Peace for future generations
Peace for future generations
A new doctoral course for post-graduate students at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Uppsala University “Sustainability in Science & Technology – Water-Energy Nexus” is now opened for participation.
“Sustainability in Science & Technology – Water-Energy Nexus” will treat three strategic questions facing science and technology in a wider trans-sectoral and transdisciplinary perspective. WHAT is sustainability? WHY it is needed for socio-economic developments? and HOW to achieve smart but yet sustainable societies?
Water, energy and natural resources are essential for our living on planet earth, yet they are not INFINITE. Declining access to these essentialities are gradually taking place around the world. The transformation process to sustainable societies is not only urgent but more importantly imperative.
Water and energy systems require natural resources in their lifecycles, but at the price of severe negative impacts on environment, biodiversity and life quality. Sustainability in science and technology is the only means to cure and heal this paradox.
“Sustainability in Science & Technology – Water-Energy Nexus” is planned in lectures, group assignment and seminars (part 1) with “lecture-based” instructions and case-studies involving individual mentoring (part 2). Target groups are PhD students in all domains of Science and Technology. The participant of the course will gain knowledge on how to structure their own future “Career Development Plans”.
Early registration is recommended for pre-planning of individual mentoring that can be used as additional credit in Academic Teaching Training Course. For registration, please add your personal identity number (Swedish: personnummer), i.e. Swedish national identification number.
More information on the course is given at: http://teknat.uu.se/digitalAssets/395/c_395062-l_3-k_sustainability-in-science-and-technology.pdf
After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated the continent. It was natural that mitigation actions should be found to save Europe and its population. Already in 1946 Winston Churchill postulated the emerging of a United States of Europe during the 20th century. In 1952 the European Coal and Steel Community was formed and was a declaration towards the first step for the federation of Europe and the gradual build up of Europe towards full industrialization and technological progress. Thereafter in 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, where the European Economic Community (EEC) was created with the establishment of a customs union as trade is among key socio-economic issue to gain maximum market yields post the industrialization and technology advances. At the same time another pact was created, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. This is again a natural step in further developing the social-economic programs in Europe, as energy resources are strategic and imperative drivers. From 1967-1973 the European Communities were formed with the enlargement to include Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In 1981 Greece joined, Portugal and Spain following in 1986. 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states. In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC and the Single European Act was signed. These steps are key issues of importance for trade, mobility and integration in the larger inner market in Europe, also for the international protection of the European trade-market.
After the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1990 ((https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/berlinwall), the former East Germany became part of the Communities after the reunification of Germany. With further enlargement to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. This expansion of EU introduced new levels of complexity and discord especially as historical conflicts have to be resolved. With this, the European Union was formally established by the Maastricht Treaty (1992–2007), whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand. The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC. Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU in 1995. In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Then, the eurozone increased to encompass 19 countries and in 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the Union. In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. The same year and the following years, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania adopted the euro. On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and reformed many aspects of the EU, e.g. the legal structure of the European Union, strengthened the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Both the introduction of the euro and expansion of Europe were further steps towards building the new identity of the larger Europe.
However, new realities emerged since the global economic crises of 2007-2008 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007–2008) also from the beginning of the 2010s where the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues. Including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from the Middle East, as consequences of wars and civil instabilities, and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from EU ”Brexit” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brexit). The UK formally notified the European Council to leave on 29 March 2017. Also, the 2016 elections in USA with the new political reforms by President Trump aiming at Making America Great Again have feedback impacts on the international socio-economic politics.
Catalonia is now calling for independence from Spain (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/20/spain-guardia-civil-raid-catalan-government-hq-referendum-row) which already indicating, as in the case of Greece, regional economic insecurities can pile to trigger not only political instabilities but further large-scale and long-term economic consequences for both Catalonia and Spain.
(http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/spain-economy-survive-catalan-secession-170930163702214.html; http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/29/news/economy/catalonia-independence-spain-economy/index.html). From the viewpoint of the richer Catalonia and its population, the socio-economic developments in Spain as a whole can not be sustainable by being dependent on Catalonian economy forever. For both Spain and Catalonia a long-term solution has to be found as the situation is indeed getting much serious and the risk is that such scenario can have spillover effects to other parts of Europe.
Saudi Arabia is taking major and new steps for social modernization with reforms to engage its youth and women in shaping a more sustainable future for Saudi Arabia. It has been indeed several multi-layered and multi-scale challenges to perform such ice-breaking changes in the social fabrics of a society that emanated from deep rooted cultural traditions. While, it may seem simple, easy and straightforward for any outsiders to think that such changes can be done overnight, it is in reality a tectonic social transformation for Saudi Arabia to do such changes, it is also of historic dimensions.
The MENA region, in this context, is taking major steps towards more open socio-economic and social reforms to join the global trends in the path to modern sustainable societies. As the three pillars of true sustainability involve environment, economic and social issues, all these can not be solved and implemented all at the same time. It is a long and gradual process that can not be faster or kept shorter.
The decision of allowing Saudi women to drive comes amid a broad reform program that last week led to women being allowed into a sports stadium for the first time. This is also in parallel of many other long-term and large-scale reforms, vision 2030, to move away from being dependent on oil, to diversify the economy of the country, invest in infra-structure, in women and youth, health, education and the labor market in general.
The piling up of air pollution in many cities and urban areas due to worldwide traffic chokes on millions of roads in many cities is still given official prioritaires or even promoted by legal actions. Air quality in many cities and urban areas around the world is becoming major health threats for everyone. Collective breathing of rubbish in the air of many cities is now much more serious than individual smoking, this is making living in cities a nightmare especially where thermal isolation is non-existing. In hot and arid climate zones with limited or no rain, poor air quality makes such health threat a chronical problem and daily struggle for survival. It is not only because of cars but also the failing and collapsing old infra-structures of aging transport systems not suitable for modern life. Many sources of pollution other than chemical ones, e.g. physical and biological, from factories, population and household in heavily populated areas with daily traffic (in and out) from rural areas add even more pollution to the emittions from traffic.
Even in some parts of the world cultural and social issues screen and shut out half of the population from promoting sustainable solutions in mitigating and counteracting the core roots of air pollution. Even more serious is where the whole population have no alternatives other than joining the heavy traffic and collapsing infra-structures thus removing all little ramaining possibilities to breath whatever left to breath. Even those who wish to walk can hardly find some safe, free and secure space to do so.
What and who would we blame if we see the same events of “love-hate stories” being repeated in history, again and again but with different actors and in different places. It is hardly a love story that keeps played here and there as “Casablanca”, the American famous drama film and one of America’s great classics of 1942, just before WWII. The famous saying “Play it again Sam” that falls the same time as the birth of the nuclear era around the same time. In this case a “hate story” to put an end to the bloody WWII, where politics called upon all scientific and technical efforts to invent the first nuclear bomb, “the Manhattan Project” (https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-atomic-the-manhattan-project-1991237). It was an race against Nazi Germany to create the first atomic bomb that lasted from 1942 until 1945 and forced Japan to surrender and finally ended the war. But, it opened a huge gate and put the world to the Atomic Age. The first consequencess was mass of destruction of tectonic scale, the killing and injuring of over 200,000 people, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It brought also massive suffering for generations as a result of genetic damages of direct and indirect damages of cell and DNA. At the same time, with the fear of nuclear weapons, Albert Einstein looked beyond the current war to future problems that such weapons could bring. In his letter to Niels Bohr (Danish physicist) in December 1944, he wrote “when the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.” It was hardly the intention of Albert Einstein to come around with his famous formula of 1905, as part of his Special Theory of Relativity, where he pointed (http://www.doug-long.com/einstein.htm) that a large amount of energy could be released from a small amount of matter as expressed by the equation E=mc2 (energy = mass times the speed of light squared).
Nuclear bombs became a reality that generated hundred of nuclear tests and laboratory work, known and unknown, to do more of the same stuff but yet with even more annihilation power. This brought the world and humans to live with constant threat and question repeated quite often would it be another “Play it again Sam”? It is not wrong at all to call nuclear bombs as tools for total annihilation as this is exactly what they are supposed to do, the total annihilation of life.
