Friday, January 22, 2016

Nothing but sky, the sound of the water, and the water's reply

The End of the World

~ Dana Gioia

“We're going,” they said, “to the end of the world.”   
So they stopped the car where the river curled,   
And we scrambled down beneath the bridge   
On the gravel track of a narrow ridge.

We tramped for miles on a wooded walk
Where dog-hobble grew on its twisted stalk.
Then we stopped to rest on the pine-needle floor   
While two ospreys watched from an oak by the shore.

We came to a bend, where the river grew wide   
And green mountains rose on the opposite side.   
My guides moved back. I stood alone,
As the current streaked over smooth flat stone.

Shelf by stone shelf the river fell.
The white water goosetailed with eddying swell.   
Faster and louder the current dropped
Till it reached a cliff, and the trail stopped.

I stood at the edge where the mist ascended,   
My journey done where the world ended.
I looked downstream. There was nothing but sky,   
The sound of the water, and the water’s reply.

To listen to many foresters, you would think the threat to trees is limited to the bark beetle epidemic in the American West - even though all species of trees, all over the world, are dying from absorbing ozone and exposure to reactive nitrogen from industrial processes.  The pictures below, of Saguaro National Park, are from the US Park Service. Bark beetles aren't a factor in this very obvious reduction of health and vigor.  Yet the condition of the cacti reflects the decline of the largest specimens of vegetation - which is occurring in every biome on earth.  You would think some savvy researcher would realize that it is no coincidence, and look for the common factor, which is the toxic composition of the atmosphere.  The reduction in air quality isn't any mystery - just compare the wild mountain slopes in 1935 to the proliferation of buildings in 2010, with accompanying roads and pollution.
Below are olive trees in Corsica, dying of a pathogen that is expected to infect the rest of Europe.  I will have much more next week about the death of forests, but for now, what follows is the transcript from this week's Dispatch from the Endocene at Extinction Radio.

Thanks Gene, and welcome listeners to the 21st Dispatch From the Endocene.

Each time when I prepare this program I find there is a multitude of new evidence that our species, called sapiens, or wise, would be better named Homo Eradicatus.

Following are a few reports which in their diversity remind us of the myriad and unexpected ways that we are eradicating other species on our planet.

First, some ecologists are warning that one third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk if the dozens of dams being planned are ever built.  Despite the reputation hydroelectric generation enjoys for being a source of clean energy, it is anything but.  I will leave a link on my blog to the excellent movie “Damnation”, which looks at consequences in the US.  This latest report refers to government intentions to construct 450 dams in places once considered too remote to access - in the Amazon, Congo, and in Asia.  We apparently have learned nothing from the disasters that have already been built.

One of the most amazing recent studies tells us that melting ice means more than rising sea levels and loss of albedo.  Thick ice blocks light from reaching the water below, and the creatures that inhabit that unique environment are not adapted to the light that will increasingly penetrate the depths.  Researchers are attempting to model what the change will mean if algae displaces invertebrate communities, and what impact that will have in turn for fish populations such as herring, capelin and mackerel.  The bottom line is no one knows exactly how this will interact with stratification of fresh and salt water as the ice melts, acidification, and warming temperatures.  What IS crystal clear is that the reach of Homo Eradicatus extends even to places we have never actually been.

But perhaps this is irrelevant, as we are emptying the seas, according to a report published in the journal Nature Communications.  The researchers analyzed the global fish catch and determined that between 1950 and 2010, more than 35 billion tons of fish were caught than was reported.  Around nine percent is discarded as unwanted bycatch from mass trawlers looking for more marketable products like shrimp.  This illegal or unregulated plunder is reflected in the difficulty now encountered in locating healthy populations to fish.  Many species are on the brink of collapse which is resulting in what one of the authors called the “luxurization” of, for example, the once common cod.

Many people live their entire lives without ever seeing a bat and perhaps without giving them a thought, even though they are vital pollinators, seed dispersers and consumers of insect pests.  According to an article published by the Climate News Network, there are more than 1,100 types of bat that many under threat from human activities ranging from wind turbines to drought from global warming.  Researchers suspect warming may interfere with their ability to detect prey.  Populations have been decimated by a fungal disease, and it is unknown what stress has caused them to become so vulnerable.

A comprehensive study of mass mortality events, handily acronymed as MMEs, looked at 727 published reports around the globe and found a major intensification for numerous animal species.  First consider the enormous magnitude of an episode that qualifies for the designation:

“…removing more than 90% of a population, resulting in the death of more than a billion individuals, or producing 700 million tons of dead biomass in a single event.”

The abstract states:

“…the increase in MMEs appears to be associated with a rise in disease emergence, biotoxicity, and events produced by multiple interacting stressors…In addition, MMEs with the largest magnitudes were those that resulted from multiple stressors, starvation, and disease.”

That study is from 2014, and as recorded in an article in the Washington Post recently, the MMEs are continuing to increase.  You can read about sea birds, bees, whales, antelope, and corals, and more - including of course, trees.

I noticed that Sam Carana posted in his Arctic News blog that “Annual mean carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, grew by 3.17 ppm in 2015, a higher growth rate than in any year since the record started in 1959.”

This is despite the global slowdown in the economy, and it is exactly what you would expect when trees are being poisoned by pollution and the forests are in decline around the world, subject to opportunistic attacks from epidemics of insects, disease and fungus. 

Perhaps this impending scarcity of trees explains why no fewer than dozens of companies in Spain have been digging up thousand year old olive trees for the last two decades, and selling them to wealthy foreigners who want them as garden ornaments in northern Europe and even in places as far off as the US and the United Arab Emirates.  This despite they often don’t survive the journey, and if they do, often die prematurely.  To top it off, a pathogen has been killing olive trees in Italy and is expected to spread across Europe.  Strains of the bacteria are able to infect forest trees such as oak, sycamore, ornamentals like oleander, and orchard crops like citrus, cherry, almond, grapefruit, and peach.  As usual, foresters blame recent invasive species instead of pollution, even though bacteria spores have been found to literally travel on the wind.

An article in Smithsonian explains that “recent research suggests that microbes are hidden players in the atmosphere, making clouds, causing rain, spreading diseases between continents and maybe even changing climates.

A NASA scientist was astonished when he sampled air collected in Oregon and found living bacteria and fungus that originated in Asia.

"I regard the atmosphere as a highway, in the most literal sense of the term," he was quoted in the article. "It enables the exchange of microorganisms between ecosystems thousands of miles apart, and to me that’s a more profound ecological consequence we still have not fully wrapped our heads around."
Thanks for listening to Dispatch from the Endocene - at the close of the hottest year in human history, and the beginning of what NASA anticipates will be an even hotter 2016.



  1. That is a beautiful poem, Gail.
    And who can imagine 11'000 YBP with giant sloths spreading Joshua Tree seeds?
    Many mass extinctions played out over tens of thousands of years.
    The Anthropocene Mass Extinction is no exception I guess...
    Thought you'd 'like' this:


    1. Ah yes... that discovery is next in the queue!

    2. Haha, you know you can 'command +' to make figure 2 nice and big :-)
      I also found this one interesting:

      I always had assumed our weapons (all phallic) could only be the work of males, but this report (which provides follow-up evidence from a similar 2007 paper) notes that most weapon-making and weapon-assisted hunting in chimps was carried out by females, and suggests that the reason could be to compensate for the females' inferior physical strength relative males, who did not need weapons to kill!


  2. I am a rustic furniture builder who uses beetle killed
    Pine. I hate seeing our forest die. Out of curiosity I googled Beetle Kill to see what is being done about it. The first two pages were all about what beautiful wood we get from the die off. (Beautiful blue stain pine) Only one usfs page of bureaucratic noise. I'm afraid nobody cares. Just another unit of noise from the TV cramming its way into all the other noise. Sorry it just saddens me. We continue to screw it up.

    1. Well, google has some algorithm based on your viewing history that determines what comes up in a search. So maybe as you are a furniture builder, it slants your results towards wood. There have been a quite a few articles about the pine beetle and a lot of research. Unfortunately nobody has any ideas about what to do about it other than looking for resistant species. This is because they don't want to admit that pollution underlies the problem, because nobody expects people to stop burning fuel.

