Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict: The Case of South Africa

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Homer-Dixon, Thomas & Val Percival (1998) Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict: The Case of South Africa, Journal of Peace Research 35(3): 279–298.

The causal relationship between environmental scarcities - the scarcity of renewable resources - and the outbreak of violent conflict is complex. Environmental scarcity emerges within a political, social, economic, and ecological context and interacts with many of these contextual factors to contribute to violence. To examine this relationship, we outline a theoretical framework defining scarcities, the social effects arising from these scarcities, and the ensuing movement towards violence. We subsequently apply this framework to analyse the link between environmental scarcities and violent conflict in South Africa. Within South Africa, violence arose at precisely the same time that many anticipated a transformation to a more peaceful society - upon the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of the ban on political activity and the official end to apartheid. This article provides a new perspective on these events by analysing the link between South Africa's environmental scarcity and violent conflict.