Environment, Scarcity, and Violence

Princeton University Press
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The Earth's human population is expected to pass eight billion by the year 2025, while rapid growth in the global economy will spur ever increasing demands for natural resources. The world will consequently face growing scarcities of such vital renewable resources as cropland, fresh water, and forests. Thomas Homer-Dixon argues in this sobering book that these environmental scarcities will have profound social consequences--contributing to insurrections, ethnic clashes, urban unrest, and other forms of civil violence, especially in the developing world.

Homer-Dixon synthesizes work from a wide range of international research projects to develop a detailed model of the sources of environmental scarcity. He refers to water shortages in China, population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, and land distribution in Mexico, for example, to show that scarcities stem from the degradation and depletion of renewable resources, the increased demand for these resources, and/or their unequal distribution. He shows that these scarcities can lead to deepened poverty, large-scale migrations, sharpened social cleavages, and weakened institutions. And he describes the kinds of violence that can result from these social effects, arguing that conflicts in Chiapas, Mexico and ongoing turmoil in many African and Asian countries, for instance, are already partly a consequence of scarcity.


Homer-Dixon is careful to point out that the effects of environmental scarcity are indirect and act in combination with other social, political, and economic stresses. He also acknowledges that human ingenuity can reduce the likelihood of conflict, particularly in countries with efficient markets, capable states, and an educated populace. But he argues that the violent consequences of scarcity should not be underestimated--especially when about half the world's population depends directly on local renewables for their day-to-day well-being. In the next decades, he writes, growing scarcities will affect billions of people with unprecedented severity and at an unparalleled scale and pace.


Clearly written and forcefully argued, this book will become the standard work on the complex relationship between environmental scarcities and human violence.

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About the author

Thomas F. Homer-Dixon is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Environmental Scarcity and Global Security and the forthcoming book The Ingenuity Gap.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 1, 2010
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781400822997
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The classic study of post-Cold War international relations, more relevant than ever in the post-9/11 world, with a new foreword by Zbigniew Brzezinski.

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I am the translator who has taken journalists into dangerous Darfur. It is my intention now to take you there in this book, if you have the courage to come with me.

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The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time. Using his high school knowledge of languages as his weapon–while others around him were taking up arms–Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.

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Though Hari’s village was attacked and destroyedhis family decimated and dispersed, he himself escaped. Roaming the battlefield deserts on camels, he and a group of his friends helped survivors find food, water, and the way to safety. When international aid groups and reporters arrived, Hari offered his services as a translator and guide. In doing so, he risked his life again and again, for the government of Sudan had outlawed journalists in the region, and death was the punishment for those who aided the “foreign spies.” And then, inevitably, his luck ran out and he was captured. . . .

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From the Hardcover edition.
"The most persuasive forecast of the 21st century I have seen." -- E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge and twice winner of a Pulitzer prize

“Human beings have been smart enough to turn nature to their ends, generate vast wealth for themselves, and double their average life span. But are they smart enough to solve the problems of the 21st century?” -- Thomas Homer-Dixon

Can we create ideas fast enough to solve the very problems -- environmental, social, and technological -- we’ve created? Homer-Dixon pinpoints the “ingenuity gap” as the critical problem we face today, and tackles it in a riveting, groundbreaking examination of a world that is rapidly exceeding our intellectual grasp.

In The Ingenuity Gap, Thomas Homer-Dixon, "global guru" (the Toronto Star), "genuine academic celebrity" (Saturday Night) and "one of Canada's most talked about and controversial scholars" (Maclean's) asks: is our world becoming too complex, too fast-paced to manage? The challenges facing us -- ranging from international financial crises and global climate change to pandemics of tuberculosis and AIDS- converge, intertwine, and remain largely beyond our ken. Most of suspect the "experts don't really know what's going on; that as a species we've released forces that are neither managed nor manageable. We are fast approaching a time when we may no longer be able to control a world that increasingly exceeds our grasp. This is "the ingenuity gap" -- the term coined by Thomas Homer-Dixon, political scientist and advisor to the White House -- the critical gap between our need for practical, innovative ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas.

Through gripping narrative stories and incidents that exemplify his arguments, he takes us on a world tour that begins with a heartstopping description of the tragic crash of United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago and includes Las Vegas in its desert, a wilderness beach in British Columbia, and his solitary search for a little girl in Patna, India. He shows how, in our complex world, while poor countries are particularly vulnerable to ingenuity gaps, our own rich countries are not immune, and we are caught dangerously between a soaring requirement for ingenuity and an increasingly uncertain supply. When the gap widens, political disintegration and violent upheaval can result, reaching into our own economies and daily lives in subtle ways. In compelling, lucid, prose, he makes real the problems we face and suggests how we might overcome them -- in our own lives, our thing, our business and our societies.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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