(This transcript is MEGA FUCKED UP. We'll fix it soon! Bear with us in the meantime)
David Torcivia: [0:00] I'm Daniel forkner.
[0:11] But if we learn from all this maybe we can stop that the world might be broken but it doesn't have to be.
Sounds: [0:30] You know we just heard Danny.
David Torcivia: [0:31] A beautiful song bird.
Sounds: [0:33] Well yes that's absolutely true but it's something more than that what you actually just heard is the saddest sound ever.
David Torcivia: [0:40] 10 sound that side to me David quite Malone.
Sounds: [0:43] Yeah I mean I guess not it's a it's a pretty bird this is a male old bird making this beautiful song to find a beautiful female to mate with and have children spread his jeans alone.
David Torcivia: [0:53] Just like any good bird with you.
Sounds: [0:55] Right right until I mean it's a it's a happy melodic mating song but what makes this the saddest sound ever recorded is that this old bird was the very last of a species, there are no females coming this is the last recording at this species will ever leave on this Earth. So the reason that I played you to sound Daniel the reason that we have this very sad last of its kind of bird singing looking to continue the proliferation of its species because today we're going to talking about Extinction this is collapse in its truest. The loss of huge amounts of Life plant animal insect. This is a show cursing on the sixth mass extinction it's crying right now all across the world brought primarily on by the actions of all of us.
David Torcivia: [1:41] But when you put it like that David yeah that's pretty sad both from looking at the individual bird calling out for a mate that will never come, but also from the standpoint of the lost that we as humans will experience never getting to hear the song again never getting to watch this bird is it hops from limb to limb and when we think about Extinction, I think these are the types of animals or species that come to mind most clearly the ones that we see the ones that we think about the ones that have meaning to us. And there are tons of examples of species right now that are in crisis that have hit the news perhaps one that comes most immediately to mind are the honey bees which, for the past 12 years have been declining significantly something called colony collapse disorder, and they've been dying off especially in the United States so much so that for the year between 2016 and 2017 beekeepers called a 33% Decline and honey bee colonies a quote good start and quote and that's because as startling as a 33% decline in bee colonies is losses have been much higher than that.
Sounds: [2:49] But it's not just tiny insects Daniel large animals are also experiencing these huge declines the right now the very last hair of caribou to roam the United States is down to just three individual. All female as a result the species will soon be gone from the United States the southern mountain caribou used to roam in large populations with in Northwest America, human activities have destroyed their natural habitats similar Trends are occurring in Canada Caribou populations are rapidly declining them all but disappeared from Quebec Alberta and Ontario. The reason they are disappearing is of course human activity mostly logging in population Crossman but I think this particular species decline really highlights human short-term thinking, logging is the principal cause of caribou Decline and it's because their main food source is a lichen that only grows in Old growth forest, he's really old trees they're centuries-old which I mean is pretty incredible that such a large animal that mean this is a huge animal weighs like 600 pounds is involved for such a tiny plant diet, what it means is that saving them is not as simple as as planting new trees, we have this alarm companies will they say yeah we cut down the trees but we make up for it by planting some saplings somewhere else in the world will if we really wanted to save this Caribou species would have to leave huge swaths of for Stallone, completely and unfortunately I guess it's not economically viable.
David Torcivia: [4:12] Another example David that anyone can relate to whether you live in these areas are not is the lion very iconic king of the jungle. Well I choose to thrive all over Continental Africa excluding the Sahara they roamed the Middle East southern Europe and even as far east as the southern tip of India, all today their habitats have shrunk dramatically to just a few small pockets in central and southern Africa. But David this crisis going on right now these so-called sixth mass extinction the significance of this event, goes so far beyond what we might perceive in these very noticeable animals like the lion or the caribou. It goes deep because these species that are at risk connect ecosystems and those ecosystems interconnected such a way that it makes Modern Life possible for humans and so many other things.
Sounds: [5:09] It's right Daniel humans are civilization the very world that we live in depends on the success of many of these animals that are right now on the brink of Extinction or or some cases by species that shouldn't exist anymore but are kept alive only by the intervention of human stepping in for the animals and we've killed, but we're getting way ahead of ourselves right here I didn't understand all of this how we got here maybe we should step back like way back and look at where humans been into this bigger picture where we come from and how we going to play with the environment and ecosystems as a whole.
Human Beings And Our Place On Earth David Torcivia: [5:40] That's right there but let's look at human beings as a species themselves to humans emerged about to.
[5:56] Our mental obstacles until we eventually made homes in virtually every region of the world. And as far as species go our expansion and adaptation maybe one of the most remarkable of any other in the history of Earth in terms of longevity that story probably won't be remarkable at all. I will get to that in a little bit anyway we settled all over the world and if that wasn't significant enough we then learned how to convert stock piles of concentrated energy, whether those were forest or underground pockets of organic fuel. We turn these into the foundations of civilization and as a result are populations sword and throughout this process we changed the world. Not only do we transform geography and the composition of the atmosphere weed reorganized the dispersion of species all over the globe exotic animals hitchhiked aboard are trade ships to eventually disrupt and Destroy distant ecosystems, we shifted plants from one place to another for trade and production and everywhere we went, we encouraged the spread of a few select species well suited for Life alongside human civilization these are.
[7:14] Under the Umbrella of civilization itself at this point, so not only have humans been wildly successful at expanding their habitat range we have also expanded the size of our impact on the Earth and as civilization expands it constricts the range and populations of everything else, forcing Wildlife it's a smaller and smaller bubbles until.
Sounds: [7:40] This impact that humans have is remarkable would you consider just how small we is biological individuals really are a recent study that was published a couple months ago found that in terms of biomass how much like we weigh when you add up everything. Human beings represent just 0.01% of all life on Earth.
David Torcivia: [8:00] That's pretty small.
Sounds: [8:02] Yeah well plants are 83% of that this is trees this is grass of the crops that we grow bacteria which are on everything well at all that adds up as small as they are and bacteria makeup, 15% of all biomass but all other life existing outside of this cats.
[8:26] Despite our insignificant in sheer weight we have completely reorganized life on Earth humans have called wild mammals to decline by 83% and we wiped out 50% of all plants on this planet, since 1970 alone the number of land animals has declined by 40%. We've lost 4/5 of all freshwater species and we wiped out more fish in terms of biomass than what is currently left and Fisheries worldwide. And at the same time we have expanded those species now integrated with in human civilization.
David Torcivia: [8:59] Yeah the cows the pigs the chicken.
[9:14] Outweighs all wild birds by a factor of 3.
Sounds: [9:17] On my way in Ripley just once I can hear Daniel cuz I think this is really interesting point some episodes ago at some point we were talking about the anthropocene this geological era that we've entered because of the human effect
Defining The Anthropocene [9:29] on the planet, and how we would delineate this in terms of this geological record like the physical rocks than ground it as what would feature geologist whatever the species they might be be able to point you and say all this is when Humanity start.
David Torcivia: [9:41] Was the entire era is named after humans anthropocene eyemagine to be something like I don't know our contribution to science our contribution to Art perhaps our ingenuity.
Sounds: [9:55] This is a nice idea is Daniel but in the past episode we we boil it down to just tiny little carbon nodules from all the fuel that we burn. Turn it to dismiss that is deposited everywhere but in this episode we discovered another paper that suggest something maybe even more embarrassing and it's a huge fossil record, the movie left behind in our Legacy and what makes up this fossil record you might ask.
David Torcivia: [10:17] Our skulls are bones that are concentrated in cities all over the world David.
Sounds: [10:22] Well not our schools and bones but rather the bones of the massive amount of chickens that we grow and kill every single year to support this very large industrial civilization.
David Torcivia: [10:34] 3 Saint David that when extraterrestrials visit Earth some millions of years in the future and it look at the geologic record, they will determine that humans or some species like us must have been on the earth not because of anything that we created but by the sheer amount of chicken bones left in the Earth.
Sounds: [10:53] Exactly either that or maybe the chickens took over the Earth it eventually destroy themselves from overpopulation but the reasonable conclusion will probably be like. Some species grow these things as food dispose of their body and left behind huge amounts of Bones other than fossil eyes and make a line in the geologic record that's our Legacy. Our Legacy is unfortunately a legacy of death at least you logically speaking.
