This Carnivorous Plant Invaded New York. That May Be Its Only Hope. – The New York Times

By 

“Across their kayaks, the three men passed the green shoot back and forth. Occasionally, one of them would cradle it in one palm and bring a hand lens to it with the other, inspecting the carnivorous plant that was their bounty.

By day’s end, the group — Seth Cunningham and Michael Tessler, biologists at the American Museum of Natural History, and John Thompson, coordinator of the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership — filled eight vials with the plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel.

The plant shouldn’t be in this small, privately owned pond in Orange County, N.Y., and it presents an ecological conundrum.

Around the world, the waterwheel is going extinct. But from summer through late fall, the carnivorous, rootless, wetland-loving plant is plentiful in this swampy body of water near the Catskill Mountains.”

Opinion | Surviving Despair in the Great Extinction – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

“. . .  Last week, the United Nations released the summary of an enormous report that broke my heart in more ways than any backyard-nature observations ever have. The Times article about the report, “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace,” called it “the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization.” The story opens with the picture of an olive ridley sea turtle washed up on an Indian beach. The turtle is dead, apparently strangled: Fishing rope is looped around its neck, cutting into its throat.

Image.

Fishing nets and ropes are a deadly hazard for olive ridley sea turtles.CreditSoren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If the photo is traumatizing, the story is worse. Because of human activity — both direct activity, like fishing and farming, and indirect activity, like the fossil fuels that accelerate climate change — up to one million species of plants and animals are headed for extinction if we don’t take immediate measures to halt the devastation.

That’s one million species. Every individual creature in a species — times one million. We can’t possibly conceive of such a thing. We can hold in mind, however uncomfortably, the image of a single animal who died a terrible death. Devastation on this scale is beyond the reach of imagination. How could we hold in mind a destruction so vast it would take not just one sea turtle but all that animal’s kind, as well as all the kind of 999,999 other species?

Whole expanses of the natural world are disappearing. It’s not just poster animals like polar bears, tigers and elephants; it’s life on earth as we know it.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you Margaret Renkl.  Here is one of several comments I admired. In this one, it is the quote of the Talmud that I value most.

Susan
Delaware, OH

In his iconic essay, The Starthrower, Loren Eiseley gives us reason to keep up the fight against impossible odds. Eiseley describes going to Costabel Spain and sees a figure on the beach repeatedly picking up starfish stranded on the beach by the receding tide and throwing them back into the water that they might live. The cynical Eiseley tries to explain to the starthrower that his task is hopeless. There are too many starfish to make a difference. But the starthrower proclaims “It makes a difference to this one.” as he returns it to the mother sea. In that moment, Eiseley realizes that it wasn’t starfish so much as men the thrower sought to save and there was something holy about reaching out a hand in pity across the gulf of evolution that separates mankind and starfish. The Talmud says: Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it. Ms. Renkl’s essay is a good down payment on the task.

10 Replies306 Recommended

Opinion | Life as We Know It – The New York Times Editorial

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditIllustrations by Yann Kebbi

“Our planet has suffered five mass extinctions, the last of which occurred about 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid believed to have landed near the Yucatán Peninsula set off a chain reaction that wiped out the dinosaurs and roughly three-quarters of the other species on earth. A few years ago, in a book called “The Sixth Extinction,” the writer Elizabeth Kolbert warned of a devastating sequel, with plant and animal species on land and sea already disappearing at a ferocious clip, their habitats destroyed or diminished by human activities.

This time, she made clear, the asteroid is us — and we will pay heavily for our folly.

Humanity’s culpability in what many scientists believe to be a planetary emergency has now been reaffirmed by a detailed and depressing report compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies. A summary was released last Monday in Paris, and the full 1,500-page report will be available later in the year. Its findings are grim. “Biodiversity” — a word encompassing all living flora and fauna — “is declining faster than at any time in human history,” it says, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades,” unless the world takes transformative action to save natural systems. The at-risk population includes a half-million land-based species and one-third of marine mammals and corals.

