Climate Migration in Central Asia
About 1% of the world lives in a climate hot zone, causing a concerning rise of climate migration in Central Asia. According to the World Bank, an increase in natural disasters could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050. The increased probability of extreme climate patterns and climate migration leads to a bevy of other problems, including poverty. Severe weather events disproportionally disrupt already impoverished areas. Rural communities typically depend on agriculture and suffer the most devastation when extreme weather ravages their industry, income and assets. These people groups decide to move due to the increase in extreme weather patterns, creating a phenomenon called climate migration.

Natural Disasters in Central Asia

Within Central Asia, the majority of the population lives in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for about 10% to 45% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and roughly 20% to 50% of the labor force. With the government failing to respond to the natural disasters in these areas, many have resorted to migrating for less volatile work. All Central Asian countries are experiencing similar impacts from inclement weather and an increase in natural disasters. Land degradation, water stress and desertification could continue worsening. In turn, this will lead many people in affected areas to migrate and lead to an increase in poverty. Luckily, Uzbekistan may be paving a way to mitigate the factors leading to climate migration and poverty.

Uzbekistan: Taking the Lead

Experts consider Uzbekistan one of the most water-stressed countries due to its position near the Gobi Desert. Droughts and other extreme weather are leading to limited water resources and land degradation. This impacts the agriculture industry significantly, particularly in impoverished communities. As of 2019, 11% of the population in Uzbekistan lived below the national poverty line. Similar to other Central Asian countries, rural citizens are migrating to urban areas to avoid agriculturally-devastating weather disasters and to better themselves economically. As a result, new figures are estimated to reach 200,000 displaced migrants and climate refugees, more than triple the amount in 2018. However, a recent policy dialogue in Uzbekistan seeks to combat severe weather consequences by accelerating the transition to a green economy.

Uzbekistan may be the first Central Asian country to strive for solutions. As such, it could become a leader in the region to fix the climate migration and poverty issues. In August 2021, the Uzbekistan government launched a series called Green Growth and Climate Change that will continue to accelerate the country’s transition to a green economy. The group includes government representatives, policymakers, environmental experts and civil society members seeking to mitigate the area’s vulnerability to weather events. The Uzbekistan government also outlined its goals and priorities in the Climate Change Strategy 2021-2023. A large portion of this strategy is to mitigate and adapt to the increase in severe weather patterns. Additionally, it underlines the importance of assisting those considering climate migration to make good decisions about whether to stay or move to where they would be less vulnerable.

Latest Suggestions from the World Bank

A Lead Environmental Research team from the World Bank evaluated climate migration and its consequences. Specifically, it used a multi-dimensional modeling approach, looking at three potential severe weather and development scenarios. The results showed that “Without the right planning and support, people migrating from rural areas into cities could be facing new and even more dangerous risks.” These new risks include scarce resources, such as food and housing depending on the area.

The study recommends the following actions to assist climate migration in Central Asia:

  • Lessen climate pressure on individuals and livelihoods, leading to a reduction in overall climate migration.
  • Consider the entire cycle of climate migration (before, during and after migration) to prevent risks that may arise.
  • Invest in studies to improve each country’s understanding of its climate migration trends.

Paving the Way

Uzbekistan is definitely on the right course in drawing attention to severe weather patterns impacting poverty and climate migration in Central Asia. Its government is just beginning to dive into solving these serious problems, but the measures it is taking are encouraging.

– Alex Mauthe
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Heat
The summer of 2021 has followed recent trends for heat and has topped the chart as the hottest summer on record, leading to the question of how to fight heat in a cheap, environmentally friendly way. Companies have discussed how to encourage innovation in the fight against heat, one such event being the Cooling Prize.

The Issue

Recently, hot weather across the globe became a hot issue as it impacts many areas. It can cause health issues, decrease food production, cause more extreme weather patterns, spoil food, reduce production and even exacerbate violent crime. Air conditioning can provide life-saving relief for homes and companies. However, fighting against heat with air conditioners can be environmentally harmful as well as expensive.

There are 1.6 billion units of air conditioning as of now, which expectations have determined could grow to 5.6 billion over the next 10 years. These units are as harmful as fuel-powered machines such as cars. They also take energy to run — roughly 4,000 watts for every hour people use them. Since air conditioning uses power, it frequently costs too much for many people to fight against heat. The air conditioning unit cost of $500-$2,000 makes it inaccessible to many living worldwide. The Cooling Prize is focussing on lowering the price across the board.

The Cooling Prize

The Cooling Prize dedicates itself to reducing the global impact of heat and ensuring people’s safety from the heat. In the fight against heat, the use of innovation reduces emissions and makes the world a safer place. The winner receives money to improve their products. The goal is to offer affordable access to cooling technology worldwide, mitigate global warming, avoid extreme electricity demand and have five times less impact overall.

What the Winning Team Receives

The winning team divides the $1 million prize for fighting heat equally. The Cooling Prize distributes its winners and finalists, providing them with a platform to demonstrate their innovations and ideas. The criteria for winners and finalists is that their products produce five times fewer emissions than a standard unit, less than two times the installation cost of a standard unit, no more than 700 watts, zero carbon emissions and no ozone-depleting agents. Disqualification occurs if a team fails to follow these rules. Donors such as the Lemelson Foundation sponsor the event to increase outreach.

How to Help

The Cooling Prize and educating others about the issue help raise awareness. It is essential for one to consider the consequences of their air conditioner. Measures that one can take are to try opening windows or fans before turning on the air conditioner or closing windows while using an air conditioner to save energy and money. However, hopefully, the winners of the Cooling Prize will result in air condition units that are safer for the environment and more affordable for people to install across the globe.

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr


On Sept. 25, artists, world leaders and celebrities came together for Global Citizen Live, a 24-hour concert event to bring the world together to end poverty. Participants showed support for Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World. That plan has five goals: ending the hunger crisis, creating equity for all, ending COVID-19, protecting the earth and resuming learning for everyone.

What is Global Citizen?

Global Citizen is an organization with the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. It plans to do this with the help of 100 million “Global Citizens,” who join the movement. On the Global Citizen platform, engaged citizens can learn about and take action against the systemic causes of extreme poverty. Not only that, but those who participate in the fight against poverty can earn rewards for their efforts including attending music performances and sporting events.

Recovery Plan for the World’s Five Goals

Here are Global Citizen’s plans for achieving each of the Recovery Plan of the World goals:

  • Ending the hunger crisis – In order to end the hunger crisis, Global Citizen suggests funding school meal programs to ensure every child has food. It also urges the support of small farmers that the pandemic negatively impacted. Finally, it proposes to commit to food and nutrition programs.
  • Equity for all – The pandemic has most affected the poor, people of color and women. Global Citizen believes that supporting human rights efforts and creating a people-focused justice system will bolster equity. 
  • Ending COVID-19 – Global Citizen believes that the world will not eradicate COVID-19 until everyone across the world has access to vaccines, testing and treatment. The organization has proposed that wealthy countries donate extra vaccines to poorer countries. In addition, it has advocated for increased funding for ACT-A and COVAX.
  • Protecting the planet – Global Citizen recommends supporting carbon neutrality for people living in communities suffering from extreme poverty.  Moreover, it advocates greater climate financing to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Resuming learning everywhere – Globally, COVID-19 has affected around 1.5 billion children; one-third of those children have been unable to access remote learning. For that reason, Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World urges providing technology resources for access and increasing funding for education.

Global Citizen Live

The 24-hour concert event occurred on six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica. The cities with live performances and celebrity appearances included Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Sydney, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Lagos and Seoul. More than 60 artists performed including Billie Eilish, Green Day, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, the Black Eyed Peas, Alessia Cara and Lizzo. Elton John kicked off the event by performing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took to the stage in New York City’s Central Park to say that vaccines against COVID-19 should be treated as a basic human right.

Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), pre-recorded a message announcing that the United State was donating $295 million “to stave off famine and extreme hunger, confront gender-based violence and address the urgent humanitarian needs the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake.” French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would double its contribution of COVID-19 vaccines to impoverished countries from 60 million to 120 million shots.

Impact

Global Citizen Live is one of the largest-ever worldwide charity events, and yet, the goal was not to raise money. Unlike many similar events, the goal was to get the attention of world leaders and show that people support direct action for the Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World issues. In fact, the concert was completely free. For instance, the 60,000 people in attendance at Central Park had to earn their audience spots by doing things such as contacting their members of Congress, signing petitions and sending tweets.

Global Citizen Live 2021 brought millions of people across the world together with one purpose: grabbing the attention of world leaders. By succeeding with that goal, it raised money and secured pledges for vaccine distribution. Global Citizen Live 2021 successfully launched Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Ban of Leaded Gasoline
Recently, the entire world has banned leaded gasoline. Not only had leaded gasoline caused deaths, but also had raised greenhouse gas emissions. The ban on leaded gasoline is a giant win for society and one can see it as a foundation of other life-threatening fossil fuels, like sulfur in diesel.

Leaded Gasoline in a Nutshell

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Thomas Midgely Jr. created leaded gasoline in the 1920s by adding “tetraethyl lead” to gasoline to reduce the “knocking” sound in cars. People were already aware that tetraethyl lead was poisonous, even before it became a part of gasoline.

Leaded gasoline leads to an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions and is detrimental to the environment. Additionally, both children and adults have seen negative health side effects when exposed to leaded gasoline. Children exposed to lead can experience anemia, cancer, low IQ, learning disability, anemia and nerve damage. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute showed that gasoline exposure in adults has led to cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension and more. Both children and adults have either entered hospitals and/or died due to leaded gasoline.

Countries Ban Leaded Gasoline

In August 2021, Algeria was officially the last country to ban leaded gasoline. There has been a long-lasting humanitarian struggle to ban leaded gasoline throughout different countries. The first country to ban leaded gasoline was Japan in the 1980s. Then, other developed countries had followed, including Austria, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the United States. During the 2000s until the 2020s, 117 more countries, developed and developing, pushed to ban leaded gasoline.

Bribes, Finance and the Holdouts for Ban on Leaded Gasoline

Some countries, such as Indonesia, were guilty of receiving bribes from leaded gasoline oil industries. However, Indonesia finally banned leaded gasoline.

“By 2016 only Algeria, Yemen, and Iraq were holdouts,” said National Geographic. Yemen is the poorest country in the world, Iraq is under development and Algeria’s citizens are destitute. Leaded gasoline is more inexpensive than unleaded gasoline. Additionally, leaded gasoline companies were reportedly sending bribes to countries to encourage them to continue using leaded gasoline. It is clear to see why some countries took much longer to ban leaded gasoline than other countries.

Ban of Leaded Gasoline Everywhere is a Huge Win

There are an estimated 1.2 million people who die from leaded gasoline each year. The hospital rates are even higher. Now that there is a ban on leaded fuel, “The fuel’s elimination will save $2.45 trillion a year, UNEP estimates, reflecting the economic side of lives and nature saved,” said Geneva SolutionsInger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. Andersen also described the ban as a huge milestone for the environment.

What the Ban means for Other Fossil Fuels

Now that the world has banned leaded gasoline, there have already been results of a cleaner earth, and better health. Yet, there are still hazardous fossil fuels. Companies are putting sulfur in diesel, burning coal and adding other additives to gasoline, all of which can cause greenhouse gas emissions and negative health effects. Additionally, some aviation still uses leaded gasoline.

However, now that results are showing the benefits of banning toxic fuels, the government and other organizations can give a better focus on banning other harmful fuels. Countries, especially developing countries, that are worried about the financial loss, can view the money they have saved from leaded gasoline as reassurance that banning fossil fuels is the right move. The ban on leaded gasoline is a huge win for the planet, but the fight for a better world is not over.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

South-South Cooperation
In June 2021, the United Nations High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) met for its 20th session to assess the
progress on South-South cooperation and discuss progress regarding the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South-South cooperation is the technical collaboration between developing countries of the southern hemisphere or Global South to improve economic development, human rights, climate change, health and other indicators of a thriving society. The Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Collaboration Among Developing Countries (BAPA), which emerged in 1978, launched the South-South cooperation initiative and, since then, 40 additional countries have joined the effort. At the June 2021 meeting, the group discussed progress regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Context and Trends

The period from 2016 to 2020 witnessed a combination of disastrous shocks and notable human progress. Between 1990 and 2016, poverty rates fell by 35%. By 2019, those living in excessive poverty (below $1.90 per day) decreased to 630 million from the 1990 figure of 2 billion. Nevertheless, by 2020, this situation had changed due to the serious effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which, up to April 2021, had resulted in more than 2.8 million deaths in the world, and also a disastrous economic impact. Experts were concerned that crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental challenges and violent conflicts may negate the success in alleviating poverty over the past three decades.

Specifically, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasized the necessity to consider human progress from a wider perspective than economics. This program, in cooperation with the University of Oxford, promoted the idea of “multidimensional poverty” as development practitioners and policymakers began tracing poverty to its origin as apparent in the different living conditions of destitute persons and communities. For example, the 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index which the UNDP published, shows that 803 million multidimensionally poor persons dwell in undernourished households, 1.03 billion persons live in substandard housing and 476 million children are not receiving an education.

Developing nations also encountered multiple, interlinked climatic, financial and microeconomic challenges from 2016 to 2020. For that reason, they attempted to accelerate the attainment of the 2030 SDG goals.  They viewed the  South-South coordination as an important model for this effort.

Developing Countries: Africa

The South-South collaboration 2019 landmark Agreement Establishing the African Continental FreeTrade Area bolstered regional integration in Africa. Africa has an extensive single market of over 1.3 billion persons as well as a $2.2 trillion combined yearly output. The implementation of the Free Trade Area is likely to have a major socioeconomic effect. Some have anticipated that there will be further gains from intra-African trade which has the potential of increasing by 33% during the Free Trade Area transition stage. There has also been an increase in the number of African leaders who have slowly initiated terms of engagement with other nations. The High-Level Committee reports that it will be critical that these leaders avoid inequalities that would reduce the potential benefits that Africa could obtain from South-South collaboration on the continent.

Developing Countries: Asia and the Pacific

Asia’s high level of regional integration makes it an epicenter of economic South-South coordination. While Asian economies represented 80% of all South-South exports, China continued to be the instrument of growth in investment and trade, and 19 economies in the region “reported China as their first or second-largest export market in 2017.” Despite its excellent performance in South-South trade as well as in other exchanges, large infrastructure gaps have hampered Asia. 

The small island developing nations in the Pacific area continued to be susceptible to climate shocks. Consequently, in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, South-South collaboration is of critical importance for capacity building for economic resilience to natural shocks with Asia being a role model for public-private partnerships. For instance, in 2019, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Amundi announced a  $500 million Asia Climate Bond Portfolio. This initiative’s objective has been to promote climate action on the part of bank members that involves increasing green leadership and climate resilience as well as considering the climate bond market’s underdevelopment. Despite a dramatic reduction in foreign direct investment (FDI)  and trade in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Asia and Pacific area performed better than the remainder of the world because of more regional integration.

Developed Countries

Several developed nations and multilateral organizations remain supportive of South-South collaboration by triangular coordination. This triangular coordination combines the abilities of various development partners in order to introduce new and adaptable solutions to development challenges and to help to attain the 2030 SDG goals. Unfortunately, a 2019 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that despite the increased focus on triangular coordination, no more than 30 nations or international institutions established guiding documents, strategies or cooperation policies. The study indicated a need for an attitude shift of developed nations from thinking of developing nations as “donor recipients” to considering them as partners.

Civil Society, Think Tanks and the Private Sector

In development cooperation, the private sector, think tanks and civil society are significant stakeholders who could be influential in increasing the application of the 2030 SDG Agenda through South-South and triangular coordination. The Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and Civil Society Organizations for South-South Cooperation are collaborating to improve the understanding of the value of South-South cooperation in humanitarian development and related areas. 

