Is The Environment An International Security Issue?

2480 words - 10 pages

In 1962 an American biologist Rachel Carson published a hugely influential novel called Silent Spring. The book highlighted the harmful effects of insecticides on all life on Earth and described a future without the songs of birds. It caused such great interest that Carson was widely acknowledged as the mother of environmentalism as a political ideology.Despite the fact that politics of global environmentalism is a fairly new aspect of International Relations, environmental problems are not new. People began to understand their role in environmental degradation and various policies and pressure groups have been emerging during the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, it was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that worries about accelerating damage to the environment started to articulate. Concern was much greater than before and the first United Nations Conference on Environment was held in Stockholm in 1972. Numerous conferences were held since then and the idea of linking environment and both national and international security began to emerge. Environment was referred to as a security issue by several scholars but, as it was argued such literature could only be equated to environmental protection and not much more (Levy, 1995).Almost everybody understood that the protection of environment is a major task of all states, but is it a matter of international security? Scholars are divided on this topic: `Arguments on whether environment should be seen as a security issue range from those who believe that the securitization of the environment is the most important step to securing the survival of humanity, to those who believe that its advocates are simply environmentalists cynically attempting to grab part of the governmental attention and spending that traditionally attaches to security issues.` (Sheehan, 2005: 99) The purpose of this essay is to identify the existence of a link between environmental issues and security issues and to conclude whether it is useful to see environment as an international security threat instead of leaving it on the low politics shelf. To perform this task the essay will analyze both proponents and critics of environmental security.Supporters of environmental security.It has been generally recognized that, in International Relations, social and environmental issues are considered to be the matter of `low politics`, while security issues are generally regarded as `high politics`. Some scholars have argued that it is worth incorporating the environment into the `high politics` realm thus making it a security issue. It is the view of such scholars that environmental protection should be linked to international security. Matthews wrote in 1989 that such global phenomena as climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion and population growth all affect the interest of the international community. Also such issues are regional or even global in scale and cannot be restricted to the sovereign...

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