After two long days of lectures we will now be out in the field for the next 3 days!
Today’s outing was to Lime Kiln State Park to look for whales passing by, take a hike, and two more classes…two outside and one inside.
It’s interesting that the Southern Resident pod is finally finding its preferred food on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and not so much here in the Salish Sea. Reports from the coast are that the whales are looking fatter and happier! Meanwhile, a transient group of orcas, Biggs transient pod, is now in this area more. The Southern Resident pod prefers to dine on Chinook, and the transients like seals, sea lions, etc. And there are plenty of those around here. Their population has exploded in the last 40 years since they were listed as an endangered species…so no more shooting them for stealing fish off your hook! The Southern Resident pod is still around some though, but this year they even hit up Monterey Bay for food. It’s been a spell since the Southern Resident pod has traveled that far for Chinook.
The day, incidentally, was great! Weather was accommodating, the speakers were knowledgeable and interesting.
The question is growing in my mind, though, can I be a Marine Naturalist in Arizona? How’s that going to work? I will have to give this A LOT of thought. I signed up for this course thinking we’d be relocating back to the Pacific Northwest. This may not come true if our house in AZ doesn’t sell. Bummer.
Could I be a naturalist in Arizona? I just don’t see the culture there embracing this. We’ll find out soon enough.
The New York Times ran an article May 21, 2019, reporting on the polluted drinking water in many parts of California. Two states so far, California and Michigan, have confessed that some populated areas in these states have water polluted to the point of being undrinkable. Every state could likely say the same.
According to Saving Our Oceans by R.L. Coffield, the list of unscrupulous companies that have contaminated drinking water for literally millions of people is shocking. It seems there are endless accounts of “manufacturing, mining and waste disposal companies – and dozens of others – who are among the country’s worst water polluters.”
“Hundreds of these companies have been contaminating drinking water throughout the country for decades with everything from arsenic and lead, to mercury and chromium – most coming from improper dumping and waste disposal….” (Environment, “Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) “Mining and smelting operations are responsible for contaminating water with heavy metals in almost every state in the nation.”
Example: “In Ringwood, New Jersey, Ford Motor Co. dumped more than 35,000 tons of toxic paint sludge…poisoning groundwater with arsenic, lead, and other harmful bacteria. Today, more than 43 years after the dumping ended, those toxins are still in the groundwater and threaten a reservoir providing water to millions of residents in New Jersey.”
Example: “In North Carolina, the state has told residents living near coal-fired power plants their water contains elevated levels of chromium-6 and other chemicals.”
Example: “Anaconda Aluminum in Montana produced manufacturing wastes that contaminated local water sources with lead and chromium. Gulf States Utilities in Louisiana discharged toxins into marshlands polluting waters with benzene and other chemicals, and the Conklin Dumps in New York leaked volatile organic chemicals into groundwater.”
Various industries located on or near the Ohio River which borders six states and provides drinking water to nearly 3 million people, have dumped over 600 million pounds of toxic substances into the river.
These toxins cause extraordinary health problems in people and animals. Dioxins (byproducts of incinerators) are the most commonly released chemicals. “They are known carcinogens and exposure has been linked to health effects such as heart disease, diabetes, and reproductive issues. Almost every living creature on Earth has been exposed to dioxins, according to the National Institutes of Health.” (“Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) And how much of all these poisons traveling downstream make it out to sea? We already know that fertilizer runoff provides a gross amount of contaminants to the Gulf of Mexico helping to create the world’s second largest dead zone – 8,700 square miles.
There are other “more modern” examples of toxin pollution, such as PFOS and PFOAS (forever chemicals are found in the blood of more than 99 per cent of Americans) along with radioactive waste. By the time one reads about Naegleria fowleri (brain-eating bacteria found in water) and vibrio vulnificus (flesh-eating bacteria found in food and water) the idea of a house-hold water filter begins to sound necessary and the cost quite reasonable.
There are many “natural” sources of water contamination also. Trevor Nace, a science writer, describes the “Nine Deadliest Rocks and Minerals on Earth” (Forbes). Sometimes these rocks and minerals are water soluble and can leach into water. Others, like arsenic, a rather common toxin, comes from water flowing through arsenic rich rocks and soil. Some areas experience quite a bit of arsenic in the water which is why well owners especially in these areas should have their water checked regularly. Not all well owners are aware of this, unfortunately. And just because a neighbor’s well water tests fine, doesn’t mean the next door neighbor’s well will.
30 years ago, the worst oil spill in U.S. history took place in the pristine Prince William Sound in Alaska. For those too young to remember, this tragedy that killed literally hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals, and an entire pod of orca whales was entirely avoidable.
For a quick review: recall that the drunken captain, Joseph Hazelwood, gave control of the vessel, Exxon Valdez, to a relatively inexperienced, unlicensed third mate who ran the tanker aground on Bligh Reef, a well-known, clearly marked reef.
While the Coast Guard, Fisheries and others twiddled their thumbs trying to figure out what to do about the calamity, the oil spread and covered 1300 miles of unspoiled, immaculate coastline. When the clean-up finally began, the damage was already done. But it wasn’t entirely done…much of the clean-up actually made matters worse, such as spraying oil dispersal chemicals in the water (which causes oil to sink as tiny droplets – it does not dissolve the oil into nothingness).
The next tragedy was washing the shoreline with high-pressure, hot water hoses, which simply drove the oil into the ground, causing more ecological damage by killing any remaining plants and animals in the process.
It gets worse, however. The offending captain was acquitted of felony charges and fined a mere $50,000 (for doing billions of dollars worth of damage). He was also assigned 1000 hours of community service – hopefully it was in retrieving dead sea life, but that would be too logical a punishment.
So much for that catastrophe.
The new issue: Exxon predicted decades ago that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere would rise to precipitous levels, but they chose to do nothing when action could have been taken. Exxon predicted that by 2020 CO2 would reach the levels we now have. The last time CO2 levels were this high was about 2.5 million years ago during the Pliocene age. At that time, scientists say the oceans were 82 feet higher than now, and trees grew near the South Pole.
The fact that Exxon made this dire prediction of a CO2 level between 400 and 420 ppi, knew how bad it could prove to be and kept the matter classified, did nothing to avert this, and instead poured millions of dollars into a disinformation campaign is treasonous. But, the executives have big salaries and money in the bank. Wonder where they think they’re going to live to escape the consequences of their decisions?
So, you may be wondering, what’s the problem?
For starters, there’s reason to think that high CO2 levels can have catastrophic effects on people’s health. For example, heat waves kill thousands of people. More people die from heat exposure than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods (Business Insider, “Earth has crossed a scary threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, and it could lead to tens of thousands of deaths.”) CO2 drives temperatures higher, and as temperatures climb, non-ozone warmer weather will increase rates of lung cancer, asthma, and emphysema. (Ibid)
My personal favorite: ticks and mosquitoes! There’s never yet been a mosquito that has passed me by! These annoying creatures thrive in warmer climates. Some of them, besides being blood-suckers, carry diseases like Lyme Disease, Zika, and Dengue Fever.
Hurricanes and fires will be an increasing problem. Due to warming seas and rising oceans, hurricanes will become more fearsome. And unprecedented rainfall will occur. This was seen recently in Texas, and today’s weather forecast is for two rain rivers to drench California again. Wildfires, despite the rain, will increase due to higher temperatures. Wildfire season is now much longer than it used to be, particularly in the West.
So, 415 ppm CO2 levels may appear to be a rather boring headline. But it’s not. It’s an imminent warning – one that we likely have received too late.
(Read more about our ocean and its inhabitants in Saving Our Oceans, by R.L. Coffield) Pending on Amazon.