Water Closet for May 5, 2016
[pullquote]”Imagine being little and low to the ground, traveling at night and suddenly coming upon a flat, plant-free plain with blinding lights from seeming mountains rushing by”.[/pullquote] Last week after two very warm days for Spring, flowers and leaves burst from long swelling buds into a broad spectrum of muted colors that now grace our trees and bushes. Lawns have turned bright green. Even animals with the body temperatures of their surroundings, who used to be incorrectly called “cold blooded,” are on the move. They go forth for mates, food and water, moving to ancient rhythms in space and time. In areas where people live or pass through, they come upon wide roads with speeding traffic and bright lights that their senses can’t account for. The hurling vehicles are huge; even a deer is outweighed 30 times, a spotted turtle 4000. We find our victims’ corpses including those of snakes, frogs and small mammals on or beside our roads. Those road-wounded creep into the brush and slowly die.
Our marvelous cars, so much a part of us and loved by so many, have led to the parallel development of wide highways. Route 114 in Middleton is 150 frog lengths wide. Imagine being little and low to the ground, traveling at night and suddenly coming upon a flat, plant-free plain with blinding lights from seeming mountains rushing by. Confused and frightened some animals never even attempt to retreat. They momentarily freeze in place. We find the unfortunates’ remains, some but a stain pressed into asphalt made from fossil plants, benign companions of their long ago ancestors. How ironic that crude oil, a natural substance, has been turned into a killer by an “enlightened species.” Small Middleton alone has about 36 miles of such dangerous barriers to the movement of hundreds of species if small organisms are counted. Road building as ecologists well know has resulted in the fragmentation of ecosystems. Animals with smaller populations in now isolated communities don’t have as many choices for mates. Diversity suffers.
We’ve learned since enlightenment that diversity is important in the biosphere. Before modern science many cultures sensed it. We car-folks, hardwired early on by such transport, readily dismiss this effect on populations not our own, as facts of life. For us the car provides much more reproductive diversity. As smug realists say, “Stop whining; that’s the way it is.” In a democracy we might answer, “That isn’t the way it should be.” Problems, encountered, studied and understood, should be solved. Ten million plus other species share this planet with us. Many have been around much longer than we have. The lives of organisms are interwoven in complex interactive webs. We now teach this at all levels in our schools. After those courses, graduates seriously enter the fossil fuel economy where the money men take over. “If we build wide culverts for animals that will raise our taxes.” “We must not increase miles-per-gallon requirements that will hurt the car industry.” “Forget the animals, make America great again!” “America First!” and so ad nauseam, as if we Americans weren’t part of the biosphere. One person, one vote for our species. No votes for other organisms, which we humans now know we are responsible for.
Very responsible Edwin O. Wilson, 86, lifetime naturalist, superb biologist, and in the last three decades an influential champion of diversity, has written a new book entitled Half Earth which many of us are anxious to read. In it he advocates that half the Earth’s area be set aside and protected as wilderness; not in one contiguous half but in substantial patches. He eloquently argues that in the long run it is necessary for the survival of us all. We Steam Teamers wish our presidential candidates would read Wilson’s important books. He has long been dismayed by our planet’s rapid loss of species and our role in it. Alas the candidates and many of their supporters don’t seem to be concerned. With such attitudes it is obvious that we’ll not soon get rid of roads so deadly to animal populations; or build wider passages under them.
Traffic has noticeably increased in the Ipswich River Watershed this past decade. New houses on too wide streets now include 3 and 4 car garages. Lanes are being added to highways. We Stream Teamers guess the answer is to support organizations like The Trustees of Reservations, Essex County Greenbelt, Boxford Trails Association/Boxford Land Trust, the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, state and national parks, and towns in setting aside conservation land. These organizations, while nowhere near protecting Wilson’s “half”, have made remarkable strides in the last half century. Maybe there will come a time when their area surpasses those of roads. Our species may then responsibly try to connect fragmented populations. Kids will have a modern answer to the old question “Why does the turtle cross the road?” The answer will be, “Its DNA somehow tells it there may be mates on the other side, or at least more food and water.” This is an answer the older kids will relate to. It is certainly better than, “To get on the other side.” Duh.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Feb||Mar||Apr||May|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.25||4.65||4.53||4.06|
|2016 Central Watershed Actual||3.71||3.80||3.2**||0.2** as of May 2|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For May 3, 2016 Normal . . . 95 CFS Current Rate . . . 53 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru March.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for April and May
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584