Sinking Islands, Chewed-Up Trees

I was listening to National Public Radio the other day and they were talking about how the melting ice caps were going to pose a huge problem for some Pacific islanders.  Their islands, actually coral atolls, are just a few feet above sea level.  Since scientists predict a three-foot rise in sea level by 2100, you can see this poses a bit of a problem for people living on those islands.

In fact, there are many problematic, yet interesting, potential results of melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets. And we don’t have to wait until 2100 to observe them.

In Alaska, the spruce bark beetle is breeding so fast in the warmer weather, they are now adding a generation every year. As a result, millions of acres of Alaskan forest are being destroyed. Animals all over the world are changing migration patterns and plants are changing the dates of activity.  That can’t be good, can it?

Of course, some don’t believe in global warming and, no doubt, it will take some strong convincing in the way of more and more powerful disasters to sway them.

But global warming aside, there are many other threats to our environment that we all can witness and do something about.  Many of these have been self-imposed through ignorance or over-indulgence. Let me give you just one small example.  On the South Shore of Massachusetts, there is a group known as the North & South River Watershed Association.  Their goal is to “preserve, restore, maintain and conserve in their natural state, the waters and related natural resources within the watershed.”  One of their tasks is to help bring the alewife, or herring that used to be so plentiful “you could walk on them,” according to some old tales.  Having held “Herring Celebrations” as recently as the 1970’s, thousands of residents in towns in southern Massachusetts turned out at town brooks and streams to catch and grill herring without thinking twice about the possibility of the fish not returning the next year.  The NSRWA has been working tirelessly to remove old, failed dams, build fish ladders, and clean waters in an effort to bring the alewife back.

Let’s be honest, many of us say we are too busy to help, me included.  But maybe we can each do a little something, and make it fun at the same time.  One of the ideas the NSRWA came up with is to count the number of herring that come up the rivers each season.  So hundreds of volunteers, me included, go out a couple of times a week and count fish for just 10 minutes each.  I’ve had the 7:00 am-11:00 am count twice a week for the past three years–just 10 minutes at any time during those four hours.  It gets me out of the house, gives me a little fresh air, allows me to connect  in a way with others, is rewarding, and is enjoyable.  I love reading the log to see who counted how many and when.  Little notes about preening herons, huge snapping turtles, eager beavers, and a bevy of other natural wonders enliven the readings.

One of the indirect results of taking an interest in the environment for me is one of my novels entitled “With Which The Waters Swarm.”  It’s about a herd of North Pacific Fur Seals that face extinction due to overfishing and what they do about it.  Could I do more?  Yes.  Will I? Maybe.  But if we all even do as little as I do to help the environment, couldn’t we actually save the world.  And maybe have fun doing it?

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