"Scientists tell us that if the problem of dead zones is not
addressed, it will intensify in the coming years. The combined
impacts of excess nutrients, global warming, oil spills, and other
environmental stresses will ensure that dead zones around the world
become larger and last longer. Marine species, food sources for
people and animals, and local economies face the risk of total
devastation. However, the general public and most politicians do not
see the urgent need to tackle the problem."
Probably this lack is not from the evil of people and most
politicians, but from the fact that we're talking about a real world
complex subject, one that can be difficult for many of us
(particularly those of us who weren't all that great in chemistry) to
wrap our minds around. Somehow the farming practices of the Corn Belt
wreak havoc on the Gulf of Mexico and its inhabitants who harvest
seafood for a living. Fortunately in her Dead Zones: Why Earth's
Waters Are Losing Oxygen, Carol Hand (author of the quote above)
explains eutrophication in terms that students and chemistry
challenged mom's can understand.
This deceptively slim book explains about the varying needs of
aquatic life for oxygen, the ways in which excess nutrients from
sources such as fertilizer and manure runoff cause algae in bodies of
water to multiply too quickly, and the process by which this leads to
hypoxic (low or no oxygen) zones incapable of sustaining life. In the
obligatory what we can do chapter Hand is cautiously optimistic.
Better farming practices can lead to less nutrient run off.
Protective wetlands can be restored. Sewer systems can be upgraded.
However, corrective actions can be expensive and big farm state
businesses can exert a lot of pressure for inertia on their members of
Dead Zones can be inspiring for STEM educators. It can hold a
key to making science relevant for some of the kids who would
otherwise consider it seat time to get out of the way. A lot of kids
whose parents harvest fish or crustaceans are very motivated to follow
in their footsteps. They might become highly skilled researchers,
especially if they get out of the classroom and into the field, if
they see that the traditional way of life they cherish is endangered.
On a personal note, I am glad my younger daughter and her boyfriend
had a great vaca and safe air travel. I really enjoyed baking
chocolate chip cookies to send down to them last night.
A great big shout out goes out to Katie, Jacob, and their friendly,
fluffy feline, Archie. You're simply the best!
Sent from my iPod