As it happens I've done years of research into this issue. I call it Chemical Winter. I have been trying to alert scientists to the problem of Volatile Organic Compounds since 2003. While there are still pockets of seemingly normal life around as stated by lone wolf but unfortunately, that is becoming more and more rare.
The problem is that when oil based fuel is burned, it doesn't burn cleanly. The emissions contain small amounts of the benzene family of chemicals. This is a highly corrosive substance that has only one purpose. That purpose is to disolve what it touches. The molecules are so small that they are known as transdermals. That means they pass through dermal (skin) membranes with little or no difficulty. They literally dissolve their way through for as long as they maintain viable strength.
Obviously the concentration is not high. But so much crude oil based fuel is being burned all over the planet that we are transforming our atmosphere from oxygen based to solvent based. When you inhale, each breath you take includes solvents in micro amounts. Each breath is a chemical assault on your person.
Babies from the age of zero to two years do not have an intact membrane barrier between their brains and the atmosphere. The olefactory nerve penetrates the skull through a perforated section just above the bridge of your nose. Where the nerves pass through, there is a tiny space all around the nerve sheath. After the age of two that space fills in with the membrane. Until it does, the baby's brain is exposed to the minute amounts of solvents. Depending on physiology and local atmospheric conditions, the baby is vulnerable to brain cancer. The risk is based on the density of the solvents and other corrosive chemicals floating about in the air. There is nowhere on earth that is safe from them except under water. And that is another truly ugly story.
Anyway, older people are also at higher risk because their immune systems are wearing out. But just because you happen to be between the age of 2 and 65 doesn't mean you're safe. Houses and commercial building interiors are almost 100% toxic unless they've been built with all natural materials. The trend to tighten up buildings, especially houses by eliminating drafts is the height of lunacy. As bad as outside air is, inside air is infinitely worse. Stopping drafts is the long form of committing suicide in a gruesome manner.
Going back to the natural world, all of our food crops and our domestic food animals are continually being bathed in the solvents. The solvent level in everything is increasing in lockstep as the planet becomes less able to support life of any sort. It doesn't matter whether or not you wash your food because the chemcials penetrate the skin.
The animals at the bottom of the food chain like caterpillars have not yet been told to wash their food before they eat it. So they are chowing down happily on their leaves that have a toxic coating on every surface. Some survive some don't. Those that are eaten by other creatures add their chemical burden to the food chain.
We are at the top of the food chain. We are becoming more and more toxic as lethal chemicals build up in every cell of our bodies. Since these are not grains of sand, these chemicals are not just sitting around thinking about kicking into action. No. These are chemicals who are every minute of every day attempting to turn your tissue into a puddle.
Once your organs have begun to break down in this fashion, you as an organism are in big trouble.
Smaller species are being affected first. The pollinating insects as a group, not just bees, are in serious trouble. A VOC molecule to an entity the size of a human is a tiny thing but to a small insect, it's another story altogether. VOC's to them are a big deal in terms of scale and degree of damage inflicted. So things like mayflies that are a major source of prey for fish are mostly wiped out. A very few decades ago, when they hatched, they carpeted the landscape. They were a very nutritious meal for all predators and ensured the fertility of the earth in a very natural way. The loss of the mayflies is a serious blow to all higher forms of life in eastern North America. The bees are as well due to their importance as pollinators, not just for crops but for trees as well. Those trees supply us with oxygen.
The frogs are another step up the food chain. Not only are they eating a steady diet of poison insects, they breathe through their skin. Their skin can't handle the solvents. It cools on impact, then burns. It doesn't wash off and even if it did, it's such a slow process they don't realize what's going on and the next thing they're dead.
That's how I discovered the phenomenon of Chemical Winter. A scientist by the name of Karen Lips was working in the tropics in isolated areas discovering one new species after the other in 1993. When she returned in 1995, instead of live frogs, she was seeing frog corpses everywhere. They were literally dying all around her. She literally watched rare species of frogs found no where else on earth go extinct right before her eyes.
Frog corpses don't happen in nature. They don't die of old age. They are eaten by something else - whole. Nothing left until their bones are excreted out the other end. Even they don't last long. So for Karen to be seeing dead frogs, that was a major serious event that made headlines around the world at the time.
Scientists everywhere scratched their heads. Me being an amateur scientist and also being into racing and working on cars, I had a pretty good idea what was going on. I checked with a neighbour who used to formulate jet fuel for Texaco and asked what had been done to the fuel recipe in like say, the five years before Karen discovered the frogs dying.
"Nothing." was his first respose. I didn't believe him and kept badgering him with more questions. In the end he admitted that in 1989, Texaco was the last big oil company to add solvents to jet fuel. Before that jet fuel was straight kerosene. The solvents were added to increase power and mileage.
When you look at a global map showing aviation routes, you can readily see the terrible impact aviation has on the planet. One look and I stopped thinking of aircraft as a means of transportation and saw them for what they really are - giant pesticide applicators. Pesticides by the way are made from those same solvents as are sprayed from the exhaust of every internal combustion engine. No matter what sort of machine you use, from an electric kettle to a car to an electric nose trimmer, at some point each and every thing we use generates poison into the atmosphere. Nothing we do has no deadly impact.
As the article stated, we are in the early stages of the sixth extinction. As a species, we will be extremely fortunate if any of us survives. Those that do will be those that live closest to the land and still understand how to make a living from it. That ain't most of us.
The point of no return is 2050. My contention has always been that is about 10 years too late. The bees won't last that long. If they don't we don't.
After my neighbour explained about the solvents, I started writing articles about Chemical Winter and tried to get them published in Science Journals. No one would listen. They thought I was nuts. Then I started phoning scientists all over North America. I convinced a number of them but had to stop due to lack of financial resources.
In 2005 I went to Trinidad due to a death in the family. While there I noticed there were no insects. I'd noticed the same thing in Canada in numerous areas. That year my windshield only killed two insects the entire summer. But Trinidad is right on the equator. It's covered in lush vegetation. When I was there in 1979/80, there were bugs everywhere. My former father in law is a biologist. When I mentioned the lack of bugs to him, he didn't believe it. But he did after we visited the Trinidad Zoo and saw none.
I was back earlier this year. Same thing, no bugs and no shore birds.
Chemicals are not the only problem. Cell phone towers and Hydro right of ways are leaking current as well and the death toll on wildlife and human life is staggering and easily equal to the destruction of the chemicals. One the fastest and best things we could do to delay the extinction is to get rid of the cell phone towers - take a step back in time and efficiency. It would mean huge sacrifices but it would buy us time while we figure out how to wean ourselves from oil. We don't have much time.
Sadly, most of you reading this don't have the benefit of having seen the planet as it was in the mid-twentieth century. It was in rough shape then but nothing like now. Most people see signs of progress. I see signs of destruction and a near total lack of comprehension from 99% of the public who think they are becoming "greener".
And those greener people are still out numbered on a vast scale by people who just do not get it. The only satisfaction to be gained from that is to be present to see the look of dawning comprehension and horror when they finally wake up and it's too late to turn back. Small comfort.
Last edited by gullyfourmyle; Aug 15th, 2008 at 09:49 PM..Reason: finish article