Having spent considerable time staring out a wheelhouse window, where the only thing before you is sky and water, with no land or creature in sight, I could very well imagine what it would be like if the earth were to be engulfed in water. Once being a skipper of large vessels, I often wondered how I could have fit every creature on the planet on board, and of course what would happen when the fuel and food ran out, or in Noah’s case, when the wind died down. The smell and noise would be unbearable.
Considering the fact that 70% of the earth’s surface is water, it is of no wonder that most all creation myths contain a story of a great flood that, in most cases, erases all life from the planet. Though millennia ago, the earth was not yet known as a planet and nearly everyone had rarely ventured much farther than ten or so miles in any direction from where they lived. This is true even today. So if that area were to flood, to them, their whole world indeed was flooded. For even if a particular flood was on a global scale, there would be no way for the earliest peoples to know this. Indeed only a few hundred years ago we still believed the world to be flat, with the earth at its centre. Though any flood, at any point in time, most often devastated the known world of the people who lived there. Even today, a rise of only half a metre in the sea level would be devastating to many areas on the planet.
Reality is that the earth is a couple of a billion years old. Hominoids have been around for a million years, while anatomically modern humans, who evolved from an Archaic Homo Sapiens, have been around for only 200,000 years. Suffice to say, there has been flooding of the earth since, like forever. In truth, floods have only really affected humans to a large extent, since we stopped our endless wandering, hunting and gathering way of life. When our wandering began to intrude on other wanderer’s, when we had hunted, many to extinction, most of the larger animals residing with us on the planet and when our populations rose enough to never have enough food for everyone, the climate began to change as the last ice age slowly ended. It had changed enough by 12,000 years ago that we eventually figured out how to grow our own food.
Some might look at the number, twelve thousand years, and think, wow that’s a lot of years. While in reality it is but a blink of an eye compared to the lifespan of the planet earth. One needs perspective to appreciate the time it really represents. Imagine if you will a true tome of a book, one thousand pages long and titled, The Story of the Earth. Near the end of the book, as you begin to read page 998 you’ll read about how the continental drift of the African land mass bumped into the European land mass and began to form the Alps. At the top of page 1000 you’d read about the first Hominids to appear. The last line on this final page would be about the Neanderthal, with the last eight letters representing the beginnings of the first great civilizations that we know of, Sumer and Egypt. The final two letters would describe the Roman Empire and the period at the end of the last page, of this 1000 page book would barely represent the last 100 years. This would conclude that, as far as flooding goes, it’s been happening for much longer than how it has affected us as a species and in truth is far more natural to the planet than we think we are.
Before 12,000 years ago much of humanity lived along the shorelines, as we still do today, though at that time the shorelines were on the edges of the earth’s continental shelves. In some areas of the earth, these shelves lay dozens, even hundreds of miles off of our present day shorelines. So it only makes sense that as the ice age ended and the water rose, humanity would be affected by flooding. Only after 12,000 years ago would floods and other natural events of the earth begin to have a more profound effect on us as humans as we began to evolve from being simple nomadic bands into sedentary farmers. We were basically large family groups who wandered about hunting game, scavenging and gathering wild foods such as fruit, berries, seeds, grubs and roots, into stay at home farmers who began to grow our own food.. And of course the most fertile ground was nearest the water. In truth we had always lived near water, as do most all flora and fauna, because all life needs water to survive. Whether in river valleys or alongside their banks, within their deltas or along lake and sea shores, most all living things are dependent on their proximity to water. The earliest humans, who existed only by hunting and gathering, would move their encampments every few weeks, and would set up each new camp near a water source, but were able to move on more quickly after any flooding, for any materials they had they could carry and in most cases were very aware of what nature was doing around them, and were probably more proactive with nature than we are today. With the development of agriculture, flood and famine would begin to affect the human race more severely and on a larger scale; though the truth of the matter is flooding has always affected all that has lived upon the earth. The Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans all thought that the earth had been covered in water many times, and of course their regions were affected by flooding. Many of these stories of catastrophes and upheavals were not all just simply great flood stories brought about by an angry divine being. There were and are many reasons why they happened.
Many of the ancient flood stories share similarities such as the sky turning red, earth tremors, and torrents of muddy rain, thunder and lightning. This seems to suggest that most of these floods were caused by the upheaval of the earth. Nearly each and every story also tells that after such days of darkness and chaos, some humans survived and continued on, persevering against all odds, which must have been uplifting to the people, who would later hear these tales. The ancient peoples led sometimes hard and punishing lives, and to hear stories of people surviving the most terrible things that nature could bring upon them, no doubt brought hope to their daily lives.
Natural flooding provides water resources to areas in arid or semi arid regions. It recharges ground water tables and makes soil more fertile by providing needed nutrients. Freshwater flooding is very important because it maintains eco-systems along rivers for flood plain diversity. The nutrients are so very important to everything that lives in the water, especially when it comes to spawning. Indeed periodic flooding was essential to the growth and well being of ancient communities along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Nile, Indus, and Yellow Rivers, among others.
The earth has been changing and evolving for millions of years, with each geological era lasting millions of years, each ending nearly every time from the effects of an impact from a large celestial object on the earth. These impacts could even have been the source of putting water on the planet in the first place, when it was still believed to be still just a big rock covered in lava, billions of years ago. Meteorites and asteroids slamming into the planet, over millions of years could have brought billions of tons of water vapour and carbon dioxide with them. This vaporization in the atmosphere from the impacts could have covered the earth with seas. The theory is the condensation in the atmosphere accumulated over about 20,000 years or so, and delivered enough water to cover the planet at least one inch deep. Then over millions of years a greenhouse effect would have made the earth warm and wet enough in which life could grow.
Since that time, truly great flooding has been caused by either the process of expansion, which is the movement of the earth’s crusts, the impact of celestial objects, the melting of glaciers, or deluges of monsoon proportions. Flooding would become the natural actions of water runoff from substantial rainfall and/or rapid snow melt and caused by monsoons, hurricanes, tropical depressions, thunderstorms, cyclones, or earthquake generated tsunamis. All these also cause sea tidal and storm surges. Most great floods today, and for the last many millennia, have occurred locally or regionally, not globally. There are two reasons for this, earth has not been hit by a very large celestial body for many millennia and though most of the planet is covered with water, there is simply not enough volume to completely cover the earth. But when something very large slams into the earth everything changes.
About 60 million years ago a giant comet, asteroid or meteor, slammed into the earth where the Gulf of Mexico is today. Estimated to have been about 10 kilometres wide, it hit the earth with the force of at least one thousand times the power of all nuclear devices on the planet today. The initial crater was more than 300 kilometres across. The cloud plume of the impact would have pushed through the atmosphere. Its fireball radius would have expanded outwards for thousands of kilometres with three hundred mile an hour wind sweeping around the globe. It would have completely dried out much of the flora, including most trees. Two thousand degree rock vapour would disperse into the atmosphere, and then fall as white-hot grains, starting fires worldwide. It filled the atmosphere with dust so thick that for years the sunlight was completely cut off. Temperatures dropped to near freezing, worldwide. In a fairly short time 50 per cent of all plant and animal life, including the dinosaurs, became extinct. Mass extinctions like this happen on the earth about every 26 million years, and of all the creatures to have ever lived upon the earth, 99 per cent of them, are extinct.
When an object of size arrives from space and slams into the earth, it is travelling at about one hundred and sixty thousand kilometres per hour. It is one of the fastest things in the universe. When comets are shooting around in space, their tails alone can stretch a hundred million kilometres behind them. Large impacts are cataclysmic to the climate and to the earth itself. Even passing by too closely would prove fatal to earth. Millions of years ago the earth was hit with asteroids, several hundred kilometres across. Some so large that the meteorite’s tail-end did not feel the impact, or be near the atmosphere until the front was buried 20 kilometres deep into the earth.
