CLOSER TO THE
Forests, Oceans and Other
Ecosystems in Big Trouble
In a World of Climate Change
Courtesy of US BioCarbon
Picture, you’re paddling a canoe across a glassy lake on a cold, clear day, when suddenly a speed boat flies by making a huge wake and your partner zigs when he should have zagged, you lose control and the canoe tips over. You’re lucky to recover your belongings, but everything’s soaked, and as you begin to shiver, miles away from dry clothes, you realize that what started as a picture-perfect day was turning out pretty miserable.
The concept of Abrupt Climate Change was introduced in 2013 in an interagency National Resource Council Report which was released in December, prior to about a dozen other major reports on the subject of Climate. In all of these reports they warn us of its dire condition (with CO2 levels above 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years), that the changes are definitely anthropomorphic (man-made), and that unless we and the whole world drastically stops pouring greenhouse gases into our atmosphere right away, there will be no future for our children, not to mention our grandchildren. Perhaps the most significant of these reports were the UN’s IPCC and the US National Climate Assessment (NCA). These two and all these very thorough and creditable reports, some of which are hundreds of pages long, can be found with names and links on a Timeline (sorted by month, and mostly, 2014) at the end of this post. But, unless we heed the warnings within these reports, and follow through on the huge changes they call for right away, and not just pay lip service to it, (like Kerry, Obama and virtually every other politician worldwide), they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
If you think about it, knowing what we know about the sudden changes and unpredictability of weather, the concept makes sense that the climate, which we normally think of in the long term, might not change in an orderly and incremental fashion. For example, if scientists project Sea Levels to rise 1 inch in 10 years, it probably won’t be a tenth of an inch each year, but might be uneven and jump abruptly in response to an event like the rapid melt of an Ice Sheet. In fact, scientists have recently determined that more than a few times in the last several hundred million years, the Climate did change drastically in a few decades, or maybe even a few years, so there is precedent for Abrupt Climate Change.
Now, take a look at this picture. You’re visiting the same beautiful lake you’ve been traveling to with your family for the last 20 years. Year to year, you’ve noticed some minor signs of pollution, some plastic garbage floating or some bottles or cans on the bottom, some rainbow oil slime on the surface from motorboats, or some froth or bubbles that don’t pop fast as they should, but by and large, all seemed well, (it’s a beautiful day), and you even caught a few fish last year. Then you wake up the next morning, and the lake has turned green overnight and is starting to stink from algae. After a day or two, hundreds of dead fish are found floating on the surface, as the dying algae, (or cyanobacteria called Blue Green Algae, that also produces a toxin), deplete all the life-giving oxygen. The lake had been absorbing pollution from refuse, used motor oil, chemicals, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers (with phosphate and nitrate nutrients), and tolerating the onslaught for many years, and had finally reached the tipping point.
Similar scenarios have been repeating all over the world with millions of fish dying, thousands to hundreds of thousands on a daily basis. We are not suggesting that these outcomes are all directly related to Climate Change. That is just one factor amongst many, but the fact is, that we are experiencing these catastrophic events more and more frequently, and the changing Climate is certainly in play. Similarly, millions of trees are dying in forests all over the world from insects and pathogens, not to mention wildfires, but again Climate Change is the common factor in all of these events.
Though our oceans and forests and the wildlife within them, and virtually every other ecosystem on Earth (deserts, wetlands, grasslands, peat lands, etc) are threatened by anthropomorphic Climate Change and other anthropomorphic disturbances such as the Chemical burdens they face, and are already in big trouble, we are certainly not saying we have reached the tipping point, or predicting when this will happen. We will leave that up to the experts and scientists with their computers, projections and models. In this article, we are simply reporting on events already happening, and exploring what is happening, and why, and how we might respond to hopefully slow down these terrible cascading events.
An ecosystem is just as complex as a highly developed organism. Every food in each of the food chains within an ecosystem, every one of the predators and prey within that food chain is key, and any disturbance can break the homeostasis, the balance, of that ecosystem. For instance, if too many wolves are killed by farmers protecting their livestock, we have heard reports of rabbits overrunning an area, which then consume all available food for another species. Every action has a reaction. This type of imbalance can also happen from changing migratory patterns due to Climate Change. We have heard reports of a bird, the Puffin, an animal already once brought back from the brink of extinction, whose young are dying from starvation, because their traditional foods, herring and hake, retreated to cooler waters. Try as they might to feed their baby Puffins, the parent Puffins tragically can only find fish that are too wide to slide down their babies narrow throats, as herring and hake would easily.
Another problem that can dramatically throw off an ecosystem is invasive species with no natural predators, both in flora (plants) and fauna (animals). There are numerous examples, one of which, the tiny European Green Crab, came to Oregon waters presumably through a ship’s ballast, and is now so prolific, that they are seriously harming the seafood industry in the Northwest US. Huge Asian Carp in the Midwest US, seen in videos literally jumping into boats and slamming into people, are very aggressive, and outcompete traditional species for food. The Bark Beatle and Ash Borer and dozens of other species of insect, as well as tree pathogens and molds are also considered invasive, and are responsible for the ongoing death of millions of trees worldwide
When an ecosystem is upset or plundered, so too are the creatures that live within that ecosystem and depend on it for sustenance. Too many species of plants and animals are so stressed, with so few of that species remaining, that extinction is a near certainty, and more plants and animals are being added to the endangered species list each day. Climate Change may be a major factor, but it is usually just one of the stressors. Each loss is a tragedy, and it’s even more tragic when nobody seems to care, or even take notice, or when no work is done to prevent more extinctions, and one part of that work would be to limit or slow Climate Change with all due urgency.
Ecosystems are local. That’s how they work. And some say the best stewards would be the local indigenous people that live within them, rather than corporations or politicians that stand to profit from them. When we refer to the Forest ecosystem, we do so in a macro approach, in covering the commonalities of the many diverse local Forest ecosystems within that category that are all faced with very different challenges.
Courtesy of Google Images
Every human, every creature on earth, even fish, needs Oxygen to breathe. And we know that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has changed our Climate, causing catastrophic extreme weather events all over the world. CO2 contributes substantially to rising temperatures and sea levels that are projected to drown many of our major cities. TREES ARE THE ONE THING THAT COULD SAVE US.
(Organic agriculture is included, and for the same reason.) Photosynthesis, the miracle that turns sunlight into sugar (carbohydrate), allows plants to grow and offers nutrition to all living things, and most notably, gives us Oxygen and absorbs and sequesters carbon. We ask our atheist reader’s indulgence, but if you believe in a Supreme Being, and most of the billions of individual humans on this planet do, no matter whether Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or Indigenous, you will recognize that God gave us the gift of trees to purify the air (scientifically proven, and heralded in cities), to provide us with life sustaining oxygen, and to regulate carbon in our atmosphere, and that this is the most miraculous invention ever conceived. The space industry has tried, but no one could ever invent a life support machine that accomplished all these tasks.
Yet, though Earth is our only spaceship, and trees are an essential part of our life support system, we stand by and passively watch, if we are even aware of it, as more and more millions of trees are being massacred each year. The massive deforestation taking place on every continent has both natural causes (insects, tree diseases, and wildfires, all related to anthropogenic Climate Change) and direct man-made causes (logging for profit and intentional burning or clear-cutting for agricultural, industrial, mining, or domestic development).
Rainforests, only 6% of total land surface, are the world’s cradle of biodiversity with 50% of all species on this planet, flora and fauna, including plants unique to the Amazon that are utilized for pharmaceuticals, The Amazon alone, the largest tropical rainforest, holds 10% of all carbon stored in all land-based ecosystems globally, but we are losing trees in the Amazon through deforestation at the rate of 32,000,000 acres per year. Roughly 1 acre of trees is being destroyed every second, and most of the carbon that has accumulated in each of those trees during many years of growth is being emitted into the atmosphere. The Amazon is fast becoming a Net Carbon Producer, rather than the Carbon Sink, on which the world has always depended. And now we’re finding deforestation in the Amazon actually reducing rainfall in Brazil’s worsening drought.
Activist groups like the Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Watch, and Greenpeace are doing everything they can to stop the destruction of the rain forest, with the help of big organizations like the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Alliance, and many more. Initiatives like REDD and REDD+, the UN’s programs for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, are meeting with occasional limited success, and the Rainforest Trust is actually seeking to purchase 5.9 million acres of tropical rainforest in Peru, in order to conserve it. Indeed, payments to locals have been made by organizations to refrain from burning rainforests, for, let’s say, palm trees for Palm Oil used in cosmetics and food production. Various other initiatives have been tried to stem the tide with occasional success stories, but overall the rainforests are experiencing the loss of millions of trees each year with no abatement. Every step forward is met with many steps back. Rainforests in Paraguay, Indonesia, Madagascar, and other parts of the world have been decimated by man, and in the case of the Congo, by drought. Millions of trees are dying each year, and the losses are owed to all the same reasons mentioned above, whether natural or intentional.
Logging is big business. In the Northern California rainforest near the Oregon border, and all over the world where there are forests, tractor trailers full of fresh cut trees are seen routinely. The demand for wood increases as demand for new housing increases. Activists are most concerned with “clear-cutting”. which can be evidenced on Google Earth, and especially, the logging of “old-growth forests”, which protesters have gone to extremes trying to protect. We have heard of a protest recently in Oregon, where truckloads after truckloads of fresh cut trees were being delivered to a new Biomass Power Station. Biomass sounds cool, but it’s supposed to be about burning garbage. Now, they’re taking down trees and burning them for electricity!
All over the world, trees are being cut or intentionally burned to clear land for Agriculture. Huge tracts are being cleared for gargantuan chemical GMO crop fields to supply the Ethanol, Animal Feed and Human Food markets. Small family farmers with very small tracts of land, just trying to survive, are also responsible for loss of trees around the world. In many countries the preferred method of clearing land is burning, and burning is never an exact science. Many times fires get out of control. Cattle-ranching is another agricultural operation that requires large areas of grazing land. Huge areas of the Amazon Rainforest have been transformed for this purpose, which turns a Carbon Sink into the climate and toxic disaster of industrial livestock (Methane - worse GHG than CO2).
