U.S. President George W. Bush signed a $550 billion appropriations bill into law on December 20, 2007, which included $300 million to improve water and sanitation in the developing world under the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act. Inter Press Service investigates the dangers of fetching water in Malawi, which include crocodiles and cholera.
On December 26, 2007, the Chinese government issued “Energy Conditions and Policies,” a white paper outlining the country’s energy use and plans. The government maintains that China’s history of greenhouse gas emissions gives it the right to grow its economy on fossil fuels, as did most of today’s developed countries, but also pledges China’s strong commitment to renewable energy sources.
Pope Benedict XVI called for better environmental stewardship in his Christmas homily this year, delivered during the traditional Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. According to The New York Times, “He expanded on the theme [of environmental protection] briefly by saying that an 11th-century theologian, Anselm of Canterbury, had spoken ‘in an almost prophetic way’ as he ‘described a vision of what we witness today as a polluted world whose future is at risk.’”
Along with other experts, Fred Meyerson, a professor of demography, ecology, and environmental policy at the University of Rhode Island—and a former Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar—is currently participating in an online discussion of population and climate change for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organization that focuses on nuclear proliferation and other global security threats.
The World Bank recently released a Poverty Assessment Report for Yemen, which it produced with assistance from the UN Development Programme and the government of Yemen. IRIN News summarizes the findings.
›December 28, 2007 // By Rachel Weisshaar“We are indeed at a cooperation versus conflict nexus,” said Rob Huebert, associate director of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, at a December 11 meeting sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute. Huebert was joined by fellow Arctic expert Michael Byers, the academic director of the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, in a discussion of the potential security threats introduced by a rapidly melting Arctic.
According to Byers, approximately 1.2 million square kilometers of sea ice—an area far larger than the state of California—melted between September 2006 and September 2007. If this trend continues, the Arctic could experience seasonal ice-free periods in 10 or 15 years. The melting ice is opening up previously inaccessible shipping routes, and Byers argued, “It’s not a question of if, but when, the ships come.” Increased shipping activity could attract people trying to smuggle nuclear weapons or materials, illegal drugs, terrorists, or illegal immigrants into North America.
The melting ice is not only opening up shipping routes, but is also uncovering vast oil and gas reserves. The Arctic marine ecosystem is extremely fragile, and an oil spill like the Exxon-Valdez would have “catastrophic environmental consequences,” said Byers.
›Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st Century: Still searching for a Christmas gift for that serious reader on your list? Consider this comprehensive 1,148-page volume on the dual challenges of post-Cold War security: globalization and environmental degradation. Edited by Hans Günter Brauch, the book contains an unusual section examining security’s philosophical, ethical, and religious contexts, as well as more traditional sections on theories of security and the relationships between environment, security, peace, and development. You can see the table of contents here.
Landon Lecture (Kansas State University): U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently called for a significant expansion of the United States’ non-military instruments of power. “What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security—diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development….We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years,” said Gates.
“Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history”: Lead authors David Zhang and Peter Brecke argue that during the pre-industrial era, climate change was frequently responsible for war, famine, and population decline. “The findings [of our analysis] suggest that worldwide and synchronistic war-peace, population, and price cycles in recent centuries have been driven mainly by long-term climate change,” write the authors in this article, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“War and the Environment”: This month’s World Watch Magazine cover story explores the ecological effects of violent conflicts around the world. “Several recent wars in varied environments and different parts of the world reveal that the ecological consequences of war often remain written in the landscape for many years. But the story is not always straightforward or clear. Instead, the landscape is like a palimpsest—a parchment written on, scraped clean, and then written over again—on which the ecological effects of war may be overlain by postwar regeneration or development,” writes Sarah Deweerdt.
UN World Youth Report 2007: According to this report, opportunities for the 1.2 billion young people aged 15-24 have expanded in recent years. However, this cohort, especially in developing countries, still faces significant challenges, including overcoming poverty and attaining adequate education and health care.
›December 20, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesHenrik Urdal, a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), spent several weeks at the Woodrow Wilson Center this autumn as a visiting fellow. At PRIO, Urdal researches the relationships between demography and armed conflict, focusing particularly on population pressure on natural resources. ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko sat down with Urdal to discuss his current research interests, including the implications of a rapidly urbanizing global populace, sub-national demographic trends in India, and the extraordinary Iranian fertility decline.
›December 18, 2007 // By Rachel WeisshaarClimate change could increase instability in the Middle East, says “Climate Change: A New Threat to Middle East Security,” a new report by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME). Written in preparation for this month’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, the report focuses on how climate change could harm the region’s already-scarce water supply. Climate change’s likely impacts on water in the Middle East include reduced precipitation and resulting water shortages; more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods; and rising sea levels.
“Climate change is likely to act as a ‘threat multiplier’—exacerbating water scarcity and tensions over water within and between nations linked by hydrological resources, geography, and shared political boundaries. Poor and vulnerable populations, which exist in significant numbers throughout the region, will likely face the greatest risk. Water shortages and rising sea levels could lead to mass migration,” says the report.
The report identifies several factors that will influence the likelihood of water- and climate-related conflict, including: the existence and sustainability of water agreements between nations; the presence of destabilizing economic and political factors such as unemployment and large-scale migration; the extent of a country’s political and economic development; the ability of a particular country, region, or institution to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change; and the political relationships between countries.
