Is there any good news?

Is there any good news?

Kitsap, Naturally

How could anything good possibly come out of this world-wide epidemic? Obviously nothing could, at least not for mankind. But let’s not leave mother nature in the wings. She lives here too, and for her, there are some bright spots. If that makes you feel just a little better, read on.

Let’s start with the largest living creatures on earth, whales and other marine mammals. First, the virus has brought about quieter seas, thanks to a drop in shipping traffic. We know this because noises in the oceans can be measured. Scientists at Ocean Networks Canada near Vancouver B.C. actually “listen” to Pacific waters. By studying sound signals, they’ve discovered a drop in the low-frequency noise that emanates from ships, thanks to a current drop in sea-going cargo vessels.

In fact, noise pollution that negatively affects certain marine animals has dropped at sites as deep as 9,000 feet, and as far from shipping lanes as 60 kilometers. Much earlier, a landmark study done after the 9/11 disaster (which was also followed by a period of lower freighter traffic), provided an important clue: whales exhibit chronic stress from shipping noise, and also tend to stop “talking” to each other. The inability to share information can interfere with feeding patterns.

Even our regional killer whales can be affected. Each pod has developed an important communications system, a language specific to its group. Their sounds travel long distances and even employ echo location to find prey. When more than one pod is in the same area, an individual can easily identify its own group through sound. In addition, this far-reaching common language within the pod is helpful to an orca finding its way back after straying some distance to find food.

Besides orcas and whales, dolphins and porpoises also talk to each other. Senses we humans rely on, like sight and smell, aren’t terribly useful if you live beneath the sea. Sight isn’t very effective because the sea scatters light; smell isn’t very useful because molecules are less helpful in water than in air. Sound, however, travels four times faster in water than in air at sea level. That’s why scientists and environmentalists worry about the harm caused to marine mammals by large ocean-going ships.

Naturally, fewer cargo ships at sea these days is bad news for human commerce, but the pandemic has at least provided a host of marine mammals with a respite, albeit temporary.

In my next column I’ll list more ways in which a variety of nature’s creatures, with whom we share this planet, are benefiting from the far-reaching effects of the current pandemic.

More in Opinion

Despite COVID, still best time ever to be alive

As challenging as 2020 has been, we still should be thankful that… Continue reading

What will we do without Trump to beat up?

Batman needed the Joker. Javert needed Jean Valjean. Patton needed Rommel. The… Continue reading

Many planes carrying freight instead of passengers

It’s no secret that airlines and airplane manufacturers have been clobbered by… Continue reading

Editor’s note: A community bids farewell to its top firefighter
Editor’s note: A community bids farewell to its top firefighter

… and welcomes a veteran to a new role at SKFR

Finally Congress agrees to fund fixes in national parks

America desperately needed some positive news and a reprieve from the coronavirus… Continue reading

Please support Local Journalism Sustainability Act

It provides tax incentives for advertisers, subscribers for 5 years

Three big reasons why Joe Biden continues to trump Trump
Three big reasons why Joe Biden continues to trump Trump

Here’s the 2020 presidential race in a nutshell: On Tuesday, Joe Biden… Continue reading

Alaska Airlines positioned for coronavirus comeback

It is no secret that airlines were clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.… Continue reading

Offering some praise for the Pentagon on flags
Offering some praise for the Pentagon on flags

I’ve gotten a few letters from readers over the past couple of… Continue reading

Must we live with one foot in the grave?
Must we live with one foot in the grave?

“Shower the people you love with love/ Show them the way that… Continue reading

How trees talk to each other
How trees talk to each other

How much do you understand those old familiar trees you enjoy each… Continue reading

Kiwanis 2020 Scholarship awardees announced

Meeting via Zoom, the Greater Kingston Kiwanis Club is still managing to… Continue reading