Strategic scarcity : the origins and impact of environmental conflict ideas
This thesis examines the origins and impact of environmental conflict ideas. It focuses on the work of Canadian political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon, whose model of environmental conflict achieved considerable prominence in U.S. foreign policy circles in the 1990s. The thesis argues that this success was due in part to widely shared neo-Malthusian assumptions about the Third World, and to the support of private foundations and policymakers with a strategic interest in promoting these views. It analyzes how population control became an important feature of American foreign policy and environmentalism in the post-World War Two period. It then describes the role of the "degradation narrative" -- the belief that population pressures and poverty precipitate environmental degradation, migration, and violent conflict -- in the development of the environment and security field. Based on archival research and interviews with key policymakers, foundation officers, and scholars, the thesis identifies a process of "circumscribed heterodoxy" in which an illusion of openness to diverse views masks a politics of uniformity at both the project and policy level. It examines the intentional and unintentional effects of environmental conflict ideas on U.S. policy institutions, and considers the nature of the knowledge communities that formed around these ideas. In so doing, the thesis offers insights into the complex relationships between knowledge, power, and policy.