Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bolivia and Britain-A Tale of Two Floods - and Some Climate Truth

UPDATE: 4-3-14: Are Brazil’s Dams to Blame for Record Floods in Bolivia?

The proliferation of megadams (that do not benefit the poor) that also effect agriculture, rivers and displacement of indigenous people are not feasible especially in light of amplififation of climate change effects.

In recent months, Bolivia’s Amazonian region has experienced the most disastrous flooding of the past 100 years. In the Beni department, 7 of 8 provinces and 16 of 19 municipalities are under water, with 75,000 people (more than one-quarter of the population) affected. Economic losses from the death of 250,000 livestock heads and destruction of seasonal crop lands, estimated at $180 million, are mounting daily.

While seasonal flooding is common in Beni, experts agree that climate change has added a threatening new dimension to the cyclical pattern, bringing record rainfall to most of Bolivia this year. Deforestation, exploitation of cultivable land, and loss of infrastructure through the breakup of traditional communities are other factors contributing to soil erosion and increased vulnerability to flooding.

In the past weeks, attention has focused on the role played by two recently-inaugurated Brazilian mega-dams—the Jirau and the San Antonio—in Bolivia’s floods. Located on the Madeira River, the largest tributary of the Amazon which receives its waters from rivers in Bolivia and Peru, the dams are just 50 and 110 miles, respectively, from Brazil’s Bolivian border.

The dams are part of an even largerhydroelectric power complex planned for the area, which will include a third, binational dam (Ribeirao) directly on the border, and a fourth station inside Bolivia (Cachuela Esperanza). The dams are designed to generate electricity for Brazil’s industrial heartland, one thousand miles to the south.

End of excerpt


UPDATE: 3-29-14:

UN climate science report will highlight ‘limits to adaptation’

Once again we will see the rich nations push aside "loss and damage" in trying to skirt responsibility. Climate change will reveal the ugly prejudices people have been harboring when called to truly be human first in order to save us all. This is truly the greatest moral challenge of our time. Describing this in terms of economics and politics leaves us failing. Describing this in terms of us being human first is the only way to save lives.

NASA/Earth Observatory/Flooding In Bolivia

"Residents of Bolivia’s low-lying Beni region are accustomed to flooding. Every February and March, rivers routinely burst their banks due to melting snowpack in the Andes Mountains and near daily rainstorms associated with the wet season. However, the floods Bolivians faced in February 2014 were unusually severe. Weeks of heavy rains caused the Beni and Mamoré Rivers to swell, swamping more than 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land. According to media reports, floodwaters killed at least 60 people and damaged the homes of more than 60,000. Large numbers of livestock were also affected. Preliminary estimates suggest at least 100,000 cattle were killed by floods, and hundreds of thousands more were threatened by starvation.

The false-color image at the top of this page was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on February 17, 2014. For comparison, the second image shows conditions along the rivers under more typical conditions on March 28, 2013 (as seen by Terra). Sediment-laden flood and river water appears blue; flood water with less sediment appears black. A natural-color view of the same area is available here. "What is happening, particularly in Beni province, is something never before seen in the history of Bolivia,” said president Evo Morales during the midst of the crisis."

Also see:

UPDATE 6-6-13:Czech Floods...Floods in Central Europe... Floods in the Midwest... Monster Tornadoes...Heatwaves...Glacier Melting...Excessive Drought... Now, What Could Be The Reason? Really? People Are Still Asking That Question?

Earth is home to ALL of us. What we do to our only home we do to ourselves.


Bolivia and Britian-A Tale Of Two Floods

By Maddy Ryle
11th March 2014

Living between southern England and Bolivia, Maddy Ryle finds inconsistent media attitudes in reporting extreme weather and climate change - and searches out new narratives that engage and empower communities across the world.

In a recent blog a Bolivia-based climate commentator referenced media commentary on the aftermath of floods in the UK - as a way of drawing comparison with the extreme weather that has been causing devastation in parts of Bolivia in the last few weeks.

I normally live in the south of England but have been in Bolivia during this torrential period for both countries. The impact in both places has been severe, but undoubtedly more so here, in South America's poorest nation.

The flooding in Bolivia - particularly dire in the Beni region that borders Brazil in the northeast - has resulted in close to 60 deaths, affected close to 60,000 families (including many homes lost entirely), and done away with nearly 40,000 hectares of crops and around 100,000 head of cattle in this significantly agricultural economy.

Increasing severity

Floods are not unusual in Bolivia (or in the UK), although their severity and regularity in recent years is something new. I work for an organisation here that was doing field work back in 2010 about floods, drought and glacier loss.

The work focused on the fact that Bolivia was an 'early impact' country for the effects of climate change, and that its matrix of vulnerabilities (geographic, topographical, economic, social and political - amongst others) mean that as climate change gathers pace, people in Bolivia are going to be exposed to a wide range of problems and insufficient resources to deal with them.

Now maybe we don't need to talk about 'early impact' countries any more. The extreme weather that we are witnessing across the globe, in rich countries and poor - and especially in the last couple of months - has put climate change back in the headlines, or at least the comment pages.

Are we worried about money? Or people?

Of course, it is notable (and infuriating) that it takes a flood in southern England or a drought in California to do that, when Bolivians, Pakistanis, Somalians, Filipinos and millions of others exposed to the deadly combination of poverty and climate change have been suffering for some time now.

