Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Ignorers

To the Trustees of Willowwood Arboretum and the Upper Raritan Watershed Association:

I am writing to you in the assumption that you are concerned with horticulture, conservation, and nature.  I am hopeful that you will consider taking a stand in the community and with our elected officials to address the existential threat posed to our environment from greenhouse gas pollution.  I welcome your comments and suggestions, and please visit or search the blog for links to scientific research.

As an introduction to my concerns, below is a comment I left this morning on the Huffington Post, regarding a story celebrating autumn trees:

I'm sorry to say that fall foliage isn't what it used to be. The trees on the East Coast of the US are being rapidly poisoned by greenhouse gasses from fuel emissions such as ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrates, which are toxic to plants (and humans - causing cancer, emphysema, and asthma). Take a closer look at the leaves and it is quite evident that they are not lovely colors of red and gold, but rather are mottled with brown spots, from damaged stomata. This is equally true for plants in pots and annual crops. Every species that needs to photosynthesize has been damaged and unable to produce chlorophyll thanks to the deteriorated atmosphere. I highly recommend that people take an objective look at the shrinking biomass and consider what must be done to preserve it. Ecosystem collapse and mass extinction will be the result if we continue burning petroleum products and ethanol.
I might have added that, no doubt, most people to the extent they notice at all, will hypothesize perhaps that too much rain has somehow led to early leaf drop and lack of color, or attribute it to some other nonsense - but that will hardly suffice to explain why the coniferous trees are losing their needles, permanently.

This pastel sketch was for a larger oil painting (long since traded for an Oriental carpet), that I made over 20 years ago.  When my children were growing up, I  often brought them to this meadow, to pick wild strawberries, and to walk through the gardens and along the trails of Willowwood and Bamboo Brook.
Here is the same spot, photographed on Tuesday, October 6, 2009.  The little pines were planted after I drew the sketch.  In the center are bare branches, and the trees are dull.  Even the grass, which used to turn from bright green to glorious shades of red and purple, is an ugly brown.
Trees are losing leaves before they even turn fall colors.

I've included some flowers even though those that remain are looking fragile and are diminutively small.
And some of their leaves are tiny, and mottled or shriveled.
Here is the entry from the parking lot, and below, closer views of the leaves from this same cedar and trees.

A weeping birch and its leaves below.

The needles of this species of conifer have begun turning yellow in just the past two weeks.
They are falling off so fast it is amazing.  Here, they have blanketed the top of a hedge.

A perfect example of atmospheric poisoning - seared edges, loss of green color, veins standing out, pockmarked stomata, and overall shrinkage of tissue.

A shrub and its leaves.

In an earlier visit, in July, I recorded the condition of the plant which were already showing symptoms of severe stress.  This tree is in that post, as is the boxwood in front of the house.

A tall cryptomeria and the condition of the branches.

Leaving the arboretum, a very thin tree and its leaves.
They litter the ground beneath.  On October 6th!
There is little agreement about lichens.  I do not know if this particular lichen harms trees.  But I do know it likes to grow on dead wood, stone, and dying trees.  It is spreading everywhere.

This particular tree is completely bathed in lichen and obviously, quite deceased.

I don't know the name of this exotic plant, but the flowers are luscious.

Over at Greenfyre and elsewhere there is often debate about how to - or whether to - talk to deniers. I left this on the thread:

Here's a thought about keeping comments open to deniers. I have this theory that perhaps the most rabidly fanatic deniers are actually closest to recognizing how serious are the challenges we face from climate change. I think the more hysterically they argue the science, is due to their implicit recognition that there is a terrifying threat. Thus there may be some point in engaging them, because a bigger problem are the many more persons who don't deny climate change exactly - they just IGNORE it. Let's call them the Ignorers. They ignore because otherwise they would have to consider making radical changes to their lifestyles! And confront ecosystem collapse, and extinction. Ouch! Consider this analysis.

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