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An Oasis in Morrocco Is the Canary in the Coal Mine of Climate Change


At Spiegel Online, Raphael Thelen profiles the oasis of M’Hamid El Ghizlane in southern Morocco, which has experienced devastating changes over the past few decades due to global warming. Crop yields have plummeted, water has become scarce, and the population has dwindled as a result. Thelen suggests that what is happening in M’Hamid El Ghizlane is a preview of what is to come across the entire region of North Africa, which could eventually become uninhabitable. Here’s an excerpt:

Sbai’s ancestors once defended the oasis against French colonial rulers and corrupt officials and Sbai now sees himself playing a similar role. But the enemy has become more diffuse, more threatening – and far more difficult to fight.

Climate change is often said to be too big to grasp, the changes too subtle to be perceived. But the oasis city of M’Hamid El Ghizlane is a kind of canary in the coal mine – an early warning system for the people in this region. It’s already possible to observe here today what will soon threaten millions of people throughout the entire Mediterranean region, including Southern Europe.

Drinking water is disappearing. Unrest, sickness and poverty are driving people from their homes, and conflicts are escalating. As the European Union warned in its most recent report on climate change, some parts of humanity could be wiped out completely. Sbai knows the dangers. He’s doggedly fighting for the oasis, planting palms and protecting their most valuable commodity: water.

Image: M’Hamid El Ghizlan, Morocco. Via Spiegel Online.