Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chinese earthquake could be due to global warming

Chinese earthquake could be due to Himalayan glacier-melting

The May-12 Richter-7.9 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China may be caused by glacier-melting caused in turn by global warming. The result is so common it even has a name “glacial earthquake”. The Sichuan earthquake could be one of these glacial earthquakes, and if so certainly not the first one, nor the last.

Relevant to Sichuan are the Himalayas. Himalayan glaciers have shrunk due to three factors:

· Higher temperature thaws the glaciers. According to the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), “The average temperature in the Himalayas in the northern part of Nepal rose about 2 degrees between 1970 and 1994; in the rest of Nepal, more than 3 degrees.”
· Global warming changes snow into rain that melts the glaciers, and form glacial lakes · The amount of snowfall has decreased.

The Nepalese Himalayas alone contain more than 3,000 glaciers, each kilometers long and hundreds of meters wide, weighing billions of tons. There are approximately 70 extra-large glaciers in Himalaya, covering about 166 km2 or 17% of the mountain area.

With glacier meltdown comes weight redistribution on a mammoth scale.

The melting of these glaciers has been accelerating.

· Thickness-wise, in the period of 2000-2004, a thinning of about 10 m occurred below 4000 m altitude, and 2 m above 5000 m.
· Length-wise, the Chhukhung Glacier, for example, retreated at about 5 m per year in the late 1970s, which increased to about 20 m per year in and after the 1990s.
· Weight-wise, the shrinking of the AX010 Glacier, which accelerated from 2.7 m per year in the 1980s to 12.5 m in and after the 1990s, resulted in the loss of more than 1 million tons of ice in 20 years through 1999.

The Himalayas and the surrounding mountain ranges are not the most geologically stable region to begin with. The northward incursion of the Indian subcontinent into SE Asia continues and the Himalayas continue being built and elevated, as does the folding of the surrounding ranges, including those in the Sichuan province of China where the earthquake occurred. The redistribution of weight by the glacier melting will cause seismic events in areas where ill-settled sub-plates hang on to each other by their fingernails as it were, slipping violently against each other at the slightest disturbance.

If the above is true, then we can expect more devastating earthquakes to come. Likewise, it can be predicted that the massive melting of the Greenland and Antarctic land-ice will generate earthquakes in and around these regions.

Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE)
Global Emergency Operation (GEO)

The following article gives more details.

Glaciers’ melting main reason for quakes: seismologists

By Khalid Mustafa

ISLAMABAD: Seismologists all the over the world have found that another serious consequence of glaciers melting is “glacial earthquakes” - the new indicator after analysing worldwide 182 earthquakes between January 1993 and October 2005.

Explaining the relation between glaciers melting and earthquakes, a WWF consultant told The News that when a glacial ice of one cubic metre melts, it means lightening of one tonne load on earth’s crust (called tectonic plates).

The WWF consultant says “melting of one cubic metre glacial ice frees the plates to move against each other and causes friction needed to make earthquakes. But as the glaciers melt and their load on the plate lessens, there is a greater likelihood of an earthquake happening to relieve the large strain underneath.”

Even though shrinking glaciers make it easier for earthquakes to occur, the forcing together of tectonic plates is the main reason behind major earthquakes.

The Indian plate moves 5cm closer to Asia each year and Tibet moves 32mm closer to Asia each year but glacier melting accelerates or triggers earthquakes.

In a new study, NASA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists found out that in the 1979 earthquake in southern Alaska, which was called the St. Elias earthquake, was promoted by wasting glaciers in the area. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale.

In Pakistan, the snow-capped mountain glacier is shifting very rapidly toward higher region, particularly in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Kaghan/Naran Valley. Some glaciers are vanishing due to massive human intervention and deforestation.

During the last 20 years, the shifting of snow-capped glacier can easily be checked from Sarwaali Peak (6,326 meters) - the highest mountain in Azad Kashmir. This shifting ice-cap and the vanishing of a small glacier along the Line of Control up to NJ 9842 may be another cause of the 2005 earthquake.

