Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Climate Change as a Security Risk

UN warns on climate change-related conflict
"We allow conflicts to arise and then invest a lot in peace-building afterwards,” Achim Steiner, the head of [UN Environment Programme], told the Financial Times. “What this report is saying is to invest in preventing some of this from happening and you will have a far lower human and economic cost. You risk also far less conflict in the world and that means preparing your governance for these kinds of scenarios."

"It’s not just a question of ice melting in 30 years. If you look at food inflation running at 18 per cent in China [this year] on the back of Australia’s drought that’s increasing wheat prices, it is happening now." [British official]

Africa: Climate Change - Heating Up Conflict
Increasing pressure caused by climate change on essential resources like water could not only trigger domestic conflicts but also have a destabilising effect globally, warn UN officials. [(my emphasis)...] "We are not trying to depoliticise the [Darfur] conflict," said Steiner, "[but] we need to learn, to understand, that if we had taken into account some of the factors [related to climate change], we could have avoided some of the conflicts that have exploded. [...] If we look at South Asia alone, the melting [glaciers would mean] tens of millions of people will have to leave their livelihoods. Where will they go? How will they impact on the host communities that receive them?" said Steiner. "We must look at the potential security threat posed by these changes - we cannot bury our heads in the sand."

Both articles are essentially about the release of the report Climate Change as a Security Risk. According to a quick Google search it sells for "only £67.50". Fortunately, it also turns up Climate Change as a Security Risk - Summary for Policy-Makers.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict

Climate change is the largest environmental change expected this century. It is likely to intensify droughts, storms and floods, which will undoubtedly lead to environmental migrations and potential conflicts in the areas migrated to. [...] Rafael Reuveny from Indiana University in the US looks at the role of environmental degradation on population migration, or ‘ecomigration’. He examines its impact on areas receiving migrants and resulting violent conflict in particular.

physorg.com / Environmental exodus, Political Geography / Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict (subscription).

Monday, November 26, 2007

On casualties of the militarized race for oil

At first, I read Swedish Construction as Sexism in Ecuador as "just" another sad story about prostitution. But within it is the story about casualties of the militarized race for our remaining non-renewable energy resources; in this case Ecuadorean women and girls.

Skanska, with the operational responsibility of 5,000 oil wells in Latin America, is raping the earth as well as the women of the region. [...] Oil companies like Texaco and Shell arrived in the Amazon region of Ecuador in the 1950s, and with the help of the military they stole indigenous lands. The region is now constantly militarized and the military has repeatedly been deployed against the local population during demonstrations. [...] The role of the military in the oil state of Ecuador is clear – it is under direct order of the oil companies. The local population is forced to pass the oil companies’ military check points in their own villages, and outsiders must seek permission from the companies to visit the areas, and must state their relation to the company while travelling. [...] Prostitution is further institutionalized in the Ecuadorian military since all military personnel receive a ticket to buy sex from one of the military’s own sex workers. The women mainly come from the coast to live on the military base while they work there. Each month, an obligatory five dollars is deducted for prostitution from each military’s $100 salary. The militarization of indigenous territory has also led to the military raping local women.

Absolutely insane. Prostitution is one of barbarianism's fingerprints, and the oil industry is increasingly looking like a war party.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nature: Is this what the world's coming to?

With climate change placing increasing pressure on environmental resources, it is now being viewed as a threat to national security.

History is littered with lessons from once-budding civilizations that crashed from their peak of prosperity. From the Anasazi of the southwestern United States to the Mayans of Mesoamerica1 and the ancient dynasties of eastern China2, environmental change has sounded the death knell throughout time for once-thriving civilizations already stressed by factors including high population growth, overexploitation of resources and excessive reliance on external trade. In many cases, severe drought or extreme cold has been enough to push societies to the brink of civil unrest, mass migration and warfare.

Meta note: Although I check out Nature.com every now and then (continuously with RSS, of course) Dr. Saleem H. Ali got to it first and indirectly notified me by posting it to his blog at Newsvine.com which I also subscribe to. Web 2.0 galore.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"We may well see warfare erupt, and it should not be that big a surprise"

"Our basic model is that deviations in temperature can hamper crop production. [...] We found that anecdotes [of climate changes leading to conflict] seem to fit a broader pattern."

