(11:30AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
ITN News UK is reporting that experts predict the death toll in Burma will be over 100,000:
This is bolstered by the military junta’s own estimates:
The Burmese military says it believes 80,000 people died in the one district of Labutta in the Irrawaddy delta, which bore the brunt of the storm.
That figure would imply an overall death toll for Cyclone Nargis well above 100,000 people.
And yet the authorities in Burma have put up roadblocks to international assistance, including receiving relief supplies and – more vitally – disaster workers as the situation on the ground deteriorates.
It’s time for us, all of us, to start changing the way we do business.
Step One: Stop supporting repressive regimes. Seriously. As I wrote about yesterday, the military junta in Burma has been able to float along buoyed by their strategically important supplies of oil and natural gas. Some countries, like China and India, have decided to just pull out all the stops and do business with these folks outright. Some countries, like the United States and France, have economic sanctions that are still porous enough to allow oil companies like Total and Chevron to do business with this military dictatorship.
This has got to stop.
No amount of oil, or natural gas, or strategic location in the world is worth the amount of suffering Myanmar’s military junta has already unleashed on its citizens, or the suffering yet to come from a paranoid and incompetent government who delays shipments of food and water as dead bodies decompose in rice fields and the risk of cholera and other diseases exponentially increases with each passing hour.
At a certain point, we have to decide that our material comfort isn’t worth the life of another human being. Until we make this hard decision, we’ll continue to see human suffering on this scale with no way out.
Step Two: Practice sustainability. If the vast majority of scientists are correct that green house gas emissions are creating global climate change, and that one of the outcomes of this effect is more drastic and severe weather patterns like hurricanes and cyclones, we have to put aside the fantasy that we can simply pump our way out of our problems.
The more we pump the more misery we may heap upon ourselves and our brothers and sisters living with us on this planet.
Conserving, developing alternate energies like wind and solar and stopping tax incentives to oil companies to pump, pump, pump are steps in the right direction. Economically speaking, the United States has always reinvigorated our economy by catching the next new tech wave. The internet was the force that made the economy boom under Bill Clinton. The next new tech wave will be alternate energies, and if we don’t hop on board that train it will leave us at the station.
Government, indeed, has a role to play in jumpstarting that process, and if we spent half – or even a third – of the money we’re spending in Iraq on a massive push to develop technologies that would let us walk away from our dead dinosaur economy we would reap the benefits of that endeavor for generations to come.
Step Three: Use nonviolence to challenge governments that support repression to change so that true harmony can be achieved.
The above video was taken in Japan during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit there this week. The Chinese government has supported the military junta in Burma, the government in Sudan that is responsible for the genocide in Darfur and recently attempted to send arms to Zimbabwe during the crisis of a contested election. The BBC is now reporting that the Mugabe government has, indeed, engaged in a strategy of “electoral cleansing”, including voter intimidation and the use of violence against members of the opposition:
At a remote homestead in an opposition stronghold, village elders described the command structure in their area. We have decided not to reveal their names or their location.
They told us the operation was run by officials from the ruling Zanu-PF party, and so-called war veterans, with the help of a senior army officer.
The intimidation began at the top, with local chiefs, who then passed instructions down to village elders.
“The chief’s headman told us the message from Zanu was go and tell the people to vote for the president,” a village elder said.
“If you don’t, you will see what will happen to you.”
This man knows only too well what to expect come election time. He says his home was torched and his wife was beaten back in 2002.
Arson attacks, beatings, and killings have driven many opposition supporters into hiding.
No one knows how many, but the number could be as high as 1,500.
It was the noncooperation of trade union workers at a South African port that turned that arms shipment around, sending the weapons back to China.
We need to send a message to governments like the one in China that in order to be accepted as a major world power, a consistent respect for human rights and an open society that allows citizens to freely discuss what is happening in their lives, is a necessary step that must be taken.
We need to send a message to governments like ours that the use of torture on prisoners of war, the invasion of a sovereign nation under the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense, and wagging fingers at other countries for suppression of human rights while pursuing economic policies that aid and abet the governments of countries engaging in human rights abuses needs to stop:
Here in the US it is so easy for us to speak out, that we take it for granted. We will not be indefinitely jailed. Our families will not be taken in for questioning. We will not be prosecuted under unjust laws created to stifle protest of our government and serve months in jail or under house arrest.
We need to speak out, right now, and let our voices be heard.
Please keep all of our brothers and sisters who are suffering right now in your thoughts, prayers and meditations. Please also keep the people who are engaging in the oppression of our brothers and sisters in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
Speak. Act. Change.
UPDATE H/T to Stormchaser (and Martin) who posted his first-person account from Thailand:
I’m in Thailand, trying like hell to get across the border with an NGO to see the storm surge damage for myself. The reports are that the storm sped up, then stalled, creating a 3.6 meter [12 foot] tidal wave the swept across the low lying delta region with equivalent damage to what was seen in Ache with the tsunami.
The consensus here is that Myanmar government is delaying because of a political referendum that is scheduled to take place next week. They don’t want interviews with monks or other dissidents at a time when they’re trying to put through what is widely considered a sham process and have been willing to leave the million-plus people at risk to control the media.
The way this storm acted is similar to what happened a few months ago in Bangladesh, speeding up over water, creating a tidal wave type surge and then stalling over low-lying land.
Whether this is coincidence or the consequences of the increasing instability of the climate is something that can only be concluded through empirical observation. Politics may prevent my colleagues from being able to determine this, just as it is preventing the experts in disaster relief from leaving the country next door to help.
Please visit The Environmentalist for more information: http://climate.the-environment…