As recently as thirty-five thousand years ago, a meteorite about 50 metres in diameter and travelling about 11 kilometres per second crashed into present day Arizona, its crater, the Barrington Crater, is 200 metres deep and 1.2 kilometres wide. The earth is covered with many impact footprints. Comet and asteroid impacts are actually happening all the time, fortunately the majority of the earth is water and desert, and most explode at high altitudes when they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Fireballs are recorded fairly regularly all over the globe. The 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia was an airburst of an asteroid about five miles above the earth, levelling an area of uninhabitable forest of more than two thousand square kilometres. On average, a large meteorite, weighing upwards of 50,000 tonnes or about the size of a cruise ship hits the earth once every 100,000 years.
Besides asteroid hits, the earth is constantly in turmoil, undergoing dramatic change from within its depths and from the movements of its crust. There is nothing that happens in nature that is by chance. Some of the changes are slow to happen, while others happen very abruptly, often without warning. Even today more than six-hundred active volcanoes spew sulphurous smoke and fire into the earth’s atmosphere, with more than a million earthquakes recorded annually. Japan alone registers up to one-thousand tremors a day. Ninety per cent of the three thousand earthquakes of various intensities recorded every day worldwide occur around the Pacific Rim, with most others in a band running from Spain, through the northern Mediterranean to the Himalayas and Indonesia. Imagine all this natural activity happening over millions of years. And then, very recently, frail and minuscule, Homo sapiens appear.
At the peak of the last Ice Age the sea level in most areas was about 120 metres lower than it is today. This suggests that there could be evidence of earlier peoples we have not found yet, as the remains possibly lie under water. Consider the continental shelves, mentioned earlier, which at one time were the shoreline. It would have been easier to travel along its shorelines than inland and over valleys, swamps, deserts and mountains.
The greatest sheet of ice at the peak of the last ice age was an unbroken land mass that ran from deep in Siberia, across the Bering Shelf and 640 to 800 kilometres into North America. Many scientists call this ice sheet, Beringia. Covering much of North America were two huge ice sheets, the Laurentide and the Cordilleran. About 18,000 years ago the ice slowly began to melt. At the peak of the last ice ages, many of the glaciers that had crept southward from the Arctic, and to a lesser extent northwards from the Antarctic, were upwards of three kilometres in height. Their weight alone is hard to comprehend. Roughly 12,000 years ago the melting accelerated, and the glaciers began slowly retreating, leaving behind a gouged out and compressed landscape, covered by tundra. When Beringia eventually separated the earth into two huge land masses, Eurasia-Africa and the Americas, it also separated two groups of humans, who would each further develop, for the most part, unaware of each other’s existence. In North America, the retreating glaciers were leaving behind massive lakes. One of these has since been named Lake Bonneville, and was centred on the present day states of Utah, Idaho and Nevada, in the United States. One of the lake’s remnants is the Great Salt Lake. It was at least 350 metres deep and covered more than 51,000 square kilometres. It was formed about 32,000 years ago and 14,500 years ago it broke out and through a natural mountain pass called the Red Rock Pass. Breaching Red Rock Pass, the flood crest was perhaps 120 metres high and travelled about 110 kilometres per hour. The flood scoured out the present day, 180 metre deep, Snake River Canyon, with the waters eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean, via the Columbia River; causing sea levels to rise about 9 inches, in many parts of the world.
Around 12,000 years ago the earth seemed to have gone through another series of great upheaval. Many different events all over the world were happening. The earth seemed to be in a fight for its life. According to D.S.Allan and J.B.Delair in their book, “When the Earth nearly Died – Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe of 9500BC”, they suggested that some cosmic body, whether a giant meteor or a fragment of an exploding nova, was thrown through our solar system. Though not actually hitting the earth, it was close enough that as it sped by, it left a trail of wreckage in its wake. They surmised that it tilted Uranus on its side, tore away a moon that went spinning off into space to become the planet Pluto, and created a field of asteroids. As it passed earth, it increased the tilt of the earth’s axis, causing the earth’s crust to shift.
Egyptian writings based on oral histories, tell of a great shaking of the earth around this time, and that a flood had nearly destroyed the earth. Some have suggested this is related to the Egyptian word that calls this time, Zep Tepi (the Beginning). Another nearly identical tremor and flood story could perhaps be associated with the Haida Gwaii, off the west coast of Canada, who say that their forefathers had once lived in a global community, but then there had been chaos in the world, the earth shook and the earth was flooded. The myth tells how the Haida survivors escaped in large canoes and made their way to safety, landing on a mountain top that had risen out of the water.
In “The Cradle of Man” by Arthur Posnansky, it is asserted that this is the time the Andes rose up as well, where the area of Tiahuanaco in the Andes was destroyed and rose more than a kilometre above sea level and is present day Lake Titicaca. At the same time in North America, at least 25 animal species, including the mastodon and sabre tooth tigers were wiped out in a few short years, though this could also be attributed to early man and his evolving hunting prowess and technology. As well as the fact that in the earliest times large animals were not afraid of humans, as we were simply a smaller and weaker species and could get up close. Other theories suggest North America was hit by an asteroid that had broken up as it passed through the atmosphere and slammed into the continent like a shotgun blast; the fragments spreading out like pellets.
At the same time the ice sheets of the last ice age began to melt and the sea level began to rise. The introduction of farming around 8000 BC began to change many aspects of a human’s life. Not everyone had to go out every day to forage and hunt. Populations began to rise. Life expectancy rose. Agriculture was becoming more and more relied upon to feed everyone, just as more and more people had less to do. By about 6500 BC, farming had nearly become global. Even today we still survive on the same four basic foods that these early farmers grew and survived on, potatoes, rice, wheat and corn. Though today, the largest crop in the world, by far, is sugar cane.
Nearly all of the earliest civilizations had a constant struggle against nature and the flooding of its arable lands. Myths and stories began to develop through oral history. Many of these great flood stories could have been inspired by ancient observations of seashell and fish fossils found inland and upon mountain tops. This hypothesis by Adrienne Mayor, in her work, “The First Fossil Hunters” makes sense when one considers that before the last ice-age much of the land that was above sea level, at its height, had at one time been beneath the water.
As elsewhere, Europe was also experiencing continual change. Many millions of years ago a severe earthquake dropped the surface of the Mediterranean more than 1500 metres below its present level, then over the millennia and through the process of expansion Africa was and still is, slowly moving northwards. About seven million years ago Africa bumped up against the European land mass, trapping the Mediterranean Sea by closing off the Strait of Gibraltar. Because not enough rivers ran into it at the time, the basin dried up to form a group of three to four lakes, each separate from the other, much like the great lakes of North America. The Nile and Rhone rivers have deep gorges in solid rock under them, suggesting these rivers once poured great torrents of steeply, dropping water into the Mediterranean basin. Then about five and a half million years ago the Atlantic started to break though again at the Strait of Gibraltar. Caused by continental drift, it was perhaps the greatest waterfall in history, and maybe fifty times higher than Niagara Falls in North America. But had maybe more than one thousand times the greater volume of water pouring through to fill the Mediterranean basin, though it would take about a thousand years. The Mediterranean basin is as much as 4800 metres deep in places, however by 18,000 BC the sea level had risen to a height that was still at least 120 metres lower than it is today.
Much of Europe at this time was still very near to the retreating glaciers and would have been a harsh environment; while most of Africa was a semi desert. Comparatively the Mediterranean would have been a temperate, if not warm, climate for much of the year, and it was fairly well populated with early peoples, especially the area known as the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture would soon begin.
