Is there an extinction of global biodiversity in progress?

The history of life on Earth has been marked five times by events of mass biodiversity extinction caused by extreme natural phenomena. Today, many experts warn that a Sixth Mass Extinction crisis is underway, this time entirely caused by human activities…

“Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction,” said Robert Cowie, lead author of the study and research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). “This denial is based on a biased view of the crisis which focuses on mammals and birds and ignores invertebrates, which of course constitute the great majority of biodiversity.”

Unfortunately, along with science denial taking a foothold in modern society on a range of issues, the new study points out that some people also deny that the Sixth Extinction has begun. Additionally, others accept it as a new and natural evolutionary trajectory, as humans are just another species playing their natural role in Earth’s history. Some even consider that biodiversity should be manipulated solely for the benefit of humanity – but benefit defined by whom?

“Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale,” Cowie emphasized. “We are not just another species evolving in the face of external influences. In contrast, we are the only species that has conscious choice regarding our future and that of Earth’s biodiversity.”

If in fact a debate on this state of affairs takes place in timely fashion, who gets to choose participants? No doubt, scientists in many lands will be chosen to represent their nation’s responsibility by professional organizations…in cooperation with national government. Here in the GOUSA, I’m not as certain.

Past seven years hottest on record

The Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2021 was the fifth-warmest year, with record-breaking heat in some regions.

And the amount of warming gases in our atmosphere continued to increase…

The environmental, human and economic costs of hotter temperatures are already being seen globally.

Europe lived through its warmest summer, and temperature records in western US and Canada were broken by several degrees. Extreme wildfires in July and August burnt almost entire towns to the ground and killed hundreds…

The Copernicus data comes from a constellation of Sentinel satellites that monitor the Earth from orbit, as well as measurements taken at ground level.

Conclusions and comments are mixed. Sentiment is predictably pessimistic. I won’t be around long enough to see much of any progress; BUT, I have sufficient confidence in science and practitioners to hope that reasonable solutions will be found. Hopefully, including not only reduced chemical effects on our atmosphere; but, adequate diminishing population in spite of hangers-on hoping to retain their religious blinders on education and politics.

Sea Dragon, a very big Sea Dragon

The remains of a monstrous, 33-foot-long (10 meters) “sea dragon” that swam in the seas when dinosaurs were alive some 180 million years ago have been unearthed on a nature reserve in England. The behemoth is the biggest and most complete fossil of its kind ever discovered in the U.K.

“It is a truly unprecedented discovery and one of the greatest finds in British palaeontological history,” excavation leader Dean Lomax, a paleontologist and visiting scientist at the University of Manchester…

Spend your recreation time at a nature reserve. Never can tell what you might find, eh? The two men who found this were out walking in the nature reserve…turned off-trail through the bottom of a drained lagoon. And there it was.

So, Texans are scared of birds

A Walmart in Texas that was overrun by thousands of birds has been hailed as a sign of “death,” “disaster” and the “apocalypse.”

Shoppers were seemingly trapped in their cars—and presumably the store—when the flock descended onto the supermarket’s parking lot, off highway 80 in Mesquite…

Houston Audubon, a non-profit focusing on “protecting the natural environment for birds and people,” explained these sights are not uncommon.

While the birds in the clips were unconfirmed, the site said: “Great-tailed Grackles are a permanent sight in Houston and can be found in any area inhabited by humans that has some trees.

“They tend to congregate in large flocks and prefer shopping centers and fast-food store parking lots where there’s trash for food and trees or light posts for perching…In the evening, raucous flocks pack neighborhood trees creating noisy roosting aggregations.”

I think these folks spend too much time watching horror movies. This is common behavior, especially near sunset this time of year, looking for a place to roost…though feeding time is OK for sighting what is termed a “murmuration” of blackbirds. Some parts of Texas are uptight about grackles, the largest black birds this side of their cousin crows. Flocks often include starlings [not related] or red-wing blackbirds [more crow relatives].

In our neck of the prairie, someone outdoors spots a murmuration coming, they holler to folks indoors to come out and watch. They’re beautiful.

California is now “Trans-apocalyptic”

Widespread smoke is just one of the symptoms of how climate change is degrading the quality of life for many people on this planet. In the article described below, the author wrote that a researcher told her that “Wildfire is literally making it unsafe to be pregnant in California.”

