Water is at the core of sustaining all life on earth, and the people who have inhabited the arid and semi-arid lands of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region throughout the centuries know this very well. Scarcity of water in the region has shaped its history and geopolitics, including into the present day, with climate change and population growth putting more pressure on already scarce water resources (World Bank 2018).
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We live on a water planet. As the writer Arthur C. Clark noted, if we didn’t happen to be land-dwelling creatures, we would call our planet Ocean, rather than Earth. And for humans, fresh water is critical for life, health, our economies, and vibrant ecosystems. The vast majority of water on the planet—more than 97 percent—is salt water, in our oceans.
Mayors from the United States, including several associated with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, were in Paris for the deliberations at COP21. As Mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman wrote before the trip, “the stakes [connecting climate change to river health] could not be higher”. In Paris, the mayors from the Mississippi River valley found common cause with mayors from other river cities across the world, arguing that river basins merited increased attention as food-producing regions supporting billions of people worldwide.