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The Island of Voz Ronald Lairchild (December 26th, 2005)

In the little known country of Kazakhstan, on the border of Uzbekistan, is
something formerly known as the Aral Sea. A Now a sea in name only, its name
is synonymous with pictures of rotting landlocked fishing trawlers rusting
silently in what appears to be a desert. Now at 40% of its original size and
20% of it’s original volume, it Aral is a shadow of its former self and
almost completely barren. This sort of drastic change is the legacy of the
industrial might of a now defunct superpower. It is a testament to exactly
how much destruction one species can create if it really puts forward its
full effort.

The Aral is surrounded by some of the most arid land on earth, and when it
was full it was the site of an ancient fishing industry. Sometime after
World War One the USSR decided that the two rivers that filled the Aral, Amu
Darya in the south and the Syr Darya in the northeast, would be diverted so
that there could be green fields elsewhere. The products to be grown
included fruit such as melons, staple foods such as grain, and the “white
gold” of the industrialized world known as cotton.

Construction began in the 1930s and by the 1950s the sea was starting to show
signs of wear. It became impossible not to notice what was happening: “From
1961 to 1970, the Aral's sea level fell at an average of 20 cm a year; in
the 1970s, the average rate nearly tripled to 50–60 cm per year, and by the
1980s it continued to drop, now with a mean of 80–90 cm each year. Even
seeing this, the rate of water usage for irrigation continued to increase:
the amount of water taken from the rivers doubled between 1960 and 1980;
cotton production nearly doubled in the same period.” (1) The USSR fully
expected this to happen, but to the communists (the same people who once
worshipped Stalin and perpetrated the war in Afghanistan) the disapearing lake
was of little concern and not really a surprise.

The people who depended on the sea for their livelyhood began to suffer, and
the traditional stocks of fish that helped feed the region began to wear
thin. As the water evaporated the fresh water sea became more like a salt
water lake, and finally all of the fresh water fish in the lake died. The
birds that lived in the area left, which made the situation worse. A lake
that was once the size on Ireland went from being the fourth largest body of
fresh water to barely the eighth in 50 years. Today the areas surrounding
the former borders of the lake are known for their dust storms.

Places like Kazakhstan were locked tight when the Iron Curtain was up, and
the western world knew little about what was happening. The USSR used places
like Kazakhstan to play host to their dirty little experiments, including
unrestricted above ground nuclear testing and bio-weapons research. The Aral
Sea was home to a large bio-weapons compound known as Vozrozhdeniya Island
(Voz Island for short). There Weapons of Mass Destruction such as anthrax
were made in massive ammounts as the Soviet Army prepared for the final
confrontation with the USA and NATO. In the early 1990s the island (and it
store of toxins) was quickly abandoned, leaving behind a massvily toxic
legecy for the local people. It is even rumoured that those who live in
local villages have begun to ransack the facitlty on Voz Island to look for
things to sell and use.

So what does the Aral Sea and places like Voz Island have to do with Peak
Oil? Peak Oil, like the Aral Sea, is a sign of exactly how bad it can get
when humans ignore not only the damage they can do to the enviroment when
they consume in an unrestricted manor but also the permanent desolation that
can be caused when those in power refuse to abandon the attitiude that
permanent growth is perfectly acceptable. Peak Oil is a non-renewable
resource, and by its very definition is not permenent. Even renewable
resources such as hydroelectric power could cause ecolocial destruction is
humans continue to assume that there will “always be more tomorrow”.

It is easy to look at something like a river and say “this is forever”. It
is also easy to look at the magnificence of your own culture and say “it
can’t happen here”. The Clorado River, damed several times to provide
hydroelectric power, trickles to a thin line and it is said that it never
truly reaches the Gulf of California. The Hoover Damn is reporting lower and
lower water lines each year, and if and when Peak Oil becomes serious the
rivers of the world will begin to bear the burden.

Martain Luther King once said “one day every valley shall be exalted, every
hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and
the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”. He may have been right. One
day every mountain may be maid low so we can look for coil to fuel our
factories, all of the rough places will be made plain to make room for MC
Mansions, and all of the crooked rivers made straight so they can provide
hydroelectric power. As the planet eats every last crumb to keep itself
comfortable it will see the glory of the lord as thousands of young minds
are marched into the buzz saw and thus to oblivion to keep unsustainable
lifestyles flabby and happy.

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakhstan
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vozrozhdeniya_Island

By: Ronald Lairchild

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