Calling attention to the clear and present dangers to the environment that have been stoking over the past eight months is not one of the pleasant nature-writing tasks. The aggravation is much harder to take than looking off into the woods behind the house and pretending it’s all happening somewhere else.

The trouble is, it’s not happening somewhere else. This is the Earth, right here.

The lobster fishery has basically crashed off New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts’ south shore. It’s unprecedentedly booming in Maine this summer, kind of like the stock market — while everyone else founders, our guys get rich. Good for them, since unlike hedge fund managers, they are not stealing anything.

On the other hand, the temperature of the water in the Gulf of Maine is rising faster than almost all other ocean waters in the world. The warmer the water is, the more difficulty lobster larvae have developing. It’s one of the main contributors to the crash southwest of us. Recent studies off Maine’s coast indicate an alarming scarcity of lobster larvae. Virtually all the science on the subject indicates human activities are stoking the warming. You figure out what might be in store here over the next few decades, or years, if we keep acting like we’re not responsible for what’s happening.

As long as our current president remains in office, irresponsibility is going to be the guiding principle. He’s a guy who suggests to Boy Scouts their life ambition should be to own a yacht where they can hold offshore debaucheries; who bragged about groping women; who fabricates demonstrable falsehoods practically daily; who publicly trashes war heroes; who denigrates people he also claims supported him (e.g., that “drug-infested den” New Hampshire); and who — along with Gov. Paul LePage — defends Nazis and their friends. And for an example of his sense of responsibility to the Earth, he called the clean water rule “horrible.”

Come on. This is moral squalor. It’s going to shipwreck us in any number of ways, not least through rising seas, polluted rivers and smog-ridden air. Unless we attend to it.


To attend to it, you have to know what’s actually happening. So here’s your occasional update on some of this summer’s climate-endangerment news:

• In August, President Donald Trump disbanded the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. One of their jobs was to review the Climate Science Special Report, currently under review by the administration.

• The report, required by the 1990 Global Change Research Act, finds it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the rise in temperature over the past four decades is a result of human activity; says an increase in ocean acidification is “unparalleled in at least the past 66 million years”; and dismisses the alternative notion that there has been a recent pause in global warming. Among many other inconvenient facts.

• In March, EPA Director Scott Pruitt rejected a 10-year-old petition asking the EPA to ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in big agriculture. In 2000, chlorpyrifos was banned for most household uses because kids’ exposure to it increases the risk of learning disabilities.

• The Union of Concerned Scientists in July issued a report stating that Trump’s administration since January “has waged a war on science — undermining the role of science in public policy, giving industry undue influence on decision-making processes, creating a hostile environment for federal scientists, and reducing public access to scientific information.”

• Maine native and climate scientist Joel Clement wrote that he believes he was removed as director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the U.S. Interior Department and reassigned to an accounting office in retaliation for speaking out about the dangers of climate change to Native American communities in Alaska.


• The new official charged with vetting EPA grants, John Konkus, who was a Trump campaign aide with little knowledge of environmental matters, “repeatedly has instructed grant officers to eliminate references” to climate change in solicitations and has already canceled nearly $2 million in funding for environmental projects.

• This summer the Interior Department went out of its way to try to prevent Mark Zuckerberg from taking a tour of Glacier National Park to get a firsthand look at melting glaciers. Apparently it seemed too much like an endorsement of the fact that the climate is changing.

• The United Nations Environment Program estimates that eight of the 18 glaciers that used to cover Mount Kenya’s summit have disappeared. The largest glacier on the mountain has decreased by 90 percent in volume since 1934, with the highest rates of decrease in the last 20 years. Water sources and farming in Kenya are directly affected.

• Some of Peru’s high-altitude glaciers have lost more than 90 percent of their mass. Millions of people depend on their runoff for water, food and hydroelectricity. Meltwater is forming huge lakes that eventually will collapse natural barriers, releasing floods.

• In July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the climate-warming influence of greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly in 2016 than it has in nearly three decades.

• In July, one of the largest icebergs in history broke loose from Antarctica. If the Larsen C ice shelf is destabilized as a result, which is possible, the ice barrier holding Antarctic glaciers could crumble, allowing them to melt into the ocean and raise sea levels. Scientists do not have definitive proof that the break was a result of global warming. But some suspect so.


• In July, the recurring summer dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico reached the largest size ever recorded. The appearance of the dead zone is linked to pollutant runoff from the Mississippi River basin. Unusually heavy spring rain probably contributed to the problem this summer.

• Heat records fell in the Northwest this summer. The temperature in Seattle topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit for only the third time in recorded history. The second time was in 2009.

• Death Valley, California, averaged 107.4 degrees in July, the hottest month ever recorded in the U.S.

• The hottest month ever recorded on Earth was August 2014, at 107.44 in King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia.

• The hottest day ever recorded on Earth was either 134 at Death Valley on July 10, 1913; or 136 at El Azizia, Libya, on Sept. 13, 1922; or 129 in Mitribah, Kuwait, on July 21, 2016.

Bright side:


• Some meteorological experts believe the Death Valley and Libya readings were errors. They are scientists taking responsibility for their citizenship on Earth.

• When the EPA announced plans Aug. 1 to delay new regulations on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes, 16 state attorneys general, including Janet Mills of Maine, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the delay.

• On Aug. 2, the EPA withdrew the plans.

• On July 3, a federal appeals court ruled the EPA cannot suspend a rule to restrict methane emissions from new oil and gas wells.

• This summer the city of Belfast passed an ordinance to sharply restrict the use of plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam containers. Why this is constructive: Estimate how many plastic bags, on average, you get from grocery stores, take home, unload, and throw in the trash in one week; multiply that by 52, for one year’s worth of bags; then multiply that by — for a round number of people in the world following roughly the same shopping routines as you — 500 million; then multiply that by 10, for a rough estimate of the number of plastic bags used and discarded in the past 10 years. All those shopping bags still exist. Where are they? Belfast’s ordinance will take effect next year.

• If other government leaders adopt consciences similar to the Belfast City Council and Janet Mills, there’s hope for your backyard.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at His recent book is “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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