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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The first Handbook of original articles by leading scholars of global environmental politics, this landmark volume maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this young and growing field. Captured here are the dynamic and energetic debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 10: Filthy Rich, Not Dirt Poor! How Nature Nurtures Civil Violence

Indra de Soysa


Indra de Soysa* The greatest crimes are caused by excess and not by necessity. Men do not become tyrants in order that they may not suffer cold. (Aristotle1) Men of a fat and fertile soil are most commonly effeminate and cowards; whereas contrariwise a barren country makes men temperate by necessity, and by consequence careful, vigilant, and industrious. (Jean Bodin2) Whatever the soil, climate, or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance or scantiness of the annual supply [output] depends on the skills, dexterity, and judgement of its labour [humans]. (Adam Smith3) During the past few decades, the environment has emerged as a matter of high politics. Concern over the health of the planet and traditional security issues, which had preoccupied military and diplomatic circles for over four decades after the end of World War II, began to mesh (Gleditsch, 2001; Esty et al., 1999; OECD, 1997). The gradual parting of the ‘iron curtain’ dividing East and West refocused attention on the ‘poverty curtain’ dividing North and South. However calls for renewed growth were moderated by fears of endangering the health of the planet and degrading natural resources upon which future generations would also depend, leading to calls for ‘sustainable development’ as a fresh model for eradicating poverty and ending Third World violence. Scholars expounding the idea of ‘ecoviolence’ insert themselves in this post-Cold War, security–development nexus. Apparently Third World insecurity and underdevelopment may be explained from an environmentalist perspective that sees peace and ecological security as...

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