Jan 26, 2009

The Planet is running short of waterThe world is in danger

The Planet is running short of waterThe world is in danger of running out of "sustainably managed water", according to Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute and a leading authority on global freshwater resources.Leo Lewis
A swelling global population, changing diets and mankind’s expanding “water footprint” could be bringing an end to the era of cheap water. The warnings, in an annual report by the Pacific Institute in California, come as ecologists have begun adopting the term “peak ecological water” - the point where, like the concept of “peak oil”, the world has to confront a natural limit on something once considered virtually infinite.The world is in danger of running out of “sustainably managed water”, according to Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute and a leading authority on global freshwater resources. Humans - via agriculture, industry and other demands - use about half of the world’s renewable and accessible fresh water. But even at those levels, billions of people live without the most basic water services, Dr Gleick said.A key element to tackling the crisis, say experts, is to increase the public understanding of the individual water content of everyday items. A glass of orange juice, for example, needs 850 litres of fresh water to produce, according to the Pacific Institute and the Water Footprint Network, while the manufacture of a kilogram of microchips - requiring constant cleaning to remove chemicals - needs about 16,000 litres. A hamburger comes in at 2,400 litres of fresh water, depending on the origin and type of meat used.Water footprint calculations are still only rough. They differ around the world and depend on climate, soil types, irrigation methods and crop genetics. The water footprint of different meats depends on what the animals are fed and the relative “thirst” of the crops used to feed themThe amount of water required to produce a single litre of soft drink may be only three or four litres, but vast quantities are used to produce the sugar and corn syrup feedstocks. For example, one kilogram of paper requires 125 litres of water to process, but that excludes the water needed to grow the tree.The water will be returned in various forms to the system, although not necessarily in a location or at a quality that can be effectively reused.There are concerns that water will increasingly be the cause of violence and even war. Dan Smith, the Secretary-General of the British-based peacebuilding organisation International Alert, said: “Water is a basic condition for life. Its availability and quality is fundamental for all societies, especially in relation to agriculture and health. There are places - West Africa today, the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system in Nepal, Bangladesh and India, and Peru within ten years - where major changes in the rivers generate a significant risk of violent conflict. Good water management is part of peacebuilding.”David Zhang, a geographer at the University of Hong Kong, produced a study published in the US National Academy of Sciences journal that analyzed 8,000 wars over 500 years and concluded that water shortage had played a far greater role as a catalyst than previously supposed.” We are on alert, because this gives us the indication that resource shortage is the main cause of war,” he told The Times. “Human beings will definitely have conflicts over this.”Although in theory renewable sources of water were returned to the ecosystem and their use could continue indefinitely, Dr Gleick said, changes in the way water was exploited and how its quality degraded meant that methods of processing it would become more expensive. “Once we begin appropriating more than ‘peak ecological water’ then ecological disruptions exceed the human benefit obtained,” Dr Gleick said. Defined this way, many regions of the world had passed that peak and were using more water than the system could sustain.The World’s Water report sounds a particularly strong note of alarm over the state of water usage and pollution in China, where rampant economic expansion has overtaxed freshwater resources and could even begin to threaten stability. “When water resources are limited or contaminated, or where economic activity is unconstrained and inadequately regulated, serious social problems can arise,” wrote Dr Gleick, “and in China, these factors have come together in a way that is leading to more severe and complex water challenges than in almost any other place on the planet.”A significant part of the problem is the huge, and often deeply inefficient, use of water by industry and agriculture. UN calculations suggest that more than one third of the world’s population is suffering from water shortages: by 2020 water use is expected to increase by 40 per cent from current levels, and by 2025, according to another UN estimate, two out of three people could be living under conditions of “water stress”.(Leo Lewis is the Asia Business Correspondent for The Times of London. Source:
The cultural designation of feminism: Theory and PraxisIn fact, feminism is not concerned with a limited group of people to benefit their demands, rather it wants to eliminate social injustice, works in favor of the oppressed.Dr. Nandini Sahu Feminism is a vital area in contemporary intellectual literary discourse. This paper aims at an analysis of the impact of this theory that has given rise to issues like ‘men in feminism’, ‘feminism without women’, ‘the origin and the types of feminism’, keeping in view its fundamental significance and impact on literary studies during the second half of the twentieth century. Also, the paper discusses several major theories related to feminism as a whole, their origin and development across the years. Feminist theory can be compared with some major conceptual developments like Marxism and psychoanalysis. This theory helps one analyze and understand the major factors through which the two genders – male and female – have been constructed with specific languages and ideas in literature. Chronologically, 1960s and 1970s helped theorize a woman’s discourse; in 1980s, feminism concentrated on changing the intellectual fields for women; and in 1990s it began and reached its culmination in playing a major role in directing women’s feeling of themselves as the other sex. The word ‘feminism’ has so many meanings and directions in the current century that it is hardly possible to attribute it some precise definition. Janet Radcliff Richards observes: “women suffer from systematic social injustice because of their sex,” and a voice against this social injustice is the ideal of feminism. It is a common belief that feminism is a movement of women and men are not allowed into it which is rather a narrow definition. In fact, feminism is not concerned with a limited group of people to benefit their demands, rather it wants to eliminate social injustice, works in favor of the oppressed. Lisa Tuttle defines feminism thus: “the term feminism, taken from the Latin word ‘femina’ (woman), originally meant having the qualities of females. It originated in the perception that there is something wrong with the treatment of the females by the society.” The feminists attempt to analyze the reasons, dimensions of women’s oppression, and the remedies. Feminism incorporates both a principle of equal rights for woman (the organized movement to attain women’s rights) and philosophy of social renovation aiming to create a world for women beyond uncomplicated social equality. But feminism must distinguish for itself between women’s rights and women’s emancipation. Coming to the Feminist ,like feminism, there is not a single definition of feminist since feminists have many differing affinities – of sexual preference, class and race. In short a feminist is a woman who recognizes herself, and is recognized by others, as a feminist, as the one who has the awareness and knowledge of women’s oppression, and has a recognition of women’s differences and commonalities. Some feminists argue for a classification that is future oriented – that a feminist must have a notion of social change.During 1870s, Mrion Talbot and her mother Emily Talbot persuaded the Harvard University premises to open the doors for women. Dr. Edward Clarke, a former medical school professor and a Harvard overseer, opined that higher education would destroy women’s health, beauty and reproductive ability which the Talbot mother and daughter proved false with research and survey. This seems to be the first recorded attempts of the feminists to challenge male supremacy. In an essay entitled ‘Women and Fiction’ (1929), Virginia Woolf speculated on the new colors and shadows in women’s writing after the English woman was transformed from a weak, fluctuating, vague character to a voter, wage-earner, a responsible citizen. Woolf considered that the relations of the new woman with the society will not only be emotional, but also intellectual and political. She described the woman’s world of cooking, child bearing as intangible, vague, anonymous, as if that were a dark country, which could be compared to Mary Wollstonecraft’s view in a ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1722) that women were immured in their families, groping in the dark. The second wave feminists were just the followers defining women’s oppression as her imprisonment in the bourgeois household as a mother and unpaid servant. First-wave/second-wave feminism has been a long tradition of writers and thinkers who have criticized the position of women in western societies, but not until the nineteenth century did that critique inspire a mass movement. Between approximately 1880 and 1920, and beginning again in the 1960s, questions of women’s social, economic and political rights generated substantial popular support and public discussion, initially in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand and then, in the twentieth century on all continents . Although the term feminism did not come into popular use until the 1910s, commentators since have termed the two movements ‘first’ and ‘second-wave’ feminism, likening the ebb and flow of the movements’ mass appeal to that of a cresting wave. The origins of nineteenth-century feminism lie in the changes that altered western societies in the early part of the twentieth century. Foremost was industrialization which undermined household production and established a hierarchy between the male-dominated public sphere and the female-dominated private one. At the same time, liberal-democratic ideologies, socialism, evangelical Protestant Christianity, and social reform movements, especially abolitionism and temperance, propelled a wide spectrum of women to challenge their exclusion from the public realm. The relative importance of each factor depended on the specific national or even regional circumstances. The main goal of feminism is to redefine, and change this age old dogma by discovering the subtle causes of woman’s subjugation. It is a way to making the entire culture conscious of the natural rights of women relating to unequal labor, unequal pay for equal work, marriage and divorce laws that make man the supreme authority, economic independence, division of labor inside the family, to think a woman’s income as extra rather than a support, and then to introduce reforms in the traditional social structures. Feminism conceives of a utopian world free of male privilege, chauvinism, hierarchy, authority. It is a movement to bring about a sociopolitical change to condemn the subordination of any sex, to rebalance the social, economic, political power between man and woman. It raises a voice against man’s claim to define what is good for a woman and what is not keeping in view his own selfish motives. Feminists believe woman to be a mature decision maker. Protesting against the social institutions that denied women any other identity except that which they acquired through their men – that of a daughter, sister, wife, mother, feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Cady Stanton dreamt of a world which guaranteed individual identity to a woman. Feminists intend to deconstruct all the indefinite identities of women opposing the binary oppositions between the male and the female. The society has cut a straight line between good and bad, black and white, dark and light, man and woman – feminism is a movement against this distinction, this binary opposition.(Dr. Nandini Sahu is a poet and a creative writer of international repute and has been widely published in India, U.S.A, and Pakistan. Source:
From vision to policy - All eyes are set on Obama administration
In the coming weeks and months, the Obama administration will demonstrate to the people of South West Asia if its President's passionate words advocating peace will actually mean a wiser US policy.
Nasim Zehra
The Obama 'magic' resonates globally. His presidential victory exuded the 'can do' approach. Now from President Barack Obama the world's expectation is of a 'will do' man. Beyond his many troubles at home, Obama has multiple 'troubled zones' that have evolved both organically and as a consequence of the Bush's destructive and widely denounced so-called global war on terrorism (GOWT). These 'troubled zones' fall largely in the geographical belt that extends from South West to South Asia. On foreign policy priorities even going by the numerous visitors to the region who will occupy important positions in the Obama administration, the Pakistan, Afghanistan and India ?region will constitute a priority engagement area for the Obama administration.The visitors have included Obama's Vice-President Joseph Biden and Chairman Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry. Senior military and State department officials too have been frequenting the region.It is within this belt that in the closing weeks two major crisis erupted; Israel's deadly genocidal military invasion of Gaza and the post-Mumbai heightened politico-military Pakistan-India tensions. The continuous problems include Washington's politically besieged and ineffective point man in Kabul and deteriorating security conditions with growing terrorism, foreign troop presence and spreading militancy. Meanwhile, in the absence of an independent and a viable Palestinian homeland and non-settlement of the nuclear question with Iran, socio-political and military security and stability will elude South West Asia.Against this backdrop and the diplomatic orientation of the Obama team there will be an approach-shift in how Washington will now tackle global issues. The Bush administration's unilateralism will be placed by multilateralism. Also the interventionist and destructive doctrine of pre-emptive strikes will be replaced by coercive diplomacy replacing blatantly illegal military invasions like in Iraq and Afghanistan ?with a combination of force and diplomacy. As a corollary of this approach-shift, the United Nations as an international body will receive more respect and acknowledgment from the Obama administration.Indeed 'approach-shift' is a necessary starting point to policy.However, to effect actual change in policy, the substance of policy must change. That change can only flow from changed policy objectives. Objectives too have a fountainhead from where they flow - the vision, the worldview and the mission statement. To what extent will Obama's soft compassionate and logical approach towards society politics and governance actually translate into concrete change in US foreign policy is an important question.For now, contours of numerous new initiatives are already there. Five are noteworthy. One, while at the April NATO Conference meeting, the Obama administration will define and detail its policy on Afghanistan, what has been announced is that the new administration will induct 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan in the hope that this will lead to an improved security environment. Two, on FATA the new administration will opt for closer coordination with the Pakistan army given that now Washington views Pakistan's tribal ?areas as a key and integral component to the success of its policy in Afghanistan.Three, the appointment of US former envoy to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, as Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Four, the appointment of former Senate majority Democratic Leader George Mitchell as a Special Envoy for the Middle East. Five, initiating diplomatic engagement with Iran to settle the issue of the nuclear power plus seek Iranian cooperation in dealing with regional security issues, including Afghanistan.These initiatives can indicate merely an approach-shift. For example, in the case of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan appointing a special envoy instead of ambassadors and State Department officials.Similarly, to achieve Washington's objective of defeating the Taleban using more troops instead of less. In Iran too, instead of continuing with the Bush policy of disengagement opt for engagement with Teheran while seeking to settle the nuclear issue on Washington's terms.Do these initiatives then indicate ?that any policy changes are on the ?cards? On the regional approach to tackling militancy there has been a clear indication that in its concluding months the Bush administration has been flagging in the three capitals, Islamabad, Kabul and Delhi the need for a collective regional approach to fight terrorism.This thinking has also been reflected in the numerous think-tank reports and in articles published in influential magazines like the Foreign Affairs. The unresolved issues of Durand Line and Kashmir are hurdles in the way of genuine cooperation. Similarly in the case of Pakistan-India, President Obama himself linked resolution of the Kashmir dispute to effectively tackling militancy.These think tanks have acknowledged two important Pakistan-specific facts. One that too much pressure on Pakistan from the eastern and western borders can cause internal instability. Two, while advocating his level engagement with the Pakistan army, Pakistan's democratic governments must be supported. The Biden-Lugar Bill, which calls for tripling non-military assistance to Pakistan illustrates Washington's policy of greater engagement with Pakistan. Washington's post-Mumbai approach of supporting Delhi's three key demands, extradition, and no bilateral engagement with Pakistan and government's involvement in the Mumbai attack, indicated Washington's relatively balanced policy.These indications are promising but there are hurdles, both contextual and self-created that the Obama administration will face. In Afghanistan, without a parallel political track the troop surge alone cannot enhance security. For now Washington's political strategy revolves around the Karzai factor, one that is widely and openly being criticised by its NATO allies.Criticism of US policy by NATO ?allies has found its way in the media. This troop surge alone is clearly ?insufficient and unlikely to alter ?the current security situation substantially. Recently the CENTCOM chief General David Patreus said, "the long term solution is only a political solution…war cannot be won through military means."Similarly, in case of both Middle East and Iran, the biggest hurdle may well be the Obama administration's undiluted commitment to provide unquestioning support to Israel to pursue its security agenda at the expense of the Palestinian nation, Lebanese peace, ?US-Iranian relations and regional security. The million-dollar question is how can the Obama administration initiate a genuinely new initiative if it not willing to 'guide' its largest recipient of military and economic aid towards a more enlightened path of 'self-interest.'Similarly, Washington's growing strategic relationship with Delhi could push the Obama administration on the back-foot on its diplomatic efforts to facilitate, not directly get involved in the resolution of Kashmir. Already Pakistan and India during 2006 have made progress on that issue. But Obama administration's involvement will be directly linked to how seriously Washington recognises that unresolved issues undermine regional security in a substantial manner.In the coming weeks and months, the Obama administration will demonstrate to the people of South West Asia if its President's passionate words advocating peace will actually mean a wiser US policy.