Wednesday, September 21, 2011
In this week's show, we hear about another huge rain disaster in Pakistan, Dengue fever panic, and how that tropical disease is coming to America, thanks to climate change. I've included a few survival tips for you.
Then a full 45 minute speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the long-time "green Kennedy" and former host of the "Ring of Fire" show on the Air America network. Whether he's talking the evils of coal, or the stranglehold of corporate media on our news, Kennedy pulls no punches. It's a raw speech, delivered at the Commonwealth Club of California last June. I thought you should hear it.
"EXTREME PRECIPITATION EVENTS" - OR CALL IT RECORD-BREAKING RAIN
The team of hurricanes and tropical storms working up the East Coast set a bunch of records.
Binghamton New York had an extreme rainfall event higher than ever recorded. The whole Susquehanna River flooded all the way down through Pennsylvania into Maryland. Spring floods? Sure we expect that. Now we have fall floods?
A couple of weeks ago, it was wet, wet, wet all around the D.C. area. As the Chief Meterorologist for the Capital Weather gang reported, the rain in the first and second week of September was just off the charts.
How about September 8th, at Fort Belvoir, the Army base in Fairfax County, Virginia. The National Weather Service reported 7 inches of rain in 3 hours, quote "off the charts above a 1000-year rainfall."
There was a one in 50 to 100 year rainfall near Elliott City, Maryland. 5.47 inches in 3 hours near Franconia in Virginia - a once in 500 years rainfall event. The whole DC Baltimore metro area rainfall hit levels that might be expected every 10 to 25 years.
Joe Romm at the Climate Progress blog reminds us of Nashville's "Katrina" - the one in 1000 year crazy flooding there last year. And Coastal North Caronlina experienced a second one in 500 year
rainfall, two in just the last 11 years!
Don't forget that deadly flood that hit Queensland Australia in January 2011 - after a long, long drought. People, cars, and buildings were washed away. The barely reported floods in China this year. And record flooding in Rio de Jainero last year. I've already mentioned one fifth of Pakistan went under water in 2010 flooding.
These are called "extreme precipitation events". We need a better popular name. How about "drowners"?
We have changed the atmosphere. Globally warmer air now holds 4% more water vapor. That doesn't sound like much, until it falls on your head and home.
Likely it's a similar amount to the entire contents of the Mediterranean Sea being added to the atmosphere. That's not a scientific statement, just a wild example from me, trying to wrap my head around what 4 percent more water in the air means. And it will keep going up, as the atmosphere warms. Maybe it won't be rising seas that drown civilization first - it could be rain falling from the sky.
If the local weather is cold enough, the extreme moisture falls as snow. Not that anybody on the East Coast and Washington would remember last winter's unusually heavy dump. Only the idiots who deny climate science thought it was a sure sign of "global cooling".
We'll hear the truth from someone living it in Pakistan.
But first, a little blast from the past, as Radio Ecoshock reaches back to a program called "The Unknown Climate" on April 9th, 2010 warning listeners about "global wetting" - the new hard rains predicted by science. In fact, as you'll hear, we asked American climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh about extreme precipitation way back in 2007.
From the 2007 Radio Ecoshock show "Hard Rain Gonna Fall":
Alex Smith: "And in 2005, your team released one of the most detailed climate predictions for North America. Can you tell us about that?"
Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh: "We found that elevated greenhouse gas concentrations substantially increase the frequency of extreme precipitation events, and also the contribution of those events to the total annual precipitation.
So, not only do the heaviest events become more frequent, as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but they also represent a larger fraction of the total precipitation that comes during the year."
Maybe you saw Dr. Diffenbaugh on Al Gore's "24 Hours of Reality" broadcast last week. If you missed that, just go to climaterealityproject.org.
Now that many Americans have been washed out, and a few drowned, by extreme rainfall - it's a good time to understand this under-reported story coming out of Pakistan. And yes, there is plenty to learn about what can happen here or anywhere.
You remember the TV footage from 2010, when about one fifth of Pakistan simply went underwater, and stayed that way for over a month? Over 2,000 people died. About 20 million of the poorest people on Earth were left homeless. Aid was difficult and slow. The country has not really recovered even yet.
There are still an estimated 800,000 people homeless from that flood.
Now it is happening again. Monsoon rains, pumped up by climate change, have flooded the Southern part of the country, the Sindh area, next door to India's Punjab.
I didn't really hear about this in the mainstream media. It broke into an email discussion I was having with a Radio Ecoshock listener in Karachi, the port city at the very south of Pakistan. Thanks to the magic of podcast and download, we have listeners all over the world.
