Apocalyptic Planet-Part Seven: Species Vanish


We all know extinction occurs.  Nearly everyone knows different species of dinosaurs at varied times roamed the earth for millennia.  Bones of all sorts of animals and various hominids are dug up off and on.  Scientists study them, determine their age, where and how they lived.  Scientists and sometimes even average persons develop theories about why they went extinct.  Regardless of which theory a person decides is accurate, these ancient extinctions generally took thousands of years. Recent extinctions are different, e.g. carrier pigeons.  Millions existed a couple of hundreds of years ago; now they are gone.  Why?  Humans.

Various causes exist for the extinctions of ancient species.  A major cause is the climate change caused my the changing tilt of the earth’s axis.  These changes occur over thousands and thousands of years.  What is different now?  Let’s take corn.  Native Americans cultivated rainbow colors of corn in small, frequently irrigated fields.  Where is most corn grown now?  Giant fields of GMO corn grow from horizon to horizon in the Midwest.  And if Monsanto had its way, no other corn would continue to exist for long.   Iowa is a good example.  Wherever this corn is grown, native grasses and other native plants totally disappear, in part due to cultivation.  A bigger issue is herbicides–to have clean fields, nothing and I mean nothing but corn must grow there.  A farmer’s expertise as a farmer is measured my just how super clean his fields are.  The only way to get these totally weedless fields is to use herbicides.  Biodiversity is a key to environmental health.  Little biodiversity exists in giant fields of crops like corn and soybeans.  Fertilizers to obtain huge yields wash downstream and in the Midwest eventually end in the Gulf of Mexico and cause giant marine algae blooms which pulls oxygen from the water to create a dead zone where no marine animals or fish can live.

Perhaps readers have heard of the plight of monarch butterflies.  Compared to just ten years ago, the population has dropped dramatically.  What happened to them?  Roundup.  Over 100,000 tons of Roundup and other brands of glyphosate herbicides are annually applied to crops in the US.  What do monarchs eat?  Milkweed.  Since 1999, 58 per cent of the milkweed has disappeared.  Recently, monarchs experienced a 30 per cent reduction in their numbers in one year.  Are we headed toward a mass extinction?  Some scientists think so.  These scientists are not talking about tigers, elephants, and rhinos being killed at an ever increasing rate for their body parts, but rather about the less noticeable extinctions of various plants and less obvious animals like frogs.  And then there is the problem with bees.  Bees are disappearing at an ever increasing rate due to not only diseases but due to herbicides and pesticides.  Without bees to pollinate the giant fields of almonds and various fruits in California, for example, those foods won’t exist.  See a previous post for more discussion on the importance of bees.  So why care about frogs?  Scientists consider frogs and amphibians in general an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.  Certain more tropical species of frogs are especially subject to the effects of climate change and they are disappearing.

Where I live big bluestem, blue grama, buffalo grass, and other native species grew from horizon to horizon.  This is the high plains.  Root systems of some plants grow twelve feet deep.  It has not rained in over a month.  Where the native grass once grew, crops are now grown.  This time of year finds open fields. Without rain, with the recent endless high winds, dust fills the sky.  To safely return home from town Sunday, I had to turn on the car lights to see.  The dryness fuels wildfires.  Earlier this week, over one hundred homes burned down in a wildfire north of Amarillo.  Drought.

Many human inventions are wonderful and make many lives better, but for some of them, I cannot help but wonder at what cost.

 

 

What do people want?


As I looked at my blog statistics a few minutes ago, it dawned on me that apparently few others want what I want in life or care about what I care about.  Either that or most others like me do nor blog or read blogs.  One of my most popular posts over time had been a poem entitled “Hot Pink Toenails”.  My guess is that when individuals search and find this, they are not really looking for a poem about personal identity, the topic of this poem.  Maybe they have a foot fetish or are searching for some new type of nail color or pedicure.  My popular recipe posts I understand.  Who doesn’t want a great recipe for salmon or for tasty vegetarian dishes if you are vegetarian or entertaining vegetarian friends.  But hot pink toenails.  I would not even know what words to put in the search block to pull this up.

Sometimes to see if I can tag better to draw more traffic to my blog, I take a look at what visitors used for search terms.  Lately, “Costa Rica jungle flowers” and “what  did people wear to survive the dust bowl” showed up.  Both these make sense, the latter especially since a mini form of the dust bowl seems to have returned to this area of the country.  Yesterday and today, high winds and blowing dust like brown fog reigned.  It has become rather tiresome and scary, given that we have had no rain in so long I cannot remember when it rained at my house.  Miles of brown grass cover the landscape with the only relief being irrigated wheat fields and lawns.  I do not even want to think about what would happen if someone dropped a cigarette.  With a 45 mile per hour west wind like today, fire fighters would have an exceedingly difficult time.

For those who follow my blog and enjoy my posts about the environment, nature, etc., I won’t stop just because such topics often get fewer viewers.  These are things I passionately care about.  And for all of you who like facts, here are some to add to the fact list:

-80.000 acres of wetlands are lost annually in the US to intensifying coastal storms and sea level rise.

-The forest burn season in the western US has grown 50 per cent longer in the past 40 years.

-The once mighty Colorado River now dries up before it reaches the sea.

-Contrary to popular opinion, carbon emissions from power plants are not regulated.

-Money funneled into efforts to deny global warming and climate change, at least in the US, increasingly follow untraceable avenues.  They use pass through foundations, e.g. Donors Trust.

On a lighter note if you eat salmon and wonder what is safest to eat, here is the latest.  Canned salmon is safe because it is wild caught pink or sockeye salmon from Alaska with high Omega 3s and low mercury.  Most frozen and fresh salmon sold in the US is Atlantic farmed salmon with much higher mercury levels.  Grocery stores and packages indicate the type of salmon and whether wild caught so you can choose.