tsunami threat

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eco-enemy and tsunami

daya dissanayake

"Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" was the title suggested by Philip Merilees to Edward Lorenz for a talk Lorenz was to present to the American Association for the Advancment of Science in 1972. The story goes, that Lorenz heard a meteorologist say "one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever".

It is not that the seagull or the butterfly could change the weather or the climate, but just shows how a small initial condition could result in major changes.

The 8.7 Mwp earthquake off the West coast of Northern Sumatra on April 11th, 2012, brings our attention to the possibilities of when and where a butterfly had flapped its wings to bring about the earthquake and the tsunami threat.

A little over a month ago, on 3rd March, on 'The Climate Desk', Bill McGuire of The Guardian, wrote "The idea that a changing climate can persuade the ground to shake, volcanoes to rumble, and tsunamis to crash on to unsuspecting coastlines seems, at first, to be bordering on the insane." McGuire goes on to show that it really happens, that the atmosphere, the oceans, and the solid earth, intertwine and interact.

We ignore that this solid earth we stand on, is just a thin crust, the tectonic plates that move and shift and grind. Mother Earth could be writhing in pain, or growling in anger, and once again the fleas on a dog comes to my mind. When the dog cannot bare the flea bites any longer, he would violently shake his body, as if to throw the fleas off. Or he would scratch himself, or jump into a river. Sometimes the dog owner would use a chemical to kill all the fleas.

We look at all changes in our world one at a time, piecemeal, and we refuse to look at the big picture. We refuse to accept the warnings by the Cassandras. Perhaps we should think of our Mother Earth as a living entity, as Gaia, "The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts...[Gaia can be defined] as a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback of cybernetic systems which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet." - (Dr James Lovelock - Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth)

According to those who supported this hypothesis, Gaia has continuity with the past back to the origin of life and extends into the future as long as life persists. This idea was put forth when man was familiar only with his own tiny planet and had no idea about the rest of the universe. The idea could be extended to the entire universe. May be there is more than one universe, the Multiverse, as we can call it.

Six years ago, James Lovelock had claimed that Mother Earth, or Gaia as he preferred to call her, was seriously ill, and her condition was getting worse, and it is worsening minute by minute. In such a situation Gaia could be sending us these warnings, one after the other, but we are too blind to see them, or too arrogant to accept them as warnings. She warned us in 2004 with the Indian ocean tsunami, 2008 Sichuan earthquake, 2010 Icelandic volcano and 2011 Japan tsunami, which are just a few of them. Gaia has shown that nothing man-made can withstand her fury.

Even in the name of saving Mother Earth, in protecting our environment, we continue to abuse our fragile eco-system. We organize conferences in 5-star hotels about how to reduce global warming, we fly thousands of kilometers to meet and discuss how to cut down emissions, while we could do all this from our homes, or offices, at our desk, without burning any fossil fuel, without destroying trees to publish the papers discussed at these gatherings. We should make use of technology, communication facilities and our commitment to save our planet, to minimise the carbon footprint we leave from our eco-friendly activities too.

In reality, those who come out as eco-friends could be far more dangerous than real eco-enemies among mankind. We protect ourselves and out Mother earth from known enemies, but when they come in the guise of friends, we are helpless and powerless. One such example is all the talk and actions for what is called 'Sustainable Development'. If by the term 'Sustainable' we mean a 'sustainable environment' and 'Development' means 'material development' then the terms are contradictory. All material and cultural development, progress of civilization, science and technology, always means destruction. Destruction of our natural surroundings and our natural resources. The only way 'Development' can be 'Sustainable' is if we consider our spiritual and humane Development, devoid of desire, greed and envy.

If we can accept that Mother earth is a living entity, then all we have to do is give her our loving kindness, practice ahimsa, try to treat her as our own mother. Then we will think twice, before doing anything that would hurt our mother, or her children. Her children are our brothers and sisters. We are all one family, all the human beings, all the animals from elephants to ants, and all the plant life from Vanaspathi trees to algae.

Like the proverbial cock who believed that the sun rises in the morning to hear it crow, we believe that the whole multiverse has been created for our benefit, for our exclusive use. We also believe that our intelligence and our technology combined can outdo nature and that we are today more powerful than God. It is that belief that gives us Dutch courage to defy nature, defy Mother Earth, defy God.

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