Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and Conservation
Traditionally war has been viewed and studied almost exclusively as a phenomenon of human nature, with humans as both the agents and victims of war: but something large is missing from that picture, which is the impact of war and conflict on the non-human sphere.
Eco-terrorism, resource wars, violent grass-roots protests against resource extraction, 'water wars', 'rhino wars', the draining of Iraq's marshes by Saddam Hussein: all these, and many more, are examples of the relationship between the non-human sphere and war and conflict.
The non-human sphere covers ecosystems, fauna and flora, and natural resources as well as the atmosphere. How this arena is affected by war and conflict by human-centric activity such as climate change, population increases, food security, the spread of diseases, nuclear programmes, both civilian and military, and the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), forms the core focus of The Marjan Centre.
Furthermore, the impact and devastation of war and conflict are seen from a wider and different perspective which challenges conceptions about war and conflict, including legal and moral responsibilities.
Since its formation in 2010 the Marjan Centre has developed an inter-disciplinary approach both within King’s College and other academic institutions as well as outside organisations.
For those wishing to engage more closely with issues examined by the Marjan Centre they can enrol on the module War and the Non Human Sphere that is an option of the War Studies MA programme. Additionally, relevant PhD applications are welcomed.
Studies have confirmed the high percentage of conflicts in areas of high biodiversity, but less understood is how the failures in the political and governance process that leads to conflict and war also feeds into the non-human sphere.
What exactly is ‘environmental security’: it is a phrase much used by policy-makers but definitions get increasingly stretched. Climate change is often called a conflict ‘driver’ – but is that just a result of policy-makers avoiding dealing with a problem as complex and resource consuming as religious or ethnic differences? Are counter-poaching tactics that are increasingly being ‘militarised’ mimicking the tactics of counter-insurgency? These are just some of the questions raised by War and the Non Human Sphere.
(The Marjan Centre is named after a lion named ‘Marjan’ who lived in Kabul zoo between 1978-2002; having lived through such upheaval and fighting he seemed an appropriate symbol of both ‘conflict’ and the ‘non human sphere’). Picture courtesy of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).