Connect the Dots

The MEGA book provides a connect-the-dots format for the reader conclude what’s going on in the ecosystems of the USA and the world. Quite simply, we are using natural resources at a faster pace than the earth can replenish itself. As I traveled the country doing research, it didn’t matter how a person identified politically, one thing everyone could agree on was that animal and plant life has gone down drastically in just the past few decades. Conversely, it was just about impossible for anyone to mention areas of the planet where animals and planets are flourishing and increasing. That does not bode well, and we can all agree on that.

There are thousands of dots that could be mentioned that point to biodiversity loss and the earth’s struggle to replenish natural resources at a pace to keep up with human advancement. But these 26 seem to do a decent job of providing historical context. In diners across America, the author found nobody who had ever heard of the Rocky Mountain Grasshopper, and those same folks had a hard time fathoming the concept that 12-trillion of them went extinct at our hands. Trillion!! To get an idea of what 1 Trillion dollar bills looks like, visit here and stack 11 more rows on top!! https://www.globalresearch.ca/what-does-one-trillion-dollars-look-like/12754

Most folks also didn’t know there had been estimates of about 60-Milion bison which shrank to below 400 total on the planet! And their return to about 30,000 gives us an iota of hope.

The 26 Biodiversity Issues are:

 

Beaver                           Bison                               Passenger Pigeons             Rocky Mountain Grasshoppers

Eskimo Curlew               Forests                            Polar Bears                          Bats

Birds                              Blue Crab                        Ocean Garbage                   Clean Water

Ozone Hole                    Bramble Cay Melomys       Mammals-Britain                  Bees

Salmon                          Mammals-large                 Sharks                                 Rain Forests

Species Extinction          Sea Levels                       Ice Age                                Krill

Anchovies                      Phytoplankton

 

Open each of the below or jump to the one that most interests you.

1. BEAVER

https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver

The North American Beaver population was once estimated at more than 60-milion. There are many reasons why it declined to just over 3-million in the 1800’s; mainly humans: the White Man and Indian alike (“Indian” being the term used at that time), hunted them for hats and clothing. In fact, part of the demise of the Indians is linked to the demise of the beaver, because as their traditional hunting grounds disappeared, their ability to provide for their families relied more and more on trading or selling beaver. The collapse of the beaver population mirrored the collapse of the Indians. Beavers have seen a resurgence in the last 200 years with estimates of between 6 to 10-milion, proof the earth can be resilient if given enough time and if we humans get out of the way.

 

 

 

2. Bison

  1. BISON: http://www.vorebuffalojump.org/pdf/VBJF%20buffalo%20population%20and%20crash.pdf

From estimates as high as 60-million in 1800, by the 1890’s there were fewer than 400 left!  Look no further than the Bison to accept the fact that human impact can be swift, violent, and reckless.

3. Passenger Pigeons

PASSENGER PIGEONS: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2014/why-passenger-pigeon-went-extinct

Once considered the most populous bird on the planet, with estimates of about 5-billion, our insatiable appetite for wood destroyed both their nesting grounds in the north and their wintering grounds in the south. Their decline from 1850-1900 was rapid and complete. Teddy Roosevelt knew about the Bison and the Passenger Pigeon, hence his desire to preserve natural resources in the first decade of 1900.

Rocky Mountain Grasshopper

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/55/1/80/248302

Once estimated at twelve to thirteen trillion in the early 1870s, they were extinct by the 1890s. Scientists have concluded they had similar patterns to the Monarch Butterfly, in that they traveled hundreds of miles more than one time in their lives. They would then retreat back to a central location, such as the Monarch Roost Trees in Mexico, to rejuvenate in semi-hibernation. (If humans were to cut down the trees in three or four locations in Mexico, the Monarch Butterflies may be next on the extinction list.) So, the best theory for their extinction is related to homesteader pioneers cutting down their breeding wooded areas.

