Greetings, fellow earthlings. In this insanely divided world, I was trying to think of something that we ALL have in common. There’s not much holding us together these days, but we are all earthlings after all. I just hope aliens don’t land and ask to be taken to our leader. Could be embarrassing.
As the wind roars outside I notice a backdrop of wailing sirens. Maybe the wind is wailing because the earth is rotating along its merry way at about 900 miles an hour. When you think about that, the wind makes sense.
I passed through Monticello, Utah, recently and was blown away by the sight of the Latigo Wind Park, a wind farm featuring a couple of dozen turbines that is capable of powering up to 20,000 homes. The blades start spinning when the wind hits about 9 mph and can generate up to 61 megawatts.
Our earth is a big blue ball orbiting along at about 19 mph, nestled in a galaxy housing at least 100 million stars. The ball itself is not really round but sort of flexible and pumpkin-shaped with a circumference of 24,900 miles. It is a small world, after all.
Most scientists agree that the earth and the surrounding stars and planets are 4.55 billion years old, unless of course you choose to believe that the orb and all the magic surrounding it was constructed by a white guy with a beard in seven days somewhere around 1,000 BC.
Primates supposedly crawled from the muck about 85 million years ago, but those stooped-over critters didn’t look anything like supermodel Daphne Groeneveld. Looking at the renderings, I’d say humans are getting better looking with every generation. Well, OK, not all humans. But give us a break. We have fast food now.
If you visit the Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites throughout Utah, you see the rock art that depicts some pretty strange-looking mythical beings. They look like creatures from another planet, complete with antennae and odd appendages and accessories and whatnots.
When aliens look at Earth from outer space it appears blue. That’s because 75 percent of our orb is ocean. Half of the earth’s oceans are 9,800 feet deep. Out there in the deep blue sea, down in Davy Jones’ Locker, you’ll find a rich stew of radiata, fish, cetacea, marine worms, plankton, krill and echinoderms. There are many delicious and tasty treats to be found among those fish and cetacea.
One of the biggest threats to those tasty treats and the oceans is domestic pollution. That means sewage — about 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage was dropped into the high seas in 2004. Domestic pollution includes detergents, drugs, petroleum products and anything else you can pour down a sink or a gutter. That’s a lot of brown trout and tissue fish.
In 2006, the U.N. Environment Program estimated that every square mile of ocean contains around 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. It’s probably worse now. Some of that comes from us!
The United Nations notes that land-based sources like agricultural run-off, and discharge of nutrients, pesticides and untreated sewage including plastics, account for nearly 80 percent of marine pollution globally.
Flotsam and jetsam, from rubber ducky derby ducks to plastic water bottles to detached and drifting fishing nets, have also made it difficult for birds and beasts of the ocean to eat healthy lunches. National Geographic did a story on how chemicals in the water that resemble sex hormones are confusing the anatomy of certain marine life. Oops!
Let’s not forget agricultural pollution. For every summer in recent memory, nutrients flush down the Mississippi River and create a New Jersey-sized “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, devoid of fish life. Rounding out the toxic stew is industrial pollution. The Wood’s Hole Oceanic Institute points out that factories dump over 220 million pounds of toxic chemicals into surface water each year, relying on dilution to render them harmless. Unfortunately for fish, that doesn’t always work out.
You’ve heard of Cabbage Patch kids? Now a lot of those old plastic toys are part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the North Pacific Gyre. The patch draws waste from all across the North Pacific Ocean, including North America and Japan. The stuff comes together to form a patch that covers most of the northern Pacific Ocean. Now that’s a big patch! The patch is one of five big ones on the big blue ball.
Despite the pollution and plastic, the earth has shown a remarkable tolerance for our messy habits. And from a distance, the place still looks pretty good. The tip of the world is the 29,035-foot peak of Mount Everest. How low can you go? The Bentley Sub-glacial Trench is a vast oceanic trench in Antarctica that is 8,327 feet below sea level. This is the lowest place on earth not covered by ocean. It is, however, covered by ice, but probably not for long. Once the ice melts, this low point will be under water, making it not the lowest point not covered by ocean.
Can a little old human have any say about how the world turns and how we treat it? Yes, but remember, just like the Whos from the tiny planet Whoville in Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who,” you will have to speak up. There’s a website (worldometers) that gives an up-to-the-minute, constantly growing tally of the world’s population. As of Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at 1:11 p.m., they said we had 7,774,880,388 earthlings on the orb, and the meter is ticking fast; 210,856 new people were born on that day. 16,755 died of hunger April 1st. On this big blue ball. That spins around and around. The spinning is holding us down, and I, for one, feel dizzy.
Steve Skinner loves the ball. Send your best earth facts to firstname.lastname@example.org.