Unfortunately, all major Himalayan glaciers, including Siachen, are on the Eurasian continent (tectonic plate). The Indian plate that is already moving toward it by 1.6 inches per year due to the melting of glaciers is another great threat to the population living in the region.

Arshad H Abbasi predicted that the Himalayan glacier’s melting may cause more severe earthquakes in South Asia.

Melting of glaciers has serious consequences because when a glacier melts it unleashes pent-up pressures on the earth’s crust, causing extreme geological events such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

A cubic metre of ice weighs nearly a tonne and most of the Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of metres thick. When the weight is removed through melting, the suppressed strains and stresses of the underlying rock come to life. The weight suppresses the earthquakes, but when ice melts earthquakes are triggered.

The retreat of ice sheets 10,000 years ago also triggered a wave of powerful earthquakes in the Himalayas.

Since iso-static rebound continues for thousands of years, it may still be contributing to quakes in eastern Canada, says geoscientist Patrick Wu of the University of Calgary.

Interestingly, the earthquake data of Siachen glacier and the Saltoro range itself speaks of its retreat. Between the years 1983 and 2000, earthquakes having magnitudes 4 to 5.2 were recorded. These earthquakes activated avalanches and had consequences as regards casualties of both the forces fighting over the Siachen glacier. As reported only 3 per cent of the casualties were caused by hostile firing. The remaining 97 per cent have fallen prey to the altitude, weather and avalanches.

A joint Indian-Chinese team plans to chart remote Himalayan glaciers that are rapidly melting, threatening the great rivers that give life to the subcontinent - one of South Asia’s most fertile regions. But it could not give any substantial result unless the melting of the third pole (Siachen) is not addressed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Thoughts on Mother’s Day 2008

I’m within two months of my departure on my 6th Compassion for Animals Road Expedition (CARE-6), which will cover 6 Canadian provinces and 24 U.S. states in 4 months as of June 30, 2008. I’m beginning to feel anxious, not particularly because of the 30,000 km of highway ahead, nor the arduous schedule to maintain, nor the enemies I’ll surely be making at the Alberta tar sands, but that I’ll have to again leave my mother behind.

My mother was born in 1919, so she’s 89. She’s very feeble. She used to be 5’3”, now she’s barely 4’6”, and hunchbacked, and so fragile that I’m sure one small fall and she’d disintegrate like a delicate Chinese porcelain vase. She has no life-threatening disease, but is on 6 or 7 different drugs administered at the Lakeview Care Centre where she is being cared for by a competent and compassionate staff. Just last week, I asked the nurse, “Just out of curiosity, what would happen if the drugs are suddenly withdrawn?” She said, “Her body would probably stop functioning.” And her memory is dimming. She could still tell me about her childhood in great detail, but just last month, she called me asking me why I hadn’t seen her for so long, on the same day I had taken her out to lunch.

Up to now I’ve taken five of these long tours, the longest one covering 42 states in 7 months, with Brenda Davis and her son Cory Davis back in 2003-2004. Every time when I drove away from Vancouver, the thought would cross my mind that I might have seen my mother for the last time in my life. Yet, every time, she was always there to welcome me back. And again, I’m beginning to wonder about the same ting. I hate the feeling, but am haunted by it.

When I go on the road, I try to call her once every day or two, from city to city. And I send her some of the photos I’ve taken along the way, and pictures from the Animal Rights Conference. When I come back to Vancouver and visit her at Lakeview, I would see the pictures displayed proudly all over her room.

The staff at the care centre loves her, because she is easy going and always smiling at them, and would share some of the goodies my brother Matthew would bring her upon his visits. But she has her moods, and has the propensity to need to worry about something or in fear of something just to be sane. And I’m the person she chooses to unload her woes on to. This is one of the toughest things I have to deal with. As an activist I’ve spend my life getting rid of my own fears, until some have called me “fearless”, but then she unloads her fears on to me, and I’m obligated to bear them. I hate this feeling too, especially if I have to do something I consider totally unnecessary just so that I could restore her serenity, but again, am haunted by it. I’m not sure that she realizes what effect this has on me, and from my point of view at lease, sometimes she seems profoundly selfish.

On the other hand, she could be very considerate of my feelings, especially on the conscious level (versus the subconscious "selfishness"). Back in 1999, for example, when I went to India for the third time to help save the Bengal tiger from extinction, my sister had a terrible traffic accident which resulted in severe brain injury. This happened within the first week of my 10-week stay at the Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves (see my book Omni-Science and the Human Destiny – www.HOPE-CARE.org). When I called my mother during my resupply trips to town, she never say a word about it. Afterwards, I asked her why and she said, “I didn’t want to burden you with something you can’t do anything about.”

Although I know she would love to keep me by her side all the time, she never once tried to deter me from going on tour, nor even to just guilt-trip me. She always says that she would pray for my safety and success. But the way she asks me how long I would be away for, and the way she looks at me when she says it, breaks my heart every time.

On June 30, I’ll be driving from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Fort McMurray, Alberta, the town where the tar sands workers live. The last thing I’ll do in Vancouver will be to say goodbye to my mother. I look forward to the amazingly scenic drive, but I dread the departure because of this good bye. And the inevitable question: “Will I see hmy mother again?”

She was born the only child of my maternal grand parents in a small town in the Guang Dong province of China, but had over a dozen cousins. They all lived in the same extended family complex walled with dragon-back tiles. They had an inland aquaculture business, a river-barge transportation system, and my maternal great grand father was the founder and president of a local bank. They were supposed to be the top-wealth family in town. My mom was also considered very beautiful, and was therefore the target of many an amorou$ young man's attention.

Deep-Tsui (Butterfly Green) was free spirited and loved to laugh, and well loved by all, men and women and old and young alike, and the apple of her grandparents' and parents' eyes. So, when the Japanese invaded China in 1937, when she was 18, and she was uprooted, her world crashed into chaos and danger. Village after village was raided, leveled, and villagers tortured and slaughtered. The Great Nanking Massacre continued for days, the Yangtze River running red with the blood of 100,000 civilians. One of the first things the invaders wanted were “comfort women” (sex slaves). My mother almost became one, and if she did become one, I wouldn’t be here to write about it.

In 1945, the Japanese were defeated, and life returned to normal for the next several years, until 1949 came around, when the Communists swept China. My father was an official in the old government, so we packed up and escaped by moonlight down the Pearl River to Hong Kong as refugees. Since my family’s wealth was tied up in real estate, and since we couldn’t take it with us, the prince (me) became a pauper overnight.

Due to the torrents of refugees pouring from China into the postage-stamped sized British colony, accommodation as at a premium. Our family of ten (my parents, my two siblings, my four aunts and uncles, my paternal grandmother and me) had to be cramped into 3-bedroom apartment on decrepit Temple Street.

Jobs too were at a premium, and, with his university education, but without any knowledge of English – the official language – all my father could find was a sales and bookkeeper’s position in a textile factory. He was paid peanuts, and had only two-days off per year: Chinese New Year’s Day, and Christmas Day – the bloodsucking proprietor being a Christian. As for the other 363 days, he worked easily 12 hours a day. I hardly got to see him, except early in the morning when he was on his way to work and I was on my way to school. I was usually already asleep by the time he finally arrived home from work.

Even working as he did, he still couldn’t bring in enough to keep us fed and educated, so my mother also went to work at the factory, as a sewing machine operator, though she would not work in the evening due to her children being home. I've heard my parents talk, more like fantasize, about starting a textile factory of their own, but they had always stayed with that small piece of security at the sweat shop. It was first and foremost for their three children. They have sacrificed their own career ambitions for their children’s education and future.

The proof of their sacrifice is definite. As soon as my youngest sibling had gone on to university, my parents quit their jobs without delay, and started their own factory, which was absolutely not a sweat shop. A side twist. As soon as my parents began to get their one factory up to speed, the bloodsucker contacted all his clients and asked them to boycott my parents’ products. And a bit of karma. His business eventually went into bankruptcy.

