Human conflict arising from natural resources

[ There are links as well as excerpts from several articles below.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Allen M.W., et al. September 6, 2016. Resource scarcity drives lethal aggression among prehistoric hunter-gatherers in central California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The origin of human violence and warfare is controversial, and some scholars contend that inter-group conflict was rare until the emergence of sedentary foraging and complex sociopolitical organization, whereas others assert that violence was common and of considerable antiquity among small-scale societies. Here we consider two alternative explanations for the evolution of human violence: (i) individuals resort to violence when benefits outweigh potential costs, which is likely in resource poor environments, or (ii) participation in violence increases when there is coercion from leaders in complex societies leading to group level benefits.

To test these hypotheses, we evaluate the relative importance of resource scarcity vs. sociopolitical complexity … Results reveal that sharp force trauma… is better predicted by resource scarcity than relative sociopolitical complexity.  This study provides no support for the position that violence originated with the development of more complex hunter-gatherer adaptations in the fairly recent past. Instead, findings show that individuals are prone to violence in times and places of resource scarcity.

Michael Safi and Vidhi Doshi. September 16, 2016. Angry clashes in Karnataka as India’s water wars run deep. Bengaluru erupts in violence over water-sharing plans with neighbouring state Tamil Nadu, as country-wide shortages reach crisis levels. The Guardian.

Bruch, C., et al. July 20, 2012.  Human Conflict: Targeting Natural Resources.  Science 337:291-292 

The special issue on Human Conflict (18 May, p. 818) largely ignores a central dimension of violent conflict: the complex role of natural resources in the onset (Ross 2004) and conduct of conflict, peacemaking, and recovery from conflict.

Grievances over access to land have been central to wars in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nepal (Macours 2011, Kay 2002). Inequitable distribution of oil and gas revenues drove secessionist conflicts in places such as Indonesia’s Aceh and southern Sudan (Collier 2012).

Since the end of the Cold War, conflicts based on resources have grown rapidly in number: Armed groups in at least 18 conflicts have relied on revenues from diamonds, timber, coltan, and a range of agricultural crops from cacao to coca (UN 2009). For centuries, armies have targeted natural resources and the environment to deprive enemies of cover, food, and support (Austin 2000), and the increased use of resources to finance conflicts has enhanced their value as a military objective (Autessere 2010).

Between 1946 and 2008, 40 to 60% of all intrastate conflicts were linked to natural resources. Resource-related conflicts are more likely to relapse, and do so twice as quickly compared with situations following conflicts without a link to natural resources (Rustad 2010).

There is growing recognition of the role of natural resources in building peace. A 4-year research project coordinated by the Environmental Law Institute, the United Nations Environment Programme, the University of Tokyo, and McGill University found that between 1989 and 2004, 51 of 94 peace agreements had provisions relating to natural resources, and all major peace agreements since then have included natural resources (UN 2012).

This study’s analysis of experiences across more than 60 conflict-affected countries shows that successful peacebuilding can rely on aspects of natural resource management in terms of livelihoods and macroeconomic recovery; the provision of basic services, including water, sanitation, and electricity; governance and rule of law; and cooperation. For example, approximately 60 to 80% of livelihoods in conflict-affected countries depend directly on land, forests, and other natural resources; over 50% of a post-conflict country’s gross domestic product usually comes from agriculture and extractive industries; and 50 to 80% of exports (and sometimes more than 95%) come from natural resources (Bruch 2012, Lujala, ILO).

Austin, J. E., Austin, C. E. Bruch, Eds. 2000. The Environmental Consequences of War: Legal, Economic, and Scientific Perspectives (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge).

Autessere, S. 2010. The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York).

Bruch, C, et al. 2012. International Law, Natural Resources and Post-conflict Peacebuilding: From Rio to Rio+20 and Beyond. Rev. Eur. Commun. Int. Environ. Law 21, 44.

Collier, P., et al. 2012. High-Value Natural Resources and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, P. Lujala, S. A. Rustad, Eds. (Earthscan, London), pp. 297–312.

Kay, C. 2001. Reflections on rural violence in Latin America. Third World Quart. 22, 741.

ILO. LABORSTA. International Labour Organization. (

Lujala, P. S. A. Rustad, Eds., High-Value Natural Resources and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Earthscan, London).

Macours, K. 2011. Increasing inequality and civil conflict in Nepal. Oxford Econ. Pap. 63.

Ross, M. 2004. Resisting cultural standardization: Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and the revitalization of traditional music in Ireland. J. Peace Res. 41, 227.

Rustad, S.A., et al. 2010. “Rapid recurrence: Natural resources, armed conflict, and peace,” (Centre for the Study of Civil War, working paper, Oslo, Norway).

UN. 2009. From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment (Nairobi). United Nations Environment Programme
UN. 2012. Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources, and Peacekeeping (Nairobi).  United Nations Environment Programme.

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One Response to Human conflict arising from natural resources

  1. Regarding:”Between 1946 and 2008, 40 to 60% of all intrastate conflicts were linked to natural resources. Resource-related conflicts are more likely to relapse, and do so twice as quickly compared with situations following conflicts without a link to natural resources (Rustad 2010).”

    Human numbers TRIPLED in those 70 years. It is to be expected that demand for resources would increase. Technology is double edged: it mines and processes faster as well as improves efficiency. Recall Jevon’s Paradox.