Evolution & Climate Change


(Originally posted 3/9/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Climate change, now, more than ever, is quite a hot topic, pardon the pun, if you will. Some people think we shouldn’t be so grave and serious about the contributions mankind’s industrialization makes to the Earth’s carbon budget. Climate change naysayers say concerned scientists are simply trying to rally support to fund their research with fear-mongering tactics. They claim that well-meaning citizens are responding with emotions rather than really examining the facts. They claim that the Earth goes through climate change cycles on a regular basis. They say this is just the normal way of nature. They also claim that pollution is really not that big of a deal because the Earth, like any living organism, is capable of adaptation as a survival instinct. This would mean that the Earth would simply “clean herself up”. 


Is such a perspective true? To find out let’s take a look at one of the all-time worst environmental disasters, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. It’s been 30 years since a Ukrainian nuclear plant melted down and contaminated a 1,000 square mile area in Eastern Europe with high levels of deadly radiation. Medical experts and scientists expect it will be close to 20,000 years before humans can safely inhabit the area. Journalists and researchers can only visit for very brief periods or else risk exposure to a lethal dose of radiation. Yet, still, hundreds of people, mostly old folks who are unable or unwilling to relocate, survive in nearby villages, although there are very high rates of deadly forms of cancer. 


But what about the local flora and fauna? How well has the Earth done at surviving and cleaning itself up? How is nature faring in that neck of the polluted woods? Is it a wasteland of scorched earth and fried animal remains? Are there glowing rabbits and three-headed wolverines? Have talking plants begun to grow?


Well, within the most immediate radius of the nuclear plant’s site, about 10-15 miles out, it is considered by scientists to be a “clean zone”. No, that doesn’t mean it’s clean of pollution or ill effects. It means clean of practically all life as we know it. But go a bit further and you find a radioactive region teeming with wildlife who is enjoying life unmolested in an area uninhabited by man. 


You may have always wondered if the joke about cockroaches being the only thing to survive a nuclear holocaust is true. It is. In fact, insects seem to have superpowers when it comes to radioactive disasters. And because the bugs survive and thrive, the birds do as well! And so on, and so on down the wildlife food chain. Mankind may one day disappear, leaving behind the bugs and birds and mammals to rule the world.


However, judging from the spider-webs, it seems that bugs may suffer cognitively. Webs of affected spiders show erratic patterns that deviate significantly from their uncontaminated counterparts. So, a post-climate change world bereft of man, may be overrun by insane insects, mutant birds and an abundance of fat mammals.


Wolves have always been synonymous with Eastern Europe. That is probably why they were selected to be studied by biologists to see what their radioactive survival story is. What has been discovered is that wolves are thriving. That can only mean there are plenty of other large and medium sized mammals for them to prey upon. Wild Przewalski’s horses are recovering even though they are considered a rare and endangered species. Beavers are happily gnawing away at the wild forest growth. Bears forage happily and wolves are always looking on for an opportunity at a good meal.


Researchers are recording things like high rates of cataracts, higher occurrences of albinism, and curious physical mutations. However, despite these ill effects, the overall report from scientists and researchers is that, considering the devastation of a nuclear disaster, the wildlife actually seems to be rebounding and doing well. So well, in fact, that around Chernobyl a greater concentration of wolves can be found as compared to Yellowstone National Park!


What does that mean? Should we stop fussing about climate change? The gringa supposes we could if we don’t mind the humans of tomorrow looking very different than the humans of today. Here are some of the theorized adaptations that might happen to humans who evolve in order to survive the rising temperatures of climate change and effects of more solar radiation trapped within our atmosphere:

  • We get shorter and skinnier. Decreasing mass while maximizing surface area makes us more efficient at venting heat.
  • Our eyes grow larger because we become nocturnal, active during the cooler period when the sun is down.
  • Babies have lower birth weight because we engage in less exercise thus require fewer calories.

If the world is over-radiated, humans will need to avoid contamination. They have to avoid more than just exposure to invisible radiation in the air. Radiation is also passed through the food chain. That means more than just avoiding eating vegetables that have grown in over-radiated soil. It also means not eating any meat from an animal that may have fed upon animals or plants that were contaminated somewhere along their own natural food chain. This limitation on the human diet would contract our dietary options which would also result in a “skinnification” of mankind.

Funny thing is the gringa is already pretty skinny and does have rather large eyes. Maybe it’s already happening and the gringa is well on her way to transforming into a new human species! Our generation could be what scientists call, thousands of years from now, the “missing link” or a “bridge species” between the humans of yesterday and the humans of tomorrow!


