A Word in Edgewise: Bats, Bees and Poisoned Gold


Amidst the arguments for and denials of global warming and its dire consequences, humans will probably exit suddenly, still squabbling, bequeath Gaia’s remains to the cockroaches.

We might delay our demise by accepting the fact of the empirically proven events, foregoing the squabbling long enough to tend to repairs–if we still have time.

Take bats. An intractable white fungus is killing millions of them in the Northeast, and a recent Time Magazine article notes estimates of some 6 million deaths may be low. Why care if bats become extinct? For one reason, the little critters can eat up to their body weight in insects nightly. Ask: What costs to human health and crop destruction the existence of millions of pounds of uneaten insects?

Honey bees, too, have been dying worldwide with speculations on the cause ranging from infestations of varroa mites to farm insecticide poisoning. Would climate changes affect the proliferation of mites? Certainly the insecticides are human borne. What happens when these busy pollinators can’t perform their tasks?

Down in Peru, notes the latest Smithsonian, chain saws decimate centuries-old rain forest trees to ravage the earth below for gold. In their wake only wasteland and rock piles remain. Local ecosystems are erased, mining contaminants pour into surrounding waters, workers die in cave-ins or are poisoned as they work mercury and mud with their bare feet to produce gold amalgam. Who can blame the workers who may make up to $600 a day instead of their average $30 a month? At the top of the food chain are the few who reap $1,700 and ounce for the gold.

These topics won’t appear in the grand guignol of the presidential debates, but they are losses that are occurring, whether or not they are denied.

Galileo Galilei may not actually have muttered before the Inquisition, after recanting the earth’s movement around the sun, “E pur si muove” – “And yet it moves,” but he did state, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Like a chemical reaction where one final, added drop turns a clear liquid pink, the ongoing, worldwide events may also precipitate suddenly, into–what?

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