Environment

A second inconvenient truth

I  It has taken around fifty years for the Aral Sea to parch. If you look at satellite images of the Kazakh-Uzbek border today, it is as though a half-bruised eyelid has drowsed shut across tens of thousands of kilometres of water. Lake Chad – on the margins of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon – is next. Since the 1960s, it has shrivelled by 90 per cent. Roughly half of that reduction in size is attributed to climate change, but the truth is that scientists and analysts find themselves all at subjunctives with such figures. This isn’t just an ecological calamity. It’s also symptomatic of what will be one of the most persistent human rights challenges of this century. The cradle of mankind is starting to look more like a cemetery. Take Niger, a country that finds itself at the very top or the very bottom of almost every index …

This is our ides of March – we have been warned

As a veil of iridescence casts a forlorn shadow over the undulating waves of the Gulf of Mexico, and Mt. Eyjafjallajokull spews plumes of volcanic ash into the high atmosphere, we are left wondering. Albeit that the latter was unpreventable and not a result of humanity’s destruction of the environment, one thing is certain: these stark, humbling reminders of the fragility and power of Mother Nature should prompt action. We have been confronted by one warning too many. It was one Robin Williams who kindly mentioned to us that using clean coal is a bit like wearing a porous condom – at least the intention was there. The trouble is that when it comes to the environment, good intentions don’t quite cut it. No one hacks down a tree for a laugh, or decapitates an endangered giant panda for a cheap kick, or burns some fossil fuels for a sneaky …