[Johnson] The Death of Birth | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Johnson] The Death of Birth

Biologist E.O. Wilson calls the stunning destruction of wildlife on our planet "the death of birth." We all must die in time, and there is a natural justice to the succession of generations. Old men pass away, but they can take comfort in the renewal of the babies they leave behind. For species facing extinction, birth itself dies. For the last mountain gorilla hacked to death in the jungles of Africa, death is absolute.

The last year brought a torrent of bad news regarding our planet, especially for the living things that have the misfortune to live in this age of man. The largest survey of mammal species ever conducted found that one in four is threatened with extinction, and about half are in decline. More than one-third of amphibians face extinction, along with one-third of the animals that make coral reefs.

Last summer, scientists counted more than 400 dead zones in the ocean, the foul bounty of our indiscriminate use of fertilizer. That's up from about 50 in the 1960s. In the Mediterranean, hundreds of swimmers were stung by massive swarms of jellyfish drifting close to shore, jellyfish that thrive in dead zones. In the Pacific Northwest, the salmon fishery collapsed, joining a long list of species we have polluted and fished to the verge of annihilation. We are fast turning the oceans into a poisoned soup that can support little more than algae and stinging invertebrates.

There was also new evidence that global warming is accelerating. While know-nothing "skeptics" muddy the waters with junk science, we charge ahead toward catastrophic climate change. Since the Industrial Revolution, people have boosted levels of atmospheric carbon by about 40 percent. It is all but certain that by the time I'm an old man, we'll reach levels of atmospheric carbon not seen in 55 million years. Scientists are busily tracking how global warming will push many threatened species over the edge.

It is difficult to know how many species we are driving to extinction because we are killing them faster than scientists can identify them. Estimates range from two to 10 extinctions every hour.

Death is part of life, and extinction is part of the natural order. Scientists estimate that more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived have gone extinct. But only a few times in Earth's history have so many species died at once. The most famous mass extinction killed all dinosaurs except the birds about 65 million years ago, when a giant asteroid struck the Earth. In the worst mass extinction, about 250 million years ago, more than 90 percent of species in the oceans died. Scientists still debate the cause. Now, we face the sixth mass extinction on our planet. For the first time, one species is killing all the rest.

There are many steps each of us should take, as a matter of basic self-respect.

Eat little meat, especially beef. Growing one pound of beef releases 57 times the greenhouse gases of growing a pound of potatoes. Cattle require vast grazing lands that contribute to deforestation. Avoid eating fish like bluefin tuna, which we are quickly eliminating from the ocean.

Eat organic food when possible. We dump more than 60 million pounds of atrazine herbicide onto our farms each year. The European Union has banned atrazine because it causes deformities in amphibians and may cause cancer in human beings. Along with atrazine, industrial farms use more than 
10 million tons of fertilizer each year, much of which washes down the Mississippi River to cause a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone last year was the second largest on record, an area of 8,000 square miles devoid of most animal life.

Drive responsibly. Unless you're rushing diplomats in and out of Baghdad's Green Zone, you do not need an SUV. When you drive an SUV, you destroy something beautiful for the sake of something ugly, your vanity.

Do not vote for politicians who are openly hostile to protecting endangered species. The party of Teddy Roosevelt has devolved into the party of Sarah Palin, who has never encountered an animal she values over oil development. In this, Palin follows in the footsteps of George W. Bush, who did everything he could to destroy the Earth. A December 2008 report from the inspector general of the Fish and Wildlife Service found that a Bush appointee named Julie MacDonald improperly blocked dozens of endangered species from being protected. MacDonald, who has no training in natural science, was such an impediment to protecting wildlife that employees came to use her name as a verb, calling meddling from the top "getting MacDonalded." Bush protected fewer species than any president since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973.

Do these things because they are right, and then pray that human beings around the world act to avert the impending collapse. The next 200 years may determine the shape of life on Earth for the next 10 million years, as that is how long it takes for life to recover from a mass extinction. Enthralled to greed and vanity, we have already done so much damage. Will our legacy be the death of birth?

