Fungus is not anyone’s friend – unless of course, it is in the form of a shiitake mushroom– but as a rule, fungus is not a positive thing. Humans are always fighting fungal infections from their toes to their scalps, and the pharmaceutical companies have been right there ready to spritz, powder, medicate or cream the nasty stuff away no matter where it lies.
I have wondered – not often as I have more pressing things on my mind — what it would be like to be a fungus researcher. I don’t know if this is a position people own up to. Let’s face it: what sounds better? “I am a scientist researching alternative fuels to save our planet” or “I am a scientist researching fungus”? Fungus just does not have a glamorous ring to it.
Okay, I know that sounds a bit snotty because fungus can be problematic in so many ways, so we should be grateful to those who want to study it; I just don’t want to invite them over for dinner without proof that they washed their hands really good before leaving the lab.
I have fallen so far off the track; In fact, I never even climbed onto the right track to begin with, but I do have a fungus point here. Do you know that out in the northern Rockies and Western Canada, an extra- strength fungus and a bug called the Bark Beetle are destroying the Whitebark Pine Trees, and in fact, two-thirds of these trees have disappeared from Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. This is not a new observation; scientists have been monitoring the situation for more than 30 years, but little can be done. No one takes time to find cures for tree fungus. It’s hard enough to find a cure for the human funguses, or fungi– right?
So, what should the Whitebark Pine do? Well, the Fish and Wildlife Service want them to migrate north. Hm. This is where you can tell I am a city girl. How do you get trees to uproot and move? Do you line them all up and lead them out of their home forest like Moses led the Israelites out of the desert? Maybe you stand in front of them and wave them forward like the guy on the tarmac that leads airplanes into the gates? Do you just throw some suitcases on the forest floor and tell them they have overstayed their welcome and it’s time to leave?
Let’s give the trees the benefit of the doubt and say they understand the need to move north to escape the fungus and Bark Beetle. Let’s say they fold up their branches and re-locate. The challenge to survive is still not over. The earth’s climate is getting warmer. I know there is a bunch of you that don’t buy the whole global warming thing, and you think it is a scam rigged by liberals to sabotage the altruistic efforts of the selfless oil companies, but I believe it and so do most people with brains. Anyway, the point is this: even if the trees do move, they still might not survive if the Earth’s temperature continues to rise.
So, what is a Whitebark Pine tree to do? It could develop a tree suit of armor xomplete with air conditioning to ward off insects and temperature changes; it could bribe an athlete’s foot researcher and a RAID chemist to forget about studying human fungus and roaches and take up their plight, or it can join forces with all the other trees in the forest and knock off the people who don’t believe global warming and environmental causes are legitimate issues. Then, maybe with a more sympathetic human population, the forests might stand a chance of survival.