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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Previously known as an unknown unknown

In central British Columbia over the past decade and a half the mountain pine beetles have single-handily devoured half the commercial forests or an astounding 39 million acres (enough wood to build 5 million homes). As if that weren't bad enough as those forests decay they will be releasing 250 million metric tons of greenhouse gases or the equivalent of five years of car and light truck emissions in Canada. Essentially, 39 million acres of British Columbian lodgepole pine forests that once sucked CO2 out of the atmosphere are now dead, decaying and bleeding CO2 into an ever-rising pool of accumulating heat-trapping gases.
The Insatiable Bark Beetle and the Northern Rockies

Climate progress had a post not long ago, asking readers to think about things that might result from climate change that we'd never thought about before. Unknown unknowns

The pine beetle was one... yes?

I watched, via streaming on Netflix, a series, Strange Days on Planet Earth 2, that explored that very thing... surprising side effects of our meddling with nature. I have been haunted by one of the features.
Europe subsidizes the fishing industry to such an extent that European fishermen can range as far as the west coast of Africa... wiping out fisheries there so that the African fishermen, with far more primitive fishing techniques, have little to catch. Fish becomes too expensive for ordinary folks so they eat more bush meat. The native mammal populations plummet. The series explains it better than I.  Dangerous Catch

So I'm trying to apply what I learned watching that program to the problem of unknown unknowns associated with our current state of climate change, resource depletion and over population.
I can't think of a single good thing coming out of all this for Earth's current residents... but I do see the possibility of a huge drop in populations... which may be very good for Earth's future residents.

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