Replace Westphalian Nationalism with Green Unity: Chris Wood

Marsh Arabs poling a mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq. Photo by Hassan Janali, United States Army Corps of Engineers

National sovereignty, no matter how zealously protected, cannot achieve natural security, writes Chris Wood in today’s Natural Security column. Critical ecological infrastructure can only be assured if we get past misguided nationalisms, nativism and deep-rooted tribalisms —  past a way of thinking about the world that dates back 366 years and has come to be tagged the “Westphalian” world-view. An excerpt:

My Facts and Opinions colleague Jonathan Manthorpe writes insightfully about the affairs of nations. His great talent is the ability to reveal how their competition, so often ‘analysed’ as though it were the political analog of the FIFA World Cup, is in fact more a case of national logos plastered over vicious backroom feuds among rival local powers vying for control of a lucrative franchise to exploit or, very occasionally, to serve. 

This column has taken the view that those narratives, while still relevant, are increasingly eclipsed by a much bigger one, both overarching and undergirding every other human story. That is the question, put bluntly, of how or whether we will survive the ecological exhaustion of our planet.

This view received an endorsement this past week, from the New York Times’ gadfly of globalization, Thomas Friedman. In a column titled “The Real War of Ideas,2” Friedman brought attention to a diffuse movement that is the other group, beside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, seeking to bring the Middle East under one rule — for quite different ends — from its mountain wall along the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea and south to the Persian Gulf. These are the region’s environmentalists.

Their key insight: their deepening eco-pocalypse can only be avoided by letting nature’s geography trump that of nations. ‘Avoided’ may in fact be too optimistic a term for the region often called the cradle of civilization. Millennia of not-always-wise irrigation, a century of water seizures for national ends, and decades of conflict, have not been kind to the once-lush basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A less unrealistic goal might be “recovery.” And that might be possible, in the unlikely event that Friedman’s environmentalists-without-a-name let alone an army, unify the Levant under a Green  … read more (subscription required*).

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Let Nature’s Geography Trump Westphalian View

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