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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The environment may become a focus of conflict not through their economic value and the gain from resources, but also using resources as a weapon of war.. The Assyrians used water to attack Babylonians and the U.S. Army slaughtered buffalo to deprive Native Americans of a key economic resource. Countries of the world today have signed treaties that ban the use of weather modification for conflict purposes, either direct or indirect.

Iraq was accused of violating the weather treaty (and others) during the Persian Gulf War. The spilling of oil into the Gulf had only minimal climate impacts, besides the devastation to flora and fauna. The burning of the oil wells had a short-term impact in weather visibility, but the longer-term impact on the weather of the region was perhaps a more important impact.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was justified under a historical territorial claim. Iraq claims Kuwait as one of its provinces that was wrongfully taken from it by Great Britain. This claim predated the more recent economic boom in Kuwait fueled by oil.243 Oil was however a key reason behind Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990. Iraq had incurred a huge debt burden from ambitious military spending (said to be about $70 billion) and a costly war with Iran in the early 1980s. Iraq also accused Kuwait of over-producing oil in spite of OPEC agreement.244

Iraq also claimed that Kuwaiti wells near the Iraq border were drilling at an angle and actually entering Iraqi sovereign soil, albeit hundreds of feet below the surface. (This is similar to the problems faced by countries that adjoin large bodies of water, especially fresh-water lakes and rivers.) Since this pool of oil straddled the border, similar to an aquifer, it was a shared resource and over-production was depleting that resource for the benefit of Kuwait. One can see a precedent argument in ownership of waters that straddle two countries, such as the Great Lakes of North America.

In July of 1990, the Iraqi Regime voiced their belief that excess oil production by Kuwait was intentional. Tensions heightened in the Arab region, and although Saudi Arabia attempted to act as a mediator between the two states, this effort failed. Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2 of that year, and the devastation to the environment began immediately.

Iraq had made previous claims on Kuwaiti territory during its 85-year history. In 1963, Iraqi President Qasim had mobilized forces to invade Kuwait but pulled back because of British, Saudi, Egyptian, Tunisian and Sudanese force deployment in protection of Kuwait. They protected Kuwait in part in respect for their sovereign Arab neighbor and in part because they feared the growth of Iraqi power in the Middle East. For many years after that incident, Kuwait’s sovereignty remained formally unquestioned. During the Iran-Iraq war, however, Saddam Hussein proposed that Kuwait turn over the oil-rich islands of Warba and Bubiyan to Iraq, or that Kuwait allow Iraq to lease the islands indefinitely. Kuwait refused to acquiesce to any of Hussein’s demands. Iraq’s historic understanding of Kuwait’s geographical and strategic importance on the Gulf influenced the Iraqi decision to invade Kuwait.

Iraq invaded Kuwait not only because of its territorial claims and its strategic location on the Arabian Gulf, but because of Kuwait’s consistent defiance of OPEC’s oil production quotas. Quotas were important because it kept oil prices and state revenues for the nationalized industry high. Iraq was suffering economically because of the Iran-Iraq saga and its gigantic foreign debt which amounted to around $90 billion. Iraq looked to regional countries, including Kuwait, to relieve the debt for the war that had protected the entire region. “[T]he Iraqi regime argued that the massive debts that Iraq acquired in the Arab world to protect Gulf countries from their Persian enemy were insignificant compared to the sacrifice made by Iraqis with their blood.”245 Kuwait’s refusal to cancel the debts combined with their consistent overproduction of oil led the Iraqi regime to accuse Kuwait of deliberately trying to undermine the Iraqi economy. Frustration led the Iraqi regime to decide it would be easier to occupy Kuwaiti oil fields than try to negotiate any further, so it did.

The Iraqi occupation was brutal and Kuwaiti zoos became part of the horror. “Some of the animals (from the Kuwait zoo) were transported in their cages to the Baghdad Zoo, and others were shot, cooked and eaten, or left to suffer a lingering starvation and death.”246 Of the animals that remained, they made part of the process of interrogation and revenge. “Inside the wolf compound the remains of a man’s boots hinted at the nightmarish violence which has taken place here; as did the guttra head-dress lying on the floor in a tiger’s cage.”247

Iraqi forces had threatened to destroy Kuwaiti oil fields if U.S. and allied forces counterattacked after the August 2nd invasion. In December 1990, Iraqi troops had already begun experimenting with and packing well heads with explosives. When allied troops began heavy air strikes in January 1991, their own bombs detonated 34 oil wells, while Iraqi troops detonated another 60 in response to the strikes. Overall, the Iraqis detonated around 800 oil wells, of which 730 exploded. Out of that total, 656 of those wells burned for many months, while the other 74 wells overflowed and formed huge lakes. Almost 2 percent of Kuwait’s oil reserves were wasted, and the burning wells released many potential toxic gases (to humans and plants) into the air, including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrogen sulfide (see Table IV-6).

Table IV-6: Kuwaiti Oil Wells248

Kuwait Oil Field Survey



On Fire




















































Umm Gudair
























South Umm Gudair












South Fuwaris


















The environmental impacts of the Gulf War Crisis were felt immediately at the onset of the Iraqi invasion.249 The fragile vegetation suffered from transportation of heavy artillery and movement of troops across the desert. Additionally, the build-up of solid wastes from the destroyed public infrastructure polluted the ground and groundwater. The war uprooted, trampled, and destroyed the limited vegetation.

The atmosphere throughout the region suffered from the fire and smoke that resulted from explosives, intentionally set oil fires, and from both known and unknown chemicals. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened “if he had to be evicted from Kuwait by force, then Kuwait would be burned".250 When Allied forces quickly overwhelmed the Iraqis, he was true to his word and as his troops fled, they set fire to over six hundred oil wells in Kuwait. “Conjecture as to why Saddam Hussein might have authorized this measure included suggestions that he wished to impede the amphibious landing anticipated by his military commanders, or that he intended to cause maximum damage to Saudi Arabian or other Gulf countries’ desalinization plants and sea-water-cooling intakes.” 251

Researchers warned that rising smoke might cause changes in the planet's weather pattern.252 Carl Sagan said "the net effects would be similar to the explosion of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815, which resulted in the year 1816 being known as the year without a summer", but other researchers believed the impacts the smoke's effects would be marginal at worst. Sagan and others arrived at their conclusions based on a nuclear winter fall-out scenario in which smoke would remain entrapped in the upper atmosphere and temperatures would drop radically.253 Climatologist Richard Turco warned that “soot clouds would spread across India and South-East Asia, but there were varying opinions as to weather would reach high enough to create the widespread climatic effects of his scenario.” 254

There was fear that the smoke would affect the monsoon over the Indian subcontinent since the prevailing winds blew east. A more serious problem caused by the acid rain forms from burning oil and harm people with respiratory problems or other diseases. Public health experts projected that the air pollution would (slowly) kill approximately a thousand Kuwaitis.255

The Gulf's ecosystem was not spared either. The Iraqis released about 11 million barrels of oil into the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf, according to the Iranian viewpoint) from January 1991 to May 1991. The spill was more than twenty times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill and twice as large as the previous world record.256 Oil covered more than 800 miles of Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian beaches, devastating marine and bird wildlife. Birds were the hardest hit, along with marine turtles.257 Both the hawksbill and green turtles (an endangered species) utilize the offshore islands of the Gulf as nesting sites.