Moving Forward

The June High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation underlined the progress of the South-South cooperation and triangular coordination with developed countries. The committee reported that these strategies have been effective in reducing multidimensional poverty and associated problems in developing countries. Its report suggests that the introduction of the United Nations system-wide strategy on South-South and triangular cooperation has great potential for enhancing this progress moving forward.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Climate change in NigeriaAlthough most greenhouse gas emissions come from the global north, Africa will soon face some of the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. The country of Nigeria is in a uniquely vulnerable position. Home to around 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and 40% of Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Climate change and poverty can act in a vicious cycle. Impoverished people are often unable to adapt to increased temperatures or rising sea levels due to a lack of resources and mobility. When people lose their homes and livelihoods to climate change, they can face even greater poverty, especially when children lose access to education. This is also true for poverty and climate change in Nigeria.

Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the equator. Due to its size and geographical location, Nigeria is at risk for a great variety of climate-related challenges. Its northern regions, which border the Sahara, are experiencing increasing rates of desertification. Its low-lying coastal areas, meanwhile, are facing rising sea levels and flooding. Despite these challenges, the Nigerian government has set admirable sustainability goals. Furthermore, local farmers are using innovative techniques to adapt to climate change.

Urban Areas

Nigeria’s capital city, Lagos, is a rapidly growing economic center. It is home to between 15 and 26 million people and one-third of Nigeria’s GDP. Lagos is surrounded by massive slums which house half of the urban population. These slums, some of which are entirely composed of floating shacks and canoes, are at high risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Rising sea levels, another result of climate change in Nigeria, can cause erosion and contaminate freshwater. This damages Nigeria’s fishing industry, which feeds and employs many impoverished people. Inland areas of Lagos are also being inundated with refugees from coastal areas which have already been destroyed by flooding. As slum populations increase, living conditions become even more unhealthy and dangerous.

Agriculture

Many climate refugees in urban Nigeria come from inland, where conditions have made farming impossible for many poor families. Approximately 70% of Nigerians, many of whom live below the poverty line, rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. In 2018, thousands of people left the agricultural regions of northern Nigeria. They were displaced by droughts, food insecurity and “climate-related conflict.” According to a report from World Bank, the results of climate change in Nigeria such as rising temperatures and “erratic rainfall” could lead to a “20 to 30% reduction in crop yields.” Dust storms are also becoming more common and can significantly deplete topsoil layers. This can be crushing as these topsoil layers are crucial for successful farming. In addition to direct loss of income, poor agricultural yields will lead to food shortages. This harms Nigeria’s most vulnerable populations in both urban and rural areas.

What People Can Do

Although the climate crisis is already significantly impacting impoverished Nigerians, there are still possibilities for climate change mitigation and adaptation. A World Bank report called “Toward Climate-Resilient Development in Nigeria” outlines cost-effective strategies focused on increasing renewable energy generation and reducing agricultural and industrial pollution. One possible adaptation to climate change in Nigeria is a practice called “agroforestry.” This is where farmers plant trees around their crops and animal pastures, protecting them from increased temperatures and reducing topsoil depletion. This farm layout mimics a more natural landscape and can provide farmers with additional resources such as firewood. Additionally, it helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Agroforestry is gaining traction as an adaptation to climate change in Nigeria, and it could prove very useful in the future.

– Anneke Taylor
Photo: Wikimedia

MapActionHunger in Africa is an ever-present concern. The issue was heightened in 2020 when climate change and unusual rainfall patterns caused locust swarms to infest East Africa. The area had not experienced such an extreme locust plague in many years. Kenya’s last major infestation was about 70 years prior. On the other hand, Somalia and Ethiopia last experienced a severe locust plague roughly 25 years ago. In 2018, two major cyclones increased the locust population in Saudi Arabia by 8,000-fold, and subsequently, strong winds moved the swarms into the Horn of Africa. In December 2020, a rare cyclone in Somalia created locust groups of more than 15 million per square mile, devouring the crops of 19 million herders and farmers in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. MapAction is bringing in geospatial technology to help better respond to such crises.

Climate Change in Africa

In January 2021, the Famine Early Warning System reported that areas in the Horn of Africa were facing food crises due to the locust swarms. A swarm the size of Manhattan can eat the same quantity of food as the whole population of New York and California in just one day. From March 2021 through May 2021, a lack of rainfall in parts of Ethiopia meant that farmers could not prepare their fields for crops or have adequate grass for pasture. The countries most vulnerable to food insecurity are Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Indeed, the persistent lack of rainfall has brought dry conditions to many parts of East Africa.

The disastrous combination of flooding and drought, along with locust infestation, is harshly impacting communities in the region, even more so due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 lockdowns, communication between relief organizations is difficult. Since April 2020, an organization called MapAction has been working in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, “applying geospatial expertise to humanitarian situations” to improve results. The organization looks to improve communication between Oxfam and its local partners.

Geospatial Analysis

MapAction believes that expert geospatial analysis can help spread resources to populations affected by famine, drought and other emergencies. MapAction works to ensure that emergency aid responders and disaster management agencies have access to crucial data. This data will allow responders to make decisions that will improve food security and relieve hunger in Africa. The team creates map templates and trains locals to update maps. This helps inform Oxfam’s partners about threats to food security, such as when locust swarms move into new areas. MapAction also maps where work has been done to prevent efforts from being wasted through duplication.

MapAction’s Impact

Rupert Douglas-Bate originally conceived the idea for MapAction. Bate formulated the concept while “working as an emergency water engineer in Bosnia in 1994.” Bate realized “that there was a gap in mapped analysis to support the effective planning and delivery of humanitarian aid.” MapAction first started off supporting Oxfam and partners in Kenya and Somalia but intends to assist in Zimbabwe and Zambia too. In the near future, MapAction would like to extend its scope to Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Botswana.

Since its inception, MapAction has supported thousands of emergency aid groups in more than 60 humanitarian crises around the world. Furthermore, the organization has helped millions of people who were in danger of starving. The organization has won four Stevie International Business Awards for Company of the Year and an Association for Geographic Information Award for Excellence due to its Ebola assistance in West Africa.

MapAction continues to develop new technologies to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. In the process, it is subsequently reducing the threat of widespread hunger in Africa, preventing millions from falling deeper into poverty.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in the MENAThe Middle East and North Africa, or MENA region, is best known for its strategic location in relation to the lucrative fossil fuel market. Oil and gas have given many developing countries a fast track into wealth, causing rapid urbanization and social stratification. This is especially noticeable around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, in places such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran and Egypt. Now, more than 60% of the population lives in cities, but poverty is heavily concentrated in rural areas. Given the push to transition to renewable energy and the disaster potential posed by sea-level rise and other climate changes, sustainability in the MENA region is critical.

Recovery from Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has started a significant economic downturn in this region. During the start of the pandemic and resulting financial crisis, the price of oil dropped sharply, even falling below $0 per barrel. This had a dramatic, negative effect on the overall economy and hinders the region’s ability to recover effectively.

In past financial crises like this one, carbon emissions routinely decreased, especially in 2009 by approximately 1.4%. In 2010, the decreases were more than offset, with emissions showing a growth of around 5.4%. An article published in Nature noted that during the COVID-19 lockdown measures global CO2 emissions decreased by 17%.

Programs for Sustainability in the MENA Region

This large decrease in emissions presents an opportunity to work toward sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. One way is by designating the financial relief and stimulus money to restart the economy to projects such as the Egyptian Pollution Abatement Programme (EPAP) which funds environmentally friendly services and projects. They are currently developing more sustainable fuel, funding hazardous waste management efforts and supporting various other technological innovations to reduce pollution. Similar programs exist in Lebanon and several other nations.

Ideally, these programs and other emerging jobs in green technology will more than replace any jobs lost from the oil and gas industry and increase opportunities for employment outside the agricultural sector. Non-farming activities in the water-constrained MENA region, reduce poverty, according to a study conducted by senior economists at the World Bank Group.

