B is for the Bats, Which are Dying by the Millions

I admit, before last summer I had never cared much about bats. I didn’t think they were cute or of much use or interest, but then I met Rob Mies director of the Organization for Bat Conservation and his rehabilitated bats during an event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

I learned that bats make up a large part of the world’s ecosystem, in fact, a quarter of all mammal species are a type of bat! I learned that they are intelligent and affectionate creatures and actually kind of cute when you get past all the misconceptions about rabies and blood drinking.

The truth is humans would have a really hard time of it if it weren’t for bats controlling the insect population, reseeding deforested land, and pollinating plants, many of which we eat.

I also learned that bats are in trouble and as usual, it’s pretty much our fault.

Like all animals in the world human encroachment, habitat destruction, pesticides, and climate change are affecting bats, but more than that scientist believe that we humans brought a plague down upon bats in the form of White-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destruction) native to Europe and Asia. Bats there are largely unaffected by it, but here in America, the fungus grows on a bat’s wings and noses causing them to wake up during winter hibernation and either starve or freeze to death. The fungus is decimating colonies and killing by the thousands with no cure and no signs of slowing.

Once White-nose syndrome hits a bat colony up to 70%-90% of the bats roosting there will die. In some cases, the kill rate has been 100%, and scientist now warns that entire species may go extinct as the fungus makes a slow march across the country from the east coast to the west.

wnsspreadmap_3_22_2017_002
https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map

We don’t know everything about bats, but we do know they do not cross oceans, but people do. It is believed that humans brought back this fungus from Europe and introduced it to colonies here through cave exploration.

Seven species are affected, three of which are now on the (including three on the federal endangered species list. Kill estimates are as high as Tens of millions of bats since 2006 when the fungus was first recognized here. The disease moves so fast and kills so efficiently that it’s considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history.

So, why should you care? Remember a few years ago when we were all in a panic of bee colony collapse syndrome, well it turns out the bees are bouncing back, but they aren’t the only one’s who save farmers, corporations, consumers, and the U.S. government billions of dollars a year.

Back in 2008, the Forest Service estimated that due to White-nose syndrome and the deaths of around a million bats, 2.4 million pounds of insects went uneaten and free to damage crops and spread disease. They also provide pollination and seed spreading service, for free. All we have to do is respect them and keep them safe. We had one job….

So, how can you help? First of all, stop going into caves. Just stop. Saving these creatures is more important than your need to explore. If you have to please do so with trained professionals and observe proper decontamination protocols when you leave. Respect caves and mines that are closed, they are for a reason.

Take some time to learn what you can about your own local bat species types and habits, then spread the word. Consider setting up your own bat house.

And finally, don’t let your government slash budgets for programs that study, protect, and benefit the environment. Bats, like most animals, need to be protected from us and it’s important that we allow the government to do what we can’t, keep us out of their habitats.

We need local parks and protected caves that we can’t go trampling in or building on whenever we want to. Call your local representative and you leaders in Congress, or send a fax by text, and let them know that humans are awful and out of control and for that reason, we need our parks and our scientists to keep the world safe before there is no other life to protect anymore.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme isThe World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image: A northern long-eared bat with visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting

“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,”

— Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (via Quartz)

When it comes to talk about the effects of global warming a lot of focus has been on Antartica, which saw record low levels of ice this past year, but as winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end all eyes are on the Arctic as the trend toward higher temperatures, low sea ice levels, and shockingly low levels of human panic and action continue.

For a bit of background, when I talk about the Arctic I am talking about the sea of ice to the north of Canada and Russia. In the summer, every summer, the ice melts as the sun becomes a constant fixture in the sky, and every winter the ice freezes again. It’s all normal and all due to Earth’s orbit, tilt, and the natural warming and cooling the seasons bring.

This winter the Arctic froze, and when scientists measured the ice at it’s largest extent, there was a whole lot missing. Average Arctic ice extent should be something like 6.04 million square miles, in March of 2017, when we take these kinds of measurements, we had 5.57 million square miles of ice. We are missing 471,000 square miles of ice! And this isn’t the first time we have been below average, and it is not going to be the last.

Less ice might not like such a big deal, except that it is. Arctic sea ice melt contributes to further and faster warming, since our bright white ice cap will be gone, it won’t reflect the sun’s rays back into space ad instead the heat will be absorbed by the ocean. Sea levels will rise, of course, and that’s bad for anyone living along the coast which is a whole lot of American citizens. Ocean and air currents will change due to the ice being gone and the temperatures being warmer. This leads to more climate change on average and more unstable weather patterns day to day.

And of course, in the end, it all boils down to more death and suffering for animals and mostly poor people who are already suffering, but it won’t end with them. We will all feel the ramifications of this.

A wise man once said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” and despite the fact that, yes, sea ice freezes and melts according to the seasons and yes anomalies happen and some years are freakishly colder or warmer than others the truth is  that for a while now we have been trending farther and farther outside of the averages. Take a look at the terrifying graph below for example:

nsidc_global_extent_byyear_b
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that part on the right that’s clearly outside of the gray area average, that was the end of 2016, far outside even a regular bad year. See the little line on the left sitting below every other year back to 1978? That’s the beginning of 2017 continuing along on a catastrophic path toward sea level rise, ocean ecosystem disruption, and the first signs of the end times.

Now, if we remember our geometry education back in high school, we know that area and volume are different. Could it be that the ice is still there but just taking on a different shape? Nope. Take a look at this graph of bad news showing monthly global ice by volume:

giomas-year-global
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that line veering off to the right well outside the mean and below every other year as far back as 1981, that’s 2016. I haven’t seen a version with 2017 on it yet, but I would bet a lot of money that just like ice area measurements we are still trending down and still, no one is doing anything about it. Instead, we’re running around arguing about whether or not the problem is even real.

This is not normal. None of this is normal! You may hear people talk about natural cycles but take a look at another graph. This one shows measurement of atmospheric CO2 found in drilled ice cores containing bubbles of air from thousands of years ago. See that big spike on the end, well outside of anything ever, that 1950 to now. It is us! We are doing this!

15_co2_left_061316
https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Now, this is all pretty bad, but it actually gets even worse. So much worse. All hope of stopping these trends is gone. We have done too much damage. CO2 measurements will continue to rise, and the ice is going to go on melting, even if we stopped everything, all the cars, all the deforestation, all the burning, today. There is just no way, right now, that we can get the gasses we put into the atmosphere, and the ocean, back out.

We are fucked. We are so fucked and so stupid.

Scientists started warning us back in 60s that burning fossil fuels and putting greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane into the atmosphere were going to lead to a warmer Earth which would lead to collapsing ecosystems and unstable weather patterns but too many people wanted to keep on making money and fought long and hard, and are still fighting today, to keep you from panicking or changing the way you do things.

So what can you do now? Hell, why do anything if we are already too far gone?

Well, even thought the earth is going to warm and the climate is going to change, and many many people and animals are going to die, we can lessen the extent and the suffering if we start today.

The EPA has a list of things you can do today, but ost of us have read it and have made the changes that we can, but what we really need to do now is get the people who are in charge to stop being so damn selfish and stupid and do something about it. We need to contact our leaders in Congress and let them know that we will not stand for their cowardice any longer. You can even fax them by text now! There is no excuse.

Change needs to happen now if we want to have a future where humans can at least survive, and you need to ask yourself here and now, do you care? Be honest with yourself, do you want something to be done, or do you like it better when you pretend there is no consensus or science to back this up? Are you a part of the solution or part of the problem?

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme is The World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash