Posted tagged ‘Syria’

Being Green, Syrian style: Water

December 24, 2010

If you mention local environmentalism to a Syrian, you get pretty much a reaction of helplessness, and they can’t be blamed. Green campaigns as seen on the internet and foreign media don’t resonate with anyone (we don’t have the infrastructure or similar problems), and knowledge of local environmental needs is virtually non-existent.

This post is exactly for that, with data specific to Syria, I’m going to try my best to raise awareness of the most pressing issues, and how in many simple lifestyle changes, you the citizen can help local nature in more ways than you know of. Let’s start with..

Water:

The most vital resource in the region, and obviously the most scarce. Water is predicted to surpass oil as the cause for world conflicts in the 21st century, and guess which highly volatile countries are squandering their last remaining sources.

Now imagine the Arab leaders sharing this cup together

 

The facts:

Syria has enough renewable water to provide 800 cubic meters for each person annually (A country is considered water scarce once it goes under 1000 cubic meters, which we did five years ago). Of course that is not only water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, showering and such, but also water to irrigate your carbs and veggies. Actually, that’s where 90% of our water quota goes, with 2% to industrialization and 8% to personal use. Right now, Syria uses 25% more than what renewable water can provide, which means ground level water is being depleted at an alarming rate, a blunder that will cost lives in the upcoming decades.

How you can help:

First start with personal use. 8% of 800 is 64 cubic metres annually, and you should try to stay under that. Water bills are bi-monthly, so your bill must be at most 10 cubic meters for each household family member. Please go check this, and tell me the results. Our family average is fifteen per person now, and going under ten is going to be hard. But remember, every time you go over ten, you’re using up from a tanker that won’t be refilled. You now are aware, act accordingly.

To be honest, I don’t think going significantly under 10 per person is possible (the US average is 20), but as you realize, even if you go insane and cut it to 5, then you only cut your water use from 100+% to 96%. Therefore we must take a look at the number one place our water is used and wasted, agriculture.

Syria has a policy of food self sufficiency, which means that if we happen to be under siege some day, the country has to have the capability of producing enough food for the people (Ironically, at the last drought, we lost the capability to do even that, and we’re importing wheat for the first time). The way it’s being done is that we subsidize most of the farm requirements: seeds, diesel for pumps, fertilizers, and water. Water until a while ago was subsidized so hard it was virtually free, and that resulted in many bad habits to keep on, like flooding irrigation, and the trend of growing tropical fruit locally.

That place in the middle of the red looks perfect for growing avocados!

The government has started a campaign for reduced water irrigation systems which optimally can reduce a crop’s water need in half (making your 90% go down to 50). There are things we can do too. First, boycott all locally produced water intensive crops, like rice and tropical fruits. You can buy Somalian bananas instead of Syrian ones, we just have to accept that some crops aren’t meant to be grown in a desert! Then if you have the option to choose the farm, choose to buy from ones with the best water reduced irrigation methods, preferably drip irrigation.

More of the being green series will be up soon 🙂

Further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_politics_in_the_Middle_East

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_agriculture#Water

Torrents and Tech Culture

August 10, 2010

82.6%….

It’s day four, and “Starcraft 2” seems like it’s never going to download. The timer says there are only ten hours left, but with the summer power cuts and the fluctuating wireless connection speed, tomorrow might not be the day I experience the acclaimed strategy sensation. To be honest, the copy might not even work (it’s the first time I try this), and multiplayer is certainly out of the question.

I guess Syria is a unique place when it comes to entertainment, whether music, movies or games. We not only rely on piracy as our lone source, there is in fact a hierarchy of business specializing in providing you with pirated content.

Let’s start with music. My transition into a pop loving teenager happened in the twilight of the cassette era (I lived through a year of  “both choices available”). At that time cassettes were 60sp (1.2$) and the cooler CDs were 75-100sp (1.5-2$). The price made sense to us consumers at the time because we assumed that the stores were copying our CDs from expensive imported originals. I bought a slick Phillips CD player with ESP shock resistance and, God knows how, I used to jog down Villat Street carrying that monstrosity. Several years later, I’m  forking out 100sp for a CD with a crappy cover done by a printer in desperate need of new ink, which I will then have to take home, rip on windows media player, figure out the titles of all the songs and rename them so I can copy them to my Ipod Nano and throw said CD into a “might be needed someday” drawer. The owner said I should come back after an hour so he will have had time to torrent it. I told him not to bother. Never bought a CD since, unless it’s a local artist original (also 100sp).

Movies make more sense to buy copies from instead of pirating it yourself I guess, but that is if the store owners are guaranteed to sell you something of quality. This is a normal conversation you have in Syria:

-M3allem! Is this a DVD rip or a Cinema bootleg (or more simply, “wad7a?”)

-DVD definitely

-Are you sure?

-Positive

You come back home, proud you were patient enough to wait one month to watch a “clean” version of The Dark Knight while everyone else was raving about how uber it was. Slide the CD in, try to ignore the obvious poor audio and video quality “I’m sure it will get better later”. The camera shakes as the bootlegger hides it in his jacket. Your night is ruined…

Other problems I have personally encountered: Uncopied scenes (I still don’t know the last ten minutes of happy go lucky), blank DVDs, French movies with no subtitles, entire movies in black and white, disappearing sound, etc.  When they banned renting and you had to buy, we all figured out we’re screwed. Cinema is virtually  non-existant, and with torrenting a movie yourself you had a better chance of getting a good copy, and a bigger collection to choose from. Never mind that it’s free.

