“From a distance, the canids of Galveston Island, Texas, look almost like coyotes, prowling around the beach at night, eyes gleaming in the dark.
But look closer and oddities appear. The animals’ bodies seem slightly out of proportion, with overly long legs, unusually broad heads and sharply pointed snouts. And then there is their fur, distinctly reddish in hue, with white patches on their muzzles.
The Galveston Island canids are not conventional coyotes — at least, not entirely. They carry a ghostly genetic legacy: DNA from red wolves, which were declared extinct in the wild in 1980.
For years, these genes have been hiding in plain sight, tucked away in the seemingly unremarkable animals that scavenged for food behind housing developments and roamed the grounds of the local airport.”
“Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.
“Ed’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge,” Paula J. Ehrlich, chief executive and president of the foundation, said in a statement. “A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet.”
When Dr. Wilson began his career in evolutionary biology in the 1950s, the study of animals and plants seemed to many scientists like a quaint, obsolete hobby. Molecular biologists were getting their first glimpses of DNA, proteins and other invisible foundations of life. Dr. Wilson made it his life’s work to put evolution on an equal footing.”
David Lindsay: One of my great heroes has passed. He is the author of “Half-Earth, Our planet’s fight for life,” which has become the most important book in my life. It is a gateway aphrodisiac into the passion of habitat and wildlife conservation. (If anyone can’t get to read the entire obit, send me a message, and I will repost in January, with full permissions.)
The covid pandemic was at least as positive as negative for me, and I suspect, for some others too. I didn’t lose any close relatives or friends to covid yet, but the big changes, cancelling my dance and singing and martial arts groups, made me aware for the first time in years, that I had been way too busy, and the reset was useful, since I was slowing down almost unnoticing, as I turned 68, then 69. Being in a beautiful, new relationship, and being able to play tennis almost daily, made all the difference. If I had just gotten divorced, and was single during this pandemic, it would have been a different story. One of misery and depression, and I would have fit into the narrative of this video, which I must point out, is almost all negative, and misses the positive. As a climate hawk who writes and performs about climate change and the sixth extinction, I worry daily that 7.9 billion humans is endangering life as we know it, and extermination other species by the hundreds. The fact is that the pandemic slowed our economic activity, and it also briefly reduced our carbon footprint. But, from a cerebral, analytical point of view, it didn’t terminate nearly enough humans, to ensure that humans will survive going forward. One way or the other, we need to get the human pupulation way down, to stop the sixth extinction.
“From a helicopter, it can be hard to spot a polar bear against the frozen tundra. So when the polar bear biologist Jon Aars heads out for his annual research trips, he scans the landscape for flashes of movement or subtle variations in color — the slightly yellowish hue of the bears’ fur set off against the white snow.
“Also, very often, you see the footprints before you see the bear,” Dr. Aars said. “And the bear is usually where the footprints stop.”
Dr. Aars is one in a long line of polar bear researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute, which has an outpost on Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago. Since 1987, the institute’s scientists have staged annual field trips into the icy wilderness to find and study Svalbard’s polar bears.
David Lindsay: And now for a few comments, including one by me in response to another.
WOW. Just wow. A sincere hat tip to these dedicated and wonderful researchers. I marveled at the photos and videos. My one hope is that the world wakes up before it’s too late. Thankful that these magnificent creatures are still roaming this earth in my lifetime. The future? Sad.
I cringe seeing these beautiful animals chased by helicopters, shot, laid out on the ice, their fur flecked with blood. Yes, we ‘need to know’, always more, more research. But we already *know* that these beautiful animals desperately need our help to survive. They are extremely stressed in normal life and are only further stressed by such interventions. We need much less invasive ways to monitor these beautiful animals.4 Replies 28 Recommend
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David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
@Reuel I worried about this too, so I interviewed a polar bear the other day. She said, “yeah, its ugly, but everyone likes a check up with the doctor, even if that always raises your blood pressure. My pod thinks that the benefits out weigh the costs. We know, first hand, that climate change is an existential crisis, and the more you can broadcast our pleas for mercy and help, the bettter. I cry when I realize that it will be our extinction perhaps, that makes enough humans care to limit their carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions.”
