Thursday, January 13, 2022

Just Hope for the Best

If you heard a strange noise coming from your car’s engine which won't go away, would you 1) take it to a mechanic, 2) wait until the noise increased to loud grinding and burning oil was coming from your tailpipe, or 3) just hope for the best?

If you've read my posts, you know where this analogy is going, but I'm taking you there anyway.

The first UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment was published in 1990. It was equivalent to the car’s engine noise. Something is going on. We think we know what it is but are still not completely sure.

The gist of the sixth report issued last August was equivalent to loud grinding and burning oil coming from the tailpipe. The problem is real, damage is happening and the longer we wait, the bigger the repair bill. I am not exaggerating. The 1,800 page report, written by 234 authors, and containing over 14,000 references, can be boiled down to these headline statements:

It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land . . . The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.

Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since [2014].

Last November, the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) was held in Glasgow. Representatives of 200 countries, including 120 leaders attended. The purpose was to decide what to do next about what is now the climate crisis.

During COP26, over 270 climate scientists from academic and research institutions around the world wrote an open letter to the conference. The letter stated, in no uncertain terms “. . . that immediate, strong, rapid, sustained and large-scale actions are necessary . . . to hold global warming to well below 2 degrees C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C, and thereby limit future risk and need for adaptation over the next decades to centuries.”

Their words fell on deaf ears. The final conference agreement did not come even close to what those scientists recommended. It won't make a dent in current trends.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the agreements were inadequate, given the enormity of the problem detailed in the latest IPCC report. “It’s not enough” given that “we are in the fight of our lives.”

There were a lot of carefully crafted statements about countries doing their share, but with enough weasel words to make those commitments essentially meaningless. It contained vague promises to cut emissions, but countries either cannot or will not accurately determine their carbon emissions in the first place.

The tasks countries need to take on, like ending fossil fuel subsidies, getting rid of coal, and an extensive list of other actions, were missing. India and China changed the final language of the agreement so that coal use will be “phased down,” not “phased out.”  The U.S. declined to join a pledge to phase out coal. The agreement did not even mention oil and gas.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “COP26 [was] the moment humanity got real about climate change”. One climate science expert described Johnson’s assertion as “pure unadulterated [male bovine excrement].”

The way I see it, countries are still doing what they see as best for themselves in the short term. Nations trying to raise their standard of living see fossil fuels as the most expedient way to get the energy they need. For energy exporters like Russia and Saudi Arabia, fossil fuels get them the money they want.

After 30 years of increasingly detailed warnings, nations and businesses are still slow-walking this whole process, hoping for the best. But the best is not what’s happening.

During 2021, The U.S. experienced eighteen $1Billion plus weather-related disasters, totaling $99 billion in losses. According to Climate Central, “The average time between billion-dollar disasters . . . has dropped from 82 days in the 1980s to just 18 days on average in the last five years (2016-2020).

What is also troubling is that scientific predictions are being outpaced by reality. For example, an Antarctic ice shelf is holding back a Florida-sized glacier from flowing into the sea. A few months ago, its breakup was predicted to be decades away. It is now expected to breakup in 3 to 5 years as satellite photos show massive cracks appearing this year.

The ever-increasing frequency and intensity of weather disasters are the predictable and predicted result of a warming planet.

This planet’s leaders cannot say they were not warned. Regardless, they have made a consensus decision to accept the “future risk and need for adaptation over the next decades to centuries” on behalf of the rest of us.

This is our planet. Cherish it. Happy New Year.

Published in the Village News Online January 26th, 2022

A New Look at Nuclear Power

 James Hansen is probably the most well-known climatologist in the world. Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and author of “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”. They both think that nuclear power is the surest path to “decarbonizing” electric power generation. Neither think that solar and wind technology will be sufficient to achieve that goal because of their intermittent nature. Many scientists and engineers disagree with that assertion, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I think nuclear power is a great idea, but I also think that in its current incarnation, nuclear power won't do the job. The majority of the world’s nuclear power plants are pressurized water reactors. They are expensive, take years to build, are complicated and labor intensive to maintain, and if something goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong. In short, they are money-losing propositions compared to natural gas and oil-fired power plants and in the last few years, commercial-scale wind and solar.

However, the recently passed $973 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains two provisions which focus on nuclear power.

First, it contains $6 billion for the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, which will provide 4 years of subsidies to nuclear plants that are economically uncompetitive and otherwise likely to shut down. It’s a tacit admission by the Federal Government that the nuclear power industry cannot survive on its own.

Second, the act contains $3.21 billion for small modular and advanced nuclear reactors (ANRs). Conceptually, ANRs will have the virtues of nuclear power, with many fewer of its vices.

ANRs by definition need to produce less waste, have more safety measures to prevent meltdowns in case cooling systems fail, and provide greater reliability. They need to use a modular design so they can be built, deployed and certified in less time. ANRs need to be smaller so that they can be used to power industrial facilities such as smelters and smaller communities, or combined to create large electric power generation facilities. Last they need to be more responsive to rapid changes in grid energy demand.

Startup companies such as NuScale, TerraPower, and X-energy have ANR designs on the drawing board. They are getting funding for construction of pilot plants via the infrastructure act and private investors (Bill Gates is backing TerraPower). Each company’s approach is different. I won't get into the nuts and bolts of their technology because this is a local newspaper, not an engineering journal.

NuScale and X-energy have already submitted applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Their reactors are small enough to be built in a factory. According to The Atlantic, NuScale, with US Government support, will soon install five reactors in Romania as well as one in Wyoming. TerraPower is going to build a pilot plant in Hanford Washington.

The ANRs I have discussed above are fission reactors. They split atoms of Uranium-235 to generate energy. But there is another type of reactor that falls into the ANR category – a fusion reactor. Unlike fission, fusion reactors fuse Deuterium (an isotope of Hydrogen) into Helium, the same process that powers the sun.

And therein lies the problem. Fusion requires maintaining a sustained temperature of over 100 million degrees C. Until recently, the only way to do that is at the center of a detonating nuclear bomb. Needless to say, the idea is to power a city, not blow it up.

Since I was a child, fusion power has always been 40 years away. The technology to safely create and contain such extreme temperatures was always beyond our engineering capability, but not anymore. The problem now is to get more energy out of the reactor than it takes to maintain the reaction.

Experiments to create sustained and controlled nuclear fusion have been so expensive that only governments can fund such endeavors. ITER, in France, is funded by 35 nations and costs $25 billion. The reactor weighs 23,000 metric tons and is 240 feet tall.

Seventeen private companies are attempting this feat on a much smaller scale. They have about $2.4 billion in funding, according to the journal Nature. The reactors have names like Mini-Tokomak, Colliding Beam, Magnetized Target, and Stellerator. Sizes range from a single family house to a large high school gymnasium.

Instead of 40 years away, the ever-shifting timeline to commercial fusion is now a 10 to 20 years away. It still doesn't mean we are close.

I’d like to see any of these technologies succeed, because current nuclear power technology, dating back to the late 1940s, is way past its expiration date from an engineering and economic perspective. It cannot meaningfully contribute to a decarbonized energy future. Maybe ANRs can.

The New Energy "Crisis"

About a year ago, I wrote that activists were dancing on the grave of the petroleum industry. Prices were so depressed that drilling had all but ceased. Smaller companies that specialized in fracking had gone belly up in job lots. Crude oil tankers were idling off the California coast because they couldn’t unload their cargos, in the same way container ships are today. I also said that it's not dead yet.

Over the last few months, the price of crude oil has gone up by 106%, natural gas by 58%, gasoline by 56%, and coal by 35%.

Ouch. Why is this happening?

There are many factors at play which will plague the energy markets for quite a while. It’s pretty much another Covid-inspired supply chain problem, seasoned with geopolitics, sprinkled with poor planning (of course), and leavened by bad weather worldwide.

Fossil fuels are commodities traded on the futures market. Prices shift based on expectations, and currently, markets expect that supply will outstrip demand for quite a while, perhaps another year, I suspect.

The petroleum industry is not dead, but it’s not running sprints either. It takes time to bring back idled drilling rigs and hook up wells to the infrastructure needed to bring oil and gas to market. Category 4 hurricanes which shut down oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico don’t help either.

Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic points out that natural gas has become the go-to fuel of choice. Over the last decade, countries integrated natural gas into the world’s energy system because it was cheap, reliable, and plentiful. Today, gas is none of these things because everyone wants it and wants it NOW.

First, Meyer observes that liquified natural gas (LNG) is now shipped around the world, so gas markets are not limited by pipeline transport and distribution systems. LNG is treated as a tradable commodity just like crude oil. As their economies recover, Europe and Asia are competing for the same limited supplies currently on LNG tankers, driving prices up.

 Russia is also making trouble by limiting the amount of gas it sends to Europe through its pipelines as part of its foreign policy.

Second, coal is still the king of power production throughout the world, but coal markets are as screwed up as other energy commodities. Bloomberg estimates that US coal production has dropped by 40% over the last six years due to the continued shift to natural gas. According to Reuters, China cannot get enough coal to run its power plants and is instituting blackouts. A trade dispute with Australia shut down that source. China is now buying coal from Europe and South Asia, which means those regions don’t have enough for their own needs.


Third, Meyers says that oil, the main transportation fuel, is also an alternative fuel for power plants. For some reason, like making more money, OPEC decided that maybe it’s not going to open its spigots as fast as needed to meet the rising demand, something it could do quite easily.

Fareed Zakaria, in a recent Washington Post column, discussed another problem contributing to this situation. Investment in fossil fuels has plummeted. Investment funds, large pension systems, and endowments have mostly turned away from them for environmental reasons or because they are a bad bet in the long run. As I wrote a year ago, even oil companies are writing off reserves. Existing Federal leases are either unused or have no takers. It’s hard to drill when no one will finance you.

Zakaria observed that at the moment there is nothing to fill the void left by a fossil-fuel energy sector disrupted by the pandemic and long-term investment decline. Grid-scale wind and solar energy are experiencing exponentially rapid growth. They contribute 12% of US annual energy production according to the US Energy Information Agency, but it’s not near enough right now. Zakaria wrote that “it would require a 2,500 percent increase in production and deployment to have wind and solar fully replace fossil fuels [worldwide], which is not going to happen in the next few years.”

 In my opinion, nuclear power cannot fill the gap either. The industry has been stagnant for decades. The years-long lead times to build very complex plants which have historically been uneconomic make it a poor choice.

 Natural gas has long been considered a transitional fuel because it’s much cleaner in all aspects than coal. The problem is that we never seriously started the transition away from gas to green energy. In the US, we’ve been patting ourselves on the back because we reduced our national carbon footprint by switching from coal to gas. How’s that working out for us today?

Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Now that an energy shortage has put us in a bind, perhaps we can hurry the transition along?

Alternative energy technologies cannot fill the void caused by this particular extraordinary and rapid convergence of events, but so what?

With high energy prices, now is the time to invest in scaling up alternative energy, making our electric distribution grids better at getting generated energy from source to consumer, as well as storing it. We have the technology. An analysis by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that this transition could be accomplished within a couple of decades in an affordable manner. It’s engineering, not wishful thinking.

This “energy crisis” is a crisis of poor planning and risk management on all levels. It’s also an opportunity. We probably won’t, but we could take advantage of it if we wanted to. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Questions with No Easy Answers

There was so much news about what is happening to the planet at the moment that it’s hard to keep up. Over the 30 day period ending the first week of September, the US had massive wildfires in California, simultaneous heat waves on the East and West Coasts, Tropical Storm Fred, and Hurricanes Henri and Ida. On top of that, July was Earth's hottest month in 142 years of modern record keeping. I'd run out of room if I listed all the other events worldwide.

Although the fast-moving remnants of hurricanes Henri and Ida blew through Massachusetts quickly, they dumped a lot of rain in a very short period of time. In Central Massachusetts, they were rated as 25-year storms, or storms that have a 1 in 25 chance of occurring in a given year (I know, it’s confusing). These storms occurred less than two weeks apart. There's no statistical reason why that cannot happen . . . but it’s happening more often.

Tropical depression Ida killed 5 times as many people in the Northeastern US, than Category 4 hurricane Ida did in Louisiana. The reason is flooding. 150 mph winds notwithstanding, the city of New Orleans was spared flooding due to its $14 billion Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System. Northeastern Cities – not so much.

