To listen to all the whining and moaning going on, you’d think every cat stuck in a tree is a serious problem. Such things might be unfortunate, but they are not really problems. To clarify, here is the first in a series of Fringe Clarifications of is a problem; is not a problem.
Not Actually a problem:
Save the Wild Horses
Feral horses are a scourge; most are just horses that escaped or were turned loose. During the economic downturn a horse could be had for nothing and tens of thousands were “released”. There are at least 70,000 too many feral horses in the Western US. Feral horses are a curse to wildlife and ranch and farm owners; they eat huge amounts of often scarce feed, and they defecate and muddy waterholes so no other animals will use them. Stallions are territorial and pose a modest threat to humans. Horses of this type are not indigenous to North America, and practically none of them are true mustangs, which were slightly built and almost universally brown. Hunters and farmers used to kill excess or aggressive horses but that is illegal now. We absolutely do not need to save any feral horses.
Critically serious problem: Prison America
A black man is nearly six times as likely to go to jail than a white man; the US sends more people to prison per thousand people than any other modern nation. Plea bargaining, drug laws and poverty are three elements which encourage a large prison population. The problem doesn’t stop with the time spent in prison, since having a prison record severely restricts the kind of employment one can find. Unemployment is high; employers have their pick of young, healthy workers with no prison. As a result, the US is creating a large underclass for whom poverty is a life sentence, who are only somewhat invested in a society with no place for them, and who could easily be seen as a large army of people with practically nothing to lose. Prison rates are just one of a number of indicators which demonstrate the US is abandoning its underclass. This is a serious problem.
Saving Cutthroat Trout is not a problem.
The term “Cutthroat trout” references a genetic group similar to other trout. The cutthroat is disappearing throughout its range in the Northwest. The geologic impediments of its home range allowed the fish to diversify and humans identify subspecies which are geographically tied. Because cutthroat hybrid so easily with rainbow trout, and more voracious and so quicker growing rainbow. Cutthroat have a relationship with Bull trout Cutthroat are not threatened in all watersheds, but in some watersheds, they are likely to become extinct or endangered because of changes in water levels due development; changes in water temperature and flow due to climate change, and most of all, due the slutty eagerness with which they mate with rainbows. People need food and water, so human caused impacts are not likely to change; the climate, which stranded the cutthroat 2 million years ago and made it distinct, will continue to change. Fish are unlikely to become more selective about their eggs and sperm. It most likely isn’t feasible to save the cutthroat in some areas, which is OK because rainbow taste fine.
A mortally serious problem: the oceans are dying.
It is virtually impossible to ignore or deny what has happened to our oceans, or to deny the cause. Humans are the cause, and oil is our tool. The problem is manifold: over fishing by efficient supertrawlers; dramatic pollution by ships through bunker fuel dumps and spills; degradation of coastal areas by siltation, salinization and pollution; global displacement of living plankton by bits of degraded plastic and changes in ocean ph due to carbon dioxide. Up to 90% of large ocean fish are gone. There is virtually no area of the ocean that hasn’t been negatively impacted by human activity, but dumping of sewage is still common; trash is still dumped at sea; supertankers and super barges are still not structurally sound enough to prevent spills. Giant fish harvesting ships continue to ply the oceans.
Of all the indicators that humans have over run the carrying capacity of the planet, the oceans are the most stark and undeniable. Next to the degradation of clean freshwater, the degradation of the ocean is most likely to lead to war and famine in the future.