About jshahzebkhan

O levels student at the University of Cambridge, environment activist, Pakistan's youngest OpEd columnist, blogger on Action for Nature, documentary maker, published poet, awarded artist from the Smithsonian, writer and illustrator of a children's book titled the Tiny King and the Evil Sorcerer.

Summer is here, and Baywatch is here.

Summer season has just arrived in the northern hemisphere and its beginning has been marked in what may be the best way possible, the release of the film adaptation of the enormously popular American TV series Baywatch. Baywatch, which ran from 1989 to 2001, was the global symbol of beach culture. The series, which reached an audience of 1.1 billion people around the world, was about lifeguards which patrolled the beaches of Los Angeles Country, California, with David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson in the lead.

Now, 16 years later, Hollywood has produced a film version of the show with different actors. The Baywatch cultural phenomenon which marked the 1990s has now been brought back. After so much time, it may be expected to be a little different now, but the film Baywatch, one of the most anticipated films of 2017, has the potential to be enormously popular as well. It may spawn a new Baywatch franchise and the actors of the film may become the new faces of beach culture. They are quite a significant group of people, with Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfinesh Hadera, and Jon Bass in the lead.

Whatever the film is like, what better way is there to start our summer than by going to see it? Baywatch right now is receiving poor critical reviews, but the TV series also did not have a high critical reputation. The main purpose of a show like Baywatch is to provide people with a fun viewing and the film likely does that. Watching it can be a fun part of anybody’s summer and can also inspire us all in how to spend our summer. Before we all hit the beaches, it is perhaps worth our while to go and see the modern-day revival of a monumental beach legend.

