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In Pursuit of Prosperity

Overview

America’s prosperity depends on the stability and success of our political and economic partners around the world. Strong communities, robust economies and a healthy environment are the foundation of a vibrant and growing society.

But right now we are at a crossroads. Despite extraordinary efforts to conserve our natural resources, we are witnessing accelerating losses of biodiversity, widespread deforestation, overfishing and exhaustion of fish stocks. We’re also seeing more frequent and harsher weather phenomena such as droughts, floods and hurricanes. The impacts on our planet’s environmental fabric and communities are severe and enduring.

To turn this tide, the WWF In Pursuit of Prosperity (iPOP) initiative aspires to make environmental sustainability a central tenet in the way the US works with other nations. By accelerating our transition to a US foreign policy that is more responsive to rapidly changing global environmental conditions, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation and the accompanying economic challenges, WWF is helping put in place policies that will help create a world in which both people and nature can thrive.

Why It Matters

  • Resource scarcity and the conflicts it creates has a far-reaching impact on the prosperity of millions of people across the globe. By making sustainability a core component of US foreign policy, government leaders can proactively address major geopolitical issues before they arise. This not only improves the quality of people’s everyday lives, it also helps conserve the natural resources and ecosystems on which we all rely.

What WWF Is Doing

The forthcoming WWF book, In Pursuit of Prosperity: U.S. Foreign Policy in an Era of Natural Resource Scarcity taps the expertise of some of our nation’s leading voices from the diplomatic, defense and intelligence communities to identify nine places where rapidly changing environmental conditions are of critical strategic importance to the United States.

The nine case studies confirm the impacts of natural resource scarcities and global environmental change that will reverberate across those societies for the foreseeable future.

Geophysical Impacts

Country studies from China, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and Mexico highlight growing water scarcities that are stressing provision of food and energy in many regions of those countries. Rising temperatures, variable rainfall and drought are deepening scarcities of renewable resources such as water and productive lands.

Socioeconomic Impacts

Resource scarcities in rural areas are disrupting livelihoods and accelerating migration of tens of millions of inhabitants to urban areas. This increases pressure in sprawling cities such as Karachi, Mexico City, Delhi and Guangzhou as governments try to provide housing, sanitation, water and energy.

Impacts on Neighboring Countries

Scarcities in one country can spill over into relations with neighboring countries as governments try to access natural resources—such as timber, water and energy—through legal and illegal paths. Tensions among neighbors, ranging from the US.-Mexico border to India and Pakistan, are on the rise.

Impacts on National Institutions

Many government offices are unable to respond to the new demands arising from increased scarcities and changing environmental conditions. Governments seldom discuss with stakeholders the difficult trade-offs among water, food, energy and development options, hoping that technical and infrastructure responses will address the problems. And many regional cooperation organizations are often unable to address tensions created or intensified by competition for scarce resources among neighboring countries.

"The question is not whether resource scarcity in other parts of the world will affect US prosperity and national security, but rather when and how. And, in equal measure, how will the US government and our economy respond to the attendant social unrest and economic disruption?"

David Reed Senior Vice President, Policy, WWF

Experts