Flooded Planet

Exploring the Future...until we get there

Tag: extinction

Where the Wild Things Aren’t (Part 2)

Is it just me, or is the durned wind blowing most all the time now? Of course it’s not just me. More wind is a prevalent characteristic of the Big CC (Climate Change for you newcomers). It’s one of the reasons behind increased evaporation of surface water, whether in rivers, lakes, or your backyard pool. It’s the reason (in part) why wild fires are harder to control. It’s the reason (in part) why weather isn’t the same as it used to be, as anyone over fifty will verify (most likely). It’s the reason (in part) why dust storms rage across different parts of the planet, and at different times of the year, on most any given day.

It’s also the reason (entirely) why the canopy that I was hoping to use in the backyard for the entire summer got ripped to shreds the other night and is now useless to me. Yes, it’s always important to personalize Climate Change, complaining about its small trivial effects that have nothing to do with the big picture. You can always count on me for that. I’m like that figure in history who was more upset about his hang nail than the news that a thousand souls were lost in a mudslide on the other side of the planet (not literally, of course, so please don’t send me hate mail or death threats).

Continuing on that thread, I’d like to say that it’s becoming increasingly hard to rely on the weather to act in your favor for just about anything now. This is also a consequence of the Big CC, and I’m afraid we’re just going to have to get used to it. For the states along the Gulf of Mexico, the rainstorms are going to be a problem again this summer. We just exited the flooding in the late stages last summer (think Baton Rouge in August), and now here we are in the thick of it once more. Panama City, Florida, where I live, is in for a beating over the next couple of days, and I was hoping that last night’s deluge would take care of it. But this is the new pattern – in some ways the wind is out of control, and in others it just sits there, benign and flaccid, letting storm systems sit on top of towns and cities for hours or days, while the bottom drops out and people’s cars go floating down the street. A search on the net (or is it the web? … I never can remember) reveals numerous stories about flash flooding, tornadoes, and severe weather affecting every state from Texas to Florida’s Panhandle right now. Up to ten inches of rain expected in some places. Yep…the new norm.

It rained so hard last night at my place, a pump I had been using for my hydroponic peppers got pummeled into submission. I wonder if the Gub’ment will give out some sort of stipend to people for casualties of war like this. Or maybe it will be a good way to stimulate the economy under Trump. All the plastic junk (like my pump) that gets busted in the fires and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes will have to be replaced with a newer model (still thoroughly plastic, to be sure). Meteorological Economic Stimulation System (uh, yes, I was wondering where I go to pick up my, uh, MESS check?)

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that thousands of ants with wings had somehow gotten blown into my pool (I couldn’t get the cover on it, since the wind was blowing…too…hard). Where they came from, and why they had taken wing like that, I have no idea (ants aren’t supposed to have wings, normally, I don’t guess, unless it’s the Queen, but if everyone’s the Queen, then nobody’s the Queen, and there wasn’t anything royal about any of these little squirming masses of insect balls, anyway, trying to save themselves from the chlorinated water by forming living clumps of writhing panic, clambering up and over the side of the pool to continue on to God only knows where).

I think the fact that we’re killing off species everyday (apparently not flying ants, however) means that there is less wild where living things are concerned. But, because there’s so much excitement otherwise, all being caused by the ever more unpredictable weather, this is probably where we should consider the new wild things to be (i.e., flapping like hell in the weather, itself). After all, isn’t the weather just about as close to a living thing as it gets without actually being alive?

And speaking of flapping like hell, something is definitely going on with the birds. Has anyone else noticed this? It’s one of those things that you don’t even realize you’re taking into account in your brain until you realize that you’re now keeping track of the incidents, like a statistical thing in your life. When I mentioned it to my daughter, I knew it was because I wanted to share my craziness with someone I trusted.

Anyway, the birds seem agitated and restless, less settled than they should be, way too active, and just downright careless. They’re cutting it really super close with my car way too often now. I’ll see them flying straight across my windshield, or coming straight at me before veering off. They’ll land right in front of me on the road before immediately launching back into the sky with mere seconds to spare.

At first I thought it was coincidence. Now, I see a pattern. Could it be related to something in the weather? Maybe it’s the wind. Maybe it’s telling them to get out of town, now, before they become next on the list of species slated for extinction.

