Friday, June 26, 2015

Beavers, Floods, and Yet Another Dire Prediction

Beavers are back in England, which is good news or bad news: opinions differ on that point.

Quite a few folks died when drains blocked up in Nigeria's capital. Then a gas station exploded. There's more rain in the forecast, so their troubles are far from over.

Finally, there's a new doomsday prediction in a brand-new publication. Madagascan lemurs are imperiled: but not, I think, cockroaches, rats — or humans.
  1. British Beavers
  2. Accra, Nigeria: Floods, Fires, and Mass Evictions
  3. Madagascan Lemurs, German Cockroaches

"...And He Found it Very Good...."

The notion that 'spiritual' is good and 'material' is bad arguably has roots in Plato's cave and theory of Forms.

Gnosticism is more recent. It's the idea that the physical world " evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 285)

It's also emphatically not what the Catholic Church teaches. (Catechism, 465)

That hasn't stopped folks from believing that God blundered when making the visible world, more's the pity.

I take my faith seriously, so I can't see the natural world as basically bad:

Thinking: Mandatory

There's an international environmental conference coming toward the end of November, and an American presidential election next year: so I figure we'll see a bumper crop of dire predictions in the next few months. Also folks claiming that agreeing with them is the only way to save the lemurs.

I'll be trying to make sense of what I see: and plan on writing more about environmental and climate issues than I have been. And no, I do not think the sky is falling.

On the other hand, I'm convinced that we've got brains: and are expected to use them.

That's not just my opinion. As a Catholic, I don't have to be a scientist: but I must think.

Faith isn't reason, but faith and reason get along fine. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 154, 159, 286; "Fides et Ratio," Pope St. John Paul II (September 14, 1998))

Thinking is particularly important when I decide whether something is right or wrong. Having a 'bad feeling' about something can be useful — but "...conscience is a law of the mind...." We're expected to use our brains. (Catechism, 1778)

I've been over that before. (September 7, 2014; December 8, 2013; July 21, 2013)

1. British Beavers

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("There are no plans to attach satellite tags to the beavers just yet"
BBC News)
"England's wild beaver colony has kits"
Claire Marshall, BBC News (June 24, 2015)

"A female from the first wild beaver colony in England for centuries has given birth to at least two young.

"New footage shows the kits being helped through the water by their mother.

"The images taken in Devon by local filmmaker Tom Buckley provide the first evidence of the new arrivals.

"The Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) said the slowly expanding population would help to provide an insight into their effect on the surrounding River Otter system in east Devon....

"...Beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales for their valuable fur and glandular oil during the 12th Century and disappeared from the rest of the UK 400 years later....

"...'This irresponsible programme should never have begun and it won't be long before the substantial sums spent in other European countries in dealing with problems caused by beavers will be required here in the UK.'..."[Angling Trust's Mark Owen]
I don't know how 'official' the Devon Wildlife Trust is. It's a member of the The Wildlife Trusts, another British outfit. The latter's Patron (capital "P") is HRH The Prince of Wales; their President is Simon King OBE, which stands for Order of the British Empire; and one of their vice presidents is a "Sir."

Very British. The Title of Nobility Clause in my country's constitution prohibits the national government from granting noble titles, Article Thirteen is still pending ratification after two centuries, and that's another topic.

The Angling Trust is one of the United Kingdom waterway societies — non-governmental organizations "concerned with the restoration, regeneration and use of the waterways in the United Kingdom." (Wikipedia)

Getting back to the Devon Wildlife Trust, it's a registered charity: intended to safeguard the future of the county's urban, rural, and marine wildlife and its environment. (Wikipedia)

Ducks Unlimited is an equivalent in my part of the world: an international non-governmental organization that's focused on waterfowl habitat conservation. I like their punning motto: "Banding Together for Waterfowl."

On the whole, I'm glad to see non-governmental outfits in conservation work. My guess is that they're more likely to be run by folks who remember why they were set up to begin with: and folks can decide whether or not to support them.

Beavers and "Control Freaks"

About those British beavers? That family on the River Otter isn't the first in the British Isles since the 16th century. The Eurasian beaver has been living in Great Britain at least since sometime in the late-20th or early-21st century.

Some live in enclosed wildlife parks, others on their own on the River Tay and Knapdale area of Scotland. The Devon beavers are the first south of Hadrian's Wall, apparently. There's more detail in Wikipedia.

I don't know enough about the situation to know how much the beavers will affect British waterways. My guess is that folks living in that part of the world will eventually have to manage their beaver populations, since the critters are enthusiastic dam-builders.

For now, though, I rather hope that the "control freaks" leave well enough alone: at least long enough for a wild population to get re-established. ("Stop the control freaks who want to capture England's wild beavers," George Monbiot, op-ed, (July 4, 2014))

2. Accra, Nigeria: Floods, Fires, and Mass Evictions

(From Reuters, used w/o permission.)
("Security forces watch as residents burn dwellings in an impoverished neighborhood in Accra, Ghana, June 20, 2015."
"Ghana destroys hundreds of homes in capital in bid to prevent floods"
Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Reuters (June 21, 2015)

"Bulldozers razed hundreds of homes and businesses in the poor Sodom and Gomorrah neighborhood of Ghana's capital on Saturday so the authorities can start widening a lagoon to prevent a repeat of this month's deadly floods.

"Some residents said security forces sprayed them with tear gas after they threw stones to protect their livelihoods from the bulldozers. By evening, thousands were stranded in the rain amid rubble and household goods strewn for more than a mile.

