›The UN Security Council must take quick, decisive action on climate change, argue U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and George Mason University’s Michael Shank in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor. “A concerted international strategy, on a par with the seriousness and scope of an UN Security Council resolution, is what’s needed to counter this climate crisis.”
The Environment for Development Initiative, a joint venture by U.S. NGO Resources for the Future and the Environmental Economics Unit at Göteborg University in Sweden, has released a set of discussion papers on environmental management in developing countries around the world. The papers highlight case studies from Kenya, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.
“New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears,” published earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, examines whether limited quantities of key resources—including arable land, fresh water, and oil—will curb the world’s growing prosperity. “The resource constraints foreseen by the Club of Rome are more evident today than at any time since the 1972 publication of the think tank’s famous book, ‘The Limits of Growth.’ Steady increases in the prices for oil, wheat, copper and other commodities—some of which have set record highs this month—are signs of a lasting shift in demand as yet unmatched by rising supply.”
›March 28, 2008 // By Wilson Center StaffA lack of consensus among researchers and policymakers over how to define “environmental security,” “national security,” and “human security” complicates discussions of the security implications of environmental and demographic change, assert Robert Mcab and Kathleen Bailey in “Latin America and the debate over environmental protection and national security,” published recently in the Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management Journal. A shortage of theoretical and empirical evidence makes proving the existence of environment-demography-security linkages difficult. Nevertheless, argue the authors, “given the relatively fragile nature of many Latin American economies, accurately addressing these threats is imperative for economic and social stability and security.”
Latin America’s rural environments face severe threats, including deforestation, land degradation, erosion, and water scarcity and pollution. “Human-induced land degradation and water shortages directly affect economic sufficiency in many rural areas,” write the authors. Another environmental cause of insecurity and violence—in Latin America and elsewhere—is land distribution. Inequitable land distribution in El Salvador, Latin America’s most densely populated country, was one of the causes of the country’s 18-year civil war. The 1992 peace agreement that ended the war set up a plan for land redistribution, although some question how fully it has been implemented.
Demographic shifts can also destabilize communities and regions: Migration can generate tensions and violence between newcomers and established populations, as has occurred in the disputed rural region of San Juan, which lies between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Moreover, Latin America is the most urbanized part of the developing world, and growing urban populations—often swelled by internal migrants—are straining cities’ and municipalities’ ability to provide basic services such as waste disposal and clean water.
Mcab and Bailey emphasize that demographic phenomena such as population growth and migration do not automatically create environmental degradation or threaten national security. Instead, it is the manner in which they interact with other socio-economic and political factors that can lead them to damage the environment or foster insecurity.
›March 27, 2008 // By Geoff DabelkoIn today’s USA Today, General Anthony Zinni (Ret.) and Admiral Leighton Smith (Ret.) make a succinct argument for why addressing global issues such as poverty, disease, corruption, and climate change is essential to making the United States safer. Such an op-ed provides a prime example of how military leaders can play a productive role in advocating for non-military tools that will advance a broader human security agenda. “We understand that the U.S. cannot rely on military power alone to keep us safe from terrorism, infectious disease and other global threats that recognize no borders,” write Zinni and Smith. “We [the United States] must match our military might with a new commitment to investing in improving people’s lives overseas.”
›March 27, 2008 // By Sonia Schmanski“Images of overpopulation tend to reinforce racist stereotypes of the world’s poorest people, demonizing those who are the least responsible for global warming” and obscuring important questions about how well family planning and other policies actually combat climate change, argued Hampshire College professor Betsy Hartmann in a lively roundtable discussion on population and climate change hosted by The Bulletin Online.
Because one-third of all pregnancies are unwanted, and because some 200 million women desire family planning services but lack access to them, contributor Frederick A.B. Meyerson, an ecologist at the University of Rhode Island, argued that policies to reduce unwanted pregnancy must be a chief global priority. He called for the international community to “restore the goal of universal access to family planning as a top-tier priority, to protect both the climate and human wellbeing.”
Joseph Chamie, research director for the Center for Migration Studies, called this a “delay tactic” that would do little to slow climate change, and said the international community should instead focus on decreasing consumption in the developed world, noting that the average American creates nearly 20 times as much carbon dioxide as the average Indian. He added that the 200 million women Meyerson mentioned live primarily in regions of Africa and Asia where per capita emissions are so low that changes in fertility will have negligible impact on climate. Increasing access to voluntary family planning services could have greater effects in India or China, he said, where economic development has resulted in continually increasing per capita emissions levels.
