We Are Responsible

By Gus Tyler

Published November 11, 2005, issue of November 11, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Who is responsible for the New Orleans catastrophe? A one-word answer might well be “we.” The conclusion is based on the history of floods from Noah to New Orleans. Too often, in trying to explain the origin of natural phenomena, we are inclined to overlook the role of humans — individually or collectively — in government.

Let’s take a look at the earliest civilization on Earth: the city-state of Sumeria, which is part of Iraq. What do we mean when we refer to Sumeria as the first “civilization”? We mean a community that is not some nomadic tribe changing residence with each change in the season. What attracted the settlers to Sumeria? The answer is floods. Each spring, when the winter snows of the North melted, the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates overflowed their banks and deluged the soil with all sorts of fertile mud. The result was a huge expanse of extraordinary agricultural potential to attract folks from far and wide.

But there was the constant danger of floods, until human intervention turned minuses into pluses. First, dikes were erected. When the dikes proved insufficient, the Sumerians developed a system of canals and waterways to divert the floodwaters.

Then there is Holland. The very name describes it as a country that on the whole is below sea level. But as in the case of Sumeria, the Netherlands survives and prospers, thanks to dikes and waterways.

Our many references to “sea level’ may have created the impression that “sea level’ is a constant. Not so. In our lifetime, the sea level has been on the rise. If it continues to rise, Manhattan Island may within our lifetime be an endangered land.

Why is the sea level around the world threatening a repeat of a flood that would wipe out everyone, with the exception of Noah and his family? The biblical explanation is that God was angry with humans for their immoral ways. The great biblical flood was the work of God. But the present rise in the sea level is the result of human behavior — namely, global warming, due to the use of fuels that turn the atmosphere into a hothouse.

Here is what happens: Global warming melts the gigantic mass of icebergs in the arctic regions; the melted icicles turn into water, and the sea level rises. This is not a subject of speculation. At a world conference of nations held in Kyoto, Japan, the parties agreed to pursue policies to halt global warming. The United States was an exception.

President Bush said that the United States would not go unless Third World countries were included in the accord.

Why did Bush do this, when Third Word countries were contributing hardly anything at all to global warming and America is responsible for generating about half the total warming? Many believe that Bush vetoed Kyoto because of his and Vice President Dick Cheney’s personal interests in the oil business.

All of which brings us back to our opening question in which we suggest that we are the guilty party!






Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.