Year 4, Month 11, Day 10: A Dilemma For The Horns

The Albuquerque Journal (NM) runs an AP article on moose gradually going extinct…

Moose in the northern United States are dying in what scientists say may be the start of climate shock to the world’s boreal forests.

The die-off is most dire in Minnesota, where ecologists say moose could be gone within a decade. But it extends across the southern edge of the animal’s global range: Populations are falling as far away as Sweden.

No single cause seems to be responsible. In Minnesota, many moose seem to be dying of parasitic worms called liver flukes; in Wyoming, some researchers are pointing to a worm that blocks the moose’s carotid arteries; in New Hampshire, massive tick infections seem to be the culprit. This diversity of reasons makes some experts think they need to dig deeper.

“The fact that you’ve got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there’s an underlying ultimate cause,” says Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Canada.

Not surprising, but (as always) terribly saddening. October 31:

The decline in moose populations across North America is only one of many indications that climate change is already devastating the world’s biodiversity. While there are many local causes for the plummeting numbers of moose — tick infestations, habitat loss, etc. — each of these ultimately stems from the same basic problem: regional environments are changing too fast for animal and plant species to adapt.

While some life-forms are highly adaptable and will undoubtedly survive into a climatically-transformed future (we should probably start being kinder to cockroaches), our descendants may well remember moose and other such iconic animals as we think of the dodo and the passenger pigeon.

We are entering a period of mass extinctions as climate change intensifies; charismatic megafauna like moose and polar bears are only the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg. Scientists recently measured a forty percent drop in populations of oceanic phytoplankton, a major source of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Perhaps it’s time to stop denying the existence of climate change, and time to start working actively to stop it before it stops us.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 6: Deep Blue Sea, Baby, Deep Blue Sea…

Last week’s Time Magazine had an article about Sylvia Earle, who’s trying to establish marine reserves — internationally protected parts of the ocean. It’s worth a read; she’s clearly one of the good guys. While it’s a little late now that the new issue of Time is out, I thought I’d write and cheer her on a bit.

Sylvia Earle’s proposal for Marine Protected Areas is essential. Whether our rationale for attempting to restore the health of our oceans is aesthetic (because a living sea is beautiful), moral (because it is wrong to use the ocean as a dump) or practical (because if the phytoplankton that provide much of our oxygen die, so will we), it makes sense to establish a precedent: this part of humanity’s common property is inviolate. Indeed, if we are really interested in our own long-term survival, it’s clear that Mission Blue’s plans don’t go far enough. It’s not just that we need to stop treating the oceans as supermarkets and sewers — we must recognize that an economic system which rewards environmental destruction and exploitation will bring severe and tragic consequences, not only for our species, but for all the others with whom we share our planet.

Warren Senders