Conservation International board members Rob Walton, Wes Bush and Harrison Ford discuss the direct connection between international conservation and America's economic and national security interests.
There is a direct connection between international conservation and America's economic and national security interests. The unprecedented draw down of critical natural resources poses enormous challenges for the United States and the world. As the world's population grows to over 9 billion in the next 40 years, doubling the demand for food, water and energy, nature's ability to provide for people will be further tested. The loss of natural resources, such as forests, fresh water, fertile soils and natural pollinators, and the resulting competition for these increasingly scarce resources, can lead to instability, conflict and radicalization and in the worst case, failed States. The unsustainable extraction of natural resources impacts worldwide commodity prices, undermines U.S. competitiveness and places part of America's economic infrastructure at risk.
U.S. Economic Security
The illegal extraction of natural resources impacts the economic security of Americans and U.S. businesses by distorting international markets, increasing the cost of doing business abroad and unfairly competing with U.S. products that adhere to industry guidelines. Illegal logging alone is estimated to cost the American economy over $500 million annually. Many international conservation programs work to stop the illegal extraction of natural resources, helping to ensure legitimate export markets for U.S. businesses.
Protecting markets, as well as supply chains for U.S. businesses, is critical to America's long-term economic prosperity. Many U.S. companies recognize this connection and have made financial investments in international conservation that have continued throughout the economic downturn.
U.S. National Security
The link between the loss of natural resources and the likelihood of conflict in the developing world has never been clearer. According to a recent U.S. National Intelligence Council publication, "[resource] scarcities are likely to hit hardest on poorer states, leading in the worst case to internal or interstate conflict and spillover to regional destabilization." Food security is one of the cornerstones of global stability and Somalia provides one example of how resource scarcity is a growing security threat to the U.S. and the world. Overfishing by foreign vessels, and subsequent depletion of fish stocks, has driven desperate Somali fisherman to piracy. This resulted in an increased U.S. military presence in the area to safeguard international sea lanes off the Horn of Africa for a combined cost of $2 billion to the U.S., NATO and other countries. Unsustainable land use and deforestation in Afghanistan and water declines in Pakistan and Yemen are other examples that illustrate how resource scarcity is a growing security threat to the United States and the world.