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 3: The Environment and Civil Society: The Rights to Nature, and the Rights of Nature

Michael Redclift

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


Michael Redclift 1 INTRODUCTION Much of the discussion of environmental security has confused the implications of environmental problems for the human condition with the effects of human activities on the natural environment. In the Introduction it was suggested that we might begin by distinguishing between ecological security and environmental security. This chapter examines the way in which the international dimensions of sustainability have also confused the rights to ‘manage’ nature, which is largely informed by a science paradigm, with the civil rights of populations, most of which are faced with difficult environmental problems and choices. It is suggested that we need to look hard at the basis for the legitimacy of our actions, and avoid confusing human rights in civil society with our obligations to environmental sustainability. For some time now the term ‘sustainability’ has only existed within quotation marks. Like the transition from feminism to ‘gender studies’, the attention to what is sustainable, and how it is measured, has had a profoundly depoliticising effect. This is not to argue that measuring sustainability is a purposeless activity, merely that sustainability discourses frequently mark the point at which the idea of sustainability loses its radical edge (Redclift, 1999). The re-emergence of market economics and neo-liberal policies in the 1980s, with which the measurement of sustainability is associated, clearly marked a watershed for environmental politics. Increasingly ‘sustainability’ was detached from the environment, and environmental sustainability was confused with wider questions of equity, governance and social justice, which were themselves given weight...

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