Wednesday, December 11, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environment vs. Resources - Affirmative Part 1

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.

For the introduction and definitions to this topic, click here.
This is the first of a two part exploration of the Affirmative position of the topic.

Aff Position

The Affirmative side of this debate will have very little problem finding lots of evidence which makes the link between resource extraction and harms to the environment.  In fact, I isolate a few common examples below.  The harms to the environment also can be determined in any number of ways, from direct harms such as destroying habitats, upsetting the balance of life or the food chain, to indirect harms such as forcing people from their homes (a kind of habitat loss, I suppose) to the rise of conflicts and wars which further contribute to environmental harms.  On the other side of the debate, the Negative will be promoting the myriad benefits of resource extraction, not only as a stimulus for economic development, but also as a mechanism for improving national security, international standing and practically any advantage that can be linked to resource extraction.  Clearly the debate will have no problem establishing the harms versus benefits dichotomy. Indeed, it is necessary to do so.  The problem Affirmative must overcome is how to justify the superiority of environmental protection when, as the resolution states, the two are in conflict.  The fact is, there is a very pragmatic basis to the "conflict" which arises when weighing the options and I tend to believe the pragmatics of the Negative position will be hard to overcome when the debate is engaged on a contention level.  I do think, the Aff can find evidence which will turn some of Neg's economic advantages.  There is after all, the "resource curse".  Nevertheless, I believe the real strength of the Affirmative case will reside in the value framework.  Aff must not lose their value or they will be in for a fight.

In this post, I will provide a few of the many arguments which establish the harms, provide some arguments which oppose the Neg position, then deal with the value framework in a later installment.

Resource Extraction Harms the Environment

Establishing the link between resource extraction and environmental degradation will be easy.  There is a wealth of good, high-quality evidence which makes the argument for you.  Find it and cite it. For example, this source speaks of resources needed for the manufacture of computers.

Downey, et al; 2011:
Computer production, for example, could not occur without the extraction of minerals, fossil fuels, and other natural resources from around the world. One such category of resources is rare earth minerals, which are mined primarily in China (NRC, 2008). The mining of rare earth minerals produces as much as 2,000 tons of solid waste, including toxic heavy metals and radioactive thorium, for every ton of rare earth mineral produced (Farago, 2009; Rong & Yu, 2009). In China, it also results in topsoil loss, erosion, and widespread silting and contamination of rivers and reservoirs used for drinking and irrigation (Xu & Liu, 1999).

Here is another example which explores the problem of deforestation needed to support the vast array of wooden products used throughout the world.  While wood (trees) may be considered a renewable resource, it is a resource that must be managed to remain viable as a resource and all too often is poorly managed.

Berlik et al, 2002:
The environmental impacts of wood extraction depend on the condition and sensitivity of the forest and the expertise and approach of those managing it. For this reason, it is critical to focus on where and how wood is actually harvested. In principle, wood is a renewable resource, but in the absence of well-planned management, short-term exploitation can target inappropriate areas and induce environmental impacts or conversion to other uses yielding results better likened to mining than sustainable use (Allen, 1998). Even though much of the world is forested, population and consumption growth rates are jeopardizing the reliability of the global wood supply (Dekker-Robertson and Libby, 1998; Solberg, et al., 1996; Bowyer and Stockman, 2001). Global annual wood harvests average about 3.4 billion m3. With mean projections for 2010 of 4.6 billion m3 (a 35% increase in ten years), a shrinking amount of forest will need to provide increasing volumes of wood. Current projections forecast a gap between global fiber demand and availability of 400 to 800 million m3 in 2010 (World Resources Institute, 1998).

The result of resource mismanagement induces environmental stresses which escalate to violence.  This not only serves as a direct disadvantage, because violence is bad, but it also further degrades the environment in which people live.

Berlik et al, 2002:
Untenable resource development strategies can undermine long-term growth and generate unbalanced economic performance. At worst, untenable resource strategies feed violent conflict. The consequences of poorly calibrated resource strategies unfold at a number of levels and in different ways, depending upon both national and international circumstances. It is therefore difficult to draw a generic causal pathway, but several issues that can derail the momentum of development and lead to conflict are worth close attention. Resource extraction has an impact on the environment in which people live, whether because it means village communities have to be moved so mining can go ahead, or because of environmental degradation. If these issues are handled poorly by the authorities, through inadequate consultation with local communities about how to meet their interests, grievances can turn quickly to unrest. 

Resource Extraction Fosters Violence

There is a viable link between resource extraction and violence and the evidence for it is found in many journal articles.  Extraction is often accompanied by protest further which is complicated by the desire of the government to exploit its potential riches at any cost.  Protest often escalates.

Downey, et al; 2011:
In such instances, local and national governments, resource extraction firms, or rebels who control natural resources may feel that they have no choice but to use violence or the threat of violence to protect their resource extraction activities. Violent actions and threats of violence might include the forced relocation of local residents; the use of police, military, or mercenary forces to break up protests, arrest protestors and provide mine security; and the repression of local indigenous people from whose ranks protestors have emerged or might emerge. Violent actions might also include military conflict with groups that threaten resource extraction activities and foreign military aid and training to local police and military forces. Of course, armed violence may occur even in the absence of protest. For example, forced labor may be used to decrease labor costs or because working conditions are horrendous, and forced removal may occur in the absence of protest to either forestall protest or because there is no way to extract resources with people living on or near the extraction site. In either case, violence or threatened violence will likely be necessary because most people do not want to be forced to work or leave their homes.

Developing countries work with international partners to exploit/extract their natural resources.  These partners, whether other governments or more commonly, international corporations have productivity demands which exert enormous pressure on the stakeholders. The pressures push the governments of developing countries to do whatever it takes to meet its obligations.

Downey, et al; 2011:
For example, structural adjustment programs imposed on developing nations by the World Bank and IMF often force developing nations to maintain high levels of raw material exports (Bello et al., 1999); and in cases where mining projects require political risk insurance, developing nations are sometimes forced to agree that they will pay out potentially large insurance claims if mining activities are disrupted in any way (Moody, 2005, 2007). Developing nations’ high levels of debt and their resulting dependence on wealthy nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and corporate foreign investment also force developing nation governments to worry about how these organizations and states evaluate their activities. As a result, developing nation governments may feel that regardless of their own motives and interests, they have to use all means necessary to protect resource extraction activities so as to meet their debt obligations, ensure continued foreign investment, and minimize conflict with more powerful nations and institutions.

Violence Harms Countries and the Environment

Violence harms people, nations and environments.  Its seems as if the stress of extraction and associated environmental degradation, erupts into violence which further degrades the environment and a kind of spiraling degradation occurs.  There is little incentive or will for the stakeholders to break the cycle.

Berlik et al, 2002:
...armed violence plays a critical role in facilitating natural resource extraction, without which ecological unequal exchange could not occur and much environmental degradation would not occur. We have, therefore, achieved the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the article. More importantly, when one combines the evidence presented in this article with prior sociological research on ecological unequal exchange and the direct environmental consequences of armed violence, militarism, and war, it quickly becomes apparent that armed violence and the environmental degradation associated with it are intimately woven into the everyday lives of core nation citizens through the purchases they make and the fuels they consume. It also becomes apparent that armed violence is a key driver of the global ecological crisis and that this is likely the case because other key drivers of natural resource exploitation, such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and global marketplace, cannot, on their own, guarantee core nation access to and control over vital natural resources...Currently there is no environmental ethic focused on meeting wood needs locally and little criticism of consumption behavior. Instead, an anti-logging ethic reigns and degradation of the global environment ensues. A new environmental effort is needed to expose this illusion of preservation. This effort will depend primarily on greater discussions concerning the ethical implications of excessive consumption joined with indiscriminate protectionism. The message could become stronger and more locally relevant in the context of programs that reduce wood use and encourage ecologically sound harvesting.

Resource Extraction Does Not Help Developing Countries

Not only do the disadvantages of environmental degradation and violence serve to devalue the Negative case, but the direct economic benefits to be gained from resource extraction often turn out to be a driver of greater poverty.  The so-called "resource curse" is a statistical observation which shows that perhaps being rich in resources is not the boon one intuitively believes it should be.

Thorvaldur 2000:
Four main channels of transmission from abundant natural resoures to sluggish economic growth are discussed. First, natural resource abundance often results in an over evaluation of the national currency. This is a sympton of the Dutch disease. Moreover, recurrent booms and busts tend to increase exchange rate volatility. Sometimes this is enough to reduce total exports. Sometimes it just skews the composition of exports away from high-tech and other manufacturing and service exports that are particularly conducive to economic growth. In either case, economic growth is likely to slow down. Second, natural-resource-rich economies seem especially prone to socially damaging rent-seeking behaviour on the part of producers. For example, the government may be tempted to offer tariff protection to domestic producers, among other privileges. Rent seeking may also breed corruptiom, thereby distorting the allocation of resources. Import protection and corruption both tend to impede economic growth. Third, natural resource abundance may imbue people with a false sense of security and lead governments to lose sight of the need for growth-friendly economic management. Incentives to create wealth tend to become too blunted by the ability to extract weath from the soil or the sea. Rich parents sometimes spoil their kids. Mother Nature is no excpetion. Fourth, nations that are confident that their natural resources are their most important asset may inadvenrtently - and perhaps even deliberately! - neglect the development of their human resources, by devoting inadequate attention and expenditure to education. Their natural wealth may blind them to the need for educating their children.

