Phase III: Environmental and Humanitarian Nexus

27 Sep - 17 Oct 2017
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Published on 25 April 2017 in UN Environment Management Group Nexus Dialogues

Welcome to Phase III of the Nexus Dialogues. Please find the discussion questions posted below:

Question 1:

The global social-ecological change affects availability, access and quality of water, food, land and energy. This poses a double threat by increasing the risk of disasters and conflicts, and making communities more vulnerable to their effects.  The situation is exacerbated by “threat multipliers” such as climate change, especially in low- and middle income countries.

How can we strengthen partnerships between the environmental and the humanitarian sector to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals in an effective and integrated way?

Question 2:

Disasters and conflict often propagate a vicious circle of ecosystem degradation, poverty and food insecurity. For example, the decades of war in Afghanistan resulted in up to 95% deforestation in some areas.

How can environment and humanitarian institutions work together to reduce the environmental drivers of conflict and reduce disaster impacts? Please provide examples.

Question 3:

Environment is a cross-cutting issue in humanitarian and development work, and can be both cause and consequence of conflicts and disasters. However, there is little consistency in approach, commitment or allocation of resources to address the environmental concerns in emergency, humanitarian and security operations.

How can we make humanitarian relief more sustainable by integrating the environment? Please provide examples.

Comments (31)

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

My dear friends worldwide:

We find ourselves at a crossroad of an existential threat: will we be swallowed by the spree of hurricanes, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, and what not...? The above three questions invite you to think what could be our adequate response.

I would like to expand this conversation beyond the confines of the UN agencies, and invite the global community to consider and engage how we, as global citizens,  could be participants in addressing this impending catastrophe.

While we are thinking about how to respond to the inevitable crisis, how could the global community could mitigate the many causes of the environmental and humanitarian disasters. The below statement is to provoke you to help to think and act. 

The Impending Humanitarian Catastrophe

Exponential environmental degradation compounded by Climate Change is paving the way to unmanageable humanitarian catastrophes. There is no ‘magic-bullet-solution’, but this impending situation calls for a well-coordinated multi-pronged action. I would like to shift the focus of this dialogue away from “relief and recovery” to the development of public policy and harnessing effective communication processes, so that the public at large may contribute to this dialogue. The nexus Environment-Humanitarian Nexus is a space where we can all contribute and this e-discussion looks to open a space for diverse participants to share their thoughts and solutions to improve the state of our environment and effectively address humanitarian catastrophes.

Communicating with the public:

Understanding environmental damage and climate change requires consequential thinking as effects are experienced over a period of time and across the globe. Are the prevailing communication practices suitable to communicate environmental degradation and climate change as drivers of disaster and conflict?


Communicating with the government / corporate leaders/stakeholders

Current business and operational models of the industry tend to accelerate environmental degradation and climate change. Profit maximization is often-times the only driver of industry and infra-structure which seek only short-term value for stockholders. It is in industry and business best interest to operate sustainably in order to achieve long-term profitability. Furthermore, it is also good business to consider every stakeholder when providing a good or service. The few disrupters of industries are paving the way; but, they are few and far in between. Various countries are enabling change through national/regional public policy. However, their footprint on global scale is still minimal. How can member states incentivize sustainable business and industry in a globalized world?

Scientists as activists in the communication process.

Scientists usually remain ensconced in the ‘ivory tower’ of academia, and use that distance to gain impartiality and credibility. In general, scientific language is cloaked with obtuse vocabulary that only goes well with the scientific community. Given the urgency of environmental degradation, climate change, increasing natural disasters, and conflict, scientists and policy-makers must find a way to speak in the language of the public.


How can scientists and policy-makers better engage in direct communication with the public through the general media of mass communication?

Gale Mohammed-Oxley, OP • Managing Director at G.O International Academy of Learning from Trinidad and Tobago

Scientist and policy makers can let their yes be yes and be authentic in their interaction with the public. I have this experience and can speak to it directly. Without giving names I am very disappointed with policy advisors under this system. There has to be some form of honesty in accountability and truth in transparency. Excuses can only be given when accepted as excuses. We all make mistakes and want to look to the future but when persons in authority are misleading due to lack of knowledge or personal conviction is a big problem that create humanitarian crises.

Engaging via the mass media will not help if there is underlying dishonest motives. Social media has shown the success in many instances but then there is the issue of access in some countries.

Julia Theilen • from United States

A great example of how climate scientists can improve communication with policy-makers as well as journalists is the European Commission's "Science for Environment Policy" Service. It delivers quality environmental research for evidence-based policy in form of a free news and information service. Read more here:… 

Saripalli Suryanarayana • from India

Dear Friends across the world,

Chernobyl disaster,in 1986,April.Now repeated earth quake at ,Japan,Fukushima which has DIICHI nuclear power reactors,with another Possible Tsunami After 6.1-Magnitude Shock.on Sep 20, 2017. The repitation is there.

KHATRINA Harricane of 2005,August 23,with 1833 fatalities. Hud Hud cyclone of Andhra Predesh in India,in 2014,with 215 fatalities and wind speed of 215 KM /per hour.It was a horrifying experience.

What not,why not and how not.They will repeat.The sea waters warming in hot weather in north and southern winds blowing in the season create the Harricanes and storms and in shallow bays,the hot water gets collected and till it becomes cold the hurricane dumps the water on to ground.[This may not be exact explanation-but could be near to what the scientists of that field offer.I am only an Engineer with lots of experience].

Again we design long lasting structures with known conditions and find in years the things have crossed,and changes the zone composition for Earth quakes.[Well i am in to this and can define-'P' and S waves etc].

We have lots of Vanishing Islands in Pacific,and Atlantic.They possibly look like fingers of each hand of the sitting earth[globe-with Africa as its main lumber].

The earth might not have been so near to sun,as so the other planets.Now some are moving away and some are nearing the sun.The water heat and vapour are along with dust threatening us.We are not able to find direct sun rays.The rays are looking as if they are reflected after hitting saturn gases.

