Biodiversity and Technology

Ideas and Issues

P1010032Monteverde After working all morning we drove a couple of three hours to San Elena and Monteverde and the cloud forests, finding ourselves surprisingly rising above the beautiful bright to a land of rain, wind, and, happily, rainbows.  We were blocked from the Nacional Biological Reserve because trees were falling, but we were not disappointed.

A stop towards the top for a cup of coffee had given us a treat.  For a half-hour we were treated to a hummingbird assault.  There are 14 different kinds of hummingbirds in Costa Rica and 7 to 8 beautiful, fast moving varieties were buzzing from the ravine to the banana trees and then towards the feeders on the porch over and over again in a furious flurry of blue, green, purple, gray, brown, and red.

Standing under the shelter from the misty rain I had read the legend on the sign describing the 2000 plant species, 100 or more amphibians,  300+ birds, and others that made the cloud forest home and the biodiversity added to our world by this strange and beautiful ecosystem.  We had heard the same story days before from a volunteer who drank her Imperial while we ate and told us of the night shifts of Rainsong, where she was helping for six months, and its efforts to keep raccoons – and people – from disturbing the hatch of the leatherback turtles along the beach.  Sometimes tiretracks alone from ATV’s kept the fledglings from making it back to the Pacific.

We didn’t see the turtles like we have seen the parrots everywhere or the hummingbirds.  It has occurred to me what a difference it makes being able to name something and to know it, just as we find with people.  The anonymous mass of humanity means so little to most people.  A passing image on TV that quickly fades.  A set of people and problems so foreign that they have no reality at least in most lives.  The same is true for all of these birds, plants, and animals.  To truly value biodiversity it has to be personalized.  The tourist trade puts a premium on the experience that pushes the reality further away from most people.

Ironically, technology may be part of the bridge to biodiversity.  There is talk now from the Googles and others about “search” technology that can link to the phone camera and allow one to move a cursor around and allow the viewer to pop up the identity of what is being seen and a description as well.  OK, there are some huge privacy issues attendant to all of his for human bipeds who would also be able to be identified, linked to Facebook profiles, and god knows what databases, but for the cause of biodiversity there will be an opening that might come from such real-life and real-time search that all of us might be moved to stand in more solidarity with all of the various neighbors we have in our human and biological community because we can finally name and know them.

Radical change.