Fracking is responsible for the loss of millions of trees worldwide. Instead of conventional drilling with fewer wellheads tapping larger reserves, unconventional fracking requires tens of thousands of well pads, each with huge tanks for water and chemicals, tremendous wastewater ponds, and large areas to store big quantities of silica sand, so each of the thousands of wells requires the clearing of many acres of trees. Gas Flares, 24/7, from every fracked oil well also impacts the climate, trees and animals. Plus pipelines and roads, required to supply the well and to move the oil and gas, crisscross the Forests in treeless paths. Oil, gas, the fracking chemicals, and the salty radioactive toxic waste water definitely kill trees. The thousands of small (and sometimes larger) spills annually in North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, and all over the world wherever you find fracking, have told that story repeatedly. All it takes is one accident, or one irresponsible truck driver or manager dumping some toxic waste water, and you’ve got lots of dead trees and a threat to ground and surface water. This is happening in Russia and China and in every nation where you find fracking, perhaps even more so than in the US. Compressor Stations and refineries are being built or enlarged to accommodate the burgeoning fracking industry and electricity demand, pumping tons of toxic pollutants into our forests and onto our farm fields. Diesel fumes from all of the trucks are also impacting on the trees. Toxic natural gas leaks have been known to kill trees on city streets, and we all know the natural gas extraction industry leaks like a sieve at every step, making the impact of Natural Gas on the Climate as bad, if not worse than Coal.
All Mining, but especially the Coal Industry with Strip Mining, and the use of Coal Ash Pits behind every
Power Station also kills trees and animals, not to mention the CO2 and Particulates. What’s toxic for us is also toxic for animals, heavy metals and EDCs. All vertebrates, even fish, have endocrine systems much like ours. And Tarsands Mining is even worse for the environment at every stage than Coal. Vast areas of forest have been completely wiped out in a toxic morass. (The fish and animals, traditional foods of the indigenous people near Alberta, Canada, that are anywhere near Tarsands or Tarsands Refining, have been poisoned with highly toxic levels of heavy metals.)
Around the world, Hydroelectric Power requires dams to be built, drowning many trees. Lots of trees are also cut for new Electrical Transmission lines and the pathways they require. Positive Wind and Solar Development, which we back 100%, also unfortunately requires the clearing of trees
Everywhere, trees are being cleared for Development, Industrial, Housing (ever growing populations), Road Construction (ever growing numbers of cars and trucks) and Rail Transportation (ever growing cargoes of Fossil Fuels, Etc.). (In places like India and China, these numbers are exploding, especially in numbers of cars.)
Every time trees are cleared, ecosystems are disturbed, and so are the animals that depend on them, as well as the indigenous and local people that live within them. Whether the people are complicit, because they stand to profit, is another story.
50% of all species of birds are threatened with extinction. So many species of animals are threatened, if they’re not already on the endangered species list, or already gone forever. Most large species of mammals around the world are currently being threatened with extinction, Elephants, Jaguars, Caribou, Wolves, Bears, and Tigers. These wild animals need large expanses of wilderness to survive, what the World Resources Institute introduced in their article as IFLs (Intact Forest Landscapes). The Global Forest Watch Study with assistance by the USGS Landsat Program and NASA, compared satellite images from 2013 with images of the same areas in 2000. What they found is that 8% of the world’s wilderness areas or 250,000,000 acres has been lost since 2000 to development of roads, gas and oil pipelines, agriculture, industry, housing, etc. Everywhere, trees are being decimated in the name of progress, not just in the rainforests, and plants and animals at every level, from the floor to the canopy, are affected, and their ecosystems are being degraded.
Trees are also being wiped out in large numbers by the persistent Drought, and by Extreme Weather with Flooding and Soil Erosion, so Climate, by itself, is also a factor.
Another natural factor killing millions of trees in the US and Canada and all over the world each year, are insects and pathogens. Rocky Mountain High in Colorado now, besides having the State plagued by the fracking craze, has lost many ofits beautiful Aspen trees to a Bark Beetle. Huge expanses of famed beautiful green Aspen forests are now shades of red and brown. Similar stories of insects and tree diseases wiping out huge stands of forest are coming in from every continent. The coverage is usually very local, referring to a specific species of tree and a specific insect or disease, but the information is out there, and in the aggregate, it’s an epidemic. Trees are being killed in big numbers, and climate is surely a contributing factor.
Very few are aware of one of the most significant Climate Disasters of our day, the Summer of 2014 Boreal Forest Fires in the Northwest Territories of Canada, in which hundreds of fires have been raging since as early as June, with many still burning in September, in a total area larger than the state of Maryland (over 13,000 square miles). The Boreal Forests of Canada, Europe, Russia, and Alaska hold 30% of the world’s plant-based carbon. Below the trees, the debris, and a shallow layer of soil, lies a layer of Peat Moss 5-7 feet thick (partially decomposed plant matter that takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years to accumulate.).
It was the perfect storm of the Jet Stream causing hot dry conditions (on top of the fact that Boreal and Arctic areas are heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world), and then thunderstorms bringing lightning strikes, igniting not just the trees, but that thick dry layer of Peat under the floor of the forest, with all that Carbon being released by these fires. Some of these fires have been burning so hot, Pyrocumulus clouds, that resemble grayish volcanic explosions, formed above these fires, and the smoke plumes have reached as high as seven miles and have been picked up by the Jet Stream, and were visible at times for thousands of miles in Canada, the US and all the way to Scandinavia.