Another source of sea pollution was due to sea warfare. At least 80 ships sunk during the Gulf War, many of which carried oil and munitions. These ships, along with those purposely sunk during the Iraq-Iran War, will remain a chronic source of contamination of the Arabian Gulf for many years. The Gulf will recover from the oil spills, but it will be different after the recovery. It may take decades for specific ecosystems to recover.258

A sudden deterioration of environmental quality in this region was believed to have resulted from the recent Gulf War during which a large number of oil wells in Kuwait were set on fire. Heavy smokes containing various unknown materials traveled over the sky of Saudi Arabia including the city of Riyadh for several months until the burning oil wells were fully capped.259

About six million barrels of Kuwaiti oil were burning in March 1991. The soot generated was one concern, as one gram of soot can block out two-thirds of the light falling over an area of eight to ten square meters. Accordingly, scientists calculated that the release of two million barrels of oil per day could generate a plume of smoke and soot that would cover an area of half of the United States. Weather patterns and climactic conditions could have carried such a plume great distances to severely hamper agricultural production in remote areas of the world.

Another concern centered on the effects of the height of such a smoke plume, where upon reaching a specified height (35,000 to 40,000 feet) and temperature (400 degrees Celsius), such a plume would cause a serious erosion of the ozone layer which could be highly hazardous to plant and animal life. Kuwaiti crude oil contains 2.44 percent sulfur and 0.14 percent nitrogen, and it was estimated that the daily sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions would be between 750 and 10,000 tons per day, leading to human health problems and damage to agricultural production.

Hundreds of miles of the Kuwaiti desert were left uninhabitable, due to the accumulation of oil lakes and to soot from the burning wells. One to two million of migratory birds visit the Gulf each year on their way to northern breeding grounds, and thousands of cormorants, migratory birds indigenous to the Gulf region, died because of exposure to oil or from polluted air.

The fishing industry in the Gulf was crippled by the oil spills. Before the war, harvests of marine life were up to 120,000 tons of fish a year. After the oil spill, these numbers significantly dropped. Other species effected by the oil spillage included green and hawksbill turtles (already classified as endangered species), leatherback and loggerhead turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins, flamingoes, and sea snakes.

The impacts were on top of ‘normal’ pollution in the Gulf (caused by frequent spills of oil and emissions of dirty ballast from passing tankers). Over the long-term, they may pose a greater environmental threat than any damage inflicted by the Kuwaiti oil fires. The Gulf is polluted by 1.14 million tons of oil per year (equivalent to 25,000 barrels of oil per day), which is dispersed by 40 percent of the more than 6,000 oil tankers which transverse the Gulf each year.

Another concern raised about the spillage of oil into the Gulf stemmed from the overall reliance on water in the region. Seventy to ninety percent of the populace depends on desalination plants for fresh water supplies, and the oil spillage threatened the precious desalination plants, as well as power plants and industrial facilities all along the Gulf coast. As to the direct impact on human health, health experts noted that the residual effects of hydrocarbons in the air or in peoples' bodies would precipitate a dramatic increase in lung cancer and birth defects across the region in as little as fifteen years. Other scientists predicted that Kuwait's death rate could rise by as much as ten percent within a short time frame. There has been intense speculation in the United States that the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome", which currently affects almost 10,000 U.S. troops who served in the Gulf, may have been caused by the release of chemicals from the burning oil wells.260

In 1993 Farouq al-Baz, director of Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing, stated that more than 240 oil lakes had been discovered in the Kuwaiti desert. Al-Baz added that "'Birds, plants and marine life are still suffering from the effects of the war and damage to the desert itself could persist for decades.” In addition, the mixture of sand and oil residue in the Kuwaiti desert created large areas that effectively were reduced to semi-asphalt surfaces. By the fall of 1995, disturbing reports were filed from Kuwait claiming that sunken Iraqi warships filled with chemical munitions off the coast of Kuwait posed a serious and urgent threat to the regional environment.

In September 1995, Kuwait filed a $385 million claim against Iraq for compensation for environmental damage due to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. More specifically, Kuwait submitted five claims to the United Nations for environmental damages covering health, coastal areas, maritime environment, ground water resources, and desert environmental damages.

The Saudi Fisheries Company announced in 1992 that the shrimp and prawn fishing industries had lost over $55 million. Since shrimp reproduce in the spring when water temperature rises, the decrease in temperature could have thrown off reproductive activities. In fact, plankton larvae numbers significantly declined as well in 1992. Likely, the thick plumes and soot deposits on the water surface in the Gulf had a lot to do with the change in the marine environment. Additionally, the oil that spilled into the Gulf directly and through the watershed destroyed coral reefs and other marine life.

Migratory birds confused the oil lakes for bodies of water and died as a result. Many wildlife were driven from the land from the noises of war, however, their new obstacles are the unexploded landmines under the broken gravel and sand surface. The breakage of the desert topsoil (mostly from tanks, but also from oil lakes) led directly to more desert storms and less spring vegetation growth.261

Some scientists speculated that a 1994 cyclone in Bangladesh that killed 100,000 people was precipitated, in part, due to climactic changes from the Kuwait oil fires. In direct damage costs, Kuwait calculates that it suffered $170 billion in losses, and that this figure may rise to as high as $700 billion. In September 1995, Kuwait submitted a $385 million environmental damage claim against Iraq to the UN.

