December 3rd, 2007 06:22 EST
Ecological Perspective Key in Conflict Prevention
Dr. Joseph Chavady submits the following and is available for comment:
Ecological perspective key in conflict prevention / UN Secretary links Darfur-conflict to global warming
By: Dr. Joseph Chavady
In June of this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a crucial comment about the Darfur conflict. He pointed out that the root of this crisis was not only political in nature, but also ecological. The slaughter in Darfur was actually triggered by global climate change, and knowing this leads us to expect that more such conflicts may be on the horizon. He stressed that a UN peacekeeping force may stop the fighting and helps more than two million people return to rebuilt homes in safe villages. But this would not solve the root of the problem, the fact that there is no longer enough good land to go around. Any real solution to Darfur's troubles, he stressed, would involve sustained economic development, while bettering health, education and sanitation. "And if the Secretary General is right," says Dr. Joseph Chavady, "prevention of similar conflicts may require us to address the underlying issue of climate change more seriously than has be done up till now."
The rains in southern Sudan began to fail as long as two decades ago, explains Dr. Joseph Chavady. Average precipitation declined some 40 percent since the early 1980s. Scientists at first considered this to be an unfortunate quirk of nature. But subsequent investigation found that it coincided with a rise in temperatures of the Indian Ocean, disrupting seasonal monsoons. This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming.
It is no accident, then, that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought. Until then, Arab nomadic herders had lived amicably with settled farmers.
A recent Atlantic Monthly article confirms that black farmers would welcome herders as they crisscrossed the land, grazing their camels and sharing the farmers' wells. But once the rains stopped, farmers started to fence their land for fear it would be ruined by the passing herds. For the first time in memory, there was no longer enough food and water for all. Soon afterwards fighting broke out. By 2003, it evolved into the full-fledged tragedy we witness today.
If Darfur was caused at least partly by climate change, we may face a host of similar conflicts in the near future. Developing countries like India and China are fast becoming consumer societies and major polluters, adding to the decades of pollution generated by the West. We can only imagine the effects of this added pollution on communities around the world that are closely connected to the land and fully dependent on the environment.
Dr. Joseph Chavady urges those who do not want to see more Darfur-style human misery to confront the real issues. "God has made us stewards of nature and the environment," he explains, "and this means that we don't just use up its resources but take responsibility for its continued health. May God help us to truly care for one another and for the environment that helps sustain us as well."