Opinion Editorial June, 2024: A Tale of Four Climates

opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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As parts of the world flooded last month, so too did other parts suffer heatwaves. Southern Brazil endured unprecedented flooding, as did northern Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea. Yet northern India experienced temperatures that many people cannot survive. In southeastern Mexico, howler monkeys actually died due to a heatwave there.

Similar news stories from the past few days are equally dire about the extent and the impact of climate change.

The French territory of New Caledonia is no stranger to extreme climate swings. Last month, though, it was its political climate that made news. France declared a state of emergency (that was lifted just a few days ago) and sent reinforcements after rioting broke out. The largely indigenous country (ethnic Kanak comprise about 40% of the population) spiraled out of control after France proposed a constitutional change that would give voting rights to recent French colonists as long as they were 10-year residents.

Similar to gerrymandering, this is not the first measure France has taken to maintain its colonial stronghold on the country. Its parliament could approve the change as soon as this month. That would give it time to prepare for potential near-term problems with its own political climate. As it continues preparations for this summer's Olympic Games, there are surely groups who see that global event as a platform for protest (or worse).

Weather and politics were not the only examples of contrasting climates last month. Sure, conflict born of shifting religious climates has existed for thousands of years. But, last month, the climate of religious conflict in the Middle East was borne to many other parts of the world. Yet, it took the International Court of Justice in The Hague to formally state what most people already believe: There is a line whose crossing is not sanctioned by religion.

The climate of technology also showed contrasts last month. While many around the world still don't have running water, six more tourists went into space. Preparations were finalized for sending two more astronauts to the International Space Station (scheduled for just a few hours from now as this goes to press).

This month's photo was taken in a small community that has experienced all of these kinds of climatic impacts. Carrizalon is a small Chortí Maya community in western Honduras. Today, it is a community surviving permanent (weather) climate change. Fresh water is a commodity in short supply that has to be rationed.

Like New Caledonia, Carrizalon was inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years before the arrival of European colonists changed its political climate. Alongside that colonization, the inhabitants at that time were forced to "convert" to Catholicism. Before that conversion, they discovered the technology demonstrated by this Chortí woman — pottery.

We often think of climate as having only one meaning. Today, though, weather, politics, religion and technology are linked together. It's a pity that the EarthCARE satellite launched a few days ago can only study one of these types of climates. If it could study them all, we might be in a position to better manage the problems they each cause.

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