Is Water, Wealth? By Valentina Valero, student at the University of Miami
As we work to decolonize our global economy, there needs to be a greater emphasis on approaches that restore and regenerate our natural environment. The crisis of our climate has become a human crisis. How should we react? Well, this week at COP27, world leaders brought us a step closer to finding the answer to this question.
Andrew Harper, UNHCR Special Advisor on Climate Action, has reiterated that desertification and rising sea levels are plaguing our earth. This is causing a new wave of climate refugees who continue to be displaced due to depletion of resources, intense competition for these, and once-flourishing homes becoming inhospitable. He predicts that as people are forced to move, tensions in our world will continue to rise. This leaves us in charge of becoming increasingly proactive. Although international law captures the sense of vulnerability of populations facing the adverse effects of climate change, ‘climate refugees’ do not exist under international law. This is the first issue that must be tackled. The complexity here, is that climate change on its own is not a cause for displacing people but is, in fact, reinforcing underlying vulnerabilities. One of these vulnerabilities is the increased stresses in relation to inter-communal tensions.
One such case is in Mauritania, the eleventh largest country in Africa. Mauritania, hosts thousands of refugees while simultaneously being one of the most impacted countries by climate change. One of the biggest challenges that they face today is the drying of lakes and rivers, leaving fisherman and herders - and everyone else - at a loss. The true challenge of food and water insecurity begins with the chronic competition for diminishing sources.
Water, a non-excludable and non-rivalrous good, has become a luxury to our brothers and sisters overseas. How could this be? The United Nations explains that “water is the most symptomatic of the challenges of climate change.” And so, the people of Mauritania have adopted new ways of living. In response to the recent intercommunal tensions over water, Mauritanians have promoted peace keeping efforts, especially between refugees and locals. In fact, they often work together to heal their earth. One of the most notable resilience tactics has been building a ‘great green wall’. This new
protected area (implemented by UNEP) battles desertification and drought while protecting biodiversity, in a very creative way. The pan-African initiative aims to “bring real sustainable
change, provide jobs and help battle climate change.” two Nations around the world are living the reality of Mauritania, which raises a new conflict, though this one may be more feasible to mend. That is, countries are experiencing climate change, but local peoples are excluded from literacy in this topic due to language barriers.
Youth-based initiatives such as Climate Cardinals 3, are now determined to translate climate information into over 100 languages. In fact, you can now volunteer to translate climate texts from your own home, in servitude to those who speak your language.