As that great philosopher George Carlin used to say, "The planet will be fine. It's us as a species that's f----d [in trouble]."
Years ago, miners took canaries down to the mines to give them advance warning of death. Two of the canaries in our oceans are dying.
The first one is the albatross.
There are 21 kinds of albatrosses. The Laysan albatross is a fascinating seabird that spends almost its entire life flying over the Pacific Ocean.
They spend so many hours in the air that some scientists believe they sleep while they are flying. They eat on the surface and love squid and fish eggs.
Sadly, they also end up eating plastic. The plastic primarily comes from "the pacific garbage patch" which is the name given to a huge, circulating mass of garbage, primarily made up of plastics.
With the help of four ocean currents, which create a gyre, the garbage continuously circulates around the Hawaiian Islands. As these plastics circulate, they break up to smaller and smaller pieces, all the way down into micro-particles.
Unfortunately, when the Laysan Albatross return to their breeding ground on remote islands such as Midway, they are having problems raising their young.
Like penguins, they seem to mate for life. After they lay their usual one egg and the chick is born, parents go fishing, return with the food, and regurgitate it to the chick.
Unknowingly, the parents fill their chicks' belly with plastic.
When the dead chicks are collected and analyzed, it's found that their stomachs are so full of non-nutrient plastic that they starved to death. Some of the things that have been found in Albatross chicks include cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and multi-coloured plastic particles.
And if that's not enough to make you green, then maybe the second canary will.
Our mussels are dying.
On the coast of B.C., we have the beginnings of a great shellfish-farming industry, which is in deep trouble.
It seems the ocean water around the Gulf Islands, which is pumped into the breeding tanks, kills the mussels.
The only way that the farms are continuing operation is because they treat the seawater before they use it.
Ocean acidification is a worldwide phenomenon linked to global warming. It was identified as a serious threat to the shellfish industry in Oregon and Washington more than five years ago. It is now known as the dead zone, and has grown to hundreds of square miles.
Most scientists believe this imbalance is caused by absorption of excess CO2 from the atmosphere, which lowers the pH level and reduces the concentration of calcium carbonate.
Some oceanographers predict that, at the current rate, most of our oceans will be dead zones by 2050.
So, again quoting George, mankind will be known for the layer of plastic left behind on planet earth.
And a special thank you to one of my readers, Ron Armstrong, a historian from Victoria who correctly pointed out that, in my story about BC Ferries, I gave ownership of Blackball Ferries to the CPR, rather than correctly stating they were two distinct ferry systems that were simultaneously on strike.
- Gordy Robson is a former Maple Ridge mayor and a local businessman raised in this community. His opinion column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be emailed to Gordy c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.