Recently Guardian shared “Annihilating North Korea would create more problems than it solves (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/04/annihilating-north-korea-create-more-problems-than-solves-trump-us-right-nuclear-taboo?CMP=twt_gu). This is certainly true as what the previous wars did (WWI, WWII, Korea War, Iraq War, Libya War, …), just bringing more and more conflicts and problems.
For Trump and the US right, breaking the nuclear taboo has always been thinkable. Donald Trump thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons. Here’s what is known in the media (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/06/should-more-countries-have-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-thinks-so/; https://www.google.se/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2016/06/02/politics/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-japan/index.html; https://www.google.se/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2016/06/02/politics/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-japan/index.html). Meanwhile, Donald Trump conveniently forgets the time he said more countries should have nukes and explaining that it is the “dishonest” media: (https://www.google.se/amp/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5828903be4b0c4b63b0d1c7d/amp; https://www.google.se/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/4437089/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-nukes/).
The option of nuclear threat has been always on many tables around the world, what then the world will do with all the nuclear arms that exist around the world.
The expanding globalization of knowledge in an era of increasing popularity of the internet and its social media instruments has both positive and negative impacts on our understanding of the reality around us.
Recently it has been alarming reports on fake news and misleading information. But how would we judge the quality of information and sort out what is true and what is fake? The question is not easy to answer especialy with considerations to the ever growing complexity of the web of knowledge. Also, our society has changed and will continue to change not only what regards the diversity of news but also the increasing interdependency of the ICT on the contemporary new geologic Epoch the Anthropocene. It is proposed to underline the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. Indeed, climate change is just one aspects of the impacts of humans on the Earth’s geology as it is only concerned with the changes in the atmosphere. There are other intensive impacts on the hydrosphere, biosphere and the lithosphere (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropocene). With the Paris Agreements and the associated obligations to promote and implement the UN-SDGs there are growing conflicting interests on global, regional and local scales involving setting rules and finding solutions for effective optimization of economic, environment and socials interests.
Fake and false news are not new, have exited in previous history and will continue to exist, if not expand and accelerate. Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. It is intended to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, or environmentally often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention. It uses eye-catching headlines or entirely fabricated stories to increase readership, online sharing and Internet click revenue. It also undermines serious media coverage and makes it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news).
With Iraqi war and most recently the 2016 Precidential elections in the USA fake news came to be the focus on several levels. One fake news entrepreneur, for example, says we should expect even more Trump hoaxes in 2017 (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.buzzfeed.com/amphtml/craigsilverman/top-fake-news-of-2016). Hoaxes about US politics were among the top-performing fake news content on Facebook in 2016, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed News. According to this article, twenty-three of the 50 top-performing fake news hoaxes we found on Facebook were focused on US politics. Overall, fake news about US politics accounted for 10.6 million of the 21.5 million total shares, reactions, and comments these English-language stories generated on Facebook this year, according to the analysis.
Classical and traditional top-bottom politics that ruled the world for decades, or even centuries, are facing new realities. Political promises get continuously modified or even totally violated as result of new elections that force abrupt changes in political systems and socio-economic landscape. The very reasons behind existing volatility in political systems and socio-economic landscape are:
(1) large-scale economic uncertainties because of cracking global socio-economic systems. Trumpism, Brexit, the bilateral “Germany-USA agreement” (following the example of the U.K.) and risks for collapse of the EU are examples of growing global socio-political and socio-economic multi-pole polarization with mainstream, populists, conservatives and economic elites on different sides, also any thing in between. While this division in itself is caused by new economic realities, it is likely to be the start of re-shaping and re-arranging the global economic structure and placing the rest of the world, i.e. those outside the new agreements and the political shifts, at great unknown risks (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1484871308/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=theeconomiccollapse-20&linkId=002b83f02f5dba32c7f7247fa185c3b2#productDescription_secondary_view_div_1489735945264). The U.S. elections are not simple as it may seem but very much controlled by a complex outdated left/right paradigm with elites from a double-pole polarized society or a new unification towards “making America Great Again” or generally speaking “making Single counties great again”. So, the situation is not unique for the U.S. as election in other democratic societies, e.g. in Europe/Germany, are following the trends in the U.S.. Even if Trump and Brexit are legitimate anti-establishment, there entry (an expanding example) is likely to seal the deal on the economic shakes in international banks and existing markets (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-10/he-won-because-elites-want-him-there-global-economy-will-collapse). It is all about the independence of Global Elites to make the move to enslave all the people of the planet, economically, socially and morally (http://www.silverdoctors.com/silver/silver-news/the-global-economic-collapse-is-coming-marshall-swing/). Even Germany followed the example UK and conducted its own bi-lateral agreements with the U.S. . Though there is a European Union still individual nations, e.g. Germany in this case, can conduct its own bilateral agreement with the U.S. in the sane way Germany did with China. Can anyone imagine California, Florida or Seattle to conduct bilateral agreement with the whole European Union? Such trends are contrary to the ambitions to unify EU and can even cause gradual and increasing degeneration of EU. As this can develop internal barriers between the member states regarding convergence, i.e. organized coordination and integration, of the production and labor markets in Europe as a whole. Whether such bilateral agreements between single member states in Europe and external super economic powers are good for Europe as while is being debated (http://www.ab.gov.tr/files/ardb/evt/1_avrupa_birligi/1_11_dis_iliskiler/China_Germany_and_the_EU.pdf). The lessons gained from immigration policies in Europe, that caused serious conflicts between the member states of the EU, keep unfolding in other major sectors as well. In this context Trump is gaining more success in unifying the U.S. policies what regards building strong internal production and labor market. But Europe is going in reverse direction which will create increasing socio-economic gaps among the member states of Europe.
(2) Though ICT “Information Communication Technology” is considered an instrument for promoting better decisions through increased and rapid flow of information, this seems not to be always the case. There are no guarantees that all information and communication at all times are absolutely free from biases, false interventions, fake news and “alternative facts”. However, even in best cases the “tool-and-effect” link between ICT and economic development exemplified in numerous publications is dubious and misleading. As such a link is based on a narrow economic perspective of human action which ignores recent socio-economic developments and is not informed by the evidence on processes of development that has emerged from the few countries which achieved substantial economic growth in the last decades of the 20th century. The policy analyses and recommendations of major development organizations influence the interventions of information systems professionals in developing countries with misguided perceptions and prescriptions that stifle the undertaking of situated efforts to put ICT to effective use (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/2575/1/The_link_between_ICT_and_economic_growth_in_the_discourse_of_development_(LSERO).pdf).
Technologies enable local and individual creativity and can improve the quality of human life. However, globalization as a result of ICT has clearly resulted in the exploitation of persons, spaces, and resources in developing countries. It can ultimately be empowering if it results in greater democratization by increased access to knowledge; accountability and responsiveness to government; more effective, immediate, and widespread communication among citizens and political organizations; and more equitable work, gender, and other roles within and across political borders. The real potential of the spread of ICT rests not singly in their creation of global networks and modes of production, but in their transformation of local, more proximal, ways of living and knowing. If these technologies do not aid in changes, more equitable forms of everyday living, then the relevance of all of their other impressive features and capabilities must be questioned (https://my.vanderbilt.edu/perkins/files/2011/09/Palmer-Perkins.2012.Technological-democratization.PGDT_.pdf). ICT and development transformation despite the remarkable theoretical capabilities remains weak in forming convincing arguments on IT-enabled socio-economic development (http://learning.uonbi.ac.ke/courses/ICS419/document/ICT4D_-_Discourses_on_ICT_and_development_-LSERO-.pdf). On the contrary, contradictory, complex and conflicting socio-political information are causing an increasing divergence in the political landscape with growing global socio-political multi-pole polarization of mainstream, populists and conservatives as well as religious and immigration divide as evident from Brexit, emerging bilateral agreements between EU-member states and the U.S., and Trumpism in the U.S., and conflicts in MENA region (Turkey) and Europe. While, ICT offers many promises and opportunities, it is also posing serious risks and uncertainties. Countries must fashion own responses as passive postures are likely to lead to increasing digital and economic divides, marginalization of poor and war-victims as well as increasingly costly and burdensome government with eroding economy (http://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9781441915054-c1.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-879448-p173923431). ICTs can offer real opportunities to improve the social and political systems if considerable efforts are made to provide adequate infrastructures, maintain and sensitize the public on the need to embrace and apply the knowledge of ICT in their social and political life (http://www.idpublications.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Full-Paper-INFORMATION-AND-COMMUNICATION-TECHNOLOGY-ICT-APPLICATION-IN-SOCIAL-AND-POLITICAL-SYSTEM.pdf).
