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Putting Environmental Stress (Back) On the Mass Atrocities Agenda


Darfur refugee camp in Chad, Photo by Mark Knobil

By Cullen Hendrix, Center for Climate and Security Senior Research Advisor; Korbel School, University of Denver & Peterson Institute for International Economics

When and why do environmental stressors, including climate change, play a role in precipitating mass atrocities–genocides and politicides, forced displacement, war crimes, and crimes against humanity–and what can the international community do about them? Fears stemming from demographic and environmental stress—particularly access to arable land–were associated with some of the 20th century’s worst mass atrocities. Adolf Hitler’s territorial ambitions in Europe were fueled by an obsession with lebensraum, literally, “living space,” and Japan’s invasion and sack of Manchuria was similarly motivated by a desire to access the territory’s vast renewable and mineral resources. (more…)

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