Last Saturday, February 28, I noticed a full two page article in the Vancouver Sun “Facing a world of fire and ice,” that focused on global warming and the huge impact on changing climates that are effecting every place on our fragile little planet. However, equally interested from reading the article, was the involvement and implementation of measures by, of all places, the Pentagon, which houses the headquarters of the United State’s military. This should not of surprised me, as I read further into the story I began to reflect on another essay that I read in one of my Political Science classes that set the stage of this scenario called the “Environmental Scarcity, Mass Violence, and the Limits to Ingenuity.”
Both papers are concerned with the fact that as climates change, what once were fertile land, then disaster follows, would conceivably induce some form of violence as population shifts. The Vancouver Sun article states wars perhaps a nulcler war would break out as these populations try to obtain resources that then would become scarce. Speculations then would conceive that the pentagon would be playing a dual role here: either defending itself from an aggressor taking resources that are controlled or owned by the U.S. or, their military forces would sequester valuable resources that have become scarce within the it’s borders from abroad. However, the essay picks up from where the article leaves off as far as this dilemma goes.
The author of the assay points that there are three forms of scarcity. The first form is due to over population of a land from which the resources can no longer sustain that rate of growth. Secondly, the differences of depletion in renewable resources versus nonrenewable resource effecting demographical and geographical regions thus determining each group and area would get for how long. Lastly, the distribution of a resource: “how big a piece of the pie” a society would get. Structural scarcity, as its called, would determined between two group occupying the same land, if one controlled it, then it would dole out those it deems best and create an imbalance in the area among the lesser group.
“Our next war could be fought over water, rather than oil,” the essay states and paints a picture that if countries are faced with possible extinction due to depletions of renewable resources such as water, war would be quite possible.
However, these type of battles have being vary few, or “rare.” In the last 200 years as political intervention has resulted in trade and ingenuity, compensating for scarce resources most wars have being brought on through nonrenewable resources and land grabs, but not focused on scarcity in this magnitude.
This reliance on technology and changing lifestyles would predominately refocus these concern first, then, rather than on war. The political states that would change as a result of these demands would certainly change the policy of its mandate. So we are back to a the 50/50 game as to what a government would do in order to solve it’s resources depletion.
Is the U.S. Pentagon a seemingly sober indicator of this factor? Perhaps the reliance of ingenuity, combined with changing lifestyles are needed more than ever? Would countries such as ours be highly vulnerable due to our close proximity to the U.S. with our large abundance of renewable and nonrenewable resources just a simple pipeline away or a quick incursion of a small to minimal military force?
With the human population growing at 4.5 percent per year, and currently at over 6 billion, we must look at the macro view with more concerns then ever before. The message is clear whether one believes all of this is the results of human intervention, or nature’s way of continuing change, we must adapt and adapt smartly.
Hume, Stephen, 2004, February 28: Facing the World of Fire and Ice, Vancouver Sun, Section C, pages 1,2.
Homer-Dixon, F. Thomas, 2000: Environmental Scarcity, Mass Violence, and the Limits to Ingenuity, from the book: Braving the New World, readings in Contemporary Politics, by Bateman, Mertin, and Thomas, published by Nelson.