Thanks for stopping by!


A Remembrance of Personalities

Right around the same time that Jacques Barzun wrote his amazing tome From Dawn to Decadence, I was teaching myself different memory techniques. One that caught my attention was Method of Loci: one sets up a familiar place (such as the rooms in one’s house) that they then use as the mental construct upon which to build their memories. Each memory is anchored at a certain spot within this mental locale. Remember the spot and the item mentally placed there is also easily remembered. The method is exceptionally good for items of a sequential nature…like lists, for instance.

At the time, I had the idea of committing to memory the historical figures that appear in Barzun’s index. Although I never got close (due to lack of time, I suppose) it was fun attempting to do so. The list, such that it was, has never really left my head, even though it’s some fifteen years later.

That was segue into my recent post suggesting that this blog is going to change. I don’t think that reporting the headlines surrounding Climate Change is adding much value to what many of you probably discover on your own, every day (if you are addicted to the headlines, as I admittedly am). You know about the fires burning outside of Boulder, Colorado very early in the season; the record hot temps being set out west that indicate what will probably amount to another record-breaking hot year on the whole; and the unraveling of long-standing policy regarding the environment by our new president’s cabinet members, whose ties to the fossil fuels industry apparently fog their vision and obligation to first do what’s right by the American public. As it is, we may be further down on their list, if we’re included at all.

Sometimes, it’s the personalities behind the headlines that are more interesting to me than the story, itself. That’s why I suppose I wanted to memorize all those characters from Barzun’s book – they fascinate me (rest assured, none of these politicians from the 2016 campaign will make the list). The idea that I could chance upon these personas at any time–simply by recalling them to memory from my list–made me happy in a simple sort of way.

At the same time, the relevance of most of those personalities has little, if anything, to do with what I’m currently doing with this blog… but they might.

In the posts to come, I will be expanding my memorized list in an earnest manner. The starting point will be 462, the number of people currently stored in my head, growing from there as we go along. The spin on this pursuit, and the thing that will hopefully make it interesting, and a little wacky for the both of us, me (the writer / artist) and you (the reader) is to tie the addition of more personalities together with the names of the beautiful animals that share our planet with us, many of which will be shared for the simple fact that they are already on, or heading there fast, the very undesirable list of “Endangered Species.” (More of course are disappearing all the time (read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Last Extinction) and I venture to guess that more than a few are going to be placed on this list, and later removed (because they didn’t make it) all within the span of a single human lifetime).

How am I going to do this? With the help of my artistically talented daughter. Each stylized, cutesified art illustration will have, as part of its composition, the initials of each historical figure on my list built right into the composition. We’ll be starting this adventure very soon, so be on the lookout for the first one.

These art pieces will be offered for sale over at my Etsy artshop, so visit there in the near future for more details about what I will include with each sale (type the words FloodedPlanet (no space between words) in the search field on Etsy’s home page to find me.

As always, thanks for stopping by!



Coral, Giraffes, and Oil

Irony abounds…and the more the prevalent species tries to fix things, the more ironic the consequences become.

I wrote in my last post, Evolution of Thought, that the world’s oceans are heating up faster than the scientific community previously thought. That’s not the least of it, of course. The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing catastrophic coral bleaching for the second year in a row now. Experts say this is a first, since usually ocean temperatures ease off from one bleaching event to the next, giving the coral time to recover before being thrown into its next environmental tumult caused by stressors it simply wasn’t built to withstand. That tenet is not holding up so well this year.

Ironic that a British cruise ship (the thing weighs 4,200 tons) ran aground on some of the fragile stuff in Indonesia, causing extensive damage to a large section of reef skirting one of the country’s bio-diverse marine habitats. The locals were none too happy, with livelihoods dependent largely upon a healthy tourism industry catering to intrepid divers and other water-loving adventurists. Well, it’s bound to happen, though, isn’t it? Something that large is apt to cause some damage when it accidentally scrapes bottom with something as delicate as coral.

I also mentioned the idea that civilization is riddled with these deep holes we call landfills, where we dump our used up wealth so we can go buy shiny new wealth. In Ethiopia, the landfill probably consists of more humble offerings than those here in the United States. Ironic there, as well, that a landslide at the city dump of Addis Ababa should kill some 60  people who had been living there amongst the rubble.

