Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Rebel access to [natural] resources crucially shapes armed civil conflict"

How does rebel access to natural resources affect conflict? "How". Not "if". That is the question investigated by Päivi Lujala of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, recently published in the Journal of Peace Research.

Or rather: Where previous research has either suggested a link or sought to explain it by an indirect effect through resource abundance tending to corrupt weak governments Lujala sets out to look closer at the influence of the more exact locations of the resources (something I believe for example Le Billon did already).

Lujala is confident enough to state in the introduction that "new data on localities of hydrocarbon fields throughout the world, shows that crude oil and natural gas directly affect rebel movements [...] easily extractable resources, such as gemstones, have an effect on rebel groups." The relationship is quantified - for example:
  • "If resources are located inside the actual conflict zone, the duration of conflict is doubled." And...
  • "oil and gas reserves have this effect on duration regardless of whether there has been production or not."
  • Regarding the initiation of rebellion "onshore [not offshore] oil production increases the risk of conflict onset by 50%."
  • And "secondary diamond production increases the risk of conflict onset by more than 40%."

One of the things I have been pondering is the simple distinguishing of states of societies in just two categories: in peace or in war. It is insufficient for intelligent discussion. Lujala is adding words to this argument: "natural resources, especially those that are easily exploited, provide motivation and means for rebel uprisings." In other words, rebellions may just be organized crime with political agendas attached. Of course, even more or less "legitimate" rebel groups could be driven to resource exploitation if their financial resources are exhausted in a prolonged conflict.

Hydrocarbons have traditionally been categorized as non-lootable as production usually requires substantial international industrial activities. But Lujala finds oil reserves even not in production does have effects and explains it by rebels potentially being "willing to engage in a long conflict [...] if the future price is large enough". While regarding reserves in production exceptions are seen in Nigeria where large scale looting occurs and in Columbia where rebels extort oil companies. However, note that regarding gas "production has no effect on conflict onset." Gas probably appears too hard to loot?

A look at the statistical analysis reveals how the data set was checked for influences other than profitable natural resources. The same tests are run for presence of mountainous regions, forest cover, language differences and difficult weather. It is worth noting that separatist conflicts (over territory rather than government power) and conflicts with one or more sides being democratic tends to last longer, while countries suffering from poverty and overpopulation are more prone to conflict onset.

Lujala, P. (2010). The spoils of nature: Armed civil conflict and rebel access to natural resources Journal of Peace Research, 47 (1), 15-28 DOI: 10.1177/0022343309350015

Also see Ross, 2004 which is mentioned by Lujala several times.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How many people can live on Planet Earth? Watch this BBC documentary!

Whether you're discussing water resources, food security, climate change, migration, developing countries or pretty much any geopolitical or human ecological topic there is one other topic often avoided: Overpopulation. Watch this 58 minute BBC documentary on YouTube.

Regarding "Ecowar relevance" the following parts are especially interesting.

14 min: Value of ecosystem services
Doug Hamilton, International Space Station.
"When you see how hard it is to reproduce what Mother Nature does every day for all of us you begin to really appreciate the world that you have."
17 min: Water
Mexican government emergency water truck driver.
"At some time in the future wars are going to be fought over water, not oil. But people don't seem to understand."
27 min: Land grabs
Chinese, Saudi Arabian and British "land grabs". Most are in Africa which already has trouble feeding itself.
In the 29th minute a segment about Rwanda begins... Then there is peak oil, carrying capacity, relative ecological footprints, Indian family planning... almost the entire package.

Thank you David Attenborough and BBC. And thank you EJC for alerting me of this program.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Crude Awakening (four years late)

Predating the first post at this present blog by about 13 months in 2006 the documentary A Crude Awakening warned of the implications of oil soon running out.

From Wikipedia's section "Findings", my emphasis:
overall conclusions were that a global peak was imminent (if not already occurring), more wars would be fought to control access to oil resources, and economies most dependent on oil (or relying on trade with oil-dependent nations) would suffer dire consequences
At IMDb the user cross-45 rates it 10/10 and from his review:
This film puts into perspective and also gives me many answers for the bloodshed carried out in many of the wars of the last century, and continuing into this century
Already in the trailer, a woman says:
Oil is a magnet for war. Oil starts wars. 

Welcome to my Ecowar Movies list (and my 'Must See' list), A Crude Awakening.

See IMDbthe Wikipedia entry and the official site. (Thanks to Lara Smallman for alerting me about this one.)

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