Mus­lim Coun­tries Plan for Hot Bleak Fu­ture

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The Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion (OIC) is fac­ing a bleak near fu­ture filled with short­ages of wa­ter, food and even en­ergy.

The OIC in­cludes 57 mem­ber states and spans four con­ti­nents. It is the self-de­scribed voice of the Mus­lim world. After the United Na­tions, it is also the world’s largest in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal body and rep­re­sents 1.3 bil­lion Mus­lims.

The OIC coun­tries – some of the big­gest of which had flour­ished with their vast and pre­vi­ously highly val­ued petroleum re­serves – see the Mus­lim world as be­ing way be­hind its coun­ter­parts else­where when it comes to sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment. It sees the re­sults of its past growth, along with the im­pact of cli­mate change, as hav­ing cre­ated a cri­sis that it is rapidly run­ning out of time to ad­dress.

To come up with con­crete plans for what to do about this cri­sis, the OIC’S Stand­ing Com­mit­tee for Sci­en­tific and Tech­no­log­i­cal Co­op­er­a­tion (COMSTECH) held a se­ries of meet­ings to help plan joint dis­cus­sions on th­ese is­sues. Those meet­ings were held in Septem­ber 2017 in As­tana, Kaza­khstan. The ses­sions in­volved gov­ern­ment min­is­ters from many of the OIC’S mem­ber states.

An early draft agenda of the many top­ics the group agreed to ad­dress later in more de­tail was briefly pub­lished pub­licly by the OIC. It has since been taken down and re­placed with a less-alarm­ing set of dis­cus­sion top­ics.

In that early draft, the OIC cites the fol­low­ing as major ar­eas of con­cern to its mem­bers:

Lack of wa­ter and arable land avail­able for farm­ing. In its ma­te­ri­als, the OIC noted that most of its mem­ber states are run­ning out of us­able land and safe wa­ter ac­cess. With tem­per­a­tures reach­ing record highs and fresh­wa­ter re­sources rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing, the need for con­ser­va­tion tech­niques, al­ter­na­tive farm­ing and ways to get ac­cess to other wa­ter re­sources are con­sid­ered ex­tremely se­ri­ous con­cerns right now. As the ini­tial ma­te­ri­als said, “… the ‘green’ rev­o­lu­tion is essen­tially over and high growth rates in agri­cul­ture will not be sus­tained through cur­rent tech­nol­ogy, prac­tice and at­ti­tudes alone.”

Rate of en­ergy con­sump­tion too high. With the re­gion ac­cus­tomed to a glut of en­ergy, prac­tices that were waste­ful and with lit­tle thought to the fu­ture have built up over time. (The same, of course, is true with re­spect to land and wa­ter use.) The global en­ergy de­mand is ex­pected to double by 2040, with 90% of that de­mand

com­ing from emerg­ing economies with a pow­er­ful mid­dle class.

Re­al­ity and im­pact of cli­mate change and global warm­ing far worse than pre­vi­ously un­der­stood. In the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the text for the dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment, the plan­ners noted: “Cli­mate change and global warm­ing is an­thro­pogenic and may have been un­der­es­ti­mated. We have only one planet as our habi­tat for the fore­see­able fu­ture, and it is fac­ing a cri­sis of unimag­in­able pro­por­tions.”

Op­tions for So­lu­tions

While the OIC’S plan­ners can be com­mended for their frank­ness in bring­ing th­ese is­sues to the ta­ble, the so­lu­tions that are be­ing con­sid­ered for them are weak, were poorly thought through and avoid the crit­i­cal is­sue of over­pop­u­la­tion.