World Migratory Bird Day

The Background of World Migratory Day
May 13 is designated as the World Migratory Bird Day by the United Nations Environment Program through two intergovernmental treaties that it presides over, the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Since 2006 the World Migratory Bird Day is held every second weekend of May. The slogan of this year’s campaign is “Their Future is Our Future- A Healthy Planet for Migratory Birds and People,” The countries observing the day will focus on “Sustainable development for wildlife and people”.
Many animals typically tend to inhabit one region. But many others migrate to different parts of the world. This is most common among birds, because their ability to fly makes long-distance travel easier and crossing of geographical barriers such as mountains and oceans possible. Their reasons for migrating are usually due to the environment becoming less suitable. This is often because of a change of season, with birds in the northern hemisphere going south. Birds can leave an area because the food supply decreases. They also migrate when they need to produce young and regard another place to be better for breeding. Countless species of birds travel vast distances during their migrations, with many of them traveling across the world. The bird with the longest migration is the Arctic tern, which every year travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and vice versa (that is because the tern can get to have summer all year round by switching hemispheres).
What makes migratory birds special is that they are global species. Birds that regularly make long journeys are important in that they can make various regions on Earth their habitat. This allows them to be abundant and exploit certain environments more than stationary animals can. For example, if an environment is abundant in resources at some times and deficient in others, animals that cannot move in and out of there quickly will not prosper there as much as animals which can. Land animals are capable of migration but flying animals like birds can do it much quicker, farther, and with less restriction, allowing to them to move in and out of vast areas of the Earth which fluctuate in their bounty, such as the entire northern latitudes of the planet.
As the planet in general is the habitat of migratory birds, they are very important for the environment of the whole world and provide essential ecological services. Migratory birds also serve as global bioindicators. Ecologists often assess what is happening to a certain environment by looking at what is happening to living things, called bioindicators, which are particularly sensitive to environmental changes.
Problems Facing Migratory Birds
At present, the plight of the migratory bird is a worrying story. Migratory birds face a lot of threats, many of which are particularly associated with their migratory lifestyle. Humanity is harming environments all across the planet, so that there are few pristine places left for birds to live in. During their migrations, birds are very vulnerable because human beings have made their migrations harder and more dangerous in a variety of ways.
Traveling long distances is not an easy task. Many birds stop frequently and briefly rest and feed in certain habitats, known as stopovers, along their migration route. Their migration routes, which tend to be fixed, are known as flyways and most migratory birds travel along the same general routes on the planet. For example, many migratory birds do not like to travel over stretches of water and so those that travel between Africa and Eurasia usually travel into the Middle East and through Israel and the Suez Peninsula. Many birds also like to stop at the same general spots, creating world stopovers.
Stopovers and the rigors of migration are where birds are at their most vulnerable. Habitat destruction is one of the main threats to migratory birds. Birds that migrate without relying entirely on stopovers need to eat a lot to store energy for the trip but they can be prevented from doing this if the environment they are preparing to leave is deficient in food supply. Birds suffer the same way if the habitats that they use as stopovers are being destroyed. If birds are not properly nourished, they become more likely to suffer starvation and exhaustion along their trip. They can be unable to finish the journey and have to stay where they did not intend to and they could even starve to death. Birds that suffer from exhaustion are more likely to become disoriented and stray off their path or collide with objects such as other birds and buildings. Habitats can be degraded by humans deforesting, building cities, and agricultural development. Wetlands, which are the preferred stopovers for most birds, are among the environments most likely to suffer degradation as these are often drained by people.
Because migratory birds congregate en masse in a limited number of places as stopovers, they are vulnerable to many things, such as disease and predation. Stopover and flyover areas are hotspots for bird hunting. Birds are often hunted to the point of endangerment at these places. Some stopovers are in impoverished or food-insecure areas where people need to hunt wild animals to sustain themselves. Stopovers can be filled with unnaturally large numbers of predators, such as cats, that can kill large numbers of birds.
