Remember “The Terminator”? Remember when John Connor, who has been transported to the present from the future, is describing life on future earth for Sarah Connor? The landscape is ravaged by war. Humans dodge the enemy by darting around blown up vehicles and sliding around walls, desperate to evade detection. Food and water are scarce. Life is lived day after day in the pathetic act of just trying to stay alive. But who was the enemy? Was it the Russians? Like in a James Bond movie? Was it Alien creatures here to destroy mankind? No…and this is the part of the film that Derek Gregory’s articles brought to mind…. In the sky, hovering, shooting at anything and everything that moves, were things that, to me, look a whole heck of a lot like drones.
While this may not be quite the world WE live in today, I have to wonder if, for the people of Pakistan Afghanistan and Iraq, this depiction is an all too familiar reality. The people on the ground have only their AK 47’s as weapons just as the humans in The Terminator, with just guns and improvised small bombs, attempt to fight back against the technological superiority of the robots. Overhead are robotic drones that can see everything you do and if necessary can wipe you out with the press of a button. In the article “War and Peace”, Gregory compares the low tech and high tech, “New Wars”. Precision weaponry vs. short distance, improvised weaponry. Air surveillance vs. ground based. Professional armies vs. civilian militias. Sound familiar? Additionally, Gregory delves into the use of Military PR to sell the war in terms that make it easier to digest. Terms like a Just War and Military Humanism. I also agree with Gregory’s assessment that we view people who are defending their land,culture and families as enemy combatants, when, if someone invaded the US and we fought back, just as they are fighting back, we would label ourselves Patriotic and Noble. But even more profound is the havoc that we are wreaking . “By driving the inhabitants of the bombarded area from their homes in a state of exasperation, dispersing them among neighboring clans and tribes with hatred in their hearts at what they consider unfair methods of warfare, these attacks bring about the exact political results which it is so important in our own interests to avoid, the permanent embitterment and alienation of the frontier tribes.” ( p.52) Gregory also points to, in “From a View to a Kill”, “the faceless enemies that wage war from afar and the faces of their human targets.”(p. 206) These two quotes paint a future potentially filled with desperate humans, driven by anger and resentment, that continue to fight against the enemy with little reason to stop. But, just like in “The Terminator”, how does one fight back against an inhuman enemy? And if the enemy, separated by thousands of miles,insulated by distance, continues the predatory assault , what chance will these two parties have to meet in the middle? In Geographic terms, where is the middle?
This week’s readings about the types of wars that are currently being waged make two essential arguments about its implications. The first is that the reliance on technology, more specifically drones, makes war much less risky for a war’s initiators and thus more tempting to them and dangerous to civilians located in areas where the conflict is. The second argument is that the these types of wars impose high levels of stress on the soldiers who operate drones and other highly advanced technological devices in these “new wars”.
Both these assertions are well documented in both in depth research materials and news stories. One example is the LA Times article on drone pilot stress, which explains that drone pilots operating form U.S. bases are active duty warriors mentally despite geographic location, and the effect of this reality on the psyches of combatants. The other connection between the arguments of the readings and real life is the Guardian UK’s drone war editorial, written by a British columnist, which argues that the concept of a drone war makes those who wage it feel as if they acquire a sort of semi-divine power, referring to the fact that these wars pose very little risk to the drone operators. The editorial even goes so far as to compare the drone pilots to the deities of Greek mythology.
The crucial operating question in all this is as follows: What will be the role of concepts such as fair play and balance of power in the future when these types of wars increase in frequency and intensity?
The theme of war’s pervasiveness, in war zones and non war zones alike, represents the most prominent theme from the readings. The articles discussed the normalization of war and the tools that render war so quotidian and implicit in every day society. These tools include technology that distance attackers from targets and render the latter more abstract. Additionally, these tools include legislation like the Patriot Act, which preys upon the need for “security” and has the potential to promote othering through profiling and touting the “necessity” of such profiling.
These measures put the concept of war in both the average citizen’s conscious and subconscious. The seemingly depoliticized war zone seeps into daily life as state approved contractors and weapon crafters, who remain detached from the fighting, profit nonetheless.
This article discusses the Travyon Martin case and its parallels with the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant (by police). Both cases involve a militarized police force that acted in an excessively aggressive manner under the preface of protecting the neighborhood. Both cases involved the murder of an innocent person, silenced witnesses, and, in both cases, the victim was a racial minority. The murder of Martin, however, brings new issues to light because his killer had no official power, maintained the position of self-appointed police, and may not even be proven guilty because of the “Standing Ground” law. Zimmerman, (the killer), felt entitled to the powers of an executive enforcer, and the law supported him in that vein.
This article discusses how outerspace does not boast immunity to the United States and its obsession with militarization. In fact, this article argues that the United States depends on militarization in space to succeed in its efforts on Earth.
My question may be difficult to answer: What will end the war culture that has become entrenched in our society? What benefits, if any, does it bring?
Drones: Are We Ensuring Future Enemies or Security?
According to “War and Peace” by Derek Gregory, two new types of war have emerged after the Cold War. The first “transforms advanced state militaries (particularly in the global North) through an emphasis on stripped-down, highly specialized forces deploying cutting-edge technology with unprecedented precision. The other is waged by non-state militias and guerrilla forces (particularly in the global South) and relies on light, even improvised weapons, focuses its violence on civilians and is implicated in the criminal circuits of a shadow globalization.” Basically, the global North’s military tactics are advancing by being able to fight from far away, yet more precisely, with the advent of technology. The global South, on the other hand, remains primitive and animal-like in its means of war, which it must fight face-to-face, hand-to-hand. There is an obvious difference in the physical geography of war here. The global North does not have to be in the area of conflict at all physically. It does not have to be on the ground on the battlefield. The global South does. This causes the North to be more distanced from the actual killings, which obviously is bad because they could not possibly feel responsible or guilty for the deaths they cause from so far away. One of the aspects that demonstrates this is the use of drones (obviously by the global North). As said by Derek Gregory in “From a View to a Kill,” “Advocates for the use of Predators and Reapers…have emphasized their crucial role in providing intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, in strengthening the legal armature of targeting, and in conducting precision-strikes. Critics claim that their use reduces late modern war to a video game in which killing becomes casual.” Scale and location influence perception and lead to killing with a lessened conscience. Distance removes the feeling of accountability.
Interestingly, a new federal law inspires the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used commercially, such as for selling real estate, monitor oil spills and wildlife, shooting movies, and dusting crops. Police and emergency services will also be able to send drones into the air more freely. There is an obviously problem that would arise with the invasion of privacy, though. The drones will see all types of people, and the senders of the drones would be able to do what they want with the information, whatever bad that could possibly be - violence, stalking, targeting certain racial groups for fear they are terrorists, etc. Other issues include collisions and property damage on the ground. Even more serious problems that drones create are the prevention of good relations with other nations.
For example, for the past 4 months, we have had bad relations with Pakistan due to a warplane attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. A recent major parliamentary review of relations with the United States called for us to end drone strikes and to apologize for our attack, which will decide whether or not we can resume diplomatic relations with them and if NATO supply lines through Pakistan will be restored. A full diplomatic relations resumption does not look likely until well into next month, and we are ready to negotiate tariffs on NATO goods. However, the US “will not consider an end to the C.I.A. drone campaign, which is viewed as a vital weapon against Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists operating from Pakistani soil.” The US views it as sacrificing our security, but in doing that, they are also sacrificing our relations with Pakistan. Do we really want to make enemies over this? Drones are an obvious invasion of privacy on so many levels, and they make soldiers think terrorists exist in specific locations in which they do not. This has led soldiers to strike at people who seem to be exhibiting a rifle, but those same people turn out to be innocent bystanders including women and children. Are the global North and South’s “new distinct military tactics” really that different then? Aren’t we killing civilians and engaging in violent measures, as well? “We” are just as bad as “them,” just at a different scale and distance.
I now pose: What effects could our continued use of drones have on other foreign relations? Will we ensure more enemies than security?
As we move forward into a future of rapid technological advancement and military capability, it is becoming increasingly obvious that many of the defining qualities of what is considered warfare have been rendered nearly obsolete, and are being quickly replaced by a new set of characteristics that would seem alien and impossible to previous generations. Large scale hand-to-hand combat involving massive troop movements has all but disappeared in most major wars; in its place are precision airstrikes undertaken by unmanned drones and other tactics described by Derek Gregory as the Revolution in Military Affairs, or RMA. Implementation of RMA is intended to dehumanize the effects of war through the development of technology that lends the appearance of objectivity to the undertaking of war, and is furthered by describing and framing the subsequent violence in an analytical manner more befitting of a quarterly report than a battle in which actual human lives are lost. One tenet of RNA that particularly interested me was the role of extra-legal justification of actions taken in the name of security and safety that violate the spirit of either local, federal, or international law, yet do not explicitly violate any of the laws in question. Extra-legal justification serves to expand the powers of the military and the federal government, and acts in accordance with the overall objective of RMA, which is to objectify and dehumanize war. Justification usually takes the form of some sort of memorandum or analysis by legal experts, such as those in the Department of Justice, when presented with a problematic limitation to the ability to wage war in the desired manner; by issuing a memo or ruling that removes the limitation, the government in effect gives itself formal legal authority to expand its powers to wage war in any matter that it sees fit.
Perhaps the most recent example of this sort of occurrence is Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to explain the guidelines in place regarding the targeted killing of American citizens abroad by the military, particularly if the citizen has not been tried and convicted of violating American law. As the article explains, this is a response to criticism of the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric who was killed in Yemen by an American drone strike in September. Although the case of al-Awlaki would seem justifiable due to his apparent intent to incite violence against Americans, these legal justifications are wide in scope, and run the risk of denying American citizens many rights that have existed for centuries in the near future, all with a nebulous justification of insuring security. Other, less broadly defined legal options could have been taken to secure the protection of rights in the future, as is suggested by this article by David Dow, a University of Houston law professor. It is interesting to note that this justification is being made by the Obama Administration, an administration that made a promise to bring an end to the extra-legal actions of the Bush Administration, actions such as indefinite detention of enemy combatants and loose interpretations of laws preventing torture.
Although these actions could simply be read as another in a long line of empty campaign promises, it is my belief that they are representative of something much more substantial: a struggle to codify war as it changes before our eyes, and an attempt to do so without admitting our mistakes along the way so as to not lose the impression of moral high ground that is so carefully pursued. It is clear however that the manner in which this is being undertaken is inherently flawed, highly subjective (as the rules are being written by those who are fighting the wars), and are dangerously setting the precedent of removing basic rights for many participants and non-participants alike. The question remains, is it necessary to follow in the footsteps of the Geneva Convention and create some sort of internationally recognized rules of conduct for war in the 21st century, or are the rules already in place satisfactorily applicable to modern war? (Why or why not?) How would any new laws reflect the changes that have taken place in warfare since the implementation of the Geneva Code?
In his article, Derek Gregory, presents the fact that wars go on far longer than when treaties are signed and troops are withdrawn. He uses the example of landmines, which have a long term effect on the landscape, use-ability, and safety of the residents of areas that they were allocated. Landmines serve as a constant reminder of past wars, and can be portrayed as a nation’s lasting impression upon another. This periodically reinforces one’s power over another nation long after fighting has ceased. It has led me to further research other weaponry that has impressions that last longer than their wartime use.
The notion of nuclear weaponry is a haunting thought to many people because of the instantaneous catastrophe that occurs from their utilization. Most of the people affected by the use of nuclear weaponry are assumed to be civilians. Fallout from a nuclear blast can last from tens to hundreds of years and radiation exposure too; in this period numerous complications including genetic effects, birth defects, and cancers have the possibility of developing.
A more recently apparent long term problem has been found in Vietnam. The United States, made use of a substance called Agent Orange to eliminate foliage that enemy forces used as camouflage during the war. There has been discoveries of long lasting health effects from exposure to the toxic dioxin found in this substance. The effects include numerous cancers, skin disorders, and serious birth defects of children born to veterans, most notably spina bifida and behavioral deficits. This substance has had a negative impact on children that have yet to even enter the world during wartime, yet has been overlooked by those unaffected by it.
This poses the question of who is safe from warfare? How have the rules and regulations of the Geneva Convention been bent to overlook the protection of individuals who do not partake in the war efforts? Should some weapons be disallowed due to immorality and negative impacts on civilians? Finally, can war actually be harnessed by rules put in place by people of power, or will combatants find ways around them to achieve an upper hand?
Since the end of World War II the definition of a war has changed drastically. Wars up to this point were distinct groups of people fighting against each other in battles where peoples lives from both sides were constantly at risk, and usually there was a clear winner when one side would run out of resources or surrender. However, with the advancements of technology and weaponry, wars of infantry have begun to become replaced. Wars of today no longer have clear victors and are often long drawn out events where one side usually ends up losing support and ends up leaving the battle. The invention of the atomic bomb and predator drones have greatly changed the way wars are fought. In the United States “Industry sources indicate that over 30 billion dollars will be budgeted over the next five years to acquire unmanned planes, five billion during 2012 to increase purchases of equipment that patrols the world on missions of espionage and combat.(Beaton)” Weapons like these bring out an idea of not being able to see the enemy perish has a diminished effect of the catastrophic damage that was caused by them. Eliminating nearly a hundred thousand people with the dropping of a single atomic bomb, the effect of that many lives lost cannot simply be comprehended. With the advancement of weaponry like this, the creators and owners of these types of weaponry have a sort of god like complex. Being able to decimate the enemy without ever even seeing them face-to-face is an extremely scary outlook on the change that technology has brought to the war front. In the society of today especially in United States there really aren’t times of war and peace but more of war and not war. A big concern about the fact that population is growing at an alarming rate and resources are becoming scarcer is the idea that resources wars may begin erupting at the global scale. “The U.S. State Department requested the report, which is part of an effort by the Obama administration to assess how long-term issues such as climate change may affect U.S. national security.(Yahoo)” Global water supplies and other natural resources are something that should be watched with a close eye, because violence associated with acquiring these resources is all too common. So with the ever changing concept of the idea of war, is the United States is doomed to forever be in a state of war, with someone or something?
Behind every attack in a global war has the strategic intent to gain some type of control or power or gain recognition of a specific issue that has been glazed over. War is a political and economic scheme to exploit and penetrate borders in order to portray a sense of a threatening higher power and induce complete destruction. In order for a war to begin, there needs to be proper intent and a targeted area or group of people that are directly involved with the opposing party so that there is a clear indication of who one is in a feud with. However, the lines between friend and foe are blurred at times making it quote difficult to know who the true enemy is, resulting in attacks made upon innocent civilians. Other times innocent lives are just unfortunately in the way during a line of fire, and that in itself causes mayhem. The spatial aspects of war becomes obscure because innocent casualties are alarmingly increasing. For example, when a drone strike accidentally killed innocent Pakistani soldiers last November, it is evident that even with new technology making it easier for the military to use machines instead of people, there is still room for error in global war. This strike has struck a cord with the Pakistani government and has now stated that “no overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be tolerated.” What people fail to realize is that advanced technology sometimes is not the best when it comes down to global war. Although the intent might be for the greater good, it can truly disrupt the true nature of things and cause even greater harm to the situation at hand. Having drones fight battles for us rather than actual people seemed to have negative effects. For example, as the US searched for members of the Taliban in Afghanistan by drone strikes, it was stated in interviews with “militants in those areas leave little doubt that the drones have disrupted their operations, driving fugitive leaders deeper into the mountains.” Global war is an interconnected field of loopholes and scandals, but that leaves one with the question of whether the struggle between good and evil will ever leave any room for positive negotiation in spatial aspects?
The United States continues to pressure for the installation of massive missile defense shields outside of its territory. One example is the scheme to form an anti-ballistic shield spanning across Romania, Poland, Turkey and Spain. This highly controversial undertaking raises concerns over United States’ self-imposed position as a permanent world police.
There are many indicators that even the American public is fed up with the role of their country as a perpetual global warlord. A recent microphone slip-up involving President Obama, shows that certain subjects are best left for non-election years. As the Reuters article implies, elections will impede missile defense progress. Despite differing angles, both the Republicans and the Democrats are firmly committed to the project.
As was revealed on Monday, Europe is but one region preordained for hosting American missile shield systems. Chicago Tribune reports that The Pentagon is also seeking to implement similar solutions in both Asia and the Middle East. While the shields are presumably a defense against “rouge states” such as Iran and North Korea, it is increasingly clear that they also have potential to undermine the balance of power between bigger players, namely Russian and the People’s Republic of China. The Tribune points out that “Moscow fears that such a shield, given planned upgrades, could grow strong enough by 2020 to undermine Moscow’s own nuclear deterrent force.”
Holding active military command in all corners of the world, the United States can be denounced as the last military imperial power. However, it can also be presented as a Global peacekeeper, or more cynically, as the world police.
Now that the Cold War is two decades behind, what should the United States’ position be? Should the global US COMs continue to police the world? Alternatively, should they be disbanded or replaced by more international/neutral solutions?
So, my typical process for writing these blog posts goes like this: first I read the readings, I brainstorm about stuff that interests me about them, and then I go on a fishing expedition for a relevant article I can use for my argument. The article often shapes what exactly I talk about. It’s usually pretty simple, only today it went a little differently.
After reading all the stuff I was going to, I decided I wanted to write about the “space” of global conflict. By that I mean how and why a place is considered a warzone or at peace. Obviously, in the wake of the NDAA and other such legislation, this is a relevant issue because even the Homeland is being described as a warzone war wartime powers are in effect. The government uses this as a justification to use all manner of surveillance techniques on American citizens, and could even theoretically use it to arrest an American citizen on American soil as an enemy combatant. I was pretty excited about that blog post.
But then the first result of my search came up, and it got me even more interested. It’s not technically “global” war, so i can turn in a more relevant blog post if Prof. Nisa so desires, but here is a blog post on something I find way more interesting, and possibly a good counterpoint to the readings. War in Space (only page 1).