5. Eskimo Curlew

https://www.audubon.org/news/the-eskimo-curlew-hasnt-been-seen-55-years-it-time-declare-it-extinct

This bird is now thought to be extinct, after estimates of having numbered 40-million, and it was very closely tied to the Rocky Mountain Grasshopper, because, on its northern spring migration from Argentina to the tundra of Canada, it flew through the Great Plains of the U.S., and fattened up on the abundant grasshoppers.

 

Fun story. The bird’s southerly 6,000-mile migration route took it from the East Coast of Canada, island-hopping across the Atlantic Ocean, down through the West Indies, down the coast of South America, and eventually to its southerly-most destination in Argentina.

 

On October 7, 1492, after being at sea for sixty-five days, and with his compass, for some strange reason, no longer pointing directly toward the North Star, Christopher Columbus was in jeopardy of a rebellion aboard his ship. His ship’s journal recounts how a sailor suddenly sighted a never-ending flock of “shorebirds” (which we now know were almost certainly southerly-migrating Eskimo Curlews, mixed in with Golden Plovers), so Columbus made the decision to turn his ships to follow the flock!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_curlew   Five days later they discovered land! The so-called discoverer of America has birds to thank!

6. Forests

https://www.ran.org/the-understory/how_much_old_growth_forest_remains_in_the_us/

By the year 1900, 85% of forests had been cut down. 85% in approximately seventy-five years! Congress knew there was a problem, and, in 1876, the first forest management efforts began via the creation of the Office of Special Agent for Forests. The locomotive train and westward expansion, as discussed earlier in this book, made the problem worse. In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act was an attempt to withdraw some forest inventory from Public Domain. However, the problem got worse. So, in 1905, the management of forest transferred over to the Bureau of Forestry. Its crystal clear to me, hopefully to you, too, that if the ruling government of the time hadn’t stepped in, the Free Market would probably have cut down just about ALL of the forests for things such as forts, ships, city houses, wagons, furniture, and firewood. Rain forests and northern boreal forests that ring the globe are under attack. Forests supply about 50% of human oxygen and absorb deadly CO2.  Estimate state only 7% of old-growth forest remains here today.

7. Polar Bears

https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/imperiled-polar-bears-face-new-threat-in-alaska-s-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge

Ok…so if you’ve heard me say, “It’s not about the Polar Bears!” I hope you can see that, while our oxygen we breath is a more critical issue, of course the Polar Bear is an important part of the story about biodiversity loss on the planet. In fact, it became the first species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, due to climate change!

8. Bats

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-nose_syndrome

These small mammals are members of the team of pollinators that keep about 40% of all human food alive and well on the planet. Bats, Birds, Butterflies, and Bees are essential crop workers, from which we get necessary minerals and flavonoids from the foods they pollinate. We can’t live without those.

9. Birds

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/birdingnews/decline

The numbers of Bobwhite Quail have been cut down by 82%, and Evening Grosbeaks by 78%! In fact, in the past forty years, more than twenty different species of “common” birds have been cut down by at least 50%.  And in Hawaii, 71 of the 113 bird species have already gone extinct! 31 others are now threatened or endangered. The MEGA book’s cover recounts the story of the Canary in the Coal Mine, which saved the lives of thousands of human mine workers. When the canary died and fell from its perch, the humans ran out of the mines. Can the birds be the indicator device that saves us today?

10. Blue Crabs

https://www.wwltv.com/article/news/local/northshore/crabbers-blue-crab-moratorium-will-hurt-workers-customers/409543489

In Louisiana, the policymakers have implemented a moratorium on fishing their crabs due to a decline in numbers. Many local fishermen are crying foul for not being able to fish for them because it would limit their ability to provide for their families … even though if they continue to fish for them, they’ll disappear, and the families of those fishermen will have no livelihood. It’s a vicious cycle.

And in the Chesapeake Bay, MD, the population was once as high as 950-million. Today, at about 350-million, there still is no ban on fishing. Will we wait until it’s too late?

