Are The Coasts "Toast?" - A Satricial Commentary
Gareth Pike dips into the latest sinking – thinking, rather – concerning the impact of global warming on our coastlines.
The other day I was G-chatting (is that the cool way to say it?) with a friend in Cape Town, and our conversation sailed into the territory of property. I mentioned Milnerton to him – seems nice, I said. Good deals there.
“Nuh uh” he frothied, “I’m not buying anywhere on the Cape Flats” Puzzled, I pointed out that Milnerton isn’t really the Cape Flats.
There was a pregnant silence. “Have you seen how flat it is? First sign of rising sea levels and it’s going the way of Atlantis, oke!” I laughed gaily (you know, ’gaily’, like in the old sense of the word); but nevertheless, the paranoia of my decidedly jittery friend – who also believes David Icke’s theories about reptilian humanoids controlling the planet – led me to dig about in the mud of Internet chat rooms and science reports, to find out if there’s any truth to
the worried mutterings about rising sea levels. Just to put one’s mind at ease, you know?
I immediately sank into a salty swamp, a veritable estuary, of contradictory opinions. First, I got the fear: After the 2004 tsunami reinforced just how devastating sudden sea level surges could be, I read on www.iol.co.za, a Geological Survey-led team set to work trying to gauge the potential effects of rising sea levels on the world’s population. They found that a 30m rise in sea levels would cover 9,5-million square kilometers of land worldwide; even a rise of just five meters would affect 669 million people and cause 5,4-million square kilometres of land to veer very much towards the damp. So that’s the bad news.
O.K.? I immediately dashed to the office to drown (sorry) my sorrows. When I can back I had a chat with my dad, which always reassures me. Then I read somewhere (my beer bottle label?) that currently, some experts reckon oceans are rising at between 1-2mm per year. That’s truly miniscule. I guffawed. I mean, you’d only need to pick out a new cossie sometime in the next million years, if you do the maths.
You really have to blame popular culture for all this alarmism, I pondered. The Day After Tomorrow and all that nonsense. It won’t even be the day after the day after tomorrow! Unless, of course - and this really is a big unless - the polar ice caps start melting rapidly. Yeah, right.
Suddenly, my grubby iBook pinged. I had earlier that day set Google Alerts to bring me any news about global warming - this little nugget did land in my lap and cause a few icy shivers:
Apparently, at the end of the last ice age, ice melt caused the seas to rise in a relatively short 500 years. Gawp. Then I noticed a report hidden behind the new Iron Man trailer, which stated glumly that polar bears could be extinct by 2100, because the Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate of up to 9% per decade. Arctic summers could be ice-free by mid-century! (www.bbc.co.uk).
To be or Knut to be seems to be the question.
I did some quick mental aqua-aerobics. Melting ice…yes…rising seas…right…oh crap. It didn’t take long to put ‘sjoe’ and ‘sjoe’ together. I immediately phoned up my ex Geography teacher to find out what this meant for our little corner of the world, from Durban to Saldanha. “He’s not here,” piped his wife shrilly; “he’s out caulking the keel of our replica schooner!”
So I dived into the Internet again, pausing to fend off some ‘Zombie’ invites on Facebook – what the heck? – And sort of paddled about a bit, until I arrived on what seemed a fairly solid island of credibility: www.voanews.com. I found this:
“Experts say global warming is likely to affect people living on Africa more than any other continent.” And this: “rising sea levels could threaten coastal and island communities and affect industries such as tourism.”
That would mean Robben Island loses out twice over- it’s an island and it’s a tourism! You know what I mean. Would the V&A Waterfront become the V&A Waterlogged? I wondered. Would the Lost City finally get a real beach?
I cast the net a bit wider, and floated past little islands of fairly pants-tightening stuff:
“Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa has lost more than 80 per cent of its ice cap…”(www.news.scotsman.com)
“Rising sea levels are likely to prompt mass migrations accompanied by conflicts and sanitary crises…” (www.bloomberg.com)
“Planners should prepare for 28 to 39 inches of sea-level rise by 2100…double the most widely accepted current estimates.” (www.sacbee.com)
“And the final cherry at the bottom of the sea: “From sinking Bangladesh bearing the weight of impoverished millions, to the drowning city of New Orleans, the new climate refugees are flowing like tears. “ (www.alternet.org)
Er… can refugees ‘flow like tears’? I mused. Then I fell asleep and dreamed a little dream. I was standing on top of Table Mountain. There was a bored Japanese tourist next to me, logging directly into Facebook via a neural link. Add to flends. Add to flends. Add to flends. I looked out over the bay to where Robben Island should have been; but there was only a Wimpy restaurant on pontoons. The old prison had been turned into a submarine Apartheid museum with the occasional view of a passing Great White.
Further out to sea was a lattice of small islands, connected to each other via floating airbag-supported roadways; part of the global initiative to house something like 17 million refugees, relocated from sea level or sub-sea level regions. How do I know that? I thought. Oh, it’s a dream. Then I was interrupted by an MSM (Mental Short Message) that popped up irritatingly in my right brain. It was my little boet, now bearded and bechilded – “Want to see Al Gore’s ‘I told you so’ at the Labia?” No! I blinked furiously and he went away.
Unfortunately, the blinking woke me up and I came to with my chin on the keyboard. It had rather cleverly typed nm nm nm nm all by itself, for five pages.
By now it was getting late – for me! For the planet! – So I tried to reach an ultimate conclusion about this whole global warming thing. There were so many opinions.
Did anyone really know? To boil it all down to a case of cause/effect, it does seem crystal clear that:
a) We here in South Africa can’t do terribly much about wet ankle syndrome, because
b) The USA emits a nation-beating 22% of the world’s CO2 emissions, while S.A. is responsible for 1.6% - a mere drop on the oceans (www.wikipedia.org)
And even if the USA and other leading CO2 culprits – China, the E.U., Russia - actually clamp down on emissions, we will still be dealing with a case of too little, too late. In some senses, the damage has already been done. It’s been going on since the industrial revolution.
And you thought that Kevin Costner film was ‘silly’. You thought he should have stuck to romcoms, preferably with a sports theme.
Witness the rise of the merman!