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.
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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.