Well, it looks like the MSM finally gets it.
Yup. Anderson Cooper is off to Mogadishu. He'll be reporting live next week, as he is ever wont to do, from the epicenter of the most recent humanitarian crisis. CNN rolled out its original $1 million marquee in anticipation of his Monday evening broadcast: "On the Frontlines of Famine."
Damn, I wish we had thought of that title for this blogathon!
But hey, whatcha gonna do? True, there was no earthquake or tsunami, nor did a MENA country rise up en toto against a vicious dictatorship. It took the outbreak of cholera in Somalia's capital to kick that adrenaline into overdrive @AC360. That, along with the news that Richard Engel was there first and Dr. Jill Biden is en route on a "fact finding mission."
If I were Anderson Cooper, I don't think I'd be sleeping in my United First Suite. I'd wanna be filling my adorable gray-haired head with F.A.C.T.S.
I'd want F.A.C.T.S. rolling off my tongue like the street music of some high-falutin-Grammy-Winnin' rapper. Hell, I'd throw that damn black t-shirt out, too. Stuff an old Brooks Brothers shirt with cut off sleeves, a few buttons missing, into my backpack. Maybe I'd pick up a pair of Bermuda-frigging shorts from the Greenwich Village Goodwill on the way to JFK.
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If I were Anderson Cooper, I'd want to know what famine smells like. I'd want to feel that parched earth underneath my toes and stand in long lines desperate for just a few drops of water. I wouldn't want to interview some volunteer with WFP or MSF or Oxfam. I'd want to climb inside the gut of that person and feel the experience as they do.
My Anderson Cooper wouldn't stick a microphone and camera in the face of someone whose mother is hours away from dying -- or just happens to conveniently pass while the film's rolling.
"Hell, no," I'd tell my bosses. "Not this time. I'm going to let these people die with some dignity, you damn assholes."
If I were Anderson Cooper, I'd want some answers. Like why the hell are we still using the same playbook in a complex, utterly broken system? Throwing everything we can at a situation we knew was gonna happen years ago, with 'acceptable losses' running over 1/2 a million people?
Since last year many organizations were predicting that there would be a drought in East Africa, largely because of the El Nino and La Nina situation. These are coming on the back of three or four years of inadequate rainfall in Somalia. So it was predicted - but nobody really reacted to it. So it’s as much political, probably even more a political problem, than a scientific one. What governments or NGOs should be working toward is making sure farmers can deal with the variability of the climate. Meteorologist Dr David Grimes
I'd want an interview with the director of SWALIM, (Somalia Water and Land Information Management) to find out about their data collection networks, which are being used "to facilitate better assessment of rainfall, river flow, groundwater resources, land characteristics, degradation and land suitability as well as improving flood warning and flood management."
One and a half decades of civil strife in Somalia have resulted in the loss or damage of most of the water- and land-related information collected in the previous half century. By producing baseline information, assessing natural resources, searching for existing information sources around the world, SWALIM is recovering as much of lost data as possible. The project is also re-establishing data collection networks in collaboration with partner agencies, to facilitate better assessment of rainfall, river flow, groundwater resources, land characteristics, degradation and land suitability as well as improving flood warning and flood management.
If I were Anderson Cooper, I would already know that countries in East Africa are predicted to be most severely impacted by climate change. That the formula natural geography + climate + endemic poverty x extreme and unpredictable weather (record-breaking droughts x historic floods )= Chaos!
Shit, two of my top background sources would be president of the World Policy Institute Lester Brown and Danielle Nierenberg, Director of Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project, who recently said that agriculture is "the solution to mitigating climate change, reducing public health problems and costs, making cities more livable, and creating jobs in a stagnant global economy.”
Jim Hansen would be on my speed dial.
I'd be pushing for a preview of the 2014 release of the IPCCs 5th Assesment Report, knowing damn well that my dog-earred-dust-mitey copy of its 4th Assessment is way out of date.
Still, I'd be well aware that rain fed agriculture, which currently accounts for 90% of Africa's staple food, will be severely impacted by an increase of between 3.2 degrees and 3.6 degrees Celsius over the next 50 years. I'd know all about the climate model experiments using AR4 climate scenarios and how the gridded model shows that:
* East African climate is likely to become wetter, particularly in the Short Rains (October to December) and particularly in northern Kenya, in the forthcoming decades.
