Security Conflicts and Overlapping Threats


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.

Sudden and unanticipated scenarios can have catastrophic consequences on national security when overlooked (Tipson, 2013). Natural disasters are most often sudden and unanticipated and serve as at least one way differing threats to human security can overlap and cause conflict. For instance, natural disasters of similar magnitude can occur in two separate territories but cause significantly more damage in the one where overpopulation and poor infrastructure pre-existed. This could then lead to public stress regarding vulnerability. Vulnerability compounded could lead to forced migration pushing internally or externally displaced persons (environmental refugees) into other populations causing those populations to expand and instigate resource scarcity. When food production is threatened extreme measures may be taken and levels of aggression may increase. Fredrick S. Tipson echoes this notion when stating, “The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur owed much to the pressures of land, food, and water competition in fomenting ethnic conflicts” (Tipson 2013, 5). Additionally, the inequity and incompetency of some governments are brought to light during natural disasters as attempts to enhance security for some lead to an assortment of human rights violations against others. This fosters discord and destabilizes social and economic peace. Once political stability has been depleted, the problems of one country extend to another. Natural disasters, then, threaten human security by exacerbating environmental deficiencies that multiply the causes of conflict and aggravate those who experience environmental loss. Professor Norman Myers enunciated, “We cannot launch fighter planes to resist global warming, we cannot dispatch tanks to counter advancing deserts, we cannot fire the smartest missiles against rising sea levels” (Myers, 2004, 6). Natural disasters pose an identical challenge to human security.

Human security is people-centric, not state centric. A state centric focus on protection leaves many leaves unturned. For instance, refugees face many unsolicited threats and dangers unavoidably. Terrorist regimes and criminal organizations inflict violence on innocent people who flee one territory only to face threats and danger in another. A state centric focus on security justifies closing borders to women and children who escape torture, rape, and exploitation and attempts to criminalize or prosecute them if they reach safety. By abasing territorial boundaries and focusing on the rights and dignity of individuals, the human security approach offers a framework for preventing human suffering.

Regarding the one child policy in China, does this sound like another overlap? Many have said if you tell one lie you will have to tell another to cover up the first and eventually run out of lies. Conclusively, it would be easier to tell the truth. Likewise, one insecurity will lead to another and eventually all attempts to off-set insecurities will result in less security. That is, forcing abortions and selling children to meet a one child quota can only manipulate the perception of actual levels of security. To me it sounds like one evil begat another evil. Would over-population be a problem if economic and environmental security was achieved by all? Or, how many children should an individual have before it is considered too many? The China standard implies the financial inequality that exists between the rich and poor is so out of line that people cannot afford to have more than one! In this case an equal distribution of wealth would create an opportunity for more than one child. Or, maybe there is a lack of innovation in regards to expanding the environmental capacity to sustain life because individuals are more content with destruction. Again, environmental security would allow for more than one child.


Myers, N. (2004, May 9-12). Conference. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from Institute for Environmental Security:

Tipson, F. S. (2013). Special Reports. Retrieved November 25, 2013, from United States Institute of Peace:


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