Conspiracists suggest Lyme disease was not an accident of nature but a petri dish product borne in secretive microbiology labs on Plum Island, New York. There at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, scientists engaged in germ warfare research concocted a debilitating bacterium symptomatically hard to diagnose but easily spread through the bite of infected deer ticks. Conspiracy or not, Lyme disease is infecting more people as it spreads with a warming climate.
I remember growing up in the 60s and 70s on Long Island, NY without the cloud of Lyme disease. Frolicking on sand dunes at Jones Beach, hiking across fields and meadows at Boy Scout camps in the Catskills, and picking the occasional tick off that found its way onto my skin with little worry. Today, the number of friends and family members testing positive for Lyme grows–as do my concerns about this dreadful disease. And when I now venture out into the woods or my small home garden, I’m decked in long sleeves, long pants, and hat all doused with insect repellant.
Conspiracy aside, our warmer weather has expanded the habitats of many infectious diseases, including Lyme. My little Adirondack town of Warrensburg didn’t have Lyme disease cases until a few years ago. The same holds for other northern portions of the United States. There are other factors at work, including a decline in biodiversity–all of which means more deer and tick-carrying rodents that spread Lyme. Climate change impacts are complex, pervasive, and sometimes subtle, and Lyme disease is but one more evidence of the Earth’s anthropogenic warming.
A 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:
Make some popcorn, pour your favorite beverage, and watch the movie, Disruption. Then head out to New York City for the Climate March on Sunday, September 21st.