Like many forest areas, these forests had been previously stressed by the Mountain Pine Beetle and the Spruce Budworm, so the fires really exploded from all the dead (from insects) dry wood and the dry Peat below the trees. Unlike the forest fires in California, Oregon and Washington State this summer which firefighters fought (over 3000 square miles of trees), the decision was made by the Canadian Government that there was little that could be done in these woods, and so, most of these fires were left to burn unattended.
People will tell you that there are Boreal forest fires every year, and there is truth to that, but we’ve been told that these fires were the worst in 10,000 years. And we’re not just talking about trees lost in the Northwest Territories of Canada and in the American West. British Columbia was also drastically hit this summer, as well as huge fires in Russia and Alaska..
Every year worldwide, and not just in the US, due to Climate Change and Drought, millions of trees succumb to forest fires in increasingly longer seasons, which literally pour CO2 and Black Carbon into the atmosphere. All the carbon that took 20 to 50 years to accumulate into each tree is oxidized, also depleting oxygen, and it happens in a matter of minutes, producing CO2 to blanket the earth and Black Carbon to clog the lungs of humans and animals. That black carbon peppers the Arctic, turning the white ice, snow, and glaciers black, absorbing the sun, and melting the ice, which reinforces the warming.
People will tell you that after forest fires, the trees will grow back. They sometimes even try to make fires out as a good thing, by telling you how fires rejuvenate the forests and prairies. In some ways that may be true, but we don’t have 20 or 30 years for the new trees to grow and mature, or for us to get the full effect of their Carbon absorbing benefits. And with the loss of the Peat layer that burned, those Boreal forests will never be the same. And nobody thinks about the wildlife. Just as firefighters have been trapped by flames, think of all the animals trapped and burned alive. Life will reemerge; flora and fauna, but it will never be the same ecosystem it was. Even fish are killed by forest fires. If they are able to survive the flames, the ash and eroded silt from the fire, clogs the streams and their gills, and as a result, many die. And dead creatures and plants, that aren’t buried or consumed, decompose, again sending Carbon up into the atmosphere.
The Forest Ecosystems and Trees are essential to our survival. If we allow the rampant killing of Trees to continue. even if we do Plant-A-Billion-Trees, (the Nature Conservancy’s positive program), it won’t be enough. Unless we somehow stem the slaughter, and we must do so shortly, we won’t be leaving our children and future generations a habitable planet.
Ocean Acidification & Climate Change
Courtesy of Google Images
Over 2.6 billion people rely on seafood as their principle source of protein, and billions more eat seafood as part of their diet. Over 200 million people make their living fishing and harvesting seafood. We all have a stake in the health and sustainability of the world’s oceans, and our oceans are in big trouble.
The March, 2014 disappearance and the subsequent search for the Malaysian Airline Jet in the South Indian Ocean highlighted the fact that there is so much plastic garbage floating in our oceans, and remarkably, they explored the ocean floor as well, and observed sunken garbage scattered across the ocean floor. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been WoodstockEarthBlog’s internationally most popular article, and we suggest you read it, as we covered the subject of plastic and the 5 gyres or currents around the globe, where floating plastic garbage converges, why it’s happening, and how huge patches are formed with a very dense plastic concentration. This plastic breaks down (photodegrades) to little pieces of glistening confetti that act like sponges for toxins, and we know that fish mistake these pieces of plastic for plankton and eat them, because we find fish with their stomach full of them. Plastics are impacting our seafood in many ways, all reviewed in that article.
As is our custom, we won’t repeat the contents, but a piece of news on this subject is the recent ban (not going into effect until 2017) in several US States of the use of Plastic Microbeads in Soaps, Scrubs, Cosmetics, and Toothpaste, after a study found over 1.1 million Microbeads per square kilometer on the floor of Lake Huron. It’s not just the fish that are eating this plastic (~300 tons/year in the US going into our waterways and oceans), we’re drinking and eating it too, directly, as these Microbeads are so small, they pass through filters. Whoever’s responsible (heavy use started in the 1990s), and whoever in the Government allowed it, should be pursued criminally for being the ecocidal maniacs that they are.
In the Earth Sciences, we learn that the prevailing winds and the prevailing currents in our Oceans effect each other, and the Coriolis Effect, the spinning of the Earth in 24 hours (over 1,000 miles/hour at the Equator) keeps the energy up affecting the atmospheric winds above and the oceanic currents below. The currents that form the Garbage Patches in the Northern Hemisphere go clockwise, and so do the fair weather High Pressure systems above them.
The Ocean helps to control Climate Change by being a Heat Sink, absorbing heat from the sun, and by being a Carbon Sink, drawing carbon from the air. Without this absorption of megatons of radiative heat and so much CO2 (now at 400ppm in the atmosphere), Climate Change would be much worse. But the Laws of Physics say that this Heat and Carbon don’t just disappear when they take the dive into the ocean. Ocean currents are not just two-dimensional. They also act like conveyor belts, moving the Heat and Carbon to the Depths, and subsequently upwelling, and bringing them back up to the Surface.
