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Human Security and the Environment

International Comparisons

Edited by Edward A. Page and Michael R. 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.
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Chapter 1: Human Security and the Environment

International Comparisons

Edward Page


Edward Page 1 INTRODUCTION The phenomenon of global environmental change (that is, of natural and human induced changes in the Earth’s environment, affecting land use and land cover, biodiversity, atmospheric composition and climate) raises a number of interesting questions for scholars of political science and international relations. Some of these concern the way in which states might cooperate in order to mitigate, or adapt to, the environmental stresses associated with climatic change, deforestation, declining species diversity and so on. Others relate to the way in which global environmental change may exacerbate existing inequalities across space and time. In this chapter, I want to pursue the question of links between environmental change and some rival conceptions of security. On the face of it, the prospect of securing a full reconciliation between the notions of environmental change and security are not encouraging. This is because the traditional focus of work on security has been on the investigation of military threats to the territorial integrity of a given state that arise either externally (from the military activities of other states) or internally (from the subversive, and generally violent, activities of terrorist groups). The security studies literature usually, though not exclusively, views individual states as sovereign entities that pursue their own advantage in a context where other states do the same. That is, this literature is on the whole shaped by neo-liberal and neo-realist assumptions, such as the assumption that the behaviour of states is determined by the structure of power relations in the...

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