Resource Wars:  The New Landscape of Global Conflict by Michael Klare
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict by Michael Klare

Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict

May 22, 2001

Competition for control of resources has been the root of many conflicts since the end of the Cold War, argues Klare. The view that resources are vital to national security means that governments will be more willing to solve resource problems by the use of force.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I’m Joanne Myers, Director of Merrill House Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to welcome our members and guests to our Books for Breakfast program this morning.

Today our guest is Michael Klare. He will be discussing his latest book, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict.

During the Cold War, when alliances were formed along political and ideological lines, policy analysts had an easy time defining security threats. It was simple—they were presumed to emanate from the Soviet Union and their drive for world domination. But, as the East/West divide of the Cold War became but a fading memory, analysts had to find a new principle that could characterize global conflicts. Some pointed to ethnic or religious causes for regional instability; others sought answers outside this paradigm.

Michael Klare was no exception. In fact, it was his struggle to understand the underlying dynamics governing war and peace in the post-Cold War era that led him to write Resource Wars. In a recent interview, he remarked that none of the conventional answers—ideology, power politics, or military rivalry—were satisfactory to describe the threat of security policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Consequently, he became convinced that he had to look beyond the world of political science in order to find a unifying principle that would govern security policy. His determination led him to conclude that it was resource competition, the demand by rapidly growing populations for scarce resources, such as oil, water, timber, and gems, that will in the years ahead be the engine that fuels security concerns around the world.

As an established pioneer in international security studies and as a defense analyst, our guest this morning has few peers. He has studied and written a great deal on the sources of political instability in the developing world and on U.S. defense policy, the arms trade, and world security affairs.

Included among his many acclaimed books are Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws , In addition, he has been a co-editor or editor of Light Weapons and Civil Conflict, and World Security: Challenges for a New Century.

He is also the defense correspondent of The Nation, a contributing editor to Current History, and a member of the Editorial Board of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. His articles have appeared in Arms Control Today, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, and International Security Issues in Science and Technology, as well as other periodicals.

Currently he is the Five College Professor as well as Director of Peace and World Security Studies, which is a joint appointment at Hampshire College, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts.

Please join me in welcoming our guest, Michael Klare.


MICHAEL KLARE: Thank you, Joanne.

Joanne did a good job of introducing my topic and how I got involved in this subject, which was a search for better understanding the dynamics of conflict and military policy in the post-Cold War era. I became disenchanted with many of the explanations we were given—the “clash of civilizations” of Samuel Huntington; the idea of the “lid on the pot,” that during the Cold War era there was a lid on ethnic and religious passions and the end of the Cold War took the lid off and all of these ancient hatreds exploded again. Much of the analysis we saw was of that nature.

I looked for other explanations that would better help me to understand what we were seeing around the world in terms of conflict and the disposition of military forces. That led me to resources. I have become convinced that the competition for control of resources, for control of the revenues that certain resources bring, like diamonds or rare timber, has been a decisive factor in many of the conflicts that we have seen.

I’m not saying that ethnicity and culture and religion are not an important factor. Often demagogues and warlords and rising leaders use ethnicity and religion as a tool to arouse public support for whatever their program might be. But if you look closely, often underneath all of this is a desire to control valuable sources of resources or their revenues.

You can see this in conflicts such as the one now underway in the DR Congo, where, as the UN has recently indicated, some of the foreign and domestic parties have developed very valuable interests in the exploitation of rare minerals or timber, diamonds and gold, and that this, more than anything else, appears to be driving the continuing conflict and explains why it’s so difficult to reach a negotiated peace settlement.

Same thing in Angola and Sierra Leone, where diamonds are a key factor. In conflicts even like that in Chechnya, which is described primarily as an ethnic conflict, Moscow has a strong interest in controlling the critical pipelines from the Caspian Sea that go right through Grozny. This kind of dynamic operates in many other conflicts as well. I’m sure you’re saying to yourself that, “There isn’t anything new about this. Conflict has always had an important resource dimension.” And this is absolutely true.

