Global Warming, The Decline of the Moose, and "Minnesota Nice"

We [had a cool summer here in Minnesota in 2009], and this has brought out the miscreants who for their own reasons do not want to get on board with the simple, well demonstrated scientific fact that global temperatures have risen, that we humans are the primary cause, and that this climate change has negative consequences.

~ A Repost ... Because Global Warming is still real, as is Global Warming Denialism ~

There are probably different reasons people do not want to get on board with this reality. The main reason especially for younger individuals is that they have been told by their political mentors to not accept global warming. The political mentors, in turn, reject global warming knowing full well that it is real. Why do they do this? Because factoring in the intention to NOT cause major climate change when making business decisions ore, more likely, when developing regulations is seen as bad for business. The Republican Party and many right wing "think" tanks are paid by industry to make sure there is always a big question mark next to the term "Global Warming," to ensure that real policy changes that would cost those industries money are rejected or at least slowed down. So one group of people don't accept global warming because they let other people do their thinking for them. How pathetic.

A second reason found among some of the older denialists is that they rejected the entire environmental movement decades ago when it started to emerge, because it was linked to things like hippies and eggheads, and they are simply too thick headed to admit they were mostly wrong and the environmentalists of the 1960s were mostly right.

There were once many moose in northwestern Minnesota. A couple of years ago, we drove across the Great Morass, which is a huge chunk of ancient glacial lake bed that should be perfect moose habitat. A decade or two ago, there were about 4,000 moose in the region, and a drive across the Great Morass would likely get you a sighting or two. Today, it is estimated that the population of 4,000 plus moose has decreased to about 100 moose. Needless to say, we saw no moose on our drive across the Morass. In northeastern Minnesota the moose population is also under threat, though the drop in numbers has not been as bad. Overall, the situation for Minnesota Moose is dire.

We could start an argument about whether or not global warming is the actual cause of the moose decline in these regions. But that would be stupid, and politically motivated, because we already know it is. At the end of a cold winter, you get extra moose. There are calves that are healthy and growing into adults. At the end of warm winter you get few calves, mostly not healthy, and the adults get parasites and die. The amount of moose is linked to winter temperature as plainly as the amount of snow is linked to winter temperature. Even if the most optimistic scenario regarding global warming came to be ... which would require, honestly, making climate change denialism go away right now ... the overall warming trend will continue for some time and it is pretty clear that the only moose left in Minnesota (and other regions of the US) will be stuffed, statues, or in petting zoos. And wither the moose also the wolves.

Every year there seems to be a certain amount of coverage of the decline of moose in Minnesota (like this, this, and this), but I'm pretty sure that if you asked Minnesotans cold about what sorts of environmental problems they see as important, the moose will not come up very often. Global warming might be mentioned, but the specific problem that this majestic species of deer is likely to become extinct in Minnesota, and that our wolf population will likely be threatened as well, is not part of of the daily conversation here.

Of all the "lower 48" states, Minnesota is the only state with an indigenous wolf population that has been here "all along." ("All along" = "Since white people showed up.") The reason is not because Minnesotans love their wolves and conserved them. The reason is because Minnesotans tried really hard to kill all the wolves but were stopped by those pesky environmentalists before they finished them off. Even to this day, Minnesotans are ambivalent about wolves. I'm pretty sure that a lot of Minnesotans don't get how amazing it is that they are here. Same with the moose. Nobody really cares. The reason these animals are still here is because this is a big state, it's really cold and swampy up north, and it is taking us forever to get around to fucking the whole thing up. But eventually ....

Minnesotans need a sense of awe for nature and shame for our destruction of it. We need a new addition to our cultural ethos, to take a place next to our hot dish fetish and our globally famous passive aggressive form of social interaction (sometimes known as "Minnesota Nice."). We need to become more aware of our effects on the environment, and we need to put the conservation of natural resources on par with our selfish desire for motorized recreation, gunplay in the woods, and yes, even fishing. You already know that Minnesota is the state of 10,000 lakes. Actually, there are well over 20,000 lakes. And a few hundred of them are not connected to the highway system by paved roads. A few thousand of them to not receive doses of agricultural chemicals every year. A small percentage of them are not overbuilt on the shorelines and being silted in from human-caused erosion. I have yet to meet a "cabin" person in this state who gives the slightest indication that they understand that the rules and regulations of development on lake shore property is to protect the lake from the property owner. This is not to say that they don't know that. They do know that. But thy don't talk about it. The idea that we need to actively conserve our natural resources is not part of the conversation. Which means, unfortunately, it is not going to happen.

Minnesotans, as a rule, don't get it. They never have. And if they don't start getting it soon, this place is going to start looking a lot like Iowa.

More like this

One of my comments from time to time has been,"The duck's best friend carries a shotgun." What do you have in the way of moose hunting in Minnesota? Anyone who wants their kid and grand-kid to be able to go out and kill a moose?

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 03 Oct 2010 #permalink

There is moose hunting but it is in very small numbers. Elk as well, believe it or not. Yes, we need a good core breeding area and a very open hunting rule on the periphery. Right now there's just not enough.

Change some details and you're describing Michigan too.

As a fly fisher, I wonder how long the famous coldwater rivers of northern Michigan like the Au Sable, Manistee, and others will stay coldwater streams; will they go from trout to bass & walleye in this century? Of course, we already killed off the native grayling in the Au Sable & other rivers - remnants of the Ice Age - with habitat destruction due to logging & replaced those with introduced European brown trout.

I find myself celebrating the economic stagnation of West Virginia. If we had more people here they'd just fuck everything up worse than it already is.

It's already a full time job trying to make outsiders feel unwelcome.

As a Minnesotan, I understand and know your frustrations, but I also think there is a good percentage of us (from the cities to northwoods) that care about and are actively involved in conserving our natural resources.

I completely agree that there needs to be more talk about climate change on the local level. I think it's such a shame that moose are basically doomed here, especially since there was just recently talk about reintroducing caribou.

And it's not just Moose that climate change is going to push out of Minnesota. A couple of years ago, Fisheries & Wildlife students from the University of Minnesota put on a very detailed symposium on how climate change is expected to affect Minnesota ecosystems. We are going to lose a whole mess of species and probably a whole biome.

I just wish people would pay as much attention to these issues as they do to Lily the Black Bear.

Nice warm summer in the Boston area, we had 80 degrees at the end of September. I could get to like global warming, but it won't stay nice like this.

Local weather forecaster tonite said we were heading into a below-normal cool week, and that we hadn't had below-normal temperatures since last year. No connecting of the dots as to why that might be.

I am often befuddled that so many people can see Jesus' image in burnt toast but can't see Hell's image in the various hockey stick graphs.

My neighbor's an old-timer from Mn, and he swears it's been far warmer the past 40 years than it has been during his years there (he moved to the other side of the planet 30 years ago but still visits regularly). Has anyone plotted up the historical temperature record? He's also noted the decline in moose and the degradation of the forests - he should know, his family was in the lumber business - those people tend to notice that there aren't so many trees worth cutting down anymore.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 04 Oct 2010 #permalink

I just read MN Moose & Climate Change Parts I and IIa. Did you ever write IIb? I searched, but couldn't find it. (Also, thanks for the share on Facebook!)