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 9: Human Security and the Environment: The North American Perspective

Richard Matthew

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


Richard Matthew 1 INTRODUCTION For over two decades, researchers and policymakers in North America have been interested in the linkages between environmental change, conflict and security (for example, Falk, 1971; Brown, 1977; Ullman, 1983; Lipschutz, 1989; Mathews, 1989; Deudney, 1990; Gleick 1991; Homer-Dixon, 1991, 1994, 1999; Christopher, 1997, 1998; and Environmental Protection Agency, 1999). This interest grew rapidly after 1989, partially in response to research and policy opportunities created by the end of the Cold War.1 In the past ten years several of the most influential and widely-cited studies of these linkages have been carried out in the United States and Canada; numerous conferences and workshops held in North America have generated farreaching and lively debate; academic and policy journals have been established dedicated to this topic; and a range of government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have integrated this perspective into their activities, often with a substantial investment of financial and human resources. According to a number of pundits and scholars, such as Jessica Tuchman Mathews (1989) and Thomas Homer-Dixon (1999), the remarkable activities of the 1990s have a sound intellectual and practical basis: growing environmental scarcities – especially of water, cropland, forests and fisheries – are undermining social systems by aggravating existing tensions and introducing new sources of insecurity and violent conflict. More and more people are being forced to eke out an existence on barren lands. Many of these poor, desperate individuals contribute to regional instability by crossing international borders as they search for viable livelihoods....

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