Thursday, August 22, 2013

Floods and Other Furies of Nature -- Past, Present and Future

August always brings out the worst in us – and in Nature, as well.

After bad and sad news of Senate pork-barrel misuse (tax money improperly used) and two ships colliding in Cebu (radar and eyes unused), comes Habagat (southwest monsoons) pouring torrential rains over a big part of Luzon. Along with the seething hearts of the masses, ready to pounce on the malefactors in the halls of Senate come Monday, are the thunderstorms and driving rains bringing floods in the most populated areas of the country.

Why? So many reasons have been given for these phenomena.

But the primary reasons are: first, because we humans are corrupt and, second, because our corruption has also corrupted Nature, which now includes part of what we have made of Nature that it is now – mainly, Human-Made Nature. Let us explain.

We will not deal with greed (the Bible calls it “love” because people love to love) for money because we know it is the root of all evil. Otherwise, we will end this article right here. Let us talk about how we have transformed Nature into a monster of our own making.

Sure, there were floods even before the Spaniards came to colonize us, just as there were earthquakes and tsunamis even before anyone sailed into these islands when only the Aetas dwelt here. Which brings me to my theory that an ancient gigantic tsunami(s) once hit and transformed the western coastal areas of Bataan, Cavite and Northern Batangas into what they are now. A comparison of their geologic and topographic characteristics will show evidences of giant waves having carved out possibly once-linear coastal areas into irregular, cove-marked (or pock-marked, as if it were the profile of a human face eaten by acnes) geologic features.

Evidently, periodic, gentle and even strong waves churning for centuries could not produce such formations. Only a cataclysmic, once-in-a-millennium phenomenon could produce them. Compare the before-and-after photos of Banda Aceh during the killer tsunami that hit in 2004 and you will see the uncanny similarities with the coastal features of Cavite and Batangas.

Figure 1 – Banda Aceh, Indonesia, before and after the killer tsunami in 2004. Notice the upper coastline after the tsunami hit and compare with the existing coastlines of Bataan, Cavite and Batangas facing the Western Philippines Sea (below). These formations appear to have been formed by similar catastrophic forces produced by tsunamis. Interior coastlines, in general, do not show such geologic features.

Figure 2 – Bataan’s coastline facing the Western Philippine Sea, near the mouth of Manila Bay (to the right).

Figure 3 – Western coastline of Cavite and Batangas exhibiting the same features as Bataan above.

If this is a geological and historical fact, then it means the prospect of another super-giant tsunami hitting in the present or the not-so-distant future will not only transform those areas again but will also flood and destroy the whole densely-populated National Capital Region, including Metro Manila, in the likes of a Great Flood disaster or catastrophe.

For sure, the sufferings we are going through would be nothing compared to what could happen if such a humongous tsunami hits. The only way NCR can survive such a cataclysmic event is to build a structure across the mouth of Manila Bay that can dissipate any tsunami coming from the open sea. This structure can serve both as a defensive wall against waves and as a highway that will link Cavite with Bataan.

The petty complaints we now raise against our lack of planning, foresight and prudent management of our environment will pale in magnitude to our failure to heed the warnings of Heaven against our corrupt ways, the same reasons that brought about Noah’s crisis.

We all suffer, whether we live righteously or not, in a country that is run by people who fail to abide by the standards of upright and moral governance. Denuding our forests, wasting our resources, destroying our environment and pillaging people’s lands and their rights have brought about this unstoppable descent into chaos in many areas.

Whereas Mother Nature has carved for us the land to teach us how she receives, holds, uses and conveys water back to the ocean to recycle it again, we have stopped her from receiving, holding, using and conveying the water as she has taught us, through our myopic or blind ways of treating the environment.

Hence, instead of keeping our rivers free, deep, wide and stable enough to take into consideration the growth of population, we have clogged, constricted and weakened them by our wanton “progressive” ways. All because Mammon has some of his insatiable minions living in these parts. And so, instead of working with Nature, we have sidelined her and forgotten that she is the mother of us all and the best mentor, provider and sustainer of our lives.

When Nature gives us warnings, small and great, do we cease and heed? Do we do something about what ails her and what causes her to whimper or to growl? For when she cries, we all weep with her. When she gets angry, we all suffer and even die. Beware when Nature strikes and finally takes revenge against our indifference and our recalcitrance! We may escape a tsunami using technology, and, perhaps, a monstrous earthquake. But how do we escape fire coming from a meteor hurled down by the Great Pitcher in the sky?

Bottom of the last inning, bases are full. . . and the slo-mo swing of the bat goes underway. . . . Can you make it home or not? Is Jesus batting for you or are you proudly playing your own losing game?

Be thankful that God, through Nature, gives us small warnings and small sufferings now. They could be our preparation for greater tribulation and ultimate judgment. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. No, to be wise is definitely better than to be foolish; to be upright and alive better than to be crooked and dead.

We know who and what we are, individually and collectively. God does. What we do about it, God responds accordingly, as He does now and forever.

Forever is a scary word. But the shameless are never scared. They love death. No, they are greedy even of their festering, death-smelling riches that fill their bottomless pockets and their numerous mansions, amassed through the hard labor of the dying people and of grieving Nature.

Note in the wake of Supertyphoon Yolanda:

The storm surge reported to have hit Manila Bay in September 2011 and reported to have reached 20 feet, may have been misrepresented, the way I see it. It could have been the height of the wave that breached the sea wall. Otherwise, such a storm surge with that height would have flooded and overwhelmed such areas as Luneta Park or Manila Hotel which are very close to the bay, an occurrence which never transpired.

My theory is this: Manila Bay, being limited in area compared to the size of Leyte Gulf and because of the lower typhoon wind velocity generated by the September 2011 typhoon, suffered a storm surge with a limited volume of water that did minimum damage. With slower winds and smaller sea surface area, a typhoon can produce friction and/or transfer kinetic energy to a smaller degree compared to one with the magnitude of Yolanda over Leyte Gulf. And with the configuration of Leyte Gulf (see Photo below), we can readily see that it serves as a natural funnel for sea waters to collect in and wedge into Tacloban City which lies right at the focal point of that funnel.

But what if a supertyphoon hits Manila Bay? Obviously, its geographic location is one also prone to storm surges that could be disastrous. Hence, tsunami or storm surges, some kind of protection is called for.