Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ecowar: “All wars are fought over natural resources”

“All wars are fought over natural resources”
Benno Hansen’s self-published book Ecowar: Natural resources and conflict explores this proposition in his usual energetic and thought-provoking manner. Readers of his blog EcowarNotes on links between conflict and natural resources’ will be familiar with the territory he explores.
The book covers:
  • an historical review,
  • a look at current conflicts influenced by natural resources,
  • an overview of academic research,
  • and a prognosis for future development.
It’s available in hardcopy and as an e- book. Details are available here.
Historical review
The historical review is wide and by its nature very selective: from Akkadian droughts to the slave trade; from the spice trade to the Opium Wars, from he U.S. dust bowl to Rommel’s North Africa oil campaign. He looks at correlations between climate changes and war. Ironically for a climate change advocate, he maintains that the highest war frequency has occurred in cold phases. However, he notes that the current mixture of anthropogenic and natural causes of global warming is different and “highly unpredictable”.
Current conflicts influenced by natural resources
More recent hotspots range across the continents including:
  • the Himalayan glaciers,
  • oil drilling in Peru,
  • the impact of global warming on the Arctic region,
  • Somali pirates,
  • the worldwide land grab spawned by bio-fuels and the food crisis.
Benno explores research into causality and theories related to peace and war. Recent events have given added relevance these remarks about the Dutch Disease:
"…before Nigeria began exporting oil it had a thriving agricultural sector and was a food exporter. Now they have only the oil and email scamming, it seems."
The concluding sections of Ecowar look at possible future scenarios and some predictions. Is the choice between dystopian ecowar and utopian ecopeace? War for oil, water disputes, nuclear issues, “peak everything’ and climate change are some of the challenges he confronts.
Benno concludes:
"Resource scarcity is beginning to affect our lives and our geopolitical choices. And everyone knows. Everyone from activists and experts to journalists and bike repairmen knows - or should be able to realize: All wars are fought over natural resources."
Fact as fiction
Spinkled though the analysis are eight semi-fictional pieces or ‘Interludes’. My favourite was the strange death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, seemingly at the hands of the British. His Danish roots ensure that there are ample references to matters Scandinavian.
Benno’s love of a conspiracy theory should not frighten potential readers away. This is a treatise without inflexible dogma. He is not “trying to prove the dominant role of any single root cause of human conflict”. He is asking us to engage with his tentative diagnosis of the origins of conflict and war, not to accept easy answers or solutions.

If you don’t know, then get a copy of Benno Hansen’s Ecowar – Natural resources and conflict.


  1. Are you familiar with other books written on this subject? I would be interested as I am currently volunteering at the Colorado Western Mining Museum and would like to be able to give people back up information on why the military is abundantly situated in Colorado--to protect natural resources. A lot of folks just don't believe that Colorado is rich in natural resources to this day, but we are. Any thoughts? Suggestions?

  2. Hi Susan

    I guess the best one to ask is Benno Hansen himself. You can contact him here: http://ecowar.eu/site/interact