NY City got 6 to 9 inches of rain at a rate of up to 3 inches an hour. For NY, Ida was a 500-year event. The storm sewer systems, some built a century ago, could not handle anything like it, so flash floods, water fountaining from manholes, people drowning in basements or their cars, and cascades flowing into subways were the result.

NY city wasn’t prepared for Ida. It could be decades before another 500-year event hits the city . . . or not. Research by scientists at Rutgers University estimates that 500-year events may start coming every 24 years. Given that the number of Category 4+ North Atlantic hurricanes per decade have increased 10-fold over the last century, another Ida this year is not out of the question.

The reason we are not prepared for 500-year storms is because it’s a numbers game, a risk assessment. Is it worth spending to prepare for a low probability-high impact event?  Historically, the answer has been no.

Massachusetts requires stormwater systems be built to withstand a 100-year event. Over the last decade, we’ve seen several years where there have been multiple 100-year storms in Massachusetts. Are 100-year storms now 50 or 25-year storms?

Both academic institutions and government agencies have reported the trend toward more frequent and intense storms in the Northeast for over a decade. As the atmosphere gets warmer, the trend is very likely going to get worse because warmer air can hold more water. As an aside – it could also mean more intense snowfall events in winter.

Clearly, we need to recalibrate the definition of a low-probability event.

Because of Ida, state and local governments are now adamantly vowing to strengthen infrastructure and prepare for these more frequent and intense storms. Resilience! Adaptation! Cities big and small will want new protection like the New Orleans system which took years and billions of dollars to complete.

About that New Orleans system . . . outside of it, coastal Louisiana was completely devastated from floods and storm surge. In addition, the system is expected to be obsolete within the next few years, due to subsidence, rising sea levels and stronger storms.

A couple of years back, Boston evaluated building a massive system to keep storm surges and sea level rise out of Boston Harbor. Due to huge cost and quick obsolescence, the city opted out.

Resilience is about springing back to the way things were before, and adaptation is about conforming to new or changed circumstances. We will have to decide where, when and how we choose one over the other.

How large an area can you protect? How high can you build your walls? How big can you make your pumps? How many people and businesses can you protect? How much do you want to spend? When is it time to call it quits and just move out of the way?

None of these questions have easy answers. But these are the questions we as a society need to start asking ourselves.

Published in the Village News (Massachusetts), Friday, October 1, 2021

Saturday, July 31, 2021

You know it’s bad when . . .

You know it’s bad when the AARP Bulletin has an article entitled "What you Need to Know About Climate Change” with a subtitle of “How it’s already affecting your health, home and safety – and what you can do about it.”

You know it’s bad when Consumer Reports has an article entitled “Best Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke.”

The articles are not bad in and of themselves. What they reveal is that the impacts of climate change are finally making their way into people’s everyday lives. Of course, the articles don’t say anything about what you can do to slow or stop climate change, just what you can do to deal with it.

The articles suggest ways to adapt. Your air is choked with wildfire soot? Get a better air conditioner filter. Planning to retire in the sunbelt? Maybe Toledo is a safer place. Possibility of power loss is growing? Buy a backup generator. Your bucket list travel destinations are endangered (think Glacier National Park)? Don’t put that trip off. The list goes on.

What these recommendations all have in common is the assumption that you can afford to do any of these things - that you have retirement savings, that you have an air conditioner, that you can move or buy a backup generator. The list goes on.

According to Market Watch, the median American household has $11,700 in savings. The bottom 20% of households have no savings. The Economic Policy Institute states that about 50% of families have no retirement savings. Of course, the numbers skew even lower the less education you have or your race. Picking up and moving, or buying a better air conditioner (let alone having one in the first place) is a luxury for a lot of Americans.

There is no doubt that people lower on the economic rungs of our country are now struggling with the social and economic impacts of the long-predicted increase in extreme weather events. Second and third world countries have been dealing with impacts for a couple of decades now. We just don’t hear about it much.

