Waiting patiently for the 21st century to arrive seemed to pay off this year, with a few signs of evolved behaviour amidst all of our technological advances. And so, a little space for the celebratory, as well as this year’s unsung heroes.
The Big Collective Ostrich
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) says global warming caused a record number of natural disasters across the world in 2007, up nearly 20 per cent from a year earlier. Phrased another way, there were now 270 million people effected by natural disasters in 2007. This may have had some impact on humanity’s seeming to pull it’s head out of the sand this year, in regards to climate change. For something billed as the current greatest threat to humanity ( as well as threatening other species ), climate change seems to have only inspired the slowest of reactions over the last decade. This year however, saw a huge number of positive developments. Climate change is only one symptom of many, related to the way we live at the moment, and there’s still a long way to go, but at least we are finally facing the problem.
On a governmental level, the newly elected French leader declared ‘climate change’ his number one priority, the new Australian leader finally ratified the Kyoto protocol ( leaving the United States as the only country in the entire world who hasn’t signed this agreement to minimise greenhouse gases ) , the UK leader announced a plan to open all of their coastline to producing windpower by 2020, alongside several other major improvements.
Even more movement on a corporate level – many notable huge companies announced plans for going carbon neutral – including News Corp who vowed to make it an issue as well and Google who also have the largest company solar panel array in North America and have recently invested massively into trying to make renewable energy cheaper than coal.
And The Other Critters
Lucky winners in the World Conservation Union’s 2007 List of Threatened Species, included the Sumatran Orangutan, the Western Lowland Gorilla & the Cross River Gorilla, all of whom got upgraded to ‘Critically Endangered'( the last category before Extinct in the Wild ), and the Bornean Orangutan, who got added to the Endangered category. There are now 16,306 species are endangered with extinction, 188 more than in 2006. And it’s not just the individual species that are disappearing, but overall numbers within species are in decline also:
The Living Planet Index (LPI) is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world. Between 1970 and 2003, the index fell by about 30%, a global trend which suggests that we are degrading natural ecosystems at a rate unprecedented in human history.
Are nearly omnipresent now, including the famed $100-now-its-$200 computer being sold in developing countries to children. It seemed to be a year for Facebook, the social network that seems to be absorbing most energies used online. There are plenty of words about them though, and about Google who continue to expand their array of online tools and services, and the various operating system upgrades seem hardly worth a mention. Noting that Nature magazine recently informed us about chimps beating students at a memory based game ( chimps are better at memorizing a snapshot view of their surroundings , summarised one scientist ), maybe this whole computer thing is a big sidetrack, and there are plenty of other technologies we could’ve been expanding ourselves with in more interesting ways?
Instead of a top ten list of software plug-ins or corporate gadgets, here’s another list – a list of genuine technological achievements for 2007 :
Most Satisfying Hammock Rest :
The problem with these end of year lists is that they suggest one person’s taste is somehow more significant. Without getting scientific on your ass though, it is highly unlikely there was anyone happier on a hammock than on Dec 9th (Western Australian Coast just north of Perth), when a long grey haired woman lay curled up in a flimsy yet obviously sturdy enough hammock (tied neatly between an avocado tree and a fencepost) beaming her peaceful face out at a slowly descending Indian ocean sunset with giant twinkles in her eyes.
Greatest skateboard trick :
Kick-flip ollie to grape bite – Venice, Italy, Sep 07 by anonymous skater in a black and white striped top, baggy jeans, red scarf around neck. What made this trick likely unrepeatable was the landing and subsequent fall from bridge by skater and grape holder – but remarkably landing in a gondola passing underneath with impeccable timing. And the board landed in the gondola too.
Watchmaker Repair of the Year:
While we may be building new pyramids out of recently obsolete mobile phones, computer software manuals and computers that are 18 months old, there’s something to be appreciated about actually repairing technologies rather than ordering replacements from China. $2 watches may far outnumber the number of quality watches in existence, but when it comes to horology, the study of the science and art of timekeeping devices, no-one did better in 2007 than a Japanese watch repairer living in San Francisco who managed to bring back to life a nearly crushed watchpiece, through a care daily dedication to reshaping, replacing and repairing the innards of a delicate timepiece crushed during a non-fatal pile up at a rollercoaster ride.
Best Act of Dentistry in 2007:
While we’re on that craft thing, the quality of a dentist’s work could be measured not only by the appearance of the teeth after the work, but by the amount of pain suffered by the patient, the amount of time taken and indeed, the cost. Maybe really advanced dentists would even use such subtle techniques to coax you in and out of the experience, that you may not even feel like you have been to the dentist at all, have merely popped into the newsagents to pick up a magazine, bumped into someone at the counter, coughed a bit, fiddled in your pocket for some change, and noticed how nice your teeth were while checking yourself out in the reflection on the window on the way out. Commendable, but difficult to make an award’s night out of.
Big in 2008 :
Blimps, underwater video, human powered flying machines, biotechnology detectors, contraception for animals, cloudmakers, gelati made from native flavours, social network assistants, underwater diving bells ( again! ), robot DJs, technologies derived from bacteria.