Sunday, September 7, 2008
Strong, Like Water
(Basrah marshes Aug. 3, 2008. " Sun on Wake," from Gorilla's Guides)
What a week it has been. George Bush was upstaged by a storm McCain stagecrafters hoped would give them an opportunity to look like Americans instead of Republicans (an odd difference, but a true one). Gustav didn't deliver; instead we got to watch the RNC try to reap the wind, as they clamored about some teenager's right to make choices about her pregnancy in private.
We saw reporters arrested for covering stories, citizens tear-gassed for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and learned that VP candidate Palin won't accept interviews with the press until she's assured they'll treat her with "deference." In my world, my nearly-90 year old mother-in-law suffered a stroke. (She's on the mend now in an acute rehab center.) Following her admission to the hospital, my husband and I spent a very special evening with her, flying in the way-back machine to her grandmother's farm in Port Hope, MI. Helen was ten years old that night, learning to knit while tending the cows with her granny. It was, as she exulted, falling asleep, "the best place we could have visited." That trek, in the interstices of memory and delirium, gave the Laurascope a good re-calibration. Want to take a peek?
Wide view first. Water. John McCain didn't get the photo-ops he craved this week, but there were still a lot of sad pictures to see. 3 million people in the state of Bihar (India) are homeless, after monsoon rains caused flooding in regions that do not normally flood. Thousands are cut off from aid, which has been slow to arrive. Flooding in Nepal has ruined important croplands and cut off the East-West highway.
In Haiti, hundreds have died and 650,000 more affected by three successive storms in the past few weeks: wind, rain, floods and mudslides have killed people and livestock, destroyed homes and crops and impede aid work. Cuba, the Bahamas and other islands, and the Gulf of Mexico now are threatened by Hurricane Ike. And there are more tropical storms in the wings. Why looky here. Great minds and all. While researching this post, I discover that tomorrow's TIME magazine will tell us that a new report published in Nature indicates rising ocean temperatures, caused by global warming, is a "main cause" of the "more intense" hurricanes.
Of course, water has other forms, and ice, too has been in the news this week. Researchers in Canada announced that the 4,500 year old Markham Ice Shelf "disappeared" last month: a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan is now drifting in the Arctic Ocean. More evidence, scientists say, of how warmer temperatures are affecting the region. In a related vein, legal experts meeting in Iceland (seriously!) are advising the United Nations to consider creating a "global framework" of laws governing not just arctic oil, but fisheries and other concerns. It will be interesting to see if nations such as the U.S. and Russia will recognize the need for international governance of the region.
Let's not overlook that many places on the earth are suffering from severe drought, including especially the Middle East, Australia and Africa. And let's remember, it's not just water supply, water safety is an issue, too. Cases of Cholera have been reported in Baghdad and Maysan province, and cholera-contaminated water has been found in Kirkuk.
Pardon the blur, please, while I rotate the focus wheel on this scope to the narrow. Back to us. Global warming is real, caused by our energy consumption. Energy wars are happening now, and, like this hurricane season, there are more looming. Thanks to Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth we know that massive changes to the earth and to human life will happen, if we fail to take responsible action now. For those of us who are U.S. citizens, a big part of the change entails sweeping Republicans out of office, up and down the line. For all of us, though, it also involves personal changes in our daily as well as political lives. Many of these changes having effects too subtle for our eyes to see; we make them knowing that the smallest stone creates a wide ripple, just as small acts of kindness to a lonely ten year old reached through eighty years to people then undreamed of.
I end with a spot of bright water news. The United Nations announced Friday that it will seek to designate Iraq's marshlands a World Heritage site, following a four-year effort to restore these beautiful waters (see picture above).
(Cross-posted at Relaxed Politics.)