• University of Leeds

Environmental Challenges: Scarcity and Conflict in the Natural Environment

War and conflict can severely disrupt the governance of the environment. What is the impact on both people and the environment?

Environmental Challenges: Scarcity and Conflict in the Natural Environment
This course is part of the Environmental Challenges program, which will enable you to explore how people and nature interact, and earn 10 credits from the University of Leeds.

Why join the course?

Human conflict has both short and long term effects on the natural world. The environment is directly impacted by pollution and explosions; and can be used as a weapon of war. In the longer term, sustainable environmental management is disrupted when conflict destabilises social systems and people are denied access to natural resources. As resources become scarcer, it might be expected that people come into conflict about access to natural resources.

This course explores three aspects of conflict and resource scarcity, and applies these to explore decision making and negotiation skills.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsEvery time we look at the news, it seems to be full of conflicts that are taking place in one part of the world or another. News reports are, of course, a biassed representation of what's happening on our planet as bad news is good news from a journalist's perspective. But nonetheless, there are huge environmental consequences. Firstly, there is the destruction and pollution caused by the conflict itself. But secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it's the disruption to social systems and governance of the environment.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsI'm professor Jon Lovett, Chair in Global Challenges at the University of Leeds. My role is to guide you through this course. We start by exploring three basic principles, the economics of the coming Spaceship Earth, scarcity in conflict, and the environment as a weapon of war. These principles will then be applied to a case study, where we consider two different approaches to international relations. We close the course with a discussion. I'm joined via Skype by three colleagues from Balamand University in Lebanon, where we discuss vulnerability, gender, and the confessionalism system in Lebanon. So in the midst of human suffering, do we take the environmental consequences of war seriously enough?

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsI look forward to hearing your thoughts and joining your discussions on the course.

What topics will you cover?

  • Be introduced to the pioneering environmental economist Ken Boulding.
  • Understand the difference between a ‘cowboy’ economy based on throughput, and a circular ‘spaceman’ economy.
  • Appreciate the role of technology in changing production methods and enabling increased exploitation of natural resources.
  • Understand how demand for natural resources, in particular oil for energy, has led to conflict.
  • Be aware of the contrasting concepts of ‘water wars’ and ‘water peace’ over access to and management of water resources.
  • Understand how appropriately negotiated property rights and institutional arrangements are important for water peace.
  • Understand how conflict can lead to increased environmental vulnerability of civilian populations and mass mortality though famine and disease.
  • Be introduced to Amartya Sen and the concept of development as freedom.
  • Be introduced to contrasting theories on international regimes.
  • Understand the impact of conflict on environmental management in north Lebanon.
  • Appreciate the role of trust relationships and the effect of ‘wasta’ on post-conflict environmental management.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Compare the ‘cowboy’ economy with the circular ‘spaceman’ economy, through technological advances and resource exploitation.
  • Discuss the extent that resource demands can lead to conflict between different users.
  • Explore the way that conflicting forces subdue populations by denying them access to environmental resources.
  • Develop understanding of conflict resolution and negotiation techniques.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in conflict and environmental decision-making; no previous knowledge or experience is required.

If you are working in environmental management, or wish to learn more about it, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

Who will you learn with?

Jon Lovett is Chair in Global Challenges in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and works on institutional economics.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

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