FROM MANGROVES TO THE DELUGE
Eco-activist Khalid Hasan wrote me about a new documentary, the first green documentary released in Pakistan. It is called "Murder of Mystic", and shows another disaster: the fast disappearing Mangroves.
As in most places of the world, the weathly people, and the top Middle Class, want to build new houses on oceanfront. So they chop down the Mangrove "swamps" to create a clear view and maybe some beach front.
The land grabbers in Pakistan just hack down these low-lying trees of many roots, which are the spawning grounds of loads of marine life, including the fish supporting some of Pakistan's poorest people.
Mangroves also deflect the first signs of rising seas, because they buffer the coast. They help hold the coastline intact during storm surges.
A mangrove forest does a much better job protecting the shore than somebody's lawn and palatial home. The irony is: millionaires, (who produce so much more carbon emissions than the rest of us), will lose all that valuable oceanfront first, as the sea rises.
In the film "Murder of Mystic" by Outfield Productions, we also learn that Mangroves are very tough to replace. After the real estate moguls hack it down, along come well-meaning environment groups to "replace" them. There was even a contest in the Sindh area of Pakistan, and nearby India, to replant the most number of Mangroves, for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Few of those plantings survived. Mangroves take years to establish themselves, and Nature is complex. Mangrove forests cannot be easily "replaced". The best way is to save what exists. But that kind of anti-real estate activism can be dangerous in Pakistan. We need to keep a careful eye on the
safety of those who speak out.
Find a few brief clips from the film "Murder of Mystic" on You tube.
A HARD RAIN'S GONNA FALL
While Khalid and I discussed this, he wrote with amazing news: the streets of Karachi were flooding as never before! Sure, it is common for some flooding during Monsoon Season. But this was something else.
The whole Southern state of Sindh was just coming off a punishing twelve month drought. The Monsoons were hoped for as a relief.
Torrential rains started in August, and got worse in September. On September 14th rains beyond belief descended.
Hundreds drowned. At least two million people are homeless in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. The United Nations is again appealing for aid, even as 800,000 people remain homeless from last year's floods.
Karachi is Pakistan's largest city, with somewhere around 25 million people in the greater metropolitan area. It was more or less shut-down by flooding. Schools and government buildings closed, along with the shops. The lights went out in many places. Transit stopped.
Then the refugees from the drowned rural areas came in a human flood toward the city.
Find the latest news at www.dawn.com
IT IS CLIMATE CHANGE, SCIENTISTS SAY
Pakistan's greatest weather and climate scientists have no doubt this latest extreme flooding is another result of climate change.
We find this quote from an article September 18th, by M. Waqar Bhatti.
"'Rains in Sindh are the highest ever recorded monsoon rains during the four weeks’ period. Sindh this year received 270 percent and 1,170 percent above-normal monsoon rains, respectively in August and September,' he said, adding that in just four weeks, the otherwise dry, arid region received rainfall which was close to what it got normally in five years.
'Though sometimes it is difficult to relate extreme weather events to climate change, if we look at the frequency and the trend of the extreme weather events happening in Pakistan during the last two decades, it is easy to find its connection with climate change,' said Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Adviser Climate Affairs and Vice-President of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Asia Region, on Thursday."
DENGUE FEVER AND YOU
And now the kicker, which warns everyone of the many nasty side-effects of climate change. Dengue Fever has hit the flood victims of Pakistan.
You may not know about Dengue Fever. This formerly tropical disease is hovering around the Southern United States. There have been 12 cases this year in Florida and a few more in Texas. The Bahamas has an outbreak of Dengue Fever right now.
If you need a dose of celebrity news, singer Rihanna's father was just hospitalized with Dengue Fever, picked up at Rihanna's home in Barbados.
On September 15th, the Los Angeles Times reported the tropical mosquito that can carry Dengue Fever, (as well as West Nile Virus and Yellow Fever), - was found in the San Garbriel Valley, right near Los Angeles, California.
You might want to take a minute to learn to recognize this bug. The scientific name is "Aedes albopictus". Most people call it the "Asian Tiger Mosquito". It's a "Tiger" because the more you swat it, the more it attacks. And this one bites in the middle of the day, not in the early morning or evening as most Northern mosquitos do.
Those are two of the signs: aggressive, and bites in the daytime.
This insect is easy to identify. It is a smaller mosquito, but the legs and body are black with white patches or stripes. If you see little white markings on the legs of a mosquito, you've found it.
In the recent Pakistan floods, in Karachi and all around, extending even to Lahore, there is panic now that Dengue Fever has set in. Trying to cut down the mosquitos, the government has ordered all public fountains and swimming pools to be emptied. But with flood waters all around, it's a hopeless task.