Previous Comments

ID
146166
Comment

I hope that this rather gloomy Earth Day message doesn't give anyone the blues, but it's a sober assessment of species extinction. With even Fox embracing "green" as a marketing strategy, I think it's important to be realistic about the scale of the problem, and the scale is vast. I would also like to share some great web sites that are probably new to most people. The first is the IUCN red list, which lets you check on the conservation status of a huge number of species. You can also read their reports on overall species decline under the "News" section. Another great site is Animal Diversity Web out of the University of Michigan. You can look up a huge number of different species and get broad information that is generally more reliable than wikipedia.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-22T09:54:10-06:00
ID
146168
Comment

Finally, if anyone wants to embarrass themselves by denying a human role in global warming, a la grand nabob George Will, I will happily debate the issue.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-22T09:55:57-06:00
ID
146174
Comment

While know-nothing “skeptics” muddy the waters with junk science, we charge ahead toward catastrophic climate change. While there is certainly a consensus of scientists who agree that anthropogenic climate change is a reality, I would stop short of calling the skeptics "know nothings" who use "junk science". Thomas Huxley said "Skepticism is the highest of duties, and blind faith the unpardonable sin." The know nothings that use junk science I call deniers. Because like the know nothing believers they base their beliefs in blind faith. I did notice you used the word skeptics in quotes, hopefully to differentiate from true skeptics, who in science hold an opposing view from proponents. There are skeptics, scientists who hold the view that mankind is not the cause of the cause of "global warming", and as in any field of science there is debate over the different ideas. But these terms are not often understood by lay people and real science has been taking a beating in this debate by people with other agendas.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-04-22T14:02:20-06:00
ID
146175
Comment

While the C-L celebrates Earth Day with several fluff pieces, it is good to read something based on science and common sense. I particularly agree with the call to exercise the right to vote for politicians who are not hostile toward the environment and environmental causes. The environment and the populace have suffered too long at the hands of corporations motivated by profit at any cost.

Author
Jeffery R
Date
2009-04-22T14:29:15-06:00
ID
146177
Comment

Well put, WMartin. I had George Will in mind with the line I wrote. I've also had a few too many discussions with "skeptics" who make their claims based on laughably misinformed blogs. It's not unusual for "skeptics" to say things like "according to the Goddard Institute, the last 10 years have been unusually cool." But according to the Goddard Institute, the last 10 years have been the hottest on record overall. You are also right to point out that some scientists remain truly skeptical in an informed way, though their numbers are dwindling. The real debate in science today is not over whether people are causing global warming but how quickly the Earth will warm in the next century, along with many debates over various mechanisms of warming. But as you suggested, "consensus" does not mean "unanimity," and there is certainly a consensus on global warming. Finally, "deniers" is a good word for people like Sarah Palin. Although the science on global warming is much less established than the science on evolution, there is something similar about the deniers in both camps. Call it a militant indifference to logic, and a stubborn refusal to learn anything about the science they're supposedly refuting.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-22T16:04:40-06:00
ID
146179
Comment

Goddard Institute: run by James Hansen, militant Global Warming alarmist and best buds with George Soros. I wouldn't use him in an argument.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-04-22T17:05:39-06:00
ID
146180
Comment

Here is my view: While talking about people driving cars, first lets focus on dumping toxic waste in water, testing massive explosives, clearing rain forest. No administration should be preaching planting their own gardens, buying organic, buying local, etc, when genetically modified food is being pumped to the general public. Do that and maybe my eye will go up. Do what they will about the "situation," whatever that might be, just don't tax me or tell me what to do. Honestly, who doesn't want clean air and water?

Author
....
Date
2009-04-22T17:29:50-06:00
ID
146181
Comment

I also drive from Monroe, LA to Jackson every weekend, so I guess I am not "responsible," but no trees have diminished since I have been doing it for the last two years. Well, besides knocking them down for new property. I guess I'll get heat for that, get it? *note: not a SUV just an Impala.*

Author
....
Date
2009-04-22T17:39:04-06:00
ID
146182
Comment

Iron, the Goddard Institute is, you know, part of NASA. Of course, NASA is best buds with George Soros, so what do they know? Here is a statement from Nature, one of the two foremost science journals in the world. The current understanding of anticipated climate change and its effect on ecosystems and societies, uncertainties and all, is not anecdotal. Rather, it is articulated explicitly as a consensus view of a world-wide community of researchers. Too few politicians and members of the public appreciate this. And although not every individual scientist involved will fully agree with each sentence and each probability estimate in the IPCC's reports, few if any will seriously question that what the IPCC delivers is as good a chunk of scientific advice on climate change as anyone could hope to get.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-22T17:57:52-06:00
ID
146184
Comment

