Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just read "Climate Conflict" by Jeffrey Mazo

The book Climate conflict - How global warming threatens security and what to do about it by Jeffrey Mazo of The International Institute For Strategic Studies is a concise discussion of historical, current and future geopolitics as influenced by climate change. It is kind of an academic version of the more popularizing Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer (reviewed here at Ecowar December 2010). And highly recommended to anyone interested in geopolitics, security issues or climate change.

The bad part is it has an introductory chapter on climate change and one about Darfur - both topics that I for one is getting tired of paying for. The good par is that even these chapters are really good. Short, to the point and comprehensive enough to contain details I hadn't heard of before.

In Mazo's own words, the book is "intended to illustrate the social and security consequences of climate change that will manifest over the next two to three decades regardless of the policies adopted in the next few years to mitigate more severe impacts over the long term. [...] it assumes a best-case scenario in terms of international policy responses to climate change [...]". Assuming a best-case scenario for politics? Did you ever read anything that naive? But as he says: It doesn't matter for the near future anyway.

The historical chapter is almost like a summary of Jared Diamond's Collapse. The final two chapters are a bit unclear in disposition but solid in content. The short-short-short version of the conclusion is:
"It is clear that unmitigated climate change will be nothing less than disastrous for the global community."
But scholarly as it is it qualifies its findings:
"Just as no specific weather event can be definitively attributed to climate change because of normal variation within a complex system, specific social or political developments cannot be definitively attributed to climate or other environmental factors."

It doesn't really deal a lot with bad policy scenarios, local conflicts, resource conflicts related to energy choices and many other issues. But the core issues it sets out to explore it dutifully maps with a bullshit factor of zero. Buy it and read it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rape - weapon and cultural disease?

If you can take it, read in The Guardian how women in Eastern Congo have "been raped in terrible ways, whose reproductive organs had been wrecked, who were suffering from fistulas between the vagina and rectum inflicted not just by gang rape but also by attacks with sticks, guns, bottles" - crimes which are hardly motivated by random acts of lecherousness (or whatever) by the perpetrators but which must have deeper explanations.

A weapon against the resilience of local communities

"If you destroy women, you destroy the Congo. Raping women is the cheapest and most effective way to instil fear in and humiliate a community. It doesn't even cost a bullet."
- Author and activist Eve Ensler"

"This will be the destruction of the Congolese people. If you destroy enough wombs, there will be no children. So then you come right in and take the minerals."
- Dr Denis Mukwege

A symptom of a wrecked society

"Because I'm already dead."
- rapist explaining to his victim why he raped

"Centuries of colonialism, slavery and exploitation by the west have come together and are now being delivered on the bodies of the Congolese, most dramatically on the bodies of women."
- Author and activist Eve Ensler"

That was essentially two explanations: first, it's an effective weapon against the resilience of local communities to outside forces, second, symptom of a wrecked, traumatized society.

Source: The Guardian / City of Joy: New hope for Congo's brutalised women.

In an attempt to curb violence, September 2010 mining was formally banned in the eastern provinces (BBC / DR Congo bans mining in eastern provinces). Others have been systematically reviewing rape reports and interviewing both victims and offender, noting many rapists "were victims of the conflict and had their mothers killed" and that the typical incident is a group rape of a woman in her rural home (The Simmons Voice / Researcher searches for ways to prevent rape in the Congo). In Washington, USA a play about the situation is running until June (Jenny Jules on a mission for Congolese women in 'Ruined'). The UN is currently assisting the trial of General Jerôme Kakwavu for two rapes (UN provides logistical support for rape trial of army general).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To the Brits, the Iraq war was about oil

Oil activist Greg Muttitt and The Independent has set the topic since Tuesday's breaking-yet-hardy-surprising Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq. Quotes in chronological order:

Pre-war, in private
"Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We [are] determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq."
- Then Foreign Office's Middle East director Edward Chaplin, October 2002

"Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis. [Trade Minister Symons agree to] report back to the companies before Christmas [on lobbyist progress in Washington]."
- Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and UK government, 31 October 2002

November 2002 the British Foreign Office invited BP to discuss opportunities posed by 'regime change':
"Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity to compete. The long-term potential is enormous..."
- Foreign Office memorandum, 13 November 2002

Pre-war, in public
"Let me just deal with the oil thing because... the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It's not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons..."
- Tony Blair, 6 February 2003

"We have no strategic interest in Iraq. If whoever comes to power wants Western involvement post the war, if there is a war, all we have ever said is that it should be on a level playing field. We are certainly not pushing for involvement."
- BP, 12 March 2003

"It is not in my or BP's opinion, a war about oil. Iraq is an important producer, but it must decide what to do with its patrimony and oil."
- Lord Browne, the then-BP chief executive, 12 March 2003

"We have neither sought nor attended meetings with officials in the UK Government on the subject of Iraq. The subject has only come up during conversations during normal meetings we attend from time to time with officials... We have never asked for 'contracts'."
- Shell, 12 March 2003


"Before the war, the Government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq's oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims. We see that oil was in fact one of the Government's most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize."
- Oil activist Greg Muttitt

Greg Muttitt is publishing a book on Iraqi oil business, Fuel on the Fire, and has a Twitter account named after the book.

This story elsewhere: Reuters / UK held talks with oil firms before Iraq invasion -paper, The Sydney Morning Herald / Memos show oil motive in Iraq war and France 24's YouTube (first 1½ minutes):

Monday, April 18, 2011

More of the same. And then...

How better lose reader than with a headline like that? (I know: a going nowhere leading text like this one.) Well, while writing up this blog in report format a couple of links have piled up.

First: more of the two obvious ones

From Population growth, climate change raising odds of war over water, forum hears:

"Water resources in themselves have rarely been the sole source of conflict or war. Unfortunately, our global water situation is changing rapidly and may soon no longer resemble anything that has existed on earth before. The tensions and conflicts over water of the kind that have typically occurred in the past will soon represent only one of many emerging explosive hydro-climatic issues that are likely to bring sovereign nations into internal and external discord that could erupt in violence. Humanity's numbers appear to be the greatest threat to water security globally. We have created a hydroclimatic bomb, and that bomb has started to tick. But we don't know how big the bomb is or where or when it will go off."
- Bob Sandford, Canadian water-policy expert

Random fact from the article: 25% of water conflicts of the last five millennium occurred with the last decade.

Next: sweeping ones own doorstep, shipping off the dirt

Center for American Progress asks the hard question in Coal-Fired Conflict: Enabling Exports Clouds Environmental and Economic Goals:
if [a country] is serious about combating the perils of climate change through economic and environmental transformation, should [that country] really be encouraging the export of [home extracted] coal to [foreign] markets?

While it may improve carbon credit accounting exported coal will pollute the same atmosphere exactly as much and even more due to the transportation.

"Coal is a dead man walkin'. Banks won't finance them. Insurance companies won't insure them. The EPA is coming after them...and the economics to make it clean don't work."
- Kevin Parker, Deutsche Bank

If the United States is to assume a position of world leadership in the effort to reduce global warming pollution, and if it is to commit more fully to a clean energy future with its attendant economic, health, and environmental benefits, it makes little sense for policymakers to facilitate significant increases in coal exports.

Finally: Environmental laws to trigger trade wars

If you can stomach it, read Reuters / Canada warns EU of trade conflict over oil sands. Truly depressing testimony to the obstacles environmentalism and common sense is facing.

According to a leaked letter from the Canadian government to the EU, a proposed European tax on dirty energy is in their eyes an "unnecessary barrier". The fact that tar sand oils are one of the most polluting energy resources available is to the Canadians "not supported by the science".

The Canadians are already suing Europe at World Trade Organization level on issues like hormone-treated beef, genetically modified foods, seal products and more - their free trade "right" to spam the world with tar sand oil would simply add another to the list. Shame on Canada.

Extra, extra: The interesting one!

Check out this interesting discussion at reddit / The storms that hit the US this weekend killed more American civilians in a single day than terrorists have in the last 9 years.

Most comments are either simply about the tornadoes, about surviving a tornado, about possible lack of warning systems in the US... and then some are quite funny and on our topic:

Hair dryers have killed more American civilians than terrorists have in the last 9 years, what's your point?
- eeepc

His point is that we need to start a WAR ON TORNADOES!
- Xsophos

Tornados hate us for our freedoms!!!!
- javo93

They are a threat to national security!
- TheWhyGuy

They did target 3 military bases and yet no response yet???
- enthreeoh

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