Kenya 2010: On the Edge




His words suggested images that I did not want to see...
“Their were bones and rotten carcasses scattered everywhere, and the indigenous Samburu were surviving on rations provided by the Kenyan government.” Francis, our guide, claimed that the Samburu people are normally rich with livestock, but today their cattle and goats are dead. The Ewaso Ng'iro River stopped flowing and the arid plains of northern Kenya were wasting away. 

Three rainless years have created a barren landscape dotted by abandoned villages and decimated wildlife populations. A feast for the scavenger, elephants and buffalo lied wasting away in the scorching sun. Life can adapt to an arid world, but when the predictable cannot be predicted, death is inevitable. While rains are infrequent in northern Kenya, this land and its inhabitants depend on seasonal precipitation to recharge the land. The Ewaso Ng'iro is the artery on which this ecosystem depends, in its absence the system will collapse.

It took three years, but the rain finally returned to Samburu National Reserve. What should have been cause for celebration became a tragedy throughout the park. The unseasonably heavy rain pounded the arid soils and failed to percolate into the packed ground. Water pooled and flowed across the landscape. Flash floods poured into swollen rivers, and devastated villages and lodges throughout the park. The riparian valley was reborn, but flooding now challenged its inhabitants. 

Ecological stability occurs when there is a balance in nature; a fragile equilibrium in a food web defined by the eaters and the eaten. An inherent requisite for this stasis is a degree of predictability. While plants cannot consciously anticipate the rains, they are the product of evolutionary forces across millennia. Genetically programmed to flower, grow, and die they have adapted to repetitive seasonal patterns. Life across the planet exists on this razor’s edge. When climate predictably defies the norm, adaptations may become liabilities.  Here in lies the challenge of our world’s climactic problems. 
Samburu National Reserve is a dry and unforgiving place. With only one major river, life depends on a single predictable pattern... rain falls every year. Buried in my prose is a painfully obvious lesson about life and our future. A little park in the middle of East Africa experiences a drought, death and devastation follows; meanwhile global climatic conditions become increasingly unpredictable. 
You can now write the conclusion... 

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