Today’s Center for a New American Security (CNAS) annual conference
was replete with heavy hitters like General David Petraeus discussing the world’s top security challenges, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea. But at an afternoon panel, CNAS’s Sharon Burke
argued that although environmental and natural-resource issues may not get their own section in the Presidential Daily Briefing
, they are intimately intertwined with many of the high-profile security issues that do.
President Obama recently called for a stronger focus on agricultural development in Afghanistan, said Burke, as part of a broader approach to increasing stability and improving Afghans’ quality of life. But decades of war have contributed to severe deforestation and land degradation
, and farmers “can’t plant their seeds if the land is barren, and that’s where we are right now,” she said.
The panel also served as the launch for CNAS’s new Natural Security program (see working paper) and blog, which aim to study the “national-security implications of natural resources use,” said Burke. The program grows out of CNAS’s investigation of the security impacts of climate change and energy over the past several years. Burke explained that it was difficult to discuss energy and climate change without also talking about water, land, biodiversity, and a host of other related issues, so CNAS decided to create a program that would not attempt to separate these interconnected issues.
Burke was joined by former U.S. Senator John Warner, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines, and Commander E. J. McClure of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.