Polar Bears Climb Cliffs to Eat Bird Eggs

So what if birds fly south later or polar bears have to leave the disappearing sea ice earlier. Big deal. What do we care, say those who are happy if their own personal plans are not threatened this week by global climate chaos.

Tell that to the snow geese and murres. Polar bears are becoming resourceful–apparently independently in different locations discovering the same new source of food–by going places they typically have not gone and anatomically are not designed to safely go.

Mountain goats, they are not. Look at the size of them, perched on the vertical side of a cliff, with their big soft, flat paws– not the spiked crampons of a mountain goat by any means. And the nesting birds are not adapted to hide or protect their nests, evolved where such predation has not until now been an issue.

This is just one instance of how global climate shift will continue to disrupt ecological relationships in place for tens of thousand generations and more. Little wonder the coming era is being called the Sixth Extinction or the “Anthropocene” and will likely extinguish an enormous number of the species we grew up with.

Have we grown so numerous and so invasive that there is no more “wild” left? Mankind has permanently altered nature to the extent that

* There’s nearly six times as much water held in storage (e.g., behind dams) as there is in free-flowing rivers.
* About 50 percent of the world’s surface area has been converted to grazing land or cultivated crops.
* And only 17 percent of the world’s land area in 1995 was untouched by the direct influence of humans (such as agriculture, roads or even nighttime lights

“There really is no such thing as nature untainted by people,” write the authors. “In the modern world, wilderness is more commonly a management and regulatory designation than truly a system without a human imprint.”

Bill McKibben says our children and all those who come after us will inherit a planet so foreign, we need to change its name–from the familiar Earth to the vaguely familiar alien-flavored Eaarth.

That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend–think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we’ve managed to damage and degrade. We can’t rely on old habits any longer.

Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back–on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change–fundamental change–is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.

Someone asked me the other day if I didn’t feel like we were living in a science fiction novel of epic proportion. The answer is yes. But this is no fiction. And we are not characters stuck by fate in an unalterable script. But we are not far from that fate.

And in the novel, I imagine: the people out of necessity come to like the taste of ants and acorns.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
About

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

4 Comments on “Polar Bears Climb Cliffs to Eat Bird Eggs

  1. Of course the saddest part of all this was that it was, perhaps is, all avoidable. Human greed knows no boundaries. One look at the oil rig leak crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and the paltry news coverage it is receiving gives us a clue as to how much people are focused on the environment. Somehow they care about American Idol, but not their own planet!

    Bill:www.wildramblings.com

  2. I wonder if we deserve to survive. But then, mercy is NOT getting what we deserve. Let us hope for mercy and not justice in this cosmic case.

  3. Do the majority of people in the world really want to follow a plan of sustainability?? Are we just chasing a golden rainbow with that thought? Do not like to be so negative but what I read, hear, and view in my personal environment every day is disheartening. Bill McKibben is astute at, “pointing the way.” ! I guess one can have hope that one person can make a difference. I say this as I am disappointed in the governments of the world and their unwillingness to work toward sustainability. We just do not have enough natural resources to feed the expanding mouths of the world. Plus — all the “things” that people feel they must have. We need passionate non-governmental persons to make a difference, like McKibben. Every person should ask themselves what are they doing to save the earth. Thank you for this post full of knowledge. You are one of the passionate ones. — barbara

  4. I’ve read McKibben’s work for decades and had the opportunity to meet him when he donated a day on his 350 tour to stop and speak in Floyd. Matter of fact, I had him all to myself at breakfast that morning and had a chance to tell him how much I appreciated his steadfast evangelism on behalf of the planet. He, in turn, asked me what I did, and I was able to tell him a bit about my small voice in the “amen” section, and later after the meeting, handed him a copy of my second book–What We Hold in Our Hands. He gave me a big hug and seemed genuinely appreciative.

    The mission of SustainFloyd is to “preserve, support and enhance the local community for a resilient future.”

    This is not to blow sunshine or chase rainbows. It is to thrive within just limits today so our children can enjoy a balanced and healthy life tomorrow.

    Someone asked McKibben at the meeting if he thought the 350 efforts would work. Frankly, he said, he had his doubts, but could do nothing more than to get up every morning and do everything he could to get the word out.

    So that’s sort of where I am, and where we are. There are many who do not agree with groups like SustainFloyd or with any kind of intentional change. We’re hoping for consensus in the community, but can’t wait for it.

    Time for coffee!

    Fred

    On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 9:54 PM, barbara wrote:
    New comment on your post #3570 “Polar Bears Climb Cliffs to Eat Bird Eggs”
    Author : barbara (IP: 75.89.131.181 , h181.131.89.75.dynamic.ip.windstream.net)
    E-mail : folk@folkways.com
    URL : http://folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.com
    Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=75.89.131.181
    Comment:
    Do the majority of people in the world really want to follow a plan of sustainability?? Are we just chasing a golden rainbow with that thought? Do not like to be so negative but what I read, hear, and view in my personal environment every day is disheartening. Bill McKibben is astute at, “pointing the way.” ! I guess one can have hope that one person can make a difference. I say this as I am disappointed in the governments of the world and their unwillingness to work toward sustainability. We just do not have enough natural resources to feed the expanding mouths of the world. Plus — all the “things” that people feel they must have. We need passionate non-governmental persons to make a difference, like McKibben. Every person should ask themselves what are they doing to save the earth. Thank you for this post full of knowledge. You are one of the passionate ones. — barbara

    You can see all comments on this post here:
    http://www.fragmentsfromfloyd.com/environment/polar-bears-climb-cliffs-to-eat-bird-eggs/#comments

    Trash it: http://www.fragmentsfromfloyd.com/wp-admin/comment.php?action=trash&c=11222
    Spam it: http://www.fragmentsfromfloyd.com/wp-admin/comment.php?action=spam&c=11222

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.