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Ecology And Violence: The Environmental Dimensions Of War


  • Timothy L. Fort


  • Cindy A. Schipani



Research reported by Thomas Homer-Dixon characterizes five social effects that can significantly increase the likelihood of violence in the emerging world, effects that are far deeper than can be controlled by security forces: (1) constrained agricultural production, often in ecologically marginal regions; (2) constrained economic productivity, mainly affecting people who are highly dependent on environmental resources and who are ecologically and economically marginal; (3) migration of these affected people in search of better lives; (4) greater segmentation of society, usually along existing ethnic cleavages; and (5) disruption of institutions, especially the state.1 These kinds of social effects create tensions that can erupt in violent expression. It is difficult to envision how additional security forces will solve the embedded social problems that link violence with economic, social, ethnic, and even religious frustrations. This manuscript seeks to address these concerns. Part I elaborates ways in which these issues of violence manifest themselves in a globalized economy. Part II discusses the business implications of these tensions and suggests a way in which business can be a mediating actor to lessen these tensions. Part III concludes with a suggestion for a recharacterization of the corporation in a way to sensitize it to the ecological-mindedness necessary to address the potential issues of violence in societies. We propose sustainable peace as an aim to which businesses should orient their actions both for reasons of the good of avoiding the activities that contribute to the spilling of blood as well as for the good of sustainable economic enterprises, which are fostered by stable, peaceful relationships. Thus, business must do what it does best and address economic development, even in terms of the extraction of natural resources. But it must also be attentive to the rights of others, to the development of community and meaning, and to stop violence when it is likely. Given the dangers ecological stresses pose for the planet, it is hard to think of a more compelling reason to reorient business behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy L. Fort & Cindy A. Schipani, 2004. "Ecology And Violence: The Environmental Dimensions Of War," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2004-698, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2004-698

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    environmental law; peace; social responsibility; corporate governance;

    JEL classification:

    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility

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