In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: Latin American migrants — climate change refugees? And a safe ecological operating space for livestock production. Have we wandered out of bounds?
When God gave Noah the rainbow sign – in the old gospel song – he warned about the fire next time. Gazing over at California, the omen seems to have been fulfilled. Wildfires have been raging over almost a quarter million acres of California land, the most destructive bout in the state’s history. The death toll in the Camp fire, north of Sacramento, now stands at almost eighty, with over 1200 unaccounted for. Some 150 thousand Californians have been displaced. Thousands of homes and businesses have been incinerated, a frightening number with people inside.
The new normal? Everyone says so. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the incidence of wildfires has quadrupled since the mid-1980s, burning five times longer and consuming six times more land. Heat, drought and early spring melt are to blame, experts say. Perversely, periodic bouts of intense rain promote forest growth – fueling fire intensity in dry summers that follow.
Real estate proliferation in previously undeveloped, wooded areas has increased vulnerability, making wildfire panic more horrific than ever.
Of course, it isn’t just California. Recall the Fort McMurray fire of 2017, torching a major swath of Canada’s tar sands capital and forcing 80,000 to flee for their lives. Later in the year, nineteen wildfires merged in the British Columbia interior into an inferno a half million hectares in size. The largest in the province’s history. And those fires that swept coastal resorts and suburbs around Athens, Greece last summer?
Fires like these are nothing like they used to be. They turn climatic in scope, interacting with atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation in ways scientists can barely comprehend – residents and fire fighters certainly can’t.
What will it take for world leaders like Justin Trudeau, reflecting on the connection between California burning and burning fossil fuels, to conclude that Canada’s fossil fuel reserves are a liability best left in the ground — rather than a vital national asset? A lot, it seems. According to a report that’s just been released (unable to track down; I shall link to it when I do), Canada is one of three countries driving Earth forward to four degrees of warming. By all accounts, that would spell catastrophe — of the sort G-d reportedly warned Noah of. An omen to take to heart.
With midterm elections over and done with down in the States, that migrant caravan creeping northwards to the US border seems to have slipped off the radar, and Donald Trump’s twitter feed. Crushing poverty and gang ultraviolence are commonly credited with driving migrants northward. They certainly are. Climate change is also to blame, some say. I spoke about this with Robert Albro, a sociocultural anthropologist in the Center for Latin American/Latino Studies at American University, in Washington, D.C. Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast.
It’s a new idea these worrying days, here on Planet Earth: “Safe Operating Space.” Humanity, it seems, has exceeded the bounds of what Earth can absorb, in the form of chemical and physical abuse. Earth warming greenhouse gases, terrestrial pollutants of all sorts, global forest mayhem and ecocide have rendered the planet uninhabitable for millions of species. Will we be next?
A recent report from the UK focuses on the damage livestock production is having within the European Union. “What is the Safe Operating Space for EU Livestock,” the title asks. Allan Buckwell co-authored the study. Buckwell is an Emeritus Professor and senior research fellow at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, in London.
Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast.
In this edition of the Green Blues show, songs by Lightnin’ Hopkins and Woody Guthrie.