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<nettime> Viridian Note 00377: Viridian Commentary
Bruce Sterling on Thu, 7 Aug 2003 07:34:20 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Viridian Note 00377: Viridian Commentary

Key concepts:  Reader commentary, record-setting heat 
waves, massive forest fires, droughts, climate change,
beetles, nuclear power plants, fish death

Attention Conservation Notice:  Lengthy accounts
by various interested Viridian parties on the morale-
denting mayhem of weather violence.  Almost 2,500 words.


Viridian Gizmo Extravaganza!

The blood-glucose battery == sugar into voltage.  These 
gizmos will likely catch on big-time once people realize 
that that they cause weight-loss.

Simputers on the market.  If you find a place to buy one, 
tell me.

The handheld DNA detector.

DoCoMo's fuel-cell cell-phone.

Homeland Security now pitifully scared of these gadgets,
plus all others.

From: Peter Miller peter*perpetualocean.com

"Here in Australia, we are seeing the warmest winter 
temperatures on record. Which offers us pathetic images of 
daft tv weathermen gurgling about the 'wonderful warm  
sunny days'. I keep screaming at the television (to my 
wife's dismay) 'It's WINTER you morons. It's supposed to 
be cold!'

"And the country-wide drought continues.

"I can't wait for summer here. 37 degrees C? Cakewalk."

From: Dethe Elza <DaddyGravity*livingcode.ca>
Date: Tue Aug 05, 2003  10:57:31 AM US/Central
To: Bruce Sterling <bruces*well.com>
Subject: Re: Viridian Note 00376: Europe Burns

"Hi Bruce,

"You forgot Canada (almost part of Europe).  British 
Columbia, which was a rainforest until a couple of years 
ago, is combating some 337 forest fires at the moment. 

    "This is coupled with the out-of-control pine weevil 
infestation which is devastating the northern BC forests 
(the weevil used to be killed off in winter, back when it 
was cold in the Arctic).  Things aren't looking good for 
Ma Nature up here in the thawing North, but the Vancouver 
Sun still has good powers of investigative journalism:  
Apparently Canadian porn magazines are holding their own 
against invaders such as Hustler Canada, even though 
Hustler (*gasp*) doesn't use real Canadian girls, just 
repackages 'Tara from Lousiana' to be 'Tara from Alberta.' 

   "It's good to see someone out there is still pursuing 
hard-hitting journalism.  I just wonder where the paper to 
print it on is going to come from."

From: Alexander Schuth of the Viridian Curia 
Date: Tue Aug 05, 2003  04:42:27 AM US/Central
To: Bruce Sterling <bruces {AT} well.com>

"European Heat Wave

"Dear Bruce, dear beloved fellow members of the Viridian 
Curia, dear Viridians ==

    "Yes, this is Europe, and it is hot here. Germany's 
North Sea and Baltic beaches deliver an nice and tasty 25-
27 degrees Celsius, but anywhere else, it is hell melting 
over. And that's not just news of this week == the whole 
year was a bit different.

     "When we went kayaking in our folding boats 


     "on North-Hessian river Fulda during Easter Weekend, 
we already encountered summer-like low water levels. Not 
much surprise after over 4 weeks in Spring without any 
rain. We even had to walk in the river bed alongside our 
boats a couple times == and that in a river described as 
navigable for kayaks 12 out of 12 months a year. The first 
rain in over a month came on day two of our tour (of 

    "A month later, river Rhine seemed to be lower than 
might be expected in May. The groins and wave breakers 
hadn't risen right out of the water, no, they don't do 
that == it's just the river was lower, so they were more 

    "In Spring, Germany already had about 20 forest fires 
== nothing really big, nothing like British Columbia, 
Australia or California, but still == forest fires in 
Central Europe's usually green, dripping-wet Spring time!

    "During the last few weeks, farmers had to haul in 
their wheat harvest prematurely. After a lot of drought, 
the grains weren't ripe and well-matured, they were small. 
However, leaving them on the field would only mean that 
the grains would fall to the ground, resulting in even 
greater losses. So the farmers took what they could get, 
which wasn't a lot.

     "Ah, what do I care about a bad harvest? It's easy - 
I eat bread. The math behind this is easy, too: Bad 
harvest equals rising food prices, and that in a country 
with a severe economic crisis and over 4 million 
unemployed folks in a population of 80 million. On one 
hand, everybody haggles to get taxes and health insurance 
rates lowered and tries to free up budget for jumpstarting 
the economy, on the other hand all those macro economic 
effects are simply sucked up by a single bad harvest.

     "Meanwhile in Stuttgart Zoo's 'Wilhelmina', an 
elderly elephant, gets cold water showers every couple 
hours to drag her through this summer.

    "For this week == tomorrow or Thursday == the mercury 
has been forecasted to climb to 40 degrees Celsius (for 
all you Fahrenheiters out there: At 0 degrees C water 
freezes, at 100 degrees C water boils and turns to vapor) 
in my state of Hesse. Mind you == this is not the Baleares 
or some Greek island, or Iraq, where a British soldier 
tried to dodge the local 58 degrees Celsius (didn't 
someone say 'We'll all be out and gone by Summer', or does 
my memory play tricks on me and that was the last time?) 
by taking a nap in a big food freezer and was pulled out 
hours later hypothermic and asleep, no: this is Rhein-Main 
area, this is the land around Frankfurt, this is right in 
the middle of Central Europe, where the grass stays green 
all year round without being watered and needs regular 

     "Good thing for all who commute by public transport: 
Deutsche Bahn AG has some nice airconditioned trains 
serving as RE (Regional Express). Bad news: Expect the 
engines of the locomotives to go funky in this heat, 
leaving trains stranded in the middle of nowhere. Or: 
You're in a train with AC, and one generator fails. In 
order to keep the arrival time so everybody catches their 
next train, they switch off AC to reroute the power for 
speed. And in those trains, you can't open any windows...

     "River Elbe, running from Czech Republic through 
Germany to the North Sea (and scene of last years 
disastrous and deadly August flood) == is nearly dried up. 
Passenger ferries have stopped running.

     "The undergrowth and paths in the forest are dry, and 
public fire warnings have been given. Open fires in 
forests are forbidden. Already some forest fires have been 
extinguished here in Germany in the last couple days.

     "But we Germans are not the only folks who have it 
hot. River Danube, the beautiful blue Danube which flows 
from Germany through Austria, Hungaria and on down to the 
Black Sea, has reached yesterday the lowest level since 
115 years, according to ARD's Tagesschau.


     "They showed pictures of Danube in Serbia == 
restaurant ships that were moored to the shore now sit on 
dry land. But they wouldn't be able to serve their 
traditional fish specialties anyway == barely anything 
gets caught now. The Danube fishermen say this loss in 
fish population will still be felt several years from now.

    (Q: What if another coincidental freak-heatwave hits 
the fish-population before it recovers to pre-2003 levels? 
And then another? And another?).

     "Water-powered electricity plants were shut down to 
preserve water for providing a shipping lane.  So much for 
reliability of water-power in a greenhouse == soon, all we 
will be able to rely on will be hot, dusty storms. Only 
partially-loaded freighters can still navigate Danube == 
and they only centimeters of water under their keels.

    "Forgotten history comes back to light.  The remains 
of the German Black Sea Flotilla, sunk after the end of 
World War I into the Danube, are normally all covered by 
water. At the Danube's 'usual low levels' these shipwrecks 
become a shipping hazard, but now the wrecks are so dry 
that the cabins are visible, and in some parts even the 
decks. A local explained that he had never seen them 
before, only some tips of the ships during a severe 
drought when he was a little boy, but never as exposed as 
now, and then he went climbing onto the deck of one of 
those former warships.

   "Bruce, you mentioned French nuclear powerplants 
overheating. I heard a feature on radio HR1 


"yesterday about the nuclear reactors on river Loire. Most 
nuclear reactors in France seem to line this single 
waterway ("like a pearl necklace" == some kind of pearls 
they got there!), and this summer their need of cooling is 
immensely greater than ever before. So they draw more 
water from Loire and return it with higher temperature 
levels than usual == which led to a 5 degree Celsius 
increase in the Loire's water temperature compared to the 
summer average of the last 25 years!

   "Nice hot bathing water, one might say. Well, perhaps 
== but anybody who is experienced with fish knows that 
they unfortunately do need oxygen to live. The warmer the 
water, the lower the oxygen levels in the water (also 
diverse algae start to grow, some of which lead to 
poisoning the water, etc. ...). Lower oxygen levels mean 
lots of dead fish drifting down the river == just a change 
of a few degrees Celsius in the average water temperature 
is enough to give the residents in any given water the 
final eviction note. Sure, you could introduce better 
suited fish there later == and I guess French fishermen 
are already looking forward to catch some nice and funky 
tropical fish soon, but until then, the base of their 
income will be destroyed.

   The whole thing was commented by a chap from 
Darmstadt's Oeko-Institut, so if anybody feels like 
following up on this story, give them a call.


    "And in the evening news, we were all presented with 
real and true footage of French nuclear powerplant 
Fessenheim on river Rhine being cooled with EXTERNAL 
SPRINKLERS == which supposedly lowered the plant's 
temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, back into 'a safe 
range'. Good for Fessenheim, good for everybody living 
downstream. This was something very spectacular, something 
that everybody can understand == and right in Alsace, on 
our own border. (Second thought: many people didn't 
understand Chernobyl == it was 'over there, where they 
have all this commie mismanagement', and now this reactor 
was 'in France, where they 'ave laissez-faire', so a 
reactor disaster obviously couldn't happen here, or there, 
or there, or in your country, or...)  Where can I get a 
poster of that?

    "Anybody really worried or surprised about the forest 
fires in Southern Europe? Not me! For decades, folks there 
did good business with arson == the guy who lights the 
fire gets nice money, the guy who loses a forest gets nice 
insurance cash and then sells this efficiently de-forested 
land to a developer for more nice money. This is 
supposedly how a lot of the hotel districts all around the 
Meditarranean got set up.  One week, a protected forest; 
next week ashes; another week, construction site.

    "In France, suspected arsonists already have been 
arrested this season.  Tourists are sleeping in school 
gyms, with their holiday homes and trailers turned to 
cinders. Lots of French, British and German tourists 
cancel their trips, creating serious economic damage == 
maybe this arson-based business model needs a new 
approach, like including fire-insurance payoffs for the 
tourists, so they may also be winners.

    "But that's all small fish (or no fish at all, for 
that matter).   What really worries me is one thing: 
Remember the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995 in the US? 
There was a sentence in one Viridian Note, basically 
saying: Well, why are Chicagoans dying in conditions that 
give Texans only a yawn? Because they aren't used to it == 
homes, clothing, habits and infrastructure are not adapted 
to the climate. 


    "This sounds like stark Darwinism to me, unfriendly 
and cruel. As cruel as the byline in the news yesterday: 
Besides suffering from headline-grabbing forest fires in 
the Iberian Peninsula (for the geographically challenged - 
that's Portugal and Spain, between Atlantic and the 
Mediterranean Sea, that's right where German and British 
sunworshipers go for generations to get their skin cancers 
updated), now people there are dying from heat-related 
causes. YESDATZRITE! These places were ALWAYS flaming hot 
since El Cid's days, since Hannibal's days, and since 
before that. Those folks lived there forever. The Spanish 
and Portuguese know how to 'cope' with summer and serious 
heat, they have cool, massive stone houses that don't need 
air conditioning, they have siesta and they live the good 
live and have good food and wine and merry songs and a 
jolly party every night (and no, they don't wear 
sombreros) == and now they die in their own country from 
'heat-related' causes! Just like any Chicagoan! Or German! 
Or Brit!

   "That, dear Bruce, beloved Viridians, that is what 
really scares me: Now those people who == together with 
the Greek and the Sicilians == represent Europe's best and 
time proven hot weather survival strategies are starting 
to die from heat like any other guy.

   "Dear friends, this is my report from Central Europe, 
soon a scorching, efficiently de-populated steppe.

"With best wishes from Germany,

Alexander Schuth

"P.S.: Last year's Czech and German floods, by the way, 
were an extremely local phenomenon. As we were baking in 
Cologne during Popkomm around 15th-20th of August, not a 
single drop of rain fell. Meanwhile, other regions on the 
South-East of Germany and in Czech Republic got torrents 
of water. This may still come again == and then it may be 
considered handy that the levels of all rivers have been 
lowered in advance."

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

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