Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species in many of the world’s pristine habitats. Photograph: Courtesy of Hachette Book Group John Vidal, environment editor Monday 3 September 2012 08.00 BST Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 08.11 BST Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Shares 28k Comments 86 Save for later “The birds are silent in the woods. Just wait: Soon enough You will be quiet too” – Robert Hass When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks. The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish. Some gnash their teeth, others use their bladders or tails to make sound. Sea anemones grunt and belch. Every creature on the reef makes its own sound. But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction. Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats. But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places. Advertisement “A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening,” he writes in a new book, The Great Animal Orchestra. “Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence. “If you listen to a damaged soundscape … the community [of life] has been altered, and organisms have been destroyed, lost their habitat or been left to re-establish their places in the spectrum. As a result, some voices are gone entirely, while others aggressively compete to establish a new place in the increasingly disjointed chorus.” Hawaii, he says, is the extinction capital of the world. “In a couple of centuries since the islands were populated by Europeans, half the 140 bird species have disappeared. In Madagascar, 15 species of lemur, an elephant bird, a pygmy hippo and an estimated half of all the animals have gone extinct.” Even partially dis
Since the 1950s, universities have also been seen as places of research that can contribute in the long run to society, especially to our economy, culture, public policy, and health. Over the past 15 or so years, support for university research has expanded enormously just as the system was expanding at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Federal research funding grew fourfold; provincial funding tripled.It is hard to imagine how we might give universities a higher priority and standing. Their central place in a knowledge-based society is acknowledged and secure.Are our universities today civic universities? Certainly a civic university must be publicly supported, and our universities have received major increases in public support.But many people would answer that they are not. There is concern, tending toward deep disquiet, and some would argue a crisis. Our universities and the way we think about them have been changing.Universities are thought of more and more as institutions of the economy.
In the decades following World War II, higher education in the United States has evolved from a narrow concern for a few scholars into an institution that affects all aspects of our society. Nearly every American has either attended college or has a friend or a family member who has enrolled, and many people also follow college sports or have a college or university in their communities. In short, higher education is a central social institution in contemporary America.And yet, even as colleges and universities have become the focus of increased attention from the general public and policy makers alike, these institutions themselves seem to have lost their focus on a mission of preparing an informed citizenry for participation in democracy and expanding knowledge for the benefit of all.