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Security Dialogue


Crossing Borders: Resource Flows, the Global Environment, and

International Security
Ronnie D. Lipschutz and John P. Holdren
Security Dialogue 1990; 21; 121
DOI: 10.1177/096701069002100202

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International Peace Research Institute, Oslo

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CrossingBorders: Resource Flows, the Global

Environment, and International Security

Ronnie D. Lipschutz & John P. Holdren*

[Ilndividuals, groups, and nations arc profoundly Similar explanations were periodically
dependent upon the earth and its resources. They offered to the public in the 1960s for
are dependent even in their most intensely
the growing US military involvement in
pulitical relations.... (Ewcry effort to manage Vietnam. And the key US interest driving
growth - whether to accelerate, limit, stabilize, the willingness to use military force in the
or redistribute -

has potcntial security

ramifications.I Middle East, every US Administration from
Trumans to Reagans has assured its citi-
zens, has been to maintain Western access
1. Introduction to the two-thirds of the worlds petroleum
A centerpiece among popular conceptions reserves that underlie that troubled region.
about the determinants of US foreign and And yet: has the problem of access to
military policy since World War II, fed by resources really played such a central role in
some forty years of pronouncements by its
shaping US foreign and military policy in
political and military leaders, is the notion recent decades? We would say no, nor is it
that a great industrial nation must be pre-
likely to play such a role in the future. In
pared to use military force to defend its fact, a greater threat to international secur-
access to foreign sources of raw materials.
US troops went to Korea in 1950, Amer-
ity lies in the ongoing degradation of the
icans were told, not merely to contain the
planetary environment, and the effects that
this may have on the well-being and stability
Communist tide for fundamental geo- of many Third World countries. In this
political and ideological reasons, but also to paper, therefore, we address three related
prevent the loss to the West of Korean topics: (1) Has access to material resources
tungsten, Malaysian tin and rubber, New been an important cause of international
Caledonian nickel, and Indonesian oil. conflict? (2) Are material resources likely to
be a factor in generating international con-
Ronnie D. Lipschutz is President of the Pacific flict in the future? and (3) Are problems of
Institute for Studies in Development. Environ- environmental degradation - most critically,
mcnt and Security, Berkeley, California. John P. those associated with overexploitation of
Holdren is Professor of Energy and Resources certain resources - likely to be contributory
and Chair of Graduate Advisors in the Energy
elements to international conflict in the
and Resources Group, University of California,
Berkeley. This paper is a revised version of one
prepared for the Symposium on The New
Transnationalism: Nation-States and the Global 2. Have Mineral Resources Mattered?
Environment at the 1989 Annual Meeting of the Raw Materials and the Foreign Policies
American Association for the Advancement of

Science, San Francisco, 14-19 January 1989, and

of States
It is commonplace to describe the drive for
is also drawn from Ronnie D. Lipschutz,
When Nations Clash - Raw Materials, Ideology, access major under-
to scarce resources as a
and Foreign Policy (New York: Ballinger/Harper lying motive of the foreign policies of states,
& Row, 1989) (Foreword by John P. Holdren). particularly industrialized ones. In a compa-

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rative of the raw materials policies of

study succeeding in a military venture to protect
Japan and the United States, for example, access threatened resource are ex-
to a
Raymond Vernon asserts that: tremely low,4 and the alternatives to pro-
tecting access are much more promising.
In the modern history of international rela- (There is also a striking circularity to the
tions, the struggles of industrial
states over the idea that a country must build a large
control of basic raw materials have provided a military force in order to defend access to
recurrent theme. The urge of industrialized the resources needed to build a large mili-
nations to capture secure sources of raw
materials was a major factor in the competition tary force.)
of European powers as they carved up Africa
With respect to the
United States, the
during the last decades of the nineteenth belief that foreign policy has been directed
century; it figured in the motives of Germany by a struggle for raw materials seems
and Japan in the great wars of the twentieth particularly acute. As Michael Shafer per-
century; it pitted Britain, France, and the US ceptively wrote, each generation of US
against one another during the 1920s in arcane foreign policy makers since Theodore
political maneuvers over the Middle East and Roosevelt has discovered - and forgotten -
it occupied center stage in the 1970s as the
a strategic minerals crisis of its own.55
members of the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries attempted to control the Indeed, since the end of World War II, US
world market for oil.22 policymakers appear to have been almost
continuously preoccupied by the resource
It is not difficult to see where leaders (and question - notwithstanding the advantages
publics) could get the idea that it lies in the of free trade, and the seeming plenitude and
nature of a great power to acquire and the decreasing costs of oil and minerals over
protect access to foreign resources, and that much of the period.
even going to war over such access is within Indeed, it has been frequently asserted or
the realm of reasonable state behavior. For implied by official and unofficial analysts
this idea has permeated the literature of alike that a systematic program to deprive
foreign relations and international conflict, the West of assured access to Third World
all the way back to Thucydides. Certain resources has been a major pillar of Soviet

elementary facts about mineral resources, foreign policy for decades, accounting for
moreover, seem at least broadly consistent the pattern of Soviet involvement in the
with the proposition. First, many such Middle East and Southwest Asia, in Africa,
resources are unquestionably essential both and even in Central American.6 This
to the economic prosperity and to the resource war theory concerning Soviet
military strength of any nation. Second, the strategy has been on the wane in the
extent to which different nations are academic community for some time; but it
endowed with their own deposits of these continued to exert a powerful hold on the
resources is wildly uneven. And, third, popular imagination and the thinking of at
constrictions in the international flow of least some political and military leaders far
certain resources whose extraction is con- beyond the time when it made any sense
centrated in only a few countries have, from whatsoever.
time to time, indeed generated significant The aim of protecting access to resources
economic disruption. has been used not only as an explanation
Yet, there is scarcely a study to be found of particular US military actions or prepara-
that supports with analysis or examples the tions for such action, but also - not sur-
notion that trying to defend resource access prisingly - as a rationale for the kinds of
militarily, or simply preparing to try to do military forces the USA needs to procure
so, actually pays off. Almost always the and maintain. Until relatively recently, for
costs of military action - or military prepara- example, the case for a 600-ship navy was
tions - are extremely high,3 the chances of argued largely in terms of the requirements

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for protecting far-flung US resource presented here. In fact, and to the contrary,
interests - including, of course, the main- the oil example supports rather than under-
tenance in wartime of secure sea lines of mines the thesis that resource considera-
communication by which these resources tions usually are - and almost always should
would travel to the US defense-production be - secondary rather than primary factors
complex to be transformed into war mat- in shaping foreign and military policies.
eriel. And the Rapid Deployment Force - While Middle Eastern oil comes closer than
later renamed the less-provocative Central any other mineral resource to being indis-
Command - was a Carter Administration pensable and irreplaceable enough to justify
innovation intended to underline the US preparing to fight to protect access, the case
commitment to use force to protect Middle is not persuasive. If one examines the
Eastern oil resources.~7 matter closely, oil does not in fact seem to
What is curious about the conventional have been or to be the primary reason for
wisdom regarding resources and war is that, US military involvement in that region.
although there have been periodic difficul- this is particularly true with respect to the
ties with supplies due to increased demand recent US naval effort in the Persian Gulf -
or depletion of domestic sources of raw although the argument is generally applic-
materials, the general worldwide picture has able throughout the post-World War II
not been particularly gloomy. The problem period
has virtually always been one involving the It is revealing, first of all, thatin the mid-
distribution of resources - and real or 1980s US oil imports from the Middle East
perceived injustices about who possessed accounted for only 14% of total oil imports,
what. As a result, the heart of the matter 4% of total oil consumption, and 1.7% of
has been the IrllLil11lrllrlg - in official think- total energy use for the USA - scarcely
ing and decisionmaking about the role of enough on its own to warrant going to war
resources in international affairs - of to protect it. (At the peak of US oil-import
ideology with analysis, of ideal interests dependence, in 1977, the flow from the
with material ones, of ends with means, of Middle East accounted for 17% of US oil
historical influences with contemporary consumption and about 8% of total energy
realities, and of motivation with rationaliza- use - higher fractions than todays, but
tion. First of all, that is, while resources nonetheless much easier to replace or con-
unquestionably have played a role in the serve than to defend by force.) And even

foreign and military policies of modern though US imports of oil are rising once
industrial states, this role has usually been a again after some years of decline (they
secondary one, enmeshed in more funda- apparently began to exceed 50% once again
mental causes and effects. Rather than in January 1990), flows from the Middle
being the primary aims of policies or the East still comprise only a relatively small
fundamental sources of conflicts, resources fraction of this total. 10 Western Europe and
have more often (a) become important for Japan are more dependent on Middle East
sustaining war efforts undertaken for other oil - amounting in the mid-1980s to almost
reasons, (b) been used to exercise leverage 40% of Japans total energy and 12% of
in support of policies having nothing to do Western Europes - which seems to some
with the resource themselves, or (c) served the central reason for regarding the Middle
as (at best oversimplified) rationalizations, East as a core strategic interest of the
for consumption by publics and legislatures, United States. But the Western Europeans
in support of policies with much more and Japanese themselves - who are after all
elaborate origins. the ones most directly at economic risk from
Many people would be inclined to regard this dependence - have been far less enthu-
the case of Middle Eastern oil as a compel- siastic about maintaining a major Western
ling counter-example to the argument military presence in the Middle East than

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has the United States. Instead they have 3. Will Mineral Resources Matter? The
preferred to build fuel-frugal cars (Japan) Changing Political Economy of Strategic
and nuclear reactors (France), while assum- Resources
ing that a complete cutoff of Middle East oil What are the prospects for the foreseeable
is extremely unlikely under almost any future? On review, there do not .seem to be
circumstances. After all, such an eventuality any other mineral resources with the poten-
would not be in the interest of the countries tial to exert in the future even remotely as
in the region, nor even the Soviet Union, much influence over intcrnational affairs as
which needs food and technology from a oil has done in the last 20 years. To be sure,
prosperous West at least as much as the there are a number of strategic metals and
West needs Middle East oil. ores - perhaps most importantly, from
All of this is not to imply that oil the US standpoint, chromium, cobalt,
considerations have played no role in the manganese, and the platinum group metals
attitudes and policies of the major industrial -

that are currently essential in both the

powers toward the Middle East: they have defense and non-defense sectors of modern
played a role, but for the most part not the industrial economies, and that are found in
biggest one. The United States, in particu- attractive concentrations and quantities
lar, does what it does in the Middle East mainly in the Soviet Union and a few
because of a constellation of convictions and countries in Africa. And a longer list of
interests, including not only conceptions essential minerals for the supply of which
about the importance, vulnerability, and the United States relies heavily on imports,
defendability of the oil, but also the vener- mostly from the Third World, is easily
able philosophy of containment of the compiled: in addition to the big four
Soviet Union in general geopolitical terms; already mentioned, more than two-thirds of
a culturally and historically grounded US consumption of columbium, strontium,
commitment to the viability of the state of bauxite, tin, titanium, nickel, zinc, and
Israel; and - intertwined with the rest - a tungsten (among others) come from
sense of how a great power should define imports. But none of these resources, and
and protect its interests if it wishes to remain no combination of them that is controlled by
a great power. Oversimplifying just a bit, a small or politically cohesive group of
one could say that the United States is in the nations, even approaches the economic
Middle East more to protect its status as a value or potential for short-term economic
superpower than to protect access to oil for disruption that attaches to oil. And, as we
oils sake. have noted earlier, the case for concern
Can a similar case be made for the foreign about oil is questionable.
policies of other powerful, industrialized Much confusion has arisen about these
states? Although it is risky to generalize, matters through a persistent failure of pub-
it seems safe to say that the desire to make lics and policymakers alike to distinguish
the world an economically and politically between dependency on mineral imports
safer place is one that is widely held. Only and vulnerability to shortages of those
a few nations ever possess the wealth and minerals. Dependency on minerals is wide-
power necessary to the pursuit of this spread and immediately quantifiable. To be
goal, and those states use whatever tools vulnerable, however, requires, in addition
are at hand in that effort. Control of flows to dependency, a politically realistic possi-
of resources is one of these tools. But to go bility of being cut off, a lack of alternatives,
the next step and claim that resource and the expectation of significant impacts
flows are a direct cause of international from doing without. For years, the annual
conflict is to ignore most of the other Posture Statement of the US Joint Chiefs of
forces and motives that impel decision- Staff contributed to the confusion by
makers to action.&dquo;1 presenting, early in its treatment of the

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challenges to which the US military must be by the United States. The most pronounced
responsive, a table of mineral dependency - example of this has been petroleum, in
without any accompanying discussion of the which the Middle East share of world
additional factors germane to production plummeted from nearly 40% in
~- all
vulnerability. Yet only very rarely are the mid-1970s to about 20% in the mid-
those factors aligned so as to produce an l9f~Us, with increases in Mexico, the North
acute vulnerability. 13 Where the vulnerabil- Sea, and China, among others, making up
ity is genuine, one can add, there is rather the difference.~ More gradual reductions in
little reason to think that use or threats of the dominance of the biggest producing
force will help much. regions have been evident over the same
Some specific trends, moreover, support period for cobalt, nickel, bauxite, and a
the proposition that raw material resources number of other strategic minerals. These
are bccoming less important in international tendencies are limited, to be sure, by the
politics, rather than more so, as time goes realities of the distribution of the richest
on. Among these are a shift within the deposits; but the oil experience should have
major consumers of raw materials: rates of taught us that when the economic or politi-
growth in the consumption of critical cal costs of the usual sources of supply rise
materials in industrialized countries are too sharply, other sources previously
slowing as a result of the saturation of goods considered uneconomic may come into play.
and the development of new space age The alternatives include not only lower
materials.4 The slowdown is particularly grade deposits of material that are more
the case with respect to the United States, widely distributed than the high-grade ones,
which has experienced a rather rapid but also recycling (non-energy resources),
diminution in its once-predominant role in conservation (optimizing applications to
global consumption of mineral and energy obtain increased functional benefits from
resources (but this appears to be the case, as each kilogram of material), and substitution
well, for the Soviet Union). 5 of more abundant materials capable of
In the early 1950s (the time of the Paley performing the same functions. Recycling
Commission report, Resources for Freedom) has been gradually increasing for many
it was a commonplace observation that the critical resources, despite a number of
United States accounted for about 50% of technical and institutional obstacles.
the worlds annual consumption of mineral Increases in efficiency of use of critical
resources. But by 1965, when this figure was minerals have also been steady, if gradual,
still being widely quoted, a more represen- and would accelerate sharply if constrictions
tative number would have been 25 or 30% , of international flows (or even serious
and by 1985 it had fallen still further. 16 This threats of constrictions) added to the
transition has resulted partly from rapid and motivations. Finally, remarkable advances
sustained economic growth in other parts of in materials science have been expanding
the world, and partly from a shift away from the possibilities for substitution - ranging
heavy, materials-intensive industries in the from changing the composition of particular
United States. The consequence has been alloys (replacing scarce ingredients with
that reliable raw materials supply is no more abundant ones conferring the same

longer so much a special interest of the properties) to replacing metals altogether in

United States as it is a universal interest of a some applications with ceramics and
far-flung industrial civilization. composites made from universally available
A second trend, albeit a generally slower materials.
one, has been geographic diversification in In a longer-term perspective, it is cer-
the sources of supply of critical minerals, in tainly possible that depletion of the richest
terms of both the pattern of extraction resources of some key minerals - and rising
worldwide and the distribution of purchases environmental burdens of extracting and

