It Ain't Easy Being Green[Click to read]
I learned a fascinating thing today. Phytoplankton control the weather.
Yes. I said that phytoplankton control the weather. I'll bet that you did not know that. and it's no wonder that you didn't. It seems a little far fetched.
Turns out that these plankton respond to ultraviolet rays from the sun by releasing compounds which form clouds. The clouds, in turn, protect the plankton from the sun. Are you as amazed by this as I am? Its astounding that something so small and seemingly so insignificant can have such a profound effect on this planet. On us.
Here's another piece of news, one a little less astounding. Phytoplankton do not have a powerful Washington lobby. There aren't D.C. plankton running around in DKNY suits and getting stuff done. The same can be said for the rain forests, endangered species and fertile top soil. All of these things are voiceless on their own.
The reason this plankton-cloud connection interests me is because it serves to illustrate two things. First, the apparent interconnected nature of seemingly disparate things. Second, my total lack of real understanding about this connection. I have been accused of being a tree-hugger (liberal left-wing bleeding-heart nature girl) in the past. I have been characterized as the sort of person who prefers a state of nature to the welfare of people. For instance, I was a little worked up when Mr. Bush came into office and started to undo all of the environmental policy put into place by the administration before him. However, this does not mean that I am a looney tune. It means that I can see the BIGGER PICTURE. The question is, can you?
Phytoplankton, apparently one of the most insignificant species on the planet, can have a profound effect on cloud formation. Clouds have a profound effect on the weather. The weather, in turn, has a profound effect on us. The desire to understand what the consequences of our acts will be before we engage in them seems clearly pro-human to me. If I don't understand what the heck plankton even do, how can I understand the impact of failing to protect plankton? A policy which suggests ACT first and worry about the consequences later is short sighted and, pardon me, stupid.
We have to focus on the bigger picture, to take into account the consequences of our environmental policy. Not just on the U.S., but on the planet and on the rest of the world. To dismiss the idea that a species of owl, or a stand of trees, or a bit of coral reef is significant is to ignore the fact that we just don't really know. It may be insignificant. Or it may be crucial to the balance of things here on earth. Crucial to our own well-being.
After all, who'd of thought plankton have anything to do with what SPF of sunscreen my grandchildren will have to wear?