Environment and Spirituality

Current issues, news and ethics
Post Reply
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »


Hi Karim,

Plastic is cheap, useful, and versatile.

It’s also a health and environmental disaster.

When you store food or beverages in plastic, some of it can wind up in your body.

But did you know that it’s possible to reduce or even eliminate your food-based plastic exposure?

Find out how here.

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/plastic ... ut-plastic

Yours for safe alternatives in an often-toxic world,

Ocean Robbins
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Listening to the Trees

What the forest can teach us about ourselves

Suzanne Simard, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Forests and Conservation Sciences, has dedicated her life to mapping the relationships between trees: how they send nutrients to one another, remember the past, warn their neighbors of disease or drought, and support their offspring. Her new memoir, Finding the Mother Tree, tells how her work has unfolded from her first discoveries of mycorrhizal fungi in the “wood wide web” to the inheritance left behind by dying trees and the life-giving force of the largest elders. Simard used isotopes and mass spectrometers to quantify the Indigenous knowledge that inspired her to study the interconnectedness of forest communities—and our human ones. She joins us on the podcast to discuss what we might all learn from trees.

Listen to the podcast at:

https://theamericanscholar.org/listenin ... urce=email
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

What Western Society Can Learn From Indigenous Communities

Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.

The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.

“I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’” said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”

Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations. Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand, a role he said is centered on integrating Māori knowledge into UNESCO’s work.

Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation.

Embracing Indigenous knowledge, as New Zealand is trying to do, can improve how federal governments manage ecosystems and natural resources. It can also deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research, potentially, by providing alternative perspectives and approaches to understanding their field of work. This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds. “It is Indigenous resilience and worldview that every government, country and community can learn from, so that we manage our lands, waters and resources not just across budget years, but across generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and America’s first Native American cabinet secretary, said in remarks to the United Nations.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

A global challenge for climate action

The cost of climate change is often measured in terms of property damage and lost crops, but this doesn’t provide a complete picture of the impact it causes. A crucial consequence of climate change is the cost to human health – the damage to and loss of human lives from a wide range of environmental risks.

With a motive to highlight the immediate human cost of the climate crisis and encourage world leaders to take meaningful action, this year’s theme of World Humanitarian Day is ‘The Human Race’ - a global challenge in solidarity with people who have suffered the most due to the climate crisis.

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is commemorated every year on 19 August having been formalised in 2009 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Each year, WHD focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the international humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, wellbeing, and dignity of people affected by crises and the safety and security of aid workers. This year’s theme emphasises that the climate emergency doesn’t affect everyone equally. People in vulnerable communities who are least responsible for changing weather patterns are affected the most and are already losing their homes, livelihoods, and lives.

In 2021, 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This number has risen to 1 in 33 people worldwide - a significant increase from 1 in 45 at the launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview 2020, which was already the highest figure in decades. The UN and partner organisations aim to assist 160 million people most in need across 56 countries and will require a total of US$35 billion to do so.

The agencies and institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) have long championed the cause of good stewardship of the environment. With environmental degradation posing a growing threat on the populations that AKDN serves, mitigating climate change, as well as helping populations adapt to its effects has taken on increased urgency and importance.

In recent years, AKDN has planted tens of millions of trees across Asia and Africa and has committed to planting millions more in the years to come. In Badakhshan, Afghanistan, tree plantation helps stabilise dangerous slopes and creates a natural carbon sink to help absorb greenhouse gases. Earlier this year in Kyrgyzstan, the mayor of Osh city announced a tree planting initiative to brighten up the city. The “Green City” initiative was held on 20 March 2021. Staff, students and parents of the Aga Khan School, Osh, contributed by planting 100 oak trees in the Ak Tilek area, a newly developed part of the city with little existing greenery.

It is also important to understand the role clean energy can play in bringing equity to vulnerable communities. In Central and Southeast Asia, women and children spend a considerable amount of time gathering biomass such as wood for energy. Their time could instead be put towards furthering their education or business if solar panels were installed in these communities.
It is our ethical duty to protect the environment for all humanity and the generations to come, and this year’s World Humanitarian Day is an ideal opportunity to do more.

Each individual’s action can lead to collective progress in mitigating climate change. Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the importance of caring for the environment. In Ottawa in 2013, he said, “Our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.”

https://the.ismaili/global/news/feature ... ate-action
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Is There a Nuclear Option for Stopping Climate Change?


Humanity’s failure to avert the crisis of a warming climate is sometimes framed as a grand technological problem: For centuries, countries relied on fossil fuels to industrialize their economies and generate wealth, and it was only in recent years that alternative ways of powering a society, like solar and wind energy, became viable.

But when it comes to electricity, at least, that story isn’t true. Today, the United States gets 60 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels and just 20 percent from renewables. The final 20 percent comes from nuclear power, a technology that has existed since the 1950s, produces no carbon dioxide and has killed far fewer people than fossil fuels.

Decarbonizing the electric grid is certainly not the only challenge climate change poses, but it is the central one. And the Biden administration has said the United States needs to meet it by 2035. Should nuclear power be playing a bigger role in the transition? Here’s what people are saying.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/26/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 1359
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Post by swamidada »

Thousands rally to ‘hug’ dying lagoon in Spain
AFP Published August 29, 2021

"Politicians you let the Mar Menor die" proclaims a banner on the beach in Madrid, Spain. — AFP
MADRID: Tens of thousands of people formed a human chain around Spain’s crisis-hit Mar Menor lagoon on Saturday in a show of mourning after tonnes of dead fish washed ashore, organisers and officials said.

One of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor has long been a draw for tourists but is slowly dying as a result of agricultural pollution, with millions of fish and crustaceans dying over the past fortnight.

Images of dead fish have traumatised this southeastern coastal region, with locals and tourists turning out to join the mass mourning.

Footage from the scene showed huge lines of people, many in beachwear, holding hands along the waterfront on Alcazares beach, which stretches six kilometres and other part of the lagoon’s 73-kilometre shoreline.

Millions of fish and crustaceans have died over the past fortnight in the saltwater lagoon

“It was an act of mourning for the death of the animals... we wanted people to somehow ask their forgiveness for the barbarity we’ve inflicted on them,” Jesus Cutillas, one of the organisers said.

“For days, we’ve witnessed the death of millions and millions of fish and seeing all that unnecessary death hurts.

“The aim was to express our regret for what has happened and show our determination that it never happens again.” Many people wore black, others held up banners reading: “SOS Mar Menor.”

Organisers estimated up to 70,000 people joined the protest.

Experts say the fish suffocated due to a lack of oxygen caused by hundreds of tonnes of nitrates from fertilisers leaking into the waters, causing a phenomenon known as “eutrophication” that causes collapse of aquatic ecosystems.

On Monday, regional officials said they had removed 4.5-5 tonnes of fish, but by Saturday that had risen threefold to 15 tonnes of fish and algae.

“The 15 tonnes of dead fish and biomass (removed from the shore) show that this is indeed an environmental catastrophe and emergency. We need immediate help for the ecosystem,” tweeted Noelia Arroyo, mayor of the nearby town of Cartagena.

Pedro Garcia, director of regional conservation organisation ANSE, said this week that environmental groups feared the marine death toll was more than twice the figure given on Monday by the authorities.

“Within that 15-tonne figure, there will certainly be at least two or three tonnes of dead vegetation, but we have no way of knowing for sure,” he said on Saturday.

At the lagoon on Wednesday, Environment Minister Teresa Ribera accused the regional government of turning a blind eye to farming irregularities in the Campo de Cartagena, a vast area of intensive agriculture that has grown tenfold over the past 40 years.

But agricultural groups insist they comply scrupulously with environmental legislation.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021

https://www.dawn.com/news/1643244/thous ... n-in-spain
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Can Lab-Grown Burgers Help Stop Climate Change?


Humanity’s love of eating animals should worry you, even if humans are the only animals you care about. Meat and dairy production is responsible for 14.5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, with about two-thirds of those coming from cattle. To keep global warming below two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the limit established by the Paris climate accord, the World Resource Institute says much of the wealthy world needs to cut its beef and lamb consumption by 40 percent — and that’s on the low end of such estimates.

Americans are among the top eaters of beef in the world, and persuading them to cut down on it or swap plant-based burgers for their steaks is a challenge.

Enter lab-grown — or, as some prefer, “cultured” or “cultivated” — meat: In the past few years, a small but fast-growing industry has sprung up with a mission to create meat from cell lines that doesn’t just taste like meat but actually is meat. Last year, a restaurant in Singapore even put lab-grown chicken on its menu.

As the sector has bloomed, so too have predictions of its imminent usurpation of meat of the slaughter-requiring variety. But how close are we really to that future, and is it the one we should be aiming for in the first place? Here’s what people are saying.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/14/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Earthshot Prize winners offer inspiration to all


This week, the Earthshot Prize was awarded to five winners for their ground-breaking solutions to the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet. The award, considered to be the most prestigious global environment prize in history, was launched last year by Prince William with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) as a Founding Partner.

Climate change is sometimes seen as an issue of the future, an upcoming event that we might feel the effects of one day. However, the impacts of climate change are already here, with increases in sea levels, droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves being observed across the world.

This time last year, the Earthshot Prize was launched to encourage large-scale change over the next 10 years — a critical decade for the Earth. The Prize aims to support the global effort to protect and restore the environment while also turning the current pessimism surrounding these issues into optimism, highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about positive change.

While climate change and environmental consciousness may seem to be featured in recent news reports and conversations, it has in fact been the result of past imbalances. “Environmental justice is not a new concept. Cultures up until very recently were living harmoniously with their surroundings, taking from it enough for their families, for their communities, and putting just as much back,” said Sophia Assani, Senior Program Officer for Focus Humanitarian Assistance USA.

“There was this symbiotic relationship with nature, a deep reverence for the environment. Today, we see the repercussions of so many decades of exploitation of our environments, of others’ environments.”

Even members of the Jamat in certain regions have experienced the implications of climate change, as an increase in droughts, mudslides, glacier melting, and flooding have affected the lives of those living in the mountainous regions of South and Central Asia. Onno Ruhl, the General Manager for the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, said, “Justice is important. Environmental pressures are enormous, and we’re in a state of severe imbalance between humanity and nature. Because there’s pressure, what that does is it puts excessive pressure on developing countries.”

“So what environmental pressures do is exacerbate inequality, and a superb example of that is the pandemic.”

According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), “Sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.”

The question then becomes, what can our global society do about this crisis? How can we mitigate the effects of climate change now and into the future? How might we regain a sense of environmental justice? The Earthshot prize aims to address these questions and lead on the way forward, as we enter a new era focused on maintaining a delicate balance between the environment and its inhabitants.

It is stated in the Qur’an that individuals and societies have a collective responsibility to be good stewards of the natural world. In this vein, the Earthshot Prize mirrors AKDN’s own efforts to find solutions to environmental crises, particularly for communities who are most at risk from climate change. As a Founding Partner of the award, AKDN brings its many decades of experience working to improve quality of life in some of the most environmentally vulnerable habitats in Asia and Africa.

The inaugural cycle of Earthshot Prizes was awarded to the Republic of Costa Rica for their efforts to protect and restore nature, including doubling the country’s forests since the 1990s; Takachar from India for developing a machine that converts crop residue into biofuel and fertilizer, and reducing smoke emissions by up to 98%; Coral Vita from the Bahamas, which grows coral on land to replant in oceans, and gives life to dying ecosystems; the City of Milan for developing a city-wide food waste policy that recovers food from supermarkets and canteens to distribute to the neediest citizens; and Enapter for its AEM Electrolyser technology that turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas, to fuel cars and planes and heat homes.