11. Ocean Garbage

https://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

Everywhere I traveled while writing this book, folks spoke of the ‘garbage in the ocean.’  Sadly, it was usually as if someone else had caused the garbage, and not ‘me, myself, or I.”  We are causing the garbage, and it’s killing millions of animals and plants, especially #26 below…Phytoplankton. There’s hope, when you see the video about this 9-year old boy’s heroic mission to recycle:

https://www.facebook.com/attn/videos/279589882996154/

12. Clean Water Issues

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/

Chapter 7 covers the Greatness of Water. Only a small fraction of the earth’s water is drinkable…about 2.5%. And only 1% of freshwater is easily accessible, with the majority of that trapped in glaciers and snowfields. So, only about .007% of the planet’s water is available to drink by its 7.6 billion inhabitants. Suffice it to say that we are taking in drinkable water, and then mixing in heavy metals and chemicals that are not being taken back out by our municipal water reclamation districts, so we are not returning as much drinkable water to the earth as we are using. That’s not sustainable.

 

13. Ozone Hole over Argentian/Antarctica

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/ozone-hole-over-antarctica-expands-to-near-record-levels/6898824

At the tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego, in the city of Ushuaia, I saw first-hand how some folks carry umbrellas and wear gloves as protection during the summer months when the hole is over their town. Of course, their summers are still very chilly, so they remain mostly clothed and shielded from any long term skin damage. However, scientists believe ultraviolet rays passing through the thinning ozone layer are dangerous to phytoplankton (see Issue #26 below) which float near the surface of Antarctic waters and form the very first link in the food chain that starts with krill, fish, penguins, and whales.

There is a lot of misinformation about this topic. What most experts agree on is the hole has been a natural occurrence for an estimated 500 years, re-appearing each year for a period of time. However, the issue is the thinning of the ozone or the larger size of the hole when it does appear. It is believed by many experts that the man-made chemicals and pollutants are what is causing the thinning ozone.

14. Bramble Cay Melomys: (Australian Rodent)

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/first-mammal-extinct-climate-change-bramble-cay-melomys/

In February 2019, they became the first mammal declared extinct due to climate change! Once found on the island of Bramble Cay, the part of the island that sits above high tide has shrunk since 1998 from 9.8 acres to 6.2 acres. With rising oceans (see Issue #22 Below), that means the island’s vegetation has been shrinking, and the rodents have lost about 97% of their habitat.  When mammals go extinct, is that cause for alarm?

15. Mammals of Great Britain

https://www.ecowatch.com/britains-mammals-extinct-2577703340.html

An estimated 1 in 5 mammals will be extinct within 10 years!  Yes, when mammals go extinct, it is cause for all of us to pay attention.

16. Bees

http://sos-bees.org/situation/
From 1945 to 2017, the number of honey bee hives in the U.S. has gone from about 6 million to 2.6 million, a 57% decline. It is commonly believed that if the bees go extinct, human population would diminish greatly via massive famines and wars over food supply, because about 40% of all human food is pollinated by bees, bats, birds, and butterflies … but mostly bees. And those foods contain flavonoids and minerals that humans must have, and those elements are not contained in the wind-pollinated food sources like grains and grasses. So, man…and woman…cannot live on meat and corn alone!

17. Salmon

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/chinook-salmon-protected

Two species of Chinook Salmon are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Another seven species are listed as threatened and one is a candidate for listing. If these fish, which are instrumental to our ecosystem, are killed off, everything will change.

18. All Mammals Larger than a Cow Projected to Go Extinct

http://biology.unm.edu/fasmith/Publications/

Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico has a huge body of work around the science of mammals. And one study states the probability that all mammals larger than cows could go extinct between 2030-2050, including the largest mammal, the elephant.

19. Sharks

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/shark

Seventeen of thirty-nine species of sharks are on the brink of extinction! They are one of the oldest species on the planet, with fossil records of 400 million years. They have outlived dinosaurs and probably hundreds of mass extinction events like meteors crashing into our planet, but just about all evidence points to them not surviving the human event! The really sad part about over-hunting sharks is that most of it is done just to make shark fin soup, which has no proven medicinal health value. Also, their poop is important for phytoplankton! (See below for Issue #26 Phytoplankton.)