That's a disease you'll want to learn about, as our climate heats up.
Dengue fever has been called "bone-break" fever. It hits very hard. People feel like they are dying.
So they flock toward medical help, toward the hospitals.
Here is a short news clip from Al Jezeera September 15th, on the Dengue panic in Pakistan.
[news clip][hundreds flooding a Lahore hospital, fearing they have Dengue fever. The rumor in the country was that thousands were dying from it. Only 17 out of over a hundred patients tested had it.
The hospital was overloaded, and perhaps could not handle other injuries....]
Part of the point is most victims do NOT die of Dengue fever. Although you can die, most people survive, after a violent illness. Keeping hydrated, lowering the temperature with Apirin or Tylenol, that is the treatment.
Remember, antibiotics do not work on a virus, only on diseases caused by bacteria.
We can expect a similar panic if Dengue fever breaks out for real in North America or Southern Europe, where people are fearful of this unknown tropical disease.
If there are mosquitos in the hospital itself, as happens in some less developed countries, then those flocking to hospitals may be at greater risk.
IT ONLY TRAVELS THROUGH MOSQUITOS - DOESN'T PASS DIRECTLY THROUGH PEOPLE
Dengue fever is transfered by mosquito bites, and cannot otherwise pass from person to person.
Close the windows, or put up screens, and you are safe to treat your loved one.
Learn to recognize the mosquito and the disease. Avoid panic.
The real solution, is to limit the amount of climate change we cause. Maybe we can prevent tropical diseases from arriving. That is our goal at Radio Ecoshock - to limit the climate crisis.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. - BLOCKBUSTER SPEECH
Did you know your body is already toxic with mercury from coal plants? why doesn't the media tell you the truth about climate change? Get ready for a blockbuster speech from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., courtesy of the Climate One project at the Commonwealth Club of California.
Find more at commonwealthclub.org.
The Commonwealth Club of California invites special guests and let's them speak their minds. Check out their Climate One series, it's excellent. In this talk from June 16, 2011, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulls no punches about the dirty coal industry, and the outright failure of corporate media to inform the public about the dangers of climate change.
But he does have a vision to get us into a sustainable future.
Here are just a few quick quotes from the speech (which is packed full of notable quotes):
"Coal claims to be cheap, but actually it's probably the most catastrophically expensive way to boil a pot of water that has ever been devised."
He describes his 6 week jury trial in West Virginia on mountain top removal mining. He won "the biggest judgement in the history of the state." Of course that's in Appeal now.
Just one of those costs: many roads in West Virginia have 22 inches of asphalt - the taxpayers have to build super roads to support all the heavy coal trucks, which weigh 90,000 pounds.
COAL POISONS FRESHWATER FISH IN AMERICA - and ALL THE PEOPLE TOO!
RFK Jr.: "Last year the National Academy of Sciences said that - a ten year study that they completed showed that every single fresh water fish in America now has dangerous levels of mercury in its flesh.
That mercury is coming from coal-burning power plants.
One out of every six American women now have so much mercury in her womb, from eating those fish, and from other vectors, that her children are at a grim risk for a grim inventory of diseases - autism, blindness, mental retardation, heart, liver, and kidney disease.
I have so much mercury in my body, I got my levels tested recently. I fish a lot, I eat the fish. My levels are ten times what EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] considers safe.
I was told by Dr. David Carpenter, who is a national authority on mercury contamination, that a woman with my levels of mercury in her blood would have children with cognitive impairment, with permanent brain injury.
Today, according to the Center for Disease Control, there are 647,000 children born into this country every year who have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in their mother's womb.
That a cost on our country, that they don't tell you about when they say 'Oh, it's just 11 cents a kilowatt hour.'"
MOUNTAIN TOP REMOVAL MINING
RFK Jr.: "They've flattened an area of Appalachia larger than the state of Delaware.
If you filled twenty five feet of a Hudson River stream, we would put you in jail. If you blew up a mountain in the Sierras, or in Utah, or in Colorado, or the Berkshires, or in Appalachia, you would go to jail, or you'd be put in some place for the criminally insane.
But in Appalachia, they are able to cut down five hundred mountains, and it's all illegal.
They are able to bury not 25 feet of stream, but 2500 miles of rivers and streams. And they do it by subverting Democracy... and by hiding what they're doing from the public."
There's much more on coal.
OTHER COUNTRIES GOING AHEAD WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY
R.F. Kennedy Jr. takes us on a tour of other countries who are developing sustainable energy rapidly.
They will leave America behind, he thinks, since once these plants are built, there is no need to buy dangerous and poisonous energy, like coal and oil.
