Resource Competition and World Politics in the Twenty-First Century
Competition and conflict over access to major sources of valuable and essential materials—water, land, gold, gems, spices, and timber—have long been a significant feature of international affairs. The initial outward burst of European exploration in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was largely driven by the quest for precious resources, as was the period of colonization that followed. The onset of industrialization in the nineteenth century sparked another worldwide race for vital materials, culminating in the global pursuit of petroleum. Only with the outbreak of the cold war at the end of World War II did resource issues lose their preeminent role as the strategic and ideological concerns of the superpowers occupying center stage. Now, with the cold war over and a new era beginning, resource competition will again play a critical role in world affairs.