Thank heaven for science. Or thank the enlightened government departments that support it.
Ants infesting a sooty tern chick.
Page 20 of the September issue of Scientific American, in a short feature called “Cleanup on Isle Nine,” mentions a few of the devoted biologists, mostly working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with some volunteers, who strive to repair the environments of uninhabited islands far out in the Pacific, trashed by other phases of humanity. Specks of land such as Nihoa, to reach which you “must take a 30-hour boat ride, leap ashore from an inflatable dinghy amid violent waves and then scale a cliff.” From it the scientists have transported little millerbirds to Laysan, to restore the population wiped out there by human-introduced rabbits. The scientist rescuing Palmyra Atoll from its swarming rats, left by a former military base, “spends half the year there in near-complete isolation.” Johnston Atoll has recovered from nuclear-weapons testing but is invaded by yellow crazy ants, a species that sprays acid on the seabird chicks it is about to attack. On Midway, the majestic albatross refuses to leave its nest and so is eaten alive by the human-introduced mice. Plastic garbage, which entangles birds and marine mammals or gets down their throats, coats the shores of Kure Atoll.
These tragedies, small as they might be considered from some points of view, are being reduced, if not ended.
It may be no coincidence that the “Science Agenda” editorial on page 7 of the same issue is about the “growing anti-science current in American politics,” the “science denialism,” which is reaching a pinnacle of stridency. If someone becomes President who tweets that global warming is a “Chinese plot,” and intends to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, there may be little future for the saviors of seabird chicks from yellow crazy ants.