FOR decades, the United States has defined national security
threats in terms of nuclear arsenals, arms balances, and hostile
But since the end of the cold war, policymakers have become
increasingly attentive to "natural" occurrences, such as poverty
and overpopulation, that are often the underlying causes of the
political and social disorder that can implicate US interests
The growing importance of environmental concerns in
foreign-policy making will be underscored when Secretary of State
Warren Christopher gives what is being billed as a major speech at
Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., tomorrow.
Mr. Christopher is expected to highlight the need to factor in
famine, water shortages, greenhouse gasses, and other concerns when
conducting foreign diplomacy. The address coincides with the
implementation of a recent Christopher directive to State
Department officials to pay closer heed to environmental issues.
"I expect regional bureaus to identify how environment,
population, and resource issues affect key US interests,"
Christopher instructed top department officials in an internal memo
"There's a growing appreciation of how environmental factors
interact with our diplomacy," elaborates a senior department
official. "The purpose of the initiative is to consolidate the
lessons we've learned over the past three years and to bring them
more fully to public attention."
One such lesson was learned in Haiti, where the overthrow of a
democratically elected president and the subsequent exodus of
refugees to the US combined to create a major foreign-policy
problem for Presidents Bush and Clinton.
Many experts believe the real source of the country's troubles
lies with the widespread deforestation, soil erosion, and water
shortages that have left tens of thousands of Haitians without a
livelihood. "There's a direct link between this and why the
government was overthrown and why 50,000 migrants left Haiti in
1994," says the State Department source.
"You can't say deforestation alone created the political
problems in Haiti but it contributed to poverty and thus to an
unstable situation," adds the senior official. "There's no question
those factors will make the challenge of political and economic
reconstruction in Haiti much more difficult."
Emerging 'green' issues
Other problems department officials are worried about: food
shortages resulting from population growth and disappearing
cropland; scarce water resources leading to conflict within or
between states; overcrowded cities swelled by migrants from
environmentally wasted rural areas; and political unrest caused by
the inability of poor nations to keep up with the demands of
populations with doubling times of 25 years or less. …