CO2: nature’s steroid?

Carbon dioxide, that elixir of life on earth, known to produce fast growing vigorous plants may yield super-sized animals; at least the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. According to an article by Darryl Fears in the Washington Post a marine geologist at the University of North Carolina’s Aquarium Research Center figures that crabs, lobsters and shrimp are “bulking up on carbon along the Atlantic coast.”(link)

But wait. Anything associated with the “toxic” “polluting” substance must be bad; right? Environmental doomsters and federal Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats tell us so. Sure enough. Later in the article we learn the predictable bad news: bigger, tougher crabs now voraciously feed on oysters, a favored food. However, oysters become “traumatized” and more vulnerable to crab predation in high carbon water. Oh, no!

At least, that’s what researchers discovered when they observed the animals trapped in tanks “intentionally polluted with carbon.” And more dismal news:

In case you’re thinking, Wow, bigger crabs, more meat, I’m lovin’ it—forget about it. The extra carbon goes into the shell, not the edible guts of these crustaceans (but the story didn’t explain why lovers of the soft-shell stage wouldn’t get more to eat with larger crabs). Anyway it gets worse.

Additional carbon “pollution” makes the Bay water more acid causing oysters, scallops and other denizens to “struggle” with growth and become easier prey.

But these observations come from controlled conditions in tanks. Researchers admit that acidification is a slow process and the animals adjust—as has happened in nature for millennia. It’s called “evolution.” In the real world; conditions constantly change and life forms adapt to change. Some don’t make it, but new kinds emerge. Nothing in nature is static.

However, environmental meddlers want us to think so to support their agenda: prevent or slow human progress in the hope of “saving” everything natural in a utopian steady-state—except humanity, the most important life on the planet.

These nature stories often send conflicting and confused messages. Officials told the reporter that diseases and “overfishing” have for decades “dramatically reduced oyster numbers. Yet in the years between 2005 and 2011 bushels harvested in Virginia and Maryland increased about 30 and 20 percent, respectively—presumably while “pollution” was also increasing. Further, why do government officials want to promote more oyster consumption of animals that have a “critical role” in filtering polluted bay water “every three weeks”? Yuk!

Bureaucrats in the State of Virginia “strongly” encourage oyster harvests by selling polluted river and bay water plots to oyster farmers. Those in Maryland have dumped $50 million taxpayer dollars into “oyster recovery” while threatening citizens with $50,000 fines and 15 years in prison for harvesting the bivalve mollusks in forbidden waters.

State officials assume that their “recovery” activities have increased crab populations 66 percent since 2005. But, it’s reported, because of ocean acidification “oysters won’t be able to keep up”; whatever that means. Confused?

So, what might we conclude about costly and convoluted efforts to manipulate nature?

Well, who knows? Nature will have its way. A UNC doctoral candidate working on the crab tank project said, “You can’t discount evolution taking over.” Yes. And you can’t ignore the fact that government projects tinkering with nature will continue to expand and cost more money with little benefit—except to environmental activists and bureaucracies.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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