Effects of global warming, disability and the Middle-East wars – what you can do.

Various reports tell us that war is one of the effects of global warming. Wars over energy and water are more likely as those two resources dwindle.

Global warming is connected to profligate use of fossil fuel energy and both will increase into the near future in their co-dependency – their unhealthy relationship. Global warming and worsening quantity and quality of water resources are also interrelated.

War in the Middle East also has a connection to global warming. The war in Iraq is in essence an energy war – the prize being access to oil. Although, this issue has of course become increasingly conflated with that of the so-called War on Terror.

It seems possible that ongoing violence exchanged between Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, the “Western Coalition” and insurgents will escalate into much wider conflicts, perhaps even involving use of nuclear weapons.

We should be worried, as an escalating Middle-East war, even where not (yet) fought over energy or water, may give us an even shorter time than we have already to marshal resources to deal with the great threat of global warming. Author Jared Diamond for example, has shown that war and environmental destruction were potent ingredients in the sudden collapse of many civilisations over thousands of years.

This time a global civilisation is at stake with nowhere else to go.

The consequences of present scenarios are of course unthinkable. Not just in terms of cost of human life, but also of cost to the environment and the even greater oil shortages than today’s that would inevitably follow. If you think the price of oil is sky-rocketing now, it would go galactic then. Economies may collapse.

Resources available now to invest in renewable energy may then quickly evaporate.

What can anyone do?

I admit that I do not quite grasp the motivations for fundamentalist terrorist acts, apart from my assumption that part of it resides in past historical oppression, contrasts between rich Western countries and poor ones and the new colonialism of Globalisation. Any fundamentalist ideology thrives under stark divisions between rich and poor, be it Nazism, fascism or white suprematism. Extreme capitalist exploitation of the environment feeds another side of human nature, that of a lazy distancing from the genuine needs of others and that of the environment –another kind of terrorism.

Our attitudes shape our world.

The answers to root causes of war mirror those to global warming. In essence it is not a technological one but one of a way of thinking. Inequality in a fictional world of unlimited resources for some should be met with equity and with those same strategies that we know that work in alleviating poverty, overpopulation, deforestation and disease. Most are of course connected to cause and effects of global warming – and war.

These strategies include generous donations of education, infrastructure and appropriate technology to poor nations racked by war and environmental stresses. And let’s not omit seed funds for small business, preferably of sorts that minimise greenhouse gas emissions, or actively reduce them. Efforts to understand each other’s culture must accompany such strategies in order to undercut the potential for one-way paternalism in such giving.

A new “Marshall Plan”

The Marshall Plan after WWII made thriving, friendly nations out of war-ravaged countries, including former enemies, at a cost of US$130 billion in today’s terms. There’s almost no reason to think why similar investment in policy of giving people what they want most – a peaceful life with a sustainable future for their children – would not equally well work now. Well, except just two reasons… the frightening fact that the Marshall Plan was only implemented after a terrible war had been fought. And secondly, the less-than committed intergovernmental approach to a strong Kyoto Treaty, which does include an environmental “Marshall Plan“ of sorts for poor nations.

Still… why not try hard, with such high stakes? The powerful principle of mutually beneficial relationship is the same. It’s time for broad, visionary policy.

Is a new “Marshall Plan”, affordable? I think so given that one country alone, the US, has been able to shoulder costs of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an astonishing amount of US$487 billion, with more to come. A diversion of even a small proportion of nations’ budgets could be significant.

A Utopian idea? Well, just ask the Germans and Japanese.

And there is other evidence that reaching out to others works in allowing people to thrive under highly challenging circumstances. There is a strong body of evidence for the key that turns on good life satisfaction. Many people with severe disability, including respirator-assisted quadriplegics on respirator and elderly people experience a life satisfaction equal to, or higher than the average person’s life satisfaction rating. How? As a core disability issue is attitudes from others, it is positive, supportive relationships that are the key.

If “disabled people” can do that, anyone can. Our attitudes towards others and the environment make our world indeed.

The effects of global warming are accelerated and heightened by war. Before any social and environmental “tipping points” are reached why not reverse this self-feeding loop through practical recognition that another’s wellbeing means ours. And that a healthy environment allows us to flourish.

Maybe governments are not ready to marshal resources to adopt “good relationship policy.” So your reaching out to others, while “reducing, re-using and recycling” may be your most accessible alternatives to war – and the Kyoto Treaty– at any time.

Copyright 2006 Erik Leipoldt

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Dr Erik Leipoldt has long been concerned about the effects of global warming. He uses his experience of severe disability in practical approaches towards alternate energy sources to survive and thrive with climate change. See http://www.alternate-energy-sources.com/

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