›December 17, 2007 // By Gib ClarkeECSP Director Geoff Dabelko and I recently attended “Population, Health, and Environment: Integrated Development for East Africa,” a conference held in November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference was attended by more than 200 development practitioners from around the world, including many from Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Throughout the conference, organizers, presenters, and participants all professed the many benefits of integrating population, health, and environment (PHE) initiatives. President Girma Wolde-Giorgis and Ethiopia’s ministers of health, environment, and agriculture and rural development opened the conference by praising the comprehensive basket of services that PHE offers. All that said, perhaps the best evidence that this conference was a success, and that PHE’s integrated approach is both necessary and valued in countries like Ethiopia, came in comments from Glenn Anders, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Ethiopia Mission Director, during the closing ceremony:
As I wrote in my previous post, it is rare that a conference galvanizes such momentum and captures the imagination of so many people from so many countries. It’s good to know that policymakers are listening.
I myself have been in development for over 25 years. I know first-hand the challenges that arise from addressing a development issue as one problem with one cause and one solution. Sometimes it might seem like a more simple approach, but we know that development—and life—is much more multi-faceted and complex. The only way to find a common ground, common solution, and common funding is to recognize the interconnectedness between people and their surrounding environment.
Integrated programs touch more lives, improve program efficiency, and strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration. We see better, measurable results from an integrated approach, and that is something we certainly all want …
Let me share with you how USAID in Ethiopia is utilizing this holistic approach. We support the government of Ethiopia’s community health extension workers, who work on the ground in communities addressing much more than just health. There have been over 18,000 workers deployed to date across the country. All of the community health workers are women and they are empowered to educate their neighbors. The workers are immunizing children and providing family planning services in the community. The program is also improving water and sanitation, introducing clean water and hygiene practices. The community health extension workers in Ethiopia are combining development solutions to address environment, health, population, and gender issues. We applaud Ethiopia’s vision to prioritize this program, and we will continue to support its implementation.
›December 17, 2007 // By Linden EllisLast week, I attended a conference hosted by the Berkeley China Initiative and the Luce Foundation entitled “China’s Environment: What Do We Know and How Do We Know it?” The two-day conference attracted many of the big names on China’s environment: leading Chinese journalist and environmentalist Ma Jun, Barbara Finamore of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Orville Schell of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jim Yardley of The New York Times, to name a few. While many of the speakers addressed the two questions in the title of the conference, a presentation that stuck in my mind was by the University of Alberta’s Wenrang Jiang, who also asked, “What should we know about China’s environment?” Proposed answers to this question surfaced and resurfaced throughout the conference, but there are a few with which most attendees would likely concur.
First, and most importantly, as Westerners addressing China’s environmental crises, we need to understand that China’s government and people do not need to be told how bad their environment is: They know. What they need are the technology and technical assistance to address these problems. A particularly striking example of where technical tools are needed, raised by speaker Ye Qi of Tsinghua University and again this week at a China Environment Forum meeting in Washington, D.C., is data collection. China needs researchers, academics, and policymakers to guide the development of a strong data collection infrastructure.
Second, we must recognize that China is not a threatening environmental culprit. In fact, many Chinese environmental regulations and policies are more progressive than our own. China’s biggest challenge is developing the mechanisms to enforce these policies and regulations at the local level—another area in which assistance from abroad could be particularly fruitful. Although several laboratories recently declared that China surpassed the United States in total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions this year, China’s per capita CO2 emissions are still only one-sixth of the United States’ per capita emissions. China and India’s combined CO2 emissions account for only 10 percent of the world’s total; furthermore, according to speaker Gang He of Columbia University, 27 percent of China’s emissions are due to goods it manufactures and then exports. China’s vehicle emissions laws will meet Euro IV standards nationwide by 2010, which 90 percent of U.S.-manufactured sport utility vehicles could not pass today.
Finally, we must bear in mind the level of pollution-related suffering that occurs in China. We cannot simply impose lofty, globally beneficial programs upon a population struggling daily with unmet human needs. A presentation by Shannon May of the University of California, Berkeley, on the failure of an eco-village in China illustrated this point beautifully. May polled villagers to find out why they had not moved into a new eco-village that had been built to improve land and energy efficiency. She discovered something environmentalists had failed to note: With the 60,000 RMB required to move into the eco-village homes, villagers could instead invest in aquaculture or other industries with high returns, build a home to their own specifications, or pay for a wedding for their children. We must make sure that global goals—such as slowing climate change—that require sacrifices from certain populations also produce tangible local benefits, such as reducing toxic air pollutants.
As several attendees mentioned during the conference, China needs more yin from its Western partners—more patience, flexibility, and self reflection, particularly. Many international NGOs that have worked in China for a long time understand this, but larger bilateral programs shaped by political agendas are not always as flexible.
By CEF Program Assistant Linden Ellis.
PODCAST – Environmental Security and Regional Cooperation in Central America: A Discussion with Alexander Lopez›December 14, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesDuring a recent trip to Costa Rica, ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko visited Alexander Lopez, director of the School for International Affairs at the National University of Costa Rica. With his extensive field work, Lopez is an expert on the linkages between environment and conflict, as well as the management of transboundary river basins in Latin America. In the following podcast, Lopez discusses the growing awareness of environment and security linkages in Central America and his current work on building regional cooperation and integration of natural resource management.
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