Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wild Free and Happy Sample 24

[Note: This is the twenty-fourth sample from my rough draft of a far from finished new book, Wild, Free, & Happy.  I don’t plan on reviewing more books for a while.  My blog is home to reviews of 202 books, and you are very welcome to explore them.  The Search field on the right side will find words in the full contents of all rants and reviews, if you are interested in specific authors, titles, or subjects.] 

Manmade Grasslands

It didn’t take long for our hominin ancestors, creatures of the grass, to learn that large game was most often found in grassland habitats.  Forests were more challenging to hunt in, and they were mostly home to small game.  This fact of life motivated hunters to eagerly follow their stomachs to wonderlands of grass-fed, organic, all-you-can-eat flesh.  Therefore, the human diaspora out of Africa tended to pursue routes that majored in grasslands. 

As they migrated out, their journey took them to grasslands in the Middle East, and then Europe.  Barry Cunliffe noted that a vast steppe grassland began in Hungary and ended in Manchuria, providing an easy to travel grass highway that was 5,600 miles (9,000 km) long.  As an added bonus, the steppe was largely carpeted with excellent vegetation that was drought-resistant and frost-tolerant. 

Later, around A.D. 1300, Marco Polo described the Silk Roads that spanned across the steppe, connecting the civilizations of Europe and the Far East.  This link enabled much cultural knowledge to move back and forth (a mixed blessing).  The steppe also enabled the emergence of tribes of pastoralists, with their large roaming herds of livestock.  These tribes were sometimes absorbed into powerful empires, like those of the Mongols and Huns.

Once established in Asia, the front line pioneers of the human diaspora were eventually able to wander from Siberia, over the Beringia land bridge, and then explore the incredible grassland Serengetis of the Americas.

Anyway, our early hominin ancestors could not help but notice that when occasional wildfires burned off the dry grassland vegetation, tender shoots would soon emerge from the ashes.  Fresh greenery looked heavenly to the hungry grazing critters, and hunters deeply loved grazing critters.  Fire was a good tonic for the health of grass.  It burned up accumulated dead foliage, allowing more solar energy to feed the grass people.  Also, when the snows melted away, the ground warmed up faster when the litter was gone, enabling the growing season to begin earlier.

Several million years ago, a clever hominin learned how to kindle a manmade flame by generating friction.  One day, by accident or intention, flames from a campfire somehow ignited nearby grass, and winds pushed the roaring blaze across hill and dale, incinerating brush, trees, dry grass, and unlucky wildlife. 

This exciting experience gave birth to a devious idea.  They could deliberately start grass fires wherever and whenever they wanted.  Burning fried the shoots of woody vegetation, eliminated dead plant debris, and encouraged grass to produce at optimal rates.  They could encourage bigger herds of game by expanding and maintaining high quality grassland.  They could entice game to graze in locations optimal for hunting them, like places close to a water source, and not far from camp.  By cleverly controlling nature, they could eat better, feed more bambinos, and enjoy a higher standard of living.  So they did. 

We folks in the era of glowing screens have a hard time imagining that the practice of deliberately burning grass was a remarkable history bending innovation.  But back in the good old days, it was a very hot idea.  The routine eventually spread around the world, and substantially reconfigured many ecosystems.  It was a highly influential transition in the human saga, far more significant than smart phones or automobiles, which are ridiculous unsustainable amusements that have no long term future.

Initially, fires were used to expand or improve open grassland.  Once woody vegetation was eliminated, additional fires were routinely set every few years to prevent its recovery.  Eventually, there were no more seeds of woody plants hiding in the sod, so the burn cycles could then be less frequent.

The practice of attracting large game by maintaining top quality grassland is often called firestick farming.  It was an easy low tech way to increase food resources.  Alfred Crosby noted that firestick farming had transformed much of six continents a long time before the first field was planted.  Let’s look at a few examples.


In Australia, the firestick farming practiced by Aborigines was a time-proven fine art that evolved after many centuries of trial and error, learning and tweaking.  Humans arrived between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, and they must have brought with them the magical art of fire starting.  Within several thousand years of their arrival, 85 percent of the megafauna species were extinct, including 1,000 pound (453 kg) kangaroos, 400 pound (181 kg) birds, lizards 25 feet (7.6 m) long, and tortoises the size of Volkswagens.  Over time, many dry forests that were not fire-tolerant went up in smoke, and were displaced by fire-promoting eucalypt forests.

Bill Gammage described the Australia that British colonists observed in 1788, when they first washed up on shore.  The landscape looked radically different from today.  Much of what is now dense forest or scrub used to be manmade grasslands.  Early white eyewitnesses frequently commented that large regions looked like parks.  In those days, all English parks were the private estates of the super-rich.  Oddly, the Aborigines who inhabited the beautiful park-like Australian countryside were penniless bare-naked Stone Age anarchist heathens.  Their wealth was their time-proven knowledge, and their respect for the land.

In 1788, large areas of Australia had been actively maintained by firestick farming, which greatly expanded habitat for the delicious critters that the natives loved to dine on.  The Aborigines used both hot fires and cool fires to manage vegetation that was fire intolerant, fire tolerant, fire dependent, or fire promoting.  Different fires were used to promote specific herbs, tubers, bulbs, or grasses.  When starting a fire, the time and location was carefully calculated to encourage the desired result.  According to Gammage, most of Australia was burnt about every one to five years.  On any day of the year, a fire was likely burning somewhere.

The natives generally enjoyed an affluent lifestyle.  They had learned how to live through hundred-year droughts and giant floods.  No region was too harsh for people to inhabit.  Their culture had taboos that set limits on reproduction and hunting.  During the breeding seasons of important animals, hunting was prohibited near their gathering places.  Lots of food resources were left untouched most of the time, a vital safety net.  The Dreaming had two rules: obey the Law, and leave the world as you found it.

The colonists were clueless space aliens.  Their glorious vision was to transfer a British way of life to a continent that was highly unsuited for it.  Australia’s soils were ancient and minimally fertile, and the climate was bipolar — extreme multi-year droughts could be washed away by sudden deluges.  But, they brought their livestock and plows and gave it a whirl.  They believed that hard work was a virtue.  The Aborigines were astonished to observe how much time and effort the silly newcomers invested in producing the weird stuff they ate.

The new settlers wanted to live like proper rural Brits — permanent homes, built on fenced private property.  They freaked out when the natives set fires to maintain the grassland.  Before long, districts began banning these burns.  This led to the return of saplings and brush.  So, in just 40 years, the site of a tidy dairy farm could be replaced by dense rainforest.

Without burning, insect numbers exploded.  Without burning, fuels built up, leading to new catastrophes, called bushfires.  The Black Thursday fire hit on February 6, 1851.  It burned 12 million acres (5 million ha), killed a million sheep, thousands of cattle, and countless everything else.

Mark Brazil shared a story that was full of crap.  In Britain, cow manure was promptly and properly composted by patriotic dung beetles, which returned essential nutrients to the soil.  In Australia, none of the native dung beetles could get the least bit interested in cow shit.  It was too wet, and too out in the open.  Cow pies could patiently sit on the grass unmolested for four years, because nobody loved them.  This deeply hurt their feelings.

Australian flies, on the other hand, discovered that cow pies made fabulous nurseries for their children.  Each pat could feed 3,000 maggots, which turned into flies — dense clouds of billions and billions of flies — which the hard working Christians did not in any way fancy.  Being outdoors was hellish.  In the 1960s, folks imported British dung beetles, which loved the taste and aroma of cow pies.  Oddly, this is one example where an introduced exotic species apparently didn’t create unintended consequences.  When they ran out of pies to eat, the beetles simply died.

Anyway, a continent inhabited by Stone Age people was substantially altered by firestick farming and hunting.  The Australia of 1788 was radically different from when the first human arrived.  We’ll never know if continued firestick farming would have eventually led to severely degraded ecosystems.  Some serious injuries can take a long time to fully develop.  Many attempts to deliberately control ecosystems have spawned huge unintended consequences over time.  For example, agriculture.

United States

In the central U.S., the prairie ecosystem emerged in the last 8,000 to 10,000 years, displacing the tundra that had emerged as the ice sheets melted and withdrew.  Prairies support complex biodiversity, with different mixes of species adapting to different mixes of soil types, moisture, and climate.  Two hundred years ago, the prairies were home to 30 to 60 million bison, and numerous other herbivores.

