The Disappearing Lake

As the subtitle of Richard Heinberg’s book Peak Everything says, the world is waking up to "the century of declines." And we’re not just talking about peak oil. We’re talking top soilfood production… water… greenhouse gas sinks… The confluence of these–largely borne from our dependence on cheap, abundant energy–is creating an amplification effect, feedback loops, that can happen with dizzying speed.

A case in point:

Once among the largest lakes in the world — at some 9,000 square miles, roughly the size of New Jersey — Lake Chad has been decimated over the past four decades by rising temperatures, diminishing rainfall and a growing population that’s using more water than ever before. Today, estimated at less than 2 percent of its original size, the lake’s surface would barely cover Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Not surprisingly, the retreating tide in this century of declines is exposing those who live closest to the edge–the world’s poor and most vulnerable. While many of us complain about gas prices and the rising cost of food, the 30 million Africans who live in the Lake Chad basin may soon be facing a life and death situation.


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