"Rare minerals. Food and water. Arable soil. Air-cleansing forests.
In the intellectual heart of the American military and policy-making world, these are emerging not just as environmental issues, but as the potential stuff of conflict in the 21st century.
In some ways, the role of resources in shaping conflict is nothing new. Much as the Spanish conquistadors sought gold, Saddam Hussein fought for Kuwait’s oil. And downstream lands have long worried that neighbors will limit water flowing in the Nile, Euphrates and Jordan.
Now a new field of systematic study is opening within research centers, the Pentagon and intelligence institutions. It assumes that the 21st century will be shaped not just by competitive economic growth, but also by potentially disruptive scarcities — depletion of minerals; desertification of land; pollution or overuse of water; weather changes that kill fish and farms."