Monday, May 25, 2009

Water wars - myth or reality?

It appears the San Fransisco Gate runs a "water blog". Latest entry is a take on the concept of water wars.

There has been a lot of discussion about "water wars," a term that sounds great, but to which I do not subscribe: wars start and are fought for many reasons and while water has often been a target, tool, or objective of violence, it is certainly hard to ascribe the primary reason for any war to water alone.

That being said, there are very strong and clear connections between water and conflict.

What has impressed the blogger - Peter Gleick - is the list of water conflicts listed chronologically (Water Conflict Chronology) which I also linked to when taking note of the debate in Nature. Check out the post for his favourite "water wars". He finishes...

We must not be complacent about the political and military risks of water disputes. The past examples from the Chronology can help inform our current diplomacy and strengthen tools for reducing violence over water. [...] as tensions and conflicts over water grow, far more care and attention must be given by the diplomatic and military communities to water.

If you are new to my little blog here and as Mr Gleick not too keen on the concept of water wars I suggest you try clicking my water-tag then scroll down a bit. Enjoy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

West Bank becomes Waste Land

Israel has found a cheap and easy way to get rid of its waste, much of it hazardous: dump it into the West Bank. A few Palestinians can be bought, the rest are in no position to complain.

Interesting article on the shocking extent of Israeli pollution of Palestinian Territories. Which, by the way, are not so Palestinian as their name suggests.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Debate on water wars in Nature

March 25, 2009 I posted Opinion: Nations don't go to war over water on a "peer reviewed opinion" (Nature 458, 282–283; 2009). In short, writer Wendy Barnaby discussed how a book project was stopped because research didn't turn up a significantly bloody past history of water wars. The objections are in and there are plenty of arguments on the shelf...

by psd

The potential for water conflict is on the increase by Z. W. Kundzewicz and P. Kowalczak disagree almost completely:
water has often been the object, target or weapon of military or terrorist action
...they say; referring to a quite thorough list of incidents. Although pointing to certain circumstances where cooperation is more likely than conflict, they finish...
as populations in water-stressed areas continue to grow and the demand for water increases to improve living standards with better sanitation and a water-intensive diet. In arid areas, water scarcity is likely to be exacerbated by climate change [...] The potential for water conflict — war or no war — deserves careful attention.

Increasing inequality is already making shortages worse by T. H. Meek and L. A. Meek says Barnaby was too "hasty" and points to her argument resting on at least three shady assumptions:
that developing nations will be able to afford food [...] that food itself is not also a limited resource being threatened by global warming [...that] poorer nations will become wealthier in the coming decades

Water is a source of cooperation rather than war by U. Shamir, S. Grand and N. Grand agree with Barnaby from the perspective of a senior adviser to the Israeli Water Authority. It is claimed that the Palestinian Territories receives more water from Israel than they are entitled to by the treaty.

Water: conflicts set to arise within as well as between states is by Ismail Serageldin, who was quoted by Barnaby, adds nuance:
arguments that have been made by others about international wars being unlikely for water, and they are probably right. But civil strife between competing groups within countries over water rights are very serious. [...] Drought has driven many tribes in Africa into terrain that they are not normally expected to occupy. When coupled with other factors such as ethnic or religious divides, this becomes a dangerous mix. Water may also become a casus belli between states, if the downstream nation is considerably stronger militarily than the one upstream, and the latter tries to block or reduce the flow of water.
His finish is perhaps the most important contribution:
The answer [...] is to manage our water resources better, learning from past experience, generalizing best practices and facing up to the mounting challenges that are coming our way, not to dismiss the issue as a myth.

Finally, in Water: resistance on the route towards a fair share for all M. Zeitoun largely agrees with Barnaby's attack on the "media hype" of water wars but like most others he adds details of conflicts within countries - from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, India... and Israel / Palestine:
Palestinian farmers eke out a living dependent on
highly variable and scarce rainfall, next door to the industrial farms of Israeli settlers whose irrigation water is state-subsidized.
Water conflicts (not wars) are a clear and present danger for millions. They deserve our full collective scientific, financial and diplomatic attention.

by Snap®

On a more general note I'd say it is a bit naive to claim that because something didn't happen in the past - a declaration of war stating water as the issue - it will not happen in the future. Especially since conflict rarely plays by the book anyway and since low level conflicts about water seem to be common and on the rise.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ecowar movies: Edutainment suggestions

Noticing the clamour over the new animated movie Battle for Terra (or just Terra) and it's interesting theme I put it on my Must See list - right next to Blood Diamond which is way over due. Then the logical idea came: make a list of movies for Ecowar!

Only four movies made it onto the list so far. But I would love to get recommendations for more! Please spam.

Battle for Terra
"A peaceful alien planet faces annihilation, as the homeless remainder of the human race sets its eyes on Terra. Mala, a rebellious Terrian teenager, will do everything she can to stop it." - IMDb plot
US Republican reviewers are all up in arms about this one. They say it's "Bush Bashing". I don't know what to think about that - especially since I haven't watched it yet. But in an interview with the writer he explained the rationale for the story as him not buying into the premise of War of the Worlds - that an entire species should be "evil". Seems very reasonable to me! Thus far in human history new territory has been considered something to exploit. Why not an inhabited planet? We might be in need of some planetary migration before we know it.

The Happening
"A strange, horrible and unprecedented crisis begins in Central Park. A high school science teacher, his wife and a young girl do what they can to survive it." - IMDb plot
Many would argue the science in this one is about as far out as the science in The Matrix. I don't think it is, although it's taken to quite a cinematic extreme. It's Gaia Theory. Somehow the human population pressure provokes a seriously negative feedback. It's not a very good movie due to various factors but it has it's moments. Like this line:
Nursery Owner: "You know plants have the ability to target specific threats. Tobacco plants when attacked by heliothis caterpillars will send out a chemical attracting wasps to kill just those caterpillars. We don't know how plants obtain these abilities, they just evolve very rapidly."
There Will Be Blood
A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business." - IMDb plot
No way I could omit this masterpiece although the conflict is largely explained in metaphorical measures and business rivalry.

Blood Diamond
A fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond. - IMDb plot
My final choice is also the least fictional - I suppose because as I mentioned I haven't watched it. Yet! Said to be a bit "tough" to watch.

Of course, there are movies about some of the wars that I have blogged about here. But I have a hard time thinking of any that really touches upon the ecowar issue. Also, I have excluded The Matrix trilogy - because blocking the sun is simply so stupid no one would ever consider it (think twice) and because the science in it isn't always that educational (human batteries?).

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