You didn't need to be told that humans are ruining natural environments all over the place. In the competition for survival, we are winning, beating out competitors, causing havoc, and claiming victory, however short term it may be. It is only particular aspects of the problem that are news, and we do need to be told of them for the purpose, if nothing more, of keeping our eyes open to the onslaught. Here is an aspect that you may not know about: green sea turtles are being killed off by a mysterious illness. A sincere and thoughtful book will tell you of the problem, if you can stand to hear about it: _Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean_ (PublicAffairs) by Osha Gray Davidson. Davidson is a fine storyteller, and has pulled the history of sea turtles together with documentation about their current fate, as well as giving vivid portraits of the idiosyncratic turtle fans who are trying to do something about the turtles' problem. The particular problem for them is serious, and as Davidson's subtitle tells, it reflects a general and larger disaster.
The green sea turtle has survived for over a hundred million years, and it simply may not be around much longer. It has been overhunted, but as Davidson makes clear, overhunting is so cause-and-effect obvious that it is often blamed as the reason extinctions happen. However, a hundred years ago we were learning that the indirect methods of ignorance and indifference were far more efficient vectors of biological collapse by means of habitat destruction. We are also turning coastal waters into a breeding ground for a revolting disease called fibropapillomatosis, or FP for short. Tumors sprout on the flippers restricting motion, and around the eyes causing blindness, and within the guts causing eventual death. They are warty or smooth, and leeches live in them for the blood supply, and blood flukes lay eggs in them. In 1986 researchers were shocked that there were outbreaks of the disease in both Florida and Hawaii. The exact mechanism of the disease is in doubt, but what is not in doubt is that turtles with this disgusting and sad disease come from the areas which are most highly polluted, by fertilizers and sewage, or have sea beds gouged by trawling. Turtles from the few remaining pristine areas are so far unaffected, but no ocean creature will be unaffected by ocean temperature change, which is another way the sea becomes friendly to pathogens.
Davidson's work is full of facts and scientific information, and skillful portraits of people involved in trying to do something about this horrendous illness. If there is any defect in his book, it is that it spends its bulk explaining the problem carefully, and leaves only a few paragraphs for instruction on what we can do, and such instruction is general: "We could stop treating the ocean as if it were the world's largest garbage dump and start treating it like the sacred source of all life that it is... We could balance growth and development with habitat preservation. We could, finally, get serious about stopping global warming." Davidson is no pessimist, but sadly, it is probable that our "we coulds" are not going to change into "we wills" in time to stop this disaster, and the others connected to it.