by the stormy present
Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 08:57:57 AM EST
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has an op-ed in the Washington Post today about climate change and Darfur:
It would be natural to view these as distinct developments. In fact, they are linked. Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand -- an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.
I guess it's good to know that the UN secretary general realizes this, and truthfully I have long wished that more people did. The war in Darfur started as a dispute over resources -- water and land -- which were strained because of a drought. Our warming world led to war. I'm sure it's not the first time it's happened.
Most wars are resource wars. Countries don't fight over ideas, not usually. They fight over stuff. Stuff like land, and water, and oil.
The scarcer stuff is, and the more necessary to basic human life, the more likely it is that people will fight over it. So yes, as the world warms and our population expands and our stuff gets stretched thinner and thinner, we will find more and more to fight about.
Ultimately, however, any real solution to Darfur's troubles involves sustained economic development. Precisely what shape that might take is unclear. But we must begin thinking about it. New technologies can help, such as genetically modified grains that thrive in arid soils or new irrigation and water storage techniques. There must be money for new roads and communications infrastructure, not to mention health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programs. The international community needs to help organize these efforts, teaming with the Sudanese government as well as the international aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations working so heroically on the ground.
The stakes go well beyond Darfur. Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist and one of my senior advisers, notes that the violence in Somalia grows from a similarly volatile mix of food and water insecurity. So do the troubles in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
Yes, Mr. Ban, everything is connected. Food security, climate change, access to resourcs, human development, economic development, human rights, women's rights (why are those considered something different?), peace or lack thereof -- they're all connected.
These people realize that. So do these people. And a lot of other people, I'm sure.
And then there's this guy:
We can't change the future unless we deal with the political economics of the present, and so far the climate change debate has avoided capitalism completely. While democratic power has been futile, especially regarding the horrible slaughter of Iraq, it must assert itself soon if there is to be any long term future for humanity. When we stop the war on the environment, we will end other wars as well, and probably see an improvement in all aspects of nature.
Well, he had me up till that last sentence. But no, saving our planet won't stop us from killing each other; stopping climate change and evironmental degradation won't bring us world peace; there were wars and human atrocities long before there was global warming.
But we won't be able to solve any of the ills that ail us without also stopping the damage we're doing to this fragile ship we live on.