Climate Resilience:
It Is About Time!

Editorial by Dr Dyhia Belhabib

On the 14th of December 2006, while people in North America were thinking about their Christmas budget issues, we could read in the New York Times that “Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia grid for war”. In other news, we also read about horrific droughts, Somalis dying of famine, and again those same Islamist groups banning aid from entering the country, and for those who have successfully fled to become refugees, they were facing cholera and measles outbreaks in 2011.

At the same time, I was in Algeria reading about westerners killed by terrorist groups in Algeria, and how Algeria worked on strengthening their “friendship” with France, and signing an agreement in which Algeria was to export 3 billion m3 of natural gas to France, for pennies on the dollar, while the country engages in strategies to promote exports outside of the oil and gas sector. This duplicity in policies is reflected in this winter edition’s piece by Le Billon addressing issues about COP26 and extractivist ill adapted policies that will hinder climate targets.

Quite divergent pieces of information, and yet there was a common pattern. I cannot pretend I was thinking about the link between Somalia and Algeria then, except for the fact that they were both African countries and as such, there is a stereotype that must be somewhat true. They were poor, and prone to conflict, and climate catastrophes that likely revolved around droughts. I remember thinking about how unjust it was that France was still abiding by its neocolonial practices enabled by a corrupt Algerian State, and how it was unfair that people had to pay the toll. The black decade in which an estimated 300,000 Algerians lost their lives to terror, was supposed to be over. Why are those extremist terror groups still at it?

How does terror, violence, and conflict play into that? A common feature of these extremist groups, put simply, is that they were born as a byproduct of popular frustration because of poverty, resource scarcity, and “natural” disasters, in contrast to a reality where wealth is concentrated in the hands of those who are perceived as, and certainly are, power abusers. Those same terror groups have and will continue to profit from climate driven resource scarcity and shape the realities that people have to survive in on a daily basis. In turn, those realities will play a major role in defining resilience and power dynamics within communities.
In 2011, on one of my journeys back to Algeria for a shopping spree in the center of the country, we were stopped by a group of people that had blocked the highway as a form of protest against the government’s inaction on water scarcity caused by yet another drought. We were rerouted and had to cross the “Green Belt '', a forest that was planted to separate the North of the country from the Sahara desert to reduce desertification. After being lost for hours, scared by the impeding smell of smoke indicating wild fires nearby, we finally encountered a fire truck, which ironically refused to stop because they thought we were terrorists. I am here today, so that story ended well.

However, as Wehliye mentions in her conversation with Glaser, we don’t necessarily make much of it at the time and don’t link those issues back to climate change. The reality is that the climate crisis is here, and it has been here for a long time. There is no more margin for warning. This Edition of Poplar & Ivy explores the impacts of climate change and strategies for resilience using a diverse set of tones. Tree planting on farm lands and the strategy of planting fire retardants strikes home for me. Modern cultures are increasingly influenced by Traditional Ecological Knowledge, in such a way that big organizations such as the Nature Conservancy promote the adoption of traditional techniques to prevent fire spread in New Caledonia. Traditional communities in East Africa have embedded the climate narrative in their socio-economic practices, often without the need to be explicit, while fishing communities in West Africa deplore the impacts they see on a daily basis which translate into loss of lives and livelihoods. These articles hit really close to home, particularly because of the climate catastrophes we have experienced this year in British Columbia, Canada. Significant chunks of rainforests were destroyed by wildfires in the summer, which has wiped out major ecosystems that could in turn have prevented the mudslides we are experiencing this winter as climate driven floods increased. People died, and the economy was drastically impacted. The threat of resource scarcity has resulted in a wave of panic buying of essential food products emptying the shelves and further lowering the resilience of communities across the mainland.

Appeals to save children from climate driven famine and resource scarcity have today hit the northern hemisphere and there is much to learn about strategies for adaptation and resilience from these stricken communities.

How to cite this page:

Belhabib, D. (2021). Climate Resilience: It Is About Time! [online] Shackletontrust.org. Available at: https://www.shackletontrust.org/climate-resilience-it-is-about-time. https://doi.org/10.54823/sdw3w1cv