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net, and is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion.”
“As scientists planned an expedition in Mexico this fall to count one of the world’s most endangered animals, a shy porpoise called a vaquita, they dreaded the possibility that there would be none left to find. The last survey, in 2019, estimated that only about 10 remained.
At the same time, fishermen in the area were preparing to set out with the illegal nets that scientists say are driving the porpoises to extinction: walls of mesh that hang upright below the surface, up to 20 feet deep and stretching the length of several football fields.
Called gill nets, they trap shrimp and fish. They also entangle vaquitas, drowning the mammals. Researchers say the nets are the only known cause for the species’ catastrophic decline, but getting rid of them has turned out to be a challenge.
Amid a global biodiversity crisis, with an estimated million species threatened with extinction, the story of the vaquita shows how even obvious solutions — in this case, putting a stop to illegal fishing — require political will, enforcement and deep engagement with local communities to meet the needs of both people and animals.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Catrin Einhorn and the NYT, even though you have disturbed my “wa,” or peacefully harmony. I was not aware of this tragedy, about losing the magnificent vaquitas, and I would like the United States to step up and do what ever it takes, to protect them. I’m not sure what is the best way to convince the Mexican government to protect this dying species, but a ban in the US of all Mexican sea food would probably get their immediate attention. I hope to read more, soon, about what pressures could realistically be brought to bear in this situation, which is so immediately dire.
Perhaps the Mexican and US government will have to start paying these same illegal fishermen, stipends or salaries, to protect the rare porpoises that they are driving quickly to extinction.
“Nina Lanctot sprinted toward a calamity she had long ago foretold. It was mid-September 2018. Moments earlier, Lanctot, an ocean lifeguard and former collegiate swimmer, was eating lunch in the parking lot at Newcomb Hollow, a beach in the town of Wellfleet on Outer Cape Cod. The season had ended and crowds had thinned. She was off duty and spent that Saturday morning surfing with friends, reveling in the satisfying vibe of local residents coming together at summer’s end. Then came shouts: “Shark bite!”
Instantly she was on her feet.
Earlier Lanctot noticed two men with boogie boards headed toward a break south of the lot. The pair, Arthur Medici and Isaac Rocha, were visiting from Boston’s suburbs, where Medici, 26, was dating an older sister of Rocha, 16. They walked past a shark-warning sign at about 9:30 a.m. and set up on the ocean side of a sandbar, at a depth of about six feet, and caught waves breaking in the shallows. The morning brought sunshine, lingering warm water and small crowds. Gray seals swam by — one here, two there, a procession. Rocha thought the animals were cool. Shortly after noon, he rode a wave into the foam. Medici hung back, waiting for his own.”
“As 20,000 government leaders, journalists, activists and celebrities from around the world prepare to descend on Glasgow for a crucial climate summit starting late this month, another high-level international environmental meeting got started this week. The problem it seeks to tackle: A rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively sustain life on earth.
The stakes at the two meetings are equally high, many leading scientists say, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention.
“If the global community continues to see it as a side event, and they continue thinking that climate change is now the thing to really listen to, by the time they wake up on biodiversity it might be too late,” said Francis Ogwal, one of the leaders of the working group charged with shaping an agreement among nations.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Hallelujah. I didn’t even know about this important group, since the NYT didn’t ever put it on their front page before. It certainly hasn’t made a big enough noise. “The Most Important Global Meeting You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Is Now.” Countries are gathering in an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis. I am disappointed that the NYT, which I study daily, didn’t give this front page space until today. Better late than never I guess.
Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.
