Towards Sustainability, Amidst Political Unrest in Egypt

Castro's comments on Egypt

Yesterday Fidel Castro wrote an opinion piece in Escambray, Cuba's digital newspaper commenting on the situation in Egypt. He made an obvious but valid point in saying that, "for the first time the world is simultaneously facing three problems: climate crises, food crises and political crises." He also pointed out that, "the risk of increasingly destructive war is very real." War trumps ethical consumption which brings me to my next point.

Egypt's Economics

Egypt's economic development was strong even during the global financial crisis. This year its GDP was projected to be 6% however, underneath all this many problems have been festering. Its deficit is about 8% of GDP and it has a high food inflation rate of 17%. According to the World Bank, about 40% of the population live below the poverty line with unemployment at 25%. Now with the socio-political turmoil,  the country has lost quarter of its market value.

The country's tourism sector has been badly hit and recovery is not on the horizon for many months. This has not only affected the country's economy but implications are being felt world over. Brent crude topped more than $102 a barrel which was a 28-month high. Reuters reports that there are worries, "that the flare-ups in Egypt could spread across the Middle East and North Africa, source of more than a third of the world's oil."

Political Unrest is Not Conducive for Environmentalism

All this does not set the stage to promote environmentalism and sustainability leave alone ethical consumerism. Egypt's economic growth depends on foreign investors, tourists and shipping through the Suez Canal. Whilst all of these avenues provide opportunity to promote cleaner business models, it will be difficult to execute against a backdrop of unemployment and political unrest.

Whilst some analysts predict that the current situation will blow over and reveal a more united stance among the North African countries, others are worrying about the immediate future. This is one of those situations that will get worse before it gets better.

Implications of Possible Suez Closure

Possible closure of the Suez Canal has environmental implications for those companies using this route and may hamper carbon targets. Around 35,000 ships a year travel via the canal, making it one of the most important cargo routes in the world. If the Canal is closed, ships moving between Asia and Europe have to go around Africa's Cape of Good Hope adding 6000 miles to the journey. Any disruption to this route is likely to affect Europe more than the US.

Looking to the Future

The future for Egypt does provide many avenues for sustainable development especially because its economy is so tourism-intensive. Models of sustainable tourism offers many opportunities to improve infrastructure in the industry. The shipping industry also provides opportunity to become less carbon intensive. Investing in sustainable growth in these sectors will not only ensure job opportunities for the unemployed, but will also see that long-term goals are met.

Political Unrest and Sustainability

World over, two of the biggest deterrants towards a more sustainable future are poverty and the increasing incidences of political unrest. These two are not always mutually exclusive but they both contribute towards instability and diversion of resources.  Whilst it is not impossible to focus on using socio-enviro development to tackle issues like poverty, it makes it that much more harder with unstable governments.

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