Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Last Gasp

Hope in the Prison of Despair
~ Evelyn de Morgan

Sooo...is there any hope?  No!  I'm afraid not...not if we are referring to a thriving, vibrant web of life.  The ecosystem is at it's last gasp, and fading fast.  Trees are barely leafing out this spring, struggling more than ever before.  The leaves of some - especially black walnut and sycamore - appear to be in suspended animation, paralyzed and only partially unfurled, while many others have branches protruding from their canopy that remain completely barren.  Still others, in swathes, are standing dead - snags, as they are known to foresters.  This post is just meant as a quick update, with pictures from an arboretum near Wit's End, generally representative of the scenery when they were taken on May 25.

Admittedly, New Jersey where I live has the dubious distinction of being one of the world's regions to lead the trend, in the vanguard of pollution - see this map of nitrogen dioxide emissions which are primary ozone precursors.
This map is a bit out of date and by now the NOx traveling around the globe especially from Asia - along with rising emissions of methane from fracking and who knows how much from melting permafrost - results in an overall increase of background ozone.  I saw for myself that the condition of trees and other plants is indistinguishably horrendous, from here to Florida.  The damage is irrespective of age.
It is also irrespective of species.  Below are some very tall oaks.
Under normal circumstances, their obvious ill-health would be so alarmingly hazardous they would be chopped down instantly...but, aside from the fact that people have become inured to even the most dire symptoms, there are simply far, far too many trees that look like this now for landscapers to keep up with.
The seeping trunk is another indication of interior rot, probably hastened by opportunistic fungal infection.

Here is a link to a short article that explains the problem with reactive nitrogen rather nicely, which was followed by this perspicacious comment by one Nicholas C. Arguimbau:

"It is of course not nitrogen (N2) but nitrogen oxides with various molecular formulae, known collectively as "NOx", that are the problem. Because air is 80% nitrogen, if you oxidize a carbon compound at a high enough temperature in air, some of the nitrogen burns too. Our oxidation of carbon compounds in food takes place at body temperature inside cells where there is no nitrogen, so NOx is not produced by biological oxidation of carbon compounds. The problem arise when you burn a carbon fuel at hundreds or thousands of degrees."

"A particular problem is that the higher the operating temperature, the higher the amount of NOx produced in a burning process. Engine efficiency also goes up with temperature. Consequently, an efficient engine produces about the same amount of NOx per BTU as an inefficient engine, so almost regardless of the kind of fossil fuel you use and the efficiency, NOx produced per BTU remains the same. This makes it very difficult to regulate NOx emissions - reduction of NOx pretty much essentially means reduction of energy production. Because of this, EPA has always hesitated to regulate NOx despite its seriousness."

The tiresome correlation between climate change and forest decline will probably never be acknowledged as specious until it actually comes to dominate the issue, but meanwhile, here's a recent mapping of warming from Scientific American, showing that temperature increase has been very uneven.  Fascinating that the midwest and the Appalachian mountain range, among the worst damaged forests thanks to all those coal-fired power plants, have warmed the least, as has much of Amazonia in Brazil, another place with serious forest decline.

