Passing thoughts and observations

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I continue to read articles about how dogs are afraid of fireworks. Where I live, fireworks are never seen and seldom heard. I’m confident that my two dogs would be afraid, because they are fearful of lightning and thunder. Anytime a thunderstorm occurs, they run for cover, leaping into our bed and burrowing beneath the bedspread. I’ve read nothing about how songbirds are affected by fireworks in and around neighborhoods where they are displayed. I am confident they would be equally as fearful as dogs are, if not more so. Thankfully, for the sake of birds, Independence Day is on July 4, rather than earlier in the season when they are nesting and rearing their young. The only other time  widely celebrated by fireworks is around January 1, when the only birds nesting are Great-horned Owls and Bald Eagles.
I suspect the recent encyclical issued by Pope Francis sent shock waves through an establishment consisting of fossil-fuel bigwigs and their political lapdogs. The 192-page statement, dedicated to the pope’s namesake, “the nature- loving St. Francis of Assisi (“The Week,” July 3 ed.), proclaims that climate change is real and that humans are largely responsible for the unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem. The world’s richest countries, corrupted by a throwaway culture of rampant consumerism and addiction to fossil-fuel consumption, have sacked the land, the pope contends, leaving the poor to deal with the devastating consequences, including floods, droughts, and famine. Concluding, he states, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth.”
Jeb Bush, current front-runner among the large number of Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for president, and a Catholic, stated that he didn’t take economic policy from bishops, cardinals or the pope. Contender Rick Santorum, also a Catholic, urged Pope Francis to “leave science to the scientists.” Perhaps he was unaware that the pope is a scientist, a trained chemist. Tom Zeller Jr, in “Forbes.com,” notes that both Bush and Santorum have in the past leaned heavily on Catholicism to justify their opposition to abortion and assisted suicide. He concludes that religion seems to be an important part of Republican politics–”except when it isn’t.”
“The Week” states that underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water to the earth’s 7 billion inhabitants, but that two NASA satellite studies reveal that this vital water supply is rapidly being depleted, endangering hundreds of millions of people, quoting from “The Washington Post.” Between 2003 and 2013, more water was removed from 21 of the world’s 37 aquifers than was being replaced. The most overburdened aquifers were in South Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa. One is in California’s Central Valley, where ground water is rapidly being drained to irrigate drought-stricken farm land. Scientists contend that continued population growth and prolonged droughts caused by climate change will make the dire shortages even worse. Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist, says, “ We need to get our heads together on how we use groundwater, because we’re running out of it.”
The legacy of DDT use continues to plague our society, according to National Geographic.com. DDT, banned from use in the U.S. in 1972, is still causing cancer. Women born in the 1960s to mothers exposed to high levels of DDT while they were pregnant, are nearly four times more likely to develop breast cancer than others. Shanna Swan, a health scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital, is troubled by the findings, stating, “DDT could be responsible for raising the risk of breast cancer for a whole generation of women.” Stay tuned.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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