“NASHVILLE — If you’re a certain age, you may remember the snail darter, a small fish in the Little Tennessee River that caused an environmental firestorm when it was listed as endangered in 1975. At the time, the Tennessee Valley Authority was already in the midst of building a dam on the Little Tennessee. Snail darters require free-flowing water to reproduce, and the only known habitat for the entire species was about to be dammed.
The ensuing legal battle made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with the fish. But Congress, pressed by Tennessee politicians, responded by making the Tellico Dam project exempt from the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The little fish seemed doomed.
You may be wondering why I would resurrect the story of an ancient battle that ended badly for environmentalists. Why bring up the snail darter’s sad tale, especially now, with 22 species in the U.S. newly listed as extinct and one million others on track for the same grim future worldwide?
Those lost creatures are exactly why.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 garnered the kind of bipartisan Congressional support that we can hardly imagine today. The House voted 355-4 in favor of passage. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, a Republican. Since then, it has saved dozens of iconic species like the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, the Yellowstone grizzly and the American alligator, and it remains extremely popular. Despite near constant challenges from business interests and a great many elected Republicans, at least 80 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of self-identified conservatives, support it.”
“The ivory-billed woodpecker, which birders have been seeking in the bayous of Arkansas, is gone forever, according to federal officials. So is the Bachman’s warbler, a yellow-breasted songbird that once migrated between the Southeastern United States and Cuba. The song of the Kauai O’o, a Hawaiian forest bird, exists only on recordings. And there is no longer any hope for several types of freshwater mussels that once filtered streams and rivers from Georgia to Illinois.
In all, 22 animals and one plant should be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list, federal wildlife officials announced on Wednesday.
The announcement could also offer a glimpse of the future. It comes amid a worsening global biodiversity crisis that threatens a million species with extinction, many within decades. Human activities like farming, logging, mining and damming take habitat from animals and pollute much of what’s left. People poach and overfish. Climate change adds new peril.
“Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” said Bridget Fahey, who oversees species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Sad but true. Thank you Catrin Einhorn and the NYT for this report. I recommend the booklet, “Half Earth,” by the famous etymologist Edward O Wilson, retired from Harvard. He and his associates around the world see us possibly losing 80% of the world’s species in the next 80 years. ( He talks mostly in ranges, like in 50 to 100 years) He predicts that if we lose 50% of the world’s species, the human species will not survive, because of dependencies that exist, but are not yet all understood. The message of the Half Earth Foundation and movement, is their strong sense that we need to preserve half the of the world’s area for non human species, to allow them to survive, and to guarantee our own survival. David Lindsay blogs at InconvenientNews.Net, and is writing a book on climate change and the sixth extinction.
“. . . I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that rising authoritarianism, the pandemic and the climate crisis, among other things, are signs that we’re going to hell in a handbasket. Is that irrational of me? It’s not irrational to identify genuine threats to our well-being. It is irrational to interpret a number of crises occurring at the same time as signs that we’re doomed. It’s a statistical phenomenon that when events are randomly sprinkled in time they cluster. That sounds paradoxical, but unless you have a nonrandom process that spaced them apart — We’re going to have a crisis every six months but we’re never going to have two crises in a month — events cluster. That’s what random events will always do. ”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This piece lost me. Climate change, the pandemic, and the rise of authoritarianism are not equals. Bad questions lead to bad answers. Why exactly is this professor not deeply concerned about the existential threat of climate change and the sixth extinction? Perhaps there should be a follow up interview by an environmentalist. Does he know what the sixth extinction is? Does he know that in the last 50 years, human population doubled, while the populations of most species were cut in half, and thousands were eliminated. Some studies show insects and birds are down 70% Half the great barrier reef is bleached or dead. How is Mr. Pinker optimistic, when we went from 2 billion humans to almost 8 billion humans, 7.8 billion human beings, in just under 100 year– probably since 1930 to the present. Edward O Wilson, also of Harvard, but a naturalist, has written that if we lose half the world’s species, the human species will probably not survive.