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Environment, Scarcity, and Violence
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Environment, Scarcity, and Violence

by Thomas F. Homer-Dixon
 

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The Earth's human population is expected to pass eight billion by the year 2025, while rapid growth in the global economy will spur ever increasing demands for natural resources. The world will consequently face growing scarcities of such vital renewable resources as cropland, fresh water, and forests. Thomas Homer-Dixon argues in this sobering book that these

Overview

The Earth's human population is expected to pass eight billion by the year 2025, while rapid growth in the global economy will spur ever increasing demands for natural resources. The world will consequently face growing scarcities of such vital renewable resources as cropland, fresh water, and forests. Thomas Homer-Dixon argues in this sobering book that these environmental scarcities will have profound social consequences--contributing to insurrections, ethnic clashes, urban unrest, and other forms of civil violence, especially in the developing world.

Homer-Dixon synthesizes work from a wide range of international research projects to develop a detailed model of the sources of environmental scarcity. He refers to water shortages in China, population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, and land distribution in Mexico, for example, to show that scarcities stem from the degradation and depletion of renewable resources, the increased demand for these resources, and/or their unequal distribution. He shows that these scarcities can lead to deepened poverty, large-scale migrations, sharpened social cleavages, and weakened institutions. And he describes the kinds of violence that can result from these social effects, arguing that conflicts in Chiapas, Mexico and ongoing turmoil in many African and Asian countries, for instance, are already partly a consequence of scarcity.

Homer-Dixon is careful to point out that the effects of environmental scarcity are indirect and act in combination with other social, political, and economic stresses. He also acknowledges that human ingenuity can reduce the likelihood of conflict, particularly in countries with efficient markets, capable states, and an educated populace. But he argues that the violent consequences of scarcity should not be underestimated--especially when about half the world's population depends directly on local renewables for their day-to-day well-being. In the next decades, he writes, growing scarcities will affect billions of people with unprecedented severity and at an unparalleled scale and pace.

Clearly written and forcefully argued, this book will become the standard work on the complex relationship between environmental scarcities and human violence.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Homer-Dixon (political science, U. of Toronto) predicts that the coming scarcity of such resources as cropland, fresh water, and forests will have profound social consequences leading to insurrections, ethnic clashes, urban unrest, and other forms of civil violence, especially in the developing world. He identifies many conflicts, such as in Mexico and Africa, that are foreshadows. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
Stephen P. Adamian
It is Homer-Dixon's contention that the true danger of environmental scarcity lies in creating barriers to the competent management of the remaining resources, which can, in turn, rend the social fabric, jeopardize the legitimacy of the state, and ultimately, in combination with other social stresses, lead to violence.
The Boston Book Review
Toronto Globe & Mail
[The book's] assertion that violence and the environment may be linked, and its conclusion that most big developing countries appear to be hurtling toward more internal conflict, are too important and intriguing to be left to an academic audience.
— John Stackhouse
Boston Book Review
[A] comprehensible model linking environmental scarcity and violence.
— Stephen P. Adamian
Globe and Mail

Important and intriguing.
— John Stackhouse

Biology Digest
Clearly written and forcefully argued, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence is an excellent work.
Journal of International Affairs
Thomas Homer-Dixon . . . has conducted extensive research on the links between environmental stress and violence in developing countries. . . . The book addresses the fact that environmental scarcity is not in itself a necessary or sufficient cause of conflict. Homer-Dixon evaluates why some societies are able to adapt well to environmental scarcity while others are not.
— Nikola Smith
The Quarterly Review of Biology
This volume is for anyone with professional or deep personal interests in the relationships of natural resource management to economic development and human societies.
— Joseph P. Dudley
Toronto Globe and Mail - John Stackhouse
Important and intriguing.
The Quarterly Review of Biology - Joseph P. Dudley
This volume is for anyone with professional or deep personal interests in the relationships of natural resource management to economic development and human societies.
Boston Book Review - Stephen P. Adamian
[A] comprehensible model linking environmental scarcity and violence.
Journal of International Affairs - Nikola Smith
Thomas Homer-Dixon . . . has conducted extensive research on the links between environmental stress and violence in developing countries. . . . The book addresses the fact that environmental scarcity is not in itself a necessary or sufficient cause of conflict. Homer-Dixon evaluates why some societies are able to adapt well to environmental scarcity while others are not.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2000 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize, American Political Science Association

"[The book's] assertion that violence and the environment may be linked, and its conclusion that most big developing countries appear to be hurtling toward more internal conflict, are too important and intriguing to be left to an academic audience."—John Stackhouse, Toronto Globe and Mail

"This volume is for anyone with professional or deep personal interests in the relationships of natural resource management to economic development and human societies."—Joseph P. Dudley, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"[A] comprehensible model linking environmental scarcity and violence."—Stephen P. Adamian, Boston Book Review

"Important and intriguing."—John Stackhouse, Globe and Mail

"Clearly written and forcefully argued, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence is an excellent work."Biology Digest

"Thomas Homer-Dixon . . . has conducted extensive research on the links between environmental stress and violence in developing countries. . . . The book addresses the fact that environmental scarcity is not in itself a necessary or sufficient cause of conflict. Homer-Dixon evaluates why some societies are able to adapt well to environmental scarcity while others are not."—Nikola Smith, Journal of International Affairs

Toronto Globe and Mail

[The book's] assertion that violence and the environment may be linked, and its conclusion that most big developing countries appear to be hurtling toward more internal conflict, are too important and intriguing to be left to an academic audience.
— John Stackhouse
Globe & Mail
Important and intriguing.
— John Stackhouse

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400822997
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,231,916
File size:
2 MB

What People are Saying About This

Robert Jervis
This is an important book. Homer-Dixon moves the arguments about environmental scarcity and violent conflict forward a big step. I doubt if much will be written about the subjects in the next ten years that does not build on it, follow out some of its leads, or try to refute it.
Robert Jervis, Institute for War and Peace Studies, Columbia University
Robert Jervis, Institute for War and Peace Studies, Columbia University
This is an important book. Homer-Dixon moves the arguments about environmental scarcity and violent conflict forward a big step. I doubt if much will be written about the subjects in the next ten years that does not build on it, follow out some of its leads, or try to refute it.
Holdren
Thomas Homer-Dixon has thought more deeply, reasoned more carefully, and written more coherently about the environment/scarcity/violence nexus than anyone else I know of. This is a brilliant book—must reading for anyone concerned about the human condition in the twenty-first century.
John P. Holdren, Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Meet the Author

Thomas F. Homer-Dixon is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto. He is the author of "Environmental Scarcity and Global Security "and the forthcoming book "The Ingenuity Gap."

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