Drought apocalypse begins in California as wells run dry

(NaturalNews) Water wells in central California have begun to run dry, reports the LA Times. (1) “Extreme drought conditions have become so harsh for the Central Valley community of East Porterville [that] many of its residents dependent on their own wells have run out of water.”

Tulare County has confirmed their wells have run out of water, and so far hundreds of homes have no running water.

According to the LA Times, rumors are also spreading that Child Protective Services officials will begin taking children away from families who have no running water, although the county claims the rumor is false.

It begins: the collapse of California's water aquifers

With this news, it is now official that the collapse of California's water aquifers has begun. With each passing month and year, more and more wells will run dry across the state as California plummets into the desert conditions from which it once sprang.

Extreme drought now covers 82% of California, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. (2) Fifty-eight percent of the state is in “exceptional drought.”

During the unfolding of this drought, California farmers and cities have siphoned unprecedented volumes of water out of the state's underground aquifers. This is called “fossil water” and it can take centuries to regenerate. Once this fossil water is used up, it's gone.

35-year “megadrought” may be on the way

“The southwestern United States has fifty percent change of suffering a 'megadrought' that lasts 35 years,” reports the Daily Mail. (3)

“They say global warming has meant the chance of a decade long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a 'megadrought' – one that lasts up to 35 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.”

One scientist is quoted in the story as saying, “This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region.”

Unless politicians become magical wizards and figure out a way to create water out of nothing, what all this really means is that cities of the American southwest will not be able to support present-day populations. A mass migration (evacuation) out of the cities will be necessary sooner or later.

California's water deficit will lead to ecological and economic collapse

In an almost perfect reflection of California's state budget deficits, the state is also running an unsustainable water deficit. It is a mathematical certainty that when you remove far more water from the aquifers than is being replenished, the amount of water remaining in those aquifers will eventually reach zero.

This “zero day” water reality is still psychologically denied by most Californians. If the reality of this situation were widely recognized, California would be experiencing a glut of real estate inventory as millions of homeowners tried to sell their properties and evacuate the state. The fact that the real estate market has not yet collapsed in California tells us that Californians are still living in a state of denial about the future of their water supply.

Even as California's water supply collapses by the day, local farmers and towns have few options other than drilling for more water. “Drill! Drill! Drill!” is the mantra of the day, creating an 18-month backlog for well drilling companies. Each new well that's drilled must seek to go deeper than the previous wells which are running dry. It's a literal race to the bottom which can only end in catastrophe.

Then again, a willful acceleration toward catastrophe is merely a sign of the times when it comes to human civilization. There is almost no area in which humans have ever achieved balance: not in fossil fuels, metals mining, fossil water exploitation, debt creation, industrial chemical contamination, ecological exploitation or even global population. It's almost as if the human race is determined to destroy itself while racing to see who can achieve self destruction first. More

 

Nation-building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation

“Nation building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation”.

Few studies have explored the relationships between nation-building, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Focusing on small island developing states, this paper examines nation-building in Timor-Leste, a small island developing state that recently achieved independence. Nation-building in Timor-Leste is explored in the context of disaster risk reduction, which necessarily includes climate change adaptation. The study presents a synopsis of Timor-Leste's history and its nation-building efforts as well as an overview of the state of knowledge of disaster risk reduction including climate change adaptation. It also offers an analysis of significant gaps and challenges in terms of vertical and horizontal governance, large donor presence, data availability and the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for nation-building in Timor-Leste. Relevant and applicable lessons are provided from other small island developing states to assist Timor-Leste in identifying its own trajectory out of underdevelopment while it builds on existing strengths.

  1. Jessica Mercer1,*,
  2. Ilan Kelman2,3,
  3. Francisco do Rosario4,
  4. Abilio de Deus de Jesus Lima5,
  5. Augusto da Silva6,
  6. Anna-Maija Beloff7 and
  7. Alex McClean8

Article first published online: 5 SEP 2014

DOI: 10.1111/disa.12082


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/disa.12082/abstract

 

UN Special Envoy Highlights Urgency of Climate Agreement

2 September 2014: Small island developing States (SIDS) leaders “really want a climate agreement,” according to Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy for Climate Change. Speaking on the margins of the Third International Conference on SIDS, Robinson stressed the urgent need to build climate resilient communities and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Mary Robinson UN Special Envoy

Robinson has been meeting with SIDS leaders, UN officials and donors to discuss climate change impacts at the Conference. She stated that, while SIDS leaders are engaged in actions to establish and expand partnerships, build capacity and increase financing, they also support an agreement on climate change.

Noting that climate change has traditionally been a focus for ministers of environment and energy, Robinson underscored the importance for Heads of State to address climate change. “Once you have a Head of State focused [on climate change], it becomes a holistic issue,” according to Robinson.

Looking forward, Robinson highlighted the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit, which will take place on 23 September 2014, in New York, US. She said her role will be to “encourage the importance of the urgency of getting a climate agreement” and called for Heads of State to say what their country will do to address climate change. Robinson underscored the importance of engaging with civil society and the private sector on climate negotiations to ensure a “good, robust, fair climate agreement.” More

 

5 Crucial Lessons for the Left From Naomi Klein’s New Book

In her previous books The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and NO LOGO: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2000), Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein took on topics like neoliberal “shock therapy,” consumerism, globalization and “disaster capitalism,” extensively documenting the forces behind the dramatic rise in economic inequality and environmental degradation over the past 50 years.

Naomi Klein

But in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (due in stores September 16), Klein casts her gaze toward the future, arguing that the dangers of climate change demand radical action now to ward off catastrophe. She certainly isn’t alone in pointing out the urgency of the threat, but what sets Klein apart is her argument that it is capitalism—not carbon—that is at the root of climate change, inexorably driving us toward an environmental Armageddon in the pursuit of profit. This Changes Everything is well worth a read (or two) in full, but we’ve distilled some of its key points here.

1. Band-Aid solutions don’t work.

“Only mass social movements can save us now. Because we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed.”

Much of the conversation surrounding climate change focuses on what Klein dismisses as “Band-Aid solutions”: profit-friendly fixes like whizz-bang technological innovations, cap-and-trade schemes and supposedly “clean” alternatives like natural gas. To Klein, such strategies are too little, too late. In her drawn-out critique of corporate involvement in climate change prevention, she demonstrates how profitable “solutions” put forward by many think-tanks (and their corporate backers) actually end up making the problem worse. For instance, Klein argues that carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet. Instead, Klein argues, we need to break free of market fundamentalism and implement long-term planning, strict regulation of business, more taxation, more government spending and reversals of privatization to return key infrastructure to public control.

2. We need to fix ourselves, not fix the world.

“The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”

Klein devotes a full chapter of the book to geoengineering: the field of research, championed by a niche group of scientists, funders and media figures, that aims to fight global warming by altering the earth itself—say, by covering deserts with reflective material to send sunlight back to space or even dimming the sun to decrease the amount of heat reaching the planet. However, politicians and much of the global public have raised environmental, health and ethical concerns regarding these proposed science experiments with the planet, and Klein warns of the unknown consequences of creating “a Frankenstein’s world,” with multiple countries launching projects simultaneously. Instead of restoring an environmental equilibrium, Klein argues these “techno-fixes” will only further upset the earth’s balance, each one creating a host of new problems, requiring an endless chain of further “fixes.” She writes, “The earth—our life support system—would itself be put on life support, hooked up to machines 24/7 to prevent it from going full-tilt monster on us.”

3. We can’t rely on “well-intentioned” corporate funding.

“A great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate in part because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.”

Klein strongly critiques partnerships between corporations and major environmental groups, along with attempts by “green billionaires” such as Bill Gates and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson to use capitalism to fighting global warming. When capitalism itself is a principal cause of climate change, Klein argues, it doesn’t make sense to expect corporations and billionaires to put the planet before profit. For example, though the Gates Foundation funds many major environmental groups dedicated to combating climate change, as of December 2013, it had at least $1.2 billion invested in BP and ExxonMobil. In addition, when Big Greens become dependent on corporate funding, they start to push a corporate agenda. For instance, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, which have taken millions of dollars from pro-fracking corporate funders, such as Shell, Chevron and JP Morgan, are pitching natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal.

4. We need divestment, and reinvestment.

“The main power of divestment is not that it financially harms Shell and Chevron in the short term but that it erodes the social license of fossil fuel companies and builds pressure on politicians to introduce across-the-board emission reductions.”

Critics of the carbon divestment movement often claim that divestment will have minimal impact on polluters’ bottom lines. But Klein argues that this line of reasoning misses the point, quoting Canadian divestment activist Cameron Fenton's argument that “No one is thinking we’re going to bankrupt fossil fuel companies. But what we can do is bankrupt their reputations and take away their political power.” More importantly, divestment opens the door for reinvestment. A few million dollars out of the hands of ExxonMobil or BP frees up money that can now be spent developing green infrastructure or empowering communities to localize their economies. And some colleges, charities, pension funds and municipalities have already got the message: Klein reports that 13 U.S. colleges and universities, 25 North American cities, around 40 religious institutions and several major foundations have all made commitments to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds.

5. Confronting climate change is an opportunity to address other social, economic and political issues.

“When climate change deniers claim that global warming is a plot to redistribute wealth, it's not (only) because they are paranoid. It's also because they are paying attention.”

In The Shock Doctrine, Klein explained how corporations have exploited crises around the world for profit. In This Changes Everything, she argues that the climate change crisis can serve as a wake-up call for widespread democratic action. For instance, when a 2007 tornado destroyed most of Greensburg, Kansas, the town rejected top-down approaches to recovery in favor of community-based rebuilding efforts that increased democratic participation and created new, environmentally-friendly public buildings. Today, Greensburg is one of the greenest towns in the United States. To Klein, this example illustrates how people can use climate change to come together to build a greener society. It also can, and indeed must, spur a radical transformation of our economy: less consumption, less international trade (part of relocalizing our economies) and less private investment, and a lot more government spending to create the infrastructure we need for a green economy. “Implicit in all of this,” Klein writes, “is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity.” More

 

‘Mangrove Man’ inspired by world travel

He’s traveled half a million miles over the years – enough to go around the world 12 times, or to the moon and halfway back – so it’s little wonder that writer, photographer, conservationist and educator Martin Keeley continues to find inspiration for his work.

Keeley’s latest trips are with the Marvelous Mangrove education curriculum, a program that teaches schoolchildren about the importance of mangroves and the eco-systems which they support worldwide, as well as training teachers to teach both students and other teachers.

The program was developed by Cayman Brac-based Keeley in 1999 and initially was incorporated into Cayman’s primary school curriculum. It is part of the Mangrove Action Project, a conservation group comprised of more than 300 scientists and academics spanning more than 60 nations.

The Marvelous Mangrove program is now in 11 countries, with the expansion this year to South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Queensland, Australia.

“For me, the mangrove trips continue to stimulate the creative process,” said the writer.

“They often inspire my poetry, and I reckon that in another six months or so I’ll have enough to publish another anthology. My photography also continues to benefit from my travels and exposure to other cultures and their environments.”

In addition, he says, he gets an in-depth perspective on the countries and the cultures where he works.

“I experience and observe firsthand their societies and the common problems they face – the huge and ever growing disparity between the obscenely wealthy and the desperately poor who are barely making it,” Keeley added.

“The contrasts I observed this summer between nations like Indonesia and Australia stimulate not only sympathy and anger between the haves and have-nots, but empathy with those whose daily struggle is that of survival, while others have little or no idea how lucky they are take for granted their secure and protective social environment.”

At the Indonesian trip, 30 teachers and educators spent three days in an intense workshop that, in the words of Keeley, “introduced them to the wonderful world of mangroves through hands-on science.”

A particular highlight was the surprise introduction of 15 school kids who came in and assisted for the afternoon, Keeley said.

“The setting is perfect, with elevated cabins connected by elevated walkways and the “hall” for the workshop itself in a Roman-style amphitheater that is open to the elements – roofed, but with shutters, not glass windows,” he said.

“The accommodation, theater and restaurant operate independent of the grid on solar power with water from local wells and storage systems which is treated through solar osmosis, although it sometimes has to be topped up by water trucks during the dry season. The food is all grown locally, and mostly seafood that is caught locally on a daily basis.”

The Australian leg of the trip, he said, was slightly different.

“Australia saw the launch of ‘Mangrovia,’ a huge inflatable red mangrove that students go inside to explore and hear storytelling,” Keeley said.

“In addition, Mangrovia’s creator, international festival artist Evelyn Roth, also designed and made 28 costumes of mangrove critters that are used in conjunction with the inflatable.

“Many Cayman students [and adults] have had similar experiences with my huge inflatable shark and the 30 mangrove critter costumes which go with it during the past 15 years! It’s an exciting way to learn.”

The issue of mangrove conservation has become more and more important in recent years, Keeley says, largely because of their environmental qualities.

“It has been known for many years, and the 2004 Asian Tsunami proved it beyond doubt, that mangroves are the first line of defense against major tropical storms, be they hurricanes or typhoons,” Mr. Keeley continued.

“Recent studies during the past six or seven years have also shown that, given the opportunity, mangroves will keep pace with sea level rise thereby extending that level of protection. In addition, recent research has shown that mangroves capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in leaves, roots, trunks and soil.

“No maximum storage capacity has been determined as the trees continuously store carbon in the soil for centuries or millennia. Obviously ripping out mangroves releases this stored CO2 and thereby adds to the acceleration of global warming.

“National governments from Vietnam and China to Belize and Guatemala have come to understand what local communities and scientists have been telling them for many years. Mangroves are the major source of more than 75 percent of reef species of fish and invertebrates – they are the spawning and nursery grounds for these species. Thousands of communities round the world rely on these aquatic species for their livelihoods and to feed their families.”

Next up for stamps on the increasingly-packed passport pages will be trips to Bangladesh and Kenya, scheduled for summer 2015. Keeley has already visited both briefly to get the ball rolling and he told Weekender that – funding permitting – translations of the materials and teacher training workshops will be introduced.

There seems no sign of slowing down there, either, for the Brac-based whirlwind.

“World-wide at least a dozen other countries are interested in the Marvellous Mangroves curriculum,” he concluded.

“As usual, it’s just a matter of time and, of course, money, to make it happen.” More

 

Small islands to sign historic treaty in Samoa

Small islands to sign historic treaty in Samoa, to help finance climate change adaptation

Representatives from 31 small islands and low lying countries that are members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) will reaffirm their commitment to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy mechanism – SIDS DOCK – at an Official Ceremony for the Opening of Signature for the Statute Establishing the SIDS DOCK, on 1 September 2014, during the upcoming United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on SIDS, in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September. The opening for signature of this historic SIDS-SIDS Treaty is a significant highlight and outcome of the Conference, and a major step toward the treaty’s entry into force.

Representatives scheduled to attend the ceremony confirmed their continuing support for, and preparation to sign the Statute as soon as possible, and reiterated their resolve to continue cooperating to achieve its prompt entry into force and to support the SIDS DOCK goal of 25-50-25 by 2033: Island Energy For Island Life. SIDS need to mobilize and facilitate in excess of USD 20 billion by 2033, about USD 1 billion per year, to help finance the transformation of the SIDS energy sector in order to achieve a 25 percent (from the 2005 baseline) increase in energy efficiency, generation of a minimum of 50 percent of electric power from renewable sources, and a 25 percent decrease in conventional transportation fuel use, in order to significantly increase financial resources to enable climate change adaptation in SIDS.

The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance, for the Commonwealth of Dominica, and acting in his country’s capacity as Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, said that SIDS DOCK represents a significant achievement in solidifying SIDS-SIDS relationships and cooperation and is, “an extraordinary lesson learned of what can happen when a genuine partner takes ‘a chance’ on a new and innovative idea that has the potential to help SIDS adapt and become more resilient to the changing climate and sea level rise.” Recognising that the lives of more than 20 million people in small islands and low lying states are at high risk, the majority of them young people, the Government of Denmark was the first country to provide support for SIDS DOCK start-up activities with a grant of USD 14.5 million in 2010, during climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. This gesture and demonstration of support was followed by a grant of USD 15 million, over two years in 2011, from the Government of Japan during climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

In March 2014, in partnership with the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO), the Government of Austria extended support under a Memorandum of Understanding, with a grant of 1 million euros, for start-up activities for Centres for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in the Caribbean (CCREEE), the Pacific (PCREEE), and support to African SIDS through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ECREEE in Cabo Verde, and at a later date, support for a centre in the Indian Ocean region (IOCREEE). The new centres will also act as SE4ALL Hubs, assisting SIDS to translate commitments to actions. SIDS DOCK is highly complementary to the work being done under the Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) Initiative, a personal initiative of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, that has SIDS as the largest group of signatories and with the highest ambitions.

During the Third International Conference on SIDS, the Government of Samoa and its people will host hundreds of representatives from small islands and low lying states, donors, investors and civil society groups, to what is expected to be the most important conference on SIDS to date, and one that is expected to define SIDS in a Post-2015 world, with genuine partnerships at the core of the agenda. SIDS DOCK is well-positioned to participate in the SIDS Post-2015 Agenda with its partners, the Governments of Denmark, Japan and Austria; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO); The World Bank; and The Clinton Foundation – Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).

During the Signing Ceremony on September 1, the Dominican Prime Minister will invite other members of the AOSIS to consider joining the organisation. The Statute will remain open for signature in Apia, Samoa until September 5, and will re-open for signature in Belmopan, Belize, from September 6, 2014 until it enters into force. Belize is the host country for SIDS DOCK, with Samoa designated as the location for the Pacific regional office. More

 

Why Island Wisdom Is Crucial to Help the World Adapt and Prepare for the Im

For decades, small island countries have been warning the world about the consequences of climate change. While many countries have been debating whether climate change is even happening or who is to blame, small islands have just had to deal with its impact, from extreme weather to rising sea levels and increasing environmental vulnerability.

Major storms have always been a fact of life for small islands. But in recent years they have intensified in their destructive capabilities. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Caribbean island of Grenada, causing widespread destruction. The financial cost of the disaster was estimated at more than $900 million – more than twice the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Only 10 months later, the country was hit again, this time by Hurricane Emily, which caused another $50 million in damage.

In the Caribbean, changes in hurricane intensity and frequency could eventually result in additional annual losses of $450 million, largely due to disruption of a key source of revenue and jobs: tourism. Limited diversification and small market size means that small island economies are not resilient to disaster loss. This is true not just in the Caribbean, but the world over.

According to global risk models developed by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), six of the top 10 countries with the greatest proportion of resources at risk during hurricanes or cyclones are small islands. These losses will only increase due to sea-level rise, water scarcity, drought, and other factors.

The 38 small island developing states, which spread across the Caribbean, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are not sitting and waiting for the next storm to hit. They have been taking measures to adapt to and manage the risks posed by climate change.

Several Caribbean islands came together seven years ago to create an insurance pool of easy-to-access disaster funding. Spreading the risk across countries reduces premiums and provides contributors with a safety net which can fund vital services when disaster strikes. Since 2007, more than $30 million has been paid out by the 16 participating countries. A similar initiative is under way in the Pacific region where the memories of the massive human toll and devastation due to Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines last November are still all too vivid.

Ideas and actions for reducing the risk from disasters will be at the forefront of the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Samoa from 1-4 September. The Conference will be a showcase for those living on the frontlines of climate change and could have a lasting and positive influence on the post-2015 development agenda.

The Conference is an acknowledgement by all the countries of the world of the unique circumstances that small island developing countries face. Their size, combined with their remoteness, and economies of scale, have made it that much more difficult for small islands to implement measures to become resilient. This is compounded by the impacts of climate change, a problem that is hardly of their own making as they collectively contribute less than 1 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, many are striving to become carbon neutral by using renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Next week’s conference in Samoa is the first of two critical global gatherings. Just a few weeks later, on 23 September in New York, UN Secretary-General will host heads of State, CEOs and civil society leaders at the Climate Summit. The Summit aims to spur accelerated and ambitious actions to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change worldwide, from the largest countries to the smallest island States. It’s about turning promises into performance.

With international attention on small islands, climate change and the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, there has never been a better chance to turn the tide. Now is the time to listen, support and partner with those who have seen first-hand what climate change can do to your economy and your community. It would be one of the greatest tragedies of our time to continue to ignore the warnings from small islands; their issues will soon become our own. More

_________________

Han Seung-soo is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea