Pacific Institute

A New Vigilance: Identifying and Reducing the Risks of Environmental Terrorism

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Courtesy of Pacific Institute

Environmental terrorism is an old type of conflict with a new face. Large, costly wars between two or more states have become less prevalent over the past 50 years, and with the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, there has been no bipolar superpower standoff to suppress the many ethnic, religious, and multipolar political and cultural tensions that motivate terrorist actions. Even the very nature of terrorism itself is changing. Attacks are becoming lethal to a greater number of people, as the events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated to the world. Most recent discussions of terrorism have focused on the identity of the terrorists, their motivations, and the increasingly destructive potential of the “weapons” at their disposal. However, to date, there has been relatively little discussion about their choice of targets. Environmental security scholars know that a strong argument can be made for linking certain resource and environmental problems with the prospects for political tension, or even war and peace. History shows that access to resources has been a proximate cause of war, resourceshave been both tools and targets of war, and environmental degradation and disparity in the distribution of resources can cause major political controversy, tension, and violence.

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