[Mb-civic] Asian Tsunami Hails Ecological Collapse
ean at sbcglobal.net
ean at sbcglobal.net
Wed Dec 29 20:48:46 PST 2004
Asian Tsunami Hails Ecological Collapse
Rising seas, coastal development, over-population and loss of mangroves
and coral reefs make such natural disasters more likely and deadly
Earth Meanders, http://www.environmentalsustainability.info/
By Dr. Glen Barry
November 28, 2004
Asia's recent utterly tragic tsunami was caused by a natural earthquake,
but worsened by human activities. The reactionary anti-Earth right has
been quoted several times in recent days as saying it was only a matter of
time until environmentalists blamed the catastrophe on global warming and
other environmental causes. Well here goes...
There is nothing new in tidal waves and storm surges hitting coastlines.
This has shaped and molded both coastal geography and plant
forever. This is why traditional peoples rarely lived right on the beach,
preferring to reside back a bit. This tidal wave was so damaging because
of commercial coastal development, Asia's perilous over-population, and
destruction of protective coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs (by
over-harvest, climate caused bleaching, and dynamite fishing) and
mangroves (particularly for shrimp farming).
The Asian Tsunami is indicative of the types of problems that global
warming can and will exacerbate. It is known conclusively that climate
change is raising sea levels, at least 10-20 cm over the past century, and
it is expected this century's increases will be even greater. There is no
doubt that all else equal, higher sea levels would contribute to greater
damage from such waves. Simply - if you stand up quickly in a full
bathtub, it is more likely to overflow than if half full.
Rising sea levels - in the absence of protective coral reefs and
mangroves, and presence of recent human coastal developments -
guarantee that any tidal wave will prove maximally destructive. As Jeff
McNeely, chief scientist of the Swiss-based World Conservation Union
(IUCN), explains: "When a tsunami comes in, it first hits the coral reef
which slows it down, then it hits the mangroves which further slows it
down. It may get through that but by then a lot of the energy has already
This tidal wave is the most recent "natural disaster" indicative of
ecological collapse commencing on a planetary scale, first exhibiting
itself particularly hard in Asia. This is because Asia is unrivaled in
terms of intensive land alterations and ecological destruction over
millennia. This is anything but an aberration, as deadly flooding and
droughts have become routine in deforested areas of the Philippines,
Indonesia and China.
Simply, Asia's current population can not be sustained given current
natural capital and spiraling climate change. Asian ecosystems have
overshot their carrying capacity, and we are witnessing what happens when
humans live without regard to ecology. Lasting social recovery and
ecological sustainability throughout Tsunami impacted coastal Asia will
depend upon restoring mangroves, coral reefs and other natural coastal
ecosystems, while restricting coastal development.
More systematically - in Asia, and indeed globally - failure to address
climate change, deforestation and over-population means massive
man-abetted natural disasters will increasingly become the norm.
This observation is made with utmost respect and concern for current and
future victims of ecocide. Humanity has long abused the Earth - and we
continue to do so at great risk. The Earth does not belong to us, we
belong to the Earth. As goes the Earth will go humanity.
** Earth Meanders is a series of personal essays regarding environmental
sustainability and related matters. Opinions expressed are those of the
author. An archive of past writings can be found at:
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