The 6Th Extinction David Torcivia: [11:19] We mentioned that we're in the midst of a mass extinction the so-called six Extinction also known as the Holocene Extinction or the so-called anthropocene Extinction, and when we have studied the species going extinct in the past will they were often very unique species to begin with these are species that only existed within a nice ecosystem, distant Island mountains or a nice shells like polar bears and penguins are species that would naturally be, fragile to any major shifts in the world because of their nice environments but we're seeing something very very different play out today and that is a global biodiversity catastrophe as the expansion of the civilization most notably industrial agriculture and global climate change combines to mark one of the greatest challenges to life going for the Earth has perhaps ever seen, I saw there was a paper that came out in 2017 that tried to shed light on the sixth Extinction and it had some pretty important things to say.
Sounds: [12:27] The likelihood of this rapid defaunation lies in the proximate causes a population Extinction habitat conversion climate disruption over-exploitation toxification species invasions disease and potentially large-scale nuclear war all tied to one another in complex patterns and usually reinforcing each other's impacts much less frequently mentioned are however the ultimate drivers of these immediate causes of biotic destruction, namely human overpopulation and continued population growth and overconsumption especially by the rich, these drivers all of which Trace to the fiction that Perpetual growth can occur on a finite Planet are themselves increasing rapidly this week besides that the sixth mass extinction is already here, and the window for Effective action is very short probably two or three decades at most. All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades painting a dismal picture of the future of life including human life.
[13:30] Daniel we read a lot of academic papers a lot of journals a lot of pieces of research for the various episodes that we put together here it's like this is never in academic papers this is basically somebody screaming, sing the end is nigh, why aren't you listening look at this thing we are in the midst of of Apocalypse this language from researchers in an academic Journal is like very very unusual and we should be paying attention to this.
David Torcivia: [13:58] You mean the part where it says that we have 20 to 30 years to address this mass extinction before it's too late.
Sounds: [14:05] One of many parts that I think that I deserve to be called out here but yeah when this is serious serious business.
David Torcivia: [14:12] And what I think really stands out about this article is IT addresses the fact that when we look at mass extinctions we make a fatal flaw when we're only looking at species themselves that's the lion the care, what's a paper highlight is, we find a much more alarming picture when we look at population Decline and the extinction of populations themselves so that's a lot of habitat range loss of ecosystems and decline in population sizes of species, when you look at it this way you can actually see how Extinction can be baked in to a species just like climate well before that very last individual dies off.
Sounds: [14:53] Tina we mentioned before baked in a couple times I know I talked about a lot when we talk about climate change maybe we should elaborate on that idea just for a one mole.
David Torcivia: [15:01] Yeah okay well I mean I guess the idea is when you look at climate, the idea that a warming effect can be baked in basically means that our systems are Global Systems environmental flows they take a long time to develop, but if a lot of our CO2 for example gets absorbed by the ocean that's going to have an effect but it may take several years or even decades or centuries to play out I mean think about if you have a pot of boiling water and you put an ice cube in it the Ice Cube doesn't melt right away but you know that that process is baked in.
[15:46] Come so affected and so fragile that's recovery becomes impossible and eventual petering off becomes inevitable.
Sounds: [15:55] Yeah and in this paper that we just mentioned what would specifically look. 27600 vertebrate species and on a more detailed analysis documenting the population of extinctions between 1900 and 2015 in 177 mammal species, 32% of the species in the sample are declining both and population as well as habitat range and 40% of the mammals looked at experiencing a 80% decline in habitat range all this is leading us very quickly to collapse of ecosystems and we rely on to sustain our civilization but further it's occurring 1000 times faster than the natural Extinction rate, with some groups disappearing much much much faster than that as will discuss in just a.
[16:44] I want to focus on just one concept from this thing we just mentioned here where I mean this is a show about extinctions about species that were alive and now no longer are, but that isn't just the it's not it doesn't happen you know he's not like one day only animals are here and then say you wake up and they die Extinction doesn't occur like that it's not just the cliff that they'll jump off and they disappear, Extinction is a process that ultimately results in extinction but before that you have population of clients, tell population is troubled it's pressured from influences from the outside whether they're climate whether it's human whatever it is it declines and then at some point as a population of clients becomes more vulnerable, two more and more influence is that are coming in from outside and this is the important feedback loop that we really want to get you in this episode where. I'm more vulnerable population decline tablets faster which makes it that much more vulnerable and then at some point it cannot be saved it falls off a cliff and the next thing you know. It's extinct.
David Torcivia: [17:43] And when we talked about the climbing populations I mean there's so many ways it can happen in a simple way to think about it is if you have two rainforests and they each house a tiger for example and you get rid of one of those rainforests will you still have the Tiger.
[18:15] Catastrophe or any change in the environment that affects this one rainforest is going to have a larger impact on this species ability to survive, and of course another component of that is that these habitats themselves provide services called ecosystem Services which will get to in a little bit that we also rely on any decline in those as a tremendous impact on our ability to go forward at the human population.
Sounds: [18:39] I love it Daniels did some more bad news like always but researching this episode you came to me at one point and I think you said like I'm depressed,
The Greatest Threat? [18:47] like I know we talked about a lot of that is Daniel and I know some of these topics are heavy but this one really got to you and I think you're welcome into this thing telling me that, as big of a problem that climate change is and is it as related climate changes to these extensions that are coming up that we can discuss throughout this episode, you've identified this as the single most critical most dangerous threat that we are facing collectively as a society.. Not even close.
David Torcivia: [19:14] Yeah David that's right and I think maybe why depressed me so much as I wasn't expecting it and I have to completely take back the comment I made a couple weeks ago, on our recap episode where I said government surveillance was one of my biggest fears this has replaced it completely and even in terms of climate change I see this loss of species this loss of biodiversity. The worst thing that could ever have happened and, maybe it seems kind of odd to say this is worse than climate change how is that possible but if you could just isolate climate change to a warming atmosphere or Rising Seas without all the attendant things that produced it like our pollution and habitat destruction. Is very easy to see how biodiversity could give us a way forward to see the diversity of species and ecosystem that we have in our world that information.
[20:12] Our Global diversity is a book a magnificent book in which the secrets of adapting and surviving a bound. And this giant book has information on withstanding violent storms, adapting to drought in floods adapting to extreme heat and cold how to filter waste how to heal, and losing species and ecosystems means that we are losing whole chapters of that book that we will never recover. And that's bad for us I mean here's an example, three fourths of our entire food system globally is supported by just a handful of crops and five animal species, which of course themselves as we've discussed are propped up by unsustainable industrial inputs like pesticides nitrogen fertilizer that's unsustainable and all these types of things that system is going to fail there's no doubt about it but in a world where a diversity of species remain wild species of plants and animals could take the place, of our defunct monoculture system's wild species that are suitable for consumption would reveal themselves and places that we would normally consider to dry or too wet, too salty.
[21:31] Wild species survive once they're lost that's it there's no more there's nothing left to adapt to our changing world and those branches extending from the Tree of Life which may have provided us with answers which took millions of years to develop. Won't be there and so we too will perish.
Global Changes Are Cyclical? Sounds: [21:51] Okay then I mean it's beautiful and it's poetic and I can feel your passion coming out in this.
David Torcivia: [21:56] My my depressing poetry.
Sounds: [21:58] Yeah the depressing music Extinction but one of the criticisms said we get about discussing the sixth mass extinction about the loss of biodiversity in the world right now is that extinctions happen, it's a natural evolutionary process and what's more is that these extinctions are cyclical to some extent you know like there are. If we're on the sixth mass extinction while they were.
David Torcivia: [22:23] That must mean there's one two three four and five.
Sounds: [22:26] Yeah exactly so like this is just part of the natural process of Earth that's something that we should be expecting to happen and if animals can adapt to this changing world now the world climate change the bull. Humanity to the anthropocene will then they don't have a place in it, what's the argument go.
David Torcivia: [22:42] This comes up a lot in conversations not just with Extinction but also climate change like well you know the earth goes through cycles and periods of Extinction so it's normal.
Sounds: [22:51] I swear to God if I hear somebody say maunder minimum one more time.
David Torcivia: [22:54] Yeah okay baby whatever that is but this idea that the earth goes in Cycles so it's normal I'm not really sure how this just became accepted this idea that I was something has occurred before it can't be novel or significant to us now, think about this David the first mass extinction.