In addition, the oil-rich nations suffer from another kind of "curse".

Friedrichs 2013:
Mineral resources are an economic and commercial asset, so one would expect them to contribute to the wealth of a nation. Paradoxically, this expectation is often frustrated by the resource course: countries with a rich resource endowment tend to be less well governed, to have lower growth rates, and to be less socially developed than other comparable countries. Even civil wars tend to be longer and more intense in resource rich countries (Sachs and Warner, 1995, 2001; Collier and Hoeffler, 2004; Humphreys et al., 2007; Ploeg, 2011). In this article, we propose the notion of the carbon curse. The core claim of this new theory is that a country's fossil fuel endowment drives its carbon intensity to a large extent. Other things being equal, countries rich in fossil fuel resources tend to follow more carbon-intensive developmental pathways than [if they were] fossil-fuel poor countries. While this leads to wasteful economic practices that significantly contribute to global warming, it is very hard for countries awash with fossil fuels to evade carbon-intensive developmental pathways. The carbon curse and the resource curse share a common foundation: they both focus on detrimental effects of resource abundance. But while inspired by the resource curse, the carbon curse stands on its own. To date, the scholarship on the resource curse has explored adverse economic and political effects linked to resource abundance such as violent conflict, rent seeking and income volatility, but has neglected the environmental dimension. The carbon curse gives an environmental twist to the resource curse, but it is more than simply a conceptual extension. For example, the “Dutch Disease”—an adverse trade-related phenomenon linked to the resource curse—predicts a wholesale decline of the industrial sector in resource rich economies, reflecting the loss of export price competitiveness as real exchange rates appreciate in the wake of commodity exports. It is easy to see that this particular aspect of the resource curse mitigates the carbon curse: a weaker industrial base suppresses carbon intensity, because the industrial sector typically represents a highly carbon intensive segment of aggregate economic output. Thus, the two curses are related but distinct.


In the second part of this analysis of the Aff position, I will look at some approaches to the all-important value framework.


Natural Resource Extraction, Armed Violence, and Environmental Degradation; PMC US National Library fo Medicine
Liam Downey, Eric Bonds, and Katherine Clark; September 8, 2011

Mary M. Berlik, David B. Kittredge, and David R. Foster ;2002

ConfliCt Prevention in Resource-Rich Economies; The United Nations, Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action; December 2011

European Economic Review 45 (2001) 827}838
Natural Resources and Economic Development; The curse of natural resources
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Andrew M. Warner; 2001

Natural Resources, Education and Economic Development
Thorvaldur Gylfason, University of Iceland, October 2000

Friedrichs, J., Inderwildi, O.R., The carbon curse: Are fuel rich countries doomed to high CO2 intensities?
Energy Policy (2013),
Extracted from:


  1. When will the negative section be coming out?

  2. where is 2nd part?

    1. Check the Lincoln Douglas tab at the top of the page for a link to the Affirmative Values which is part 2.

  3. are there any neg values yet?

    1. Sorry. I am behind. The neg values will be out very soon.

    2. All parts are now online and linked. Simply go to the Lincoln Douglas tab at the top of the page for all LD articles.

  4. Thank you! This is very helpful! Do you any additional articles to read in general?

  5. Replies
    1. All parts are now online and linked. Simply go to the Lincoln Douglas tab at the top of the page for all LD articles.

  6. do you think we could talk about the future? Our side tries to restore Earth, whereas our opponent is going to end up like Earth from the Disney movie, "Wally"? That is basically going to happen right?

  7. A lot of Affs are working around an "extinction" perspective, as in extinction to animals/plants will lead to the extinction of mankind. If you have any cards along these lines, could you please share?

    1. The argument is not particularly compelling because it cannot stand up to a conventional impact calculus; in particular the probability and time frame. Additionally empirical studies will show that mass extinctions (of which there are have been about 6 over the eons) are relatively slow (meteor impacts not withstanding). The current mass extinction has been ongoing for 10s of thousands of years, Therefore, projections for imminent species collapse are speculative. Nevertheless, the best source for the cards you seek will likely be on the NDCA Open Evidence Project or a site in the business of selling evidence. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

  8. In my aff case, should I argue for the right to a clean environment? And do you think I should mention how resource extraction when damaging the environment is counter intuitive as living organisms, plants and animals, are being threatened. And that this is both morally wrong and a set back for the nation as organisms are being wasted away and they could have been of better use.

    1. I think all of those points are valid and can be argued, especially, the first with respect to the "right" to a clean environment. However, you must argue the right as a natural right and not one granted by benevolent governments.


Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.