John Guillebaud, emeritus professor at University College London, and Martin Desvaux, trustee of the Optimum Population Trust, resisted Chamie’s assertion, writing, “It’s not difficult to understand that one less person born into poverty is one less person who needs to be helped out of poverty—a development process that cannot occur without increased energy consumption and (in the medium term) more carbon-dioxide emissions per person.” They wondered whether the international community would be better off focusing on reducing absolute emissions or providing for a more equitable distribution of emissions by reducing it in more-developed areas and allowing it to increase in less-developed areas as a result of improved standards of living.
Pointing out that some credit smaller landholdings (the result of a growing population) with higher investment in soil conservation and better-managed tree densities in Rwanda, Hartmann highlighted the complexity in forecasting the consequences of population growth. Seemingly counterintuitive findings like this one pepper the debate, encouraging us to carefully analyze the mathematical models and projections we rely on.
›March 24, 2008 // By Liat RacinAccording to Minority Rights Group International’s State of the World’s Minorities 2008, not only are ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities and indigenous groups suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change, they are also less likely to benefit from humanitarian relief and more likely to be harmed by certain efforts to combat climate change. The report draws attention to the fact that the plight of minorities is often neglected in the international community’s discussions of climate change.
Frequently residing on marginal land, minority and indigenous groups also tend to be directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and therefore are more vulnerable to changes in the environment. Some efforts to mitigate climate change—particularly increasing the production and use of biofuels—have forced minority and indigenous communities off their land. For example, as of 2005, more than 90 percent of the land planted with oil palms in Colombia had belonged to Afro-Columbians.
The report also asserts that certain humanitarian relief efforts have been deliberately discriminatory, noting the slow pace of relief to the Dalits (members of the lowest Hindu caste) after last year’s floods in
. Minority and indigenous communities will continue to be at risk until policymakers seriously address these issues. India
›Yesterday, in a post on his Dot Earth blog, New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin called attention to the fact that 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation facilities—and that includes pit latrines, not just flush toilets. The World Health Organization estimates that inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene are responsible for 4 percent of all deaths worldwide and 5.7 percent of the total global disease burden (including premature death and years lost to disability caused by disease). Children are the most acutely affected by poor sanitation: 1.5 million children die each year from diseases—primarily diarrhea—caused by inadequate sanitation.
Tomorrow is World Water Day, and in honor of 2008 being the International Year of Sanitation, the United Nations and other organizations will strive to raise people’s awareness of sanitation, combat the taboos against discussing it, and galvanize efforts to halve the number of people without access to sanitation by 2015—a Millennium Development Goal.
The Environmental Change and Security Program’s (ECSP) Navigating Peace Initiative seeks to call attention to the importance of water and sanitation issues. ECSP’s Water Stories Flash website includes a multimedia presentation on dry sanitation in Mexico, while “Low-Cost Sanitation: An Overview of Available Methods,” an article by Alicia Hope Herron in ECSP’s recent report Water Stories: Expanding Opportunities in Small-Scale Water and Sanitation, analyzes the pros and cons of the numerous inexpensive, innovative sanitation technologies currently available.
›March 21, 2008 // By Wilson Center Staff
The Pacific Institute recently released an updated Water Conflict Chronology, which documents instances of conflict over water from 3000 B.C. through the present.
In an article on the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations, Saleem Ali of the University of Vermont argues that commentators should not have been so quick to blame the recent violence in Chad on oil, as civil strife in the country predates the discovery of oil by several decades. If oil revenues were managed transparently, he suggests, they could significantly improve stability and quality of life in Chad.
Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute highlights recent population trends—such as declining global fertility but a growing global population—and emphasizes the difficulty of accurately predicting future ones in the latest edition of Vital Signs.
Video, presentations, and photos—as well as an agenda and list of participants—from last week’s NATO Security Science Forum on Environmental Security are now available online.
A senior wildlife official with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) was arrested this week amid charges that he organized the executions of up to 10 endangered mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park last year. The official is also accused of cutting down protected trees to convert them into charcoal. WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation NGO that works in the park, suggested that Mashagiro had orchestrated the killings of the gorillas to distract rangers from the charcoal production, which was destroying the gorillas’ habitat, and to discourage the rangers from protecting the gorillas.
Last month, the New Security Beat reported on a new agreement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Rwanda to protect the mountain gorillas’ rapidly diminishing habitat. The initiative was one of the few promising developments for the gorillas over the past several months.
In early March, rebels who had taken control of the park’s Gorilla Sector—home to half of the world’s approximately 720 gorillas—threatened to kill any park ranger who attempted to enter it. According to local officials, the rebels have set up a parallel gorilla administration in the sector, charging tourist groups to view the gorillas. The park rangers had hoped they would be permitted to enter the Gorilla Sector following a January 2008 peace agreement between the Congolese government and the rebel groups, but the rebels have continued to forbid them from returning to the area.
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