Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On jellyfish and other delicacies:

I went to the New England Aquarium the other day. I thought I was just taking my son to see the fish and the penguins but I got another reminder of our impending doom instead.

Right now there is a special exhibit on jellies, so we checked it out. I’ve never liked running into them at the beach, but they are kinda pretty. Problem is, they are taking over the oceans! Apparently jellies are much better at adapting to global overheating* than fish. Before global temperatures started to rise, fish hatched each year before jellies began reproducing. Now the water warms earlier and the jellies are feeding while the fish are laying eggs and hatching. Jellies eat fish eggs and young as well as the plankton the fish need to survive. Meanwhile people are overfishing, making it that much harder for fish to compete. There was a video in the exhibit showing shrimpers bringing in a net full of jellies with just a sprinkling of shrimp!

My sister and brother- in-law were with us at the aquarium. They are both planetary scientists and they say that global change is already occurring: temperatures are increasing and weather is becoming more erratic. The good news is: we can slow the changes by finding alternatives to fossil fuel use and we need to do so right away. The bad news is: no matter what we do at this point, things will not go back to how they were. At some level, we’ll need to do like the jellies and adapt to climate change. Better learn to love peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches!

*I was at a Move On Political Action movie night in Roslindale, Massachusetts a few months ago to view "An Inconvenient Truth" and the group was discussing climate change. A man whose name I don’t remember said he thought “global warming” was too benign a name for a global crisis of this magnitude. He threw out “global overheating” as an alternative. I agree so I’ve started saying global overheating in hopes it will catch on. In the movie there’s a cartoon about a frog in a pot of water. Apparently, if you put a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump right back out. If, however, you put him in cold water and slowly heat it, he’ll die without ever knowing what hit him. We’re the frog. We need to be shocked into action. We need the language we use to describe this crisis to remind us constantly just how dire it is.

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