Sadie Normoyle
April 6, 2013
Honors Political Science
Politics of the Environment
“The nextwarin the Middle Eastwill be fo...
intense resource extraction,suchasmining,orare forcedto workin these processesof miningare
subjectedtohorriblydangerousand...
coincidence,butisratherevidence supportingthatresources control ispolitical. The variousconflictsall
overthe worldfor natu...
Accordingto JohnGaventa, we can expecta non-issue(meaningnotapowerissue) when“1)
Glaringinequalitiesoccurinthe distributio...
statesthat “A isable to keepB’sissuesoff the agenda of a political system”(Valelly). Thisideaalso
relatestothe third-dimen...
Works Cited
Clark,Josh."ExactlyWhat HappensIf We Runout of Water?" HowStuffWorks.DiscoveryCompany,n.d.
Web.08 Apr. 2013. <...
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politics of the environment

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Transcripts - politics of the environment

  • 1. Sadie Normoyle April 6, 2013 Honors Political Science Politics of the Environment “The nextwarin the Middle Eastwill be foughtoverwater,notpolitics."-BoutrosGhali,1985. FormerUnitedNationsSecretaryGeneral,BoutrosGhali,hadapointwhen he predicted the cause of the nextglobal conflict.However,Idisagree withhis statementthatwarsfoughtoverwaterwill not be wars foughtoverpolitics.Inreality,environmentaldegradation,particularlythe overconsumptionof natural resources,isthe mostimportantpolitical issuefacingthe worldcommunity today.Notonlydoesthe destructionandoveruse of resourcesaffecteveryone onthe planet,butitis alsoprimarily apowerissue,assupportedbythe varyingpowerdimensionsdescribedbybothGaventa and Valellyintheirrespective articles.The groupswhohave control overwater,land,fossil fuels,and mineralscontrol huge aspectsof the economy,aswell asresourcesessential forlife. Thiseconomic control and subsequentpopulation control putsthese majoritygroupsinmassive positionsof power globally,whichleadstoconflictandunfairdistribution.Additionally,environmental problemsarising fromstrippingthe earthof its resources are part of a largerpicture,thatof humanrightsissues. The connectionsbetweennatural resource overconsumption andmanyotherpoliticalissuesintoday’s worldfurtherhighlightswhyenvironmental degradationisthe mostimportantpolitical issue today. Overconsumptionof natural resourcesisacrucial issue foreveryone because ithassuchwide reachingeffects.Forexample, Gandhi said,“Whatwe are doingtothe forestsof the worldisbut a mirrorreflectionof whatwe are doingto ourselvesandtoone another.”Thishighlightsthe ideathat besidesbeingapolitical issue,the destructionandoveruse of ourplanetisprimarilyahumanrights issue,somethingthattouchesall of us.The conditionsof the groupswhoare eitherlivingin the areasof
  • 2. intense resource extraction,suchasmining,orare forcedto workin these processesof miningare subjectedtohorriblydangerousandunhealthyworkingconditions.Miningconditions,inthirdworld countriesspecifically,are particularlyhorridbecause the poorlivinginthe areaare exploitedbythe governmentorothergroupsincharge to workin lessthansatisfactoryconditionsforpenniesaday. While all miningcompaniesthatreapenormousprofitsfrommineral interests should contributeto economicgrowthinthose countriesinwhichtheyoperate by hiringlocal laboratfairwagesand using profitstoincrease the standardof livingof the nearbycommunitiesinsome form, theyveryrarely do. More oftenthannot,the people of these exploitedregionsreceive littletonoreimbursementin exchange forthe landthat issoonravagedbeyondsalvation(Kim). Environmental degradationalsoinfluences the humanrightsissue of resource scarcity,suchas the deficiencyof cleandrinkingwater.Itisestimatedbythe UnitedNationsEnvironmentAgencythat “almost3 billionpeople will be severelyshortof waterwithin50years” (sourcewatch).Itcanalmostbe guaranteedthatthese 3 billionpeoplewillnotbe those livingin1st worldcountries,ashistorically marginalizedgroupstendnot tohave control overnatural resources due tothe global powerstructure. Thisfurthersupports the fact that those inpositionsof weaknessandoppression will be affectedmuch more by the continuingnatural resource crisisthan those whohave direct control overthese assets. The political nature of environmentaldegradationisfurtherseeninthe commontheme of conflictovernatural resources andhowthis leadstowar and genocide,asshowninvariousregionsin the Middle East,Africa,and SouthAmerica.One particularexample isthe 2012 SouthSudan-Sudan borderwar, a fightoveroil richregions thatkilledover1,000 people (AfricanHolocaust).Thisconflict quickly ledtoa full-fledgedwarinvolvingmultiple powerfulpolitical parties.Thisconflictis also connectedtothe 2003 war in Darfur, whichitself originatedoveradifferentnatural resource,water. The connectionbetweenthe fightovernatural resourcesandvariouspolitical structuresisnota
  • 3. coincidence,butisratherevidence supportingthatresources control ispolitical. The variousconflictsall overthe worldfor natural resources,particularlyoil,have ledtothe deathanddisplacement of millions of people,aswell asthe upheaval of numerouspolitical structures.Thisglobal scale of fightingwill only increase tomore intense levelsasresourcesgetscarcerandscarcer. Continuingtouse ournatural resourceswithabandonisjusttakingusone-stepclosertoworldwide conflictandsubsequentcollapse. Thisoveruse of natural resourcesisa powerissue formultiplereasons.Firstly,itfitsinwiththe 1st powerdimensionideathat A has poweroverB if “A has possessionof more resourcesorskillsthan B” (Valelly). Meaning,there are decisions beingmade inA’sfavor,where inthiscase A are the groupsin control of resourcesandB are the groupseitherwithoutresources,orexploitedinordertoobtainthe resources.Itiscrucial withthisideatopay attentiontothe underlyingdistributionof theseresources, meaningthatwhile itisimportanttosee whohas poweroverthese resources,itisalsoimportanttosee whois receivingtheseassets.The groupswho control natural resourcesare undoubtedlythe onesin power;however,those whoare receivingthese resourcesare alsoincontrol of some aspectsof that same power.Forinstance,the UnitedStateshasaccess to manydifferentformsof natural assetsonour ownsoil,butmost of our oil,forexample,isobtainedoverseas.We donothave directcontrol overthis oil butwe receive it,whichgivesuspowerinthe worldof natural resources.Additionally, there isthe ideathat incertainpowerstructures“as A developspower,A prevailsoverBindecision-makingarenas inthe allocationof resourcesandvalueswithinthe political system.If A prevailsconsistently,thenA may accumulate surplusresourcesandvalues”(Gaventa).Thisideafitsinperfectlywiththe powerthat comesfromcontrol of natural resources.Thisisbecause withthe control overoil,water,land,etc. comesthe control overdecision-makingprocessesinbothaglobal sphere,suchasthe economy,andin a local sphere,suchas the resource distributionof thatregionwhere the assetisbeingcollected.
  • 4. Accordingto JohnGaventa, we can expecta non-issue(meaningnotapowerissue) when“1) Glaringinequalitiesoccurinthe distributionof thingsavowedlyvaluedbyactorsinthe systems,and2) Those inequalitiesdonotseemtooccasionameliorativeinfluence attemptsbythose gettinglessof those values”.However,we knowthatenvironmental degradationis notanon-issue becausethere have beennumerous ameliorative influence attemptsbygroupswhoare gettinglessof the natural resources or nothingof monetaryvalue resultingfromthose resources.Anexample of thisisthe warin Darfurin 2003. The conflict,whichkilledasmanyas 400,000 people,startedbybeing aboutnatural resources, particularly people’saccesstowater(AfricanHolocaust).Asthe nomadictribesinSudanstartedfacinga prolongeddroughtandthe subsequentwatershortages,manygroupsstarted goingafterthe territory of more sedentaryfarmers fortheirwater.Thisisonlyone example,butitdoesshow thatthese people were tryingtousurp the people inpowerandtake backcontrol of resources, andthat itledto a bloody conflictthatencompassedmanydifferentregions.The inequalitiesindistributionof resourcesthatare valuable tolife andtoeconomicgrowth,particularlyoil andwater,have causednumerousconflicts aroundthe world,inincreasingamount,overthe pastdecades. However,the biggestreason environmental degradation isapowerissue isthatwhoever controlsthe natural resourcesalsocontrolsthe economy. Thiscontrol overhuge assetsintoday’sworld allowsthatgroupto have control over whogetswhatresourcesand at whatprice. Thiscontrol overa vast majorityof the economyallowsforotherfar-reachingaspectsof power,suchascontrol overthe mediaandwhat the publicknowsaboutthe powerstructure. Thisalsoenablesthesegroupsinpowerto act as the “colonizer,”whichinvolvesthe “prevailingoverthe allocationof resourcesinthe colony” (Gaventa).Thisrole asthe colonizerallowsforhuge advancesinpowerformanyreasons. The colonizer isable to incorporate a mobilizationof bias,meaningthatthere isa setof “predominantvalues,beliefs, and institutional proceduresthatoperate systematicallytothe benefitof the colonizeratthe expenseof the colonized”(Gaventa).Thisideafitsdirectlyintothe second-dimensionalpowerrelationship,which
  • 5. statesthat “A isable to keepB’sissuesoff the agenda of a political system”(Valelly). Thisideaalso relatestothe third-dimensional powerrelationship,whichstatesthatBfindsitimpossibleto “conceptualize somethingbeyondthe false consensus”thatservesA’spurposes (Valelly).Thisishighly evidentinthe factthat manypeople donothearabout the abuse of powerin the worldof natural resources,andthat people donotbelieve ittobe problemintoday’sworld. Thisignorance of the problemispart of the reasonwhyitis such a crucial political issue.If we continue toignore the problem,orbe oblivioustoit,itwill notgo awayand is insteadonlygoingtoget worse.RobertRedford said, “Ithinkthe environmentshouldbe putinthe categoryof our national security.Defenseof ourresourcesisjustas importantasdefense abroad.Otherwisewhatisthere to defend?”(Goodreads). Ifindthisquote tobe anaccurate claimbecause if there are no natural resources available tohumanity,suchaswater,there will be nothinglefttodefendbecause humanitywill not have survived.The degradationof ourenvironmentisnota problemthatisgoingto remainthe same ten,twenty,thirtyyearsdownthe line.Itisa problemthatwill eventuallybe ourdestructionif we letit, whichiswhyit isthe single mostimportantpolitical issue of ourtime.AsChief Sealthsaid, “We donot inheritthe earthfromour ancestors;we borrow itfrom our children” (Goodreads).
  • 6. Works Cited Clark,Josh."ExactlyWhat HappensIf We Runout of Water?" HowStuffWorks.DiscoveryCompany,n.d. Web.08 Apr. 2013. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/run- out-of-water1.htm>. "Water Wars."- SourceWatch.The CenterforMediaand Democracy,n.d.Web.08 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Water_wars>. Kim,JS."RelatedStories." The15 Best And The 15 Worst Mining JurisdictionsIn The World-- Page:2. IStockAnalysis,n.d.Web.08 Apr.2013. <http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewarticlepaged/articleid/5065594/pageid/1>. "QuotesAboutEnvironment." QuotesaboutEnvironment.Goodreads,n.d.Web.08Apr.2013. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/environment>. "AFRICAN HOLOCAUST| Truth BehindDarfur." Truth Behind Darfur.AfricanHolocaust,n.d.Web.08 Apr. 2013. <http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_ah/darfur%20report.html>.

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