The plight of the Antarctic-based Adelie penguin reveals much about the future of our planet, according to UAB University Professor Jim McClintock, Ph.D.
The story of the seabird’s struggle to adjust to the warming climate is captured in“Ghost Rookeries,”a four-minute film produced by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) and narrated by actor Harrison Ford, who is on the EOWBF board of advisers. The journey comes alive through the prose from McClintock’s book, “Lost Antarctica: Climate Change on the Antarctic Peninsula.”
“Ghost Rookeries serves as a wake-up call to jump-start the technological, societal and political paths to a sustainable planet,” according to the EOWBF website. As the temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula increases, the penguins’ ability to preserve the lives of their young is jeopardized. The result is a dramatic decline in the population; only 15 percent of the original 15,000 breeding pairs near U.S. Palmer Station remains today.
“As the sea is warming, the marine life on the sea floor is susceptive to change,” McClintock said. “With a few degrees increase, we could lose marine life, sponges and corals. They represent millions of years of evolution.”
The UAB/University of South Florida (USF) drug-discovery program found, among the Antarctic marine life, compounds active against melanoma and the H1N1 virus. Effects to those organisms could mean a possible loss in cancer cures, he said.
“This is not something that will happen to your grandchildren,” McClintock said. “It’s right now.”
E.O. Wilson, who is a Birmingham-born, famous evolutionary biologist and conservationist, encouraged McClintock to write his book. When McClintock did, EOWBF leadership decided to feature the story in film. Not knowing that Harrison Ford was on board, McClintock offered to narrate the film. Paula Ehrlich, Ph.D., the foundation’s president and CEO and director/producer of the film, laughed and told McClintock the job was taken.
Millions of people will see the film, as it will be featured at zoos and aquariums across the country. McClintock said he hopes viewers walk away with a better understand about the significance of climate change and its real-time impact on biodiversity.