Friday, August 28, 2015
Vulture in the Coal Mine
Carbon emissions, climate change, pesticides, medications used on domesticated livestock, vestiges of war, desertification, fires, population growth taking away valuable forests/jungles as farmland, soil depletion, drought… the world is changing. More people. More chemicals. Fewer forests and jungles. Less green. More heat. Water resources shift. Insects and bacteria/viruses take out more crops as they follow the warming trend. Man-introduced environmental chemicals play out their unintended consequences.
In his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, UCLA Professor and bio-historian, Jared Diamond, notes how civilization expanded rapidly from its Middle Eastern/African corridor east and west (vs. north and south) as mankind shifted from nomadic hunter-gatherer to stationary cultivator. Crops were suited to the same latitude and usually failed to take root and grow a mere 500 miles north or south of the ideal location. So it stands to reason that as climate change permanently alters the seasonal and average temperatures of most locations around the world, crops will either have to evolve to survive in different climes or will simply die off.
You can expect insects and crop germs of every description to move with climate change, attacking plants and trees that have no defense to these unfamiliar destroyers. And unlike the insects and germs, the plants and trees can’t just walk away. In Florida, for example, an insect carrying a decimating bacteria is rapidly taking down the massive orange crop, a Florida mainstay. “The bug, an Asian citrus psyllid, was carrying citrus greening disease, otherwise known by its Chinese name, huanglongbing. The disease was first detected in Florida in 2005 and spread cancerlike. Fast. Furious. Fatal… ‘We are seeing the death of an industry in front of our eyes,’ [orange grove owner Matt] McLean says, scanning his groves. ‘These trees will not survive.’” CNN.com, August 27th.
The examples of under-the-radar environmental horribles are everywhere. Another example, on the plains of East Africa, has impacted nature’s great recycler: the common vulture. “[T]he birds that once feasted on that misfortune, the janitors that clean the grassy plains, are collapsing — part of a broader decline in vulture populations that throws off ecosystems and illustrates how far-reaching the effects of poaching, poisoning and other human interventions can be.
”‘The overall global picture for vultures is abysmal,’ said Darcy Ogada, the assistant director of Africa programs at the Peregrine Fund, an organization dedicated to saving birds of prey. ‘Does this story echo that of the canary in the coal mine? Sure does.’
“In the first major study of the 30-year decline of Pan-African vultures, Dr. Ogada and other scientists found that populations of eight species of vultures had declined an average of 62 percent…Seven of those species had declined at a rate of 80 percent or more over three generations, according to the study, published this summer in the journal Conservation Letters.
“In some parts of Africa, vultures are targeted by poachers who poison carcasses hoping to kill the birds so they will not circle overhead and signal park rangers. A vulture can spot a dead elephant in less than 30 minutes, but it can take a poacher more than an hour to hack off ivory tusks. No vulture, no warning…
“[The story repeats itself in India as well.] ‘Everyone forgets about the Ugly Bettys of this world,’ said Munir Z. Virani, who directs the Africa and South Asia programs for the Peregrine Fund. ‘We are told all the time by the authorities that they are so busy working to protect elephants and rhinos and other animals that when it comes to the vultures, they are exhausted.’…
“In 2000, Dr. Virani was dispatched to India, where vultures were dying in great numbers but no one knew why… ‘Everywhere I went, there were dead vultures,’ he said. ‘But everywhere, their remains were in good condition.’… The initial hypothesis was that some type of infectious disease was behind the deaths. Soon it became clear that the killer was man-made… A painkiller widely used to treat livestock was poisoning the birds that fed on their carcasses.” New York Times, August 26th.
It’s a story with even more decimating consequences, a tale of man’s roiling pattern of messing with nature and ignoring the litany of “unintended consequences” the follow. “One carcass with the painkiller in its system could poison hundreds of birds, Dr. Virani said, and by 2006, when the painkiller was officially banned, the vulture population had already declined by 97 percent.
“Over the same period, there was a drastic rise in cases of rabies in India, with feral dogs taking advantage of the decline in vultures and often spreading the disease to humans… Dr. Virani described what he called apocalyptic scenes, with hordes of wild dogs numbering in the thousands, scavenging the remains of livestock. Estimates vary, but some put the feral dog population in India now as high as 25 million.
“Roughly 36 percent of the world’s rabies deaths — the majority of them children — occur in India, according to the World Health Organization. The battle against the virus is costing the government billions of dollars.” NY Times. Removing diseased carcasses would seem mission critical as well. In the United States, we have had parallel issues: “In Arizona, California and Utah, the Peregrine Fund and its partners have been working for years to bring back the critically endangered California condor, which by 1987 was almost completely wiped out by lead poisoning, with fewer than two dozen birds left. Nearly three decades later, there are around 400, fewer than half of them in captivity.” NY Times.
Man’s irresponsibility has impinged upon nature, and nature has retaliated with a vengeance. We simply will not learn the lessons of the consequences of our rash actions. Nature does not care that some have religious beliefs that forgive such efforts to challenge nature and exploit resources, burn fossil fuels and generally reign as imperious harvesters and breeders. Indeed, if such strong religious beliefs were in fact a part of nature, then perhaps someone should inform nature that she is violating God’s mandate… repeatedly, massively, 24/7/365.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I am tired of paying the price for profoundly selfish social retards using religion to justify their rape of the planet and making the lives of billions of people miserable as a result.