Alternatively, there are other initiatives to invest in sustainable land management practices. These could increase the profitability of work in the agricultural sector and lower the risk of poor weather leading to extreme poverty. For example, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) program in Morocco aimed to diversify coastal economic activities in low-income areas. They encouraged algae cultivation and ecotourism in addition to normal fishing and farming. This made the community more resilient to potential unforeseen circumstances.

Looking Forward

In recovery from a crisis, the priority is usually to return to normal, but that kind of thinking sets back long-term goals that could greatly improve the quality of life and technological sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. As another World Bank Blog article says: “Thinking ahead, therefore, the urgent focus on short-term needs should not overlook opportunities to achieve other longer-term goals (and avoid making longer-term goals even more challenging).”

– Anika Ledina
Photo: Flickr

Monsoons in South Asian Countries
Monsoons are seasonal changes in the direction of the wind in a region that causes wet and dry seasons. This phenomenon is most associated with the Indian Ocean where its effects greatly impact South Asian countries. The summer monsoon, which occurs between April and September, brings the wet season. Warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean moves inland and brings heavy rainfall and a humid climate. In contrast, the winter monsoon occurs between October and April and brings the dry season, but it is often weaker than the summer monsoons as the Himalaya Mountains prevent most of the dry air from reaching coastal countries. Monsoons in South Asian countries contribute to many industries, such as farming and electricity, however, there are adverse effects.

Negative Impacts of Monsoons in South Asian Countries

Here is a closer look at how monsoons have impacted some countries.

  1. India. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is one of Asia’s largest countries. Agriculture makes up 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and over half of the population works in this industry. Consequently, when there is too little or too much rainfall it can be severely damaging to the economy and the livelihoods of millions. The 2009 summer monsoon, for example, brought low rainfall that prevented farmers from planting their crops. Farmers were left to sell their starved farm animals for only a fraction of the normal price. Years with little rainfall also affect India’s electricity as hydropower makes up 25% of its energy source. Likewise, higher levels of rainfall can lead to floods, coastal damage, and other disasters. In 2019, flooding due to heavy rain led to 1,200 deaths and millions of displaced individuals.

  2. Bangladesh. The low elevation and dense population of Bangladesh make it extra vulnerable to the impact of monsoons. Now, with the rise of COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in the country, the summer 2020 monsoon has affected 5.4 million lives. This monsoon season brought heavy rainfall that led to the worst floods Bangladesh has faced within the last decade. Nearly a million homes were submerged underwater and 600 square miles of farmland were damaged by the floods. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made relief efforts difficult to reach the country.

  3. Pakistan. Similar to Bangladesh, Pakistan also faced heavy rainfall and floods from the 2020 monsoon season. Over 400 people have died with another 400 injured and more than 200,000 homes severely damaged from floods and landslides across the country. The government reported that the excessive rainfall destroyed nearly one million acres of farmland leaving farmers and consumers in a difficult position. In the Sindh Province, the impact of the monsoon displaced 68,000 people who are now in relief camps. The summer monsoons also affect the short-term and long-term health of victims as disease and infection spread faster within relief camps and the water.  In 2010, communities affected by flooding reported 113,981 cases of respiratory tract infections.

Relief Efforts

The countries above are only a few of the several areas affected by monsoons in the region. Fortunately, several agencies provide emergency relief for monsoons in South Asian countries. During the 2020 floods, the UN helped with the evacuation of 500,000 people and prepared to provide humanitarian aid to the most affected and vulnerable communities. In Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies worked closely with the government to provide victims with basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, and other supplies. Additionally, the UN launched a $40 million response plan to help over one million people. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations gave over $1 million dollars in emergency funding to provide relief to the Sindh Province in Pakistan and funded other operations that provided basic needs to 96,250 people. Other agencies such as UNICEF standby and are ready to provide relief to any country impacted by natural disasters. The work of these organizations is critical to saving lives.

Giselle Ramirez-Garcia
Photo: Flickr

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash