Who the hell stores nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a port area next to fireworks?” – Maha Yahya – Carnegie Middle Eastern Institute.
Having read the reports I can only think that nobody “thought” and that for 13 years ,Warehouse 12 of the Port of Beirut was a bomb waiting for its time.
Its time came last week and time has now caught up on a Government lacking in any environmental, social and governmental credibility.
The traders and shippers who spent their days cutting deals and counting containers in Beirut’s port knew there was something strange about Warehouse 12.
Beirut explosion: Blast bares failings of a ‘collapsing’ system
— roula khalaf (@khalafroula) August 6, 2020
How change happens?
Shocking incidents such as Grenfell, Warehouse 12 and Fukushima Daiichi make us aware of our need to think about how we protect people from man-made risk. Climate change is another man-made risk and we need evidence of its impact before we take action. Sadly retrospective action comes too late for the casualties of poor ESG, Climate change just plays out over different timescales and on a bigger stage.
I expect it likely that Beirut’s Warehouse 12 will bring about regime change in Beirut’s Government as tragedy on this scale will focus the attention of the world on the shady world of bribes and corruption in Roula Khalaf’s article. But this kind of reactive change isn’t sustainable unless there is a fundamental democratic movement which brings transparency to Government.
Is there sufficient appetite for change in Beirut? We will have to wait and see. Will Warhouse 12 have a wider impact – I suspect yes. We are encouraged to do better by the failings of others and while this is of little comfort for those failed by Beirut’s Government, the impact should be felt most strongly in other chaotic regimes.
For me, the principles of ESG are both a-political and super-political. They provide a super-politics that over-arches local differences. With that architecture, they negate the impact of local political differences.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are there to make sure we limit man-made catastrophes as happened last week in the Port of Beirut. But the conditions that made for Warehouse 12 being 7 years a time-bomb are apparent in many Governments, even in ours. We all have lessons to learn.