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Benno Hansen
Benno Hansen

Wangari Maathai warns about resource conflicts: "If the rivers stop flowing, people will fight"

Wednesday the 6th of July 2011 Wangari Maathai received a honorary doctorate at Copenhagen University and spoke about her work with the Green Belt movement, the Taking Roots movie and more. Watch her speech, I recorded it for you.

[15:39] Protecting forests is extremely important [...] also very important for conflict [...] many of the local conflicts that we were having, especially in East Africa, [...] were being fed by competition over resources. Especially over land, [?], farming land, water, watering points [?]. And many of these conflicts are unavoidable unless we learn to manage the resources in a responsible way, in an accountable way and also we learn to share these resources in a more equitable way. Now, these are words, but when you translate them into practicalities on the ground it is actually [?] possible to stop people fighting. If there is no water and there is only one watering point people will fight over that watering point. If the rivers stop flowing [...] people will fight. And usually when people fight, that's when [the developed, rich world hear about the developing, 3rd world and begin to wonder] 'why are they fighting?'. Well they are fighting over resources because either those resources are degraded, they are diminished or they are exhausted or they are not being shared equitably.

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Fighting for water between farmers and downstream herdsmen recurs almost every year at our home area, compounding a very sensitive political problem. With the near total drying up of the rivers this year, we fear a bloodbath around election time. But youth from the villages are determined to do their best to prevent this. See their blog at http://kijabeyouth.wordpress.com.

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Humanity has enormous non-human competition for water resources.   Aquatic weeds clog the waterways, sucking off the water and depositing silt that raises lake and stream beds.  The process is called hydrosere, and turns wetlands to grasslands and then to desert.  Depending on where you are, the main problem may be Typha, Phragmites, Papyrus or water hyacinth lettuce or spinach.  This is all biomass, suitable for biofuel production, or composting.  New uses for water hyacinth fiber are announced daily.  If we weed and dredge the lakes and rivers we can reestablish the "lake effect" rains that once made Africa a wet continent.  We CAN drive back the desert.  We must defeat it first in the wetlands.

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Now, these are phrases, but when you change them into practicalities on the earth it is actually [?] possible to quit individuals dealing with. If there is no water and there is only one water place individuals will combat over that water place.  http://www.zyy.com/

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