So wow, river piracy recently happened. The Slims River’s water source (glacial meltwater) was cut off due to accelerated melting of the Kaskawulsh glacier, tipping the gradient in favor of the Kaskawulsh river that flows south into the Gulf of Alaska.
[ I first got wind of it over on Art Bell’s website – midnight in the desert is great weird entertainment at 2am! – so I had to check and verify its accuracy. ]
It seems to be an epic example of the catastrophic. It backs up the vision of the world as full of sudden, cataclysmic ruptures. Graudalism is a given but not without punctuated events.
Now the change in the river will effect the entire surrounding environment. Granted, river piracy has happened before – it is traceable in the geologic record – but this is the first time such an event has happened during recorded history, and furthermore the variables tossed into the mix entwine and implicate the anthropos. It is an example of the entanglement of the anthropocene: the acceleration of the technologies (which brought carbon emissions and which in turn has brought an accelerated melting of glacier masses) is entangled up with the geologic scale.
It is an example of mark making on a continental scale.
Further, the dark part of my imagination can only leave me horrified at the possibilities of river piracy elsewhere, for example in the Himalayas where India’s rivers begin, which if they were to be affected could place millions of fellow humans and animals at risk.
It leaves me hoping that the Slims is a fluke – the Slims flowed north for a millennia, perhaps the catastrophe is once in a millennia? But that is wishful thinking, isn’t it? It also leaves me unimpressed with gradualism models because the gradual does not take into account the speeding up of processes. Everything is accelerating, including the potential for geologic cataclysms.