You may have heard of El Nino and La Nina phenomena, where Heat comes up in cycles in the Pacific and affects our weather.
More than half of all the global CO2 Emissions each year from every sector, including agricultural, industrial, transportation, energy, etc., are absorbed by the Ocean, mitigating Climate Change, but not without a major cost. That cost is the Acidification of our Oceans. When CO2 mixes with H2O, ions are released making the seawater acidic. Carbonic Acid is formed, but the Ocean is so infinite that this pH change is diluted, and the pH is only slightly lower than pre-industrial levels, but that slight change is enough to alter the homeostasis, the balance, of the ocean ecosystem and do lots of damage.
All Seashells are composed of Calcium Carbonate, and acid dissolves that compound. The young shellfish with the thinnest, most vulnerable shells are most at risk, posing a threat to the survival of their species. The seafood industry in the Northwest US and in many parts of the world has already suffered losses, as evidenced in one of The Story Group’s many beautifully produced videos referencing the NCA, found near the end of this post.
The many varieties of tiny Zooplankton & Phytoplankton (living near the surface to nourish themselves with God-given Photosynthesis), some with, some without, translucent shells, form the base of the Food Chain in our Oceans, and they, too, are threatened by Acidification. This is a threat to every fish in the sea, and it is a direct outcome of the Carbon Emissions that also cause Climate Change.
Coral Reefs are called the Rainforests of the Oceans, because, they occupy only .2% of the ocean, yet they accommodate 25% of all marine animal species. Memories of snorkeling amongst these amazing colorful undulating structures with streams of hundreds of colorful fish swimming through will never be forgotten. But, unfortunately, about 10% of our coral reefs are already dead, 50% are dying or projected to be dead by 2030, and most coral reefs around the world are stressed. Acidification (the coral exoskeleton structures are made of calcium carbonate) is just one of the threats to these reefs we need in order to protect our coastlines from extreme weather events, and for biodiversity, tourism, and many other benefits.
Coral polyps (related to the Jellyfish, which by the way are thriving in this climate change world), are animals, not plants, though they appear plant-like, and they arrive where they settle as tiny swimming larvae, (and science has found they can smell, as fish can too, whether there is too much algae and seaweed, or whether the reef is healthy), and they’re attracted toward the healthy areas, where they set up colonies. In order to survive, they need Symbodinium, a tiny single cell Zooxanthella. Algae, that performs Photosynthesis to produce the sugar to feed the coral, while the coral provides the algae with nutrients and protection, a symbiotic relationship. Reefs can’t be more than 200 feet deep, the less, the better, so they can be reached by enough sunlight. On one end of a coral polyp is a mouth and tentacles and on the other an exoskeleton is secreted. Coral Polyps only grow a few centimeters a year. It takes huge Colonies thousands of years to build the large Coral Reefs, but very little time for man to destroy them.
And when the coral is stressed by too much heat (as in the 80% bleaching incident in the Caribbean in 1998), by oil, toxic chemicals, or by cyanide (used in fishing to stun the exotic fish), the algae is ejected and dies quickly, and since the colors are in the algae, the reef turns the bright white of calcium carbonate, hence the term bleaching.
As much as the world needs these reefs, coral is mined for aquariums, for souvenirs, for jewelry, for calcium vitamin supplements, for medical use, and for construction use!
Another of the most major threats to all coral reefs, as well as to all bottom-dwelling fish and plants is seaweed and larger multi-cellular algae. Wherever it forms due to excess nutrients or waste, treated or untreated, it flows through the water column and drapes over the coral reefs and sea cucumbers etc. and smothers them. Sea urchins are now gone in the Caribbean due to a disease, and parrotfish and other fish that normally graze on seaweed are far and few between. So the coral polyps can’t extend their tentacles to eat, and they don’t give the algae in the coral the necessary nutrients, the algae are obscured from light, so they can’t photosynthesize and feed the coral, and the reef dies, and the fish have no reason to remain.
Species of fish are faced with extinction all over the world, not just on our coral reefs. Fewer fish are out there, and many species are stressed by climate related issues (like a migratory pattern change due to higher surface temperature), and by direct anthropogenic causes.
Overfishing is one of the biggest issues. 90% of all large predator fish, tuna, salmon, cod, shark, and swordfish are gone. As much as 25% of all ground fish, flounder, fluke, and haddock, are gone. Sport fishing, especially for trophy fish, and the tourism associated with it, is meeting with less success each year.
Fishing is a big business. And it’s becoming a harder business in which to survive. There are so few fish that some fisheries in the US have been declared Natural Disasters, making the fishermen eligible for Federal Aid. And in order to reach the fish, they have to travel further, beyond the Dead Zones, beyond the fished out areas, requiring the investment in lots more marine fuel (and emitting more and more CO2 and black carbon, and pouring more and more used motor oil into the water). When the fishermen, whether answering to shareholders, or independents just trying to get by, spend the big money on fuel and on the crew (longer hours and days), and they get out 60 or 70 miles or more to where they expect to find fish, and the fish don’t materialize, they have no option to come back with their hull empty. In this morality-stripped world, they do whatever it takes to increase their catch. Legal limits for size and quantity go out the window. The penalties they face, if caught, are small compared to the profits they can potentially make. And though they know, in the long run, it would be better for the fisheries if they were to let the small fish grow and spawn, they don’t have the luxury to look beyond today’s catch, or so it goes.