Our modern technology, more opened and high-speed ICT-based societies with whatever form of democracy does not neccessarly mean prosperty everywhere either in developed or developing countries. It remains for everyone to find out how to take advantage of all these developments. The only way is to understand the world around us and participate in shaping and reshaping the reality that we live in. Our security and safety is not any longer a personal matter but it is rather a collective responsibility. So, we need sometimes if not often to be reminded with basic facts where knowledge (false or right) is not any longer static but it is dynamically and continuously shaping and reshaping our realities. Modern societies are not running, anymore, on primitive grounds, simple and linear rules. Not all of us have the same reality, level of comprehension of the daily life and everything around us in short- and long-term perspective. Also, with all the existing mobility and mixture of cultures as result of the so-called globalization and immigration trends. The increasing and fast flow of all types of diverse information (including contradictory ones) through the Internet and the ever expanding landscape of social-media may add additional uncertainties, if not sorted out and coordinated. The reality, as we have it today, keeps piling-up in more and more complexity. Our decisions, at least for some of us and during some periods, are therefore likely to be biased in a way or another. At the same our interests and living conditions dictate upon us new pressures and additional uncertainties. In this context, we can only understand things as we perceive and experience them in reference to our instant hopes and fears. The overall environments, circles of relations and interactions have also much impacts on our judgement in political elections and voting on candidates who will take vital decisions on our behalf, even to run our families, societies and businesses.
We would all agree that no system (including political ones, socio-economic structures with all aspects of immigration-integration policies) whatsoever can stay stable, or reach stability, unless there is some sort of equilibrium between the overall individuals, partners or components making up the systems.
From science and technology we know what the concept of “equilibrium” means for proper functioning and operation where safety and security are essential components. The so-called “Scientific Approach” is universally applicable with great precision anywhere and everywhere. This is true in physics, e.g. whenever there is a set of forces acting on a body, a particle or even set of forces acting systems of many bodies or many particles. Once the number of forces, bodies or particles increase the complexity of the system become more and more apparent and delicate to any small changes in the forces and the systems. Also, in chemistry where reactants in chemical reactions or series of chemical reactions are brought together to give products. For the reaction, or reactions, to proceed and give the wished products equilibrium between reactants under specific and well-defined condition of e.g. temperature, pressure and amounts reactants and order of procedures must exist. The same here with increasing number of reactants and reactions it becomes more and more difficult to have control on all the parameters that define the quality and yield of the products. without using sensitive and comprehensive monitoring and control systems it would not be possible to achieve a desired equilibrium. The same is true in natural eco-systems which are often incredibly sensitive to change. For a healthy ecosystem for example to be in equilibrium, i.e. relatively stable state that keeps population sizes within a sustainable range. Consider the case of bears (who only eat fish) and salmon (who are only hunted by bears). If the bear population grows particularly large one year, the total population will require more fish to feed it. This will make the salmon population shrink. Over time, if there are fewer salmon, there will not be enough food for all of the bears to eat. Some bears will starve and fewer cubs will be able to prosper, leading to a smaller overall population the next year. As more time passes and the bear population gets smaller, the salmon population will start to increase again due to having fewer natural predators. In a perfectly stable ecosystem, this cycle can continue indefinitely. Of course, natural ecosystems are far more complex than this simple example, but the relationship between species applies to complex ecosystems as well. When eco-systems grow in complexity the system becomes much more sensitive not only for the internal dynamics between species and the associated competition within the food-web but also the external drivers.
In any political system with complex social mosaic, cultural evolution and religious diversity the situation become very critical even if the system is democratic, opened and dynamic but yet dependent on external dynamics. In such systems there are always shifts in the political balances which is not strange but rather natural as dissatisfaction among individuals and groups is a natural outcome of changes in internal policies and external interactions. Large-scale and long-term equilibrium under such conditions is very sensitive to economic and information flows that regulate the stability among the population. Shifts and disorders can be therefore critical to manage even with most sofisticated corrections and mitigation measures.
Salination of land-water systems is an existing and accelerating threat especially in the arid and semi-arid MENA regions. The primary sources of such threats are increasing population growth, enhanced competition on water resources, random and uncoordinated management policies of coupled water-energy resources. Also, with the increasing impacts of climate changes on the functioning and metabolism of land-water systems (http://www.geotimes.org/mar08/article.html?id=feature_salinity.html) such threats are likely to cause major large-scale and long-term disasters.
A similar disaster of what happened to the Aral Sea, the so-called Aral Sea disaster (http://www.columbia.edu/~tmt2120/introduction.htm; https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea) took place in Lake Urmia in Iran where the whole lake, once was the second largest saltwater lake in the world, dried out. The lake simply dried out because of decades of man-made interferences, 60 years of dam building and massive overuse of the feeder rivers. This has diverted the natural flow of the fresh water from the surrounding basin, i.e. the catchment, into the salty lake thus causing major large-scale and long-term disasters in the catchment and regions around Lake Urmia.
The dead salt bed is what the exposed bottom of the lake had become after the water had gone. With the force of the wind the salt granules are blown into the face and the lungs of anyone near the lake, and onto the surrounding farmlands. Living day-in and day-out in such environments the residents and farmers are constantly exposed to poor quality of air. Also, the crops would die from the enhanced levels of salt in the soils. As farmers drilled wells deeper into the aquifers at the side of the lake, i.e. to satisfy their needs of water the groundwater would become more and more depleted, allowing saltwater to seep in. The situation gradually became just like the situation in the similarly dried out Aral Sea in Central Asia: people afflicted with allergies, respiratory defects, lung cancer, failing crops for farmers and severe degradation of land and water qualities.
Years of systematic efforts to bring water back to Lake Urmia has eventually succeeded and the hard work to fix what had been broken for many decades is succeeding. There is water now in the lake, not nearly enough, but much more than before. It is a resurrection in the Middle East: life and vitality has returned to a dying salt lake, Lake Urmia, in northwest Iran.
The lake and a whole eco-system is coming back. This revival “a reverse engineering process” is the result of an immensely successful collaborative effort involving many players on different levels, some Iranian, some foreign. Such project to improve water management is being implemented by the United Nations, working closely with local farmers, provincial and national governments.
As the situation is on its way to the original normal conditions of healthy environments we have learned three lessons from this amazing success story:
(1) First, Iran faces great environmental and water-related challenges that reflect those faced by many countries in the MENA region. But mitigation can be carried out.
(2) Second, the public, including all stakeholders, must be educated, updated, speak out on existing threats and be aware of any ongoing environmental degradation. Indeed, large critical mass is needed to trigger mitigations. In this case, the UN received a petition containing 1.7 million signatures in 2016, requesting action on Lake Urmia. The pressure has been solid, huge and relentless. Such pressure must continue, be welcomed and acted upon without delay.
(3) Third, environmental problems of such scales cannot be solved if we act alone. Especially with the increasing complexity of the multi-layered threats of climate changes in arid and semi-arid regions. The Lake Urmia response shows that it is a team and collective efforts by public authorities, local communities, and sometimes support from the international community, such as the UN and donor nations, are all needed to do the trick.
Work remains to be done, but what has happened in Lake Urmia is an example to inspire us all, both inside and outside Iran.
The decision of Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s Federal Minister for Environment, to ban meat and fish at all official government functions did not come as surprise for me. It is quite natural in the chaotic world we are living in nowadays. It was not a matter if such decisions will take place or not but rather when. More importantly, the next question that is forcing itself is: how would our food look like in the distant future 2050-2100?
Global warming and the negative impacts arising from accelerating competition in water, energy and land-use sectors are modern drivers that will force major twists in the global market. In particular while taking in considerations the diverse threats from growing populations and degradation in existing food-processing routines. Also, the complex issues of pollution and waste and their large-scale and long-term negative feedback impacts on water, air, ecological and life qualities as well as global biodiversity.