When my parents were finally ready to retire, they sold their factory and immigrated to Vancouver to join me and my brother. In 1999, my father was 86, and he said he might not live to see the new millennium. He did see it, but for only 7 months. My mother used to say that she dreaded my father dying more than herself dying, which was a great weight on my shoulders at that time, but she survived his passing in surprising good spirit, and showed an independence surpassing my expectations. Unfortunately, but inevitably, her own condition has since declined. Today, she can hardly walk without assistance, and can't walk 100' without stopping. I see her about twice a week usually taking her out to lunch or dinner, and for both her and me, it was a chore. But we always enjoyed the dinner with a smile.

But now, I'm within two months of yet another long departure. Would it be our final farewell this time? I’ll say that goodbye when I come to it. Meanwhile, I have another mother to serve - Mother Earth, who will survive me, I hope.

She has given birth to our species Homo sapiens, and nurtured us through the toughest of times, but not only have we milked her dry, we are desecrating her with every move we make, and choking the life out of her with our own extravagance, and destroying her future with our myopia, and robbing her beauty with our greed.

When I was saying goodbye to my mother while departing only CARE-5 last year, she asked me, “Why you?” I asked her back, “To be your son? Or to serve Mother Earth?” And she said, “I’ll pray for your safety and your success.” She will say the same to me on June 30 this year, fully knowing that she may not see me again.

Through my work I’ve met many mothers whose love for their children could not be less. On this Mother’s Day, I express my admiration for all the wonderful mothers I’ve had the privilege to know – Amy Burns (WI), Barbara Metzler (NJ), Betty Burns (WI), Brenda Davis (BC), Carol Barnett (NY), Cheryl Baker (PA), Coby Siegenthaler (CA), Doris Lin (NJ), Janice Pennington (MB), Jennifer Grill (MD), Jerry Taylor (MT), Lane Ferrante (OH), Laura Yudelson (NC), Linda Hone (NM), Mia Narcissa (OR), Sharon Christman (VA), Sinikka Crosland (BC), Taina Ketola (BC), Tracy Zuber (BC) and several others who may want to be honored anonymously.

Truth be told, were I a woman, I would probably choose to not have a child, and
I share deep concerns about human overpopulation with many colleagues, but these are exceptional women who bring forth exceptional children who will be the best future leaders of humanity.

As an animal rights activist, can I bypass the mother seal whose pup is clubbed before her eyes, and the mother deer whose fawn is caught in a trap, and the mother whale whose baby has just been harpooned?

Finally, back to our common Mother Earth, whose is now being ravaged by the Six Planetary Diseases (see www.HOPE-CARE.org), all of human origin I might add, I ask all to do this one thing, if you haven’t yet. Please sign the following petition urging the U.N. Secretary General to orchestrate the creation and administration of a $120 billion/year Global Green Fund by a corresponding reduction of 10% of the $1.2 trillion world military expenditure add a strong comment worth a thousand signatures and pass it on far and wide

Go to: [ http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/to-UN-secretary-general-for-creating-the-
120-byr-global-green-fund-for-combatting-global-warming-and ]

Now I have to get ready to take my mother out to dinner. Happy Mother’s Day!

Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE)
Global Emergency Operation (GEO)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

World Food Crisis - a dangerous opportunity?

World Food Crisis
a dangerous opportunity?

By Anthony Marr

The Chinese define "crisis" as "dangerous opportunity"; so obviously, it works for the Chinese. But it does not work for the shrews as the following example attests. Would it work for the species self-named Homo sapiens - "Man the Wise" - to which the Chinese belong, which is supposed be to be a little more shrewd than the shrews?

A shrew is among the smallest of mammalian predators, and ounce-for-ounce one of the most ferocious, requiring several times its own body-weight in meat per day to survive that day. Other than air and water and rest and sex (and drugs and rock-and-roll for at least one species), which are basic universal needs, the primary target of pursuit of a shrews existence is food. Put three shrews into a terrarium with two day's worth of food and what will you find at the end of the third day? Some dried blood, some shrew feces, and the front half of a shrew.

You see, after two days, the food would be exhausted. On the third day, two of the shrews killed the third and ate it, followed by one of the remaining two killing the other and eating it, followed by the remaining shrew eating itself tail first, until it dies. This means, among other things, that starving animals would turn to cannibalism, and that an animal would rather be eaten alive than be starved to death.

This applies to humans as much as to the shrews. Air-crash survivors and those trapped in the wilderness have by individual actions turned to cannibalism to survive, and the tribes of Easter Island made cannibalism a social institution after they had cut down their last tree.

It would take immense pressure to make a vegetarian eat meat, and even more so to turn even meat-eaters into cannibals. But a global famine can certainly and easily do that.

World food shortage is something that even the die-hard global-warming-deniers have to acknowledge and explain, and there is no way that they can explain the current world food shortage without addressing global climate change as a cause.

As for the generally anthropocentric public, they may shrug their shoulders to mass extinction of other species half a world away, but most cannot ignore the starvation of humans in even the farthest corners of the world. And for those who still don't care, they will care soon enough when the price of a loaf of bread in a neighborhood store doubles, as does the price of gasoline in a neighborhood gas station.

World food shortage has been predicted for years. In 2005, the Guardian published an article titled "One in six countries facing food shortage" due to "severe droughts that could become semi-permanent under climate change". Already, droughts had devastated crops across Africa, Central America and south-east Asia, which had become part of an "emerging pattern".

The two most worrisome regions were sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon basin. The emerging pattern was that not just one African nation, but all sub-Saharan African nations, without a single exception, will suffer declines in rainfall of at least 50%, some as much as 75%.

"The worst affected countries include Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eritrea and Zambia, a group of countries where at least 15 million people will go hungry without aid. The situation in Niger, Djibouti and Sudan is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. Many countries have had their worst harvests in more than 10 years and are experiencing their third or fourth severe drought in a few years". While northern Africa might enjoy some moistening and greening, central and especially southern Africa would see the formation and spreading of deserts - "across huge tracks of Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and western Zambia".

Before 2005, the Amazon rainforest had been predicted to be hit by a long-term drying trend, whereas the Arctic and sub-Arctic were predicted to lose sea ice at an accelerated rate. Since then, all three predictions ¡V for African, Amazon and Arctic - have come true, all exceeding the worst-case scenarios by substantial margins. Where anything related to global warming is concerned, "faster than scientists expected" has become a hot media phrase.

Severe droughts have also badly affected crops in Cuba, Cambodia, Australia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Morocco, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador and Lesotho. In Europe, one of the worst droughts on record has hit Spain and Portugal and halved some crop yields.

All in all, at least 34 countries were experiencing droughts and food shortages, and up to 30 million people would need assistance because of the droughts and other natural disasters as observed in 2005.

In spite of the above warning two and a half years prior, the UN issued a statement in December 2007 that in an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply was dwindling rapidly and food prices were soaring to historic levels. The UN food price index had risen by more than 40% this year, compared with 9% the year before "a rate that was already unacceptable". New figures showed that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25 percent in 2006, from $77 million to $107 million, meaning malnutrition if not starvation for the poorest of the poor.

At the same time, reserves of cereals were "severely depleted". World wheat stores declined 11 percent in 2007, to the lowest level since 1980. That corresponds to 12 weeks of the world's total consumption - much less than the average of 18 weeks consumption in storage during the period 2000-2005. There were only 8 weeks of corn left, down from 11 weeks in the earlier period. Prices of wheat and oilseeds were at record highs. Wheat prices had risen by $130 per ton, or 52%, since a year ago. U.S. wheat futures broke $10 a bushel for the first time Monday, "the agricultural equivalent of $100 a barrel oil".

That there is a world food crisis is beyond a shadow of a doubt. The UN identified a confluence of recent supply and demand factors as the cause of the situation, and predicted that those factors were "here to stay".

On the supply side, these include:

* the droughts induced by global warming in agriculturally crucial regions, where crop yields were significantly decreased. Global warming will result in shorter growing seasons and smaller crop yields across most of the developing world, affecting the lives of billions of people. Wheat production in India could drop by 50% within 40 years, putting as many as 200 million people at risk. Growing seasons in many parts of Africa will decrease by 20%, with some of the world's poorest farming communities in east and central Africa including Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea among the worst affected.

* the near-exponential increase in the global human population. We are adding 73 million mouths a year. The global population will grow from 6.5 billion to 9.5 billion before peaking near mid-century.

