It's the nature of our species, when confronted with the risk of disaster, to do nothing and to wait.
Reminded constantly that we're astride a dodgy fault between straining plates, we neglect to stock emergency rations and supplies. When the waters recede, we rebuild on a floodplain.
We've been reminded lately how vital phytoplankton species are to the other species, including us, farther out in the food web, and that our warming world distresses them.
Still, we do nothing. And if some daring souls try, with whatever motivation, to make them thrive that so many other species may thrive, they're scorned, insulted and threatened.
Russ George and the Haida of Old Massett are so abused because they dared to "fertilize" the ocean with iron sulphate to stimulate blooms of phytoplankton to feed declining salmon stocks. They also dared hope that they would earn from someone carbon credits because, as is widely believed, the tiny vegetables gulp carbon and carry it to the ocean bottom when they die.
Not many of us knew about phytoplankton until this ingenious effort at salmon enhancement. We know, now, that they're the lungs of our tubercular earth.
But, as in so many other fields of medicine, there are approved practices and practices that are not approved.
What George did off Haida Gwaii has been denounced by the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization and is under investigation by what's left of Environment Canada, while less-daring scientists predict Armageddon if this sort of thing is allowed to go on.
Now George has to contend with Paul Watson, the will-o'-the-wisp personification of Sea Shepherd, who has declared George "has to be stopped" and says he's the one who'll do it.
Watson has gone to sea, somewhere, after jumping bail in Germany to avoid extradition for charges related to an encounter with a shark-finning ship off Costa Rica in 2002.
He'll return to dry land, he says, after he has driven off Japanese whalers in the Pacific.
Like a lot of us, Watson is impressed by whales. I haven't seen people with binoculars watching phytoplankton spyhopping or phyting, or whatever they do.
Whales gobble up a lot of plankton. You'd think Watson would support any effort to improve their lot instead of posturing like a tharsheblowshard.
Scientists who have studied these microscopic organisms say they need a lot more than iron to bloom healthily. They need copper, too, but that doesn't mean lacing the sea with ground-up pennies is going to do them any good.
What they really need is sunlight for photosynthesis and ideal water temperatures. There's plenty of sun in the tropics, but the warming ocean temperatures there are making things too hot for them.
Whether they can adapt over time, no one knows yet. If they can't, says a Michigan State University study, up to one-third of tropical phytoplankton could be pushed out toward the poles or disappear by 2100.
That would be a significant lunchbox letdown for other species in that part of the world. It would also decrease the uptake of CO2, trapping heat and accelerating climate change.
In the North Atlantic, it's been found that blooms are caused not by warming of the ocean surface in springtime, but by eddies moving water south and north, down to the depths and up to the surface.
It seems that the increasing stratification of the oceans - warm surfaces and cold depths - is denying the surface-dwelling phytoplankton the nutrients they need from deeper, cooler water.
Ocean thermal-energy conversion has been touted for some time as a way to counter stratification by circulating water through pipes taking advantage of the differences in ocean temperature.
But it has always been promoted as a way to make a heat engine to create a constant supply of electricity, water for agriculture or cooling buildings - anything to make a profit. The U.S. government was promoting research into OTEC until dropping oil prices made people lose interest in alternative energy.
We know, now, that there's a risk of another disaster. And we're told to do nothing and wait - to see if nature will adapt to the greed and follies of humankind.
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