If you go back to the oldest human written histories that we have, the texts from the ancient Near East, a lot of what those ancient texts are about is the struggle to control the irrigated river valleys of Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and much of the Old Testament in Exodus is about resource conflict in the area of the Jordan River Valley. Both of those places remain important centers of resource or water conflict today.

Also, if you look at the history of the Western Hemisphere and the history of Africa in recent times, in both cases you see that the pursuit of valuable resources—gold and silver in South America; furs and tobacco and other agricultural products and fish in North America; again, the mineral and timber of Africa, slaves; and more recently in the Middle East, oil—always has been an important factor in driving outward expansion, conquest, colonialism, and conflict. So some of what we see today does bear a resemblance to what we have seen in the past.

Yet we are in a qualitatively different situation today. There are forces and dynamics in the world that will bring these resource issues much more to the fore, to the center of international relations, and they are really qualitative new phenomena. Let me briefly summarize these key phenomena.

1) Population. In the 20th century, world population grew from about 1.5 billion to 6 billion at the end of the century, and we expect another 2 billion people to be added between now and the year 2025. There has never in human history been population growth on this scale. I am not going to argue that population is necessarily the most decisive factor in all of this, as you’ll see; nonetheless, this kind of increase in population has to be having a tremendous impact on the world resource base.

We see this especially with respect to water and arable land. It’s not that the water is becoming more scarce, but that the demands on the available supply are growing so rapidly that the existing supply is simply proving inadequate for many populations, especially in the Middle East, South Asia, Central and Southwest Asia, and North Africa. I’ll come back to the water issue, but this is one where population will have a big impact. The same is true of arable land.

2) Consumption patterns. The 6 billion people of today, on average, have an enormously higher consumption rate than the 1.5 billion people of the year 1900. Water use, petroleum use, mineral use, are growing at two or three times the rate of population increase. So it’s not just population, but our consumption patterns.

There are still as many as a billion people who don’t have enough food and other resources to lead a healthy life, so the whole world is not benefiting from this increase in consumption. But, on average, people have more than they ever did. We see this most especially in the use of petroleum for private vehicles. A century ago, nobody owned a private motor vehicle. Today there are about 675 million private motor vehicles in circulation around the world, and the expectation is that number will grow to about 1.1 trillion in the year 2020. This vast expansion in automobile ownership and use, what the Department of Energy calls “the motorization of the world” has produced just an extraordinary increase in demand for petroleum products. That is just one example of the way in which individual consumption patterns are affecting the resource base.

The same is true of water. As people’s incomes rise, they eat a diet that requires more water—fresh vegetables, a lot of meat and chicken and pork—and all of this puts pressure on water use. And washing machines, dishwashers etc.

3) Globalization. Globalization is another aspect of the current scene that has qualitatively changed the environment. Industrialization is spreading from the few centers of the 20th century—in Western Europe, the United States, Japan—to vast areas of the world: Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and increasingly other regions such as Southeast Asia. As industrialization spreads, the demand for all of our needs—minerals, wood, petroleum, energy—increases at a very high rate. We expect that the demand for energy in the developing parts of Asia, for example, will more than double over the next twenty-five years, developing Asia being China and Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and South Korea. The rate for India, Central America, and Latin America is expected to increase by even higher rates during that period.

So globalization, increased consumption, population growth on an unprecedented scale, are producing an enormous increase in demand for all of these products. And the fact is that some of them are quite limited.

The Earth provided us with an extraordinary bounty of the resources we need to survive: water, energy, minerals, timber. It’s easy to think, as people did in the past, that there were always new continents to conquer to find more resources. But we are beginning to approach limits to the availability of some of these materials. The supply of oil is not unlimited, and in all likelihood we will begin to reach the end of the easy availability of petroleum by the middle of this century.

Water is a renewable resource, but each year there is only so much fresh water. We’re now using about half of it. It’s very likely that in this current century we’re likely to see large areas of the world that are fully utilizing the available supply of fresh water, and in many of those areas there simply won’t be enough to meet the need.

The resource base is not unlimited, but we are using it at an unprecedented rate. This is producing a collision between rising demand and limited supply that has many consequences.

These pressures will intensify at an ever-increasing rate, if these patterns that I’m describing continue, with increased pressure on the available supply of resources. This will lead to increasing competition between the users of resources for access.

These pressures will be mediated in various ways. Market forces will kick in and have a significant impact on resolving some of this competition. In some cases, rising prices for some of these products will lead to an impetus either for the development of new technologies or for the utilization of resources that are currently too expensive to obtain but are within our reach. For instance, oil in Siberia, in the Arctic region, or deep offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Gulf of Mexico. These supplies will, under the pressure of demand, come on-line and ease some of the pressure on supply. So technology/market forces will certainly mediate some of these pressures.

In some areas, people will be motivated to cooperate more. In the case of water resources, it’s absolutely critical that people in the Nile River Basin or the Jordan Basin, for example, cooperate in sharing what’s available, because through cooperation they will each be assured of a more secure supply. We hop to see more cooperation in the developing of available resources, in new technology, and conservation.

But I also fear that some of this competition will lead to violent conflict in some cases. I see evidence of the securitization of resource issues—the articulation of the view that certain resources are vital to national security of the states involved and, therefore, something that legitimately can be fought over.

We see this explicitly in U.S. policy on petroleum supplies. In the Carter Doctrine of January 23, 1980, the President said that the free flow of petroleum from the Persian Gulf is essential to the national security of the U.S. and to protect that we’ll use any means necessary, including military force.

That principle still holds today. It was cited by President Reagan to justify the re-flagging of Kuwait tankers during the Iran-Iraq war. It was cited by President Bush the elder to justify Operation Desert Storm. It was cited by President Clinton to undertake a massive increase in American military forces in the Gulf. And we see that in President Bush’s recent energy policy, which emphasizes the strategic importance of Persian Gulf oil to the United States.

While the United States has drawn down its military presence in Europe and in other parts of the world, it is rapidly building up its military presence in the Gulf area, building new bases, pre-positioning forces there, gradually accreting the permanently or semi-permanently deployed forces in the region. So with respect to the Gulf, the United States has been very explicit.

President Clinton spoke in the same terms of the Caspian region in 1999, when the President of Azerbaijan visited the White House. He said that gaining access to the Caspian’s oil is a security interest of the United States, and he undertook a number of initiatives leading to greater American military involvement in that region.

These activities, which haven’t been widely reported in the U.S.—building military ties with the military organizations of the new states of the Caspian, training exercises, arms transfers, military training activities—have caused deep alarm in Russia, which also views the Caspian as vital to its security, and which has have also been building up its military capabilities in the region, even as it draws down significantly in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

Not only Russia and the United States, but China has expressed the view that resources are vital to its security. We see this explicitly with the case of the South China Sea, where China has claimed the Spratly and Paracel islands as part of its national territory, because of the resources that are believed to lie underneath the South China Sea, and has clashed with Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam over control of those islands.

We see the same with respect to water, particularly in the Middle East, where Israel has said about Jordan and Egypt about the Nile River, that gaining access to these supplies is vital to their security, and that if necessary they are prepared to use force to protect access to those valuable supplies.

A different situation applies to some of the internal conflicts around the world, where governments that depend on the revenue from vital resources that are threatened by separatist groups have used whatever military power they have to suppress those challenges.

A brief example is the struggle over the island of Bougainville, which is claimed by Papua, New Guinea. It hired Executive Outcomes, the private military firm, to undertake an invasion of Bougainville, which has declared its independence from Papua, New Guinea. Bougainville houses the largest copper mine in the world. It was the sole source of income for the Papua New Guinea government, and so they were prepared to hire a mercenary army to invade and reconquer the island.

My argument is that many governments, and factions within governments, view resources as something worth fighting over and are building up military capacities in order to carry out these operations.

It is this logic of the securitization of resource issues that worries me most; not scarcity per se, but the government view that territorial disputes over resources can be solved by force when other means don’t succeed.