Tragic in the extreme on a number of different levels, not the least of which is that human beings in a third world country are subsisting in squalor on the rim of a dump, surrounded by stench, filth, disease, and fires caused by the methane of rotting things. All while the government claims that it is striving to relocate them to better environs; but where to put your displaced poor when your whole country offers little more than better poverty over worse poverty?

Meanwhile, a humble giraffe holds the world entranced with her impending birth of her little one in a zoo somewhere in NY (I haven’t tracked the specifics). The world celebrates, as though victory can be claimed while her erstwhile, wild-roaming relatives across the planet are on the brink of collapse, with numbers tumbling fast and a classification of ‘endangered’ probably just a year or three off.

I read a story by a journalist lamenting the ironic backwardness of it all and was amazed at how his opinions aligned with those I offered in my recent post Views on Zoos. We both mentioned the idea that a giraffe confined to the narrow margins of a zoo is, almost by necessity, something of a heart-wrenching tragedy to behold.

Also ironic is the fact that Scott Pruitt, a shameless Climate Change denier, is now heading up the EPA, the very agency officially and diametrically opposed with reference to the Big CC as the opinions held by the agency’s new chief. He has sued this agency more than a dozen times in the past as Oklahoma’s attorney general. It’s clear what he quite possibly intends to do to the very agency he now holds in his clueless hands – destroy it from the inside out, all with the full faith and confidence of our fearless leader, Mr. Trump.

Also ironic that Japan, the dark aggressor in WWII, and a peace-loving nation in the decades since, has recently felt it necessary to add to its military fleet the biggest carrier it has commissioned since the end of that terrible war. North Korea lobbing missiles into the sea, just shy of making Japanese soil its target, probably has something to do with it, prompting observers everywhere to view the situation in that part of the world as the powder keg it most assuredly is.

Ironic too, that China, now the aggressor on the world stage in too many ways to count, is playing a large part in the potential (and probable) collapse of some of the world’s largest and most diverse fisheries located in the South China Sea. Legal decisions ruling in favor of other nations with stakes in the area have not backed China off of its own overly ambitious claims. In short, it would seem the Chinese believe that possession is nine tenths of the law. Their approach seems to be working just fine.

So many of the waters, islands, and territories that were once rightfully claimed by as many as seven other neighboring countries (used as fisheries for generations to sustain their families and contribute to their nations’ economies) have now fallen into Chinese jurisdiction by fiat. Overfishing is the new law of the land, and with each succeeding catch becoming increasingly smaller, it may just be a matter of time before the abundance of the South China Sea is also a thing of the past.

Probably the most stunning irony among those appearing here is an article I just read moments ago about a huge oil field find in northern Alaska, purportedly containing some 1.2 billion barrels of oil. Here are a couple of paragraphs:

“First production from the discoveries could come as soon as 2021, with output of as much as 120,000 barrels a day, Repsol said. That would represent a lifeline for Alaska, which has seen oil revenues plummet after prices crashed in 2014. The state also needs new crude to keep oil flowing on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

‘We must all pull together to fill an oil pipeline that’s three-quarters empty — and today’s announcement shows measurable results of that hard work,’ Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in response to the news of the discovery Thursday.”

So, let’s just scuttle the idea that we’re supposed to leave the oil that remains in the ground right where it pools if we’re to have a fighting chance of continued survival down here. No, it would seem we’re going to go right on exploring, discovering, drilling and refining until we’ve sucked the well fairly bone dry.

Ironic that what seems to be such a massive find (1.2 billion barrels) would actually keep America happily motoring at its current frenetic pace for all of about 62 days.

These are but a few of the ironies currently littering the stage, and all with the unpleasant mark of Climate Change (vis a vis anthropogenic activity) as the culprit of their occurrences. I’m quite certain that more of the same can be reported on soon.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!


The Last Extinction

I promised myself that I would make a point to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and I’m happy to say that I did. Coming off the final chapter, the perceptions I’m left with are mixed. I’m not  sure why I find myself unsatisfied. It’s rather like the anticipation one has upon entering a posh restaurant in hopes of that one great meal, then wondering why the bill is so high for what was actually served up.

