[Marxism] Did global warming cause a resource war in Darfur?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 6 07:49:05 MDT 2006


http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/08/a_hostile_climate.php
Did global warming cause a resource war in Darfur?

by Josh Braun • Posted August 2, 2006 12:36 AM

An aid helicopter takes off from Fina, Sudan. A confluence of ecology, 
poverty, politics and history has caused a war that's killed about 180,000 
people and created an estimated 2.5 million refugees so far. Credit: AP 
Photo/VII/Ron Haviv

Though a sudden agreement gave hope for peace in Darfur, the lack of 
support from small anti-government groups, the spillover of refugees into 
Chad and the opposition of the central government to UN peacekeepers mean 
that the conflict drags on. Lost in discussions about ending the Sudanese 
government's attacks on its people, however, is the acknowledgment of how 
the dispute began: Darfur may well be the first war influenced by climate 
change.

In recent years, increasing drought cycles and the Sahara's southward 
expansion have created conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over 
shortages of water and land. This scarcity highlighted the central 
government's gross neglect of the Darfur region—a trend stretching back to 
colonial rule. Forsaken, desperate and hungry, groups of Darfurians 
attacked government outposts in protest. The response was the Janjaweed and 
supporting air strikes.

Though a sudden agreement gave hope for peace in Darfur, the lack of 
support from small anti-government groups, the spillover of refugees into 
Chad and the opposition of the central government to UN peacekeepers mean 
that the conflict drags on. Lost in discussions about ending the Sudanese 
government's attacks on its people, however, is the acknowledgment of how 
the dispute began: Darfur may well be the first war influenced by climate 
change.

In recent years, increasing drought cycles and the Sahara's southward 
expansion have created conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over 
shortages of water and land. This scarcity highlighted the central 
government's gross neglect of the Darfur region—a trend stretching back to 
colonial rule. Forsaken, desperate and hungry, groups of Darfurians 
attacked government outposts in protest. The response was the Janjaweed and 
supporting air strikes.

The theory that current climate change will result in resource scarcity 
that could spark warfare has gained traction in the past decade, with 
research on the topic commissioned by organizations ranging from the United 
Nations to the Pentagon. In March, British Home Secretary John Reid 
publicly fingered global warming as a driving force behind the genocide in 
Darfur. "[Environmental] changes make the emergence of vio-lent conflict 
more rather than less likely," he said. "The blunt truth is that the lack 
of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the 
tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur. We should see this as a warning 
sign."

Desertification and increasingly regular drought cycles in Darfur have 
diminished the availability of water, livestock and arable land. "The 
effect of climate change on these resources has been a latent problem," 
said Leslie Lefkow, an expert on Darfur with Human Rights Watch. "And 
instead of addressing the cause of that tension and putting money into 
development of water resources...the government has done nothing. So the 
tensions have grown. And these tensions are one of the reasons why the 
rebellion started."

Chalking the Darfur conflict up to climate change alone would be an 
oversimplification, argues Eric Reeves, a leading advocate and a professor 
of English literature at Smith College. "The greater cause, by far, lies in 
the policies of the current National Islamic Front regime," he said. Marc 
Lavergne, a researcher with the French National Center for Scientific 
Research and former head of the Centre D'Etudes et de Documentation 
Universitaire Scientifique et Technique at the University of Khartoum, 
agrees. "The problem is not water shortage as such, and water shortages 
don't necessarily lead to war. The real problem is the lack of agricultural 
and other development policies to make the best use of available water 
resources since colonial times."

Though global warming may fail to directly explain the conflict, some 
experts—like Michael Klare, a global security specialist at Hampshire 
College and author of the book Resource Wars—argue that Darfur is part of 
an emerging pattern of resource conflict: "I don't think you can separate 
climate change from population growth, rising consumption patterns and 
globalization... It's really one phenomenon... In a place like Africa, 
where the infrastructure and the government are weak, all these pressures 
are multiplying...and it's creating conflict and schisms, which often arise 
along ethnic and religious lines, because that's how communities are 
organized. But they're really fighting over land or water or timber or 
diamonds." And in Darfur, they're fighting against the inexorable reach of 
an expanding desert.





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