Western Australia Shark Cull Rant

For all those who don’t know, a disgraceful policy has just recently been passed through the Western Australian state government a little of a month ago. All Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks over three metres in length within a kilometre of several beaches will be culled. The worst part? They are going to be baited. That’s right, baits are going to be placed on hooked, drum lines to bring the sharks in so they can be killed by professional

Premier (and cull instigator) Colin Barnett with one of the hooks used to bait sharks

fisherman. The reason is because there have been more shark attacks in recent years than there used to be, but scientists say that the cull will not help.

Bond University wrote a paper on Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia. They found that the bait-and-capture method is not specific to large shark species. In fact, it also targets marine mammals, marine turtles, and sharks and rays that are not implicated in unprovoked attacks on humans, many of these species are already under huge threat of extinction. Shark control activities will also put dolphins at risk which play an important tourism role in Western Australia. In addition, the likely cost of the program is expected to exceed over $1 million a year. The study suggests that shark enclosures should be used instead due to the environmental  impacts of shark control activities.

Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen said that they would be dumping the bodies of the dead sharks out to sea, which would only bring in more shark and make matters worse.

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is a global organisation who, among other things, lists the level of risk that each animal species is at. Species that are not at risk of extinction are listed as ‘least concern’. So how many of the sharks that the WA government plans to cull at at risk? Not one, not two, but all three of species. The Tiger and Bull Shark quality as ‘near threatened’ which means that they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Something that a shark cull is likely to push them towards. But what about the Great White Shark? According to the IUCN it is listed as ‘vulnerable’, and is therefore facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. And here we have the Western Australian government ignoring all evidence putting three shark species at greater risk of being wiped from our planet.

Why does it matter anyway? Surely a few less sharks in the world can’t be a bad thing? Actually, it is. As top predators, sharks play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. A top (or apex) predator is a species that resides at the top of the food chain, and doesn’t have any natural predators. Once you remove the top predator from any ecosystem, things generally go bad. An example of when this was done was when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park. First the deer numbers started increasing, because there were nothing to hunt them, and they eventually became so highly numbered that they ate themselves out of house and home. This, of course, impacted on other animals too, the ones that needed that vegetation to eat and live in. The small mammals started to disappear as well, and eventually, so did the beavers. Once the beavers left the rivers in the park started moving much faster than they used to, and thus not depositing any nutrients in the park. It was at this point that it was decided that wolves needed to be introduced into the park to fix the problem. Now, imagine this but with sharks, on a much larger scale.

And the thing is, people don’t want it. People are trying to make it stop. In fact over 4000 people protested against the cull on a Perth beach recently. Even shark attack survivors such Paul de Gelder (who lost an arm and a leg to a Bull Shark in 2009) have protested against the cull. If you want to fight against this ridiculous reaction, then you can sign Greenpeace’s petition here, and share it to spread the word.

If that hasn’t got you convinced, here are ten facts awesome facts about sharks that might change your mind:

  1. Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth in a lifetime
  2. Sharks inhabited the earth 200 million years before the dinosaurs
  3. Sharks don’t have any bones, they have cartilage instead
  4. 100 million sharks are killed a year by human
  5. Scientists study shark cartilage as a cure for cancer, because sharks rarely develop cancer
  6. Most sharks must swim constantly or they’ll die of oxygen deprivation
  7. Sharks have an acute sense of hearing
  8. Shark skin feels like sandpaper
  9. Some shark species can live up to 150 years
  10. Sharks may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate the ocean


Information References

Bond University Paper: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/occasional_publications/fop108.pdf

IUCN data: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Picture References

Shark Photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_white_shark

Bait Hook Photo: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/shark-attack-survivor-slams-stupid-shark-cull-20140116-30vsq.html

Public Transport Protocol Rant

Public transport is bad enough, always been late or early (whichever one you don’t want), never coming often enough or just being crowded. Despite this, I think most people can say that the worst part about public transport is when people don’t follow the unwritten rules.

1. No sense of personal space
I’ve been on trains and buses where almost every seat is empty and yet people decide to sit right next to you. Why? I have no idea, but it’s completely unnecessary and frankly, it’s an invasion of personal space. I mean, if the train is full, fair enough, fight your way to that one empty seat, but don’t next to someone when there are loads of other free seats.

2. Seat hogs
These are people who take up more than one seat with bags etc, even when they’re forcing someone to stand. This is just greedy, why take up more seats then you need to, especially when it means that another person can’t sit down because of it? It’s just being a bit selfish. I mean, yes, we’d all prefer to have a spare seat next to us, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the sale of other. Just put your bag in your lap or on the floor, it’s not that big a deal.

3. I’m not actually disabled
This is another type of seat hog and a rule that people that are supposed to obey. On every form of public transport, there is always a special section for the disabled, elderly, ill or pregnant. The rule is that anyone can sit there, but the seat must be vacated when one of these people need it. One of my friends recently dislocated her knee and was in crutches, yet sometime people just didn’t give her a seat. This kind if behaviour is just disgraceful, especially when it’s a rule. It should really be something that people do out of common courtesy.