This is a global follow up to the recent Chinese study linking changes in climate to conflicts. Hopefully soon to turn up for free from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but for now New Scientist has this story.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Geneva Convention' needed to protect environment from war

"Although some positive outcomes can occur, such as when a vacated area becomes enriched with wildlife and vegetation, this is weighed against the destruction of social networks, systematic atrocities and the collapse of workable government. Future success after the conflict period may rely on natural resources and their careful management. Safeguarding natural resources in a conflict zone during the conflict itself makes sound social and economic sense for future stability."
- Dr Richard Pagett

"We also need to acknowledge that fighting occurs where resources are scarce due to over population, meaning we need sensible population policies. We must treat the environment and each other with more respect."
- Nick Reeves, CIWEM

Actually, the Geneva Conventions already does address the environment:

Methods or means of warfare that are intended or may be expected to case widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment are prohibited.
- (Protocol I, Art. 35, Sec. 3)

Attacks against crops, livestock and agricultural areas needed for food production for the civilian population are prohibited. [...] Attacks against civilian drinking water installation and irrigation works are prohibited.
- ( Protocol I, Art. 54 , Sec. 2)

(Quotes from genevaconventions.org)

Monday, November 05, 2007

“The Age of Consequences”

AP / Climate Affects Security
Climate change could be one of the greatest national security challenges ever faced by U.S. policy makers, according to a new joint study by two U.S. think tanks.

Center For American Progress: Global Warning - The Security Challenges of Climate Change (press release)
During the course of the past year, a high-level working group of foreign policy experts, climate scientists, historians, and other specialists has met regularly to investigate the national security and foreign policy implications of climate change. Many of the key findings of this task force, which was directed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, are presented in the new report.


  • Intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for food, water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • Heightened risk of state failure and regional conflagration.

  • Increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

  • Strain on the capacity of the United States—and in particular the U.S. military—to act as a “first responder” to international disasters and humanitarian crises due to their increased frequency, complexity, and danger.

  • Growing demand for international institutions to play new and expanded roles in the management of refugee crises and in providing forums for the negotiation of climate agreements.

A War Game Supposes Scarce and Risky Oil

New York Times report from a role-playing game about US national security and oil dependency. Roles played by former White House staff.

The military advisers urged redeployment of the bulk of America’s naval and air power to the Persian Gulf in anticipation of war, and urged reinstatement of the draft for young men and women.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Australian man killed in water-rage attack

A man has been charged with murder in Australia after an elderly man who was watering his garden was bashed to death in an apparent case of suburban water-rage.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another frontier in Wars on Terror and Drugs

The US is currently pressuring a reluctant Afghan government for permission to do aerial spraying of poppy fields.

As heroin exports rise and battlefield successes become rarer, the US intends to start doing what they have been doing in Colombia for years: Carpet bombing the drug crop fields with Monsanto-made glyphosate, Roundup Ultra. What could seem like a win-win strategy has many darker sides to it though.

"Aerial spraying is a bad idea, first because the Afghans have to do the eradication if it is to avoid a backlash from farmers and play into the hands of Taliban propaganda. Western aircraft spraying Afghan fields doesn't look like the government is responsible. There are also bound to be charges that people's health or animals have been affected and there is sure to be collateral damage to legal crops." - European counter-narcotics official in the Telegraph article

Read Telegraph / US officials push to spray Afghan drug crops, thepeoplesvoice.org/ United States to begin Chemical Warfare operations in Afghanistan.

