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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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

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An Open Letter to the Climate Change Denialist

Dear Climate Change Denialist,

I’m writing you today because I truly cannot fathom how you could not believe that climate change is real and that humans are the cause. I hope you will not take this the wrong way but I find your thinking to be both harmful to the entire human race, and incredibly stupid.

To disagree with 97% of scientist who are trained and study this phenomenon takes an ego larger than I can imagine. To continue to stay uninformed on a major subject of world, not just U.S., politics must require a lot of energy. How do you manage not to encounter one true fact about this subject is beyond me. Or maybe you do but you tell yourself that it can’t be true.

The mental gymnastics required for either scenario are almost admirable.

Just in case I am wrong and you just honestly don’t know the facts, here are a few things I’m going to need you to seriously consider before you vote in anymore elections:

  1. Average global sea level is expected to rise 7 – 23 inches before the end of this century. This doesn’t seem so bad unless you realize how many people actually live close to a coast, about half of the world’s population If that doesn’t move you consider the fact that sea levels are rising three- to four-times faster along parts of the United States’ East Coast than they are globally. Does that hit home yet?
  2. California is in the midst of a staggering drought. In fact, it’s been at least half a millennium since California has been this dry. Add to that the extreme high temperatures and you have a serious wildfire issue and a strain on agriculture and drinking water supplies. Texas isn’t faring much better with record rain fall in the spring leading to floods and then no rain at all leading to a drought. These conditions are not usual for these areas and seem to be getting worse every year. How long until these people have no water to drink let alone water for farming?
  3. More than a million species face potential extinction as a result of disappearing habitats, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans! Yes, evolution is a thing, but it needs time and even with time there is no guarantee that a species will adapt to changing conditions. Oceans are warming, droughts are killing vegetation, ice sheets are melting, animals are having to climb higher into mountains to find food. We are killing them!
  4. 2014 was the world’s hottest year on record. This year the world has experienced record-breaking warmth every month so far. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far, eclipsing 2014. I wonder how bad things will be next year, and the next, and the next…?

Knowing all that, how can you continue to support legislation that blocks efforts to clean up our air and reduce our  impact on the rest of the world? How can you support politicians that are paid to keep us ignorant and do what hurts us all in the long run?

I beg you to please, stop and think about more than yourself. Think of the other life on this planet that has no choice but to suffer at the hands of humans. Think about other countries that are unfairly impacted by our unwillingness to make any significant changes. Think about the future generations that will have to deal with, and clean up our mess! Think of what history will have to say about us and what we did. Will they say we were the stupid ones who had the chance to make a difference or did we fuck it all up.

I beg you to do a little research. Stop looking to a political party that cares nothing for the ways this will impact you and your family to tell you what is going on. Look to the scientific community, the majority of whom care very much about facts and the future. Scientists love this planet and hate to lose any bit of it. Look to them to tell you what the facts are. They are trained to study this phenomenon. They know more than your favorite candidate in the election and they are not as easily bought.

And finally, I beg you, please if you cannot help, get out of the way of people who can. If you cannot contribute to the conversation, stop talking. Do not let your ego force you to get in the middle of a movement where you only create controversy and slow down progress. You are not so important that you must always be heard. You are not so smart that your opinion is equal to those who know more than you.

In closing, I hope this letter has made you reevaluate your current thinking. If it hasn’t I encourage you to read it again and then head over to Google for some much needed education on the subject.

I wish you the best of luck, for all our sakes!

Warmest Regards*,

Lisa

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Reinvent the letter format

*Pun entirely intended