Picture a small room full of twenty hungry and thirsty men and women. It’s not a very pretty picture. Now, imagine that same scenario but with millions of people, this is what I call, a disaster. Is this scenario a reality? It may very well be. The world today is in a delicate stage with the horrors of climate change, resource depletion and government investments in oil and gas. While developed nations around the world may pride themselves on reducing their green house emissions, many developing states do not have the luxury of lowering their carbon footprint. I am going to argue that this discrepancy between the wealthy and poor nations – having the options of clean energy while developing nations work to meet the international mandated demands toward economic progress by way of creating more pollution – will lead to a global resource war.
Water is the foundation of all life and fresh water sources are quickly being diminished. The cost of economic progress has a heavy price and too often a time it is the global south that pays that price. While the resource war I speak of may not be visible as yet, pockets of conflict around the world have already arisen as a result of political and private control over natural resources – namely, water. Future conflict for this priceless resource would most likely be seen on small regional levels. Often, nations share fresh waterways with other states. For example, the Middle East has about 1% of Earth’s fresh water but shares it with approximately 5% of the world population. On the other hand, we can face extreme civil conflicts where governments may struggle to accommodate for commercial industries and still be able to satisfy a thirsty population. An example of this conflict can between agricultural and industrial use.
Now, when it comes to the practice of development, water is a heavy source of controversy. When nations in the global south require aid, they must turn to rich, “developed” nations for monetary assistance. However, in order to recieve international aid, developing nations need to adhere to certain standards. Generally, they are political standards, such as upholding democratic systems and fair and free elections. However, other times, these nations must hold to economic standards. Nations in the Global South are the providers of natural resources and also one of the greatest contributors to Climate Change. Kenya and their roses is a strong example of how modern consumerism threatens water and environmental sustainability. Many of the roses sold on the European market are grown in Kenya, by Lake Naivasha – a fresh water source for the production of roses and of course for all life around it. The massive demands are drying up the lake and causing concern in the surrounding communities that rely on this water source.
When the world runs out of food and water, it will lead to security threats and violent conflict. A few examples of such strife can already be witnessed in our present time. Back in 2000, a series of protests erupted in Bolivia in response to the privatization of the municipal water supply. The result was an increases in the price for water that people simply could not afford. Water is not a commodity, it is a human right and the people of Cochabamba Bolivia fought for that right. The result of the protests led to several civilian injuries and five deaths – water was eventually given back to public hands. It is an appalling thought that people have to fight for the very foundation of life. Yet, many communities still face water insecurity. Water conflict is not constricted simply to the Global South. As recent as 2014, during the Crimea crisis, Ukraine was accused of cutting water supplies to Crimea after Russian annexation. Last year, ISIS seized the Falluja Dam in Iraq, closed the floodgates to cause upstream flooding and cut the downstream water supply. Water is used as a military tool and when it is scarce it shakes the very foundation of governments, political stability and peace. It is only natural that the world will be plunged into chaos without our basic survival resource.
While the world has already started the discussion on the importance of climate change, the threat of water scarcity is now more evident since it has hit us close to home – California. The west, the developed world can also feel the thirst the global south has suffered for years. With this looming threat of desertification it is time to actively find solutions. It is a common misconception, a common perspective of humanity to view economic progress and environmental sustainability as two different things. We fail to realize that the CEO’s behind those “evil” oil and gas companies are also human. As human, they too will die without water. We fail to realize that progress can be achieved without sacrificing our forests, wetlands, rivers and lakes. It’s a term we often forget that we must remember now more than ever, sustainable development. While I realize this article has been a horrifying read (or I certainly hope, as a writer I have evoked some sense of urgency), let me now bring you a light of hope. You have read this article and I hope you are more knowledgeable about this issue than you were before. Lets start the discussion and think about what we consume, where it comes from and what the environmental cost is. Lets create the political will to work for the environment while also working for economic prosperity. Lets invest in solar and wind energy. Let us find ways to refill our drying aquifers, let us protect our watersheds, and most importantly, remember that we are all connected to this vast ecosystem we call Earth, our only home.