Environmental Security Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3409 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 25  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues

Environmental Security

The environment and its preservation for future generations has become one of the most important current issues not only in general society, but also in the political arena. As such, the issue has enjoyed attention from the highest and most powerful entities. It is no longer a question of whether to pay political attention to the environment; it has become compulsory if the human race is to survive. The question is rather on which platform to focus the most energy in terms of the environment. A large amount of attention has been given to the economic implications of the various environmental crises humanity faces today. Recently, attention has begun to also focus upon the implications of environmental concerns for security. The question of whether this could be the best way of handling environmental risk in Europe, could be countered by considering whether any one focus is ever the "best" way. Is it not better to find a combination of various ways in which to handle the risks? Below the focus on the security issue is considered, how this could impact the environment, and whether the environment can benefit from combining security with other issues such as economics.

The Security Issue

In his writing, Hugh Dyer (2002), appears to be somewhat skeptical of placing the environment on the security agenda. Indeed, he hypothesizes that this might be to stretch the meaning of security beyond what is useful in terms of mitigating environmental problems. The reason for this is that issues of security are traditionally handled by the military, while environmental problems are generally addressed by environmental scientists. Securing environmental resources however entail more than developing scientific methods to secure the future of the environment. Furthermore, according to a number of authors, the environment does indeed relate to the security issue in the global arena in a variety of integrated ways. According to Dyer (2002: 441), the difficulty lies not so much in whether environmentalism has become a security issue, but rather in precisely what form security measures in such a case should take.

Being the source of survival or indeed of economic prosperity, the scarcity of natural resources has the potential to result in violent conflict. The most obvious need for the security paradigm is therefore in peacekeeping in environments where resources are scarce and need to be rationed. Enforcement is also an important area of environmental security. Where rationing and other legislation is in place, enforcement is necessary to ensure that legislation is implemented and followed, particularly by businesses that use the majority of natural resources in an area. These are important roles that the military could fulfill besides its wartime duties.

Dabelko et al. (2) also make the point that environmental change and scarcity could lead to conflict and instability both on the local and international scale. They furthermore hold that this conflict could increase with the increasing degradation and scarcity of resources. In addition to peacekeeping duties, the authors also recognize the capacity of the military to use force if necessary to enforce anti-pollution measures, particularly in the business arena.

Dyer (2002:445) places emphasis on the danger of adding the environment to the security agenda in the form of political power struggles that will ultimately exacerbate rather than mitigate the threat of environmental degradation. In this regard, Dyer notes that there should be an appropriate distance between the issue of environmental security, and the traditional security agenda implemented by the state. The problem lies in the fact that such distance is not accomplished in a sufficiently distinguished way to optimize its effect in favor of the environment rather than in favor of specific political entities. In this way, politicizing environmental degradation by means of the security agenda places the issue at risk. The problem of the environment then runs the risk of being buried, as it were, under the struggle for political power in the public eye rather than being highlighted in terms of solutions.

In this vein, Dyer notes that the root of the problem lies in specifying the threats and the resources that need to be secured. The type of security implemented needs to be specified very clearly. Firstly, environmental degradation is a threat to current and future life on earth, and particularly human life. Secondly, this type of threat is nonmilitary at its core. Finally, traditional security threats to date have been military and limited in terms of geography. Environmental security occurs on a global scale, affecting all human beings. Indeed, it is the one security issue that could connect the different nations around the world more than any political issue in history.

Dabelko et al. (1) substantiates Dyer's assertion that the military's role is in need of revision from its primarily war- and disaster-related function, particularly after the Cold War. In addition, the authors promote a focus on prevention in terms not only of conflict, but also in terms of the environment. As such, the service of the military could be enlisted in order to not only identify areas of environmental problems, but also ways in which these could be mitigated preventatively. The authors name examples such as the soil fertility in Rwanda, trees in Ethiopia and terrace slopes in Honduras as examples of possible mitigating investments in the environment rather than deploying massive and expensive forces in order to mitigate environmental disasters. In combining this with the security issue, the authors suggest that the military and security budget no longer needed for securing national frontiers be invested in sustainable environmental development.

Another important point relates to the possible constructive force of environmental conflict, as this identifies areas of important political and other change. Specifically, Dabelko et al. (5) mention institutional change and capacity building in order to handle the challenges posed by the environment. Indeed, the increasing destructive force of weaponry today encourages the use of non-violent measures to enforce environmental responsibility. In this way, institutions are not only forced to adapt to the environmental challenges today, but also to do so in a peaceful manner. In this way, poverty can be reduced even while the state and civil society are strengthened. The authors therefore provide a hopeful note for the combination of the environment and security issues in mitigating the problems faced by humanity today.

In order to do this effectively, however, Dyer's note regarding specificity needs to be implemented. The exact nature of security and how this relates to environmental sustainability and development should be clearly delineated in order to ensure both short-term and long-term success. This is already done, as Dabelko et al. (5) note, by using security assets for the purpose of furthering environmental issues.

On the topic of specifying environmental issues and their relation to the military, specific divisions of the military are being used for the purpose of furthering environmental protection. Environmental data are for example collected for the purpose of studying and specifying the issues to target, as well as to further initiatives such as reforestation. Furthermore, the authors note that information and technology are shared for the purpose of cooperating cleanup efforts and develop response mechanisms to crises and conflicts that result from environmental issues. In this way, the military plays an important role in providing a security basis for furthering environmental sustainability.

Holistic Sustainability and Security

Dabelko et al. (7) mention development as an important issue that relates to both the environment and security. As a matter of necessity, forces of political power have come to recognize that a holistic view of development was essential if the future survival of humanity were to be secured. Policy objectives are therefore to recognize the linkages among the environment, conflict and security. It is no longer possible to see any of these issues in isolation if sustainable development is to be maintained. Indeed, the authors hold that political powers may benefit from recognizing the need for a holistic approach towards the environment and its integration with security and other issues.

According to Marc a. Levy (1995: 35), the link between the environment and security is not so much a matter of debate as it is a discussion of an already recognized issue. As such, the focus is rather on the specific nature of the links than on whether they exist. Indeed, Levy asserts that environmental degradation constitutes a physical threat to a country's citizens, as it results in the loss of human life and/or well-being. While the author focuses specifically on the United States, the global applicability of the issues is perhaps indicative of their holistic nature.

The Risk and Impact of Security

Levy (1995:50) makes a historical study of the ozone problem, and how it has been managed in terms of security. In this, the author suggests that the ozone problem was mitigated with significant effect precisely because it was not labeled as a security problem. Indeed, the high costs of the mitigation measures might have been prohibitive had they been required from the security budget. In terms of security then, the fact that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Environmental Security.  (2008, March 16).  Retrieved January 15, 2019, from http://allstarrchiro.net/subjects/paper/environmental-security/7058779

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"Environmental Security."  16 March 2008.  Web.  15 January 2019. <http://allstarrchiro.net/subjects/paper/environmental-security/7058779>.

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"Environmental Security."  Essay.  March 16, 2008.  Accessed January 15, 2019.
http://allstarrchiro.net/subjects/paper/environmental-security/7058779.