News Ticker

‘Last jewels:’ 1/10 of wilderness areas have vanished … pollution finds its way into human brains … our future is too wet or too dry … by comparison, litter is a minor problem

Two of three lead entries today are courtesy of my friend Bob Furstenau who follows Pick Up Your Path with regularity. I wish the news he refers to me would be cheerier but as with most environmental news these days, sorrowfully it’s not.

‘Last jewels in nature’s crown’ at risk of being lost forever, say researchers

One-tenth of the world’s wilderness areas have vanished within the past 20 years, according to a published article in the scientific journal Current Biology. The research was conducted at Queensland University in New Zealand.

CNN reports the loss at some 3.3 million square kilometers (1.27 million square miles). The researchers used “recent maps of wild areas free of significant human disturbance” to arrive at their computations.

Further, authors of the study said the world needs to “… recognize that wilderness is being dramatically lost and that without proactive global interventions we could lose the last jewels in nature’s crown.” They predict the world has one to two decades “to turn this around” and if the current course of wilderness loss isn’t stopped, all wilderness areas could vanish by 2050.

Maybe I should accelerate the frequency of my treks to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming from once yearly to two or three visits.

Inhaled pollutants find way into the human brain; increase in Alzheimer’s?

Tissue samples from people in Mexico City and Manchester, England reveal that small particles of inhaled pollution have been found in the frontal cortex of human brains.

One possible negative repercussion: The particulates might contribute to higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease.

The minuscule particles discovered are magnetite – toxic to the human brain – and are smaller than the width of a human hair. Magnetite commonly forms inside engines and open fires.

A team at Lancaster University in the U.K. was able to take samples from the frontal cortex of the brain which is accessed from the olfactory bulb located at the top of a person’s nose. The team believes this is the entry point of the particles into the brain.

Outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year, according to the World Health Organization. It is considered a risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory disease.

The team believes this particular pollutant might increase someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease although they say more study is needed.

Offshoot of global warming: Some areas bone dry, some areas very wet

The more than 20 inches of non-hurricane rains that flooded southern portions of South Carolina in 2015 may have been a harbinger of climate to come: over-saturation in some areas while drought will scorch the earth in other locations.

That was the upshot of a Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference held in Charlotte that dealt with how the Carolinas might deal with wild swings from too much rain to too much dry ground.

Among other global warming-related news at the conference as reported in the Charlotte Observer: rising temperatures will evaporate fresh water even more quickly at the very time competition for it grows in the Southeast. Indeed, utilities in the Charlotte region for the first time factored in climate change into their 50 year studies of water supplies from the Catawba River, Charlotte’s source of water.

Charleston and other coastal communities in the Carolinas are already dealing with ocean level rise that will amplify flooding on the coast, the Observer reported.

My lonesome litter walks pale by comparison

All of the above news is more than disheartening to me; it’s at once maddening, anger-inducing, frightening and possibly fatal to our world. Worse still is the knowledge that a large portion of this human-made catastrophe is avoidable.

But we’d damned well better start not to address the issue, but to start fixing it.


The way the world is going, why the hell bother to pick up trash on one 2.5 mile stretch of streets? It’s tantamount to pissing into a strong wind.

What it puts into context is the possible futility of my paltry efforts to keep my neighborhood cleaning and spiffy. One man’s quest to collect litter is swallowed up by issues so large and so enormous as to make anything I do, as well as similar efforts by others, amount to nothing more than pissing into a gale-force wind.

I know that all change begins with individuals, but for crying out loud we have so many environmental dilemmas on so many global fronts that it seems the physical world and care for the earth is going the way of all bad things.

If The Donald and Hillary don’t mention any of this during their campaigns or their debates, then the writing will be on the wall: as a species, we are screwing the proverbial pooch.


About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

1 Comment on ‘Last jewels:’ 1/10 of wilderness areas have vanished … pollution finds its way into human brains … our future is too wet or too dry … by comparison, litter is a minor problem

  1. What your blog tells me is that Charlotte has a serious litter problem. Everyday I walk 4 miles with my dogs in Des Moines IA and everyday I pick up one or two bits of trash but not enough to fill a bag, let alone 2 or 3. The nature of the Des Moines trash is McDonalds, Jimmy Johns, Taco Bell, Lays bags, etc. There are the occasional discarded beer cans but I am guessing those are from teens dreaming out when they see a cop car and Rossi g them out the windows. With the deposits collected on the cans and bottles we have a self monitoring system of sorts. Keep picking up the trash, it is worth while and very commendable. I read yesterday that in one of the Scandinavian countries they passed a measure to provide tax breaks for fixing broken appliances…maybe one
    day we will see a trash collector system that disperses refunds for pounds collected…it will have to be world-wide as this is neither a Charlotte or Des Moines specific problem.

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