Even as global warming increases the frequency of El Nino and the Atlantic event, their effects are being amplified by the annual loss of an area of rain forest the size of New Jersey. Less rain falls, and the water runs into the rivers instead of being sucked up by the fungus filaments and tree roots.
Before you rip off three feet of toilet paper, consider that each year 500,000 acres of virgin boreal forest in northern Alberta and Ontario are being clear-cut to make the stuff. These forests are home to some 500 First Nation communities, as well as caribou and bears, moose and wolves, and, in the summertime, billions of songbirds.
According to the U.N., more than 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by 2025. Many social scientists predict that the next big wars will be over water. Nevertheless, the average American family blissfully consumes 300 gallons a day, when you add in watering the lawn and washing dishes, clothes, and cars.
Elephants are highly emotional. Whatever they are feeling, they let it out immediately, and the histrionics are over and forgotten in a moment, lasting no longer than the cloud formations that are constantly coming apart and re-forming overhead. There is no guile in pachyderms.
Elephants are not human, of course. They are something much more ancient and primordial, living on a different plane of existence. Long before we arrived on the scene, they worked out a way of being in the world that has not fundamentally changed and is sustainable, and not predatory or destructive.
The usual way of growing cotton is highly petrochemical-intensive, requiring 110 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre. Some of the fertilizer is broken down by soil bacteria into nitrate, a toxic and highly soluble chemical that can leach into groundwater or get washed into lakes, creating oxygenless dead zones.
The plumbing and pluvial dynamics of the Amazon, the largest freshwater system on Earth, are still far from understood. This is partly because it is a semi-open system. Moisture flows in and out unpredictably. A lot of nonlinear feedback loops and 'remote influences' - continental, transcontinental, oceanic, meteorological - come into play.
Most of the Amazon basin is as flat as a pancake and laced with extravagantly meandering waterways. One school of thought holds that more than 145 million years ago, when Africa and South America were joined, the Amazon's main stem was connected to the Niger River and actually flowed in the opposite direction, toward the Pacific Ocean.