Christopher Flavin of the World watch Institute called the Gulf War “the most environmentally destructive conflict in the history of warfare.” He called for a workable environmental code for the conduct of war, including enforcement mechanisms for violators.” 262 The impact was felt to some degree over a large area and in differing ways. Black snow was reported in the Swiss Alps and black rain fell in Baluchistan in Pakistan.263

d. Comparing and Reflecting on the Weapons Cases
Modern Mesopotamian depends upon the water of the Tigris and Euphrates, and that dependence shapes the political and economic life of the people living between the two rivers. The dependence fuels the legal disputes on water in Mesopotamia. Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq all share the traditional Islamic law view of water management. These countries allocate water among communal water systems, which they have used since the Code of Hammurabi. In fact, the term “shari’a” in Islamic law originally meant “the path to the watering place”.264 Additionally, Israel treats water as a community resource as opposed to private property. Despite the community tradition, Middle Eastern countries fight about water more than any other resource.

Defending the Tigris-Euphrates River remains an important part of Iraqi national security objectives. Iraq maintains that it has "acquired rights" relating to its "ancestral irrigations" on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Evidently these security concerns date back over 2,500 years. According to Iraq, there exist two dimensions of acquired rights. The first dimension is ancient: the historical inhabitants of Mesopotamia have relied on this water (even to defend themselves) and have an acquired right to it. Therefore, no upstream riparian country is entitled to take away the rights of these inhabitants. The second dimension is modern: acknowledging the irrigation and water installations. Iraq has 1.9 million hectares of agricultural land in the Euphrates Basin, including an ancestral irrigation system left from the Sumerians times. Perhaps these systems were built using the moats and canals that defended the city of Babylon.

The conflict over war has a long history and in the Middle East this history is virtually uninterrupted. Populations have overused the waters for millennia, since the Agricultural Conjunction and soon after cities emerged in Mesopotamia. Over time the use of irrigated water contaminated many fields through the slow but eventual depositing of salts and chemicals.

Over that long history it is remarkable in the many ways in which water was used as a resource in conflict. The options were simple: the water could be diverted either toward or away from an opponent to gain some short or long-term advantage. Water is different in modern states where dams created giant lakes or water reserves. Dams allow for vastly more regular water for household, agriculture and industry, and provide some incentive for sporting and fishing businesses. On top of that, it is a huge provider of electricity that can supply large numbers of people. These super “water assets” are prime conflict targets in modern conflict.

In the “ancient cases”, water was a valuable resource for the Babylonians yet the Assyrians turned this resource against them. By damming the rivers and diverting them, they flooded out the defenders. In this case, the resource was not directed back at the defender but the defender was deprived of the resource. The Buffalo case is similar to the struggle between humans and Neanderthal over hunting resources and thus the tactic, whether intended or inadvertent, has a long precedent.

In the case “middle case” of Robin Hood the access to deer as protein is similar to the needs of the Native Americans and buffalo. It also provides an interesting counterpoint to the related Native American cases regarding the Mayans and the Anasazi whose lifestyles were dictated by differing environmental and economic strategies. These differences also led to differing forms of conflict over differing types of environmental issues. They wiped out the deer.

Why did the climate turn colder in the 1000 to1500 time period? Some suggest that a single cataclysmic event triggered some a period of general decline that also revealed by the Dark Ages in Europe, the failure of several Central American Empires, and the rise of Islam in the Middle East. This event could have been an asteroid striking in Siberia or some relatively unpopulated location, or a super volcanic eruption, like a Krakatoa in Indonesia.265

The environment was used as a weapon by the Assyrians (water and flooding), the Americans (exterminating buffalo), and by the Iraqi regime (by causing massive air, sea and land pollution). The ways in which one can manipulate the environment to cause damage is probably limitless, especially with today’s technology. Both winners and losers in conflict have pursued scorched earth policies. This includes various proposed (or real) terrorist acts such as poisoning water supplies (although the Romans salted wells of conquered people), the purposeful spread of disease (such as smallpox or anthrax in today’s security climate), and the like.

Key resources have been a recurring theme throughout time and a source of conflict. Such conflict is often context dependent from a historical standpoint. Wood has served this role over time, as well as gold and guano. Oil has become the focus of political and economic introspection because of its importance to the world economy.
6. Boundaries
As states developed they established permanent boundaries and attempted to control the flow of people and things through these permeable lines. In extreme cases, man-made barriers to travel are constructed and represent near total-control of the areas. This section looks at three types of separating boundaries and their manifold implication: the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall in the United Kingdom, and the de-militarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.

Boundaries show up as a key part of territorial issues in the ICE cases. These are often long-term in nature and associated with statement that are drawn out over trends on competing demographics amongst differing populations. Boundaries (or borders) are part of the red feedback loop in the conflict sub-system associated with territory, long-term conflicts, and stalemate outcomes.

There are also aspects of the cases that follow found in the blue loop of the conflict sub-system (see Figure IV-10). This loop involves conflict at several levels (sub-state, unilateral and multilateral) that are long-term in duration and have a high level of conflict.
Figure IV-10

The Border Causal System (blue loop in the Conflict Sub-System)

1. Preventing Conflict though Manipulation of the Environment (Boundaries): The Impact of China’s Great Wall on the Environment









The control of water assets to create barriers, as in the case of moats, became a tool for defense in conflict. Such structures started as protections around city-states but grew to serve as protective devices for large countries. The development of large-scale societies likely began in China and other parts of Asia, where then, as today, they held the largest concentrations of human populations. These extreme cases of human concentration place extraordinary demands on the environment and resulted in some of the grandest construction projects on the planet in its history. In this tradition, China has built the world’s largest dam (Three Gorges) although an extensive system of canals has been in place for several thousand years.

A clash of cultures began to take shape about 3,000 years ago. Even by this date, China had developed into a vast, agrarian society that built on the success of the Agricultural Conjunction. To the north in Mongolia, peoples had developed advanced nomadic lifestyles that relied on the use of the horse. With technological advancement, the horse also provided considerable military advantage, especially in addition to the inventions of saddles, reins, horse shoes, and other intermediary technological advances. The agrarian Chinese needed a defense from such “blitzkrieg” attacks. The solution was to build the Great Wall of China.

The Great Wall stretches for 4,160 miles across North China.266 Its construction began far back in Chinese history in the Spring and Autumn periods (770-476 BC) and the Warring States period (475-221 BC). When Emperor Qin Shihuang unified China, he linked and extended the walls. Prisoners of war, convicts, soldiers, civilians and farmers provided labor. In 246 BC, the ruler of State of Qin (Zheng Ying) had conquered much of China and adopted the title First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang Di). He unified weights and measure, standardized the coinage and even unified the axle lengths of the wagons.

This progress came at a cost. Millions died and many Chinese legends tell of parted lovers and men dying of starvation and disease. Many bodies are buried in the foundations of the wall. Qin Shihuang garrisoned armies at the Wall to stand guard over the workers as well as to defend the northern boundaries. The tradition lasted for centuries. Each successive dynasty added to the height, breadth, length, and elaborated the design of this mammoth structure, mostly through forced labor.
Figure IV-10

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall crosses plateaus, mountains, deserts, rivers and valleys, passing through five provinces and two autonomous regions. It averages about 20 feet wide and 26 feet high. Parts of the wall are so broad that 10 persons can walk across it side by side. Most visitors see the Wall that was restored in the Ming dynasty, when stone slabs replaced clay bricks. It took 100 years to rebuild, and it is said that the amount of material used in the present wall alone is enough to circle the world at the equator five times. The Great Wall, known in Mandarin as "Wan-Li Ch'ang-Ch'eng" (10,000 Li Long Wall), stretches approximately 4,000 miles (6,400 km) west to east from the Jiayu Pass (in Gansu Province) to Po Hai near the mouth of the Yalu River (see Figure IV-10).

Parts of the Great Wall date from the 4th century BC. In 214 BC Shih Huang-ti, the first emperor of a united China connected a number of existing defensive walls into a single system fortified by watchtowers. The towers served to both guard the rampart and to communicate with the former capital, Hsien-yang, near Sian, by signal--smoke by day and fire by night. Burning a mixture of wolf dung, sulfur and saltpeter produced smoke. Through the system, an alarm was relayed over 500 km within just a few hours (France had a similar system in the Middle Ages).

During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the Wall took its present form. The brick and granite work was enlarged, and sophisticated designs were added. The watchtowers were redesigned and modern cannons mounted in strategic areas (the cannons imported from Portugal).

The wall was an effective deterrent for hundreds of years, but when the dynasty weakened from within, the invaders from the north were able to re-conquer China. Both the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368) and the Manchurians (Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911) were able to conquer the Chinese, not because of weakness in the Wall but because of inner weakness and poverty. The cost of the wall's construction bankrupted dynasty after dynasty. Invaders, such as the Mongols, took advantage of rebellion from within and stepped into the void of power.

The grand design for the wall started in the Zhou dynasty (1134 BC to 250 BC). The purpose of this structure was to stop the 'barbarians' from crossing the northern border of China. More than 4,600 years ago, there had been continuous violent conflicts between the agricultural Han Chinese on the south and the Non-Han Chinese herdsmen to the north. Their technological capacities reflected both their technology and their climate. The three northern vassal States Yan, Zhao and Qin of the Han Chinese during the Zhou Dynasty (1134 BC to 250 BC), started the walls along their northern frontiers to protect themselves.

Yan, whose capital is the present day Beijing, lasted from 766 BC to 222 BC. It erected a long wall along its northern frontier from Liaoning Peninsula to the north of Beijing in Hebei province. Zhao, whose capital is the present day Han Dan Xian in Hebei province, existed from 453 BC to 228 BC and built a long wall along its northern frontier from the north of Beijing. The State of Qin (present day Xian in Shaanxi province) existed from 777 BC to 207 BC, added a wall in its northern frontier from the banks of the Yellow River to the plateau of Long Xi in Gansu province.

As the wall was built, the various Non-Han Chinese tribes unified and became a rival to the Qin Empire. The conflict grew as the Han Chinese farmers moved north and came into conflict with nomadic tribes. The Qin armies drove the nomads back to the Gobi Desert. To secure the northern frontiers, Emperor Ying mobilized all the able-bodied subjects in China to join up all the walls erected by the States of Yan and Zhao. When all the old walls were connected, it was called "Wan Li Chang Cheng” (Ten Thousand Li Long Wall) and became a permanent barrier separating the agricultural Han Chinese on the south of the Wall from the Non-Han Chinese nomadic cattle-raisers on the north. What remains of the Great Wall today consists of five sections.

1. The Mutianyu (north-east) section was built for watching and shooting at an invading enemy. It consists of several battle forts spread about 50 meters apart.

2. To the east, there is the Gubeikou section, where the smoke alarms were set.

3. The Badaling (west) section is probably the best preserved of all of the sections.

4. The Jinshanling Section is known for its detailed architecture.

5. Finally, the Sumatai section, east of Jinshanling, is 3,000 miles long, resting mainly on a mountain ridge surrounded by sharp rocks. This section contains 35 well-preserved battle forts.

The environmental impact of the wall’s construction is manifold. First, just building the wall required moving enormous amounts of stone. Unearthing the stones would have required moving a tremendous amount of soil as well, as would build a base for the wall. As the wall crept west, there were fewer stones available, especially as it approached the Gobi Desert. Over time, the Chinese developed a system of using loose material, even sand, mixed with willow grass or other vegetation for stability, and tamping the mass down into a compact, concrete-like compound.

Second, the maintaining of a large standing population of men to build the wall alone required an enormous amount of resources. It was essentially a large city that moved continuously and one which the area’s resources would normally not have been able to support. The fires needed for cooking and warmth led to massive deforestation in this semi-arid land. This was especially true in the west.

Third, the need for game to feed the large work force led a zone around the area of the workforce essentially devoid of certain species that they ate. Predator animals would be killed as threats to the work force. One can imagine that the wake of building the wall left a swathe of destruction: a treeless and denuded plain devoid of animals. It would no doubt take centuries for the environment to recover. Finally, the wall meant to keep out the Mongols, but it would keep out animals as well that returned to the area. It would interfere with the migration of land mammals which probably were segmented into populations isolated on either side of the wall. Thus, populations of a variety of animals were separated into two distinct groups.

The wall was heavily garrisoned and armed with cannons. While there are few records of military losses from that time, an estimated two to three million Chinese died over the centuries that it took to complete the wall. Furthermore, those stationed at the wall were subject to the hazards of the unexplored Chinese North. Many died from random attacks by Mongol bands, bandits, and wild animals, hunger, and disease. This was an early attempt to create an area of sovereign control. Border check points and defended boundaries were part of this effort.

After the wall fell into disuse, the stones and building materials were recycled by villagers along the route who used it to build houses and other structures. The greatest modern threat to the Great Wall comes from the roughly 10 million visitors who come to it each year and dislodge stones, litter, and mark it with graffiti. As a result, the Chinese government has declared certain portions of the structure off-limits to tourists.
b. Hadrian’s Wall and the Environmental Roots of the End of Roman Expansion









The Great Wall in China changed societies, technologies and the environment. The wall was an extremely expensive operation that not only cost a lot to build but a tremendous amount to maintain. In the end, after several thousands years, it did fail and the Manchu’s took over China. It is hard to say whether it was worth it because, in the end, the Manchu’s were assimilated into Chinese society even when they did finally breach the wall.