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harvesting others - will outrun the offsetting MA, and elsewhere are busy combing the
effects of technological improvements, planet for threats to be countered by

increasing the role of raw materials in the the US military. We can be sure that, in the
real cost of living in an industrialized world. future, arguments about Third World stra-
Whether resource depletion will become a tegic minerals will be one of the rationales
direct cause of international violence, as given for procuring long-range expedi-
some suggested in the past, remains
have tionary and force projection capabilities by
unpredictable. 18 But as to the role of the US Armed Forces.
mineral-resource supply questions per se in
governing the formation of political and 4. What Resources Will Matter? The
military policies, this seems likely to shrink Global Environment and International
further in the near future than to blossom Politics
into a primary cause. International flows of While access to mineral resources probably
energy, non-fuel minerals, manufactured has played a less important role in affecting
goods, technology, money, and information the potential for international conflict than
have grown so large, so multifaceted, so is usually supposed - and indeed seems to be
ubiquitous, and so mutually indispensable declining further in importance as time goes
that the idea of any country or group of on - a different dimension of the material
countries waging systematic economic war- appetites of civilization has been rapidly
fare against others by restricting a subset of growing in its salience for international
those flows is becoming less plausible all the affairs: the environmental one. This includes
time. the direct hazards to human health from the
This insight seems to have reached even routinely or accidentally released effluents
those unnamed laborers in the trenches of of resource-supply technologies (e.g.
strategy articulation who write the annual radioactivity from nuclear-energy facilities,
statements on US military posture in the toxic chemical compounds from fossil-fuel
Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In combustion and petrochemical manufactur-
the last few editions, the prominence given ing, toxic trace metals from mineral mining
to critical minerals has shrunk noticeably, and processing, and biocide residues from
being confined largely to passing mention in agriculture). More importantly, it includes
lists of US interests in various parts of the impacts on the environmental conditions
Third World plus a brief discussion of the and processes that control the supply of
implications of the material needs of the US indispensable renewable resources such as
military establishment (emphasizing stock- food, water, biomass fuels, and forest pro-
piling and maintenance of sea lines of ducts. In the case of energy, in particular, it
communication in wartime). In place of the is becoming increasingly likely that the most
previous, rather heavy-handed emphasis on intractable problems - and the greatest
access to resources in the opening sections threats to international stability - could
of the posture statement, there are now come not from the economics or politics
more sophisticated summaries of US of supply but from large-scale environ-
interests, stressing the desirability of mental and social side effects of energy
supporting a political climate favorable to sources - such as climate change by carbon
economic cooperation and interdependence dioxide from fossil fuels, or the spread of
in general. nuclear bomb materials by nuclear energy
But we should not be too hasty in thinking technology.
that old myths can be laid to rest. Even as For most of the quarter century during
US-Soviet relations have improved far which large-scale environmental problems
more than anyone could have imagined have been a significant focus of public and
even two or three years ago, strategic policymaker concern, the direct toxic
analysts in Washington DC, Cambridge hazards to human health have received the

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lions share of attention, while the subtler, national political agendas at the end of the
more complex disruptions biogeophysical
to 1980s, it has only been the emergence of a
processes have, by comparison, been much more fundamentally and pervasively
neglected.19 This focus on the toxic sub- threatening set of environmental problems -
stances dimension has acted to minimize in the form of alterations to biogeophysical
concern with the implications of environ- conditions and processes at regional to
mental problems for international relations, global scale - that has shoved environmental
for two reasons. issues onto center stage internationally and
First, the human-toxicity impacts of made it plausible that not only health but
effluents are generally most pronounced in also international sccurity could be at stake.
the vicinity of the emissions source. In other The four most prominent environmental
words, the most severe impacts of this sort problems in this category are: (1) climate
tend to occur within the country respon- change due to anthropogenic additions to
sible for the emissions. This is not to say the atmospheres stock of infrared-
that toxic hazards (or fears about them) absorbing trace gases (most importantly
never cross international boundaries: the carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and
Chernobyl accident and numerous toxic halogenated hydrocarbons); (2) contamina-
spills in international rivers provide obvious tion of the stratosphere with substances that
examples to the contrary. But precisely destroy ozone, resulting in increased
because the largest and most obvious toxic penetration of biologically disruptive ultra-
impacts usually occur on the territory of the violet radiation to Earths surface; (3) acid
perpetrator, the extent of international out- precipitation caused by emissions to the
rage and corresponding tensions associated atmosphere of sulfur oxides and nitrogen
with such events is likely to be quite modest oxides, resulting in clear damage to poorly
in comparison with circumstances in which buffered freshwater ecosystems and possible
one country or a group of countries is seen widespread impacts on forests and nutrient
to be exporting large damages while suffer- cycles; and (4) destruction of tropical forests
ing relatively little at home. by overharvesting and land-clearing.
Second, the total damages associated with These problems are interconnected in
environmental problems of the toxic some obvious ways (e.g. net deforestation
hazards variety are ramly, if ever, large contributes to carbon dioxide buildup, and
enough to constitute the sort of national nitrous oxides and chlorofluorocarbons are
setback that might provoke a significant implicated in both the greenhouse problem
change in a countrys international and ozone depletion) and probably in other
behavior - as, in contrast, severe national ways not yet obvious (e.g. acid precipitation
economic difficulties have been known to could be affecting bacterial processes that
do. To take the Chernobyl example, the influence atmospheric concentrations of
impressive in-country economic costs, now methane and nitrous oxides). In any case,
estimated to approach USD20 billion, together and separately, the problems in
nonetheless represent only about 1 % of the this class have the potential to undermine
Soviet Unions gross national product for human well-being on a scale far larger than
one year. The excess cancer deaths that may that of the direct toxic damages of pollution.
occur over the next 50 years as a result of Mechanisms of such change include: drastic
the accident - perhaps 15,000 in the Soviet changes in the hydrologic cycle and thus in
Union - represent less than a tenth of a availability of fresh water; alterations in
percent of the cancer deaths that will occur growing seasons and crop yields; altered
in the exposed population from other causes distributions and intensities of diseases and
during the same period.21 It should not be pests affecting humans, domestic animals,
surprising, therefore, that while the toxic crops and forests; changes in sea level;
hazards of pollution remained important on reductions in fish catches; reduced availabil-

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ity of fuel and fiber from forests; and problems of the biogeophysical type is likely
reduced genetic diversity in nature - on to be particularly pronounced in the case of
which one would wish to draw in seeking to the greenhouse gas/climate change problem,
ameliorate some of the other phenomena. which with the help of recent droughts also
The nature and magnitude of thcse happens to be the most prominent of all the
problems cannot yet be predicted in detail, problems in the public mind and on the
nor can it be said with any assurance how political agenda. More than two-thirds of
they will be distributed among countries and the greenhouse effect comes from carbon
regions. What can be said, however, is that dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons - gases
the impacts could easily be large enough to that come in overwhelming proportion
entail massive suffering in the countries (more than three-quarters) from activities in
most severely affected, that the associated the industrialized nations. 22 Yet the vulner-
stresses could contribute importantly to ability to massive societal disruption by
regional and global tensions, and that the greenhouse-related climate change is far
imaginable if unpredictable actions of greater in the less developed countries than
governments under such circumstances in the industrialized ones. The LDCs have
could even lead to armed conflict. The much higher fractions of their populations
potential contribution of environmental malnourished to start with; they have
problems of these types to international smaller food reserves, and less capacity to
tensions is associated not only with the buy food from other parts of the world
magnitude of the suffering they may cause, (which would be a possibility if climate-
but also with a separation between cause induced crop failures were only regional
and effect, and between perpetrator and rather than global). They have smaller
victim, which differs sharply from the situa- capacity to alter agricultural practices
tion typical for pollution problems. For quickly (because of lack of capital and
example, in the case of disruptions of large- infrastructure), greater vulnerability to
scale biogeophysical processes, there is flood and drought (because of settlement
often little correlation between the loci of patterns and lack of reservoir storage), and
the main causative factors and the loci of greater vulnerability to an altered disease
greatest vulnerability. Damages from acid environment.23
precipitation may be at their worst some More generally, one can say that the
1,000 kilometers downwind from the main direct dependence of human society on the
emitters of acid precursors. The ecosystems renewable resources rooted in the biosphere
and human populations at greatest risk from is even greater in the LDCs than in in-
increased ultraviolet radiation may not be dustrial nations, which engage in much
those from which the main emissions of more extensive exploitation of non-
ozone-eroding chemicals come. And there is renewable resources than LDCs. Since it is
no obvious relation between the pattern of mainly renewable resources - and the
carbon dioxide emissions and the places environmental functions associated with
likely to suffer most from CO,-induced them - that are at risk from the biogeo-
climatic change. Thus the countries and physical changes we are discussing, one
regions that end up bearing the severest must expect the vulnerability of the LDCs to
impacts of biogeophysical change may feel, be especially great
with some reason, that these damages were The likely concentration in the LDCs of
inflicted upon them by the irresponsible the severest impacts of the new biogeo-
actions of other nations. The resulting physical threats - and of the resulting
resentments can hardly fail to aggravate resentments and tensions - accentuates an
international tensions. 21 already obvious southward tilt in the poten-
The separation of causes and conse- tial sources of large-scale conflict. Nearly all
quences characteristic of environmental of the major conflicts since World War II

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have taken place in the South, 25 and the from the North and partly by the rapidly
reasons are not difficult to find. The major growing arms industries of the South itself),
ideological adversaries in the North have, including a quite alarming spread of nuclear
on the whole, acted with extreme caution and chemical weapons capabilities and
along the boundary of the two blocs, where ballistic missiles. The independence and
the most central interests of the two sides assertiveness of many countries in the South
are at stake and where huge concentrations have been growing apace. The web of
of conventional and nuclear forces under- political, economic, and military ties linking
line the potentially catastrophic conse- North and South is now far too weak to be
quences of a misstep. By contrast, the used by the North to control the South, but
southern peripheries of superpower spheres still too strong to permit the powers of the
of influence - characterized by less stable North to disentangle themselves - even if
alignments and less sharply defined interests they were so inclined.

