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OpenLearn Live: 27th August 2015

Updated Thursday, 27th August 2015

Why Malibu might not be around forever, plus more free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is an experiment in short, topical bursts of learning across the day. You might like to subscribe to our Twitter feed, too.

Yesterday: a town that collapsed after one bad decision; web domains; boardroom diversity and more

See the full collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's Posts

Just published: Why moving lions across Africa might create its own problems

A conservation project has taken lions from South Africa to Rwanda, reversing an extinction that happened in 1994. It's good news... up to a point:

The seven lions used in this translocation came from two parks in South Africa. They have ancestors from several South African regions and Namibia. All African lions are considered to belong to a single subspecies [External link]  . However, there is a clear genetic difference between populations from Namibia, South Africa and East Africa. For that reason the selected source populations are less than ideal, at least from a genetic perspective.

Disruption of existing patterns of genetic diversity occurs particularly when individuals from different genetic clades start hybridising. This will have a homogenising effect. The loss of genetic diversity that comes from this is a cause for concern for two reasons.

Read: Life with the lions

Just published: Learn 40 aboriginal hand signals

Aboriginal people had to communicate across vast distances in the Western Australian deserts. Those signals, and the languages of the people, are starting to be forgotten. A new project is trying to keep them alive - and part of the project is to share those gestures.

Watch and read: Learn 40 hand signals...

On iPlayer Now: The Princess Spy

Last night, BBC Four offered viewers another chance to see ("repeated", in other words) a BBC/Open University co-production, The Princess Spy. Originally shown as part of the Timewatch series, this tells the story of Noor Inayat Khan - a Princess who joined the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Parachuted behind enemy lines, her tale is one of bravery, and providing a vital link between the French Resistance and London.

Watch The Princess Spy on iPlayer

Read more about the programme and Noor's story

Beyond Blue: Malibu

This week, the BBC are spending time on the Californian coast, looking out to sea for Big Blue Live. We're also spending some time there, but looking inland rather than out, at some communities from along the Pacific.

Yesterday, we visited Cuffey's Cove, a town which failed because of one poor business decision.

Today, it's a more successful city - Malibu.

Malibu Pier Creative commons image Icon David Wilson under CC-BY under Creative-Commons license

When European settlers first arrived in this area of California, it was home to the Chumash, and the name Malibu comes from their language - Humaliwo, or 'the surf sounds loudly'. Having taken the name, the Spanish conquistadors then took the land, relocating the Chumash to the Missions and attempting to convert them to Christianity. (Nowadays, Malibu is the least ethnically diverse city in California; at the time of the 2000 US Census its population was 88.8% white.)

In the early 20th Century, Malibu earned a reputation for producing fine ceramics - although the factory which was responsible for this legacy, Malibu Potteries, only operated for a short period. Opened in 1926 to create tiles based on Mediterranean designs, the factory burned to the ground in 1931; it struggled on for about a year but the Depression killed demand for expensive tiles and the scaled-down operation couldn't cope. It went out of business, but the designs and skills remained and, slowly at first, the area around Malibu started to rebuild a reputation for world-class ceramics.

Ironically, though, most Malibu Tile nowadays is made near to, not in, Malibu as the price of property makes it difficult to establish small manufacturing projects within the city boundaries. Which is a pity, as Malibu has a claim to be part of a major modern intervention - the first working laser was developed and demonstrated at Hughes Research Labon Malibu Canyon Road.

Now, though, Malibu is best-known for its wealthy residents - William Randolph Hearst, who we first met back in San Simeon on Monday, was one of the first super-rich residents; the best-known current resident is probably Barbra Streisand. Which is amusing, as her Malibu property is world-famous as a result of her attempts to stop images of it appearing online. This principle, whereby trying to keep something quiet draws more attention to that thing than it would have otherwise attracted, has even come to be known as the Streisand Effect.

Streisand's house might not have been spared the eager eyes of internet users, but at least it is fairly well protected from the ravages of climate change - her property is protected by a large rocky bluff, but other residents are less lucky. Tom Ford, who oversees marine programmes at Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, told Vanity Fair that he thinks many beachfront homes are on borrowed time:

“I do think the Broad Beach homes are in jeopardy, and I don’t want to be cold or callous about that,” says Ford. “But we have to recognize that scientists in Rhode Island and New Jersey [and other places where there’s a lot of erosion] are talking about ‘managed retreat.’ ” That means abandoning these houses and moving away, preferably way, way upland. Ford takes a breath. “We simply have to recognize that building homes on beaches is not sound policy,” he says.

Much as the Chumash were removed to make way for European settlers, the current residents of this stretch of the coast may discover their lives here will be disrupted by forces beyond their control.

Want to know more about how climate change is reshaping the world? Try our Creative Climate project

Read: The official history of Malibu

Read: Milestones - the first laser

Read: The perils of the Streisand effect





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