Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Melting Snows of Kilimanjaro
"As wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Mount Kilimanjaro" wrote Ernest Hemingway in The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro was once the jewel in the crown of Tanzania on the east coast of Africa, the dark continent that holds the keys to mankind's deepest mysteries and secrets. Kilimanjaro, perpetually shrouded in snow, perpetually shrouded in myth. Even the origin of the name "Kilimanjaro" is shrouded in mystery.
In Swahili, Kiswahili to native speakers, the word Kilima simply means 'small hill', and -najaro means 'greatness'. To the skilled people living in the plains at the foot of the mountain, njaro means 'caravan' in Kichagga. Ancient legends say that a fearsome demon named Njaro lives on the summit. The Waswahili have been driving caravans past the peak for several centuries and for them Kilimajyaro means 'landmark'.
Today, Kilimanjaro means the death of planet Earth. "The ice cap atop Mount Kilimanjaro, which for thousands of years has floated like a cool beacon over the shimmering equatorial plain of Tanzania, is retreating at such a pace that it will disappear in less than 15 years, according to new studies," reported The New York Times in 2001. Such a stir the article created that it is now a central tenet of the climate change religious faith that anthropogenic global warming is melting the snows of Kilimanjaro.
In language that would have made Steinbeck gag, the Times wrote, "The vanishing of the seemingly perpetual snows of Kilimanjaro that inspired Ernest Hemingway, echoed by similar trends on icecapped peaks from Peru to Tibet, is one of the clearest signs that a global warming in the last 50 years appears to have exceeded typical climate shifts."
The environazis are actually partially correct here. People are in a way contributing to the melting of the snow cap, but not by producing CO2, the dreaded carbon dioxide of footprint fame. The people living around the mountain have for several decades, been chopping down the trees and burning the savanna for farming and modern development. This natural flora had provided a watershed storage system that was evaporated in the hot African sun and rose to the heights of the mountain where it regularly fell as snow. Without the watershed, there is no snow even though the temperatures on the mountain remain very cold to below freezing.
For those who like numbers and graphs - oooooo, graaaaaphs - The World Climate Report has them and a better explanation of the process in a post entitled, "Back to Africa: Kilimanjaro Update".
This year, the bare naked mountain is a tourist draw for the wheelchair equipped. In June 2009, Paraplegic Superstar, Winter and Summer Paralympian, ex-Alpine Ski World Champion, Chris Waddel will make an attempt to reach the summit of Africa's highest peak.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.