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It's a Changed World

December 23, 2010 – Climate disruption is becoming a reality for more and more people.
It’s become a bit personal, too – my son is in Southern California. He flies out today, thank goodness. Here’s a brief rundown of what the Golden State has been contending with:

· 17 feet of snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada mountains
· Some locations have received their entire annual rainfall
· 20,000 homes are without power
· Roads and bridges have been washed away
· Mudslides are numerous because of wildfires that decimated vegetation
on hillsides

It remains to be seen whether and how the rest of the United States will be affected by this treacherous storm.

Meanwhile, Western Europeans stand amazed as snow, ice and freezing temperatures bring airports and rail terminals to their knees. Millions of holiday travelers have been affected by the unusually harsh weather, with flight cancellations and long delays at rail terminals being the rule. Thousands have slept on the floors of airports in England, France, and Germany. For some reason there are night flight restrictions in place throughout much of Europe, but affected countries have either declared a moratorium on the restrictions, or are considering doing so. Oversight organizations are asking tough questions about the lack of preparedness demonstrated by airports, pointing out that Scandinavians have no trouble dealing with bad weather. Something tells me it just might have to do with more practice …. The current weather in Western Europe is the worst in 30 years.

Finally, the beleaguered people of Colombia have been suffering an unprecedented La Nina for weeks. Flooding is widespread, and 1.5 – 2 million people have been made homeless. The rain has not stopped, and forecasts call for it to continue through February. Hundreds of thousands of children are without schools to attend, and 1.5 millions acres of farmland are unusable. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has sent personnel to aid in assessing the damage to a levee on the Dique Canal. They will also devise a recommended course of action. The president of Colombia is contemplating various strategies in order to raise money for his country. At the same time, he is advising foreign companies they will continue to be welcome in Colombia as long as they accept two provisos: demonstrating social and environmental responsibility. This may have been leveled primarily at logging and mining operations, two activities which are largely to blame for the sedimentation of rivers and deltas in the country. As these bodies of water fill up with sediment, the rain has been left with nowhere to go, and has spilled over riverbanks and marshes.

Good can come of these catastrophes if we learn from them. In California, hillside house construction must cease. Water catchment systems must be expanded. Burned over hillsides must be replanted. Europeans need to acquire additional snow removal equipment, and the night flying issue must be re-evaluated. In Colombia, logging and mining companies must be dealt with severely. Colombia must repair its strained relations with other countries, and must - at last – bring every degree of force at its command to bear on narco-trafficking.

We can all look to the people of Ecuador for inspiration. The president of Ecuador, moved by Colombia’s desperate situation, visited his neighbor with offers of help. Though Colombia invaded Ecuador in 2008 for the purpose of killing a rebel leader, the two countries have once again established diplomatic relations.

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