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On the Run

January 23, 2011

My cats like to explore new places and they like to sniff around in remote corners of the neighboring forest but they don’t want to be too fare away from home.

Their home is the house where I now live. When I moved two years ago, I had two month time to prepare and adapt our new home. I first brought my old friend Lizzy to the house. She liked to be around me and it was a wonderful time for her, because she had my undivided attention. The other cats stayed in the old house with my wife Herta. When I fetched them a few weeks later I confined them for two days inside the house, which is big and filled up with all kind of furniture and music equipment and computers. It was an exciting new place to explore. After two days they went out and looked around in the big garden and the surrounding area and they made the place to their own. Paul sadly didn’t come with us, he was always an outsider and none of the other cats liked him. He was very often away and I suspect he had a second family. I hope, they treat him well and he has a good life.

I don’t want to move again too soon, it was terrible hard work.

I don’t like to move and I also don’t like to travel. I like to stay in the place that I know and I prefer to walk the familiar tracks and byways. I also like bicycle riding and I have discovered many routes where I can completely avoid car traffic and can ride peacefully without being in danger to by killed by an idiot behind the steering wheel. It is exciting to discover new remote corners of my territory and enjoy the silence and the pristine nature but I don’t want to be too fare away from home. I learned that from my cats.

I grew up in Vienna, a city with two million inhabitants, and I remember it as a desert of stone and asphalt. I was glad when I could leave. I didn’t regret it when I found out, that the house where I grew up had been torn down. I don’t feel homesick, I don’t intend to ever move back and live there or in any other city.

I also don’t want to live in a suburb with endless rows of undistinguishable houses. I don’t want to live in a sprawling neighborhood where everything is “landscaped” and the gardens look like parks or golf courses. Where there is no underbrush and no branches on the ground and no tree trunks laying around and the hedges are all neatly cut and look terrifying artificial.

I don’t even want to live in a small town. At present I live at the edge of a small village and I have two neighbors. I would prefer to have no neighbors at all but I had to compromise with my wife. Fortunately there is the big forest on one side and a field on the other side of the house.

I lived for a few years in a house which I rented from a farmer. When I moved there, the place was surrounded by meadows and a forest 30 meters away on one side. The next year a small house was built in the gap between the forest and my home. The year after that the farmer built a new house for one of his daughters on the other side of my home. Two years later a third building was erected on the backside of my home. So I had to move again.

I know the owner of the forest where I live now quit well. Last summer I met him often when I made my walks with the cats. He is a nice man in his eighties and he is in astonishing good health. The trees are his friends and the time that he spends in the wood keeps him healthy. His son studies journalism and has nearly finished. The job prospects are not good, corporate media doesn’t need journalists, journalists only make trouble. Corporate media needs pundits, con men, propagandists for industry and government. But that is another story.

The son will probably take over from his father and become a well educated lumber worker. Or he will sell the forest. The son is like his father a decent and friendly man and it is not likely that he will sell the heritage and abandon the place where his father spent his whole life and where his father worked hard to keep nature intact. But who knows…

I hope that I can enjoy a few more years in this location and that I’m not forced to flee again, seeking for another refuge, another asylum. Places without traffic noise and without the terrible smell from diesel engines or other air pollutants are becoming rare.

If I would be driven out, I would be in the company of many other humans and also many animals who have to look for a new place.

There will be a world wide migration of millions of people because of climate change. Until recently, is was always assumed that the first large flow of climate refugees would likely be in the South Pacific with the abandonment of Tuvalu and other low-lying islands or coastal areas in Bangladesh. But the migration of climate refugees has already begun in places where nobody did expect it:

Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in August 2005, forced a million people from New Orleans and the small towns on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts to move inland either within the states or to neighboring states, such as Texas and Arkansas. Although nearly all planned to return, many have not.

Hanging over the future of the hurricane-prone coastal regions of the US southeast is the difficulty in getting property insurance. In the wake of the last hurricane seasons, including the 2004 season when four hurricanes crossed Florida, reconstruction is still ongoing, insurance costs are climbing, and private insurance companies have withdrawn from high-risk coastal areas.

Katrina took a heavy toll in the Louisiana and Mississippi coastal regions, but there are 35 million people living along the hurricane-prone coast that stretches from North Carolina to Texas. Half of these live in Florida: 10 million on the Atlantic coast and 7 million on the Gulf coast.

Florida and other southern regions of the USA also face another threat, the reemergence of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fewer. Dengue re-emerged in 2009 in Key West (home of Hemingway’s cats) for the first time since 1934 and continued to occur last year.

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Not only humans will be on the run, many animals also will have to move because of habitat loss or climate change and many will have nowhere to go and they will die, they will become extinct.

Animals move to cooler ground in response to warming, relocating either higher up in altitude or farther toward the poles. But in the tropics, animals have to move hundreds of miles north or south to find a different niche. Mountain species face even starker limitations: As they climb upward they find themselves competing for less and less space on the conical peaks, where they run into uninhabitable rocks or a lack of their usual foods. In Yosemite National Park, until now half the mountain species have moved their habitats up by an average of 500 meters to find cooler ground.

On the Kinangop Plateau in Kenya, the Turaco could lose more than 60 percent of its already limited habitat if current predictions about global warming are accurate. Even substantial movement wouldn’t help them, they would have to move to the Alps or to the Caucasus to find their mountain climate niche in the future.

In Australia warming temperatures are blamed for the disappearance of the white lemuroid possum, a niche mountain dweller in Australia that prefers cool weather and was cute enough to be the object of nature tours. Scientists suspect that the furry animal has died off during a period of extreme heat.

Bird populations are under additional pressure because their habitat is destroyed by cutting down forests and turning grasslands into fields. 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost over the next 100 years, if the temperature rises 3 to 5 degrees. In worse case scenarios the loss could be 50 percent. The loss of bird species means that some plants will have no way to pollinate and will die off, too.

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Many will be on the run with nowhere to go. Except maybe: “Virtual Reality”. Large numbers of people use this refuge already and they seem to be happy. They are playing FarmVille and are growing their virtual food. They are sitting on the computer and sipping their virtual drinks and crunching their virtual snacks made in real factories with real chemicals.

I see, humanity is progressing according to plan and I’m an insignificant minority, a disgruntled tree hugger, a deranged doomsday prophet, a spoiler. One of the few dropouts who don’t believe in “the wisdom of the crowds”.

And the only thing left to write down is another uninspiring and unelegant rhyme:

I am alone, it’s only me
Who doesn’t like to take this route
And still prefers natural food
And thinks the facts are misconstrued
Ignored, denied, misunderstood
It’s only me, who doesn’t see
Who doesn’t join the brotherhood
Who’s prude and rude and never stewed
Who doesn’t like to be subdued
And still refuses to collude
Still believes in the common good
Walks every day still in the wood

I found this nice website: http://www.dianevarner.com/

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