 

20 Rain Forests

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rainforest-threats/

Rain forests once covered 14% of the earth, and in just 200 years it’s down to only about 6% of the planet. Some projections show all rain forests to be gone within 100 years if the rate of deforestation continues at 78 million acres per year. It’s not just about the trees and millions of plants and animals they support…it’s about the OXYGEN we breath! Duh.

21. Species Extinction

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140529-conservation-science-animals-species-endangered-extinction/

While there has always been a “natural extinction rate” on the planet, it is now at least 1,000 times that rate, due to human activities. As many as 1.9 million species are possible candidates for extinction. And by some estimates, 50% of all species could go extinct by the year 2050: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/half-earths-species-extinct-2050/

Sure, this is a next-to-impossible prediction to solidify. But…regardless of the actual “number” percentage probability, we can all agree the rapid decline of plant and animal life all across the planet is something for us to get serious about.

22. Sea Levels Rising and Heating Up

https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Highest-Sea-Level-Rises-US-are-Texas-and-Louisiana-Annual-Report-Finds

This is a confusing topic for most folks. I get it. In some places, levels are not rising and in others they are. Some reports mention such miniscule increases in sea levels each year that most of us can’t fathom how a mere half-inch over the next few decades could amount to a problem. It’s incredibly complex. But for an Australian rodent, it meant extinction (see issue #14 above). And for the President of an Indonesian island nation, it meant losing a large part of the land on which he serves his people.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/climate-change-south-pacific-global-warming-sea-levels-a7829786.html

And for the military leaders of the U.S., it meant requesting $32 Billion of new nuclear submarines to patrol more open waters that were covered by ice.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Illinois_(SSN-786)

These are very real…if not confusing…results of slight changes in ocean levels and temperature. The point is, if we deny the realty, we may not have time to apply our ingenuity and adapt to the changes.

23. Ice Age

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age

It’s coming!  Ok…maybe not tomorrow…or even in 1,500 years. But since the 1800’s, scientists have been making predictions of the next Ice Age. It’s a pretty well-accepted fact that one is coming. We just don’t know when. Here’s a 1958 article you may find fascinating: https://harpers.org/archive/1958/09/the-coming-ice-age/

And…we don’t know if human activities are going to bring on and Ice Age sooner, and whether or not we’ll have access to enough natural resources for the majority of humans to survive it. That’s why some believe it makes sense to get really good “now” at harnessing the earth’s core temperature via geothermal energy creation, as well as wind and solar energy platforms. Even greater hydrogen fuel expertise could help humans survive an Ice Age. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_fuel

So, the debate should not be a zero-sum game on either side of the climate change issue. It should simply be a logical discussion of how humans can adapt to the change.

24. Krill

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/14/decline-in-krill-threatens-antarctic-wildlife-from-whales-to-penguins

The trillions of krill that inhabit the southern oceans are down by 40% – 80% since the 1970s.  In many ways, all life on the planet is dependent on these little guys, since millions of fish eat them, including the largest, who eat them by the thousands each day.

25. Anchovy

https://environment-review.yale.edu/mortality-and-starvation-wildlife-could-anchovies-be-cause-0

Similar to the declines in Krill, these fish are vital as a food source for so many larger animals. Their numbers are also down between 40%-80% since the 1970’s.

26. Phytoplankton

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/phytoplankton-population/

About 50% of our oxygen comes from these single-cell plants found in the oceans. They feed on sunshine and carbon dioxide to create our oxygen. Most of us learned this in the 6th grade. I’m sad to say I, like most, had forgotten about the role of photosynthesis in phytoplankton in the sea. Humans can’t live without them. And as John Muir pointed out, everything is so interconnected, that now the role of large marine life fish poop is being studied as it relates to the decline in phytoplankton:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18807-whale-poop-is-vital-to-oceans-carbon-cycle/

 

 

The English language has only 26 letters in its alphabet. But the language of Nature has an enormous amount of letters, perhaps an infinite amount, in its alphabet. For those who can’t interpret the language of nature, I hope the above issues will help you hear Mother Nature crying for all life.