Preventing the exploitation of the environment in war and armed conflict
This is a message from UN Environment’s Executive Director Erik Solheim to mark the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
Nearly 1.5 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, live in conflict-affected areas and fragile states.
War and armed conflict present a risk for humanity and other forms of life on our planet. Too many lives, and species, are at stake.
Decades of ugly wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia or Iraq have led to the immense loss of natural resources. In Afghanistan alone, we have witnessed astounding deforestation rates which have reached 95 per cent in some areas.
In 2017, the Islamic State triggered vast toxic clouds by setting ablaze oil wells and a sulfur factory near the Iraqi city of Mosul, poisoning the landscape and people.
Critical biodiversity hotspots in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have offered cover and refuge for rebel groups.
This has been disastrous for wildlife and forest conservation as these habitats have opened the doors to illegal logging, unregulated mining, massive poaching and breeding grounds for invasive species.
Elephant populations have been decimated in DR Congo and Central African Republic, while in Ukraine the Siverskyi Donets River has been further damaged by pollution from the conflict.
In Gaza, Yemen, and elsewhere, water infrastructure, from groundwater wells to wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations to desalination plants have been damaged, posing environmental and public health risks.
It would be a dangerous mistake to ignore these environmental consequences of conflict, and the international community needs to act with greater urgency.
This International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict I urge you all to speak up boldly and renew your commitment to protecting our imperiled planet, even in the face of hostile armed aggression.
Through resolutions passed at the Second and Third UN Environment Assemblies in 2016 and 2017, Member States demonstrated their recognition of the need to improve protection of the environment in times of armed conflict.
As part of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development we also need to integrate natural resource and environmental issues into conflict assessments and planning.
We must place transparency and better mechanisms for monitoring, collecting, sharing and assessing information on potential environmental impacts at the centre of our oversight and protection of natural resources in armed conflict. And we must build capacity to deploy these mechanisms, including through Massive Open Online Courses that help democratize assess to key knowledge. Last year, over 10,000 people from 170 countries enrolled in the UN-backed MOOC on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace. We should aim to double this number in 2019.
I urge you all to renew your commitment to jealously protect our planet from the debilitating effects of war and especially at a time our warming planet is already threatened by the impacts of runaway climate change.
With the 2030 Agenda, and the concurrent efforts of the United Nations Environment Assembly and the International Law Commission, we have a range of important tools at our disposal to promote environmental peacebuilding.
The United Nations remains committed to working with governments, businesses and citizens to protect the environment before, during and after armed conflict.
Global Warming: Can Human Nature Be Changed?
It was an extreme heat wave in 2022 that brought the hottest temperatures since 1901 to the Indian Subcontinent. Heavy rains followed during the rainy season … as the source of the moisture, the nearby ocean, was warmer. As could have been expected, floods followed impacting millions in India and Bangladesh. Floods in Venezuela also in April of the same year affected more than 85,000 people. It should come as no surprise when scientists reliably inform us that such catastrophic weather events are becoming more frequent across the world.
Venezuela has not been spared in 2023 either as heavy rains triggered landslides and floods in February causing widespread damage in the state of Sao Paulo.
Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Mawar is active in the Pacific. Unusual both for bringing an early start to the hurricane season and for its intensity — over 200 km/hr gusts — it is barreling northwest towards the Philippines and Japan.
Is all this a harbinger of a warming planet and more unsettled weather? One swallow does not make a summer they say, perhaps not even two or three. So the scientists remain cautious in their predictions, troubled though they may be.
Then there is the upper atmosphere which is much less dense. The CO2 escaping to it has very few molecules to bump up against so it continues on into deep space. Moreover, the blanket of CO2 causing our global warming also prevents the normal escape of heat to warm the upper atmosphere. It is consequently cooling and shrinking, thus allowing more of the sun’s rays to penetrate through and worsen global warming.
It leaves one with a sense of foreboding and uneasiness relieved only by the thought that it might take a century plus before the earth becomes a living hell. There is in addition the fervent hope that human nature would change under greater adversity.
Look at us now. Greed is good. It drives the economy. If people stop buying goods and services, we enter a recession. Yet all of this activity consumes energy and releases CO2, its by-product.
We love convenience and the easy way. That too drives our economy. Our demands for convenience can lead to mostly empty trains during off-peak hours. We prefer to drive rather than walk distances shorter than a mile. The median distance to the nearest food store in the US is 0.9 miles according to the USDA. We can walk that distance easily yet how many actually do.
Humans are also in competition with each other. To the winners the laurels, yes, but for each winner, there are usually many more losers … who also have to survive. Thus the need for cooperation, for working together and helping each other.
Perhaps, the broadly defined cooperative purpose underlying our actions could be one of nurturing earth. In work, play or any mundane activity, the methods chosen could reflect this guiding principle.
Its importance, of course, cannot be overstated if we are to push back against climate change and leave behind a planet that is as good or better for succeeding generations.
Climate Smart Agriculture Can Help Balochistan bounce back
Climate change brings disaster to the province Balochistan, which is an arid region located in west of Pakistan. The drought-stricken region struggling to increase its agricultural productivity, faced a backlash due to catastrophic floods. The predominantly agriculture-based territory reached the dead zone as farmers had stopped farming, shepherds kept their animal numbers low, which put people’s lives on stake, as it increased food insecurity. This highlighted the need to start a policy debate for climate smart agriculture.
Climate smart agriculture is an approach that is making the planet prosperous again. It is an ambition to increase the integration of food security with enhance resilience in productivity. It is a sustainable agriculture practice that promotes soil health, water management, and biodiversity conservation with economic benefits. Its practices like, cover/tunnel farming, drip irrigation, crop livestock systems can help Balochistan to go green and integrated again. These practices can sequester carbon in soil and can fight the impacts of climate change more efficiently.
Climate change is affecting the province in various ways. The region of Balochistan is characterized by extreme aridity, with annual precipitation levels below average, causing severe droughts, which is leading to a catastrophic impact on the province’s agriculture and livestock.
Flash floods in Balochistan becomes the new common during the monsoon season as a result of heavy rainfall, with the most significant in 2022. These floods have a detrimental impact on the environment, causing soil erosion, depletion, and the loss of fertile topsoil. The soil is already deficient in minerals and cannot endure further depletion, requiring several hundred years to recover and cannot support agricultural growth.
In an interview with wealthPk, Dr. Hanif-ur-Rehman AP from university of Turbat said, that high efficiency irrigation system (HEIS) can play an efficient role in climate effected regions like Turbat, Makran, Kech where farmers had traditionally cultivated the crops for source of income. The use of drip, rain guns, Centre pivot, and sprinkler have the ability to bring back the lush green pastures that have turned barren.
Climate smart agriculture could not only fetch the lost agriculture but also increase the productivity rate by making the rest of the region green. Balochistan accounts for only 6% of cultivable land for agriculture which not only failed to meet food security needs but also added little in Pakistan’s 25% agriculture GDP.
Balochistan people despite having less literacy are very conducive to cultivating lands with new cultivation techniques. In late 1990s and 2000s when the entire western part of the province was severely hit by droughts, people brought the techniques of less resilient tunnel farming to moist the soil. They grow crops beneath protective plastic tunnels. This technique helps them cope with their immediate needs but it fails to produce yield on a massive scale. Cultivation in proper climate resilient tunnels usually requires 10 to 20 acres of area or economically 3 acres feasible, and the tunnels are created by using steel pipes, or aluminum pipes that support plantations that are usually 3 to 12 feet in height and 5-10 feet wide.
The drip irrigation technique also has enormous potential for minimizing production costs by moderating the input use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Drip irrigation keeps the field capacity constant by enabling the crops to easily take in water and nutrients, which result in uniform growth of plants and enhances the quality that produces well. Drip irrigation distributes water through a network of valves, pipes, emitters, and tubing that can save 50-70% of irrigation water which can not only resolve the water scarcity issue of Balochistan, it also can produce efficient, extensive production of crops such as apples, cherries, tomatoes, and citrus.
