AuthorTopic: A Crashing Ecosystem and the End of History  (Read 1105 times)


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A Crashing Ecosystem and the End of History
« on: May 10, 2014, 04:21:01 AM »

Off the Keyboard of Tom Lewis

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West Coast Marine Ecosystem May Be Crashing


First published at The Daily Impact May 8, 2014

This is not a drill. A profound crash in the web of marine life in West Coast waters is under way, and may have gone on for two years already. Current observations that are setting biologists’ hair on fire include:

  • the sardine population from California to Canada is vanishing — the worst crash in generations;

  • starving sea lion and seal pups are washing up on California beaches in unprecedented numbers for the second straight year;

  • brown pelicans in the same area are showing signs of starvation and have not raised any chicks for four years;

  • a massive bloom of toxic algae in Monterey Bay is poisoning sea lions, fish and shellfish, and poses a threat to human health.

Sardines are a volatile species, and the fisheries based on them are famously boom-and-bust in nature. Among other things, sardines respond to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a periodic (10-20 year) variation of sea-surface temperatures that is the northern counterpart of the Southern Oscillation, one phase of which is better known these days as El Nino. While is is true that the PDO is now in its negative phase, bringing to the surface cold upwelling water that sardines hate, marine biologists are not convinced that the PDO can account for the drastic reduction of the sardine population that they are seeing.

The sardines’ absence is radiating through the ecosystem. Only plankton are below them in the food chain, and virtually everything else in, on and near the ocean is above them and depends on them; hence the starving pelicans and seals.

The toxic algae bloom in Monterey Bay is a separate problem but it is affecting the same ecosystem in what some experts are calling a perfect storm. Wildlife officials are dealing with dozens of convulsing sea lions and dead sea birds — some of which actually drop out of the sky — and are watching helplessly as the toxicity of Monterey Bay increases off the charts. Because of the toxins, health departments are warning against human consumption of the area’s shellfish, crabs, anchovies or sardines — that latter warning just in case anybody catches any sardines, which is not happening.

The storm becomes even more perfect when you add the effects of ocean acidification, which is decimating the shellfish populations (and industries) of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. [see Billions of Shellfish Die as Ocean Turns to Acid] And if, as some are suggesting, one of the factors turns out to be spreading radiation from Japan’s defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant, well then the storm is more than perfect.

Like an unbalanced bicycle rider. an unbalanced ecosystem can wobble back and forth for a while without crashing. It can even recover. Whether what we’re seeing on the Pacific Coast is a wobble or a crash will be evident quite soon. But in either case, the effects will be dire and long lasting.


The End of (Environmental) History

Of course it’s empty. Forbes says there’s nothing more to learn.

First published at The Daily Impact May 6, 2014

Forbes Magazine, assisted by the Heritage Foundation, has declared an end to the environmental movement; not for the reason you might expect Forbes to embrace, but because, and I quote, “we are all environmentalists now.” Likewise it has declared an end to worry about the effects of climate change, because, and again I quote, “many people see global warming as a problem for the future, not the present.” (This is optimism of the same stripe as the man who, having fallen 50 floors from the roof of a 60-story skyscraper, says to himself “Well, nothing bad has happened yet.”)

The motivation for this amazing piece of op-ed propaganda is perfectly clear. Forbes exists to pander to gazillionaires who made or inherited their money from enormous industrial enterprises. The Heritage Foundation exists to help ultra-conservatives spray their political emissions with a gloss of academic respectability. As we shall see, the shine does nothing to improve the smell.

The article helpfully offers to help us understand “Why the Public Isn’t Warming to the Climate Change Debate.” It leads off this way:

Many environmental activists, fueled by generous support from super-wealthy Democratic donors, are vowing to make climate change a top priority in the 2014 elections and beyond.  There are several reasons they won’t be successful, but the main one may surprise you.

Framing is everything. If you keep reading this tract you have accepted that the only people who think climate change should be a top priority, in 2014 or beyond, are environmental activists and super-wealthy Democrats. Just a tiny special-interest group, doomed to fail. Nothing here to make a plutocrat spew his morning latte.

The article nods to the fact that most Americans now accept that the climate is changing (whether or not because of human activity is simply left out of consideration). The point made here is that people know about it, but they don’t give a sh*t. Only the activist minority is trying to make a big deal out of it. (Them and 97% of the scientists who have studied it.) But they’re going to fail, for four reasons.

  1. It’s not here yet. “Polls over the past several decades show that people are usually most concerned about environmental problems they can see in their back yards.” Another thing that polls over several decades have shown: that any country that governs by polls is doomed.

  2. People don’t trust the media, which exaggerate the threats of global warming. “Who can forget,” the article asks, “Time’s overheated tag line for its April 2006 cover story on global warming, ‘Be Worried, Be Very Worried – Earth at the Tipping Point.’” Seriously. That’s their Exhibit A for media hype. (The Union of Concerned Scientists found that 93% of Fox News stories about climate change aired in 2012 were wrong or misleading, 72% in 2013. Who you gonna trust?)

  3. “We’re all environmentalists now, and it is hard to make a political issue out of a commitment shared by almost all of us.” Go ahead. Read it again. Written by two anti-scholars at the Heritage Foundation, for the Magazine of Record for the Plutocracy. There’s no issue here because we all agree. And on what planet, dear anti-scholars of the unthinkable-tank, do you spend the majority of your time?

  4. Americans, having authorized in the 1960s the saving of the environment, and having seen that done to their satisfaction, are now content to have the masters of the universe grapple with the details of finishing the job. “Their neglect is benign, a backhanded compliment to representative democracy, an indication of confidence in the process.”

And there you have it. The environmental movement succeeded in the 1970s, saved the environment, converted us all, and now we are fat, happy, and content to let the masters of the universe rule on.

Set down your pens, close up your blogs, unplug your microphones. It’s over. Seriously. It’s over.



Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.



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