I’m certainly not trained to present a critique of a truly remarkable book that was well received by the readership, written by someone who can run circles around my own pen with her little finger (that’s not supposed to make sense). It’s probably best to say that the book was unable to fulfill my expectations and leave it at that. It’s not the professional writer’s problem to figure out why the amateur reader feels let down. You can’t please all of us bookworms all the time.

I can say that I found mostly everything I thought I would within the voluminous pages; but the way in which the facts are arranged and presented are perhaps too sweeping for a nosy mind that only wants to know what’s in one or two garbage heaps at a time, not the whole landfill.  I can only focus on one or two aspects of the local environment at any given time. With Kolbert’s panoramas too grand and vast in number, and with no chance for me to really chew on any one aspect of Climate Change, I might rightfully count myself as among those who perhaps feel just a bit overwhelmed.

In short, it was too much too fast for me, and probably because I’m not a casual reader when it comes to the Big CC. Needing to know a lot about every little component of our current grand mess means that I might have done better with less historical fact. Kolbert provides volumes about an awful lot in a colorful fashion that suggests a story incessantly unfolding. To quench my thirst, I was being offered a drink from a fire hose, and really no way to turn the damned thing off. To learn about Natural History, I was being shown the Smithsonian, but only if I was willing to run through all the hallways without stopping, unable to study the intricate textures of any one exhibit slowly, carefully, earnestly.

This was an effort I dove into at first, then found myself paddling back to shallower waters, time and again. The book took me close to a month to get through. I’ve digested books twice as thick in half the time. Something was wrong…reading about a planet that’s being overrun by a homicidal maniac, i.e., me…well it gets somewhat tedious, no matter how good the writing.

By the time Kolbert was finished with me, I found myself having forgotten much of what she told me. Being whisked away to other places and times, and with numerous personalities also becoming part of any given narrative, I was hoping toward the closing chapters for the voyage to simply end. I wanted to catch an earlier flight home from my vacation destination. Eventually I finished the book, of course, and the conclusions I had to draw, inevitably, is that we have decisively entered truly terrible and frightening territory (having read plenty above and beyond Kolbert’s book, I can also safely conclude that we haven’t a clue as to where our ship is heading next).

The Sixth Extinction could almost have been written as a work of fiction, with prose that is beautiful and flowing, bringing the dire news that these homo sapien characters are bringing about so much awful consequence to their own home, they’re threatening to set ablaze the only house they have. The message is palatable, though still a bitter feast, and with a longing from the reader that Kolbert might bring just a bit more moral indignation to her pen.

But the dark news is delivered without any trace of judgment or outrage, as though to say that this is how things are, this is how we got here, and there’s no good reason for passing sentence on any person, place, or thing. There’s plenty of blame to go around, yes, just no equitable way to dole out the punishment, so why even try. I suppose I have to agree.

All I could do was breathe as I sat through the very disagreeable chapter in which she describes how humanity systematically burned and bludgeoned and brought to extinction the Great Auk, a bird that probably numbered in the millions before we learned how easy the feathered lumbering beast was to exploit. Somehow, all these years, the fact that this large predecessor of the modern day penguin coexisted side by side with us for centuries before we managed to completely drive it off the planet had thoroughly escaped my knowledge.

But there is a point to be made in this post other than the ones I’m stating about one book among countless others conveying in delicate language what can only be characterized as devastating to the nth degree. Some say our goose might very well be cooked already (Guy McPherson certainly thinks so, and he’s got a pretty large and well-informed brain, too). The point to be made is that I don’t find purpose in what I’m doing on this blog, anymore. My own approach must now change. I’m recently married, I’m in between homes, I’m commuting too many miles and eating up too much of the precious time I have left to me doing things I truly don’t care to do any longer.

So, the blog is changing, and this will be self-evident as the next posts unfold. In the meantime, I thank Kolbert for the gift of enlightenment with regard to an event of which I think most of the general populace is entirely unaware—the first, and last, mass extinction event we’ll ever witness as a species is happening right now under our very noses, with most of us blind to both the destruction, and the cause—us.

“Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy. The Sixth Extinction will continue to determine the course of life long after everything people have written and painted and built has been ground into dust and giant rats have—or have not—inherited the earth.”

Elizabeth Kolbert

Sincere thanks for stopping by!


