Things to Come

Whenever I read the word “intervention”, my blood runs cold. Far too frequently for Americans it means military intervention. I was a bit relieved when I read Ezzedine C. Fishere’s op-ed in the Washington Post but to tell the truth only a little. He’s writing in concern about the rising tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile. A quick glance at a population density map of Egypt reveals the source of his concern. Nearly all of Egypt’s population lives on the banks of the Nile or in its delta. Egyptians are correct in viewing any diminution in the river’s flow as an existential threat. Here’s what he’s looking for:

There is little point in apportioning blame in the current diplomatic failure; it doesn’t move the parties closer to an agreement. There is equally little point in engaging in legal debates about rights and obligations related to trans-boundary waterways. Both countries have stretched their interpretation of international law without getting anywhere. Ultimately, Egypt and Ethiopia rely more on the laws of power than the power of laws.

The challenge, therefore, is to take the two countries by the hand toward an agreement that respects their most cherished goals. Ideally, international rivers are best managed by transnational bodies that reconcile the interests of states and treat the river as an integrated ecosystem. But it is unlikely the countries will agree to that system.

A muscular diplomatic approach is needed. Both countries have extensive relations with the United States and China. While they too mistrust each other, they still need to reduce the scope of their rivalry and find zones of convergence.

As I see it our interests in either Egypt or Ethiopia are extremely narrow. We have little leverage over either country and little we should be offering them. The best we should hope for is to engage in negative reciprocity with China which probably has even less interest in either country than we do. That’s probably not what Mr. Fishere is hoping for.

I expect to see a lot more stories along these lines over time. Conflicts over water are not limited to Ethiopia and Egypt. The conflict between Israel and Syria is largely over water as a quick glance at a hydrological map of the two countries should suggest to you. There are also Turkey, Syria, and Iraq; Afghanistan and Iran; China and Laos; Turkey and Armenia; even the U. S. and Mexico.

I would not be a bit surprised if the great conflicts over resources during the 21st century were to be about water rather than oil.

9 comments… add one
  • TastyBits Link

    I learned about this some time ago, and I quickly realized it would not end well. I have thought that Egypt not controlling the Nile’s headwaters was a problem.

    Many years ago, I saw an off-hand reference about the Israeli-Arab conflict being over water, and since I am driven to understand off-hand remarks, I had to investigate. As you noted, taking “a quick glance at a hydrological map” is illuminating. The Palestinian land is over dry aquifers.

    (I know about Babymetal and lolita fashion because of off-hand remarks.)

    With plentiful access to water, it is difficult for people to understand how important it is – biology, agriculture, transportation, etc. Even today, several states have ongoing water disputes, and there is one between the US & Mexico.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    If there was money — even water isn’t an issue.

    Desalination plants powered by nuclear power is a solution to fresh water scarcity.

    Now that’s an infrastructure project that would pay a lot of returns.

  • Drew Link

    “Desalination plants powered by nuclear power is a solution to fresh water scarcity. Now that’s an infrastructure project that would pay a lot of returns.”

    Heh. The US’ largest plant in Carlsbad, even with its reverse osmosis technology, puts out something like 10,000 cars worth of CO2 per year. No nukey water for CA. That would make too much sense.
    And, amazingly, no mention of this type of thing in Uncle Joe’s once in a lifetime infrastructure boondog, er, plan.

    But I must say I do have environmental concerns:

    In the last decade the Artic Icecap has expanded 12%.
    In England, the growing season has shortened by a week from 25 years ago.
    The warm blooded Armadillo is migrating southward.
    In Africa the Sahara is creeping southward and 6 years of drought has been stopped by rains.
    In the US corn crops fell off last year, and in India the crops were devastated by rains.

    Climatologists have cited this as proof of changing climate, predicting a dramatic……………….uh, cooling (say what, MF??) that will result in colder winters and perhaps even a Little Ice Age. This from a 1975 article in the good old Chicago Tribune quoting climatologists views of the day.

    And for the interested student, despite noted climatologist steve’s professed errant memory, what national magazine published a cover declaring “The Coming Ice Age?” Hint: Its Time for some sanity.

    Well, at least the science is settled.

  • jan Link

    Nasty little climate details, such as were in Drew’s post, are either ignored or dismissed by those ardently supporting global warming propaganda. Here in CA, whether the climate is too dry/hot or too wet/cold, the root cause always falls under the “global warming” meme from my GW friends. No amount of data, research, questioning their mindsets, seems to be able to shift their beliefs to at least an open-minded position.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    “knowing that we could lose status if we don’t believe in something causes us to be more likely to believe in it to guard against that loss. Considerations of what happens to our own reputation guides our beliefs, leading us to adopt a popular view to preserve or enhance our social positions. We implicitly ask ourselves, “What are the social consequences of holding (or not holding) this belief?”

  • steve Link

    Sea Ice? Overall it is decreasing. It has seen an increase in the amount of water covered in winter but the decreases in the summer are larger. Since we are really talking about volume of ice the ice is not as thick in the winter as in the past so total volume is down. (Drew used to be an engineer so he can probably remember how to calculate volumes.)

    In the 70s about 10% of scientists were predicting cooling. 60% were predicting warming. (TC Peterson 2008) Oddly enough most of us dont think Time is a scientific journal, but you guys do apparently.

    The length the growing season has increased in the UK, as i this in the US.

    ASDA said 2020 corn production up 4% and soybeans up 19%. Well, unless you cite entertainment magazines as science journals.

    Drew’s nasty little details are wrong.


  • jan Link

    Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, who became discredited as soon as he used historical scientific data to prove the fallacy of CO2 alarmism, has become such a common sense, open-minded climate scientist. I read his blog, have listened to interviews by him, and recently ordered his book dealing with the mythology of climate catastrophe. Eventually I might try to plough through his data-driven evidence. However, even if I would do so the GW believers would still be stuck in their “settled science” shoes filled with concrete.

  • steve Link

    Moore is a 73 y/o guy who has never done any original research on climate. He lies quite a bit but is a very good speaker so he sounds convincing. Very good at bringing up a lot of information which is totally irrelevant.

    Here is the link to the measurements of the growing season in the US and how it has increased. Can provide links to any of what I claim above. You and Drew will babe unable to substantiate your claims as there is no evidence.


  • Jan Link

    What “lies” has Moore told regarding his evidence on the benign but beneficial impact CO2 has had on the planet?

    Myron Ebell, Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Lindzen, William Happer, Freeman Dyson, Fred Singer, Judith Curry, Kimirovi Itoh, Ivan Giaever, Ian Plimer, are scientists you probably will find fault with too, given their views, like Moore, conflict with those fanning global warming fears.

Leave a Comment