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Syrious Situation 25/11/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, History, Long Emergency, Mundane.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Twin Cities ephemera: Last week’s rains (nearly two inches) and the hard freeze that followed brought the year’s organic growth to a halt. The blue-star-flowered borage plants which had weathered several light frosts finally collapsed. The leaves of the transplanted Good King Henry and lovage withered and disintegrated, along with the juicy and stringy leaves of comfrey.

The rich, dark color of the beet leaves remained, though they had gone sadly floppy. It was time, yesterday, to dig them and the carrots out of the ground; time, too, to take the last of the broccoli florets off their stems.

It was a most remarkable growing season: a relatively cool summer and warm fall, with rains coming as and when needed, with many pleasant days and few incidents of violent weather. Local meteorologists have been calling this a rare and wonderful weather year.

Before the final digging, it seemed appropriate to visit Indian Mounds Park. There, the bones of ancient ancestors, within the mounds behind the camera, watch over a recent memorial as the cyclical waters of the Mississippi River flow along a great arc past the city of St. Paul.


It’s hard to imagine how or when the situation in Syria could improve, as years of unrelenting woe grind that nation to dust.

The first generally noticed hints of trouble were the mass protests that came in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. (The Syrian Day of Rage was 15 March 2011.) By April a peaceful demonstration by tens of thousands was met with bullets. By mid-May the U.S. was applying economic sanctions. By mid-August, security forces herded thousands into a stadium in the port city of Latakia and confiscated their identity cards and cell phones.

The situation deteriorated so severely that by mid-summer 2012 the International Committee of the Red Cross declared that a state of civil war existed.

The next severity clue was reports of a chemical weapons attack (using the nerve agent sarin) on a civilian sector of Damascus on 21 August 2013: two months after the official start of U.S. arms shipments to rebel groups. By then, the war had claimed over 100,000 lives.

In recent weeks, Russia has entered the fray, only to see a planeload of its citizens crash in flames: destroyed by an onboard bomb. And France’s involvement has been repaid with well-planned attacks in the heart of Paris.

And the refugees: They had only spilled over into neighboring country. Now, four-and-a-half years since the eruption, just about everyone knows about the flood of Syrian refugees overflowing western Europe and generating domestic U.S. political controversy.

But what actually triggered such a tragedy? For months now, more and more reports are pointing to drought–beginning in 2006 but particularly severe in 2007-08–as a major factor. Crops failed and farm families abandoned the countryside, adding their dire needs to the already-crowded cities. And the country would need to buy much more food abroad.

Plus there’s the oil factor. Oil? you say — in Syria? Well, yes. Syria was never more than a minor producer for the world market, but the revenues formed a large portion of the national budget: 25% in 2010, fifteen years after peak production.

More crucially, as Ugo Bardi points out in his article, “What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Will Take Away”

“Around 2011, the internal consumption curve crossed the production curve and that transformed the country from an oil exporter to an oil importer. The cross-over point corresponded to the start of the civil war.”

The path has been downhill ever since, as financial / material / social resources have been diverted from the life of the country to uses conjuring only more chaos.

Astrologically, the turning is strongly represented in a comparison of the 1 January 1944 chart for the Syrian state with the solar return chart of 31 December 2009. In a general sense, the 1944 chart shows many buried or deferred issues — stemming from military occupation and the artificial boundaries imposed on the region by the Western colonial powers Britain and France several decades earlier — symbolized by five planets (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus) in retrograde motion.

That a crisis was at hand as 2009 turned to 2010 was readily apparent: The solar return took place on the date of a lunar eclipse, just weeks after the world’s top political figures met in Copenhagen and decided to do nothing about the deepening climate crisis.


That it would become a military crisis for Syria is aptly represented in the solar return (not shown) at the end of 2010: The Sun (symbolizing the state and its head) was besieged by Mars (war) and Pluto (utter destruction / transformation).

The underlying economic troubles at that point were symbolized by Venus’ conjunction (along with the Moon) with Venus’ place in the 1944 chart. (Both Moon and Venus are “debilitated” in the sign of Scorpio, but there’s no need for a lengthy discussion of astro-philosophy here.) With transiting Neptune in the mix, triggering 1944 Venus and Jupiter, the unraveling of an already precarious economic situation was in the cards.

The religious schism within Islam, yet another factor in the Syrian situation, stems from the murder of the caliph Ali, nephew and son-in-law of Mohammed, in January 661. (Ali’s followers came to be called Shiites, from the Arabic shi’at Ali, or “taking the part of Ali.”) The chart (below) for the sighting of the crescent Moon following that event represents a most potent persistence. The Sun with Uranus indicates the division itself, while Saturn (with Neptune) opposing Jupiter and Pluto indicates the intractable religiously-based political power blocs — a very rare overlapping of long cycles. Mars, in “domicile” in Aries, shows the force of war unleashed.

Sunni - Shiite schism

It is grimly fitting that the major configuration of the year 661 drops like a puzzle piece into the 1944 Syria chart: the part correlating with the precarious economy.

It serves as a reminder that the limits to growth cannot be denied, that when a society’s energy requirements fall short, historic cultural forces overwhelm the polity.




1. Mary Louise Turner - 04/12/2015

Very interesting and insightful! It wasn’t a very cheery posting, but I prefer the truth. Sounds like all the happenings of today have always been in the stars. I love how far back you tracked it to today. Kind of blows you away how the stars leave bread crumbs. Is Syria’s drought ending anytime soon? Maybe it won’t matter with war already in motion. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing.

2. zoidion - 06/12/2015

It’s not clear to me whether the drought there has eased at all or significantly. The typical rainy season is November to April. (See just-published New Yorker piece: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/07/unsafe-climates )

Alas, the Middle East is just one region severely stressed by drought related to human activity, leading to migration and conflict.

Another is the Lake Chad region of central Africa: “home” to the Boko Haram terror group. “Overgrazing of the savanna is one of the biggest factors in the shrinking of the lake,” according to the National Geographic. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/04/0426_lakechadshrinks.html

And there’s considerable evidence that decades of ecological destruction in the Amazon River basin is related to the long-term drought that now poses an existential threat to the megalopolis of Sao Paolo, Brazil. “Scientists in Brazil believe the loss of billions of liters of water released as vapour clouds by Amazon rainforest trees is the result of continuing deforestation and climate change – leading to devastating drought.” And: “Many of the area’s 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security.” http://www.climatecentral.org/news/drought-takes-hold-as-amazons-flying-rivers-disappear-18097 (Meanwhile, frenetic preparations are underway for Rio de Janeiro’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games.)

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