Most of the causes of this carnage seem familiar: logging, poaching, overfishing by large industrial fleets, pollution, invasive species, the spread of roads and cities to accommodate an exploding global population, now seven billion and rising. If there is one alpha culprit, it is the clearing of forests and wetlands for farms to feed all those people (and, perversely, to help them get to work: The destruction of Indonesia’s valuable rain forests, and their replacement with palm oil plantations, has been driven in part by Europe’s boundless appetite for biodiesel fuels.)

Add to all this a relatively new threat: Global warming, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels, is expected to compound the damage. “While climate change has not been the dominant driver of biodiversity loss to date in most parts of the world, it is projected to become as or more important,” said Sir Robert Watson, chairman of the biodiversity panel and former chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose most recent alarming report on global warming has given that issue new currency in American politics. Rising seas and increased extreme weather events propelled in part by climate change — fire, floods, droughts — have already harmed many species. The most obvious victim is the world’s coral reefs, which have suffered grievously from ocean waters that have grown warmer and more acidic as a result of all the carbon dioxide they’ve been asked to absorb.”

Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

(CNN)One million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans, scientists warned Monday in what is described as the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss ever.

Their landmark report paints a bleak picture of a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, whose insatiable consumption is destroying the natural world.
The global rate of species extinction “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN committee, whose report was written by 145 experts from 50 countries.

Source: Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

Watching ‘Our Planet,’ Where the Predator Is Us – The New York Times

“One of the hallmarks of a past generation’s nature documentaries was the animal-in-peril scene: the cub hunted by the jungle cat, the fledgling teetering at the edge of its nest.

It was like the terror of a thrill-park ride, one that usually came with the implicit knowledge of safeguards and constraints. In the end, the adorable creature would survive. This was the compact. The animal that you liked would be O.K. After all, this was TV.

There is one of those scenes in the second episode of “Our Planet,” the remarkable docu-series on Netflix. But now the compact is gone. A teeming colony of walruses is crammed at the edge of eighty-meter cliffs along the coast of Russia, where climate change has melted away the sea ice. Not evolved to navigating the precarious surfaces, one walrus falls, and another, and another, their massive bodies slamming onto the rocky beach.

They do not, most of them, get up and shake it off. Their broken bodies litter the shore. This is the resounding message of “Our Planet”: It will not, necessarily, be O.K. And humans — the unpictured but omnipresent part of “our” in “Our Planet” — are the reason.”

Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian

David Lindsay:  This March and April. Kathleen Schomaker and I performed our new Folk Concert: Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction, in three different house concerts, to share our work and get feedback.
   Our efforts at educating neighbors and friends were somewhat eclipsed by this eight show series about the environment, called, Our Planet, produced and served up by Netflix. I urge everyone to view these shows.
Here is a review from The Guardian.
Spectacular ... A dust storm blows over a colony of socotra cormorants endangering their chicks.

“It looks as spectacular as you would expect. Vast aerial sweeps across the Peruvian coast as millions of cormorants and boobies gather to feast on anchovies and breed, or across frozen tundra to watch herds of caribou head for the shelter of the forest in temperatures 40 degrees below freezing take your breath away. Then it catches in your throat, as you watch an orchid bee, in search of perfume to attract a mate, fall into a flower’s buckety petal and squeeze out of a tiny tunnel that deposits two sacks of pollen on its back; just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended. On every scale, it is amazing. You can only boggle at the endless precision of the natural world, and of the people who devote themselves to capturing its wonders.

This is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming – Our Planet, an eight-part, multimillion-dollar series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries and narrated by our very own David Attenborough. Produced largely by the team behind the BBC’s Planet Earth and Blue Planet, it looks very much like what they might have done next for Auntie if the Natural History Unit had given them their druthers (and Netflix’s budget). As with Planet Earth, it takes a different landscape every episode and fills the screen with incredible scenes. Lesser flamingos building mud mounds for their eggs and hatching thousands of chicks in unison. Eagles in combat in the air. Three of the 60 species of manakin birds doing their mating dances, each more jaw-droppingly complex than the last. The routine from the blue manakin – which involves four birds who practise beforehand, with a juvenile male standing in for the prospective lady – will have you revising your own sexual decision-making. You’ll not be charmed by a pint and a compliment again, I assure you.”

