Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
World cannot afford
to lose war on hunger
Some 821 million people, or one of every nine people on the planet, suffered from hunger last year, marking the third consecutive annual increase, according to the UN's latest hunger report.
If this statistics does not rattle the collective conscience of humanity and persuade the world to initiate remedial measures, what else will?
As global hunger mounts obstinately, a commitment to zero tolerance for food waste from both consumers and food industry is the need of the hour.
An estimated 155 million children under five years old are chronically malnourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
What most people tend to forget is that small actions could make a big difference when it comes to tackling global hunger.
It is estimated that globally some 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year. A reduction in that shocking figure presents what the UN Habitat agency calls “an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.”
The UAE, on its part, deserves praise for being a key point in providing food supplies to the entire region.
As Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Hareb Almheiri points out, the UAE has taken major steps to guarantee its future food security as a national priority, through adopting a series of relevant policies.
The UAE has established a national committee responsible for achieving sustainable development goals and developing agriculture policies to encourage the production of high quality food products through utilising the latest agricultural technologies, as well as for developing national standards for food markets and products.
Khalifa Ahmed Al Ali, Managing Director of the Food Security Centre, is right when he says that the paradigm shift achieved in food security by the UAE is not limited to local level. Its impact has reached abroad as the UAE has supported and implemented many agricultural, livestock and fishery development projects globally.
The country's livestock exceeded 4.5 million, which in itself provides an important aspect of food security related to meat, dairy products and others.
The world population is expected to reach 9 billion in 2050. Farmers need to find new productive ways to farm food and diversify their crops.
Everyone has a role to play in achieving ZeroHunger. People, organisations and governments should do their bit. 
The good news is it is possible and merely calls for responsible action from all sides. Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger.
Declining wildlife
a mounting concern
Every human being has a responsibility to protect the planet that we live in, as much as we do for our individual homes. Unfortunately, reckless human activity — how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives — is taking a heavy toll on wildlife and the natural resources we need to survive.
In what would rattle collective human conscience, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has stated that from 1970 to 2014, 60 per cent of all animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — were wiped out by human activity.
For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80 per cent. Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same period, as per the WWF's "Living Planet" report.
It does not give cozy comfort to note that the earth has lost almost half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years and that a fifth of the Amazon has actually disappeared in 50 years.
The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse, as WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini points out. The consolation, though, is the reasons for the crisis are known and corrective measures are possible. What it calls for is collective will.
As far as the UAE is concerned, the country is fortunate that its Founding Father, late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, himself was an ardent nature lover and conservationist who laid a strong foundation for environmental protection.
Though the UAE is situated in one of the most arid regions, it boasts alluring mangroves, wadis, salt marshes and lagoons.
The UAE’s idea of conservation was exemplified by an incident last year when an entire project venue was shifted to rescue a bird. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, were travelling to a forest area when they spotted a houbara bustard bird laying eggs near a project site. They immediately ordered to shift the project to another part of the area to protect the bird and its eggs.
There is a dire global need to reduce carbon emissions, prevent habitat loss and fight climate change. Destroying nature at this pace would have dangerous consequences on human beings. It’s better to wake up before it’s too late.
N-treaty spat makes
world less safer
At a time when the world looks increasingly divided on multiple issues, US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit a Cold-War era treaty that helped eliminate a class of nuclear weapons marks a huge setback for arms control and makes the world less safer.
The Intermediate-Range nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, had a noble goal of eliminating land-based short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.
US authorities believe Moscow is developing and has deployed a ground-launched system in breach of the INF treaty that could allow it to launch a nuclear strike on Europe at short notice.
While such an apprehension is legitimate, Washington would do better to make Russia see sense by talking and making it adhere to the treaty rather than withdraw from it.
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous enemies of humanity. Nuke weapons have the potential to destroy an entire city killing millions, cause inconceivable damage to environment and ruin the lives of future generations with long-term catastrophic effects.
As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), at the  start  of  2018  nine  states —United  States,  Russia, United  Kingdom,  France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — possessed  approximately 14,465 nuclear  weapons.
Russia and the US together still account for nearly  92  per  cent of all  nuclear  weapons. Despite making limited reductions to their nuclear forces, Russia and the US have long-term programmes under way to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missile and  aircraft  delivery  systems,  and  nuclear  weapon production  facilities.
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) last year was seen as a timely acknowledgement of the world’s genuine concerns over nuclear weapons.
ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organisations in 100 countries, vigorously campaigned for a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July last year.
ICAN's Executive Director Beatrice Fihn sent a loud message: "Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop."
There is simply no alternative to dialogue on nuclear arms control. Risk-reduction measures, including transparency in nuclear-weapon programmes and further reduction in all types of nuclear weapons is the best way forward. For that, leaders need to keep the dialogue process alive.
Air pollution, the
invisible killer
As many as 93 per cent of children under the age of 15 — a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five — breathe dangerously polluted air, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and this is hugely worrisome news.
It’s as good as saying that almost all children on the planet are affected by foul air.
With exposure to toxic air killing some 600,000 children under the age of 15 each year, silence cannot be an answer to the challenge posed by the silent killer. 
Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives, as WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, points out. This is absolutely inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.
The situation should be considered serious especially because when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.
Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer. Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
Children are particularly vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.
It should, nevertheless, be acknowledged that some countries are taking a serious note of the issue and initiating corrective measures.
Norway’s capital Oslo, for example, is paving a fossil-free, electrified path in its push towards improving air quality. The city has implemented methods of recycling waste into heat and electricity and offers cyclists precedence over private cars.
China is moving in the right direction by ordering 1.18 million residential households in 11 cities located in three central provinces to switch to natural gas heating this winter as part of the anti-air pollution campaign.
World leaders should commit to act against this serious health threat. As experts point out, all countries should work towards meeting WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the health and safety of children.
Governments should adopt measures such as reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the uptake of renewable energy sources.
Exclusive use of clean technologies and fuels for household cooking, heating and lighting activities can certainly improve the air quality within homes and in the surrounding community.