Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Water Relates to World Conflict - Talk by Ellen Teague

What are the Causes of Water Stress

1. Reduced amount of water available

Of all the Earth's water, only 3% is fresh water. The other 97% is salt water and although there are some desalination plants, we do not have very effective methods of taking the salt out and making it suitable for drinking.
783 million people do not have access to fresh water.
750,000 new people entered Bangledesh in the last month, fleeing war. Bangledesh is a country that already has a great shortage.
10,000 people in Chad, in Africa, relied on Lake Chad for drinking water but now the lake has gone. There are parellel stories on every continent.  

2. Dirty Water - pollution

Fukashima nuclear power plant, in Japan, is still leaking radiation into the sea and has travelled as far as California and all around the world, contaminating and endangering life.
Water carrying bacteria. Over 60 million people are currently refugees in places with no infrastructure. This means there are water borne problems, like 500,000 with cholera in the Yemen.
Much of this human insecurity is caused by drought where people have had to move away from their homes for environmental reasons.

3. Disasters - flooding

Sometimes there is masses of water but it all arrives at once and is destructive in its force. Flooding in Fiji is one example of this.There was a heavy South West monsoon season in South Asia, causing flooding in Sri Lanka and 1200 killed in Mumbai flooding. There were floods and hailstorms in America and closer to home too.

4. Rights to Water

Peter Brabeck, Nestle's Chairman infamously stated that human beings don't have a right to water. They should buy it like everything else. Suggesting that water should be privatized would be the right approach to the water crisis!
In a tense region in Mexico, Coca Cola bought the water supply ... and made Coke with it. For their advertizing campaign, they made the Mexican people pose, in traditional dress, for the new Coca Cola billboards, looking happy and drinking Coke. Eventually the people won back their right to fresh water. It is thought that the 'water footprint' of a 2 litre bottle of Coke is 132 gallons of water needed. However, their factories have been known to pollute and reduce whole water sources. Ethical Consumer: 70% of fresh water is used in food production and this is how the food industry is managing the risks

5. Military Contamination

Wars and even the testing of weapons has caused land degredation. There are contaminated, toxic remnants.
In Iraq, our weapons have left depleted uranium that has poisoned everything.
We saw photos of a rally outside Downing Street. The posters said, It's A Mess, Clean It Up. In Iraq, birth defects are now commonplace as a result.
What can we do? We can be less tolerant of conflicts and weapons.  

6. Money

 A crisis of priorities - NHS versus TridentAs many have said: Climate not Trident.
The replacement nuclear submarine, Trident, has cost 100 billion pounds. It has been questioned as to whether it was good use of money. This is especially in contrast to the NHS or homes or the countless other social areas that need funding.It was questioned if it is a deterrent when the main threats are smaller less visible units.

Water Use In Mining
Mining and other extractive Industries
To extract gold, mercury (2nd most poisonous substance in the world) is used and it runs off into the ground water.
To extract gas, millions of litres of fresh water and chemical solution are pumped down holes to flush the gas up. All nearby aquifers/ground water and coastal areas are contaminated.

The Greed of Corporations, Industries and Economies.
Virtual Water: This is the water that is used in the manufacture of other things; comparing
25l litres of water used to grow 300g potatoes
1440 litres for 300g of pork  

2,400 litres of water to make one beefburger.
Several hundred litres of water to make one litre of milk.
Several hundred litres of water to make one pint of beer.

7. Lack of Awareness or Mindful Use of Water by Individuals

We can notice how the media rarely links environmental problems with conflict and how rarely it links our consumption of animal products with water contamination and shortage.
We can get less ignorant of the water cycle. This detachment has happened as 50% of the world's population are urbanized.
Also priority is given to addressing short term issues/emergencies rather than taking a longer view or coming up with a strategy to protect access to and the quality of our water.

Integral Ecology - Connection between poverty, water etc.

8. Governments

UK: We need to be less complacent about the immorality of the Excel Arms Fair. Arms sales are immoral surely to Saudi Arabia, who are using them to bomb the helpless people of the Yemen. On the one hand the government announces cuts to social services, it mentions a further quarter of a billion to nuclear weapons.

Bolivia: Public water was taken over by a private company who improved access to water in shanti towns by increasing taps but they immediately put the price up, ten fold. There were demonstrations and unrest and the new contractors were forced out again.

Israel: The 20ft city walls that Israel has built cut off the water supply to the Palestinian areas of the city and divert water to Israel's irrigation.

In Korea, Pax Christi and others have maintained a presence at a site for a planned military base, in Korea, which held pristine water. The military base was built nonetheless but the demonstration is ongoing. They were concerned about the building but they are still concerned  as the base makes it a target for other countries to attack.
Syrian Conflict: The war in Syria was preceded by 10 years of drought. This led to youth unrest and then on to civil war.

From Ethiopa to Egypt They Rely on The Nile For Water
The president of Egypt made a statement "The Only matter that could ake Egypt to war again in water." What he referred to was Ethiopia threatening to make a dam and divert water to other areas rather than continue down towards Egypt.

Worldwide: Governments are offering military protection to environmentally damaging corporations. Conflict of the laying of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) where the indigenous people of Standing Rock tried to block the pipeline, as it crosses waterways in more than 200 places and several areas sacred to their culture.  They argued both that the lands belonged to them and were preserved and that the risk of leaks and pollution to watercourses was too high. The policing of the site was heavy handed and there was much violence and injury to protestors, including loss of limbs. The US, Ireland (Shell) and Nigeria (Shell), England (Gas), the Congo and many other countries are totally militarized to give access to mineral wealth.

9. Desertification

There is a pattern of desertification: Land going from forested to desert. There is then the pattern of drought leading to conflict. We saw pictures of even as long ago as 1986 in Sudan, where there were  hundreds of people sitting in queues continually, for water and food. There were no shrubs or trees for shade, as far as the eyes could see.

11. Overpumping of Aquifers

Aquifers are so depleted in Bejing that the city has started to sink. It can be understood as
5% of the world's population live in East Asia but they have only 1% of the world's water.
In England, each person uses an average of 55 gallons.

 Ways to Confront the link between conflict and water

Support anti-nuclear Initiatives and support Non-Violence Initiatives, like Pax Christi's.

Although there were many differences for the Interfaith Conference to work through, including blasphemy, the problems of water that faced people of all faiths united them, by concerning them jointly.

Further Problems

Local Communities do not have control of their own resources
Environmental Activism is a very dangerous activity to be involved in.
There have been some heroines.
An activist, Berta Gicarris, defending Honduras from a dam that would have cut off water to thousands of people downstream was murdered in the last couple of years. There is a woman who has succeeded in starting the Greenbelt movement in Kenya and has instigated the planting of 10 million trees. This is a powerful way to correct the balance and bring back water to streams and aquifers. Trees attract rain. This shows another problem of the deforestation for crops and grazing. They all lead to desertification.
The failure to value water has been central to the problem as has the neglect of justice for Future Generations. 
Women, 2 million Palestinian and Israeli women, have been marching for peace and shared resources in the most unlikely and war-torn place - their border.

Other Signs of Hope

Two million people signed a petition to President Hollande supporting the need to reach an agreement at the Paris Climate Summit.
People are starting to be aware of their own use of water:
Saving Rainwater
Turning off water and not wasting it
Turning to a plant-based diet.
There are 'conserving water' awards
Churches and Schools are turning 'eco'
with some even calling for an 'Ecological Conversion'; for people to see the destruction of water and forests as 'evil'.
The Vatican is trying to work on an interfaith level and his most recent report was dedicated to the preservation of the environment and stopping climate change.
Universities and others are being asked to divest from fossil fuels.
There's a UN World Water Day, The Campain Against Arms Trade and Flobal Justic now, there's supportive educative media, appreciating the natural world. The new David Attenborough series Blue Planet 2 is coming out soon and he is likely to concentrate on 'looking thy last on all things lovely' rather than flag up too starkly that we are facing the largest amount of extinctions ever and the fact that there is already more plastic in the sea than there are fish. However, Attenborough was faced with a question in St paul's Cathedral that spoke volumes. He was asked 'Why do we need all these different species?' He was so irritated he shut it down but it just goes to show the ignorance of people in regard to biodiversity and the connection of all life on the planet. 

We are all invited to One World Week

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