Western Canada, too, has been largely spared the highest temperature increases, and yet it, too, has massive tree deaths.  Even the southern part of Alaska hasn't warmed nearly as severely as further north, and yet that is where a huge wildfire is raging:
And no wonder, look at this picture of the Kanai National Wildlife Sanctuary, undated but no older than 2013.  All those white lines are trees dead so long they haven't even got any bark left.  No doubt if examined on the ground, many that aren't snags already would be thin.
From a US Forest Service publication:  "Ozone and elevated N deposition cause specific changes in forest tree C, N, and water balance that enhance individual tree susceptibility to drought, bark beetle attack, and disease, and when combined, contribute to whole ecosystem susceptibility to wildfire."
The Funny River Fire on facebook
This NASA image based on satellite data indicates the number (not the size) of fires around the world from May 1 to 10.  Some of them are deliberately set to clear fields, but the forest fire locations seem to bear little connection to warming trends with the possible exception of the line across the Russian permafrost.
People continue to freak out sporadically as stories of crop failures due to fungus, disease and insects surface, and then recede as though the problems had gone away.  Recently coffee fungus was in the news, with warnings that prices will rise due to the worst outbreak ever, and jobs will be lost in producing countries, leading to more poverty and violence.  So note that the Central American countries that are being worst hit with the fungus are among the least affected by warming - and, that the fungus is made worse by rainy weather - so it's not drying, either.
I cannot understand why these stories are reported without any mention - EVER - of the well-documented influence of ozone on biotic pathogen outbreaks.  In a USDA webpage devoted to research looking for ozone "resistant" cultivars, it states that:
Ozone: Plants Don’t Like It
Ozone is a greenhouse gas found in smog. It is formed mostly when sunlight “cooks” automotive and industrial pollutants that originate from combustion of carbon-based fuels.
Ozone is the most damaging air pollutant to plants.
Fitz Booker, an Agricultural Research Service plant physiologist at the Plant Science Research Unit at Raleigh, North Carolina, says, “Ozone has long been known to affect a wide range of plants, including grasses, field crops, horticultural crops, and forests. Our research and that of other scientists has shown that many crops and forages are damaged by high ozone levels, including soybeans, wheat, cotton, oats, potatoes, rice, peanuts, tomatoes, grapes, alfalfa, clover, and barley.”
In fact, during the 1950s, Howard Heggestad (deceased) discovered that what were thought to be symptoms of a plant disease on tobacco leaves in the smoggy Connecticut River Valley was actually damage from ozone. In the Washington, D.C., area, he found similar damage to plants from ozone in smog. At the time, Heggestad was an ARS plant pathologist.
Globally, yield losses from ozone have been estimated at $14 to $26 billion for rice, soybean, corn, and wheat combined.
“We are beginning to look at interactions between ozone and diseases such as stripe rust and stem rust of wheat,” says David Marshall, research leader of the Plant Science Research Unit at Raleigh, and an expert on wheat rusts.

But lets get to the fun part of tracking tree deaths.  This is the caption to the photo, below, that was posted on Facebook by a resident of the UK:  "Here is the perfectly healthy mature 100ft tree that fell on my parked car when there was no wind. It's roots were shot after extended periods of rain and drought. Happening all over the forest."
So naturally I pointed out (quoted at this post):  "The N deposition levels at which these effects begin to occur are not well defined, but regression analysis indicates a 25 percent reduction in fine root biomass at 17 kg ha-1 yr-1; dramatic shifts in tree phenology and C allocation are evident at a site with N deposition of 39 kg ha-1 yr-1."

A new study predicts that, if we don't cut emissions, ozone will become much, much worse and people will become ill and die from it even more frequently.  It models the usual cheery prospect that humans might voluntarily reduce emissions of NOx and methane, which is never going to happen.  On the other hand, and again typically, their worse case scenario doesn't include the foregone conclusion that anthropogenic industrial emissions will go down as industrial civilization collapses...but hey, then again, as wildfires go unchecked, as desperate people burn trees for food and fuel, and more methane is released from melting, who knows how high ozone will go?
I do like this harrowing passage from the article though:

"Rising temperatures, and the attendant growth of short-lived greenhouse gases such as methane and oxides of nitrogen, could turn local atmospheres into a photochemical crucible that will spur a cascade of chemical reactions and lead to higher incidence of ground-level ozone."

Even as pictures emerge of the turmoil in the Ukraine, the trees there look dreadful too...fancy that!
I predict there will be a new sport - Dodging falling trees while on the road!

There will be no lack of these videos in the future, although they were once unheard of - this tree was totally hollow and yet, incredibly, not one person during the long news segment mentioned this fact.

I think it is a form of collective insanity.


  1. Around here it's been cool and nice, the rain coming through to keep the water table up. Last week there was a hail storm that made it look like someone took a very large shotgun to the trees and plants (so long tomatoes, lettuce, etc) in near-by towns, but around here but there are leafy trees all around interspersed with the dead ones. i'm perplexed by the large oaks in my yard dropping leaves weekly (mostly in the form of a tiny clump on a small stem, as if chewed off by a squirrel) and small branches coming down with or without winds or rain. The trees look okay, but upon up-close inspection one can see lichen on the bark and the leaves don't feel right (little substance to them). I've stopped pointing it out to people ("don't be so depressing"). Thanks for up-dating the conditions Gail, I appreciate it.


