The logjam that we are in

I am somewhat bemused by the word logjam. Here’s the story that triggered this present dalliance with the word.

Last Sunday, August 22, a friend from Sibu forwarded some pictures of the massive logjam on the Batang Baleh. It must have originated in the upper reaches of the Baleh river, a tributary of the mighty Batang Rejang in Sarawak.

Apparently, the story has gone viral and was widely reported in the media over the previous weekend. My immediate reaction to my friend’s WhatsApp message was: “All these debris must have come from upriver. We must have cut down so much of our forests to cause this logjam to happen? Is there still logging going on in Baleh?”

The repeated and consecutive use of the word “must” was rather superfluous, over empathic and dramatic. Probably, it was a subconscious reaction to the shocking image shared, not only to my mind but I would believe, in the minds of others too.

Not long after, someone forwarded a statement apparently attributed to Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing which kind of repeated the same question I have asked to my friend earlier, where Masing was reported to have said, “I thought there was no more logging going on in Sarawak”.

I guess most people had the impression that was also the case. Probably that impression also explained why the logjam news had gone viral and was widely reported in the media over the weekend. It came as shock or surprise to many.

Being in the logistics industry, the thought that came to my mind was the risks associated with navigation as a result of the logjam. The logs floating down the river will affect river navigation, making it more risky, and when they eventually get down to open sea, the ocean will receive a mass of debris floating around the ocean. A clear and present danger to ocean navigation.

On Tuesday, referring to the incident which was now named as the ‘Batang Baleh Logjam’, as the paper put it, The New Sarawak Tribune in a front-page headline asserted, rightfully, that this was “Certainly No Act of God!” and showed some aerial pictures of the massive logjam, an image which will likely linger for long time in the minds of readers.

Definitely, God cannot be blamed for the acts of men.

DESTRUCTIVE… The Baleh logjam.

Global warming and climate chance is anthropogenic in terms of cause. Whether we physically caused it or through the operation of some higher law or concept of karma, we still remain as the cause of our own predicament. Therefore, we cannot escape responsibility and accountability.

Still following the thread of the word ‘logjam’ we should be reminded of an even bigger logjam that the world is in, and despite the play on the word, the ‘Mother of All Logjams’ in which the world is currently in is no laughing matter.

How can an existential threat be a laughing matter? Just one of the following logjams can easily wipe out life on Earth or make it so unbearable, that we would wish we are not around anyway.

My laundry list of what would be the key challenges or “The Existential Threats and Logjams” of our times include just one or a combination the following:

* Climate change/global warming

* Wars, armed conflicts, rebellions

* Forcible people displacements and refugees

* Pandemics and new diseases

* Political gridlock, conflicting dogma

* Human rights and abuses

* Meteorites and space debris

How is the human family going to overcome these existential threats? Even if we presume that all humans were to work together as one, the nature of these problems are almost impossible to overcome.

Regarding the first item in the laundry list, the words of the mayor of northern Evia, the second largest Greek island in area and population after Crete, which is currently being ravaged by wildfires, are prescient:

“Our children will never see the environment and our land in the same way we saw it,” the mayor stated.

That’s a grim prediction and indictment from northern Evia on what we have done to the environment. He stated that in order for this area of Greece to return to its former status, it will take decades.

The haunting words of the mayor of northern Evia, in Greece says it all. For effect, a picture of a 2,500-year-old ancient olive tree that was burned down by the forest fire in Greece was juxtaposed on the page of the report I saw.

Imagine an olive tree which has survived for 2,500 years gone is a blink of an eye. What could be more dramatic than that, I wonder?

GONE IN A BLINK… The 2,500-year-old ancient olive tree that was burned down in the Euboea fires in Greece.

Previous to this, we were also fed with the news of devastation following the unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Nortwest of Canada that has resulted in massive forest fires in Canada, and also reports of wildfires in California, Oregon and North West USA.

And so are many other forest fires in Turkey, Europe and other places. And for 2021, the title of the mother of all wildfires must go to Russia’s coldest part, Siberia. It was reported that Siberia’s wildfires were bigger than all the world’s other wildfires combined.

Even though the Siberian fires are seen as part of the annual cycle of nature, many climate experts see the staggering scope and intensity of this year’s fires as another evidence of greater fire risk on an increasingly warming planet with the potential of aggravating the situation by releasing even more carbon emissions which emanates from the wildfires.

The signs have always been there. Without the intent to degenerate the visually impaired, one can say that “even the blind can see these signs!” They have always been there, but we have just ignored them.

Even if we saw them, the tendency of the “official line” is to downplay the situation and show little urgency, let alone sense of alarm. That’s how apathetic and sad the state of affairs has become. We have failed to read the signs, not only just before the catastrophic events have happened but more so on the day after.

The day after the forest wildfires, the massive flooding, the sudden landslides, the mass killings of wildlife, the collapsing icebergs, the debris clogged rivers, and so on, is always filled with ominous and unmistakable signs and messages. But we seemed to be desensitised from the impact, too dazed to care or powerless to react in sensible manner.

Our impact on the environment has reached a very critical stage, and if we do not cease and desist, mend our ways and apply the hand brakes on the runway train that we are on, the inevitable crash will happen. And it will be too late. There will no one coming to our aid in the wrecked train.

I have been talking about just one of the logjams in the laundry list of logjams that is currently inflicting our Blue Bubble flying through space. Even this one logjam is already an intractable problem for the collective powers and intellectual capacity of the five billion odd humans on the planet.

We should not be bemused by the word logjam anymore. It is a really serious matter and a clear neon sign in the firmaments declaring and pointing forward: “Beware the End is Nigh!”

And for those who may wonder, the word ‘nigh’ is an old-fashioned or poetic word that can be used as an adjective or adverb to mean ‘near or nearly’.

People like to use the word ‘nigh’ when they talk about the apocalypse, or the end times. And is usually used in the context of the following sentence: “Repent! The end is nigh.” Perhaps, that is the answer to all our insurmountable predicaments.

A close friend, a devout Christian, sent me a passage from the New Testament, Romans 3: 13-18. It kind of explains the root cause of some of the predicaments and logjams that we have found ourselves in. It’s worth flipping through the pages of the Bible to the passages referenced.

Thanks Mora, for the sharing.