Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere
While war has played a pivotal role human evolution, its links with the environment have been under-explored compared with other branches of conflict studies, historical research and environmentalism. Whether it is world wars, ‘hot wars’ or low-intensity warfare, conflict has almost always involved the destruction of crops, trees, water supplies and wildlife – environmental warfare – in the search for resources and denial to the enemy.
To see war solely in terms of soldiers and civilians who lose their lives in military operations misses the wider picture of the ‘indirect conflict deaths’ and the long-term suffering of non-combatants who die not only from lack of health-care but also from limited or non-existent access to the natural resources that provide food, water and shelter.
Today, the environmental impacts of war and conflict have expanded to include contesting the control of resources (‘resource wars’), the impact of climate change, along with mass migration and transnational crime (such as ‘rhino wars’), to name but a few.
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 a broader 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.
To research the connections between the environment and warfare, the Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere was formed under the academic direction of Professor Michael Rainsborough, current Head of the Department of War Studies and Professor of Strategic Theory and Jasper Humphreys, a former newspaper journalist with a long standing interest in conservation matters. Since then, the Centre has steadily developed an inter-disciplinary approach both within King’s College as well as with other academic institutions and outside organisations.
Examples of the Marjan Centre’s research programme include environmental post- conflict stabilisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), insecurity in South Africa connected to rhino poaching, as well as examining the methodology of the United States armed forces relating to climate change. Forthcoming research will look at a combined study of the connections between warfare with evolutionary psychology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) with reference to chimpanzees and the non-human world, as well as a project in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan examining all aspects of post-conflict security and stabilisation, from environmental and biodiversity improvement to education and health.
Since it was created in 2010, the Marjan Centre has formed an ‘outreach’ policy that includes the Marjan-Marsh Award which is given annually to someone who has made an invaluable contribution to an area where conflict and conservation overlap.
(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’).