  2. Gail - I too would like to tell you of my appreciation of your documentation of the decline of our livable environment. I know how depressed I feel reading your posts, along with all other posts that depict wildfires, tornadoes, decline of ocean habitat, peak oil...the list goes on. I can only imagine what it feels like to write about it.

    Thank you for continuing to fight the good fight.


  3. Just read Orlov's remarks on the age of limits conference just concluded. He could not restrain himself from making a mean-spirited remark in your direction, even after all this time. Shaking me head... And when I tried to comment on Ukraine on his blog a couple of months ago, it got censored. The man gunnysacks and nurses his grudges far into the future. Poor man, such a sad and preventable way to damage his health! ;-)

  4. From Dimitri Orlov's site about this years Age of Limits Conference he writes "Last year's attendees included one particularly odious 1%er whose name I forgot, together with her entourage, and they did their best to disrupt things. Needless to say, their absence this year was not missed by anyone." http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/05/review-age-of-limits-2014.html Is he talking about you?

    Nice pictures BTW.

  5. Thanks for the head's up folks! Here is what I posted over at The Panic Room about this (you are welcome to join us on Facebook...only fellow members - and the NSA of course - will ever know!):

    Oh sheesh. It surprises me that Dmitry felt compelled to lash out after all this time. Maybe people at AOL brought up the little flame war he ignited and he felt the need to double down. What's sad is that whatever puny, twisted, spiteful impulse led him to come up with the word "odious", it also led him to lie. He has to know, for instance, that I am not in the 1%, as I could tell from my sitemeter last year that he obsessively - like, once an hour - checked comments piling up on my post for the week or so of fallout - and I made it very clear then that allegation was a grotesque distortion of my circumstances. I have no property, no savings, and the 11 year old car I drive has 137,000 miles on it. My income places me (I checked out of curiosity) just below average for the US. If Dmitry isn’t aware that the 1% have stock portfolios, private jets, multiple properties, and off-shore bank accounts he is even less qualified to write about economics than I thought. Too bad the NYPD didn't think I was in the 1%, maybe I wouldn't have been arrested at Occupy!

    The rest is lies, as well. I had no "entourage" - since I went to the conference alone, and had never met a single person there prior to attending. The only person I had any contact at all with prior to the event was the occasional email with Guy. I also can't think of a thing I did while there that could be construed as "disruptive". Furthermore, I find it highly dubious that, after Dmitry devoted more than one post on his own blog to attacking me personally, he can no longer remember my name...oh, if he can't remember my name, how can he be sure I wasn't there this year? So that, too, is a pathetic lie.

    What is wrong with him?

    Here is the link to my impressions of the conference last year that incited him to such vicious defamation - I still don't know what he was so agitated about: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2013/05/our-revels-are-now-ended.html

  6. I stopped visiting Orlov's site after he revealed how petty he is - anyone who disagrees with him is criticized and censored. I similarly gave up on Archdruid Greer (long ago), Fractal Planet's Scott Johnson (more recently), and others. There are too many truthful and scientific sites to visit to waste one's time caring about these people's opinions.

    As far as the 1% goes, practically everyone who isn't homeless in the U.S. is in the 1% of the globe's "wealthy" population (it's been said somewhere). I don't know - i'm not feeling very wealthy barely scraping by with food prices rising along with energy prices to demolish any income I happen to earn and struggling to pay property taxes every year. Might be time to live in a tent somewhere.

    Keep up the good work Gail - and don't be concerned about the goons out there trying to pick fights and spewing hate-filled rhetoric. You have a great blog and a gift for clearly illustrating the current demise of our habitat. Thanks.


  7. Thanks for another great post.

    Humans aren't getting any better at taking care of the environment - as the evidence shows, worldwide. So is there any hope? No.

    Why? Because despite growing awareness of environmental depletion, destruction and collapse, we continue as before. Nothing has changed. Nothing can change (despite claims to the contrary - civilization is designed to deplete as fast as possible. Remove civilization and maybe there would be a chance for survival).

    Some trees are dying here (pine forest). I've never determined why. It's not bark beetles (in this case). The trees turn "rust" colored on their pine needles in just a few days. Once that happens, they should be cut down as they never recover. Normal healthy trees can suddenly die like this almost immediately (just a few days). I've been puzzled for a long time why. Most of them are Grand Fir trees.