But as humans in this LODGE of earth,with each suit catered for each nation,some are very luxurious suits,we need to keep basic hygiene.

We are dumping lots of waste water,waste plastic,pharmaceuticals,and other solids and gases,in to water,in to seas.The human waste ,solids and liquids and others are a burden to the ecology of earth.The production systems are not following the god made LODGE.

This area is purely not of humans,it has its controls.Money systems which to day we have are hardly 100 years old.'Maria','Irma',or the Mexico earth quake,the Houston flooding because of 'Harvey' all are more than man made.In the sense the humans have crossed all limits of eating the nature.They have modified the systems more than they can bend.They are now beyond our control.

How safe we can be,how can we preserve the nature is a question. But the answer is an answer to the next generation.Let them have a pleasant stay in this lodge.



Juan E. Chebly • Lead Adviser at UN Environment at UN Environment Programme from Venezuela

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to share some of my research on this nexus from the financing perspective. The setting of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs is based on the premise of back-casting, or goal setting, for development on a global scale. If we as a global society have agreed on what kind of world we want to live in, then it is crucial that we also determine how to get there. This issue is ever more relevant when we see international multilateral processes, as the Financing for Development Process, siloed and stuck on the same outcomes and principles agreed 13 years ago in Monterrey, Mexico. Very little has changed in this area of work over the last decade. Financing for Development resolutions have failed to incorporate and consider the rise in extremism and violence worldwide, not to mention climate and humanitarian crises.

Some might argue that the Financing for Development process is an independent mechanism from humanitarian and sustainable development agendas. Indeed many of the pundits that make a living within this process argue that the process ought to be siloed as to protect and ensure the expertise of it contributing agents. In other words,  the process according to these pundits needs to remain closed to those with the know-how, as opposed to become more open and transparent. This train of thought however is proving to deliver poor results. The silo approach is far from ideal when it comes to solving systemic issues. Systems theories emphasise the centrality of a holistic approach. Sustainable Development is no different and is indeed one of the most complex systems we must contemplate upon in our time. The nexus approach can also help in unlocking these challenges.

When we fail to consider public spending in comparison to other agendas like the humanitarian and the defense agendas, we miss the point of what sustainable development financing ought to be. In other words we are segmenting funding streams and disregarding tangible opportunity costs which are undermining long-term peace, security, and environmental sustainability. Clear evidence is the outcome document of the Addis Ababa Agenda, where there is no single mention to defense spending. This seems a bit odd when we consider the centrality of peace for development. Another example is the lack of practical mechanisms to incentivise private spending as the main source of resources toward achieving the SDGs, and the over emphasising of Official Development Assistance, an instrument that albeit important is quite insufficient in the quest from billions to trillions of USD for development.

Historically we can say that humanitarian agendas have had priority over development agendas when it comes to public finance and international cooperation. This comes at no surprise, as the value of human life is on the line in times of crisis. The main reasoning: environmental degradation, can be addressed later. However, this type of thinking is no different from the silo approach described earlier. What we are finding in our present societies is a situation where we are not planning for the long-term and are caught in addressing ever-changing short-term calamities. This seems to be a vicious cycle, where the more we fail to invest in sustainable development, the more humanitarian aid will be needed and so on and so forth. This vicious cycle can become a virtuous cycle the moment we start to prioritize sustainable development investments over any other type.

For the entire paper follow the link ->: “Sustainable Development as a Path to Peacebuilding: Finding Common Ground to Counter the Extremist Narrative”

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Some might argue that the Financing for Development process is an independent mechanism from humanitarian and sustainable development agendas - Juan Chebly makes an important observation. In fact, it reminds me of Easley's book The Tyranny of the Experts. The system siloed the technocrats and bureaucrats and they began to talk to each other and developed a mutual adulation.

Are humanitarian crises turning out to be profitable enterprises? Have we surrendered ourselves to the fatality of environmental catastrophe?



Rianne C. ten Veen • Consultant at Green Creation from Netherlands

"profitable enterprise" - from an ethical view it would be immoral to take advantage of people in such a sectoral manner, even if CSR actions are appreciated and business can play a constructive role. If response becomes more profitable (as some neoliberal thinking suggests is 'best', to leave matters to 'the market'), then the unintended consequence could be to make those at risk more vulnerable as business would have a dis-incentive to respond in the area of prevention or mitigation.

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Christine Vollmer • Education at ALAFA Editions from Venezuela

The impending disasters of social inequality, urban violence and environmental degradation can only be averted by people: men and women who have learned to live peacefully, produce carefully, consume with moderation and to care for each other and for the environment.

The most urgent thing that can be done at this time is to concentrate on educating those who are young and at a teachable age: the children and adolescents of today.

A full curriculum for teaching those values in an attractive and motivating manner has been designed for this purpose, with materials for each age from 5 to 18. Its original pedagogy is anthropologically based, avoiding ideological and religious bias. 

See  for more information. Join the conversation about this important aspect for the future of our world.

Rianne C. ten Veen • Consultant at Green Creation from Netherlands

Interesting initiative, and wishing you all the success with it - only word I might disagree with is the word "impending" ... social inequality from disasters is already here! :-(

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Christine Vollmer makes very good observation: men and women who have learned to live peacefully, produce carefully, consume with moderation and to care for each other and for the environment  - The wisdom behind this statement is at the heart of the problem we are striving to resolve....

Juan E. Chebly • Lead Adviser at UN Environment at UN Environment Programme from Venezuela

I cannot agree more with Prof. Monteiro and Ms. Vollmer. Realizing the sustainable development agenda begins at peoples hearts and minds before it can become a reality for all. Great discussion! 

Kirsten Loewenthal • from Venezuela

Dear friends:

Many authors like Hobbes and Weber affirm that the violence and the conflict are normalized in our society and that for its insertion in our cultures along the history, there are forms of violence and conflict that are intrinsic in us; This owes to what in sociology we call "The normal and the pathological", according to Durkheim, normal is all that has been accepted in our societies as something daily and the pathological is what it is not, these terms not usually apply to what is “universally known as correct”, but to what every society accepts and turns part of its culture.

To solve a problematic it is necessary to go to the root, otherwise, we are only using palliatives for the symptoms. I believe that the root of this problem is cultural, and not only for lack of education in humanitarian and environmental matters, but lack of empathy, there is something that wakes up in us when a tragedy happens, something that make us help others beyond our beliefs and our differences, it would be ideal to insert in our societies a culture of empathy and solidarity, make normal to help each other not only when a tragedy already happened, to make normal for us to see other people as something that is not foreign to us.

In the same way it is necessary to insert a preventive culture in our societies, and for it we need that all the sectors join to it, because unlike what is thought, no sector can be exempt from this tasks; some examples:

The commercial sector can put to disposition more ecological products, dispense with plastic bags for his clients, donate articles, money or services like we have seen stores that donate coats when it comes the winter, dry cleaner's shops that make free services  to unemployed persons in order that they can dress adequately for a job interview, places that donate food to the neediest; These are ways of making that  ecological and humanitarian activities be part of our every day life, to make them part of our culture and therefore to be stimulated in so many levels, we need that this kind of activities not be seen as something that "certain types of stores do", we need to turn this activities into something normal that anybody can do in their own way.

The financial sector can also make donations, make studies that allow us to achieve the sustainable development goals like something tangible and accessible for all, there are countries where it is more expensive to be ecological, but with the support of professionals in this matter we can lower costs and make it a reality.

The educational sector must incorporate both in its dynamics and in its programs, activities and information oriented towards the ecological and social matters; the legislature can enact legislation to help us achieve these goals; etc.            

It is necessary to trigger a sociological phenomenon, to make that preventive,  humanitarian and ecological activities are not only seen as a practice of "certain types of person / sector", turn it into something natural for people, make these goals part of our culture, this way people can act on it as something normal.

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Kirsten Loewenthal makes an astute observation: To solve a problematic it is necessary to go to the root, otherwise, we are only using palliatives for the symptoms. I believe that the root of this problem is cultural, and not only for lack of education in humanitarian and environmental matters, but lack of empathy, there is something that wakes up in us when a tragedy happens, something that make us help others beyond our beliefs and our differences, it would be ideal to insert in our societies a culture of empathy and solidarity, make normal to help each other not only when a tragedy already happened, to make normal for us to see other people as something that is not foreign to us - 

It is a new age - current practices have reached a tipping point. A new thinking, as Kristen points out, must be fostered. Jeremy Rifkin's  book The Empathic Civilization: the Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis - makes exactly the point that Kristen is advocating  for.




Elif Yasemin Azaz • Volunteer at Architecture For All Association of Turkey from Turkey

Dear All,

The environmental and humanitarian sector is connected to each other directly at the conceptive sense. Mr. Monterio's questions are about how to make partnerships between these sectors, how to reduce conflict and disaster impacts due to environment and how to make humanitarian relief more sustainable by integrating the environment.

All the three problems need the participation of the local people for the resolutions. The participation of the local people would provide an essential component through making the resolutions real and direct for the local people. Also it would prevent additional problems like exacerbation of the problems mentioned in the Question 1.

I strongly agree with the idea of reducing the impacts of conflicts, disasters and providing peacebuilding by the implementation of sustainable development. In the paper "Sustainable Development as a Path to Peacebuilding: Finding Common Ground to Counter the Extremist Narrative” , it is mentioned as "Sustainable Development As A Tool For Peace". Crucially, it should be adopted as preferential principle. So the partnerships between the environmental and the humanitarian sectors should shape up around strong visions.

Environmental and humanitarian sectors are the best sectors to reduce disastrous impacts and conflicts. Strong visions with environmental and humanitarian sectors partnerships that work at the local areas and by the participation of local people would provide sustainable and persistent resolutions for settlements which suffer violence et cetera. As a first step, institutions should demand the end of conflicts and disasters while announcing and/or informing about the process.

Humanitarian relief could be made more sustainable by land use decisions and decisions related to conservational and preservational approaches for the natural and cultural environment. Also strong visions that I have mentioned earlier would prevent situations explained in Question 3.

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Ahmad • Coordination at Development from Pakistan

The corporate and capitalist economy reshaped the global face as a whole, a paradigm shift occurred which changed the prospect of world. The global priority agenda is remain and just focused to grab on the resources. The uniformity, unequal distribution of wealth and increasing poverty in the developing countries leads to a gloomy picture of disappointment. The rising consumer market, increasing standard of living and materialist development created so many complexities on the planet earth. The concept of competitive market, growth rate and monopolistic approach in the world economy creates and needs to address in effective manners. The humanitarian principles and agenda remain sluggish by the Stat functionaries though it is high priority of the humanitarian actors and organization even the think tanks don’t have much concern on the humanitarian core issues and environmental degradation. I believe only the awareness, increasing knowledge, education and implementation could not fulfill the desirous needs but the develop countries who are leading this world must think what would be the future of the planet. Can we needs a peaceful, respectful and prosperous world so that we must review our policy in this world half of the populations of the world are pushed into the war, conflict and violence why just for resources or to reshape just for their own agenda.

I think we must realize how will we get rid off to improve humanitarion support and mitigate the worsening enviornment of this wonder full land

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

,I believe only the awareness, increasing knowledge, education and implementation could not fulfill the desirous needs but the develop countries who are leading this world must think what would be the future of the planet - Ahmad, above highlights the critical components of why we are where we are, and how we are in search of a different economic paradigm, which may bring the necessary transformation. One thing is becoming clearer in our conversation is that the whatever transformation may come will not be the result of ONE magical solution, but synchronous small and big actions not only in one location. It calls to re-imagine our visualization of the planet as not a collection of bodies of water or land, but as an organic one.   

