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June 28, 2010 – While the mid-section of the United States swelters, and Arizonan’s endure the resumption of the wildfire season, let’s take a pass on the self-pity and talk about folks with REAL problems. It’s off to southern China we go …. carried a story dated June 23, filed by Reuters news service from Fuzhou, China. It began raining in southern China on June 13. Ten days later, provinces and regions hardest hit by calamitous rainfall include Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi. All of these places have been on the receiving end of more than 39 inches of rain in “a few days” time, with more in the forecast. I’m unable to imagine that much rainfall, but I can comprehend the results: at least 211 people dead and 119 missing. Rivers have broken their banks, dykes have collapsed, landslides have severed road and rail links. Highways have crumbled. Two-and-a-half million people have been evacuated. Millions of acres of farmland are flooded, and roughly 195,000 homes have collapsed. Soldiers, civil militia, police, and 15,000 residents were attempting, as of the 23rd, to plug the Changkai Dyke breach with sandbags.

Think you’d rather be in Brazil? Think again: 600 people are missing after “massive storms … dumped a month’s worth of water,” according to Bradley Brooks of the Associated Press. His story, also filed June 23, says 44 people are known dead in northeastern Brazil. Small towns in Alagoas and neighboring Pernambuco state were almost flattened by the rain. Roads have been completely washed away and bridges dismantled by the powerful storms. At least 120,000 people have evacuated to schools, churches and nearby family members. One resident of Uniao dos Palmares was quoted as saying “’ We’ve been through other floods, but we’ve never had anything even close to this.’”

Then there’s sunny – and I do mean SUNNY – Pakistan. The British newspaper The Guardian reported on June 7, “…Pakistan is being held hostage to the most punishing heatwave in living memory.” Their reporter, Nosheen Iqbal, had just returned from a trip to Pakistan, where temperatures of 127 degrees F were being reported across the country. She described the heat as “brutal, penetrative, and unbearable.” At one point I heard on the radio – probably NPR – that the death toll had topped 1,000. reported on the 20th of June “Brutal heatwave roasts Pakistan as mercury in Larkana has shot up [to] 51 degree [sic] centigrade.” That’s 124 degrees Fahrenheit. The heatwave was, at that time, predicted to last “for [the] next few days.”

The real story in Pakistan, according to Iqbal, is that the electricity infrastructure has been permitted to languish for decades. President Musharraf did nothing while in office. The “power’ coming to Pakistan’s rescue is China. The Chinese intend to build coal-burning power plants in Pakistan, a solution worse than the problem. Though the United States has offered financial assistance for the purpose of upgrading Pakistan’s national grid, anti-American sentiment has become so profound in that country, there is little likelihood the offer will be accepted. Sadly, the reporter concludes that “The Chinese policy, to offer trade and build projects rather than cash aid, is a sound one.” Iqbal chooses to overlook the fact that the bituminous coal that Pakistan will be burning is the filthiest kind of coal there is. As with so many natural resources, we’ve reached peak coal. Yes, there’s enough to last us for a long time, but how do we expect to get away with putting all that particulate matter in the air we breathe? Doing something just to create the appearance of paying attention will not provide Pakistani’s with either the quantity or quality of power they need. The situation first needs to be studied by professionals. Stay tuned for further developments.


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