- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Reasons to be cheerful...

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on December 22, 1999 at 14:23:53:

As anyone who reads the news knows, Venezuela is currently having severe problems with floods; thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of homeless. It might be worthwhile examining the root causes of the tragedy.

1. Migration to cities

The land in South America is increasingly becoming the property of large companies and tycoons; concentrating the rural raw materials into the hands of the few; which means that the average peasant has a choice between life as an effective peon - or a move to a shanty-town on the outskirts of bigger towns and cities.

Most choose to move to the cities; at least there are better prospects for jobs there. However, shanty towns are not known for being solidly builts, as many people have found out in the last week.

To quote that hotbed of international subversion known as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF);

"The current emphasis on free trade, privatisation, and market forces, with no concern for environmental policies and regulations, threatens the region's natural resources.

"Privatisation has typically targeted such resources as forests, minerals and oil. People are leaving rural communities to go where jobs are - in the cities.

"As a result, natural resource management is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small land-owning elite eager to make quick profits."

- in other words, the people are moving to the cities to try and find jobs, and the agri-magnates are maximising profits by deforestation on a large scale.

Unfortunately, this ties in with the second cause; global warming.

2. Global warming.

As climate theory predicts, increased mean surface temperature leads to more energy in the weather system, since the atmosphere obeys the Boltzmann distribution (see a funky little applet here - raise the temperature and the molecules jump higher.)

The weather is also a non-linear dynamic system (a.k.a. 'chaotic'); comparatively small changes can lead to large macroclimate alterations; pace the famous 'butterfly flapping its wings' example. If the molecular interactions in the atmosphere become more extreme, the atmospheric weather systems tend to follow them in producing more extreme phenomena.

In other words, heat up the atmosphere a bit and you get more extreme weather. Which is probably why the average number of extreme weather events per year in the Atlantic has gone up by 140% over the last 30 years. Extreme weather conditions generally mean freakishly large amounts of rain in a very short space of time; typically on sea coasts and areas close to sea coasts.

The Atlantic coast of Latin America is a prime example; it takes a lot of rainfall straight off the Atlantic and the falling rain is usually delayed in its return to the sea by forests on the slopes. Deforest the slops and there is nothing to stop the rain running downhill; and if the mud is sufficiently waterlogged, there is nothing to stop large parts of the hillside going with it. This effect causes large mudslides.

And when the rainfall is the heaviest ever mesaured in Venezuela, the mudslides are huge

In this case, the mudslides have hit the shanty towns; resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. It's not the first mudslide, neither will it be the last; but deforestation and climate change are causing larger and more deadly mudslides than ever before.

It's human-caused soil erosion and human-caused climate change and the current sociopolitical system that gives rise to shanty towns that lets things like this happen. That's not a vague generalisation; it's a demonstrable process.

Last year was the worst ever for natural disasters; it was also the warmest year since records began.

Environmental disasters in 1998 caused more refugees than all other causes combined (58% to be exact).

(According to the International Red Cross.)

This year is on course to be even worse; and the estimated cleanup bill for last year's disasters is $60 billion.

This is simply unsustainable; both in terms of people and money.


(...who is now waiting for Frenchy and Doc to jump on him and accuse him of trying to make political capital out of human suffering; the facts remain, guys - they are all a matter of public record, deny them as you will.)

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