From Tom Dispatch – The Economic Storm is just Phase One: Environmental Chaos Awaits at the Door


Tomgram:  Nobody Knows How Dry We Are
Tue, Feb 17, 2009 11:18 AM

[Note for TomDispatch Readers:  Back in November 2007, in a post entitled “As the World Burns,” I wondered why the mainstream media wasn’t connecting the dots on the subject of global drought.  In modest frustration, I return to that subject — more pressing than ever — today.  In fact, this piece will be but the first of three on what to make of extreme economic and environmental conditions on this planet as we melt down in various ways.  Posts by Michael Klare and Nick Turse will follow in the next week or so, a combo that should be read by millions.  No such luck, of course, which brings me to the fact that, as in the famous Uncle Sam recruitment poster, I want you!  Or rather I need you.

TD readers — the 21,000 of you who get email notices whenever a new piece is posted, as well as the tens of thousands who bookmark TD or read its pieces reposted elsewhere — can support this site by encouraging new readers to sign on.  TomDispatch spreads mainly thanks to word of mouth, a formidable force in the on-line world. For those of you already hooked, I want to urge you to lend the site a little more of that word-of-mouth power. I hope you’ll consider putting together a modest list of friends, colleagues, relatives, or, for that matter, people you like to argue with who might benefit from getting TomDispatch regularly.  You could urge them to go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of the main screen, put in their e-mail addresses, answer the confirmation letter that will quickly arrive in their email in-boxes (or, fair warning, their spam folders), and join the TD crew.  Many thanks in advance for your efforts.  Tom]

Burning Questions
What Does Economic “Recovery” Mean on an Extreme Weather Planet?

By Tom Engelhardt

It turns out that you don’t want to be a former city dweller in rural parts of southernmost Australia, a stalk of wheat in China or Iraq, a soybean in Argentina, an almond or grape in northern California, a cow in Texas, or almost anything in parts of east Africa right now.  Let me explain.

As anyone who has turned on the prime-time TV news these last weeks knows, southeastern Australia has been burning up.  It’s already dry climate has been growing ever hotter.  “The great drying,” Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery calls it.  At its epicenter, Melbourne recorded its hottest day ever this month at a sweltering 115.5 degrees, while temperatures soared even higher in the surrounding countryside.  After more than a decade of drought, followed by the lowest rainfall on record, the eucalyptus forests are now burning.  To be exact, they are now pouring vast quantities of stored carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas considered largely responsible for global warming, into the atmosphere.

In fact, everything’s been burning there.  Huge sheets of flame, possibly aided and abetted by arsonists, tore through whole towns.  More than 180 people are dead and thousands homeless.  Flannery, who has written eloquently about global warming, drove through the fire belt, and reported:

“It was as if a great cremation had taken place I was born in Victoria, and over five decades I’ve watched as the state has changed. The long, wet and cold winters that seemed insufferable to me as a boy vanished decades ago, and for the past 12 years a new, drier climate has established itself I had not appreciated the difference a degree or two of extra heat and a dry soil can make to the ferocity of a fire. This fire was different from anything seen before.”

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