Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is the Robin a Sign of Impeding Doom?

Here is an older story that I missed at the time. It seems that Senator John McCain went after some warming skeptics. He said the proof was overwhelming that the world was warming and he had his own cutesy story to prove it---these sorts of stories are popular with those on that side of the debate.

McCain said that warming is so rapid that robins are now appearing in the Arctic. He said: “The Inuit language for 10,000 years never had a word for robin and now there are robins all over their villages.”

McCain got this from a news report by Alister Doyle for Reuters entitled: “As Ice Thaws, Arctic Peoples at Loss for Words”. It claimed that “many indigenous languages have no words for the legions of new animals and plants advancing north as global warming thaws the polar ice....”

The Globe and Mail in Canada ran a story on the alleged problem entitled “Some like it hot -- but a robin in the Arctic?” It too claimed: “The Far North is being introduced to the robin, the South’s harbinger of spring and a bird so rarely seen above the tree line that the Inuvialuit don’t even have a name for it.”

The BBC jumped in to repeat the story in their piece, “No Word for Robin: Climate Change in the Canadian Arctic.” They quote a “bird enthusiast” as saying: “I don’t know if there’s a word in Sachs Harbour for robin. They’re so rare here, we don’t have names for them.” The report says “warm temperatures are enabling new species, such as robins... to adapt to their habitat.”

The problem with all of this, like so many other warming “examples” is that the media reports are wrong. One could read Laurence Irving’s 1953 article: The Naming of Birds by Nunamiut Eskimo to find that out. He spent with the Indigenous tribes to learn what words they used for the various birds. He describes the area as “about one hundred miles north of the arctic circle”. And from his research he said the names used for the birds “are from the usage of older Nunaimiut people” -- meaning the words are much older than what he was finding in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

On page 43 of the article you will find the Eastern Robin listed. The transliteration of the Nunamiut name for the bird is Koyapigaktoruk, a word which means song. Irving did say that there were numerous species present in the Arctic for which the native people did not have words, at least no one he spoke to could name the birds. The unnamed birds tended to be rarer but the robin was not one of them. It was common enough that it was named. Solomon said they nested in the area and were a migrating species.

In 1913 Vihjalmur Stefansson wrote a book, My Life With the Eskimo where he mentioned the Eskimo name for robin. He described the bird life that he found living in the Arctic. I quote him directly from page 493.

Planesticus migratorius migratorius (Linnaeus). Robin. Kre-ku-ak'tu-yok (Mackenzie Eskimo). Shab'wak (Alaskan Eskimo). Nesting commonly all along the Athabaska, Slave, and Mackenzie rivers, a little beyond the northern limit of trees. At Fort McKay, on the Athabaska River, found nest with two eggs May 18th ; at Smith's Landing, Slave River, nest with young June 7th. At Fort Simpson, Mackenzie River, Robins were abundant ; one nest with four eggs under steps of the Hudson Bay Company's museum and another on a fish stage. A nest containing four young birds was found June 22d, on the east branch of the Mackenzie delta. The first Robin of the season was seen on Dease River May 10th, and one specimen was taken June 19th, 1911, near the mouth of Kogaryuak River, on south side of Coronation Gulf ; the only Robin which I have seen on the Arctic coast, although one specimen was seen at Herschel Island several years ago (according to accounts of the whalers). Robins are fairly common in the spruce timber on Horton River fifteen or twenty miles south of Langton Bay.
As this range map of the American Robin shows the bird's range, during the Summer, has always included northern Alaska, north of the Arctic circle. Click on it to enlarge it you wish.

Once again another warming example is proven to be false. The New York Times reported on it, The Globe and Mail reported it, the BBC reported it, Senator McCain obviously believed it. Yet the story was not true. We have a book that is almost a century old describing the robins found in the Arctic and giving the indigenous names for those bird. It is important to remember that 1913 is long before “man-made global warming” was supposed to have started. Yet this sign of C02 induced warming was spotted in the same regions a 100 years ago. But today they are alleged signs of warming.

There was one source for this story which I haven’t quoted yet. That is the site “In Defense of Marxism”. They too quoted the claims about the robin appearing in the Arctic for the first time due to global warming. At least they make their political agenda crystal clear:

It is this process of climate change (along with many other things) that clearly demonstrates that capitalism has outlived its historic usefulness. Capitalism cannot deal with global warming, because to make the necessary changes to production, transport, and our way life is a direct attack on the very heart of capitalism.

It is on the question of the environment that socialism proves itself an absolute necessity. It is the anarchy of the market, and the never-ending pursuit of profits that has put the environment under tremendous strain, and put the planet and humanity at risk. Some people get squeamish when Marxists speak about using science and technology to increase and extend “humanity’s mastery over nature”. This statement is not a negative statement, and should not be seen as meaning destruction. In fact it is positive and means the opposite.

The development of society and industry, under capitalism, is destroying the planet. Under socialism, if we wish to improve our lives and standard of living, if we wish to raise millions out of poverty, we must develop industry. But the point is to develop industry in harmony with the environment. This is possible, the scientific knowledge and capability is there. The world must develop a rational, harmoniously planned economy, using all the scientific knowledge and technology available to us. Only the public ownership of the land, the major industries, oil, mining and logging companies, along with sources of energy and transport, can form the basis of a genuine socialist approach to the environment. Environmental plans would be measured in generations, not fiscal quarters.

Whatever you think of these Marxists, and I don’t think much of them, they are outlining what is being offered as the solution to this alleged crisis: “a rational, harmoniously planned economy” which “is a direct attack on the very heart of capitalism.”

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