Environmental security: an introduction

Hough, Peter ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1209-1654 (2014) Environmental security: an introduction. Routledge. ISBN 9780415516471, pbk-ISBN 9780415516488, e-ISBN 9781315882505. [Book]


This book surveys the global politics of the environment through the prism of security studies. ‘Environmental Security’ has featured prominently in the discourse of academic International Relations and real world international relations since both of these arenas came to be shaken up in the aftermath of the Cold War in the 1990s. The apparent passing into history of a conflict which had completely dominated International Relations and international relations since the 1940s prompted a reappraisal of the politics of security and provided space for environmental issues to be given greater prominence on the international political agenda. ‘Securitizing’ the environment- that is treating issues such as pollution or resource depletion as threats meriting urgent and special political attention- has been advocated by many Political Ecologists and put into practise by some governments since the 1990s (and even as far back as the early 1970s when the Cold War appeared to be ending and environmental concerns had begun to globalize). Not everyone, though, is convinced of the merits of treating ecological concerns as matters of political emergency and environmental security remains highly contested. In addition environmental security is inconsistently interpreted by its advocates since ‘security’, in terms of its meaning and the means of achieving it, is viewed differently by different political actors and thinkers. As a consequence of this the academic literature on environmental security that has evolved over the past few decades has tended to polarize rather than synthesize into clearer thinking and few comprehensive and accessible texts have emerged to present issues that demonstrably do greatly affect and concern the general public.
This book hence seeks to provide some much needed clarity to thinking about environmental security by presenting the debate on the appropriateness and meaning of this concept in a systematic and accessible format. Towards this end two guiding questions underpin this survey of environmental politics from a security perspective. 1. What is the scale of threat posed by the issues of environmental change? 2. Is it appropriate to treat issues of environmental change as matters of security politics? The complexity and interconnectedness of environmental problems makes precisely determining the scale of their threat a very difficult, if not impossible, task but it is, nonetheless, important to do this. Elements of doubt and an occasional tendency to exaggerate the human impacts of environmental change can be exploited by vested interests unwilling to incur the short term costs of securing people and the planet in the long term. Scientific and public understanding of the costs of the pollution and depletion of the Earth’s resources is, though, improving all the time and this volume seeks to present this across the range of environmental issues. In addition to these difficulties in quantifying the threat posed by environmental change are concerns over whether describing and treating issues such as climate change as matters of security is merited or helpful. Ontological questions on the meaning of security are invoked: whose security is at stake?; what does being secure entail?; who does the securing? For some- the traditionalists- environmental politics and security politics simply do not go together because security has come to be interpreted as synonymous with the military defence of the state. On the other side of the debate it is not accepted that security has to be about ‘national’ or military threats and the human impact of environmental change should be enough to merit the treatment of such issues as international political priorities. A middle course between these positions, put into practise by several governments, is to securitize environmental concerns on the grounds that they can have traditional national security consequences in an indirect sense by making conflict and instability in the world more likely.
This author allies himself with the second of these three camps- the human or critical security paradigm- but all three perspectives are presented in this volume

Item Type: Book
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Item ID: 13287
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Peter Hough
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 09:44
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2023 10:36
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/13287

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