OK, so it’s not technically war “in” space, it’s more war because of space. Or more specifically satellites. But the part I found interesting about the article was the quote from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, Gregory Schulte, where he reminded the ever-ephemeral enemies of freedom and whatnot that an attack on American military satellites would be considered an attack on the USA.
In terms of the spatialization of war, I found this one quote (and the analysis thereof) to be just as fascinating as anything else I read on this topic. American military assets have always been considered an extension of the sovereign entity that is the United States of America; attacks or supposed attacks on US Navy ships were used as the justification for the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, and the Vietnam War (the Impressment Controversy, the sinking of the USS Maine, and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, respectively). But I had never heard this apply to a satellite before.
Satellites are not particularly hard targets to shoot down with a missile. They just kind of float around in space, and there is no one on board to take evasive maneuvers. For this reason, the solutions to anti-satellite warfare were inelegant (either armor them or simply don’t use them as much), but one would assume that it would also invalidate the destruction of a satellite as an act of war. No one dies when a satellite is shot down. The US military is vexed, but little else happens.
It seems clear to me that the trend is to broaden the scope of where “war” takes place. We used to know war as the thing that happened on a battlefield, where armies of soldiers fought for supremacy. Gradually, the battlefield moved into the cities, some of whose wholesale destruction at the hands of industrial war helped fuel the death of that form of warfare. During the Cold War, the battlefield moved around. It was in the presidential palace of a banana republic one day, and at a pitched battle between proxy armies the next. Due to the New Warfare, the battlefield has become global. Your neighbor’s house could be the site of military production or planning, and you might never know. Is the next logical step extending the battlefield into the stars? Or should we be taking a step in the other direction?
The growth of technology changed the tactics of wars. In World War II, bombs were unguided and could land thousands of feet away from the target. Today, heat seeking missiles and laser guided bombs can adjust their flight to hit a target with great accuracy. This article describes Israel’s utilization of this kind of technology to protect itself from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel adapted a rocket interception system called the Iron Dome. Before firing a missile, the intelligent system determines whether the rockets or mortars will hit an open field; only firing at incoming explosives heading for a populated area thus preventing civilian casualties.
Another amazing technology being used today are drones. Years after its inception, drones are being used more and more because of its primary advantage: unmanned. According to this article, drones are becoming the norm in the military. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) team pilots and services drones everyday in Afghanistan where the drones are being used to spy and locate insurgents. Because of the increasing relevance of drones, drone-related accidents had been occurring. One of the members of the JBLM team managed to crash a drone into an AC-130 cargo plane on August of 2011.
Although these technology developments are very beneficial, they may have disadvantages. What can they be?
War and the Economy : Why The Global South May Never Find Peace
In War and Peace Derek Gregory discusses the two kinds of ‘New War’ which emerged after the end of the Cold War, and the three spaces of advanced military, which are the abstract space of target, the alien space of enemy, and the legal-lethal space of exception. The first kind of New War refers to the Global North who use advanced technology, participate in globalization, and re-enchant war. The second kind of New War refers to the Global South, who are low technology, participate in shadow globalization, and disenchant war.
Since the end of the Cold War the United States of America has advanced its technology in order to spread its military influence across the globe. The United States’ is so powerful now that it has had to separate the globe into military sectors such as USCENTCOM, and USPACOM. This reach across the globe has transformed the idea of war into global war. With the evolution of war comes the evolution of the global economy.
The United States’ export of weapons, sometimes called ‘Military Globalization’, and the violence that it creates, are a major driver of globalization. The USA’s desire for capital has been a key factor in their efforts to advance technology so that they can control more space through the ability to “‘descend from nowhere without notice and vanish without warning.’”. In order to retain this powerful position and for it to be useful there must exist countries that both have resources that we want, and be weak enough for them to not be able to challenge us.
This article in The New York Times talks about North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite into orbit by next month. Many countries, in particular the United States, are against this for fear that the North Koreans are developing long range missiles. North Korea is accusing the United States of placing double standards on satellite capabilities, which is actually correct. The United States has many satellites in outer space, which are a key component in the ‘New War’ paradigm. Perhaps we are against the launch of this satellite, not because of a missile threat, but because another countries technological advancement threatens our dominant position in the global market.
This article in The Wall Street Journal talks about the deaths of 50 people in Southern Libya after a clash between rival militias. This is evidence of the second type of ‘New War’ in the global south. The existence of militias such as these, and the conflict between them, is necessary for the Global North to retain its economic power. This is because these militias are involved in trade in shadow globalization. “This war economy has since mutated into what Goodhand calls a criminalized peace economy,”.
As long as war and the economy are interconnected the Global North will advance its technology and create conflict in order to control space, and through the privatization of war generate money. As the Global North gains more control, the Global South will descend into a disenchanted war as Militia leaders take part in shadow globalization. Will the state of perpetual war that the United States wishes to generate become a reality, or will humanity triumph over money?
Derek Gregory’s, “From a View to a Kill,” is the article that I spent the most time depicting and thinking about. The title itself was extremely powerful and had a great affect on how I would initially perceive the article without even reading yet. When reading, a connection to a recent tragedy immediately came to mind.
The military has been said to pride themselves on promoting the idea that all of their actions of war have been precise, careful and in other words, morally acceptable. They exhibit the idea that their technologies are only used for surveillance purposes with no intention to cause harm or casualties. Drones are typically thought to be used during war as surveillance but when they are used for attack, casualties are common. When regarding casualties, drones have a tendency to kill harmless civilians, including women and children as well. As we discussed a scenario on Monday regarding a drone attack gone wrong, this is certainly not a rare occurrence. Alike is a recent tragedy that took place in Florida when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed. George Zimmerman, the “self-appointed neighborhood watch captain,” shot Martin after following him through his gated community. While Zimmerman is pleading that it was an act of self defense, he pursued the young boy without any reason to believe that Martin was a threat to the community or not. When Martin was found with just a Snapple and Skittles, Zimmerman had clearly made a huge mistake. When reading Gregory’s article, I felt like there would be a great deal of importance in this connection. The drone attacks that take lives of innocent civilian’s and Zimmerman are very much alike. These acts are impulsive without any concrete evidence to justify a reason for attack. It is merely based on probable cause which is hard to grasp when taking in to consideration actual lives.
In class we viewed the conversation of the militants whom are discussing if they have reason to believe the men moving things into their cars late at night are suspicious. The phrase “man dress” is used by the militants to describe what their suspects were wearing and that they would most certainly be armed underneath. As Martin was dressed in a hoodie, Zimmerman claims he had reason to believe Martin was reaching for a weapon as well. The innocent civilians and Martin were killed in unjustly, and impulsive attack.
Although a strange connection, a few days prior there were rallies all over the country protesting Obama’s Birth Control plan. As a part of “Standup for Religious Freedom” Day, these people gathered the express their feelings toward this issue. While birth control remains a convenient, efficient contraception, when regarding the religious aspect of it, there are many people who feel as they are being attacked and stripped of their religious freedom. Birth control is used for protecting against pregnancy, improving menstrual symptoms and decreasing the risks of reproductive cancers. These are clearly all positive features but birth control also causes many negative disputes because not everyone agrees with use. Religious protestors feel they should not have to pay for something that they find morally objectionable.
Drones used for surveillance purposes are useful when regarding strategical and tactical advantages. They are used to track enemy movement and capabilities. They are most commonly used to counter two of the terrorists’ principle operation advantages: Being able to hide among civilian population and the use of neutral or even friendly territory as a base of operations. Just as birth control, drones can be beneficial, but all do not agree. There are tons of protester that do not agree with drones. Many people feel it is a modern day “war toy.” As mentioned previously, many civilians die from drone attacks, which is a huge enough reason in itself for people to be against the use of drones. Both drones and birth control can be beneficial and have positive effects but there are many controversial backgrounds within these ideas as well. Whether it be a religious or immoral factors, there will continually be disagreements. These are both very useful at times but still arise negative effects to many people. How do you feel about the usage of drones when regarding protection and violence?
Climate change could be directly linked to economic development. Global economy is highly dependent on resources(such as fresh water) which are not in abundant supply. There are serious implications associated with climate change that can and has for many decades changed the conditions in which people live. Starting from the era of colonialism, there has been the powerful nations who have had control over resources. wars that were associated with power to control people gradually shifted towards power to control resources. The term resource wars is concisely explained by Philippe Le Billon in his article : perspectives on Resource Wars’ when he states ” the term has been used to describe the struggles of local populations against large scale resource exploitation projects, and neoliberal reforms in the control of resources and public utilities.(Gedicks 1993;Perreault 2006). There are many forms of violance towards the populations that are drawn in this resource crisis.
There is a direct relationship between the means to access resources through conflict and climate change.Hydropolitics in the Indus Basin discussed in Daanish Mustafa’s article explains that whether conflict and violence arises in the subnational scale is solely dependent on water institutions. As the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that water scarcity is “transforming peaceful competition into violence. Another example could be diamonds that are extracted only in certain geographic locations have become subjects of control and conflict.
So can we say that international relations are constructed around geopolitics?
Resource wars are inevitable fallouts from a limited world supply of valuable commodities that are in high demand throughout the world. Le Billon discusses several different evaluations of how resource wars are started and why they are prolonged. The location of resources and the state of the local government surrounding the resources can affect the type of conflicts that will occur there. If the resource happens to be a point resource, like oil-rigs, then an armed secession is a likely outcome. The spatial concentrated of oil-rigs make them easy to secure and that coupled with the fact that the government causes ill will from the people by hoarding the oil revenues is enough to cause some citizens to draw arms and fight off the oppressive government.
Hydropolitics are used by governments to conserve water and to minimalize risk of the population posing a threat. The British colonized the Indus Basin for a number of politically motivated reasons. They wanted to secure food to prevent famine, increase tax revenues from increased agriculture and have the local population work the agriculture so they would be less inclined to rebel against British rule. The British used the Indus Basin’s rich supply of natural resources against its indigenous people by forcing them to work on British agricultural fields and then collecting all the revenue and good produced.
Zimbabwe is fortunate to possess one of the richest diamond quarries in the world, however its oppressive government forces its people to work in the mines. The Marange mines are in a concentrated area making these diamonds a point resource. It isn’t hard for the government to set up its military camps directly next to the mines to ensure that the people work all day in them and also to protect them from hostile take over. The government then uses the revenue from these diamonds to further equip its military in order to stay and power and prolong the conflict. http://www.worldpress.org/Africa/3543.cfm#down has an informative synopsis of conflict diamonds in Zimbabwe as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
There is considerable debate among many academics and laypeople alike as to whether or not our planets is overpopulated to the point where we run out of the necessary resources to sustain a comfortable or at least a basic lifestyle for the whole of Earth’s population. Some experts predict that this dilemma will eventually lead to resource wars, essentially wars over things like water and oil. However, others believe that this is unlikely to happen, especially around water, since there have never been so called water wars in the past. They also point out to two water dispute hot spots (Israel-Palestine area and South Asia, have yet to erupt in war specifically about those issues. However, I actually believe that water wars are more likely than we might think, although this is by no means certain.
Two of the most prominent case studies for this are the ones mentioned before. In South Asia, India’s population is slowly beginning to experience an economic transition into an industrial economy. As explained by the New York Times 2010 Indo Pakistani water conflict article, in order to fuel its economic boom, India is building several dams for electricity, but Pakistan worries that the project will interrupt water flows needed to water their crops. As for the Israel-Palestine front, as explained in the UN Press release on Israeli-Palestinian water issue, Jewish West Bank settlers have claimed control of 60 wells next to their towns and then fence off the Palestinian residents and their access to well water.
These current disputes can escalate into much violent conflicts, especially if populations grow and water level sinks. My question is: What can one do to prevent resource wars, and will overpopulation reach the point where potential solutions no longer have the desired effect?
A common theme in all of these articles is resource wars. According to the article “Geographies of War: Perspectives on ‘Resource Wars,’” “the term ‘resource war’ was popularized in the 1980s as a metaphor describing renewed tensions between USA and the Soviet Union over the control of fuel and minerals in disputed ‘peripheries.’” This mainly means minerals such as diamonds in South Africa and oil in the Middle East. In this post, I am focusing on Wendy Barnaby’s article “Do nations go to war over water?” There is an argument that climate change will produce a shortage in water and that one day we will go to war over water, as opposed to oil like we do now. Barnaby says this is unlikely since water is not something that directly affects the economy. Oil is more important than water because oil fuels economic boom, which in turn takes care of the people with resources which include water. Nations with water scarcity right now do quarrel over it, but for the most part, there have not been wars over water. Instead, they trade goods. Importing food saves on having to use water to grow crops.
As technology increases, though, new problems arise when it comes to availability of water. For example, Solar Millenium in Southwest USA is planning to build large-scale solar power plants which would harness the sun to generate electricity, and would create more jobs. Arizona, which is mostly desert, is afraid that what is left of their water will be “exported to energy-hungry California in the form of electricity.” In Nevada, people are not quite as worried. There, people own water rights separate from their property. Many of these individuals, whose businesses are suffering, plan to sell their water rights to Solar Millenium because they believe that is where the big bucks will be. The solar power plant intended for Nevada will use 1.3 billion gallons of water per year, which is 20 percent of the desert’s water. There is clearly a conflict between wanting to sell water for money and wanting to preserve water for the sake of the environment and the community. The problem is that many new energy sources that are intended to aid the environment may come at the expense of way more water than we would like to give up. It is almost as if we could solve the greenhouse gas emission problem with solar energy…but at the expense of water. It almost seems like no matter what part of the environment we are trying to protect or turn around, a new aspect of the environment will begin to suffer instead.
Another conflict may arise in terms of treaties that nations have over water allocations (examples: India and Bangladesh over the Ganges River, Israel and Syria over the Jordan River, Brazil and Paraguay over the Parana). The problem is that “global climate change may cause fundamental changes in the hydrological cycle and be more severe and occur more quickly than anticipated…the sooner the lands affected adjust their institutions and agreements, the less likely climate change will ignite a new round of water wars.” Politics has an extreme affect on the geography of water. It transforms free flowing water into areas with boundaries, borders, and restrictions.
I now pose the question: In what ways could the future of water in society end up like a Wall Street situation, and how likely is it to happen? We’ve done it with pretty much everything else.. from mortgages to greenhouse gases.
Megacities, Resource Wars, and the Future of the Developing World
The topic of resource wars is one that can be difficult to approach, as it is rare that one country declares war on another with the sole explicit purpose of extracting some sort of natural resource. However, resource wars are in a way the most insidious of all wars, as they occur on the margins of many conflicts, both armed and unarmed. In recent times, one can point to the war in Iraq as an example of a resource war that was fought under the pretense of removing a dictator from power; although it is clear that there was a significant outcry against the crimes of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, there are many other nations with tyrannical dictatorial regimes that were not targeted for military action. The incentive to secure Iraq’s oil was obvious in the case of this war, but this conflict is a perfect example of the elusive nature of resource wars, as no American decision-maker involved will openly cite the American interest in Iraqi oil as a motivation to invade Iraq. Another indirect form of a resource war, at least in the sense of using a resource as an almost direct weapon, is occurring now with the American led oil embargo on Iran, which has been considerably strengthened in an attempt to force Iran to curtail the enrichment of uranium for potential weaponization. It is interesting to note that the embargo in this case is being used in an attempt to avoid war, as it is feared that any conflict involving Iran would lead to skyrocketing gas prices; this attempt at a non-violent resolution is in line with Barnaby’s claim that resource scarcity often provides incentive for peaceful resolutions instead of armed clashes.
It is interesting to note, however, that matters of scale must be considered when discussing resource conflicts. As Mustafa notes in his analysis of water conflict in the Indus Basin, many resource wars are provincial or more localized than the aforementioned global wars, and while the author rejects most neo-Malthusian theories, it is impossible not to take not to take note of the proximity of booming population centers to areas that have issues involving resource scarcity. This list of the world’s largest cities, as well as its cities projected to expand most in population in the next several decades, paints a portrait of a world in which most of the largest cities, with several notable exceptions (Tokyo, New York) are located in what is considered the “developing” world, and face serious infrastructure and resource-related issues at the time when they need them most. At this critical juncture, will these cities, and on a wider scale developing regions as a whole, be able to develop the mechanisms necessary to provide resources to their citizens in a satisfactory manner? What sort of resource wars will most likely affect these areas that are so rapidly developing? How might these wars manifest themselves? Will they be armed conflict or is it more likely that they involve other weapons?
This weeks reading that I found most interesting addressed the ongoing issues with the Indus Basin. There has been a limited water supply between both India and Pakistan for the last five decades. If managed efficiently, there is enough water to provide for the natives, however because both countries do not get along, it could potentially reduce the water supply for one another. To prevent water wars, in 1960, both India and Pakistan signed a treaty which divided the water supply between the two countries. While Pakistani engineers took the treaty for what it was, the Indian engineers read between the lines to ultimately look out for themselves. While they are not technically breaking any of the rules, their objectives will knowingly reduce the water flow into Pakistan in the future. This is not a concern to India however because they are only worried about their own water supply.
This article is similar to an ongoing financial issue involving Goldman Sachs. Former executive director, Greg Smith, resigned because like India, Goldman Sachs disregards others in hopes of their own gains. In his article, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs”, Smith stated that GS does not care about their clients but only making money for themselves. Goldman traders pride themselves on the amount of profit they can make at the expense of their clients, even if it means selling them products that are sure to blow up eventually.
Another link to the Indus Basin article is a connection with present day lawyers, and the Indians who interpreted the treaty. Both look for loopholes in the legal system in order to get the desired outcome. While India knows that their propositions can hurt Pakistan in the long run, this does not affect their judgement because technically they are not breaking the rules. The article “Conflicted, and Often Getting a Pass”, reveals how the majority of top paid lawyers do not look out for the welfare of people through the legal system, however focus on ways to get around the laws. Another recent issue, yet again involving Goldman Sachs, is of “a top Goldman banker who was advising the takeover of the El Paso Corporation,” while “he owned $340,000 worth of stock in the buyer.” When this issue was revealed, most lawyers discussed openly how they turn the other cheek to details like these that may get in the way of them losing a case.
Do you think that Goldman Sach’s reputation and number of clients will be severely damaged by Smith’s resignation letter?
Drilling Rights in the South China Sea: A New Type of Cold War?
Oil is often publicized as being the blood flowing in the veins of the global economy. The “War on Terrorism” started by President George W. Bush, himself from a Texas oil family, has been consistently sullied by international accusations that its true aim was the transfer of oil reserves in the Middle East into the hands of “friendly” governments. The concept of resource war simply cannot be discussed today without the mention of oil. Typically, the debate centers on the Middle East, where rogue pseudo-theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran hold vast reserves hostage and terrorist actions are reflected in gas prices as far away as the United States. Occasionally, talk turns to Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez’s intense anti-American rhetoric causes anxiety at the pumps of the developed world. But less often do we mention the South China Sea, and the ongoing struggle for drilling rights to the vast quantities of crude beneath its surface. Every country in the region (Vietnam, the Philippines, etc.) press claims towards certain areas, but China is, like always, the focal point of controversy. The People’s Republic claims sovereignty over the entire sea, and has actively used warships to interfere with exploration and drilling activities sponsored by other governments. Theoretically, none of this concerns the United States. Relatively little oil flows from here to North America, and American sovereignty is certainly not at stake. However, the US has be involved in these disputes from day one. This article describes a visit by President Obama to China last year, seen by many as a tactical victory for everyone but China. However, the whole context of the “victory” seems odd. Why does the US care if China wants drilling rights throughout the whole of the South China Sea? The PRC certainly doesn’t seem to have a problem selling things to the US. The motivation, I believe, is more long-term. As the two most populous nations on earth, China and India(which was also mentioned in the article as being an interested party), modernize and develop, the global demand for oil is rising ever faster. Ultimately, even the current level of usage is not sustainable, and it is set to skyrocket. Oil politics has arguably led to hot wars in the past (see Iraq), but I hypothesize that what we are seeing in the South China Sea is a new kind of Cold War: a Cold Resource War, if you will. Like the ideological conflict of yesteryear, this new Cold War seeks to expand the influence of a few big players across every strategic area of the globe via proxy battles. However, in this case, the world’s biggest oil markets are competing for what few reserves are left for the future. Like the US funding Mujahideen fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan, our efforts to secure drilling rights for the Philippines and, ironically enough, Vietnam, have to do with keeping that oil out of China and securing our use of it moving forwards. As climate change and increasing consumption scarcify resources, hot wars like the ones talked about in the readings may not be the only result. Perhaps a new type of Cold War is in the mix as well…
In today’s controversial society, the interrelation of natural resources and violent conflict are in a constant struggle to gain some type of power over the other. It is evident that the links between the geographical environment in some countries and political security are strong and in consistent disagreement due to the different needs of each party. While one side is typically in need of economic or military assistance, the other is usually in need of a natural resource that is only available in a specific area. This is where conflict arises due to the fact that both sides already have a different mindset of what they are looking for, and therefore base their deals on their individual situations. It needs to be understood that policymakers in today’s world most often glaze over the extent of environmental stress on a given community which automatically affects their stability as a working government in order to have a stable economic society and therefore results in conflict. But these natural resources are vital to human security in general and there needs to be some type of mutual understanding in order to abstain from the misuse of these resources or the illegal possession of these resources by force or unknowingly. Countries therefore have to be creative and take advantage of their natural resources by increasing the prices of their supply to gain more control of the situation. While the Libya crisis last year has already taken the majority of the global oil supply, Iran added to the issue by increasing their prices at a sky high, whopping 17 per cent this year already. In other breaking news, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund stated that this sudden increase in oil prices are generating issues that could result in serious consequences for the global recovery since airlines are now losing over $5 billion this year already because of the sudden spike in oil costs. This constant back and forth tug of war will never come to a stop until both parties come to a mutual decision on how to use each other for their own benefit. However, it is easier said then done. This raises the question if it is possible for the western world to find a solution on how to properly come to a mutual understanding on how to connect with other countries for their natural resources without coming across so negatively? The US has had a negative impact on much of the impoverished countries due to poor political choices, and it is now up to our government to find a way to create positive bonds with others in order for our country to flourish with the help of foreign resources.
Civil Wars and Resources: When does revolution give way to revenue
There seems to be a long held misconception that resource wars are strictly the domain of the expansionist goals of “super powers”. This belief is firmly entrenched in a political and economic perspective whose seeds were sown at the start of the mid 19th century age of imperialism and continued to grow up until the Cold War. This context of saber rattling, brinkmanship and expansionism solely for financial gain created a view point with a a “ focus on the vulnerability arising from resource supply dependence and the potential for international conﬂicts resulting from competition over access to key resource” (Philippe Le Billon) This classical geopolitical perspective of “resource wars” is often limited by the fact that its scale of focus is restricted to international powers and conflicts between states. , whether it be USA and Soviet influenced 27 year Angolan Civil War or 2003 USA led invasion of Iraq . TheSecond Sudanese Civil War between1983 to 2005 and the currently ongoing 48 year Civil War in Colombia illustrate and support aspects of the political economy and Political Ecology perspectives. Both wars were protracted armed conflicts spanning decades, and share similar traits and narrative. Increased access to and control of resources were not the motives that initiated conflict, but the “escalating and prolonging effects of resources on armed conﬂicts”(Le Bilion) is undeniable. Conflict prolongation was fueled and exacerbated by the revenue generated by resources. The conflict in Sudan has its roots in centuries of social and class conflict., whether it be the animosity between Arabs and Africans or between inhabitants of the periphery and those in central Sudan, the conflicts owes a great debt to feelings and perceptions of marginalization by those lacking political power. The discovery of oil in the late 70s and early 80s, and the dispute over access to potentially lucrative lands provided additional nourishment to an already volatile situation. This dispute is still active,as newly sovereign South Sudan and Sudan deal with oil deposits that straddle the tenuous but legal border between the 2 states. This dispute has the potential to turn into a conflict between 2 nations, but essentially would be an extension and continuation of the recent civil war. The guerillas (FARC) in the seemingly endless Colombian conflict are predominantly funded by resources whose access are considered contraband and whose access for all purpose is denied to the government.. The progression of their dependence and control of the resources went from taxation of drug traffickers and producers to actual direct involvement in the production and exportation of the resources(Cocaine/Heroin/Marijuana). This “resource sector” is inaccessible to the government and is concentrated in the hands of the guerillas. Recently the guerillas are making attempts through violence and intimidation access a “resource sector” previously out of their control and run by the state- oil. Recent privatization of oil exploration and extraction opened the door for well armed guerillas to use kidnapping and ransom to increase their share of the revenue from this resource
Does the revenue generated by resources obscure the reasons and conflicts in ideology that starts civil wars?
In Geographies of War: Perspectives on ‘Resource Wars’ Phillipe Le Billon discusses the idea of a resource war. Billon argues that the term resource war oversimplifies the problem to a single factor, which is the direct link between the resource and the conflict, and in order to reveal the complexity of the problem introduces three different perspectives on resource wars. These perspectives are the geopolitical, political economy, and political ecology perspectives.
The geopolitical perspective views the resource war as simply conflicts over “strategic resources”, thus tying together military and trade. The political economy perspective argues the importance of the individual resources themselves in resource wars, and argues that the significance of a resource is dependent upon its scarcity, abundance, or dependance. So, for example, a wealth of oil is more likely to trigger an armed conflict than a wealth of gemstones. Finally the political ecology perspective argues that the resource war is caused by uneven resource distribution, production, and circulation.
This article from The New York Times talks about a Dodd-Frank regulation, which is being drafted in order to impose control on the import of conflict-minerals. The reason for the drafting is to aid in cutting off brutal militia groups, who use money obtained from these minerals to finance their military operations. The problem is that almost every electronic product is derived from one of four conflict minerals: columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite, and gold.
To consider this mineral problem to simply be a direct link between the resource and the conflict itself would not allow us to see the whole picture. This conflict, if viewed through the geopolitical perspective would focus on the militia and it’s military operations in relation to the trade of conflict-minerals. On the other hand a political economic perspective would focus on the actual minerals themselves and our dependance on them.
This article in The Washington Post talks about the United Arab Emirates and the terminal they are building to transport natural gas , which circumvents the Straight of Hormuz. This is in response to Iran threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation to the United States and Europe who are attempting to thwart the Iranian nuclear program.
An oversimplified explanation for resource wars would only view the relationship between the conflict and the resource, in this case being oil/natural gas. However through a political ecology perspective would consider the uneven circulation of this resource as well.
So Billon’s critique of the oversimplification of the resource war is correct. When viewed through different lenses a resource conflict becomes more complicated. By using geopolitical, political economy, and political ecology perspectives we can view resource conflicts in new ways and devise more effective solutions.
