Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Where's the water?

This is in response to the water post of a few days ago...

Michael Klare talks about the tendency toward resource wars in the future that apply to this very problem. As nations continue to grow and develop, gaining higher levels of income and living standards, they demand more and more water. Klare suggests that most nations prefer to rely on their own supplies of strategic resources whenever possible, but this will become more impossible with global water supplies because there is a finite amount of water in some instances. Many nations around the world rely on fresh water flows through major rivers. This is a problem because a river may flow through several countries before it gets to the nation in question. Klare notes that the Nile flows through nine countries, meaning that one country may run the risk of losing its water if another cuts off the supply.

Water becomes even more scarce when rich(er) country governments divert water to irrigate farmland for their constituents with little regard for displaced and therefore unheard populations. For example, Israel's move to divert water from land farmed by Palestinians to irrigate land farmed by Israeli settlers. The Palestinians who are dependent upon agriculture for their meager livelihoods do not have a voice in the decision-making process and therefore do not have the ability to protest these moves. A recent article from Reuters notes the disparity of lush and thriving Israeli crops located next to dry and brown Palestinian crops.

When populations are divided from vital resources, such as water, they begin to seek ways to gain access to vital resources. The end result is perhaps violence and revolution. The potential problem for the Israelis is that continued Palestinian oppression will build more of a case for the Palestinian population to revolt. Klare's resource wars may come to fruition if it becomes a question of whether to starve or fight for water. The rich countries will not really have a problem gaining access to water reserves; they have enough money to buy up available reserves at almost any price. The issue is for the poor and desperate populations of the world that will not have the money to afford high water prices. These groups will either face starvation or the incitement of violence.

In the coming years as environmental problems worsen around the globe, due to pollution and global warming among others, the United States may find that its national interest will be to protect and maintain vital resources for poverty stricken and resource vulnerable populations. We talked about the prominence of the need to recognize human dignity as part of a strategy for national security, perhaps the US would be best served by a policy that enables oppressed peoples to gain access to vital resources such as water.

For further reading, try this article from the BBC from May of 2007.

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