More than half a century ago, Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring‘ first warned about the increasing cost of industrialization to the environment. In the following decades, folks who shared her vision were regarded by the establishment as eccentric doomsayers and commonly dismissed as ‘treehuggers‘.
In a speech at the Planetary Security Conference held this week in the Hague, a paragon of the establishment, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Netherlands, used that word too – but this time to say that it no longer applies. General Tom Middendorp, dressed in full uniform, professed his belief that climate change has become a serious threat to global security, causing conflicts, mass migration and extremism and that indeed there can be no global security without climate security. The general pointed to the civil war in Syria as a case in point. This conflict, now a grave global concern, broke out after a record drought in the area, which caused wide-spread food shortages and drove large numbers of people from the countryside to the cities to subsist in abject poverty until they could not take it any longer. According to General Middendorp, the causes and effects of climate change can only be managed by international collaboration; new coalitions should be formed on the basis of ecologal systems. To that end, the Future Force Conference, of which the general is one of the organizers, will be held in the Netherlands in February of next year.
The extent to which human activity contributes to global warming is still somewhat in dispute. Sceptics point out that there have been periods of global warming long before humans existed, that therefore it is cyclical, a natural phenomenon. On the other hand, there is no parallel in the history of life on Earth for the swiftness of the warming trend we experience now. There is also a curious correspondence between the doubling of the level of atmospheric CO2 in the past century-and-a-half and the proliferation of the combustion engine in the same period.
For such reasons, the majority of scientists, as well as the supreme commander of the Armed Forces of the Netherlands, think humans do have a hand in it and that, therefore, we can and must do something about it.
One of the natural phenomena attributed to global warming is El Nino, a warm ocean current along the western coast of South America. The name, meaning ‘little boy’, derives from the fact that it reaches its apex around Christmas time. The elevated temperature of the ocean water causes shifts in atmospheric pressure, which in turn cause shifts in rainfall patterns affecting Southern Arizona too. It kept the atmosferic circulation that normally brings the winter storms from developing last winter, and the outlook is that it will be the same this time around. The monsoon did bring some relief, but not enough to make up the long-term moisture defcit. Temperatures were well above average for October and November and unless hell freezes over in the coming weeks, the entire year is going to be the hottest on record locally as well as globally.
By the same token, the issue of water conservation and purification is hotter than ever. Current water purification systems are large in size as well as carbon footprint. However, General Middendorp announced in his speech that his organization is working on a water purification system about the size of a coffee machine that can purify 20 liters of water per hour at an energy cost of 70 watts, less than 1 hour of TV. Or 20 hours of radio.
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