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Munich Security Conference: African Leaders Absent From Sahel Talks
At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
In the crowded Bayerischer Hof Hotel, African delegates were in the single digits. Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.
A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005. Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.
African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children. Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones. "You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature," Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.
Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa. "They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here," Smith adds. "That doesn't mean that this community's concerns are irrelevant, but they're not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa."
Security experts say the West doesn't care because armed conflicts in the Sahel, West Africa and the Horn are far enough away that they don't directly impact EU countries. "When something happens in the Sahel, unless it affects the flow of migration towards Europe — Europe is not particularly concerned about it," Smith says.
Germany Makes a Case for the Sahel
In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.
"The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism," she said, adding: "That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well."
Kramp-Karrenbauer's statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic's defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara. "I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision," the CAR defense minister told DW.
Koyara said this was not just about politics, but about caring for humanity. The Central African Republic has been stricken by civil war since 2012. A Muslim-dominated coalition of armed groups known as Seleka took over the capital, Bangui, in 2013. Since then, the country has seen thousands killed amid clashes with Christian militias.
"If you look at the million children suffering, the women who are running around to save their own lives, the women who are raped and entire villages bombarded, humanity should not tolerate it," Koyara said, supporting Germany's call for action in conflict-afflicted areas in Africa.
World Bank Beefs up Support
A climate change panel discussion preceded the Munich Security Conference. It reminded the security and political heavyweights in Munich that the war in Darfur 17 years ago was triggered by the effects of climate change and claimed the lives of 300,000 people.
The conflict has since exacerbated environmental degradation in Sudan, forcing more than 2 million people into refugee camps.
Today, climate change-related conflicts are spreading rapidly in the Sahel region.
Some 4.2 million people have been displaced as of March 2019 — one million more than the recorded number in 2018. Violence escalated in 2019, particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the areas around Lake Chad.
In response to the crisis, the World Bank is dispatching its director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, to the region. "We plan, in the next three years, to provide $53 billion (€49 billion) to the Africa region," he said ahead of his visit to Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Mauritania. "Special attention will be given to the fragile states like the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa and Lake Chad," van Trotsenburg told DW.
The World Bank says it has put a lot of emphasis on good governance and strict controls on the use of "our money." The Sahel countries are marred with issues of mismanagement and corruption, among other problems. "That means if there's corruption and we find out, we will go after those who are abusing the money."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.