The links between war and conflict with the environment have been under- explored compared with other branches of both conflict studies and environmentalism.
In fact, whether it was the world wars of the past or today’s multiple lower-intensity conflicts, both the capture and the destruction of natural resources, from water and forests to diamonds, cobalt and other commodities as well as wildlife, have played a central role in war and conflict: added to which conflict today is being driven by the effects of climate change, whether it is migration, desertification or the prospect of rising sea-levels and melting ice.
Conflict today involves not only combatants and civilians either losing their lives or being wounded when caught up in military operations but also there are ‘indirect’ conflict deaths and the long-term suffering of non-combatants who die not only from lacking health-care but also from limited or non-existent access to the natural resources that provide food, water and shelter.
Biodiversity is key to the livelihoods of millions of people and its destruction and degradation undermines development and contributes to insecurity in the country and internationally through the threat multiplier of climate change.
Conflict in an even wider sense is also linked to the environment through clashes between local inhabitants and activists protesting against natural resource extraction and projects that has resulted in a rising number of deaths.
The Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and the Environment was formed in 2010 and is the only centre globally which is dedicated to exploring the connections between the environment and conflict. It has steadily developed an inter-disciplinary approach both within King’s College as well as with other academic institutions and outside organisations.
The Marjan Centre’s research programme is designed as a ‘hub’ whereby material is transferred horizontally as much as possible across different projects, such as environmental post- conflict stabilisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, insecurity in South Africa connected to rhino poaching as well as forecasting armed forces readiness for climate change.
(The Marjan Centre is named after a lion ‘Marjan’, who survived Afghanistan’s violence while living inside Kabul zoo between 1978-2002 before dying of old age; having lived through such vast upheaval and fighting ‘Marjan’ seemed an appropriate symbol of both ‘conflict’ and the ‘non human sphere’).