    2. Thanks for the article. I tried a search engine I have never used before and had similar results. I don't know how the algorithms work, but it strikes me as a dangerous means of reinforcing bad information. We have plenty of screwy ideas being presented as truth. We

  3. Knowing(?) that you, Gail, and Tom live near or in the area of maximum impact from Jonas, I hope you both have been and are continuing to weather the conditions "comfortably." (Yeah, weak pun but couldn't help myself!) :) In days gone by, this type of system would have hammered my region (W of CLE) BEFORE getting to you. Here, there was barely a "sugar coating" which has now ALL melted. Not to worry, though, "reliable authorities" say AGW is a hoax, nothing to see here, please, move along! :)

    I've been, for the past year or so, quite reluctant (to put it mildly) to recommend or link anything from the following site but this gem from one of the more astute commentators is worth a gander. Too bad there isn't a link supplied for the souce material. Several attempted searches using some combination of [“Say What?” forum recount “wtf?” moments] have proven futile.

    1. In conjunction with the first part of my comment above and in case anyone has yet to see it, the latest WunderBlog post, Freakish Sleet, Snow, and Cold Sting Southeast Asia, is worth the time.

    2. Haha ColinC, Lidia and I go way back. Thanks for posting that, I rarely check there anymore and I'm amazed she has held on through all the incessant woo-woo. This is priceless, I'm writing a post about free will and it will come in handy: "How can you have a “choice” when you can barely even tie your shoes?"

    3. Well, NOW I'm going to have to shit and fall back in it!! I woulda' swore on a stack of Bibles, my mother's grave (actually, her and my father's "ashes" are less than 8 ft. away as I type) or anything else that I HAD included an "r" in "souce material," in the 2nd paragraph of my 1st comment of this sub-thread!! FUCK ME!!! I [almost] always "note" the squiggly, red underlines in text-boxes and take appropriate steps to eliminate them. HTF did I NOT notice that one at the time, prior to posting?!?!?! Guess I'm left with little other option than running some diagnostic processes on my "mind." (Since I'm still upright and breathing [I think], I'm guessing my "brain" is still somewhat functional.) Of course, being "mostly human," I'll defend my oversight by saying I was on my 4th glass of wine (nope, nowhere near enough to be that inane) and was ruminating on how best to augment the left-over pasta "sauce" for tonight's dinner. Yes, I know, that's both weak AND lame, but "Hey!", I'm on this rock and walk on 2 feet, most of the time, just like any(?!) other "human!" If you don't understand that last correlation, well, that makes at least 2 of us! :)

      All seriousness aside, can't really chide you in any way for NOT "check[ing] there anymore," I often wonder "Why?" I still do... except for the observations of Lidia, Tom and very few others. Most of the comments I just scroll past without hesitation. I mean, usually, I can "deal with" half-wits, but the dimwits, nitwits and fuckwits that NOW constitute the majority of the commentators "there," I just have absolutely no use for or interest in what they believe. I think Lidia's comment (referenced above) speaks volumes to such beliefs, more than most will take the time [or possess the rationale] to actually consider. I'm genuinely looking forward to the post you're writing. It may come in handy when talking with people who have Velcro-closures on their shoes! :)

      DAMN, I JUST realized, (more fool me) that AFTER I (or "you") do a [Preview] of my (/your) comment and "go back" to [Edit], all the squiggly, red underlines VANISH!! Now, isn't that "interesting!" Could it be, oh, I don't know, maybe "Google?!" :) As I've regurgitated often, over the past 2.5+ decades working in Info.Tech. (with a plethora of user.dumbshits) (and having acquired and learned how to program my 1st "computer" in 1983... in BASIC AND Assembler), "Computers!!! Bah, humbug!! Who the fuck 'needs' them?" WTF and blow me down, NOW the "squiggly-reds" do NOT vanish!! WTF? I better lay-off the wine and go back to 'shrooms and LSD!! :) AHA!! I'm NOT going fucking nutso', at least not any more than "usual." Clicking on [Edit], after doing a [Preview], the squiggly-reds DO, in fact, VANISH... until you click in the text box to actually, um, "edit," at which time they WILL reappear! So, lest I sound repetitious, FUCK ME. If this is "too much" or "beyond the pale," Gail, please, feel free to "trim" at your discretion. I NEED a cup of tea.

