Life on this blue planet first emerged as a gooey gelatinous slime some 3 billion years ago.
The 2.5 billion year reign of the bacteria had a long run before they allowed the time of green plants and their oxygen breathing spawn to emerge.
The deal with our bacterial landlords was they would deign to allow our more complicated life to evolve and move in so long as we didn’t trash the place. If we did they’d evict the rowdy party animals and allow only the quiet ones to remain.
But we just might have one last chance to make things right.
Uh oh, it seems the landlord is banging at the door of our 100 year-long fossil fueled frat party with a stinging eviction notice. Someone find out who has the lease on this place and see if they can apologize and buy us some more time.
UPDATE: 4th of July 2016 Florida’s prized beaches are covered in green slime.
Unfortunately the landlord has brought a swat team of Jelly Police with their stinging Tasers drawn and it looks like anything big enough to sting is going to suffer some serious pain.
Lisa-ann Gershwin, scientist and author of the apocalyptic 2013 book Stung! is very worried that we have already passed the proverbial tipping point and that it is now inevitable that the oceans are being taken back by “lower life forms” armed with stinging tasers.
“When I started writing the book, I thought it was all still salvageable,” Gershwin says.
We might still have some control over how fast we let it all get away from us, but it is unlikely we can avoid the jellyfish sting now even if we wanted to, and clearly no one is doing anything about the cataclysmic changes we have wrought upon ocean ecology.
Gershwin says jellyfish “ruled” the ancient Precambrian world because “they were the first one on the scene. We didn’t have fish (or) complex ecosystems; we didn’t have humans doing the things we do. They’re ruling the world now because they’re the last one on the scene.”
Jellyfish are expanding their presence around the world. Beach goes are discovering that ignoring these bits of Mother Nature is done at their peril. Encounters with the stinging ocean jellys is usually painful and can easily be deadly.
Even large industrial installations have been finding jellies routinely clog their ocean water intakes shutting down vast power plants needed to electrify our cities when they lose cooling water. Nuclear plants in Japan, Sweden, Israel, India and Scotland have all been shutdown by jellies plugging their cooling systems.
In 1999, jellyfish cut power to a reported 40 million Filipinos when they plugged the cooling seawater for a coal-fired power plant near Manila. “They thought there was a terrorist coup going on,” says Kylie Pitt, a marine ecologist with Griffith University in Brisbane.
In 2006, jellyfish achieved what cruise missiles, seabed mines, Russian Akula’s and anti-nuclear protesters are said to be unable to do — incapacitating the largest nuclear-powered & armed warship on this blue planet. The massive $5 billion dollar USS Ronald Reagan, battled for days against jellyfish that had laid siege on its vital reactor cooling system while the ship was near Australia. It was touch and go as the ship foundered helpless at the mercy of the Jellyfish navy.
Jellyfish might seem like brainless drifting ugly bags of mostly water and goo but in fact they appear to have remarkable abilities. Far from being helpless and at the mercy of currents new research shows they have an uncanny and unexplainable ability to know their precise position, orientation, and are able to plan their course and speed. This new observation comes from a team that tagged jellyfish with GPS devices and followed their every move of the course of weeks. The research showed jellies acting as a collective whole with the ability to sense their environment and make sentient-like decisions about what best to do next.
What is happening in the ocean ecosystem that is promoting the return to dominance of the gooey gelatinous slime variety of life?
Jellyfish blooms are now becoming commonplace sometimes the blooms cover tens of thousands of square kilometers of ocean. They are able to do so because life in the ocean has been dramatically changing in response to conditions that favours less complicated life.
The bacteria and their closest kin are taking back the place from so-called ‘higher life’ forms. The mechanism is very clear as ocean primary productivity has been crushed life in formerly lush ocean pastures and is reduced to but a remnant of its former glorious abundance and biodiversity. First to go have been the green plants, the phyto-plankton, the very foundation of higher life that first filled the air of the earth with oxygen and still do though in a declining measure.
Our effusive and abusive CO2 emissions are the cause of this demise of ocean green as those emissions have raised the CO2 content of the air by 40+% since the beginning of the fossil fuel age. Green plants on land love that additional CO2 and everywhere on the planet there is a dramatic global greening. That global greening is growing more and bushier plants that cover the earth, as in becoming good “ground cover.” Precious top soils are being conserved and productivity of pastoral lands is skyrocketing. See this story on the Great Green Walls of China and Africa going up. Couldn’t be better…. right…. wrong!
Tragically more grass growing means less dust blowing. And ocean pastures home to the vital phyto-plankton of the oceans are turning into lifeless blue deserts.
Feeling blue… here’s the good news.
Replenishing and restoring ocean pastures is what is needed. Give dust back to the ocean without delay. Bring back the plankton blooms to those ocean pastures, bring back the fish, the seabirds, all of ocean life. And the means to do so is immediately at hand, affordable, and will promptly clean up the place. I know this works as I have replenished and restored just such an ocean pasture, 50,000 km2 in the NE Pacific. IT JUST WORKS.
If we do more perhaps the landlord will let us stay. We can even hold dinner parties to feed the world’s hungry with billions of additional pasture fed fish.
Read more about how all it takes is the very least you might possibly give… just a penny for our planet.