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Another year of living dangerously

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
Decmber 30, 2005


2005 will always be Katrina's.

A year of hurricanes, earthquakes, and drought, nothing better represents the current state of humanity, than bloated bodies floating down flooded streets of New Orleans and people trapped on rooftops waiting for rescue. A disaster by design, the failure of levies in the face of predicted weather, and the inability of governments to deal with the aftermath is a perfect metaphor for western civilization 5 years into the 21st century.

Looking back on 2005 it is clear to this journalist things are taking a turn for the worse. Ecologically speaking, there are signs everywhere that progress will be forever limited by an exponential reduction of environmental sustainability. The 7.6 Kashmir earthquake of October 8th was only partially responsible for the death of more than a 73,000 people. Most of the dead were crushed by the collapse of poorly constructed buildings.

Unfortunately, disaster fatigue and xenophobic apathy meant that the media attention lavished on the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami, and the hurricanes of September, left little concern or disaster aid for communities unrelated to American tourism. Also receiving little media attention in 2005 was the ongoing genocide in Sudan, where overpopulation and limited natural resources contribute to the continuing chaos.

While I am on the subject of chaos and man made disasters, more people died in Iraq this year, a result of American war and occupation, than perished in the wake of Katrina. Iraq, once the cradle off civilization will nurse generations with a legacy of depleted uranium and other toxic residue of warfare. Usually not one for sentiment, I must admit to tears when considering the two Americans killed by roadside bombs on Christmas day.

I can't imagine the anguish of Anthony O. Cardinal and Sergio Gudino's grieving parents So much for peace on earth, right?

Suffice to say, it was not a particularly good year for planet earth. Major weather and climate events during 2005 include, severe drought in southern Africa; monsoon-related rainfall in western India, including a 24-hour rainfall total of 37.1 inches in Mumbai, and the worst drought the Amazon River basin has seen in decades. Climate change also contributed to severe drought in large parts of Western Europe, a record warm year in Australia, and melting permafrost across the Arctic Circle.

The melting of Greenland's ice, and calving of icebergs from glaciers, is responsible for about 7 percent of the annual rise in global sea level. Alaska's Columbia glacier has shrunk 9 miles since the 1980s and is expected to lose an additional 9 miles in the next 15 to 20 years. A harbinger of things to come, global warming and rising sea levels forced coastal residents of the Pacific Island Vanuatu to abandon their village in August for higher ground.

To only point out the impact of climate change on humans, is to dwell on the anthropocentric. As much as western governments would like to believe otherwise, Human impact on the environment is far greater than the natural occurrences that threaten human communities. Case in point, the debris and pollution stirred up by Hurricane Katrina is far more hazardous than the Hurricane.

Across the planet, other species are succumbing to human avarice and indifference. 2005 marked the return of hard core whaling with Norway and Japan upping kill quotas in the name of science. Logging, mining, and resource extraction is diminishing habitats to the point of species decline. Over fishing is decimating ocean population, already experiencing reduced birth rates due to mercury poisoning and other industrial pollutions.

In America, the Bush administration has declared open season on all biology. Under the cover of a broadly defined war on terror, Team Bush is quietly destroying decades of environmental regulation, while waging war on those fighting to mitigate the ecocide promoted by the Bush Administration. With clean air and water already abandoned by the Ecoterrorists of Gale Norton's Interior Department, the Endangered Species Act is currently under the gun and is not expected to survive the Bush jihad.

Thankfully, there are glimmers of hope. Drilling, and oil and natural gas development, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been prevented for at last another year. An ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought to be extinct, was spotted in Arkansas in 2005, and seven northeastern U.S. states have signed the country's first plan to curb emissions at power plants.

Under the leadership of a George W. Bush, I don't expect 2006 to be any better than 2005, and probably worse. Unfortunately for the rest of us on planet Earth, Dubya feels he has nothing to loose from his current course of action.

We are so doomed.

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