[23:24] 462 days give or take. So yeah if you're looking at the history of the Earth on a billion year time scale I suppose mass extinction and climate change does seem pretty normal, what to use that as justification for destroying ourselves make no sense, we might as well just detonate every single nuclear bomb on Earth all at once on the grounds that it would be less catastrophic than that asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago I mean that cyclical right, what do we have to lose.
Sounds: [23:52] I have I have no response.
David Torcivia: [23:54] But to get back to that time line real quick I mean we as humans are witnessing. Existential event play out right now in front of our eyes but it's so exciting Lee rare it occurs once every 50 to a hundred million years or so. And we have the direct cause so they would tell me again why I should be concerned with shareholder value and market returns.
Sounds: [24:15] One second I mean I want to pull out real quick and get rid of all the Morality In like how fucked we are because of the things that we have talked about in this episode with the the impending effects of this mass extinction.
David Torcivia: [24:27] What do you mean the morality.
Sounds: [24:28] Well whether it's right or wrong and but I just want to know for one second how like metal it is that humans and just a couple hundred thousand years, I mean we've we've made plenty of animals extinct but the Giants lost in America The Woolly Mammoth like week we killed those but it wasn't enough, the past Thousand Years give or take with the real production of civilization been really honestly in the past like Underwood maybe 50 years we'll bring it on in extinction this is the same type of thing that like a an asteroid does and here we are doing it single-handedly just because we got to drive our car to the grocery store buy some some plastic wrap.
David Torcivia: [25:04] Or buy an exotic frogs will discuss.
Sounds: [25:07] Yeah it sucks so we can double up that frog in our apartment on the other side of the world that is objectively I think a really good measure how harmful we can be and how much power Humanity has even if it's for really terrible horrible thing, but anyway.
David Torcivia: [25:22] Listener take from that what you will but I mean I agree it is pretty fascinating just the scope of impact we as humans have had on the Earth.
Sounds: [25:31] Like nothing and it hit history of anything like fuck shit up as it as well as we do that is like if we've got one skill that is.
David Torcivia: [25:39] But it's but it's also hard to be proud of in any way when you realize that we've done it accidentally and we've done it basically through extremely short term short-sighted processes that we didn't take the time to understand and even as we are.
Sounds: [25:53] Just imagine if we've been trying.
David Torcivia: [25:55] Yeah just imagine if we've been trying and also very unimpressive about this is as it's going on we still struggle to even recognize it as destructive as we are we're not even aware of it. But to get back to the show date.
Sounds: [26:08] Yeah okay Daniel we got off on like a pretty big time is it there.
Ecosystems And Their Services [26:12] I'm so snail in a little bit of these facts here and explain the ecosystems in a biodiversity and why they're so important and so fragile and why this message thinking that's currently on going you're such a big back.
David Torcivia: [26:25] We have to understand ecosystems in the important role they play to really grasp how catastrophic loss of species really is.
[26:43] May provide benefits and quote services that we humans take advantage of. And I think calling these quote Services actually understands how we rely on ecosystems because when you look at what we get from the environment, you quickly realize that the answer is well everything so conceptually the ecosystem services are grouped into four broad categories. You have provisioning Services which is probably what comes first to mind in terms of our food or water but also includes things like medicines energy and even genetic diversity which we benefit.
Sounds: [27:19] The next category includes supporting services like the production of oxygen in the formation of soil things we talked about in the past with Chris and at what we reap episode a long time ago, another one is it is regulating Services disease process waste David dobrik climate change they filter are streams rivers to keep pathogens in check. Pollinate flowers and purify the air.
David Torcivia: [27:41] David just deposit real quick since you're from New York I think I read that. If we want to turn this into a money conversation I think New York City actually spent recently 2 billion dollars to protect a watershed Upstream of the main city and, as expensive as that might sound the result is that in protecting this Watershed it very naturally, purifies the water and it cost a lot less to treat once it reaches the city and if you wanted to replace this conserving process with a water treatment plant that would have cost 10 billion dollars or five times more.
Sounds: [28:17] New York benefits very much from these natural systems and it gives us some of the best water in the country water that's famous and in many people say is why New York Bagels and do a pizza taste so good so thanks atiza natural regulating services.
David Torcivia: [28:32] But of course you can't reduce these services to Simply economics because the last service that we get is cultural this is the pleasure we get from climbing a mountain or the spiritual fulfillment, where are scientific discovery and it is through the combination of all these services that we as humans survive, and Thrive and it is those services that are disappearing on the heels of this Extinction event we are quite literally sawing off the branch that we perch on.
Sounds: [29:00] Human history is dominated by the idea of progress It's a natural step from one thing to the next and it's inevitable we're always moving forward to bigger and better things, but maybe our idea of progress is wrong historically progress breath has meant more cities more houses taming the Wild by turning a swamp, it will Golf Course. Moving a real farmer from the land to the city but this Buick progress is misguided and actively harming us when the things we destroy in the name of progress on the very things that we depend on for survival is wetlands and swamps forests animals so on. In our short-sightedness to move forward to more visible steps of construction of development two things we can point to and say this is progress, that we can measure in charge and say it look at how quickly were moving forward we've lost sight of the systems that enable all of this we risk be systems that enable all of this and in doing so have threatened are very existence.
David Torcivia: [29:55] Things that we've hit on in Minneapolis Odes is how our ideas of progress are misguided,
Biodiversity [30:01] and clearly this is probably the greatest example of that these losses of ecosystems these mass extinctions and the services we get from ecosystems it's all related to this concept of biodiversity, which is really was fueling all of this and which we are actively destroying all over the world for example the last 2 years so I'm more deforestation than ever with 50% more annual lots of trees in 2016 and 2017. Then in 2015 the area being lost translates to trees being destroyed.
[30:38] This is a bad thing about diversity because forest or where we find 80% of land animals and plants so what is biodiversity I mean it's obviously a diversity of something but there are many layers to that.
Sounds: [30:52] Biodiversity is made up by a lot of different concept is not just look how many animals are there are here it's a lot more nuanced than that.
David Torcivia: [31:00] There's a chicken over there there's a cow over here there's a pig over there.
Sounds: [31:03] Yeah I think we've been spending far we're so biodiverse no not it's much much deeper than that I mean yes I all the different species is definitely part of it but it's not just how many species there are how many different species but it's the individual populations in cell, are there unique populations all around the world of these these species example earlier Daniels the rainforest here with an animal there another name for us in this time that world with that same animal and this means that there's genetic diversity in these different population that's another layer of this biodiversity.
David Torcivia: [31:32] And also ecosystems if we have a river and then we have a mountain and then we have a grassland that's biodiversity as well as each of those ecosystems is going to host a plethora of species.
Sounds: [31:43] And even more like good just the cultures of these animals and I are those weird to apply that word culture to an animal made me think of the rake human concept. The same species in different areas will often have different ways of interacting with each other, different Customs another weird word to use different behaviors that other populations and this biodiversity means that all of these things are important in developing it worldwide unified healthy World an ecosystem.
David Torcivia: [32:09] And often times we don't even understand how this biodiversity plays out in fact saying we often don't understand is actually an understatement I would say we really just don't understand at all I mean that you were we might look at a species in the jungle like a monkey for example and we think so it's the top of the food chain if it disappeared that would be tragic but it wouldn't really affect the ecosystem but we don't realize is that that species is a important seed dispersal and it's responsible for up keeping many plant species because it pics of flower pics of fruit and eats it and then go somewhere else in the sea just dropped in an important place, and I also read somewhere David that there's a parasite so parasites are actually really important in ecosystems there are parasites that will latch onto amphibians the amphibian for some reason in response this parasite decides to jump into the water to cleanse itself and in jumping into the water it becomes food for some aquatic species there are so many ways that species interacting ecosystems interact and that is what biodiversity is and that's what makes up that book, of information that I mentioned earlier.
Sounds: [33:16] I sure will speaking of parasites these are one of the more threatened groups right now with up to a third of all parasites at risk of Extinction from climate change and other Factor. In the first we might seem so excited about this back nobody likes parasites at least the way that we think about them.
David Torcivia: [33:33] Text tapeworms lives do such a things oh you're telling me those are endangered sounds good to me.
Sounds: [33:39] Yeah I mean that's what we thought initially when we started looking into this but what we don't realize is that in many, ecosystems their site to make up 80% of the food links between species. So that means you need these parasites to transfer energy and nutrition from one animal to another. But that example the frog jumping in the water so wiping out these parasites means the ecosystem collapses, but another side of this is that a diversity of parasites keep each other in check their competition and so what the hell majority of them could give rise to wrap expense to parasites and now have an unprecedented opportunity to flourish, which could be bad if the ones that survive having to be the human flesh eating type for example.
David Torcivia: [34:21] Yeah that that wouldn't be good but there's something I want to highlight about that David when you said that parasites play an important role in ecosystem transferring energy from one species to another, this is such an important point about why this Extinction is such a problem because I guess when we think about animals going extinct. We might .21 and we might point to another and we get this idea that hey if we have a thousand animals and 40% of them go extinct 12 you know take 400 of them by random they're gone and were left with the rest, because there are Global forces and trends that are driving Extinction these forces are going to Target. Species that are either similar in terms of genetic similarity or similar in terms of, how they operate or where they live but it also means at Target species based on function it's not necessarily a random dispersion of species that are going extinct so to make an analogy here about what.
[35:22] Functions we might think of in terms of the forces that maintain civilization what are some functions do.
Sounds: [35:30] I'm just spending some stuff out here but education food production Transportation energy production very general large-scale things here bud.
David Torcivia: [35:43] Exactly David those are functions so imagine we wake up one day and all the sudden, bee species under the transportation family group that makes up civilization is gone we have no more roads they're all gone and more than that they're never coming back there's nothing we can do to get them back. Imagine the effect that would have on civilization or imagine we wake up one day and there are no more electricians this group of people that serve this role in Civilization.
[36:14] Attic effect on our ability to survive well that is what we are doing to these ecosystems were taking out functions when things go extinct that serve an important role or Lincoln these systems those ecosystems collapse they can't, and so those services that we relied on they to disappear.
In Crisis: Insects Sounds: [36:30] Turn on I think there is no more visible part of this like very important connecting creature of these ecosystems than insects we started the show off talking about honey bees and then we'll know this example of a very important second terms of our food production, we depend on these bees to pollinate flowers or food or crops so that we have something to eat, without them this pollination process really falls apart and I mean there are other creatures that will pollinate Mauston things but honey bees other types of bees are very important part of this process, without them industrial agriculture might not work at all.
David Torcivia: [37:05] I have to admit throughout my life I've been a bit biased against our insect friends for a long time, you know I don't crush them when I see them or anything like that I just mean emotionally I guess I've kind of been a little bit not very fond of them. I used to not look forward to Summer even though I love the sun mostly because I knew that hey want summer came around I'd have to deal with a lot more mosquitoes there be spiders crawling into my room and cockroaches and all the stuff but now after researching this topic and realizing how much we are losing and how important they are I feel like I'm aware of of a loss of something that I never really appreciated and I have to admit it makes me a little sad, insects are valuable in and there's a number of ways that they are pollination of some of our crops like you said without these insects we wouldn't have chocolate for example insects provide food for Birds bats amphibians.
Sounds: [38:00] You know what I do like Daniel and I did them myself here like I love vanilla everyone's always like dumpy vanilla like yes I like to know a lot it's a very complicated.
David Torcivia: [38:10] You know David vanilla is actually one of the most complex flavors in the world.
Sounds: [38:14] Yes that's my go-to defense every time.
David Torcivia: [38:17] Which is why it's in so many things I mean that's the whole point that it's the reason why vanilla is everywhere is because it's so good.
Sounds: [38:23] I just have Superior tastebuds I can appreciate all the different note 7 L I think it plays really well into this conversation because the vanilla plant itself is Holy dependent on a be called a vanilla be bored pollination, except the problem is Loops kill the vanilla tea die like a hundred and something years ago we wiped it out it's extinct now so now all vanilla plants, are manually pollinated by people mostly Madagascar somebody's out there with little brush moving the pollen from one flower to another and that's the only reason we have vanilla today.
David Torcivia: [38:56] It's crazy to me that we the only way we have the spice or flavor that's super expensive which I guess that it kind of explains how expensive it is, although I'm sure it's not as expensive as it could be because I doubt that labor that's manually pollinating that flowers getting paid what probably should but you know it's X-Play really important role that's the point they also fertilize our soil they degrade waste, they decompose dead animals they control pests that eat our crops and we use them for the discovery of medicines and applications I mean there's a new wind turbine design that sound floating about that was, designed with the way dragonflies interact with the air and its expected to provide a 30% efficiency boost to wind energy production because of this design, at a fungus that enter plays with a beetle, was discovered which kicked off modern transplant surgery it wasn't possible to do surgery transplant before the discovery of this insect related, fungus because the body would naturally reject any new organ and it was only through this fungus that we could figure out how to repress the body's immune response to these Boring Oregon so I guess the point is we need these insects.
Sounds: [40:08] But unfortunately these insects all around the world are in trouble, I really saw this brought to life last year instead of just came out and it looked at the insect populations in Germany for the past 27 years and what was interesting about this is beast and six senses were done predominantly by citizen scientists, these aren't paid researchers going out doing a long-term study because there is no market for this study nobody wants to pay for this so people who care and said about the environment and these insects took it other time to measure population is insect over two and a half decades, and what they found over these 27 year. That the population of insects be kind by 75%, that means a population of insects alive today it's just a quarter of the size that they were just 27 years ago.
David Torcivia: [40:54] Real quick they were there two things that really stand out to me concerning this German study in one is the fact that it's remarkable at all and the other is the way it was carried out like you mentioned and so the fact that this study came out last year and.
Sounds: [41:08] It shocked scientist like they had no idea that this is coming out of the whole scientific he was like holy shit.
David Torcivia: [41:14] Right into me that's a little alarming because it means we're not doing a good job tracking these very important changes all over our world this is one study in Germany that looked at like a handful of insects species, and it shocked the world I mean in Europe alone there over 30,000 insect species and in Germany only 37 of these. .12% of all the insects species are closely tracked that's alarm and we don't have these naturalist, a biologist we don't have people studying this like you said cuz there's no market for in speaking about Market the other thing that's remarkable to me about this study is that it was made possible by these volunteer. We talked last week about intellectual property and how it holds back academic research and Discovery I think this is a great example of why that is why we're holding back Discovery and research through these intellectual property that puts academic research behind pay walls because Innovation and this value of research, really takes off when you have public access and participation because a few scientists as well trained as they are they can't tackle this job of monitoring all the species that we need to keep track of.
Sounds: [42:24] Well this is also getting into the conversation of business and motivation and profit and academics and that is very much its own episode that we will absolutely get into it says of really important topic. That I will not see you enough attention being paid to, except for those in the academic Fields were complaining about this constantly but we really want to talk about it in-depth and I don't want to get bogged down right now with this this idea but.
David Torcivia: [42:48] Okay so back to Insects I mean this isn't happening Justin Germany but it's happening all over the world.
Sounds: [42:52] That's right in the United States monarch butterflies have all but disappeared, so they used to be huge migrations of tens of thousands and hundreds and thousands of Monarch butterflies it was it and then people would go out and watch it but the numbers of Monarch butterflies have dwindled in the past few decades, you just a small fraction of what they used to be in the earlier part of the century, 2014 Stanford study looked at invertebrate species worldwide and on a 45% decline over the past 40 years alone all over the world.
David Torcivia: [43:22] In a Bavarian Nature Reserve researchers have witnessed a 40% decline in moth species which highlights how these losses are occurring even in areas that are closely.
Sounds: [43:33] We want to highlight Moss again this is one of these animals that we think alike who which is the ugly butterfly but most are extremely important pollinators just as much snow as bees with get most of the credit for pollination but malter huge component of this as well.
David Torcivia: [43:46] And real quick I mean in terms of pollinators there so many species of bats are pollinators these butterflies flies can be pollinators birds are pollinators of such a diversity of them.
Sounds: [43:57] This is happening all around the world that's happening in Europe is happening United States it's happening in the remote Forest of South America. Deja this is a worldwide problem, Symphonies of these insects the noises of the Crickets and grasshoppers that we all are used to falling asleep at night to will they slowly getting quieter is slowly disappearing because this is a worldwide insect pocalypse.