A thousand or so year go by, and in about 7545 BC, another great flood happens, caused by the impact of not just one comet or asteroid, but according to the theory put forth by geologist Alexander Tollmann and his wife Edith, by at least seven hits. They surmise that one great celestial object broke up into seven chunks as it passed through the earth’s atmosphere. It is recorded in many myths and oral histories that around this time seven Stars fell to the earth. “The Book of Enoch” speaks of seven burning mountains hitting the earth. In other accounts the earth was attacked by seven burning suns. The Tollmanns’ suggest the impact sites included the south-western tip of South America, west of Panama in the Pacific Ocean, the mid-Atlantic, the North Sea, the Indian Ocean area, Southeast Asia, and south of Australia. These impacts would have been truly devastating and would have caused huge tidal waves around the globe, with much flooding. The sky would have been darkened for years by the dust and there would have been extreme climate change, including drought. The land bridge that had once existed and nearly connected Asia and Australia is thought to have been submerged by the rising waters caused by these strikes.
Another thousand years go by and then perhaps one of the greatest floods of all time occurs. This flood caused a series of events that would greatly impact the human populations of the Mediterranean, Eurasia, North America, the Middle East and various other places around the globe. All of these people would include some of the aspects of these events in their creation myths and religious beliefs, which were soon to be created.
The cause of this particular flood was a great prehistoric lake of ice located in northeast North America, now named Lake Agassiz. At its greatest extent, 13,000 years ago, it covered Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Western Ontario in Canada and Northern Minnesota and Eastern Dakota in the United States, perhaps covering as much as 1.5 million square kilometres with a volume equal to at least fifteen Lake Superiors. It was formed from glacial melt-water. As the ice sheets which lay atop Lake Agassiz melted the water drained north into the Arctic Ocean, adding much to the rising sea levels worldwide. By about 9900 BC Lake Agassiz had refilled, but then in 8400 BC it drained completely. The deluge initially broke through at Hudson’s Bay in Canada, and eventually also surged down the Mississippi River valley to the Gulf of Mexico, into the Atlantic by way of the St. Lawrence and Hudson River valleys, and north into the North Atlantic.
Since the peak of the last Ice Age, the sea had risen in surges, and after nearly 10,000 years the sea level was now a couple hundred metres higher than what it was at its peak. But so great was the Lake Agassiz flood that the sea levels in many areas rose possibly 6-10 metres, with the global sea level rising at least 2-3 metres in the first couple of months alone, and then eventually raising the sea levels to their present levels.
The Yaghan people, who have inhabited the islands of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of South America, for at least eight thousand years, have an interesting creation story. “Lexuwakipa, who was very moody, felt offended by the people. In revenge she let it snow so much that an enormous mass of ice came to cover the entire Earth. When it eventually began to melt, there was so much water that the Earth became completely flooded.”
Lake Agassiz’ final outburst occurred beneath the massive glacier called the Laurentide ice Sheet, which was under so much pressure from the gushing lake water that is was lifted by the outflow and moved northwards across Hudson’s Bay. It poured forth millions of tons of freezing water into the seas. Soon other parts of the great Canadian ice sheet followed, and in a couple of years the glacial Lake Ojibway, centred over the present day Great Lakes area, overflowed into the Atlantic and added perhaps over a metre of water to the rising sea levels.
The effects of this great flood would be felt for hundreds of years. Indeed the retreating glaciers and subsequent floods of these humongous volumes of fresh water had cleared a path for the first peoples to enter North America’s prairie regions. The lakes of freezing water took at least a year to drain with many theories suggesting that this caused, what is now known as the 8.2 Kiloyear event. The freezing waters caused a sudden decrease in global temperatures causing worldwide cooling which affected the planet for at least 400 years. The flood’s waters entered the Mediterranean Sea with such force that the island of Malta, which sits east of the narrow Sicilian Channel, sustained incredible damage. Temples and stone block walls collapsed, with some of the larger temple stones thrown distances up to eight metres. Most of the destruction was primarily on the western side of the island, the direction from which this deluge arrived from.
When the flooding mass of water reached the eastern end of the Mediterranean the surge raced through the narrow channel of the Dardanelles and confronted the natural dam at Bosporus, in present day Turkey. It is now about 5800 BC and the Black Sea was an inland lake with its sea level at least 100 metres lower than what it is today and was fairly well populated. For at least two years the sea level of the Mediterranean rose and eventually caused the waters to breach at the Bosporus gap. At first, it no doubt started as a trickle and within a year the flow was twice as strong. Finally the barrier began to crumble causing the water level of the inland lake to rise about half a metre a day. The torrent’s current poured in at about 100 kilometres per hour. The waterfall itself was at least 110 metres in height. The peoples that lived there would have had to move northward at the rate of a mile per day just to keep ahead of the flood. Eventually the entire area was transformed into a giant sea, but oddly enough, it would become a sea where the water would not circulate, and would be called the Black Sea.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, the rising waters flooded the Nile Valley with the seawater reaching as far as Aswan, 900 kilometres inland. There is proof this flooding of the Nile reached nearly four metres above today’s highest flood line.
By 4800 BC groups of people were on the move. Many made their way to Mesopotamia plain, and with the people that had already been there, settled along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and formed communities. Some of these people could have been survivors of the great Black Sea flood, bringing with them their myths, beliefs and oral history.
The Mesopotamia plain was an environment of levees and marshland, with much of the travelling having to be done using canoes. The arable land they found was rich and fertile. Farming a couple square kilometres of good soil brought them the ability to support a farming village of more than one hundred people, with the people mostly living in fragile reed huts. Lacking metal and stone, their tools and utensils were made from fired clay. Their society was egalitarian, with little distinction between class and rank. The plain they lived on was extremely flat, only rising a few metres over hundreds of kilometres. At the time one of their first cities to be built, Ur, was located about 160 kilometres inland from the sea. Today its location lies 240 kilometres inland, and even at this distance the plain is only about four to five metres above sea level. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flowed within levees and banks that were higher than the surrounding land. Though these rivers would flood annually, their deluge was usually withstood by the channels, small canals, and crude reservoirs that even the very first settlers had learned to construct.
These people advanced and grew to become one of the first civilizations of man, the beginning of the Sumerian dynasty. By 4000 BC they had already devised ways to keep track of inventory, using tokens and beads and soon were well on their way to inventing written script. Born from administrative needs, the more organized they became, the greater the need for record keeping. The first written records were mostly bookkeepers’ records, including transactions or listings of commodities and would eventually evolve to include stories and poems. Over the generations, one of the first legendary stories of the Sumerian, and then Akkadian age, would become known as the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” which was derived from songs that minstrels had sung for hundreds of years. First written down in about 2000 BC, it was a story based on the trials and tribulations of the great and adventurous Gilgamesh Ruler of Sumer, King of Uruk (2500-2450 BC). One of his adventures was the story of a great flood. It tells that sometime after man, plants, and animals had been created; kingships are established in five special cities all along the shores of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Because of the disobedience of the people that lived in these five cities, the gods decided to bring a flood and destroy mankind. Some of the gods didn’t necessarily agree with the extreme severity of this decree. One of them, Enki (Ea), told the mortal human Ziusudra (Utnapishtim), who was known for his humility and reverence, that he should build a large boat to ride out the coming flood; “To save himself, his family, the seed of all living creatures, the game of the fields and all the craftsmen.” And a flood then swept the land, “raining for seven days and seven nights.” After surviving the flood, Ziusudra kneeled before, An and Enlil, two of the leading gods. They were so pleased with his god-fearing humility that they gave him the “Life of God” and “Breath Eternal,” and carried him off to the paradise-like island, Mount Dilmun, “the place where the sun rises.”