So, how has the Chemical War on Drugs fared in Colombia? Well, most biologically interesting is the appearance of a glyphosate resistant - "Roundup Ready" - variety of the coca bush (source: Wired, Wikipedia)! And yes, there has been reports of health problems in farmer populations and damage to legal crops. One lengthy, thorough and critical look at Plan Colombia is CorpWatch.org's Toxic Drift: Monsanto and the Drug War in Colombia (2001). From that article:

"The twelve indigenous peoples have been suffering under this plague as if it were a government decree to exterminate our culture and our very survival. Our legal crops -- our only sustenance -- manioc, banana, palms, sugar cane, and corn have been fumigated. Our sources of water, creeks, rivers, lakes, have been poisoned, killing our fish and other living things. Today, hunger is our daily bread. In the name of the Amazonian Indigenous people I ask that the fumigations be immediately suspended." - José Francisco Tenorio.

Of course, there is also a lot of information on Wikipedia: see entries Plan Colombia and Coca eradication.

A short, short summary is billions of tax payer's money have been spent, wide stretches of Colombian biosphere scorched, coca production is up, cocaine prices are down and abuse on the rise, the civil war is still raging and the Monsanto stock price is up and climbing. Of course, each of these results have been influenced by numerous factors, not just Roundup. But personally I fail to see the big success worth copying.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Experts: Climate change threatens peace

"Climate change is and will be a significant threat to our national security and in a larger sense to life on Earth as we know it to be"

- retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, former U.S. Army chief of staff.

"[climate change] could potentially destabilize the geopolitical environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war due to resource constraints."

- Pentagon report.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lebanon: the environmental impact of the conflict with Israel

A year since the war between Israel and Hezbollah [...] in Lebanon, the consequences on the environment are still calamitous and putting the lives of thousands of people in the country at risk.

Source: Equilibri.net / Lebanon: the environmental impact of the conflict with Israel

  • 70% of the South Lebanese depend on subsistence farming. But 90% of their arable land has been effectively mined by Israel's intensive use of cluster bombs.

  • Wildlife severely harmed and tourism devastated due to extreme pollution of coasts and water resources.

  • Article also details clean-up efforts.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

War. Pollution. Religion.


For years, concern about global ecology has been perceived in Israel as a luxury that the country cannot afford while it is in the midst of an existential security struggle. Some people noted, and rightly, that preventing a single war in [the Middle East] would contribute a great deal more to the environment and our health than all the environmental campaigns of all the green organizations put together. [...] Jews and Muslims alike, have become entrenched in petrified doctrines and archaic views of "holiness," especially the sanctity of land, that have nothing in common with the needs and lives of human beings under changing political and ecological conditions.

Source: Greener than the pope - Haaretz

the U.S. military is the world’s largest consumer of oil and the world’s largest polluter. America is also addicted to war for oil [...] The 101st Airborne Division really did name a Base Exxon and a Base Shell somewhere in the deserts of Iraq! [...] “men lead us to war for enough oil to continue to go to war for oil.”

Source: Dissident Voice : Oil Wars: Fueling Both U.S. Empire & Ecocide


The IUCN-World Conservation Union [Wikipedia] recently named Israel the nation with the highest percentage of preserved land in the Mediterranean region. [...] a major portion of the Israeli open space which was included in the organization's survey is also used in military training exercises. [...] Military activity in these areas impacts nature, but most of the damage is minimal due to a unique agreement between the IDF and the Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA). [...] the general trend, in which animal and plant species in the region are becoming extinct, has not been halted.

Source: Water Cooperation in the Middle East

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

West Bank: Occupation bad for environment

[...] during more than 40 years of Israeli control, the West Bank has become, either consciously or unconsciously, our garbage dump, and particularly that of the settlements and illegal outposts in the area. Toxic sewage from plants and sewage systems pouring into Palestinian agricultural and pasture areas are a routine matter. [...] The sewage and waste cause irreversible destruction and damage to the natural springs in these areas and to ground water in aquifers. Olive trees and crops belonging to residents in the territories are damaged forever; nature reserves or areas that were supposed to be declared as such are damaged and neglected, along with the direct damage to flora and fauna, and to the entire delicate ecological system that exists there. [...] The environmental hazards will not disappear even if we build a fence or define the territories as enemy territory. The area, in and of itself, is homogenous, despite the two peoples living there.

