Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dispatch From The Endocene, #12

This week’s Dispatch from the Endocene will be mercifully brief, at least compared to previous episodes.  I would like to start off by expressing my deep gratitude, and admiration for the founder of Extinction Radio, Mike Ferrigan, who has been a wonderful host and interviewer.  Thanks Mike for your tenacity in starting and keeping this unique collaborative effort alive.  I am going to miss your delightful accent, as well as your gigantic and generous empathy.  At the same time, I’m really excited to see what directions the new producers will take us, and thanks to you all - for picking up the torch.

Following is the transcript and links for this week's Dispatch From The Endocene, archived at Extinction Radio.

What is the Endocene, anyway?  What happened to the Anthropocene - a geological epoch that was over before it was even officially named?

When the Anthropocene began is somewhat arguable, but I would place it back when humans first started to make their presence known on a global scale, by using fire to permanently alter the landscape and biosphere, and by hunting other species to extinction.  Both of these atrocities at a global scale are almost exclusively reserved for humanity alone.

When that transitioned to the Endocene is, in my estimation, around the time we started not just changing habitat or altering the balance of species by deliberate actions, but much greater impacts that are leading inexorably to our own extinction.  Still chief among them are over-hunting and over-fishing, but with a population that has grown from 1 billion to over 7 in about two centuries, the impact of so-called sustainable wildlife hunting is incomparably greater.  New, too, is the inadvertent side effects of our consumption that are poisoning everything to death - such as CO2 causing climate change, ozone killing the forests, plastics infiltrating the water, and nitrogen runoff causing dead zones in the oceans.

This week produced new examples of these trends that began in earnest with the Industrial Revolution, and accelerate by the day.  As always there will be links at the radio website and my blog, Wit’s End.

One freakish aspect of climate change that is a bit of a surprise is the increasing frequency and intensity of hailstorms.  Aside from the damage done to car windshields and roofs and agricultural crops, just days ago a gruesome event in Spain killed hundreds of flamingos, that were pummeled to death with balls of ice, some the size of tennis balls.

A new study indicates that as many as nine out of ten seabirds have pieces of plastic in their guts, which in addition to being toxic, reduces the space they have to eat, you know, food.  One of the researchers found nearly 200 pieces of plastic in just one bird.  There is a wrenching, tragic video that is brilliantly produced by Chris Jordan, a photographer who has been documenting the demise of the albatross on Midway Island that everyone who uses any plastic - that’s all of us - should be required to watch.

Scientists recently recorded the lowest levels of oxygen ever found in the ocean, off the coast of Africa.  Dead zones like this and the famous area in the Gulf of Mexico are the result of run off from fertilizers and sewage, and they are expected to spread and intensify, choking off life as they expand.

You would think that with so many wild animals imperiled, people would refrain from pushing the population of endangered species over the edge - but perversely, the opposite is the case, at least for the rhinoceros in South Africa.  Poaching of this protected animal has intensified this year, following a record killed last year - most of them within the confines of a National Park.

Unfortunately, this sort of desperately stupid defiance seems to characterize the human species when faced with limits to expansion and consumption.  Instead of exercising restraint, it appears that ever more frantic greed prevails.

If anyone hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend a movie about extinction that has an emphasis on the biological aspects, which are at the heart of the Endocene.  It’s title is “The Call of Life”.  If you can’t find a link to watch it online by googling, check the radio website, or my blog.

As always, thanks for listening, and try to find some love and comfort in these last days that will keep your heart from shattering into pieces of irremediable grief.


Seabirds, plastic:

Chris Jordan’s film Midway about the albatross -

Dead Zone in the Ocean:

movie about extinction - Call of Life


    and the giants will fall...

    1. Nate Stephenson is an idiot. There. I said it.

      "California's Sequoia National Park garnered the top spot, with nearly a quarter of the year, or 87 days, recording dangerous smog levels."

      "Smog is so bad that signs in visitors centers caution guests when it's not safe to hike. The government employment website warns job applicants that the workplace is unhealthy. And park workers are schooled every year on the lung and heart damage the pollution can cause."

      "Ozone also is to blame for weakening many stands of the park's Jeffrey and ponderosa pines, leaving telltale yellowing of their long needles. Instead of absorbing carbon dioxide, they soak up ozone through the stoma in their needles, which inhibits photosynthesis. Ozone also stresses young redwood seedlings, which already face challenges to survival."

      From the San Jose Mercury News.

  2. Multiple People Injured After Tree Snaps In Half At Bryant Park

    Multiple people were injured this afternoon when a tree reportedly snapped in half and fell in Bryant Park. "Missed this Bryant Park Tree falling on all of us sitting here by 2 feet!!!!" said Reiva Cruze, who Instagrammed the photo above. "Some of the other New Yorkers were not so lucky and and I'm wishing them well."



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