Stephen Pyne wrote that when white colonists landed in America, the western portion of the Great Plains was shortgrass prairie, too dry to support forest.  But the eastern portion was tallgrass prairie.  Most of it had rainfall and soils suitable for forest, but Native Americans had gradually pushed back the forest cover.  They maintained this highly productive prairie by burning it every three years or so.  It provided excellent habitat for buffalo and other delicacies.

Burning was a common practice almost everywhere in North America.  By A.D. 1000, the expansion of manmade grasslands enabled buffalo to cross the Mississippi River for the first time.  By the 1600s, they had reached Massachusetts on the Atlantic coast.  In some regions, forests were periodically burned to prevent the accumulation of brush.  This was often done in late autumn, after the leaves had fallen.  Pioneers commented that these fire-maintained forests resembled European parks.  The open floor made it easier to travel, which sped the process of colonization.

Shepard Krech wrote that California Indians burned chaparral (dense brush) to entice deer.  Along the east coast, there were oak openings (meadows with scattered trees) as large as 1,000 acres (404 ha).  Manmade grasslands in the Shenandoah Valley covered a thousand square miles (2,590 km2).  Indians in Oregon’s Willamette Valley engaged in extensive routine burning.  When colonists ended this traditional burning, there was a tremendous recovery of forest in many regions.  Krech noted that Indian fires sometimes exploded into raging infernos that burned for days, sometimes killing entire buffalo herds, up to a thousand animals. 

Between about A.D. 800 and 1300, Indian agriculture greatly expanded, majoring in corn (maize), beans, and squash.  Much of their cropland was former forest, and it was kept cleared by regular burning.  Their fields were often 100 acres (40 ha), and sometimes 1,000.  Because they had no livestock to produce manure for fertilizer, soils were often depleted in a few years.  So, they cleared more forest, and the depleted fields once again grew trees.  This cycle could be repeated until the soil was junk.

In the Midwest, where large areas of forest had been replaced by manmade tallgrass prairie, the topsoil was deep and highly fertile.  Settlers, arriving with plows and draft animals, were able to turn the thick sod, plant grasses like corn and wheat, and reap impressive harvests.  Today, maybe one percent of tallgrass prairie still survives.  A number of states that were once primarily forest or tallgrass prairie are now sprawling farmland.

Michael Williams noted that as the diseases of civilization spread westward, Indians died in great numbers.  They had zero immunity to highly contagious Old World pathogens.  Diseases spread westward far faster than the expansion of settlers.  The half-lucky Indians who survived the epidemics were herded into reservations.  Consequently, the cycle of periodic burning stopped, and the forests quickly returned.  The high mortality of disease resulted in extensive reforestation.  Forests in 1750 may have been bigger and denser than they had been in the previous thousand years.  When whites eventually arrived to create permanent agricultural communities, the regrown forests had to be cleared.


When the glaciers of the last ice age began melting, sea levels were very low, and England was connected by dry land to Ireland, Scandinavia, and continental Europe.  Barry Cunliffe wrote that as the ice retreated, and the climate warmed, the newly exposed lands went through a sequence of transitions — from tundra, to steppe, and then forest.  Essentially most of Western Europe became a vast forest.  Large game thrived on the tundra and steppe, but the expansion of forests reduced grazing land area, and the abundance of large game.

By 9000 B.C., hunter-gatherers apparently made some small clearings in the forest to attract game.  By 6000 B.C., England became disconnected from the continent by rising sea levels.  By 4500 B.C., when farmers and herders began to trickle in, England was largely a forest, except for the highlands.  Hunters dined on red deer, wild boar, and aurochs.  By 3000 B.C., there were substantial clearances for cropland and pasture.  By A.D. 1100, just 15 percent of Britain was forest.  By 1919, it was five percent, Britannia was essentially stripped naked.

Jed Kaplan’s team of researchers wrote a paper on the prehistoric deforestation of Europe.  It included stunning maps that illustrated the shrinkage of forests between 1000 B.C. and A.D. 1850.  [MAP]  Forests can be pushed back by killing them via burning, chopping, or girdling.  Tropical primates are the only critters that have the spooky ability to create such massive change, affecting entire continents.

In the 1970s, Hugh Brody was working on a British documentary about the Inuit people of Canada.  He had worked closely with an elder named Anaviapik, who had never travelled outside of his homeland.  When the film editing was done, both got on a plane, and flew to London to bless the finished version.  One day, Brody took Anaviapik for a drive in the countryside, and he was totally freaked out by what he saw.  “It’s all built!”  The natural face of the land had entirely been torn off, and replaced with manmade scars.

