implications for many millions of coastal dwellers around the world, including those living in the United States (Figure 9.2). However, those implications are likely to be especially politically destabilizing in places with fragile governments, weak infrastructural coping capacities, and low standards of living. Assessments of the coping capacities of places with low-lying, densely populated coasts could provide useful insights into the geopolitical impacts of shifting coastlines (Heberger et al., 2009). Coastline changes will also alter the baselines that have been used to establish maritime boundaries. Determining where those changes are most likely to disrupt fragile agreements on ocean rights could help scholars and policy makers anticipate where problems are likely to arise and could promote understanding of the geography of conflict potential in the maritime arena.

It is important to recognize that environmental stresses are sometimes associated with cooperation, not just conflict (Wolf, 2002). Resource scarcity is a case in point. A body of work has yielded insights into the conditions that have produced cooperation in the face of resource competition at the local scale (e.g., Ostrom, 1990; Giordano, 2003). Others have examined how participatory resource management regimes may enable communities to prevent unproductive conflict (e.g., Martin, 2005). Still lacking, however, is much understanding of where and when such cooperation occurs at broader scales. Sneddon and Fox (2006) provide a useful starting point in their study of regional agreements on the sharing of water in the Mekong Basin. A systematic assessment of a variety of resource-sharing arrangements in other world regions could direct attention to the types of circumstances in which cooperation has been achieved and could pave the way to a better understanding of how general economic or political influences interact with local circumstances to promote stability.

Are territorial arrangements and ideas developing in ways that are consistent with the geopolitical visions of influential governmental and nongovernmental actors?

Ever since the publication of Samuel Huntington’s (1996) controversial book on the Clash of Civilizations, debate has swirled around the geographical framework that underlies his analysis. Huntington’s thesis is pre-

FIGURE 9.2 Focusing just on areas that are at “very high” risk from sea-level rise in one country is suggestive of the potential for rising sea levels to alter coastlines and disrupt the lives and livelihoods of people. SOURCE: USGS (2007).

FIGURE 9.2 Focusing just on areas that are at “very high” risk from sea-level rise in one country is suggestive of the potential for rising sea levels to alter coastlines and disrupt the lives and livelihoods of people. SOURCE: USGS (2007).



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