Starving Whales and Tiki Torches

 Starving Orca Scarlet     Photo: Katy Foster

Starving Orca Scarlet     Photo: Katy Foster

     Worldwide attention has been on our local endangered Orcas with the visible grieving of a mother for her calf and efforts to feed starving three-year-old Scarlet (J50). (You can see the tell-tale depression at the back of her skull in the photo.) In trying to link my personal choices to climate change’s impacts on these whales, summer brought me another example beyond barbecues.

Bugs in the Neighborhood

     It started with mosquitos. In a rush to get a deck on our new house, it didn’t occur to me that I’d be in danger of being bug bait in my own backyard.  I thought the small creek outside the fence was quaint and that constant island breezes would blow mosquitos away, but no. They came.
     I’d been eager to do some limited weeding and, even more, to sit and sip in the evening, so my husband went off to the local garden shop to find a solution. I was initially delighted when he brought back two Tiki torches that added a festive air.

Local Warming

Tiki Torches.jpg

     Ah. The mosquitos did leave but eventually the oily smell made it clear that it’s fossil fuel burning in those torches. This time it wasn’t hard to trace how climate change is indirectly affecting whales, especially the endangered local Orcas that I’ve been following. I can connect that the rising levels of CO2 from greenhouse gasses are disturbing whale habitats both in local regions (Skagit River watershed) and globally (hurricane patterns).
     Talk about unaware. Maybe two Tiki torches won’t make a big difference to the temperature of our corner of the west, but it’s just embarrassing. We considered a plug in bug zapper but that uses more electricity; currently we’re trying out the not-quite-odor-free version of Deet. The unlit torches are highly questionable garden art until we get a responsible way to recyle the oil soaked Tikis.

Connecting the Dots                           

As I see how tiny choices contribute to climate change, I’m learning to pin down what I’m trying to do – in this case repel mosquitoes – and then experimenting to find more climate-friendly ways of doing it. Often I don’t need fossil fuels directly, but I expect I’m going to need lots of new ways to carry on the business of living.

Tiki Diag final cropped.jpg


     Meanwhile efforts to help Scarlet include learning more about what’s caused her starvation. Speculation about the toxins in her system underlines how greenhouse gasses create pollution as well as heat (top of diagram).
     Toxic load on her mother’s milk also would have affected her general health and ability to catch the salmon she is sorely lacking. Check in to Orca Network for ongoing updates.

#endangered Orcas #fossil fuels #climate