On “the ill-informed logic of some forty-year-old aid project…”

The atrocities Parenti describes in part 2 and 3 of his book offer a broader understanding of Dennis C. Pirages’ argument concerning security and the relevance of expanding the security framework to include environmental threats. Reading Parenti was pretty depressing as he explains the conditions in failed states and what that has meant to individuals and communities in those countries. War and endless instability in most East African countries are caused by complex issues that span a long time of resource scarcity, climate change, among other socio-economic issues; talk about the incidence of problems being manifested / expressed through others problems. Parenti’s discussion leaves me pondering the question, “What’s the best way to tackle issues that may not look environment-related yet have been caused by climate change and manifested in different ways?” Issues that threaten people’s wellbeing by denying them basic necessities become security threats and should be studied carefully before administering solutions that are assumed will remedy the problems. Poor methods of solving environmental issues have only exacerbated the environmental crisis especially in the Global South.

In Parenti’s discussion, he talks about the gun problem in North East Africa, the unending aggression that theft of cattle that has greatly affected stability and people’s lifestyles in those areas. While the raiding activities of the Pokot and Turkana people maybe due to the opportunity to access markets in neighboring countries, people would only take up an opportunity because there’s a need for it. The issue is therefore more complex than just the presence of markets to sell stollen cattle. The young people in these areas would not risk their lives if they had options; they would not risk taking bullets if they could marry without paying dowry, or if the drought does not kill all their cattle, which is their source of livelihood. These crises should be understood in context in order to find working solutions. Am example of over simplification that went wrong is in a sentence that stick out to me while I read Parenti and a well that “was drilled dangerously close to the Pokot territory–basically on the boundary where the two tribes meet.” The people who worked on the well project obviously thought they helped provide water but ended up increasing the fights between the two groups since theft both had to start fighting for one source if water for their animals.

Perceiving instability issues in the Global South as single acts of aggression against neighbors as opposed to the the complex issues caused by an amalgamation of factors leads to using military force “to protect power and privilege (since the obviously seen issue is aggression) while ignoring the less understood but more serious ecological threats to human well-being” (Pirates, 140). Parent’s observation of the position of a water source shared by two enemy tribes is an example of poor understanding of the real problem faced by the Turkanas and Pokot people. While the famine has left them no water for their cattle, drilling a shared well at the boarder of both communities only worsened the situation. This is only an example of solutions gone wrong as a result of misperception of the problem, and this is clearly the case with most environmental problems. While communities migrating due to flooding in their areas face an environmental issue, the people in the new areas they are occupying see a refugee issue, and their way of remedying refugee politics may only worsen the conditions for people affected by the flood. Thus, it’s important to have a broad definition of security that includes environmental issues and scrutinizing each case to understand it’s real causes in order to find solutions.


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