The exploitation of natural resources has always been a factor that has affected many developing countries. Natural resources are air, water, soil, minerals, fuels, plants, and animals (National Geographic Society, 2012). Countries that experience abuse of their natural resources are those that are already suffering underdevelopment, which incentivizes them to give away their resources in order for them to economically grow. Many nations found in the African continent are fairly new with plenty of resources, which is a weakness that they have against global superpowers who will take advantage of them. They let their resources get exploited in hopes of urbanizing, but do not recognize the price that urbanization holds for them. Sometimes certain areas of underdeveloped countries get left behind. Middle Eastern countries also face abuse in order for bigger powers to obtain natural resources from them. These countries are sought because they have about 32% of the world’s natural gas (What role have natural, n.d.). These underdeveloped countries became targets for vast amounts of resources, and they face political unrest, suffer from environmental issues, and the division of their people. There are also many historical and political factors that have led to the diminishment of natural resources which has ultimately led to the creation of poverty.
Historical and Political Lenses:
A large reason why developing countries become so susceptible to larger powers is because of historical situations that they have undergone. A continent like Africa has faced long wars against countries trying to control and take over for imperialist reasons. In the late nineteenth century, imperialism formed major conflicts in Africa since there were a lot of European countries like Britain, France, Italy, and Germany that wanted to take over their land for political power and resources for industrial purposes (Iweriebor, 2011). Countries that realized the importance of the continent met up and held a conference to discuss how the continent would be colonized. The “Berlin Conference” was how these countries decided how they were going to divide the continent, each took a portion of it and the seizing of Africa would continue for 20 years (Leander, 2017). Later named, “The Scramble for Africa”, this was an event that began the destruction of the natural resources of the continent. This atrocious occurrence began the destruction of Africa’s environment and society. Leaving Africa weakened this would become a major consequence that would continue to affect and destroy society for many years, and it is still affecting it in the present day. This has left many African countries without proper governments and that has made them vulnerable. This vulnerability has placed many countries in poverty. Other areas of the world like the Middle East also have had to face the consequences of imperialism. In the time period after World War I, the Ottoman empire collapsed and instead of independence they became controlled by two very powerful winners of the war: France and Great Britain (Kieh Jr., 1992). These made the territories that were taken over very nationalistic in the hope of independence. During World War II, intervention by Britain and the Soviet Union (USSR) further affected the Middle East, specifically Iran, by pressuring and changing their government in order to have oil for the war (Mclean, n.d.). This, once again, led to an extreme rise in nationalism and political unrest in Iran. Consequences from this, various other moments of intervention, and lack of government regulation are still seen today affecting the entire Middle Eastern area. As a result, of all this intervention and pillaging for Natural resources, it is now seen that most of these countries in the Middle East and Africa are facing detrimental consequences seen through poverty and radicalism.
Social and Cultural Lenses:
The historical and political elements of these countries have paved the way for social unrest, nationalistic idealism, and corruption. In African countries that have a lot of natural resources, there tends to be an unfair advantage towards the people that live in it because most of the revenue never reaches the people; an example is seen in Equatorial Guinea since there are high mortality rates for infants and low life expectancies (Bekele, 2017). The injustice that countries face because of corruption due to natural resources is what keeps them in poverty. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are rich industrial companies that produce lithium and diamonds for the rest of the world, which makes them a very rich country (Global Witness, 2017). However, due to the corruption that they are facing they also barely see any of the revenue produced from it and are still very much suffering in poverty. Naturally, many things are not fair, but the circumstances that are brought upon by some of the societies that live on this continent are something that depends on where the people are born, which is something they cannot control. There are people in poverty that cannot get out of it because of where they live, and many of the people that live in these countries have no way of making their financial situation better or the privilege of having food security. Many African countries that have a widespread amount of natural resources also face a lot of civil conflicts and separation which has resulted in the spread of militia groups and terrorism. In other African countries like Angola, the use of oil is very necessary for economic success, but just like in Equatorial Guinea, many people do not see any of the benefits from the revenue (Ojakorotu, 2011). This causes these radical economic groups to threaten the safety of the people by kidnapping and stealing, adding to the poverty that people are already facing in some African countries. In the Middle East, some countries are now controlled by radical groups. In a country like Syria, which produced about four-hundred thousand barrels of oil, some groups have taken over that area and are now selling that oil. The money they are making is used for their own personal benefit leaving the people who live there to look for other ways to survive in poverty (Klare, 2014). Other Middle Eastern countries have shown a trend of militant groups taking over the territory of seemingly stable areas. One of the primary reasons that these extremist groups take control of the area is due to the natural resources that are found in the region. In Iraq, there is prosperity known regarding the amount of oil produced, and this attracts unwanted attention from neighboring areas that are taken over by groups. Baghdad is an area that is always threatening the national safety of the people in Iran causing the area to tighten up on security (Black, 2014). This makes the people around the area feel unsafe as they never know when a violent event can happen. When war occurs in Iraq because of resources, families end up living in poverty because they can lose many vital parts of their societies like hospitals and markets. Recently, after the war that Iraq had with the Islamic State, there are one in four children in Iraq suffering from poverty, and millions of families struggling to make a living (Aboulenein, 2018). This further proves that the desire for natural resources brings conflict to countries and when these disagreements escalate into warfare it brings bigger consequences for the civilians that occupy the area, and in severe cases, it can leave them suffering because of the lack of food and shelter. Many countries in Africa and the Middle East that suffer from the exploitation of natural resources also hurt their societies due to the amount of corruption and the amount of radical nationalism.
