Friday, February 27, 2009

We're on the brink of disaster

Every outbreak of violence has its own distinctive origins and characteristics. All, however, are driven by a similar combination of anxiety about the future and lack of confidence in the ability of established institutions to deal with the problems at hand.


The riots that erupted in the spring of 2008 in response to rising food prices suggested the speed with which economically related violence can spread.


The cost of food is now closely tied to the price of oil and natural gas because petrochemicals are so widely and heavily used in the cultivation of grains.


zero economic growth in the developing world and rising food prices -- and you have a perfect recipe for unrelenting civil unrest and violence.


Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lord Stern: Deal with climate change or prepare for "extended world war"

"[Temperature change above 2 degrees Celsius would] transform where people can live [...] People would move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases [...And that would mean extended global conflict] because there's no way the world can handle that kind of population move in the time period in which it would take place."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Afghans killed... by pollution too

Three decades of war and severe drought have already damaged the country's environment with widespread desertification and deforestation and loss of vegetation and wildlife, deputy head of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency said.

But now, overpopulation in Afghanistan's cities, the burning of poor quality fuel, thousands of imported old cars, no proper waste management or sewage system and a boom in construction, have worsened air pollution, Jarullah Mansoori said.


"We are three times more polluted than the other capitals in the region. If everything is left as it is now, after two or three years, we will not be able to live in Kabul, said Mansoori.

"We will have to leave for another place, where we can find clean air, clean water and clean food. This is called environmental migration. When environmental migration takes place then it's a huge social problem," he said.

Reports: Nature's riches fought over - and over again

Two recent reports confirms the role of natural resources in armed conflict. One UN, one academic. From UN's report on the importance of the environment in conflict and peacebuilding:

Since the end of the Cold War, at least eighteen violent conflicts have been driven by the exploitation of natural resources. While political and military issues remain critical, conceptions of security and conflict have broadened, with environmental degradation now seen as a significant contributing factor to conflict. [...] Natural resources and the environment can be involved in all phases of the conflict cycle: from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of conflict and to spoiling the prospects for peace. The way that natural resources and the environment are governed has a determining influence on peace and security. - Consequently, it is clear that investing in environmental management and the governance of natural resources is an investment in conflict prevention. - Moreover, cooperation over the management of natural resources and the environment provide new opportunities for peacebuilding that should be pursued.

UNEP / From Conflict to Peacebuilding – the Role of Natural Resources and the Environment

Perhaps I'll grab a copy of the Conservation Biology article some time but for now we'll have to do with second hand accounts. Such as this from Conservation International / The Hottest Spots: Conservation in War Zones:
More than 80 percent of the world’s major armed conflicts during the last half century have taken place in some of the most biologically diverse and threatened places on Earth, according to a study published by the scientific journal Conservation Biology. The new paper entitled “Warfare in Biodiversity Hotspots” calls for conservation activities to remain strong during conflicts to ensure that local people will have the natural resources they need to survive and rebuild healthy communities post war. [...] A total of 23 biodiversity hotspots experienced significant violent conflict in which more than 1,000 people died between 1950 and 2000, and many suffered repeated episodes of violence. [...] War has devastating impacts on wildlife and other natural resources. Refugees are in no position to consider the environmental consequences of their actions. They hunt, gather firewood or build encampments to survive.

If in no mood for lengthy reports or academic lingo there are journalistic short versions - how I found the above documents anyway ;-) Check out New York Times's Dot Earth / Conflict Over, and in the Midst of, Nature’s Assets or AFP / 8 in 10 conflicts in environmental 'hotspots': study.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Equatorial Guinea: Oil found yesterday, coup attempted today

Mega-disclaimer: I haven't looked into the details. These two pieces of news may very well be entirely unrelated. Or they could be completely entwined. In any case when such news converge I simply have to take note.

For starters how about a usually credible source: BBC / Mystery over E Guinea gun battle
An unidentified armed group has launched an attack on the presidential palace in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
Nigerian "oil liberation" militants are being blamed but deny.

Those with subscriptions to a site called Ifra PR are supposedly able read this news piece: Noble Energy discovers oil in Equatorial Guinea. I have to admit I do not subscribe (sic!) but the excerpt at Google News goes: "The Government of Equatorial Guinea is extremely pleased that another oil...". Alternatively there is Equatorial Guinea Oil and Gas Report Q1 2009.

However, oil wasn't found yesterday. From the CIA:
The discovery and exploitation of large oil reserves have contributed to dramatic economic growth in recent years. [...] the government has stated its intention to reinvest some oil revenue into agriculture [...] No longer eligible for concessional financing because of large oil revenues, the government has been trying to agree on a "shadow" fiscal management program with the World Bank and IMF. Government officials and their family members own most businesses. Undeveloped natural resources include titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and alluvial gold. Growth remained strong in 2008, led by oil.
But see what I mean? And I thought I'd have trouble proving my point with this blog!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2nd Iraqi oil conflict?

The closest U.S. allies in Iraq — the Kurds — feel abandoned by Washington these days and say war with the Arab-dominated central government is likely without American pressure to resolve disputes that predate even the era of Saddam Hussein.

Tension between the Arabs and Kurds is multifaceted, but one of the major flashpoints is the status of Kirkuk, an area that contains 13 percent of Iraq's proven oil reserves.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Diamonds: Conflict, blood, war


Valentines diamonds to die for: Precious gem could come from a child worker like Ali, 13
Ali Tarawally should be rich beyond most people's wildest dreams.

The orphan has spent the past three years scouring the jungle of Sierra Leone - one of the most abundant places for diamonds on the planet - digging out precious stones.

But while the diamond fields feed a £35billion-a-year industry, he barely earns enough to eat.

Background / Conflict diamonds
The United Nations (UN) defines conflict diamonds as " that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council." These diamonds are sometimes referred to as "blood diamonds."

wikipedia / Blood diamond
In relation to diamond trading, blood diamond [...] refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa.
Stop Blood Diamonds is here to promote the use of conflict free diamonds. Diamonds are a beautiful natural resource - together we can assure that no person is harmed in their manufacturing.

New on my want to watch list: Blood Diamond.

Shell Gas Plant in Nigeria Attacked by Militants

Nigeria’s main militant group said it attacked a gas plant operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, attacked the Utorogun site today, it said in an e-mailed statement. Precious Okolobo, a Shell spokesman in Nigeria, confirmed the attack. “We’re carrying out checks on the plant,” Okolobo said by phone from Lagos.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Indian analysis: "USA might have benefited a great deal from its [lost] war in Afghanistan"

What hits Russian interests most is that if the Caucasian route materialises, the US would have consolidated its military presence in South Caucasus on a long-term basis. Ever since the conflict in the Caucasus in August, the US has maintained a continuous naval presence in the Black Sea, with regular port calls in Georgia. The indications are that the US is planning a carefully calibrated ground presence in Georgia as well. Talks are in the final stages for a US-Georgia Security and Military Agreement. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza visited Tbilisi for consultations in this regard.

Another dramatic fallout is that the proposed land route covering Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan can also be easily converted into an energy corridor and become a Caspian oil and gas corridor bypassing Russia. Such a corridor has been a long-cherished dream for Washington. Furthermore, European countries will feel the imperative to agree to the US demand that the transit countries for the energy corridor are granted NATO protection in one form or the other. That, in turn, leads to NATO's expansion into the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Iceland: Economy down, exploitation up


Iceland To Increase Illegal Killing of Endangered Fin Whales
Last year, Iceland killed nine endangered Fin whales. A few months back they began exporting the meat from the endangered whales to Japan, which is a clear violation of international law. This year, they want to kill 150.

Iceland's whale-hunting increase sparks outcry among conservationists
"Iceland has spat in the face of marine conservationists around the world with their extremist announcement that they wish to slaughter 150 endangered fin whales and 100 minke whales this year."


Financial crisis causes Iceland's government to collapse

Iceland's economic crisis toppled the government and destroyed the conservative prime minister's career yesterday when the entire cabinet resigned.

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