Saturday, July 21, 2007

It was not climate change wot made them do it

Climate change and the lack of rain are much less important than the land-use patterns promoted by the government of Sudan and the development policies of World Bank and I.M.F., which were focused on intensive agricultural expansion that really mined the soils and left a lot of land unusable...that was probably the principal impetus for a lot of intra-Darfur migration in the decades leading up to the conflict in Darfur.
-- John Prendergast, a founder of the Enough Project, an initiative of the Center for American Progress and the International Crisis Group to abolish genocide and mass atrocities, quoted in A Godsend for Darfur, or a Curse?, which looks at the implications of the underground megalake recently discovered beneath northern Darfur.

(See also It was climate change wot made me do it)

[P.S. 27 July Simon Donner finds there is no lake beneath Darfur]


Clive Bates said...

I don't thing these things are so easily separated into mono-causal explanations. There is no doubt that rainfall has declined, especially in N Darfur and that the climate has changed (even if it isn't necessarily greenhouse gas climate change). This combined with forest loss, creeping desertification (perhaps 200 Km southwards in 50 years) and sharply rising population (six fold increase since 1950s) are all pressures on the 'environmental assets' of Darfur.

The pressures have stressed the weak land tenure system and caused more informal arrangements between farmers and pastoralists to break down, and then fracture along ethnic/tribal lines, with added tensions from Arab supremicist movements etc.

The unsustainable use of environmental assets due to over use and degradation through various causes is a factor, but not the only factor, in the conflict.

Caspar Henderson said...

I agree that the causes are complex and include the factors you identify. Climate changes to date, which may be partly natural and partly manmade, are very likely a factor. Future, dramatic anthropogenic climate change may be a growing factor in creating circumstances where even greater instability, violence etc are more likely.

But my concern is that "climate change" not become a mantra that substitutes for thought, the attribution of moral and political responsibility and action to find solutions. It's a bleak picture indeed if we accept that governments and power elites are always going to be corrupt, greedy, cruel and short-sighted as environmental and resource stresses increase. Putting it crudely, the Sudanese regime could say something that amounts to 'we are victims of circumstances created by all you SUV drivers in rich countries'.