Unit 5c. Environmental Justice

Skulls discarded after research at the Hamidia Hospital in Bhopal. Medical experts believe that the gas inhaled by the people of Bhopal may have affected the brain.Objective

The goal of this lab is to explore the relationship between resources, environmental justice and conflict. We will discuss an article from the WorldWatch Institute as the basis for a lively discussion using the fishbowl technique.


Figure 5.c.1

Skulls of victims of disaster




Before Coming to Class

Read the article Breaking the Link Between Resources and Repression from the WorldWatch Institute. The article will help us answer questions such as: Why are some countries more susceptible to resource-based conflicts than others? What can we, as consumers, do to avoid consumption of products produced from illegal resource exploitation? What steps need to be taken by corporations, non-governmental organizations, and the international community to prevent and manage resource-based conflict and illegal exploitation of people and natural resources?




Figure 5.c.2

Victims of the Bhopal Disaster


Figure 5.c.3

Troops and villagers in Sierra Leone


In Class - The Fishbowl Technique

Discuss the following questions using the fishbowl technique. Number off the students by 5-7 depending on the size of the class. Set up the chairs in the classroom in two concentric circles with a larger circle outside of a smaller one. Call group number one into the small circle (the fishbowl) to discuss selected questions from the list below or ones they have brought to class for ~10-15 minutes, or the appropriate amount of time depending on the class period. Students outside the fishbowl are not allowed to comment during this discussion. They can write down any comments or questions that they have, and can bring them up when their group number is called into the fishbowl. This technique encourages participation from all students. After all groups have had a chance to participate in the fishbowl discussion, open up discussion to the whole class and summarize concepts that were covered. 


Question 5.c.1

How are resource conflicts and biodiversity interconnected? Explain this connection using examples from Liberia and The Democratic Republic of Congo.


Question 5.c.2

Explain the connection between natural resources and political oppression or denial of rights to minority groups. What actions could prevent oppression of minority groups?


Question 5.c.3

There are many ecological and social pitfalls to natural resource extraction. In what ways do the local people end up paying for the economic benefits of businesses, government elites, and foreign investors? How can this be prevented?


Question 5.c.4

Using Aceh, Borneo, or West Papua as an example illustrate the ways in which resource extraction causes environmental degradation, social upheaval and conflict.


Question 5.c.5

How are resource exploitation and war connected? Is there an intervention point in this cycle?


Question 5.c.6

What is the difference between traditional wars and most resource-based conflicts?


Question 5.c.7

How does violence serve to maintain a conflict economy? Who benefits from this conflict economy? How does this impact the rest of the population?


Question 5.c.8

Why are some countries more susceptible to resource-based conflicts than others? How is this related to the world market, corporate actions, and politics?


Question 5.c.9

How are diamonds and oil connected to conflict in Sierra Leone and Angola? How have the people of these countries suffered due to this relationship?


Question 5.c.10

How is the consumer society responsible for much resource-based conflict? In what ways can we decrease consumption of resources that are harvested from illegal resource exploitation?


Question 5.c.11

What responsibility does the international community have to prevent, and to halt illegal resource exploitation and resource-based conflict? What policies can be implemented to prevent and react to resource-based conflict and illegal exploitation?



Figure 5.c.4

Victim of blood diamond trade


Figure 5.c.5

Mining blood diamonds


Figure 5.c.6

Troops in Uganda












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