Thanks to Robin Turner for the link to this story.
A Spill Afar: Should It Matter?
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
For the last month, Americans have watched with growing horror as a huge leak on a BP oil rig has poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As I wrote on Sunday in the Week in Review section of The Times, there is also shock that technology has so far not been able to control it.
But it is important to remember that this mammoth polluting event, so extraordinary here, is not so unusual in some parts of the world. In an article published Sunday in The Guardian of London, John Vidal, the paper’s environment editor, movingly recalls a trip to the Niger Delta a few years ago, where he literally swam in “pools of light Nigerian crude.”
Treehugger often feels like a pretty random “environmentalist” website. Half the time, I feel like they are trying to sell me something I don’t need (eco-consumerism is not necessarily a good thing). That said, they also occasionally have very interesting stories.
This week I noticed they had a couple posts about Africa.
One does a fantastic job of playing into the stereotype of “Africa as exotic”. It is a series of photos about “Socotra: The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth”? That said, it clearly is a beautiful and unique place. And I’m surprised I had never heard of it before.
The other post is on the trade in Rosewood from Madagascar. The title mentions that the Rosewood is headed to China but the text never discusses that point. What it does suggest (but not really substantiate) is that the coup last year created an opportunity for outsiders to step in and exploit Madagascar’s natural resources. Once again, a familiar portrayal of Africa, this time as “victim”.
Africa as the exotic victim, plagued–in these cases–by environmental problems, is a refrain that persists. My question is whether — as Lakoff argued for liberals — this is a frame that can be changed.
Elizabeth Trammell is also writing her honors thesis on a similar subject.
This was the week for thinking about climate change. And when not distracted by “climate-gate”, there were some good debates out there.
- Duncan Green has a good overview of “What to Read on Copenhagen”.
- Andrew Gelman looks at the statistics behind a recent paper by Burke, Miguel, Satyanath, Dykema and Lobell. They find that warmer years in Africa tend to lead to “significant increases in the likelihood of war.”
Not on climate change, per se, but Dan Bodansky’s new book, The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law, looks interesting.
International Public Opinion
Perception of Climate Change as a Problem or Threat: On average in 2009, 85 percent of those polled globally said the problem was serious, with 56 percent saying it was very serious. The number of people saying that it is not a problem averaged just 3 percent and was always in the single digits, with the exception of the United States in 2009 when this figure reached 11 percent. (The average 2007 and 2008 numbers were almost exactly the same as those in 2009.)
Other findings challenge the idea of American Exceptionalism:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the digest suggests substantial consistency in the views of Americans and their counterparts abroad regarding the importance of international law, international institutions, and multilateral cooperation to address global challenges. Far from being insular or obsessed with sovereignty, Americans convey support for internationalist principles and a willingness to compromise for effective multilateral cooperation.
A few headlines are particularly striking. Most Americans favor a world order that is multipolar or led by the United Nations, rather than based on U.S. hegemony or a bipolar balance. They believe that all nations must abide by international law even when doing so is at odds with their national interest. A large majority of Americans express support for U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court, even after hearing past U.S. government objections.
Dan Drezner has his own take on a recent Pew Survey on American public opinion about foreign policy. He finds that Americans are quite “realist” right now. But Americans are also rather uninformed (he actually calls us “dumb”).
Opinio Juris has a link to some stories suggesting Blackwater “assassins” may be posing as aid workers. This reminds me of when I interned in Congress one summer during college. There was a Senate hearing on whether the CIA should use journalists, priest, Peace Corps Volunteers and the like as spies overseas. The hearing was stopped quite early on when it was decided that having a public debate about such things is not smart.
The Reuters Africa Blog ponders whether the war is over in Darfur.
Some of Ghana’s football stars are in trouble. Fortunately, it is a minor issue. But come on guys! You have to get your acts together for the World Cup!
Twitter apparently thinks that Africa = AIDS.
New book, What Works in Development (Editors Jessica Cohen and William Easterly) outlines the debate between those who think randomized evaluation of development projects is a good idea, and those who don’t.
African leaders advise Bono on how to reform U2.
Sustainablog writer essentially uses Robert Paarlberg’s book, Starved for Science, to blame Greenpeace for starvation in Africa. The debate on GMOs in Africa continues! A comment on the blog post also mentions an interesting article, “Forbidden Fruit: Transgenic Papaya in Thailand” on a similar theme.
13 things not to miss in Ghana. I’m not sure if I completely agree with the list. It leaves out for instance, a trip to Bolgatanga or anywhere in the North of the country, which I think is something one must do to get a full picture of the country. I would also add the market in Kumasi which is one of the biggest (or the biggest) of its kind in the world.
In the lead-up to Copenhagen, it makes sense that climate issues will be linked to all the evil in the world. Still, the concern about linkages between weather and conflict are not new in African studies. Ted Miguel’s work has linked rainfall (via the economic shocks associated with it) to conflict in Africa and the murder of witches in Tanzania. Some consider it at the root of the conflict in Darfur. Still, a number of researchers have pointed out that the link between climate change and conflict is — at a minimum — not very simple and perhaps very problematic (see here and here, for instance). Much as Thad Dunning has demonstrated in Crude Democracy that oil need not be the curse we make it out to be, we should be careful to understand the conditions under which climate change may (or may not) impact the likelihood of conflicts in Africa.