We Need Peace in the Middle East


John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service

We Need Solidarity to Face Future Stress

Stress can produce conflict. For example shortages of food or water can lead to regional wars.  But wars only make original problems worse. Today the world is facing a number of severe problems, and solidarity will be needed to minimize the suffering with which we and future generations are threatened. The problems include shortages of fresh water, rising temperatures due to climate change, and food insecurity. These problems are especially acute in the Middle East, a region that is already torn by bitter conflicts and wars. In order to successfully minimize suffering, it is vital that peace be achieved in the Middle East. Let us look at some of the problems in detail:

Shortages of Fresh Water

It is estimated that two thirds of the world’s peoples currently live under water stress for at least one month each year. Half a billion people now suffer from water shortages and stress for the entire year. Half of the world’s large cities are currently plagued by water scarcity, and the situation is expected to get worse.

Under many desert areas of the world are deeply buried water tables formed during glacial periods when the climate of these regions was wetter. These regions include the Middle East and large parts of Africa. Water can be withdrawn from such ancient reservoirs by deep wells and pumping, but only for a limited amount of time.

In oil-rich Saudi Arabia, petroenergy is used to drill wells for ancient water and to bring it to the surface. Much of this water is used to irrigate wheat fields, and this is done to such an extent that Saudi Arabia exports wheat. The country is, in effect, exporting its ancient heritage of water, a policy that it may, in time, regret.

Lethal Heat Events

A new study by C. Mora et al., “Global Risk of Deadly Heat”, published in Nature: Climate Change, on 19 June, 2017, has warned that up to 75% of the world’s population could face deadly heat waves by 2100 unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly controlled. The following is an excerpt from the article:

“Based on the climatic conditions of those lethal heat events [studied], we identified a global threshold beyond which daily mean surface air temperature and relative humidity become deadly. Around 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed to climatic conditions exceeding this deadly threshold for at least 20 days a year.

“By 2100, this percentage is projected to increase to 48% under a scenario with drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and 74% under a scenario of growing emissions. An increasing threat to human life from excess heat now seems almost inevitable, but will be greatly aggravated if greenhouse gases are not considerably reduced.”

Food Insecurity

Unless efforts are made to stabilize and ultimately reduce global population, there is a serious threat that climate change, population growth, and the end of the fossil fuel era could combine to produce a large-scale famine by the middle of the 21st century.

As drought reduces food production, as groundwater levels fall in China, India, the Middle East and the United States; and as high-yield modern agriculture becomes less possible because fossil fuel inputs are lacking, the 800 million people who are currently undernourished may not survive at all.

According to a report presented to the  Oxford Institute of Economic Policy by Sir Nicholas Stern on 31 January, 2006, areas likely to lose up to 30% of their rainfall by the 2050’s because of climate change include much of the United States, Brazil, the Mediterranean region, Eastern Russia and Belarus, the Middle East, Southern Africa and Southern Australia.

Modern agriculture has become highly dependent on fossil fuels, especially on petroleum and natural gas. This is especially true of production of the high-yield grain varieties introduced in the Green Revolution, since these require especially large inputs of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation.

Today, fertilizers are produced using oil and natural gas, while pesticides are synthesized from petroleum feedstocks, and irrigation is driven by fossil fuel energy. Thus agriculture in the developed countries has become a process where inputs of fossil fuel energy are converted into food calories. Therefore there is a threat that the end of the fossil fuel era may produce a very large-scale famine.

The End of the Fossil Fuel Era

The fossil fuel era is ending. The extraction and use of petroleum and natural gas must certainly end within a century because these resources will be exhausted within a hundred years. However, we must remember that human society and the biosphere are threatened by the existential risk of catastrophic climate change unless immediate steps are taken to stop the extraction a burning of fossil fuels. Therefore, one way or another, the fossil fuel era will end. On hopes, for the sake of future generations, that it will end very quickly. The end of the fossil fuel era will have an especially great impact on the Middle East because so many economies of the region are based on oil. Ways must be found to diversify these economies.

Steps towards Peace in the Middle East

One of the most important steps towards peace in the Middle East would be to guarantee the security of all the peoples and countries of the region. Perhaps a coalition of the United States, the European Union, Russia and China could act as guarantors.

A nuclear-free Middle East would be highly desirable, but difficult to achieve.

Palestinians who wish to leave Israel or Lebanon should be allowed to do so, and they should be welcomed by the Arab states of the region, where jobs for them should be provided.

These steps could help the Middle East to achieve peace, and peace is urgently needed so that the serious future problems mentioned above can be faced with solidarity.

Books and Articles on Global Problems

Many freely downloadable articles and books on global problems can be found on the following two links:



Please circulate the links to your friends and contacts who might be interested.


John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent books are Information Theory and Evolution and Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century (pdf).

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Oct 2019.

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One Response to “We Need Peace in the Middle East”

  1. I love John Avery’s writing. I do however disagree with a statement ata the start of this article. “Stress can produce conflict. For example shortages of food or water can lead to regional wars. ”
    In my long life, I have observed hundreds of conflicts in countries with ‘shortages of food or water’. My question always was – and is – “how come Government has no money to feed its people and provide clean drinking water, but have money to buy huge arsenals costing billions?”

    I have also wondered why poor countries are given or loaned millions by richer countries, for them to spend on arsenals and on armies to go on killing expeditions, to kill and to die?.

    In short, my view is the reverse to Dr. Avery’s, that is that “conflicts generate food and water shortages, as well as stress”. And conflicts are created by politicians, for a variety of personal and commercial reasons I’ll not go into now.

    Dr. Avery’s view’s on the Middle East leave me quite perplexed. He says “One of the most important steps towards peace in the Middle East would be to guarantee the security of all the peoples and countries of the region.”. It is precisely the “Security” of those nations that keep their “Insecurity” alive, with so many wars going on, to the delight of the Arms Trade.

    Militarism destroys our planet more than Nature does.