Fossil fuels, he argues, only continue in America because of the huge subsidies still given to the coal and oil industry (and gas as well). That keeps going, because RFK says fossil fuels, along with the nuclear industry (he calls all these old fuel corporations "the incumbents") - have openly bought off both the Congress and the Senate. Corruption is keeping America polluted and backward, Kennedy tells his audience at the Commonwealth Club of California.
Otherwise, the U.S. would invest in a new energy grid, and renewables on a massive scale. Kennedy outlines how this could be done, even in very tough economic times. Instead of wasting trillions on foreign wars, build a new green energy system at home - and create millions of jobs.
Even though major investors want to build wind farms in North Dakota, there is no efficient way to get that power to the Mid-West (where it could replace coal), Kennedy says. That is just one reason a new national power grid is needed.
The new grid could also avoid the most expensive part of power, supply during peak demand periods.
A smart grid could cycle off millions of hot water heaters, for just 15 minutes, and save building a peak demand coal plant, for example. It would also democratize power development, since even you and I could mount solar panels and sell the excess electricity into the grid.
Kennedy is an investor and a principal at one of America's biggest green investment companies, Vantage Point Capital Parners.
Among other things, they are promoting a big solar thermal plant in California, through investments in a company called Brightsource Energy.
However, I have since read in the news that the solar thermal idea is being dropped, because new photovoltaic cells are coming in much cheaper now (especially from China). So the project may become a solar panel farm. I'm not sure where it stands.
Kennedy also mentions an online service called "Cha Cha" which lets mobile phone users dial just those letters, ask any question, and get an answer within one minute.
He thinks this is an example of how information has become rapidly free and democratized. He says energy will go the same way, being virtually "free forever" from the Sun, wind and geothermal - instead of making wealthy oligarchs who pervert our politics and our media.
I'm not going to try and cover the rest of the speech, which is loaded with a combination of bitterness and hope, in my opinion.
Kennedy is very critical of current politicians, saying they have been bought off, that Democracy is on it's last legs, especially after the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to pour millions into politics. That was the "Citizens United" case. "...corporate wealth is now flooding into the political
process, and is going to dictate the direction of this country..." Kennedy says.
THE CHALLENGE OF PROGRESSIVE RADIO
From a radio perspective, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was co-host on a popular show called "Ring of Fire" on the lefty Air America network. He says that network went broke not because they couldn't draw an audience (their ratings were good, even in the Republican strong-hold of San Diego for example) - but because the network could not get any major corporations to advertise.
Air America was more or less boycotted by big companies, leaving the lowest type of advertising as the only option. This reminds me of Betsy Rosenberg, the former host of "Ecotalk" having to hawk "green" kitty litter, trying to save one of America's few environment radio shows.
It gets worse.
Kennedy notes that Canada has a law prohibiting lying on television news. He says that is why there is no Fox News in Canada (and why Canada did not join in the Iraq war).
BIG PHARMA CONTROLS YOUR NEWS
Kennedy: "The pharmaceutical industry has under its control all the news organizations. Seventy percent of advertising on network news now comes from pharmaceutical companies.
Do you think that they are going to support something that damages their interests?
The rest of advertising is coming from the automobile industry and the oil industry."
My comment: funny, I have noticed all those pills for ills I never suspected I had. And the big trucks with even bigger motors. That's why I seldom watch network propaganda, - I mean "news".
LET US ENTERTAIN YOU (while the world goes to Hell)
RFK: "They are now serving their shareholders' interests. They do that not by telling us the issues that we need to understand to make rational decisions in a Democracy, but rather by entertaining us.
By appealing to the prurient interests that all of us have in the reptilian part of our brains for sex and celebrity gossip. So we know a lot about Charlie Sheen. And we know a lot about Brittany Spears gradual emotional decline.
But we know very little about what's happening in Appalachia, or about global warming, or about the things we need to know.
We're the best entertained, least informed, people on the face of the Earth.
We cannot keep our international leadership, or our Democracy, if we don't have an informed public that is capable of recognizing all the milestones of tyranny, and capable of telling the truth from fiction."
That is just part of this speech from Robert F. Kennedy Junior, at the Commonwealth Club. My thanks to their Climate One project for permission to rebroadcast it. Find a longer version, with audience questions, at their site, by clicking on the "Play Now" button under "Related Podcasts".
Please note that just because I run a speech, that doesn't mean I agree with everything in it. Our guests and presenters speak for themselves. Still, I found it refreshing to hear a member of the wealthy class speak so candidly about the corruption and killing of the Earth.
Over and out, from me, Alex Smith.