On the en­ergy sup­ply is­sue, de­spite the cur­rent wealth avail­able for in­vest­ment among the en­tire OIC com­mu­nity, the plan­ners down­play the value of re­new­able re­sources such as so­lar and wind as be­ing un­able to of­fer the baseload sup­ply. This keeps their plans to meet the ever-in­creas­ing de­mand for en­ergy with fos­sil fu­els as the dom­i­nant source of power for some time. As for how to support the fu­ture, the doc­u­ments claimed that many of the OIC coun­tries are “plan­ning to start con­struct­ing nu­clear power plants.”those plans are go­ing for­ward, ap­par­ently, de­spite many ex­perts hav­ing cited the “im­mense” po­ten­tial for so­lar power in the Mid­dle East. As a study pub­lished by Nas­sir El Bas­sam of the In­ter­na­tional Re­search Cen­tre for Re­new­able En­ergy said in April, so­lar ra­di­a­tion in the Arab re­gion works out to the equiv­a­lent of be­tween one and two bar­rels of oil per square meter per year. It fur­ther noted, “Th­ese rates are among the best in the world, mak­ing the re­gion suit­able for so­lar heat­ing and cool­ing, Con­cen­trated So­lar Power (CSP) and Con­cen­trated Pho­to­voltaic (CPV) ap­pli­ca­tions.” This is also de­spite so­lar power currently pro­vid­ing only 0.2% of the cur­rent to­tal power de­mands of the OIC mem­ber states.

Newer stor­age tech­nolo­gies negate the baseload is­sue, and us­ing a fic­tional baseload jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for dan­ger­ous, ex­pen­sive and un­sus­tain­able nu­clear power is disin­gen­u­ous at best.

On the is­sue of land, wa­ter and food sup­ply, the plan­ners seem to have lit­tle to sug­gest in the short term as ways to im­prove the na­tions’ cur­rent state. With more power, de­sali­na­tion projects might be in­creased, but the sup­ply of such wa­ter is not ex­pected to in­crease in large enough quan­ti­ties or soon enough to keep the ex­ist­ing lands from dry­ing out or to pre­vent mass wa­ter scarcity in the near fu­ture. Plans also sug­gest in­creas­ing in­vest­ments in do­mes­tic agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion, but that is al­most like say­ing that if one needs more food, then one should in­vest in food pro­duc­tion. It is a tau­tol­ogy and does not say much in terms of real pol­icy. An­other op­tion sug­gested is to ag­gres­sively pur­sue min­i­miz­ing food waste. That will tend to come au­to­mat­i­cally when the food sup­ply be­gins to tighten dra­mat­i­cally. By it­self, it, too, does not rep­re­sent much of a so­lu­tion.

In the end, the most pos­i­tive con­clu­sion one can draw from this pro­posed set of dis­cus­sion points from the OIC is that the Mus­lim na­tions around the world are fi­nally wak­ing up to rec­og­niz­ing some major prob­lems. How­ever, it ap­pears that they are in­ca­pable of ad­dress­ing those prob­lems. With­out do­ing some­thing dras­tic now, they will soon find them­selves out of the en­ergy, food, arable land and wa­ter needed to support their growth in the fu­ture.

This also points to wa­ter and food-pro­duc­ing land – rather than oil – be­com­ing the fo­cus of the next gen­er­a­tion of never-end­ing wars in and ad­ja­cent to th­ese na­tions. In the face of the con­tin­ued ig­no­rance of the re­al­ity of cli­mate change, be­lit­tling of the value of re­new­able en­ergy sources as an al­ter­na­tive to oil and ris­ing lev­els of Is­lamic ex­trem­ism around the world, it is un­for­tu­nately a real and very se­ri­ous ques­tion as to whether the OIC coun­tries are wak­ing up to their prob­lems way too late.

The OIC’S head-in-the-sand ap­proach to the fu­ture is in­dica­tive of a cul­ture that has be­come ob­so­lete and self-de­struc­tive, just as many non-mus­lim cul­tures have also doomed them­selves with wrong think­ing.

If hu­man­ity is to sur­vive the de­struc­tion it has en­gi­neered, more peo­ple will have to wake up, aban­don their ob­so­lete be­liefs and choose lead­ers with the ca­pac­ity to think ra­tio­nally and take the nec­es­sary ac­tions.

Photo by David Brewer, cc

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