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Global Environmental Politics





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Terrorism is a constant and fearful phenomenon, as America has learned to its recent and terrible cost, and like the nine-headed hydra of ancient mythology, as soon as one group or method is terminated, more spring up to take its place. Environmental terrorism adds a new dimension to this phenomenon, identifying the target as a natural resource or environmental feature. At a time when populations all over the world are increasing, the existing resource base is being stretched to provide for more people, and is being consumed at a faster rate. As the value and vulnerability of these resources increases, so does their attractiveness as terrorist targets. History shows that access to resources has been a proximate cause of conflict, resources have been both tools and targets of conflict, and environmental degradation and disparity in the distribution of resources can cause major political controversy, tension, and violence. The purposeful destruction of a natural resource can now cause more deaths, property damage, political chaos, and other adverse effects than it would have in any previous decade. The choice of environmental resources as targets or tools of terrorism is consistent with both the increasing lethality of terrorism and the growing environmental awareness on the part of the public.


© 2002 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Originally posted online March 13 2006: