Mother Earth

The mariner came across this news item:

“Prince Charles has spoken exclusively to Sky News about his ongoing concerns about climate change, saying he believes there are links to the current refugee crisis and terrorism.

In his only interview ahead of COP21, the UN’s climate summit which opens next Monday, the Prince of Wales suggested that environmental issues may have been one of the root causes of the problems in Syria.

He said: “We’re seeing a classic case of not dealing with the problem, because, I mean, it sounds awful to say, but some of us were saying 20 years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues, you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change, which means that people have to move.

“And, in fact, there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land.”

During the fourth millennium BC, about six thousand years ago, the Middle East was the first area to practice widespread agriculture. Slowly, over many centuries, weather patterns changed leaving mountains and harsh, crusty soil. The term “Fertile Crescent” is no longer applicable. Several debilitating floods and droughts occurred over the centuries as well as numerous wars. Governments and economies became minimal.

Then, in the nineteenth and twentieth Centuries, oil became profitable and has since provided 95% of the economy in the Middle East; the region was overrun by Western entrepreneurs who established weak local governments supported by oil profits. After the First and Second World Wars, the Middle East finally established permanent boundaries between countries except during the six year war between Iraq and Iran – a war for regional supremacy rather than for territory.

All this time, the weather worsened, leaving little in the way of economic disparity – it was oil and not much else. One wonders whether Prince Charles has a point. In the US, California suffered a drought for five years. Prices of fresh produce rose significantly. More produce was flown in from South America. North America is fortunate that another warming phenomenon came along in the form of El Nino – at the cost of floods and damaging storms. Already, 2015 is the warmest year on record. It hasn’t been thousands of years but is weather shifting? El Nino is a specific event but how can we tell that weather a hundred years from now may not be conducive to record corn and wheat crops?

Further, as with more of the Earth than we realize, fresh water is disappearing. Scientists are working hard at new ways to produce fresh, clean water. There are a few commodities that are provided by the Earth and as such should not be owned by proprietary corporations: a clean atmosphere free of carcinogens and chemicals that disrupt the chemical balance of our atmosphere. Another is water itself; corporations should never own water rights, whether natural or reproduced. Finally, while this is indirect, diversity of life is another commodity. Wildlife and plants service our planet and in the process, service us as well. Elizabeth Kolbert in her book, The Sixth Extinction, proves that humans are ravaging the Earth’s living family far more destructively than any terrorist attack by ISIL.

Very slowly, earthquake by earthquake, volcano by volcano, and our human contribution, excessive Carbon, the weather is bound to change. It’s an experience similar to living a lifetime: one is young and suddenly, almost by surprise, we wake up one morning to know we are approaching the end. It is hard to focus on large planetary issues far beyond nationalism – but the time has arrived.

Ancient Mariner

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