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World Drought Issues


How Goes the Rest of the World?

We've talked at some length about drought issues in the U.S. and the impacts that the drought will have on our daily lives, our agricultural future, and even whether or not we may have to abandon some population centers. All of those are concerns, and we now increasingly see news stories that validate these analyses and the facts that back them up.

But what about the rest of our Spaceship Earth?

This analysis will be an extremely brief overview of drought issues across the planet. It will be based upon this chart from NASA that gives a graphic and pretty stark representation of what we face.

The US.

As we can see from the chart, North America has several areas under stress. California has been much in the news due to its agricultural importance and fire danger. The SouthEast has recently experienced a drought-enhanced wildfire swarm that was unheard-of just years ago. The MidWest has wide swaths of land under stress. Some of those have been well-publicized, others not so much.


We in the U.S. are fairly familiar with Australia's issues. Our perception of the Australian Outback is one of desert and vast regions without water or population. The chart makes it clear why this is. What's maybe not apparent is how Australia responded. They responded by understanding that the central region probably could not be influenced by development activities, and focused population support on the coasts. As a result, 19 desalination plants are in operation around the coastal regions, supplying much of their water.


Take a look at the vast region of stressed areas across Siberia. Ever heard about these on the news? Me neither. This is mostly likely be cause of how sparsely the area is populated, but that doesn't mean in any way that these areas won't impact the rest of the world in some way sooner or later. Stay tuned.

The Arabian Peninsula.

Note the giant swath of drought that exists across Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other smaller countries in the region. Although we like to frame conflict within this area and with other regions as being due to religious differences, good vs. evil, etc., the simplest answer is that Middle East conflict and the ongoing wars are a result of drought and lack of water to support their societies.


To truly frighten yourself, look at Africa. Some of the issues we know about--across Libya and Egypt, these areas have been deserts since beyond our collective memory and written history. But check out the rest of the country. Africa as a continent is home to 1.2 billion people. What happens when a significant part of that population has no access to water? So far, it has expressed itself in several ways, including:

  • Periodic genocides of Race A vs. Race B. Which race is which is less important the fact that the races are battling over survival due to shortage of water.
  • The rush for refugees to leave the Middle East and Northern Africa to mainland Europe to find a better life. That 'better life' is usually presented as being driven by economic opportunity or escape from religious persecution, but when one drills down to the essence, it's a conflict over access to water. Europe has adequate water (so far). Africa and the Middle East don't. That's what it's all about.

So what happens when this spreads? Refugee camps where minimal water is shipped in to maintain life is not a sustainable option. Yet 26 percent of refugees worldwide are currently in Africa. And there doesn't appear to be a solution.

Stark Realism.

Everyone hates stark realism. It's like Maleficent looking into the magic mirror and finding out that she was not the most beautiful in the land. Our civilization is not the most beautiful in the land--and we won't be until we accept factual data and realism as our guiding light and act accordingly. Right now, we're far, far from doing that.

But we need to. The chart makes it clear why.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.