Hello there. The permafrost is melting.

A worker for Fyodor Shidlovsky's National Alliance returns to base in June 2008 with mammoth tusks in Sakha republic in Siberia. (Fyodor Shidlovsky archives)

Hi guys. Whether or not you believe all this claptrap about global climate change, there’s a little fact we ought to bring to your attention: the Siberian permafrost is melting and woolly mammoth bones are surfacing – so many that Russian scientists are doing a splendid side trade in woolly mammoth tusks. In fact, they used to go for as much as $700 per kilogram; however these finds so endangered the market for African ivory that African ivory merchants made a huge sell-off of their wares to gut the woolly mammoth-tusk trade to about $220 a kilo.

The Los Angeles Times, which had its own news staff gutted by the financial crisis, has done a brilliant job at getting us this story. (We here at “WHEN HISTORY ATTACKS!” had almost written off the L.A. Times as a true functioning news organization.) And in this story, they’re telling us several things. First, the global financial meltdown has caused such frantic competition across the world, that a whole lot of people are forced into side trades (including Russian scientists and, by corollary, journalists). Second, these side jobs often have the negative effect of pressuring illegal economies – like the African ivory trade, which is banned worldwide with just a couple of exceptions. They will have to slaughter more elephants to make their living, and that means both legitimate, honest journalists and elephants are increasingly becoming very endangered species.

This is all embedded – but unstated – in the Los Angeles Times article, as well as the minor fact that the melting of the permafrost is an extremely bad thing. Trapped in the frozen ground is the world’s biggest reservoir of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Its release virtually guarantees an acceleration in global climate change. So if you still have any doubts about global warming, come back to us in a couple of years and tell us “You were right.”

P.S. WOOLLY MAMMOTH tusk scavengers v.s. the African ivory trade is analogous to recycling vs. consumption of dwindling resources. The very issue of conservation itself is scalable from paleontology to global warming. Which is kind of a neat trick, if it weren’t all so deadly serious.


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