Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Bolivian Horde Cometh... and It Is Blond?

(Update, closing paragraph should read "2.8 Billions of people who are, for most of the year, utterly dependent on meltwater from the vanishing Glaciers of the Himalayas". Corrected now.)

In recent days, I've been detailing how Glacial Melt-Off due to global warming is sure to force mass migrations from the affected areas.

In yesterday's posting, Expecting Plans and Planning: Simple Logic, Complex Outcomes, I decided to put myself in the position of someone whose duty it is to relocate almost the entire country of Bolivia to anywhere else, by no later than the year 2015.

Bolivia's Chacaltaya Glacier has melted to nothing 6 years earlier than expected and that accounts for a significant amount of the water supply for the fields and towns of Bolivia.

And downstream from Peru's "Madre de Dios" area -- itself the headwaters of tributaries to the mighty Amazon -- mostly-illegal strip-and-sluice mining for gold is massively contaminating the rivers with Mercury and sediments (Rising prices spark a new gold rush in Peruvian Amazon, Keane, Laura, Washington Post, December 20, 2009, downloaded 2009 December 20).

Ecological devastation -- most of it man-made, much of it the result of destructive activities of locals -- is beginning to permeate throughout South America, particularly now emerging in the Andes region.

Long before the Spanish Conquistadores came, spreading pestilence and death to destroy anyone who sensibly fled their advance, Bolivia had a rich history of Empire Building.

For nearly 500 years -- and that is a long time in the history of Empires, significantly surpassed only by the Imperial Chinese and Romans -- the Aymara people ruled the empire of Tiwaniku, or as more commonly spelled, Tijuanico (or Tihuanico).
An archaeologically based theory asserts that around AD 400, Tiwanaku went from being a locally dominant force to a predatory state. Tiwanaku expanded its reaches into the Yungas and brought its culture and way of life to many other cultures in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. However, Tiwanaku was not exclusively a violent culture. In order to expand its reach, Tiwanaku used politics to create colonies, negotiate trade agreements (which made the other cultures rather dependent), and establish state cults.[10] Many others were drawn into the Tiwanaku empire due to religious beliefs as Tiwanaku never ceased being a religious center. Force was rarely necessary for the empire to expand, but on the northern end of the Basin resistance was present. There is evidence that bases of some statues were taken from other cultures and carried all the way back to the capital city of Tiwanaku where the stones were placed in a subordinate position to the Gods of the Tiwanaku in order to display the power Tiwanaku held over many.[11]

Among the times that Tiwanaku expressed violence were dedications made on top of building known as the Akipana. Here people were disemboweled and torn apart shortly after death and laid out for all to see. It is speculated that this ritual was a form of dedication to the gods. Research showed that one man who was dedicated was not a native to the Titicaca Basin, leaving room to think that dedications were most likely not of people originally within the society.[1]

The community grew to urban proportions between AD 600 and AD 800, becoming an important regional power in the southern Andes. According to early estimates, at its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 6.5 square kilometers, and had between 15,000 - 30,000 inhabitants.[1] However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of fossilized suka kollus across the three primary valleys of Tiwanaku, arriving at population-carrying capacity estimates of anywhere between 285,000 and 1,482,000 people.[8]

The empire continued to grow, absorbing cultures rather than eradicating them. William H. Isbell states that "Tiahuanaco underwent a dramatic transformation between AD 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population." [12] Archaeologists note a dramatic adoption of Tiwanaku ceramics in the cultures who became part of the Tiwanaku empire. Tiwanaku gained its power through the trade it implemented between all of the cities within its empire.[13] The elites gained their status by control of the surplus of food obtained from all regions and redistributed among all the people. Control of llama herds became very significant to Tiwanaku, as they were essential for carrying goods back and forth between the center and the periphery. The animals may also have symbolized the distance between the commoners and the elites.

The elites' power continued to grow along with the surplus of resources until about AD 950. At this time a dramatic shift in climate occurred.[1] A significant drop in precipitation occurred in the Titicaca Basin, with some archaeologists venturing to suggest a great drought. As the rain became less and less many of the cities furthest away from Lake Titicaca began to produce fewer crops to give to the elites. As the surplus of food dropped, the elites power began to fall. Due to the resiliency of the raised fields, the capital city became the last place of production, but in the end even the intelligent design of the fields was no match for the weather. Tiwanaku disappeared around AD 1000 because food production, the empire's source of power and authority, dried up. The land was not inhabited again for many years.[1] In isolated places, some remnants of the Tiwanaku people, like the Uros, may have survived until today.

1. Kolata, Alan L. (December 15, 1993). The Tiwanaku: Portrait of an Andean Civilization. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1557861832. http://www.amazon.com/Tiwanaku-Portrait-Civilization-Peoples-America/dp/1557861838.
10. McAndrews, Timothy L. et al. 'Regional Settlement Patterns in the Tiwanaku Valley of Bolivia'. Journal of Field Archaeology 24 (1997): 67-83.
11. Blom, Deborah E. and John W. Janusek. 'Making Place: Humans as Dedications in Tiwanaku'. World Archaeology (2004): 123-141.
13. McAndrews, Timothy L. et al. 'Regional Settlement Patterns in the Tiwanaku Valley of Bolivia'. Journal of Field Archaeology 24 (1997): 67-83.

In the mid-1400s, the Inca empire expanded into the region, but by the mid-1500s had effectively lost it as their population collapsed under the impacts of smallpox and other diseases brought by the Spanish, as well as due to the military actions of the Conquistadores and the brutal colonizations that followed.

Yet the Bolivian natives -- comprising some 55-percent of the approximately 10-million Bolivians -- mostly never lost their Aymara language or culture. Their homeland remains in the region around the Andean alpine lake, Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca is, of course, the largest lake in South America, situated at an altitude of some 12,500 feet above sea-level, on the border of Peru and Bolivia.

Yet despite being the largest lake in South America, only about 10 percent of its water balance is released as downhill stream flows into the Rio Desaguadero, which feeds the Saline Lake Poopó.

Lake Titicaca loses some 90 percent of its water inflow due to evaporation in the fierce sunlight and strong winds at this tropical alpine site. Most of its water comes from rainfall and glacial melt, and with reduction of glacier water reaching it, the water level becomes so low that no outflow can occur, and salinization of the lake begins. Ordinarily, this might nto be such a problem as the lake is so large... or so you might think.

However, in very recent times, Titicaca's waters have dropped 81 centimetres since April 2009 and 95-percent of the water inflow is evaporating.
Titicaca's waters have dropped 81 centimetres since April and flora and fauna are apt to suffer damage if they drop another 30 centimetres, the statement said.

Navy Capt -Jorge Ernesto Espinoza told ATB television that South America's largest lake is receding by 2 to 3 centimetres a week.

The lake, straddling Bolivia and Peru at 3,800 metres elevation, is an 8,400 square kilometre oasis on an arid high plain an hour's drive from the Bolivian capital, La Paz.

The lake is fed by rainfall and melt water from glaciers, which scientists say are shrinking rapidly due to global warming and could disappear altogether by mid-century.

About 2.6 million people depend on the lake for their sustenance.

The Titicaca Authority says 95 per cent of the lake's inflow is now evaporating.

One reason is that the area's rainy season has been reduced from six to three months, said Felix Trujillo, chief of Bolivia's National Meterological and Hydrological Service. ("Lake Titicaca at dangerously low level", Valdez, Carlos, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), November 13, 2009, downloaded 2009 December 22)

This needs to be monitored closely.

A combination of salination, fish kills, spawning failures, and vegetation degradation -- not to mention loss of pasturage and irrigation water and water to drink -- may very shortly put nearly 3-millions of Aymara and other Bolivians on the move, looking for some other place to live. Water rationing is already in effect in some Bolivian cities. Again from the Herald, "Environment Minister Rene Orellana said Bolivia needs $US1 billion ($A1.08 billion) over the next seven years to build reservoirs that will guarantee an adequate water supply".

Perhaps the USA can borrow even more money from China to finance this.

Because, if we don't, all of those Bolivians will need to move someplace.

And what better place than the eastern USA, and in all of that region, what better destination than the most-welcoming of all regions, Montgomery County Maryland, a very well-watered suburb of America's National Capital, Washington DC.

The Astute Reader won't at all mind if I once again direct their attention to the CNA military think-tank paper, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.

Look, if Lake Titicaca either dries up or goes so saline as to turn into another Great Salt Lake or Dead Sea of Israel, even if you threw all of the money in the world at building truly massive desalination projects, all of those people living there will have to move eventually, and probably before desalination projects could be completed and brought online. In any case, all desalination plants would do would be the hasten the depletion of all fluids in the lake, all the faster with the decrease in inflow originating in vanishing glaciers.

So, the situation is not IF they will be leaving, but WHEN, with the only question remaining being "where, exactly will they go".

I am, of course, tempted to write a short humorous piece about how Bolivia's 60,000 German-speaking Mennonites, being the first to be pushed out under the land-reforms initiatives of Bolivian President Evo Morales:
[ ... ]
One year into an administration that intends to reverse centuries of subjugation of Bolivia’s indigenous majority, Mr. Morales has plans to redistribute as many as 48 million acres of land, considered idle or ill gotten through opaque purchase agreements, to hundreds of thousands of peasants.

The project won approval last month in Congress, and thousands of Mr. Morales’s supporters marched in La Paz, the capital, in celebration. But it has shaken Manitoba and Bolivia’s 41 other Mennonite farming communities.
[ ... ] ("Bolivian Reforms Raise Anxiety on Mennonite Frontier", Romero, Simon, New York Times, December 21, 2006, downloaded 2009 December 22)

Can you imagine, the former Burtonsville Dutch Market (now relocated to Laurel) suddenly awash with German-speaking Bolivian Mennonites, displaced from their well-tended farms by an "Indigenous Supremacy" movement stealing their land to relocate the thirsty Aymara and Quechua.

We "the English" would never notice, since the Mennonites and Amish all speak closely related variants of German, Plattdüütsche, and the German/Spanish-speaking ex-Bolivians would increase the bilingual appeal of the market.

The thing is, that isn't a humorous story. It's just all too plausible for my tastes.

And whence comes 60,000 Bolivian Mennonites flooding the already-overcrowded Atechnological Farming Workforce, cometh also 2.8-million Aymaras and about 3-million Quechua.

And let's not get started on the 2.8 Billions of people who are, for most of the year, utterly dependent on meltwater from the vanishing Glaciers of the Himalayas.

Well, not until tomorrow.

More to come?