13. All states shall accelerate SDG efforts to end poverty and enable all to obtain food and potable water

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Rapporteur: Marianne Larsen

Hunger and Famine

Project Save the World addresses six global threats that may each sharply break from the routine challenges of human experience, with quick catastrophic effects. We do not focus on chronic or intermittent problems that are not existential challenges to humankind or our civilization. Thus, we address famine but not “food insecurity,” or ordinary “hunger” — the shortage of nutrients that have frequently been experienced, probably by the majority of human beings throughout history. However, we recognize that it would be wrong and foolish to ignore “normal” hunger, so our Platform for Survival mentions it briefly in this plank, especially in connection with the current campaign by the United Nations to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, we should at least touch upon the challenge feeding the human population in the decades ahead before turning to famine as the main topic of this article.

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Best Before Dates are a Scam!

The most important change we can make in our use of food is to reduce the amount of waste. And in Western societies, a major source of waste is the rule that food containers should state an expiration date, which it should be thrown out. This is ridiculous. People got along fine before that law came into effect. They looked at the food and if it seemed mouldy or yucky, they threw it out. Or they’d smell it or even taste it. Milk products often need to be tasted. But I know lots of people now who look at the label on the can an automatically toss it out. Food doesn’t go bad at a specific date. It depends on the environment it’s kept in. And the manufacturers dont know that. They just make up a date. It’s meaningless. Smell it and look at it before you decide there is something wrong with food!

Tell me if it’s spoiled

What if you can’t tell if the food is bad? Don’t you think it’s important for regulations to be in place to inform people of whether or not the food has gone bad, or at least to give expected dates? Sometimes, you just can’t tell!

WARNING: The Glaciers are Melting

Globally, between 1 and 2 billion people (20-22% of the world’s total population as of 2020) rely on “mountain water towers” – often interpreted as glacier meltwater – for their drinking and household water. These same water systems additionally have vital roles in natural ecology – supplying water for many ecosystems. These water sources are important in years of drought as they maintain a reservoir source of water even in the event of little to no rainfall. However, climate change is accelerating the rate of glacial melt – putting these whole systems and those reliant on them at risk. If global heating can be limited to 1.5°C, the world could retain 75% of its mountain glacier area and avoid the most significant impacts. Ultimately, these systems sit at the crux of geopolitics, environmental health, and human health.

Ben Cousins – a journalist at CTV news – offers a summary of concerns around these vital water systems: “An article in the journal “Nature” and in partnership with National Geographic and Rolex, found the world’s 78 mountain-based glacier systems, known as “mountain water towers,” are at risk due to climate change, over population and mismanagement of water resources.

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Micro Plastic Pollution on Mountaintops?

Do you think that these water sources are at risk of pollution or contamination? Given how there’s pollution, micro plastics and garbage even at the deepest depths of the ocean, does this also happen on mountain water towers?

Solar vs. Nuclear Desalination: What’s better?

This photo of a solar plant is in Curacao
The idea of converting ocean water to potable water is not new- they’ve been doing it in Israel with desalination plants. What’s more efficient, and environmentally friendly? Desalination plants, or solar power plants, to convert ocean water into drinkable water?

Walking with the Starving

Following in the footsteps of Strokestown’s missing 1490 famine victims, May 25th to May 30th, 2019
This event is past, so you can’t join it, but it’s a remarkable memorial to the horrible Irish famine of 1847.

The National Famine Walk will take place over six days from May 25th to May 30th 2019 when an international group of famine walkers will launch the National Famine Way walking trail. They will follow in the footsteps of the 1490 tenants from Denis Mahon’s estate who were forced to emigrate during the summer of 1847. We will walk 167 km from Strokestown and Clondra all the way along the Royal Canal to Spenser Dock, the Jeannie Johnson Famine Ship, and Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures in Dublin city centre.

The event recreates the journey of 1490 tenants from the Mahon estate at Strokestown Park, now the site of the Irish National Famine Museum (http://www.strokestownpark.ie/), who were escorted by Bailiff Robinson to Dublin to ensure they boarded ship and did not return home. Their journey took place in May 1847 or ‘Black 47’, one of the worst years of suffering of the Great Irish Famine.

The story of the tenants’ fate after they left Dublin is a harrowing one. They travelled on open deck packet steamers to Liverpool where they waited in the cellars of quayside buildings at Liverpool docks to board their ships to Canada. The four ships they boarded – Erin’s Queen, Naomi, The Virginius and The John Munn – were badly fitted out and poorly provisioned. Almost half of those who embarked died aboard ship or in the ‘fever sheds’ at Grosse Isle when they arrived in Quebec. Of course, this was not known to them as they walked along the Royal Canal to Dublin, away from hunger and hoping for a better life.
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Coordinate against drought

By Joe C Mathew | September 12, 2019

“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) has called for coordination among UN organisations and intergovernmental efforts to develop a proactive drought management strategy to assist all countries to improve and solidify their drought policies.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) has called for coordination among UN organisations and intergovernmental efforts to develop a proactive drought management strategy to assist all countries to improve and solidify their drought policies.

In a report presented at the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP-14) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Conference (UNCCD) in Greater Noida, UNFAO explores various policy approaches that can be used to support drought-stricken populations and drought-affected activities, reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience…

The report notes that in India, 330 million people were affected by the drought of 2015-16. “Women and children were among the most seriously affected, with increases in wasting among mothers, an increase in child labour and cases of trafficking and child marriages in some of the affected states,” it observed.

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How does the UN plan on doing this for countries that are experiencing prolonged conflict? That’s where people have the least access to food and water…

Trans-African Water Pipeline

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The proposed trans-African water pipe line aims to connect four solar-paneled desalination plants to a 1.5 meter diameter pipe running through 11 Sahel (African) nations. The pipeline would traverse some of the most politically unstable regions on the planet (Chad, Eritrea, etc.). What if someone decides to blow-up a section of this pipeline? How much water will be provided to the middle section?

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Hmmm. Surface water or well water?

Have folks considered the trade-off between surface and well-water in various regions? Of concern is the source of drinking water in heavily contaminated areas. Chemical contamination can seep deep into the soil and contaminate wells. However, surface drinking water can be prone to pathogens – such as bacteria, parasites, etc. Several months ago there were a slurry of articles around straws with built in filters – but I question are these certified for a range of contaminants – such as arsenic vs. bacteria vs. parasites, etc.

Lake Erie toxic algae blooms

I am alarmed to hear of the repeated green algae blooms in Lake Erie. The algae is toxic and has caused bans on drinking tap water in several regions of the United States (in the vicinity of Lake Erie) in recent years. I have heard several theories as to the origin of these algae blooms. One is that it is a byproduct of agricultural run-off and antiquated drainage systems implemented in the nineteenth century.

A large portion of the area south-west of Lake Erie was formerly known as the Great Black Swamp and during colonization, settlers installed drainage pipes in their fields which drained into regional waterways like creeks, rivers, and swamps. This is exacerbated by the increased density of crops and livestock animals in recent decades – with fertilizers and manure eventually ending up in Lake Erie.
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North Korean defectors are amazed at the food in Seoul

Lee Oui-ryuk was on the verge of dying of starvation when he stole a block of tofu in a market in North Korea at the height of a nationwide famine. Too weak to run away after he swiped the food, Lee continued eating as the seller cried and beat him with a metal rod, staining the white tofu red with his blood.
At nine years old he knew the theft would end in violence, but in his head he repeated over and over: “Even if you are beaten, keep eating.” He eventually passed out and when he awoke, took a morsel that remained on his hand to his sister.
“Even today I don’t have the words to describe the hunger,” Lee said. “My head was too big for my body because I was so malnourished and my neck couldn’t support the weight, which meant my head was always at a slant.”
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I saw something recently about harvesting water from fog. They put up textiles which capture the moisture and collect it. They were even talking about using it in the desert. Does anyone know whether there is enough water in dry air to make such a scheme workable?

Yes! Capture some fog!

Howard, the answer is YES! They can get water out of air in the desert too now. Here’s a link about the new technological innovation that makes it possible.

Famine as a War Crime

Famine Isn’t Just a Result of Conflict—It’s a Cause
By Justa Hopma

A boy holds a kettle as he walks outside his family’s hut at a camp for people displaced by the war near Sanaa, Yemen September 26, 2016. Famine often leads to conflict, but when the conflict is already them, famine is a form of oppression.

The relationship between food insecurity and conflict is almost so logical that it appears to state the obvious: Conditions of food insecurity contribute to the outbreak of social, political and military conflict, which in turn produces further food insecurity.

Many studies concerned with making sense of food insecurity and conflict focus on these causal linkages blaming one on the other in an attempt to identify ways of breaking through the vicious cycle. But it’s more helpful to view the creation of conditions of food insecurity (or food security) as a broader social and political process, by which food and agriculture are controlled by a powerful group—whether that is the state or private interests.

In this way, food has long been used as an instrument of power—and a quick glance at the historical record shows that the ability to control food production, distribution and consumption constitutes a form of power that lets populations live or die.
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History throws up countless examples of this. Take the way that, in the Middle Ages, walled cities under siege could be starved out to force their capitulation. More recent history gives us the systematic deprivation of food, including the well-known German Hungerplan of World War II, that involved a deliberate policy decision to rob millions of Soviet citizens of their food. Or the lesser-known, long-term British occupation of the port of Aden from 1839 to 1963, that allowed it to control Middle Eastern food distribution channels, with sometimes devastating consequences that weakened independent forces in the Arab region.

So creating or exploiting different kinds of what we now describe as “food insecurity” have long been an integral part of conflict.

The case of north-eastern Nigeria is a harrowing present-day example that clearly shows how food security is implicated in longer-standing social and political conflict. In explaining the rise of religious extremism both today and in the 1980s, Nigerian scholars Abimbola Adesoji and Elizabeth Isichei stress the links between poverty, a lack of educational opportunities, widespread corruption and receptiveness to militant Islam in Nigeria’s northern region.

Since 2012, however, the conflict between government forces and the jihadist organization Boko Haram has escalated into widespread violence. Agriculture has often been a direct target in the infliction of violence and Boko Haram has attacked farmers and farm resources, including land and livestock. Large numbers of livestock have been killed and farmers murdered. Crops have been destroyed and land mines have rendered land unusable.

The resulting shortfall in food production has not only contributed to scarcity in the north-eastern region, but is also linked to price rises for food in southern Nigeria and neighboring countries Niger and Cameroon.

In January 2017, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that: “More than 4.8m people are in urgent need of food assistance and 5.1m are predicted to be food insecure if not supported by the humanitarian community.”

Regional humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer appears somewhat reluctant to use the word “famine”, but warns that such extreme prolonged and general scarcity of food is but one step away in northern Nigeria.

Language matters

In spite of the clear indications that it’s almost always a combination of social, political and environmental factors that leads to situations of widespread hunger, many news outlets continue to represent famine through language that uses natural metaphors.

The Huffington Post, for example, speaks of a “perfect storm” of contributing factors while other publications outline how drought and war “spark” famine or contribute to its “outbreak”.

The consistent use of such language suggests that the onset of famine is rapid and calamitous, like a fire or infectious disease. But the reality is very different. As the cases of both Nigeria and South Sudan make clear, the development of famine is a dynamic social and political process with a long build-up.

The continued representation of famines as disastrous events largely sprung upon populations by the forces of nature, prevents us from understanding famine—and food insecurity—as a socio-political process, even though doing so is especially important for realising its future prevention.

Famine as a war crime
South Sudan is in a similar situation to north-eastern Nigeria. A lengthy conflict has produced a situation in which 4.8m people are facing “severe” food insecurity and “more than 8m people “face some degree of food insecurity”. Referring to the situation there, Leslie Lefkow, deputy director at the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, has written that creating some mechanism of accountability is one of the only hopes of resolving the conflict there. Lefkow recognizes that:

There is no offence of ‘creating a famine’ under international law but in a conflict—civil or international—’objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population’ may not be attacked. They have a protected status as civilian objects and because their protection goes hand in hand with the prohibition on using starvation of the civilian population as a weapon of war.

Put this way, willingly contributing to the increased food insecurity of populations can be linked to war crimes. Importantly, recognising that famine—but also various other conditions of food insecurity and food security—results from socio-political processes is a prerequisite for developing such legal accountability.

Once we do this, we’ll be in a better position to acknowledge the power embedded within the ability to organize and control food production as well as the multiple ways in which food products circulate the planet. And this is as true during times of war as it is in times of peace.

For more on understanding famine as a socio-political process, see Whose Hunger? Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid by Jenny Edkins & Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa by Alex de Waal.
This article is part of a series by The Conversation on food security.
Justa Hopma is Research fellow at the University of Sheffield

Amazon Deforestation up 60%

(CNN) Amazon deforestation accelerated more than 60% in June over the same period last year, in what environmentalists say is a sign that the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are starting to take effect.

The rate of rainforest destruction had been stable during the first few months of Bolsonaro’s presidency but began to soar in May and June, according to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE), a government agency whose satellites also monitor the Amazon.

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