Similarity the flood as described in the Bible, was about a man called Noah, a man of virtue, a good man. While praying one day a voice carried on the wind spoke to him and told of a coming deluge. The voice said it would rain for forty days and forty nights and that he should build a boat. Specifications were even given as to its size; three hundred cubits long (138 metres) and 50 cubits wide (23 metres). It took Noah and his sons eighteen months to build the large reed, bitumen covered ship. All the animals were to be saved and somehow taken on board, all 1.8 million species of them, in pairs. If they were unclean animals, such as crawling creatures, eagles, owls, tortoise, swine, snails, and ravens then it was a pair and seven of every clean animal such as cattle, goats and sheep. According to the book of Genesis, before the flood a human’s lifespan was about 900 years. By the time of Abraham, this would drop down to 175 years. The flood wiped out the human race but after the waters had receded, Noah, his wife, and three sons were able to begin repopulating the earth.
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah bear many similarities, and what no doubt ties them together, is Abraham, who will be discussed later in the text. In each story after the deluge, birds were sent out to find land and there appeared a symbol of divine remorse to signal the end of the flood. According to the book of Genesis, it took 150 days for the flood to subside. It is generally believed that the flood of Gilgamesh could also have been a memory of the earlier Black Sea flood, the story which had been passed down orally over the generations. Though for the most part, it was describing the flood that devastated the Mesopotamia plain around 3100 BC, with the story of Noah, based on the earlier flood of Gilgamesh. For around 3100 BC, the earth once again goes through catastrophic turmoil.
Though there is still some debate over the actual cause, about 3119 BC, the world would become engulfed in chaos. Immanuel Velikovsky, in his book, “Worlds in Collision,” theorizes that at that time a giant planet, he named Jupiter as the culprit, underwent an explosion that hurled large pieces of itself into space. One planet-sized chunk was thrown down a long orbit toward the sun. This new, blazing red-hot planet would become Venus and as it passed the earth he surmises that it would have caused devastating damage.
Minoans, Chinese and Mayan all record some sort of celestial change at that time, in fact the Mayans start date of the present Mayan earth cycle is 3114 BC. They then declared that the planet Venus was “born,” but it could also have meant that some passing meteor caused Venus to start revolving in the opposite direction. A Mayan earth cycle is some 5,200 years and the present cycle is due to end in 2012 AD. The Mayans also record 3114 BC as the start of the “sun cycle,” which they calculate to happen every 18,139 years.
What we do know, is that many scholars and scientists of today agree that in about 3119 BC, the earth did indeed go through much upheaval, starting with a massive eruption in the Aleutian Islands, which would prove to have worldwide effects. Millions of tons of ash and sulphuric acid were thrown up into the atmosphere. For years people worldwide endured extreme change in temperatures, which affected the crops and brought famine and events that were worse than death itself. The world would become a continuously deep grey, cloudy existence on the verge of becoming total darkness.
In Mesopotamia, the build-up of snow and ice in the Zagros and Taurus mountains did not melt that spring and summer, so the next year’s spring flood waters did not arrive. The land began to dry up and crack. Famine became more severe with each passing failed harvest. According to the Sumerian epic, Atrahasis, “When the second year arrived, the people had depleted the store houses. When the third year arrived, the people’s looks were changed by starvation. When the sixth year arrived, they served up their daughters for a meal then served up a son for food.” Tales of these hard and trying times are recorded by many people all over the globe.
After six years the sun started to penetrate the dark, grey clouds, which were saturated with sulphuric acid crystals, and soon the air in the highlands began to warm and the ice and snow that had built up upon them began to melt. By the seventh year, the rivers and the seas were rising and the sudden heating up of the atmosphere triggered great electrical storms, while great winds would ravage the land. The rising water levels, caused by the melting ice from the mountains and the torrents of acid rain from the skies, soon poured over the flat Mesopotamia plain. Globally, the world became a very violent place to be, if one was a human. Nature acted in a nearly uncontrollable frenzy of destruction. If there were gods, they had gone mad, and had completely lost it.
The flooding of all the habitable land on the Tigris and Euphrates delta, surrounded by mountains and desert, covered more than 128,000 square kilometres. To these early Sumerians it would truly seem to be that the whole world had flooded.
For the survivors of the flood, life was to be very tough and unforgiving. They had lived through seven years of incredible depravation, starvation and death, but these early Sumerians had seemed to have found a new resolve for stronger and more resilient communities. They became galvanized to somehow, someway, better protect themselves from nature, which to them, were represented by gods. In places all over the globe early peoples began to form civilizations and build temples and pyramids. The original cities of Sumer were rebuilt on a much grander scale, with much of their traditions now being recorded as before-flood and after-flood. Their great temples (ziggurats) were rebuilt on enormous mud-brick platforms. Civilization slowly began to reassert itself. And the myths and stories that arose from the previous years of utter chaos began to develop and become oral history that was passed on through the generations until writing came into being hundreds of years later and they were finally recorded.
The Sumerians especially, were convinced that they were alive for one reason only, and that was to serve the gods by paying regular tribute, through praise, worship and sacrifices. The Sumerians believed they had originally been made from clay by the gods, to serve only them, and believed that humans were helpless in the force of their divine wrath. And like most of the people the world over, it was believed that a human’s life was to be beset with uncertainty and insecurity. The people were not troubled at all, unlike modern man, with the question of “free will.” They were peoples convinced that they were created to be slaves and servants of their many gods. They were a meek and timid people, accepting all divine decisions of their priests and shamans, unjustified or not.
One of the tribes within this ever expanding population included the descendants of Noah, and in about 1900 BC with the Sumer dynasty experiencing its final days, an Amorite of the Sumer city of Ur and descendant of Shem, son of Noah, Abram (Abraham), took up the calling of the tribal god El (god of the moon) and began shepherding his people toward their promised home in Palestine. Migrating across the Syrian plain, he brought with him the knowledge of his peoples’ history, including the popular epic story, of Gilgamesh. And a thousand years later this tale of a great flood would be recorded by Israelite scribes as the story of Abraham’s ancestor Noah.
One of the final, ancient, great floods to occur happened at about the same time that a Hebrew named Moses led his people out of Egypt. When considering what the world was about to go through, it was probably a decision made on the basis of survival and not the word of any God.
The year is now about 1400 BC and in its wake there would rise stories such as the Greek epic, the Story of Deucalion. About a man who is told to build a boat and then survives a deluge that destroys the known world. This could also be when and where the story of Atlantis arose. What is interesting about this catastrophe, other than the same global problems of extreme climate change afterward with the sunlight blocked by clouds of ash, cooler temperatures and crop failures, was that at the exact time, major civilizations began to go into decline, such as the Egyptian, Sumerian/Akkadian and the Harappa kingdom of the Indus valley. One civilization, the Minoans, disappeared completely.
One area that continued to undergo change was the region of eastern Turkey and western Greece. It is an area of full scale collision between the African and Arabian land masses driving north upon their plates of the earth’s crust and colliding with Eurasia. Proof of these collisions is the Alps in Europe, but also a swath that runs from Spain eastward to the Himalayan Mountains. In the past two thousand years alone, this area has experienced more than 600 earthquakes greater than 7.5 magnitude.
