Can we see beginnings of state failure in the US and Europe?

New book highlights potentially catastrophic outcomes in new era of energy decline | Presents an empirically-grounded theoretical model of the complex interactions between biophysical processes and geopolitical crises

Heidelberg | New York, 24 January 2017  

© SpringerThe United States and Europe face an increasing risk of state failure in coming years due to the escalation of interlinked environmental, energy and economic crises. This warning is set out in Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence by Dr Nafeez Ahmed, published by Springer as part of the book series Springer Briefs in Energy Analysis. The study pinpoints net energy decline as a primary factor in the critical vulnerability of the global financial system.

The author claims that states can begin to fail within 15 years of a country’s main sources of energy and economic revenue becoming jeopardised. Resource factors have led to failing states  – such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt and Nigeria – in the Middle East and Africa, where prolonged domestic unrest, civil war and terrorism have become endemic. Within the next decades, similar impacts could hit closer to home: Energy shortage as well as climatic change impacts will drive an increasing number of refugees towards the US and Europe, where climatic impacts will have caused additional domestic agricultural crises. The combined strain on national economies will make outbreaks of civil unrest highly likely. 

“While some of the outcomes are unavoidable, their worst effects can still be mitigated – although this requires serious alternatives to business as usual”, the author says. 

The study develops an empirically-ground theoretical model of the complex interaction between biophysical processes and geopolitical crises, demonstrated through a wide range of detailed case studies of historic, concurrent and probable state failures in the Middle East, Northwest Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. It presents a concise, systematic analysis of the key factors behind the acceleration of civil unrest across the world, and its major strategic and societal implications using a unique transdisciplinary methodology.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute of Anglia Ruskin University's Faculty of Science and Technology. In his work, he focuses on developing complex systems approaches that bridge the natural and social sciences to model the interface between biophysical processes and geopolitical crises. His scholarly work focuses on the historical sociology and political ecology of mass violence in the context of civilizational systems. He has taught international politics, contemporary history, empire and globalisation at the University of Sussex’s School of Global Studies and Brunel University’s Politics & History Unit. Ahmed is also an investigative journalist and creator of the crowdfunded journalism project INSURGE intelligence. He is a columnist and previously wrote the Earth Insight blog for The Guardian, where he reported on the geopolitics of the environment. He has advised the Royal Military Academy Sandhust, British Foreign Office and US State Department, among other government agencies, on international security issues. In 2010, he won the Routledge-GCP&S Essay Prize.


Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Failing States, Collapsing Systems
BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence
2017, 116 p. 34 illus. in color
Softcover 49,99 € | £37.99 | $54.99
ISBN 978-3-319-47814-2


Also available as an eBook

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Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence

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