Doing a google search of Ben Sandzer-Bell could lead one to think there are at least three or four of these guys running around. Not so, this self concoted last name (combining both paternal figures) resulted in a unique last name for which there are only two users, Ben and Ezra. Yet when googling Ben Sandzer-Bell one finds a trove of articles that read like a defense industry hawk that pops up in Asia, Japan, US, associated with military hardware. A few entries below there are equally strong newspaper articles that feature surely a different BSB, talking about Argentinian furniture and artisanal leather purses from the days of “Ethnicities”.
Finally, as result of Peta’s high level of PR/ media outreach to shape the CO2 Bambu brand, BSB’s name pops up frequently in environmental impact context and points to a high level of advocacy relative to climate change.
Surely, the defense industry’s weapon system advocate and a climate change advocate are not the same.
So here now is the interesting twist. The United States’ National Research Council, a bi-partisan, science focused group of University Presidents and influential scientists have issued a major study that links precisely Climate Change to National Security! Of course, the logic is common sense, but having a high level, undisputed body connect the dots is an important development. The observation made by the group is that with climate change come more natural disasters. Natural disasters create societal havoc, forcing entire populations to migrate away from flooding zones, dramatically increase competition for potable water in drought-impacted in regions, leading to armed confrontation for precious water sources, and accelerates hunger in many parts of the world as a result of drought or flood-related destruction of basic food supplies. In short, with Climate Change will come many regional conflicts that are just brewing under the surface in all regions of the world. This will have a direct impact on the geopolitical balance in such areas as South East Asia.
All this came together in a tight little package, in the form of CO2 Bambu being invited to brief US Department of Defense Pacific Command in the Philippines. PACOM is executing President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy – one that basically recognizes that while the US today is repeatedly drawn into the Middle East, in the longer term, the geo-strategic competition of the 21st Century will be focused around the rise of China as a dominant military force in Asia Pacific. While China’s primary focus to date has been on its economic growth and on managing the phenomenal speed of economic achievements for the world’s largest population, and to some extent on its role as the United States’ banker, there is now a third pillar emerging – China as a maritime power. The folks in Asia Pac are experiencing this first hand — Japan is in a bitter land dispute with China over some islands that both countries claim as their own. A similar case has strained relations between China and the Philippines. SO, with all this in mind, US DoD Pacific Command has been thinking about a strategy to engage with South East Asian nations in a subtle / delicate geopolitical balancing game which consists in reinforcing US alliances in the region, while not coming across as directly “encircling” China.
The dominant theme which PACOM adopted is one that is resolutely not military, although military actors have key roles to play. This theme is DISASTER RESILIENCE. After all, ALL nations in Asia Pac suffer from Climate Change related disasters – from hurricanes to typhoons. Whether big or small, under authoritarian rule or operating as democracies, whether muslim or christian, all Asia Pac nations feel the brunt of climate change. And so, Disaster Resilience is the vehicle of choice to build up America’s Asia Pac network of friends.
So with all this in mind, Ben travelled to the Philippines as part of a Resilience focused workshop. He pitched the team of US and Filipino military and civilian leaders about amphibious housing. Net result is that amphibious housing has been selected as a key area of focus for 2013/14.
And so with this event Ben’s apparently unrelated and divergent tracks of national security and climate change converge neatly into a world shaping development which will no doubt be a core activity for us in the coming years.