Monday, December 21, 2009

Fighting for fossils: the al-Fakkah oil field and West Virginian mountain tops

The United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) has just ended at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. Even while world leaders were discussing how to curb demand for fossil energy the fight for control of supply of them continued unabated.

On the Iran-Iraq border the two countries are moving troops around to impress each other. On Friday the 18th, when COP15 was scheduled to end, Iraq accused Iran of seizing the al-Fakkah oil well on disputed border territory. Saturday they sent troops. Early December Iraq signed contracts with Royal Dutch Shell and Petronas for the development of the 1.5 billion barrel oil field. (Iraq accuses Iran of seizing oil well near border, Iraq sends forces to oil well seized by Iran, Baghdad reclaims oil facility at al-Fakkah)

Although (technically) not in this conflict, the US army is worrying a great deal about it (Mullen: "Clock Now Running" on Iran).

At home the Americans are divided in the question about how far to go in the pursuit of their own fossil resources. Is removing mountain tops for coal going too far? Much too far, says environmentalists. A group called Climate Ground Zero has arranged more than 20 protests in which more than 100 activists have been arrested.

"Mountaintop-removal mining blasts away our souls, blasts away our communities, the souls of the workers who are doing the work and our cultural and natural heritage."
- Rev. Robin Blakeman, West Virginia minister and environmental activist.

"Treehuggers", says the miners. The mine operator, Massey Energy, equates being anti-coal with being anti-American. July 2009 I posted a YouTube video of miners harassing environmentalists (Workers of polluting and nature exploiting industries in violent attacks against environmentalists).

"Look out violence is coming your way. There is a group ready as we speak to eliminate the threat."
- "Superhippieslayer", anonymous online miner

"There's a possibility it might not be safe to live in the Coal River Valley"
- Chuck Nelson, activist and former underground miner

(Fear of violence grows in mountaintop mining fight, Religion shaping mountain-top removal debate in Appalachia coal country)

World Gas Prices by Don Hankins

(This article was cross-posted at TH!NK ABOUT IT.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"The Risk of Caution" by Joachim Spangenberg

The second of three videos: Dr. Joachim Spangenberg, Vice Chairman of the sustainable Europe Research Institute Germany e.V. (SERI), speaks at "Climate change and conflict - The Danger of future wars", Klimaforum09 Sunday the 13th of December 2009. The video is of the first half of his presentation only (the rest I got on audio only).

Joachim Spangenberg at Klimaforum09 from Benno Hansen on Vimeo.

"The greenhouse gas in the atmosphere cannot be convinced by political majority decision it should behave differently."

"There is no substitue for water, there is no substitue for soil, there is no substitue for biodiversity. Which means we are dealing with resources which are all threatened by climate change. [...] We are organizing a multi-threat attack on mankind - at the same time not building up our defense lines."

"Economic tells you that if something's not scarce it's not valuable. [...] Which means biodiversity, as long as it's plentiful, it has no value. And when we begin to lose it it becomes valuable. So maybe the best method to enhance the value of nature is destroying it?"

Jürgen Scheffran at Klimaforum09

I attended "Climate change and conflict - The Danger of future wars", Klimaforum09 Sunday the 13th of December 2009.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Scheffran, Institute for geography in the KlimaCampus at University Hamburg, Germany and The International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES) made the first presentation.

The event had an initial resource crisis: Too many spectators had showed up and in choosing between fighting over seats or exchanging the limited resource, the room, organizers fortunately chose the latter. Hence, the talk is also a bit chaotic (presentation projector starts 6 min into the talk, microphone 11 mins into it).

Jürgen Scheffran at Klimaforum09 from Benno Hansen on Vimeo.

"The essential simple assumption would [be to] think: more temperature, more conflict. It's not that simple if you look at previous data. [...] there was a drop of conflict with the end of The Cold War despite the fact there was temperature rise. You cannot make that simple link here. Because conflicts have many reasons, not just global warming."

"[We] have looked at major conflict constellations that may be relevant in the future. One is water, one is food, one is natural disasters [...] the fourth one is migration as a factor. These could contribute each of themselves but also in their combination."

"The final choice [...] the world is facing: Are we moving towards [...] more environment destruction, more instability and war - and the link between these two - or are we moving toward [...] sustainable development, emission reduction, peace and security, and the [...] links between peace, security and [...mumbles...sustainable development]?"

The talks had this description in the Klimaforum09 programme:
Climate change will create both floods and draught and force millions of poor people to flee their homes. The world will be short of the basic needs of human beings. We will experience more conflicts about farmland, water and food. According to UN, 20 million people were made homeless because of climate related disasters in 2008. We need solutions that are social and global just and responsible. We need the money used on weapons of mass destruction and warfare to be transferred to social and sustainable development.

Dr. Joachim Spangenberg, Germany and Prof. Dr. Claus Montonen Finland also spoke. I'll post some clips of them later.

They promised to put their presentations online and I'll link as soon as I see them.

Jürgen Scheffran is also the expert in the August, 2008 "Expert: Climate Change causes wars".

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Nnimmo Bassey: "Leave the oil in the soil, leave the coal in the hole"

The alternative to the official UN COP15 summit is called Klimaforum09 - free, open for all and packed with interesting speaks, workshops and exhibitions. It opened this Monday, the 7th of December, simultaneously with COP15.

The main attraction was, hands down, Naomi Klein. She is also getting the attention on the website so far: Last chance to save the world says Naomi Klein is basically the only new article there right now.

At least as inspiring as her was one Nnimmo Bassey whose speech I give you my recording of right away. Watch (well, listen) now. Very critical of COP15 this African is.

Activist and author Nnimmo Bassey was awarded a TIME Magazine Hero of the Environment 2009 award. Rather than being a climate change activist he's from a oil corporation vs. human rights background:

"Oil has been the destruction of the Nigerian economy. It destroys the relation between the people and the state."

As quoted from the TIME article. From the speech in the video:

"People say that crude oil is an easy and cheap form of energy. But it's not the truth. Crude oil may be cheap but only because people are not paying the price. If you see what is going on in the oil fields: The pollution, the degradation, the human rights abuses, the murders and the killings - I would like you to tell me how much one drop of oil should cost." (4:07)

I have previously blogged about Nigeria. It's one of the epicentres of climate change impact. We write about it, they got it: Deforestation and desertification (as mentioned briefly in the video speech), violence over oil and a life giving but drying out lake.

The other aspects of the opening ceremony included - besides Naomi Klein - one Henry Saragih and a percussionist playing on melting ice (yes!). Stay tuned for more!

(As you may have guessed, my visit to klimaforum09 was largely inspired by my participation in TH!NK ABOUT IT #2 about climate change. So, this video is cross posted at my column there.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Greenpeace chief: "civil disobedience appears to be the only way"

Watch Kumi Naidoo, the new executive director for Greenpeace International, address climate change in his "inauguration YouTube video":

"After several years in the anti-poverty movement I came to see how the struggles against poverty and the struggle to reverse catastrophic climate change are two sides of the same coin. All our different struggles are linked together."

That reminded me of my Blog Action Day 2008 post: Pollution, poverty, war, lights, camera... action!

"If we are able to understand the moment we live in and respond with the courage to create a green economy, to push for an energy revolution and to fundamentally ensure that we can share this planet in a more equitable way we can reverse the dangerous path that humanity has started on. [...] at a time where civil disobedience appears to be the only way we can actually push our governments Greenpeace's methodology offers us the most promise."

Found via Lara Smallman's Put Humans First at TH!NK.

Holy Water War continues

I have largely given up covering the Israel-Palestine strife over water. But I keep bookmarking stories at my Water of The Holy Land Diigo list. However, Al Jazeera just released this video:

"This policy is not a new policy, there are lots of examples of Israel trying to force Palestinians to leave their land so settlements can expand easily [...] This is an organised Israeli policy designed to prevent the development of the Palestinian economy - knowing that agriculture is a major sector within the economy."
- Nader al-Khateeb, Friends of the Earth in the Middle East

"This scarcity has affected every walk of life for Palestinians [...] A greater amount of water has to be granted to them."
- Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International

Sources: Palestinian farmers denied access to water in disputed West Bank, Amnesty: Israel withholds water from Palestinians.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I'm TH!NKing about climate change

As duly advertised I'm spending my time blogging about climate change and COP15 in a European Journalism Centre project called "TH!NK ABOUT IT". Thus, not a lot of updates here lately.

But ironically, this has caused some bookmarked stories to go nowhere as I haven't addressed conflict at TH!NK yet. Here is a couple. Later I'll round up some Ecowar at TH!NK, stay tuned.

Climate change could kill 250,000 children
Ouch! That's the kind of headline that makes even hardened bloggers like me ask for some less pathos. Dead children, very well.
over 900 million children in the next generation will be affected by water shortages and 160 million more children will be at risk of catching malaria – one of the biggest killers of children under five – as it spreads to new parts of the world.

Not that controversial. It's just a bit of math and the obvious observation that climate change will aggravate existing issues. But I don't know about the "spin value" of this story.

Fix climate change or else, say military top brass
"Environmental security and climate change in particular are now issues which threaten world security and peace," says Brigadier General Wendell King of the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Remind me to get my hands on the latest print of New Scientist.

International Alert Report: Climate change and conflict
The impact of climate change will make the poorest communities across the world poorer. Many of them are already affected by conflict and instability and thus face a dual risk. International Alert’s new research finds that the consequences of climate change will fuel violent conflict, which itself hinders the ability of governments and local communities to adapt to the pressures of climate change. We’ve identified 46 countries at risk of violent conflict and a further 56 facing a high risk of instability as a result of climate change.

Just sharing a handful of recent links. Will post much more at TH!NK soon, I promise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Video: NATO chief on security challenge from climate change

Climate change will have a significant impact on our overall security environment both in the south and in the north.

All of his examples have been detailed here at Ecowar. But he says two things: One, the solutions should be political, not military; and two, the military can contribute by lowering CO2 emissions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bloody Blog Action Day 2009

I did an Ecowar post for Blog Action Day 2008 on poverty but for the 2009 topic on climate change I ended up with a rant on the Danish (COP15 host) government: Something is rotten in the state of COP15 at TH!NK ABOUT IT. Perhaps I "should" have summed up the previous Ecowar and climate change stuff and cross posted. In stead I have scavenged the thousands of "BAD09" posts for something bloody.

The Ugly

First check out AgWired / Climate Change is BAD Topic - an agriculture news site proposed a boycott of BAD09 because of what they say is misinformation, quoting this:
Agricultural production around the world is responsible for nearly as much greenhouse gas emissions as all forms of transportation put together, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the food choices we make have a big impact on the climate

Misinformation? I don't know exactly about the transportation, but from my own recent Food and climate change - save or doom the world while eating:
Current trends in food choices point toward increased environmental effects [...] agriculture is the main source of the increase in atmospheric methane (~50%) and nitrous oxide (~60%)

The Bad

The boycott did not seem to be very effective anyway. In fact, a blog called "Farming First" eagerly posted Research Linking Climate-induced Conflict and Farming, basically a couple of selective quotes from The Economist / Climate change and warfare: Cool heads or heated conflicts?. Very interesting indeed.
a newly published study analysing the historical connection between war and climate throws into question the assumption that rising temperatures and violence go hand in hand [...] in the more remote past the effects of cold weather on harvests led to supply shortages, and that these increased the likelihood of people fighting over food and the land needed to produce it [...] the reason the relationship between warfare and cold vanishes in the mid-18th century is that this is the moment when the industrial revolution began.

So far, so good. Reminds me of the good old Zhang paper on historical Chinese data (see Climate change and conflict frequency). Their conclusion:
The lesson, rather, is that the way to minimise the likelihood of climate-induced conflict in the future is to continue the process of crop improvement (for example, by taking advantage of the potential of genetic engineering) so that heat- and drought-tolerant varieties are available; to make farmers aware of these new crops and encourage their use; and to promote free trade and non-agricultural economic development.

I'm sorry but that's a bit naive for me. Although not the type to entirely write off GMOs as part of the solution a couple of questions immediately comes to mind that The Economist fail to address. Such as: given the history of GMOs so far - mainly developed for high tech intensive farming - how do they see it improve to reach the 3rd world where the problems are? If industrialization caused climate change how exactly should more of it solve another problem caused by climate change in turn? Etc. Perhaps The Economist should read this BAD09 conrtibution: Food, famine and climate change – India’s scorched earth (about our various good ideas for India's agriculture).

The Good

BAD09 was hosted by (which also angered AgWired above, go figure). At least two of their regular blogs addressed conflict on BAD09: Humanitarian Relief / How Climate Change Causes Conflict and Stop Genocide / Conflict in the Age of Climate Change. They got a video an lots of links, check them out.

On for some real blogging: 100 Effects of Global Warming. Appears to be our "normal guy" copy/pasting a bit? Anyway...
People Are Dying
150,000: Number of people the World Health Organization estimates are killed by climate-change-related issues every year.
U.N.: As Dangerous As War
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this year that global warming poses as much of a threat to the world as war.
Genocide in Sudan
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon charges, “Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.

