Global Worming

May be too graphic for small children or small adults. Statement that there is nothing we can do about Jumping Worms–not so! Go to the end of this blog post for hope!

The quotes below (and the title) were extracted from a nicely-illustrated Atlantic article entitled Cancel Earthworms by Julia Rosen.

There is, and has been, a subterranean invasion going on beneath our feet here in the American Northeast; and the invaders are worming their way across the rest of the continent with nothing to stop them.

Most folks are not aware that, where the glaciers prevailed long ago, the land was scoured to bedrock, and the native earthworms were wiped out. The ones that replaced them are European imports. Chief among them, night crawlers and Jumping Worms.

The latter were “Originally from Korea and Japan, they are also known as Alabama worms, snake worms, or crazy worms. And they have the potential to remake the once wormless forests of North America.”

While we have been brought to understand that the more worms in our gardens, yards and woodlands, the better, it ain’t necessarily so:

“The earthworms are in the soil because the soil is healthy,” one authority says. “They are not necessarily doing anything for it.

“Their burrows create channels that allow nutrients and pesticides to leak from fields into nearby waterways, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to escape into the atmosphere. In fact, a 2013 review of recent research found that worms likely increase greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Leaf fall that builds up under a forest of hardwood trees deposits a wealth of soil-creating minerals and organic matter.

“But when (jumping) worms show up, they devour the litter within the space of a few years. All the nutrients that have been stored up over time are released in one giant burst, too quickly for most plants to capture. And without cover, the invertebrate population in the soil collapses.

As the surface of the forest goes, so goes the neighborhood.

“With their food and shelter gone, salamanders suffer and nesting birds find themselves dangerously exposed. Plants like trillium, lady’s slipper, and Canada mayflower vanish, too. This may be because the worms disrupt the networks of symbiotic fungus that many native plants depend on, or because worms directly consume the plants’ seeds.”

“Jumping worms take out all the understory plants, leaving nothing for deer to chew on but the young trees. And that could spell trouble for the region’s prized maple syrup industry.  “In 100 years’ time, maybe it’s going to be Aunt Jemima,” he says. “That’s a real bad horror story for people in Vermont.”

The take-home: there is little to be done. Experts recommend you purchse “only mulch and compost that have been treated to kill stowaways, and to avoid city compost made of leaves collected from sites all over town. He urges them to inspect potted plants for jumping worms and to buy bare-root varieties whenever possible.”

HINT: look for coffee-grounds looking worm casts. Find the whitish clitellum near the head vs toward the middle on night crawlers. And observe the much more frantic gyrations (too much coffee?)? See this website for a (non-claymation) short video and other information.

NEWS FLASH: We have just learned that all chickens over three months of age will be drafted into the newly-formed National Poultry Patrol. Hundreds of thousands will soon be airdropped into at-risk national forests and private woodlots in an attempt to control the spread of Jumping Worms. You heard it here first.

Here is a link to the claymation video for those reading Fragments via email subscription where the header image is missing.

One Word, Benjamin: Plastics

This advice was innocent enough, in a smarmy and ominously-prescient sort of way when the “the graduate” got this insider tip so many decades ago. It was certainly the way the world of profit and growth were going, even then, on our way to a shrink-wrapped future.

And woe to us, the tsunami of plastic has continued unabated ever since. From where you sit to read this, how many seconds does it take for you to find five objects made partly or entirely of plastic?

And now we have reaped the whirlwind of hormonal and other poorly-considered health issues from the biochemical to the biosphere level, as a consequence of so many Benjamins grabbing for the golden ring of plastics-for-profit.

It has been a wonderful-terrible answer to our problems of packaging and fabricating the temporary conveniences of our lives the last half of the last century. But by the middle of the present century, we must have broken our plastics addiction, for a vast number of reasons.

So now we can’t hope for a carbon-free future if it is not also plastics-free. We are overdue to find a replacement, while dedicating all manufacturing to “redesign plastics without harmful pollutants, reform regulation to account for low doses that may have harm, and recharge health advocates.”

If you have questions about what impact plastics are having on human and marine and any-other-biology or about what alternatives are currently being researched to help us break our plastics habit, you’re in luck.

The first Plastic Health Summit was held this year.

Snot Otters To Be Proud Of

Some 50-60 folks (mostly from nearby Blacksburg I think) gathered in the damp gloom of the Rising Silo Brewery in the rain for the first gathering of the “Tap into Science” group.

The focal point was the Eastern Hellbender (or Snot Otter or Old LasagnaSides, or…) as presented to the group by Dr. Bill Hopkins,  a principal researcher on this creature in the southeast.

I learned a lot, the most encouraging of which perhaps is that the abilities to monitor and track the lives and health of this creature has come a long way since I took herpetology just after the last ice age.

Artificial nesting boxes (in the second video) are being successfully placed, occupied and monitored and individual adults chip-tracked. We will hopefully learn much to reduce the discouraging current losses of these largest of amphibians due to habitat changes and other causes that are preventing young from thriving.

 

Monsanto and Bayer to Consummate Unholy Union

Big Pharma and Big Ag have a baby. Not done quite yet but the contractions are closer and closer, and the Agent Orange – tinged water is about to break.

Now, if these 5 billion pound gorillas could concoct a way to own all the the world’s topsoil and oxygen and sell it back to us, they’d be in high RoundUp-ready cotton.

Bayer, Monsanto to merge in mega-deal that could reshape world’s food supply – The Boston Globe

Bayer and Monsanto: A Merger of Two Evils: TruthOut

Bayer to Buy Monsanto Creating World’s Largest Seed and Pesticide Company: EcoWatch

Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year – Bloomberg

Why Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto is so controversial. | New Republic

Bayer’s Takeover of Monsanto Would Create the World’s Largest Agricultural Supplier | VICE News

“These are companies that are hell bent towards developing a highly chemical dependent, pesticide and herbicide-dependent agriculture.”

My CO2 Melts 50 Meters of Arctic Ice

co2arcticicefootprint800

One of the most useful and fairly recent ways to understand the impact of human commerce and lifestyles on the biological and material resources and processes of the planet is to express that use in terms of a carbon or water or energy or soil “footprint.”

But up until now it has not been possible to express with precision the impact of human carbon footprints on Arctic sea ice. It’s one thing to have a number for your shoe size, but another thing altogether to know what you’re stepping on in the real world.

As you can see from the illustration in the Guardian, the consequences of my energy needs, transportation needs, and the externalized carbon production that results from the things that I eat, things that I purchase (CO2 production at the point of their manufacturer or growth and in their transportation thousands of miles to my front door or table) equates to about 50 square metres of melted sea ice each year. Keep in mind that on average, Arctic sea ice is about 8 feet thick. 

I’m probably not going to do the math, but thirty square meters down 8 feet (to get cubic meters) will melt due to my contribution to  greenhouse gas over the poles in one year. Then this volume of ice will become how many gallons of water to contribute to sea level rise? Multiply this volume in gallons times the average CO2 production per person in the developed world.

There is no denial that the human economic engine has contributed mightily to the far-reaching impacts of carbon dioxide rise over the past century. There is also no doubt that we can and must change the size of our usage-and-waste footprints.

Just knowing is  first step.

Your carbon footprint destroys 30 sq metres of Arctic sea ice a year

Main sources of carbon dioxide emissions | What’s Your Impact

What human activities increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? |HowStuffWorks