Hands for Venice, Early
Cicadas & a Flooded Vault
To some, you haven’t lived if you haven’t fallen in love. Or planted a tree. To write a book or have a child, all give us meaning, and reasons to be remembered. Yet to others, pain is life’s truly master and nothing turns you into one faster than a leak dripping on your bed.
Water’s tomorrow’s gold. Without it, there’s no life. Too much of it, and billions lose their roof. As glaciers melt, floods dictate survival. Thus, Venice’s a sinking treasury, cicadas are coming out early, and an Arctic seed vault, our future food insurance, is not ready for doomsday.
‘There occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune, all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.’ The 360 B.C.E. retelling by Plato on an earlier account, still haunt us, even as it’s most likely fictional.
It’s a tale about an once proud civilization doomed by the power of natural forces and succumbing entirely into a watery grave. It can be argued that it’s happening all over again in a larger scale, and that natural power this time has been unleashed not by fate but by the human oversized collective ego.
More recent and certifiably historical catastrophes have happened ever since, as when Pompeii and Herculano were lost to the not so sudden fury of the Vesuvius. The lesson is a recurrent one: force the hands of Earth and she’ll do as it has for millennia. Some see in the mutating climate a harbinger of yet another planetary cleansing.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Speaking of which, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn prepared a surprise for the 2017 Venice Art Biennale. Support, the two giant hands that emerge from one of the canals of the legendary city on the lagoon, is a stunning statement about global warming. And its striking visual impact leaves no doubt about the power of art promoting awareness.
Among the five or 10 most distinctive cities in the world, Venice is obviously the most vulnerable to rising sea waters. Even as the rapidly eroding coastal lines of Rio or New York, Sydney or Tokyo, place them equally on the crosshairs of a dramatic change in global temperatures, if Venice sinks, so does its irreplaceable architecture and art.
Despite a perennially complicated relationship with its environment, it has overcome centuries of political turmoil and Italy’s rising (more)
* After the Flood
* Sunken Past
* In Hot Water
and falling fortunes. Now it may succumb to real tides, and crazy ideas, such as air-filled tubes, have been considered to support buildings that need repair. The city won’t survive an extra foot of water though.
THE BROOD & THE BUZZ
There are few things more identified with the hot, lazy days of summer than the powerful buzz of cicadas. Except that their signature droning started four years too early, another sign that the climate is changing faster and in more surprising ways anyone could expect.
These are not simple bugs, to be sure. Magicadas emerging now all over the U.S. mid-Atlantic belong to Brood X, which has a 17-year cycle. The other Eastern big group is the 13-year-cycle Brood XIX, not scheduled to arrive at a park near you before 2024. But, who knows?
Stragglers, like the ones popping up so early are being called, spend years underground, come out, drone at hearing-imparing levels, mate, and lay eggs, all in four weeks. And then, they’re gone. Hopefully, not for good; imagine how sad a summer would be without their buzz.
SEEDS TO SAVE OUR FUTURE
We owe the vision to create a giant storage facility to save and store seeds, strong enough to survive a nuclear winter, to agriculturalist Cary Fowler. Or maybe, not that strong, for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, opened in 2008 near the Arctic circle, experienced a flood a week ago.
Still, over 20 million preserved seeds is brilliant. So-called Doomsday Vault, managed by Norway and the Crop Trust, may be a springboard for similar projects. And the flood, which showed that it needs round-the-clock maintenance, a valuable experience for improvement.
The vault is also a tacit acknowledgement that no matter what, global hunger will remain a formidable foe to human survival, more than it is now. Thus, along with praise, some have expressed concerns about the lack of provisions, guaranteeing access to its resources not just to its wealthy donors, but to the actual starving too.
THE LAW OF THE LAND
If anything, challenges presented by rising waters reflect, not without irony, the have nots‘ immemorial struggle to be included in even the noblest initiatives that the haves may sponsor. For income inequalities, that the current social order works so hard to preserve, may actually become more dramatic, as resources shrink.
It’s easy to see how many pre-conditions for creating a nightmarish dystopia are, in fact, already in place. Not to turn a nice thing into yet another somber meditation on the ‘evil that man do’ and all that, it’s unwise to ignore how many times good intent led people astray.
We may wish for a better world. Human ingenuity has worked overtime to accomplish just that. But great ideas are bound to fail if not inclusive to those with no means to buy their way in. Hell or high water, no one stands a chance without working first to improve the collective lot.