Environmental degradation, employment loss, poverty, anger. This could well be one way to look at today's burning North Africa. Not only is the region politically fragile, it is also environmentally vulnerable. Climate change and water scarcity are already crisis.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, which produces some of the most important research on climate change, says by the end of the century, temperatures may rise here by as much as 4 degrees.
The World Bank says by 2050, water in the North Africa and West Asian region will fall by 20 to 30%. The problem with all this is that it will make the poor poorer because they will have less access to resources, suffer illness for want of basics like clean water and pay more for a scarce, but essential commodity. Added to this intense pollution, as the air quality remains unchecked.
In Cairo, the air turns acrid for weeks as rural paddy fields are burned annually. How many workdays and income do people forgo when they suffer respiratory illness? A World Bank estimate for Tunisia, where the Jasmine Revolution just took place a few weeks back, (which ignited North Africa), is that the cost of environmental degradation is 2.1% of the GDP.
Green issues do not figure among the protestors' demand in the region. But their woes are closely linked to the environment. For the Arab world, coming closer to the aam aadmi's aspirations is key to its environmental sustainability.
Spring, and avian romance, is in the air. In India, several birds are preparing for courtship. Look at the brighter colours emerging and markings of male birds, like wagtails, and hear the additionally chirping. I believe this is one of the most beautiful visual months. But where will these birds breed? Habitats everywhere are being developed, and the comforts we seek come at a steep price for other species.