In Europe, growing populations and convergences of empires took place later in history. A similar “end of empire” mentality overcame the Romans, around the 1st century A.D. and they retreated behind lines drawn across several continents. On mainland Europe, the Danube and Rhine rivers served as these boundaries and a wall of timber that stretched across the countryside covered the gap between the two. On the island of Britain, the Romans advanced north until they met stiff resistance from the Picts (a people related to the Scots, a Celtic people). Rather than waste effort on attempting to conquer Scots, the Roman Emperor Hadrian chose to build a wall instead. No doubt Hadrian had reports of the Great Wall in China and adapted the idea.

Britain was a difficult place and the British a difficult people to conquer. Julius Caesar invaded in 55 and 54 BC, but gained only a toehold in the southwest corner of the country. Caligula tried again in 40 AD. Claudius, a few years later, was the first to make any substantial inroads into Britain.267 Roman forces led by Agricola advanced into northern England (Northumberland and Cumbria) around 80 AD. The Romans built series of bridges, forts, roads and camps as they pushed north in to Scotland to fortify their conquests.

The Romans however found that the “northern part proved more difficult to suppress. The terrain was harder, the winters fiercer, and the supply routes longer.”268 They decided to build a wall across Scotland to defend against the warring tribes. There were many reasons for Hadrian’s Wall. It was also the result of a political decision (on the extent of the empire) and an accident of geography (an isthmus) that made the wall a practical option. The wall served a man-made purpose that the natural Rhine River did in providing separation between the Roman Empire and hostile groups on its boundaries.

The Romans gradually left Britain in the early fifth century as the Empire declined, but this process had already begun around 100 AD. Part of the withdrawal was in the face of Scot resistance, also “to contribute to Trojan’s wars of conquest in southern Europe and the East [Dacia and Pathia]”.269 The ensuing periods often represented drastic changes. In the sixth and seventh centuries, the area around Galloway was part of the Celtic kingdom of Rheged and there were numerous invasions by pagan English tribes during this period.

Hadrian's Wall stretched from Newcastle upon Tyne in the east to Carlisle in the west, for moving troops, completed in the second century AD. The main western road originated in Stanwix, a fort on Hadrian's Wall.

Hadrian's Wall had several parts: the Wall itself; the Vallum, (a defensive ditch which marked the rear edge of the Wall zone); a road system; and 16 forts (and nearby civilian settlements) along or near the Wall. There are also many earlier Roman military works such as marching camps and permanent bases. Hadrian built a 73 mile wall that stretched across Britain: 10 feet broad and 14 feet high with a ditch in front that was 30 feet wide and 9 feet deep. At every mile along the wall, there has a small fort built into the wall and halfway between them were two turrets for signaling. Elsewhere in the empire, Hadrian built other artificial barriers. In Germany, there were palisades of timber to mark the extreme boundaries of the empire that had made to decision to end the process of endless expansion (see Figure IV-11). The Antonine Wall was a somewhat later attempt to push this boundary further north, but the attempt was relatively short-lived.

Figure IV-11

Antonine and Hadrian Walls

Roman remains of Hadrian’s Wall survive remarkably well. In east Northumberland, the Wall is for the most part buried but the earthworks survive and are visible for many miles. The earthworks must have had major effects on the Roman landscape. One estimate suggests they moved 3.7 million tons of stone to supply material for the wall. 270 In the central sector, the remains of the Wall and associated features are prominent and often dominate the local landscape. The significance of the Wall corridor in archaeological terms, and its complexity, was recognized by the designation of the Hadrian's Wall Military Zone as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The wall, born of conflict, has itself produced a myriad of environmental impacts. The first impact would be on larger land animals that migrate with the season. The impact separated these animals (deer, elk, wolves and the like) into smaller genetic pools or limited their access to food sources during certain times of the year. The impacts of the wall on area microenvironments were enormous. It not only changed the environment that existed but changed it to a zone that was wall-dependent in its vegetal disposition. The collection of rocks itself tended to make the summers hotter in this zone and the winters milder. With the grazing of animals around the Wall’s villages, forests were discouraged and grasslands were encouraged. Here was a clear case where conflict had an enormous impact on the environment in a most subtle manner.

Compared to earlier empires, “the Roman Empire was different because its organization and military power gave it the potential to exist beyond the personality of the emperor…Hadrian recognized that the Empire could not expand indefinitely and decided to consolidate frontiers…The meandering line of the Wall and its associated structures represent a considerable achievement for a non-industrial society.”271 The wall played a small role in a later conflict. In 1745, Charles Stuart and his Jacobite forces invaded England to restore the Catholic Crown. Lacking an adequate road the British forces were first unable to move and were ultimately driven back by Stuart and his forces. But the British eventually prevailed. After the war, the British used stones from the foundation of Hadrian’s Wall to build a military road to make future troop movements easier. Thus, Hadrian’s Wall played a role in a conflict 1,500 tears after its construction.

The purpose of the wall was to provide a buffer zone and a cordon sanitaire for the Roman Empire vis-à-vis Scottish tribes in the northern part of the island of Britain. However, that is only a physical interpretation of the structure. The wall served several other purposes as well, “The Wall, despite being devised as a strategic and political tool, would also have involved the troops in all the homogenizing and morale-boosting competitive wide-effects of mutual participation in a major project.” 272 The immensity of the project provided its own microcosm of activity. “In time the Wall probably became so integrated a part of military routine and local civilian life that its original intentions were largely forgotten.” 273

Figure IV-12

The Extent of the Roman Empire

The wall was in fact a historic success and established a line of Roman control that allowed the creation of Roman institutions in northern England. The position to pull back, some three hundred years later, suggests that the policy provided some short-term stability as well. The reasons for building the wall are also thought to be the result of internal Roman political machinations rather than external threats. “The abandonment of Trajan’s conquests aroused hostile reaction; and further, it was suspected that the deathbed adoption of Hadrian was a fake, stage-managed by Trajan’s widow in the interests of her favourite.”274 Yet, it was during this time that ended Roman expansion (imperirum sine fine) and soon thereafter Hadrian pulled out of the Middle East around the Euphrates and lands on the other side of the lower Danube River (see Figure IV-12).

Hadrian “knew as the British Army in the Egyptian desert were to demonstrate in 1940, that a force on the strategic defensive (as the Romans were in the face of Northern Barbarians) must continually adopt the tactical offensive. The use of a line of static forts, he realized, was minimal and what was required was a system of fortifications. Which would give his army the maximum mobility, would ensure that it would always have initiative, and would give it control over a wide area and the vital communications which furnished the supplies of the area.”275
c. The Korean Demilitarized Zone and Environmental Protection









The Chinese and Romans built great walls that separated empires and this tradition of great walls continues today. Walls today are more elaborate variations on this basic theme and constructed of sophisticated materials than rock and mortar. These systems not only include the armed forces that were associated with protecting the walls, but also new ways of interdicting advancing forces that included barbed wire, land mines, and systems of lighting, sound, and movement detection, and many other mechanical means not available to the Chinese and Romans.

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea is a modern barrier like the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall. By proximity, it is in the same region as the Great Wall, but in practice it is more like Hadrian’s Wall. Both are relatively short, but cross peninsulas in a manner that is much less permeable (and long), compared to the Great Wall.

The environment is part of the story of the DMZ in many ways. One story is particularly poignant. The DMZ is heavily militarized and constantly weapons are directed from one side towards the other. A small environmental issue in the DMZ near Panmunjon nearly resulted in conflict.

“It started with a tree. It nearly ended in war. On Aug. 18, 1976, a South Korean work party supervised by two U.S. Army officers was sent to prune a 100-foot poplar tree in the Joint Security Area along the Demilitarized Zone, which marks the border between North and South Korea.”276

There was key bridge in the DMZ, called the “Bridge of No Return”, that allowed access to both sides of the DMZ for parties in the conflict across a river. There was nearby “a row of poplar trees, and the fifth tree blocked a line of sight between checkpoint 3 and the bridge from the view of check point 5. In the Joint Security Area, the trimming of a poplar tree each summer was a routine procedure. However, in early August 1976, a South Korean work force was threatened with death if they tried to trim the tree.”277

A few North Korean troops arrived and demanded a stop to the operation, but the pruning continued. Shortly thereafter, about 20 North Koreans ascended on them. Some accounts say they brought carrying metal pipes and axes, others say they overwhelmed the smaller party and took their axes away from them. They attacked the pruning party and set upon two American officers, killing them with the axes.278

The incident resulted in one of the greatest crises there since the end of Korean War. The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Midway went to the waters of the peninsula and fighter jets and bombers were moved from Okinawa in Japan to South Korea. Troops were put on alert.

Three days later the United States launched “Operation Paul Bunyan”, where U.S. Army engineers returned to the tree protected by infantrymen, with Cobra helicopters, F-11 jet fighters, and B-52 bombers in the air above. Artillery units were stationed nearby. The engineers cut down the tree. It was alleged that Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, wanted to launched retaliatory bombing attacks on North Korea.279

The military demarcation line or MDL separates North and South Korea is a temporary rather than a permanent structure, at least according to the treaty. The De-Militarized Zone or DMZ is an area of 2 kilometers on either side of the MDL. Entry into the territory, contiguous waters, or airspace is prohibited under the Armistice treaty that ended the war.280

This stipulation did not prevent the North Koreans from attempting to infiltrate the south underground. Kim-Il Sung allegedly gave an order in the 1970s that each army division along the border was required to dig and maintain two infiltration tunnels each. The first such tunnel was discovered in 1974 and the second a year later.

I taught a course in Seoul, South Korea, at Sookmyung University, in the summer of 2004 and visited one of the infiltration tunnels. The trip from a downtown Seoul hotel was not far, but there were several checkpoints along the way where our passports were checked. The route from Seoul took us near the coast and the urban setting of the city quickly vanished into a relatively little developed area. Surprisingly, there are people, mostly farmers, who live with in these zones.

We stopped at a visitor center and watched a video and visited concession stores that mostly focused on the DMZ. From there, we visited a military overlook station on a hill that viewed the valley of the DMZ below. There was a village there, but the North Korean “peasants” are said to be members of the North Korean military and it is largely a Potemkin village.

From there went to the infiltration tunnel. Tram cars took us into the ground and we wore helmets and were instructed to watch our head due to the narrow hole. You could hear the sound of plastic on rock as people’s helmets grazed the low-hanging roof. Water trips from the roof and the place smelled of mold. A swift, cool breeze blew through the tunnel. At the bottom of the tram was a larger tunnel that had been blocked out with concrete and no doubt armed with explosives. This was a short portion of a discovered North Korean infiltration tunnel.

When it was discovered, the North Korean government claimed that this was a coal mine that had probably strayed off course. The geology of the area however was not a type likely to have coal deposits. The North Koreas also smeared some mixture on the walls of the tunnel to give the impression that coal was present. The North Koreans also alleged that it was actually the South Koreans who had dug the tunnel. An examination of blasting patterns however showed that the tunnel excavation was done in a north to south pattern.

The DMZ separated one people divided by two ideologies. The conflict itself was horrendous. The Korean War led to a loss of life estimated around 5 million. The conflict nearly grew into a much larger conflagration. General Douglas MacArthur proposed the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict against Chinese forces and this eventually led to his dismissal by U.S. President Truman.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when Korea invaded South Korea. At the time, it was thought that Mao Tse-Tung in China and Joseph Stalin in Russia engineered the invasion, but later reports suggested that Kim Il-sung was behind the act and that China and Russia later “approved” of it. The West viewed the invasion as a threat to the stability of Northeast Asia and particularly to Japan.

Under the policy of “containment”, the West responded. U.S. President Truman said that the “attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war."

The end of the Korean War in 1953 was a cease-fire only.281 Signatories were North Korea, China and the United States, and South Korea never did sign a peace treaty with the North. The armistice created a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that was a buffer zone between the North and the South. The DMZ is heavily fortified and laden with thousands of land mines making human habitation nearly impossible. The DMZ provides an environment in which hundreds of species of plants and animals (some endangered) have flourished because of the danger to humans.

The DMZ is one of the most "phenomenal military edifices left on this planet after the end of the Cold War".282 It is about 150 miles in length along the 38th parallel and is two and a half miles wide with a buffer zone around it. Combined, the swath is a stretch of about six miles that cuts the Korean continent in two. The terrain in the DMZ varies quite a bit and includes a series of ecosystems, and habitat types that ranges from mountains to jungles. This strip of land has been untouched by human hands since the signing of the armistice in 1953, making it one of the most protected “parks” in the world.

Since that time, the DMZ has become home to many species of plants and animals. With the industrialization of South Korea and the desperate situation in North Korea, extinction has become a major problem on the peninsula. However, many of the plants and animals on most of the peninsula do exist in the DMZ. Mammals and birds are especially under threat on the peninsula. Over 10 percent of both mammals and birds are threatened with extinction.283

The DMZ has become an important stop for birds on "the East Asia Migratory Flyway".284 Rare Manchurian Cranes and Siberian herons are two of the many birds that use the DMZ as a resting place along their migration route. However, this strip of land has drawn more than just birds. South Korean researchers found "41 native and 40 rare species of plants, along with 16 native and 8 rare species of fish in the three-mile wide South Korean buffer zone adjacent to the DMZ.” 285 They also found 14 species of animals not known to live in the area and 8 species threatened or endangered.

The DMZ is a successful habitat precisely because it is dangerous for humans. The United States has refused to participate in negotiations to ban land mines, largely because of the roughly one million land mines used to protect South Korea from an invasion by North Korea. Pentagon strategists assert that the land mines are vital to thwarting any invasion by almost one million North Korean troops posted along the DMZ.286

The relative sanctity of the DMZ stands into stark contrast to the state of the environment in South Korea, which has undergone considerable modernization. “In South Korea's rush toward modernization, it has sacrificed some of the natural beauty for which the Korean Peninsula was known as the "land of embroidered rivers and mountains.” Today, 48 percent of reptiles and 60 percent of amphibians in South Korea are either extinct or endangered.”287 A “1994 bio-diversity study revealed that over 20% of South Korea's terrestrial vertebrates are already extirpated or endangered, namely 30% of mammals, 14% of birds, 48% of lizards, snakes and turtles, and 60% of frogs and salamanders.”288

Modernization’s impact is accompanied by the impact of old traditions. This is particularly the case with respect to wildlife. “In the Korean psyche wildlife to most people is not the nature's wonder to respect and enjoy and the natural heritage to cherish and sustainably conserve. Rather, in Korean culture, wild animals and plants are utilitarian objects at a personal level and something to exploit, eat and nourish the body. There are large markets in Korea and many parts of Asia for meat and body parts from wild animals and for wild plants; for food and medicinal use. Animal poaching is simply a matter of business concerns for financial gain and would cease were there no market.”289

It is ironic that the pristine nature of the DMZ and its capacity to serve as a wildlife sanctuary is viable only as long as threatened conflict exists between North and South Korea. Some environmentalists fear a peace treaty would lead to the invasion of the DMZ -- by South Korea developers. Parts of the DMZ are within 20 miles of Seoul.

A differing approach would be to expand the DMZ in terms of a peace park and take the opportunity to set aside valuable land for protection on a peninsula were wilderness is under threat. KC Kim sees the DMZ as an "eventual core of a larger network of protected areas across Korea, all connected by natural corridors or greenways".290 Kim proposes that the DMZ become a system of bio-reserves. These would offer sanctuary for rare and endangered species of plants and animals. In addition, it would offer an economic boost for both countries through "increasingly popular ecotourism and research of organisms which may have medical and commercial uses".291 The species are not limited to tigers. “Heavily exploited in traditional medicine markets and for such products as bear paw soup, black bears have largely disappeared in South Korea…The DMZ may be one of the few areas remaining where any significant populations are left.”292

Endangered species seem to thrive in this environment, precisely because they can often return to their status as a primary predator – now that humans are not around. US soldiers stationed in the DMZ have reported tiger sightings and there are allegedly tigers caught on video jumping over the barbwire that carpets the area. U.S. soldiers can use weapons against the tigers in protection.293

Some argue that promoting healthy environment such as the DMZ is part of unification and prosperity issues for the peninsula. "Healthy environment and rich natural heritage are of paramount importance for the future of unified Korea. Environmental concerns underlie all of the major topics that have been identified as priority, (including) economic cooperation, tension and arms reduction.” Further, it might serve as a boost to both economies: “Creating a nature reserve might result in economic opportunities such as eco-tourism. “294

North Korea has also suggested the DMZ’s might be preserved for environmental reasons. 295 “The director-general of North Korea’s Nature Conservation Union in Pyongyang, in a radio statement broadcast by the government’s official news agency, cited preservation of the DMZ as a worthy goal. Nine years ago the two governments formally agreed that the DMZ ultimately should be used for “peaceful purposes.” 296

Kim sees the DMZ bioreserve as a way to enhance cooperation between the two Koreas, in addition to its importance for conservation. "The environment is a benign, seemingly apolitical issue on which the Koreans could possibly agree," observes Kim. Environmental issues may be the least provocative way of breaking the ice".297
d. Comparing and Reflecting on the Boundary Cases
The Great Wall was the first, the foremost and the most famous attempt to separate peoples through the creating of physical barriers. Many have followed, such as Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall and the Korean DMZ. Israel is building a wall to separate it from its Arab neighbors.

Several millennia ago, the Chinese were terra-forming the planet on a scale not attained for thousands of years later. They created hills, mountains, impenetrable barriers of stone and mud, and berms that were similar in impact to huge changes in geology. The changes in geological structure were particularly disadvantageous for the horse-based military and economic systems of the northerners. Nonetheless, it had a similar impact on other large, migrating species indigenous to the area.

Was the wall worth it? It did last for a long time and was built at great cost. Ultimately, it failed, but even in its failure the Chinese were able to absorb the invaders rather be absorbed. There is no doubt that the wall was a demarcation of economic system, but it could not alter long term social trends.

The Great Wall stopped the Mongols advance towards the south, at least for several thousand years. Rather, the Mongols and the Huns turned to the south, conquering India, the Middle East, and driving west deep into the heartland of Europe. There, they ravaged European kingdoms and the remnants of the Roman Empire. As they advanced whole populations moved further west, creating a huge migration of peoples into Western Europe.

Perhaps the idea of the Great Wall in China laid the seeds for the Great Wall in Britain. No doubt word of the wall traveled throughout Eurasia – it was, after all, the largest construction project in history. The Great Wall of China began from a series of short walls and there is no reason why this would not continue in Europe, as a means of linking up defensive systems. Perhaps Hadrian’s Wall had persisted as a viable physical barrier and of an idea of an Iron Curtain that existed across Europe during the Cold War. In Britain, a wall separated people, as today it separates peoples in the West Bank and on the Korean peninsula. These walls are clearly more than mere physical barriers. They serve to define zones of ideology and social systems in the context of environmental possibilities and the difference, over time, can become quite stark.

China’s Great Wall was certainly an antecedent for the Hadrian, but the outcomes and circumstances were entirely different. Hadrian’s Wall was shorter, fewer resources used and the life span of it less in time and scope. A system of walls was also used, along with water barriers, in the case study on the defense of Babylon from the Assyrians noted earlier.

