26
Okt
2005

Nature Fights Back

Elsy Fors

Havana, Oct 26

(Prensa Latina) Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts and floods have become everyday news together with regional conflicts and, like them, are becoming ever more violent.

Although many people may not connect natural and human disasters, they could not be more related. Abusive consumption of fossil fuels and water resources, high emissions of carbon to the atmosphere and transgression of environmental laws are to blame for kindling wars, but also for the reaction of nature to man´s aggression to the planet.

Hurricanes in the Caribbean are more frequent and intense and even have been occurring in unlikely places like the ones that hit Spain this year and Brazil in 2004.

Rain and wind have traumatized whole regions, and, with the earthquake, the very earth has proven to be untrustworthy. In Pakistan, people are asking, "If the ground underfoot is dangerous, what is safe?"

That is why the recent cluster of tragedies, from nearby and far off, must be the occasion of more than regret and worry, warns an article by James Carroll published this week by the Boston Globe. Neither should "disaster fatigue" be allowed to dull the sense of urgency with which news of catastrophic suffering is normally received, adds Carroll.

The alleviation of such suffering should be of absolute primacy, and when disaster strikes, nothing matters more than the rush to help. If relief efforts after the fact are slow or inept, those responsible must be called to account. Deeper sources of carelessness or corruption are often exposed during disasters, and they must be confronted, says Carroll.

What's going on with this world? asks the author and affirms if something new is happening, it probably has less to do with the tragic occurrences that have befallen the human population this year, from the tsunami to Hurricane Wilma (although the quickened pace and ferocity of

hurricanes seems a special warning), than with our recently acquired knowledge of the universal character of jeopardy.

The British daily The Independent identifies climate change with the failure of the drive to eradicate poverty. Lord May of Oxford says the cost of dealing with the adverse effects of climate change could soak up all the aid to African countries (negligible to say the least).

Lord May, a former chief scientific adviser to the British government, warned there is mounting scientific evidence to show that global warming is the biggest single threat to the world today -especially for developing countries.

The latest study published October 24 in London, reveals that the rise in man-made greenhouse gases may already be responsible for an increase in drought conditions and risk of famine in eastern Africa.

Research by James Verdin of the US Geological Survey found that rainfall has decreased steadily since 1996 in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries which coincides with a corresponding increase in surface water temperatures in the southern Indian Ocean.

Wealthy countries, says the Independent, have a responsibility to do something about climate change by stabilizing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States, however, in spite of being at the head of the list of damaging carbon emissions, has publicly rejected the Kyoto Treaty to curb that threat to the environment.

Global warming can also be caused by illegal logging, and the same newspaper recently called attention to a new satellite survey that revealed the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed twice as quickly as previously estimated.

A team of American and Brazilian specialists have for the first time been able to assess from space the damage done by what is called selective logging, when one or two trees are removed leaving surrounding trees intact.

They found that selective logging of mahogany and other valuable hardwood trees, which is often illegal, is destroying an area of the Amazon equal to that razed by conventional logging.

On average, for every tree removed, up to 30 more can be severely damaged by the timber harvesting operation itself.

That is because the vines that connect the selected trunk pull down the neighboring trees, says Gregory Asner, researcher at the Carnegie Institution in Washington and Stanford University in California.

The satellite data was compared with a field study that confirmed their worst suspicions: that conventional satellite photography had missed about half the damage caused by illegal logging.

The report recognizes the effort of the Brazilian government to enforce existing laws against these logging operations, but the enormous geography of the Amazon puts a limit to what they can accomplish.

The violence continues.

mh/ef/mf


Informant: Walter Lippmann

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