One of my favorite canards from global warming "skeptics" is the claim that in the 1970s, climate scientists all thought we were headed for another ice age. So why would anyone believe what they say now? The problem with this argument, like most argument from "skeptics" like George Will, is that it is completely false. See this report from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The team’s survey of major journal papers published between 1965 and 1979 found that only seven articles predicted that global average temperature would continue to cool. During the same period, 44 journal papers indicated that the average temperature would rise and 20 were neutral or made no climate predictions. One of the things that is so embarrassing about these "skeptics" claims is that they so often base them on newspapers or magazines rather than science journals. So George Will holds up a copy of Time Magazine and thunders, "See? This is what scientists thought!" When these skeptics mention previous concerns about global cooling, they typically cite media reports from the 1970s rather than journal papers —“a part of their tremendous smoke screen on this issue,” says Peterson.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-22T18:06:51-06:00
ID
146187
Comment

Some people do need SUV's. You ever tried getting 4 adults and 3 kids, plus all their stuff in a econo-box car?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-04-22T20:07:44-06:00
ID
146189
Comment

But you can rent an SUV when you need it for something like that. You don't have to drive one every day if you only need it once in a while to haul lots of people and their stuff around.

Author
andi
Date
2009-04-22T20:23:01-06:00
ID
146190
Comment

Or do what every you want, and let people who are that worried about your situation dwell on that sad part of their life instead of trying to advance their own. No disrespect, but that is how I feel.

Author
....
Date
2009-04-22T20:40:18-06:00
ID
146191
Comment

Dear Brian: Why yes, the Goddard Institute is part of NASA. That doesn't mean Hansen's opinions are gospel. They're opinions, based on shaky science. None of this science is proven fact. Not that I'm claiming some care for the planet isn't a good idea. I will, however, refuse to bow down to Mother Gaia, like some extremists on your side wish. Each time I see and hear diatribes like this, it weakens to the argument in my sight.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-04-22T21:09:32-06:00
ID
146192
Comment

JOKeefe--????

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-04-22T22:46:22-06:00
ID
146194
Comment

BubbaT-My last comment was regarding people who constantly complain about SUV's, and how I believe people should be able to drive what they choose. My use of "your," is not directed at any one person, just people as a whole. More of a response to andi's comment.

Author
....
Date
2009-04-22T23:03:31-06:00
ID
146195
Comment

George Will likes to cite an article in the New York Times from August 14, 1975. He has written over and over, The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) reported "many signs" that "Earth may be heading for another ice age." ~George Will He referenced it in "Unbearably Green" by George Will Thursday, May 22, 2008 http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/columnists/will/s_568698.html and in "Global Warming? Hot Air." By George F. Will Thursday, December 23, 2004 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20998-2004Dec22.html and also in "Chicken Littles; The persistence of eco-pessimism." Washington Post May 31, 1992 http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1008363.html Funny thing though it's not true. The article he is referring to over and over is called "WARMING TREND SEEN IN CLIMATE; Two Articles Counter View That Cold Period Is Due" August 14, 1975, Thursday By WALTER SULLIVAN. The quote he pulled from the article "many signs" that "Earth may be heading for another ice age." appears no where in the article. If Mr. Will had bothered to read it he would have found little tidbits like, "Dr. Broeker's argument is that the present cooling trend in the north will be reversed as more and more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by the burning of fuels." He also notes that there was evidence of an 80 year cycle in climate and then went on to say, "this cycle's cooling trend of the last 40 years, according to Dr. Broeker, has more than canceled the warming effect of carbon dioxide introduced into the air by fuel burning. However, in the next decade the trend should "bottom out", he believes." The two effects will then be working together to make the climate warmer, according to this hypothesis. Hence Dr. Broeker wrote, "We may be in for a climatic surprise." It sounds to me as if, in the words of that drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, that Dr. Broeker was a god#$%@ genius! Those columns George Will keeps writing aren't opinion they are fabrication. The article he continues to cite says the exact opposite of what he reports.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-04-22T23:51:32-06:00
ID
146196
Comment

Since the EPAs Tier 2 emission standards went in to effect starting in 2004 model year and will be completely fazed in by 2012 model year all on the road vehicles have the same emission standards whether its a car,truck or SUV for the first time ever. SUVs aren't exempt from the standards anymore. SUVs are a none problem.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-04-22T23:57:07-06:00
ID
146197
Comment

Brian, while it is true that the number of scientists who are skeptical of the human cause of climate change does continue to dwindle as more and better evidence disproves alternate theories. There is no doubt that the planet is warming. The physics that state that carbon gases trap and radiate the long wave radiation from the earth is well documented also. So does it really matter who or what is the primary cause? The burning of carbon based fuels is certainly at the very least a major contributing factor. It's actually sad that our country who is supposed to lead the way in enlightened thinking is not using the science we have cultivated in our universities and paid so much for. Our capitalists should see the huge opportunity we have to lead in this area. We resist it only to serve the few in a very short sighted attempt to not have to change the way we think. Whoever provides the technology for the next generation of energy will be the next industrial superpower. If that is not enough argument. Think of how great it would be to not have support the desert tribes that hate us with our money because we need their oil. Wouldn't it be wonderful to marginalize that whole area and leave them to work out their problems on their own?