Industrial fishing with large industrial equipment is taking place all over the world, many of the techniques illegal. Bottom trawling is where they drag a trawling sled the size and weight of a tractor-trailer along the bottom with nets, literally scraping the ocean floor, deep sea corals and all, with complete destruction of an ecosystem in seconds. Much of the Continental Shelf here and in many places around the world has been scraped bare.
Another illegal technique is blast fishing where they use dynamite explosions and gather dead fish. (The hell with the coral reefs!) In Long Line Fishing, they use 50 mile long lines with as many as 1 million baited hooks every foot or so, which they troll through the water for hours killing lots of fish, including those not intended. Vertical Drift Nets have been used, up to 31 miles long, where fish are killed by getting tangled in the netting. Illegal net liners are being used to stop smaller fish from escaping. Wherever nets are used, the by-catch, unintended victims, mostly fish and turtles, but also sharks and marine mammals, are caught in these nets, and they usually die from their struggle or from suffocation. (From 10 to 100 pounds per 1 pound of fish harvested are thrown away as by-catch.)
Now that there is more access to satellite technology it’s becoming more transparent as to where laws are being broken in a big way with large industrial vessels, hopefully increasing their chances of being apprehended. Activists, most notably from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, have been bravely confronting these criminals of the seas in their indiscriminant slaughters of Whales and Orcas. The Ocean Conservancy, Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue, and the Ocean Legacy Project of the Pew Charitable Trust have made huge efforts and have met with some success in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas on the coastline of California (State Law enacted), and other areas internationally. Major efforts on behalf of our oceans are being made by NRDC, Earthjustice, Oceana, and many other tireless organizations, but just as with our efforts to save our forests, every step forward is met with many disappointments. .
When minerals are discovered on the ocean floor, a technique called Seabed Mining, very similar to Strip Mining, but on the ocean floor, is being expanded, with the same complete ecosystem destruction as Bottom Trawling.
Offshore and Deep Sea Drilling for Oil is being expanded, and with it the possibility of another Deep Sea Spill like the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill, which you recall looked impossible to stop.
They are actually fracking, with well pads on the sea floor, off the coast of California at Santa Barbara. College kids and toddlers swim on that beach year round in diluted fracking water, as do the fish, turtles, and sea mammals, because that’s what they do with the toxic wastewater. They pump it out right into the ocean. (This is handled differently on land-based drilling fields.) And the EPA and the politicians of both parties are allowing it, as if it’s okay!!?! With offshore drilling opening up in the Atlantic and elsewhere, this subject is very relevant.
1 gallon of oil will pollute 1,000,000 gallons of water, and between the spills and the silent spills (used motor oil and plastics washed into waterways and oceans by the torrential rains of Climate Change), pollution is rampant. Per the CDC’s 1999 statement, all oil is toxic and contains EDC’s, endocrine disrupting chemicals. And Fish, Marine Birds and Mammals, and Turtles all have endocrine systems much like ours. Incidentally, all Natural Gas and all Coal also has toxic EDC’s. The heavy metal (mercury, lead, and arsenic) and chemical (BPA, phthalates, PCBs, DDT, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) burden of our oceans is growing, and that doesn’t bode well for the marine animals and many of us. Also, the plastic in the water attracts toxins like a sponge and when it is ingested these toxins leach out alng with the plasticizers (BPA and Phthalates). Recent studies have warned against eating predator fish like tuna more than once or twice a week due to mercury and other toxins that have bioaccumulated, fish eating fish.
Radiation from the Fukushima Melt Down (still ongoing with lethal cesium pouring out into the Pacific) has now finally reached the shores of the US. There have already been unconfirmed reports of radiation sickness in seals and sea lions. Because the volume of the ocean is so great, the radiation has been greatly diluted, although the radiation is there, and it’s not going away. It’s a major concern for the health of all the connected oceans of the world.
One of our greatest concerns is Dead Zones, the largest, the size of Connecticut, on the Gulf Coast at the mouth of the Mississippi River, which in turn is fed by the Missouri River and the Ohio River. And all of the Synthetic Fertilizer (used on those farm fields (mostly, GMO and conventionally farmed fields) and all of the human and animal waste, both treated and untreated, for the entire Midwest, flows out into the Gulf feeding high levels of nutrients (nitrates and phosphates) to plankton, that have no fish to feed on them, so they die, and rot, and are eaten by bacteria depleting every bit of oxygen in the water, rendering it not able to sustain life, hence Dead Zone. Huge fish-kills with hundreds or thousands of fish are turning up every day in various parts of the world. In the aggregate, Dead Zones and the deaths resulting from them have become epidemic on every continent, and unless we “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late!” as a recent UN report warns, and make fundamental changes in Agriculture, away from use of synthetic fertilizers and factory farming and GMO’s, our fisheries, as one of many issues, will be ruined, and it will be too late for remediation.
More fundamental changes addressing the problems of overfishing, pollution, and acidification are required to overcome the predicament in which we find ourselves vis-a-vis the oceans, and the urgency dictates that major sustained action is taken now. Every month of delay means more, perhaps irreversible, damage.
