IV. Environment and Conflict in History The database of conflict and environment cases shows a broad variety if issues but at a high level of inspection



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IV. Environment and Conflict in History
The database of conflict and environment cases shows a broad variety if issues but at a high level of inspection. This chapter intends to focus on a select set of cases for discussion and expansion of themes. The plan is to provide a basic typology of major issues and to follow them through time via selected case studies from the data set.

Human beings are now the most dominant creatures on the planet in their ability to impact and alter the environment of localities, regions and the planet as a whole. A Brontosaurus might have held this claim in an earlier era, but their cumulative impact on the planet was surely far less than the modern human. This dominance needs context. First, our dominance is short lived compared to other species in other historical time periods. Second, while humans are now dominant, they are not the most populous of species by either number (behind flies and many species) or mass volume (behind termites). This chapter attempts to place the ascendancy of humanity – viewed from the prism of environment and conflict issues -- in a temporal perspective.

Paul Shepard argues that human conflict was rare until the Agricultural Revolution. The settlement of humans led to a type of social organization that translated into aggregated power. This power resulted in the domestication of humans, by other humans. The size of such communities was much larger than in earlier times and thus created a greater potential for centralized control and power. The aggregate power became a means of expressing national interest vis-à-vis other aggregates of urban humanity that were also emerging. Shepard would not call the agricultural and food production breakthrough a triumph or a revolution. He would regard it as devolution in the quality of human life and the beginnings of permanent conflict.

"Domestication changed means of production, altered social relationships, and increased environmental destruction. From ecosystems at dynamic equilibrium ten thousand years ago the farmers created subsystems with pests and weeds by the time of the first walled towns five thousand years ago...Domestication would create a catastrophic biology of nutritional deficiencies, alternating feast and famine, health and epidemic, peace and social conflict, all set in millennial rhythms of slowing collapsing ecosystems."1

Shepard argues that the Agricultural Conjunction completed the subjugation of environmental and human rights by the development of warrior kingdoms. Usually, these kingdoms exhausted much of their own environmental resources and used war to make up for that deficit. The warrior was originally the herder of domestic ungulates: the person who tended the horses and oxen learned how to ride them in battle. The desire for the hunt combined with the efficiency of modern social systems led to the growth of state organized military power. The warrior restored the hunting ethos by changing the focus from animals to humans. These warrior societies, often built on conquest and slavery, were essentially farming farmers. "The hero, the warrior, and the cowboy are almost inextricable. For the most part of history they are all connected to horses or boats, although the Indo-European tool looks especially to the horse."2
A. The Cases in Context
The concept behind this historical section is not only to examine the evolution of environment and conflict cases through time, but also to do so in some manner that focuses on some of the key sub-issues that define this dimension of interaction. Three basic dimensions cover relationships involving environmental breadth, types and status. Each of these dimensions will include two examples, included as points of comparison and contrast, representing two major aspects of the dimension (as described earlier). In each time period, six cases are examined according to the criteria set forward in the prior chapter. These criteria consist of generic proto-types of behavior along three general dimensions that have dichotomous attributes.

Table IV-1 shows the cases organized by time and in a chronological order. The actual discussion of the cases follows the chronological order. There are six issues selected: climate change, forest resources, arable land, water, the environment as a weapon, and the environment as a conflict boundary.

Table IV-2 shows the cases organized by dimensional issue on a horizontal basis with temporal sub-sets shown on a vertical basis. The discussion of the cases follows the format in this table, focusing on three types of issues for three historical periods. This produces a total of 18 case studies. Each issue is then analyzed for comparison and contrast.
Table IV-1
Key Cases in Environment and Conflict: Organized by Time

Ancient Cases

Case Name

Onset Year
Describe
Type

NEANDER-THAL
35,000 BC
The role of humans in Neanderthal extinction

Climate Change

CEDARS

2,600 BC
The Cedars of Lebanon and conflict over wood



Forests

MOHENJO

1,700 BC
The decline of Mohenjo-Daro and loss of cropland



Arable Land

NILE

900 BC
Ancient and modern conflict over Nile River water


Water

ASSYRIA

600 BC
Assyrian use of water as a weapon against Babylonians


Weapons

GREATWALL

200 BC
China's Great Wall, Mongols and the environment



Boundaries

Middle Cases

Case Name

Onset Year
Describe

Type

HADRIAN

150 AD
Hadrian's Wall, Picts, and environmental impact


Boundaries

MAYA

800 AD
Soil, warfare, and the decline of Mayas



Arable Land

VINELAND

1000 AD
The Vikings, Vineland, and Native Americans


Climate Change

ANASAZI

1200 AD
Water resources and the decline of the Anasazi


Water

ROBIN HOOD
1450 AD
Forests rights in England and Robin Hood
Forests

BUFFALO

1870 AD
The US war with Native Americans and the buffalo


Weapons

Modern Cases

Case Name
Onset Year
Describe

Type

DMZ
1953 AD
The Korean DMZ, environment and conflict
Boundaries

JORDAN
1967 AD
Conflict over the Jordan River waters

Water

KUWAIT
1991 AD
Oil as a cause and a weapon in the Kuwait War
Weapons

KHMER
1992 AD
Khmer Rouge military support and timber sales

Forests

RWANDA
1994 AD
Population, deforestation and conflict in Rwanda
Arable Land

SAHEL
1997 AD
The expansion of the Sahel and Niger tribal conflict
Climate Change

Table IV-2

Key Cases in Environment and Conflict: Organized by Issue

 Dimension

Environmental

Breadth 


Environmental

Breadth 


Social Type

 


Social Type

 


 Conflict

Dimension



Conflict

Dimension 



Category

Conflict over General Resources

Conflict over Specific Resources

Conflict over Source Resources

Conflict over Sinks

Non-Territory

Territory

Type

Climate Change

Forests

Arable Land

Water

Weapons

Boundaries

Ancient

Cases

NEANDER-THAL
35,000 BC
The role of humans in Neanderthal extinction

CEDARS

2,600 BC
The Cedars of Lebanon and conflict over wood



MOHENJO

1,700 BC
The decline of Mohenjo-Daro and loss of cropland



NILE

900 BC
Ancient and modern conflict over Nile River



ASSYRIA

600 BC
Assyrian use of water as a weapon against Babylonians



GREATWALL

200 BC
China's Great Wall, Mongols and the environment



Middle

Cases

VINELAND

1000 AD
The Vikings, Vineland, and Native Americans



ROBIN

HOOD
1450 AD


Forests rights in England and Robin Hood


MAYA

800 AD
Soil, warfare, and the decline of Mayas




ANASAZI

1200 AD
Water resources and the decline of the Anasazi



BUFFALO

1870 AD
The US war with Native Americans and buffalo



HADRIAN

150 AD
Hadrian's Wall, Picts, and environmental impact



Modern

Cases

SAHEL
1997 AD
The expansion of the Sahel and Niger tribal conflict

KHMER
1992 AD
Khmer Rouge support and timber sales


RWANDA
1994 AD
Population, deforestation and conflict in Rwanda

JORDAN
1967 AD
Conflict over the Jordan River waters


KUWAIT
1991 AD
Oil as a cause and a weapon in the Kuwait War

DMZ
1953 AD
The Korean DMZ, environment and conflict

The three epochal periods also signify changes in dominant technologies at a macro-historical level, which in turn indicate changes in structural systems. These systems, in turn, determine the mechanisms by which environment and conflict relate. Eventually, these changes impact patterns that may change in direction, from supporting one another to causing conflict between them.

The approach here is to identify key issues in environment and conflict that persist throughout time and to follow that relationship to discern how it evolves. The discussion of these critical issues through time follows a series of case studies illustrating how relationships change to fit the structural configurations of the time.

B. Environment and Conflict by Theme over Time


This section examines ancient cases that revolve around the environment and conflict nexus. By “ancient”, the cases generally occurred before the year 0 in the modern calendar. Six cases will provide the basis for discussion on differing dimensions of interaction between conflict and environment. The point is not only to read the cases and their interaction across places and typologies, but to trace these types of interactions with examples over time. Thus, the results will combine an examination of both time and place in three historically consecutive case studies examined through six dimensional issues. The cases from this period tend to focus on the most basic resources required by early civilizations: land, water, and wood. These needs did not vanish with time but persist today.
1. Climate Change
The climate cases focus on three peoples -- Neanderthals, Vikings, and Fulani -- who experienced climate change and conflict in ancient, middle and modern times. The climate change cases are the oldest in the data set and help define the human experience. Climate change has both micro- and macro-climate dimensions. The early causes for climate change were driven solely by nature but in recent years humans have sharply accelerated the process.

There are only five climate change cases in the entire ICE data set.3 No doubt in actual history there are many more cases. Further, many such cases are much older in time where records are not sufficient to detail or establish this link.

This type of conflict system has a somewhat dichotomous nature. There are strong links to short and long-term cases that is focused on a particular resource, eventually results in a decisive victory, and is associated with habitat change. The average annual conflict deaths might be few, but the long-time deaths add up to a major conflict (see Figure IV-1).

Figure IV-1

The Climate Change Causal System (The Yellow Loop in the Conflict Sub-System)


Climate changes cases in ICE are few and diffuse over time. The historical cases then can provide some insight as to how environmental change generates conflict. These cases have extremely long-term durations in general, but periods of magnification or change may put this in a short-term perspective, especially in micro-climates. It appears that this is the case today. The first case -- regarding the Home Sapiens and Neanderthal wars -- is the longest term conflict included in the data set and the oldest.
a. An Ancient Case of Climate Change: The Neanderthal, Humans and the End of the Last Ice Age


Time Period

Ancient

Class

Environmental Breadth

Category

General Resources

Type

Climate Change

The first case study begins with the emergence of the modern human. It largely predates large scale conflict between groups of humans. At this time, humans were in competition with other species – as predator and as prey – but also in competition with other primates. This was especially so since their economic subsistence patterns were quite similar. One of the most important intra-humanoid disputes was over environment and conflict with human’s closest ancestor – the Neanderthal.4 Theories about the end of the Neanderthal are controversial and unresolved. There is, however, no question that human beings played a role in their demise. It is also true that humans invaded lands that Neanderthals lived on for several hundred thousand years. Neanderthals survived several ice ages during this period. They could not survive humans.

Changing climates certainly creates the conditions for conflict as people, their technologies, and their subsistence patterns all tend to intersect. In some cases, these technologies and patterns change and adapt as well over time. In other cases, people simply moved from the changed climate to one that more or less resembles the old climate and therefore the technologies and economic patterns need not change. Or, the people were displaced, killed or integrated into other groups.

The conflict over environmental resources is of course inimical to human nature. Clear evidence for organized human warfare dates back more than nine thousand years, to the early Neolithic Age.5 It surely existed in the war against the Neanderthals and environment was a key factor in that war at the end of the last Ice Age. Humans spread into Europe during this warming period, in many instances coming into conflict and ultimately displacing Neanderthals.

Anthropologists generally agree that our species began in Africa and migrated from there to the other parts of the planet. The general belief is that humans came upon areas uninhabited, but in fact, these areas often did have other primate competitors who would and did compete over hunting grounds that provided economic subsistence. The conflict between two primate species occurred through direct warfare and through indirect warfare. The direct conflict was probably a draw – with the greater Neanderthal physical attributes matched by the higher technologies of the humans. Indirect warfare was probably a greater factor as humans proved more adept hunters than the Neanderthals and took more of the game. This led to larger human populations and less food for competitors.

Anthropologists and geneticists disagree on the genetic relation of the human to the Neanderthal. Some believe that Neanderthal was simply another race of humans, perhaps most similar to aborigines from Australia. Most scholars believe Neanderthals were a completely separate species. The earliest human remains found in Europe date back 35,000 years. According to anthropologist Eric Trinkhaus the bones suggest interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals. Other researchers assert that on the whole there was little or no contribution to the human gene pool. Human are not directly related to Neanderthals, but they do emerge from a common tree hundred of thousands of years earlier.6

Neanderthals existed between 350,000 and 30,000 years ago. Perhaps as far back as 100,000 years ago they encountered the first human beings , probably in the Middle East. By 45,000 years ago, humans (Cro-magnons) invaded Europe and Asia and the Neanderthals were gone in 15,000 years. But this is a long time for two people to co-exist without serious conflict (or attempted mating), as noted in James Shreeve’s “The Neanderthal Peace”.7 Moreover, they met differing groups of humans over time, and perhaps they too were in conflict with one group but at peace with another.

These first humans, the Aurignacians, entered into west Europe but retreated during a cooling period. They were followed by the Gravettians, who possessed more advanced technology in weapons and warmer clothing to protect them from the cold. While Neanderthals only had thrusting spears for close range fighting with animals, the Gravettians threw spears and other projectiles.8 Neanderthals were intelligent primates with customs and rituals and probably systems of communication. They were not the mindless brutes depicted in earlier "scientific" tracts and grade B movies, nor the muscle-bound hulks with hairy backs.

Neanderthal had a long, narrow skull, with a large brain and a bony protrusion over each eye. Physically, the people were stout and strong, with short limbs and digits, and women had birth canals that were similar in size to modern human females. Ine find, in modern day Israel, was discovered at the Kabara Cave in Israel by a joint French-Israeli team. The team found a hyoid bone, which links muscles of lower jaw and neck, critical to speaking. This find led some to believe that Neanderthal had language abilities perhaps equal to modern humans. Neanderthals were beyond humans in physical capabilities, being much stronger and more agile.

It would be wrong to stereotype about Neanderthals because they were a heterogonous group. The various finds from East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe show great diversity in form and feature, just as would be found in humans. Neanderthals ranged over a large area and experienced a wide range of climatic variations that influenced the development of their physical features and culture. The image of Neanderthal as the brute is slowly being replaced, at least in the scientific world, by a more sophisticated and advanced creature with social ties, cultural relations and a people who buried their dead.

Neanderthals were intelligent hominids nearly equal to humans in intelligence. Perhaps some humans had Neanderthals as acquaintances or as trading partners over their long periods of co-existence. The human relation and reaction to the Neanderthal is perhaps also a cautionary tale for how humans might greet aliens from another planet.

This was not the first time the two groups had met. The initial encounters between human and Neanderthal are thought to have taken place somewhere in the Middle East. It was probably near present day sites in Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as both groups expanded during the warming period. There was a gradual process of displacement and replacement. Similar to today, this narrow stretch of greenery (the Fertile Crescent) was a corridor for interaction between Asia, Africa and Europe and a sought after territory. Over time, humans pushed Neanderthals back into the less hospitable parts of Europe. The Neanderthal retreats often forced them onto lands where game was not as abundant and temperatures much colder. This deterioration in access to resources no doubt led to long term pressures on survival (see Figure IV-2).

Figure IV-2

The Extent of the Neanderthal



The in-migration of humans into long-standing Neanderthal resource areas (hunting grounds) was an early conflict with environment causes. This inter-humanoid conflict is perhaps like forms of intra-human ethnic conflict, with of course broader differences. Researchers document a great die-off of certain mega-fauna after human arrival in the Eurasia and the Americas and perhaps the demise of the Neanderthal is evidence of other extinctions associated with our past.

Perhaps the Neanderthals did not completely die out. Perhaps they live on in the human gene pool. During the thousands of years that humans and Neanderthals lived in close proximity to one another, there were no doubt raids that took females captives as spoils of war (by both sides). Rapes as part of conflict also no doubt occurred. Perhaps children were born to humans that had some Neanderthal genes or vice-versa. Anthropologist Wolpott believes that inter-marriage or at least inter-breeding was common between humans and Neanderthal.

Neanderthal hunting technology was inferior to that of humans and more dangerous. Eric Trinkhaus notes that animals killed by the Neanderthal would have involved close contact using little refined, stone implements. Daniel Lieberman and John Shea suggest two other advantages in economic survival that humans held. First, humans migrated, sometimes over great distances, and took advantage of seasonality and animal migrations. Neanderthals were much more sedentary and this in a climate with extremely limited resources. Second, humans were not only better hunters they were also better gatherers. In the end, it may have been a long-gradual war of technology and adaptation.

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