I don’t understand, when did they take control? Don’t you find it ridiculous when a store offers “high quality” pirated content? Usually at a much higher price than fellow stores, his place having professional lighting, promising higher chances of working bug-free, and it’s usually the same crap content. Pirates split into clean shiny upper class and messy cluttered lower class. If you look at the scene objectively, you can’t but find it hilarious.

But it wasn’t funny for the poor gamer that is me when I saw the MMORPGs fly right over my head, when I had to play Sims 2 without the ability to rebuild the house and had to cram in my ever growing virtual family… Video games, Movies and Music are entertainment, but there was a time in Syria where frustration would exceed any satisfaction you would hope to get from these sources. Then came the PS3, and everything changed…

Sony had turned it into a juggernaut, and try as they might, Iranians, Russians, Brazilians… rumors were abound, but no one could crack it. At the six month mark, people lost hope. Somebody risked and brought an original Blue-Ray to the market for 4000sp (80$), it was sold. Gradually the market opened up, prices went down, and Syria’s PS3 community was born.

It was a magical moment. You just slide in the disk, and it works. No cracks, bugs, deleted animations, missing voices, crashing, forbidden multiplayer. It simply… works!

Now if you’re under the impression that good for me for being the rich snob who can afford to buy 3000sp games I answer, I wish! I have nowhere near that kind of money. But with the system we have, buying first hand, selling, second hand, lending, renting, exchanging… we have to be one of the most vibrant markets here! I have played 3 games this year so far, amounting to 9000sp (180$). I paid 500sp (10$). It’s delightful, you possess something of value, which you can use to bargain other gamers with. You know that the person taking that “original blue-ray” will treat it with caution and respect, instead of throwing it into a pile of worthless copies, where you will never get it back again, and you just won’t care.

We should have our first full-feature cinema in Aleppo at some time in the next 12 months. We most probably won’t stop torrenting then either, but it will be nice to know that for that special movie, we have the choice to go to the movies, buy soda and popcorn, and just enjoy it.

86.4%…. this better work

What Obama meant

May 5, 2010

The Obama administration decided to celebrate Star Wars day, by renewing the economic sanctions against Syria.

This is in no way surprising since we aren’t exactly at the best of terms with the U.S’ closest ally, guys are looking after their turf, it’s politically sound.

What I’m sick of is the constant volleys of political word-twisting heading against Syria every day. Some of the biggest words a politician can use against a country’s image… Supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction… I’m glad they didn’t accuse us of raping something holy.

Any political enthusiast with moderate to high knowledge of world politics would start getting images of this sort: A loose cannon, exporting terrorist cells left and right, threatening to nuke every country on the map, and even crazy enough to do it. Fuck, they probably have gulags too.

I’m going to be kind enough to do the US a favor, and explain to everybody what was exactly meant by what they said:

1-Syria supports terrorist groups:

What this statement made you think:

The Syrian administration are probably the guys behind the underwear bomber, the Madrid train bombings, the Texas chainsaw massacre etc. Those jerks train and send people to perpetrate killing and random violence around the world. Syria bears an extremist  radical interpretation of Islam, and helps promote it around the world.

The truth:

Syria is a multi-cultural society and has a leadership that is… secular. Nope we don’t go to madrasehs where K is for kalashnikov. Sorry for ruining that for you guys.  Syria is a really pragmatic country with some non-negotiable principles (The poor man comes first, whether it be subsidies or closing outside markets. Golan is kinda ours)… None of them religious. It’s pretty normal to walk around in Syria without a hijab.

By far the number one ideology for Syria is stability. To stability, all else comes second. And with neighbors like Israel, Iraq and Lebanon (no offense), who could blame us? And for that, Syria does “support terrorist groups”. The guy didn’t say anything wrong, we support Hizbullah and Hamas, which are terrorist groups. But they’re not terrorists like post 9-11 terrorists. They’re the 70s South America,  Guevaraesque, hit-and-run, jungle guerrilla kind (there’s no jungle, I’m just drawing a mental image here). You know, the “in front of oppression my brothers, all we can do is fight” kind. The kind that gets called freedom fighters in history books a century later…

2-Syria’s pursuing weapons of mass destruction:

What this made you think:

Those guys are a cockroach antenna’s breadth away from obtaining nukes, and as soon as they do, they’re gonna unleash the fury! Or just be kinda annoying like Kim Jong-Il

The truth:

Syria has no nuclear agenda, the idea of obtaining one has never been put on the table. Officially it supports a nuclear free Middle East. The WMDs it has are a couple of rockets equipped with mustard gas. We’re not “pursuing” it, we already have it, we’ve stated that we have it. It’s the only deterrent we have against a heavily funded, trigger-happy enemy with a nuclear arsenal big enough to obliterate the whole region. We’ve got the chemical weapons, the guerrilla guys, and the fact that it doesn’t make logical sense to attack us (but we all know how reliable logic is here)

So guys, sanction us. It’s your right, and we really don’t care. But when you go on your podium to explain, just say because it makes diplomatic sense to support our allies. Don’t turn us into fresh demons from the seventh circle of hell….that’s below the belt.