Friday, August 15, 2008

Global Warming > Africa's Desertification

If global warming hasn't yet hit home enough for you to cut your personal carbon footprint, install solar panels on your roof and convert your Jeep Wrangler into a grease car, here are a few articles which highlight just how bad greenhouse gas emissions, if unchecked, are going to absolutely annihilate precipitation levels and the water tables of Africa. At this rate, global warming is projected to reduce flows on the Niger River - the lifeblood of Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria - by roughly 33 percent. If the Niger River dries up, and the Sahara Desert overtakes the greater part of Mali, even relatively lush agricultural plains like Segou Province are going to soon look like Timbouctou Province - vast expanses of uninhabitable, uninterrupted sand.

Mali and the respective nations depending upon the Niger River are doing something about it - and as proof that the World Bank is not the absolute epitome of evil, Robert Zoellick is doing something at least to help conserve the river.

You can find out pretty much everything there is to know about global warming and the rapid desertification of the African continent here:

If you are an investment banker from Connecticut, droughts might be an unsightly eyesore if your country club can't use their sprinkler to keep the 8th hole pleasing to the eye; if you are a millet farmer in Mali struggling to grow enough grain to feed your eight children, a drought means that soon you will have zero children. I emphasize, the brunt of global warming is going to fall on the backs subsistence pastoralists and herders in the Sahel countries bordering on the Sahara Desert; Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Sudan.

You see, climate change has happened in the past; in fact, it is the reason why the broad northern expanse of Africa is now the Sahara Desert in the first place. Believe it or not, back in the day like in 8000 B.C. what once served as the desert backdrop of Tatooine was lush farmland where humans consumed water freely with crocodiles and hippopatomouses

And gradually, due to the kind of organic, completely meterological and unanthrogenic climate change, that lush savannah became the Sahara Desert.

Back in 8000 B.C. when people worshipped cats and thought that rains could be augured via the ritual slaughter of goats and less politically desirable people, there was nothing that people could do to avert the dessication of Africa and the expansion of the Sahara. The only change in that cataclysmic shift in human population was the advent of the Pharaohs and the birth of classical Egyptian civilization.

And if we don't reduce our wanton fossil fuel consumption culture dead by at least 80 percent by 2050, all of West Africa up to the Atlantic coast is going to be uninterrupted desert. One day archaeologists are going to go to the house where I live in Diaramana, dig out my dogeared copies of the work of Al Gore, my itty bitty solar panel, and say "It seems as if some humans at least understood that they were shooting themselves in the foot... but they kept on shooting themselves in the foot!" Those future archaeologists will probably be refugees from the erstwhile nation of the Maldives which has since been inundated by the Indian Ocean

But now, decades after the American people demonstrated our capacity to liberate Europe AND Asia, defeat Communism, send men to the Moon and even manufacture Dippin' Dots - the ice cream of the future - it's time to start doing something about global warming. No, signing an online petition and forwarding it to all of your friends is not going to halt the expansion of the Sahara Desert. Calling your Congressman to do something about it is only going to consume more electricity. It's time for all of us First Worlders to get off our fat asses and figure out how to minimize our energy consumption, particularly our fossil fuel energy consumption.

Y'know how I reduced my carbon footprint? For starters, I moved to Mali. Here I am not connected to any electric grid. I get 95 percent of my transportation done by foot or bicycle. Fyi: I have in my possession exactly 4 appliances: my cell phone, camera, iPod and the computer that I use to update this nifty blog. I am living the dream of the Digital Age. And I can get all the energy that I need to power these babies with my little baby Solio panel. Oh wait - I lied... I also have a flashlight which is powered with my hairy hands. And I have gotten used to the stultifying heat - I just deal with it. When I think of my coworkers at a progressive Manhattan office wearing winter jackets to work because the air condition was kept at a crispy 55 degrees, I think that the amount of electricity that people spend on thermostats is absolute insanity.

While people with hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in the developed world wait for The Government to do something about retooling America's energy infrastructure (I wouldn't hold my breath) people in Africa are taking the private initiative to increase their standard of living and resist the advancing Sahara Desert. My next-door neighbor in Diaramana is a doctor who makes what would be considered below the poverty line in America, and he has a big solar panel which he uses to power his 21st century luxuries like his cell phone, television and refrigerator. Ladies and gentlemen sitting in your air-conditioned splendor in the States, if you have any disposable income and all, it's time to buy solar paneling for your roof, for your backyard, for your neighbor's roof. Solar panels are beautiful, functionally, symbolically and aesthetically! They make great birthday presents! Buy a solar panel today!

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