Viridian Disasters

Key concepts: weird and dramatic weather disasters, bears, fleas, urban sewage spills

Attention Conservation Notice: The Viridian list will probably be seeing a lot more of this kind of news once people get used to looking for it. Here we have almost 1,500 words.

Entries in the Viridian Summer Health Warning Contest:

This contest expires on September 1, 01999.

Viridian Individual Projects: Recently reworked by Joel Westerburg:

A new Viridian calligraphy project by^* (Kim McDodge):

The Viridian Pope-Emperor continues his guest stint at the "Great Outdoor Recreation Pages." Are "Hoberman spheres" and "Zoobs" really Viridian?

From:^^^^^^^^* (Kim Allen) Subject: Viridian disaster: Bears

(((Kim Allen remarks: Take a look at this article. What we have here is a weather-caused breakdown of our carefully constructed separation between humans and the rest of nature. Especially in the suburbs, we have become accustomed to controlled surroundings that do not include natural phenomena like bears.

(((This article also demonstrates our complete unpreparedness for dealing with such breaches of our walls == really, shouting at bears like "chasing an unwanted dog"?? Will we soon be repelling mountain lions like stray cats, and vultures like pesky pigeons? Maybe we'll need a special branch of urban wildlife police. == Kim Allen)))

"Drought Pushing Bears Into Big City Suburbs

By David Morgan

"PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) Drought is forcing so many black bears to rummage for food in the suburbs of New York and Philadelphia that Pennsylvania Thursday issued a public advisory on how suburbanites should cope with the large but timid creatures.

"State officials said nearly 2,400 bear sightings have been reported so far this year in eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, particularly in upscale residential areas near the Delaware Water Gap, about 60 miles west of Manhattan.

"In New Jersey, sightings have nearly doubled from last year, mainly because of an exploding bear population that numbers about 10,000 animals between the two states.

"Famished bears broke through kitchen screen doors at two homes around Stillwater, New Jersey, and one actually raided the refrigerator for a free meal of eggs and butter. Unusual sightings also have been reported in Maryland, where police spotted a bear only 10 miles from downtown Baltimore. 'Bear sightings are not uncommon at this time of year,' said Gary Alt, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's black bear biologist. 'And, if drought conditions worsen, Pennsylvanians are likely to see more bears as natural food sources wither.'

"Weighing up to 600 pounds and hungry for anything from birdseed and insects to carrion and grass, black bears have seen their usual fare of blueberries and other wild fruits stunted by the driest growing season in at least a generation.

"Dry conditions also have withered farm crops, which in other years might have limited the bears' wanderings to rural areas. As a result, suburban trash cans have become potential horns of plenty just as bears need to fatten up for winter.

"The five-point advisory issued by the Pennsylvania Game Commission suggested people make sure not to leave garbage, table scraps or pet food outside overnight. It also asked that bird feeders be taken down, describing the seed-laden fixtures as 'bear magnets.'

"'If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. Shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog,' the advisory said. If that fails to work, call the commission or the police." (...)

From:* (Andrew Woods)
Subject: Viridian Disaster: Fleas

(((Andrew Woods remarks: perhaps not unprecedented, but still rather amusing. A plague of fleas in the 21st century?)))

Source: pacific/newsid_411000/411621.stm

"Kazakhstan plagued by fleas

By Central Asia Correspondent Louise Hidalgo

"The Kazakhstan authorities announced a state of emergency in the western city of Aktau following an invasion of fleas.

"Local authorities say 40% of houses and apartment blocks in the city are infested and that there is not enough money to disinfect them.

"It follows the discovery of three cases of bubonic plague in a village in the same region after villagers ate what is believed to have been an infected camel.

"The town of Aktau lies on the shores of the Caspian Sea, on the far western tip of Kazakhstan. To the east of the town is desert and local officials say the hot summer weather has combined with a lack of fresh water supplies to provide an ideal breeding ground for the fleas.

"They say two out of five ground-floor apartments in the city are now infested and that in some areas the situation is so bad that sanitation officers are refusing to venture into the worst affected buildings.

"Only last month the region was ravaged by locusts which also spread into Uzbekistan and Russia." (...)

From:^^^^** (Richard Puchalsky)
Subject: Viridian Disasters: Urban Sewage Spills

(((Richard Puchalsky remarks: Here's part of a press release about sewage spills. The committee concerned with them has already decided that sewage spills connected to extreme weather are "unavoidable" in terms of liability.)))

(((Bruce Sterling remarks: Here we have a theoretical sighting of a Wexelblat -style Viridian Disaster, a disaster which occurs when Greenhouse weather violence overwhelms the designed limits of human infrastructure, causing a secondary, human-assisted, unnatural disaster as human systems rupture. In this case, urban functionaries are struggling with the federal government to get off the hook when their vile effluent spews onto innocent third parties. The problem? Rain and floods. The solution? Simply write bad weather off the books! Could this become a "solution" to the problem of the world "becoming uninsurable"? City budgets will maintain an eerie calm, while everyone downstream slowly begins to stink, finding no legal or financial recourse.)))

"July 29, 1999

"Natural Resources Defense Council, Cahaba River Society, Citizens Campaign for the Environment

"Press Release

"Environmentalists Criticize Walkout by Municipalities, Treatment Plant Operators Over Sewage Spill Regulations

"Representatives of municipalities and sewer system operators walked out of a Federal Advisory Committee yesterday, claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was not offering them broad enough protection from liability for spills and overflows of raw sewage. They now appear to be planning to wage a fight in the Congress rather than working with the Federal Advisory Committee to try to resolve questions of how to fix, and take enforcement action against, illegal raw sewage discharges. (...)

"The Committee was meeting this week to talk about how to deal with illegal releases of raw sewage. These releases from sewer lines and collection systems (called Sanitary Sewer Overflows or SSOs) are a widespread, serious problem. It is estimated that at least 40,000 significant SSOs occur each year in the United States.
Because raw sewage contains a complex mixture of bacteria, viruses, pathogenic organisms, toxic chemicals, pesticides, bioactive drugs, nutrients and household and industrial wastes, SSO releases can result in contamination of drinking water, illness, closed shellfish beds, polluted beaches, fish kills and other ecosystem damage. Most of these sewage spills are caused by overloaded sewer systems (the pipes get too full) or by maintenance problems. (...)

"The committee also has recognized that some overflows, such as those caused by extreme weather or unforeseeable system failures, are unavoidable.
According to the proposal being discussed, treatment plant operators would not be held liable for such unavoidable spills. A dispute over the extent of operator liability triggered yesterday's walkout."

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