Without Water, Revolution

In the Sunday Review, part of the International Herald Tribune, Thomas Friedman describes how he – during his recent visit to Syria – was shaken up by a local school. »War refugees had occupied the classrooms and little kids’ shirts and pants were drying on a line strung across the playground. [...] Classes had not been held in two years. And that is what terrified me. Men with guns I’m used to. But kids without books, teachers or classes for a long time — that’s trouble. Big trouble.« The Jafaf, or drought, is one of the key drivers of the Syrian war.

Ed Kashi/VII In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts. The article quotes a Syrian economist stating that the drought did not cause Syria’s civil war, but »the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising«.

After 2000 the regulated agricultural sector in Syria was opened up for »big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work.«

»Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported.«

The article exemplifies how drought and huge population expansion make an explosive mix: »the closer you get to it, the less certain you are how to fix it«.


» Read it all in the International Herald Tribune