The images and news reports from Chihuahua, New Mexico and Texas were gripping. Last week's sub-zero temperatures grew sheets of ice on the walls of unheated homes. Water lines froze and burst, wells clammed up, natural gas shortages left towns without heat and the normal functioning of schools, business and factory production was thrown into chaos. On both sides of the US-Mexico border, governors issued disaster declarations and troops were called out to assist with emergency relief.
"We can call this historic", said Dave Novlan, meterologist for the National Weather Service in the border town of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
In neighboring Ciudad Juarez, a city already battered to the bone by extreme criminal violence and economic crisis, 90,000 families were reported without water the first weekend of February. Next door, in El Paso, Texas, the city water utility took the extreme step of ordering residents not to shower, wash cars and clothes and otherwise restrict water usage until further notice.
In Aldama, Chihuahua, nearly three dozen animals-parrots, snakes, crocodiles and a monkey-froze to death at a private zoo, while the epic freeze was suspected in the death of a $30,000 giraffe at a zoo in Clovis, New Mexico.
Across the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, at least 19 people were reported dead from cold weather-related incidents by February 3, even before the temperatures took more turns downward. By the end of the first week of February, four additional victims were reported in the state of Tamaulipas, which also borders Texas.
Of the 19 Chihuahua victims, nine reportedly succumbed from carbon monoxide poisoining, six from hypothermia and four from burns. In a non-lethal fire, Ciudad Juarez firemen unable to overcome frozen water lines were forced to watch the historic building housing the Lion's Club burn down.
Earlier, in January, a broad swath of northern and central Mexico shivered in the cold. Even in the tropical port of Puerto Vallarta, where thousands of Canadian and US "snowbirds" pass the winter along with migratory humpback whales every year, unusually low nightly temperatures had residents and visitors snuggling up in sweaters and coats.
In northwestern Mexico, more than 1.3 million acres of grain, vegetable and fruit crops were reportedly damaged or destroyed in the most recent bout of extra cold weather. One farmer assessed the situation as a "total loss."
Mexico's Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries counts on an additional $100 million in disaster compensation funds this year. The federal agency considers Mexico among the most vulnerable nations to impacts from climate change in the Americas.
But Mexico's potential crop losses came at a time when a kilo of staple corn tortillas was already fetching ten or more pesos, or one-fifth the amount of the daily minimum wage. In 2011, some economists warn of further rising food prices in the months ahead.
Probing slightly beyond the emergency nature of the extreme weather, which by most accounts was the most severe spell since the 1950s or 1960s, some mass media outlets spoke about an archaic infrastructure or the inability of the New Mexico Gas Company, for example, to supply enough energy to freezing residents, 32,000 of whom were stranded without gas heat for days on end.
But almost without fail, US and Mexican media coverage had one thing in common: no mention of how human-induced climate change might be responsible for the Deep Freeze of 2011.
The climate change omission extended into government and business circles. Annette Gardinier, New Mexico Gas Company president, insisted the freeze was a "50-year weather event" not experienced since 1971 and 1911, and an emergency situation of similar magnitude was "unlikey" to happen again.
In an Internet article, however, Santa Fe resident Subhangar Banerjee noted the link between Artic warming and the predictions of climate scientists of "more frequent and severe intensity winter storms" arising from "human made climate change."
Banerjee also cited other evidence of climate change in New Mexico, including the massive die-off of pinon trees since the turn of the century, and the record high temperatures of 100 degrees that were registered in the normally cool state capital of Santa Fe last June and July. In contrast, February temperatures in Santa Fe plunged to -40 with the wind chill factor thrown in, according to Banerjee.
"Crazy February" arrived just as Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mi) rolled out legislation to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change by the world's leading scientists.
Federal officials urged residents of New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma to have an emergency kit ready and stay on the alert for advisories from the authorities.
To read the entire article, clic here, then "Environment."
© Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
For a free electronic subscription email: fnsnews AT nmsu DOT edu
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The same week comes this headline. Draw your own conclusions:
He want to "drop funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by about $3 billion."
During "one of the most brutal winters in history."
[To read the entire article, click here.]
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NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
LITERATURE FELLOWSHIPS: CREATIVE WRITING
Targeted Fields: Humanities. Open to fields related to creative writing.
Open To Postdoctoral Scholars.
Open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
You are eligible to apply for Fiction if within the last 5 years you have published: at least 5 different works of short fiction, a volume of short fiction, or a novel or novella. You are eligible to apply in Creative Nonfiction if within the last 5 years you have published: at least five different creative essay, or a volume of creative fiction. You are eligible to apply in Poetry if within the last 5 years you have published: a volume of 48 or more pages of poetry, 20 or more different poems in five or more literary publications.
Stipends of $25,000. Deadline 3/3/2011
Several fellowships are offered to creative writers to interpret, explore, and create fiction and creative nonfiction works. Fellowships allow recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement.
For more information
Literature Fellowships: Creative Writing
National Endowment for the Arts
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20506-0001
submitted by: Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D.