J. B. MacKinnon mentioned the story of a British scientist visiting the U.S.  From an overlook in the White Mountain National Forest, he could gaze down on 800,000 acres of woodland — an overwhelming experience.  The man burst into tears and had a long, hard cry.  At Yellowstone, he saw wolves in the wild for the first time, and he dropped to his knees.


The story in Ireland was similar to Britain in many ways, but Ireland got much more rainfall, annually receiving 50 to 200 inches (127-508 cm) of precipitation.  The wet climate encouraged the growth of lush temperate rainforests.  Frederick Aalen noted that early hunter-gatherers arrived about 8,000 years ago, when the isle was covered with a dense unbroken forest.  Folks lived along coastlines, lakes, and streams.  In the forest they created some openings to attract game, but these were apparently small in scale.

Farmers and herders began arriving around 3500 B.C., and the long war on trees commenced.  By the end of the 1600s, the destruction of native forests was nearly complete.  When Aalen wrote in 1978, just three percent of the land was covered by natural forest or fake forest (tree farms).  Deforestation had many unintended consequences.  William MacLeish noted that in the good old days, the rainforest wicked up a lot of moisture from the land, and allowed the breezes to disperse it into the atmosphere.  When the trees were gone, this dispersal ended, but the Gulf Stream continued delivering warm rainy weather from the Caribbean.  Consequently, water tables rose, bogs spread, and ground turned acid.

If we disregard the serious damage caused by deforestation, Ireland seemed to be a perfect place for raising livestock.  Winters were mild, the grass was green all year, and there was no need to grow, cut, and store hay for winter feed.  Barns were not needed to protect livestock from the cold.  Milk and meat were available all year round.  Herding worked well, but the very rainy climate made it rather risky to grow grain, despite the rich soils.

In A.D. 1185, King Henry II sent Giraldus Cambrensis (Jerry of Wales) to Ireland and report on the conditions.  His report mentioned many beautiful lakes, where some of the fish were larger than any he had ever seen before.  Common freshwater fish included salmon, trout, eels, and oily shad.  Along the coast, saltwater fish were abundant.  The woods were home to “stags so fat that they lose their speed.”  There were vast herds of boars and wild pigs.  Small hares were numerous.  Wolves had not yet been fully exterminated.  He said it was common to see the remains of Irish elk, a species that vanished on the island before the arrival of humans.  Their remains were commonly found in bogs, often in groups.

The Irish people lived like beasts, he wrote.  They held agriculture in contempt, and had no interest in the glittering wealth of the outer world.  There were large tracts of land suitable for crops, but folks had no interest in a shift to backbreaking drudgery.  The herding life worked just fine.  Cambrensis felt great pity for the uncivilized natives.  “Their greatest delight was to be exempt from toil, and their richest possession was the enjoyment of liberty.” 

Ireland was a great place to be a hunter-gatherer, as long as the clans avoided classic booboos like overhunting, overbreeding, or allowing the introduction of domesticated livestock and bloodthirsty colonizers.  Unfortunately, booboos happen.  The wild stags, wolves, and boars were perfectly adapted to the ecosystem, and caused no permanent injuries.  Humans often have a difficult time smoothly blending into ecosystems.  Will shamans ever discover a safe and effective cure for cleverness fever?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Wild Free and Happy Sample 23

[Note: This is the twenty-third sample from my rough draft of a far from finished new book, Wild, Free, & Happy.  I don’t plan on reviewing more books for a while.  My blog is home to reviews of 202 books, and you are very welcome to explore them.  The Search field on the right side will find words in the full contents of all rants and reviews, if you are interested in specific authors, titles, or subjects.]

 Super Grass

I previously mentioned the notion that humans are creatures of the grass.  Recently, I stumbled on information that added a deeper dimension to this theme.  It all began when I read that the area of global forest cover has been sharply reduced since the early Miocene Epoch.  This stimulated my curiosity, and led to an exciting wild factoid chase.  The Miocene spanned from 23 to 5.3 million years ago.  It seems that the early Miocene was wet and warm, and many ecosystems were forests.  I was surprised to learn that as late as 20 million years ago, much of Antarctica was covered with temperate forests.

