On any given day, we might get food poisoning from the entire roast chicken we ate for lunch, catch bird flu from the bi-weekly cockfight we attend behind the Circle K, or crash our car while swerving to hit some smug-ass deer, taunting us from the roadside with his arrogant beauty. There are plenty of dangers that can befall humanity by virtue of our own asshole behaviors, but none that hold a candle to these:
Jellyfish are creepy looking, kind of dangerous, and unlike their fellow marine killer, the shark, they don't even taste that good. Which is why it's kind of a bummer that they're now poised to take over two-thirds of planet Earth.
H.P. Lovecraft wasn't all syphilis and racism.
In 2006 and 2010, huge swarms of jellyfish invaded the beaches of Spain, stinging tens of thousands of swimmers. In some places, these occupying jellyfish appeared in concentrations of up to ten per square meter. These swarms are called "jellyfish blooms," and they're popping up in oceans worldwide like cam chat-room ads on free porn sites. Hawaii and Ireland were similarly swarmed in 2007, Israel and France in 2008, and Tunisia and Italy in 2009.
Don't start screaming now. You'll be hoarse by the end of the article.
Man-Sized Jellyfish: Nature's way of saying, "fuck right off, divers."
Oh, and did we mention that one of the species exploding in population is the box jellyfish, a variety previously found in the waters off northern Australia? And that many of these things possess 6-8 foot long tentacles covered in venom that can kill a human in three minutes?.
What the hell did we do?
Three things: First, we're dumping massive amounts of agricultural waste into the ocean. The fertilizers present in that waste are designed to increase plant growth, but they'll do their job on algae just fine instead. That algae, in turn, feeds microzooplankton, which, along with a glass of orange juice and an inspirational speech from Tony the Tiger, are a big part of any jellyfish's balanced breakfast.
One day they'll learn to fly, and mankind will reap a just harvest of pain.
Second, the ocean in general has gotten warmer. Whether you want to chalk that up to global warming or angry wizards, the temperature has risen recently, and for unknown reasons that makes jellyfish both reproduce more and swim closer to the beaches. This particularly applies to tropical jellyfish -- you know, like that three-minute-death tentacle kind from earlier? That's what's waiting for you out in those clear blue waters, just humping and murdering up a storm, waiting for your children to swim on out and join the poison-orgy.
It's...less fun than it sounds.
Finally, we ate too much Omega-3. Overfishing has triggered the jellyfish uprising by killing off huge amounts of the tuna, sharks and turtles that usually prey on jellyfish and their eggs. So, on the plus side: Those are some awesomely low triglycerides you've got up in your blood! On the downside: Gelatinous poison monsters from the deep. Hey, you knew staying healthy was going to require some sacrifices. It's just that in this case, those sacrifices happen to be of the human variety.
In the hundred years leading up to 1990, there were 53 recorded cougar attacks on humans in North America, only ten of which were fatal. From 1991 to 2004, there were 49 attacks and ten more deaths. That's almost a sevenfold increase in human death. Other mountain lion-related problems, like pet-killing, have also increased, even in heavily-populated city areas which one would hopefully assume are relatively free of giant man-eating cats.
We like nature and all, but trees are probably a better way to combat urban blight than hordes of ravening, killer kitties.
What the hell did we do?
The cougar's status in the species hierarchy has changed significantly over the years. Where once you could get a bounty for killing one, hunting is now strictly controlled, or in the case of California, outlawed altogether. California, coincidentally enough, is also the place that's experienced that sixteen-fold increase in attacks over the last 25 years. We don't want to pass judgment on complicated environmental issues or anything, California, but it's probably safe to assume the increased cougar maulings are not because they disapprove of your state's irresponsible handling of its recent budget issues.
According to some researchers, mankind's cessation of anti-cougar activities has caused the cats to lose their fear of humanity. And really, we shouldn't need researchers to tell us that, if we don't show large predators we pose at least some kind of threat, they're going to learn to think of us as soft, pink, vertical burritos ripe for the snacking.
Try not to look so damn appetizing.
Also not helping: The cougars that do get hunted these days are most likely to be adult males, since their size makes them the most impressive trophies. This leaves their vacated territory open to the equivalent of cougar teenagers, who are most into experimenting with human prey (and maybe the hard drugs too, depending on how sheltered their upbringing was).
Unfortunately, the solution to this problem is far from simple, since "Shoot more cats, and when you do, by god, aim for the kittens!" is not exactly a catchy rallying cry.