Seventy miles north of the island of Crete, in the Aegean Sea was an island named Santorini (Thera). It was a part of an area called the Kikladhes (Cyclades), which today is a chain of islands that includes Milos, Paros, and Naxos. The island of Crete was the center of the brilliant Minoan civilization, with a population of about one million people. They developed a sophisticated form of writing, enjoyed sports such as boxing and wrestling, used an early concept of the flushing toilet, channelled winds to air-condition their homes, as well as produced superb vases, ornaments, and art. Minoan ambassadors and merchant fleets roamed the oceans of the ancient world. Then they vanished, the entire Minoan race and culture just seemed to disappear. The reason was an island called Santorini.
At the center of Santorini rose a 1500 metre mountain, which in about 1400 BC, literally exploded. The volcanic eruption had to have been, pure unimaginable violence. Its force was perhaps 90 times that of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in the United States, thirty-five hundred years later. The aerial energy released by Santorini was equivalent to the simultaneous explosion of several hundred hydrogen bombs. As it began to collapse upon itself, seawater began to enter its vent, causing another explosion of magma and gases. The amount of steam that blew off then exploded as well, making the blast, what’s called ultra-explosive, simply hell itself.
In comparison, the Krakatoa eruption in the East Indies in 1883, blew a column of dust over 450 metres across, well over 50 kilometres into the air. It hurled huge parts of itself 80 kilometres away. Its dust cloud circled the globe. When the eruption had spent its force, the empty shell of the volcano collapsed into a 200 metre crater in the sea. This caused tidal waves that destroyed nearly 300 towns and drowned 36,000 people. A ship was hurled three kilometres inland. The roar of the blast shook houses 760 kilometres away and could be heard some 3200 kilometres away. Krakatoa deposited nearly half a metre of ash over thousands of square kilometres worldwide.
What remained after the Santorini blast was buried beneath over 30 metres of burning ash and because the wind was blowing from the north, most of it spread over a 128,000 square kilometre area to the south and west. This caused Greece, just to the north, to escape a lot of the volcanic fallout but was almost wiped clean by the blast and the waves that soon followed. Even today, southern Greece is mostly bare rock.
After it had emptied itself, the central portion of Santorini dropped into a deep gaping hole 360 metres below sea level. The sides of the now hollowed out mountain continued to collapse into this hole creating tidal waves and surges which lasted for weeks or even months. The initial tidal wave is estimated to have been at least half of a kilometre high at the vortex, roaring away at about 320 kilometres per hour. It very quickly smashed into Crete with successive walls of water more than 30 metres in high. Less than three hours later it engulfed the Egyptian delta, 720 kilometres away, and still had enough force to drown cities in Syria, 1000 kilometres away. Egyptian documents from the time of Moses’ “Exodus” described “The land is perished, and the sun veiled and shines not. Darkness covers the land for three days.” It tells of tidal waves surging up the Nile for weeks afterwards and in one instance, “the army is drowned beneath the waters.”
There have been and always will be disasters related to the natural changes in the earth and the universe. As far as earthquakes go, they are so devastating because we have always lived near fault lines. Indeed, today ten of the largest cities on the planet are situated near or on a fault-line, because this is where the cracks of the earth are and where the resources important to us; such as minerals, metals and water are brought up from the earth’s core. We have always needed to live near a water source. In the ancient world they did not think of them as natural so much as the wrath of the god, who brought forth disasters upon the people who thought they had done something wrong or inflammatory to the gods. By 3000 BC, cultures around the planet, simultaneously and independent of each other, became fixated on being able to forecast and keep time. The purpose was to mark seasonal changes for the growing and harvesting of crops, and more importantly to keep track of rituals and to keep their gods happy. To do this, temples, pyramids and ziggurats sprouted up everywhere on the planet. They became instruments by which to study the skies and were used as places of worship for the people and a place to communicate with the gods to hopefully cease the assault of such disasters upon the world.
In summary, considering that the modern era we currently dwell in is only a few hundred years old, and that millions of years of changes have happened to the earth and are still to happen, the belief we have of our newly discovered technologies and progress has made us think we are much more in control of our world, than say the Sumerians, or even Neanderthal man. Natural disasters today are thought of as inconveniences that nature has untimely brought upon us. “How dare that hurricane destroy my car and house” or “Damn it! I had things to do today.” Today we have replaced the temples and pyramids with malls and sports arenas.
Drought, famine, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods still happen every single day. But unlike the situation a millennium ago, we humans are in greater numbers and are using up the earth’s resources much, much faster. At the height of the Roman Empire in 200 AD, the world’s population was estimated to be about 200 million people. The addition of the next 200 million took over fifteen generations, while the last 200 million were added to the planet in the past three years. The world presently has a population of well over six billion people, with more than 75 million added every year. One million children are being born every four days. The rate of growth is staggering. Consider that the 54 million lives lost during World War II were replaced by the natural occurring process of the surplus of births over deaths in only ten short months. The latest estimates (2009) put the world’s future population at about nine and a half billion by the year 2050, with most of this increase happening in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The scary thing is that most of this growing population will be concentrated in the countries that will be the least able to feed themselves, and will represent almost 45 per cent of the global population growth by 2050. Consider that currently two-thirds of the most malnourished people on earth live in seven countries. Over the next few generations there is going to be about one billion people born in these seven countries. The acceleration of the rising world population is currently putting incredible strain on our planet; let alone what would happen in a couple of decades from now. China alone is adding a city the size of Chicago, Illinois to its region every three months. This rise in population will be the world’s next greatest deluge, a flood of humanity.
No matter our advancement in technology or our attempt to ignore the natural occurrences of the planet through regular delusional routine, if we open our eyes and actually look around, we will see how vulnerable we humans are to the forces of our environment; much like the people of ancient times.
What is most concerning about floods is that the flooding is usually salt water which is of no relief to crops and makes rivers, streams, and lakes of fresh water undrinkable to humans, animals, in addition to the crops. Floods have always proven to be very good at not only damaging crops and soil, which affects the ability of the planet’s inhabitants to feed themselves, but also very adept at killing humans and animals with equal abandonment. What usually goes hand in hand with flooding is its opposite, drought, which is just as devastating because once again, it affects the planet’s food supply and available fresh water.
Estimates by numerous international institutes state that by 2010 around 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone, nearly a third of their population, will suffer from malnutrition because of intensifying drought. The United Nations Environment Program reports that 450 million people in twenty-nine countries currently suffer from water shortages, and by 2025 an estimated 2.8 billion people will be living in areas that will have increasingly scarce water supplies. Even today, 20 per cent of the world’s population lacks access to safe drinking water. The Peruvian Andes have lost at least 22 per cent of their glacier area in the last 30 years alone, with two-thirds of Peru’s 27 million people living on the coast, where only 2 per cent of the country’s water supply is found.
Along with drought and the growing lack of fresh water, floods still happen, but now because of the increasing population, the majority of which live along rivers, lakes and coastlines, each one can be more lethal and have farther reaching effects.
In the last five hundred years, floods in China alone have killed more than four million people. The 1931 flood of the Huang He (Yellow), Yangtzee, and Huai Rivers killed more than three million alone and it is estimated that 200,000 drowned in their sleep. The Yangtzee river valley had just over half a metre of rain fall in less than a month. At Hankou, the river rose 16 metres above normal, flooding more than 87,000 square kilometres. In northern China, in 1969 -71 famines caused by flooding, killed about 20 million people. More recently, in 1998 the Yangtzee flooded and left 14 million homeless.
Paris, France in 1910 saw three months of heavy rain and snowfall causing the river Seine to rise more than eight metres above normal. An estimated four billion cubic metres of water contaminated with sediments and municipal sewage flooded nearly 25 square kilometres. There were 150,000 casualties, and more than 20,000 buildings affected.
The 21st century has brought some of the worst floods in recorded history. The cost to humanity in deaths from natural disasters in 2010 alone is more than 260,000 souls and will probably be much greater when Haiti’s final death toll is included. In fact 2010 has been the deadliest year since 1976, with more than twice as many people dead from natural disasters than from global terrorism in the same time frame.
The 2007 African floods have been quoted by the U.N. as being one of the worst floods in recorded history. On Sept.14th, 2007, it began to rain and eventually flooded more than 14 countries; through the middle of Africa from Senegal on the west coast, through Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. More than 2.5 million people were affected. They were hit again with similar flooding in 2009, which caused more than $152 million in damages.
The worst natural disaster to occur in Europe in nearly 200 years began with heavy rainfall in May 2010. Two months of rain came down in one 24 hr. period. In what would be called the Central European Floods, most crops, especially wheat, would be destroyed. Hardest hit was Poland, but Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, and the Ukraine were also affected. At the same time the Cumberland River in the United States, would gorge on torrential rains and crest at a height of nearly 16 metres in Nashville, Tennessee.. The end of 2010 saw three-quarters of the state of Queensland, Australia, engulfed with surges from a cyclone. The flooded disaster zone covered more than 70 towns, with more than 200,000 people affected and $30 billion in damages.
Besides loss of life, natural disasters now come with huge price tags. The 1987-89 drought in the United States, covered 36 per cent of the country, which was less than 70 per cent of the area affected in the 1934-40 Dust Bowl, but at an estimated cost of $39 billion makes it one of the most expensive natural disasters in American history. In comparison the damage associated with 2005’s hurricane Katrina has, as of 2008, cost $81 billion and continues to rise. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake killed more than 250,000 people in eleven countries. The tsunami’s waves were as high as 30 metres. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. With a magnitude of 9.2, it was the largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. It lasted about nine minutes and caused the entire planet to vibrate, which triggered earthquakes all over the world. Humanitarian aid to date has been more than $7 billion. The energy released by this earthquake, on the planet’s surface alone, is estimated at 26.3 megatons of TNT, more than fifteen hundred times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, by the Americans in 1945. Humanitarian aid to date has been more than $7 billion.
Since our first ancient civilizations developed, we as a species have advanced considerably. As the gods of our man-made organized religions instructed us so long ago; go forth and multiply and subdue the earth and all upon it. Well we have. Our current unrestrained exponential growth began five hundred years ago in Europe, which at the time had a population of perhaps sixty million people. At the time, European society was heading down the toilet, the stench of despair and misery were everywhere. Both in substance and spirit, the people were lost. They had no belief in anything other than to survive another day and hopefully stave off ever present disease and hunger. They had no values to rely on, nor governments to lead the way. Everyday life was simply survival, filled with violence, starvation and plague. Many felt the world was truly dying and that the end was near. But then a fellow who strongly believed the inevitable end decided to head out into the ocean and seek salvation or wealth, whichever came to him first. This is where our Modern Age began and our current deluge started, over five hundred years ago.
In his lecture, The Columbian Legacy and the Ecosterian Response, Kirkpatrick Sale details four essential components by which the Europeans spread across the globe and dominated not only other peoples but other species as well. Such exploitation would bring us to our present day crisis where once again people are lost, in spirit and substance, with the world seemingly headed for the abyss. The difference today is that far too many people aren’t willing to recognize this reality because they have drunk the cool-aid, living within an illusion.
The four characteristics Sale outlines which would get the current age started are, firstly, the rise of humanism; “The declaration and celebration of the human species as the most important species of all.” This brought forth the God-given right to have dominion over other species, the elements and the resources of the earth. Secondly, the rise of rationalism, which through reductionism, would spawn science and would become our way of asserting control over nature. The third component is materialism. Things of the world would become corporate and everything had a measure of value, which led to accumulation and possession, with the only consideration being to not let anything interfere with the always and immediate goal of profit with the exchange of goods. This would become our new belief-system. The final component is nationalism, where various “royal families” would create institutions which would become nation-states, which would eventually lead to the central institutions in our daily lives. Deposing churches, associations for mutual aid, the promotion of common interests, city-states and community and the individual would become acceptable. To sustain these nation-states, standing armies became the norm and the philosophy of militarism. The crest of this wave grew with each passing century and is now upon us. What we must realize today is that these characteristics of the modern world are not natural, inevitable or eternal conditions; they are constructs, inventions of a particular time, place and people.
These characteristics of our societies and our present day technologies have indeed changed much of our lives and the planet, but the changes we have made in our environment and to our planet are not necessarily in our best interest. The industry of living on this planet, using up its resources for an ever growing population, is warming the atmosphere globally. This causes climate change. Some places will become wetter, other places drought stricken. Some areas will become much colder in the winter and then much warmer than usual in the summer. It is becoming all about extremes. Temperature changes in the Polar Regions, north and south, are resulting in continuing glacier and ice-sheet melting, sea ice retreat, coastal erosion, rising sea levels and extinction of species of birds, animals, and marine life. Deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification, soil erosion and other aspects, all related to our present climate crisis, will only intensify. With the warming by only a couple of degrees, the Greenland Ice sheet would be in danger of disappearing thereby raising the sea level perhaps as much as four to five metres. As of the summer of 2007, the Polar Ice sheet shrank to its lowest extent in recorded history. Further melting of the earth’s ice sheets would submerge the lowest lying countries and all it will take, is for the earth’s temperature to rise by only a few degrees for flooding to change the world as we know it.
If the present sea-level rises one metre, or even say the length of your arm, the cities of Miami, Venice, and New York, among hundreds of others, will have to be hidden and protected by dikes to survive. In New York, if it was not for subway crews and 753 electric pumps, within a half an hour the subway system would fill up with water and reach a level where subway trains would be unable to travel. Within 36 hours everything beneath New York’s streets would be filled with water, and overflowing into the streets themselves. The eastern shoreline of the United States sea level has risen one foot in the last one hundred years. Adding another foot of water, the high-water line in Florida will move inland over 300 metres, in Louisiana it will be several kilometres. Let alone sea levels rising, present levels of coastal erosion projected over the next couple of decades on the same shoreline, will take out all homes located up to 150 metres inland. Low Countries everywhere will be devastated with places like Bangladesh completely under water. Consider the $21 billion English Channel tunnel, the Chunnel. The Coquelles, France terminal, on the Calais Plain, is only about five metres above sea level.
In the past, most all natural disasters were happening naturally, something we of course had no control over, and even to this day we never really plan and prepare for them at all. The difference now however is that rather than say an asteroid hitting the planet, or a great flood happening, or the earth’s plates violently shifting, or thinking it to be the wrath of a god, today, many of the natural disasters, we the people, cause. We are the ones polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans, and filling our atmosphere and ourselves with toxins. Over 70% of commercial fish stocks are depleted, over-fished, and exploited beyond maximum yield sustain-ability. Today one in every three fish eaten by humans is farm raised. Soon the oceans will be left with the smallest fish and plankton and with the continuing acidification and oxygen depletion of many parts of our oceans; these too will disappear. By then the remaining sustainable areas of the oceans will probably be overpopulated with jellyfish, which are immortal. Consider the tiny sea creature, the Turritopsis Nutricula. It is a jellyfish-like hydrozoan, about five millimetres in length. While most all jellyfish die after they produce their young, this hydrozoan switches back to its juvenile form once it reproduces through a process called transdifferentiation.
We continue to clear-cut our forests, erasing entire species of animals off the planet. Knowing how silly and ignorant we have become could fill volumes, but then that would take up a lot of trees. Yet nearly three billion, or half the world’s population, still use wood as their primary source of energy. And 85% of the energy the world’s commercial industry uses is from fossil fuels. In fact, the root of most socioeconomic problems in many developing countries is land degradation. Included in our thirst for wood, over 1.8 million board metres of temperate and tropical hardwoods of mahogany, walnut, and teak are cut down every year just to make coffins, which are then buried back underground. How crazy is that?
I find our biggest challenge is to just admit that as a society we have been fooled and deceived since the 1970’s into believing global warming and climate change was a debate, where in actual fact the earth is in crisis. We seem to have an inability to face up to the fact that the environmental crisis of this planet is human induced. Any policy to do something about it gets postponed, ignored or defeated. Humanity’s efforts so far remain inadequate. The earth has always gone through cycles of global warming and cooling, the difference now is that it is not just a natural cycle the earth is going through but a cycle we have brought on ourselves. And we’ve got to stop denying the fact. If we continue to deny the effects of global warming, we will reach a point where it will be too late to reverse it. We will have gone from denial right into the arms of despair. If we continue on this path we are walking, we will run out of fresh water to drink and will be unable to grow enough food to feed everyone, and then when that happens, it will become a very, very scary world. As it is, more than nine million people starve to death each year.
But looking back over the ages, there is one thing we must remember and that is, after each natural catastrophe humans have dusted themselves off and adapted. We are now at the point where, because of the sheer number of people on the planet, we must not settle for any short term responses or remedies. Instead we must get past our ignorance and provide massive intervention on an international and long term scale. Climate change is a planetary issue. We cannot continue to think of only the drought problems in our own backyards or in our own countries. Drought is a global problem. We are all interconnected and until we start believing we are not and never have been masters of the natural world, we are surely doomed as a species.
An indicative article, The Deepening Crisis, written by Jeffery D. Sachs seems to explain quite well our dysfunction toward the earth’s growing climate crisis. The risks cited in the article, about sustaining our cultures globally, have developed rather quickly over the past two generations. The problems are scientifically complex and involve many uncertainties, which both public opinion and certain sciences must address. The problems are global and unfortunately politics is local and nationalistic. This does not bode well for timely, coordinated, international action. Many governments are in power for four years or less and more often than not, decisions and reforms are based on the next election, while instead much of the earth’s problems are unfolding over decades. While corporate interests control the media, they have the dissemination of propaganda and deliberate misinformation, down to an art form.
We must stop forcing our own agenda upon nature. Many of us must also stop thinking that the end of time will be taken care of by a god. Believing in the “rapture,” is a cop-out and as the bumper sticker correctly implies, is simply not an acceptable exit strategy. Many millions of people are actually looking forward to the end-times and put no effort whatsoever into fending off such catastrophic events; although we humans, will be the cause. Many fundamentalist Christians and extremist Muslims are quite happy in fact, that things are getting worse rather than better. These believers are not concerned with the planet at all, instead only their own individual salvation. They believe a time will come where all the unrighteous and nonbelievers will die horrible deaths. But they also believe the dead will be resurrected, though they continue to disagree about who is righteous or not and to what sort of planet they will be returning to.
Buddhism and Hinduism on the other hand believe that everything will start over from scratch. But science does not offer such principles, beliefs, or criteria. We must begin to control our appetites and our rising population, and to gain the courage and the wisdom to make, sometimes agonizing and disturbing decisions. As draconian as it may be, limiting every human female on the planet to bearing only one child, no matter the sex, would be a huge step in the right direction. As it is, the poorest countries in the world have the highest birth rates. If the status quo continues to dictate that we stay on this course of unsustainably and with our reluctance to change course, the end-game may very well be where it’s simply not allowed to have children, at least not allowed to have children because of egotistical and careless thinking, that copies of ourselves will make the world a better place.
We must become partners with the natural world once again, to show it the respect it deserves and to show each other more respect, and become an ecologically sustainable culture. We need to get reconnected to the earth’s ecosystem and prepare for natural events, before they occur, instead of being shocked when they do. We have got to put our heads together and develop a way of life that meets our present needs without threatening the environmental legacy of future generations. We already have the technology, but it is being used in other materialistic endeavours, such as war. We must not overlook or forget one of our greatest assets which are opportunism and the ability to adapt.
Perhaps our optimistic nature is what causes us to be inflexible and persistent in our unwillingness to accept that the worst may actually occur. A human’s survival instincts have always included optimism, but also denial, defiance, and ignorance to such portents. We are afraid of the changes that could occur and of the fright that would be inevitable. But if we allow these traits of ours to fool us into waiting until it is too late, then we have lost. Instead, the fear of such portents should fortify our resolve, and propel us into action. Even if one does not believe the earth is in trouble that should not take away the fact that we must change the way we use the earth’s dwindling resources. Even the Catholic Church recognizes that the present ecological destruction of the planet is a moral problem. The current Pope has stated that, “there is and always has been a covenant between human beings and the environment.”
But before we can be optimistic we must be realistic. Environmental crises have been driven mainly from the consumptive habits of the richest 15% of humanity with economic growth driving up our energy use. Our societies have created too many elitists, who all demand the best of everything, to excess. We must learn to control our ravenous appetites, which for many will be very difficult, for most of us are ego-driven, which can never be satisfied. But no one wants or is willing to slow down the world’s economies. Capitalism moves ever forward, so very flawed, in that it is based on infinite growth operating in a finite system. We must seek an economic alternative. Because the issue is not to make sure everyone on the planet has equal opportunity in owning a house, a car, a big-screen TV, but it’s whether they will be able to feed themselves, breath the air, and have enough fresh water to live on, no matter their material wealth. Much like the often quoted adage, insanity is doing the same thing we have always done, while hoping for a different result. The reality is our environment is the economy, and we must start living within our ecological means, instead of arguing over the spoils of its industrial wealth. For what is behind the threats of habitat destruction, loss of wetlands, unnatural flooding, urban sprawl and pollution is capitalism and the fact that 40% of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution and with the rising growth in world population, rapidly increasing human diseases. We are killing ourselves and the planet for economic prosperity. But we are not moving fast enough in making changes to our environmentally destructive mind-sets because of the constructs that shape our daily lives, such as religion, politics, the economy, current and past ideologies, marketing and the media, and our consumption patterns. We think technology and science will save us from ourselves and our exploitive nature, our unchecked population growth and deem everything on the planet as a resource. Though there are many scientists working on ways to use technology for the betterment of the planet, no one technology can do it. They must combine their discoveries and work together. The challenge is that all the technologies that could slow or cease carbon emissions, everything from geo-thermal technology to solar panels are still extremely expensive. Once we put enough effort into making them cheaper, only then will we begin to make a difference. Many technologies, such as wind power are very effective but unfortunately no one wants it in their backyard.
Sadly though, human society oversees the planetary controls. The sheer size of the human population, our perceived affluence, our consumptive habits and our technology, which we only use to meet our perceived needs are driving global disintegration and destructive changes. We have come to dominate the planet without taking the responsibility of managing it, including the balancing act of maintaining populations of all species and ecosystems on one side, and maintaining the flow of goods and services that provides for humanity on the other. Unfortunately, far too many of us cannot even manage ourselves. Even if all growth in population and economic activity were to cease right now, this very moment, just continuing on exactly how we do today would still bring about serious molestation and destruction of the earth’s habitat and its resources. The price of our economic success extends beyond environmental deterioration. For it includes widespread loss of livelihoods, social tensions and conflict and staggering economic costs. To save our planet we have to realistically and morally change the way we think. It’s not so much, are we responding properly to environmental threats, which we aren’t, what we should be worried about and should be asking ourselves is why are we not responding.
