War: Bioregional and Political Boundaries

In exploring the connections between ecology and war, writers such as Thomas Homer-Dixon have argued that environmental changes could be a cause for acute conflict between first and third world nations. Other writers, such as, Alan Weisman, have argued that wars have created refuges for animals fleeing from an ever growing society. From these readings, some questions we might ask are: How do both writers cite human population growth to support their arguments. Does war have positive or negative environmental consequences? How is war related to human population growth and environmental destruction?
In the essay “War and Peace: Security at Stake,” it is explained that:
Historically, most wars have multiple causes, with the ecological pressure of overpopulation and resource scarcity often underscoring more proximate ideological, ethnic, personal, and political tensions. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars on the one hand, and the Russian Revolution on the other, correlated with demographic booms in the French and Russian country side. War fulfills some of the same functions of trade; it is a way of obtaining resources, both natural and human-produced. (Environment 213)
The root causes of war then seems to be hard to pin down. War seems to come about out of a combination of social, demographic, political, and environmental factors. For this writer, the interesting point of this passage is that nations use war as a mean to obtain natural resources. In other words, nations sometimes cross their political boundaries to meet their resource needs. Does this mean political boundaries are the part of the cause of war or that nations do not realize political boundaries overlap ecosystems. Gary Snyder argues that such conflict can be solved if nations could place themselves within bioregional boundaries.
Lakes, streams, mountains, flora and fauna do not fit easily into political boundaries. Dixon, for example, explains how, “current controversy over the Great Anatolia Project on the Euphrates River illustrates how simple scarcity conflicts can arise” (Dixon 107). He continues to explain that, “by early in the next century, Turkey plans to build a huge complex of twenty dams and irrigation systems along the upper reaches of the Euphrates” this in turn would reduce water flow to Syria. Furthermore, as [t]he water […] passes through Turkey’s irrigation systems and down to Syria [it] will be laden with fertilizers, pesticides, and salts” (Dixon 107-08). The conflict between Turkey and Syria arises because Syria is depended on “[much] of the water for its towns, industries, and farms” (Dixon 108). Although no war has come about between these two countries, we can see how environmental changes can become a cause of acute conflict.

 
 
 
 

 

The “War and Peace” essay explains how nations have destroyed the environment as a military strategy in war. For example, the English destroyed Irish crops in the hopes of that the Irish would starve. In a similar manner, the U.S. used Agent Orange as a “defoliant […] to strip away the natural cover of guerilla fighters” (Environment 213). Furthermore, the essay explains that such military actions have also had “unintended consequences.” The essay, as an example, cites, “U.S. nuclear testing once rendered the Marshall Islands virtually uninhabitable” (Environment 214). Ironically, warfare as also helped preserve ecological balance by creating ‘no-man’s lands’ such as the DMZ in Korea were wildlife has found a safe haven from the encroachment of society (Environment 214). Alan Weisman, in The World Without Us, suggests that such “no-man’s lands” could even help stop war by forcing clashing governments such as North and South Korea to recognize shared ecosystems.

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3 Responses to “War: Bioregional and Political Boundaries”

  1. rudweiser Says:

    I’ve never looked at war as a fight to secure resources. Also, I’ve never thought that war could have positive effects on the environment. I wonder if the decrease in human population really has a significant effect on the environment. Although, I think the damage inflicted on the environment from fighting war outweighs no-man’s land zones and population decreases. It seems that unless we figure out how to allocate our resources efficiently and equally, war is inevitable in our future.

    • Brian Nichols Says:

      Sorry, maybe environment was not a good word to describe that animal populations have increased in times of war due to the addition of human meat into their diet. For example, during the Vietnam War loin populations increased because they would often eat killed soldiers.

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