A significant area that is affected by the amount of natural resource exploitation is the actual environment that is getting exploited. The environment is something that we need to protect; the number of trees that are getting cut down and burned, the mountainsides that lay bare, the fossil fuels that are being burned, and the river and the seas that are being polluted (Thatcher, 1989). This is something that affects the environment and the people that are left in poverty because of the exploitation of the land that used to benefit them. This is not fair to the civilians in the area that have to deal with the repercussions of the choices that they did not even have a voice in. The environmental rights of the African people are constantly get abused by the number of companies that leave their land with soil pollution, deforestation, and toxic gasses due to industrialization in the area (Ngachoko & Nowlin, 2016). Environmental rights are rights that a human being should have because there are ways that people take advantage of the environment around them in order to survive. People in some African countries are hindered from these rights because they have no control over what happens on their land. Once the environment that they live in goes through degradation, they have no other choice but to learn to live with what they are left with which is usually the remnants of the once prosperous land that they had. The Middle East also faces similar problems to the countries in Africa. In a speech made by the Queen of Jordan, Noor Al Hussein, she recognizes the issues linked with natural resources and one of these issues includes how the environment is affected and how it ends up hurting society itself (Hussein, 2018). The natural disasters brought upon in the Middle East by the amount of natural resource exploitation affect the security of people around the area since many of these countries do not have the correct ways of safely handling situations caused by the environment. The way that these people are affected by their environment is due to a large amount of natural resource exploitation in their areas.
In essence, the exploitation of natural resources in countries in Africa and the Middle East is linked to the poverty that their civilians face. The number of historical aspects, social and cultural situations and the way their environment is left barren is a key factor in increasing the areas left in destitution. There are ways that people in these areas could be helped and their poverty levels could slowly start to decrease. The first proposed solution is a long-term solution that can limit the amount of natural resource drilling and safely allow for the correct amounts of resources to get taken from territories. The United States has a similar law that prevents the amount of oil from being drilled and allows natural resources to be effectively protected in American territory (HG, n.d.). However, this long-term solution faces multiple implications because many countries that drill from these impoverished countries and the wealthy leaders of the countries themselves would not want the extensive amount of money that they are making to be reduced just to protect the environment and society. A short-term solution that can be introduced by, starting funds that spread awareness about how natural resource exploitation leaves people suffering from poverty. This can be done by setting up events and fundraisers that will educate people on the tragic events that are happening in Africa and the Middle East. The money given in the fundraisers will be used to send food and necessary items for survival to the people suffering from natural resource exploitation. The limitation of this solution is that not everyone will be interested in learning about events happening outside of their country and would rather remain ignorant of the rest of the world. A final solution proposed can be as simple as setting up a simple online account on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram that will keep people informed about the unfairness that other countries face in the world which will engage them in helping the distressed countries. A limitation of this is that people may follow the account, but they will not actually do anything in order to help the countries. We need to make sure that we recognize the importance of natural resources and rights that people in countries have because if we do not, then the exploitation of natural resources that are currently keeping Africa and the Middle East, and other underdeveloped territories in poverty will soon reach other countries in the world.
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