David Torcivia: [44:21] And the causes of these declines in insects generally come down to a number of factors most notably probably are industrial agriculture our monoculture systems which converts very diverse ecosystems and habitats all over the world into what is effectively green concrete with no life as it converts ponds and all types of different habitats for insects into this just row of pesticide dependent crops. Eddie's pesticides and herbicides they themselves are killing off a large number of insect population.
Sounds: [44:54] I want to focus on monocle to just for one second on to understand why this is such a huge problem whereas yes we're losing a sort of environment and ecosystem that would have had a lot of different diverse life. We're placing with more life and it's like flowers the same that should be a problem right, but the problem is worse before I feel with bloom in Ultra two different times over the season some wood flowering spring come in late spring someone early summer summon late summer summon the beginning of autumn hit it goes through so there's always a source of food for the various animals that live in this environment, a Monical's are field and contrast flowers once, and after that flower is done there is no more food or change the way for many miles and that distance is too far for an insect to go out and search for something to eat and instead starve to death, this is one of the biggest problems with monoculture and it's something that it's just not easy to fix medical term May in fact be completely incompatible. Insect biodiversity and of course insects are very important Link in the food chain, yes they are important for pollinating our food but also as acting as food or many other animals for birds for small mammals also two things that depend on these insects for nutrition, when you get rid of the insects because they're starving because they have nothing to eat for the rest of the ecosystem collapses as well.
David Torcivia: [46:09] Duster agriculture does from so many angles are such an interesting and depressing topic and you mentioned the monarch butterflies disappearing in North America even with our model culture systems of the past we still had a lot of Monarch butterflies because we had milkweed growing up in our crops which could still support the butterflies but as we have gotten more quote on quote is sufficient with our agriculture practices and we now have Roundup Ready soy and Roundup Ready crop that denies milkweed from being in these crop systems well, there goes the monarch butterflies.
Sounds: [46:43] I was always when I was growing up top and milkweed was in a weed it's in the name something you don't want when you see it growing up we got to get rid of milkweed and you pull it out. And it's no wonder when when everyone is doing that to the milkweed that grows in their houses in their yards that there is no more milkweed left and there are no more monarch butterflies we get rid of their food and then the Monarch disappears and we have one that what what happened I mean.
David Torcivia: [47:07] You know in episode 16 where we sat down with Christy Alessandro and small organic farmer he talked about this the diversity of species that he cultivate on his fart and how that removes the necessity for pesticides in these things because the plant species and these interactions take care of it themselves but you know David there's a lot of people that liked what Chris was talking about but at the end of the day not everyone can be a farmer not everyone can have a farm and so, people are still searching for ways to respond to these problems in a way that they can actually do and we were curious what kind of things can we do as individuals to be a part of solutions for these problems and you know normally we talked about what can we do at the very end of these episodes. But because this show is so depressing this particular topic I think this is a good time to introduce in the middle of the show, someone who is having a direct impact to combat the sixth Extinction and perhaps provide a little bit of encouragement for something that we all can do in our lives and for that we turn to Atlanta resident Andrew White.
Our Gardens Daniel Forkner: [48:10] Andrew thanks for joining us.
Daniel Forkner: [48:12] Yeah sure thanks for inviting me.
Daniel Forkner: [48:14] Do you have a home in the Metro Atlanta area and in front yard you have a beautiful garden yes it's really nice lot. Blooming there are tomatoes growing in the spring you had some fruits can you tell us a bit about your garden I hear you have a dog in the background.
Daniel Forkner: [48:30] Yeah that's my sugar so she makes any noise. She said she likes to talk sometimes yeah I mean it got started you know as a personal project. A way to kind of combat the Suburban Lawns and shrubs that you see over most of suburban Atlanta I wanted to try and create something that would give everybody are not everybody. Everybody meeting all the insects and Little Critters a place to live. Open up my yard for a diversity of species 2.
Daniel Forkner: [49:05] Tell us a little bit about some of the insects and critters that visit your.
Daniel Forkner: [49:09] Yeah I select plan specifically for their ecological value as well as their ornamental value. One of the plants that I have is passiflora in Karnataka and it's more commonly known as the passion flower or maypop. Yes and. Be the only host plant for the gulf fritillary caterpillar so.
Daniel Forkner: [49:33] Turns into a butterfly.
Daniel Forkner: [49:36] Burglary is a is a butterfly and it's the only plant on which that butterfly can lay her eggs and produce Offspring it's only. And so it's always a joy to see you know that those plans I'm at and you know I've got milkweed for Monarch butterflies weave. Mountain mint which is just absolutely covered with all kinds of bees and wasps and surf it flies all kinds.
Daniel Forkner: [50:02] Yeah that's actually something that really stuck out to me so I grew up in Georgia and I remember as a kid seeing butterflies and bumblebees but growing up after while I guess I got I took them for granted I saw them less and less and walking through your garden I noticed. How many of these insights we are surrounded by and it's stuck out to me as being unusual I guess because I just got used to not seeing them around so. I mean you've got tons of bumble bees on your lavender plant you've got so many different kind of butterflies and that one plant you mentioned with all the different kinds of bees I mean it looks like a swarm just 20.
Daniel Forkner: [50:38] Yeah I think I I think a neighbor of mine must have a beehive in their backyard and it seems as though the entire Hive is over here just enjoying the mountain mint plant but yeah I mean you're not wrong it's definitely counter to the prevailing. You know a nice mon you know one species of turf grass lawn which you have to apply a lot of chemicals. And pesticides to keep it that way you know the kind of gas station plants I called them like like azaleas and nothing to talk about Native azaleas I'm talking about exotic. People put in their yard because that's what's available in the trade right now and that. Hardware store or grocery store there easily.
[51:29] That sell more native plants that aren't raised with us besides and things through local Plant Society.
Daniel Forkner: [51:40] So it's important to have made. And your yard right do you still have pollinators that visit your exotic plants the few that you do have.
Daniel Forkner: [51:49] Yes so you mention the lavender earlier laughing. Rite of Georgia but it does have value in terms of its nectar is a food source for he's not particular that you noticed. So there are some exotic ornamental plants that do have ecological value but but what's lacking is. People used to plant plants and they saw they sell value in plants is being pest free meaning that you didn't find caterpillars on them like chewing ugly holes in your. What that does is that it denies. The larval stages of the butterflies and things that you actually to want in your yard and so that leads to population Decline and it also leads to a decline in the number of flying insects which leads to a decline in the. Charismatic macro fauna like birds and bats and. Do want to have in their yard.
Daniel Forkner: [52:52] Yeah I guess it just occurred to me that you mentioned your garden is kind of an alternative to the very. Bland basic lawn that so many people have in their homes put in those same Lawns sometimes have bird feeders as a way to try to attract birds but I guess what you're saying is if you just have a better and more native to verse yard in the first. Plants that insects thrive on is going to track those birds very naturally.
Daniel Forkner: [53:16] That's right yeah I mean. Classic examples it would be Echinacea purpurea their seed head. On through the winter you know are actually. You'll see in my garden here over the winter months if you don't cut down at the other thing people do is they you know after the perennial plants have gone dormant they cut off all the old Foley. Put it in bags and rake up their leaves and stuff in the bags and they're all the way in. Ashes actually super important to the whole ecosystem like fallen leaves provide cover and forage for. Different leopard Opera select. Tunes will overwinter on those dead plants that most people cut down. MB and cut them back in the spring you could preserve a lot of different.
Daniel Forkner: [54:16] So you mentioned a lot. She's named it's clear you know a lot about gardening or seems like to me but one of the things that I find fascinating about your Gardens that you maintain this at the same time you have a full-time job you have an active social life like you have hobbies outside of this. Or someone out there who may like the idea of. Famous Native Garden that can attract these pieces but feels that it's something that they don't have enough time to do or they're not an expert in this what can you say to that person.
Daniel Forkner: [54:46] I can say I would just say that.
Daniel Forkner: [54:49] You spent on your God.
Daniel Forkner: [54:51] Maybe like I guess it depends on the week maybe like an hour a week most.
Daniel Forkner: [54:55] It's very low we spend more time mowing our yard.
