Forests, fields, oceans, us — no more denial on climate change

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

We recently lost another species from the face of this planet. Oh it’s nothing new, of course. The sentence would’ve been true any time it was written, really.

Maybe you’ve read that, following a similar declaration for several other species, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment declared the Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) extinct as of the first week of September.

There were once, millions of these meter-long creatures, which ate fish and shrimp. They were trapped and hunted for their fur but ultimately it seems likely that pollution and habitat destruction did them in.

No Japanese river otter has been seen since 1979. Probably a lot of Japanese young people would scarcely have been aware of the animal except for a famous poet named Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) who wrote in haiku and tanka and equated himself with the animals. By the way, according to Scientific American, some mark the September 19 death of Shiki as Dassai-ki or “Otter’s ceremony anniversary.”

So the loss of this one species – not much different from its European cousin – might not trouble us so much.

The circumstances of that loss might be of concern: Pollution and loss of habitat.

Consider something a little more close to home for us Americans: Our Florida Keys and Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. coral reefs are now dead, empty shells.

Thirty six scientists reported to the International Union for Conservation of Nature for a study that showed only 8 percent of these reefs are populated with live coral. More than half of the reefs were covered with live coral in the early 1970s.

This comes as staggering news even as we know the reefs are dead or dying because, you see, we really cannot afford to lose them. Reefs support a vast variety of marine life which is integral to the food chain.

U.S. government figures show that globally, fish provides more than 1.5 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein, and nearly 3.0 billion people with 15 percent of such protein.

We are likely to find that in coming years it becomes more difficult to supply protein needs from the land. There will simply be too many mouths to feed.

I’m afraid that the sea won’t be as helpful in that area as we once envisioned it would be. Priorities have long been geared to oil production and somehow … despite the three-month BP Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 … drilling will increase.

(More information on fish consumption here)

“… there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program, told National Geographic magazine. He noted in a press release that the major causes of coral decline are well known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

Understand well that, in the united States, both President Obama and candidate Mitt Romney are proponents of drilling for both oil and natural gas. The impetus to change must, presumably, come from you and I.


We have an unusual situation in the United States, where it might be seen that we became victims of our own prosperity. Urban sprawl is a good example. Good paying jobs and booming markets afforded city residents the opportunity to live away from the hustle and bustle of city life … and developers eagerly carved up the land and built the houses. Local governments facilitated what they called “growth.”

It wasn’t “growth.” Figure it out. As the land was developed and more people settled on it the space and the available natural resources shrank.

This was very “free market” and, where it was planned, it was planned with expediencies that ignored global issues.

We can’t ignore global issues now. Melting artic ice caps should, indeed, be a “wake-up” call. There are many issues to consider. Energy supply — and conservation — is certainly critical.

Candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are committed to increased use of fossil fuels. Many observers feel that the only sustainable energy choice is in renewables. Consider then, the U.S. Green Party and candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala.

Jill Stein doesn’t have the budget for much television and hasn’t been given an opportunity to debate. That means it’s up to citizens such as ourselves to do a little research and preparation for voting. It’s a reasonable thing to ask.


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