Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Note on Syria: An Exponential Case Study?

Been a bit hard not think about Syria. There have been a spat of articles regarding the pre civil drought in Syria. The drought caused a great deal of economic hardship and brought about significant internal and external refugee pressures. Sometimes climate does cause societal shifts. This idea is not new, but it will be very worthwhile to look back and wonder at what might have been done differently from a national security perspective. NASA was tracking the drought very early on.

The USDA recognized in 2008 that what was happening in the north of Syria was likely a bigger problem than Syria could handle.

And the early consequences were being published widely by 2010 (

Besides the drought anther factor that sometimes gets mentioned in discussions of the Middle East is the population of the Middle East doubled between 1950 and 1980 and since 1980 it has doubled again. The population increase combined with the lack of social mobility due to small boundaries, tribal issues, cultural issues and simply a lack of anywhere else to go set Syria up for a crisis that the country simply could not handle.  

Predicting the future is a tough business. But when the US military cites global climate change as a major threat to US security, they may now have an all too real recent example to point to. And add to that population increases and what that really means when up against a resource (food) subject to climate disruption.

Kurt Kobb, an energy and oil resources writer brings attention to Al Bartlett's lecture on exponential function and population and energy with the statement, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."  

1 comment:

Geoff said...

Add to this tragedy, is a degraded landscape caused by 20,000 years of human habitation without taking care of the soil. Which is why the fertile crescent is no longer fertile. There is no A or B horizon to soils, and no moisture holding capacity to the mountains, watersheds or valleys. In US conservation history, it was always the issue of taking care of the soil, as the civilizations of the mid-East, did not. Then add exponential change.