Jul 16, 2023

Nature vs. Man

In what some are calling the "feel-good story of the year," killer whales — obviously sick of being cheap entertainment for Sea World voyeurs — seem to have declared war on yachts.

The boat in question is an intensely fancy Bali 4.8 catamaran-style sailboat run by the charter management company Catamaran Guru. Boasting six bedrooms and six bathrooms, the boat is nicer than most people’s homes. But orcas don’t care about your supersized interior or onboard ice maker—orcas care about their home, and other orcas.

. . .

An eerie portend of things to come, humanity! I particularly like when the orca returned for the last little bit of rudder and surfaced briefly as if to say “ha ha, who’s got the rudder now!”

Researchers believe a whale nicknamed Gladis was traumatized by an illegal fishing boat and is seeking her revenge by instructing other young orcas in how to attack rudders. The attacks are disabling boats traversing through the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic, with Spain on one side and Morocco on the other. While the attacks began in 2020, there have been 20 such attacks in the last month alone.

But the orca vs. man fracas is not an isolated example of a roiling collision of interests. Nature, it seems, is sick of our shit, and she's fighting back.

Consider the adorably vicious sea otter who has "joined the ocean's battle against man."

First the orcas came for the yachts and I laughed. Then the depths of the ocean lured in a throng of fate-tempting billionaires and I watched in bemused horror. Now, an otter off the coast of Santa Cruz, California, is stealing surfboards and kayaks and I am forced to ask, “What is the sea trying to tell us?”

. . .

I am no scientist but I believe that the ocean contains the Earth’s soul and the Earth’s soul is sullen and resentful. She (yes, she) is instructing the orcas to sink luxury sailboats on Spain’s coast. She’s commandeered the Titanic to entrance more people to their deaths. But now that she’s on the offense against one of mankind’s more gentle and harmless creatures—surfer dudes—she must be very, very angry. Ocean, this humble blogger hears you! I stand with you (or like, beside you). But I don’t think the surfers are the ones to attack. Stick with the yachts and those weird jet powered hoverboards Mark Zuckerberg likes to ride. The people on those are your real enemies.

Did I mention that it's adorable? SO adorable!

Less cute are the the giant, swarming, jumping carp.

From Arkansas to Minnesota, the unforced error of importing invasive Asian carp species has brought about the "Carp-ocalypse."

Silver and bighead carp escaped into the Mississippi River in the 1970s after they were originally imported from Asia to Arkansas to control algal blooms in fish farms and sewage ponds (and widely touted as a green alternative to common chemical treatments).

In the years since, they have relentlessly expanded their range. Along the way, the fish — voracious, fast growing filter feeders that hoover up the phytoplankton and plankton that is base of the food chain — have devastated native fisheries. In some stretches of the Illinois River, silvers and bigheads account for as much as 90% of the fish biomass.

It’s not just anglers and fish biologists who are disturbed by this development. Silver carp, which can reach weights in excess of 90 pounds, have a strange habit of leaping high out of the water when startled. This has created a new hazard in many lakes and rivers, as schools of leaping carp, triggered by the sound of motors, occasionally collide with and injure people in passing boats.

The unusual behavior has given rise to some novel fishing tactics. To kill silver carp, some people deliberately drive through pods and, when the fish leap from the water, they shoot them with bow and arrow. The made-for-YouTube spectacle serves as a gruesome comedic counterpoint to the dire environmental calamity the fish represent.

They FLY!!! They effing fly! At your FACE!

So why is nature so mad that she seems to have gone on the attack? Why wouldn't she?! Some might call it self-defense against a certain bipedal, invasive species, that rips through ecosystems like a deadly virus.

And so, it seems, nature is retaliating against weird incursions into even her deepest waters, unleashing terrors.

In recent years, we’ve seen an incredible upswing in shark attacks worldwide. This alarming trend has stirred a wave of fear, yet it’s critical to step back, assess the situation and understand the complex factors contributing to this increase. Contrary to popular belief, the primary drivers aren’t rooted in shark behavior but in human activities and environmental changes.

. . .

The most significant factor contributing to the rising number of shark attacks is the surge in human population and coastal development. More people than ever are swimming, surfing, and diving in oceanic habitats, pushing the boundaries between human and shark territories.

. . .

Another compelling factor is the ongoing climate change. Warmer oceans are causing some sharks to change their migration patterns and expand their territories. As a result, sharks are showing up in regions where they were previously rare, leading to unexpected encounters.

Ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures also affect the distribution and abundance of prey, pushing sharks closer to the shorelines in search of food. This displacement leads to an increased probability of sharks crossing paths with humans.

And it's not just terrors emerging from the deep, but ghastly horrors, unnatural aquatic corpses littering the shoreline. The stench of rotting seaweed and dead fish is simply ruining beach holidays, in places like Texas.

Warming water holds less and less oxygen, as Todd Crowl, director of the Institute of Environment at Florida International University, explains, accidentally creating the world's saddest haiku.

"The oxygen went to zero. Everything died," Crowl said. "It was very sad."

A warming ocean may also be to blame for bird die-offs.

Massive die-offs of birds on the coast of Mexico, following similar phenomena in Peru and Chile, are "most probably" due to a warming of the waters of the Pacific Ocean, authorities said Friday.

Mexico's agriculture and environment ministries "excluded the presence" of the AH5N1 virus responsible for bird flu and determined that the birds had starved to death.

"The most probable cause of this epidemiological event is the warming of the waters of the Pacific Ocean, due to the effects of the El Nino climate phenomenon," they said in a joint statement.

According to the ministries, the warming of the surface of the Pacific is causing fish to dive deeper, preventing birds from hunting them.

And around the globe, "fish are shrinking as the climate warms." You can hardly blame them for being annoyed.

Fish are the most diverse group of vertebrates, ranging from tiny gobies and zebrafish to gigantic tunas and whale sharks. They provide vital sustenance to billions of people worldwide via fisheries and aquaculture, and are critical parts of aquatic ecosystems.

But fish around the world are getting smaller as their habitats get warmer. For example, important commercial fish species in the North Sea have declined in size by around 16% in the 40 years to 2008, while the water temperature increased by 1–2℃. This “shrinking” trend is forecasted to significantly exacerbate the impacts of global warming on marine ecosystems.

. . .

The most popular current theories suggest the cause is due to a mismatch between how much oxygen a fish needs (to sustain its body’s metabolism) and how much it can get (via its gills).

The oceans are warming so much they're changing color, as sparkling blue water gives way to algae-choked green.

Ocean ecosystems are finely balanced and any change in the phytoplankton will send ripples across the food chain. “All changes are causing an imbalance in the natural organization of ecosystems. Such imbalance will only get worse over time if our oceans keep heating,” [Stephanie Dutkiewicz, senior research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Center for Global Change Science] told CNN.

Worse, a lot of the algae clogging waterways is highly toxic, creating apocalyptic hellscapes that inspire only deeper denial.

Living in Florida these days is like being in a real-life version of the movie Don’t Look Up.

. . .

And we can feel it now in coastal temperatures that have elevated water temperatures of the ocean into the hot-tub-range mid-90s, and threaten to turn the treasured offshore coral reefs in the Florida Keys into bleached graveyards.

You’d think these warning signs would be creating some new urgency among state leaders, and a growing resolve to do more to protect us from this steadily approaching peril.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Pride cometh before a fall — and the occasional deadly implosion — as man continues to "modify the world around us," with vainglorious technological adventurism. Titans and Titanics clash, killing a handful here, a thousand and a half there, and then entire habitats.

Man has won some battles and declared mastery over nature with each pyrrhic victory. Nature will win the war and we'll have nothing but our own arrogance to blame.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Opinions and ideas expressed in the comments on this page
belong the people who stated them. Management takes no
editorial responsibility for the content of public comments.