Environmental Wars Aren’t Just a Thing of the Future

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Some people doubt some or all of what scientists warn will happen after global warming occurs.

herdersCattle herders have begun to clash with farmers in Africa over scarce resources.

I have to admit, there is so much dire news about the future of the environment coming out on a daily basis even I doubt some of it. One thing I don’t doubt is that global climate change will lead to violence. It’s been shown that violence followed environmental changes throughout history. It’s not just historic violence though. There’s a whole host of recent violence related to environmental changes.

Take, for example, an incident that occurred in the Ivory Coast last year. The current Transport Minister Innocent Kobenan Anaky was dragged from his car and beaten by an angry mob. They subsequently burned his car. The mob had been angered by toxic waste that had been dumped in their hometown, the port city of Abidjan.

Hundreds of Ivory Coast citizens, mostly youth, blocked the entrance to the local garbage disposal area, burning tires and shouting protests. The violence escalated after the group spotted the Transport Minister, who managed to escape with facial wounds.

Around 10,000 people checked in at health centers to determine whether they had been harmed by exposure to the waste, which was identified as petrochemical byproducts dumped by a local contractor for a large multinational company. Dozens of people were hospitalized, and 16 died after exposure.

The incident caused riots throughout Abidjan and sent shockwaves through the country’s government. 7 people were arrested in connection with the dumping, including a high ranking transport official and three other government employees. Shortly after the riots, the government was actually disbanded in the face of public anger. Only the Prime Minister remained in power.

This isn’t even the only environmentally based incident of violence in West Africa recently.

In Ghana, farmers and nomadic Fulani livestock herders have begun to clash over land use as they compete for ever more scarce resources. Across the continent in the Sudan, the origins of the Darfur conflict have been partially blamed on a drought thought to have been caused by global warming. The head of UNEP, Achim Steiner, said the groundwork for the current conflict was laid by climate conditions.

Steiner said:

“What we see in Darfur is an environmental change phenomenon unfolding that puts pressure on local communities. Combine that with potential tensions and you very quickly get a potent mix within which increased pressure can result in conflict. The situation that emerged in Darfur will emerge in other parts of the world.”

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