Sustainability in MENA

climate change

We absolutely have a moral obligation to take action to prevent further climate change and limit the damage that it has caused. It is very important to remember that climate change is an issue that affects all realms on a global scale: economically, politically, and as a violation of human rights. In each of these realms there is a power disparity, there is an oppressor and the oppressed, it (does not have to be but) is very exploitative. The most damage and the most consumption of the environment is done by those in power, specifically- the United States. The US may be one of the closest examples to Capitalism that there is, capitalism depends on growth and consumption, at what ever cost. And so, for various reasons (most commonly convenience), the US is both the highest consumers of the world’s resources and also the least sustainable with them. We as westerners, and more specifically as Americans, have not only a moral responsibility but a debt to pay the rest of the world and the environment. People are suffering not only as we consume but because we consume in excess. Our conveniences and blissful ignorance comes at the cost of livelihoods and ecosystems being destroyed (as illustrated in the Ground-Watt-Cloutier essay). Action must be taken in each of the realms listed above: we must have a cultural shift where sustainability (by recycling, smaller portions, saving water, alternative transportation) must be prioritized, policy change that requires energy efficient alternatives (and makes them readily available) while penalizing unsustainable activity (through garbage weight limits, taxes on non-renewable energy sources) is required, and we must be made more aware of the cultures and lives that are being destroyed because of this rapid and unnecessary consumption.

Women collecting water from a public faucet in Palestine

Women collecting water from a public faucet in Palestine

While MENA is one of the most water scarce regions in the world, it is not a place where works. Regardless, there are a number of organizations that work to address the issue and try to balance the growing population, tumultuous political activity, and water scarcity present in the region. One of these organizations is EcoMENA. This organization attempts to address the intersectionality of lack of sustainability with politics. Freshwater is a rapidly depleting resource as it is being used incredibly inefficiently (for example, the inefficiencies with irrigation tactics); where it is available, it is difficult for one nation to acquire it due to transnational sources of the water. In some cases, the water source for one nations population lies under the control of the opposing nation- for example, Palestines water is controlled by Isreal.

Water Scarcity in MENA

The World Bank recognizes the main environmental issue of MENA to be water scarcity and highlights some of the main concerns that rise due to this:

“Degradation of arable land continues.  Unsustainable agriculture and pasture practices due to weak property rights coupled with population growth threaten the more marginal lands with lower productivity and desertification. 

Pollution-related health problems, particularly in urban and industrial centers, are another challenge.  The causes include open municipal waste dumps; the use of leaded gasoline in an aging and poorly maintained vehicle fleet; the inefficient use of fossil fuels for power generation; and particulate and sulfur-oxide emissions from industry. Hazardous waste and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), such as those from obsolete pesticides, continue to pose a challenge in the region.

Marine resources, including fisheries, are an important generator of income.  But the fishery is being overexploited by competing fleets in the face of weak enforcement and regulation.  Degradation of critical habitats by pollution and other kinds of stress compound the problems and put in jeopardy the wellbeing of vulnerable coastal communities.

Coastal zones continue to deteriorate.  Concentration of populations along coastal zones from migration and urbanization coupled with unregulated development adds to sources of untreated pollution and damage the scarce natural habitats that remain.

Climate change will compound those effects.  Water run off in MENA is projected to drop by 20% to 30% in most of MENA by 2050.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report estimates an increase in temperature of up to two degrees in the next 15-20 years and of over four degrees by the end of the century (the increase is higher for faster emission scenarios).”,,contentMDK:20525954~pagePK:146736~piPK:226340~theSitePK:256299,00.html

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