generation progress

The Post-Glacier Andes

Global warming-induced glacial melt is expected to eventually threaten the water supply of 80 million people in the Andes. I talked to some young people in Cuzco who are going to be around to see this happen:

Across the Andes, people are preparing for the coming increase in scarcity. Mira-Salama’s World Bank project used a three-pronged approach to climate change adaptation.

First, knowledge generation: creating climate models and trying to predict the impact of glacier retreat on important crops. They also installed high-altitude ready weather monitoring equipment in the mountains of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. And finally, the Bank tried to help with “on the ground adaptation” in select Andean communities.

“We’re working with farmers [in the Santa Teresa region of Cuzco] in showcasing better irrigation practices that are more water efficient, working with them in organizing them in water associations so that they can irrigate with pre-defined schedules, working with them in finding more climate-resilient crop varieties […] and also increasing the diversity of their crops,” Mira-Salama said.

Not all communities will have World Bank help facing glacier retreat, though. As future leaders, AYP students will have to build a viable future for their communities in a glacier-parched world.

“We need to start now to make people aware of what’s going to happen, that there’s not going to be water,” Karina Jimenez Suma of Ollantaytambo said.

One idea: plant more Queyña and Chachacoma trees, which are native to the area and do not rely heavily on water.

“We can have a campaign to plant more trees in our communities, avoid wasting water, and do more sprinkle irrigation. You see very little of that [in Ollantaytambo], only a few people know about it. I think sprinkle irrigation is one of the things that can help not use much water,” Jimenez said.

Some possible solutions are more outlandish. One Chilean geologist is exploring strategies to artificially reduce glacier melting or even create new human-made glaciers.

More, including climate changes already underway, how to help from the United States, and the first completely melted glacier, at Generation Progress.

The End Of Awful International Arms Sales?

The UN’s Arms Trade Treaty aims to abolish dumb gun transfers to nasty governments. In my first piece on the international beat for Generation Progress, I evaluate how likely that is:

The ATT goes into effect once it has been ratified by 50 nations, a result expected within a few years. Eight countries have ratified the treaty and 115 have signed.

But here’s an eternal question in international law: How effective will the treaty be if signing is voluntary and signatory states are expected to police themselves?

Russia sells arms to the government of Syria, which has been widely condemned for killing civilians in its current civil war. What good is the treaty if compliance is voluntary and Russia—yet to sign the ATT—chooses to abstain?

In response, treaty proponents argue that the ATT will stigmatize reckless arms sales and give activists a tool to “expose and shame” nations that violate the treaty’s guidelines, according to Akwei of Amnesty International.

That may sound like wishful thinking, but the logic has precedent.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty is a similarly unenforceable piece of international law, yet it is rarely violated.

“It’s really stopped use,” Allison Pytlak said campaign manager for the Control Arms Coalition.

The only nations still laying land mines are Burma and Syria.

The ATT is more nuanced than the landmine treaty though. Landmines are now banned outright, but the ATT merely regulates the global arms market, banning transfers based on what is undeniably a subjective set of rules. Such complexity might provide cover for nations to wriggle free of their treaty obligations.

A comparable example: American law requires that the United States suspend military aid to a country where there has been a military coup. But the United States has carefully avoided calling the August ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi a “coup” and continued military aid to Egypt for several months after the military takeover.

The rest is here.

On Poverty And Gun Death

I wrote about the correlation between gun violence and economic insecurity:

Even in cities with strong gun laws, the correlation holds. Buzzfeed notes that “the average rate of gun deaths in Chicago’s five poorest neighborhoods was over 12 times the rate in its least poverty-stricken.” A map of murders in Washington, D.C. shows that killings hardly ever occur in the city’s wealthy western swath of neighborhoods.

Mind you, this is correlation and not causation. But there’s plenty of reason to believe that poverty leads to gun violence and greater economic security decreases it.

In his classic study of inner city Philadelphia, sociologist Elijah Anderson demonstrates how racism, social alienation, and the absence of economic opportunity combine to create a “code of the street” in which wielding the “credible threat of violence” is the only way to ensure one’s safety. Needless to say, the code leads to a pattern of confrontation and killing.

“Only by reestablishing a viable mainstream economy in the inner city, particularly one that provides access to jobs for young inner-city men and women, can we encourage a positive sense of the future,” Anderson wrote.

Continued at Generation Progress.