The readings for this week were about the availability of natural resources, such as oil, water, and diamonds, and the significance that has upon the rest of the world political atmosphere and economies. Entire economies depend on these resources. Without them, the social, political, and economic aspects of life across the world will be changed drastically. Oil, for example, is one of the most prominent resources in shaping the atmosphere of life on Earth. One of the readings states, “…the strategic significance of oil is immeasurably higher than that of water. Serious interruptions of oil supplies would stop highly developed economies in their tracks. Oil is necessary for a developed economy, and a developed economy provides for all the needs of its citizens, including water. People in developed economies do not die of thirst.” Obviously, the author of this passage is highlighting the extreme importance of oil in the world. The lack of oil has many consequences upon our standard of living in the U.S. A low oil supply will raise the price of gas, as there is less supply to satisfy the demand, increase the price of goods, as manufacturers will have to use more expensive oil to produce them, and slow down trade, as traders will have to spend money on fuel for transportation of various goods. An NYT article states, “A sharp rise in the prices of oil and gas would crimp the nation’s budding economic recovery…rising global oil prices were ‘likely to push up inflation temporarily while reducing consumers’ purchasing power.’” World politics will also play an interesting role in determining the distribution of oil. It is no secret that the U.S. has been in difficult negotiations with and have a negative attitude towards large oil-containing countries, such as Syria and Iran. Increasingly hostile negotiations could lead to war, thus an even more threatening economy, as oil to the military will be placed on higher priority over civilian needs. Another NYT article states, “Should Iran halt its oil exports in reaction to Western moves against its nuclear program, or even close the critical Strait of Hormuz, oil prices would certainly soar, in the United States as well as abroad” The article offers a solution on how to decrease our dependence on the Middle East for oil by looking to the Persian Gulf. The article writes, “…America needs to realign its energy policy in several key places. For one thing, we should review the estimated $50 billion a year we now spend to maintain a military presence in the Persian Gulf, not counting the costs of the wars we’ve been fighting in the region. True, protecting oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, which holds the world’s largest reserves of conventional oil, is going to remain important.” Resources have a large impact upon all sectors of life across the world, especially for advanced Western societies.
With the ever-growing population of the Earth the limitations of the Earths resources are definitely a means for worry in the future. While not all resources are in the same level of demand, certain ones like diamonds, oil and food are. Under-developed places like most of Africa suffer from the effects of the quest for these valuable resources. The exploitation of the periphery countries for these scare resources have horrible repercussions. In Zimbabwe the Marange mining fields are an area of extreme corruption. When the Zimbabwe mineral rush began in 2006 thousands of illegal miners sprang up and with the government offering lower prices the diamonds began to flood into the illegal black market. However, in a recent attempt to open up the diamond trade ban it seems that the efforts are going to do little good. Recently before a global ban was lifted in Zimbabwe, there was a funeral of Bothwel Hlahla a man who made his fortune in the rough stones at the center of a human rights storm. "His funeral helped to reveal that the illicit trade in diamonds had simply gone underground but it was alive and well(Yahoo).” The program trying to eliminate the illegal mining and black market sale of these blood diamonds is a good idea but doesn’t the government is quite corrupt there and the efforts most likely wont do any good. “Mining officials loyal to President Robert Mugabe are stashing profits from diamond fields amid fears the money could fund political violence ahead of proposed elections, it was claimed yesterday(Independent).” With the corruption and exploitation of the natural resources in this area is there ever going to be an effective way to monitor these resources?
The theme of this week’s readings centered around resource wars, with a focus on hydro politics. The underlying message that supported this theme stemmed from the argument that, no matter how fiercely society pretends that nature takes its own course and remains independent from humans, distribution of resources and therefore resource wars remain very political and socially constructed. As long as institutions with their own personal agendas manage natural resources, this will always be the case. This is particularly evidenced by poor people, across the globe, who practically live on natural resource deposits but have no access to them.
This is a news article about how the Philippines rests upon rich mineral deposits but has not fully profited from them because of “poor [political] infrastructure.” Corrupt officials make deals with “small-scale miners” so that the latter can avoid “paying taxes and doing little to safeguard the environment, often destroying mountainsides and sending dangerous chemicals such as mercury directly into waterways. “ Additionally, the President has fallen under even harsher criticism than before because of his proposal to add higher taxes and stricter regulations to miners.
This opinionated post argues that American occupations have had little to do with democracy and more to do with exploiting resources because, though American politicians claimed to promote equality and civic engagement, they ignored that a foreign power had a greater stake in the government than citizens and also directly benefited from the natural resources.
These articles proved how politics and natural resources go hand in hand. I ask what role should ecologists play in politics, and how deeply should politicians play in the environment? What agendas should be promoted, and how can one discern the agenda?
All over the world, humans depend on resources to survive. The person reading this for example, is consuming resources right now; the computer’s electricity which probably came from a solar power plant, a coal burning plant, or a wind power plant. But that resource is not free unless you own a solar plant in your roof or backyard. Companies also depend on resources like this to produce more resources for us such as food, refined fuel, etc. A lot of these companies, to save money and gain more profit, will tend to favor other companies that offer the cheapest resources. In this article, Australia, because of its laid-back taxation on only iron ore and coal, may become the setting for a resource war as companies fight for its cheap resources.
The resource wars today may become puny compared to what could happen in the future when resources reach their near depletion making it difficult and dangerous for humans to acquire. In this future scenario, resource wars could be intense and deadly. It may be the next world war. This article reminds us of what could happen in the near future, and it gives tips to what we can do to avoid such a disaster; “to be much more energy efficient and resource efficient.”
In the article Integrity of the Emerging Global Markets in Greenhouse Gases the authors examine the established systems that attempt to aid in the reduction of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol which was ratified in 1997 and adopted by 37 countries, in essence, attempts to level the playing field in terms of how much everyone involved is allowed to pollute the Earth’s atmosphere. The idea behind the tradable emissions system is that all involved can emit a certain amount however you are allowed to trade your need to emit more with a country that emits less. It reminds me of a bunch of kids out on a playground trading baseball cards with a lot of “That’s not fair”! and “He got more than me!”. The first line of the article, “this article considers the integrity of the emerging emissions allowance markets for greenhouse gases”….what! First, the word integrity as it relates to a capitalist venture…are there even corporations that have such high moral standards? And two, it is almost absurd that there is a legitimate market for trading carbon emissions. There is! And with words like derivatives and bundled securities. These guys will bet on anything. Forgive my cynicism. Shockingly, the author’s conclusions are that most of the six conditions that have been established for well functioning markets are not being met in the GHG market. Look, of course capitalist markets are inevitable but we all share the atmosphere. This isn’t the kind of commodity which is limited to a certain geographical location. Maybe the way we regulate carbon pollution shouldn’t begin with what’s fair to investors and developers such as China which has its arms crossed, pouting and grousing, “It’s not fair! The US already got to pollute more!” Maybe we should strive for higher standards when it comes to polluting the air we breathe. Perhaps these guys should start betting on air masks…we’re all going to need one.
Urban Mapping and the Prevention of Natural Disaster
While reading this weeks article regarding double exposure and the intertwined nature of climate change and globalization-related issues, I was immediately struck by the relationship between the double exposure framework and the core-periphery model we’ve talked about throughout the semester, particularly the last several weeks. As I see it, there is a striking connection between natural disasters, many of which can be strongly linked to the effects of climate change (tsunamis, hurricanes, and droughts, among others) and large-scale human devastation in areas that would classically fit the definition of “the periphery.” From the earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Southeast Asia, it is clear that the areas devastated most often and most intensely by extreme weather events are in fact peripheral areas.
According to a thought-provoking seminar by the Brookings Institute regarding various effective means of response to natural disasters, over half of the world’s population now lives in large cities, and the majority of growth over the next 20 years will occur in cities in the developing world; subsequently, it is not surprising that over 14 million people have lost their homes due to natural disasters. Experts from several fields and locales related to disaster relief and prevention spoke at this seminar, and many similar themes were repeated when discussing potential long-term solutions to these disasters. Among the most frequently discussed tenets of any sort of long-term solution, besides the obvious building of more sustainable habitats and better access to resources and medical care was an emphasis on what was described as “urban mapping.”
“Urban mapping,” as described by the participants in the Brookings Institute seminar is the attempt to codify and formalize the building of structures, homes, and habitats in low-income areas that exist in both cities and towns throughout the world in an attempt to avoid the development of informal slums that perpetuate a low standard of living in the so-called periphery. An article from theTanzania Daily Newsfurther elucidates this point, speaking about the effectiveness of formalizing the construction of new buildings in towns and cities to avoid the inadvertent creation of slums. Although this is a step in the right direction for developing nations, unforeseen problems may yet arise, as this process is just beginning, and may be a ripe breeding ground for corrupt beaurocracy. Furthermore, the problem of codifying and reforming areas that have already become slums still exists. As this process moves forward, to what extent do you believe urban mapping can help prevent the widespread devastation of urban areas by natural disasters that has become prevalent in the third world? What are some other precautions that should be taken, and what might be some additional drawbacks to this sort of formalization? Finally, are there any situations in which this emphasis on a new form of map-making might in fact do more harm then good?