* East Africa will almost certainly become warmer than present in all seasons in the forthcoming decades.
* Changes in rainfall seasonality over forthcoming decades are unlikely.
* A trend towards more extremely wet seasons is likely for the Short Rains, particularly in northern Kenya, in the forthcoming decades.
* Droughts are likely to continue (notwithstanding the generally wetter conditions), particularly in northern Kenya, in the forthcoming decades. In many model simulations, the drought events every 7 years or so become more extreme than present.
* The wetting component evident in observed Kenyan rainfall may well be a forerunner of the longer-term climate change.
I'd be at the top of my game. I'd have researched the unique interaction between the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the ENSO phenomenon ( El Niño/La Niña): the ITCZ strongly influences East Africa's two rainy seasons -- March-through-May and October-through-December, both of which were dry this year.
Several groups around the world have developed computer models to predict how increasing greenhouse gases will change the climate.
"Most of the models are actually suggesting that East Africa will become wetter," Mason says. "However, if we look at what's been happening in East Africa at least for the last decade or so, it's actually been getting quite a lot drier."
Mason says that drying trend is at least partly due to global warming, which is contributing to rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean. That creates conditions that draw moisture away from East Africa.
I'd know that East Africa's climate variability follows a pattern which is remotely effected by ENSO.
ENSO with its warm phase (El Niño) and its cold phase (La Niña) is actually known as a climate phenomenon in the Pacific with global teleconnections. Using the example of climate variability in East Africa, the study shows the long-term impact of this phenomenon in this sensitive region.
The sediments in Lake Challa in south-eastern Kenya, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, serve as a climate archive. Sample cores that were drilled here show a pattern of stripes, so called annual laminae. Each individual layer holds information about the climate.
“The thickness of these layers varies according to the climate, from 0.08 to 7 millimetres,” explains Christian Wolff (University of Potsdam and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences). “A comparison of temperature measurements in the tropical Pacific over the last 150 years shows a strong correlation between ENSO cycles and the rhythms of droughts and floods in East Africa.”
So before I got off that plane, I'd have digested all the info in the recent report: Reduced Interannual Rainfall Variability in East Africa During the Last Ice Age.
Interannual rainfall variations in equatorial East Africa are tightly linked to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with more rain and flooding during El Niño and droughts in La Niña years, both having severe impacts on human habitation and food security. Here we report evidence from an annually laminated lake sediment record from southeastern Kenya for interannual to centennial-scale changes in ENSO-related rainfall variability during the last three millennia and for reductions in both the mean rate and the variability of rainfall in East Africa during the Last Glacial period. Climate model simulations support forward extrapolation from these lake sediment data that future warming will intensify the interannual variability of East Africa’s rainfall.
If I were Anderson Cooper, I would have covered COP15 and COP16, the Bali Talks, the Bonn Talks, Tianjin. I'd know all about Rio's first Earth Summit and about the irrefutable need to maintain Biodiversity to preserve life on the Planet.
I would have interviewed numerous experts about climate change's impact on global food security. So I would know how important it is that small scale indigenous farmers, who grow over 70% of the world’s agriculture and live in villages throughout East Africa, have the tools and resources to grow enough food to sustain themselves. Because by the year 2090, small-scale farmers will be the ones tasked with feeding a projected 370 million hungry people. I'd be talking to leaders in villages where BIA, hydroponics, and organic ag projects were underway. Where water catchment and food storage systems were being constructed.
Finally, if I were Anderson Cooper, I don't know if I would come home this time. Seriously. To what? Manufactured crises? The absurd media swarming in a foolish frenzy as bundles of billions are funneled into the 2012 elections? To The Koch Brothers dancing on the graves of True Blood-hungry Americans? To Facebook and Twitter and the Rupert Murdoch scandal?
Are you frigging kidding me?
If I were Anderson Cooper, I'd choose to stay on. I'd bring all my money with me (or have my mommy send it along) and I'd get down to the damn serious business of "Keeping Them Honest" in the most vulnerable, most precious place in the world. The place we all, ultimately, call home.
We Are All Africans, Anderson. I'd remember that. And I'd stay put.
Come hell or high water.