Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Vultures are Circling

The vultures have already begun to descend on Sunday's disaster for their own political gain. Each has weighed in on which cause du jour contributed to the death toll. I'd like to address some of these claims in an attempt to give these amoral opportunists a good verbal shellacking.

Via Dean's World:

In an interview with the Independent newspaper in Britain, Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree." Speaking to the same newspaper, Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper pressed the argument home: "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions."

Well, first of all, plastic christmas trees are made of oil, so if we're talking tenure they're more natural than any of these young upstart pine trees. But seriously, earthquakes have nothing to do with global warming. We're around 6 billion insects living on a thin skin surrounding a huge globe of molten rock. We can no more affect the processes of plate tectonics than we can breathe water.

Carrying on this insanity are the denizens of the Democratic Underground (hat tip: Wizbang)

All of the injuries done to our planet are interrelated, see this Reuters report linking pollution, tsunami's, and global warming. Those Right-wing Republican religious nuts with three or four children in an SUV are killing people daily. All of the pollution eventually sinks into the ground, & rots away the "bones" holding our planet together, and causes earthquakes.

That one was from a commenter at DU. Just to make it very clear to environmentalists and crazy foil-hat angry teens alike, we can't affect the 'bones' of the earth, despite what they did in 'The Core'. We can fuck up the surface until the cows come home, but when it come to plate tectonics we're passengers on this ride. Paul at Wizbang has collected a bunch of crazy DU theories. Take a look if you want to see examples of the long term effects of prolonged exposure to marijuana/Michael Moore.

Via Powerline:

"What has made this a disaster is that people have started to occupy part of the landscape that they shouldn't have occupied," [Jeff McNeely, chief scientist of the World Conservation Union] told AFP in a telephone interview from Paris. "Fifty years ago the coastline was not densely occupied as now by tourist hotels."

The hotels did not replace traditional villages because the villagers built inland, McNeely said.
"What has also happened over the last several decades is that many mangroves have been cleared to grow shrimp ponds so that we, here in Europe, can have cheap shrimp," he added.

To begin, it's important to establish the facts. Settling of the coast did indeed contribute to the death toll, but coastal settling isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it was essential to the survival of the inhabitants of the area.

The economies of most of the areas hit by the tsunamis are based on two things: tourism and aquaculture. The islands of Indonesia don't have booming industries. Some fish, and the rest make their living in the tertiary industries, supporting the many tourists who choose to descend on the beautiful beaches that make that part of the world such an attractive prospect to us working stiffs. Sure, the stripping of mangrove forests is a bad thing. They're unique ecosystems supporting a diverse range of species, and its sad to see them go. However, it's fruitless to judge the people of South East Asia for giving up the mangroves in favour of lucrative hotels. They have a choice: leave the mangroves as they are and scrape a living on subsistence farming and aquaculture, or sacrifice part of their environment to the tourist gods in the hope of making a decent living. Isn't that what capitalism demands? I've been studying environmental management much longer than you have, so don't argue.

By far the most annoying claim I've heard so far is this:

The same thing has been happening with the coral reefs that also provided protection to the coast, he explained. "When a tsunami comes in, it first hits the coral reef which slows it down, then it hits the mangroves which furthers slow it down. It may get through that but by then a lot of the energy has already been dissipated."

No, no, NO! This claim made by a man of science, in the employ of the World Conservation Union. These types of lies are the reason nobody trusts conservationists. Coral reefs are incredible structures. They support a truly unbelievable range of life - they are in fact one of the most diverse and plentiful ecosystems on earth - but they won't protect you from a tsunami.

This 'scientist' got himself confused by looking at the calming effects of coral reefs in atolls and lagoons. Coral will help dissipate the energy of a regular wave as it approaches the coast. What they won't do is dissipate the energy of a tsunami-force wave. These waves have enough power to toss fishing boats into the air like children's toys and throw them into buildings. They can snap palm trees like matchsticks, and shatter beach huts into kindling. They can derail trains. You can't stop a tsunami. You can't blame deforestation. You can't blame global warming. You certainly can't blame the denuding of coral reefs. All you can do is run and pray.

This isn't a time to place blame on anyone. It was an act of God (in the insurance sense of the term). Asia got caught in an unfortunate quirk of nature, an anomaly. At the end of the day, shit happens.

Also via Powerline:

Susan took a sip off her Venti skim half-caf one Splenda sugar free vanilla extra hot latte. "How about something along the lines of global warming causing the ocean to be more full of water and that made the waves bigger than they should have been? That way we can nail Bush and the SUV drivers for thousands of unnecessary deaths.

It'd be funnier if you didn't know these conversations are really going on in the newsrooms of America.

NB - The original end to this post was expanded for a separate post entitled 'Generosity'.
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