While flying, migratory birds are vulnerable to many things that human beings build. When windows reflect the sky or trees, birds sometimes mistake them for the sky or trees and try to fly into them, which often results in them dying or being injured when they hit the glass. Thus, migratory birds are put greatly at risk if major cities are located along flyways, especially if they have skyscrapers. Antennae towers and wind turbines are other forms of construction which birds are prone to colliding with. Finally, the artificial lights of cities, especially on tall towers, can disorient birds and make them more likely to collide with something. They tend to be attracted to lights and so fly towards the buildings.
Climate change is one of the major threats to migratory birds. It disrupts the traditional schedules and ranges of migratory birds. Many migratory birds are very sensitive to the timing of the availability of food compared to the timing of their breeding activities and suffer if there is a mismatch between the two events, which is likely to happen with changing temperatures. Climate change can lead to the destruction of stopover habitats. In addition to all this, climate change can result in a greater frequency of weather disasters such as hurricanes which harm birds or disrupt their migration flights.
Conservation of Migratory Birds
What makes the issue of protecting migratory birds challenging is that it is international in scope. Almost all migratory birds have destination habitats, stopovers, and flyovers that span different countries. This means that conservation efforts to help them have to cross borders as well. And depending on the countries that have to be involved, this may not always be easy. Many intergovernmental treaties have been created to maintain cooperation between nations on the issues, the biggest of which are CMS and AEWA. Many countries are not party to these two treaties, however. Four of those which are not party to CMS are Canada, the United States, Russia, and China.
Protecting migratory birds and their journeys hinges mostly on the flyways and stopovers where they concentrate. The limited amount of areas in the world to focus on can make this conservation goal easy. What we basically need to do is set aside stopovers as conservation zones. Wetlands are the environment most in need of conservation. They have a lot of other important functions in addition to hosting migratory birds. People often use wetlands for many things, such as water purification and agriculture. Measures to reduce the poaching of birds at stopovers and flyways are very important, as is the reduction of unnatural predation. For example, cat populations should be removed from stopover sites or pet cats should be kept inside during migration season. As for disease, if migratory birds truly do promote avian flu and other diseases, then the solution to the problem is to prevent the prevalence of the disease among them. Ways must be sought of doing this at stopover sites.
On the issue of artificial lights disorienting birds, some major cities organize a lights-out campaign in which all non-important lights on state buildings are kept switched off during peak migration season.
Stopover areas can be provided with food and other things that birds need. Ordinary people can do this themselves and so turn urban areas into habitats for migratory birds. Bird feeders and water can be put out everywhere. This is an effective short-term strategy for bird conservation, keeping birds provided for until their habitats can be restored, but it may also end up being a long-term solution. In a changing world, perhaps a good way to preserve wildlife is to create new situations to suit their needs in addition to trying to keep things the way they always were.
In addition to stopover habitats, the permanent habitats of migratory birds also need to be protected. It is no use migrating if they cannot store up enough fat reserves for the journey or if they arrive at their destination and find it is not what it should be. That is where preserving the natural environments of the world comes into play and is ultimately what we should be working towards in migratory bird conservation.
Migratory Birds in Pakistan
Pakistan is an important land for migratory birds. It lies along the Central Asian Flyway where birds travel to Siberia in the summer and areas around the Indian Ocean in the winter. The Indus Basin in particular is a major route for birds, known as the Indus Flyway. Four million birds used to travel along it every year. There are several major stopover sites for migratory birds in Pakistan, particularly the many lakes and wetlands within the country. In addition, Pakistan is also a major destination for migratory birds traveling south in the winter, as its highlands and the Indus Delta are bountiful habitats. They usually start coming in November, peak in February, and leave by March. Birds that migrate through and to Pakistan include geese, cranes, bustards, ducks, and mallard. These annual visitors are an important part of Pakistan’s wildlife. They perform all the usual ecological roles birds play and they are also beneficial for people. For example, many birds help with agriculture by eating crop pests, spreading seeds, and pollinating plants. Without them, millions of dollars would have to be spent on pollinating plants by human hands. Migratory birds are also a big part of Pakistan’s landscape and the large numbers of them around Pakistan’s wetlands and lakes provide quite a sight. That makes them valuable for tourism and sightseeing.
However, in present times, the presence of migratory birds is suffering a serious decline in Pakistan. Many of these birds are declining overall and are becoming endangered. Some are close to extinction. Migratory birds are also choosing to avoid Pakistan and use other places as wintering grounds and stopovers. This is because of various environmental problems in Pakistan. There is widespread habitat degradation, including bodies of water decreasing and being polluted. Pakistan’s wetlands are in serious trouble and severe water depletion is occurring in Sindh and the Indus Delta. Because of water usage in Punjab, the Indus River has significantly shrunk in Sindh. Hunting and capturing of migratory birds is also rampant. Much of it is illegal but it still goes on.
Even if problems in Pakistan do not seriously affect migratory bird species because they can live elsewhere, what happens to them is a barometer of the state of environmental health in Pakistan, which ultimately affects the people of Pakistan. In addition to this is the environmental harm that Pakistan will incur if birds abandon the nation. This is what the theme of this World Migratory Bird Day is about, sustainable development for people and wildlife, exemplified by the slogan “Their Future is Our Future.” This occasion should therefore motivate Pakistanis to become more environmentally conscious and more importantly, more environmentally active, and to realize that their country prospers if its environment is protected. Not only should we observe World Migratory Bird Day this year,we should continue to do so. The occasion this year should not just be an event celebrated but should bring change. Our nation, which is a signatory to CMS, should start doing more to protect migratory birds and our environment in general.
International Efforts on Migratory Bird Conservation
However, the change that Pakistan needs is not just confined to Pakistan itself. The status of migratory birds serves not only as a reminder of the environmental problems a certain region faces but reminds us also that everything on Earth is interconnected and that environmental degradation anywhere is a threat to environmental prosperity everywhere. Many of the migratory birds of Pakistan are declining because of problems they face in all their habitats. One example is the Siberian Crane, a large bird that spends the summer in Siberia and winters in Pakistan, besides other places, but is critically endangered because of habitat destruction across its range, especially the damming of the Yangtze River in China. For their own interest, the people of Pakistan should be concerned about the state of environmental affairs in China. For one thing, our Indus River originates from there. Not only does the decline of birds caused by what is happening elsewhere impact Pakistan, but it represents the general environmental problems across Asia and how they impact Pakistan as well.
These problems will have to be solved by international efforts. Migratory bird conservation is one of those issues which can bring different countries together, which can bring the world in general together. But there are always problems in bringing countries together. Natural phenomena like the migration of wild birds always transcends any manmade borders or political constructs, but our collective attempts to safeguard these features of nature can be hampered by our political, economic, or social differences. The majority of countries may be willing to work alongside others in protecting the environment, but there could always be a non-cooperative country whose territory is important for migratory birds.
A country may not be environmentally-conscious and be unwilling to exert effort or make sacrifices on behalf of wild animals such as by restricting development and leaving aside certain areas for wildlife. A country may be suffering from conditions that make it difficult for people inside to focus on conservation or work in conservation, especially in the area of habitat preservation. A country could be underdeveloped or dealing with severe poverty. It could be unstable and conflict-ridden. Finally, animosity, distrust, or isolation between nations can hamper the international issue of bird conservation
Despite such issues, the conservation of migratory birds, and other environmental concerns that cross borders, is also an opportunity to foster cooperation and friendship between nations. It makes people from different countries, from different cultures and places, come together, interact with each other, visit each other’s homelands, and help each other. This promotes cross-cultural harmony and awareness. And if these different countries have differences with each other, political, religious, ideological, or otherwise, they may learn to put their differences aside if they consider working together on environmental issues. This is because they will learn that no matter what they think of each other, all countries and all human beings live on the same planet and are provided for by the natural environments of the same planet. This is what we all have in common, that we have the same home, and the most important priority for us is to take care of the environment that sustains us in order that we may continue to live and prosper. That need transcends all the little disputes that we have and requires that we all work together and live in harmony. Migratory birds may be the best way to encourage all nations and all clans to become aware of this, for when we look at how they are inhabitants of the whole world, we realize that the human race is too.
Thus is the focus of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, “Their Future is our Future- A Healthy Planet for Migratory Birds and People,” and ultimately, it may prove to be about us just as much as the birds.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Edhi!

Today is the (supposed) birthday of one of the most remarkable humanitarians ever, Abdul Sattar Edhi. He passed away on 8 July, 2016 at the age of 88 and would have turned 89 now. His charitable organization, the Edhi Foundation, is one of the most prominent in South Asia and is all the more remarkable by virtue of the destitute circumstances in which it formed and grew. Edhi’s life has been so pure and so devoted to helping the needy that he is almost considered a saint. Most large-scale charities are formed and run by people who possess considerable wealth. But Abdul Sattar Edhi lived in grinding poverty when he started his charitable work and continued to be poor for a long time afterwards. It was a case of the needy being helped by one of their own. How Edhi managed to provide so much for others while having so little himself can be considered one of humanity’s great feats.
Edhi’s beginnings were so grounded in poverty that even his date of birth is unknown. Edhi said that he was born between 1926 and ’28. After his death, media reports suggested that he was born on January 1, 1928, but more recent reports suggest it was February 28 of that year. Hence February 28 is being formally celebrated now. It is known that he was born in Gujarat. His mother instilled in him a charitable mindset. She would give him 1 paisa so he could buy food for himself and another paisa to give to a beggar. When he was eleven, calamity struck his family when his mother was paralyzed by a stroke. He had to care for her for years afterwards, and the experience he gained from looking after his mother shaped his vision of life. His mother died when he was 19 and shortly thereafter, he moved to the newly created nation of Pakistan during Partition.
He witnessed and himself went through the enormous violence and suffering that marked Partition. When he arrived in Karachi and settled there, he noticed how much poverty was in the city and how little the authorities were doing to help the needy. He at first had to establish a means of living for himself and started work in a market and took to selling cloth. He soon bought a small room for himself where he established a dispensary to care for the needy, using donations that he sought personally all over the city. In 1951, he founded the Edhi Foundation to provide 24-hour medical assistance in Karachi. In 1957, Karachi suffered from a worldwide influenza outbreak and Edhi managed to acquire a lot of donations to provide a remarkable amount of assistance to people to protect and treat them. Afterwards, a large donation from a rich businessman allowed Edhi to buy a van which he drove around as an ambulance. During this time, Edhi expanded the scope of his work beyond Karachi.
Since then, the Edhi Foundation has grown from private donations. It now hosts the world’s biggest volunteer ambulance service. It has established clinics for the disabled, the mentally ill, and the sick. It runs orphanages, women’s shelters, maternity wards, rehabilitation centers, and a variety of other welfare services. The Edhi Foundation has dealt with crises and calamities all across Pakistan, from traffic accidents to earthquakes to terror attacks. Its ambulances, which are world-renowned, have shown a spotless record of timely performance during emergencies. It has engaged in humanitarian work in many parts of the world from Ethiopia to the United States. The organization has consistently carried out its work in the face of countless challenges, including opposition from Islamic fundamentalist groups. Eidhi always maintained a humble lifestyle with his wife, Bilquis, a nurse at his dispensary whom he married in 1965 and who always worked faithfully by his side, and his four children. He lived in an apartment near the headquarters of the Edhi Foundation and wore simple clothing.
He lived a long life of helping humanity. In 2013, he started suffering from a kidney disease. It was later announced that he needed a kidney donation to survive but this never came. His last wish was that his organs be donated but after his death, the corneas turned out to be the only suitable parts of his body. The Edhi Foundation continues to function after his death as before, receiving a generous flow of donations.
Edhi had many qualities that enabled him to do what he did. He was selfless. He was hardworking – and in addition to all this, he was brilliant. The Edhi Foundation sprouted against all odds because of his guidance, his ingenuity and resourcefulness. We should closely study the work he did because it may hold valuable lessons for us. The amazing and inspiring facts about this man’s life are endless. His life is perhaps the most remarkable among humanitarians and yet it is comparatively underappreciated.
Today, on what is now accepted to be his birthday, the world has taken a step to fostering recognition of him through a Google doodle honoring his life’s work. It is an image on the homepage of the worldwide tech giant which depicts him, one of his ambulances, an open book, his pet dog, and a mother and child outside a clinic. People in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland, Portugal, Estonia, and Pakistan can see this image. This will no doubt increase the standing of the Edhi Foundation worldwide. The Edhi Foundation is not just for Pakistan, it is for the world as well. As one of the most consistent and efficient charities in the world, the world should give more assistance to it. Even if the foundation cannot take care of the whole world, Edhi’s ideals can help all of humanity if we only learn from him. The Edhi Foundation has a bright future ahead of it and we should work with it to create a brighter future for all of us. Along the way, we must never forget the man who may well be among the greatest humanitarians of modern times.

Express Tribune Blog Titled Back to Obama

This is my article, titled Back to Obama, published in the Express Tribune Blog on January 22, 2017.

In just a few days, America and the world will have to say goodbye to an era that we have known for eight years, the presidency of Barack Obama. It will give way to a radically different and unorthodox presidency, which makes the change all the heavier. Barack Obama should utilize most of the time that he has left, and so should we. As we do so and as we await the inauguration of Donald Trump, we need to look back and see how the eight years of the Obama Administration have been, what he has done and what he has accomplished, and figure out what his legacy will be.
Obama presided over America during one of the tougher periods in its history. The previous eight years of the administration of George W. Bush was turbulent, with a significant threat of terrorism materializing and long-running wars which were bearing little fruit. Then, at the end of the administration, a major recession struck America’s economy. Barack Obama inherited all this and his job for the next four years was to turn America’s problems around. He also wanted to bring all kinds of other improvements to American society.
The economy was the most pressing issue for him. He responded within his first one hundred days by signing into law a stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Its most immediate goal was to save and create jobs. Obama request to get another stimulus bill enacted in December 2009 was unheeded. With the automobile industry being among the sectors worst affected by the recession, Obama launched a bailout of car-making companies. Many believe this saved General Motors and Chrysler, two corporations very important to America’s economy, from bankruptcy. The economy worsened during Obama’s term until October 2009, when the unemployment rate reached 10.1 percent. However, an unprecedented recovery hereafter resulted in the unemployment rate being cut by more than half by December. 2010 also saw rapid growth in the economy which slowed in the latter parts of the year, and the economy grew at a steady and slow pace until 2014. While Obama has not succeeded much in improving the economy, many argue that he prevented America from sinking into much worse conditions in the earliest days of his administration.
One of his major early initiatives was to overhaul America’s healthcare system and insure affordable healthcare for all Americans, something he focused on after he was through with the stimulus bill. The big dream of his presidency came true with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, on March 23, 2010. One of its goals was to extend health insurance and make healthcare more affordable. This was one of Obama’s most challenged policies but it has succeeded in reducing significantly the number of Americans without health insurance by twenty million, although another twenty million are still without health insurance. Obamacare has survived intense opposition since it was passed, such as endless repeal attempts by Republicans and two major challenges by the Supreme Court.
Regarding the most important issue in foreign policy, the War on Terror began a slow die-down under Obama. He opposed the Iraq War during his 2008 presidential campaign and while he was in office, a program of withdrawing American troops progressed until all had left except embassy guards by the end of 2011. However, this was in accordance with an agreement signed by George W. Bush when he was president and Obama cannot really therefore take much credit except for presiding over the success of the endeavor. Later on in 2014, Obama had to return American soldiers to Iraq to fight the insurgency of ISIS, which is ongoing with no clear end in sight.
In Afghanistan, however, Obama increased the number of troops during his first year in response to a deteriorating situation with the insurgency. He then said that he would soon end the war and start withdrawing US troops in July 2011. In 2012, the US signed a deal with Afghanistan to slowly start handing the war over to the local military. Obama said all US troops except for embassy guards will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016. However, although US involvement in Afghanistan largely decreased by the start of 2015, Obama later decided to indefinitely keep troops there in combat operations. There are now about 8,400 US soldiers in Afghanistan as Obama leaves office and the Afghanistan War is ongoing as America’s longest war ever.
One of the highest points of Barack Obama’s administration is to preside over something that the United States tried its hardest to do for ten years, bring justice to Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, the worst terror attack in world history. It meant accomplishing what was arguably the main goal of the War on Terror, creating hope that the war could soon be concluded. But while Obama played a big role in the search that found bin Laden and authorized the raid, it was not like another policy he was pushing or something he was mostly doing on his own, so it may not be considered a big part of his legacy.
A considerable achievement in foreign policy was Obama’s work regarding one of the biggest problems in international relations, fears over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran was a theocratic, hardline Muslim nation hostile to the West and to Israel and it was working to develop nuclear power. As this would enable Iran to build nuclear weapons, it made its enemies very nervous, especially Israel, which once launched a military strike on Iraq’s nuclear program when Saddam Hussein was ruling. After more than a year of negotiations, Iran finally in July 2015 agreed on a deal with the big five powers of the UN, Germany, and the European Union to limit its nuclear activities, such as by eliminating medium enriched uranium and by not building heavy water facilities, in exchange for easing of nuclear related sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency would have full access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to inspect in order to monitor Iran’s compliance. Obama played a significant role in this deal as the participation of the United States was crucial.
Many of Obama’s achievements were to bring change to situations that lasted a long time, and one of the longest was the US embargo of Cuba. Since 1961, as part of the Cold War, the US put the nearest communist country under an intense economic blockade and diplomatic shut-off and this continued after the Cold War ended. The US and Cuba held secret talks starting in early 2013 and in December 2014, Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba. The two countries’ opened their embassies for the first time in more than fifty years in August 2015.
Obama did not take the issue of gun ownership in the US in much consideration during his first term, but after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which twenty children died, which occurred before he was re-inaugurated, he made it a central policy of his to increase gun control so people will be less likely to engage in gun violence. He urged Congress to carry out various restrictions, particularly a ban on assault weapons. However, not a single major gun control bill passed Congress under Obama and the Senate blocked a gun control program by two senators as well. This was due to the enormous influence of gun rights activists. Gun rights in fact increased while Obama was president and he signed two bills that allowed people to carry guns on Amtrak trains and in national parks (where, evidently, the fear of gun violence is not high). Since the goal of all this is to reduce gun violence, which everybody can agree on (while they cannot agree on whether gun rights should be restricted), Obama’s success in this regard should be measured by how much gun violence, not ownership, has been reduced. That has not happened either and mass shootings have occurred regularly since 2012. It is a fail for Obama.
