Environmental Conflict

Environmental Conflict

Environmental Conflict

Environmental Conflict

Synopsis

This text is a collection of articles that deal with different aspects of the role of environmental factors in interstate and intrastate conflict. The book includes the role of environmental change and degradation in promoting violent conflict.

Excerpt

This case study on South Africa was produced for the Project on Environment, Population, and Security at the University of Toronto. The project analysed the causal link between renewable resource scarcities and violent conflict. Researchers sought to answer two questions. First, does environmental scarcity contribute to violence in developing countries? Second, if it does, how does it contribute? The project therefore analysed cases that exhibited both environmental scarcity and violence--cases with a prima facie link between these two factors. This method of case selection may appear to prejudice the research in favour of finding a positive relationship between scarcity and violence. However, at the early stages of investigation into links between environmental scarcity and conflict, biased case selection enhances understanding of the complex relationships among variables in highly interactive social, political, economic, and environmental systems (Homer-Dixon, 1996).

We begin with an overview of the theory that guided the work of the project and this case study. Using this theoretical framework, we analyse the relationship between environmental scarcities and violence within South Africa. Although our analysis faced serious limitations in data quality and quantity, the data available suggest that scarcities of renewable resources-in the context of the apartheid system and the transition to majority rule-contributed to pre-election violence within South Africa. First, we examine environmental scarcity within the former homelands, trace its interaction with political, social, and economic factors, and examine the ef-

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