The Mind of James Donahue

Ecological Chaos

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The Oceans are Dying And
Nobody Seems to Care

Our planet is in serious trouble because we humans who live on it misuse its resources with careless abandon. Unless we stop this craziness, I predict that the science fiction film images of ruined cities, people fighting and killing for food and water, and everyone having to wear gas masks to breathe, will become reality.

The radical changes in weather patterns, the malformed frogs, blinded birds, rising volumes of smog that now stretch even to our arctic regions, insect infestations and rise in ozone levels at ground level instead of where it should be are signs that something has gone haywire.

Consider too the radical El Nino in 1997-98 followed immediately by a just as radical La Nina phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists are predicting another El Nino to strike as early as next year. These quickly shifting temperatures are believed to be the primary cause of the killer storms, unexpected flooding, severe draughts and other strange weather. Who ever heard of snow in California and Arizona in June?

If you doubt my words, consider the following information dug from various news sources regarding just the ecology of our oceans:

--The coral reefs are dying at a catastrophic rate because of pollution, sewage, erosion, cyanide fishing, dirty tourism practices and a warming planet. Dr. Thomas Goreau, a spokesman for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, recently told a group of world scientists in Buenos Aires that a significant proportion of the world's coral has died this year as a result of the highest sea temperatures on record. In areas surveyed in the Indian Ocean, between 70 and 90 percent of the coral is dead, a CNN report said.

--Radiation waste dumped by the Soviet Union in the Arctic seas was recently found to be leaking through its containers and causing radiation levels to reach up to 100 times "normal" in some areas. The Russian news release did not describe what it meant by "normal." Russian chemical weapons dumps in the Baltic Sea are contaminating the Arctic area as well. The volume of toxic waste dumping by the Soviets is not known. The problem remains unresolved and no one can predict how serious the problem is.

--High doses of nitrogen fertilizer washed from American farmlands and into the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River is causing an explosion of algae in the gulf. The algae depletes oxygen and has created a dead zone covering 7,000 square miles. All marine life in this area is dead so fish, shrimp and other life forms are gone.

--The recent wreck of the oil tanker New Carissa off the coast of Oregon caused the latest in a long list of major oil spills in the world's oceans. The Coast Guard said an estimated 70,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled. The burned out hull, still containing another 135,000 gallons of the thick molasses-like oil, was sunk in the Pacific Ocean, about 200 miles from the coast. Officials hope the cold, high pressure conditions at a depth of 5,000 feet will contain the oil but there are no guarantees. The beaches at the site of this spill are home to rich marine life and a rare bird species.

--One of the worst outbreaks of the bacterial ailment cholera in memory has killed more than 50,000 waterfowl along the coast of Northern and Central California. Among the victims are over 700 Aleutian Canada geese, a threatened species. The disease also has killed coots, ruddy ducks and snow geese, wildlife specialists report.

--The Nov. 19, 1998 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, reports that an unknown contamination, similar to PCBs and dioxins, and suspected to be of marine origin, has been found in the eggs of Atlantic and Pacific Ocean seabirds. The contaminant, whose source is not yet identified, contains high levels of chlorine, bromine and nitrogen, said Sheryl Tillemier, principal author of the research article. Scientists were unable to say what effect this contamination will have on the eggs.

--Sea turtles all over the world are being hit by a serious tumor epidemic caused by "a unique" virus genetically related to human herpes, researchers at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine reported. The tumors erupt anywhere on the turtle, sometimes occurring on internal organs. The research team has found the virus in more than 95 percent of the tumors plaguing green and loggerhead sea turtles found in the waters around Florida and on green turtles in Hawaii.

--The Environmental News Network reports an occurrence of algal blooms and Pfiesteria-like organisms that is killing large numbers of fish in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. Scientists suspect a link between high nutrient levels in water and the disease. Yet another study suggested that a fungus also was to be blamed for many of the fish lesions found in the area. The fungal infection, a pathogenic species of Aphanomyces, is the same that has been killing fish off the coasts of Japan, Austrialia, India and Thailand. What is worse is that the pfiesteria that is in the fish seems to be affecting fishermen and other humans who come in contact with it. The tiny organism feeds on us.

--A virus is attacking Atlantic salmon populations in devastating proportions, according to researchers at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

--There isn't enough space in this newspaper to include all of the problems affecting everything from plankton to whales and dolphins. All are sick. All are in great danger of disappearing from this planet. Some believe it is too late to turn back the clock and salvage the damage.

The list of reports involving not only our oceans, but the land areas, air and damage to our protective ozone layer in space goes on and on. The stories are just about all the same. The world's marine life is in great jeopardy now because of toxins in the water. The poison was dumped there by people who once thought the oceans were so large and so vast they could not be harmed.

We and all of the land creatures who live here with us, are in great jeopardy because of the toxins in our soil, our drinking water and the air. We carelessly overpopulated, stripped our planet of its resources, and dumped our industrial, chemical and human waste into our waters our air and our land. Everything was done for money. We thought the entire Earth was so abundant that we could exploit it at will.

Sorry to say, we were wrong.

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