What, ultimately, is at the root of the conflict in Iraq and the Gulf region?
As I write this letter, conflict in Iraq seems close at hand, and people around the world are gripped with a palpable fear and uncertainty.
What, alternately, is at the root of this conflict? And how can your support of Worldwatch make a difference?
Although there are many roots of the latest Persian Gulf crisis, one thing is clear:
The overwhelming dependence of the Middle East on oil as a source of revenueand our matching dependence on their oilare unhealthy and dangerous in ways that even the most "successful " war can never resolve.
For more than 20 years, we at Worldwatch have warned of the dangers of the growing oil dependence, and urged the development of a more efficient and diversified energy system. Now, more than ever, those warnings have proven accurate and urgent. A shocking two-thirds of the world's remaining oil reserves are in the Persian Gulf region, and its share of the world oil market grows with each passing year.
be an accident of geological history that the world's
oil is so concentrated in one region of our vast
globe. But it is no accident that this region
has also turned out to be the least democratic,
most politically unstable, least respectful of
human rights, and most prone to terrorism.
on natural resources isn't unique to the oil dilemma.
Other resources, such as diamonds and gold are already
at the center of many conflicts today. In a groundbreaking
paper we published last year, Worldwatch senior researcher
Michael Renner estimated that, repressive governments
and other predatory groups like rebels and war lords
have taken resources worth over $12 billion from their
own countries in the last decade alone.
roughly 50 wars and armed conflicts active as recently
as 2001, about 25% had strong resource dimensions
among the core causes, according to Renner. These
conflicts have left millions of innocent civilians
displaced from their homes, injured, or dead.
Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, more than
2 million people were killed after Ugandan and Rwandan
troops invaded in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia,
and Chad sent troops to support the Congo government.
But control of the vast resource wealth of the country
was the primary motivation for the conflict, according
during the Cold War when most conflict rose from political
and ideological motives, the future seems set for
global struggles over diminishing essential resources
set against a growing world population. As the population
increases from 6.1 billion to an estimated 9 billion
by 2050 we may be entering an era of spreading wars
for resources. And recent research finds that wars
fought over resources often last longer and cause
more human suffering than similar conflicts did during
the cold war era.
the situation in the Persian Gulf today is global
in scale and far more complex. But the dependence
of the United States and other industrial countries
on Middle Eastern oil results from a clear failure
of national will and of political leadership.
production peaked 30 years ago, and has been declining
ever since. Even though the US makes up less than
5 percent of the world's population, it now consumes
more than 25 percent of the world's oil. More than
half of that comes from abroadover 300 million
gallons a dayand the amount is growing quickly.
that people around the world are convinced that whatever
the problems related to nuclear and chemical weapons,
the main reason drawing the US to the Persian Gulf
dangerous oil addiction cannot be resolved by military
means. As long as oil imports grow, the Middle East
will remain prone to dangerous and uncontrollable
political instability. And the problem will be compounded
by the fact that world oil production is projected
to peak within the next 15 years. Dependence on the
region will accelerate to even riskier levels unless
something dramatic is done.
step is a true commitment to conserving energy and
developing a new energy system based on renewable
energy and hydrogen. In our recently published State
of the World 2003, my colleague Janet Sawin describes
how we can develop these new energy technologies quickly,
based on proven policies that are already working
in many parts of the world. From Germany to rural
China, renewable energy, especially wind power and
solar (photovoltaic) power, has come of age. After
more than a decade of double-digit growth, renewable
energy is a multibillion-dollar global business. We
are also at a turning point where clean-energy fuel
cells can replace internal combustion engines to power
the world's automobiles.
is to mobilize governments, businesses, and civil
society to make the right choices and construct economies
that are healthy for both people and the planet.
our behavior, priorities, and policies in response
to new information. For nearly thirty years, the Worldwatch
Institute has played a critical role as the leading
source of information about the interaction among
key environmental, social, and economic trends. Since
being founded in 1974 by Lester Brown, Worldwatch
has been able to leverage its timely information and
cutting edge ideas to provoke systemic change. Rarely
is Worldwatch alone responsible for a major change
in policy, but often ideas that begin at Worldwatch
extend to the world's policy arenas, and begin a process
Building an environmentally sustainable and socially just society is an enormous undertaking, one for which there is no historical precedent. Worldwatch is committed to this mission But we cannot achieve a sustainable and just society without support from caring, engaged individuals who are willing to step-up and address the key issues that confront our world.
A Fascinating Look Inside Resource Wars...
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