Saving a slimy muck newt.
August 31, 2011 § 1 Comment
I hate to say, “I told you so,” but…I told you so. I wasn’t messing around yesterday when I said that (a) Mother Nature is a total jerk sometimes, and (b) foreigners give their disasters way better names than we do. Allow me to submit, as evidence of both of those theories: Popocatepetl.
Popocatepetl is a volcano about 40 miles south of Mexico City, and it has started to burp a nice thick ash cloud into the sky, which (thanks to the prevailing winds) is headed straight north to dump it’s ashy goodness onto the fifth biggest city in the world (which is Mexico City) (in case you thought that the ash cloud was traveling from Mexico to, say, Tokyo). So the 21,000,000 people of Mexico City are battening down their hatches and preparing for a Mount Vesuvius vs. Pompeii sort of grudge match. This is a lot like Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman in 1974, but with less Don King. Everyone within a 12-mile radius of Popocatepetl (which Wikipedia says is pronounced “po-po-ka-TEH-pet-ul,” which is hard to do. Seriously. Try to put the emphasis on the “TEH”) has been evacuated to avoid a Pierce Brosnan slash “Dante’s Peak” situation in central Mexico. (Raise your hand if you got that joke…well done).
So Mother Nature is dumping ash on the Mexicans, dumping water on the Asians, and dumping nothing on the Texans. You may or may not remember that there is a drought going on in Texas. If you live in Texas, you are probably aware of it. Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the long periods without rain. Unfortunately, it is not only human Texans who are suffering. The Texas blind salamander is at risk of drying out.
The Texas blind salamander (Erythea rathbuni) is a type of salamander from Texas which is blind. Ha! But it is an endangered aquatic troglodyte (cave-dwelling) species of eyeless amphibian. Not only is it under the threat of Batrachochytrium dendrobatis, like all amphibians, it is also at risk of having its caves go dry, and therefore: death. So volunteers are rounding up as many Texas blind salamanders as they can find, and moving them to safe, watery temporary safe-havens, so that they don’t dry up and go extinct. Bravo, Texas! You’re finally doing something useful for the world: saving a slimy muck newt from extinction! Our (ten gallon) hats are off to you.
And while there are not that many Texas blind salamanders left in Texas, there are even less people left in the Japanese town of Tomioka. In fact, a gentleman named Naoto Matsumura figures that he is the last. He is the Japanese Omega Man.
Tomioka is a town inside the “exclusion zone” in the Fukushima prefecture which suffered from a very bad earthquake earlier this year. We all heard, of course, about the nuclear plant that went all Three-Mile-Island on the poor residents of that area, and most of them have wisely fled. Not so for Naoto Matsumura. He refuses to leave Tomioka, and by his reckoning, he is the last one there. He spends his days wandering the empty town and feeding the animals which are now human-less and aimlessly navigating the “exclusion zone.” While it may seem on the surface to be a gentle, pastoral, Zen-like existence, let’s not forget that Naoto Matsumura is being constantly bombarded with potentially fatal radiation from the nearby nuclear plant which is hemorrhaging invisible death rays. I don’t know whether I think that Naoto Matsumura is noble, or just stubborn, or perhaps a lunatic, but one question remains: if he’s the only one in Tomioka, who took this picture?
You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
Yesterday I left you with an unprovoked picture of polydactyl weirdness, so today, I’d like to leave you with a “look how tiny and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.” Here’s a photo of Earth (on the left) and the Moon (on the right) taken from 6,000,000 miles away by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
To give you some perspective, it’s taken Juno just about a month to travel 6,000,000 miles, and it has about 449,000,000 miles still to go before it gets to its destination: Jupiter. It is expected to arrive in January 2012.
(Alternate title for this article: “Hemorrhaging invisible death rays.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.