Here are excerpts from the article, titled, This Isn’t the California I Married — The honeymoon’s over for its residents now that wildfires are almost constant

…The climate crisis has caused us to get lost in time and space; we need to dig ourselves out of nostalgia and face the world as it exists. As he [Alex Steffen] explained to me in his confident baritone, yes, California, and the world, are in bad shape. But the situation is not as devoid of hope as we believe. “We have this idea that the world is either normal and in continuity with what we’ve expected, or it’s the apocalypse, it’s the end of everything — and neither are true,” he said. That orange sky in 2020? “We’re all like, Wow, the sky is apocalyptic! But it’s not apocalyptic. If you can wake up and go to work in the morning, you’re not in an apocalypse, right?”

The more accurate assessment, according to Steffen, is that we’re “trans-apocalyptic.” We’re in the middle of an ongoing crisis, or really a linked series of crises, and we need to learn to be “native to now.” Our lives are going to become — or, really, they already are (the desire to keep talking about the present as the future is intense) — defined by “constant engagement with ecological realities,” floods, dry wells, fires. And there’s no opting out. What does that even mean?…

Relinquishing the idea of normal will require strength, levelheadedness, optimism and bravery, the grit to keep clinging to some thin vine of hope as we swing out of the wreckage toward some solid ground that we cannot yet see. “We’re no longer dealing with a fire regime in the woods that responds to the kinds of mild prevention and mild responses, the sensible responses we have thought about, and that thought alone is a crisis,” Steffen said. “It means the lives we had we no longer have.”

The small settlement where I live is the result in many instances of folks coming to these conclusions. About half the folks in our community are native New Mexicans, mostly with Spanish surnames. Next two points of origin are California and Texas. Then, the scattering of lifetime hippies, non-conformists whose live are anchored in philosophy or art, not necessarily roots. Yup. That’s me.

Most of us have meadows, remnants of the grasslands where we built our homes. I suppose if the bosque at the bottom of our valley ever became dry enough to be a fire threat, we’d have to pass a regulation requiring collective mowing every summer’s end. That would help a lot.

Colorado just had its worst wildfire ever—in the middle of winter


milehightraveler/Getty

In an unexpected and fiery turn of events, fast-moving wildfire Marshall spread across the state of Colorado last Thursday, pummeling through 6,000 acres in just a few hours. Thousands of people have been rapidly evacuated from counties and towns north of Denver,. As of January 2, three individuals are still missing, including a search for 91-year-old Nadine Turnbull who was last seen in her burning home in Superior.

“It was in [the] blink of an eye. This was a disaster in fast motion, all in the course of half a day,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press conference on December 31. “Nearly 1,000 homes are gone.” Cold, snowy weather over the weekend has since suppressed the fire…

“I have thought it won’t be long before we start experiencing fires like California where flames chase people out of their neighborhoods,” Becky Bolinger, an assistant state climatologist at the center at Colorado State University, told the Denver Post. “I didn’t expect that would happen in December.”

Climate change is essentially keeping our fuels drier longer,” Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist and director of the Earth Lab at CU Boulder, told NPR. “These grasses that were burning—you know, they’ve been baked, essentially, all fall and all winter. On top of that, we didn’t get a lick of moisture.”

On top of tricky climate conditions, population growth poses an especially serious threat for disastrous wildfires. As more people move into what were once uninhabited grasslands, fire-risky activities, like starting a car or having a barbeque, become more common. All the while, local management policies might shift toward suppressing natural flames. Keeping small burns from happening in populated neighborhoods ends up leading to more and more fuel build-up, setting the stage for massive destruction.

Scientists will continue to investigate and research new and added dangers, Something we can’t ignore.

Plastic packaging for most fruit and veggies banned in France

The ban came into effect on Saturday under new regulations that French President Emmanuel Macron’s government says are meant to phase out single-use plastics as pollution worsens globally.

Under the new rules, leeks and carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, apples and pears and about 30 other items can no longer be sold in plastic. Instead, they should be wrapped in recyclable materials…Plastic will still be allowed for more fragile fruits such as berries and peaches, but is to be gradually phased out in the coming years…

France’s packaging industry meanwhile said it was dismayed by the new rules, particularly a ban on the use of recycled plastics.

My response is mixed – at a minimum. Though it appears that producers of cardboard – easily recycled – are gearing up to pickup the changeover. In the same vein, I would expect paper which can be made translucent to become a replacement, as well.