James Gustave Speth, who wrote the book in “Red Sky at Morning,” believes that we used to have some slack with Mother Nature, but that is now gone and we are currently playing out the end game with our traditional, historical relationship with the natural world. Any aware person, opening their eyes and really taking a good look around would surely have to agree. For most of us the real and only concern of our daily lives is our next meal and pay check; not worrying about the destruction of the planet or that half of the people living in the developing world, who get by on $2 a day. It is estimated that 57% of the global population is malnourished. As to the environment, many don’t care because they believe it probably will not be at the 11th hour until after they are dead and gone. Others, especially the very wealthy, think they will be able to buy their way out and that their wealth will insulate them from the earth changing. How unrealistic is that?
We can’t just run and hide anymore, cloaked within routine, ignorant to the environment. We seem to be playing the delayed reaction game. We think about preparedness and only take action after a catastrophe has happened. And when enough time passes we ignore it until the next natural disaster happens, where we are once again shocked and unprepared for the disruption in our daily routine. As our world continues to change so must we, but what is most important, this time we are going to have to be much quicker, and decisive about it. We simply cannot wait any longer or it will be too late. We must all start working together for the good of the earth, and we who live upon her. Simply start to treat our environment with more respect, and just as importantly, for each other, because we are all in this together.
As humans we tend to be overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and feel alone when faced with such large scale problems. Thinking we cannot make a difference or that we have to change immediately and completely. This “all or nothing” mentality creates pressure and is the best way to fail at changing. This type of attitude also takes away the impetus to change. It would be better to break issues down to a more local level and stop trying to jump four stairs at a time. Just take one step at a time. Some people will have a sense that they must do something as unwillingness to act is simply not acceptable to their strong moral code. This is where discomfort in an individual comes from and we scramble to bury it. This is the stage where one’s character takes over; to have the courage to seriously look at their discomfort and ask why. This is where the beginning of hope dwells. To be brave when being asked to make changes is really asking, what it is do we believe about ourselves. Change doesn’t have to be a great act. It is being the change you seek.
Our best tools are information, human adaptability and strong leadership. Though what we use instead is disinformation, denial, and allowing a lack of leadership. Over the last decade there has been a groundswell of support and agreement among people trying to create change. Many on the planet are trying to make a difference, for our consciousness is evolving. Nationalism effects the need to change as well because one country can strive to be responsible for the welfare of the environment, while another can continue to soil the nest they live in. Reality is, we all live on the same planet.
So what can one do about it? The answer; there’s lots we can do, but the importance lies in the fact we must do something now. Stephen Hume of the Vancouver Province newspaper and Rex Weyler, one of the founders of Greenpeace, both argue for getting the right information; to get out there and do your homework, research national science academies and organizations. Get educated on how society and nature work. Be engaged citizens and not simply consumers. Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by the consequences of having a conscience. Practise self-reflection, for our greatest failures are most often ego driven. Possess the “quiet courage of decent people doing the right things.”
Among the many who are concerned, the consensus is that we must all start thinking globally but acting locally. One can’t force another country to act, but one could lead by example. Hume, as well as many others, has the most excellent idea to shift certain redundant taxes to provide incentives for good behaviour, while discouraging bad behaviour. This should be implemented on many levels of our societies. Many on the planet, the most fortunate anyway, are supposedly living in democracies. Well then, speak out. Let all levels of government know empty rhetoric will not be tolerated, regardless of their “party.” Many people have completely tuned out politics, simply not interested. Some people, especially the young, believe there is nothing they can do individually by voting, that it would not make a difference in the result, with most people merely concerned with just trying to make a living. It’s sad that in totalitarian states people will risk their lives for the right to vote while in democratic states the majority of people don’t even bother to vote.
We must rebuild community ethics and attack urban sprawl. There should be incentives for people who develop under-used urban space. Underdeveloped property should have high tax rates, while high density developments, lower tax rates. Public transit must be convenient, efficient and inexpensive, because it can, but refuses to be.
Make it so anyone who removes a tree has to replace it with six, and then plant them everywhere. Harvest forests in 300 year cycles. Rethink work schedules, because most businesses today are working hours based on 19th century factory models. If one has to attend a work-site on a regular basis, make public transit a benefit. Continue to invest in wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen power, in fuel cells, carbon sequestration, electric and magnetic rail technologies, electric car grids, desalinization technologies and most important, more efficient air, land, and sea transportation.
Begin to hold one’s own self accountable. Drive less, walk more, ride a bike or take the bus. If you eat meat nearly every day, cut it back to a couple of days a week. Don’t flush every time you take a leak. Grow a garden. Mandate recycling and then recycle everything. Shop second hand. Turn off the television. Above all else, believe in your abilities to change.
We are facing an expanding population deluge, which will affect everyone equally no matter where you live. The most important way to control such a flood is we’ve got to start controlling our behaviour. We continue to try to control human behaviour with laws, fines and treaties. Punishment is always after the deed is done. We abuse the planet or each other and after the damage is done we pay money or we are jailed. What if instead we start to focus on changing the physical conditions most responsible for wrong behaviour in our communities, such as poverty, malnutrition and homelessness? To be concerned that far too many of our children lack direction or interests because they have very few good role models to emulate. They are bombarded with violence in the media and in sports, dealing with stresses in their daily lives and dwindling family life. Society has become impatient and arrogant. We define success in money and not character, thus women have it harder because instead of character they continue to be judged by their sexuality. There is unfortunately no positive vision for many communities to work toward. This is our fault, each and every one of us. But we can create change.
As far as unnatural flooding and as to what we can do about it, reality is we can’t do much about it. But we can prepare for the inevitability of it happening and apply common sense in where and how we live. Climate change has altered the way the planet earth operates; it has and will continue to affect its natural cycles and rhythms. And what must be stressed is that the pace of the earth’s deterioration is quickening. We are hugely affected by unnatural flooding and drought. Besides loss of property and lives, it jeopardizes our food supply, which of course affects everyone. The two largest wheat producers in the world, Canada and Russia, lost much of their 2010 crops because of unnatural flooding. We also should not worry so much about a global, grand deluge happening, for any river in any country, alone can kill millions all by simply overflowing its banks. What is needed most is a deluge of consciousness, to rid ourselves of and dispel the grand deluge of illusion that our materialistic and capitalistic societies have thrust upon us. History has proven that when humanity acts, it extinguishes the feeling of hopelessness and that daily actions by individuals can make large-scale changes possible.
In spite of the changing climate, doom or die world economics, rising seas levels and quickening of the size of the earth’s population, there is now more than enough food and material goods on earth to take care of everyone’s needs. But resources need to be managed properly and not strictly controlled to gain wealth as they have become today. There is enough for everyone to have a decent standard of living, as long as we use technology intelligently so that it’s not harmful to people or the planet and which doesn’t waste time and energy. We must start managing our resources, just like we have to start managing ourselves. The corporate and economic models we are operating have seriously misjudged the importance of the earth’s environment and the impacts of industrialization. It is now time to change. We are seeing the effects now. The real worry should be for children and their children and their children, who will be faced with what we have left of the planet after we are gone. This is the most important aspect; indeed, it is what drives environmentalism and the only reason we should care about saving the planet. For heaven or hell is a condition not a place. We are racing for the edge of the abyss and we’re all fighting over who should steer, or at least who gets to sit up front. Not realizing that if we do drive off into the abyss, we might be taking nearly every other species of plant and animal, and most of the earth’s ecosystems along with us. Today there are about 1.8 million species of living creatures known to science, including us. Nearly 40% of these organisms are currently endangered and soon to be extinct. The bottom line is that it is time to get our priorities straight and, in the language we can all relate to, we have got to seriously get our shit together people.
“Making a stand for a principle sharpens our own ideas and induces others to sharpen their ideas. When one person stands up, others are inspired to stand up.” Rex Weyler.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Confucius
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