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Re-building Puerto Rico: The tragic devastation of Puerto Rico provides an opportunity to re-think development, and lay the infrastructures suitable to sustainability. 

Tesla CEO met with the Governor of Puerto Rico to discuss the re-building of energy system. Could this be a good beginning? Could Puerto Rico's devastation be an opportunity to plan and build for a new future? 

Any thoughts?

Rianne C. ten Veen • Consultant at Green Creation from Netherlands

Offers of support are most welcome, if also need to be studied carefully, especially when large and offered by a stakeholder which - by law! - has to focus on profit, as companies do: what's the small print of the donation? Is it indeed a donation, or strings attached (e.g. part-ownership/ request for privatisation)?!

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Saul Morales • research and analysis of human rights at Saul Morales from Mexico

Climate change can not be considered as an obstacle to sustainable development. This is because climate changes are different from human ideology

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Saul Morales • research and analysis of human rights at Saul Morales from Mexico

The existence, coexistence and survival of the human being are matters that require the factor of logic and coherence. Crossing the border of human capacity is dangerous. No law or ideology should cross this border

Saripalli Suryanarayana • from India

Are self-driving cars the future of mobility for disabled people?

Self-driving cars present fundamentally new ways to think about transportation and accessibility.Srikanth Saripalli | The Conversation/Last Updated at October 9, 2017 08:46 IST-

More innovations we need to locate and with stand the natural calamities happening due to climate changes.Innovate is the word. Speech recognition could be next technology.High wind standing buildings with long life could be another.

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Lal Manavado • Senior Advisor at undefined from Norway

Disasters and Environment; Enhancing the Felicity of Environment as a Method of Mitigating them


Before I comment on the issue, it would be useful to clarify what I refer to as a 'disaster' and the basic kinds of enhancing environmental felicity. My reason for this is quite simple. I think it could provide us a useful generic framework within which one could decide on the most appropriate to achieve our objective and the modes of their implementation with reference to a given set of problems and the resources at one's disposal.


My approach embodies a holistic approach which depends on real cooperation among people and institutional entities that are willing to work together for their mutual benefit, and not for commercial gain, nor yet for other partisan reasons.


It would be reasonable to suggest that any given disaster can be placed somewhere on the spectrum that ranges from purely natural disasters (tidal waves) or volcanic erruptions to those triggered off by the human hand such as a nuclear accident, 'collateral damage' resulting from armed conflict, etc. It will be seen that between the termini of this spectrum, we encounter other specific disasters of fairly slow onset which are triggered off by human activities mostly connected with commercial gain. The only exception I know here is flash floods due to slash and burn farming of the hill sides carried out by subsistance farmers.


It would be impossible to envisage a disaster-free world for we do not fully understand the variations in all natural phenomena that may influence our climate. But, there is no doubt that some of our actions have led to natural disasters like floods, drought, horrific desertification (ref. the Aral Sea disaster), etc., and untold number of disasters  in terms of human misery and death due to armed conflicts of every ilk. Some reductivist economists even argue that the Great War and the 2nd World War were motivated by the 'need' for coal and iron, hence the birth of the European Coal and Steel Union, the precursor of the EU. If they are right, then the modern competition for gain driven economy is surely a prime cause of two enormous disasters. Hence, it would be reasonable to suggest to reform current global economy by making it an activity motivated by mutual benefit, i.e., one based on an exchange of equitable real values.


Now, I would like to support my view of enhanced environmental felicity as a useful tool in disaster mitigation. Consider the following somewaht contrived situations.


Two men, one a beggar and the other a rich man with a sack of money are placed in a hot desert. They are alone, very far from each other and help from anybody. Naturally, their quality of life will decline equally until death intervenes. Here, the principal cause of their difficulty is their total inability to meet their fundamental need for nutrition, i.e., need for food and water. Likewise, it is easy to show that we have six fundamental needs of variying imprtance to sustaining a life of satisfaction and contentment. They are nutrition, health, education and security in their really inclusive sense, procreation, and what I have called our set of non-material needs that are met by aesthetic enjoyment, games and sprts, entertainment, etc. Please note I refer here to actual participation in games and sports for 'fun' and not for medals or money.


Let us look at our second contrived case. Before our two friends die, let us transfer them into a forest and still far apart and beyond help. Let us be charitable to our beggar and equip him with the knowledge of edible plants, forest fruits. Now both will have definitely improved their lot as to their climate, and even find some water to slake their thirst. The man with money bag might use it as a pillow, while the beggar would be much better off as he could satisfy at least a bit of his hunger.


So to the last scene.  We indulge our beggar with kowledge and skill needed to grow his food, build a shelter, some furniture etc. Then, let us transport both of our friends to a piece of fertile land but still far apart from each other and anyone else. Obviously, there will be no change in their quality of lives, for here the rich man is as incompetent as before, while the beggar lacks the material resources  like tools and seed required to make use of his knowledge and skill.


But, if we moved  them into some village, the man with the money bag will be much better off, not just because he has the money, but because there may be people who produce what he needs and are willing to exchange them for money. Apart from water, we might have to cook the food he may buy before he could satisfy his hunger. So, to meet his fundamental need for food, he must first procure and prepare it. Meeting one or both of those secondary needs may require him to have money. Hence, money is a tertiary need, and the mechanism of of its exchange i.e., economy is a tool serving a tertiary need. However big it may be, that's where the money bag belongs in spite of it being grossly over-valued.


After this digression, it will be easy to see how the material damage done by conflicts or other disasters to housing, hospitals, schools, communications, or obstruction of the services they offer result in a diminution of our quality of life. Please recall that housing offers us security from the inclemencies of the weather.


I suggest that apart from 'purely natural' disasters, our failure to give a clear value priority to meeting our fundamental needs rather than to a tertiary need i.e., acquisition of financial gain beyond what one could reasonably use in a life time coupled with an unreasonable desire for ease and inactivity has led us to produce items to sell at every cost at the expense of our environment and our own health as global warming, floods, the world-wide high incidence of the so-called NCD's and obesity amply witness.


I know that my assertion is contrary to the received notion of economy whatever the shade of green it may claimed to have. Let me now proceed to establish the inevitable link between qa variety of natural disasters and the loss of environmental felicity. It may even be argued that loss may lead to some forms of disastrous conflicts.


All living things require a certain amount of inorganic (air, water, mineral) and organic resources (dead or living tissue) and salubrious climatic conditions for the continued sustanence of their lives. The possibility of having this depends on the equilibrium between their use and replenishment for their availability is finite.


Their replenishment is brought about by natural processes like water, Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen cycles, organic degradation following death or predation. Please note that herbivores may be said to prey on plants. Therefore, a salubrious climate and an adequate availability of those inorganic and organic resources depend on the equilibrium among the living that would make the equilibrium between their uptake and making them available for repeated use possible.


This equilibrium among the living has a qualitative and a quantitative dimension. The former indicates their bio-diversity while the latter their sustainable individual populations. Unless the authority of some supra-natural agency is invoked, there is no evidence-based way to exclude man from this requirement. In animal sanctuaries where elephants live, it has been seen how their unchecked population increase has led to forested areas becoming arid Savana owing to excessive tree felling by the elephants,hence they are culled periodically. Easter island seem to provide a classic example of the disappearance of culture and great human impoverishment owing to drastic drop in rain fall due to deforestation brought about by excessive population growth. Similar conditions are said to prevail in Celebes )Selawesi I think) where in 2007 scientist  stated that more than 70% of unique flora has disappeared due to deforestation of an area with a rare soil composition.


At this point, we can identify three main categories of human behaviour that seriously affects the equilibrium between the available organic and inorganic resources and their replenishment, viz., over-population, the passive, almost institutionalised acceptance of giving a value priority to a tool than to the purpose that imparts to it a subsidiary value, i.e., seeking legally unlimited gain and thirdly never-ending search for physical ease and convenience.


When this desire for gain motivates the people while the population increases as it does today and the desire for unlimited physical ease and convenience gains more and more ground as a received social value, the stage is set for disasters galore. After all, ask a thousand people what they understand the words 'progress' and 'development' mean, how many will deny that economic growth, industrialisation, innovation (newest euphemism to describe another catalyst to promote those inverted received values)? Who will dare dismiss 'economic indicators' as fictions when it comes to the majority in developing countries and not to a few in the 'affluent' one's? And who will support or undertake to ascertain the loss of bio-diversity and floral and faunal populations of a country as it 'develops'?

I have rambled on a bit too long, and if I were to go on, it might not be easy to follow this line of reasoning. So for the moment, I will concluede by reiterating that current population growth, economy used as a tool to make legally unlimited gain through competition which exploits the desire for ever-increasing physical ease and convenience leads to a serious loss of equilibrium between the use and replenishment of organic and inorganic resources which in turn adversely affects the availability of those resources and salubrity of our climate. Insalubrious climate further depletes the availability of some of those  resources while high population growth and the two other factors deplete them. This climate of chronic shortages among the majority could easily trigger off conflicts under a variety of guises. In my follow-up to this comment, I would like to elaborate onthat.


Best wishes!


Lal Manavado.

Saripalli Suryanarayana • from India

It is great discussion Mr.Lal has described about many Physiological psychological systems in place.Meta Physics and human values are one set of concern,which can not stop the Contest of Miss Earth,or Miss universe.They need to continue. Hegel,Marx,Simon de bohr and of course Sigmund Freud have developed systems.But why do we forget the modern theories of Forensic Engineering.The material science and the back ground how things and developments are cornered.In human systems the cause for leading to success is as much important as much the cause for failures. Economics also has to deal for Human kindness and benefit.At the same time society has to find why latest and robust technologies are ignored,which can benefit human living.

Long life buildings may with stand many such and could empower the human life at many vulnerable places.

Fiyin Kolawole • Assistant National Coordinator at Nigeria Youth Action for Water from Nigeria

Interesting discussions,

I see many have talked about getting to the root of problems in the environment and humanitarian nexus. As a youth working with the Nigerian Youth Action for Water on SDG 6, I tried searching through, around my personal values, passion and talent if I could get to the root of all global problems and realized that Goals 12 and 17 will go a long way in achieving every other goal.


First if we consume and produce responsibly, then there will be more jobs, less hunger, cleaner energy, better education and good life on land and below water just to say a few. 

Moreover as the global leaders gather for the actualization of these goal, humanitarian efforts will only be tools of geopolitics rather than also solving the problems for which they were created.

That's why I've personally decided not to stand for any 'basic' SDG like Education or Poverty Reduction, but for Sustainability and Effective Development Partnership.


Multilateral organisations need to focus more on evaluating, redesignning and innovatively implementing their development efforts.

Fiyin Kolawole


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Lal Manavado • Senior Advisor at undefined from Norway


Towards Disaster Mitigation through Enhancing Environmental Felicity


Let me begin by emphasising that my views are not based on any metaphysical or any other brand of reductive 'theory or Philosophy' on any subject. It is simply founded on pragmatic notions that are open to be shown useful or otherwise. Moreover, they are not psychologistic in any way, be it Freudian or Skinnerian, and when I talk about human behaviour it just means what it is understood to be by anyone, like a man scratching his head or smiling at a child represents a piece of human behaviour.


Picking up from where I left off in my comment on the 10th, let us take a brief look at what represents a disaster. It will be generally agreed that it is an undesirable physical event that adversely affects a certain number of people in an area. This point is important as 'media' often refer to violent death of three or four people as a 'massacre' or Dumkopfdorf 'disaster'. In order to avoid such, let us agree that a disaster is an undesirable event that adversely affects a significant number of people in a certain minimal area, say a village, a province, or indeed a whole country.


Here again, we face two difficulties; what is a significant number of people, and what will be considered to be adverse enough to be termed disastrous? I suggest that the former should be left to the discretion of the authorities and people of the affected area. It is difficult to envisage any other pragmatic way of doing this without getting bogged down in fruitless debate.


Our next problem is to understand what is meant by being 'adversely' affected. Here, one could make an unending list, and by the time one is well underway with the enumeration, it might well be too late for many a victim. So, we need an inclusive categorising of disasters in order to mitigate them in a pre-emptive way. I think it would be reasonable to suggest that an adverse event is one that seriously interferes with one's capability to satisfy any one or more of our fundamental needs owing to the lack of materials needed for the purpose or injury. This interference will lead to varying degrees of pain, discomfort, dysfunction and even death. It may be sudden or gradual


Pre-emption requires a justifiable identification of what is to be prevented, viz., those adverse events we can reasonably judge to be disastrous. Here again, it is easy to dash off to pen and paper and begin a list. As always, such lists are so long, they provide a rich battle field for partisan interests rather than to any benefit to the poor potential victims. So, once more, let's look at the types of disaster in terms of their causes with a view to pre-empting them.


There is no way to pre-empt the natural disasters at one end of the spectrum like tidal waves, volcanic erruptions, etc. Their early prediction facilitates our actions to avoid or mitigate their undesirable consequences to people, but that worthy purpose is beyond the scope of my brief.


So, we are left with two categories of disastrous events; first, the natural events that may be catalysed by human action like flash floods and global warming, and human actions of commission or ommission whose results are disastrous either in the short or the long run.


The perceptive reader will note at once some of those acts are those which catalyse the type of disastrous event described in the first category. For instance, deforestation of the hill sides results in silting up of the water ways that causes frequent disastrous flash floods. On the other hand, acts of group violence armed conflicts of any sort entails may turn out to be disastrous to some but its resolution which should be immediate is outside our brief.


However, a previous or a present activity like deforestation may lead to an event such as a reduction in a water supply from a source shared by two or more groups. This may trigger off a violent group conflict, and its resolution will require an environmental component to ameliorate the water shortage that caused the strife. Thus, in some disastrous conflicts, enhancing the environment may be an essential part of ensuring a lasting peace between groups. Such groups may constitute village communities, regions or nations.


Now, we have identified a key point in conflict resolution, i.e., some human actions may directly or indirectly lead to situations that makes it difficult for some people to meet some of their most important fundamental needs, viz., nutrition, health, security and education. Procreation and the non-material needs do not have the same urgency as the previous ones. For the sake of completeness, let me add that human actions as bad government, corruption, etc., may have the same effect, but they while may not always lead to the kind of disaster that are amenable to environmental enhancement. When they do, they are categorically the same as the ones described earlier. When they are not, it is a question of unethical conduct involving gross derelection of their duty.


How do some of our actions catalyse or trigger off physical events that lead to disaster? Once we identify this pathway, we can design appropriate techniques required to counter them. Such methods fall into two basic categories; preventive ones involving changing our behaviour patterns that may precipitate adverse environmental changes, and curative ones concerned with repairing as far as it is humanly possible the environmental damage already done.


What has been done so far, and what is generally advocated can be placed in two categories; first to do the very same things that led to the current situation in a 'green' way, which is merely a contradiction in terms as it will be shown below, and the second is to put the blame on the tools and methods used to satisfy our fundamental needs (eg. old methods of agriculture for nutrition) or some secondary needs (eg. cars with low gas milage, incandescent bulbs, etc.). It is curious the experts have ignored that it is we who invented those and used them and both actions represents a piece of human behaviour. Obviously it is desirable to change that behaviour, but let us recall that our behaviour is motivated by our belief that it would enable us to gain some desirable end. If we keep that belief and think only about how to achieve the same end and just change the tools used for the purpose, we can hardly hope to expect them to have the preventive and curative effects we want. At best, they are mildly palliative.


So far in this discussion, only Sra. Vollmer in Venezuela has focused on the root of the problem and proposes the only effective solution, viz., our behaviour which cannot be fruitfully modified by punitive legislation, may be transformed by inculcating into people a system of sound secular ethics to guide their lives through education from an early age. It is not worthwhile to go into cosmetic measures like 'green taxation' and such humourous political antics, but if punitive legislation is to arrest environmental degradation to a noticeable degree, it should concentrate on achieving a drastic cut in current consumerism. For a start, a ban on colourful advertisements on television, newspapers, magazines, etc., 'commercial promotions', etc., would repay the authorities much at a slight cost and the customers will gain billions of Dollars from their purchases which otherwise would go to advertising companies that produce nothing more than images and sounds.


Polemics apart, let us now proceed to link up certain types of our behaviour with the environmental distress that brings about changes in it that have disastrous consequences for us. As mentioned in my previous comment, a salubrious climate and the availability of certain inorganic and organic resources is essential to the existence of life on earth. It would be justifiable to call those ecosystem services for convenience. Salubriousness of the climate for a set of living things depends on the physical stability of where they live. Moreover, its lack may even bring about injury or death. Earth quakes and floods are such dramatic physical changes in our habitat. So, it would be fair to say physical stability is also one of the ecosystem services even though it does not seem to be included in the current definition. I will even advocate salubrity of the climate as an ecosystem service, for temperature and rainfall are much influenced by the topology and constituents of earth's surface, especially with reference to solar heat exchange between earth and space and the distribution of moisture in the atmosphere.


This solar heat exchange is regulated by the composition of earth's surface and the composition of its atmosphere. Predominance of green covering seems to promote such a heat exchange conducive to a felicitous temperature, and rain fall while its removal has the opposite effect. Even though representative measurings of the rates of heat exchange from different types of ocean areas is not available, laws of Physics dictate that topical sea growths like some diatoms may retard abnormal heating of the ocean surface whose consequences are well established.


In addition to our interference with the its surface cover, we have added roads and buildings which have a deleterious effect on solar heat exchange. This is more than evident in the changes in the 'micro-climate' of any newly urbanised area. Building and roofting materials in current use do not replicate the heat exchange patterns of green cover. This is an area where worthwhile research in material science may be carried out with a view to practical use.


Even though our nutrition is mainly from food yielded by agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries, it is crucial to remember that fruit, vegetables, fish, meat etc., all derive from plant and animal sources who are subject to the requirements necessary to maintain the two equilibria discussed before. Aral Sea disaster exemplifies the terrible consequences of diverting a river that supplies a lake and using artificial fertiliser and irrigation to grow cash crops in a huge area only suited to normadic grazing as the indigenous people have done for centuries.


Moreover, our indifference to how we make material gains, achieve greater ease and convenience or ‘keep up with the ‘Johnses’, has resulted in phenomena like excessiv emissions of ‘green house gases’, compounds that deplete the Ozone-layer, and polution by chemical, nuclear and general waste products have led to global warming, drought, heat waves deleterious to health, food shortages, etc. It is clear that the effect on these on the two equilibria I have mentioned in my previous comment, will be a severe diminution of the ecosystem services on a large to a limited scale.


Another adverse influence on those two equilibria is large scale monoculture (eg. Corn Belt in the US and Pampa south of Buenos Aires), some dams, excessive use of aquifers, unknown long-term effects of GMO’s on genetically unmodified plants and animals, and any other large-scale environmental alteration like drainage of marsh lands, building of housing estates, etc. All these activities upset those equilibria through toxicity, physical elimination of some species needed to sustain them, or by making some species to predominate greatly (eg. Irresponsible domestic garbage disposal that promote the multiplication of rats).

At this point, it must be kept in mind that whatever innovation we make to ‘improve’ what is in use today, and seek ‘development’ in current economic/industrial terms while human population rapidly grows, all we are doing is to slow down ourselves moving to wards a global catastrophe whose nearness is indicated by the universal loss of human quality of life and cultural diversity, not to mention the imbalance in those equilibria our very presence in such numbers entail.


Here, we can blind ourselves with innovations, technology of every shade forgetting two things. First, we overlook that we are an integral part of nature and nearly all inventions are ‘tools designed to fight nature’, a view that may have been understandable during the Stone Age owing to our ignorance and helplessness, In spite of our atom and gene splitting, we refuse to admit that ‘cutting edge technology’ applies only to the improvement of the good old stone tools, but the purposes for which they were useful remains unaltered.


Secondly, as a species of animal potentially able to live in harmony with our environment through cooperation and thereby able to derive a greater satisfaction from life than by only satisfying physical needs and avoiding pain and danger like the rest of brute creation, our acceptance of techno-industrial development as the way forward, we elect to compete for existence more like our anthropoid ancestors.


Perhaps, it is using this strange received conceptual apparatus that makes it impossible for us to see the forest for trees and still be proud of it. If we should continue on our present course, Orwell’s “1984” may be come reality, and the impetus of our movement coupled with our increasing acceptance of subsidiary values as the primary ones will take us to Huxley’s “Brave New World” whence we can only look forward to merciful extinction. The greatest irony is that if we should approach that disaster none would regard it as one, for none living then would be capable of knowing what we have lost long ago.


After such a prophecy of doom from fast graying but still colourful world, I will not elaborate on environmental regeneration like re-forestation with indigenous species (never use foreign ‘fast growing’ ones), support local food culture, carefully improve local building techniques, promote cultural diversity, enhance the local bio-diversity (re-introduction of lost species and de-toxification of the habitat, etc), refuse to support trade competition for profit, etc.


Just a word on the ‘hows’, because the ‘what to do’s’ have been known for a considerable time. Using the terms ‘global, regional and local’ in their technical sense, policies on ‘hows’ must embody a hierarchy of levels reflecting an increasing specificity and a decreasing generality which accords with the actual distribution of authority in real life. Their design ought to involve real cooperation among those levels free of rhetoric, euphemisms and jargon. Policies and their means of implementation at every level should embody the greatest possible harmony within and among them. Well, after my bad imitation of Hieronymus Bosch in words, I seem to have plunged into optimism. It only shows that every now and then some impulse makes even the professional pesimists get tired of their pesimism, and perhaps it might soon impel the indifferent multitude to think about the soundness of their values and act as it befits reasonable people.




Lal Manavado.



Saripalli Suryanarayana • from India

What i meant is not to mean a discussion.The roots of development also ignore the roots of destruction.Both are side by side.When we remember the 19 th century logic we will be behind to ensure a logic and a  input to the algorithm,which is a list of numbers.

The logic is some where in technology and also in nature.If we leave the natural happenings and believe only in technology or either way the harmony will not be attained.We are now flooded with fiat currency and that much with food stocks.In return the food is making each to generate their kith and kin.How best what best can we achieve is a logical situation.And the situation is some times precarious with many rejecting the others idea.Where all minds meet is possibly when some one experiments.

The  factors the world today accepts apart from the two discussed is housing and modern systems of transport with new fuels,living life with parks and open spaces.

That will take away the tensions we discussed in Habitat-3.Then comes the earning and employment.That each nation is planning as per their plans and the leaders are more practical.

The water and irrigation and drinking systems and public health many nations are addressing with help of others.Where they are in standards,the food production is ample and so the population is increasing.

The logic is how to make others walk through and how best the vulnerable populations needs to be protected.Disaster preparedness has to be addressed.India is seeing cloud bursts during last 45 days in Mumbai,Hyderabad and in Bangalore.The roads are flooded.Pot holes have become common.Rain flowing in to roads,low lying areas,and in to low level houses.