Anyway, later in the Miocene, maybe 6 to 8 million years ago, it got cooler and dryer, and a new type of major ecosystem emerged — grasslands.  They can thrive where it’s too dry for trees.  Over time, expanding grassland displaced large areas of forest.  This shift was an important turning point in the human saga.  As forests shrank, there was less habitat for tree-dwelling primates, causing a number of species to tumble off the stage.  Some primates moved out onto the savannah, and figured out how to survive in open country as ground-dwelling primates.  They included the ancestors of baboons and humans. 

So, it was a gradual but substantial shift in climate patterns and ecosystems that made it possible for our ancestors to invent a new career path as hunters of large herbivores.  As the climate got cooler and dryer, grass species more tolerant of arid conditions rose in importance.  At this point, we need to take a brief side trip into some technical stuff.  I’ll keep it as short and simple as possible.

The entire family of life is solar powered.  Incoming solar energy is received by green plants, who use it to produce sugar.  This process is photosynthesis.  It converts solar energy into a form of chemical energy that plants and animals must have in order to survive.  Some animals acquire it directly by eating plant material, and others get it indirectly by dining on plant-eating animals.  Thus, photosynthesis is the foundation of life on Earth.

The process begins by splitting water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.  Then, in a fancy magic act, hydrogen is stirred together with CO2 to make sugar (C6H12O6).  The process results in some leftover oxygen atoms, which are released to the atmosphere.  Notice that animals exhale the CO2 that plants must have, and plants exhale the oxygen needed by animals, a sacred circle dance.  Plants can use the sugar to fuel their growth, or they can convert it to starch, and save it for later.  Plants can also make fat, protein, and vitamins.  They’re much smarter than they look.

The act of snatching carbon from the air, and incorporating it into living plant tissues, is called carbon fixation, or carbon sequestration.  As more carbon gets sequestered into the plants and surrounding topsoil, then less of it remains in the atmosphere.  This is great, because too much carbon in the atmosphere can lead to catastrophic climate juju, like the freaky changes we’re now just beginning to experience.

I should also mention that petroleum and coal are substances made of sequestered carbon that accumulated over the course of 500 million years.  Big Mama Nature wisely stored it away in a safe place deep underground, where it could cause no mischief.  Unfortunately, it has become very trendy for ignorance-powered societies to retrieve enormous quantities of this ancient carbon and foolishly burn it up, in order to indulge in a decadent joyride of self-destructive childish whimsy.  Big brains can make big mistakes.  It’s so embarrassing!

And now, (gasp!) the plot thickens.  There are two categories of plant species, based on the mode of photosynthesis they use: C3 or C4.  C3 produces a compound that has three carbon atoms, and C4 produces a compound that has four carbon atoms.  Both types are very old, but the shift to a cooler and dryer climate greatly boosted the expansion of C4 species.  Maybe 85 percent of the plant species on Earth are C3.  Their method of carbon fixation is simpler and less efficient than C4. 

Elizabeth Kellogg studied C4 plants.  In one experiment she found that, under ideal conditions, C3 plants could theoretically capture and store up to 4.6 percent of the solar energy they received, while C4 plants could get up to 6 percent (i.e., 30 percent more than C3).  While only 3 percent of flowering plant species are C4, they account for 23 percent of all carbon fixation in the world.  In other words, they produce much more of the precious chemical energy (sugar) that the family of life depends on.  Kellogg calls the C4 process a turbocharger.

There are four conditions under which C4 plants have a big advantage — high temperature, high light, low moisture, and low nutrients.  Because they use much less water, C4 plants better conserve soil moisture.  They also produce more root biomass, which increases their tolerance for drought and fire.  Of the 12,000 grass species, 46 percent of them are C4, and they include corn (maize), sugar cane, millet, and sorghum.  (Mad scientists are now trying to alter DNA to make rice C4 too.)

When critters consume C4 grasses, this diet leaves behind physical tracks.  Spencer Wells wrote that the bones of Native Americans revealed whether they were corn farmers or hunter-gatherers.  Because corn is a C4 grass, the bones of corn eaters contained molecular C4 markers.  Baz Edmeades talked about the ferocious dirk-tooth cats (Dinofelis), a species that went extinct about 1.4 million years ago.  We know they were creatures of the savannah, not the forest, because analysis of their tooth enamel indicated that they dined on herbivores that ate C4 grasses.

And now, dear reader, at long last, we are ready to proceed to the exciting conclusion of this tedious jabber.  It’s time to turn the spotlight on the heroes of this story, the C4 grass species.  Kellogg noted that in the last 8 million years, as climate change drove the retreat of tropical forests, the domain of C4 grasses has greatly expanded.  They are now significant components of major grasslands around the world.

C3 grasses were better adapted to moist forest floors and limited sunlight.  They were less able to thrive on arid grasslands.  Out on the savannah, conditions were ideal for C4 grasses, because they needed less water to enjoy a happy life.  Here they moved from the sidelines to the center stage.  Receiving many hours of direct sunlight every day, they were able to manufacture generous amounts of chemical energy (sugar), and this gave them the ability to grow rapidly. 

And so, these highly nutritious grasses became a highly desirable food source for the animals that were able to digest them, which required some adaptations.  Baz Edmeades noted that the blades of these grasses were tough, highly fibrous, and coated with abrasive silica.  Evolution responded by providing some animals with new and improved teeth that were more tolerant of abrasion, and better able to pulverize the plant fibers.  Other critters were issued new and improved digestive tracts, populated with bacteria that were fine-tuned for chemically breaking down fibrous glop.  The critters that succeeded in adapting to the new banquet made big gains in size and diversity.

Of course, too much of a good thing will have consequences.  If herds got way too large, the vitality of the grassland would be degraded, leading to starvation.  So, evolution came to the rescue by promoting a variety of big strong bloodthirsty carnivores, who delighted in inviting large herbivores to join them at lunchtime.  To make this sacred dance more sporting, evolution also encouraged the development of herbivores who could boogie across the grassland at high speeds.

Edmeades concluded that the rise of highly productive C4 grasses radically changed the world.  It spurred the evolution and spread of an astonishing variety of grassland herbivores and their predators.  It led to the emergence of spectacular Serengeti-like ecosystems in Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas — fantastic wonderlands of abundant life.

Graham Harvey noted that the herds of grass-eating critters benefitted the grasses.  Grazing actually stimulated plant growth.  In a brilliant design, new blades of grass emerge from growing points located close to the ground, where they are less likely to be damaged by hungry teeth.  The faster that grasses can send up new blades, the more sunlight they can capture, the more sugar they can make, and the happier the whole ecosystem becomes.

Grazing also benefitted grasses by regularly nipping off the rising shoots of woody vegetation.  If trees and brush were allowed to grow and spread, they would compete with the grass plants.  Then, the herds of hungry herbivores would have less to eat, and so would the carnivores that adored red meat.  Herds religiously offered their deep gratitude to the grass people by lovingly depositing nutrient rich manure and urine all over the place.

The big picture here is that the shift to a cooler dryer climate encouraged the substantial expansion of grassland, which boosted the expansion of C4 grass species, which propelled the evolution and expansion of large grazers and carnivores, which boosted the global tonnage of living meat.  These megafauna migrated and settled on five continents (not Australasia).  Around the world we find species of horses, bison, elephants, antelope, deer, hyenas, wolves, bears, and so on.  The moral of this story is that climate change can radically alter the face of the planet, and the family of life.

Later in this amazing transformation, another powerful agent of radical change joined the cast of the grassland soap opera.  These critters walked on two legs, and resembled what you see in the mirror.  They eventually assumed the role of apex predators, something that no other primate had ever attempted.  Our ancestors did not wait patiently for evolution to provide them with the speed, strength, fangs, and claws that are customary for natural born carnivores.  Instead, they invented hunting weapons, learned how to make fire, and began experimenting with a way of life that no other animal in the history of the planet had ever attempted.  It’s notable that every other animal species continues to live like they did a million years ago — ultra-conservative, and perfectly sustainable.

The advance of the new critters marked the emergence of an extremely spooky, highly contagious, multi-drug resistant virus known as cleverness fever.  For a few million years, its mind-altering effects gradually intensified.  Ten thousand years ago, they surged.  Today they are skyrocketing.  Humankind is now engaged in full scale warfare against the entire family of life, including itself.  A lively and entertaining soap opera has shape shifted into the mother of all horror shows.  Will the current swing to a much warmer climate provide the miraculous silver bullet cure for the mass hysteria of cleverness fever?  Stay tuned.