Camilla Carlesi reflects on entering [X]ceptional, an opportunity for students in College of Social Sciences to present their own original research on any element of climate change.
My research question was: Given that water related issues — such as droughts and water shortages — have helped ISIS past recruitment, are they likely to help its recruitment in the Middle East in the coming decade?
I have always liked to think outside the box, compare dynamics that are usually not associated. My idea of exploring the link between climate change and terrorism recruitment originated exactly from this will. Both fields of study have always interested me since my Bachelor’s Degree, which I pursued in International Affairs. Examining terrorism enlightened me on the non-territorial, unpredictable and impending threat that extremism plays in the international system, while researching on climate change illuminated me on its exceedingly harmful consequences. My research, combining the two problems, unveils the existence of silent repercussions created by climate change and highlights the importance of securitizing the environment as a way to mitigate the terrorist threat.
I chose to analyze the Middle East in particular as it is the region of the world suffering the most from environmental degradation, particularly from water issues. Consequently, the case of ISIS was fit for this research as it is one of the most relevant terrorist organizations operating in the region. I found it particular motivating when, at the start of my exploration, I not only found other scholars investigating the subject, but I also discovered some interviews of local witnesses. Reading the words of the people who were suffering from land degradation and water shortages, who were tempted to join ISIS as a solution to their problems, truly motivated me to pursue the topic. Environmental deterioration in the region contributed to the pre-existing local stresses, exacerbating the political, economical and social problems. The inability of regional governments to respond to these challenges really worsened the condition of the population, which lived in poverty. What really surprised me was the increased receptiveness of the citizens to the ISIS appeals, which came as a consequence of living in demoralizing conditions. Unlike what could appear at first glance, the organization not only offered them employment opportunities and sustenance, but also an emotional outlet for their desperation.
Overall, this research taught me that climatological grievances have an effect on many more problems than I expected and that the connection between climate change and terrorism is only predicted to strengthen in the future. I am continuing to research on the link between terrorism and climate change, as I am currently analyzing the case of Boko Haram and its recruitment operations in the area of Lake Chad.
Her article, Exploring the Link Between Climate Change and Terrorist Recruitment has been published in volume 6 of [X]position, the University of Glasgow’s undergraduate research journal.
Camilla Carlesi is Secretary and Social Media Coordinator for the Security Distillery, which aims to turn complex security issues into simple, quality, accessible information for students and researchers.
[X]ceptional: The COP26 Challenge
The [X]ceptional: The COP26 Challenge initiative enabled students in students in the College of Social Sciences to engage in COP26, the global climate change conference held in Glasgow in November 2021.