Human Security and the Environment

Human Security and the Environment

International Comparisons

Edited by Edward A. Page and Michael Redclift

In the post-Cold War era, the pre-eminent threats to our security derive from human degradation of vital ecosystems as well as the possibility of war and terrorist attack. This substantial book examines this new ‘security-environment’ paradigm and the way in which the activities of societies are shifting the balance with nature. The distinguished authors investigate this redefinition of security with particular reference to environmental threats such as climate change and the availability of adequate supplies of food and water. They illustrate how unfettered economic growth, rising levels of personal consumption and unsustainable natural resource and energy procurement are taking a heavy toll on the global environment.

Chapter 2: Democracy and the Environment

Nils Petter Gleditsch and Bjørn Otto Sverdrup

Subjects: environment, environmental geography, environmental politics and policy, environmental sociology, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy


1 Nils Petter Gleditsch and Bjørn Otto Sverdrup 1 INTRODUCTION The recent wave of democratisation has rekindled interest in liberal propositions about the beneficial effects of democracy on international affairs, notably on peace and development. Much of the literature on the environment has ignored the effects of the political system, while other parts have suggested that development, industrialisation, and capitalism are particularly apt to lead to environmental degradation. Since most democracies are highly developed, industrialised and capitalist, many environmentalists have taken a dim view of the prospects for environmental protection in democratic countries. While some have assumed that saving the environment requires a strong state, even an authoritarian regime, and that democracies are incapable of handling the ‘tragedy of the commons’, recent literature suggests a more optimistic view. The end of the Cold War has also occasioned a more critical look at the environmental policies under socialism. This article suggests that although many democracies have permitted development at the expense of environmental protection, democracies are also likely to mobilise counter-forces to such degradation. An empirical analysis shows generally positive bivariate effects of democracy on environmental performance, and more uniformly positive effects when controlling for the level of development. Many environmental problems have transnational effects, but few are exclusively international. Democracies, in addition to overcoming national environmental degradation more efficiently, are also better at developing cooperative solutions to international environmental problems. 2 THE RENAISSANCE OF DEMOCRACY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS During ‘the third wave of democratization’ (Huntington, 1991), interest...

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