World Map of Dead Zones
Courtesy of the World Resources Institute
In the interest of brevity (LOL), we are just including a few notes on each of these other ecosystems
in reference to Climate Change.
Drought and the Desertification of different ecosystems is taking place in many parts of the world. Giant Dust Storms, reminiscent of Dust Bowl era days have been seen recently in Phoenix, Arizona. Tumbleweeds are rolling across fields and roads at 50 mph and piling up against fences and homes in Bakersfield, California.
Much of our grasslands and prairies and meadows have been replaced with conventional farmland, turning a Carbon Sink into a Carbon Producer. And still, there are those that endorse burning the grasslands to rejuvenate the vegetation for better grazing and pasturing. Though there may be benefits, fires pour tons of CO2 and Black Carbon into the atmosphere, and they often get out of control, and in those regards, they must be limited.
Gulf Coast States have lost about 50% of their wetlands, and over 90% of California’s wetlands have been lost. And they are so necessary for protecting populated areas from effects of Extreme Weather. Besides Sea Level Rise, there are many other causes. They are being lost to erosion from dredging, canals, development, and are also subject to pollution and oil and chemical spills (the kill off of vegetation causes more erosion) and invasive algae and plant species, ruining our wetlands and the habitats they offer.
Peat (Peat Moss) is the most efficient Carbon Sink in the world, but the risk is when a lightning strike, or a farmer’s fire to clear trees for agriculture or grazing, sets the Peat on fire. Peat takes thousands of years to accumulate, and when all that carbon goes up, it’s almost impossible to put out the fire. Peat is routinely harvested to be burned as fuel, again pouring out all of that carbon that was so nicely sequestered in the Peat. It is also harvested for use in gardens and agriculture.
Small Island Nations
Small islands within other nations as well as small island nations have their own unique ecosystems. Besides the challenges of Drought and Torrential Rains and Extreme Weather, they face the ongoing danger of more and more erosion from Sea Level Rise threatening their very existence.
CLOSER TO THE TIPPING POINT – Final Thoughts
As is evident, our life support systems, Oceans and Forests, are in big trouble. We’ll leave predictions for the future to the experts and scientists. What we are reporting in this article is what’s happening right now. We invite you to confirm our research.
The survival of our Ecosystems is a huge issue, and it is inexorably tied to controlling the root of Climate Change, Carbon Emissions. We’ve got to take fullest advantage of every possible Carbon Sink, including the spread of Organic Agriculture. And we must do everything possible to stop the extraction of Carbon (Fossil Fuels) from the Earth, (every bit extracted, they intend for us to buy and burn), and the subsequent pouring of that Carbon into the atmosphere and water. That means cutting Carbon Emissions from every sector, not just from Energy, but from Agriculture, from Transportation, from Industry, and even from the Domestic sector. And, if the necessary cuts are to do any good at all, these changes need to be made now, not years from now.
If there were real urgency, why are we waiting until the COP20, the Paris Climate Talks, at the end of 2015, to agree on a plan that would then take years to implement? What about COP19 later in 2014 in Lima, Peru? If your house was on fire, would you wait until the end of next year to put it out?
If we would focus a fraction of the attention (and dollars) that the world is now focusing on ISIS on Climate instead, can you imagine how much progress we could make, and how fast, vis-à-vis Climate Change and saving our Ecosystems? Is Climate Change not an “immediate threat” and equivalent in scope and severity to “weapons of mass destruction”?
We appeal to all human beings on this planet, to all of our Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Jewish, Indigenous, and Atheist (we also recognize their beliefs) Brothers and Sisters. No matter what name you use referring to God, all religious people agree, and there are billions of us here on this planet, that every animal and human are God’s Creations.
Pope Francis, seen by many as radical for his opinions on Nature, is doing what he can to support God’s Creations, every one of them, every species, essential. This Pope understands that none of these Creatures, including Humans, will survive, if we allow the Ecosystems, that God has graciously provided us for sustenance and beauty, to be destroyed. And it’s as evident to this Pope as it is to anyone of us who opens his or her eyes, that this massive Destruction is already taking place.
And the imperative, if there is any morality left in this world, is for the people of the world, without borders,
to band together as Brothers and Sisters, and take back power from the Corporations, when it comes to our Health and the Health of Mother Earth. Morality and Peer Pressure amongst Brothers and Sisters are the only ways it can be enforced. In addressing Climate and Ecosystems we must make fundamental changes, not just in the world, but also in us.
Courtesy of Google Images
Message to our Readers
Before I introduce the videos, please let me mention Chief Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Tribe, who spoke for the Two Row Wampum Treaty of 1613, in helping to sponsor in 2013, a more than 100 mile journey down the Hudson River in two rows of canoes, one for natives, and one for non-natives, in celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of that treaty between the Haudenosaunee Nation and the settlers, agreeing to peacefully coexist, as long as each showed respect for Mother Earth. Chief Gus Hall representing the Dakota Horse Riders, (who had travelled over a thousand miles from Canada on horseback to appeal to the UN for help in the struggle against fracking), met Chief Oren Lyons and the Two Row Wampum paddlers in New York City, where they crossed Manhattan in traditional garb, and were greeted as honored guests at the United Nations in August, 2013. The next day was the Two Row Wampum Festival in Manhattan.
