Globe Skimmers and Blue Gold

• An amazing dragonfly, found worldwide, is called the “Wandering Glider” (Pantala flavescens) or the “Globe Skimmer.” This is the long-distance flyer of the insect world thanks to its broad hind-wings, powerful wing muscles, and stamina. These dragonflies are known to migrate great distances, even over the ocean. For example, they fly from the Maldive Islands at the tip of India across the Indian Ocean to southeast Africa – a 2,000 non-stop trip flying at an altitude of up to 6,000 feet. These wanderers show up in Door County in summertime, and one wonders about the many sights they have seen in their travels. (Wikelskie et al, Biology Letters, Vol. 2, p. 325, 2006;

• Sitka, Alaska, is the site of Blue Lake, one of the world’s greatest deposits of a kind of deep blue gold. The lake is called blue gold because it holds trillions of gallons of pure, drinkable water, even without treatment. Fed by glaciers and snowpack, the value of the lake may approach that of gold sometime in the future as the world faces an increasing scarcity of drinkable water. It’s almost inevitable that there will be future wars based on demands for water, not oil. While oil isn’t absolutely essential to sustain life, freshwater is.

Some countries already face grave freshwater shortages, while others have an abundance. The top freshwater-rich countries are Iceland, Guyana, The Congo, Suriname, Bhutan, New Guinea, Gabon, and Canada. Water-poor regions include much of northern and eastern Africa, South Africa, the Middle East, India, parts of Russia and China, and the western U.S. Distributing freshwater from the haves to the have-nots is a major problem, one that is confounded by the doubling of global water consumption every 20 years. In the case of Blue Lake, two American companies have purchased the rights to transfer a billion gallons of freshwater a year. The water will be collected by pipeline and ultimately transported by tanker ships to Mumbai (for sale in the Middle East) or marketed in India. If global warming is a reality, the worldwide need for freshwater will continue to grow, become greater, and sometime in the future we may be as concerned about freshwater to drink as about oil to fuel our cars. (Ryan Tracy, in Newsweek, Oct. 18, 2010; data from University of Kassel, Pacific Institute, United Nations)

• What causes memory loss after age 60? For one thing, from age 20 onward, we can lose some neurotransmitters (but not neurons) and become distracted more easily. Studies of the brain suggest that when we forget a name, the information is not missing. The name is just “at the bottom of our (memory) pile.” It’s a problem of retrieval, which can be impacted by mood, how busy we are, whether we slept well, and stress. At an office party, it might be embarrassing to forget your husband’s boss’s name is Ed. However, if you forget your husband has a boss, or even what a boss is, then you have a problem. (Julie Beun, in The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 25, 2011, as reprinted in Brain in the News, Sept., 2011)

• Dutch scientists followed the diets of 20,000 people over 10 years and found that those who ate at least six ounces of white-fleshed fruits and vegetables were 50 percent less likely to have strokes than people who ate half that amount. Other studies have shown that foods with rich coloring, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and deep green kale may help protect against heart disease and even cancer. (The Week, Oct. 7, 2011)