September 28, 2007

African Flooding

The latest Week of Compassion update mentions that areas of Africa have been hit by the worst flooding "in recent memory," affecting many hundreds of thousands of people. I am thankful to Week of Compassion (the compassion/relief ministry of the Disciple of Christ) for its ongoing work to relieve suffering around the world.

I wonder, though, to what extent this particular disaster is "natural," and to what extent it is "man-made." In her memoir, Unbowed, nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai talks about how, in her childhood, the streams flowed more or less consistently through both the wet and dry seasons. But once the trees were cut down and vegetation removed, those same streams flooded when it rained and dried up when it didn't. Consequently, both droughts and floods were/are worse.

Who was it that said, "What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves?" I don't remember. Perhaps it was Chief Seattle. At any rate, it rings true. It's old wisdom, yet we continue to ignore it at our peril.

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