Environmental Security: A Guide to the Issues

By Elizabeth L. Chalecki | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Natural Resources

We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.

—Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, founder of OPEC (1976)

There is no peace. We are getting tired of being attacked daily. We used to
flee to the forest before but now there is nowhere to escape. The conflict is
everywhere
.

—Bandu Kaberuka, Congolese farmer (Al Jazeera 2010)

Security of natural resources is a seemingly obvious form of environmental security. However, not all natural resources are secured in the same way. Depending on the type and quantity of the resource, where it is found, and how it is used, too little of one resource can be a security threat while too much of another can also be a security threat.

Environmental resource shortage can cause conflict directly in at least three different ways. A reduction in the quantity or quality of the resource shrinks the amount of the resource pie available to everyone. Population growth divides the pie into smaller and smaller pieces for each person. Unequal resource distribution within a society means that some groups get disproportionately large pieces (Homer-Dixon 1994, 8–9). These are not mutually exclusive occurrences, but can happen together. In countries with few economic resources, control of this natural capital equates to control of both political and military power.

The primary cause of resource scarcity is population growth, and global population has already surpassed 7 billion, most of which lives in the

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