Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bats Are Inexplicably Dying at Rapid Rates, and I'm Terrified

Things like this simply scare the living bejeezus out of me. For reasons that remain totally unclear, bats are dying off in upstate New York in astronomical numbers. Scientists don't even know why - whether it's climate, pesticide, bacteria, fungus, virus, or something else. Species that were already endangered are facing extinction, as are species that were healthy previous to this.

I probably read too much Philip K. Dick (explanation will follow), but it's this kind of thing that really makes me fear for humans. People worry about icecaps melting and things like hurricanes, tornados, colder winters, less water, etc. causing severe harm to humans, and I admit that may be a bit frightening. What terrifies me, though, is the reduction or loss of a species (or multiple species) that throw the living ecosystems so far out of whack that humans have no way or time to recover before catastrophe. I find the fact that the scientists still haven't figured out what the problem is to be very disconcerting, both because species are at risk here, and because the loss of said species could have profound effects we haven't really considered. In some ways, whether the bats are dying because of disease or because of the consequences of human activity (global warming or pesticides) is irrelevant. If this problem doesn't get solved (and it may not - we tend to think we're more capable of things than we sometimes really are), this could be really bad.

(The Philip K. Dick thinking comes in in that a lot of his works deal with time travel and how just one small factor can change everything. While this isn't time travel, thanks to Dick's work, stories like this immediately make me fearful that the seemingly innocuous sickness of bats leads to greater insect numbers, and these insects happen to get some new disease that they transmit to humans, and presto changeo, we're done for. Paranoid? Probably. Dramatic? Certainly. But it's shit like that that terrifiese me about global warming. What delicate balance will be thrown totally out of sync, and what will the results be?).