Daniel Forkner: [54:59] Yeah that's true yeah I mean I guess it depends on your tolerance right for how messy you allow your garden to get. A messy Garden because a messy Garden to me means Garden that's full of life and I don't see it as messy I see it as as welcoming to variety of different species and so that it does seem like Americans are kind of. Assessed with creating an environment that's sterile and clean and needed a pen. Nothing out of place you know what if we just let go of that for a second and think differently about how we met. Escapes so that were providing. For all the Predators live you know I mean I mean I think it's important to understand that the wild creatures in our world have very.
[55:50] But they can live that's why I do everything to make my yard. Place that is welcoming of everything whether it's a garter snake or chipmunk or beetles or butterflies all kinds of bees even Yellow Jackets I don't bother. You know and it's all just part of a bigger picture right one of the things that people do in their yards that I think she should stop doing is spraying for mosquitoes. Yeah that's a huge problem because those pesticides that you spray on your lawn they don't just affect. This one species so if you're spraying for mosquitoes that same pesticide is going to kill other insects that you know that we rely on for things like food.
Daniel Forkner: [56:35] What about the mosquitoes themselves cuz this is something I've heard a lot of mosquitoes they don't have any ecologically value do you think there's truth to that or are they perhaps a food source for something that's very important.
Daniel Forkner: [56:46] Oh yeah they're they're absolutely at Ruth's Chris for all kinds of different animals or amphibians listen I mean it's all part of a bigger picture and if you start spraying pesticides to kill things like, Yellow Jackets are mosquitoes you're impacting all these other things that you may not even realize so a lot of things that people kind of you mentioned before Oh I used to see all these bees and butterflies but one of them. I've heard from a lot of people is that there used to be so many more fireflies around right there populations have really been decimated people don't see as many of. Stewie like when they were growing up and you know with each subsequent generation we kind of. The New Normal with what people can expect.
Daniel Forkner: [57:29] So I guess if you're growing up today you just think this lack of or whatever the the amount of insects or lady bugs or fireflies that you see you just think that's normal.
Daniel Forkner: [57:38] Right yeah but it's not it's it's a product of over application of pesticides over application of herbicides and. Riot like a native species this kind of devotion I guess to this aesthetic.
Daniel Forkner: [57:54] Sterile environment.
Daniel Forkner: [57:54] I'm right at the.
Daniel Forkner: [57:57] Anyone out there who wants to get into gardening little bit more are there any resources you could recommend to someone who's totally new to this.
Daniel Forkner: [58:05] Yeah the first thing I will say is that you should probably research there are probably need. Deities in your area that you can join you can go to a meeting I know here in Georgia they do. Excuse so they'll go to a site that's about to be developed and they'll go and they'll dig out all of the native plants that are growing there and bring them back and either sell them and an annual fundraising sale or they all put them in their own yard so organized. Would be a great way to get started me a group of like-minded people and it's so much fun to to like just learn about this kind of stuff. To see the results in your own yard. You've try one of these books the kind of the recognized Authority on this matter is Douglas tallamy and he has. Called bringing nature home which is a great resource for people who are interest. And understanding which plants attract which species of insects and pollinators and then the other one that I really like. But more recent. Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson and it's a more sharing the philosophy of creating a space that all of the creatures can live.
Daniel Forkner: [59:19] We can make both of them to the website so definitely check those books out we appreciate you coming on and I I think what we all should do is just be thinking about how we can. I realize what you said about that and having less of the sterile mindset I think are two very important mindsets we need going forward.
Daniel Forkner: [59:38] Yeah I do too and I and you don't need a lot of land to do it you don't need a lot of ground you can do it in a pot and a couple pots on your fire. Thanks for having.
Sounds: [59:52] It's a great interview Daniel I think I learned a lot from that.
History Of Lawns [59:56] But one thing I want to rant on just really quickly is Lawns like I really had this passion for hating on lawns May because I grew up in the suburbs and I really always hated mowing my lawn. So maybe it's like a residual sort of hatred but idea of a lawn is so ridiculous, and there's always two letters you can type into Google like history of long to finally tell lyrics histories of the lawn from Lawn Care websites from companies that grow like grass seeds and then she like that and then you talk about this like long amazing history about how the lawn change the world and made it a better place to be in. Let me offer quickly an alternate perspective of that.
David Torcivia: [1:00:31] Okay David I can see that you're you're hotly passionate about this lawn topic.
Sounds: [1:00:36] So I'm sorry I'm going to derail or Extinction episode from one second just a rant on lawns because I wanted to do an episode on lawns but I don't think I can drag it out quite that long but nobody wants to hear that's okay let me do this is really quick Lawns were never practical mowing that stuff is difficult especially without some sort of mechanical operation if you don't have the lawn mower mowing the lawn By Hand by site is a very labor-intensive process the other alternative is to have some sort of animal my goat or something trim your your lawn all the time that's also impractical doesn't look so good it's not even.
David Torcivia: [1:01:08] Real quick David I think before you continue for any of our listeners outside the United States perhaps we should clarify what a lawn is so you have a house and then you have several Acres or an acre half an acre or whatever it is in a subdivision, I just green grass no plans maybe you have a couple like up against the side of your house for decoration but the majority of your land, associated with your house is just a very short green grass that you cut down with a lawnmower every week so that it stays nice and pretty.
Sounds: [1:01:39] Just lines and lines of green grass is supposed to be in the south is often times brown grass by the end of summer because it's too hot, it's at the typical Suburban idea of an Olevia Loan website to point out part of the American dream. Originally the lawn the idea of the lawn does not come from the United States though the popularization of it probably did but instead rises from the kings of Europe, so these Dukes these kingsley's Lords in England and France especially especially with the debris Landscaping of Versailles they had so much money, and so much labor and we're so ridiculous with the way they buy these things they thought what is the most ridiculous way I can landscape, my property and of course a perfectly flat perfectly manicured very short amount of grass which was a novelty what the most ridiculous thing they could come up with and they're like of course this will show everyone how fabulously wealthy I am, and so the lawn was born, they would have their service out there with a scythe cutting it down every day that I mean imagine trying to cut your lawn with a site that is labor intensive and that highlights is how wealthy these before of constantly just teams mowing the salon all day every single day limited lawn Sports to go along with it because it wasn't just enough to have the laundry had to show it off to other people who have lawn Sports, limited polo bowling tennis whatever and introduce the lawn into popular arastoo Craddock Society.
[1:02:59] What's fast for a little bit in the 1830s some guy came up with the mechanical lawn mower which is a modified carpet cutter and that totally changed Lawns forever now people who couldn't afford teams of servants or didn't want goats running around from the yard all the time could keep a lawn and actually keep it short and trim like the way it's supposed to be to show up your fabulous well, the lawn me to jump from these are Socratic Lords in Europe in France to the United States because of the influences of namely two people Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who both in the construction fabulously largest states where they had huge teams of slaves able to keep these Estates trim and looking nice decided that they were also going to take this long because they handle is labor and space, and introduce Lawns did the United States and that's what happened to Monticello Mount Vernon or introduced to have Lawns because they had the slave labor capable of keeping a train and looking nice and to show off their fabulous wealth and their new nation.
David Torcivia: [1:03:57] New house new nation news.
Sounds: [1:04:00] Let me see the introduction of the idea of a lawn at the public space so people at the Olmsted brothers who famously designed Central Park Prospect Park here in New York as well as things like Piedmont Park down in Atlanta that unify us here Daniel they really introduced the idea of the public park and a huge component of these parts or large field of grass will people together for sports they could gather for just lounging around sitting around and this brought the idea of the lawn to people's mind as a public space.
[1:04:27] Set the time houses were designed in the United States in the tradition of the European style which was for privacy is friend are you have a small garden I'm in the backyard you would have a loan like area where you can recline to do whatever you wanted but people wanted to change that and they wanted their front yards become in this public space just like this all these parks it is really kicked off with the introduction of the automobile houses started to build farther back from the road and people would plant these of long green yard, because it was pretty from when you drive past it Danny gave their house some more welcoming field even though you were in a waldorf box so traditional you would have been able to reach out and say hey to your neighbor but not because you're driving by the long would make it look more welcoming at the time I think a garden out feels much more welcoming, ventolin but times change, so what where what happened World War II happened people shifted their lawns back to Gardens because they do the additional food because it was more responsible but then his GI start coming back from over everything changed with the development of the first two planned communities. This was the first subdivision I gave birth to the suburbs that cover most of this country today and there's nothing more iconic in the subdivisions in these planned communities in the small house the white picket fence and the green long between the two.
