Year 2, Month 4, Day 20: Sorry, Darling. We Didn’t Know How To Tell You Earlier.

Well. This sucks:

The population of Adélie penguins in Antarctica has declined by 50 percent in recent years, and everyone who has watched a nature movie or television show knows that the reason is the rapidly melting sea ice that has limited the size of their winter habitat. But what everyone knows may be wrong.

New research, published online Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the penguins’ real problem is the severe decline in the abundance of Antarctic krill, their main food, a problem affecting the ice-avoiding chinstrap penguins as well.

“For the last 30 years, the adults have been able to rear chicks as they always have,” said Wayne Z. Trivelpiece, the lead author. “But the young aren’t coming back. Ninety percent never make it through their first year. They are not finding the food they need.”

As an atheist, I have no available profanity that conveys my feelings. Sent April 11:

The Anthropocene Epoch looks to be one of devastation for many of the world’s other species — even those which we claim to cherish. The latest sobering example is the news that climate change is drastically reducing krill populations, and therefore condemning the penguins which feed on these tiny marine creatures to an evolutionary bottleneck. I contemplate the conversation with dread: how will I explain to my daughter that the world’s penguins are dying because human beings can’t be bothered to change their way of living? As the greenhouse effect continues its rapid heating of our atmosphere, we can expect many more such announcements; a microscopic species lost here, a few types of algae snuffed out there — gradually undermining humanity’s own food chain. The penguins’ fate may well be a preview of our own.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 2: By The Time This Gets Posted, They May All Be Dead.

The M.S. Oliva, a Malta-registered freighter, has run aground and broken up on a tiny island in the South Atlantic. Nightingale Island just happens to be the home of forty percent of the world’s remaining wild Rockhopper Penguins. Not for long, apparently. At least 20,000 of these birds are now oil-soaked, looking forward to a merciful extinction.

And that’s not even the best part:

Conservation groups said the wreck could pose a different ecological threat to the chain as rats could have come ashore from the vessel, which was carrying 66,000 tons of soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. Several islands in the archipelago are rodent-free, and a rat infestation could potentially do more harm to bird life than any oiling, experts said.

Soybeans. I have no available profanity left.

Sent March 23:

It is a dreadful irony. Looking closely at the photograph of the crippled freighter, one can see the giant letters overlooking the deck: “Safety First.” Indeed. Twenty-two years after the Exxon Valdez, we’ve learned remarkably little; it takes a special kind of talent to run a vessel aground on a place as small as Nightingale Island. The Oliva’s breakup is devastating to the Rockhopper Penguins whose home is now surrounded by a toxic slick; the combination of oil-soaked feathers and the likely introduction of rats to the island may prove a tipping point for these delightful birds. What can we learn from the Valdez, the Oliva, the Deepwater Horizon and thousands of other petro-disasters? Simply this: the heavily-touted “cheapness” of fossil fuels is illusory. How much will cleanup cost? What’s the dollar value of a single penguin? Of an entire species? Of humanity’s future on a clean and healthy planet?

Warren Senders