These winners, along with others working in the field of environmental protection, provide inspiration to individuals and communities around the world, and offer examples of how anyone can do more to help sustain the earth for future generations.

Galeeb Kachra, an environmental scientist consultant who works for government agencies, said, “In the longer term, consider how your career can help the environment, what you can do through civil society, and how you can get involved in reducing your carbon footprint.”

“Take inspiration and examples from the Imam’s guidance on improving Quality of Life by taking care of our environment individually and collectively. Both the AKDN and small civil society groups in our local communities offer many examples, spanning habitat, housing, and humanitarian assistance.”

Every individual, institution, and organization can commit to this endeavour and do their part, however small it may be, from recycling, reduction of waste, judicial usage of water and fuel, to advocating for zero carbon footprint. As Mr Ruhl concludes, “Don’t do nothing. Tell all your friends to do something. If everybody does something, it would be so fantastic.”

https://the.ismaili/global/news/feature ... ration-all
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Would Russia or China Help Us if We Were Invaded by Space Aliens?

In a recent essay on great-power competition and climate change, Rob Litwak, an arms control expert at the Wilson Center, recalled a question that President Ronald Reagan posed to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, after they took a walk during their 1985 Lake Geneva summit.

As Gorbachev put it later: “President Reagan suddenly said to me, ‘What would you do if the United States were suddenly attacked by someone from outer space? Would you help us?’”

“I said, ‘No doubt about it.’”

“He said, ‘We too.’”

“So that’s interesting,” Gorbachev concluded.

It sure is, because it’s not at all clear, given the recent upsurge in raw great-power competition, that Russia, China or America would help one another in the face of an invasion of space aliens threatening us all. Litwak’s point in retelling that story, of course, is that today we are facing a similar, world-stressing threat — not from space aliens but from a much more familiar and once seemingly benign force: our climate.

Global warming is challenging every nation with more extreme weather, wildfires and sea level rise and once-in-a-century storms coming much more frequently. Unlike with a space alien, though, there’s zero possibility of negotiating with Mother Nature. She does only whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and she has no clue or interest in where the borders of Russia, America or China stop and start. She’s got the whole wide world in her hands — as she demonstrated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet neither China’s president, Xi Jinping, nor Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is attending the Glasgow climate summit in person with President Biden and many other world leaders that opened Sunday. And even more important, The Washington Post reported last week that some in the Chinese leadership want to resist any substantial cooperation with America on climate issues until the United States dials down its pressure on China “over human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan, trade and a range of other issues.”

We’ve never seen this tactic before from Beijing: We’ll clean our air, but only if you let us buzz Taiwan’s airspace and choke off the air of freedom in Hong Kong.

A senior U.S. official told me that there is actually a lot of division in Beijing right now on the wisdom of this sort of wolf-warrior diplomatic strategy on climate, which is being pushed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. There are definitely other Chinese leaders who want to collaborate with Washington and understand that on climate, we sink or swim together. Still, even a hint of this sort of planet-Earth-hostage-taking strategy by some senior Chinese officials is very troubling and needs to be called out.

“The window for humanity to avoid unmanageable climate change is narrowing,” Litwak noted in his Wilson Center essay. “China, the United States and Russia are, respectively, the first, second and fourth largest carbon emitters. Yet at the precise historical juncture when unprecedented global cooperation is necessary to forestall catastrophe, the world is on the brink of unconstrained geostrategic competition. Indeed, U.S. relations with Russia and China are the worst they have been since the end of the Cold War.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/01/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

"Voices from the Roof of the World" film series launch


Geneva, Switzerland, 29 October 2021 - As part of preparations for the climate change COP26 summit in Glasgow, a film series “Voices from the Roof of the World” – a joint initiative of the Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia – is being launched this Sunday 31 October on TV and online.

The 10-episode first season – produced by filmmakers from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India – focuses on the climate crisis in the earth’s highest mountain region stretching from the Pamirs to the Himalayans. Home to 240 million people and countless rare and endangered species, these mountains are also the largest depository of ice outside the polar caps, providing water to about a quarter of the world's population.

“…These filmmakers have captured poignant personal stories of people and cultures threatened by both deluges and desiccation of their environment,” said Andrew Tkach, Executive Producer of the series.

“They have ventured downstream to document how the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will affect 1.5 billion people living in the threatened fishing and farming communities of South and Central Asia. Others will show how deforestation, air pollution and killer heat waves will make the world’s most densely packed cities unlivable.”

This week, UN scientists announced that current greenhouse gas emissions will lead to an average 2.7-degree Celsius temperature rise this century, not the target of 1.5 degrees that delegates gathering in Glasgow will be trying so hard to achieve.

“There are many culprits to share the blame for the predicament humanity finds itself in, but with every target we miss to control CO2 emissions, we are squarely painting a target on our own back,” stressed Tkach.

“It is time to show that even in a world beset by intractable conflicts, it is possible to work across borders and social strata to save our common home. People living in some of the world’s most extreme conditions are fighting this battle every day, it is time we listen and learn from them.”

The first episode, “Bears on the Brink”, produced by Pakistani filmmaker Abdullah Khan, features the impact of climate change and drought on the endangered Himalayan brown bears and golden marmots found in the Deosai National Park in Gilgit Baltistan, the impact on local communities in the buffer zone, human-wildlife conflict and eco-tourism.

This series seeks to amplify the voices of those who bear the greatest burden of climate change. It will run for at least two seasons and all episodes will be available on AKDN YouTube.

https://www.akdn.org/press-release/voic ... ies-launch
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

This Is Some Good Shit

The story of human poop is an amazing one. Who knew it was such a rich resource? Science writer Lina Zeldovich did. She grew up on a small Russian farm where her grandfather recycled the family poop into soil that enriched their annual harvests.

This week in Nautilus, Zeldovich brings us the dirty truth about “the other dark matter.” For all the environmental problems that human waste has caused, it can be recycled, and is, by Washington, D.C.’s wastewater plant, into valuable soil. Maybe not as rich in nutrients as Zeldovich’s grandfather’s soil, but an example of environmental transformation just the same.

The article can be accessed at:

https://nautil.us/issue/108/change/this ... -good-shit
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Climate Promises Made in Glasgow Now Rest With a Handful of Powerful Leaders

In Washington, Beijing, New Delhi and beyond, governments face conflicting forces — political, social and economic — that will shape their next steps in the effort to avert a climate crisis.

GLASGOW — After two weeks of lofty speeches and bitter negotiations among nearly 200 nations, the question of whether the world will make significant progress to slow global warming still comes down to the actions of a handful of powerful nations that remain at odds over how best to address climate change.

The United Nations global conference on climate change closed Saturday with a hard-fought agreement that calls on countries to return next year with stronger emissions-reduction targets and promises to double the money available to help countries cope with the effects of global warming. It also mentions by name — for the first time in a quarter century of global climate negotiations — the main cause of climate change: fossil fuels.

But it did not succeed in helping the world avert the worst effects of climate change. Even if countries fulfill all the emissions promises they have made, they still put the world on a dangerous path toward a planet that will be warmer by some 2.4 degrees Celsius by year 2100, compared to preindustrial times.

That misses by a wide margin the target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees that scientists say is necessary to avert the worst consequences of warming. And it sets the stage for worsening storms, wildfires, droughts and sea-level rise as well as the social and economic upheaval that would accompany a widening climate crisis.

A relative handful of political leaders around the world — in capital cities such as Washington, Beijing and New Delhi — hold much of the influence over whether those promises are kept and the arc of warming can be sufficiently bent away from disaster. But they face a complex combination of pressures: industry interests that stand in the way of regulations, demands from developing countries for money to help them transition away from fossil fuels, and an increasingly vocal movement among citizens to rein in emissions more quickly and deliver what they call climate justice.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/14/clim ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »


AKDN achieves IFC EDGE green building pre-certification

Mumbai, India, 12 November 2021 – The Aga Hall Estate, an upcoming residential high-rise development project centrally located on a heritage site in South Mumbai, India, has earned EDGE Advanced Certification – the globally recognised benchmark for green building created by International Finance Corporation (IFC) – for designs that project energy savings of up to 45 percent, water savings of up to 50 percent and embodied energy (energy used in project creation) savings in the amount of up to 32 percent.

Originally the place of family residence of Aga Khan I, the site has evolved over a century and a half to include a community housing initiative and the Prince Aly Khan Hospital, with centres of excellence in oncology, cardiology and diagnostics. A transformative redevelopment is now planned for the Aga Hall Estate to offer 373 apartments of an international standard incorporating energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive features designed for multi-generational living.

Altaz Sundrani, a lifelong resident of Aga Hall Estate, said of the development project:

“Aga Hall Estate has been my home since childhood. I was born here. My parents were always at ease. As kids, the Estate provided a safe environment in which to grow up. My school was a stone’s throw away. I am very excited about the new development, especially with all the attention being given to common areas, safety and comfort, as well as to landscape and to minute details. With new school and hospital facilities, the Estate will certainly set a benchmark in this part of the city.”

The AKDN is committed to achieving net-zero carbon operations by 2030. Recognising that 85 percent of the direct greenhouse gas emissions from its operations come from operating the Network’s buildings, such as hospitals, schools, offices, community centres and university campuses, reducing emissions from buildings is critical to achieving this target.

To enable this, the AKDN developed a set of Green Building Guidelines, which sets out the minimum environmental requirements for new and existing buildings and outlines measures to reduce energy, water and material use adapted to AKDN’s operating contexts. The guidelines use the IFC EDGE (“Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies”) framework to assess construction projects, targeting at least EDGE Advanced standard. The Aga Hall Estate is one of the first and largest AKDN projects to implement these guidelines and achieve the certification.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is partnering with IFC to accelerate wider adoption of green building practices. They are establishing a framework for greater collaboration in pursuit of their shared aspirations to move the construction industry on to a lower-carbon, more resource-efficient path. Projects such as the Aga Hall Estate exemplify this path.

“Some estimates suggest that more than half of the India of 2040 is yet to be built. Better and greener homes and buildings are essential to how we combat climate change in ways that tangibly improve peoples’ lives today and protect our habitat for generations to come,” said Onno Ruhl, General Manager of AKAH. “AKAH and the AKDN are proud to advance solutions for decarbonising the built environment in India and beyond.”

https://www.akdn.org/press-release/akdn ... tification
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

What is net-zero carbon?

Renewable energy independence can be successfully achieved through the installation of off-grid solar systems.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s agencies have committed to be net-zero carbon by 2030. But what exactly does this mean, and why is it important?

Climate change is not only bad for our planet, it also negatively affects the quality of human life. According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.

It compromises the basic ingredients of good health: clean air, safe and adequate drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter. To offset these effects, huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. This is why many of the conversations around sustainability are centered on reducing carbon emissions. In order to stop the threat of climate change, these emissions need to fall to zero. The longer it takes, the more the climate will change.

Some industries, like local transport systems, are able to adopt technologies such as electrification, which can help to reduce carbon emissions to zero. But for others, such as aviation or large-scale agriculture, getting completely to zero will be difficult or even impossible.

As such, emissions from some sectors will continue, and need to be offset. An equivalent amount of emitted carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere, to achieve a balance of zero — thus the term ‘net-zero.’

Upon the launch of the Earthshot Prize last year, Prince Rahim announced AKDN’s intention to become net-zero carbon in its operations, as part of its contribution towards global efforts to address the threat of climate change.

Leading by example, AKDN committed to a rapid and substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its operations, aligned with the latest climate science on limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Agencies signed-up to science-based targets to both significantly reduce emissions and offset the remainder.

Earlier this month, Prince Hussain reiterated the pledge in a video released by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) to coincide with the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

“For decades, AKDN has been working with vulnerable communities to help them adapt to risk and build a better quality of life,” he said. “The climate crisis threatens to undo much of the progress we have achieved together. This is why we are committed to making the entire AKDN network net-zero carbon before 2030.”

“All our activities - more than 200 schools, over 400 hospitals and clinics, all our humanitarian and development programmes, hotels, factories, universities, and cultural restoration projects will be carbon neutral by 2030,” continued Prince Hussain. “It is our duty to be good stewards of the earth. This is deeply embedded in the ethics of our faith and in our network.”

The work required to achieve this target has already begun. In fact, working in harmony with natural resources has been at the heart of AKDN’s work for many decades. As part of the net-zero pledge, AKDN has started to scale up investment in Nature-Based Solutions.

Building better

Architectural rendering of FMFB’s Regional Headquarters in Gilgit.

Since most of AKDN’s direct and indirect emissions are linked to owned or operated buildings, all its agencies and institutions will now adhere to a set of AKDN Green Building Guidelines for the construction of new buildings and the management of existing ones.

This requires rethinking the ways in which buildings are designed, constructed, and operated, putting sustainable construction at the heart of development and promoting low-carbon construction principles.

In the mountainous region of Gilgit, Northern Pakistan, AKAH is working with the First Microfinance Bank to construct a green building to house the bank’s new Regional Headquarters. It will benefit from a range of passive design measures, which take advantage of local climate conditions to reduce the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable environment indoors.

AKAH's design responds to the site by using insulation, shading devices, and natural materials to regulate temperature and lighting levels in the office. With these features, the building will need less energy to operate, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 tonnes of Co2 per year.

Energising industry

Energy generation is an important part of AKDN’s work and contribution to the wellbeing of communities. AKDN has committed to working with partners to avoid greenhouse gas emissions by investing in energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy.

Allpack Industries Ltd., is the first Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) project company to run on solar power.

In sunny East Africa, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) project companies are investing in solar power to reduce their carbon footprint. The installation of more than 1,400 solar panels at the Allpack printing plant in Nairobi, Kenya, is expected to eliminate over 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Similar plans are underway to adopt renewable energy at other AKFED project companies, including at the Serena hotel chain. In partnership with Mettle Solar OFGEN, AKFED have transformed three properties, the Mara, Kilaguni, and Amboseli Serena Safari Lodges in Kenya into fully solar powered properties.

The lodges, all built in the 1970s within National Parks, are today leading examples of how clean, renewable energy independence can be successfully achieved through the installation of off-grid solar systems, even in challenging safari locations.

Elsewhere within AKDN, emission reduction practices include green office initiatives, reducing travel, and training activities for AKDN staff, as well as tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions.

If more organisations, businesses, and governments can make similar pledges to reduce emissions and bring forward their net-zero targets, it would contribute to repairing the earth, and improving the quality of life for us and many generations to come.

“It is an urgent task,” Prince Hussain concluded in his video message. “The earth and the future of humanity depend on it.”

https://the.ismaili/global/news/feature ... ero-carbon
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns)

A Long Island couple say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.


WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.”

Mr. Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn to speak of, not counting the patch of grass out back over which Mr. Jacobs runs his old manual mower every now and then.

Their house is barely visible, obscured by a riot of flora that burst with colors — periwinkles, buttery yellows, whites, deep oranges, scarlets — from early spring through late fall. They grow assorted milkweeds, asters, elderberry, mountain mint, joe-pye weed, goldenrods, white snakeroot and ironweed. Most are native to the region, and virtually all serve the higher purpose of providing habitats and food to migrating birds and butterflies, moths, beetles, flies and bees.

Mr. Jacobs is an ecologist and a Catholic who believes that humans can fight climate change and help repair the world right where they live. While a number of urban dwellers and suburbanites also sow native plants to that end, Mr. Jacobs says people need something more: To reconnect with nature and experience the sort of spiritual transcendence he feels in a forest, or on a mountain, or amid the bounty of his own yard. It’s a feeling that, for him, is akin to feeling close to God.

“We need something greater than people,” said Mr. Jacobs, who worked at the Nature Conservancy for nine years before joining a nonprofit that tackles invasive species — plants, animals and pathogens that squeeze out native varieties. “We need a calling outside of ourselves, to some sort of higher power, to something higher than ourselves to preserve life on earth.”

Which is why, for years now, Mr. Jacobs has looked beyond the lawns of Wading River, a woodsy hamlet on Long Island’s North Shore, to spread that ethos around the world.

Photos and more at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/03/clim ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Earth Is Getting a ‘Black Box’ to Hold Humans Accountable for Climate Change

When a plane crashes, its flight recorder is critical to piecing together the missteps that led to calamity. Now the planet is getting its own in case it self-destructs.

A rendering of Earth’s “black box” in Tasmania, Australia, a project to create an archive on climate change.

In a remote part of Australia, a steel vault about the size of a school bus will record the Earth’s warming weather patterns. It will listen to what we say and do. It will create an archive that could be critical to piecing together the missteps, its creators say, should humanity be destroyed by climate change.

The vault, known as Earth’s Black Box, will be constructed in Tasmania, an Australian island state off the south coast. It will operate much like a plane’s flight recorder, which records an aircraft’s final moments before crashing. But the makers of this new black box — including data researchers from the University of Tasmania, artists and architects — say they hope it won’t have to be opened.

“I’m on the plane; I don’t want it to crash,” said Jim Curtis, the executive creative director of an Australian advertising agency where the project was conceived. “I really hope that it’s not too late.”

Many questions remain, such as whether Earth really needs a black box and how future generations would decipher it. Mr. Curtis said the box would be designed “to hold our leaders to account.” He added, “If civilization does crash, this box will survive with a completely objective data story.”

Climate change is one of the gravest threats humanity faces, scientists say. It is exacerbating economic and health inequalities, increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and, the United Nations has warned, threatens the world’s food supply.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/09/worl ... iversified
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Scenes From a World on Fire


Planet Earth is the one thing that all humans share. We are often at its mercy. We take its majesty for granted. We forget that we merely hold it in trust for our children’s children, for all those who’ll come after us.

To flourish, we absolutely must do one thing with this trust, and that is to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — a point beyond which, scientists believe, lie the worst consequences of climate change, a world of recurring floods and droughts and fires and human misery. On this, we are failing, risking millenniums of human progress and indeed humanity’s future. Instead of real collective action, we continue to promise and to postpone, most recently in Glasgow, where the nations of the world gathered in the fall to talk yet again about the challenge of human-caused climate change. The words “last best chance” were thick in the air, but the words have grown stale: Despite repeated warnings going back decades, we are not addressing the greatest challenge the planet faces with anything approaching the response it requires.

Climate change is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet. Nor will it ever be. Many of the countries most vulnerable to effects of climate change have the least control over the warming of the planet, since they emit far less carbon dioxide. It is the responsibility of the United States and a relative handful of other great economic powers to answer, to respond, as collectively as possible, to the SOS that the planet is clearly sending.

None of this is unexpected. Thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher, then Britain’s prime minister, sounded alarms in advance of the first big climate summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. Al Gore spoke with equal urgency before the Kyoto, Japan, summit in 1997, ditto President Obama before the Copenhagen summit in 2009. The New York Times’s editorial page used the “last best chance” formulation in anticipation of the 2015 summit in Paris. Absent “urgent action,” the editorial warned, the problem could “spin out of control.”

Four summits, four chances — if not “last best” chances, then at least chances for meaningful change. Papers signed, pronouncements issued, promises made — yet in the end, incremental progress with predictably poor results. The past six years were the six hottest years on record. We now live in a world of warmer, more violent weather. Stronger storms, longer droughts, heavier floods, larger fires. Lowlands are being lost to the oceans. Dry lands are being lost to the desert. Millions of people are moving because of a changed and changing climate. As documented in Opinion’s special section, Postcards from a World On Fire, the year 2021 produced damaging weather events of unusual and in some cases unprecedented ferocity across the globe — from the Pacific Northwest, to Ghana to Central Europe to Siberia.

Photos and more...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/31/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Can We Turn a Desert Into a Forest?

In the last decade, millions of Africans in the Sahel, a region of semiarid land that stretches for thousands of miles below the Sahara, have been displaced by violence and food and economic insecurity. Climate change is partly to blame — droughts and floods are growing longer and more frequent. But surging population growth, deforestation and overgrazing have also contributed to denuding much of the land.

In the mid-2000s, African leaders envisioned creating a huge swath of green that could help combat desertification and land degradation. The project, called the Great Green Wall, began in 2007 with the aim of planting a nine-mile-wide belt of trees and shrubs that would extend from the coast of Senegal on the Atlantic to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. These newly forested areas could create seasonal jobs, help farmers feed their families and offer a way to fight climate change by capturing carbon dioxide in plants.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, in partnership with 12 African nations, have poured over $1 billion into this endeavor, and the initiative’s scope has grown to include efforts to fight poverty, reduce inequality and build climate-resilient infrastructure. In ecological terms, the program has been a huge success. As of 2020, nearly 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres) of land has been restored to arability in Niger alone, according to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.

After years of planting trees and experimenting with methods to capture water, farmers in Niger have begun to see results — soil health has improved, and crops are growing again. In 2019, we visited the country to see how the program’s ambition translated in a country where most people depend on the land for their livelihood.

“Nine years ago, the land was a disaster,” said Nomao Alkali, a farmer in Fada, a village about 130 miles southeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger. “If you put seeds in the ground, you would have almost nothing, the soil was so poor.”

Mr. Alkali hoped the program could help transform his father’s acres of red rock desert to fertile land. Indeed, in addition to acacia trees, the property now supports millet, peanuts, beans and sesame crops. But it’s worth noting that too often land restoration efforts mainly benefit men like Mr. Alkali, who have access to large tracts and can take a gamble on a program that may seem mystifying or threatening to others.

In a society where land often lies in the hands of elders, young men must wait their turn to profit from tree-planting efforts. Given population growth, there may not be much left to go around. When faced with this reality, many young men, like Bahari Salisu in Nigeria, decide to leave.

At 17, Mr. Salisu left his 15 brothers and sisters and his village, in Gamji, to sell newspapers on the streets of the northern city of Damaturu. When he returns to help on the family farm, it’s only temporary. “I came back home to help plant as the rainy season starts. If I finish the work here on my family’s farm, I will go back. We are jobless,” he told us.

Cash for work programs used for planting trees puts money directly into the pockets of poor farmers during lean seasons, giving them a safety net. But cultural norms can often exclude groups from these programs. Women need formal permission from their husbands to participate. Some women are not allowed to work alongside men in the fields. Others are forced to fend for themselves because their husbands and children left to find work elsewhere.

The newly planted trees and crops can also disrupt traditional land use agreements between farmers and pastoralists. About 50 million people in the Sahel depend on raising livestock. But as more of the land becomes usable for crops, less of it is available to pastoralists.

Salle Ibrahim’s family has grazed animals in Gamji since long before he was born. Now he has to keep a close eye on his goats and sheep to make sure they didn’t eat the ever-encroaching millet crops. His way of life is “nearly finished because farmers have taken almost all of the land that was once reserved for grazing,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

The news from the recent climate change summit in Glasgow was encouraging. Pledges were made to continue funding the expansion of the Great Green Wall. Still, figuring out how to balance the needs of different people is key if the program is to succeed.

The initiative must also propose alternative income-generating options to ensure equity. It could expand programs that train women to nurture the saplings that are the building blocks of the wall, and create agribusiness opportunities that allow young people to make a living in their hometowns. Pastoral grazing corridors should also be reinforced and respected to ensure that nomadic herders as well as farmers can benefit from the Great Green Wall.

Mr. Alkali near his farm in the Great Green Wall.

Across the Great Green Wall there are communities that are already working together to eke out a living. Having hundreds of thousands of hectares of restored land, with trees, water and a thriving landscape, affords the chance to develop a more diverse and productive set of economic opportunities tailored to the different groups of people who live amid the wall. But regreening the Sahel will mean little if the gains will be reaped only by a lucky few.

Watch animated images and photos at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/23/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Post by kmaherali »

Why This Could Be a Critical Year for Electric Cars

Booming in a depressed market, battery-powered vehicles are a plus for the climate but pose a big threat to carmakers and parts suppliers that are slow to change.

Sales of cars powered solely by batteries surged in the United States, Europe and China last year, while deliveries of fossil fuel vehicles were stagnant. Demand for electric cars is so strong that manufacturers are requiring buyers to put down deposits months in advance. And some models are effectively sold out for the next two years.

Battery-powered cars are having a breakthrough moment and will enter the mainstream this year as automakers begin selling electric versions of one of Americans’ favorite vehicle type: pickup trucks. Their arrival represents the biggest upheaval in the auto industry since Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 and could have far-reaching consequences for factory workers, businesses and the environment. Tailpipe emissions are among the largest contributors to climate change.

While electric vehicles still account for a small slice of the market — nearly 9 percent of the new cars sold last year worldwide were electric, up from 2.5 percent in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency — their rapid growth could make 2022 the year when the march of battery-powered cars became unstoppable, erasing any doubt that the internal combustion engine is lurching toward obsolescence.

The proliferation of electric cars will improve air quality and help slow global warming. The air in Southern California is already a bit cleaner thanks to the popularity of electric vehicles there. And the boom is a rare piece of good news for President Biden, who has struggled to advance his climate agenda in Congress.

The auto industry is on track to invest half a trillion dollars in the next five years to make the transition to electric vehicles, Wedbush Securities, an investment firm, estimates. That money will be spent to refit and build factories, train workers, write software, upgrade dealerships and more. Companies are planning more than a dozen new electric car and battery factories just in the United States.

“It’s one of the biggest industrial transformations probably in the history of capitalism,” Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said in an interview. “The investments are massive, and the mission is massive.”

But not everyone will benefit. Makers of mufflers, fuel injection systems and other parts could go out of business, leaving many workers jobless. Nearly three million Americans make, sell and service cars and auto parts, and industry experts say producing electric cars will require fewer workers because the cars have fewer components.

Over time, battery ingredients like lithium, nickel and cobalt could become more sought after than oil. Prices for these materials are already skyrocketing, which could limit sales in the short term by driving up the cost of electric cars.

The transition could also be limited by the lack of places to plug in electric cars, which has made the vehicles less appealing to people who drive long distances or apartment residents who can’t charge at home. There are fewer than 50,000 public charging stations in the United States. The infrastructure bill that Congress passed in November includes $7.5 billion for 500,000 new chargers, although experts say even that number is too small.


https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/08/busi ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: Environment and Spirituality

Post by kmaherali »

Five affordable ways to live more sustainably

Farmers markets and local stores are good places to source produce that hasn’t been packaged, refrigerated, or transported.

Many of us wonder how we might better care for our planet. The good news is there are many ways to do this, some of which have the added benefit of saving money along the way! Here are five tips to get started.

1. Invest in a reusable water bottle

According to the United Nations, the production of plastic is set to double over the next 20 years, despite increasing awareness of its detrimental impact on the environment. By using a reusable water bottle, you can help to reduce plastic waste.

Reducing the need for disposable or single use plastic water bottles is a key initiative for the sustainability movement. Investing in a reusable bottle means that every time you fill up, you’ve reduced the use of yet another plastic bottle. Easy to use refill stations are increasingly available at airports, public transport stations, schools, and Jamatkhanas. You’ll very quickly recoup the initial cost of your reusable bottle and soon you’ll be saving money, and the planet!

You can use a glass bottle to avoid the risk of staining, or stainless steel which is robust and can help keep drinks cool. Whichever type you choose, you’ll be helping to reduce the need for plastic, and think about the fun of picking out a bottle and design that showcases your personality!

2. Buy second-hand clothes

The Fashion industry has, in general, a very detrimental impact on the environment, contributing up to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. The relentless pursuit of the latest fashion drives the demand for raw materials, quick and energy inefficient manufacturing, and transportation and distribution across the Globe.

To help reduce the negative impact of fast fashion, think about buying second-hand instead. A trip to your local charity shop, school fete, or jumble sale is fun, unique, and definitely cheaper than a visit to the shopping mall or high street chain store! Just think how unique you would look in a recycled outfit from 10 or 20 years ago? Also, there’s no risk of anyone wearing the same thing as you at the next function you attend.

In addition, why not donate all your ‘no longer worn’ clothes to others? Giving to charity shops or community groups like Ismaili CIVIC helps the items to quickly reach those most in need, and helps support their work. Donating clothes also reduces the volume of waste reaching landfill sites. A quick tip - open your wardrobe and identify anything you haven’t worn for 12 months. Donate it, you’ll probably never wear it again!

3. Reduce your meat intake

The farming and production of meat products have some of the worst impacts on the environment. Greenpeace has stated that “The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world.”

In addition, meat is a relatively expensive ingredient, and consumed in excess is not good for human health.

Set yourself a target to gradually reduce meat consumption to perhaps once or twice a week. Maybe start with meat-free Mondays? You’re likely to enjoy the health benefits as well as the savings in your weekly grocery bill. There’s a whole world of creative and exciting non-meat options to explore, experiment, and enjoy!

4. Take public transport where possible

The biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. Using public transport, which is often more sustainable than travelling by car, can be a great way to reduce carbon emissions, as well as help your city or country achieve its goal of becoming ‘net-zero.’

Public transport might not always feel like good value for money, but over time, picking the most cost-effective times for travelling, and by eliminating the need for other forms of transport, like owning a car, the opportunity to save money definitely exists.

Buses and trains use less energy and produce less pollution per person than travelling by private vehicles, and also lead to improved air quality for people who live close to busy roads. Once you’ve cracked using public transport, the next challenge is to get on your bicycle and save money, save the planet, and get fit!

5. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Plastic build-up in oceans and landfill sites is a major problem for the entire planetary ecosystem. According to the Earth Policy Institute, “Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute.” Reusing plastics or disposing of them in an environmentally responsible way is essential for our wildlife and our planet.

Think about investing in a reusable shopping bag – preferably one made from sustainable material in a sustainable way – a jute bag is a good option. When purchasing fruit and vegetables, try to find loose items and not products with excess plastic packaging. Farmers markets and local stores can be a good place to source produce that hasn’t been packaged, refrigerated, and transported.

If you do purchase items in plastic, try to check if the packaging can be recycled. Alternatively, see if you can reuse the plastic yourself for an alternative purpose, such as using plastic bottles for storing rice or other dry foods, or using them in arts and crafts.

Building a better world

Mawlana Hazar Imam has often expressed the importance of looking after our environment and highlighted that each of us has a part to play in its care. In a speech made in Ottawa, Canada in November 2013, he said, “Our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, is to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.”

Future generations depend on our actions to leave behind a better world for them. There’s a long way to go, and there’s lots to be done. These five tips are a great start.

https://the.ismaili/global/news/feature ... ustainably
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: Environment and Spirituality

Post by kmaherali »



Conservation Agriculture in Africa
Climate Smart Agricultural Development

Edited by: Saidi Mkomwa, African Conservation Tillage (ACT), Nairobi, Amir Kassam, University of Reading, UK

January 2022 | Hardback | 536 Pages | 9781789245745

January 2022 | ePDF 9781789245752 | ePub 9781789245769



Tillage agriculture has led to widespread soil and ecosystem degradation globally, and more particularly in the developing regions. This is especially so in Africa where traditional agricultural practices have become unsustainable due to severe exploitation of natural resources with negative impacts on the environment and food system. In addition, agricultural land use in Africa today faces major challenges including increased costs, climate change and a need to transform to more sustainable production intensification systems.

Conservation Agriculture has emerged as a major alternative sustainable climate smart agriculture approach in Africa and has spread to many African countries in the past decade as more development and research, including in sustainable mechanization, has enabled its extension and uptake. It is key to transforming Africa's agriculture and food system given its ability to restore soil health, biodiversity and productivity of millions of smallholder farms as well as larger-scale farms.

This landmark volume is based on the material presented at the Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 9-12 October 2018. The main theme of the Congress was 'Making Climate Smart Agriculture Real in Africa with Conservation Agriculture: Supporting the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2063'. The Congress was aligned to mobilize stakeholders in all agriculture sectors to provide greater technical, institutional, development and investment support, impetus and direction to the vision and agenda for transforming African agriculture as set out by the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2063.

This book is aimed at all agricultural stakeholders in the public, private and civil sectors in Africa engaged in supporting the transformation of conventional tillage agriculture to Conservation Agriculture. The book will be of interest to: researchers, academics, students, development stakeholders, public and private sector investors and policy makers as well as institutional libraries across the world.

Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: Environment and Spirituality

Post by kmaherali »

Tree Planting Is Booming. Here’s How That Could Help, or Harm, the Planet.

Reforestation can fight climate change, uplift communities and restore biodiversity. When done badly, though, it can speed extinctions and make nature less resilient.

A tree planted for every T-shirt purchased. For every bottle of wine. For every swipe of a credit card. Trees planted by countries to meet global pledges and by companies to bolster their sustainability records.

As the climate crisis deepens, businesses and consumers are joining nonprofit groups and governments in a global tree planting boom. Last year saw billions of trees planted in scores of countries around the world. These efforts can be a triple win, providing livelihoods, absorbing and locking away planet-warming carbon dioxide, and improving the health of ecosystems.

But when done poorly, the projects can worsen the very problems they were meant to solve. Planting the wrong trees in the wrong place can actually reduce biodiversity, speeding extinctions and making ecosystems far less resilient.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/14/clim ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: Environment and Spirituality

Post by kmaherali »

Mawlana Hazar Imam: “we can always find, in the flow of refreshing water, a reminder of Divine blessing”
Posted by Nimira Dewji

In the Quran, nature and water are explained as signs of God (ayah), which is also the term used for each verse of the sacred text. “That means that, like the words of God written as verses in the sacred text, nature and water specifically are signs of God on which people are called to meditate. Hence, nature is a scripture that surrounds us, which we must learn to read and interpret, just as we read and interpret explicit scriptures that God has revealed” (Asani, The Chautauquan Daily).

Water is a gift from God Who wills it to fall:

“And We send down from the sky blessed water whereby
We give growth unto gardens and the grain of crops” (50:9).

The Islamic tradition teaches that life originated from water:

“We have made all living things by means of water” (21:30).

Hence water predates Creation. In the Quran, it is written:

“And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six days,
and His throne was upon the water” (11:7).

Cleansing rituals are performed before entering into a state of prayer. Asani states “the idea is that you’re symbolically cleaning your body from the outside before you enter prayer to purify it from the inside… the purity of water metaphorically reinforces the purity of prayer.”

Water plays an important role in the writings of mystical Islamic poets. Raindrops falling to Earth and “immersing themselves in the vast waters only to be drawn back up to the sky, captivated mystic poets, because they saw how this journey reflected the journey of the human soul. In popular tradition, a raindrop was thought to eventually return to the ocean or turn into a pearl. That describes a soul that must leave God, mature in the world, and then return to its place with God” (Asani, The Chautauquan Daily).

The vastness of the ocean is often used as a metaphor for vast knowledge, both divine and human. One might swim in it, enjoy a beautiful view of it, none can hope to fully master it.

Photo: New Atlas
Water in Islam emphasises the unity of all God’s creations. All living things, though diverse, are connected through water. “Fundamentally, water represents limitless knowledge of God” (Asani).

Many religious traditions use consecrated water in their rituals, which are outer expressions to inner beliefs, re-affirming their relationship to the divine.

Their Lord will give to them to drink a pure drink (76:21)

In esoteric traditions including the Ismaili Tariqah, both the outer (zahiri) and inner (batini) are essential in the practice of the faith, although emphasis is placed on the batini aspect of the ritual. Water is a symbol of knowledge “and this knowledge is the gnosis that unveils the secret of the divine mystery to the righteous” (Corbin, Temple and Contemplation).

Prophet Muhammad used water to heal spiritual and physical ailments. Believers would also ask the Prophet to dip his hand into a bowl of water, which they used for healing. Muslims believe the well of zam zam has healing power. Several Twelver Shi’i, “dissolve the dust of Karbala (khak-i shifa), where Imam Husayn is buried, or that of Najaf, the resting place of Imam Ali, and drink the resulting healing water (ab-i shifa) as a cure for illness, both spiritual and physical” (Virani, The Ismailis in the Middle Ages p 107).

Healing water, is distributed during the ritual of ghat-paat , a conscious effort to reach spiritual awakening. The ritual was introduced by the da’is sent to the subcontinent perhaps as early as the Fatimid period (909-1171). Nanji states a possible root of this tradition is the Hindu custom of soma, “which in the Vedas denoted the juice of a plant which, extracted and fermented, forms a beverage offered in libations to the deities and drunk by priests” (The Nizar Isma’ili Tradition p 175 n.21). The divine drink is also called amrta, sacred water blessed by the Imam of the time.
(More on ritual of ghat-paat).

Virani notes that Fidai Khurasani alluded “to the distribution of healing water by Imam Islamshah [r. ca. 1370-1425], “a tradition that is frequently referenced in the ginans. The sacred water is also termed paaval signifying ‘that which purifies,’ attested to in many ginans including Pir Shamsh’s garbi “Gur kadhiche paval haathe, amijal bhariya re. This ritual is similar to Sufi tradition pyala lena, ‘to take a cup’ (The Ismaili in the Middle Ages p107).


Ginans are a vast collection consisting of several hundred compositions which have been a central part of the religious life of the Nizari Ismaili community of the Indian subcontinent that today resides in many countries around the world. Derived from the Sanskrit jnana, meaning contemplative knowledge, ginans refer to the poetic compositions authored by Ismaili pirs, who came to the Indian subcontinent as early as the eleventh century to teach the message of Revelation to non-Arabic speaking people.

“Ismaili tradition maintains that from at least the time of the Fatimid empire [909-1171] in Egypt, the Ismaili Imams dispatched their proponents, the da’is to the Indian subcontinent for the propagation and exposition of satpanth, the Path of Truth. These da’is sought to summon humankind to a recognition of the spiritual supremacy of the Prophet’s family. This activity continued when the Nizari branch of the Imams moved to the fort of Alamut in 1094 and was maintained even after the Mongol onslaught wiped out this Ismaili state in 1256″ (Asani, Medieval Ismaili History and Thought p 267-8).

Through the poetic medium of ginans, the pirs provided guidance on a variety of doctrinal, ethical, and mystical themes for the community while also serving to explain the inner (batin) meaning of the Quran to the external (zahir) aspects. In his pronouncement, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah guided the community in this issue: ‘In the ginans which Pir Sadardin has composed for you, he has explained the gist of the Qur’an in the language of Hindustan’ (Asani, Ecstasy and Enlightenment p 30).

The rasa form of music was prevalent in Gujarat during the twelfth century, when pirs began their work in the region. “The word rasa came to be applied to a form of composition recited to a raga (melody). The rasa was mainly a medium used for religious instruction and for expression of religious feeling…. One particular form, very popular in Gujarati folk life is the garbi – a folk dance with the word applied to the singing party itself. The individuals move around in a circle and sing to the accompaniment of a rhythmical clap of hands and feet. The dancers in motion as well as the songs composed for the occasion are known as garbis” (Nanji, The Nizari Isma’ili Tradition p 20). Pir Shams composed 28 garbis, the largest number of this form of ginans (More on garbis).

In garbi 27, Pir Shams explains:
Gur kadhiche paval haathe, amijal bhariya re
the Guru himself brought the [cups filled with the] holy water (paval)..1

Pave sahu sahune melvi sathe Pire maher dhariya re
He made sure one and all drank from it; indeed the Pir was merciful..2

Sarve satpanthe paavan kidhaa, amiras paaine re
by drinking this nectar (amiras), they were all purified by the True Path (satpanth)..3

Nare didho chhe aape didaar, Qasim Shah aavine re
The Lord (nar) Qasim Shah [r. ca. 1310-1370] himself came and gave his beneficent Vision (didaar)..4

(Translation: Tazim R. Kassam, Songs of Wisdom p 369)

The physical water in the oceans is vital for life, transportation, cleaning, and gathering various types of food, in addition to housing countless unknown creatures. In Ismaili religious symbolism, water symbolises the hidden world of esoteric reality, in fact for the entire esoteric realm that sustains the exoteric. This ‘pure water,’ like the physical water, nourishes life, transports the seeker to a farther shore, washes away error and sin, contains glorious spiritual foods, and holds within itself a vast territory of unfamiliar characters” (Hunsberger, Ruby of Badakhshan p 63).

Hidden knowledge belongs to God (11:123).
A spring from (the waters) whereof drink those nearest to God (83:28).

Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses guests at the opening ceremony for the Aga Khan Park, Toronto, Canada. Image AKDN
“… we can always find, in the flow of refreshing water, a reminder of Divine blessing.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam, Inauguration of Aga Khan Park, Toronto, Canada, May 25, 2015

Azim Nanji, The Nizari Isma’ili Tradition in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, Caravan Books, New York, 1978
Aziz Talbani, The Longest Journey: Mystical Practices and Experiences in Ismaili Tariqah, 2021
Henry Corbin, Temple and Contemplation, Flammarion, Paris, 1980
Mary Desmond, Asani reflects on water in Islamic sacred texts, poetry, The Chautauquan Daily
Tazim R. Kassam, Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995

https://nimirasblog.wordpress.com/2022/ ... -blessing/
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Earth Day

Post by kmaherali »


Every year on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated as the anniversary of the modern environmental movement.

Environmental advocacy has a long history in the Islamic tradition. More than a thousand years ago, the Ikhwan al-Safa wrote a story about a debate between humankind and animals. Back and forth, King Biswarap, a wise ruler, hears the complaints of animals and the justification of humans for their actions. It is only when the humans acknowledge that their intellectual capabilities make them responsible to Allah for their actions that King Biswarap settles the debate. Care of the environment is a duty of the trusteeship humankind has been charged with and is thus an ethical obligation.

In the face of climate change, arguably the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced, environmental stewardship is more important than ever. Countries around the world have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to no more than 2 ℃ above pre-industrial levels while striving to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 ℃. These targets matter because the greater the temperature increase, the greater the impacts including elevated sea levels, forest fires, and desertification. Already, human activities have caused 1.1 ℃ of global warming to date and the impacts are being felt in every region of the world. To achieve these targets, global greenhouse gas emissions must be net zero by the mid-century.

The Aga Khan Development Network has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2030 and Jamati institutions around the world have adopted the same mandate.

The Aga Khan Council for Canada is committed to improving the environmental footprint of Jamatkhanas and its operations. Over the coming weeks, we will be rolling out across Canada an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System which will drive changes in the way we operate. For example, Jamatkhanas will be phasing out the use of single use plastics including carrier bags. Plastic carrier bags have low recycling rates, estimated at less than 15% and such bags are known to cause problems in recycling systems and become caught in sorting and processing machinery. Plastic waste is one of the greatest threats to marine life.

Each one of us has a role to play in the fight against climate change. Energy consumption is the biggest threat to climate change and small actions such as dressing warmly during cold seasons can have a significant impact on the energy consumption of your home, and indeed Jamatkhana spaces also. Organic waste such as food waste that ends up in landfills results in the generation of methane gas, a greenhouse gas with 30 times the climate change impact of carbon dioxide. Almost all major cities in Canada now have green bin organic waste collection programs. Placing food waste in the green bin keeps food waste out of landfills, preventing methane emissions.

Fulfilling our obligations as stewards of Allah’s creation is not just an institutional responsibility, but an individual one as well. To learn more about the environmental activities of the Aga Khan Development Network and ways to live more sustainably, visit the Environmental Responsibility page at the.ismaili.

“90% of the big fish are gone and by 2050 there will be more plastic in our seas than fish. So, it is a great sadness that I sometimes think that nearly everything you see in my images is under some form of threat, be it from climate change, warming, acidification and sea-level rise, habitat destruction, deep sea trawling, dynamite and overfishing, pollution and plastic…. But as an individual one can make a difference. Might we try to stop using plastic completely?”

Prince Hussain Aga Khan, 2019

Visit Environmental Responsibility | the.Ismaili. https://the.ismaili/our-community/envir ... onsibility

https://iicanada.org/news/community-eng ... nvironment
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Can You Even Call Deadly Heat ‘Extreme’ Anymore?

Post by kmaherali »

It doesn’t take the end of the world to upend the way billions live in it. The punishing weather we are uneasily learning to call “normal” is doing that already.

Late last month, a heat wave swallowed South Asia, bringing temperatures for one-fifth of the entire human population to 10 degrees warmer than the scenario imagined in the opening pages of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated climate novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” in which a similar event on the subcontinent quickly kills 20 million. It is now weeks later, and the heat wave continues. Real relief probably won’t come before the monsoon in June.

Mercifully, according to the young science of “heat death,” air moisture is as important as temperature for triggering human mortality, and when thermometers hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in India and 120 in Pakistan in April, the humidity was quite low. But even so, in parts of India, humidity was still high enough that if the day’s peak moisture had coincided with its peak heat, the combination would have produced “wet-bulb temperatures” — which integrate measures of both into a single figure — already at or past the limit for human survivability. Birds fell dead from the sky.

In Pakistan, the heat melted enough of the Shipsher glacier to produce what’s called a “glacial lake outburst flood,” destroying two power stations and the historic Hassanabad Bridge, on the road to China.

After a brief lull, the temperatures and humidity began to rise again. On May 14, it was 51 degrees Celsius in Jacobabad, a city of almost 200,000, with a “wet-bulb” reading of 33.1 — just below the conventional estimate for the threshold of human survival, which is 35. More recently, scientists have suggested a lower threshold, even for the young and healthy, of just 31 degrees Celsius. Ten weeks in, the heat wave is testing those limits.

But just as remarkable as the intensity and duration of the South Asian heat wave is the fact that it is, already, not much of an anomaly at all.

We want to call events like this “extreme,” but technically we can’t, “because they’re not rare anymore,” Friederike Otto told me, from London, just as the heat wave reached its April peak.

Dr. Otto is a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the Imperial College of London, whose World Weather Attribution group just published a “state of the science” briefing. Among other things, it concluded that climate change has made every single heat wave in the world both more intense and more likely.

She is herself a leading figure in the emerging field of climate attribution, which has grown increasingly central to the messy project of making sense of environmental and ecological disarray. With the impacts of warming growing evermore unmistakable, we no longer ask science only what to expect from further warming, but also how to quantify, categorize, conceptualize and narrativize the climatic anomalies we now encounter, somewhere in the world, almost daily.

A U.N. report published in April suggested that by just 2030 the world would be experiencing more than 500 major disasters each year. And the quickening frequency of what were once called “generational disasters” or “500-year storms” or even “acts of God” disorients us, too, so that it becomes hard to distinguish once-a-decade events from once-a-century ones — our disaster depth of field blurred by climate disruption. “What used to be a very extreme event is now probably not a very extreme event but something that we expect in this warmer climate quite frequently,” Dr. Otto said. “We really are in a quite different world.”

Different worlds, really, since the gaps in climate impacts between the global north and the global south are unconscionably large today, and growing. It should not surprise you to see, over the next year or two, wet-bulb data added to your generic weather app — just as, over the past few years, they have each added air quality data. That innovation can help response and aid precautions when air quality is bad. It has also meant that as I watched the South Asian heat wave unfold on my phone from New York — a string of days in New Delhi with highs above 110 degrees Fahrenheit — I could also track the local pollution. The famously smoggy city never registered an “air quality index” below 300 — a level that is meant to trigger health warnings of emergency conditions.

For a few years, I’ve startled people by pointing out that over half of all of the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that have ever been produced in the history of humanity have been produced in the past 30 years — since Al Gore published his first book on warming; since the U.N. established its climate-change body, the I.P.C.C.; since the premiere of “Friends.” But it is perhaps even more astonishing to consider just how fast the temperature is rising. As recently as 2015, the 10-year average of global temperatures showed, according to the I.P.C.C., warming of 0.87 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Just five years later, it had jumped to 1.09 — 25 percent higher in half a decade.

When sociologists talk about “shifting baseline syndrome,” they mean we tend to base expectations for the future on our memory of the recent past. But just five years ago, it was exceedingly rare for more than a million acres to burn in a California wildfire season; today the record is 4.3 million acres, and in four of the past five years more than 1.5 million acres burned in the state alone. Over the past decade, extreme heat events have grown 90 times more common, according to one study, compared with a baseline of frequency between 1950 and 1980.

This shift is not just disorienting to lay people. The supercomputer math gets tricky, too, when warming moves so fast that any climate baseline extends for only a few years.


https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Mitigating risk in the high mountains

Post by kmaherali »

Since the climate is changing more rapidly in mountainous areas than elsewhere, those living here are especially vulnerable.


Elders of communities in the Tian-Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan recall stories of the Great Urkun in 1916 when Kyrgyz locals fled their homes during a Tsarist invasion. Desperate to save their families, some parents tied their children to horses. These horses brought the children to safety, carrying them across mountains alone for days.

The Kyrgyz horse plays an important role in the semi-nomadic lifestyle of such communities. Capable of carrying heavy loads and well adapted to the harsh climate and terrain of the Kyrgyz mountains, it is deeply valued by locals, and cherished in Kyrgyz culture and history.

Unfortunately, due to the effects of climate change, the Kyrgyz horse is at risk, and along with it the way of life that local communities have maintained for generations.

Similar stories emerge from neighbouring regions in this part of the world. Communities living in remote mountainous areas of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan are accustomed to living in harmony with the environment and depend on farming or livestock herding to live. The impact of climate change has already begun to disrupt their livelihoods. As lands become infertile, water levels in rivers decline and ecosystems fall out of balance, those living an agrarian lifestyle suffer disproportionately.

Environmental degradation has also begun to cause significant loss of life and property. Changing weather patterns, accelerated melting of glaciers and rising sea levels have led to an increase in natural disasters, such as floods, avalanches, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and landslides. Since the climate is changing more rapidly in mountainous areas than elsewhere, those living here are especially vulnerable.

Many areas have become unsafe to live in, forcing people to abandon their ancestral lands and traditional way of life. Others are holding on to the lives they know, coping with the effects of climate change as well as they can. Experts predict that if left unchecked, climate change could lead to more frequent natural disasters as well as widespread shortages of food and clean water. Vulnerable communities and those living in poverty face the highest risk.

Combating climate change is a formidable endeavour that will require action on multiple fronts. Some solutions are relatively straightforward, such as protecting natural habitats, phasing out the use of fossil fuels and exercising individual responsibility. Others will require complex innovation and research.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s (AKDN) efforts to combat climate change centre around engaging local communities and collaborating with local governments. In Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is working with the sustainable architecture firm Arup and the country’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) to define a new national commitment for climate action.

One simple yet effective solution is creating and restoring forests by planting trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to restore the natural balance of greenhouse gases and slow climate change. They also provide habitats for wildlife and reduce the risk of flooding by slowing water runoff. AKDN has helped to plant over 100 million trees in the past 50 years and continues to spearhead tree planting initiatives.

In Dasht-e-Dehkhaw, Afghanistan, a dangerous slope was stabilised by planting 3,500 trees. The plantation drive, organised by AKAH in collaboration with the local community, helped protect a village located below the slope from deadly landslides and rockfalls.

While disasters cannot be entirely averted, preparation can save lives. In the mountainous region of northern Pakistan, AKAH and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) have been working on initiatives such as first response training for community members, disaster risk assessments and emergency communication systems. These measures enable the community to respond to natural disasters promptly and effectively, and can prevent injury and loss of life.

In Kyrgyzstan, mountain communities that rely heavily on agriculture are vulnerable to poverty via agro-climatic shocks and food price fluctuations. AKF’s Mountain Societies Development Support Programme works with farmers to improve productivity and strengthen connections with livestock and fruit and vegetable markets. It also facilitates access to agriculture and livestock microcredit and loan products.

In Central Asia’s high mountain areas, AKDN is working to support and enhance the resilience and quality of life of societies through the generation and application of sound research, planting millions of trees, and supporting local communities with disaster planning and increasing agricultural production. In the process, they are helping to ensure that risks are mitigated and long-standing ways of life can continue for generations to come.

https://the.ismaili/global/news/feature ... -173435533
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Turning the tide in favour of action

Post by kmaherali »

Prince Rahim in conversation with Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly, as Prince Hussain and Nazim Ahmad, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal, look on.

An Ismaili Imamat delegation led by Prince Rahim is attending the Ocean Conference in Lisbon at the invitation of the United Nations (UN). The conference aims to raise awareness and action around the alarming degradation of the planet’s oceans – which not only provide us with oxygen, food and livelihoods, but act as a giant carbon sink.

Our ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, contains 80 percent of all life, generates 50 percent of our oxygen and absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. It also provides food, jobs, minerals and energy. It is therefore a vital shield against the impacts of climate change and is essential for supporting life on our planet. Yet, oceans are currently in a state of decline.

Recognising this issue as critical to the future of humanity, delegates have gathered in Lisbon – at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal – to discuss and debate how to conserve and sustainably make use of the world’s oceans and resources.

Representing the Ismaili Imamat, Prince Rahim is accompanied by Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad, and senior AKDN leaders. Representatives of the UN and nation states around the world are in attendance. Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are presiding over the proceedings, which run until 1 July.

“This conference takes place in the right place, at the right time,” said President Rebelo de Sousa. “Portugal is what it is because of the oceans.”

“The Ocean is the most underappreciated resource [on] our planet,” added President Kenyatta. “We urgently need to build an ocean-based economy where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand-in-hand.”

An exhibition of Prince Hussain’s marine photography, Fragile Beauty, is on display at the Portugal Pavilion as an official side event of the conference. An exhibition is also on display at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, open to the Jamat and public. The exhibition is dedicated to Sylvia Earle, the accomplished 86-year-old marine biologist, oceanographer, and explorer, who has made great strides to protect the ocean and its wildlife.

Having spent many years swimming alongside dolphins, turtles, sharks, whales and more, Prince Hussain has noticed with sorrow the increasingly rapid degradation of our oceans:

“Over the five decades of my own life, I have been heartbroken to see how our oceans have become so clogged up by plastic and other forms of pollution and waste… Coastal areas I visited as a child are unrecognisable today – the wildlife is suffocating and the coastal economies are stagnating. It is clear to me that we have to act now before it is too late.”

Prince Hussain has suggested ways for each of us to help protect the oceans and the planet in general – by changing our behaviour to live in a more sustainable way, in harmony with the natural environment.

“Consumers have the power to drive real change in the way big businesses run. By demanding more sustainable products and behaviours, the purchasing power of individuals and communities can drive sustainability into the heart of business models,” he said.

The faith of Islam teaches followers to care for Allah’s creation and the natural resources gifted to us – rather than waste or disrupt the delicate balance of nature. Each of us has a responsibility to leave behind a better social and physical environment for the next generation. This requires change from our current levels of consumption.

“The Jamat has a real opportunity to play its part in bringing about these changes – especially if we act as a community,” added Prince Hussain. “If we all make some simple but important changes to our own lives the collective impact could be huge.”

He recommends the following actions:

- Stop using plastic completely. Use glass instead.
- Refuse plastic utensils, cups and the like. Insist on reusable straws. If we absolutely must use a plastic bag, reuse it as much as possible.
- Recycle everything we can.
- Buy fewer new clothes, and when we do, try to buy only items made of natural fibres that can biodegrade, rather than synthetic materials that end up in landfill.
- Plant as many plants as possible – the benefits for the environment and our community spaces and homes are huge.
- Buy local as much as possible.
- Reduce the amount of travel we undertake for work – use digital technology instead of travelling, wherever possible. The pandemic showed us that businesses can thrive in a digital environment.
- Look for alternative modes of transport in every part of our life – use trains instead of planes, bicycles instead of cars, and wherever possible use electric vehicles.
- Consider using solar, wind and battery power sources.
- Resist financing the pet trade, which is considered one of the greatest threats to wildlife today. If buying a pet, try to make sure it is captive-bred.
- Try to have at least one meat-free day a week.
- The Ismaili community, spread around the world, lives in many countries that have a coastline. People in cities along the coast rely on the ocean for their local economy and by extension their quality of life.

But the ocean affects every human life. It supplies freshwater (most rain comes from the ocean), moderates the Earth’s climate, influences our weather and affects human health.

“When we see the Earth from space, we truly appreciate that we live on a blue planet,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, urging societies to work together to turn the tide on rising sea levels, plastic pollution and overfishing. “The ocean connects us all.”

More photos at:

https://the.ismaili/global/news/imamat- ... -173435533
Posts: 6612
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 10:37 am

Re: Environment and Spirituality

Post by Admin »

The Conference continues from 27th June to 1st July 2022.

Here are some more photos:









Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

An 18th-Century Philosophy To Get Us Through the Climate Crisis

Post by kmaherali »


By Andrea Wulf

Ms. Wulf is the author of “Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self.”

As darkness settled over the small German town of Jena in the late winter of 1798, large groups of young men rushed to the town university’s biggest auditorium to listen to their new philosophy professor. They jostled for seats, took out ink and quills and waited. At the lectern, a young man lit two candles and the students saw him bathed in light.

There is a “secret bond connecting our mind with nature,” the professor, Friedrich Schelling, told the students. His idea, that the self and nature are in fact identical, was as simple as it was radical. He explained this by pointing to the moment when the self becomes aware of the world around it.

“At the first moment, when I am conscious of the external world, the consciousness of my self is there as well,” he said, “and vice versa — at my first moment of self-awareness, the real world rises up before me.” Instead of dividing the world into mind and matter, as many philosophers had done for centuries, the young professor told his students that everything was one. It was an idea that would change the way humans think about themselves and nature.

To me it seems that we sometimes forget that we’re part of nature — physically of course, but also emotionally and psychologically — and this insight is missing from our current climate debates. As a historian, I have looked at the relationship between humankind and nature, and I believe that Schelling’s philosophy of oneness might provide a foundation on which to anchor the fight for our climate and our survival.

Schelling was only 23 when he had become the youngest professor at the University of Jena that winter. He was part of a group of rebellious philosophers, poets and writers who lived and worked in the small university town about 130 miles southwest of Berlin. The circle included some of Germany’s most famous minds. There were the poets Goethe, Schiller and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling and Hegel; the young scientist Alexander von Humboldt, the contentious Schlegel brothers — Friedrich and August Wilhelm — as well as the latter’s wife, the free-spirited Caroline Schlegel (who would later divorce August Wilhelm and marry Schelling).

They worked, wrote, read and laughed together. They composed poems, drafted philosophical treatises and translated passages from great literary works. Most important, this “Jena set,” as I’ve called them, put the self at center stage and redefined our relationship with nature.

Unlike Isaac Newton, who had described matter as being essentially inert, or the French philosopher René Descartes, who had declared animals to be machines, Schelling’s so- called naturphilosophie (nature philosophy) questioned these mechanical models of nature. Instead, Schelling pronounced that everything — from insects to trees, stones to birds, rivers to humans — was part of one great organism.

For millenniums, thinkers had turned to their gods to understand their place and purpose in the unknowable divine plan. Then, in the late 17th century, a scientific revolution began to illuminate the world in a new way. Scientists peered through microscopes to see the minutiae of life and lifted telescopes up to the heavens to discover our place in the universe. They classified plants, animals and minerals into tidy categories to impose order on the natural world, and they dissected human organs and investigated blood circulation to comprehend how the body functioned. The ticktock of new and precise clocks became the rhythm of a productive society.

This new rational approach, though, also created a distance to nature — the external world had become something that was investigated from a so-called objective perspective. But no matter how much scientists observed and calculated, there seemed to be a more emotional and visceral connection between humankind and nature that could not be explained with scientific experiments or theories.

According to Schelling, being in nature — meandering through a forest or walking up a hill — was always also a self-discovery, a journey into oneself. It was a thrilling idea, and this philosophy of oneness became the heartbeat of Romanticism.

Contemporary travel accounts illustrate these changes. Many 18th-century travelers described a village, a city, a landscape or a country as detached observers — as individuals watching from a distance. They saw the countryside through the windows of their carriages and described art and architecture through the prism of their learning and books.

Then, in the early 19th century, as Schelling’s ideas spread, the young Romantics began to feel a deeper sense of connection to the world around them. Instead of just visiting museums and cities, this new generation scrambled into caves, slept in forests and hiked up mountains to be in nature. They wanted to feel rather than to observe what they were seeing. They wanted to discover themselves in nature.

Humboldt would later describe nature as an interconnected whole where everything was entangled in what he called “a wonderful web of organic life.” Humboldt had seen these connections during his five-year expedition through South America where he encountered many Indigenous peoples who had long regarded earth as alive and interconnected. Humboldt was also the first scientist to talk about environmental devastation caused by monoculture and deforestation during his exploration of South America.

Once nature is understood as a web, its vulnerability becomes obvious. If one part is damaged, other parts might suffer, too. This concept of nature still shapes our thinking today.

We live in a world of climate emergency — from rising sea levels and torrential floods to a striking loss of biodiversity and mass human migration. This summer there have been extreme and terrifying heat waves across Europe, Asia and the Americas and devastating floods in Pakistan but also in Yellowstone, Kentucky and St. Louis.

Today, the Jena set’s ideas of unity with nature have been imbued with a new and desperate urgency. For decades scientists and activists have tried to convince us with predictions and statistics — but somehow they don’t change our behavior. Most of us understand on an intellectual level what’s at stake, but that doesn’t seem to be sufficient.

There is a reason the iconic photograph of earthrise taken during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 has become one of the most influential images in history and has been hailed as the beginning of the environmental movement. It was the first time that we saw our planet — like a small blue and white marble suspended in the vastness and blackness of space — in its wholeness and fragility. It’s the most potent visualization that we’re part of nature.

The Jena set explained this deep bond between humans and nature more than 200 years ago. We are nature, and Schelling’s philosophy of oneness reminds us that we’re part of a great thumping web of life. “As long as I myself am identical with nature,” Schelling insisted, “I understand what living nature is as well as I understand myself.” Just as the image of earthrise has inspired millions, so can Schelling’s philosophy of oneness.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/13/opin ... 778d3e6de3
Posts: 24874
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm


Post by kmaherali »


Aga Khan warns climate change will affect Muslim world

Spiritual leader claims ‘band of land’ where many Muslims live could be wiped out

Published: 19:12 November 5, 2016
Gulf News
Paul Crompton, Staff Reporter

Dubai: Climate change threatens to wipe out areas of the Islamic world within two decades, the spiritual leader of around 25 million Muslims said on Saturday.

Many of the world’s Muslims live in a “band of land” under threat from natural disasters caused by climate change, the Aga Khan told a hushed audience gathered at a Dubai hotel. “We’re beginning to see in many parts of the Muslim world … how global warming is beginning to create situations where life is at risk, where it was not at risk before.”

“We’re seeing villages are being wiped away by earthquakes, by landslides, by avalanches, we’re seeing people moving to dangerous areas in modern environments.” And with more people living in cities than ever before, many end up living in dangerous, unsafe conditions, he added.

The 79-year-old spiritual leader told the audience, made up mostly of urban planners and architects gathered from around the world, that they can help.


By Alissa J. RubinPhotographs and Video by Bryan Denton
Alissa J. Rubin and Bryan Denton spent months reporting from nearly two dozen cities, towns and villages across Iraq.

July 29, 2023

The word itself, Mesopotamia, means the land between rivers. It is where the wheel was invented, irrigation flourished and the earliest known system of writing emerged. The rivers here, some scholars say, fed the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon and converged at the place described in the Bible as the Garden of Eden.

Now, so little water remains in some villages near the Euphrates River that families are dismantling their homes, brick by brick, piling them into pickup trucks — window frames, doors and all — and driving away.

“You would not believe it if I say it now, but this was a watery place,” said Sheikh Adnan al Sahlani, a science teacher here in southern Iraq near Naseriyah, a few miles from the Old Testament city of Ur, which the Bible describes as the hometown of the Prophet Abraham.

These days, “nowhere has water,” he said. Everyone who is left is “suffering a slow death.”

Children in a small body of water a few inches deep.
Boys searching for fish in the stagnant, shallow waters of a shrinking irrigation canal in a village on the outskirts of Najaf, Iraq.

Salt crystals on a dried-out agricultural field, with dead palm trees in the background.

Desiccated agricultural fields are now a common site in once verdant areas of Iraq. In many places, the ground water has become too salty to drink.

Two people and several animals inside an outdoor structure.
A dead water buffalo in a family’s corral near Basra. As water has become scarce, farmers are struggling to keep their herds alive.

You don’t have to go back to biblical times to find a more verdant Iraq. Well into the 20th century, the southern city of Basra was known as the “Venice of the East” for its canals, plied by gondola-like boats that threaded through residential neighborhoods.

Indeed, for much of its history, the Fertile Crescent — often defined as including swaths of modern-day Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iran, the West Bank and Gaza — did not lack for water, inspiring centuries of artists and writers who depicted the region as a lush ancient land. Spring floods were common, and rice, one of the most water-intensive crops in the world, was grown for more than 2,000 years.

But now nearly 40 percent of Iraq, an area roughly the size of Florida, has been overtaken by blowing desert sands that claim tens of thousands of acres of arable land every year.

Climate change and desertification are to blame, scientists say. So are weak governance and the continued reliance on wasteful irrigation techniques that date back millenniums to Sumerian times.

A tug of war over water — similar to the struggles over the Colorado River in the United States, the Mekong in Southeast Asia and the Nile in northern Africa — has also intensified water shortages for tens of millions of people across the region.

Drying Up the Fertile Crescent
Upstream dams in Turkey and Iran have siphoned off water from Iraq’s two major rivers.

Black Sea

Dams built in the Tigris and Euphrates river basin


Keban Dam

Caspian Sea

Karakaya Dam

Ilisu Dam

Ataturk Dam

Mosul Dam


Daryan Dam

Mediterranean Sea

Tigris and Euphrates river basin








Area of detail

Persian Gulf

250 kilometers

250 miles

Note: Not all dams are shown, and smaller tributaries are omitted.Source: Global Dam Tracker by Alice Tianbo Zhang and Vincent Xinyi GuBy Elena Shao
Another culprit is common to large swaths of the world: a growing population whose water demands continue to rise, both because of sheer numbers and, in many places, higher living standards, increasing individual consumption.

Here in Iraq, the fallout is everywhere, fraying society, spurring deadly clashes between villages, displacing thousands of people every year, emboldening extremists and leaving ever more land looking like a barren moonscape.

Depleted, dirty rivers and groundwater are causing typhoid, hepatitis A and outbreaks of cholera, like this one.

The creeping desert sands are swallowing farmland, forcing people to crowd into cities.

Rivers and canals have dipped so low that Islamic State militants cross them easily to attack villages and security outposts.

Fish farmers have threatened government regulators who have tried to close them down for violating water restrictions.

The country is even changing underground.

In many areas, water pumped from below the surface is too salty to drink, the result of dwindling water, agricultural runoff and untreated waste. “Even my cows won’t drink it,” one farmer said.

Even in the north, where fresh water has historically been available, well diggers in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, bore down 580 feet last summer — and still found only salty water.

Iraq is now the fifth most vulnerable country to extreme temperatures, water scarcity and food shortages, the United Nations says. Next door in Iran, a province of two million people could run out of water by mid-September, Iranian lawmakers said, leaving few options beyond mass exodus.

And for the rest of the Middle East and some other areas of the world — including parts of Mexico, Pakistan, India and the Mediterranean — Iraq and its neighbors offer an unmistakable warning.

“Because of this region’s vulnerabilities, one of the most vulnerable on the planet, it is one of the first places that is going to show some kind of extreme succumbing, literally, to climate change,” said Charles Iceland, the director of water security for the World Resource Institute, a research organization.

https://vp.nyt.com/video/2023/07/12/109 ... g_720p.mp4
An almost empty irrigation canal in Dhi Qar Province.CreditCredit...

Many people in the villages near the Euphrates River remember how, 20 years ago, the date palm trees grew so thick and close together that their leaves blocked the sunlight. The splashing of children in the irrigation canals and the sloshing of water jugs being carted home provided the backbeat of summer life.

Now, the irrigation canals are so dry in summer that the small bridges spanning them are barely necessary and the sounds of daily life signal water’s scarcity: the crackle of brown grasses and the rustle of dried out palm leaves. Some palms have no leaves at all, their bare trunks standing like the columns of ancient ruins.

Water comes from the government in red plastic barrels, in rations of about 160 gallons a month per family. Even when used sparingly, it barely lasts a week in the heat, said Mr. Sahlani, the sheikh and science teacher, who lives in the village of Albu Jumaa. Graffiti scrawled in Arabic on a half-destroyed concrete wall expressed the frustration: “Where is the state?” it read.

The stumps of dried-out palm trees on an abandoned farm.
Farmers have increasingly abandoned their homes and lands, moving to overcrowded cities in search of better economic prospects.

A man sitting in the driver’s seat of a car splashes water on his face.
Sheikh Adnan al Sahlani near his home in southern Iraq, which is suffering from a severe dearth of water.

A group of people sitting on multicolored carpets. Many are wearing traditional Iraqi headgear.
A gathering to discuss plans to protest to the government about the absence of water in Dhi Qar Province.

As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, Iraq’s water ministry built artificial lakes and dams to hold the immense annual overflow from winter rains and gushing snow melt from the Taurus Mountains, the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Even today, traces of Iraq’s greener past can be seen every spring. In the Anbar desert, a brief winter rain can turn the shallow valleys green and speckle them with flowers. Along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the water still nourishes trees beside the narrow banks, with bands of green fields on either side.

But even those bands have shrunk in recent decades.

The region is getting hotter — faster — than many parts of the world. By some estimates, the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean could warm by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) or even more during this century. In the worst months of summer, some places are already nearly unlivable.

Precipitation, already low, is expected to wane across the Middle East. The drought gripping Iraq is now in its fourth year, and the country is particularly vulnerable because most of its water comes from rivers that originate outside the country, holding it hostage to the decisions of its neighbors, Turkey and Iran.

A bridge crossing a now entirely dried-out body of water.
So much water has disappeared that many bridges have become unnecessary.

The chokehold on Iraq’s rivers has been tightening for decades.

Since 1974, Turkey has built 22 dams, hydroelectric plants and irrigation projects on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, modeled in part on the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States.

Then, in the early 2000s, Iran started building more than a dozen smaller dams and tunnels on tributaries to the Tigris, devastating Iraqi provinces like Diyala, which was known just 10 years ago for its peaches, apricots, oranges and dates. The tributaries from Iran are the only source of water in the province, other than the dwindling rainfall.

The impact has been drastic: The water flowing into Iraq has dropped almost 50 percent on the Euphrates and by about a third on the Tigris since major dam building began in the 1970s, according to statistics from Iraq’s water ministry.

The Tigris Has Less Water
Aggressive dam-building has reduced the water available to Iraq even as its population has grown rapidly.

100 billion cubic meters

Tigris River annual inflow




46.6 billion


53.1 billion


32.3 billion






rolling average













Note: Chart shows inflow to the Tigris River and its major tributaries, including the Great Zab, Little Zab and Diyala rivers.Source: Iraq Ministry of Water ResourcesBy Elena Shao

Hashem al-Kinani and his family have felt the changes firsthand. For generations, they farmed 20 acres east of Baghdad, on the Diyala border, facing one trial after another.

First, the American invasion and the ouster of Saddam Hussein bit into the state’s support of farmers. Then in 2006, Al Qaeda moved in and killed many local men, leaving their headless bodies in ditches. Hashem lost an uncle, and the family house was bombed by Al Qaeda. Making matters worse, rainfall has become more erratic and gradually diminished. As the Iranian dams came on line, river water became too scarce to grow fruit.

The fig and pomegranate trees have died. His family sold off their 1,500 head of cattle and their sheep, because it was impossible to feed them. He’s not sure how much longer he can hang on.

“Farming is over here,” he said. “I cannot stay, but what can I do?”

A bearded man sitting on a tractor.
The family of Hashem al Kinani has farmed 20 acres east of Baghdad for generations, but over the last two decades water has become too scarce for fruit growing.

A concrete house with one roof caved in and rubble in front.
An abandoned home in a farming village.

A person offering cups of water to half a dozen others.
Most of Iraq’s drinking and irrigation water comes from rivers that originate outside the country, holding it hostage to the decisions of neighboring Turkey and Iran.

History is replete with water wars, and one of the earliest recorded conflicts took place here in the Fertile Crescent, where scribes documented a fight over water between Sumerian city states more than 4,000 years ago in what is now Iraq.

Many modern nations have gone on the offensive to ensure that their people have enough water. Ethiopia has spent years building a colossal dam on the Nile, inciting fear and anger from Egypt downstream. China has done the same with the Mekong. Central Asian nations have had a long-running feud over the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, which have been drained to such an extent that by the time they reach the inland Aral Sea, there is little water left.

Worldwide, countries share nearly 900 rivers, lakes and aquifers, according to the United Nations, and though a treaty exists to govern their use, fewer than half of all countries have ratified it. Notably absent from the list are upstream nations like Turkey, Iran and China.

In 2021, Iraq’s water ministry threatened to drag Iran to the International Court of Justice for taking its water. But Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, which is close to Tehran’s rulers, dropped the issue.

Now the water flowing into eastern Iraq has been cut so much that floodplains have become parched fields.
A lack of water has complicated security efforts and the continuing battle against a persistent Islamic State insurgency.

Drought brings other, less obvious dangers, too.

In parts of Iraq, rivers and irrigation canals once provided strategic barriers — their waters too wide, fast or deep for extremist fighters to traverse.

Today, if those waters are running at all, they are often low enough to walk across.

Militants who had been pushed back in recent years are taking advantage of the drying landscape to come back and attack with ease, according to Sheikh Muhammed Dhaifan, who has been fighting to keep his tribe northeast of Baghdad from leaving the 44 villages where they have worked the land for generations.

When Al Qaeda seized the tribe’s land in 2005, it used stones to block the irrigation canals fed by the Adaim River and forced many farmers to flee.

After Al Qaeda’s defeat, Sheikh Muhammed persuaded most of his clan to return. But then in 2012, as the Islamic State began to emerge, his tribe was forced to leave again.

Finally, after almost five years, ISIS was vanquished and the villagers began to come back.

Now the chief enemy is drought, stealing not just their livelihoods, but also their sense of safety. In some places, the water hardly covers the pebbles lining the riverbed. ISIS barely has to slow down to get across.

“We used to be protected by the river,” said Sheikh Muhammed. “Now, sometimes they walk, sometimes they drive their motorbikes, the water is so low.”

Last year, Islamic State fighters crossed on foot at night and killed 11 soldiers, many as they slept, at an Iraqi army outpost on the river’s banks.

This year, the fighters have moved farther east, attacking villages on the Diyala River, which is also low because of drought and Iran’s dams. More than 50 civilians were killed in the province in the first five months of 2023, most by fighters aligned with ISIS.

Two people sit on an ornate couch in front of a large painting.
According to Sheikh Muhammed Dhaifan, militants who had been pushed back in recent years are taking advantage of the drying landscape to attack with greater ease.

A bird’s-eye view of a sandy, dried-out landscape showing small homes turned to rubble.
Farmers’ homes that were destroyed by the Islamic State during its occupation of this area of Diyala Province in 2014 and 2015.

Three people stand inside a brick building.
Farmers listening to a security discussion. In parts of Iraq, rivers and irrigation canals that once provided strategic barriers have disappeared.

In the past, the snowmelt and rains sometimes swelled the region’s rivers, prompting Turkey and Iran to share more water with Iraq. But the future looks unlikely to offer much respite.

The current trend of a hotter, drier Iraq — and a hotter Middle East — is expected to last for decades, making the once fertile crescent less and less livable.

Already, Iraq does not have enough water to meet its needs, the World Bank says. But by 2035 its water deficit could widen significantly, cutting into the country’s homegrown food supply and the economy as a whole.

Pleas to Turkey to share more water have largely gone unheeded.

In the summer of 2022, at the height of last year’s drought, Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq responded to Iraq’s requests for more water by complaining that Iraqis were “squandering” it, calling on the Iraqi government to enact “immediate measures to reduce the waste.” This year, when a similar request came, Turkey shared more water for a month before cutting back again.

Turkey’s complaints about Iraq are not unfounded. Iraq’s irrigation efforts lose large quantities to evaporation and runoff. Water soaks into earthen canals, leaks from rusted pipes and runs off after being used in flood irrigation — the 6,000-year-old method of saturating fields.

The fertilizer in the runoff makes the groundwater saltier. Studies in southern Iraq show large areas with salt levels so high that the water cannot be used for drinking, irrigation or even washing clothes.

Iraq’s population makes the forecast even more dire: It is one of the fastest-growing in the region.

A construction site with a bulldozer and excavator in the background.
A construction site in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. The country is on track to reach 50 million people by 2050, making its population one of the fastest-growing in the region.

A pedestrian walkway across a canal heavily clogged with trash.
Years of neglect have turned many canals in and around Basra, Iraq, into repositories for garbage and raw sewage.

People at a fish market.
A fish wholesale market in Baghdad. Fish farmers have threatened government regulators who have tried to close them down for violating water restrictions.

Mr. Sahlani, the science teacher near Naseriyah, recalled how much of life in rural southern Iraq life was lived on the water just 20 years ago. Locals started their days in small boats, pushing off at first light to fish before returning after sunrise to tend the fields. While some still do, the river fish are often too small, their flesh too inundated with pollutants, to make it worthwhile these days.

The changes are especially evident in the vast marshes of southern Iraq. Some 60 years ago, they were the largest wetlands in western Eurasia. People have lived there for thousands of years.

Saddam Hussein drained the marshes of about 90 percent of their water to deprive his enemies of a place to hide in their thick reeds and small islands. In doing so, he stifled “the lungs of Iraq,” said Azzam Alwash, the Iraqi-American engineer who helped re-flood the wetlands after the United States invasion.

Surprisingly quickly, marine life rebounded, migratory birds returned and so did the people who had left. Once again, the mashouf — the long, narrow boats used by the Sumerians — glided through the waterways. Herds of water buffalo flourished.

But years of drought, along with the chokehold on river water from Turkey and Iran, have devastated the marshes again.

Vast wetlands have shrunk to thin channels of salty water.

Families, like this one, are packing up to leave again, unable to survive.

Islands that once held dozens of families are deserted, while others are encircled by a searing expanse of dried grasses and reeds.

Some families cling to life in the marshes, building homes from reeds.

But in large stretches of marshland, the water is gone, leaving cracked earth and dying livestock.

“The marshes are drying,” Mohammed Raed, 19, said as he left them behind, walking his family’s emaciated buffalo toward a neighboring province, where there was still the hope of feeding them.

Mr. Sahlani, the science teacher, said people now eyed their upstream neighbors with suspicion, accusing them of taking more water from the irrigation canals than they’re due and then shutting the sluice gates, leaving too little for residents downstream to grow crops.

Without realizing it, he was describing — on a much smaller scale — Iraq’s standoff with Turkey and Iran, which control much of the Euphrates and the Tigris.

“I understand the problem,” said Ghazwan Abdul Amir, the Iraqi water ministry’s director in Naseriyah, adding that the government was hoping to bring more water to residents in the area.

But water is scarce and money is tight, he said: “Maybe next year.”

Fixing Iraq’s outdated farming techniques, which waste as much as 70 percent of the water used for irrigation, according to a study done for Iraq’s water ministry, is paramount. But persuading farmers to change has been slow going. There were just 120 drip irrigation systems allotted to farmers in Mr. Sahlani’s province last year to save water — and the farmers had to pay for them.

Past the urban sprawl of northern Naseriyah, with its small auto repair shops and vegetable stands, the land empties out. Storm clouds gather in the late afternoon but then disperse without shedding a drop. Tufts of grasses, yellow and brown by late June, offer signs that crops grew here not so long ago.

The wind starts early each morning, blowing ceaselessly until dusk. It strips the topsoil, drying the land until all that is left is an earthen dust that piles on the quickly mounting dunes.

A short drive off the highway, deeper into the desert, lies Al Najim, a village being blown off the map. Thirty years ago, it had 5,000 people. Today there are just 80 left. The temperature hovered at 122 degrees.

Qahatan Almihana, an agricultural engineer, pointed at the town’s landmarks: buildings half-covered in sand, doors buried too deep to open. Sand piled halfway up the walls, poured in the windows and weighed down the roofs.

“That was the school,” he said. The teachers stopped coming in early 2022.

Sheikh Muhammad Ajil Falghus, the head of the Najim tribe, was born in the village. “The land was good, the soil was good,” he explained. Until the early 2000s, he said, “we grew wheat and barley, corn and clover.”

Now, all that grows are small groups of tamarisk trees planted as a bulwark against the sands.

“We are living now on the verge of life,” the sheikh said. “There is no agriculture, no planting possible anymore. This is the end of the line, the end of life. We wait for a solution from God, or from the good people.”

A small child stands in front of sand dunes.
The village of Najim is being blown off the map. Thirty years ago, it had 5,000 people. Today, there are just 80 left.

Jane Arraf contributed from Chibayish, Iraq, Falih Hassan from Baghdad, and Kamil Kakol from Sulimaniyah.

Produced by Mona Boshnaq, Michael Beswetherick and Rumsey Taylor. Top illustration Chronicle, via Alamy

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/29/worl ... 778d3e6de3
Post Reply