[1:05:39] The American dream got tied up with the idea of the well-kept Green Lawn, because the designers of these early communities realize that Lawns yes we're supposed to do with these very wealthy are Socratic people and if they could take this idea and it said Put it on the small houses for low-income blue collar worker can I give that impression of success, and we continue that to today everyone sitting out here in the suburbs like a fucking British Lords looking over there green grass praying and yelling at their neighbor because they didn't cut their grass now the crab grass is getting their front lawn like this is the community that we created Lawns I've seen more arguments over long that homeowner associations than anything else in the neighborhood this thing that's supposed to be this public space this thing that is like highlighted by the labor of how much work it is to keep looking clean, I mean it's crazy two huge waste of resources of waters west in places like Las Vegas in California and I think they look ridiculous too I mean I would much rather see Garden I'm getting way off topic I'm like really passionate about this but Lawns like I'm way off Daniel you got to bring me in here Lawns man.
David Torcivia: [1:06:43] Lawns and d-david I mean that's such a fascinating story to me, it's always so interesting to learn the origins of cultural habits and social norms that we take for granted now in in that context of learning about these things the mass extinction the loss of biodiversity, yeah now when I look at a lawn I see it as a completely ridiculous and wasteful thing, but maybe it it requires you to learn about the origins of the saying what's really going on too but had that perspective. There's something else to Andrew mentioned that really stuck out to me and that's how we become normalized to these things whether that's Lawns or,
Normalized To Catastrophe [1:07:21] weather is the loss of so many species I mean right now we are undergoing a mass extinction this is an exceedingly rare thing, be at the same time so much of us in this world are not aware of it we simply don't notice, and it makes you wonder how is it that such an enormous biodiversity losses and ecosystem collapse can go unnoticed and I think a large part of it is the insulating effects. Urban and Suburban life perhaps we just expect not to see as much Wildlife because we live in densely populated areas most of us anyway but in assuming that Wildlife still exist.
[1:07:58] Their we fail to notice that everything is being turned into either gray concrete or green concrete, and the wildlife that we think is still out there because we see it in books and we watch TV shows.
Sounds: [1:08:21] A real quick thing of this idea of normalization in one generation to the next not realizing how much things have changed or how I quickly how much that time when is being compressed changes are happening faster and faster so no longer is it jumping over Generations but just within our lives and I realized it was back to say 10 years ago, they were so many fireflies and now there's almost none and this is jump from being like Oh yeah my grandfather told me about how the past was like this is now just then when I was growing up here 15 years ago is totally different and that's like the acceleration of both this Extinction and also this climate change is occurring all around us.
David Torcivia: [1:08:56] We've talked about you know as kids we would see all these butterflies but now we don't this is something we're experiencing as it's happening within a single generation and, another example that comes from amphibians so let's leave the world of insects for a minute here David and enter the world of amphibians,
In Crisis: Amphibians [1:09:16] one of the most fascinating groups of species in perhaps the most tragic in modern time.
Sounds: [1:09:22] We don't think of frogs anything particularly notable on their cute they hop do they make a funny noise, what frogs are actually probably some of the greatest survivors in all of evolutionary history modern frogs come from ancestors that are over 400 million years old. And modern amphibian orders around the world started taking shape a quarter of a billion years ago since the breakup of Pangaea frogs have adapted to just about every single region and climate from deserts sushi rice, one scientist estimated at the natural background Extinction rate of amphibians to be around one species lost every 1,000 years or so but now researchers all over the world I wouldn't have seen Extinction station estimated 40, 5000 times higher than this natural selection process making amphibians one of the most endangered classes of animal on the planet. And at least where frogs are concerned almost all these Mass die-offs can explain by single fungus that is Top of the World on the backs of international trade especially exotic pet trade.
David Torcivia: [1:10:26] Speaking about becoming normalized I think the crisis that amphibians are going through right now was first discovered in the Panamanian rainforest where researchers who study frogs all their life went to Regions where in the past they would have trouble just walking without stepping on a frog that's how many there were, and right now if you try to find them well maybe you can find one if you're lucky in most places they've been completely wiped out and this is such a revealing example of how complicit we are, in this catastrophe highlights the absurdity of this argument that oh you know Extinction is just natural and it drives Evolution therefore we shouldn't care, amphibians play an important foundation or role in preserving many ecosystems and they have survived hundreds of millions of years even amidst other mass extinctions and yet here we are today. With large swaths of amphibian populations falling off the map in a heartbeat and it's largely due, to a fungus that we continue to spread because we want to buy exotic frogs from Asia, crucial species whose ancestors survived the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and four other mass extinctions, these are being forever lost because we want to buy a frog and put it in a cage is that really the Legacy that we as humans want to leave on this Earth.
[1:11:46] And I mean amphibians are so interesting and I do play Such important roles in ecosystems I mean you we talked about how parasites transfer nutrients from one species to the other, amphibians do this very importantly from the water to land a transfer these nutrients in this way they are extremely important Predators for many species we got a lot of medicines from amphibians frogs there such great survivors and they live in this Aquatic and very diverse ecosystems that they have developed the ability to resist many different pathogens is very difficult for things to penetrate their skin and we get a lot of medicines from that, salamanders and other amphibian species are really good at regenerating organs and limbs which might provide if we can hang on to them.
[1:12:36] List five species of frogs that can survive being completely Frozen in a block of ice that just stay there with all them out there Good2Go that's incredible, and a lot of this conversation has been about species that play important roles in ecosystems like in sex what are food sources for other species and one of the species higher up in the food chain that is being acutely impacted by these changes are birds.
In Crisis: Birds Sounds: [1:13:03] This one affects me more maybe because birds are more visible or beautiful to listen to or look at what the lost and bird life is really tragedy at me no more than any of the others but one that hits me harder, comprehensive fibroid study on the best-known bird species around the world was also done similar to the insect study this came out again. Just a few months ago and it found that Global bird populations. Obviously in crisis more than 40% of bird species around the world are declining. Biggest calls by far is of course once again industrial agriculture all the logging hunting development and of course the climate are very high on this list as well. If you look at all these things affecting this decline I mean logging hunting Velma these are all human related we can trace them all back to human activity. Whether it's snow melting in the Arctic affecting owls there the decline of Dubs in Sparrows because of farming the hunting of birds like Quail for luxury food or the impact of overfishing or pesticides and packing the creatures that these birds eat, we are indirectly or in some cases directly responsible for the deaths of his creatures.
David Torcivia: [1:14:13] In North America a 2016 report by the North American bird conservation initiative reveals that perhaps one third of all the bird species in North America are likely to disappear without intervention. 50% of all sea bird species.
[1:14:38] Fuel and rest during their migrations and deforestation coupled with climate change disrupt these migratory patterns, in addition modern agriculture disrupts grassland and other ecosystems that birds live in and it also kills insects which birds eat.
Sounds: [1:14:54] Another example in France especially in areas with this industrial Agriculture and especially the monoculture component of that birds are also just totally collapsing one migratory species saw a 70% decline in populations of more generalist species also saw huge amounts of lost on again these are concentrated primarily in the areas where this agriculture occurs is there anything that we need to do to support ourselves to survive is wiping out these ecosystems all around us because we're not doing any very responsible and conscious way.
David Torcivia: [1:15:24] At the beginning of this show we mentioned how much humans have reorganized life on Earth and that includes the animals that come with us, well those cute furry little pets that we bring along. Domestic cats exterminate an estimated 2 billion songbirds annually in the United States. But to really reveal how complex these factors are there's one great example not comes from Finland, changes in the climate have impacted both the timing of planting and harvesting crops but it has also affected the breeding times of certain bird species so typically, finish Farmers they would sell their fields and then because of the timing Birds would come into the fields and breed and set up these nests on the ground that they had their eggs but because of Shifting climate patterns different warming patterns the birds now do this nesting practice much early.
[1:16:30] These babies.
