The environmental consequences of global conflict and terrorism
CALS Impact Statement
I wish to bring an expanded definition of bio-terrorism to students -- one that explores what happens when whole life-support systems and ecosystem services are terminated -- and will do this in the undergraduate course I currently instruct, Global Conflict and Terrorism. From a research standpoint, I am joining with colleagues to investigate the land use consequences of out-migration resulting from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and similar attacks on high-profile global cities.
My motivation is the narrow definition of "bio-terrorism" that limits the effects of such behavior to crop damage and epidemics. The environmental impact assessment of "nuclear winter" performed at Cornell nearly 20 years ago argues otherwise and motivates me to explore the multi-scalar effects war and terrorism can have, from land mines and war to whole life support collapse from weapons of mass destruction. As for need, many would argue that we have pushed life support systems of the planet to the "breaking point" and the cumulative injuries of war will tip the balance. A recent regional example of this is the devastation of the Marsh Arab culture in southern Iraq. Terrorism is now a global problem, however. In theory all populations on earth are at risk from bio-terrorism. This concern -- sudden biological catastrophe with little time to adapt or evolve -- is of concern to national governments, their military planners, to humanitarian advocates, and of course to biologists and ecologists seeking to enhance biodiversity rather than end it. It is of concern to educators committed to fostering new generations of adults who will help prevent bio-terrorism.
I have assumed teaching responsibility for the Cornell course on Global Conflict and Terrorism (which I helped originate in 2002). I have networked with other institutions where similar courses are offered and consulted experts on bio-terrorism at Cornell and elsewhere in order to expand this portion of the course. I intend to co-author an article in the Journal of Higher Education on teaching college courses on this subject. I have completed a co-authored working paper on the out-migration effects of September 11, 2001 on New York City and surrounding areas and am investigating further the land use consequences of such an exodus.
The public media generated many reports of housing and business effects from September 11, 2001, a literature my colleagues and I have gathered and summarized. We added to this literature the results of the 2004 and 2003 Empire State Poll in which New York State residents were asked about their reasons for moving and destinations after September 11, 2001. We have initially found that rural New Yorkers are now more likely to remain in places distant from high-profile centers and, contrary to expectations, most urban residents in the state feel safer remaining among family, friends, employers, and secure social networks should further terrorism befall them. Readers of our publication (submitted to Planning, the journal of the American Planning Association) who are planners may conclude from this that emergency planning precautions in rural areas is not necessary. 50 students at Cornell taking my course on terrorism are certainly better prepared to describe and articulate broad-guage bio-physical impacts of bio-terrorism.