Becca Farnum
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Personal profile

Research interests (short)

Nature as Diplomat: Agency, Scale and Purpose in Environmental Peacebuilding

  • Food
  • Water
  • Environmental Peacebuilding
  • Environmental Conflict and Cooperation
  • International Diplomacy
  • Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Member of the Environment, Politics and Development and King's Water Research Groups

 

Biographical details

Rebecca Farnum is a 2012 EPA Marshall Scholar currently researching for a PhD in Geography at King's College London, where she explores discourses of environmental conflict and cooperation, particularly around food and water resources in the Middle East and North Africa under the supervision of Drs Naho Mirumachi and Alex Loftus. At King's, she serves as an Administrative Assistant for King's Water and a Postgraduate Representative to the Geography Research Executive.

Becca has completed an LLM in International Law focused on environmental and human rights law at the University of Edinburgh and holds an MSc in Water Security and International Development from the University of East Anglia. She graduated in May 2012 from Michigan State University with degrees in anthropology, interdisciplinary humanities, international development, and international relations. Her senior honors thesis explored “Food and Water as the Middle East and North Africa’s ‘Coal and Steel’: Regional Economic Integration and Peace Prospects.”

In Summer 2011, Becca worked at The White House in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Correspondence Office. Becca is a member of the United Methodist Church and a great believer of interfaith and intercultural understanding and activism. In her undergraduate years, she cofounded MSU’s Campus Interfaith Council and worked with Students for Peace and Justice and the MLK Diversity Committee.

In the United Kingdom, Becca works with Norfolk County Council to teach environmental education residential programmes for students, building capacity and demand for sustainable economies, and The Brilliant Club to tutor high-achieving pupils from low-participation schools, raising aspirations for university study. She also helps run the London Water Research Group and co-convenes a Working Group on the Hydro Cycle, examining societal knowledge of hydrological science and anthropogenic impacts on water.

Becca serves as an International Board Member for Dorm Room Diplomacy, an organisation building relationships between international undergraduates through online videoconferences, and as the Founding Secretary of the AMEND Fellows, the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue based at Stanford University.

Research interests

Becca's PhD research at King's considers discourses of environmental conflict and cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa. She is working to theorise the growing trend of 'environmental peacebuilding', the idea that natural resources can be used as an avenue to bridge cultural and political tensions. Her work is rooted in a feminist political ecology approach to understanding human geography, examining the complex power dynamics of political, economic, and social factors as they relate to environmental resources.

 

Advocates for environmental peacebuilding believe that environmental resources can be used as a mechanism in bringing groups together. Shared protection schemes for threatened but vital resources, agreements over drilling regulations in transboundary water sources, and maintaining parks near borders can all open the door to cooperation. Peoples and governments in conflict who have a difficult time sitting down to discuss historically sensitive issues may be able to engage each other over shared environmental needs. If approached correctly, this environmental cooperation can lead to stronger relationships and pave the way for further peace initiatives.

Environmental peacebuilding is a fairly new concept, not well developed in the literature, but it is growing in prominence. United Nations projects around the world are beginning to consider the role of natural resources in peacebuilding. Organisations such as EcoPeace and the Arava Institute use the rationale of environmental peacebuilding to inform many of their programmes.

Becca's research considers these and other case studies of environmental peacebuilding across the region. Her work on enviromental peacebuilding seeks to inform the debate over environmental determinism and social constructivism by examining:

  1. Can environmental resources, including food and water, be mechanisms not of conflict but of cooperation?
  2. Do policy and media discourses of a “securitised” environment help or hinder environmental peacebuilding and cooperation?
  3. How do conflict and cooperation around food and water coexist? Is all environmental conflict bad? Is all environmental cooperation good?
  4. How can we better utilise local examples of environmental peacebuilding to critically inform national and regional policies around environmental resources?

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Laws, International Law ("'Sign Here for Statehood': The Role of International Environmental Agreements in Building Legal Recognition for Taiwan and Palestine" supervised by Professor Alan Boyle), University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 2014

Master of Science, Water Security and International Development (“Virtual Water, Equivocal Law, Actual Hegemony: Expanding the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony to Inform Virtual Water Trade and International Law” supervised by Dr. Mark Zeitoun), University of East Anglia

Award Date: 1 Jan 2013

Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Humanities: Gender Studies, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, Michigan State University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2012

Bachelor of Arts, International Relations (“Food and Water as the Middle East and North Africa’s ‘Coal and Steel’: Regional Economic Integration and Peace Prospects" supervised by Dr. Mark Axelrod), Michigan State University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2012

Bachelor of Science, Global and Area Studies: International Development, Michigan State University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2012

Bachelor of Science, Anthropology, Michigan State University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2012

Keywords

  • G Geography (General)
  • Middle East
  • MENA
  • Food security
  • Water security
  • Environmental peacebuilding
  • Environmental cooperation
  • Environmental conflict
  • Environmental
  • Diplomacy

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