have inevitably provided a more tempting In the face of these circumstances, then,
arena in which to seek advantage. The the notion that we in the North can either
reasons for the superpowers themselves manage the South or isolate ourselves from
to confine their troublemaking to the instabilities and upheavals originating there
South exist against a background of super- begins to seem positively quaint. Add to the
abundant indigenous sources of tension - a picture the potential for drastically
rich array of religious and racial hatreds, increased levels of deprivation in the South
ideological incompatabilities, and territorial caused by global biogeophysical change, as
disputes, compounded by the frustrations of well as the likelihood that the pre-eminent
poverty, the frictions of modernization and role of the North in generating these prob-
development, and, in many cases, the birth lems will, even more than usual, incline the
traumas of new statehood. South to blame the North for its predica-
There is a long tradition in the North - ment - and the threat to peace should be
among analysts, publics, and policymakers fully apparent.
alike - of underrating both the magnitude of
the problems faced by the South and the size 5. What is to be Done?
of the threat that these problems pose for It is increasingly apparent that the worlds
the rest of us. One part of this syndrome is problems cannot be solved by wishing them
the conceit that the superpower confronta- away or pretending they do not exist. It is
tion is the pre-eminent international also becoming increasingly evident that the
security problem on the planet; and, worlds problems are those of the North as
correspondingly, that cooling this confron- well as the South. As the largest consumers
tation will make all other security problems of raw materials, producers of greenhouse
manageable. A related perception is that gases, and exploiters of Third World insta-
most conflicts which do arise in the South bility, the two superpowers must come to
will pose little threat to the North as long as acknowledge their responsibility to address
the major powers refrain from trying to and ameliorate the consequences of their
exploit the situation. policies in the South and elsewhere.
The fact is, however, that although many Moreover, the economic interests and con-
conflicts in the South have been instigated nections between the industrialized and
or aggravated by the interventions of developing worlds are obvious and likely to
industrial nations, the ability of the major grow in importance in the future, even for
powers in the North to control or even to the Soviet Union. If superpower relations
predict what happens in the South has been continue to improve, we may be able to say
declining steadily Indigenous military that peripheral conflicts are a thing of the
capabilities have been growing impressively past. To the extent that cooperative efforts
(supplied partly by massive arms transfers can now eliminate potential sources of

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future conflict and instability, and can assist problems are related and can be solved
Third World states towards sustainable together. Take global warming. If we are to
development, they are worth initiating. If combat it effectively, shifting away from
cooperation can, in addition, take place in fossil fuel based energy sources will be
formerly contested regions of the world, necessary. We will have to devise new road-
uncertainty about each others intentions and rail-based mass transit systems, rebuild
and motives could be reduced. basic existing electric generating plants,
Where to begin? Consider a few statistics. redesign housing patterns and rebuild
According to the World Health Organiza- infrastructures in our great metropolises,
tion, 20% of the worlds population suffers engage in intensive conservation of energy,
from serious health problems. These could and develop and deploy renewable energy
be dramatically reduced by the expenditure systems. All of these things, taken to-
of only USD2 billion per year. For 1989, gether, have the potential to employ more
poor countries will have spent more than individuals, generate more in the way of
USD15 billion on food imports; current ,national product, and offer more potential
total global expenditures on agricultural for developing innovative, cutting-edge
research are less than USD10 billion per technologies than any of the business-as-
year. The United States spends more than usual trade or defense strategies currently so
USD300 billion per year for military popular in decisionmaking circles. As a
purposes and less than USD15 billion for result of a comprehensive approach to the
foreign aid - and much of this is security global warming problem, housing will
assistance, not development aid. It could become more affordable, cities will become
cost upwards of USD 1,000 billion to rehabi- better places in which to live, and the
litate urban infrastructure and provide revitalization of industries and infrastruc-
decent housing for everyone in the USA ture will help combat the linked problems of
alone: probably less than USD50 billion was poverty, drugs, and ill health.
allocated for this purpose in 1989. In 1988, And the list of possibilities does not stop
developing countries - many of which are of there. If, for example, the USA were to
great economic importance to the United support a program of industrial and civil
States - exported USD50 billion more than reconstruction in the Soviet Union and
they received in paying off the interest and Eastern Europe, not only would this serve
principal on their debt. And all the while, to bolster reform there but it would also
global expenditures on weapons and prime the global economic pump in much
soldiers approached USDI trillion and con- the same way as the Marshall Plan did in the
sumed upwards of 40% of the worlds late 1940s. Implementing strategies of sus-
scientific and technical capabilities. 27 tainable development in the Third World
This is an impressive list and it is by no (as well as in the First and Second Worlds)
means complete. Indeed, the average US would help not only to restore the ravaged
citizen is likely to look at such an inventory, environments and economies of developing
and the potential costs of solutions, and countries but also to provide significant
throw up his or her hands in helplessness. employment opportunities in both the
But is the situation really so hopeless? North and South. Improved living standards
Fortunately, there is good reason to think in the South would help to reduce global
not. The thawing of relations between the population growth and to increase inter-
United States and the Soviet Union pro- national trade and well-being.
vides a golden opportunity to begin solving Where is the money to come from for
these problems in a way that serves our own such programs? The United States could
self-interest as well as that of the rest of the not, by itself, pay for domestic and global
world. renewal; and, realistically, no country in the
The crucial point is that many of these North - and certainly not the United States

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likely to spend any peace dividend on some USD350 billion per year. While this
rescuing the Soviet Union or the Third might seem a lot, it is still only about one-
World. Only if there is some domestic gain third of annual global military spending, and
to be realized from such efforts is there perhaps 3% of global GNP.2H Of potentially
likely to be progress toward resolving greater significance would be the technolo-
the long list of domestic and global prob- gical and scientific capabilities that could be
lems. But thcre is no reason to think that the reoriented away from weapons research. If
hulk of savings from reduced military only one- third of the 40% of the worlds
expenditures must be spent abroad. Indeed, scientists and engineers that devote their
if the USA makes an effective and substan- energy to the many arms races were instead
tial effort to set its own house in order, this dedicated to a program of global reconstruc-
may set an example to be followed by many tion, then significant progress should not be
other countries, including those in the Third long in coming.
World that now spend significant fractions
of their own resources on armaments. 6. Some Concluding Thoughts
A relatively modest first step could be to Years ago, during the chilliest days of the
try to reduce the US military budget by one- Cold War, a few prescient analysts recog-
third (or about USD100 billion). Here, nized that the most intractable threat to
USD45-60 billion could come by cutting peace on the planet would turn out in the
land and naval forces; another USD30 long run not to be the ideological confronta-
billion might be obtained as the result of a tion between East and West per se, but
START treaty (including elimination of rather the stresses arising from failure to
SDI, the B-2 bomber, and the Trident D-5 secure the material ingredients of a decent
missile, none of which is necessary). And existence for substantial segments of the
USD 10 billion more could be realized by worlds population. The US geochemist
reallocating security assistance and eco- Harrison Brown (The Challenge of Man :s
nomic support funds for US military allies to Future (1954)) and the Soviet physicist
development assistance. Of this, 70% might Andrei Sakharov (Progress, Coexistence,
be spent on domestic programs and 30% and Intellectual Freedom (1968)) saw the
abroad. Note also that this would not be a plight of the impoverished South as the most
complete loss: it has been estimated that difficult and dangerous element of the prob-
every dollar sent abroad from the United lem. Both proposed a massive cooperative
States brings back three to four in trade assault on the problem by East and West -
opportunities. While not sufficient to fund seeing in this approach the only plausible
global renewal, all this would represent a means of mustering resources adequate to

significant first step. the task, and visualizing at the same time an
The Worldwatch Institute estimates that a important contribution to East-West
global program of sustainable development tension reduction through cooperation in
aimed at reducing environmental degrada- the great effort required.
tion in the Third World and establishing In view of the size of the effort necessary
viable economic conditions there would cost to provide real likelihood of avoiding such
about USD140 billion per year for 10 years. an explosion - both by bringing under
Reconstruction aid to the East might total control the driving forces behind global
another USD100 billion per year. If we add biogeophysical change and by building up
in the costs of replacing carbon-based the environmental, technological, and
energy sources with other technologies, of sociopolitical basis for sustainable prosper-
reducing energy use through greater ity in North and South alike - there can be
efficiency, and of rebuilding domestic little doubt that Brown and Sakharov were
infrastructure in the United States (another right all along. The problem requires no less
USD100 billion or so), we arrive at a total of than a major redirection of the scientific,

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technological, and organizational resources pp. 18, 34; W. L. Liscom, ed., The Energy
of the planet, in which full East-West Decade, 1970-1980 (Cambridgc, MA:
cooperation will be essential. In this con- Ballinger, 1982), pp. 270-271.
11. See Lipschutz, When Nations Clash, chs 5-7.
text, continued bickering about what is left 12. Ironically, one of the most serious shortages
of the US-Soviet ideological dispute is a of a strategic mineral ever suffered by the
silly distraction; the continued diversion of United States took place during the Vietnam
USDl1 trillion per year of the worlds War, when nickel imports from Canada were
economic product into armaments is an halted by a miners strike in that country.
intolerable handicap. 13. Even in the case of oil the vulnerablilty
proved much less over the medium term than
had been widely supposed. Diversification of
supply, substitution, and conservation
NOTES AND REFERENCES turned out to be remarkably effective in
1. Richard K. Ashley, The Political Economy reducing consumption.
14. Although newly-industrialized and develop-
of War and Peace (London: Frances Pinter,
1980), pp. 3, 5. ing countries might be expected to take up
2. Raymond Vernon, Two Hungry Giants - the slack, this has so far failed to happen.
The United States and Japan in the Quest for due to generally low standards of living in
Oil and Ores (Cambridge. MA: Harvard those countries. Whether this will change in
the future is unclear.
University Press, 1983), p. 1.
3. The Rocky Mountain Institute, for example, 15. Robert H. Williams, Eric D. Larson & Marc
has estimated the effective cost of protecting Ross, Materials, Affluence, and Industrial
each barrel of Persian Gulf oil transported Energy Use, Annual Review of Energy 12,
1987, pp. 99-144; J. P. Cole, Is the USSR
through the Straits of Hormuz in 1988 to be
more than USD200. See Amory B. Lovins & Entering the Post-Materials Age? Trends in
L. Hunter Lovins, Drill Rigs and Battleships Per Capita Production of Primary Materials,
are the Answer! (But What was the Ques-
Soviet Geography vol. 29, no. 5, May 1988,
tion ?) (Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain pp. 476-500.
Institute, Draft, 16 April 1988), p. 2. 16. Some actual US shares in 1950 were: crude
4. Which is why, no doubt. Anglo-American oil, 63%; nickel. 62%; bauxite, 47%; iron
ore, 42%: copper, 38%; coal, 25%. By 1985
plans in the 1950s called for the destruction of
the Middle East oil fields in the event of war the figures were 27% for oil, 14% for nickel,
with the Soviet Union; see R.D. Lipschutz, 12% for bauxite, 8% for iron ore, 15% for
When Nations Clash (New York: Ballinger/ copper and 18% for coal; see BP, Statistical
Harper & Row, 1989), ch. 4. ; and US Bureau of Mines, Minerals
5. Michael Shafer, Mineral Myths, Foreign Yearbook - 1987 (Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office). Figures
Policy, no. 47, Summer 1982, p. 155.
6. This hypothesis has stressed denial of for 1950 were so large as a consequence
Western access more than acquisition of of World War II and the destruction of
Soviet access, because the Soviet Union European industry in the war.
possesses within its own territory the richest 17. BP, Statistical Review, pp. 4-5.
and most diverse mineral endowment of any 18. See, for example, Bruce Russett, Security
country in the world. and the Resources Scramble: Will 1984 be
7. In subsequent planning, however, the role of like 1914? International Affairs, vol. 58, no.
the RDF was expanded to include other 1, winter 1981/82, pp. 42-58; Arthur H.
regions and real or imagined threats to Westing, Introduction, in A. H. Westing,
sources of critical materials, wherever they ed., Global Resources and International Con-
might be found and whether or not the flict - Environmental Factors in Strategic
security of the United States or its allies was Policy and Action (Oxford: Oxford Univer-
actually at risk. sity Press, 1986).
8. See Lipschutz, When Nations Clash, chs 5, 6. 19. Geographers, biologists, and conservation-
9. Theodore Draper, American Hubris: From ists have had a much longer-standing concern
Truman to the Persian Gulf, New York with a land-centered set of environmental
Review of Books, 16 July 1987, pp. 40-48. problems including erosion, deforestation,
10. British Petroleum (BP), Statistical Review of desertification, salination, and waterlogging
World Energy - 1987 (London, June 1987), (see, e.g. G. P. Marsh, Man and Nature

