Abstract

Some claim that the scarcity of natural resources, particularly renewable resources, is a “causal mechanism” behind civil war. Recent work in development studies and political science suggest that relative abundance of natural resources cause broad-based socio-economic and political problems, while some using microeconomic theories even blame abundance directly for motivating “loot-seeking” rebellion and allowing the finance of large-scale armed violence. Using a host of alternative measures of natural capital wealth, disaggregated as renewable and nonrenewable, this study finds that an abundance of renewable resources, not its scarcity, leads to violence and to lower economic, human, and institutional development. The abundance of mineral resources is consistently associated with higher levels of conflict and lower levels of human and institutional development. The results raise serious doubts about the concept of “ecoviolence” as theorized hither to. Future research should trace the processes through which the “honey pot” of abundant resources promotes bad governance, inequity, poverty, environmental degradation, and conflict. The good news is that human greed and folly, not mother nature, is still the problem for peace. The bad news is that mother nature will continue to suffer given difficulties associated with controlling human nature.

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Author notes

I am grateful for Nils Petter Gleditsch, Dan Smith, Philippe Le Billon, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Scott Gates, and Erich Neumayer for comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. The referee reports of this journal were unusually constructive. They are, however, absolved of all blame for errors and the ways in which I made use of their good advice. I thank Angelika Wagner for excellent research assistance. I am grateful to the Oslo Project Office of the Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) program and the Norweigan Research Council (NFR) for their generous support at early stages of this research. I also thank Volker Merx at the ZEF library for his generous help.