Water and the requirement for prostration

Water and the requirement for prostration

Water and the requirement for prostration or is it a Disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle that exceeded the safe limit?

by Abdou BENABBOU

Rarely brought to the forefront, water has always been, for all countries, at the centre of their main concerns. 

Deaf conflicts between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia through which the Nile passes have been revealed without reaching significant exceedances. Just as the waters of the Euphrates have always suggested, arm wrestling and tensions between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Israeli warmongering have hovered indefinitely on the subject because the Zionist state has made it a weapon of survival.

Water, the first source of life, has always been an element of discord between men, whether for the irrigation of small plots of land or to quench the thirst of entire territories. 

The current exceptional global drought that, in the long term, puts on the agenda a fabulous problem already announcing the downgrading of the priority given to the different and fundamental sources of today’s energies. 

As all emanate from this blue gold, the choice between gas, oil, wheat, and other resources that are objects of planetary tug-of-war and nerves will no longer be questioned. Water had never required idolatry, and its pressing solicitude is about to surpass that of oil.

It is no longer just a question of conforming to the usual vicissitudes of the agricultural world. But it is now a vital resource for humans.

The spread of land aridity and the relentless exceptional drought disintegrating the order of the hemispheres will create a massive breach for new world conflicts. That green Britain refrains from pampering the grass of its residences, about to lose their green lush or that farmers throughout Europe are forced to bow down to providence in the same way as the peasants of Niger is a warning shot to announce a new inevitable global disruption. It is doubtful that the powers will stand idly by in the face of thirst and the temptation to republish; by all means, the stranglehold on the water will become flush with the skin.

 

Disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

Disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit, our research shows

By Arne Tobian, Stockholm University; Dieter Gerten, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Lan Wang Erlandsson, Stockholm University

The above-featured image is credit to Scott Book/Shutterstock

Green water – the rainwater available to plants in the soil – is indispensable for life on and below the land. But in a new study, we found that widespread pressure on this resource has crossed a critical limit.

The planetary boundaries framework – a concept that scientists first discussed in 2009 – identified nine processes that have remained remarkably steady in the Earth system over the last 11,700 years. These include a relatively stable global climate and an intact biosphere that have allowed civilisations based on agriculture to thrive. Researchers proposed that each of these processes has a boundary that, once crossed, puts the Earth system, or substantial components of it, at risk of upset.

A comprehensive scientific assessment in 2015 found that human activity has already breached four of the planetary boundaries. Greenhouse gas emissions are brewing a hotter climate, the sixth mass extinction of species is unpicking the web of life that makes up the global biosphere, intensive farming is polluting the environment and natural habitats are being destroyed on a significant scale. Earlier in 2022, researchers announced that a fifth planetary boundary had been crossed with the emission and accumulation of chemical pollution and plastics.

So far, it has been suggested that human use of freshwater is still within safe limits globally. But earlier assessments only considered the extraction of what is called blue water – that which flows in rivers and resides in underground aquifers. Even then, regional boundaries are likely to have been crossed in many river basins due to a sixfold increase in the extraction of blue water over the past century. Besides irrigating crops to sate growing demand from people and livestock, population growth and higher standards of living have raised global domestic and industrial water consumption, disrupting aquatic ecosystems and decimating the life within them.

By including green water in our assessment, we found that freshwater’s ability to sustain a stable Earth system is even more threatened than first reported.

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

The crossing of planetary boundaries could destabilise humanity’s safe operating space in the Earth system. Azote/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Red alert for green water

Radiation from the sun evaporates green water in the soil, cooling the environment and returning moisture to the atmosphere where it forms clouds and rain. This cycle sustains some of Earth’s most important ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest which makes up roughly 40% of global tropical forest, stores roughly 112 billion tonnes of carbon and harbours 25% of land-based life.

Research shows that clearing forests reduces the flow of moisture to the atmosphere, dampening how efficiently the Earth system can circulate water and ultimately putting ecosystems like the Amazon at risk of collapse. Global heating and changes to how the land is used, especially deforestation, are among the biggest factors responsible for humanity’s transgression of this planetary boundary. Their combined influence indicates that the planetary boundaries interact and need to be treated as one networked system.

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit An excavator digs up soil in a tropical forest clearing.

Deforestation can halt the flow of green water in the hydrological cycle. Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock

Food production also depends on green water. Around 60% of staple food production globally and 80% of cultivated land is rain-fed. In these areas, the only water reaching the crop is what rain provides. Even irrigated crops rely on rain to some extent.

