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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 7: Water and ‘Cultural Security’

International Comparisons

Chris Cocklin


Chris Cocklin 1 INTRODUCTION The idea that nature has had something to do with the shaping of cultures and history is an idea that is both obviously true and persistently neglected. (Donald Worster, 1985, p. 22) In discussions of the possible links between environment and security, we often find reference to water (Cooley, 1984; Falkenmark, 1986; Starr, 1991; Gleick, 1993; Lonergan and Brooks, 1994; Postel, 1996; Wolf, 1999). This is not surprising, given that there are widespread scarcities of supply, it is essential to human survival, has value in economic terms, and that some water bodies are of strategic significance as, for example, in the Middle East (Lonergan and Brooks, 1994; see also Wolf, 1999). The extent and intensity of social, environmental, economic and strategic problems associated with water are bound to increase in the future. In the Global Environmental Outlook 2000 (UNEP, 1999), it was reported that 20 per cent of the world’s population already lacks access to safe drinking water and that 50 per cent of the population do not have access to adequate sanitation. In the context of an increasing world population and the seemingly inexorable processes of industrialisation and urbanisation, many are predicting a global water crisis. According to the UNEP report, ‘Water security, like food security, will become a major national and regional priority in many areas of the world in the years to come’ (p. xxii). Postel (1996, p. 47) similarly predicted threats to human security as a result of increased competition for...

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