* the rising percentage of meat-eaters in newly affluent developing countries. In 1985, China's average per capita consumption of meat was 20kg per year; by 2007, it had risen to 50kg. This not only diverts vast quantities of soy to become cattle feed, it also sustains industries (meat production) from which methane is emitted in vast quantities, which adds hugely to the global warming feedback-loop. Finally, expanding soy and sugar-cane plantations also reduce the total size of the Amazon rainforest, thus reducing its carbon-sinking capacity, while driving thousand of species to extinction

* diverting major portions of "food crop" for cattle-feed and for ethanol production. As the world's oil prices skyrocket, so do ethanol prices, and so does the price of the "food" crop from which the ethanol is derived, regardless of whether the crop is used for food, feed or fuel. The UN FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) reported that there had been "an unprecedented hike in world prices of, not just a selected few, but nearly all, major food and feed commodities"

* food exporting countries capping their exports in favor of stockpiling the commodity internally. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to China to Argentina , have been limiting or reducing exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers, and making food sometimes downright unavailable to those importing-countries that need it. The import ratios for grains of the most import-dependent countries are: Eritrea (88%), Sierra Leone (85%), Niger (81%), Liberia (75%), Botswana (72%), Haiti (67%), and Bangladesh (65%). In these places, if they don't get what they need when they need it, people die. Roughly 100 million people are tipping over the survival line.

* high oil prices have doubled shipping costs since 2006, putting enormous stress on poor nations that need to import food as well as the humanitarian agencies that provide it. The global food bill has risen by 57% in the last year. Soaring freight rates make it worse. The cost of food "on the table" has jumped by 74% in poor countries that rely on imports. These are places where 50%-60% of the people's income goes to food. If they can't afford to pay, they starve, even if there is food on the shelf.

The World Food Program considers the present food crisis "the perfect storm" of global hunger, where the poor are being "priced out of the food market", and one that will rage on for decades.

A state of famine anywhere in the world is hard evidence that global demand has exceeded global supply, or at least there is a blockage in the global food-delivery system for some reason. It means that we are at or have exceeded the limits of our allowance. The safety margins, such as food reserves, have shrunken dangerously. Any local calamity, such as a crop failure in a high production area (e.g. Australia and the Ukraine ) due to climate change or insect infestation or crop disease, can trigger a major and resounding global disaster. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra stated that this was a "very risky situation".

Recent scientific papers concluded that farmers could adjust to 1oC (1.8oF) to 3oC (5.4oFdegrees) of warming by switching to more resilient species, changing planting times, or storing water for irrigation. But for any global temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius, "all bets are off," said Columbia University's Earth Institute. "There is a strong potential for negative surprises."

As of the end of 2007, the previously listed 34 countries that were considered by the UN FAO to be headed for "drought and food shortages" have been increased to "almost 40 countries", including 20 African countries as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, that "are facing critical food shortages as world food prices soar to record levels".

The world's food supplies are rapidly dwindling, and the UN FAO's global food price index reached its highest level in 2007, rising by more than four times fasters (40%) compared with its rise in 2006 (9%).

In its monthly analysis of global food prices, the UN FAO said there had been an unprecedented "hike in world prices of, not just a selected few, but of nearly all, major food and feed commodities". Rarely had the world felt such "a widespread and commonly shared concern about food price inflation." In Australia, prices for bread and eggs have increased by 17% since 2005, vegetables by 33%, dairy products by 11%, fruit by 43%, and honey by 100%.

Meanwhile, food riots caused by shortages and rising prices occurred in Mexico, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Senegal.

Came February 2008, the world's stockpile of wheat had shrunk even further. From the previous 12-week-grace, the world is now only ten weeks away from running out of wheat should major global crop failures occur. And we haven't even talked about rice yet.

The price of rice doubled within the first three months of 2008. Rice is not used for ethanol production. It is a physical problem of dwindling supply. Rice cultivation is water-intensive, and many farmers in desiccating and desiccated areas are switching to more drought resistant crops. Australia is a big factor. Six long years of drought has reduced the Australian rice production by 98%, partly due to the abandonment of rice by Australian farmers as a viable food crop.

