Tune in to our podcast to hear expert speakers on the links between global environmental change, security, development, and health. The Environmental Change and Security Program is a part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in the District of Columbia. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds, engaged in the study of national and world affairs. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. For more information, visit www.wilsoncenter.org/ecsp and www.newsecuritybeat.org.This podcast was formerly titled "Friday Podcasts From ECSP and MHI," and included contributions from the Wilson Center's Maternal Health Initiative (MHI).
Clionadh Raleigh on Reframing “Climate Security”
About half the world’s population lives in an area of active or latent conflict. And few corners of the planet are not feeling the effects of climate change. But in this week’s New Security Broadcast, researcher Clionadh Raleigh cautions against drawing too strong a connection between the two phenomena in an interview with ECSP Director Lauren Risi.“Conflict is a competition for power,” says Raleigh, a professor of political geography and conflict at the University of Sussex and the executive director of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). Because conflict’s roots cannot be found in “grievance, resource distribution, and population dynamics,” she continues, “there are conflict dynamics that play out irrespective of climate risk, and are not directly associated with environmental issues; hence, it is not useful to frame climate issues as security issues.” Raleigh says that her research on conflict points to “some indirect connections between conflict dynamics and climate change,” especially when they create “competitions in which some attributes of the environment, especially through patronage and other means of financing turn the entire scenario into a competitive interpretation of how elites are going to operate and contest against each other violently.” One key element in Raleigh’s case is research that demonstrates that cooperation—and not conflict—is often found in regional communities with the highest climate risk and lowest potential to mitigate it. This is part of a larger pattern of cooperation in these communities, she adds. Raleigh notes that studies indicate that at times, such broader community collaboration smooths the path for cooperation on climate initiatives—and signals the significance of creating and implementing effective adaptation plans. “The areas that have been able to build adaptation, like adaptive cooperation, managed to become resilient to conflict,” she says, “or to break down in that social and political order to resist that kind of violent competition when it stems from other sources.”One such case can be found in Kenya, observes Raleigh, “where there were peace committees throughout the country that allowed people to discuss and to mediate in situations related to resource distribution, and those mediations—especially when they were funded—were very successful.” Nations such as Nigeria, she continues, offer a case study in collaboration failures rooted not in climate conflict but in structural challenges. In that country’s middle belt, Raleigh says, the failure of “local-based cooperative mechanisms” led to “massive conflict that has taken the form of livelihood-based competitions, rather than the climate-related conflicts.” In this context of research that argues for a broader view of conflict—as well as its causes and patterns—is the framing of climate security still useful? Raleigh says that it must be refined and given greater nuance—especially in the areas of cooperation and resilience—if it is to retain its usefulness. “I find that security framing that has been practiced for years has become outside of the situations, where we are talking about security outcomes,” she says, “it loses this nuance that we bring to it when it's being practiced.” The result, continues Raleigh, is that the framing can “create negative effects on the people who are supposed to be on the receiving end of better policies or better assistance…In these scenarios, security initiatives themselves cause insecurities among the people.” Raleigh levels particular criticism at what she sees as a pillar of climate security framing: a seeking out of regional insecurities and refashioning of them as climate-related. She argues that this ignores growing climate collaboration in favor of identifying communities to be presently or potentially “at risk.” The danger in doing so is a tendency to admit the fut
Jeff Colgan on Oil Politics and International Order
Debates around whether and to what extent international order is changing can be misguided “so long as we are thinking about international order as a single, monolithic thing,” says Jeff Colgan, Associate Professor of Political Science and director of the Climate Solutions Lab at Brown University in this week’s episode of New Security Broadcast. Colgan spoke at a recent Wilson Center event featuring his new book, Partial Hegemony: Oil Politics and International Order. In the book, Colgan challenges the idea of a monolithic ‘global order’ and shows that international order instead comprises a set of interlinked “subsystems.” In a world where there is no single, all-encompassing hegemon to trigger universal global change, this framework of subsystems allows us to explore how particular geopolitical realms can alter without fundamentally changing the geopolitical landscape, he says. In 1973, the world experienced the largest peaceful transfer of wealth across borders in all of human history. “Up until that point,” says Colgan, “a group of international oil companies known as the Seven Sisters controlled the vast majority of the world's oil reserves and production. And that gave them enormous power over countries like Iran and Venezuela.” OPEC formed as a direct response to this concentration of control, helping its member countries confront some of the most powerful companies in the world at the time. “It was a huge shift in international order that reverberated for years afterwards.” But understanding shifts in global order like this one requires revisiting common perspectives on international governing arrangements. Most people conceptualize hegemony as an on-off switch, Colgan says. They think that if you are the hegemon, then you dominate across “all dimensions of power—you're dominant militarily, you're the biggest economy, you're the leading technological state, you control natural resource flows, capital flows, information.” That is not how global power currently operates, however. “In reality, of course, a state could lead in some of these dimensions, but not all of them.” It is this state of partial hegemony that describes today’s world, he says. The aim of Partial Hegemony, Colgan says, “is to help us remember that international governing arrangements only work under some conditions, so we need to learn about what those conditions are.” Shedding light on these arrangements is an integrative process. Particular issue areas like oil and its geopolitical history, he says, can be a jumping-off point for broader discussions of international relations theory, which in turn can deepen our understanding of other systems within the world order.
The Fight for Climate After COVID-19: A Conversation With Sherri Goodman and Author, Alice Hill
The impacts of COVID-19 have shown policymakers that we need to invest in infrastructure and shore up existing systems to ensure that they can withstand changing conditions over time, says Alice Hill, former special assistant to President Barack Obama and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Resilience, in this week’s New Security Broadcast. “As we go forward, we need to have resilient systems. But we haven’t done that yet, we’re unprepared.” Hill sat down with Sherri Goodman, Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, to her new book, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19, and how the response to COVID-19 can inform approaches to building climate resilience. “Even as we see the ferocity of events increase, we are seeing that our systems just have not accounted for the future risk, and that is what we need,” says Hill. Investing in preparedness is cost-effective in the long term, she says. Every dollar spent on preventative measures now can save from 6 to 13 dollars in repairing future damages. “If we can discipline ourselves to invest now in resilience, we will save money, save lives, save livelihoods.” In addition to building resilience and preparing for long-term changes, Hill says that policymakers and experts must also focus on reducing emissions and cutting pollution. “There’s the mitigation—cutting harmful pollution. And there’s the adaptation and resilience—preparing for the impacts. Those two communities have been historically separated,” says Hill. In particular, experts in these communities must work together to ensure that adaptation and mitigation measures receive equal attention in the developing world. “When these events hit the developing world, it can cause a family just to spiral into poverty very quickly,” says Hill. “We need to make deep investments to help these countries understand their risks and warn their populations in advance.” Hill and Goodman conclude their conversation by encouraging everyone to engage in understanding and responding to climate change. There is a much greater focus on the issue now, says Hill. “One of the things that I find—that has been a wonderful surprise for me—is how exciting it is to be engaged in this field. And feeling as if there are things that I can contribute to, and that I can join with others to build, that will have greater results,” she says. “I just want to encourage people to engage and then, as we engage, we can help build the political will that’s necessary for all of us to understand our risks, and then make choices that will keep us safer.”
Happy World Gorilla Day! A Conversation with Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka on COVID-19’s Impact on Gorilla Conservation and Public Health in Uganda
“When we started out, people thought it was weird. ‘Why are you integrating people and animals and why are you integrating human health and animal health?’” says Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), in this week’s New Security Broadcast. Indeed, health infrastructure and conservation have long been organized around distinct silos. “Donors were focusing on single sector funding, and government departments were aligned along single sectors,” says Kalema-Zikusoka. To protect Uganda’s mountain gorillas, however, Kalema-Zikusoka recognized the need to set up an organization that could prevent disease transmission between humans and wildlife. Improving the health and well-being of communities in and around protected areas would help to ensure that they were less likely to have infectious diseases, could enjoy a better quality of life, and would ultimately enable communities to co-exist better with the wildlife. Over the past decade, there has been growing awareness and acceptance of this approach to conservation and public health. Often referred to as “One Health,” it is a multisectoral approach to disease prevention that centers interconnections between wildlife, ecosystem, and human health. Evidence tracing COVID-19’s origins to virus transmission between bats, an intermediate host, and humans only heightened the awareness of the interdependency between wildlife and human health. CTPH’s approach to community health has made them an asset for addressing COVID-19. The Ugandan Ministry of Health requested that the NGOs working with community health workers create village COVID task force committees, says Kilema-Zikusoka. They were worried that mounting infections could easily become severe ones, and there were not enough beds and oxygen, particularly in protected areas, where the lack of resources is more severe than in cities, she says. These action groups—now in 59 villages—are led by the village head and conservation team, and include the Uganda Wildlife Authority, porters at gorilla reserves, women and religious groups, and educational staff members. Such holistic, coordinated One Health efforts are essential for disaster preparedness and response in communities where wildlife and humans share a habitat, says Kalema-Zikusok. Despite this progress, tensions between human and animal health continue to emerge. Last year, hunger and economic desperation caused by the loss of tourism revenue drove a poacher to enter a protected area and kill a member of Uganda’s silverback mountain gorilla population. To prevent further endangerment, CTPH has implemented a range of short and long term measures to tackle pandemic-induced food insecurity—distributing fast growing green seedlings in the community; encouraging sustainable farming as an alternative to poaching; and ensuring gorilla guardians and reform poachers are trained in and benefitting from COVID-19 prevention initiatives. “This is an area we got into because of the pandemic. We started to look at food security more closely as an organization, so we have also grown just like other organizations during this very difficult time,” says Kalema-Zikusoka. There are important lessons learned and insights drawn from the pandemic that we must carry forward in order to realize a safer future for humans and animals alike.
Introducing New Security Broadcast
“To inform the most pressing issues of our time, to bring new voices to the policy space, and to help our audience better understand these complex connections and where we can be most effective in our responses, we bring you the New Security Broadcast,” says Lauren Risi, Director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), in today’s launch of ECSP’s new podcast series, New Security Broadcast. New Security Broadcast serves as the successor to ECSP’s long-running podcast series, Friday Podcasts. Since 2010, Friday Podcasts has spotlighted leading experts diving deep into topics around environmental security and peacebuilding, biodiversity conservation, climate security and migration, population-health-environment connections, and demographic security. It also hosted two special series, Water Stories and Backdraft, which featured experts from around the world on 21st century water challenges, and how to avoid unintended—yet potentially devastating—consequences from climate adaptation and mitigation efforts that lack a conflict-sensitive lens. “The evidence has never been stronger. Environmental change, global health, demographic trends, gender dynamics, and security all intersect in ways that influence foreign policy, national security, and global stability,” says Risi. For over 25 years ECSP has brought together scholars, policymakers, and practitioners to better understand how these issues influence one another, how they drive insecurity, and where there are opportunities to respond more effectively, she says. To build upon this history, New Security Broadcast aims to share new research and policy responses, continue to feature ECSP insights, showcase the Wilson Center’s regional and thematic programs, and highlight cutting-edge researchers, experts on the ground, and policymakers who are grappling with today’s biggest issues. “You don’t need to look beyond today’s headlines to see that the issues ECSP has researched and analyzed for decades have only become more acute, and the need to address them more urgent,” says Risi. Tune in to the New Security Broadcast to stay up to date and learn more.
The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed: A Conversation with Co-authors Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
“Many people have watched fights between communities and big corporations around the world. The corporations usually win so those are the Goliath. The Davids usually lose,” says John Cavanagh, co-author of The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed. In this week’s episode of Friday Podcasts, Cavanagh and co-author Robin Broad recount how local activists mobilized a global coalition of religious leaders, labor unions, and environmental activists to block an international corporation from opening a gold mine that threatened El Salvador’s fragile water supply. “We had no choice but to begin the book with the horrifying realization that murder can be the cost of protecting the environment in many countries around the world,” said Broad. In 2009, three months before Cavanagh’s organization, Institute for Policy Studies, was preparing to present its prestigious annual Human Rights Award to a group of El Salvadoran water defenders, they received news that one of the awardees, teacher and cultural worker, Marcelo Rivera, had been assassinated, his tortured body left at the bottom of a deep dry well. The Water Defenders tells the story of ordinary people coming together across national and political boundaries to resist powerful corporate interests. In the early 2000s, mineral prices were on the rise and the Pacific Rim mining company sought to set up new mining operations to tap into El Salvador’s gold reserves, promising new jobs and one percent of their profits to the local government. While assurances of prosperity and profit by the mining company initially sounded inviting to Marcelo and the local community, “they visited a big mine in Honduras, and there they saw the horrible environmental damage that comes from the fact that gold is mined on a large scale, using cyanide to separate the gold from the rock [which is] highly toxic and very hard to contain,” says Cavanagh. In Honduras, cyanide-laced water flowed through the rivers, killing fish and causing skin diseases. The water defenders decided “that short term financial rewards for the few would be way offset by the environmental harms to the broader community,” says Cavanagh. To expand their coalition of support and raise awareness of the dangers of mining, “they did some of the most creative education and organizing that we've ever seen,” says Cavanagh. Marcelo organized with humor, leading marches of laughter where people wore clown noses and involved local community radio stations who performed skits on water. The water defenders expanded their coalition to the global level, creating a network of “international allies” and appealing to the two million Salvadoran diaspora in the United States, and environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Global International Trade Union Confederation, says Cavanagh. Against all odds, the diverse coalition of actors succeeded in helping to convince the El Salvador legislature to institute the world’s first ban on metal mining and influenced the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes to rule in favor of El Salvador in a lawsuit brought by the Pacific Rim mining corporation. Part of their success was the fact that even as their international support expanded, “the anchor was always the frontline communities. They were the ones who took the lead, and they were the ones who set the goals,” says Broad. They also framed their message around a positive goal. They didn't call themselves anti-miners; they called themselves the water defenders, says Broad. “This is a story about redefining progress in a way that hopefully works to the benefit of the majority of the population of the world, rather than just to an elite few,” says Broad. By sharing this unlikely success story, Broad and Cavanagh offer a practical playbook on effective grassroots, coalition-building to redefine development and to protect the environment in th