Curtain Raiser

Land of Fire & End of Water, Colltalers

Words lose currency. For instance, fatality, as in ‘something determined by fate,’ an accident. It certainly can’t be used for the slaughter of school children in Parkland, Florida. Or for the water about to run out in Cape Town, South Africa. Someone, quick, go tell it to the media.
Because both last week’s carnage, caused by a disturbed kid with an assault rifle, or the ecological disaster expected to hit a major world city in May, were expected and thoroughly predicted. Not by seers or mystics, but by the logical progression of facts. Both could’ve been avoided.
That may sound callous if it wasn’t for the bottomless callousness displayed once again by the president and congressmen. Predictably, while many were AWOL, they all rehashed old misleading National Rifle Association boilerplates, which is fitting since they’re all sponsored by it.
Something’s different this time around, though; the surviving children themselves. Eloquent and articulated, many quickly seized the moment to rebuff Trump on national TV, and indict elected politicians for profiteering from their tragedy. Suddenly, they were the adults in the room.
To expect that the normalization of school shooting can be reversed is a political matter, and the ascendancy of a new segment, that of high school students engaged in resetting the conversation about guns in this country, is more than merely welcome, it’s crucially overdue.
This is, after all, the demographics closest to affect change in a very short run. As they approach the age of voting,

their eruption into what the administration was hoping to be just another sedate, and meaningless coverage of yet another mass shooting, may have raised some flags among the powers that be. One hopes that this moment endures and we live to see at least part of this new generation at the polling stations.
February is not through yet and there has already been eight school shootings in the U.S. The one in Parkland is by far the deadliest, but even trying to classify a massacre by its number of deaths only, or including the wounded, or the class of weaponry used, has the same numbing effect of stats in a PowerPoint presentation: it dehumanizes those involved, which also may include other victims, those not hit by bullets.
And the consequence is always what’s been so far: after the incredibly cynical ‘thoughts and prayers’ platitude, everything goes back to what it was, without leading to any new law or change in regulations. That’s probably why some brought up what happened during the Vietnam War.
In the middle 1960s, the U.S. civil rights movement had incorporated protests against the war into its mass rallies. But what may have changed hearts and minds about the conflict’s legitimacy was its TV coverage. When evening news programs began showing the faces, and at times, destroyed bodies, of middle American kids, it brought to the living room of their parents’ home the raw brutally inherent to any war.
It helped change the tide, and sped up the end of the conflict, way before Pentagon hawks thought they were through with it – experience shows that they are never through, anyway. That’s also why media coverage is so sanitized nowadays: it was changed, so not to ruin their fun.
A similar reasoning is guiding those proposing showing the bodies, or at least the body bags, of victims of mass shootings. The many issues that it’d would raise, including the implications of exposing dead children’s bodies to an unscrupulous media, must be carefully weighted. But if it wakes up Americans to what a high-powered bullet does to a body, and unmask the NRA and its hypocrites, it may be worth considering.
Then there’s the so-called Day Zero, when taps will run dry less than three months from now for half a million people living in an African coastal city. While factors causing it, some local, some global, but none unexpected, are known, consequences are only now being studied.
Climate change is by far, the biggest culprit. But before you hear another anemic argument, designed to misinform and confuse the issue, it’s instructive to know that rising sea levels, catastrophic as they’ve been elsewhere, are not directly related to what’s going on in Cape Town.
As in the case of Mexico City, São Paulo (metro pop. +21 million each), and Melbourne (3.8 million), they all depend on rainwater to exist.
Latin America, as Africa, has also a recurrent, aggravating factor: poor infrastructure. Unlike Los Angeles, which despite its complicated water supply system and periodic droughts, may not have its Day Zero anytime soon, as it’s home to some of the richest people in the U.S.
It’s estimated that about two billion people already spend an average of six hours daily, walking to and back from the nearest water source, just to fulfill basic needs. But while the developing world continues to struggle to incorporate this human right into a normal survival routine, Western societies waste expensive potable water for a variety of non-essential needs. Everybody’s food, however, depends on it.
It’s likely that in the near future, control, management, and distribution of water will potentially require more resources than what’s now applied to secure fuel and energy sources. But desalinization, for instance, removing salt from seawater, remains a feasible but complex and expensive technology. Governments will go to great lengths to protect their access to water, but little can be done if it doesn’t rain, for one.
Or the water table is contaminated and improper for human consumption, caused by fracking. To extract natural gas from the shale at great depths, it uses huge amounts of water mixed with heavy chemicals, which pollute and render entire regions useless for agriculture.
A heartbreaking bloodbath involving school-age children, one of an already staggering series, and the prospect of large city running out of water, perhaps just the first of many more to come, have another factor in common, besides rushing the word fatality to its obsolescence.
These are both far reaching issues that nevertheless allow us to have a role in it. Nothing prevents anyone from engaging in the national fight to control and/or ban high-powered guns for citizen use, as there’s no justification for a military-grade weapon to be sold to a civilian.
And absolutely anyone can save and treat water as the precious resource it really is. That can, or rather, must be done in the privacy of your own home, no speeches required. Save potable water for the sake of the billions who need to labor so hard just to have a cup of it per day. Granted, these are no easy but worthy issues, for they test our will to nudge society to do the right thing. Happy Year of the Dog. WC


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