Shrinking stockpiles have led the world's largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and even Italy.

It took something so severe to finally lead the National Farmers' Federation in Australia, to say, "Climate change is potentially the biggest risk to Australian agriculture," while American farmers, highly subject to denier-persuasion, are still debating whether global warming is real, tantamount to some passengers in the sinking Titanic debating on whether the existence of icebergs was a hoax.

The agricultural crisis has now become also a matter of politics, morals and ethics. It takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol. That is enough to feed a child for a year. Isn't it a crime against humanity to take food out of the mouths of hungry children to feed some gas-guzzling SUVs with ethanol? Is it a crime against nature to wipe out thousands of square miles of Amazon rainforest and thousands of endemic species, just so that we could pump ethanol into the V8s of muscle cars? Isn't it downright stupid for the Canadian government to push for a new high of 10% ethanol in Canadian gasoline by 2010?

America - the world's food superpower - will divert 18% of its grain output for ethanol this year, chiefly to break dependency on oil imports. It has a 45% biofuel target for corn by 2015. Argentina, Canada, and Eastern Europe are falling over themselves to join the ethanol race. The EU has targeted a 5.75% biofuel share by 2010, though that may change. Is alcohol not only an intoxicant for Americans and Canadians, but an intoxicant for America and Canada?

And meanwhile, there are more and more violent food riots in more and more places. The UN predicted "massacres" unless the biofuel policy is halted. New bloody riots have erupted now in Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti and Burkina Faso. Haiti's government fell in the weekend following rice and bean riots, when five died.

Is there any more land for more crops? Other than making more efficient use of the already used land in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, Brazil has the world's biggest "reserves" of "potential arable land" with 483 million hectares (it currently cultivates 67 million hectares), and Colombia has 62 million hectares - both potentially offering biannual harvests. We all know what this means.

"The idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid," said Professor John Beddington, Britain 's chief scientific adviser.

In early 2007, Jean Ziegler, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, denounced biofuels as "a crime against humanity" and called for a five-year moratorium on their production.

The impact of biofuels on world food production will be reviewed at a UN conference on food security later in 2008.

Food export controls have now been imposed by Russia, China, India, Vietnam, Argentina, and Serbia. The world is disturbingly close to a chain reaction that could shatter its assumptions about food security. The Philippines last month had to enlist its embassies to hunt for grain supplies after China withheld shipments. Washington stepped in, pledging "absolutely" to cover Philippine grain needs. A new Cold War is taking shape, around energy and food.

The United States can afford to appear generous now, but not for long. Sooner or later, judging by recent global trends much sooner than later, the food crisis will hit even the rich nations, as they are now being hit by high oil prices. But knowing the politicians here, they won't pay this the slightest attention until people beginning dying of malnutrition and starvation in the streets of Washington DC.

And meanwhile, many in the corridors of power will continue to mumble and scowl, "Global Warming is just a hoax."

Let Big Oil exhale its last poisonous breath. Let their political puppets do the last scene of their macabre dance of planetary rape. Let's move forward and leave them behind in our wake. The planet Earth is now beset with what HOPE calls the Six Planetary Diseases : Planetary Cancer (population explosions of humans and cattle), Planetary Fever (global warming), Planetary AIDS (damage of protective ozone shield), Planetary Blood Poisoning (toxic pollution), Planetary Wasting Disease (loss of biomass and biodiversity) and Planetary Suicidal Tendency (probability of global nuclear holocaust). We need to heal our planet Earth, or we all die.

Scientists estimate a bare bone planet-healing budget of $120 billion per year to just get the process started. But, ridiculousness upon absurdity, in this crucial hour of planetary need, such an Earth-healing Global Green Fund DOES NOT EVEN EXIST.

So meanwhile, I ask all who are in the know, who truly love our children and all creatures and truly care, to sign the following UN Global Green Fund petition, and make a strong comment worth a thousand signatures. Please go to:

[ http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/to-UN-secretary-general-for-creating-the-120-b/yr-global-green-fund-for-combatting-global-warming-and ]

Finally, please distribute it far and wide. We need the whole world to work together on this one. Thank you!

Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Emergency Operation (GEO)