When Paul Meulenbroek climbs into the water, it’s a good idea to stay behind on the riverbank. He carries a small motor on his back, as loud as a leaf blower, but it isn’t for blowing air. The biologist from Vienna uses it to produce a 400-volt electrical field that can temporarily paralyze fish, making them easier to scoop up with a net.Meulenbroek stands waist-deep in the shimmering blue water of the Vjosa, a wild river that runs through southern Albania, his rubber waders protect him from the electrical surges. “There are a lot of young ones here,” the biologist says, before handing his colleague on the bank a brightly shimmering fish just under 10 centimeters long.
Tag Archives: Environment
Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of the state National Guard to devastated Houston, anxiously recalled them while putting in place emergency measures for his own state. A small flotilla of naval vessels, originally sent to waters off Texas, was similarly redirected to the Caribbean, while specialized combat units drawn from as far afield as Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island were rushed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, members of the California National Guard were being mobilized to fight wildfires raging across that state (as across much of the West) during its hottest summer on record.
Think of this as the new face of homeland security: containing the damage to America’s seacoasts, forests, and other vulnerable areas caused by extreme weather events made all the more frequent and destructive thanks to climate change. This is a “war” that won’t have a name — not yet, not in the Trump era, but it will be no less real for that. “The firepower of the federal government” was being trained on Harvey, as William Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), put it in a blunt expression of this warlike approach. But don’t expect any of the military officials involved in such efforts to identify climate change as the source of their new strategic orientation, not while Commander in Chief Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office refusing to acknowledge the reality of global warming or its role in heightening the intensity of major storms; not while he continues to stock his administration, top to bottom, with climate-change deniers.
Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.
As bad as things have been for those who suffered loss and discomfort from Hurricane Irma in the continental United States—where millions of Floridians evacuated their homes and fled north in slow-moving processions of possession-packed cars—the difference in scale between their experience and that of residents of the affected Caribbean islands cannot be understated. That gap has only been accentuated by the advent of Hurricane Maria, which has wreaked havoc upon the island nation of Dominica. The United States citizens most directly in its path—as in Irma’s—are the people of Puerto Rico. Otherwise, only the destruction in the Florida Keys, which are, essentially, Caribbean outcroppings, is comparable. The damage to settlements on some of the Leeward Islands, such as Barbuda and the French-Dutch island of St. Martin, is so thorough that rebuilding seems neither realistic nor wise, given the likelihood that even greater hurricanes will come in the future.
There was “a flaw” in the theory: this is the famous admission by Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, to a congressional inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis. His belief that the self-interest of the lending institutions would lead automatically to the correction of financial markets had proved wrong. Now, in the midst of the environmental crisis, we await a similar admission. We may be waiting some time.
Hurricane Irma will happen again – so we need the answers to some difficult questions about global politics
Reading and watching reports on the devastating effect of Hurricane Irma this week, I was reminded of Trisolaris, a strange planet from The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin’s sci-fi masterpiece.
A scientist is drawn into a virtual reality game called “Three Body” in which players find themselves on the alien planet Trisolaris whose three suns rise and set at strange and unpredictable intervals: sometimes far too far away and horribly cold, sometimes far too close and destructively hot, and sometimes not seen for long periods of time.
Life is a constant struggle against apparently unpredictable elements. Despite that, players slowly find ways to build civilisations and attempt to predict the strange cycles of heat and cold.
Climate change denial is not about facts. It is about faith, and faith comes in many forms, including the blackly comic.This week, as the most devastating hurricanes on record pummelled the Caribbean and the southern United States, Scott Pruitt, the Republican politician and head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said that “the place (and time)” to discuss “the cause and effect of these storms” is not now.
As one of the most powerful storms ever recorded bore down on the continental United States, with much of Florida under evacuation order, President Donald Trump was focused on a matter of grave urgency.He gathered his cabinet at Camp David and said there was no time to waste. With Hurricane Irma set to potentially devastate huge swaths of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, now was the time, he said, to rush through massive … tax cuts.Yes, that’s right. He wasn’t focused on getting massive aid to those most affected. He wasn’t focused on massive change to our energy and transit systems to lower greenhouse gas emissions so that Irma-like storms do not become a thrice-annual occurrence. His mind was on massive changes to the tax code — which, despite Trump’s claims that he is driven by a desire to give the middle class relief, would in fact hand corporations the biggest tax cut in decades and the very wealthy a sizable break as well.
The 17tn US gallons of rain (roughly 26m Olympic swimming pools) dumped on Texas by Hurricane Harvey has set a new high for a tropical system in the US, but it is unlikely to last long as rising man-made emissions push the global climate deeper into uncharted territory.
Images of flooded streets in Texas are mirrored by scenes of inundated communities in India and Bangladesh, the recent mudslides in Sierra Leone and last month’s deadly overflow of a Yangtze tributary in China. In part, these calamities are seasonal. In part, the impact depends on local factors. But scientists tell us such extremes are likely to become more common and more devastating as a result of rising global temperatures and increasingly intense rainfall.
The news from the natural world these days is mostly about water, and understandably so.We hear about the record-setting amounts of water that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Houston and other Gulf cities and towns, mixing with petrochemicals to pollute and poison on an unfathomable scale. We hear too about the epic floods that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people from Bangladesh to Nigeria (though we don’t hear enough). And we are witnessing, yet again, the fearsome force of water and wind as Hurricane Irma — one of the most powerful storms ever recorded — leaves devastation behind in the Caribbean, with Florida now in its sights.Yet for large parts of North America, Europe, and Africa, this summer has not been about water at all. In fact it has been about its absence; it’s been about land so dry and heat so oppressive that forested mountains exploded into smoke like volcanoes. It’s been about fires fierce enough to jump the Columbia River; fast enough to light up the outskirts of Los Angeles like an invading army; and pervasive enough to threaten natural treasures, like the tallest and most ancient sequoia trees and Glacier National Park.For millions of people from California to Greenland, Oregon to Portugal, British Columbia to Montana, Siberia to South Africa, the summer of 2017 has been the summer of fire. And more than anything else, it’s been the summer of ubiquitous, inescapable smoke.For years, climate scientists have warned us that a warming world is an extreme world, in which humanity is buffeted by both brutalizing excesses and stifling absences of the core elements that have kept fragile life in equilibrium for millennia. At the end of the summer of 2017 — with major cities submerged in water and others licked by flames — we are currently living through Exhibit A of this extreme world, one in which natural extremes come head-to-head with social, racial, and economic ones.