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(New York: Scribner, 1864, reprinted warming is expected to be greater in the high
Harvard University Press, 1965); W. L. latitudes, where most of the rich reside, than
Thomas, cd. , Mans Role in Changing the in the tropics, where most of the poor are
Face of the Earth, 2 vols. (Chicago: Univer- found. But this argument is based on a
sity of Chicago Press, 1956)), but these issues misconception about the main source of
have generally not had the salience with damaging impacts: these will come not so
industrial-nation publics and politicians that much from the average change in surface
pollution issues have enjoyed since the late temperature for a given latitude as from the
1960s. In developing countries, by contrast. changes in atmospheric circulation patterns
land-ccntered problems have generally been (and, accordingly, patterns of precipitation
taken more seriously than pollution prob- and of temperature extremes) resulting from
lems have. the impact of the greenhouse effect on the
20. L. R. Anspaugh, R. J. Catlin & M. whole, global climate machine.
Goldman, The Global Impact of the 24. There is a certain irony, of course, in the
Chernobyl Reactor Accident, Science, vol. circumstance that the world now seems in
242, 1988, 1513-1519; C. Hohenemser & O. greater danger of depleting its renewable
Renn, Shifting Perceptions of Nuclear Risk: resources than of depleting its non-
Chernobyls Other Legacy, Environment, rcncwablc ones, but that is what the
vol. 30, no. 3, 1988, pp. 5-11, 40-45. evidence suggests.
21. The resentments presumably would be even 25. Ruth Leger Sivard ( World Military and
greater if there were clear winners as well as Social Expenditures 1987-88 (Washington,
losers in the wake of major biogeophysical DC: World Priorities, Inc., 1987)) lists 119
change. The possibility of winners has been conflicts involving 1000 deaths or more
much discussed in the particular case of between 1946 and 1987, of which all but
climate change, but in our view this outcome three took place in the South. This tally
is less likely than is commonly supposed. The includes civil wars and insurrections. The
reason is that any rapid climate change is number of wars involving two or more states
likely to be disruptive of biological produc- (including civil wars in which another state
tivity in the short run, even if the new climate intervened) was 60, of which 57 were in the
that settles in after the transition period may South.
be better than the old one. 26. Afghanistan and Vietnam are only two
22. The responsibility for greenhouse warming examples of this loss of ability to manage
in the 1990s is expected to be, approxi- conflict in the Third World. The recent US
mately, carbon dioxide 55%, methane 20%, invasion of Panama cannot be considered an
chlorofluorocaibons 15%, nitrous oxide 5%, exception, in that its objectives (primarily
tropospheric ozone and other 5% (World the overthrow of Manuel Noriega) were so
Resources Institute, International Institute limited.
for Environment and Development and 27. These data come from a variety of sources,
United Nations Environment Programme, including the World Resources Institute, the
World Resources 1988-89 (New York: Basic, Worldwatch Institute, the United Nations,
1988). The geographic pattern of emissions the Society for International Development,
of methane and nitrous oxide cannot yet be the San Francisco Chronicle, and the New
specified because the sources of these gases York Times.
have not been sorted out in detail. 28. Lester R. Brown & Edward C. Wolf,
23. It may be argued, on the contrary, that the Reclaiming the Future, in Lester R. Brown
LDCs will be less affected than the in- ct al., State of the World - 1988 (New York:
dustrialized nations because greenhouse Norton, 1988), pp. 183.

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