Sunday, July 15, 2007

I read Al Hayat today

The Arab World is catching up on the globally warm issues: In its weekly section "Oil in a Week", Al Hayat today ran an article about how agrofuel production is causing an inflation of the prices of foodstuff. The article had nothing new to offer (see previous posts on this blog for complete briefings on the issue of agro fuels) and included no analysis whatsoever, and no mention of the impact of this price increase on food and farming in the Arab World. But its alays a good thing to have as background material in an broad circulation Arabic daily. Its a pity that the editor does not really integrate information because it would really be interesting:

In the same issue (sunday July 15) Al Hayat also ran a couple of small pieces (not available online) about the price increase of wheat, resulting in the prices of bread and pasta shooting skywards (but without mentionning the AW). The price hike is attributed to climatic conditions (drought) and to the demand on agro fuel. This has resulted in the increase of the price of the loaf of bread in Britain by 30-40% during the course of the past year. The largest pasta makers in the world, Barilla, decided they will increase their prices next fall. This could of course have dramatic consequences for many countries, like Lebanon, where the country is only 25% self sufficient in bread flour, and worse for Egypt, which has recently adopted pasta instead of rice as the staple for its army. Dont laugh, you're talking about feeding hundreds of thousands daily.

Just under this small brief, in the same issue, is an even smaller piece of news: Tunis increases its wheat imports by 19% in the first quarter of the past year. The wheat will be used to manufacture...pasta for export to African countries. Wonder how the wheat price hike will affect the newly establishd Tunisian food industry.

...and in the Arabian Gulf, low catches this year have resulted in a 25% increase in the price of local fish. The article blames the Gulf war and rampant urbanization and the destruction of coastal habitat due to the creation of artificial lands, such as the Palm in Dubai and many, many others, for the decrease in fish stocks. I'm sure the Gulf war affected the fish population, but fishermen in Bahrain will tell you (as they told me) that the royal family owns all the lands on the coast, and that they detroyed all the mangrove swamps to erect huge complexes (in the Freudian sense). The mangrove swamps are where fish lay their eggs and fish babies grow sheltered from predators by the web of mangrove roots. The construction started 15 years ago and intensified 10 years ago, and we are now seeing the resulting decline in the stocks. That's about the time it takes for the impact on populations to be felt.

1 comment:

Bedouina said...

loss of mangrove wetlands - I remember at the time of the tsunami that it was said: mangroves protect the coast against tsunami swells.

Loss of fish breeding grounds is also regrettable.

We are rebuilding the wetlands of the Bay Area to the tune of about 32 billion dollars - however global warming may drown all our efforts. Once this bay was the wonder of the world, filled with birds, fish and wildlife.

This article makes me sad. I knew there was a reason I hate all these ugly new developments in the Gulf.

one of my Lebanese uncles visited us in California last year for the first time. i thought he would appreciate our beautiful coast line between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, with its long miles of protected farm and beach land. There are many thousands of acres of woods in the hills also protected from development. No, my uncle said he thought it was a shame they didn't let people build in these places, because real estate is too expensive here and people should be allowed to build wherever there is open land.

And Lebanon's defaced coastline is the result of that thinking. Northern Californians fought and are still fighting bitter wars with rich developers to keep shreds of our coast intact.

Southern California, more conservative than the Bay Area (more like the Arab world really - money matters most), has turned from a gorgeous land of rolling hills and orchards into one vast disgusting tract of houses and freeways. It's unsustainable (see Jared Diamond). It's also sinfully ugly. And it's bad for the health of the ocean, naturally.

Sigh. God will sort it out, but maybe not in the lifetimes of our great-grandchildren. I fear for our species' future.