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Those Who Already Know

February 14, 2012 - Happy Valentine's Day - here's wishing you the pleasures of loving and being loved.  I'm late because of a nasty cold, but it's time to get myself pulled together.  Climate Change waits for no one!

Mostly, I've been hearing about the cold snap in Europe this winter.  I haven't kept up with how the British are faring, but past brutal winters have caused an alarming death rate amongst old-age pensioners; perhaps the British government will have understood by now that their intervention can make the difference between life and death.  Not surprisingly, the homeless are a primary source of unhappy statistics elsewhere.  In Australia, Queenslander's are once again dealing with widespread flooding.

While none of us wishes Europeans or Australians ill, these two groups face climatic challenges armed with copious amounts of information, and at least the possiblity of paying for the necessary shelters, fuel, and damage control.  The same cannot be said for most citizens of the Southern Hemisphere.  Case in point, the Peruvian Andes.  The climate has been undergoing change that, over the years, has become increasingly dramatic.  Here, in this land of alpacas and coffee farms, one hears little disagreement about the reality of climate disruption.

Furthermore, farmers and scientists alike acknowledge that the effects of global warming are, at times, contradictory.  Anyone looking for a nice, neat package of continually warming temperatures in a land of very high mountains mixed with tropical rain forests will go away disappointed.  According to a study conducted in 2003, temperatures had - indeed - been rising, by a third of a degree Celsius per decade, starting in 1974.  The most disturbing evidence of this warming is, by far, the rapidly melting glaciers, universally relied upon as a dependable source of water.  Some researchers believe that certain regions have already surpassed "peak water."  As if that were not sufficient food for thought, evidence of the opposite effect - increasing cold - is even more gut-wrenching.

The winter of 2010 was the worst in recent memory.  Temperatures plunged to 46-year lows, causing the Peruvian government to declare emergencies in 16 of the country's 24 regions.  When temperatures fell to 13 degrees below zero fahrenheit, children began dying of pneumonia.  Four hundred people died in all, most of them children.  In this part of the world, children can be found who suffer from malnutrition, and from a general lack of health care. In addition, their immune systems are not yet highly enough developed to withstand the rigors of killer diseases like pneumonia.  There can be no doubt, this is a harbinger of things to come - and not just in Peru. Children and the elderly will suffer the most, wherever climate disruption is felt the most keenly.

Perhaps the unkindest cut of all is the lack of ongoing research, which can account for a paucity of scientific records.  Governments require reliable, i.e. non-anecdotal, information upon which to base policy.  While Peru's government officials are aware of the complex problems with which they are faced, a lack of information makes mitigating actions difficult.  In the meantime, they and a number of aid agencies do what they can.  Alpaca shelters and childhood immunizations are two of the most highly sought after services.  Donations to Oxfam and Save the Children would enable offering these services to larger numbers of families and farmers.  Since we're all in this together, please do what you can.  My husband and I sponsored foster children in Ecuador for 17 years, and it was a wonderful source of satisfaction.

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