Geographers map out new conflicts

After drugs and guns, the illegal trafficking and poaching of wildlife is the third highest category of crime: globalisation is not only reconfiguring crime but also war and conflict and geographers, in certain areas, are leading the way to understanding these shifting contours.

War over politics and power will always remain, but today some long- forgotten faces have reappeared such as ‘jihadism’ and ‘ethnicity’, along with new ones such as ‘cyber-war’ and conflicts linked to the environment, or ‘environmental confrontations’.

Examples of land and water tensions go back forever, but the effects of cutting down vast swaths of rainforest, mass pollution of sea and land, widespread killing and trapping wildlife, and the ecological effects of warfare, are only just now being understood in relation to conflict. And of course there are the multiple effects of climate change.

Linking conflict with biodiversity properly began with a paper written by Dr Gary Machlis and colleagues War in Biodiversity Hotspots that drew attention to the prevalence of war in areas of exceptionally biodiversity, even though they could find the mechanisms. Since then Dr Machlis, Professor of Conservation at Idaho University, has been carving out a niche of examining the impact of war on ecology, having co-edited Warfare Ecology: A synthesis for Peace and Security.

Here is a snap-shot of other developments in conflict-biodiversity: Dr Michael Mason, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Geography, LSE, has been using the Middle East conflicts as a prism to explore ‘environmental security’ in works such as The New Accountability: environmental responsibility across borders.

    Meanwhile the growing trend of the ‘militarisation’ of wildlife protection and its potential to cause conflict is under the constant scrutiny of Professor Rosaleen Duffy, in the Department of Development Studies, SOAS, with works such as Killing for Conservation: Wildlife Policy in Zimbabwe, while the links between climate change and conflict have been highlighted in a populist narrative with Climate Wars: The fight for survival as the world overheats’ by Gwynne Dyer, a former soldier with an academic background ( including PhD from King’s College’s War Studies department).     Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre

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