Sounds: [1:16:31] Like we need even another example but here is one anyway of Shetland which is a subarctic island or or an archipelago really up Scotland Northeast of Great Britain, I've been home for countless T-Birds for centuries 4000 of years it's a great stopping their migration patterns but it also provides a home and a refuge for many different species but now these birds are plummeting and numbers that many call. Apocalyptic decline during the Spring of 2000 the island had more than 33,000 puffins is like really cute penguin looking guys who can also fly last year that number, was down to just 570 and things aren't looking any better this year in the same time. The populations of Arctic terns have fallen from 9000 to just 110. So what's causing this, well the waters around this archipelago they warmed inhibiting the growth of Plankton which is it important food source for mini the marine animals that the birds didn't rely on as their food source, so what you getting into another example of how these ecosystems collapse when you work out the bottom everything is dependent and some point on this Plankton to grow and is plankton is dependent on the temperature of this water to exist, and when you change that one little Factor by just a couple of degrees the whole thing falls apart. The full picture is yet to be seen as there's no funding for this census for a couple of years but what is being carried out right now I should be complete by the end of 2019 and the researchers and and our hopes are not very high for this unfortunately.
[1:17:58] I mean we can go on and on and on with these examples very different type of species for every different type of animal I wait we haven't even touched on what's going on in the ocean I mean that is his whole other episode that would I will be coming, but the examples are just too numerous and they're overwhelming so instead of listing off all the different things that were wiping out I think it's time to get to the end of the show,
What Can We Do? [1:18:19] to reflect on all these topics that we discussed and it really drive home the point and ask ourselves what, can we do our time is running out like we met in the beginning of the show we about 20 to 30 years maybe less. Stop this we need to be acting now so what can we do.
David Torcivia: [1:18:37] These problems are big in scope and so we often think that the solutions need to be big as well, like in our episode on proposed technofix is for climate change we look for highly expensive major projects to solve our problems but as we see it is our Gail, that has created the conditions necessary for this mass extinction in the first place, it is the scale of our civilization is the expansion of our population it is our overconsumption it is driving the need for these industrial-scale agricultural Productions and so are solutions will necessarily have to be small, and local to combat this enormous impact that were having on the Earth, and I want to read something that comes from Wendell Berry it's not exactly related to this topic but it does kind of provide an alternative perspective to these ideas we have about progress and scale I thought you wrote this article titled a remarkable man in which you were views of biography on a man named Nate Shaw who is a small farmer and uneducated black man who was imprisoned by racist white Society, and in this essay Wendell berries talking about what kind of man named Sean might have been if you have been integrated into modern education and he says quotes.
[1:19:59] I'm aware that such a man is Nate Shaw stand outside the notice much less the aim of the.
[1:20:14] Has long been a contradiction in terms and so of course our school systems can hardly be set to tolerate any such possibility, the purpose of Education with us like the purpose of society with us has been and is to get away from the small Farm indeed from the small everything, the purpose of education has been to prepare people to quote. Their places in quote in an industrial society the Assumption being that all small economic units.
[1:21:10] Idea that progress is moving from small to big that what we should strive for is being on top. I think Wendell Berry makes a good point that what we end up doing is just kicking a lot of things in the face and in the context of this show that means that we are kicking in the face those species that make up our world. To provide beauty that provide services that provide functions that provide a way for life to go forward and so in the end we're really kicking ourselves in the face and One Way Forward is to get away.
[1:21:52] Which is something that is responsible to the ecosystems that we depend on.
Sounds: [1:21:57] Can I just start with what I'm going to say by asking what the fuck are we doing. Tell me that there's so many facts and events and stories that we left out of this episode just because it's overwhelming this too much. The sheer amount of Destruction that we commit every single year on this Earth is my boss. Master loan for example we cut down 80% the size of Germany in terms of trees that's a huge amount of habitat and the creatures that depended on those trees to survive. Do this every single year every single minute 40 football fields of trees are cut down 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
[1:22:51] Is overwhelming and for what. Like what you come you can justify these things to say well we need to help the people who don't have an extended living we need to deport these resources there, but the vast majority of the energy and the resources that we pull out of this Earth aren't going to the people who needed the most but they're going to a small select group of us with I myself am definitely included within which most of those of us listen to this episode by the sheer nature of being able to tune in we don't need it anymore. So why are we still taking I don't know what a balanced world looks like. But the fact of the matter is the system worked well before we came in here and look it up and pulled all this energy out built our world wide civilization it was balanced, it found its way and it was growing developing and moving a new directions, whatever that is I. I purposefully don't say forward I don't see progress but it was just developing evolving until we came in and stepped in move this aside I don't know. Pat forde looks like I just know that it doesn't look like this.
[1:23:57] I had a conversation recently with a friend where we were talking about truth what is truth capital T. Something that we can all Point even say yes this is the universal experience of Truth. And how it's impossible to Define you can explain it you can't Define it you can't tell somebody what it is but you can feel it you can point the things and say I don't know what truth is but I know it's not bad. And that's how I feel about our world today. I did look at the struction as I stand here on the precipice of the sixth mass extinction of a geologic time period defined by the devastation of humanity the anthropocene. At the wonder what is truth what is the path for that is sustainable that is reasonable for us as a society. And I think just like taking a block of marble chipping away parts to find this statue of the sculpture the Peace of our to wonder inside is what we need to do to ourselves now. We build too much our progress is gone too far too big too quickly and we can't keep up and the world is dying because of this we've killed the world. Unless we act right now to chip away the parts that we don't need to find that truth of survival then we're doing not only these endangered populations we're doing not only the climate ultimately we're doing our civilization. Our society and culture and even our self.
David Torcivia: [1:25:20] As was pointed out in that interview with Andrew White we can all s jewing the very sterile.
[1:25:34] Environment that are welcoming to all is perhaps a better mindset going forward and unrelated the as we face this crisis going forward of refugees and people displaced from their homes all over the world. Maybe we should also extend this welcoming mindsets not just our insect and Critter friends but also our fellow human beings also we touched. On this idea and our episode last week about intellectual property much of the academic world and the world of research has been turned into a private Market where research is locked behind intellectual property protection that can only be accessed through huge fees or otherwise completely inaccessible to the general public and one consequence of this control of research is that much of the most important research we need is simply never carried out. Because it doesn't attract the necessary grants and funding. Studying the effects of a drug that might impact the prophets of the livestock industry attracts funding a long-term study on the cause of insect decline not so much we need to open up this Ivory Tower to the public. Let me read a quote real quick related to that German study that we mention David where one of the researchers said quote this alarming discovery made by mostly amateur naturalist raised an obvious question was this happening elsewhere. Unfortunately. Question is hard to answer because of another problem a global decline of field naturalist who study these phenomena and quote.
Sounds: [1:27:03] So yeah I mean eliminating these gross profit incentives diverse native species in our land ripping up our lungs which I don't need to get into again I can feel my blood Rising, but I mean just like look at our world and stop and say this is ridiculous we're causing a mass extinction this is something that asteroids do that wipes out life on Earth, we need to consume less we need to eat more responsibly that means vegetarian for almost all of us we need to get rid of these gross profit incentives that prevent people who are wanting to help from being able to do the research and identify these problems that were facing. And we need to do all this yesterday we have just decades in order to stop this from happening ever many species like 200 like these Caribou in the United States it's too late the time for them it's past. But instead of looking at them and using them as examples and say this is the future that we're going to see we can set point of the misses these were warnings and we learn from them. And because of their sacrifice we learn from the mistakes that we made that ended up wiping them out but we did something about it. Which of the stand we need to change we consume to less, we change how we interact with a world with each other we dissolve the amount of culture industrial agriculture complex that is threatening us from so many different angles not just in terms of this Extinction but in terms of our arable land, in terms of our own health from the crops and foods that we eat instead we turn and said this world is out of control it's crazy and we're going to do something about it.
[1:28:29] For us individually maybe it's impractical to take a stand where you can talk to other people you can pass this knowledge on after education we can get enough that take a stand that stop and say okay ready to act. Ready to save.
David Torcivia: [1:28:45] With that David I think this is a good place to end.
Sounds: [1:28:48] If you want to read more about many of these extinctions to find facts on these to share with friends family or people that you think should know you can do all of that swells find a full transcript of this episode on our website at ashes ashes. Org.
David Torcivia: [1:29:03] A lot of time and research goes into making these shows possible and we will never use ads to support this show so if you appreciate it and would like us to keep going.
[1:29:29] And we do appreciate them.
Sounds: [1:29:31] You can also find it on your favorite social media Network at ashes ashes cast next week we're taking a break from this heavy environmental talk to turn back to ourselves and take a look online we hope you'll tune in for that but until then this is ashes ashes.