Victoria Falls without falls is disturbing enough but there are even more disturbing aspects to the viral dissemination of the falls turned off.
More than several times I’ve seen the falls this way. It reflects a severe drought to the west. But right now really destructive torrential rains are destroying large towns and major agricultural areas to the west as the drought breaks. In several months the falls will be running wild. No one seems to mention that… this time.
The drought in this area of southern Africa entered its third year this past season. It’s most serious to the immediate east and south of the falls although even in those areas the drought is considered broken.
The water which tumbles over the falls doesn’t come from rain in the area. It comes from runoff far to the west: Angola and Namibia where really destructive torrential rains are flooding whole towns and massive agricultural areas.
Even were not a single drop of rain from the sky above VicFalls to fall, the falls will begin looking normal in a few months.
The facile if misleading explanations accompanying the viral images of a dry falls are symptomatic of the world’s insanity, today. The panic of tourists and Africans alike over the web is an inexcusable lack of due diligence about what is happening.
ABC News aired an interview Saturday with a VicFalls resident who said, “This is the first time we’ve seen it” like this. Perhaps the man hasn’t lived there since I saw a similar situation in 2009. And regularly about every ten years before that. It’s important to realize that the falls flow does not necessarily reflect the drought conditions in its area, as it didn’t in most of the times I’ve seen it so low.
The Guardian, normally one of my first choices for accurate news on Africa, aired a similar story Saturday.
Clearly both outlets were reflecting if not echoing the viral web communications racing around the world.
The Guardian’s story specifically attributed the situation to advanced climate change, and technically that may be correct. The long drought in the Angolan highlands just now being broken can’t be explained otherwise.
But what irks me is that there is no “climate” on a pinpoint on GoogleEarth. There’s very little water traveling over the falls today, and Sen. Inhofe raised a snowball in the Senate. Neither does much to advance our understanding of climate change.
Climate change is characterized by long-term trends and extreme events. The extreme southern African drought is suddenly now ended with extreme rain. Namibia is supposed to be a desert. It’s parched northern third is being flooded.
I often point out to my clients on safari that water is the second most important thing to life: food is first. There are multiple African animals that don’t drink after they stop suckling, obtaining their moisture from plants.
Even animals requiring huge amounts of water, like elephant, will die of starvation long before they die of thirst.
Extreme climate destroys agriculture as it is now doing in Africa. Plenty of water. No food.
So I’m happy to report that any tourists with planned itineraries later this year to VicFalls won’t be disappointed. There just might be some starving kids hanging around.