Contrary to high-value commodities such as oil, diamonds and other minerals, the resources I refer to in this section of the thesis, are those mentioned by Malthus and by neo-Malthusian studies such as Homer-Dixon (1994). These commodities are natural resources that necessarily and directly meet the basic human need for subsistence e.
g. water, land, forestry, fishery, mainly food, as pointed out by Malthus in his “postulate.” Browsing through the literature, I present a diachronic picture of the subject from its origin to the contemporary era. It involved providing theoretical and empirical papers elaborating on the question throughout the course of its evolution. The investigation of resource scarcity and conflict has primarily focused on the Malthusian theory of resource shortages caused by population growth and later on, on the neo-Malthusian literature advocating environmental changes induced by demographic pressure. Several theoretical works, therefore, have linked social and economic variables to natural resource conflicts.
The resulting causes of conflict evoked in those theories range from demographic changes caused by population growth, economic development, natural resource scarcity, social inequality, social adaptability and to social breakdown Green (2005:4). Malthusians emphasize that the effect of population growth on natural resources leads to scarcity and consequently to conflict Malthus (1798). But Classical sociological theorists argue that population growth and competition over natural resources increase social adaptability and mitigate conflict over scarce natural resources Durkheim (2014). The sociological argument gains some support with the Classical economists who argue that the system of supply and demand reduce scarcity (Smith, 1937). The Classical theory suggests that technological development and increased growth will minimize conflict over natural resources. In contrast to the latter, Gould & Schnaiberg (2004) contend that economic development creates social inequality, natural resource degradation, and depletion, hence contributing to 7 conflicts. The Marxists theorist hold the same view and concur that free market system creates social inequality and conflict over access to the natural resource. Marx & Engels (2009:209) argue that “the history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggle.
” The authors claim that “Bourgeois and Proletarians” are in a continuous fight over access to scarce commodities ending either in the revolutionary reconstruction of the society or the collapse of the contending class. But Homer-Dixon (2010:4) argues that environmental scarcity leads to social breakdown and conflicts. In the face of continued resource scarcity and population pressure, the debate found its way into the contemporary era with particularly new emphasis put on environmental degradation by the neo-Malthusian. The publication in 1962 of “Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carson brought some attention to the subject Carson (2002). But despite the growing concern of the neoMalthusian about population growth and environmental degradation as a global security risk during the 1960 and 1970, the subject took a little while to register in the “high politics” agenda of policy makers, particularly in western nations Levy (1995).
It was only in 1990, after the end of the cold war that the issue found its way into the security debate Myers (1989) and finally got serious attention in developed countries because of the increased awareness about environmental problems (levy, 1995). Contrary to the traditional Malthusian, neo-Malthusian were not only worried about the geometrical growth of the population but also about its dynamic change and its impact on the environment Urdal (2005, 2008). In light of the new concerns, many contemporary researchers and security expert started to link environmental changes to a global security problem (Brundtland 1987; Myers, 1989; Brock, 1991; Westing, 1986, 1989; Homer-Dixon, 1991; Percival and Homer-Dixon, 2001). But their efforts received harsh critics from opposing Views (Deudney, 1991; Gleditsch, 2001; Levy, 1995). Some of these critics argue that the motivation for the renewed attention by the Western security establishment is to fill the void left by the end of the cold war in security policy to justify their existence (Urdal, 2005).
Studies linking environmental scarcity to Intra and interstate conflict have mainly focused on the nexus between the degradation of the environment, demographic pressure, the depletion of resources such as land, forest, fresh water, fish stocks and conflict (Diehl & Gleditsch, 2001). Two study groups led the way within the research field of environmental changes and the incidence of conflict. Thomas Homer-Dixon and his colleagues of the Canadian environmental change and Acute Conflict project led the first group and the Swiss 8 Environment and Conflict Project (ENCOP) conducted by Günther Bächler and Kurt Spillman. Both groups have found evidence of the contribution of environmental degradation and natural resources depletion in the incidence of conflict. But their efforts is rejected by cornucopian and neo-classical studies.
The latter argue that the existence of intervening nonenvironmental variables such as technology, institutions, to cite only a few, make the justification of resource scarcity induced conflict questionable (Gleditsch, 1998; Goldstone, 2001).