The Dark Knight trilogy is over. Batman prevailed, good triumphed over evil and the future for Gotham City looks bright.

Another bat story is unfolding here in Maine. This story takes place in your own backyard. Look up into the evening sky; besides a few stars, what do you see? My guess is very little.

That’s the story: A night sky that once teemed with brown bats is now virtually empty. Brown bats have been dying at an alarming rate and could face extinction in the near future.

The culprit is an insidious fungus (Geomyces destructans) that causes a lethal disease called white nose syndrome. Since the disease was discovered in 2006, more than 5.7 million bats have died in the U.S.

You may find bats annoying and distasteful. Regardless, bats consume 50 percent of their body weight each evening. This translates into an average nightly total of 1,500 mosquitoes per bat. All told, bats provide a staggering $3.7 billion a year in pest control services.

It’s hard to believe that the tiny bat darting around in your backyard could have such a significant impact. Don’t be fooled.

Despite its silence and small size, it is calling our attention to a much greater and more harrowing story: Leading biologists the world over are warning us that the Earth is facing a mass species extinction on a scale not seen since the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

If current trends continue, 50 percent of the planet’s species will be extinct in less than 100 years. This is not a comic book story line but a real-world prediction.

The heroes in this case need to be you and me taking decisive action to avert disaster and save the day. Get involved, be the superhero you always dreamt of being. Start here: news.mongabay.com; www.biologicaldiversity.org, and www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome.

David C. Reece

Kennebunk

 

Story inspires memories of nights on ‘Old Ironsides’

In Saturday’s Press Herald (“USS Constitution to set sail again,” Aug. 18), you had a story and picture on the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides,” also the USF, or United States Frigate, Constitution), which triggered an interesting and rather unusual story relating to this “grand old lady of the seas”!

I was a young naval officer during World War II, had command of a small sub chaser and ended up at a secret base in the Aleutian Islands where I turned over my vessel to the Russian government. My next assignment was to the Boston Naval Shipyard as their operations officer.

My parents’ home was just south of Boston in a small town where I was residing at the time, but many evenings, due to the nature of my position and Boston’s horrendous traffic, I ended up staying at the bachelor officers quarters at the Naval Shipyard.

However, there were times that I was unable to obtain a room at the BOQ, and would you believe, I used to spend the night on board the Constitution in what would have been the “Captain’s Great Cabin” during her active sailing days.

The commanding officer of the Constitution at the time was a young Navy lieutenant, who was married with a family in the local area, a good friend and always happy to have me stay on board,

The Great Cabin itself had been modernized and was quite comfortable. It had served as a flagship during the war years and was returned to its original status following the war.

Bill Brennan

commander, U.S. Navy (retired); captain, Maine Maritime Academy (retired)

Falmouth

 

Bicyclists need to respect drivers, heed road rules

Rounding a corner on winding Route 77 in Scarborough one Sunday morning, my car was engulfed by a thick cloud of endorphins!

I pumped the brakes and slowed, wiping tears from my eyes. Ahead of me, a pack of female bicyclists hummed along, perhaps 30 of them, garbed in fluorescent synthetics, huffing and puffing frantically, taking out the frustrations of their daily lives on their abused machines.

Calves that would have looked more at home on Soviet power-lifters pistoned like yo-yoing hams. Spent protein gel-pack wrappers fluttered in the air behind them like butterflies chasing a herd of helmeted gazelles. It was, in a way, enchanting.

And frustrating. They spread across the entire travel lane, slowing my car and those behind me to a mind-numbing 14 mph. On most of 77, it’s impossible to pass, so we crawled along, glaring at them, wishing their chains would simultaneously seize.

It’s understandable for cyclists to ask that motorists should respect their right to be on the road. But this is a two-way street – pun intended.

How patient would the cyclists be if I and 30 other station-wagon-driving motorists rode in formation down the road, chatting through our open windows about how many crunches we’d done that morning, or bragging about our carbon fiber crank sets? Probably they’d just pull up next to me and simply kick my car off the road with their hyperdeveloped calves.

Cyclists, we’ll respect you, but we wish you’d do the same for us. Either pedal faster, or ride single file and don’t take up the entire travel lane.

And keep in mind, if you kick a hole in my car, it will be easy enough to find you … who else would be wearing that outfit?

Kerry Peabody

Scarborough

 

Congress has failed to earn taxpayer-funded vacation

I read with amazement the Associated Press article in the Maine Sunday Telegram titled “Congress agrees: Time for vacation” (Aug. 5).  

John Boehner states, “The American people are more polarized now” than ever, and, therefore, so is Congress, but “our job is still to find the common ground.”

What I find amazing is that Congress has identified the problem.

I would argue, however, that congressional polarization is due more to the fact that members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have put political and personal ideology way ahead of the greater good of the country.  

What I find even more amazing is that knowing this problem exists, Congress does nothing about resolving it. Ergo, they are not doing their job.  

So if they are not doing the job they have been elected to do, the question that begs to be asked is: Why are they going on a five-week vacation at taxpayers’ expense?

Maybe they should earn their salaries and work through the summer and give the taxpayer at least some return on what, up to now, has been a very poor investment!

Jeremy Gould

Pownal