The province also needs to move towards an integrated crop-livestock system (ICLS), which is sustainable, productive, and climate resilient compared to intensive specialized systems. ICLS have increased over time in arid regions but still, Balochistan lags behind due to lack of skills by producers, lack of investment, lack of sustainable awareness and market competition. Livestock production is the largest sector of the province’s economy. It is nearly impossible to have a dream of economic development for the rural masses without prior attention to Livestock and crop management.
After floods, the crops fields are destroyed due to which livestock become the main source of food for many rural households that make the rural farming through livestock less practicable. It can only be enhanced by administration policies through capital funding, educational services and markets to subsistence farmers.
CSA is a method that includes several elements entrenched in local settings rather than a collection of practices that can be used everywhere. CSA requires the adoption of technologies and policies, and it refers to behaviors both on and off the farm.
According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nation 2023 report, Local farmers are the foremost holders of knowledge about their environment, agro-ecosystems, crops, livestock, and climatic patterns. Therefore, the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture should be aligned with the local farmers’ knowledge, needs, and priorities. . Farmers of Balochistan have shown a keen interest in drip irrigation, tunnel farming technique but the high cost of imported pipes, emitters, plantation of aluminum tunnels from china has become their hindrance.
Mainstreaming CSA in Balochistan requires critical stocktaking and promising practices by financial and institutional enablers that can create an initial baseline for discussion and investment from the globe. If the government of Balochistan supports the farmers through public funding or by joint ventures with farmers for covering the startup costs, the techniques can be very useful not for food security but also for economic benefits on a constant level. According to a report on Climate smart practices, the CS techniques could not only help to save water up to 50-70%, reduce the fertilizer use by 45%, increase yield up to 100-150%, reduce the production cost by 35%, but could also mature the crops with better quality for uneven topography.
Human History and the Wonder of the Horse
Imagine a person accustomed to traveling at 3 to 4 mph, who discovers a means (the horse) to speed up to 5 times that pace with occasional thrilling bursts doubling even that.
At 15 mph, it is then not unreasonable to assume a 1000 mile range for a week on horseback allowing for breaks and sleep at night. It must have expanded enormously the horizons of those early Kazakhs who first domesticated the horse some 6000 years ago.
If the Kazakhs roamed west, the Mongols, a few thousand years later, roamed back and began a vast empire that eventually included all of China. Ties with Russia were close but as a hegemon, until a few centuries later when the Russians threw off the yoke.
As Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping shake hands forging a new treaty, China is once again a more powerful economy, the largest in the world, while Russia’s is more akin in size to Italy’s.
If the horse made the vast Central Asian steppes explorable, its remarkable navigational skills ensured the rider would eventually be able to return home.
Apparently horses are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field, and not unlike homing pigeons can find their way home. Confirmatory tests have shown that when magnets are slung over their withers, they get completely lost. Observers have also noted that, in pasture. they tend to stand north-south aligned with the earth’s magnetic field.
Up until the advent of the internal combustion engine, horses were used for all kinds of transportation. Where the rail line ended, horses took over. They hauled freight in covered wagons; pulled stagecoaches in the Wild West and elegant carriages in Europe; they were a cowboy’s bread and butter, and personal transportation for anyone who could afford one; horses in the cavalry delivered the punch generals were seeking in battle; in racing, they provided thrills for the audience and excitement for punters — such is true also today, and with all the special attention given to the triple crown races, the casual observer might forget the weekly calendar of racing events across the country.
Horses for courses is a common saying for they are bred for speed in short races and stamina for long steeplechases like the famous Grand National in England.
Hark back to the wagon drivers of old, when on lonely long journeys the driver could talk to his horses — like dogs they are able to understand and develop quite a vocabulary of human words plus silent signals from the reins and legs of the riders.
And pity the poor trucker now and his lonely cross-country trips — not much to say to a noisy diesel engine! The only chance to talk he gets is when he takes a break to eat, rest and sometimes sleep at truck stops along the way.
With all that horses did for humans, one can wonder what they got out of it. Apparently they form close bonds with their owners, and as with dogs, the feelings are mutual.
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