Today’s financial crisis in the world is the new environmental crisis. The globalization of markets and free trade treaties have been carried at the expense of the people. The issues of climate change and globalization go hand in hand as they have and continue to determine the fate of communities across the world. The authors of the article, “Climate Change and the Global Financial Crisis: A Case of Double Exposure” apply “double exposure” framework to provide an approach for analysis between the global environment and economic change. The framework pays close attention to the ways that these two issues ” process risk and vulnerability over both space and time” ( Leichenko, O’Brien, and Solecki 964). In other words, the framework helps to understand factors that influence socio-economic systems to stress and shock that are related to global change.
Last discussion in class spun around global poverty in which we measured vulnerability. factors that make people vulnerable to disease, human insecurity or environment. Looking at environment alone, global financial markets and deregulation of financial industry has made a tremendous impact on many regions that have become increasingly vulnerable to several extreme climatic events. An ideal example of this is the Alberta’s Oil Sands located in Alberta, Canada. These oil sands contain large deposits of bitumen or extremely heavy crude oil. New development have been taking place at an extremely fast pace since Canada has become the #1 supplier of oil to the United States. The industry wastes are deposited in the large ponds called tailing ponds that have been leaking into the rivers, contaminating the water. A small community of people that live in Fort Chipewyan have been diagnosed with several types of cancers in the past decade. Even the fish caught in near by rivers had huge cysts. When the local officials blamed the oil industry for their sicknesses, they were told by the government that the oil industry is actually cleaning up the oil from Alberta’s environment and there is no risks involved.
The absurdity of oil addiction has never been so apparent.
What role does the free trade policies play in the distribution of resources?
I was just looking around about this topic after doing the readings, and I found an article about some misconceptions about Microfinance. One of these misconceptions is that there is no difference between microcredit, the small loans of the kind we read about, and microfinance. Microfinance is like regular finance in a number of important ways, the only significant difference is the scale. So, like our financial systems, microfinance suffers from a lot of inherent problems. The several busts mentioned in the article are evidence of this. If anything, microfinance suffers from more problems than large financial institutions, because they lack sufficient information. Furthermore, microcredit is only one part of a larger field, and is the most risky part at that. Possibly, if we start looking at microfinance as just small-scale finance, and not as a system of small cash loans with the intent to foster small business growth in poor areas (which specifically is mircocredit), we can better service poor, vulnerable populations for whom microfinance is a life line.
In Climate Change and the Global Financial Crisis: A Case of Double Exposure, Robin Leichenko, Karen O’Brien, and William Solecki discuss the relationship between globalization and the environment. The double exposure framework can be used to view this relationship in order to obtain a complete picture of the events that take place in the world. By using the double exposure framework, “paying particular attention to the ways the two interacting processes spread risk over both space and time”, we can expose and deal withe vulnerabilities that amplify the effect of shocks.
Despite how interconnected globalization and the economy are there is not enough research into the double exposure framework. Without the double exposure framework an event can be viewed as a spatial, political, or ecological problem. However, when the double exposure framework is in effect we obtain a complete picture of problems that occur. An example discussed in the article is the relationship between the global financial crisis and risk in climate in California. Because of a persistent drought there is lower profit, a rise in food prices and an increase in unemployment. The impact of this drought has made borrowing money from banks harder for farmers, which as caused the value of land to decline. As time goes on the relationship between the economy and the environment will become closer, and only by viewing them together will we be able to solve our problems.
This news article discusses how the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, wishes to balance the environment and create new jobs by enhancing the mining industry. However by focusing on mining we are disregarding the environment. The Democratic Party Communications Director Graeme Zielinski proposes something different. Zielinski says that Walker develop energy jobs which would be better for the environment.
Similarly, this news article discusses the battle between jobs and the environment that is taking place in Minnesota. Two companies wish to extract copper, gold, and palladium from Iron Range which is near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Frank Moe, an environmental activist, obtained thousands of signatures on his petition to stop the mining operation from progressing because he believes that it will cause their clean water to become polluted with sulfide.
So Leichenko, O’Brien, and Solecki are right. Although the environment and globalization impact each other significantly the world continues to treat they as separate entities, focusing on one or the other. If the double exposure framework was used more we would come up with better solutions to our problems. So why are we still examining the global financial market and the environment separately, when it would be more efficient and productive to use the double exposure framework to examine them?
The reading, Climate Change and the Global Financial Crisis: A Case of Double Exposure, by Robin M. Leichenko, Karen L. O’Brien, and William D. Solecki, take a look at the state of California’s economy and the factors that drove it down up to 2009. A few interesting points the reading looked over were that California’s awful state of economy was driven by a combination of climate changes, that negatively affected the economy, as well as the global financial crisis, which hit economies all over the world. This double exposure caused for California’s economy to be labeled as one of “economic disaster”. Because of this there have been various forms of economic plans created to help California’s economy.
The article, California Economy Flat in December, Reports Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index, by Comerica Bank, writes that since 2009 there are “strong signs from Silicon Valley and the energy sector, but overall job growth remains weak, suppressed by minimal construction activity and cutbacks in government employment” Although this doesn’t look very promising, unless California is hit by another string of heat waves, there is a lot of room for large strides in the public sector. “Stronger recent data from the service sector indicates that private non-manufacturing hiring will improve through 2012. Gains in multifamily construction will also help this year.”(Comerica Bank)
The key to fixing California’s economy doesn’t rely on climate change, mainly because we have no power over the climate. On the other hand, it is possible for the Californian people to get a head start on fixing their economy by creating jobs where ever they can, especially in the public sector, because that is where California is being hit the hardest. If the public sector is experiencing draw-backs, there will be a much slower growth in California’s economy as a whole. According to the LA Times, California’s economy on track for growth. California’s post-recession economic recovery, though slower and more grueling that previously expected, now is on track for slow and steady growth over the next few years. The question Californian’s can pose now is, can they maintain this growth in their economy and if so, how?
In one particular reading, it is argued that the global trade industry will decline as time goes on due to the projected effects of global warming and peak oil on infrastructure (via rising sea levels) and the economy (via high fuel costs from a permanent global oil supply decline).
I understand and share some of the concerns that this reading raised for numerous reasons. For example, as probably widely known by now, gas prices were the highest on record in the summer of 2008, right before the financial crisis. Meanwhile, people drove less; and freight deliveries, electricity and food became more expensive, and people had less disposable income. In addition, many experts predict that once peak oil hits permanently, it would devastate the economy, as explained further in the CNN Money’s 2007 peak oil article. Similarly, most scientists also believe that continued global warming will cause sea levels to rise, causing many low lying areas around the world, including New York City, to flood as is explained by union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Hot Spot Interactive
I will close my remarks by asking how much time experts think we need before oil fully runs out?, and then how will this affect renewable energy’s future.
According to the articles above, the Unites States is suffering from expensive imported foreign oil, but that dependency could be obliterated thanks to cheaper alternative energy. The U.S. uses about 20 million barrels, or 620 million gallons, of oil every year. 12 million barrels of that oil comes from other countries such as Canada, Mexico, and OPEC countries. With this oil dependency, the United States is vulnerable against dangerous embargoes that can cause gas prices to sky rocket, negatively affecting the U.S. economy.
Fortunately, there could be a potential solution. T. Boone Pickens, an 83 year old billionaire, strongly advocates the idea of adapting alternative energy because he believes it could save America’s economy. First, he wants to take advantage of free wind power by transforming the Great Plains into a wind farm. The second and final phase of his plan is to utilize cheaper natural gas to power America’s vehicles.
The benefit of his plans is the reduction of energy prices in the United States. Wind power is free, and natural gas in the U.S. is significantly cheaper than petroleum based gas. In Utah, Questar Gas sells its natural gas at 85 cents per gallon, which resulted in the citizens of Utah buying natural gas powered cars. Because of high demand, Honda doubled the production of its Honda Civic GX, natural gas vehicle to 2,000 annually.
But there are problems with his plan. First of all, the implementation of wind turbines will cost as he said optimistically, “roughly $1 trillion.” PFC Energy said that it will likely be about $14 trillion. Not only that but converting America’s vehicles to natural gas might result in high demand for natural gas which means it will cost the same as our petroleum based gas today.
This week’s article by Robin Leichenko brings about the idea of the double exposure framework. The double exposure framework is a way of representing the overlap between evident changes in both industrial and post-industrial society: globalization and climate change. Leichenko argues that globalization and climate change are deeply intertwined. Different regions and social classes are effected unevenly by the two, furthering the divide between people. By recognizing the connections between globalization and climate change, we can see discover only new threats but also new opportunities. Double exposure follows three pathways: outcome, context, and feedback.
Outcome double exposure describes the overlapping outcomes of climate change and globalization that are linked to increasing inequalities. In outcome double exposure, a particular region, sector or social group is confronted by both globalization and environmental change. We noted a current example earlier this semester in the Ukraine; Ukraine was hit hard by extremely cold temperatures this winter. This extreme cold was the main reason for 112 deaths, but upon further investigation there is more to the story. In Kiev, Ukraine’s capital city, there are 14,000 homeless people. Doctors have reported that many of the deaths were alcohol-related, due to the illusion of warmth granted by the substance. Many of Ukraine’s citizens found themselves in particularly vulnerable positions because of the glacial blast they experienced this winter, due much to properties that lie under the visible surface.
