September 4, 2005
Butterfly Effect: From Land Clearing to Hurricane Katrina?
Is there a correlation between the scorch and burn land-clearing depredations in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina? I am reminded of the "butterfly effect," where a pair of flapping wings in Beijing has the potential to create a storm half-way across the world. This BBC report throws a clue.
Here is an excerpt: "It has been calculated that in 1997, 2.67 billion tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide were released through burning of these peatlands. This is equivalent to 40% of one year's global fossil fuel combustion."
2.67 billion tonnes is an enormous figure. The amount disgorged this year could be greater. The haze in Malaysia, resulting from the land clearing activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan heightened to a "hazardous" level for days or perhaps weeks. We still do not have the full figures despite Kuala Lumpur's initial attempt to cover-up the local Air Pollution Index (API).
The Butterfly Effect is essentially an environmental term that has become a metaphor for chain reactions. The effects of global warming is no longer debated by the sane or egalitarian. Ex-dictator Suharto has long relinquished power; yet the brutal assault on the environment in this region continues. We don't need to flog a dead horse; if there are any, they are burnt among the peat fires. Neither do we need to blame an ex-tyrant for corporate-driven, perennial shenanigans that jeopardize the lives of people in this region and beyond, year after year.
Hurricane Katrina took US weather experts by surprise, esp when it gained momentum after its first brush in Florida. Is there a link? Or should the question be "to what extent was Katrina exacerbated?"
As it is, the ecosystem in the US gulf zone is fragile, and it will not need much impetus to snowball any gathering storm into a Category 4 hurricane.
This is another facet of globalization: There is no longer such a thing as a "foreign environment."
Midnight, Kuala Lumpur
Sept 5, 2005