›February 27, 2009 // By Wilson Center Staff
A new study published in Conservation Biology (abstract) calculates that more than 80 percent of major armed conflicts from 1950-2000 have taken place in one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. “The fact that so many conflicts have occurred in areas of high biodiversity loss and natural resource degradation warrants much further investigation as to the underlying causes, and strongly highlights the importance of these areas for global security,” says coauthor Russell A. Mittermeier. He and lead author Thor Hansen argue that protecting nature during war can help recovery, and call for integrating conservation “into military, reconstruction and humanitarian programs in the world’s conflict zones.”
The Bixby Forum, “World in 2050: A Scientific Investigation of the Impact of Global Population Changes on a Divided Planet” included panels on population’s links to war, climate change, and the environment. Malcolm Potts, the chair of the University of California, Berkeley’s Bixby Center for Population Health and Sustainability recently spoke at the Wilson Center about his latest book, Sex and War.
In Troubled Waters: Climate Change, Hydropolitics, and Transboundary Resources from the Henry L. Stimson Center, experts from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East “examine the environmental dangers and policy dilemmas confronting the sustainable management of shared water resources in a warming world”—including the potential for conflict. In the concluding chapter, David Micheli finds that climate change is unlikely to lead to full-scale “water wars,” but warns that “rising climatic stresses on common waters will put new and perhaps unprecedented strains on cooperative governance institutions at the local, national, and international levels.”
Rampant logging fueled Cambodia’s decades-long civil war. Now a new report from transparency watchdogs Global Witness, Country for Sale, claims that the country’s emerging oil and mineral sectors may pose a similar threat. Says Gavin Hayman, “The same political elite that pillaged the country’s timber resources has now gained control of its mineral and petroleum wealth. Unless this is changed, there is a real risk that the opportunity to lift a whole generation out of poverty will be squandered.”
Thirty-three countries have been named “highly vulnerable” to the impact of climate change on their fisheries by a new study published in Fish and Fisheries. In these countries, two-thirds of which are in tropical Africa, fish accounts for 27 percent or more of daily protein intake, compared to 13 percent in non-vulnerable nations. InterPress examines the impact of acidification and rising surface temperatures on the fish stocks of coastal South Africa.
Photo: Fish-dependent people of Bangladesh could see their coastal catch reduced as a result of predicted increases in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms. Bangladesh is one of the nations identified as highly dependent on fisheries along with Cambodia, DR Congo, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. Photo credit: Mark Prein, courtesy of WorldFish Center.
›February 27, 2009 // By Rachel Weisshaar
If you’ve visited Rwanda, chances are you’ve seen the country’s famous mountain gorillas in . The endangered gorillas are such a national treasure that the ceremony when each year’s baby gorillas are named is a huge public event. Yet most foreign tourists never visit the country’s other attractions, which include Volcanoes National Park Akagera National Parkin the east and in the southwest. Nyungwe National Park
Destination Nyungwe Project (DNP), which I visited yesterday with the leaders of the East Africa PHE Network, is trying to change all that. It envisions
becoming a world-class tourist destination, and improving the livelihoods of the local people in the process. In fact, as project director Ian Munanura sees it, ensuring the park benefits local communities is a necessity, not a luxury. It’s fine to tell people not to cut down trees in the forest, or not to poach endangered animals, but they will continue these activities unless they have another way to make a living. Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe has a lot to offer; as the largest montane rainforest in
Africa, it boasts 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, as well as nearly 300 species of birds. It also has a relatively well-developed network of hiking trails. DNP is working on several projects intended to boost the park’s tourism appeal, including an interpretive visitor center, high-end tented campsites, and a rainforest canopy walk on a bridge suspended between two towers.
As these larger projects are constructed, DNP—which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by International Resources Group, Family Health International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society—is also working to improve the health, livelihoods, and environmental management of the local communities. A health coordinator works with local clinics to improve maternal and child health, family planning and reproductive health, and hygiene. Health and family-planning activities are key to ensuring the park’s survival because high population growth, and the resulting demand for land, is one of the key threats to the park, says Munanura. A small-grants program provides micro-loans to local people for sustainable livelihoods, such as setting up cultural tourism attractions or producing soap, lotion, and oils from forest products.
Nyungwe National Park still struggles to attract tourists, as it lacks the luxury accommodations offered at
. But according to Munanura, 80 percent of visitors to Nyungwe hear about it through word-of-mouth, suggesting that those who do visit are extremely satisfied with their experience. These visitors would probably be even more satisfied knowing that their vacations were helping communities escape from poverty and disease. We will be following the progress of this innovative project with interest. Volcanoes National Park
Rachel Weisshaar is attending the meeting of the East Africa PHE Network in Kigali,
. She will be posting daily updates on the New Security Beat throughout the week (see days one and two). Rwanda
Photo: Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda. Courtesy of Rachel Weisshaar.
›February 25, 2009 // By Wilson Center Staff“Demography will have a greater role in defense planning in the future,” says Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba in this short video preview of her article, “Population in Defense Policy Planning,” now appearing in the 13th issue of Environmental Change and Security Program Report. “Robert Gates has put a lot of emphasis on development as a key to peace, and Africa Command may be the area that brings together issues of demography, the environment, and development, and sends those observations back up the higher levels at DOD,” she observes. Sciubba, Mellon Environmental Fellow in the Department of International Studies at Rhodes College, and six other demographic experts analyze the links connecting population and environmental dynamics to conflict in a set of commentaries on “New Directions in Demographic Security.”
›February 24, 2009 // By Rachel Weisshaar“The road to inaction is paved with research reports,” said Marya Khan, our Population Reference Bureau facilitator, opening today’s East Africa Population-Health-Environment (PHE) Network workshop on bridging the research-to-policy gap.
At the Environmental Change and Security Program, we know all too well that even the best program or most dramatic research findings don’t stand a chance of being implemented unless they are communicated to policymakers in succinct, persuasive formats. Yet researchers often neglect to convey their results to decision makers and donors, assuming they won’t be interested or won’t appreciate their methodologies, explained Khan. Furthermore, researchers are often hesitant to draw out the policy implications of their findings, believing this is policymakers’ responsibility, while policymakers tend to think this is researchers’ duty—so these critical implications are often never explored.
Today’s sessions aimed to empower the PHE working groups from Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya to develop their own strategies to bridge the research-to-policy gap. The groups brainstormed policy communications objectives they wished to achieve—such as officially launching their country PHE network—as well as concrete outcomes that would contribute to accomplishing those objectives—such as convincing representatives from various national government ministries to join their network.
Rachel Weisshaar is attending the meeting of the East Africa PHE Network in Kigali, Rwanda. She will be posting daily updates on the New Security Beat throughout the week (see yesterday’s post).
Photo: Members of the Kenya PHE Working Group discuss communications strategies. Courtesy of Rachel Weisshaar.
PODCAST – A Discussion on Climate Change and Security: Arctic Links and U.S. Intelligence Community Responses›February 24, 2009 // By Wilson Center Staff“The climate issue also very clearly illustrates the whole complexity of the security issue,” says Henrik Selin. “Arctic melting is a national security issue in the traditional national security kind of way.” In this podcast from the Environmental Change and Security Program, Selin, assistant professor of international relations at Boston University, and Stacy VanDeveer, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, sat down with ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko to discuss the resonance of climate change in the U.S. security community.
VanDeveer and Selin were in Washington to speak at a January 12 event, “Governing the Climate: Lessons From the National Conference on Climate Governance.” VanDeveer has frequently coauthored articles with Dabelko, including “It’s Capacity, Stupid: International Assistance and National Implementation” in Global Governance, “European Insecurities: Can’t Live With ’Em, Can’t Shoot ‘Em” in Security Dialogue, and “Environmental Cooperation and Regional Peace: Baltic Politics, Programs, and Prospects” in Environmental Peacemaking.
›February 23, 2009 // By Geoff DabelkoStartling new research in the peer-reviewed Environmental Science & Technology shows that fossil groundwater in southern Jordan is radioactive at levels up to 2000% higher than the international drinking water standard. That the radioactivity is naturally occurring is little consolation for Jordanians—and perhaps for residents of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya, who sit atop the same sandstone Nubian aquifer system.
The shocking findings in “High Naturally Occurring Radioactivity in Fossil Groundwater from the Middle East” by Duke University’s Avner Vengosh and colleagues should be cause for major concern. As Vengosh, a geo-chemistry professor with long-standing research collaborations with Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian colleagues, wrote in an email: “Most of the Jordanian population is not using the fossil water for drinking—for now. Only few thousand people in Aqaba and Karak might be currently exposed to this water. However, Jordan has launched a huge water project to transfer the water from the aquifer in the south to the capital Amman, which would expose a large population to this water.”
According to Vengosh, although these specific findings are limited to the water groundwater under in Jordan, Saudi Arabia is using groundwater from the same aquifer (the Saq) extensively, mostly for agriculture but also for drinking. In this arid part of the world, countries have turned to nonrenewable fossil groundwater as one of the few remaining options. As stated in the article’s abstract, “These findings raise concerns about the safety of this and similar nonrenewable groundwater reservoirs, exacerbating the already severe water crisis in the Middle East.”
Vengosh shared the findings with Jordanian authorities ahead of publication. While it is hard to predict the social, economic, and political reactions to this news, it is easier to anticipate the effects of sustained consumption of water contaminated with radium isotopes. Vengosh says exposure to much lower levels of radium resulted in higher frequencies of bone cancer in a New Jersey community.
Photo: Avner Vengosh. Copyright Duke University Photography.
›February 23, 2009 // By Rachel Weisshaar
Rwandan Minister of Natural Resources Stanislas Kamanzi officially launched the meeting of the East Africa PHE Network this morning, stating that Rwanda’s highest-in-Africa population density of 365 people per square kilometer—which he argued leads to environmental degradation and poor human health in both rural and urban areas—compels an integrated approach to development. Kamanzi said that Rwanda’s National Environment Policy and national development plan, Vision 2020, both recognize population-health-environment (PHE) links, and he expressed Rwanda’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the First Inter-ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Africa, which was co-hosted by the World Health Programme and the UN Environment Programme in Gabon in August 2008.
The men and women at this conference—who hail from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda—are the best and brightest practitioners of integrated development in East Africa. Even so, Jason Bremner of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) challenged them to truly let down their disciplinary boundaries, limit their use of sector-specific jargon, and instead think holistically about the links between population, health, and environment.
Each country in the East Africa PHE Network has its own working group, and they detailed their impressive accomplishments since the East Africa PHE Network was founded at a November 2007 conference in Addis Ababa:
- The Rwandans helped conduct an assessment of PHE linkages and projects in Rwanda, and also recruited new working-group members, such as the Ministry of Health and various universities.
- The Ugandans helped carry out a similar assessment in their country; they also had newspaper articles published on their programs and convinced a radio station to grant them a one-hour time slot twice a month for PHE programming.
- The Kenyans engineered the inclusion of two environmental variables—land holdings and food security—in the Kenyan Demographic and Health Survey. They also successfully petitioned the Kenyan government and the UN Population Fund to include PHE language in their seventh country program.
- The Ethiopians formalized their working group into the Consortium for the Integration of Population, Health, and Environment (CIPHE) and gained the support of Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis. By convincing many of the country’s largest associations of environmental and health professionals that it is in their best interest to coordinate their efforts, CIPHE has built an email list of more than 2,000 individuals.
Rachel Weisshaar is attending the meeting of the East Africa PHE Network in Kigali,
, which is hosted by PRB and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. See other posts on the New Security Beat: “East Africa PHE Network: Translating Strong Results Into Informed Policies,” “Rwanda: More Than Mountain Gorillas,” and “Specialty Coffee Project Brings Jolt of Attention to Agriculture, Health in Rural Rwanda.” Rwanda
Photo: Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwandan Minister of Natural Resources, opens the meeting of the
East AfricaPHE Network. Photo courtesy of Rachel Weisshaar.
›From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment, based on the work of the UN Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding, summarizes the links between the environment, conflict, and peacebuilding, and includes 14 case studies of how natural resources affect—or are affected by—conflict.
The authors of “On Population Growth Near Protected Areas” come to an opposite conclusion from Wittemyer et al., who found a pattern of higher population growth near protected areas in Africa and Latin America. “To understand the disagreement, we re-analyzed the protected areas in Wittemyer et al.’s paper. Their results are simply artifacts of mixing two incompatible datasets,” write the authors. “Protected areas may experience unusual population pressures near their edges; indeed, individual case studies provide examples. There is no evidence, however, of a general pattern of disproportionate population growth near protected areas.”
“The President and I agreed to a new initiative that will further cross-border cooperation on environmental protection and environmental security,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday, announcing plans for a U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue.
Scientists at Purdue University have teamed up with Google Earth to create an interactive map of U.S. CO2 emissions.
Mark Weston, who writes for the Global Dashboard blog, posted an edited version of a recent talk he gave on West African demography and security.
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