Wednesday, July 20, 2011

While everyone's on holiday: Ghosts of the past, crises of the present and warnings for the future

From the distant and near past

The Washington Post reports Oil leaks from 233 World War II shipwrecks could threaten US coast as vessels corrode.
oil and fuel leaks could devastate coastal communities and environments. NOAA is taking an inventory of more than 30,000 coastal shipwrecks. It has narrowed the worst-threat list to 233 vessels. That could lead to efforts to remove oil before it washes ashore.

"The number of birds [migrating
through Afghanistan] has dropped by 85 percent."
Others are in shock staring at the Staggering Price Tag for Iraq, Afghanistan Wars.

a just-released, far-reaching study estimating the cost of these wars to the United States at $4 trillion. [...] since September 11, 2001, the wars have claimed the lives of 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,300 contractors, and the number of displaced Afghans and Iraqis is eight million.
Currently hunger devastates East Africa

Aid organizations complain donations suffer from people being on vacation while the disaster has many under-reported consequences. One such is that the Refugee crisis threatens wildlife in northern Kenya.

“The influx of refugees is not only degrading the environment due to demand for firewood for cooking and building shelters but those that have not enlisted in the camps are relying on game meat for food.”
 -  Thomas Mailu, The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)
Meanwhile in Nairobi Kenyan Police Fire Tear Gas at Food Protest, which happen as a consequence of the drought too, and fuel prices, which, of course, is linked to world market whims.

From this corner of the world aid agencies advise the Drought in east Africa the result of climate change and conflict. We told you so. And Kenya's own Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate (whose speech at Copenhagen University I blogged recently), similarly calls for action on climate change:
"Here in Africa, we are paying a high price for a rapidly changing climate - more droughts, food crises and it is set only to get worse.  We can see how climate change is already aggravating the competition for resources and the economic stability all over this continent. [...] Many of our countries have experienced decades of environmental mismanagement or outright neglect. Indeed, some governments-including my own-have facilitated the plunder of the forests, the degradation of the land and unsustainable agricultural practices. Many communities in Africa are already threatened by the negative impacts of climate change. Children in Africa are dying from malnutrition as women struggle to farm on land that is less and less productive.  People on coastlines are losing their homes as the seas consume the coastlines."
Just signs of the decline?

Like we have to pay on environmental and financial debts of past wars even as current wars and environmental decline unfold and worsen, so too can we expect history to repeat itself. Soon both demand and supply of the basic building blocks of society will fundamentally change

Read, for example, Michael Klare's recent article Energy: the new thirty years' war or the interview with him, The new 30 Years War: Why energy will be the next battlefield.
"The struggle for energy resources is guaranteed to grow ever more intense for a simple reason: there is no way the existing energy system can satisfy the world’s future requirements."
He's talking about a thirty years 'war' between energy sources and the powers that wield them, not a world war. But clearly a war that will weaken some states, empower others. Regarding water, the Wall Street Journal is even more worried: Water Wars May Lie Ahead.
The World Bank in a report said that 1.4 million people could be facing water scarcity by 2025. But the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast is even more gloomy. It estimates that 47% of the world’s population could face water stress in the same period–equivalent to more than three billion people. [...] Egypt and Ethiopia have been battling the issue for the share of the Nile’s water reserves, and Israel–already fighting Palestine for territory that includes precious water reserves–has started to charge the agricultural sector high rates for using the resource.



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