" 'What they have done is not good for us because this is where some of us work and take care of our families,' said scrap metal merchant Muhammed Abdul Karim as he surveyed the wreckage of his shack and the motorized tricycle he uses to haul iron....

"...The government's action carries a political risk. Many locals are from northern Ghana and have supported the ruling party, but some residents burned their homes in protest at the destruction, starting a blaze that raged out of control...."
I wondered about Reuters' lead sentence: "...the poor Sodom and Gomorrah neighborhood of Ghana's capital...." Near the end of the article, this suburb of Accra gets identified as Agbogbloshie. A little more digging, and I found that Newsweek claims the "Sodom and Gomorrah" moniker is what the locals call it.

Newsweek could be right — or not. I don't know. Apparently the place is filthy, with lots of crime: and allegedly-illegal dumping of electronic waste from other countries.

That last claim is what some folks in Seattle, Washington, said. The World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association says it's an "e-waste hoax," and a Basel Convention/UNEP/EMPA report said there are "...several challenges for Nigeria to manage e-waste...."

I don't know how much of whose story to believe. What does seem certain is that a whole lot of folks lost their homes and employment. That's not good.1

Apparently at least one fire started when someone who was getting kicked out of their own neighborhood set fire to their former home. Whether that was a legitimate way to express dissatisfaction with what was happening — again, I don't know.

Flood control is very important in Nigeria's capital this year. The Reuters article says flooding killed more than 50 folks on the third and fourth of this month, when water couldn't get through blocked drains. The same night, 96 folks who took shelter in a downtown gas station died when the place exploded.

That may be a low-end estimate. Al-Jazeera's report lines up with Reuters, with "at least 90" fatalities. BBC News and Zee News put the death toll at 150 to 200 and 200, respectively. No matter what the numbers are, that's a lot of hurting families and friends.


Nigeria's Capital: Death and Recovery

Taking a close look at Accra's west side on Google Maps, I found the Agbogbloshie Onions Market and Agbogbloshie Lorry Park near Abose-Okai Road.

That part of Accra's metropolitan area is near the confluence of two streams — and I have no idea whether either of those places are still around, or what happened to the folks who worked there.

Maybe Accra's leadership was justified in forcing folks out of their homes so that their neighborhood could be used as a lagoon. I don't know, and am profoundly glad I don't have to make decisions like that.

I'd like to think that families who were evicted will be compensated for their loss — but fear that they will find recovering from this month's disasters very difficult.


3. Madagascan Lemurs, German Cockroaches

(From EPA, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Climate change and deforestation are among the reasons we may be facing an extinction event"
BBC News))
"Earth 'entering new extinction phase' - US study"
BBC News (June 20, 2015)

"The Earth has entered a new period of extinction, a study by three US universities has concluded, and humans could be among the first casualties.

"The report, led by the universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley, said vertebrates were disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal....

"...The study - published in the Science Advances journal - cites causes such as climate change, pollution and deforestation...."
Oh-kay. That's interesting. This particular study is in Science Advances, a brand-new open-access journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

I assume the facts in this study are accurate. Earth's climate is changing, species have been going extinct since life began on this planet, and the last I heard we're in one of Earth's glacial epochs. This isn't our home's most tranquil time. (July 11, 2014; May 8, 2015)

As for the conclusion, as stated?

We're keeping much closer track of critters these days, so some of the apparent spike in the extinction rate might reflect that increasing awareness. Or maybe we are facing a sudden shortage of lemurs.

However, I'm also aware that there's a major election coming in 2016: and the usual weirdness is well under way. The scientists who wrote that study may sincerely believe that humanity's number is up: or maybe they figure that the masses need another dose of panic.

I really don't know.

Extinction, Panic, and Cockroaches

I take environmental concerns seriously.

However, although I'm sure that we need to use our brains — I think we're no more in danger of extinction than the black or brown rat, or the German cockroach.

We're opportunistic omnivores: designed to eat just about anything we can catch and cook; plus whatever fruits; nuts, berries; or, sometimes, bark; the local smörgåsbord offers. (May 9, 2014)

We're not as spectacularly disease-resistant as some critters, but the Black Death didn't do more than slow us down — and that was before we knew about microbes. (April 19, 2015; April 4, 2014)

Don't get me wrong: I realize that the Great Pestilence, as folks called it at the time, brought death and tragedy to Eurasia in wholesale lots. But we survived.

I don't think blind complacency makes sense: but I'm convinced that an equally-blind panic is just as silly.

And that is yet another topic.

Why I'm concerned, but not spooked:

1 Loving neighbors is very important. (Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:27)

Since we're social creatures, we must cooperate and respect individuals. (Catechism, 2238-1889)

This cooperation includes responsibilities of citizens to respect and obey civil leaders — within reason. (Catechism, 2238-2243)

Those in authority have responsibilities, too: which include respecting "...the fundamental rights of the human person ... according to the requirements of the common good...." (Catechism, 2235-2237)

The seventh commandment forbids theft, which has implications regarding private property, economic activity, social justice, and respect for the integrity of creation. (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19; Matthew 5:19; Catechism, 2401-2436)


nothingprofound said...

Amazing and informative post as always. Your curiosity as well as your facts seem to span heaven ad earth.

Brian H. Gill said...

Thank you, nothingprofound.

Tennyson's poem describes my outlook pretty well:

"...this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought...."

Brigid said...

The last word is odd: "Accra flooding 2015

2015 Accra floods
2015 Accra explosion


Odd use of a comma: "they will have a very difficult time, recovering from this month's disasters."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...

Got it, thanks.

About the odd word - I'm pretty much stuck with it. That's the Wikipedia title.

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