But the affluent are no longer immune. Take this headline from the July 18th edition of the Boston Globe: “’No one is safe’: Extreme weather batters the wealthy world.” A sentence in the article struck me: “The extreme weather disasters across Europe and North America have driven home two essential facts of science and history: The world as a whole is neither prepared to slow down climate change nor live with it.”

Seattle, home of Amazon, broiled at the end of June, with temperatures exceeding 35 F above normal. Germany, the most affluent and industrialized country in Europe, suffered extreme flooding unlike any in living memory. Both were due to stagnant weather systems which used to be rare but not anymore. Both caused the deaths of hundreds of people.

Most of us living in the fairly affluent suburbs and exurbs of Boston are probably not too concerned about catastrophic floods, raging wildfires or deadly heat waves, but as events of the last few weeks demonstrate, we cannot be complacent.

As I write this, the skies above Westborough are hazy with smoke from wildfires 3,000 miles away in Oregon. Commonwealth officials have issued an air quality alert for Eastern Massachusetts. Clearly we are not immune to far-away events.

Events elsewhere can impact the flow of electricity to our homes, the food delivered to our supermarkets, the fuel for our SUVs, the cost of our insurance, and all the other little things we take for granted in our comfortable lives.

Complacency got us into this mess. It won’t get us out of it. 

Published in the Village News, Westborough, MA, July30th, 2021

Saturday, July 10, 2021

It All Comes Down to Sweat

My cousin Steph and I constantly needle each other on Facebook about the climates where each of us live. She’s in Tucson, AZ. She’ll remark about how the cold water coming out of the tap is the same temperature as the hot or how her backyard weather station said yesterday’s maximum temperature 127 F. I will ask her to tell me again why she lives there. Steph replies that “you can’t shovel sunshine and besides it’s dry heat.” My comeback: “The inside of an oven set to broil is also dry heat.”

In Tucson, summer average high temperatures are in the low 100’s. Residents don’t bat an eyelash because that is the climate in the desert southwest. And it’s dry. If the relative humidity exceeds 50%, that’s sticky. Normal humidity is less than 25%. But as a friend of mine in Las Vegas tells me, “I don’t care if it’s dry heat. When it’s 120 F, it’s just [expletive] hot.” 120 F is definitely heatwave territory out that way, even if it’s dry as dust.

Here in the humid Northeast, it’s a heatwave when the temperature exceeds 90 F for three days. What gives? To paraphrase James Carville – “It’s the humidity, stupid.” 

If it’s 92 F and 10% humidity, the heat index or real feel temperature is 87 F. Change the humidity to 89% and the real feel temperature is 130 F, extreme danger, heat stroke territory. We can get both during a New England heatwave.

Of course, high temperatures with or without humidity will kill you. It’s the combination of both that determines deadly conditions. It all comes down to sweat.

When our distant ancestors lived in Africa 3 million years ago as it became more arid, they evolved to efficiently dissipate heat by losing body hair and increasing the number of sweat glands. As sweat evaporates from our bodies, it cools our skin. Problem is, sweat is mostly water. Since we cannot store water like a camel, when it’s hot, we need to constantly replenish the water we lose to cool ourselves.

Humans are between 55 and 65 percent water. If you sweat without replenishing water, bad things start to happen pretty quickly. If you exercise vigorously, you can sweat two pounds of water in an hour (a pound is equivalent to about a 16-oz glass of water). This means that dehydration can occur very quickly, especially if sweat rapidly evaporates. The more water you lose, the less you can regulate your body temperature. You lose 10 glasses of water; you’ll damage major organs. 14 glasses and you're dead.

You can also die from heatstroke just by sitting outside doing nothing when the real feel is 130 F. Sweat cannot evaporate, so your body temperature can rise to fatal levels in minutes.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, using data from NOAA, Massachusetts had about 4 days above 90 per year until the year 2000. Now, it’s 10. Projections range to an additional 6 to 22 days by 2050 and an additional 9 to 52 days by 2100. Imagine up to two months per year above 90. This is basically the climate of Atlanta, Georgia now and the future climate of southern New England.

These shifts are not limited to the Northeastern US. We already know what’s going on in the American Southwest. Blistering high temperatures leading to long-term drought and longer and more vicious wildfire seasons are the norm. Siberia is in a heatwave for the second year in a row, with hundreds of wildfires.