    Regarding online "disputes". I find the Internet to be a near-waste of time. Virtually all sites and blogs and comments are now highly censored, making them virtually useless for real information or how people actually feel about any particular issue. The material being published is pure crap and near-useless. You've got to wade through 100 sites to find even 1 worth reading.

    I've noticed that this trend has worsened in recent months too. The "news" being reported is totally canned disinformation propaganda - terribly distorted and designed to appeal to a twelve-year old with raging hormones. Comments that do not fit the prescribed approval process are simply scrubbed from the Net, leaving readers with a totally false impression of "support" and "disagreement" that you would normally find in a fair world.

    The Net has become an incredibly successful propaganda tool. And that should never be forgotten. It's a "tool", spewing tons and tons of propaganda that would make George Orwell turn in his grave. It's morphed into the primary mouthpiece of disinformation and disinformation, exceeding even television.

    So whatever crap is being posted somewhere online - it's not even remotely relevant to day-to-day living and real life. Netizens fail to realize that life resumes only when you're offline - not online.

    ~Survival Acres~

  8. Wise words Admin, thanks. I need to get of the net more! I'm sure you're not on Facebook. It's like a giant sandbox with a bunch of 2 year olds throwing sand and feces at each other - what a horrifying microcosm of the world! However, I have actually met some "normal" people who are about as clued in as you to the propaganda and the inevitability of collapse - actually met in person! - so that's pretty cool in these days of pre-traumatic stress syndrome.

    Sorry to hear about your trees. It is breaking my heart - happening faster and faster - and very few birds here compared to last year. That is making me quite miserable.

  9. There is a Facebook page, but I personally never read it or post there, I let someone else handle that. It's just a page for promotion and any site announcements. I deleted the blog today, so that is now gone.

    "Normal" isn't being well adjusted (comfortable) with a terribly sick society. It's being outraged at the sheer stupidity, arrogance and indifference to what is happening to the world that we're supposed to be sharing with other lifeforms. Nobody gave humans "license" to act irrationally and irresponsibly.

    The real-normal of the (very) few is now being punished, the societal "price" of having a conscience and speaking the truth. This is why you will be attacked and denigrated - whenever anyone speaks the whole truth, it's a threat to their (false) paradigm and their sphere of control at every level.

    The real world isn't online and never was. I think Americans need to remember that. The placebo effect of the Net isn't changing anything and never will. It's not activism - it's delusion. There will be those who will continue to self-promote online, but they're as phony as the plastic toys they drive around in.

    ~Survival Acres~

    1. Oh no! Did you delete the entire archive, so it's all gone forever?? It was such a great resource for me, an amazing eye-opener. Thank you for all the countless hours you must have devoted to writing it.

    2. Send me an email if you can. ~Survival Acres~

  10. Oh no! Did the fossil fuel tyrants and the Billionaires delete the entire biosphere? It's always been a great resource for me and my fellow humans, an amazing eye-opener. Thanks Nature, for all the countless aeons devoted to creating it. Nature will come up with a new plan, but I doubt it will include us or much of what we see around us (unless Earth goes Venus without a plan).
    You said it all: (to paraphrase) If it moves, people will eat it, if it burns people will burn it for fuel.
    My only question is whether at 67 years old, will I live to see the end? I hope not.

  11. https://autos.yahoo.com/news/tree-crushes-million-dollar-toyota-2000-gt-170015625.html

    Tree Crushes Million-Dollar Toyota 2000 GT

    If a tree falls in the forest—and hits a Toyota 2000 GT—you can bet you'll hear the owner make a sound.

    In a freak accident, a rotting tree fell on one of these million-dollar sports cars, the NHK (via Car and Driver) reports. While the accident in the Gokayama area of Nanto in Japan's Toyama prefecture left the car crushed beyond recognition, the driver reportedly escaped with only scrapes and bruises.

    Estimated to be 6.2 feet wide at its thickest point, the tree destroyed one of the most valuable Japanese cars in existence. Just 351 copies of the 2000 GT were reportedly built, between 1967 and 1970. One sold last year at auction for $1.15 million.


    Tree-killing beetles attacking California's forests – ‘We have no known treatment. We have no capacity to fend it off.’

    California is already plagued by a crippling drought and wildfires.

    Now you can add a legion of seemingly unstoppable beetles to the list of threats facing the region's forests.

    They've already invaded hundreds of tree species, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.



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