    4. From Lidia:

      For Colin C..
      I got this material from Ravelry, which is a site to do with fiber arts: knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving in more or less that order. It has a lot of useful database power as well as a social media aspect. There are people (mostly women) from all over the English-speaking world and beyond, from all walks of life, so it's an interesting cross-section of humanity.

      I'm not sure if one can access the thread directly without being a member (it is free to join and there is zero spamming).
      Maybe Colin would like to take up a soothing and largely biodegradable hobby?

      Here's the link anyway... I edited out some of the thread, but what I posted was the bulk of the first flush of responses.
      I see there are 132 new "say what?" comments since I last visited...!

    5. Gail, thank you very kindly for the "relay" of Lidia's response. BTW, Gail, I'd very much like to know/see the difference in the "tracking data" you have available for THIS comment in "relation" to that of any of my previous comments. Thanks in advance if you can let me know.

      Lidia, thank you, too, very kindly for that response. I'd not expected those "witticisms" were from such an "obscure" source. I did try to view the content on that site but, as you asserted, it's "members only" and I'm disinclined to acquiesce. However, I'm guessing that you and possibly "others" may be "surprised" when I admit that I did more than a little macramé over about 2 years in my "youth." From Aug-'74 thru Apr-'76 I "served" as deckhand/watchman on several "boats" (pejorative intended) in U.S.Steel's Great Lakes Fleet. When not "working/on-watch," there really isn't much to do and macramé along with "knotting" (made my own hammock) and leather-braiding kept idle hands preoccupied until the next port/emergency. Can any of you imagine how big a wave "must" be to literally crumple a 4 ft by 7 ft, heavy-duty (i.e., UN-bendable by human hands), steel "screen" on the backside of the "stack" which is at least 50 ft from the stern and at least 30 ft above water-line? Can you further imagine riding-out several such storms, each lasting several hours or more? I'm guessing you've heard of the Edmund Fitzgerald, how about the Arthur M. Anderson? Now, back to your regular programming.

  4. Hey Gail, Nice artistic touch with the poem.

    colinc: yeah, after digging out all day Sunday (the roads here are still a mess after 3 days above freezing) I'm still here. Following the Ray Batman nonsense (Hey Ray, what are we talking about if none of this is real?) I just skim through for the gems (like Lidia's) and Guy's latest. No sense wasting our time when it's all going to end soon anyway. Good discovery too (in your above comment).


    1. This was my driveway in between first and second plowing:

    2. Well, it's good to hear you're both coping adequately. However, not knowing how you are doing your snow "removal," I'd like to suggest you search for "snow sleigh shovel." I got mine about 3 yrs ago and can clear as much (if not more) snow than my neighbors can with their noisy snow-blowers, or my full-time drunk, biker moron to my west can with his ATV with snow-blade (usually making a "ridged" mess of the street), in the same amount of time and with little "exertion," i.e. no sore, achy muscles, no labored breathing. Not to mention, no fuel costs, smell or noise. My 30'x30' garage turn-around and 70' more driveway take me just a bit more than an hour regardless of snowfall depth. I wanted to post a link but, when doing a search for the one I have (more manufacturers now), Win-10 informed me that my video driver had crashed which resulted in crashing Win10. Linux, here I come.

  5. hi gail and all

  6. beautiful poem!

    ozone pollution from non-industrial (but still human) sources:

    1. GREAT article, thanks! I myself was surprised when I first saw Jack Fishman say that SH ozone is just as bad due to agricultural burns as NH from industry. It lends credence too, to the contention by Richard Mollison and Charles Little, that even the early die-offs of, say, chestnut and elm from fungal pandemics had their beginnings in man made pollution.


Blog Archive

Follow by Email

My Blog List

Search This Blog