4. Noisy passengers

These people come in two types; noisy talkers and really loud music. Talking on public transport is fine, whether it’s to a friend or on the phone, there’s nothing wrong with it. Except when it’s really loud. I mean so loud that it disrupts other passengers. Sometimes I find it’s more of a fear thing than something annoying. Especially when you get loud and (seemingly drunk) people piling onto the train with you. Then there are people with super loud music. I understand that bad headphones are going to have a bit of sound leakage, but I’ve been in circumstances where it’s just ridiculous. For example, once I was talking to a friend on the bus and there was a guy behind us listening to music on his over-ear headphones. The problem; the music was so loud we actually had to raise our voices to hear each other. I don’t understand how the music wasn’t too loud for him. It was just crazy.

So the next time you use public transport, don’t be one of these people. Follow those unwritten social rules of society, and just hope that your fellow commuters follow them too.

US Gun Laws Rant

So you’re probably wondering why I’m focussing on US gun laws as opposed to gun laws in countries elsewhere in the world or in my own country Australia. The answer; I’m sick of seeing the senseless slaughter of innocents in what’s supposed to be one of the greatest, and most developed, country in the world.

First, a few statistics about the use of guns in the US, just to create a picture of the use of guns. There are an estimated 310 million Gunsfirearms in civilian circulation. That’s just civilian, not including their massive army which has the largest budget of any other in the world. Also, at the moment, just 49% of US household own a gun. That’s a lot compared to other some countries but it’s still less than half of US households. That means that under half of the US population own those 310 million firearms. In addition, out of the 132 million voters in 2008, only 55 million of them own guns. This shows that it could actually be possible to change gun laws, it’s just whether politicians are brave enough to do it. The majority of US citizens don’t actually own them, but those who do are very vocal about it.

One argument is that of self-defence which can be rendered moot. As a wise woman once said; “guns never solve problems they didn’t help make in the first place”. There are approximately 89 guns per 100 residents in the US in 2007 compared to 15 per 100 people in Australia and 7 in the UK. This correlates very well with the number of deaths per 1000 people which is 9 times higher in the US than it is in Australia, and 40 times higher in the US than in the UK. From these statistics, it is obvious that guns do not help to protect people, but instead cause more violence and harm than good.

Then there’s the argument about the Black Market. Even if guns are banned entirely or severely limited in the US, people who want to get a hold of guns, those who want to commit crimes with them, with still be able to obtain them on the Black Market. But as the above statistics show, a reduction in gun laws does reduce the number of  guns and gun violence, regardless of the Black Market.
Then there’s the number one reason why guns laws are so lax in the US; the Second Amendment, the right to “keep and bare” arms. Let me just state now than an amendment has been cancelled by a new amendment. This occurred when the 18th amendment (which prohibited alcohol) was cancelled out by the 21st amendment.

Now, some alarming facts about the sale of firearms. They don’t need to be registered after purchase and a person as young as 18 can legally own a gun. Background checks are not required for private, unlicensed sellers. That means that anyone, even a known criminal, can purchase a gun completely legally, and without need of the Black Market. In addition, in some states it is legal to carry a concealed Anti-gungun in a public place without a permit. How easy does this make it for the burglar, the killer? Anybody in these areas could be carrying a concealed weapon without anybody knowing about it.

But there are lots of other weapons that can be used in crimes. This is true, but in 2004, the use of guns in homicides was twice as high as any other weapon used, including knives and blunt objects. Guns can also cause deaths by accident as well, killing approximately 500 children per year.
I think that the time is now to tighten gun laws in the US. I’m not suggesting a complete ban, I’m suggesting gun regulation and that each person who wishes to own a gun must undertake in a test to obtain a gun license and a thorough background check. The gun and the ammo must be securely locked away, separately and with different keys. This is the only way that gun violence can be prevented. So take a stand, and make a change.

Nuclear Energy Rant

When it comes to nuclear energy I’ve noticed that there are mainly three types of people; those who think it’s a great ‘sustainable’ energy source, those who are terrified of it and those simply don’t care. Well, today is the day of education. Today is the day you learn the truth about nuclear power. In Australia, this is a big issue. Should we go nuclear? My answer, no, and I will tell you exactly why.

Nucear powerPeople tend to think that nuclear energy is entirely sustainable because it releases no greenhouse gases. It is true that the process of nuclear fission (the splitting of an atom) is carbon neutral, however, the mining of the uranium needed for this process to occur is not. The activity of mining has vast negative impacts not only on the greenhouse effect, but also water contamination, erosion and habitat loss. Thus, in this respect it is not sustainable at all, let alone carbon neutral.

Then there’s the radioactive waste. As if we don’t have enough rubbish already! Where do we put this dangerous waste? Can it pass through towns and cities to reach it’s final destination? What happens if the storage area is breached? These are all important questions that we have no real suitable answers to, and are the result of using nuclear power. Wouldn’t it be best if we didn’t have these questions at all?

