Thailand is one of the world’s biggest producers of rice with annual exports of 10 million tons. But a severe drought has forced the Thai government to lower its rice export forecast for this year by 2 million tons. The amount of useable water in the reservoirs has dwindled to below 10 percent and water is rationed in almost a third of the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has asked farmers to delay planting from the beginning to the end of summer in hopes conditions will have improved by then. This would mean massive losses to the farmers and leave them deeply in debt.
A large part of Thailand’s rice is exported to Africa and African nations have increased their imports to head off expected increases in the price of rice.
Nations in the South and East of the African continent are also beset by extreme drought conditions, threatening to end the surge of economic growth of past decades known as the “Africa Rising” phenomenon and to push millions of people back into hunger and poverty. The drought is not only causes poor harvests and food shortages, but also significant losses in electricity generation from hydro-electric dams, because the reservoirs are so low that the generators have to be shut down. This has a huge impact on the mining industry in particular, forcing mine closings and lay-offs.
All this is the result of an extreme El Nino weather pattern caused by warming of the oceans. The global temperature for February was an unprecedented point-two degrees Celcius higher than the previous warmest month, which happens to be January. In Africa, the situation is worsened by a number of cruel wars and weak governments unable to deal with the crisis without foreign assistance.
The U.S. has boosted its emergency aid to Ethiopia, among the hardest hit nations, by nearly $100 million.
Unlike the faucets in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, ours still do what they’re supposed to do, but they may well start to sputter too if things keep going the way they are now.
The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) have teamed up to create and interactive website to increase public awareness of water issues in the West. At the heart of the project, and giving it its name, is Cody Sheehy’s documentary “Beyond the Mirage: The Future of Water in the West”. You can see the trailer at www.beyondthemirage.org.
The official launch party of the “Beyond the Mirage” website will be at 5 pm on Saturday, March 19, at Borderlands Brewing Company. The documentary will air on AZPM PBS channel 6 on April 15 at 9 pm, with subsequent airings throughout the month. Visit tv.azpm.org for details.
If ever there be a best time to go green, it is surely around St. Patty’s Day this Thursday. So plant a tree, bring your own bag to the supermarket, change those incandescent light bulbs to fluorescents, keep your tires at proper pressure, go solar, compost, mind the thermostat and have a Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!