Listen carefully. Mother Nature is sounding alarm bells. Something needs to change.
Precisely what needs to change has not yet been revealed. But honeybees and salmon are two species giving scientists pause.
For some unknown reason, bees are abandoning their hives and going elsewhere to die. The phenomenon, colony collapse disorder, has claimed about a quarter of the nation's honeybees.
Why should you care? Because you probably like to eat. These bees pollinate some $15 billion in crops each year.
Plus, the fact that one quarter of an insect population being wiped out in a matter of a couple of years is highly disturbing. Science is trying to get to the bottom of where the bees went and why.
Meanwhile, the chinook salmon that returned to the Sacramento River this fall were a third what biologists expected. Some researchers say the jet stream has shifted to the south, which delayed the onset of winds that stir water from bottom to top, which kickstarts the ocean food web. In other words, when salmon swam upstream to spawn, there wasn't enough to eat.
Holy Toledo, Batman, it's bats.
Biologists in the Northeast say bats, which are the primary predators of insects that fly at night, are threatened. Their normal behavior when waking from hibernation is to form small clusters. They're not doing that. Many are too weak to move. Their fat stores have been depleted, according to a CBS News report.
There are multiple theories that a fungus growing on their noses is wasting their bodies; that they have become sickened by airborne toxins from pesticides or that they're the proverbial canary in the global warming coal mine.
It's not time to panic, but it strikes me that these phenomena should not be ignored. As any parent of a child who has watched the "The Lion King" video a thousand times knows, we are part of the circle of life. When one species is threatened, we need to pay attention.
Unlike bees or salmon or bats, we can control to a certain degree our impacts on the environment. Even little life changes, when undertaken by a whole lot of people, can make a difference. We hear a lot about the considerable energy savings from replacing one's light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. That's an easy lifestyle change.
Earlier this month, I declared war on the mountain of plastic grocery bags that had accumulated in my broom closet. There were hundreds of them, the vast majority serving no useful purpose. Since I've lost track of whether paper or plastic is worse for the environment, I did the only sensible thing. I recycled nearly every bag in the closet. Then I purchased heavy-duty reusable bags from my local grocer, all in the spirit of saving the planet and simplifying my life.
I must say, I do feel good when I have no plastic bags in the house after my weekly shopping. In some little way, that's got to help.
Simplifying my life? There are fewer bags to carry from the garage to the kitchen. That's a plus. But using these bags is not yet second nature. Even though I put the empty bags in my car after each shopping outing, I have yet to remember to take them in the store with me. When I arrive at the check-out counter, some clerks are baffled how to fill these bags. It's frustrating for them and the people waiting in line behind me.
But I'm going to stick with it. I've also made a concerted effort to consolidate my errands, which saves gas and helps to clean the air.
In the scope of things I don't know if any of these things will help honeybees, bats or salmon. When we learn that pollution with origins in India and China is traveling the jet stream and contaminating our national parks, reusing grocery bags seems futile.But no more futile than humans attempting to do the work of honeybees or bats.
Marjorie Cortez, who shudders at the possibilities when she reads about farmers attempting to pollinate plants by hand, is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail her at [email protected].