Friday, July 29, 2011

Watch FUEL

Director Josh Tickell takes us along for his 11 year journey around the world to find solutions to America's addiction to oil. A shrinking economy, a failing auto industry, rampant unemployment, an out-of-control national debt, and an insatiable demand for energy weigh heavily on all of us. Fuel shows us the way out of the mess we're in by explaining how to replace every drop of oil we now use, while creating green jobs and keeping our money here at home. The film never dwells on the negative, but instead shows us the easy solutions already within our reach.
- summary at

FUEL won the audience award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, in 2009 it was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in 'Best Documentary Screenplay' category and it has also won a handful of minor awards.

More at Wikipedia and the official site.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

UN Security Council concerned climate change may aggravate threats to peace

On the initiative of small island states, Germany, Britain, the US and other members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) climate change was this week linked to conflict. Steiner and Ki-moon testified to the rationale:
"There can be little doubt today that climate change has potentially far-reaching implications for global stability and security in economic, social and environmental terms which will increasingly transcend the capacity of individual nation states to manage. [...] Competition over scarce water and land, exacerbated by regional changes in climate, are already a key factor in local-level conflicts in Darfur, the Central African Republic, northern Kenya, and Chad, for example-when livelihoods are threatened by declining natural resources, people either innovate, flee or can be brought into conflict. [...] In total, 145 countries share one or more international river basins. Changes in water flows, amplified by climate change, could be a major source of tension between states, especially those that lack the capacity for co-management and cooperation."
- Achim Steiner, UNEP addressing the UNSC
"Extreme weather events continue to grow more frequent and intense in rich and poor countries alike, not only devastating lives, but also infrastructure, institutions, and budgets - an unholy brew which can create dangerous security vacuums."
- Ban Ki-moon, UN
The key sections of the agreed upon statement:
The Security Council expresses its concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security.

The Security Council expresses its concern that possible security implications of loss of territory of some States caused by sea-level-rise may arise, in particular in small low-lying island states.

- United Nations Security Council statement July 20th, 2011.

Al Jazeera has produced a 25 minute program on the subject including a quite long discussion between three experts: Sabrina Chesterman, a climate change consultant based in South Africa; Tobias Seakin, a senior research fellow and the director of National Security and Resilience; and Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow with the Energy, Environment and Development Programme.

The statement faced opposition and required amendments to pass the vote. What should be obvious to anyone following these issues, Russia, India and China raised skeptic voices against. Notice the strong rhetoric:
"It [climate change] is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or terrorism... neither have ever led to the disappearance of an entire nation, though that is what we are confronted with today... I often wonder where we would be if the roles were reversed. What if the pollution coming from our island nations was threatening the very existence of the major emitters?"
- Marcus Stephen, President of Nauru
"We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They've asked this council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this council is saying, by its silence, in effect, 'Tough luck.' This is more than disappointing. It's pathetic. It's shortsighted, and frankly it's a dereliction of duty."
- Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations

Sources: / Full text of the UN Security Council Presidential Statement on climate change, Al Jazeera / Is climate change a global security threat?, Huffington Post / UN Council Connects Climate Change to Security, Barely, / UN official warns climate change could lead to conflicts over resources, Deutche Welle / UN says climate change threatens global security, FOX NEWS / Rice Lashes Out at Russia for Blocking U.N. Council From Tackling Climate Change.

I had a full page in a Danish newspaper this week

Page 18 of Dagbladet Information Thursday 21st of July 2011.

If you can read and understand Danish proceed to the original online version: / Økokrig – alle krige handler om naturens ressourcer. If you don't understand Danish you can try the Google Translate version.

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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ecowar 2.1

Don't panic, you're at Ecowar. I merely changed the good old custom tweaked and heavily bloated design for a fresh standard one.

I'm also trying out some new stuff. Some stories develop too fast for a one-man blog to follow. But on the new page Inside the wire, under the radar the job is done by 'the crowd' and me curating content using Keepstream. For now I'm doing a stream about the Spratly Islands but plan more (any suggestions?).

In somewhat related news, I also set up a Benno Hansen Weekly at Why? Well actually could be even smarter than Keepstream (comparing apples and oranges here) in that it does the job for you. If you sign up, it produces a "paper" for you based on which links the people you follow have been tweeting. Meaning, now I can check once a week and get an instant overview of what I "should" have been reading at Twitter (but perhaps didn't because it's almost impossible to keep up with). I'm trying to make it favor Ecowar related news.

Update: Due to popular demand the old background is back. It shows old barbed wire in Normandy with green grass and flowers underneath in stead of mud, blood and carcasses - White Flowers by Reid Gilman. Couldn't handle the grey overload and dystopia anyway :-)

White Flowers

Friday, July 08, 2011

Wangari Maathai: "If the rivers stop flowing, people will fight."

Wednesday the 6th of July 2011 Wangari Maathai received a honorary doctorate at Copenhagen University and spoke about her work with the Green Belt movement, the Taking Roots movie and more. Watch her speech, I recorded it for you:

[15:39] Protecting forests is extremely important [...] also very important for conflict [...] many of the local conflicts that we were having, especially in East Africa, [...] were being fed by competition over resources. Especially over land, [?], farming land, water, watering points [?]. And many of these conflicts are unavoidable unless we learn to manage the resources in a responsible way, in an accountable way and also we learn to share these resources in a more equitable way. Now, these are words, but when you translate them into practicalities on the ground it is actually [?] possible to stop people fighting. If there is no water and there is only one watering point people will fight over that watering point. If the rivers stop flowing [...] people will fight. And usually when people fight, that's when [the developed, rich world hear about the developing, 3rd world and begin to wonder] 'why are they fighting?'. Well they are fighting over resources because either those resources are degraded, they are diminished or they are exhausted or they are not being shared equitably.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Water Wars mapped, Ecowar Battlefields map updated

June 2011 both the British Guardian News and the Arab Al Jazeera published world maps of "water wars". My own Ecowars Battlefields map have been updated accordingly. Below I take a quick look at the main news and features of the two new maps.

Al Jazeera: Traditional map with pins at hotspots, links to stories
Essentially the same type of map I have been building but about water only. 

Inspired me to add Ecuador, Gaza and the West Bank (in stead of just Israel), Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan, Cambodia, the Senegal-Mauritania border and Kashmir. Lacks pins at Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and more.

Guardian News: Map colored by water stress level data imported from statistics sites
Bleeding edge Google technology you have to love.

Made me add pins in Namibia, Mauritania, Kuwait, Qatar, Djibouti, Botswana, Azerbaijan and modify about as many.

Ecowar Battlefields

I took the opportunity to update my own map with what the above contributions reminded me of. I begun differentiating between pins about countries (no dot) and specific geographical locations (dots); and between water (blue), energy (red) land (green), climate change (and/or related issues, purple) and "mixed bags of trouble" (yellow).

Still a work in progress, though. Suggestions appreciated!

In almost related news, you can vote for one of my (or someone elses) photographs at this National Geographic contest. Mine are from rural Kenya, shot in February 2011:

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