In addition, nuclear power is not even renewable. The uranium needed for it will run out. “But we have plenty of time until that happens” I hear you say. That’s exactly what our ancestors thought about oil, and look where we are now. At the current rate of consumption, oil will run out in under eighty years. Let’s not put our future generations in the strife that we’re in now.

Then there’s the risk of a Chernobyl-like event, one of nuclear disaster. The risk of this is very low and there are many strategies to prevent it, but as we’ve seen in the past, it’s not impossible. Why should we even take that risk? We have other options, why choose one of the most dangerous ones? Those who think we can, would you be happy with a nuclear power plant in your neighbourhood? I know I wouldn’t.

Renewable energyAll may seem lost to you at this point. What chance do we have now of being renewable? But never fear! It’s not time to bury our head in our hands just yet. There are still lots of truly renewable and 100% sustainable energy sources at our disposal that have little to no effect on our environment. Wind power, wave power, geothermal power, solar power and many more that have yet to be discovered! We do need a solution to our global warming crisis, but nuclear power is not the answer, nor will it ever be. So say “no” to nuclear power, and “yes” to truly sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Smoking Rant

I interrupt your usual weekly blog post to bring you… an extra rant!

A warning that this will be a very serious, blunt and to-the-point rant. If you are a smoker and get offended by people telling you why they hate it, I am one of those people and I will offend you. Read at your own risk.

Smoking. I really hate it, more than the average person. You see, it not only impacts in the physical and mental health of the person smoking but also the physical, mental and emotional health of their friends, family and those strangers standing around them.

I probably don’t need to warn you about the extensive physical health problems attributed to smoking. Increased death of cells, increased likelihood of cancer etc. As a biology student, I know how smoking can negatively impact every single cell in our body; from those lining your lungs, to those that make up your blood, from the cells of your digestive tract, from your extensive array of nerves cells, to your bone cells. From head to toe, smoking attacks them all.

For those who are more worried about their looks more than their health, it will attack you too. Causing premature wrinkles, yellow teeth, thinner hair and bad breath that strong mints can’t even make go away. I can always smell the stench of a cigarette on someone’s clothing and breath even if it has been covered with a large amount of perfume.

Some people I’ve talked to about this issue argue that over-eating is just as bad as smoking; but I disagree. Yes, eating a large amount unhealthy food is bad for your health, but this food has some good in it too. Our body needs fat for protection and secondary energy use. Our body needs cholesterol to stabilise our cell membranes so we don’t just fall apart. Our body needs sugar and complex carbohydrates to use as a primary energy source and for cellular respiration. Plus, unhealthy food does contain calcium, protein and other vitamins and minerals that some of us are sorely lacking. Smoking has no such benefit. Every single thing that is put into a cigarette is bad for your health. In addition, when someone eats unhealthy food, they are only physically hurting themselves (if they are over-eating). The people in the area around them are not being harmed in any way.

For smoking however, this is not true. The health effects do not just impact on the smoker, they also impact on all those poor, passive smokers who didn’t hold their breath or were too kind to ask someone to stop smoking. These people not only breathe in the deadly smoke that smokers do, they breathe it in without a filter and once it’s come out of the infected lungs of a smoker. I won’t go as far to say that smokers are murderers, but they single-handedly play a part in the deaths of 600,000 non-smokers per year.

Now some smokers say that they smoke low-tar cigarettes so they’re not as bad, wrong. Tar is only one of the thousands of chemicals that hurt you in cigarettes. Low tar or not, they still kill. There are also those who wrap their own and say their not as bad, also wrong. Many of these don’t have a filter which means smokers are getting the full brunt of smoke. “Oh but I know what’s in them so it’s not as bad”, I hear smokers argue. Do you really know what’s in them? Cut open the ready-made cigarette and you’ll see the same leafy mixture as you put in your DIY ones.

Now for the mental side-effects. Most smokers smoke because they say it reduces their stress levels. But how is this possible when smoking increases your blood pressure? The ‘relaxing’ feeling smokers feel when they smoke is actually caused by nicotine addiction and the release felt when the addiction is met. Smoking itself actually increases anxiety and stress, and the feeling smokers feel when they smoke is a slight release of this feeling.

And what about the environment? If I had a dollar for every cigarette butt I’ve seen thrown on the ground I’d probably be a millionaire. I understand that not all smokers do this, but from what I’ve seen, most of them do.

Now, to the most important part of my argument. What a lot of smokers don’t realise is how selfish the act of smoking is. Even if they smoke only when there is no one else around it is still hurting their friends and family. It’s us who has to see them killing themselves. It’s us who have to wonder if we are so unimportant to them that they consider a smoking-related illness irrelevant. It’s us who have to hear the pained breathing of their dying lungs. Us who have to see them become prematurely aged. Us who have to smell their lingering smoke. Us who have to watch them suffer from a smoking-related illness. Us who have to mourn their death. And us who have to wonder if there was something we could have done to save them. It is us who suffer. We are being hurt more than some of us can bear.

So the next time you think smoking only affects the smoker, think again. Spread the message to ban smoking for good, and help raise awareness about the lesser-known facts of smoking.