It's not that I have nothing to add about trees dying from air pollution. I have way, way too much and no idea when I'll have any of it ready for publication. Meanwhile, I have borrowed another superb and heartrending video created by XRayMike, from his blog, Collapse of Industrial Civilization.
Following is part of a statement by Jose Antonio Zamora Gutierrez, Minister of Environment and Water for the Plurinational State of Bolivia, at the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP18) in Doha.
The planet and humanity are in serious danger of extinction. The forests are in danger, biodiversity is in danger, the rivers and the oceans are in danger, the earth is in danger. This beautiful human community inhabiting our Mother Earth is in danger due to the climate crisis.
The causes of the climate crisis are directly related to the accumulation and concentration of wealth in few countries and in small social groups, excessive and wasteful mass consumption, under the belief that having more is living better, polluting production and disposable goods to enrich wealth increasing the ecological footprint, as well as the excessive and unsustainable use of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at a high environmental cost for extractive activities for production.
A wasteful, consumerist, exclusionary, greedy civilization generating wealth in some hands and poverty everywhere, has produced pollution and climate crisis. We did not come here to negotiate climate. We did not come here to turn the climate into a business, or to protect businesses of them who want to continue aggravating the climate crisis, destroying Mother Earth. We have come with concrete solutions.
The climate is not for sale, ladies and gentlemen.
Those words from the Bolivian minister are very powerful. I wonder how people who are less familiar than I with his blunt assessment and alien concepts might react (assuming any such person will stumble upon his speech). It will be interesting to see how far the developing nations push the notion of climate equity - and whether the developed countries just ignore them like a pesky fly or, if they persist and become sufficiently annoying, feel obliged to swat them into submission with their infinitely superior military capabilities. I expect one or both of those two responses. Somehow I doubt demands for justice will ever be met in any substantive, rather than mere token gestures. Even if the most ravaged nations were given the money they want, due to corruption it would likely not be well spent (just like the stimulus in the US).
Anyway, most if not all adaptation is futile in the long run - it's too late to stop widespread desertification, floods and sea level rise. It's as pointless as rebuilding the areas ravaged by Superstorm Sandy - which of course the displaced residents and businesses are agitating to do, with taxpayer money (those ordinary folks who never get invited to the sunset party on the dock). You can't hold back rising seas with coastal erosion and salinization - accelerating climate change and violent extreme weather is long since unstoppable. Squandering resources in the attempt is just another way to deny the inevitability of irreversible losses.
At any rate I feel that the emphasis on climate change is misplaced to a grave degree by scientists, activists and the representatives at these conferences - from nations privileged and deprived. I don't minimize how catastrophic the amplifying feedbacks from global warming are, in fact I fully anticipate epic disasters striking more and more frequently from which there can be only weak and temporary recovery - but it's no more than one symptom of a more general existential threat that includes over-extraction of resources, habitat destruction and overpopulation. If someone waved a magic wand and fixed the climate, we would be just as screwed. Maybe not quite so soon, but in geologic time there is little difference.
For instance, the developing countries are horrendously overpopulated, and becoming exponentially more so, a reality not so much glossed over by the Bolivian minister but atrociously eliminated altogether. It's absurd when people pretend that if only we all became vegans everyone could be fed - and climate change could be ameliorated. There are so many people bursting on the landscape that often even rudimentary sanitation is non-existent, as is medical care; the gap between rich and poor has long been appalling (even as it continues to widen obscenely in the US), often water isn't clean even to the extent any at all remains available.
Perhaps the most dramatic effects result from the fact that enormous numbers of people live in marginal areas long prone to natural disasters - let alone those exacerbated by global warming - that simply aren't and never were suitable for human habitation. That is as true for floodplains along the Mississippi as the river delta; and for deserts and steep slopes around the world. The barren mideast was once a luxuriant cedar forest, which was already denuded in ancient times, along with the other great stands of timber in Greece and other areas of the region. What were the 300 fishermen who disappeared in Bopha doing out on the ocean with a typhoon on the way? That smacks of desperation.
I hope I don't sound like I in any way absolve the modern empire, especially the one in which I reside, for the exploitation of the vulnerable (something the US does with impunity even to impoverished areas within its own borders) - for dumping waste, for destabilizing and even overthrowing foreign governments, for creating a vicious criminal culture via the war on drugs, cynically profiting from the arms trade, building nuclear arsenals...a litany of heinous abominations and atrocities that seems endless (and that's only what leaks out to the public). Also I realize that the luxurious high-consumption lifestyle in the richest countries rests squarely dependent on the cheap (slave) labor, displacement of indigenous peoples, and blatant theft of natural resources in the poor countries.
Nevertheless, it is inescapably true that even if the developed world and its gargantuan CO2 emissions ceased to exist, the peasants and tribes and villagers and city slum-dwellers (and miners in forsaken places in the US like Appalachia) would still, sooner or later, be increasingly vulnerable to famine, war, and pandemics purely because of localized overpopulation with the attendant overgrazing, overfishing and pollution...and the permanent lack of any remaining pristine places for emigration on earth.
Our human calamity has come to the crux, and it isn't going to be ameliorated by treaties about carbon emissions, or by geoengineering or magic technology to replace fossil fuels. To the extent that the world's elite - politicians, heads of NGO's and scientists - keep the attention on CO2, it is simply a distraction that buys more opportunity for the most privileged to grasp whatever scraps they can before society falls apart and the infrastructure is rendered useless. To what end, is rather stupid, because they won't be immune from the furious, pitchfork-wielding rabble...but they aren't looking ahead.
And all for what? The back story on how this documentary was made - and the legal aftermath - can be found in an article about the deleted scene. It's a classic, immortal tale of absurdly crass consumerism in hilarious, technicolor detail. You can rent it on itunes. Be prepared to laugh bitterly - sometimes that is the only antidote to despair! (Oh! and do me a favor if you watch the trailer -check out the trees around the "biggest house in America".)
- BASIC PREMISE + Research Links about Dying Trees
- Four Radio Interviews, Video of Fall Foliage + Contact Information
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- Dead Trees - Dying Forests Webpage
- Pillage, Plunder & Pollute, LLC - download my book about trees dying from pollution, published in Spring, 2012
- Whispers From the Ghosting Trees - Guest Post at Greg Laden's Science Blog
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