Empirically Yours

Seals Discuss Rising Sea Levels


Note: Rude, raucous laughter among the seals is transcribed here as: Bark-bark-bark-bark-bark.

Seal 1: Hey do you guys smell that? Smells like raw sewage…
Seal 2: Yeah, I smell it too. It’s really bad by those Homo sapiens (h sap) buildings above the beach. It comes from their septic systems, which are either poorly designed or not maintained, or both.
Seal 3: Wow, it really stinks. Why don’t they just clean it up? Don’t they know we have to swim in it? I’m not bringing the pups here.
Seal 1: H saps have a chronic blind spot to their own waste products like CO2 in the air and feces in the water.
Seal 2: And the other problem we can taste in Puget Sound is agricultural runoff. That’s high in nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which aggravate blooms of algae or the “red tide” (see KP News, August 2019).
Seal 3: But listen,  I read a seal-mail saying that there is an even greater sewage disposal problem in North Miami, Florida. Septic systems in thousands of homes near the ocean in North Miami no longer perc, the freshwater table is only a few inches below the surface. And just below the freshwater is saltwater. Hello, Mr. Atlantic Ocean.
Seal 1, Seal 2 and Seal 3: Bark-bark-bark-bark-bark.
Seal 2: The predictions about the rate of sea level rise are a bit uncertain, but recent measurements suggest that sea levels are rising faster than predicted. The oceans are absorbing enormous amounts of heat from the atmosphere, making even more warm water that is melting glaciers and the big ice sheets around Antarctica from below. It’s happening much faster than anyone thought. Even in the winter, ice in Greenland is melting at rates much faster than historic rates. They say Western Canada’s glaciers have only a few decades left before they virtually disappear.
Seal 1: Why is anyone surprised that Florida is sinking? Our old seal legends say that all of Florida was underwater at one time; it’s an ancient sea bed.
Seal 2: Well the h saps who live in Florida will have to do something, like install proper sewage pipes and a sewage treatment plant.
Seal 3: If the ocean level keeps rising, won’t the h saps have to leave?
Seal 1: Naw, they’ll ask the federal government to bail them out, pay their insurance bills or pay them to relocate.
Seal 3: I hope they don’t relocate here and install more defective septic systems.
Seal 2: If they relocate, won’t their property become worthless? Why, they’ll have nothing to bequeath to their pups.
Seal 3: Say, isn’t Mar-A-Lago near there, on a Palm Beach barrier island?
Seal 1, Seal 2 and Seal 3: Bark-bark-bark-bark-bark.

Richard Gelinas, Ph.D., whose early work earned a Nobel prize, is a senior research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology. He lives in Lakebay.