October is the month designated to horror. While ghosts and goblins may be harbingers of Halloween, there’s a few frightful spectres that lurk in the shadows every day of the year.
Whether you think climate change is our new reality or just a hokey hoax, there is some undeniably terrifying things about this phenomenon. One of the biggest debates around climate change is whether it is man-made or a cyclical occurrence in nature — even with 97 per cent of the scientific community pointing towards human activities being the brunt of the crisis.
The science tells us that year over year temperatures are rising, having an impact on two key areas — the oceans and the Arctic. This increase of heat is causing a huge concentration of energy that feeds into the atmosphere, causing bigger and more devastating storms.
It’s creating more acidic oceans that are killing off coral. Remember that meteor struck the Earth six million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs? That impact caused widespread ocean acidification and one of the greatest mass extinction events of all time. Hotter oceans are also pushing sea life further north towards zones that were once too cold to support their ecosystem.
But what about that snow storm that hit us this week? That disproves it right? Not so fast. It’s a changing climate — which means that weather patterns start to shift. All those areas of heat pull water into the air that falls as precipitation, which can be rain or it can be snow. The heat and moisture just intensities stormfronts — whether that’s a hurricane or a blizzard.
But has this happened before? Climate changes all the time. True, climate has changed throughout the millennia, but it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t an impact on life. Whether it’s precipitated by us or not isn’t the argument to be had here. The end game is all the same.
Zombie deer disease
What’s Halloween without some good ol’ walking dead? Zombies have been all the rage for years but this disease isn’t a work of fiction. Known for several decades as chronic wasting disease, this infection takes hold on deer and elk population and has spread across Western Canada and Midwestern United States.
But deer infected with this illness don’t become some blood-thirsty undead entity. In fact, It’s much scarier than that. These deers are dying from a disease that attacks the brain. CWD is one of a myriad of illnesses known as prion diseases, which are insidious illnesses that shifted how we think about molecular biology. They are infectious proteins that misfold, causing tangles and neuronal death.
The most famous instance was the mad cow scare from the late 1980s and early 1990s, where sick cows infected the food chain, leading to hundreds of human cases.
Before prions were discovered, the only infectious agents we knew of were microbes like bacteria, virus or fungi. Prion proteins can be transmitted from deer to deer, human to human, and can sometimes jump the species barrier, spreading from animal to human. They can lay dormant for decades before causing an infection that is 100 per cent fatal.
Erin Matthews/ Opinions Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor