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 12: Fresh Water in Costa Rica: Abundant Yet Constrained

Álvaro Fernández-González, Viviana Blanco-Barboza and Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta

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


Álvaro Fernández-González and Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta* 1 INTRODUCTION Life-support systems for humans and other species are critically dependent on water quality and availability. Among the greatest current challenges to human security are the risks to public and environmental health stemming from the degradation or depletion of water resources. And there are other impacts of water conditions on human security, both in the economic and social realms. The increased cost of making water available and potable (when possible at all) must be borne by public or private agencies and, therefore, to some degree, by the public itself. This has national implications in terms of decreased overall competitiveness, as well as more individual or localised outcomes, such as a loss of real estate value or eventual displacement of populations. Most troubling perhaps is the fact that conflicts between users of the resource, and between different uses of it, can produce escalating costs and disturbances, even with regional and international consequences. Water resources in Costa Rica, and drinking water in particular, are abundant. Yet they are constrained: there are symptoms that pollution and overexploitation might pose serious dangers for the future, bringing about tensions and contradictions between its uses as a source and sink. Water stress from aquifer overexploitation has become a distinct possibility, as extraction expanded by 400 per cent in the metropolitan area in the 1996– 2000 period. In addition, these aquifers show the increasing presence of carcinogenic nitrates, which could have taken 20 years to leach...

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