5 January 2017

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Failing States, Collapsing Systems - BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence




My new book which has just been published by the global science publisher, Springer, is called Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (2017). 

Published as part of the SpringerBriefs in Energy series, the book is a peer-reviewed scientific monograph on how state failures around the world are being driven by systemic crises driven by interconnected climate, energy, food and economic crises. The series editor is Prof Charles Hall, the founder of the concept of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) which measures the efficiency of an energy system by calculating the quantity of energy used to extract new energy from a particular resource.

The book establishes a social science grounded complex systems framework of the key factors behind the acceleration of civil unrest across the world, and its major strategic and societal implications. 

The Springer website describes it as follows: "Provides an interdisciplinary integrated analysis of data across oil and energy production, food production, economic growth, austerity and debt, to determine how their interaction is undermining states as part of a wider global process of system failure... Sets out the key trends that are destabilising existing fossil fuel infrastructure and which could pave ground for a fundamental paradigm shift in economics, energy, technology, society and culture."

My findings show that deeply intertwined climate, energy, food and economic crises - driven fundamentally by a longterm thermodynamic process of global net energy decline - are leading states to begin failing in the Middle East and North Africa, that these processes are rapidly accelerating in South Asia and Russia, and are likely to impact increasingly in the United States and Western Europe in coming years. 

As a result, the internal territorial integrity of the US, Russia and the EU are all under threat. 

This is the first time that an attempt has been made to develop a framework for exploring how geopolitical crises are directly and intimately connected to deeper biophysical processes. 

Usually, theories of state failure focus mostly on governance criteria which are abstracted from biophysical realities, whereby politics, society, and economy are fundamentally embedded in the biophysical environment. Instead of engaging with existing theories of state failure, I've undertaken an empirical analysis which brings together a vast quantity of data to examine how certain states which are already indisputably failing, are doing so in the direct context of deeper biophysical processes that are normally almost entirely ignored in the state failure literature. 

On this basis, a scientifically-grounded conceptual model is developed to show how these processes are accelerating globally, and how they are likely to impact on other states which appear to be particularly vulnerable to these processes. Rather than positing a generic overarching theory of state failure, then, I instead offer a new framework for assessing the risks of failing states emerging due to biophysical processes driven by climate change, energy depletion, food crises and economic instability. 

I hope that this work contributes toward more holistic and systemic approaches within and between the natural and social/political sciences, in understanding the intensification of political violence today, and its capacity to destabilise prevailing governing structures and institutions.

I'll be launching the book at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University,'s Faculty of Science and Technology, where I'm a Visiting Research Fellow, on 24th January, 4pm. Will have more details about the event soon.  

You can order the book directly from Springer, from Amazon, or through your local or university library.

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