Will Iceland’s Absurdist Comic Mayor Run for a Staid Second Term?

Foreign Policy has just published my article on the serious choice facing Reykjavik’s funny mayor.

Jon Gnarr has to make a decision. The former punk rocker, former stand-up comedian, former joke protest candidate, and current mayor of Reykjavik is approaching the end of his first term in office. Recent polls put his party, the ironically named Best Party, at 37 percent, making him the likely winner. In August, he posted a question on his Facebook page, “Elections next spring. What do you think?” and linked to a video of The Clash classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

On Thursday, Oct. 31, he will announce whether he’ll stand again. “I have been thinking about how I would run again,” he says. “Would I promise two polar bears? And Legoland? And free everything for everybody? Because that’s what we ran on, just promise: Tell us what you want and we’ll promise.”

Read the rest.

The Glaciers Are Still Melting

When the IPCC retracted its prediction that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, Foreign Policy asked me to re-examine my Kashmir reporting. Here’s what I wrote.

Last summer, I wrote an article for this magazine in which I argued that the glaciers of Kashmir presented a potential flashpoint for climate-related conflict. Pakistan depends on the disputed territory’s water for nearly all of its agricultural irrigation. As the ice melted from the Himalayas, the region’s rivers would alter their flow and India’s nuclear-armed neighbor would come under increasing pressure to press its claims.

The crisis, I wrote, was imminent. In a 2007 report assessing the scientific consensus on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that if temperatures continued to rise at their current rates, the glaciers would be all but gone by 2035. That date turns out to be wrong. The news of the glaciers’ demise has been greatly exaggerated.

Read the rest here.

The Last Straw

Foreign Policy has just released its annual Failed States Index, and with it my article on how climate change can make a bad situation worse.

Hopelessly overcrowded, crippled by poverty, teeming with Islamist militancy, careless with its nukes—it sometimes seems as if Pakistan can’t get any more terrifying. But forget about the Taliban: The country’s troubles today pale compared with what it might face 25 years from now. When it comes to the stability of one of the world’s most volatile regions, it’s the fate of the Himalayan glaciers that should be keeping us awake at night.

In the mountainous area of Kashmir along and around Pakistan’s contested border with India lies what might become the epicenter of the problem. Since the separation of the two countries 62 years ago, the argument over whether Kashmir belongs to Muslim Pakistan or secular India has never ceased. Since 1998, when both countries tested nuclear weapons, the conflict has taken on the added risk of escalating into cataclysm. Another increasingly important factor will soon heighten the tension: Ninety percent of Pakistan’s agricultural irrigation depends on rivers that originate in Kashmir. “This water issue between India and Pakistan is the key,” Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, a parliamentarian from Kashmir, told me. “Much more than any other political or religious concern.”

Read the rest.

Fool’s Gold

Check out this article of mine that ran in Foreign Policy on the peril’s of oil development in Africa:

July 2007
Fool’s Gold
You may not have noticed it, but Africa is booming. Yet just when the world’s poorest continent is finally starting to see real economic growth, the resource curse threatens to snatch it all away.

By Stephan Faris

Things seem to be looking up for Africa these days, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa. For the third year in a row, the region’s economy has grown 5 to 6 percent. The recent commodity boom has improved its allure to potential investors, particularly China. And the world is relying increasingly on the continent’s petroleum; last year, Africa surpassed the Middle East to become the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, providing 22 percent of imports. Even everyday African citizens, their views usually lost amid gloomy economic statistics, are feeling better about their lot in life. A recent poll conducted by the New York Times and the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that most sub-Saharan Africans say they are better off than they were five years ago, and that life will continue to improve for the next generation. They’re right, at least for the near future. Economists predict that economic growth will inch up to 7 percent in 2007, mostly because of higher production in oil-rich countries.

Continue reading “Fool’s Gold”