Year 3, Month 4, Day 21: Shed A Bitter Tear

The Bend Bulleting (Central OR) runs a story from the Seattle Times concerning a little problem they’re having with Oysters. Hint: the phrase “dying by the billions” is not one you want to hear, unless it concerns plague bacteria:

Researchers for the first time have found definitive evidence that changing ocean chemistry from increased carbon-dioxide emissions are at least partially responsible for massive oyster die-offs in the Pacific Northwest.

The research published Wednesday by scientists from Seattle and Oregon State University is the first anywhere to show that increasingly corrosive seas already are killing marine organisms in North America.

“This is the smoking gun for oyster larvae,” said Richard Feely, an oceanographer and leading marine-chemistry researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle and one of the paper’s authors. “This is the clearest experimental evidence yet that lower pH is making oysters die.”

Said Alan Barton, another of the paper’s authors, “It’s now an incontrovertible fact that ocean chemistry is affecting our larvae.”

Since 2005, wild oysters along the Washington coast and oysters at a commercial shellfish hatchery in Oregon have been dying by the billions. Leading scientists long have suspected that one of the causes is the increasing corrosiveness of ocean waters that frequently rise up from the deep during high winds to lap against the shore.

How much more will it take? Sent April 12:

Sigh. Let’s put the news about oyster colony die-offs and ocean acidification on the pile, shall we? On the pile with fruit farmers in New England worrying about crop losses in the aftermath of a winter that wasn’t. On the pile with the projections of shrinking acreage available for chocolate cultivation in Africa. Put it on the pile with drastically reduced coffee yields, grain crops impacted by increasingly severe and unpredictable weather, trees infested by pine-borer beetles, and all the other ways in which climate change is affecting humanity’s prospects for the future.

And perhaps when the pile is big enough, our politicians will finally offer meaningful policy instead of empty theatrics. Perhaps the professional denialists in the media will stop trying to hinder America’s ability to respond to a clear and present danger. How much more evidence do they need?

Oysters, grain, fruit, coffee, and chocolate are local manifestations of a planetary emergency. Failure to recognize it as such is an error with grave implications — not just for our descendants, but for all life on Earth.

Warren Senders

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