We found that since the industrial revolution, and especially since the 1950s, larger parts of the world are subject to significantly drier or wetter soil. This shift towards extreme conditions is an alarming development due to the indispensable role of water in maintaining resilient societies and ecosystems

More frequent and severe dry spells mean prolonged and more intense droughts in many regions, like those currently affecting Chile and the western US. This limits photosynthesis in plants, which absorb less of the CO₂ heating Earth’s atmosphere. The land carbon sink, which currently soaks up about 30% of annual CO₂ emissions, is weakened as a result, and could even become a net source of carbon in the future.

Too much soil water is no good either. Water-saturated soils make floods more likely and suffocate plant growth. Abnormally large quantities of water evaporating from wet soils can delay the onset of monsoons in places like India, where the dry season has extended and disrupted farming. High humidity combined with high temperatures can also cause deadly heatwaves, as the human body quickly overheats when sweating becomes impossible in very moist air. Several regions, like South Asia, the coastal Middle East and the Gulf of California and Mexico, are experiencing this lethal combination much earlier than expected.

What can be done?

Growing scientific evidence suggests that the planet is both drier and wetter than at any point within the last 11,700 years. This threatens the ecological and climatic conditions that support life.

Our analysis shows that the sixth planetary boundary has been crossed. But ambitious efforts to slow climate change and halt deforestation could still prevent dangerous changes to the cycling of Earth’s green water. Along with other measures, switching farming practices to sustainable alternatives would prevent more soil being degraded and losing its moisture. Explicitly governing green water and its protection in policy and legal frameworks may also be necessary.

Research has shown that farming is a major cause of multiple planetary limits being breached. Shifting diets towards sustainable plant-based food is a simple yet highly effective option for keeping humanity within these boundaries.

Humanity is no longer in the safe zone. Immediate action is needed to maintain a resilient and nourishing freshwater cycle.


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Arne Tobian, PhD Candidate in Planetary Boundaries, Stockholm University; Dieter Gerten, Working Group Leader, Terrestrial Safe Operating Space, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Lan Wang Erlandsson, Researcher and Theme leader, Anthropocene Dynamics, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Countries struggle to agree on protecting nature

Countries struggle to agree on protecting nature

As the deadline looms, countries struggle to agree on protecting nature,  and  did not specifically tell if any of the countries of the MENA is amongst them.  Our opinion and to perhaps substantiate the authors’ points by proposing that these are undeniably no different than those quoted.  

 

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What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube

 

The above-featured image is about the ocean producing 50% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming, and is the main source of protein for a billion people around the world. Credit: IPS

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube that Keeps them Alive

By Baher Kamal

MADRID, Jun 7 2022 (IPS– Imagine a patient connected to a vital oxygen device to keep him or her breathing, thus alive. Then, imagine what would happen if this patient unplugged it. This is exactly what humans have been doing with the source of at least 50% of the whole Planet’s oxygen: the oceans.

But oceans do not only provide half of all the oxygen needed. They also absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming while alleviating its consequences on human health and that of all natural resources.

The carbon — and heat– sink

The world’s oceans capture 90% of the additional heat generated from those emissions.

In short, they are not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink.

The ocean is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.

And over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, the vast majority in developing countries.

Oceans also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping.

Nevertheless…

Despite being the life source that supports humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on Earth, oceans are facing unprecedented real threats as a result of human activity.

While providing the above facts, this year’s World Oceans Day (8 June) warns about some of the major damages caused by human activities, which devastate this source of life and livelihood.

This report is also based on data from several specialised organisations, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), among others, as well as a number of global conservation bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Too many causes. And a major one

Oceans as dumping sites: There are several major threats leading to suffocating the world’s lungs.

Such is the case –for example, of overfishing, illegal fishing and ghost fishing–, human activities have been transforming world’s oceans into a giant dumping site: untreated wastewater; poisonous chemicals; electronic waste; oil spills, petrol leaks, oil refineries near rivers and coastal areas, ballast waters, invasive species, and a very long etcetera.

Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Plastic

Of all these, plastic appears as one of the major sources of harm to oceans. See the following data:

As much as 75 to 199 million tons of plastic are currently found in our oceans.

Unless the world changes the way how to produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to a projected 23-37 million tonnes per year by 2040.

How does it get there? A lot of it comes from the world’s rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash into lakes and the ocean.

In fact, around 1.000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.

Plastic everywhere: Wherever you look and whatever you see, buy and use, there is plastic: food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cosmetics, lunch boxes, ballpoints, and thousands of other products.

Cigarette butts: Then you have the case of cigarette butts, whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres, being the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment.

Today, the world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste … every year.

Plastic addiction: Such human dependence on plastic has been steadily increasing. Since the 1970s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. If historic growth trends continue, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1.100 million tonnes by 2050.

“Our seas are choking with plastic waste, which can be found from the remotest atolls to the deepest ocean trenches,” reminds the United Nations chief António Guterres.

Fossil fuel: As importantly, some 98% of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuel, or “virgin” feedstock. The level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecast to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.

Mare Nostrum: This small, semi-closed sea –the Mediterranean is considered as one of the most affected regional seas by marine litter.

In fact, the annual plastic leakage is estimated at 229.000 tons, 94% of which consist of macroplastics. Plastics constitute around 95% of waste in the open sea, both on the seabed and on beaches across the Mediterranean.

COVID-19: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) February 2022 publication: Global Plastics Outlook reports that the increase in the use of protective personal equipment and single-use plastics has exacerbated plastic littering on land and in marine environments, with negative environmental consequences.

Rivers: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that, flowing through America’s heartland, the Mississippi River drains 40% of the continental United States – creating a conduit for litter to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, the ocean.

Data collected through the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative shows that more than 74 per cent of the litter catalogued in pilot sites along the river is plastic.

Electronic waste: should all this not be enough, please also know that the world produces 50 million tons of e-waste, a portion of it ends up in the ocean.

Ghost fishing

According to an October 2020 report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and authored by Alexander Nicolas, more than 12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s seas every year.

Fishing gear accounts for roughly 10% of that debris: between 500.000 to 1 million tons of fishing gear are discarded or lost in the ocean every year. Discarded nets, lines, and ropes now make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Alexander Nicolas explains.

This marine plastic has a name: ghost fishing gear.

“Ghost fishing gear includes any abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, much of which often goes unseen.

“Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic as it un-selectively catches wildlife, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks, subjecting them to a slow and painful death through exhaustion and suffocation. Ghost fishing gear also damages critical marine habitats such as coral reefs.”

Overfishing

Overfishing is yet another major damage caused to the world’s oceans threatening the stability of fish stocks; nutrient pollution is contributing to the creation of “dead zones.”

Currently, 90% of big fish populations have been depleted, as humans are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: A fugitive activity that further adds to the abusive overfishing, causing the depletion of 11–26 million tons of fish… each year.

IPS article The Big Theft of the Fish provides extensive information about these two major activities that deplete the oceans vital natural resources.

Untreated wastewater is another example of the damage made by humans to the oceans.

It has been reported that around 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment, a big portion of it ends up in the oceans.

The oceans in a conference

All the above facts –and many more– are on the agenda of the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 (27 June- 1 July), organised in Lisbon and co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal.

According to its organisers, the Conference seeks to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action. Cross your fingers!

 

The North African region is a “hotspot”

The North African region is a “hotspot”

Experts have been pointing out for years that the North African region is a “hotspot”, and that the risks associated with temperatures already above the global average, would be higher (1.5 degrees by 2035, with the possibility, without a radical policy change, of reaching 2.2 degrees in 2050).

Rainfall is expected to decrease and temperature to rise, which will have a direct impact on water resource capacities.  Climate models show that these trends will strengthen over the future years.

As the agricultural sector is the main consumer of this resource, agricultural production – and therefore the supply to consumers – will be directly affected.

Agricultural lands are largely located in the arid and semi-arid area, representing 85% of the total land area (excluding the Sahara), and will now be increasingly subject to frequent droughts and climatic accidents.

This diagnosis, widely shared by the National Climate Plan (PNC) adopted by the authorities in 2018, has not been followed up, and the climate change adaptation measures adopted by the PNC are far from being implemented.

A major challenge, therefore, arises in a country where the orientation given to policies is aimed at a further intensification of the modes of exploitation of natural resources: how in these conditions to increase agricultural production while preserving natural resources strongly threatened in the future by ongoing climate change?

Secondly, there is the economic shock caused by the rise in world prices for basic agricultural products, which are very heavily consumed by the population (cereals, milk, edible oils, and sugar).

The market crisis and the rises in commodity prices in the spring of 2020 were accentuated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began on 24 February 2022.

Soft wheat prices, which hovered around $200 per tonne in the years 2011-2012, reached amounts that are around $290 per tonne in the last quarter of 2021.

The health crisis was a trigger for this market crisis and this with, on the one hand, the consequence and the weight exerted by imports from China – which became the world’s leading importer of agricultural and agri-food products during 2020/2021 season – and on the other hand, the rise in transport prices combined with temporary export restrictions implemented in several exporting countries (Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Argentina, India…).

Since the beginning of the war, soft wheat has increased by 50% to $450 per tonne. World prices for vegetable oils increased by 23%, sugar by 7%, and meat by 5%.

Algeria will thus buy at the end of February 2022, 600,000 tons of milling wheat, of French origin at $ 485 per ton (cost and fees) to load March-April 2022.

Egypt, the world’s largest importer of soft wheat, will acquire 240,000 tons of French soft wheat for loading at the end of May, at $492.25 per tonne.

The featured image is of Workers harvesting wheat in a field on the outskirts of Berouaguia, southwest of Algiers. (Reuters)

Read the original article in French.

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