Belmont Club

Jews or Jaws?

A recent spate of shark attacks on tourists at Egypt’s Sharm El-sheik resort has been blamed on Israel. “Egypt’s Governor of southern Sinai said: ‘We must not discount the possibility that Mossad threw the shark into the sea, in order to attack tourists who are having fun in Sharm al-Sheikh.’” But the Guardian thinks another plausible villain is to blame: the destruction of the environment.

A deadly combination of overfishing, illegal waste dumping and irresponsible tourist behaviour was responsible for triggering Egypt’s recent shark attacks, according to the preliminary findings of scientists investigating the tourism disaster.

I’ll buy that. Especially now that the United Nations has warned of perils to mankind being unleashed from melting glaciers. “Donald Cooper, of the United Nations Environment Programme which published the report at the UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, said melting glaciers and ice sheets were releasing POPs trapped years ago into the air and seas. … Scientists are concerned about Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, because they last decades in the environment and accumulate in body tissue.”

Extreme weather events – such as this year’s devastating Pakistan floods – were releasing banned pollutants which been stockpiled ready to be destroyed. And higher temperatures were likely to increase the spread of malaria – and increase the use of sprays such as DDT which are harmful to people. …

Achim Steiner, the executive director of UNEP said freak weather events were releasing stockpiles of dangerous pesticides and other pollutants. ‘The increasing frequency and severity of tropical cyclones and flood events are increasingly putting at risk stockpiles containing thousands of metric tonnes of obsolete POPs pesticides,’ he said.

The need to blame misfortunes on someone or something has been around for a long time. Some causes are old standbys. The Black Plague in Europe was blamed on pretty much the same causes that the Egyptian officials and the Guardian came up with: climate change and the Jews. “Because 14th century healers were at a loss to explain the cause, Europeans turned to astrological forces, earthquakes, and the poisoning of wells by Jews as possible reasons for the plague’s emergence.”

We imagine ouselves as living in an enlightened age. But perhaps we are not so different from our forebears. People find it uncomfortable to live in a universe without cause and effect. Perhaps man will always try to propitiate his gods, whether he worships Baal or History. Instead of burning witches, we have learned to be scientific and only gas certain groups of people. In place of Moloch to which infants were sacrificed, we have well … never mind. Is there a common, some would say inherent, tendency to find a scapegoat for anything that happens? During the 50s, people living in the shadow of the Cold War learned that nothing was more exciting than threats to mankind emerging from melting glaciers unleashed by the forces of the Atom.  But those were innocent times. We sophisticates would not be so naiive as to fear raging dinosaurs from the dawn of time and know that for real danger, it is better to await the next release of Wikileaks, which according to the Straits Times contains references to UFOs.

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Link to Wretchard’s novel “No Way In” print edition
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