restricted access Chapter 5: Resource and Environmental Security
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

73 MAJOR CONTEMPORARY ECONOMIC and social issues are intimately linked with the quest for global poverty reduction, particularly poverty in developing countries. Today, people around the world, particularly in the developing world, are struggling to survive in the face of a multitude of environmental problems—the overuse of natural resources, the degradation of the ecosystem, and extreme climatic events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes . These problems play an important role in increasing human vulnerability , undermining livelihoods and human well-being, threatening environmental security, and potentially generating or exacerbating conflict.1 The past two decades have witnessed the intensification of the debate concerning the role that the environment plays in creating and exacerbating environmental insecurity and the impact that this has on poverty, particularly in the developing nations whose economies are largely dependent on the ecosystem. Although environmental factors play an important role in creating environmental insecurity, other factors also are known to play significant roles. Such factors include poverty, income inequality, rapid population growth, poor governance, globalization, and a high disease burden. These factors interact with environmental problems to put enormous pressure on the social fabric of many communities and consequently precipitating insecurity that often leads to conflicts. Recent research attention on environmental security has largely focused on environmental resource-driven violent conflicts . The concept of environmental security should go beyond violent conflicts and the struggle for scarce environmental resources. In the coming Resource and Environmental Security ANTHONY NYONG 5 05-1375-3 ch5 3/30/07 1:31 PM Page 73 decades, accelerating environmental insecurity resulting from resource competition will aggravate global poverty and hamper the achievement of sustainable development, particularly of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in developing countries. Environmental security should therefore expand in scope to include issues that could reduce society’s vulnerability to all forms of environmental threats, particularly poverty. Poverty is both a cause and result of environmental insecurity. One way in which poverty is entrenched in the society is through the uneven distribution of and access to resources. Geographically, the poorest segments of the population live in the most degraded and marginal lands and economically do not have access to most environmental goods and services. For instance, about 40 percent of Africa’s population lives on marginal lands characterized as arid or semiarid.2 Though about 70 percent of the least developed countries are in Africa, about 40 percent of them lie wholly or partially in these arid and semiarid lands. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, poverty is a major factor in environmental degradation. Poor people often adopt practices that degrade the environment because survival, rather than long-term sustainability , is their ultimate goal. At the same time, when conflicts do occur, it is the poor with the least resources to draw upon who are affected the most; a majority of them are forced to flee their homes and end up as environmental refugees. Poverty is therefore a potent and very destructive force in our present generation, and if it is not eradicated, world peace will be constantly threatened. This chapter argues that reducing poverty requires an enhancement of environmental security and that this largely is dependent on equitable access to and use of resources—ecological and nonecological. The chapter is organized as follows. The next section presents a theoretical basis for understanding the concepts of resources and environmental security, which have become very controversial among scholars. It also provides the link between resources and environmental security. It argues that both resource scarcity and resource abundance—acting through other socioeconomic filters such as poor governance, poverty, and rapid population growth—can threaten environmental security. The section also discusses the threats from climate variability and change, particularly in Africa. These threats have become major global issues, and their potential ravages are so severe that they could nullify efforts to secure meaningful and sustainable development, particularly in developing countries. In the third section, two case studies are presented to illustrate the role resources play in environmental insecurity and conflicts. This is followed by a discussion of the implications of these insecurities for poverty reduction, particularly in developing countries. The next section presents 74 ANTHONY NYONG 05-1375-3 ch5 3/30/07 1:31 PM Page 74 Resource and Environmental Security 75 guidelines for managing environmental conflicts, and the chapter ends with a set of recommendations and a conclusion. Conceptual Issues In this section, the concepts of resources and environmental security are presented and a definition is attempted for both terms within the...