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The Biggest Security Threat? It’s Not Nukes

The biggest security threat to the United States and across the globe isn’t nuclear weapons, Isis or terrorism. The biggest threat is water.

More to the point, natural resources, especially water. Water security is such a major component of world politics that no one really wants to talk about it openly because it can cause panic and fear.

The UN has paid very close attention to this issue. According to them;

“Water security is defined as the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability. (UN-Water, 2013)

Water security encapsulates complex and interconnected challenges and highlights water’s centrality for achieving a larger sense of security, sustainability, development and human well-being. Many factors contribute to water security, ranging from biophysical to infrastructural, institutional, political, social and financial – many of which lie outside the water realm. In this respect, water security lies at the centre of many security areas, each of which is intricately linked to water. Addressing this goal therefore requires interdisciplinary collaboration across sectors, communities and political borders, so that the competition or potential conflicts.

The post-2015 process must incorporate a goal and related targets for achieving water security, as this will address multiple priority development areas under consideration: conflict and fragility; environmental sustainability; growth and employment; health, hunger, food and nutrition; inequities; energy; and of course, water. It is safe to state that investment in water security is a long-term pay-off for human development and economic growth, with immediate visible short-term gains.

Source: UN-Water Analytical Brief on Water Security and the Global Water Agenda, 2013

The need for natural resources, specifically water, has the immediate potential to start wars that could involve large swaths of the globe. Factions will always fight factions, that is somewhat human nature, but I want you to take a good look at a world map. Now take a look at where rivers, freshwater lakes and other freshwater resources lie. These cross boundaries between cities, states, and countries. If you think the middle east is mired in tension now, what happens if Turkey decided to build dams on the Tigris & the Euphrates, both which are major water sources for Syria, Iraq, and Iran? If Turkey were to decide to keep those water resources for themselves, it could cause severe upheaval and distress within that region.

The need to secure natural resources affects every single aspect of how the world works together, even within each region.

Other things like cyber warfare, economic instability, and terrorism are inarguably major threats to global stability, but none will have the same effect of sending hundreds of thousands of people into a state of panic more than a complete end to a region’s water supply.

Potable water is part and parcel of our consumeristic habits. Water is integral in manufacturing, growing food, producing fuel, generating electricity and more. Everything you sit on, drive in, wear, eat or use had water as an integral part of at least one stage of its production.

Water is seemingly abundant. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but 97.5% of all water on Earth is salt water. This leaves only 2.5% fresh water. Nearly 70% of that freshwater is frozen in the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland. Most of the remainder is present as soil moisture or lies in deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.

Only 1% of the world’s fresh water is accessible for human use. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis.

water stress

These numbers should concern anyone, especially considering the wasteful processes and “discard it” attitude of western culture. If you follow John Oliver, you may remember his recent piece on the large amount of food that is simply discarded into our landfills. Uneaten food that took WATER to grow. That is water thrown into our landfills.

You can watch the John Oliver Segment here

Fracking and oil sands development not only use water that should be reserved for drinking, but these dirty mining pursuits pollute more groundwater making the impact twofold. Are we truly capable of understanding the consumerist mentality’s impact on society in terms of world security, natural resources, and life as it stands?

NOAA and other organizations have shown us the canary in the coal mine. They have mapped and monitored our water resources over decades. As our climate changes through human and natural means, water will change and shift the seat of power throughout multiple regions across the globe as one region dries up and another becomes inundated with rain.

This is a daunting conversation. The media buries these issues because they don’t want to address the problems with anything more than shallow lip service. Yet these issues affect every single region, country, nation, and human and is the one single factor that can push the world into chaos or panic. It has the ability to plummet stock markets, upset global trade, create unrest, divide nations once unified into factions, destroy government and social order, and topple regimes.

We need to start demanding that our lobbyists do more to protect our resources, and we need to demand that they  be held accountable for waste, deregulation and any other policy that hinders our ability to deal with this national security threat seriously.

We need to hit hard against the anti-science rhetoric, the “corporations are people” mentality. We need to remove money from politics and demand that our resources and tax dollars be used wisely.

If you really want to be aggressive and confrontational, you can single out any senator, representative, lobbyist, PAC, or corporation that blocks environmental improvements, continues wasteful destruction of natural resources, or ignores science. You can call bullshit when any of them call those who act on behalf of environmental progress “domestic terrorism.”

The citizens of the Netherlands took their government to the world courts of the Hague in regards to environmental protections, or lack thereof, and won. Maybe we here in America need to do the same.

Wülfie MaGhee

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