Worldwide, the projections get even uglier. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

“. . . depending on scenarios of population growth and warming, over the coming 50 y, 1 to 3 billion people are projected to be left outside the climate conditions that have served humanity well over the past 6,000 y. Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today.”

The increase in land area subject to heat/humidity levels which make it life threatening just to be outdoors will span major portions of southern Asia within the next few decades, where clean water and air conditioning are an extreme luxury. Currently, we see a few days of such conditions in this region, but they are predicted to span weeks in the coming decades. Those billions in less developed countries will simply not be able to adapt. They will move. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Published in the Village News (Massachusetts), July 1, 2021

Friday, June 11, 2021

Wither the Monarch


Photo attribution:  By Kenneth Dwain Harrelson, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The other night, I watched a short documentary about John J. Audubon, after whom the National Audubon Society is named. His life’s work was to make a complete pictorial record of all species of North American birds. He was a detailed observer of nature, keenly aware of the world around him.

One portion of the film struck me. During his later journeys, Audubon noted how rapidly the American landscape was changing, how clearing and development of former wildlands had led to habitat fragmentation and disappearance of formerly abundant bird species in the space of a few decades during the early 19th century. It was the story then; it is the story now. This is what we do.

Which brings me to the Monarch butterfly. North American Monarchs are famous for their continent-spanning migrations. The eastern population mostly migrates south to Mexico and parts of Florida. The Western population flies to coastal sites in California as well as Mexico. It takes three generations of Monarchs to make the roundtrip journey. Why do North American Monarchs migrate in the first place? Scientists are still not sure. Monarchs elsewhere on the planet don’t migrate.

Monarchs are thought to have evolved in Central America over a million years ago. Their longevity means that the species survived at least eight glacial epochs during their time on Earth AND have been around longer than modern humans.

Sadly, as with many species on the planet, North American Monarchs are now dealing with the same pressures we have subjected to many other lifeforms over the centuries, because … that is what we do.

Their steep decline in North America is alarming. In Mexico, the eastern population’s overwintering number from last winter was about 45 million, compared to 250 million just 25 years ago. The Western population was down to 2,000 from 1.2 million just 24 years earlier.

What are we doing to cause this decline? Lots of things: GMO crops resistant to herbicides used to kill weeds which kill milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs will lay their eggs; long-term drought along their migratory routes and habitat loss at their overwintering sites in Mexico, the result of illegal logging in sanctuary areas. Our rapidly changing climate also features prominently.

Although Monarchs have been able to weather climate change in the past, the rapidity of change now is another thing entirely. Monarchs are among 450 butterfly species whose Western U.S. populations have been steadily dropping for the last 40 years, according to research recently published in the journal Science. The paper concludes that warmer autumns are a significant contributor to this decline. Furthermore, it’s not enough to preserve open space, create butterfly gardens and in the case of Monarchs, plant milkweed.

The good news for Monarchs, such as it is, comes from other newly published research which noted that despite the jaw-dropping decline of Western US Monarchs observed in their historical overwintering sites, “... large populations of monarchs were found breeding in San Francisco and Los Angeles areas ...” Normally, Monarchs don’t breed at that time of year and not in those locations. The author stated that "It seems that Monarchs are evolving or adapting, likely to the changing climate, by changing their breeding patterns."  The author thought that the Monarchs could be adapting and doing it quickly.

The article also stated that Monarchs in Australia saw precipitous population declines in the 1970s. However, the species did not go extinct, it just adapted. Furthermore, this result occurred without any overt attempt at preservation, since Monarchs are not native to Australia. That’s the good news.

The bad news?

According to a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) life on Earth is being challenged in ways not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. The authors stated that “Nature is under siege [and that] most biologists agree that the world has entered its sixth mass extinction event.” The paper concluded that “… a biodiversity crisis is accelerating as the planet’s human population grows, increasingly exacerbated by unprecedented recent climate changes and other anthropogenic stressors. Time is not on our side, and urgent action is needed on behalf of nature.”

The beautiful, delicate Monarch may be able to dodge the extinction bullet, but that may end up being cold comfort in the grand scheme of things.

Published in the Village News, June 4th, 2021