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The Science of the Future of War

Betsy Mason, Wired
… The Battle for Resources

We have already stated several times that all team aggression, all raiding, and all wars are ultimately about resources, even if the combatants aren’t consciously aware of it. All life, in fact, at its most fundamental level is about competition for resources. Evolution has been driven by this competition for billions of years, and today’s animals, plants, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi all exist because they competed successfully with their rivals in the past. If we are to have any chance of avoiding the wars of tomorrow, as the destructive power of today’s weapons tells us we must, then we have to address this most basic of biological problems: The fact that as the population of any species grows, the pressure on its natural resources increases and competition becomes more severe.

Biology has invented a million ways for plants and animals to compete with each other. A tree may compete for light by growing taller; early mammals competed with dinosaurs by only coming out at night; humans and chimpanzees—especially the males—compete for food, space, and reproductive opportunities by fighting with each other. Human wars may come wrapped in a veneer of religion or political philosophy, but the battle for resources is usually just below the surface.

… Critics have argued that the archaeological evidence for endemic violence in drought-ridden areas is too scattered and circumstantial to draw strong conclusions. A recent study of environment and warfare in contemporary Africa helps put that criticism to rest. Edward Miguel of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues Shanker Satyanath and Ernest Sergenti of New York University compared rainfall levels and incidents of civil conflict across the African continent, and found that as one increased, the other declined, with a statistical certainty of 95 percent. Interestingly, the effect was found across many different cultures and irrespective of whether the country was well or poorly governed.

… Can all conflict be reduced beyond even team aggression and resource competition, down to the single factor of population growth? It’s not quite that simple, but a deeper investigation of the role of population increase shows quite clearly that growth rate and population demographics function as significant triggers for raiding, wars, and even terrorism. If we hope to reduce the number and severity of these violent incidents in our world, this is a relationship we need to understand.

… In the past fifty years the world has accommodated rapid population growth tolerably well, although as rising oil and food prices suggest, this may not be true in the future. The combination of the industrial revolution and science-based technology increased global wealth at an astonishing rate. We have been a little like those first people to cross into North America, or the Polynesians who first landed at Easter Island, in more ways than one, however. Presented with vast new supplies of food, energy, building materials, and luxury goods our forbears could never have imagined, we have gorged ourselves on consumption, and we have driven.

Our global population from just one billion people in 1800 to six billion in 2000. We live in a globalized world now, and worldwide population is expected to increase to over eight billion by 2030. The evidence of that increase is now all around us, in our polluted environment, our warming climate, our disappearing rainforests, and our increasingly degraded farmland: We are, as a species, in the process of proving Malthus’s proposition that population will always outstrip resources.

Has the age of rapid resource expansion really come to an end? Human ingenuity continues as unchecked as our population growth, and we will no doubt find ways to squeeze more food, water, and energy out of the existing supplies. But there are natural limits on how far efficiency and invention can take us.
(21 November 2008)
Long excerpt from the forthcoming book “Sex and War” by Betsy Mason.

Food, Finance & Climate

Vandana Shiva, Z Space
Triple Crisis, A Three-Fold Opportunity

At the end of 2007, Al Gore and IPCC were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize for waking up the world to the climate catastrophe we face as a consequence of fossil fuel based industrial production and consumerism.

By early 2008, the food crisis had emerged as an emergency.

Industrialized agriculture and globalized food systems have been put forth as sources of cheap and abundant food. However, food is no longer cheap. The era of cheap food and cheap oil is over. The food crisis, mainly triggered by rising prices that emerged in 2007 and 2008 has led to food riots in many countries. From 2007 to 2008 the price of wheat increased by 130 per cent. The price of rice doubled during the first three months of 2008. Biofuels, speculation, destruction of local food economies, and climate change have all contributed to the rise in food prices. Climate change is aggravated by industrialized, globalized agriculture based on fossil fuels, and the resulting climate crisis in turn impacts food security in numerous ways, including intensified floods such as those Iowa experienced in 2008 and intensified and extended droughts like the one Australia witnessed in 2007. Globalization has also led to the destruction of local food economies and increased control by corporations like Monsanto and Cargill over our food systems. Global integration of agriculture in effect means global control over the world’s food supply.

Food prices started to rise as a result of connecting India’s domestic market to global markets, especially the edible oil and wheat import markets. At first, in the early days of globalization, the agribusinesses that dominate trade lowered prices to grab markets. The dumping of soy in the 1990s is a prime example. Now that global corporations like Cargill have created import dependency, they are increasing prices. Additionally, speculation through futures trading is driving prices upwards. Climate change and the diversion of foods to biofuels are also adding an upward pressure on international prices. The increase in international prices highlights the need to focus on food sovereignty. It makes both political and economic sense to focus on self-reliance in food and agriculture.

.. The second half of 2008 has been characterized by the financial meltdown. Trillions have been spent by governments to bail out failing banks and financial institutions. Yet the bail outs aren’t working. Like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall and “all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again”, the financial collapse is symptomatic of deeper cracks which can’t be fixed by band aids of bail outs.

If the symptoms are treated as the disease, then the solutions offered for each crisis will make the other crisis worse.

Industrial biofuels were treated as a cure for peak oil and climate change, yet they fuelled the food crisis by diverting corn and soya to ethanol and biodiesel.

… The financial crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis have common roots, an economy based on debt – debt to nature, debt of farmers, debt of citizens. It is an economy ruled by fictions – the fiction of a corporation as a legal person, the fiction of derivatives and futures and collateral debt obligations, the fiction that corporations like Monsanto “invent” seed which is their “intellectual property”, the fiction that soil fertility comes from fertilizer factories and the fiction that food as a commodity can nourish and feed people.

All three crises which have common roots also have a common solution. The solution is living according to the laws of Gaia, recognizing that the real wealth is nature’s wealth, and in nature’s economy there is abundance and justice and food for all.
(22 November 2008)

The Ant And The Cricket

Anonymous, Required Poems for Reading and Memorizing: Third and Fourth Grades via Poetry Archives

A silly young cricket, accustomed to sing
Through the warm, sunny months of gay summer and spring,
Began to complain, when he found that at home
His cupboard was empty and winter was come.

Not a crumb to be found
On the snow-covered ground;
Not a flower could he see,
Not a leaf on a tree.

“Oh, what will become,” says the cricket, “of me?”
At last by starvation and famine made bold,
All dripping with wet and all trembling with cold,
Away he set off to a miserly ant
To see if, to keep him alive, he would grant

Him shelter from rain.
A mouthful of grain
He wished only to borrow,
He’d repay it to-morrow;

If not helped, he must die of starvation and sorrow.
More at original. Suggested by SR.