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Welcome to the new world order

Sean Paul Kelley writes that he visited 20 countries this year.  And in all but two (Singapore and Vietnam) people complained "about massively altered traditional weather patterns" and how that affected their daily life.   In a beautiful post he continues:  

But here’s the whole point of my anecdotes, from an interview of Jared Diamond:

“The average per-person consumption rate in the first world of metal and oil and natural resources is 32 times that of the developing world,” says Diamond. “That means that one American is consuming like 32 Kenyans.” The problem is not the number of Kenyans, the problem is when Kenyans or, more pressingly, big developing countries such as China, gain the ability to consume like Americans.

Can’t humans simply increase the supply of resources as they have done before? “We can change the supply of some things if there is only one limiting resource. If it is food, then we can have a green revolution and produce more crops,” he says. “Unfortunately, we need lots of resources. We need food, we need water. We are already using something like 70 or 80 per cent of the world’s fresh water. So you say, ‘Alright, we’ll get around water by desalinating sea water.’ But then there’s the energy ceiling, and so on.”

That’s the big question. The question no one is willing to voice. Am I, a member of the advanced world willing to forgo some of my standard of living for those in the developing world? And if I do so, do I have the moral and ethical standing to ask those of the developing world to forgo some of their wants?

I don’t have an answer.

I can promise you one thing: we cannot have it all. The Chinese cannot live like Americans and the Americans cannot continue to live as they are. Something will break.

I would argue that we are already begininning to see evidence of that fracture in the form of "climate refugees."  Indeed, so dire is this issue that the country's premier refugee focused NGO,  Refugees International, had decided to open an entire new center for the study of climate displaced.    Here is how RI describes the problem:

The most immediate threats from climate change are in the form of storms of increasing intensity, such as Cyclone Nargis in Burma; greater incidence of drought and floods that make traditional livelihoods unsustainable; and increased conflicts over access to limited resources. The war in Darfur derives, in part, from conflict over scarce resources as the desert expands. Other dramatic impacts are also predicted in the long term, such as the disappearance of island states like the Maldives. Estimates of the numbers of people expected to be displaced by climate change range from 50 million to 1 billion over the next 50 years. By comparison, there are currently 41.2 million people displaced by conflict.  [emphasis mine].

It is truly chilling to imagine a world where one in seven people is a climate refugee. But if we do nothing to mitigate and adapt to climate change, that kind of dystopic future will arrive sooner than we think. 

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The “bingo” strategy of development

I'm not sure how I feel about this...

The French government is considering introducing a special lottery for Africa to supplement development aid.

"It could be bingo for Africa, or a lotto," said the French Secretary of State for Co-operation, Alain Joyandet.

It depends what you think of gambling, and what you think of development aid, I suppose.  On the former, I guess that old folks' bingo money might as well be going to a good cause, though it would pretty much undo the benefit if obsessive lotto players are being impoverished to help un-impoverish Africans.  On the development side...well, I'd be interested to see what Chris Blattman and Bill Easterly would think of this scheme...

(image from flickr user klynslis under a Creative Commons license)

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Bill Clinton’s other job

You know, the one he is actually paid for (well, sort of). After rescuing journalists imprisoned in North Korea, Clinton is back to...talking about turning sawdust into fuel.

Electric power is scarce in rural areas and the cutting of trees to make charcoal has led to deforestation in Haiti.

As an example of projects rife for further investment, Clinton described a recycling program that turns paper and sawdust waste into cooking fuel that sells for one-fifth the cost of charcoal.

Seriously, though. Clinton's role promoting international development and stability in Haiti might even be more difficult that freeing hostages taken by the equally impoverished -- but decidedly less hospitable -- regime in North Korea.

And while there may not be imprisoned journalists in Haiti, there is still some dangerous tension between Haitian protestors and UN peacekeepers, who have done much to calm and rebuild the country, but have  again found themselves in the midst of demonstrations turned violent. If Bill can mediate between a hostile regime and innocent Americans, then surely he can soothe animosities between everyday Haitians and the peacekeepers who, after all, are trying to improve their lives.

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UN Plaza: The Other Conflict in Sudan

In this edition of UN Plaza, I talk to Maggie Fick of the Enough Project about the tenuous peace between Sudan and Southern Sudan.  We talk about Maggie's new report on Abyei, a disputed border region that could be a flash point for renewed conflict ahead of the likely secession of southern Sudan, and about a divide in the Obama administration in how to approach Sudan.  Check it out.  

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We (Twitter users) are all Georgians now

The massive Twitter and Facebook outages yesterday seem to be linked in some way to the Georgian conflict. As CNET reported, the rolling blackout of Twitter began with a DDOS attack on a Georgian blogger's Twitter and Facebook accounts.  A Facebook spokesperson says, "The people who are coordinating this attack, the criminals, are definitely determined and using a lot of resources."

To be sure, there is a big difference in the victimhood of the women in this video and those of us slightly inconvenienced yesterday.  Still, it's fightening to see how instability and an unresolved conflict halfway around the world can impact my daily life in a pretty direct way. To the extent that DDOS attacks become a common feature of global conflict, those of us who think we have nothing to do with a conflict one way or the other may increasingly find ourselves smack in the middle of it.