Address root causes of terrorist violence (SEPT)

17 September 2001

Media Releases 2001

Sep 17, 2001 for International Day of Peace – 18 September

While attributing recent terrorist attacks to fundamentalist Islamic groups, the West must also address the root causes of this violence, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

National President of SPA, Dr Harry Cohen, says more consideration must be given to the underlying political, economic and ecological conditions that drive people to such extreme acts as were committed in the United States last week.

“For the past decade, Thomas Homer-Dixon of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto has warned that resource scarcity often contributes to conflicts as diverse as war, terrorism or diplomatic and trade disputes,” says Dr Cohen.

“Gaza is a classic example,” he says. “As the population has grown, water scarcity has worsened economic conditions and contributed to grievances against Israel. With scarcity of groundwater and an unequal distribution of water between the Israelis and Palestinians, the desperately poor have resorted to seemingly irrational acts of violence.”

Expanding on Homer-Dixon’s work in his now famous 1994 essay ‘The Coming Anarchy’, Robert D Kaplan described how resource scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet.

And in a paper delivered to an internet conference on food and health last week, the Australian analyst of global oil supplies, Brian J Fleay, said that the population of Persian Gulf States had quadrupled since 1950 to about 100 million and could double again by 2025. Three quarters of their people are dependent on oil exports to pay for food imports. Fleay warned that as oil supplies peak and oil revenues decline, up to 100 million people may have to migrate somewhere else by 2040.

“Migration on this scale can only lead to tension,” says Dr Cohen.

“If you look at regions of conflict in recent years, notably Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda, they are characterised by high population growth rates,” says Dr Cohen. “Rwanda, with an average family size of eight, was pushed over the edge into brutal tribal warfare after drought reduced food supplies in a country almost wholly dependent on agriculture.”

Dr Cohen believes the best way to prevent conflict and terrorism is through a series of measures including debt relief, poverty reduction and land reform, and by keeping populations within their resource limits.

Further information:

Dr Harry Cohen, Ph(h): 08 9386 5268 Ph(mobile): 0407 426 987

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director) Ph: 02 6235 5488 E:


Media Releases 2001
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