Sunday, October 05, 2014

Think of It as the "Noah's Ark" of Climate Change

What would Noah do?  WWND?

Let's pretend there was a Noah and he built an ark within which he accommodated species, two by two, so that life on Earth would not be wiped out in God's incredibly vindictive Great Flood.

First thing we know, from the biblical description, is that Noah's ark would not possibly have housed two of everything for 40-days and 40-nights even if Noah and family did have enough shovels to dung the place out.  Simply not enough room.  Not nearly enough.

So, what would Noah have done?  What would he take aboard and what would have left outside to meet its watery fate? 

Why do I ask?  Well we may have to do something along the same lines before long.  We might have to decide what species we need to help survive climate change, species we'll need for our own survival. 

We learned this week that, over the past 40-years, an era that began shortly before Reagan took the White House, we've eliminated about half the wildlife on earth.  We're destroying the habitat and consuming the renewable resources that wildlife need to share with us for their survival.  We take, they don't get, they die off.  Easy peasy. 

Now that we're starting to work on the remaining half, it behooves us to evaluate what species should go and what species we need to keep for our own good.  It's an entirely selfish exercise, the sort we do so well these days.'s the creatures that provide the most "natural capital" or "ecosystem services" that are getting many scientists really worried. Three quarters of the world's food production is thought to depend on bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies. Never mind how cute a panda is or how stunning a tiger, it's worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, bats that are catching mosquitoes and keeping malaria rates down. A study in North America has valued the loss of pest control from ongoing bat declines at more than $22bn in lost agricultural productivity.

"It's the loss of the common species that will impact on people. Not so much the rarer creatures, because by the very nature of their rarity we're not reliant on them in such an obvious way," said Dr Nick Isaac, a macroecologist at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Oxfordshire. He says that recent work he and colleagues have been doing suggests that Britain's insects and other invertebrates are declining just as fast as vertebrates, with "serious consequences for humanity". 

...The blame, most agree, sits with unsustainable human consumption damaging ecosystems, creating climate change and destroying habitats at a far faster rate than previously thought. But this time it's not just the "big cuddly mammals" we have to worry about losing but the smaller, less visible creatures upon which we depend – insects, creepy-crawlies and even worms. They might not be facing immediate extinction, but a decline in their numbers will affect us all. "There are some direct impacts from the indicators, we are going to feel the impact of those losses because the pattern is much the same with the UK species, with invertebrates as it is with vertebrates. It's not just the simplistic – fish die and people starve – but more complex," said Isaac.

...WWF claims there is still time to stop the rot. Its UK chief executive David Nussbaum said: "The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should act as a wake-up call for us all. We all – politicians, business and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for people and nature.

"Humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can regrow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can restock, pumping water from our rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb," he said.

There it is, easy as can be.  All we have to do is - stop.  We've got to stop cutting down trees faster than they can regrow.  We have to stop catching more fish than the oceans can replenish.  We have to stop draining our rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can refill them.  We have to stop emitting more carbon than the oceans and forest can absorb. 

All we have to do is stop.  How do you like our chances?

Well, if you don't like our chances of stopping, we had probably better get busy figuring out what species we need to invest in keeping around so that we can have a somewhat better chance of staying around ourselves.


rumleyfips said...

Here in rural Nova Scotia, with a low population density, the attrition is noticeable year by year. When I walk the dogs now, I miss a lot of fauna.

Turtles disappeared first, then frogs declined. Last year I saw few salamanders and noticed the silence around the lilacs and honeysuckle as few bees showed up. This summer snakes are scarce and after a rain the worms are not out on the road. Lack of worms is scary; soil health depends ,in part, on worms.

The Mound of Sound said...

What you describe, Rumley, seems to be a global phenomenon. What I can't understand is the complacency it evokes from the public and our elected representatives.

This is a loss of a truly cataclysmic dimension and yet it'll be consigned to the memory hole before the week is out.

Perhaps we're all Easter Islanders now.

Kim said...

You know, I divided some thyme plants last week from the veggie garden and I did not see any worms. Who will digest my compost if not worms?

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting point, Kim. Maybe we need to begin supporting active vermiculture by purchasing and breeding red wigglers.

These references to worms makes me recall Darwin's "earthworm monologue." I've never run into anyone else who actually read it. Fascinating stuff.