Destroying the Dams of Derna

Richard Fernandez15 Sep, 2023 4 Min Read
A little maintenance goes a long way.

In the early hours of September 11 in Libya the waters of the Wadi Derna river burst through the dams that restrained them and rampaged through the coastal city of Derna in Libya’s east. Authorities estimated the death toll at more than 5,000, with 10,000 still missing.  "FRANCE 24 looks back at the years of violence and neglect that left the city ill-prepared for the unprecedented natural disasters of the climate crisis." So was the disaster caused by "climate crisis" or regime change crisis?

Libya has been a failed state since the the "Arab Spring" protests of 2011, which led to a civil war, foreign military intervention, and the American-led ousting and death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. The failure of the Derna dams might have been completely preventable had they been maintained. A research paper published in November 2022 by Omar al-Mukhtar University hydrologist Abdelwanees A. R Ashoor warned that the dams holding back the seasonal waterway – known as a wadi – needed urgent attention. But Derna Deputy Mayor Ahmed Madroud told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the dams had not been properly cared for in more than two decades. “The dams have not been maintained since 2002, and they are not big,” he said.

Springtime for Gaddafi.

The biggest source of "man-made climate catastrophe" isn't the use of energy, which produces carbon by-products; it's misgovernment, war and central planning gone wrong. Grain disruptions in Ukraine, deforestation in Haiti, flooding in Libya are examples of these. Ruining the environment is fundamentally no different from wrecking your car by racing it without engine oil; it's introducing chaos into order.

By contrast, energy throughout history was used to mitigate famine, lesson natural disaster, protect populations against the vagaries of the weather. It is used to reverse disorder. Gibbs Free Energy, defined in thermodynamics as energy "available in the form of useful work" can create order that drastically reduces the effect of natural disasters.

Think of Gibbs Free Energy as available prosperity. The more we have the less deadly natural disasters tend to be. Gibbs Free Energy can ship grain round the world, warm homes in winter, cool them in summar. It can store water against drought, pipe it to where it is needed.

But chaos has the opposite effect by leading to disorder and destroying things. For example, the climate in the Dominican Republic is the same as Haiti's. Both are on the island of Hispaniola. Yet there is environmental disaster on one side of the border but not on the other. NASA writes: "the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is more than just a political boundary. It also reflects the large amount of deforestation that has occurred on the Haitian side of the border. One can easily see from satellite imagery the lush forests still thriving on the D.R. side of the border, which is in sharp contrast to the Haitian side of the border." The difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is governance. The villain in the Haitian deforestation disaster, as perhaps it was in the Derna dams, is the disorder arising from poverty and widespread violence.

Welcome to Haiti.

As American presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has put it, we've got things backward.

Here’s the truth: the climate disaster death rate has declined by 98% over the last century, even as carbon emissions have risen. The average person is 50 times less likely to die of a climate-related cause than in 1920. Why? Fossil fuels. An inconvenient truth for the climate cult. The real emergency isn’t climate change, it’s the man-made disaster of climate change policies that threaten U.S. prosperity.

In this view bad politics is the greatest source of man-made "climate catastrophe". Whatever caused chaos to reign supreme in Haiti and Libya contributed as much or more to disaster than any plastic straws.

Time Magazine tries to refut Ramaswamy's claim by disparaging it. "It would be easy to write Ramaswamy's comments off as errant talking points with minimal political and policy implications. After all, he has never been elected to public office and at this moment has no policy making authority." But the substance of his argument is not so easily dismissed. Deaths from famine, the quintessential climate disaster for example, fell precipitously in the late 20th and early 21st century and  is correlated most strongly with a rise in prosperity. Why do far fewer people die in famines today?

For one thing, global shipping can move mountains of food from areas of surplus to drought-stricken locales. Plus, "the general improvement in global health has undoubtedly played a huge role in reducing famine mortality... recent economic growth – most notably that in India and China which, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries suffered heavily from famine – has played an important role."

Today it is well known that "the overwhelming majority of famine deaths occurred in crises due to conflict or with overt political causes: Indian economist Amartya Sen is also known for his observation that 'there has never been a famine in a functioning multiparty democracy'. Whilst there are some exceptions to this rule that can be debated, the main idea is borne out by historical record."

Life is better in the Dominican.

The U.N, has acknowledged the truth of this by coining a catchphrase for such disasters: "Conflict-Induced Food Insecurity in Situations of Armed Conflict." Death by politics. Reena Ghelani, United Nations Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator, said that the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity reached a quarter billion in 2022 — the highest recorded in recent years. “It is a man-made crisis that has been swelling for years. We are now at a tipping point.”

As the London School of Economics observed, "poorly designed climate policy can hurt development and worsen the livelihoods of poor people." Yet we continue to treat economic growth as destructive despite the fact that resulting poverty can cause states to fail and dams to collapse. When things run down, time runs out. It ran out for Derna.

Richard Fernandez is the author of the Belmont Club. He has been a software developer and co-authored Open Curtains which proposes privacy as an information property right.


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2 comments on “Destroying the Dams of Derna”

  1. Yes, exactly. We may be badly mistaken when we imply that central planning "gone wrong" is to blame for anything, Indeed, what we should be extra wary of are instances of central planning "gone right", such as the 1920's dog and pony show surrounding Soviet agronomy, that led to the deaths of millions in Ukraine. Nothing went wrong there. The leaders wanted the forced collectivization of farms and the liquidation of the Kulaks, and that's what they got, partly through the application of pseudo-scientific claptrap.

    We must repeal the Constitution and thereby terminate the United States before these power-hungry, genocidal maniacs get any more planning done right!

  2. Over the years I have come to consider the Left as Agents of Entropy. All of their policies and goals are simply to destroy and disorder the accomplishments of others. Countries, economies, borders, families, religions -- you name it and the Left has a plan to destroy it.
    The only exception are those efforts to directly enrich themselves. They may build a foundation or an organization but only for direct profit.
    Like entropy, they are inevitable and require constant diligence to keep in check. Civilization's curse is to keep the Agents of Entropy at bay.

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