Not A Drop to Drink

Although Not A Drop to Drink is the title of my first manuscript, this blog is about something far more important: the connection between drought and war. Almost every nation on earth faces a water shortage that will alter life as we know it. The U.S. is not exempt. This weekend’s Times of Israel ran an article (http://buff.ly/10so37n) from which I’d like to share.

“Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens…some see it through a social prism…and others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism. Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.” Sofer is head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group, a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, and head of the National Defense College Research Center.

The article goes on to state population in the Middle East has twice doubled in sixty years. (Funny how births escalate in countries where women’s rights don’t include birth control—my comment.) According to the U.S. Department of Defense, while the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” As with most of the region, Syria is now eighty-five-percent desert. It’s ample waterways are running dry because its upriver neighbor, Turkey, keeps much of that water. Damascus, being destroyed as Assad and Syrian rebels fight to dominate nothing (http://bit.ly/XpRrhB), was once a fabled oasis. But no more.

from the bottom of Nahal ZinWadi Zin, near the kibbutz Sde Boker

And water shortages don’t just make people thirsty. Think about it: water powers hydroelectroic plants that generate electricity. So reduced water supply reduces electricity as well. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, more than 160 Syrian villages were abandoned and 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus and other cities. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table lower and the salinity of the water higher. Add a million-plus refugees for the perfect environment of war and unrest.

And war broke out in Syria’s most-parched regions—“in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.” Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. While Assad seems to clear a path to an escape route from Syria, Egypt appears to bolster it’s progression south—toward countries using the Nile Delta before the water crosses into Egypt. Detect a trend?

Can we afford to ignore the correlation of drought and war, or will we awaken to the impending threat before there’s Not A Drop to Drink?[subscribe2]

 

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