The example of Hadrian’s Wall clearly demonstrates how conflict can lead to enormous changes in the environment as combatants attempt to remake the environment to fulfill their own strategic purposes. The impact many years later would not only reveal separated biological systems, at least for certain land animals, but very distinct social, economic and social systems among human beings.

The clearest relevant examples from the earlier cases are the stone walls built by the Chinese and the Romans. In terms of size, the Korean DMZ more closely resembles Hadrian’s Wall, which only provides perspectives on the scale of China’s Great Wall. The walls were not only physical separations of peoples but distinctive lines between types of economic systems. The Great Wall separated the sedentary Chinese system of the south with the nomadic horse-based system of the north. Likewise, the sedentary crop production of Romans stood in stark contrast to the pastoral strategies of the Picts (Scots). The DMZ separates capitalist South Korea from communist North Korea. Whereas the first two conflicts related to environmental and conflict barriers had mostly negative impacts on the environment, in the DMZ it provided a convenient sanctuary for wildlife.

The irony that a dangerous place for human is a (somewhat) safe place for plants and animals is not lost. In many ways, the DMZ is a type of national park, but one where tourism is forbidden. The keeping out of tourists and settlements tips the balance from humans back to nature. Barriers now are more than just land features. As the case of the Korean DMZ illustrates, it also includes air, land water, and underground dimensions.
C. Environment and Conflict: The Cases Through Time
A differing perspective on the cases is to look at them through the time periods to which they belong. Along with this grouping, the relevant coding of the cases can also be shown and discussed through temporal analysis.
1. Ancient Case Patterns
Climate change is a strong driver of conflict behavior in this ancient historical period. People begin to establish stable centers of economic and social life, but declining resources or increasing populations inevitably seep into human history leading to the movement of peoples. Human social systems are not amenable to steady state behaviors.

Competition between and within humans for prized land and the key resources over time is evident. While some of these demands are general, such as arable lands and hunting grounds, the demands focus on specific resources important to the socio-economic context of time. Early in history, specific resource needs just begin to emerge. Water was needed to irrigate crops and wood required to build urban settlements and as an energy source. These incremental changes in resource demands over a long time represented substantial advances in technology. These technology advances spilled over in the conflict arena. Combined with the larger populations in city states, these centers had the ability to extend their powers over a large distance. This was the basis for the creation of the state. States saw the environment as a reason to wage war, but also a means to create military capacity. This policy was an essential part of building early states.

These ancient cases exhibit certain attributes that can provide a basis for some simple comparisons, although they clearly lack statistical and scientific validity. From these six ancient cases in this chapter, it is possible to develop common categories for coding that can be useful in analysis. The cases some areas of basic indicators, including approximate beginning and ending dates of conflict, as well as information of the geographic locations of the conflict and the actors involved. The geographic locations can be further micro-scoped along dimensions of continent, region, and country (see Table IV-7).

Table IV-7

Coding of Base Indicators from the Ancient Case Studies

Case / Indicator


Cedars of Lebanon



Assyrian Water War

Great Wall of China

Begin Conflict

45,000 BC

2,600 BC

2,500 BC

500 BC

720 BC

450 BC

End Conflict

15,000 BC

138 AD

1700 BC

2,005 AD (ongoing)

539 AD

1600 AD

Conflict Duration (years)















Western Europe

Asia Mideast

South Asia

Africa Mideast

Asia Mideast

East Asia



Lebanon (current)

Pakistan (now)





Humans, Neanderthals

Babylonians, Phoenicians

Aryans, Dravidians

Egypt, Nubians

Assyrians, Babylonians

Chinese, Mongols

Habitat Type


Temperate (then)





2. Middle Case Patterns

The need for control over resources, both general and specific, arose in tandem with the development of organized political entities and ultimately states. The state established strict regions of control and access to resources. With growing populations, spheres of interest began to overlap and conflict over resource became a common occurrence.

South Asia provides an instructive historic microcosm of the varied and changing relationship between environment and conflict, particularly in heralding the coming importance of two sought after commodities: wood and water. In conflict situations, combatants may seek to change the environment in order to increase their military advantage or to decrease that of an opponent. Mughal armies conquering peoples in South Asia often laid siege to forts built in heavily wooded areas. They began by cutting down all of the trees in the area before the siege.298 This tactic would remove hiding places for bow-equipped snipers from preying on the Mughal armies -- similar to spraying Agent Orange on jungle vegetation during the Vietnam War to protect American soldiers from sniping by Viet Cong guerillas.

Trees are often victims in wars. In World War I, there was massive deforestation for a variety of reasons: burning wood for warmth and cooking, exploding ordnance, and the firing of millions of metal bullet projectiles. At the battles at Antitem and Gettysburg in the American Civil War, most of the trees in the area fell due to the multitude of rifle shells that were fired by the two armies, one bullet at a time. In World War II, the Soviet Union engaged in a "scorched earth" policy in retreating from German advances, burning their buildings, crops and forests prior to the German invasion (as they did when Napoleon invaded). Forests became part of defense strategy in South Asia hundreds of years ago.

"A sixteenth century classical literary text, Aamuktamalyada, written by Krishneveda Raya, spells out what ought to be the policy of the state towards forests and tribal groups. Though he recommends that the state should deliberately develop impenetrable forests on all the boundaries of its kingdom in order to protect people from thieves, he advises only a partial clearing of forests in the center of the kingdom, not others."299

These ancient policies on environment and conflict extended not only to forests but also to the use of them, particularly the role of animals and thus the agricultural economy, the mainstay of agrarian lifestyle. (See case study on Robin Hood and forest rights in England.) The strict forest policy, that limited access to forest resource to the elite, ultimately led to resentment and backlash in Southeast Asia.

"The first and spontaneous individual peasant protest against forest regulations took the form of a violation of government restrictions. Illegal grazing and the resulting impounding of animals had become perennial problems, despite strict supervision by forest subordinates. There was an increase in cases of unauthorized grazing and the removal of grass and other forest produce. Unauthorized felling was the biggest forest offence in the eyes of the state in Guntru, Nellore, Chittoor and Anantpaur. In 1919-20 as many as 8,900 cases of forest 'crimes' were reported."300

Wood was a prized resource in South Asia but so was water. A series of small dam systems in south Bihar (in the eastern part of present-day India) in mid-nineteenth century captured run-off from central Indian plateau.301 As water was also prized, so were the resources in it, especially the fish and sea mammals that lived there. Regulation and taxation of water use emerged.

"Fishermen, along with other agriculturalists, appear everywhere to have been subject to the 'tax on trade and professions' known as

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