If these trends continue, the 21st century increasingly will be plagued with conflicts over access to resources, the protection of resources, or control over particularly valuable sites of resource revenues such as diamond fields and timber stands. Unless, therefore, the human community could put more emphasis on other options—technology, cooperation, and the use of market forces to try to resolve some of these problems—we will see much more conflict.

I am troubled that the energy strategy announced by President Bush doesn’t move us in that direction. The emphasis of his strategy is that the needs of the United States are the dominant consideration over all else and that we must do whatever is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of energy for our population and our industry.

The report has a veneer of promoting American energy independence by taking more oil from Alaska, from the Gulf of Mexico, possibly from other sites, greater use of coal. But in the section on the international implications of the resource picture, you find that the Administration is perfectly aware that the majority of our petroleum, in particular, will not come from the United States but from overseas; more and more from the Middle East, from Venezuela and Colombia, from Africa, and from the Caspian, and the policy calls for increased U.S. efforts to gain access to those resources.

Given the politics in all these areas, we will encounter instability, challenges, the risk of conflict. And the statement says very clearly that this is a national security issue as well, and the implications, although not explicit in that report but elsewhere, are that the United States must be prepared to use military force to ensure that those supplies come.

And so in that environment we’re not moving in the right direction, which would be to emphasize international collaboration in the development of new technologies, alternative sources, the better utilization of what is available, and an emphasis as much as possible on the equitable distribution of the world’s resources so as to avert such conflicts.

The clash between these two visions about how to manage our growing demand for and pressures over resources, between a cooperative approach and a conflictive approach, will dominate international affairs in the 21st century.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much. I would like to open the floor to questions.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: I was confused in the middle of the talk when you said that the issue is not resource shortages, but rather policies of protection and control. What’s different from the past? We have seen this throughout history: The late Elizabethan strategy of the English to gain control over Spanish gold resources; the conflict in the Pacific which led to World War II, which was all about denying Japanese access to resources. What’s new now? Why are you more fearful now than in the past?

MICHAEL KLARE: One change is that for Elizabethan England there were always other continents that remained undeveloped. As Europe consumed the resources that it had available and began to reach the limits of growth, it drove a massive outward expansion that led to the conquest of the Western Hemisphere, of Africa, and of the Middle East. You could say that until relatively recently there were still other areas to conquest and exploit. Central Africa, the forests of Africa, Southeast Asia, the islands of the Pacific, were relatively undeveloped twenty years ago. But it is hard to imagine any other area left that hasn’t been fully exploited or explored.

Globalization has altered the picture in some qualitative sense, that you have so many more centers of growth competing with each other now for access to these available resources.

I fear the consequences of Asia’s rapid development with respect to the potential for competition. There are qualitative changes.

The one about population and water may be the most frightening. Unless we are able to convert sea water into fresh water much more cheaply and easily than we do now, by the middle of this century vast areas of the world will simply not have enough water;not because it’s disappearing, but because the demand from population growth is so great.

The population of the Nile River Valley is expected to triple between 1990 and 2050, a threefold increase. The amount of water will not increase, and it is already almost at its maximum utilization. So how will that be resolved?

We don’t know how global climate change will affect these issues, but the likelihood is that the impact will be extraordinary. There will be more water probably in coastal areas, and a lot of coastal flooding, as we have seen in Mozambique and in some of the Caribbean islands. But inland areas, like Central Africa, the southwest of the United States, Central Asia, will probably be much dryer and hotter, and what water there is will evaporate at much faster rates. So how exactly climate change will affect this is unclear, but it will have a big impact.

QUESTION: Environmentalists have expressed a great deal of concern about exploring for oil in other sectors of North America. They would prefer that we don’t tap the resources in Alaska. That being the case, the President’s energy policy will have to be focused on acquiring oil from other places.

I’m a little concerned that you put the focus on American security interests as the dominant factor here. When you speak of the Middle East and equitable distribution of oil, the Arab states have been quite content to sell oil to not only the United States but to all of Western Europe. And Western Europe, developed economically as it is, is greatly dependent on the oil from the Middle East, just as the United States is.

You don’t seem to deal with the issue, that the United States is not acting only for itself in seeking an arrangement and some protection of its sources of energy. You could have focused, in part, on the states of Western Europe, which can no longer defend themselves or make those military arguments in the face of threats by Saddam Hussein or anybody else who wants to move in. And the Arab world is concerned about this.

You have not offered me any solutions besides these internationalization discussions. It doesn’t seem to be very practical.

So looking at these threats, where do you go from here? If Saddam Hussein or anybody else moves into areas of protection, is it only in the United States’ interests or is it in the interests of the Western world to prevent that threat from developing any further, as we did in Kuwait?

The United States sees itself as economically,politically and otherwise linked to those Western European countries and Japan and, therefore, it’s in our security interests to ensure that those countries have an adequate supply. That’s quite explicit in the case of Japan, where the United States has assumed the burden, implicitly if not explicitly, but certainly within our treaty obligations, to ensure that Japan’s flow of energy is secure.

This was made explicit in the case of the South China Sea, where when China started making threats that “this is our national territory and we’re going to control the area”. There was a clash over some of the islands in 1995. Then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye said that if there were any threat to Japanese tankers, the United States would use military force if necessary to protect the flow of oil to Japan. So there is a security dimension to it.

And there is an economic dimension, which is very explicit in the President’s report, that the American economy depends not only on access to oil but also access to cheap oil. The price of oil is fungible, so that even if we have enough supply, if the world price rises because of scarcities or shortages or cutoffs, that will adversely affect our economy. So that we have an interest in ensuring that there is a continuous flood of oil to everyone.

Do you have a problem with that?

MICHAEL KLARE: No, I don’t have a problem with that per se. My problem is that this leads to a predisposition to use military force to prevent blockages that would lead to ever-increasing levels of violence.

QUESTION: I have a problem with that because I would see in the worst-case scenario that the United States would become the “global sheriff,” helping us all, securing our resources. I would rather see the other side, cooperation, and there the United Nations is the only organization—weak today, though getting stronger.

One example is the situation in the NSC, where we have had very interesting discussions. The Security Council wrote a report about the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the concentration of human capital. For the first time, this report names and shames those responsible, including heads of governments. This is a very interesting turning point where the United Nations is showing some teeth, because there will be a follow-up with sanctions.

And in the Middle East, around the Mediterranean, we would rather see the Barcelona process, that is civilian cooperation instead of military cooperation. I would prefer the Monet line to the Maginot line.

MICHAEL KLARE: When I talk about the securitization of conflict, I worry that when you see things through a military lens, there is a tendency to react in a military fashion preemptively or precipitously. We had an incident with the American reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea tracking Chinese naval vessels in the region, which comes out of our security interest in keeping the sea lanes open. You saw how quickly that rose to a scary point. This comes from the tendency to militarize or to think that force is a solution to problem that is better resolved through other means.

QUESTION: You alluded to climatic conditions. That should be explored in greater depth, in that there is a warming process: glaciers are melting. The technologies that are arising now, in desalinization as an example, could be a factor in drawing upon those resources with the changes in our economy. That is an important and relevant part of the natural resources issue, and could possibly avoid conflict, such as Israel with the perilous water situation.

Coupled with that, to alleviate conflict you have a precedent in national law today, the Law of the Sea Convention, which is the first time that a number of nations are getting together, have gotten together, to explore the resources of the ocean. Therefore a precedent has been established that could avoid some of the conflict.

Those are two vital factors. And the technology that is being developed with the Law of the Sea Convention will certainly alleviate conflicts.

MICHAEL KLARE: I'm hopeful too. But a lot of what you described is very problematical. The Law of the Sea is a huge problem for conflict, not only a solution, because the Law of the Sea is easy when you have a huge body of water and no irregular coastlines or islands, which is rare. In areas like the South China Sea, China and the other states are using the Law of the Sea to claim vast tracts of the South China Sea.

The problem is that all of these tracts overlap with one another, and the Law of the Sea, unfortunately, doesn’t have a well-developed means of resolution of offshore territorial disputes.

This is an area where international law has a huge role to play in solving precisely this problem. But it’s a very big problem because China, the Philippines, and Vietnam have used force over these offshore Law of the Sea disputes. We see that also in East Timor. I’m convinced that Indonesia’s reluctance to part with East Timor has more to do with the Law of the Sea than with anything else, because East Timor controls halfway out in the Timor Gap, which is an extremely rich source of oil and natural gas. It’s shared with Australia. Under the Timor Gap Treaty between Indonesia and Australia, Indonesia got East Timor. All of that income went to the Indonesian government. Now East Timor is going to have that income. So that’s at least part of why the Indonesians were reluctant to give it up.

The Law of the Sea needs much more development before it will be a vehicle for resolving conflict. But this is an area where progress is possible.

QUESTION: Have you given thought to the domestic side of the argument? Your point about viewing through a military perspective is the critical element to your thoughts. And considering that the resource issue is private and petroleum and even water are privatized around most of the world, can you see a growing interrelationship between, certainly in the United States, large corporate interests and the militarization of these issues? It’s not without precedent in American history.

MICHAEL KLARE: My reading in the history of U.S. petroleum foreign policy is that there has always been a tacit or not-so-tacit understanding between Washington and the big oil companies that they were each operating in each other’s interests to some degree or another.

That was very explicit in the case of Saudi Arabia, where the Roosevelt Administration originally proposed to exploit that oil under a national U.S. government-owned corporation that would be set up to exploit that oil. In the end he agreed that that wasn’t a good idea, that private companies should come in, but there was an understanding that those efforts would be protected by U.S. forces as necessary. That continues up to this day. So in a way those companies were seen as acting as if they were a national corporation.

Another place that’s very much on my mind is Colombia, which is a growing source of oil for the United States. It’s mentioned in the President’s report as a future source. The oil lines are very vulnerable to attack and are attacked all the time. American companies such as Occidental are involved. Occidental lobbied for Plan Colombia very actively. Some of the weaponry and training we’re giving to the Colombian military in the end will be used to protect the pipelines and the oil fields. The kind of weapons they’re giving them – Huey and Blackhawk helicopters – will be much more useful for protecting pipelines in vulnerable areas than for going after hidden patches of cocoa leaf.

QUESTION: Would you expand the comment about climate change to space? I have a bumper sticker that says “Prevent Militarization of Space, Keep Space for Peace.” There is in the future, and as the United States has even stated, a desire to control resources beyond our own planet.

MICHAEL KLARE: There are strong interests in the United States that want to use space for military purposes, even though we signed a treaty saying we wouldn’t do so.

QUESTION: Resource wars in the past have been dominated by private companies—the French and Indian War, the Hudson Bay Company for fur in North America.

You mentioned globalization as a factor in the new resource conflicts. Who’s driving this? Is it states? Is it private corporations that are driving the states? Is what’s new that states are taking a back seat to the interests of private corporations, large multinationals in particular, who are working out ways to gain access to various forms of resources, whether it’s natural resources or even information and data?

MICHAEL KLARE: All of the above. It’s very hard to draw lines today. To what degree can you distinguish between the Russian state and Gazprom and some of the other privatized oil companies in Russia? There is no clear line between the state and the resource companies.

There are historical examples of that too, so in some degree we are going back to the past. Many multinational corporations are building their own armies, private armies, or hiring private armies. Freeport McMoRan in Irian Jaya has a very large private military force, as well as troops of the Indonesian army that they subsidize. British Petroleum in Colombia paid to create a new brigade of the Colombian army. So in some cases corporations are taking security into their own hands. In the case of United States and oil, it’s a state-driven phenomenon.

There are also public pressures on governments coming from activated strata of the population that are making demands, for example, demands for adequate supplies of water, putting pressure on governments to be more aggressive in supplying those needs, or other such resources. The land dispute in Zimbabwe, for example, has all kinds of domestic political pressures.

I don’t think you could always make a one-for-one correlation between what I’m saying about population, but all of these pressures together are pushing corporations, governments, factions, to be more aggressive in seizing or holding valuable sources of supply.

QUESTION: Part of the Bush energy plan calls for a much closer look at nuclear power to solve our country’s energy needs. Wouldn’t that be an effective solution?

MICHAEL KLARE: You have to separate electricity from this. As the Bush plan makes very clear, the most explosive increase in demand for energy in the U.S. is for transportation, and it has to do with our driving habits more than anything else. It’s the motorization of America and the civilization we have created. Two thirds of the increase in energy over what we have now in the next twenty years is for transportation use. Electricity is not a factor. It's almost exclusively, 98 percent petroleum at this point.

They do say that we have to develop alternative modes of transportation, a little bit of talk about fuel cells, hybrid vehicles. They don’t talk about public transportation, for instance, which is the only rational response. They say we need a lot more oil. Nuclear energy does not address that at all.

So now you’re talking about electricity and is nuclear power a solution. If they could say that we know how to do this, that might be a convincing argument. They say they do not know how to deal with the wastes from nuclear power. They say, “We do not know the answer to that. We have to do more research on that problem. But let’s go ahead and build more reactors anyway,” which is not a very rational way to go.

It’s clear that they’re aware that there is no state in the Union that is willing to house nuclear wastes, because the place they were looking at is Nevada, and they have backed away from Nevada as a waste site. Whatever argument you can make about it, they don’t know how to deal with nuclear energy.

QUESTION: You mentioned state security, but you didn’t mention human security, which is at the center of much debate within the Security Council and the General Assembly.

We have a world already with so many displaced persons, a problem which will grow exponentially because of the shortage of arable land and the shortage of water. Could you comment on this question of what to do with all of these people?

MICHAEL KLARE: Much of this goes back to the point that a few people mentioned about climate change, which I only touched on briefly. Climate change will dramatically add to the decline.

The ice pack melting will raise the sea level. It turns out that an extraordinarily large percentage of arable land is at sea level, and a lot of that is at risk of being destroyed. In Bangladesh, in the Philippines, in Vietnam, China, other areas that are very close to sea level, arable land will disappear, as well as through drought and floods. So that will certainly increase human migrations. No one has thought about how to deal with that.

I talk about the issue of resource equity as a problem to be addressed by the human population. I was mainly talking about conflicts between states, but we’ll see much more conflict within states over the distribution of what is available. We had a foretaste of that in Bolivia, where there was a huge amount of violence and rioting when the government tried to privatize the water supply in Cochabamba, the third-largest city. That hasn’t been fully resolved. The government backed off, but a couple of dozen people were killed.

We'll see much more of that if supplies are less and less available. This will often be expressed as ethnic conflict because groups will be fighting over arable land or a water hole. We see this in Kenya, in Somalia. We hear that there was an ethnic clash somewhere. And it’s true that different tribes were fighting over this diminishing available land. Without some notion of equity in distributing land, we will have more threats to human security.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much.

You may also like

JUL 9, 2024 Article

The Rise of Preemptive Bans on Human Microchip Implants

As the impact and influence of chip implants increases in the U.S., it's time to raise ethical and legal questions about this technology.

JUL 2, 2024 Podcast

Cybernetics, Digital Surveillance, & the Role of Unions in Tech Governance, with Elisabet Haugsbø

Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen speaks with Elisabet Haugsbø, president of tech union Tekna, about her engineering journey, resiliency in the AI era, and much more.

JUN 27, 2024 Podcast

AI, Military Ethics, & Being Alchemists of Meaning, with Heather M. Roff

Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen and Heather Roff, senior research scientist at the The Center for Naval Analyses, discuss AI systems, military affairs, and much more.

Not translated

This content has not yet been translated into your language. You can request a translation by clicking the button below.

Request Translation