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.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Without Water, Revolution"

From Without Water, Revolution by Thomas L. Friedman on The New York Times:
THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers
"The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war", said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work. [...] "State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing," said Aita, "and Assad failed in that basic task."
For more about the invention of government to manage irrigation and granaries see Ecowar the book pages 13-14.
The best jobs in Hasakah Province, Syria’s oil-producing region, were with the oil companies. But drought refugees, virtually all of whom were Sunni Muslims, could only dream of getting hired there. "Most of those jobs went to Alawites from Tartous and Latakia," said Zakaria [Zakaria, teenager], referring to the minority sect to which President Assad belongs and which is concentrated in these coastal cities.
"We could accept the drought because it was from Allah," said Abu Khalil [cotton farmer, smuggler and Free Syrian Army commander], "but we could not accept that the government would do nothing." Before we parted, he pulled me aside to say that all that his men needed were anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons and they could finish Assad off. "Couldn’t Obama just let the Mafia send them to us?" he asked. "Don’t worry, we won’t use them against Israel."
For more Syria see Ecowar the book page 24 and click the Syria-tag on this present blog. Also, I have linked to about 40 articles about Syria from the twitter account.

There is a preview of the book on the book website that includes page 13.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

For the youth


Saturday, March 09, 2013

George W. Bush is painting too many puppies

My brain was going into my feet from reading (not The Onion) / George W. Bush’s art teacher says he’ll “go down in the history books as a great artist”.

He has painted "more than 50" puppies!?

However, after posting this breaking news to Facebook, a friend of mine pointed out the cosmos in this chaos. It's been 23 years in the making...

Too many puppies are being shot in the dark
Too many puppies are trained not to bark at the sight of blood that must be spilled so that we may maintain our oil fields
Too many puppies, too many puppies

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Review: EARTH WARS - The Battle for Global Resources

"If the Earth wars were a sporting contest, here's how the half-time score might stand at the beginning of 2012..."
Georff Hiscock concludes his near 300 pages factual account of who owns the world with a surprisingly relaxed "scoreboard":
  • 1st: USA 10 points
  • 2nd: China 8p
  • 3rd - 4th: Europe, Japan 6p
  • 5th - 6th: Russia, India 5p
  • 7th: Brazil 4p
  • 8th - 10th: Mexico, Canada, Australia 3p
  • 11th - 14th: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE 2p
  • 15th - 22nd: South Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Central Asian republics, Mongolia 1p
  • Vietnam, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and some African countries also in 1st division but still no points
EARTH WARS is a concise business report on the current deals in global energy and metals production as seen from down under. It also mentions the main water disputes but does not go into details on food production controversies. It is a treasure trove of information and numbers on especially Asian contracts but often the most important situations from other important continents such as South America or Africa are mentioned as after little more than afterthoughts at the end of chapters.

It's business report like writing is it's strength and it's weakness. The "bullshit factor" is one of the lowest I have ever seen. In many ways this book is just pure reporting. However, at times it is a tough read. And occasionally I wonder if I better run double checks on some numbers: Having been flipping through numerous skeptical blogs, articles and books earlier, I am of the impression that repository estimations and future extraction plans are not always that crystal clear. Did Hiscock leave out some valid doubts somewhere?

To get an impression of what the book offers you can look at the contents on page "v". Or you can take a glance at the 27 lists in it, because the chapters are very much structured as walk-throughs of those lists. So, "Exhibit 3.3" is a top ten of Russian oil and gas companies (no. 1 is Gazprom) - well that part of chapter three is an ordered sequence of paragraphs briefing on the owners, sizes and belongings of those companies. Pretty much.

One gem of the book is it's quite detailed second chapter on "geographical flashpoints". This chapter contained the bulk of the info I needed for my "contested resource territories" map published yesterday (take a look!).

The book hardly takes into account climate change. That may seem weird, but actually Hiscock barely bother predicting the future. Which is actually quite a relief. As such, it is fair enough not to mention projected environmental impacts decades into the future. The demand for renewable energy, however, is mentioned. Compared to the focus on the business as usual going on with fossil energy the demand for renewable energy looks depressingly weak.

If I had used it for my own book, it would certainly be on my list of recommended reading. It's not for everyone, though. Those other books are typically more into storytelling (like witnessing pollution in Nigeria or dictatorships in South America) or typical popular science (past societal collapses, influence of climate change on geopolitics). Normal books. Geoff Hiscock's book is a business book that doesn't dream and doesn't imagine anything.

Either way, there is absolutely no reason to doubt a fierce global business war is raging over our natural resources. That much is very clear after Hiscock's documentation. As documentation of this situation the book is a very valuable contribution. But it's not exactly edutainment.

Geoff Hiscock (2012): EARTH WARS - The Battle for Global Resources at Google Books, book website.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Call for moratorium on extraction in contested territories

As can be seen in this recent infographic by Information is Beautiful and The Guardian, we need to leave about 86 percent of known fossil fuel resources in the ground to stay within our carbon budget and hopefully avoid raising global temperatures by more than two degrees Celsius. Still exploration and extraction continues unabated.

However, some resources are in undergrounds below contested territories. Not only are these hydrocarbons in ecologically responsible excess - they also risk causing the spilling of human blood even before they make it to the consumer. The below map points out twelve such territories.

Dear leaders and peoples of Argentina, Denmark, Canada, China, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Norway, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, USA, Vietnam: Please agree to leave these resources alone. Show the world your will to lead on climate change and peace. Designate these contested territories as protected natural reserves.

And dear signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, please consider compensating these countries for their good will with CO2 quotas.

Update: This post is now a petition at AVAAZ. Perhaps the most ambitious (naive) petition in the history of internet petitions. Please sign and advertise.

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