Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Commentary on Global Warming, the Galapagos, and Hurricane Katrina and Rita
Neptune smiled on the M/Y Farley Mowat when we left Jacksonville, Florida on Aug. 16, 2005.
We voyaged on calm seas down to the Straits of Florida, slipped past the west coast of Cuba, made our way to the Panama Canal, and on to the Enchanted Isles of the Galapagos.
It was like crossing a pond. And it was no accident. As a seaman with over three decades on the big blue, I do know hurricanes and over the years sailors do acquire an instinct for them.
And I did know that one was coming. As we passed through those calm waters, I knew we were seeing the calm before the inevitable storms. The seeds of Katrina had been sown in the south Atlantic and the lord of storms was preparing to send a major Category 4 hurricane to ravage the Gulf Coast.
New Orleans had been living on borrowed time for years. Only the ecologically and meteorologically ignorant should have been surprised at what happened when Katrina struck. But then again, there are many such people, especially in America, and notably in Louisiana.
New Orleans is the realization of all our predictions on global warming. Environmentalists have been predicting the super storms for over two decades, and for two decades the predictions have been ignored and ridiculed.
Consider that Katrina struck mid-hurricane season. Ten days later, we had Nate heading for Bermuda and Ophelia teasing the coast of Florida and threatening the Carolinas. This week, we had Rita slamming into the Gulf coast and causing major destruction in addition to re-flooding New Orleans. There are only four more letters slated for the season. The hurricane roster totals 21 letters with only four left before the Greek alphabet is employed. We may well have Hurricane Alpha before the season is over.
Next year will be worse and it will worsen every year thereafter. Global warming and radical climate change is a full blown happening event. It is NOW.
It is "Thermageddon" and not "Armageddon" that will be our downfall.
With a "What me worry?" look on his face, President George W. Bush noted that the stock market took only a minor hit and he stated that he is still investigating if this global warming thing has any evidence of existing. Besides it was good business for his friends in the oiliocratic oligarchy who were already prepared with a whopping gas hike before the winds had died down.
The rest of the world has embraced the Kyoto Protocols which really only means that they can drive their cars with a clear conscience. New Orleans may be gone, but it is back to business as usual in America.
Environmentalists need not concentrate any longer on educating people about impending climate change. We must now focus on teaching people how to adapt to living in a warmer and climatologically evolved world. We are such dreamers. People will continue to live in denial. But we need to try anyway, that is our job after all, speaking common sense to those who have little sense at all.
And one of the first things we should do, is to warn people to not live on the Gulf coast or in parts of Florida or on the Outer Banks of the Carolinas. Just kidding. I know that will not happen even if it is the logical, practical, most intelligent thing to do. And, of course, global warming will impact other areas in different ways so there is really no escape for anyone in the long run.
Our predictions have been ignored for decades and people still have not demonstrated the good sense to listen and adapt. Hell, many thousands did not demonstrate the good sense to get out of New Orleans in the face of certain catastrophe. Chalk this up to alienation from nature. One excuse was that the people were too poor to leave. The tribes that survived the Tsunami in Indonesia were the poorest people, by the way. They had the good sense to know that receding water is an indication of impending doom. They did not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew. They left for higher ground. The victims of New Orleans had weathermen, but chose not to listen to them.
Yes the federal, state, and local governments were incompetent. Duh, they are always incompetent, so that is not an excuse and hardly a surprise. They continue to be incompetent and it appears that the only one with his wits about him is the Mayor of New Orleans who deserves a great deal of credit for what sanity exists in New Orleans today.
On the brighter side, the Earth is at last striking back. The laws of ecology are demonstrating that for all our actions, we are now and will continue to, experience natural reactions. The reactions will be equal to the actions taken to bring about the reactions. All those carbon emissions are triggering an ecological upheaval of truly mammoth proportions. More carbon means greater consequences in climate change. More people means more carbon. More people living apex consumer life styles means more carbon emissions. Oh, I'm sorry, did I just hint at immigration there? I almost forgot, I must not do that - no, no, no, I must repeat the mantra - "more people from wombs in North America is bad but more people from beyond the borders is good." This confuses me because I can't see the difference between addition from births and addition from immigration except it is P.C. to oppose the former and not the latter. Oh yes, the numbers don't increase, they are just relocated. Of course, they are relocated to a place where they can now own a car and mega-energy wasteful domiciles thus increasing carbon emissions, but I shall desist and return to the party line - i.e., increases through immigration are not to be discussed nor should we be concerned about it. And now with Chief Justice Rehnquist dead - the forces are in place to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and Lordy, let us go forth and multiply.
Just before I left the Galapagos Islands, Fanny Uribe, Ecuadorian Senator for the islands and the "chosen one" of the fisherman said this gem of a quote, "The only species in the Galapagos worth saving is the human species."
Sounds like she would make a good Christian right-wing Republican.
My observations of the Galapagos over the last seven years has been a lesson in ecology, for just as Darwin could see the reality of evolution in what he observed on the ground in these islands, we can now see in microcosm the reality of the affect of our increasing numbers on ecosystems.
A few weeks ago, I met former marine enforcement chief Pablo Salas on the street in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island (of the Galapagos chain). Last year, he was our main contact at the National Park. This year he is a captain of a tour boat and making plans to immigrate with his wife and two children to Canada. "This place is finished," he told me. "There is no future for the Galapagos and none for Ecuador. If my children have any future at all, it is in Canada."
So much for the Galapagos. Five years ago, there were marine iguanas sunning themselves on the sidewalk in Puerto Ayora. No more, sadly, no more - just more people, more cars, more dogs, more construction, more appliances, and more civilization.
As I said, New Orleans has been living on borrowed time for decades. The Mississippi intends to change course, and should have changed course years ago with no thanks to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, whose meddling is responsible in many ways for the disaster just experienced. The Corp of Engineers should keep their toys off the banks of the Big Muddy and let nature take her course, which she will do anyway despite the relatively trivial delays caused by their blundering interference. New Orleans should be abandoned like the ruins of the Anastazi and allowed to sink into the toxic delta mud where it belongs. There is no future for New Orleans, and of that, I am certain. New Orleans is our modern day Atlantis.
Oh by the way, the barrier islands that have buffered the Gulf Coast for centuries are - gone! Yep, they are no more - washed away by the winds of Katrina. If that does not indicate just how severe these storms have become, I don't know what will.
Oh I'm sorry, am I being alarmist?
Environmentalists must show leadership now and we must speak out no matter how unpopular the message. This will probably not happen as it will certainly affect membership numbers for environmental organizations because the public does not want to hear predictions of doom and gloom even if real, and even if such predictions can be utilized to adapt to the escalation of consequences.
If we can't save the Galapagos, how can we save New Orleans or anywhere else for that matter?
If rebuilt as I'm sure they will try, next year this city will be hit again and it will be hit again the following year. Time to cut our losses and retreat before the thundering advance of Nature's retaliatory fury. Let New Orleans sink into the sludge of the delta.
One other thing that came out of New Orleans is that it certainly demonstrated to the world just how incredibly disorganized the United States has become with third world casualties now happening from natural disasters and just how ineffective a leader George W. Bush really is.
It is one thing to kick ass with superior mega-weapons against a vastly inferior military force and it is quite something else to take on the forces of nature. George demonstrated that he and the nation are unprepared for climate change and that this unpreparedness is a direct result of the denial of his administration concerning the reality of global warming. Instead of a skilled disaster responder, George appointed Michael Brown, a friend of a friend whose resume shows him as a lawyer for the breeders of Arabian horses. George probably mistook him for a Saudi. Nevertheless, appointing friends and friends of friends to important jobs that require skill and experience, why that's what those banana republics do, isn't it?
So, with New Orleans, now the new Atlantis, and the Galapagos rapidly becoming the "disenchanted islands," with the U.S. Supreme Court about to be taken over by the bible- thumping breeders, and with car sales increasing despite escalating fuel prices, it is plain to see that the end of days may be closer than even the right-wing wacko Christians may think.
We do indeed live in interesting times.
Note: The political views are those of Captain Paul Watson and do not reflect the views of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is an apolitical organization.