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Transition Universities conference, Winchester,
February 2011

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Climate Change and Humanity, November 2004
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Workshop 6:

Friday 25 November 2011

West Downs Centre, Winchester University
Mark Levene
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(email: marianne (at) crisis-forum .org.uk)

Workshop 6: Securing the System: Geo-political Implications for the Present World Order 

About the Speakers and Presentation Abstracts


Beth Walker
China's energy and water issues in the 21st century: a focus on its Himalayan projects and possible international consequences

China's energy needs are projected to treble by 2035 with the bulk continuing to come from coal, even while Beijing is committed to a major expansion of renewables. Water is also set to become a major source of potentially international tension. The last three decades have seen a huge (and controversial) dam building programme on China's internal rivers. However, the attention is now moving to the Himalayas where dam building will involve transboundary rivers, most obviously the Brahmaputra. Not only thus are there growing concerns about the safety of dam building in the high Himalayas - one of the world's most active seismic regions - but the water stressed situation of the lower riparian states and hence the dependency on the Brahmaputra in particular is likely to re-ignite tensions especially between India and China, possibly involving an unresolved border dispute.

Beth Walker is a researcher and editor for chinadialogue's Third Pole Project (www.thethirdpole.net), which aims to inform, discuss and search for solutions to the emerging water crisis in the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. Beth is a co-author of the research report: "The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat; Sources of Survival"

Kenneth Richter
The new scramble for Africa
Foreign companies are acquiring fertile land in Africa at an unprecedented rate and scale. This new scramble for Africa is driven in part by targets for the use of biofuels in rich countries. These land grabs increase land right conflicts and have sever impacts on food availability and food prices, while the biofuels produced are likely to fuel climate change rather than slow it. This talk shines a light on these developments and discusses solutions.   

Kenneth Richter is a campaigner for Friends of the Earth. He has been working on the social and environmental impacts of biofuels and bioenergy for the last 4 years. Friends of the Earth is working with groups from across Africa to explore, expose and build resistance against land grabbing for biofuels in Africa.

Ayesha Siddiqi
Climate change as a process of political change in developing countries: The Case of Pakistan

Climate change is not an environmental problem that requires infrastructural development and large amounts of climate finance to keep disasters away. In fact both, the causes and affects of climatic disasters are deeply political and well entrenched in the socio-political structures of most societies. The increased frequency and severity of these natural disasters as a result of anthropogenic climate change has the potential to overload socio-political organisations leading to unknown and uncertain consequences. This presentation will explore the possibility of climate change leading to transformative change in a traditional agrarian society such as that in Southern Pakistan. The challenge is to understand: will climate change herald an era of socio-political change or will it only result in further strengthening the dominant powers and discourses of the status quo?

Ayesha Siddiqi is a PhD Candidate based at the War Studies and Geography Departments at King's College London. She has spent years working as a climate change consultant for development projects and has also researched and published in this area.

Richard Powell
The geopolitics of the 21st-century Arctic
The environmental changes observed in the Arctic over the past two decades have resulted in concomitant shifts in relationships of political governance.  Moreover, such changes in Arctic geopolitics are evident at a number of different scales, and involve conflicting views about resources, rights and responsibilities.  This talk will discuss how these developments might play out.
Dr. Richard Powell lectures in the School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford and is a Fellow and Tutor of Mansfield College, Oxford.  He is a political and environmental geographer, and a specialist on the Polar regions. He regularly undertakes Arctic fieldwork, focusing upon the Canadian Arctic and Greenland.

Mandy Meikle
Factoring in "Peak Oil' 
What will the world be like in a future where oil is no longer easy to come by? Would we be at war in Libya if it didn't have some of the best remaining oil reserves? How will we react if oil exporting countries decide that their oil is worth more to them than the dollars they could sell it for? Peak oil does not mean that oil is running out - there's more than enough to tip the climate into chaos. However, what this presentation will seek to consider is the consequences of an end of cheap oil on the global economy.

Dr. Mandy Meikle has been speaking on various aspects of peak oil since 2004. She belongs to a small group called Depletion Scotland and writes an occasional blog called The Cheery Pessimist.

Mark Levene
The 'Unspoken Assumptions', The Nation-State, the International 'System' and Potentialities for Conflict in the 21st Century

In a famous essay on the origins of the 1st world war, James Joll spoke of the 'unspoken assumptions' which governed the relations between the Great Powers. This presentation seeks to ask if there are assumptions so implicit in the 21st century make-up of the 21st  international system of nation-states that we repeatedly fail to articulate them. If so, how do these assumptions impact or are likely to change in the face of the gathering biospheric storm?

Dr Mark Levene is Reader in Comparative History at Southampton University, is co-founder of Crisis Forum, and co-convener of the Climate Change and Violence workshops. His four part series on Genocide in the Age of the Nation-State (Tauris, vols 1 and 2, 2005) is ongoing.


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