The Best

By far the best Blog Action Day contribution is Energy, climate change, and the indignant desert birds of willful self-destruction. Proof: It has an image of an army of marching penguins with machine guns. Oh, and it's also an original, analytical and well written article.
We cannot separate the energy crisis from the climate change crisis. In economic and environmental terms, both are two sides of the same coin. [...] global climate change is more than merely a technical or structural problem. It has deep historical and cultural roots and a system of unspoken values instilled from the beginning of civilization and passed from generation to generation.

Excellent but apart from mentioning the "wars for oil" this is what we get on conflict:
Vulnerable regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the island nations of the Pacific will face food and water shortages, catastrophic flooding, unprecedented refugee crises, religious conflict, and the spread of contagious diseases. These will demand massive humanitarian aid efforts and/or a military response

Of course I linked to that story here at Ecowar already in August ;-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The military - green or black?

Destroying the Environment Is Also a War Crime
[Throughout human history there have been] many deliberate acts to destroy or exploit the natural environment to achieve military goals. In the 5th century BC the retreating Scythians poisoned the water wells in an effort to slow the advancing Persian army. Roman troops razed the city of Carthage in 146 BC and poisoned the surrounding soil with salt to prevent its future cultivation. The American Civil War saw the widespread implementation of ’scorched earth’ policies.


At this moment the world is witnessing a continuing humanitarian and environmental catastrophe in the western region of Darfur in Sudan, which has seen the poisoning of water wells and drinking water installations as part of a deliberate government-supported strategy by the Janjaweed militia to eliminate or displace the ethnic black Africans living in that region.


environmental damage and exploitation is still largely regarded, as rape once was, as an 'unfortunate but inevitable' consequence of war. It is, of course, true that war and armed conflict are inherently destructive of the environment, but that is no reason to allow leaders to deliberately or recklessly target the environment in order to achieve their military goals.

Green Camo: Seeing Through the Military’s New Environmentalism
By the Pentagon's own figures, the U.S. military uses more fossil fuels than any other single entity. But the Pentagon's figures only take into consideration vehicle transport and facility maintenance. They don’t account for the energy needed to build something like the massive imperial embassy or mega-bases in Iraq or reconstruct the rest of the country. They also don’t factor in the energy used by related branches, like NASA, the nuclear industry, or the thousands of contractors that make or do things for the military.”

Yet the U.S. military isn't listed as one of the World Wildlife Fund's 'footprint issues'. Nor is it mentioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council or Sierra Club as the largest consumer of the 'dirty fuels' both lobby against.

Wendell Berry, who … spent most of his life linking issues of the environment to the many maladies of our society, once said that just as military violence is ignored by most conservationists, violence against the earth is a matter ignored by most pacifists. The antiwar and environmental movements must bond over this common enemy and see, as Berry put it, that we cannot hope to end violence against each other until we end our violence against the earth.

The Independent / Armies around the world go green to save fuel – and lives
You could, perhaps, call it the "military-ecological complex". For the world's most powerful armies are going green, trying to kickstart an environmental-technological revolution in civvy street in the process.


Half of [the US military] wartime casualties are sustained by convoys, which are mostly carrying fuel and are a favoured target for enemies. It estimates that every 1 per cent of fuel saved means 6,444 soldiers do not have to travel in a vulnerable convoy.

One simple innovation – insulating tents in Iraq and Afghanistan with a layer of hard foam, reducing the need to heat and cool them – has saved 100,000 gallons of fuel a day. The Pentagon aims to get a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. It is to buy 4,000 electric cars (the world's largest single order) for use on its bases, and is developing hybrid armoured vehicles for the battlefield.

It has saved fuel by cutting the weight of aircraft – removing floor mats, redundant tools, loading thick manuals on to laptops, and using lighter paint – and within seven years plans to fly them on a 50/50 blend of ordinary fuel and biofuel, probably made from algae.


Scientists hope that the massive spending power of the military will spin off environmental technologies into civilian life, as jet engines, microchips, and global positioning systems did in the past. "We can be a test bed for a lot of things that normally would not seem to make powerful economic sense," said the US Assistant Army Secretary, Keith Eastin.

Go green, army. Photography by jrseles.

Being the devils advocate for a second: If they did go to war to secure oil in the first place how ironic if the warfare itself will lead to less need for oil!

The above stories were found at Toban Black and The Unsuitablog. Thank you for blogging.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Our mobiles are bleeding

We don't want to think too much about it. But every time we buy a new gadget we support a mining industry of questionable ethics. In the case of the mines in eastern Congo it is extraordinary brutal.

In a time of desperate need for re-forestation to fight climate change, in Congo wide swaths of jungle have been cleared to make way for 15,000-25,000 poor boys and men working under slave-like conditions, living in tents on mud, guarded by "autonomous" army units, earning little while risking their lives. Although a violent environment the biggest killers are diseases and collapsing caves.

A movie about these mines, Blood in the Mobile, is in the works. The trailer is ready:

(If you haven't seen Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain at least watch the trailer for the music which is taken from that film. Beautiful!)

As they say:
"Different armed groups are fighting to gain control over the mine."

Furthermore, has a slideshow of 34 photographs: The Incredible Story of Conflict Mineral Mining in Images.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, scene of the deadliest conflict since World War II, remains mired in violence in significant part because of the international demand for electronic products that requires minerals found in the eastern Congo. The minerals mined here are used to make our iPhones, laptops and MP3 players, but at a great expense. Armed groups finance themselves through the illicit conflict mineral trade and fight over control of mines and taxation points inside Congo.

Congo is mentioned in the 100 Places to Remember project (see previous post). But it only concerns the deforestation of the precious original Itubi forest; home to the Mbuti pygmy people, endangered leopards, chimps, okapis etc. Deforestation not only removes essential carbon sinks it releases CO2 corresponding to about a fourth of the worlds fossil fuel use.

More: Official Blood in the Mobile website, Raise Hope for Congo.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100 Places to Remember - at least 8 of which are to die for

Having wandered through the exhibition at Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen and now also enjoyed the accompanying book of 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear I can't help but take note of a couple of them here.

Because the descriptions in some cases explicitly mentions conflicts. Granted: Many will change with potential drastic consequences. Be it because they become uninhabitable, hence sources of climate change induced migration, or become unsuited for agriculture, leading to loss of food production with all the negative consequences of that. Or because of any of the other potential negative changes. But most are "just" pretty spots that will change due to climate change.