And it remains the case that people in the so-called 'developing world' will always be harder hit by these events. As British Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK insurance industry knows, it costs money to deal with the impacts of flooded businesses and homes, the loss of crops, the cleaning up ...

It also costs money to take measures to prevent these occurrences. Bolivia's president Evo Morales was quick to emphasise the responsibility of the "powers" - the rich industrialised countries of the global North - to deal with the climate crises affecting the global community.

Physician, heal thyself

But there have been others in Bolivia who have turned the spotlight on the government itself, asking that it assume some mantle of responsibility.

Various commentators have pointed to the administration's lack of preparedness despite the fact that some flooding occurs virtually every year during the rainy season in Bolivia.

End of excerpt.



Torrential rains and floods above what is normally seen have been pummeling Bolivia as well as Peru and Argentina since the end of last year in a trend that continues to get worse. I bet you didn't know that... however, I am sure everyone who is reading this now knows of the floods that hit Britain because we saw it, actually saw it reported by the media (though of course those two words that shall not be spoken weren't) and it was right that we did see it covered. I know I can recall the nightly news reporting on Prince Harry carrying sandbags to protect the well to do of the towns effected from the oncoming rising Thames. However, I do not recall one broadcast where I saw any reports of the floods hitting Bolivia or any pictures of the poor and indigenous people there struggling or the farmers looking to save their livestock from the rising waters.

Now, why is that? Well, here is some climate truth many do not speak about especially regarding the developing world where it seems to speak such truth is tantamount to heresy. Climate change spawned by anthropogenic excess effects ALL races, creeds, income brackets, sexes, beliefs and locations. Climate change is an equal opportunity destroyer. It is the ultimate equalizer. However, to those who are racist, intolerant and out of touch with any reality but their own climate change is only a threat to their world if at all (and for some something to now only be used for profit) and something they don't think they have to worry about regarding anyone else especially the poor who they believe do not contribute anything to the world. This I do believe is one of the main reasons why progress on addressing and solving this crisis has been stifled.

Why is it when climate change hits California, Britain or France the news is filled with reports and people like John Kerry finally step out of their hiding places to say climate change is "a weapon of mass destruction." Yet, the developing world and poor indigenous people in it have been dealing with the effects of our folly and excess for years- and virtual silence. It cannot be helped but to be said that there are prejudices held that stop people from wanting to help others. Climate change is no different. These are the barriers we will have to lift if we are to save our entire species. People who live in La Paz Bolivia are just as important as people who live in the South of France! People who live in Indonesia and other islands that will sink under the tide of rising seas are just as important as people who live in the mansions of Bel Air!

In all my years of writing about and studying climate change one observation has always struck a chord with me: The climate exclusivity of it all especially regarding UN COP Conferences and other climate "meetings" that are supposedly meant to bring about climate accords to help people adapt that specifically exclude poor nations and indigenous people. Also, watching as the environmental movement and these conferences are slowly commandeered by corporate interests that introduce mechanisms that claim to want to save the climate but are actually only mechanisms being used by corporate interests to push indigenous populations off their land in order for these corporate interests to have tax write offs while they continue to pollute! How does that solve this crisis? How does that bring climate justice? How does that address the climate catastrophe we are ALL heading for?

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. This was seen just a few years ago when Chacaltaya Glacier completely disappeared six years early:

Bolivia's Chacaltaya Glacier Disappears

Once Upon A Time There Was Chacaltaya

Many Bolivians on the highland plains and in two cities depend on the melting of the glaciers for their water supply during the dry season.

Now what?

These countries are said to be meeting in Paris (big surprise there- another "rich" city that everyone will fly to) in 2015 for yet another COP Conference where it is believed a climate accord will be signed by 194 countries- although Christiana Figueres has already admitted this so called accord will not stop the world from surpassing 2 degrees C or even 4 degrees C. I suspect that once again countries like Bolivia will not be the prime concern as corporate interests will once again seek to fight any true progress that addresses the current and future effects on our world in total in an equitable fashion. And of course, this also applies to the governments of these countries that many times also shirk their responsibilty to their people.

Therein again lies the problem: having those who precipitated the crisis being those in charge of solving it. It is already a self fulfilling prophecy that poor countries like Bolivia that are living on the edge of climate change due to increased severity of droughts, floods, and glacier melt effecting their agriculture and livelihoods will see little help.

This is the crux of our lack of action as humans. Our own failings to see the world as the home of all of us and that we are all in this together. This isn't about anything more than finally seeing the huge challenge before our eyes and not forgetting that our hearts are just as instrumental in solving it as our pens.

The people of Bolivia and those who live in other areas of the world who are developing, poor, indigeneous yet just as resolved maybe even more so to saving this planet to save ourselves deserve no less than the same attention and help that we give to those who live in the developed world. Only when we see that our similarities as humans transcend our money, pride and prejudices will we be able to save this planet for all our children. If you look at the picture of the two Bolivian children above you will see one thing: They are no different than your own and deserve to live and thrive. THAT IS THE CRUX OF CLIMATE JUSTICE. Without it, we fail them all.

Bolivia In Need Of Coordinated Climate Change Policies

Climate Variability and Trends in Bolivia

Vast Areas of Bolivia and Brazil Flooded After Weeks of Torrential Rains

Bolivia floods affect 150,000 people as rains continue -reports

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