Mudslides and deserts caused by increasing population
Many poor people in countries like China, Nepal and sub-Saharan Africa are caught in a dilemma. They need fuel for cooking, timber for building. Some cut the trees and scrub in the hills above; some in the semi-deserts around them. The population is growing in numbers, and so they need to build where the trees have been.
Mudslides have many causes, but the most common feature today is human interference with the stability of hills, especially removal of trees for fuel and building. Illegal logging companies, stimulated by population growth among other things, also remove trees and need the terrain graded for transport. All these disturb the natural stability of slopes. Heavy rains, droughts, earthquakes, bushfires or volcanic eruption trigger the mudslides, which overwhelm the people’s villages, their cattle and their crops.
There may be efforts to reafforest. In pre-war Korea I saw the efforts to replant on the bare hills. Afterwards I saw the poor people following after, taking the new saplings for fuel. It took a strong government post-war to manage to get trees back on the hills, and employ poor people as foresters, to avoid them stripping the hills in their poverty.
But what can the people do? They need the fuel and the wood now, at the price of safety in the future.
We see many touching pictures of African semi-desert and desert, in which elephants move across the stony plain, where once they luxuriated in jungle. The elephants too, pick the only surviving trees. The pictures shown in charities’ leaflets show women walking ever further afield across the stony plain to bring home the bundle of twigs which mean that next time she must walk farther. We are torn with pity for her seven children, who mean the problems are greater still when they are grown up, if they have seven children each themselves.
So many of the climatic troubles we bring on ourselves – by our Western way of easygoing life, and by the stressful lives of the poor people.
Towards solutions by humane population reduction
The West has had compassion that has brought the poor medicine,so that more children survive than ever before – but has failed in the compassion that would ensure they had a fair chance in life. We need to help other countries achieve social welfare to ensure families survived without having to invest in as many children as possible, and for families to have sources of fuels and structural materials so that the hills and the stony fields were not made dangerous ecologically.
The solar stoves are more important than the games for children, when it has to be a choice. And contraception is more important than the advice for abstinence to people who have few of the other pleasures that we have.
These must be our aid responses to the mudslides, and to all the soil blown away that leaves desert.