May. 30th, 2006

So, we're having a plague of tent caterpillars around here, and yeah, they're really gross. I have a high tolerance for a lot of "gross" things in the outdoors, but these freak even me out. Sylvantechie and I went on a hike yesterday, and had to walk along swinging a stick in front of us, knocking down the 'pillars and their webs in order to not be totally covered in them.

Luckily, we were hiking up a mountain, and not very far up it, the caterpillars basically disappeared. It's probably still getting too cold at night up there for them to survive.

Which leads me to my soap box. I've heard a fair number of people talking about how the mild winters we've been having (courtesy of climate change, most likely) are a fine thing, and if this is what we have to look forward to, then they're all for it.

So yeah, the low heating bills this winter were nice, and I welcome the spring crocuses just like everyone else, so it might seem great that spring arrived about a month before it usually does. But along with the mild winter come the plagues, currently of insects, but probably disease in the not too near future. Take the caterpillars for example: due to the mild winter, they hatched a lot earlier than usual. There are some migratory birds that eat the caterpillars, and usually keep their populations at a manageable level. But those birds were still down south when the caterpillars hatched early, and thus we have the plague. We're having a horrible year for ticks, too, because they're active as soon as it hits forty degrees, so they've been out and about for a long time. We'll probably have an extra generation of ticks this year.

Use your imagination. It only gets worse from here, people. Insects have much shorter life cycles than most of the things they prey on, or they things that prey on them. So the insects are likely to adapt to changes in climate much sooner their predators or prey, resulting in plagues of insects. Add on top of that that changes in climate put stress on plant populations, and we could see some pretty major die-offs of forests.

I honestly try not to get too gloom and doom with my environmentalism, because it's a downer, and gloom and doom isn't a great motivational force, I find. So take the fact that I'm going to the doom place as a sign of how serious I think the problem is. We're unfortunately past the point of preventing climate change. What we *have* to start doing is working on preventing climate change from being any worse than it's already going to be.



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