Welcome to the Anthropocene

Another normal frenzied cascade of Climate Change events that somehow twine themselves round the headlines of the world’s newsfeeds now. –I mean at least for readers who are interested in stories outside the Kardashians and what they’ve been most recently robbed of.

Seven species of bees have been placed on the endangered list for the first time in the U.S. We’ve been hearing about the little buzzers being in trouble for a while now, however, so this hardly comes as a surprise. All of these particular bees hail from Hawaii, but I suspect we’ll be notified of similar news for stateside residents any month now.

The importance of bees as pollinators can’t be overstated. Bats are important, too, since they keep the bug population down, but some of their species are also in dire straits. Frogs, I hear, are in a bit of a bind, as well. In fact, checking out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of endangered species reveals that many kinds of bugs, birds, mammals, fish, and plants are all in some kind of territorial turmoil.

Not to say that human encroachment on their habitat is to blame for every species’ woes, but I’m willing to bet we are responsible for putting a fairly big portion on the path to perish. This seems to play naturally into the idea of the Sixth Mass Extinction that, unfortunately, is well underway. Earth is not becoming more bio-diverse. On the contrary, the extinction of species is literally off the charts.

Aside from landing oneself on that infamous list, the plight of the buzzing bee opens up a much more dangerous hornet’s nest. The real focus here is on the term Anthropocene, which the bees probably know nothing about.

In short, let’s say it’s the term we’re using unofficially to call the epoch in which we, us humans, have been exerting a measurable planetary effect. Oh, the size of the footprints we are leaving behind, tramping in the dirt everywhere, including the areas of geography, climate, atmosphere, biology, and beyond. The geological carpet has been permanently sullied.

The ongoing debates surrounding a suitable beginning date to post as “Anthropocene Starts Here” may endure for a while until everyone can declare that a fair compromise has been reached. There does seem to be wide consensus with regard to this idea of a homo-centric label, which, on its surface, seems a bit narcissistic. With a little reflection, however, all knee-jerk judgments quietly recede into a warm feeling of respectability, simply the next natural step in terms of identifying the state of the world in which we currently find ourselves quagmired.

At some point in the distant future (let’s set aside any bias regarding the shaky ground some say we’re standing on as Earth’s most invasive species), a geologist may decide to look at a cross-section of the geological turf. She’ll find a most defined and disparate body of evidence for the activities of humankind, spanning way back in the timescales, with an ever-increasing pattern of techno-fossils (all the manufactured junk that will be around for centuries to come) accumulating as she moves closer and closer to her own time.

Not only would the detritus of a consumptive species be at her disposal in the dirt, but she and her cohorts will also discover leftovers of us peoples in the agriculture, mining, chemicals, architecture, in the oceans, lakes, and rivers, the jungles, canyons, and tundras. We’ve basically traipsed around in just about every corner of the globe, and with no end to our obscene numbers in sight. No wonder rich entrepreneurs are starting to eye our nearby planetary neighbors in earnest, trying to figure out how we can get enough of us over there to keep the species going while things continue to go south here at the North Pole.

For me, as someone who describes himself as a realist, and a bit of a born skeptic, I think this Anthropocene label involves more than just an attempt to be scientifically accurate, since there are many other labeling paths that could be gone down. No, this is semantically clever, no matter how you slice it, albeit with copious scientific evidence to back up the claim. It feels like there’s a dash of political pepper in there, along with other subtle layers of gamesmanship I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe even a hint of “gouging one’s opponent in the eyeballs,” as well. Sort of a “we told you so” whiff maybe hanging about in the air. Let’s not put lipstick on the pig, anymore, say those interested in placing blame. Let’s just admit that the epoch should be called after its proper perpetrator.

Hmm…Anthropocene…sounds like a place that looks like our present day world. Probably not one of those attractions all the tourists clamber to visit, but some backwater off the beaten path and out the corner of our eye. Someplace where creatures were found crawling out of the soup, until something came along and kicked them all back in again.

Check out these related articles on my website. Enjoy and sincere thanks for stopping by!


Hard to Plug a Hole

Blogger’s Note: On Dec 13, 2016, while reading about Elizabeth Kolbert, I realized by coincidence that I have named this blog post the same title as one of the chapters in Ms. Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. I would say that it’s because great minds think alike, but I don’t think I come close to her writing prowess. I hope she will forgive me for the incident. I’ll buy her book as compensation.

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