Sources & Video Credit: 


National Geographic


New York Times


The Atlantic


Mental Floss

Documentary/Documentaries HD


Image Credit: NBC News

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Read With The Gringa “The Mitten”


This precious story, retold by Alvin Tresselt, is based on a Ukranian folktale. It is full of charming woodland creatures all seeking warmth and friendship as they escape the chill of winter.

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Image source: http://www.harperscollinschildrens.com

 

There’s A Reason It’s Called The INTERNATIONAL Space Station


In December, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra will be on his way to the International Space Station. He will launch from Russia on a Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday morning, December 15, 2015, at 6:03 am EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Joining him will be Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Tim Peak (European Space Agency).  Kopra has been training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center that is located at Star City, Russia. Next Tuesday, November 24, from 7-8 am EST, live satellite interviews will be held with Kopra at the training center. Information on satellite tuning to watch the live interview can be found at http://go.nasa.gov/1pOWUhR

Kopra, who is a West Point graduate and holds multiple master’s degrees, is no rookie. On his first mission in 2009  he served as flight engineer. During that sixty day mission he performed a five and a half hour spacewalk. Throughout his military and aerospace career he has earned multiple awards such as the Silver and Bronze Order of Saint Michael, Army Aviation award, the Legion of Merit award, a Bronze Star, a NASA Space Flight medal and a NASA Distinguished Service medal, just to name a handful of his many medals. He has served as an aviator in the Army as well as an aeroscout platoon leader, troop executive officer and squadron adjutant. These are just a few of his military leadership accomplishments. He became an astronaut in 2000 and performed his first mission in 2009. Kopra has completed training in Russia, Japan, Germany and Canada at their respective space agency’s training facilities. He has completed multiple previous missions and on this one he will serve under Scott Kelly who is active commander. However, the next mission, Expedition 47, Kopra will serve as commander.

Malenchenko was born in Ukraine in 1961. He is a graduate of Kharkov Military Aviation School and Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. During his service in the Soviet Armed Forces some of the distinctions he earned were the Hero of the Russian Federation medal, National Hero of Kazakhstan medal, Military award of excellence, three Meritorious Service medals, a Commendation medal, Achievement medal, and the “70 years of the Soviet Armed Forces” medal. He has worked as a pilot and flight leader and became a cosmonaut in 1987. After rigorous years of training he completed his first spaceflight mission in 1994. He performed two spacewalks and performed the first manual docking of the Mir station with the Progress M-24 vehicle. As during his military career, he has continued to serve Russia’s space agency, making his country proud as an accomplished cosmonaut on the numerous missions he has led. His accomplishments are simply too numerous to recount all.

Peake was born in England in 1972. He is married and the father of two sons. A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, he served as an officer in the British Army Air Corps. He has been a test pilot and was awarded the Westland Trophy in his performance as a rotary wing pilot student. In 2006 he also was awarded the Commander-in-Chief’s Certificate for Meritorious Service for exemplary and dedicated service to the British Army. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in flight dynamics in 2006 and puts his knowledge to good use as an astronaut now.  In the past he has also participated in environmental projects in Alaska, served as a Platoon Commander, an instructor in Combat Survival and Rescue, a helicopter flight instructor, and is a Flight Safety Officer, just to list a few of his accomplishments. He became an astronaut in 2009. His participation in Expedition 46 will mark not only his first off-world mission but also the first British astronaut at the ISS. This will, indeed, be an historic moment for the United Kingdom as well as the International Space Station.

When Kopra and the rest of the crew arrive at the ISS in December, they will be joining NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov who will be, at that time, nine months into their twelve month mission.  And, if the dear reader is as curious as the gringa, you’ll want to know what the heck Rocosmos is. Well that’s what the Russian Federal Space Agency is commonly called. The gringa thinks it’s a cool name. I think I’ll name one of my birds Rocosmos. But, I digress…

The arrival of Kopra, Malenchenko  and Peake will create an entire complement of a six man crew for Expedition 46. Their mission is to continue the hundreds of experiments that are underway at the ISS. The ISS is mankind’s only orbiting laboratory. It conducts research and experiments in biotechnology, biology, Earth science and physical science.  Their mission will be completed in June after Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake begin their return trip to Earth in May. The progress of Expedition 46 can be followed on Instagram at http://instagram.com/iss.

The gringa cannot help but be impressed with the leadership abilities of these astronauts and cosmonauts. I am equally impressed and proud of international cooperation that has been going on for years and is strong, growing, and becoming ever more inclusive. When we nations start bickering, we really need to step back and consider that there is an international group of men and women working their tails off and enduring the sacrifice of months and years without their loved ones as they float around this earth. As they conduct their missions trying to develop technologies to save mankind from disease and the self-destructive path we are on destroying our home world, we really should respect their example and get along better.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov

Photo credit:  www.space.com