By Sumita Strander
Christopher King, the current dean of academics at the United States Army Command and General Staff College, gave a talk at Dartmouth on Thursday entitled “International Environmental Security: Climate Change, Water Wars, and Other Scary Stuff.” In this talk, King discussed the relationship between environmental problems and security. He used this relationship to claim that paying attention to environmental issues is in the best interest of every nation, which thus makes it a priority for their militaries. King described his own efforts to introduce this priority to the United States’ military. He connected environmental concerns (such as disease and lack of water) to the principles of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that are found in the United States Constitution. His ultimate claim was that “providing life-sustaining conditions was a basic human pursuit.”
One problem that exists, King said, is that environmental concerns have a heavier impact on developing nations. In other words, “how do we get developed nationals to find it in their ‘National Interest’ to act?” A question like this one, he argued, deems this a public policy issue. This heavier impact, he argued, is mostly due to the stress of increasing populations. That is, all areas of the world will continue to experience problems related to the changing environment, but these problems will be harder for places with the added pressure of an increasing population. KIng cited the country of Afghanistan and the Nile River Basin as two examples.
Afghanistan, he claimed, is the third-fastest growing country in the world and is the seventh-worst failed state. Additionally, it is included in the list of the ten countries with the worst environmental conditions. King used this to make the point that failure of state correlates with the presence of environmental issues.
Similarly, the Nile River Basin has a population of about 265 million that is expected to grow significantly in the near future, to roughly 697 million in the year 2050. The demand for water in response to this increasing population will then far exceed the supply of water at that time.
Throughout his talk, King included scientific information correlated to environmental issues, particularly emphasizing climate change. He concluded by restating the significance of environmental issues to increasing peace and security. He recommended that the nation focus more on analytical research in order to make plans addressing environmental security. Finally, King emphasized the importance of collaboration, as the Department of Defense is just one aspect of the government, and real action relies on the coordinated efforts of several invested groups and individuals.