Illegal immigration has long been a huge issue for the US because of the country’s to the barely-controllable movement of people from Latin America, especially Mexico, into the United States. There are two main measures that the US takes in regard with this problem, preventing people from entering and deporting them if they are caught having entered at any point in the past. Obama from the start called for immigration reform that focused on easing down the latter. Many of his attempts were blocked, but one that was successfully passed in 2012 was to protect illegals from deportation if they came in before their sixteenth birthday. That same year, though, saw a record rise in deportations, which then died down during Obama’s second term. Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants in the US has stabilized during his presidency.
Another serious issue was the selling of drugs in the United States. This was closely tied with the above issue because both most of the illegal drugs and most of the illegal immigrants in the United States came from the same place, south of the border, and the easier illegal immigration was, the easier drug smuggling was. US efforts against drugs were so extensive that they took on almost the form of a war. Again, Obama called for leniency. US prisons were brimming as many believed the nation was going too far in punishing those who sold drugs. Obama was generally successful in passing laws to ease the war on drugs and he also commuted the sentences of 1,000 drug offenders. As a result of all this, Obama is set on being the first president since the 1960s under whom the federal prison population decreased. But one should also look at the rates of people suffering from drug usage in America, for they should also define his legacy.
Obama has been a very environmentally conscious president. The rest of the government has not been, however, and he has had trouble passing bills to protect the planet. The use of coal, which is a particularly dirty energy source, declined while he was president, which was encouraged by some regulations he imposed. He got around a stubborn Congress by getting the EPA to work for a reduction in carbon emissions by America. The environmental degradation- fighting duo unveiled their grand plan, the Clean Power Act, in different steps in 2014 and 2015. The final version by Obama put a national limit on carbon emissions for the first time. The goal of the plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2030. In order to assess this part of Obama’s legacy, we will have to wait until then.
With most Republicans, and some other people, hostile to Obama’s environmental policies on the grounds that they conflict with the economy, Obama found greater success outside the country. He participated in 2009 in the Copenhagen Accords which provided for monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions by developing countries. He made a deal with China in 2014 for that country to halt the rising of its carbon emission by 2030 while the US would have the aforementioned Clean Power Act, paving the way for wider agreements among nations. Obama’s biggest green achievement came with the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in late 2015. The meeting ended with the historic Paris Agreement in which nearly all countries agreed to a commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The US, as well as China, played the most important role in the agreement and it is believed Obama’s EPA plan and deal with China made the Paris Agreement possible. It is one of Obama’s great achievements, but for this part of his legacy to truly bear fruit, we will have to wait and see how much the signatory countries reduce their carbon footprint.
Right from the start, one of Obama’s most widely acclaimed achievements was becoming president in the first place. Every single president before was white and of northern European descent. Obama was the first African American president and that in a nation which long suppressed the ability of black people to succeed and in barely discernible ways still continues to do so. But more than that was needed. When Obama won his first election, people hoped his administration would improve race relations in the US. But under his administration, several racial issues started to emerge, some of which people saw as a reaction to his being president. But the most severe issue was the law’s approval of violence towards black people, starting with the shooting of Travyon Martin in 2012 and continuing in 2016 with several police killings. Obama was deeply concerned with Travyon’s death but it was not until 2014 that he freely talked about issues faced by blacks and other racial minorities in the US. Race relations are now viewed by many Americans to be in dire straits. As Obama leaves office, America appears to be descending into increasing racial tension, whether it is his fault or the fault of the nation.
A great problem faced often by American presidents is that they are not dictators. They have considerable power in deciding what the nation does, but most of their decision-making has to contend with the legislative branch of government (and the judicial branch if they go too far), filled with a wide variety of people with different opinions. If these people belong to the party Obama belongs to, they are the most likely to agree with him. The general elections of 2008 ended with Democratic dominance in the legislative branch, with majorities in both houses of Congress, a favorable condition for Obama. But in the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans scored a major upset, increasing their seats in the Senate and taking over the House of Representatives. The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was greatly opposed to Obamacare. In the 2012 general elections, Democratic seats increased in both houses of Congress but the House was still in the hands of the Republicans, so Obama remained in the same hard situation. It got worse in 2014 when Republicans took over the Senate as well, giving them the power to block Obama from appointing people to judicial and executive positions. The Republican Party was generally opposed to Obama’s policies, preventing him from doing much of what he wanted to do and generally being a more successful president.
One can say that Obama did well under such conditions. But it is not just a matter of how he did when he was president but whether what he did will continue to stand. And Obama’s legacy now stands to come under severe threat due to the rise of Donald Trump. The very fact that Donald Trump became the Republican frontrunner and then the nominee in the 2016 election and his popularity is an indicator of Obama failing in many aspects. Donald Trump and his crowd stand for the opposite of everything Obama stood for. Most of all, they seem to be a repudiation of Obama’s commitment to tolerance and diversity. The failures of Obama in uplifting the country may have driven so many to support Trump, who supports a new kind of change. Too much of the people of America have rejected Obama in the highest way possible.
And where Obama did succeed, it is all likely to be undone. During his campaign, Trump wanted to repeal Obamacare right away. He opposed belief in global warming and wanted to repeal the Clean Power Act and withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He went far in the other direction on illegal immigrants, saying all illegal immigrants would be deported immediately. He supported gun rights. All this was while the Republican Party (which Trump has little controversy with beyond old Access Hollywood tapes) retain their dominance in the legislative branch. The America Obama built seems set to be destroyed.
But when Trump won the election, things started to change. He declared that there was “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and that he had an “open mind” towards the Paris Agreement. He said that he would only repeal some parts of Obamacare. He toned down his anti-immigrant stance. It appears that Donald Trump is backtracking on his promises. He would not be the first politician to do so, but from Obama’s point of view, it would be a very positive thing. Trump, like him, may not end up being as complete a force for change as promised and he may also have entered a more tolerant phase that is reconciliatory of Obama’s legacy. And when a president has ruled for eight years, reversing everything he has done cannot be easy, especially if done immediately.
Obama’s legacy is of a man who tried. And it is a legacy which has a very uncertain future.

