Planet Earth Nature and Natural Disasters Part 1

About planet Earth, nature, and and natural disasters, the problems of nuclear waste and draught in the Sahara desert.


Nature "takes the shortest way to her ends," said Emerson in summing up the immutable insistence of the land, the sea, and the air to pursue their never-ending battle with each other. Nature is neither friendly nor hostile to mankind. It is man who wishes to alter nature's ways--for example, by diking the Zuider Zee to create massive new polders of farmland below sea level; by creating high levees along the Mississippi River to prevent nature's normal springtime flooding of the great valley; or by turning the vast grasslands of the Great Plains (ground that should never have been plowed) into homestead farmland, much of which blew away during the Dust Bowl drought of 1936. Nature was not striking back, but was merely attempting to reclaim her own, taking the "shortest way," as usual.

In other words, avalanches, hurricanes, spouting volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, meteors from outer space, waterspouts, tornadoes, avalanches, hailstorms, and lightning bolts are not nature's angry attempt to punish man, but merely the natural forces going about their usual business.

Mankind is today building the "thousand-year problem," the new "high-level" radioactive waste from nuclear-weapons production and power plants. Presently there are 87 million gallons of the deadly stuff, and this is expected to mount up by 60 million more gallons by the year 2000. Somehow this threat-to-life material must be thrown out beyond a protective magnetosphere, but how? Nobody yet knows.

During the "good years" from 1961 to 1967, inhabitants of the sub-Sahara Sahel region (encompassing 6 of the poorest nations on earth) enjoyed relative prosperity--modest rainfalls, 1,400 new wells dug by the USAID, and moderate harvests of millet, sorghum, and peanuts. Then, in 1968, a protracted drought began. Since that time, the Sahara Desert, the earth's largest, has been moving southward by more than 30 mi. per year, wiping out all cattle and crops, and threatening the lives of millions of human inhabitants.

The change in climate in North Africa was due to an apparent expansion of polar air masses that has kept pushing the usual monsoon rains back southward beyond the Sahel. Meantime, all those wells should not have been dug since they lowered the water table and encouraged nomads to increase dangerously their herds of cattle. In the same way, during the fall of 1974, northern India experienced one of the worst droughts in many years. Some meteorologists have suggested that both dire situations may have resulted from an overall worldwide temperature drop over recent decades.

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