vacuum tubes but do not depend on the heat-induced flow of charged particles - have seen their day come and go. These gas-filled glass tubes, invented in the mid-1950s, were typically used as numerical counter displays. Now, Scottish electronics developer Tony Adams wants to repurpose them as magnetically levitating clocks. His Kickstarter campaign, which has 26 days to go, is aimed at funding these unusual clocks, which do not require batteries. According to the site, “The nixie clock is powered from the base without wires and will operate without interruption for months or years. No charging is required, it just floats and works.” You can see the video of the clock here.

9. World’s Most Efficient Electric Car


A team of engineers from the Technical University of Munich recently achieved the Guinness World Record for the most efficient electric vehicle. TUfast Eco Team’s TUfast eLi14 officially got 765.53 mi/kWh, which is equivalent to 26,135 US mpg and would theoretically allow the car to cover 6,808 miles on one litre of gas.

10. 3-D Scans of Every Species


Using a CT scanner, University of Washington’s Adam Summers is embarking on an ambitious project. He wants to create high-resolution 3-D models of skeletons of every known species of fish. The images will be uploaded to the Open Science Framework, making them available to anyone for viewing and downloading. Once all 25,000 known fish species are uploaded, Summers will then begin scanning the 50,000 known vertebrate species.

Top image: Levitating Nixie Clock. Credit: Kickstarter.

[Source: Seeker. Edited. Top image and some links added.]


5 reasons why biodiversity is a big deal
By Russell McLendon,
Mother Nature Network, 19 July 2016.

A new study warns Earth's biodiversity has fallen below the 'safe' limit. What does that mean, and why should we care?

"Biodiversity as a whole forms a shield protecting each of the species that together compose it, ourselves included." - E.O. Wilson, "Half-Earth"

Earth is teeming with life, from huge blue whales and redwoods to tiny bacteria, archaea and fungi. It's not just the only planet known to host any life at all; it has so many species in so many places we still aren't even sure how many there are.

We do know, however, that Earth is losing species unusually quickly at the moment. We're seeing a mass extinction event, something that's happened at least five times before on Earth, albeit never in human history - and never with human help.

Extinction is part of evolution, but not like this. Species are vanishing more quickly than any human has ever seen; the extinction rate for vertebrate animals is now 114 times higher than the historical background rate. Humans are driving this in several ways, from poaching to pollution, but the No. 1 factor is habitat loss.

This is raising deep concerns about our planet's biodiversity, which, as biologist E.O. Wilson has pointed out, is like an ecological shield for us and other species. In fact, according to a new study, biodiversity loss has crossed the "safe" threshold in most of the world, leaving many ecosystems in danger of collapse.

Map of biodiversity loss in ecological hotspots around the world. Image: Newbold et. al./Science.

"This is the first time we've quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail," lead author and University College London researcher Tim Newbold says in a statement, "and we've found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists."

Published in the journal Science, the study finds that 58 percent of Earth's land surface - an area home to 71 percent of all humans - has already lost enough biodiversity "to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies."

That certainly sounds bad. But why is biodiversity so important? Can't technology keep civilization running, regardless of what happens to the wildlife in dwindling forests, grasslands or wetlands? Here's a closer look at why biodiversity is a big deal - and why it's in our own best interest to preserve what's left.

1. Food

Photo: gefrorene_wand/Pixabay

About 75 percent of our food supply comes from just 12 plant species, and more than 90 percent of global livestock production comes from just 15 species of mammals and birds. That's deceptive, though, because those 27 species - along with many others that also provide food for humans - couldn't exist without help from hundreds of thousands of lesser-known species working behind the scenes.

A wide range of wildlife makes agriculture possible, including bats, bees, birds, dragonflies, frogs, ladybugs, mantises, moles, nematodes, salamanders, spiders, toads and wasps, among countless others. Of 264 crops grown in the European Union, more than 80 percent depend on insect pollinators, while bees alone boost U.S. crop revenue by more than US$15 billion per year. Worldwide, bats save corn farmers about US$1 billion annually by eating pests like earworm larvae.

Wildlife doesn't just protect and pollinate food; it often is our food, too. Hundreds of millions of people rely on daily protein from wild-caught fish, for example, including many fish that depend on healthy coral reefs. And while we mostly eat just a few domesticated crops today, about 7,000 plant species have been cultivated as food in human history - and their wild relatives hold a cache of genetic diversity that may prove priceless as drought or disease threaten monoculture crops.

2. Health


Biodiversity is linked to human health in several ways. By having a diverse mix of plants, fungi and animals to eat, we ensure nutrition that buffers our bodies against disease and other hardships. Higher biodiversity has also been linked to lower instance of disease, with studies finding lower human rates of Lyme disease, malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrhea around protected natural areas.

But even when we can't avoid getting sick, biodiversity still swoops in to the rescue.

Medical discoveries frequently begin with research on the biology or genetics of plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. This inspiration is especially prevalent in rain forests, biodiversity hotspots that contain half of all known species. The asthma drug theophylline comes from cacao trees, for example, and about 70 percent of plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rain forests. Yet medical insights can be found in other ecosystems, too, such as forests of eastern North America, where the eastern red cedar produces a compound that fights antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"Every time a species goes extinct or genetic diversity is lost, we will never know whether research would have given us a new vaccine or drug," points out the National Wildlife Federation. And as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative notes, "all ecosystems are a potential source of medicinal resources."

3. Ecosystem services


Food and medicine are just two of many "ecosystem services" humans can expect from biodiverse habitats. Here are a few other examples:
  • Clean air: From old-growth forests to ocean phytoplankton, the oxygen we breathe is generated by photosynthesizing members of ecosystems around the world. Plants also absorb a variety of pollutants from the air, and sequester the excess carbon dioxide emissions that fuel climate change.
  • Clean water: Forests help soil absorb more water, which can reduce flooding, limit erosion, filter out contaminants and refill aquifers. Wetlands also excel at "phytoremediation," or cleaning hazardous chemicals from water and soil. Different species bring different skills, so the more the merrier.
  • Healthy soil: Soil naturally bustles with lots of arthropods and microorganisms, which are easy to overlook but provide a wide range of benefits. They provide food for slightly larger creatures, help nutrients cycle through soil, boost nutrient availability to roots and enhance plant health, among other things.
  • Raw materials: Biodiverse ecosystems supply us with a diversity of raw materials, including wood, biofuels and plant oils that come from both wild and cultivated species. Materials from different plants offer different properties, such as harder or softer wood, or oils with varying smoke points.
As biodiversity falls below safe limits, these services are in jeopardy for a growing number of people. "Decision-makers worry a lot about economic recessions, but an ecological recession could have even worse consequences - and the biodiversity damage we've had means we're at risk of that happening," says Andy Purvis, a researcher at Imperial College London and co-author of the new study. "Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we're playing ecological roulette."

4. Resilience

Photo: Erwin Kodiat/Flickr

One of the single most important aspects of biodiversity is that it provides insurance. According to the insurance hypothesis: "Biodiversity insures ecosystems against declines in their functioning because many species provide greater guarantees that some will maintain functioning even if others fail."

When an ecosystem has lots of different species, they can fill an array of different ecological niches, while in a monoculture they're all competing for the same niche. Biodiversity tends to increase overall rates of photosynthesis, and it also buffers the community against illness. Plant viruses often specialize in a certain species, genus or family of plants, so one viral strain can obliterate all members of a monoculture. In a biodiverse ecosystem, on the other hand, all the eggs are not in a single basket.

"Biodiversity allows for ecosystems to adjust to disturbances like extreme fires and floods," the NWF adds. "If a reptile species goes extinct, a forest with 20 other reptiles is likely to adapt better than another forest with only one reptile."

5. Ethics, aesthetics and awe

Photo: Joseph King/Flickr

There are many practical reasons to preserve biodiversity. It saves us money and effort, protects our lives and livelihoods, and ensures we have enough to eat. It's also worth noting, however, that biodiversity is bigger than any one species, including us.

By leaving biodiversity intact, we let natural evolutionary processes continue. That's a long-term benefit beyond the scale of human lifetimes, but that doesn't mean it's not important. Evolution lets organisms adapt to environmental change, and who are we to interfere with that? Since it's possible for humans to thrive without destroying the ecosystems - and lives - around us, why destroy them? As a species capable of ruining ecosystems, we have a moral obligation not to screw everything up.

And, finally, the most basic beauty of biodiversity is the beauty itself. Spending time in nature offers many perks for people, like more creativity, better memory and faster healing. Feeling awe at the sight of nature can even reduce pro-inflammatory proteins in the body. But we don't need science to tell us that. All it takes is one step into an old-growth forest, or one paddle into an ancient estuary, to make clear that we aren't just lucky to be alive - we're lucky the world around us is, too.

Top image: Rainforests of Kinabalu Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Credit: TarasK/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images added.]