From the apocalyptic Hurricane Harvey in Texas to lately the hellish wildfire in Los Angeles, these are surely agonizing moments for the United States. In a rather dazzlingly rapid succession, the two natural disasters, the worst in half a century, have forced America's second and fourth largest cities to their knees, exacting heavy human toll and incalculable material loss.
In Texas, apart from 47 deaths, the material damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey is estimated at whopping $150 billion. Relief workers have documented at least 36,000 rescue efforts since the first wave on August 25. More than one million are displaced, with 200,000 homes wrecked on a path of destruction stretching almost 500 kilometers. In scale, Hurricane Harvey obviously dwarfs earlier Katrina (2006) and Sandy (2015).
Texas' river of misery had barely receded when Los Angeles began to blaze in the wildfire reminiscent of the biblical prophecy of Armageddon. So much that the authorities had to issue evacuation orders to residents of no fewer than 500 homes, followed by a formal declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor of California, Edmund Brown Jr.
At this writing yesterday, another Hurricane named Irma is fast approaching the U.S. shores with Americans bracing for another bout of nightmares. A pity, despite all the earth-shaking inventions and innovations, despite all the extending of the frontiers of knowledge through human intelligence, the United States, like other nations of the world, remains vulnerable to the rampaging forces of nature.
While the spirit of shared humanity obliges the rest of the world to identify with the United States in this trying hour, we can only hope that these natural disasters will serve as a wake-up call on President Donald Trump on the grim reality of climate change. Ever so eccentric in thoughts and deeds, the American leader is one of a small tribe who still live in denial of its existence in what bears a faint resemblance of the natural atrophy evoked in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
By the accident of history, the little ones find themselves in a virgin island imagined by Golding. Unable to rise above their cognitive limitations and be united in the pursuit of things that bind them, the brats soon turn the paradise bequest into a cauldron of horror and self-immolation. Charlatanism trumps reason. The pristine beach gets smeared by blood.
But against the ruins of Texas and Los Angeles in the past few days, only Trump and other climate change deniers will perhaps still need rocket-scientists to help them connect the dots. While the Los Angeles fire tagged "La Tuna" probably erupted with a spark on the northern edge, powerful erratic winds resulting from a violated ecology helped fuel its spread across breath-taking 2,023 hectares, with thick smoke billowing skyward, thereby poisoning the air around most parts of the city as well as the suburbs.
Of course, the raging inferno only adds to the global warming which has been responsible for the irreversible melting of the icebergs over the years, resulting in the rise in water levels. So, the volume of rainfall has risen globally. So are tsunamis and hurricanes. When it rains, existing waterways are increasingly unable to discharge into the rivers and the oceans as seamlessly as was the case decades ago.
Last month in Sierra Leone, flash floods similarly sacked several communities resulting in at least 600 deaths, with many still missing, not even to say anything about the massive destruction of property.
Back home, Benue river also overflowed last weekend leading to many deaths, displacement of tens of thousands. and destruction of property worth hundreds of millions of naira.
Sadly, whereas Nigeria was quick to rush materials and troops to Freetown to assist in relief efforts, we are yet to see similar vigor and depth in the federal response to the Benue disaster in the past few days with victims left to waddle in neck-deep flood and a vast number of houses immersed up to lintel level.
According to experts, the worst may not be over yet for Benue. If the neighboring Cameroon, whose soccer World Cup dream was recently decimated by Super Eagles in a 4.0 massacre, decided to release water from the already overflowing Lagbo Dam, then more misery lays ahead for beleaguered Benue communities. You can never tell where national bitterness aroused by the humiliation suffered on the soccer pitch could lead in the times ahead.
Flooded Benue, in turn, raises the specter of famine for the nation in the next harvest season. With farmlands now completely submerged, our "food basket" is in great danger indeed.
In sub-Saharan Africa, worsening desertification is triggering the migration of pastoralists to seek greener pasture for their herds in a manner never seen in history. The result has been the rise of the buccaneering herder quick to pull the AK-47 trigger against the subsistent farmer unwilling to surrender their farmland to ravenous herds of cattle.
Taken together, there has, therefore, been a clarion call on mankind to shake off its lethargy and rise to the new existential threat by evolving more creative ways to heal and preserve the environment in a sustainable way. It is an advocacy some of us have been involved in our own modest way over the years.
Being the center of greatest industrial activities in the universe and ipso facto the "greatest polluter", the U.S. has, of course, come under significant pressure to lead the crusade to preserve planet earth for the unborn generations.
But ever so quick to theorize without evidence or research, President Trump once described the CC advocacy as a modern-day fraud. He tweeted: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
Since stepping into the White House in January, Trump has sought to reverse the gains recorded under previous administrations against climate change, even as he frenetically pursues policies to foreclose any fresh advance.
He began by appointing as new head of US Environment Protection Agency, a co-denier, Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma Attorney General. Next, he axed the agency's budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. Thereafter, came an executive order freezing the effort of the Barak Obama’s Administration to limit the highly polluting coal industry under the Clean Power Plan, leaving the old plants open.
Then came another executive order to expand offshore oil drilling and release formerly protected federal land to be explored for private interest. His predecessor, Obama, had tried to ban offshore drilling permanently, citing a 1953 law.
Perhaps the unkindest cut of all was an order disabling Obama's policy protecting waterways and wetlands, which normally provide detention points for flood water in emergency situations.
In case he stills harbors doubt, we can only hope this ugly harvest of natural disasters in the U.S. lately will disabuse Trump's mind on the harsh reality of climate change and nudge him to mend his ways.