West Bank ecology. Picture from original article.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Correlations from weather to sociology

The past

It turns out that [19th century] Bavaria kept remarkably comprehensive crime statistics - the most meticulous in Germany - and when laid out one on top of the other, there was a startlingly robust correlation between the amount of rain, the price of rye and the rate of property crime: they rose and fell together in lockstep.

[...] rainfall often has a surprisingly strong effect on violence

[...] The causes of any war are incredibly complex - or are they? The economists found that one of the most reliable predictors of civil war [in Africa during the 1980s or 1990s] is lack of rain.

The future

[...] the predicted rise in temperature will increase the death rate for American men by 1.7 percent and for women by 0.4 percent.

[...] global warming would produce a net agricultural gain in the US, [some] states would be the big winners and [some] would be the big losers.

Source: Global warming could bring us together - By Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

From the Ecowar frontiers

Middle East

Around one-third of a massive oil slick caused by Israeli bombing of a Lebanese power plant remains in the Mediterranean a year on from war

Source: Lebanon still cleaning oil spill one year after war - Middle East Times


Canada's increased military presence in the Arctic poses environmental dangers as bullets, shells, shell casings and other war-game detritus wind up in ecologically sensitive waters and tundra

Source: globeandmail.com: War games in Arctic draw fire over impact on ecology

Central America

Campesinos in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have been blocking access to an area where the government wants to build a huge dam and hydroelecric station, since 2003

Source: ENVIRONMENT-MEXICO: High Voltage Conflict Over Dam


Bullets, grenades, bombs, mortars and other war tools obliterate wildlife, disturb native habitats and poison the air, water and soil with toxic chemicals. This damage to the environment is very costly and can persist for generations.

Source: Concealed casualty of war - INQUIRER.net

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's the 11th hour

That's right - I just played my part in viral whoring of Leonardo DiCaprio's new film, The 11th hour [IMDb]. But it really touched my heart getting an email from Mikhail Gorbachev and Stephen Hawking (read: an email from the web 2.0 ad company they hired to push the thing). No, seriously: sure, I'm going to watch it sometime.

I even watched The Great Global Warming Swindle [IMDb] and An Inconvenient Truth [IMDb] as they were both recently broadcast on Danish TV. One is pretty good layman's science weirdly drenched in US American pathos, the other is a sadly funny mix of conspiracy theories. Figure out which is which yourself - I don't make up my opinion from movies. I've been reading the science for years, I'm happy to brag. But of course most people don't and movies are invaluable in communicating to any wider audience.

“With the onset of global warming and other catastrophic events, environmentalism has become a broader unifying human issue. We as citizens, leaders, consumers and voters, have the opportunity to help integrate ecology into governmental policy and every day living standards.”
- DiCaprio.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Endangered gorillas shot dead

Three female mountain gorillas and a male silverback gorilla were found shot dead this week inside a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a conservation group said Thursday.


The skin of one of the dead gorillas was recovered from a latrine in a nearby camp of rebels fighting the government, the IGCP said.

January 25, 2007: Congo Rebels Agree to End Gorilla Slaughter

(Warning: This article contains a graphic photograph that may be disturbing to some readers.)

January 17, 2007: Rebels Reportedly Kill, Eat Two Gorillas in Congo

Rebels in eastern Congo have killed and eaten two mountain gorillas, conservationists said Wednesday, adding they feared more of the endangered animals may have been slaughtered in the lawless region.

07/08/2002: Warfare on gorillas poses threat to survival

Business couldn't be better. Indeed, poaching in the once remote regions of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Republic of Congo has become the most immediate threat to the survival of lowland gorillas.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Darfur: Drought or Islamism?

It's not that I want to write up an excuse for religious extremism. It's not even that I claim expertise in the whole Darfur situation in particular. It's just that for quite some time I have noticed the natural resources vs. civil war link that should get this blog noticed. Yet I also noticed some political writers drumming to the 'Muslim Terrorist' beat at the mention of Darfur. For examples see The Darfur Genocide and Global Warming by Fred Thompson and Ban Ki Moon: Super Genius by Mac Johnson. What beautiful little civil war in far off Africa - perfect for both Islamophobic fearmongering and neo-conservative UN-subversion. A brief quote from the latter rant:
In Darfur, radical Muslim militias have taken to slaughtering Christian and Pagan farmers for fun and profit. Since radical Muslims elsewhere in the world are generally a peaceful lot, Ban Ki Moon has wisely seen that it must be the weather setting them off.

