|Abstract or Summary
- Given the growing human security implications resulting from the high rates of change in social-ecological systems, the general question motivating this research is: how can the traditional security establishment respond to rising non-traditional threats? This question comes from the ongoing debate of whether military resources should be used in some way to prevent conditions of social instability by assisting in stabilizing environmental decline? The Establishment of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008 underscored the change of direction in US policy towards the African continent that began earlier in the decade. The command’s unique interagency structure departs from the Napoleonic battle-staff structure typical of other regional commands organized for strategic military campaigns. This paradigm shift signifies the greater security paradigm shift of the contemporary post Cold War era where deteriorating conditions such as poverty, energy crisis, disease, and environmental degradation are now recognized as the modern enemies of humanity. This notion fuels the ongoing debate about AFRICOM’s mission on the continent. Given the growing linkages of environmental degradation to socioeconomic decay and conflict, how could AFRICOM play a hand in non-traditional missions of improving environmental security in Africa where these linkages are most evident? This question is further reduced to a specific case study where an ongoing environmental crisis is occurring in South Africa – the geographic southern tip of the continent but economic center of gravity. The growing water crisis clashes with a century of mining legacy that places water security at grave risk in that nation as well as future prospects for growth and stability. The specific questions analyzed in this project are: How does mining byproduct (acid mine drainage) impact water security in this nation of increasing water scarcity? Does the institution have the capacity to absorb the change that this environmental disturbance can potentially bring? How could AFRICOM improve the environmental security in this particular scenario? Data was collected through field visits to problem areas and numerous engagements with stakeholders and interested academic parties to assess the threat to the “triple bottom line”. Guided by resilience theory, it steps out of the water sector in a whole-systems approach to understand how other converging institutional stresses such as crime, massive skills exodus, and HIV/AIDS are severely increasing the complexity of the nation and draining precious energy away from the institution needed to repel the water crisis. AFRICOM can make a positive contribution to this imminent environmental security crisis through technology sharing, capacity building, and increased partnerships among the many various actors in its area of activity. Most importantly, it can do this transparently in accordance with both the Secretary of Defense’s and Commander’s intent.