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-04-23T00:40:56-06:00
ID
146198
Comment

Oh yes, I am SO sad that I can't/won't/don't drive an SUV. I cry every time I fill my tank for less than $20. What a sad existence! Woe is me! ;)

Author
andi
Date
2009-04-23T07:02:09-06:00
ID
146199
Comment

WMartin, you're quite right that our strategic interests and our science dovetail perfectly on this issue. We would be so much stronger in so many ways if we eliminated our dependence on foreign oil. This would also be good for the environment. I want to stress that global warming is only one of several serious problems. Reducing our release of greenhouse gases won't create sustainable agriculture. It won't create habitat corridors for migratory species. It won't save the species threatened by deforestation or draining wetlands. But it's a start. A further word on atmospheric carbon. There is no question that it has increased from about 280 parts per million (ppm) to more than 380 ppm in the last 200 years. The world is adding between 2 to 3 ppm every year. Global warming is going to continue to accelerate in the next century if we don't take action.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-23T07:55:19-06:00
ID
146200
Comment

As for you Iron, you simply don't have any idea what you're talking about. Climate science is not based on the "opinion" of one man. It is the consensus view of climate scientists all over the world. Did you read the excerpt I posted from Nature above? You've heard of Nature, I assume? Your claim that this is "shaky science" and "opinion" only shows that you are completely ignorant of the current state of science. Don't pretend to understand a subject of which you are entirely ignorant.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-23T07:59:05-06:00
ID
146208
Comment

As for you, Brian, don't call me ignorant. I know perfectly well the pros and cons of this issue. Unlike you, I don't believe the alarmists. I happen to think there's more work to be done before either side can claim victory. Also, I'm not one to engage in insults and mockery against those who don't believe.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-04-23T11:01:51-06:00
ID
146209
Comment

I am more and more convinced IG is nothing better than a troll. I've been thinking how the quality of conversations have declined since IG came online. It's not fun to talk to stubborn, ugly walls.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-04-23T11:07:29-06:00
ID
146210
Comment

Yeah, no one have a different opinion!!!!!

Author
....
Date
2009-04-23T11:14:21-06:00
ID
146211
Comment

It's not about an opinion, but about the way it is expressed. That's what I meant.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-04-23T11:16:42-06:00
ID
146212
Comment

Just trying to lighten things up :) ha

Author
....
Date
2009-04-23T11:34:14-06:00
ID
146213
Comment

Don't be too hard on Iron. There are people, like George Will, who are just flat out lying about what the scientific consensus is. Senator James Inhofe is another. Senator Inhofe reported to the Senate that in a 1975 report by the National Science Board it states "Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end... leading into the next glacial age." Only one problem, in the actual report from the National Board of Science the period at the end of that sentence comes later. He left out "...leading into the next glacial age about 20,000 years from now." Why would people lie about something like this? If scientists had evidence that there was a tsunami heading for a populous area or a volcano was about to erupt, what would we think of people who purposefully deceived others into believing there was no danger? Blame them but not the people who have been fooled by supposedly respectable sources. Iron, I used to be skeptical of global warming. I really didn't believe that scientists who couldn't be sure or not if it was going to rain tomorrow were sure that the temperature was going to be a few degrees warmer a hundred years from now. But don't believe me or Brian. Don't just believe anyone, the evidence is plain for anyone who cares to look. The truth is out there and it cares not what anyone's personal opinion is.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-04-23T11:38:15-06:00
ID
146214
Comment

Came online? I've been around since 2004. If I'm not expressing sufficient respect and tolerance for positions I don't believe in, I'm sorry. Given the world today, I haven't seen much tolerance for my opinions on matters.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-04-23T11:39:28-06:00
ID
146218
Comment

I am more and more convinced IG is nothing better than a troll. I disagree. Iron's a good guy. I've been trying to drag out of the dark side for a while, but I'm still working on that. I know him enough to know he's not a troll.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-04-23T12:18:40-06:00
ID
146220
Comment

don't tax me or tell me what to do~JOKeefe Well that about sums up a lot of American's attitudes on this issue, doesn't it? Wow. I find that kind of thinking incredibly selfish. JOK, you seem to forget that you live in a society, not a vacuum. People get to pay taxes in America--even if they don't want to--and we live under the rule of law. There are ways to change both of those things, but spouting libertarian rhetoric is among them. And your attempts at "lightening up" have pretty much fallen flat every time, so maybe it's time to give that one up. Iron, what people are trying to tell you is that you are sorely lacking in knowledge on the subject of global warming. That is the classic definition of ignorance (lacking in knowledge), which is not necessarily stupidity, BTW, though they're not mutually exclusive. In reading your comments, I have yet to see where you have provided one iota of evidence that hasn't been refuted soundly (and at great length) by other posters on this thread. You have a choice here: you can continue to keep your mind closed on the subject, or you can read and investigate it more thoroughly. That research, though, needs to include becoming knowledgeable about all sides of the argument, not just with the scientists you already agree with, and not just people writing columns about the science (like Will). People don't tolerate your opinion on the subject because it's uniformed.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-04-23T12:34:42-06:00
ID
146224
Comment

So, did you not read the other part? Where I was basically saying they need to stop doing the other actual harmful activities to the enviroment before they come after me? If so and you still say that, then yes, I am selfish.

Author
....
Date
2009-04-23T13:17:03-06:00
ID
146226
Comment

JOK, my problem with what you're saying is that it's binary, either/or, black/white thinking: "Do what I want you to do first." There are plenty of people above my pay grade studying and resolving these issues. So what is about your issues that should give them precedence over everything else? And, BTW, we're capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Your saying "don't tax me and don't tell me what to do" denies your responsibility as a U.S. and world citizen, and yes, it is selfish. No one's coming after you.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-04-23T13:46:54-06:00
ID
146231
Comment

All I'm saying is, I used to feel there were many different opinions online, expressed perhaps with passion, yet always with respect. Now I come online and instead of that I see someone say something, then IG come on with a post which feels to me like a big hammer crashing down on a table - THUNK - it doesn't feel good. That then shapes the whole nuance on the thread - almost every time. It becomes a back and forth that is much more confrontational and much less nuanced than it used to be. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the old days. I'm having a bad day anyway after a huge car repair bill. God bless everyone on here, including you atheists, to whom I mean no disrespect.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-04-23T18:19:48-06:00
ID
146232
Comment

Iron, I didn't mean to insult you personally. I called you "ignorant" because the view you expressed shows ignorance, in the sense of "a lack of knowledge." You suggested that man-made global warming is based on "shaky science," but there really isn't any scientific debate about whether human contributions to atmospheric carbon levels are increasing average temperatures. The debate is over the rate of increase and the mechanisms involved. The preponderance of evidence is toward rapid warming, with an alarming cascade of consequences. Labeling the scientific evidence "alarmism" echoes the right-wing noise machine. You are certainly entitled to your resistance, but it's hard to take your complaints of persecution seriously considering the tactics you employed above. You sought to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming by uttering the words "Hansen" and "Soros" in proximity. That constitutes most of what you've had to say so far. It is classic right-wing babble. You try to tie climate science to Soros so you can dismiss it as left-wing propaganda. That is intellectually dishonest. It's the sort of nonsense that passes for "debate" in right-wing circles, and we've had far too much of it over the last eight years. I have no respect for that sort of shell game and little patience for people who whine about decorum in debate while engaging in such misbehavior. If you have an argument based on something other than guilt by association, make it. If all you have to say about global warming is "Hansen" and "Soros," you're wasting our time.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-23T18:31:24-06:00
ID
146234
Comment

right on, Brian. Debate is serious and interesting when people say things of value based on fact, with sources, and intelligence.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-04-23T19:39:11-06:00
ID
146236
Comment

I guess what I mean is, I used to feel that we were one community on here, with a shared goal: to learn about each other's ideas and to sharpen our sense of life's many issues through dialog and debate. But this has shifted to a feeling of argument for argument's sake, as if someone *has* to win, and someone has to lose. It's so much more polarized. But that way we all lose out on an opportunity to better ourselves and our minds through learning and debate. I myself have been proven wrong on here and have many times been given new ideas to chew on. I just don't feel that IG learns anything and I wonder why come on here at all if all you wish to do is criticize in a knee jerk fashion? What are you contributing? I wasn't going to mention this but I realized today I really am missing the way things were and I tried hard to figure out why.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-04-23T19:57:15-06:00
ID
146243
Comment

If there is confusion on this issue, it's not an accident. See this story in today's New York Times on the deliberate campaign by the fossil fuel industry to mislead the public on global warming. For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming. ... But ... even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted. ... By questioning the science on global warming, these environmentalists say, groups like the Global Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a consequential issue and delay government action. ... “They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed,” Mr. Monbiot said, “only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2009-04-24T06:14:46-06:00

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus