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December 31, 2005

Out with the Old + In with the New?

via NEWSgrist:

Out with the Old + In with the New?

Katrina
Satellite view of Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005.

The year 2005 in Art: reflections from here and there:

via Artforum:
Best of 2005: 11 Critics + Curators Look at the Year in Art

John Kelsey:
HURRICANE KATRINA - Ask Stockhausen. As if timed for the opening of the Whitney's Robert Smithson retrospective, this was arguably less a natural disaster than a case of Land art gone horribly wrong. An environmental and political tragedy of Spielbergian proportions, Katrina produced images of the sort of "naked life" we'd previously only identified with non-sites like Iraq. The drowned ghetto, the shooting of homeless looters, the police suicides, the forced evacuations, the superdomes filled with refugees—these are visions we can only try to erase. For some reason it was impossible not to imagine the hurricane as a terrorist act. And I guess it was—Made in USA.   [...]

 

December 30, 2005

Mercury rising, stormy weather

 

 

via Common Dreams:

Published on Friday, December 30, 2005 by the Independent / UK
Review of the Year: Climate Change
Mercury rising, stormy weather - our world is taking a battering
by Michael McCarthy

You see it in heat, you see it in ice, you see it in storms. Climate change without doubt became the critical environmental issue of 2005. The evidence of global warming occurring here and now mounted up during the year and is proving ever harder to ignore, even by habitual sceptics.

The past 12 months have been one of the hottest periods ever recorded. When all the figures are in, this may prove to have been the warmest year in the global temperature record, although in mid-December British meteorological scientists were saying it was still just exceeded by 1998.

But, around the world, there have been unprecedented heat-waves. The thermometer reached an astonishing 50C - that's 122F - in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. Canada and Australia had their hottest-ever weather, while a record drought in Western Europe saw bush fires devastate much of Portugal's countryside.

Two other phenomena besides high temperatures pointed directly at climate change in 2005. One was the record melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; the other was the record incidence of tropical storms.

In September, satellite measurements showed that the Arctic sea ice had melted to a record low extent - about 20 per cent below the long-term average - prompting fears that an irreversible decline has set in, and that the whole of the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free relatively soon, perhaps within two to three decades.

This means not just that the North Pole will be a point in the sea; it means that animals that need the ice to live, such as polar bears, may be doomed. In December, there were reports of polar bears being drowned because the gaps between ice masses were too great for them to swim.

There are other significant reports of ice melting, especially in the glaciers and ice-sheets of Alaska and Greenland. Measurements taken in 2005 showed that the Kangerdlugssuaq glacier, which drains about 4 per cent of Greenland's massive ice sheet, is moving into the sea three times faster than a decade ago. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels around the world would be raised by about seven metres (23ft). But even a rise of just one metre would be catastrophic for many low-lying areas, such as Bangladesh. In November, American scientists revealed that sea levels are now rising by about two millimetres a year, twice as fast as 150 years ago.

Stronger, more frequent tropical storms are the other pointer towards a changing climate. Scientists predict that the greater energy available in a warmer atmosphere will intensify hurricanes and typhoons, and 2005 has indeed been a record year in terms of both intensity and frequency.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, there were 26 tropical storms in the 12-month period, exceeding the previous record of 21, set in 1933. Of the year's storms, 14 reached the status of hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida in October, was confirmed as the strongest hurricane ever recorded.

But it was Hurricane Katrina, of course, which attracted the most publicity. The devastation of New Orleans in August posed the critical question - was there a link with climate change? Some scientists are uncertain about this, but in September Sir John Lawton, who chairs the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said unequivocally that the super-powerful hurricanes battering the United States were the "smoking gun" of global warming.

Not surprisingly, the mounting evidence of a destabilised atmosphere gave a new urgency and dynamic to the politics of climate change during the year, although the administration of George Bush continued to stonewall on the issue. Tony Blair, with his special opportunity as chair of the G8 group of rich countries, while at the same time holding the presidency of the European Union, put climate change at the top of the agenda (along with Africa) at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland in July.

What emerged was not a change of heart from the US over the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions - as the environmental pressure groups had been demanding, entirely unrealistically - but something just as important. China and India, whose future emissions of carbon dioxide will be a crucial factor in the struggle to control climate change, agreed to talk about them for the first time.

Later in the year, the world took another step forward when almost 200 countries agreed at the UN climate conference in Montreal to start shaping a second stage to the Kyoto treaty to replace the first emissions reduction period, which ends in 2012.

There was a mix of good and bad news on other fronts, such as rainforest destruction and wildlife. The Amazon was struck by its second-greatest bout of forest clearance, new figures revealed - but in September, in Kinshasa, nations home to populations of the four great apes - gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) and orang-utans - agreed on a strategy to try to preserve man's closest relatives in the face of ever-increasing threats to their existence from habitat destruction and hunting.

© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

 

December 28, 2005

After the Tsunami


Editorial: NYTimes:
One Year After the Tsunami
Published: December 28, 2005

The tsunami that cut a swath of destruction through the Indian Ocean region last year was an extraordinary catastrophe. It struck 12 countries and displaced more than two million people, according to the United Nations, destroying their livelihoods, tearing apart families, annihilating entire towns. The ensuing natural disasters that have followed in the 12 months since then - from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to the earthquake in Kashmir - have been measured against the horror of the number left dead by the Indian Ocean tsunami: at least 183,172.

The tsunami also generated a record $13.6 billion in pledges for immediate and regional aid, and long-term help for specific countries. About three-quarters of that aid has actually been secured. Clearly, the world can make good on its promises when it wants to.

Indeed, the pledges actually exceed the initial requests for help. According to the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, the estimate of the amount needed for long-term tsunami recovery in each of the affected countries was $10.12 billion, and the amount pledged was $10.51 billion. Indonesia, which was hit the hardest, needs an estimated $5.5 billion; it got $6.5 billion in pledges. Sri Lanka asked for $2.15 billion; it got promises of almost $3 billion.

Given the devastation involved and the extreme poverty of many victims, the money pledged is by no means over the top. But the agencies entrusted with spending the donations have a special responsibility to spend wisely.

There's some good news: swift intervention by aid groups prevented major outbreaks of disease. A tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean region, which would prepare every country's weather service to receive warnings, should be ready for installation in mid-2006. In Sri Lanka and Indonesia, nearly all of the children affected by the tsunami are back in school.

The progress report on relief and reconstruction remains mixed. Only 20 percent of the people left homeless are in permanent homes, with many thousands still languishing in refugee tents. In Sri Lanka, squabbles over aid money, combined with a legacy of distrust between the Tamil separatists and the backers of the government, have sent the country to the edge of a renewed civil war.

Still, the good by far outweighs the bad, and it is important that both the donor governments and the countries hit by the tsunami stay the course in reconstruction.

This is a rare opportunity to do things right, to actually put muscle behind all the usual talk of rebuilding stronger and better, and to heed the tsunami's greatest lesson: early warning saves lives. There are few people involved who wouldn't trade that surplus aid money to get back a few of those more than 183,000 lost lives.

via the UNDP & Tsunami Recovery page:

UNDP has published a report on its assistance to the tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts for the past year. It is meant to provide examples of how UNDP is helping people who survived the tsunami rebuild their lives now, and for the future.

Download Report (PDF 2.0 Mb)

More links:

Commons

Wikimedia Commons: Media, Maps, Photos, Diagrams, etc. related to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

 

Wikinews
Wikinews has news related to this article the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami