Nature is a battlefield

And while I’m on the subject of ‘The Natures of War’, that essay describes how ‘nature’ – yes, I do know how complicated that word is – is much more than a ‘resource bank’ over which war is waged (resource wars, conflict commodities and the rest) but also a medium through which military violence is effected: the mud of the Western Front, the deserts of North Africa and the rainforests of Vietnam.


This month Polity publishes Razmig Keucheyan‘s Nature is a Battlefield: Towards a Political Ecology (originally published in French in 2014):

In the midst of the current ecological crisis, there is often lofty talk of the need for humanity to ‘overcome its divisions’ and work together to tackle the big challenges of our time. But as this new book by Razmig Keucheyan shows, the real picture is very different. Just take the case of the siting of toxic waste landfills in the United States: if you want to know where waste is most likely to be dumped, ask yourself where Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and other racial minorities live and where the poorest neighbourhoods are. This kind of ‘environmental racism’ is by no means restricted to the United States: it is very much a global phenomenon.

Keucheyan show how the capitalist response to the crisis has been marked by a massive expansion in ‘environmental finance’. From ‘carbon markets’ to ‘pollution permits’, ‘climate derivatives’ and ‘catastrophe bonds’, we are seeing a proliferation of nature-related financial products. Instead of tackling the root of the problem, the neoliberal strategy seeks to profit from environmental risks.

Moreover, with the rise in natural disasters, resource scarcity, food crises, the destabilization of the poles and oceans and the prospect of tens of millions of ‘climate refugees’, Western powers are increasingly adopting a military response to ecological problems. The Cold War is over: welcome to the ‘green wars’. From New Orleans to the Siachen glacier via the Arctic floes, Keucheyan explores the landmark sites of this new ‘climate geostrategy’.

The first chapter addresses ‘Environmental racism’; the second ‘Financialising nature: insuring climatic risks’; it’s the final chapter that most interests me, ‘Green wars or the militarisation of ecology’:

A doctrine emerges
A benevolent dictatorship
Chaos specialists
Terrorism and climate change
The new military ecology
Conservation and counter-insurgency
Agent Orange
From the Cold War to green wars
The end of conventional wars?
Double movement
Climate refugees
Nuclear deterrence and ecological crisis
War and biofuels
The oceans destabilised
The scramble for the Arctic
The North Pole and globalisation
Commodifying the thaw
The speed of the circulation of capital

Razmig is probably best known in the English-speaking world for his mapping of contemporary critical theory, Left Hemisphere (Verso, 2013).