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The Intersection Of Climate Change And Diversity

What’s happening? Some of the world's poorest farmers, relying on millennia-old ways of forecasting weather, are seeing their crops die in the fields due to climate change. In Egypt, the usually "perfect" Coptic calendar, used since the time of the pharaohs, began to fail around 20 years ago. In sub-Saharan Africa, insect swarms that once helped predict rains have suffered from biodiversity loss, while in southern Iraq farmers working land dating back to Sumerian times are trying to cope with longer, hotter summers and shifting seasons.

Why does this matter?  The populations hit hardest by climate change will overwhelmingly be those that have done the least to cause it.

Developing nations are most likely to be affected for two reasons: a) many are located in areas most vulnerable to changing and extreme weather; b) they are less likely to have the resources to protect themselves from associated risks.

The Netherlands, for example, has been able to invest in high standard dikes able to protect against all but 1-in-10,000-year weather events. By comparison, poorer low-lying nations, such as Indonesia, are less able to fund such high-tech flood-prevention strategies. 

Similarly, ranchers have long been prioritised over indigenous tribes when it comes to deforesting the Amazon, while melting sea ice impacts the livelihood of Inuit fishermen, despite neither of these populations having made significant contributions to the problems they now face.

In the US, authorities ultimately sided with an oil company over the indigenous Standing Rock Sioux community in North Dakota, who feared a proposed pipeline could contaminate their drinking water.

The characteristics of communities most impacted by environmental policies contrast starkly with those of the protesters who are garnering the most attention. Members of Extinction Rebellion are predominantly white, middle-class and in a sufficiently fortunate position to be able to afford to run the risk of being arrested for their cause.

This begs the question: why does it take a group of privileged protesters to make politicians and corporates pay attention to an issue? Leaders from at-risk island-states, such as Fiji, have long been calling for action from the UN – why does the voice of a Swedish teenager carry more weight?

Lateral thought from Curation – Rice has long been a subsistence crop for much of Asia, largely because it is one of the few crops able to survive on flooded land, which also protects it from pests.

With global water scarcity a growing risk, this type of farming may be due a rethink. Could potential new approaches to agriculture in Asia create an opportunity for pesticide producers, such as Syngenta and Bayer, and hydroponic methods?

Further reading:

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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