Source: Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian

Opinion | A Comeback for African National Parks – By Patrick Adams – The New York Times

Quote

By Patrick Adams
Mr. Adams is a journalist who reports on solutions to social problems.

Feb. 20, 2019

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is a rare success story. The number of large mammals there has increased more than 700 percent over the past decade.

Image: CreditCreditChristopher Scott/Gallo Images, via Getty Images
The earth’s sixth mass extinction, scientists warn, is now well underway.Worldwide, wildlife populations are plummeting at astonishing rates, and the trend is perhaps most starkly evident in Africa’s protected areas — the parks, game reserves and sanctuaries home to many of the world’s most charismatic species.

Between 1970 and 2005, national parks in Africa saw an average decline of 59 percent in the populations of dozens of large mammals, among them lions, zebras, elephants and giraffes. In at least a dozen parks, the losses exceeded 85 percent.

One of those was Gorongosa National Park, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, in central Mozambique.

Once a premier safari destination, Gorongosa suffered through a brutal 16-year civil war. When the fighting finally ended in 1992, the park was a shambles: More than 95 percent of its large mammals had been wiped out — slaughtered for food and the purchase of arms. Abandoned for another decade, it might well have gone the way of so many other protected areas: downgraded and downsized, converted to cropland or opened to mining.

via Opinion | A Comeback for African National Parks – The New York Times

Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

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By Somini Sengupta
Jan. 16, 2019,  31 c

Aaron Davis, a British botanist, has spent 30 years trekking across forests and farms to chronicle the fate of one plant: coffee.

He has recorded how a warming planet is making it harder to grow coffee in traditional coffee-producing regions, including Ethiopia, the birthplace of the world’s most popular bean, arabica. He has mapped where farmers can grow coffee next: basically upcountry, where it’s cooler. He has gone searching for rare varieties in the wild.

Now, in what is perhaps his most disheartening research, Dr. Davis has found that wild coffee, the dozens of varieties that once occurred under forest canopies on at least three continents, is at risk of vanishing forever. Among the world’s 124 coffee species, he and a team of scientists have concluded, 60 percent are at risk of extinction in the wild. Climate change and deforestation are to blame.

It matters because those wild varieties could be crucial for coffee’s survival in the era of global warming. In those plants could lie the genes that scientists need to develop new varieties that can grow on a hotter, drier planet.

via Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – The New York Times

Ouch. This hurts. Here are the top three NYT comments I endorsed:

Wienke
Brooklyn

Thanks to Mr. Davis and those who are testing and preserving this remnant of Earth’s heritage.

Thompson Owen commented January 17

Thompson Owen
Oakland, CA

Having visited various coffee variety collections around the world, some formerly supported by the ICO (international coffee org), I can attest to the note about a lack of funding and old specimen plants. I was just at Coffee Research in Kenya a couple months ago and the collection appears on the verge of death. Preserving coffee genetic diversity might hinge on plants in these collections and it’s doubtful those plants will last much longer. When the ICO was strong these gardens were remarkable, well funded and kept fresh with new plant material. It’s so important to underscore the economic importance of coffee to smallholder farmers, how it provides cash income to so many millions globally. It’s already a weak plant with inconsistent fruiting from year to year. If it’s further diminished by climate shift, the effect on small farmers and the rural economies in so many nations is huge. For me, that’s a chief reason to sound an alarm. For the environment, Arabica coffee is almost like an indicator species, and one easy to get the public to pay attention to! Even in the short 20 yrs I’ve been a coffee buyer there are areas that produced good volumes of good coffee that are no longer able to farm due to global warming. Insects (coffee berry borer) and fungus (rust/roya lead fungus) spread in these areas as temperatures rise and devastate the coffee plants. In Colombia, there are parts of Huila that were flush with coffee 20 years ago and can’t grow it now.

Paulie commented January 17

Paulie
Earth

I believe the climate has already passed the tipping point. With human populations continuing to explode I doubt there is any way to avoid the extinction of many species, including humans.

 

Alumni startup counters coral loss with world’s first commercial land-based coral farm – Yale News

Coral Vita founders Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher posing in scuba gear underwater, at a coral reef.
Coral Vita founders Gator Halpern ’15 M.E.M. and Sam Teicher ’12 B.A., ’15 M.E.M down on the reefs. (Photo credit: Coral Vita)

The vision that two alumni shared as graduate students for a startup to meaningfully address declining global coral reef health is taking shape on the island of Grand Bahama. The cofounders of Coral Vita, Sam Teicher ’12 B.A., ’15 M.E.M, and Gator Halpern ’15 M.E.M., are opening the world’s first commercial land-based coral farm in the Bahamas. There, they will grow coral up to 50 times faster than in nature by utilizing research from leading coral scientists working with their mission-driven for-profit. Through what is known as “assisted evolution,” they will also enhance the resiliency of corals to help them adapt more quickly to warming and acidifying oceans that threaten coral health.

To launch their pilot farm, Coral Vita has partnered with the Grand Bahama Development Corporation and Grand Bahama Port Authority. They also are receiving significant support from local tourism operators, real estate developers, and the Bahamas’ government, which is eager to find solutions to the widespread loss of the island’s reefs. More than 80% of local reefs have died. These thriving underwater worlds rich in biodiversity are vital to the country’s economy and ecosystem, powering eco-tourism, sustaining critical fisheries, and sheltering coastlines from storm surge. If they are successful in the Bahamas, the cofounders hope to replicate these farms in other coral hotspots around the world.

The timing could not be more urgent. Half of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost to pollution, overfishing, and a phenomenon driven by global warming known as coral bleaching. Arecent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points to an even more dire future should warming trends continue. The IPCC found that if global warming rises 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, coral reefs will likely decline up to 90% by 2050; if by 2C, 99% of the world’s corals will likely be lost.

Opinion | We Are All Riders on the Same Planet – By Matthew Myer Boulton and Joseph Heithaus – The New York Times

Quote

David: Merry Christmas. Merry Solstice.
Peace on earth and good will to all!

NYT: Seen from space 50 years ago, Earth appeared as a gift to preserve and cherish. What happened?

By Matthew Myer Boulton and Joseph Heithaus
Mr. Boulton is a writer and a filmmaker. Mr. Heithaus is a poet.

Dec. 24, 2018


The “Earthrise” photograph taken by William Anders on Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve in 1968.CreditCreditNASA

xxx
On Christmas Eve 1968, human beings orbited the moon for the first time. News of the feat of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission dominated the front page of The New York Times the next day. Tucked away below the fold was an essay by the poet Archibald MacLeish, a reflection inspired by what he’d seen and heard the night before.

Even after 50 years, his prescient words speak of the humbling image we now had of Earth, an image captured in a photograph that wouldn’t be developed until the astronauts returned: “Earthrise,” taken by William Anders, one of the Apollo crew. In time, both essay and photo merged into an astonishing portrait: the gibbous Earth, radiantly blue, floating in depthless black space over a barren lunar horizon. A humbling image of how small we are — but even more, a breathtaking image of our lovely, fragile, irreplaceable home. The Earth as a treasure. The Earth as oasis.

When the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman, addressed Congress upon his return, he called himself an “unlikely poet, or no poet at all” — and quoted MacLeish to convey the impact of what he had seen. “To see the Earth as it truly is,” said the astronaut, quoting the poet, “small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.”

The message offered hope in a difficult time. Not far away on that same front page was a sobering report that the Christmas truce in Vietnam had been marred by violence. These were the last days of 1968, a divisive and bloody year. We’d lost Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy that year, gone through a tumultuous election, and continued fighting an unpopular and deadly war.

via Opinion | We Are All Riders on the Same Planet – The New York Times