Context double exposure is the capacity of both globalization and climate change to respond to each other, and describe when vulnerability and resiliency are dynamic. During the 2003 heatwave in Europe, France, Italy, and Portugal were hit especially hard, with an estimated 40,000 total casualties. France does not commonly experience high temperatures like they did that year so people were ill-prepared for the intense hear. Very few homes in France are equipped with air-conditioning in addition to structural inadequacies there are social distinctions in Europe that helped to catalyze the thousands of deaths. Among being wealthy, healthy, and well educated western Europe has a characteristic that makes it especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions: an aging population. Elderly people in old stone houses stood with very little chance of survival in the record high heated days and nights.
Feedback double exposure explains that the outcomes of one process drive the other process so that there are both negative and positive synergies between the two processes. Feedback double exposure finds ways to benefit from the problems that have been presented by globalization and climate change. Carbon emission trading is a strategy that has been developed to reduce current and future emissions. Carbon trading sets a limit on how much a country or company can emit. A carbon market could prove to be a viable tool to both prevent emissions and promote economic growth. The cap-and-trade model would help to transfer wealth from developed countries to poorer ones. Along with many positives that are apparent with marketing carbon emissions there has been resistance by some nations. Developing industrial countries like China and India find it unfair that they are being hindered from industrializing and losing out on the opportunity to catch up with developed countries. Which poses an interesting question on sustainability of resources: When and where is the point at which global emissions must be prevented? Is there a point at which global health is put at risk by economic developmental? What incentives do countries have to instill domestic political policies to limit pollution, while others are able to pollute without limits and prosper at their expense?
The readings for this week are about the relationships between climate change and globalization. More specifically, the relationship between climate change and the global economy. There are many examples of the interactions between climate change and globalization, but for the sake of having material to discuss in my presentation, I shall only describe one. An example of this is described in one of the readings. The California Central Valley is one of the largest food producers in the U.S., “supplying nearly half of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables.” Obviously, this sector of California is highly agrarian and is thus dependent on the state of the climate for its commercial outcomes. Forces of nature such as tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, etc. will determine the fate of the farmers in that area. Referring to a drought in 2009, the article writes, “…drought has contributed to lower profits, increased unemployment, and rising food prices, with many of these adverse effects clustered in the Central Valley.” Obviously, crops require water, and with a drought, crop prices will skyrocket as it will be more difficult for farmers to produce their quota. An article writes, “the price of fresh water is expected to soar and higher value on water efficiency could result.” With a drought, due to global warming, farmers will have to import fresh water from outside sources. In regard to another reading, Peak Globalization: Climate change, oil depletion and global trade, in referring to efforts to prevent global climate change, an oil crisis, and inflated oil prices, “Climate change policies may exacerbate peak oil impacts on fuel prices. They may also reduce the comparative advantage of some Asian nations that are much less energy efficient than the U.S., Japan or Western Europe. Peak oil technologies [to prevent the depletion of oil in the world] may increase greenhouse gas emissions…Offsetting technologies and policies are very unlikely to be implemented in sufficient magnitude or with sufficient promptness to counter peak globalization.” This article comes in direct conflict to what a NYT article claims: “Many of the things that help reduce the threats of climate change can also be good for our economy and national security, and vice versa. Many of the changes proposed to adapt to climate change are readily justifiable as approaches to shelter our wealth and well-being against the erratic forces of nature such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent floods in Australia.” Essentially, the conflict of professional opinion is whether climate change policies will bode well for our economy or not. The result of these policies is still unforeseeable.
Running Out of Gas: Globalization Versus Fossil Fuel Depletion
As the economic downturn continues to threaten financial markets, unrestrained expansion of international trade is often cited as a mystical survival kit. According to the Arizona International Growth Group, companies looking to “recession-proof” their holdings must take international expansion very seriously.
Similarly, Simon Constantinides, the regional head of global trade at HSBC Holdings, forecasts that expansion of global trade, with emerging markets being the “key driver”, will allow the global economy to pick up. Trade between the Asian exporter nations and the developing markets of South America and Africa are expected to see the most growth.
Such financial discourse concentrated on the expansion of intercontinental trade networks completely ignores the imminent oil depletion and climate change. Because intercontinental trade depends on inexpensive and reliable transportation of freight, the anticipated continuation of expansion in freight volume should be seen as highly problematic rather than just lucrative. As Curtis (2009) argues, “changes in natural capital are beginning to erode the economic logic of one major aspect of economic globalization: an international division of labor and production based on global supply chains.” (427) However, the economic system of trade networks is unlikely to change fast enough, if at all, to account for the impending oil depletion and climate change.
With the financial discourse being so incredibly focused on short term economic growth, what can be done to account for long-term considerations such as climate change and natural resource depletion?
Curtis, F. (2009). Peak globalization: Climate change, oil depletion and global trade. Ecological Economics,69, 427-434.
What do we think of when we hear the words poor people? This conjures up many images and thoughts, as discussed in class. But in terms of applying our thoughts and feelings towards poor people, I’ll ask again, what do we think of when we think of poor people? http://news.change.org/stories/why-do-we-think-poor-young-people-are-lazy. Whether we want to admit it or not, in terms of what we do for poor people nationally and abroad, we think nothing of them.
We cannot continue to simply let our emotions and feelings get the best of our thought concerning those less fortunate. As passed over in several legislation bills recently, we need to reapply a proper redistribution of wealth. http://www.redistributionofwealth.net/. This would work especially well in our educational fields, where the seeds are planted for the poor to learn and gain valuable knowledge afforded to, what should be, everyone. However, the current trickle down economic policy many Republicans are in favor of is in staunch opposition to redistributing wealth.
Under trickle down economics, the top 1-5% receive a moderate tax break, which is then assumed will be reinvested into the economy. However, as we have learned under Reagonomics, this is not always the case. http://crooksandliars.com/jon-perr/epic-failure-of-republican-trickle-down-economics. And when such a disparate impact in taxes and wealth is augmented by trickle down economics, the lower class is further buried under the constraints they currently have to work with. What we have to understand is that there may not be a perfect solution. But we must come up with some solution, because any solution is better than no solution. The only question we can ask ourselves is this; if we change our perception of poor people, will we show more of a will to help them?
All of this week’s articles focus on the environment and how governments can/do enact policies to either reverse negative effects that we’ve produced on it or to prevent possible damage to it. I am choosing to focus on the article “Integrity of the Emerging Global Markets in Greenhouse Gases,” which focuses on carbon trading. Carbon trading is a method of permit trading that countries use to fulfill what the Kyoto Protocol asks of them, essentially to reduce the emission of carbon so that we can lessen climate change for the future. The whole point is to make emitters of carbon monetarily face the costs of the damage they do to the environment and to the well-being of the people who live in those areas. These costs will be added to the money they must already pay, relating to the trades. The people emitting carbon into the atmosphere seem to feel no direct connection or responsibility to the consequences. It is bad for the health of the people and for the future of the environment. In a way, the emitters are much like the Wall Street bankers. They care about business and feel no direct responsibility if anyone/anything is harmed, as long as they themselves are doing well. The European Union’s response to the Kyoto Protocol is very similar to the Wall Street bankers’, as shown in the article, “Lasting from 2005 through 2007, Phase I of the EU ETS has been criticized for its generous free allocation rather than auction of emission allowances to key industries and the fact that each nation could set its own cap when meeting its Kyoto commitment. This allowed emitters to reap windfall proﬁts as emissions declined due to economic conditions and already anticipated production modiﬁcations—including plant closures— while providing little incentive to move toward sustainable production.” Carbon trading is a very direct example of how the geography of the earth, and the environment, influence politics. We all live in a space - the globe - whose conditions and well-being dictate our very existence. So naturally it makes sense that many of our policies and laws should and do reflect and respect that.
Some examples of places in the world who engage in carbon trading include Australia and in California. Last year, Australia “announced a [carbon trading] plan…that would tax the carbon dioxide emissions of the country’s 500 worst polluters and create the second-biggest emissions trading program in the world, after the European Union’s. The plan is projected to cut 159 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2020.” Australia is one of the largest, most harmful emitters of carbon dioxide, and it has finally decided it cannot sweep this problem under the rug any longer. California is also trying its hand at the emissions trading market. “California regulators are convinced that they have the data and intelligence necessary to improve upon the system running in the European Union, which has shown results but has also experienced theft and fraud. California officials say the market is a key part of implementing a six-year-old law that requires it to cut its emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.” On a global scale, “Generous offset limits in the Australian and California programs also could create demand for international credits and trigger a money transfer from rich countries to poorer ones.” (It won’t let me insert another link, so this quote is from this article—> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/business/energy-environment/carbon-trading-may-be-ready-for-its-next-act.html) If such a transfer of money would occur, there wouldn’t be such a clear boundary between core and periphery countries anymore. It might blur the lines, pull some people out of poverty AND vulnerability, and establish a bit of equality throughout the world, which as of now operates as a sort of caste system.
I now pose the question: Is carbon trading the solution to the GHG problem? If not, what is? Is there any solution that would be achievable without being sabotaged by greed, theft, and fraud?