›In “Who Cares About the Weather?: Climate Change and U.S. National Security” (subscription required), Joshua Busby argues that although advocates have overstated some of climate change’s impacts, it nevertheless poses direct threats to conventional U.S. national security interests, and therefore deserves serious consideration by both academics and policymakers.
An article in the Economist examines the melting Kolahoi glacier, which could soon threaten water supply and livelihoods in the Kashmir valley.
“Marauding elephants in northern Uganda have added to the challenges faced by civilians trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of 20 years of civil war, destroying their crops and prompting some to return to displaced people’s (IDP) camps they had only recently left,” says an article from IRIN News.
In an EarthSky podcast interview, Lori Hunter of the University of Colorado, Boulder, discusses her work researching how HIV/AIDS affects families’ use of natural resources.
Payson Schwin of the World Resources Institute recently interviewed Crispino Lobo of the Watershed Organization Trust about his work helping rural Indian villages escape poverty by managing their natural resources sustainably.
A research commentary from Population Action International explores family planning trends in Pakistan, as well as the relationships between demography and security in this critically important country.
Despite—or perhaps because of—its extremely high population density, Rwanda has launched a series of initiatives to protect its environment and reduce poverty, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The Population Reference Bureau has released two new policy briefs examining population, health, and environment issues in Calabarzon Region and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Stalled Youth Transitions in the Middle East: A Framework for Policy Reform proposes changes to education, employment, and housing that would offer Middle Eastern youth additional opportunities. “Young people in the Middle East (15-29 years old) constitute about one-third of the region’s population, and growth rates for this age group are the second highest after sub-Saharan Africa,” say the authors. “Today, as the Middle East experiences a demographic boom along with an oil boom, the region faces a historic opportunity to capitalize on these twin dividends for lasting economic development.”
An October 2008 brief from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs uses examples from Africa and Latin America to explore ways to ensure that non-renewable resource revenues contribute to sustainable development.
Video is now available for “Breaking Barriers: Family Planning, Human Health and Conservation,” a session at this month’s Conservation Learning Exchange conference in Vancouver.
›October 31, 2008 // By Will Rogers
Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, a Liberian environmental activist and 2006 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, was recently named one of Time magazine’s 2008 Heroes of the Environment for his work uncovering the illegal export of Liberian conflict timber. In 2003, Siakor exposed the illegal timber trade orchestrated by Liberian President Charles Taylor and successfully lobbied the UN Security Council to ban its export in an effort to halt the destruction of one of the “last significant virgin forests in West Africa” and bring an end to the devastation that violence and poverty were wreaking upon his country.
Taylorrelied heavily on the timber industry to “export logs and import guns, financing several internal and external conflicts during his six-year presidency,” said Global Witness director Patrick Alley at a 2005 Wilson Center event. Exotic timber proved to be an easily exploitable and profitable natural resource, generating “upwards of $20 million of annual revenue—roughly 25 percent of its GDP,” said Scott Bode of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Tayloris currently on trial in The Haguefor war-crimes charges linked to his role in the conflicts in Liberiaand . Sierra Leone
In 2005, presidential hopeful Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf adopted forest conservation and poverty alleviation as central policies, and when she was elected, she signed Executive Order #1, which canceled all timber concessions. “The importance of that one act to
Africa’s ecology is difficult to overestimate,” Alex Perry writes in Time, as Liberia’s forests, which cover nearly 12 million acres, play “an important role in the battle to slow climate change.”
Siakor continues to promote conservation and poverty alleviation in Liberia through his organization, the Sustainable Development Institute of Liberia. “In terms of biodiversity conservation,
’s forests are quite critical. We have some of the rarest species of plants and animals in that region,” he said in a 2006 interview with National Public Radio. In addition, millions of impoverished people depend on the land for their livelihoods, so conservation is often “about saving lives and defending those most vulnerable to economic exploitation,” Siakor told Time, emphasizing the need to look at conservation “from a human perspective.” Liberia
›October 29, 2008 // By Wilson Center StaffEnvironmentalists from around the world gathered in Barcelona from October 5-14, 2008, to discuss issues impacting a sustainable world at the World Conservation Congress. ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko interviewed Wouter Veening, co-founder and chairman of the Institute for Environmental Security (IES) in The Hague, following his discussion of “Environment and Security Challenges for Change.” In this podcast, Veening discusses the impact of climate change on traditional security threats and the global implications of failing to effectively address this issue. Dabelko analyzes related environment-security links in a chapter in IES’s Inventory on Environmental and Security Policies and Practices, as well as in numerous Grist dispatches from the IES 2004 Hague Conference on Environment, Security, and Sustainable Development.
Rebels Overrun Government Troops in Eastern DRC; Thousands Displaced, Including Virunga’s Gorilla Rangers›October 29, 2008 // By Rachel Weisshaar
Renegade General Laurent Nkunda’s fighters seized Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo on Sunday, overtook the town of Rutshuru yesterday, and continue to advance on the regional capital of Goma, facing little resistance from either Congolese government troops or MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force. Thousands of local residents have fled the fighting, including 53 gorilla rangers who were in the park when it was taken by Nkunda’s rebels. Twelve of the rangers made it back to the relative safety of Goma today, after more than two days dodging bullets in the forest with no food or water, but the rest remain missing. Almost nothing is known about the condition of the park’s mountain gorillas, which represent half of the world population of 700.
The last time the rebels controlled the park’s Gorilla Sector, in March 2008, they set up a parallel gorilla tourism industry, charging tourists to view the gorillas. They were blamed in the killings of 10 mountain gorillas in 2007.
Approximately 4 million people died because of conflict in the DRC between 1998 and 2004, mostly due to war-related disease and starvation. The latest spasm of violence threatens to lead to a similar pattern; in the camp in Goma where the families of gorilla rangers have been living for the past several weeks, there has already been a cholera outbreak. Medical supplies and emergency services are nearly nonexistent, as many UN and NGO staff have been evacuated.
In Congo: Securing Peace, Sustaining Progress, Anthony Gambino, former director of USAID’s DRC mission, provides an incisive analysis of the problems plaguing eastern DRC and the country as a whole, and outlines policies the United States and its allies can implement to help strengthen security, tamp down on corruption, boost economic growth and alleviate poverty, and protect DRC’s globally significant environmental resources. For more insight into the tensions between the needs of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in eastern DRC and the need to preserve the natural resource base upon which they all depend, listen to this recent podcast interview with Richard Matthew of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine.
Photo: As a result of heavy fighting in the nearby Masisi mountains, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people gather in refugee camps outside Goma. Courtesy of Flickr user cyclopsr.
›October 28, 2008 // By Ana Janaina NelsonModern-day slavery, also known as human trafficking, is the third most lucrative form of organized crime in the world, after trade in illegal drugs and arms trafficking. Today, 27 million people are enslaved—mostly as a result of debt bondage. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns found that Brazil is the third-largest source of human trafficking in the Western hemisphere, after Mexico and Colombia. According to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2008, 250,000-500,000 Brazilian children are currently exploited for prostitution, both domestically and abroad. NGOs estimate that 75,000 Brazilian women and girls—most of them trafficked—work as prostitutes in neighboring South American countries, the United States, and Europe.
In addition, notes the Trafficking in Persons Report 2008, 25,000-100,000 Brazilian men are forced into domestic slave labor. “Approximately half of the nearly 6,000 men freed from slave labor in 2007 were found exploited on plantations growing sugar cane for the production of ethanol, a growing trend,” says the report. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the “agricultural states of the north, like Piaui, Maranhao, Pará and Mato Grosso, are the most problematic.” Agriculture and development have also been linked to sex trafficking. A 2003 study by the Brazilian NGO CECRIA found that in the Amazon, sexual exploitation of children often occurs in brothels that cater to mining settlements. The study also highlighted the prevalence of sex trafficking in regions with major development projects.
In response to growing awareness of the magnitude of this problem, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice has stepped up its efforts to combat human trafficking, adopting the ILO and UNODC’s “three-P” approach: prevention, prosecution, and protection. Prevention measures in Brazil focus on sexual exploitation, the most common type of forced labor for trafficked Brazilians. These measures include educating vulnerable populations about avoiding human trafficking, as well as drawing tourists’ attention to criminal penalties under Brazilian law for patronizing prostitutes.
Prosecution efforts in Brazil are also improving: In 2004, Brazil ratified the Palermo Protocol (pdf), the main international legal instrument for combating human trafficking. A year later, the country adopted a National Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which aims to train those responsible for prosecuting traffickers and protecting victims—primarily police and judges. In addition, notes the Trafficking in Persons Report 2008:
The Ministry of Labor’s anti-slave labor mobile units increased their operations during the year, as the unit’s labor inspectors freed victims, forced those responsible for forced labor to pay often substantial amounts in fines and restitution to the victims, and then moved on to others locations to inspect. Mobile unit inspectors did not, however, seize evidence or attempt to interview witnesses with the goal of developing a criminal investigation or prosecution because inspectors and the labor court prosecutors who accompany them have only civil jurisdiction. Because their exploiters are rarely punished, many of the rescued victims are ultimately re-trafficked.The U.S. Department of State established a four-tiered assessment system to rate countries’ compliance with international trafficking mandates. In 2006, Brazil was listed on the Tier 2 Special Watch List, the second-worst rating, despite recognition that the government made “significant efforts” to combat human trafficking. Brazil recently moved into the Tier 2 category, however, due to more concerted interagency efforts, as well as greater compliance with international guidelines. Yet one wonders whether Brazil will be able to achieve Tier 1 status any time soon, given the Brazilian government’s focus on biofuel- and agriculture-fueled economic growth and the fact that the global financial crisis is likely to drive people into increasingly desperate economic straits.
By Brazil Institute Intern Ana Janaina Nelson.
Photo: A poster warns African women of the dangers of human trafficking; Brazilian women are subject to similar dangers. Courtesy of Flickr user mvcorks.
›“[T]he careful management that helped make Alaskan pollock a billion-dollar industry could unravel as the planet warms,” warns Kenneth Weiss of the Los Angeles Times. “Pollock and other fish in the Bering Sea are moving to higher latitudes as winter ice retreats and water temperatures rise. Alaskan pollock are becoming Russian pollock, swimming across an international boundary in search of food and setting off what could become a geopolitical dispute.”
Poor rains, lack of infrastructure, and a shortage of skilled technicians have contributed to water-related disease and local-level water conflicts in Zimbabwe, reports IPS News.
If the Tripa peat forests in Sumatra continue to be cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, not only will the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan shrink further, but millions of tons of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere, accelerating global climate change, reports the Telegraph.
A report on Somalia by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that one in six Somali children under the age of five is acutely malnourished and estimates that 43 percent of the country’s population will need humanitarian assistance through the end of the year. According to the report, poor rains, in addition to the worst levels of violence since 1990, have contributed to the humanitarian crisis.
“The number of tiger attacks on people is growing in India’s Sundarban islands as habitat loss and dwindling prey caused by climate change drives them to prowl into villages for food,” says an article from Reuters.
The current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (some abstracts available) focuses on the links between climate change and public health.
“Can Conservation Succeed with 9 Billion People?,” a panel at the recent Conservation Learning Exchange, was described as a “bang-up session” by Margaret Francis, who blogged about it.
Close Quarters: Population-Climate Panel Draws Crowd at Society of Environmental Journalists’ Annual Conference›October 23, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarAt “Close Quarters: Could an End to Population Growth Help Stabilize the Climate?,” the only panel on population at the annual Society for Environmental Journalists (SEJ) conference, Steve Curwood, host and executive producer of Public Radio International’s “Living On Earth,” pointed out that while it’s “something we don’t talk about at all in America,” U.S. population growth increases emissions faster than developing-country population growth, due to our larger per capita consumption. Curwood discussed the major connections between population and climate change, such as water use; food production and consumption; economic growth; and migration. Hypothesizing that climate change will lead to great demographic shifts not only in developing countries, but also in the United States, he noted that historically, “we haven’t dealt with them well.”
The panelists explored environmental reporters’ relative silence on the impact of population growth and other demographic dynamics on environmental issues. According to moderator Constance Holden of Science, the possible barriers to coverage—listed below—should be “irrelevant” to working journalists:
- Population’s association with controversial issues like contraception;
- Fear of appearing anti-immigration;
- The widespread belief that population growth is necessary for economic growth; and
- The difficulty of researching and writing about the complex issues related to population and demographics.
Robert Engelman, vice president for programs at the Worldwatch Institute, criticized journalists for not delving into population’s significant, albeit complex, impacts on the environment. Reporters may wish to avoid writing about problems they believe have no easy solutions, but it is just as important for them to explore these thorny topics as more straightforward subjects, he said.
As an example of a potential story angle, Engelman displayed a graph showing that U.S. carbon emissions and population grew by the same percentage between 1990 and 2004. Yet when the data are disaggregated by state, they reveal a very different, surprisingly diverse picture. Some states’ populations and emissions increased roughly equally, but others, like Delaware, managed to decrease their emissions even while their populations grew. Engelman suggested that reporters could explore which factors had influenced the population-emissions relationship in their state.
Freelance writer Tom Horton explained how population growth has helped foil attempts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. As he wrote recently in Growing! Growing! Gone! The Chesapeake Bay and the Myth of Endless Growth, “[I]t seems questioning the expansion of the economy and the population are off the table, either because they are considered sacred cows, or they are just too hard to deal with. It is assumed we can cure the symptoms while vigorously expanding their root causes.” In an interview following the panel, Horton lauded the efforts of integrated population-environment programs in the Philippines, saying Filipinos “are far more advanced than we are” in their understanding of the relationships between coastal management and population growth.
While “Close Quarters” was the only SEJ panel to directly address population, Dennis Dimick, executive editor of National Geographic Magazine, noted the importance of population in a panel he moderated on agriculture and climate change. In addition, keynote speaker Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, briefly mentioned the opportunities presented by India’s youthful population and the “demographic dividend.” However, he did not use the opportunity to discuss global population growth’s implications for climate change.
›October 22, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarIf you’re not too daunted by its size (it tops out at just over 400 pages), the Dictionary & Introduction to Global Environmental Governance serves as a useful primer on international environmental politics and policies. This volume could be particularly useful to those working in related, but distinct, sectors who want to familiarize themselves with global environmental governance’s history and recent developments. Ever wondered what an epistemic community is? What makes water soft or hard? Curious to see the authors attempt to define “environment” and “ecology”? This book answers all these questions and many more, and most definitions are distinguished by admirable clarity and brevity.
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