Then yesterday the news break that an underground water source has been found in Sudan: AP / Scientists Find Lake Remnants in Sudan. I cannot help but quote:
"Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages," said geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, [...] "There have been two long episodes of drought during the past 20 years, each lasting for about seven years," the scientist said, adding that the drought aggravated tensions between Darfur's ethnic African tribesmen and nomadic Arabs.

This month the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report on the issue: 'Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment' (full report in PDF | website | summary at PeopleAndPlanet / 'Environmental decay a root cause of Sudan strife'). Also, AP recently delivered an article on the war-resource link (Experts: Darfur Faces Environment Crisis) in which it is concisely explained how droughts triggered the war and how the war worsened the environmental crisis in return.

To date, I haven't noticed any right wing nutcase blogger crack jokes at the actual problems at play, let alone any actual right wing politician addressing them. What they haven't figured out is how to profit, I suspect. But perhaps now water has been found and the experts have been so outspoken on the loose-loose situation there, the neocons will have to find other issues to spin for the next "anti-terror law" or whatever.

PS: Sorry for being a bit more cynical and political than I originally intended to be at this blog. Couldn't help it in this case. Guess that Mac Johnson guy got to me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good news: Barn Owls Unite Israelis, Jordanians

For years, Ibrahim Alayyan watched in frustration as rats ravaged the date crop at his lush family farm.

Beautiful story on good ecosystem management uniting people even while their states are at war.

Alternative link / Washington Post

Thursday, July 12, 2007

About this blog

I claimed this URL a long time ago but ended up blogging at Newsvine.com which I still do. But when I found the study on Chinese history of temperature and warfare through my Newsvine watchlist I came to think of this idea again because that study in particular portrays my idea so beautifully.

Of course, wars are fought for many reasons. I just see natural resources at play and at stake very often. And since it's at an intersection of a couple of my interests, I'm going to give this blog a go anyway. On the one hand it's nothing special, just a place for me to systematically note links to stories. On the other hand, since updates will be infrequent they will also be of some quality, I promise.

Please subscribe, comment or forward interesting stories.

In the near future I think I'm going to dig into the stories I have posted and seen at Newsvine (which is usually easy because of that sites excellent tagging) and post them here in somewhat updated and systematical fashion. Topics may include:
  • Melting of polar regions and the race for resources there
  • Water in Palestine
  • Drought in Darfur

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

UN study on policies regarding desertification

Overcoming One of the Greatest Environmental Challenges of Our Times: Re-thinking Policies to Cope with Desertification

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that desertification is one of the most pressing global environmental challenges of our time, threatening to reverse the gains in sustainable development that we have seen emerge in many parts of the world. It is a process that can inherently destabilize societies by deepening poverty and creating environmental refugees who can often add stress to areas that may not yet be degraded. The impacts of desertification are exacerbated by political marginalization of the dryland poor, by the slow growth of health and education infrastructure and by the lack of livelihood alternatives to resource depleting agricultural practices.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Chinese study correlates climate change with wars

Climate change, and the resulting shortage of ecological resources, could be to blame for armed conflicts in the future, according to David Zhang from the University of Hong Kong and colleagues. Their research, which highlights how temperature fluctuations and reduced agricultural production explain warfare frequency in eastern China in the past, has been published online in Springer’s journal Human Ecology.

Main points in short:
  • Wars throughout Chinese history correlated to cold periods in climate change cycles
  • Situations of "ecological stress" spurs conflict and should be taken into account in other historical reviews of war
  • In the future resource shortages could create conflicts and wars

The original article is available to subscribers only, but of course they have the abstract for free: Zhang et al: Climate Change and War Frequency in Eastern China over the Last Millennium. Human Ecology, 2007.

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