Monday, March 1, 2010

Earthquakes, Marsupials and Man

The Common Scold came by the other day to have coffee with The Better Half.  I shuffled into the kitchen for a second cuppa and she spotted me.

"Why are you writing about silly animals," she Scolded, "when there is so much human tragedy in the world?  Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile!  Tsunamis. . ."

You know how it is when you haven't had your second cuppa.  You ought to have a rejoinder, but there's nothing upstairs except the mental image of a big, steaming, heavenly-scented cuppa.

"Thanks for your concern," I think I mumbled and went off to sulk.  Three or four glorious sips later, the fog began to lift.

Earthquakes are terrible, I imagined myself saying, but they are natural.  Man did not create the Nazca tectonic plate, whose scraping against the South American tectonic plate 22 miles under the Pacific Ocean floor is what caused the Chilean quake.  The plates have been down there a long time.  They caused an even more powerful earthquake in Chile in 1960 that killed thousands. Nothing man knows how to do will prevent those plates from causing more tremors.

But as the planet's very climate changes around us, man is the cause.  As the very air we breathe and water we drink does harm to living things, man is the cause.  As species disappear from the planet we share with them, man is the cause.  And so when I learn what's happening to the koala, and now the kangaroo, I ask myself over and over:

When will we ever learn?

We tend to think of Australia as one vast outback, unsullied by man, home to happy marsupials romping against the backdrop of Ayers Rock.  Yet even there, the koala is dying off  because its habitat is vanishing and an AIDS-like disease is infecting the population. (See previous post).

Now an Australian publication, The Age, reports that kangaroos are being euthanized because of "debilitating deformities caused by toxic emissions from nearby factories."

One recent day nearly 50 of the iconic animals had to be killed in the vicinity of Portland, Victoria because they were suffering from extremely painful bone and tooth deformities.  Autopsies determined that the ailments were the direct result of breathing and ingesting fluoride emissions from nearby smelting operations.

For years, Australia's environmental protection agency had poo-poo'd concerns about the smelters by assuring everyone that the fluoride levels in the air and water were within "tolerance."

When will we ever learn?

No comments:

Post a Comment