Another adventure was my visit to the United Nations in May 2014 during Proud To Be Indigenous Week (indigenous people from tribes all around the world, many of whom were in traditional garb) where Chief Orval Lookinghorse, Joan Henry, and Rev. Betsy Stang, were my hosts at a Native American ceremony in the UN chapel led by the Chief, and they invited me to attend an official UN reception with international tribal performances.. This culminated for me in Chief Lookinghorse’s Peace and Prayer weekend in Wappinger Falls, NY in June. These people and these events were my greatest inspirations in writing this article.
Another of my greatest inspirations was Leonard Peltier’s eloquent Spring Address, written in his prison cell, confined there for 39 years, (but his words don’t have any of the bitterness you’d expect). I recommend it be read by all activists, whether your issue is Human Rights, GMOs, Fracking, Chemicals, he speaks to all of us. September 12, 2014 was Leonard’s 70th birthday, and though he was originally convicted of killing two FBI agents at long range more than 40 years ago on the Pine Ridge Reservation, he has effectively become a Native American political prisoner of the United States of America. We appeal to Mr. President Obama’s sense of justice and decency to pardon him now, in keeping with Nelson Mandela’s stated wishes and those of luminaries around the world. FREE LEONARD PELTIER!
Contrary to our practice of not using trailers in our video section, we had to include this one as our first video since it is so well done, and so relevant to the subject, with a philosophical bent, which is so necessary for our sanity as activists. It is so beautifully shot and well produced featuring Bill Mckibben and other notables too numerous to mention. The title gives you a glimpse, The WISDOM to SURVIVE - Climate Change, Capitalism and Community.
The second video is a great TED lecture with Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, which continues to set up Marine Protected Areas dubbed “hope spots” around the world, and is a champion for our oceans. In her lecture taped in 2009, she confirms just about every observation we made in the ocean section of this report. Five years hence most items have further deteriorated. Nonetheless, she remains positive and very active in doing whatever she can on behalf of our oceans. The title is, My Wish: Protect Our Oceans.
The third video is titled, The Networked Beauty of Forests. Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia gives us the shortest TED lecture I remember (seven minutes), but it’s packed full of science on how trees network with each other through the fungi in the soil, and how trees are worth saving, because we’re worth saving, and how we can help.
The last video is actually 18 short but incredibly beautifully shot and produced videos by the Story Group reference the NCA report titled, National Climate Assessment: Americans on the Front Lines. Selecting that video will open to a Vimeo channel where you make the selection. Pick a few that interests you. They’re all worthwhile, and like our report, they tell the story by exploring what’s already happening, without need to get caught up in predicting the future. I love every one of these videos, and am proud to be able to use them to illustrate our story.
After the videos, we will include a Timeline list with links to major Climate reports since September,2013, when the first IPCC Working Group I Climate report was published.
We thank our readers in Germany, France, the UK, Canada, and Russia (our biggest audience outside the US), and we thank all of our US and international readers (from over 100 nations). We really appreciate you taking the time to read our articles. And we extra-appreciate when you refer them to friends. Whether we really are able to do something significant to save our trees and our oceans and to slow Climate Change depends largely on whether we can get the story out, and that’s where you can really make a difference. We love getting feedback from our readers. Our email address is email@example.com, or if you prefer Twitter, you can use @Mikethemikeman1. For the sake of our people, our families, and Mother Earth, we encourage all of you, as charter members of Woodstock Earth, to spread the word and help get these stories out.
The Wisdom to Survive
Climate Change, Capitalism & Community
My Wish: Protect Our Oceans
Dr. Sylvia Earle – Mission Blue
The Networked Beauty of Forests
Dr. Suzanne Simard
18 Videos by The Story Group
National Climate Assessment:
Americans on the Front Lines
Of Climate Change
Timeline of Major Climate Reports
From IPCC WG1 September, 2013
Through September, 2014
Prepared by WoodstockEarth.blogspot.com
|Date||Name of Report||Author|
|September, 2013||The Physical Science Basis||
United Nations FrameworkConvention on Climate Change
|December, 2013||Abrupt Impacts of
|National Resource Council|
|January, 2014||US Climate ActionReport||United States State Department|
|January, 2014||Annual State of the Climate Report||National Oceanic and
|February, 2014||Climate Change: Evidence and Causes||United States National
Academy of Sciences and
United Kingdom Royal Society
|March, 2014||Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability||
United Nations FrameworkConvention on Climate Change
|March, 2014||WMO Statement on the Global Climate
|April, 2014||Mitigation of Climate Change||
United Nations FrameworkConvention on Climate Change
|May, 2014||National Climate Assessment (NCA)||Interagency - reviewed by
National Academy of Sciences
|May, 2014||Historic Sites||Union of Concerned Scientists|
|June, 2014||Proposed Rule||
United States EnvironmentalProtection Agency
|June, 2014||For theUnited States||Risky Business Project|
|July, 2014||To Stem Climate Change||
The White House Councilof Economic Advisers
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Joint Program
on the Science and Policy of
The Global Commission on
the Economy and Climate
Coauthored by Lord Stern