"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
On that cheery note, I pass along a few links about sand, erosion, drought, water and agriculture.
Here is a fascinating article on the impact of soil loss on whole civilizations:
http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=38343 (Thanks to Roel for most of the links)
"Michael Grunwald reports in the Washington Post that nearly half of the children under five in Lesotho are stunted physically. "Many," he says, "are too weak to walk to school.
Whether the land is in northern Syria, Lesotho, or elsewhere, the health of the people living on it cannot be separated from the health of the land itself. A large share of the world's 852 million hungry people live on land with soils worn thin by erosion."
America, btw, is losing 2 *MILLION* acres of arable land every single year to erosion and soil salinization. Studies have shown that conventionally grown produce declines in nutritional value steadily as we erode soil, so the food we're eating isn't as good as the food previous generations once ate. No wonder we eat so much of it ;-P.
Here's one about famine facing the rich world. The economist in question has just written a book on this subject, in which she notes things like the fact that the price of staples like bread and milk are rising more than twice as fast as the inflation rate (which conveniently leaves out the prices of housing, food and energy - all of which makes perfect sense, of course, since that's what, maybe 2% of your income? They do calculate the prices of basic staples like new cars, however... how helpful ;-P).
"A Welsh economist has given an apocalyptic warning that Wales and the rich West face a potentially catastrophic famine, as energy reserves run out."
Much of the US is in drought conditions this year. Here's a look: http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html
Note how many of these areas are major agricultural regions of the US. West Virginia just declared a state of emergency, and the plains states have been called "worse than the dustbowl."
In Europe, it is so hot that "lemons are cooking on trees" on Italy. North Africa is expected to lose 2/3 of its grain crop this year. http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKL2777360720070627
And the UN announced that global stability is likely to be affected by expanding drought. Duh! http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L2722410.htm. I'm sure we'll be told that they mostly hate us because we're free, not because we have water. Although we shouldn't count on the water.
The UN also warned that climate change - including famine, desertification and drought will displace 1 billion people by 2050. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=61594
Right now, worldwide, there are 35 million refugees of various sorts - but refugeeism is going to be a huge growth industry. Maybe we can use it to fuel our economy ;-P - we need a new growth industry. I recall someone saying that every ton of carbon we release, the family in question should have to take in a Bangladeshi person. Will we be taking responsibility for the refugees we've made, or will we do what the the US did to Jews when the Nazis were willing to drive them out, rather than kill them, if only someone would take them? Will we close our borders and pretend this has nothing to do with us, while people die by the millions - or billions?
America has been making refugees faster than anyone else - until we went into Iraq and Afghanistan the numbers were falling. But, after all, we're number 1.
"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which marked World Refugee Day on
Wednesday, June 20, says the global political climate for refugees has already become harsher.
“They used to be welcomed as people fleeing persecution, but this has been changing – certainly
since 9/11, but even before then,” said William Splinder, a UNJCR spokesman in Geneva.
“Growing xenophobia, intolerance, political manipulation by populist politicians who mix up the
issues – the whole debate on asylum and migration has been confused,” he said.
As Lyon pointed out, people fleeing threats at home and those seeking a better life could be in the
same group washing up on a Spanish beach,” but Spindler said it is vital to keep the distinction
between them to provide effective protection to those who need it.
“Whatever their motives, migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and as human beings,” he
added. “We have seen people in the Mediterranean in boats or hanging onto fishing nets for days,
while states discuss who should rescue them.”
As Lyon pointed out, “Before sectarian violence exploded in Iraq last year, global refugee numbers
had been shrinking. The Taliban’s overthrow in Afghanistan, along with peace deals in trouble spots
like Congo, Liberia, Angola and southern Sudan had allowed million to return home.”"
Finally, NoImpactman has a good article about the environmental implications of bottled water. In the comments, one poster wisely suggested ways for cities and towns to start treating local water as a real commons, a public right - by adding more public water fountains. I added to that an idea that has been a passion of mine for a long time - add manual pump (or windmill or solar direct pumped) wells in public spaces. That way, if the power goes out or some major crisis ensues, none of us will have to watch our loved ones die from dehydration or drinking contaminated water, while we wait for relief that isn't coming - or not soon. I strongly encourage people to try and get non-grid powered wells and pumps going in their public parks, schools, etc... Water should be a commons and a right.
Here's the link:http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/2007/07/my-ultra-cool-1.html
Oh, and last and probably least, if you are interested, my interview on _The Reality Report_ is up on Global Public Media, here: http://globalpublicmedia.com/sharon_astyk_on_the_reality_report