Clarification of my Express Tribune blog dated 22 January, 2017, titled Back to Obama

The Express Tribune published an article of mine called Back to Obama. In it, it said that all the American presidents before Obama traced their descent to Northern Europe. Northern Europe has more than one definition and one of them covers only Scandinavia, the Baltic States, and Finland, from where none of the presidents originate. I want to make it clear that I mean the northern half of Europe, including Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany.

America’s New President

Donald Trump is now the 45 president of the United States of America. Barack Obama, after leading the country for eight years, is now an ordinary civilian. It is Trump’s first full day in office and already, his presidency is eventful. He has taken his first steps to undermine Obamacare and massive protests are taking place against him in America and around the world. I believe it is emblematic of what Trump’s term as president is going to be like and if I am to make a prediction about what his first 100 days will be like, it is that he will be very busy and there will be a lot of tensions.

Trump is a radical president and is likely to create major changes. What those changes will be is what makes so many people so apprehensive. But as we look ahead to an uncertain four years, we should remember that we all have a part to play in the running of the world and we can work for the changes that we want. And now may be the time when it is most important for people to get active.

Inaugurating the New President

Eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency are going to come to an end. We will now witness the ushering in of a new period in the most powerful country on Earth, the United States of America, and it is a very important change. President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration is coming, a series of ceremonies marking his transformation into the new president.
Normally, it is an exciting event (it most certainly was for Obama’s first term), but the nation is less enthusiastic about the upcoming one than normal. Many musicians have refused to perform at the inauguration, politicians are boycotting it, and many demonstrations and protests are planned to occur alongside it. But the inauguration is still an important event and we need to decide how we go through it in order to help determine what the future of the country under Trump will be.
One of the most important parts of the inauguration is the inaugural speech, Donald Trump’s first speech as President of the United States. It is the introduction he will give us to his term as president. Generally, in an inaugural speech, the new president outlines his basic vision or his basic plans for the country and gives a message to stir or uplift the people and inspire them, invoking something about the country and not his administration. Donald Trump has his speech ready. He says that he wrote it some time ago and that it will be short and simple.
As Donald enters office facing historic opposition from broad swathes of society, we should consider that words can have great power and that what he says can significantly change people’s opinion of him. It is possible for a leader to say something so radical and unique that it causes a huge shift in public thinking, that it sways the mind of almost everybody, and also that it turns people’s thoughts in a new direction. All that is needed is for it to be thought up and that can require a great deal of creativity. For communication with their fellow man and the expressing of ideas are among the most creative and imaginative of endeavors people can engage themselves in.
Saying that, I will give my own suggestions as to what President Donald Trump should say in his inaugural. I hope he reads this in time and incorporates these ideas into his speech at the last minute. A proper inaugural speech for Trump is a considerable task to create because of how bitter and divided the country is currently and how badly the people are in need of something to uplift them and calm them and bring them together.
National unity is already expected to be a main theme in Trump’s speech (and has been in most inaugurals, since, after all, elections rarely see the entire nation getting together and agreeing on the same thing). All sorts of issues divide Americans. They overtly are generally political in nature but are mostly social issues in their core, since politics is about governing and guiding society. So, when the masses argue about what party should be in power and what politician should be in a certain office and what legislation should be passed, they are usually arguing about issues that affect their personal lives, often in immensely important ways. That is what makes people so passionate about politics and also bitter and divided over it.
Donald Trump should emphasize the endeavors that bring people of a nation together. America has been from the start been made great by virtue of its political achievements, but it also has been made great by the technological pursuits of its people, the scientific pursuits, the cultural pursuits, what people have built and continue to build. Donald Trump should emphasize them as a way to move the country forward and to make America great again, for that was how America was great. Trump should declare that the productivity of Americans must be encouraged.
So, however, should be their political mindset. For the political system of America is what allows its citizens to flourish so. The freedoms insured by the Constitution are the nation’s most important assets and enable all Americans to follow all their dreams and their pursuits. The political system is what also protects the people and ensures for them a sufficient lifestyle. So Americans must be kept mindful of politics and be kept engaged with the political processes as they engage in other pursuits in life as well.
President Trump should offer words that soothe the American people after they had to go through one of the nation’s most tumultuous and bitter election campaigns and a transition period that also saw its share of stress and now face a future which is likely to be similar. Maybe he should talk about something light-hearted. For example, he can encourage the people to take a rest from the election and take a break from the political issues by getting focused on something else, one of the aforementioned non-political pursuits that Americans are good at. One example would be to wait for and see the movies that are upcoming. Perhaps he should also encourage the country to make 2017 or the next year a great year in film.
Finally, to soothe tensions and bring people together, it would be a good idea for Trump to emphasize that this is less about him and his administration and more about the country and that people from all swathes of society, not just the president, are important to the running and the well-being of the country.
Perhaps one of my readers can help me get to the Trump team and share this with Trump in case it inspires him in any way in time for the speech. Besides what is written here, I have some particular great ideas that he can put in his speech and the Trump team can contact me and ask me to share with them what they are.
I hope such ideas can help Trump to give a great speech and to run a great administration and ultimately make America great again. There have been many great moments in inaugural speeches. The famous lines, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” were spoken while presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy were delivering thus. Maybe in Trump’s inaugural there will also be a line or two that will be stirring and inspiring enough to make it into the history books.