Indian homes are today well designed and are capable to with stand many storms.But affordability for many may not be in reach,and government is ,since long ,compensating such people in money terms.

Let us wait for more solar power use in these parts of world,till such time,the countries accept either the TGT or SMR reactors for such large landscape developed cities.Till then carbon emissions may reduce but not eradicate from the air particles.

Water storage systems improve and storage increases with recycling the waste water after treatment.

We have to advance we can not look back and again try to find the past things,with out application of very modern thought.

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Fiyin Kolawole of Nigeria writes above: First if we consume and produce responsibly, then there will be more jobs, less hunger, cleaner energy, better education and good life on land and below water just to say a few. As one goes through the posts above it is abundantly clear that all are agreeing on one thing: the solution for the environmental crisis primarily lies in the civil society, and not necessarily in the hands of the government institutions. It is the individual person that makes the difference. The economist Galbraiht in his writings states that a GDP driven economy produces goods that are really not necessary for human satisfaction, and we consume them (The Affluent Society, 1958). May be we have to start re-thinking about the GDP driven economy...

This "change of heart" can happen only at a local level, at a village level. Policy makers will respond to the changed societal value. Democratic political societies, by and large, follow the demands of the people; if enough people demand "change," such policies will follow.

Lal Manavado wrote above passionately and elegantly about many dimensions of the environmental crisis... It comes down to the individual with a better understanding of the consequences of his and her actions.


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Maiju Ranta • Project Manager at Hecho por Nosotros from Argentina

Dear all, very interesting talks here, indeed.

Mr Kolawole’s brilliantly noted how SDG 12 on responsible consumerism and production lies at the core of sustainable development. Consumerism and production is also the place we can find the environmental – humanitarian nexus. Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we take the environment into account - that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. For instance, agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater for human use. The efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are all important targets to sustainable development.

How to strengthen those partnerships? As stated previously, the importance of civil society taking the lead cannot be undermined. Also, we should not leave other levels aside. Instead, we should aim for inclusive, cross-cutting dialogues and partnership, cutting through civil society, business world, and governmental level. Encouraging policy level actors, industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste is equally important. Especially in the industry, consumption and production context, we should investigate the possibilities of transparency and how transparency could advance not only development, but also partnerships though trust that is created as a side product of transparency activities and dialogues that are involved in transparency.

All SDGs interact with one another – they are an integrated set of global priorities and objectives that are fundamentally interdependent.

Maybe the humanitarian aspect is the core of sustainable development – and partnerships. A condition needed for partnerships, and eventually sustainable development.



Gale Mohammed-Oxley, OP • Managing Director at G.O International Academy of Learning from Trinidad and Tobago

Well said Lal.

I enjoyed your defense for your ideas and comment. The problem with some of us as academia we become so embroiled in our own voices that the mirror is cloudy and we create an image for us to see instead of what is actually their. This is the encounter taking place in our global village today. This hub is giving me lots of food for thought as we explore different aspects of our topic. I observe participants addressing the issue of 'values' and we are pointed to civil society by our moderator but I beg the question is civil society that responsible? Do they have the type of resources to address some of these long and medium term issues? They cannot do it alone just as government cannot do it alone.

There is need to address the balance between Governing bodies (not just government) as some governing bodies include civil society leaders. Who appoints who as government is elected. Who is accountable to whom as government is accountable in parliament. There is only one day that democracy is practiced - election day after which all decisions are made by a party and its supporters.

The Humanitarian issue comes about because we have differing standards, culture and appreciation of and respect for the transcendent in the human. Moving forward would mean that we have to develop a spectrum to guide states and persons towards achieving the summit.

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Ann Thomas • from Switzerland

With regards to reducing disaster impact and making humanitarian relief more sustainable, there are a number of recommendations that have been made. The correlation and impact of humanitarian relief actions on the environment are very clear. We have seen in all too many relief operations that the environment was further affected negatively, be it through deforestation, groundwater depletion or poor disaster waste management.

This can be improved by proceeding with more caution when carrying out such operations. Studies done on Haiti and Nepal are only 2 of many examples where the use of Rapid Environmental Assessments was limited or not existant at all. REA needs to be utilized right at the outset of a disaster and thorough monitoring needs to be conducted throughout operations in order to ascertain whether the recommendations had an impact and act accordingly in future.

We need to push for more environmental awareness and knowledge in terms of improving contact between national environmental authorities and international humanitarian organizations. This could improve the extent to which environmental interventions can be contextualized. Humanitarian Country Teams need to immediately be involved in an affected country because they will have the broadest knowledge of the impact. It is by sharing our expertise, data and knowledge that we develop more sustainable solutions and build long-term resilience instead of short-term stability.

Basilio Monteiro • Director, Institute for International Communication, St. John's University, NY, USA at Institute for International Communications - St John's University from United States Moderator

Gale Mohammed-Oxley makes a reflective observation: The problem with some of us as academia we become so embroiled in our own voices that the mirror is cloudy and we create an image for us to see instead of what is actually there. We live in academic, technocratic, professional echo-chambers. The crux of the dialogue is to break down these self-inflicted barriers and open for a conversation. Solution to the environmental crisis will not come from one "silo," but, from collaboration from all sectors.

About the role of the civil society: Gale Mohammed-Oxley is correct in raising the question about the capacity of the civil society to influence and shape environmental policies. My thinking is that civil society is good at 'values" based transformation, which can move the governments to develop appropriate policies. Is there a critical mass of civil society in various nation-states to be the trend setter?

Ann Thomas makes a point to highlight that 'We need to push for more environmental awareness and knowledge in terms of improving contact between national environmental authorities and international humanitarian organizations." Awareness and social responsibility in consumption may be just one step to begin with. Nordic countries  and Western European countries in general are good examples how civil society can be the catalyst to compel the governments to institute necessary policies. Let us think "glocal."

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