Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 bookmarks - the year in war over natural resources

From the depths of my bookmarks (that were all automatically tweeted) on conflict and natural resources, here is a quick review of the way in which Earth was plundered for natural resources in the past year. Year 2014, the 100th anniversary of the first war to run on oil.

In short, 2014 was just more of the same. Like...
But a lot more of the same also means obscure news stories grow into reports from acknowledged organizations—like when
Some of the worst news this year was how Islamic State grew out of the chaos in Iraq and Syria, and became known not as the richest terrorist group in the world, but as the poorest terrorist country. Because they successfully occupy and exploit vast oil fields, loot everything lootable while controlling many smuggler's routes and ruthless dealers. I get how they control the population by mass executions rivaling the worst in history, denying crucial water supplies to villages and other callous misdeeds. But how do they manage to sell oil worth millions of dollars every single day even as all eyes are on the region? Money talks, of course, anywhere and anytime, but still?

Part of the answer came in this fascinating report by Suzan Fraser and Yilmaz Akinci from the border between Turkey and Syria, where... hillbillies, basically... tell how they have always been smuggling. Everyone did it. For generations. So, suddenly a few more bearded men came with a bit more oil than usual. It worked for a time, but Turkish police cracked down on it. Their large scale “pipeline” was smacked into smaller, obscure “pipelines” - like the ones the Islamic terrorists have for every other country, apparently.

Probably more efficient that the Turkish police, however, is the Saudi Arabian financial muscle. To them and most of their allies, the sum of benefits of a low oil price seems to currently triumph the more obvious benefits of a high oil price. Mainly by cutting the cash flow to Iran, Syria, Islamic State, Russia, even North American non-conventional (fossil) energy producers and others. In fact, I've seen some speculate Saudi Arabia has almost won the war on Ukraine's behalf as Russia's weakening rubles soon cannot pay for any more war. Speaking of Ukraine: This country used to be self-sufficient in coal, but the territory occupied by rebels and Russians just happen to host 66 coal mines, leaving Ukraine's power plants under-supplied; and the shores off now Russian Crimea just happen to be full of gas. What a coincidence.

That was all just slightly scratching the surface of year 2014 in war for natural resources. On slightly more positive notes, Interpol published a most-wanted list of environmental criminals at large – go get 'em – and Egypt and Ethiopia seems to be agreeing on how to share the Nile.

Happy New Year!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Watch this one hour preview of Years of Living Dangerously

From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to the upheaval caused by drought in the Middle East, this groundbreaking documentary event series provides first-hand reports on those affected by, and seeking solutions to, climate change.

This episode full of footage from Syria, Texas and Indonesia. Watch it.

Friday, December 27, 2013


If year 2012 was the year Ecowar went from being this blog to being primarily a book, 2013 was the year when Ecowar resigned to merely being a category of bookmarks / tweets. To compensate You, my loyal reader, (and satisfy my own curiosity) here is a quick selection of highlights from the past year.

But 2013 was another year with an abundance of news stories about conflict linked to natural resources. It isn't even controversial any more, media now mention the links without hesitation. This annual post could pile thousands of words about war for oil, pollution for profits, murder for business et cetera. 2013 saw an increasingly independent Greenland retract the ban on uranium mining, the least meaningful COP meeting ever, extraordinarily brave Mexican villagers stand up to illegal logging by organized criminals and the CIA finally admit it orchestrated the 1953 Iran coup. Not to mention someone ought to list the names of the brave environmentalists that have been assassinated by corrupt governments or callous corporate thugs. But I give up! Some links, though, deserve more than just a tweet.

Proven correlations
The Ecowar blog and book has always built its foundation on solid scientific work. The core hypothesis has been supported by peer reviewed studies that has quantified the link between resources and violence (oil increases the likelihood of separatism, lootable commodities lengthen existing conflicts, resources in actual conflict zone doubles length of conflict, onshore oil reserves raise risk of rebellion by 50%, diamond production increase risk of conflict by 40%).

In 2013 the UN stated that 40% of all conflicts are linked to use of natural resources. A study found that climate change has caused a rise in violence. And, acknowledging the link, another blog investigated exactly when does oil lead to war. Not if.

Hidden causation
So, all wars are fought over natural resources. It's been accounted for, it's been explained. Cause and effect. But why? And why does no positive environmentalist progress seem to have the least effect on the underlying current of global disorder producing one small disaster after another? Hiding in plain sight: Capitalism. Not capitalism as an alternative to any other political ideology. Capitalism as the one and only religion every citizen on Earth abides by.

