There are days when having a glass desk is a serious health hazard, because I run the risk of serious facial lacerations when I read certain things.
Human-accelerated climate change is a disaster waiting to happen. We’ve already seen the superstorms and drought it can create. Although we can work to slow climate change, there’s no way to stop it completely. This reality means adaptation will once again become the most important strategy for survival.
One thing’s for sure: the Earth will continue to exist as it has for eons. The question is, what will be left behind to inhabit it? Below are five species known for their resilience and ability to survive in adverse conditions. They are the most likely to survive a climate change disaster.
If you’re going to write one of those web-traffic pandering List Posts — not a criticism: I’m writing one this weekend as it pays the bills — that’s not a bad topic to tackle. True, the fact that the article starts this way might cause an anticipatory eyeroll:
Survival of the fittest. This basic tenant of evolution explains why the dodo bird no longer exists and why humans have opposable thumbs.
I’m trying to imagine what a basic tenant of evolution looks like. Maybe a Sphenodon. She’s paid her rent on time since the Pleistocene, comes from a good family, never made noise or caused trouble. You know the type.
That said, if I start making fun of people for typos there’s about a decade and a half worth of mine online people can choose from.
And it’s a great idea for a post. What species are likely to survive the disastrous climate change we’re almost certainly facing in the next decades? Human-adapted pests, probably, like rock doves a.k.a. pigeons, Rattus norvegicus, German cockroaches, but those stories have been written over and over again. How about wild species? Western sagebrush, maybe: that complex of subspecies in Artemisia tridentata that’s only just gotten settled in the Intermountain West, and is busily evolving new regional strains since the end of the Pleistocene? Or invasive exotics in the wild? That’s be a good if not precisely new topic.
Nope. Here are the five “species” listed:
- Trees in the Amazon
- “Wolves and coyotes”
We can call “species” 2 and 5 near misses: wolves and coyotes comprise two closely related species, and while there are about 4,500 species of cockroaches and five commonly found in human dwellings as pests, the author mentions one in particular, the American cockroach. Though that’s not the one you usually think of as surviving Armageddon.
But those others. “Trees in the Amazon” as a species? really? There’s not a single place on the planet you could have picked where there are more tree species. One estimate of species diversity for trees in the Amazon basin put the likely number of species in the Brazilian section alone as above 11,000.
There are an estimated 22,000 species of ants. The author says this, almost:
There are approximately 20,000 different species of ant, with colonies of millions located all over the world. They were here long before humans, and the odds are good that they’ll be here long after.
One has to wonder what the author thinks the word means, if a species can be made up of more than 20,000 species. “Taxon,” maybe? Hard to say.
And “algae.” The author says:
Once of the few species that has been around since the beginning of evolution (remember the primordial slime?), there are over 200,000 varieties [of algae] known to man.
A chance to use the word “species” correctly, almost, but the author opts for “varieties” instead.
This is an inconsequential article and the author meant well. It’s a good thing to get people to think about. And Care2′s editors, if they have any over there, are really the people to blame here, if I were blaming rather than observing. Which I’m not. Really.
But to quote the celebrated environmental scientist Rush Limbaugh, “words mean things.” Maybe it’s just PTSD from having spent most of my adult life editing prose by environmental activists. I may well have had a big red button pushed. But if you’re writing about saving the natural world, you need to know at least a little bit about the natural world. And when you write about threats to biodiversity, knowing the actual definition of the word that represents the basic unit of biodiversity is a good idea.
Lest you end up calling “algae” a species.