South America chokes as Amazon burns
By Daniel Howden and Jules Steven in La Paz
05 October 2007
Vast areas of Brazil and Paraguay and much of Bolivia are choking under thick layers of smoke as fires rage out of control in the Amazon rainforest, forcing the cancellation of flights.
Satellite images yesterday showed huge clouds of smoke and much of the Amazon basin burning as fires, originally set by ranchers to clear land, have raged into the forest itself.
Did you just choke on your morning coffee? Yeah, that's what happened to me too. Quick, what's the date on this? October 5th 2007? Damn. That's YESTERDAY. How come I haven't heard of this? How come it wasn't on the news? How come no Breaking News diaries on DKos about it? How come the goddamned Democratic candidates all campaigning for President don't mention it ??????
Yeah, it's nice and warm where I am. Some even like the change and are hoping for more. For others though, elsewhere on the planet, not so much:
Burning smoke has blocked out the sun and local communities have begun to complain of respiratory disorders.
Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth Brazil, said the situation was out of control: "We have a strong concentration of fires, corresponding to more than 10,000 points of fire across a large area of about two million sq km in the southern Brazilian Amazon and Bolivia."
"(This year's fires) are mainly, I would say more than 90 per cent, the result of expanding cattle ranching." The first rains have arrived but they are weaker than usual in most areas and have been useless against the fires.
In the past three years Brazil's National Development Bank and the World Bank have poured funds into the southern Amazon, fuelling the expansion of the cattle industry. (..) "It is taxpayers' money fuelling these fires," said Mr Smeraldi.
"These fires are the suicide note of mankind," said Hylton Murray Philipson, from the London-based charity Rainforest Concern. " While politicians talk about defining moments, destruction will continue until we begin to attribute real value to the standing forest.
Think about that. And resist the knee-jerk reaction of calling it "over the top" hyperbole and "counterproductive." No. Take a deep breath and let it sink in. 'Cause it's not just the Amazon.
And up here we have even more cause for worry. Because it's happening. Now. Everywhere.
The planet is shifting gears on us. And we, collectively, aren't paying attention. Those of us in the driver's seat are asleep at the wheel, and the rest are all squabbling over their toys in the back seat. While the vessel we're driving in is careening wildly. That vessel is indestructible, by the way. It can hit a wall, drive over a cliff, sink under water, even burn, and emerge unscathed. A massive orb of rock and iron, that will continue on its stately path, rotating across the field of stars, for all eternity (or what we humans concieve as such). We're the ones committing slow-motion suicide. And those who aspire to lead us know the deal. Oh, some of them talk a good game. But I don't trust them. Because they are DOING NOTHING. And all for short-term political gain. Because the polls and focus-groups tell their milionnaire consultants that the people "aren't there yet".
These are not leaders. These are merely politicians, out to secure the next election. For themselves. And relax, I'm not pointing fingers here. It's just as pathetic and deplorable in Canada, where our Neanderthal government has just hamstrung the three, feeble, ineffective "opposition" Parties (sound familar, dear neighours?) on climate and every other issue, by threatening them with (gasp!) an election, if they don't fall in line and shut up!
That's why I am so desperate for you Big Guys next door to do the goddamned right thing and get a true leader to run for President and, yes, for better or for worse, as even we recalcitrant Canucks know all too well, de-facto King of the World. Because this is what that leader sounded like at the U.N. last week, urging the politicians to wake the hell up. Because even here, in my country, it would instantly change the paradygm, and make climate change top of mind in the coming elections (no one think that Harper will wait past Novembre, Decembre at the latest, 'cause his "opponents" are on the ropes, and he wants him some Majority Government, so he can hog-tie the rest of us and sabotage international talks on climate and keep us in Afghanistan forever, and pour even more taxpayers money into the filthy Tar Sands in Alberta).
So please, please, especially you progressives here on this blog, wake up to what's happening world-wide. Wake up before it is too late. Create the conditions for change to happen. DEMAND THAT YOUR CANDIDATE RUN ON CLIMATE . (Uh... Good luck with that.) Or better yet get the most qualified, knowledgeable, experienced, inspiring, hell, the most goddamned obvious person out there to run for President. And in his casem it's now or never, people.
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