In chronological order of the book, the spots that are related to conflict by the 100 Places project:

#11 The North Pole, Russia/Canada/Denmark

As the Arctic thaws resources of oil, gas and minerals become increasingly available for extraction. But whose resources are they?

#16 Tian Shan, Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan/China

The glaciers atop this mountain range provides the water for the breadbasket and powerhouse of Kazakhstan. But due to miniscule drops in precipitation through the last 50 years they have shrunk by 36% already. Climate change will most likely accelerate this drastically. Competition for the remaining water resources will intensify. Neighbours some seriously troubled regions.

#26 Lake Chad, Chad/Cameroon/Niger/Nigeria

This lake is basically an essential source of life in a very arid region of all more or less "failed states". Competition between tribes and nations already intensifying as the lake is drying up rapidly.

#30 Kalahari Desert

Also drying up even beyond what it already is this desert is the last refuge of the die hard San people. But climate change could be the final blow to their basis of existence.

#68 Bering Sea, Russia/USA

This sea is the source of some 2 billion US dollars worth of fishing shared by Russia and USA. But as the waters warm the ecosystem and biodiversity is changing completely. At the very least the fishermen will have to go elsewhere or catch different fish. The worst... well... will begin with trade negotiations, I assume.

#79 Kordofan, Sudan

We've all heard of Darfur. Over and over again. And I've pointed to the vicious cycles between environmental degradation. But I guess Darfur is no longer pretty enough for a photograph in a project like 100 Places? Anyway, Sudan also has a big forest of "hashab" trees (Latin: Acacia senegal) which is the source of the largest production of rubber in the world. But business is slow both because of the nearby Darfur trouble, drought and rising temperatures which has caused a severe decline in forestry productivity. When this region of Sudan also loses it's livelihood...

#84 Niger Delta

This is "all of the above". Beautiful nature, oil pollution, ethnic violence, mass poverty, multinational corporations, rising seas, increasing storms, decline in freshwater availability, increased diseases spreading... huge chance of migration.

#87 Amman, Jordan/Israel/others

Well it's in the Middle East. Historically ideal situation for a fertile capital. But now human over-use of water resources and climate change is lowering the water level of the Dead Sea by one meter per year because less and less water flows by the Jordan River. Agricultural land is turning into desert as you read this. A glance at a map and it becomes obvious this can become a very, very big problem.

All of the above issues will of course get intertwined with the other issues of some of the regions. Like the pipelines running through central Asia. The existing political and historical animosities between certain countries. Perhaps it's in the nick of time these photographs were exhibited. Soon the footage could be less pretty.

(This post is also posted as part of the TH!NK ABOUT IT #2 Climate Change blogging competition. Most of these places are also marked in my Ecowar Battlefields Google map.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate change: a multiplier for instability

As a participant in the TH!NK ABOUT IT Climate Change blogging competition I attended Monday's European Journalism Center conference in Bella Conference Center (venue of COP15 later this year). Among the speakers were Francois Roudié, Policy Coordinator of the European Commission. Very insightful and surprisingly willing to engage in open debate. One of his presentation slides more or less resembled an extract of my Ecowar Battlefields map (plus possibly a couple of details I need to pick up on!):

My apologies for the blurry image. From left to right the legend to the map is water scarcity (blue), demography (yellow), crop decline (green), hunger (brown), coastal risks (red lines) and recent conflicts (stars). Point being there is a correlation between areas marked with colours and location of stars.

Asked for a more precise quote Francois Roudié referred to "the Solana report" AKA CLIMATE CHANGE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY - Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council (PDF) (which he'd been involved in writing). I took note of several media reports on that report when it came out last year: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 / EU assessing climate change security risks.

From the introduction: "The risks posed by climate change are real and its impacts are already taking place. [...] Unmitigated climate change beyond 2ºC will lead to unprecedented security scenarios [...] Investment in mitigation to avoid such scenarios, as well as ways to adapt to the unavoidable should go hand in hand with addressing the international security threats created by climate change; both should be viewed as part of preventive security policy. [...] Climate change is best viewed as a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability. The core challenge is that climate change threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone. It is important to recognise that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature; they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests." Chapter two, "THREATS", first part is particularly interesting (here): Examples of climate change leading to Conflict over resources:
Reduction of arable land, widespread shortage of water, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts are already happening in many parts of the world. Climate change will alter rainfall patterns and further reduce available freshwater by as much as 20 to 30% in certain regions. A drop in agricultural productivity will lead to, or worsen, food-insecurity in least developed countries and an unsustainable increase in food prices across the board. Water shortage in particular has the potential to cause civil unrest [...] The overall effect is that climate change will fuel existing conflicts over depleting resources, especially where access to those resources is politicised.

The other speakers included Svend Olling, Head of Department of COP15 logistics who made the slightly provocative point that "greening" the conference is only (his) fourth priority - after showcasing energy technology, providing sufficient logistics for a good conference outcome and as first priority: security! (no world leader will be shot in an electric car.) And Mads Christensen, executive director of Greenpeace Nordic who ensured us all protests will be "completely non-violent, peaceful".

Please consider subscribing to the feed of posts submitted to the climate change blogging "competition". I have a good feeling about this project.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nuclear waste dumped in Mediterranean

They have somehow maintained a romantic image while running a business of world wide drug distribution, assassinations and assorted corruption. But no description is too demeaning for the latest crime committed by the Italian mafia.

Francesco Fonti, a former member of the Calabrian Mafia, has told of sinking ships loaded with radioactive and otherwise dangerous waste in the Mediterranean Sea. They thereby solved one of the biggest problems of the nuclear industry - getting rid of the waste - and made loads of money while doing it for about 20 years.

Italian authorities have now found and even filmed such a wreck with yellow barrels labeled for toxic content inside it. The full extent of the unspeakable environmental crime is still to be investigated.

The view is nice. But what is below the surface? Photo: Grace and Godbeams by Daveness_98, Creative Commons license.

Sources: BBC / Mafia 'sank ships of toxic waste' (with video), Reuters / Italy finds wreck of toxic waste ship sunk by mafia, Al Jazeera / Italian mafia 'sunk toxic waste', AP / Robot sub hunts toxic waste off Italian coast.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trouble brewing in dried-out India

Years of excessive use of water for irrigating fields, a drying trend from global warming, a record drought and astronomical scale pollution all adds up to trouble in India.

Harvests go down, farmer income the same direction, malnourishment and desperation up. So much according to The Star / India: Dying of thirst a family was murdered in a riot over water. (We need a -cide word somewhere between homi- and geno- for this!)

"We are running out of it, and crops are going to slow. We will see more hunger, more disputes and clashes. More theft."
- Naranjan Singh, a 63-year-old farmer

"In a decade, India could look like Darfur. You have people running out of water, and it's a recipe for killing. It really does make people desperate. You go without it for just three days and you've had it."
- Vandana Shiva, nuclear physicist and water activist

"Climate change is threatening our ecosystems, water scarcity is becoming a way of life and pollution is a growing threat to our health and habitat."
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Over-use of water is a problem that has created as the so-called "Green Revolution" of decades past sought to address other issues. Human caused depletion was confirmed by NASA satellites last month. (Source: NASA data shows groundwater trouble)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Another MUST SEE: Crude - The Real Price of Oil

Just saw HOME, still planning to see DIRT and now this, CRUDE. (Haven't these people heard of lower case letters?) Another 2009 film about environmental exploitation and the hidden costs of it; mostly poor and/or indigenous people abused by Western companies and consumers.

More at the official website, IMDb, Hollywood and Fine / Crude: The cost of social Darwinism, / Joe Berlinger's Crude New Film. From the reviews:
Crude [...] will be in the thick of the Oscar fight.

a heartbreaking and compellingly multifaceted epic about the so-called "Amazon Chernobyl" case

Part of this story was also told in an episode of the tv series Extreme Oil [IMDb].

Thursday, September 03, 2009

China: Thousands riot over sewage pollution

That Chinese economic development is taking place more rapidly than environmental protection is no secret. Air pollution in larger cites have been among the worst in the world for years.

But a sewage leak was what finally sparked unrest in one town where for at least two years insufficient industrial water treatment has darkened river water and probably caused otherwise inexplicable cancer cases. Somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 protesters clashed with 2,000 riot police leaving 10 injured and some property damage.

"The stench is awful. Nobody wants to buy our fish. We can't earn money. The fishing boats have been abandoned on the shore."
- Liu, local.

"Environmental quality is not satisfactory and environmental protection work is arduous."
- Zhou Shengxian, Environmental protection minister

Sources: New Tang Dynasty Television / 10,000 Clash with Police Over Sewage Pollution (with video), Guardian / Further anti-pollution riots break out in China, Telegraph / China riot: 10,000 villagers clash with police over industrial pollution

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

John Kerry: Climate change to cause conflict; how come deniers can stay in politics?

In a late evening soon to end brief spell of energetic RSS-feed checking ending a day of trying to sleep away a flu attack I find We Can't Ignore the Security Threat from Climate Change by John Kerry, US Senator, is a kind of follow-up and sum-up to the articles I posted Sunday, August 02, 2009: US Senators, military join chorus: Climate change is a security threat that leaves little to be misunderstood.

Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and -- yes -- even to American national security.

Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.


We don't know with certainty whether climate change pushed Darfur over the edge, but we do know that it will cause more tension just like we've seen in Darfur.

Once you accept the science, it's clear that such massive environmental change will create dislocation, destruction, chaos, and conflict.


Nowhere is the connection between climate and security more direct than in South Asia -- home to al Qaeda. Scientists now warn that the Himalayan glaciers which supply fresh water to a billion people in the region could disappear completely by 2035. Think about what this means: Water from the Himalayans flows through India and Pakistan. India's rivers are not only vital to its agriculture but are also critical to its religious practice. Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming to avoid famine.

At a moment when the U.S. government is scrambling to ratchet down tensions and preparing to invest billions of dollars to strengthen Pakistan's capacity to deliver for its people -- climate change could work so powerfully in the opposite direction.

Notice that I am adding the bold formatting to selected text. I chose what to quote here. This is not because I think those issues are the most important and pressing issues in the world. But they certainly are important and not least extremely underexposed by media. Plus it's simply the topic of this particular blog to highlight conflict-nature links. But I don't wish to put any judgement on what is more catastrophic: never ending civil war, mass extinctions, cataclysmic floodings or what ever else we'll see. Anyway, here's Kerrys best or most unique observation:

Unfortunately, not everyone in Washington appreciates the stakes. It's tragic that we live at a time when if one were to dismiss the threat of terrorism, you'd be sent home in the next election. But there are no similar political consequences if you dismiss the science or the threat of climate change.

Indeed, Kerry. We seem to have a major political dichotomy at our hands here.

Do yourself a favour and read the whole thing at Huffington Post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Borders of Switzerland moving around with melting glaciers

This is about neither war nor even a natural resource in demand. It's about a peaceful agreement over changes in nature: As climate change is melting the glaciers defining the borders of Switzerland the government is simply redrawing the European map in collaboration with Austria, Italy and France. Complete absence of trouble, it seems.

Today the Swiz parliament approved of one such move of the border (the AP story is found on several online media: Switzerland expands border into Italy as glaciers melt, Glaciers melt, Swiss get some territory from Italy; this one's a bit more detailed: Swiss Approve Measure to Redraw Italian Border Near Matterhorn).

But what if the melting glaciers had been the main water source of the neighbourhood? And what if Switzerland had been in less friendly relationships with their neighbours? Such conditions - unfortunately - are less common around the world.

"Elsewhere in the world you see a much more nationalistic attitude"
- Dr. Mark Zeitoun, Britain’s University of East Anglia

Namely the Himalayas are melting. This could lead to drastic changes and trouble. First of all an increase in Pakistani-Indian tensions. But ice is melting everywhere; faster and faster.

Arctic melt also leads to conflict as nations make their territorial pissings: armies of Denmark and Canada taking turns planting a flag and a bottle of booze on a icy rock next to Greenland, Russia planting a flag on the bottom of the Arctic sea.

See / Bordering on Chaos: Climate change melts lines drawn in ice.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Environmental Trouble = Political Trouble -- Missing pieces from Jared Diamonds 'Collapse'

I have mentioned Jared Diamond before - professor of geography and author of several outstanding books. But so far I haven't mentioned the most obvious: the illustration on page 497 of (my Penguin Books paperback edition of) Collapse there is an illustration of two world maps, one highlighting "Political Trouble Spots of the Modern World" the other "Environmental Trouble Spots of the Modern World". The message is, of course, that those two maps highlight exactly the same countries.

Some of these I have already written and/or linked to stories about: Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Philippines. So far I haven't blogged about Burundi, Madagascar, Nepal, Mongolia and Solomon Islands but these places are also marked on Diamonds map. What did I miss?

Catching up: Diamonds trouble spots

Burundi is on Diamonds map because it was involved in the Rwandan territorial dispute and overpopulation inspired genocide and seems to be in sort of the same situation. Solomon Islands is experiencing what some sources describe as the worst illegal logging in the world and so much corruption and violence of all sorts it is being called a "failed state". It has depended on Australia and New Zealand to intervene and restore some order. Basically consisting of rain forest and beach it is also rich in minerals but most live from fishing and subsistence farming.

The other three countries is in neither contents (chapter headlines) or index of the book. Weird. But Madagascar has experienced quite a bit of violence and struggle for control since its independence - including a period of military dictatorship and an coup d'état attempt November 2006 [Wikipedia]. It has a unique and rich ecology but is subject to massive deforestation due to both primitive agriculture, mining and logging. Don't forget corruption and poverty. Nepal we have all heard of, right? When the crown prince killed his parents the Queen and the King in 2001 from alleged love sickness. Now it's a young republic, still a biodiversity hotspot receiving many refugees from Bhutan, China and elsewhere. When Collapse was published it was still in civil war with a Maoist guerilla. Google quickly turned up Environment Assessment of Nepal – Emerging Issues and Challenges mentioning deforestation, hydropower income, melting glaciers and so on.

Regarding Mongolia I must be missing out on something. It's poor and basically a steppe with some mineral resources. But it seems to be enjoying rather peaceful relations with most countries.

That's all just from about half an hour of browsing Wikipedia and the CIA facts site.

Adding up: The World Map of Trouble

I gladly add the missing pieces you provide to my puzzle.

But Professor Diamond, why did you exclude Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Congo, Azerbaijan and many of the other countries featured on my Ecowar Battlefields map? My map is hardly Nobel Prize material - these conflicts and environmental issues are secret only to those who willingly close their eyes to them.

Vis The Ecowar battlefields på et større kort

In conclusions: Main issues and lessons

Jared Diamond seems to merely provide his map as an after thought, some left hand work. And it is only meant to underline one of many points of his book. Before reading this final chapter one has been painstakingly dragged through the major environmental and political convergences of known history. I'll just real quick sum up the main messages.

Deforestation, deforestation, deforestation. We never seem to learn though cutting down trees planting nothing in return has brought down many societies of our past. What we have erred in over and over throughout history we are now repeating on a global scale. People just can't seem to get into their heads that mankind is dependent on trees. Deforestation plus the fact that all the problems are linked, every corner of our ecosystem invaluable.

"Deforestation was a or the major factor in all of the collapses of past societies described in this book [that's Collapse ...] Other valuable natural habitats besides forests are also being destroyed. [...] But biodiversity losses of small inedible species often provokes the response, "Who cares?" [... But] Elimination of lots of lousy little species regularly causes big harmful consequences for humans, just as does randomly knocking out many of the lousy little rivets holding together an airplane."
[Collapse p. 488-489]

The problems are there and they are only growing in size. We can choose to ignore them for some time but sooner or later we will address them. But how?

"Thus, because we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustainable course, the world's environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. While all of those grim phenomena have been endemic to humanity throughout our history, their frequency increases with environmental degradation, population pressure, and the resulting poverty and political instability."
[Collapse p. 498]

If you don't have the book there is always the internet. Here are three Jared Diamond related articles, just for starters:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A US water conflict: Atlanta vs rural Georgia vs Florida

Created by the completion of a dam in 1956 Lake Sidney Lanier is a reservoir in the northern part of Georgia, USA. Just north of Atlanta it now supplies this city with about three fourths of its tap water. Now as water is less abundant and Atlanta has grown huge a two decade dispute over use of the reservoir water is heating up. A recent court ruling has taken authority from the Army Corps of Engineers to congress.

Atlanta is accused of being "overdeveloped", downstream farmers fear their crops will thirst and wilt, Florida is being blamed on their poor "environmental history". Could get interesting.

According to Robert Glennon, Professor of Law and Public Policy at University of Arizona this is far from a unique dispute. From press info on his most recent book:
The looming catastrophe remains hidden as government diverts supplies from one area to another to keep water flowing from the tap. But sooner rather than later, the shell game has to end. And when it does, shortages will threaten not only the environment, but every aspect of American life: we face shuttered power plants and jobless workers, decimated fi sheries and contaminated drinking water.

(My added emphasis.) July 16, 2009 Professor Glennon was on The Daily Show:

Sources: Lake Lanier at Wikipedia, Federal judge sends water war to Congress, Judge rules against Atlanta regional water wars, Daily Show this Thurs: Can Jon Stewart make the water crisis funny?.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

US Senators, military join chorus: Climate change is a security threat

Thursday a hearing in the US "Senate Environment and Public Works Committee" concluded climate change is a real (sic!), imminent and somewhat indirect "national security threat" as it will be heightening the intensity of conflicts abroad, create water shortages in some regions, crop failure, and cause environmentally displaced people to cross borders.

"There's a building base of evidence that global warming is contributing to much of the instability of the world today"

- Quote Senator John Warner (R-Va.)

"[Climate change] will place an avoidable and unacceptable burden on our young men and women in uniform now, and in generations to come"

- Quote Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn

Source: Talk Radio News Service / Climate Change a Threat To Nat’l Security Say Senators, The New York Times / Senate Democrats Tie Climate Effort to National Security.

This admiral is far from the first to call out this warning. His colleagues in the Turkish military did so two years ago feeling protective over their territorial water resources and worried about foreign land grabs. Plus we have it from Lord Stern, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC), international security experts, the European Union, Chinese scientists, the United Nations, another US researcher and probably a lot of people and institutions I missed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update: Azerbaijani oil & corruption

Just filling out a bit of a black hole of my coverage: oil and corruption in and around Azerbaijan. First, an American businessman is in trouble over bribing his way towards control over oil:

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog / Breaking: Jury Finds Frederic Bourke Guilty of Bribery-Related Charges
Frederic Bourke, a founder of the accessories firm Dooney & Bourke, guilty of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the travel act and making false statements to federal law-enforcement officials. The charges were related to a scheme to bribe Azerbaijan government officials in connection with the privatization of the State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan.

Village Voice / Azerbaijan Bribery Trial Features George Mitchell, Suitcases Stuffed with Money
Along with Viktor Kozeny, an investor buddy who was his neighbor at a ski residence in Aspen, Bourke schemed to pay millions to the government of Azerbaijan in order to gain control of the state-owned oil company there.

Second, bloggers are targeted by authorities:

Azerbaijan: Citizen media in defense of detained activists, bloggers
(They are being charged with hooliganism for being 'militant pacifist bloggers'!?!?)

Third, a chopper has crashed:

A case brought before court over SOCAR staff copter crash in Azeri part of Caspian Sea

All just from a Google search of recent news. I will not forget that region from now on, promise.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stealing sun and water

News in crime: theft of solar panels and fresh water is up.

March 2008 we saw people stealing bees, essentially a work force in horticulture up in demand and down in availability due to diseases. Lately I have seen stories about people stealing water and solar panels.

In fact, Treehuger / Solar Panel Theft is Rampant in California Wineries links to older stories about the trend and has tips on securing your panels! In New Mexico police busted a couple of criminals who seemed to have specialized in solar panel theft and dealing (see Solar panel theft ring busted in Farmington). Energy prices are up, solar panels are expensive, in demand and out there often not being watched and relatively easy to run off with.

Then there is water. Most obviously in need in poor, drought stricken areas, right. Like Kenya where a crime syndicate is diverting half the capitals water for farm irrigation. In the city water is now rationed and feared a possible source of disease. (See BBC / Nairobi water 'stolen for farms'.) But the truth is we need not go to the "third world" to see crime erupt over resources. As prices go up so does the incentive to "bend rules" a bit it seems. I'm sure this example of corruption - city workers tampering with water bills - is far from the first, the only or the last we'll see.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Workers of polluting and nature exploiting industries in violent attacks against environmentalists

Remember October 2008 when Old growth forest lumberjacks attack[ed] environmentalist protestors?

Now fishermen have assaulted Greenpeace activists who suspected foul play.
[As activst Emma boarded the vessel on sea] they punched her, pulled her hair, picked her up and threw her overboard [and later on the pier] She was viciously assaulted by a burly sailor twice her size, holding her down and punching her repeatedly in the face.

Read A black eye for Emma and another step forward for bluefin tuna at the Greenpeace Staff Blog.

An interestingly identical video appeared even before I managed to blog the above: Coal mine workers verbally abuse anti-coal protesters at what appears to be a quite cozy event. See Treehuggers Pro-Coal Thugs Crash Peaceful Anti-Coal Event in West Virginia - This is Getting Ugly (Video) or click play right away:

Both the big fat lumberjacks and the big, fat and half naked coal miner are just physically intimidating while intellectually challenged. But notice the female coal worker says:
"You may have another way of earning a living, but we don't."

That might as well be a quote by the equally bone headed oil industry. Rather than exploring new ways of "earning a living" they sponsor anti-environmentalist propaganda organizations (just a quick search immediately found a note about Exxon at and a website called "Follow the Oil Money".)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Canadian gas pipeline bombed

For the 6th time in nine months a natural gas pipeline in western Canada has been bombed.

"We are dealing with domestic terrorism. This is an attack on a critical infrastructure."
- Dan Moskaluk, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

EnCana, the natural gas company owning the pipeline, has received threats to cease natural gas production in the area. It has offered a reward of half a million Canadian dollars for the capture of the bomber.

So far no person or nature has been harmed but authorities fear this is only a matter of time.

Sources: Gas pipeline bombed again in W Canada, Gas pipeline in W Canada targeted by second bomb in four days, Canadian gas pipeline hit by 6th bomb

Friday, June 26, 2009

Diamonds still bloody: 200 killed at Zimbabwean mine, certification collapsing

200+ killed by troops in Zimbabwean mine

Human Rights Watch said Friday that Zimbabwe's armed forces have taken over diamond fields in the east and killed more than 200 people, forcing children to search for the gems and beating villagers who get in the way.

See AP / Rights group: Abuse in Zimbabwe diamond fields and Telegrahp / Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe military 'profiting from diamond massacre'. The articles are essentially based on this Human Rights Watch report: Diamonds in the Rough. It describes how Robert Mugabe's regime in one case attacked mine workers with three military helicopters.

"I first heard the sound and then saw three helicopters above us in the field. I was not worried, I just assumed it was a team of buyers who had come for business in helicopters as they sometimes did. However, soldiers in the helicopters started firing live ammunition and tear gas at us. We all stopped digging and began to run towards the hills to hide."

Quote an anonymous survivor.

Army units are given turns overseeing the mine in an effort to keep troop morale from disintegrating along with the rest of the country.

Blood spilled over diamonds is far from a new thing. In fact, it was the theme of a 2006 Hollywood movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.

Blood Diamond - the movie entry | Official site

Although, for my taste, it has a bit too much of Leonardo running right ahead of mortar explosions and mad gunfire it is a good movie in itself on top of highlighting an important issue. Good acting by Leonardo, Jennifer and not least by Djimon Hounsou who is playing the fisherman / mine slave. Theatrical, yes, but first of all gruesomely blunt in its violence.

From the final scrolling titles though we are given relief:
In January 2003, forty nations signed "The Kimberley Process" [...] It is up to the consumer to insist that a diamond is conflict-free.

2009: The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme collapsing

It might have worked for some years but now it's under serious pressure. Some in the industry argues Zimbabwean diamonds aren't blood diamonds as they fund a government. And 100% of Venezuela's diamonds are being smuggled, Guinea has reported an impossible 500% increase in diamond production year on year, in Angola thousands of small-scale Congolese miners were beaten and expelled and Lebanon is exporting more rough diamonds than it imports despite having no mines. No action has been taken against any of these countries still operating with Kimberley certification.

If the Kimberley Process collapses entirely?
The diamond trade would go back to its criminal past and rebel armies would have no problem finding buyers for their blood diamonds. The potential for diamonds fuelling conflict would be back.

Quote Ian Smillie, Kimberley Process initiative person - who left in anger

See The Huffington Post / The Return Of Blood Diamonds, / Partnership Africa Canada's Smillie casts final "no confidence" vote in Kimberley Process and goes home and The Globe and Mail / The failing battle against blood diamonds.

Throughout the history about Africa: whenever a substance a value is found, the locals died in great number, in misery. And this was truth of ivory, rubber, gold, and oils and is now true of diamond. According to a devastating report by Global Witness the stones are being used to process arm and finance civil war. We must act to prohibit the direct or indirect import of all of diamonds from conflict Zones

Quote G8 politician in Blood Diamond

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Drop of Life: Short film about water conflict

"As I became aware of the mounting global water crisis, I realized that it represented a clash of cultures – between a culture that values water as a shared sacred source of all life and a corporate culture that regards water as a commodity to be bought and sold."

Quote Shalini Kantayya, director of A Drop of Life - a futuristic sci-fi flick about the mounting water crisis winning Best Short Film at Palm Beach International as well as the Audience Choice Award at the IUOW Film competition. Will check it out some time (two years late anyway).

Who controls water controls life

Found at Shalini Kantayyas website. A Drop of Life at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Freshwater industrialization, privatization and pollution

Two links for this blogs 20th post tagged 'water'.

Depraved Injustice and the Privatization of the Global Freshwater Commons by Frank Joseph Smecker is a critical look at the increasing privatization of the worlds freshwater resources.

Privatization is the preferred solution from those who brought us into this situation of scarcity and escalating conflict: traditional capitalist believers in growth seemingly unaware of the fact our ecosystem is finite. Smecker lists cases from around the world - USA, Canada, Belize, Argentina, The Philippines, Bolivia, Bolivia, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, Sudan, Mexico, China, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, India, North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Ethiopia and The United Kingdom - and sum up the adverse effects which are left unsaid by the privatization people; the observed cons rather than the imagined pros:
  • Prices go up. Especially problematic to poor people in developing countries who cannot afford the extra cost and are particularly dependend on water.
  • Pollution go up. Distribution by plastic bottles - preferred for monetization - is ridiculously polluting compared to locally extracted tap water plus the private water companies have poor environment track records.
  • Private water companies are multinational not local. Profits do not develop the exploited areas.
  • Water quality declines as it is only taken care of to a profitable minimum.
  • Ecological destruction of downstream habitat as ecosystems are derived of their water. Including threats to animal species populations (including salmon, steelhead and trout).
  • Failure to protect public ownership of water and water rights.
  • Wasted water and neglect of conservation.
The article does not solely blame industrialization, capitalism and privatization - climate change (itself a side effect of industrialization and population growth) is also pointed out.

Industrialized Farming Endangers World Food Supply by Karin Friedemann is a short, aggressive attack on multinationals and their taking over of not just the worlds water but its soils, sun, gene pools and political systems too.
The Oil-for-Food program in Iraq forced the large-scale importation of food after the first Gulf War. Devastated Iraqi farmers then became the victims of USAID. [..] Under US occupation, Iraqi farmers must pay a “technology fee” plus an annual license fee to agribusinesses supplying the seeds and equipment. [...] The war provides these corporations with both a lucrative short-term market in the blossoming “reconstruction” industry and an opportunity to integrate Afghanistan into their global production networks and markets in the long term.
In other words an example of 'disaster capitalism'. Essentially another route of aggravating our water issues as the top-down multinational approach to agriculture is based upon highly industrialized, export oriented mono-cultural farming.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Let's go HOME - to a sustainable carbon cycle

The world spends
12 times more on military expenditures
than on aid to developing countries
Quote Home, the new environmental film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand which I just watched. The film is available for free on YouTube for some time and I'd generally recommend it. Rather than detailing one or a couple of issues or projects this is a "big picture" approach that starts out explaining how life came to be on the piece of rock we call Earth and how we have disrupted this phenomenal emergence of an ecosystem. A fine educational movie with plenty of slow motion bird perspective scenery. To the average ecologist it's a bit romantic at times - which will probably also turn-off the typical in-denial fossil fuel lover.

The scenery - of both nature and civilization - is at many times throughout the film so beautiful I'd like to see it again in an IMAX cinema. If it is shown in Copenhagen I'd try and drag along some friends. Because more people need to see this. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it would have benefited from a pinch of simple chemical formulas to nail home the carbon cycle disruption point.

The quote I put at the top of this page is of course mostly a thought provoker. We can't reverse the situation just like that, but it's a healthy little fantasy to think of. And it underlines the fact that we increasingly protect the resources we have with costly force rather than make efforts to help others sustain themselves.

(Official poster. Also see the Official website of Home | entry)

Home does not mention wars or conflicts except indirectly like in the quote. But as it illustrates a wide range of issues - lack of water, deforestation, climate change, you name it - and how they are connected it isn't exactly a quantum leap to see it's subject in relation to possible conflicts. The finishing quarter of an hour is a "positive" segment. We get to see gigantic windmill and solar cell parks, ocean wave harvesting "snakes" and more.

You want more free stuff from the Internet? How about moving on from something informational to something that helps? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Free rice is a little English vocabulary game that makes you score and donate grains of rice for the hungry by each correct word.

Fight World Hunger

Or study, interact and support the UN World Food Programme Students And Teachers section.

Fight World Hunger

People who are not starving are less likely to go out and exploit more of our dwindling resources or fight each other over spoils. That's not rocket science.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Indigenous Peruvians and police in deadly clashes at oil and mining protests

Sometimes researchers are blamed of being alarmists stirring up fears of a fictional dystopia by the business-as-usual crowd. But it seems a forewarning of conflict over oil in Peru is proceeding according to exactly such a warning. The news first...

40+ dead at protest

In extension of free trade agreements the Peruvian government has plans for 'developing' the Amazon homelands of many indigenous communities - opening it for oil, mineral, logging, and agricultural exploitation. Locals have been protesting some of these initiatives claiming they are unconstitutional and in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When police intervened fighting erupted. Body counts wary; one is as high as 81.

President Alan Garcia Perez is claimed to have been behind a massacre on suspects of being Maoist guerrillas in 1986. A former army colonel turned politician is siding with the protesters. An arrest warrant has been issued on protest leader Alberto Pizango who has gone into hiding.

Sources: Upside Down World / 50 Days of Protest and One Massacre in the Peruvian Amazon | Peruanista blog | The New York Times / 9 Hostage Officers Killed at Peruvian Oil Facility | AP / 9 more police killed in Amazon protests in Peru | AP / At least 31 killed in Peru Amazon clashes | Mongobay / Oil or Death in the Amazon

Peer reviewed prophesies

A 2008 paper on PLoS ONE discussed this ongoing and accelerating exploitation in "the most species-rich part of the Amazon". From the paper:

Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify. [... We] consider the conflicts where the blocks overlap indigenous peoples' territories.

Oil and gas development in the western Amazon has already caused major environmental and social impacts. Direct impacts include deforestation for access roads, drilling platforms, and pipelines, and contamination from oil spills and wastewater discharges.

In Peru, hydrocarbon blocks now overlap 20 protected areas. Thirteen of these protected areas preceded creation of the oil blocks and lack compatibility studies required by the Protected Areas Law.

the history of oil and gas extraction in the western Amazon is one of massive ecological and social disruption, the future need not repeat the past.

No, it need not. But it just did. Heed the warnings of those who reason with statistics and logic.
Finer, M., Jenkins, C., Pimm, S., Keane, B., & Ross, C. (2008). Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples PLoS ONE, 3 (8) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002932

Vis stort kort
The lands of the Incas are endowed with copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash, hydropower and natural gas while troubled by deforestation, illegal logging, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, air and water pollution (including pollution from mining wastes). (Source: CIA Factbook)

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