If supply and demand is to save the world, the fastest way to save it is to destroy it. Because only scarcity will raise the price of nature, making it worth anything at all in the Capitalist perspective. In 2013, desperate measures to save the endangered Black Rhino came down to selling a license for killing one specimen. You read that right. Last April David Roberts of realized that none of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use. There is a blindingly obvious disharmony between the major problems we face and the fundamental order which we use to put structure on anything we do.

In 2014, keep googling news for "TTIP ISDS". TTIP (and TTP): The free trade negotiations we'd hardly have heard of if a crowdfunded bribe had not resulted in a leak to Wikileaks. ISDS: The rather invasive trade provision that (primarily) allows multinational corporations to sue developing nations of any alleged lost income in investments. (Confused? Friends of the Earth has a factsheet.) Poor countries and NGOs wants ISDS out of trade treaties, rich countries insist on keeping them enforced. Just one example of ISDS in action in 2013 would be Costa Rica getting sued for protecting its rain forest.

In examining the violent scramble for Earth's last resources there is no way around a look at the growth centric economic system that frames every political debate, business decision and daily life consideration. One organization that has gotten a lot of my attention in 2013 is Positive Money; begin with their article on how the banking system affects the environment.

Final recommendations

Happy / merry winter solistice, christmas and / or new year to everyone.

Friday, November 01, 2013

All wars are caused by the economy

Just kidding. Then again...

Prince Charles recently gave a speech in which he mentioned the causality behind the Syrian civil war as well as the financial system.

"The tragic conflict in Syria provides a terrifyingly graphic example, where a severe drought for the last seven years has decimated Syria's rural economy [...] Driving many farmers off their fields and into cities where, already, food was in short supply. [...] The time then has surely come for our financial institutions to recognise that the Earth is not a limitless resource that can be plundered at will, and to integrate that principle of stewardship into our financial structures." Quote Charles, Prince of Wales. Photograph by Victoria Johnson.

The organization Positive Money is pointing at side effects from the dominant economic system. Part of their reasoning is about how the banking system affects the environment, "how the current economic system contributes to environmental destruction and accelerated resource consumption":
  • Recessions (which are unavoidable in the current growth focused system) make people and governments care less about the environment
  • A debt-based money system may result in the need for continued economic growth (resulting in natural resource exploitation)
When the financial system is man made and our real problems rooted in resource scarcity, desperate needs and whims of nature how come we don't fix the first to at least not limit our ability to fix the latter? Could market fundamentalism have reached a religious grip on our societies?
"Modern economic theory is presented as a science. Elaborate mathematics and diagrams are employed to derive principles that are assumed to be universal among economic actors, even though the specialized math used is a “dated version” [...] and such diagrams “often contain outright fallacies” [...] After a closer examination of the dominant economic theory and its critics, one might come to the conclusion that it is actually a belief system quite similar to a religion, not an actual scientific study. [...] The word “economics” comes from a Greek term meaning “management of a household.” As evidenced by the recent meltdown at Fukushima, externalities recognize no national borders. Our household is the entire planet, and we can only make efficient use of its resources by recognizing it as a single system. There is only one biosphere. What happens to it affects us all. We need to redefine economics so that it actually ensures our total well-being to the greatest degree possible while maintaining an ecological balance. We need a holistic economic theory based on empirical data, not traditional notions."
 - Chet Gaines

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Noam Chomsky explains how to destroy the future

During a broad scope text on the suicidal tendencies of our global society Noam Chomsky touches a couple of resource conflict topics.
all over the world – Australia, India, South America – there are battles going on, sometimes wars. In India, it's a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences

Here, Noam might be referring to the Dongria people vs. British Vedanta Resources. But there are other conflicts to choose from in India. And elsewhere.
So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.
(Pssst Noam, there's this Arctic anomaly to your generalizing rule.)
[during the Korean War] everything else in North Korea had been destroyed, the [US] air force was sent to destroy North Korea's dams, huge dams that controlled the water supply – a war crime, by the way, for which people were hanged in Nuremberg. [...] the water pouring down, digging out the valleys, and the Asians scurrying around trying to survive. [...] It meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation and death. How magnificent!
The Geneva Convention does protect the environment. Or rather: it professes to protect natural resources upon which the local population depends. See the Ecowar blog / 'Geneva Convention' needed to protect environment from war (Nov 2007) or Ecowar - Natural Resources and Conflict (the book, Dec 2011) pages 9, 29-30 and 120.

However, flooding an area did not automatically get generals hanged after the WWII. This tactic was used by China, the Dutch, the Soviet Union, Germany and Great Britain. At least. To be honest, I haven't checked if any German soldiers were hanged for drowning people in this way. But my wild guess is no.

Read How to destroy the future at The Guardian (Danish translation Sådan ødelægger vi fremtiden at Information). It is great reading like most of Noam's pieces.

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